Celebrating Blog’s 19th Anniversary


  Nineteen year ago I started this blog as a distraction from my father’s heart attack and slow recovery. It was late 2004 and social media & video streaming apps didn’t exist yet — or at least not widely available to the general public. Blogs were the newest means of …

Thoughts on NGA West’s Upcoming $10 Million Dollar Landscaping Project


  The new NGA West campus , Jefferson & Cass, has been under construction for a few years now. Next NGA West is a large-scale construction project that will build a new facility for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in St. Louis, Missouri.This $1.7B project is managed by the U.S. Army …

Four Recent Books From Island Press


  Book publisher Island Press always impresses me with thoughtful new books written by people working to solve current problems — the subjects are important ones for urbanists and policy makers to be familiar and actively discussing. These four books are presented in the order I received them. ‘Justice and …

New Siteman Cancer Center, Update on my Cancer


  This post is about two indirectly related topics: the new Siteman Cancer Center building under construction on the Washington University School of Medicine/BJC campus and an update on my stage 4 kidney cancer. Let’s deal with the latter first. You may have noticed I’ve not posted in three months, …

Recent Articles:

Sunday Poll: Should Union Station Have Updated The Retail Mall & Food Court Rather Than Gut Them For An Aquarium?

July 14, 2019 Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Union Station Have Updated The Retail Mall & Food Court Rather Than Gut Them For An Aquarium?

Please vote below

As you probably know the retail mall under the old train shed at St  Louis Union Station is gone. The former retail/food court space is being converted to an aquarium. The plan for the aquarium was announced almost three years ago.

The other day I overheard a couple of people saying how they missed the mall & movie theater at Union Station. Out of curiosity I want to see what you think.

Today’s poll will close at 8pm tonight. Wednesday morning I’ll have the non-scientific results and my thoughts on the aquarium, Ferris wheel, and other aspects of Union Station’s post-mall future.

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 13 of 2019-2020 Session

July 12, 2019 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 13 of 2019-2020 Session

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 13th meeting of the 2019-2020 session. As previously noted, they have the first two meetings labeled as Week #1, so they list this as week/meeting 12.

Today’s agenda includes six (6) new bills:

  • B.B.#89 – J. Boyd – An Ordinance adopting the 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code, with amendments; and containing a penalty clause, severability clause, savings clause, and emergency clause.
  • B.B. #90 – Coatar – An Ordinance recommended by the Planning Commission on July 2, 2019, to change the zoning of property as indicated on the District Map, from the dual zoning of “D” Multiple-Family Dwelling District and “G” Local Commercial and Office District to the “D” Multiple-Family Dwelling District on the newly platted Lot B (the parcel that abuts the existing alley) and the “H” Area Commercial District on the newly platted Lot A (the parcel that will abut both Geyer and Menard Avenues), in City Block 396 (1027 Geyer Avenue), so as to include the described parcel of land in City Block 396; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B. #91 – Vaccaro – An Ordinance establishing a four-way stop site at the intersection of January and Tholozan regulating all traffic traveling northbound and southbound on January at Tholozan and regulating all traffic traveling eastbound and westbound on Tholozan at January, and containing an emergency clause
  • B.B. #92 – Vacarro – An Ordinance establishing a three-way stop site at the intersection of Tholozan and Sulphur regulating all traffic traveling northbound Sulphur at Tholozan and regulating all traffic traveling eastbound and westbound on Tholozan at Sulphur, and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B. #93 – Spencer – An ordinance directing the City of St. Louis to apply for grant monies available to airport sponsors under Title 49 U.S. Code §47134 for predevelopment planning costs relating to the preparation of an application or proposed application for the privatization of a public airport pursuant to the FFA Airport Investment Partnership Program, and to direct any monies resulting to the City from said application to obtaining and paying for the services of professional consultants and access to knowledge resources to inform and advise the Board of Aldermen regarding the Airport Investment Partnership Program and the City’s efforts related thereto.
  • B.B. #94 – Muhammad/Vaccaro – An ordinance setting forth regulations for the use of surveillance technology by the City; requiring surveillance technology usage rules, regulations and guidelines be established and approved by the Board of Aldermen before any such surveillance technology may be used and plans may be put into practice; and containing a severability clause and emergency clause.

The meeting begins at 10am, past meetings and a live broadcast can be watched online here. See list of all board bills for the 2019-2020 session — the new bills listed above may not be online right away.

Today is their last full meeting before summer break, the next will be Friday September 13, 2019.

— Steve Patterson

Readers: No Citizenship Question Should Appear On 2020 Census

July 10, 2019 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Readers: No Citizenship Question Should Appear On 2020 Census

Despite being a hot national issue the question of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census got a low response on the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: The 2020 Census should include a citizenship question

  • Strongly agree: 5 [23.81%]
  • Agree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat agree: 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [4.76%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Disagree: 4 [19.05%]
  • Strongly disagree: 11 [52.38%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

An article that came out yesterday asks the right question:  What’s the big deal about adding a citizenship question to U.S. Census? (recommended reading)

What is the census used for?

The once-per-decade survey is mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Its results have major consequences for states. Census data is used to determine the number of congressional representatives for each state, and dictates how the federal government allocates more than $800 billion in funding for services such as schools and law enforcement.

Why did the Trump administration want to add the question?

A question about citizenship has not been asked of all households since the 1950 census. It has featured since then on questionnaires sent to a smaller subset of the population.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department runs the census, announced in March 2018 that a citizenship question would be reinstated to produce better data on enforcement of the federal Voting Rights Act, which protects minorities’ electoral power. The government also said citizenship is a reasonable question to ask, noting that it is common in many other countries. The Census Bureau’s own experts estimated that households corresponding to 6.5 million people would not respond if the question were asked, leading to less accurate citizenship data.

In short, pushing to have the question added to the full decennial census is a power grab by the GOP — to gain seats in Congress.  The late GOP operative Thomas Hofeller left behind the evidence of the plot on his computer.

Files on those drives showed that he wrote a study in 2015 concluding that adding a citizenship question to the census would allow Republicans to draft even more extreme gerrymandered maps to stymie Democrats. And months after urging President Trump’s transition team to tack the question onto the census, he wrote the key portion of a draft Justice Department letter claiming the question was needed to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act — the rationale the administration later used to justify its decision. (New York Times)

This is clearly an attempt to intimidate people into not completing the Census, thereby undercounting millions in left-leaning states. Remember too — there are millions of non-citizens living legally in the US. A couple I know from India are here working with green cards — a family of five.

The constitution requires counting the persons living in the US — not citizens.

— Steve Patterson

The St. Louis Region Should Begin Prepping for Climate Change

July 8, 2019 Environment, Featured Comments Off on The St. Louis Region Should Begin Prepping for Climate Change

June was Earth’s hottest month on record. Mexico had feet of hail (ice) fall on a 90° day. Europe baked with temperatures well above normal. It’s also very hot…in AlaskaIndia, the second most populist nation, is running out of drinking water.  Some are wondering if parts of India are becoming too hot for humans. Just yesterday Mississippi closed all gulf beaches for swimming due to a toxic blue-green algae bloom.

The worst effects of climate change are still decades away, but we’re starting to get a glimpse. While I hope the US gets on board with the rest of the world to slow/stop it before it’s irreversible I’m not optimistic that’ll happen. 

The St. Louis riverfront the afternoon of May 5, 2019

So my mind has turned to what should cities, specifically St. Louis, do to mitigate the negative effects. First, we have to determine what we might expect in the future. 

The Midwest has gotten warmer, with average annual temperatures increasing over the last several decades. Between 1900 and 2010, the average air temperature increased by more than 1.5°F. The rate of increase in temperature has accelerated in recent decades, particularly nighttime and winter temperatures. Projected change in summer temperatures under different warming scenarios. Summers in Illinois and Michigan might feel like current summers in Texas or Oklahoma by the end of the century.

Precipitation is greatest in the eastern part of the Midwest and less towards the west. Heavy downpours are already common, but climate change is expected to intensify storms and lead to greater precipitation across the entire region during this century. Annual precipitation has already risen by as much as 20% in some areas. Projections of future precipitation indicate that heavy downpours are likely to occur primarily in winter and spring months while summers will become drier, especially in the southern portion of the region. (EPA)

Warmer year around, with wetter & dryer periods. So?  From the same source:

In the Midwest, climate change is expected to negatively affect human health in a variety of ways and exacerbate existing health challenges. Major heat waves have been occurring more frequently across this region for many decades, resulting in increased deaths during these extreme events. Heat stress is likely to increase in the future as a result of continued rises in temperatures and humidity in this region, resulting in more heat-related deaths and illnesses. Air quality is already poor in parts of the Midwest and is projected to worsen with rising temperatures. Increased exposure to allergens caused by the lengthening of the pollen season is also expected to negatively impact human health.

Warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation could increase the risk of exposure to diseases carried by insects and rodents. Drinking water quality may also decline as a result of heavier rainfall events.

More on drinking water:

Precipitation in the Midwest is expected become more intense, leading to increased flood damage, strained drainage systems, and reduced drinking water availability. Midwestern cities with impervious infrastructure may result in surface runoff entering combined storm and sewage drainage systems. When these systems are overloaded during intense rainstorms, raw sewage overflow can result, impacting clean water availability and human health.

More heavy downpours may increase the likelihood of property damage, travel delays, and disruption in services. Sediment runoff and erosion may clog reservoirs and reduce storage capacity. Local governments may invest in new infrastructure to prevent contamination and protect water resources.

Expected rises summer drought frequency and evaporation rates could reduce water levels in lakes and wetlands, as well as in important commercial waterways. Disruptions in barge traffic along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers have already occurred. 

Some reports say “end of the century” while others talk about 2050. But it’s happening faster than we previously thought it would.

Again, today’s post isn’t about what we need to do to stop or even slow climate change. Today’s post is my thinking on how we prepare our region for the inevitable. We’re going to feel more like Tulsa initially then more like Dallas. Hot summers with less rain, more humidity — drought. Increased rain in the winter — more flooding.

This year the flooding approached the historic 1993 levels, but has lasted longer. Levees held back water for longer periods, weakening them. It’ll take millions to help them recover. Future flooding may do the same — not exceed 1993 in terms of total height but in length of time. This negatively impacts the local economy as many businesses are closed, employees out of work. So what do we do? We abandon occupying flood-prone lands. Let nature have it back. Build our economy elsewhere.

This is, of course, easier said than done. People have lives, places have history.  Towns like Alton & Grafton aren’t suddenly going to stop flooding. It’ll become more frequent and each will be  longer. In South St. Louis we’ll see the Mississippi River back up into the River Des Peres again and again. St. Charles County shouldn’t keep building higher and higher levees to try to keep the Missouri River under control.

Increased summer heat & drought means we should be planting massive quantities of shade trees now to lower the urban heat island effect. Fruit trees too so people can harvest the fruit when food production is increasingly hampered by climate change. We need to reduce the amount of impervious surfaces and increase the use of rain gardens to collect runoff.

Rain gardens were included in the Tucker rebuild.

We can collect storm water in large cisterns to use for irrigation.  Uptown Circle in Normal IL is a great example:

The center of Normal’s Uptown Circle uses storm water as a design feature. 2012 photo

Sustainable stormwater management: capturing, storing, cleansing and recycling much of the stormwater in Uptown Normal, is one of the key elements of the project. Run-off is collected from several streets adjoining the Circle and is stored in a 75,000 gallon underground cistern. This cistern, which was recycled from a 60” diameter storm sewer line being abandoned as part of the associated infrastructure improvements, serves as a detention device for water providing relief to the community’s watershed. Water captured and retained in the cistern is then either used for irrigation of turf and plant material in the district or is introduced into the Circle where it begins a journey through a ‘living plaza’ creating a legible demonstration of sustainability in an urban environment. Signage explains the process and value to children and adults.

In the Circle, water collected in the cistern is pumped through a series of terraced filtration bogs where it is cleansed as it flows slowly around the circle through the plant material, passing over several weirs and through a scupper wall before falling into a collection pool. At this point, water is pumped into an underground reservoir, treated by a UV filter and then circulated through a shallow stream-like water feature. Park visitors have access to this highly engaging watercourse as it flows around the circumference of the circle, mirroring the flow of traffic beyond and providing an acoustic buffer to the sound of traffic. This feature also detains and encourages evaporation of water that would have otherwise become runoff as part of a storm event. This process also eases the heat island effect in this urban district. (Architonic)

Commercial properties, apartment complexes, and such will need large cisterns too. Single family homes will need small cisterns for watering shade trees and necessary vegetable gardens.

Older housing needs to be renovated to be far more energy efficient. Large McMansions in the suburbs will not age well, owners will downsize rather than invest the necessary sums to retrofit them. Large amounts of wall area exposed to the hot sun will make them hard to cool. Plant shade trees now. Municipalities will resist the desire to subdivide these excessively large structures into multiple units.  There was a time when stately mansions in the Central West End couldn’t be given away (ok, sold for cheap) — we’ll see that with 30-40 year old suburban McMansions.

New housing built should be multi-family but not like our apartment with 3 exterior walls and one shared wall. No, new housing should be like our former loft with 3 shared walls and one narrow exterior wall — a wall that’s often shaded. Of course, this new multi-family housing must including affordability — not just high-end central corridor units.

Auto window tinting is very common in Oklahoma & Texas, we’ll see more of that here — not for privacy but reducing heat gain cars. We’ve tinted our south-facing bedroom windows that get some sun at times of the day. Our 2nd bedroom’s windows have a well-placed shade tree.

There are probably a millions things more we can do collectively as a city/region over the next decade or so to help us handle the future. For those who think climate change is a hoax, just keep your head buried in the sand while the rest of us try to solve fast-approaching problems.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Should A Citizenship Question Be On The 2020 Census?

July 7, 2019 Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should A Citizenship Question Be On The 2020 Census?

Please vote below

The subject of today’s poll is one that has been in the news a lot lately.

Days after the U.S. Supreme Court halted the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau has started the process of printing the questionnaire without the controversial query.

Trump administration attorneys notified parties in lawsuits challenging the question that the printing of the hundreds of millions of documents for the 2020 counts would be starting, said Kristen Clarke, executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco confirmed Tuesday there would be “no citizenship question on 2020 census.” (Associated Press)

There you are, no citizenship question. Oh wait…

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday said the Census Bureau had started the process of printing the questionnaires without the citizenship query, giving the impression that the administration had backed down.

But Trump then ordered a policy reversal via tweet on Wednesday, saying he would fight on, although the government has said the printing process continues. (Reuters)

And Friday…

Lawyers for the Department of Justice told a federal judge in Maryland Friday afternoon that the Trump administration will continue to explore options of adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. (CNN)

So here’s today’s non-scientific Sunday Poll:

As usual, this poll will automatically close at 8pm tonight. Wednesday morning I’ll have some Census history, my thoughts, and the results.

— Steve Patterson