Southern Illinois’ congressman: Cairo needs more than just task force


Southern Illinois’ congressman says the idea of a federal task force to look at Cairo’s problems isn’t a bad idea. But he also says the tiny city at the southern tip of the state needs more help than that.

Republican Congressman Mike Bost said he’ll work with a federal task force for Cairo, if that’s what President Donald Trump wants.

Illinois’ Democratic U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth suggested the idea of a cabinet-level task force a few weeks ago. But Bost said the federal government can’t solve all of Cairo’s problems because the federal government didn’t cause all of Cairo’s problems.

“Some of the elected officials, not the ones that are there now, [made] some very poor decisions,” Bost said. “Poor economic decisions.”

Bost said there have been few jobs in Cairo for decades. That led to an exodus of people, which only made the city’s struggles with poverty worse.

Bost said there is now a barely functioning town where a city once stood.

“You’ve got a couple of convenience stores. One restaurant, maybe two,” Bost said. “You’ve got the city dealing with financial problems. The HUD problem is piled on top of that, but that was caused by corruption.”

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development is closing two decrepit housing complexes and moving about 200 families. That’s the spark behind the task force idea.

Bost has long blamed the problems with Cairo’s public housing on “corruption” inside the Alexander County Housing Authority. But he said to “fix” Cairo’s problems, the state of Illinois must become more job-friendly, and local leaders will have to find a way to encourage opportunities in their community.

“In Cairo, if you go to the right you go to Missouri. You go to the left and you go into Wickliffe, Kentucky,” Bost said. “Wickliffe is where all of the paper mills are located. … We need to find a way to get some jobs in Cairo.”

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