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Slay vents at Nixon over Police Board change

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 19, 2010 -  Mayor Francis Slay quickly registered today his irritation at Gov. Jay Nixon, a fellow Democrat, after this morning's leadership change at the St. Louis Board of Police Commssioners.

On his blog, the mayor said that Nixon made clear his true stance when it comes to City Hall's quest for local control of the Police Department, which has been governed by the state for 150 years.

"Mr. Nixon answered that question loudly today," Slay wrote tersely. "With the governor enjoying a majority on the Police Board for the first time this morning, his appointees wasted no time in voting to replace veteran Board President Todd Epsten, an outspoken reformer, with Bettye Battle-Turner, a commissioner whose short tenure has already been punctuated by her need to abstain from voting on some matters affecting a relative employed by the Department.

"Although this morning’s action was unusual for its speed, it is the governor’s legal right. He, not you, controls the police board, which is the governing body of the department. The St. Louis Police Board is now, without any doubt, his."

"As you know, I believe the people of St. Louis, not the governor, should make the decisions about our police department," the mayor continued. "After all, we pay the taxes. But, that is not what state law says. So, until the law changes, we have to live with it.

"Today’s action has cost us Mr. Epsten’s continued service as a commissioner. That is a loss for the department. He has been a great commissioner. As for me, I will continue to work with the governor and the board; and, on day to day matters, closely and directly with Chief Dan Isom to keep our neighborhoods safe."

But Slay made pretty clear that he's not happy about it.

"The mayor and Nixon already are at odds over the state's historic tax credit program -- although it appears that the mayor won that argument, at least temporarily, since the Legislature declined to go along with the governor's plea to cap the program."

Later, Nixon issued the following statement: “I thank Todd Epsten for his dedicated work for the people of St. Louis and the state of Missouri. Todd’s service on the Police Board has helped ensure that police officers in St. Louis have the support and resources they need to keep the city safe. I appreciate Todd’s commitment to the board and its important work, and I am immediately beginning a thorough search for a qualified replacement for this vital position.”

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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