Tower Grove East Neighborhood Association Feb. 28, 2012 – General Membership Meeting Minutes
7:00 Welcome and New Members – Melanie DeRousse, President, TGENA
New: David – 2400 block of Hartford and T.J. – 2300 block of Michigan
Returning after long period: Chris – 2900 block of Compton
– Website: www.towergroveeast.org
– Decals – available NOW! ($2 if not a member, free to members)
– T-shirts available at STL-Style at Compton and Cherokee
– Renew your membership – Paypal is finally working on the website!
– Looking for a new social committee chair: Lorraine Fedio would like to step down, but wants to find someone to fill her place first.
7:05 Announcements from Police 3rd District – No one showed up…
7:20 Featured Speaker: Circuit Judge Robin Ransom Vannoy – Missouri’s 22nd Judicial Circuit Court – St. Louis City.
On screen: Facts about the Circuit Court:
The first court opened here in 1828. Today the Circuit Court conducts over 300 jury trials a year…
First: Intro and info by Michael Murphy – Public information officer
Explained that it’s the Municipal Court, not Circuit, that does traffic tickets, etc.
The Circuit Court is a State Court. There are 3 MO courts of appeals (Eastern, Western, and Southern) and there is the MO Supreme court.
There are two buildings: The Carnahan Courthouse and the Civil Courts Bldg.
There are 24 Circuit Judges, and 7 Associate Circuit Judges, appointed by the governor, and 5 commissioners.
Official documents, etc., are taken care of in the Clerk’s office.
There are 3 “sections” (?): Court En Banc, Court Administration and Court Employees
There are 2 Arraignment Divisions: Divisions 25 and 26. They set bonds and transfer to trial, if necessary. They also do Neighborhood Orders of Protection. Violators can lose their bonds and have their probations revoked.
The website is www.courts.mo.gov
You can go to www.courts.mo.gove/casenet follow cases. They are listed by name and case numbers. Click on “docket entries” to see what’s going on in a case.
If the case numbers have a dash and a number after them, they’ve been kicked up from associate circuit court to circuit court. You should then follow their cases by the number with the dash in it.
The Docket entry tab gives the whole history of the case. There are other tabs, as well, on the page, which you can use to follow the case.
Juvenile Court is for ages 16 or younger. Usually these are abuse and neglect cases, but if they commit a crime at age 17 or older, they will be tried as adults.
There is a Drug Court, since 1996, trying to break the high recidivism cycle, which happens because there are not enough beds in the prisons, and prisoners were not getting treatment before release. Now, if they go through Drug Court, they get 18 months of intensive treatment, which is working to break the cycle.
The Circuit Court includes all courtrooms, but they are the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court.
Judge Robin Vannoy Speaks:
She is in the Civil Courts Bldg, Division 3, 5th floor. She gave a lot of her background history: She was a Family court commissioner for awhile, then a prosecutor there. (Family/Domestic court takes care of divorces, etc.) She worked with the Juvenile Court for a while, and that’s where her passion lies. But she’s been in the Trial division since 2011, and is starting to get used to it. She’s from North City, originally, and now lives in South City, west of Grand.
Judge Vannoy takes questions:
Q:“What can neighborhoods do that helps the most with crime?”
A: Send “impact letters” to court, if you’ve been a victim of a crime. They are considered when sentences are given. The choices the judges have are giving prison or probation. Honestly, if it’s a first offense, in 9 out of 10 cases they won’t be sent to prison. If there’s an order in place to keep the criminal out of a neighborhood, that person can only be kept out during probation. But write letters. ALL letters are read. Victim Impact Statements are considered.
If you don’t feel enough is being done, contact local political people to contact the court on your behalf.
Property crimes, like copper theft, often include drug issues, so the perps usually go into programs instead of prison.
*But*: The courts honestly don’t get much activity from neighborhood groups. She encouraged us to go to trials – “just for fun…” All trials, except those of juveniles are open, so we can show up, which sometimes makes a difference, but often does not affect the outcome of the trial…
Q: “How do you feel about the decriminalization of marijuana?”
A: I don’t think it would affect things very much. Unless you are selling, it’s only a misdemeanor or a short stay in a city prison. Crack, heroin and cocaine are the drugs that are making the impacts.
An aside by the judge: It’s a daunting task to be a judge. You’re up there deciding things about people you don’t know. And justice has to be blind, in a way. You can’t let your own bias affect anything.
Q: “What are your views of expunging people’s records?”
A: I wish it was easier to do, because lots of people do dumb things when they’re young, and once they’re older, and probably stand-up citizens, it’s hard to get those past “mistakes” expunged. It used to be easier. But now there’s a hearing, and the prosecutor’s office also has to agree. I wish we could all get one “free pass.”
Q: How backlogged are your caseloads?
A: The last few judges cleared up the backlog.
She talked about Jury duty coming around for residents approx. every 3-4 years. If it’s more often, it’s usually because of a glitch in the system, which can be checked into.
She talked about the selection process of judges: In St. Louis and Kansas city, all judges are appointed by the governor, in a non-partisan court plan. First they are interviewed by a Judicial commission, made up if a chief judge of the court of appeals, 2 attorneys, 2 lay people and another judge. These interviews are open – anyone can watch. Then the panel secretly picks the top 3 choices, who are then interviewed in Jeff. City by the governor or his staff, who then get 3 days to make the appointment. The judge then serves 6 years. In other towns and cities judges are elected. Candidates only have to be 30 years old and good citizens. She feels this leads to judges being chosen by who raises the most money and is best liked, rather than who is best for the job. With the non-partisan court plan, she feels that the panels knows what they are looking for, and usually choose seasoned folks who are suitable for the job. Of course, she also realizes that, even with this plan, choices can be influenced by political connections…
After their appointments, the judges are not “beholden” to the governor or the commission. With elected judges, they remain beholden to their campaign donors because they will be raising money from the same donors in their next elections. The non-partisan plan helps keep money out of it. Some people are working in Jefferson
City to get all judges elected. She thinks this is a bad idea…
Melanie: The third place where the non-partisan court plan is in place is in Greene County, I believe.
The judge talked about the relative safety of living in the city vs. the county. She feels that, in general it’s fairly safe, but warned people about walking around in the So. Grand area, between 11 p.m. And 1 a.m., especially. She feels it’s very dangerous. There have been some serious assaults, so watch out! There are often young people around at that time, looking for trouble along the side streets (where she resides).
Q: How do you feel about rehabilitation programs vs. prison?
A: The rehabilitative programs are less expensive than housing prisoners, so there’s a lot of pressure not to lock people up. And, once someone is sent to prison, the court no longer has control of what happens. The prison people can choose to let the prisoners out whenever they choose.
She talked about prior or persistent offenders being more likely to go to prison. Some folks are sent to prison for 120 days, then given probation, in what’s called “Shock” probation.
She also mentioned some get 18 months in prison, then probation.
She encouraged us to come to the courts – for fun, and to learn!!
She then stayed after the meeting to answer questions and talk to everyone who wanted to talk to her.
7:45 (?)Announcements from elected officials and/or their staff, if any:
6th Ward: Ald. Kacie Starr-Triplett: Kacie had to leave early. If you’d like to contact her, her phone number is 314-622-32897 – her secretary’s name is Michelle. Ald. Triplett’s email address is Triplettk@stlouis.com
NSO – Felicia Henderson: Was not present
8th Ward: Ald. Steve Conway: Was not present
NSO Michelle Boston David was present, and shared info.
15th Ward: From Ald. Jennifer Florida and NSO Judy Lane, who couldn’t come: The building at 3500 McKeen is slated for redevelopment. Christian Saller (TGENA Residential Development Chair) will keep us posted. Another building on that block is slated for demolition, or has been demolished.
Michael Butler, a legislative aide from Robin Wright Jones’ office spoke. He spoke about action taken on Feb. 1, regarding Senate Bill 592: the “Alabama” anti-discrimination bill, which makes it harder to sue a company, limits amounts on punitive damage, and prohibits collecting damages from any government agency. Wright and the Kansas City senator filibustered the bill. The main backer of the bill is the MO Chamber of Commerce and the Republican legislators.
Every human rights organization was against it.
He also talked about the Senate maps, regarding the redistricting after the 2010 census.
House maps are final, but there is one more step before the Senate maps are finished.
He mentioned Feb. 28 being the filing day for all candidates. Senator Wright filed. He said she was the most productive of all the Democratic senators.
That today they passed a bill for more Capitol security. Currently there is not much security. The building is open to all, and there are no checks for guns. Recently there hadbeen “target” stickers placed on some senators cars, and letters were received that were quite offensive.
Note: State Rep. Jeannette Mott Oxford is unable to attend our meetings due to a conflict in her schedule. She welcomes you to reach her by her cell phone – 314-775-8940 or e-mail at email@example.com.
Amber Whittington from Senator Carnahan’s office spoke briefly. He did file for the 1st senatorial district, which includes our area. The new map should have 3 seats for St. Louis in the MO House.
Jerome Murray, 6th Ward Problem Properties, got up and gave his phone number: 314-771-9800 to report any nuisance or problem properties in your area.
7:50 Brief announcements – Melanie DeRousse
a. Neighborhood ownership model:
Key component: CITIZENS ON PATROL TRAINING (see handouts) - need a LOT of people to get trained. Officer Calabro is helping to train people and can tell where and when crime usually occurs, so that we can target areas where crime is developing. The model also includes reaching out to crime victims. Its a more directed form of crime fighting than “just” the Neighborhood Watch. Can talk to Melanie or Norah Ryan, safety chair, for more info.
b. OPERATION BRIGHTSIDE is coming APRIL 28-29
Weekend. If you want to be a Brightside block captain, pick up materials at desk.
7:55 No member announcements this month.
8:00 Conclude and happy hour.
March 27: Speakers on problem/nuisance properties and neighborhood services!
April 24: Mayor Slay!