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St. Louis County

Councilman Mark Harder's (left) bill aimed at replacing two bridges in western St. Louis County sparked a war of words between councilmembers and County Executive Steve Stenger.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger always was going to have a hard time getting along with most of the St. Louis County Council. After all, the county voters filled the majority of those seven seats with people who have longstanding disagreements with the Democrat.  

That expected acrimony has come to pass in the form of a dispute over replacing bridges, prompting some council members to question Stenger’s ability to effectively communicate with them.

A MetroLink train
File Photo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Police Department is investigating at least seven claims that security guards on MetroLink trains and platforms acted like police officers — allegations the Bi-State Development Agency,  which runs the transportation system, denies.

The department wrote its first report about a MetroLink guard attempting to make an arrest on April 8, St. Louis County Police spokesman Sgt. Shawn McGuire said Tuesday, though incidents are alleged to have happened before  that. The security guards are not licensed as officers by the state and therefore don’t have authority to arrest anyone.

A screenshot of the newly released Your STL Courts website May 2017
Screenshot | yourstlcourts.com

The St. Louis County municipal court system has a new website that developers believe will help reduce arrests of people who don’t show up to court, but detractors say more access to that kind of information doesn’t necessarily make officers’ ticketing proclivities more fair.

Pallets full of sandbags that stayed dry during the floods sit in the parking lot of City Hall in Valley Park in January 2016.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated May 1 with new road closure information - Rising rivers in the St. Louis area that are already threatening homes and businesses will also cause major traffic headaches for at least the rest of this week.

More than 70 roads have been closed in the area due to engorged rivers and streams. (See a complete list here.) Officials say more will be added to the list this week. That includes Interstate 44, which will close in both directions at Route 141 Monday night. Missouri Department of Transportation engineer  Tom Blair says it will mark the third spot on the interstate to close since the heavy rains hit the state this past weekend.

A print by Mitchell Eismont, cut from linoleum depicts noted physicist Albert Einstein above the words "Einstein was a refugee."
Courtesy of the St. Louis Artists' Guild

Ohio-based artist Mitchell Eismont’s interest in the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis developed while he was producing posters for East Coast musician Chadwick Stokes' “Forced to Flee” tour. Inspired by Stokes' dedication, Eismont began work on a series of prints supporting immigrants and refugees, featuring cultural figures like the Dalai Lama, Jesus and Albert Einstein.

“I think it’s probably the crisis of our generation,” Eismont said of the crisis, which stems from a long-running civil war. “I think it’s important to try and help with the situation.”

Lyda Krewson waves after taking the oath of office to become the 46th mayor of St. Louis on April 18, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Flanked by family, friends and four former mayors, Lyda Krewson became St. Louis’ 46th mayor on Tuesday — and, as she was sure to note, the first woman to do so.

Her address then took a swift, and somewhat surprising turn as she signaled that one of her main goals is to encourage an urban coalition that includes St. Louis County and Kansas City.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar listens to U.S. Attorney General  Sessions' remarks. (03/31/17)
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County will get an estimated $80 million a year for policing and public safety efforts after voters approved Proposition P on Tuesday.

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth / St. Louis Public Radio

School districts across the St. Louis area are asking voters Tuesday to consider various funding measures.

Two Metro East counties are hoping to join more than 40 others in Illinois that have started using sales tax increases to bolster school funding in the face of less state support due to a nearly two-year budget crisis.

And in St. Louis County, there are a half-dozen funding measures. Kirkwood would raise property taxes, while the rest are bonding measures, all of which need to pass with about 57 percent of the vote. The largest bonding measure, in the Rockwood district, seeks to spend $95.5 million on a new elementary school in Eureka and expand other buildings.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger visited St. Louis Public Radio studios on Thursday, March 30, 2017.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Even though St. Louis County is gearing up for some major votes come April 4, the St. Louis County Executive seat, currently held by Steve Stenger, is not one of the positions up for re-election. Stenger is about two years into his tenure in the position.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, he joined host Don Marsh to discuss his tenure in the position and current initiatives in St. Louis County.

Here’s a smattering of what Stenger discussed …

… on bringing soccer to St. Louis:

Ahead of the April 4 elections in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County, St. Louis on the Air will host several pro/con discussions about ballot measures with a proponent and opponent of the measure at hand.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday, St. Louis on the Air hosted a moderated conversation about Proposition P, one of the ballot measures that St. Louis County voters will decide on during the April 4 election. On Friday's program, we also heard a discussion of Proposition 1, a St. Louis city ballot measure, which you can find here

The text of the proposition reads as follows:

A sidewalk along Bellefontaine Road in Bellefontaine Neighbors doesn't quite make it to the Metro bus stop.
Joseph Leahy | St. Louis Public Radio

Liane Constantine and her 6-year-old son, Ashton, live about half a mile from where he takes taekwondo classes in a small strip mall in Kirkwood. It would be easy enough to walk there, if only they could safely cross Manchester Road.

“ … I’d have to grab him by the hand and say ‘run when we don’t see any cars’,” she said, standing on the unpaved street corner that doesn’t have a crosswalk. Instead, they’re forced to drive, unnecessary as it seems.

The difficulty in traveling even short distances without a car prompted Constantine to ask our Curious Louis project why sidewalks are often so few and far between in St. Louis County.

Vinita Park Mayor James McGee speaks against proposed standards for polcie departments in St. Louis County in December 2015.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

A three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals has ruled that the St. Louis County Council overstepped its boundaries when it tried to impose certain minimum standards on the 50 or so municipal police departments in the county's borders.

FDA | file photo

After years of opposition in the Missouri legislature to a statewide program to monitor prescription drugs, St. Louis County is preparing to test its own.

By using a new database, pharmacists in the county will help flag consumers who may be “doctor shopping” for highly addictive opioid-based painkillers. Missouri is the only state in the country without such a system.

Its goal is to take away one of the easiest pathways to opioid addiction, while giving doctors and pharmacists a way to be more vigilant, said Dr. Faisal Khan, St. Louis County's health director.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger
File photo | Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis County law that would have set minimum operating standards for police departments in the county is in the hands of a three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals.

The law, approved in December 2015, set staffing, training and hiring standards. Departments would have been required to have at least two officers on duty 24-7 and conduct background checks on prospective officers that included psychological screenings. Elected officials in cities that failed to comply could be jailed, or the St. Louis County police could take over public safety services in the city.

Chief Jon Belmar said police questioned three people regarding the shootings but they did not turn up any suspects
File photo | Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County voters will be asked April 4 to approve a sales tax hike to provide more money for police protection.

The County Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to place the proposal on next spring's ballot. It would impose a county-wide sales tax of one-half of one percent.

St. Louis Police Chief Jon Belmar joined Stenger on Wednesday in announcing the minimum standards proposal.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

A measure to boost sales taxes to help law enforcement agencies may be going to St. Louis County voters.

The St. Louis County Council gave initial approval today for the ballot item. The one-half of 1 percent sales tax hike would partly go to the St. Louis County Police Department. The rest would go to St. Louis County municipalities.

Police chief Jon Belmar says funding raised by the tax would be distributed based on population and would go toward increasing hiring, salaries and access to technology like body cameras.

s_falkow | Flickr

Nearly every voter in Missouri is aware of the contests for president and governor.

But there are also 48 trial and appellate judges who are hoping to remain on the bench through retention elections. 

The chlamydia bacteria, stained and viewed at 500 times.
National Cancer Institute | Dr. Lance Liotta Laboratory

Rates of three common sexually transmitted diseases have risen to a record high level nationwide, and St. Louis continues to rank high among cities, according to federal data released Wednesday.

The St. Louis region recorded 14,961 cases of chlamydia in 2015, the 17th highest per-capita rate in the country. Rates of syphyllis stayed relatively steady at just over 400 cases in the metro area. The city of St. Louis, however, measured the highest rate of both chlamydia and gonorrhea among counties and independent cities. 

“We’ve seen closures of publicly funded STD clinics around the country, and St. Louis is similar in that we have very few options for people to get tested and treated,” said Dr. Brad Stoner, medical director of the St. Louis STD/HIV Prevention Training Center.

Brian Ungles of Cushman & Wakefield announces expansion on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016
Hannah Westerman St. Louis Public Radio

Six hundred jobs are coming to St. Louis over the next four years.

Commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield on Friday announced the company’s $17.4 million expansion. The firm has signed a lease for a new 90,000-square-foot office in Town and Country.

The firm already employs 900 people in the St. Louis area. Cushman & Wakefield have been in St. Louis for 90 years.

Brian Ungles, market leader for the company, said St. Louis is a great location for growth.

The St. Louis County Building Commission members (Jeff Aboussie, Barry Glantz and John Finder, right) listen to Sierra Club supporters on August 2015. The model house is covered with the names of 529 area residents who want stricter energy efficiency stan
Veronique LaCapra

A set of construction standards that lower environmental requirements for new residential buildings could soon be approved by St. Louis County officials. 

The county's Building Code Review Committee has approved a draft ordinance on the building codes. The proposed ordinance, which will be sent to the county's Building Commission, dismisses energy efficiency measures from the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) that would require new homes to reduce air infiltration, install more energy efficient lights and add more increased wall and ceiling insulation.

St. Louis County Parks and Recreation

St. Louis County residents have several opportunities this month to weigh in on the future of area parks.

The County’s Parks and Recreation Department is hosting a series of open houses to discuss a master plan to guide the development and maintenance of parks and park facilities.

Project manager Gerry Biedenstein said residents should take this opportunity to share what they think is important.

Sgt. Susie Lorthridge on patrol in Wellston on May 19, 2016.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri state Auditor Nicole Galloway detailed numerous problems with how bonds are collected from people accused of municipal violations in Wellston. She also found that the city collects fees on dismissed cases, which she says violates state law. And she described in a press release how court case records “were disorganized, incomplete, missing and in many cases, inaccurate, with 90 percent of cases reviewed showing conflicting activity between electronic and paper records.”

s_falkow | Flickr

A U.S. Department of Justice report released last year raised concerns about how well St. Louis County protected the civil rights of kids in the juvenile justice system.

"The Justice Department found reasonable cause to believe that the St. Louis Family Court fails to provide constitutionally required due process to juveniles appearing for delinquency proceedings," said Vanita Gupta, the head of the Civil Rights division in July 2015 at a press conference announcing the findings of a 20-month investigation. "The Justice Department also found the court's administration of juvenile justice discriminated against black children. They are less likely to be given diversion, more likely to be detained, and more likely to be committed to state custody than white children."

Juvenile justice advocates say little has changed in those 12 months.

Beth Huebner and Herb Bernsen are in the second year of a MacArthur Foundation grant to reduce the St. Louis County jail population by 15-19 percent.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh led a discussion about UMSL and St. Louis County’s partnership to reduce the county’s jail population by 15 to 19 percent over two years.

Beth Huebner, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at UMSL, is the lead researcher on a $2.25 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that makes this work possible. She joined the show alongside Herb Bernsen, the director of justice services for St. Louis County, to discuss how the project is going.

Rep. Robert Cornejo, R-St. Peters, sponsored the municipal governance overhaul in the House.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri lawmakers have approved, and sent to the governor, an expansion of last year’s municipal overhaul, a bill that also includes a measure making it easier for cities to disincorporate.

This year’s bill would curb ordinance violations, such as tall weeds or housing code problems. It would also reduce the maximum traffic fine to $225. It would also create a sliding scale for non-traffic fines.

Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, was a major supporter of changing St. Louis County's sales tax distribution system.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Senate has approved a change to St. Louis County’s complicated and controversial system for distributing a 1-cent sales tax.

Now, it’s up to the Missouri House whether to support or reject the idea.  And then Gov. Jay Nixon will decide whether to agree.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger's proposal would impliment minimum standards for police departments to follow. If they don't meet those benchmarks, Stenger's office could effectively disband departments.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

A judge has thrown out a St. Louis County ordinance that requires municipal police departments to adhere to certain standards.

It’s a temporary blow to a big priority for St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who pushed the law as a way to bolster confidence in public safety throughout the county.

I-64 W traffic highway
Paul Sableman | Flickr | http://bit.ly/1rzN9Hd

Since we launched the Curious Louis project last fall, we’ve received plenty of questions/musings/perplexed cries for answers regarding highways, byways and roadways in St. Louis. On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh got answers to some of them by convening a panel of three experts.

Representatives from St. Louis City, St. Louis County and the state (MoDOT) joined the show:

Jacob Norlund / Flickr

The following questions recently came into Curious Louis from someone who wanted to be anonymous: Why do we (St. Louis residents) pay our personal and real estate taxes directly to Gregory F.X. Daly and not a department? How does that compare to other cities?

Daly, the collector of revenue for St. Louis, receives the questions so frequently that his office has set up a webpage to explain.

Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

The question came into Curious Louis from Joellen Pickens: “Why is West Florissant the eastern-most of the other Florissants?”

Pickens is not the first person to wonder about the multitude of Florissants. The St. Louis Star-Tribune tackled it in 1950.

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