The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the month “July, 2017”

Student Mentoring

Much of course has been written about poverty, racism, etc. Nothing has worked very well in addressing these problems. Let me propose a very simple idea, mentoring of students.

I have been a mentor at various times in my life and found it a great experience. More important, the young person being mentored and their families seemed to appreciate it.

I am proposing a mentoring program that would address the needs of all the at risk students in the St. Louis metro area. Volunteers need to be sought and programs established. The cost if huge but on a per student basis, quite inexpensive. Furthermore data shows it works.

I am working on starting a program at one school. Anyone else interested?

Not about Switching Diesel/Gas to Electric Cars, It’s all about Walking and Bikes — Price Tags

Source: Bike Boom As reported in the Guardian by Tim Burns, the switch from diesel and gas vehicles is vastly overrated. Sure, there will be an increase in air quality but think of this: the only thing you are changing is the fuel source of “the type of heavy box” that people travel around in and insist on […]

via Not about Switching Diesel/Gas to Electric Cars, It’s all about Walking and Bikes — Price Tags

Tenants Under Siege: Inside New York City’s Housing Crisis

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Michael Greenberg’s lengthy article in the New York Review of Books is available (maybe just briefly) without the paywall. A few quotes to give the flavour:

What makes the crisis especially startling is that New York has the most progressive housing laws in the country and a mayor who has made tenants’ rights and affordable housing a central focus of his administration. The tide of homelessness is only the most visible symptom. There are at least 61,000 people whose shelter is provided, on any given day, by New York’s Department of Homeless Services…

New York is the only city in the United States to have taken on the legal obligation of providing a bed for anybody who asks for one and has nowhere else to sleep. This came about after advocates for the homeless argued, in a series of lawsuits in the 1970s, that shelter was a fundamental right, not…

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Ferguson Again

Another thought about Ferguson.  There was a high powered Ferguson Commission that had prepared an extensive report with significant findings for improvement. It received a lot of publicity. What has happened to the outcomes from that report?  Written by Paul Dribin

Seniors Moving to Walkable Inner City Neighbourhoods

A great article

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Urbanist and Simon Fraser University’s Director of the City Program introduced me to the expression “NORC” which stands for “Naturally Occurring Retirement Community”.  A NORC is any neighbourhood or area where a groups of folks over 60 years of age choose to reside. Patrick Sisson with points out that as the baby boom generation ages, they are rewriting where they are going to live. Instead of farms or small towns, this group values walkable urban centres. In a survey of 1,000 respondents across the United States, seniors wanted a walkable neighbourhood, low crime rates, and to be close to families.

R.D. Merrill, a  company that develops senior residences in the United States has found that while they have been building large campuses outside of town and city centres for older folks, that is not where their residents want to be. President Bill Pettit stated  “We were creating these…

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Two stories regarding Ferguson Missouri are in the news. The first is that a new Empowerment Center has opened which has promised job training and related services. The second story is that businesses along Florissant Avenue that were burned out as a result of the riots are still empty.  

There is only one conclusion. Things in Ferguson have not improved. What was a viable community has now deteriorated. Starting a job training program is a great idea. Unfortunately I have seen such efforts in inner city neighborhoods my whole life, usually without significant results. Do any of you know if people who want job training who have not been able to receive it.? The crowd who burned the stores in a Ferguson are not employable. We will not get anywhere unless we face facts.  Written by Paul Dribin

OMG ! Another Greenway??

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I’ve seen this place (which I presume was once a section of Napier Street) many times, but never stopped to look at it.

Sure enough, it looks like a West End traffic calming mini-park, and might give a few hints about the Arbutus Greenway.  A local community volunteer group calls this “Napier Square Greenway”.  It leads from Commercial Drive to the Britannia Community Centre (and back). And it’s a terrific people place.

[Click any photo to see a slide show of larger versions]

Things to note:

  • The garden, maintained by the “Britannia Neighbours“.  Recent Sunday work parties have focused on aphids and sticky oak leaves.
  • Furniture — looking like furniture now appearing on Point Grey Road, and long in place in the West End.
  • Decorative stonework, in the form of a meandering section set into the paving bricks, with a series of circular designs made out of coloured…

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Metrolink Policing in the St. Louis Area

The Post Dispatch led by Tony Messenger has written a number of articles which focus on the problems of adequate policing on Metrolink. The gist of the story is that police officer assigned to patrol trains and platform were sitting in an office, texting, sleeping, etc. This is of course terrible.

What is worse however is the lack of cooperation shown by the county to Metrolink, Bi-State, the parent company, and to other units of policing. They came up with a silly ruling that the Metrolink police personnel could not collect fines because they were not official police. Consequently fines are not collected and thugs are having their way on the trains.

This lack of cooperation is the more major problem and again points to the fundamental problem in the St. Louis area; the proliferation and lack of cooperation of the various units of government. Let’s hope this can be a teaching moment for moving things forward. Written by Paul

Division of Spoils in St. Louis

Sunday’s Post Dispatch posed an interesting article. The issue at hand was how funding from the proposed tax increase should be funded in the city. I need to say a little more.

The city has a population of a little over 300,000 and contains 28 geographic wards. This is the same number of wards as when the city had a population of nearly 1,000,000 people. Resources ranging from federal dollars such as Community Development Block Grants are divided evenly among the 28 wards, and for the most part the aldermen regard these funds as their personal slush funds. This has never made any sense and leads to the increased splintering of the city. It is also probably an illegal used of federal funds, which HUD has never chosen to enforce.

Now it appears that north side aldermen are pushing for a bigger share of the new proposed tax revenue due to special need. They are totally correct. Alderman can point fingers all day but the poverty of the north side has little to do with the quality of political leadership in those areas. The article pointed to disagreement about a funding formula. I believe the answer is simple; apportion the funds according to poverty indicators which are easy to find. That would make for a more efficient and equitable distribution of the funds. Written by Paul Dribin

What Will Get Young People to St. Louis

I read an article last week touting Pittsburgh as the next great place to live. What would earn St. Louis that status?

Despite all my griping about St. Louis I know it is a great place to live. What are the key positive attributes?

1. A lot to do. Great cultural, sports, and dining opportunities. We are more in a league with Chicago rather than Omaha when it comes to cultural activities.

2. Affordable housing. The median housing price is much less than in most big cities. Young couple could get more for their dollar and save hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime.

3. Easy to get around- This speaks for itself. You will not need to commute for hours to get to work or school.

4. Top institutions of higher education


1. Crime

2. Racial intolerance- Businesses want an open and accepting work and cultural climate for their employees. St. Louis has a long way to go to achieve this goal.

3. A proliferation of small governments-Our system of governance is too expensive, inefficient, and fosters exclusion.

4. Climate-The weather is horrible in the summer and still cold in the winter. Spring and fall are great.

Almost everyone who visits St. Louis likes it. We should develop a program to bring recent college graduates or college senior to town for a weekend to sell them on settling here. We have a lot to offer, and most of the country is unaware of us. Written by Paul Dribin

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