Thursday, November 22, 2012

Another story of life on Happy Island

Paul Kjorlie passed on a story about the kindness of strangers. It seems that one of our long-time neighbors, an older lady who lives on South 11th Street, returned to her home late in the evening after grocery shopping. The time was about 10:30 p.m., Friday night, November 16. (“The handicapped parking spots are easier to find at that time of night,” she explains.)

She continues: “When I came around my car, loaded with groceries, and headed for my gate, I saw there was a man lying in front of my gate.

“Not knowing if he was ill, injured, drunk or playing a ruse, I was very frightened. I tried asking if he was injured. Without saying anything, he sat up, but immediately fell back down again. I returned to my car, put the groceries back and called 911.

“Two cars came. They prodded and pushed and eventually got the man up. Staggering and whirling around, he made his way south on 11th street.”

She concludes: “Not only did the police rescue me, but they even carried my groceries in for me! Now that’s real public service!”

We agree. Thanks, Paul. Thanks, police.

Monday, November 19, 2012

God, cocktails, sex parties and Mayor Slay

Lately, Soulard has benefited from some fabulous newspaper exposure. If it is true that any publicity is good publicity, then Soulard is gold.

For example, an article in the Oktoberfest issue 2012 of The Soulard Renaissance, the official neighborhood newspaper which carries the motto: “Living with History,” contained a swell story headlined “Group Hosts ‘God & Cocktails’.”

The article opens with the statement: “Locals know that any event in Soulard is going to involve alcohol, even church. A new member of the Soulard Pub and Ponder group summarized it perfectly, ‘God and Cocktails?’ And I knew I had to be part of that church group!”

Written by Amy Grove, the story explained that “It is a mixture of ‘God and Cocktails,’ wine, beer, snacks and intriguing and interesting conversation about God, religion and faith. A different topic is discussed each month.” The meetings are held in the Soulard clubhouse on S. 12th Street.

This religious innovation is from the First Christian Church of Edwardsville, Il., Disciples of Christ, sponsors of the Soulard-based group, according to the newspaper. To further justify the blending of God and booze, the article states: “In addition to monthly discussions, the members of Pub and Ponder will participate in community-based volunteer opportunities. It is their goal to provide helping hands to soup kitchens, Soulard Restoration Group events, Gene Slay’s Boys Club, Race for A Child 5K and more.” Hopefully, all these volunteer efforts will “involve alcohol.”

Will this religious innovation sweep the country? Well, the seed from Edwardsville finds fertile soil in Soulard. (“Hey, so, just toss your empties in the trash can over there by the cross.”) The article offers insight into the direction of our ever-maturing neighborhood.

If anybody doubts which way Soulard is drifting, then refer to a story by Jennifer Mann from the June 12, 2012 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Headlined “Couple guilty of exposing a woman to HIV at party,” the story begins: “There was nothing inherently illegal about Kerry Lynn Hanson, 48, having sex with an 18-year-old woman while his and her respective partners looked on. But his activities during Soulard’s 2010 Mardi Gras were in fact criminal, jurors decided Monday, because he knew he was HIV-positive and didn’t tell her.”

The story continues: “A weeklong trial in St. Louis Circuit Court also resulted in conviction of Hanson’s girlfriend, Angela Marie Niemczyk, who was 41 at the time of the party, because she knew of Hanson’s status and suggested the foursome.” It is explained that “the charge for both was knowingly exposing another person to HIV, a felony that carries a possible term of up to 15 years in prison.”

Wait! Wait! It gets better. “The let-loose atmosphere of Mardi Gras here was on full display during the trial, as lawyers argued over who did what and with whom at the party Feb.13, 2010.” The “let-loose atmosphere” - wow, how cool is that?

Things at the party - attended by 20 to 30 “revelers” at a house in the 900 block of Allen Ave.- started to get intimate when discussion began about what could be traded for some Mardi Gras beads. Just think: swap those exquisitely crafted Mardi Gras beads for exposure to HIV. Trump that, Holly Hills. Eat your heart out, Lafayette Square. Wish you were here, St. Louis Hills?

And let’s not ignore the famous attorneys involved: Art Margulis representing Hanson and William Goldstein representing Niemczyk. Goldstein argued that the victim, who did not contract any disease, admitted drinking nine beers and used hallucinogenic mushrooms, so how could she remember anything. Goldstein also pointed out that “her boyfriend gave inconsistent versions of what happened.”

The newspaper story notes: “Assistant Circuit Attorney Natalie Warner scolded Goldstein for that approach, saying it’s why victims are afraid to come forward. She said Hanson and Niemczyk acted with a ‘sense of entitlement’ without regard for the risk, then tried to cover it up because they were afraid of people knowing Hanson was HIV-positive.”

This is just too grand. Sophisticated folks attend Soulard Mardi Gras, you betcha, and Soulard is the go-to place for sex parties. Who would have believed that our little historic district could come this far? After all the hard work to revive what used to be a slum, now Soulard hosts sex parties. It proves Soulard ain’t no seedy neighborhood. And Soulard Mardi Gras brings a cornucopia of blessings.

Finally, there was a Post-Dispatch story enumerating what Mayor Slay has done for St. Louis. It spotlighted his participation in Soulard’s revival. By David Hunn, it was printed in the Oct. 7, 2012 issue of the paper and is headlined “St. Louis mayor’s policies put him in good position for electoral challenge.”

(Mayor Slay and his staff) “have encouraged urban farming, aided bike commuters and even bent the rules so as to allow a bar owner to mount solar panels in the Soulard historic district,” the story reports.

Isn’t that precious? Our Dear Leader helps Soulard by bending the historic code. But Mayor Slay has always offered a helping hand to the neighborhood. He blogged at one point that the Soulard Mardi Gras was the second largest such celebration in the country, which it isn’t, of course, but we all like to believe, and he supports MG by hosting an annual Mardi Gras Ball at City Hall, showing official support and lighting the fuse for the massive municipal drunk called Grand Parade Day.

Not everybody is pleased. One long time resident, Paul Kjorlie, e-mailed the mayor as follows: “I am a bit confused. Does this mean that you and your staff lobbied, cajoled, or twisted the arms (whatever term might apply) of the members of the City of St. Louis Cultural Resources board that is appointed by you? We thought it was the board that made the decision, not your office.”

He continued: “I don’t know what the polls show in Soulard, but the neighborhood organization of Soulard, the Soulard Restoration Group, opposed this violation of our historic code.”

Well, there are always some spoilsports. But the rest of us certainly appreciate what Mayor Slay did, and we thank him for having the integrity to boast about this to the reporter from the Post-Dispatch, giving the neighborhood some great publicity, to boot. He certainly has our vote.

That’s it for now, folks. As said, we sure like to see the name of our neighborhood in print. Keep those stories coming,

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Crime Statistics Make Us so Proud

According to Police Officer Anthony Miller, during the time period Sept. 1 through Dec. 7, 2011, 42 cars parked on the streets of Happy Island were hit by other vehicles. The statistics do not indicate how many of the offending drivers were drunk, but we assume that some of the accidents resulted from folks over-medicating in Soulard bars. Who says that our bars don’t have an impact? Thanks to Paul Kjorlie for keeping after the police to provide this information.

This blog used to provide crime statistics, taken from police reports on-line. However, the site was discontinued. When we asked the police department why the statistics stopped, we were told that the department no longer subscribed to the service. We guess that the best way to fight crime in Soulard is to deny that crime exists. Case closed.

As an aside, there were shots fired in Soulard on Labor Day (Sept. 3, 2012), late in the evening. We happened to talk to a police officer, who said that brass (shell casings) was found at the alley between 10th and Menard where it connects with Lami, between 1007 and 1015 Lami (owned by Soulard In-Fill Assoc. L.P.), and some more was found where the alley met Barton. All in a days work.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Brian's Legacy on Happy Island

The August, 2012 primary votes are in by precinct and show that Brian Wahby didn’t even carry the sixth precinct in the Seventh Ward. The sixth precinct basically covers Soulard, the home of our very own sleazy Mardi Gras, also known as Money Grab.

Wessels received 132 votes, Brian garnered 110 votes, Jones obtained 67 votes and Boyd trailed with 60 votes in the August primary for Democratic candidate for Treasurer for the City of St. Louis.

In his election literature, Brian boasted of the fine management of MG, implying that his contribution was greatest of all. His website carries a posting dated June 12, 2012, explaining:: “Brian Wahby has served in a volunteer capacity as Chairman of St. Louis Mardi Gras Foundation for the past 10 years. Over the course of his leadership, the Mardi Gras team has increased the number of visitors significantly, attracting thousands to St. Louis, spending their money at area hotels and restaurants. The economic impact of Mardi Gras is a boost of $23 million to St. Louis’ economy every year.” This makes it sound as though the MG team has been spending the money of the attracted visitors. Probably not far from the truth.

Anyway, Brian’s site continues with a quote from Joanie Thomas, owner, Joanie’s Pizza: “Mardi Gras, under Brian’s leadership, has provided a financial boost to Soulard merchants. He’s worked closely with the small businesses. The event is always well-organized and the leadership treats the neighborhood with respect. Brian understands how to be a good steward.”

Excuse me! Mardi Gras turns Soulard into a public urinal, filled with trash and trashy people. It would be closer to the truth to say that with Brian’s help Mardi Gras has turned Soulard into a sleazy neighborhood. Everybody has their hands out to take money from those seeking another excuse to self-medicate. Stomp on that historic district and it’s residential potential.

So, despite his “heroic” contribution to the prosperity of Soulard, he still didn’t carry the precinct. One can only ask: Is something rotten in the state of Happy Island? The Political Eye column in St. Louis American newspaper (Aug. 30 - Sept. 5, 2012) stated: “To name a few highlights on Wahby’s resume, his unilateral laundering of money for Slay during the last mayoral election, while many on the committee did not support the incumbent, angered many members.” Was Brian doing the same in Soulard, laundering MG proceeds to benefit non-contributing politicos and friends?

Meanwhile, as though nothing happened at the polls, Brian continues to tweet every little thought that pops into his hollow head, as he pretends that he has something to contribute. We hope everybody tells him to keep on dreaming.

P.S. And, according to the Post-Dispatch, Brian spent the most on the primary campaign, a cool $200,000, all to acquire bragging rights for last place. Keep up the good work, Sleazebag.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Additional Insights into the Barcycle Contribution

At the conclusion of the last episode, we learned that the president of the Soulard Restoration Group had sent a letter to the St. Louis Taxicab Commission supporting the licensing of the BarCycle (“The St. Louis BarCycle is a 16 passenger party on wheels! Get your crew together and navigate the bars in Soulard on this pedal driven bar crawl machine!” - BarCycle website). There will be a second licensing meeting at the Taxicab Commission at 9 a.m. on August 26, apparently at the commission headquarters at 2628 Delmar. Executive Director Ron Klein will host the hearing.

The reason for the support, as stated in their letter, was that “Dan Lloyd [owner] has presented his revised operation procedure to our organization. We feel that with the new rules on hours of operation, noise levels, safety, and route, the BarCycle can be an asset to our Soulard neighborhood.” The letter, apparently representing the concurrence of the SRG membership, was signed by Sean Cochran, president of the organization.

Before we all jump on the SRG’s and the BarCycle’s bandwagon, it is interesting to note the testimony of Karen Landon, who also wrote a letter to the Taxicab Commission. Karen lives in the 2300 block of S. 11th Street.

She wrote: “When I bought my home, I chose a location away from the bar activity. Now, the new barcycles easily assault my block with abandon. They are intrusive, loud and dangerous. I live on a hill so it takes quite a bit of pedal-power to get that vehicle up the hill. On several occasions, it has stopped in front of my house and the drunks just hunker down to party – and party loudly. They use foul language, throw trash and have hit my car after falling off the bench. They quickly recover and pedal away screaming, leaving me with the remains of the day.”

She continued: “This is a residential neighborhood. We have small children on our block. Residents should have rights for safety and respect. The barcycles cruise down my hill on 11th street at rapid speeds. They scream with delight. They do not stop at the stop sign. They would not be able to stop for a dog, pedestrian or small child. They are drunk (although I am sure the driver says he/she is not drinking). This is a disaster waiting to happen and I do not feel I should have to be at the mercy of this new nuisance.”

Karen added: “Please have due respect for the residents. These vehicles are not only intrusive, but diminish the historic elegance and charm of the neighborhood. I do not feel I should have to tolerate mobile bars rushing into a residential area. Please stop these vehicles from damaging my neighborhood.” Well written. Karen notes in her letter that she has lived in Soulard for over 30 years.

Oddly, the BarCycle owner - Dan Lloyd - appeared at a recent SRG meeting to press his case for licensing by the Taxicab Commission. He left a handout for those attending, a peculiar two page letter which summarized the results of his meeting with Alderwoman Phyllis Young. Ms. Young’s letter was posted earlier on this blog. She is opposed to any licensing of the BarCycle.

Dated July 9th, 2012, the letter states: “If the license is granted by the taxicab commission, hopefully these guidelines will minimize the disturbance to Soulard residents while still maintaining a fun atmosphere for patrons and promoting Soulard businesses.”

Dan continued: “Allow me to first recap our conversation of the concerns you mentioned in your letter:

“1.) Prolonged operation without necessary permits. I want to reiterate that this was an unintentional oversight and not a devious plan to avoid paying fees and acquiring licences. I lived in Columbia, Missouri when I started the business and filed all of the necessary paperwork for the state of Missouri. Being unfamiliar with St. Louis when I started, I was under the mistaken impression that Soulard was separate from the city of St. Louis and did not consider that I would need to contact city officials as well. I contacted the president of the Soulard Business Association at that time before I started and when I got the go ahead from him I thought I was ready to go.

“Once I became more familiar with the city I should have realized more licensing was necessary with St. Louis but I was more concerned with the operation of the business and less focused on the start up procedures. It was clearly a mistake on my part and I should have done the proper due diligence at the start.”

Wow, can Dan sling it or what? He needs more than adult supervision. He needs a invitation to get out of town. But this isn’t the end of it. He continues:

On the issue of noise and his routes, he carries on like a true pro: “Noise on the BarCycle is something that can be reduced considerably. For starters, the onboard stereo will be turned down to a more reasonable volume going forward and there will be a new rule of no shouting or loud singing...Driving down alleys was a rare occurrence before and will not be done from this point forward. Additionally my rates are set to increase shortly which will likely draw an older and milder crowd.”

So Dan - although the letter has no name attached to it - has displayed a total lack of respect for the neighborhood. This is something SRG members can appreciate.

He concludes with the new rules for BarCycle patrons: “No screaming or excessively loud noises, no dismounting vehicle while in motion, no littering, no glass, respect neighborhood after tour is complete.”

Only after having his leash jerked does Dan acknowledge that there may be other people on the planet. His letter speaks volumes about what kind of a person he is - another sleazy sos who has washed ashore here on Happy Island. He is going to start respecting the residents of Soulard? Only SRG members would believe that.

Can we suggest that he go back to Columbia. We hope that the Taxicab Commission has more sense than to believe this guy. We sure don’t.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The 7th Ward's (Almost) Favorite Son

Wow, did Brian Wahby get his head handed to him in the primary election for Democratic candidate for Treasurer? That’s an understatement. After years of glad handing, smarmy Brian finished nowhere near the money in the August 7th primary.

The results spotlight Brian's lack of magnetism: Tishaura Jones won (with 13817 votes, 34.92% of the total), followed by Fred Wessels (10411, 26.31%), then Jeffrey Boyd (10092, 25.50%) and, finally, Brian, who garnered a distant 5250 votes, or 13.27% of the total.

How to explain this showing? Well, for one, his elegantly trimmed facial hair didn’t seem to do him any good. One person commented that he seemed a caricature of some kind of Lebanese bandit, a reflection of his attitude towards the position of Treasurer. Another said he looked like a mad magician, vainly trying to hypnotize the electorate.  Whatever.  He obviously spends too much time in front of a mirror.

We are sure that his attitude is that his loss is St. Louis’ loss. Never think that Brian doesn’t believe in his own talents, such as they are. Launching himself from behind the petticoats of Slay and the Democratic Party, for years he has prowled City Hall, settling scores behind the scenes, meddling, advancing his personal agenda, pretending, bullying. Now the voters have called his bluff.  He is revealed as nothing but a pathetic gasbag.

His focus as chair of the City Democratic Committee can only be described as sinister, as he has made free use of party funds for “expenses.” The same can be said of his years of affiliation with Mardi Gras, Inc., directing money where it will do him the most good. We have related how he sought favorable treatment from ward committee persons by distributed free $100 tickets to attend one of the all-you-can-eat and drink “party tents” during that disgraceful fest in 2012. We understand this is only the tip of the iceberg.  His influence over MGI is underlined by the fact that he used the fancy, refurbished MGI headquarters for campaign meetings. He has keys to the place. It figures. MGI is nothing but a nest of rats.  Look what they have done to Soulard.

When he entered the race, what was Brian thinking? That he is loved? He didn’t even carry his own ward. He came in third, only beating Jeffrey Boyd. Of course, the good news for Brian from Aug. 7 is that he retained his position as 7th Ward committeeman, garnering 925 votes and only challenged by 39 write-ins. Yes, that race was uncontested.  It was Brian's kind of race.

So why is he a committeeman and chairman at the same time? Why didn’t Brian have any competition for 7th Ward Committeeman? Because (1) Nobody else could fill Brian’s shoes, or (2) Nobody wants to sit on a dirty toilet seat, or (3) Nobody gives a rat’s patootie, or (4) Whats on second base. Any other suggestions?  Let us know.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Another Great Money Making Plan Welcomed by the SRG

Every sos this side of hallelujah wants to inflict his money making idea on poor Soulard.  Comes now the BarCycle, described on its website as “Way more fun than your typical party bus - the St. Louis BarCycle is a 16 passenger party on wheels!  Get your crew together and navigate the bars in Soulard on this pedal driven bar crawl machine!”

Beyond the exclamation points, this is a pedal driven noise and trash maker, and it works best when it is filled with drunks, according to the owner.  Just what we need, pedaling the streets of our neighborhood.  It must be historic, just like greed.  The charge is a reasonable $150 an hour, for a two hour tour of Soulard bars.  Just think, for $300 you and your friends can make pests of yourselves.  That’s cheaper than buying a motorcycle and disconnecting the muffler.    

Fortunately, after running around the neighborhood for a while, it was decided that this infestation needed some sort of license.  Ah, the St. Louis Taxicab Commission.  Oddly, Alderman Phyllis Young wrote a letter against the BarCycle to Ron Klein, Executive Director, St. Louis Taxicab Commission, dated July 11, 2012, as follows:

Dear Mr. Klein:

I am writing regarding your hearing on July 12th about the St. Louis Barcycle.  I have constituents who are concerned about this vehicle operating in the Soulard neighborhood.
I’d like to present a number of the issues I’ve heard about the business.
First, it advertises itself as a ‘barcycle’.  People ride the 16 passenger barcycle, drink, socialize, and pedal.  Granted the operator doesn’t serve the drinks, but advertises that they are available from bar stops or that coolers are allowed.  Unlike a bar where neighboring residents had to sign a petition about the location of a bar this vehicle is mobile and can go past your block at any time. It isn’t like a neighbor having a noisy party once or twice a summer. This vehicle can come by several times in a day or weekend.  Any response is solely up to the operator of the barcycle.  There is no way to protest the license.
I’ve met with Mr. Lloyd, the business operator. He has agreed to turn the music down on the onboard stereo and to ask his patrons to be quieter.  However, if they aren’t in agreement, what recourse does the neighborhood have?  Also, whose idea of a reasonable noise level should be the measure?
Mr. Lloyd has agreed that he’ll stay north of Russell after a certain time.  However, there are residents there who feel that they have enough challenges dealing with the bars alone in that area.  That portion of Soulard has the largest concentration of that type of business.  Is it fair to allow a mobile establishment to add to the concerns?
The other issue discussed is the conflict between the vehicle and the overall traffic of the neighborhood.  Soulard is quite crowded at particular times----ballgame nites, Saturday Soulard Market shopping, and special events.  During those times the streets are filled with pedestrians, cyclists, golf carts, shuttle vehicles, and automobile traffic.  Sometimes seniors on those motorized carts are there as well.  It can be very congested!
The solution offered is to go down other streets than 9th.  Ordinarily that would work; however, those are the streets that visitors are on---- looking for free parking, and they are mostly the residential blocks so that the noise again becomes a factor.
The operator says he can pull over to the side to let other vehicles pass.  That’s what the shuttle busses for the bars do now.  It’s very difficult to see around them so that passing is already dangerous.
As a Commission you are considering a new vehicle for the City.  If this is successful in Soulard will it or another be allowed to operate on Washington Avenue, in the Delmar Loop, along Grand Avenue, or in other popular sections of the City?  How would this fit into the traffic patterns for those neighborhoods, and how would the residents and businesses there receive this concept?
I appreciate the rules that Mr. Lloyd has proposed for his operation; however, I cannot support his proposal.  I have seen the barcycle operation, and I am not convinced that any rules will make it conducive to the neighborhood.  I understand that he has the support of the business association, but I also know that this activity is an enhancement for the bar business.  It is in my opinion a detraction from the residential quality of life in Soulard.  I believe there’s a delicate balance between the two entities, and I’m working to keep that balance.
I appreciate your consideration of my comments and opinions.  I understand that you have the jurisdiction in this matter.  I am hopeful that you’ll make a decision that is best for the neighborhood.

Sincerely, Phyllis Young

On July 20, James Rick followed up with another opposition letter to Mr. Klein.  He is a card carrying member of the Soulard Restoration Group, a Soulard resident and chair of the Safety Committee, we understand.  His letter follows:

Dear Mr. Klein:

We are writing in regard to your upcoming hearing about the St. Louis Barcycle. We are concerned about this vehicle operating in the Soulard neighborhood where we reside, and are writing to oppose granting it a Taxi License.
It advertises itself as a ‘barcycle’ whereby 16 people ride the barcycle, drink, socialize, and pedal. Since the operator has no liquor license he can’t serve the drinks, but advertises that they are available from stops at bars, or that coolers are allowed. Unlike a proposed bar where neighboring residents get to sign a petition about its location, this vehicle is mobile and uses our street, 9th, as its primary route to go north-south and vice versa. 9th Street is flat so it’s not like having a noisy party once or twice a summer. This vehicle can come by several times in a day or weekend. We have no way to protest the abusive use of a (non-existent) liquor license.
Plus, its on-board stereo is noisy, and the drinking patrons can be loud. But if they aren’t in the mood to tone it down, what recourse do we residents have? Also, what is the measure of a reasonable noise level? Do we have to bother the Police (who have far more important matters to attend to) every time a loud group rolls by?
This vehicle can also be in conflict with the overall traffic on 9th Street. With only two lanes for traffic, on busy weekends the street can be filled with pedestrians, cyclists, golf carts, shuttle vehicles, and automobile traffic. Sometimes seniors on those motorized carts are there as well. It’s a recipe for a nasty accident because passing is dangerous!
We’ve heard of a solution offered to go down streets other than 9th. Ordinarily that would work; however, visitors are on all those streets as well, looking for free parking. They are mostly residential (and hilly) blocks, so that the noise again becomes a factor.
As a Commission you are considering a new use for a commercial vehicle within the City. How would this fit into the traffic patterns for other neighborhoods, and how would the residents and businesses there receive this concept? We can also imagine the Police would be none too thrilled about the problems this barcycle would present.
We understand that the owner has the support of the Soulard Business Association, mostly comprised of bar owners who will benefit by increased bar business. Those of us who reside here need to be vigilant about retaining the residential quality of life in Soulard. There’s a delicate balance between these opposing forces, and we are simply asking you to be aware of the concerns outlined above.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of our comments and opinions. Our neighbors and we are confident you’ll make a decision that is best for the Soulard neighborhood and its property owners in this City we care so much for.

Sincerely Yours, James W. Rick (and) Jacqueline L. Torno

Well, not wishing to be left out, the Soulard Restoration Group big wigs  thought out the issue and decided in favor of the BarCycle.  Their letter, dated 7/20/2012, follows:

Dear Dan Lloyd, Phyllis Young and Ron Kline,

The Soulard Restoration Group (SRG) would like to share our support for the BarCycle business in the Soulard neighborhood.
Dan Lloyd has presented his revised operation procedures to our organization. We feel that with the new rules on hours of operation, noise levels, safety, and route, the BarCycle can be an asset to our Soulard neighborhood.
Hopefully, the BarCycle will provide another opportunity for people to see and enjoy all the Soulard neighborhood has to offer. The BarCycle will also raise awareness of the great Soulard establishments.
We believe Dan will address and solve any future issues that may arise.
Thank You.

Sean Cochran, President of The Soulard Restoration Group

Well, we certainly hope that Sean’s letter doesn't settle the issue.  After all, the SRG always says: “If you don’t like Mardi Gras, then it’s time to move.”  I guess now you just substitute BarCycle for Mardi Gras, and to hell with neighborhood residential assets.  

We look forward to the decision of the Taxicab Commission, and we thank our Alderman for displaying some balls, for once.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Brian Wahby, the Mother of all Candidates

“I’m going to win this race on my merits,” stated Brian Wahby for an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He was speaking of his run for the post of Treasurer of the City of St. Louis. Written by David Hunn and printed on 2/2/2012, the article was headlined “Treasurer candidates call for Wahby to step down as chair of St. Louis Democrats.”

It seems that rival Democratic candidates for the Treasurers position wanted access to the Voter Action Network (VAN), the party’s database of Democratic voters, and the State Democratic Party said they had to get it by going through Brian Wahby, the chair of the City Democratic Committee.. His rivals feared he might “futz with the data” before handing over the lists.

Absolute silliness! After all, if you can’t trust your local Democratic Party chairman, what politician can you trust?

Anyway, everybody knows Brian - the spawn of the Seventh Ward - is a shoe-in for the post. His victory will be unanimous, as it should be. His merits speak for themselves. Let’s review some of them.

For one, Brian enjoys a national reputation. As a favor, Brian’s election pamphlet carries a picture of President Obama posing with Brian and Brian’s wife and two children. Brian says that President Obama was the one requesting the photo-op, to boost his re-election chances by showing that he associates with the best and the brightest. Brian and his family went out of their way to help President Obama, and they probably didn’t make him beg, either. It shows Brian’s generous nature, his loyalty to his party and his national standing.

The election pamphlet also notes that Brian already has extensive experience as a top official in the Treasurers Office. To quote the pamphlet: “As an assistant in the Treasurer’s Office in the 1990's, he was instrumental in building the Kiel Center Parking Facility downtown and the Schlafly Library and Argyle Parking Garage in the Central West End. After these successes, Wahby left the Treasurer’s Office in 1999 for the private sector.”

He worked tirelessly on many successful projects, of course. One not mentioned in his pamphlet was covered in glowing terms in a Post-Dispatch article dated December 2, 1995 and headlined “Treasurer’s Office Linked to Vote Ploy” and subtitled “Penny Alcott Testifies at Federal Trial.” The article by Tim Bryant follows:

“Penny Alcott said Friday that a top official in the St. Louis treasurer’s office was among those who urged her to become a last-minute spoiler candidate in the 1993 comptroller’s race.

“Alcott told a jury in U.S. District Court that Brian Wahby, executive assistant to Treasurer Larry Williams, provided her the $725 filing fee to become a candidate. She said he later gave her money for personal expenses, such as clothing and health insurance.

“In addition, Wahby was part of the group that pledged to help her after the Democratic primary election in March 1993, Alcott said. ‘They would try to help find me a job and help me out financially,’ she said.

“Alcott testified at the federal trial of Craig Walker, an investment banker from Los Angeles who was a longtime associate of Virvus Jones and a contributor to his campaigns. Jones won the comptroller’s race by a small margin in 1993.

“Wahby, Leslie Bond Jr. and Mark Magas, who became Alcott’s campaign manager, urged her in December 1992 to enter the comptroller’s race, she said. Alcott became a candidate less than two hours before the filing deadline on Dec. 31, 1992.

“‘My intent was to take away votes from James Shrewsbury,’ she said.

“Shrewsbury, D-16 Ward, has claimed that he would have won the election had Alcott not entered the race. Alcott and Shrewsbury are both white. Alcott was expected to siphon off some of Shrewsbury’s white voters.

“Jones got 44,670 votes in 1993; Shrewsbury got 42,661; and Alcott got 3,268.

“Wahby, who was scheduled to get married this weekend, was unavailable for comment. Bond, an executive in the comptroller’s office, has denied doing anything wrong in the 1993 race. He also has said he has cooperated with federal investigators in the case.

“U.S. Attorney Edward L. Dowd Jr declined to say whether charges had been considered against Wahby.

“Alcott and Jones are among five people indicted in June. The federal indictment alleged that the defendants conspired to defraud voters by putting Alcott in the race because Jones was worried that he would lose the election to Shrewsbury. Jones resigned in September after pleading guilty of tax fraud. Alcott pleaded guilty Tuesday of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in the filing of false campaign disclosure reports. Also pleading guilty to a tax charge was Kerry Alexander, a former police officer accused of helping launder money from Jones’ campaign to Alcott.

“Under cross-examination by defense lawyer C. John Pleban, Alcott said Walker, 33, had no role in persuading her to enter the comptroller’s race, nor did he help run her campaign. She said that, if elected, she would have served.”

Wow, that story illustrates Brian’s meritorious work ethic and displays his willingness to build bridges across racial divides and to work with women. In newspaper circles, the article is known as a puff piece, because it throws the spotlight on Brian’s best side. A friend asked Brian about the story, and Brian replied: “It’s not true.” His modesty and willingness to share credit are widely recognized. Those are the personality traits of a dynamic St. Louis leader.

Brian is loyal to Democratic Party candidates, and he works tirelessly to promote them. An example was his endorsement of Rodney Hubbard for State of Missouri senator. The flier we all received in the mail, and which we treasure, was “From the Desk of the Chairman of the St. Louis City Democratic Party Brian Wahby.” Brian wrote: “Rodney is the only candidate that has a real record of legislative accomplishments. He is absolutely committed to improving the lives of people in Saint Louis and throughout Missouri.”

It continued: “His commitment to the Democratic Party and its principle of putting the interests of people over special interests is exceptional. Democrats have a clear choice - Rodney is the progressive candidate for Senator with the experience, vision and courage to effectively represent us in the Missouri Senate.”

Brian was spot on. After Rodney lost the election, Brian’s insight was proven in a December 14, 2010 story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch headlined “Ethics Commission fines Rodney Hubbard $322,000 for violations.”

Datelined Jefferson City, the lead read: “Former state Senate candidate Rodney Hubbard and his treasurer used various campaign accounts as virtual ATMs, withdrawing thousands of dollars in cash that was not properly recorded, according to orders in three cases made public Tuesday by the Missouri Ethics Commission.”

To quote further: “Two of the cash withdrawals were at Las Vegas casinos, the Flamingo and the Golden Nugget.”

There was a ready explanation. Brian’s protégée pleaded incompetence, claiming that he did not understand accounting. Apparently this explanation had legs, since Rodney’s fine was drastically reduced, and now he is the state director of Democrats for Education Reform - Missouri (DFER - Missouri), serving his party and the rest of us to the best of his abilities, doing to education in Missouri what he formerly did to Missouri election laws.

In his flier endorsing Rodney, modest Brian stated: “As someone who has spent the better part of my life getting Democrats elected to office, I am proud to support”...etc., etc. It is not just empty boasting from Brian that he has played a strong hand in the growth and revival of St. Louis.

Those sterling leaders nudged into power with the help of Brian have brought us Ballpark Village, the Bottle District, the Ice House District, tax breaks for the Cardinals, our declining population and loss of businesses, McGee (“to save St. Louis, first we have to destroy it”), and a spectrum of other triumphs, all benefitting family, cronies, contributors, and what have you, all road markers on the path to a booming St. Louis, to the prosperity we all enjoy today. .

Another of Brian’s merits is that he can be counted on to get the job done. Everybody in the Seventh Ward nodded knowingly in the summer of 2010 when it was revealed that Brian Wahby, chairman of the City Democratic Committee, was to spearhead the local bid to get the Democratic National Convention to come to St. Louis.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch (June 30, 2010 story headlined “St. Louis one of four finalists to hold 2012 Democratic Convention” by Jake Wagman), “St. Louis officials say hosting the 2012 Democratic Convention would bring 50,000 delegates, journalists and other visitors to St. Louis - and an economic benefit of $266 million.”

City leadership displayed wisdom and a keen understanding of their people assets by anointing Brian to bring home the bacon. We all knew the convention was as good as in the bag, under his able generalship.

And when something goes awry, Brian isn’t afraid to tell the truth about the reason for the debacle. After the whole national convention pipe dream fell apart, Brian had an insightful explanation: Claire McCaskill ruined everything. Brian went out of his way to mentor Claire, teaching her that there may be copperheads in out state Missouri, but the reptilian city politicians are far more venomous.

Brian is highly intelligent. In fact, he displays traits of a genius. As his campaign pamphlet notes, Brian earned his BS in Public Administration at UM-St. Louis and his MBA at Washington University. Education makes for a well-rounded man. For example, Brian once related that, during his bachelor days and when he was the committeeman of the Seventh Ward Democrats, he signed a lease and moved into a new apartment, only to realize that he had moved outside the boundaries of the Seventh Ward. After a year of enjoying another ward, he re-assumed his post as committeeman after moving back into the ward at the conclusion of his lease.

We should not skip over the biggest 7th Ward contribution by Brian, who has long been involved in the greatest growth engine in St. Louis: the Soulard Mardi Gras.

Everybody has heard Brian remarking that he engineered the morphing of Mardi Gras from a neighborhood event to an industrial money maker for the booze industry and politicians. To monitor all that loose money rolling around, he took control from the Soulard bars and presented it to politicians and Dean Martin wannabes. If you can’t trust that crowd, who can you trust? Word has it that 7th Ward Alderperson Phyllis Young resigned from the MGI board because she did not want to be involved in the mg money which found its way into miscellaneous pockets. But we are sure this is just here say.

Brian, ever generous, shares this Mardi Gras bonanza with others. Before the 2012 Mardi Gras, Brian offered to and provided a number of ward committee persons with free tickets to one of the $100 “all you can drink and eat” tents on Grand Parade day. Residents of city wards who endorsed Brian’s candidacy should ask their committee persons how they enjoyed the drunk. If they did not participate, then they must not be much fun or important. And Brian has keys to the new Mardi Gras offices on Dolman Street in Soulard. He holds his political meetings there. He sure knows how to earn the respect of those who bring so much to Soulard and St. Louis.

It goes without saying that if you believe that the Soulard Mardi Gras is the second biggest mg festival in the nation and a credit to St. Louis, then you believe that Brian Wahby should be our next Treasurer. It is fair to say that if you vote for Brian and if he wins, you are going to get what you deserve.

Of course, not everybody has climbed on Brian’s unstoppable bandwagon. Those pouters on the St. Louis American staff are an example. They say Brian carries a carpetbag full of demerits.

In the May 31 - June 6, 2012 issue of the American, the “Political Eye” writers refer to a television story: “KMOV-TV news reported that Wahby was issued a ticket on June 25, 2011 by the Missouri Highway Patrol for not having a valid driver’s license. Wahby did not have a valid license because of the unpaid parking tickets issued to him when he was working in the Treasurer’s Office. As the headline on the online story read, ‘Candidate for parking meter boss has registration suspended for unpaid parking ticket.’”

Big deal. Who among us hasn’t put a bunch of miles on our vehicles without a driver’s license? Similarly meaningless was a reference in the”Political Eye” column in the May 24 - 30 issue to “Brian ‘my wife works for the mayor and I [have] been snagging consulting contracts from Larry Williams since before Jim Shrewsbury was aldermanic president’ Wahby.” Well, isn’t that the St. Louis way? If you are in charge of grading the playing field, then grade it to suit yourself. After all, everybody knows taxpayer money is for lining politicians pockets.

And in a display of posturing, the “Political Eye” writers in the Dec. 15 - 21 issue comment: “[T]he eye is frankly amazed to hear that Brian Wahby is willing to have his personal and family finances and actions thrown open to the public domain by filing for meaningful elective office...As chairman of the woefully mismanaged city Democratic organization, Wahby permitted all manners of dubious pass-throughs for campaign funds in the era of campaign funding limits...Indeed, one of the contracts awarded by Williams that raised eyebrows in the most recent state audit of the Treasurer’s Office was awarded to Wahby.”

Well, nobody has heard anything from anybody about Wahby demerits, except from the St. Louis American. We doubt if we ever will. Besides, Brian has been criticized by all sorts of people, and all of it just runs off his back. He has a smirk for everybody. All need to get on Brian’s bandwagon, for a better, more honest St. Louis.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Thanks a Bunch, Phyllis

Owners of Soulard bars with 3 a.m. closing licenses are the happiest of people these days, thanks to a gift from Seventh Ward Alderman Phyllis Young. Phyllis eliminated future competition for these late night bars by introduced legislation which would prevent additional 3 a.m. licenses from being granted. The legislation passed the B of A and is sitting on the Mayor’s desk, awaiting his signature, according to Phyllis.

"The alderwoman Phyllis Young, who represents Soulard, says crime has spiked around some of the Soulard bars with 3 a.m. licenses. Her proposal would not allow any new 3 a.m. bars south of Chouteau in Soulard. She says areas around 3 a.m. bars have more smash and grab thefts from cars," reports Lakisha Jackson, whose story titled "New Proposal would limit 3 a.m. bars in Soulard" was posted on the Fox2Now website on March 9, 2012.

Smash and grab? How about a couple of late night murders, stemming from the 3 a.m. license owned by the Social House of Soulard?

The story continues: "Young says most bar patrons in Soulard don’t cause problems but that crime seems to be greater around some clubs with three a-m licenses."

Bob Kraiberg, the Liquor License Commissioner, played this same game a number of years ago. At a Soulard Restoration Group meeting he stood up and rambled about this and that, and then said something to the effect that there are enough bars in Soulard, and he implied that he was not going to permit any more. Those attending were pleased and thanked him. The bar owners were pleased and thanked him, too, because it meant no new competition.

Of course, Bob was just playing to the audience, and more bars settled into the neighborhood.

Like Bob’s self-serving words, Phyllis’ meaningless piece of legislation does nothing to solve Soulard’s crime and bar problems. Her’s is a pretend solution. Just like she is a pretend alderperson. It reveals the bankruptcy of St. Louis leadership.

After the murder of Social House patron James Clavin in January, a Post-Dispatch story dated Jan. 26, 2012 ("St. Louis officials and Soulard nightclub meet after deadly shooting") contained the quote: "‘We’ve had it [Social House of Soulard] on the radar for awhile now," said City Operations Director Sam Dotson." One can only wonder: Did you salvage your radar from the Titanic? Does it need a tune up? Hello? Is anybody there?

The basic question is: Why are these places allowed to open in the first place? After the two murders of Social House customers (Clavin and Gary Patch), this bar/nightclub held a forum to "clear the air." Their lawyer got up on their stage and said, among other things, that because the bar was open late night, the area around the bar was safer, because people were out and about, thereby preventing crime.

What a whopper! Violent criminals don’t hang around the Holly Hills neighborhood, for example, at 2:30 in the morning, because pickings would be slim to nothing. But they sure do love Soulard, where there are always victims - and drunk, too - on the streets in the middle of the night. In fact, we have enough problems with the bars without 3 a.m. licenses.

Thanks to leadership’s inability to understand their job and a lack of any decisive plans - or even a clue, the only thing threatening the prosperity of our Soulard bars is more crime. Phyllis is taking care of new competition.

City Hall and our Alderperson don’t want to rock any boats. Instead, they give criminals a license to do their thing. This approach has backfired before, undermining residential and commercial assets and crushing real estate values. St. Louis should know all about that, but they have forgotten..

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Welcoming Oktoberfest

We heard that the Oktoberfest drunk is no longer welcome in Lyon Park, located between A-B and the Defense Mapping Agency south of Soulard. Apparently the Map Factory considered the Oktoberfest to be a "national security" problem, so they cartographed it off their front porch.

This was confirmed by Ninth Ward Alderman Kenneth Ortmann, who said that 2011 was the last year the Oktoberfest event would be allowed to use Lyon Park, and that Organizer/Owner John McKinstry would have to find another location.

One suggestion was that the festival move across the highway and find a new home in Cherokee Park, located in the Benton Park neighborhood. Commented Alderman Ortmann: "Over my dead body."

We sure wish Seventh Ward Alderman Phyllis Young was as forceful in giving the bum’s rush to those whose only intent is to exploit the neighborhood, make a mess and undermine any sense of community. Soulard Farmers Market put up with this pay-for-drunk and its turmoil for many years before Oktoberfest got the boot to Lyon Park two years ago, and Soulard residents have put up with Oktoberfest profiteer John McKinstry and his b.s. ("The only reason we put on Oktoberfest is to help the neighborhood") for the duration of this debacle with its associated trash and violence.

Read the SRG General Membership Meeting minutes for Feb. 1, 2012, under Old Business: "Soulard Oktoberfest has not paid SRG and that group does not currently have funds to pay us. John M invited to March 7 meeting to explain his plans for payment. Board to decide how to move forward."

In other words, McKinstry has not yet paid the SRG their cut for operating a booze booth at the 2011 Oktoberfest. We understand the cut amounts to around $7200. Could McKinstry be claiming that "I can’t pay you because a dingo ate my proceeds?" SRG gets no respect, and they don’t deserve any for being so stupid as to associate with that greedy clown, John M., as they call him. A ship of fools, gladly accepting the mooky end of the stick.

Meanwhile, where is this miserable event going to land? Back to the future at Soulard Farmers Market? In Forest Park? In Mayor Slay’s neighborhood? In the middle of the Mississippi River? Soulard gadfly Paul Kjorlie describes Oktoberfest as "the party that nobody wants," and he seems to have hit the nail on the head.

Addendum: The March 7 SRG meeting was a no show for John McKinstry and his money. Information is that he stiffed other non-profits ("thanks for the free labor, fools") who manned booths. If only we could remember what month Oktoberfest was held, we could calculate how many months have gone by without his paying his bills. Well, we are sure that things will be rectified by the next Oktoberfest. Actually, we plan to attend that one. For the frauleins!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Everything is Okay after Soulard Murder

Well, its back to business as usual here on Happy Island, after the murder of James M. Clavin was put in perspective and to bed, thanks to a Neighborhood Forum on Monday, January 30, sponsored and held at the Social House of Soulard, 1551 S. 7th St.

Inquiring readers may remember that Mr. Clavin ("beloved husband of Lisa Clavin (nee Bentrup), loving father of Henry and Nathan Clavin, dear son of Randy Clavin and Deborah Lietz, dear son-in-law of Robert and JoAnne Bentrup," etc., etc., as per the Kutis Funeral Home) was shot to death around 2:40 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012 in the 1500 block of S. 8th Street, in back of the Social House, which has a closing time of 3 a.m..

There were some calls for reining in the Social House after the murder. It seems that Gary Patch, 40, had been killed in September by a speeding vehicle driven by suspect Emmanuel Sanchez, 27, the result of some parking lot argument, possibly involving Social Club patrons. In addition, the police blotter reveals that there have been dozens of police complaints, responses, etc., stemming from patrons, nearby residents and others at this late closing nightclub. Also, there was extensive reporting of similar troubles at another nightclub, previously known as Lure and now appropriately named Amnesia, apparently owned by the same people but located in downtown St. Louis.

Not to worry, though. In lieu of displaying any leadership or showing any official resolve from City leaders, Soulard was granted this forum, a fulfilling event which settled all the dust.

The forum, scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m., opened with a very fine presentation by a fat faced lawyer representing the club. His basic message was: "shithappens." He went on the explain that the Social House benefits Soulard (and the City of St. Louis and its leadership) and that the objective of the owners was to make an evening at the Social House a pleasant experience. We certainly thank him for that, and we thank the owners for spending their money on a high-priced mouthpiece to present this message. Very impressive. The lawyer’s words were in no way condescending or self-serving. It should be noted that the owners, Aprille Trupiano and Josh Sample (according to the Post-Dispatch), showed their respect for neighborhood residents by not showing up at the forum.

The attorney explained that the Social House had nothing to do with the entire tragedy, taking a load off our minds. Some wag thought: with the record of Social House and Lure, why should we believe anything that comes out of your mouth, but that thought was quickly shelved. We were listening to people who display St. Louis integrity.

Next was a presentation from a friend of the deceased. This friend apparently had been out "partying" with Mr. Clavin that night. He actually got up on the Social House stage and detailed the evening from his perspective. He related that Mr. Clavin was on the street talking with a couple of ladies who had missed their ride home when some other gentlemen wearing masks or what-have-you came around a corner, had a brief conversation with Mr. Clavin, shot him and then scurried off into the night. Thus, the Social House was absolved of any involvement, was the message.

We cherish his words with all our heart, testimony from a close friend who was with Mr. Clavin at the end. If I lost a friend in these circumstances, I wouldn’t be returning to the scene to testify that, well, "except for that, we had a good time" and implying that "sure, I would come back to the Social House with some of my other friends." Thus, we offer our congratulations to this friend, and, as they say, "who needs enemies when you have friends like this?" I think that the Soulard Restoration Group and the City of St. Louis should name this individual an "honorary citizen of Soulard" and give him a bronzed, symbolic key to the neighborhood.

Then there was the testimony of a U.S. Army man, who had medical training. A Social House customer, he said that when he arrived at the side of Mr. Clavin, he recognized that there was nothing he could do. It was told to all that the U.S. Army man had served a couple of tours in Iraq. I think the intended message was that everything was done to help the dying and in a patriotic way, too. Missing was somebody waving the American flag on behalf of the Social House and a rousing rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" to support the Constitutional right of the Social House to run a raucous establishment, and the community be damned.

So we left, secure in the knowledge that the Social House was up and coming and that the City of St. Louis blessed this fine charade instead of doing anything substantive.

Post Script: It should be recorded that placid-faced Bob Kraiberg, City of St. Louis Liquor License Commissioner, was there, as was cherubic Brian Wahby, head of the City Democratic Committee, who worked the crowd and passed out cards advertising himself and his run for Treasurer of the City of St. Louis. Alderperson Phyllis Young was out of town, conveniently. End of adventure. Problem solved.