Farewell, Joe LeGrand

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Once upon a time I didn’t like Joe LeGrand.

It was 3rd grade. I was in the Epiphany Toppers Drum and Bugle Corps, and Joe was a bugler who stood right in front of me. He kept turning around and giving me dirty looks. So I decided right then and there that I didn’t like him.

Joe was a year ahead of me in school. While our lives intersected a lot, we weren’t really close. We ran in different circles in grade school and high school.

But he started working at Binder’s Market in St. Louis Hills, and my mom and dad went in there a lot, so I ran into him now and then. Those encounters–about 1989–were confusing. He’d smile when he recognized me–like he’d been waiting for me to walk in because he had a great story to tell me. Just me, no one else.

He usually did.

Joe and his brothers eventually bought Binder’s and renamed it LeGrand’s. The store didn’t accept food stamps, but the LeGrand generosity was unlimited. They donated everything, including their time and their infinite spirit. And their endless smiles.

I like all the LeGrands, but Joe ended up being one of the people I admired most. He gave my nephew a job when my nephew was very young. Taught him more about customer service than all the MBAs graduated in the last 40 years will ever know. Not that Scottie doesn’t have a natural talent for sales and getting customers what they want–he does. But Joe LeGrand exposed that talent and helped teach Scottie how to let it shine. And Scottie wasn’t the only student of Joe LeGrand’s customer service school.

LeGrand’s served simply the best sandwiches, brats, barbecue, and meats in South St. Louis for 30 years. And no one ever went in and out of LeGrand’s without feeling they’d just spent time with good friends. Here’s what Joe told Feast Magazine about knowing his customers:

“We know ‘em by name,” LeGrand says with conviction. “When they hit the door, we’re making their sandwich. I have customers who come in and we change the radio station. I’ll put on some Dean Martin. We know these customers that well.”

Yeah. Hear that, BoA? (Is the Deano for Scottie?)

Joe LeGrand passed away last week. He was only 52–one year older than me.

Joe’s death leaves a big hole in this world, especially in South St. Louis. We can take some solace in the fact that Joe taught a lot of young people how to serve the public, how to give more to customers than customers expected for their dollar, and how to smile no matter how bad you hurt.

And he taught me a lesson I need to learn over and over again: when you decide you don’t like someone, you’re probably wrong.

I was wrong in 3rd grade. Joe LeGrand was a stand-up man who would change the world for many people.

Eternal rest grant unto him, Lord, and let the the perpetual light shine upon him.

How the chippies will miss him.

More reactions:

Riverfront Times:

Who is going to replace LeGrand at the market? “Nobody is going to replace him. We’re still trying to decide what is going to happen,” said Perry.

Instead of flowers, the family asked that memorial donations be made in LeGrand’s name to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We also suggest you have a great sandwich to honor him. His favorite was the “LeGrand Special” — roast beef, turkey, corned beef, cheddar, lettuce and tomato.

Ted Drewes

The South St. Louis Community lost a very dear friend this past week. Joe LeGrand’s pride and passion for providing us…

Posted by Ted Drewes Inc. on Monday, August 3, 2015

Joe serves an excellent steak. Image clipped from http://www.feastmagazine.com/dine-out/features/article_35e2179a-2eef-11e4-a9b6-0017a43b2370.html

Keep Missouri Money in Missouri with TEA

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Transportation Empowerment Act gives states control and funding for their roads. It is a far superior to the Highway Trust Fund, which is slush fund for pork projects.

Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA) from Senator Mike Lee would gradually shift federal gasoline taxes from Washington back to the states where they were collected without a Washington DC handling fee and without strings attached.

TEA embodies an idea I first heard from Ronald Reaganwhen he was governor of California. It’s time to end the Highway Trust Fund, which is bankrupt anyway. The HTF might have made sense when Eisenhower proposed the interstate highway system, but that project finished in 1990—during George H. W. Bush’s term in office. (Someone born in 1990 is 25 today.)

I’ve heard people freak out in public over TEA, believing it has something to do with toll roads. It doesn’t. It would give states more control over their own transportation, but it would also leave more money in states to fix problems. If states want to turn highways into toll roads, they’ll do it anyway. (Besides, I thought conservatives believed in people paying for what they use?)

Thomas Jefferson foresaw the problems with the federal government building highways. In a letter to James Madison he wrote:

Have you considered all the consequences of your proposition respecting post roads? I view it as a source of boundless patronage to the executive, jobbing to members of Congress & their friends, and a bottomless abyss of public money. You will begin by only appropriating the surplus of the post office revenues; but the other revenues will soon be called into their aid, and it will be a scene of eternal scramble among the members, who can get the most money wasted in their State; and they will always get most who are meanest.

How right TJ was.

While Congress is in recess, call your members and ask them to support TEA. Keep our money here in Missouri. Leave Washington DC to support itself for a change.

Here’s What’s Happening on the Muni Courts Front

Reading Time: 2 minutes

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

— The Declaration of Independence

Back in August, I asked for your help in pushing for municipal court reform.

Cities that abuse their police and courts destroy liberty:

Together, these offenses against liberty and decency rise to the level offenses against which we rebelled in the 18th century.

Auditor Schweich’s Municipal Courts Project

In November, State Auditor Tom Schweich announced the Municipal Courts Project. The Auditor will audit 10 municipalities suspected of violating state limits on fines from traffic tickets. Missouri law requires cities to forfeit to the state revenues from traffic tickets that exceed 30 percent of total revenue.

The law does not prevent cities from enforcing traffic laws for safety. The intends to limit financial incentives for cities to write lots of tickets. I had the honor to stand with Republicans–Auditor Schweich and St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann–and Democrats–State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal and State Rep Scott Sifton–as Auditor Schweich announced the project.

Senator Schmitt Steps Up

Today, I had the pleasure to meet with State Senator Eric Schmitt to learn about his efforts to further crack down on the courts. Senator Schmitt has pre-filed legislation for the next general assembly that would reduce the traffic revenue limit to 10 percent from 30 percent. Senator Schmitt and I discussed further legislation, such as:

  • additional penalties for city official who knowingly fail to forfeit excess funds
  • requiring that municipal courts be open to the public
  • prohibiting cities from barring families and children from municipal courts
  • prohibiting cities form locking out defendants before their case is called
  • forcing cities to include all fines, fees, and warrants to the ticket revenue
  • limiting cities’ power to jail people over non-criminal traffic violations (with exceptions for flagrant violations of the court system)

I also recommended as witnesses several people who contacted me about their experiences with municipal courts. And I learned that friend of liberty, State Rep. Paul Curtman, will handle the bill in the House.

Action

Please write your State Representative and State Senator to let them know you support Senator Schmitt’s municipal courts reform. He expects strong opposition from the Municipal League–sort of union for city managers and consultants. This being a bipartisan issue with a strong liberty theme, opponents risk marginalizing themselves.

And say “Thanks” to Tom Schweich (moaudit@auditor.mo.gov) and Eric Schmitt(eschmitt@senate.mo.gov) for stepping up on behalf of people who need a voice in government.

 

 

8 Ideas to Save Christmas in Ferguson

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Nixon buck-passed while Ferguson burned. With the city’s main business district laid to rubble, buycotts won’t have much effect. And Christmas is around the corner.

Who got hurt last night?

  1. People who own businesses
  2. People who work at businesses
  3. People who rely on businesses

Time is short. The people affected by last night’s riots need help rebuilding and jobs right now. While I don’t have complete plans, I can throw out eight ideas. Please make one of these come to life.

  1. 100 St. Louis companies hire 1 affected person for 1 year. Longer if they wish, but guarantee a job for 12 months starting December 1.
  2. 100 companies (St. Louis or elsewhere) adopt one damaged business each to rebuild. And it’s not just the businesses with physical damage. Most Ferguson and Dellwood business need out of business funding.
  3. 100 St. Louisans can sponsor Christmas this year for one affected family in Ferguson. Start with a list of employees who are out of work because of the violence last night.
  4. Companies and charities can establish a fund for rebuilding destroyed property. Let the private companies’ CFOs manage the money, not government or NGOs who have a way of making a billion dollars disappear.
  5. What if our well-endowed universities donated from their endowments to a redevelopment fund? Maybe give students credit for helping rebuild.
  6. I’ve been asking for this since August, but how about a state sales tax holiday for Ferguson, Dellwood, Florissant, Hazelwood, and other affected cities? If I were governor, I’d call a special session next week to pass that law in time for the holidays.
  7. Add an option to the 2014 Missouri Income Tax forms allowing business and individuals across the state to donate from their tax refunds to offset the cost of the state sales tax holiday.
  8. Hold Saturday morning resilience classes for business owners and their employees, followed by a two-hour workday to help in recovery.

These ideas need your help.

If you know someone who can make one or more of these ideas come to life, please email a link to this story. Ask them to get it started.

If you have better ideas, please include them in the comments. (Yes, people read the comments almost as much as they read my nonsense.)

Thanks. Let’s not let St. Louis go the way of Gary, Indiana. We cannot rely on government—government is the problem, not the solution. We have to rely on ourselves.

Why Municipal Courts Matter to Liberty

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I am embarrassed.

I am embarrassed that I didn’t know about this problem sooner. Or I heard about it and ignored it, which is even worse. Maybe I thought it was just the usual liberal whining about trumped up racial problems. Whatever, I should have listened.

On September 2, I asked a room of about 30 tea partiers, “Do you trust our justice system?” I heard a chorus of “No.”

The question’s context was municipal courts in the St. Louis area, but especially North St. Louis County municipalities.

If you’d like to volunteer to help with the Municipal Court Project, please fill out this form.

 

I called the meeting because of emails and blog comments I received after a few posts about Ferguson and the Buycott. The most disturbing of these reports came from Lee Presser, and he let me publish his account here.

The purpose of the meeting was to check the temperature of St. Louis Tea Partiers. I wanted to see if they, like me, considered abusive municipal courts a liberty issue.

They clearly do. Many of them, anyway.

So much has been written about St. Louis County’s horrible municipal court system, I won’t go into it here. Instead, I’ll ask you to read these documents in addition to Lee Presser’s story.

Instead, I want to make a brief case on why the liberty movement should attack this issue.

Rule of Law: Libertarians don’t believe in anarchy; we believe in maximum liberty within a well-ordered, effective society. When elected and non-elected government officials abuse the law, the rule of law breaks down. How can we say we stand for the rule of law yet cast a blind eye to authoritarian abuses of the law right in our own county?

Respect for the Law: We expect citizens to respect the law–law enforcement officers, contracts, the legal system. We profess to believe that just laws are necessary to protect everyone’s rights to life, liberty, and property. But when one or more of the pieces of that legal system become abusive of the people in its jurisdiction, respect for the law naturally breaks down. People come to see the system as hypocritical, with different rules for different classes of people.

Respect for Human Beings: Libertarians believe that free, conscientious people better care for each other than a cold bureaucracy. So how can we not stand up for our fellow citizens whose lives enter a downward spiral on their first encounter with abusive municipal courts?

Unnecessary Governments: Libertarians believe in the minimum amount of government necessary to maintain order. But St. Louis County has over 90 municipalities, each with its own unique and complicated system of ordinances, fines, and courts. While these municipalities are not hierarchical, they make it almost impossible for a person to know the law as he traverses St. Louis County. Some municipalities seem to count on this confusion of laws to extract expensive fines from unwary commuters and residents.

Conditioning People for Authoritarianism: Some have said that grassroots activists are more effective working on national issues than on local ones. I understand the threat posed by an abusive Washington government, but I believe abusive local governments condition people for subservient acceptance of authoritarian rule. If the stories exposed in the WaPo article and Arch City Defenders are true, a large portion of St. Louis County residents live in fearful submission to tyrannical local governments. If we who never experienced Lee Presser’s nightmare in Bel-Ridge are fearful of Washington’s power, imagine how mighty Washington seems to those who live in fear of their own local authorities?

Local First: The same argument that we are better suited to take on Washington than local municipalities seems illogical to me. If we cannot affect change in a city of 5,000 like Pine Lawn, we’re insane to think we could affect the national government of 320 million people.

I’m sure you can think of even more reasons why the liberty movement should be involved in fighting these tyrannical municipal courts. Please share your thoughts below.

If you’d like to volunteer to help with the Municipal Court Project, please fill out this form.

Municipal Court or Kangaroo Court?

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Guest post by Lee A. Presser

On Wednesday, April 16, 2003, I was in Bel-Ridge, Missouri, Municipal Court to plead “not guilty.” The violation listed on the ticket did not match the reality of what actually happened on the road. In a file folder, I had documents and photographs to rebut the charge. The ticket stated that Court convened at 6:30 P.M. I arrived twenty minutes early.

Before 9:30 that evening, I had been tightly handcuffed twice, verbally abused by police, pushed into a depressing detention cell, and made an example of in front of seventy-five to one hundred people.

When I arrived by car at 6:10 P.M. to 8842 Natural Bridge Road, I spotted what looked to me to be a group of shabby buildings which made up the Bel-Ridge Municipal Complex. They had some parking spaces on their property but nowhere near the number of spaces for the amount of defendants their officers had netted for that night’s hearing. By that time the only parking available to me was on a nearby residential street which was a five minute walk from the Municipal Court door.

It was raining that evening. I was wearing a business suit. My umbrella was in my car but that night I was driving a rental because my car was in the shop. After walking the five minutes to where the crowd was lined up, we were made to stand in the rain for another ten minutes before the police officers processed us into the building. While in line, I was asked several times if I was an attorney.

Inside the door, I was told to empty my pockets into a small basket. This included my cell phone, which I had already turned off. The police officer ran a metal detector wand over me. When I went to collect my things from the basket, the police officer took my phone and put it on the floor with a large number of other cell phones taken from the seventy-five or more defendants already seated inside. I told the officer that I was concerned about making sure I got my phone back. He answered by saying, “That’s your problem.” At that moment my internal radar came on.

Again, I was asked, “Are you an attorney?” After stating that I was not, I was pointed to the check-in window. At the window I was asked again. Standing there in my suit, holding my file and a book, I said, “No.” The other defendants were in tee-shirts, slacks, and other casual clothes. They were mostly black, only a hand full of us were white. After check-in I moved toward a seat near the front so I could better hear the proceedings. One of the police officers stopped me and told me to “sit over there.” He directed me to a metal folding chair near the back of the room.

The room was long but very narrow. It had a low ceiling. I was sitting far from the judge, at least fifty feet back, maybe more. There were maybe twenty rows of eight chairs per row. The rows were divided into two sections. There were five seats in the right section, an aisle, then three seats in the left section. There were probably fifteen rows between me and the Court. Defendants filled almost every seat. There were maybe 120 people seated between me and the judge. I’m guessing there were 140 defendants in that small room.

As noted above, most of the defendants were black. We were surrounded by seven white police officers. They were not friendly, they were not helpful, and they treated the people in that room as if they were criminals. Many of the officers were verbally abusive to defendants.

When the Municipal Court proceedings were called to order by the judge, he spoke to this large crowd for about five minutes. We in the back could not hear what the judge was saying. Sitting next to me was one of the few white defendants in the room. He raised his hand, then waved it, but was not recognized by the judge. He then spoke out loud, “we cannot hear the judge in the back .” One of the officers shouted at him to “shut up.”

I brought a paperback book to read while I waited to plead not guilty. But, I was so disturbed by what I saw going on around me, I could not focus on the book. Quietly, in a voice that did not carry, I asked some of the people near me why they were there. One black man, Antonio D., stated that he had been stopped for speeding in a private parking lot. The white man from
St. Charles, Missouri, who was sitting next to me, stated that he had been stopped on the Interstate for doing 81 MPH. He said he was going fast but nowhere near 81 MPH. He immediately asked the officer to see the radar readout, the officer refused and wrote the ticket. An older black man was cited for driving without a license. He told me he didn’t know how to file the papers to get his driver’s license back after the suspension period ended and he did not have the money to hire a Traffic attorney.

Most of the people in the room did not look like they could easily afford an attorney. If they had hired attorneys, the attorneys would have settled most of the cases being heard that day. Instead a mostly black group of defendants was made to sit in metal folding chairs, some of them for hours, surrounded by seven white police officers, being judged by an all white Court.

A long time had passed since our first conversation. Finally, I quietly said to those near me, “I don’t like the police officers being so abusive to the people in the crowd. It’s not right.” I looked toward the seats behind us, and standing behind the last row, one of the officers was glaring at me.

Within a few minutes a different police officer approached me, asked my name, and walked toward the front. Everyone sitting near me was amazed. As far as we had seen, I was the only one in that room who was asked to supply their name. Later two officers approached and asked me to follow them. They told me to put my hands behind my back. They said I was being arrested for Contempt of Court. I asked, “for what?” One officer actually said I was being arrested for being a “disruptive influence because I was reading my book and talking to my neighbors.” In front of the remaining crowd, they roughly and tightly put handcuffs on me. While this was going on, I was looking at the people with whom I had been sitting. I said in their direction, “I’m being arrested for reading my book and talking to you.” The officer jerked my arms and growled, “shut up.”
I was taken out of that building by a side door and walked in the pouring rain to another building. My expensive suit was being soaked again. I said to the young man who was escorting me, “You know what they are doing is bogus.” He replied, “I only do what I am told.” Looking closely at his eyes, I said to him, “That’s what Saddam Hussain’s police say.” He shrugged but kept leading me toward a small, unpleasant looking building. Inside the lock-up building, the folder containing my documents was taken from me. I was told they were doing me a favor by allowing me to keep my book. He put me in a very small holding cell. It was three small steps long and one step wide. Being in there was shocking and depressing.

I saw no paperwork, no warrant, no nothing. No charges were read to me. I was not finger printed. “This couldn’t be legal,” I thought.

Time moved very slowly in that cell. I did not get any reading done. I was angry. I wanted to show them they could not get away with this. I wanted someone powerful to come and tell them to put a stop to this. After a while, I realized I was in their power and they could hurt me and keep me locked up in this terrible place.

Later, a different police officer came into the cell. I was being taken back to the Court building. He handcuffed me, this time squeezing them even tighter than the first time. The cuffs left marks on my wrist. Before we left that building, I told them to give me back my file. I could not see it on top of the file cabinet where the first officer had placed it before they put me in the cell. I refused to leave until they found it and gave it back. It was found and handed to the police officer escort.

Again, I was taken for a walk in the rain. Once we were back in the Municipal Court building, he removed the handcuffs and put me into a chair near the front, along the wall, where they make prisoners in jump suits sit. I asked for the folder. He refused to return it. Later I saw him and others looking through the papers in the folder. At one point I asked for some water. The answer was “no.”

Even at this late hour there was still a long line of defendants waiting to have their case heard by the judge. Now that I was up front, where I wanted to sit in the first place, I could hear how this Court conducted itself, and I wasn’t impressed. One hard-of-hearing older white woman was there because she had been cited for having trash in her yard. I believe she was told to pay $150 per citation. As she was leaving, I saw several of the officers laughing at her behind her back. Many other defendants were treated in what I considered an insensitive, if not abusive, manner.

When all the defendants were heard and out of the room, I was called before the judge. I was alone with the Court and the police officers. The judge said something to me which I can’t remember as I am writing this. My response caused him to tell me that he told this to the crowd at the beginning of the session. I told him that we in the back could not hear his comments. I said that the guy next to me had put up his hand, waved it, and then said out loud that we could not hear him. The judge stopped me, ignored what I said, and repeated for me the unheard statement.
The charges were read and I was asked how I would plead. “Not guilty,” I said. In reality, I wanted to say that I did not understand the reason the ticket was issued in the first place. But, being afraid for my well-being in this Court Room, I thought the best thing I could do was to say not guilty and ask for a jury trial. In that way, people other than this judge and this prosecutor would decide my fate. I told him that I wanted this case set for a jury trial. He said something legalistic that I took to mean that if I could not ask for it in the correct legal language than I could not have a jury trial.

I said to the judge that if he would take five minutes now to look at the documents and pictures in my folder, he would see that there was no need for this to go any further. Anyone looking at the material in the folder would immediately see that the ticket made no sense and that the charge should be dismissed. He again gave some legalistic answer that meant no. I had the feeling he did not want this settled. He wanted me in this room again.

After pleading not guilty, the judge proceeded to lecture me. He sternly told me that next time I was in his Court, I was not to fidget in my seat, make a nuisance of myself, or disturb the people around me. I wanted to respond but this was not the time. Rule 37.75(a) states that, “A criminal contempt may be punished summarily if the judge certifies that he saw or heard the conduct constituting the contempt and that it was committed in his presence.” If there were at least fifty feet and at least fifty people between the judge and I, could he have really seen me fidgeting in my seat or heard me talking to my neighbors? I believe the answer is no, he could not. I believe that he was told something by a police officer and then he allowed them to handcuff me and put me in the lock-up. Rule 37.75(a) does not say that police officers can report to the judge what they saw or heard. It says the judge must see or hear the conduct. In Bel-Ridge they have their own way of doing things.

After being dismissed by the judge, a police officer, acting as the Bailiff, handed me a notice which stated that my new court date was June 25, 2003.

I was in that courtroom because of a ticket issued on the afternoon of March 14, 2003. I was driving west on Natural Bridge Road. My intention was to turn left onto I-170 South. The light was green. I was driving in the left turn lane. As I was getting ready to make the left, I saw two east bound cars, one in each lane of approaching traffic, speeding toward the intersection. Had they not been speeding, I would have completed the left turn. Instead, I paused, waited for the cars to pass, and then proceeded through the intersection into the highway on-ramp. The light turned red before I was fully out of the intersection. Moments later the police officer stopped me. When he walked up to the car, he said I had been blocking the intersection. I did not understand what he meant. We talked. I still did not understand the violation. He asked for my driver’s license. I said, “You’re giving me a ticket! For what?” He came back with a ticket stating, “Impeded the flow of traffic by being in the intersection controlled by an electric signal.” The ordinance violated was listed as 300.010. Again, I said to him, “The light was green when I entered the intersection and I was gone the moment the two cars passed.”
After being in the Bel-Ridge Municipal Court, I have a better understanding of my traffic stop. In my opinion, that traffic stop was a moneymaker for Bel-Ridge, Missouri. In my opinion, the Bel-Ridge political establishment sends out its police force for the purpose of making money. Bel-Ridge police seek out every minor infraction and issue a ticket which helps pay the salary’s of all the public officials. Again, it is my opinion that Bel-Ridge and all other communities who use their police force as a moneymaker should be stopped. If they will not stop, these communities should be disincorporated, removing their ability to use police powers for that purpose.

In a small community like Bel-Ridge, I find it hard to believe there should be that many defendants sitting in Municipal Court. I believe my case should never have gone to court that night. But, as a result of being there, I have seen the shadier side of the Municipal Court system.

Editor’s Note: I stood for three minutes in furious disbelief when I first read this account of the abuse and degradation that Bel Ridge heaps on American citizens for minor ordinance violations. I can imagine one minor traffic or lawn violation could send an otherwise good person into a downward spiral. This story is not the tale of justice in America. It’s a nightmarish descent into psychological abuse. The police described in this story are not public servants but psychopaths. True psychopaths who get their jollies mentally and physically hurting innocent people. No one in America should endure this kind of abuse at the hands of judges and police officers.

Please see my previous story on the problems in North County