Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Metro Cut Backs-A Positive Spin???

I am trying to find a silver lining in the recent Metro cutbacks.

On one hand I'm bitter that the county voted down the funding bill for Metro. I am aggravated that city people have to suffer as a result of the county not wanting public transit. The city traditionally votes yes for Metro funding/expansion. I feel sorry for those affected. It just got harder to get to/from work for many.

However, there might be a positive out of all the cutbacks in service. The trains were full yesterday, not a seat to be found on my Clayton to Shrewsbury ride. Same way this morning, I had to share a seat for the first time in my 2 months riding the train. Maybe the buses will become full too. This could help with the perception of Metro. It could appear full, safer, running at capacity.

This could be a good thing. It could change the perceptions (arguably misconceptions) that many have about Metro:
  • only bums and people who can't afford cars ride public transit.
  • the buses are never full
  • it's scary to ride the metro because there's no one on it
  • metrolink platforms are scary/dangerous because you can be the only one getting on/off

If the trains and buses are full to capacity at rush hour and big events, and the off times are more populated, maybe we'll get an increase in ridership. Maybe when the county suburbanites do ride metro or observe the buses in passing, they will seem full and worthy of voting for funding in the future. Maybe passers by will see the bus stops and train stops teeming with people and decide to give public transit a try.

I know, I'm stretching here. I'm trying to be positive. Overall I'm still miffed and sad over the cut backs.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Caffe Latte

For my money, a caffe latte is the ultimate after dinner treat. The best one I've had in St. Louis can be found at Velocity Cafe in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood. The best!

I'm With Wayne

If you are familiar with the Flaming Lips and/or Arcade Fire, read on:

Wayne Coyne recently spoke candidly to Rolling Stone about Win Butler of Arcade Fire. To boil it down, he basically said Win's an a$$hole and treats people like $hit.

Win Butler responded on his website.

Why am I even concerned with this minor non-news item? Because I am a huge Flaming Lips fan. I think Christmas on Mars is one of the top 10 sci-fi films of all time. I think Steven Drozd is one of the top 10 rock drummers of all time. I think this band has taken psychedelia and prog rock to a new dimension with their 1-2-3 album punch of Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots and At War With The Mystics.

So I trust Wayne's opinions. And if you've ever listened to Arcade Fire, you know they have huge elitist/poseur/pretentious potentials. I like a few songs of their songs, I'm just saying. On the other hand, watch the Fearless Freaks documentary, or listen to the Spider Bite Song or Evil Will Prevail or Yeah Yeah Yeah Song and tell me Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd are pretentious....I dare you.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Southside backyards

Is any south side backyard complete without zoysia, hurricane fence and a Weber Bar-B-Kettle?

Nice weather is upon us....a day at the Holly Hills community garden

Brussel sprouts, mustard greens, collared greens, red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, broccoli, garlic, early girl tomatoes, basil, cilantro and parsley are all in the ground. Thanks to Gateway Greening for the affordable, healthy starters. Nothing makes me happier than digging in the dirt, sewing seeds and watching plants grow. Let's hope this simple gift is passed on to the next generation.

Condos on the Hill

There are some new condos on Macklind just south of Southwest on the Hill. This is one of my favorite neighborhoods; and I think this development adds some nice diversity to the housing stock on the Hill. As I recall, this was merely a vacant lot before the condos were constructed. I really like this development. Here are some photos we took yesterday.

I like how they fit in with the awesome building on the corner.Notice the magic word in 2 of the unit windows: SOLD!
Here's a view from the alleyway, nicely landscaped with some large conifers.
Nice backporches. There is also a really cool side porch between the farthest north unit and the older building on the corner.And finally a picture of the spacious, detached garages. I assume the foundations in the background are a couple more units; or more garages, not sure.

Great location, great project. Nice to see.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Annexing St. Louis County Municipalities

I want St. Louis to be a major city. I want us to have a larger population. I want us to become one as a region. Louisville, Indianapolis, Kansas City are all examples of cities that have annexed suburbs to become more efficient and larger in area, population and tax base.

I am sick of the us vs. them mentality when it comes to St. Louis (STL) vs. the 91 cities in St. Louis County (SLC). 91 cities! Ever heard of Champ, Missouri? I certainly have not, however, I would welcome them if they wanted to be part of STL. St. Louis has a population of ~355,663, and St. Louis county has a popluation of 1,016,315. The county has largely taken the many, many expatriates from St. Louis over the years. The many cities in SLC have seen HUGE population increases over the years. Looking at the population in the 20th century, 1930 saw a huge increase of 110%. These big gains continued (1960-73.1% and 1970-35.2%). However the 80's through the 00's have seen minimal gains, all below 3%.

SLC nor STL are tearing it up when it comes to drawing new residents to the region. Ideally, we should be working together as opposed to competing against each other.

So it got me thinking about annexation of inner ring suburbs. I actually like the idea of keep the exurbs out of the equation. Sorry, but I don't EVER see Chesterfield, Ballwin, Ellisville, Fenton, Eureka, etc. wanting to associate with STL on any level. I'm not sure the inner-rings would either, but it's fun to contemplate.

So, as far as I can tell, there are 16 cities that border STL:

  1. U. City pop./area sq. mi. 37,428/5.9

  2. Spanish Lake pop./area sq. mi. 21,337/7.5

  3. Lemay pop./area sq. mi. 17,215/4.5

  4. Jennings pop./area sq. mi. 15,469/3.7

  5. Bellefontaine Neighbors pop./area sq. mi. 11,271/4.4

  6. Richmond Heights pop./area sq. mi. 9,602/2.3

  7. Maplewood pop./areasq. mi. 9,228/1.5

  8. Shrewsbury pop./area sq. mi. 6,644/1.4

  9. Glasgow Village pop./area sq. mi. 5,234/0.9

  10. Northwoods pop./area sq. mi. 4,643/0.7

  11. Pine Lawn pop./area sq. mi. 4,204/0.6

  12. Riverview pop./area sq. mi. 3,146/0.8

  13. Wellston pop./area sq. mi. 2,460/0.9

  14. Hillsdale pop./area sq. mi. 1,477/0.3

  15. MacKenzie pop./area sq. mi. 137/0.09

  16. Clayton pop./area sq. mi. 16,061/2.5

So, if I had my druthers, I'd choose to annex these in order of population gain. I'd keep Clayton as part of SLC, just so new SLC would not have to reinvent their govt. offices/structure.

So if you tiered this in halves, you could have annexation phase I adding U. City, Spanish Lake and Lemay. This would take STL from 355,663 to 431,643. Phase II would add Jennings, Bellefontaine Neighbors, and the rest to bring the grand total to 505,158. STL would go from 355,663 to 505,158!

Think of the tax base increase! Think of the regional power! Think of the consolidation and efficiency! Think of the area! Think of the cultural and identity shifts! Washington University, the Loop, the Galleria, 5 new Metrolink stops...all in St. Louis!

I can dream can't I? Damn it, if Louisville, Indy and KC can do it, why can't we?

Do you see suburban annexation as a good thing for STL, SLC and/or the region? Or, do you like keeping suburbs distinctly separated from the historic city? Or, would you gladly welcome them?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Excellent Medical Facilities in St. Louis

We are fortunate to live in a city that has 2 fantastic teaching hospitals. Between Barnes/Jewish/Children's and SLU/Cardinal Glennon, we are in good hands when medical care is needed.

If you've ever had to go to Children's or Cardinal Glennon, you know they are very special, top notch children's hospitals.

I was again reminded of how nice it is to live in a city with learning hospitals. My wife is getting braces. Our insurance does not cover adult orthodontia. She got a couple bids with some local orthodontists who quoted her in the neighborhood of $5,500. Bummer, eh? She kind of balked a little, and then found out that St. Louis University has an orthodontics school and they accept adult patients to help train and instruct students on the processes.

The cost was quoted at $3,100. Nearly 44% lower than the cost at the private practices we tried. From the website:

"Fees collected at the time of service go toward the operation of the school’s clinics and make it possible to offer ongoing services at reasonable prices.
CADE fees for endodontic and periodontic services are generally 50-60% less than fees charged in private practices in the St. Louis area."

A good cause indeed. A win:win situation if I've ever seen one. And, she also gets the satisfaction of being part of the learning process & experiences of a new generation of orthodontists.

The facilities are top notch, and quite new. She will be receiving her orthodontic work under the close watch of students. Let's hope they keep their Junior Mints to themselves.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Voting for Slay

Whenever I vote for local politicians, I try to think of who gives me the best chance to address the core issues that are important to me.

Here they are:
  1. changing our zoning laws to make it harder to turn the city into a series of suburban strip malls and surface parking lots
  2. annexing suburbs
  3. gaining resident population in the city
  4. getting rid of the 1% earnings tax
  5. developing, gaining diversity in north city; south city is relatively developed and diverse
  6. improving the PERCEPTION of our public schools

So in the current mayoral field of candidates, who will be the best to address these?

Firstly, I don't think Libertarian or Green party stands a chance. That being said, I don't think Smith or Watson-Wesley-Coleman (WWC) stand a chance either. I think Smith will get a part, maybe 25% of the vote, simply because I suspect there are many who vote strictly along racial lines.

So here's who I think has the best chance to meet by top 6:

  1. I think this is a pipe dream-best chance-Slay
  2. Again a pipe dream-best chance-Slay
  3. We've made slight gains in the Slay years.
  4. I wouldn't be surprised is Slay is a conservative at heart. More so than the other candidates, anyhow. Conservatives don't like income taxes. That being said, I think this would be a bold move. I don't consider Slay a bold mayor.
  5. I think only an outsider can bring change to the relative mono-culture that exists on the north side. Slay is probably not enough of an outsider, but he probably gives us the best chance for radical change.
  6. I think he's more of a fan of not getting involved with the public schools, letting the state take over and not having any accountability for the neg. perception. I think he would be more prone to vouchers or charters and parochials to propose viable options from the SLPS. I don't think the school facilities, funding levels, overall teaching stock is our problem anyhow. I think it's the lack of quality families that send their kids to SLPS. If the halls and corridors were filled with kids from loving homes with caring/concerned parents, we wouldn't be talking about this.

So all in all, I'm not that enthused over Slay as our Mayor. He's the best bet this round, though. He's better that Bosley and Harmon, too. Less scandal, more action when compared to those 2. He has run a relatively clean, low profile office during his tenure. However, I think Slay is truly old school politics. For instance, can you ever see this guy standing up against aldermanic courtesy? However, sadly because no one is running on a new urbanism ticket, we are stuck with the old baby boomer machine politicians once again.

I guess I'll vote for Slay. How about you?