09 December 2008

Blagojevich's Words Strike Back

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested this morning at his Chicago home by Federal authorities in connection with an alleged scheme to sell the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Law enforcement took Governor Blagojevich into custody just after 6 a.m. after a telephone call awakening the second successive sitting Illinois governor to be arrested on conspiracy charges. In an afternoon media conference, federal authorities stated that they took the governor away in handcuffs without waking his children, but that his wife, the daughter of Chicago alderman Richard Mell, was aware of the arrest. The governor's top aide, John Harris was also arrested in connection with the allegations that Blagojevich wanted to benefit from his ability to appoint the next Senator. The 76-page brief released showed that the two men engaged in conversations which led to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud and solicitation of bribery.
The media release from the office of the U.S. Attorney - Northern District of Illinois outlines most of the charges: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/iln/pr/chicago/2008/pr1209_01.pdf

This afternoon, Blagojevich appeared before U.S. District Judge Nan Nolan who released the Illinois governor on 45-hundred dollars cash bond.

The Governor's office issued a statement saying the "allegations do nothing to impact the services, duties or function of the state."

Governor Blagojevich predecessor, George Ryan, is serving a six-year ;prison sentence after being convicted on federal charges of racketeering and fraud.

08 December 2008

A-B/InBev: 1400 Layoffs Announced

What's to say that Anheuser-Busch isn't about to be surpassed by another local brewery as the largest holder of market share in St. Louis?

That thought was not even a glimmer in the eyes of most St. Louisans until earlier this year when InBev offered and then bought the world's largest brewer from its local owners. Now, the news comes today from the newly-named A-B/InBev that 14-hundred salaried jobs will be eliminated due to the merger of A-B and InBev --- approximately 75-percent of those positions will come from St. Louis.

The InBev brew-crew announcing today that they would eliminate 415 contractor positions and not fill 250 company-wide U.S. jobs which had been open and unfilled. In a statement released today, the president of Anheuser-Busch, David A. Peacock said the moves were being made to "keep the business strong and competitive" and added "this is a necessary but difficult move for the company" and further stated that the company "will assist in the transition for these employees as much as possible."

The media release also stated:
"The company will provide employees severance pay and pension benefits based on age and years of service. Employees also will be offered additional benefits during the transition, including outplacement services. The announced workforce reductions are in addition to the more than 1,000 U.S. salaried employees company-wide who accepted the company’s voluntary enhanced retirement program, which closed November 14 and provided special benefits for eligible employees retiring by the end of 2008. The retirements were part of planned cost reductions of 1 billion dollars (U.S.) called project Blue Ocean, announced by Anheuser-Busch in June 2008. At that time, the company announced plans to reduce its company-wide U.S. full-time salaried workforce of 8,600 by 10 to 15 percent before the year end. The company’s other Blue Ocean cost reductions remain on track.
The plans announced today are an integral part of the at least 1.5 billion dollars (U.S.) in annual synergies identified by InBev when it announced its combination with Anheuser-Busch in July. The company is confident in its ability to achieve against this synergies projection by 2011. Going forward, in addition to the priority to continue to grow the top line, Anheuser-Busch InBev will focus on its goals of integrating the businesses, delivering the expected synergies and deleveraging the company."



["deliveraging the company", eh? Is that delivering the enraging of those who respected the company?]

So, now come those questions about who will step-up to grab the largest market share now that the "local favorite" is no longer "locally owned and operated". For decades it was assumed that A-B would never surrender the local customers. However since this deal has now started to show its teeth on the local economy (most of the A-B jobs to be eliminated will either be gone by the end of 2008 or certainly by the end of 2009), the customers will start to find other brewskies...locally-brewed beers seem to be favored by the general public. As the only large option for more than a decade was the St. Louis Brewery and Tap Room's Schlafly Beers [which has become the city's only large and locally-owned beermaker --- thank you very much Tom Schlafly]. the Schlafly labeled products made many endroads and was found in bars and on grocers' shelves, alongside the Buds, Michelobs, Coors, Miller Lite, imports and other domestics such as Sam Adams and Kansas City's Boulevard (I'm rather partial to their wheat and the Schlafly Hefeweizen). But in more recent days, O'Fallon Brewery (St. Charles County) has found its way onto the store shelves and in bars and pubs. This, and several other locally brewed and marketed beers, are setting up something different: the brew-ha-ha over which company stands to benefit the MOST from the loss of A-B jobs. See how this works yet?

By the time I got to publishing this on here, I'd read several online comments in regard to the announcement today --- and there were comments of "buy Schlafly" and "Schlafly and O'Fallon" --- which should come as no surprise to most St. Louis beer drinkers, and even those who don't drink the beer but follow the business news.

What's next?

In the coming weeks, the local market share of A-B will likely diminish --- again. "Again" is a statement because after the city's A-B beer distributor locked out the union workers a couple of years ago, they struggled to regain some of their business. And it appears that St. Louis beer drinkers have a better memory than those atop A-B/In-Bev would think. The question is --- will they retain the largest market share, or will A-B/In-Bev find themselves down a few notches by mid-summer 2009? There is no crystal ball on this.

So, who is up for a locally-produced Schlafly Hefeweizen or Oktoberfest or Pale Ale, or an O'Fallon Gold, or a Morgan Street Honey Wheat or Irish Stout, or a Trailhead Brewery Blonde Ale? It could be literally thousands of St. Louisans who will claim to be "fed up with InBev" and won't buy their beer. If that is the case, then there are a few local breweries who may have to ramp-up their production even in these tough economic times. Certainly whoever will be marketing their local products in the most outstanding way (read: spend lots and lots of money on advertising) will likely see some benefit from the action that locals will say was perpetrated by InBev.

05 November 2008

Election Cycle Ends: Problems Remain

It's Wednesday morning and you're a customer of the Metro Bus and MetroLink system. As you run out the door to the corner where your 5:12AM bus picks you up on the first leg of your journey, you pick up your St. Louis Post-Dispatch and start thumbing through the pages. You suddenly realize that because there are thousands of selfish St. Louisans, you may soon be unable to go to work at the job you have had for several years. Yes, in troubled economic times, the voters of St. Louis became even MORE SELFISH than ever before by defeating Proposition M which would have helped fund the system which has been riddled by problems during the recession as well as numerous fiscal gaffes BEFORE the economy started hitting the skids. The problem now is that Metro will begin massive scale cutbacks, including layoffs of personnel, fewer buses and trains running --- period--- which will, in turn, cause ridership to decline. Meanwhile prices for ridership will skyrocket. The prices will go up incrementally higher for those who can least afford to have their transportation costs go up than the cost would have been to those driving automobiles, trucks, SUV's and even scooters IF ONLY the voters had passed Proposition M in the first place.

This is not a test, people. This is reality. Do you know what this means? Well --- to explain what it will mean, let me introduce you to Rider Strongman, a St. Louisan. Mr. Strongman is in his early 40s and has had a good job in the past where he made more than $40000 in a year. But along with the industry in which he was a highly-skilled worker and was even sought-after by some who knew him "back in the day", times have changed for Rider Strongman. He hasn't worked full-time in more than three years. He hasn't held a full-time job in his chosen industry for four years, unless you count the time he spent working for a company which failed to pay him for 75% of his work earlier this year. You can hardly blame him for leaving that situation, could you? After all, he had to take a bus, a MetroLink train, and another train just to get to THAT job, located in the metro east, and did so for four months --- paying out of pocket for the monthly bus pass which allowed him easy access to his job location. Lacking access to a job location is not always the case now, but once the new cuts go into effect, this is something with which Mr. Strongman will be forced to deal. He'll be walking even more than he has in the past because the buses will run less frequently AND there will be FAR FEWER LINES running in the first place. Rain or shine, he'll want to be on time, but with the shutdown of certain lines, he may not be able to GET a job outside of the 270 Loop. That's because Metro is likely going to shut down ALL bus service outside of I-270 because of the projected budget shortfall for 2009.

Now --- just a moment, people. Don't rush off to another blog site just yet. This is only STARTING TO GET INTERESTING.

Why will 2009 be even more interesting in St. Louis because Proposition M was voted down??? It will be the difficulty with which so many businesses will be able to hire people at barely above minimum wage because those workers who have traditionally been able to work for less (and get to work at all) will not be able to afford bus fare and train fare once the rates have increased beyond their means. Thus, unemployment goes up in St. Louis. The jobless will be forced to find alternative means for income including applications for public assistance for food and shelter, not to mention all those unemployment payments coming out of "the system". These (to borrow Senator McCain's oft-used phrase) my friends, are going to become harsh realities to all in the St. Louis area.

Ladies and Gentlemen of St. Louis --- the economy may be showing signs of improving in some locations, but you've just about signed the paperwork that the St. Louis economy is going to show signs of grinding to a near halt.

As Mr. Strongman knows --- like the Metro Bus and MetroLink rider from the first paragraph who sat in his bus seat reading the disparaging news in the morning paper --- because of the selfish voters who cannot believe that the problems of this region will be compounded if they let those who use public transportation down, filling jobs and being able to get less-expensive workers to work will become more of a burden. It didn't seem to matter to the voters on Tuesday. You see, these two people see that the voters with their own transportation have spoken loud and clear: "WE can get to work. WE don't care if someone else CAN'T get there. THEY probably don't want to work anyway."

Selfish and mindless, the voters have spoken.


If you are someone who voted against Proposition M, please state your reasons to Mr. Strongman and the tens-of-thousands of commuters who depend upon Metro service to keep their costs reasonable.

Here's your chance to sound-off against Proposition M --- but you have to be compelling for anyone to believe your argument. Send your emails to newsstlouis@gmail.com and we'll publish your comments as you sent them.


18 October 2008

Parking On Gravois at Oldenburg

Neighbors of popular restaurant Syberg's along Gravois say they do not blame the restaurant for the problems that their customers have made for drivers. But those same neighbors say they would like to see St. Louis County Police issue a few tickets and perhaps make some arrests of select, inconsiderate, restaurant customers who park along Gravois in the NO PARKING ZONE areas just north of the intersection with Oldenburg Avenue.

A quick view of the area in question shows the concerns of the residents are valid, and, although when News St. Louis visited the corner there were no illegally parked vehicles along Gravois on this particular night, we did observe one pickup truck illegally parked halfway in the first parking stall and halfway onto the SIDEWALK.

A followup visit is scheduled soon. We'll keep you posted to see if police show up, or if the inconsiderate vehicle owners win and continue parking illegally.

06 October 2008

A Monday News-In-Review Moment

Over the weekend, St. Louisans had many choices of things to do, places to go, people to see, and weather that was warmer than normal.

On Sunday afternoon, The Fabulous Fox Theatre was the place to be for the 2:00 pm Stan Kann Memorial and tribute. The Mighty Wurlitzer Organ was the centerpiece for the hour-long remembrance ceremony of a man who embraced music as a child and was the face of theatre organ enthusiasts all over the planet. Many family members, close friends, acquaintences from the Fox and the St. Louis Theater Organ Society - which by the way has a wonderful tribute page on their website to the late entertainer - and fans were given the opportunity to view some video and film presentations showing Stan Kann in various situations from performances at the Fox to his many appearances on The Tonight Show, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, and other on-screen and personal appearances. Mary Strauss, Marty Bronson and numerous others paid tribute to Stan Kann's wit, laughter, and --- chiefly important --- talent.
I suggest putting his name into a search engine and watching some of the videos that prove the man was a natural showman. There are things we learn only after we have lost someone of Stan Kann's caliber --- take the moment and see why so many of us who knew him found him to be genuine, kind, and someone who could brighten up a moment with his charm. And if you were someone who didn't know him from the theatre organ, you may have been a vacuum (cleaner)collector --- as Stan was one of the only people in the entire country who could say he'd been on national TV shows with his collection. In several online videos such as those on YouTube, you can see his collection from the collectors' standpoint or in his comic adventures on those national hookups.
Stan Kann was 83 years young. And memories of his life will be with thousands of us well beyond our own years, thanks to technology.

Did you get to the Soulard Oktoberfest this year? A great weekend of weather kept those working busier than ever, and fans of beer and fun and gehmuetlichkeit could not have been more pleased than to have the mild temperatures and dry conditions. No matter which part of the Soulard Oktoberfest you may have attended, there was Oktoberfest music with German Bands and great party bands such as Brave Combo as well.
There are concerns being raised by some that the Soulard Oktoberfest is growing too fast. That having been stated by just a few locals, it doesn't appear that there were many problems, as a quick view of other local news sites and blogs didn't show any serious crimes associated with this year's event. The weather may have played a part in the largest attendance in the short life of this traditional outdoor event.


It's Monday: the stock prices around the globe are in a state of flux. Having watched the Asian markets and European index fall during Monday trading, Wall Street is following suit.

###Now may be the time to get a second job, if you can find one. The unemployment claims have been steadily rising along with the actual rate of unemployment. Observers are pointing out that many people who have been underemployed after losing their primary income and some who have been truly unemployed had not filed claims or they had been denied by government agencies over the past two years.

STL: Locally, those who are employed at the former AG Edwards, now Wachovia Securities, are watching to see what moves are made on behalf of the banking arm of giant Wachovia. Last week the company was approached by Citigroup and eventually by Wells Fargo as those firms jockied position to take over the less-than-stellar Wachovia Bank, and perhaps the entire group. It has been speculated that the securities division based in St. Louis at the former AG Edwards HQ could be the prime reason that Wachovia Bank has been able to stave off insolvency, although if there have been money exchanges between the branches of Wachovia it has not been widely reported. The securities division could be spun-off and be a stand-alone business, or it may be absorbed in whichever deal is accepted by the government entities overseeing large banking and securities business. A judge put a temporary stop on the later proposed deal by Wells Fargo after the Citigroup protested that their bid was not being given time to be properly negotiated.
Be assured that law firms are filing papers and boards are talking money while Wachovia workers feel held hostage by uncertainty.


Eyes are on THE MOONLIGHT RESTAURANT in Fosterburg/Alton IL. The Castelli family members who have been managing and operating the lone location on Fosterburg Road has a bid from other family members to takeover the 71-year-old Italian family restaurant --- but there may be a rough patch today. Alton Mayor Donald Sandidge has been party to a 5:00 pm deadline today for the Castelli's to pay thousands of dollars in owed fees for services ranging from sewage to business taxes on the restaurant. Should that deadline pass without the debts paid, the city of Alton would likely revoke the business' liquor license for an unspecified amount of time. We'll keep a keen eye on this story. It has been a personal favorite of many in the metropolitan area, including the chief editor of News St. Louis, who celebrated his birthday dinner there this summer.


Congratulations to the Mizzou fans who have reason to celebrate the first gridiron victory on the road at Lincoln, Nebraska, in 30 years. 52 - 17 --- many Cornhuskers fans must be thinking they are in the twilight zone. Meanwhile, Missouri fans who believe in jinxes are hopeful that a top-ranking does not come until the final week of the college football season. It would be nice to have a national-champion in the University of Missouri-Columbia.

01 October 2008

It Takes Time And $$$$$$ For Make-A-Wish Foundation

The story:

The flooding associated with the remnants of Hurricane Ike is striking hard at the purse strings of individuals, families, businesses, and even non-profit charities. There have been numerous stories published in the regional and local newspapers and online blogs as well as on television and radio since that fateful day, but none appear to have been hit with any more devastating a blow as the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Missouri, whose office suffered severe damage. More importantly, they lost their furniture, tens of thousands of dollars in electronic equipment, office supplies, computers, and other items.

Thanks to a news story in the St. Louis Business Journal, we have learned that the community and those associated with the organization can say "thank you" to THF Realty for helping this outstanding charity with the issue of where to "rebuild the basics" of the organization's office while the building on Rock Hill is inspected to see what, if any, structural damage occurred on September 14th when more than five feet of water inundated the building housing the St. Louis and Missouri Chapter HQ for Make-A-Wish Foundation.

There are more details I plan to learn about this story, but here are a few basics. The Make-A-Wish Foundation helps families with those children stricken with a critical illness. Often it is a rare disease which may be incurable or inoperable. This foundation is well-liked by the media, by those who donate money and time and materials, and especially by those families who have been given a once-in-a-brief-lifetime gift such as a trip to Disney World for that one last trip before death strikes. So --- what can one do? Perhaps it is difficult with the unemployment rate at more than SEVEN percent in the region, but you could possibly donate money. You can find out more about the charity online at http://mo.wish.org for the Missouri Chapter, and if you want details on the St. Louis Chapter office (which appears to not be altogether working, perhaps because of the flood) you can see more facts online at http://stlouis.wish.org/about/facts.html and you can donate by phone by calling 314-918-9474.

Although the organization is temporarily being housed in Clayton, the mailing address remains:

Make-A-Wish Foundation
1324 N. Rock Hill Road
St. Louis, MO 63124

They will be receiving mail at the Rock Hill Road location during the cleanup and reorganization of the Missouri and St. Louis Chapter offices. However, as pointed out, THF Realty has donated temporary office space at 8251 Maryland Avenue in Clayton --- that's roughly across the street from the parking lot at Brown Shoe HQ and the next block down & across from the Clayton Straub's, for those who need landmarks. If you or your office has office supplies, fax machines, copiers, computers, furniture, make sure you contact the Make-A-Wish Foundation, because they'll need them to rebuild what water has taken away. Call them at 314-918-9474 for further information.

Also, if there is any way to come through by donating items for their upcoming "Wish Gala" on November 1st, find a way to do that. The charity lost ALL of their auction items stored in the flood-ravaged building.

It is in times like these when one should be content to have a roof overhead and be healthy enough to aid organizations like this one who grant wishes to critically ill children in what could be some darker hours. They tell me the wishes will continue to be granted for the kids even while the cleanup and rebuilding of the office is in progress.

My view:

If all I do is my small share, it just doesn't seem enough --- so I hope you are able to contribute and make their plight less strained. The Make-A-Wish Foundation in St. Louis has strained enough of those items in the waterlogged building since that fateful September Sunday.

News St. Louis

30 September 2008

Legendary St. Louisan Stan Kann Dies

Because this is both a news site and a blog, I am able to write something that is meaningful and columnist-like, not just simple news. But it starts with sad news.

One of America's treasures has died.

Stan Kann grew up in St. Louis, and like any kid of his day, took music lessons which led to him playing in the orchestra at his alma mater high school, Soldan. He found his trade in music --- he was a born performer and showman. But what most people don't know outside of St. Louis unless they are dedicated to one particular form of music is that Stan Kann, who died Monday at age 83, was among the most prolific musical artists of his genre, not just of his generation.

It is true that many who read news on the internet regularly may not know the name Stan Kann. However, there is a group of Americans who know the man as a legendary "theatre organist" and will mark the passing of this short giant of a rare art form.

Stan Kann - the man - lived a long and somewhat storied life. In and out of the spotlight whether plying his trade by playing his music or simply having a conversation, he had a larger-than-life personality despite being short in stature. It was his smile, incomparable laugh, and fun personality that apparently struck someone in TV land just right. Mr. Kann's story would be incomplete without talking about his appearances on the "Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson" throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. On the tube he was Stan Kann the guy with a collection of vacuum cleaners which usually went comically haywire once they were plugged in for a demonstration. But unfortunately, Johnny and the Tonight Show Orchestra didn't have Stan play a theatre organ while guesting on the program. That means most of America never got to know one of the premiere musicians of the THEATRE. And when we say "theatre" in association with Stan Kann we don't mean the orchestra pits on Broadway --- but New York City played a part in his days as a "theatre organist".

In his younger days: Stan Kann had studied organ in St. Louis at Washington University, and when he visited Radio City Music Hall, he saw the massive theatre organ inside and made a mental note. The impression gave him an idea and upon his return to the gateway city he talked with the owner of the Fox Theatre in St. Louis and shortly thereafter became the regular organist. Most people who attended movies at the Fox from the 1950s through the 1970s, and again from the 1980s to the 21st Century when Kann was occasionally on the Fabulous Fox schedule, realized that Stan Kann could hold an audience spellbound through the magic of the mighty Wurlitzer organ with its ranks hidden deep behind the walls of the proud performance house. But one must realize that his talent to perform music along with a silent movie made him stand out. Yet, Stan gave even more of himself than just his musical talents. He was also the man who delivered the gag jokes for the audience --- as his boss and friend Mary Strauss would have him dress up in costumes which went with the them of the movies being shown. And his love of the laughs, the love of the theatre itself, and the heart he showed to his friends and acquaintences was evident nearly every week at the Fox Theatre. That's because he frequently worked as part of the staff who helped give public tours. It is obvious to most who knew Stan Kann that he would not and could not bring himself to actually retire because his work was never completely finished. There was always a plan for the next day, the next week, and the next weekend, if not further down the road.

It would be easy to stop any news article or column without discussing the organ with all its literal bells and whistles and drums and cymbals in addition to the hundreds of pipes, but it bears mentioning that to master the organ at the Fox one has to deal with a long delay of perhaps three or four seconds between the time you press the keys or the foot pedals and the time the sound actually comes out into the audience. It's like talking on the radio with a delay unit "on" all the time and wearing headphones listening to the delayed broadcast. It's NOT EASY.

Okay, when it comes to having known Stan Kann, I am one of the luckier ones. A person who grows up with music in their life will always appreciate it. I grew up with musical parents who just happened to know Stan Kann, so I was exposed to his performances my entire life. And I have heard hundreds of theatre organ performances by dozens of organists. The craft of playing the theater organ or theatre organ (you decide how you wish to spell it, but it'll always be theatre when I write it) is unique and --- many would say --- not easy to master. Stan Kann was more than a mere master at the organ in St. Louis and many of the other theatres worldwide. He could make it sing bigger than an entire orchestra. What he pulled out of the ranks and chambers could put you in a trance, with the exceptional personal compositions he played with a silent movie.

In fact, silent movies will NEVER be the same in St. Louis without Stan Kann. A memory I will treasure will be the time in 1989 when he performed for the silent movie "Phantom of the Opera" starring the late Lon Chaney. One of my friends was a fervent fan of the Andrew Lloyd Webber version of the classic story - and I made sure to pointedly tell her to see this special event: it was the anniversary of the opening of the Fox. Stan had a musical treat planned, weaving his way through some of the Webber music in the pre-movie concert, also playing several of his favorites for the theatre organ --- mostly songs from the early 20th Century for an audience which may have been born and raised then. Although we attended separately, I saw my friend during the intermission and she was smiling. I knew I had help hook another person on the interpretation of the silent film whose score was being performed by Stan Kann. By the way, Stan Kann not only performed it --- he was the man who wrote the score.

Stan Kann was someone whom you could meet and find interesting and likeable. Some would say he was a bit quirky with his love of the unusual and antiques. But it is meant to be that one of the greatest memories St. Louisans will have --- if they were fortunate enough to catch Stan Kann in concert --- is that little guy at the keyboard of the Mighty Wurlitzer organ at the Fox Theatre, making music surge throughout the seating, filling our nights with sounds that sometimes brought the silent pictures to life. Even if you never saw him perform for a silent film, and you saw him play the organ, you somehow knew you were witnessing something extraordinairy.

And so many in St. Louis, in Hollywood, and points across the U. S. were treated to his great talent at a keyboard, chiefly in a manner that gave people laughs and smiles. Stan Kann cannot be memorialized without adding that if you saw him once, you likely smiled wide for at least a long moment.


Sure, there will be some who label Stan Kann as a comic or silly man --- his vacuum cleaner joking was more than just a routine, it was part of who he was. But to many of us who knew the musician, Stan Kann will always be the best theatre organist who ever performed with a silent film.

22 September 2008

400 Mascoutah Owners Refile Proposal With Belleville

Two owners of a building in Belleville who had their proposal voted down once by aldermen, are coming back to the city with an altered-hours plan to open a neighborhood cafe. Angela Prosser and Mike Lieb have filed the paperwork and are hoping to see the proposed Cafe 400 through to the aldermanic council again, perhaps with a different result than the vote on September 15th. Just a couple of weeks ago the owners found out that their initial proposal to change the zoning on the big brick building and former bakery from a residential building to commercial had been approved by Belleville's zoning commission, setting up what turned out to be a lopsided vote by aldermen against the change. Neighborhood residents who went before the council were split about the use of the building as a commercial entity, but it appears that some in the area have softened on their stance, including some members of a local historic preservation group. Now, the couple is on hold to see whether the requested variance is allowed in the next series of votes. We'll keep you posted.

17 September 2008

New Belleville Cafe? Not Yet Says Council

When someone starts a news-intensive site or blog, you expect to hear from people when you openly ask for their stories. This story is about a building in Belleville which was built for a prominent business man around 100 years ago. More recently, the building was a tavern with a less-than-stellar reputation in its part of town. But it is also a story about those who purchased that same property with hopes to reopen the building as a nice neighborhood cafe. But it seems, also, to be about the awareness of the project and how it may be misunderstood by neighbors, city officials, and civic groups.

THE (not-so-abridged) STORY:

A recent Zoning Board recommendation in Belleville to the city's council was to approve the change of zoning to a building at 400 Mascoutah Avenue from residential to commercial. The full Belleville city council met on Monday, September 15,and after a discussion and public hearing in which two more residents spoke against the zoning change than in favor of the proposal --- the full board voted on the variance issue. Certainly the 4 - 2 vote by the zoning commission sounded favorable. However the owners of that building, which once housed a bakery a century ago, now have their hands full because the aldermanic council voted 14 to 1 AGAINST the variance which would have resulted in an operational neighborhood cafe.

For now, there sits a vacant historic building in a residential neighborhood.

Angela Prosser and Mike Lieb have names. They have an all-American dream to own their own business. They bought a large brick structure at 400 Mascoutah Avenue in Belleville with plans to fix up what was most recently a tavern that had run its course and transform the building into a local cafe. Unlike the tavern, they figured it would be easy to open in a nice neighborhood if they were serving sandwiches, soups, hot dogs, ice cream and other desserts, perhaps coffee and teas. Like any entrepreneurial group, they hope to make enough money to offset their plans which include the rehabilitation of the entire building so they may also live in the upstairs apartment. Angela told News St. Louis before the Monday night meeting that their plans had not yet stalled, but added that they ran into some opposition by select neighbors. She also said that in Bob Blaies and Paul Seibert, the two Ward Six alderman, they received no support.

Prosser says she and Lieb are apparently are not the only business people who have bought a property located within Belleville in recent months and found a possible flaw in local legislation. She maintains others with the same entrepreneurial spirit sought to purchase "empty commercial buildings (all over) in Belleville that can not be financed by...banks because of the zoning." And she maintains that many of those buildings "sit in limbo, unusable," and believes the reason is because "zoning laws changed" each commercial building to residential. In the case of the potential "Cafe 400", Angela Prosser says she and Mike Lieb "asked the city before we bought the building if there were any known issues --- and they said if we did not have a liquor license they saw no issue." It is her opinion that the city officials were saying "They thought it was a good idea." But now Prosser says they later were told by the city that since the property had been vacant for more than a year, 400 Mascoutah had automatically reverted to an "A1 residential property" and she adds that it was the aldermen who told them its status could not be changed. That proved to be the case at the aldermanic meeting --- although the board could have voted in favor of the zoning variance --- the recommendation of the zoning commission --- if they had felt the proposal was better than having the building stay vacant.

Back a few months, the couple looked into the situation. They studied the potential problems, addressed those issues with some of the neighbors, and, having taken the issue to the Zoning Commission recently, they received the commission's okay to put the issue before the full Belleville Council for a vote. That is the overwhelming "no" vote which took place on Monday evening.

As Mike and Angela pieced together plans to open the cafe, they came to realize that the large two-story building has historic value. Said Prosser, "The building is 3000 square feet. It was built in 1907 as a bakery for...the president of the Bakers' Union." She says it was that man's dream "to run his own bakery, as is it is ours to rehab his dream building and run it as a cafe."

Apparently that idea may be a problem to members of the group known as Citizens Reviving Historic Belleville. The local non-profit group's website MISSION STATEMENT is: "To protect, promote and share the wealth of our historical architecture and our unique cultural heritage." That statement sounds benign enough, but according to Prosser, at least one member of the historic group has been a voice against the renovating of the building at 400 Mascoutah Avenue.
It was the hope of both Lieb and Prosser that the public show up to the council meeting whether for or against their proposal and speak out on behalf of the idea of a local building being used for a small neighborhood business. Their theory is that most people would agree that it is time to renew the city's neighborhoods with small businesses that serve the locals.

Apparently 14 Belleville aldermen/alderwomen don't agree.

It's back to the drawing board for Lieb and Prosser.

Two Belleville area residents hoping to open a neighborhood cafe in an historic building had their proposal go before the city council on Monday night and came up empty. Angela Prosser and Mike Lieb bought the century-old brick building at 400 Mascoutah Avenue and told News St. Louis before the aldermanic meeting that they had run into opposition by some, including Ward Six supporters of ongoing historic preservation. Prosser says the zoning commission recently gave preliminary approval to have the former bakery re-zoned commercial following a stage "in limbo" as a residential building because the property sat vacant for more than one year. Although she hoped for public support of Cafe 400, Prosser and Lieb found the majority of residents who attended and spoke out were against their proposed neighborhood-based small business. The two owners are now considering their options, including resubmitting their plans following a revision of the proposed hours of operation.

We'll keep you posted.

14 September 2008

Ike's Rain Causes Flooding, Damage

It was a slightly altered path from what the National Weather Service storm forecasters had thought, but the remnants of what had been Hurricane-then-Tropical Storm-then-Tropical Depression Ike, dumped enough rain upon the bi-state region to cause water rescues, lane restrictions and highway closures --- and that is not leaving those hundreds of flooded basements uncounted.

The rain gauges in Farmington showed over one-point-three inches of rain, while those in the metropolitan St. Louis area ranged from 2.95 inches in Pacific to 5.25 inches in Edwardsville. Near Affton, the torrential downpours left enough water in the basements of older homes to cause residents to dig channels around their dwellings during the peak of the storm Sunday morning. Water rescues on roads were reported by numerous area fire and emergency personnel, including in Brentwood and along River Des Peres Boulevard just west of Gravois along what is usually a quiet creek with an oversized path. Sunday morning, River Des Peres was so full that some residents noted they had "never seen" the runoff produce what was described as "white water rapids".

The National Weather Service office in St. Louis says a Flood Warning remains in effect on the area rivers until further notice, with major flooding expected along the Meramec River at Valley Park and at Arnold, as well as the Missouri River at St. Charles, and the Illinois River at Hardin.

There is good news for those who had a basement full of flooded possessions: Sunny days and clear nights are predicted for the period through next Sunday in St. Louis. That should allow enough time for residents to air out those wet "important papers" in drenched cardboard boxes.

06 September 2008

Browsing Around the web

Tonight, as I read through myspace, I looked at my friends' bulletins. One caught my eye, from myFoxSTL.com --- former Kirkwood Mayor Mike Swoboda has died. Sometimes one gets away from the news for a few hours --- in this case most of today. It pains me to hear this news, as the former Kirkwood mayor had been the lone bright spot in a terrible historic moment.

If you want to view their version of the story, go to www.myfoxstl.com

Mike Swoboda survived the gunfire at Kirkwood City Hall on February 7th, 2008, even though he sustained two gunshot wounds to the head. He battled back and made it to a council meeting in April. If you read the myfoxstl story, you'll see that he apparently had been battling cancer.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Mayor.

Just below the line:
By the way --- congratulations to John Brown of Fox 2 who joins KTRS for the early afternoon shift - 12 pm to 3 pm. He replaces Mark Christopher in that time period, ahead of the Large Morning Show In The Afternoon featuring Frank O. Pinion.

MUSIC: Who says you can't have your Squeeze? Apparently, nobody bothered to tell some of us that the legendary UK-based group was in town at The Pageant the other night. Reeling from this stark realization, one local (and unnamed) scribe was quoted as saying "And to think that I actually had a stain on my notebook from where my girlfriend's coffee cup had been and I didn't think to look at the concert schedule the past several weeks...great...next thing you'll tell me is that Brian Wilson released a new CD."
Um...yup, that, too! Lucky Old Sun is already in stores, as well.

Health Insurance - SAD Story In Post-Dispatch

It was not my intent to make commentary upon these pages until the stories were well established. However, reading the following story made me want to make a simple statement. What happened in the following story should never happen in the United States of America. But it did, and does regularly, because of a lack of true healthcare --- a result of the insurance industry being more about profits than any kind of CARE.

From the pages of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Savvy Consumer column (you'll understand why it comes from the column when you read it) and online at www.stltoday.com comes this story:


05 September 2008

Thanks For Viewing

I'd love to say that I worked really hard yesterday to create news content for today, but I cannot lie. However, I did get some leads for some news stories which we will be presenting here soon.
Write your friends and tell them about this site if they have any news items they'd like to have printed here.
Thanks again for checking us out. We will be posting more soon!

News St. Louis

27 August 2008

News St. Louis - A New News Source

Welcome to the new NEWS ST. LOUIS blog/site.

Here, you'll find local and regional news and public service announcements. And YOU have the opportunity to email your news and public service to me in order for your item to appear. Where this site is not going to rival some of the more public sources immediately (such as TV and newspaper sites), the aim is to make this one of the stops that news junkies in our region read regularly.
Sure, much of this is going to be available elsewhere --- but you'll be able to comment, as well as email me with information to update stories and blogs which I can post as part of the content or updated stories.

Send emails to newsstlouis@gmail.com

Believe it --- this is a work in progress. It will grow with YOUR help.


Chief Editor