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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the month “August, 2017”

Vouchers and Housing Policy

Research clearly shows that poor people who move to a more affluent neighborhood do better in life. Unfortunately most affordable housing in St. Louis and elsewhere is constructed in lower income neighborhoods. HUD, under the Obama administration had tried to address this problem.

Up until now, Section 8 fair market rents were set for an entire metropolitan area. Therefore the rent structure in Wellston was the same as in Ladue. On an initial limited basis, HUD is changing the policy and determining fair market rent by zip code, therefore allowing higher rents in more affluent areas. Where tested, the concept has seemed to work.

To be sure, the policy has detractors. Housing authorities complain the policy is too bureaucratic. Housing practitioners are concerned that the policy if fully implemented would drain inner city neighborhoods of population and good tenants. These are both valid issues, but I believe the policy should be tried. The Trump administration unfortunately is eliminating the new rule that would implement it. Written by Paul Dribin

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Arch Grounds Renovations

The Arch Ground Renovations which everyone has supported are significantly behind schedule and over budget. I have not followed this story closely but kind of wonder what is going on. More important, the arch people have refused to allow the St. Louis Business Journal to see the budget. Something doesn’t smell right. Written by Paul Dribin

Houston and St. Louis

The hurricane in Houston is an unbelievable tragedy and our hearts go out to the many residents involved. There are at least two factors affecting Houston which made the effects of the storm worse. Both of these factors also effect St. Louis.

The first factor is climate change. I am not a scientist but it is sufficient to say that the consistently warm water in the gulf made the storm worse. Scientists are predicting an increase in bad storms due to climate change.

Second, the utter lack of zoning in Houston made the situation significantly worse. The rapid growth in the area with no allowance for open space or other plans for water runoff is common. Houston is now the fourth largest city in the United States and it is largely build upon swampland that is prone to flooding. I have not seen much discussion about this second factor in the national media.

The implications for St. Louis are significant. While we do have zoning, in our wisdoms, communities have chosen to ignore it. Just look at all the development in the Chesterfield Valley which is extremely flood prone. Second we are affected like everywhere in the world by climate change.

Hurricane Harvey was a natural disaster made far worse by human practices. Written by Paul Dribin

Sometimes the Good Guys Win

Several stories in St. Louis indicated the good guys can at least win some of the battles if not the wars. Here are the cases:

1. Chesterfield MO- The council stood up to a well funded developer group who wanted to put a soccer park in Chesterfield with a huge investment of public funds. The council said no.

2. Chesterfield MO- I have written before about a mobile home park in Chesterfield which largely houses low income people who rent their spots. It has been in that location for years. A developer had a plan to build 290 apartment units on the site which required re zoning. The Planning Commission this week reject the re zoning request. Advocates for the residents of the park, led by my friend Jim Moore, are working on a plan for a land trust on the site.

3. St. Louis County-A hairbrained scheme led by the St. Louis Blues Hockey Club was trying to build a hockey facility on an ecologically fragile site in Creve Coeur Park. Once again, free land is involved. County Executive Stengel and his people tried to ramrod this proposal through. The County Council has at least temporarily put the proposal on hold.

4. St. Louis City- A plan for the public to pay for renovations to the Scottrade Center where the Blues play has been put on hold due to a lawsuit by my friend Jeanette Mott Oxford and the courageous work of City Comptroller Darlene Greene.

Written by Paul Dribin

Unified Fire District in St. Louis County

A small piece of good news. Several mid St. Louis County communities are joining together to form a unified fire district. The communities are Clayton, Richmond Heights, and Brentwood. Unfortunately Maplewood dropped out because of the initial costs. Kudos to the participants. Let’s hope this is the start of something good. Written by Paul Dribin

NIMBY in Webster Groves

Lutheran Senior Services a great senior housing provider had proposed constructing a 50 unit tax credit affordable housing project on their campus in Webster Groves, where I live, a suburb of St. Louis. The community once again reacted harshly, opposing the project for all the usual reasons, noise, density etc, even though it would be part of an existing campus and hardly noticed. In 2004 I was hired by Lutheran Senior to help develop a 202 low income senior project with the same results. People in our community attend church on a regular basis but don’t seem to get the message. Written by Paul Dribin

The Blues and Creve Coeur Park

As most of you know the hockey Blues have proposed putting a practice rink and ice skating facility in Creve Coeur Park, a gem of a location, which is environmentally fragile. Environmental groups are massively organizing in opposition. Well now we hear that construction has started on the facility without approvals. Tony Messenger wrote about this issue today in the Post. The county denies that the construction is for the arena even though the city of Maryland Heights gave a building permit for construction of an ice arena.

I don’t know why the arrogance and greed have dominated this issue. My take on the issue is that public support for this endeavor may be ok if the public gets use of the facility, but it can easily be located someplace else. Engineers say the park location is prone to flooding. Written by Paul Dribin

Metrolink Again

More bad news about Metrolink. I know a guy who does various assorted tasks for Metrolink. He provided me with some amazing information:

1. He gets paid to ride the trains and check on service, safety, etc. He rode them hundreds of times last year and was never asked for a ticket.

2. When the police were on the trains they would not confront bad actors.

3. At some high crime Metrolink stops the police forced drug dealers onto trains so they would go elsewhere.

4. The crime levels at most stations are high.

Written by Paul Dribin

How St. Louis Can Get Ahead of the Curve

Here is some free advice about an obvious advance that will soon take place, driverless cars. In the not too distant future these cars will be available. People will be able to order them up on short notice and go where they want. It will have a revolutionary effect on our culture. St. Louis leaders need to anticipate how this technology will affect our lives. A few thoughts of mine:

1. People will be taking fewer auto trips. If you order a car you are going to be more efficient in its’ use.

2. What effect will they have on crime and auto theft?

3. Will people in disadvantaged communities be able to use this resource? Right now taxis will not go to high crime areas.

4. What effect will it have on our existing public transportation systems? I would predict fewer people would ride trains of buses.

Written by Paul Dribin

Air B&B and Affordable Housing

Housing activists in some communities have complained that Air B&B has caused a decline in affordable housing. Is this true for St. Louis? I doubt it. After all the Air B&B program takes mostly rooms from mostly houses that are otherwise inhabited. If full apartments are rented they were probably not in the affordable rental category. Written by Paul Dribin

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