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Reader comments closed for the weekend

Friday, Apr 29, 2011

* I’ll post flood/levee/court updates as warranted. In the meantime, here’s an e-mail from a reader…

Dear Mr. Miller,

Thank you for posting so much information about Cairo. I’m in Cairo still. I own a home here. The most frustrating part of this ordeal is the lack of information coming from our city leaders. If not for my 21-year-old daughter hearing info from friends, we’d know nothing.

This morning I spoke with George Bell, the owner of Bell Monument in Cairo, and he said that is the most frustrating thing for him, too. He has records dating back 70 years in his office & he doesn’t know how high we are supposed to move everything. Same with me. I spent the past few days moving everything I could, from my basement & garage. Then stacked everything on tables & beds on the first floor. Sadly, a St. Louis news station interviewed someone who said if the Cairo levee fails the entire town will be under 15-20 feet of water. If that’s true, I’ve been wasting my time. Or, do I need to move valuables to my second floor? I don’t know.

George & I wish the city would hold a town hall meeting at City Hall to inform those of us still here. George contacted Marty, in charge of emergency services… but nothing is planned.

I rented a motel in Sikeston, Missouri for 5 days for my kids, but I’m a single mom & want to try to save what we have. That’s why I’m still here. My sons are on their way from Peoria to help with sandbagging.

I got off topic:) I’m writing to say thank you for covering Cairo & not doing what most news stations are: portraying Cairo as poor & black. We are more than that, but even if it was true… it still should be saved.

If you have pull with the Corps of Engineers, please tell them to blast the Birds Point levee ASAP!:D

Our homes are important. They are filled with memories & it’s where our children return for holidays and when they need to be with family.

My advice to her was to get the heck outta there. Whatever happens, best of luck to her, all of Cairo and all of southern Illinois as everybody deals with this devastating flood.

* Stay safe, stay dry. And whatever you do, don’t crash on the levee

It’s gonna be the meanest flood
That anybody’s seen

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

This just in… Missouri asks appellate court for injunction

Friday, Apr 29, 2011

* 4:28 pm - Missouri has filed a motion for an injunction with the appellate court on the Cairo flood case. Click here to read it.

I’ll post the Illinois response as soon as I receive it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

*** UPDATED x9 - Missouri to appeal - Sand boils - DNR praised - Regional IEMA problems - Simon & Durbin headed to Cairo - Photos - The Corps’ dire warning - IRMA sending “truckloads” of supplies to region - VIDEO: Durbin warns about MO appeal - VIDEO: Phelps to MO: Back off - IEMA responds *** Judge rules against Missouri

Friday, Apr 29, 2011

* Federal Judge Stephen Limbaugh has ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers can blow the Misssouri fuseplug levee and relieve flooding pressure on Cairo

Limbaugh wrote that he found that the Corps is committed to implementing the plan only as essential to provide protection to all citizens. He wrote “this Court finds that no aspect of the Corps’ response to these historic floods suggests arbitrary or capricious decision-making is occurring.”

The Corps plans to decide this weekend whether to blow up the Birds Point levee, depending on the level of the water on the river. It will detonate explosives in the levee if the Cairo river reaches 61 feet. At 8 a.m. CDT (1300 GMT) on Friday, it was at 59 feet and forecast to rise to 60.5 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office just told me they are prepared in case Missouri decides to appeal Judge Limbaugh’s ruling.

While good news, the situation is really precarious all over that region. I’ll have more in a while.

*** UPDATE 1 - 12:30 pm *** The morons are appealing


Notice is hereby given that Plaintiffs State of Missouri ex rel. Chris Koster, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit from the judgment entered in this action denying a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on the 29th day of April, 2011.

From the Illinois AG’s office…

We will be ready to respond very quickly to oppose Missouri’s attempt to overturn the District Court’s decision.

From Gov. Pat Quinn’s office…

“My hope is that this decision will be upheld as it proceeds through the judicial process.”

*** UPDATE 2 - 12:36 pm *** I’m hearing reports of sand boils in several locations starting late last night. A huge one was in Cairo. These are not good things. Wikipedia

Sand boils or Sand Volcanoes occur when water under pressure wells up through a bed of sand. The water looks like it is “boiling” up from the bed of sand, hence the name.

Sand boils can be a mechanism contributing to levee failure during floods. This effect is caused by a difference in pressure on two sides of a levee or dike, most likely during a flood. This process can result in piping, whereby the removal of soil particles results in a pipe through the embankment. The creation of the pipe will quickly pick up pace and will eventually result in failure of the embankment.

A sand boil is difficult to stop. The most effective method is by creating a body of water above the boil to create enough pressure to slow the flow of water. A slower flow will not be able to move soil particles. The body of water is often created with sandbags forming a ring around the boil.

*** UPDATE 3 - 12:39 pm*** I’m told by several people on the ground that the Department of Natural Resources is doing an outstanding job. “DNR has saved a lot of towns down here,” said one area pol, who added that DNR’s crews are working their tails off.

The Department of Corrections is being praised for sending out their inmate crews. The State Police are also being praised.

There’s a real problem, however, with the regional director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. The regional guy is from Chicago and I’m told by three different people down there that he can’t even pronounce many of the town names in his area, much less know where they are or what to do. Also, IEMA pulled out of Olive Branch last night in order to head to higher ground. DNR stayed put and fought.

*** UPDATE 4 - 12:45 pm*** Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is heading to Cairo with Sen. Dick Durbin as I write this. From a press release…

Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will join with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin in Cairo today to tour the most vulnerable areas of the town. After a brief driving tour, they will arrive at the intersection of 15th Street and Cedar Street, where they will take a walking tour and meet with local officials. A media availability will then be held at 12th Street and Commercial Avenue. Following the media availability, Lt. Governor Simon will join with Alexander County Sheriff Timothy Brown to help sandbag along the river.

*** UPDATE 5 - 1:05 pm*** I’m getting some photos taken from Sen. Durbin’s helicopter. I’ll be posting them over the next several minutes. Here is Grand Tower

* 8 miles north of Cape Girardeau, MO

* Union County, IL

* Route 3 in Alexander County, IL

* More Alexander County…

* Ohio River…

* And here come the Cairo photos

* This is right next to Cairo…

* Interstate 57 right outside Cairo…

* 1:37 pm - They just landed, so ground-level pics will be coming soon, I hope.

* Here are a couple of Cairo sinkholes…

* A sinkhole closeup…

* Another angle…

* I’m told there are between 6 and 7 of these sandboils downtown.

*** UPDATE 6 - 2:05 pm*** Jim Pogue, spokesman for the Memphis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was on AgriTalk today and had some dire things to say about the levee system. Listen…

“We don’t want things to happen in an uncontrolled fashion,” Pogue said. “If we had an uncontrolled levee failure, potentially much worse damage could occur.”

If a particular levee north of the Missouri floodway were to breach, the river could flow over “literally millions of acres.” Several communities are in that area. A large section of the boot heel of Missouri and northeastern Arkansas could flood as well, he warned.

*** UPDATE 7 - 2:40 pm *** I had heard earlier today that the Illinois Retail Merchants Association had really stepped forward to help with the flood-fighting efforts, so I called Dave Vite, who runs IRMA.

Vite said his member retailers have sent “truckloads” of supplies to the region in the past three days. Kroger and WalMart have supplied bottled water, for instance. Sears and Home Depot have sent other supplies, like gloves, life vests and lots more. “They ask, we try to find something to fill a need,” Vite said.

Vite said he wasn’t one to brag about his association all that much, but did say “When the chips are down our industry always steps up and comes up with the things that people really need.”

*** UPDATE 8 - 2:45 pm *** This is a cellphone video, so the quality isn’t very good, but here is Sen. Durbin talking to the media about Missouri’s decision to appeal Judge Limbaugh’s ruling. “If this is going to turn out to be a battle of the lawyers on both sides of the river, a lot of innocent people could be harmed,” Durbin said. Watch

*** UPDATE 9 - 2:50 pm *** Here’s another video of Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, Sen. Gary Forby and Rep. Brandon Phelps. Rep. Phelps said he hoped Missouri would “back off” the appeal and said “every hour is critical.” Watch

*** UPDATE 10 - 3:18 pm *** IEMA responds…

Rich – I saw the item on the blog regarding IEMA’s response to the flooding in Alexander County. I wanted to let you know what the actual situation is down there.

There are actually 10 emergency management personnel on the ground in Alexander County (two IEMA personnel and eight personnel from local emergency management agencies outside the affected region working with us on the response). They continue to work closely with the other state agencies on the scene, local emergency management and local officials, the Army Corps of Engineers and the American Red Cross on response efforts. The only thing that was relocated was our mobile command vehicle, which was moved to higher ground early this morning because the water was rising and the equipment could be threatened. That equipment is still being used for the response in Alexander County.

* This Cairo levee photo was taken two days ago

From the photog…

Facing south from the top of the levee at 8th Street. Ohio River is almost to the top. Top=64 feet… so about 58 feet.

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      

No Cairo visit by Quinn

Friday, Apr 29, 2011

* Imagine, if it’s at all possible, that you’re a poor, black resident of Cairo, Illinois. The floodwaters are almost to the top of your local levee. The attorney general in the next state over is suing to prevent the federal government from blowing a key fuseplug levee to keep your town from drowning. And the federal judge presiding over the decision to save your home is Rush Limbaugh’s cousin.

Not exactly optimum.

I figure I’d be feeling more than a little scared, helpless and forelorn right now if I lived in Cairo. I’d also probably want a little encouragement from the state’s top dog while forces beyond my control were conspiring against me.

But Gov. Pat Quinn didn’t visit Cairo yesterday. He flew over the town in his helicopter. His staff says there was no place to land. Sen. Dick Durbin is reportedly choppering into Cairo today, but Quinn’s people says he won’t be going. He went to southern Illinois yesterday, they said. The governor has no scheduled events on today’s public schedule.

Quinn appeared in Marion, a few minutes from the town’s airport, to discuss the flooding yesterday. During his appearance, he was asked what towns he intended to visit. Quinn compared himself to General George Marshall, who was Army Chief of Staff during World War ll. Watch

Marshall was not a front line guy. True. But he was chief of staff. Quinn has a chief of staff and agency directors to handle the micromanagement. In my opinion, he ought to be out there showing some support for his constituents.


* Meanwhile, here’s the best report I could find about what happened in Judge Limbaugh’s court last night

Judge Stephen Limbaugh took the motion under advisement just after 7 p.m. Thursday, and Koster says the judge has a tough call to make.

“It’s a hard set of facts and there are a lot of interests that have to be weighed on both sides of the state line and throughout the federal justice system, said Koster. I think the judge took in the information. I think he’s got a very difficult decision that he has to make overnight.”

For its part, Corps lawyers countered they have “unreviewable discretion” when it comes to implementing the floodway plan that “could” result in the blasting of that levee.

They also stressed the blasting option does not come into play unless and until the river overtops the levee at its lowest points, or 60.5 feet.

Federal Judge Stephen Limbaugh told the court he’s not sure if he even has the authority to rule on the motion under current case law.

We could get a ruling today.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      

Today’s map

Friday, Apr 29, 2011

* Lots of Downstaters have been furious since last November when Gov. Pat Quinn won just three Downstate counties yet managed to hold on to his job. Here’s why


- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

Kicking us when we’re down

Friday, Apr 29, 2011

* How sweet of Wisconsin’s governor not to try and kick his neighbor while it’s attempting to deal with a devastating flood in its entire southern region

After several quiet weeks, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday fired another salvo in his border war against Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

Responding to a dire financial report issued earlier this week by Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, Walker’s office distributed a news release again touting Wisconsin as a more business friendly state than Illinois.

“Our state will continue to make the hard decisions to create a fiscal environment that encourages job creation,” Walker, a Republican, said in a prepared statement. “Job creators coming to Wisconsin can know that our state is open for business.”

Topinka’s report noted that Illinois is on track to end the fiscal year with $8 billion in unpaid bills. Walker said Wisconsin is trying to shrink his state’s deficit.

“Businesses make plans based not just on what’s happening today, but on what they see happening in the future. The contrast between Wisconsin’s trend line and Illinois’ could not be greater,” Walker note

Yeah. Wisconsin’s trendline is civil unrest and massive numbers of legislative recall elections. Nicely done. At least our most recent problems aren’t man-made.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - React rolls in *** Here we go again

Friday, Apr 29, 2011

*** UPDATE *** The reaction to Gov. Quinn’s plan is about as negative as one might’ve expected

Suburban lawmakers and mayors Friday ripped Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to take tax money away from communities unless lawmakers let him borrow cash to pay state bills, with one senator calling the tactic “blackmail.”

“(He) is trying to basically blackmail mayors … by saying ‘Hey, I’m going to withhold your money if you don’t beat up your local legislator to go along with my latest borrowing scheme,” said Sen. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican. […]

“It is unconscionable to say that we’re not going to pay units of local government their money,” said Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican. “He wants to punish local governments who in most cases have made budget cuts that Pat Quinn could only dream of.”

Dillard is among the Senate Republicans who have advanced a host of budget cutting proposals in recent months that included cutting back on what communities get from the state. The GOP says, though, that those cuts are options, and not ever Republican backs every choice.

However, Speaker Madigan’s spokesman said this afternoon that the Speaker has always tried to help the governor balance the budget and would continue to do so. Whatever that means.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Remember last year when Gov. Pat Quinn tried to gin up support for his tax hike by threatening to cut education spending? It didn’t work. In fact, it backfired.

His latest scheme reminds me of that

Gov. Pat Quinn wants to stop nearly $100 million in monthly payments to Chicago, the suburbs and other Illinois towns if lawmakers won’t let him borrow billions of dollars to pay overdue bills, according to a confidential memo the Tribune obtained Thursday.

The idea drew immediate blowback from local leaders worried about balancing their own budgets in a sluggish economy. […]

The proposal, outlined in the memo and quietly distributed to top legislators, represents a pressure tactic by the Democratic governor. He hopes mayors from Zion to Cairo will squeeze their town’s lawmakers to help get him the loan he wants.

But the General Assembly’s leadership has been highly skeptical of Quinn’s other recent plans for big borrowing. They also might not be keen on a plan that would punish communities back home and potentially result in a flood of phone calls and chanting protesters outside their district offices.

The Illinois Municipal League cranked up its defensive posture early this year to Cuban Missile Crisis levels in response to plans by the Senate Republicans and others to cut their revenue sharing. So, they’re already fully prepared to leap to a response. Also, I seriously doubt that Mayor-Elect Emanuel will just let this one slide.

* Meanwhile

The tone in the committee room changed once DHS said it would cut more in the community services it provides, and close down two state schools in Jacksonville — the Illinois School for the Deaf and the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired. […]

“I don’t know who is more vulnerable in Illinois, tell me who they are,” said State Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Highland, in a heated discussion during a committee meeting. “Bring in your AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) employees and have them stand before us, and tell us that they are more vulnerable than the people at these facilities.”

DHS Secretary Michelle Saddler said the workload for employees has doubled due to layoffs, and that DHS employees have received pay raises that total up to $47 million.

Republicans are blaming the proposed cuts on AFSCME’s contract, which calls for almost $50 milllion in raises at DHS. But they know full well that the contract cannot legally be reopened without AFSCME’s consent. And DHS’ proposed budget cut for next year is $388 million. That dwarfs the pay raises.

The threat to close down the facilities may just be yet another scare tactic. But, the Republicans cannot on the one hand constantly demand deep state spending cuts and on the other hand decry every attempt to do so. Sen. Ron Sandack, for instance, issued a glowing review of the SGOP budget cut proposals, yet recently sent a letter to his colleagues saying he’s against cutting local revenue sharing because he’s a mayor.

Human service programs are one of the biggest areas in the budget. You can’t make deep budget cuts without cutting human services

“The problem here is 80 percent of the budget goes for Medicaid, human services, education and paying the (state’s) debt, so those are the only areas in which the budget can be cut,” Nowlan said.

That’s Budgeting 101.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      

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