Top Stories | St. Louis Public Radio

Top Stories

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

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.

John Hayden was picked on Dec. 28, 2017, to be St. Louis' next police chief. Hayden is a 30-year veteran of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

Updated Dec. 28 at 2:45 p.m. with additional comments on Hayden's promotion — St. Louis Police Maj. John Hayden is the next chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

Michael Ferguson and Betsy Bowman starred in Bluff City Theater's 2017 presentation of The Glass Menagerie.
Joe Anderson

A small theater company in Hannibal is giving larger St. Louis troupes a run for their money in a regional awards competition.

The 4-year-old Bluff City Theater is nominated for 12 Broadway World regional awards for the 2017 season, including Best Theater Company. Larger, more established institutions like Stages St. Louis and The Rep typically dominate the annual contest. A public vote decides the winners.

Republican state Reps. Jay Barnes, center, and Justin Alferman, right, converse with Alex Curchin, left, during the last day of the Missouri General Assembly's 2017 legislative session.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Heightened tensions between Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and fellow Republicans who control the General Assembly will likely add drama when the 2018 legislative session begins next Wednesday.

Because 2018 is an election year, it’s long been assumed that lawmakers will avoid divisive topics that could upset voters. But that might not be possible this time.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, his wife, Abigail Blunt, and son, Charlie, join artist Bryan Hayes at his studio in Washington, Missouri. (Dec. 27, 2017) The building was renovated using federal historic tax credits, which Blunt supports.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt has at least two predictions heading into 2018:

The Missouri Republican expects the public will warm up to the new federal tax overhaul as more see fatter paychecks in the coming months. And he also believes that the GOP will avoid dealing with the nation’s popular entitlement programs –Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security – until Democrats gain more political power.

Matt Palozola greets friends at a fundraiser for the Zola Initiative, a nonprofit he started in honor of his brother. Dec. 15, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When Tom Palozola arrived at Webster University after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, he struggled to fit in with his younger classmates. But he found solace in in the Student Veterans Organization.

As its president, Palozola worked tirelessly to acquire a grant to open a campus veterans center. He envisioned it as a refuge for veterans who also felt like campus outsiders.  

Palozola had suffered a traumatic brain injury when a roadside bomb exploded in Afghanistan. He struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and died by suicide last May.

Sen. Caleb Rowden, center, was elected to the Missouri Senate in 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and KBIA’s Bram Sable-Smith welcome back Sen. Caleb Rowden to the show.

The Columbia Republican represents Missouri’s 19th Senatorial District. That includes Boone and Cooper Counties, which include the cities of Columbia and Boonville.

Cultures of bacterial strains belonging to researchers at Washington University that can turn toxic compounds into the precursors of biofuels
Washington University in St. Louis

In the near future, gasoline could be replaced by a fuel that uses bacteria instead of fossil fuels.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of California-Berkeley are studying a species of bacteria that could be used to manufacture a renewable biofuel. The U.S. Department of Energy gave scientists $3.9 million to fund the research for three years. 

People gather in the Central West End to protest the acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley in September.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In the last week of 2017, St. Louis Public Radio is looking back at more than 1,500 stories that the newsroom covered over the past 12 months.

It was a year of big changes: a new president, a new governor and a new mayor in St. Louis. Our reporters reflected on those transitions and explored how national news was relevant to the St. Louis region.

Our readers certainly don’t have tunnel vision: The stories they shared covered science, legislature, race, the death penalty, and mental health. Readers saw our reporters follow unions as they mobilized to block a state law, travel to the southern Illinois towns at the Dakota Access Pipeline’s conclusion, and observe the Stockley protests that unsettled the region.

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:

The Gender Workbook for Kids will be published in April.
Kelly Storck

Children who grapple with their gender identity often start asking questions in their toddler years.

They may demand parents call them "her" instead of "him," or insist they’re a boy after they were assigned female gender at birth.

These declarations make sense to St. Louis therapist Kelly Storck, who has worked with children and parents for 20 years.  But the topic of gender doesn’t always make sense to kids, or even the adults in their lives. That’s why Storck wrote her new book “The Gender Identity Workbook for Kids: A Guide to Exploring Who You Are.”

Dr. Marva Robinson is a licensed clinical psychologist in St. Louis. Dec.2017
Marissanne Lewis-Thompson | St. Louis Public Radio

For many black school-age youth, mental health needs can fly under the radar. They can lead some parents, teachers and other adults to perceive it as kids “acting out.” St. Louis Public Radio’s Marissanne Lewis-Thompson spoke with Dr. Marva Robinson, a licensed clinical psychologist in St. Louis about what happens when mental health resources aren’t available in predominantly black schools.

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.

UPS estimates it will handle about 750 million deliveries between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. That's up five percent from 2016.
UPS

They watch homes in your neighborhood, looking for packages left on stoops and doorsteps. Before you know it, porch pirates swoop in and swipe your holiday deliveries.

Gerrie Gibson, left, has worked for Christian Care Home for 19 years.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

Workers for a Ferguson nursing home are three weeks into a strike over claims of unfair labor practices. Now, they’re receiving letters from the administrator of the Christian Care Home, telling them they’re being replaced.

In a Dec. 19 letter, administrator Donna Cooper told workers they would have preferential hiring status when there are vacancies if they choose to return. That shocked union nurse Ruby  Crymes, who sits on the bargaining committee. 

“We feel like they’re playing games with our lives,” Crymes said. “We even offered to go back with no raise now, with something on the back end six months later and they didn’t even accept that.”

Paul's Market

It can seem daunting to find the ultimate gift that captures St. Louis’ charm and convinces your family to explore the region.

Whether you’re showing loved ones around the city or just bringing the Midwest back home, here are five ways to bring the food, pastimes and St. Louis pride to Christmas with you.

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