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为 Olive Boulevard 带来新的 economic development

It’s time for a whole new conversation about development in University City. If we bring the unique strengths of our community together, we can drive growth and innovation on a scale U City has never seen before.

To make it happen, we have to give everyone a voice in our government. Development only happens when we bring everyone to the table. As your City Councilmember, I will use fluent Mandarin to help harness the energy of our Chinese business community to promote new growth that benefits everyone. I will draw on close friendships in our City’s third ward, developed in our own public schools, to bring our community closer together. I will bring experience working in an Affordable Housing Department in Silicon Valley to help guide new development so that it is done equitably, and supports rather than washes out the diversity that makes U City strong.

We can bring new development to Olive Boulevard. If we bring our community’s strengths together, we can transform Olive into an innovation corridor.
我们能为Olive Boulevard带来新的发展机遇。只要我们整个社区一起合力、博采众长,我们就可以引领Olive成为一个创新园区。

We have Washington University, one of the best research universities in the world, in our city. Wash U wants to create new spaces for its graduates to start businesses in St Louis, so that they can stay in this area, and give back to the university. Let’s make that new growth happen in our neighborhoods.

We have a strong Orthodox Jewish community, that would love to build closer ties between U City and Israel. Israel is the second greatest innovation hub in the entire world. We have a strong black community without which University City and our unique culture could not exist.
在这里,我们有强大的犹太社区,他们很希望在U City 和全球第二大创新中心 – 也就是以色列 – 之间建立更为密切的关系;此外我们还有强大的黑人社区,他们对U City及其独特的文化发展有着举足轻重的影响。

We have a Chinese business community with deep roots on Olive. If we bring our Chinese business leaders into the conversation, and give everyone a voice in government, we can grow together.

There is strength in diversity. There is strength in University City.

这就是多文化社区的力量。这也就是U City 的力量。


Let’s Talk: Washington University

It’s time to make Washington University not just a part of our City, but a partner to our City. Wash U can do more for our community. We do have the leverage to make it happen. We just need the political will for change.

Wash U is our most important cultural and economic relationship. They bring up our property values and bring talented people into our neighborhoods. But they bring real costs, too.


We pay (almost) as much as their President makes

Wash U is a nonprofit. That means, much like a church, they pay no taxes on the property they buy. But unlike a church, they own 5.3% of the total property value of University City. By not paying taxes, Wash U takes $2 million away from our City and schools each year.

To put that number in context, our general fund is only $24 million. To really put that number in context, their President makes $2.3 million a year.

Wash U bought up Parkview Gardens. They revitalized an area in decline and lifted property values for everyone. But they also surrounded the Loop with student housing, which is often empty in the summer. Our local businesses depend on strong summer sales, and Wash U’s development plan is hurting their bottom line.

And the biggest costs don’t show up in a budget. When a family on my block moved out of their house, Wash U moved in. Now the property occupied by students, who won’t send kids to Flynn Park, or show up for a neighborhood block party. Wash U’s expansion is changing the character of our neighborhoods. We deserve a say in where and how it happens.


We can build a true partnership

Wash U can do more. It’s time for our representatives to stop throwing up their hands, and start rolling up their sleeves.

One proposal is to ask for Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT). Other Universities negotiate PILOT programs with the municipalities they occupy to compensate for lost tax revenue. In the long-term, PILOT is an option worth exploring. But as a first step in negotiating with Wash U, it’s a bad idea. Asking for Wash U to pay money keeps our relationship stuck as a zero-sum game.

Wash U contributed more than $300,000 to help establish the Neighborhood Security Initiative in the Central West End. The initiative has put up almost a hundred security cameras and transformed public safety in the area. By contrast, their main annual contribution to U City is just $90,000 for a single police officer’s salary. 


We should point our relationship with Wash U toward the interests we share:

  1. Fighting Crime. Wash U’s students and professors live in our neighborhoods. Promoting public safety is in the University’s interests, too. In the Central West End, Wash U partnered with the community and contributed more than $300,000 to put up security cameras and fight crime. We can negotiate to make that happen here.
  2. Improving Schools. Wash U has incredible talent that has the potential to transform our education system. The problem is, their tutoring programs are decentralized and inconsistent. We can’t depend on the support year over year. Our City and School Board need to work together to bring Wash U to the table and get world-class resources for our school district.
  3. Jumpstarting Innovation. The empty storefronts on Olive should be the incubators of our City’s future. Wash U is investing heavily in building up its computer science program: they want to build places for their young entrepreneurs to set up businesses in our area, rather than leaving for the coasts. We should partner with them to direct that talent and investment to Olive.


Partnership means we have a seat at the table

Wash U plans on a decades-long time frame. They’ve already started designing new parking garages that will be backwards-convertible to mixed-use buildings for when self-driving cars come on the market. As your City Councilmember, I will negotiate for a true partnership where your concerns are incorporated into their long-term plans.

I will work to get open access to a decision-maker.

  • U City works with Wash U mostly through a Public Relations official.
  • By contrast, leaders in the Central West End have an open line of communication with Hank Webber, who directs Wash U’s development planning.
  • We need what they have: access to someone with actual decision-making authority, who can change Wash U’s plans and direct funds to our community.

I will push to establish a permanent resident committee. That way, we can vocalize the concerns of our community as they develop over time, and make sure they are heard by someone with the authority to take action to address them.


That’s one reason why I’m asking for your vote on November 8th! 

We can make this relationship grow in a way that works for everyone. I will bring new energy, new ideas, and new experience with 21st Century planning and development to help make your voice heard. It’s time for our City Council to start looking outward and forward.

Always a call away,
Luke Babich

Your questions about Gateway Ambulance

Earlier I published an analysis of our contract with Gateway Ambulance (…/lets-talk-gateway-ambulance-caf021ccff…). A lot of neighbors raised great questions and important additions. This post follows up to offer more depth on some of the topics I’ve heard many neighbors ask to learn more about.

My original analysis started from the question, “How did we know things were working *before* Gateway?” That question didn’t lead to the data, but to our Fire Chief, who has always personally heard almost every single emergency call on his radio. Our Fire Chief said that for now, Gateway has performed comparably to what we had before.

The biggest problems with our contract are long-term. One of the main reasons for outsourcing ambulance service was that our City was unable to collect on more than $1 million of unpaid ambulance bills. Ambulance service was losing the city money at a dangerous rate. When a private company collects less than they were expecting, they can only (1) cut service or (2) over-charge those who are able to pay. Our contract did not put in place effective mechanisms to detect these problems early and exit the contract if things start to go wrong. Also, we should have negotiated for less than a 5-year term, to have the flexibility to address problems moving forward.

We can point our political process toward solutions. We did need to reform our old ambulance system to improve public safety. However, outsourcing was not the only way to achieve that outcome, and above all we needed an inclusive discussion about the best way to make the reforms. Instead, we had one solution rushed through without citizen engagement. When things went wrong, our government did not respond. Our neighbors brought serious concerns about failures with Gateway. Just because a system is working on average, that does not mean that things do not go wrong. There should have been a thorough investigation to bring clarity, closure, and make sure public safety is protected better in future.

We also need a government that takes action. With the switch to Gateway, we lost our cooperative EMS agreements with nearby cities. But with negotiation, we can still re-establish them.


Here are answers to some of the questions raised about the last post. This does not address every aspect of this complicated issue, but offers short summaries and policy ideas for neighbors interested in engaging more. Please reach out if you’d like to talk further!

What does U City’s data show?

U City’s data show that Gateway is faster. To be clear: Gateway does not drive faster, but its drivers can wait for calls behind the wheel of the ambulance instead of in a fire station, allowing them to start driving sooner. Read more:…/learn-more-u-citys-ambulance-data-fa6b…

How do the qualifications of Gateway medics compare to our firefighters? Gateway’s medics pass the same state certification exams that our firefighters do. However, that does not mean Gateway medics are using that training with the professionalism our residents deserve on-scene. We should establish a system to follow-up with residents who use ambulance service, and study the quality of care they receive. Read more:

Was fatigue really a problem for our ambulance drivers? Yes. Before our contract with Gateway, U City ambulance drivers were working 48-hour shifts. That is standard for firefighters, but there are many more ambulance calls than fires. The data shows—and our Fire Chief confirms—that the 48-hour shifts were exhausting for our ambulance drivers. Changing to 12-hour shifts was an important improvement to public safety. Read more:

Where did this data come from? This data has been publicly available for a while. The response times were sunshined and published on Nextdoor months ago. The only new piece of data here was the geographic data of where calls were coming in from, used to create a map of U City ambulance calls. Several residents asked to learn more about the team involved in the work, you can read bios here:

Finally, read here to learn why Gateway’s data is different from U City’s, and what we can do to get reliable data:…/learn-more-why-are-gateways-and-u-city…

League of Women Voters Candidate Forum

Click to watch the League of Women Voters Candidate’s Forum for U City Council, Ward 1. My opponent and I agree about many of the problems facing U City. But I am working to point a path forward to new solutions. Watch full event here:…/10154277205781284/

City Manager Performance Evaluation: a way to move forward

At the last Council meeting, our City Council split 3-3 on a vote on whether or not to evaluate the City Manager. Everyone agreed that an evaluation is long overdue, but even that consensus did not translate into action.

The evaluation needs to move forward.

City Council has not established a form for performance review. For the last three years, our Councilmembers have not reached consensus on what criteria the City Manager should even be judged against. On Monday night, they split over whether it was fair to use the form from three years ago to evaluate him. Council did agreed to hold a study session to establish a new form, but only further pushed off the actual process of review.

We need to get this done. Council could have reached a compromise. In the short-term, rather than further push off the conversation, they could have agreed to use a third-party template for City Manager evaluation. Relying on a neutral standard, our City Council could have made progress on fulfilling one of its most important responsibilities: giving feedback to its main employee.

The University of Tennessee’s Institute for Public Service provides a tool for City Manager Performance Evaluation that is “intentionally generic,” designed to apply to as broad a range of cases as possible:

Here is another provided by the League of California Cities:

Let’s Talk: Centene Development

Right now, Centene Corporation is developing an almost $1 billion project at the border of Clayton and U City. But while U City land is being used to build a parking garage and our streets are taking the burden of increased traffic, we are not sharing equitably in the benefits of this project.

We need a government less focused on personal divisions on City Council, and more focused on the boundaries that unite us as a city.

Let’s stand up for U City, and negotiate with Centene to make sure we share in the benefits of this development. Those benefits should not be limited to new real estate either.

Centene should give U City residents priority when hiring for this project. That way, some of the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on Centene’s project will actually benefit our residents, and be spent in our local businesses. That way, this development can help support our families, stabilize our schools and build our tax base.

U City residents should be our government’s top priority. And we need a government that works proactively to make sure U City residents are a priority for all our partners, too.

Gateway Ambulance: See the Data

The graphs below show Gateway’s reporting on its response times. There is a lot we can learn from it, and potentially many ways it can be used to improve service.

The data and analysis both suggest that response times are very fast under Gateway. That does not necessarily mean that the contract was well-negotiated. Please read my accompanying report to learn more:

There is still a lot we need to discuss about how to manage Gateway’s reporting to U. City to make sure we are getting the clarity and reliability our city needs. Come to one of my events (click to see the calendar) to talk more and share your thoughts! I am here to listen.

Key Conclusions

  • Mapping emergency calls can help us choose the best places to position our ambulances.
  • Visualizing average ambulance calls over the course of a day shows that we did need to reform our ambulance system to give drivers time to rest.
  • The Gateway case showed that we urgently need to modernize our government. I have interned in U. City Hall, and have seen that our staff are not being equipped with the technical tools and training they need to help provide true transparency. The result was an embarrassment for our city when City Hall was unable to meet citizen requests for data.
  • We need a system for residents to raise complaints, find more information, and get clarity when calls take too long.


Number of Calls (blue) and Ambulance Response Time (orange) over the course of a day.

Click here to see an interactive version:

Here we can see at each time of day, how many calls are made and how quickly our ambulances respond. The red line shows the 4.5 minute response time required in our contract with Gateway. Most calls are made between 9am and 9pm, but we can see that calls are coming in around the clock. This is partly why the fatigue factor is so important: previously, our firefighters had to drive the ambulances on 48-hour shifts, responding to calls constantly without the chance for adequate rest.

Number of Calls (blue) and Ambulance Response Time (orange) each month.

Click here to see an interactive version:

Here we can see each month how many ambulance calls were made, and how quickly our ambulances responded. In future, we can use this data to learn whether snowfall or increased traffic in summer months impact ambulance speed, and improve our ambulance system.

Every dot represents a call: we can see that while average times are very fast, there are many slower outliers. We should establish mechanisms to get more information on these cases, identify problem areas, and improve service.

Map of Ambulance Call Locations.

Every dot represents an ambulance call. The color of the dot represents how quickly our ambulances responded. Under the original Gateway contract, our ambulances were positioned with one at Ruth Park Golf Course and one in the Loop (as shown by the blue dots on the graph). When the first ambulance received a call, the second would start driving to Heman Park to be in a more central location. That flexibility was a reform we needed. Gateway can now relocate the ambulances as needed to improve response times. But there were many ways to achieve it, the contract with Gateway was not the only one, and our citizens needed to be involved to make sure that our solution reflected citizen values. Click here to learn more.

Let’s Talk: Gateway Ambulance

Click here to read my accompanying analysis of the ambulance data:


In August 2015, University City’s City Council approved a contract to have Gateway Ambulance, a private company, provide our emergency medical services. Previously, ambulance service was provided by our Fire Department.

The conclusions you will read in this analysis are based on (1) data analysis conducted by a team of Stanford-trained data scientists, and even more importantly by (2) conversations about Gateway ambulance with as broad a range of individuals as possible, including the City Manager, Paulette Carr (a councilmember who opposed privatization), Greg Pace (a citizen consultant who supported it), the Gateway director and ambulance drivers, and our own Fire Chief.


In the back-and-forth on City Council, our representatives completely lost sight of the issue. We had real opportunities to make progress, improve public services, and have a conversation that would reflect our community’s values.

1.) We needed to change our ambulance system to improve response times. Simple changes could improve public safety.

  • Previously, our firefighters waited for ambulance calls in the fire station. They worked exhausting 48 hour shifts. It took about 90 seconds on average just leave the station, get to the ambulance, and start driving. We needed to change the system.
  • Our ambulances should be located closest to where people need them, not wherever we happened to have land for a fire station.
  • Our ambulance drivers should wait for calls inside the ambulance. That way when a resident calls they can start driving immediately. Before, drivers had to wait inside the fire station.

2.) The contract with Gateway achieved those changes. But because the contract was pushed through without a transparent democratic process, it cannot reflect our community’s values.

  • There were many other ways to improve ambulance response times. Changing our fire department’s policies could achieve the same outcome.
  • Many of the residents I speak with are deeply concerned about having a private company manage a public service, even a company that hires union workers. And research suggests they are right to be concerned.
  • Our city manager entered us into a 5-year contract without establishing clear reporting on performance for our citizens, and without clear mechanisms to let us leave the contract if Gateway fails.

3.) The pendulum politics on City Council hurt our city’s reputation but took us nowhere. This issue was used to further personal agendas, but the facts needed to make sense of it were distorted and left out.

  • Everyone involved was trying to either make themselves look good, or make the “other side” look bad. We needed to be looking for solutions.

The data shows that ambulance calls come around the clock, meaning that it is crucial for drivers to have a chance to rest. Click this link to see the data:
  • Our representatives got us lots of bad publicity. But they did not get us the facts. When I talked to our Fire Chief, I was surprised to learn that before the Gateway contract, our least-senior firefighters were assigned to drive the ambulances on exhausting 48-hour shifts.
  • I also learned that no U City firefighters lost their jobs. Three empty positions now no longer need to be filled, but no one was fired. The firefighters’ Union pushed back because this meant 3 fewer jobs for its members throughout the region, but no U. City firefighters lost their jobs.After a minor court dispute the city is on track to save an estimated half million dollars every year.
  • All this information matters to our residents, and it was left out of the conversation.
Previously, we had to position our ambulances wherever we had land for a fire station. We needed reforms to give us flexibility to put our ambulances wherever they could respond to calls most quickly. Click here to see the data and learn more:

Let’s talk about solutions

The political infighting damaged our community’s reputation. It ultimately led us nowhere, and did not even bring out the facts we need to make a rational decision about the issue. There were opportunities to make great progress for our community.

  1. Bringing the issue back into focus, it is clear that we needed to reform our ambulance service. The map above shows the location of ambulance calls in U City. We now have flexibility to place our ambulances wherever they are most effective, and keep improving their location in the future.
  2. We needed a true democratic process to represent all the values of our community. Trustworthy service, return on taxpayer dollars, and the intrinsic value of keeping service in-house all need to be balanced and brought into the conversation.
  3. We need to talk and work together. We have a vibrant, diverse community. That needs to be the focus of our policy-making, not personal political agendas.

City Council Meeting 9/12 – Live Video

Warm thanks to the more than 150 neighbors tuned in to catch part or all of my live stream of tonight’s City Council meeting. You can see the original post here, or visit my facebook page to see the original video post with live commentary on the proceedings! I hope the live comments helped for those joining partway through.

Please mark your calendar for the next broadcast September 26, and let me know what I can do to help you take part in the conversation.

In the meantime, please join my mailing list to learn more about my positions on issues raised in tonight’s meeting, and drop me an email at if you would like to find a time to talk in person!

Meet the Candidate: Washington University

Luke speaks about our city’s partnership with Washington University and the need for a long-term strategic plan to develop it during the campaign’s first Meet the Candidate event.

To receive more updates on Luke’s positions on this issue, and others, follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter, and join the campaign email list!