August 30, 2014

Loan program announced to bolster Ferguson businesses impacted by riots, looting

Businesses that have been impacted by unrest following the shooting death of Michael Brown August 9 are being offered no-interest loans. $1-million dollars is being committed to the program, divided evenly among the state’s small business loan program, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and a coalition of St. Louis region banks.

Businesses in a specified area that were affected by looting and vandalism will be eligible for the loans.

“Over the past few weeks some businesses were looted or damaged and there have been dozens of others who have taken a financial hit because of lost customers and lost business,” says Nixon.

State Treasurer Clint Zweifel, a North St. Louis County native, has been placed in charge of distributing the loans. He says the owners of businesses in the region where looting and rioting occurred are facing challenges they’ve never faced before, but they haven’t backed down.

“With all these businesses not one had said, ‘We don’t think we can make it. We’re giving up,’” says Zweifel. “There’s a sense of optimism and resolve, I think, for most small business owners that we have.”

Governor Nixon says the program is only a first step toward helping spur economic, as well as emotional, recovery in the region.

Dairy industry, rural lawmakers confident of veto overturns on ag, captive deer bills

State lawmakers that backed two big agriculture bills in the regular session believe they will have enough votes to override Governor Jay Nixon’s (D) vetoes of those bills.

Representative Casey Guernsey (center) discusses the ag omnibus bills passed in the 2014 session, joined by Representative Bill Reiboldt (image left) and Senator Mike Kehoe.  (courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Casey Guernsey (center) discusses the ag omnibus bills passed in the 2014 session, joined by Representative Bill Reiboldt (image left) and Senator Mike Kehoe. (courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Nixon vetoed the legislation because it would remove control of captive deer in private hunting operations from the Department of Conservation and put it under the control of the Department of Agriculture. Nixon says that would “clearly” violate the state Constitution.

Dairy industry backers are among the biggest proponents of the veto override because those bills contain provisions to subsidize federal margin insurance and to provide scholarships to the study of dairy production at a Missouri college. It would also direct the University of Missouri to annually study of the state’s dairy industry and create a plan for growing it.

Missouri Dairy Association President Larry Purdom says those provisions will help keep dairy producers in Missouri and keep dairy prices in the state low.

“I have gone to Springfield’s sale barn for the last three years and witnessed my neighbors with tears in their eyes selling their cows because they could not pay their feed bills,” Purdom told reporters Thursday. “It’s pretty hard to live through that not think that they deserve better than they have had since 2009.”

According to the Association Missouri had 1,890 dairies in 2004 and that number is down to 1,233.

The bills passed the Senate with enough support for a veto overturn but were short of the 109 needed in the House, receiving tallies of 101 and 105 “ayes.” Representative Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany) says the votes for an override will be there when lawmakers take up those measures during the veto session September 10.

“I’ve been working on this since July with my colleagues,” says Guernsey.

He says he expects to pick up some votes from lawmakers that were absent when the House initially passed the bills and others from lawmakers who originally voted against them.

The bills are SB 506 and HB 1326.

Man charged in shooting death of central Missouri boy, 6

A former Columbia man has been charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in connection with the death of a six-year-old Fulton boy.

Scottie Willet

Scottie Willet

27-year-old Scottie Willet is being held on $1 million bond in Callaway County. Police say he admitted to shooting the six-year-old boy with a handgun.

In a separate filing Willet is also charged with stealing a firearm.

The boy had been reported missing early this morning from a Callaway County home. His body was later found hidden inside the residence with multiple gunshot wounds.

Willet was found about two hours later in a Sedalia trailer park and was placed under arrest for failing to appear in court for a littering charge.  On court documents he has a Sedalia address.

Role in Ferguson of new Public Safety chief not defined

Governor Jay Nixon’s (D) new nominee for Public Safety Director comes from the part of the state that has seen great turmoil in the past two weeks, but he and Nixon have shied away from discussing what he will bring to Ferguson.

Dan Isom speaks to the media after being introduced as the new Director of the Department of Public Safety.  (Photo credit:  Jessica Machetta)

Dan Isom speaks to the media after being introduced as the new Director of the Department of Public Safety. (Photo credit: Jessica Machetta)

Dan Isom is the former Chief of the nearby St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and has been announced as the new Department of Public Safety Director. Nixon touts Isom’s impressive resume as a law enforcement officer, well-educated about criminal justice.

Ferguson has been rocked by periods of rioting and looting in the past two weeks; violence carried out by some but not all of those protesting the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer. Perhaps nowhere in the state is public safety a more pressing concern, but neither Nixon nor Isom would talk specifically about what has happened, or will be happening, in Ferguson.

“First as I take on this role I plan to do a lot of listening and a lot of learning,” Isom told reporters as part of a prepared statement on Wednesday.

Nixon reminded reporters that the position’s responsibilities would be statewide.

“We could have a tornado in some town tomorrow and then that side of the equation would get going,” says Nixon. “I think the first relatively short period of time here, the chief’s focus will be on getting a good hold, both intellectually and operationally, of the department that he’s leading.”

Reporters asked Nixon about how Isom’s experience will help in Ferguson or how the new appointee might attack that issue, but the governor declined specifics.

He did give a nod to the urgency of the situation, however.

“I just think it’s a really, obviously, clearly an important time for seasoned leadership here,” says Nixon. “Cops on the beat and the citizens of the state, I think they’re going to be well-served by our new director.”

Isom’s is subject to approval by the state Senate.

Earlier story:  Gov. Nixon names former St. Louis Police Chief new Department of Public Safety Director

Guard withdraws from Ferguson, command center stands down

The command center where the National Guard, Highway Patrol and local police coordinated efforts in Ferguson for much of the past two weeks has been taken down.

Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson (center) announces the unified command center at Ferguson has been dismantled.  (photo credit; Jessica Machetta)

Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson (center) announces the unified command center at Ferguson has been dismantled. (photo credit; Jessica Machetta)

The command center was established while protests, some that became violent, continued night after night after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

After a series of nights without outbreaks of violence, Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson says it was clear a scale back could occur.

He told reporters on Wednesday, “Yesterday and last night there was one arrest, for carrying a concealed weapon. That was not related to the protesters. Friday night there were zero arrests, Saturday night there were six arrests, Sunday it was zero, Monday night it was zero, and as I said, there was only one arrest last night.”

Johnson added, “Again last night officers serving in the unified command deployed no tear gas, no smoke devices, no mace, and again no police officer fired a single bullet.”

Johnson was placed in command of security in Ferguson as Governor Jay Nixon (D), amid criticism, was attempting to ease tensions, and that seems to have happened.

“Early in the response to Ferguson there was tension between law enforcement and some of the protesters,” says Johnson. “I think all of you who have been in Ferguson the last several days have noticed a positive change toward relationship building.”

Johnson believes the tension is easing across the region.

“Change started because we in law enforcement are listening. It is hard to listen when people are shouting. It’s hard for children to learn when schools are closed. It’s hard to keep a business running when they’re being looted. Those are things that are not happening in Ferguson because people are communicating with one another.”

Johnson says a unified command does continue, but the Guard has withdrawn and St. Louis City Police are back on their normal turf.