OPINION: STL City and County Merger Discussions Must Return under Jones as Regional Mayor

On May 6, 2019, the ambitious “Better Together” plan to unite St. Louis City and County shelved its hotly anticipated and oftentimes controversial merger plan. With its chosen Regional Mayor, then County-Executive Steve Stenger, headed to Federal prison and other issues like concern from Black political leaders, the plan fell apart. The effort fizzled away, with no word on when it might return. It all began, however, nearly a century and a half ago when the City and County originally separated. For the many decades to come, the City hosted most of the regional growth. Quickly becoming one of the largest U.S. cities, bolstered by railroads, a huge river, and even a closer-than-many-expect plan to make St. Louis the actual U.S. Capitol, the City of St. Louis unquestionably thrived.

Of course, the tides shifted some in the mid-to-late 20th century. St. Louis City saw its population decline by historic proportions as the County gained residents rapidly through suburbanization. There were many forces at play, with some County municipalities created with segregationist motives, urban renewal in urban centers demolishing Black neighborhoods, redlining, restrictive covenants, “white flight”, and more. It is a complicated story to tell, but one worth in-depth research from those curious about the history of the St. Louis region.

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Now, in what appears to be a decade of tumult in many ways for the City including crime and vacancy, there are many reasons to be optimistic. We cover a host of them here, but here’s the short of it. There are thousands of residential units under construction in St. Louis City, hundreds of millions of dollars from the Federal government, billions in building permits over the last few years, rising property values even in many Northern St. Louis neighborhoods, dozens of tiny homes and new services available for unhoused people, and tens of millions of dollars through Prop N.S. to renovate old buildings. Add to that a growing Central Corridor, tax base, annual budget, etc. and it appears as though the City itself is strengthening.

Looking at the region exclusively through the lens of there being one winner and one loser is part of the problem, however. The City doing well or the County doing well often comes at the expense of the other. For the City to grow its corporate base or lease new office space, it often poaches companies from the County and vice-versa. Municipalities play the game “Let’s see who can offer the most incentives!” to huge corporations, effectively nullifying the benefits and creating a race to the bottom. They will compete and do anything for precious sales taxes, even razing dozens of homes, schools, churches, and local businesses for a Costco in University City, for example. There are dozens of police departments, mayors, local council-members, school districts, urban planners, and more all doing the same work but competing against one another. There are even completely separate judicial systems distributing uneven justice.

Regional fragmentation leads to a host of duplicate tasks, uneven accountability, increased costs, and even a cultural/social divide that harms the region. There are many people who live in “St. Louis”, who would never step foot into Downtown STL and claim the region would be better off without the City. Of course, this view is bolstered by crime stats that truly don’t look too good, but neglects the importance of the many incredible cultural institutions, historic architecture, parks, hospitals, schools, urban form, local businesses, etc. that make the City great. The divide extends the opposite way as well, with many City dwellers looking down upon County residents for choosing to live in less-diverse, car-centric, often more conservative neighborhoods that were historically built to keep out Black residents.

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If all this sounds unhealthy for the region – know that it absolutely is. No one talks more negatively about St. Louis than St. Louisans themselves, and we assume as a culture that all those outside the region view us unfavorably as well. The reality is that they really don’t. While we are bombarded with KSDK, KMOV, and Post-Dispatch stories daily detailing the violence and other problems we face, other cities are too – but with their own problems. National news is so focused on partisan affairs that they hardly pay us any attention. We are finely attuned to our problems, but others know nothing besides our beer scene, the Arch, Washington University, etc. Every family member or friend who visits me in St. Louis has left with a positive impression, and it is a region that kept me – a transplant from Los Angeles – post graduation.

One of the reasons that I stayed was the real potential evident across St. Louis. We have the architecture, the culture, the diversity, the sports teams, the river, the colleges and universities, the food, the beer, the coffee, the kindness, and much more. For how great the region can seem, we’re often operating with one hand tied behind our proverbial back. For example, we can’t make a real, coordinated effort on reforming policing if only the City and a couple County municipalities change their rules because there would still be dozens left with rules unchanged. We cannot truly address housing or income disparities on race if only part of the region chooses to do so. We cannot make investments in infrastructure that affect people equitably if we do so through a fragmented process. With hundreds of millions of dollars coming in to the City and the County, we CAN make historic investments together, but we will end up doing so without coordinating the effort for maximum effect.

Even if I could convince the average reader that a merger, or some furthered and comprehensive cooperation were to be for the better, a reasonable question regarding political leadership inherently emerges. Aside from the unknowns like how many council members there would be in a merged St. Louis City and County, or what those very districts would look like, there would have to be an agreement on who the Regional Mayor would be. Or, if no agreement is possible before a merger, what electoral process would take place to settle this question.

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Perhaps the best solution could be to settle upon a “Caretaker Regional Mayor” – one who would oversee the unified City and County post-merger and serve until an election that they would be allowed to take place in. A one year term would be long enough to ensure there was durable leadership in the near-term but not so long that those who disapprove of said person would not have a foreseeable election date on the horizon. Newly elected Mayor Tishaura Jones is uniquely qualified for this position. Mayor Jones has strong support from broad sections of St. Louis, managing to pull in respectable numbers even in South St. Louis wards. She also has strong regional connections, with her former experience in the State Legislature, endorsement from County Executive Sam Page, and the large number of Aldermen who endorsed her in her run.

Many will likely cringe or even stop reading this opinion at the mere mention of Mayor Jones. Some speculate, even claim that without a reasonable doubt, that Mayor Jones is corrupt. Others fall back upon racial stereotypes and even sexist discourse suggesting that she will simply be a tool of her father. Here’s the thing – Mayor Jones has never so much as been indicted for a crime, so those who boldly claim that she is without a doubt corrupt do so as armchair prosecutor, judge, and jury. Some point to her international travel that was broadly related to furthering government competence, others suggest that she was even under investigation from the FBI for parking contracts while she was Treasurer. As salacious as these headlines can be, there has been zero follow-up or indication that such “investigation” was ever taking place following other commentary that any anonymous or politically motivated tip could lead to the actions written about in the McPherson report.

That leaves us with a host of allegations mixed with racist and sexist discourse – none of which has ever been proven in any judicial setting. Most see only the headlines, failing to check in on a story after it is published. None of these have panned out, and there is no reason to think that any must be true.

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The reason for this aside is to suggest that the discomfort with Mayor Jones may, to some degree, be unjustified. When taking away these allegations, she is by and large the best candidate for the job. She is the Mayor of the City of St. Louis, home to the Gateway Arch National Park, Busch Stadium, Forest Park, and other cultural institutions that represent what the public knows of St. Louis. She is also a young, Black, progressive woman who could genuinely seem like a fresh, positive face and contribute to a more sunny narrative for the region to the rest of the country. This is merely anecdotal, but I have already seen threads with folks from other cities considering a move to St. Louis just because of Cori Bush and Tishaura Jones.

She has already shown a large degree of competence and community engagement coming out of the Pandemic as well. Her grassroots support is impressive, and her community-driven budgeting process for the COVID-19 funds from the Federal government enticed thousands of responses and her Stimulus Advisory Board has already released a draft of plans that will help tens of thousands of St. Louisans in accordance to their priorities given. She has shown that she is willing to take on excessive subsidies for corporate development, vetoing two Central Corridor tax incentives but also negotiating with The Lawrence Group at the City Foundry for a more equitable incentive package – one that the developer is publicly excited about and supportive of.

Even if I haven’t convinced you that Mayor Jones is the best choice for Regional Mayor, still consider the bigger picture. Our region is stagnant in population. A fragmented approach does little for our region, and a more unified face could help us prepare for the next century. We have so much potential, and too many cooks in the kitchen all with competing interests. It’s time to revive Better Together, but from the bottom up rather than the top down.

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KDG Nixes Clayton Developments, Doubles Down on City

Real Estate Developer KDG, known for its luxury apartment buildings including Clayton on the Park and The Euclid, appears to be doubling down on their St. Louis City investment. Surprisingly, those plans seem to include some distancing from Clayton, one of St. Louis’ most desirable and expensive suburbs.

Although KDG’s portfolio still includes multiple St. Louis County assets, including Centene Plaza and the under-development Olive Crossing, their recent investment decisions are skewing quickly toward the City itself. KDG just sold its long-held Clayton residential tower, Clayton on the Park, after managing the property for over a decade. KDG had, years ago, converted the building to luxury apartments during the Great Recession. It had previously been home to senior living facilities and even a hotel.

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The disinvestment from Clayton appears to go a bit further, as selling one property alone does not signify a meaningful trend. Rather, KDG has long had its eyes set on the vacant land just next-door to its Clayton on the Park tower at 121 S. Meramec. Some might be familiar with this address, as it used to be home to one of the two mid-rise 7-Up towers that were a part of the beverage company’s former headquarters. The building at this address had been demolished, while the other midrise still stands and would be converted to residential apartments under this plan. Chris Stritzel at CityScene STL details this incredibly well.

KDG’s plans as rendered above would have completely rehabilitated the structure still standing today and would have included new infill on the vacant lot to its side. Both would be connected to their former property, Clayton on the Park, via the parking garage. The development would have cost upwards of $70 million and included amenities like a rooftop pool deck, fitness center, and individual work spaces for tenants to use. However, KDG just recently scrapped these plans, shortly before they announced the sale of their neighboring asset, Clayton on the Park.

While some may suggest or feel that Clayton is losing steam, this move appears to be an individual investment decision rather than a growing trend. It is indicative of a market that has more strongly embraced the City of St. Louis in addition to but not instead of Clayton. Although KDG is shifting its set of priorities, there are multiple other developments currently reshaping the Clayton skyline, adding new residents, hotel guests, and Class A office space.

Rendering above attributed to U.S. Capital Development of the under-construction Forsyth Pointe office buildings

Clayton’s continued strength aside, it is evident that development has been heating up in the City of St. Louis. In 2020, over $1 billion in building permits were awarded, and there are currently thousands of residential apartment units under construction and in development. The Central West End saw the rise and completion of the new 100 on the Park high-rise apartments. Similarly, Downtown saw a new residential tower, One Cardinal Way, open by Busch Stadium amid major announcements by developers for hundreds of other units within Downtown limits.

The momentum clearly has not gone unnoticed by KDG. In the hot Central West End neighborhood, KDG is currently well into the construction of a residential apartment building on Laclede Ave. 4545 Laclede will host 200 units between its 7 stories, adding considerable density to an already vibrant corridor. Demand in the CWE is striking, and KDG is looking to offer new options for residents looking to enter the neighborhood with its many nightlife, shopping, and restaurant options. The building will feature “micro-units”, studios, 1, and 2-bedroom units. The average size of the micro-units will be 386 square feet, with larger units available for those who need additional space.

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KSDK reports that other amenities like a fitness center, golfing green, pool, and yoga studio will be available for residents. Moreover, while some locals might be shocked at the size and inclusion of the smaller units, they are an excellent way to maintain some modicum of affordability for residents looking to live in certain areas. Common in bigger cities with higher rent prices, micro-units also have considerably higher occupancy rates than traditional units, while also promoting sustainability and more efficient land use according to the Urban Land Institute.

KDG is also doubling down on the neighboring Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, more commonly known as The Grove. The company partnered with another developer, Green Street, on two large mixed-use buildings at the corner of Sarah and Chouteau. The two buildings, Chroma and Hue, share amenities and wrap hundreds of units, a coffee shop, hair salon, and other restaurants – significantly densifying and activating the East end of The Grove. KDG is responsible for the onsite property management at the two properties. Hue just recently wrapped up construction, and we were able to meet Green Street VP of Marketing, Liz Austin, for a construction tour covered here.

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In the neighboring Cortex neighborhood, an emerging innovation hub bolstered by Washington University and SLU, KDG is at the forefront of the efforts to bring 24/7 vibrancy through a residential component. The Cortex master plan envisions offices, hotels, entertainment, and apartments to activate the community throughout the day. To date, there has been significant progress. With a new Aloft hotel that opened its doors during the pandemic, a new MetroLink station, and tons of investment into labs and offices like the soon-to-be world’s largest neuroscience facility, the area is booming.

KDG hopes to add the key missing link: apartments. The whole plan, dubbed “Cortex K” will host a variety of uses from apartments to office and retail, but apartments are the piece that could truly stitch the community into a neighborhood, while also helping connect it to the vibrancy of The Grove.

Aerial Overview Rendering – St. Louis April 7 TIF Agenda

There will be three structures built in two separate phases. The first is a 7-story mixed-use building with 160 apartments, 18,500 square feet of office space, and 2,150 square feet of retail space. As KDG is quick to point out, this building will contribute to a neighborhood of over 500 residential units combined with the Chroma and Hue developments when complete. The TIF agenda notes that the apartments will include amenities like a fitness center, club room, outdoor deck, and more. Recent KDG apartment buildings have generally also included flexible workspaces for residents, pools, coffee, etc. Phase 1 is expected to cost $37 million according to the TIF packet.

Phase 2 will include an office building and garage, which will be part of the same complex as imaged in the renderings from KDG above. The Cortex K office building will bring 125,000 square feet of Class A office space to the City of St. Louis, in addition to 7,000 more square feet of retail space. For construction to proceed, KDG is looking to prelease at least 50,000 square feet of the usable space. The budgeted cost for the office building is an estimated $40 million.

The garage is expected to hold approximately 610 spaces and is still in a preliminary design phase. Although the garage is fairly large for a district that features a MetroLink station, it is not street-facing and will likely be shared by residents and workers alike. The project is certainly a decent example of transit-oriented development (TOD) still with the combined density and access to nearby transit options. This portion of Phase 2 will be an additional $17.9 million.

KDG is also promising to make various public improvements to the surrounding infrastructure – something common for developers when requesting tax-incremented financing from municipalities. Although the plans are still “very preliminary”, KDG expects to spend up to $3.5 million on streetscape improvements, lighting, utilities, sidewalks, and bike lanes. The improvements will be carried out for KDG on behalf of the Cortex.

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In the April 7 TIF agenda, KDG is requesting $14 million in assistance from the City of St. Louis for this development – 14.25% of the total development costs. TIFs have been under increasingly intense scrutiny by St. Louis residents for a variety of reasons. Many suggest it is a form of corporate welfare that takes necessary funds away from the city, and others a necessity to attract and retain beneficial developments.

Historically, the City of St. Louis lacked a transparent, thoughtful, and consistent plan on how it would award TIFs to developers. State Auditor Galloway released an audit of the program and called for increased oversight and transparency to ensure a level playing field just under a year ago. Much of the controversy from residents stems from the fact that the TIFs are often awarded to developers in the most economically successful districts, predominantly in the Central Corridor. The Cortex K TIF request is likely to face similar scrutiny from residents.

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Cortex Master Plan

The project itself, however, will certainly contribute to a fast-growing region in St. Louis City. Additional apartments, office, and retail will go a long way toward connecting The Grove and Cortex. Vibrant, 24/7 neighborhoods with transit access are more sustainable, enjoyable, and attractive to residents and are crucial to developing a strong, urban corridor.

As an investment decision, choosing to double down on the City of St. Louis instead of the very strong Clayton market also represents a growing source of demand that residents might not yet have noticed. There are thousands of units under construction in the city, and new home construction is off the charts. While the city is still seeing depopulation on its North Side, stemming from decades of disinvestment, redlining, racial covenants, and a 1970s plan that essentially would cut off efforts to sustain the North side (though not officially enacted, it was essentially still practiced for years), its Central Corridor and many South Side neighborhoods are booming.

The tricky act for St. Louis, however, is to find a way to extend this success, without displacement, to other neighborhoods that see little investment. With any luck, including the emerging “North Central Corridor” and a Mayor dedicated to racial equity, the City of St. Louis may yet see that day come sooner rather than later.

Here’s what’s on the Ballot for St. Louis’ April 6 General Election

When St. Louis City voters wake up on April 6, they will have the opportunity to cast their ballots in the first Approval Voting runoff in the city’s history. On the ballot are two progressive women vying for Mayor, a multiple propositions including the City’s Earnings Tax that makes up 36% of its revenue, and many Aldermanic races that could determine what policy looks like over the next several years.

Mayoral Candidates

For Mayor, voters can choose between Treasurer Tishaura Jones and Alderwoman Cara Spencer. Both candidates have detailed policy platforms that lean more on the progressive side, versus fellow Democratic candidate Lewis Reed who was more centrist and did not make it to the runoff. Both Jones and Spencer have debated each other multiple times, and their most recent KSDK debate is below.

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Unique to this election is that both Jones and Spencer are the two most “approved” Mayoral candidates of those who were on the primary ballot in March. St. Louis is the second U.S. city to adopt Approval Voting, and the theory behind its adoption is that the ultimate winner and both candidates who proceed to the runoff are the actual favorite candidates of the most voters.

In a normal election in other cities or previously in St. Louis, typically there might be two politically opposite candidates, or voters may instead choose a “lesser of two evils” candidate to avoid their worst option. Rather, in this election, voters can achieve a superior outcome if they vote honestly. We have a video explaining this process below.

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Propositions

Of course, there are many other choices that voters will make on April 6. Propositions E, Y, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 may have sizable impacts on the city, its services, and its budget.

Proposition E, which represents the renewal of the Earnings Tax if passed, would continue the 1% income tax on all STL residents and employees who work in the city. These funds make up over 36% of the city’s funds, ranging from fire protection to roads and critical social support services. Missouri-Metro has a opinion article in favor of supporting the Earnings Tax here.

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May be an image of text that says 'MSD cleat wastewater + stormwater'
MSD Logo

Proposition Y is proposed by MSD, the Metropolitan Sewer District, to issue $500,000,000 in sewer revenue bonds. According to MSD, these bonds are “For the purpose of designing, constructing, improving, renovating, repairing, replacing, and equipping new and existing MSD sewer and draining facilities and systems…”. If you are unsure how issuing bonds on large public works projects works, you can read more about issuing bonds here.

Propositions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 also reflect changes to the city’s charter in relation to the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD).

Proposition 1, if adopted, would be less controversial than others. It would modernize certain language and provisions, reflecting current names of city institutions and adding language that is more inclusive to different identities.

Proposition 2 would change the how the MSD Board votes on certain provisions. MSD summarizes this proposition on its website below as:

  • Current Charter requires yes votes from a minimum of 2 Board Members from each appointing authority, the City and County, to pass any ordinance, rule, etc.
    • a. New rule: If 5 present and with unanimous consent, any 4 yes votes will suffice for passage
  • Ordinances shall take effect immediately
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Proposition 3 is related to the Rate Commission and transparency on Rate Reports. It would, according to the ballot language, ensure that the rate is fair and reasonable to all users of MSD. As summarized by MSD:

  • Clarifies Rate Commission voting delegates and timeline.
  • Requires consideration of financial impact on all classes of ratepayers to determine a fair and reasonable burden.

Proposition 4 clarifies that a trustee at MSD would earn $25 a day they serve the Board at a Public Safety Meeting. Additionally, members of the Civil Service Commission also would earn $25 a day they serve on the Board. For both, the maximum yearly earnings would be $625.

Finally, Proposition 5 would allow MSD to utilize the same auditing firm for longer than 5 consecutive years if MSD conducts a fair and competitive bidding process and the lead audit partner is changed.

Aldermanic Candidates

STL City Hall – Google Maps

Candidates in most of the city’s 28 Wards are running in some very competitive elections. With the city tilting generally more toward the progressive end of the political spectrum in recent elections from U.S. Representative Cori Bush to its most “approved” candidates in the March 2 runoffs, incumbents are facing some tough challenges.

With so many Wards, there are too many candidates to delve into. However, we will include their websites when applicable below and display the various candidates facing off in each Ward.

Ward 1Yolanda BrownSharon Tyus
Ward 3Herdosia Kalambayi BentumBrandon Bosley
Ward 4Dwinderlin (Dwin) EvansEdward McFowland
Ward 5James PageTammika Hubbard
Ward 7Jack CoatarShedrick (Nato Caliph) Kelley
Ward 9Dan GuentherKen A. Ortmann
Ward 11Sarah Wood MartinUncontested
Ward 12Vicky GrassBill Stephens
Ward 13Beth MurphyAnne Schweitzer
Ward 15Megan Ellyia GreenJennifer Florida
Ward 17Michelle SherodTina (Sweet-T) Pihl
Ward 19Marlene E. DavisCleo Willis, Sr.
Ward 21John Collins-MuhammadLaura Keys
Ward 23Joseph A. Vaccaro, Jr.Uncontested
Ward 25Shane CohnUncontested
Ward 27Chris CarterPamela Boyd
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Board of Education

There are also many choices available for the St. Louis Board of Education, which will be of increased importance as the public school system faces challenges maintaining its enrollment and facilities. Voters may opt for up to 3 candidates. Each elected member will serve for 4 consecutive years. Although we included every candidate on the ballot in the list below, please be advised that candidate Bill Haas passed away. A very controversial figure in the St. Louis political sphere, Haas was known for his many candidacies and, by others, abusive messages. The St. Louis Post Dispatch covers Haas here.

William (Bill) Haas
David L. Jackson, Jr.
Natalie Vowell
J.L. Mendoza Quinones
Daffney Moore
Antoinette (Toni) Cousins
Emily Hubbard
David Merideth
Alisha Sonnier
Matt Davis
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Comptroller

Darlene Green
Comptroller Darlene Green

The last race that voters will see on this ballot is for Comptroller, which is essentially the city’s Chief Financial Officer. The current incumbent, Darlene Green, is running for reelection and does not have an opponent. The Comptroller can audit city departments and ensure that funds and resources are utilized as planned.

How to Vote

Polling stations open tomorrow, April 6, at 6AM and will stay open until 7PM. It is important to remember that if you are in line at your polling location at the time the location closes, you will still be allowed to cast your vote. Do not leave the line if there is one.

If you do not know where your polling place is, you can find your polling place through the St. Louis Board of Elections.

To view the Sample Ballot, click here.

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New St. Louis CITY SC MLS Stadium Renderings Released!

As the St. Louis City SC MLS Soccer Stadium continues to rise at the massive construction site in Downtown West, the team has frequently released exciting new renderings that showcase the entertainment district, style, and amenities that guests will enjoy.

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The new renderings below include the team’s training center, lounge spaces, practice field, club HQ, fan pavilion, and a view of the larger campus overall.

Training Center & Lounge Spaces

Fan Pavilion

“Our welcoming pavilion is open year-round and includes a team store, cafĂ© and second-floor space open for events and conferences.” – St. Louis City SC

Downtown West Campus

Downtown West Campus – St. Louis City SC Twitter

We already have an idea of what the stadium will look like from the exterior, as can be seen below, and on the interior in some lounge spaces.

Rendering of the complete stadium – St. Louis City SC

We cannot wait to see how the campus shapes up!

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St. Louis City’s First Foray With ‘Approval Voting’ Begins March 2nd

St. Louis City is poised to have its first municipal election utilizing ‘Approval Voting‘, a method of voting that voters overwhelmingly adopted in November 2020 with the passing of Proposition D. Tomorrow’s March 2nd municipal primary election will be the first time St. Louis voters get to vote for more than one candidate for a given office. St. Louis is one of the first U.S. cities to adopt such a measure, with Fargo being the first just under a year ago.

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While voters are used to choosing a single candidate, the city’s new voting system passes with Proposition D allows voters to choose multiple candidates that they approve of. There is still a primary and a general election, with the primary taking place March 2nd and the general/runoff on April 6th, but the candidates in the runoff will no longer represent the top candidate from either party.

Missouri-Metro & Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association Video on Approval Voting

Instead, Proposition D has instituted nonpartisan Approval Voting, which seeks to create more opportunity for different ideas and parties to gain momentum and make an impact on elections usually dominated by the two-party system. Moreover, the new system is intended to better reflect actual voting preferences. Proponents of Approval Voting explain that under the more traditional ‘Plurality Voting’ method utilized in most of the U.S. and formerly in St. Louis, voters often chose the “lesser of two evils” rather than their most preferred candidate. The reasoning behind doing so rested in seeking to prevent your worst case scenario rather than improving the chances for your favorite candidate.

“Approval voting gives voters more power by allowing them to select all the candidates they wish, avoiding issues with vote-splitting, spoiler candidates, and strategic voting. Many political scientists believe it is a very representative system.”

https://stlapproves.org/faq

Just how does Approval Voting supposedly better reflect real preferences? On the March 2nd primary ballot, voters will not see party identifications, despite each candidate (at least in the Mayoral race) publicly tying themselves to a party. Moreover, and perhaps the most significant difference to St. Louisans, is that voters may vote, or “approve”, of as many candidates as they like on tomorrow’s ballot.

A sample ballot wherein a STL voter would “Approve” of every Mayoral candidate on March 2nd

The top two “approved” candidates, which are intended to reflect voters’ real interests, then would advance to the general election runoff on April 6, where only two candidates for a given seat will face off. Proponents of Approval Voting suggest that the top two candidates who make it to the runoff in April will have broader support than candidates who squeak by on a plurality.

The list of candidates for the March 2 primary can be found via St. Louis city here. Polls are open from 6AM to 7PM, and you can find your polling place here.

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OPINION | St. Louis’ Earnings Tax Must be Preserved

St. Louis City has for years relied upon its Earnings Tax revenue for a significant portion of its annual revenues, now comprising of over a third of the city’s expected revenue each year. In 2020, St. Louis raked in just over $191 million, a sum that has quickly grown over the past few years. With the city seeing incredible investment and high paying jobs in the medical, geospatial, and tech sectors at the Cortex, Downtown, and beyond, it has seen a 9.97% increase in revenue over the last two years alone.

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Although there is a real and warranted debate over how the city allocates its funds in relation to equity and incentives, there is no doubt that eliminating the revenue in one swift motion would be disastrous for the city, its growth, and its most vulnerable communities. Gregory Daily, the city’s Collector of Revenue, has been waging a long education campaign on the tax for some time, pointing out the direct impact on city services that residents rely on every day. From parks to streets and lighting, the Earnings Tax impacts every city resident. While many communities might not know their Neighborhood Stabilization Officers by name, these civil servants work incredibly hard to make our communities safer and more economically resilient.

Parks are imperative for public health, while emergency services are critical for maintaining the day-to-day safety of St. Louisans. While I share the views of many in our city that St. Louis, among most U.S. cities, spends too much on policing with too few positive results, police are but one aspect of critical emergency services. Moreover, the City is just now experimenting and investing in community-driven violence reduction through Cure Violence and emergency dispatch that redirects some calls away from police. These measures are not enough, but they are an important start as we strive to prevent horrific tragedies that have predominantly affected communities of color. Even now, we have difficulty adequately funding these new services. While I share the hopes of many that some police funds will be redirected to other innovative and community-driven programs, addressing inequalities becomes many times harder when lower revenues have to be split among the same number of services.

Tax Revenue since FY 2018 – St. Louis City

Perhaps the conversation would be different if opponents of Proposition E, the Earnings Tax, actually presented an alternate funding source for the City. If you’ve been paying attention – they haven’t. There is no plan to replace these funds, and the end result would be a City that has its budget nuked, cratering its budget with little time for the City to prepare. If you felt that St. Louis Streets crews were slower than you’d like already with plowing snowy streets or filling potholes, I expect that their performance would decline much more with significantly less money for employees or vehicle maintenance. For our already cash-strapped fleet of refuse vehicles much in need of service, citizens might expect less consistent trash pickup and more frequently overfilled dumpsters.

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While some might feel this is a deserved consequence for a bureaucracy that has not served everyone adequately, such a drastic and reactionary loss of revenue would do nothing to resolve the City’s shortcomings. Instead, St. Louis would struggle that much more to attract investment, new residents, and to invest critical dollars into its low-income neighborhoods. Tax dollars should go back into our communities, and it would be incredibly difficult to pass individual tax measures for individual programs that would be lost. Others might argue that the Earnings Tax prevents growth, population, and investment. At first glance, that argument is reasonable, but with hundreds of municipalities across the United States levying income taxes, including cities like Kansas City, Cincinnati, Columbus, New York City, Philadelphia, and more, this argument falls flat quickly. In fact, St. Louis’ Earnings Tax tends to not even fall in the higher percentages of income taxes levied in comparable cities.

I urge all St. Louis City residents to Vote YES on Proposition E, to preserve our Earnings Tax, and to preserve our critical city services.

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Featured Image Credit: Tysports

Green Street to Complete STL City HQ and BarK Dog Bar in Fall 21, sees Record Revenue

Real estate development firm Green Street and its younger counterpart Green Street Building Group are bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to St. Louis City and County in 2021, with hundreds of under construction units set to come online in the coming year. With its humungous Terra at the Grove and six smaller developments next-door, just South of Manchester in STL City’s historic Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, Green Street is doubling down on its investment in the city proper.

As part of its recent slate of investments in the city, Green Street is also moving its headquarters from Clayton, the region’s business and office hub, to a revitalized industrial building on McRee in the City of St. Louis in Botanical Heights. The development will see the space completely remodeled and will include the St. Louis region’s first BarK dog bar. BarK has been highly successful at its Kansas City location, and includes a restaurant, bar, and park for members to bring their dogs to play and socialize.

Rendering of the BarK and Green Street HQ – Green Street

The new HQ and BarK development will see a complete renovation of 4565 McRee, a 64000 square foot warehouse with nearly 2 acres of outdoor space. Despite the building’s proximity to Tower Grove and The Grove, the McRee corridor is more well known for its industrial warehouses than it is for residential or commercial uses. However, with the incredible growth and investment in the City’s Central Corridor and surrounding neighborhoods, even industrial sections are becoming more highly demanded as space becomes more of a premium.

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Many St. Louisans might be surprised to see the strength of the St. Louis City market, but the Central Corridor has seen billions in new investment over the past few years. With a new MLS stadium, residential skyscrapers like 100 on the Park and One Cardinal Way, and historic renovations including Green Street’s Armory project and the nearby City Foundry from The Lawrence Group, the city is regaining its reputation for attractive services and amenities.

With that said, there is still a significant disparity in St. Louis investment, one many readers may likely know well. The region’s “Delmar Divide” is a well-known phenomenon that represents the effects and continuation of historic and systemic racism and segregation. Even now, investment lags North of the Central Corridor more than anywhere else.

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Green Street recently introduced a new investment firm, dubbed Emerald Capital, with the intent to invest in historically low-income communities. Emerald Capital, according to Green Street’s recent press release, will collaborate with non-profit and for-profit entities, as well as their recently acquired architectural firm, HDA Architects, to utilize complex tax credits comprehensively in order to bridge the investment gap across St. Louis neighborhoods.

With the many upcoming developments including the under construction Union-STL project, Terra at the Grove, and the recently announced $250 million development in Webster Groves, we expect that we will have many more renderings and details to share soon for multiple developments. Their recent success with Chroma in The Grove, as well as the recently completed HueSTL, which we covered here at Missouri Metro while it was under construction, have already seen incredibly high occupancy and absorption. Enough so where Green Street released a presser announcing $20 million in additional revenue over the last year alone.

Rendering of Green Street’s proposed “Old North” Webster Groves development

While their units could be classified in the luxury segment, it certainly bodes well for the St. Louis market and the potential for future residential growth in the city that developers are bullish on providing hundreds, and cumulatively thousands of units, over the next few years. We hope that Green Street will continue including workforce housing in its developments, and share St. Louisans hope that other parts of the city will see equitable development and growth soon. The good news is, as Chris Stritzel at CitySceneSTL recently reported, it seems North City may finally be seeing some hints of growth and investment in his excellent article here.

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