Friday, February 25, 2011

Bet: Most STL Traffic Lights Could be Switched to Flashing Red...

...and overall traffic would move easier. Sure, it might sound crazy, but I bet it's true.

Some lights would need to remain on normal cycles, but countless others could be switched to the equivalent of "signalized" stop signs.

Granted, I don't have the scientific facts to back up the bet, just years of anecdotal evidence that every time a light is switched to flashing red, you almost always get through on the first or second waiting of your turn - much faster than you do waiting from a change from red to green. Why? Bottom line: St. Louis just doesn't have that much traffic.

Besides, given the overall extremely courteous nature of St. Louis drivers, it just might work.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Seismic Shifts Coming to St. Louis Political Landscape?

Could the battle for local control of the St. Louis police department be the catalytic event to trigger major structural changes to local government in St. Louis? For years, there has been a struggle over control over the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

Since the Civil War, the department has been controlled by a board appointed by the governor. And since at least the 1960s, St. Louis leaders, have been fighting to bring control back to the city. Now their call for local control has been joined by Civic Progress and Focus St. Louis.

This year, for the first time since the Civil War, a bill has passed in the Missouri House to return local control of the police department to the City of St. Louis. The Police Officers Association vehemently opposes this effort and has many political allies, both within and outside of the city limits.

The Police Officers Association holds that returning local control to the city will result in two things they don't like: the possibility of political interference with the police department from St. Louis city elected officials, and, of greater concern, local control of their pension system.

The Police Officers Association has an ally in a state senator from University City, Maria Chappelle-Nadal. Senator Nadal opposes local control.

In the past few days, Senator Nadal has raised two interesting ideas. The first was to insert language into Senate version of the local control bill to reduce the number of aldermen in the City of St. Louis from 28 to 14. And today the news is reporting that Senator Nadal is proposing a bill to call for a vote by citizens for the re-entry of the City of St. Louis into St. Louis County.

A return of the City of St. Louis into St. Louis County increases the liklihood of there one day being a region-wide metropolitan police department on the Missouri side of the St. Louis area. Such a system has the potential to save significant cost to Missouri taxpayers.

While STL Rising strongly favors having a local city police department in the City of St. Louis, where neighbors get to personally know their local police department representatives, the idea of a region-wide metropolitan police force is worth serious consideration.

And if all of this work by local leaders results in further streamlined yet strenghtened local government, then perhaps these will be remembered as times of great progress for the St. Louis region.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pujols...not looking good!

"Albert", "El Hombre", "the man", whatever you want to call him, is not looking too good thanks to his agent and recent contract negotiations flap with the St. Louis Cardinals. Pujols is a great player. However, the handling of his "walk year" is not serving him well.

At the end of this season, if he does not sign a new contract with the Cardinals, Albert Pujols becomes a free agent. So, without a lot of explanation, Pujols imposed an arbitrary "deadline" on negotations of this week. The deadline came and went without an agreement.

The deadline became the top national baseball story. Dozens of reporters are hounding Pujols at spring training. Pujols is featured in sportscasts, standing in the center of a pool of reporters, cameras and microphones in his face, saying things like, "you guys don't have a clue", "if people think I'm greedy, they don't know me", and "we are laughing about this, and so are the Cardinals, I think".

Really? Albert, you're not helping yourself. These are rough economic times. The Cardinals have an imbalanced situation and you're debating between $200,000,000 and $250 or $300 million. Fans are paying $9 for a beer. Ownership is considering giving you an equity position in the team while Ballpark Village sits empty.

I'm over the whole thing. Really, was never too worried about it in the first place. Quick, can anyone even name the Cardinals likely starting infield? Probably not. But everyone can name Pujols. Albert, if you leave town for more money, lots of little kids might get their hearts broken. That's your choice. But for the rest of us, there's a lot more to life than your contract. Hey, you just keep telling everyone that they have "no clue".

When this is all done, you might want to find a new agent.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Big Pepper

For a variety of reasons, I found myself dining alone last night at El Paisano Mexican Restaurant in South City. Suffice it to say that the customer service function at ATT-UVerse has driven us out of our house.

Anyhow, so after looking over the menu while seated at a booth in the bar area of the now smoke-free restaurant, watching Manchester United get roundly spanked by a rival, I order the poblano pepper and pork tamale combination. I asked the waiter how big the pepper was.

With a nod of his head and a muffled grunt, he held his hands out in front of him, creating a space of about 4-5 inches between the palms of his hands. Good enough.

When the plate arrived, the poblano looked like a size 10 shoe. And delicious!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Will NPR Drop Its Needle on St. Louis?

This week NPR is running a series on cities. Today's edition focused on Washington DC. In particular, the series is looking at changing demographics. In DC, a noticeable trend has been the return of white families to the city.

DC has been a majority black city for a long time. But that's been changing, and soon, DC will be less than 50% black. Meanwhile, suburban Prince George County has been a popular destination for middle income African-American families exiting DC. That county is becoming majority African-American. So in DC, there's a trend where white families are returning to the city and black families are moving away.

DC's Anacostia River is a dividing line where traditionally lower income, depressed neighborhoods are located. Low cost by DC standards, home prices in Anacostia are in the $250-$300,000 range. Many DC neighborhoods see prices 3 to 4 times that amount. With its low prices and sense of upside potential, Anacostia is becoming a vogue target area for developers and white home buyers.

In today's segment, NPR previewed that they will also be covering Portland, Oregon. Portland is often held out as the vanguard of progressive hipness and cool urbanism. NPR noted that Portland is one of the "whitest cities in the country". That surprised me. When people think of big cities in particular, or urban places in general, they usually don't think of them as being heavily white. They think of them as places of diversity. Portland has its own challenges: how cool it is to be known as one of the "whitest cities in the country"?

The DC story featured a delivery driver and his wife, a two income black family who had moved from Anacostia to Prince George County. The husband felt sad about leaving his old neighborhood, but moved away to get more house for the money, and because of pressure from his wife who had grown up in the suburbs. In Prince George County the family could buy a 4-5 bedroom home for the same price as a 2-3 bedroom home in the old neighborhood.

So what does all this have to do with St. Louis? When cities are compared, how will St. Louis fare? St. Louis' challenges are much different than Portland's or DC's. St. Louis isn't the cool destination that Portand is (but maybe it should be). And, unlike DC, St. Louis city neighborhoods, especially the blighted ones, don't outprice its suburban neighbors.

St. Louis is high cost in terms of construction, and low priced in terms of values. Like DC, for decades, St. Louis experienced heavy black and white flight from its neighborhoods, especially on the north side. Today St. Louis is experiencing renewal in many parts of the city. There is a noticeably white demographic at city booster events. "City Affair" gatherings are usually 90% percent white, and meetings for the renewal of the Arch grounds were about the same percentage white.

Cherokee Street, the emerging hip district of South St. Louis, is largely a mix of white and hispanic entrepreneurs, while the surrounding neighborhood is high percentage African-American. With an election for alderman coming soon, given the interesting demographic mix of the area, what will the lead issues of the campaign be?

Trends in St. Louis seem to be more elusive. It's hard to make broad generalizations. Things vary greatly from block to block and neighborhood to neighborhood. There are places such as Old North St. Louis and Cherokee Street which get a lot of attention in terms of their renewal, but geographically they represent a tiny percentage of the city. Look at the city's strategic land use plan and you see that roughly 75% of the city's area is designated "Neighborhood Preservation".

Maybe the story of St. Louis is that we have a good thing, and our goal is to keep it that way by working smart on a combination of things both large and small, those with the biggest impact and greatest leveraging?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

City Identifies Source to Help Replace Earnings Tax?

In referring to a state law passed in the 1980s, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay may have found a major funding souce to offset a portion of the City's current earning tax.

According to the law, the state of Missouri is responsible for over $100,000,000 of the cost to operate the St. Louis police department.

On a recent newscast, Mayor Slay stated that unless Jefferson City returns control of the department back to St. Louis City, "we could send them a bill".

A St.Louis Police Officers Association representative called the tactic a political manuever. Slay replied "this is not a ploy".

When interviewed by Fox 2 News reporter Charles Jaco, Governor Jay Nixon had "no comment".

Monday, February 07, 2011

St. Louis Mastodons

Created by Ryan Frank

Open Public Forum - St. Louis City Earnings Tax

When: 6:30 pm, February 17, 2011

Where: Old Post Office, Mall Level, 815 Olive, Downtown St. Louis

Sponsors: Downtown St. Louis Residents Association, League of Women Voters, the UPS Store, Emmis Communications, Webster University, the Holden Public Policy Forum

Presentation and Panel Discussion Featuring: Hon. Francis Slay, Mayor; Hon. Darlene Green, Comptroller; Mark Mantovani, President and CEO, NSI Marketing; Nancy Cross, Vice-President, SEIU St. Louis Local

Friday, February 04, 2011

Paint Louis

Years ago, there was a lot of interest in a project to paint the flood walls south of the Arch. It was called, "Paint Louis" and you can still see the work today.

What about painting murals on the monster flood walls along the riverfront between the Eads Bridge and the Poplar Street Bridge? These could be huge in size and a new draw for visitors to the riverfront.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Cleveland HS and Others Like It

Perusing the other urblogs around Saint Louis, STL Rising is very dismayed to learn, if indeed true, that when it comes to demolition, the historically significant buildings of the St. Louis Public School system are exempted from the city's preservation framework, including Cultural Resource Office and Preservation Board reviews.

As these handsome public school buildings are architectural centerpieces in many city neighborhoods, it's sad news indeed to learn that these physical assets are not protected from short-fused demolitions like most of the city's built environment.