On the Trail

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.

Landlord Jerry Hopping stands in front of one-story houses in Glasgow Village. Hopping has been a major opponent of a bill requiring rental property owners to get licenses.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Glasgow Village is a leafy collection of houses that’s just a stone’s throw away from the Mississippi River. It consists of stout and sturdy bungalows and an almost serene quiet during the late morning hours.

But this unincorporated north St. Louis County community is ground zero for what’s become an acrimonious political fight. Many of these one-story dwellings are rental properties, the exact type of places that will soon face tighter regulations from St. Louis County.

The Missouri General Assembly placed most of this year's amendments on the ballot.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

If there was one big lesson that John Lamping learned during his tenure in the Missouri Senate, it was that it’s very difficult to pass a bill – but very simple to kill one. 

Case in point: The former GOP lawmaker proposed two-year ban on lawmakers going into lobbying, something that’s taken hold in other states and throughout the U.S. Congress. But Lamping’s proposal never got off the ground.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Steven Conway, D-8th Ward, expects a number of hearings on a stadium funding bill. Conway is a CPA and plans to analyze the financial costs of the legislation.
File photo by Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s fair to say last week produced plenty of copy about St. Louis’ proposed riverfront football stadium.

St. Louis City Counselor Winston Calvert chats with St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Nick Pistor before a judge ruled against a temporary restraining order for the city's minimum wage law.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

When attorneys resume a legal fight this week over St. Louis’ minimum wage law, the atmosphere will be very different from when they first clashed in the courtroom.

St. Louis City Counselor Winston Calvert and omnipresent litigator Jane Dueker are set to resume a high-stakes legal battle on Tuesday morning. Dueker is representing businesses and business groups seeking to dismantle St. Louis’ law raising the minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2018. Calvert (along with private attorneys from Dowd Bennett) is defending the statute.

A rendering of the proposed riverfront stadium
Courtesy of HOK

Members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen may soon get a chance to do something that’s eluded lawmakers in Jefferson City: Vote on funding a proposed football stadium on the city’s riverfront.

While Gov. Jay Nixon's administration may very well issue state bonds for the project without legislative or statewide approval, city aldermen are expected to take up legislation soon that would authorize the city’s funding share of the roughly $1 billion project.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch was sworn in for his latest four-year term. He's been in the office since 1991.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

After Michael Brown’s shooting death, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch was thrust into the national spotlight based on a relatively simple question: Should he be involved in the case at all?

Jeff Smith
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 2:43 p.m., Sept. 15 with audio from "St. Louis on the Air" - If you’ve developed even a fleeting interest in St. Louis politics, then you probably know the basic story of how former state Sen. Jeff Smith transformed from a rising star to a convicted felon.

After all, usually when Smith’s name appears in print, it’s followed by a comma and the words “who went to prison for lying to federal authorities about a campaign finance issue.” He’s also discussed bits and pieces of his incarcerations in interviews, essays and even TED Talks.

Exactly a year after he attended a raucus Ferguson City Council meeting, Cincinnati Pastor Damon Lynch returned to the city to provide insight into his city's reconcilation process.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Damon Lynch III spent a portion of his Sept. 9 last year sitting inconspicuously in the Greater Grace Church’s hallway. He was one of hundreds of people who attended the first Ferguson City Council meeting following Michael Brown’s death, a gathering that became a flashpoint for anger and demands for transformation.

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.

Pages