Among this week's top stories: a preview of upcoming municipal elections, a look at the tangled web of prosecutors and judges in municipal courts and Lori Waxman's instant art reviews.
We know that you listen to us on air and check our website for news and information about our region. We hope that you look at our website every day, but we know that's not always possible. So, once a week, on Friday, we will highlight some of the website's top stories of the week.
On the April 7 ballot
More than 900 candidates are running for local area offices this spring. Two of the region’s cities – St. Charles and Florissant – have competitive contests for mayor. Other intriguing mayoral races are in Jennings, Black Jack and Brentwood. There also are dozens of ballot proposals-- some to raise taxes and others to expand municipal boundaries. The results of these elections often have a bigger impact on people’s lives than many higher-profile contests.
Two St. Louis County school districts -- Rockwood and Ferguson-Florissant -- are asking voters to put recent controversies behind them and approve bond issues next month to help bring facilities up to date. Webster Groves and Maplewood-Richmond Heights also have bond issues on the ballot.
Ferguson's ripple effects
Seventy-nine municipal courts give the cities of St. Louis County significant autonomy in judging minor infractions as such speeding tickets, tall weeds or zoning violations. The judges and prosecutors work part time — in smaller jurisdictions, just two or three times a month for a few hundred dollars per each municipal court session. As a result, those judges and prosecutors often work for more than one town; and a prosecutor in one place may be a judge in another. The system, as a whole, starts to become a web of overlapping hires. This story includes a graphic illustrating this web of overlapping hires.
The three agencies that made up the "unified command" during protests in Ferguson over the summer will have to provide warning before using tear gas or other chemical agents to disperse peaceful crowds.
Why did the Justice Department conclude that Michael Brown didn’t cry out “Don’t shoot” and that, if he had his hands up, it was only for a moment before he began moving back toward Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson? Those previous widespread beliefs about what happened helped spark national protest but are now being re-evaluated.
State Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, is perhaps emblematic of how the Missouri Senate is dealing with Ferguson-related legislation. The chamber passed a tough bill restricting fine revenue in municipal budgets – and is working on changing police and municipal court procedures. The tenor and pace in the Missouri House stand in sharp contrast to the Senate. Members of the state’s black caucus say they face difficulties getting their bills through committees. Some see the lack of urgency as a major concern.
When does reviewing art become a performance? When it’s Chicago Tribune art critic Lori Waxman and her national “60/wrd min art critic” project, which landed in St. Louis last week. In each city, a receptionist checks in the the work, and Waxman completes her 150-to-200-word reviews during 30-minute windows. As she types, her words appear on a screen, visible to everyone in the room. Waxman has taken her project to Kansas City; Columbia, Ohio; and Portland, Maine. The idea is to provide reviews to artwork in places like St. Louis, which does not have a full-time reviewer.
When less is more
Do students who take only two or three courses at once have a better chance to succeed than those who have to pay attention to five at a time? This fall St. Louis Community College will pilot a so-called compressed schedule, formally known as 7-one-7, where students will be able to take courses that last half as long as the traditional semester courses, but meet in longer sessions to amount to the same total class time. After a one-week break following the first seven weeks, students can begin a second seven-week schedule.
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Reporters Tim Lloyd and Emanuele Berry met students from across the St. Louis region as they consider their views on race. Whether it's students from predominantly white high schools or predominantly black, they don't want to inherit the segregated system that exists now. But changing it isn't as easy as they think.
Political reporters Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies talk with Hancock about the controversy surrounding him in the aftermath of the suicide of state Auditor Tom Schweich, especially the question of whether Hancock should resign his post.
Arts reporters Nancy Fowler and Willis Ryder Arnold chat with Alehra Evans, an award-winning painter and mixed-media artist.