Saturday, February 14, 2015

Hanaway's Mendacity and Messenger's Editorial Malpractice No. 000096

Hanaway said Missouri's roads are in need of more money. But rather than backing tax increases or tolls, she said Missouri could redirect as much as $500 million to roads by finding about 2 percent savings in Missouri's annual operating budget.


quote context:

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

If Demographics is Destiny, where will St. Louis and Kansas City be in 2030? No. 000095


Saint Louis Area Population with grow at one-half the national rate, increasing by 180,772 (7.455%)

Atlanta Area Population with growth at four times the national rate, increasing by 2,787,088 (59.02%)

Kansas City Area Population with growth at the national rate, increasing by 296,965  (15.17%)

Here is the tool

Other Cities:

MSP 646,619 (20.27%)

Indianapolis 663,150 (38.17%)

Louisville 184,295 (15.20%)

Nashville 574,758 (37.88)





Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Part 4; A Reply to Alderman Antonio French No. 000094

Alderperson Antonio French has replied to my last post, which I deeply respect.  He writes on Twitter:


I have no recollection of every meeting Alderperson French and have never spoken with him in person, so let me begin by saying what I understand him to be saying, after which I will comment briefly.

First, he says that even the Board does not know the facts. For starters, he says the Board does not know how many people are current NGA employees or what taxes they collectively pay to the City.

Second, he says the Board does not know how the composition of NGA's work force might change contemporaneous with the move. (No one would have expectations that long term estimates are at hand).

Third, he thinks this is an example of the "government" picking winners and losers.

Fourth, he says this is just a gamble for current residents.

If Alderperson French would step back to looking at this situation with some altitude and perspective I believe he would come to see that he has made a massive indictment of the governance of the City of Saint Louis, both its Mayor and Board.

The City and the rest of the Saint Louis Region finds itself in a situation almost like the prisoners' dilemma, a part of game theory familiar to every economist. In a prisoner's dilemma the opportunity to reward others is removed and without that opportunity the prisoners will not cooperate when rational individuals would.

With regard to the NGA, because only the City of Saint Louis has an earnings tax, it is in a position to reward other parts of the Region if they would cooperate in directing the NGA to the City of Saint Louis.

Viewed through this lens, it is plain the NGA situation has reached a head because Mayor Slay lacks the skills and ability to have negotiated rewards and arrived at a Regional agreement on location of NGA in the City. Had the Mayor done his job he would have a regional agreement in hand on the site location and there would be no uncertainty.

Second, Mr. French also indicts the Board's competency by noting that it has failed to assure itself that the City provides it with the information needed for it to accurately evaluate the choices and options before it. In the case of the earnings tax, returns are filed with the City that identify the employer and place of employment. His lack of information is his own fault.

Last, Life presents many many occasions where government picks between winners and losers. There will likely be many losers if the City of St. Louis loses the earnings taxes paid by NGA's employees. So, if, as Editor Messenger charges, Alderperson French has been about sabotaging Bill 263, he is picking winners and losers. In this particular case the losers will be people not provided City services if earning tax collections drop. These could be some of the same people who may be displaced by condemnation for the new NGA site for who knows tomorrow.


Part 3: Tony Messenger, Antonio French, Arrogance, Sabotage, and Urban Redevelopment No. 000093

The City of Saint Louis fears losing a goose laying golden eggs, the Federal Government's National Geospatial Agency, which is looking for a new site among several possible locations in the greater Saint Louis Region.

What is at stake are taxes, specifically the 1% earnings tax on gross incomes now paid by NGA's employees to the City of Saint Louis. These taxpayers make no demands on the City for services and don't vote---most all live out of the City and commute by car to the current NGA location---so these taxes are now pure gravy or profit to the City.

We do not know why---for the Post and our other local media has no sources and never actually discovers and reports inside news---but for unknown reasons finding a suitable site within the vast empty expanses of the City of Saint Louis has been beyond the capabilities of the Mayor and Board of Alderpersons. 

The original solution was to plopp NGA's "fort," and that is what is would be, right in the middle of Paul McKee's Northside Redevelopment. It would be a "fort," like all post 9/11 Federal Buildings, wholly self-contained. No coffee shops or dry cleaners or cafes or other signs of real urban life are ever going to see customers walking out of the building or buildings and across the street. 

Now, due to unknown facts and circumstances (the Mayor's statement that the McKee site wasn't big enough makes no sense) there is felt to be a need to move the location onto a 100 acre tract now occupied by as many as 50 city residents. Given the importance of keeping NGA how could the Mayor not have known of NGA's requirements for a larger site?

Via Bill 263 the Board has been considering giving Land Clearance and Redevelopment the power of eminent domain to acquire the site.

Alderman Antonio French has been opposing Bill 263, seeking to remove the eminent domain provisions from the bill, leading to this Twitter exchange between French and Editor Messenger:

  • Let's first deal with Antonio French and then Editor Messenger.

Alderman French, this blog post from warrants more than one read: Study shows parasites may resort to sabotage if there are conflicting interests with a host.The City of Saint Louis is the host. Editor Messenger says you are engaging in sabotaging activities. 

  • As for Editor Messenger, well, first, there went any hope for Regional support: "Would you rather it go to Scott AFB?"

If the Post and its Editors were truly interested in the prosperity of the entire region the question would never be asked. The question would simply be, for the whole community, what would be the best location?

To the point, the best location could well be in North Saint Louis County with easy access to the Airport and possible extension of Metro Link, you know #Ferguson.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Want Growth. Tax and build great research institutions No. 000092

Forget tax cuts!!! The sole path forward on creating great jobs is innovation through research universities.

Silicon Valley really is more innovative, study finds

From the San Jose Mercury News reports on a new study:

First, "there is a higher initial quality of startups -- people are being drawn there, they graduate from its universities, they are more ambitious," Stern said.

And, "Silicon Valley supercharges that effect, helping them along, so they deliver on their promise." 

They found that the highest-quality startups are centered around research institutions, such as universities and national laboratories. Stanford, UC Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Caltech, UCLA and UC Irvine each host regions of entrepreneurial quality.

"Research centers attract extremely bright, curious, energetic and ambitious people -- people who want to change the world in a positive way. Increasingly, they want to realize their dreams in their own ventures, not buried in a large company," said Steve Ciesinski, president of Global Partnerships at Menlo Park's SRI International and a lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. 


"With more education on how to start and build companies being evangelized at places like Stanford, SRI and many other research institutions, it's no longer so intimidating to researchers to start up a venture based on their breakthrough science and technology," he said.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Part 2: Tony Messenger continues to threaten the Ferguson Commission and all our progress. No. 000091

Part 2: With Friends Like This, Who Needs Enemies

Mr. Messenger's Saturday Editorial finds him as a Brian Williams journalist, fervently "courting celebrity," as Ms. Dowd labels the species. 

Today, Mr. Messenger writes:

The Ferguson Commission’s various critics … are looking for opportunities for this very important commission to fail.

If true, why does he write?

To be sure, the commission has had a misstep or two. To help it get up and running quickly, as Gov. Jay Nixon called for when appointing its 16 members, the commission hired a few consultants to plan initial meetings and coordinate media without going through a state bidding process. The commission hired an executive director, Bethany Johnson-Javois, one of its own members. She is also on the board of the nonprofit Deaconess Foundation, which employs Rev. Wilson. She might be the best person for the job, but the rushed process clouds clear judgment.

Only two people have questioned the startup work of the Commission which was funded by private and not public dollars, which Mr. Messenger omits to write about. One is a reactionary Tea Party candidate for attorney general and the second is a lawyer working for a law firm that handles Koch Brothers legal work.

It is going to be pretty hard to cabin a charge that the Commission had a "rushed process." Mr. Messenger, as he always does, on cue delivered the money quote.

Mr. Messenger then contradicts himself, writing the Commision should rush to judgment to act:

Its issue going forward is that as a body funded by both public and private sources, and one pushing for massive change in a region that prefers the status quo, it will find enemies in politics, in government, in the private sector, in the media. Criticism will grow if more successes, like the push for municipal court reform, aren’t apparent before the commission’s final report is filed.

Mr. Messenger has the cart before the horse. The Commission needs to produce one or more credible reports before it urges action.

For example, contrary to Mr. Messenger, no one should have any enthusiasm for the action, to date, on municipal court reform. Why? None of the proposals deal with the fundamental core issue which is, How to fund services in North Saint Louis County? 

That brings us to Mr. Messenger's flippant regard for the funding of the Commission. The Commission has no funding source capable of sustaining the research necessary to make the report meaningful. The Governor has sought funding but Messenger rains water on that idea.

Now lawmakers are questioning the source of the $350,000 budget of the Office of Community Engagement even as Ms. Coleman argues for more state money.

At best, the office is redundant. It duplicates on-the-ground efforts taking place in Ferguson by many existing and newer nonprofits. And its budget problems distract focus from the Ferguson Commission. It is critical that the commission continues its important work studying policing and educational deficiencies in north St. Louis County, healing racial divides and pushing for reforms, such as those underway in municipal courts.

Mr. Nixon should make the Ferguson Commission stronger by subtraction. Perhaps St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who plans an office similar to the one run by Ms. Coleman, can put her to work locally.

Regarding the kind of research necessary, let's return to the work that Dr. Carr has already done, in preparing a Vision 2020 report for Southwestern Illinois.

Dr. Carr has identified low education attainment as the primary driver of poor economic performance in the Saint Louis region. 

Comparision, Education and Income, Saint Louis and MSP

In raw numbers, our Saint Louis workforce, taken as a whole, has only 75% of the skills of the workforce in Minneapolis. Closing this education and skill gap is the only way for the Saint Louis region to transform itself into a high value added (post manufacturing) service economy.

Software and robots promise that, within 10 years, 75% of all jobs will require some substantial education post high school.

The Ferguson Commission Report must tackle how to close this gap and how to finance such through taxes. Only an extraordinarily well done report can accomplish that mission.

Last, Mr. Messenger call for "the Rev. Wilson to do what Mr. Nixon can't: Rally the community behind the Ferguson Commission."

Mr. Messenger again misjudges. The reason why the community is "vacillatin" on the Ferguson Commission is that it is not composed of strong-willed, independent-minded people who are willing to speak their minds and turn them loose on our Region.

Is this how the Commission is composed?

Robert Seawright wrote last year about the New York Federal Reserve undertaking, post the 2008-09 financial crisis, a study of itself to try to understand why the NY Fed hadn’t spotted the behavior of the big banks that led to the crisis:

As I have noted before, and consistent with the academic literature, critical thinking is impossible without sufficient subject matter expertise; and such expertise mandates the understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, subtleties and consequences to all the underlying positions and viewpoints relating to a particular decision. We all love to be right and quite naturally think we are right. Better decision-making means challenging assumptions like that by carefully asking and considering overlapping questions such as the following.

◾ Can you suggest others?

◾ How might I be wrong?

◾ Have I considered the strongest renderings and arguments of opposing viewpoints?

◾ Have I given opposing views a fair hearing?

◾ Have I checked and re-checked my work, data and assumptions?

◾ What does the available data say and suggest?

◾ What would it take to convince myself otherwise?

◾ What do I have to gain (or lose) by changing my mind?

◾ What do the (other) experts say?

◾ What do I see/know/get that those who disagree with me don’t?

◾ What’s in it for me?

◾ What’s in it for them?

◾ What do my best and smartest colleagues (friends) say?

◾ Have I considered the most generous versions of opposing arguments?

◾ Can I argue the other side effectively?

Neither the Rev. Wilson nor the other members of the Commission have yet shown "sufficient subject matter expertise; and such expertise mandates the understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, subtleties and consequences to all the underlying positions and viewpoints relating to a particular decision" to warrant anything but "vacillatin," with the exception of Dr. Carr.

Mr. Messenger wants Rev. Wilson to "Gather business leaders and protesters, lawmakers and the many people with an earnest interest in positive change. Help a community that is dealing with rising violence, a lack of empathy, continuing distrust between the police and the people they serve, and the distractions of daily life. Help St. Louis understand why the unique and unprecedented work of the Ferguson Commission is so important."

That task is several bridges too far for Rev. Wilson. He lacks sufficient subject matter expertise. He doesn't have an understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, subtleties and consequences to all the underlying positions and viewpoints to be carrying that large of bucket and he shouldn't try.





Why I might support Eric Schmitt's new income cuts No. 000090

Mark Twain remarked, "There is no native American criminal class except Congress." 

Unfortunately, he never saw the Missouri Tea Party mindset GOP. If he had, he might have been the first to remark, "You can't fix stupid." Why? How else does one explain the desire of out-state Missouri GOPsters to cut income taxes they don't pay, giving new meaning to cutting off one's nose to spit one's face.

A few facts:

  1. Outstate Missouri does not pay significant amounts of state income taxes. The goose laying the golden egg is the Saint Louis region. As the Post reported last September, "The St. Louis region, [is] the economic engine of the entire state ([with]49 percent of business payroll, 51 percent of individual income taxes)." Take away Kansas City and the rest of Missouri pays very little in state income taxes.
  2. This internal balance of payments problem causes considerable economic damage to Saint Louis, lowering the number of jobs, income, and property tax values in exactly the same way as federal income taxes negatively impact Rust Belt cities like Saint Louis.
  3. Outstate Missouri benefits from this imbalance in state spending in at least three ways

  • First, through the foundation formula which results in our best school districts in Saint Louis having to self-fund while taxes from Saint Louis are diverted to outstate schools that undertax significantly.

  • Second, through state maintenance of what should be local roads under the 1952 legislation by which the Missouri Highway Department took over 12,000 miles of county highways, bringing 95 percent of all Missourians to within two miles of a hard-surfaced road.

  • Institutional location with important state institutions like the Capital, the University of Missouri, Columbia, prisons and hospitals being located outside our major metropolitan areas.

Thus, it is a stunning political feat that Saint Louis area Republicans have convinced outstate GOPSters to cut income taxes, which tax cuts will benefit Saint Louis (and Kansas City) but not outstate Missouri.

The tax cuts will not bring jobs and prosperity to outstate Missouri.

First, the amount of money is immaterial, even if the theory that tax cuts lead to economic growth were true. Witness Kansas, that is a lie, a big lie.

Second, what outstate Missouri needs is more government spending, on education and training for a service economy, not less. Bruce Greenwald explains that people cannot self-finance the transition to a high value service economy. Listening carefully to his comments about the transition to a manufacturing economy from an agricultural one during World War II, at 10:30

What the tax cuts will do for Saint Louis will be to give us breathing room to continue to self fund K-12 education. They will not lead to growth or prosperity.

Governor Jay Nixon and the the outstate Missouri K-12 education establishment understand what is at stake but clearly the vast majority of GOP senate and house members have no idea what they have done by partying and sleeping with Grover Norquist and the economic quack Art Laffer.




Tony Messenger continues to threaten the Ferguson Commission and all our progress. Part #1 No. 000089

Last week we took time to forewarn advocates for economic growth and development in Missouri and Saint Louis that Tony Messenger was not your friend. No person is more responsible than Mr. Messenger for the lack of progress in Missouri and Saint Louis on every front.

Due to a variety of factors the Post's editorial page is the only possible vehicle for leading Saint Louis to understanding why our incomes (and growth) have fallen below the national average and will, most likely, continue to lag behind unless we substantially change our ways. Changing our ways includes Ferguson but Ferguson is not the cause of our problems. Ferguson is but a canary in a coal mine warning us of the falling incomes, decay, and obsolescence afoot equally in Cabool as Ferguson.  

The last thing we need is a "Brian Williams" journalist, unrestrained by the truth, seeking to make himself a celebrity but that is exactly what we have. If you think not, read for moment his latest editorial, Time for Ferguson Commission to rally the region.

Did you catch the Brian Williams technique. Here it is, "Appointing Ms. Coleman was a political solution to a political problem at a time in which he had not yet decided that the Ferguson Commission was necessary." That is fiction, nor was Ms. Coleman appointed merely to work on Ferguson. The Post itself reported Ms. Coleman was appointed to work on low income problems across the entire State of Missouri. Appointment of a Ferguson Commission, an idea not original with Mr. Messenger, had been under discussion almost from the moment Twitter made the shooting of Michael Brown everything we understand it to mean today.

Across our state, Missouri communities are facing serious issues involving race, educational and economic opportunities, and poverty,” Nixon said in a statement. “The Office of Community Engagement will be responsible for facilitating meaningful communication about these issues that will yield concrete results.”

The governor’s press release stated that the Office of Community Engagement would be housed under the Office of Administration. Among other things, it would be responsible for:

  • Engaging communities, public and private sector leaders, clergy and citizens across the state in communication “regarding critical issues affecting Missouri communities.”
  • Developing  “policies and strategies to foster greater prosperity and opportunity for all Missourians.”
  • Making recommendations to the Department of Economic Development, Missouri Community Service Commission, Missouri Housing Development Commission and other boards, commissions and agencies “that administer programs designed to assist low-income individuals, urban neighborhoods, community redevelopment and similar activities.”
  • Recommending individuals to the administration for appointment to boards, commissions and agencies of the state.

But on  September 19th,  the day following Ms. Coleman's appointment, Messenger admitted there had been an ongoing public discussion of a commission.

Three times now, this editorial page has suggested a thorough, independent, broad-based and timely study of how and why the Ferguson tragedy occurred and the police response to it. This would not be a legal investigation; parallel state and federal inquiries already are underway. Rather the “Ferguson Commission” would get into the root causes of the economic and racial divisions in St. Louis and make recommendations for remedial action.

So the charge that the appointment of Ms. Coleman was merely a short term political fix is a false one. Ms. Coleman's appointment shows that, finally, Governor Nixon has come to understand that the only solutions that will ever be passed into law are those that benefit all Missourians. 

The appointment of Ms. Coleman showed that, before the election, Governor Nixon had finally come to understand why "progressives" who think like Messenger have been losing more and more elections in Missouri.

Kevin Drum summed up Messenger's faults in these few paragraphs following the November losses:

So who does the WWC take out its anger on? Largely, the answer is the poor. In particular, the undeserving poor. Liberals may hate this distinction, but it doesn't matter if we hate it. Lots of ordinary people make this distinction as a matter of simple common sense, and the WWC makes it more than any. That's because they're closer to it. For them, the poor aren't merely a set of statistics or a cause to be championed. They're the folks next door who don't do a lick of work but somehow keep getting government checks paid for by their tax dollars. For a lot of members of the WWC, this is personal in a way it just isn't for the kind of people who read this blog.

And who is it that's responsible for this infuriating flow of government money to the shiftless? Democrats. We fight to save food stamps. We fight for WIC. We fight for Medicaid expansion. We fight for Obamacare. We fight to move poor families into nearby housing.

This is a big problem because these are all things that benefit the poor but barely touch the working class. Does it matter that the working class barely pays for most of these programs in the first place, since their federal income taxes tend to be pretty low? Nope. They're still paying taxes, and it seems like they never get anything for it. It's always someone else.

It's pointless to argue that this perception is wrong. Maybe it is, maybe it's not. But it's there. And although it's bound up with plenty of other grievances—many of them frankly racial, but also cultural, religious, and geographic—at its core you have a group of people who are struggling and need help, but instead feel like they simply get taxed and taxed for the benefit of someone else. Always someone else. If this were you, you wouldn't vote for Democrats either.

I hate to end this with the usual cliche that I don't know what to do about it, but I don't. Helping the poor is one of the great causes of liberalism, and we forfeit our souls if we give up on it. And yet, as a whole bunch of people have acknowledged lately, the Democratic Party simply doesn't do much for either the working or middle classes these days. Republicans, by contrast, offer both the concrete—tax cuts—and the emotional—an inchoate but still intense rage against a government that seems not to care about them.

So sure: full-throated economic populism? That might work, though everyone seems to have a different idea of what it means. But here's one thing it better mean: policies that are aimed at the working and middle classes and that actually appeal to them. That is, policies that are simple, concrete, and offer benefits which are clear and compelling.

Mr. Messenger, Ms. Coleman is not redundant. To the contrary, her appointment is the fulcrum point of today's political battles. Her charge is to develop policies that help all our low income residents, state wide, including the white working class.