Politics & Issues | St. Louis Public Radio

Politics & Issues

David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Area Regional Commission on Homelessness found homes for hundreds of veterans this year. Now, the local homeless agencies that comprise the commission are using what they’ve learned to improve how they serve the region.

The commission, a partnership between St. Louis-area counties in Missouri and Illinois, aimed to house every homeless veteran in the region this year. By Nov. 11, it helped find homes for 93% of the 217 vets it found homeless in February. 

St. Louis County jail
File photo

St. Louis County plans to launch a six-month pilot program in January that tracks people accused of crimes by using a smartphone app. 

County Executive Sam Page told the County Council in a letter Monday that his administration plans to hire eHawk Solutions, based near Kansas City, to provide the software. 

The county’s smartphone monitoring program could be the biggest one of its kind in the U.S., according to the company. County officials are hoping such a program could reduce the local jail population. 

Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, was taken down for restoration for the first time in nearly 100 years.
Dana Millier | Missouri House of Representatives

Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, returned to Jefferson City on Friday. The 1,400-pound statue normally sits atop the Capitol dome but was taken down for restoration for the first time in almost 100 years. 

“Hopefully the public will get to see a part of history here,” said Gov. Mike Parson at the public unveiling of the statue. 

Bob Priddy, past president of the State Historical Society of Missouri, said this will likely be the only time visitors will see the statue up close before it’s hoisted 240 feet in the air. 

The holiday shopping season is big business for most retailers in the United States, and the gun industry is no exception. The last three months of the year represent almost a third of annual sales for firearms retailers each year.

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, speaks to supporters and media on Tuesday night. She defeated Democratic challenger Cort VanOstran in Missouri's 2nd Congressional District.
File photo I David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue and Jason Rosenbaum break down the big stories that have made headlines over the past week.

Arguably the biggest was Democratic state Sen. Jill Schupp announcing she would run for Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes parts of St. Louis, St. Charles and Jefferson counties. She’ll face Republican incumbent Ann Wagner. While the 2nd District has been in Republican hands for a generation, it’s become more competitive as white suburban voters have soured on President Trump.

Lee Phung has owned Egg Roll Kitchen since 2000. His father started the North Grand business in 1968. He said Alderman Moore's comments were insensitive. November, 26, 2019
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

Lee Phung has owned Egg Roll Kitchen in north St. Louis since 2000. But he’s been a part of the community since 1968, when his father opened the restaurant on North Grand Boulevard.

Although Phung, who was born in China, no longer lives in north St. Louis, he went to Soldan High School and considers the area his second home. He has a close relationship with his customers.

When Alderman Sam Moore, who represents the area, recently suggested that north St. Louis members of the Board of Freeholders should not include Asian Americans, Phung and other Asian Americans in St. Louis described the comments as insensitive. It struck many as another example of their community being ignored.

Protesters hold LGBTQ pride flags at a Rainbow Workers' Alliance rally.
Andrea Smith | St. Louis Public Radio

Nationally, the number of reported hate crimes remained fairly stagnant in 2018 compared to the year before, but Missouri saw a 39% reduction. 

According to the FBI, there were more than 16,000 law enforcement agencies participating in the Hate Crime Statistics Program in 2018, but only about 12% reported incidents. The other 87% reported that no hate crimes occurred in their jurisdictions. Agencies participate on a voluntary basis and provide one to 12 months of data. 

Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP, joined the show to talk about his support of airport privatization. | 12/4/19
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

The city of St. Louis is considering leasing St. Louis Lambert International Airport to a private company. Such a deal could bring a cash windfall to the city.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with Adolphus Pruitt, president of the NAACP’s St. Louis chapter. Despite skepticism and opposition from others, Pruitt is a vocal supporter of the idea of an airport lease. He said a large cash influx is needed to address the city’s problems.

Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET

Wednesday marked the beginning of a new phase in House Democrats' efforts to impeach President Trump.

What members called the fact-finding portion of the process is complete, so the House Judiciary Committee began assessing what action to take and what articles of impeachment to draft, if it decides to draft them.

Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, spoke out against an abortion ban that ended up passing out of the Senate on Thursday morning.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

State Sen. Jill Schupp made her rumored 2nd Congressional District bid official on Tuesday, saying she has the track record and campaign acumen to bring the historically Republican district into the Democratic column.

Schupp’s decision sets up a potential matchup with Congresswoman Ann Wagner, a Ballwin Republican who has represented the district since 2013. It’s a showdown that could be the most competitive race for a Missouri congressional seat in the past decade.

The proposed stadium would seat up to 22,500 for soccer. It could also be a site for concerts and other events.
HOK

St. Louis asked the state Tuesday for $15 million in tax credits to prepare the site of a $461 million soccer stadium complex northwest of Union Station. 

At a meeting in Jefferson City, the Missouri Development Finance Board got a closer look at plans for the entire area, which will include a public plaza, bike paths, restaurants and commercial space with the intention of year-round use, not just when games are being played. 

State Rep. Trish Gunby, D-St. Louis County
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

State Rep.-elect Trish Gunby is the latest guest on Politically Speaking. The St. Louis County Democrat talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue and Jo Mannies about her victory in the 99th House District special election that flipped the seat.

Gunby defeated Republican Lee Ann Pitman to serve out an unexpired term in a district that takes in Valley Park, Manchester, Twin Oaks and parts of unincorporated St. Louis County. 

Alvin Parks Wants To 'Clear His Name' With Illinois Election Board — And Run For Office Again

Dec 3, 2019
City Council President Pro Tem Robert Eastern listens as city manager Alvin Parks addresses the council on Nov. 23, 2015.
File Photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

East St. Louis Township Supervisor Alvin Parks Jr. says “clearing his name” with the Illinois Board of Elections is the first step in his future political plans.

Parks owes the state almost $150,000 in fines because of repeated failures to file campaign contribution reports since 2011, when he was mayor of East St. Louis.

Parks said Monday he’s hoping to reach a settlement with the state board later this month.

s_falkow | Flickr

A pilot program in courthouses in Madison and Bond counties in Illinois is designed to speed up simple family court cases.

The Third Judicial Circuit received a $5,000 state grant to pay for mediators who can help people without attorneys do the paperwork to make agreements in those cases legally binding. The program started Dec. 1.

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

BELLEVILLE — People who want to run as a Democrat or Republican in the November 2020 elections had until the end of the day Monday to file their paperwork with the Illinois State Board of Elections. 

The filing deadline is for seats in the Illinois General Assembly and Congress and only applies to people who want to represent one of the two leading parties. Independent and third-party candidates have until June 22, 2020, to file their paperwork.  

A man crosses the street in Dutchtown on November 22, 2019.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Dutchtown neighborhood, in southeast St. Louis, has seen anti-violence initiatives come and go over the years.

Now it’s one of three neighborhoods selected for a nationally known program called Cure Violence. As its name suggests, Cure Violence treats violent crime such as shootings and homicides as a disease that can be cured with the right intervention.

In Dutchtown, there’s a sense of cautious hope that the latest initiative might make a difference in a neighborhood that’s seen 13 people killed and more than 130 shot this year alone.

Friday is the deadline for U.S.-China trade talks. If they fail and China's 25-percent tariff on soybeans goes into effect, Missouri farmers will feel the impact.
jasonippolito | Flickr

The trade war with China is nearly a year and a half old, and farmers say there is no end in sight.

Farmers in Missouri and Illinois will receive a second round of federal payments to make up for losses from the ongoing trade war with China. Tariffs have reduced the demand for U.S. agricultural products.

Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said the farmers he is talking to are not optimistic there will be a resolution soon.

Obituary: James H. Buford, Longtime Urban League Leader, Dies At 75

Nov 29, 2019
James Buford led the Urban League in St. Louis for more than 30 years.
St. Louis American

James H. Buford, longtime National Urban League leader in St. Louis and nationally, died Friday, Nov. 28, at age 75.

“Jim Buford was a giant in the St. Louis community who served with distinction and honor in countless roles impacting countless people,” Michael Patrick McMillan, current president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, said in expressing condolences for Buford’s wife, Susan Buford, and family on social media.

Christine Ingrassia
JASON ROSENBAUM | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

St. Louis Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia joins St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Rachel Lippmann on the latest episode of Politically Speaking.

The Democrat represents the city’s 6th Ward. Her district encompasses nine neighborhoods, including Lafayette Square and Fox Park. 

A U.S. Census Bureau representative goes door-to-door to conduct a non-response follow up. 11/22/19
U.S. Census Bureau

Some rural Missourians say they don’t want to participate in the upcoming census because they don’t have time, they don’t trust the government or they’re worried about privacy, according to a report from the Missouri Foundation for Health.

The foundation is trying to increase rural participation, explaining that Missouri could lose nearly $1,300 in federal funding for each person who’s not counted. Researchers found that a lack of understanding regarding the process and purpose for conducting the census is a major barrier to participation. 

Susan McGraugh, Mark Smith and Bill Freivogel joined host Sarah Fenske for our monthly Legal Roundtable. | 11-27-19
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Plenty of local and regional legal issues are in the news. Attorneys for St. Louis County are again arguing a judge should rule against a gay police sergeant in a discrimination lawsuit because Missouri law doesn’t include sexual orientation as a protected class.

Kathy Ellis addresses a public forum on income inequality in Rolla (November 2019)
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA Kathy Ellis lost to Congressman Jason Smith last year by nearly 50 percentage points, but the Democrat from Festus is already gearing up for a rematch she thinks she can win.

Eillis has held a dozen town hall meetings throughout the 30 counties that make up Missouri’s 8th Congressional District in the southeast part of the state.

Members of the Board of Freeholders listen to concerns from St. Louis aldermen during the board's first meeting Tuesday morning.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It would be easy to chalk up the delay in seating St. Louis’ Board of Freeholders nominees to dysfunction and gridlock — perhaps showcasing the inability of the city and county to work together.

But that would be an overly simplistic takeaway. In reality, the Board of Aldermen impasse showcases long-standing tensions about how some sort of city-county union would affect municipal services and black political power. And it also spotlights how vagaries in the Missouri Constitution make it difficult to figure out what inaction means.

The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could determine whether a person convicted of battery can still own a gun.


Electronic Gambling Machines
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

They look like slot machines. They sound like slot machines.

But they aren’t in casinos — which is the only place you are supposed to be able to find slot machines in Missouri. 

Thousands of new gaming devices have been popping up at gas stations, veterans homes, union halls and fraternal lodges across the state. Their growing presence has raised the hackles of state regulators and the traditional gambling industry, which says the machines are draining business from them. 

Children Under Fire is a series examining how communities are affected when children are killed by gun violence.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 27 

It's a horrific crime: the killing of a child. In St. Louis in 2019, it's been repeated again and again. Since Memorial Day weekend, nine children have been killed by gun violence in the city. All of the victims have been black.

As part of Children Under Fire, an ongoing series examining the reasons for the shootings and providing insight into how communities are affected, St. Louis Public Radio will tell the stories of the shooting victims. 

Thomasina Hassler, left, and Laurie Punch were approved as members of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioner on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday approved two new members of the Board of Police Commissioners, completing a nearly entire turnover of the body responsible for overseeing the police department.

While the council easily approved Thomasina Hassler’s nomination to the five-person panel, there was more dissension over Dr. Laurie Punch’s appointment.

St. Louis County Police car
Paul Sableman | Flickr

In October, attorneys for St. Louis County fighting a discrimination case filed by a gay police sergeant made the argument that a judge should rule against him because Missouri law doesn’t include sexual orientation as a protected class.

The legal maneuver prompted an angry response from County Executive Sam Page, who said he was “horrified and surprised that argument was used, and I don’t want to see it used again.”

But outside attorneys hired by the county made that exact argument in a court filing this week.

Parson and mayors of St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia meet to talk about violent crime on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019.
Office of Missouri Governor

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson agreed to back stricter gun control after a meeting Monday with the mayors of St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield to continue their discussion on addressing crime and gun violence throughout the state. 

At its fourth meeting, the group agreed on three top priorities to make communities in Missouri safer: additional funding for witness protection programs, greater access to mental health care and stricter gun control.

Updated Nov. 25 at 5 p.m. with additional data— Missouri’s reporting system for adult abuse and neglect is undergoing significant changes after an investigation by the state’s attorney general. 

The investigation ended Monday, Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office told KCUR. It recommended seven changes, including a new online reporting system in order to address the thousands of unanswered calls to the state’s hotline, as well as redirecting callers who are simply looking for information about local resources — not calling to report abuse. 

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