Please Your Masters

A bit of candor from a municipal official regarding property rights, that is, the municipalities right to revenue from property superceding an individual owner’s “rights”:

But until now, its attractiveness has not resulted in a use of the land that pleased Richmond Heights, said City Manager Michael Schoedel. Instead, the property had been home to a Steak ‘N Shake, Burger King, a gas station and other similar establishments.

“The Galleria is clearly our bread and butter, and we wanted something across the street that would support it,” Schoedel said.

If the owner preferred to use the land for a Steak ‘N Shake, Burger King, a gas station, and other similar establishments? Who cares what the owner wants? Property rights come from the State’s pleasure.

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Shine Up The Land Seizure Jackboots

I saw this story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and was smitten with the title. New Urbanism! In St. Louis!

Except it’s in St. Louis County, which doesn’t have much of the old urbanism really. And then I realized the location in mind: Hanley Industrial Court. I work on the edges of Hanley Industrial Court. New Urbanist, this area ain’t.

Across Hanley, Richmond Heights just eminent domained a pile of houses to build a Walmartplex, and the area features three drive-to shopping complexes (four, if you count the new Meridian). Acres of parking lots is not New Urbanism. And wait a minute… in Hanley Industrial Court, there are….industries…..

Wait a minute:

There, the $48 million, 8-acre Hanley Station is being planned by MLP Investments, a Frontenac-based developer. MLP envisions a neighborhood where condo dwellers walk to upscale restaurants and stores, and eventually, take the MetroLink to the St. Louis Galleria or Forest Park. A proposed light-rail station would be integrated into the town center-style community.

It will come to pass, I bet, when Brentwood seizes condemns through eminent domain the majority of the industrial court. It’s blighted, don’t you know.

And if it’s not now, it will be. I’ve walked through the industrial court and have seen buildings for sale or rent back there. Now that the developments are being planned, who’s going to waste money buying a building that’s going to be seized? Who’s going to take out a lease, not knowing when it will be ab-ended by the municipality? Suddenly, those vacancies, which would have been filled by the business cycle and the marketplace, stand empty. A blight, I tell you!

Maybe I am making a mountain out of a piedmont here, but I know that the Animal Protective Association, where we get all of our quality recycled animals, just renovated, and Centene just did some work to make a mail distribution/child care center in the industrial court. I’d hate for them to lose it. Also, since my employer’s currently occupying a building at the edge of one of the megastripmallplexes, I’d hate for them to move anywhere that’s not closer to me.

Bear this in mind, you foolish local governments, when you realize all the industrial jobs are disappearing from your area. Why is that?

Because you wanted the sales tax from the discount store/electronic store/strip mall instead!

New Urbanism my johnk.

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Why Do East Coasters Equate St. Louis With Bowling?

Lord, love a duck. Seems that some Charlotte newspaper writer has written a piece denigrating (uh oh, insensitive word) the St. Louis football fans’ enthusiasm. Seems amid his trash talk, he’s got to fixate on the Bowling Hall of Fame. Here’s his lead, that is, his first couple paragraphs:

Just a few blocks from the home of the St. Louis Rams, the city celebrates its sporting heroes — legends such as Dick Weber, Mark Roth and Earl Anthony.

Well, OK, if you’re a football fan you might not recognize those names. That’s because they’re not football players.

They’re bowlers.

Here you can spend hours (really!) at the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame. It shares a building with a museum honoring the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.

What is it with you East Coast types? You come to St. Louis and think bowling’s what the people here obsess with. Listen up, Tommy Tomlinson and all you vapid eastern coasters who come to this town and want to snark it with the full weight of your Coastal Cosmpolitanism, St. Louisians are not bowlers by nature.

Milwaukee has more bowling alleys per capita than any other city in the world, ainna?

Oh, and if you’re a Rams fan, you can read his column at the Charlotte Observer site (registration required), or you can see where the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reprinted it.

Tomlinson doesn’t waste the opportunity to mock St. Louis for its unhistoried Rams team. How cute. From the fan of a ten-year-old football team.

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And Speaking of That Executive Branch (I)

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also reports that Police are confused and fearful over new gun law.

Hypothetically speaking:

Suppose St. Louis police stop a car late at night in a high-crime neighborhood for a traffic violation. Suppose there’s a 21-year-old in the vehicle, along with three 20-year-olds. And suppose officers find four guns on the floor.

“What do the police do?” asked Mike Stelzer, an associate city counselor assigned to the St. Louis Police Department who offered the scenario.

I guess they write a ticket, tell the kids to drive safely, and go back to patrolling. I guess that’s not the answer they want, or that Mike Stelzer wants.

He knows what the cops would do today: Confiscate the weapons, arrest the occupants and figure it was a blow struck for public safety.

Well, yes, because that’s illegal today, having a gun in the car. Day after tomorrow, it’s not illegal. You see, the executive branch enforces the laws. It doesn’t make them (although with the all-you-can-charge salad bar on the books now, it can often pick them, can’t it?).

    “This is scary stuff,” said Stelzer. “A police officer’s job is hard enough without something like this. Can we seize those guns? Can we arrest anybody in the car? We don’t have the answers yet.”

Here’s a pointer for you associate counselors, a little tidbit you remember. It might just help you get promoted to full city counselor: Police cannot arrest people for doing legal things. Police cannot just seize lawful property. Police should also avoid discharging their weapons unless their lives are endangered, and should also avoid discharging their clubs unless violently resisted by criminals. Of course, in the city of St. Louis, perhaps these things are not important to city counselors or police.

Police Chief Joe Mokwa worries about those kinds of details, and the larger question of whether the new law allowing the carrying of concealed weapons – and the automobile provision in particular – will erode progress made into cutting violence on city streets.

:: sigh :: Because once law-abiding citizens are armed, they’ll start committing crimes?

The whole gun thing wearies me. I guess that’s what our agitators, litiguous legislators, and our guardians, our “betters,” want. I am bored of writing about it now.

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Now, For the Irony of Flood Plain Development

The formerly blue-haired guy links to a story about how our illustrious leaders in the varied municipalities in the St. Louis area are rushing to build megavelopments on areas that were under ten feet of water ten years ago this month.

I’ve shopped at the Sam’s Club out in Atlantis Valley myself, so I cannot claim too much superiority.

However, the farmers out there have every right to sell to stoopid developers who would buy that land, and I cannot blame those farmers. After all, if they didn’t sell, the municipality of Atlantis Valley would eminent domain the land anyway, since St. Louis area municipalities think that it’s perfectly acceptable to strip a person of his or her property rights if the municipality could get buckets of sales tax from the eventual beneficiaries of the confiscation. Buit that’s another of my stock rants.

The ultimate irony, of course, is that Atlantis Valley will probably spend its newly-minted tax revenues on amenities for its remaining residents (both of the families whose houses were not in the way of Progress).

Amenities like water parks.

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So I Was Listening to Montgomery Gentry

I bought Montgomery Gentry’s My Town this week because I liked the title track. As a matter of fact, after peeling of the cellaphane and stripping off the numerous security annoyances and inserting the CD into the player, I played the song several times in succession. It raises goosebumps upon me as Eddie and T-Roy celebrate their community. Vicariously, through the joy in their rendition of music and lyrics by Steele/Owens/Bates, I can enjoy a sense of belonging in a community group.

As a member of the current urban/suburban class, I moved around a bit when I was young. Although my splintering family didn’t adhrere to the rigorous Military Family Bivouacking Schedule (MFBS), I managed to spread my youth across six houses in two states by the time I was eighteen. I don’t have a small town from my past to idealize, with its close-knit (sometimes stifling, but sometimes comforting and supportive) social structure.

My current suburban municipality of Casinoport, Missouri, doesn’t qualify. Any town incorporated in the last twenty years to protect a tax base from other municipalities whose names were created by land developers automatically lack a cohesiveness into which new residents can fit. The designation of Casinoport as a town or city is a matter of convenience only. The local government exists to spend the loot from the casino taxes on a set of gestures and residential perks designed to show the world they are a Real Nice Place To Live. The residents go to bed here at night and go to work in Clayton, Creve Couer, or St. Louis during the day and go to Bridgeton, Chesterfield, or maybe even stay here in Casinoport. It doesn’t matter, because these communities are interchangeable, and you can’t really tell where one ends and another begins except for the big signs that say, Now Entering A Different Town That’s As Good As The Rest.

Some municipalities in the St. Louis Metroamalgamation, such as Webster Groves or Kirkwood, were real towns when the boundaries of St. Louis reached them. They have an identity for those who want to participate in the community. They have some institutions born before the Reagan presidency. Granted, even these communities suffer from the same centrigugal transience as the newer suburbs, but at least the homecoming fairs have some of the same faces from decade to decade.

I do tend to romanticize the city of my birth, but as a more abstract entity than a community. I appreciate it, when I am there, more platonically than a community member. Perhaps if I return someday, I can fully My-Town-Grok the community or the neighborhood in which I reside. Given my personal history and latent moods, I doubt it.

I realize I am one of the transients that’s a part of the problem. I’ll spend my requisite seven years in this home and will move onto a bigger home in a different community instead of helping build the traditions and institutions here that others might enjoy in future generations. I prefer to think I am hedging my bets by not wanting to invest in start-up communities, instead preferring to put my capital in something established.

So it’s vicariously that I enjoy the celebration of community in song. I respect, and appreciate, the sentiments even though I do not get to participate directly in them.

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