Joseph Leahy

Reporter and afternoon newscaster

Joseph Leahy began his career in broadcast journalism at St. Louis Public Radio in 2011. He moved to Delaware in 2012 to help launch the state’s first NPR station, 91.1 FM WDDE, as a general assignment reporter, afternoon newscaster and host. Leahy returned to Missouri in 2013 to anchor St. Louis Public Radio’s local newscasts during NPR’s All Thing’s Considered and produce news on local and regional issues. His education includes a master’s degree in print and multimedia journalism from Emerson College in Boston and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Missouri. He graduated high school at Highland Hall Waldorf School in Northridge, California and grew up migrating almost annually with his family between rural Missouri and sprawling Los Angeles. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1982. 

Cast a Line / Flickr

Many state officials have been receptive to a fresh proposal to overhaul the state’s school accreditation system, but the plan would take years to implement and won’t help the districts facing bankruptcy over student transfer and tuition costs.

(Kate Essig/St. Louis Public Radio)

Nearly 100 activists rallied for immigration reform outside the federal courthouse in St. Louis this morning, calling on the U.S. House of Representatives to vote on a new immigration reform bill (HR 15.)

The bipartisan bill passed the Senate this summer and includes a pathway to citizenship and tougher border security, but has yet to be brought to a vote in the House. 

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
Senator Blunt | Flickr

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt says the federal government's difficulty launching this fall is not really what's wrong with the Affordable Care Act.

President Obama's administration has struggled to address a myriad of problems with the site since launching Oct. 1, including users being unable to create accounts and load web pages.

Blunt cautions residents not to consider the website as a measure of whether or not the President's signature health care plan is working.

(via National Drought Mitigation Center)

Extreme drought conditions in Missouri have worsened even though nationwide the total area affected by this year’s severe dry weather has decreased slightly. That’s according to this week’s report from the US Drought Monitor.

The portion of the country facing any level of drought decreased a point to about 63 percent. Meanwhile, about 93 percent of Missouri is in an extreme to exceptional drought.

(Campaign Photos/Provided)

Missouri’s Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor is by far the most crowded race in the state this election cycle. The eight candidates running represent a range of experience from across the state.

As St. Louis Public Radio’s Joseph Leahy reports, splitting the ballot eight ways means a winner could emerge with less than 20 percent of the vote.

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder is asking the State Emergency Management Agency to explain why the St. Louis suburb of Bridgeton has not received $500,000 in FEMA funds to help it recover from the 2011 Good Friday tornado.

Kinder chairs an interim legislative committee on disaster preparedness, response and recovery, which agreed today to give SEMA 48 hours to respond.  

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

Financial services firm Wells Fargo Advisors is investing $33 million to expand its operations in the St. Louis area. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay joined the company’s president and CEO Danny Ludeman Friday for the announcement at the company’s downtown headquarters.

Ludeman says the plan will create 400 local jobs.

(via Flickr/Indofunk Satish)

Good morning. Here are your starting headlines today:

Valley Park mayor resigns

The embattled mayor of Valley Park has resigned. Nathan Grellner stepped down as the top official in the St. Louis County town on Thursday, submitting a written letter of resignation. Grellner has been under fire for questionable spending with a city credit card, for missing nearly every meeting since February, and for his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence in a neighboring town in June.

(flickr/Jack W. Reid)

As this year’s heat wave wears on, St. Louis city officials are stepping up their efforts to keep the death toll among the area’s homeless population from rising.

Department of Human Services Director Bill Siedhoff  says people living on the streets can be at greater risk for heat-related illness and death. 

(Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio)

Rev. Larry Rice directed about 20 homeless persons to a mall in Fairview Heights on Tuesday to underscore the lack of shelters in St. Clair County.

Rice says many homeless persons seeking refuge from the triple-digit temperatures wind up across the river at his shelter downtown. 

“Belleville represents what we see in so many municipalities," Rice said. "Where people just aren’t dealing with the homeless. They’re closing shelters. We saw a shelter close here – the Salvation Army – in 2009. They made no other arrangements for the homeless.”

via Flickr/Derringdos

St. Louis Zoo officials say the deaths of three harbor seals in transit from Canada to St. Louis last month were due to exertional myopathy, or a disease of the muscles. The disease was likely brought on by the stress of travel.

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

Some St. Louis church leaders are taking to the pulpit in an effort save lives as the death toll from this year’s heat wave continues to grow. Persistent high temperatures that began late last month have been blamed for 23 deaths in the St. Louis area so far.

Mayor Francis Slay scored a decisive victory Friday in his months-long battle to rein in firefighter pension costs. In a 17 to 10 vote, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved major reforms to the department’s retirement system, cutting benefits, raising payments, and preventing full retirement until age 55.

Slay’s office estimates the changes will save the city $8 million a year in pension costs that have more than quadrupled in the last five years.

Mayor Slay’s Chief of Staff Jeff Rainford says the reforms are necessary and protect taxpayers. 

(Propofol: Wikimedia commons, Gurney: via Wikimedia Commons/Noahudlis, Needle: Flickr via prashant_zi)

Missouri is the first state in the nation to change its protocol for executing prisoners from a three-drug cocktail to the single drug Propofol. The switch is due to a shortage of a key drug, which has stalled lethal injections across the country.

Other states may eventually follow Missouri’s lead, but as St. Louis Public Radio’s Joseph Leahy reports, the drug known recently for killing pop star Michael Jackson is no silver bullet either.

"I just thought it was a good idea"

(Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio)

US Senator Claire McCaskill is speaking out for the first time in the St. Louis area on the Supreme Court's health care ruling

The Missouri Democrat told supporters today at a party campaign office in St. Charles that she stands firm in her support of President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

She also says the solutions for fixing health care offered by her Republican opponents would be a burden to seniors.

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 11:29 a.m. July 5:

A Barnes-Jewish Hospital release says that no surgeries were canceled today, even though power is still intermittent to Queeny Tower. Full power to the building is anticipated to return today.

Most of the patients who were moved to other areas of the hospital are also expected to return to their original rooms Friday. 

Original story:

(Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio)

St. Louis city officials are going door to door to check on some of the city’s most vulnerable residents as high temperatures persist across the region.

About 60 city staff members are following up with nearly one thousand residents who haven’t responded to robo-calls from the Mayor’s office.The elderly and disabled residents are listed on the city’s Functional Needs Registry.

The house-to-house effort even included Mayor Francis Slay, who was out knocking on doors Tuesday.

comedy nose | Flickr

The US Department of Education is waiving all No Child Left Behind requirements for Missouri schools.

The federal law requires students to meet proficiency standards in reading and math by 2014. Missouri applied  for a waiver after roughly 18 percent of districts in the state failed to meet yearly academic goals.

21 death-row prisoners are suing the director of Missouri’s Corrections Department over its new lethal injection drug.

Director George Lombardi announced last month that Missouri would be the first in the nation to replace its three-drug protocol in favor of using the anesthetic Propofol for capital punishment.

(via Official Cardinals Twitter account)

The Cardinals are one step closer to making Ballpark Village a reality. A St. Louis Board of Aldermen committee voted Wednesday to move forward with revised development and financing plans.

Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III made his case for the city’s support before the Housing, Urban Development and Zoning Committee.

(Joseph Leahy / St. Louis Public Radio)

A St. Louis County woman is facing federal charges for allegedly trafficking counterfeit goods at a flea market and other stores in St. Louis and Ferguson.

Soukey Fox was arrested early this morning in a raid at Frison Flea Market in Pagedale.  Federal law enforcement officials could be seen loading boxes into moving trucks behind the market.

Many customers say the place is known for selling cheap merchandise. Noah Hardy and Jazmine Wells say they were turned away this morning.      

via Flickr/KellyB.

St. Louis needs more immigrants. That’s the gist of a new report from St. Louis University.

Professor Jack Strauss presented the findings of his study Tuesday to city and county leaders, including St. Louis mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, at a regional economic development conference.

At about 4.5 percent, Strauss says St. Louis has the lowest rate of immigration among the nation’s largest 20 cities.

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

Reverend Larry Rice is suing the city of St. Louis and Public Safety Director Eddie Roth for condemning a homeless camp he tried to set up last month near Interstate 44. 

The federal lawsuit filed Friday claims Roth failed to give a hearing prior to closing down the vacant lot on Vandeventer and interfered the group’s religious freedom.

“They went and condemned that vacant ground," Rice said. "And in a matter of hours they told us we had to get off the property and if we didn’t that we’d be arrested – of which I was arrested. And there was no violation.”

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri cellphone users can now register their numbers on the state’s no-call list under a bill signed by Governor Jay Nixon Thursday.

The law prohibits telemarketers from calling or texting those who sign up and gives the attorney general’s office the power to punish violators.  

Attorney General Chris Koster says the law expands Missouri’s no-call list enacted 12 years ago for land lines.   

“12 years ago the no-call list saved the dinner hour in this state," Koster said. "Today’s action extends that protection to a new technological era.”

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay says cutting the fire department’s pension costs will enable the city to take 30 police jobs off the chopping block.

The Board of Police Commissioners voted Monday to hold onto 30 of the 80 police positions this year’s budget eliminates through attrition, but only if a pension reform bill is passed by the Board of Alderman.

Slay says the bill, which requires firefighters to pay more into the system and prevents full retirement benefits until age 55, would save the city more than $8 million.

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

The bulk of Mayor Francis Slay’s firefighter pension reform bill stalled today in the St. Louis Board of Alderman’s Public Safety Committee.

The committee passed a provision barring trustees of the Firemen’s Retirement System from suing the city over the design or benefits of the pension plan. But the committee postponed voting on major reforms that would make firefighters to pay more into the system and prevent retirement until age 55.

Alderman Larry Arnowitz says he’s certain if reform passes, firefighters will fight the changes in court.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

The road to the Olympics in London passes through St. Louis this week.

Starting tomorrow, some of the world's top gymnasts will be competing at the Chaifetz Arena for a spot on Team USA.

St. Louis Sports Commission President Frank Viverito says about 50 athletes will be vying to make the cut, including gold-medalist Nastia Liukin and St. Louis native Sarah Finnegan.

St. Louis Public Radio

A Republican candidate for Missouri attorney general says the office must do more to help veterans and those serving in the military.

St. Louis attorney Ed Martin is calling out incumbent Chris Koster for not making veteran’s mental health care a top priority.

“We have coming a tsunami of men and women," he said, "who are facing serious mental health PTSD issues and to not acknowledge it is to be making a terrible mistake and disrespecting our priorities.”

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

The size of St. Louis's ward districts could more than double under a proposal moving through the Board of Alderman's Legislation Committee this week.

Members discussed a bill today that would eliminate about half of the city's aldermanic seats - from the current 28 down to 12.

Alderman Scott Ogilvie supports the change but says the board must consider how the duties of aldermen would be affected. 

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

Rev. Larry Rice is taking a new approach in his crusade to shelter homeless persons in St. Louis.

Rice was arrested two weeks ago for trying to set up a homeless camp on private land. Now, he’s asking city aldermen to directly support a tent community by providing one acre of land owned by the city’s Land Reutilization Authority.

“We have tent cities that are illegal here in this city right now," he said. "Let’s have a legal tent city for the sake of homelessness. The homeless should not be criminalized. These people just want a home.”