Rachel Lippmann | KBIA

Rachel Lippmann

Reporter

Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.

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The four Democratic candidates for St. Louis County executive resisted calling for additional limits on businesses and social gatherings in order to stop the spread of coronavirus, saying during a debate Wednesday that a countywide mask mandate and more social distancing were enough for now.

“But we have to be prepared to issue further restrictions on social distancing and gatherings if we cannot get universal mask wearing adopted,” said incumbent Sam Page. “We really would like to see mask mandates in our neighboring counties as well because there’s so much movement back and forth.”

The St. Louis County Council has rejected an effort to give its members greater say in how long states of emergency can last in the county.

The council voted along party lines Tuesday night to defeat two charter changes proposed by Republican Tim Fitch. The move followed more than two hours of public comments, with more than 100 people submitting statements in support of the changes.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen is overwhelmingly on record as supporting a plan to close the north city jail known as the Workhouse.

A bill requiring the development of that plan received first-round approval Friday without any opposition. It still needs one more vote and the signature of Mayor Lyda Krewson to take effect.

St. Louis voters will decide whether to let most city employees live outside its boundaries.

The Board of Aldermen voted 22-4 Wednesday to put the current residency requirement on the November ballot. Mayor Lyda Krewson, who will sign the measure, backs eliminating the requirement.

The St. Louis Police Department will get a third-party review of its policies and practices.

Mayor Lyda Krewson announced Wednesday that former Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., police Chief Charles Ramsey will lead the study, the cost of which will be covered by the Regional Business Council and Civic Progress. St. Louis County announced a similar review of its police department on Monday.

Activists who have been pushing for years to close the north St. Louis jail known as the Workhouse say they are thrilled that the Board of Aldermen may finally take action.

“It’s definitely a huge victory,” said Inez Bordeaux, manager of community collaborations at ArchCity Defenders and an organizer with Close the Workhouse. “But it is still only the first of many, many steps that have to come afterward in order to achieve the true goals of this campaign, which is not just closing the jail but re-envisioning public safety through investing in people and the communities that need it most.”

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has given its initial approval to asking voters in November whether they want to authorize a long-term lease of St. Louis-Lambert International Airport.

Monday’s 14-11 vote came after more than six hours of debate. Opponents said the measure was jammed through to benefit political donors at a meeting ostensibly called to vote on the 2021 budget. Supporters said opponents were ignoring the needs of impoverished wards. The legislation sets the minimum lease price at $1.7 billion.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will soon be at full membership for the first time since late February.

Dwinderlin Evans and Vicky Grass, both Democrats, won special elections Tuesday night to fill vacant seats in the 4th and 12th wards. The contests had originally been scheduled for May 19, but were delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Turnout was 11.5%.

The coronavirus pandemic brought normal court operations across Missouri to a sudden halt. 

Jury trials were postponed, other court proceedings moved to video conferencing or were done over the telephone, and access to courthouses was strictly limited. Now, the easing of state and local restrictions means courthouses are slowly opening, but it may be a long time before operations fully resume.

Thousands of people across the St. Louis region gathered Friday to commemorate Juneteenth, the day when the  last enslaved people in the United States learned they were free.

But the day of celebration reflected the sadness of Black Americans who still yearn for equality more than 150 years after the Civil War ended — and their hope that a renewed struggle will lead to lasting change.

Juneteenth exists because some truth that was hidden was finally uncovered, and it's a celebration of that truth being liberated,” said the Rev. Michelle Higgins, senior pastor of St. John’s United Church of Christ.

St. Louis residents are a step closer to taking a vote on eliminating the residency requirement for most city employees.

The Board of Aldermen gave first round approval Friday to legislation that puts the charter change on the November ballot. A final vote could come next week.

The first elections in the city of St. Louis since the coronavirus pandemic began are scheduled for Tuesday.

Voters in the 4th Ward, which includes the historic Ville neighborhood, and the 12th Ward in southwest St. Louis will elect their representatives on the Board of Aldermen. The contests were originally set for May 19 but rescheduled to comply with public health restrictions.

Updated at 1 p.m., June 18, with committee budget vote

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen committee responsible for overseeing the city’s finances voted Thursday to approve next year’s spending plan.

The city’s Ways and Means Committee approved the $1.1 billion city budget by a margin of 10 to 1.

The sole dissenting voice, Alderwoman Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, tried unsuccessfully to introduce an amendment that would have eliminated funding for the north city jail known as the Workhouse.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page wants to make sure that roads and parks in the county are named for people who are aligned with the county’s values.

“Over time, chapters of our history have been forgotten or wholly rewritten to provide a convenient narrative that leaves out large segments of our troubling and complicated past,” Page said Tuesday during remarks to the St. Louis County Council. “Some of the names of those complications are emblazoned on street signs or the names of parks around the country. Perhaps at the time the streets were named, it was no big deal. But it is a big deal. The symbols that define our community should not be symbols that divide our community.”

Updated at 5:45 p.m. June 11 with additional statement from Barton

St. Louis County Police Chief Mary Barton is further clarifying remarks she made about racism in the police department.

Updated at 4:15 p.m. with comments from Krewson

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson on Monday lifted a nighttime curfew in the city.

“This morning, after a weekend of nonviolent protests, of people expressing themselves, expressing their anger, expressing how difficult of a situation we are in in this country, I issued a lift of the curfew,” Krewson said Monday in a Facebook Live video. “I’m pretty confident that the people of St. Louis will continue to express themselves in a nonviolent way. None of us want to go back to a curfew.”

White coat wearing-health care workers, teens too young to vote and members and allies of the LGBTQ community were among the groups that showed up by the thousands Friday at more than a half-dozen marches and protests in the St. Louis metro area. 

The protests were the latest large-scale demonstrations to follow the violent death of George Floyd, and they highlighted the different ways that racism and police brutality against black Americans play out.

Last weekend, Rasheen Aldridge once again found himself with a bullhorn in hand, speaking to a crowd about a black man killed by police. 

Days earlier, George Floyd had died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

“We’re tired,” Alridge said as the crowd shouted its agreement. “It’s a simple message. It’s not hard to understand. We’re tired of people of all colors being killed in our streets by police brutality.”

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday signed legislation allowing people at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus to vote absentee without needing an additional notarized statement. 

“Any Missourian affected by COVID-19 should still be able to vote, including those who are sick or considered at-risk,” Parson said in a statement. “I applaud Senator Dan Hegeman, Representative Dan Shaul, and the rest of the legislature for taking this important step, which provides Missourians with a safe and secure way to vote while still safeguarding our elections and ballot process.”

Updated at 2:35 a.m. with comments from Police Chief John Hayden

Four St. Louis police officers were shot late Monday night during protests in the city over the killing of George Floyd.

Two were shot in the leg, one in the arm and one in the foot, said Police Chief John Hayden. He was visibly frustrated as he gave an update on the shootings shortly before 2 a.m.

“Folks came down just to steal, just to destroy property and just to hurt officers,” Hayden said.

St. Louis officials are likely to vote Monday on a new contract to keep geese from the city’s big parks.

Nuisance goose control is nothing new for the city parks department, said director Greg Hayes. But the current contract is expiring, which means the city has to go through the bid process.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a big drop in traffic on St. Louis-area roads, and that’s been helpful for the region’s street and transportation departments.

“It makes it much easier for them to get equipment and materials to and from the job site, as well as it makes the job sites much safer for everyone to work in, which increases productivity,” said Joel Cumby, the construction engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation’s District 8, which includes the Metro East.

St. Louis Alderman Joe Vollmer is the latest guest on the Politically Speaking podcast. The 10th Ward Democrat talked to St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann about balancing the city’s budget in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and how he’s dealing with it as a small business owner.

Vollmer represents parts of North Hampton, Southwest Garden, Tower Grove South and the Hill. He’s been an alderman since 2003.

Legislation set to be introduced at the St. Louis County Council next week would give the council some say over the length of states of emergency and public health orders.

Republican Councilman Tim Fitch said Tuesday he wants to change the county’s charter to limit an initial state of emergency declaration to 15 days. Any extension would need approval from two-thirds of the council. The change would also apply to public health orders.

Updated at 7:45 p.m. with Barton's death

Walter Barton was executed Tuesday evening at the state prison in Bonne Terre.

Barton is the first person to be executed in the U.S. since March 5. Texas and Tennessee have postponed scheduled executions during the coronavirus outbreak. 

A group of people who helped pass Clean Missouri is suing over the state legislature’s attempt to reverse the changes it made to the redistricting process.

Lawmakers last week approved a proposed constitutional amendment that puts the power to draw state legislative districts in the hands of a bipartisan commission, rather than a non-partisan demographer. It also requires the districts to be drawn with an emphasis on compactness, rather than competitiveness.

The highly contagious coronavirus has forced police and fire departments, often the most public-facing of city services, to change the way they interact with the public.

Whether it's disinfecting police cars and ambulances or limiting in-person response to serious crimes, departments across the region are adapting to keep their members safe.

Mary Barton last week became the first female chief in the 65-year history of the St. Louis County Police Department. On the day she was sworn in, she sat down with St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann to talk about her long career and what she plans for the department.

Barton has worked in every precinct but one as a patrol officer, in the vice and drug units, and as a detective. Before her promotion, she commanded the West County Precinct. 

But she said there is nothing that can prepare even the most seasoned officer to take over one of the largest police departments in the state in the midst of a pandemic.

The St. Louis County Police Department officially has its first female chief in its 65-year history.

The Board of Police Commissioners on Thursday formally promoted Col. Mary Barton to the position. She replaces Jon Belmar, who retired after 34 years with the department, the last six and a half as chief.

Nearly two dozen local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in the St. Louis region are getting a boost from the U.S. Department of Justice in their efforts to combat violent crime.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri, which includes St. Louis, on Tuesday announced the creation of the Gateway Strike Force. It is the 19th Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force in the country.

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