Category: Government & Society

Smoke-Free St. Charles County

One of the biggest fights in making the St. Louis region smoke-free is concensus from the three most populous counties on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. Anyone who’s following the movement to make our communities healthier knows that the state of Illinois has already made its communities smoke-free, and done so in commendable fashion. Missouri . . . not so much.

A smoke-free ordinance will go into effect in St. Louis City (its own county) come January 1, 2010 but the ordinance leaves much to the imagination as it makes exceptions for the worst offenders. While this change will be better than nothing, real change will not occur until St. Louis County enacts its own smoke-free ordinance. Certain municipalities within St. Louis County have already pass smoke-free legislation – hooray – but we’re talking low single-digits in a County that has 91 (ish) independent cities. St. Louis County’s argument has been that since it lies in between St. Louis City and St. Charles County, it’s needs both of the counties that sandwich it to be on board before it can pass anything meaninful. Well people, the time is nigh.

I received the email below this morning, and as you can see, it’s the beginning of the end for public smoking in St. Charles County. Obviously nothing has happened yet, but the fact that this topic is even being discussed at the County Council is real progress. I remember when these meetings first started in St. Louis City. Enough people got behind the movement to keep the momentum growing. Change happened. The City has shown it can happen, and so people in St. Charles County who care about good public health need to step and make themselve heard. If you live in this community, please go to these meetings and speak up.

—-

Dear Smoke-Free Supporter,
 
As you may know, the St. Charles County Council is currently considering placing a smoke-free ordinance on the ballot. Supporters of smoke-free air must have a continual presence of different coalition members/supporters at the twice monthly County Council meetings.
 
We need YOU!
 
Please come to this coming Monday’s County Council meeting – Monday, April 26 – 7:00 PM.
 
at the Historic Courthouse
100 North Third Street
St. Charles, MO 63301
Phone 636-949-7530
Fax 636-949-7532

council@sccmo.org
Smoke-Free St. Charles County coalition member Louise Cheli has offered to coordinate our efforts for the April 26 meeting. Her email is: lpc555@prodigy.net
 
Our goals for these meetings are 1) to fill the room with supporters wearing BLUE and our blue smoke-free buttons, and 2) to consistently have the maximum number of speakers during the public comment section of the meeting. 
 
 
Any speaker suggestions from anyone? Smokefree restaurant owners? Be sure to let Louise know! Thanks!!!
 
Kay Young
636-946-2949
Be there!

Planting Our Seed

I love reading about ideas. I come across new ones every almost day, but every now and then one sticks out as either quite remarkable or quite original. Such is this idea from Michael Mautner, Research Professor of Chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University, who claims seeding the universe with life is not just an option but is our moral obligation.

Lisa Zyga, the article’s author, beings with an interesting proposition:

Eventually, the day will come when life on Earth ends. Whether that’s tomorrow or five billion years from now, whether by nuclear war, climate change, or the Sun burning up its fuel, the last living cell on Earth will one day wither and die. But that doesn’t mean that all is lost. What if we had the chance to sow the seeds of terrestrial life throughout the universe, to settle young planets within developing solar systems many light-years away, and thus give our long evolutionary line the chance to continue indefinitely?

Well, what if? Mautner suggests that seeding the universe with our life is possible with current technology through a process called “directed panspermia”. The process involves depositing “an array of primitive organisms on potentially fertile planets and protoplanets throughout the universe.” Further, he says, “We have a moral obligation to plan for the propagation of life, and even the transfer of human life to other solar systems which can be transformed via microbial activity, thereby preparing these worlds to develop and sustain complex life.”

I wouldn’t go so far to say that humanity has a moral obligation to do as Mautner suggests. But, the Earth will eventually die out, and while the odds are that intelligent life exists somewhere else in the universe, there’s a chance it doesn’t. If we’re to keep life as we know it going in the universe, spreading primitive organisms across space seems like as good a strategy as any. The human race may never have the technology to leave the earth permanently and establish a civilization on another planet, but shouldn’t we plan for the possibility?

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service

With a little motivation from my brother, he and his wife and my wife and I decided to do a little community service on an oddly foggy Monday morning in St. Louis. We headed north from our respective homes to the College Hill neighborhood on the  north side of St. Louis City to clean up some well-littered streets. The neighborhood is comprised almost entirely of lower income African Americans and has not seen any significant investment in the past few decades. The effort, along with many others around town, was organized by the United Way in a partnership with a local community organization.

We gathered with like-minded folks from all backgrounds and areas of town to help clean up the streets in one of the poorer areas of town. The meeting place was an old church that seemed to be used with regularity but was in much disrepair, just like most of the homes we could see. While the effort made us all feel better, and the streets surely looked better than they had when we started, I feel much of our work was for naught. 

Theresa, our block leader, is a resident of the area and actually lives on the block we cleaned. She said she would move if her income was higher. She also said that the police don’t do anything to help deter crime and often just drive by groups of men involved in dealing drugs. Her outlook for the area was far from optimistic though she seemed to be a generally positive person.

I’m glad we took time to get out of the house and do something worthwhile instead of just lounging on our day off. At lunch afterward we discussed whether what we did was worth it. I suppose the answer to that question depends on who’s asking it. Metaphorically, we put bandages on cancer. As the ones applying the bandages we felt good because we were doing something, anything. But, just as bandages are temporary, so are clean streets. We witnessed some of the residents of the block coming and going. A few said hello and a few just ignored us. This was their street we were cleaning. Not one person I met said thank you. I wonder if the people with the cancer noticed, or even cared. A healthy neighborhood starts with active residents. I applaud Theresa’s commitment but she seemed to be alone in her fight.

You have to wonder if the people you’re helping don’t appreciate your help, why help at all? Cynicism aside, there were many other activities scheduled that day that surely had a greater and more lasting impact on the community. I don’t regret our decision to volunteer and will most definitely do it again; next time I’ll just have to be more selective in the activity I pick.

Aftershock

In response to the earthquake and 40+ aftershocks in Haiti, CNN.com has put up a page up called “What we’re hearing via social media“. The page is streaming updates from Haiti as they’re coming in, and while the page claims to have updates from various social media everything I’ve read so far is from Twitter. That’s not the point though. The point is that the messages coming out of the ravaged country are so serious they almost seem fictitious. Here are a few that caught my attention:

  • “dead bodies are everywhere i havent seen one ambulance or any proffesionl med care anywhere in port-au-prince” From Twitter user fredodupoux in Haiti at 12:58 p.m. ET Wednesday
  • “Night has fallen..the night seems to take so long..I guess those that are buried alive in the rubble are feeling it the worst..Prayers.”. –From Twitter user RAMhaiti in Haiti at 8:55 p.m. ET Wednesday
  • “I saw a collapsed building today..it may have been 8 or 9 stories.it looked like 8 or 9 pieces of bread one on top of the other..survivors?” –From Twitter user RAMhaiti in Haiti at 9:04 p.m. ET Wednesday

Yikes. If you want to help it seems that sending cash to the American Red Cross is the best way.

You can donate $10 to Haiti relief by texting “Haiti” to 90999

I confimed the above on the website of the American Red Cross. Over $3 million had been raised by 8:00 a.m. Central Time this morning. To a see state-by-state totals of what’s been raised you can go here. Hopefully more and more is pouring in. And more importantly, I hope these dollars can be translated into help, on the ground, as quickly as possible.

St. Louis County Council Places Transit Tax On The Ballot

I just got this from Citizens for Modern Transit this morning:

The St. Louis County Council voted in December to place a ½ cent general sales tax on the ballot on April 6 for transit operations and expansion including MetroLink. Without the passage of this measure, Metro will be cutting more than 30 percent of it service to area residents – a significantly larger cut than in 2009 which had devastating effects on area employees and employers. Without the passage, these effects will be even greater.

If you would like to volunteer to help on the measure, contact info@cmt-stl.org.

The passage of this tax is absolutely necessary to the sustained growth of the St. Louis region. The train and bus system – along with other services like Call-a-Ride – are an integral part of the transportation infrastructure. These services need to be expanded, not contracted, to help St. Louis attract new jobs and maintain the ones it already has. If you have any time, please email the address provided above to see how you can help. I’m sure Metro and Citizens for Modern Transit could use every ounce of help it gets. I’m also fairly certain that you could do things as simple as write letters to help the cause.

If you want to learn more about Metro, all it has to offer and what it could mean to the region in the future, visit The Greater St. Louis Transit Alliance. Here you’ll find statistics on Metro, a list of all the organizations that support this tax and much more. This tax was on the ballot last November and failed by only a small margin. Don’t think of this as another cost during a recession but rather a small investment by each of us that will have lasting economic benefits for the entire region.

The voters of St. Louis City have already approved this measure but need the County to pass it as well to make it happen. I’m not sure what the new proposition will be called but if you’re a registered voter in St. Louis County please vote yes. Please talk to your friends and family about the measure too. If you’ve ever been to a big, vibrant city you have undoubtedly noticed an efficient and comprehensive public transit system. One can not exist without the other. Go Metro!

How Much Hate Is Actually Out There?

There’s nothing like reading about hate crimes during your Monday morning work out. Seriously, there’s nothing like it. While “ellipticizing” to nowhere for 28 minutes I read, among other articles, two recent pieces on hate crimes in the most recent issue of Utne Reader. The first, “A Conspiracy of Hate,” is by Larry Keller and was originally published in the Intelligence Report. The second, “The Paranoid Center,” is by Jesse Walker and was originally published in Reason.

For those who know me well, I generally walk right in the middle of the view points professed by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report and those offered by the Libertarian publication Reason. The straddling is in no way meant to prevent taking sides, and in this case I have to side (mostly) with Keller’s assertion that militia-related activity is on the rise again.

Keller points out that, “Over the past year, men with antigovernment, racist, anti-Semitic, or pro-militia views have been linked to a series of high-profile murders.” This is indisputable, though I doubt any sort of coordinated activity is underway here.  Both of these articles focus more on organized militia activity and the influence of media on these groups.

But, I’ve noticed a few random personal incidents as well. Recently in St. Louis a group of homosexual men were beaten leaving a gay club, just for being gay. Other such events have been noted online and in newspapers. I don’t know if these types of crimes are actually on the rise but I do firmly believe that the election of a black president has awoken some beasts. Add to this the fact that some people actually believe Obama is a Muslim (what’s wrong with that?) and that he was born in Africa (only technically a problem) and you have the ingredients for ignorance-driven revolt by heavily armed lunatics.

I don’t see a day in the near future where hate groups have any substantial pull or presence, and that’s almost scarier than the alternative. Knowing the enemy and being able to monitor its activities is a much better option than not knowing when and where the next crime will occur. Think about it. Are you more scared of being the victim of an attack by North Korea or Al-Qaeda?

Our Last Best Chance

I’m approaching 30,000 words. While I’ve been moving at a much slower pace than I’d like, I’m coming up with a few subplots that will hopefully help my story. Tortoise and the hare, tortoise and the hare.

What some people are calling the last best chance for humanity to save itself from climate change starts today in Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s the United Nations conference on climate change and its outcome will determine whether the world’s leading polluters are willing to take enough action to prevent catastrophic damage to the Earth’s air, land and sea. The key word here is “enough”. Everyone is willing to take steps but they are rarely adequate for real change, just press releases.

I’ll be following the developments as closely as I can. I hope you do too.

Under Water With Only Five Days Left

Naming these posts is difficult. I’ve just been combining words and phrases for the topics being discussed into something that doesn’t really make sense by itself. This could be “my thing”.

25,000 words down and 25,000 left to go. Hitting the halfway mark felt good, though I wish I did it about ten days ago. There are only five days left and unfortunately one – Thursday – will be worthless to the cause. I followed Vonnegut’s advice and started as close to the end of my story as possible. I fear I may have started too close to the end. There is story left to write but I don’t know what if it will fill another 25,000 words. I would like  at least 50,000 words of plot, only to be polished and dressed with additional words if they’re needed.

My sustainability slap in the face for the day is this statistic:  81.1% of mortgages in Las Vegas are under water, meaning the home securing the mortgage is worth less than the remaining principal balance of the mortgage. Below is a list of the worst 14 markets in the United States.  They are all in either California (6), Florida (5), Nevada (2) or Arizona (1). Take that Sun Belt!

  1. Tampa – St. Petersburg, Fla. – 48.2% 
  2. Brendenton – Sarasota, Fla. – 48.2% 
  3. Bakersfield, Ca. – 50.4% 
  4. Riverside – San Bernardino – Ontario, Ca. – 50.4% 
  5. Cape Coral – Fort Meyers, Fla. -60.5% 
  6. Vallejo – Fairfield, Ca. – 61.1% 
  7. Orlando – Kissimmee, Fla – 62.3% 
  8. Reno – Sparks, Nev. 62.4% 
  9. Fort Lucie, Fla – 62.5% 
  10. Phoenix – Mesa, Ariz. 63.5% 
  11. Stockton, Ca. – 66.9% 
  12. Modesto, Ca. 70.4% 
  13. Merced, Ca. 72.2% 
  14. Las Vegas, Nev. 81.1%

The Las Vegas number just boggles the mind, though the percentages in other cities are nearly as bad. I haven’t mapped the California cities but I’m wondering how many are in “foreclosure valley”, an area in southern California that should never been built up and now probably won’t be, at least until we forget about our mistakes. Hopefully one of the things you’re giving thanks for tomorrow is having equity in your home, no matter how teeny tiny the amount.

Health Care – Another Perspective

I’ve posted below snippets from an editorial which appeared in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

A St. Louisan’s view of the British National Health Service
BY Reva Klein
Tuesday, Sep. 01 2009
LONDON

  • “I’ve lived here since 1973, and whenever I visit my hometown of St. Louis, or anywhere else in the United States for that matter, I’m invariably regaled with friends’ and relatives’ horror stories about medical bills.”
  • “I know the realities of the British National Health Service pretty well. As a journalist, I’ve written about it. As a mother of two children (born at home with National Health Service midwives and doctors) and now as a baby boomer with the usual sprinkling of medical dramas, I’ve been a regular user of the service. I pay a monthly National Insurance contribution of the equivalent of $15.82 as a self-employed person. This has seen me through three operations, one of them life saving, a two-week hospital stay, half a dozen or so investigations, probably a good few hundred visits to the doctor for my children and me and highly subsidized drug prescriptions.”
  • “A system that gives every citizen the right to health care free at the point of entry wis [sic], I believe, the hallmark of a truly democratic society, one in which no one is penalized because of his economic status. And democracy in this sense doesn’t mean bargain-basement care, either, thank goodness. In today’s NHS, we do have choice of where to see specialists, and we can get a second opinion if we don’t like the first.”
  • “Sure, there are aspects of the health service that we all take great pleasure in complaining about. Emergency rooms can be crowded and the waits epic. NHS hospitals have had serious outbreaks of MRSA and C. difficile, and some hospital wards seem — and indeed are — unequivocally Victorian. These things need changing and both Labour and the Conservatives (the political parties in Britain) have vowed their commitment to better resourcing, modernization, the works.”
  • “By the way, the 92-year-old mother of a friend now in a London hospital following a stroke, who is getting daily physiotherapy and care and attention from a specialist stroke unit that in the United States would cost the bare minimum of $500 a day, has yet to catch sight of a single death panel.”
  • “Reva Klein is London-based journalist and a St. Louis native.”

You should really take a minute to read the editorial in its entirety. I hate when the truth gets in the way of the debate. Ha.