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Sunday, June 17, 2007

McKee's North St. Louis Project Makes Front Page of Sunday Post-Dispatch, Above the Fold

A tax-credit bill for one man? - Virginia Young and Jake Wagman (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 17)

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch makes up for its rather late coverage of Paul McKee's acquisitions in north St. Louis with a well-written in-depth story that appears above the fold on the front page of Sunday's paper. Online, there is additional material including a great Flash graphic showing the flow of campaign contributions and in-kind gifts from McKee to a host of Missouri politicians, from Matt Blunt to Lewis Reed.

Despite significant coverage from other media outlets ranging from the Riverfront Times (the first major media outlet to cover the story, thanks to reporter Randall Roberts), Pub Def, KWMU, KDHX's "The Wire" program and KMOV Channel 4 TV news, this issue has not received the huge major publicity it deserves. Here it is, at long last -- and before Governor Blunt's decision on the economic development bill in which the tax credit program sought by McKee is embedded.

25 comments:

Eric said...

All I can say is: finally!

constant change said...

Some of the best reporting I've read in a long while... (except of course here).

I found some of the quotes especially humourous (so I wouldnt't cry).

"Kinder sought McKee's opinion before drafting the bill. "I took it to Paul," Kinder said. "He ran it by HIS LAWYERS. We got busy and came up with a legislative proposal."

ha ha he he hu hu hunh?

Anonymous said...

It's about time that the fuckin' Post did something right, albeit about a year too late!!

s. c. said...

why would mckee take the proposal to his lawyers?

to make sure that his holdings would qualify.

watch 'em squirm now, though, because they got the post and the alderwoman after 'em. it'll be hard to pull off a redevelopment ordinance now, and that's required by the tax credit bill.

barbara_on_19th said...

I don't think it will be hard to pull off a redevelopment ordinance. Louis Reed is still in McKee's pocket.

Also, the Post did not challenge McKee's statement that he is selling off his holdings. He isn't selling anything that I am aware of, and has closed on 3 more properties that I know of in the last month.

Anonymous said...

There was nothing new reported - everything in the article has been here for months. Where's the beef?

So much emphasis on derelict properties and no delving into the broader issues like should one man set a vision for a community where he doesn't even live and should we as Missouri tax payers foot the bill. You've raised this issue here before but the Post skimmed it. Aside from the headline there's no real exploration of the big picture. This isn't just about a few neighborhoods in north St. Louis - this impacts everyone who lives in this state.

Reporting wise, what was left out is in some ways more interesting than what was included.

If the Mayor has met with McKee and heard his vision, then why not press for details? It evidently includes office, residential and retail -- sounds to me like there's probably more meat on this skeleton than a vision. Someone's heard it. Why accept a cursory explanation?

Why call April Ford Griffin but not Marlene Davis or Mike McMillan in the 19th? What about the aldermanic campaign contributions from McKee?

Where do the Bosleys stand on this? Anyone think they haven't been talked to about it?

Why talk to Delbert Scott but not Maida Coleman and Rodney Hubbard who represent the area?

Why interview only white residents on the "black" northside?

Time for another reporter to pick up the ball.

GMichaud said...

Michael has done a great job informing the public about this, I didn’t know this was happening until I read Michaels post some time ago. At the same time I wouldn’t trust McKee and as Barbara points out above, he and his people speak with a forked tongue.

It seems to me that all activity should continue, everything from lawsuits to informing the public should still be in play. Until the city has McKee in court for property violations every day of the week, until the process is transparent for the community to see and until Matt Blunt throws the tax credit legislation in the wastebasket this is not even close to dead.
I do think the article will help to inform people like Representatives Clay and Carnahan, as well as Senators McCaskill and Bond if not already aware of the situation.

While I agree with anony that everyone should be talked to, by the same token these representatives of the people should be supplying leadership and not waiting for someone to come and talk to them. I have no idea who knows what and when they knew it, and I don’t care, but it is not as if this a late breaking story. This has been going on a long time. Does this mean that state representatives in Jeff City passed legislation and did not bother to inform the local elected officials? No one is speaking up, so who knows?

It is a serious infringement upon the rights of the American People. It represents a dictatorship of moneyed interests, passing laws for their benefit. That sounds harsh, but passing a 100 million dollar personal benefit for an individual should not to be taken lightly in a democracy.

Maybe a Grand Jury should investigate this whole deal, it stinks much worse than the Post indicated. Isn't it the responsibility of Jay Nixon to convene a Grand Jury investigation?

constant change said...

We have to remember that many knew little or nothing about this heist. It's a lot of info for them. Hopefully subsequent stories can drive home the many even wider reaching impacts.

Anonymous said...

There is a thread about the McKee tax credit in the "Current Events" forum at STL Today.

It has generated practically no discussion.

Jason said...

Michael,

About time! I couldn't believe my eyes when I picked up the paper on Sunday! What great news finally a major news source picks up on this years after it started, but hopefully not too late to stop it. What's sad is the number of displaced residents and wonderful urban properties that have fallen into disrepair in those recent years. What kills me is the discussion has been with the Mayor and his staff and Mc Kee- not one mention of Rollin Stanley! Where is he these days?

Congrats on the hard work- you deserve the above the fold recognition as well as Barbara and others who have fought so hard to get this issue noticed. While much of the metro area probably still wont care about the issue, at least they cannot claim ignorance on the subject.

Thanks,

jason

Anonymous said...

"While much of the metro area probably still wont care about the issue, at least they cannot claim ignorance on the subject."

If people don't care, then where does this all lead? There is more interest in the Duke lacrosse rape case, Paris Hilton, the Susan Koman Race For The Cure, and the battle between democrats and republicans over Iraq war policy.

Redevelopment policy on the north side of St. Louis? Most people think something must be done to address the last 50 years of decay.

How does that old saying go? If you want to make an omelette...

That thread over at STL today is sinking fast with no comments. It appears most people don't much care, or if anything, think McKee is on the right track.

Quotes in the story from Alderwoman Ford were interesting. She has come out as a strong neighborhood advocate.

With major press coverage, perhaps now would be a good time to call for a "Near North Development Summit"? McKee surely wouldn't be a no-show for something so geared for his interests, would he?

Or perhaps he'd see it as an ambush? If you're advising Paul McKee (since surely he or his reps are read this blog), what would you be telling him?

jason said...

Where will this lead? To a lengthy response no doubt... If people continue with the status quo and don't strive for change than I would guess it would lead to a NorthPark/Winghaven northside with a sea of vinyl and brick facades replicating the same feel and look of the McRee town infill development. There may be some business district in there somewhere, but all in all, they will tear down every last house and storefront to build it. I am not sure at this point what is worse though. Completely stopping this massive land grab, or working with them to make sure they finish what they started. I think the latter is the better with forced civic dialogue between McKee, The Mayor, and the city planning department to incorporate currently occupied residences, board up salvagable ones, and diligently work to deter crime and vandalism that is occuring in these areas. Once the area is somewhat stabilized, start with the phasing of the projct, beginning with retail/residential mixed use and working out from there. McKee's comment was that if he were doing this he cannot do it now because he has been exposed. Well, time to fess up. You have paid nothing for these sites for too long, and if this passes you are getting a huge tax relief on new properties that you purchase, as well as ones you are already sitting on. I can see him maxing out the 100mil limit on the credit in the first couple of months then coming back for some TIF money. What would I tell him? DO it- build your development but do it with at least a bit of dignity, working with the neighbors, city, and activists to develop quality housing that addresses the urban fabric as well as the environmental impact of their work. Keep the street grid- force all garages to be detached off the alley, keep the original setbacks and lot lines of the existing neighborhood, add parks and neighborhood retail developments with places to eat outside. Support mixed use development similar to New Town St. Charles. Attract upscale retailers as well as providing discounts for new businesses. Provide assistance for low income residents both in funding and in integration through neighborhood support groups. He needs to be aware that if he goes through with this that he is not just building a housing development, he is building a way of life.

Jason

Michael R. Allen said...

A few comments:

- The fact that the STLToday thread on McKee's project has no comments is more indicative of the fact that there are better outlets for discussion of urban development than of lack of interest. People wanting to talk about McKee's projects are posting here on EoA as well as over at Pub Def, Urban Review and Urban St. Louis. The Post website must not be an attractive forum for readers of these other sites.

- Yes, the story should have come out one year ago. In fact, there was about as much evidence then as there is now -- except for the tax credit bill. But in light of the fact that Post readers probably don't know much about Blairmont, and that the Post's only previous coverage was one article and a cryptic editorial in the Saturday edition, the story is effective at laying things out for that readership. Nothing new to some of us, but probably completely new for at least 100,000 people.

- The writers could have delved deeper into Rainford and McKee's claims, and included an accurate property count. The real number is around 662 but the Post omitted the holding companies incorporated in 2006 creating a significantly low count.

Hopefully the story will pave the way for more reporting from the Post, and they won't wait another year.

Anonymous said...

There are starting to be some comments now. Jason has posted.

True, city-friendly people tuned in to city development issues read the urban blogs. What about targeting a more mainstream audience? That's why people are pleased with Post's coverage of Blairmont, right?

Jason's post links readers to this and other urban blogs. Let's see if any new voices appear here...if not, comments posted by urbanists to STL Today's McKee thread will position the issue in front of a much broader audience.

Given the Post's in depth coverage, it would seem strategic to generate interest in the issue at the STL Today site.

Anonymous said...

Here is the STL Today Blairmont thread

constant change said...

If you want to make an omelette...
Give some guy all the chickens, chicken coops, and enough $$$ to kill em all and breed new ones,and in 6+ years... you might get scrambled eggs...

Anonymous said...

It seems the main problems with the bill sitting on Blunt's desk are that the minimum project size (is it 75 or 100 acres...keeps changing...) is too big, and developers can't include properties acquired from city agencies in their eligible basis.

Must be an oversight on the part of the drafters of the bill. LRA properties can be had for so cheap that the tax credit on those acquisitions would be nil. It's the cost of demolition and remediation that needs the tax credit, and for those, it doesn't matter whether its a city-owned site or something you buy off a private seller.

Anonymous said...

or maybe McKee's handwringing and pinpointing him as the villain opens up for another "white knight" to ride in proclaiming a better option, although not nearly anymore appropriate or public minded.

I agree with long anonymous above that the Post coverage did little to raise the fundamental issues. Particularly about whether McKee's approach (vision, development, whatever) would necessarily solve in of the current development dilemma's in this area. Private developers and some non-profs have found some ability to do small scale new housing development (a block or a couple over a one or two year period). However, rehab and commercial development remains not viable without a non-private market subsidy, either in terms of historic tax credits, low-income MHDC subsidy or massive amounts of owner-sweat equity.

constant change said...

Tax Credits for Sweat Equity. I Second the Motion!

Doug Duckworth said...

And who is willing to get off their computer and do something?

Anonymous said...

DD, You are challenging us to get off our computers to "do something".

What do you want us to do?

Tom Duda said...

Perhaps some sort of political organizing would be a nice thing to "do". As much as it pains me to say it, Mayor Slay/Lewis Reed/The Board of Aldermen are elected by the people who actually show up to vote!

I am under no illusions, however, about the ability of voters to look dispassionately at the actions of their Aldermen; I do see ballot initiatives as a potential means of forcing change or at least driving discussion.

These facts are clear: Mayor Slay is in office because his electoral strategy is to keep turnout as low as possible. He is not the Mayor for all St. Louisans, so he certainly does not want all St. Louisans to vote in City Elections. At the same time, nearly all ballot initiatives over the past six years have passed regardless of their merit. (The notable exceptions, of course, were the overreaching "Charter Reform" proposals.)

Perhaps the thing to "do" is to meet with the organizers of the SUCCESSFUL Forest Park initiative to discuss the logistics of crafting ballot language, collecting signatures, and seeing something through to successful passage.

(I recognize the ballot initiative was too late to save Forest Park, but it serves as a useful model for my point--there are many things to do and many precedents to justify any course of action.)

A successful development ballot initiative would frame itself in terms of protecting the status quo. City Voters are conservative in their mindset--we want to keep government the same. Voters consider every losing issue or candidate, in some way, as too radical for City Hall. (Irene Smith, the Mayor's School Board Slate, etc.)

Strangely enough, Lewis Reed's campaign for "change" used his support from "a majority of the Board of Alderman" as justification for throwing Jim Shrewsbury out--kind of interesting, eh?

Let's think, plan, organize, and get out there to act.

There's no better way to get mainstream press coverage than to do something mainstream-- a ballot initiative will ensure that whatever action we wish to take gets coverage over a period of months rather than once every blue moon.

Any thoughts?

If we were to

Anonymous said...

What to do? Many ideas, some already followed. The short answer is that everything has to be done. The long answer is that there needs to be a formal, organized effort. My personal opinion is that including broader political critiques of the mayor, development politics or aldermanic courtesy muddies the waters; in fact, the strongest reasons against the current McKeeTown efforts comes from local neighborhood conditions--ie., the fact that there has been modest neighborhood efforts, there are already a combination of public and private developers working and the areas included in McKee's holdings have a variety of ward and neighborhood plans to base work off of. Ultimately, it is elected leaders who will sign off on future development plans--the good and the bad ones--and they need to be shown that there are sound, appropriate strategies out there for redeveloping urban communities. Ideally, an organized effort would be lead by residents of the area, with assistance from outside residents, would be multi-racial, would include renters as well as homeowners and other property-owners and would advance broader solutions to continued redevelopment of the area that builds off of past efforts but deals realistically with the existing condition.

Finally, the history of the area demonstrates that historic preservation can't be the main rallying call of such an effort and that the condition of McKee's properties is just the entry issue into a broader discussion about planning and public input.

Doug Duckworth said...

There needs to be a formal lobbying organization which counters the current system of client politics and collusion that exists between politicians and developers.

Tom Duda said...

In response to one of the anonymous comments:

I propose that concerned individuals use existing political systems (the initiative process) to restrict the power of corrupt elected officials.

Perhaps I'm being an idealist, but I see no reason whatsoever to show deference to "elected leaders", as we do have the right to direct democracy in St. Louis City.