Saturday, April 23, 2011
City and County Spew
I heard on the news yesterday, while lying in bed, that the city of St. Louis has lost another 29 thousand residents. I get my news by listening to Farmer Dave and McGraw Milhaven on the Big 550 while breaking the seal between consciousness and sleep. The irritating high pitch of Milhaven is enough to jar a bear from hibernation.
I heard one of the two talking about how many people have left the St. Louis area in this past year. Turns out that 29,000 people have bailed on the city since the census in 2000.
Lets put that in terms of what people can understand.
It goes without saying that the earnings tax has something to do with it. As well as the crime on the north side and the lack of public education. Such a shame, the grasping at straws those city fathers are left to contend with. It is business as usual for the most part, corruption continues to take place, more finger pointing and less services.
The Earning Tax, some call it the Silly Tax, one percent earnings. Lets say you make a hundred grand a year, and your wife, say, fifty grand a year, or the other way around. And lets say that your business or the business that you own does not withhold and pay the city, like other taxes, state and fed. At the end of the tax season you have to write a check for 1500 bucks to the city. Bam! That kind of stings. And that wasn't a gun shot. Lets say the average in come is 35 thousand in the city. That is a loss of over 10 million in revenue. Not to mention the population density funding that the city gets. The report card being the census.
I love the city of St. Louis. I really do. I respect those who live in the areas tee'd up for re-development. Specifically the Mercantile Exchange project, located where the old St. Louis Center was. If you don't know of the debacle that occurred when developers decided to relocate all of the street level retailers in downtown St. Louis to a raised mall taking over three city blocks, well, you probably wouldn't want to own it anyway, not as a St. Louisan. We are not supposed to be that stupid. So who was?
A little research...
"Work started on St. Louis Centre in the early 1980's with an opening planned for early in 1984, but then Stix was denied it's request for tax abatement's and grant for the reconstruction of it's building. The end result being that ADG and Stix sold their building to a real estate developer, moved the HQ staff to a new building on the outskirts of St. Louis, and leased back as a tenant 3 floors for a much more spartan(and smaller) downtown Stix store. Needless to say, one unique aspect of St. Louis Centre was gone and it had not yet opened"
The reason the mall didn't work was due to the low numbers of people living in the city way back in the 70's and 80's. Hell, the mall closed at 7 PM in order to adjust to expenses of staying open late, and no cutomers, even during Christmas. There has been an issue with the city leaking residents to the county since the 70's. Has it taken thirty years to figure this out? Is business as usual going to get different results?
It is a calamity, the continued exodus of people living in the city. Not only that, St. Louis County population was down 1.7 percent, likely recesson related. Not sure what that means, but my guess is that the value and the services are exemplary in the areas of growth. Jefferson and Franklin counties are up, as well as, and don't be surprised, St. Charles County once again.
I suppose it is time to start pushing buttons on the merger of the city and the county. I mean really start pushing buttons. I think the developers are going to need it. Even though my latest experience with downtown re-development yielded a very real perception that they would rather not have "county folk" competing for their opportunities. This while they build out pretty much everthing with tax credits; only the prospect of private money sitting on the come line. I speak specifically of the project at the Laurel, the Embassy Suites Hotel and the East Washington Avenue district bookend and the entire MX project.
Well, I will continue to bring the culture of the City to the County in the meantime. And pontificate here and there from the safety of my white picket fenced yard, the brown dog and the garage stuffe with SUV's, the good schools and the Walgreen's-on-every-corner. Time is running out for me. I will be in Florida before the first GAP store opens in downtown St.Louis, I am sure of this. I will try to set an example of how things require some out of the box thinking from time to time--that the good ole boy's in the city and their opportunistic developers with tax credit dollars are stuck in a paradigm that needs change in order to optimize. It won't be long until the county folk pick up the scrap metal. Some already are.