Holdup Time Again Already?

As some of us predicted as early as fifteen years ago, the Rams are going to need more public funding to stay in St. Louis:

The St. Louis Rams’ future here could be in question because of two words that many fans don’t usually associate with the Edward Jones Dome: first tier.

Those words give the Rams a door to walk away from the team’s lease at the Dome — the building has to be a “first-tier” stadium by 2015, or among the top 25 percent of National Football League venues.

The lease itself, however, doesn’t offer much clarity on what constitutes first tier. It identifies several components that need to meet that bar, but also includes vague factors, such as “the physical structure of the facilities.” Another says simply ‘stadium seating.”

The lease includes enough broad language that negotiators could argue just about every inch of the Dome is subject to the standard.

Winning over Rams owner Stan Kroenke could involve millions in publicly funded improvements. The key may be not necessarily to offer enough to make the Dome one of football’s first-tier shrines, but perhaps enough to get the Rams to look the other way or renegotiate the agreement.

You might say to yourself, “It doesn’t seem that long ago.” But you might be thinking about the St. Louis Cardinals demanding a large share of scarce public resources or they would move to Highland, Illinois, or something. That holdup was only seven years ago.

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Overheard in the Noggle Den, As Seen On Facebook

Immediately after the Cardinals game, the Fox Sports sideline guy caught up with Allen Craig, who caught the last out:

After a commercial, we watched the presentation of the trophy:

Watching Selig speak from notes to make a two paragraph speech presenting the trophy, I made some comment, I’m sure. When it was Bill DeWitt, Junior’s turn to speak, the following exchange occurred in the Nogglestead den:

Wife: He speaks well.
Me: He speaks normally. Selig makes Allen Craig look like Cato the Elder. I’m probably the only person in the world who is comparing Allen Craig to Cato the Elder tonight. I’m going to put that on Facebook.
Wife: The Cardinals just won the World Series. Nobody’s going to care.
Me: Van will like it.

Prediction: Confirmed

That, my friends, is knowing your audience.

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Springfield Would Characterize Itself Differently

A recent link on the StLToday.com Web site, the Internet home of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, recently placed some Springfield news in the “St. Louis” news section with the tag “METRO”. That is, Springfield is part of the St. Louis metropolitan area:

St. Louis wishes.

As much as the largest metropolitan area and its declining city center might like to think that the rest of the state is just an extension of itself (and a touch for taxpayer-funded public/private partnerships), the rest of us are looking for the opt-out link.

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Congratulations to Old Trees, Missouri

The town in which I lived prior to my moving to Southwest Missouri has been recognized in Money as one of the best 100 places to live in the US:

Nestled among tall oak trees planted 200 years ago, the neighborhoods in Webster Groves–named for 19th century statesman Daniel Webster–offer considerable economic diversity. Just two miles outside St. Louis city limits, the town has affordable housing that draws young families, plus much more expensive homes.

Funny, that. Actually, the story of the naming is a little more complicated. In the 19th century, there was a school named for Daniel Webster that got a train stop. The school closed, but the train stop remained, so when the townspeople wanted to incorporate to keep the demon liquor out, they applied for the name “Webster.” However, since there was already a Webster, Missouri, they had to append “Groves” on it to get the official town name. True story. You just read it on the Internet.

Was that college Webster University? No, of course not: Webster University 1) isn’t closed and 2) was named for Noah Webster, who donated land to the Sisters of Loretto who ran the then-named Loretto College but who needed a new name since there was already a, you guessed it, Loretto College. True story. You just read it on the Internet.

Hey, wait a minute: Why is Old Trees suddenly on this list after I moved away?

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One Of These Things Is Like The Other

Federal budget axe could fall in St. Louis, eventually:

The city of St. Louis could feel the burden of such a failure in cuts to community development block grants, relied on to provide a host of services from safety to streetlights to housing for the elderly and homeless. The city already is anticipating diminished funding for roads, as less federal money flows to states.

Also, a dramatic reduction in money for new rail projects has dimmed hopes of extending MetroLink any time soon. For the next two years, barring the unforeseen, the debt compromise this week provides a measure of stability for existing services. Anything beyond that, observed James Brown, who lobbies in Washington for the city of St. Louis, “is precarious.”

Report: State budget pushes Milwaukee County deeper into fiscal hole:

The new state budget has pushed Milwaukee County more than $21 million deeper into a fiscal hole, increasing the chances that massive service cuts could be needed to fill the gap, a nonpartisan local think tank says in a report being released Wednesday.

Transit, parks and social services all could be chopped, while layoffs and benefit cuts could be ahead for county workers, the Public Policy Forum report says in its preview of the challenges in crafting the 2012 county budget. For revenue, the county has one last chance to raise property taxes by $10 million, in addition to boosting fees and imposing a controversial wheel tax, the report says.

In both cases, Republicans at higher levels of government are trying to make the higher levels of government at the Federal and state levels spend closer to what they take in, and as a result we’re getting the opening notes of the penury that local governments run by Democrats will have to live in as a result.

Expect this particular symphony in a minor key to swell.

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City of St. Louis Demands Higher Parking Rates

Come on, we do know what this means, don’t we?

Mayor Francis Slay has asked the city’s building division to require downtown parking lots to hire attendants, in hopes of stopping a rash of car break-ins, his staff announced today.

Police were investigating more than 60 break-ins that occurred downtown and in surrounding area parking lots last weekend.

This means it will cost more to park in downtown St. Louis either for an event or as part of your monthly “privilege” of working in the Big City.

Because the city has better things to do with its time and money than to police the city, and the signs that warn visitors to downtown that your valuables are forfeit are already thick enough to keep weeds from growing in the cracks of the underused and crumbling city sidewalks.

Like saving the building that housed a failed taco joint and/or giving money away to redevelop the site.

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I Have A Suggestion

They’re putting another bridge over the Mississippi River to help Illinoisianitians escape. They want to call it:

Missouri legislators want to name the next Mississippi River Bridge the “Jerry F. Costello-William Lacy ‘Bill’ Clay Sr. Veterans Memorial Bridge.” The costs associated with naming the bridge after those two local congressmen would be paid for by private donations.

Hey, I have an idea: Let’s just call it the Pork Barrel Bridge.

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An Obvious Danger

To recap: A young drifter goes into a Starbucks and grabs the tip jar off the counter. A customer follows him to his car, altercates a bit, and gets hit by the car as the young drifter and his Bonnie lass leave. The customer dies.

The customer’s family sues because tip jars are an obvious target for deadly larceny.

It alleges that Starbucks “did not employ security to prevent the perpetration of such crimes” and that it “invited the act of perpetration of said crime” by having a tip jar.

Hey, why not? If Congress can mandate any decision, why cannot the courts determine that anything that can be stolen must be defended by armed security under the penalty of litigation?

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You Know What You Want, But Planners Know What You Need

So you think you want a home with room for children and hobbies surrounded by a little bit of grass and maybe privacy fence where you can put something more than a toy barbecue designed for apartment balconies? St. Louis County Planners know better:

St. Louis County planners want to change the county’s zoning codes to encourage people to live closer together to save energy and the environment.

The current codes reflect society’s reliance on the automobile and people’s preference for stand-alone houses, one to a lot.

That’s not the future of housing, experts say.

The last line quoted should be That’s not the future of housing if experts have their say.

Because, face it, they’ve spent years and thousands of dollars getting Master of Urban Planning degrees and have studied theories about what people should want instead of what they want–and do–when allowed freedom.

Message: The environment is more important than you are, subject.

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Hearkening Back To The Days Before Choices Existed

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch hearkens back to the glorious days of one of their preferred future boondoggle’s past in this glowing look back to the days of commuter rail:

During World War II, its steam locomotives pulled seven coaches and 1,000 daily passengers. One-way fare cost a dime. Ridership fell to 600 by 1952, when cleaner diesel-electric locomotives took over. (They also made the train quieter. Old timers along the route used to set clocks to the rythmic racket of the local’s coal-burning steamers.)

The 34-mile, 85-minute morning run left Pacific at 6:05 a.m. and stopped 19 times at places like Jedburg and Barretts Station, in downtown Kirkwood, at the Webster Park and Tuxedo Park stations in Webster Groves and Tower Grove station on Vandeventer Avenue. Outbound trains did the same in reverse.

Dedicated commuters enjoyed the ride with endless card games. The Rattlers threw parties with the slightest provocation. Drinks all around, of course.

By 1961, with plans under way for Interstate 44, the one-way fares topping at $1.10 paid less than half of the $68,000 annual operating cost.

And then that blasted highway came along and gave people the freedom to travel to their homes when they wanted to, and without losing money! On rail lines built by private companies and in trains run by private companies.

You know what would return us to those swinging days? Government spending! Except then they would run empty trains until such time as the government runs up the cost of gasoline. Except that when the cost of energy goes up that high, there won’t be many commuters.

Gah, being an economic central planner is hard. Fortunately for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, being a cheerleader for central planning is still easy.

UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Ms. K.. Hey, if you’re in IT, check out my blog QA Hates You. If you’re a Missourian or a Tea Party kinda person, you might enjoy 24th State, a Missouri political blog to which I contribute.

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A New Municipal Money Stream

Step 1: Illegally collect a fee from “customers” who by law must use your service.
Step 2: Get caught and get told to stop.
Step 3: Keep the $90,000,000 you’ve already collected.

A judge says the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District does not have to refund $90.9 million it collected from a storm-water service charge that he ruled was improper.

Dildine recently decided a refund is not needed because the district used money from the charge to provide storm-water service and comply with federal and state environmental laws. He also said customers did not follow proper procedures to seek refunds. Through the district’s taxes, customers would end paying the refunds to themselves, he said.

In other news, municipal water companies, power companies, and pre-selected, compulsory waste haulers are thinking up the names for the new “fees” they’re about to tack onto your bill, legal or not. After all, as long as they use the money to provide their service, they get to keep it if and when they get caught and called out.

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That Shell Is Empty, But There’s A Peanut Under This One

Please, keep the tax dollars flowing; although the Ballpark Lofts II building in St. Louis, funded in part through giveaways and tax credits is going to foreclosure, the Heer’s Building in Springfield handled by the same developer is ship-shape:

A downtown St. Louis property developed by Heer’s developer Kevin McGowan has been targeted for foreclosure, but McGowan said his loan on the Springfield building is not in similar danger.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on its website that Bank of America has filed legal notice that it plans to foreclose on the Ballpark Lofts II building owned by a limited liability corporation McGowan formed with former partner Nat Walsh.

Renovated as condos and offices, the building is at least partially occupied.

McGowan said Thursday he plans for his new company, Blue Urban, to purchase the building by buying the loan made to the earlier LLC before the Nov. 23 foreclosure sale.

He said the notion Heer’s was targeted for foreclosure is “a false rumor” being spread by the project’s detractors.

His company couldn’t pay the mortgage on the property, so his new company might buy it at the foreclosure auction.

God Bless America, and by “America,” I mean the people with the chutzpah to do that sort of thing and the municipal governments that continue to enable them. And by “bless,” I mean something else entirely.

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Bubblegum Undisturbed

St. Peters considers smokeless tobacco ban on city property:

Smoke-filled meetings at City Hall disappeared years ago, but with a brand new Justice Center, city leaders have a new target — tobacco spit.

The city, which already bans smoking in its buildings, is considering prohibiting smokeless tobacco.

St. Peters Mayor Len Pagano said the idea of a ban came to him after he watched a man spit tobacco juice on the sidewalk in front of City Hall. The issue is cleanliness, he said.

“It’s really unsanitary to have something like that and spit it out on the ground,” Pagano said. “It’s like a blob of tar or something.”

Apparently, St. Peters has elected someone who has never stepped in gum on a public street. Either that, or one who sees tobacco as a convenient strop upon which to sharpen his statist mala fides.

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Charlie Dooley Wants More Power, Democratic Voters

If you read between the lines in this short teaser from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that’s what you can infer.

He talks about a city/county merger:

In a meeting Monday morning with Post-Dispatch editorial writers and reporters, St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley said a city-county merger would go a long way towards hearling the area’s economic malaise, while also making government more efficient.

Dooley, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November against Republican Bill Corrigan, said that such a union may be feasible in the not-too-distant future.

He said he would be willing to discuss the issue with St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.

“We need to (merge),” Dooley said. “The chances now are better than before but the city officials of St. Louis are not all on the same page on this issue because they have constituencies that they answer to.”

He’s really preaching to the choir when he tells this to the Post-Dispatch, which has been cheerleading a reunion for years. Realistically, though, the city gets access to county tax dollars and puts its corrupt mitts into county development, and the county gets to be cool as defined by city dwellers and the Post-Dispatch by being associated with the cool city. I don’t see the citizens voting this in, but notice Dooley doesn’t mention talking to the citizens. He wants to talk to other Democratic elected officials to make it happen.

And what else does Dooley get? Hundreds of thousands of Democratic voters to vote in County elections. For people like him.

Dooley also has a plan to consolidate power into the hands of a few county officials:

Dooley also said that he would work to consolidate services among the county’s 91 municipalities, especially police and fire departments.

You like living in a municipality that handles its own affairs, elects its own officials, and holds them accountable? Dooley doesn’t want any of that. He wants you to bow to whomever your friends in Florissant, Arnold, and most importantly the city of St. Louis elect for you. All that delicious, delicious power and authority in the hands of a County Executive. Someone enlightended, like Dooley himself, no doubt.

Charlie Dooley is bold in making these pronouncements in an election year where the political winds are quite opposite of the proposals he’s making. Of course, he’s making them to the St. Louis daily paper whose circulation pretty much only includes the similar-minded these days.

(Cross-posted on 24th State.)

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Another Public/Private Success Story

City collects special money to help developer out building a mostly empty development, then the developer goes bankrupt.

Pulaski foreclosed on a loan to Sappington Square LLC last year and is suing the corporation. In the meantime, a special one-cent sales tax that is designed to finance $2.5 million in public improvements at the site is still being collected, and the new agreement is needed to allow Pulaski Bank to access those funds as a developer.

How are cities going to make up for these losses on individual public-private partnerships? Volume.

I guess we know what happened to the people left unemployed by the Internet bubble of the late 1990s and who blew vast amounts of capital on things like Pets.com. They went back to school and got into government.

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