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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Big Mad: Spire in the Hot Seat, Parson Punked and the Fretting of the Fringe

Posted By and on Tue, Dec 7, 2021 at 2:56 PM

St. Louis County Health Director Faisal Khan had some words for the crowds that have besieged County Council meetings of late. - COURTESY ST. LOUIS COUNTY
  • St. Louis County Health Director Faisal Khan had some words for the crowds that have besieged County Council meetings of late.

Welcome back to the Big Mad, the RFT's weekly roundup of righteous rage! Because we know your time is short and your anger is hot:

Pipeline PR: A December 3 ruling from federal regulators will keep natural gas flowing through Spire’s St. Louis pipeline this winter, but the company's month-long campaign of will-they-or-won’t-they terror — St. Louis is going to freeze! Except not! But maybe! — ended with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission doing exactly what everyone (including Spire) expected them to do. Also expected: Spire immediately pivoting to its defense of the pipeline itself, whose construction was retroactively deemed unlawful and whose fate remains tangled in federal court. When the commission delivered the good news of a temporary operating license for this winter, Spire boosted the news in an email to its customers, casually adding the claim that its pipeline saved "hundreds of millions of dollars" during winter storm Uri in February. Only… that’s not what the Missouri Public Service Commission found in an August investigation, which concluded that Spire’s customers would have actually saved more money without the pipeline during the storm. It’s another example of Spire playing a PR game with its customers while waging a calculated legal defense of its pipeline — and after winter leaves, it appears the game is only going to heat up more.

Just Call It St. Louis: When Olivia Rodrigo announced her tour dates on Monday, the Disney Channel star turned voice of a generation singer-songwriter listed her April 20 stop in town as happening in "Chesterfield, MO." This is technically true: She's playing the Factory. But when the Roots played the same venue, they listed the tour date as "St. Louis, MO," as did Greensky Bluegrass on their website. In our opinion, that's the right call. The Cowboys play in Arlington and the Braves’ stadium is in Cumberland, but they still call it Dallas and Atlanta, respectively. A splitting of municipal hairs doesn't do anything to help the fragmented state of affairs in the county or the city-county divide itself. However, there is the possibility that Rodrigo is well aware of St. Louis's 1876 "great divorce" and the long history of regional dysfunction since. Rodrigo's breakout hit was a song called "Driver's License" about driving lovelorn through the suburbs. We haven't really looked into it, but maybe she's only playing venues next to Polo outlet stores and across highways from Olive Gardens.

Parson, Punked: One of the weirdest things about Governor Mike Parson is how eager he seems to be to get punked. Last week was a pretty good example, so here’s a quick recap: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch followed up on Parson’s bogus claims that one of its reporters was a “hacker” and found even more embarrassing proof of the governor’s incompetence. Emails from Parson’s staff showed state officials were all set to thank the reporter for uncovering — and giving them time to fix — a potentially disastrous flaw in a state education website when Parson’s administration intervened to turn the praise into an attack. Parson was mocked by a national audience for equating basic internet competency with criminal intent. And last week’s story revealed just how hard his team worked on a strategy that backfired and made him look even pettier. And that wasn’t even the most painful story of the week. That came as the result of a fine bit of reporting by the Missouri Independent and Documenting COVID-19 project, which showed that the state’s own analysis found that cities and counties with mask mandates had demonstrably lower COVID-19 death rates. Parson’s admin, which has opposed mandates, tucked that inconvenient info in its pocket, the story revealed. Parson was so pissed about being called out that he went on a twelve-tweet tantrum which only managed to elevate his target, Missouri Independent Deputy Editor Rudi Keller, and make Parson seem confused and angry. In that way, the story revealed even more truth than expected.

Pick a Lane: It’s hard to keep track of the rage from the St. Louis County Council meeting attendees these days. One day, they’re insulting the council about mask mandates. The next, they’re pissed about Health Director Faisal Khan calling them a “lunatic fringe” in an email to his understandably weary employees. Yes, members of the so-called fringe used the November 30 meeting to call for Khan’s job because he was mean to them. It's rich that the people who are complaining about the name-calling spend their every Tuesday night traveling to meetings not to better the community, but to call the councilwomen and County Executive Sam Page names because they don't like to wear a mask. Is it “fuck your feelings,” or is it that we should care about what we say about others? Are the people who call out those who insult others "snowflakes" or are they concerned citizens? The hypocrisy is staggering.

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