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Local-control backers launch petition drive to get on ballot

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 30, 2012 - St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay was among the political leaders who kicked off the initiative-petition drive this morning to persuade Missouri voters to grant St. Louis local control of its police department.

Slay joined Jeff Roorda of the St. Louis Police Officers Association in signing the first petitions at an event in St. Louis this morning at the Southside Wellness Center. The aim is to get the matter on the fall statewide ballot.

The Safer Missouri Citizens Coalition is leading the initiative-petition drive, in which roughly 160,000 signatures will be needed from registered voters around the state. Activists must collect a specified minimum number from each of at least six of the state's current nine congressional districts.

The signatures must be turned into the secretary of state's office by May 6.

Public-affairs consultant and KMOX radio personality Michael Kelley served as the emcee, saying in an interview afterward that the event highlighted the cooperation between the city and the police group, which long were at odds on the issue.  The association backs the initiative, as a result of an agreement last year that produced the first collective-bargaining agreement between the city and the police.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.