Top Stories | St. Louis Public Radio

Top Stories

Editor's picks for the top news stories of the day.

Normandy marching band performs during the VP Parade in Forest Park Saturday, July 4, 2015.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Last Tuesday was supposed to be a monumental day for Normandy’s public school district. It was kicking off 2018 with a distinction it had not enjoyed in almost five years: It was no longer unaccredited in the eyes of the state school board.

Instead, school was canceled because of below-zero morning temperatures. Leadership at Normandy Schools Collaborative, as the district has been known since a reconfiguration in 2014, still took a few minutes to acknowledge the milestone.

Lt. Gov. Mike Parson presides over the Missouri Senate in 2018.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum welcomes Lt. Gov. Mike Parson to the program.

Parson recorded the episode of the show from his office in Jefferson City. He won election to the statewide position in November 2016, defeating well-funded general election and Republican primary challengers.

Ivan Baxter, a researcher at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and Liz Haswell, a biology professor at Washington University, started a podcast called Taproot last summer to talk about the challenges of doing research.
Provided by Ivan Baxter and Liz Haswell

Researchers Liz Haswell and Ivan Baxter spend most their time trying to understand how plants function. But the two plant scientists sometimes step away from their microscopes and specimens to have honest conversations with their colleagues about the challenges of doing research. They recorded these dialogues into a podcast called Taproot, to represent how they’re digging for stories beyond what’s in a scientific publication.

For each episode in Taproot’s first season, Haswell, a biologist at Washington University, and Baxter, a researcher at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, would pick a study and have a conversation about one of its authors about the difficulties involved in doing research. The issues ranged from finding work-life balance as a scientist to embracing the fact that a researcher may never achieve total certainty in what they are studying. The content, funded by the American Society of Plant Biologists, can be a bit inside baseball for a general audience, but it’s picking up in popularity among plant researchers.

Granite City resident Jennifer Kostoff and her daughter. Kostoff was addicted to heroin when she was pregnant and was able to give birth to a healthy baby with help from the SSM Wish Center.
Chestnut Health Systems

Several St. Louis health centers will begin working next month to provide long-term residential treatment for expectant mothers in the Metro East who are addicted to opioids.

Many pregnant women who need treatment for substance abuse rely on Medicaid, a federal- and state-funded health insurance program for people who are low-income, disabled or elderly. But women in the Metro East aren't eligible to be treated at facilities in St. Louis that only accept Missouri Medicaid.

What are the latest advances in sleep research? On Thursday, "St. Louis on the Air" tackles the subject.
Jon Huss | Flickr

St. Louis researchers have found that people who suffer from a lack of sleep could increase their risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Des Peres Hospital
Des Peres Hospital via Facebook

Chesterfield-based St. Luke's Hospital is buying Des Peres Hospital from Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp. for an undisclosed price.

The deal includes physician practices and other operations in St. Louis. It will strengthen the hospital's network and help patients, St. Luke's President and CEO Christine Candio said.  St. Luke's has 3,800 employees and will add 650 more with the acquisition.

"It was an opportunity for us, we felt strongly, to further grow our footprint and really expand our health ministry into communities where we do not have a strong presence," Candio said.

The interior of the Scottrade Center on Jan. 2, 2017.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green has dropped her legal challenge to a judge’s ruling that ordered her to approve financing for upgrades to the Scottrade Center.

A deal approved earlier this week clears the last remaining hurdle to the city issuing $100 million in bonds to cover the renovations, including new plumbing for the ice rink and updates to the lighting and sound systems.

Sign at a homeless tent encampment on sidewalk in downtown St. Louis on Oct. 26, 2017.
File photo | Chelsea Hoye | St. Louis Public Radio

Local community organizations are teaming up to collect and distribute donated items for homeless people who’re suffering in the dangerous cold.

A Winter Homeless Outreach event coordinated through Facebook has attracted more than 4,000 interested users. It’s a collaboration between Let’s Help The Homeless, CDDB Community Charity and Just For Kidz. Outreach services for veterans will also join the event. 

St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief John Hayden poses for a portrait in his new office at police headquarters on Olive Street.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It did not take Col. John Hayden long to determine his top priority in his new position.

“The first thing for me to tackle is going to be violent crime,” said Hayden, a 30-year veteran of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. He was promoted to his position as its 36th chief last week, selected from six finalists.

Republican State Rep. Warren Love speaks with members of the audience of a House Ethics Committee hearing on Jan. 4, 2018.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

A state representative from rural Missouri won’t face any punishment for a controversial Facebook post he made last summer.

The House Ethics Committee considered sanctions against Rep. Warren Love, R-Osceola, for a Facebook post in which he said vandals who defaced a Confederate monument should be “hung from a tall tree with a long rope.”

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum is pleased to welcome House Speaker Todd Richardson back on the show for the fifth time.

The Poplar Bluff Republican is in his final year in the Missouri House. He has served as speaker since the middle of 2015.

Sen. Ryan Silvey, left, converses with Sen. Mike Cierpoit on the first day of the 2018 legislative session. Silvey stepped down from the Senate to join the Public Service Commission.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Ryan Silvey has been confirmed as the next member of the Missouri Public Service Commission, and has resigned his seat in the State Senate.

The Republican from Kansas City was appointed by Gov. Eric Greitens, who Silvey has criticized for accepting money from politically-active non-profit groups that don’t reveal their donors. He also criticized Greitens for how he dealt with lawmakers in the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

Lonnie Powell's watercolor, Southsun is one of 200 works in the All Colors exhibition.
Portfolio Gallery

A longtime gallery owner is debuting an exhibition Jan. 13 that he hopes will draw people from all over the country to see African-American art in St. Louis.

“All Colors” features the work of 66 national and local artists. The Portfolio Gallery nonprofit will present the show at the Artists’ Guild, 2 Jackson Ave., in Clayton, the first exhibition following the sale of its Grand Center building.

Portfolio owner Robert Powell sold the gallery space in 2015 with the goal of supporting African-American artists.

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial could change to the Gateway Arch National Park by July 2018.
(photo by Tim Tolle via Flickr Creative Commons)

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial could soon have a new name. 

The U.S. Senate has approved a bill to change its name to Gateway Arch National Park, which proponents say would better reflect the Arch, its famous centerpiece.

U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill sponsored the bill, which only addresses the national park’s name. U.S. Reps. Lacy Clay, Ann Wagner and Blaine Luetkemeyer have sponsored similar legislation in the House.

On Chess: The Pro Chess League returns

Jan 4, 2018
the 2017 Saint Louis Arch Bishops; Starting from the left. Nicholas Rosenthal, Wesley So Yaroslav Zherebukh, Dariusz Świercz, Varuzhan Akobian, Francesco Rambaldi, Cemil Can Ali Marandi, Ben Finegold, Mike Kummer.
Austin Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club

The inaugural Pro Chess League season ended with a resounding victory by the Saint Louis Arch Bishops last year. The Pro Chess League, originally the U.S. Chess League, used to be an online chess tournament where American Chess Teams, from different states and cities, competed for first place. Chess.com, the founder of the Pro Chess League, decided to innovate and expand on this league by inviting players from other cities, countries and continents. The first event was a great success, as teams from all over the world joined to play.

Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine | Flickr

Airbnb, the popular home-sharing and rental website, announced Wednesday it will begin collecting Missouri’s 4.2 percent state sales tax for its hosts. 

The company reached an agreement with the Missouri Department of Revenue to allow Airbnb to collect and remit the state sales tax for the company’s bookings, starting Feb. 1.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, gives his opening day address on January 3, 2018.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri General Assembly is back in session. And while the House is slated to have an early focus on overhauling ethics laws, the Senate is planning to take a hard look at some of Gov. Eric Greitens’ appointees.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, is pushing his chamber to pass a bill banning gifts from lobbyists before the end of the month. Last year at this time the House sent a similar bill to the Senate, where it died without a vote.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger is going into the 2018 election cycle with few strong allies on the county council.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger is slashing the County Council’s plan to increase its own spending, in apparent retaliation for how the council cut the budgets for most county departments.

Stenger’s executive order, issued Wednesday, adds fuel to his ongoing fight with the council — especially chairman Sam Page, a fellow Democrat — on various issues.

Eric and Sheena Greitens hold their sons, Joshua and Jacob, while speaking to reporters after casting their ballots the St. Louis Public Library in the Central West End on Tuesday.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Since Missouri voters elected Eric Greitens governor, his wife, Sheena Greitens, has been working on behalf of a group that doesn’t usually get much attention from high profile advocates: the 13,000 children in the custody of the Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division.

The children include those placed with relatives, adoptive families, residential care and foster care.

MODOT

Raising Missouri’s fuel tax leads off a list of recommendations released Tuesday by a joint House-Senate task force.

The 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force is recommending a 10 cent hike in the gas tax to 27 cents a gallon. It also wants to raise the diesel fuel tax to 29 cents a gallon. Both the gas and diesel taxes have been set at 17 cents for roughly two decades.

SSM Health is reviewing its security procedures after discovering that a former employee with its customer service call center inappropriately accessed patient medical records between Feb. 13 and Oct. 20, 2017.

via Flickr/pasa

After a week of below-zero temperatures, with some nights hitting lower than zero, people in the St. Louis region are struggling to keep warm.

For some, that’s because they just can’t afford the cost of heat.

“We thought this was going to be a normal, quiet Christmas,” said Heatupstlouis.org founder Gentry W. Trotter, whose organization helps pay utility bills of people in 16 counties in Missouri and Illinois. But the temperature dropped, and since Christmas Day, more than 900 people have asked the organization for help.

Jumira Moore, 8, watches as her mother, Timira Saunders, fills out a ballot at Central Baptist Church in St. Louis on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s indisputable that 2017 produced enough policy and political storylines to keep bespectacled reporters busy. But an even-numbered year brings elections — and the potential for a whole different texture to the state’s politics.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

With the federal tax overhaul now law, Missouri’s political candidates in both parties are highlighting their support or opposition to the measure as they try to appeal to voters as the 2018 campaign cycle gets underway.

State Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, is particularly aggressive in using the tax law for his initial attacks against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.

Artist rendering of a new MetroLink station being constructed between Boyle Avene and Sarah Street, the first segment of the proposed Chouteau Greenway.
Great Rivers Greenway

Great Rivers Greenway will introduce four teams vying to design the proposed Chouteau Greenway at two public events the first week of January.

A jury of nine local and international experts chose the four teams to advance in a design competition that was announced last fall, said Susan Trautman, chief executive officer of the agency.

Ciggfreeds is a St. Louis vape shop. In St. Louis and St. Louis County, you must be 21 or older to purchase tobacco products. (Dec. 27, 2017)
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

A year after St. Louis and St. Louis County passed legislation to raise the age of purchasing tobacco products to 21, teenagers are still possessing these products at a high rate. A 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration shows that while the number of teenage tobacco users has declined, the number of teenagers who use electronic cigarettes is greater than those who use conventional cigarettes.

A protester stands outside the Thomas F. Eagleton federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis as Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers a tough-on-crime message to local law enforcement leaders in March.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio photojournalist Carolina Hidalgo shares her favorite photos from 2017:

In September of this year, a judge found former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley not guilty in the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. For months, hundreds of people gathered in the streets – across the city and the county – to protest the verdict.

Closures of popular and long-standing St. Louis businesses began in late 2017.
Barry Schwartz | Flickr

It’s hard to say goodbye. But in 2018, St. Louis-area residents will have to get used to several long-standing businesses not being around anymore.

Retail retirement

The bad news for loyal J.C. Penney shoppers: The retail chain is permanently closing its St. Louis store in the Hampton Village Plaza shopping center. After nearly 70 years in business, the store's last day will be Jan. 21.

The good news for bargain hunters: A liquidation sale will begin on Jan. 2.

At each of six intersections along Compton Avenue in south St. Louis, 16 of these balls now sit in the road, narrowing lanes.
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Some south St. Louis residents have encountered a new obstacle on their morning commute: concrete balls.

The spherical barriers were installed last month at the corners of intersections along Compton Avenue to calm traffic and increase public safety. But some residents are worried they’re causing more problems than they will solve.

The Rev. Ken McKoy hands sandwiches and snacks on North Kingshighway Blvd. on a cold night.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There were nearly four times as many opioid-related deaths — 712, according to the NCADA — last year than homicides in the St. Louis area. Overdose deaths hit individuals who are homeless especially hard. A 2013 paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association called it an emerging epidemic among the population.

Most of the social service agencies in the St. Louis area offer drug treatment programs, but advocates contend treatment isn’t always available when people in need are ready to accept the help.

Pages