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Rock and roll legend Chuck Berry should be duck-walking across Kiener Plaza later this month, while representatives of the Democratic National Committee are scouting around town to see if St. Louis is good enough to host a presidential convention in 2012,

Local Democratic officials say that Berry and "a mystery guest'' will headline a free concert in the plaza on July 29, beginning at 8:30 p.m.

Lawyer Bill Corrigan, a Republican candidate for St. Louis County executive, may be trying avoid an "Al Hanson'' moment.

Beginning today, Corrigan is launching a $90,000-plus TV ad campaign for the Aug. 3 primary.

Political operatives report that Corrigan -- who is hoping to oust St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley in November -- has purchased significant blocks of ad time on area cable outlets and broadcast stations.

Corrigan's campaign declined comment Thursday but issued a statement this morning confirming the basics:

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon spent today in Afghanistan, where he says he was "inspired" and "incredibly impressed by the professionalism" he saw in the troops, especially Missouri's National Guard.

"It's a very, very real war zone that we're in," Nixon said during a telephone conference call with Missouri reporters, conducted Friday night, Afghanistan time.

Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, the best-known Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, has just proposed three general-election debates for after the Aug. 3 primary.

The catch is that Carnahan is calling for the debates to feature the nominees from not just the two major parties but also the Constitution and Libertarian parties, which have automatic ballot access in Missouri. (Any other parties have to collect a certain number of signatures to get their candidates on the November ballot in the state.)

Less than two weeks before the Aug. 3 primary, it's time for the candidates to tout last-minute endorsements from various big-name politicians in hopes of swaying any still-undecided voters or, in the case of uncontested races, heighten ones profile for the fall.  

Today, U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., announced he has chosen sides in the combative Democratic primary in the 24th state Senate district, and is endorsing former state Rep. Sam Page, D-Creve Coeur.

The off-year elections are looming and, fairly or not, they figure to be a referendum on the Obama administration. If the polls are even close to accurate, it looks as though the "Yes, We Can!" crowd could be in for a "That's What You Think" awakening.

Brad Hildebrand's small AM radio station in Washington, Mo., is called "The Mouth."

And the station is definitely making political waves with its morning voice: state Rep. Brian Nieves, R-Washington and a candidate in arguably the region's most competitive Republican primary for the state Senate.

A soldier shows Gov. Nixon a MRAP vehicle (Mine Resistant Ambush Protection).
Provided by the governor's office

For the second July in a row, almost to the day, Gov. Jay Nixon is in Iraq meeting with Missouri troops.

Nixon's just recently announced that the governor left Jefferson City on Monday and, after a short stop in Washington, headed overseas with four other governors as part of a Pentagon-organized trip. Last year's tour also included a visit to Afghanistan.

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial commemorates the settlement of the west and distills that epic story into a single iconic symbol -- the Gateway Arch. Conceived in 1933, the Memorial began with a question: What should the city do about 40 blocks of historic riverfront buildings that were mostly vacant and deteriorating? The answer was obvious: commemorate all the history that happened in those buildings, history that fundamentally shaped our nation in the 19th century.

Nearly a month into the restoration of Metro service, some Metro riders have jumped back aboard while others are still waiting for their bus.

The June 28 restoration, which Metro called a "soft launch," mainly increased frequency on MetroLink and the most crowded bus routes, said Jessica Mefford-Miller, Metro's chief of planning and system development.

Ken Schmitt didn't set out to be an immigration lawyer.

He got involved, however, when he started his own practice and knew people who were graduating from American schools and wanted to stay and work as professionals. Then, the majority of his clients had a minimum of a bachelor's degree and were offered jobs, but that only made up about 20 percent of his practice for a while.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In St. Louis, 913 children who lack a permanent place to call home depend on the city's foster care system. Of those roughly 900 children, 815, or 89 percent, are African American.

The metropolitan area has a total of 1,800 children in foster care, and 1,400 of these children are African American.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine says his visit today to St. Louis, coinciding with President Barack Obama's State of the Union address does, indeed, underscore the national importance of Missouri's congressional elections this year.

But Kaine also hopes that Democrats nationally will take a lesson from Missouri's past and "avoid freaking out'' about recent political setbacks.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: About 300 people gathered on the front lawn of Kirkwood City Hall on a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon to dedicate a new memorial walkway to the six city officials who died as a result of the Feb. 7, 2008, attack on the city council.

Mayor Art McDonnell said no memorial could "replace what we lost," but that the walkway would remind people "every day to work as they did ... for a better community."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The relationship between Kirkwood and its predominantly African-American neighborhood of Meacham Park plays out daily in the public schools, where decades of attention to race-related issues have yielded both success and frustration.

At Kirkwood High School, African-American students have made major improvements in their graduation rate and other measures of achievement. But the number of African-American teachers has shrunk to two on a faculty of 118. Some current and former African-American faculty complain about being treated disrespectfully.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The main focus of Kirkwood's new racial mediation agreement is improving the difficult, sometimes deadly relationship between the mostly African-American Meacham Park neighborhood and the mostly white Kirkwood Police Department. But Meacham Park leaders doubt the proposed steps will resolve their complaints that police bully neighborhood residents. And police officers remain wary in the aftermath of three officers' killings by Meacham Park residents.

Participants including Harriet Patton, president of the Meacham Park Neighborhood Improvement Association, and Bob Sears join hands during a memorial service Saturday evening at Douglas Memorial Church of God in Christ in Meacham Park.
Anthony Soufflé | For the Beacon

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: During the months after the Feb. 7, 2008, Kirkwood City Hall killings, several hundred residents gathered every couple of months to discuss how to achieve greater community understanding and healing.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: I didn't grow up in Kirkwood. So that's the first strike against me. And I'm not white, so that's the second strike.

But even with two strikes against me, today, Kirkwood is my home. And for the most part, I love it.

I grew up in working-class neighborhoods in north St. Louis. My father was a Special Delivery driver for the Post Office, and my mother worked in clerical and secretarial jobs.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: I entered Frank P. Tillman elementary school in Kirkwood in 1954, the first year that the Kirkwood public schools desegregated. That didn't mean there were any black students. There weren't.

Kirkwood was desegregating not because it chose to, but because it was the law of the land. Before Brown vs. Board of Education was announced that spring, Kirkwood had been fighting a group of black parents who had gone to federal court to force desegregation. After Brown, a federal court ordered Kirkwood desegregated.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Two men walked on the moon before Meacham Park had paved roads and modern sewers. Public services were so poor in 1966 that five children died in a Meacham Park house fire after the community's volunteer fire department's engine wouldn't start.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Perception often collides with facts when it comes to race. That is especially true in the intertwined story of Kirkwood's redevelopment of its Meacham Park neighborhood and Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton's deadly assault at City Hall on Feb. 7, 2008.

Thornton, a resident of Meacham Park, was once a leading supporter of the redevelopment in the predominantly African-American neighborhood, but he became disaffected. He killed five city officials and shot Mayor Mike Swoboda, who died later that year. Thornton was killed by police.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Sometimes, in his dreams, Kirkwood City Attorney John Hessel is back in City Hall. He is reading exhibits into the record when the commotion starts.

He runs, only this time maybe he runs toward a different door. Maybe he can't get to it in time. Maybe the man holding two guns cuts him off. In every dream, he does something just a little different.

In every dream, he dies.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Kirkwood City Council voted Thursday night to adopt a mediation agreement committing it to improve its human rights commission and to expand police involvement with young people in the Meacham Park neighborhood. But even before the council voted, some leaders in Meacham Park accused the mediation process of failing to face up to Kirkwood's racial problem.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Officials from the city of Kirkwood and the U.S. Department of Justice will sign a formal agreement Thursday, completing a two-year racial mediation process that followed the killings on Feb. 7, 2008, in the Kirkwood City Hall. Five city officials and the gunman were killed. A sixth official, Mayor Mike Swoboda, was critically injured in the shootings and died later that year.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The president of the Meacham Park Neighborhood Association has resigned from the Justice Department Mediation Team that was appointed in the wake of the Feb. 7, 2008, Kirkwood City Hall murders that left five city officials dead. The team is preparing to deliver its report next month.

Harriet Patton, a long-time activist in Meacham Park, said she resigned last month because city officials on the team kept saying, in her words, "Kirkwood does not have a racial problem. There is nothing broken, nothing needs to be fixed." Meacham Park is a mostly African-American neighborhood in Kirkwood.

race frankly logo
St. Louis Beacon | 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When the Beacon sent out a query through our Public Insight Network asking about people's experiences with race, we got more than 100 responses from old and young, black, white, Hispanic, American Indian and foreign-born.

Here, we share some of those stories, from a black woman who saw a Middle Eastern man refused service, to an Iranian family business who found community support when they least expected it.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The people of Kirkwood came together Saturday night. On a springlike evening, a large crowd came to pay tribute to five men and one woman who died last year.

Kirkwood police officers William Biggs and Tom Ballman; Council members Connie Karr and Mike Lynch; and the city’s public works director Ken Yost died on Feb. 7, 2008, after they were shot by Charles “Cookie” Thornton. Thornton was well known inside City Hall and throughout Kirkwood as a businessman who tried to help others and as an annoyance who frequently disrupted the city’s business. He was killed by police who responded to a distress call from Biggs just after he had been shot.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: We know the time, the place, the people killed and the person who did the killing on Feb. 7, 2008. Those moments remain in the minds of those present that night and those present for the retelling after. But what about the moments that followed? What’s happened in Kirkwood and around St. Louis since Charles “Cookie” Thornton opened fire at a Kirkwood City Hall meeting, killed five and wounded the mayor, who died months later? Organizations have formed, essays have been written by school kids imagining a prejudice-free community, and remembrance ceremonies are planned.

A year after the City Hall murders of Feb. 7, 2008, important changes have come to Kirkwood, while other things have remained unchanged.

The new mayor, Art McDonnell, walks down from the dais and into the audience before council meetings to greet citizens and tell them how they can express their views. The city has called two town meetings to open the lines of communication further. More people have volunteered for city commissions than any time in recent history. And a group of several hundred citizens has been meeting regularly for the past year to talk about white privilege and race in a way it never had been talked about before in this idyllic railroad town turned comfortable suburb.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When crews closed part of Highway 40 (Interstate 64) in January, MoDOT and much of St. Louis held their collective breath waiting to see whether the predicted gridlock would indeed occur.

Thanks to good planning and the public's willingness to take MoDOT's advice to stay home, take Metro, travel early or late and find alternative routes, life — or at least vehicular traffic — went on.

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