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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”

St Louis Affordable Housing Trust Fund

Through the vision of longtime affordable housing advocate Janet Becker, the City of St. Louis has an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The fund is filled as a percentage of out of state real estate transfer taxes and varies each year. Much good work has been accomplished through the use of this fund, but there are at least 2 problems.

The first problem is that the city has skimmed money off the top for other purposes. That is clearly illegal, but no one has seen fit to challenge it. The statute was clearly passed with the intention of all the funds being used for affordable housing.

Second, like many organizations in Missouri, the decision making process involving the funds is murky. I know of a small non profit who was not funded, and the Executive Director of the fund would not discuss the reasons for non acceptance. This is a clear violation of administrative due process.

The St. Louis Affordable Housing Trust Fund is a great idea. It needs to make some changes to fully live up to its’ mission. Written by Paul Dribin

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Homelessness in St. Louis

Activists in St. Louis have mounted demonstrations against the Mayor and other city officials over the issues of homelessness. They have criticized the city for not making more homeless beds available and doing a better job of housing the homeless population. A poster child for this action has been a homeless man who died in a portapot before Christmas.

That gentleman’s story is symptomatic of the homeless problem. This individual had refused help from his family and from workers in an office building near his portapot. He consistently refused help; most likely having a mental health problem. I don’t know of any way the city could have managed this situation.

I work closely with the homeless issue in St. Louis. I help serve lunch every week at Biddle House. When the Larry Rice facility was shut we did not notice an upswing in people coming in for lunch. Where did his alleged population go? Also, as pointed out by the city, if there is an overflow in shelters churches step in and house people.

I don’t believe there are people sleeping on the streets who could not be admitted to shelters. I also believe if we built ten more shelters they would be full. The issue is complicated, but homelessness is a more fluid situation than most people understand. The answer to the problem is permanent supportive housing. Written by Paul Dribin

The limits of Historic Preservation

St Louis is a city tied up in historic preservation. Most of the city is in some historic neighbor or another. Is this a good thing?

Well, it depends. If you have a truly historic house the designation brings resources to the table to improve the property. If you have a non historic house in a historic district you could be screwed. That is because rehabbing that property will require historic preservation processes that will add significantly to the cost of rehabbing the house, often more than the value of the property itself. Properties get abandoned and neighborhoods deteriorate.

Alderman and other civic leaders have pushed to designate deteriorated areas as historic in an erroneous effort to create revitalization. If anything these efforts hurt.

What can be done? First develop a reasonable definition of historic. Not every old building meets the standard. Second allow more flexibility in design. We would never have had the modernist architectural style if every neighborhood had to conform to existing styles. Finally use a reasonable definition of historic. The federal register talks about unique. That would be a good starting point.

A Trivial but Important Issue

I want to write about a very small problem that affected me regarding my attendance at the Blues game Tuesday night. I am not writing this in the spirit of whining or griping but as an illustration.

I attend many Blues games, usually by myself(shows you how unpopular I am). I parked on Olive Street at about 15th. I arrived about 6:00 and put enough money in the meter to last one hour and fifteen minutes. I came back to the car after the terrible game (although I received a free blanket). Sitting on my windshield was a parking ticket. I discovered that ticket was written at 8:40.

I am not complaining about the $25 fine. I feel that is justice for all the times I have gotten away with things. But how does this treat visitors to downtown. Why is an isolated part of Olive with no businesses even open metered until 9pm? I can only conclude they are there to trick people like me. Meters should only be used in locations that have a premium on parking, not as a ruse to grab folks like me.

How many little policies are there in St. Louis which unnecessarily penalize people. There should be an evaluation completed of all the city policies that hurt people. The whole parking meter issue in St. Louis is a mess. It is used as a cash cow rather than a tool of traffic policy. Written by Paul Dribin

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

Light Rail

St. Louis is going ahead and holding meetings with regard to the north-south expansion of metrolink. This is a farce. Light rail is extremely expensive and in St. Louis has been a dangerous mode of transportation. Furthermore, new technology such as ride sharing and driverless cars will make the technology obsolete. We need to invest short term in buses and cities developing some relationships with ride sharing company so that poor people can avail themselves of these services. Written by Paul Dribin

TIFS in St. Louis

I just read an article posted by Alderman Cara Spencer on facebook regarding the City of St. Louis financial position. The article quoted is entitled Team TIF St. Louis.

The gist of the article is that the city’s financial picture is dire and that TIF’s are the cause. As I have said previously, development subsidies are overdone in St. Louis mostly when used for projects that don’t further economic development. The analysis of TIFs is overly simplistic for the following reasons:

1. It is not really a debt. They are deferred funds that will eventually go to the city which are now going to developments.

2. Without the TIF nothing would have happened. It is not as if there would be a lesser project, there would be no project at all.

3. St. Louis is between a rock and a hard place. It is declining economically, riddled with crime and high taxes, and needs incentives to prime the pump. The real question is whether things will ever take off. Written by Paul Dribin

Tax Abatement in St. Louis

The Comptroller of St. Louis issued a report today which again demonstrated that the city is giving away millions of dollars of potential taxes to developers in the form of abatement and TIF. I consider tax abatement to be a useful development tool when properly targeted. The trouble is it has not been properly targeted. Aldermen play too big a role in the decision making process. Written by Paul Dribin

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

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