Monday, November 22, 2010

Another Reason Why St. Louisans Should MOVE To The Riverbend

Here it is again --- the CQ Press study (flaws and all) shows the city of St. Louis atop the latest rankings for "Most Dangerous Cities" in the United States.

From our friends at News St. Louis:

Here it is (with permission from the publisher):

St. Louis is number one! Yes, it's happened again, and St. Louis' mayor and other officials are not happy about it.

A yearly study has once-again ranked St. Louis as the "most dangerous city" in the United States of America. That study, by CQ Press, has been controversial for its methodology and the subject of much scrutiny by the FBI and police agencies around the country for several years. St. Louis edged out Camden, New Jersey, as the study found St. Louis had 2,070.1 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, compared with a national average of 429.4. Citing those statistics CQ Press claims St. Louis edged Camden, which was atop last year's "most dangerous cities" list and was bestowed that distinction in 2003 and 2004 - and remains in the top five along with Detroit and Flint in Michigan, as well as Oakland, California.

The city of St. Louis maintains that it has become safer each year since 2007 and that crime is down in the past year.

The CQ Press statistics uses FBI data and population combined as basis for the statistics cited by the study, which does not take into account economic conditions and geography --- such as a city/county line as exists between the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County or a boundary area such as the Mississippi River which divides the city of St. Louis from East St. Louis, East Carondelet, Sauget, Madison, and other areas in southwest Illinois which would normally border a big city.

Criminologists have been critical of the way the statistics are used because of the minimal data versus population which many say does not take all factors into account.

The City of St. Louis last year was ranked second in the study and was atop this study in 2006.


Well, okay, that should tell you something. I honestly don't know what it says for each of you who read this, but I have to admit that I lived in the city of St. Louis from 1998 to 2008 and know that the statistics are just for the city and does not take into account small crimes or the amount of people who come into the city for work and are crime victims. It also does not take into consideration the criminals who live outside the city of St. Louis and drive into the city just to take part in a crime.

It surely doesn't take into consideration the high taxation that city residents have to endure to live there or the taxation that non-city residents have to endure in order to have a job in the city of St. Louis. That one-percent city earnings or living tax is huge sometimes --- and the stretch from 2007 to 2010 is nothing short of one of those times. Boy am I glad I don't work or live in the city of St. Louis for that one-percent tax alone. But those who do live and work there honestly don't notice it unless they look at each and every pay stub and want to know "why" for this or that --- including "why is St. Louis showing up at the top of a dangerous city list when we are always being told how much better it is now because the police are doing their job?" And, honestly --- I think the study cannot be taken all that seriously because the overall criminal activity seems (in my opinion) to be a LOT LESS than it was 20 years ago. And I can account for how I felt riding the buses in 2006, 2007, and 2008 --- when you take public transit you get a good view of a city and its people, and the residents in the city of St. Louis aren't a bunch of hoodlums, which is how a study like this invisibly characterizes an entire city.

But --- again, why did I title this particular entry the way I did?

Well, frankly, I see a HUGE difference in how criminal activity is handled in Alton, East Alton, Wood River, Bethalo, Godfrey, Roxana, South Roxana, Hartford, Grafton, Jerseyville, Brighton, and all around up and down the Riverbend. Neighbors are always on the lookout for --- and reporting --- criminal activity. With that, police are not only informed about the persons involved, but react quickly and pull people off the street - jailing the offenders while investigators and prosecutors follow-up with each case. It leads to a safer overall environment, a security in neighborhoods, and a piece-of-mind that I didn't feel living in South St. Louis. [Note: my particular neighborhood near Carondelet Park was not immune to crime --- we had two murders during my years there, and I knew one of the victims. But, overall I only felt "less secure" a couple of times walking to and from the bus stops at 4:30 am --- because I was aware of criminal activity which had been reported.]

But again --- why did I use "THIS" title?

There is ample opportunity to buy an affordable home, live in a safe atmosphere, put children into decent schools, attend the church of one's choice, take part in scouts and other "family" activities, and enjoy the higher quality of life featured in this area. And one example of something relatively new and available for today's youth and families is the Community Center in downtown Alton, where they have activities for children year-round. And if you're into history, Alton and the surrounding areas have rich history to view on a daily basis. PLUS --- for business people --- now is the time to move an existing business or open a new business in the Riverbend area and take advantage of the workforce that is available, the existing base of customers, and the expanding economic climate that the region has because of its proximity to everything in St. Louis --- and there is the river, highways, trains (both freight and Amtrak), and air traffic (Regional Airport at Bethalto, and Lambert is only 15 minutes from Alton).

And let's go with this line of thinking: Sure, there's "The Loop" and other venues in Missouri, but there is a burdgeoning entertainment industry in the Riverbend that includes regional acts which regularly are featured at venues throughout the Alton-Godfrey-Grafton-Bethalto and associated Riverbend area clubs, restaurants and stages. Argosy Casino Alton has also hosted numerous acts regularly on its stage including Chuck Berry, The Turtles, Max Weinberg's Big Band, and so many others, and has made overtures that it will be bringing more acts to the area in the coming months and years. In downtown Alton alone you can find regular entertainment at the restaurants along 3rd Street between Piasa and State Streets in Bossa Nova, Tony's Restaurant, Chez Marilyn's, Ragin Cajun Piano Bar, and on State Street at Spirits and other venues. This is just a small slice of what is available, as there is the Alton Symphony Orchestra, Alton Muny Band, and other musical entertainment groups which have a long history in the area. And if you don't know about Fast Eddie's Bon-Air you've probably been in a bubble for the past 20 years or so --- because Eddie Sholar advertises enough that St. Louisans come across the big beautiful Clark Bridge regularly just to see what the hubub is about and end up seeing things all around Alton. There are a lot of people who come over to Fosterburg to eat at Castelli's 255/Moonlight Restaurant as part of a tradition --- it's been there for four or five generations --- and they have been utilizing local and regional acts to attract people, too.
And maybe in 2011 the Riverfront Amphitheater will have a LOCAL operator that has knowledge of what to do with such a beautiful venue. At least I am hoping someone at Alton city hall will actually listen and award a local production group the chance to make this venue a regional and national attraction with touring acts stopping throughout the spring/summer/fall.

Honestly, I'm not even started good on how many different things there are to do regularly as an entertainment destination --- but the Riverbend has so much going for it in the positive way that even when the news is distressing (the centerfire plant which has been in operation in East Alton for 80 years or more is closing and moving to Mississippi because of greed by both a union membership and a company plant operator), it doesn't seem to make everything come to a halt because the region always pulls together and pushes on to the next phase of life. In the Riverbend, people do things in a "new, old-fashioned way" --- using what we have in the 21st Century and yet having traditional parades, celebrations, and neighbor-meeting-neighbor times like it was 35 or 45 years ago or more.

As much as I did like living in the city of St. Louis (I did --- don't let my disparaging remarkes make me sound like a total nay-sayer for St. Louis), I LOVE living in the Riverbend that much more. And I feel that if you're in St. Louis City or O'Fallon MO (which, by the way, was ranked as the city with the second-lowest crime in that same CQ Press study), you'll enjoy your time in Alton and the Riverbend --- because you are NEVER TOO FAR from those things you've been enjoying "over there" in Missouri.

And in the 21st Century it seems that one wants to feel safe and secure at home and in your neighborhood, as well as adventurous and outgoing. I cannot tell you how much MORE adventurous and outgoing I feel here --- but it would suffice to say that on a Monday morning when I find things are "slow" outside my window, I can always take my bicycle and go for a nice ride up the Great River Road and enjoy the scenery at my own pace.

And sometimes, it's the pace you take - fast or slow - which makes you realize what piece of mind is about. I'm not sure one can find piece of mind in the city of St. Louis. But it sure is here in the Riverbend.

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