St. Louis on the Air
4:37 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

East St. Louis: Once Poised For Greatness, But Struggles Persist

The citizens of East St. Louis once believed their town was destined for greatness.  They thought the town was poised to outdistance Chicago as the premier industrial giant and railroad freight node of the Midwest.

According to Andrew Theising, political scientist at the Institute for Urban Research at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and series editor of the East St. Louis Sesquicentennial series, “In the 19th century residents really did think it would be the new Pittsburgh. (Early) documents are just gushing with civic pride.”

Theising joined host Don Marsh to discuss An East St. Louis Anthology: The Origins of a River City.

Marsh was also joined by SIUE archivist Steven Kerber, who is the keeper of the documents reproduced in the book, and Debra Moore, an East St. Louis native and political scientist specializing in urban politics.

“The problem in East St. Louis is decision making. It’s not a money problem. It’s a decision-making problem and unfortunately, the city is declining so rapid that we are losing the opportunity to garner support around good decisions because people aren’t there,” Moore said. 

Moore continued, “The middle class is exiting quickly and there are occurrences of recent times that are moving them out of the community even faster.  If you look at East St. Louis and compare it to a city in Missouri within our region, it would be Webster Groves. Population is similar; budget is similar, but look at the difference between the communities. (There are similarities) from the organizational, structural and financial perspective but how decisions are made yield a totally different outcome.”

Interview with Andrew Theising, Debra Moore and Steven Kerber



An East St. Louis Anthology: The Origins of a River City was edited by historian Charles Lumpkins of Pennsylvania State University.

We asked our listeners via Twitter and e-mail for their one idea to make East St. Louis a better place. Following are some of the comments. Go to our Facebook page to continue the conversation.

Why doesn't East St. Louis and St. Clair county push for a new stadium for the Rams facing the Arch and downtown?

East Saint Louis needs to annex Sauget - companies located there would provide ESL with needed tax revenue.

East St. Louis needs a coordinated approach from all stakeholders - corporate (including those west of the river), residents, police, city, etc. East St. Louis has the potential. We just need the will from a diverse group of stakeholders.

East St. Louis needs a Joe Edwards - a motivated guy with money to burn and a vision

We view East St. Louis as a place to "continue the party", but St. Louisans need to have a real interest in East St. Louis’ prosperity.

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