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 center...it 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.


At 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your children can always swim in the warm, soothing, nourishing and plentiful waters of the River Des Peres.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Mayor of Affton said...

Indeed. If you see my previous post regarding the bike trails, I glossed over the fact that I believe ALL people like to see water moving, even if it's the nasty-ass waters in there. There were several people on the bridge just standing and "admiring" the view. Years ago, the RFT did a nice piece (when that was possible for that publication. Now they seem to emulate Maxim Magazine...poorly.) Anyway it was a nice piece on a few possible ways to redevelop the RDP. I think that if a few people take the chance, development will happen on the banks en masse.


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