What Should Replace the 1960s 7th Street Parking Garage?

 

  In 1961 the former Stix, Baer & Fuller department store began building a 900-car parking garage, attached to its downtown location via a skywalk over 7th Street. Six plus decades later the old Stix store contains apartments, hotel, a museum, and restaurants. The garage is now surrounded on 3 …

Recent Book — “Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It” by M. Nolan Gray

 

  Over a century ago a new idea called “zoning” began, intended to guide cities to grow in a less chaotic manner than they had until then. Reality, however, was very different. It’s time to let go, change. A recently published book explains the why & how. What if scrapping …

18th Anniversary of UrbanReviewSTL, Stage 4 Kidney Cancer Still “Stable”, Gathering Today Noon-2pm

 

  Eighteen years ago today I registered the domain UrbanReviewSTL.com and began blogging about urban planning in St. Louis. YouTube didn’t exist yet. Facebook was known as The Facebook, still limited to college students at many universities. My husband (m 2014) was barely a year out of high school. Some …

Former St. Liborius Church Complex Fits Beautifully in the Street Grid

 

  A major reason why I decided to make St. Louis my home back in August 1990 was the complex street grid and the buildings that neatly fit into it. One of the finest examples of fitting into our decidedly non-orthogonal street grid is the former St. Liborius Church complex, …

Recent Articles:

POLL: Should Missouri’s Governor Mandate Masks?

November 22, 2020 Featured, Missouri, Sunday Poll Comments Off on POLL: Should Missouri’s Governor Mandate Masks?
 

Please vote below

The COVID-19 pandemic continues, but the response hasn’t been static since the start:

The number of states with statewide mask mandates has risen since the summer, when roughly half of states had statewide mandates in place. Today, almost three-fourths of states have a statewide mandate in place. (ABC News)

Missouri is among the states without a mask mandate, but earlier this month one group sought to change that.

The Missouri Hospital Association sent a letter to Governor Mike Parson urging him to implement a statewide mask mandate as hospitals become increasingly overwhelmed with record numbers of coronavirus patients, many requiring specialized intensive care unit beds that are quickly becoming scarce.

Governor Parson has largely been a proponent of encouraging, but not mandating, mask-wearing. (KRCG)

This is the subject of  today’s poll, the three answers are presented in random order.

After you’ve voted you can continue to see my thoughts on the matter of mask mandates.

… Continue Reading

Population Loss in Six North St. Louis Wards

November 16, 2020 Featured, North City, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Population Loss in Six North St. Louis Wards
 

The six wards on the top 1/3 of the city had lower registered voters in 2016 & 2020.

As I pointed out recently, north St. Louis continues experiencing population loss. In my post on the election results I wrote:

Despite the increase in registered voters, six contiguous north city wards (1,2,3,4,21,22,27) had decreases in registered voters. These same six also had decreases in 2016. When the 2020 census numbers are released next year we’re going to see population loses in the north side, but increases in the central corridor — the same pattern happened a decade ago. The overall increase in registered voters tells me the overall population loss slowed again or we might even see a very slight increase in population. A loss is more likely.

Overall the city had increased voter registration compared to 2016, so something is going on. Once we have the detailed census results we’ll get a clearer picture what is happening.

In the meantime I have some thoughts on this subject.

The 1940 census saw a decline from 1930 — those who could afford to move to the new suburbs  were doing so in large numbers.

Peak population in St. Louis in 1950 was around 856k. That population exceeded the physical capacity of our housing units — major overcrowding occurred in the oldest housing. Housing in the NW & SW was only 20-30 years old during the 1950 census, it likely wasn’t overcrowded. It was the 19th century housing that was overcrowded. The increased population masked an underlying problem — the white middle class was fleeing rapidly. Rural/poor whites & blacks looking for work after WWII made the census numbers look good but it was a huge shift in people.

In the seven decades since we’ve razed a significant percentage of the 19th century structures for highways, urban renewal projects, and due to abandonment. During this time the total population each census was less than the previous census. Initially it was large scale and widespread, but has slowed. Within a few decades all white neighborhoods became all black neighborhoods.

After the 2010 census we saw increased population in the central corridor (downtown west to city limits) but losses north and in parts of south St. Louis. I don’t think we’ll ever see widespread abandonment south of the central corridor. So much has been rehabbed — just too much invested to walk away. This is not to say that small areas on the southside won’t see losses, they very well could. Another thing we saw in the 2010 census was the black population dropped to just below 50% of the total, the white population remained unchanged as a percentage.

The six wards that make up the northern third of the city, on the other hand, are highly likely to see significant losses in the 2020 census results. These losses will most likely account for the majority of the overall population loss of the city.

What’s happening is the residents of these six wards are likely finding better housing elsewhere — either in the rest of the city or in St. Louis County. Population in the St. Louis region has long shifted around in search of better housing. What’s new is in these wards we are seeing a significant shift out with no new group shift in. When older homeowners die their kids don’t want the dated old family home.

To be sure there are some very nice pockets within these six wards with well-maintained houses, tree-lined streets, etc with relatively dense populations.  These islands are in contrast to the food/job deserts of the rest of the wards. Large non-residential sites include O’Fallon & Fairgrounds parks, Bellerive & Calvary cemeteries, and the contaminated government facility on Goodfellow occupy a lot of land, but a lot of the land is where buildings used to exist.

With these longtime wards emptying out it presents problems for redistricting next year. Ideally political boundaries are drawn to be compact, ideally square in shape. But you also want wards to reflect the demographic makeup of the population. After redistricting each ward represents roughly the same amount of people so the number of wards doesn’t matter as much when a third of the city is being vacated while the two-thirds is stable or increasing. It’s going to be challenging keeping the same number of majority black wards. I could see a black alderperson representing a diverse south city ward.  The next redistricting will reduce the number of wards from 28 to 14.

In a future post I’ll share my thoughts what St. Louis should do to counteract the increasingly empty third of the of the city.

— Steve Patterson

Downtown St. Louis Grocery Store ‘Culinaria’ Will Soon Become A ‘Schnucks’

November 12, 2020 Downtown, Featured, Retail Comments Off on Downtown St. Louis Grocery Store ‘Culinaria’ Will Soon Become A ‘Schnucks’
 

In August 2009 Schnucks Markets opened a small format grocery store in downtown St. Louis. It has been called “Culinaria, A Schnucks Market.” They had little choice, the Schnucks’ development company Desco had razed the historic marble-clad Century Building to construct a parking garage for their Old Post Office project across 9th Street — but the ground floor retail space wasn’t getting leased. To save face, Schnucks opened a grocery store in the space.

They didn’t have much confidence it would be successful, so they called it Culinaria rather than Schnucks. To their surprise it has been a success, though the average transaction amount is likely less than the big stores.

The entrance is at 9th & Olive, the Culinaria name is still present. For now.

Very soon they’ll drop the ‘Culinaria’ brand name to become a ‘Schnucks’, like the bigger stores.

Schnucks family members cutting the ribbon at Culinaria on August 11, 2009

Over the last 11 years they’ve made physical changes, such as a minor reconfiguration of shelves in 2013. They also stopped doing wine tastings in the upstairs mezzanine long ago. The Kaldi’s Coffee station closed before the pandemic. The pharmacy became a CVS pharmacy this year, as Schnucks sold their pharmacy business entirely.

In 2013 shortcut was eliminated (red circles) to gain needed shelf space. Grocery items were largely rearranged.

Currently the store is undergoing the biggest changes since opening. Here’s a list of just some of the ongoing changes I’ve observed:

  • New shopping carts
  • New flooring is being installed throughout
  • The coffee station is gone
  • The wine & spirits will be moving from the mezzanine to maim floor
  • The dark shelving is being changed to white shelving
  • New aisle guides
  • Self-check stations have been added for the first time, replacing most cashier stations
  • The wall over the deli, meat, seafood areas is now red with new signage.
  • Only very longtime employees still have Culinaria name tags.

You could say they’re just revising the store, but everything new now has the Schnucks name on it. The Culinaria name and the design elements that distinguished it from regular Schnucks stores are all being removed.

The Schnucks name over the front door is new,

Schnucks hasn’t yet announced the name change, and a spokesperson didn’t confirm it upon my inquiry. But clearly it’s happening. The very last change will likely be new exterior signage.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Post-Election Analysis: Missouri Getting Redder, St. Louis Turnout Declines

November 9, 2020 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Post-Election Analysis: Missouri Getting Redder, St. Louis Turnout Declines
 

One of the big stories from the 2020 election was the huge turnout nationwide.

While more people have voted than at any other time in American history, percentage-wise, this number does not quite break records. Given that around 239.2 million Americans were eligible to vote in 2020, the projected number of voters brings us to a 66.8% turnout rate. This makes 2020 the year with the highest voter turnout since 1900, when Republican William McKinley won reelection with 73.7% turnout.

The highest voter turnout in history was in 1876, when 82.6% of eligible voters cast ballots in the race between Republican Rutherford Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden. Hayes eventually won the presidency in a close, contested election. (Town & Country Magazine)

Missouri voters exceeded the national average this election, by a few points.

More than 70% of all registered Missouri voters turned out to vote this election, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft tweeted last night. That’s the highest turnout level in more than 20 years. The 1992 presidential election between Bill Clinton and George George H.W. Bush brought out 78% of registered voters. (St. Louis Public Radio)

The St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners is on the first floor at 300 N. Tucker (@ Olive)

I was curious how we did in the City of St. Louis. Turnout was less than four years ago, and 2016 was less than in 2012. I decided to delve into the data to seek an explanation for the decline in turnout.

Here are my findings:

  • Turnout in 2016 was 69.43%, but 65.05% in 2020.
  • Four wards (10, 13, 23, 24) had slight increases in the percentage of registered voters who voted, the other 24 wards all had declines.
  • Over 12,000 new registered voters compared to 2016, a 6.3% increase! Comparing 2020 to 2012 the increase in registered voters was 4.61%.
  • Despite the increase in registered voters, six contiguous north city wards (1,2,3,4,21,22,27) had decreases in registered voters. These same six also had decreases in 2016. When the 2020 census numbers are released next year we’re going to see population loses in the north side, but increases in the central corridor — the same pattern happened a decade ago. The overall increase in registered voters tells me the overall population loss slowed again or we might even see a very slight increase in population. A loss is more likely. More on this in a future post.
  • In all three (2012, 2016, 2020) some voters in every ward didn’t vote in the presidential race which is first on the ballot. In 2016 a few wards this approached 1% of voters, but in 2020 non exceeded half of one percent. It’s good that voters aren’t skipping down ballot races, though that likely exists too in fewer numbers.

Ok, on to Missouri.

I’ve voted in nine presidential elections, eight of those in Missouri. Democrat Bill Clinton won Missouri in 1992 by 10.15 points. Clinton won Missouri again in 1996, but only by 6.3 points. This was the last time Missouri went blue. Four of the next six elections have been redder than the last. The exceptions are 2008 & this year.

Here is the point spread, all favoring the GOP nominee.

  • 2000: 3.34 points
  • 2004: 7.2 points
  • 2008: 0.13 points (Obama nearly flipped Missouri blue)
  • 2012: 9.38 points
  • 2016: 18.51 points
  • 2020: 15.57 points

Biden this year lost Missouri by a smaller margin than Clinton, but still worse than Obama in 2012. As I said in December 2019: Missouri Is A Solid Red State. A poll in June had some thinking a blue wave would sweep across Missouri.

In total, the poll found that Biden claimed 48 percent of the likely voters in Missouri and Trump claimed 46 percent. “This result is consistent with national polls showing a double-digit Biden lead and state polls showing Biden ahead in other states Donald Trump won in 2016,” pollsters said in a release.

Biden’s campaign did not respond to Newsweek’s request for comment before publication.

“The political environment in Missouri has shifted slightly away from Republicans,” the pollsters concluded. Missouri is not the only battleground state in which recent polls indicate this is true. Earlier this month, election forecasters estimated Biden had an 86 percent advantage over Trump nationally, with his edge in some important swing stages ranging between 2 and 8 percent. Even so, the president has said that he holds a lead in all of the states likely to be critical in the general election’s outcome. (Newsweek)

I was highly skeptical when I saw this poll in late June because Missouri hasn’t been a battleground/swing state for years. It may be in play in the future, but it won’t happen in my lifetime.

— Steve Patterson

Local St. Louis Elections Finally Go Non-Partisan!

November 5, 2020 Featured Comments Off on Local St. Louis Elections Finally Go Non-Partisan!
 

I’ve lived in St. Louis over three decades now and one constant in Spring elections has been races are decided in the March Democratic primary, not the April general election. I’ve spoken out against partisan plurality voting for years now.

The last link above mentioned the effort to collect signatures to get Approval Voting on the ballot — that became Prop D that voters approved yesterday.

Proposition D makes three changes to the voting process for St. Louis city elections.

First, it creates a nonpartisan primary. Second, voters have the ability to approve (or disapprove) of every candidate on the ballot. Finally, the two candidates with the most votes in the primary advance to the general election.

Proposition D was endorsed by Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush, St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura O. Jones, state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, and Rev. Darryl Gray.  (St. Louis American)

At this point I think it would be helpful to explain a few of the many types of voting systems.

Vintage photo of the former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. From my collection

Plurality voting system is what St. Louis has always had:

Plurality system, electoral process in which the candidate who polls more votes than any other candidate is elected. It is distinguished from the majority system, in which, to win, a candidate must receive more votes than all other candidates combined. Election by a plurality is the most common method of selecting candidates for public office. (Britannica

This is the voting system most of our elections in the U.S. use. With two candidates the winner is very clear, unless tied. With three or more candidates the winner doesn’t necessarily have a majority of votes. Say you’ve got a 3-way race and 1,000 voters. Candidate A gets 275 votes, B gets 375 votes, and C gets 350 votes. Nobody has a majority of 501 or more votes. Under our plurality system Candidate B would be the winner by receiving more votes than A or C — even though B didn’t get a majority.

Plurality voting is often manipulated with the addition of one or more spoiler candidates to dilute the opposition to the establishment’s preferred candidate.  The spoiler(s) ensures the well-funded candidate backed by the establishment receives more votes than the candidate in second place, even if just one more vote.

Approval voting that won yesterday takes a different approach.

Approval Voting is a single-winner voting method in where a voter can approve of any number of candidates. The candidate that gets the most approval votes wins office. This would help eliminate some of the disadvantages third party candidates have. They no longer would be splitting the vote and voters will be more likely to throw their support behind someone they don’t think it will be wasted on. (Follow my vote) See video.

Let’s use our same example from above to explain how this will work in St. Louis. So we have a 3-way race and 1,000 voters. A third vote for all three candidates (999 votes), a third votes for two candidates (666 votes), and the rest vote for one candidate (334 votes). This example means there are 1,999 total votes among our three candidates. Candidate A gets 500 votes, B gets 750, and C gets 699 — a very close second. In our new system Candidate A would be eliminated and candidates B & C would face each other in a runoff. The winner of the runoff might be B, might be C. We do know the final winner will have a majority of votes as it is a 2-way race.

As former alderman Antonio French recently pointed out, Approval Voting is also subject to manipulation. Even non-manipulative voters have to decide if they vote for one or more candidates.

Approval voting forces voters to face an initial voting tactical decision as to whether to vote for (or approve) of their second-choice candidate or not. The voter may want to retain expression of preference of their favorite candidate over their second choice. But that does not allow the same voter to express preference of their second choice over any other. One simple situation in which Approval strategy is important is if there is a close election between two similar candidates A and B and one distinct one Z, in which Z has 49% support. If all of Z’s supporters approve just him, in hopes of him getting just enough to win, then supporters of A are faced with a tactical choice of whether to approve A and B (getting one of their preferred choices but having no say in which) or approving just A (possibly helping choose her over B, but risking throwing the election to Z). B’s supporters face the same dilemma. (Wikipedia)

The voting system that I’ve been promoting for years is Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV).

A ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority. (Ballotpedia)

RCV is hardly new.

The first U.S. city to adopt at-large ranked choice voting for its city council was Ashtabula, Ohio in 1915. During the first half of the 20th century, ranked choice voting spread rapidly as part of the progressive movement. At its peak, some two-dozen cities adopted it, including Cincinnati, Cleveland, Boulder, Sacramento, and even New York City. New York City continued to use ranked choice voting for its school board until 2002 when those school boards were abolished.

As the progressive era transitioned into a period characterized by racial tensions and fear of communism, at-large ranked choice voting became a victim of its own success. In Cincinnati, ranked choice voting enabled the election of two African American city council members in the 1950’s. In 1951, African American attorney Theodore M. Berry won with the highest percent of the vote, which ordinarily would result in him becoming mayor. Instead, the city council chose one of the white councilmen to become mayor. Finally, Cincinnati repealed ranked choice voting in 1957 in the fifth Republican-led repeal attempt. Following civil unrest stemming from racial tensions in the 1960’s, the Kerner Commission cited the repeal of ranked choice voting and its effect on African American representation as one cause of the city’s violence.

Similarly, in New York City, ranked choice voting cut off the stranglehold previously held by the Democratic Party in the city. In the last election before adoption of choice voting, Democrats won 99.5% of the seats on the Board of Alderman with only 66.5% of the vote. Under ranked choice voting in 1941, Democrats won 65.5% of the seats with 64% of the vote, a much fairer result. However, ranked choice voting enabled representation of minor parties, including members of the Communist Party. During the Cold War, the Democratic Party took advantage of fears of communism to make a successful push for repeal of ranked choice voting. That repeal successfully prevented the election of communists to the city council, along with members of all other minor parties, but it also brought back an era of unrepresentative elections to New York City. (FairVote)

I suspect the group that got Prop D onto our ballot went with Approval Voting rather than RCV because our existing voting equipment can be used. I don’t think our paper ballots or machines could do RCV. This is just an assumption on my part.

Maine voters used RCV in Tuesday’s election, but Massachusetts voters rejected a measure to switch to RCV.  Next Spring we’ll get to try out our new approval+runoff system as the mayoral race already has at least three candidates. I’m just thrilled the election will be non-partisan.

It’s not clear to me if the ward Democratic committee will have any influence when an alderman resigns from office. Currently the Democratic central committee (committee men & women from all wards) select who will be the Democratic nominee, usually that ward’s committeeman or committeewoman.  Others could run, but voters almost always pick the Democrat.

Also note this doesn’t apply to the eight (8) “county” offices: Circuit Attorney, Circuit Clerk, Collector of Revenue, License Collector, Public Administrator, Recorder of Deeds, Sheriff, and Treasurer.

It’s a new era in St. Louis.

— Steve Patterson

Advertisement



[custom-facebook-feed]

Archives

Categories

Advertisement


Subscribe