As environmentalists and those who want to protect the planet celebrate the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day today, organizers of this past weekend's festivities in Forest Park urge everyone to go-green as much as possible. Cassandra Haije, the Executive Director of St. Louis Earth Day, says protecting the planet is a daily responsibility.
"You know while the Earth Day event is one day," Haije said. "Our organization is actually a year round organization now. And that's the message we're trying to get across is that it's not just Earth Day, it's really everyday."
She says the message seems to have a big audience. Haije says the popularity of the event is evident in the size of the crowd and the number of vendors.
"We had 250 booths year and we actually sold out so we're going to have to go back to the drawing board for next year," said Haije.
Haije estimates a record crowd over 35,000 attended the Earth Day celebration this year.
Should local communities have the power to ban indoor smoking in public places?
A group of St. Charles County lawmakers apparently don't think so. Republican State Representative Kathie Conway has introduced a bill that would levy fines against cities and counties with local smoking bans. Seven other lawmakers from St. Charles County have signed on as co-sponsors.
The measure would force the communities to give up any property or sales tax revenues from businesses affected by the ban. The money would go to local school districts instead. Conway told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she plans to narrow that to include only bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, casinos and other entertainment-related businesses, because they're the ones who lose money because of smoking bans.
The bills opponents call it an attempt to intimidate local governments.
Only two communities in St. Charles County have smoking bans in place: O'Fallon and Lake St. Louis. St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis also have smoking bans in place. They would be subject to the fines too, since it's a state-wide measure.
A flood warning remains in effect for communities along the Mississippi River, including St. Louis.
As of 9:30 PM Sunday, the river was at at 33.7 feet in St. Louis, 3.7 feet above flood stage.
The sight of so much water swamping the levy is drawing gawkers, locals as well as tourists, to the Arch grounds.
Plenty of sightseers spent a sunny Sunday afternoon snapping pictures of the rising river, the water covering Lenore K. Sullivan Blvd. and the lower steps of the Arch just off the roadway.
But the high river levels mean the current is so swift, huge logs and debris are being swept downstream, a reminder of why it is called the Mighty Mississippi.
That strong current pulled more than 100 barges loose Saturday night, several hitting the JB Bridge, forcing its closure while an inspection was conducted. MoDOT's check of the bridge showed no damage, so the span was reopened.
The river, however, remains closed to traffic because of concerns that some sunken barges may be blocking the navigation channel. And more rain, expected Monday night and Tuesday, means it could be closed for some time.
Flooding on the Mississippi River is being blamed for a barge accident that has partially shut down the JB Bridge.
The Coast Guard says as many as 85 barges broke loose overnight. High and fast water dragged those barges downstream, with at least one sinking.
Officials say up to four barges were stuck to the bridge last night. MoDOT says the bridge was designed to handle the collision, but they still shut it down to conduct inspections.
CLARKSVILLE, Mo. (AP) — People in the eastern Missouri hamlet of Clarksville are getting a boost from the Missouri National Guard and even from prison inmates as they battle the surging Mississippi River.
The river is expected to crest nearly 11 feet above flood stage on Sunday at Clarksville, an unprotected town of 442 residents about 60 miles north of St. Louis. Residents and volunteers have built a makeshift levee made of gravel, plastic overlay and sandbags. On Saturday, attention turned to making sure the sandbag levee is sturdy enough to hold back the water.
Governor Jay Nixon visited Clarksville on Saturday.
KINLOCH, Mo. (AP) — The owner of a salvage yard in the impoverished St. Louis County town of Kinloch — a man who also owns Kinloch City Hall — is accused of receiving stolen property.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that 37-year-old Robert Hill Junior has been the subject of a lengthy investigation. Police say his business, Complete Auto Recycling Services, knowingly purchased six stolen vehicles in 2011.
Hill declined comment.
Hill purchased the City Hall building and several other properties in Kinloch over a seven-month period in 2011 and 2012. He allowed city officials to use City Hall for about a year. But later, he was accused by the city of failing to pay the money he had promised for the properties.
The city now operates at Kinloch Learning Center.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A key Illinois senator says legislation allowing public gun possession will carve out an exception for Chicago.
Republican Senator Tim Bivins says the measure he and Democratic Senator Kwame Raoul negotiated would allow Cook County authorities to deny a concealed carry permit even if an applicant passes the required background checks.
The former county sheriff from Dixon says the rest of the state would be governed by a so-called "shall issue" law — anyone meeting requirements would get a carry permit.
Bivins says the bill is being written. He says it's not ideal but gun-rights advocates have to compromise.
A federal court has ordered Illinois to adopt a concealed carry law by June 9th.
A statewide "shall issue" bill failed Thursday in the House.
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is providing few clues as to who's winning the competition to start at quarterback this fall.
Returning starter James Franklin began spring camp March 12th listed atop the depth chart, but Corbin Berkstresser and Maty Mauk have also taken snaps with the top offense ahead of Saturday's Black and Gold game.
Pinkel says he's in no rush to make a decision.
WEST QUINCY, Mo. (AP) — One Mississippi River bridge connecting Missouri and Illinois is now closed due to the fast-rising river, and a second one is scheduled to close on Saturday.
The Quincy Memorial Bridge connecting Quincy, Illinois and West Quincy, Missouri was closed Friday afternoon. A second bridge at Quincy remains open.
Transportation officials say the Champ Clark bridge at Louisiana, Missouri will close at noon today as the river is rising near the eastern approach to the bridge.
Several inches of rain in recent days has caused flooding on the Mississippi. It is expected to crest at many spots this weekend but remain high for several days after that.