On the Trail | St. Louis Public Radio

On the Trail

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.

The Missouri Capitol Building at dusk
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.

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.”

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