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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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. 

Updated Oct. 22 with further delay

St. Louis aldermen have once again delayed a vote on Mayor Lyda Krewson’s nominees to serve on a board that could rethink governance in the city and St. Louis County.

Members of the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee remain at odds with Krewson over the number of Board of Freeholders nominees from north St. Louis. Krewson says four of her nine choices are from traditionally north side wards; committee members disagree. They took no action on Tuesday, opting to wait instead for another day in an effort to convince the mayor to name new people.

Missouri’s attorney general and the federal prosecutor in St. Louis say a six-month-old initiative to reduce violent crime by boosting the number of cases prosecuted at the federal level is working.

“As a community, we are having important conversations about what we can do to tackle the crime epidemic,” Attorney General Eric Schmitt said Tuesday at a news conference. “We all have very important roles to play in that effort. My job is to prosecute those who have broken the law and have harmed victims and their families.”

The nine people nominated by Mayor Lyda Krewson to serve on a committee looking into consolidating government in St. Louis and St. Louis County will have to wait a bit longer to know if they cleared the first hurdle.

A committee of the Board of Aldermen on Monday spent five hours hearing testimony from the nominees to the Board of Freeholders, but did not take a vote. An exact reason for the delay wasn’t given. 

Ten children have been shot to death in St. Louis since Memorial Day weekend — more than the total number of young people killed by guns in all of 2018.

The cause of the increase has vexed police, researchers and those who work with victims of violence.

Updated Oct. 3 with approval by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment

Funding to start a nationally recognized anti-violence program in St. Louis has cleared another hurdle. 

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment, which oversees the city’s budget, approved spending $5 million of the city’s $23 million surplus on Cure Violence. The vote on Thursday comes less than a week after the Board of Aldermen gave unanimous first-round approval to the money, and sets up a final board vote on Friday.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has pledged money and manpower to help St. Louis and St. Louis County address an increase in violent crime.

“We know that we have a serious problem with violent crime that must be addressed,” Parson said Thursday at a news conference in St. Louis. “As your governor, and a former law enforcement officer for more than 22 years, protecting the citizens of our state is one of the utmost importance to my administration.”

The announcement came after a day of meetings with local political, religious and law enforcement leaders.

A St. Louis police officer has sued the city over the way he was treated while he was undercover during protests against police brutality.

Luther Hall was beaten by fellow police officers during a mass arrest of protesters in September 2017. He suffered serious injuries and has not returned to work. 

The president of the NAACP in the city of St. Louis says former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger may have violated federal law relating to minority contracting.

Adolphus Pruitt made the allegations at a news conference on Tuesday. He says he started looking into whether the county was following the rules after reading a letter the St. Louis County Council submitted to federal prosecutors as part of Stenger’s sentencing.

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.

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.

Missouri has received another $21 million in federal funding to repair the state’s bridges.

Missouri was one of just 25 states eligible for the grants, which come from the Competitive Highway Bridge Program. The money will allow the Missouri Department of Transportation to replace 40 bridges on state highways north of Interstate 70.

A St. Louis judge has ruled that Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner does not have the authority to ask for a new trial in the case of a man Gardner says was wrongfully convicted of murder.

Judge Elizabeth Hogan’s opinion, issued Friday, also says Gardner’s request in the case of Lamar Johnson was filed well beyond deadlines outlined in court rules and decisions. 

A spokeswoman said Gardner will appeal the ruling, and had no further comment.

Updated at 4:50 p.m. Aug. 16 with comments from attorneys —

Sheila Sweeney, the former chief executive of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, has been sentenced to three years' probation and fined $20,000 for her role in a corruption scheme orchestrated by then-St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.

Sweeney admitted in May that she knew Stenger was trying to steer county contracts to a campaign donor and did nothing to stop it. Sweeney helped that donor, John Rallo, get a $130,000 marketing contract, even though he had no relevant experience. She also maneuvered to make sure that Rallo’s real estate company was able to purchase two pieces of industrial property near the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy. 

St. Louis police say they are frustrated and angry that they are getting so little help in solving the murders of children.

Xavier Usanga, 7, became the city’s seventh homicide victim under the age of 17 this year when he was shot and killed Monday while playing outside in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Two other children have been shot and killed in cases that police are investigating as “suspicious sudden deaths.”

Updated at 5:30 p.m. with comments from the hearing — Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has been sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for steering county business to a campaign donor in exchange for thousands of dollars in contributions.

The 46-month sentence Friday from U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry, which is the maximum under federal guidelines for Stenger’s crimes, is in line with what prosecutors requested. He was also ordered to pay a $250,000 fine — the highest allowed by law — and will be on probation for three years after serving his sentence. 

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Julie O’Donoghue and Rachel Lippmann take a look at how politics and policy has changed in five years since Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson.

This show looks at how the slow change picked up last year with the election of Wesley Bell as St. Louis County prosecutor. That ushered in a new political coalition that’s affecting other parts of county government.

Updated at 10:50 p.m., Aug. 6 with comment from Rita Days and Kelli Dunaway —

Two Democrats captured vacant St. Louis County Council seats Tuesday, giving their party control of the governing body that was shaken up by Steve Stenger’s resignation as county executive.

Former state Sen. Rita Heard Days easily won the race in the heavily Democratic 1st District, which takes in parts of central and northern St. Louis County — including Ferguson and University City. Days beat Republican Sarah Davoli with 84% of the vote. 

In the 2nd District, which includes municipalities like Maryland Heights, Hazelwood, St. Ann, Chesterfield and Creve Coeur, Democrat Kelli Dunaway bested Republican Amy Poelker with nearly 60% of the vote.

Updated at 5 p.m., Aug. 4 with response from Stenger's attorney —

Federal prosecutors say former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger should get the maximum prison term allowed — nearly four years — for a pay-to-play scheme that began even before he took office in 2015.

In a pre-sentencing memo filed Friday, prosecutors said Stenger, through his extensive criminal conduct, abused voters' "trust in a substantial and harmful way. He placed his own personal interests and political ambitions above all else, and engaged in a classic illegal pay-to-play scheme in order to fill his own political coffers to fuel his political campaigns.”

The St. Louis prosecutor is defending her authority to ask for a new trial for a man she says was wrongfully convicted of murder and armed criminal action 24 years ago.

Kim Gardner last month filed a motion for a new trial in the case of Lamar Johnson. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1995 for shooting and killing Marcus Boyd — a conviction that Gardner’s office argued was tainted by police and prosecutorial misconduct.

The St. Louis prosecutor says changes she’s made in how the circuit attorney’s office fights crime have made the city safer.

“We have to stop having this rhetoric that we’re going to be able to prosecute our way out of this. That simply cannot be our strategy for crime reduction,” Kim Gardner told a friendly crowd Thursday night at a town hall. The system is going to do what it’s going to do, and that’s hurt people. And we have to look at how we stop the cycle of victimization.

Several years ago, judges at the St. Louis Circuit Court came up with a simple idea: get everyone who handles criminal cases — from prosecutors to public defenders to police officers — together to share ideas about making improvements.

Now, legislation awaiting Mayor Lyda Krewson’s signature looks to turn an informal gathering into a professional endeavor with paid staff.

Updated 9:45 p.m.  Tuesday with effort to strip pension from Steve Stenger — An insurance executive who received contracts with St. Louis County in exchange for campaign contributions to then-County Executive Steve Stenger has pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.

John Rallo admitted to bribery, mail fraud and theft of honest services in an appearance Tuesday in front of U.S. District Judge Richard Webber. He will be sentenced Oct. 15. He could face more than two years in prison, although Webber does not have to follow federal sentencing guidelines.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved a tax incentive package Friday, sweetening a plan for Build-A-Bear to move its headquarters ⁠— and 200 employees ⁠— to downtown St. Louis from its current location in Overland. 

After passing on a 22-3 vote, the bill now moves on to Mayor Lyda Krewson for a final signature, which a spokesman said she will provide.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner says she acted appropriately when her office decided in 2018 to charge former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens with a felony.

“I steadfastly maintain that all of my actions were both legal and ethical, pertaining to my investigation or my decision to charge the former governor,” Gardner said Thursday at a news conference where she was surrounded by more than a dozen political and religious supporters. 

A leading figure in anti-crime efforts in St. Louis says the region has 18 months to get violent crime under control before it hits a skid that it’s “never seen before.”

“We have been naive for a very long time here,” James Clark, vice president of community outreach at Better Family Life, said Monday. “But the national perception of St. Louis is very, very dire. Corporations are not looking to come here. We are losing conventions. And the No. 1 reason is because of our crime and violence.”

The St. Louis County Council is on track to approve more than $650,000 for improvements to the county’s information technology system.

The council gave first-round approval to the upgrades on July 2. Final approval is likely to come at its July 9 meeting.

St. Louis County has suspended three jail employees following the death of a fourth inmate this year.

Daniel Stout died last week, hours after being transferred to the state prison in Bonne Terre. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported he was denied medical care while at the jail.

The suspensions were part of a series of changes in the Department of Justice Services that St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced Tuesday.

Updated at 4 p.m., June 18 with calls from Gardner's supporters to end the gag order on the case. — A former FBI agent hired by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner to help in the criminal investigation of then-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is now facing charges himself.

A grand jury indictment made public on Monday charged William Tisaby with seven felony counts, including multiple perjury charges. His conduct during the investigation was a factor in prosecutors dropping the felony invasion of privacy charge against the governor.

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