Morning round-up
6:38 am
Tue June 5, 2012

Morning headlines - Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Metro sees double-digit increase in bus passengers

St. Louis’ mass transit agency saw the biggest growth in bus ridership in the country during the first three months of the year.

The report from the American Public Transit Association showed a 15.6 percent increase in Metro bus passengers between the first quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012.  MetroLink ridership was up more than 8 percent, also above the national average, and 10th among the markets surveyed in the report.

Metro officials say the agency has begun rebuilding the trust it lost with riders when 2009 budget cuts forced it to slash service. Operations chief Ray Friem told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Blues' playoff run and a mild winter also helped.

Lisa Madigan supports challenge to same-sex marriage ban

Alex Keefe contributed reporting from Chicago.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is throwing her support behind a pair of lawsuits challenging the state’s marriage laws.

"I don't believe that the current law that prohibits gays and lesbians from being able to marry in the state of Illinois meets equal protection," Madigan said yesterday, adding that she personally supports gay marriage.

The lawsuits were filed by 25 same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses by the Cook County clerk.

A spokesman for the county’s states attorney declined to say whether the county would mount a defense.

IEPA begins annual tire clean-up

The Illinois EPA’s annual effort to remove waste tires from the Metro East is underway.  

Discarded tires can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, or lead to ground water contamination.

IEPA spokeswoman Maggie Carson says her agency removed around 10,000 waste tires last year. She says spring is the perfect time to begin collection.

"We’ve had some extremely large tire clean ups, historically, that we’ve had to wait until the first freeze to get the vegetation out of the way to find them all," she said.

The majority of the waste tires will be turned into something called tire-dervied fuel, which can be burned in coal-fired power plants.

"If you add tires in certain proportions to coal it will burn at a higher BTU and you can get more energy out of it," Carson said.

There were concerns that a tight state budget would halt the clean-ups this year. The effort is funded with a fee on tire sales.

Questions about Madison County tax sale

The state’s attorney in Madison County is investigating whether the county treasurer, Kurt Prenzler, properly conducted a tax sale in February 2012.

An employee of Prenzler’s office notified prosecutor Tom Gibbons last month that Prenzler had not obtained a needed judgment from the circuit court before conducting the tax sale, which could render the entire process invalid.

Gibbons says he’s contacted the Illinois Attorney General’s office for advice.

The Madison County clerk says Prenzler correctly conducted the 2011 tax sale. Prenzler did not return a request for comment from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.