Politics & Issues | St. Louis Public Radio

Politics & Issues

Veteran journalist Cokie Roberts, who joined an upstart NPR in 1978 and left an indelible imprint on the growing network with her coverage of Washington politics before later going to ABC News, has died. She was 75.

Roberts died Tuesday because of complications from breast cancer, according to a family statement.

Rebeccah Bennett (left), Karishma Furtado (middle) and David Dwight (right) announce the publication of the State of Police Reform report. September 16, 2019
Chad Davis

A report from Forward Through Ferguson concluded that police departments in the St. Louis region have not enacted sufficient reforms to ensure racial equity in the way they police communities. 

The nonprofit organization released the State of Police Reform report late Monday. The report examined the Ferguson Police Department, the North County Police Cooperative and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department between 2014 and 2019.

Among its conclusions are that a growing number of activists engaged in reform are dissatisfied with the current state of policing and that the region needs a public safety model that does not rely on incarceration.

A concentrated animal feeding operation consisting of black and white dairy cows all in a row, feeding from a trough.
U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service

The state of Missouri can begin taking over the regulation of large livestock operations from county and local representatives. 

A Cole County judge last week lifted a temporary injunction that had been blocking a law that transfers that regulatory power from counties to the state since last month.

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.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 15, 2012 - As of January 1, Missouri’s state minimum wage will increase to $7.35 an hour – or 10 cents above the federal minimum wage.

And not everyone is pleased.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and the Kehlenbrink talk to media after the General Assembly passed the multiple vehicle sales tax legislation on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2019.
Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri lawmakers on Friday passed the multiple-vehicle sales tax legislation that Gov. Mike Parson called a special legislative session for. 

Parson received criticism from Democratic legislators for not adding gun violence to the agenda, but he has repeatedly said that contentious issues are better suited for the regular session. 

Clifford Swan III was shot and killed in North St. Louis County on September 12, 2019. Swan was 13 years old. September 13, 2019
Clifford Swan Sr.

St. Louis County prosecutors charged a St. Louis man with murder in the death of 13-year-old Clifford Swan III.

Jabari Lowery, 18, faces charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Authorities say Lowery shot Swan on Thursday as he and two other people walked through an apartment complex on Oak Parkway Lane in north St. Louis County. 

Emergency personnel rushed Swan to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after. 

"I just feel like my son was stolen from me,” said Clifford Swan Sr., the boy's father. “He was nothing but a baby." 

Cathedral Basilica
(via Flickr/kat93117)

Attorney General Eric Schmitt will refer 12 cases of Catholic Church sexual abuse allegations to local prosecutors after reviewing 2,300 personnel records of priests, deacons, seminarians and nuns provided by Missouri’s four Catholic dioceses over the past year. 

Overall, Schmitt said his office found 163 priests and other clergy members had been accused of sexual misconduct involving minors in Missouri since 1945. In some cases, they were accused of abuse multiple times and by multiple people. 

Pat Kelly is the executive director of the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis, and Jason Rosenbaum is St. Louis Public Radio's political correspondent.
EVIE HEMPHILL | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Better Together, the plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County through a statewide initiative, withdrew its proposal this past spring. In its place developed a plan to put together a Board of Freeholders, which would have the ability to either draft a plan that could merge the city and county, or drop the idea altogether. 

The Municipal League of Metro St. Louis is in the process of submitting petitions to the election boards of the city and county that would begin the Board of Freeholders process. 

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

St. Louis aldermen have voted against asking residents to lift a requirement that city employees live in the city.

Friday’s vote was the latest setback for Alderwoman Carol Howard, D-14th Ward. She has tried since last year to change the city charter and allow most employees to live where they would like. Elected officials and appointed department heads would still have a residency requirement.

House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, speaks with reporters on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, about the special session on a vehicle sales tax measure.
Tim Bommel I House Communications

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jaclyn Driscoll and the Kansas City Star’s Crystal Thomas review this past week’s special session.

Gov. Mike Parson wanted lawmakers to deal with a vehicle sales tax technicality as they gathered for the veto session. Legislators ended up following through on that request without much trouble.

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

St. Louis aldermen will spend at least part of Friday debating whether to ask voters to repeal the requirement that most city employees live in the city.

The bill narrowly received first-round approval in July. Its sponsor, Alderwoman Carol Howard, D-14th Ward, delayed a final vote until after the break, to give her time to secure more support.

State Rep. Becky Ruth, R-Festus, introduces HB1 during the 2019 Special Session on Sept. 11, 2019.
Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri House approved a measure Wednesday to allow car buyers to trade in multiple vehicles to reduce sales tax responsibility when buying a newer model. 

Gov. Mike Parson decided to call a special legislative session on the sales tax issue after a Supreme Court decision in June. He’s received repeated criticism from Democrats for calling the session for what some consider a minor issue. 

(Sept. 11, 2019) City officials Paul Payne (at left) and Linda Martinez joined Wednesday's talk show to discuss the state of the St. Louis Lambert International Airport privatization process.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

For two and a half years, the city of St. Louis has been exploring the idea of leasing St. Louis Lambert International Airport. An army of consultants has been toiling — largely behind closed doors — to put together a request for qualifications. They hope to attract a private company willing to pay big money up front in hopes of profiting off future airport operations. While other cities have flirted with the idea, the leasing of a major U.S. airport is unprecedented. 

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, two high-ranking city officials joined the program to discuss the state of the privatization conversation: Paul Payne, the city budget director and chairman of the airport working group, and Linda Martinez, deputy mayor for development.

Parson with Krewson addressing gun violence in St. Louis on Sept. 10, 2019.
Rachel Lippman | St. Louis Public Radio

Democratic lawmakers in Jefferson City again demanded Tuesday that Missouri Gov. Mike Parson expand a special session to include discussions of gun violence, with the governor saying it will take about 10 days to work out a plan to address the issue. 

Parson spent part of the day at St. Louis City Hall, meeting with Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, as well as representatives from federal, state and local law enforcement.

Officials are considering the addition of turnstiles to the MetroLink system.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A consultant looking at security on the MetroLink light rail system says the local transit agency has made a number of steps to enhance rider safety.

But the company, WSP USA, said there’s still a lot of work to be done by Metro Transit — including following through on a “code of conduct” on the trains.

Danny Wicentowski is a staff writer at the Riverfront Times.
Alexis Moore | St. Louis Public Radio

Danny Wicentowski conducted lots of different interviews for his latest Riverfront Times cover story digging into the status of a proposed $190 million Novus redevelopment near Interstate 170 and Olive Boulevard. The same word — limbo — kept popping up in his conversations with various sources, as he mentions in his piece.

The proposed development was publicly unveiled more than a year ago. Yet residents and business owners in the path of the Costco-focused "University Place" are still waiting to find out whether it's definitely moving forward. That's left their future in the neighborhood uncertain.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with Wicentowski about his reporting on the saga. The conversation also included comments from longtime U City homeowner Letha Baptiste, who has thus far declined to accept Novus’ offer of an option contract on her house.

Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Sen. Lincoln Hough is the latest guest on the Politically Speaking podcast. The Springfield Republican talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jaclyn Driscoll about the upcoming special session — and what to expect when lawmakers come back to Jefferson City in January.

Hough represents Missouri’s 30th Senatorial District, which takes in a big chunk of Springfield and Greene County. He was sworn into office in early January for a four-year term.

Holly Bickmeyer and cattle on the small farm she manages. She wants control over large livestock operations to stay local. Sept 9., 2019
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Holly Bickmeyer is worried about what a large livestock operation would do if it moves in next door. 

She points to the small lake in front of her house on the 20-head cattle farm she operates in Maries County.

“Sinkholes open up all the time,” Bickmeyer said. “You see the lake that’s in my front yard here? If somebody builds a hog operation at the end of my driveway, I would be concerned about that waste getting into the groundwater and I walk out one day and all my bass are dead.”

Bickmeyer said that’s why she wants her local county commissioners to decide if concentrated animal feeding operations, also known as CAFOs, can locate nearby. 

Attorney General Eric Schmitt says he is referring 12 cases regarding Catholic clergy sexual misconduct allegations to local prosecutors.
File | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

This story was updated at 9 p.m. to include a statement from Google. 

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is one of 50 state attorneys general investigating possible anticompetitive behavior by Google.

The initial focus of the antitrust investigation will look into whether Google is prioritizing search results for companies that pay to advertise with it. Schmitt said that this could be shutting out competitors, especially small businesses, and hurting the free market for consumers. 

Jane Elliott, at left, and Rachelle Smith joined Monday's talk show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

In April 1968, Jane Elliott was a third grade teacher in the small town of Riceville, Iowa. On the day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, she felt compelled to shift her lesson plans. She decided to teach her young white students about discrimination by telling the children that brown-eyed people were superior to their blue-eyed peers. She watched as the students turned on each other. Then, the next day, she reversed the script.

The exercise highlighted the arbitrary and irrational basis of prejudice, an issue that Americans continue to grapple with more than five decades later.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske explored that topic and others with Elliott ahead of the internationally known lecturer’s address at the Washington University Medical Campus on Monday evening. Joining the conversation was Rachelle D. Smith, a diversity, equity and inclusion leader for the School of Medicine.

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

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. 

St. Louis County Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway
JULIA O'DONOGHUE | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO / St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway is the latest guest on the Politically Speaking podcast. The Chesterfield Democrat talked to St. Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Julie O’Donoghue about her childhood in rural Illinois and her first month in office. 

Governor Parson announced his plans to seek a second term as governor from his hometown of Bolivar, Missouri.
Claire Kidwell | KSMU News

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson formally announced Sunday he’s running for a full term as the state's chief executive. This will be the first time he campaigns for that office, because he ascended to the post after former Gov. Eric Greitens resigned last year amid scandal. 

In his hometown of Bolivar, Parson, a Republican, officially announced his 2020 gubernatorial bid in front of a crowd of supporters who had gathered in the local high school.

Rep. Crystal Quade was a supporter of a plan to fund in-home care for low-income elderly Missourians.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Legislators are headed back to Jefferson City on Monday to fix a car sales tax technicality raised by a Missouri Supreme Court decision in June, but Democrats will be working to put more items on the agenda. 

The recent spike in gun violence, particularly in St. Louis and Kansas City, needs immediate attention, said state Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield. As the minority party’s leader, she said Democrats plan to bring up the issue on the floor as well as try to file stricter gun control legislation. 

Lt. Col. Ronnie Robinson (left) is with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, and Richard Rosenfeld is a professor emeritus of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri St. Louis.
EVIE HEMPHILL | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Former St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson first introduced the idea of the “Ferguson effect” in a 2014 column for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, when he wrote that the unrest in Ferguson following the death of Michael Brown had left officers afraid to enforce the law. 

“The criminal element is feeling empowered,” he wrote.

National pundits soon picked up on the idea. They claimed that police feeling demoralized had led to a spike in crime.

Bill Miller, center, Steve Stenger's former chief of staff, walks out of federal court Friday after being sentenced to 15 months in prison.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 2:50 p.m. Sept. 6 with comments from court hearing

William Miller, the chief of staff to disgraced former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, was sentenced Friday to 15 months behind bars for working to make sure that a campaign donor to Stenger got a lobbying contract.

Miller pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bribery, a felony, in May. The sentence handed down Friday by U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel was at the low end of federal sentencing guidelines for the crime and in line with what prosecutors had sought. The maximum under the guidelines was 21 months. Miller’s attorneys wanted probation.

The Rev. Darryl Gray helps organizers lead protest chants.
File Photo |Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri clergy members say they are “cautiously optimistic” after meeting with Gov. Mike Parson in St. Louis to find ways to address gun violence in the state.

Parson would not back down on rejecting calls for a special session on gun violence. He said the main way to address it is by working at the federal, state and local levels.

Durbin Bill Would Bolster Program That Aids New Doctors Who Work In Underserved Areas

Sep 5, 2019
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) talks about the Rural America Health Corps Act in Granite City. The bipartisan legislature would help bring medical professionals to areas like Southern Illinois by bolstering the National Health Service Corps program
Kavahn Mansouri | Belleville News-Democrat

GRANITE CITY — A bill in Congress aims to bring more medical professionals to downstate Illinois and other rural and underserved areas across the country.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, R-Illinois, visited Granite City on Thursday to promote legislation bolstering the National Health Service Corps program at the Gateway Regional Medical Center. The program has been sending medical professionals to underserved communities since 1972 and in turn helping those professionals by offering student loan debt forgiveness. 

St. Louis faith leaders, elected officials and community leaders gathered at Lane Tabernacle CME Church to address the city's gun violence among children. August 30, 2019
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

The latest episode of Politically Speaking takes stock of how political and community leaders are responding to the killings of St. Louis children in an outbreak of gun violence this summer.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Julie O’Donoghue, Rachel Lippmann, Chad Davis and Andrea Henderson look into how city and state leaders are feeling the pressure to act — especially when it comes to implementing more stringent gun laws.

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