On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies shook things up, recording the show with state Rep. Bruce Franks on Wednesday in front of a live audience at Yaquis on Cherokee in St. Louis.
Franks, a St. Louis Democrat, was elected to the Missouri House last year to represent the 78th District, which stretches from Carr Square to Dutchtown in the eastern part of the city.
Franks is a south St. Louis native who first gained attention for his anti-violence activism, work in Ferguson and his battle rapping. He first jumped into the electoral arena when he challenged Rep. Penny Hubbard last year in the 78th District Democratic primary. Franks initially lost, but successfully went to court to challenge the results, pointing to problems with how absentee ballots were administered. In the revote, Franks defeated Hubbard by a landslide.
In his first year in the Missouri House, Franks was able to secure $4 million for a youth summer jobs program in St. Louis and Kansas City. He was also able to pass a resolution through the House designating June 7 “to remember children in St. Louis and throughout the state of Missouri lost to violence.” Franks named day after his brother, Christopher Harris, who was killed in 1991.
Along with his Democratic colleagues, Franks was an outspoken opponent of a bill making it harder to successfully sue for employment discrimination. He’s also been critical of an effort to invalidate St. Louis’ minimum wage increase. During the special session, he posted constituent emails criticizing the minimum wage bill on Gov. Eric Greitens’ door.
- During his first session in Jefferson City, Franks discovered some commonalities with some of his rural colleagues. “Folks in, say, Pemiscot County, are just as poor as the poor folks here,” Franks said. “So to see the challenges and barriers that I’m not accustomed to … that was probably the biggest eye opener for me.”
- He said the summer jobs program is “life-changing.” “It’s not just about summer jobs,” he said. “We’re talking financial literacy, financial empowerment, behavior modification. And we provide that structure and that support system.”
- Franks said the last day of this year’s session was especially challenging, pointing to a last-minute push to nullify St. Louis’ minimum wage increase. While Franks wasn’t happy that measure passed, he noted that Democrats were able to defeat a bid to make the bill go into effect immediately.
- Before he was elected, Franks was best known as a protester in Ferguson. He said the fact that he was elected to political office is proof that the activism that arose after Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in August 2014 made a difference. “If anybody questions what good came out of Ferguson, what impactful came out of Ferguson — you tell them Rep. Bruce Franks Jr.,” he said.
Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum
Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies
Follow Bruce Franks Jr., on Twitter: @brucefranksjr
Music: “I’m Bad” by LL Cool J