An Open Letter To Missouri Governor Mike Parson & Staff

 

 Dear Governor: This post is in response to a Post-Dispatch story pointing out an error in a department website. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is vowing to prosecute the staff of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the newspaper says it uncovered security vulnerabilities on a state agency website. The governor is …

Last Mile to Cahokia Mounds Is Impossible For Pedestrians

 

 I’ve working on my bucket list in the last two years living with stage IV kidney cancer. Right after Memorial Day I was able to visit Milwaukee, my very first time in Wisconsin. I’m also working on items closer to home that I can safely do during a pandemic. To help …

New Book — ‘Curbing Traffic: The Human Case for Fewer Cars in Our Lives’, by Melissa Bruntlett and Chris Bruntlett

 

 This is the first of three books I received in July, so they’re newish. My health insurance is better now so I’m getting caught up. I’ve posted before about my interest in electric cars, but also interest in and use of public transportation. My electric “vehicle” is a 2008 power …

We Saved Money On Our Electric Bill By Switching Rate Plans

 

 For years there was no financial incentive to reduce electricity use during peak periods. Running the dryer &  air conditioning while cooking dinner at 5pm weekdays cost the same as doing them at other times.  With Ameren Missouri’s new smart meters and Tine of Use (TOU) rate plans reducing electric …

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Electric Vehicles Aren’t An Option For Many Renters, Condo Owners

March 11, 2021 Environment, Featured, Transportation Comments Off on Electric Vehicles Aren’t An Option For Many Renters, Condo Owners
 

Hybrid vehicles have been for sale in the US for two decades now, thankfully recent hybrids are very different than the first Honda Insight. While I prefer the greener solution of using public transit, my husband has to have a vehicle for his job.

A friend’s 1st generation 2000 Toyota Prius hybrid that she bought new. October 2020 photo.

We bought our current 2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited used in March 2018. It has been a good car, but the fuel mileage from the 2.5 liter four cylinder gasoline engine has been disappointing.

Our Hyundai Sonata in front of Broadway Oyster Bar, April 2018

When it’s paid off in two years I want our next car to be as green as possible. But what?

Now’s a good time to define some acronyms I’ll be using throughout this post.

  • Internal Combustion Engine (ICE):  An internal combustion engine (ICE) is a heat engine in which the combustion of a fuel occurs with an oxidizer (usually air) in a combustion chamber that is an integral part of the working fluid flow circuit. In an internal combustion engine, the expansion of the high-temperature and high-pressure gases produced by combustion applies direct force to some component of the engine. The force is applied typically to pistons, turbine blades, rotor or a nozzle. This force moves the component over a distance, transforming chemical energy into useful work.
    Examples
  • Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV): A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) is a type of hybrid vehicle that combines a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) system with an electric propulsion system (hybrid vehicle drivetrain). The presence of the electric powertrain is intended to achieve either better fuel economy than a conventional vehicle or better performance. There is a variety of HEV types and the degree to which each function as an electric vehicle (EV) also varies. The most common form of HEV is the hybrid electric car, although hybrid electric trucks (pickups and tractors) and buses also exist.
    Examples: Toyota Prius
  • Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PHEV): A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a hybrid electric vehicle whose battery can be recharged by plugging it into an external source of electric power, as well as by its on-board engine and generator.
    Examples:
  • Range-Extended Battery Electric Vehicle (BEVx): A range extender is a fuel-based auxiliary power unit (APU) that extends the range of a battery electric vehicle by driving an electric generator that charges the vehicle’s battery. This arrangement is known as a series hybrid drivetrain. The most commonly used range extenders are internal combustion engines, but fuel-cells or other engine types can be used.
    Examples: Chevrolet Volt, BMW i3 with range extender.
  • Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV):  battery electric vehicle (BEV), pure electric vehicle, only-electric vehicle or all-electric vehicle is a type of electric vehicle(EV) that exclusively uses chemical energy stored in rechargeable battery packs, with no secondary source of propulsion (e.g. hydrogen fuel cell, internal combustion engine, etc.). BEVs use electric motors and motor controllers instead of internal combustion engines (ICEs) for propulsion. They derive all power from battery packs and thus have no internal combustion engine, fuel cell, or fuel tank. Examples: Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt, all Tesla models.

The above types are listed in order, getting greener as you move down the list. Now every manufacturer is promoting BEVs, General Motors and other vehicle manufacturers have pledged to go full BEV within this decade.  Numerous more affordable models are on the new & used markets.

When we got married in June 2014 a friend drove us to our reception in her new BEV, a Tesla Model S — a rarity at the time.

We just exited the Tesla Model S that drove us to Bevo Mill, June 8 2014

Before our wedding we even took a test drive of one, I told the Tesla rep we couldn’t afford one but they said to go out anyway.

Test driving a 2014 Tesla Model S, May 2014. I’m in the passenger seat because I need a spinner knob to safely steer a vehicle on public roads.

For this post I searched Auto Trader for a used Model S. Of the 1,621 results the cheapest is a 2013 with 124,459 miles for $21,000. Within 50 miles of our zip code there are 14 Tesla Model S, the cheapest is another 2013 with 71,609 miles, an asking price of $28,990.

Both are thousands more than what we paid for our current car, that was only 3 years old with less than 47,000 miles. Our credit union would finance such a purchase, but the interest rate is higher and the length of loan not as long. A well-used Tesla Model S still isn’t affordable to us.

A friend’s Tesla Model 3 on South Grand, October 2019

Maybe a Model 3? Of the 11 within 50 miles a 2019 with 26k miles is the cheapest at $34,990 Nationally 875 are for sale, a 2018 with 33k mile is the cheapest at $28, 492. No Tesla is affordable for us, but there are other BEV options.

Nissan Leaf BEV at the 2011 St. Louis Auto Show
Chevy Bolt BEV, 2016 Chicago Auto Show
A Chevy Bolt BEV charging at 620 Lucas in downtown St. Louis.

The Nissan Leaf came out a decade ago, the Chevy Bolt began with the 2017 model year. As the original purchaser enjoyed the tax incentives offered the used prices are well within our budget. Additional 4+ passenger used BEVs include the Kia Soul EV, VW e-Golf, Hyundai Ioniq, BMW i3, and Mercedes B-class.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV, 2014 Chicago Auto Show
BMW i3, 2015 Chicago Auto Show

The number of used BEVs in the St. Louis region is limited, but I’d be open to buying a California car and driving it home or having it delivered. The problem now with a BEV is charging it.

Most BEV owners charge at home, overnight. If you’ve got a garage this isn’t an issue, but for many out there it’s a huge obstacle. We rent and our car gets parked in a parking lot. We have a reserved space only because I’m physically disabled. At our previous loft we had an assigned space but the cost to get a charger to our spot would’ve been exorbitant. I doubt the condo has sufficient power to have chargers for even 20% of the cars.

I’ve owned properties before, but I usually parked on the street. At this point a BEV at any price just won’t work for us.  The next best thing is a PHEV— plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. As BEVs have decreased in price and range extended, PHEV sales have declined. The true benefits of a PHEV are only realized when you can change at home and drive 15-30 miles purely on battery power.

That leaves a HEV (hybrid) as my only choice. There are many hybrid choices these days, though I’m inclined to get a newer hybrid version of our car because the 2-position memory seat & mirrors feature is very nice when sharing a vehicle with a driver who’s significantly taller.

The issue of how renters & condo owners in the St. Louis region will charge BEVs/PHEVs in the coming years remains. High-end buildings in the central corridor may have difficulty getting enough power into owner’s assigned spaces. With 50-150 units/cars per association they’ll have major challenges as more and more residents want to plug in their BEVs overnight. At existing apartment complexes with surface parking lots the challenge will be the cost to set up chargers. Paying retail to charge at BEV at your apartment rather than adding the current to your existing electric bill could made operating a BEV very costly.

And before anyone mentions coal is dirty, BEVs charged with electricity generated by fossil fuels is still cleaner than ICE vehicles (source). Part of Ameren’s electric is generated by wind & solar. Additionally, half our electricity is generated by wind through Arcadia (referral link). Combined less than half our electricity is from fossil fuels. If we could get a BEV/PHEV and charge at our apartment I’d gladly pay the 1.5¢ extra per kWh for 100% wind power.

In the past BEVs were very expensive, but the electric vehicle has gone mainstream. GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, and other legacy vehicle manufacturers have pledged to go fully electric before the end of the decade. Toyota, whose Prius is synonymous with hybrid, will announce its first BEV next week.

Eventually battery technology will get to the point where charging won’t take overnight, but in the meantime someone needs to figure out how the masses without a private garage will charge their vehicle at home.

— Steve Patterson

Is Gentrification Encroaching on the O’Fallon Neighborhood?

March 2, 2021 Featured, North City Comments Off on Is Gentrification Encroaching on the O’Fallon Neighborhood?
 

Today is Election Day in St. Louis, odd-numbered wards will vote aldermen, plus mayor and comptroller.  In the 21st ward six candidates are running for alderman. The top two in today’s nonpartisan primary will face each other in the April general election.

Different visions for the future of the O’Fallon Neighborhood will potentially play a role in the minds of voters in the 3rd & 21st wards. In the 21st ward there are six candidates — the highest number of any race today.

In early January I posted about a development proposal supported by the incumbent, see Initial Thoughts On Proposed ‘City District’ In North St. Louis. Since then I drove the area again to get better photographs. It was then I got to see actual results of another development effort in the same area.

Led by Ona Zené Yeshitela, President of the African People’s Education and Defense Fund (APEDF) and Black Star Industries (BSI), the Black Power Blueprint was launched in 2017 on the North Side of St. Louis, the most impoverished area of the city. 

The Black Power Blueprint is buying abandoned, dilapidated buildings, initiating a rapid process of restoration or demolition and re-allocation of land to create community-generated, self-reliance programs that uplift the residents and engage them socially, politically and economically in the future of our community. 

In three years APEDF and BSI have raised more than $300,000 in funds primarily from crowd-funding, webinars, Uhuru Pies and Uhuru Furniture sales, countless donors and in-kind services and contributions. 

This outpouring of support has enabled the Black Power Blueprint to transform a community—not just with land and buildings, but with a sense of pride and a vision for a prosperous future once again. (Black Power Blueprint)

Two buildings and the community space, the Uhuru House is at 4101 W Florissant Ave.

I missed a news story about this effort last November:

According to city property records, the groups have purchased half a dozen properties along West Florissant Avenue between Grand Boulevard and O’Fallon Park and applied for more than $269,000 in building and demolition permits. Home base is the 9,000-square-foot Uhuru House, an event space named after the word “freedom” in Swahili. There are two other houses like it, one in Oakland, California, and St. Petersburg, Florida, all part of the international Uhuru Movement, which strives to unite Africans from the diaspora caused by the global slave trade. (Post-Dispatch)

I very happy to see such an effort, so I went through their entire website. On one page the group lists the grim reality many blacks face in St. Louis, but one stood out to me as a good issue to explore:

Black residents of North St. Louis face rapidly encroaching gentrification, with higher rents and property taxes, that is forcing thousands further out into the county and beyond.

I don’t doubt rents are increasing, and we know blacks have been leaving north St. Louis for years. But “rapidly encroaching gentrification”?

First, we need to define gentrification. In 2017 one expert broke down gentrification into four types: expansive, concentrated, limited, and nascent.

Across the street from the Uhuru House the handsome building at 4102 W. Florissant Ave is getting attention. The ownership is different.

St. Louis is considered concentrated:

Concentrated Gentrification
Best examples: Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Here, the cities share the same type of older layout as the cities above, but have had larger (relative) black populations. This is where you see that larger parts of such cities have been “written off” by many residents. In each case, gentrification sprouted usually from one area that was a last bastion of white affluent residents (Chicago’s North Side, Northwest D.C. or the area around the University of Pennsylvania in Philly) and spread outward from there. Although most large cities have vast inequality, it’s most evident in these cities because they tend to be racially, economically and socially divided. (
Huffington Post)

The argument is larger 1970 black populations meant whites had written off areas considered black. In St. Louis that generally means north of Delmar.  Concentrated gentrification occurs as affluent white areas get so expensive buyers look to adjacent areas.

In St. Louis we’ve seen this along the central corridor— that wide swath of the region westward from the central business district. McRee Town was razed for Botanical Heights. Forest Park Southeast has changed dramatically over the last 30 years with the The Grove district.

So yes, gentrification does happen in St. Louis. However, Delmar has remained a formidable barrier separating the central corridor from north St. Louis. The O’Fallon neighborhood is a long way from the central corridor. I can’t see it gentrifying unless the neighborhoods in between gentrify first.

When census numbers are released I think we’ll continue to see population declines in north St. Louis neighborhoods. Lots of problems to address, gentrification isn’t one of them.

— Steve Patterson

Where They Lived: Page, Hathaway, and Spinks

February 25, 2021 Featured, History/Preservation, North City Comments Off on Where They Lived: Page, Hathaway, and Spinks
 

February is Black History Month and two recent celebrity deaths prompted me to do this post.

I’ll begin with the opening lines to RuPaul’s 1992 dance hit Supermodel (You Better Work):

[Spoken Intro: LaWanda Page and RuPaul]
Once upon a time, there was a little black girl, in the Brewster Projects of Detroit, Michigan. At fifteen, she was spotted by an Ebony Fashion Fair talent scout and her modeling career took off
You better work.

These initial lines weren’t sung by RuPaul, they were spoken by the very recognizable voice of Lawanda Page (1920-2002). Though Page was born in Cleveland, Ohio she was raised in St. Louis. According to Wikipedia she attended Banneker Elementary School at 2840 Samuel Shepard Dr. This school closed in 2005. This is just north of what was the Mill Creek Valley neighborhood, where she likely lived.

LaWanda Page, born Alberta Peal, is best known for her roll as Aunt Esther on the sitcom Sanford and Son, starring her friend St. Louis-born Redd Foxx (1922-1991). Born John Elroy Sanford, his father was indeed named Fred Sanford.  While Foxx was born in St. Louis he was actually raised in Chicago.

Back to the song lyrics and that little black girl. None of the three male songwriters were from Detroit, much less the Brewster projects. However, three little black girls from the Brewster projects in Detroit Michigan founded the group that became Motown’s The Supremes. Supreme Mary Wilson (1944-2021) recently died.

Like so many housing projects, Brewster began as low rise buildings but later buildings were high rises.

The Brewster Project and Frederick Douglass Apartments were built between 1935 and 1955, and were designed by Harley, Ellington & Day of Detroit. The Brewster Project began construction in 1935, when First LadyEleanor Roosevelt broke ground for the 701-unit development; the first phase, consisting of low-rise apartment blocks, was completed in 1938. An expansion of the project completed in 1941 brought the total number of housing units to 941. The Frederick Douglass Apartments, built immediately to the south of the Brewster Project, began construction in 1942 with the completion of apartment rows, two 6-story low-rises, and finally six 14-story high rises completed between 1952 and 1955. The combined Brewster-Douglass Project was five city blocks long, and three city blocks wide, and housed anywhere between 8,000 and 10,000 residents, at its peak capacity.

St. Louis followed the same pattern of low rise initially, followed later by massive high rise projects. Today’s Carr Square neighborhood included numerous public housing projects, both low & high rise: Carr Square Village is low rise, followed by high rise Vaughn Housing & Pruitt-Igoe.

Donny Hathaway (1945-1979) was born in Chicago but raised in the Carr Square neighborhood. My favorite Donny Hathaway song is his 1972 duet with Roberta Flack, Where Is The Love? He lived with his grandmother and attended Franklin Elementary & Vashon high school. I wasn’t able to find a specific address so I’m not sure where they lived. I do know another song he’s known for is The Ghetto.

Franklin school is now senior housing, October 2007

The Spinks family, including boxer Leon Spinks Jr. (1953-2021), also lived in the Carr Square neighborhood. Early on it would’ve been called Kerry Patch, and later DeSoto-Carr. Unlike Donny Hathaway, I do know exactly where the Spinks family lived.

 

Leon Spinks Sr was born in 1937. In the 1940 census he was the youngest of 8 kids living with Lewis & Ava Spinks at 1409 N 14th Street.  The house they lived in was on the 1909 Sanborn map, but was torn down prior to the 1980s construction of the existing apartments at that addresses. The 53 year old Lewis Spinks Sr. listed the 14th Street address on a war registration card but marked it out, writing in 1024 N 21st. As a reference he listed Lewis Spinks Jr, now living separately at 1423 Biddle.

Leon Spinks Jr was born in 1953. In 1965 his father was living in the 2800 block of Biddle, in or near Pruitt-Igoe. By 1969 the senior Leon Spinks was living at 2210 Cass — definitely Pruitt-Igoe.

Not sure why I enjoy looking up where people lived, but I do.

— Steve Patterson

New Book — ‘Candy Men: The Story of Switzer’s Licorice’ by Patrick Murphy

February 18, 2021 Big Box, Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book — ‘Candy Men: The Story of Switzer’s Licorice’ by Patrick Murphy
 
I received a package of Switzer Licorice with the book.

Prior to this new book my only knowledge of Switzer Licorice was the 19th century building in Laclede’s Landing that collapsed during a wind storm in July 2006.

The sweet smell of licorice and the giant candy bar painted on the factory wall at the Eads Bridge remain locked into the collective memory of generations of St. Louisans. Candy Men: The Story of Switzer’s Licorice tells the story of how two Irish-American families began a candy company in the kitchen of a tenement in St. Louis’s Irish slum and showed the world how the American Dream can be built upon a foundation of candy.

In a story that passes through three generations, two World Wars, economic depressions, and labor unrest, the Murphys and the Switzers dedicated their lives to keeping the dream alive until it was put to an end by forces beyond their control. And yet, in an unlikely turn of events, the story continues today with a fresh twist and a renewed life of its own. (Island Press)

Like other recent books, this is largely a family memoir. Within the pages of family stories are insights into St. Louis life for Irish Catholics.

The chapter on Kerry Patch was of particular interest to me as we currently live where the immigrant tenement neighborhood existed. St. Patrick’s church was on the NW corner of 6th & Biddle, St. Lawrence O’Toole church was on the SW corner of 14th & O’Fallon. Not sure if Irish went to St. Joseph’s, but it’s in between at 11th & Biddle. Over the years the Irish of Kerry Patch moved west of 14th, toward Jefferson. St. Bridget of Erin church was on the NE corner of Jefferson & Carr.

I’m still going through the book, I like the stories about the many immigrants making candy in St. Louis.

— Steve Patterson

Newish Book: ‘Growing Up In Old North St. Louis’, 2nd Edition by Patrick J. Kleaver

February 4, 2021 Books, Featured, North City Comments Off on Newish Book: ‘Growing Up In Old North St. Louis’, 2nd Edition by Patrick J. Kleaver
 

I receive quite a few new books from publishers throughout each year, but late last year I received an email from a self-published author. Patrick Kleaver invited me to check out the 2nd edition of his book from the library. I’m interested in the perspectives of people who grew up in St. Louis, especially in a neighborhood where I’ve lived so I reserved it and picked it up.

Like a book I posted about last year, ‘The Last Children of Mill Creek’ by Vivian Gibson, Kleaver’s book is a personal memoir about where the author grew up. Each tells the reader about their family while also describing their neighborhood & experiences. There are many similarities between these two book — especially growing up in a multigenerational home.

Join life-time St. Louisan Patrick J. Kleaver in this UPDATED AND EXPANDED version of his book GROWING UP IN OLD NORTH ST. LOUIS. He reminisces about the good and the bad in the first nineteen years of his life when he lived in that historic St. Louis neighborhood from its heyday in the mid-1950s to its decline in the 1970s. From a detailed description of his house to the neighborhood shopping district originally known as the “Great White Way” (with stops at various neighbors and churches along the way), you’ll feel like you’re entering his life and walking with him on a personally guided tour! In this SECOND EDITION, he includes MORE anecdotes, a MORE detailed history of Old North St. Louis and its historic Catholic churches, MORE photographs (including rarely seen historic ones of streetscapes and church interiors), a MORE DETAILED quick side trip to two other neighborhoods bordering his, and UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION about the status of the various people and buildings mentioned. (Google Books)

As Kleaver points out the city’s 1947 Comprehensive Plan considered the neighborhood obsolete, largely due to how few residences had modern plumbing. Thus, it’s “heyday” was well before the 1950s. Still, he lived in the neighborhood while it went from being highly populated to significantly reduced population either through those who moved, or those forced out by the demolition for the Mark Twain Expressway (aka I-70).

I moved to the neighborhood in the spring of 1991, some of my neighbors had moved their in the late 1970s. It’s very interesting reading the accounts of a person that lived in the neighborhood in the 50s & 60s.  One side of his family lived in Hyde Park, just to the north of Old North, while the other side is from where I live now, Columbus Square.

The Kleaver family lived on Tyler, which is near the southern edge of today’s boundaries for Old North. The house of one of his childhood friends was also one of my favorites. Was — past tense as so much has been lost.

This book is available from the St. Louis Library and online retailers.

— Steve Patterson

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