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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “Racism”

Two Contradictory and Yet Similar Views of Missouri

I take the lists of best and worst to not be worth very much. Nevertheless in the competitive world of travel and jobs maybe they do play a role.

First, a list I just saw ranks St. Louis as the very best place for a young person to move. The report cites the low cost of housing and cultural amenities. I think we all know that, the question is how do we harness it to bring more young people here and retain the ones we have. I would suggest offering a free weekend trip to St. Louis for anyone who wants it who live a certain distance away. Paying for this would of course be an issue but maybe the Regional Chamber can tighten up on some of their salaries to do this. Our cultural amenities are on a par with the greatest cities in the world

On the extremely negative side, Fodor’s published a list of where not to travel in the world, Missouri was listed right up there with Myanmar and Cuba( actually you would be safer in Cuba for sure). I don’t know why Missouri is worse than some other redneck states but we are. Much of it goes back to the NAACP report from awhile ago. Written by Paul Dribin

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A Practical Method to Lessen Violent Deaths in St. Louis

The new police chief of St. Louis held a press conference in which he discussed targeting the relatively small number of individuals who account for most of the gun violence. The date in the hands of the city would seem to indicate the identities of the key perpetrators. This idea makes total sense. My only question is why they were not doing it before.

Boston and San Bernardino has adopted this approach with additional carrots and sticks. They use other community based folks, often ex offenders to reach out to the perpetrators and offer them supports such as job training etc. to leave crime. If they refuse they are promised the full brunt of the law. In both places crime has been significantly reduced.

I believe the ultimate intervention is to offer mentoring from the time of birth to any at risk child and family that want it..A definition of at risk could be children who would qualify for free school lunches. This would require many volunteers and staff but would ultimately turn around the cycle of crime. Written by Paul Dribin

Candlelight Vigil

On New Years Eve the organization Families Achieving Safe Streets held a candlelight vigil for the 200+ victims of murder in St. Louis. This event received a newspaper article or two but no where near the media coverage of the demonstrations related to the lack of conviction of a cop who killed a drug dealer trying to kill him.

Where are our priorities? Almost every day there are murders, sometimes of innocent bystanders, and nobody says anything. If a cop gets a little out of line all hell breaks loose. That’s why we struggle as a city. Written by Paul Dribn

New Police Chief in St. Louis

St. Louis picked a new police chief yesterday. His name is John Hayden, an African American veteran of the St. Louis force who seems to have a very distinguished career. I wish him well in a tough job. Improving crime and policing in St. Louis is more than one person, but this appears to be an excellent selection. Written by Paul Dribin

Proposition P

I am glad to see that Proposition P passed. This is a measure to increase the sales tax in St. Louis to increase Police Salaries. Critics of the police and activists have been opposed. I have never understood the logic of complaining about the police needing more training etc. and then denying them the money to do so. I fully realize these funds are only a small part of the effort needed to improve police-community relations, but it is a start. 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

Video Cameras for Police

An article today in the New York Times demonstrated that police wearing video cameras did virtually nothing to change the behavior and especially the use of force by police. The study was done in Washington DC and contrasted the behavior of police with or without cameras. The results were almost identical.

This could be a major setback for those of us who have argued that cameras will make a difference. There is no solid evidence as to why these results occurred. Written by Paul Dribin

How Will Self Driving Cars Affect our Future

Self driving cars are on their way. They may be here in a few years or 20 years, but they will be here. They will have a dramatic effect on the world and on communities such as St. Louis. Here are some thoughts:

1. Public transport systems will suffer, go bankrupt, or go out of existence. Why should people ride buses or trains when they can dial up a car and go door to door in minutes?

2. Further investment in metrolink is absurd.

3. A good strategy would be for transport companies to develop their own ride sharing programs.

4. Roads should be less crowded.

5. There will be far fewer traffic injuries and deaths. Police can be freed up to fight crime.

6. There could be a real problem of equity for poor people. If someone has bad credit or a criminal background will they be allowed to order a car? If not, will poor people once again have trouble getting to work? Right now taxis and Uber are reluctant to go to the inner city. Will the same policy exist for self driving cars?

Written by Paul Dribin

New St. Louis Public Safety Director

Mayor Krewson has appointed Judge Jimmie Edwards as Public Safety Director for the City of St. Louis. This is an excellent selection. Judge Edwards who is African American has been a progressive judge, specializing in providing youth in trouble alternatives to prison. He started a school to attempt to educate students who had been expelled from St. Louis Public Schools. This effort has been a real disaster but the fault is mainly with the school system. Judge Edwards seems as if he will strike a proper balance between the police and community activists. It is a good small step in starting the healing process in St. Louis. Written by Paul Dribin

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