Julie Bierach | St. Louis Public Radio

Julie Bierach

Reporter/ Newscaster

Julie Bierach was the morning newscaster/news producer at St. Louis Public Radio. She was born and raised in St. Louis and graduated from Southeast Missouri State University. She started her career in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, as a student announcer.

Bierach returned to St. Louis Public Radio in November 2010 after working in public relations at the Missouri Botanical Garden. She was previously the station’s science and technology reporter.

Bierach worked in Tucson, Arizona, at Arizona Public Media, where she was the host of the station’s weekly news magazine, Arizona Spotlight. While in Tucson, she reported on various topics facing the desert southwest, including illegal immigration. Her reports have been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and Day to Day.

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The City of St. Louis is once again offering free Christmas tree recycling this year.

The Wentzville Police Department says a program started last month to collect unused prescription medication has so far been a success.

The program helps keep medications from contaminating the water supply and to keep them away from children and others who might abuse them.

Good morning! Here are some of today's starting headlines:

  • According to the St. Louis  Post- Dispatch, incoming Missouri speaker of the House Steve Tilley says he may refuse to seat a new representative from Kansas City because of allegations of voter fraud in the Democratic primary. Such a move is allowed under Missouri law, but is rare. The Post-Dispatch reports that Tilley was presented this month with a nearly 100 page document alleging widespread voter fraud from failed Democrat candidate Will Royster, who lost he primary in the 40th legislative district to John J. Rizzo by a single vote. Rizzo went on to win the general election against a Libertarian candidate. Tilley's move would cast a light on a a topic Republicans in Missouri have been pushing unsuccessfully for several years; the concept of requiring every voter to present a photo ID when voting. Rizzo called Royster's complaints "sour grapes."
  • Suburban St. Louis police have released a 911 call placed from the home of former Anheuser-Busch CEO August Busch IV earlier this month. A Busch employee called to report a woman who was "just not waking up " and who was later found dead at the home. She's been identified as 27-year-old Adrienne Martin. The cause of death has not been released. Frontenac Police Chief Thomas Becker also said Busch was at home at the time. Busch's lawyer has said there was nothing suspicious about the death.
  • Missouri lawmakers are again seeking ideas from the public for restructuring state government to cut costs. Las year, the Senate took a rare break from formal floor debates to consider ideas for restructuring stat government that were submitted by Missourians. Republican Senate leader Rob Mayer says he plans to do it again in the first weeks of the annual legislative session that starts next month. Mayer, of Dexter, says lawmakers need to consider any idea about how to cut spending. Ideas can be submitted anonymously online at a Senate Web page on rebooting state government.
  • 2011 will see some major work on the Eads Bridge over the Mississippi River. Metro, which owns the bridge, says time and weather have deteriorated the 136-year-old structure. Metro President John Nations says the agency will use $24.5 million in federal stimulus funds to replace and repair structural elements on the bridge, as well as apply a protective coating on the steel.

"We'll also be doing some improvements to our tracks in that area to also enhance our system. So it's going to be a big project and the region, I know, is interested in it. I actually get asked about it a lot simply because the Eads Bridge is such a big symbol for this region and for the Midwest. " - Nations

Nations says the road on the top deck of the Eads will have to be closed for two to three months while the work on the bridge takes place.

  • The snow has started to fall in parts of the St. Louis metropolitan area. The Missouri Department of Transportation is monitoring, re-treating and plowing area roadways. MODOT is urging area motorists to stay off the roads during the winter storm. If you have to travel, MODOT advises drivers to give salt trucks and plows plenty of room.

A MetroLink train
File Photo | St. Louis Public Radio

  • MetroLink is running regular service this morning across both tracks at the scene of an accident that happened yesterday in Pagedale. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that several injuries were reported after a MetroLink light rail train hit a tow truck stalled at a crossing. The eastbound train struck the flatbed truck around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Passengers reported seeing at least five people being taken to hospitals by ambulance. Metro spokeswoman Dianne Williams said she was told the injuries did not appear to be serious. The tow truck was unoccupied. Investigators are trying to figure out why it stalled on the tracks.
  • The new arms control treaty with Russia approved by the Senate Wednesday had the support of Democrats in the Missouri and Illinois delegations, but not the Republicans. The treaty would cap nuclear warheads for both countries and resume on-site inspections that expired a year ago. Claire McCaskill of Missouri joined Dick Durbin of Illinois in voting for the START treaty, which she calls critical to the national security of the United States. Republican Senator Kit Bond of Missouri did not cast a vote on the treaty, while Mark Kirk of Illinois voted no.

"The relationship with Russia is key in terms of us getting the missile defense systems in place that can check Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, if in fact they decide that they will either utilize the nuclear weapons they have, the case in Pakistan, or continue to move towards nuclear capability, in the case of North Korea and Iran." - Sen. Claire McCaskill

  • St. Archbishop Robert Carlson is continuing work on what he has called his top priority - improving Catholic schools in the region. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that for the past year, Carlson has been meeting with parents, teachers, pastors and national experts. The goal is to develop strategies to improve Catholic education in the St. Louis Archdiocese, where enrollment in its 11 counties has been steadily declining for four decades. The newspaper says Carlson is positioning the St. Louis Archdiocese to follow the lead of other large Catholic school systems that have restructured to stop the loss of students.

"We don't have to sit by and let this happen. Let's grow this system again." - Archbishop Robert Carlson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Of course, you should never drink and drive or be in a moving car without wearing a seatbelt, but Illinois motorists will want to be especially mindful this holiday season.

Illinois State Police and local law enforcement are stepping up enforcement on impaired drivers and unbelted motorists this holiday season in what they're calling  the "You Drink and Drive, You Lose/Click It or Ticket Holiday Crackdown."

  • The 2010 U.S. Census figures are to be announced today. One of Missouri's nine congressional districts is on the chopping block as officials await word on whether the state's population is high enough to keep its current delegation. Missouri has been on the bubble between retaining its nine seats in the U.S. House or dropping down to eight. Losing a seat would mean one less vote for president in the Electoral College. And it could make it harder for Missourians to get help resolving issues with federal agencies. Don't forget the political ramifications, especially for Democrats. That's because the Republican-led state Legislature will be in charge of drawing new congressional boundaries based on the 2010 Census.
  • The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that St. Louis county is studying how to link major north-south arterials between Interstate 64 and points south of I-44, just west of the River Des Peres. The South County Connector Study will also look at a new I-44 interchange. County officials say those living in the southernmost reaches of the county suffer poor access to the commercial and governmental core of the region. Garry Earls, the county's chief operating officer, envisions a possible extension of River Des Peres to connect with Big Bend and Laclede Station Road north of I-44. The study will look at multiple options. The Post-Dispatch reports that no funding has been set aside for the project, but once funding is found, construction could begin within five to ten years.
  • The St. Louis County Council has ordered a freeze on new demolition permits for commercial and industrial property until Jan. 31. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the move gives the council time to consider a bill that would require owners to restore such demolition sites to their pre-built state. The measure was introduced Monday into the council. County officials are upset about the demolition of the closed Chrysler South Plant. They said the demolition contractor tore down the structure leaving a slab and environmental problems behind. The Post-Dispatch reports the bill would add site restoration to requirements for demolition permits. Applicants would be forced to remove all elements of structures and slabs, cover the site with dirt, seed or sod the site and install appropriate landscaping.

"Gutted factory buildings offer precious little incentive for prospective future developers." -County Executive Charlie Dooley said in a letter to the council. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  • Supporters of a ballot question to amend the state constitution and ban personal property taxes may now begin collecting signatures to put the question on the 2012 statewide ballot. The secretary of state's office approved the ballot summary on Monday. Richard LaViolette of Fenton proposed the ballot question which seeks to ban personal property taxes on vehicles, farm machinery, and manufactured homes. LaViolette says they're a  nuisance and people cannot really own their property if a tax is levied upon it. Officials estimate abolishing the tax could cost state and local governments more than $1 billion per year.

  • According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, tax collectors' offices in St. Louis city and St. Louis and St. Charles counties will be closed Dec. 31, making Dec. 30 the last day that residents of those jurisdictions can pay their property taxes for 2010 without paying a penalty. St. Louis and St. Charles counties are taking Dec. 31 off in observance of the holiday. In St. Louis, Dec. 31 is a city government furlough day. Taxpayers can mail payment or pay them online. Payments must be postmarked any time on Dec. 31 to meet the deadline. The collector's office in Jefferson county will be open.
  • A medical helicopter crashed landed shortly after takeoff in western Missouri Sunday morning. Three members of the flight crew were injured. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said the Staff for Life helicopter had just taken off from a helipad in La Monte on Sunday morning to respond to a call when it came down at the landing zone, crashing onto the helipad located about ten miles west of Sedalia. The owner of American Paramedical Services, Inc., said the three injured were the pilot, a flight nurse and a paramedic. No patients on board at the time. The Sedalia Democrat reported that all three were in fair condition Sunday at an area hospital. The crash is under investigation.
  • Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is encouraging Illinois residents to donate their frequent flyer miles to members of the military. Quinn says the Operation Hero Miles program lets military families visit wounded service members recovering in hospitals around the world. The governor says the program is "especially important" during the holidays. The program also provides airplane tickets to service members so they can travel home on medical leave. The governor's office says the program has provided more than 20,000 donated tickets worth $27 million.

Pharmaceutical giant Express Scripts announced today that it will invest $73 million to expand its St. Louis headquarters. The construction of the company's fourth building in the area is expected to create 150 new jobs.

(Flickr/Creative Commons user SuperFantastic)

  • St. Louis county will begin it's anti-smoking campaign next week, just as the the countywide smoking ban is about to take effect Jan. 2. The Post-Dispatch says in March the county was awarded a $7.6 million federal stimulus grant to fight smoking. The county's first effort will be a 15 month, $2 million media campaign urging people to stop smoking and to explain the ins and outs of the forthcoming ban. Dr. Delores Gunn, director of the St. Louis County health department says that until now, Missouri has been 48th in the nation on spending for smoking prevention and cessation programs.

"We spend $400 million a year in Medicaid in Missouri to treat illnesses related to smoking and secondhand smoke." -Dr. Delores Gunn in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

  • Express Scripts is planning to announce today that it will build a third office building at its headquarters complex in north St. Louis county. The company says the project will increase its economic impact in the region, which was more than $986 million in 2010. Express Scripts says it will also release an independent academic study on its economic impact in Missouri.
  • The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that nearly $190 dollars in safeguards have been installed at the Lincoln County jail. This after two federal prisoners escaped last month. Among the new safeguards is a new camera system. The Sheriff's department hopes the changes will allow them to resume housing federal prisoners. John Wesley Jones, a suspect in the multimillion-dollar ATM Solutions robbery in St. Louis, and Corey Durand Cross escaped through a drop ceiling. They were recaptured within days of the jail break.

(Flickr Creative Commons User conner395)

  • If you thought your neighborhood was like a skating rink this morning, you certainly were not alone. Freezing rain coated the St. Louis area with a nasty glaze of ice, causing trouble on the roads. It was worse in rural areas and the Missouri Department of Transportation continues to treat streets with salt, and, believe it or not, beet juice.
  • Sheriff's deputies in St. Clair county got some bad news on Tuesday - 13 of the 46 deputies will be losing their jobs effective Jan. 15. The Belleville News-Democrat reports that this comes after the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police union rejected a proposal by the county to increase their wages by 1 percent, a margin deemed too small by the union compared to similar-sized departments in Illinois, including Madison County the paper reports. Also in St. Clair county,  the East St. Louis city council is scheduled to vote on Friday on a proposal to layoff 26 city employees, including 19 police officers effective Jan. 1.  Laying off 19 police officers means that the police department will be left with 43 police officers -- the department had more than 70 officers just a few years ago. With a reduced force it will be tougher to police an area that, so far, has seen 25 homicides this year.
  • The U.S. Senate is debating President Obama's top foreign policy priority, a U.S.-Russia nuclear arms treaty. Democrats prevailed in a test vote Wednesday after Republicans threatened to delay work on the pact, known as the START treaty. Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill emphasized that the treaty with Russia is vital for the success of American troops fighting in Afghanistan:

"It is a very important treaty for our troops in Afghanistan because the supply lines for our troops in Afghanistan go through Russia and our relationship with Russia is very, very important, especially as you look at our plans on missile defense." - Claire McCaskill

(Julie Bierach, St. Louis Public Radio)

The City of St. Louis and Stray Rescue are taking additional measures to encourage responsible pet ownership in the City of St. Louis.

This week, the City's Animal Control Officers will begin issuing tickets for fines from $100 to $500 for those who violate city animal laws and ordinances. The City will also enforce animal abuse violations, including illegal chaining and dogfighting.

Bill Greenblatt / UPI

Often programs called "important" and "a blessing" by lawmakers on both sides of the isle aren't in much danger of elimination, but this time might be different.

207,000 low-income seniors and disabled people in Missouri participate in the Missouri Rx prescription drug assistance program. Well, at least until it expires in August 2011.

Unless the Missouri General Assembly reauthorizes it.

(Places for People)

The non-profit organization Places for People broke ground today on a 23 unit apartment building that will provide housing for the chronically homeless in St. Louis. Organizers say it's Missouri's first affordable development funded by the state's housing commission.

St. Louis Public Radio

Often tax legislation is a little bit muddled. We try to break down Obama's latest for you and let you know what your U.S. Senators, Kit Bond and Claire McCaskill, think as they go to vote on the bill.

(Julie Bierach, St. Louis Public Radio)

North St. Louis County law enforcement will be stepping up efforts in the fight against drunk driving this holiday season after receiving a grant to purchase a Breath Alcohol Testing, or BAT van.
The BAT van helps keep officers on the street to detect more impaired drivers, as opposed to hauling individual arrests to police stations. The van will be shared among the North St. Louis County police departments, including 36 different law enforcement agencies.

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