Stinky Ole’ St. Louie

Recently, I was on a plane coming into STL. The woman next to me was in rough shape. Missing a few teeth, tattered, a resident of rural Missouri. We landed and she said, “Stinky Ole’ St. Louie.”

We were home.

The headlines read: STL is a start-up cityThere are all these millennials in STL!

There is no real shortage of promotion dollars and spokespeople for the #newSTL. None better exemplify than the troubled St. Louis Regional Chamber. As the city and self-promoters talk about good things in our failing city sometimes our city feels like a giant circle jerk of idiocy.

So let’s start-off and be real. STL has massive problems.
Our city is post-apocalyptic.

The city’s population is 36.8% of what it was in 1950During that time, the world’s population has grown 295%.

This depopulation leaves empty and decaying buildings throughout the city that give the impression a bomb dropped on our town.

We have one of, if not the highest crime rates in the country.
STL is a poor city in a backwards state. Our republican governor was recently elected with advertisements showing him using some crazy guns and shooting them into oil barrels and ponds. Despite that, the NRA endorsed his democratic opponent who they believed to be a more reliable gun lover.

We have tragic structural and racial inequality. Delmar symbolically separates rich and poor, black and white. Ferguson is part of our region. More than symbolic, it is factual that black people in our city and region have lower incomes and lower education levels.

Our most successful and capable people leave. STL’s heroes and influential people are the people who no longer live hereJohn Hamm, Jack Dorsey, Karlie Kloss, etc.

Beyond celebrities, unless people are super homebodies, boring, or tied to St. Louis for financial or family reasons, they largely leave as well. Our city is full of rich people from previous generations whose kids have bounced. These people now spend significant time in other cities. STL is where they have influence, their charitable project. The future is elsewhere.

Abandoned buildings in St. Louis. Source: Flickr/Robert Schrader

Our city is polluted. Nobody swims in our river, ozone is high, stream runoff pours untreated sewage into our city, and a landfill fire by the airport may or may not catch a bunch of nuclear waste stored nearby on fire. It does appear there are increased radiation levels in the area and one of our companies buried shit loads of nuclear waste in our metro region in the 70s.

While it can be desirable to have a start-up scene, our start-up scene is a joke. Self-promotional articles aside, we don’t have any truly notable start-ups in this city.

Let’s be real. What we are doing and have done isn’t working. In part this isn’t anyone’s fault. Our city is stuck in an economic depression. It is pretty hard to get out of a depression without a stimulus, you can’t get out of a depression by just doing the best you can or acting rationally. You need a stimulus.

In future additions, in addition to exploring what is good that is happening in STL, I’ll present what could make STL a better, more equitable city. Please join me. I’d love to hear from you. Email me,, if you want to add problems, solutions, or things you like.

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