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Granite City

Not Just Granite City: There’s Statewide Scrutiny Of Crime-Free Housing Rules In Illinois

Jan 30, 2020
From 2014 to 2018, 46.8% of the tenants who were forced out of their homes under Granite City's crime-free housing rules weren't accused of wrongdoing.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Groups across Illinois, from nonprofits to real estate associations, have been calling for changes to cities’ policies for renters because they say the rules that are meant to prevent crime violate tenants’ and landlords’ rights.

Some civil rights advocates spoke out against crime-free housing ordinances years before Granite City’s was the subject of federal lawsuits.

Granite City Renters Face Eviction Over Drug Overdose 911 Calls During Opioid Epidemic

Jan 29, 2020
On State Street in Granite City, there have been 11 crime-free housing violations for different tenants at the apartment complex over five years, from 2014 to 2018, more repeats than any other rental property. Eight of the violations requiring an eviction
File photo | Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

GRANITE CITY — A 27-year-old man called 911 to send an ambulance to his home when his girlfriend passed out.

He didn’t know what was wrong but told the dispatcher it could be an overdose.

About a month later, he received a letter saying the city wanted his landlord to evict him.

In Granite City, renters can be kicked out after calling for help for someone overdosing on drugs because of the city’s crime-free housing ordinance. Even if no one is arrested or charged with a crime, the drug use breaks Granite City’s rules for renters.

From 2014 to 2018, 25.6 percent of the people who Granite City said violated its crime-free housing rules were accused of offenses that didn't happen at the home of the renters facing eviction for it.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

GRANITE CITY — An 83-year-old man was in the hospital with lung cancer when he learned he could be kicked out of his apartment.

It was early 2017, a few days after Laurence Madden’s 19-year-old grandson was arrested for disorderly conduct at Madden’s Granite City apartment. He received a letter from the police officer who enforces the crime-free housing policy, the city’s rules for renters.

The message said the apartment complex’s owner had to evict Madden over his grandson’s criminal charge or else the city could revoke the business license the owner needed to rent out apartments in the future.

Granite City Changes 'Crime-Free' Rules for Renters Amid Complaints And State Law Update

Jan 8, 2020
Jessica Barron and Kenny Wylie, of Granite City, are plaintiffs in on of two civil rights lawsuits against Granite City over the enforcement of the city's crime-free housing ordinance. Jan. 2020
Institute For Justice

Amid two ongoing civil rights lawsuits and a change in the state law, Granite City officials have relaxed their rules for landlords and tenants under the city’s crime-free housing ordinance, which used to be among the strictest in the metro-east.

Until recently, Granite City officials would require landlords to evict tenants if anyone staying in their home, including a guest, was charged with a felony, even if the offense happened somewhere other than their apartment or rental home.

An amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act this year says landlords who deny someone housing based on an arrest without a conviction are violating a tenant’s civil rights, unless the crime happens at the rental property.

The building in downtown Granite City will be home to to the new Edison Avenue Lofts.
Rise Community Development

There is new life for what developers describe as the last major vacant building in downtown Granite City. A St. Louis area nonprofit has acquired the former Tri-City YMCA with plans to convert it into affordable apartments and an arts hub.

Rise Community Development has closed on financing for the building, which has been vacant for 14 years. Plans call for nearly 40 apartments in what will be called Edison Avenue Lofts and more than 5,600 feet of commercial space.

Lawsuit Alleges Granite City Paved Over Its Own Sewers, Leading To August Floods

Dec 9, 2019
A "freak" storm dumped 9 inches of rain on Granite City on Aug. 12, 2019, flooding homes and businesses.
Belleville News-Democrat

GRANITE CITY — Another lawsuit has been filed in the wake of August’s flash floods in Granite City — this one aimed at the city itself.

The Metro East Sanitary District is suing Granite City in answer to a similar lawsuit filed by city taxpayers last week.

The suits stem from flash flooding in Granite City in August, which left some residents’ homes, businesses and cars damaged or destroyed after 9 ½ inches of rain fell over the city in a short period.

U.S. Steel Lays Off Non-Union Workers In Granite City Due To ‘Challenging Market’

Nov 11, 2019
A U.S. Steel worker watches as a slab of steel moves through the production process.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

GRANITE CITY — An undisclosed number of non-union employees at Granite City’s U.S Steel plant have been laid off.

In a statement U.S. Steel spokesperson Amanda Malkowski said the layoffs were due to “challenging market conditions.”

Assessment Of Flooding Damage In Granite City To Happen This Weekend

Sep 6, 2019
A "freak" storm dumped 9 inches of rain on Granite City on Aug. 12, 2019, flooding homes and businesses.
Belleville News-Democrat

GRANITE CITY — Madison County officials will be taking stock this weekend of damage caused by flash flooding to Granite City homes and businesses.

Last month, approximately 9 inches of rain dumped on the Granite City area, causing severe flash flooding in Chouteau, Nameoki, Granite City and Venice townships. The “freak” storm damaged more than 1,000 homes and left many residents with flooded yards and basements, or homeless. Now, the city is trying to get a handle on the extent of the damage. 

Durbin Bill Would Bolster Program That Aids New Doctors Who Work In Underserved Areas

Sep 5, 2019
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) talks about the Rural America Health Corps Act in Granite City. The bipartisan legislature would help bring medical professionals to areas like Southern Illinois by bolstering the National Health Service Corps program
Kavahn Mansouri | Belleville News-Democrat

GRANITE CITY — A bill in Congress aims to bring more medical professionals to downstate Illinois and other rural and underserved areas across the country.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, R-Illinois, visited Granite City on Thursday to promote legislation bolstering the National Health Service Corps program at the Gateway Regional Medical Center. The program has been sending medical professionals to underserved communities since 1972 and in turn helping those professionals by offering student loan debt forgiveness. 

In one town in the Metro East, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, police are forcing landlords to evict tenants who have called for help during an overdose because they have heroin or other controlled substances in their rental property.

An art installation in Granite City showing casts of driftwood from flood events.
Meghan Grubb

In an industrial, desolate block of Granite City, artists are presenting videos, photography and sculptures that depict environmental problems in the St. Louis area.

The 18 pieces that comprise Art + Landscape STL are on display the Granite City Art and Design District, a converted area of former retail and outdoor spaces along State Street. Some works, like a ring of stacked sandbags, allude to flooding along the Mississippi River.

A table of objects that include a map of where radioactive Manhattan Project waste had been dumped in north St. Louis County refers to toxic-waste sites. The exhibits will be on display for the next four weekends.

David Burks mans the Salvation Army's red kettle outside the Walmart store in Granite City.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Salvation Army bell-ringer David Burks was making a joyful noise in front of the Granite City Walmart on a recent Friday morning. He greeted everyone who passed his red kettle, whether they dropped in pennies or a folded dollar bill or hurried by without a glance.

“You have a good day now. Thank you, and God bless you.”

The fundraising goal for the Granite City Salvation Army is $88,000 this Christmas season, and it will take thousands of drops in the buckets to get there. The Salvation Army says its trademark red kettle campaign is as important as ever because many have been left behind by the nation's rebounding economy.

Granite City steel plant on July 20, 2017.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Steel is facing a labor issue in Granite City just months after restarting production at the Metro East plant. The company’s current national contract with the United Steelworkers is set to expire Saturday, and workers are holding a rally Thursday to draw attention to the negotiations.

Illinois Republican Congressman Rodney Davis, left, and Ivanka Trump discuss workforce development in Godfrey on August 8, 2018.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

First Daughter Ivanka Trump made a public appearance in the Metro East Wednesday morning to highlight the importance of preparing young people for technical careers.

Trump, who serves as an advisor to the president, participated in a roundtable discussion on workforce development at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey. The discussion focused primarily on apprenticeships and training opportunities for jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree, such as welding or plumbing.

President Donald Trump speaks at a Granite City Works warehouse on July 26, 2018.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated July 27 at 2:37 p.m. - STLPR journalist Jason Rosenbaum joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh to provide further analysis and a behind-the-scenes look at the president's visit.

Original story from July 26:

President Donald Trump offered up a passionate defense of his trade policy during a visit Thursday to Granite City, and predicted that Friday’s economic numbers will back him up.

“The days of plundering American jobs and wealth, those days are over,’’ Trump said, touching off cheers from an enthusiastic crowd of about 500 invited guests gathered in a warehouse that’s part of a steel mill complex being reopened by US Steel.

Granite City native Jason Fernandez, who serves as vice president of Local 1899, was laid off 10 years ago during the Great Recession.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

After a two-year wait for jobs to come back, steelworkers threw an old-fashioned street party on Saturday, just blocks from U.S. Steel’s Granite City plant.

It was a “fire up” party to celebrate 500 people finally going back to work to start up a blast furnace that was idled in December 2015, said Dan Simmons, president of United Steelworkers Local 1899.

Granite City steel plant on July 20, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Steelworkers are about to start making steel again at U.S. Steel’s Granite City Works — and they’re throwing a street party on Saturday to celebrate.

In March, U.S. Steel announced that it was restarting one of its two blast furnaces at the plant and would recall about 500 steelworkers. They were laid off in December 2015 when the company idled its steelmaking facilities in Granite City.

Dan Simmons of United Steelworkers Local 1899 discussed what led to the announcement that U.S. Steel will be rehiring as many as 500 Illinois workers – and what’s next for the plant.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

Ecstatic – that’s the word that Dan Simmons used to describe the mood in Granite City, Illinois, this week.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, the United Steelworkers Local 1899 president joined host Don Marsh to discuss the news that up to 500 workers will return to work at the steel mill around which the town was built.

Head Start teacher Chea Wyatt guides Kennydi Harris through an exercise June 23, 2017 at the East St. Louis Kindergarten readiness camp.
File Photo |Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time this school year, Illinois public schools statewide are required to measure and report how prepared their kindergartners were for school.

The state board of education is collecting the data to better understand what regions are lacking preschool access.

However, area school districts are concerned the reporting process is time consuming. Several expressed doubt that the information will be useful.

Most of the operations at Granite City Steel were put on hold in early 2016.
Paul Sableman | Flickr

 

Updated July 27 with comments from U.S. Steel CEO - New leadership at U.S. Steel is linking the outcome of a federal trade case to the potential resumption of steel-making at the company's Granite City plant.  Chief Executive Officer David Burritt says strong action by the Trump administration following a probe into unfairly-priced steel imports could lead to further revival of the Metro East operation.

Kids sitting on the floor in a classroom
Phil Roeder | Flickr

Illinois passed a budget Thursday for the first time since 2015, and is giving more money to education than in previous spending plans.

But several years of prorated and delayed state aid have forced K-12 school districts in St. Clair and Madison counties to cut staff, increase class sizes, take on debt and deplete cash reserves. And, like the state’s finances, it’s going to take time for districts to bounce back.

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

For years, Granite City had some of the worst air quality in Illinois. But a new effort to track greenhouse gases could help reduce the city’s air pollution and improve public health.

For 18 months, Washington University researchers tracked levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from Granite City municipal operations. The area has historically dealt with high levels of particulate matter pollution, largely from the local U.S. Steel plant. The plant idled temporarily at the end of 2015 but began operating again this year.

Collinsville pitcher Ryan Siverly tries to apply a tag on O'Fallon's Jacob Dryer in a high school baseball game Tuesday, April 25, 2017 in Collinsville, Illinois. Players at both schools have to pay a fee to play sports.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Several Metro East school superintendents are among the 413 public school leaders who are calling on Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-majority legislature to pass a budget after nearly two years of disagreements, and fully fund public education.

U.S. Steel in Granite City
Wayne Pratt|St. Louis Public Radio

Updated  at 3 p.m. Dec. 19  with news of the bill signing — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed a bill that would extend unemployment benefits for 2,000 laid-off Granite City steelworkers.

The legislature this month approved the proposal that will provide 52 weeks of benefits, instead of the current 26 for eligible workers.

“This legislation will help the hard working families of the Metro East who lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” Rauner said, in a statement. 

Doug Byrum poses for a portrait with his wife, Ruth Ann, at their Mitchell, Illinois, home on Nov. 7, 2016. Byrum is one of 2,000 U.S. Steel employees who has been without work for nearly a year.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Discussions are underway this week at the Illinois Statehouse about whether to extend unemployment benefits for laid-off steelworkers in the Metro East. A bill to lengthen the benefit period to a full-year instead of the current 26 weeks has been passed by a legislative committee.  

U.S. Steel continues to ramp up production at Granite City Works following an idling that lasted for a couple of years.
File photo | Davd Schaper|NPR

Tough market conditions continue to idle steel making  in Granite City. The chief executive officer of U.S. Steel says the company still does not have a timeline to restart production at the Metro East plant. Around 1,600 workers have been off the job since operations were idled roughly 10 months ago.

One GCADD lot includes a crane sculpture and art truck by Christopher Carl
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Last year Galen Gondolfi bought an entire city block in Granite City for roughly $75,000. The Fort Gondo Arts Compound founder bought the abandoned block to launch his new project: the Granite City Art and Design District.

“It’s exceeded expectations exponentially, there’s just been overwhelming support,” said Gondolfi. “We were a bit, you know, tentative about what to expect, and we’ve just been overwhelmingly pleased.”

A view of the outside of the United Steelworkers office in Granite City.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 12:30 p.m., April 27,  with CEO comments — There is still no firm timeline for production to resume at the U.S. Steel plant in Granite City.  The company continues to describe the shutdown as temporary and operations will not start again until demand picks up. 

With U.S. Steel set to start idling operations in Granite City next week, some Metro East leaders are calling on federal lawmakers to take a tougher stance on overseas steel producers selling on the U.S. market at unfairly low prices.

U.S. Steel continues to ramp up production at Granite City Works following an idling that lasted for a couple of years.
File photo | Davd Schaper|NPR

Updated at 1 p.m., November 24, 2015, to include comments from a union representative:

Dave Dowling, the sub district director for the United Steelworkers union, says he doesn't expect to know the date of the plant's idling for about two weeks.

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