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A Billionaire in Wells-Goodfellow

41 Then [Jesus] sat down opposite the offering box, and watched the crowd putting coins into it. Many rich people were throwing in large amounts. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. 43 He called his disciples and said to them, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the offering box than all the others. 44 For they all gave out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in what she had to live on, everything she had.”

Mark 12, 41-44

There were two different days I went by and surveyed the recent demolitions in Wells-Goodfellow; both times I noticed buildings that I had photographed before were gone. First off, I want to say I have incredible respect for Better Family Life, an organization that has been working tirelessly every day for years to make our community better, and does not helicopter in for a photo-op from the other side of the city or country. The people of Better Family Life are people I truly admire, and I look up to them for all of their tireless work. If they believe, working directly with the community, that the buildings that needed to be demolished really needed to be demolished, then their word is good enough for me. That being said, I have little to no respect for billionaires…

I’ll try and be optimistic; there was one thing that was going well on June 29th when I visited the neighborhood: the grass was coming up fairly decently in old vacant lots where the City has been demolishing abandoned buildings.

As I’ve stated before, I will not oppose the demolition of buildings if the residents of the neighborhood in question are in fear for their safety due to the presence of problem properties that have no hope of being renovated. I will not force anyone to live next to an abandoned building full of criminals that is not properly secured. If demolishing the building solves that problem, so be it. But I have always argued that abandoned buildings are the symptom of the problem, not the cause. I appreciate that Better Family Life and other organizations understand this and are working at the root causes of abandonment. But not down at City Hall; they think that abandonment can be solved by demolition, which is ridiculous. More and more buildings are being abandoned every year, so there will always be a steady supply. We can no more stop abandoned buildings by demolition than we can stop death by digging more graves in the cemetery.

Moving to the vicinity of the infamous Horseshoe, I came across a startling sight; the 5900 block of Ashland has pretty much ceased to exist in a literal and figurative sense. All of the buildings have been demolished; the City of St. Louis has basically raised a flag of surrender and said it has given up. Do I have a better idea? Well, I’m forced to pay taxes to St. Louis or they seize my house, and its leaders are constantly claiming that the City “is coming back,” but how would they explain the 5900 block of Ashland? I pay taxes so the government can come up with solutions, supposedly. Ripe for redevelopment? Yeah, right. If the government has no solutions, then I want my tax money back.

The rest of Wells-Goodfellow is not looking very good, either.

Demolishing our way out of this problem will leave us with a prairie dotted with trees.

Then on July 20th, the billionaire and the multi-millionaire showed up, glowing like messianic saviors to save the poor African Americans of Wells-Goodfellow by spending the equivalent of pocket change for the rest of us.

One positive thing I can say is that they hired local minority-owned demolition companies to carry out the razing of buildings. I wish we were hiring local firms to build new construction. Mark my words: nothing will be built on this land anytime soon.

I was able to figure out one building, which was not in any in danger of collapse and looked properly secured but was destroyed anyway. I featured it in this post from March of 2017. It was not in bad shape. I think this might be its ruins in the picture below. The rest of the houses were in terrible shape and were probably a winter away from collapsing into a pile of rubble anyway. I do not oppose their demolition.

There are plenty more where those came from.

If the billionaire actually cared about his hometown, he would invest one billion dollars into St. Louis, which would be nothing for him. That’s what made St. Louis strong in the Nineteenth Century: people willing to drop huge amounts of their own money into something they believed in. Or here’s another possibility; the majority of the murders of children this year remain unsolved. Maybe he could offer a $1,000,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of each of those children’s murderers. I was told by a lieutenant that most murderers get sold out by their friends, and for far less money. So how about it?

Oh, but what about Square, you ask? You do realize homeowners in Wells-Goodfellow will be paying more in property taxes than Square will, right? Just wait, my sources say the bill before the board of aldermen to waive the earnings tax for Square’s employees is coming up soon, as well.

Stop wasting our time with meaningless gestures such as paying for the demolition of a dozen houses when he could afford to do so much more.

3 Comments

  1. “If the government has no solutions, then I want my tax money back.”

    Chris, I couldn’t agree more.

  2. Instead of demolishing the abandoned buildings to rid the city of criminals, why don’t they install human sized mouse traps on the other side of the boarded up doors and windows to catch the criminals? St. Louis seems to have an infestation.
    Problem solved!

  3. Many people in this country think that billionaires can be our salvation and make all the problems go away. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have a completely dysfunctional government in Washington right now. This project of tearing down entire neighborhoods simply ignores all the terrible problems and inequities that have caused abandonment and a social and economic catastrophe. Initiatives, such as this, make the billionaires look good to the general public while all the while their businesses pay little are no tax. Interestingly, the founder of Twitter is refurbishing a enormous Art-Deco building in downtown Oakland to hold as many as 3,000 employees, and…… you guessed it, they will get a huge tax break. If Jack Dorsey’s partner in this scheme committed to rebuild in this neighborhood, their intentions would be a great deal more sincere.

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