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Morning headlines: Wednesday, December 21, 2011

(St. Louis County website)
St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.

St. Louis County goes on holiday recess with approved budget

The St. Louis County Council has approved a 2012 budget after a contentious season of fiscal wrangling with County Executive Charlie Dooley. Early this fall Dooley's county budget estimates convinced him to propose drastic cuts. Dooley drew sharp criticism for his proposal to shut down 23 county parks and lay off almost 200 county employees.   

Dooley says though the budget is passed for next year, the county's fiscal problems still remain.

"For the first time in 60 years, this country is in financial disarray," said Dooley. "From the national to the state - everybody's having trouble. So, it's impacting how we do business. And yes, government's going to have to be a little smaller.

The more-than $200 million budget passed unanimously and includes cutting about 40 county jobs.

Transportation Secretary in St. Louis to discuss Arch grant

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will be in St. Louis today to discuss a $20 million grant aimed at improving access to the grounds of the Gateway Arch.

The grant was announced last week and will fund improvements along Interstate 70 in front of the Arch grounds. It is part of the CityArchRiver 2015 initiative that seeks to improve the grounds of the monument and make it easier for people to get to the Arch area from downtown St. Louis, which sits on the other side of the interstate.

LaHood and Salazar, along with several political figures, will speak at 1 p.m. at the Old Courthouse.

Blagojevich attorneys formally begin appeal process

Attorneys for Rod Blagojevich have formally begun the process of appealing the former Illinois governor's conviction and prison sentence. They did so in a court filing late Tuesday, notifying the U.S. District Court in Chicago that they intended to appeal to a higher court. 

Blagojevich has been ordered to report to prison on March 15.

The 55-year-old was convicted earlier this year of corruption charges that included allegations that he tried to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat for campaign cash or a top job.

Attorneys had said they planned to appeal. However, the process of filing a full appeal is likely to drag on for several weeks or even months. After notification, transcripts and other documents are typically transferred to the higher court.



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