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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Metro’s Blue Color Scheme A Welcomed Change

December 24, 2020 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Metro’s Blue Color Scheme A Welcomed Change
 

A year ago Metro announced that a new color scheme was being phased in.

You will continue to see the red-white-and-blue trains and buses for a long time. There are currently three MetroLink trains featuring the new look, as well as 26 new MetroBus vehicles. These new 30-foot Gillig buses have improved emissions and a much smaller turning radius than other buses in the fleet, making them more flexible in the types of service they can provide and in the locations where they can better operate.

The new paint scheme will only be applied to new vehicles being added to the Metro fleet as they replace older trains, buses and vans that are being retired out of service. All of these updates are part of the normal maintenance and replacement cycle for transit vehicles, signs and materials, and no additional funds are being used or needed to make these changes.

It took a while but I think most vehicles have now received the new design. Train vehicles haven’t actually been replaced, but individual cars gets updated and the livery changes from the standard to advertising, etc. Buses also get a change of livery based on advertising wraps.

The new blue design in July 2020
New blue design last month

MetroLink trains & buses have been white for decades.

The old blue & red design on a white background, 2014.
The old blue & red on a white background on August 26, 2006 — the opening of the Shrewsbury line.

I’ve been here 30 years and I couldn’t think of a different color scheme, but a friend reminded me prior to the 2003 Bi-State to Metro change to blue & red on white they had a red/orange/yellow scheme.

Red, orange, & yellow strip on white background. 1996 photo by Ron Walker.

I personally love the new design. The bold blue design stands out, at least for now. In time it’ll get old and tired. It’s refreshing to no longer have the white background. I’ve seen the new blue design on buses, but haven’t gotten a photo yet.

— Steve Patterson

New Book — ‘Oldest St. Louis’ by NiNi Harris

December 17, 2020 Books, Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on New Book — ‘Oldest St. Louis’ by NiNi Harris
 

I’ve been fortunate enough to know local historian & author NiNi Harris for more than two decades. I posted about her books before, and another is now available.

From iconic buildings like the Old Cathedral to the Polish butcher shop in North City, Oldest St. Louis explores the history of St. Louis through the history of the city’s oldest institutions, streets, and businesses. From the oldest library book, to the oldest museum, Oldest St. Louis traces the history of the city’s rich cultural life. From the oldest Italian bar to the oldest bowling alley, the book recalls St. Louis’s ethnic traditions. In following the stories of the oldest businesses and institutions, the book becomes a sensory tour of St. Louis featuring the crunchy oatmeal cookies made in the Dutchtown neighborhood the same way for 82 years, the fragrance in the 138 year old Greenhouse in mid-winter and the beauty of St. Louis’s 184 year-old Lafayette Park. Oldest St. Louis is also a nostalgic look at recent history from the space-age design of South County Mall, to a cherry Coke made with a secret recipe since the Chuck-A-Burger drive-in restaurant opened in St. Ann in 1957. (Reedy Press)

The contents are long, all starting with “Oldest…” I knew some, but not all. I had to quickly turn page by page to see the oldest this and that. In my 30+ years in St. Louis I’ve been to many of them: oldest soda fountain, convent, soul food diner, etc.

Each Oldest subject is headed by the year. The oldest Oldest is a tie — from 1474! Most are 19th & 20th century. Harris talks about each Oldest.

If you’re a St. Louis fan then this book needs to be on your bookshelf.

— Steve Patterson

New Book — ‘Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America’ by Angie Schmitt

December 11, 2020 Books, Featured, Walkability Comments Off on New Book — ‘Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America’ by Angie Schmitt
 

For months now we’ve all been living through the COVID-19 pandemic, but a silent epidemic has been going on for years: pedestrian deaths. Every week we hear about a pedestrian being hit & killed by a car. Often these are seniors just trying to cross a busy street — like 87- year old Phyllis Powers — she was hit & killed trying to cross MacKenzie Road to vote a month ago.

A recent book looks into the issue:

The face of the pedestrian safety crisis looks a lot like Ignacio Duarte-Rodriguez. The 77-year old grandfather was struck in a hit-and-run crash while trying to cross a high-speed, six-lane road without crosswalks near his son’s home in Phoenix, Arizona. He was one of the more than 6,000 people killed while walking in America in 2018. In the last ten years, there has been a 50 percent increase in pedestrian deaths.

The tragedy of traffic violence has barely registered with the media and wider culture. Disproportionately the victims are like Duarte-Rodriguez—immigrants, the poor, and people of color. They have largely been blamed and forgotten.

In Right of Way, journalist Angie Schmitt shows us that deaths like Duarte-Rodriguez’s are not unavoidable “accidents.” They don’t happen because of jaywalking or distracted walking. They are predictable, occurring in stark geographic patterns that tell a story about systemic inequality. These deaths are the forgotten faces of an increasingly urgent public-health crisis that we have the tools, but not the will, to solve. 

Schmitt examines the possible causes of the increase in pedestrian deaths as well as programs and movements that are beginning to respond to the epidemic. Her investigation unveils why pedestrians are dying—and she demands action.  Right of Way is a call to reframe the problem, acknowledge the role of racism and classism in the public response to these deaths, and energize advocacy around road safety. Ultimately, Schmitt argues that we need improvements in infrastructure and changes to policy to save lives.

Right of Way unveils a crisis that is rooted in both inequality and the undeterred reign of the automobile in our cities. It challenges us to imagine and demand safer and more equitable cities, where no one is expendable. (Island Press)

I want to talk about some issues addressed in this book, but first, here are the contents:

Introduction: Outline of an Epidemic
Chapter 1. The Geography of Risk
Chapter 2. The Profile of a Victim
Chapter 3. Blaming the Victim
Chapter 4. The Criminalization of Walking
Chapter 5. Killer Cars
Chapter 6. The Ideology of Flow
Chapter 7. A Hard Right Turn
Chapter 8. Pedestrian Safety on the Technological Frontier
Chapter 9. The International Context
Chapter 10. Families for Safe Streets

Yes, pedestrian deaths are an epidemic. A pandemic, like COVID-19, is worldwide. An epidemic, like pedestrian deaths, is largely a problem in one area such as the U.S.

Increasingly older adults are unable to continue driving, finding themselves in suburbs not designed for pedestrians. Timing of infrequent crosswalk lights are too fast for slow walkers. For many it’s too far to reach a designated point to cross an arterial so people attempt to cross where they can because they can’t do the extra distance.

The alarming rise in pedestrian deaths coincides with the switch from passenger cars to larger and larger pickups & SUVs. Why? A primary reason is the higher mass on the front of these vehicles — hitting people in their torso rather than legs.

These problems are worse in low-income & minority neighborhoods. The population that needs better pedestrian facilities often don’t get them.

The book details the problems and offers solutions.

Pedestrian safety expert Dan Burden (right) leads a “walking audit” on Delmar just west of Union in 2011 — that’s me in the wheelchair. Photo credit: Lou /AARP

This book is for anyone interested in addressing pedestrian safety and removing inequalities in our rights of way. The author and others discuss the epidemic of pedestrian deaths in a video here.

You can order from the publisher.

— Steve Patterson

Longtime Election Board Building Was Previously Police Headquarters (1907-1929)

December 5, 2020 Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on Longtime Election Board Building Was Previously Police Headquarters (1907-1929)
 

For most of the 16 years on this blog I’ve often used a vintage photo, below, when posting about local elections.

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

Though I’d been using this photo I didn’t know anything about it. From the cars I knew not only was it from before I arrived in St. Louis (August 1990) but before I was born (February 1967). I also knew I’d never been to this building, the only location of the Board of Election Commissionrs I’d ever visited was the current, 300 North Tucker.

Another photo I use often for election-related posts:

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

Not sure where I registered to vote, but my first time going to the election board offices was in January 2005 when I filed to run for alderman — at 300 North Tucker.

Recently I was more and more curious about that vintage photo, so I contacted a lifetime resident who is a St. Louis political encyclopedia. He suggested I look in the book “We Elect! The Story of St. Louis Government and Politics”, published by the St. Louis Public Schools in 1967. I received a copy years ago as part of the Beckerle collection.

At the bottom of page 4 was the address — 208 South Twelfth Boulevard. In 1967 Twelfth hadn’t yet been renamed in honor of former mayor Raymond Tucker (12/4/1896-11/23/1970).
At the top of the next page is a photo of the building and the address again.

So now I know the address but that didn’t tell me when they moved out of the building and why. Was the building built for them or a previous occupant? I know the new city jail currently occupies that and additional land.

Let’s begin with the election board moving into the current location, 300 North Tucker. Thankfully St. Louis Library members can search Post-Dispatch archives online.

An August 1998 article (8/27/1998, p18) indicated the move from 208 South Tucker to 300 North Tucker will happen in December. A December 6, 1998 article indicated the move would happen on December 14, 1998. The earlier article mentions 208 South Tucker is 91 years old. Both articles indicate the election board moved in during the ‘late 1930s.” They got the decade right, the 1930s. But it wasn’t late in the decade — it opened on February 12, 1932 (P-D page 14 of 48).

The Post-Dispatch in 1998 said it was 91 years old, so built in 1907 — if they got that research right. That means the building was roughly a quarter century old. Who was the previous occupant?

The headline gave away the answer, the building was previously police headquarters. Growing city outgrew the police headquarters just a couple of decades after building it? Not exactly. As part of young Harland Bartholomew’s plan, the 12th right-of-way would be widened from 60 feet to a massive 150 feet, 40 feet would come from the east side of 12th. In 1919 a condemnation suit began to take the 40 feet from property owners.  Police would lose the front 40 feet of their headquarters, only 12 years old.

By March 18, 1926 a site for a new headquarters was secured on the southwest corner of 12th & Clark — consolidated from 18 owners.  That headquarters opened in late 1928 or early 1929.

The headquarters that became the board of elections was opened in August 1907, after a long delay. Three residences were bought and razed to construct the building.

Original plans called for the police department to occupy half the basement of the new city hall, but that was scrapped once the decision was made to make the basement ceilings only nine feet high.  Police would need to stay across the street at “four courts” building. Prior to Bartholomew’s arrival they already had plans to widen 12th, not sure how much. (P-D 4/24/1898, p9).

In July 2014 the St. Louis police headquarters moved again, this time to a renovated office building on Olive between 19th-20th.

— Steve Patterson

Only 92 Days Until St. Louis’ First Non-Partisan Municipal Election

November 30, 2020 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Only 92 Days Until St. Louis’ First Non-Partisan Municipal Election
 

Another presidential election is behind us…well, most of us. Now it’s time to think about St. Louis’ March 2021 primary.  It began a week ago when filing opened.

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

Here’s a look at the important dates, from the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners:

  • 11/23/20: Filing begins
  • 01/04/21: Filing ends
  • 01/20/21: Absentee voting begins
  • 02/03/21: Last day to register for this election
  • 02/17/21: Last day to request an absentee ballot
  • 03/01/21: Last day to vote absentee in person
  • 03/02/21: Election date

The March 2, 2021 primary will look very different from any previous primary in St. Louis history — every candidate is independent of a political party. Earlier this month voters approved a measure to change local elections to non-partisan.

The other major change is when you have three or more candidates. If no candidate gets at least 50% of the vote in the March 2nd primary then the top two candidates will face each other in a runoff in April.

No longer will the March primary be the de facto election, April should matter. Unless all races only have one or two candidates. And theoretically we could have races with 3 or more candidates but one gets at least 50% of the votes on March 2nd. Propositions and school board elections remain in April, first Tuesday.

It will eliminate printing primary ballots for up to five political parties (Democrat, Republican, Green, Constitution, Libertarian).  Fringe candidates often ran in a party other than democrat, this got them on the April general election ballot. No more of that thankfully.

We may still have fringe candidates on the March ballot, but they’ll likely not make a possible runoff in April.

What local offices are having elections in March 2021? The aldermen in the 14 odd-numbered wards, comptroller, and mayor. Two even-numbered wards (4, 12) have elections.

I believe the winners in the 14 aldermanic races will have 2-year terms, not the usual 4-year terms. This is because beginning in 2023 the number of wards will drop from 28 to 14. Voters approved this change a number of years ago.

As stated in the opening paragraph, filing began a week ago. Potential candidates still have more than a month to file, so if you’ve ever thought about running you’ve still got until January 4, 2021.

Fewer candidates have filed on the first day than I expected. Lewis Reed & Cara Spencer have both filed for mayor. Others like Tishaura Jones are expected to file. Mayor Lyda Krewson recently announced she wouldn’t seek a second term.

Only incumbent Darlene Green has filed for comptroller, not sure anyone else will file. Even candidates I like shouldn’t win simply because nobody ran against them.

As of the first day of filing no candidate has filed in four of the nine aldermanic seats, something I wasn’t expecting. The four are 1, 11, 17, and 27.

Unsurprisingly eight wards only have one candidate, so far. These are 3, 4, 7, 9, 15, 19, 23, and 25. Of these  six are incumbents: 4, 9, 15, 19, 23, and 25.

And my favorite— four wards have contested races: 5, 12, 13, and 21. The first three are the incumbent and a challenger. The 21st ward is the incumbent and three challengers! So far the 21st ward is the only race that might lead to an April runoff.

Sometime between the close of filing and the election I’ll look at the races and candidates. In the meantime I encourage those who are interested to run for public office. To see how to file for alderman click here.

— Steve Patterson

 

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