Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

Eric Schmid

Metro East Reporter

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Households put up signs to encourage Census participation in 2010. The 2020 census will differ from ones in the past because it will be conducted almost entirely online.
U.S. Census Bureau

BELLEVILLE — The outcome of the 2020 census will have lasting implications for people and communities in Illinois and across the U.S. 

Mainly, the once-a-decade headcount provides a framework for how more than $1.5 trillion in federal money is distributed to states every year. The census begins on April 1.

An analysis of states that decriminalized marijuana reported a steep drop in the number of related arrests and no increase in adolescent use.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

EDWARDSVILLE — Metro East cities that want to allow cannabis-related businesses are starting to decide where these establishments can set up shop in their communities.

The Edwardsville City Council made its decision Tuesday night when it voted 7-0 to establish new zoning rules and other restrictions for cannabis businesses that may come to the city. 

A portion of the Goshen Trail expansion during construction in May 2019. The new trail opens Nov 15.
MCT Trails via Facebook

O’FALLON, Ill. — Madison County Transit will unveil the newest addition to its vast 130-mile trail network on Saturday. 

The expansion takes the existing Goshen Trail and extends it seven miles, from Troy to O’Fallon. It’s the first time the Madison County Transit, or MCT, trail system extends into St. Clair County.

The intersection of Collinsville and St. Louis Avenues in East St. Louis is where a mob of white rioters first gathered before they rampaged through the city, seeking out and killing black residents.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — The 2020 census headcount will have wide-ranging implications for the state of Illinois and communities in the Metro East. The state could lose congressional seats and federal money, and some downstate cities could lose their home-rule status after the decennial headcount, which begins in April.

These high stakes spurred Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritkzer and the state Legislature to dedicate $29 million to counting hard-to-reach communities; $20 million is for grants that go to 30 local community organizations across the state tasked with ensuring accurate counts. 

An airforce member recieves instructions on a drug test. After January 1st, Illinois employers cannot simply rely on a drug test to ensure drug free work environments.
Ashley Gardner | Shaw Air Force Base

BELLEVILLE — Recreational cannabis will be legal in Illinois in less than two months, and some employers are scrambling to understand what legalization will mean for their drug-free policies. 

Specifically, the new law pits an employee’s right to use marijuana recreationally on their own time against an employer’s ability to enforce drug-free policies under Illinois’ Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act

Paula and Tom Haniszewski's house on South Charles Street in Belleville on Oct 30. Their home was built in 1880.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Emily Smith is fascinated by older homes. It’s an interest she’s had since she was a child. As an 8-year-old, she carried around a disposable camera in her backpack just to snap pictures of buildings she liked.

“I’ve always had a fascination with old homes and their character, and the craftsmanship and how it’s like basically living in a piece of art,” she said. 

Henry Ballerd, 70, tries on a jacket at a veterans stand down in East St. Louis on Oct. 29. The East St. Louisan served in Vietnam in the Navy.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

EAST ST. LOUIS — The Clyde C. Jordan Senior Center buzzed with activity as nearly 100 veterans bounced between tables offering free goods and services such as clothes, legal and medical advice and even haircuts.

The event is called a stand down — wartime terminology for when troops on the front line are moved back to rest and recharge, said event organizer Moses Holman. 

A pile of toxic materials from a previous EPA collection event. Illinois EPA will collect these kinds of items from Metro East residents in Edwardsville on Oct. 26.
Environmental Protection Agency

EDWARDSVILLE — The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will collect toxic and hazardous waste from Metro East residents this weekend. The agency, along with Madison County Planning and Development, will host a cleanup event at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on Saturday. 

Residents can dispose of any toxic chemicals they may have in a safe and environmentally friendly way, said David Saladino, Illinois EPA environmental protection specialist.

Reginald Petty poses for a portrait at his home in East St. Louis on Oct. 14, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

EAST ST. LOUIS — Reginald Petty knows the stereotypes of East St. Louis well. A native of the city, he has heard the way many people talk about it.

“'Oh, it’s a high crime rate,'” he said. “'Don’t go to East St. Louis. Be careful.'”

He admits the city has its issues but said crime rates don’t define the city. Petty prefers to focus on East St. Louis’ positive narratives as a city rich with black cultural heritage. After all, he says, the “City of Champions” produced famous athletes, musicians and other celebrities

The Missouri Department of Transportation says commuters should expect delays along interstates 44, 70 and 270.
FLICKR | ALEXANDER SVENSSON

BELLEVILLE — The Illinois Department of Transportation will completely close a seven-mile stretch of Interstate 255 early next year. 

The major rehabilitation project spans Illinois Route 15 to Collinsville Road and includes resurfacing, significant bridge repairs and other safety improvements.

The intersection of Collinsville and St. Louis Avenues in East St. Louis is where a mob of white rioters first gathered before they rampaged through the city, seeking out and killing black residents.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Illinois’ slow but steady population decline could jeopardize the home rule status some Metro East cities enjoy.

Home rule grants cities broad taxing and regulatory powers, making it easier to quickly tackle local issues and fund projects and services. Status is automatically granted to any Illinois city with more than 25,000 residents. Towns can also achieve home rule through a referendum, as Fairview Heights did. 

Workers for the Environmental Protection Agency collect a water sample. SIUE will investigate contaminants in regional water with a grant from the agency.
Environmental Protection Agency

BELLEVILLE — Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will research water quality in the region with a $100,000 educational grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The grant provides funds to train undergraduate students in environmental sampling and analysis over the next two years. The funds will also support teaching the students to communicate the results of their work to the public. Students will be guided by faculty, but they’ll be conducting the day-to-day work, said Kevin Tucker, an assistant professor of chemistry.

Jessica Kopecky primes one portion of a wall before adding color to it on Sept. 28, 2019. This is the fourth outdoor mural the Wisconsin native will complete.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Paint-splashed walls of four downtown buildings are bringing the first elements of a mural project in the city closer to fruition.

Over the next few weeks, artists from around the country will arrive in Belleville and complete large and colorful paintings around the community.

“It’s taking Belleville from a bedroom community, sleepy suburb and making it its own destination,” said Emily Smith, a Belleville Mural Project committee member. 

The St. Louis Cardinals clinched the National League Central Division on Sunday and will face the Braves in Atlanta on Thursday in their first postseason game in four years.
5 On Your Side

Updated at 6:45 p.m., Sept. 29 with comments from the team

The St. Louis Cardinals are division champions for the first time since 2015. 

The team walloped the Chicago Cubs 9-0 in front of a hometown crowd at Busch Stadium on Sunday, clinching their spot atop the National League Central Division. Milwaukee’s consecutive losses to the Colorado Rockies on Saturday and Sunday kept the Brewers two games behind St. Louis in the race for the title.

The Cardinals will open the playoffs Thursday in Atlanta against the Braves.

Members of the Scott Air Force Base Key Spouse Group at a luncheon on the military base on June 10, 2019. A new law in Illinois will make transfering professional licenses to Illinois easier for military spouses.
Solomon Cook | Scott Air Force Base

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE — A new law in Illinois aims to help members of the military and their spouses find solid employment faster.

The bill, signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in early August, offers service members and their partners reciprocity for professional licenses obtained in other states or jurisdictions, essentially letting them transfer an existing license to the state.

Land of Lincoln Legal Aid Staff Attorney Nicole Massey (right) assists a volunteer at an Expungement Day event in Champaign County in 2018. Land of Lincoln will run a similar even in Woodriver on Sept. 27.
Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation

WOOD RIVER — More than 7 million people in Illinois have a criminal record, according to the 2016 Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems. And 100 of them in Madison County will take the first step to sealing or expunging their criminal histories on Friday. 

It’s part of the Ready to Work: Madison County Expungement Day event hosted by Land of Lincoln Legal Aid Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation that provides free civil legal services to seniors and low-income residents in central and southern Illinois.

Illinois REAL IDs have a gold star in the top right corner.
Illinois Secretary of State Office

Like the rest of the country, Illinois residents will need to get Real IDs if they want to continue to use their licenses or other state identification cards to board domestic flights and enter federal buildings starting late next year.

In March, the state started issuing Real IDs in compliance with the security standards set by the 2005 Real ID act. Compliant licenses are marked by a gold star in the top right corner of the card. 

Edwardsville High School students observe labor apprentices pour concrete on Sept. 10. The high schoolers are part of a two year program where they learn aspects of the construction trade.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

EDWARDSVILLE — A new program that gives high school students hands-on experience with the construction trades kicked off this year. 

Over two years, juniors and seniors from local high schools will learn to pour concrete, install pipes, construct scaffolding and other aspects of the trades from certified labor instructors through the Illinois Laborers' and Contractors Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program.

Cambridge House of Swansea on Sept. 4. This is one of three Metro East facilites to receive 50 new apartments for dementia patients.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Metro East residents will have more options for affordable dementia care. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services announced it is expanding the number of its dementia care sites across the state. 

The department said it will add 1,600 apartments for dementia patients at 40 care sites over the next three years. Three of those sites are in the Metro East. The Cambridge House communities in Swansea, O’Fallon and Maryville will each get 50 new apartments. 

Cannabis plants grow inside an indoor facility. These facilities use high amounts of energy and water. Illinois aims to cut that use by requiring its growers meet strict energy efficiency standards.
Micripper / Pixabay

BELLEVILLE — Both recreational and medical cannabis growers in Illinois will have to meet high standards for their energy and water use. 

A state law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in June places limits on the amount of water and electricity growers can use, as well as setting requirements for water runoff and wastewater.

Assistant Secretary for the Army Civil Works Rickey Dale James (left) and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue (center) tour the top of the Melvin Price Locks and Dam facility on Aug 28.
USDA / Flickr

EAST ALTON — Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visited the Melvin Price Locks and Dam facility while in Illinois on Tuesday.

He toured the newer facility and promoted infrastructure investment in the Mississippi River system. 

Hunter Richardson, right, explains a tire nut to (from left to right) Juan Peal, Javahn Watkins, Nichelle Davis and Charles Singleton at World Wide Technology Raceway on Aug 22.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

MADISON — A program that pairs science and technology education with car racing hit the track at World Wide Technology Raceway on Thursday.

For the first time, the track invited youth teams from school districts and after-school programs throughout the St. Louis region to build and race their own go-karts ahead of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 IndyCar race on Saturday.

Solar panels are one upgrade business can make with PACE financing. The Fairview Heights City Council will consider tonight whether to allow the financing program in its city.
File photo| Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 10:20 p.m. Aug. 20 to include the City Council's decision to delay its vote

Businesses in Fairview Heights may soon find private investors to help them make their buildings more energy efficient.

The Fairview Heights City Council is considering a proposal to establish a Property Assessed Clean Energy financing program in the city. The council had scheduled a vote for Tuesday, but delayed it until its Sept. 3 meeting to give the public an opportunity to see recent changes state legislators made to the law.

The PACE program gives commercial property owners access to long-term loans for efficiency upgrades. It would help new and existing businesses invest in their properties, said Paul Ellis, the city’s director of economic development.

Horses cross the finish line at Fairmount Park Racetrack on July 23. The number of live races at the track will likely increase to 100 because of the gambling expansion bill passed earlier this year.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

Fairmount Park Racetrack is filled with spectators on most Tuesdays and Saturdays, eager to watch horses fly down the dirt track.

But with just 41 live racing days this year, the stands at the Collinsville track remain empty far more days than they’re filled.

A recent gambling-expansion law in Illinois could change the track’s fortunes. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill in June, which was long-sought by the horse racing industry. Racetracks can now apply for licenses to host table games like blackjack and roulette, slots, video gaming and sports betting. 

A worker at Kruta's Bakery selects a bear claw for a customer's order on Aug. 13. The bakery celebrates a century of serving the Metro East and St. Louis region.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

Jennifer Hammond knows exactly what to do when there’s a birthday at her office. She immediately picks up a cake from Kruta’s Bakery in Collinsville.

For the last century, the family-owned business has lured customers with kolaches, danishes and a wide variety of other baked goods.

“They’re just so tasty — the doughnuts, the cakes, the cupcakes, everything. It’s really good,” said Hammond, who lives near the bakery. 

On Sunday, Kruta’s Bakery will celebrate its 100th year as a family-owned business.

U.S. Capitol
Liam James Doyle | NPR

St. Louis-area members of Congress said they are ready to act to prevent mass shootings like the ones that took place in El Paso and Dayton over the last weekend — though it’s sometimes unclear what exactly they are looking to do.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker addresses the crowd at Fairmount Park on July 30. He signed into law a gaming expansion that helps increase the tracks racing days to 100.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a massive gambling expansion into law in June. On Tuesday he stopped by Fairmount Park Racetrack in Collinsville to talk about the impact.

The legislation offers six new casinos, a harness racetrack and casino licenses for the three existing racetracks in Illinois. Pritzker said adding other types of gaming will reverse the current decline at the horse racing track.

Visitors look over produce at one stand at the Old Town Farmers Market on July 20. The Belleville market started accepting SNAP benefits this year.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

The Old Town Farmers Market draws people seeking fresh, local produce to Belleville’s downtown every Saturday morning. 

Food stands line a block of South Charles Street offering fresh meats, eggs, vegetables and fruits, and a steady stream of patrons checks out the options six months of the year.

Now the popular farmers market hopes to attract a new set of customers: SNAP users. 

Mural locations (clockwise from top left) include Complete Supplements, Grimm and Gorly, Turned Treasure Galleries and 128 East Main. The Belleville City Council approved these locations by a vote of 12-1 on July 15.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

Murals will transform five downtown Belleville buildings as part of an effort to showcase art in the Metro East community.

The Belleville City Council approved the Community Mural Project’s locations last week.  

Trees killed by sudden oak death on a hillside in Big Sur, California, in 2006. The pathogen that causes sudden oak death was found on some ornamental plants in Illinois.
Wikimedia Commons

Updated at 12:45 p.m. Friday to add that the pathogen has been found in Missouri, as well.

A pathogen that’s deadly to some native trees has been found in 10 Illinois counties, including St. Clair and Monroe.

Agricultural officials found Phytophthora ramorum, which causes sudden oak death, on some ornamental plants from big-box garden centers around the state. The pathogen causes dark brown spots on the leaves and branch tips of rhododendron, azalia and lilac, but it is deadly for oaks and certain other tree species. 

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