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Top Stories

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

Boxes of classroom furniture sit ready to be unpacked in the gymnasium of Stone Creek Elementary, which was finished weeks before the Wentzville school year started in August. The district wants to build two more schools to keep up with growth.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Wentzville School District just opened two new school buildings in August. But now officials are plotting out two more.

The St. Charles County school district’s board of education approved putting a bonding measure on the April 2018 ballot on Thursday. It will allow the district to borrow enough money for two more new schools and additions for four others.

The trains are the stars of Dan Schmidt's annual Christmas display in Overland in December 2017
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Six-year-old Adam Messmer watched wide-eyed, as a model train pulled freight cars and tankers through a Christmas landscape that takes up every inch of Dan Schmidt’s front yard in Overland.

“There it is. There it is. There it is,’’ Adam called out, as the red and silver Santa Fe engine reappeared from a tunnel and chugged past a little church and a drive-in theater showing a video of “A Miracle on 34th Street.”

Adam has toy trains of his own, and this is one of his favorite Christmas displays, said Amie Messmer, his mother. They live nearby in Maryland Heights.

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

Missouri’s closely watched U.S. Senate contest may be 11 months away, but a flood of outside groups already are jumping in to aid or oppose Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill or her best-known GOP rival, state Attorney General Josh Hawley.

Most of these groups do not have to identify their donors or can delay that reporting until well into 2018.  And many plan to concentrate their activities on social media platforms such as Facebook -- not television.

New Season spokesman Todd Eury stands outside the planned clinic in St. Charles.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

A locked storefront for an opioid treatment clinic in a St. Charles strip mall sits between a bar and a meeting space for Alcoholics Anonymous. A sign outside reads “New Season.” But the project is on hold, after objections from local residents. 

“We’re not against any of the opioid clinics, we’re against the location,” said Jim Meinhardt, the sales manager of a nearby computer store. “Usually these clinics are not right next to a neighborhood or a day care. Usually there’s some thought.”

When he heard about the plans, Meinhardt started gathering signatures for a petition asking the clinic, which would serve 350 patients, to choose another location.

Maplewood Richmond Heights teacher Otto Schultejans received a painting from a challenging student with the Beatles' lyric "nothing's going to change my world." It became "her way of saying ‘yeah, you actually did change my world.’”
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

It can be a parade of baked goods into classrooms the week before winter break. Gift cards tend to stack up on teachers’ desks. But sometimes, a gift overwhelms a teacher — and it’s kept for decades.

In the final days before winter break, teachers and students will wrap up the fall semester and dash home to celebrate the holidays. Before that, many students will present to their favorite teachers gifts, large and small; hand-made and store-bought; expensive and not-so-much.

Fabiano Caruana and Ian Nepomniachtchi in the playoff round of the 2017 London Chess Classic
Lennart Ootes | Grand Chess Tour

The last super tournament of 2017 ended with American grand master Fabiano Caruana edging out Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi in a tiebreak to claim victory at the London Chess Classic, ahead of World Champion Magnus Carlsen. This is a significant victory for Caruana, who struggled in tournaments at the beginning of the year.

An aerial view of Lake of the Ozarks.
Courtesy Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor Bureau

The Environmental Protection Agency has released its proposal for tackling polluted runoff in Missouri's largest lakes.

But environmentalists say the EPA's plan, like the state's plan that was released in October, is not strong enough to address pollution. 

Missouri does not set limits for nitrogen and phosphorus, nutrients that can cause fish kills and create dead zones in excessive quantities. A Clean Water Act settlement last year with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment required the EPA to devise a rule to regulate nutrient pollution in Missouri's lakes by Dec. 15, unless the Missouri Department of Natural Resources filed its own proposal by that date. The state failed to submit a plan by the deadline. 

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens sits  for an interview with St. Louis Public Radio in downtown St. Louis on July 17, 2017.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is looking into whether Gov. Eric Greitens’ administration may be violating the state’s Sunshine Law.

It’s in response to a Kansas City Star report that the Republican governor and his staff use a phone application that automatically deletes text messages.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Dec. 20 at 2:00 p.m. with details of the buyback — St. Louis-area residents who have weapons they want to get rid of can exchange them for cash on Saturday, Dec. 23.

Private groups are financing and coordinating the program. People can turn in guns at the Omega Center, 3900 Goodfellow Blvd., between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Only working firearms can be exchanged for cash.

A spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson said the program is targeted at guns from St. Louis, St. Louis County and East St. Louis, but those running the buyback won't have any way of knowing where a gun comes from. The weapons will be turned over to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, which will check to see if the guns have been stolen or used in a crime.

The widow of firefighter Marnell Griffin (her back to the camera) comforts a fellow firefighter's widow on Dec. 201, 2017. They, and the woman on the left, lost their husbands to cancer.
Holly Edgell | St. Louis Public Radio

When firefighter Marnell Griffin died in January 2017, it was not due to burns, smoke inhalation or any of the other hazards people associate with his line of work. Griffin, a 22-year veteran of the St. Louis Fire Department, died of colon cancer.

The central corridor illumination art project on these grain elevators was tested briefly on Dec. 12.
Provided | Raven Fox

Many St. Louisans pack the family into the car, drive around, and ooh and ah over lighting displays during the Christmas season.

They might want to do it again in February.

That’s when the next phase of a huge, colorful, illumination art project will be briefly visible in St. Louis’ central corridor — and for miles around. The “canvas” consists of a series of grain silos that sit less than 200 yards from the IKEA store between Sarah Street and Vandeventer Avenue.

A sign outside the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery advertises Narcan, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Chad Sabora walked up to a worker in a social services office in south St. Louis County in 2011, with a desperate plea: Where does someone get addiction treatment if they’re uninsured?

“I took off my coat to show her my track marks, like — please, help me,” Sabora recalled. “She had no idea where to send me.”

Years after his recovery, Sabora heads an organization that seeks to connect people with opioid addictions to available treatment. The Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery now serves hundreds of people a year at its offices at 4022 S. Broadway St. in Dutchtown.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger confers with Councilman Pat Dolan at a Dec. 19, 2017, meeting of the St. Louis County Council.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council’s decision to draw up and approve its own budget ends a longstanding practice of allowing the county executive’s administration to craft a spending blueprint.

The big question now is what will happen next.

RISE Community Development's Stephen Acree stands in one of his organization's apartments in Forest Park Southeast. His group used low-income housing and historic tax credits to redevelop a slew of buildings in the central corridor neighborhood.
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri will not issue $140 million dollars in state low income housing tax credits next year.

The Missouri Housing Development Commission voted 8 to 2 Tuesday to zero out the state’s low-income housing tax credit for the year. It also voted to apply for the federal version of the incentive.

Reginald Clemons, pictured here during a 2012, court hearing, has pleaded guilty to the 1991 rape and murder of Julie and Robin Kerry.
St. Louis Post Dispatch | Pool photo

Updated Dec. 18 at 5:10 p.m. with comments from attorneys for Clemons and former prosecutor Jennifer Joyce — A St. Louis man has admitted that he played a part in the 1991 rape and murder of two sisters on the Chain of Rocks Bridge.

Reginald Clemons pleaded guilty on Monday to robbery, two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of rape for the deaths of Julie and Robin Kerry. He will spend the rest of his life in prison. Prosecutors originally sought the death penalty.

St. Louis Alderman Tom Oldenburg, D-16th Ward
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome St. Louis Alderman Tom Oldenburg to the show for the first time.

Casinos in the region employ thousands and pay millions in taxes every year.
Ian Murphy | Flickr

A major shift in the national gaming industry will impact at least four casinos in the St. Louis region. Penn National is acquiring Pinnacle Entertainment in a nearly $3 billion deal.

Regulators still need to approve what would be the combination of two of the nation's largest casino operators outside Las Vegas. The companies employ thousands in the area and pay millions in taxes every year.

Kae M. Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

The owners of Reedy Press are fighting to recover from a Nov. 15 fire that gutted the warehouse containing all the publisher’s printed books.

An estimated 200,000 books burned, nearly all the unsold copies. The publisher is coordinating with dozens of authors to reprint the books.

“The misery of this — if you want to go that far — is having to do everything over again,” Co-owner and Publisher Josh Stevens said. “I’ve spent the last few weeks looking for a more permanent warehouse, buying warehouse equipment that I already bought once upon a time. I joke to people that it’s like groundhog day.”

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Lauren Coale sends students in her math classes home with videos on how to do complicated algebra or geometry problems.

Instead of lecturing her students, Coale’s class time at Lindbergh High School is free for student interaction, instead of instruction on the overhead projector.

Many homeowners are using services like Airbnb to make some extra cash, while the option is becoming more popular among travelers
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The internet economy is a new challenge for communities throughout the region - how to deal with online home and room rental companies like Airbnb. For some property owners, listing vacancies online is an attractive way to make a buck or two. But several cities and towns are worried about the impact that attracting strangers will have on neighborhoods. 

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill speaks at her 50th town hall event Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, at St. Louis Community College's Meramec campus in Kirkwood.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill criticized a tax plan poised for approval in Congress during a town hall in suburban St. Louis — while conceding there’s little she and her Democratic colleagues can do to stop it.

At the event Saturday morning at St. Louis Community College’s Meramec campus, McCaskill, D-Mo., answered questions for about an hour, mostly on the tax bill, net neutrality and the future of Robert Mueller’s investigation of President Donald Trump’s campaign.

The head of a developer with strong St. Louis ties is hoping his commitment to the Loop Trolley will help lift a cloud that has been hanging over the project.

ClayCo Chief Executive Officer Bob Clark says his company decided to make a $750,000 commitment after sensing the initiative was getting a "toxic" reputation.

"It's indicative of a place that is kind of stuck. All of this negativity all of a sudden becomes reality if somebody doesn't do something about it. So, I felt very strongly that it can be exciting," Clark said. "It can be a winning thing."

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

As Congress deliberates over whether to renew funding for children’s health insurance and community health centers, the delayed decision is forcing local agencies to make contingency plans.

The funding represents $3.4 million for the nonprofit Myrtle Hilliard Davis Comprehensive Health Centers in St. Louis.

“For us, it’s a possibility that we would have to close one of our sites,” MHD spokeswoman Deneen Busby said. “It would be about 60 employees impacted.”

Jose Garcia holds his daughter, Amanda, at a Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson. (Nov. 19, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Jose Garcia and his partner, Ana Ortiz, shuffled quietly into the warmth of a packed Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson.

Their older daughters, Julissa, 11, and Dana, 7, disappeared into the pews looking for friends. Garcia picked up 5-year-old Amanda and rocked her in his arms.

For more than a decade, Garcia attended Sunday Mass with his family. But this November morning was different.

St. Louis police chief candidates greet each other before the start of a town hall at Saint Louis University Law School. Dec. 14, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The six men and women who want to lead the 1,200 officers of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department met some of the residents they would serve Thursday night.

For the first time in department history, three of the finalists are from outside of the department. But the three internal candidates include interim chief Lawrence O’Toole, which angered some in the crowd.

Maj. John Hayden, left, commander of the St. Louis police department's North Patrol Division, and Chief Patrick Melvin, of the Port Arthur Police Department in Texas, center, and interim St. Louis Police Chief Lawrence O'Toole.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Three outside candidates are among the six people vying to be the next chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

Those six people introduced themselves to the public Thursday night at a public forum at Saint Louis University law school.

Lt. Col. Lawrence O’Toole

O’Toole, a 33-year veteran of the SLMPD, has been interim chief since April, when Sam Dotson retired suddenly on Mayor Lyda Krewson’s first day in office.

Peyton Manning, the NFL quarterback-turned-pitchman, apparently has another side hustle: Certifying shipments of grain as organic for a Nebraska-based agency called OneCert.

Problem is, OneCert president Sam Welsch doesn’t remember hiring Manning for his business, which is accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to inspect everything from small vegetable farms to processing plants and international grain operations.

School Illustration
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

With the task of going through a state Senate confirmation process approaching, Gov. Eric Greitens’ picks to the Missouri State Board of Education successfully sped up the process of finding an education commissioner over the objections of the board’s president.

The governor’s five nominees outflanked three other board members during a teleconference Thursday to open and close the application process for a new education commissioner before an early January meeting. The board fired Commissioner Margie Vandeven Dec. 1 over objections of lawmakers from both sides as well as leaders and supporters of traditional school districts.

Officials and dignitaries used ceremonial shovels to symbolically break ground on the second phase of Ballpark Village on Dec. 14, 2016.
Holly Edgell | St. Louis Public Radio

The second phase of Ballpark Village got underway Thursday, and, at the heart of it all, will be a luxury apartment building. The St. Louis Cardinals and development partner, the Cordish Companies, are betting that people will pay top dollar to live at One Cardinal Way, at the corner of Clark Avenue and South Broadway.

A nearby office tower will be the first Class A office building constructed in downtown St. Louis since Metropolitan Square opened in 1989. At the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday, Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III announced that PriceWaterhouseCoopers will be the lead tenant. 

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s looking more and more like state Auditor Nicole Galloway will be reviewing St. Louis’ spending.

A group called AuditSTL has been collecting signatures since August to force an audit of all city departments. St. Louis aldermen are now considering a resolution from Alderman Joe Vaccaro, D-23rd Ward, that would make the same request, although Galloway would not be required to do the review.

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