Metro East Coverage | St. Louis Public Radio

Metro East Coverage

(Photo courtesy of Illinois EPA)

Demolition of the former Chemetco copper smelter took another step forward on Tuesday. The demolition is the start of a long clean-up process for the hazardous Metro East eyesore.

The Illinois EPA is overseeing the dismantling of the smelter buildings, which began last year.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

Services are scheduled for two East St. Louis children whose mother is facing charges that accuse her of killing them with a shotgun.

Twenty-five-year-old Yokeia Smith is charged in St. Clair County with first-degree murder in the deaths last Wednesday of 5-year-old Levada Brown and 4-year-old Yokela Smith.

The mother is jailed in St. Louis, where she was arrested after police say she hit two pedestrians near St. Louis' Gateway Arch.

(Photo Courtesy St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department)

Updated at 3:20 pm with information from  the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

Updated with comments from Yokeia Smith's family and officials

Updated at 1:15 pm to correct amount of bail and add information on father of the slain son.

A 25-year-old East St. Louis woman faces first degree murder charges for allegedly shooting two of her children in the head with a shotgun.

Judge tosses suit challenging FEMA flood mapping in S.W. Ill.

Aug 3, 2011
(St. Louis Public Radio)

A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit three southwestern Illinois counties filed to block the U.S. government from declaring the region's levees functionally useless.

U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert called the lawsuit moot Monday, after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in court it had no plans to pull the accreditation of the region's levees as part of a levee-mapping effort.

State launches probe of East St. Louis schools

Jul 22, 2011
(via Flickr/Lauren Manning)

Illinois' board of education says a former top federal prosecutor will head a probe it has launched into spending by East St. Louis' cash-strapped public school system.

Friday's announcement of the probe comes as the 7,500-student district is under state control and beset by questions about its paying millions on consultants and conventions.

The state board says the probe will be headed by A. Courtney Cox, southern Illinois' former U.S. attorney. His firm will be paid up to $100,000 a year to do the investigation, at the district's expense.

Durbin: More money for Metro East port project

Jul 22, 2011
(Official Portrait/via Wikimedia Commons)

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says a Metro East port project is getting more money.

Durbin announced the $8.5 million from the Department of Transportation. The money is to help build a transportation hub that Durbin says can help reduce congestion on the Mississippi River.

Durbin's office says the project got $6 million last year. The project includes a harbor, rail lines and a rail and truck facility in Madison County, Ill.

The Illinois Democrat says the facility can help the Metro East's economic competitiveness.

Council OKs southwestern Ill. levee upgrades

Jul 21, 2011
(St. Louis Public Radio)

The people who oversee 64 miles of aging Mississippi River levees in southwestern Illinois have signed off on a $151 million plan to upgrade the barriers perhaps by 2014.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council adopted the proposal Wednesday involving levees in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties.

Officials expect the upgrades to be funded largely by a quarter-cent sales tax.

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East St. Louis is weighing whether to appeal a federal jury's verdict in favor of two former city officials who claimed they were fired because they spoke out about racial discrimination in the city's hiring process.

The Belleville News-Democrat reports that jurors in Benton deliberated about four hours before ruling Wednesday in favor of former police and fire commissioners Della Murphy and Wyatt Frazer.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

A yearly effort by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to clean up discarded tires is underway in the Metro East.

Front loaders were hard at work at a city-owned lot in East St. Louis Wednesday afternoon dropping tires into tractor trailers. The contractors, which will haul away the old tires to be reused, are funded with a fee that customers pay on new tires.

(via Flickr/RealEstateZebra)

The East St. Louis Fire Department will soon be able to bolster their efforts and staffing with a federal grant, the Belleville News-Democrat reports.

State poised to address East St. Louis schools

Mar 23, 2011
(via Flickr/Lauren Manning)

Illinois' education chief is giving East St. Louis' school district an ultimatum - fix the way it deals with some 1,500 special-education students or face "aggressive actions," including having the school system dissolved.

FEMA shifts course on flood map modeling

Mar 11, 2011
(St. Louis Public Radio)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is giving a reprieve to southwestern Illinois and other U.S. areas guarded by levees it was to have deemed functionally useless.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told federal lawmakers Thursday that the agency would hold off on decertifying 64 miles of earthen levees protecting St. Louis' Illinois suburbs.

Fugate says the agency would stop using a questioned assessment technique and turn to a more nuanced measure of the actual protection the levees provide.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate says homes and businesses in the Mississippi River floodplain may need flood insurance, even if they are protected by a levee.

Last week senators from Missouri, Illinois and 16 other states sent a letter to Administrator Fugate.

The ongoing process in East St. Louis concerning 16 police officer layoffs has gone back and forth, but the discussion between police union leaders and city officials seems to have made some significant progress.

The Illinois EPA is helping the Metro East village of Washington Park clean up an illegal dumping site this week.

The area an estimated 100 tons of trash, and the clean-up is expected to take three to five days.

Looks like the city of East St. Louis and its police officers will wait another day to settle their ongoing layoff dispute.

Morning Headlines: Freezing rain, St. Clair Police layoffs, START treaty

Dec 16, 2010
(Flickr Creative Commons User conner395)

  • If you thought your neighborhood was like a skating rink this morning, you certainly were not alone. Freezing rain coated the St. Louis area with a nasty glaze of ice, causing trouble on the roads. It was worse in rural areas and the Missouri Department of Transportation continues to treat streets with salt, and, believe it or not, beet juice.
  • Sheriff's deputies in St. Clair county got some bad news on Tuesday - 13 of the 46 deputies will be losing their jobs effective Jan. 15. The Belleville News-Democrat reports that this comes after the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police union rejected a proposal by the county to increase their wages by 1 percent, a margin deemed too small by the union compared to similar-sized departments in Illinois, including Madison County the paper reports. Also in St. Clair county,  the East St. Louis city council is scheduled to vote on Friday on a proposal to layoff 26 city employees, including 19 police officers effective Jan. 1.  Laying off 19 police officers means that the police department will be left with 43 police officers -- the department had more than 70 officers just a few years ago. With a reduced force it will be tougher to police an area that, so far, has seen 25 homicides this year.
  • The U.S. Senate is debating President Obama's top foreign policy priority, a U.S.-Russia nuclear arms treaty. Democrats prevailed in a test vote Wednesday after Republicans threatened to delay work on the pact, known as the START treaty. Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill emphasized that the treaty with Russia is vital for the success of American troops fighting in Afghanistan:

"It is a very important treaty for our troops in Afghanistan because the supply lines for our troops in Afghanistan go through Russia and our relationship with Russia is very, very important, especially as you look at our plans on missile defense." - Claire McCaskill

Josephine Baker honored with stamp

Jul 15, 2008
postage stamp honoring Josephine Baker. 2008. 300 pixels
Provided by the Postal Service

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 15, 2008 - On July 2 1917, 11-year-old Freda Josephine McDonald witnessed the horrors of the East St. Louis race riots.

As reported in Harper Barnes' book, "Never Been a Time," her brother Richard asked, "Is there a storm coming, Mama?"

"No, not a storm, child, it's the whites." 

Newspaper photo from "made in USA: East St. Louis" (Virginia Publishing), by Andrew Theising 300 pixels  2008
St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 27, 2008 - Note from the author:

July 2, 2008, is the 91st anniversary of the East St. Louis race riot, the first and officially the deadliest of a series of devastating racial battles that swept through American cities in the World War I era.

Racial memory: Clear as black and white

Jun 27, 2008
miles_davis300olivernurock.jpg
Photo by Olivr Nurock

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 27, 2008 - In the past four years, since I began work on my new book on the terrible 1917 East St. Louis race riot, my wife and I have told hundreds of people from the St. Louis area about the project, and have discovered a fact that is both remarkable and thoroughly understandable.

In general, white people, even those who have lived in this area for most or all of their lives, have never heard of the riot - a riot that arguably was the deadliest of the 20th century.

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