Metro-East News Briefs

Chronicle Media

JB Pritzker endorsed by St. Clair County Dems Monday, May 8, 2017 in Belleville, Ill.

St. Clair Democratic Committee backs Pritzker for governor 

It looks as if the 2018 race for Illinois governor could become a battle of the billionaires.

The St. Clair County Democratic Central Committee, May 8, formally voted to endorse JB Pritzker of Chicago for the state’s chief executive office.

The endorsement comes just a month after Pritzker, a billionaire entrepreneur and investor, launched his campaign with an April 6 rally.

It also comes after Pritzker, on April 10, donated $7 million of his personal fortune to self-finance his campaign organization, according to the campaign finance tracking website

Incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, likewise a billionaire investor, placed $50 million in his reelection fund in December; fueling speculation the governor’s race will ultimately boil down to big money contest between the two tycoons.

Facing off with Pritzker in the March 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary will be Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy, Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, State Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston and Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools Bob Dauber of Marine.

Pritzker has made several trips to Metro East seeking support over recent weeks. He reportedly has been meeting with dozens of Democratic leaders across southwestern Illinois discuss downstate issues.

“I am thrilled to have the support of Democrats across the state of Illinois, and St. Clair County is critical to Democrats’ chances of winning the governor’s race,” said Pritzker.

“We met with JB and discussed his vision for Illinois,” said Bob Sprague, St. Clair County Democratic Party Chairman. “He’s the right candidate to take on Bruce Rauner to create jobs, protect workers’ rights and fix the budget mess.”

Grafton gets new administration

For the first time in memory, Grafton has seen a complete turnover in its municipal offices. New Mayor Rick Eberlin defeated incumbent Tom Thompson and another mayoral challenger, Mike Morrow, in the city’s April municipal election. Eberlin took office, during a May 2 reorganizational city council meeting, along with three new aldermen elected last month: Donna Smith in Ward 1; Dennis Day in Ward 2; and Linda Brown Tolle in Ward 3.

Eberlin then formally accepted the resignations of all three of the incumbent Grafton aldermen whose seats were not at stake in last month’s elections:  Sarah Carey; Steve Hayes; and Roger Crone.

Appointed in their place during the meeting by Eberlin were three new aldermen: Ken Pfeiffer, recently retired city clerk Mary Lillesve, and Jim Spencer.

Carey resigned in person at the meeting with Hayes and Crone submitting their resignation in writing in advance. None of three attributed their resignations to recent political conflicts in the city; instead citing either plans to relocate or health concerns.

New Mayor Eberlin acknowledged that Grafton council meetings have been the scene of sometimes raucous debate over recent months as business people and residents in the older areas of Jersey County’s first city squared off with those in the city’s newly redeveloped riverside tourism and entertainment district.

Eberlin said he hopes to turnover in municipal officials will mark “an entirely fresh start” for the community.

Also taking office during the meeting: new city treasurer Joe Soer, who defeated incumbent Andrew Jackson in April, and new city clerk Lisa Mathenia who ran unopposed to replace Lillesve.

IDNR unveils plan for reintroduction of alligator gar

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Division of Fisheries has published its “Fish Species Management Plan for Alligator Gar in Illinois,” which details IDNR’s effort to reintroduce the prehistoric fish to Illinois waters.  

Once native to Illinois, the alligator gar has been considered extinct here since around 1966. However, DNR officials now plan to reintroduce the gar to help control the invasive Asian carp, which is widely considered a threat to the Mississippi River ecosystem.

The second largest freshwater fish in North America, the gar — with its fearsome alligator-like snout — has an unwarranted reputation as a competitor with, or destroyer of, mainstream sportfish species, IDNR officials say.  A public outreach campaign on alligator gar, covering identification and harvest regulations, is planned.

IDNR Fisheries personnel last fall stocked approximately 1,600 alligator gar at Horseshoe Lake State Park, Kaskaskia River State Fish and Wildlife Area, and two other sites. Tiny electronic tags will track their progress on release.

The management plan can be accessed at

$25 million expansion plan set for Sauget airport

The Board of Commissioners of Bi-State Development (BSD) last month approved a three-year capital budget, totaling $709.1 million, for the agency.  Included is $25 million for expansion of facilities at St. Louis Downtown Airport in Sauget to accommodate larger charter jet aircraft. Costs for the expansion will be covered largely by a federal grant.  

An accompanying operating budget includes $20 million annually for additional security on Bi-State’s MetroLink light rail lines. The operating budget calls for no fare increase on either Bi-State buses or MetroLink. The three-year budgets take effect with the start of agency’s 2018 fiscal year on July 1.

Memorial opens ‘hybrid’ operating room

Metro East’s first true “hybrid” operating room (OR) for both minor and major procedures officially opened May 9 at Memorial Hospital in Belleville.

Central to the new $4.8 million surgical facility is the Siemens Artis zeego Hybrid OR (or multi-axis angiography) system that offers surgeons the flexibility to move from minimally invasive to complex open procedures without relocating to a different operating room. That allows surgeons to perform multiple procedures as well as promptly address complications or additional diagnoses as they are encountered.  That in  turn can spare patients the trouble of scheduling a second surgery, hospital staff notes.

The unit’s two- and three-dimensional imaging capabilities allow doctor to take close looks during interventional procedures; seeing everything from 3D views of large sections of the body to clear images of the smallest wires and meshes. The imaging technology has lower radiation than other such units for greater patient and staff safety.

–Metro-East News Briefs–