Julie O'Donoghue | St. Louis Public Radio

Julie O'Donoghue

Politics Correspondent
Creve Coeur Park bike path
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Dozens of people were running, walking and biking on the path that runs around a lake in Creve Coeur Park Friday afternoon, soaking up the last few hours before St. Louis County shut the site down.

County officials are closing parks from Friday night until April 22 in order to slow the spread of coronavirus. Residents interviewed in Creve Coeur Park Friday said they were disappointed but mostly understood that parks might be hot spots for the virus.

“It will impact our mental health a little bit. It’s nice to get outside and get some fresh air, especially at the parks,” said Jessica Compton, who lives in St. Ann. 

Sam Wise and Kelli Williams
Dwyane Spangler

At the beginning of last week, when St. Charles County had capped social gatherings at just 50 people to slow the spread of coronavirus, Megan Prescott was still considering trying to make her wedding work. 

She initially thought about spreading her 181 guests across different buildings at her wedding venue, the Stone House of St. Charles, to work around the limit. Then, as it became obvious that the restrictions might become even tighter, she decided to move her wedding scheduled for Saturday to a different date. 

St. Lous County Executive Sam Page spoke about the coronavirus outbreak on the Politically Speaking podcast on Wednesday, March 25, 2020
File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Wednesday he expects coronavirus cases to reach their peak in the region in late April — a surge that could overwhelm the hospital system. 

Page talked to St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue on the Politically Speaking podcast remotely Wednesday via Zoom phone conferencing. Below are edited excerpts from that conversation.

Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville
Tony Luetkemeyer

Missouri State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, joins Julie O’Donoghue for Politically Speaking’s first official “work-from-home” podcast episode during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Republican represents northwest Missouri, including St. Joseph and a large swath of the Kansas City suburbs.

St. Louis County Council Chairwoman Lisa Clancy.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council is considering offering child care at its weekly Tuesday meetings next year in an effort to be more family-friendly.

Council Chairwoman Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood, floated the idea in a letter to her colleagues last month. She hopes that by providing the accommodations, more members of the public will be able to show up. 

Gov. Mike Parson shakes the hand of U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley at Lincoln Days, the largest annual gathering of Missouri Republicans, on Saturday in Springfield.

Updated at 10:40 p.m. with comments from Kellyanne Conway and U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley

SPRINGFIELD — The word “socialism” kept coming up at Missouri’s largest annual gathering of Republicans, called Lincoln Days, ahead of the 2020 election. 

GOP speakers repeatedly warned the crowd of party activists and elected officials gathered in a Springfield convention center Friday and Saturday that Democrats were threatening American democracy as their party grows more comfortable with socialism. 

Gov. Eric Greitens walks away from reporters after making a statement outside the Circuit Court building. May 14, 2018
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking weekly news roundup, St. Louis Public Radio’s team of political reporters talks about the re-emergence of former Gov. Eric Greitens and efforts in Jefferson City to pass a prescription drug monitoring program.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue, Jaclyn Driscoll and Jason Rosenbaum discussed how a PDMP once again passed the Missouri House despite loud opposition from some Republicans. It faces a tough reception in the Missouri Senate, where the program aimed at stamping out opioid abuse has failed to advance previously.

Voting election illustration
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

Brandon Reid remembers watching Barack Obama win the presidential election from his living room couch in 2008. 

Most of his friends had gone to the polls that day to vote in what became a historic election. But Reid, who was in and out of prison because of drugs, couldn’t vote. He was on criminal supervision at the time. He missed the 2012 presidential election for the same reason. 

“If you don’t have the right to vote, of course, you are going to know about it, right? You see it on the news. It’s voting day. You want to be a part of it,” Reid said. 

St. Louis County Police Board members Ray Price and Michelle Schwerin

At a meeting in Florissant to get public comment on selecting a new St. Louis County police chief, residents said they want a leader with integrity and the ability to communicate effectively with people from different communities. 

Several people who attended the meeting Wednesday also said the county’s new chief should come from within the department’s ranks.

“We need someone who has strong relationships with the community and is ready to lead on day one,” said Terry Wilson, a councilman and school board member in Jennings. 

St. Louis County jail
File photo

The St. Louis County Council is taking more time to review a contract to provide tablets to inmates after a complaint from the jail’s current vendor about the bidding process.

But Council Chairwoman Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood, said she has yet to find any wrongdoing.

“I’m still doing my due diligence to make sure this is a sound recommendation, but so far, I have a lot of confidence in this process,” Clancy said. “This is a [bidding process] that prioritizes lowering and eliminating fees on people in the justice center, and that’s a good direction to go in.” 

Keith Wildhaber

Lt. Keith Wildhaber has no plans to leave the St. Louis County Police Department anytime soon, even though the county is going to pay him millions of dollars over the next two years as part of a discrimination lawsuit settlement.

“I got 26 years in. I want to finish my career on my terms,” Wildhaber said Wednesday in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — the first time he’s spoken publicly since reaching the settlement.

St. Louis County Police car
Paul Sableman | Flickr

Updated at 1:15 p.m. Feb. 12 with comments from Wildhaber's attorneys

St. Louis County has agreed to pay a police officer $10.25 million to settle a workplace discrimination verdict.

A jury in October awarded Lt. Keith Wildhaber, who is gay, nearly $20 million after agreeing that he had been passed over for promotions because of his sexual orientation. The two sides then went into mediation to try to reach a settlement.

Kip Kendrick and Martha Stevens
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri state Reps. Kip Kendrick and Martha Stevens, both Democrats from Columbia, appeared on Politically Speaking to talk about Medicaid expansion, the possible repeal of Clean Missouri and other topics.

Both Kendrick and Stevens support the Medicaid expansion initiative that is expected to appear on the ballot later this year. 

Kendrick and Stevens said they don’t think Medicaid expansion will cost the state as much money as Republican opponents have suggested. Stevens said adopting Medicaid expansion could save the state money in the long run because the federal government pays a larger portion of the bill. 

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar speaks with a St. Louis Public Radio reporter at his office in downtown Clayton on Tuesday. Nov. 5, 2019
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 6:45 p.m. Feb. 10, with details of Lt. Keith Wildhaber's $10.25 million settlement with St. Louis County

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar will retire April 30 after 34 years with the department, six as chief

“It has been an honor to work with and for the women and men of the St. Louis County Police Department,” Belmar said in a statement released Monday. “The dedication, sacrifice, and bravery of those that work for this department is unmatched. The citizens and businesses of St. Louis County deserve nothing but the best, and I firmly believe they receive that from us every day.”

He was not available for any additional comment Monday, according to the department.

St. Louis County jail
File photo

Internal affairs investigators concluded that St. Louis County jail staff repeatedly didn’t listen to inmates who said they were sick and could have done more to treat the men before they died while in custody last year.

The investigators criticized the jail staff’s actions in the days and hours before the inmates died, according to reports that were released by the county this week. 

The internal affairs investigators wrote that the jail’s nurses and correctional officers responded to one inmate’s health crisis “without a sense of urgency” and violated another inmate’s “right to health care” by not responding to his medical needs.

Members of the Board of Freeholders listen to concerns from St. Louis aldermen during the board's first meeting earlier this year.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest episode of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue and Jason Rosenbaum take stock of the events that made headlines this week.

At the top of the list is the release of state Auditor Nicole Galloway’s audit of Josh Hawley’s tenure as attorney general — which had made waves in Jefferson City several weeks before it was publicly released.

St. Louis County jail
File photo

Updated at 6 p.m. Feb. 4 with more information about the program

St. Louis County is expecting to provide tablets to approximately 900 inmates in its jail, but it won’t need to purchase them.

St. Louis County jail
File photo

A St. Louis County jail inmate suffered a stroke before he died at a hospital in December, according to an autopsy  report.

Jo’von Mitchell, 31, died of a brain hemorrhage related to a stroke, the autopsy report released Tuesday said. His death wasn’t caused by trauma or drug use, though “Mitchell’s age and the location of the stroke are uncommon,” according to a press release from the county. 

The county released information about Mitchell’s death after coming under pressure from a citizens advisory board and county council members to be more transparent. 

David Schatz

Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, joins Politically Speaking to talk about proposed changes to Clean Missouri’s redistricting plan and other debates in the 2020 legislative session.

Schatz is helping to push legislation that would return Missouri’s political district drawing system to something closer to the state’s previous format. The new system, which relies on a nonpartisan demographer, was approved by voters in 2018. If the Missouri General Assembly reworked redistricting, voters would also have to approve the changes later this year.

Attorney General Josh Hawley
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On the newest edition of Politically Speaking, Jason Rosenbaum, Julie O’Donoghue and Rachel Lippmann talk about the latest in local, state and national politics.

St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder, R-Ballwin
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder is the latest guest on Politically Speaking. St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue and Jason Rosenbaum talked with the Ballwin Republican about a multitude of issues, including the ongoing saga of the Loop Trolley.

Harder represents the council’s 7th District, which takes in most of western St. Louis County. He is the council’s longest-serving member after Hazel Erby resigned to take a post in St. Louis County Executive Sam Page’s administration.

Since he’s not up for election this year, Harder could run in a special election for St. Louis County executive as a Republican and not give up his council seat. He said he hasn’t made a decision on whether he will run. 

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
Gage Skidmore | Flickr

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt remains opposed to President Donald Trump’s impeachment, as the Senate trial continues into its second week.

The U.S. House has “clearly failed” to make a case that Trump should be removed from office for pressuring Ukraine to investigate political rival and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son’s activities, the Republican said in an interview Tuesday.

Missouri’s senior senator said the fact that the Democrats are pushing to call witnesses during the Senate trial implies that they don’t think their case is strong enough without more information being introduced into the process. 

St. Louis County jail
File photo

Updated at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 28

The St. Louis County Justice Services Board canceled its Thursday meeting with jail director Raul Banasco about the circumstances surrounding an inmate's death in late December.  

Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue and Jason Rosenbaum take a look at local, state and national stories that made news this week.

They include the unsuccessful proposal from the head of the Bi-State Development Agency to revive the Loop Trolley, which shut down after a string of financial difficulties. St. Louis Public Radio’s Kae Petrin joined the show to talk about the proposal, which failed to get approval from a Bi-State board committee on Friday.

St. Louis County Council Chairwoman Lisa Clancy (left) and County Councilman Ernie Trakas (center) both have proposals to change the county's panhandling regulations.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Staff attorneys have told the St. Louis County Council that vagrancy and panhandling ordinances need to be updated, because the ones currently on the books might be unconstitutional. 

But the council hasn’t agreed on how to proceed.

Loop Trolley
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The head of the agency that runs the region’s transit network characterized the Loop Trolley as a “troubled project” Tuesday but still said his organization should attempt to turn it around.

Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Sen. Dan Hegeman returns to Politically Speaking to talk with St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue and Jason Rosenbaum about Missouri’s finances and his proposal to change state legislative redistricting.

The Cosby Republican represents Missouri’s 12th Senate District, which takes in a huge swath of northwest Missouri. It's the largest Senate district in the state.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson delivers his second State of the State address on January 15.
Marta Payne | Special to St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 15 with comment from legislators 

Gov. Mike Parson highlighted public safety, behavioral health services, education and job training as priorities in Missouri’s $30 billion spending plan for the budget cycle that starts July 1. 

He spoke about these programs in his annual State of the State address Wednesday — and also touted many of what he considers successes of his first 18 months in office.

“The state of our state is strong, and by working together, we will be even better prepared for the future,” Parson said. 

St. Louis County Council Chairwoman Lisa Clancy.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

At 34, Lisa Clancy is the youngest member of the St. Louis County Council and one of its newer members — she only joined the council a year ago. 

Last week, her colleagues unanimously chose her as chairwoman.

A Democrat from Maplewood, Clancy has pushed for more affordable housing resources in the county. She’s also part of the progressive wing of the board, which is controlled by Democrats.

Entrance to Harris-Stowe State University, April 2013
Paul Sableman (cropped image) | Flickr

Missouri higher education leaders are asking lawmakers for more funding for operational needs and facility maintenance in the budget cycle that starts July 1. 

Several public university and college presidents from around the state appeared at legislative hearings last week in Jefferson City to advocate for more money.

Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis is struggling to pay its faculty a living wage, said interim president Dwayne Smith.