Mark Harder | St. Louis Public Radio

Mark Harder

A MetroLink train
File Photo | St. Louis Public Radio

This story was updated at 2:49 p.m. on Oct. 9, 2019 with comments from Bi-State CEO Taulby Roach. 

The St. Louis County Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to send the Bi-State Development Agency about two-thirds of the money it requested for its annual budget.

For many out-of-state visitors driving to St. Louis, the Gateway Arch is their first glimpse of Missouri.
File photo I David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Ben DeClue wants to be invited to a very exclusive club.

The Benton Park resident joined more than 100 people who live in St. Louis in trying to join what’s known as the Board of Freeholders. If he makes the cut, DeClue will be part of a 19-person body that could present voters with a plan to end the so-called “Great Divorce” between St. Louis and St. Louis County — or offer nothing at all.

A group known as Better Together is proposing a plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County. They're planning to get the measure on the 2020 ballot.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis region is about to rekindle a debate over whether to potentially merge St. Louis and St. Louis County.

The Municipal League of Metro St. Louis turned in the final signatures Monday to kick off what’s known as the Board of Freeholders. That 19-person body will have a year to present St. Louis and St. Louis County voters with a city-county merger plan.

St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder is sworn in on Tuesday afternoon. Jan. 1, 2019
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder is the latest guest on Politically Speaking, where he talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Julie O’Donoghue about the titanic changes in county government.

Harder represents the council’s 7th District, which includes Ballwin, Chesterfield, Ellisville and Wildwood. With recent departures of council members, the Ballwin Republican is now the most senior member of the council.

POWERplex

Like many malls around the country, the St. Louis Outlet Mall in Hazelwood has been declining for a while. Today, it’s roughly 92% vacant — but Big Sports Properties has a plan to turn it around. It’s called POWERplex. 

By the end of next month, the developer plans to close on a $63 million deal to create a youth sports-focused venue. The plan is to convert the 1.5 million-square-foot mall structure into six sports venues that will host more than 180 sports tournaments, camps and events. 

Members of the St. Louis County Democratic Central Committee met on June 8, 2019, in Bridgeton to choose the party's 2nd District nominee.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

There typically aren’t many high-profile or high-stakes elections for St. Louis County government in odd-number years.

But with two resignations for the St. Louis County Council, 2019 is proving to be an exception.

Voters will have a chance on Aug. 6 to shape the legislative body that’s proven vital for a county executive’s success. It will also be an opportunity for Democrats to retake control of the council in a county that’s become less favorable to Republican candidates in recent years.

St. Louis County Council member Hazel Erby speaks to reporters after an emergency council meeting Monday night.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3:30 p.m., May 9 with comment from St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder and a list of Councilwoman Hazel Erby's potential successors — St. Louis County Councilwoman Hazel Erby is resigning from her seat to join County Executive Sam Page’s administration.

The University City Democrat will be in charge of a department overseeing the county’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, giving her more authority over a public policy area she’s been engaged in for years.

Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and his attorney Scott Rosenblum leave the federal courthouse in St. Louis Monday afternoon after Stenger pleaded not guilty to federal pay-to-play charges. April 29, 2019
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 4:15 p.m., April 29 with more information from Stenger's court appearance — Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he steered county contracts to big campaign donors.

Stenger appeared in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Noelle Collins Monday, hours after resigning as county executive. He was released without having to pay bond, but will not be allowed to travel outside of eastern Missouri without permission.

The proposal would upgrade the America's Center Convention Center in downtown St. Louis to include a new public park and large ballroom among other improvements to the complex, as depicted in this artist's rendering.
Explore St. Louis

A $175 million overhaul of the America’s Center Convention Complex took a big step to becoming a reality Tuesday when the St. Louis County Council voted to financially contribute to the project.

But that decision was contentious, sharply dividing the council’s four Democrats and three Republicans down partisan lines.

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks at the 2019 Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in south St. Louis County.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

By his own admission, Joe Arpaio wasn’t exactly a shrinking violet during his lengthy tenure as sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.

And the former GOP official didn’t shy away from his past controversies during his speech Saturday night at the St. Louis County Republican Party Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner — or his robust defense of President Donald Trump’s administration.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell hugs Missouri Supreme Court Judge George Draper III on Jan. 1, 2019. Bell is the first African-American to serve as St. Louis County prosecutor. Jan. 1, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

Nearly five years ago, Wesley Bell had a murky political future.

He fell short of winning a seat on the St. Louis County Council after losing decisively to incumbent Hazel Erby.

Flash forward to the first day of 2019 and Bell’s political fortunes have dramatically shifted. After winning election to a Ferguson City Council seat after the shooting death of Michael Brown, Bell shocked St. Louis County by easily upending Prosecutor Bob McCulloch. As he looked upon hundreds of people gathered for his Tuesday afternoon inauguration, Bell acknowledged the opportunity, and challenge, ahead.

Kali takes a swim at the Saint Louis Zoo.
File photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County residents will decide in November whether to spend more tax money to bolster the St. Louis Zoo.

The proposal would help spruce up the world-class attraction and build a new breeding facility and potential adventure park in north St. Louis County. But backers will need to convince county voters to raise the sales tax when some surrounding areas don’t directly contribute to the zoo.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger celebrated a narrow victory over Democrat Mark Mantovani.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

At the end of a primary campaign that featured pointed attacks and biting television ads, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger used his victory speech to emphasize a need to come together.

Stenger barely held off businessman Mark Mantovani, who has yet to concede the race after falling about 1,100 votes short in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. It was a contentious and expensive affair that put Stenger’s dismal relationship with the St. Louis County Council in greater focus. He alluded to that seemingly endless acrimony near the tail end of his address.

A child looks at one of two grizzly bear cubs at the St. Louis Zoo in September 2017.
File photo I David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Members of the St. Louis County Council are placing an one-eighth of one cent sales tax on the November ballot to benefit the St. Louis Zoo.

While proponents of the measure believe it could enliven a part of the county that’s struggled economically, others believe it places too much of a burden on residents already shelling out property taxes to fund the zoo.

Kali takes a swim at the Saint Louis Zoo.
File photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council is close to placing a sales tax hike on the November ballot to pay for improvements for the St. Louis Zoo.

While council members appear to want to let the voters decide, the one-eighth of one cent sales tax could face sharp questions later this year — especially since only St. Louis and St. Louis County directly pay for the attraction.

Two grizzly bear cubs arrived at the St. Louis Zoo in the summer of 2017.
File photo I David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County voters may be asked to put more tax money into improving the St. Louis Zoo.

St. Louis County Councilwoman Rochelle Walton Gray introduced a 1/8th of one cent sales tax increase at Tuesday’s council meeting. If County Council members put it on the ballot, St. Louis County voters would decide on the measure on Nov. 6. The tax would add about 12 cents to a $100 purchase.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger confers with Councilman Pat Dolan at a Dec. 19, 2017, meeting of the St. Louis County Council.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s recently-enacted donation limits don’t affect county and municipal candidates, which means contenders for, say, the St. Louis County Council or county executive’s office can take contributions of unlimited size.

That could change, if some members of the council get their way.

St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder to the program.

The Ballwin Republican represents the council’s 7th District. It takes in a number of large municipalities in St. Louis County, including Chesterfield, Wildwood, Ellisville and Ballwin.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger confers with Councilman Pat Dolan at a Dec. 19, 2017, meeting of the St. Louis County Council.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council’s decision to draw up and approve its own budget ends a longstanding practice of allowing the county executive’s administration to craft a spending blueprint.

The big question now is what will happen next.

The St. Louis County Council passed a resolution Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, asking municipalities to spend Proposition P solely on policing. The resolution is non-binding.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

In an effort to block municipalities from using a recently passed “public safety” tax increase on things like potholes and snow removal, the St. Louis County Council passed a resolution Tuesday asking for the money be strictly spent on policing.

Problem is, the resolution doesn’t actually do anything.

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard told St. Louis Public Radio that St. Louis' governmental structure is woefully inefficient.
Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard hinted that next year’s legislative session could “shake up” the St. Louis region, especially if lawmakers back plans to combine St. Louis and St. Louis County or merge county municipalities.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Joplin Republican’s proclamation to St. Louis Public Radio elicited a mixed response. Some are willing to have the legislature help pare down the region’s cities, police departments and fire districts. Others, like Vinita Park Mayor James McGee, are not happy at the prospect of the state making wholesale changes to St. Louis’ governance, as opposed to St. Louis area residents.

The St. Louis County Council met for the first time this year on Tuesday.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger is facing his most potentially adversarial County Council since he took office two years ago.

But the Democratic, countywide official is optimistic that he can work together with the seven-member legislative body – and avoid some of the pitfalls that bedeviled his predecessor.

St. Louis County Board of Elections director Eric Fey was suspended without pay on Tuesday.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners suspended its top official, a move that comes after dozens of polling places ran out of ballots during this month’s municipal elections.

After the four-person election board went into closed session on Tuesday, it voted to suspend Democratic director Eric Fey for two weeks without pay. Commissioners also suspended elections coordinator Laura Goebel without pay for one week. The board did not exert any punishment against Republican director Gary Fuhr.

paper ballot voting places
File photo | Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon

Updated on Wednesday with comments from state lawmakers: In Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander’s view, what happened last week in St. Louis County was an “inexcusable” event that prevented eligible voters from casting their ballots.

The Democratic official launched an investigation into why roughly 60 polling places ran out of ballots during last week’s municipal elections. His findings largely matched up with what St. Louis Board of Elections director Eric Fey said: There were errors in a database detailing the number of ballot types needed at certain polling places.

The St. Louis County Council approved a new version of legislation requiring owners of rental property in unincorporated St. Louis County to obtain licenses.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council revived stalled legislation requiring owners of rental property in unincorporated St. Louis County to obtain licenses.

Yet even though the legislation went through more alterations, the bill’s critics contended they didn’t get enough time to review the changes before they were adopted.

The St. Louis County Council rejected legislation aimed at regulating rental property in unincorporated St. Louis County.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council delivered a major blow to a bid to tighten regulations over rental properties in unincorporated St. Louis County.

St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Doug Beech, far left, and Bill Wallace watch a press conference celebrating the approval of a resolution support county veterans courts.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 7:15 p.m., Sept. 7, with passage of money for the court - Military veterans who are charged with non-violent crimes will soon have a new court to help them in St. Louis County.

The County Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to spend $60,000 this year on a veterans treatment court. Councilman Mark Harder, a Ballwin Republican who sponsored the bill, said he hopes that next year, the council will vote to spend another $150,000 for a full year of operation.

Supporters of a city minimum wage hike sit through a hearing of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen Ways and Means Committee.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ efforts to raise the minimum wage of $7.65 have sparked a host of questions. One of the biggest is whether St. Louis County would follow suit. It's a pressing concern because some businesses have said they would move to the county if the city approves Alderman Shane Cohn's bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has now provided a definitive answer to that question: No.

Bill Greenblatt | UPI | File Photo

Since St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke announced a deal to build a stadium in Inglewood, California, the future of football in the Gateway City has been murky at best. 

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

On this week's edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio reporters Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome the newest member of the St. Louis County Council -- Councilman Mark Harder. 

The Republican from Ballwin grew up in Normandy and eventually became a real estate professional. He was elected to the Ballwin City Council in 2011 and worked to mitigate the impact of a grocery store in the West County suburb.

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