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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Four activist groups say they have found a way to close the St. Louis jail known as the Workhouse by the end of this year.

The Close the Workhouse campaign unveiled its plan on Tuesday. The groups behind it say their research shows all of the people accused of state crimes could be held safely at the downtown Criminal Justice Center.

St. Louis' first black prosecutor, Kim Gardner, has sued the city, its police union and five others for what she calls a racist effort to block her reform agenda.

Updated at 5:30 p.m., Jan. 14 with comment from the advocacy group covering the cost of litigation —

St. Louis’ first black prosecutor, Kim Gardner, has sued the city, its police union and five other defendants for what she calls a racist effort to block her reform agenda.

“Gardner was elected in 2016 on a promise to redress the scourge of historical inequality and rebuild trust in the criminal justice system among communities of color,” reads the lawsuit filed Monday in federal court. “Unfortunately, entrenched interests in St. Louis … have mobilized to thwart these efforts through a broad campaign of collusive conduct” to protect the status quo and remove Gardner from office.

Updated at 1:45 p.m. Jan. 13, with comments from Spencer

Cara Spencer, an alderwoman from south St. Louis, will challenge Mayor Lyda Krewson in 2021.

“I want to live in a city that works,” Spencer, D-20th Ward, said Monday on St. Louis on the Air. “St. Louis is uniquely poised to be the next fastest-growing city. We are a great old city, but we’re broken in a lot of ways, and I’m running for mayor to fix that.”

Spencer is the first Krewson opponent to announce a run for the office. Krewson told St. Louis on the Air last year that she intended to seek re-election.

Starting in 2021, employers in St. Louis won’t be able to ask about criminal history on a job application.

The Board of Aldermen on Friday sent so-called ban-the-box legislation to Mayor Lyda Krewson. A spokesman said she had not yet reviewed it.

The top news story early on Jan. 7, 2010, was the winter weather. Three inches of snow had fallen overnight, and it was still snowing. Temperatures were in the teens with gusty winds.

But before the sun rose, everything changed. Timothy G. Hendron, 51, an employee of transformer manufacturer ABB, walked into the factory complex in north St. Louis and opened fire. He would kill three people and wound five before turning the gun on himself, in St. Louis’ first mass workplace shooting.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson says she has confidence in the city’s police leadership, despite the deaths of seven people in the first 36 hours of the year.

“Considering the circumstances, I think our police department is doing a great job,” she said Friday in comments to the media outlining her plans for the year. “Unfortunately, we’ve had a particularly violent start to 2020. Of course it’s very troubling, and it’s discouraging.”

Politically speaking, Missouri politics changed dramatically throughout the 2010s.

At the beginning of the decade, the Show-Me State was a place where Democrats dominated in high-stakes statewide contests — while Republicans prevailed in state legislative elections. By the end of 2019, Republicans maintained unprecedented control over Missouri politics.

Some criminal defendants in St. Louis County who cannot afford an attorney may face more delays in getting one.

The court will start a waitlist for public defenders Thursday in an effort to control the number of cases the attorneys are handling at one time. An October 2019 review found that most of the county’s 25 public defenders were responsible for so many cases they were potentially violating the civil rights of their clients.

St. Louis police say they have recovered more than 800 items stolen over the past year from properties being rehabbed in south St. Louis and St. Louis County.

“This was a sophisticated operation,” said Sgt. Tom Kitchell, supervisor of the 3rd District Burglary Squad. “They would drive around during the day and look for rehabs. They would look at signs in the windows, the permits in the windows, and look at the construction trucks or trucks outside. They would pick their targets a week or two in advance.”

The items police found included old suitcases, power tools, stained-glass windows, a refrigerator and a kitchen sink.

St. Louis is a step closer to banning so-called “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ minors. 

The Board of Aldermen voted overwhelmingly Friday to outlaw licensed medical providers from offering programs that claim to be able to change an individual’s sexual orientation. Mayor Lyda Krewson is expected to sign the ban.

The St. Louis County police officer who successfully sued the department for failing to promote him because he is gay has been promoted.

The department announced Thursday night that now-Lt. Keith Wildhaber will head its new Diversity and Inclusion Unit. 

Updated Dec. 11 with oral arguments

The ability of prosecutors in Missouri to undo wrongful convictions they discover is in the hands of a state appeals court.

A three-judge panel of the Eastern District of Missouri heard oral arguments Wednesday in the case of Lamar Johnson. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner asked for a new trial in his case in July, saying her Conviction Integrity Unit found pervasive police and prosecutor misconduct in his 1995 murder conviction.

Two St. Louis police officers whose racist social media posts were exposed by an advocacy group in June are no longer with the department.

Brian Millikan, an attorney for Ronald Hasty and Thomas Mabrey, confirmed Monday the two were fired Nov. 27. He said that decision has been appealed.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is backing legislative efforts to make carjacking a state crime, and to lift the requirement that some St. Louis police officers live in the city.

“We are offering two solutions to two problems we know exist,” Schmitt, a Republican, said Tuesday at a news conference in St. Louis. “We need tougher sentencing for carjackings. And we have a police officer shortage. So let’s open up the talent base.”

Federal law enforcement officials say a three-month cooperative push to apprehend violent fugitives resulted in more than 160 arrests in the St. Louis region.

The U.S. Marshals announced the results of the operation Thursday. They say 16 of those arrested were wanted for homicide, and many were connected to violent gangs in the area.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is keeping his promise to bring leadership change to the police department.

Page on Thursday announced that he had nominated Dr. Laurie Punch, a trauma surgeon, and Thomasina Hassler, a longtime educator, to the Board of Police Commissioners, which oversees the police department. He had two other nominees approved by the county council last week.

Sgt. Keith Wildhaber’s nearly $20 million jury verdict hit St. Louis County government like a lightning bolt. 

The huge award sparked internal and external scrutiny of one of Missouri’s largest law enforcement agencies about how it treats LGBTQ employees. It’s also prompted a debate about whether Missouri should pass more explicit laws to protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday approved two new members of the Board of Police Commissioners — a move activists said doesn’t do enough to improve a culture that fails to punish officer misconduct.

The council also approved funding for outside attorneys to help with a legal response to a nearly $20 million verdict against the county for discrimination. And members called on the city of St. Louis to be more transparent in conversations about privatizing St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says he was surprised by a nearly $20 million verdict against his department for discriminating against a gay police sergeant.

“Without getting too much into a conversation about the verdict, yes, I was surprised by it,” Belmar said Tuesday. “But I would say that we have to take a look at these things as an opportunity to move forward.”

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar appears to have the support of the two nominees to the Board of Police Commissioners — at least for now.

Former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ray Price and Michelle Schwerin, an attorney at Capes Sokol, answered questions Monday from all but one of the County Council members who will vote on their confirmation. That could come Tuesday if background checks are completed in time.

Blake Strode, executive director of ArchCity Defenders, and Jacki Langum, the organization’s advocacy director, talk about the group’s 10th anniversary on the latest edition of Politically Speaking.

ArchCity is celebrating this week with a live taping of its podcast, a celebration of actor Danny Glover as a Racial Justice Champion, and a day-long racial justice roundtable.

On the latest episode of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue, Jason Rosenbaum, Rachel Lippmann and others talk about Missouri and St. Louis politics. 

Here are the topics covered:

 

St. Louis aldermen have failed to act on Mayor Lyda Krewson's nominations to the Board of Freeholders, casting doubt on the city's ability to have a say in a process to revamp the way the region is governed.

A special meeting of the Board of Aldermen scheduled for Wednesday was canceled after Krewson and members of the Black Caucus failed to come to an agreement on the nominees. That means the city has missed a deadline set by the state constitution to approve its freeholders members.

But blowing past that deadline may not actually mean much, thanks to a court ruling from the 1950s.

St. Louis aldermen will try again this year to develop policies that control the use of surveillance technology in the city. 

A committee could vote this week on a measure sponsored by Alderman John Collins-Muhammad, D-21st Ward, that requires the director of public safety to draft those policies, which the Board of Aldermen would then approve or reject. Any city agency that wanted to use tools like security cameras or license plate readers would have to submit a plan that fit those guidelines.

St. Louis Alderwoman Sarah Martin is the latest guest on Politically Speaking. Martin represents the 11th ward, which includes parts of the Boulevard Heights, Holly Hills, Patch, Mount Pleasant and Carondelet neighborhoods. 

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