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The St Louis Contrarian

Providing Independent and Intelligent Insight on St. Louis Public Policy Issues

Historic Preservation

I recognize the importance of historic preservation in cities. Nevertheless here are my criticisms of how it works in St. Louis:

1. Virtually every neighborhood in St. Louis is considered historic. There seems to be a feeling that if a property is old, it is historic. This is not true.

2., Historic rehab adds 10% or more to the cost of construction. This can be significant.

3. It locks communities into doing what they have already done. Varied architectural styles are not welcome. Frank Loyd Wright would not have been able to build his buildings in St. Louis unless he followed the tried and true architectural style. A preservation yesterday said streets should have the feel of 1910. Is that what we want?

Written by Paul Dribin

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Affordable Housing in Seattle and Microsoft

It is a good news bad news situation that Microsoft has started to invest significantly in affordable housing in the Seattle area. The good news is that a responsible corporation is stepping up to the plate to address a huge problem in their community. (This of course, is a problem they largely created). The bad news is that this funding only represents the tip of the iceberg and is an attempt to alleviate the federal government of its’ responsibilities. When markets don’t work the feds need to step up. In fact, housing investments by the federal government are fewer than in the 1970s.

Written by Paul Dribin

Government Shutdown and Affordable Housing

I sat in on a conference call today organized by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The subject was the status of the government shutdown and its’ effect on low income programs funded by HUD.

There are 1150 Section 8 project based buildings that have not had their contracts renewed in December and January. This means they could not receive Section 8 payments from HUD. Most have enough reserves to get by but HUD has not come up with a fix for those who do not. The consensus was that HUD had enough funding from previous fiscal years to fund Section 8 and public housing, but after that resources run dry. Similarly if projects are pulling from reserves, a major physical crisis may go unanswered. This is a major problem and unfortunately, HUD is just one agency trying to struggle through. Written by Paul Dribin

Customer Service in St. Louis

A good article in the Post about how the City of St. Louis is attempting to provide better customer service. This is a major step in the right direction. Equally important are the cumbersome processes the city requires for developers and businesses. Customer service is more than complaint processing. Written by Paul Dribin

affordable housing conference. Put on by empower missouri today in Jefferson City. Great meeting

The case for guaranteed cash supports

Vacancies in St. Louis

As you may know, there has been a collaborative formed to address the huge vacancy problem in St. Louis. Various task forces are meeting and I participate in two of them. Most of the people at the meetings appear to be community activists with a smattering of developers.

The discussions have generally been good but rather general in nature. We do not seem to want to address the key problems which I see as:

1. Outmoded methods of management and sales by LRA.

2. The higher cost of doing business in St. Louis.

3. Historical preservation

4. Crime

5. The overall oversupply of housing and undersupply of population in the region.

6. The unwillingness of the group to accept demolition.

Written by Paul Dribin

Wesley Bell. St. Louis County Circuit Attorney

Mr Bell won a surprising election to become Circuit Attorney. The public wanted a change relative to prosecution and policing relative to the racial problems coming out of Ferguson

So far Mr Bell has a rocky start. He is firing three prosecutors, one of whom prosecuted the Michael Brown case. Is this retribution? He is recommending lessening the prosecution of unpaid child support. He is hiring a controversial prosecutor who was a divisive figure for Kim Gardner, Circuit Attorney in St Louis. On the positive side he is ending cash bail for non violent crime. (This may not be a change). Stay tuned!

St.Louis County Economic Development Council

This has been one of my favorite topics, one that unfortunately I have been correct about. Sheila Sweeney who made the ridiculous salary of $500,000 a year.(I could have run the organization into the ground for a lot less), resigned under pressure last week.

As I have previously written, the agency involved itself in many shady if not illegal transactions tied to friends of County Executive Stenger. Furthermore, the staff is bloated and the salaries of these individuals is quite high, with many making in the six figures.

I hope the county now gets a handle on the situation and that criminal proceedings occur. A bigger question is what do these Economic Development Agencies accomplish for the money spent on them? Written by Paul Dribin

I don’t Get It

I am an old guy and I guess more out of things. Here is the latest I don’t get. Webster Groves, where I live recently hired a new City Attorney which is a contract position. I have come to find out that a significant group of people in our community are up in arms about the selection, not do to his qualifications but due to the fact that he defended two police officers ending up being acquitted in the controversial killings of African American men.

People are absolutely incensed. What happened to the notion of everyone is entitled to a proper defense? To me this all shows he is a good attorney. Defense attorneys defend many disreputable clients. It doesn’t mean the attorney agrees with their views. Oh well

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