St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson, above middle, was a last-minute and extremely welcomed replacement for Congressman Lacy Clay, who was the scheduled speaker for the meeting of the 28th Ward Democratic Club Meeting held Thursday night at Dressel's. Alderman Lyda Krewson got word early that morning that Congressman Clay's plans had changed and he was not able to leave Washington. The focus of the evening was Ferguson.
Lyda's introductory remarks included her hope that St. Louis would serve as an example to the nation and the world on how to focus the energy and anger resulting from the tragedy of August 9th and turn it into something positive. There is so much good that can come out of this narrative, she said.
Dressel's was packed with CWEnders anxious to hear what the chief had to say about the anticipated reaction to the Grand Jury decision regarding Officer Darren Wilson and the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson 3 months ago. There is lots that Chief Dotson said that I missed as I made notes, so if anyone who was in attendance wants to expand on my observations, please hit the comment button at the end of this post and reply.
A synopsis of Chief Dotson's remarks:
1. The news media wants St. Louis to fall on its face.It has done a great job "frothing up fear." Headlines such as "St. Louis Prepares for War" (a backdrop on one of the news programs the chief was on recently) have had a stressful effect on police officers and their families. Officers are now working 12 hour shifts, with no days off or vacation days. When you see a police officer in the neighborhood be sure to thank him or her for their service to the community.
2. Since August we have experienced the longest act of civil disobedience in U. S. history. However, not one person has been killed in protests here, whereas during the Rodney King riots in L.A. 100 people lost their lives; and 30 died in Cincinnati during the 2001 riots in that city.
In Dotson's opinion, the events in Ferguson have caused police to get better at the job; however they are now "a little timid" because they don't want to become the next Darren Wilson. At the same time, criminals are feeling empowered and there is an uptick in crime as a result. However, he noted that in August crime was down 12%, and currently it is down 7.8% for the year.
The chief also said that he thinks the police department should be increased by 150 to 200 officers, which he projected would cost $2M $10 to $12M annually (Lyda: thanks for providing the correct figure).
He advised that St. Louis City has received no tools or equipment from the military; they do have one armored car which is used to keep police officers safe in extreme circumstances.
3. The passage of Amendment 5, establishing the inalienable right to bear arms in the State of Missouri, has impacted St. Louis in many ways. This year alone 100 legally-owned guns have been stolen out of cars, even some unlocked!!! ( and yes, it has happened in our neighborhood!), parked at sporting events and in entertainment districts (The Grove, Washington Avenue downtown). There is an epidemic of gun possession. Many weapons that were purchased legally are now in the hands of criminals. The "open carry" law has also affected the way gun cases are tried. Chief Dotson issuing the State of Missouri over Amendment 5 (he got a huge round of applause when he said this).
He advised that protesters who carry guns in the City of St. Louis will be arrested, and said he will accept responsibility for whatever consequences may occur because of it.
4. The new Unified Command made up of Sam Dotson, John Belmar (St. Louis County Police) and Ron Jonhson of the Missouri Highway Patrol talk every day. The County Police department is now in charge of controlling events in Ferguson. The 3 leaders have built bridges with protesters by meeting with representatives of the "Hands Up Coalition" (which has 50 subgroups) daily and agreeing on many "rules of engagement" proposed by the protesters. He said 97% of the protesters fall into a "daytime" group which is committed to peaceful demonstrations. The other 3% he described as agitators whose focus is toward harming law enforcement and disrupting lives.
"Anonymous" has hacked into Unified Command computers and it now takes them hours each day to undo the damage that group has done. On a humorous note he told of one local police chief who apparently bought a donkey in Greece. On a more serious note: another lost $28,000 when his personal information was stolen.
Police radios were being hacked but are now encrypted.
5. The Missouri National Guard will never be on the front line with protesters. That is the role of police. The Guard will serve in the background to protect vulnerable businesses and institutions.
6. The most vulnerable areas are believed to be Ferguson and Clayton, with the City of St. Louis is a distant third. At the height of the protests, there were 2000 to 2100 people protesting in a 6-to 8-block area in Ferguson.
7. What can we expect in the CWE? You might see a humvee passing through the neighborhood, but it is not expected that the CWE will be a target. If a need for more police presence arises, Dotson assured the group that he has 250 officers that can be deployed in no time.
Based on conversations with protest organizations it is believed there are no plans to disrupt BJC. However, if there are protestors in that area, they will be removed immediately. The same plan is in place for the airport, which is owned by the City of St. Louis. If protestors were to block access to the airport over Thanksgiving, they will be removed.
Chief Dotson praised the work of Jim Whyte, head of the CWE Neighborhood Security Initiative, and Captain John Hayden, 5th District Commander, who is a resident of the CWE you have probably seen walking around the neighborhood.
8. Chief Dotson said he asked the Justice Department for guidance on how to handle social media. He was told he is in uncharted territory..."let us know how it turns out," he was told.
9. The Justice Department is conducting two civil rights inquiries into the events which are ongoing.
The following post introducing CWEnder Jef Ebers, above, has been languishing on the "shelf" for months while I've played with many different scenarios to give it all that it deserves. There's so much to share about this illustrator, designer, teacher, and author that it's been hard to know what to keep and what to leave on the cutting room floor. I hope you'll find Jef as interesting and inspirational as I do.
Jef, his wife, graphic designer Liz Sullivan, and son Truman, a student at St. Michael's School of Clayton (where Jef teaches), have lived in the CWE for four years. I first met Jef when he tagged along with Liz to retrieve a credit card that fell out of her coat pocket at Pi following a coffee there. That serendipitous meeting led to the following post.
Jef has been working as a designer since 1996; an illustrator for the last six years. He started as a sculpture major at SIU Carbondale, but the influence of his professors who had studied under renowned architect Buckminster Fuller (geodesic dome) led him to seek a degree in product design (industrial design). After graduation Jef landed a job in the graphics department at HOK, an architectural firm he knew nothing about until he looked it up in a local bookstore. Since then he's worked for a variety of firms including Kiku Obata & Co., Environmental Design Firm Cloud Gershan in Philadelphia, Werremeyer Floresca Inc in Webster Groves, and later commuted to Boulder, CO for eight years while working for Idie & Tim McGinty (McGinty Studio). He is especially proud of the environmental graphics he helped design while working for McGinty Studio on the stunning Clyfford Still Museum in Denver (see copy of CSM book in photograph).
Currently Jef works not only for himself, but freelances for local companies such as Ten8 Group, as well as firms based in California, New York and Colorado. Jef explained: "I love working with graphic designers taking their two-dimensional designs and turning them into 3-dimensional products."
The bookshelves in Jef's studio are filled with his father's toy collection, vintage cigar boxes, books and art supplies. Everything is meticulously organized - he says he cannot work unless everything is in its place. That sense of organization extends to his illustrations. When Jef senses his drawings are becoming "overworked," he pulls out books by his favorite illustrator, the late Richard Scarry.
In the photograph above he's reaching for another favorite book, The Monster at the End of the Book. When I asked what he found so inspirational he replied, "Because it teaches you how to interact with a book." A statement like this is another reason why I love doing these posts. I would have never thought of this in a million years, but now am anxious to find a copy of the book again (ours is long gone), and see what Jef is talking about.
Jef has several book ideas he's been mulling over, and hopes to finish one of them, The Moon and a Spoon (a work in progress shown on the wall above), by year's end. The photo also shows a book Jef has completed, The Things I Haul.
The artist keeps a collection of his grandfather's stubby pencils, above, not only because they remind Jef of him - his grandparents raised him - but they've become his favorites too. In his opinion pencils are at their best when they get down to the "stubby" end.
The illustrations of bicycles in the photo are samples of ones Jef gives to friends who contribute to his annual charity ride for MS. This year he was joined by Liz and Truman, who biked an impressive 40 miles each. Jef, who bikes everywhere, reached his 200-mile goal.
Meet "Mr. Dog" above, a paper sculpture of the family pet. I understand he isn't as threatening as he looks. Last year Jef applied for a performing arts job at St. Michael's School of Clayton. He thought it would be fun to work where his son is a student. When asked if he had experience in the field he said no, but was willing to learn. Instead, the administration made up a job for him teaching kids to be problem solvers and to think outside the box. He teaches 5 to 12 students at a time lessons on graphics, typography, stop-motion animation, perspective, architecture and illustration.
When the kids sometimes balk at using a pencil and triangle - all you need to draw anything Jef says - instead of their ipads, he tells them his story of once sitting at a table with Bill DeWitt of the Cardinals organization sketching out an idea for what became the clock at Busch Stadium.... using the same simple tools. Many designers, he says, don't know how to draw, and he thinks it's important for the kids to learn both basic drawing skills along with digital art.
As the saying goes, pictures are worth a thousand words...in this case, how about grocery lists? While most of us scratch out a list on a scrap of paper, Jef draws his in tiny pictures (click on photo to enlarge). When checkers see Jef's list at the store, they frequently ask if they can keep it...and he's happy to oblige. He says his illustrated lists take no more time than writing them out.
Jef continued: "I like to do things the hard way...in fact, I'd probably make my own paint if I had time!"
If you have any questions about Jef's work, or could use his many talents on a project, contact him at email@example.com.
With the increased popularity of the CWE as a destination, the rapid growth of the Cortex area in Forest Park Southeast, and more people living in condos and apartments who may need a spare bedroom once in a while, there is apparently a need for more mid-priced hotel rooms to satisfy growing demand. Enter the Holiday Inn Express CWE which just opened for business at 4630 Lindell after undergoing a $3M renovation. The mid-century Modern structure, which opened as the Bel Air Motel in 1957, was most recently operated under the Comfort Inn flag. Garrison Investment Group purchased the property and renovated 123 new guest rooms, four suites, the lobby, fitness center and a landscaped courtyard.
In a June, 2014 press release Abby Shanahan, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express Central West End said: "In the spirit of the Bel Air (which was known for its amenities - trips to the zoo, etc.) we also want to offer a fun and unique experience to help our guests get the most out of Forest Park and the Central West End, whether on a business trip or a weekend getaway."
An opening event - "Party like it's 1957" - was held on Thursday, November 6, followed by a breakfast on Saturday, November 8 for the neighborhood. Interesting information about the historic Bel Air Motel and its architecture, one of several examples of mid-century Modern buildings on Lindell, can be found in the press release mentioned above.
Photograph courtesy of Holiday Inn Express
Staff members who attended the opening party include Sales Manager Leneia Weston, left, Social Media Manager Adam Parchert, and General Manager Abby Shanahan, right.
Photograph courtesy of Holiday Inn Express
CWEnders Mario and Rebel Vaenberg, left, and Steve and Jean Nystrom, right, were also in attendance on opening night.
The photograph above shows the renovated lobby. Holiday Inn Express CWE is pet-friendly too, charging $25 per day per pet.
One of 127 guest rooms is shown above. Rates range from $99 to $189 for a suite. I noticed on the website that Holiday Inn Express offers a special room rate for patients and families visiting BJC too.
Wi-fi and a business center are available for guests, above.
The hotel offers a free hot breakfast served in a comfortable dining area situated off the lobby, above. Breakfast includes eggs, meat, yogurt, fresh fruit, cereal and hot waffles.
Would that the following inspiring story about Soldan International Studies High School's soccer team would find its way into the national spotlight as an example of all that is good about St. Louis, instead of the uninterrupted stream of negative news reports we have come to expect over the past several months.
The Soldan Tigers are participating in the state soccer playoffs in Blue Springs, MO this weekend, and are scheduled to take on Perryville in the championship game this afternoon. What's interesting about this accomplishment is that it's the first time in the school's history that it has earned a spot in the soccer playoffs, and that this year's team includes players who come from 14 different countries and speak 8 different languages!
KSDK sportscaster Rene Knotte reported on the Tigers' success earlier this week (see KSDK video here), and today in the Post-Dispatch there's a related article about their upset victory over Springfield Catholic in yesterday's semi-finals.
The story of Soldan's evolution over the years speaks to the vibrancy of this city (then and now) and to the possibilities for its future. There are many interesting details about Soldan (located on Union Blvd. just north of Delmar) to be found on its website, including that the school is currently listed among U. S. News & World Report's "Best Schools," and that its many notable alumni include former U.S. Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford, author A. E. Hotchner, former Chairman of the U. S. Federal Reserve William McChesney Martin, and hotelier Harold Koplar (Chase Park-Plaza).
Philadelphia-based Insomnia Cookies opened its 58th store, the first in St. Louis, at 226 N. Euclid in October. A second St. Louis location is planned for the Delmar Loop sometime in the near future. Insomnia Cookies, a late-night bakery concept (freshly-baked cookies are delivered until 3 a.m.), was founded in a college dorm room at the University of Pennsylvania in 2003.
The bakery's daytime manager Celia Bourrage, above, explained that Insomnia Cookies targets college kids and "late-night crawlers" for its fresh-from-the-oven products. The Euclid location was chosen as it's midway between the campuses of S.L.U. and W. U., and fits Insomnia's late hours and delivery area (3-mile radius) perfectly.
It's always fun to interview someone who is as excited about her job, as Celia is. While we were chatting, she kept her eye on the ovens in the back. She also apologized for being photographed in a flour-speckled shirt, which is completely understandable for someone who bakes a fresh batch of cookies every 35 to 40 minutes. Cookie varieties, shown above, range in price from $1.35 for a regular cookie to $2.75 for a Deluxe version, shown in back row.
The cookies are irresistible. While I had every intention of sharing the warm peanut butter and chocolate chunk I walked out with, it didn't quite work out that way. You'll understand when you stop in.
Specialty items include a 9" cookie cake that feeds four to six, $17, cookiewich and brownie a la mode, $5, and of course, milk. The shop carries Prairie Farms ice cream in flavors such as Turtle Tracks, Cookie Dough, and Birthday Cake, prices shown above (click on photo to enlarge).
Celia said that the bakery has had a brisk business delivering its products from the day it opened, word has spread from location to location throughout the country. Minimum orders are $6 (plus tip). To order, contact Insomnia Cookies via Twitter (@insomniacookies), Facebook, Instagram, or (877) 63Cookie. For those who may at one time have fit the "night crawler" category, and therefore might expect a shop to have a local phone number, forget it...social media's the thing.
Insomnia Cookies, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Monday through Saturday, 1 p.m. to 3 a.m. Sunday, 226 N. Euclid.