Metro East Coverage | St. Louis Public Radio

Metro East Coverage

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.

Moyan Brenn | Flickr

The concept of a library is over 5,000 years old, but that doesn’t mean these community institutions are stuck in the Stone Age. On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, we heard from librarians from two different communities in the region, in Ferguson, Mo., and Fairmont City, Ill., and how they are innovating exactly what the concept of a library is.

Tiffany Lee and Reginald Petty recently published "Legendary East St. Louisans."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Miles Davis. Katherine Dunham. Jackie Joyner-Kersee. These are three household names you may know who have connections to East St. Louis. But they are not the only African-American East St.

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth I St. Louis Public Radio
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth I St. Louis Public Radio

In a region as fragmented as St. Louis, there’s one commonality uniting scores of towns and cities: high sales taxes.

Metro East schools sue Illinois over inadequate funding

Apr 5, 2017
Flickr | alkruse24

Hours after measures to increase the sales tax for schools failed in both Madison and St. Clair counties, two school districts from each county sued the state.

Bethalto, Cahokia, Grant and Wood River-Hartford schools joined more than a dozen other southern Illinois districts in the suit. They want the state to provide enough funding so districts can meet the state's new learning standards.

Lebanese photographer Fadi BouKaram is traveling across the U.S. visiting every town that shares the name of homeland. Here he is pictured in front of his 21-foot RV.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

Fadi BouKaram, a photographer from the Middle Eastern country of Lebanon, is on a mission in the United States. He’s attempting to visit all of the 40-plus communities in the U.S. that share the name of his homeland.

He acquired an RV and began the five-month trip on Oct. 15, 2016. The first Lebanon he visited in the United States was in Oregon.

The industrial park in Illinois covers 2,300 acres. Developers say it is within 1,500 miles of 90 percent of the people in North America.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Leaders in a Metro East County are taking a proactive approach to anticipated changes by the new administration in Washington, D.C. Massive infrastructure investments and re-working international trade deals are key parts of President Donald Trump’s blueprint and Madison County officials are trying position the area for growth under the potential new economic realities.

The Milburn campus of O'Fallon Township High School, where the district's ninth-graders attend class.
O'Fallon Township High School via Facebook

Updated March 3, 2017 with results of an emergency meeting — A Metro East high school has reversed the severity of its planned teacher cuts for next school year.

At an emergency meeting Thursday, the O’Fallon Township High School board of education unanimously approved a new budget deficit reduction plan. The new plan eliminates four classroom teaching positions instead of six full-time and one part-time teacher.  Guidance counseling and library services are no longer impacted by the cuts.

Much of Monroe County bordering the Mississippi River is in a flood plain. This view of the plain is from the bluffs near Valmeyer in 2013.
File Photo | Mary Leonard | St. Louis Beacon

Only 14 counties nationwide have a lower poverty rate than Monroe County, Illinois, located directly south of St. Louis, according to a new census report.

The mostly agricultural area located across the Mississippi River from Jefferson County had a median household income of just under $80,000 in 2015, and about 5 percent of the population was considered low-income.

The pilot program only covers the City of East St. Louis, not unincorporated areas.
Heather Anne Campbell | Flickr

A pilot program between East St. Louis and the state of Illinois is expected to streamline the inspection process for more than 50 retailers in the city who hold liquor licenses. The Illinois Liquor Control Commission is training local officials to make sure the businesses are following state and local laws.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says St. Clair County's proposal for the NGA's relocation to Scott Air Force Base is better than those for three Missouri sites.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies are honored to welcome U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin to the program.

The Illinois Democrat serves as the Senate minority whip, making him the second most powerful member of his party next to the minority leader. He recently won another term in office in the 2014 election cycle.

Hannah Westerman | St. Louis Public Radio

Nine people were arrested Monday in the Metro East as part of a state and federal public corruption task force operation.

Known as Operation Watchtower, the joint task force began this spring.

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly announced the arrests at a press conference at the Illinois State Police Headquarters in Collinsville.

Kelly says his office has prosecuted a large number of public integrity cases but they still present a unique challenge.

A mob stops a street car during the East St. Louis race riots, which started on July 2, 1917.
University of Massachusetts-Amherst Libraries

One hundred years after the 1917 East St. Louis race riots a permanent monument to victims will be dedicated, and educational programs, musical and theatrical presentation, and other events will be held.

The East St. Louis 1917 Centennial Commission and Cultural Initiative announced its plans Wednesday. Commission vice chairman Edmond Brown, president of ELB Enterprises, said the monument will “commemorate those lost during that time, to act as a point of education as well as for healing of the community.” Commission chairman, the Rev. Joseph Brown, a professor of Africana studies at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, said there will also be “rituals taking place around East St. Louis to respect the places where we know people were murdered.”

Miles Davis' childhood home is without siding. Workers are installing a new roof.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Inside the shell of a modest house in East St. Louis, there is nothing to let a visitor know that one of the nation’s most noted musicians once called it home.

The interior of the one-story structure is skeletal — all bare studs and dust. But when Lauren Parks and Jasper Gery Pearson are inside, they can see the space where a young Miles Davis got his start in life, years before creating the music that would make him one of the biggest names in jazz. They hope to turn the trumpeter’s childhood home into a museum and educational space that will inspire children.

East St. Louis gun buyback takes 100 guns off streets

Aug 7, 2016
Four hand guns on a red cloth.
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Facebook

The St. Clair County Sheriff’s office is melting down at least a hundred illegal firearms it collected over the weekend at a gun buyback in East St. Louis.

$10,000 in Wal-Mart gift cards were handed out in 39 minutes Saturday in exchange for the guns.

Cahokia Power Plant from The American Bottom
Provided by Jennifer Colton

Driving down Interstate 70, headed west toward St. Louis, Jesse Vogler looked out the window and was shocked to see a giant mound rising from the earth. Excited, he mistook a large landfill for The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, which preserves the remains of a prehistoric civilization.

A jockey rides a horse back past the finish line after a race on opening day at Fairmount Park.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There were 30 minutes until the first race of the day and the locker room at Fairmount Park Racetrack buzzed with activity. Jockeys flipped through race programs and flicked their whips through the air. Television sets perched on cluttered shelves flashed scenes of the track outside, where fans filled the stands for opening day of the Collinsville racetrack's 91st season.

As announcers counted down in anticipation, the jockeys helped each other tape up aching joints and teased each other playfully. Some said a quick prayer.

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. 

I Am EStL

Charmaine Savage spent years away from her hometown of East St. Louis as an officer in the U.S. Navy. After living away with her husband Lorenzo, also from East St. Louis, in places like Virginia, San Diego, Tennessee and even Iraq, she returned to the area after retiring following several battles with cancer.

Savage said that she and her husband, who she met at Lincoln High School, had always wanted to return. Over the years, she had continually heard bad publicity about her hometown. She knew she wanted to combat that.

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.

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