Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Obama in the Heartland

President Obama is visiting St. Louis today to make a final push for a federal health care bill. The St. Louis Beacon has been tracking this legislation and its potential effects on our community.

Reporter Dale Singer is following the President's visit. Obama will speak at a school in St. Charles this afternoon. Check back throughout the afternoon for more of what the President had to say -- and our community's reaction.

Reporter Jo Mannies, reporting in the Beacon Backroom, is covering reaction to the visit. So far, local GOP leaders have weighed in, and liberal groups are organizing to ask why Obama hasn't followed through on some campaign promises.

Finally, Reporter Robert Joiner has gone out in the community to ask residents what the President should be focusing on for health care reform (or whether he ought to focus on it at all).

Check back with the Beacon throughout the afternoon and evening for more coverage of President Obama's visit to St. Louis.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Toys for Kids but Cards for Adults This Recession

We asked some of our Patchwork Nation bloggers about any changes to holidays plans, their look back on 2009 and hopes for 2010. From Eric Madkins:

Spending for the holidays: I have been frugal as a consumer this Christmas with regards to spending. My main objective is making sure the kids enjoy the toys, games, etc.,on a budget of course. For adults, I've opted to Christmas cards and gift cards.

On Christmas, we will spend time with family, locally (St. Louis), and then drive to Oklahoma to visit family for New Years. Oklahoma is about 6 hours away from St. Louis.

2009 was a historic year. The economic challenges the country has faced are and will be enormous. I think the recession has taught us many valuable lessons. In my opinion, the most important of those lessons is that at the street level, financial management and budgeting is fundamental and necessary for every consumer and household. The recession has taught me to be more mindful of my spending habits, place a greater emphasis on saving, and have less dependence on credit. There are definitely signs of recovery, currently; but at the micro and macro level, the recovery will be incremental.

And lastly, Jobs, Jobs Jobs. For 2010, job creation is essential!!!

Eric Madkins is the Senior Housing Director at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Race and education

One of the backbones of any city is its education system, and large cities like St. Louis are no exception. But what do you do when that backbone needs rehabilitated?

St. Louis schools have a long and complex history, one which as a relative newcomer to the city I'm only starting to comprehend. One big issue facing the school system is the subject of race and diversity in schools. The Beacon has been covering this issue since our inception, and it doesn't look to be going away anytime soon.

Recently, we talked to voluntary transfer chief Bruce Ellerman about the desegregation program, its history and its future. We looked at the flip-side of desegregation: racial diversity of teachers. And, we interviewed four men and women from the St. Louis area who took part in the desegregation program, asking about their experiences and the program's effect.

Find more stories we've done about education in the St. Louis region by visiting our Education page.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Being There for Children

On Saturday I was reminded, in two very different ways, the value of being there for children. I started my day at Normandy High School at 8:30AM for Expectation: Graduation – Reach Out to Drop Outs Program. The Normandy School District and community wide event drew over 100 volunteers; me included, and aimed at reaching out to those students who had dropped out of school and see if we can get them back.

We went out in teams with school district staff and community volunteers paired together with the hope of knocking on over 100 doors and getting as many children back in school as possible. I was fortunate to be on a team with Dr. Stanton Lawrence the superintendent of the Normandy School District. In the year that Dr. Lawrence has been here in St. Louis from Houston he has brought energy, enthusiasm and an unwavering commitment to the success of each and every child in the Normandy School District. I have had the privilege of getting to know Stan, convince him to join the board of Beyond Housing and consider him a friend.

At the second home visited the sixteen year old young man we hoped to bring back to school answered the door. I wish I could adequately describe the look on his face when Stan introduced himself as the superintendent and said he wanted him to come back to school. This young man saw the leader of the school district and a group of other concerned people come to his house and tells him he matters. A meeting was scheduled for the student and his mother to go to the high school and continue the process of having him get his diploma. Our team made contact with seven out of the eight homes we visited. The students and their families seemed genuinely appreciative of the effort all the volunteers were giving to lend a hand. We tried to show both the students and their families that we cared and wanted that child to, as a friend of mine recently told me, “build a successful life”. We tried to be there for these children, especially Stan Lawrence.

Later on Saturday, I took my oldest child, Nick now 20, back to Chicago for his junior year of college. On the way there we stopped at the Illinois State Fair to see the famous 70’s – 80’s rock band Heart (you know Barracuda, Dreamboat Annie, Crazy on You – work with me). Nick, an audio engineering major at Columbia College, has a wide ranging taste in music including loving Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart. We left St. Louis around 6:30PM headed to Springfield, Illinois for the fair.

Nick is my only child from my first marriage and has lived with me since the divorce when he was three and with my wife Christine and our two children Jackson, 14 and Sophia, 11. Nick and I have always been close by necessity and by choice. I have tried to present in his life at every possible moment. The concert was great – the Wilson sisters can still rock the house. We chose not to go to the livestock portion of the state fair but it was good to see that you could buy meat on bun, a plate, a stick and many other tools if you wanted. As we drove to Springfield and later to Chicago he and I had incredibly expansive conversation about a number of things including abortion, health care, Beyond Housing, his education and his future I am his father and certainly have my bias but I believe my son is fine young man. His future is still unclear but what is clear is that he is positioned to do well and build that successful life for himself. It is clear that he had many people in his life that cared for him from my wife Christine, to his own mother and his grandparents. We all tried to be there for him. I think he will do the same with the people in his life as well.

Being there is sometimes a small thing, three and half hours on a Saturday in the Normandy School District and sometimes a big thing, being a parent (I am told it never really ends). I hope we can all be there for children in small and large ways.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hotter than health care

Not much else is, these days. Whether it's a man carrying an assault rifle to a protest outside the venue where President Barack Obama was discussing health care with veterans or fisticuffs between reform supporters and opponents, the debate on health care reform is heating up.

It's no different in St. Louis.

A forum with Rep. Russ Carnahan turned, with a large crowd massed outside, reform opponents shouting down speakers and, after the event, a scuffle and six arrests. That clash resulted in a peaceful weekend Tea Party protest at the St. Louis headquarters of SEIU (reform opponents claim SEIU members were responsible for the assault) as well as the cancellation (by the venue) of a planned forum with Sen. Claire McCaskill amid concerns of violence.

Below, you'll find some previous stories by the St. Louis Beacon. These stories stretch back into last year before the debate became too heated and also provide some background information to familiarize yourself with the issue:x

Friday, July 17, 2009

Race and the economy

Two of the most talked about aspects of diversity in America are economic diversity and racial diversity. Of these two qualities come some of the country's most astonishing accomplishments as well as its most dismal failures.

In St. Louis, there is a wide range of both.

While it is without a doubt an industrial metropolis, the St. Louis economy includes the health and science fields, technology and service industries. Many smaller communities near the city -- on both sides of the river -- both contribute to and benefit from St. Louis city's economy.

The racial makeup of St. Louis is largely black and white, but there are significant populations of Bosnian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Italian and Hispanic ethnic groups as well, all living, working and playing in St. Louis and its surrounding communities.

At the St. Louis Beacon, we have taken and continue to take an in-depth look at both of these issues, with our "Race, Frankly" and "Uneasy Street" series.

In Race, Frankly, we recently asked members of our Public Insight Network to give us their personal perspectives on race. They responded with stories: positive and negative, about how other people have treated them based on race -- as well as how they've treated others, and told us what race means to them. Read the first part of the Personal Perspectives on Race story, and see the whole Race, Frankly project.

In Uneasy Street, we've been focusing on how communities in and around St. Louis have dealt with the economic downturn. Recently we turned to Maplewood, a small suburb of St. Louis city. A former transportation hub, Maplewood was a shopping district in the early part of the 20th century. But as flight to even more remote suburbs began and regional shopping centers sprung up, Maplewood's small shops took a big hit. In the last several years, however, low rents and business-friendly government attracted development, which has snowballed into something of a rebirth. While the wider economic situation has brought instability everywhere, Maplewood is still working to keep a happy ending on its rags-to-riches story.

Recreating Downtown St. Louis - Citygarden

From the beginning, St. Louis has been a city somewhat defined by it's parks. Forest Park, home of the 1904 World's Fair, stands as the second largest urban park in America behind New York's Central Park. And the Jefferson National Expansion Monument (better known to everyone as the St. Louis Arch) is surronded by park grounds taken back from the riverfront warehouse district.

But Forest Park isn't really downtown, and the Arch? That's where St. Louisians take visitors from out of town. As downtown St. Louis looks to reinvent itself as place where people actually live, it now has an actual city park - Citygarden: