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Supporters push for $1.26M in federal funds to get Loop Trolley in service again



Supporters push for $1.26M in federal funds to get Loop Trolley in service again

UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. – After nearly two years of being shut down for financial reasons, there could be a light at the end of the tunnel for the oft-maligned Loop Trolley.

Trolley managers are vying for millions in federal tax dollars. Supporters said those funds would allow the trolley to operate for another two years and it would be free to ride.

It cost local taxpayers $51 million to build the 2.2-mile trolley system on Delmar.

“This is a minor part to make this go. Let’s be positive and correct things, make it better rather than give up, and let’s correct things and don’t throw it away,” said Joe Edwards, Delmar Loop businessman and advocate. “All the construction had been done. The track is in and the hard work is over, let’s be successful and make St. Louis even better.”

Edwards is among those hoping the East-West Gateway Council of Governments will approve $1.26 million in federal grant money to get the trolley back on track next year.

“This gives us an opportunity to have free service for one year and run for the next years as the sale tax revenue picks up. It’s so meaningful. Clean, electrical transit is meaningful for the working-class people, for tourists, and for everybody,” he said.

It now comes down to the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, made up of local mayors, county executives, and board chairmen in our area, to determine if the project receives any federal dollars.

A spokesperson for St. Louis County Executive Sam Page would not say how he’s voting, but issued the following statement:

Dr. Page supports a Loop Trolley that requires no more additional county funds, has new, effective leadership, and a clear plan to sustain service. He looks forward to hearing more about the grant proposal at the upcoming East-West Gateway meeting.

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Bubble watch: Pandemic made housing’s rich only richer



Bubble watch: Pandemic made housing’s rich only richer

Bubble Watch” digs into trends that may indicate economic and/or housing market troubles ahead.

Buzz: The housing market’s buying binge has largely inflated prices in what were already some of the nation’s most-expensive metropolitan areas.

Source: My trusty spreadsheet’s analysis of data from the National Association of Realtors of third-quarter median selling prices for existing, single-family homes for 182 metropolitan areas — looking at the latest median prices and how they’ve changed from two years ago.

The Trend

Despite much chatter about a supposed exodus of residents from big, expensive housing markets in the pandemic era, metro areas ranked in the top 20% of all selling prices had a median two-year price gain of 34% — better than a 26% median gain for the rest of the nation.

The Dissection

You see another example of how the rich got richer in the pandemic era when the nation’s housing markets are sliced into five groups based on pricing — with a handful of exceptions …

Upper Crust: The priciest fifth had a $548,350 median, up from $408,550 two years earlier — a gain of 34%, the largest increase of these five slices. Price jumps ranged from 25% (Washington, DC) to 59% (Boise, Idaho). In this group, 92% of the price gains topped the 28% gain seen across all 182 metro areas. No slice had a bigger share of above-par increases.

Next priciest: Next came a fifth of the nation with a $361,000 median — up from $276,350 two years earlier. That’s a gain of 31% that ranged from 18% (Baltimore) to 45% (Spokane). This group had 67% of its metros above the median gain.

Mid-range: The middle of the pack had a $282,650 median, up from $224,750 two years earlier. That 26% gain ranged from 11% (Bismarck, N.D.) to 39% (Atlantic City, N.J.) This group had 45% of its metros beating the U.S. pace.

Next cheapest: This slice’s $232,400 median was up from $185,250 two years earlier. That 25% gain ranged from 16% (Abilene, Texas) to 38% (Ocala, Fla.) This group had 36% of its metros beating the U.S. pace.

Cheapest: The nation’s “bargains” had a $183,550 median, up from $150,300 two years earlier. That 22% gain ranged from 5% (Shreveport, La.) to 36% (Cumberland, Md.) This group had only 11% of its metros beating the U.S. pace.

Note the price gap, top 20% to bottom 20%, grew to $364,800 from $258,250 — a 41% jump!

Another view

All eight California markets in this list topped the 28% all-metro median gain.

San Francisco had the largest jump (up 40% to $1.35 million); then the Inland Empire (up 38% to $524,000); Orange County (up 33% to $1.1 million); San Jose (up 33% to $1.65 million); Los Angeles (up 33% to $860,900); Sacramento (up 32% to $512,000); San Diego (up 32% to $850,000); and Fresno (up 31% to $375,000).

Florida had 16 of its 19 metros with above-par price increases. But just one of 11 Texas metros beat the U.S. pace — Austin, up 51%, the nation’s third-biggest jump.

By the way, 44% of the rest of the metros had gains topping 28%.

How bubbly?

On a scale of zero bubbles (no bubble here) to five bubbles (five-alarm warning) … FIVE BUBBLES!

Just another example of how misguided is the nation’s housing bailout for the coronavirus-chilled economy.

Most of the nation’s priciest metro areas have long been expensive because they’re home to an oversized number of high-paying office jobs. That type of work easily morphed into the pandemic’s key employment niche — remote jobs. These paychecks were relatively steady in an otherwise erratic pandemic economy.

Add in cheap money as a key financial tool deployed to keep housing afloat. That started almost immediately when coronavirus iced the economy in spring 2020 and still exists today.

But this price-gain analysis suggests the greatest appreciation came in places where folks didn’t badly need that kind of financial help. Being an owner in the nation’s costliest regions has forever required a household with one or more secure, good-paying careers and significant savings for downpayments.

So these home seekers used the low rates to help super-heat prices in many already expensive markets.

Meanwhile, low-cost metros saw meager home appreciation. Many of these economies are more blue-collar oriented or tourism-dependent — not work-from-home friendly. Thus, greater job losses and economic pain.

And these modest price increases also suggest that any perceived rush to cheaper housing by people with the pandemic era’s work-from-anywhere freedoms was, at best, less than envisioned.

But let me suggest one positive for the low-price communities; their housing’s nowhere as frothy as their higher-priced neighbors.

Jonathan Lansner is business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Opinion: Colorado’s dismal recycling record needs a response and we have a plan



Opinion: Colorado’s dismal recycling record needs a response and we have a plan

The news isn’t good when it comes to recycling and composting in Colorado.

The Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG) released their yearly State of Recycling and Composting report a few weeks ago and it turns out we are not the green state we like to think we are, and we are moving in the wrong direction.

Colorado’s statewide recycling and composting rate is a dismal 15%, less than half the national rate of 32%, and behind our state goal to reach 28% diversion by 2021.

Our recycling rate for plastics was even worse than our overall rate — only 9% of plastic containers and plastic packaging is recycled statewide. On average, Colorado residents recycle and compost only 1 pound per person per day, while residents in leading states like Oregon and Washington recycle 3.1 pounds per person per day —over three times more than Colorado residents.

There is widespread support for recycling as seen through municipal surveys in Colorado and a recent national poll that shows 84% of American adults agree that “investing in expanding and improving our nation’s recycling infrastructure should be a higher priority.” Despite this, Colorado continues to lack the recycling services needed to recycle and compost more and our patchwork system has left people confused about what — or how — to recycle.  Statewide recycling can be an important economic driver for Colorado, creating jobs and improving trade imbalances with foreign nations by relying less on materials shipped from around the world.

Colorado is failing to meet its goals to reduce waste, reduce carbon emissions, and curb plastic pollution. If we don’t want to continue on this trajectory, now is the time for a system-wide solution to modernize and transform Colorado’s recycling and composting systems. A “producer responsibility” policy for containers, packaging and printed paper is the most impactful, game-changing policy that can be adopted in 2022.

This legislative session we will introduce a bipartisan producer responsibility policy as the highest priority action to fundamentally revamp and expand recycling in Colorado, eliminate unnecessary and wasteful packaging, and reduce plastic pollution and carbon emissions. This policy will continue to allow municipalities to choose how they engage in recycling. It will ensure that every Coloradan — urban and rural, living in a single-family home or apartment complex — has access to recycling that is as convenient as their trash service and includes the most readily recyclable materials, such as plastic bottles, aluminum cans, glass bottles, cardboard, newspaper and other printed paper.

A producer responsibility policy will have producers pay for the end-of-life management of containers and packaging materials they put on Colorado markets based on the type of material and its environmental impact. The sustainable funding generated from such a program will:  provide convenient access to recycling to every Coloradan; greatly increase our recycling rate and reduce carbon emissions; create a single statewide list of what is recyclable to reduce confusion and increase participation; directly reduce costs for local governments by covering the costs to operate recycling drop-off centers and curbside recycling programs.

And it will boost local economies. Recycling creates nine times more jobs than landfills and this policy will help attract more businesses to Colorado to use our recycled materials to make new products.

In general, this policy will reduce the amount of non-recyclable single-use plastics and encourage companies to use less packaging overall and to choose more recyclable, less toxic packaging formats.

Across the country, environmental groups, recycling operators, consumer goods companies, and the business community are coming together to support producer responsibility policies for containers and packaging. Over 40 countries have mandatory producer responsibility policies for containers and packaging materials, and Maine and Oregon adopted the first U.S. policies in 2021. Colorado’s producer responsibility program for paint, PaintCare Colorado, has been in place since 2015. The program has resulted in over 4 million gallons of recycled paint and tens of thousands of dollars of savings to local governments from paint collection services.

Companies around the world are making bold commitments to use more recycled content in their products and to support recycling, such as the Every Bottle Back initiative by US beverage companies. This is just good business. According to the 2021 Global Green Buying Report, 67% of consumers consider themselves environmentally aware and concerned with sustainability, and 83% of consumers among younger generations showed a willingness to pay more for sustainable packaging. Consumer opinion continues to trend towards sustainability and is impacting purchase decisions.

Recycling and using less are two simple steps we can all take every day to reduce climate pollution, protect our clean air and water, and support healthy ecosystems. This policy will help make it easier for Coloradans to be good stewards of our environment and our climate while creating green jobs and building more resilient local economies.

We have the power to align our image of a green Colorado with reality. Let’s make it happen.

Lisa Cutter of Littleton represents House District 25, including the mountains of Jefferson County. Kevin Priola is State Senator from Henderson who represents Senate District 25 in Adams County.

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Appeals court weighs Trump arguments to withhold records



Appeals court weighs Trump arguments to withhold records


WASHINGTON (AP) — A panel of judges on Tuesday questioned whether they had the authority to grant Donald Trump’s demands and overrule President Joe Biden’s decision to grant Congress documents related to the Jan. 6 insurrection led by Trump’s supporters.

But the judges also noted that there may be times when a former president would be justified in trying to stop the incumbent from releasing records.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments from lawyers for former President Trump and the House committee seeking the records as part of its investigation into the Capitol riot. Trump’s attorneys want the court to reverse a federal judge’s ruling allowing the National Archives and Records Administration to turn over the records after Biden waived executive privilege.

Hundreds of Trump supporters marched to the Capitol on Jan. 6 from a rally near the White House where the president had challenged them to go and “fight like hell” to stop Congress’ certification of Biden’s election victory. Some broke into the Capitol, fighting past police, and dozens now face federal charges.

Two Trump allies, former adviser Steve Bannon and former chief of staff Mark Meadows, have resisted efforts by the House panel to obtain documents and question them about possible meetings with Trump before the riot. The Justice Department has indicted Bannon on a contempt of Congress charge. Meadows, seeking to avoid the same, is now cooperating, the committee’s chairman said Tuesday.

The National Archives has said that the documents in question in the current Trump case include presidential diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts, handwritten notes “concerning the events of January 6” from the files of former chief of staff Meadows, and “a draft Executive Order on the topic of election integrity.”

Compared to Chutkan, the three judges on the appeals court have spent relatively little time weighing the importance of the documents themselves. They instead focused most of the hearing Tuesday on what role federal courts should have when an incumbent president and former president are at odds over records from the former’s administration.

The judges sharply questioned both sides and challenged them with hypothetical scenarios.

To Trump’s lawyers, Judge Patricia Millett suggested a situation where a current president negotiating with a foreign leader needed to know what promises a former president had made to that leader. The incumbent might seek to release a transcript of a phone call or other records from the previous administration “to protect our interests,” the judge said.

“To be clear, your position is a former president could come in and file a lawsuit?” Millett said. Trump lawyer Justin Clark responded, “That is our position.”

To a lawyer for the House committee, Millett raised a scenario where a newly elected president might seek retribution against a disliked predecessor. The new president and a Congress led by the same party might declare that there was a national security interest in releasing all of the former president’s records, even at the risk of endangering people’s lives, she said.

“Needless to say, the former president comes to court, (says), ‘Hang on,’” Millett said. “What happens?”

She did not say she was referring to any president and rejected committee lawyer Douglas Letter’s response referencing a president who “fomented an insurrection.”

“We’re not going to make it that easy,” she said.

Letter argued the determination of a current president should outweigh predecessors in almost all circumstances and noted that both Biden and Congress were in agreement that the Jan. 6 records should be turned over.

“It would be astonishing for this court to override the current president and Congress,” Letter said.

Democratic presidents nominated all three judges who heard arguments Tuesday. Millett and Robert Wilkins were nominated by former Barack Obama, and Ketanji Brown Jackson is a Biden appointee.

Given the stakes of the case, either side is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Despite Trump’s false claims about a stolen election — the primary motivation for the violent mob that broke into the Capitol and interrupted the certification of Biden’s victory — the results were confirmed by state officials and upheld by courts. Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, has said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have changed the results

In explaining why Biden has not shielded Trump’s records, White House counsel Dana Remus has written that they could “shed light on events within the White House on and about January 6 and bear on the Select Committee’s need to understand the facts underlying the most serious attack on the operations of the Federal Government since the Civil War.”

Trump has called the document requests a “vexatious, illegal fishing expedition” that was “untethered from any legitimate legislative purpose,” in his lawsuit to block the National Archives from turning over the documents.

In their appeal to the circuit court, Trump’s lawyers said they agreed with Chutkan that presidents were not kings. “True, but in that same vein, Congress is not Parliament — a legislative body with supreme and unchecked constitutional power over the operations of government,” they wrote.

Trump has argued that records of his deliberations on Jan. 6 must be withheld to protect executive privilege for future presidents and that the Democrat-led House is primarily driven by politics. The House committee’s lawyers rejected those arguments and called Trump’s attempts to assert executive privilege “unprecedented and deeply flawed.”

“It is difficult to imagine a more critical subject for Congressional investigation, and Mr. Trump’s arguments cannot overcome Congress’s pressing need,” the committee’s lawyers said.

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