Metro East Coverage | St. Louis Public Radio

Metro East Coverage

Edith Moore, interim city manager for East St. Louis signs an ordinance under the direction of City Clerk Dorene Hoosman on Mon. Jan. 4, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

East St. Louis started 2016 under new management. Longtime city employee Edith Moore became the Metro East city’s fourth city manager in six months on the Monday after Christmas.

While the position is temporary, Moore wasted no time taking action. She notified seven city employees last week that they were being laid off.

Gambling revenue from the Casino Queen is a major source of revenue for the city of East St. Louis.
Paul Sableman | Flickr

Cash-strapped East St. Louis has received an overdue gift from the state just in time for the holidays: $2.5 million worth of back taxes from the Illinois gaming board.

Normally East St. Louis receives a portion of gaming revenue spent at the Casino Queen on a monthly basis. But until Illinois passed a partial budget earlier this month, the state comptroller’s office didn’t have the authority to release the funds.

City Manager Alvin Parks, Jr. (left), Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks, financial consultant Dawayne Stewart and budget director Egzabia Bennett speaks to reporters Friday, Nov. 20, 2015 in East St. Louis.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

As East St. Louis scrambles to fill an immediate cash shortage and find ways to reduce a projected 2016 deficit of $5.9 million, an independent review of its finances shows that the city may not have collected all its revenue last year.

Overall, the St. Louis firm Brown Smith Wallace found that East St. Louis lacked the records and policies needed to insure it received all the money it was owed in 2014.

East St. Louis City Manager Alvin Parks leans over the city council table Thurs. Nov. 12, 2015 to speak to Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks.
File Photo |Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 11 p.m. with the results of the East St. Louis City Council meeting- The East St. Louis City Council unanimously approved a 2016 budget Monday night with a projected deficit of nearly $6 million. Most of that deficit is carried over from prior years.

 

“We understand that there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, but we wanted to make sure we pass a budget going into a new year,” said City Council President Pro Tem Robert Eastern. “We didn’t want to hold the city’s business up.”

East St. Louis officials gather for a press conference in the mayor's office Nov. 20, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

East St. Louis officials are looking to the state and the banks to avoid having to ask city employees to work without pay in January.

At a news conference convened by the mayor Friday evening, City Manager Alvin Parks said “there is a distinct possibility” of payless paydays after Dec. 30.

East St. Louis City Manager Alvin Parks leans over the city council table Thurs. Nov. 12, 2015 to speak to Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks.
File Photo |Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 20 to clarify current layoff numbers-East St. Louis City Manager Alvin Parks has notified two more city employees that they are losing their jobs. Tuesday, Nov. 24 will be the last day of work for the public safety director and the superintendent of streets.

Parks said Thursday the positions are being eliminated in order to reduce the city’s millions of dollars of debt. He previously laid off eight police officers and six administrators. He also eliminated one unfilled administrative position.

East St. Louis teachers walk out of their union hall after voting to approve a tentative contract agreement and end a month-long teacher strike Friday Oct. 30, 2015.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 20 to clarify the city's current budget deficit. Updated at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 with vote results: Class will be back in session on Monday for the 6,000 students enrolled in East St. Louis public schools.

A teacher strike that began Oct. 1 is over after the school board and teacher union voted Friday to approve a new contract for the district's 400 teachers and professional staff.

William Campbell brought his granddaughter Serenity McKenney, left, and son Xavier Miller to church Oct. 18, 2015. Both children are out of school while their teachers are on strike in East St. Louis.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

School is canceled for a 12th day in East St. Louis Monday, as a teacher strike that began on Oct. 1 appears no closer to a resolution.

This leaves more than 6,000 students at loose ends. At New Life Community Church in East St. Louis Sunday, parents and students affected by the strike said they’re ready for school to be back in session.

East St. Louis lays off eight police officers

Oct 14, 2015
police car lights
Jason Rojas | Flickr

In a letter released Wednesday to staff and media, East St. Louis City Manager Alvin Parks announced eight police officers are being laid off effective October 28.

Parks said that the police layoffs are “temporary but indefinite.” The layoffs would reportedly leave the East St. Louis police department with 44 officers, representing a 15 percent reduction in force.

Jameela Tidwell (left) and Molicia Hammond dissect a from Tues. Oct. 6, 2015 in the Upward Bound program at SIUE's East St. Louis Center. Both are sophomores at East St. Louis Senior High.
Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville | provided

Thursday marked the sixth school day with no class for the more than 6,000 students in East St. Louis School District 189 as teachers continue to strike. Contract negotiations between the district and the teachers' union appear to have hit a stand-still.

Since the strike began, six community centers with after-school programming have extended their hours and opened their enrollment to all students in the district.

East St. Louis teachers on strike

Sep 30, 2015
East St. Louis students spend about a month without school last fall due to a teacher strike. In this Oct. 1, 2015 file photo students spend their free day outside the school district office.
File photo | Wiley Price | St. Louis American

Updated Thursday, Oct. 1,  2015

School is canceled Thursday for 6,000 students in East St. Louis as teachers walk the picket line. About 400 union teachers and staff members went on strike at 7 a.m.

East St. Louis School District 189 spokeswoman Kelli Hawkins said Wednesday the superintendent is hopeful teachers will meet Thursday and reconsider the district’s contract offer. The district’s 400 union teachers rejected it Tuesday before voting to go on strike.

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

Stakeholders on both sides of the Mississippi River are ramping up recruitment efforts due to a shortage of workers pursuing careers in construction. In the Metro East, those recruitment efforts also include manufacturing.

East St.  Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

The mayor of East St. Louis says she is being left out of the decision-making process at city hall. She’s also accusing the city manager of violating the policies of the city council.

“I will not be circumvented without letting the citizens know exactly what is going on because I will not and do not want to be held accountable for decisions being made without my input or for situations that are out of my control,” Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks told St. Louis Public Radio ahead of a Sunday afternoon news conference billed as an emergency discussion.

WeCare Clinic director Kim White, a clinical nurse specialist, stands in the waiting room of WeCare's primary care clinic.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

A $1.08 million grant from the federal government is allowing an East St. Louis clinic to expand its services as a “one-stop shop” in a city where many struggle to manage chronic health conditions and access to care is often limited.

Members of the Local 23 firefighters union pass out school supplies to parents and children Saturday, August 22, 2015 in East St. Louis' Lincol Park.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

East St. Louis city government is in flux after a contentious city council meeting left both officials and residents divided.

On Thursday, the City Council replaced Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks' pick for city manager with former mayor Alvin Parks Jr.

“This is not to say anything bad about the past administration, but the past administration was there for eight years. And if the people wanted him back they would have voted him back,” Jackson-Hicks told St. Louis Public Radio Saturday. “I'm just not sure where we're going from here.  I really don't know.”

East St.  Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

East St. Louis employees across all departments could be facing layoffs due to a budget deficit approaching $5.7 million by 2016.

“We will make every effort as an administration to review all legal options and only look at layoffs as a last resort. However at this point we really do not see how the city will avoid layoffs,” said Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks in a prepared statement to news outlets Sunday afternoon.

(Via Flickr/Rosemary)

Illinois has yet to pass a state budget, and an East St. Louis health-care facility is facing layoffs and other tough decisions as a result.

The East Side Health District, which provides services to area residents, could lay off up to 30 workers, (an amount totaling up to two-thirds of the staff) and may end up closing altogether if it does not receive state funding soon.  

Flickr | Taber Andrew Bain

July 1 marked the official start of a new fiscal year, and the state of Illinois is without a working budget for most state services.

For now things seem to be in a holding pattern in the Metro East. Illinois State Troopers based in Collinsville are reporting to work and expect to get paid as normal. Cahokia Mounds remains open on its reduced Wednesday through Sunday schedule.

But many area service providers are on pins and needles as they wait to see if and when they’ll get reimbursed.

Worker at one of Community Link's workshops for adults with developmental disabilities.
courtesy Community Link

Social service agencies that provide support to thousands of people in the Metro East will be operating without state funding starting Wednesday if Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner can’t reach a budget compromise before the start of the new fiscal year.

Funding for most state programs, including child care subsidies and early intervention for children with developmental disabilities, have yet to be approved.

Jacob Lawrence. The Migration Series. 1940-41. Panel 22.
Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art

Harlem Renaissance painter Jacob Lawrence created his Great Migration Series 74 years ago, but his frank depiction of those events and the African-American experience of the time could be about current events in St. Louis and the United States. And as artists look to conceptualize what happened in Ferguson, they would do well to study Lawrence.

(Courtesy of the City of Belleville)

The board of Belleville Township could soon be voting to dissolve itself.

Currently an Illinois township can only be dissolved by a referendum of the people and approval from surrounding townships, but a bill awaiting consideration by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner would allow the Metro East township’s elected officials to vote for dissolution instead.

Alex Heuer

Representative John Shimkus, a Republican who represents Illinois' 15th Congressional District, joined “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh to discuss some of the issues he’s dealing with as a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and other matters in Washington. Shimkus represents a large portion of the Metro East as well as parts of eastern and southeastern Illinois.

Former East St. Louis mayor Alvin Parks, Jr. joined "St. Louis on the Air" host Don Marsh.
Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

Alvin Parks, Jr. joined “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh to discuss his two terms as mayor of East St. Louis and his plans for the future.

Councilwoman Emeka Jackson-Hicks unseated Parks in the April 7 election. After a court order removed his name from the ballot, Parks was forced to wage a write-in campaign. Jackson-Hicks is the daughter of Democratic state Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson. She was sworn into office on Monday.

     

"Get to Know M.E." http://www.get2knowthemetroeast.com

In March 2015, 23 businesses and organizations collaborated to create the “Get to Know M.E.” campaign (M.E. standing for “Metro East”) to counter the negative images some people may have about the Metro East.

Founded by Carol Bartle, the campaign’s goal is to help everyone in the Metro East get to know their communities better and to embrace each other as neighbors, all while working to improve the overall image outsiders may have about the region.

Mascotoutah Mayor Jerry Daugherty speaks at a news conference Wednesday, April 22, 2015. Daugherty is the current chair of the Illinois Municipal League.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

A dozen Metro East mayors are asking Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to reconsider a cost-saving measure in his proposed state budget. Rauner ran for office on a pledge to balance the budget, and has proposed cutting in half the amount of state income tax given to municipalities next fiscal year.

Debate over late-night club hours resurfaces in East St. Louis mayor’s race

Mar 18, 2015
(Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio)

The outcome of East St. Louis’s mayoral election next month could play a major role in the city’s efforts to boost economic development and public safety. One key issue in the race involves the operating hours of the city’s late-night clubs and liquor stores.

Two-term incumbent Alvin Parks Jr. wants to allow the businesses stay open until at least 6 a.m. to generate extra tax revenue. Parks' name has been taken off the ballot by a court, but he's still running.

(Flickr, David Goehring)

A solar power project slated for East St. Louis is waiting on the Illinois General Assembly to pass specific legislation so it can get funding to move forward.

S. Wray Clay of the United Way of Greater St. Louis, speaks during a presentation of the annual Kids Count report in East St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

“We need to do something different.”  

That was S. Wary Clay's message to parents during a presentation Thursday of the 2015 Kids Count report at the Lessie Bates Davis Family Development Center in East St. Louis.

St. Clair County, which includes East St. Louis, has a 30.3 percent childhood poverty rate, the second-highest for all counties in Illinois. Nearby Marion County's rate is 30.5 percent.

Hofbrauhaus, Shrine, Belleville
(courtesy Keller Entreprises)

A new convention center, two hotels, and several restaurants are being proposed for development across from the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, all with the Catholic organization’s blessing.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate own the 177-acre proposed site north of Illinois Route 15, just across from the Shrine. The Oblates said at a news conference Monday the development will augment their own conference space at the Shrine.

Guest services and marketing manager for the Shrine Chris Diel said it would also allow them to close an old hotel on the grounds.

Lawmaker: Close East St. Louis Election Board

Jan 23, 2015
Proposition B asks to voters to allow their local city or county to continue collecting sales tax on cars bought out of state
File photo | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a new effort underway to shut down the East St. Louis Election Board.

Illinois State Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) is sponsoring a bill to close it. Kay’s district includes portions of Madison and St. Clair County, but not East St. Louis.

If the bill passes, the St. Clair County Clerk will take over responsibility for elections in East St. Louis.

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