On the Trail

A man with an American flag stands in front of a Ferguson Police car earlier in July.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

If you’ve developed an interest in legislation inspired by the unrest in Ferguson, then you’ve probably seen some strong adjectives attached to a law known as Senate Bill 5.  

Sen. Eric Schmitt’s legislation has been described as “sweeping,” “multi-faceted,” “massive,” “broad” and "significant.” It lowers the percentage of traffic fine revenue cities can keep; prompts St. Louis County cities to adhere to certain standards; and provides new guidelines for how municipal courts should operate.

Alderman Terry Kennedy, left, has been dealing with the aftermath of a police shooting in his ward. The 18th Ward Democrat says the past couple of days showcases unconfortable truths about poverty and trust in St. Louis.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

For the past few days, Alderman Terry Kennedy has been through a complex whirlwind.

Kennedy’s 18th Ward includes the intersection of Walton and Page, the place close to where police shot and killed Mansur Ball-Bey. Protests, tear gas and arson followed after the 18-year-old’s death in the Fountain Park neighborhood, the latest epicenter of a police shooting in the St. Louis area.

St. Louis County Police form a line in front of protesters on Tuesday. They were put in charge of securing protests on Monday when St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger called a state of emergency.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 10 a.m. Friday with lifting of state of emergency. On a cloudless Tuesday night on West Florissant Avenue, the mood was relatively calm. A few dozen protesters, onlookers and media milled about on a parking lot – a far cry from chaos that struck the thoroughfare on Sunday night.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III prepares to hand a resolution to a city resident. Knowles reflected on how his city's changed since Michael Brown's death earlier this week.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

In a year filled with trials and tribulations that few municipal officials face in a lifetime, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles learned quite a bit.

Throughout the 12 months that followed Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a former Ferguson police officer, Knowles said his city found out the hard way how important it is for a government to communicate with its residents. Just because somebody doesn’t speak up at a council meeting or through an e-mail, Knowles said, doesn’t mean “there aren’t issues out there that need to be addressed.”

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, is set to resign on Friday. Some feel his departure could serve as a departure to a Senate ruled by compromise.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The imminent departure of Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey amounts to an end of an era for the Missouri General Assembly, at least for Missouri Public Service Commissioner Scott Rupp.

Rupp – a former Republican senator from Wentzville – served in the Missouri House and Missouri Senate with Dempsey for years. He said the soon-to-be former St. Charles Republican senator was part of a very exclusive club within the Missouri General Assembly. 

The Missouri Capitol Building
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Within the outcry over state Sen. Paul LeVota’s resignation, one response in particular stood out.

It wasn’t from a Democratic heavy-hitter like Sen. Claire McCaskill or Gov. Jay Nixon. And it didn’t come from a pundit or a journalist. The most poignant reply came from Rachel Gonzalez, a 16-year-old student who is president of the High School Democrats of Missouri.

A focus group moderator writes down participants' thoughts on racial and ethnic relations in St. Louis, after a meeting of the Ferguson Commission.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

After months of deliberation and debate, the Ferguson Commission produced roughly 200 initial recommendations — an ambitious output for an entity charged with the job of issuing a report.

But Bethany Johnson-Javoism, the Commission's managing director, said the group’s “calls to action” are purposefully aspirational.

City attorney Winston Calvert reisgned Nov. 18 2015
File photo Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Trying to best describe the legal status of local minimum wage increases is like wrapping your arms around an eel.

That’s because discussions around St. Louis and Kansas City minimum wage hikes have proceeded under the cloud of a now-vetoed bill, known as HB 722, that would have banned local minimum wage increases. And legal arguments around local wage hikes get decidedly slippery depending on whether that bill goes into effect or dies on the vine.

Children at the JSO Summer Learning Enrichment Program line up to play dodgeball last Tuesday. The camp takes place at Greater St. Mark Family Church's school, which had its air conditioning units stolen earlier this year.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On a balmy Tuesday afternoon, dozens of young children could feel the competitive spirit floating through the hallways of Greater St. Mark Family Church’s school.

Youngsters enrolled in the JSO Summer Learning Enrichment Program filed into a gymnasium to play a spirited game of kickball. It’s one of numerous activities offered at the camp, which caters mainly to low-income children from north St. Louis County.

But competitiveness wasn’t the only thing wafting through the building. Walk into certain classrooms, and the sticky, sweaty aura of heat is unmistakable.

Mayor Francis Slay and County Executive Steve Stenger
Jason Rosenbaum and Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

Since St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger took office earlier this year, there have been questions about his relationship with St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.

They’re not just errant queries: Slay supported then-St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley over Stenger in last year’s Democratic primary — as did some of the  mayor's political organization. But both men say they’re burying the hatchet — and, at least, are using telephones to speak with each other.

Supporters of a city minimum wage hike sit through a hearing of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen Ways and Means Committee.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ efforts to raise the minimum wage of $7.65 have sparked a host of questions. One of the biggest is whether St. Louis County would follow suit. It's a pressing concern because some businesses have said they would move to the county if the city approves Alderman Shane Cohn's bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has now provided a definitive answer to that question: No.

Members of the House and Senate budget committees hash out their differences earlier this year. While the budgetary process in Missouri isn't always pretty, it's a picnic compared to what's going in Kansas and Illinois.
Tim Bommel I House Communications

Missouri lawmakers just wrapped up an, um, unusual legislative session. But they did manage to avoid some pitfalls that have recently plagued Kansas and Illinois, including:

Attorney General Chris Koster parts ways with the Missouri Democratic Party on the issue of campaign donation limits. His position on the issue may make already difficult road to capping donations impossible if he becomes governor.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Sen. Rob Schaaf probably wouldn’t be classified as bleeding heart liberal.

Throughout his tenure in the Missouri General Assembly, the St. Joseph Republican took sometimes-provocative conservative positions in battles over Medicaid expansion and unemployment benefits. He's encountered rightward plaudits and gubernatorial jeers for his latest stance against a St. Louis stadium funding plan.

But Schaaf parts ways with his party on campaign donation limits.

House Minority Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, and Rep. John Rizzo, D-Kansas City, meet the press after the House adjourned for the year in May. Both men voted to dissolve foreclosure mediation ordinances in 2013.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Republicans aren’t often compared to Russian communists. But that’s what happened recently after GOP members of the Missouri House helped pass legislation pre-empting cities from banning plastic bags, raising minimum wages or requiring certain work benefits. House Minority Leader Jake Hummel accused his Republican colleagues in a statement of believing that “Soviet-style central state planning is superior to local control.”

Gov. Jay Nixon
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

There are some absolutes in electoral politics: Babies will get kissed. Hands will get shook. And politicians will promise not to raise taxes.

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

From the moment Todd Richardson was sworn into the Missouri General Assembly, there was an aura of promise around the Poplar Bluff Republican.

With his oratorical skills and a knack for handling big-ticket legislation, high expectations were placed on Richardson to succeed. Some political watchers foresaw a future in Missouri House leadership – and even climbing the ranks of federal politics.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Kansas City, is strongly backing efforts to curb cities' ability to take in traffic fine revenue.
Provided by Cleaver's office

Back when he was living near Dallas, Texas, as a child, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and his family used to pile into his father’s Oldsmobile and, in their drives, they'd often go through a town called Saginaw.

The Kansas City Democrat recalls that when his father crossed over that city’s border, his mother would urge him to slow the car down – even though he wasn’t driving particularly fast.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay talked of 24-hour shifts to build a riverfront stadium at a conference last year.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

You don’t have to try that hard to get St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay to express effusive support for a new football stadium on his city’s riverfront.

With the St. Louis Rams potentially bolting to the Los Angeles area, Slay joined with Gov. Jay Nixon and numerous labor unions in backing the roughly $1 billion stadium. For the Democratic mayor, the project would not only provide steady work for thousands of people – it would revitalize a rather drab part of St. Louis’ riverfront.

St. Louis Aldermen Jack Coatar, D-7th Ward, and Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, pose for a picture last Tuesday. The two youngish aldermen joined the Board for the first time last week.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On the Nine Network’s Stay Tuned a few weeks ago, I shared the oblong table with three members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

Stay Tuned host Casey Nolen described the trio – Aldermen Jack Coatar, D-7th Ward, Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, and Scott Ogilvie, D-24th Ward – as the vanguards of a City Hall youth movement. It was the type of designation that met Spencer’s approval.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce has called Amendment 5 "a disaster." She's been heaping criticism on the "gun rights" measure for months.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

When Amendment 5 was put before voters last August, 602,863 Missourians cast their ballots in favor of a measure aimed at bolstering the Show Me State’s gun rights.

It’s safe to say St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce was not among those voters.

Ella Jones, center, looks up at the television during last week's election in Ferguson. Jones easily won a city council race in a suburb that's been rocked by strife and discord.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

When Ella Jones walked into Drake’s Place last Tuesday night, her diverse group of supporters was ready for a celebration.

As her well-wishers munched on tiny sandwiches, the news got better. Jones trounced three other opponents to win a seat on the Ferguson City Council. It was a victory Jones chalked up to a lot of hard work – and a cogent strategy.

State Sen. Ryan Silvey shows off his panaromic picture of Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Silvey is part of a growing chorus of policymakers that want some sort of vote on extending bonds for a new stadium.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

It would be fair to classify Paul Meinhold as a long-suffering St. Louis Rams fan.

The St. Charles native purchased personal seat licenses for the team when players like Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Az-Zahir Hakim constituted the Greatest Show on Turf. But Meinhold bailed out on his season tickets once the team descended into mediocrity.

Gov. Jay Nixon may soon decide his pick to replace state Auditor Tom Schweich. Nixon appointed John Watson earlier this year as an interim auditor while he mulls a permanent selection.
Bill Greenblatt I UPI

Filling Tom Schweich’s void in the state auditor’s office may be one of the most important decisions of Gov. Jay Nixon’s tenure. He’ll have to pick somebody who can perform the tasks of an important office – and contend with the rigors of maneuvering through statewide politics.

House Speaker John Diehl presides over the Missouri House last week. Diehl, R-Town and Country, has rejected the idea of pursuing a "Ferguson agenda," but adds the House will take up bills changing municipal courts.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

At first glance, state Sen. Bob Dixon wouldn’t be an obvious choice to spearhead legislation responding to the unrest in and around Ferguson.

State Treasurer Clint Zweifel speaks to the St. Louis Regional Chamber on Friday, March 13, 2015.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Soon after Michael Brown’s shooting death sparked riots and protests that jolted businesses in and around Ferguson, state Treasurer Clint Zweifel decided to get the lay of the land.

Speaking to the St. Louis Regional Chamber, Zweifel said he didn’t look to consultants or political figures for help. Nor did try to figure out solutions from a distance.

Ferguson's Police Department
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Tony Rice was waiting very patiently yesterday outside Ferguson City Hall.

With a cell phone in hand, Rice was awaiting the official announcement of Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson’s departure, which sparked protests later that evening, which ended with two police shot.

march August 30 2014
Emanuele Berry | St. Louis Public Radio

The Department of Justice’s report detailing the excesses of the Ferguson Police Department has prompted plenty of analyses and speculation about whether the town of roughly 20,000 would change its ways.

St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed won a landslide victory in the Democratic primary. His lack of real competition may have affected voter turnout throughout the city.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Tuesday's Board of Aldermen elections contained several surprises and notable takeaways.

Tuesday's elections will decide who will fill 17 out of 28 seats in the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

On Tuesday, St. Louis voters will head to the polls for the municipal primary election. Besides a spirited race for an open aldermanic seat encompassing most of downtown, several incumbent aldermen are facing particularly vibrant challenges. When all the ballots are counted by Tuesday night, the 28-person board could look different.

In the marquee race, St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed is expected to coast to a victory over former Alderman Jimmie Matthews, a perennial candidate who’s vied unsuccessfully for various offices.

Gov. Jay Nixon's zest for a new stadium on St. Louis' riverfront isn't necessarily extending to members fo the GOP-controlled legislature. That could make a difference if a bill requiring a legislative vote before extending bonds becomes law.
File photo by Bill Greenblatt I UPI

If somebody listened to Gov. Jay Nixon talk about a new stadium on St. Louis riverfront, they’d get the sense that it's an opportunity too good to pass up. Not everyone agrees.

Pages