Politics & Issues | St. Louis Public Radio

Politics & Issues

Lisa Hoppenjans, Bill Freivogel and Mark Smith joined the Legal Roundtable.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske convened the show's monthly Legal Roundtable.

Topics discussed include the sentence of former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, a licensing dispute concerning a restaurant on The Hill, and the case of a man wearing body armor and carrying a rifle who caused panic at a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri.

Panelists also talked about the recent release of a Kansas City man who spent 23 years in prison for a crime he did not commit and an appellate court’s ruling that the Fox Theatre must provide captions to persons with hearing impairments.

Joining the discussion were:

  • Bill Freivogel, professor for the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale
  • Mark Smith, associate vice chancellor and dean for Career Services at Washington University
  • Lisa Hoppenjans, assistant professor of practice and director of the First Amendment Clinic at Washington University School of Law

The 70 Grand bus stops near St. Louis University in December 2018.
File Photo | Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Riders who use Metro Transit experienced delays Monday morning. 

In a statement, Metro said "an unusually high number of MetroBus operators" were not on the job Monday and others did not accept additional duties. The organization said it has all available qualified employees driving buses, but that still isn't enough to cover the absences, resulting in delays.

Lance Pittman arrived at the Danville Correctional Center on Jan. 10 with multiple boxes of books, and bound printouts of articles and book chapters. Pittman coordinates a college in prison program called the Education Justice Project, which offers University of Illinois classes to a select group of men at the Danville prison. 

St. Louis treasurer Tishaura Jones (left) directed a town hall discussion with Democratic presidential candidate Kirstin Gillibrand. AUGUST 18, 2019.
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democratic presidential candidate, is promising to fight a Missouri law that bans most abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy. 

At a town hall meeting in St. Louis on Sunday, Gillibrand laid out her reproductive health care plan to Missouri politicians, voters, medical providers and patients. Her plan focuses on increasing federal protections for all forms of reproductive health care. 

State Auditor Nicole Galloway speaks at the Truman Dinner on August 17, 2019.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

State Auditor Nicole Galloway is promising to take the fight to Gov. Mike Parson in next year’s gubernatorial contest, contending that Missouri Democrats are better equipped to solve state problems than the GOP.

Galloway’s speech at the Missouri Democratic Party’s Truman Dinner on Saturday in St. Louis was her first major address since announcing her bid for governor Monday. Her party is trying to bounce back after three dismal election cycles in a row.

Former St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO Sheila Sweeney walks out of court after being sentenced to three years probation and fined $20,000 for her role in a corruption scheme. Aug 16, 2019
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:50 p.m. Aug. 16 with comments from attorneys —

Sheila Sweeney, the former chief executive of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, has been sentenced to three years' probation and fined $20,000 for her role in a corruption scheme orchestrated by then-St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.

Sweeney admitted in May that she knew Stenger was trying to steer county contracts to a campaign donor and did nothing to stop it. Sweeney helped that donor, John Rallo, get a $130,000 marketing contract, even though he had no relevant experience. She also maneuvered to make sure that Rallo’s real estate company was able to purchase two pieces of industrial property near the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy. 

Democratic committeeman Rasheen Aldridge, center, won the Democratic nomination on Thursday, August 15, 2019, for the 78th District House seat.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Democratic Committeeman Rasheen Aldridge will likely succeed Bruce Franks in the Missouri House next year.

Democratic committee members who represent the 78th House District selected Aldridge as their nominee for a Nov. 5 special election. He edged out fellow committeeman Marty Murray to fill out the rest of Franks' term for the eastern St. Louis-based seat.

Gov. Mike Parson addresses a crowd of supporters at the Governor's Ham Breakfast on Aug. 15, 2019
Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s two likely nominees for the 2020 governor’s race have similar stances on gun reform measures needed in the state, but are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to access to abortion. 

Democratic Auditor Nicole Galloway and Republican Gov. Mike Parson both spoke with members of the press at the annual Governor’s Ham Breakfast at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia on Thursday. 

Parson has not officially entered the race yet, but Galloway, who announced her candidacy Monday, was critical of the incumbent’s leadership. 

St. Louis County Councilwoman-elect Rita Days
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest episode of Politically Speaking, Rita Days talks with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Julie O’Donoghue about her impending service on the St. Louis County Council.

Days was elected to fill out the rest of Hazel Erby’s term in the 1st District, which takes in more than 40 cities in central and north St. Louis County. The Bel-Nor Democrat’s term goes until the end of 2022.

Pelosi Wants 'Spark' Of Illinois Democrats

Aug 15, 2019

U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi rallied with Illinois Democrats Wednesday in Springfield.

Michael Person
JULIA O'DONOGHUE | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Michael Person is likely to be the next state representative from the Ferguson area after local Democratic officials unanimously nominated him to represent the party in a November special election. 

No other candidates sought the party’s endorsement Wednesday night. The district leans so heavily Democratic that the nomination makes Person the heavy favorite to win the 74th District seat on Nov. 5.

File photo | Thomas Hawk | Flickr

The ACLU and the MacArthur Justice Center of Missouri are asking a judge to order the expedited treatment of prison inmates infected with the hepatitis C virus. 

They’ve filed a class-action lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Corrections and its private medical provider, Corizon, but that may not get started for another year. 

Protesters sign a petition for a referendum on House Bill 126, Missouri's eight-week abortion ban, in downtown St. Louis on Aug. 2.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday with Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft's comments

The abortion-rights group No Bans on Choice faces an "impossible" task to collect enough signatures on a petition that would allow voters to overturn a Missouri law that bans most abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy, officials from the committee said Wednesday. 

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft on Wednesday released the wording for the ballot initiative after a months-long legal battle. 

American Civil Liberties Union representatives say it’s unlikely they would collect the 100,000 signatures they need to place a referendum on the ballot before the law goes into effect on Aug. 28.

Journalists Trevor Aaronson (at left) and Danny Wicentowski both joined Wednesday's talk show.
Trevor Aaronson & St. Louis Public Radio

"How has the death of Michael Brown Jr. impacted your life?" That's among the questions that the St. Louis Public Radio community and people throughout the region have been pondering in recent days in light of the five-year anniversary of the Ferguson protests. The answers are myriad, but Olajuwon Davis’ certainly stands out in the crowd: He’s spent most of his life since that time in prison.

How and why Davis’ life changed so drastically in the wake of Brown’s death is the focus of a newly published report by the Riverfront Times’ Danny Wicentowski. In it, Wicentowski details everything from the moment Davis, then a member of the New Black Panther Party, first became active in Ferguson to his arrest and conviction in an FBI sting for “planning and conspiring to ignite explosive devices” among other charges. Prosecutors would allege he and his alleged co-conspirator Brandon Baldwin sought to blow up the Gateway Arch.

Bost And Others Influenced Trump Into Backing Off Commuting Blagojevich’s Sentence

Aug 14, 2019
Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for trying to personally gain when appointing someone to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat after the 2008 election.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, confirmed he spoke with President Donald Trump and his acting chief of staff just before the president backed off of his consideration of commuting former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich' prison sentence.

Trump had brought up the idea while speaking to reporters on Air Force One while returning from a trip to El Paso, Texas last week.

CNN reported, Trump decided to back off after conversations with Bost and U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria. They also spoke with Trump's acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

The mostly nondescript Building 2101 at Fort Leonard Wood was the home of the Black Officers' Club before the Army was desegregated in 1948. 

The building had been slated for demolition, but a preservation effort restored it. The goal is to honor African American soldiers who served in difficult times.

Mary Norwood, the grandmother of 7-year-old Xavior Usanga, speaks to Alderman Brandon Bosley, D-3rd Ward and Maj. Mary Warnecke, the deputy commander of the Bureau of Investigations, on Aug. 13, 2019. Xavior was the 7th child killed in the city this year.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis police say they are frustrated and angry that they are getting so little help in solving the murders of children.

Xavier Usanga, 7, became the city’s seventh homicide victim under the age of 17 this year when he was shot and killed Monday while playing outside in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Two other children have been shot and killed in cases that police are investigating as “suspicious sudden deaths.”

Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger walks out of federal court Friday after pleading guilty to federal charges.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On this edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue, Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum reflect on the rise and fall of former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.

The Democratic official was sentenced to 46 months in prison last week for his role in a pay-to-play scheme. He’s been the subject of public scorn after a sentencing memo detailed vulgar and boorish comments about his political enemies.

Nicole Galloway poses for a portrait at St. Louis Public Radio. March, 22, 2018
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

State Auditor Nicole Galloway officially launched her 2020 gubernatorial bid on Monday morning, emphasizing her record as Missouri’s lone Democratic statewide official and criticizing how a GOP-controlled government has operated.

While Galloway will likely have little competition capturing the Democratic nomination for governor, in the general election, she will be dealing with an electorate that leans toward the GOP and the incumbent's financial advantage.

The event is one of several religious conventions this year at the Dome at America's Center including The United Pentecostal Church International's North American Youth Congress earlier this month.
International Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses

More than 30,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses will gather in downtown St. Louis next weekend as part of a convention at The Dome at America’s Center.

The three-day event called Love Never Fails begins on Friday.

Donald Hutson is one of hundreds of people who have overdosed while in state prisons since May 2017, according to Missouri Department of Corrections records.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Destini Hutson spent much of her childhood picturing what life would be like when her dad came home.

Over time, her plans turned to the practical: teach him how to use an iPhone, help him find a job, go to Chick-fil-A together.

“‘It’s a lot that you’re going to have to learn,’” Hutson told her dad, Donald, who went to prison in 1997 when she was still a baby.

Those plans came to a halt last September, when Donald Hutson died of a drug overdose at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific. He’s one of more than 430 inmates who have overdosed in state prisons since May 2017, according to internal data from the Missouri Department of Corrections. While there are many ways drugs are smuggled into prisons, DOC employees say internal corruption is a key part of the problem.

Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Highway 63, which stretches the length of Missouri and runs through Columbia, Jefferson City and Rolla, has the highest rate of fatal crashes over the past decade of any road in the state, according to a new report.

Fleet management company Geotab compiled data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration to calculate the roads with the highest fatal-crash rate in each state.

Highway 63 saw 158 crashes and 179 fatalities in the past 10 years.

Michael Brown Sr. calls on St. Louis County Prosecutor to reopen the investigation into the fatal shooting of his son on August 9, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Michael Brown Sr. is asking the St. Louis County prosecutor to reopen the investigation into the death of his son, Michael Brown Jr.

Brown requested the reopening of the case Friday, five years after Brown, 18, was fatally shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. 

“I stand here today to discuss the unsatisfaction with the way my son’s death was handled, and I am demanding evidence to be re-analyzed and accountability to be followed,” Brown said.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell did not say Friday whether he would reopen the case.

U.S. Reps. Lacy Clay, D-University City, and Ro Khanna, D-Calif.
Nick Telep I St. Louis Public Radio / St. Louis Public Radio

Federal law enforcement officers would have less latitude to use deadly force under a bill U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay plans to introduce. 

Clay, D-University City, wants to raise the threshold for when it is acceptable for federal officers to kill a person in confrontations. He said that other tactics — such as de-escalation strategies — should be employed first, and that deadly force should only be used as a last resort.

Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger walks out of federal court on August 9, 2019, after being sentenced to nearly 4 years in prison for public corruption.
David Kovaluk I St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5:30 p.m. with comments from the hearing — Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has been sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for steering county business to a campaign donor in exchange for thousands of dollars in contributions.

The 46-month sentence Friday from U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry, which is the maximum under federal guidelines for Stenger’s crimes, is in line with what prosecutors requested. He was also ordered to pay a $250,000 fine — the highest allowed by law — and will be on probation for three years after serving his sentence. 

U.S. Capitol
Liam James Doyle | NPR

St. Louis-area members of Congress said they are ready to act to prevent mass shootings like the ones that took place in El Paso and Dayton over the last weekend — though it’s sometimes unclear what exactly they are looking to do.

In December, the St. Louis Public Radio newsroom started planning for Aug. 9, 2019, the fifth anniversary of Michael Brown Jr.’s death and the beginning of months of protests.

Of course we wanted to do the stories that answer the questions everyone has: What has changed since 2014? Where are the people who were involved in the protests? Have relations between police and African American communities improved? 

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell speaks after taking the oath of office.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Julie O’Donoghue and Rachel Lippmann take a look at how politics and policy has changed in five years since Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson.

This show looks at how the slow change picked up last year with the election of Wesley Bell as St. Louis County prosecutor. That ushered in a new political coalition that’s affecting other parts of county government.

All 700 officers of the St. Louis County Police Department will be wearing body cameras in early 2020.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County is about to become the largest police department in Missouri to equip all of its officers with body cameras.

“I think this is an example of how we’re forward-looking and how we try to set an example for law enforcement in the state,” Police Chief Jon Belmar said in an interview on Wednesday updating the status of the body camera plans.

Strong Economy Has Left Metro, Other Transit Agencies Desperate For Bus Drivers

Aug 7, 2019
The 70 Grand bus stops near St. Louis University in December 2018.
File Photo | Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

A MetroBus driver shortage that prompted two days of delays for riders last month may be part of a larger, nation-wide problem.

On July 21 and 31, Metro told St. Louis mass transit customers on both sides of the river to expect delays due to a shortage of drivers.

The shortages were caused when Metro found its workers were unwilling or unavailable to work an extra shift.

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