When St. Louis Mayor Clarence Harmon makes the claim that he's not a politician, it's stated with certain disdain for the profession, as if being a politician and mayor would be a bad idea. Last Thursday, when Harmon wanted to paint one of his mayoral opponents, Aldermanic President Francis Slay, as a political insider, he got some publicity by saying Slay's neutral stance on a casino in Lemay was triggered by Slay's having a relative involved in the South County casino proposal.
"Another deal has been cut, and the people of the city of St. Louis are on the losing end," Harmon said at a rally in opposition to the casino proposal. Harmon and others fear a South County casino would be a major hit on the President Casino on the Admiral.
On the same day, Harmon issued another statement about why he wouldn't attend the latest meeting of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, of which he is a member. In that release, this spin was spun: "Harmon said the Board had no plans to finalize the promotion of Captain Beverly Noble-Barnes to Lieutenant Colonel at today's meeting, so he felt his presence was not needed. Harmon said he continues to support the promotion of Captain Noble-Barnes to Lieutenant Colonel and would like the promotion finalized as soon as possible."
The more cynical among us might believe that Harmon's absence had more to do with the fallout from the promotion of Noble-Barnes, his nominee, to lieutenant colonel. The promotion had just been waylaid by a temporary court order by Circuit Judge David Mason; Mason ruled that the Police Board had violated its own rules and state law by leapfrogging Barnes-Noble from captain to lieutenant colonel, skipping over the rank of major. Three majors had sued to stop the promotion.
Noble-Barnes was not Police Chief Ron Henderson's first choice for the promotion. Likewise, Henderson didn't want an assistant police chief, but he got one anyway, in the person of Col. Joseph Mokwa. In an effort to placate Henderson, the promotion of someone to lieutenant colonel was planned. But Harmon, who will never be considered a close associate of Henderson's, did not want Henderson ally Maj. Greg Hawkins promoted to lieutenant colonel. The choice of Noble-Barnes, an African-American woman, was more politically expedient, so she was picked, even though she was just a captain. With three votes required, board president Eddie Roth and commissioner Mark Smith needed Harmon's vote to promote Mokwa. For the Noble-Barnes promotion, Harmon needed Roth's and Smith's. It was Let's Make a Deal without Monty Hall.
The board meeting was held a day after Mason's ruling, and for once a police-board meeting promised to be interesting. The Rev. Maurice Nutt, a new commissioner, apologized to Henderson for the snafu over the Noble-Barnes promotion. Nutt said he was unaware that Noble-Barnes was not Henderson's first choice. Another commissioner, Dr. Leslie Bond, said he was "in the dark" about how the decision was made and offered that "there should be a process for such a promotion."
Roth, without Harmon at the meeting, was left to fend for himself. He and the board announced that Henderson will come up with a formal procedure to promote captains to majors. Roth maintained that the Noble-Barnes promotion would still be pursued. The tactic of promoting her to major, then to lieutenant colonel, might be pursued, giving new meaning to the term "fast track." In the courts, the case has been shifted to Circuit Judge Robert Dierker, which may change the judicial chemistry of the case.
Because it was Harmon who picked Noble-Barnes, questions linger as to why the former police chief didn't know a leap from captain to lieutenant colonel might be blocked by the courts. And if deals are being made to set up promotions, with the situation turning into a train wreck, why doesn't the conductor show up to sort through the wreckage?
Deal-making, backroom politics and horse-trading are nothing new in the city's police department. No one gets to be chief of police without being knee-deep, waist-deep or chin-deep in politics. Harmon is no novice at this -- just ask former state Sen. J.B. "Jet" Banks or former Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. When Harmon says he isn't a politician, all it means is that this is the first time he's been elected to office. It's just turned out that being mayor of a troubled city is a rough place to start.
NEW LIFE SAME AS OLD LIFE FOR ONION, KASEN: Maybe it's like the stages of the moon, or the alignment of planets. Periodically, Mark Kasen and Richard "Onion" Horton get on a radio station and stir up the pot; next there's some financial dispute, and then they're off the air. First it was WGNU (920 AM), then the KWK (1380 AM) "black talk radio" experience, and now it's WINU (880 AM). This time it's Kasen and WINU owner the Rev. Larry Rice embroiled in a $30,000 disagreement.
These flaps may look similar, but Kasen says there are variations on the theme. "Basically it was over money," he says of this most recent go-round. "Last time it was a little bit about money and a little bit about politics."
Mark Glenn, of the New Life Evangelistic Center, says Kasen and Horton owe the station close to $30,000. Glenn says he has several bounced checks from Horton Productions for thousands of dollars. Without payment of the money owed, Glenn says, the pair will not be allowed back on the air.
The basic premise of such arrangements is that on-air time is purchased and then most or all of the revenue from the ads sold goes to whoever bought the time -- in this case, Kasen and Horton. But, of course, nothing is that simple. Often it amounts to revenue sharing, so that if x amount of revenue is generated, the station may be paid a different amount.
"It was complicated," says Kasen. "Right now the station is getting zero, literally zero. They turned down $26,000. Whatever it is they thought they wanted, the end result is they're getting zero instead of $26,000. That only says to me they must not have wanted us."
From Glenn's perspective, the station wanted the money he believed it was owed before Horton and Kasen, each of whom has his own show, would be allowed back on the air. From Kasen's perspective, if they weren't on the air, they couldn't generate any more revenue. "We do owe them some money, OK?" says Kasen. "But the point is, we're attempting to pay it as part of the arrangement to be on the air. Without being on the air with our advertisers, they've got to be kidding if they think they're getting money from us."
As to why the two didn't generate more dough, Kasen says the signal was weak, Rice never made a serious on-air commitment and the programming was a hodgepodge of sports, talk and religion. "Rice is not a businessman; he's into religion, not into business," says Kasen. "Anything we had that was interesting from a business standpoint just didn't interest him."
But Kasen and Horton aren't about to fade into the sunset. There's still the trial, slated for November, in which they're suing their old lawyers for stealing the KWK business away from them, and plans are afoot for "newblackcity.com," an Internet-based radio station.
FLOTSAM AND JETSAM: For the last few weeks, folks waking up to KTRS (550 AM) haven't heard Dan Dierdorf. And, chances are, they won't hear much of him in the future. The morning show is being billed as Kevin and Wendy because Kevin "Carpe Diem" Slaten and Wendy Wiese are on their own. Starting in late July, Dierdorf will appear on the morning show "a couple of times" a week in a "featured presentation for 10, 15 minutes at a time," says KTRS station manager Fred Zielonko. "He'll be on in the morning on occasion and doing some sports programing as well," Zielonko says. Dierdorf still has a financial interest in the station, but, Zielonko says, his upcoming NFL broadcasting commitment (this season he's being paired with Dick Enberg) has increased, necessitating the reduced KTRS involvement. Well, maybe, but it might be that to pay for the right to broadcast the Blues, all the pennies had to be pinched, even those going to Big Dan.... Does anyone miss Cole Campbell, the former St. Louis Post-Dispatch grand mogul? Well, check out www.poynter.org, where he's posted a two-parter pretentiously titled "Putting Journalism's Best Face Forward." And in the July/August edition of American Journalism Review, AJR senior writer Alicia Shepard has a feature about Campbell titled "The End of the Line." Perhaps the best part of the AJR piece is the illustration, which shows Campbell seated in the lotus position next to burning incense and a Lava Lamp. If only he had been goofy in that way -- he might have been interesting.
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