For decades local Democrats have enjoyed a fat source of patronage jobs at union wages — the Metro East Sanitary District.
The district controls flooding and provides sewer service in the river bottoms from East St. Louis to Alton, pretty mundane stuff. That is, until they fail to maintain their equipment and East St. Louis floods in 1986 or they have too many employees and can't afford to stop Pontoon Beach from flooding in 2017.
They are famous for keeping their former executive director on the payroll for a year after he was in a nursing home. They let their top five administrators use new SUVs and pickups, fueled on taxpayers' dime, while work vehicles were ancient. And then there were the patronage jobs.
Since 2000 the district was happy to deficit spend in all but five years, including nine of the past 10 years. Last year was the exception.
Democrats lost control of the district to Republicans. The new regime cut a staff of 68 down to 40.
Suddenly there was money to fix the broken pumps that allowed Pontoon Beach to flood.
And suddenly the Democrats decided to fight back.
The state legislature passed Senate Bill 2368 on May 30. It requires the mayor of Democrat-stronghold Granite City to be on the board, tipping the balance of power back to Democrats. It requires the executive director to live in the district.
Stephen Adler is an engineer and was a Republican on the Madison County Board before he was appointed executive director of the sanitary district. He lives in Godfrey, outside the district boundaries.
Adler's the one who got rid of the extra 24 employees and immediately stopped the deficits. He's the one who found money to fix one broken pump and replace the other. He's the one building reserves to fix the crumbling sewers in Washington Park and create drainage for major commercial development along the Interstate 255 corridor.
No wonder St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern got his Democratic hackles up when introduced to Adler, and said: "It's time for new leadership at MESD."
The Democrats' bill will soon sit on Gov. Bruce Rauner's desk. He should veto Senate Bill 2368, and you should call him and encourage a veto.