Metro East News Briefs

Chronicle Media

Blair Garber

Lottery board chair resigns after insulting East St. Louis

Illinois Lottery Control Board Chairman and state Republican Central Committee member Blair Garber has resigned from both bodies, after drawing criticism for referring to East St. Louis as the “shithole of the universe.”

Garber’s remark came last month, just after President Donald Trump was admonished by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and others for referring to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries.”

Responding to a Twitter post by country singer Charlie Daniels, who berated Sen. Durban for his criticism of the president’s verbiage, Gerber commented: “Charlie, Durbin’s hometown is (get this) east St. Louis Illinois! The s***hole of the universe! Just do a google search.”

Several Illinois state lawmakers reportedly called for Garber’s resignation following the post.

His resignation from the state lottery board was announced Jan. 31 by a spokesperson for Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Garber personally announced his resignation from the state GOP central committee in an interview on Chicago radio station WBBM the same day.

“It was an unfortunate choice of words, and I’m sorry for any consternation it caused,” Garber told the station.

Garber’s tweet has now been deleted.

Edwardsville mayor appeals removal from state senate ballot

Edwardsville Mayor Hal Patton is appealing a Cook County Circuit Court ruling that last week removed him from the Republican primary ballot for Illinois State Senate in the 56th District.

The ruling came after Charles Yancey, of Bethalto, filled an objection with the Illinois Board of Elections (IBOE), contending that Patton was not qualified to in the GOP primary because he had signed a nominating petition for a Democratic Illinois House candidate, incumbent 112th District Rep. Katie Stuart of Edwardsville.

The court concurred, noting an Illinois law which stipulates that residents of the state “may not sign petitions for or be a candidate in the primary of more than one party.”

Yancey, a business manager for IBEW Local 649 in Alton, took his case to the Chicago circuit court after an IBOE hearing officer recommended Patton be struck from the GOP primary ballot, but the election board — on a narrow 5-4 vote — declined to do so.

Patton is represented by well-known Chicago election law attorney Burton Odelson. Odelson last week said he would file a notice of appeal with the First District Appellate Court in Chicago and also a motion to stay the circuit judge’s ruling throughout the appeals process.

That would effectively allow Patton to stay on the ballot through the March 20 primary election.

Patton was the only candidate to file for the 56th District state senate seat on the Republican ticket this year.

Madison County prosecutor Rachelle Aud Crowe of Glen Carbon is only candidate to file for the Democratic nomination in the district.

New Madrid Seismic Zone in Southern Illinois. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency and local emergency management agencies are promoting earthquake preparedness during February. (Photo courtesy of IEMA)

Quake anniversary prompts calls for preparedness

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and local emergency management agencies are hoping to promote greater earthquake preparedness during February.

Some of the largest earthquakes ever recorded in North America rocked the then-mostly rural central U.S. between December 1811 and February 1812, including parts of southern Illinois, the IEMA notes. The strongest earthquakes in that series were estimated to be around magnitude 8.0 and were felt as far away as the East Coast.

Today, this multi-state region is heavily populated and highly developed. A similar earthquake now would cause widespread devastation to buildings, utilities, roads, bridges and other infrastructure, as well as result in many injuries and deaths. While damage would be less severe in other parts of Illinois, utility outages, road closures and disruptions to deliveries of essential supplies would significantly impact the lives of most Illinoisans.   

“In addition to the New Madrid Seismic Zone, where the 1811-12 quakes occurred, southern Illinois is also adjacent to the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone,” said IEMA Interim Director Jennifer Ricker. “We can’t predict when the next devastating earthquake in this region will happen, but we can help people learn how to protect themselves and reduce damage to their homes.”

Ricker said people need to remember to “Drop, Cover and Hold On” when they feel the ground shaking: “Drop” down to the floor, take “Cover” under a sturdy desk, table or other furniture, and “Hold On” to the furniture item and be prepared to move with it until the shaking ends.

There are several steps people can take to help prevent injuries and property damage at home, such as strapping water heaters and large appliances to wall studs, anchoring overhead fans and light fixtures, and securing cabinet doors with latches, the agency adds.

IEMA offers several short videos on do-it-yourself earthquake home mitigation projects at

For additional earthquake preparedness information, visit or follow IEMA on Facebook ( and Twitter (​).

Comments sought on proposed Illinois rail plan

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is seeking input on its proposed 2017 Rail Plan.

In addition to completion of IDOT’s Chicago–St. Louis High Speed Rail Corridor, the plan calls for a new sustainable Rail Freight Assistance Program and a new sustainable Rail Freight Emergency Bridge Replacement Program for Class II and Class III railroads throughout the state.

The Chicago-St. Louis high-speed rail corridor is one of three currently under development in Illinois as part of an overall plan to position the Windy City as a national high-speed rail hub. The other two will connect Chicago with Quincy and Carbondale.

When completed, the corridor will offer 110-mile-per-hour service along a 284-mile route from Chicago to St. Louis will stops at eight stations, including a new terminal under construction at Alton. Work on the corridor — including installation of positive train control (PTC) throughout the lined, improvements to existing bridges and structures, new roadway surfaces, station improvements, and improved at-grade rail crossings — is scheduled for completing in mid-2018.

U.S. Department of Transportation regulations requires IDOT to update its state railroad plan every five years in order to keep the state eligible for federal railroad project funding.

The complete plan can be accessed on the IDOT website at and submit comments at

Public comment on the plan is due by Feb. 23.

Eagle watching opportunity offered

The Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge in Brussels, IL, will offer a free eagle watching event Saturday Feb. 10, noon to 4 p.m.

Visitors will have the chance to see a live eagle up close in the refuge’s sanctuary, learn about bald eagles in its visitor’s center, and venture out to watch for them in the wild with a refuge staff member.

The visitor’s center will feature kids’ crafts and activities, eagle education exhibits, and a gallery of eagle photographs.

A live eagle presentation by the staff of the TreeHouse Wildlife Center will take place at 1 p.m.  

Self-guided, auto tours of Gilbert Lake will be offered all afternoon.

Forty-five-minute guided auto tours of the Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge, with a refuse staff member, will begin, weather permitting, at 12:15, 2:15, and 3:15 p.m.  However, advance registration by telephone is required.

For more information call 618-883-2524 or visit the refuge website for event details at


–Metro East News Briefs–