During Morning Edition and All Things Considered, or on Cityscape

Commentaries are opinion pieces provided by a wide variety of individuals in the St. Louis region. They are not necessarily the opinion of St. Louis Public Radio, but are intended to reflect diverse viewpoints on issues affecting our region. To submit a commentary or proposal, email

Kenneth Wheat, a longtime Ferguson resident, said he supports "the good officers" and he wants to see more African Americans express how they really feel publicly.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio

A New York Times editorial from last week, "The Problem Is Bigger Than Ferguson," still bothers me.

Since August, the flaws of Ferguson — and the St. Louis region — have been in the national spotlight. At last, the headline seemed to recognize that our home is not the only one plagued by racial issues. That would have been a welcome message coming from the nation’s newspaper of record, writing from the city where Eric Garner’s death raised many of the same questions that Michael Brown’s death did here.

The rubble of a burned down business on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson.
File photo by Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

Facts matter. Two Justice Department reports about Ferguson brought that home this week.

Traci Blackmon

Like flares on a highway, some of the headlines that flashed by in recent days signal danger.

First came good news from Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon. St. Louis labor unions have agreed to work 24-hours a day with no overtime to quickly build a football stadium. That's proof that St. Louisans can rise to the occasion – in this case, the perceived crisis of losing an NFL team – when we see that the region’s reputation and future are at stake.

FBI Director James Comey

On Feb. 12, FBI director James B. Comey spoke at Georgetown University and his words have engendered a lot of comment. While the full text of the speech is available on the FBI website; some key elements follow. Below these bullet points are comments from Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Carol Camp Yeakey of Washington University. They responded to a request St.

St. Louis Public Radio switched to a new website design this week, and the reaction was generally positive. The most common complaint was confusion about how to listen to radio streams through the website, and we're working to make that clearer.

at the post office s. grand 11.26
Rebecca Smith | St. Louis Public Radio

News organizations should focus outward on what’s happening in our communities and how we can serve them better. But our ability to focus outward is affected by many internal factors. Two developments this week, will in different ways, shape how St. Louis Public Radio serves you.

About eight years ago, I visited Marfa, Texas, a West Texas city known as a cultural center for contemporary artists and artisans. In 1971, minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa from New York City. He bought two large airplane hangars and some smaller buildings and began to permanently install his art and the story goes on. Later he acquired with the help of the Dia Art Foundation in New York, the decommissioned Fort D.A. Russell, and began transforming the fort's buildings into art space in which he invited other contemporary artists to show their works.

Police and protesters scuffle after police union business manager Jeff Roorda allegedly grabbed a protester at a January 28 meeting oh the public safety committee.
Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio

The subpoena served on St. Louis Public Radio Thursday is both baffling and disturbing.

Rotary Club of Overland mug
Margaret Wolf Freivogel

It was still dark when the Rotary Club of Overland gathered Wednesday morning at Russo’s restaurant on Page. At a time when north St. Louis County is in the international spotlight for what’s wrong, the meeting cast a sliver of light on what’s right.

In the months since Michael Brown’s death at the hands of then-Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, North County has been at the center of a debate of cosmic proportions. It concerns long-simmering, wide-ranging issues of race, fairness and opportunity.

(St. Louis Public Radio file photo)

Think what you will of the proposal to spend at least $860 million on a new football stadium, the announcement last week revealed a few telling things about St. Louis:

Rams media

Discussion of Ferguson-related issues continued to simmer this week. Meanwhile, questions about the Rams’ future boiled into prominence.

Oddly, the two conversations are happening mostly in isolation from each other, even though both revolve around the same fundamental concern: How to create a future for our region that will make St. Louisans want to stay and newcomers want to come?

Current River below Welch Spring
Kbh34d | Wikipedia

Missourians are fortunate to have the Ozarks in our backyard. This unique and ancient landscape provides spectacular scenery, productive forests, abundant wildlife, and free-flowing rivers that sustain local economies, including a vibrant tourism industry that attracts visitors from around the world. The Ozarks also have an amazing diversity of habitats, plants, and animals, including more than 200 species found nowhere else on earth and some of the nation’s largest and cleanest permanent freshwater springs.

Commentary: Women Have Made Their Mark In The Arts

Jan 2, 2015

The subject of Women in the Arts has been brought to my attention once again.

Dr. Barbara Harbach, Curators' Professor of Music at UMSL, an internationally known composer and organist has now directed her third Women in the Arts Conference. Women in the Arts is a celebration of women creators present and past, a partnership of institutions and arts organizations from the St. Louis metropolitan area.

voxefxtm | Flickr

As the calendar turns to 2015, the national political scene is already focusing on 2016. As politicians set up strategies and start to explore their options the baseline concerns are who will vote and how will they cast their ballots? To answer these questions, one must look at patterns. Generally speaking, the party that does not hold the presidency scores some gains. This time the gains were substantial enough to turn the Senate over to the Republicans and to keep that party dominant in statehouses across the country.

Yemi Akande-Bartsch
Provided by FOCUS

In the aftermath of Ferguson, voices in our region have called for many things – for peace, for justice, for dialogue, for answers, for change, for healing. The issues at hand are complex, which makes the call for leadership all that much greater.

Our frustration and sadness over what is still lacking or broken should not overshadow our gratitude for what we do have, or our motivation to make things better for our neighbor and region. One of the ways in which we can begin to do that is to build community and trust, one conversation at a time.

Leave it to the Berkshire summer arts festivals to open my eyes even wider to the arts. While there this past summer, I was turned on to physical theater in more ways than one.

(via Flickr/kcds)

In the next few weeks and months, we’ll be arguing and disagreeing over the evidence disclosed in the massive data dump from the Ferguson grand jury materials. But if you skip to the end of the grand jury transcripts, all the way in volume 24, the last 15 or so pages, there’s an important point about Missouri law we should all agree on: The Missouri statute on law enforcement officer’s use of force needs to be changed, and now.

Shells of used cars are all that remain after they were destroyed by fire during a night of turmoil in Ferguson Nov. 25.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

The bleak reality of St. Louis this Thanksgiving casts the holiday in shadows deeper than any I can recall – save one other year.

Those shadows harbor our region’s flaws – recent and longstanding, absurd and epic, unwitting and unforgivable. Since Aug. 9, these shortcomings have been on display in stark silhouette against the unrelenting spotlight of international media attention.

Ferguson public safety press conference, 11-11-14. Belmar, Dotson, Ron Johnson, Isom, Bret Johnson, Replogle
(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

St. Louisans may disagree on many things related to Michael Brown’s death, but we’ve been united in anxiety during the long wait for a St. Louis County grand jury’s decision on whether to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

When? What then? How will that affect each of us immediately and all of us long term? These questions have been hanging over everyone — from those directly involved in the protest or law enforcement to those who live far from Ferguson and see no direct connection to the issues raised there.

St. Louis Public Radio File Photo

Missouri’s Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Chris Nicastro has tendered her resignation as of December 2014 and there will be an important search for a new commissioner to fill that position. The deadline for nominations and applications is Nov. 21, a date that is later than the board chair wanted.

Protester outside Ferguson Walmart during Ferguson October
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

There is a region-wide level of discomfort and tension. Everyone is worried about what happens if the grand jury comes back and does not indict Darren Wilson. The disturbing part of this current discomfort is the absolute chasm between the African-American and white perspective.

Commentary: The Body In Repose Frequently Inspires Art

Nov 7, 2014

I love some of the titles of art exhibitions. I recently saw a unique exhibition entitled, "Recline/Design: Art and the Aesthetics of Repose" at the Palm Springs Art Museum's location in Palm Desert, California.

Protest at Steve Stenger's election party
Chris McDaniel | St. Louis Public Radio

Tuesday’s election would be boring. Vote anyway. That’s what I said last week. But election night turned out to be anything but boring. And so many voters turned out in St. Louis County that a fifth of the polling places ran out of paper ballots.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Miguel tries to protect his mom when his father hits her, but he knows that when his parents think he is asleep, the shouting and hitting will start up again. He wonders if it is his fault. He considers running away from home, but that would mean leaving his little sister. He is also afraid of seeking help because, although he was born here, his mom came to this country without a visa. Miguel thinks his mom might get in trouble if anyone finds out.

Vote here sign
File photo | Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon

Imagine a split screen view of St. Louis. In one image, events in Ferguson are driving intense interest in a daunting array of community issues. They can’t be resolved without leadership from elected officials. In the other image, candidates are running for office in an election Tuesday that has attracted almost no interest.

What’s wrong with this picture? In a democracy, voters hold the ultimate power. Yet many citizens are having a hard time seeing what difference their votes will make.

Over 140 Individuals of diverse backgrounds gathered together to discuss issues of race and privilege at Mother 2 Mother Part II on October 13.
Rebecca Smith | St. Louis Public Radio

How do you discuss issues of race and privilege with your children?

These and other questions were on the minds of the more than 140 individuals who gathered at Mother 2 Mother Part II at the Missouri History Museum on Oct. 13. Participants varied in race and gender, and every table of 10 hosted people of all backgrounds. The conversations centered on a list of questions and the groups discussed what could be done to change the racial status quo in St. Louis and beyond.

Here are some of their voices:

Tango Walker

At the Michael Brown memorial in mid-August
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

How much news coverage of Ferguson is too much?

Judging from the unscientific sampling of opinion I’ve heard over the last two months, St. Louisans have starkly different answers to that question. Some are fed up. Others think news organizations are only beginning to pay appropriate attention to police-community tensions, African American experiences and issues of racial disparity.

Commentary: St. Louis Is A Great Jazz City

Oct 10, 2014
Jazz at the Bistro's new season opened Friday, October 3.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The recent reopening of Jazz at the Bistro now known as the Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz has made me think of what a great jazz city St. Louis is.

According to Jazz St. Louis's executive director, Gene Dobbs Bradford, St. Louis is known around the country as the center for jazz from the Gaslight Square Days until now and the new Steward Center has made the new jazz center a real game changer for jazz and the community.

USE THIS Powell Symphony Hall
Alise O'Brien | St. Louis Symphony

Some Ferguson protesters caused a stir this week with demonstrations that confronted people outside Ferguson — first at Powell Hall, where the St. Louis Symphony was performing the Brahms Requiem, and later at Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals were winning the division championship.

Denyce Graves at Normandy High School
Opera Theater of St. Louis

Remember the big flood of 1993, and how it seemed eternal?

Remember how it felt to hear – just when it seemed the worst was over – that 51 propane tanks, each containing 30,000 gallons of gas, were floating in the river, only loosely attached to their moorings south of the city? A spark, we were told, could set off a massive explosion. Approximately 9,000 people were evacuated from their homes and business.