St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Civilian Review Approved by Public Safety Committee

The Public Safety Committee of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed Board Bill 69, Alderman Terry Kennedy's bill for a Civilian Review Board, with a "Do Pass" recommendation, on January 19.

The Civilian Review Board would conduct joint investigations of complaints against St. Louis police with the Police Internal Affairs Division and make recommendations about appropriate discipline. The CRB could also conduct independent investigations whenever it is dissatisfied with the joint investigation.

Two hot button issues have held up progress on the bill, both of which passed the committee in Kennedy's favor. The bill empowers the CRB to use the subpoena powers of the Board of Police Commissioners, and the CRB's seven members would include four elected by the people. The other three would be appointed by the Board of Aldermen.

These issues have divided the board along racial lines, with every African American alderman on record favoring the Kennedy bill as written and every white aldermen opposed to a bill with the subpoena powers and elected members. The committee vote went along racial lines, with five African American members in favor and two white members opposed.

Without change in the board's racial solidarity, the bill's prospects before the full board remain slim. The board has a slim 15-13 white majority, with Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury (D), a white, holding the tie-breaking vote.

Pressure will be on white aldermen representing wards with significant African American populations. Aldermen Joe Roddy (D-17) and Craig Schmid (D-20) represent wards with slight African American majorities, while Phyllis Young (D-7), Steve Conway (D-8) and Jennifer Florida (D-15) represent substantial African American minorities. Shrewsbury is elected citywide.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Molly Ivins will not support Hillary for prez

Respected liberal columnist Molly Ivins, the journalistic icon who coined the "shrub" nickname for President George W. Bush, published a column recently in which she stated that she cannot support New York Sen. Hillary Clinton for president in 2008. It is my sense that her words represent a growing feeling among the American left.

Ivins explained, "Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges."

Recalling the tumultuous Vietnam War era in 1968 when obscure Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN) demonstrated the courage to speak out, Ivins observed, "There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief."

Boldly predicting that Tom Delay would lose reelection in his "safe" suburban Houston district, Ivins intoned, Oh come on, people -- get a grip on the concept of leadership. . . . If Democrats in Washington haven't got enough sense to OWN the issue of political reform, I give up on them entirely." Now is the time, she says, to seize the day and push for reforms that would end special interest ownership of our national agenda: public campaign financing for Congress ("the only reform that will work, and you know it, as well as everyone else who's ever studied this"), redistricting reform, electoral reform and House rule changes.

Her column's conclusion raised the spectre of a major third-party challenge ala 2000: "Do not sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite. If the Washington-based party can't get up and fight, we'll find someone who can."

I agree. Claire McCaskill, whose early stands on federal issues seem to mimic Hillary's, should take notice.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Argus says El-Amin, Troupe have reconciled

The current edition of the St. Louis Argus reports that the rift between State Rep. Yaphett El-Amin and her home ward alderman, Charles Quincy Troupe, has been settled. While the paper did not explicitly state that Troupe had endorsed El-Amin’s candidacy for state senator in the 4th District, it implied as much by stating that Troupe and El-Amin would work together for the betterment of that district specifically. The two were photographed together.

The Argus is published by Eddie Hasan, El-Amin’s father.

The absence of solid home ward support for El-Amin because of her feud with Troupe had led many commentators, including the Oracle, to minimize El-Amin’s chances to win the Democratic Primary in the senate race. This reversal of fortune restores El-Amin's credibility as a significant contender for the 4th District nomination.

Other announced candidates for the nomination are Washington University lecturer Jeff Smith, State Rep. Amber Boykins and former State Rep. Derio Gambaro. El Amin’s biggest competitor for her greatest potential bases of support is Boykins, at whose expense El-Amin’s new surge is likely to come. El-Amin shares very little common potential support with Smith and virtually none with Gambaro. This means that this development does not disturb Smith’s status as presumed frontrunner. The likely harm to Boykins’ bid actually widens Smith’s perceived lead.

Candidates may formally file starting on February 28.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Is Starbucks the 'blue-state' WalMart?

Just after the first of the year, I went by my friendly neighborhood coffee house, The Sweet Life on Chippewa in Barney's Plaza, across the street from Target. It really was friendly as well as in the neighborhood. Bosnian-American owners Shon and Vesna made a point of welcoming everybody. More like the immigrants of last century than the current wave of which they are a part, they didn't make a big deal about their ethnicity and consciously did their best to assimilate into U.S. culture. Bosnian-American with the accent on American.

But this time, there was a simple hand-written note on the door saying that they had closed their doors forever on December 31, but thanking all of their dear friends for their loyal patronage. A loss to our community.

Shon wasn't there to ask, so I speculated why closing might have been necessary. What came immediately to mind was the "new" Target, right across the street. Target had reopened its newly remodeled store in early October. When they did, they brought along an extra business imbedded inside: a new Starbucks, the giant in the coffee house industry. Starbucks is also planning a second location just a few blocks west, on the site of the former Steak n Shake. Perhaps so much competition from the industry leader so close proved to be too much.

It reminds me of the early knock on WalMart. WalMart moves into a community, and the mom n pop stores on Main Street close, one after another. I don't know anything about Starbucks' employment practices or its employee health care plans, but the parallels to the WalMart impact on local business are striking.

And then the irony struck me. WalMart is the epitome of pure red-state capitalism. Based in Arkansas, WalMart executives dating back to Sam Walton himself have been big supporters of the Republican Party, as well as their conservative home-state Democrat, Bill Clinton. In contrast, Starbucks is very blue-state. I don't have comparable data about its executives' political donations, but Starbucks is based in deep-blue Seattle, and its customer base is the young urbanites that voted heavily for John Kerry. An August, 2005 Zogby Poll disclosed that Starbucks' national dominance in consumer preference (leading 2nd place Dunkin Donuts, 34%-30%) was powered by a 2-1 margin among self-described liberals and progressives. (How did we ever survive as a people without essential information like that?)

So Starbucks moves into the increasingly blue neighborhood around Hampton Village, and within three months, The Sweet Life is history. I wonder if they're scouting property near Hartford Coffee.