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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Blairmont's Associates Giving to Both Shrewsbury and Reed

The two candidates for president of the Board of Aldermen have reported campaign contributions related to the "Blairmont" effort.

According to his 40 day before the primary election filing, Jim Shrewsbury received $750.00 from Eagle Realty Company on November 10, which represents the Blairmont family of companies. In fairness, Eagle Realty Company does appraisal work for the St. Louis Development Corporation and the Land Reutilization Authority and may have other cause to make this donation.

In his report, Lewis Reed shows that he raised in one day an astounding $4,000 in contributions from companies related to developer Paul J. McKee, Jr. including one of the Blairmont holding companies. On December 7, 2006 the following companies connected to McKee donated $1000 each: Create, LLC; Havenwood, LLC; Boardwalk Corporate Centre LLC; and Allston Alliance, LC. Allston Alliance LC is one of the Blairmont holding companies, owning the Cass Avenue Schnucks site; its registered agent is John Steffen, head of the Pyramid Companies. (On Reed's report, Allston Alliance lists a return address of 906 Olive Street, Suite 600, same as the Pyramid Companies.) While Steffen's role is unclear, McKee reported a 30% ownership stake in Allston Alliance LC. Also in fairness, McKee is chairman of BJC Healthcare that is seeking to renegotiate its lease of part of Forest Park. Shrewsbury opposes that renegotiation.

While these contributions may not amount to influence, they should be noted. The silence by public officials and candidates on the "Blairmont" project is notable. The private control of an entire ward's future should be of utmost concern to all elected officials, since such control ultimately threatens the role of government to shape development to be responsible both to city residents and to existing law.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Like Antonio French says, "don't hate the players-hate the game."

In politics, it's all about money, and serious candidates are serious about fundraising.

Check out the contributors to the major candidates-they give to both sides.

People like Steve Stogel, John Steffen, the Schnucks, they give lots of money to politicians.

The way the pols see it, as long as their opponent is receiving money from contributor "x", they'll take it.

For on the political scorecard, it would be a wash.

So Reed and Shrewsbury both take money from Blairmont operatives. In the end game, it doesn't matter-they both are even on that score.

Doug Duckworth said...

The players of this "game" are not advocates for the best interests of our City. Rather they settle for "whatever we can get." No wonder our City is third rate, soon to be overpassed in population by St. Charles County! Our leaders perform favors in exchange for campaign finance, yet the end result is at best mediocrity. This is unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

Doug,

I think there are lots of people who would disagree with your assessment that our elected officials are not looking out for the best interests of the city.

Shrewsbury has many supporters, as does Reed.

Reed's ward shows great progress since he became alderman, and Shrewsbury can point to growth throughout the city during his term.

These are salad days for the city of St. Louis, especially compared to the years between 1950 and 1992.

The ironic thing is, the better things go, the more we hear complaints about our elected officials.

In St. Louis, you have to take a long view. We are in a very positive period for the city.

Our aim should be to build on the momentum.

The question should be, how best to make that happen.

Doug Duckworth said...

This attitude is exactly what I am talking about. Things are better now than before so we should all be happy with the status quo. Complacency and lack of innovation is what got us massive depopulation.

The policies in this City, to me, seem contradictory. Those in power promote urban loft living yet neglect historical housing while promoting suburban development. We have zoning codes which predate my parents. We have the most historical housing in the State yet we also have high rates of demolition.

Our police department suffers from selective enforcement and our wonderful crime rates are testimony to that problem.

Our SLPS, with some signs of hope, is threatened to be taken over by the State, while the Administration is as happy as a clam.

91,000 residents of our region do not have car while our transit access is inadequate. Regionally we are sprawling more than before with no clear consensus or acknowledgment that this is even an issue. Our big regional public spending is allocated for a stadium and ball park village when jobs and access to them are of much greater concern.

Racial divisions are alive and well in our City along with the "us vs. them" attitude.

It is hard for me to be ecstatic about St. Louis. Maybe I am becoming a realist.

Anonymous said...

No one is recommending maintaining the status quo.

Things are changing. Some things stay the same, and some things change.

They may not change fast enough for some, but if you take a long view, things are changing dramatically.

In 1992, you could buy vacant loft warehouse buildings on Washington Avenue for $.50 per square foot.

Do you realize how cheap that is? That means you could purchase a 100,000 square foot, ten story building for $50,000. I'm serious.

Today, most of those buildings have been redeveloped and the few remaining ones are worth millions as shells. The point? We have successfully reestablished the real estate market in downtown St. Louis. This is huge.

So huge, in fact, that the much lauded Neil Pierce calls the revitalization of downtown St. Louis the most dramatic turnaround anywhere in the country.

Lewis Reed was alderman for part of downtown during this time, and Jim Shrewsbury was Prez of the B of A as well. These guys deserve some credit.

So where do we go from here? To the neighborhoods surrounding downtown. And that's happening too.

ONSL is seeing major investment. And the south side is growing too.

The save and rehab of South Side National Bank is huge.

Potential for redevelopment within the Jefferson Gravois Historic Streetcar Suburb historic district is huge.

Things are positive all over.

Yes, there are problems, but compared to what many have lived through for years, these are amazingly good times.

Remember, you have to take a LONG VIEW.

Doug, where were you in 1992?

Anonymous said...

Doug, was playing with his new transformers he got from Santa Claus in 1992!

Doug Duckworth said...

It was actually power rangers!

gmichaud said...

There is not a LONG VIEW in this town. That is exactly the problem. Yes there is some success, but so what? The overall picture is one of decline and continual poor decision making that threatens to undermine any progress that is being made.
A few successes do not make a viable city.

So without writing a treatise on urban planning, here is a brief explanation of the failure of the LONG VIEW.
The Blairmont fiasco lead by McKee is a good example. Here you have wealthy individuals coming into St. Louis, buying up buildings, many sound buildings, and letting them go to hell. What is their purpose? The citizens, through their elected representatives have no voice in what is happening. McKee and his henchmen have bought the silence of the representatives.
How is what happening to many historic structures that are owned by Blairmont impact the ONSL and other areas that are restoring or rebuilding their neighborhoods? In the LONG VIEW what impact will whatever Blairmont intends to do have on these neighborhoods? Is what they intend compatible with surrounding neighborhoods and the urban environment?
Or consider transit. The grid and density of St. Louis is ideal to restore a true viable transit system, if there was leadership that would get off its ass and do just that. So what are Blairmont’s intentions here? Does what they want to do in the future dovetail with transit plans? How will new density work in this area? In the LONG VIEW is this considered at all?

In the LONG VIEW, future actions should fit into a public urban plan for this area and the city. Suburbanization that has been occurring elsewhere will not fit into a plan devised by true leadership in partnership with the public.
Rather than accepting payments from Blairmont, Shrewsbury and Reed should set the record straight and demand an outline of their intentions for public input, should convene public meetings to determine what would be best for the future planning of the city in an environment of global warming and potential energy shortages. Row housing should be looked at as a future standard in the LONG VIEW. Not only to support densities for new transit options, but also for energy savings and to encourage a walkable city. Along with row housing, corner stores and decentralized commercial are encouraged in the LONG VIEW, breaking the economic monopoly of major real estate and retail operations, and encouraging democratic dispersal of economic opportunity. This action will also contribute to a future where energy conservation plays a major role in the design of cities.

When Lewis Reed or Jim Shrewsbury stick their political neck out and demand answers from Blairmont, and ask for public discussion, only then will then begin to look like true leaders with a LONG VIEW of what is good for St. Louis and St. Louisians. Until such a time, they are no different than the same sniveling, self serving politicians that dominate America today.

This is the real LONG VIEW, it is a view that insures successful integration of individual projects into a healthy, vibrant city that can meet the challenges of the future. Being content with a few projects that have been built along the way has nothing to do with the “LONG VIEW”

www.tobyweiss.com said...

To "gmichaud", a loud round of applause. You eloquently hit every important point with detail and vision.

But Reed or Shrewsbury would never dare tackle a single one of those topics. That's not what politics is about.

"Anonymous" is speaking in hackneyed political phrases, the kind of empty sound bites that win elections so citizens wishes can be ignored for power ladder climbing.

Michael, you could repeat 10 times a day that elected officials are pointedly ignoring the Blairmont situation revealed, and it still wouldn't be enough. "Silence Equals Consent," and that's the chilling conclusion our city politician's seem to be making, with an eye toward THEIR Long View.

Anonymous said...

Selective law enforcement, leadership without vision, favoritism, etc. are evident throughout the StL area and as such is not limited to the City. The StL area has a culture that needs to change before substantial improvement and success will occur. Good luck in believing that can happen any time soon.

Over the last twelve years, many areas of StL have seen improvement. Property values had become so cheap that out-of-town speculators were even willing to take a gamble, especially with all the tax credits being offered. Meanwhile, the inner suburbs continue to exhibit unfavorable demographic trends and decay. StL County and City continue to lose jobs and income and both areas need each other for there to be progress.

The more talented, innovative, especially the professional class, have voted with their feet and left this area during the previous four decades. The result is an abundance of retirees, hoosiers and poorly educated people which largely explains the lack of critical mass for change. Afters years of liberal leadership (lacking in common sense) combined with burdensome federal mandates, the results are clear as the area continues to fall behind the gains made in other major cities.

Local leaderships' response in this decayed region is to favor their last hopes, those with wealth and influence, such as developers and universities. TIFs and ED become the favored tools. In an area desperate for revenues and investment, politicians are greatly motivated to hand out favors as they increase their re-election coffers and allow for some signs of positive change. However for the majority of hard working, caring residents, this inevitably creates great uncertainty.

Everyone finaly realizes that no matter how well your property is maintained, it still may be blighted. The result is predictable and obvious: lower levels of investment by those who care. Another result by many of the more talented is to join with the powers to be, a natural survival response. These conditions further exacerbate the negative trends in place.

In addition, the StL area is burdened with excessive government. The lack of cooperation between these governmental units has led to the creation of MSD and other entities such as Eat-West Gateway, etc. These organizations are largely removed from the democratic processes which are so necessary for change. The electorate gets a less-than-responsive and less accountable form of governing.

The downward spiral that is StL is still in place and obvious. However it is nice to see and read that a small minority in the area recognize it and hope to change it.

Blog on and try to keep as many as informed as possible. That may be the only remaining hope for change.

Anonymous said...

Toby,

You say the following statements are "...hackneyed political phrases, the kind of empty sound bites that win elections so citizens wishes can be ignored for power ladder climbing." How so?

Rather than empty sound bites, they all sound like tangible, measurable accomplishments and/or potential.

In 1992, you could buy vacant loft warehouse buildings on Washington Avenue for $.50 per square foot.

Do you realize how cheap that is? That means you could purchase a 100,000 square foot, ten story building for $50,000. I'm serious.

Today, most of those buildings have been redeveloped and the few remaining ones are worth millions as shells. The point? We have successfully reestablished the real estate market in downtown St. Louis. This is huge.

So huge, in fact, that the much lauded Neil Pierce calls the revitalization of downtown St. Louis the most dramatic turnaround anywhere in the country.

ONSL is seeing major investment. And the south side is growing too.

The save and rehab of South Side National Bank is huge.

Potential for redevelopment within the Jefferson Gravois Historic Streetcar Suburb historic district is huge.


The above is not hyperbole. It is real progress.

SC said...

Steffen is a developer with a lot of urban experience, so I can't see him being a major part of a paternalistic, racist wholesale clearance plot.

On the other hand, McKee has always been a creature of the suburbs and part of the group of never-going-to-get-it types who think that the problem with the city is its unique urban character.

That character is the most marketable asset the region has.

McKee's project shows that the wealthy who abandoned the city still hate it very deeply and want to destroy what they perceive as its problems: old buildings and poor black people.

Maybe he'd be more comfortable in Flagstaff, Arizona than in an older urban area with real diversity.

But that's not the city's problem. He should leave us the f*ck alone.

If Slay hands over the public land in this area to McKee, he should be impeached.

Anonymous said...

McKee's project shows that the wealthy who abandoned the city still hate it very deeply and want to destroy what they perceive as its problems: old buildings and poor black people.

Not. It shows McKee knows how to make money.

Maybe he'd be more comfortable in Flagstaff, Arizona than in an older urban area with real diversity.

Nah. He likes St. Louis fine.

But that's not the city's problem. He should leave us the f*ck alone.

Do I detect a bit of jealous pride?

If Slay hands over the public land in this area to McKee, he should be impeached.

This poster just doesn't get it. The "mayor" doesn't hand over anything.

The process is driven by aldermen.

Eric said...

Oh, St. Louis politics, you and your "anonymouses"...

barbara said...

Sad thing is, Slay is already handing public land over to McKee, in the form of 10 acres of Forest Park. Yes, dear anonymous friend (whom we all do truly admire for the work you do for the northside every day), the process is aldermen-driven. However, when it comes down to it, it is Shrewsbury, Slay and Green. Slay has already decided to vote for McKee. Shrewsbury, praise be, is voting against. The only hope at this point is to contact Darlene Green at 622-4389 and beg her to look at McKee's track record with Blairmont before she casts the deciding vote. Or, if you are one of McKee's kind, call her and tell her you are happy McKee is planning to bulldoze St Louis Place neighborhood.

Barbara

Anonymous said...

The discussion just went confusing. Are we talking about Forest Park? Blairmont? Or St. Louis Place?

Isn't St. Louis Place already largely redeveloped with infill new housing by MAry One Johnson, and new McCormack Baron multi-family on the southern edge?

And if BJC expands its Forest Park lease, what makes that McKee? He may be chairman of the Board, but that's probably a volunteer role which changes persons every few years. Look to the whole BJC Board, not one person.

And as far as the role of E and A, they don't approve land sales in wards, only money contracts for the city.

If someone wants to see a classic example of aldermanic control over development, check out the "You Paid for It" link at the Brick City Blog.

It's got something for everyone.

james jamm said...

While the discussion may have went confusing, the post is clear:

Lewis Reed has $4k from Paul McKee.

Is that a bribe or a coincidence?