U.S. Representative Lacy Clay was positively giddy to introduce John Kerry and John Edwards as they arrived in St. Louis to kick off their Believe in America rail tour, which set the candidates on a train departing from historic Union Station. Standing in front of a row of shiny rail cars with the Kerry/Edwards logo emblazoned on the side, Clay, who was introduced by Mayor Francis Slay, shouted enthusiastically to the crowd:
"John Kerry and John Edwards will soon get on this train, connecting with urban, rural and suburban America!"
Later, during his speech, Kerry looked around in awe. "It's a beautiful day at the wonderful, historic Union Station!" he hollered. "And here we are, about to set out on this train that was once used on a cross-country effort by Harry Truman!"
No doubt those who watched the carefully choreographed event on the national news were equally impressed. What a nice place for a train to depart from! Of course, while the candidates boarded from the fancy ground of a genuine train station, a few hundred yards away rail passengers continue to sally forth from the converted double-wide trailer Amtrak has used as a "temporary" St. Louis depot for the past quarter-century.
Perhaps this has something to do with that "other America" John Edwards talks about.
Beware of Dog
Martin Lindstedt got trounced last week in the Republican gubernatorial primary, but he isn't blaming himself. The guilt, according to Lindstedt, lies squarely on the shoulders of the victor, Secretary of State Matt Blunt.
In a suit filed in the U.S. District Court in Springfield, Lindstedt claims Blunt violated his duties as the state's chief election officer when he prohibited Lindstedt from being listed on the August 3 ballot as Martin "Mad Dog" Lindstedt.
A part-time truck driver and full-time white nationalist and conspiracy theorist, Lindstedt is looking to get even.
"I say let the punishment fit the crime," he tells Unreal.
Indeed, Lindstedt's suit demands that Blunt be listed on the ballot for the November 4 general election as Matt "Runt" Blunt.
"Runt Blunt is going to get Mad Dog-bit in public," he vows.
Spence Jackson, Blunt's director of communications, could hardly suppress a yawn when Unreal caught up with him for comment.
"Mr. Lindstedt's suit is baseless and politically motivated," Jackson boilerplates.
Hell, yes, it's politically motivated, Mad Dog says. Not that he ever set out to win the primary; his intention, Lindstedt says, was merely to destroy the Missouri Republican Party by taking away the racist-white vote. And from his home in the southwestern Missouri hamlet of Granby, he can sniff the changes that are a-coming:
"What are people going to think when they see Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon jump to Blunt's defense in violating the civil rights of a white nationalist?"
They'll Pay the Price in the Afterlife
Given that marriage-defining Amendment 2 won a hefty 70 percent of the vote in last Tuesday's balloting, it wouldn't seem the one-woman-one-man proponents would've had to break the rules. But that's exactly what they did, according to the opposition.
The Constitution Defense League, which worked to defeat Amendment 2, says scripture-quoting fliers appeared on some St. Louisans' doorsteps on the morning of July 25, encouraging passage of the amendment. Trouble was, the fliers failed to indicate who'd bankrolled their printing and distribution -- a violation of Missouri law. The CDL has filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
"We don't have any proof of who produced them, all we have are conjectures," says Constitution Defense League spokesman Andy Schuerman. "The language was very similar to some of the communications that churches had been putting out."
Mum's the word over at the Coalition to Protect Marriage; the group that spearheaded the push to pass the amendment did not respond to a request for an Unreal interview.
Here's an Unreal suspect: Archbishop Raymond Burke. OK, we're kidding. But Burke has been politically active this year, what with that flap about giving Communion to pro-choice public officials. And he stepped up to the Amendment 2 issue in the July 16 issue of the St. Louis Review. "I urge you to exercise your right and fulfill your duty to vote on Aug. 3," Burke wrote in the archdiocesan newspaper. "Please vote in favor of Constitutional Amendment No. 2, so the institution of marriage may be safeguarded in its integrity."
He signed his name to that one.
Monday, August 2, 2004. Unreal is looking for a parking space downtown.
Don't ask why. It's just something we like to do every now and then -- drive around and look for a place to park. This particular time, we're pondering how the city appears poised (once again) to tear down the Century Building in order to build a 1,060-space parking garage to accommodate would-be tenants of the forthcoming Old Post Office development across the street.
Within one block of the Old P.O. there are three parking garages, built to hold a total of 2,000 cars. On this day we find that the 880-space structure at Ninth Street and Washington Avenue near the convention center is a skateboarder's dream: Though much of the ten-story garage is reserved for occupants and staff of the Renaissance Grand, the top four levels are completely empty. We could throw a rave up here and no one would be inconvenienced. We're talking 300 vacant spots.
"We sell out during Rams games, and sometimes when there are big conventions in town," says garage attendant Linda Henderson. "Right there?" she says incredulously, when we tell her the Century is slated to be replaced by a new garage. "What do we need with another one?"
At the corner of Eighth and Washington, we have no problem finding a spot among the 75 or so empty spaces in the 365-car facility. When we pilot our Bentley to the pay booth, the kindly attendant reports that the lot is seldom, if ever, full on weekdays. "It's easy to find a space," he says.
A new nine-story garage at Seventh and Pine streets boasts 755 spaces. Today the top three levels are vacant. The roof, Unreal muses, would be perfect for a lazy game of Wiffle ball.
"We've never had to put a sign out there that says, 'Lot Full,'" volunteers Steve Baker, director of planning and support service for the City Treasurer's Office. "There's always space available. The highest day we've had there is 600. We've never filled up," he says, then corrects himself. "We did fill up for a Cardinals day game."
Let Them Eat Cake
The folks at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis don't just count money. Sometimes they count MetroLink riders and Toyota Priuses. Witness this recent charticle reflecting the high cost of mass transit, adapted from a piece by economist Thomas A. Garrett and research associate Molly D. Castelazo in the July issue of the St. Louis Fed's publication, the Regional Economist.