On the Trail | St. Louis Public Radio

On the Trail

Cheryl Roberts makes her case to become a Democratic delegate for Hillary Clinton. Last week, Democrats and Republicans chose delegates for their national conventions.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

With all the focus on the results of primaries and caucuses lately, it’s easy to forget that it’s the delegates — not the voters — who are directly responsible for nominating a president.

Heck, it wasn’t too long ago that being a delegate was more than just a ceremonial honor — it was an invitation to change the course of history. For instance: Venerable Pike County legend Champ Clark looked like the person to beat going into the 1912 Democratic National Convention, only to have that dastardly Woodrow Wilson swipe it away. If not for delegates, Harry S Truman would have been the second Missourian to be president.

Members of the Ferguson Commission lead a moment of reflection on Monday in St. Louis. The Commission held its final meeting in St. Louis.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Since its inception, the Ferguson Commission faced doubters wondering whether a group of gubernatorial appointees could heal decades-long divides throughout St. Louis. And before she joined on as the commission’s communications director, Nicole Hudson shared some of that skepticism.

Missouri's five major gubernatorial candidates
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The so-called religious shield law, SJR 39, has already made a big impact on the Missouri General Assembly’s session. And depending on what the Missouri House does in the next couple of weeks, the proposed constitutional amendment could loom very large over the race for Missouri governor.

The proposal would legally shield people from participating in or selling services to a same-sex wedding. To say the measure stoked controversy would be an understatement, especially after GOP senators used a parliamentary maneuver to cut off debate and get it to the House.

Aldermen Joe Vaccaro (rear standing) and Shane Cohn (front standing) debate the minimum wage increase on July 20, 2015.
File photo | Sarah Kellogg | St. Louis Public Radio

Monday is the last day of the Board of Aldermen session that began back in April. Things start fresh again the very next day.

Aldermen introduced 324 bills in the 41 weeks they were in session. Ninety-two percent of them passed, most without fanfare or controversy. Some, however, rose to the level of national news. Here is a look back at the aldermanic session that was.

Blues musician Bobby Rush, museum leaders and Mayor Francis Slay celebrate the opening of the National Blues Museum on Saturday, April 2, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

It was just a couple of weeks ago that St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay unequivocally told this reporter that he would run for a historic fifth term.

Now, the Democratic official has changed course and won’t be running for another four years in office. And that means next year’s mayoral contest could be a free-for-all of epic proportions.

Eric Fey, the Democratic director for the St. Louis County Board of Elections.
File photo by Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

It would be an understatement to say that Tuesday was not a good day for Eric Fey.

The Democratic director for the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners is in charge of the largest and most complicated local electoral jurisdiction in the state. And during yesterday’s slate of municipal elections, polling places across the county ran out of paper ballots — even in the early hours of the morning. Things got so dire that a court ultimately extended voting hours — after the polls had already closed.

Normandy Mayor Patrick Green, center, speaks to the media after a judge struck down numerous aspects of SB5.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

As he stood with his fellow mayors in corridor of the historic Wilson Price Hunt House, Normandy Mayor Patrick Green declined to gloat over the judicial body blow dealt to a landmark overhaul of municipal governance.

Instead, Green took the opportunity to extend a hand to lawmakers who had substantially restricted the percentage of fine revenue St. Louis County cities could keep in their budgets. The truce offer, though, had a caveat: St. Louis County cities had to be treated the same as the rest of the state.

Michael Brown Sr. and organizers with his Chosen for Change Foundation talk outside the Ferguson Community Center after the City Council's vote to approve the terms of the Department of Justice's consent decree.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A few months ago, Starsky Wilson ended his time on the Ferguson Commission with stirring and strong words for politicians who would have to do the work ahead.

“If the win for you is getting elected, we don’t need you,” said Wilson, the president and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation. “If you eat steak because you got what you wanted in the community that’s still fighting for a generation, you’re not the one.”

Tim Woodson shows off his pirate ship at the Progressive Insurance St. Louis Boat and Sportshow. The event was held at the Edward Jones Dome, the former home of the St. Louis Rams.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Ever since the St. Louis Rams started packing up for the Los Angeles area, local policymakers have tried to embrace a potential silver lining – more space on the calendar for lucrative events. When the Rams weren’t losing lots and lots of games in the Edward Jones Dome, the facility was used for conventions, trade shows, monster truck rallies and awesome boat shows. The thought was that with the Rams no longer occupying the Dome during the fall, non-football events could fill the void.

Donald Trump expressed that the media does not show the love that is at his rallies, as 3 young girls express their affection for him while watching the the non supporters of him express their feelings for him Friday morning at the Peabody Opera House.
Lawrence Bryant I St. Louis American

It would be a big stretch to say that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump pulled off yuge victories in Missouri’s presidential primaries. As of Wednesday morning, the pair's apparent wins are so small that the Associated Press has refrained from declaring either presidential contender the winner.

Photos by Jason Rosenbaum and Bill Greenblatt

In most presidential election years, primary voters in Missouri and Illinois often wouldn’t have that much impact on picking potential commanders in chief.

But 2016 isn’t like most presidential years.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger signed the prescription drug monitoring bill into law on Wednesday.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Don’t look now, but St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and company may be trailblazers – at least when it comes to setting up a prescription drug monitoring program.

With the Missouri General Assembly unlikely to approve a statewide drug tracking program, Stenger and the St. Louis County Council gave their blessing to a county database last week. It’s aimed at stopping someone from getting certain controlled substances at multiple pharmacies, which database supporters say is a big precursor to heroin abuse.

Christian Morgan and his son, Schaefer, 3, share ice cream at the Lincoln Days ice cream social.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Few events on Missouri’s political calendar truly compare to Lincoln Days. The statewide soirée is a chance to hear messaging from the state’s Republican faithful – and an even grander opportunity to fill out one of John Combest’s bingo cards.

For political reporters, Lincoln Days is a good time to catch up with some of the Missouri’s top Republican leaders in an informal setting. Some of the best political tidbits are exchanged within crowded hallways or in creatively decorated hospitality suites – especially the secret to marshaling the perfect ice cream scoop.

File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

I usually start off this column with a snappy quote, noteworthy anecdote or a rather tenuous connection to a 50 Cent song.

But after experiencing a very, very, very eventful week in Jefferson City filling in for St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin, I thought it might be worthwhile to trot out some loose observations that might have fallen through the cracks:

Muhammad Yaacoub is the owner of Sam’s Meat Market in Ferguson. And he says that business has been slow since he reopened his doors last August.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On a foggy morning in Ferguson, customers trickled in and out of Sam’s Market to pick up soda pop and snacks. This small grocery story reopened last summer after being looted three times and set on fire during the riot over Michael Brown’s shooting death.

Muhammad Yaacoub, the owner of Sam’s Meat Market, says that business has been slow since he reopened last August. And despite promises of economic redevelopment, empty lots and abandoned buildings surround his business on West Florissant Avenue.

Mizzou's Columns
File Photo| Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

When Sen. Kurt Schaefer ventured into electoral politics, the Columbia Republican promised to be a zealous advocate for his hometown university.

Moments after finishing off his victory celebration in 2008 over state Sen. Chuck Graham, Schaefer told this reporter about how he would champion higher education funding in the midst of a national economic collapse. After all, he said, "an investment in the University of Missouri is not just an investment for Columbia — it is an investment for the state."

Mike Weber puts down new flooring in front of the bar at the Pacific Brew Haus on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. The bar and restaurant, which occupies the first floor of the historic McHugh-Dailey building, was damaged by flooding in late December.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

If you rumble up to the top of Blackburn Park, you’ll get a picturesque view of the city of Pacific. You’ll see rows of tidy houses and retail shops settled beside gently rolling hills. At the center of it all is a sturdy brick structure shipped to the 7,000-person city at the conclusion of the 1904 World’s Fair: the McHugh-Dailey Building.

Ferguson resident Emily Davis waits to speak at a 2015 Ferguson City Council meeting. Davis is part of the Ferguson Collaborative, a group that's been following the consent decree process closely.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

For Emily Davis, the future of Ferguson will come down to attitude.

Davis is part of the Ferguson Collaborative, a group of people who live, work and pray in the beleaguered St. Louis County municipality. Davis has been closely watching Ferguson and the debate over a consent decree with the Department of Justice, which came into public view on Wednesday after a 131-page document was released to the public. 

Contrary to social media speculation, Gov. Jay Nixon didn’t use his final State of the State speech to endorse Bernie Sanders, do a backflip or find the Afikoman.

Compared to those death-defying feats (especially seeking out the hard-to-find Afikoman), the Democratic governor’s address was fairly tame. He stuck to themes embedded within his other seven State of the State addresses, such as a desire to expand Medicaid, freeze college tuition and boost K-12 education spending.

The future of the Edward Jones Dome is a big topic of discussion now that the St. Louis Rams are gone -- especially since there's outstanding debt on the facility.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

Now that the St. Louis Rams are Los Angeles-bound, fans of the (formerly) Greatest Show on Turf are likely mulling over whether to start rooting for another team – or tune out the NFL entirely.

But policymakers throughout the state have more salient issues to deal with than whether to hop on the Indianapolis Colts' bandwagon -- especially how to pay off the Edward Jones Dome debt. Might the state stop its payments?

Construction on I-70
Missouri Department of Transportation

Even though transportation experts have been sounding the alarm for years, lawmakers and voters haven’t come to a definitive solution to get money funds for the state's roads and bridges. A bid to raise the state’s sales tax foundered badly in 2014, while initiatives to institute tollways have gone nowhere.

Richardson hugs his father, Mark Richardson, right after he was elected as speaker of the  Missouri House.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

House Speaker Todd Richardson’s legislative career is full of defied expectations.

Before he was elected to House leadership, Richardson helped bring substantial changes to Missouri’s embattled Second Injury Fund – an issue that bedeviled lawmakers for years. And after the misdeeds of his predecessor, the Poplar Bluff Republican rose to the speakership much earlier than anybody expected.

Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Typically when December ends, journalists tend to become reflective about the highlights and lowlights of the past year. This reporter is no exception, as the scandal, tragedy, transition, conflict and hilarity of the past 12 months gave everybody who covers Missouri politics a lot to think about.

So yes, this is an article rounding up all of the big moments from the past year. But renowned financier Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson inspired me to take this retrospective in a different direction.

Ferguson City Manager De'Carlon Seewood
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Even when he was far away, De’Carlon Seewood couldn’t look away from what was happening in Ferguson.

At the time, Seewood was the city manager of Richton Park, Ill., a southwest suburb of Chicago. His 18-year career in local government included a stint as an assistant city manager in Ferguson and city manager of Berkeley, two communities that have gone through some turmoil over the past year.

Rev. Starsky Wilson speaks at the final meeting of the Ferguson Commission.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Most people had left the room when it was Starsky Wilson’s turn to speak in the final moments of the Ferguson Commission’s last public meeting.

I, thankfully, stayed and listened.

Most observers agree that Reed doesn't have a majority of the Board of Aldermen aligned with him. That means he's sometimes at the losing end of some big-ticket issues -- or he ends up supporting initiatives from Slay or other aldermen.
File photo by Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

With the St. Louis Board of Aldermen’s Ways and Means Committee expected to vote on a stadium financing package on Thursday, Alderman Chris Carter is getting pressure from unusual sources – like the general manager of his gym.

Art by Susannah Lohr, Rendering Courtesy of HOK

From the moment a proposal for a riverfront stadium was unveiled nearly a year ago, the roughly $1 billion facility provoked probing questions about the future of professional football in St. Louis. Some of the queries revolved around the intangible benefits of remaining a NFL city. Others asked whether voters or legislative bodies should approve public commitments to the facility. 

As those debates continue to play out,  the St. Louis Board of Aldermen is wrestling with something more tangible: How much is it going to cost the city to build the facility and how much will a stadium bring into city coffers?

Vinita Park Mayor James McGee waits his turn to speak at least week's St. Louis County Council meeting. McGee opposes a measure establishing standards on local police departments.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s pretty difficult to find two municipalities that differ more than Florissant and Glen Echo Park.

Florissant is one of St. Louis County’s largest and oldest cities – and possesses a fairly sophisticated police department. The roughly 160-person strong Glen Echo Park is one of the county’s smallest municipalities with a land area consisting of a whopping 0.03 square miles. It contracts with Normandy for police service.

But leaders of the two cities share a commonality: They’re both strongly opposed to St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s push to establish standards on municipal police departments.

The University of Missouri-Columbia is under the national microscope after a series of racially-charged incidents on campus.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio file photo

With racial tensions at the University of Missouri-Columbia becoming a source of national discussion, state Rep. Steve Cookson did something on Sunday that many of the Show Me State’s statewide officials declined to do — call for University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe to step aside.

The five GOP contenders for governor: Peter Kinder, Eric Greitens, Catherine Hanaway, Bob Dixon and John Brunner
St. Louis Public Radio file photos

It’s fair to say that Missouri state Sen. Rob Schaaf has been a thorn in Gov. Jay Nixon’s side over the proposed riverfront stadium in St. Louis.

The St. Joseph Republican was one of the first members of the legislature to raise serious alarm about Nixon issuing state bonds for the $1 billion project without a legislative or statewide vote. More than 20 senators and some key House leaders have threatened to kill any state appropriation to pay off the stadium bonds if Nixon follows through.

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