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Politics & Issues

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Avian Flores, Racheal Byenga and Malik Davidson look up at the eclipse at Long International Middle School in St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Like many of you, the St. Louis Public Radio newsroom has been through a tumultuous year.

From the intense community reaction to the policies of President Donald Trump, to the excitement over a solar eclipse and expressions of outrage following a judge’s decision to acquit a white, former St. Louis police officer in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith — the year brought a wealth of news.

Here's what our editors considered among the year's most notable stories:

Drawing of child and scales of justice
Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Groups that advocate for juvenile defendants in Missouri hope the state General Assembly and the U.S. Supreme Court act next year to provide young criminal defendants with additional legal protections.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri wants the high court to consider the constitutionality of long sentences for juvenile defendants. The ACLU is also part of a coalition that wants to change what it means to be a juvenile in the state.

The St. Louis homicide toll is now over 200 – reaching a 21 year high after three women were fatally shot in late December.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh went Behind the Headlines to discuss an effort to reduce the pool of weapons in the area. He talked about a gun buyback program in St. Louis City with St. Louis Public Radio reporter Rachel Lippmann.

Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley and Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill
Durrie Bouscaren & Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s closely watched U.S. Senate contest may be 11 months away, but a flood of outside groups already are jumping in to aid or oppose Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill or her best-known GOP rival, state Attorney General Josh Hawley.

Most of these groups do not have to identify their donors or can delay that reporting until well into 2018.  And many plan to concentrate their activities on social media platforms such as Facebook -- not television.

Bill Raack concludes his 23 year career at St. Louis Public Radio.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

In 1995, St. Louis Public Radio newscast and business editor William (Bill) Raack returned to his native St. Louis after starting his news career in Illinois – and has stayed ever since. Now, he wraps up his public radio career this Friday.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with Raack as he concludes his 23 year career at St. Louis Public Radio.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens sits  for an interview with St. Louis Public Radio in downtown St. Louis on July 17, 2017.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is looking into whether Gov. Eric Greitens’ administration may be violating the state’s Sunshine Law.

It’s in response to a Kansas City Star report that the Republican governor and his staff use a phone application that automatically deletes text messages.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Dec. 20 at 2:00 p.m. with details of the buyback — St. Louis-area residents who have weapons they want to get rid of can exchange them for cash on Saturday, Dec. 23.

Private groups are financing and coordinating the program. People can turn in guns at the Omega Center, 3900 Goodfellow Blvd., between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Only working firearms can be exchanged for cash.

A spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson said the program is targeted at guns from St. Louis, St. Louis County and East St. Louis, but those running the buyback won't have any way of knowing where a gun comes from. The weapons will be turned over to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, which will check to see if the guns have been stolen or used in a crime.

The widow of firefighter Marnell Griffin (her back to the camera) comforts a fellow firefighter's widow on Dec. 201, 2017. They, and the woman on the left, lost their husbands to cancer.
Holly Edgell | St. Louis Public Radio

When firefighter Marnell Griffin died in January 2017, it was not due to burns, smoke inhalation or any of the other hazards people associate with his line of work. Griffin, a 22-year veteran of the St. Louis Fire Department, died of colon cancer.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger confers with Councilman Pat Dolan at a Dec. 19, 2017, meeting of the St. Louis County Council.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council’s decision to draw up and approve its own budget ends a longstanding practice of allowing the county executive’s administration to craft a spending blueprint.

The big question now is what will happen next.

RISE Community Development's Stephen Acree stands in one of his organization's apartments in Forest Park Southeast. His group used low-income housing and historic tax credits to redevelop a slew of buildings in the central corridor neighborhood.
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri will not issue $140 million dollars in state low income housing tax credits next year.

The Missouri Housing Development Commission voted 8 to 2 Tuesday to zero out the state’s low-income housing tax credit for the year. It also voted to apply for the federal version of the incentive.

 Jason Rosenbaum (L) and Jo Mannies (R) joined host Don Marsh in studio to talk about 2017's top political stories.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, we did a year-in-review of the top political stories of 2017. Joining host Don Marsh for the discussion was St. Louis Public Radio’s political team: reporter Jo Mannies, interim-editor Jason Rosenbaum and statehouse reporter Marshall Griffin.

Reginald Clemons, pictured here during a 2012, court hearing, has pleaded guilty to the 1991 rape and murder of Julie and Robin Kerry.
St. Louis Post Dispatch | Pool photo

Updated Dec. 18 at 5:10 p.m. with comments from attorneys for Clemons and former prosecutor Jennifer Joyce — A St. Louis man has admitted that he played a part in the 1991 rape and murder of two sisters on the Chain of Rocks Bridge.

Reginald Clemons pleaded guilty on Monday to robbery, two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of rape for the deaths of Julie and Robin Kerry. He will spend the rest of his life in prison. Prosecutors originally sought the death penalty.

(L-R)Legal experts Donna Harper, William Freivogel and Mark Smith address current issues of the law.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh addressed pressing issues of the law with a panel of legal experts.

St. Louis Alderman Tom Oldenburg, D-16th Ward
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome St. Louis Alderman Tom Oldenburg to the show for the first time.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill speaks at her 50th town hall event Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, at St. Louis Community College's Meramec campus in Kirkwood.
File | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill criticized a tax plan poised for approval in Congress during a town hall in suburban St. Louis — while conceding there’s little she and her Democratic colleagues can do to stop it.

At the event Saturday morning at St. Louis Community College’s Meramec campus, McCaskill, D-Mo., answered questions for about an hour, mostly on the tax bill, net neutrality and the future of Robert Mueller’s investigation of President Donald Trump’s campaign.

St. Louis Public Radio’s interim political editor Jason Rosenbaum.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Don Marsh talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s interim political editor Jason Rosenbaum about the friction between St. Louis County executive Steve Stenger and the St. Louis County Council.

Jose Garcia holds his daughter, Amanda, at a Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson. (Nov. 19, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Jose Garcia and his partner, Ana Ortiz, shuffled quietly into the warmth of a packed Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson.

Their older daughters, Julissa, 11, and Dana, 7, disappeared into the pews looking for friends. Garcia picked up 5-year-old Amanda and rocked her in his arms.

For more than a decade, Garcia attended Sunday Mass with his family. But this November morning was different.

St. Louis police chief candidates greet each other before the start of a town hall at Saint Louis University Law School. Dec. 14, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The six men and women who want to lead the 1,200 officers of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department met some of the residents they would serve Thursday night.

For the first time in department history, three of the finalists are from outside of the department. But the three internal candidates include interim chief Lawrence O’Toole, which angered some in the crowd.

Maj. John Hayden, left, commander of the St. Louis police department's North Patrol Division, and Chief Patrick Melvin, of the Port Arthur Police Department in Texas, center, and interim St. Louis Police Chief Lawrence O'Toole.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Three outside candidates are among the six people vying to be the next chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

Those six people introduced themselves to the public Thursday night at a public forum at Saint Louis University law school.

Lt. Col. Lawrence O’Toole

O’Toole, a 33-year veteran of the SLMPD, has been interim chief since April, when Sam Dotson retired suddenly on Mayor Lyda Krewson’s first day in office.

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s looking more and more like state Auditor Nicole Galloway will be reviewing St. Louis’ spending.

A group called AuditSTL has been collecting signatures since August to force an audit of all city departments. St. Louis aldermen are now considering a resolution from Alderman Joe Vaccaro, D-23rd Ward, that would make the same request, although Galloway would not be required to do the review.