I took some photos of scuzzy developer Paul McKee tonight, at his meeting at Ames School in Old North St. Louis. I wasn’t planning to post them here. I just wanted to take some photos of the man who has spent years intentionally decimating my community.
They’re not even very good photos. Most of them are blurry, and in many the light’s all wrong. I know my dinky camera doesn’t do that well capturing a subject in motion from that far away, and I had no desire whatsoever to get as close to Mr. McKee as I would’ve had to in order to get good photos of him.
But when I got my wee camera out and started taking photos, from my seat over on the side of the room, Paul McKee freaked out. He told me to stop taking photos. I told him calmly that it was a public meeting, in a public building. He told me again to stop. I repeated myself. He said that he doesn’t like it when his photo is taken, because it ends up “on the blogs.”
One of his employees then came over and tried to get me to stop. She asked me in a stern tone to stop. She was all up in my personal space.
I told her it was a public meeting, in a public building. Still she persisted, trying to intimidate me into stopping.
Only when my attorney intervened did she stop haranguing me verbally. She did however stand next to me for a while after that, in a quiet attempt to frighten me out of taking more photos.
Eventually, McKee’s tech savvy crew realized that Doug Duckworth was filming the meeting. They then set upon him (illustrated below).
The same McKee staffer gave Duckworth trouble. When that didn’t work, Alderwoman Marlene Davis went over and leaned over his chair and started trying to make him stop taking photos, acting as if she was McKee’s personal bouncer (illustrated below). After years of fighting this project, I’ve learned not to expect even rudimentary decency from McKee, but seeing this behavior from one of our elected officials who claimed aloud that she was acting on behalf of the community was still a shock. It was inappropriate and disgusting, to be blunt.
Duckworth moved to the back of the room to film. McKee kept complaining about the filming, ultimately coming back to do a weird sort of action where he stood in front of Duckworth and then backed into him. McKee finally refused to say anything else unless Duckworth stopped taping, and started packing up his things as if he were a defeated third grader taking all his toys and going home.
Duckworth thankfully got it all on tape. You can watch McKee’s confrontation and read Doug’s summary of it here, and I recommend doing so. It’s pretty entertaining.
The question, of course, is why try so very hard to squash even the slightest documentation of the meeting? What could really come of a coupla blurry photos and some video? It seems that Paul McKee fears any media that he does not control.
Neighbors I’ve spoken with who attended McKee’s previous “community meetings” have been shocked at his willingness to throw out any claim, his seeming desire to want to tell neighbors whatever they wanted to hear. I know tonight McKee threw out a lot of claims he has been consistently unwilling to back up in any sort of legally binding writing. He referenced an “agreement,” but wouldn’t name what it was. He also said a lot of things that made me want to stand up and pull a Joe Wilson. This is a man who told my neighbors, who told the media, who told many people that he was not Blairmont until very recently. His record on truthfulness ain’t exactly sterling.
Paul McKee’s previous “community meetings” have been at churches, so that they weren’t technically public meetings. His behavior has been even worse in these instances. Notably, one of my neighbors was made to leave the meeting at St. Stanislaus Kostka and was even followed after leaving. Not okay. If I may quote another neighbor’s tweet about this evening’s meeting, “If this is McEagle’s community engagement style, I actually want LESS.”
I also want to note that tonight Alderwoman April Ford Griffin answered many of McKee’s questions for him, in a defensive manner (illustrated below). Like Alderwoman Davis’s behavior, I found it highly inappropriate. Alderwoman Ford Griffin took her usual You don’t know how hard it is to be us! rambling tone. Alderwoman Ford Griffin, you are not my representative.
My impression at this point is that due to McKee’s well-documented fiscal troubles (including foreclosure proceedings on a warehouse in Hazelwood that McKee built two years ago), he desperately needs public money in order to continue. I’m told he can’t get more loans until he gets this TIF. So, he’s slapped a North Side face on it, but his own TIF app sets no timetable whatsoever for rebuilding the North Side. He does, however, want to demolish everything he possibly can (except for about 60 buildings) by the end of 2010. So, we may not get development for years, if ever, but he wants to wipe our community off the face of the earth ASAP. Disgusting.
I honestly did not originally pick up my camera tonight with any intention of publishing photos here, but I do not appreciate being shushed or intimidated, especially in my own community.
A closing thought: If you put hundreds of people out of their homes, you hide your identity, and you want to wipe out whole neighborhoods, yeah we might want to take your picture.