Top Stories | St. Louis Public Radio

Top Stories

Editor's picks for the top news stories of the day.

Ameren Missouri

Ameren Missouri is planning $5 billion worth of improvements to its energy grid, company officials announced Friday.

The Smart Energy Plan includes 2,000 electric projects to be completed during the next five years, including a new substation in Hazelwood and upgrades to the underground grid that serves downtown St. Louis. The utility also plans to spend $1 billion on wind energy in 2020.

David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Sarah’s son came home from high school more than a year ago upset about being bullied.

“He came in tears, (saying) ‘they’re calling me a name and someone’s impersonating me,’’ she said in an interview last month.

But the name-calling didn’t happen in the hallway or even in-person. Instead someone created an Instagram account online using a taunting nickname, according to Sarah. That’s when her “nightmare with Instagram” began.

In Illinois, losing a baby before its first birthday happens far more often to black mothers than those of other races. The difference between whites and blacks is nearly three-fold.

Gov. Mike Parson talks with an official from the Missouri Department of Transportation on Feb. 14, 2019. Parson stopped in Jefferson County to promote a bonding plan to repair bridges.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Mike Parson swung through Jefferson and Franklin counties Thursday to promote his bonding plan aimed at repairing 250 bridges across the state.

It comes as the proposal appears to be gaining traction in the Legislature — and buy in from key GOP leaders.

Leinier Domínguez plays at the 2018 Champions Showdown at the St. Louis Chess Club.
Lennart Ootes | St. Louis Chess Club

The chess season has officially kicked off at the St. Louis Chess Club with the ongoing Cairns Cup, featuring some of the top female players in the world, and will continue on with another staple on the calendar, the Champions Showdown.

As a standalone event, the Showdown has historically been more experimental and geared toward the fans, having featured chess variants such as Fischer Random and Basque chess in previous editions.

Lindenwood University

Arthur Johnson was appointed interim president of Lindenwood University earlier this week, where 10,000 students attend classes.

In an interview with student newspaper, Lindenlink, Johnson said that he decided to forgo his college education, choosing instead to work at his father’s advertising agency.

Bill Schmutz, a former deputy warden at Algoa Correctional Center, poses for a photo at the Missouri Corrections Officers Association office outside Jefferson City.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri ranks just behind Mississippi for the lowest-paid correctional officers in the country.

The average annual pay for a correctional officer in Missouri was $30,870 in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, well below the national average of $47,600. Even with a recent pay bump of $1,050 a year, the department is struggling to retain and attract correctional officers for the state’s 21 prisons.

Missouri Speaker of the House Todd Richardson listens to representatives speak on the last day of the legislative session.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A Missouri lawmaker is demanding that state health officials explain how 73,000 people dropped off Medicaid rolls last year.

The state debuted an automated system in 2018 to help identify people who were no longer eligible for Medicaid, the health-insurance program for low-income and disabled people. Among the system's critics is state Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, who worries that its flaws led to the nearly 7 percent drop in Medicaid enrollment. Most of the people who lost coverage are children.

Department of Social Services officials have pointed to decreased unemployment as one reason for the drop, but Sifton thinks the numbers don’t add up.

Health care advocates in Kansas and Missouri are hopeful that 2019 will be the year that hundreds of thousands of people can get health care coverage through expansion of Medicaid.

It’s been blocked in both states by Republicans who question the price tag, but now that many states have had expanded Medicaid for several years, there’s a small but growing body of evidence about its actual costs.

This story was updated at 5:39 p.m. to add comments from Planned Parenthood Great Plains. 

The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever set a fire at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, Missouri, that has forced it to close.

The blaze was reported shortly after 4 a.m. Sunday. No one was in the building at the time, and it was extinguished by the clinic’s sprinkler system.

State Representative Raychel Proudie
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

State Rep. Raychel Proudie is the latest guest on Politically Speaking, where she talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum about her first year in the Missouri House.

Proudie represents the 73rd district, which takes in St. Louis County municipalities like Ferguson, Berkeley, Kinloch, St. Ann and Hazelwood.

The Food and Drug Administration has warned a St. Louis area company to stop marketing supplements such as omega-3 capsules as potential cures for diseases. It says doing so violates federal law, because supplements aren't FDA-approved drugs.
rawdonfox | Flickr

The federal Food and Drug Administration has ordered a St. Louis-area natural-remedy retailer to stop making medical claims on its website.

Chesterfield-based Earth Turns, L.L.C. claimed on its website that certain products could cure or prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s or diabetes, wrote the FDA in a letter to the company. Retailers are only allowed to make such claims about government-approved drugs, the letter said, and such claims could put patients at risk.

The West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, seen from St. Charles Rock Road.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Bridgeton Landfill LLC and other companies responsible for cleaning up the West Lake Landfill are developing a plan to study radioactive contamination in groundwater at the site.

Federal officials and community members became concerned about groundwater contamination especially after the U.S. Geological Survey released a report in 2014 that found high levels of radium in samples taken from wells at the landfill. But at the time, scientists could not conclude that it was caused by the radioactive waste at the site.

Republic Services subsidiaries Bridgeton Landfill and Rock Road Industries, the Cotter Corporation, and the U.S. Department of Energy have until June 6 to submit a plan to the Environmental Protection Agency for how they will study the groundwater.

A new lobbying group says it plans to promote Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s agenda using secret money. It’s being run by a close Pritzker ally.


The U.S. trade war with China has created a financial burden for farmers and companies that import Chinese goods. Consumers, on the other hand, have mostly been spared from the conflict.

That could all change if this month’s negotiations between the U.S. and China don’t go well.

Samuel M. Kennard School was built in St. Louis' North Hampton neighborhood in 1928 and named for a former Confederate soldier and businessman. Parents of the gifted school now located in the building want the school's name changed.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

A multi-year effort to shed a Confederate name from one of St. Louis’ top public elementary schools, Kennard Classical Junior Academy, is gaining momentum.

Both parents of Kennard students and alumni of St. Louis Public Schools’ gifted program are lobbying district administrators to pick a new namesake because the current one belongs to a former Confederate States Army soldier.

A life-sized exhibit of President Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet discussing the Emancipation Proclamation at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

As Illinois celebrates the 210th birthday of favorite son Abraham Lincoln, officials with the Springfield presidential museum created in his honor hope to keep important artifacts from being sold to the highest bidder.

But they’re running out of time.

The relics are part of the 1,400-item Taper Collection bought by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation in 2007. The private foundation, which supports the state-owned Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, took out a $23 million loan to buy the historical treasures.

The balance of the loan is due in October, and the foundation is still $9 million short.

More Than 3 Years Later, Fairview Heights Still Hasn’t Filled Its City Administrator Job

Feb 11, 2019
Fairview Heights Mayor Mark T. Kupsky
Belleville News-Democrat file photo

In October 2015, about six months after Mark Kupsky was elected Fairview Heights mayor, the city agreed to part ways with its then-city administrator, Jim Snider.

At the time, Kupsky said he looked to possibly restructure the position and search for a replacement within the next three to four weeks for a home-rule community.

However, more than three years later, there is no formal replacement for Snider, even though the city’s online city ordinances say the mayor “shall” appoint a city administrator with the consent of the council.

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

A group seeking to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County sent a new version of their constitutional amendment to Missouri’s secretary of state’s office Monday that contains mostly minor changes.

Better Together described the changes to the amendment as “technical,” dealing with the handling of pensions and existing debt. It also makes some clarifications to language creating a new fire-protection district encompassing St. Louis. (Click here to read the new petition and here to read the summary of changes.)

Shelley House Rededicated By Realtors, Community Groups, Leaders

Feb 11, 2019
Eric Friedman of St. Louis REALTORS; Erich Morris, who grew up in the home; Michael Burns, president of Northside Community Housing Inc.; Alderman Sam Moore; Morris' sister Mary Easterwood; and U.S. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay participated in the rededication.
Steven Engelhardt | St. Louis American

When Mary Easterwood’s family moved into their home at 4600 Labadie St. about 60 years ago, the neighbors had tried to explain the history behind the house.

“But they couldn’t quite get the story together,” Easterwood said. “As we got older and we started to study, then we found out about the Shelley v Kraemer case,” decided in 1948.

Easterwood’s father, Lenton Morris, had bought the home from another African-American man, J.D. Shelley. When Shelley purchased the home, the title included a racially restrictive covenant – which was an agreement that prohibited the building’s owner from selling the home to anyone other than a Caucasian.

In theory, closing off China’s soybean market due to the trade dispute with the U.S. on top of generally low prices for the commodity should affect all industry players, big to small. Agriculture economist Pat Westhoff begged to differ.

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

Questions about Better Together's proposal to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County continue to pour in from St. Louis Public Radio listeners and readers via our Curious Louis project.

Lindenwood University Fires President

Feb 10, 2019
The Lindenwood University board of trustees voted Friday to fire university system president Michael Shonrock (left).In this 2015 photo, Shonrock is shaking hands with Brett Barger, who was the president of Lindenwood University-Belleville until Jan. 22.
File photo | Belleville News-Democrat

Less than a month after the president of Lindenwood University-Belleville left the college after being placed on administrative leave, the university’s board of trustees on Friday voted to fire the president of the university based in St. Charles, Mo.

Michael Shonrock, who had been president of the Lindenwood University System since 2015, was fired by the board but had not yet been given a reason for the termination, according to his attorney, Jerry Dobson.

Office of The Mayor

The St. Louis Department of Health's new director plans to make addressing the city's high rate of sexually transmitted diseases a top priority.

Fredrick Echols will become the city’s new health director Feb. 19, Mayor Lyda Krewson announced Thursday. Echols is currently director of communicable diseases for the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.

Echols said he’ll bring his experience controlling infections to St. Louis, which for years has been among the U.S. cities with the highest rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia.

According to the CDC, 1,307 Missourians died from gunshot wounds in 2017.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri has one of the highest rates of gun-related deaths in the nation.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rank Missouri sixth in U.S. for gun death rate, including intentional and accidental shootings. The CDC reports 1,307 Missourians died from gunshot wounds in 2017, an increase over the previous year.

An electric car being charged at a station in Hillsboro, Oregon.
Visitor7 | Wikimedia Commons

After a failed attempt and months of delays, Ameren Missouri has received approval from the Missouri Public Service Commission to install electric-vehicle charging stations along highways in Missouri.

The utility’s $4.4 million pilot program, which will run for five years, aims to install fast-charging stations at rest stops and businesses near highway entrances. The company also will offer financial incentives to businesses that want to help install charging stations.

The effort could ease the “range anxiety” that motorists feel when they’re worried that their electric vehicle will run out of power before they reach a charging station.

Following an extensive renovation, Jazz St. Louis's Ferring Jazz Bistro attracts international artists and offers local musicians a prestigious performing space. 2/8/19
Jazz St. Louis

A $350,000 grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation will help Jazz St. Louis spread the word about concerts at Ferring Jazz Bistro, its signature performance space in Grand Center.

Known for its good acoustics and sightlines following a renovation that began in 2014, the 250-seat venue attracts international artists and offers local musicians a prestigious performing space.

But it doesn’t yet have the international profile it deserves, said Gene Dobbs Bradford, president and CEO of Jazz St. Louis. Aiming to remedy that, the organization will use some of the grant money to purchase new equipment that will allow the club to stream concerts online.

Under Better Together's proposal, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger (right) would serve as the transitional mayor of a united St. Louis metro government until 2025, assuming he stays in office through January 2021.
File photo I Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

The leaders of St. Louis County’s municipalities are trying to jumpstart a process, known as the Board of Freeholders, to get a St. Louis-St. Louis County merger plan to only city and county voters — an alternative to a proposal from a group known as Better Together that would take that issue statewide.

There’s one problem with that approach: St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson are responsible for appointing most of that board and both are solidly behind the Better Together plan. That gives them little incentive to endorse a process that could produce a competing proposal.

Have We Been Misspelling J.B. Pritzker's Name?

Feb 8, 2019

There is a mystery at the heart of Illinois government. Statehouse reporters have been in private discussions about it for weeks. After internal deliberations here at public radio, we thought it was finally time to go public.

Kayia Baker leads a piano class for beginners at Pianos for People on Cherokee Street.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s music in the air at Al Chappelle Community Center.

The St. Louis Housing Authority facility, which serves residents of the adjacent Clinton-Peabody housing complex, recently received a heavy delivery: a Kawai upright piano. The instrument is only about 13 years old and in excellent condition.

It was a donation, courtesy of Pianos For People.

The St. Louis-based nonprofit has distributed more than 250 pianos to private homes and public spaces since it began taking piano donations in December 2012.

Pages