Your $7.00 monthly contribution will go a long way to helping us expand the coverage and services you enjoy.
GET THE LATEST PUBDEF NEWS 24/7:
ABOUT PUB DEF
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.
Do you have
a press release, news tip or rumor to share?
VIDEO: Young Lawyers, Triplett and Smith Come Out for Barack Obama
By Antonio D. French
Friday, December 07, 2007 at 12:29 PM
Braving the winter weather last night, a group of young local attorneys and Alderman Kacie Starr Triplett, the local spokesperson for the Barack Obama for President campaign, came out to raise some money for the Illinois senator and talk about the importance of the upcoming Iowa primary.
Also officially coming out for Obama last night was State Senator Jeff Smith, who said it was in the interest of "domestic tranquility" that he had not come out earlier. Smith's girlfriend, Elisabeth Smith, is a John Edwards supporter. She's moved to Illinois to work on a Congressional campaign, leaving Jeff free to join the surging Obama campaign.
Hillary Clinton might have picked up more than she bargained for when she accepted the support of beleaguered mayor Francis Slay. A coalition seeking to remove him from office is moving forward with plans to protest Clinton's St. Louis appearance this weekend because he is scheduled to introduce her.
Yesterday, Sean Thompson, with the Clinton campaign, told State Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, who is active with the recall effort, that there was no need for the protest because Slay was no longer going to introduce Clinton because of a "scheduling conflict."
"Upon hearing that news and confirming it myself with his office," said Thompson on a voicemail message, "I called Mr. [Eric] Vickers and talked to him and told him that the mayor would not be in attendance at the Pageant."
"It is my sincere hope that it changes the dynamic of the demonstration that you all had planned," said Thompson.
But when the Clinton campaign was unwilling to confirm in writing that Slay would not be introducing the presidential candidate, organizers moved on with their plans.
Tomorrow the Citizens to Recall Francis G. Slay, the Citizens to Support Fire Chief George, and other organizations and community leaders will hold a press conference to announce their protest plans.
"Mayor Slay, Senator Clinton's top supporter in the City, is scheduled to give the opening remarks at the Clinton Rally. Because of this, Senator Clinton is being placed on notice that protest demonstrations will take place at the rally — both inside and outside the Pageant," said the group in a press release today.
Tomorrow's press conference is scheduled for 10:00 AM in front of The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd.
The mayor's education liaison's PR event with a group of St. Louis Public Schools students Friday got a little too real when a parent asked why recently air conditioned schools were closed and sold off by the past school board supported by Mayor Francis Slay.
Robyn Wahby told parent Yolanda Nelson that the mayor's office had nothing to do with that decision, that it was entirely the decision of the school district, a separate government entity.
Of the more than 32,000 students that attend St. Louis Public Schools, only slightly more than 4,000 of them are white. Despite whites making up only 14% of the district population, two out of every five seats in some of the city's best schools — top-performing magnet schools — are reserved for white children. And because so few of their parents are choosing to send their kids to SLPS, many of those seats go unfilled, despite the fact that waiting lists of black students wanting to attend these good schools grow longer every year.
Yesterday, at a public meeting of parties in the Liddell v. The Board of Education case (the historic desegregation case which led to 15 years of court-ordered busing between city and suburban districts), teachers union president Mary Armstrong asked the parties if they would consider releasing those empty seats to black students whose families are desperate for better educational opportunities.
Armstrong said many of those families choose charter schools because they are turned away from SLPS magnets, costing the district millions of dollars every year.
In this exclusive video Armstrong mentions Mayor Francis Slay's plan to aggressively expand the number of charter schools in the city, which will put further economic strain on the district. And attorney William L. Taylor, the lead lawyer in the desegregation case, asks Armstrong her position on pay-for-performance plans for teachers.
At a panel discussion yesterday on race and politics, Shamed Dogan, a Republican candidate for state representative in west St. Louis County, slammed Congressman Lacy Clay for his stance against a white member of Congress attempting to join the Congressional Black Caucus.
VIDEO: Dogan and Nadal Spar Over Race and a "Color-Blind" Society
By Antonio D. French
PUB DEF EXCLUSIVE
At a panel discussion on race and politics yesterday, Democratic State Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal and Republican State Rep. candidate Shamed Dogan sparred over Dogan's assertion that intermarriage is one of the best ways to reach a "color-blind" society.
Before his rally at Union Station Friday, Presidential Candidate Barack Obama met with a group of local elected officials at his Washington Ave. campaign office.
Local electeds in attendance included: Congressman Lacy Clay; State Auditor Susan Montee; St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley; President of the Board of Aldermen Lewis Reed; License Collector Mike McMillan; Aldermen April Ford-Griffin and Frank Williamson; State Senator Rita Days; State Reps Rodney Hubbard, Robin Wright-Jones, and Ted Hoskins; Chairman of the City Democrats, Brian Wahby; U-City Councilwoman Hazel Erby; former St. Louis mayor Vince Schoemehl; and former state representative Betty Thompson.
VIDEO: Russell Simmons Defends the Use of Certain Words in Hip-Hop
By Antonio D. French
Wednesday, October 03, 2007 at 7:25 AM
PUB DEF EXCLUSIVE
During a panel discussion hosted by Congresswoman (and St. Louis native) Maxine Waters (D-CA) at the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference in Washington D.C. last weekend, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons made a surprise visit and jumped into a discussion about the use of words like "nigga," "bitch," and "ho" in urban music.
Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam Records and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, talked about his recent appearance on Oprah Winfrey's show, where he discussed the same topic. He said that appearance may have been a mistake because the audience already had their minds made up and weren't hearing what he had to say. Simmons soon found some panelists and audience members in D.C. also had their own strong opinions on the subject.
The head of the Democratic Party, former Vermont governor and Presidential candidate, Howard Dean, stopped by to say a few words at the annual Missouri Walk of Fame reception hosted by Congressmen Lacy Clay (St. Louis) and Emmanuel Cleaver (Kansas City).
Earlier this week, State Representative Talibdin El-Amin and his wife, Committeewoman (and former state representative) Yaphett El-Amin hosted a town hall meeting at Wohl Community Center in north St. Louis. Here are a couple of videos from that event.
PubDef.net caught up with Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean at the National Urban League Convention today. We asked him what he thought about the major Republican Presidential candidates choosing not to attend the convention.
"I'm not entirely surprised," said Dean. "They didn't show up at the NAACP. They didn't show up at the National Association of Latino Elected Officials."
"Our party is the party that includes everybody — in fact, it depends on everybody in order to win. And theirs doesn't."
Sources in the Missouri State Senate have told PubDef that the President Pro Tem of the Senate, Michael Gibbons, has relieved Senator John Loudon of his position as Chair of the Senate Small Business, Insurance, and Industrial Relations Committee following his deceitful actions on the Senate floor last Thursday.
See PubDef's story on Loudon earlier today for background information.
EXCLUSIVE: Riverview Gardens is Next, DESE to Recommend Unaccreditation
By Antonio D. French
Monday, April 23, 2007 at 11:10 AM
PUB DEF EXCLUSIVE
As we reported last week, there was a rumor that the state was moving to strip the Riverview Gardens School District of its accreditation. After a week-long investigation, we can now confirm that that rumor is true.
Pub Def has obtained a copy of an April 6, 2007 letter to school district officials from Becky Kemna, the School Improvement and Accreditation Coordinator for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), in which Kemna clearly states the Department's intentions.
"As a result of the district's performance and financial situation, DESE will recommend to the State Board of Education that the Riverview Gardens School District be classified unaccredited," writes Kemna in the letter we obtained from DESE after a "Sunshine Law" request.
Riverview Gardens has been in the news recently because of the firing and subsequent indictment of its superintendent for alleged misappropriation of funds. But the letter from DESE outlines the district's larger struggles.
According to DESE, between June 30, 2005 and June 30, 2007 the district's cash on hand dropped from $12 million to just $1.6 million. "A decline of over $10 million in two years is significant," wrote Kemna. "The district will likely be considered 'financial stressed' per state law."
DESE is also concerned about the declining academic performance of Riverview Gardens' 8,000 students. According to Kemna, since the 2001-2002 school year, the district's Annual Performance Reports (APR) have shown a declining trend in the district's ability to meet state standards.
"The 2005 and 2006 APRs reflect that the district has not met enough MSIP performance standards to reach provisional or full accreditation," states the letter addressed to Interim Co-Superintendent Dr. Natalie Thomas.
Dr. Thomas told Pub Def that the loss of accreditation for the district now seems "inevitable," but the how and when of it all is still in the air. But it is exactly how — and why — Riverview Gardens is unaccredited which could make all the difference.
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.
Dr. Thomas, who only a month ago became co-superintendent along with Dr. Rhonda Key following the indictment of former superintendent Henry P. Williams, made it clear that Riverview Gardens would prefer the first option.
"You never want to lose accreditation," said Thomas. "But we would prefer to lose it for academic achievement because it would allow greater opportunity for our community to address our district's problems."
Governor Matt Blunt will be in St. Louis today to discuss his new Campus Security Task Force, which was announced after the student massacre at Virginia Tech.
At the press conference, scheduled for 1:45 p.m. at Harris-Stowe State University, Pub Def has learned that Blunt will announce the appointment of Harris-Stowe President Henry Givens to the task force.
Yesterday Blunt announced the selection of AFT agent Michael Boxler, from Lee’s Summit, for one spot on the task force which will be lead by Director of Public Safety Mark James and Dr. Robert Stein, Commissioner of Higher Education.
Last October, Gov. Blunt drew criticism for suggesting that teachers being allowed to carry fire arms was an "interesting idea worth pursuing." UPDATE: As we reported earlier, Gov. Blunt did indeed appoint Givens to the task force. Here is the complete list of members:
The governor named the following members to serve on the task force:
Michael Boxler of Lee’s Summit – Missouri Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
Kyle Brenneman of Hannibal – Dean of Student Development, Hannibal LaGrange College
Nancy Bush of Jefferson City – Center for Emergency Response and Terrorism Director, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
Lynn Carter of Jefferson City – Deputy Director, Missouri Department of Mental Health
David Fedder of St. Louis – Partner, Bryan Cave
Paul Fennewald of Jefferson City – Homeland Security Coordinator, Missouri Department of Public Safety
Kevin French of Springfield – Director of Safety and Security, Drury University
Dr. Henry Givens of St. Louis – President, Harris-Stowe State University
Van Godsey of Jefferson City – Director, Missouri Information Analysis Center
Clarence Green of Maryville – Director of Campus Safety, Northwest Missouri State University
Matthew Headrick of Warrensburg – Criminal Justice Student, University of Central Missouri
James Hughes of Kirksville – Chief of Kirksville Police Department
John Jordan of Jackson – Cape Girardeau County Sheriff
Colonel James Keathley of Jefferson City – Superintendent, Missouri State Highway Patrol
John Kraemer of Cape Girardeau – Associate Professor, Southeast Missouri State University
Thomas Malecek of Town & Country – Director of Corporate Security, Brown Shoe Company
Ron Olinger of St. Joseph – Vice President of Financial Planning and Administration, Missouri Western State University
Mark Potratz of Park Hills – Director of Public Safety, Mineral Area College
Gary Snavely of Springfield – Director of Safety and Transportation, Missouri State University
Don Strom of St. Louis – Chief of Police for Washington University
Rod Surber of Joplin – Director of Public Information, Missouri Southern State University
Dorla Watkins of Parkville – Vice President for Finance and Administration, Park University
Jack Watring of Columbia – Director of University Police, University of Missouri – Columbia
Sheriff Greg White of Jefferson City – Cole County Sheriff
Chuck Witt of Columbia – Assistant Fire Chief, Columbia Fire Department
Sources tell Pub Def that Ken Franklin will be named Executive Director of the Missouri Democratic Party later today.
Franklin is currently an aide to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and a former state party staffer. He will be the first African-American to ever hold the influential position.
Check back later for more...
UPDATE: Over the course of several months, a field of 32 potential candidates for the E.D. job was cut down to 16, then 5, then just 3. Of those three candidates, according to Missouri Democratic Party Chairman John Temporiti, Franklin was the unanimous choice of state party officials.
Readers will recall that there was speculation that the sudden resignation of Democratic Party Chairman Roger Wilson back in January was the result of a clash between him, the Legislative Black Caucus, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, and Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate Jay Nixon over who should be the next E.D.
According to sources, all sides agreed that it was time for an African-American director, but who?
Brandon Davis, McCaskill's former political director, interviewed for the job and actively lobbied officials for weeks. But Wilson told Black Caucus members "no way" on Davis.
But it was the manner and tone in which Wilson told the Caucus "no" that some speculate quickly led to his resignation.
In February, Davis accepted a job as political director for the SEIU MO/KS State Council, taking his name out of the running for E.D. (and saving Wilson from embarrassment should Davis had been appointed despite his stern objections).
Today's appointment of Franklin both satisfies one promise to the strongest part of the Democrats' base and places the Party in the hands of a capable, well-liked director who may be able to build bridges across the state to help the Democrats retake the Governor's office next year.
UPDATE 2: It's official. At 12:45 p.m. the Missouri Democratic Party sent out the following press release.
The Missouri Democratic Party today announced that Ken Franklin from St. Louis will be the party's new Executive Director. The selection was made by Party Chairman John Temporiti and approved by the Missouri Democratic Party's Executive Committee at the quarterly state party meeting today in Jefferson City. Franklin has served since May 2005 as St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay's Deputy Legislative Director and formerly ran Gov. Bob Holden's St. Louis office. Along with his experience in government, Franklin has also served as Political Director for Mayor Slay's successful 2005 re-election, Base Vote Director for Sen. Jean Carnahan's 2002 campaign, and Press Aid for Freeman Bosley, Jr.'s 2001 mayoral campaign. He has also participated in the St. Louis RCGA's Public Policy Council and the St. Louis Downtown Partnership's Legislative Affairs Committee. Franklin previously worked at the Missouri Democratic Party from 2001-2002 as the Director of Voter Outreach. "Ken's experience both in government and politics in Missouri make him the ideal choice to continue the momentum the Missouri Democratic Party has built over the last election," said John Temporiti, Missouri Democratic Party Chairman. "Ken brings both the background and enthusiasm to help Missouri Democrats win up and down the ticket in 2008 and beyond." Ken graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia with a degree in political science. Before entering government and politics, Franklin taught social studies and language arts for two years at Holy Cross School in St. Louis. Ken lives with his wife and one-year-old daughter in St. Louis, where his father, Robert, is a pastor. He replaces Corey Dillon who left in February to join the U.S. Senate office of Claire McCaskill. Franklin will be the first ever African-American Executive Director of the Missouri Democratic Party when he starts work the week of May 14.
A source tells Pub Def that the State Board of Education will indeed vote today to strip St. Louis Public Schools of its accreditation and will select Gov. Matt Blunt's pick to head the newly established "transitional" board to lead the district.
According to the source, Blunt's pick is Rick Sullivan, chairman of Chesterfield-based McBride & Son Homes.
Other sources tell Pub Def to expect at least two different lawsuits to be filed within 24 hours of the state's action. Pub Def will be in Jefferson City today. Check back later for video...
Using tactics out of the FBI stand-off handbook, city officials ordered the air conditioning to be turned off yesterday as St. Louis Public School students, some as young as 8 years-old, waited to speak to Mayor Francis Slay about the coming takeover of the school district.
After sitting in the heat for nearly three hours, 18 year-old Howard Hughes, a senior at Roosevelt High, walked over to the two large window unit air conditioners and turned them back on. City Marshal Ron Hill quickly checked the young man, telling him he wouldn't turn his mother's air conditioning on without permission.
Hill ordered a deputy to turn the air back off.
Later in the evening, after these conditions were first reported by Pub Def and other local media, the air conditioning was turned back on.
In the matter of whether the name of a candidate for alderman should be removed from the ballot less than two weeks before the election, the Election Board today opted to leave it up to to the courts.
As we reported yesterday, supporters of Alderman Frank Williamson (D-26th Ward) sent at letter to the Election Board claiming that his opponent in the March 6th primary, H. Lee Willis, was in violation of a state law which says no person's name can appear on the ballot if he or she is in arrears for any unpaid city taxes on the last day of filing for the office. Willis confirmed to Pub Def that he did owe $786.41 in real estate taxes and $59.49 in personal property taxes to the City.
Mary Wheeler-Jones, the Democratic Director of Elections for the City, said that since it is so close to Election Day — and if the Board did remove Willis' name from the ballot there would likely be a lawsuit filed and ultimately decided by the courts anyway — the Election Commissioners today decided to leave it up to Williamson to file a lawsuit to have a judge find that Willis does not meet the qualifications for the office.
When Pub Def reached Williamson by phone, he had not yet heard of the Commissioners' decision. After we told him what happened he said he would have to discuss with his legal team his next course of action.
Following meetings with representatives from BJC, Citizens to Protect Forest Park, the Aldermanic Black Caucus, and other interested parties, Comptroller Darlene Green believes that a deal on the proposed BJC expansion plan may be reached as soon as Friday. That's according to a source in the Comptroller's office and someone who attended a meeting last night at which Green defended her position.
The meeting, which took place at the Gateway Classic Foundation, was hosted by former Mayor Freeman Bosley, Jr. and political consultant Walle Amusa. The topic was the BJC expansion plan. Most in attendance — including St. Louis American publisher Donald Suggs and St. Louis Argus publisher and MOKAN executive Eddie Hasan — blamed Green and Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury for killing a deal that would have meant hundreds of new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new construction.
We're told that many were surprised when the Comptroller herself arrived at the meeting. She was not an invited guest, but she took the opportunity to defend her position and reveal details of her ongoing negotiations which, she says, will lead to a better deal.
UPDATE 1: The Board of Estimate & Apportionment will be meeting today, but the BJC deal is not on the agenda. However, Pub Def has learned that a special meeting has been scheduled for Friday as well. At that time, it is likely that an agreement will be passed by the three-person body.
UPDATE 2: Walle Amusa, the longtime political activist and professional consultant who organized last night's meeting of African-American leaders, tells Pub Def that he accepts full responsibility for not inviting Green to the meeting.
He says the plan was for the participants to meet first to come to a consensus on what benefits to the black community they wanted to see from the BJC lease agreement. Then representatives from the group were to present those things to Green today.
Amusa said that when Green arrived unexpectedly she was still warmly greeted with applause.
"I want to thank Darlene Green for showing up and participating," said Amusa. He said he also wanted to thank the many other people that attended the meeting with less than 24 hours notice, including (in addition to those mentioned above) License Collector Mike McMillan, soon-to-be-alderman Marlene Davis, former Comptroller Virvus Jones, and others.
Amusa also added that the consensus he wished for was not difficult to reach. He said that on the first vote, there was unanimous support from the group for the BJC expansion deal as negotiated with the Aldermanic Black Caucus.
Comptroller Presses Forward, Seeks Clarification on Caucus Deal [Updated]
By Antonio D. French
Tuesday, February 20, 2007 at 12:17 PM
PUB DEF EXCLUSIVE
Still suffering the calls of "obstructionist" from critics of her decision not to support BJC's proposed expansion plan two weeks ago, Comptroller Darlene Green is continuing with meetings to create a better deal which all sides can agree to.
This afternoon Green will be hosting the third meeting between her office and representatives of BJC HealthCare and Citizens to Protect Forest Park. This follows an earlier meeting Green had with members of the Aldermanic Black Caucus meant to clear up confusion about a deal brokered by the Caucus to ensure north St. Louis would benefit from the proposed lease extension as well. That deal has been threatened by Green and Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury's refusal so far to support BJC's expansion.
In meetings with Black Caucus members before the vote of the Board of Aldermen, BJC and Mayor Francis Slay privately agreed to dole up the annual $1.6 million in general revenue freed up by the new terms of BJC's lease of a portion of city park land in the following manner:
$1.2 million for capital improvements in city parks, with half going to northside parks;
$300,000 for recreational programs for children; and
$100,000 to cover low-income kids' access to fee-based recreational programs.
BJC also agreed to work with the Black Caucus to open a 24-hour emergency/trauma center located in north St. Louis.
The aide said Green supports all of those things, but she would like to see them specifically written into the lease agreement; not just as a non-binding attached letter.
An amendment passed by the Board of Aldermen did include the $400,000 for recreation programs and $1.2 million for park improvements, but it did not specifically say that 50% of the improvement funds were to be spent in northside parks -- a point vital to the agreement.
Green's office has proposed the following language be added to that amendment: "...with at least 50% of the One Million Two Hundred Dollars ($1,200,000) to be spent on parks that are located north of Delmar Boulevard in the City".
Green's continued action on this matter suggests that the deal is not dead yet and, with certain amendments and concessions, may soon come again before the Boards of Aldermen and Estimate & Apportionment.
Click here to view the amendment with Green's new addition.
Click here to read a memo obtained by Pub Def from the mayor's chief staff outlining the agreement between the Black Caucus and BJC.
Click here to view a letter from BJC to the Black Caucus agreeing to develop a 24-hour emergency/trauma center in north St. Louis.
UPDATE @ 6:45 p.m.: According to sources in the Comptroller's office, today's meeting was positive and "there is now light at the end of the tunnel."
"We are closer today than we were a week ago and the Comptroller expects a positive outcome by Friday."
Getting Nasty in the 26th, Election Board May Remove Candidate from Ballot
By Antonio D. French
PUB DEF EXCLUSIVE
With Election Day just two weeks away, things are starting to get heated in the race for 26th Ward alderman. Allegations of criminal records, unpaid taxes, and dirty politics are being thrown around as the two candidates engage in a repeat of their 2003 contest.
It was in their last race that supporters of now-incumbent Frank Williamson first alleged that his opponent, H. Lee Willis, was a convicted felon who has pleaded guilty to passing bad checks, assaulting a police officer, and burglary. Just days before the 2003 primary election, a flier saying as much was distributed throughout the ward, and Williamson went on to defeat Willis by a 32-point margin.
And now, "they're at it again," said Willis.
The same allegations — plus a potentially damaging new one — are again being thrown around in the last few weeks before E-Day. Willis' past run-ins with the law have once again become issues, as well as an issue with taxes that may threaten the validity of Willis' candidacy.
Records provided to Pub Def outline a series of arrests and charges (many of which were quickly dismissed) between 1999 and 2002 and all of which Willis sat down with Pub Def to explain.
The most serious of the charges came from an April 3, 2000 incident in which, as Willis explains, involved a bad check written months before, without his knowledge, by his then-wife.
Willis said a plain-clothed officer came to his door and began questioning his young son without identifying himself. Seeing his son outside talking with a strange man, Willis said he reacted quickly and pulled his son inside. The officer, who still had not identified himself, according to Willis, tried to push his way inside the home. Willis said he pushed back and the next thing he knew the man was telling him he was under arrest for Assaulting a Law Enforcement Officer and Resisting Arrest.
Willis maintains that he was never convicted and never pleaded guilty to a felony. But records obtained by Pub Def show that he did plead guilty to that bad check-writing incident, a felony, and misdemeanor Assaulting an Officer.
Regardless, Willis says it is in the past and in no way a reflection of his character. He accused his opponent of trying to distract voters from the issues.
"I think that's how they operate," said Willis. "It's just a continuation of the strong-arming [Alderman Williamson] started back in December."
Back in December, Willis alleged that Williamson had contacted several of the business owners in the ward who are supporting the challenger and threatened them. Willis alleges that following his campaign kickoff event at Marion’s St. Louis Rib Co., Williamson "harassed and threatened" proprietor Marion Waters.
Weeks later, before an event scheduled at EklecticDesignz on Delmar, owner Bonita Richardson was quoted in a Willis press release as saying Williamson "both telephoned and came to the salon. Frank was quite forceful in his view that I shouldn't allow Lee Willis to hold his event at my salon."
Williamson denies that ever happened. He also denies having anything to do with putting out the information about Willis' criminal record.
"I think it's just a group of concerned citizens that feel that the voters should know about who they may be voting on," said Williamson.
But Willis isn't buying that. "He's trying to tear down my character and my integrity," he said.
Williamson's supporters are also trying to make Willis' candidacy invalid.
A letter was sent last week to the St. Louis City Election Board claiming that Willis is delinquent in paying his real estate and personal property taxes. That is relevant because a state law says no person's name can appear on the ballot if he or she is in arrears for any unpaid city taxes on the last day to file a declaration of candidacy for the office.
Attached to the letter were records from the Collector of Revenue's office showing that as of February 14, Willis still owed $786.41 in real estate taxes and $59.49 in personal property taxes. Willis confirmed to Pub Def that those taxes are still owed, but he said they will be paid today.
The letter was sent by attorney Darryl Piggee, chief of staff for Congressman Lacy Clay. Clay's uncle, Irving Clay, is the former 26th Ward alderman who, upon retirement, was succeeded by Williamson. The Clays and Williamson are considered political allies.
Mary Wheeler-Jones, the Democratic Director of Elections for the City, tells Pub Def that the matter is on the agenda for tomorrow's meeting of the Election Commissioners.
Jones said she did not know what action the Commissioners might take on the issue, but it was "not as cut-and-dry as it appears."
With a fundraiser planned for Thursday, 27th Ward Committeeman Curtis Royston is making it official. He will indeed be seeking term-limited State Rep. Connie Johnson's spot in 2008.
Royston will be joined Thursday by supporters, including Johnson, State Reps. Rodney Hubbard and Talibdin El-Amin, Committeepeople Yaphette El-Amin (1st Ward), Claude Brown (2nd Ward), Johnny Sadler and Lucinda Fraisier (3rd Ward), and Arthur "Chink" Washington (21st Ward) in celebrating his candidacy as well as his 38th Birthday.
Royston is expected to face young Chris Carter, aide to State Sen. Jeff Smith and nephew of 27th Ward Alderman Greg Carter, in the 2008 primary election.
The event is on Thursday at 5:00 p.m. at Charlotte's Banquet Hall, 8709 Riverview.
As the State Board of Education prepares to meet Thursday, Feb. 15, to consider establishing a three-person appointed "transitional" board to run St. Louis Public Schools, it appears that most legislators from the City are clearly against the idea.
Here's how the St. Louis delegation stands on implementing the Danforth-Freeman Committee's recommendations at this time:
State Senators Maida Coleman - Against Jeff Smith - UndecidedAgainst Harry Kennedy - Against
State Representatives Talibdin El-Amin - Against Rodney Hubbard - For Jeanette Mott Oxford - Against Jamilah Nasheed - Against Connie Johnson - Undecided Robin Wright-Jones - Against Rachel Storch - Against Fred Kratky - Undecided/Leaning Against Michael Vogt* - For/Prefers Mayoral Control Michael Daus - Against Thomas Villa* - Against
The State Board will be meeting at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday in Jefferson City at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, 415 W. McCarty Street.
*District includes parts of St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis
Friday afternoon, the day the Special Advisory Committee on St. Louis Public Schools recommended that an appointed three-person board run the city schools for the next 6-10 years, Mayor Francis Slay sat down with PUB DEF to discuss what it all means for the children and parents of St. Louis City.
"The school district is in crisis. It's been on a downward spiral for quite some time," said Slay.
"It's not something that happened last week, or several months ago, or even four years ago. It's something that's been going on for a number of years."
But some would argue that the current state of the SLPS financial and academic spiral can be traced back to 2003, the year longtime superintendent Cleveland Hammonds retired and four new members, all backed by Mayor Slay, were elected to the school board. Since then the district went from a positive to a negative fund balance, slipped further away from full accreditation (after being only two points away), and has lost the confidence of the city's parents, voters and corporate community.
But Slay maintains that the current woes have more to do with troubles which started much earlier.
"What happened back then is something that was created by the crisis this district presented," said Slay.
He said the financial situation realized in 2003 forced the board to make some tough decisions causing some disruptions. But the mayor repeated his view that the school district's problems go back many, many years.
"This started a long time ago," he said.
Even if all of the Advisory Committee's recommendations, which seem to attempt to take politics (and the voters) out of the process for a while, are eventually adopted, the central question of how to better educate urban children is barely addressed in their report and is by no means a riddle only we in St. Louis are scratching our heads about.
All across America, large school districts are trying to answer the same question: How do we prepare poor children for the world of the future while competing with the deadly challenges of their world today? None of these recommendations guarantee success. So we asked the mayor if at the end of two, four, even six years into this latest experiment, SLPS still isn't succeeding -- what then?
"I think everyone involved in this ought to make sure that doesn't happen," said Slay.
The St. Louis Board of Elections has certified the petition which seeks to ask voters to change the charter to require all park sales to be put up for a vote first.
Approximately 21,700 signatures were required on the petition. Sources say the Board has certified 22,035 of the more than 28,000 signatures turned in Friday as valid.
Here's our earlier video report:
UPDATE: The following press release was sent out by the Election Board...
The Board of Election Commissioners for the City of St. Louis has certified the results of an initiative petition filed on December 8 by a group calling itself Citizens to Protect Forest Park to enact a new Article XXVI of the City Charter to require voter approval of land transactions concerning City parks. Because the proposal involves a change to the City Charter, the proponents needed to submit valid signatures of at least 10% of the registered voters in the City of St. Louis as of the last mayoral election or 21,728 signatures. The Board certified 22,035 signatures out of 27,025 signatures checked. Since the petition contained more than enough signatures at that point, the Board did not attempt to verify the remaining 1,543 signatures in order to ensure that the certification could be delivered to the Board of Aldermen today.
Under the City Charter, once an initiative petition is certified and a copy delivered to the Board of Aldermen, that body then has sixty days from the date of its next regular meeting following certification to adopt the proposed ordinance, without amendment. If it fails to do so, the Election Board is then required to submit the proposed ordinance to the voters at the first election at which such submission may lawfully be had, but not less than thirty days after receiving it back from the Board of Aldermen.
By completing its certification today, and submitting the proposed ordinance to the Board of Aldermen prior to its regularly scheduled meeting tomorrow, December 15, the Election Board has guaranteed that the proposal will appear on the April 3, 2007 Municipal General Election ballot. Although Election Board staff had to work overtime to complete the signature verification process in less time than the ten days permitted under the City Charter, having the proposal appear on the April 3, 2007 ballot avoids having the taxpayers incur the cost of the Election Board calling a special election to vote on the issue.
The city's only Republican alderman got an unexpected challenger this morning, former St. Louis City police officer Matt Browning.
Browning, who lost his legs in October 2004 after being pinned between two cars on a routine traffic stop, filed to run against 12th Ward Alderman Fred Heitert this morning in the March 2007 Republican primary. Check back later for video...
UPDATE: Here's that video we promised. In it, Browning says one of the reasons he decided to run was the terrible state of many of his ward's sidewalks. He said they make it hard -- even dangerous -- for pedestrians, especially wheelchair-bound residents such as him, to move around the ward.
Heitert, the city's longest-serving alderman, filed shortly after Browning. He told KWMU's Tom Weber this morning that he'd like four more years representing the 12th Ward in City Hall.
"I enjoy serving the people in the 12th ward and I just want to continue," he told Weber. "They've had me for 28 years - I feel I've served my people well. I wish Matt the best."
Former School Board member (and perennial mayorial candiate) Bill Haas is apparently running for alderman of the 18th Ward. Just a few weeks after losing his latest campaign for state representative, Haas is now holding a place in line at the Board of Elections to run against incumbent Ald. Terry Kennedy.
Ald. Frank Williamson also has a challenger waiting in line, Lee Willis of the 26th Ward.
Filing starts Monday at 8:00 a.m and closes January 5, 2007.
Click here to download an interview this reporter did with Haas back in 2005 during his last campaign for mayor. At the time, Haas said depression and financial troubles had him contemplating suicide. Since then, Haas says he is doing much better.
Bowman Says Caucus Split Over Vouchers, Nadal Points to Bowman's Ego
By Antonio D. French
Monday, November 13, 2006 at 4:48 PM
PUB DEF EXCLUSIVE
State Rep. John Bowman told PUB DEF today that under his leadership the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus (MLBC) will continue on the road to becoming an influential player in the State Capitol, despite several members leaving the organization and forming a new caucus last week.
He disputed reports that there are now more African-American House members in the newly formed spin-off organization than are left in the MLBC. "That's inaccurate," said Bowman.
PUB DEF was the first to report last week that what was expected to be a normal fight for caucus chairmanship between Bowman and State Rep. Rodney Hubbard ended in several House members accusing Bowman of cheating and using strong-arm tactics to silence his colleagues.
Within hours of Thursday's meeting, a new organization called the Urban Progressive Caucus (UPC) was being formed, with at least nine state representatives defecting from the MLBC.
Bowman said the state's three African-American senators (Maida Coleman, Rita Days and Yvonne Wilson) are still in the MLBC, as are the caucus' "most effective legislators".
Bowman said those state reps that are criticizing his leadership "never came to meetings" and "never put any work in" to build the organization.
Bowman said he did what he had to do to prevent the caucus from being led by those focused on a single issue -- school vouchers. Hubbard and his close ally, State Rep. Ted Hoskins, have been vocal supporters of a form of vouchers (or "school choice"). Both are now members of the new UPC.
But State Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, also a defecting black caucus member, has been a vocal critic of vouchers, even helping to oust Hoskins from the chairmanship back in April in large part over his strong support of the issue.
In the past, she and Hubbard have been seen as bitter political enemies. But last week the two put their differences aside.
"For Rodney and I to come together would not have happened unless for these extraordinary conditions," Nadal told PUB DEF.
"This has nothing to do with school vouchers. It has everything to do with [Bowman's] failed leadership and ego," she said.
When asked how Nadal's involvement fits into his description of a single-issue agenda causing this fight, Bowman said, "I can't explain what Maria does from minute-to-minute."
"I refuse to even try to understand her anymore," said Bowman.
Nadal points to herself and at least five other members of the new caucus that are anti-vouchers -- State Reps. Jamilah Nasheed (St. Louis City), Connie Johnson (St. Louis City), Martin Rucker (St. Joseph), Michael Brown (Kansas City), and Leonard Hughes (Kansas City).
Hughes agreed that what happened had nothing to do with vouchers.
"It's about a breath of fresh air in the new millennium," said Hughes.
"I don't think John Bowman is a bad leader. I just think it was a bad situation for everybody."
Two days before Election Day, then-U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill met with a small group of black elected officials representing an area of north St. Louis City and was asked to make some very specific promises.
First Ward Alderman Charles Q. Troupe, State Rep. Yaphett El-Amin and her husband State Rep.-elect Talibdin El-Amin presented to the ultimately victorious Democratic senate candidate a proposal that included these commitments to north St. Louis:
Secure at least 60% of funding for the expansion of Metrolink to north St. Louis
Secure $10 million in low to moderate income housing funds
Secure $5 million in HIV/AIDS outreach funds
Secure $20 million for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) for the uninsured and under-insured in north St. Louis
Secure $10 million to repair Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. and other major northside streets
Secure $5 million for employment training and assistance
Advocate local control of the St. Louis police department
Advocate diversity in state, county and local offices
Open a Senate office in north St. Louis
According to the three northside representatives, McCaskill agreed to these commitments, which represent hundreds of millions of dollars for an area that has long gone without its fair share of the pie of public dollars.
Bowman Retains Chairmanship, But Methods Lead to Organizational Split
By Antonio D. French
Thursday, November 09, 2006 at 1:03 PM
EXCLUSIVE | READ IT HERE FIRST
Some legislators left today's meeting of the Legislative Black Causus angry and frustrated. After delaying and rescheduling the meeting at least once today, St. Louis County State Rep. John Bowman was able to retain his chairmanship by means that some members found objectionable.
"The Black Caucus is split now," one legislator told PUB DEF. The elected official said Bowman ran today's meeting with an iron fist, refusing to allow others to make motions or even to vote if their dues were not current.
We're also told that newly elected legislators were not allowed to vote or even given by-laws to read. Already there is talk of a break-off group forming.
Though the caucus' rules have stated that the chairmanship should alternate between City, County and Kansas City legislators, Bowman lobbied back in September to have that rule changed so he could retain the chairmanship.
UPDATE: At today's meeting, Bowman said that September's rule change was also a vote to extend his chairmanship.
Even though Bowman was asking for the support of fellow caucus members as late as yesterday in anticipation of a challenge from St. Louis City representative Rodney Hubbard for the chairmanship, at today's meeting Bowman said the only positions that would be voted on were vice-chair, treasurer and secretary.
We're told Hubbard had the votes to beat Bowman.
In another twist, some members were told they could not vote in today's elections because their dues were not current. But one legislator tells PUB DEF that at least three members had their dues checks returned by caucus treasurer State Sen. Rita Days.
Already a letter is circulating announcing the formation of a new caucus. Members of the new Urban Progessive Caucus would include not only African-American legislators, but legislators representing areas with large minority populations.
The chairwoman of the St. Louis City Board of Elections says Election Day is going pretty smoothly so far.
Kim Mathis told PUB DEF that aside from some minor problems with a few optical scan machines, the election is proceeding without any major controversies so far.
We asked her about reports of confusion at some polling places -- either with faulty equipment or misinformed elderly judges -- that resulted in some voters being given provisional ballots. Mathis said she had not heard of any of those incidents, but she said even though an optical scan ballot might have been marked "provisional" it wasn't actually a provisional vote if it was scanned and counted on the spot.
Mathis also said she had not heard of any touch screen machines not working today. But when this reporter arrived to vote at Yeatman School this morning, only one of the three touch screen machines was operational. Twenty minutes later, by the time I got to the front of the line, all three were functioning.
Mathis would not predict what time tonight the election board would have the final unofficial vote total. "We'll try to get them out as soon as we can," she said. "But I don't anticipate you're going to see anything longer here than you would find anywhere else."
Watch our entire 5-minute interview with Mathis...
Hundreds of people were standing in line this morning at the corner of West Florissant and Jennings Station Road in north St. Louis waiting to help flush out voters for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill.
There is some confusion among the potential workers in line just what they will be doing and how much they will be paid.
Some people near the back of the line think they are going to be paid between $300 and $250 for the day, while others closer to the front think the pay is around $9 per hour.
Some said they thought think they'll be working a poll. Others said they thought they would be going door-to-door. But all seemed to be clear on one thing: that they would be voting for the Democrat, Claire McCaskill, today.
VIDEO: ACORN Workers Remain Unpaid, Make More GOTV Allegations
By Antonio D. French
Wednesday, October 18, 2006 at 1:31 AM
PUB DEF EXCLUSIVE
Dozens of ACORN workers were disappointed Tuesday to find that the paychecks they were promised were still not available. And some gave even more details about the organization's GOTV activities which have recently drawn a formal complaint from the state's Republican Party and, according to one source, a visit last week from the FBI.
Marcus Holmes said he has worked for ACORN for more than a month and has yet to be paid. "First they said Friday. Came up here Friday, then they went from Friday to Monday. Monday to Tuesday. Now today, they don't know when its going to be up here," said Holmes, who told us he was in danger of being evicted from his apartment as a result.
Holmes was not alone. More than a dozen angry workers waited outside of ACORN's office on Manchester Street in south St. Louis, frustrated by the continued delays and empty promises. Inside, tensions ran even higher. Police were called after several loud confrontations almost turned physical.
"There's over a hundred-and-something people that haven't been paid," said Timothy Coopwood, an ACORN worker who was fired last week after the organization was hit with allegations of voter registration fraud.
Coopwood repeated claims made last week by other ACORN workers that they were instructed to go door-to-door and ask voters to support Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill.
There is no evidence of a direct link between the McCaskill campaign and ACORN's GOTV efforts. But several ACORN workers told PUB DEF that they were told by ACORN managers that the effort was part of "Project Victory 2006", which is also the name for the Missouri Democratic Party's GOTV campaign.
Josephine Perkins, a 10-year veteran ACORN worker whose allegations of improper and illegal GOTV activities we first reported in an exclusive video report two weeks ago, was also at the office Tuesday picking up her last check from the organization.
Perkins told PUB DEF that FBI agents visited ACORN last week and that afterwards, managers at the organization instructed some employees not to cooperate with their investigation. [We will be following up on this part of the story later this week.]
Perkins and others again named Johanna Sharrard, ACORN's new political field director, as one of those giving instructions to get out the vote for McCaskill along with their efforts on behalf of Proposition B, the proposal to raise the state's minimum wage.
When we attempted to interview Ms. Sharrard again to respond to these allegations, we were asked to leave ACORN's offices. We were told that no one was available to speak to us on the record.
Check back later this week as we continue to investigate this developing story...
The Missouri Supreme Court just issued its voter ID decision. In a 6-1 opinion, the Court affirmed the decision of the trial court striking down the law. Only Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. (cousin to Rush Limbaugh) dissented.
From the Court's decision:
"The Missouri Constitution provides a specific provision that enshrines the right to vote among certain enumerated constitutional rights of its citizens... SB 1014's Photo-ID Requirement creates a heavy burden on the right to vote and is not narrowly tailored to meet a compelling state interest, so it falls afoul of the Missouri Constitution's equal protection clause... and of Missourians' specific constitutional protection of the right to vote... For these reasons, the trial court judgment is affirmed."
From Judge Limbaugh's dissenting opinion:
"Although the majority agrees that there is some evidence of voter fraud at the voter registration stage, they discount that evidence as if it had no connection with fraud at the polling place. But why else does voter registration fraud occur if not to vote persons fraudulently registered?"
"And if, as in the DOJ report, there are more voters registered to vote than persons eligible to vote, the requirement to present a photo ID will at least eliminate those who attempt to vote in the place of others and those who attempt to vote more than once."
"It must be said, too, that even if there were no substantial evidence of existing voter impersonation fraud, legislatures are permitted to respond to the potential for such fraud, and they may do so 'with foresight' rather than 'reactively'... In any event, as the Carter-Baker Commission recently concluded, 'there is no doubt that [in-person voter fraud] occurs' and that such fraud 'could offset the outcome of close elections.'"
Click here to read the both opinions in their entirety.
Related Video... At a recent neighborhood meeting in south St. Louis, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan predicted that the Supreme Court would uphold the lower court's ruling that the law was indeed Unconstitutional.
It appears Congressional aide Kacie Starr Triplett is indeed running for alderman.
As PUB DEF reported earlier, Starr had been rumored to be considering a run at replace 6th Ward Alderman Lewis Reed, who is almost certainly running for Aldermanic Board President.Sources now tell PUB DEF that Starr, now a "former" aide to Congressman Russ Carnahan, has someone at the Board of Elections reserving her place at the top of the ballot.Developing...
UPDATE: Alderman Dionne Flowers (D-2nd Ward) also has someone at the BOE holding her spot on the ballot. The person who was reserving a spot for Lewis Reed has not shown up today.
SPECIAL REPORT: ACORN Workers Claim Minimum Wage Funds Helping McCaskill
By Antonio D. French
Wednesday, October 04, 2006 at 9:01 PM
PUB DEF EXCLUSIVE VIDEO REPORT
Several former and current workers demonstrated today in front of the St. Louis office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) demanding to be paid for work they had performed and alleging that they were instructed to tell people to vote for U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill while registering voters in support of the proposed minimum wage increase.
Ten-year ACORN veteran Josephine Perkins claims she was fired last week, in part because she informed the teams she supervised that it was inappropriate and illegal for them to campaign for McCaskill while being paid by ACORN and Give Missourians a Raise, the political action committee which supports Proposition B and, according to campaign finance reports, has given money to ACORN to circulate its literature.
Several other ACORN workers also told PUB DEF that they were told to ask voters to vote for McCaskill. But Johanna Sharrard, the political field director for ACORN, denies that is the case.
"That's not going on in this office," she said. "It's not been the case at all."
She declined to say on-camera why Perkins was fired. But Perkins told us the reason Sharrard, who has been at the St. Louis office only four weeks, gave for her termination was theft, a charge she vehemently denies.
Another ACORN worker, Joseph Weick, said he has not been paid for work he did with the organization last month. He also said that he and others were told last week that they needed to re-apply for their positions, which he took as a termination.
"They refuse to give me my check," said Weick. "I guess there's at least about a half a dozen of us that have worked for these people and aren't getting paid."
Weick said he too was told to ask people to vote for McCaskill while registering voters and passing out literature supporting the minimum wage increase, which if true could be a violation of federal election laws.
"These are very serious allegations and we are reviewing our options as they relate to the McCaskill campaign and the potential exploitation of a tax-exempt organization that is supposed to help those who need help the most," said Rich Chrismer, a spokesman for McCaskill's opponent, Sen. Jim Talent.
The McCaskill campaign declined to comment for this story.
Ald. Lewis Reed has started a committee to begin raising money for his campaign against Aldermanic Board Pres. Jim Shrewsbury.
The Committee to Elect Reed was established yesterday in paperwork filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission. It is clearly classified as a "candidate" committee and not an "exploratory" committee.
There has been speculation for weeks that Reed would challenge Shrewsbury for the City's top legislative position. Nearly two weeks ago, Reed told PUB DEF he would be making a final decision sometime within the next 3-4 weeks. It appears an announcement is imminent.
With 6th Ward Alderman Lewis Reed still mulling a run against Aldermanic Board Pres. Jim Shrewsbury, attention has turned to who would fill Reed's seat.
Democratic Committeeman Patrick Cacchione has been mentioned as a possible candidate, but several large financial contributions to Republican candidates have left some of his fellow Dems scratching their heads. Tower Grove East resident Christian Saller's name has been mentioned by some white, self-described "urbanites" as a possible progressive candidate.
But the racial dynamics of both the ward (which has a majority black population) and the Board of Aldermen (while whites make up only 44% of the city's population, they hold almost 60% of the aldermanic seats) have caused much of the behind-the-scenes conversation in black political circles to focus on keeping the 6th Ward seat filled by an African-American.
"Black folks need to be picking up seats, we don't need to be giving one away," said one northside elected official who asked that her name not be given.
A name being circulated around as a possible black candidate is Kacie Starr Triplett, aide to Congressman Russ Carnahan and granddaughter of former Comptroller and State Sen. John Bass.
"I have received many phone calls from people encouraging me to run as Alderman for the 6th Ward," Triplett responded in an email.
"I believe this is due to being a lifelong resident of the ward, and also serving the 6th Ward constituents as a community liaison for both Congressman [Dick] Gephardt and Congressman Carnahan. At this time, nothing has been finalized. Just a lot of questions and calls," she said.
AUDIO: McCaskill Defends Record, Asks Why Crumpton Was at Talent's Event
By Antonio D. French
Tuesday, September 26, 2006 at 5:14 PM
State Auditor Claire McCaskill defended her record this morning on WGNU's "The Wake-Up Call with Lizz Brown" against what her campaign called "totally unfounded" statements made at a fundraiser for her opponent, U.S. Senator Jim Talent.
In PUB DEF's exclusive story yesterday from the event hosted by a group of local black businessmen, we reported that two of the hosts printed a large poster calling out McCaskill on what they said was a decades-long silence on issues relating to blacks. They gave the senate candidate an F grade in four different categories.
The mock report card was an answer to a similar failing report given to Talent from the NAACP on his record. Today during a one-hour block of paid air time, McCaskill told radio host Lizz Brown she thought it was strange to see on PubDef.net that local NAACP head Harold Crumpton was among those in attendance at yesterday's event.
"Maybe you can explain this to me," said McCaskill, who was calling in on a cell phone. "The NAACP gives Jim Talent an F on his report card for the way he has voted in Congress and [Talent's supporters] have a press event trying to make up some problems I have, which are not real, and the head of the NAACP in St. Louis is there?"
Brown answered that Crumpton is not your typical NAACP president. "If the NAACP gave out indictments... we would have the most indicted head of the NAACP in the State of Missouri."
Republican Sen. Jim Talent, in the middle of a very close campaign with Democrat State Auditor Claire McCaskill, took a few minutes yesterday to sit down with PUB DEF to discuss what he sees as the choice facing Missouri voters in November. He also answers why he's taken the position he has on the stem cell debate and why he hasn't taken a position on the proposal to raise Missouri's minimum wage.
Before retiring in 2002, J.C. Watts was the lone black Republican in Congress, the first elected from a southern state in over 120 years. Today he is a businessman and ordained minister in his home state of Oklahoma and a talking head on cable news.
Yesterday Watts was in St. Louis to speak to a group of local black business, religous and civic leaders. He also spoke with PUB DEF about his friend, Sen. Jim Talent ("He listens to hear, not to respond."), and the anti-incumbent sentiment of voters across the nation ("If you find yourself in a ditch, you probably dug it.").
Black Businessmen Raise Funds for Talent, Give McCaskill "F" on Issues
By Antonio D. French
Monday, September 25, 2006 at 12:41 PM
PUB DEF EXCLUSIVE
Republican Sen. Jim Talent continues his push to make inroads with black voters. A group of African-American business leaders held a breakfast fundraiser for Talent this morning at the offices of Midwestern Construction Company in old north St. Louis.
The host committee included Midwest owner Charles Kirkwood, entrepreneur Darryl Jones, David Steward of World Wide Technology, Bryan Cave attorney Jerry Hunter, and political consultant Tim Person. The event also featured a special guest, former Congressman J.C. Watts, Jr. from Oklahoma.
Talent told the roomful of nearly 100 black business, civic, and church leaders that too often politicians come to the African-American community and tell them what they are going to do. He said what he tries to do is ask people what they want him to do for them.
"Politicians do that with other communities of interest," said Talent. "I don't go to the farmers and say this is what Jim Talent thinks ought to happen in agriculture."
While Talent made only a couple of indirect mentions of his Democratic challenger, State Auditor Claire McCaskill, his supporters took a more direct approach.
Darryl Jones held up a glossy poster which read: "...Let's See Claire's Report Card", an answer to the NAACP's report card which is often referenced by McCaskill supporters. On that report card, the organization gave Sen. Talent a failing grade. On this report card, paid for by Jones and Kirkwood, McCaskill scored F's in three categories relating to black St. Louis and an F minus in the more general "Fighting for Our Communities" category (click here to see the card).
Familiar faces attending today's event included former school board member and Urban League CEO James Buford, Rev. Sam Jones, NAACP Pres. Harold Crumpton, and former St. Louis Rams star Mike Jones.
Talent and Watts both sat down with PUB DEF for an interview. Click here to see video of our conversation with Talent and click here to see Mr. Watts.
UPDATE: The McCaskill campaign calls Jones and Kirkwood's claims "totally unfounded." Adrianne Marsh, the campaign's communications director, sent the following statement to PUB DEF this afternoon:
"When elected as Prosecutor and as Auditor, Claire walked into offices that had little to no diversity and she made unprecedented changes for the better. Additionally, she conducted ground breaking audits that affected African American businesses, including an audit of the Minority Business Enterprise to ensure that diversity within state contracts was a priority.
At a time when the voice of those who have been adversely affected by the policies of the Bush Administration should be heard, Senator Talent wants to prevent thousands from voting by supporting both the state and national Voter I.D. laws aimed at disenfranchising minority, disabled and older voters. Claire has been and always will be a champion for the African American community."
A Circuit Court judge today ruled against the group seeking to recall 3rd Ward Alderman Freeman Bosley, Sr. The judge ruled that the St. Louis City Board of Elections does have the right to allow signers of the petition to have their names removed from the petition by way of a signed affidavit.
Bosley and his supporters succeeded in getting hundreds of signers to opt to have their names removed -- enough, in fact, to leave the petition well short of the required number of valid signatures.
McCaskill Rallies Democrats, Aide Kicks Jeff Smith Out of Meeting
By Antonio D. French
Wednesday, September 06, 2006 at 7:15 PM
PUB DEF EXCLUSIVE
U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill met yesterday with several St. Louis area Democratic elected officials to emphasize the importance of the upcoming statewide elections and to heal whatever wounds may remain from last month's Primary fights.
Mayor Francis Slay, Comptroller Darlene Green, State Senator Maida Coleman, State Reps. John Bowman, Robin Wright-Jones, Yaphett El-Amin, Connie Johnson, soon-to-be State Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, City Democratic Committee Chair Brian Wahby and most of the committee members were at the meeting at McCaskill's city headquarters in the St. Louis Marketplace on Manchester. But one recently elected city Democrat did not attend -- and not for lack of trying.
Jeff Smith, who recently won a tough primary election for State Senate and has no opposition in the general election, was stopped at the door and asked to leave by McCaskill's political director, Brandon Davis. He told Smith the meeting was only for "elected officials."
At least two of those elected officials voiced some concerns they had with McCaskill and the direction of the state party.
Committeewoman Norma Leggette (4th Ward) told McCaskill that she wasn't sure what to tell her constituents about what the Democratic Party stood for anymore. She said she felt the there were two parties in the City -- one white, one black.
Committeeman Joe Palm (26th Ward) said that McCaskill's opponent, Sen. Jim Talent, was making strong inroads into the black community. He claimed the incumbent Republican has been making promises of financial aid to black church leaders and even some northside politicos. Palm warned McCaskill that gimmicks won't increase voter turnout.
"I know I lost, but my opponents in my [State Rep] race had a big truck with video and signs too, and the turnout was still terrible," said Palm. He said the Republicans have gimmicks too. "Talent lit the Arch up pink," he said referring to Talent's bill that authorized bathing the Gateway Arch in pink lights to bring attention to breast cancer.
McCaskill listened quietly to Palm and Leggette before taking the floor. In a spirited voice, she told them that she would do everything she could to make clear to every Democratic voter that "George Bush has no better friend than Jim Talent."
McCaskill said she would remind people that "George Bush let people die on rooftops in New Orleans because they were poor and because they were black."
"That's what I'm talking about," interrupted Palm. "Your people should be videotaping that right now!"
There have been rumors of a battle brewing for State Sen. Maida Coleman's position as Minority Floor Leader -- possibly from fellow Democrat, State Sen. Tim Green. We asked Sen. Coleman if she's worried about losing her position.
When Coleman returns to the senate she'll have a new colleague from St. Louis -- Jeff Smith. Coleman was openly supportive of one of Smith's opponents in the August primary election. With that in mind, we asked her if she expects Smith to be an ally in Jefferson City.
Finally, we asked Coleman about her own plans for life after the senate. State term limits prohibit her from seeking re-election. Earlier this year she had expressed interest in running for state auditor and city license collector. But after little support among Democrats and a scathing article in the Post-Dispatch about her own personal financial history, she decided against campaigning this year. Coleman said those experiences left her questioning the commitment of her party to African-American candidates.
Last week, State Senator Maida Coleman blasted Gov. Matt Blunt and his head of the Office of Administration for politicking on the taxpayers' dime. In a press release she called Commissioner Mike Keathley a "spin doctor" and said he lacked credibility when speaking on issues other than the budget.
Coleman, who as the Minority Floor Leader in the senate is one of the highest ranking Democrats in Missouri, sat down with PUB DEF today to discuss her criticisms of Keathley and Blunt. She also discussed one of Blunt's latest hires, former St. Louis Election Board Chairman Ed Martin, who is now the Governor's new chief of staff.
Coleman said the election board under Martin had no business trying to get involved in the legal fights over the new voting requirements, which she said was really about "disenfranchising the large numbers of blacks and Democrats who vote here in the City of St. Louis."
Come back tomorrow for part two of our interview with Sen. Coleman as she discusses rumors of a fight to retain her leadership post in the state senate; her relationship with the newest senator from St. Louis, Jeff Smith; and her future plans for life after term limits.
A Circuit Court judge has upheld School Board member Bill Purdy's right to sit on the board. Purdy was being sued by two fellow board members, Flint Fowler and Ron Jackson, and 47 other citizens, including fired Vashon basketball coach Floyd Irons. The lawsuit claimed Purdy was serving on the board illegally and should be removed.
The issue was whether a person can run for the school board if he or she has relatives who work in the district. Two of Purdy's daughters and a grandson are teachers in the district. A recent change in state law allows school board members to serve even if they have family working in the system. But the school board bylaws still say that is illegal.
Those bylaws have not been amended to reflect the state law. But today's ruling by Judge Steven R. Ohmer affirms Purdy's assertion that state law trumps board bylaws.
Had Purdy lost the suit and was forced to give up his seat, Mayor Francis Slay would have appointed his replacement, shifting the balance of power on the school board for the second time in six months.
In a closed-door meeting on Friday, the St. Louis Board of Education voted to pay for a private firm to provide security for board president Veronica O'Brien.
O'Brien has been the target in recent weeks of several protests at her home. Earlier this month a city judge denied the board president a restraining order against fired Vashon basketball coach Floyd Irons and his friend and supporter, Demetrious Johnson.
Last week, a young man who, according to the Missouri Division of Family Services, was badly beaten by then-Coach Irons in 2000 was murdered by three gunmen. O'Brien had recently called for a federal investigation into the beating and a lawsuit was to be filed this week against Irons and St. Louis Public Schools.
"This is out of control," O'Brien told PUB DEF. "They say I'm next. Pray for peace."
She added, "I wonder what the judges are thinking after they said I shouldn't have a restraining order."
After winning the Audience Award for Best Feature at the Silverdocs Film Festival in Washington D.C., Frank Popper's documentary film on the unsuccessful 2004 Congressional campaign of Jeff Smith is premiering tomorrow at the Tivoli theater in University City.
"Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?" follows Smith, who is in the last 13 days of a tough primary battle for state senate, as he goes from mild mannered college professor to a grassroots political force that threatened to knock off one of Missouri's biggest political heirs.
Tomorrow's 7:00 showing is sold out, but we are told that some tickets still remain for the 9:30 show. Here's a clip from the movie:
And here is our earlier report on the film's possible impact on the state senate race:
Jeffrey Hardin formally announced this morning he will again run for alderman should the attempt to recall Freeman Bosley, Sr. be successful.
Hardin gave PUB DEF the news last week, but he held a formal press conference downtown today to tell everyone else that he has accepted the support of the 3rd Ward Democrats for the People, the group that turned in more than 2,000 signatures to the Board of Elections last week in support of recalling the 28-year veteran Bosley.
"We would like to send a message to our current alderman," said Hardin, who lost to Bosley last year by just 19 votes. "We do not feel that the service to our community is being done at its best." He said that he would like for the wishes of 3rd Ward residents to be heard "from downtown to uptown."
Hardin, who says he has not been involved in the recall effort to date, did say if the petition falls short of the number needed to get the question on the ballot he would he get involved to help them get the remaining signatures needed in the 20 days allowed by law.
One of the galvanizing issues behind this effort to recall Bosley is his use of eminent domain. One of his most vocal critics on this issue has been Maxine Johnson, whose home is being threatened by legislation introduced by the alderman. Bosley has blamed much of his recall troubles on Johnson. Hardin defended Johnson today and said that he applauds her efforts to bring attention to her cause.
The 3rd Ward Democrats for the People, the newly formed organization that turned in more than 2,000 signatures last week to recall Ald. Freeman Bosley, Sr., has endorsed Jeffrey Hardin to replace Bosley should the recall be successful.
Alderman Freeman Bosley, Sr. tonight engaged in a vicious and personal attack on the character of one of the people at the center of an effort to recall him from office.
Bosley called a town hall meeting at Clay Elementary School to discuss the benefits to the City of St. Louis of eminent domain. He invited the city's deputy mayor of development, Barb Geisman, to present the same PowerPoint presentation that she delivered to state legislators when they were deliberating on the issue earlier this year.
Nearly an hour into the meeting, Bosley told the audience that the real reason he called everyone there was to refute claims that he was "taking somebody's house and throwing them and their kids out."
Around the school's gymnasium, where the meeting took place, Bosley hung enlarged documents baring the name and signature of Mrs. Maxine Johnson. Johnson began gathering signatures to recall Bosley after the City assumed ownership of her home using eminent domain.
The bill authorizing the action was introduced by Bosley, who has maintained that taking Johnson and her neighbors' property was in the best interest of the ward. A non-profit organization started by Bethlehem Lutheran Church is soon scheduled to begin building a new housing development where Johnson, her husband, and her six children now live.
Bosley accused Johnson of gaining knowledge about the development years ago and buying the land with the hopes of reselling it at an inflated price. He pointed to a blown-up copy of a letter signed by Johnson and addressed to the church. In it, she says she may consider selling her home for $200,000.
"What in this ward at this time is worth $200,000?" asked Bosley, who has represented the ward for 28 years.
Johnson said she wrote that particular letter because she was told that she had to respond to the developer's original cash offer within 14 days. She said she doesn't want to sell her home at any price. In an earlier interview with PUB DEF, Johnson said she owns her home now and she couldn't afford to buy another house big enough for her large family for the price the church was offering.
Several speakers objected to the personal nature of Bosley's attack. They said that the issues of eminent domain usage in the City of St. Louis are larger than one woman and that more 3rd Ward residents than just Maxine Johnson want new representation at City Hall.
In March 2005, Jeffrey Hardin lost his bid to unseat Alderman Freeman Bosley, Sr. by just 19 votes. That narrow lost was heartbreaking to many residents of the 3rd Ward who said their veteran representative, who is 4th in aldermanic seniority, has become out of touch and has presided over a three-decade decline in the quality of life for most residents of his northside ward.
Some of those residents -- many sparked by that omnipresent source of controversy; eminent domain -- have started a petition to recall Bosley. Tonight, Hardin told PUB DEF that if that effort (which he says he is not involved in) is successful, he will run again.
Three representatives of Barnes-Jewish Hospital made their case Friday for why it is in the best interests of both the City and the hospital expand a current lease on a section of Forest Park.
June Fowler, BJC's Vice-President of Communications, Michael DeHaven, BJC’s general counsel, and Linda Martinez, a partner with the Bryan Cave law firm, told members of the Forest Park Lease Committee that, while BJC would prefer to outright purchase the land, the hospital would be willing to commit to the following as part of a 90-year lease:
(1) building a health care facility on the land, (2) including a price escalator in the annual lease payment, (3) ensure all of their lease payments went to maintaining the rest of the park, and (4) pay for moving the Hudlin tennis courts and playground wherever the city decides.
In this video, Fowler gives a brief history of the different appraisal amounts of the land. Clearing up one source of concern, she says that the public parking meters near Euclid are not part of this land.
In this video, Fowler outlines the things that BJC is willing to commit to in the agreement.
In this video, Alderman Freeman Bosley, Sr. (3rd Ward) questions Fowler and DeHaven about BJC's intentions with the land. One of the things to come out of his questioning is that BJC has future plans to tear down Barnes-Jewish West Plaza and Queeny Tower, which was just built in 1965. DeHaven pointed to the buildings' inability to withstand a major earthquake.
In this video, Fowler outlines what she sees as the benefits to the city and hospital from this proposed deal. She said that the proposed lease payment is the highest per square foot rate in the city.
In this video, Fowler says it does matter who is asking for this lease. She says BJC is a good and committed corporate citizen and deserves consideration for the services it provides to the area.
Editor's Note: These video postings include our 100th YouTube video. It is also our 570th blog posting since PUB DEF returned in October 2005.
At a press conference this morning, 1st Ward Committeeman Talibdin El-Amin said he will be staying in his 57th District State Representative race until the end.
"After having conversations with my family, friends, and many people in the community, I am convinced more than ever today that I will not waiver in my pursuit to become the next state representative in the 57th District," said El-Amin with his wife, Yaphett El-Amin (the current representative of the district), by his side.
Some wondered if El-Amin would withdraw from the race after reports in The Evening Whirl and on KSDK Channel 5 earlier this week called him a "deadbeat dad." El-Amin once again said these allegations are false. He told the room of supporters and just two members of the media that these were "trivial matters disguised as news."
Meanwhile, someone identifying themself as Antonnia Washington, El-Amin's "baby's mama," posted a lengthy comment to one of our earlier stories on this subject. "I don't know how Mr. El-Amin could even begin to think that Yaphett takes better care of my children that I do," she wrote.
"I have never taken a hit at the way she raises her children and I feel that I should be given that same respect because I am a good, hard-working mother. The St. Louis Family Court thought so too, that is why they are with me," the person wrote.
Editor's Note: Unless something big happens, this will be our last story on this subject.
An exchange between Ald. Lyda Krewson and Ivy Neyland-Pinkston, deputy comptroller, at yesterday's meeting of the Forest Park Lease Review Committee highlighted tensions between Comptroller Darlene Green's Office and the office of Mayor Francis Slay.
The committee is made up of five people selected by Slay to "independently" review the financial terms of the proposed lease, a duty usually reserved for the Comptroller.
Alderman Fred Wessels questioned Jim Garavaglia, the city asset manager from the Comptroller's Office, about why another appraisal wasn't done sooner.
Krewson also asked Garavaglia why some of the Comptroller's concerns were not addressed earlier.
Ald. Freeman Bosley, Sr. said his focus was on minority participation in future construction projects related to the Barnes lease and the longterm plans the hospital may have for that area.
Committee member Tom Reeves, president of Pulaski Bank and former head of Downtown Now, questioned whether the lease amount shouldn't be discounted since that land is currently under lease by Barnes for several more decades and the city can't get any more revenure from the land other than from Barnes.
Alderman Bosley said the longer the committee "fools with" this lease agreement, the more public scrutiny will come. "It's like stirring mess," said Bosley. "If it crusts over it don't stink so bad. But the more your turn it, the worse it's gone stink."
After the meeting, one committee member was overheard saying, "He (Garavaglia) fucked up. That's why he was so nervous."
VIDEO: Aide outlines Green's objections to Barnes-Forest Park deal
By Antonio D. French
Friday, May 19, 2006 at 4:27 PM
PUB DEF EXCLUSIVE
Jim Garavaglia, from Comptroller Darlene Green's office, explained to the Forest Park Lease Review Committee today the Comptroller's issues with the current proposal to amend Barnes Hospital's lease of a portion of Forest Park.
(1) The appraisal being considered was outdated, (2) the hospital has not made known its plans for the land, and (3) an agreement has not yet been reached on whether the playgrounds and tennis courts currently on the 9 acres of park land will be relocated at Barnes' expense -- and where to?
Garavaglia also outlined the history of the Comptroller's Office's involvement with this deal, which dated back to September 2004.
Committee Chair Lyda Krewson, along with Ald. Fred Wessels, questioned why Green (who was not at the hearing) or her staff did not seek the answers to these questions earlier.
Ald. Steve Conway, who is also an accountant, questioned Garavaglia about the new appraisal figure which he presented to the committee today. Conway suggested that some of the figures used to reach the new number may be exaggerated.
Check back for more videos from the meeting later...
Sources tell the Watch that officials from St. Louis Public Schools met with representatives from St. Louis University on Thursday to try to find a solution to the overcrowding problem that has resulted from Superintendent Creg Williams' controversial move to again increase the size of the freshman class at Metro High School.
Dr. Williams decided to admit 130 freshmen into Metro for the 2006-2007 school year, instead of the normal 75 students, raising enrollment to 380 total students. The school's enrollment had already been expanded this year by 25 students, to nearly 300.
For months, Dr. Williams has claimed the school could hold over 500 students. But the Watch has learned that two weeks ago, in a meeting with the executive board of the schools Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), Williams admitted that the original building plans and later facility assessments show the building has the capacity to house only 250-275 students.
"We have a problem," sources say Williams told the PTO board. He said the school does not have room for all the students who have been assigned there next year.
Williams asked the parents for help to solve the problem. He suggested that if they could just get through the next year, he could reduce freshmen enrollment to only 50 students in each of the following years to relieve the overcrowding.
One parent suggested that administrators contact nearby SLU to see if the district could teach some courses in University classrooms next year to relieve the overcrowding at Metro.
Administrators followed up on the parent suggestion and on Thursday a SLPS contingent that included Clive Coleman, the official in charge of public high school in St. Louis, met with SLU representatives, including Vice President for Community Relations Julius Hunter.
Keep up with what's going on with St. Louis City's public schools at PUB DEF's sister site, STLSchools.org.
At the first meeting of the Forest Park Lease Review Committee on Wednesday, two committee members leveled some pointed criticisms at Comptroller Darlene Green.
Alderman Freeman Bosley, Sr. (3rd Ward) said Green "has really gotten personal in this matter and has some opinions that are not based upon all of the information that should be available."
The Comptroller has said that she would like to see an up-to-date appraisal of 12 acres of park land before the city moves forward with renegotiating a lease agreement with Barnes Hospital that would last until almost the next century.
Alderman Fred Wessels (13th Ward) questioned Gary Bess, the director of the Parks Department, about the Comptroller's involvement when negotiations of this deal began. Bess said that Jim Garavaglia, from Green's office, was involved in the discussions. He said that Green's office even selected the firm which conducted the last appraisal.
Garavaglia told the City Planning Commission two weeks ago that the year-old appraisal was out of date. He also said that Green felt that details of Barnes' plans for the land are still unknown.
"Their intentions are unclear, unspoken and should be revealed to both the City and the community," he said.
The Forest Park Lease Review Committee is made up of five members selected by Mayor Francis Slay to review, as Ald. Steve Conway put it, whether the city is getting a fair price for the land, "not whether or not it's a good deal."
Members are Wessels, Bosley, Conway, Chairperson Lyda Krewson, and Tom Reeves, former head of Downtown Now and the new president of Pulaski Bank. They are scheduled to meet again on Friday.
Arthur "Chink" Washington, the Democratic commiteeman of the 21st Ward, raised at least $1,400 $3,100 that he did not report to the Missouri Ethics Commission last quarter.
The most recent quarterly filing of Washington's "Original 21st Ward Democratic Organization" states that the committee did not raise or spend any more than $500 between January 1 and March 31, 2006. But finance reports from other committees show this is not the case.
The Jim Murphy for Sheriff committee reported giving sums totaling $550 to Washington’s committee on March 9, March 21, March 24, and March 28.
Aldermanic Board Pres. Jim Shrewsbury's committee reported giving $400 to Washington’s committee on March 21.
Two committees gave money to Washington's committee but listed the address and/or name of the other 21st Ward committee controlled by Committeewoman Myrtle French (this reporter is the treasurer of that committee and has notified the Ethics Commission of these errors).
People Supporting James Buford reported giving $300 to "21st Ward Democrats" on March 14. The Sharon Carpenter for Recorder committee reported giving $150 on March 20.
At least $1,400 was contributed to Washington’s committee and not reported to the Commission. A formal complaint has been mailed to the Missouri Ethics Commission. Click here to read the text from the complaint.
UPDATE: Add another $1,100 to that amount raised, but not reported.
On February 28, Ald. Mike McMillan's campaign committee gave Washington's committee $450. Four days before, License Collector Gregory F.X. Daly's committee contributed $65o
UPDATE 2: Sharon Tyus also gave $350 on March 14. State Rep. Amber Boykins gave $250 on March 15.
By a vote of 11-3 last night, the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus has replaced State Rep. Ted Hoskins (D-80) as its chairperson.
Hoskins, who has drawn criticism from some fellow Democrats for his leadership style and his strong support of a "school choice" bill (labeled by many as a "school vouchers" bill), was replaced by State Rep. John Bowman (D-70). Bowman will serve out the rest of Hoskins' chairman term.
According to sources, State Rep. Rodney Hubbard (D-58), also a co-sponsor of the controversial school funding measure, "saw the handwriting on the wall" and resigned as Vice-Chairman before to the vote to remove Hoskins. State Rep. Connie Johnson (D-61) was elected Vice-Chairman.
Click here to see more exclusive photos from today's event.
President George W. Bush stepped out of Air Force One this morning at Columbia Regional Airport on his way to was in Jefferson City. Bush was in the state to discuss the Medicare prescription drug benefit (also known as Part D).
Greeting Bush this morning were Senators Kit Bond and Jim Talent, several state Republican leaders, and a small group of anti-war protestors.
Click here to see more exclusive photos from today's event.