Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Rachel Lippmann

Justice Reporter

Rachel Lippmann covers courts, public safety and city politics for St. Louis Public Radio. (She jokingly refers to them as the “nothing ever happens beats.”) She joined the NPR affiliate in her hometown in 2008, after spending two years in Lansing covering the Michigan Capitol and various other state political shenanigans for NPR affiliates there. Though she’s a native St. Louisan, part of her heart definitely remains in the Mitten. (And no, she’s not going to tell you where she went to high school.)

Rachel has an undergraduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism, and a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. When she’s not busy pursuing the latest scoop, you can find her mentoring her Big Brothers Big Sisters match, hitting the running and biking paths in south St. Louis, catching the latest sporting event on TV, playing with every dog she possibly can, or spending time with the great friends she’s met during her time in this city.

Rachel’s on Twitter @rlippmann. Even with 240 characters, spellings are still phonetic.

Ways to Connect

A report being considered by the St. Louis parking commission suggests increasing parking rates in the city. That would help fund upgraded meters, like this one that takes credit cards.
Paul Sableman | Flickr

The city of St. Louis has received an extra $5 million to cover the costs of the coronavirus outbreak.

The commission that helps oversee parking operations in the city voted Friday to transfer the money from one of its accounts to the city’s reserves. That’s about the amount the city has spent this budget year on the virus; next year’s budget is likely to be millions of dollars in the red.

According to Washington University's Center for Social Development's latest study, predominantly black residents and low-income communities in the region face barriers in casting their ballots.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

A group that wants to radically change the way candidates are elected to some offices in St. Louis has collected enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

City law currently calls for partisan primaries in March for mayor, comptroller, the Board of Aldermen and its president. Because the city is so heavily Democratic, the April general election usually does not matter. That means candidates can effectively win citywide office with much less than 50% of the primary vote.

If approved, Proposition D would make all those posts nonpartisan. Voters would be able to select as many candidates as they want in March, and the top two would go to a runoff in April.

Illustration of a person who has just been laid off sitting at a computer looking at a website that asks him to enter his personal information to get benefits quickly.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The FBI says it has received hundreds of complaints about cyberscams based on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“When there’s a lot of fear and anxiety in the general population, it just seems that a lot of times scammers and criminals take advantage of those emotions and try to rob people of their money or their personal information,” said Mark Dargis, assistant special agent in charge of national security and cyber programs at the St. Louis field office.

Potential parcels for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment's Urban Agriculture Pilot Program include lots on Minerva Street, near Page and Union Boulevards.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis has made it a little easier for residents of one ward to buy land for urban agriculture.

The Land Reutilization Authority, which manages the vacant lots and buildings owned by the city, endorsed the pilot program last week. It allows residents of the 26th Ward, which is north of Forest Park, to buy vacant land for raising crops or animals at two-thirds or less of market value.

St. Louis Public Radio's Rachel Lippmann and Jason Rosenbaum record a Politcially Speaking episode with Alderwoman Heather Navarro, D-28th Ward.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Alderwoman Heather Navarro is the latest guest on Politically Speaking, with the 28th Ward alderwoman talking with St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann and Jason Rosenbaum on how the city of St. Louis is handling the coronavirus.

Navarro represents portions of the Central West End, Skinker-Debaliviere, Hi-Pointe and Wydown-Skinker neighborhoods. She was first elected to the Board of Aldermen in a 2017 special election to succeed Lyda Krewson, who represented the ward before she was elected mayor.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday ordered Illinois residents to stay home and non-essential businesses to close. 3/20/20
Governor J.B. Pritzker Facebook Live screenshot

Updated 6:20 p.m. March 20 with comments from business leaders and details about what activities and businesses are excluded from the order

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has issued sweeping new orders that restrict movement and close vast numbers of businesses statewide, the latest steps he has taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The order goes into effect at 5 p.m. Saturday. It closes all nonessential businesses, including hair salons, retail shops and recreational businesses like bowling alleys. The order does not apply to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations or other businesses that provide essential services. Transit and roads will not close down, and restaurants will still be able to provide takeout food if they wish.

Lt. Col. Mary Barton was named St. Louis County's chief of police on March 19, 2020.
St. Louis County Police Department

Updated at 8:55 a.m., March 20, with comments from the Ethical Society of Police

St. Louis County has its first female chief of police.

The Board of Police Commissioners announced Thursday it selected Mary Barton, who currently commands the West County Precinct, to lead the department starting May 1.

“The Board listened to the community, worked fast and hard to complete the selection process. The Department needs consistent and steady leadership as it deals with COVID-19 and the other challenges facing all police departments in this nation,” Ray Price, the chairman of the board, said in a statement.

University of Missouri Hospital in Columbia, Missouri
Nathan Lawrence | KBIA

The state of Missouri has its first confirmed death from COVID-19, the virus caused by the new coronavirus.

Gov. Mike Parson confirmed the death Wednesday at a brief press conference at the Capitol. The patient is from Boone County, and the infection was related to travel, but no other information was provided.

A rendering of the Major League Soccer stadium in downtown St. Louis.

Another piece of the financing puzzle for the Major League Soccer stadium in downtown St. Louis is in place.

The Missouri Development Finance Board voted Tuesday to approve $5.7 million in state tax credits. The board late last year denied a larger request that amounted to $30 million.

St. Louis Alderman Dan Guenther, D-9th Ward, poses for a portrait in the St. Louis Public Radio studios on March 11, 2020.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Dan Guenther, the first-term alderman for St. Louis’ 9th Ward, is the latest guest on the Politically Speaking podcast.

Before being elected in 2017 to represent the ward, which covers part of seven south St. Louis neighborhoods including Soulard, Benton Park and Kosciusko, Guenther worked for Operation Brightside and with former Mayor Francis Slay’s Office of Sustainability.

He says his three years on the Board of Aldermen have been “quite an adventure.” 

Alderman Larry Arnowitz, D-12th Ward and Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward, confer during a Board of Aldermen meeting on July 7, 2017.
FIle photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated March 11 with not guilty plea 

A former St. Louis alderman has pleaded not guilty to charges that he spent campaign donations on personal expenses.

An attorney for Larry Arnowitz entered the plea on his behalf Wednesday afternoon. Though Arnowitz was present, he did not speak except to tell U.S. Magistrate Judge Shirley Mensah that he understood the proceedings.

Gary Taber cheers while watching early election results at a watch party for Biden supporters at John D. McGurk's Irish Pub and Garden in St. Louis. March 10, 2020
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 11:20 p.m. with all Missouri precincts reporting and comments from candidate supporters

Former Vice President Joe Biden won Missouri’s Democratic presidential primary by 26 percentage points Tuesday, beating Bernie Sanders in every county in the state the Vermont senator nearly won four years ago.

Biden’s Missouri victory is a continuation of momentum for the former vice president, whose campaign was in the doldrums until a string of victories over the past couple of weeks made him the frontrunner. He also won in Michigan and Mississippi on Tuesday, delivering a potentially insurmountable boost to his campaign.

File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Election officials throughout the St. Louis region say they are prepared to keep voters healthy during Tuesday’s presidential primary election.

Missouri confirmed its first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, over the weekend. The young woman and her family live in St. Louis County. She had traveled abroad in Italy.

The Transgender Memorial Garden in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood as it looked on March 5, 2020.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The site of what’s believed to be the nation’s only memorial garden honoring transgender individuals will soon belong to a local advocacy group.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen could vote Friday to sell the land that holds the Transgender Memorial Garden to the Metro Trans Umbrella Group. A committee of the board approved the sale, for $1,250, last week.

John Rallo walks out of federal court with family members and his attorney on Thursday afternoon. The businessman was sentenced to 17 months in prison. March 5, 2020
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 1 p.m. with comments from the sentencing.

An insurance executive who donated thousands of dollars to then-St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger in exchange for county contracts was sentenced to 17 months in prison for his role in the pay-to-play scheme.

The sentence handed down Thursday to John Rallo, the president of Cardinal Insurance and Cardinal Creative Consulting, is slightly below federal guidelines of 21 to 27 months for the crime. U.S. District Judge Richard Webber also ordered Rallo to pay $130,000 in restitution to the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and spend two years on supervised probation when he is released.

Councilman Tim Fitch, R-St. Louis County, poses for a portrait in the St. Louis Public Radio studios on March 2, 2020.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch is the latest guest on Politically Speaking. The St. Louis County Republican joined St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Rachel Lippmann to talk about some of the biggest issues circulating throughout county government.

Fitch, a former St. Louis County police chief, was first elected to the county council in 2018, succeeding longtime Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger. He represents the council’s 3rd District, which includes Town and Country, Huntleigh, Kirkwood, Des Peres, Fenton and Sunset Hills.

A rendering of the Major League Soccer stadium, which is scheduled to be completed by March 2022.
Major League Soccer ownership group

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved financing for the Major League Soccer stadium redevelopment plan on Friday. 

The plan received overwhelming support, passing with a 22-1 vote. The bills were sponsored by 17 aldermen.

Supporters of the MLS team say the $500 million development will bring in millions to the city.

Authorities say Nathaniel Hendren, 30, was on duty, but out of his assigned patrol area, when he shot 24-year-old Katlyn Alix in the chest during a Russian roulette-style game.
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department

Updated at 1:30 p.m. with details from the guilty plea and comments from court

A former St. Louis police officer has admitted that he shot and killed a fellow officer in a Russian-roulette-style game last year.

Nathaniel Hendren, 30, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of armed criminal action in the death of 24-year-old Katlyn Alix. The case had been set to go to trial March 23.

Keilee Fant is a plaintiff in two ArchCity Defenders lawsuits against Ferguson and Jennings for operating 'debtors prisons.'
Chuck Ramsey | ArchCity Defenders

Five years ago this month, the nonprofit legal advocacy group ArchCity Defenders and its allies opened a new line of attack on what they viewed as the injustice of the municipal court system in St. Louis County.

They filed the first of what would become seven federal lawsuits accusing St. Louis area municipalities of running modern-day debtors prisons. The lawsuits sought major changes to the way the cities used their municipal court systems and financial compensation for those harmed. 

One city — Jennings — decided to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. But it was the outlier.

The St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners at a public comment session in south St. Louis County on Feb. 26, 2020.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

The decision by the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners to keep the search for a new police chief within the department received support Wednesday night from residents of South County.

The board announced last week that officers at the rank of captain or higher — 23 in all — will be eligible for promotion to replace Chief Jon Belmar. He announced earlier this month that he will retire April 30 after more than six years as chief and 34 with the department.

Handgun illustration, guns
FIle photo | LA Johnson | NPR

A sharply divided St. Louis County Council on Tuesday made it illegal for people with domestic violence convictions or active orders of protection to carry a concealed weapon in the county.

The four Democrats on the council, all women, voted for the measure, while the three Republicans, all men, voted no. County Executive Sam Page is expected to sign it into law.

Mary Fox, the head of the Missouri State Public Defender's Office, poses for a portrait on Feb. 11, 2020.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

After spending nearly 15 years in courtrooms as the lead public defender in St. Louis, Mary Fox has a new job.

Last month, she became head of Missouri’s public defender system, overseeing and advocating for nearly 400 lawyers who represent indigent individuals at their trials and during the appeals process.

The Board of Aldermen chambers on July 7, 2017.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis aldermen on Friday took action on major pieces of legislation they say will both improve the city.

By wide margins, board members gave first-round approval to legislation financing a Major League Soccer stadium near Union Station. And they sent a pay bill to Mayor Lyda Krewson that includes the first major raise for city workers in years.

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.

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.

A paramedic sits in an ambulance after a traumatic call.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Researchers at Washington University have found that paramedics and emergency medical technicians are seven times as likely as the general public to have thought about suicide in the past year.

Five emergency medicine doctors surveyed more than 900 paramedics in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Iowa over three months in 2017. The results were published in an industry journal this month.

This rendering shows the interior design of a proposed 22,500-seat soccer stadium that could be built in downtown St. Louis. April 20, 2019

City support for the Major League Soccer stadium in downtown St. Louis took a small step forward Friday, with the introduction of bills outlining the financing and development plans.

“Major League Soccer could be huge for the city of St. Louis,” said Lewis Reed, president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and the lead sponsor of the two bills. “We know just by the initial matches at Busch Stadium that there’s a huge appetite for Major League Soccer.”

St. Louis City Hall
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Jan. 31 with adoption by the full Board of Aldermen

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has taken a stand against state action to change the city’s residency requirement for police officers.

“This is not a resolution concerning whether you are for or against the residency of the police,” said Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward, the resolution’s lead sponsor. “This is a resolution opposing the state making that decision.”

St. Louis County executive candidate Mark Mantovani was defeated by incumbenon Tuesday by about 1,100 votes. Mantovani has not yet decided whether to seek a recount, Aug. 8, 2018
File photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis County member of the Board of Freeholders has resigned as he considers another run for county executive. 

Mark Mantovani sent a letter to County Executive Sam Page on Thursday, saying he believed he could be more useful to the community in other ways. 

technology computer upgrade
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County has made it easier for its information technology department to purchase open-source software.

The County Council approved a change to the purchasing law in November. County IT officials say they hope to make the first purchase under the new law within the month, and believe it could save the county thousands of dollars in the long term.