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Friday, June 6, 2008

City Hall Meeting Opens Dialogue Between Near North Residents and Officials

On Wednesday's near north side group Neighbors for Social Justice met at City Hall with Mayoral Chief of Staff Jeff Rainford, Building Commissioner Frank Oswald, City Counselor Nuisance Property Attorney Matt Moak and Urban Solution President Marvin Steele. (McEagle Properties hired Urban Solution to implement a maintenance program for its over 700 properties in north St. Louis.) The long-sought meeting was productive if only the start of dialogue with city officials on how to shape the McKee project.

The meeting has spurred media coverage, where details can be found (my commentary can be found in the Pub Def videos):

North side residents continue to question McKee plan (KWMU)

Developer Paul McKee Topic of City Hall Meeting (KMOX)

Is Paul McKee dropping his plans for Old North? (Pub Def)

More Accounts of Blairmont Meeting (Pub Def)

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Spokesman for McKee says "they are awaiting word from the mayor's office on the meeting before they respond"

What is that supposed to mean?

McKee is expecting the Mayor's office to bail them out of this mess?

barbara_on_19th said...

McKee is of course awaiting word from his colluding colleagues in the Mayor's office. Several times in the meeting, Jeff Rainford used the terms "we" and "us" to describe activities I had previously thought of as McKee-only.

Several of us who were at the meeting met at a barbeque this evening, where folks shared the news that their homes were photographed from all angles by a couple of guys in a white Toyota pickup truck in the days following the meeting.

Robert Powers said...

Guys in a white pickup? Hrm.

Michael R. Allen said...

"Several times in the meeting, Jeff Rainford used the terms 'we' and 'us' to describe activities I had previously thought of as McKee-only."

My impression was that by "we" and "us" he meant the city government.

What specific instances do you recall that sounded McKee-only?

Maybe the photographers have a St. Louis architecture blog...

Anonymous said...

Michael,

Thank you for calling "barbara_on_19th" on details - she is clearly trying to whip up hysteria on a subject that needs rational dialogue

Chris said...

I think some people thought that the "we" was not a "royal we" when Rainford used it. It would be very interesting to know which one it is.

It's too bad no one got the truck's license number; it could have cleared up what they were doing.

barbara_on_19th said...

The meeting was openly taped by Larry Chapman from NSJ. I've got the entire 2 and a half hours on my MP3 player for my own listening pleasure!

From the transcript:

Jeff Rainford:
By the way, we should have a separate meeting with Old North,
because the development area is not going to include Old North, and we are lobbying him to transfer what properties he has over to the Old North folks, although the the Old North folks are coming over to them these days.(By "Old North folks", most attendees understood him to mean the Old North St Louis Restoration Group, although this was not clear to me, as there has been no such announcement from ONSLRG, and they have never been a secretive organization, and I think he is trying to spin to the neighbors that now ONSLRG is pro-McKee. I think if that were the case, we would have heard it from the ONSLRG board and not 3rd-hand from Rainford).

Barbara: The people here from Old North are here in support of the people of St Louis Place. We don't just care about Old North.

Jeff Rainford; I am not trying to divide, (unintelligible) to advocate for Old North. We are not trying to divide and conquer, we are trying to do the right thing. If you think the right thing is for us to keep the properties and not transfer them to Old North because they might, you know, not join your fight, I don't think that's really a smart way to do public policy.

Barbara: (unintelligible objection)

Jeff: That's what your implication was.

Barbara: An Old North meeting might be a good idea, but right now, we are here for...

Jeff Rainford: OK then let's talk about Old North right now, and the rest of you can listen.

(Angry hullaballoo)

Sheila Rendon: We brought an agenda.

Isaiah Hair: The agenda we have is about the entire Ward, this is not about Old North.

(and on, and on)

barbara_on_19th said...

Re: picture takers. They were not architecture bloggers. You all are pretty well known, and people discuss your activities with some interest. These were scarier people. Neighbors approached them and asked what the hell they were doing. They said they had been told to photograph these addresses. They were asked if they worked for the city, they said no. They were asked who they were working for, they said they were not at liberty to disclose.

The consensus was that they were working for Rainford to collect code violations, or possibly working for the lady in Frank Oswald's employ who is selling us out to the brick thieves.

Anonymous said...

Barbara,

Are you accusing the city government of fraud?

If your goal is to get a meeting with McKee in "good faith" you are really going about it in the wrong way with heresay and wild accusations.

If he backs out of a meeting you can't blame him alone when people are flinging unfounded BS on blogs.

Anonymous said...

This discussion is fascinating.

On the one hand, there is a loosely organized coalition of neighborhood residents, community organizations, and elected officials, trying to accomplish development with dignity.

On the other, there is a mega rich land baron, buying up the area for some secret plan.

Why this story is top page news in the Post Dispatch is interesting. Maybe because the Post can't figure out which side to take?

Say McKee were to announce a master plan for a 1000 home development with a town center, would everyone then sing Kumbaya?

Is McKee already negotiating the route for the next Metrolink expansion to run through his town center?

What about the alignment along N. Florissant?

Is McKee going to get what he wants for Metrolink, and the old plan serving Old North is going to get dropped?

Why does McKee get to whatever ge wants anyway?

(Point being...See how crazy all this unsubstantiated blog talk can get?)

barbara_on_19th said...

Anon @ 9:53.
I'm not accusing the government of fraud, just of improper collusion with a private, for-profit entity.

Here's our statement. NSJ presented it at the meeting and spoke it out loud to those present:

Statement of Neighbors for Social Justice
June 4, 2008

As residents of the 5th and 19th Wards, we are strongly pro-development and are actively supporting many current development initiatives across both wards.
However, we believe that the City of St Louis, under the leadership of Mayor Francis Slay, has allowed the developer Paul J. McKee Jr. to openly flout city laws which are nevertheless strictly enforced against individual residents. We feel our government is effectively colluding with this developer to proactively blight our neighborhood, driving out residents and driving down property values. We believe the city is holding LRA properties off the market for the benefit of this developer and using taxpayer money to aid him in acquiring and clearing land for private redevelopment. We believe this process is outside of the normal legal process for land clearance, population relocation and redevelopment. We want this situation rectified. We respectfully request the following assistance from Mayor Francis Slay:

... list of requests which were enumerated in the meeting, including an independent investigator to investigate the connection between the building department and the brick theft.