Monthly Archives: January 2014

SOTU 2014

In honor of this week’s State of the Union address by President Barack Obama, I have compiled some interesting related trivia for your perusal.  If you would like to join me, I will be at the Thurman Grill on Tuesday watching the speech and chatting with neighbors.

  • The shortest state of the Union message in terms of word count was the first: George Washington’s 1790 address weighed in at 1,089 words.
  • The longest in terms of words was Jimmy Carter’s final message, in January 1981. A written document rather than a speech, the report was 33,667 words long.
  • Two presidents–William Henry Harrison and James Garfield–never delivered such a message to Congress. Both died in office before they were able to.
  • The longest orally delivered speech (at least since they started tracking these things in 1966) was Bill Clinton’s January 2000 address, which clocked in at 1 hour, 28 minutes and 49 seconds. Incredibly, that speech was only 7,452 words long, not nearly as long as his 1995 talk, in which he jammed 9,190 words into 1 hour, 24 minutes and 58 seconds.

St. Louis City Aldermanic Meetings

I’m going to start posting the schedules and agendas (if available) of the Aldermanic meetings – that way you can scan for any items of interest or let me know if you have any questions.  (click on this link for more info) I could then route your questions to the right person or attend the meeting if I am able.  Increasing participation, through the exchange of information and communication that goes back and forth between government and citizens, is an important part of democracy; something that could be improved in St. Louis.  Meeting agendas and minutes are one way to open the door or at least peek through the window.  Please let me know if you think this service is useful – thanks.

Monday, Jan 27, 2014

ERS Board of Trustees

Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees | Meeting | Free

AGENDA

Tuesday, Jan 28, 2014

Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) Meeting

St. Louis Development Corporation | Meeting | Free

AGENDA

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2014

LRA Commission Meeting

Land Reutilization Authority | Meeting | Free

Housing, Urban Development & Zoning Meeting

Board of Aldermen | Aldermanic Committee Meeting | Free

Intergovernmental Affairs Meeting

Board of Aldermen | Aldermanic Committee Meeting | Free

Thursday, Jan 30, 2014

Ways & Means Committee Meeting

Board of Aldermen | Aldermanic Committee Meeting | Free

Review the Mid Year City Budget Reports from Paul Payne.

Streets, Traffic & Refuse Committee Meeting

Board of Aldermen | Aldermanic Committee Meeting | Free

Friday, Jan 31, 2014

Aldermanic Full Board Meeting

Board of Aldermen | Aldermanic General Meeting | Free

Monday, Jan 27, 2014

ERS Board of Trustees

Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees | Meeting | Free

AGENDA

Tuesday, Jan 28, 2014

Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) Meeting

St. Louis Development Corporation | Meeting | Free

AGENDA

Enhanced Enterprise Zone Board Month Meeting

St. Louis Development Corporation | Meeting | Free

Meeting cancelled. The next regular meeting is scheduled for February 25, 2014.

Planned Industrial Expansion Authority Monthly Board Meeting

St. Louis Development Corporation | Meeting | Free

Meeting cancelled. The next regular meeting is scheduled for February 25, 2014.

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2014

LRA Commission Meeting

Land Reutilization Authority | Meeting | Free

Housing, Urban Development & Zoning Meeting

Board of Aldermen | Aldermanic Committee Meeting | Free

Intergovernmental Affairs Meeting

Board of Aldermen | Aldermanic Committee Meeting | Free

Thursday, Jan 30, 2014

Ways & Means Committee Meeting

Board of Aldermen | Aldermanic Committee Meeting | Free

Review the Mid Year City Budget Reports from Paul Payne.

Streets, Traffic & Refuse Committee Meeting

Board of Aldermen | Aldermanic Committee Meeting | Free

Friday, Jan 31, 2014

Aldermanic Full Board Meeting

Board of Aldermen | Aldermanic General Meeting | Free

Board of Aldermen AGENDA NO. 28

Board of Aldermen AGENDA NO. 28
January 17, 2014
1
1. Roll Call
2. Prayer
3. Announcement of any Special Order of the Day.
4. Introduction of Honored Guest.
5. Approval of Minutes – December 13, 2013
6. Report of City Officials.
a) Report of the Clerk of the Board of Aldermen
B.B.#236CS
b) Office of the Mayor
B.B.#236CS Kennedy 1/14/14 69665
c) Office of the President
none
7. Petitions and Communications.
none
AGENDA NO. 28
January 17, 2014
2
8. Board Bills for Perfection – Informal Calendar.
PARK B.B.#185CS – Ingrassia/Boyd ? An ordinance pertaining to all
parks which are owned and maintained by the City; prohibiting
any persons not accompanying a child from being in or upon
the confines of areas designated as children’s play areas;
containing an emergency clause.
WM B.B.#216 – Kennedy/Williamson/French/Ingrassia/Carter/
Tyus/Arnowitz/Pres. Reed ? An ordinance, recommended by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, authorizing a supplemental appropriation; amending Ordinance 69432, commonly referred to as the City of St. Louis Annual Operating Plan for Fiscal Year 2013?2014; appropriating and reducing in the amount of Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars ($250,000) from the Water Division; and containing an emergency clause.
HUDZ B.B.#226 – Roddy ? An ordinance approving a blighting study and redevelopment plan for 4010?66 West Pine Blvd./26?38 N. Sarah Ave./4001?13 Laclede Ave.; and containing a severability clause.
AGENDA NO. 28
January 17, 2014
3
8. Board Bills for Perfection Informal – (cont.)
HUDZ B.B.#235 – Roddy ? An Ordinance recommended by the Planning Commission, to change the zoning of property as indicated on the Central West End Form?Based District Map, from “NCT1” Neighborhood Center Type 1 Zone to the “NGT3” Neighborhood General Type 3 Zone in City Block 3920 (4054?66 West Pine), and to further change the overall boundaries of the “NCT1” Neighborhood Center Type 1 Zone and the “NGT3” Neighborhood General Type 3 Zone; and containing an emergency clause.
PE B.B.#229 – Boyd/Florida/Williamson/Baringer/Villa/Ingrassia ? An Ordinance submitting to the qualified voters of the City a proposed amendment to the Charter of the City adding Paragraph (e) to Section 4 of Article XVIII of the Charter of the City relating to the granting of a veterans’ preference to applicants who successfully pass examinations for civil service positions; providing for an election to be held thereon and for the manner of voting thereat; and containing an emergency clause.
9. Board Bills for Third Reading ? Informal Calendar.
none
10. Resolutions – Informal Calendar.
none Continue reading

Welcome

I want to extend a welcome to Peter Merideth as the newest member of the Eighth Ward Independent Democratic Association.  He replaces out going board member Jeff Krull.  Peter is a Shaw resident and an attorney/community developer at GroundUp STL.

Mo. Senator is calling for the resignation of state education commissioner

By JORDAN SHAPIRO  Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — A Democratic lawmaker called on Missouri’s education commissioner Chris Nicastro to resign or be fired Tuesday, accusing Nicastro of being “less than truthful” about her involvement with a ballot measure that would end teacher tenure and require student performance to guide employment decisions.

Nicastro also has been criticized for the way she negotiated a contract with a consulting firm last year to improve the failing Kansas City schools. The bid went to a firm that was nearly three times as expensive as the closest competitor.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a University City Democrat, introduced a non-binding measure Tuesday calling for Nicastro to resign or be fired by the State Education Board.

“Reports have indicated that the state education commissioner has engaged in blatantly unethical practices,” said Chappelle-Nadal. “She has misused her position, severely damaging both the reputation and effectiveness of the department.”

Nicastro responded by saying she was “committed to carrying on the work that we’re doing on behalf of kids in Missouri and that’s what I come to work every day to do, and that’s what I’ll keep doing.”

Nicastro has been under fire from Democratic lawmakers and teachers’ unions for her involvement for the ballot proposal that would end teacher tenure and require student performance to guide employment decisions. State email records show Nicastro met with an advocate of the ballot initiative in 2012, suggested specific wording and reviewed a final draft of the initiative before it was filed this March with the secretary of state’s office.

Nicastro insisted she took no position on the initiative but provided the group information just as she would with anyone proposing a change in state law.

Teachers were angered because the measure would have ended tenure protections for teachers and other certified school staff by limiting their contracts to three years. Starting in July 2015, all public school districts would need to use a staff evaluation that relies on “student performance data” to guide decisions on promoting, demoting, firing and paying personnel.

In Tuesday’s resolution, Chappelle-Nadal wrote that Nicastro’s advice to the sponsors of that initiative an example of “disregarding facts and truth in favor of political expediency.”

Nicastro has also been criticized for the way in which she negotiated a contract with a consulting firm last year to improve Kansas City schools. The state awarded the contract to Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust, or CEE-Trust, even though its bid was more costly than other submissions.

In a letter to the editor published by The Kansas City Star earlier this month, Nicastro defended her actions but said “perhaps the process could and should have been handled differently.”

“Even so, it doesn’t change the fact that the children and families in every community in the state deserve high quality schools. We need all voices to focus on that most essential issue.”

Nicastro was named education commissioner in 2009 and is the first woman to hold the position since the office was created in 1947.

Book Recommendations Requested

I enjoy reading biographies.  I think we can all learn something from the experiences of others and to that, have decided to focus on biographies for my reading list this year (shh, don’t tell my historical fictions).  So far, I’ve read about Chief Red Cloud, Gandhi, Mao,and am working on Malcolm X.  Do you have any favorite biographies that you could recommend?  I appreciate your help in filling out my reading list!

New Anti-College Scholarship Program – Learn a Trade

I graduated from Iowa State University with a B.S. in Biology.  I worked for Pioneer Seed researching disease resistance in corn, then Asgrow Seeds (which was bought out by Monsanto) screening for genetic traits in soybeans, then Monsanto’s molecular breeding department (GMOs).  I changed directions after being laid off during one of Monsanto’s numerous reorganizations, and started my own business doing historical research.

But I’ve secretly always wanted to work with my hands.  During summers, I worked for a local shop planing lumber, cutting and gluing decorative woods, and sanding (I still have the scars on my hand from those evil orbital sanders) clipboards, trivets, napkin holders, and lazy susans.  I enjoyed changing my own oil in my 1991 Olds Cutlass Ciera (thanks Dad).  I’ve enjoyed the times when I’ve worked in the food service industry and the morning shift unloading and stocking the shelves at Target.  So this article piqued my interest.

Mike Rowe (of my family’s beloved show, Dirty Jobs fame) has started a scholarship program for high schoolers to learn a trade instead of going into traditional college.  Through his celebrity channels, he has launched an enormous campaign to highlight the importance of hard work and what it means for the American economy.

“Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe unveils anti-college scholarship program

Do you know a trade?  Would you want to change your path or learn new marketable skills?  Let me know what you think.  I’m keeping my options open.

Are Meetings Outdated?

With the rise of instant communication and informational lookups through social media and technology, are meetings becoming outdated?  It used to be that meeting with a group face-to-face was the way to stay connected and informed in a community.  Communication was verbal and you took notes on the paper agendas – if you weren’t there, you were likely to miss out on some relevant information.  Now it seems that fewer and fewer people are attending ‘traditional’ meetings.  Some still value the personal contact and interactions that traditional meetings can give, but many others find ways to access the information through technology, not wanting to sit through the agenda of a meeting.  Is there a way to blend technology into a meeting format to appeal to all those above?  A hybrid meeting that will allow for personal contact but keep people informed and engaged at their technology comfort level?  I’ve been thinking about some options:

  • Sending out an electronic agenda with meeting minutes/reports via email
  • Uploading those minutes/reports to an online platform for public record
  • Broadcast meeting via webcam AND use Twitter to allow back and forth comments from online watchers
  • Create discussion boards to followup on action items and collect feedback anytime.  The agenda can bring these comments/discussion to the next meeting

These are just a few things that I think would enhance the traditional meeting and allow for more interaction between those who want to become more involved and those who are core members.  I don’t think face-to-face meetings should ever be put to sleep but want to create an evolving environment that will retain interest and involvement.  I’m sure there are more paths to take – what do you think about this topic and how to create a hybrid meeting?