St. Louis Beacon reporter Jo Mannies was on KMOX this afternoon to discuss the twists and turns of Missouri’s redistricting process.
Click on the audio link to hear more.
This past Friday will be a day that few St. Louis residents will forget.
That’s because one the worst storms in recent memory blew through the region on that day, destroying a number of homes in north St. Louis County and leaving Lambert-St. Louis International Airport badly damaged.
Miraculously, nobody was killed.
That last detail caused Gov. Jay Nixon to remark that the lack of causalities was nothing short of “divine intervention.” From the St. Louis Beacon:
As Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon peered down from the Blackhawk helicopter Saturday to survey “the longest tail of destruction I’ve ever seen personally,” the governor said he continued to marvel the most important fact from Friday night’s tornado.
“It’s absolutely amazing that an EF-4 tornado could go through an airport and a number of communities and cause zero fatalities,” Nixon said at a news conference Saturday afternoon at Lambert Field. “It’s nothing more than astounding. It almost feels a little bit like divine intervention.”
Still, the emotional pain and economic loss are substantial for hundreds of north St. Louis County residents who saw their homes badly damaged or destroyed by the worst tornado to hit the region since 1967.
“The look in their eyes, folks, is devastating,” said St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, who had accompanied Nixon and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay on the helicopter tour. He credited the warnings aired via siren, television and radio — and the public’s swift action to heed them.
The airport is slowly getting back to normal.
For what it’s worth, I was at Busch Stadium when the worst of the storm hit. It started to rain hard right after the first batter, forcing me and my cousin to stand underneath the bleachers. Soon after that though, most of the crowd was forced to go to the stairwells when tornado sirens went off.
We spent a good hour and half going back-and-forth between standing under the bleachers and crouching in stairwells. But the game actually resumed at 9:30 p.m., ending late into the night with a Cards victory.
Anybody who would like to assist citizens affected by the storm can go to the Web site of the St. Louis Area chapter of the American Red Cross.
State Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, told Jo Mannies of the St. Louis Beacon that she may run for U.S. Congress if U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Town and Country, runs for Senate:
Cunningham is considering a bid for the U.S. House seat in the 2nd congressional district — but only if Republican incumbent Todd Akin opts not to seek re-election. He is getting Republican encouragement to run for the U.S. Senate instead.
“I would not run against Rep. Akin,” Cunningham said. “I would only run if it’s an open seat.”
Cunningham (left) is among several Republicans interested — publicly or privately — in running for Congress in the 2nd District, should Akin move on. Former Missouri GOP chair Ann Wagner, who is still mulling over a Senate bid herself, is also believed to be considering a 2nd District bid if it becomes an open seat.
Gov. Jay Nixon said Missouri will pursue roughly $1 billion for rail projects, including $600 million to prepare for a “high-speed” rail line across the Show Me State.
In a press release, the governor announced a two-tiered plan to procure federal rail money. The first part seek federal money to bolster speeds and schedule reliability along existing rail lines. That would include, according to the release, “new sidings, mainlines, bridges, removal of grade crossings, train cars, and other equipment and infrastructure to enable Amtrak trains traveling between St. Louis and Kansas City” to travel at greater speeds. The second part would go toward building a “separate, dedicated high-speed line across Missouri, and for purchasing necessary properties.”
Missouri is seeking roughly $373 million in federal money for the first part of plan and about $600 million for the second part, according to the release.
While the effort to bolster rail infrastructure has drawn criticism from the governor’s likely 2012 rival - Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder - Nixon has been touting federal rail projects for some time. For instance, the release notes that Nixon has been working with Illinois in the development of a “high-speed” rail line from St. Louis to Chicago.
“The design, planning and construction of this project would create high-paying jobs in communities across Missouri over the next several years, and provide the necessary resources to prepare for construction of a dedicated high-speed passenger line,” Nixon said in a statement. “It would be a transformative step for Missouri, both in terms of the jobs created and in developing this mode of transportation between our state’s two largest metropolitan areas and the cities along the route, including the state capital.”
The release stated that the Missouri Department of Transportation will submit the application to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration.
ADDENDUM: Jo Mannies of the St. Louis Beacon reported that Nixon is going after money that was rejected by Florida Gov. Rick Scott:
Nixon stopped by Amtrak’s train station in downtown Kirkwood this morning to announce that his office was submitting an application to snag almost $1 billion in high-speed rail money that his Florida counterpart, Gov. Rick Scott, has rejected.
Nixon said the grant would require less than $5 million in state matching funds, and could give a boost to hopes of a faster rail route between St. Louis and Kansas City.
“I think it’s a transformational opportunity,” the governor said. “It’s a one-time opportunity that we’re not going to let pass by.”
The St. Louis Police Officers Association is suing over a ballot item abolishing a governor-appointed board overseeing the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. It’s the issue commonly referred to as ‘local control’ of the STL Police Department.
More from St. Louis Beacon reporter Jo Mannies:
According to the association, the suit “alleges that the ballot language and the cost projections associated with the initiatives are unfair, deceptive and misleading.” It also asserts that state Auditor Thomas Schweich “did not comply with statutory requirements” because his office, according to the group, failed to provide an accurate ballot statement on the financial impact of the proposals.
The initiative petition proposals earlier were filed by James Deutsch, a lawyer aligned with wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield, who supports local control. “We’re simply not going to be intimidated by City Hall or their millionaire friends,” said St. Louis Police Officers Association Business Manager Jeff Roorda in a statement.
Nancy Rice, spokeswoman for the group “A Safer Missouri” (bankrolled by Sinquefield) that is advancing the initiative petition effort, said the suit was expected. “I am not surprised and I’m not concerned,” she said.
Click here to read more of the story.
There are new wrinkles to the controversy over Sen. Claire McCaskill’s use of a private plane for travel.
Politico reports that McCaskill failed to pay personal property taxes on a plane for the past four years. From the article:
She’s also planning on selling the plane, which she co-owns with her husband, after POLITICO revealed last week that she had used taxpayer dollars for a political trip around her home state of Missouri. McCaskill had spent $76,000 from her Senate budget on trips on the aircraft over the past four years.
McCaskill called a Monday press conference after POLITICO asked questions about whether she had paid her personal property taxes on the aircraft.
“I have convinced my husband to sell the damn plane,” McCaskill said on a conference call with reporters. “I will never set foot on the plane again.”
The senator told reporters that she had discovered the non-payment herself when she “put on my auditor’s hat” and probed all aspects of the plane’s finances as a result of the attacks, many made by Republicans, over her use of the family-owned plane for political and congressional flights.
“I take full responsibility for the mistake,” McCaskill said, adding that no personal property taxes had been paid the county because of an oversight as to the state and local laws regarding such taxes.
Additionally, Politico reporter Dave Catanese posted a Web video [above] from the National Republican Senatorial Committee lambasting McCaskill on the issue.
McCaskill is expected to face a tough challenge for re-election next year. Two Republicans - former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and attorney Ed Martin - have jumped into the GOP primary to run against McCaskill. Two others - U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Town and Country, and former Missouri Republican Party Chairwoman Ann Wagner - are mulling over bids.
This morning’s headlines are brought to you by “Big Sexy” Kevin Nash, also known to the world as “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel.
OK, I’ll try to keep the wrestling references to a minimum. But it’s going to be hard:
- SENATE SCRAMBLE: Jo Mannies at the St. Louis Beacon has two articles of note concerning the Missouri Senate race. The first one looks at whether former Missouri Republican Party Chairwoman Ann Wagner will run for Senate. The other article looks into rumors at U.S. Reps. Todd Akin, R-Town and Country, or Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, will run instead.
- BLAINE V. SARAH, THE REMATCH: Political consultant James Harris sent a Tweet about Luetkemeyer being “drafted” for the Senate race. Harris has done work for both Steelman and Luetkemeyer in the past. And of course, Luetkemeyer lost to Steelman in the 2004 GOP primary for state Treasurer.
U.S. Reps. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, and Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, were also considering running against U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri. Both ended up declining.
- SCOTT V. BILL: Mannies also caught up with state Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, about possibly running for Secretary of State against incumbent Democrat Robin Carnahan. If he runs, Rupp will square off against Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, in the GOP primary.
- ODD COUPLE: Politico writes about the potential relationship between incoming Chicago Mayor Rahmn Emanuel and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.
[As always, thanks to johncombest.com for the headlines.]
In my article for the St. Louis Beacon yesterday on efforts to alter the initiative petition process, I included a blurb about a constitutional amendment from Rep. Scott Sifton, D-Affton.
As the Beacon’s Jo Mannies wrote a few weeks ago, Sifton’s amendment would alter how the legislature could overturn statutes enacted through the initiative petition process.
The above audio clip is part of my telephone conversation with Sifton. The clip has been edited for clarity and length.
Jo Mannies at the St. Louis Beacon filed a story Thursday asking whether the hubbub in Wisconsin could occur in the Show Me State.
From the article:
The situation in Missouri is much different than Wisconsin’s. From a practical standpoint, Missouri does not allow collective-bargaining for public employees like teachers and firefighters. Another difference: Teachers, firefighters and police in Missouri have separate pension agreements with school districts and local governments that don’t count on any financial contributions from the state government.
The other big difference between Missouri and Wisconsin? Missouri has a Democratic governor who has no desire to challenge the state’s unions because they are likely to be key in Gov. Jay Nixon’s quest for re-election in 2012.
Mannies also writes that a situation similar to what Wisconsin Democratic senators did is unlikely to happen in Missouri:
But all sides agree that’s also not likely to happen in Missouri. Aside from the lack of collective bargaining rights for teachers, Republicans hold such majorities in Missouri’s state House and Senate that they can conduct business without any Democrats present.
A spokeswoman for Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said that the state also has tougher rules regarding absent senators. “According to Senate Rule 8, senators absent without excuse may be taken into custody wherever they may be found,” she said. “Plus, the absent senator(s) would foot the expense for the effort to find and return them to the Senate.”