In August, East St. Louis received a significant bonus — its Central Business District dodged a major bullet that would have economically wounded the city’s already fragile and beleaguered downtown. The 103-year-old Ainad Shriners halted a vote to sell its iconic structure on St. Louis Avenue and instead chose to stay and maintain a fund from its membership to ensure the historic structure is viable for future generations.
This is significant not only for East St. Louis but Southern Illinois. Ainad was founded in East St. Louis and the fraternal organization has deep roots there even though its current membership resides elsewhere.
The civic leadership of East St. Louis are at best oblivious to any genuine overtures to work with the organization to ensure the Shriners’ decision is part of a serious long-range plan to stabilize that area. Other communities would have loved to have the Shriners’ home base, the largest in Illinois.
East St. Louis city government and School District 189 have noted a dwindling tax base and population loss as reasons for their financial woes. Having city workers and teachers residing elsewhere further adds salt to their wounded tax base.
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All the more reason for those in East St. Louis who reap the financial windfall of gainful employment in the city to look at the Shriners’ noteworthy decision to stay as a measure of taking responsibility to do right and promote a viable community to build a home, live and raise a family.
Jerome King, East St. Louis