On the Trail

St. Louis County's sales tax distribution system has long been a source of contention. And a Webster University professor says the only way to resolve differences is to come to a compromise among municipalities.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Jim Brasfield has taken on what may be a thankless task -- examining St. Louis County's famously complicated sales tax distribution system. 

Brasfield is a professor at Webster University and previously served as the mayor of Crestwood. He recently finished a study in late December of the distribution system for the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Breaking new ground is one of the trademarks of the Politically Speaking podcast, and this year was no exception. 

After three years of podcasts, Politically Speaking changed its format and put the spotlight on guests. In all, 48 episodes featured federal, state and local officials from across Missouri and Illinois – as well as a few folks who aren’t in office.

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley speaks to reporters after Tuesday's St. Louis County Council meeting. The departing county executive contends that efforts to paint him as "corrupt" had racial overtones.
Rebecca Smith, St. Louis Public Radio

When St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley’s political adversaries used a subcontract for the county’s police lab as campaign fodder, the Democratic official saw it as more than just a run-of-the-mill attack. 

Dooley said the attacks were part of a racially motivated effort to make him look corrupt – a tactic he said is an effective way to discredit black politicians. He went so far as to call county prosecutor Bob McCulloch a “liar” who played the “race card” and county executive-elect Steve Stenger as a dutiful patsy that perpetuated an untruth.

Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, is one of two lawmakers that want to make it harder to get constitutional amendments on the ballot. He's sponsoring a measure requiring more signatures to get an amendment up for a vote through an initiative petition.
Tim Bommel | House Communications

When we last checked on the Missouri Constitution before the November election, it was roughly six to eight times bigger than the federal one – especially after three amendments were added to it in August. 

Flash forward to today and the Show Me State’s constitution is even bigger. Missourians added two amendments in November -- one limiting the governor’s budgetary powers and the other making it easier to prosecute people for sex crimes.

Geneva Moran moved into National Church Residences this summer. She said she's had a great experience, even though the facility was often mired in controversy.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

On Tuesday afternoon, residents of a newly-minted senior living facility in south St. Louis County were ready for a party.

After officially opening in June, officials with the South County Chamber of Commerce helped cut the ribbon on National Church Residences Telegraph Road.  Inside a room with shiny wooden floors and hip artwork and decor, the $5.2 million building was officially welcomed into the unincorporated St. Louis County township of Oakville.

Bill Greenblatt, UPI

It’s an open question whether the Ferguson Commission will produce ground-breaking changes or a report that gathers dust on a shelf. 

But it’s indisputable that a lot of people wanted to be on the 16-person commission. According to a spreadsheet released by Gov. Jay Nixon’s office, more than 300 people from all corners of the state applied. 

Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, is leading a study for Better Together about how the region's policing agencies should be structured.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

When Better Together formed last year, it was already planning to examine how the region polices itself — especially because St. Louis County has so many different departments that patrol towns and cities.

But the review became more than just a theoretical exercise after the shooting death of Michael Brown. The roughly 60 police departments throughout St. Louis County underwent intense scrutiny for aggressive ticketing, little racial diversity and the targeting of African Americans. There have been widespread calls for substantial changes.

Missouri Republican Party Chairman Ed Martin, left, lost elections for Congress and for attorney general. While those experiences can be instructive, he says losing sometimes "just plain stinks."
Courtesy of Ed Martin's Facebook page

When Ed Martin sent out an e-mail last week with the phrase “You’re A Loser” in the subject line, this writer thought the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party was being unneighborly.

In actuality, Martin – who, for full disclosure, lives in the same St. Louis neighborhood as I do – penned a  letter on how it feels to lose an election. Even though his party experienced a very successful mid-term election cycle, Martin wrote that not every Republican candidate is basking in the glow of victory -- and they probably aren't feeling that great right now.

Rebecca Smith, St. Louis Public Radio

The 2014 mid-term election is over, but its impact on local and state politics could be long lasting.

That’s because Republicans  -- who were already in firm control of the Missouri General Assembly – expanded their numbers in the House and Senate in part because they were able to crack the Democrats'  once-sturdy strongholds in Jefferson County, southeast Missouri and northeast Missouri. In St. Louis County, Republicans also came close to electing a county executive for the first time since 1990 when Democrat Buzz Westfall ended 28 years of GOP control over the office.

St. Louis Public Radio aired the first public debate between two candidates for St. Louis County executive, Democrat Steve Stenger, left and Republican Rick Stream (right).
Rebecca Smith | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s somewhat instinctual for Missouri political reporters to describe every election as decisive, critical or groundbreaking. And to be fair, it’s not an unnatural impulse – since every Show Me State election year for the past couple of decades has featured a competitive statewide, U.S. Senate or presidential contest.

This year, though, state Auditor Tom Schweich likely won’t lose to his Libertarian or Constitution Party opponents, and the Missouri House and Senate will remain firmly in Republican hands. And there's no U.S. Senate contest.

Tim Bommel, House Communications

With dozens of sections and subsections, it wouldn’t be that easy to fit the Missouri Constitution in a shirt pocket. 

In the past 10 years, 24 amendments have been proposed to Missouri's constitution. Not all of those propositions passed, but the Show Me State’s constitution has been changed more often than the federal one. (The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times.)

This year’s election cycle featured more constitutional amendments on the ballot – nine – than any time in last decade. Three of them passed in August, and four more will be decided Tuesday.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

It’s been nearly a year since a group called Better Together formed to look at St. Louis’ regional governance. From the outset, the organization met with optimism – and skepticism. 

Megan Green recently won election to a Board of Aldermen seat as an independent. It may have showcased that voters in her ward were less interested in party identification and more concerned about individual candidates.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

On paper, Megan Ellyia Green should have been the underdog in last week’s 15th Ward election.

After Missy Pinkerton-McDaniel snagged the Democratic nomination in the race to succeed Jennifer Florida in the south St. Louis ward, Green decided to run as an independent. Given recent history, she didn’t face particularly good odds of winning a city that almost reflexively elects identified Democrats.

Illinois state Rep. Mike Bost's impassioned floor speech from 2012 is getting some attention. Democrats are using it to paint him as an ill-tempered extremist, while Republicans say it showcases his passion for his constituents.
Mike Bost's campaign

On the surface, Mike Bost and Moses don’t have that much in common. But some not-so-flattering political ads may create a different impression.

Bost – a Republican state representative from Murphysboro – is engaged in a highly competitive race against U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, for the 12th congressional district seat. It’s become vigorous enough to force the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to spend lots of money to paint Bost in a bad light.

Bill Greenblatt, UPI

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch was helping Councilman Steve Stenger in his bid for county executive from literally the moment he started running.

McCulloch was the introductory speaker at the Affton Democrat’s campaign kickoff last year. He's contributed close to $100,000 in in-kind contributions to Stenger's campaign. And he's appeared in ads attacking incumbent St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and praising Stenger’s promise to “clean up” St. Louis County.

Meldon Moffitt says he had a bad experience paying a municipal fine in Jennings. Policymakers from across the political spectrum may change how cities administer their municipal courts.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Ferguson resident Meldon Moffitt is part of a hardy group of protesters known as the Lost Voices, mostly young people willing to sleep on the street to get justice for Michael Brown’s family.

Moffitt said he believes more than just Ferguson needs to change. He said, for example, he received a stiff fine in Jennings for driving on a suspended license, even though he said he had paperwork clearing up the matter.

It’s part of what of what Moffitt says is as an unfair system affecting African Americans like himself.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

From looking at the raw numbers, Republican legislators might consider the Missouri General Assembly’s recent veto session a smashing success.

After all, the Republican-controlled body overrode 10 of Gov. Jay Nixon’s vetoes – and even more of his line-item vetoes. Nixon even faced a blistering condemnation from a Democratic senator over his response to Ferguson.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Tuesday with audio from the "St. Louis on the Air" veto session preview. 

The Missouri General Assembly’s veto session, which begins Wednesday, generally shuffles into the background during an election year. While legislators could have very busy day (or two), the unrest in Ferguson has sucked up most of the state’s political oxygen this year.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III talks to NPR's Michele Martin on Aug. 28.
Durrie Bouscaren, St. Louis Public Radio

It’s fair to say that Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III has broken the mold for elected leaders in north St. Louis County.    

When he was first elected to his post in 2011, Knowles became one of the youngest mayors in the state. He is also one of the few Republicans who managed to electorally prevail in the heavily Democratic area. And he’s probably the only elected official in Missouri who emerged victorious in an amateur wrestling match against Randy Orton, a north St. Louis County native who became a famous professional wrestler.

University City resident Marquis Govan has been going to St. Louis County Council meetings for three months. He made a speech before the council last Tuesday about the turmoil in Ferguson.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

The turmoil in Ferguson drew the attention of some powerful people. Everybody from state legislators to the President of the United States spoke out about Michael Brown’s death and its aftermath.

While Marquis Govan doesn’t have a fancy title, the 11-year-old has some poignant ideas about the conflict. The University City resident has a ravenous interest in politics – and plenty to say about what’s going on in Ferguson.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

When Antonio French noticed social media activity bubbling up about Michael Brown’s shooting death last weekend, the St. Louis alderman got in his car and drove to Ferguson. 

What he said he saw was striking: Police from neighboring municipalities had formed a “human shield” around the scene. Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, was screaming and crying over not knowing what happened to her 18-year-old son. And Brown’s body was still in the street after being shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer.

Rex Sinquefield
Courtesy of Rex Sinquefield's website

When it comes to donating to Missouri candidates and causes, retired financier Rex Sinquefield may subscribe to the idea of “going big or going home.” 

This past election campaign is no exception. Sinquefield has  given out around $4.4 million so far this year to support ballot initiatives, candidates and friendly political groups. That money has flowed directly -- or through outside groups -- to a host of candidates who competed in last week’s primary elections.

Parth Shah, St. Louis Public Radio

By any conceivable measure, Missouri doesn’t have a particularly robust election cycle this year. But that doesn't mean that there aren't lessons to learn.

Even though this year's primary season featured fewer contested races than usual, the past few months still produced twists, turns and surprises. That’s especially true because a number of ballot initiatives were placed on the August ballot, making up for a relative dearth of competitive legislative contests.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

(Updated at 8 p.m. on Monday with news about Schneider repaying her loan.)

Vicki Schneider got on the phone earlier this year with Bob Onder after he loaned himself $200,000 for his state Senate bid. 

She said she asked a fairly simple question of one of her opponents for the St. Charles County-based 2nd District seat: "Do you want me to help you spend that?"

“And he just laughed,” she said.

Gov. Jay Nixon speaks to a class at Rockwood Summit High School in Fenton.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

(Updated at 1 p.m. Monday with additional comments from House Speaker Tim Jones.)

Gov. Jay Nixon proved that he can outdo himself, at least when it comes to vetoing legislation. 

flickr/yomanimus

The seven or eight people who love watching political ads will be in for an exciting three weeks.  

Everybody else in Missouri may want to become familiar with the “fast forward” button on their DVRs.

(via Flickr/Tracy O)

A fundraising quarter before an election is when Missouri politics starts getting real. 

And by “getting real,” I mean getting "real expensive.”

Tuesday is the deadline for campaign committees to turn in their fund-raising reports. These are the documents showing how much money political candidates and ballot initiatives have for the final push to the Aug. 5 primary.  They can also reveal how much cash is being shelled out in competitive primaries.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Tod Martin wasn’t going to let 20 words keep him from marrying David Gray.

While it took more than 20 years, St. Louis officials last week issued Martin and Gray a marriage license. They’re among eight people who are testing the state’s nearly 10-year-old, 20-word ban on gay marriage.

Jason Rosenbaum/St. Louis Public Radio

The few long-time regulars at  St. Louis County Council meetings may be longing for the legislative body's customary 10-minute meetings after the past few weeks.

That’s because in recent weeks, the meetings have turned into lengthy – and often bitterly hostile – clashes between St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and most of the council. But it's more than just legislative melodrama; a coalition of five council members (out of seven) have managed to block quite a bit of Dooley’s agenda.

Missouri Supreme Court

Updated 12:22 p.m., Thurs., June 19: On June 19, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Ronnie White's nomination to the U.S. Senate floor. The committee's 10-7 affirmative vote makes it highly likely that White's nomination to the federal bench will be approved.

Here's the original story about White's nomination from April:

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