Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Rachel Lippmann

Reporter

Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.

Ways to Connect

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar on July 24, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated July 24 at 4:55 p.m. with comment from Bi-State Development Agency — St. Louis County’s police chief disputed allegations Monday that his officers aren’t working hard enough to keep MetroLink trains safe.

Chief Jon Belmar agreed that two St. Louis Post-Dispatch stories showing St. Louis County officers repeatedly covering up cameras in a room at the North Hanley station, and appearing to lie about being on patrol on the platforms don’t make his department look good. But he questioned why he learned about the problems from the newspaper rather than the Bi-State Development Agency, which runs the mass transit system.

The majority of people housed at the Medium Security Institution in St. Louis do not have air conditioning. (July 19, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:40 p.m. with state representative's request — Activists say this week’s near-record heat is dangerous for inmates at St. Louis’ Medium Security Institution and is one more reason the jail needs to be shut down.

The majority of the 700 inmates at the jail, also known as the Workhouse, live in portions that don’t have air conditioning, St. Louis corrections commissioner Dale Glass said. Temperatures are routinely 5 to 10 degrees warmer inside the 51-year-old building than outside; activists allege that’s another violation of inmates’ rights.

Flickr | steakpinball

Updated July 18 at 1:30 p.m. with comments from the ACLU of Missouri — The Missouri Human Rights Act does not provide protections for gender identity, the Missouri Court of Appeals reinforced Tuesday.

The 2-1 decision stems from a case in which a 17-year-old transgender boy in the Kansas City area sued because he was not allowed to use the boys' restroom or locker rooms at his high school.

The Board of Aldermen chambers on July 7, 2017.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

A half-cent sales tax increase that would generate $20 million a year for the St. Louis police and fire departments, and the circuit attorney’s office, is headed for the November ballot.

The Board of Aldermen voted 18-8 Friday to send the legislation to Mayor Lyda Krewson. She is expected to sign it soon.

Now, the work begins on selling it to the voters — something the mayor may have to do without the help of the St. Louis Police Officers Association.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 2:30 p.m. July 13 with comment from Monsanto — Farmers can resume using the herbicide dicamba, the Missouri Department of Agriculture announced Thursday.

The new restrictions come less than a week after the department issued a temporary ban on the sale and use of the controversial herbicide. Missouri has received more than 100 complaints this year of drifting herbicide, which had damaged crops.

Heather Navarro will serve at least two years on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen for the 28th ward.
HEATHER NAVARRO VIA CAMPAIGN WEBSITE

Updated at 3:50 p.m. July 12 with details from Secretary of State's office about voter ID law — Lyda Krewson’s ascension to the mayor’s office left an open seat on St. Louis' Board of Aldermen. It was filled Tuesday by Heather Navarro, who won with 69 percent of the vote.

Navarro was one of four candidates vying to fill the 28th Ward seat for the remaining two years of Krewson’s term. It was also the first election in the St. Louis area since Missouri’s new voter ID law took effect in June, and there were differing accounts on whether there were issues at the polls.

Heather Navarro, Celeste Vossmeyer and Steve Roberts Sr. are the three major candidates for the vacant 28th Ward aldermanic seat.
Navarro, Vossmeyer and Roberts via campaign websites

Updated at 1:28 p.m. with details about voter ID law during election — Voters in the 28th Ward will choose their new representative on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Tuesday.

Polls in the ward, which covers parts of the neighborhoods around Forest Park, are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The seat has been vacant since April, when Lyda Krewson was sworn in as mayor. The winner will serve the remaining two years of her term.

Saint John's United Church vigil gun violence Kenneth McKoy
FIle photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump and members of his Cabinet repeatedly have promised to help get violent crime in cities like St. Louis, which is on pace to have 180-plus homicides for the third year in a row, under control.

The administration has promised an additional $200 million to combat the problem, with most of the money targeted to boosting enforcement. Though St. Louis is guaranteed none of that money, the budget is praised by local law enforcement and criticized by those who daily try to fight crime on the ground.

Mike Brownlee, 32, of Kirkwood, (right) fills out a survey about the municipal court system outside Sunset Hills City Hall. Researchers from Saint Louis University are studying courts in St. Louis County in hopes of addressing inequalities.
File photo | Kameel Stanley | St. Louis Public Radio

As of Saturday, municipal courts across Missouri have had to meet some new operating standards.

The state Supreme Court set the minimum requirements for the court in 2016. Courts must now have a judge available at all times, and cannot charge illegal fines or fees, among other things. The rules were the Supreme Court's response to findings by the U.S. Department of Justice and legal advocacy groups that the municipal courts operated in large part to fund city operations.

Because a pending state bill doesn't pre-empt local minimum wage laws passed before August 28, Board of Aldermen members may act fast on passing a minimum wage increase.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at June 30 with final passage — The Board of Aldermen voted 23-1 on Friday to send the fiscal year 2018 budget to Mayor Lyda Krewson.

The $1 billion spending plan is mostly flat compared to last year, driven by a combination of slower revenue growth and increases in pension costs.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, along with James Clark of Better Family Life (left), announces on Thursday, June 29, 2017, that the department has turned on a gunshot detection tool called ShotSpotter.
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

A network of sensors now dot a 4-square-mile area of north St. Louis County, touted by police as the latest way to crackdown on gun violence.

St. Louis city police officers attempt to block demonstrators during an anti-Trump rally in downtown St. Louis in November 2016.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Parts of St. Louis would have the highest sales tax in Missouri under the half-cent increase the Board of Aldermen’s budget committee passed Wednesday.

Many committee members reluctantly voted for the increase, which will fund raises for police and firefighters if voters approve the measure this November. Should it pass, St. Louis’ sales tax would be at least 9.7 percent, going up to nearly 12 percent in some special taxing districts.

A crew removes a bronze sculpture from the Confederate Memorial Monday afternoon. (June 26, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:30 p.m. with comment from Louis Gerteis  — The Confederate Memorial will be removed from St. Louis' Forest Park this week, likely by Wednesday.

The Missouri Civil War Museum and the city of St. Louis settled a lawsuit last week over who owns the memorial, though the action wasn’t announced until Monday morning. The museum will cover the cost of removing and storing the statue, as well as finding an appropriate place to display it — but it can’t be in St. Louis or St. Louis County.

U.S. Department of Justice attorney Jude Volek, center, listens to activists in the Ferguson community June 22, 2017 after an update on the progress Ferguson is making on mandated changes to its police and courts.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time since it was adopted, Ferguson residents and activists got a chance Thursday to give their take on how the city is doing at making federally mandated changes to its municipal court and police department.

Everyone who spoke appreciated the opportunity to weigh in, but the reviews given to U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry were decidedly mixed. 

St. Louis County officers join Clayton police in Februrary at a protest outside of Sen. Roy Blunt's office in downtown Clayton.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Officers with the St. Louis County Police Department will see, on average, a 30 percent pay raise on Jan. 1, 2018,  thanks to revenue from a new sales tax that voters approved in April.

The news, announced Thursday by St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, puts even more pressure on officials in the city of St. Louis to find money for their own police pay raises.

James T. Hodgkinson appears in a St. Clair County Sheriff's Department booking photo on Dec. 31, 1992.
St. Clair County Sheriff's Department

James Hodgkinson, the Belleville, Illinois, man who shot and wounded a Republican congressman and four others June 14 at a Congressional baseball practice acted alone, investigators said Wednesday.

"The FBI is investigating this shooting as an assault on a member of Congress, and an assault on a federal officer," said Andrew Vale, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office. "We also assessed that there is no nexus to terrorism." In this context, terrorism means international groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda.

Michael Brown Sr. stands at the back of the Ferguson Community Center's event space during the public comment portion of a 2016 Ferguson city council meeting.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The city of Ferguson has settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Michael Brown.

Federal district Judge Richard Webber accepted the settlement on Tuesday. The amount that Michael Brown Sr., and Lezley McSpadden will receive from the city, former police chief Tom Jackson, and former police officer Darren Wilson will remain confidential.

Contractors start to prep the Confederate Memorial for removal on June 19, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis can’t take down the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park for at least two weeks, a judge ruled Monday.

The Missouri Civil War Museum sued the city last week, arguing it is the rightful owner. And St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker ruled there were enough questions about who owned the statue that work needed to stop. The case is scheduled to go to trial July 6.

A worker adjusts a lift after the removal of the top piece of the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park last week. (June 8, 2017)
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Getting the Confederate Memorial out of St. Louis' Forest Park will take at least a week longer than expected, according to the mayor's office.  

Koran Addo, spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson, said Tuesday that the company tasked with taking down the 32-foot-tall granite and bronze statue needs to bring in more equipment to lift the biggest piece, which weighs about 45 tons. 

St. Louis city police officers attempt to block demonstrators during an anti-Trump rally in downtown St. Louis in November 2016.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Two measures introduced at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen Friday would ask residents or local nonprofits to pay more in taxes to boost the salaries of the city’s police officers, and stem a tide of departures for better-paying departments.

The sponsor of the measures, Alderman Steve Conway, wants his colleagues to act quickly on the measures. The current police contract expires July 1, the same day that the St. Louis County Police Department unveils its new pay rates, and city police union officials are worried that the exodus of officers will only speed up without some movement toward higher wages.

Brendan Koch, of Arnold, Missouri, looks at the Confederate Memorial after crews removed the top of it Thursday morning. June 8, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Former St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said he’d take down the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park in 2015. That didn’t happen, so it fell to Mayor Lyda Krewson, who promised a plan to get it done almost as soon as she took office in April.

Two months later, the 32-foot-tall granite and bronze statue is being taken apart — slowly, as some pieces weigh as much as 40 tons. Some say the credit for the quick action doesn’t belong to Krewson but rather members of the community who’ve been vocal in recent weeks.

Panelists Redditt Hudson, left and Rick Frank, left, listen to former St. Louis police officer Bill Monroe at a forum about the search for a new chief on June 8, 2017.
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

The new chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department will have a lot to deal with upon taking over, both within the department and in regaining community trust.

A crowd of about 30 people outlined their concerns regarding the search process at a meeting Thursday night held by the Ethical Society of Police, which represents officers of color. They also made it clear what they wanted from the new chief.

Workers attach straps to the granite top of the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park on June 8, 2017.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Updated at 11:20 a.m. June 8th with removal of statue's top — Work began Thursday morning in Forest Park to take down the controversial Confederate Memorial.

Crews removed the top of the statue a day after the St. Louis streets department set up barricades in the area. A spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson said it will take a while to remove the monument completely.

Ethical Society of Police president Sgt. Heather Taylor speaks to a forum on disparities in the St. Louis police and fire departments on July 7, 2016. Her organization has called on chief Sam Dotson to resign.
File photo | Wiley Price | St. Louis American

The union that represents officers of color in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department wants to know what the public wants to see in a new police chief.

The Ethical Society of Police is hosting the first community forum Thursday night at Vashon High School beginning at 6 p.m. Its president, Sgt. Heather Taylor, said the society plans to schedule at least one more forum, and conduct a survey.

Dan Buck, the CEO of Big Sports Properties LLC, updates the Chesterfield City Council on his POWERplex project on June 5, 2017. A missed deadline means the complex won't be built in the city.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

A proposed $55 million indoor-outdoor sports complex in the Chesterfield Valley, billed as the largest in North America, won’t move forward because the developer failed to meet a June 1 deadline to secure funds from St. Louis County for water and sewer lines.

St. Louis Public Radio reported last week that the deal for the POWERplex was in jeopardy because Big Sports Properties LLC, run by Dan Buck, had not provided given Chesterfield officials the required documents. Rather than negotiate a new deal, Buck said Monday night that he’ll take the project — and its estimated $6 million in tax money a year — elsewhere.

Mayor Lyda Krewson addresses reporters on Fri., June 2, 2017, after a violent week in St. Louis left seven dead and 13 injured by gunfire.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Mayor Lyda Krewson said Friday that she’s “beside herself” over a rash of gun violence in St Louis this week that killed seven and injured 13 others, including a 7-year-old girl.

But even as she pledged more money for police officer salaries, Krewson seemed at a loss for how to bring the spiraling violence under control.

A rendering of the $55 million POWERplex athletic facility in Chesterfield. Its developer, Dan Buck, touts it as the largest indoor athletic complex in North America.
Big Sports Properties LLC

The developer hoping to build in Chesterfield what’s touted as North America’s largest indoor sports facility wants more time to secure vital financial support from the region’s economic development group.

But the long-in-the-works deal for the $55 million POWERplex project, for which St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is an ambassador, may be in jeopardy, because developer Dan Buck didn’t meet a Thursday deadline for one of four requirements — a commitment from the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership to help pay for water and sewer lines. That’s why, according to documents obtained by St. Louis Public Radio and confirmed by Chesterfield officials, Buck plans to ask for an extension. The City Council will discuss the request Monday.

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated May 31 with oral arguments — A case that could expand legal protections for the state’s LGBTQ community is in the hands of a three-judge panel of Missouri’s Court of Appeals.

Judges Anthony Gabbert, Victor Howard and Cynthia Martin heard arguments Wednesday in the case of a 17-year-old transgender boy from the Kansas City area who wants to be allowed to use the boy’s restroom and lockers rooms at his school. His attorneys argue that the decision by the Blue Springs R-IV district to deny the request violates Missouri’s Human Rights Act.

St. Louis officials signed a lease for a temporary homeless shelter to be put at this building, at 23rd and Pine.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis is poised to meet a Monday deadline to move homeless men from a temporary emergency shelter in a city warehouse.

Mayor Lyda Krewson, comptroller Darlene Green and Board of Aldermen president Lewis Reed signed a 10-month lease on Tuesday for a space at 23rd and Pine streets, west of downtown. The lease starts Thursday, about a week before hundreds of local government officials, social service providers and community and business leaders will meet to seek a more regional approach to reducing homelessness.

File photo | Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Supreme Court said Tuesday that it won’t hear a group of lawsuits that aims to force the state Department of Corrections to release the name of the pharmacists who supply the state’s lone execution drug, the sedative pentobarbital.

The case declined by the high court was an appeal of a Feb. 14 ruling by the Missouri Court of Appeals.

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