Morning headlines: Friday, September 16, 2011 | St. Louis Public Radio

Morning headlines: Friday, September 16, 2011

Sep 16, 2011

Metro-East contractors delay Mississippi River bridge protest

According to the Belleville News-Democrat, about 200 protesters gathered at the East St. Louis City Hall early this morning, but delayed a protest to shut down work on the new Mississippi River Bridge. The newspaper reports Illinois Governor Pat Quinn promised to call and the state’s transportation secretary is heading to the city to meet them.

Members of the Metro-East Black Contractors Organization claim there is a lack of jobs on the Mississippi River bridge project going to minority workers.

The Illinois Department of Transportation has said that minorities made up 35 percent of the total works on the project jobs as of Aug. 31, and minority workers have accounted for about 23 percent of all man hours worked on the project to date, well above the federal goals on the project.

Slay calls for closure of Imagine charter schools

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is speaking out against six poorly performing charter schools. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Slay on Thursday called for the closure of Imagine charter schools.

It marks the first time the mayor has publicly criticized the schools by name. Charter schools are public schools that operate independently of traditional school systems. Missouri allows them only in St. Louis and Kansas City as alternatives to struggling school districts. Virginia-based Imagine Schools Inc. operates the six schools

that ranked at the bottom of charter schools and most city public schools on the 2011 Missouri Assessment Program. Imagine School officials say they plan to respond to Slay's comments at a later date.

Army Corps estimates $2 billion to repair flood damaged levees, dams, riverbanks

The Army Corps of Engineers estimates it will cost more than $2 billion to repair the damage to the nation's levees, dams and riverbanks caused by this year's excessive flooding. That sum dwarfs the $150 million the corps has on hand for such repairs and will likely rise because it doesn't account yet for damage caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

The Senate approved a $7 billion emergency disaster relief bill that would route $1.3 billion to the corps. And a competing House bill would route $3.7 billion to disaster aid, including $226 million to the corps. The corps has prioritized repairs that will protect lives once next year's flood season begins.

Crews are racing to repair Mississippi River levees while Missouri River levels continue to recede.