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Politics & Issues

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St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, along with County Executive Steve Stenger, unveil the department's Special Response Unit on June 5, 2018.
Abigail Censky | St. Louis Public Radio

Two-officer cars, special training, and a focus on community policing are the hallmarks of the St. Louis County Police Department’s Special Response Unit.

The unit began operating last week. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, County Executive Steve Stenger and members of the unit officially unveiled it Tuesday, at its new headquarters in north St. Louis County.

Granite City native Jason Fernandez, who serves as vice president of Local 1899, was laid off 10 years ago during the Great Recession.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

After a two-year wait for jobs to come back, steelworkers threw an old-fashioned street party on Saturday, just blocks from U.S. Steel’s Granite City plant.

It was a “fire up” party to celebrate 500 people finally going back to work to start up a blast furnace that was idled in December 2015, said Dan Simmons, president of United Steelworkers Local 1899.

Redditt Hudson, of the Urban League of St. Louis, was one of several local advocates responding to the 2017 Vehicle Stops Report on June 4, 2018.
Ashley Lisenby | St. Louis Public Radio

Black drivers are more likely to be stopped by police than other groups in Missouri. That’s what a report from Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office shows from data collected in 2017.

The annual Vehicle Stops Report shows black drivers were stopped at a rate of 85 percent higher than white drivers throughout the state. Black and Hispanic drivers were searched at higher rates than average as well. In cases of searches, white drivers were reportedly found with contraband more often.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson delivers remarks after being sworn in on Friday, June 1.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 9:54 p.m. with the hiring of Parson's chief of staff - Mike Parson kicked off his first full week as Missouri’s governor by meeting with the state’s cabinet members, all chosen by his predecessor, Eric Greitens.

The meeting was held Monday in private, inside the governor’s office, but Parson did briefly meet with reporters beforehand. He said he has no intention of replacing any of Greitens’ chosen agency heads.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, former Sen. Jim Lembke and Sean Soendker Nicholson
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum welcomes Sean Soendker Nicholson, Sen. Rob Schaaf and former Sen. Jim Lembke to the program to talk about a ballot initiative known as “Clean Missouri.”

Clean Missouri is a multi-faceted ethics proposal that seeks to curb lobbyist-paid freebies, make it more difficult for lawmakers to become lobbyists, tweak campaign finance laws and, perhaps most notably, overhaul how state legislative districts are drawn.

The Illinois General Assembly is continuing its push to change what’s been criticized as a culture of sexual harassment. Lawmakers approved the first set of recommendations from a task force Thursday.

The measure would overhaul the power of the legislative inspector general — taking hiring and firing authority away from the legislative leaders and giving it to the Legislative Ethics Commission.

It would also allow the inspector general to investigate sexual harassment without getting permission from the commission.

Demonstrators marched north along Grand Avenue in the JeffVanderLou neighborhood on June 2, 2018 to call more attention to issues of gun violence.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Hundreds of St. Louis-area residents took to the streets on Saturday to call attention to gun violence.

The demonstrators took part in a silent march along Grand Avenue through the JeffVanderLou neighborhood, carrying signs that read “we can end gun violence” and “life is precious.” The event coincided with Wear Orange Weekend, an annual campaign against gun violence held nationwide.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signs paperwork after taking his oath of office. June 1, 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Lt. Gov. Mike Parson set forth on a new chapter in Missouri political history by becoming the state’s 57th governor — promising to stabilize a state government rocked by departing-Gov. Eric Greitens’ scandals.

Parson, 62, took the oath of office shortly after 5:30 p.m., Friday.

Gov. Eric Greitens speaks during a news conference after the end of the 2017 legislative session. Greitens used this opportunity to compare lawmakers to third graders for not passing enough bills.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

While movers were emptying out the executive mansion, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens was busy during his final day in office clearing off his desk.

And that includes signing at least 77 bills into law.

He also issued pardons for five people in prison and commuted the sentences of four others to prison time already served. Pardons wipe the crime off a person’s record, while commuted sentences remain — even though the person is freed.

Gov. Eric Greitens walks back into the Civil Courts Building in downtown St. Louis after delivering a statement to reporters. May 14, 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Jo Mannies and Rachel Lippmann reflect on Gov. Eric Greitens’ decision to resign from office.

The move marks a stunning end to what appeared to be a fast-rising political career that began with presidential ambitions and ended with a wave of scandal.

Tonight, Eric Greitens will step down as Missouri governor, with Lt. Gov. Mike Parson replacing him. In exchange for his resignation, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner agreed to drop Greitens’ tampering charges.

Manager Cordell Lewis manages a team of 18 at the Ferguson Starbucks, which opened in 2016.
Starbucks

Updated June 1 with "St. Louis on the Air" segment – St. Louis Public Radio reporter Ashley Lisenby joined the show to talk about her locally focused reporting around implicit bias as Starbucks conducted company-wide training earlier this week.

Original story from May 30:

Employees at thousands of Starbucks stores went back to work Wednesday after a half-day seminar on Tuesday focused on company policies and discrimination.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner speaks to the Ways and Means Committee on May 31, 2018.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner told the city’s budget committee Thursday that her decision to charge Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens with two felonies did not take away from her office’s ability to fight violent crime.

Gardner was the final city department head to speak to the Ways and Means committee, which will start making changes to the next year's $1.1 billion budget  on Monday. It must get final approval by June 30.

Granite City steel plant on July 20, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Steelworkers are about to start making steel again at U.S. Steel’s Granite City Works — and they’re throwing a street party on Saturday to celebrate.

In March, U.S. Steel announced that it was restarting one of its two blast furnaces at the plant and would recall about 500 steelworkers. They were laid off in December 2015 when the company idled its steelmaking facilities in Granite City.

Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Parson in his office on Wednesday, May 30, 2018; on Friday, he'll become the state's next governor.
Harrison Sweazea | Missouri Senate Communications

Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Parson will officially leave his old job and become the state’s 57th governor when he is sworn in at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

His low-key events, closed to the public but open to the press, include a 4 p.m. prayer service at the First Baptist Church in downtown Jefferson City. A public reception will be held at a later date, a spokeswoman said.

Julia Lacher, Clayvon Wesley and Patrick Allie joined host Don Marsh to talk about an oral history project collecting veterans' voices.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Oral storytelling is an age-old tradition that the Missouri Historical Society is making the most of when it comes to sharing veterans’ personal experiences. While construction is finishing up downtown at Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, an oral-history project is currently underway that will soon highlight the detailed accounts of 30 veterans from the St. Louis area.

Simone Townsend, 52, sits on the stoop of her Penrose home. She says she sees an increase in crime during the summer months in her neighborhood.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

The start of summer means more time outside, but for Simone Townsend, rising temperatures lead to anxiety about safety in her Penrose neighborhood.

“The time frame I start to worry is when it starts to warm up, whether it’s in May or June or April,” Townsend said.

So her 12-year-old son and her grandchildren aren’t allowed to go outside without her or another adult. Townsend said she’s seen violence just outside her home in north St. Louis, and when summer starts, the risk only increases.

Democrats hope that Gov. Eric Greitens will be an albatross for GOP state legislative candidates.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Eric Grietens' shocking resignation on Tuesday elicited an array of emotions from Missourians following nearly five months of political and legal scandal.

Lt. Gov. Mike Parson will be sworn in as Missouri’s new governor Friday at 5 p.m. This comes after accusations against Greitens of sexual misconduct related to a 2015 extramarital affair, and alleged campaign finance violations involving donor lists tied to Greitens’ nonprofit The Mission Continues.

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

The morning after Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens announced he was resigning, Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Josh Hawley was in Springfield highlighting his endorsement from the political arm of Missouri Right to Life, the state’s top anti-abortion group.

The attorney general’s apparent aim was to reach out to social conservatives – and quickly change the subject from the political cloud that Greitens’ sex scandal has cast over Missouri Republicans for months.

That move fits in with the advice offered by former state Republican Party chairman John Hancock.

“There’s no question but that a lot of the grassroots were divided on how they felt about things,” Hancock said. “So I think Job One for candidates is to get the base to coalesce and unite.”

Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications

Today was the actual last day of Missouri’s 2018 legislative session, as the heads of the House and Senate each placed their signatures on every bill that’s headed to the governor’s office.

But it’s unknown which governor will be signing them.

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