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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the tag “st louis post dispatch”

Loop Trolley Again

Tony Messenger has written in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that when the Joe Edwards group applied for federal funding for the trolley, they promised $5 million in private funds. Not one dollar of these funds has ever appeared, yet they are asking for more money from St. Louis County. What gives? How inept can people be? Written by Paul Dribin

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Audit of St. Louis

The Post published a story over the weekend about a group of citizens raising money for an audit of the City of St Louis. It seems this is part of their effort of complaining about the police department. In any case, it is a bad idea that will not accomplish anything. Audits simply count the pennies and put them in piles. They usually don’t get at the larger management problems. Written by Paul Dribin

Racial Divide in St. Louis

An excellent article by Tony Messinger in the St. Louis Post Dispatch

Why St. Louis?

The question comes from friends and family. It is asked by national reporters and newcomers.

Why, twice in three years, has the St. Louis region been rocked by racial discord displayed on national television for all to see as protesters face off against riot police?

Why not Detroit, Denver, Cleveland, Baltimore, Chicago, Boston or Memphis?

Why St. Louis?

The answer is as old as the city.

On Tuesday, after an interfaith prayer service and march down Market Street, a group of pastors stood on the steps of City Hall next to one of the ubiquitous birthday cakes that three years ago were placed around the city to mark its 250th anniversary. It was then, in 1764, when Pierre Laclede and August Chouteau, slaves in tow, established St. Louis as a trading post.

Racism in one form or another has been with the city ever since.

Why St. Louis?

Look to 1876, and the “Great Divorce” when the city of St. Louis separated itself from St. Louis County and planted the seeds for the white flight that would follow decades later, with 90 separate municipalities forming over time, many of them originally with restrictive covenants meant to keep out blacks.

St. Louis didn’t accidentally become one of the most segregated cities in America. It was designed that way. It was a feature, not a bug. The region’s geopolitical division exacerbates racial division, highlighted by that most parochial of St. Louis questions — where did you go to high school? — which can mask a thin veneer of classism and racial division.

Why St. Louis?

Blame the ’60s. When the civil rights movement was at its peak, when riots were forever changing Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, they didn’t quite spread to St. Louis. There were marches, yes, even police shootings that bear a remarkable resemblance to the stories of today.

October 1966. Russell Hayes was handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. He was black. He was shot and killed. Police said he somehow had a gun they missed. Protesters hit the streets for more than a week. They marched to the mayor’s house. Detectives were cleared.

That same year a Washington-based think tank studied school districts in St. Louis and Kansas City and found widespread disparities between the education available in public schools for white and black children. The study spurred a statewide commission — the Spainhower Commission — that called for the school districts in the St. Louis region to be consolidated so that taxpayers in the white parts of town were invested in the success of black students. The commission’s findings were ignored. Racism was the culprit.

“The only place where the report was weak,” James Spainhower told me a few years ago, “was in the thought that people could get over their biases.”

Also in 1966, a University of Missouri law professor published a white paper outlining problems with the municipal courts, calling them the “misshapen stepchildren” of the judicial system. Missouri turned a blind eye.

Until Ferguson, in 2014.

Why St. Louis?

Because three years after Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown, not much has changed. The Ferguson Commission documented decades of racial disparities and pointed to a path forward, but few of its proposals have been adopted. There has been incremental progress made in municipal courts, some push for more transit to be built where blacks live in the city’s north and south sections, an increase in racial equity awareness, but no sustained movement. On Friday, in response to protests, Mayor Lyda Krewson endorsed some of the report’s conclusions. But she lacks the power to put them into practice.

The commission itself on Friday urged adoption of many of its calls to action. Without such action, the commission’s report could end up like one produced in 1969 when community leaders gathered at the Fordyce House at St. Louis University to discuss the city’s racial disparities. By 1990, as he was gathering community leaders for “Fordyce II,” the Rev. Paul C. Reinert, then chancellor at SLU, lamented another report on race put on a shelf to gather dust.

“The good will generated at that conference 21 years ago was largely dissipated because no follow-up procedures were established,” Reinert wrote.

After Fordyce II there was the Fordyce Education Conference two years later, which discussed the racial divide in education examined in detail by the Spainhower Commission, and again decades later, the Ferguson Commission.

In 2017, the racial divide — in schools, in policing, in economic opportunity — persists because St. Louis is good at talking about it, but not so good at enacting meaningful change. The region lacks a convener — either in government or the corporate world — who can bring disparate voices together.

Today’s protests, like those three years ago, started because a white cop shot a black man, but anger is about much more than the bullets that preceded death.

“Think about the peace that children don’t have when they go to inadequate schools,” pleaded the Rev. Cassandra Gould at the prayer service Tuesday. Without education, there is no opportunity. Without opportunity, there can be no equality.

Why St. Louis?

The words are right. The inflection is wrong. Change will not come until we answer a more introspective question.

Why, St. Louis? Why?

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Landlord Lockouts

Tony Messenger had a good article in the Post today about a subject of which I had been aware but needed reminding. That is a situation that is common in St. Louis and probably elsewhere; landlord lockouts and illegal evictions.

What happens is that a tenant who is behind on their rent discovers their apartment is padlocked and they cannot gain entry. A second scenario might involve their possessions being put on the sidewalk. These intimidation techniques often result in the tenant leaving on their own and forfeiting their security deposit. Of course in Missouri as in all states there is a judicial process which involves a court hearing if the tenant requests it.

In St. Louis such actions are not criminal offenses. The board of aldermen is attempting to pass an ordinance criminalizing this behavior. I would like to see huge fines imposed on landlords in these situations for their greedy behavior. Ironically, the courts will always rule in the landlord’s favor if the tenant is behind on their rent. Most landlords, particularly the larger ones do not engage in this behavior. Written by Paul Dribin

The Blues and Creve Coeur Park

As most of you know the hockey Blues have proposed putting a practice rink and ice skating facility in Creve Coeur Park, a gem of a location, which is environmentally fragile. Environmental groups are massively organizing in opposition. Well now we hear that construction has started on the facility without approvals. Tony Messenger wrote about this issue today in the Post. The county denies that the construction is for the arena even though the city of Maryland Heights gave a building permit for construction of an ice arena.

I don’t know why the arrogance and greed have dominated this issue. My take on the issue is that public support for this endeavor may be ok if the public gets use of the facility, but it can easily be located someplace else. Engineers say the park location is prone to flooding. 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

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