City-County divide helps kick MLS out of St. Louis

It was an artist's rendering and that's as far as it will get.

It was an artist’s rendering and that’s as far as it will get.

Today’s lead story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch blamed the failure of the MLS stadium proposal on a large voter turnout in the City of St. Louis. That may be the case. But what really doomed the proposal is the same thing that continues to work against the St. Louis region as a whole – the separation of St. Louis City and St. Louis County.

We’ll never know for sure what would have happened had the two entities been one on this particular matter. So this is purely speculation on my part. Yet I’m convinced that had  St. Louis County been a part of this vote and had it been a single voting block of St. Louis County and St. Louis City instead of two separate entities, we’d be looking at a new stadium going up just west of Union Station.

As it was, passing two props was too much to ask of St. Louis City voters. With all that the City needs, putting the additional funding strictly on their shoulders was going to be a very tough sell. Helping to fund yet another stadium with a league that has been on shaky ground was a big enough leap of faith as it was.

Had the County been involved in the vote, even then, I’m not sure it would have passed and despite what St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said about looking for ways to collaborate, something tells me that the city location of the stadium would have been its downfall with a County vote added to the mix.

Only when the City and County join forces will we truly see regional cooperation. Alas, I don’t think that’s going to happen in my lifetime. The divide is too deep. There are way too many kingdoms in the County that will continue to look out strictly for themselves at the expense of the rest of the region.

I know it’s not that simple.

I was bummed when the Rams left but we sealed our own fate when somebody created that lovely little opt-out in the lease. Now I’m bummed that there won’t be an MLS team to root for during the spring, summer and fall. MLS soccer would have been a fun alternative and addition to the Cardinals and with the soccer-rich tradition of St. Louis, I think the team would have caught on very quickly.

The plan would have gotten my vote.

I hope that someday, another plan will.




Atlanta Journal-Constitution takes a shot at St. Louis

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says St. Louis is a bust.

St. Louis was compared to the boom city of Chicago in an-going series in the newspaper’s year-long series concerning the economic state of Atlanta.

Basically, the gist of the story is: Atlanta needs to work to get better or we could end up being like the racially divided city of St. Louis and its abundance of accompanying municipalities that make up St. Louis County’s ineffective and wasteful government bureaucracies.

There’s a video that I found fascinating to watch as well.

Here, the author of the story gives a little history of how St. Louis has basically been on a downward spiral ever since the renowned city planner, Harlan Bartholomew, helped fuel the exodus from St. Louis city to the county as well as contributed mightily to the region’s fragmentation and racism.

I’m a lifelong St. Louisan and didn’t know that I grew up in such a sorry state of decline.

It’s interesting that none of the speakers in the video are identified – and the story was heavily slanted to show nothing but St. Louis’ dark side. Still, I think many of the points made in both the article and the video are on point.

There are 91 municipalities in St. Louis County or, if you prefer, 91 kingdoms.

A kingdom protects itself. It needs to feed itself. It sets its own rules and rarely does it look out for others outside of the kingdom.

Those who enter the kingdom are subject to the rules of that kingdom, including 20 MPH speed limits.

I’m not sure where Champ, Edmundson, Flordell Hills or Velda City are even located with their respective populations of 13, 834, 822 and 1,420 proud citizens – but they’re somewhere in the confines of St. Louis County and they each have their own elected officials and local ordinances.

For quite some time, I’ve been a firm believer that St. Louis City and County need to unite – combine our forces, address our problems and begin thinking and acting on behalf of this whole region.

I know that is way oversimplified.

The question is, if it’s so obvious to outsiders, why can’t we see it ourselves?

Better yet, why can’t we do something about it?

I know people are trying.

We’ve got to try harder.

We’ve got to turn things around and go from bust back to boom.



Smoke gets in your eyes

Today’s the day that councilman Mike O’Mara put forward his new proposal to end all the exemptions to the St. Louis county smoking ban.

If approved by the county council, that would knock out the exemptions that more than 130 different establishments have permitting smoking – with the two biggest exemptions currently in place being the Hollywood Casino and River City Casino. Meanwhile, Ameristar and Lumiere are drooling at the prospect of more smokers flocking through their entryways, ready to smoke and gamble the night away.

Is this fair?

Smokers have become true outcasts in society, forced to stand out in the rain or in garages at work to get their nicotine fix. The price of cigarettes to me is extraordinary. I just can’t see how people continue to buy when a pack of cigs costs you $5.58 here in the great state of Missouri. In New York, it’s more than $11 a pack.

Missouri always seems to be near the top of the wrong lists. We’re #3 in the number of adult smokers, trailing only Kentucky and Nevada (maybe there’s some correlation to smoking and gambling). I was glad to see that at least we’re not in the top ten with regards to meth use. Still, we’re a state filled with smokers and a lot of those smokers who reside in St. Louis county are not going to be happy if their few remaining options to smoke and drink and maybe eat a bite or two or pull a few slot handles are taken away.

Is this fair?

During my college days, it seemed like everybody smoked. When I started my first job, the president of our agency was notorious for having a Salem always lit and burning down to the end while he talked. I can remember a few meetings where I would completely forget whatever it was that was being discussed as I would be focusing on his increasingly long grey ash that would dangle from the end of his cigarette, yet he never seemed to let it fall, always flicking it just in time to have the ashes drop into the nearest ashtray.

But that was long ago. These days, I actually detest the smell of cigarettes. I don’t mind people who smoke. That’s their decision. But I don’t like to be around them when I’m eating. And I’ve got to admit, I’m not a big fan of pulling up a seat at a video poker machine that’s right next to a smoker. (Though I have had a few cigars on occasion which I’d be more than happy to give up.)

I’ll always remember my last visit to the Alton Belle where it seemed like it was Senior Citizen night and everywhere I went, I was surrounded by smokers, many of them in their little wheeled contraptions with an oxygen tank attached and a cigarette dangling from their lips. It was not a pretty sight.

I’m sure some of the eating establishments that allow smoking (you have to have food sales total 25% or less of your combined food/beverage sales) will complain that they’ve put in expensive smoke eliminating systems that will now go to waste if smoking is banned. And perhaps fewer people will eat out if they can’t have that after dinner smoke to wipe away the taste of their meal. Then again, perhaps more people will eat out if they know they won’t have to breathe in second-hand smoke. I know we returned to Ice & Fuel after it became smoke free – we were literally smoked out a few years back and returned once the smoke cleared due to the new ordinance.

I certainly wouldn’t be against private smoking clubs where you have to be a dues-paying member to get in. That way, the smokers could be among their fellow smokers and everyone could smoke to their heart’s content. And if one of the casinos wanted to open a smokers only off-shoot where you had to pay to belong but you could go there and gamble and smoke ’til your lips fell off it would be fine by me. But both of those examples would be very hard to regulate – and if you’re allowed to open your own smokers club, who knows what type of other specialty clubs might suddenly spring up?

So I guess it really is time to kick the smokers out of public restaurants and casinos.

Is that fair?

Maybe not.

But who ever said life was fair?




A one-year “best of” from the BloodLines Creative blog

It was a year ago today that I made my first BloodLines Creative blog post.

If, by chance, you click on that link you’ll notice the original WordPress format of the blog. Since that time, there have been 170 additional BloodLines Creative posts garnering more than 12,000 views.

My original intent was to focus on the world of advertising and marketing communications and on occasion, offer my thoughts on the rest of the world, particularly focusing on St. Louis.

Looking back at all my posts, I’ve done just that – though I seem to focus on whatever happens to be on my mind at the time and that’s not always advertising or marketing communications-related.

BloodLines Creative number one viewed post

I looked at the number of views for all of these posts. The number one post was, “My Return to the St. Louis City-County debate”.

My return to the St. Louis city-county debate

That’s a topic that still gets people going – and for good reason. Even though it makes all the economic sense in the world to combine St. Louis city with St. Louis county, it will probably never happen due to the existing political structure and the mistaken belief that the county will have to absorb all the problems of the city.

In memory of …

It’s interesting that two of the higher ranked posts I’ve had were tributes – one was for Chip MacDonald, one of my college buddies who I lost track of once I got married.

The other was for Steve Puckett, a tremendously gifted writer who consistently produced great work throughout the ’90s and on into the new millenium.

Tales from my Kenrick Advertising days

Many of the readers of this blog know me from my days at Kenrick Advertising. I featured several posts re-telling memorable stories and promise to add a few more from time to time. These were two of my favorites. The first detailed a memorable morning featuring Warren Wiethaupt:

Steve Unger, ( who has a much better memory than I do, told me I got a few of the details wrong and perhaps I did. But the gist of the story is still there. My other favorite involves a pair of shoes that have followed me around throughout my career. This post also takes you back to my old look but it contains a nice picture of the bronzed topsiders with the built-in storyline.

My urge to action

I could go on but know I’ve probably already exceeded the norm for amount of words in a post before readers begin bailing.

So thanks for viewing and if you like what you’ve read, please become a follower.

I hope you enjoy the words I bring you. I’ve always tried to take that same approach to advertising – create something that captures your attention and delivers a selling message in a unique and memorable way.

Should you or anyone you know be in search of some Big Idea Thinking for your business, organization or event you have coming up, here’s where you can find me –

Now, on to Year Two …




The St. Louis city-county merger debate rages on

To say that I have been surprised at the number of views of my recent post on the potential merger of St. Louis city and county would be an understatement. There have been close to 1,000 views in three days time.

Many people have expressed their thoughts. I have been commended by some and called flat-out wrong on the facts by others. I’ve been told that if the city merged with the county, that nothing would change regarding population statistics – the city limits would not be re-defined and there would still be the same dwindling numbers that the city has been experiencing. Same with the crime statistics. I’ve also been told that all the various cities within this area – the city of Dellwood, the city of Des Peres, etc. would all cease to exist and so things like the Des Peres Lodge would then fall into the realm of a St. Louis city managed facility – if indeed there were to be such a thing as several people tell me that it’s quite frankly impossible.

Then there’s the matter of some of our free institutions – the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Science Center, the History Museum – these are free to everyone but you know who pays for them? Taxpayers within the St. Louis city and county area. Many people contend that people who live outside the city and county area – say our neighbors in St. Charles or over on the East Side, should have to pay some sort of an entrance fee when they visit these public venues. They’re getting the benefit of the free admission, but paying none of the freight. Is that right?

I guess what I should do is contact our good mayor and perhaps our county councilman and ask them both their thoughts on whether or not this merger could ever take place and could it ever make sense for the area as a whole.

Because it’s the growth and prosperity of this area that is my ultimate goal. I want to see the St. Louis area rise to greatness once again. I want the city to become important again as a place of commerce and as the hub of the nation. I want the schools (both public and private) to prosper. I want major corporations to shift their headquarters here and startups to have the tax incentives to grow and the backing to make it happen. I want families to know this is a great place to live yet I want us all to have the opportunity to explore the world and learn from the triumphs and the mistakes that others make in their communities.

Yes, I am an idealist.

Maybe it doesn’t take a city-county merger to bust us out of our mindsets. Maybe it doesn’t require re-zoning for us to try and help our fellow St. Louisans.

And maybe I should just stick to writing about advertising and let this one go.

Still, I’m interested in the possibilities. Chelsie Helige told me there is a group called Tomorrow STL that’s a part of the Greater Gateway Alliance that is trying to get the city’s re-entry into the county to be on a statewide ballot in 2014.

Stay tuned and we’ll see what happens.




My return to the St. Louis city-county debate

A few weeks ago, I posted my belief that St. Louis city and county should merge – instantly changing our population size, making us the 7th largest city in the nation. Our crime statistics would instantly drop – we’d no longer be one of the most dangerous cities in America.

Of course, all that is perception and simply messing with statistics.

The real problem seems to be that there are simply too many kingdoms in the St. Louis metropolitan area. All the various police departments, fire departments and all the associated governing bodies of each and every municipality would have to change. The city and county government structure would have to change – and change dramatically. The tax base of both the city and the county would have to change as well.

Being a life-long St. Louisan, I realize all that change is probably way too much for the powers-that-be to accept. The status quo would be turned on its head and St. Louisans in general, don’t seem to be in favor of upsetting the status quo. That’s why we continue to march down the wrong paths leading to more sprawl, more racial divides, more economic disparity and more corporations leaving the area vs. new ones moving in.

There is no simple answer. It would take a massive overhaul of the city-county governmental structure that would affect everyone who lives in this area. The only way this could ever come about would be a grass roots movement. And how does one go about starting a grass roots movement, particularly in the social media dominated world in which we live?

I guess you start a website. You begin an on-line petition movement. You start a group and try and get your voice heard. I’m going to post a comment Mark Travers made regarding my last post …

“Demographers say that if St. Louis City and St, Louis County joined together, we’d become the 7th largest municipality in the country. We’d have greater clout in Congress. We’d have more federal funds coming to our area. We’d be able to consolidate dozens of governments into one and save taxpayers millions. We’d no longer be a fly-over city.”


Doesn’t this sound like something worth considering?

Is there anyone out there who might be on board with this? I’ll help if I can but I’m not quite sure what we need to do. My friend Ken Underhill, who now resides in Arizona, said he’s in and ready to help start the website. That’s two, maybe three of us if Mark joins in as well.

Who’s with me? And what exactly do we do next?