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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Jobs in the City

Yesterday, I wrote a post about how the blog attributed to Mayor Slay claimed that investment in the city is up 54%, and I pointed out that it used a measure of investment (building permits) that simply does not show the entire picture. In my post, I asked: "Slay, where are the jobs?"

Today's post in the Slay blog is entitled "Growing Jobs." It talks about business incubators in the city, and businesses they have churned out.

Business incubators are certainly important. It is wonderful that someone is out there trying to help independent businesses get on their feet.

Still, I don't think it answers my question. The programs discussed in the post are great, but when our city has 9.1% unemployment, they are only one little drop in a big bucket.

Then again, the current city administration's idea of creating jobs seems to be eminent domaining people out of their homes to build yet another big box store. It temporarily creates some demo and construction jobs, but all that the city gets in the long term is a couple dozen $6 and $7 an hour part-time jobs where people are forced to stand on their feet on a hard floor all day long. Oh, there's also eminent domaining people out of their homes to build newer, cheaper, uglier homes, but that doesn't even create long-term $6 an hour jobs. We lose the refined, exceptionally crafted architectural fabric that makes our city stand out among other American cities, and we're left with little but a vast parking lot and jobs that by definition require people to get public assistance to survive.

We're starting to get people moving back in to the city right now, and perhaps more importantly, people are excited about the city again. But people won't stay in a place where they can't meet their basic needs. If you can't get a job, you can't feed yourself, and if you start to starve, the survival instinct's gonna kick in sooner or later.

This administration needs to get more proactive about creating good jobs--the kind of jobs that pay a living wage, the kind of jobs that people can keep, the kind of jobs that don't force people on to public assistance because they pay so little. So far, Slay's record shows that he seems to think that tearing down a historic building = a job. It does not. (In a debate earlier this year, Irene Smith asked Mayor Slay what his economic development plan for the North Side is. He responded by saying that his administration had torn down thousands of buildings on the North Side. That was all he could come up with.) And opening a big box store that pays $7 an hour is not really creating a job, either (I can show you my paychecks and the bills they're somehow supposed to pay to personally show you what a $7.50 an hour job is worth.). Where are the good, sustainable jobs?

The current city administration needs to get serious about creating actual decent jobs in St. Louis, and it must stop pretending that knocking down historic buildings is the same thing as creating sustainable jobs. The Slay administration must start seriously trying to improve the St. Louis Public Schools for the thousands of (mostly black) children who rely on them (A $7 an hour job don't pay for private school, that's for sure!), so that our city's children actually have some of the skills they need to get, keep, and create jobs in the city. Jobs and schools are two intertwined problems, and they are two of the most important problems that the city of St. Louis must face if it wants a positive future. In response to these problems, the Slay administration has shown only that they are very, very good at sitting on their hands.


Anonymous said...

In all fairness, Slay is not doing what his predecessors did not do. However, his administration does seem to be trying to one-up the Harmon administration on inaction. St. Louis has an ideal situation for economic growth -- always has -- but the civic leaders continue to squander it. Slay's just the most recent guy to come down the mayoral pike.

Anonymous said...

New residential growth will indirectly lower unemployment, since less affordable new units certainly require new residents to be employed. Perhaps, the City's covert strategy is to displace current unemployed residents and add better-off residents to our City's aggregate composition.

Joe said...

In many City neighborhoods, unemployed is closer to 20% - and for African-American males, even higher.

I was disappointed the MayorSlay.com blog focused on the four St. Louis Enterprise Centers, leaving out entirely the Center for Emerging Technologies run by Marcia Mellitz at Forest Park and Sarah. It is a crucial player in development of new biotech businesses.

The Enterprise Centers - located in Midtown, Lemay, Chesterfield(!) and the newest in Wellston - serve all kinds of businesses. While the Midtown one may be "full", the Lemay one seems not to be so full.

As for education - clearly, getting a solid preparation from K-12 is important, and SLPS is still mostly failing at the high school level. And community colleges provide an additional level of specialized job training that can really help people get certain jobs.

I'm still ambivalent myself about the economic benefits of a four-year college degree - much less Masters and PhDs. That's why I've figured out ways to get my college education for free.

Claire Nowak-Boyd said...

To the first anon: I agree that Slay isn't the first do-nothing (or do-too-much-little) mayor to fuck up the city, but those other guys already finished fucking it up as mayor. He's fucking it up now.

The the second anon: Good, good point. Your comment makes me think a lot of when we lived in Ward 17, Joe Roddy's ward. With the eminent domaining out of black renters in McRee Town, and their subsequent replacement with middle class homeowners, Roddy took a big step towards having higher income and employment statistics in his ward, and having lower crime statistics. Also, it's very significant that the destruction of McRee Town and the construction of "Botanical Heights" made the ward statistically much whiter. (Hm, is Roddy worried he won't be alderman for life? Needed to skew the vote?) Simultaneously, over in Forest Park Southeast, dozens upon dozens of lower-income, mostly black residents were being forced out by the rampant real estate speculation that Roddy rabidly encouraged. I remember that at a Community Council meeting, one of my neighbors said to FPSE Development Corporation Board President Phil Minden that the Development Corporation was forcing more people out of the neighborhood than anyone or anything else; Minden didn't even try to deny it, responding, "Or you could say that we're bringing more new people in to the neighborhood!" ...In many ways, I think that what's going on in the 17th ward is a microcosm of and a model for what's going on in the entire city.

Joe--Good point about how it varies among neighborhoods. These statistics include Soulard, Lafayette Park, St. Louis Hills, and other stable areas. Imagine what it takes to statistically balance those out to arrive at an average of only 9.1%. And, of course, in our nation one in three black men will be incarcerated within their lifetimes.... A significant figure to consider for a mayor who's not doing much to create jobs, and who has taken very major steps towards driving an already injured public school system completely into the ground.

And good point that those centers aren't even all in the city. I don't think that what mayorslay.com wrote added up at all to "Growing Jobs."

I will have to talk to you sometime about ways to get secondary education for free!

Michael Allen said...

I don't think that Roddy's strategy in Ward 17 has worked. Many of the McRee Town diaspora has settled in Adams Grove, causing crime and unemployment rates there to increase. Also, Forest Park Southeast may be seeing home values rise, but its population of unemployed people remains steady, and no jobs have been created there.

Also, the rest of McRee Town remains pretty messed up, with the Garden District Commission's plan for redevelopment stagnant.