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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “economic development”

St. Louis Economic Development Agencies

The embattled head of the Regional Chamber, Joe Regan receives more in the way of salary and perks than any of his comparable 25 colleagues. He receives $771,879 in total compensation. This information was conveyed by the St. Louis Business Journal. This despite the fact he had many unhappy employees and our local economy shrunk. I would like such a gig.

A bigger picture is that the St. Louis region has multiple economic development agencies and it is not clear what any of them accomplish. The St. Louis Regional Partnership has increased staffing and salaries significantly since it partnered with the city. This whole issue is the next scandal waiting to happen. Written by Paul Dribin

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Hockey Public Funding

A fascinating fight is brewing in St Louis over public funding of the repairs to the Scottrade Center where the hockey Blues play. The Board of Aldermen passed an ordinance authorizing payment for the repairs in the form of 30 year bonds. A group led by Alderman Cara Spencer has filed suit and challenged the legality of the action because it violates terms of the Missouri Constitution. In addition to Ms. Spencer, another plaintiff is Jeanette Mott Oxford, former state representative, and Executive Director of Empower Missouri, a non profit advocacy agency for poor people. Ms. Oxford is a friend and colleague of mine and I can tell you she is very smart, determined, and fearless.

A major item of discussion concerns who owns the building. The popular perception is that the city owns it which is apparently not true. The city owns the land under it, and the Blues own the building.

Once again this is a matter of a cash starved city funding a sports venue for rich private parties. Furthermore most of the attendees at Blues game live outside the city. Ms. Spencer has recommended a regional sports authority that receives funding from the county as well as the city,

I love hockey and think Tom Stillman the owner of the Blues is a good guy. I also agree with Ms. Spencer and Oxford that public funds should not be used for this purpose. Written by Paul Dribin

St. Louis Glitz-Build it and They Will Come

Here is a major beef I have with how things get done in St. Louis in the 21 years my family and I have lived here.

Instead of investing in neighborhoods, education, crime prevention, etc. St Louisians invest in glitzy and trendy project that may work elsewhere but are unsuitable for our community. Some examples include, Union Station, City Center, adding a runway at Lambert, football and soccer stadiums, a downtown convention hotel, metro link, and a trolley. There is a place for all of these things in some communities, but glitz put on top of a crime ridden city with crumbling infrastructure will not work. The problem is compounded by a build it and they will come attitude, meaning that data does not support the endeavor but it will be so cool that people from somewhere will come and use it after it is completed. (I;E THE LOOP trolley)

Written by Paul Dribin

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

Ferguson

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

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

Negatives

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

Urban Development and Privilege

Much has been written recently about the concept of white privilege. I  find the term somewhat offensive because it makes people defensive. Nevertheless, the concept is true

There are a couple areas of middle class privilege that contribute negatively to the well being of communities.   The first is the mortgage interest deductions. This deduction primarily helps higher income people, and artificially drives up the price of housing. Working class people who do not itemize are hurt. This by the way is the biggest housing subsidy. A tax credit targeted to working class people would be more effective

A second set of privileges cover zoning and planning laws in our communities. These laws tend to zone out smaller and more affordable housing and Multifamily housing. I am not talking about housing homeless people but teachers social workers, nurses etc.    

The results of these policies are unnecessary segregation , a lack of mobility, and urban decline.  Written by paul Dribin

DeSales Community DevelopmentĀ 

Kudos to this organization. This organization led by TomPickel has been around since the mid seventies. They have accomplished major housing and redevelopment work in the Fox spark and Tower Grove East neighborhoods of St Louis. They have rehabbed houses provided property management and health services.   Written by Paul Dribin. 

Economic Development Organizations in St. Louis

I have hesitated to write about this topic but here goes. As locals know, the President of the Regional Chamber, Joe Reagan has been under fire in the community and with his staff. Anonymous letters have been leaked to the newspapers. It is far beyond my pay grade to comment on Mr. Reagan or his organization.

The bigger picture, which has always fascinated me, is what to these organizations do? I am not sure. Dick Fleming, Reagan’s predecessor, was always bragging about his accomplishments, but population and jobs actually went down under his tenure. Do Chambers of Commerce make any sense in a worldwide economy?

I have also heard that the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership; a collaboration of the city and county economic development agencies is a mess. The leader of this organization is Rodney Crim. My source tells me the only thing they have accomplished is increasing salaries and high level staff.

The St. Charles County Economic Development Council, led by Greg Prestemon largely because they provide a business incubator. Greg and his staff have been supportive of innovative business change in St. Charles County including Workforce Housing.

I will write more about this subject in the future. The studies of researchers for years have shown that government economic development efforts do little and may actually operate at a net loss. Factors such as an educated workforce, progressive attitudes toward minorities and gay/lesbian populations does more than tax or other incentives to bring business. Written by Paul Dribin

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