Fountain of Youth Park being renovated in East St. Louis
East St. Louis faces so many challenges, but sometimes there are rays of hope. There were a few recently.
The city decided it could no longer afford to pay for an emergency dispatching center, so it allowed St. Clair County to take it over. Giving up control of those public jobs is not something city politicians were likely to do in the past.
Even more significant is the boost the move gives to the Metro East Police District Commission. The effort to combine functions of the East St. Louis, Alorton, Washington Park and Brooklyn police departments will get a boost as the dispatch center generates data that can be used to target crime. The commission is intended to create more professional policing in an area where nine cops were prosecuted for corruption and where the crime rate was more than seven times the national average in 2016.
Giving up a few patronage jobs so the community can become safer and draw new employers is the right, long view to take.
The other move was a matter of civic pride. City workers and volunteers are cleaning up a very visible park near City Hall on Illinois 15 that is passed by many on MetroLink and drivers headed to the Eads and Poplar Street bridges.
Other visible spots, such the "welcome to East St. Louis" sign on St. Clair Avenue, were spruced up with a lot of volunteer effort coordinated by Mayor Emeka Jackson Hicks. Add those efforts to the Christian Activity Center's push to establish a 28-acre, $4.5 million park near the Samuel Gompers Homes, and there are reasons to hope for better.
St. Clair County and private businesses are partnering to create $8 million in infrastructure to expand the commercial corridor along the city's riverfront. The county also promised to quickly demolish the Spivey Building, the crumbling 12-story hulk looming over the city's downtown business district.
For the sake of a community that has suffered much more than any community deserves, here's hoping more rays come through.