Bill Raack

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Raack has been in radio for over 20 years. After graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Kansas in 1983, he worked at commercial radio stations in Kansas and then Illinois. He moved to public radio in 1990, joining the staff of WILL-AM/FM in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, as a host/reporter and then as news director in 1993. He returned to his hometown of St. Louis in 1995 as the local host of St. Louis Public Radio's Morning Edition program and also served as a reporter/producer until 1998, when he was named news director. Bill and his wife Kim are proud parents of two public-radio-listening children.

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Reporting from WBEZ's Alex Keefe used in this report.

Governor Pat Quinn is defending his plan to close a super-maximum security prison in southern Illinois.

The governor's office says closing Tamms prison would save the state nearly $22 million next year. Quinn says it costs more than 64,000 per year to lock up a prisoner there - about three times the statewide average.

(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)

A report by the Missouri auditor finds that a state-created insurance company has built a competitive advantage by claiming to be a public corporation but operating as a private entity.

State Auditor Tom Schweich says Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance Co.’s federal tax-exempt status has saved it about $50 million since it was created in 1993. At the same time, it pays large amounts of money for salaries and executive perks. Schweich says lawmakers need to clarify if it's appropriate for the company to continue as a public corporation.

(Courtesy of Mardi Gras, Inc.)

One of the area’s biggest public parties of the year takes place in the Soulard neighborhood this weekend. 

Organizers of the Mardi Gras celebration are expecting more than 100 units and 2000 people in the River City Grand Parade Saturday. It’s the 33rd year for the event, which has grown to become one of the largest Mardi Gras parties in the country. Spokesman Mack Bradley says they’ve worked hard to make sure the event is fun – and safe – for everyone.

Anheuser-Busch announced Monday that it plans to increase production at its Metal Container Corporation in Arnold, resulting in at least 20 new jobs there.

Metal Container Corporation supplies more than 45 percent of the beer brewer's beer cans and 55 percent of its lids in the United States. It also produces cans and lids for soft drink companies, including PepsiCo and Monster Beverage Corporation.

The expansion announced Monday will add about 100,000 square feet to the Arnold facility. It's expected to be complete in 2013.

St. Louis Public Radio Staff / St. Louis Public Radio

A months-long project that will involve grinding Metrolink’s entire system of rails begins Friday night.

It’s the first time since the late 1990’s that Metro has done the grinding on its light rail line. Metro spokeswoman Dianne Williams says it will make the track more smooth and improve riders' experience. 

"It needs to be done periodically. It simply extends the life of the rail, and that's a big investment in the track," Williams said.

The work will be done at night, which means people may see bright red sparks where the grinding of metal on metal is being done.

House website

Representative Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) says Tuesday’s GOP presidential primary election may not be as pointless as some think.

Flickr/USACEpublicaffairs

Army Corps inspecting Birds Point Levee daily

Inspectors with the Army Corps of Engineers are performing daily inspections of the area where the Birds Point levee was intentionally breached in May. Maj. Jon Korneliussen told the Sikeston Standard Democrat that daily patrols are checking the middle and upper crevasses created by the implosion that happened at the height of spring flooding.

Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Shimkus on Obama's State of the Union address

President Barack Obama delivered an election-year message to Republicans: Game on.

The GOP - in Congress and on the campaign trail - signaled it's ready for the fight.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Obama issued a populist call for income equality that echoed the Occupy Wall Street movement. He also challenged GOP lawmakers to work with him or move aside so he could use the power of the presidency to produce results for an electorate uncertain whether he deserves another term.

(Screen Capture/WhiteHouse.gov)

Members of the St. Louis Cardinals were honored at the White House Tuesday for the team's World Series championship last year.

President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, Chicago White Sox and Cubs fans respectively, both heaped praise on the Cardinals for their late-season comeback and their ability to beat the odds in the playoffs, defeating the Texas Rangers in the World Series.  

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

The year 2011 got off to a strange start following a rare winter tornado on New Year's Eve. It was one of a number of severe weather events during the cold weather months, followed by the F-4 tornado that hit north St. Louis County and Lambert Airport in April, and plenty of flooding.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Kramper says it was a very unusual first five months.

(via Flickr/alextakesphotos)

Mo. lawmakers to consider changes to school funding formula

Legislative leaders say addressing Missouri's school funding formula is one of their top priorities for the annual session that starts Wednesday.

Because of tight budgets there has not been enough money in recent years to fully fund the education formula. That has prompted concern that the distribution of the money could benefit certain districts at the expense of others.

(Screen captures/press kits/ compiled by Kelsey Proud/St. Louis Public Radio)

It’s been a good year for documentary films focused on issues in St. Louis and for local filmmakers. “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth,” about the urban housing complex of the 1950s and 60s; “Brick by Chance and Fortune,” which looks at St. Louis’ architectural heritage; “The Gray Seasons,” about a four-year span with the Saint Louis University women’s basketball team; and "Give a Damn?," the story of three St. Louisians who explore the issue of poverty across three continents; have all been popular at film festivals in 2011.

As part of St. Louis Public Radio’s series, “A Good Year”, Bill Raack spoke with Cliff Froehlich, the executive director of Cinema St. Louis. Here's a summary of their conversation: 

UPI/Missouri Department of Highways and Transportation

The head of the Missouri Department of Transportation is hoping that 2012 will be a better year than this one. The agency had to make some pretty drastic budget decisions this year.

"It was hard," said MoDot Director Kevin Keith. "You know, that was the first word that comes to mind. It was hard."

(Bill Raack/St. Louis Public Radio)

The renovation of the Gateway Arch grounds is being called a “magnificent project” by two presidential cabinet members. 

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood were in St. Louis Wednesday to celebrate a new $20 million federal grant for the project. The grant will help pay for a new “pedestrian lid” over Interstate 70 so people can move more easily between the Arch and downtown St. Louis.

(via Flickr/ines_saraiva)

Motorola Solutions has been awarded a $75 million contract to design a radio system for first responders in St. Louis County.

The system will allow more than 150 police departments, fire departments, paramedics and other public safety agencies to communicate directly with each other by radio. Officials say their inability to do that makes it difficult to respond to disasters effectively.

(via Flickr/Senator McCaskill)

Two U.S. senators are proposing legislation to cut payroll taxes, boost transportation funding and restrict regulation.

Missouri Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill and Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, on Tuesday announced their proposed legislation.

The federal lawmakers say the legislation will boost jobs. They also called it an example of what bipartisanship can produce.

For the first time ever, an endangered amphibian found only in a few Missouri and Arkansas counties has been successfully bred in captivity.

Officials with the St. Louis Zoo and Missouri Department of Conservation said Wednesday that 63 Ozark hellbenders have been bred at the zoo. The first hatched on Nov. 15, and an additional 120 eggs are expected to hatch within the next week.

The breeding is the result of a decade-long collaboration of the zoo and the conservation department. 

(via St. Louis Downtown Airport Facebook page)

Officials say the completion of improvements to the main runway at St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia will help the facility expand its clientele and generate new business. 

The six-month, $7.4 million project widened and lengthened the runway and improved the runway’s lighting system. Airport director Bob McDaniel says they also strengthened the runway to support larger aircraft like the Boeing 757 and Airbus 320.

Cancer study shows limiting alcohol reduces chances of developing breast cancer

A new study today finds that young women with a family history of breast disease can reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by avoiding alcohol. The research, published in the journal "Cancer", looked at more than nine-thousand young women starting in 1996 and tracked them through 2007.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

The St. Louis Blues have a new head coach. The team introduced Ken Hitchcock to the media Monday, after firing Davis Payne on Sunday.

Payne had a record of 67-55-and-15 over parts of three seasons for the Blues. Team general manager Doug Armstrong says while they're just 13 games into this year's schedule, it was time for a change.

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