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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the month “September, 2017”

Calm Street Project

St. Louis has received federal funds through East West Gateway for a Calm Street Project. This project will be located in the Benton Park=Gravois area and try to create a long quite street that is amenable to bikers and walkers and will slow traffic with speed bumps. The idea is good except for speed bumps; snow plows and garbage trucks have trouble getting over. This is a nice but fairly expensive idea for a city that is really struggling. Written by Paul Dribin

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Patriotism, the Flag, the Anthem, Black Lives, and the NFL

This topic is of course off topic in a literal sense but very important.

I have never understood token patriotism and why things like the flag and national anthem are so important. I attend a lot of sporting events and always find those things to be superficial and unnecessary. Years ago, Phil Wrigley, the gum manufacturer, owned the Cubs. He only played the national anthem on special occasions, national holidays, etc. He felt it diminished the anthem to play it too often. Good for him.

Second, I don’t understand equating patriotism with the military. Why is the flag about the military? Why at sporting events do they single out a military person in attendance for a standing ovation? Don’t teachers, social workers, nurses, and just good people contribute much to our country and deserve to be honored?

This gets at my third point. The NFL and all the professional sports leagues have used cheap patriotism to promote themselves. They marketed this stuff particularly after 9/11.

Third, people who believe the flag is being dis respected should complain as loudly about flag clothing, underwear, t shirts and other articles of clothing in flag colors. They should also complain about misuse of the flag, letting it get dirty, etc.

Finally, the protest begun by Black athletes is not about the flag or patriotism, but about how poorly people of color are still treated in this country. I give credit to those initial athletes who were willing to risk their careers for the cause. Written by Paul Dribin

One Way in Which St. Louis is Like California

California has just passed new legislation for creating more affordable housing. It is a drop in the bucket of what is needed but a good start. The reasons for the California housing crisis are many. An overheated economy and lack of supply help explain the problem. The lack of supply is predominantly due to restrictions on height and density, and extremely involved zoning laws restricting multifamily development.

St. Louis does not have an overheated economy but still suffers from unnecessary restrictions. I point to the historic preservation requirements in the City of St. Louis as a significant barrier to affordable housing. The suburbs have zoning laws which require low density and policies against the development of multifamily housing. Changes in zoning and land use will not alone create the conditions for affordable housing but it certainly would help. Written by Paul Dribin

Amazon Deal Will be Killed by Social Unrest

Reuters ran a story today which said that there would be no chance to St. Louis to be selected by Amazon for its’ headquarters due to the social unrest here. This of course is not a surprise. Written by Paul Dribin

The Racial Divide in St. Louis-The Elephant in the Room

I have been reluctant to write about the racial divide in St. Louis but can not longer hold back. The action by the St. Louis City Council to honor Anthony Smith, a victim of police violence, but also a convicted criminal, and drug dealer who attempted to resist arrest by ramming his car into police is too much for me. Have we set the bar so low we cannot find other victims of violence to honor? How cowardly of these elected officials.

I certainly agree that policing in the St. Louis area needs major transformation. The outcomes of the Ferguson Commission need to be followed. At the same time we need to recognize that 300 African Americans are killed annually by members of their own community not the police. With the possible exception of Charlie Brennan and Elliot Davis, nobody is talking about this issue. This is a small portion of the community that is bringing everyone else down.

Protesters talk about the need to be heard. Voting and participating in the political process would improve access. A stronger voter turnout in the African American community would have resulted in a black mayor being elected in St. Louis, adding to a black President of the Board of Aldermen, Comptroller, City Treasurer, and Prosecuting Attorney.

Given our turmoil, why would anyone want to locate a business in St. Louis. Written by Paul Dribin

Racial Divide in St. Louis

An excellent article by Tony Messinger in the St. Louis Post Dispatch

Why St. Louis?

The question comes from friends and family. It is asked by national reporters and newcomers.

Why, twice in three years, has the St. Louis region been rocked by racial discord displayed on national television for all to see as protesters face off against riot police?

Why not Detroit, Denver, Cleveland, Baltimore, Chicago, Boston or Memphis?

Why St. Louis?

The answer is as old as the city.

On Tuesday, after an interfaith prayer service and march down Market Street, a group of pastors stood on the steps of City Hall next to one of the ubiquitous birthday cakes that three years ago were placed around the city to mark its 250th anniversary. It was then, in 1764, when Pierre Laclede and August Chouteau, slaves in tow, established St. Louis as a trading post.

Racism in one form or another has been with the city ever since.

Why St. Louis?

Look to 1876, and the “Great Divorce” when the city of St. Louis separated itself from St. Louis County and planted the seeds for the white flight that would follow decades later, with 90 separate municipalities forming over time, many of them originally with restrictive covenants meant to keep out blacks.

St. Louis didn’t accidentally become one of the most segregated cities in America. It was designed that way. It was a feature, not a bug. The region’s geopolitical division exacerbates racial division, highlighted by that most parochial of St. Louis questions — where did you go to high school? — which can mask a thin veneer of classism and racial division.

Why St. Louis?

Blame the ’60s. When the civil rights movement was at its peak, when riots were forever changing Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, they didn’t quite spread to St. Louis. There were marches, yes, even police shootings that bear a remarkable resemblance to the stories of today.

October 1966. Russell Hayes was handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. He was black. He was shot and killed. Police said he somehow had a gun they missed. Protesters hit the streets for more than a week. They marched to the mayor’s house. Detectives were cleared.

That same year a Washington-based think tank studied school districts in St. Louis and Kansas City and found widespread disparities between the education available in public schools for white and black children. The study spurred a statewide commission — the Spainhower Commission — that called for the school districts in the St. Louis region to be consolidated so that taxpayers in the white parts of town were invested in the success of black students. The commission’s findings were ignored. Racism was the culprit.

“The only place where the report was weak,” James Spainhower told me a few years ago, “was in the thought that people could get over their biases.”

Also in 1966, a University of Missouri law professor published a white paper outlining problems with the municipal courts, calling them the “misshapen stepchildren” of the judicial system. Missouri turned a blind eye.

Until Ferguson, in 2014.

Why St. Louis?

Because three years after Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown, not much has changed. The Ferguson Commission documented decades of racial disparities and pointed to a path forward, but few of its proposals have been adopted. There has been incremental progress made in municipal courts, some push for more transit to be built where blacks live in the city’s north and south sections, an increase in racial equity awareness, but no sustained movement. On Friday, in response to protests, Mayor Lyda Krewson endorsed some of the report’s conclusions. But she lacks the power to put them into practice.

The commission itself on Friday urged adoption of many of its calls to action. Without such action, the commission’s report could end up like one produced in 1969 when community leaders gathered at the Fordyce House at St. Louis University to discuss the city’s racial disparities. By 1990, as he was gathering community leaders for “Fordyce II,” the Rev. Paul C. Reinert, then chancellor at SLU, lamented another report on race put on a shelf to gather dust.

“The good will generated at that conference 21 years ago was largely dissipated because no follow-up procedures were established,” Reinert wrote.

After Fordyce II there was the Fordyce Education Conference two years later, which discussed the racial divide in education examined in detail by the Spainhower Commission, and again decades later, the Ferguson Commission.

In 2017, the racial divide — in schools, in policing, in economic opportunity — persists because St. Louis is good at talking about it, but not so good at enacting meaningful change. The region lacks a convener — either in government or the corporate world — who can bring disparate voices together.

Today’s protests, like those three years ago, started because a white cop shot a black man, but anger is about much more than the bullets that preceded death.

“Think about the peace that children don’t have when they go to inadequate schools,” pleaded the Rev. Cassandra Gould at the prayer service Tuesday. Without education, there is no opportunity. Without opportunity, there can be no equality.

Why St. Louis?

The words are right. The inflection is wrong. Change will not come until we answer a more introspective question.

Why, St. Louis? Why?

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Don Roe

I am giving a shout out today to a great guy, the Planning Director for the City of St. Louis, Don Roe. I have known him for years to be a great and highly competent guy. He has had to exercise enormous tact and patience working with neighborhood groups, high level city officials, and the myriad and Byzantine policies of the City of St. Louis. When I worked for HUD he was always the go to guy to get things done. Written by Paul Dribin

St Louis Can Really be a Good Place to Live

St. Louis is taking it on the chin, much of it deserved. There are demonstrations in the streets, unjust policing, crime, murders, racial strife and more. I believe much of the criticism of our city is on target but unfair. Much of the national coverage makes our city seem as though our problems are unique; they are not. I don’t need to run statistics for most of you to understand that other cities share our problems. We have a lot of good things and people in St. Louis and have first rate cultural attractions, sports, universities, and restaurants. Our problems are not unique, are positives are. Written by Paul Dribin

Again Healthcare and Housing

Housing and healthcare are one and the same. I don’t need to restate the obvious; people with poor housing options tend to be less healthy, and people who are less healthy tend to live in substandard housing.

I am putting some ideas together to address this. Think of this scenario which often happens. A patient cannot be released from the hospital in a timely manner because they are homeless. The daily cost in the hospital is $3000. Wouldn’t it make sense for hospitals to subsidize the rent for these individuals and get supportive services for them? A second issue. Many readmissions to hospitals could be avoided if people lived in decent housing. As I said, I will be putting a project together to address this. Paul Dribin

Landlord Lockouts

Tony Messenger had a good article in the Post today about a subject of which I had been aware but needed reminding. That is a situation that is common in St. Louis and probably elsewhere; landlord lockouts and illegal evictions.

What happens is that a tenant who is behind on their rent discovers their apartment is padlocked and they cannot gain entry. A second scenario might involve their possessions being put on the sidewalk. These intimidation techniques often result in the tenant leaving on their own and forfeiting their security deposit. Of course in Missouri as in all states there is a judicial process which involves a court hearing if the tenant requests it.

In St. Louis such actions are not criminal offenses. The board of aldermen is attempting to pass an ordinance criminalizing this behavior. I would like to see huge fines imposed on landlords in these situations for their greedy behavior. Ironically, the courts will always rule in the landlord’s favor if the tenant is behind on their rent. Most landlords, particularly the larger ones do not engage in this behavior. Written by Paul Dribin

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