Metro East Coverage | St. Louis Public Radio

Metro East Coverage

Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon talked to reporters Thursday in Belleville about the impact of military spending throughout the state.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

A new report shows that Illinois’ military and defense industry contributes roughly $13.3 billion to the state’s economy – a figure that officials say could serve as a deterrent against federal cutbacks. 

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Foundation helped produced the study, which looks at the statewide impact of military installations, Department of Defense contracts and National Guard facilities.

(Read the report here.)

Illinois state Rep. Mike Bost's impassioned floor speech from 2012 is getting some attention. Democrats are using it to paint him as an ill-tempered extremist, while Republicans say it showcases his passion for his constituents.
Mike Bost's campaign

On the surface, Mike Bost and Moses don’t have that much in common. But some not-so-flattering political ads may create a different impression.

Bost – a Republican state representative from Murphysboro – is engaged in a highly competitive race against U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, for the 12th congressional district seat. It’s become vigorous enough to force the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to spend lots of money to paint Bost in a bad light.

(via Flickr/evmaiden)

The Highland, Illinois teachers’ union reached a settlement with the district’s board of education late Thursday afternoon, ending a week-long teacher strike.  Students will be back in class Friday after missing six days of school.

In a press release, Highland Superintendent Mike Sutton said the new teacher contract is good for three years and includes a provision to make up the missed school days. With school back in session Friday, school-sanctioned activities are now back on the weekend schedule, including the high school football game.

Michael Allen, Preservation Research Office

A part of downtown East St. Louis will likely be listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the end of September, and city officials hope that designation will spark revitalization.

The Downtown East St. Louis Historic District encompasses two blocks of Collinsville Avenue, a block and a half of Missouri Avenue and the south side of one block of St. Louis Avenue.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Governmental and religious officials rallied Thursday for the Illinois Department of Transportation to build a high-speed rail stop in East St. Louis. 

IDOT working on a high-speed rail line connecting St. Louis to Chicago. Construction is already underway on rail improvements between Joliet and Alton, where a station is under construction. 

EAC/Portfolio’s “Ebony Creations”

St. Louis-area art openings this Friday explore the beauty of nature, teapots and African-American works. “Ebony Creations” is a joint project of Portfolio Gallery and the Edwardsville Arts Center.

Illinois Bill Takes Aim At 'Knockout' Game

Dec 17, 2013
(via Flickr/steakpinball)

A state representative in the Metro East wants to stiffen the punishment for random assaults often referred to as the 'knockout' game. The so-called 'game' involves punching an unsuspecting person in the head with the goal of rendering them unconscious.

East St. Louis Pays Down Decades-Old Bonds

Nov 20, 2013
Flickr/Rob Lee

East St. Louis has paid off more than $20 million in bonds it’s owed Illinois for nearly two decades.

Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. says the $21.4 million it borrowed 19 years ago helped bail out the city in a time of crisis, but paying them off has been a financial burden ever since.

“This is a huge deal,” he said. “What it does is send a message that East St. Louis has handled its responsibilities to the state of Illinois and we have never defaulted on our loan from the state of Illinois in terms of refinancing the bonds.”

Toxic Site In Metro East Enters New Phase Of Cleanup

Oct 30, 2013
(via US Environmental Protection Agency)

The US Environmental Protection Agency held a community meeting in Hartford, Illinois, on Wednesday, to inform residents about the ongoing cleanup of the former Chemetco copper smelter.

This is the second of three open houses being held this year. Another will be held in December.

(Erin Williams / St. Louis Public Radio)

An East St. Louis museum dedicated to late choreographer and civil rights activist Katherine Dunham is getting a $100,000 state grant for fix-ups, but an unpaid utility bill could cast the site into darkness.

The Belleville News-Democrat reports administrators of the landmark need to pay St. Louis-based Ameren $486 by Thursday to keep the lights on. Dunham considered East St. Louis her adoptive home. She pioneered a dance technique combining Caribbean and African styles. She died in 2006 at age 96.

Legacy Of Katherine Dunham In Danger In East St. Louis

Oct 17, 2013
Erin WIlliams / St. Louis Public Radio

    

When Katherine Dunham - world dancer, former professor, and part-time East St. Louis resident - died in 2006, she made it a point to make sure that her legacy was remembered. She held workshops and gave personal instruction to other dancers on how to perform her flamboyant, graceful, Africa-influenced Dunham Technique; she wrote books, gave talks, and did interviews at length on overcoming racism and 

  discrimination while traveling the world with her troupe, the Katherine Dunham Company; and, most importantly, she oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Katherine Dunham Museum in East St. Louis, housed just across the street from the three homes she owned and occupied during her time in Illinois.

Unfortunately, memories can’t make money. And that’s what you need in order to run a museum.

Though the museum receives grants from time to time, there’s no trust or steady income, visits are by appointment only, and paying members of the museum are few. In fact, if you call the number listed on the website to book a tour, you get the cell phone of Laverne Backstrom, board president of the Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts and Humanities - and tour guide for the museum. Unlike the lights and the phone line at the museum, she can guarantee that her phone won’t be turned off.

“I think that her plan was by continuing to certify instructors, she then had these persons understand that they were more than dancers, that they were perpetuating a way of life, and it was the way that she thought that life ought to be lived,” says Backstrom, a retired schoolteacher.

Ideally, Dunham envisioned the museum as a bastion for artist to dance, make music, and learn about other cultures – and for the most part, that’s still happening.  The studio located in the backyard still serves as a place for instruction and weekly classes, and there’s still a yearly intensive held at Wash U every summer. If she were ever in financial trouble, Dunham could quickly call on friends like Harry Belafonte to help her cover costs. Her daughter, Marie-Christine, lives in France and leaves the day-to-day operations of the Museum in East St. Louis to the Board.

“You’re always subject to losing all of it. But you don’t think about that on a day to day basis. You continue to think where the next grant is going to come from or where the next resource might be,” says Backstrom. “I’m not going to be very effective screaming and yelling by myself that this is what needs to happen.”

U.S., State's Attorney Address Public Safety In Metro East

Oct 11, 2013
Paul Sableman / (Via Flickr/pasa47)

Over the past six decades, the Metro East has gained a nasty reputation for dangerous crime. The news headlines reflect a cycle of poverty and crime made worse by a lack of local resources for adequate governance.

Three government officials charged with tackling these problems joined us to discuss their vision for creating a more positive future for the Metro East: U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen Wigginton; State's Attorney for St. Clair County, Brendan Kelly; and the mayor of Washington Park, Ann Rodgers.

Maria Altman / St. Louis Public Radio

Federal, state and local law enforcement in the Metro East are zeroing in on armed robberies with a coalition similar to the Major Case Squad.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois Stephen Wigginton is spearheading the effort to go after a spate of what he called "brazen and violent" armed robberies this summer.

Wigginton said prosecutors will go after offenders with federal charges that often carry longer sentences.

Erin Williams

Public officials and religious leaders gathered in East St. Louis Saturday to celebrate the expansion of a major housing project aimed at providing low-income residents with an affordable place to live.

The Mount Sinai Development Corporation has secured land to add 30 homes to the original 30 that were completed two years ago in the Winstanley Industry Park Neighborhood.

Drug Operation In East St. Louis Nets 58 Charges

Aug 15, 2013
Michael Velardo | Flickr

Officials have charged more than 50 individuals following a three-month long investigation into drug-dealing in East St. Louis.

The operation, called "Wild Wild East," was carried out by Illinois State Police. St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said the defendants are at the middle tier in the drug trade, and were involved in dealing out heroin and cocaine.

58 charges ranged from delivery and armed violence to conspiracy. Kelly said the good news is that the arrests will have a serious impact on the area.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 20, 2013 - U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is once again wading into East St. Louis' local politics, sounding alarm over a proposal to create an entertainment district featuring all-night clubs. 

Durbin, D-Illinois, has clashed with East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks in the past couple of years over the closing times of clubs and liquor stores in the Metro East muncipality.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is once again wading into East St. Louis' local politics, sounding alarm over a proposal to create an entertainment district featuring all-night clubs. 

Durbin, D-Illinois, has clashed with East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks in the past couple of years over the closing times of clubs and liquor stores in the Metro East municipality.

(via Wikimedia Commons/J. Pelkonen)

An East St. Louis police detective is in federal custody today on charges that he and six other men helped distribute more than five kilos of cocaine in St. Clair and Madison counties over the last month.

Orlando Ward, 41, has been with the department for more than a decade. He will remain in jail until a hearing on May 15.

via Flickr/TeamSaintLouis (Army Corps of Engineers)

Updated: 4/1/13 at 4:12, after the meeting took place.

Transportation advocates say that by 2018, 1 out of every 3 miles of roads in Illinois will be of unacceptable condition, unless there are new sources of revenue. The Transportation for Illinois Coalition held a meeting with business leaders and state lawmakers in O’Fallon Monday to discuss what can be done.

Cars are becoming more fuel efficient – it’s good for drivers, who get to save more money, and it’s better for the environment. What it isn’t good for, however, is transportation funding.

(Courtesy: Andrew Theising / Southern Illinois University Edwardsville)

The citizens of East St. Louis once believed their town was destined for greatness.  They thought the town was poised to outdistance Chicago as the premier industrial giant and railroad freight node of the Midwest.

According to Andrew Theising, political scientist at the Institute for Urban Research at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and series editor of the East St. Louis Sesquicentennial series, “In the 19th century residents really did think it would be the new Pittsburgh. (Early) documents are just gushing with civic pride.”

Flickr

Several Metro East communities want to negotiate electricity supply costs for their residents and businesses.

A 2009 law allows Illinois cities and counties to contract with suppliers in order to negotiate prices with electric utilities.

It’s called "municipal aggregation" and referendums are on the ballot in Belleville, Collinsville, and Edwardsville. Click here for a complete list.

Nearly 250 Illinois municipalities already have done so, including Alton and Glen Carbon.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 5, 2012 - Last week, East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. announced an executive emergency curfew on those 17 years old and under, which, among other restrictions, will have police arrest and jail juveniles between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. as well as stop and randomly search vehicles for drugs, weapons and open alcohol containers. Furthermore, police will be checking pedestrians, bicyclists and skateboarders for alcohol, and arresting citizens who cannot produce a state-issued ID.

(Véronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio)

A Metro East environmental advocacy group is suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over access to information about the Southwestern Illinois levees and plans to repair them.

In the suit filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, the American Bottom Conservancy (ABC) said the Corps had repeatedly failed to respond to federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

The suit is seeking an injunction from the court to compel the Corps to comply with the Act.

former East St. Louis mayor Alvin Parks Jr. has been appointed city manager.
Alex Heuer/St. Louis Public Radio

Less than one week ago East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks announced a list of new measures in an attempt to curb recent violence in the city.  Among the new rules is a curfew for all youth after 10:00 p.m.  A ban from wearing royal blue or bright red clothing was also in effect for all men though the Mayor has since backed down.

Host Don Marsh talks with multiple guests about the new measures which stem from a deadly weekend in which an 18 year old man was stabbed to death and three young men died after being shot in the parking lot of a local club.

(via Flickr/davidsonscott15)

East St. Louis’ mayor has put a strict curfew in place for teens on the heels of four killings earlier this week.

Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. says police will arrest teenagers 17 and younger who are NOT in school between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Teens younger than 18 also will be arrested if they’re out later than 10 p.m.

Parks says he knows some people will consider the curfews too strict, but he wants to keep the city from losing more young people.

East St. Louis police officer sentenced

Sep 22, 2012
police lights
essygie | Flickr

A former East St. Louis police officer who stole a Rolex watch planted by federal agents as a test has been sentenced to 66 days in prison.

Larry Greenlee, of Belleville, pleaded guilty in May to stealing the watch, which agents planted as part of an integrity test. Greenlee came across the Rolex, encircled with diamonds, in what he thought was a stolen car, which agents had bugged with recording devices.

The sentence was announced Friday by the U.S. Attorney's Office in southern Illinois.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

Mayors from 19 cities and towns are in St. Louis this week to launch a new initiative aimed at bringing greater attention to issues affecting the Mississippi River.

A total of 41 mayors, so far, have formally agreed to the partnership, which is set to begin lobbying congress in March of next year.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said mutual interests trump party politics.

Was Miles Davis' cool born in East St. Louis?

Aug 24, 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 24, 2012 - This spring the U.S. and French postal services issued a pair of stamps honoring Miles Davis and Edith Piaf. In light of this national recognition, we checked in at the places that claim Davis – Alton and East St. Louis – to see what is happening with plans in those cities to commemorate the jazz legend. Today: East St. Louis

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

The East St. Louis Housing Authority will use a portion of a federal grant it received in February to boost security at its seven main housing projects in the city.

The funds will allow for the construction of a perimeter fence at the John DeShields homes, new exterior lighting at the same site, and security cameras at all seven of the authority's major properties. The authority will also be able to hire eight full-time security guards.

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