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Rici Hoffarth / St. Louis Public Radio

On the Trail: The political money pipeline now can flow through Missouri’s local officials

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s political power just got a big boost, even if he wasn’t aware of it. That’s because the Missouri Ethics Commission just declared that candidates can spend money on, say, political ads for or against other politicians as long as there’s no direct coordination with a campaign . Since municipal and county candidates can take donations of an unlimited size, they could be used as a pipeline to help or hurt other candidates.

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Legal Roundtable returned on St. Louis on the Air on Monday with Daniel Epps, William Freivogel and Mark Smith.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis on the Air

On Monday, St. Louis on the Air’s monthly legal roundtable returned to address pressing issues of the law. 

Chris Koster thanks supporters at his November 2016 election night watch party at the Chase Park Plaza after conceding to Eric Greitens. Koster would have almost certainly vetoed "right to work."
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

Former Attorney General Chris Koster is headed back to the private sector.

The Democrat, who lost to Republican Eric Greitens in last year's gubernatorial race, is joining Centene as a senior vice president for corporate services. Centene is a Clayton-based health care company that’s become increasingly involved in managing Medicaid services in Missouri and throughout the country.

St. Charles County executive Steve Ehlmann, Mayor Francis Slay, and St. Clair County executive Mark Kern (right) at the State of the Region breakfast on January 12, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In what turned out to be his final inauguration speech in 2013, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay described St. Louis County as a place that “we confidently expect to re-enter in this decade.”

The Democrat might have been a bit overconfident, as it’s 2017 and there’s still strong opposition to the idea of a merger throughout St. Louis County. No one really knows what an actual merger would look like, either: Would St. Louis become a county municipality? Or would St. Louis and St. Louis County coalesce into one big city like Indianapolis did in the 1970s?

Still, the lack of headway hasn’t kept the topic from being a prime talking point in the St. Louis mayoral race. Proponents of a merger believe that combining jurisdictions creates some cost savings — and makes it easier to bring in big-ticket development projects.

Artwork designed by organizer Charles Purnell for the St. Louis artists event depicts the words not my presidents day laid over official portraits of United States presidents with an X over Donald Trump's face.
Provided by Charles Purnell

It’s rare that people find comfort in admitting their fears.  It’s even more unusual to admit those  fears to a group of strangers.

But finding strength in fear, frustration and confusion in a starkly divided nation is one of the aims of This Is Who I Am Now: Artists on Politics,” which takes place today at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester Ave., in St. Louis.

“That’s been one of the biggest things for me, being able to say I’m scared and I have no idea what I’m going to do in the next couple years," organizer Charles Purnell said. "I don’t know what’s going to change, I don’t know what’s going to happen — and knowing that’s OK. It’s OK to be afraid and to admit that.”

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth / St. Louis Public Radio

Increasingly, college life is less about walking across the quad or stopping at the dining hall before sitting in a big lecture hall, and more about flipping open a laptop at home.

Take Royal Witcher, a St. Louis native and Army veteran who lives in Belmont, Mississippi. He completed most of his bachelor’s degree through the University of Phoenix, a fully online institution, but often felt like just a number.

When it was time for his MBA, the 45-year-old did his research — lots of it — and decided on Maryville University, which has a campus in suburban St. Louis. But he didn’t return to Missouri, instead taking advantage of an online degree.

Fifty affordable townhomes and garden apartments will replace several empty buildings in the southern part of the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood.
Courtesy of Rise Community Development

Washington University’s medical campus in St. Louis will be getting a lot of new neighbors in the next couple of years, thanks to a new mixed-income development plan nearby.

The $27-million project will include 150 units of housing to buy and rent for both low- and middle-income residents in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood. It aims to continue in the southern part of the area the revitalization seen in The Grove’s shopping and entertainment district to the north.

St. Louis area high school juniors Connor Ouchi (left) and Shawnee Boswell work on an exercise about making tough decisions during Youth Leadership St. Louis' Diversity Day on Sat., Feb. 18, 2017.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio

Clusters of St. Louis area teens dotted the atrium of the Nestle Purina headquarters on Saturday as the 70-odd students intently debated several mature issues that challenge many adults.

Racial diversity. Transgender identity. Religious tolerance. New Americans and immigrants. Despite taking on different topics, the groups had one thing in common: intense, but civil discussions.

This collage of file photos shows the "Words for Love" book cover and author Emily Robbins.
Collage images provided by Riverhead Books

Author Emily Robbins was a Washington University grad student in August 2013 when she saw St. Louisans protesting in University City against U.S. plans to attack Syria. She was profoundly moved by the local activists and incorporated those feelings into the book she was writing, called “A Word for Love.”

On Wednesday night, Robbins will appear at Left Banks Books to sign copies, and speak about the book and its St. Louis roots.

“There is a very active community here,” Robbins said. “That was something I really drew on and felt proud of in St. Louis.”

Mayor Francis Slay signs the benchmarking ordinance in Feb. 2017 that will require buildings that are at least 50,000 square feet to track and share their energy use.
Photo provided by Office of Mayor Francis Slay

A new ordinance requires owners of St. Louis buildings of at least 50,000 square feet to track their energy use. The practice, called benchmarking, is expected to save local residents and businesses nearly $8 million annually in energy costs by 2025.

It could also address the city's contribution to climate change, removing greenhouse gas pollution that's equal to what 15,000 cars would emit. 

"Seventy seven percent of our [carbon] emissions are coming from buildings," said Catherine Werner, the city's sustainability director. "So why not target those buildings to reduce those emissions?"

MoDOT's district manager Greg Horn announcing construction work in St. Louis region on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017 outside at the Missouri Department of Transportation - February 17, 2017
Marie Schwarz | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis region can expect several major road construction projects this year.

The Missouri Department of Transportation announced on Friday that most of the road work will be maintenance and bridge repairs.

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St. Louis on the Air

Tuesday: Is TIF used too much in St. Louis?

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, we’ll turn our attention to the use of tax increment financing as an economic development tool. Is it used too much in St. Louis?

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