Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mayor Invades Baltimore

It's not everyday that the Mayor of Affton gets to see another city, but I had reason to visit the City of Baltimore recently. This is not what most folks think of first for a vacation destination, but nonetheless I had a much better experience in Baltimore this time than the last time. I was hell-bent on meeting and getting a photo with Mayor Martin J. O'Malley and to discuss how he took the country's most drug and crime-infested City and began to turn things around. But alas, he was unavailable.

In my quest for Mayoral Greatness I instead sought inspiration from the memorial to Samuel Smith on Federal Hill. He was a decorated war hero, senator and representative, and served as Mayor of Baltimore from 1835-1838. (The Mayor is also a fan of a damn good nut brown ale named for an Englishman of the same moniker.) His monument now overlooks the City's Inner Harbor district from across the water. This area is really the one thing that Baltimore tourism has going for it. It's got tons of shops, restaurants, historic boats, dinner cruises and a large brick "boardwalk" that goes around the water on three sides. (See picture of me on the cannon above.) There was obviously a lot of corporate meetings in the area and lots of tourists. Transportation options are plentiful including water taxis. This is a good thing. My last experience in Baltimore was not so great and took me through some of the worst neighborhoods they have to offer. The Harbor seems to be catching on and spreading as there is a lot of condo construction going on in the very historic downtown area.

The oddest thing I found was when I noticed "stop demolition now" signs in the VERY historic Fell's Point district. An inquiry to a local shop owner revealed that there is a Polish church called St. Stanislaus in the area that was closed by the Archdiocese in 2000. (Sound familiar??!!) It and the attached community center are being slated for demolition. There is an organization of businesses and residents trying to save the place due to its cultural significance in the area. All in all, it was a great trip even though the First Lady and I were fighting off a sinus infection. Although I did not get to meet Mayor O'Malley I think he has done a great job for Baltimore and is a good candidate for the coveted award as World Mayor.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Running Into Trouble

Sorry I haven't posted lately...The First Family has been battling a family-wide sinus infection for a week that renders us lazy and snotty. In addition, we had to attend a graduation in Baltimore. I will post about the trip later. On to business...

A Mr. Conley wrote in last week to inquire about roads in the area. As a runner, the condition of the roads are of interest to him from a unique perspective. Now the Mayor only runs when he is being chased, but I understand his concerns.

"There's been a lot of road improvement going on in and around Affton recently and Afftonianites [sic] such as myself are probably interested in the scope of road repairs in and around Affton. Specifically road repairs in the neighborhood East of Mackenzie and South of Gravois. And more specifically the hill on Daisy Lane. (It sucks.) The arc in the road is ridiculously high and the ditches in our front yards also suck."

I have not yet been able to get over there to check it out, but I can tell you that the surface of Mackenzie Road has more pock marks than the faces of Affton High teenagers. There is a rep from MoDOT at the Affton Community Betterment Assn. meeting and he updates folks on projects. I can bring this area up to him, but I'd like to point out where you and others can go with this.

On this web page on the County's site are the steps through which "needs" become "projects." At the end of the page is an email link where you can write in about a particular section of road. On this page, there is a form one can fill out about a specific problem location.

I can say from experience with this Department that their service has been good. We had some street signs stolen in front of the Mayor's house a year or so ago, and I emailed about it. Within a few days, we had new signs. Until you see some results, I recommend citizens run on the River Des Peres Greenway Trail or Grant's Trail.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Dude, Where's My Clothes?

I'm fresh back from my first Affton Community Betterment Assn. meeting this morning with my report for you, my Afftonians.

The committee as a whole seems a responsible bunch. I am mostly lurking at this point, but as far as I can tell, there are at least three Affton residents present (other than me). Is this great representation? Certainly not with a population of about 20,000. One would think that with the uproar over the Villages at Gravois Creek development, half the blogging residents of Grantwood Village would be there. This perhaps shows that the ACBA is not the power or citizen channel they should be.

In attendance:
Kathy Jadlot (Chair) Employee of Commerce Bank
Hal Deuser of Commerce Bank
Kay Gasen of UMSL (in charge of the grant for Affton)
Two members from the County Planning office
Two members of the County Neighborhood Preservation Dept.
Two members of the County Police
Rep. Pat Yaeger of the 96th district
Three residents involved in various organizations.
and Yours Truly, The Mayor of Affton

Anyway, of particular note was the lengthy report from the Neighborhood Preservation guys. As in any other neighborhood, we seem to have some "wackos"in the area. We all knew this already, but due to a new methodology by the department, they are now certifiable! When people fail to comply with their warnings and court orders about cleaning up their property, the County now sends them to Mental Health Court! In this, evaluations are made and often drugs are prescribed. While this may seem quite an effort, it appears to be working. Most of the patients accept the treatments voluntarily. As one member pointed out, the County is in many cases, "the only family they have now." One resident caught hoarding, has had his home cleaned out by City firemen. Eight 20-yard dumpsters were filled with the stuff in his home and yard. Most of it was unopened model toys, car parts, and small electronics.

On Philo, there is a resident who chooses to answer the door stark naked! We also are the proud neighbors of a resident deeding his TV repair property to NORML. (Apparently he has ancient permits for a greenhouse operation...hmmm.)

Others are just out to be crabby ol' jerks throwing tons of stuff in their yards and pissing off the neighbors. One mentioned at the meeting has reported for court with no attorney. He is verbally abusive to the inspectors and the police and is planning on getting them all fired. He has been ordered to show up with representation at his next hearing or he will become part of a prision work-release program with some hefty fines.

The Gravois Creek development continues to embroil many, incuding folks on the ACBA. The Grantwood Villagers have retained a lawyer to try and fight the development. Personally, I don't think this will be worth the money and it will take a lot of it. It is being speculated that Grant's Farm is "taxing" the parking at their lot this summer to fund the lawsuit. This also makes no sense to me. Since AB owns Grant's Farm and another Busch sold the land to be developed, why would GF side with Grantwood Village?

Everyone seems focused on the density issue now. Largely at issue is whether the parcel is considered continuous even though it is divided by a road and a flood plain which is undevelopable. The density figure is lower if they are counting it as one piece, which is the opinion of the Planning Division. It may be too dense if it is considered two parcels as the Grantwood Village folks contend. The County Planning rep at the meeting was actually ordered not to comment on the issue at our meeting, but directed those concerned to call Gail Ottolino at the Planning Office at 314-615-7260.

Lastly, there will be a public June 21st meeting on the grant program's Strategic Planning component.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Work on Mackenzie Lofts Begins! Gravois Creek Bridge to be Rebuilt.

The Mayor was lurking about at the Affton Chamber of Commerce meeting this morning and got a few scoops for you, my fellow Afftonians. There were 13 people present including two reps from the County and one from MoDot. I'm pleased to report that the meetings are informal, unpretentious and actually have a few laughs.

First, I confirmed that the cars present at the former Affton Elks building does indeed signify that work has begun on the Mackenzie Lofts by TB Realty & Development. This project was reported on in the Post in April. This project will be bringing 23 residential units to the depressing corner of Mackenzie & Heege mentioned in a previous post. While I'm not wild about this group's pride in developing Shop'n'Saves or Home Depots, their site does feature a couple of mixed-use residential developments that abut large retail stores. I think the plan for the Mackenzie Lofts (passed around at the meeting) is good. They are using the existing building, hiding carports on the south side, and screening the entrance drive with trees. There will be roughly 7 units per floor with 1, 2 and 3 bedroom options from a reported $140,000-$350,000. I am thankful that this will give a few folks an opportunity for a new housing choice. Sadly, there are no plans for retail space on the first floor and the existing parking lot is staying.

There was a recap of other development in the area showing a potential of 600 new residences for Affton!

Also of note was that the Save-A-Lot on Bayless near Union will be closing and going vacant. Apparently they are too close to the newer store at Grasso Plaza and the independent owner on Bayless will be calling it quits at that location.

The next hot topic of the summer will be MoDot's rebuilding of the bridge over Gravois Creek at McNary Rd. and Gravois near Grant's Farm. MoDot is planning on closing Gravois for about two months in the Fall or Winter to facilitate replacing the bridge built around 1923. Regardless of what happens with the Villages at Gravois Creek development next to Cor Jesu, there will be a new and wider, five-land bridge going in there soon. Grant's Trail access should not be affected. There will be a public hearing on this issue in July for debate on full closure or partial closure of Gravois Rd.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Federhofers Still Open for Business

Recently, a Mr. Lydon emailed the Mayor with an alarming rumor. The rumor proposed that Federhofer's Bakery at 9005 Gravois might be closing. A quick call to the establishment this afternoon to ask for comment on said rumor prompted this [actual] statement from the "gal on the phone":


One can interpret this two ways. First that this is the truth. Second, that this is a cover up and that they have become delirious thinking about all their debts.

Either way, I recommend that you call and order a wedding cake and a pack of party rolls (or a Fresh Grape Melba when in season) just to be on the safe side and to insure their future. In case you were not aware, their sign is a registered local landmark with the County.[photo courtesy: Signs of Gravois]

Friday, May 12, 2006

Is the ACBA a "Secret Card Game"?

So last night the Mayor went to Commerce Bank on Gravois looking for the Community Betterment Assn. meeting. No one was there. On closer inspection of their web site, the ACBA tells us:

REGULAR MEETINGS:3rd Thurdsay of the month at 9:00 AM at Commerce Bank on Gravois, except when evening meetings are scheduled.
Evening meetings are held quarterly in Feb., May, Aug., and Nov. at 7pm. Locations to be announced.
Contact ACBA for currently scheduled activities or check the Affton Chamber of Commerce web site at

So, I click the link to the Chamber's site and it tells me this...

Affton Community Betterment Association (ACBA) meets on the 2nd Thursday of each month at the NEW Commerce Bank (10185 Gravois) at 9 a.m. The meetings in February, May, August, and November will be held at 7 p.m. to accommodate residents who are unable to attend meetings in the morning. Location of these meetings will be listed on their web site (
This is what Microsoft Excel calls a "circular reference" because it sends logical thinking in a fruitless pursuit of answers. One site refers you back to the other for answers and the circle if formed! Now I ASSUMED it was going to be at Commerce, so shame on me for assuming, but no posting on the sites? No note on the door at the bank? WTF? I'M THE FREAKING MAYOR! You think someone would make sure I was in the right place at the right time! If it's not on the web, what does that mean? The ACBA and the Chamber are communicating on soup cans with a string attached? Perhaps, but maybe they are actually preventing the public from going to the meeting. Perhaps they are only giving us lip service.
More importantly, I'm dying to know how many people attend the evening meetings vs. the day meetings. If the numbers go up, shouldn't they move the meetings to the nights permanently? I suppose it will be another three months before I find out for you as they only do this quarterly. I have emailed the ACBA and they have not yet responded. I'll let you know.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

My Proposed Paradigm Shift in Affton Marketing

I'd like to remind the citizens that tonight is the "regular" night time meeting of the Affton Community Betterment Association at Commerce Bank on Gravois. It starts at 7PM and yours truly will be there. I'm really interested in finding out if they are serious about anything and who's involved. I hope it's more informative than their web site. I'll have a report tomorrow for you for those of you who can't make it.

So here's a revitalization strategy for your consideration: Market Affton to families with children. I've got two myself and the First Lady and I are both very into real estate. While I don' t plan on leaving my constituency, we do a lot of comparison shopping. The First Lady was looking for "deals" out there last night on the web and found nothing comparable to our own home for less than $300,000. We found houses being advertised as "tear down or rehab" in Des Peres for $200,000!! We paid about $20,000 less than that for our very viable home 3 1/2 years ago. Well screw your crazy high prices, Des Peres...As I have said before on this site, I recommend that Afftonians BUY AND HOLD.

Families with children were about 50% of the home-buying market in the late 1950's, but now comprise about 33% of that market. We have been replaced by young professionals and the HUGE number of aging baby-boomers. In short, most development seems to be overlooking the market for family housing (generally considered 3 bedroom or more). Why can't we make Affton the attractive haven for families? It's close to the City and it's amenities, yet primarily suburban in layout. I think the hipsters with kids will appreciate this fact if we market to them. The housing has to be affordable. Read this disturbing story on the lack of available housing for families.

Here's what we need to change NOW: Our school districts are far better than the city, but are not up to snuff with most of the County's. This is largely because the huge number of old folks in Affton will generally not vote for ANY tax increase. We will have to house and care for these people for a few more years before we get a hold of their property and begin the obligatory installation of Malibu Lights, so I think the focus really needs to be on businesses and attracting more of them. While I don't think the "Affton Wal-Mart" should be in our future ***SHUDDER***, we need to replace that Nestle plant on Heege with something VERY taxable immediately to replace the $300,000 annual shortfall to the schools. Furthermore, I'm very troubled that in the June 2002 Affton Community Plan only found ONE SINGLE site for major commercial redevelopment at the NE corner of Mackenzie and Gravois. I plan to get on the bike this weekend to locate more.

The next thing we need to focus on is lifecycle housing. If we attract young families to the area, they will only want to move away when they are ready for their second house as there are not many options for a "move up." I'm not sure why our Lakewood area has not yet seen a rash of development. I think the prices are about to bottom out and that is time to buy!

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Mayor of Shrewsbury?

It recently came to the Mayor's attention that the City of Shrewsbury has submitted a map to the Boundary Commission in February. I was not able to find any news articles about this submission, so it may still be under the public's radar. It appears, on the surface, that Shrewsbury is still interested in annexing a lot of our unincorporated areas farther south than Heege and as far west as our border with Crestwood. My first "freak-out" over this was that on the Boundary Commission's web site, you can enter your zip code to see if any proposals affect you. On entering 63123 I was SHOCKED to find that 63123 was NOT affected! This has since been brought to the attention of Executive Director Courtney Irwin and was quickly fixed.

From Ms. Irwin: "Near the end of this summer, the Boundary Commission will hold a series of public hearings wherein Shrewsbury, the Boundary Commissioners, and those constituents potentially affected by the proposed map plan, will have the opportunity to openly discuss Shrewsbury’s map plan. Check our website periodically for public hearing dates, times and locations." I will keep you all posted on those dates.

This led me to a conversation by phone with Assistant to the City Adminstrator (of Shrewsbury) John Shaw. He assured me that although Shrewsbury is not really interested in annexing anything within the map just now but they submitted the map to keep their options open for the next five years. Sadly for both sides, there is just not much to tax there. They also cannot annex the whole area shaded on the map as the rules indicate that you can't annex anything more than half your size.

One point he wanted to drive home was the fact that he believes that annexation might actually LOWER our taxes. He claims that Shrewsbury residents pay less for fire, police and city services combined than we pay for the Affton Fire District alone. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

From My Mind to Your T-Shirt

Based on a request or two from the constituency, the Cabinet and I are looking into offering "Affton Mayor Wear" which we might make available for purchase. More on that after the Vice Chair of Graphic Design submits his artwork to me. What could be more democratic that putting the designs to a vote?

Riverfront Times "Endorses" Mayor

For those of you with the attention span of a grapefruit, you may still be able to read the goofy format in the Riverfront Times. While I certainly don't solicit press coverage, it does help bring the issues of the people of Affton to our neighbors. We at the Mayor's Office are pleased to be picked as the RFT's "Local Blog O' the Week" on p.10.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

So Far County Plan Shows Little Content Other Than Bitchy Residents

Well, my Afftonians, I endured quite a treacherous drive last night in the storms to attend the St. Louis County Strategic Planning meeting on your behalf, and as Master Yoda would say, "Interesting it was."

In a nutshell, I was amazed on a few levels. I was amazed that about 100 people constitued what County Executive Dooley called "a big crowd". This was a piss-poor showing of residents interested in how planning is addressed for their county. Chief of Governmental Affairs John Temporiti (whose name is nowhere on the County web site BTW) cited that of the approximately 1.2 million people in the county about 1/3rd live in unincorporated areas and that Charlie Dooley was, in effect, their "Mayor" (I bit my tongue at that point as this meeting was NOT held in Affton.) If you take 396,000 (1/3rd of 1.2 mil) into 100 (number attending meeting) and multiply by 6 (number of meetings planned) you get 0.15%. That's 0.15% of JUST THE UNINCORPORATED citizenry at the meetings. It would be a much smaller number if we count incorporated residents. For shame.

One of the hallmarks of Dooley's time is office is improving Customer Service. To this end, he is about to roll out a phone number where citizens can call for ANY issue and immediately speak to a human being without use of an IVR system until their issue gets addressed. This is a great idea, but as a next step, I suggest that the focus be on citizen engagement or involvement rather than a passive customer service role.

In light of this small showing, I must say that you did not miss much. For a presentation about the 5-year strategic plan, I saw almost NO content with regard to planning issues. Temporiti outlined four challenges:
1) St. Louis County's Role in the Region
2) Reinvestment in Older Neighborhoods
3) Services to Unincorporated Areas and
4) Transportation

There was, however nothing said about how these issues are being researched, where reserach was leading, ideas coming out of the research, or how citizens could be more involved in tackling each of these issues. Most critics of the St. Louis City 5 Year Plan note that it only really shows areas on a map and whether or not the City is interested in new developments in that neighborhood or not. There is little content about how major issues are to being addressed.

I think this is a result of the vast number if independent governments in the region. (St. Louis has more local governments than anywhere else in the country save for Philadelphia.) Since they all operate on their own, there is little means to combat regional issues. I noted this on the survey the County has online.

The presentation went on for 20 minutes and immediately went to Q&A where the sheep in attendance were largely interested in bitching about issues personal to them. While I don't mean to belittle their concerns, the 5-Year Strategic Planning meeting is not the time or place to bring up how a traffic signal might be needed at a certain corner or why an individual with a septic system was being billed for the sewer lateral program. One resident, an engineer no less, wanted to know why the Metrolink was not constructed in a linear fashion and opened on a station-by-station basis. How this would benefit Metro or residents? I have no idea.

A few people did make good points that were appropriate. Several residents, your Mayor included, were highly complimentary of the St. Louis County Police service. I assure you this was not the case when the Mayor was trying to get beer to high-school parties in his teenage years! A boy of no more than 13 spoke for a number of residents on the issue of large opposition to a QuikTrip going in on Telegraph across from a Mobil station. He was met with applause from the crowd. Another person said that new development was too dense and too fast. My beef with these folks was that they were only reacting to things that were already done or in progress. Not one person asked "how can we prevent this from happening again?" THAT's PLANNING! I won't even go into the vocal opposition present to the Villages At Gravois Creek development (adjacent to Cor Jesu; See my previous post.) that are still holding out becuase they "got theirs" in the form of a one-acre or half-acre lot in Grantwood Village and oppose the development only on the basis of density or "undesirable elements" moving in. Hogwash. I doubt that even the Mayor's salary would allow me and the First Family to move there, and arguably I am not undesirable.

ANYWAY, on to Affton! Regarding your aquatic is unlikely that this is going to happen as a small tax increase for the Dept. of Parks was voted down last year. My insider at the Planning department (and fellow Afftonian,) told me that the voters of South County were the ones that killed it. THANK YOU, OLD FOLKS! You got your "stitch and bitch" and "line dancing for seniors" up at White-Rodgers Community Center and now my kids have to swim in Gravois Creek this summer! Grrr.

REGARDING THE NESTLE PLANT ON HEEGE ROAD...I met with two members of the Economic Council. One was well versed on Affton. We both agreed that housing was not going to be appropriate for that area as it is next to a concrete contractor (lest they have another Fred Weber situation) nor was a big box development approproate due to space and access. One told me that Hershey's has looked at the plant as well as others. There is a potential deal in the works with a food maker, but the realtor is not saying with whom yet. They are in contact weekly so we assume it's still a possibility. Nestle was the biggest taxable corporation in Affton bringing $300,000 to the schools district annually. (See my previous post.)

I was pleased that I got to meet Charlie Dooley. Everyone I spoke with told me he's great to work for. On the surface anyway, Charlie was all about resident satisfaction. He noted that not everything would please all people. He noted that he's never played the lottery even though it was good for schools. We ended our meeting by shaking hands and complimenting each other on our fine displays of facial hair.