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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “st. louis”

How Does Economic Development Work

Back to one of my favorite topics, the amount of money wasted on economic development in the St. Louis Region. Millions of dollars are being spent on private and public organizations that focus on job growth. The controversy with the Blues and the Regional Chamber leader, Mr. Regan simply reflect the impotence of economic development organizations on whom we spend millions of dollars while are local economy lessens.

Years ago an economist friend of mine showed me that offering incentives in the way of tax abatement and other government services was a losing proposition. The costs of the benefits were more than the potential gains. What do cause businesses to locate in an area. I would guess they are the following:

1. A strong, able, and well educated workforce
2. Good roads, transportation, and airports
3. Good schools
4. Things to do
5. A culture accepting of diversity

You notice I did not mention tax structure which is the favorite bugaboo of the right. New York, California, and Massachusetts have the highest taxes, but great economies. In conclusion, be very skeptical of the claims of economic development organizations. 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

Do We Have an Affordable Housing Crisis in St. Louis?

The answer to this question is how you structure the problem. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has done the most work of any organization on this issue on a national level. They pose the problem by taking the median rental rate in the community and factoring in the minimum wage income. Not surprisingly they concluded that virtually now where in the United States is housing affordable.

There are several problems with this approach. The minimum wage is not a good indication of a community's earning capacity. Many minimum wage workers are students, part time workers, and those new to the work force. Many live with parents or double or triple up. Also most minimum wage workers don't remain at that pay level for a long time, as they move up the ladder. The minimum wage was never intended to be a living wage, rather just a starter for low skilled workers. Many minimum wage workers also work 2 or more jobs.

A better gauge of housing affordability is the relationship between the median income and the median rent. This gives us kind of an average, not perfect, but much better. Let's look at some numbers as a point of comparison:

St. Louis Metro Area

Median Income- $52243 for a family of 4 in the City of St. Louis
Median Rent -2 bedroom- $1291
Therefore the monthly median income of $4354 can afford a monthly rent of $1306 at the 30% threshold. This represents 100.01% of the median rent.

One may conclude that on the whole rent is affordable in the St Louis area for the median household.

Boston
Median Income-$67846
Median rent-2 bedroom-$3166
Therefore the monthly income of $5654 can support a monthly rent of $1696 at the 30% threshold. This represents 54% of the median rent.

The Boston market on the whole is not affordable.

This approach seems to be useful in making comparisons among communities. It also does not relieve our community of our responsibility to provide affordable housing. After all, median income is a statistic. There are thousands of people in our metro area who cannot afford the median rent and do not have access to adequate rental housing.

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

St. Louis Named as Best City for Milliennials

His is good news and in my mind quite accurate. The housing is affordable, jobs for educated people are here, it is easy to get around, great cultural attractions, great restaurants. A lot to do. Tim Dribin needs to hear this. 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

Metrolink Policing in the St. Louis Area

The Post Dispatch led by Tony Messenger has written a number of articles which focus on the problems of adequate policing on Metrolink. The gist of the story is that police officer assigned to patrol trains and platform were sitting in an office, texting, sleeping, etc. This is of course terrible.

What is worse however is the lack of cooperation shown by the county to Metrolink, Bi-State, the parent company, and to other units of policing. They came up with a silly ruling that the Metrolink police personnel could not collect fines because they were not official police. Consequently fines are not collected and thugs are having their way on the trains.

This lack of cooperation is the more major problem and again points to the fundamental problem in the St. Louis area; the proliferation and lack of cooperation of the various units of government. Let’s hope this can be a teaching moment for moving things forward. 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

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