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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the month “October, 2017”

Clean Energy in St. Louis

St. Louis has passed an ordinance which commits the city to providing 100% clean energy by 2035. This is good news and a major step in the right direction. I hope they meet the goal but even if they don’t they will be a lot further along on the goal of clean renewable energy. Written by Paul Dribin

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Tower T Development

One of the iconic places of the St. Louis area will be no more. Tower T located in South St. Louis County has been a popular spot for many years. It has included many of the rather tacky aspects of life, a nine hole par 3 golf course, batting cages, and miniature golf. My son and I spent many happy hours there.

The site will be developed for 300 homes. I don’t know how the area can support the traffic that would be generated by such a project. It appears to represent the height of poor planning. Written by Paul Dribin

Office Space in Downtown St. Louis

The demand for office space in downtown St. Louis is decreasing. This problem will only get worse when Ballpark Village builds out their office space. It has always been a mystery to me when new space is built when demand is so low. St. Louis as of now has a declining market. Written by Paul Dribin

Fair Housing Complaints

Paraquad and the Equal Housing Opportunity Center have filed complaints against various apartment complexes in the area over potential violations of the Fair Housing Act. The violations relate to lack of handicap accessibility at certain market rate projects in the area. Without knowing the exact circumstances it is difficult for me to comment. Written by Paul Dribin

Legalizing Marijuana in St Louis

There is a bill before the Board of Aldermen in St. Louis to legalize marijuana. Alvin Reed on Donnybrook suggested this could be an economic development tool for the city that would bring people into town. Who knows, he could be right. This is a more sane idea than a trolley for instance. Written by Paul Dribin

Aquarium in St. Louis

One piece of very good news for the City of St. Louis, the aquarium at Union Station will soon begin construction. This is really good news. Union Station has struggled big time and this will be a major shot in the arm. There will also be a Ferris wheel on site. I have every confidence this will be a successful attraction and help downtown and the city. Written by Paul Dribin

Stupid

I think this comes close to taking the cake for stupidity. Activists in St. Louis have been hugely critical of the city police department for being insensitive to people of color, violating the rights of protesters etc. (No civilians have been hurt in the demonstrations but police have). St. Louis County earlier in the year passed a sales tax increase to raise police salaries and provide more resources to police forces. The city has come up with a similar proposal, Proposition P, largely because the better police officers would leave for the county which would have higher salaries. Well guess what. Activists led by Tashara Jones, Treasurer of the city and almost mayor are opposed to Proposition P because they don’t like the police. So you complain about police behavior and then not want to fund efforts to professionalize and provide more training for police. I guess if police are bad, we will be worse off with more inexperienced and poorly trained officers. Written by Paul Dribin

The Myth of Pruitt Igoe

At the suggestion of a friend I finally watched the documentary The Myth of Pruitt Igoe. The whole subject is too vast for this one post, but the presentation was excellent. The experience was rather emotional, particularly seeing the testimony of former residents such as Ruby Russell who worked with me at HUD.

The presentation was pretty fair, doing a good job of avoiding simplistic answers. The basic premise is that things such as racism, project design, slum clearance, welfare rules, and so on. Where I believe the presentation was inaccurate was in attributing the problems at Pruitt Igoe to the population loss in St. Louis. While the city suffered population loss, the demand for public housing remained as high as ever with huge waiting lists.

Aside from the flaw of concentrating too many people in high rise buildings, the beginnings of the welfare state played a role. Previously, public housing did not even allow people on welfare to reside in their units. At the time of the development of Pruitt-Igoe, this rule changed and they pretty much let anyone in the project who was poor, regardless of background. The federal government at that time did not provide housing authorities with operating subsidies so all expenses needed to be covered by rent. Maintenance backlogs developed, repairs were not made, and the better tenants moved out.

During my housing career I had the privilege of being a friend and colleague of Tom Costello who was the Executive Director of the St. Louis Housing Authority at the time of the demolition. He has said the authority could simply not keep up with maintenance backlogs. He said George Romney, the Secretary of HUD at the time suggested total demolition. I have also known at former police officer at Pruitt Igoe. He said he would have 65 major cases to investigate every day when he came in.

The story of Pruitt Igoe is a tragedy and symbolized both the end of public housing and modernist architecture. I worked a year at the St. Louis Housing Authority in the late nineties. We received calls every week from people curious about Pruitt-Igoe all over the world. Architects would come on field trips to visit the site as if it was a religious shrine. Everyone needs to view this documentary. Written by Paul Dribin

Blues Ice Rink Again

The federal government has refused to allow construction of an ice arena on a environmentally fragile site in Creve Coeur Park. Last week officials from the federal government were in town to hear grievances from local politicians. The lawyer for the ice arena played the oldest game in the world when facing a negative decision from the feds. He argued prejudice on the part of the federal officials based upon newspaper articles they had received. The only way to attempt to win this is to argue that the feds acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner.

Enough of this nonsense. Let’s find another site and get on with things. Written by Paul Dribin

West Lake Landfill

Thanks to the efforts of David Behrens, I am becoming more aware of this situation and do not like what I see. This is an EPA designated superfund site in Bridgeton that has been getting attention and negative comments for some time. There have been fires burning consistently for years and people living amidst the radioactive landfill. Republic Corporation who also picks up garbage and recycling dumps their trash in the fill which has been contaminated by the sludge from enriched uranium. My understanding is the sludge is then given to MSD who treats it and dumps it in the Mississippi River. The federal EPA has refused to offer buyouts and relocation for residents and full cleanup of the site. Written by Paul Dribin

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