In response to a comment in this blog asking if the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group was taking a public stance on Blairmont, president John Burse posted this comment. We are re-posting it here so that it doesn’t get buried amid the lengthy and heated comments Blairmont posts generate:
On behalf of the ONSLRG, I would like to express our gratitude to Michael and Claire for their diligent investigative work of Blairmont’s activities and offer a response to some of the comments. Our organization has been aware of Blairmont’s activities for quite a few years and is very concerned about their impact across the entire near north side.
EOA’s work has provided us the kind of useful data on Blairmont’s activities, data that we simply do not have the time to mine given the current work load and activities we have underway – work that includes over the past 18 months moving over 40 new families into renovated and newly constructed dwellings into the neighborhood, the planning and predevelopment of the 14th Street Mall Project, and the effort to save the Mullanphy Emigrant Home. This work is slowly but surely transforming the landscape of our neighborhood and capturing the imagination of other to join our calling – to revitalize the physical and social fabric of our community. This work is ongoing, healthy and quite visible in spite of the activities of Blairmont. Those who know our organization know we are not undertaking these efforts alone – it is through a broad spectrum of close working relationships ranging from city officials, organizations like RHCDA, and neighbors like Michael and Claire that we have been able to reverse Old North’s decline.
EOA’s contribution has lit a candle in the darkness of this one situation, and we are certainly inspired by its light. In this matter we have not been “silent”. Over the years we have had a number of conversations with elected officials and even Mr. McKee regarding Blairmont. While I will not go into detail about those conversations, we believe the facts Michael, Claire and others have been uncovering make action on this matter possible and even easy to consider. A year ago in a conversation with our organization, Mr. McKee denied any involvement in this enterprise. EOA’s detective work allows a different kind of conversation to occur at this point and we are actively pursuing those discussions.
Let there be no question: Blairmont’s activities are most certainly a concern to us. They do indeed raise our “hackles.” As a community based development organization we are committed to principles of openness and public engagement as key ingredients in any socially sustainable, large scale development activity. This has been a virtue we have practiced in our own work, and one which we consider as an imperative for others considering large scale efforts. We have expressed this position to both Mr. McKee and city officials.
In the matter of neglected problem property, our organization has in the past organized efforts to report Blairmont properties to the city and urge action to clean these properties up. This activity usually involved calls and emails to the CSB and ultimately did not produce the kind of sustainable action needed to hold these folks accountable for taking care of what they own and being good neighbors. I’m sure they simply paid the fine or bill the city sent (if any) for board up, debris removal, or mowing the city did at our urging. For an organization like Blairmont that kind of activity is like a buzzing gnat – it really doesn’t slow this gorilla down and so we are very interested in a more proactive working relationship with the city to pursue this issue and have also expressed that position to both city officials and Mr. McKee.
I apologize for the length of this note, but help it hopes your readers to understand our stance regarding this situation. Again thank you to Michael, Claire, and Doug Duckworth for your outstanding efforts.
Old North St Louis Restoration Group