"Noble" Ferguson Librarian Scott Bonner Gets Lemony Snicket Prize

Categories: Ferguson

Photo Courtesy of the American Library Association
Scott Bonner (right) with Mo Willems and his brand-new award, which was designed by Willems.
As far as awards go, "The Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity" sounds like something out of, well, a children's book -- it's named with just the right combination of dramatic flair and whimsy.

But this is no children's book. And it's certainly not fiction. Instead, this weekend, Ferguson Public Library Director Scott Bonner received a prize titled exactly that, along with $10,000, at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in San Francisco.

The award was presented by Mr. Lemony Snicket himself, aka Daniel Handler, as well as noted children's author Jacqueline Woodson and beloved illustrator Mo Willems.

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New Ferguson City Manager Ed Beasley Dogged by Missteps at Previous Job

Categories: Ferguson, News

Ed Beasley (right), Ferguson's new city manager, told a press conference that taking the position was "a calling" and "a great opportunity."
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III might insist his new interim city manager Ed Beasley is "an excellent choice for the city" -- but Knowles might as well be trying to hide a grizzly bear under a napkin.

On Tuesday, just hours before the city announced the hiring, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on the trail of scandals leading from Beasley to his former employer, the financially beleaguered city of Glendale, Arizona, where he worked as city manager from 2002 to 2012.

The crux of the Post-Dispatch report was a 2013 audit commissioned by Glendale's city council, which accused Beasley and other administrators of shifting millions of dollars among several accounts to cover a retirement program's losses. Beasley, the audit alleged, intentionally concealed the financial shenanigans from the Glendale city council.

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Ferguson Municipal Public Library Is 2015 "Library of the Year"

Photo by Mitch Ryals
Shaila and Janeatha Evans were among the many Ferguson residents who came to the library after unrest closed the schools. Here they show off their art projects to RFT journalist Mitch Ryals.

The Ferguson Municipal Public Library is the 2015 Library of the Year.

The $10,000 prize, officially titled the 2015 Library Journal/Gale Cengage Learning Library of the Year, was announced yesterday. The award is given to the library that "most profoundly demonstrates service to the community, creativity and innovation in developing specific community programs or a dramatic increase in library usage; and leadership in creating programs that can be emulated by other libraries."

Naturally, the library's role in serving the community during the unrest that gripped Ferguson last summer was what caught the judges' eye.

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STL County Police Dispatcher Recalls Ferguson: "Some of the Craziest Stuff I've Ever Heard"

Categories: Ferguson, Police

Danny Wicentowski
Rick Kranz will listen to your problems -- and send help.
There's a call coming in for Rick Kranz.

"911 St. Louis County. Location of your emergency?"

On the line is a hotel desk clerk. In a thick accent, she says a guest needs immediate medical attention. No, she doesn't know what the medical issue is. She only knows that the guest is a woman, she's in room 126 and needs an ambulance.

"Let me get the paramedics on the phone, do not hang up," says Kranz, a watch supervisor for the St. Louis County Police Department. He swivels in a towering leather office chair to face three computer monitors. In seconds, he hammers out a few keystrokes and routes the call through the fire department to reach emergency medical services, or EMS. As he listens to a paramedic question the hotel clerk, Kranz sends updates to a radio dispatcher sitting on the other side of this sprawling, cubicle-filled call center in the basement of county police headquarters in Clayton.

Barely one minute after taking the call, an officer confirms with Kranz that he's heading to the hotel to assist the paramedics. Kranz hangs up the phone.

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Someone is Stealing "Black Lives Matter" Signs From Churches and Homes

Categories: Ferguson

Jessica Lussenhop
First Congregational United Church of Christ in Clayton.

When Reverend Mary Gene Boteler of Second Presbyterian Church first noticed that a small yard sign saying "Black Lives Matter" was missing from one of the church's green spaces, she had several thoughts. The first was that someone in the neighborhood hadn't agreed with the phrase's political sentiment -- "Black Lives Matter" has become an iconic message against police brutality, emblazoned on signs at marches around the country. The second was more optimistic -- someone had stolen it in order to put it up in his own yard.

But then she started hearing from other church leaders.

"As I hear others having their signs stolen, it seems it may be a concerted effort for folks to drive through areas and pick up the signs," she says. "A concerted effort by people to end the conversation."

The person who wrenched down the sign at First Congregational Church of St. Louis in Clayton had to put even more work into it -- theirs was tethered to a metal readerboard on the corner of Wydown and University Lane in Clayton.

"We do get mail complaining about the banner, saying 'Black Lives Matter is not saying all lives matter, so it's against Jesus,'" says Reverend Heather Arcovitch.

The third church that's been hit is First Unitarian Church of St. Louis on the corner of Waterman and Kingshighway. The signs began disappearing sometime last week.

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Ferguson City Council Will Consider Request for Permanent Michael Brown Memorial

Jessica Lussenhop
The weather-worn memorial on Canfield Drive, November 11, 2014.

The spot in the street where Michael Brown died has become hallowed ground in the past eight months. A memorial there grew from a bunch of roses laid by his mother to a tall, narrow pile of stuffed animals, framed pictures, T-shirts, flowers and other trinkets. An even more massive memorial bloomed on a nearby lamp post.

Though it has attracted visitors from all over the world, some locals have grown weary of it.

"There's a lot of residents that are not happy with dodging a memorial in the middle of the street," says Ferguson mayor James Knowles. "We've had to try to plow around it in the winter months. We've had people, unfortunately, drive through them, whether it's purposeful or accidental. It creates a road hazard."

Last night, the issue was formally brought before the newly seated Ferguson City Council in the form of a letter from the Joint Council On Policy and Social Impact, requesting in conjunction with the Brown family that a permanent marker be laid and the current memorial cleared.

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Michael Brown Memorial Tree One of Two Destroyed in Ferguson

Categories: Crime, Ferguson

Tony Rice aka @search4swag
The damaged Michael Brown memorial tree and the hole where a plaque once sat.
UPDATE: We've updated this story to include comments from a member of the Black Caucus' executive committee. See our update at the bottom of the post.

Original story follows....

On Saturday, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association dedicated a memorial in January-Wabash Park in Ferguson honoring Michael Brown.

By Sunday, the memorial had already been destroyed -- the tree planted in Brown's honor damaged, and the stone memorial missing, KMOV (CHannel 4) reports.

As it turns out, however, two trees at the January-Wabash Park were damaged this weekend, and now two plaques are missing, says activist Tony Rice, who visited the site this morning. The tree featured in the KMOV report that was completely destroyed was dedicated to someone else -- the Michael Brown tree was damaged but still has some leafy green leaves on top.

However, both trees are missing their plaques. Brown's had said simply, "In Memory of Michael Brown Jr. Dedicated tree 4/15."

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Former St. Louis Cop: "Police Don't Care What Your Rights Are" During Protests

Categories: Ferguson, Police

Danny Wicentowski
Terrell Carter.
The words were chanted in the streets of Ferguson, blasted from car stereo systems and graffitied on the plywood panels covering store windows: "Fuck the police."

Yet amid the police shootings, mass demonstrations and intense media coverage of the past eight months, we've rarely had the chance to hear from officers on the ground, those men and women who stood silently on picket lines as protesters hurled invective and insults. Daily RFT's attempts to interview officers directly were repeatedly rebuffed. Occasionally, police chiefs and public relations officials updated reporters on general morale, but officers from the St. Louis region's various police departments largely closed their ranks to outsiders.

However, some former officers have chosen to speak out about their experiences on the force. Terrell Carter, now a minister, artist and teacher, served as a cop for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department from 1997 to 2002. This year, he published a memoir of his years policing St. Louis' streets, Walking the Thin Blue Line: A Police Officer Turned Community Activist Provides Solutions to the Racial Divide.

We sat down with Carter this week to talk about St. Louis' police culture and how he thinks police could have better handled the Ferguson protests.

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Ferguson Court Clerk Fired for Racist Emails Says Losing Her Job Was Like "Being Raped"

Categories: Ferguson

Mary Ann Twitty thinks racist jokes are all right, as long as they're funny.
"It took me a while to get over the feeling of being raped and being thrown under that bus."

That was how Mary Ann Twitty, the former Ferguson court clerk, described getting fired from her job after the U.S. Department of Justice released emails containing a bunch of racist jokes that she'd forwarded to two police officers.

It was one of several off-putting responses in a raging garbage fire of an interview with KMOV (Channel 4) yesterday, during which Twitty also rejected the conclusions of the DOJ report that accused of her of setting high fines and encouraging officers to write more tickets.

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Ferguson Elects Two New Black City Council Members

Categories: Ferguson

Jessica Lussenhop
The former makeup of the Ferguson city council, from September 2014.

The citizens of Ferguson elected three new members to its city council yesterday, bringing its members from majority white to half African American.

Ella Jones won decisively in Ward 1, replacing former Ferguson police officer Kim Tihen. Former Ferguson mayor and I Love Ferguson founder Brian Fletcher edged out activist Bob Hudgins in the 2nd. Finally, Velda City municipal judge and St. Louis Community College professor Wesley Bell claimed victory over opponent Lee Smith in Ward 3.

"We could not be more ecstatic -- that means we're reaching our constituents," says Bell. "When you have a community that is engaged, the sky's the limit."

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