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The iPhone Has Arrived

By Antonio D. French

Filed Saturday, June 30, 2007 at 1:04 PM

This is my first posting from my new iPhone.

Check back later for video from Rodney Hubbard's state senate campaign kick-off last night.

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See a Movie This Weekend

By Antonio D. French

Filed Friday, June 29, 2007 at 12:39 PM

Michael Moore's latest documentary, Sicko, comes out today. A critical look at America's failure to provide for the health and welfare of its people, the film has received praise from both sides of the political aisle.

Show times at the Chase Park Plaza are: (12:00), (1:15), (2:30), (4:00), (5:00), 6:30, 7:30, 9:00, 10:00

For your outdoor viewing pleasure, Martin Casas' Frontyard Features will being showing A Night at the Museam in Francis Park, 5399 Donovan Ave, next to the tennis courts tomorrow night.

Click here to listen to KWMU's story on Casas' mission to bring St. Louis' movie lovers outdoors this summer.

And for those of us who are patiently waiting for the 6:00 release of the iPhone, might we suggest this great program for converting those Netflix DVDs to iTunes viewable movies.

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Kratky Resigns State Rep Seat

By Antonio D. French

As expected, State Rep. Fred Kratky has resigned.

According to an email obtained by PubDef.net, written from St. Louis City Elections Director Scott Leiendecker to the Governor's Office, Kratky resigned "on or about Friday, June 29."

We reported last week that Kratky, who resides in the City of St. Louis, had been making moves to try to ensure his wife, Michele, received the nomination to succeed him.

Leiendecker is concerned about the timing of the required special election and any additional cost to city taxpayers.

"I am asking at the request of the Chairman of the Board [of Elections] Carol Ann Wilson that if a special election is to be called prior to the August 2008 Election that it would be called on February 5, 2008," wrote Leiendecker.

"At that time the City of St. Louis as well as the State of Missouri will already be holding an election set for the Presidential Preferential Primary. This combination will in fact save time and cost for the City of St. Louis Election Board as well as the city taxpayers," he wrote.

Leiendecker estimates calling a special election anytime before that date could cost taxpayers approximately $50,000.

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Slay Supports McKee, Blasts Post

By Antonio D. French

After getting a free ride through most of his two terms in office, and benefiting from years of praise (deserved and undeserved) for the work of entrepreneurs and developers who've been rebuilding and repopulating downtown, Mayor Francis Slay is having another tantrum about the Post-Dispatch's "careless reporting" — this time, on its late coverage of developer Paul McKee's secret plan for a large section of north St. Louis.

"I am a great admirer of Paul McKee," Slay writes on his blog. "He is a generous donor of time and money to a range of civic enterprises. He is a mainstay of several Catholic charities. In fact, until he decided to spend money acquiring privately owned vacant lots and empty buildings in north St. Louis, he has been either feted or unnoticed. For whatever reason, this particular good deed has earned him the enmity of the local newspaper."

The mayor, who last year called for a group of local investors to buy the paper, goes on to criticize the Post's City Hall reporter.

"The story, by political writer/blogger Jake Wagman, is a thin web of half-facts, rumors, and tenuous connections that would have benefited from better editing and less careless reporting," Slay writes.

The mayor goes on to deny that he knows any details about what McKee has in mind for the 400-plus properties he has acquired so far – but, "I do know that he is buying properties that no one else has even looked at in decades."

Neighbors of McKee's properties have complained about his lack of attention to his buildings, which have been cited numerous times by the City for dangerous conditions.

The aldermen in the wards where most of the properties are located have made several attempts to meet with McKee on his plans for the area and the condition of his properties, with no luck. At the same time, the mayor confirmed to the Post-Dispatch that he has met with McKee several times.

While McKee's plan may eventually lead to much-needed northside development, in the time between his first acquisition and when he breaks ground years from today, residents say his properties are undeniably leading to an even faster decline in the quality of life of people in his targeted neighborhoods.

Perhaps the mayor should heed the words of those citizens at least as much as that of the "vision" of a developer — and not kill the messenger in the process.

McKee wisely wanted to keep the cat in the bag until the last moment, in order to keep his acquisition price as low as possible. But after two front page stories in the daily newspaper, it is probably fair to say the secret is out. Perhaps it is time to bring the aldermen, if not the general public, to the table.

No one — not the public, and obviously not the Post-Dispatch — believes that someone as smart, or at least as rich, as Paul McKee is going to spend millions of dollars on hundreds of properties without a plan for what to do with them.

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IMMIGRATION BILL IS DEAD

By Antonio D. French

Filed Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 11:39 AM

By a vote of 46 to 53, the U.S. Senate today refused to close debate and advance President Bush's controversial immigration legislation. Sixty votes were needed to end debate.  

Both Missouri Senators, Kit Bond (R) and Claire McCaskill (D), voted against the motion. Both Illinois Senators, Dick Durbin (D) and Barack Obama (D) voted for the motion.

Click here to see how all members voted.

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Alternative Schools Get Principals

By Antonio D. French

St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Diana Bourisaw recently announced the hiring of three principals to head the district’s new alternative schools. SLPS will launch a new K-12 initiative, designed specifically for disruptive students, at the start of the 2007-2008 school year.

Bonita Jamison has been named principal of Des Peres Elementary, 450 Des Peres Ave. Jamison previously served as a principal intern for the district, as well as a classroom teacher for SLPS and the Riverview Gardens School District.

Sean Nichols will be principal of Turner Middle School, 2615 N. Billups Ave. Before his new appointment, Nichols served as an SLPS assistant principal.

Kacy Seals will take the reins of Kottmeyer High School, 1530 S. Grand Blvd. Seals previously worked as an SLPS assistant principal and principal intern.

"We have hired instructional leaders with a strong understanding of the needs of alternative students," said Bourisaw. "Our goal is to offer curriculum that encourages students at all levels to achieve academically and socially."
 
The district is implementing its new initiative with assistance from The Big Picture Company, an organization that specializes in developing individualized instruction for students. Enrollment at each school will be limited to 150 students.

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$3 Million to Improve Traffic Lights

By Antonio D. French

The East-West Gateway Council of Governments Board of Directors Wednesday approved the designation of $3 million in Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds to help the City of St. Louis optimize its traffic signals.

The federal funds will pay for a private engineering firm to program, maintain and manage the city’s system of traffic signals. The work will focus on alleviating traffic delays on the city’s major arterial streets resulting from the reconstruction of I-64. About 300 of the city’s more than 600 traffic lights have fiber optic links and the coordinated operation of these linked signals is a critical aspect of the plan.

The I-64 reconstruction is scheduled for completion in October 2010, though all lanes in St. Louis County between I-170 and Spoede Road will be out of service in 2008 and all lanes between I-170 in St. Louis County and Kingshighway in the city will be out of service in 2009.

Barb Geisman, deputy mayor for development, says the project to improve the city’s traffic signals will have short-term and long-term benefits.

"We are extremely pleased that East-West Gateway has made this funding available to help the city deal with the impacts of the I-64 reconstruction,” Geisman says. “In addition to improving auto travel during the actual I-64 project, this funding will improve the city's long-term traffic management by getting our signalization system in good shape and allowing us to make the most of our new computerized signals."

Previous Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds awarded the city were used to upgrade the signal system with computer hardware and fiber optics, though some improvements had not been achieved due to a lack of implementation and coordination. The hiring of Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. to develop and execute a plan to optimize the signal system includes a training component to enable city workers to maintain the system after the 30-month contract with Jacobs expires in December 2009.

During the I-64 reconstruction, the plan will include continuous monitoring of traffic conditions and support a rapid response capability to allow signal programming to correspond to actual traffic conditions.

Jerry Blair, transportation director at East-West Gateway, says efforts to ease congestion on roads affected by I-64 work should benefit city traffic overall.

"The signal system could be totally overwhelmed by what happens as a result of the I-64 reconstruction,” says Blair. “This will not only help the congestion caused by I-64, there will also be collateral benefits in other areas of the city."

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More Escape Options

By Antonio D. French

Starting November 4, Southwest airlines is increasing the number of daily flights it offers out of St. Louis.

Southwest currently operates 11 daily nonstop flights from Lambert Airport to Chicago Midway; one flight to Columbus; and two daily flights to Las Vegas. Southwest also currently offers five daily flights to Houston, but the Business Journal reports that will reduce to four on Nov. 4.

Southwest operates more than 60 daily nonstop departures from St. Louis and has more than 320 employees locally.

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Flashback: Vickie Newton in KC

By Antonio D. French

Before she was brightening the views on KMOV Channel 4, news-achor Vicki Newton was paying her dues on the other side of the state in Kansas City. 

We recently stumbled upon this video on YouTube of Newton, from the '90s (judging by the hair and the huge gold buttons on her blouse), when she was at WDAF Newschannel 4 in KC.

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We Have an Intern Opening

By Antonio D. French

Filed Wednesday, June 27, 2007 at 10:11 AM

It is with bitter sweetness that we bid adieu to Dan Martin, our first intern. Dan completed his 8-week stay at Camp PubDef yesterday. He returns to Washington University in the fall before taking his elite training into the world of new media reporting. 

Good luck, Dan. Don't forget us.

New intern Gabriel Bullard, a recent Webster grad, has already begun making significant contributions to the site. Look for his first on-camera appearance sometime soon. 

Are you or someone you know interested in joining PubDef.net? We are offering 8-week internships for college students or recent college grads interested in new media.

These internships offer students a chance to:

1) Witness and record public meetings of local and state government bodies;

2) Practice and improve their journalism, video production and blogging skills;

3) Learn the players in local politics;

4) And participate in (and even lead) online discussions of current events.

These internships unpaid and require approximately 10-15 hours per week of work.

About PubDef.net:

PUB DEF is a non-partisan, independent political blog based in the City of St. Louis, Missouri. Our goal is to cast a critical eye on lawmakers, their policies, and those that have influence upon them, and to educate our readers about legislation and the political processes that affect our daily lives. Our reports have been featured on NBC's "Meet the Press", Fox News, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Kansas City Star, and numerous other mainstream and new media outlets. The St. Louis Business Journal recently named PubDef.net as one of the most influential players in local media. Our exclusive reports and innovative use of video has made PubDef.net one of the most read political blogs in the state. Our new project, PubDef.TV, is Missouri's first and only 24-hour political news channel.

Please send resume and references to editor@pubdef.net with the word "INTERNSHIP" in the subject line. As we review these resumes, we will be asking one question: "How can this person help make Pub Def better?"

These are the skills we have in mind as we look for the ideal candidate:

A top-notch reporter

and/or

Adobe Flash design experience

and/or

Video production experience

Now please keep in mind, potential applicants, that there are probably other skills that we can greatly use to make Pub Def even better. If you have them, tell us about them and how they can be used to keep Pub Def on the cutting edge.

If you have any questions or would like to present yourself in person, email editor@pubdef.net.

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Knowing Friends When You See Them

By Antonio D. French

Kristen Hinman of The Riverfront Times posted a story yesterday on their blog about Susan Turk's recent email about me and my involvement, as an advisor to Lewis Reed, with the selection of Richard K. Gaines, one of the members of the Special Advisory Board of St. Louis Public Schools.

"... for my money, for Antonio to be on a payroll collaborating with the installation of the Trans Board and then to go off and complain about it in print amounts to highly questionable behavior," wrote Turk.

As a frequent reader of PubDef.net (and the St. Louis American), Susan was well aware of my role as political director for President Reed. She also knows that I am strongly against the state takeover. Still, all she needed to hear was that Richard Gaines is a member of the Black Leadership Roundtable before she concluded that the fix was in and I had flipped sides.

"My ass," I told the RFT. "The thing that Susan is missing -- and really a lot of folks on that side are missing -- is they sometimes don't know when they've got a friend."

Too many takeover opponents have adopted the "with us or against us" position expressed by a Local 420 member at the last meeting of the SAB: "If you want to help the children, then resign," he told Gaines.

As if the Transitional School District is going to disappear because only the governor's and the mayor's selections were left to decide its direction.

President Reed, Richard Gaines and I all oppose the state takeover of St. Louis Public Schools. But none of us have the power to stop it at this point. This situation will ONLY be decided in the courts or in the state legislature.

In the meantime, President Reed has selected someone to serve on the board who clearly has the most experience with St. Louis Public Schools (as student, parent, school board member, school board president, and behind-the-scenes player), someone who will not tolerate any plan for a wholesale dismantling of the district (not that such a plan has been proposed), and someone who will demand that the board operates like a responsible public body.

What Susan and I have here, perhaps, is a difference of philosophy. Can someone do more good from the inside than outside?

But, really, that's not even the question we have here. 

Foes of the takeover will continue to defend traditional public education from outside of the new state-controlled system and fight for our city to regain local control of our schools. 

At the same time, we will have some voices inside the process fighting to make sure, at the very least, the situation does not get worse and that our city does not have a repeat of the Roberti period, when the powers that be ran the district like a private corporation intent on protecting its trade secrets.

Susan does have a friend in me — and in Richard Gaines and President Reed — even if she didn't realize it at first.

At the last SAB meeting, I captured Turk quizzing Gaines on a range of topics, including his role on the Roundtable, a group which, despite his membership (Percy Green, another vocal takeover critic, is also a member), he strongly disagreed with many of its decisions regarding SLPS.

I'm not sure, but I think by the end of the video, Susan learns that she and Gaines agree on most things.



One more thing:  The RFT's story is called "French Bread". Come on, guys. You can be more clever than that.

Okay, two:  Hinman also gives me a bit more credit than I deserve, I did not run Lewis Reed's aldermanic president campaign. I was just part of the team.

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Blunt Calls Special Election

By Antonio D. French

Filed Tuesday, June 26, 2007 at 8:13 PM

Gov. Matt Blunt today called for a special election to fill the vacancy in the 23rd Senate District. The special election will be held on Sept. 4, 2007.

Republican Sen. Chuck Gross resigned from the Missouri State Senate effective May 31, creating an open Senate seat in the 23rd Senate District.

Candidates must be selected by party committeepeople and filed with the Secretary of State's Office no later than 5:00 p.m. on July 31.

There remains speculation that the special election provides opportunity for soon-to-be-term-limited St. Louis Democrat Maida Coleman to also leave the Senate early and accept a gubernatorial appointment.

Coleman's seat is currently the target of three announced candidates (State Reps. Rodney Hubbard, Tom Villa, and Robin Wright-Jones).

It is said that Blunt might give Coleman an early appointment to pave the way for Hubbard, a St. Louis Democrat with strong relationships with the state's Republican leadership.

Coleman has denied any rumors of plans for an early exit.

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Allen: McKee Still Buying Properties

By Antonio D. French

Michael Allen, the unofficial Blairmont watchdog and half of the writing team behind the Ecology of Absence blog, says developer Paul McKee is continuing his acquisition of a large portion of north St. Louis, despite public claims to the contrary.

According to Allen, one of McKee's mysterious Blairmont companies, MLK 3000 LLC, spent $935,400 between May 17 and June 20 in order to acquire nine properties.

The properties and their recorded sales prices are: 
  1. 2517 North Market, $92,000.00
  2. 2225 Mullanphy, $80,500.00
  3. 2223 Mullanphy, $80,500.00
  4. 2221 Madison, $74,750.00
  5. 1902 Dodier: $115,000
  6. 1831 Laflin, $78,200.00
  7. 1836-42 N. 22nd, $147,200.00
  8. 2529-31 Hebert, $97,750.00
  9. 2500 Sullivan, $172,500.00
According to Allen, the deeds are signed by Roberta M. Defiore, manager of MLK 3000 LLC and former consultant to the Archdiocese Office of Urban and Community Affairs. The loans come from the Parkburg Fund LC, an entity incorporated in August 2006 prior to MLK 3000 LLC's first purchase.

Here is a video produced a while back on Blairmont, featuring Michael Allen:


Many people are still waiting to see if Governor Blunt signs the huge tax credit bill that would provide as much as a $100 million subsidy for McKee's still-secret plan.

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Governor in the City Today

By Antonio D. French

Governor Matt Blunt is in St. Louis today. He is scheduled to present a proclamation and participate in a Heat-Up St. Louis event at 11:45 a.m. at the McGowan/Walsh Sales Center, 2200 Washington Ave.

Later, Blunt will sign into law Senate Bill 384, which addresses license plate tab theft, something city residents are all too familiar with.

The signing event is at 1:45 p.m. in the St. Louis Police Board main board room, 1200 Clark Avenue #603.

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Local Running for President — Again

By Antonio D. French

Filed Monday, June 25, 2007 at 12:28 PM

"Crack-smoking Republicans" beware. A local entrepreneur is tossing his hat in the Presidential primaries once again. But this time, ex-Republican Blake Ashby is targeting his own.

Ashby, the owner of such hip spots as the Delmar Restaurant and Lounge and Mangia (co-owner) who ran for President in 2004, is now running as an independent. He says he's been a Republican since high school, but the W years have taken his party in a direction he cannot follow. Instead, he's calling on fellow frustrated fiscal conservatives to rebel against the "crackheads" he says are ruining the once Grand Ol' Party.



PubDef produced this video for Ashby and will be following his campaign over the next year as he takes his message across America.

To learn how to help Ashby rid the nation of "Crack-smoking Republicans", contact campaign coordinator Mandy Kadlec.

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Republicans Branson-Bound

By Antonio D. French

Branson has been selected as the host city for the 2008 Missouri Republican Party State Convention from May 30 to June 1, Missouri Republican Party Chairman Doug Russell announced today. The State Convention will be held at Branson’s Chateau on the Lake.

"Branson is known internationally for its hospitality, entertainment and family-friendly atmosphere and we are very much looking forward to holding the 2008 Missouri Republican Party State Convention in this vibrant and exciting community," Russell said. "Next year will be an exciting one for Missouri Republicans and Branson is the perfect community in which to be selecting our delegates to the Republican National Convention and adopting our state platform."

Branson was chosen by the 11-member Site Selection Subcommittee of the Missouri Republican State Committee during meetings in Kansas City this past weekend. The Republican National Committee has tentatively assigned Missouri 58 delegates and 55 alternates to the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota, from Sept. 1 to Sept. 4, 2008, where the Republican nominees for President and Vice President will be selected.

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Taxicab Confessions - Part 2

By Antonio D. French

By PubDef.net Contributor Johnson Y. Lancaster

In an emergency meeting Saturday, the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission vote 4-0 to revoked the license of Wilson Taxi after issues arose with the company’s insurance coverage (read our earlier report).

Two members of the commission who represent other cab companies abstained from voting; Basil Rudawsky of County Cab, and Dave McNutt of Laclede Cab. McNutt is also the vice chairman of operations for the commission. Voting yes were Chairman Louis Hamilton, and board members Vince Bennett, Richard Banahan and W. Thomas Reeves, vice chairman of finance.

The decision ratified the orders issued Monday, June 18, by Commission Director D. Michael Tully revoking Wilson’s license to operate and allowing 15 drivers to transfer to other taxicab companies.

Hamilton said the staff issued the directives subject to the commission’s approval. With Saturday’s vote the commission also opened a 30-day window for former Wilson drivers to complete the transfers, waiving the fees related to the transfer process.

The staff of the commission met Monday with taxicab companies to determine which companies would receive permits forfeited by Wilson Taxi when it was discovered Wilson was operating without insurance, confirmed Patrick McCarthy, general counsel of the commission.

Six of the drivers transferred to A Best Taxi and two transferred to Midwest Metropolitan Taxicab. Five other drivers have yet to transfer to other companies. Wilson directly held two other permits that were reclaimed by the commission.

A source familiar with the meeting convened at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the commission’s office, 100 N. Tucker, told PubDef that Tully contacted the taxicab company owners to inform them of the situation with Wilson and solicited their input.

McCarthy said the staff met with the taxicab company owners to ask them to contract with drivers affected by Wilson’s closing.

According to the source, the director revoked Wilson’s license to operate, reclaimed the company’s 15 permits and offered Wilson’s former drivers the opportunity to join other taxicab companies. When 8 drivers decided to accept the offers, the director allocated the reclaimed permits to the companies that hired the former Wilson drivers.

At the commission’s regularly scheduled public meeting Wednesday (June 20), Tully and McCarthy discussed the situation without identifying Wilson, saying that an investigation was ongoing. PubDef learned after the Wednesday meeting that Wilson was the company being discussed. Tully was not at Saturday’s meeting because he is traveling in Europe.

The commission opened the meeting at 10:20 a.m. then promptly went into executive session to discuss the Wilson Taxi situation. The public portion of the meeting was reconvened around 11:40 a.m. The commission voted , entertained questions and then adjourned.

During the public comment portion, Charles Kirkwood, a construction company owner, appealed to the commission to approve his application for permission to operate under the name Ebony Cab Co. LLC. Hamilton responded the commission will act on pending applications to organize taxi companies after the completion of a study of the taxicab market
in December.

Kirkwood said that north St. Louis was under-served by taxicabs and that companies that do operate in north St. Louis are being forced out of business. He referred specifically to the February collapse of Allen Cab and St. Louis Auto Livery.

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VIDEO: St. Louis PrideFest 2007

By Antonio D. French

Filed Sunday, June 24, 2007 at 11:04 PM


PHOTOS: St. Louis PrideFest 2007

By Antonio D. French

A little rain couldn't keep the people — or the politicians — away from today's PrideFest parade in south St. Louis.


Aldermen Stephen Gregali and Jennifer Florida passed out beaded necklaces in the rain.


Alderman Stephen Conway wasn't deterred either.


Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce hung tough.


Elizabeth Kucinich, wife of anti-war Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, relays the campaign message loud and clear.


Fire Chief Sherman George, no need for the hose today.


Thousands came out (pun intended).


Security was under control.


Aldermanic President Lewis Reed presented a resolution from the Board of Aldermen.


Umbrella. Smart.


Roller-girl.


Free?


She couldn't resist.

Click here to watch the video slideshow.

See hundreds more of these photos at Flicker.

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VIDEO: Northsider Details Police Abuse

By Antonio D. French

Filed Saturday, June 23, 2007 at 9:45 AM

While on leave from serving in Iraq, Army Specialist Anthony Collins says he was harassed and maced by a St. Louis police officer near his home in north St. Louis.



This video was produced and distributed by the ACLU of Eastern Missouri this week at its press conference on its new "Project Vigilant" initiative, which is arming residents of the Fairground Park neighborhood with video cameras to protect themselves from abusive cops.

EDITOR'S NOTE: WATCH THE LAST 40 SECONDS OF THIS VIDEO. IT APPEARS THAT THE TWO OFFICERS COME BACK TO INTIMIDATE (OR WORSE) THE VICTIM.

Click here to watch our earlier report on "Project Vigilant".

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Aldermen pass Budget, Bond, Others

By Dan Martin

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen took up a considerable slew of legislation at its weekly meeting Friday morning. But two bills, Board Bills 1 and 179, dealt directly with the city's financial health.

The biggest bill finalized and passed this morning was Board Bill 1, sponsored by Board President Lewis Reed and Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Conway, the city's $867 million fiscal budget. It passed unanimously.

Conway also introduced Board Bill 179, which was first read and referred to his committee. That bill directs the St. Louis Municipal Finance Corporation to issue and sell up to $155,000,000 of the Corporation’s Taxable Pension Judgment Leasehold Revenue and/or Refunding Bonds.

The money from this sale would go to pay what the city owes in connection with the Police Retirement System, the Firemen’s Retirement System, and the City of St. Louis Employees’ Retirement System.

Board Bill 137, Alderman Freeman M. Bosley's parking expenses payment bill, passed 22 to 2, despite vocal opposition during discussion from Alderman Alfred Wessels.

Board Bill 162, Alderman Samuel L. Moore's quit claim bill for 3025-27 Marnice Place, passed with 23 aye votes and 1 present. As this was Moore's first bill, however, his fellow legislators couldn't resist a traditional bit of good-natured hazing.

When the bill first came up for a vote, a roll call appeal was made and the vote came in with 22 against and only 2 in favor. After a bit of laughter, a motion to reconsider was made, resulting in its passage.

Board Bill 167, Alderwoman Phyllis Young's bill for the improvement of the two block "Gateway Mall," passed unanimously.

Board Bill 170, Alderman Terry Kennedy's bill prohibiting the issuance of any new liquor licenses within the Eighteenth Ward, passed 25-0.

These bills were given their first reading:

Board Bill 178, sponsored by Alderwoman April Ford-Griffin, would authorize and direct the Mayor and Comptroller to execute a Quit Deed claim onto A and F Realty LLC upon receipt of $25,000 payment.

Board Bill 180, sponsored by Alderman Joseph Roddy, would approve a redevelopment plan for the 4158 West Pine Blvd. Area in the case that the area is found to be blighted - as defined in Section 99.320 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, 2000

Board Bill 181
, sponsored by Alderwoman Lyda Krewson, would authorize a payment of $425,000 to purchase additional park land in City Block 3899.

Click here to view the full agenda.

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St. Louis Mag: French "Best Blogger"

By Antonio D. French

Filed Friday, June 22, 2007 at 1:52 PM

"I'd like to thank all the little people..."


The folks at St. Louis Magazine were nice enough to send two attractive women over today to present me with a plaque and a couple of early copies of their July issue, which includes yours truly on its annual "A-List".

Thank you to the editors for taking note of our efforts. And thanks especially to the thousands of people who read this blog regularly and care enough about what's going on around us to search for information, work on campaigns, and (if you're really nuts) run for office.

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PubDef.TV Updated

By Antonio D. French

PubDef.TV, Missouri's only 24-hour political news network, has been updated.

Heads up: Look for some BIG changes next week.

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Fighting Police Brutality with Cameras

By Antonio D. French


Special Report: Taxicab Confessions

By Antonio D. French

A SPECIAL REPORT
By PubDef.net Contributor Johnson Young Lancaster

Taxicab drivers trying to start their own company say they have been put on hold by the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission while the industry-dominated panel bypassed a moratorium on new permits to grant them to existing companies.

The organizers of City Express, whose prospective drivers are predominantly Ethiopian, have been trying to get the commission to allow them to pick up 120 existing permits forfeited by Allen Cab and St. Louis Auto Livery when the company folded earlier this year.


Several of the drivers declined comment for this story because they work for other taxicab companies and don’t won’t to jeopardize their livelihoods. Speaking anonymously, the drivers claim the commission is favoring existing companies and as a result allowing a non-competitive environment to flourish.

Former drivers for Allen Cab note that it was one of only two companies that provided substantial service to north St. Louis neighborhoods. The other is Harris Taxicab.

Drivers put out of work when Allen Cab and St. Louis Auto Livery went out of business were hired by other companies after the commission declared an emergency and granted the permits formerly allocated to Allen Cab and St. Louis Auto Livery to existing companies.

The commission placed a moratorium on issuing new permits two years ago. Michael Goldberg, the lawyer for City Express, has questioned the commission on the process it goes through to suspend the moratorium when cases like the Allen Cab situation arises.

At the most recent meeting of the commission June 20, Goldberg was able to get Patrick McCarthy, the general counsel for the commission, to admit that the process has been in his words “ad hoc.”

“I think it is important to have a fair procedure,” said Goldberg during the public comment of the meeting.

Goldberg asked for and got a commitment from the commission director D. Michael Tully to provide how many applications for permits are on file, how many are ahead of City Express and how many applied after his client.

The commission has hired a researcher from University of Missouri-St. Louis to study whether more permits are needed, whether to extend or lift the moratorium, and the quality of service in the metropolitan area. The study is to be delivered to the commission with recommendations in December.

The commission has suspended the moratorium three times since it was imposed. The latest time was earlier in June when Wilson Taxi was found to have been operating without insurance for at least 90 days, a violation of the code regulating taxicabs.

Tully told the board that an emergency was declared, Wilson’s permits were revoked and seven of its 15 drivers put out of work were hired by other companies.Wilson’s permits were reassigned to the companies that hired the drivers.

Both Tully and McCarthy confirmed to the commission that code enforcement agents were completing a full investigation of Wilson Taxi.

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Talent's Civil Rights Bill Passes

By Dan Martin

Filed Thursday, June 21, 2007 at 5:25 PM

It seems former Senator Jim Talent is getting his legislation passed from beyond the political grave.

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill whose original version was sponsored in 2005 by Talent, who was defeated last year by Democrat Claire McCaskill, and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut). The bill calls for the US Department ofJustice to reopen "cold" cases of civil rights crimes committed prior to 1970.

The House version of the bill is named in honor of Emmett Till, a 14 year-old black teenager murdered in Mississippi in 1955 by two white men. It passed by a vote of 422 to 2. McCaskill was one of the bill's co-sponsors.

The two nay votes came from Congressman Lynn A. Westmoreland (R-Georgia) and Congressman Ron Paul (L-Texas). The Senate has already passed a similar bill.

The passage of this bill comes just five days after the June 15 "cold case" conviction of Klansman James Seale for kidnapping and conspiracy in the 1964 slaying of two black teenagers in Mississippi. Seale was indicted this past January, nearly 43 years after the killings. He now awaits sentencing on August 24 and potentially up to life in prison.

The Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act is headed to conference committee to work out the minor differences between the Senate and House versions.

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PHOTO: Gambaro Sworn-In

By Antonio D. French



Derio Gambaro was sworn-in today as the newest member of the State Board of Education. Gambaro's appointment is subject to Senate approval next year.

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Riverview Gardens Is Unaccredited

By Antonio D. French

As expected, the State Board of Education voted today to classify the Riverview Gardens School District, a district in St. Louis County with about 8,000 students, as unaccredited.

It is the second time this year the board has taken action to strip a school district of accredited status. In March, the board voted to de-accredit the St. Louis Public Schools.

The board voted 7-0 to approve the recommendation of Commissioner of Education D. Kent King to de-accredit the school district.

“We have seen a precipitous decline in the academic performance of this school district. At the same time, there has been a dangerous decline in the district’s financial situation. We don’t know for sure if the school district will end this year in the black or in the red,” said Commissioner King.

On its most recent academic evaluation, the school district met only 3 of the 14 academic standards that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education uses to evaluate school districts for accreditation purposes.

The former superintendent of the Riverview Gardens district, Henry Williams, has recently been charged with crimes involving misuse of school district funds and other offenses. He has been suspended by the district.

The school district will have until June 30, 2009, to demonstrate sufficient academic progress to qualify for provisional accreditation status. If it does not make adequate progress in that time, it faces the prospect of state intervention and the dissolution of the local board of education.

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MTV Cam: Second SAB Meeting

By Antonio D. French


Close-Up Cam: Rick Sullivan

By Antonio D. French


Fly on the Wall Cam: Richard Gaines

By Antonio D. French

Filed Wednesday, June 20, 2007 at 7:47 PM

One of the downsides for many of the roughly 120 people who attended last night's Special Administrative Board (SAB) meeting was that, because of the unique format (see our earlier post), if you weren't one of the lucky ones seated at a table Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Gaines, or Ms. Adams came to, you could very well have spent over an hour at the meeting and not heard one question or one answer.

Good thing you've got the Internet and PubDef.

From across the crowded room, thanks to a wireless microphone, we followed the conversation at one of those tables.



UPDATE:  Some commenters have asked what Gaines meant when he said, in response to a question about what he'd do if he found that others were not including him in decision-making, "I get a very small salary for doing this and I don't mind giving that salary up." Gaines' salary is indeed "very small." Zero, in fact.

Gaines tells PubDef he was merely making a joke about his volunteerism. SAB members, like the elected board members, will not be paid for their efforts.

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Last Night's SAB Meeting Videos

By Antonio D. French

We got a little backlogged with editing today, so forgive the uncharacteristic tardiness.

Speaking of "uncharacteristic," last night's meeting of the Special Advisory Board of the Transitional School District of the City of St. Louis (try saying that three times fast), was different not only because of the free cookies and coffee, but because of the presence of something not seen in the St. Louis Public Schools in a very long time — PR savvy.

Many came to the meeting, billed as the public's first opportunity to address the new appointed board, not just to listen to the comments, but to watch a bloodbath.

Vocal opponents of the state takeover had waited for weeks to speak directly to the man from Chesterfield now in charge of their kids and their jobs. But like a smaller, faster fighter using political Judo to disable his larger opponents, District CEO Rick Sullivan and his team of (as yet unpaid) Vandiver Group PR consultants, divided and conquered.

Sullivan spread the crowd across the large meeting room in the lower level of the St. Louis Science Center, seating them at tables of seven. The parents, staff, and teachers union members were forced to deal with the SAB members one-on-one. No microphones. No clapping or applauding in agreement with angry speakers. No booing at laments about how the old system wasn't working.

Perhaps it was all smoke and mirrors, but it worked. What was supposed to be a three-hour battle among vocal opponents and supporters of the change in leadership turned into more of a town hall meeting, which winded down after only little more than an hour with people leaving, either satisfied (or pacified) or tired of waiting for one of the three to get to their table.

Strictly from a political strategy perspective... brilliant.

Sure, there were definitely complaints delivered forcefully and directly to the SAB members. The first thirty minutes were the hardest.

"Go back to where you came from," read one evaluation form handed to Sullivan.

"If you want to help the children, then resign," one Local 420 member told Richard Gaines.

But when the dust cleared and everyone had gone home, it was Sullivan and Gaines who were the last one's standing and the last to leave the building (the third member, Melanie Adams, had left earlier).

In fact, even Gaines, who had complained about the format at the start of the meeting, told one of the last parents still in the building, "I kind of liked this tonight. We got to really talk to people."

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Now on to Riverview Gardens

By Antonio D. French

As PubDef was the first to report back in April, the State Board of Education is poised to strip the Riverview Gardens School District of its accreditation.

When the Board meets tomorrow in Jefferson City, DESE Commissioner Kent King will recommend that the school district be de-accredited.

If the state decides to strip the district because of academic performance, the Riverview Gardens school board and officials would have two full school years to get their house in order. If the action occurs this month or next, that means they have until 2009. If it doesn't occur until June or July, then they'll have until 2010 before the state takes further action.

However, if the State Board of Education takes away accreditation for financial reasons, state law allows for DESE to step in immediately.

Before the meeting, the Board's newest member, St. Louisan Derio Gambaro, will be sworn in.

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Political Briefs

By Dan Martin

political briefsTHOSE MISSING EMAILS - Congressman Lacy Clay may have a lot of work headed his way very soon.

A report released Monday by the House Oversight Committee found that the GOP email server used by White House Officials has not retained all of the emails sent through it. As some of the missing emails cover official business, the failure to retain those messages constitutes a breach of the Presidential Records Act.

The Information Policy, Census and National Archives Subcommittee, of which Clay is the chairman, oversees the Presidential Records Act.

political briefsVYING FOR VILLA'S SEAT - St. Louis Young Democrat Jake Hummel has announced that he will run for the 108th district seat of Rep. Tom Villa, who must vacate his seat due to term limits.

Hummel is an electrician with IBEW Local 1 and the Vice President of the St. Louis City Labor Legislative Club. His campaign's kick-off is at 5:30 PM this evening at the IBEW Local 1 Hall, 5850 Elizabeth Street.

political briefsKEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY - State Rep. Fred Kratky has announced that he will step down from his seat in the State House early, and that he wants his wife, Michele Kratky, to take his place.

His departing wish isn't necessarily a sure-thing, however, as Michele Kratky still needs to win the nomination of the Democratic party in order to have a chance to take her husband's former legislative position and finish his current term.

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R.I.P. Two-Headed Snake

By Antonio D. French


A Call to Service

By Antonio D. French

The Governor is looking for Missourians to serve on state boards and commissions.

"I encourage Missourians to explore our state's boards and commissions and apply for an appointment that allows them to use their God-given talents to help enhance the services we deliver to Missourians each and every day," Gov. Matt Blunt said in a statement today.

The governor has appointment authority to more than 200 boards and commissions. Some boards require specialized skill sets, sponsorship by their state senator and advice and consent of the Missouri Senate. 

For an application and more information on Missouri’s boards and commissions visit www.gov.mo.gov/boards/boardsapp.htm.

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"The Real Deal" on Ward Connerly

By Antonio D. French

Ward Connerly, the black man from California behind the initiative to dismantle Missouri's affirmative action laws, is going to be on the hot seat today when he appears on "The Real Deal" radio show with hosts Tim Person and Syl Wilson.

The show aires from 4:00-5:00 p.m. on WGNU 920 AM.

From Wikipedia:

Wardell Anthony Connerly was born June 15, 1939, in Leesville, Louisiana. Connerly has stated he is one-fourth black, with the rest a mix of Irish, French, and Choctaw. His father, Roy Connerly, left the household when Ward was 2, and his mother died when Ward was 4. The young Connerly went to live first with an aunt and uncle and then a grandmother.

He attended Sacramento State College, eventually receiving a bachelor of arts with honors in political science in 1962 . While in college, Connerly was student body president and actively involved with Delta Phi Omega, later becoming an honorary member of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. During his college years, Connerly was active in campaigning against housing discrimination and helped to get a bill passed by the state legislature banning the practice.

After college, he worked for a number of state agencies and Assembly committees, including the Sacramento re-development agency, the state department of housing and urban development, and State Assembly committee on urban affairs. It was during the late 1960s that he became friends with then-legislator Pete Wilson, who would later become governor in 1991 . At the suggestion of Wilson, in 1973 he stepped away from his government job and started his own consultation and land-use planning company. In 1993 he was appointed to the University of California board of regents.

Connerly is married to Ilene Connerly who is his equal partner in the firm of Connerly & Associates and they have two children.

On May 8, 1995, two years after he went public with his anti-affirmative action views, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Connerly had taken advantage of a minority preference program on multiple occasions in the 1990s. The article was based on the paper's review of the records of California's State Energy Commission which showed that Connerly had listed his firm, Connerly & Associates, as a minority-owned firm, and that Connerly's firm received more than $1 million in state government contracts.

The article included excerpts of an interview with Connerly in which he admitted that he only participated in the minority preference program to comply with state law [4]. However, the Chronicle published a correction on May 18, 1995, stating that their original source had erred and that Connerly's firm had not been registered as minority-owned at the time the State Energy Commission contract was awarded [5].

As Connerly pointed out in a story published by the Associated Press on May 9, 1995, due to the state's requirement that 15 percent of state contracts be given to minority-owned firms, he would have been placed in the position of having "to find a minority to turn over 15 percent of a contract which has an 8 percent profit at best." [6]


[Wikipedia Note: This article has been nominated to be checked for its neutrality.]

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Oh, Now They Ask Questions

By Antonio D. French

Just a short observation:  It is with great interest that we watch recent TV news reports questioning why no one — not the state, not the appointed board, not the elected board, and certainly not parents and taxpayers — seems sure about who is in control of what in St. Louis Public Schools.

It's almost like the folks who were pushing most strongly for the state takeover never actually read Section 1100 of Chapter 162 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, the law which authorizes the creation of this new Transitional School District. 

Its lack of clarity, accountability, or an exit strategy is what most frightened many of us who opposed the takeover from the beginning.

As teachers tell students: it pays to read.


Check back later today for videos from last night's meeting of the Special Administrative Board.

UPDATE:  This section of law is also pertinent. It outlines the powers and duties of the special administrative board. It includes that the elected school board "shall, at all times, retain auditing and public reporting powers."

Also, contrary to media reports, Rick Sullivan, Richard Gaines and Melanie Adams terms are for only three years, at which point they may be reappointed or replaced.

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ACLU Arms Citizens with Cameras

By Antonio D. French

More than a year after it was first announced (and we reported it), the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri today is launching its "Project Vigilant", which will arm residents of the Fairground Park neighborhood in north St. Louis with video cameras to protect themselves and their neighbors against abusive police.

"Project Vigilant levels the playing field," said Brenda Jones, executive director for the ACLU-EM who created the program. 

"Police officers who know their misconduct will be reported and probably filmed might be less likely to abuse their authority. Project Vigilant is not and should never be perceived as an 'anti-police' program. In meetings with St. Louis Police Chief Joe Mokwa, we stressed that we are just as likely to catch the police officers in the course of positive behavior as well as negative. Our project is designed to give police officers more incentive to connect and communicate respectfully with the residents of the communities they patrol."

The program will be introduced during a news conference at 2:00 p.m. today at the ACLU-EM's new headquarters on 454 Whittier.

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Gingrich Think Tank Comes to St. Louis

By Antonio D. French

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was in town yesterday to discuss the new Missouri initiative of his Center for Health Transformation, his DC-based think tank.

The focus of the luncheon at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel was how the state fits into the Center’s vision of a "21st Century Intelligent Health System that saves lives and saves money."

Julie Eckstein, a former director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, is leading Gingrich's Missouri effort, which will have an office at Westport Plaza.

CHT has offices in DC, Atlanta and now St. Louis.

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VIDEO: Elected School Board Meets

By Antonio D. French

Filed Tuesday, June 19, 2007 at 10:34 AM


Franks Joins Governor's Staff

By Antonio D. French

Gov. Matt Blunt today announced the appointment of Angeletta McCormick Franks to serve as director of the Office of Supplier and Workforce Diversity.

Franks previously served as a commissioner on the St. Louis City Election Board and as an aide to former U.S. Senator Jim Talent as a community liaison.

Franks will also serve as a special assistant to chief of staff Ed Martin and will be part of the governor’s senior staff.

The Office of Supplier and Workforce Diversity works to promote diversity within the state government and improve the opportunities for women and minorities to access state employment opportunities and state contracts. The office serves as a resource to further improve business and economic opportunities for Missouri’s women-owned and minority-owned businesses.

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New Weed & Seed Director

By Antonio D. French

Following the retirement of executive director Kim Norman, Edmund Hennessey has been named the new head of Weed & Seed St. Louis.

According to the Department of Justice's website, the Weed & Seed initiative involves a two-pronged approach: law enforcement agencies and prosecutors cooperate in "weeding out" violent criminals and drug abusers and public agencies and community-based private organizations collaborate to "seed" much-needed human services, including prevention, intervention, treatment, and neighborhood restoration programs.

The City of St. Louis today has two active Weed & Seed neighborhoods: Hamilton Heights and the West End.

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Tips Are Accepted

By Antonio D. French

Filed Monday, June 18, 2007 at 3:58 PM

While most reporters accept news tips, a few of us accept cash tips too.

While web hosting, DV tapes, gasoline, and interns aren't nearly as expensive as printing presses, they ain't free either.

Considering clicking that "Make a Contribution" button over there in the left column (near the middle of this page) and helping with the cost of maintaining this site. 

Thanks.

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New Blunt Appointments

By Antonio D. French

Governor Matt Blunt has reappointed Wayman F. Smith (D), 66 of St. Louis City, to the Board of Regents of Harris-Stowe State University.

Smith is a former St. Louis alderman and an attorney with Smith Partnership. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Monmouth University and a juris doctorate from Howard University. His reappointment is subject to Senate confirmation for a term ending on July 28, 2012.

Blunt also announced the appointment of:

Dr. John B. Heskett, 59 of St. Louis, to the Mental Health Transformation Working Group. His appointment is for a term ending at the pleasure of the governor.

Darrell B. Roegner, 67 of Lake St. Louis, to the Missouri State Penitentiary Redevelopment Commission. Roegner is regional president of Premier Bank. His appointment is subject to Senate confirmation for a term ending on March 3, 2008.

And Jimmy Dale Morris, 72 of Springfield, to the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Morris is owner of Morris Oil Company, Inc. His appointment is for a term ending on Nov. 15, 2007.

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2 Boards, 2 Meetings, 1 District [Updated]

By Antonio D. French

On Tuesday, both boards of the St. Louis Public Schools will meet. The elected board meets in the morning for a closed meeting on legal matters. The appointed board meets in the evening for public comments. Presumably, the superintendent will be at both.

Oh, so this is what stability looks like. 

Perhaps it's true that we anarchists here in St. Louis wouldn't even know a stable school district if we saw it. Because from my way of thinking, I would have thought that an organization with two dueling board of directors would be more chaotic, not less.

From my contaminated city resident logic, I would have thought a superintendent might find it more difficult to operate with two different bodies looking over her shoulder.

I would have voted that having a board appointed by politicians ADDS politics to the situation, not take it away. (Good thing I didn't get to vote.)

I would have thought it would have been a terrible idea to have a board made up of only three people, meaning no two of them can ever speak privately about education issues without violating the state Sunshine Law.

But obviously I would have been wrong. I mean, the editors at the Post-Dispatch feel so strongly that the state takeover was a positive thing, that I must have been mistaken.

Starting off with a no-bid contract to an out of town law firm doesn't just finally allow non-St. Louis businesses to get a taste of our half-billion dollar honey pot. That's just the cynic in me.

Finally being in control of a St. Louis government, without actually having to live here, isn't a Republican's midnight fantasy. Again, that's just that northside paranoia talking.

"The state knows best. The state knows best. The state knows best." I'll just have to keep saying those words over and over to myself and hope I will be cured of my distrustful, backwards way of thinking.

UPDATE:  Jake Wagman of the Post-Dispatch observed on his blog today what we noted back in November of last year: St. Louis is now the only city in America than controls neither its police or its public schools.

"If Slay and O'Brien get their way," we wrote at the time, "it would put St. Louis City residents in the very unique position of being perhaps the only city population in America with no control over either its own police force or its own public schools."

Click here to read that November 2006 editorial.

Click here to read our January response to the Post's endorsement of St. Louis' remarkable disenfranchisement.

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VIDEO: French on Collateral Damage

By Antonio D. French

Filed Sunday, June 17, 2007 at 6:01 AM

Monday, June 11, on KDHX 88.1 FM with hosts DJ Wilson and Fred Hessel.

Filmed by Gabe Bullard. Edited by Antonio French.

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The Future of WGNU and Lizz Brown?

By Antonio D. French

STLMedia.net reports that WGNU 920 AM, home of radio show host Lizz Brown, has been sold to BDJ Radio Enterprises, the company that owns KXEN 1010 AM. 

According to the press release, the change of ownership will probably occur sometime in September or October. "There have been no decisions made at this time about format changes," says the release.

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Media Watch: Takeover Coverage

By Antonio D. French

Filed Saturday, June 16, 2007 at 9:16 PM

PubDef.TV takes a look at how local TV news covered the state takeover of St. Louis Public Schools.

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The Post Covers Blairmont

By Antonio D. French


Catholics Pressure Nixon on Gambaro

By Antonio D. French

Two well-known St. Louis Catholics are asking Attorney General and Democratic candidate for governor Jay Nixon to support Governor Matt Blunt's selection to the State Board of Education.

PubDef.net has obtained a copy of a letter dated this week sent to Nixon from Rev. Sal E. Polizzi of St. Roch Catholic Church and Rev. Vincent Bommarito of St. Ambrose Catholic Church. In it, the two ask Nixon to support the appointment of conservative Democrat Derio Gambaro to the Board of Education.

"As the leading Democrat in our state and the only announced Democratic candidate for governor of our state we are writing to ask you to contact Senator [Jeff] Smith and ask him to support Derio," they wrote.

"As you well know, the Italian neighborhood (The Hill) is still a very democratic area and the residents would appreciate Senator Smith's support for Derio's appointment."

Gambaro was one of Smith's opponents in a crowded primary contest last year to replace the term-limited State Sen. Pat Dougherty. Smith has voiced some concerns about Gambaro's appointment.

Click here to download the letter
Click here to read Jeff Smith's statement on Gambaro
Click here to watch video of Blunt's announcement

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New Board to Hear Public Comments

By Antonio D. French

The new three-member appointed board now in charge of the St. Louis Public Schools will hold a "Meet The Board" meeting Tuesday, June 19, at the Science Center, 5050 Oakland Ave., from 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.

The new CEO of the district, Rick Sullivan, said he and his fellow board members are eager to hear the public's comments. All are welcome.

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Aldermen Ask for Local Police Control

By Antonio D. French

Filed Friday, June 15, 2007 at 11:30 AM

In what has become an almost annual event, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen today passed another resolution asking the State of Missouri to return to the City of St. Louis control of its police department.

Click here to read Alderman Terry Kennedy's resolution, which passed 22-1.

In this video from February 2006, Kennedy talked to PubDef.net about the need for local control.

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Transition Board Hires Law Firm [Updated]

By Antonio D. French

By a 2-1 vote, the new Transitional School Board hired law firm Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP to handle all of is legal matters for the next six months.

At its morning meeting in a meeting room of the St. Louis Science Center, District CEO Rick Sullivan, who negotiated the contract with Stinson before today's inaugural meeting, said it was necessary for the Board, especially in light of the ongoing legal conflicts with the city's elected school board (which is represented by the district's longtime legal counsel Lashly & Bauer), to retain its own legal counsel immediately.

Board member Richard Gaines was the only vote against the $300 an hour no-bid contract. He said that while he appreciates and agrees that the Board does need to retain its own counsel, he took issue with the contract not being open to a public bid and that the particular firm selected by Sullivan "may have some conflicts of interest" because they represented the State Board of Education in their case with the elected board.

UPDATE:  However, according to DESE, Attorney General Jay Nixon's office is representing the State of Missouri (including the State Board of Education and DESE). Stinson Morrison is representing the special administrative board of the St. Louis Public Schools.

Melanie Adams seconded Sullivan's motion, which passed 2-1.

Both Sullivan and Gaines went out of their way to note that while they voted differently on this matter, both respected the other's position.

"This is democracy," said Sullivan. "Some votes may be 3-0, some may be 2-1."

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Download Callahan's Ruling

By Antonio D. French

Click here to download the Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan's ruling (via the Post), which denied St. Louis Public Schools a restraining order.

Some highlights:

"With absolutely no disrespect intended to the current superintendent and her staff, the Court does not find that the petitioners have carried their burden of proving their position on this issue to be superior. Lastly, on the basis of the evidence presented thus far, the Court finds that the [State Board of Education's] decision to declassify the District as unaccredited was not arbitrary or capricious, was supported by substantial and competent evidence, including a financial report on the District by Geraldine Ogle, the performance standards report by Becky Kemna, and the earlier report issued by the Special Advisory Committee. While the Court acknowledges that Petitioners' argument on the regulation issue may have some merit, the Court is unable to say at this time that petitioners are likely to prevail on the merits of their lawsuit.

"Accordingly, Petitioners' motion for a temporary restraing order is denied."

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Lashly & Baer Fighting for Survival

By Antonio D. French

Rick Sullivan, the new schools czar, tells the Post-Dispatch the district's longtime law firm, Lashly & Baer, are out.

Lashly & Baer has represented the St. Louis Public Schools since 1972. Since then, their contract has never been put up for review.

In June 2006, the school board passed a resolution making sure Lashly & Baer were the only lawyers that could ever be employed by the district.

According to a St. Louis Business Journal report, the resolution stated:

"The Board of Education hereby directs the Superintendent that effective immediately no attorney may be employed by the district or law firm contractually hired to represent the Board, the School District, its staff or employees, except the law firm of Lashly & Baer P.C."

Lashly & Baer is currently representing the elected school board in their fight against the state takeover.

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No-Bid Contract on Day One?

By Antonio D. French

Filed Thursday, June 14, 2007 at 11:43 PM

The Transitional School Board will meet for the first time Friday morning in the May Hall of the St. Louis Science Center, 5050 Oakland Avenue, at 9:00 a.m.

Already on the agenda is the approval of a motion to retain an interim litigation attorney.

The full agenda is as follows:

Special Board Meeting Agenda
  1. Roll Call
  2. Pledge of Allegiance
  3. CEO Richard Sullivan's Report.
    1. Retention of Interim Litigation Counsel.
  4. Superintendent Dr. Bourisaw's Report
  5. Other Board Members' Reports
  6. New Business
    1. The SAB approves CEO Richard Sullivan's retention of interim litigation counsel on behalf of, and to represent in court, the SAB for the term of one hundred twenty (120) days beginning June 15, 2007.
  7. Announcements
  8. Adjournment
It is not clear what firm Sullivan has retained or how much it will cost taxpayers. What is certain is that this contract, if approved tomorrow, was not publicly bidded.

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"It has only just begun."

By Antonio D. French

In less than an hour, a new appointed school board will be in charge of St. Louis Public Schools, its near half-billion dollar budget, its $3.3 billion in assets, and its 30,000 students.

But the old elected board still claims to be in charge of at least some areas.

The new "transitional" school board will begin to operate tomorrow, but not without a challenge, according to the St. Louis Schools Watch, a watchdog newsletter founded by now-School Board President Peter Downs.

Many school board powers, the Watch argues, were given to the elected board after August 28, 1998, the date the legislation enabling the transitional board went into effect, and are not covered by that legislation.

The Watch quotes longtime school district counsel Ken Brostron as saying tonight, this latest crisis "has only just begun."

"Ken Brostron of Lashly Baer has served as counsel of the SLPS for many years. He has served whoever sat on the board with loyalty, including the mayor's slate," writes parent reporter Susan Turk.

"I have never seen him buck whoever was in charge. He is apparently bucking them now."

As so now in the name of providing stability to the troubled school district, the state apparently has given it two governing bodies — one elected, one appointed — both claiming leadership over parts of the district.

In the middle of the power struggle will be Superintendent Diana Bourisaw, who tonight said that she understands that she will now work for the transitional board.

While not much else is clear, one thing definitely is: the St. Louis Public Schools are no more stable Friday than they were Thursday.

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SLPS: Ruling Means Split Governance

By Antonio D. French

The following comes from St. Louis Public Schools:


St. Louis - The St. Louis School Board expressed “great disappointment” Thursday when a judge in Cole County Circuit Court declined to grant a temporary restraining order blocking state intervention. The ruling paves the way for splitting governance of the district between the elected school board and a transitional board on Friday (June 15), the same day the district loses its accreditation.

On June 11, Commissioner of Education D. Kent King denied an appeal by the district. The appeal sought to have the State Board of Education reverse or reconsider its recent decision to strip SLPS of its accreditation. The court ruling on Thursday struck another blow to the St. Louis board.

“We still believe that the action taken by the State Board and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is unconstitutional,” said Peter Downs, president of the elected St. Louis School Board. “The State Board clearly acted unfairly when it applied standards to St. Louis that are not applied to other Missouri districts in similar circumstances. This is a small setback, but we are going to continue to fight for better schools and local control.”

Downs stated that the elected board will continue to act in the best interest of students. He asked that all parties support plans that the district administration has made for next year while they continue their fight in court.

“We have programs and plans in place that result in academic success, and our success is documented,” Downs added. “Sadly, we have yet to see a definitive plan from the state that addresses the academic and social needs of our students.” The St. Louis Board president thanked the parents who supported the elected board’s legal efforts.

The three-member transitional board will take over some governance functions on June 15. The appointed panel is made up of Rick Sullivan (nominated by Gov. Matt Blunt), who will serve as the district’s CEO; Melanie Adams (appointed by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay); and Richard Gaines (an appointee of Lewis Reed, President of the Board of Aldermen for the City of St. Louis).

The elected board will remain in place. Downs said he hopes that the transitional panel and the elected board can work together effectively.

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JUDGE SAYS GO, BOURISAW REACTS

By Antonio D. French

BREAKING NEWS

Dr. Diana Bourisaw has issued the following statement regarding tonight's decision by Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan to deny SLPS' request for a restraining order.

"I am here for the children in the St. Louis Public School system. We owe our students stability. I will stay and continue to work regardless of the governance structure."

Rick Sullivan told Fox 2 News today that Bourisaw will remain superintendent.

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And Now We Wait...

By Antonio D. French

The city waits as Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan deliberates.

A decision is expected late this evening, possibly as late as 10 p.m. It will be sent to all parties by fax.

UPDATE: Judge Callahan has denied SLPS' request for a restraining order.

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Slay: George Should Fill Fire Posts

By Antonio D. French

From MayorSlay.com:

There are currently 26 vacancies for supervisors at the St. Louis Fire Department – 22 slots for captains, 4 for battalion chiefs. If the Fire Department needs these supervisors, Chief Sherman George should fill the jobs. And if he fills the jobs, he should promote the best qualified firefighters from the rosters of men and women who scored best on the Department’s competitive promotions exams.

A federal judge has ruled the test is valid, and that it fairly tests the skills needed to be a captain or battalion chief in the St. Louis Fire Department. The men and women who scored best on those tests should be serving in the jobs and being compensated for their service.

Right now, the Fire Department is halfway up a ladder. Firefighters are filling supervisory roles without competitive testing, formal promotions, or legal compensation for the firefighters who are serving as ad hoc captains and battalion chiefs.

Chief George should make the real promotions – or eliminate the jobs from the Table of Organization as unnecessary to run an effective department. I’ll support either decision, but not further organizational paralysis and bad practice.

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