Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Antonio French responds to Rainford's 'Katrina' insult

Alderman Antonio D. French hand-delivered this letter to the Mayor' Office around noon today.

Dear Mayor Slay,

I would like to call to your attention comments made yesterday by your chief of staff, Jeff Rainford. On the 10:00 PM broadcast of KMOV Channel 4 News, Mr. Rainford compared north St. Louis City to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

While it is certainly true that parts of the City of St. Louis have suffered greatly from decades of population loss and benign neglect under past administrations, to have the chief of staff of the Mayor make such a broad characterization of half of our city completely undermines the efforts many of us are making to improve the quality of life in our wards.

As I work daily to attract the interest of rehabbers, developers and entrepreneurs who can help us rebuild the 21st Ward house-by-house, block-by-block, I definitely do not need to have an official City spokesperson on television painting a negative picture of my northside

Furthermore, if it is truly the opinion of Room 200 that sections of north St. Louis are similar to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, then I welcome a proportional response from your office in terms of a true commitment of attention and resources to those sections of our city that present both the biggest challenges and the greatest opportunity for the City of St. Louis.

I would also like to invite Mr. Rainford on a personal tour of the Penrose and O’Fallon neighborhoods to show him the beautiful and wellmaintained blocks that make these some of the finest places to live in the City of St. Louis and not at all like an area destroyed by a natural disaster.
Alderman Antonio D. French
City of St. Louis, Ward 21


Anonymous said...

Every Alderman in this city, regardless of where they are geographically, should have signed his letter or drafted one individually. North or South, that was a dirty comment that is offensive to the entire area!

Mr. Rainford was way out of line. I would like to see what Mayor Naguen and residents of New Orleans and parts of Mississippi thought of his callous comment.

Torchandtonic said...

Pathetic comments from Rainford; par for the course. I am glad Mr. French had the courage to do the right thing and call him out.

Anonymous said...

You all are in denial. When I have people come across Salisbury to Jefferson and they call to get to our building, NERVOUS and SHAKEN, I know they are going in the right direction. Their word is DESOLATE. Have we become so descensitized that we think neighborhoods are to look like this. Whoever made the comments, hats off to you for having the balls to speak the truth. Lets' not get it twisted people, we need to be insulted that our communities are slowly rotting. We are pathetic if we continue to tolerat mediocrity. Mediocrity breed mediocrity! He had the nerve to say what we say in our private groups. Wake up people. Development can't come soon enough for me!

Anonymous said...

^ what in the hell are you talking about? denial about what? wow! you're so insightful! neighborhoods should not "look like this"? really? (apparently, though, you're not insightful enough to see that there are neighborhoods in NSTL that do NOT "look like this". RAINFORD MADE A FALSE, SWEEPING GENERALIZATION. NO ONE denies that PARTS of NSTL need investment. YOU seem to be oblivious that there are parts that are NOT distressed and do NOT need to be bulldozed for big development. perhaps you should contact alderman french about that tour? maybe work on your reading comprehension as well and learn how to RESPOND instead of just OPINE.


Confluence City said...

Wow, my blog seldom gets this kind of tussling that is so typical of so many other online forums.

Rainford responded to a query. I summarize it in the St Louis American this week, but here is his response in full:


Jeff Rainford:

Since 1950, the City has lost 60 percent of its population – nearly 500,000 people. These people abandoned and left behind thousands of acres of property, both lots and buildings, many of which ended up being owned by City agencies, like the LRA, when nobody else bought them and the taxes weren’t paid.

Rollin Stanley, the former city planning director whom I quoted by name in the KMOV story, asserts rhetorically that the damage caused by this abandonment was greater than the damaged caused by Hurricane Katrina, but without the subsequent federal funding boom to address the problems. Stanley first said this in New Orleans as part of a discussion of how that municipality could learn from St. Louis.

The City’s current residents now pay for all that abandoned property’s up-keep: $5.2 million a year just to mow the lots, haul away debris, and board up the first floors of abandoned buildings; another $3 million a year to demolish the most dangerous structures. Our efforts have had some positive results. There were 2,500 abandoned buildings in the LRA-owned inventory in 2001. In 2007, there are only 1,500 – with many of the once-vacant buildings acquired, safely rehabbed, and productively re-used by private individuals and businesses.

Until 2007, the City’s primary focus was to preserve and sell what we can. We sought – and received — historic status for thousands of buildings throughout the City, making their rehab eligible for tax credits. And we also worked to identify and demolish those structures that could not be saved or that have no rehabilitation potential, placing a priority on demolishing those buildings that present immediate public safety hazards.

The state land assembly tax credit and TIF laws offer a powerful tool to do more, faster. Opposing its use – which was the topic of the story in which I was quoted – is wrong-headed.