The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the month “March, 2018”

Loss of Population in St. Louis

The St. Louis region is no longer one of the top 20 in the country. This is not surprising in light of loss of population, jobs, aging of population etc. The city of St. Louis continues to lose population; mostly more educated and affluent African Americans moving to more comfortable environments. This is the same migration white folks took so it should not be surprising. Written by Paul Dribin


More Bad Business in St. Louis

St. Louis should be doing everything possible to help small businesses. The population had declined and the city as a whole lacks for good businesses. Instead the city is making it worse. They have decided to make things worse. In a small minded effort to get more tax revenue, the city has decided to reclassify many small businesses from retail to manufacturing. A good example is Crown Candy, an iconic business in the Old North St. Louis area. The reason for this reclassification, they have mixing bowls. Bakeries have been reclassified in a similar manner. Crown Candy in particular deserves the keys to the city not being treated in this rude manner.

To be successful, St. Louis needs to be the easiest city for small businesses to work, not the most difficult. Written by Paul Dribin

More on Development Incentives

The Riverfront Times contained an excellent article today. It focused on a bill before the Missouri legislature which will improve the use of TIFs. It will require more transparency, shorter TIF periods, and allow the school districts more input and the possibility of opting out. The legislation is supported by both liberal and conservatives etc. The City of St. Louis is opposed to it because they want more “local control” over the process. Once again the City of St. Louis is on the wrong side of history. Written by Paul Dribin.

Company Towns

I read an article today that stated Facebook is creating a company town out in California for their workers. It will have some relatively affordable housing and all the amenities. I kind of cringe when I see these things, because company towns of the past were not usually nice places. Workers tended to be confined to company owned housing and stores, and often became indebted to their bosses. This does not sound to me like a way to go. Written by Paul Dribin

Zoo Fees and Sales Tax

St. Louis has one of the great zoos and museum districts in the world. Admission to the zoo, art museum, and history museum are free. The institutions are supported by property taxes imposed on St. Louis city and county residents.

Residents of the surrounding counties should either chip in or have to pay an admission. We are a region and these institutions should be supported regionally. If someone joins one of these institutions on their own and pays an annual membership, they should get free admission. Written by Paul Dribin

Development Subsidies in St. Louis

The Post-Dispatch today headlined an article which stated that the City of St. Louis gave away through TIFs and tax abatement $30 million instead of $17 million. This article is not written to question the error but the huge amount of subsidies St. Louis provides to developers. I know the city is not by itself always a strong market, but the level of subsidies appears out of whack.

There is not enough targeting of incentives by the city. TIFs were intended to be used in economically distressed areas, not everywhere. When the use of block grant funds to write down development costs is added to the pile, the situation gets uglier. Efforts need to be made to make the development process easier and ease off of some of the onerous historic preservation rules. Written by Paul Dribin

Sanctuary Cities

St. Louis and many other like minded cities in the United States have deemed themselves to be Sanctuary Cities. What this means to my mind is these cities will not cooperate with federal officials to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants. This is certainly a morally popular position to take and on the face of it makes sense. After all, immigration policy is in a shambles and many undocumented folks are key people in their communities.

I have two problems with Sanctuary Cities, both practical and philosophical. From a practical point of view, cities should not be harboring dangerous criminals. The Trump administration has seriously exaggerated the seriousness of this problem, but it exists. Second, I have a problem with any city disobeying federal law. I am a big believer in law and society will become unmanageable if everybody only followed laws they liked. What if some cities decided to not enforce civil rights laws or gay marriage. We can’t pick and choose what we obey.

The answer to the problem of Sanctuary Cities is to pass a sane immigration law. I am not optimistic this will happen in the near future. Written by Paul Dribin

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is of course the international organization that does a great job of providing affordable housing for working poor families. The vehicle is a sweat equity program in which members of the community and the ultimate purchasers of the home work together. The loan is at 0% rate of interest.

An friend of mine had a constructive criticism of the program with which I agree. Groups now have to pay significant sums of money for the privilege of working on a house. This leaves out small groups and well intentioned individuals who cannot pay these fees. I am sure this program has raised huge sums of money for Habitat, but it has lost a little of its charitable purpose. The corporate world has taken over this program just like it has everything else. Written by Paul Dribin

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