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. 

(Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio)

Speaking in downtown St. Louis at the NRA's Leadership Forum today, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney emphasized his commitment to protecting the Second Amendment.  

But Romney's record on gun control is a tough sell for some members of the influential conservative group.  St. Louis native and NRA member Ed McNees says he can't trust Romney because he supported banning assault rifles while running for office in Massachusetts. 

Alex King/St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Post-Dispatch employees are demanding corporate leaders at the paper's parent company, Lee Enterprises, give back their bonuses.  They say CEO Mary Junck and CFO Carl Schmidt together collected $750,000 in bonuses at a time of layoffs at several Lee papers and cuts to retiree medical benefits.

Shannon Duffy, business representative for the United Media Guild -- the Post's largest union -- says the company's corporate leadership is out of touch with reality.

(Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio)

Updated at 5:51 p.m. with more information, photo.

Thirteen businesses were raided in St. Clair County Illinois Tuesday in a new crackdown on illegal synthetic drugs. 

The raids on convenience stores, liquor stores and smoke shops stem from a law passed last year that broadens the chemical definition of the drugs.

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Most of the streets closed downtown following a steam pipe rupture last Thursday could reopen soon. Officials are waiting for surface sample tests to rule out asbestos as a health risk. 

Dan Dennis is general manager for Trigen-St. Louis Energy Corporation, which operates downtown’s network of underground steam pipes. He says most of the clean-up is finished and residents and business owners should have parking access again soon.

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt says he expects most of his fellow Republican congressman will be lining up behind GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney by the end of the month. 

Senator Blunt was handpicked by Romney to garner endorsements for the former Massachusetts governor from his fellow Republican congressmen. He says his task is coming to a close.

With Romney’s primary sweep in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, DC this week, Blunt said he expects most GOP lawmakers to make up their minds in the next 30 days.  

(Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio)

When it’s “last call” on weekends for St. Louis bars and clubs, East St. Louis’ nightlife is just getting started. The city’s slack liquor laws allow nightclubs and liquor stores to operate well into the morning. Many critics say the laws are the root of the city’s chronic violent crime.

The problem poses a delicate balancing act for Mayor Alvin Parks who says East St. Louis’ late-night entertainment industry is keeping the city alive.

A Senator's strong words 

(Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio)

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill is renewing her call to end tax breaks for major US oil companies. Speaking at a gas station in downtown St. Louis Wednesday, the Democrat said the subsidies have done nothing to reduce gas prices across the country. 

"I do not think that what we give them now has resulted in any break at the pump," McCaskill said. "I think that is evidenced by the prices that we see around St. Louis and around Missouri in terms of gas prices."

A bill to end the subsidies failed in the Senate last week. 

(via Flickr/s_falkow)

A Justice Center prison guard is facing multiple charges of sexual contact with an inmate at the maximum security jail last year. 

St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce filed eleven felony counts against Stephanie Rodgers Monday. The acts are alleged to have occurred in the prisoner’s cell and a security tower.  

Assistant Circuit Attorney Dan Proost said officials learned of the affair through phone taps that were part of a separate investigation. 

(via Flickr/Jack W. Reid)

March’s average temperature in St. Louis this year is almost 15 degrees above normal. If the forecast holds true tomorrow, St. Louis’s unusually high temperatures will make this the warmest March on record.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Mark Britt says the average temperature this month will be almost 61 degrees.

“The previous record of 1910 was only about 57.5 so that’s a considerable breaking of the record,” he said.  

(Missouri Department of Transportation website)

Updated at 9 am to correct the name of the worker.

Updated at 11:45 p.m.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that divers have recovered the body of the carpenter, who East St. Louis police identified to the paper as Aaron Andy Gammon. The paper says Gammon was still tethered to the aerial lift that plunged into the water on Wednesday.


Mo. Senator accuses state labor department of improperly manipulating wages with unions

A top Missouri Senate leader says the state labor department is improperly working with unions to manipulate wages paid on public works projects. The state calculates an annual "prevailing wage" for various construction trades in each county based on surveys of wages already paid on jobs.

Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, a Republican from Dexter, said Wednesday that state bureaucrats and labor unions had engaged in what he called "collusion.

The Missouri Attorney General’s office is hosting 120 town-hall-style meetings across the state this week to help homeowners affected by lending abuses and improper foreclosure procedures. 

Attorney General Chris Koster  says qualifying Missourians will split about $155 million of a $25 billion settlement reached with five of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders.

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill says the budget proposal of House Republican Paul Ryan would only hurt veterans and help the wealthy. 

Speaking with veterans Sunday at Soldiers’ Memorial Military Museum downtown, McCaskill called the proposal a “non-starter.” 

“The Ryan budget calls for a 33 percent cut in mandatory domestic spending," McCaskill said. "Mandatory domestic spending includes veterans. Now that is the same budget that gives an additional six-figure tax cut for multi-millionaires." 

(Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio)

East St. Louis nightclubs and other local businesses are bankrolling extra weekend police patrols after a series of violent crimes.

Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. says the city needs more officers on the street but cannot afford them on its own.

“This is taking already existing officers and paying them to work this special detail," Parks said. "A detail that will be about six officers downtown and another two in the rest of the city where there might be late night activity.”

derekGavey | Flickr

Silicon Valley has been the place for IT development since the dawn of the computer age, but new technology and cheaper resources are leveling the playing field for other cities across the country. As St. Louis Public Radio’s Joseph Leahy reports, a network of local business leaders is pushing to make St. Louis a regional hub for IT start-up companies.

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Occupy activists are taking heat for graffiti found at the Compton Hill Reservoir Park. Overnight, walls and statues were vandalized with phrases including "class war," and "cops, pigs, murderers."

Occupy protester Brian Staack  says the acts are likely related to a confrontation at the park Thursday night where St. Louis police arrested 13 activists.

(Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio)

Rev. Al Sharpton is joining Missouri Congressman Lacy Clay in opposing efforts to require voters to show photo IDs at the polls.  

Last year, Republicans in 38 states introduced legislation that would require a state-approved photo ID to vote. Seven states have since signed it into law.

Sharpton joined Clay in St. Louis Friday at a voter rights forum to oppose a similar law from passing in Missouri.  “We've got to turn this around," Sharpton said. "And start targeting in Missouri those legislators that are targeting our right to vote,” he said.

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

Occupy movements from across the country are gathering this week in St. Louis to revive their populist protests against banks, corporations and government.

Rachael Perrotta, a media coordinator from Occupy Chicago said the regional conference will stage at least four non-violent group actions in St. Louis against various companies including Monsanto.

“Welcome to the American Spring," Perrotta said. "Our movement is expanding. We're growing. Winter was the time for internal organizing. Spring is the time to get back into the streets." 

Romney in Kirkwood in 2012
Bill Greenblatt | UPI | File photo

Updated at 5:04 p.m. with additional information from the event.

Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney rallied for support at a park in the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood Tuesday.

Republican caucuses are underway in Missouri, as the process to select a presidential nominee continues, but  the party's front-runner ignored his Republican rivals. Instead, he attacked President Barak Obama, blaming him for a high gasoline prices.

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

A minority business advocacy group says the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District needs to do more to include minority and female workers in its projected $4.7 billion worth of upgrades over the next two decades.  

Yaphett El-Amin, executive director for the group MOKAN, says because city residents and businesses pay into MSD's sewer tax system, MSD should commit more jobs to local minority contractors.  

“We need a full commitment from MSD to support our region and help our businesses grow," El-Amin said, "to help our economy and hire our community.”


(via Wikimedia Commons / SSGTCHADRGANN)

Hundreds of local Air National Guard jobs are on the chopping block as part of the Defense Department’s plan to cut $500 billion over the next decade.

Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, says more than 700 servicemen at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis and Scott Air Force Base near Belleville, Ill. may lose their jobs by the end of the fiscal year.

(Andrew Gates/MoDOT)

Warmer weather this month has the Missouri Department of Transportation zeroing in on St. Louis potholes. For the month of March, maintenance crews have pledged to respond to any pothole complaint within 24 hours. 

Tom Blair, the assistant district engineer for MoDOT in St. Louis, said catching potholes now will make MoDOT’s job easier down the road.

" Because the temperatures are warming up, we’re not going to see that re-freeze that’s going to cause the potholes to come back out. So, if we fix them now, they’re likely to stay fixed for quite a while," he said.

Both sides of the debate on how St. Louis would handle local control of its police department are digging in their heels over issues of public oversight and transparency.

At a Board of Alderman community forum last night, critics argued that language on a proposed ballot initiative would preclude the department from a civilian review board and restrict public access to disciplinary records. 

John Chasnoff is a program director for the ACLU, which supports local control but is suing to block the initiative.

Joseph Leahy, St. Louis Public Radio

Consumer advocates are pressing Enterprise Rent-a-Car to support a bill to keep rental cars that are subject to federal recall off the road.

Joan Bray of the Consumers Council of Missouri says while the St. Louis-based company has agreed in principle, it should endorse a Congressional amendment named for two sisters who were killed while driving a PT Cruiser under recall.

Metro Transit - St. Louis

Warmer weather, a sunnier economy, and higher gas prices are driving more riders to public transportation in St. Louis. Overall Metro ridership was up 8 percent in the last half of 2011 compared to the previous year. 

Dianne Williams is Metro's director of communications.

"Twenty-three million times someone stepped on a metro bus, a metro train, or a metro caller ride. That's up about 2 million boardings from the same period last year," Williams said.

Tim Heitz / Midwest Meteorites

A New Mexico man is in custody for stealing a meteorite that turned up in St. Louis on Christmas Eve. 

St. Louis meteorite dealer Tim Heitz says a man called him Dec. 21 with a meteorite for sale.

“The man told me that it belonged to his father and his father was a rock collector," Heitz said.

"He said he knew it was worth a lot more, but he needed the money to buy Christmas presents for his wife and his kids.”

(National Cancer Institute)

Spikes and dips in cancer rates are not uncommon in public health statistics, but explaining why they occur and deciding what to do about them can often be as difficult as treating the disease itself. St. Louis Public Radio's Joseph Leahy takes a look at St. Louis County where the prostate cancer rate is unusually high. 

St. Louis Public Radio

The Southwestern Flood Prevention District Council says too much is at stake for any more delays in fixing levees in Metro East. 

Les Sterman, the project's supervisor for the Council says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has so far taken too long in approving plans to work on the levees.

He said their latest plan approval was six months late.

“Essentially we're doing our part," Sterman said. "All we're asking is for the federal agency to do its part in helping us get this project moving.”

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin is touting new measures to increase security for public housing residents in East St. Louis. The federally-funded plan includes installing cameras at six high-rise properties and hiring a new security coordinator.

"We're going to be putting up lighting and fencing," Durbin said. "We're going to move forward to try to make sure the almost 4,500 residents of public housing in East St. Louis have a safer place to live."

(Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio)

Time is running out for a bipartisan commission tasked with agreeing on a new Missouri Senate district map. The filing period for senate candidates begins next week, but without definitive district boundaries, they won't know exactly which district they would be running to represent. 

The commission's chairman Doug Harpool says if seven of the ten commission members fail to agree on a map, a federal judge will be appointed to determine the district boundaries.