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

Vacant buildings owned by the Land Reutilization Authority in the 4000 block of Evans Avenue. February 2017.
File photo | Marie Schwarz | St. Louis Public Radio

A lawsuit filed Thursday claims St. Louis election officials were wrong when they decided a bond issue to stabilize the city’s vacant buildings did not get enough votes in April.

The city, which filed the suit against the Board of Election Commissioners, is seeking to be able to borrow $40 million over seven years as laid out by Proposition NS.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Supreme Court will hear arguments Thursday on whether the state can determine that a mother is unfit because a court has previously terminated her right to parent other children.

The case involves a Kansas City-area mother who lost the rights to her older children — a ruling that became evidence in a hearing over infant twin girls. Her attorneys say the law that allows that to happen violates her constitutional rights to be a parent.

Tracy White sits in front of her mother's house, where she's living after serving more than 18 years in prison.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Gun violence is the result of a series of choices, some of them spur-of-the-moment, others made after much consideration.

The vast majority of men and women in Missouri convicted of gun crimes eventually go free. Next comes navigating life with a felony record, which is a complicated process.

They often have to go back to the neighborhoods where they were arrested, making it hard to escape feuds that had them protectively carrying guns. And the lucrative world of drug dealing can be a temptation when it’s tough to find or keep a job.

Nate Birt | Provided

A team of researchers and service providers in St. Louis County says they've made “substantial progress” toward cutting the number of days people spend in the county jail, but they acknowledge they fell short of their goal.

St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch announceson Nov. 24, 2014, that a grand jury has chosen not to charge Darren Wilson in Michael Brown's death.
File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Updated at 3:10 p.m. Aug. 16 with comments from oral arguments, new headline  — A grand juror who was on the panel that did not  charge ex-Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown asked the Missouri Court of Appeals on Wednesday for the right to speak about that experience.

The interior of the Scottrade Center on Jan. 2, 2017.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 11:45 a.m. Aug. 16 with statement from Darlene Green— The owners of the Scottrade Center in downtown St. Louis have gone to court to kick-start the planned $100 million upgrade of the home of the St. Louis Blues.

Kiel Center Partners asked a St. Louis circuit judge on Tuesdsay to force Comptroller Darlene Green to issue the bonds for the project. This is the second lawsuit related to the work in a week: three St. Louis residents sued Friday, saying it’s illegal to use public dollars to help private companies make more money.

Michael Brown Sr. places roses along Canfield Drive before the start of a moment of silence for his son, Michael Brown.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There were tears shed, prayers said and more than four minutes of silence observed Wednesday at the site of Michael Brown’s fatal shooting in Ferguson three years earlier.

Michael Brown Sr., who is encouraging people to also support other organizations that help local kids during this memorial week, was there at the Canfield Green Apartments in Ferguson.

“Aug. 9 will always be hard, because it’s in memory of Mike Brown Jr. and just remembering what happened to him,” the elder Brown said during the gathering. “But moving forward, we’ll be doing a lot of positive things in memory of his name.”

Ferguson on August 14, 2014
File photo | Lawrence Bryant | St. Louis American

 

On August 9, 2014, Ferguson officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, in the Canfield Green apartment complex. His death touched off weeks of protests, reigniting a national conversation about race and policing that continues to this day.

Closer to home, reforms have been slow to take hold, even those mandated by the federal Justice Department. The following list isn’t comprehensive, but, rather, a big-picture view of what has and hasn’t changed.

When Norman Brown was 15, he served as a decoy while a man twice his age robbed a store and fatally shot its owner. Brown received life without parole for first-degree murder even though he wasn’t the shooter.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There are about 100 inmates in Missouri who were told as teenagers they would die behind bars for murder. All of them are now eligible for parole after serving 25 years due to two U.S. Supreme Court decisions and a change in state law.

But only three of the 23 men who’ve asked for their freedom know when they’re going home — a ratio that advocates say is unconstitutional.

Protesters walk down West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson on Aug. 9, 2016, two years after Mike Brown was killed by a Ferguson police officer.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A black U.S. Navy veteran sued the city of Ferguson this week, alleging his rights were violated during a 2012 arrest for ordinance violations.

It’s the latest in a series of court battles for the St. Louis County municipality, especially since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014, touched off weeks of protests and exposed serious problems within Ferguson’s police department and courts.

St. Louis Metro Police officers use bicycles to push back protesters at an anti-Trump rally in downtown St. Louis in November 2016.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A white officer has settled a federal lawsuit he filed against the city of St. Louis in which he claimed that police officials promoted a less-qualified black officer to lieutenant colonel.

Maj. Michael Caruso's lawsuit is the third the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has faced in five years over promotions. The lawsuits were filed by black and white officers. Two of the suits, including Caruso's, blame individual decision-makers for alleged discrimination. A third, filed in state court, claims that the process is unfair.

Illustration by Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Mental illness is real in the African-American community and needs to be talked about.

That was the message of the final panel at the National Urban League conference, which wrapped up in St. Louis on Saturday. All three speakers were celebrity women of color who had had their own struggles with mental illness.

Leaders prepare to cut the ribbon in front of the Ferguson Community Empowerment Center on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. It's on the site of the QuikTrip that was burned during protests following Michael Brown's fatal shooting.
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

Updated at 4:50 p.m. July 26 with additional comments from the ceremony — In 2014, the burned-out Ferguson QuikTrip quickly became a national symbol of a community’s frustration over police brutality. Local and national leaders hope the building that replaced the convenience store becomes a symbol of hope.

Nonprofit, corporate and political leaders gathered Wednesday to celebrate the grand opening of the Ferguson Community Empowerment Center. It also served as the opening of the National Urban League’s annual conference, which is in St. Louis through Saturday.

The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis is the largest local branch of any other Urban League in the country.
Jenny Simeone | St. Louis Public Radio

If you want to know why the National Urban League conference is in St. Louis this week, look no further than Michael Brown’s fatal shooting. The local chapter of the organization, which champions civil rights and economic empowerment for African-Americans, said it wanted to call attention to what it’s done since August 2014, and the work that remains.

But the location is also symbolic of the dilemma that the Urban League, which has been in the St. Louis area since 1918, and other long-standing organizations like the NAACP face: finding ways to stay relevant as movements like Black Lives Matter continue to rise to prominence.

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

Updated at 10:45 a.m. July 25 with County Council expected to consider a related resolution — St. Louis County’s police chief disputed allegations Monday that his officers aren’t working hard enough to keep MetroLink trains safe.

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

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