Short Cuts

Radio Free St. Louis Goes to Jail; Ald Bauer, Get Your Ass Out of Town; The Crotchety Senator from Crystal City

 RADIO FREE ST. LOUIS GOES TO JAIL: "That slam that you just heard right there, that was the slam of the paddy wagon (door) as we're being taken over to Hall Street," Lizz Brown of WGNU (920 AM) broadcast as she was being hauled off to the hoosegow Monday morning. Perhaps it wasn't a vintage Edward R. Murrow line, but the live remote for Brown's morning show provided one of the more fitting climaxes of street — uh, interstate highway — reporting.

Lizz "Livin' life as a liberal and lovin' it" Brown had been beating the drum for weeks about the lack of minority employment for I-70 repair work. Friday, she had the Rev. Al Sharpton on her show by phone from New York City, promoting the demonstration to block the highway in protest. Sharpton and an array of local African-American politicians, officials and demonstrators showed up and were arrested before 7 a.m. Monday for blocking I-70 at the Goodfellow Boulevard exit.

Brown was busted, too, though she didn't get the celebrity treatment. The high-profile types — including Sharpton, ringleader Eric Vickers and assorted local politicians — were led into police vans while still on the highway. Brown and others weren't loaded up until they had walked up to the Goodfellow overpass.

The Rev. Al Sharpton was among the notables escorted to jail.
Jennifer Silverberg
The Rev. Al Sharpton was among the notables escorted to jail.

Even after being loaded onto the police van, Brown kept taking calls from listeners on her cell phone on her way to be booked, greeting each caller with the familiar "Good morning, you're on the Wake-Up Call." For the regulars who called in, she was a martyr to the cause; to other listeners tired of her soapboxing, it may have seemed too good to be true: Lizz Brown behind bars. Her cell phone finally crackled to a halt as she asked questions of her intern, who had also been arrested. There was some dead air before the station cut to a Lizz Brown spot for "Xpress Lube — get your oil changed here."

Even for WGNU, which bills itself as "Radio Free St. Louis" because of its eclectic and participatory flair, having the show end with the host in jail was fringe material. Listeners could only daydream whether the same could come true for other hosts, other shows. But who would post bond for Couch Potato or Gordon Baum?

One of the calls Brown took while in custody was from a man distressed that such a demonstration was necessary despite recent advances in African-American representation. "It makes me mad that we have a black mayor, a black police chief, a black comptroller, and here we still have to fight for some employment, some piece of the pie," the caller complained. At least some of the politicians showed up. Among those who were down by law were state Reps. Charles Quincy Troupe and Paula Carter, state Sen. J.B. "Jet" Banks and Ald. Freeman Bosley Sr. On the scene but not arrested was Comptroller Darlene Green.

It was evident early on that the protest was serious business; at the head of the demonstrators, arm-in-arm, were Zaki Baruti of the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression, the Urban League's James Buford and the Rev. Eugene Fowler. Fowler and Baruti were to be expected at the demonstration, but the presence of the two flanking Buford showed the spectrum of support for the protest.

That cross section of leadership, coupled with Gov. Mel Carnahan's running for the U.S. Senate and wanting to appear empathetic but not too much so, favored a safe, polite, media-friendly event. Coming to some type of amicable resolution to the issue won't be that easy or predictable.

ALD. BAUER, GET YOUR ASS OUT OF TOWN: Ald. Thomas Bauer (D-24th) has barely been elected, but already he's making his mark on the city's august deliberative body. On Friday, for the better part — or, depending on your perspective, the worse part — of an hour, Bauer argued against a bill by Ald. Jim Shrewsbury (D-16th) banning "working" trailers from city streets unless they are in use (e.g., a landscape company could park its trailer while its workers are cutting grass).

Bauer charged that the bill, if passed, would lead to the prohibition of all manner of righteous activity — pony rides for kids; people "working for Wash U." renting a U-Haul trailer to move to Dogtown; junkmen trolling alleys for useful trash; lawn men parking their trailers at "pristine Francis Park" to use the public toilets. Because Shrewsbury's bill banned "equipment trailers" on residential streets, the "debate" led to exchanges like this one: "Are ponies equipment?" Bauer asked. "I have no idea," answered Shrewsbury. Imagine the ratings boost for C-SPAN if it had picked this up.

The subplot to all this is that Bauer has a donkey at his Dogtown residence, and he parks a trailer for it in front of his house. The bill, which passed, prohibits him from doing that. Bauer tried to cast the issue as one of class conflict, saying the bill was spurred by "yacht envy" in St. Louis Hills, the upscale far-Southwest City neighborhood where, Bauer said, residents become jealous when neighbors park their large boats on the street. He told Shrewsbury that the 16th Ward was trying to inflict the "social standards of one ward" on the whole city.

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