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Monday, June 4, 2007

Plywood and Public Policy

Tonight, I was part of a group of three Old North St. Louis residents and one other city resident who undertook securing a building owned by a holding company controlled by Paul J. McKee, Jr. This particular house sits on a block McKee's agents have worked hard to bust, and in just a few months since purchase has been stripped of new aluminum windows exposing other more historic features intact inside.

We in Old North are a vigilant bunch, and we don't let our heritage get plundered. Upon spotting the empty window openings, my neighbor Barbara Manzara spread word and gathered an impromptu board-up crew. Now, the building is secure before irreplaceable parts are gone. Of course, boards won't protect against brick rustlers who have destroyed many other vacant north side buildings owned by McKee's companies, the city's Land Reutilization Authority and other private parties. These boards can -- and will -- be removed. But residents will probably return to keep the boards on.

On the larger scale, though, we face hundreds of vacant buildings owned by McKee. Four people can't get to them all, and most of the buildings don't have even one person in close proximity to keep watch. Many are already so damaged by theft and weather that they may be lost forever.

Vigilante board-ups are no substitute for a public policy that would protect historic community resources and make them part of the burgeoning revitalization of the north side. Until there are assurances from city officials that they are interested in preservation planning as well as code enforcement for the area that McKee has targeted, residents will continue to take action -- and be suspicious of those who are charged with safeguarding their rights as city residents to participatory government.

6 comments:

GMichaud said...

The city should go after McKee. The City Counselors office is responsible. Telephone 622-3361. Off the website is an explanation of what they do. Problem Properties Unit

Addresses behavioral and structural problem properties located throughout the City of St. Louis. Works closely with City's Department of Public Safety, particularly its Building Division and Neighborhood Stabilization Office. Prosecutes violations of the City's environmental, health and building codes; pursues comprehensive legal remedies against problem landowners, landlords and tenants. Assists in environmental litigation matters.

It appears to me that they should act, especially given the fact this is not just one building. In other words the excuse they are too busy is not a reason given the coverage of McKee.
If they do not act it will be another glaring example of how the government serves the wealthy at the expense of the rest of the citizens.

barbara_on_19th said...

Problem Properties has had a personal visit from at least this neighbor and is perfectly aware of what is going on. Earlier this year, the Problem Properties Unit was able to collect on several impressive invoices the city had racked up doing McKee's maintenance work at the behest of our many CSB complaints. Rumor has it that the Slay administration has warned the Counselor's office off from further action to enforce the laws on McKee while the big development bill is awaiting the governor's pen. However, to be fair to the city, there is SO MUCH MONEY involved that McKee can afford to shake off any number of 10K bills. Besides, if you read the new tax bill right, it will probably give him a 100% credit for every dollar billed by the city. Every time I pick up the phone to call CSB on one of his properties, I am just like an employee of McEagle, working hard to drive up his profit margin.

Doug Duckworth said...

The bureaucracy isn't going to act when they operate at the will of the Aldermen and Mayor. They would lose their jobs as those two groups are in the pocket of McKee. It is pretty obvious.

GMichaud said...

I suppose more radical action needs to be taken. A couple of ideas: Perhaps the city should be sued to follow their own laws. ACLU may take a case such as this. An attorney might also be willing to do a class action suit against McKee, his numerous partners and the city. Certainly there is ample proof McKee is harming citizens. I would also think the Attorney General of Missouri might be interested, or maybe the feds. It seems like there is civil rights violations here, health violations, property violations etc etc. It would seem an aggressive attorney should be able to make a case here.
Another idea is to begin to form another government. Utilize the above legal action and also create a new city plan for the community. It would require organizing the citizens. But I believe help could be found from a number of sources to do that, even from groups out of state. The universities would participate, at least the students, and probably more than a few professionals.
The end result will be the citizens will realize who the real leaders are, and turn to them to solve problems. The aim should be to create a new government to replace the worn out, corrupt political system that operates for the wealthy.
This whole episode with McKee glaringly demonstrates how little respect the power structure has for the citizens they are supposed to serve.

LisaS said...

Rumor has it that the Slay administration has warned the Counselor's office off from further action to enforce the laws on McKee while the big development bill is awaiting the governor's pen. However, to be fair to the city, there is SO MUCH MONEY involved that McKee can afford to shake off any number of 10K bills. Besides, if you read the new tax bill right, it will probably give him a 100% credit for every dollar billed by the city.

So, Barbara, what you're saying here is that we not only have a two-tier system of law enforcement, but that if one has enough money, the Legislature can be convinced to supply public funding to pay for the fines accrued by the wealthy in breaking the law?

Nice.

GMichaud said...

LisaS you are right on with what you say. It is a serious situation. As citizens we are letting these guys get away with murder. The northside and the city in general have been ravaged by these types of guys over the years. The know it all, they are smarter than everyone else. And they make a pocket full of money to prove it.
I’m not sure where the breaking point is to stop this blatant thievery of the tax money and of riding roughshod over citizens. The creation of the Republic of St. Louis could be the answer. There has to be an answer. What is happening can not continue, otherwise we will all become nothing but slaves. What is happening is such total bullshit, that it is unbelievable.