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August 21, 2014, 3:14 am
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The Council Roundup

The Council Roundup, Wednesdays at 10 with Bishop On Air


970 WMAY News

Appeals Court Rejects Term Limits Amendment

Bruce Rauner's effort to get a term limits amendment on the November ballot has suffered another setback.


An Illinois appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling which finds the proposed amendment is unconstitutional, because it is not confined to "structural or procedural" changes in legislative operations, as is required by the Illinois Constitution.

Rauner says the measure has widespread public support, and thinks voters should be allowed to have their say on it.  He has indicated he will appeal to the state Supreme Court, but a deadline to certify the November ballot is just days away.

Rauner Fights Back Against Outsourcing, Cayman Claims

“Not every job should be in America.”  That statement comes from Republican Bruce Rauner… defending his former company’s work helping other companies set up overseas operations. 


Rauner says an overseas presence is often essential for companies competing in a global marketplace… and says right now, those companies can’t be competitive in Illinois’s business climate.  But Governor Pat Quinn’s campaign accuses Rauner of “outsourcing” American jobs overseas.


Rauner also dismisses Quinn's criticism over press reports that Rauner put part of his fortune in Cayman Islands accounts as a tax shelter.  Rauner calls it a "red herring" and says it is not an important issue in the race for governor.

Scherer: Balance The Budget By Cutting Waste

With a possible multi-billion-dollar state budget gap looming, State Representative Sue Scherer says the answer is to cut waste… and then cut some more waste. 


Scherer says she “absolutely” believes that there may be billions of dollars wasted in the state budget… and says she will be diligent in identifying it. 


Scherer is opposed to extending the temporary income tax increase that expires at the end of the year.

Medical Marijuana Dispensary Could Wind Up In Abe's Backyard (Almost)

We could soon find out if Abe Lincoln and pot go together. 


Springfield’s corporation counsel says the proposed location for a medical marijuana dispensary is somewhere in the vicinity of Lincoln sites, and west of City Hall. 


That could put it near sites like the Old State Capitol or Lincoln’s Home.  That area is one of only a handful of locations in Springfield where a dispensary could go without violating state rules against being too close to schools or day care centers.

New Bel-Aire Hearings Convene Thursday

The owner of the Bel-Aire Motel could face nearly a million dollars in fines as a new round of hearings gets underway Thursday over hundreds of alleged building code violations. 


Mayor Mike Houston’s administration sees those code hearings… and the threat of massive fines… as the best way for the city to gain control of the rundown facility so that it can be condemned and torn down. 


City corporation counsel Todd Greenburg says the city will also continue to put together a chronic nuisance case against the Bel-Aire, as directed this month by the city council.


Ride-Sharing Service Intensifies Fight Against New Regulations

A ride-sharing service that is taking off in Chicago… and considering expansion to other parts of Illinois… is turning up the pressure in hopes of stopping a bill that would impose more regulations on the industry.


The head of Uber says the proposed regulations on Governor Pat Quinn’s desk would stifle the growth of his business and could force the company to rethink its Illinois presence. 


Uber is a smart-phone app that allows people to connect with drivers who can provide rides.  But Uber drivers currently don’t have to have the same licenses that are required for traditional taxis.

Blood Center Cuts Ribbon, Seeks Donors

The Central Illinois Community Blood Center has cut the ribbon on its new administrative headquarters.  But that isn’t fixing its biggest immediate need.


Blood supplies are still alarmingly low… because donations have dropped off sharply over the summer.  The center is asking anyone who can, to give blood before the upcoming Labor Day weekend. 


Blood donations are still accepted at the blood center’s original location on South Seventh.

Springfield NAACP to Convene Public Meeting Next Month in Aftermath of Ferguson Unrest

Some of the tensions that have been erupting in Ferguson, Missouri, in recent days are also a daily fact of life in Springfield… according to the head of the local NAACP branch.


And now the group is convening a community meeting next month to address, and try to defuse, some of those issues.


Teresa Haley says young black men often complain that they are unfairly targeted and harassed by Springfield police. She says there needs to be a frank community discussion… and a commitment on both sides to treat each other with respect.


That meeting is planned for September 4th from 6 to 8 pm at Southeast High School.

CWLP Electric Fund Faces Another Technical Default

City Water Light and Power is facing another big financial crisis… and chief engineer Eric Hobbie warns another electric rate hike is all but inevitable.


The utility is facing a steep drop in revenue because of the relatively cool summer… and that could lead to another technical default on its debt.


The fiscal impact of a second default… and the effects of costly new regulations… will almost certainly force the utility to raise rates to bring in more revenue, according to Hobbie.

Springfield's Medical Pot Zoning Won't Come Until October

Springfield is one step closer to approving rules that would allow medical marijuana businesses in the city… but final approval could still be months away.


Aldermen voted Tuesday in favor of an ordinance that allows the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission to hold a public hearing on the proposed rules, which will dictate where cannabis growing and dispensing operations will be allowed.


After that hearing, the commission will make recommendations and send the issue back to aldermen. That’s a process that could take months… but the window to apply for state licenses for such businesses is only weeks away.

Gun Charges Against Springfield Store Clerk Declared Unconstitutional

A Springfield store clerk’s conviction on weapons charges has been overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court… which says the law under which he was convicted was unconstitutional.


Ahmed Altayeb grabbed a gun from behind the counter of the Handy Pantry on West Cook and opened fire on a man who was stealing liquor from the store. The robber fled and was not injured, but Altayeb was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. His attorney argued that the statute violated Altayeb’s 2nd Amendment rights.


The State Journal-Register reports Altayeb is a legal immigrant from Yemen… but faced deportation after his conviction. His attorney hopes those proceedings can be stopped, now that the conviction has been thrown out.

Rauner Calls for State Supreme Court to Take Up Term Limits Case

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is calling on the state Supreme Court to pick up the pace and make a fast final decision on whether a term limits amendment will be allowed on the November ballot.


The deadline to finalize the ballot is rapidly approaching… and Rauner’s term limits proposal is still in limbo, after being ruled unconstitutional by a lower court earlier this summer.


Rauner says he’s upset that the high court didn’t hear a direct appeal of that ruling… and says the courts should stop dragging their feet and make a ruling.


Rauner says the term limits proposal is very popular among Illinoisans, and they should have a chance to vote on it.

NAACP Calls Town Hall Meeting For Sept. 4th To Address Tensions Between Police, Black Community

What’s been happening in Ferguson, Missouri, could just as easily happen here… according to the head of the Springfield NAACP. 


But a town hall meeting planned for next month is intended to reduce those tensions and address the underlying issues of relations between police and Springfield’s black community.  Teresa Haley of the Springfield branch says young black men in particular feel that they are the victims of harassment by local police.


That meeting is set for September 4th from 6 to 8 pm at Southeast High School.


Local Leaders Push For Passage Of School Funding Reform Bill

A renewed push is underway to win approval of a bill to radically revamp school funding in the state. 


Community leaders and Springfield school officials are supporting Senator Andy Manar’s Senate Bill 16… which requires that most state school aid be allocated on the basis of need.


Representative Sue Scherer is a supporter of the bill in the House.  She says it’s unfair that local students compete with suburban Chicago kids for jobs… after getting educated in schools that are much less well-funded.


Sheriff: No Wrongdoing, But Changes Were Made After Jail Death

Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson insists his jailers did nothing wrong in a 2007 incident that led to the death of an inmate… and now a possible $2.5 million settlement with the inmate’s family. 


But Williamson also says changes have been made in jail operations since Paul Carlock’s death seven years ago.  The accused child pornographer had struggled with jail guards before he died.


Undersheriff Jack Campbell says the settlement makes sense to prevent future expense for county taxpayers.

Police Search For, Can't Find, Man With Gun

Springfield police are scratching their heads about a man who reportedly attempted to board a city bus... and then ran into a west-side hotel... while implying that he had a gun.


The incident happened on Freedom Drive near Parkway Pointe Tuesday, when the man attemped to get on the bus. The agitated man reportedly kicked a window and implied that he had a gun, then got off the bus and ran into the Fairfield Inn.


Springfield police arrived and searched the hotel, but couldn't find the man.  They suspect he fled before they arrived.  They're asking anyone with information about it to call the police department.

State Police Stress Safety Around School Buses

You may be like a lot of drivers… not quite clear on the rules regarding when you’re required to stop for a school bus. 


Illinois State Police are issuing a reminder about safety around school zones, and especially around stopped buses.  The agency notes that you must always stop when you are behind a bus that is stopped with its stop arm extended. 


If you are approaching the bus, you’re only required to stop if it is not a divided roadway with multiple lanes in each direction.


Rauner Pushes For Fast Supreme Court Action On Term Limits Appeal

The committee that is pushing for a term limits amendment to the Illinois Constitution is now pushing the Illinois Supreme Court to act quickly to hear the case. 


That proposed amendment was tossed off the ballot several weeks ago… and now time is running out to get that ruling reversed before ballot deadlines kick in. 


Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner says the Supreme Court should not ignore thousands of people who want term limits for lawmakers.


Ice Bucket Challenge Catches Mayoral Candidates, Radio Personalities

The “ice bucket challenge” continues to pick up steam across the Internet… and around Springfield. 


Mayoral candidate Jim Langfelder has issued the challenge to his opponents, Mayor Mike Houston and county auditor Paul Palazzolo, to dump a bucket of ice water on their own heads.  It’s all part of a fundraising effort for the fight against ALS, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. 


970 WMAY’s Jim Leach and Greg Bishop have also gotten the challenge… and plan to carry it out live on the air Wednesday.

Sangamon County Board Committee Offers to Settle Carlock Death Case

Sangamon County taxpayers could be on the hook for more than five-million dollars in the death of an inmate in the county jail.


The State Journal-Register reports a county board committee has approved a $2.5 million settlement with the family of Paul Carlock.


The child pornography suspect… who had worked as a children’s entertainer under the name “Klutzo the Clown”… died in 2007 after a struggle with jail guards.


In addition to the settlement, the county has also incurred another $2.6 million in legal fees… but officials say those costs would go even higher if the case went to trial.


In the proposed settlement… which must still be approved by the full county board… the county does not admit wrongdoing.

Investigators Release Name of Human Remains Found in Rochester

One mystery solved… but a much bigger one remains. Forensic investigators have identified the skeletal remains found in a Rochester garage last month.


Dental records were used to confirm the remains of 43-year-old Tracy Trimby of Decatur.


Trimby had a long criminal record, including drug charges, but had not been the subject of an active missing persons investigation.


There’s still no information on how or when she died, or how her body ended up in Rochester.

Teachers and School Admin Still Working on Teachers' Contract

School is back in session in District 186… even though a new teachers’ contract has not been finalized.


Superintendent Jennifer Gill says talks have moved a bit more slowly in recent days… since members of the union’s bargaining committee are working teachers who have been preparing their classrooms for the start of school.


Appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Gill said both sides agreed to, quote, “work smart, not fast” in order to craft an agreement that makes sense.


Teachers are still working under the terms of the one-year contract that was approved last summer.

Southern View Principal Resigns to Take Job in Michigan

There’s already been a shakeup at one Springfield school.


Southern View principal Reiko Hurd abruptly resigned last week to take a job in his hometown in Michigan.


School board member Donna Moore said she was “reluctantly” voting to accept the resignation, because she thinks administrators should fulfill their contracts, but agreed it could be awkward to force Hurd to stay.


Grant Middle School guidance dean Bob Mitchell has been appointed to take over as principal at Southern View, a balanced calendar school whose school year started last month.

Enos Park Neighborhood Association Sues Problem Property Owners

A Springfield neighborhood association is taking action on its own against rundown properties in its part of town.


The Enos Park Association has filed suit against the owners of several properties, accusing them of creating a nuisance and a health hazard that is hurting the value of other homes in the area.


The group’s suit seeks to force repairs, demolition… or to have the properties turned over to a “receiver” who will be responsible for it.

More Ideas for Smooth and Safe Traffic Through Downtown Springfield

More ideas are surfacing about how to make traffic move more smoothly through downtown Springfield.


Two groups have been brainstorming proposals including a slower speed limit downtown… and prohibiting right turns on red at busy pedestrian intersections. Now Springfield Alderman Sam Cahnman has offered another possibility.


Cahnman says the city could look at moving to “reverse angled parking,” where a driver would back into an angled on-street space.


Cahnman says it wouldn’t be any more difficult to park that way than it currently is to parallel-park… but he says it would be easier and safer to leave the space.

One Dead After Crash Near Lincoln

A 30-year-old West Chicago man is dead after a single vehicle crash in the Lincoln area on Monday morning.


The victim was the passenger in a vehicle being driven by an 18-year-old male, also of West Chicago, that left the roadway at a high rate of speed off of the exit ramp to Interstate 55 at the Atlanta exit (#140). The vehicle struck multiple trees, coming to rest with the driver's side wrapped around a tree, according to an Illinois State Police press release. The driver was transported to Bromenn Medical Center in Bloomington with non-life threatening injuries. The passenger was transported to Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, where he died from his injuries.


The accident remains under investigation as of Monday afternoon.

First Human Case of West Nile in 2014

The Illinois Department of Public Health has confirmed the first human case of the West Nile Virus for the state this year.


In a press release provided to 970 WMAY News, IDPH confirmed that the Chicago Department of Public Health reported that a woman in her 70s became ill last month.


A bird collected in Henry County on May 29th and a mosquito sample collected in Madison County on May 30th were the first positive West Nile results of this year. So far, the virus has been reported in birds, mosquitoes, and - now - a single human case in 32 of the state's 102 counties. At this time last year, West Nile had been reported in 49 counties.

Rochester Skeletal Remains Identified

The skeletal remains discovered in Rochester on July 19th have been identified.


The Sangamon County Coroner's Office had previously released information stating that the victim was a 43-year-old female. Coroner Cinda Edwards, on Monday, issued a statement positively idenifying the female as Tracy Trimby, of Decatur.


Further investigation continues with the Illinois State Police, Sangamon County Coroner, and other agencies involved.

Teachers Back At Work In District 186 As Contract Talks Continue

School is back in session in Springfield District 186, even though talks continue on a new teachers contract. 


Springfield Education Association members are still working under the terms of the one-year deal reached last summer… while those negotiations are ongoing. 


Appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Superintendent Jennifer Gill said both sides agreed to, quote, “work smart, not fast.”


''Reverse Angled Parking'' Suggested As Review Of Downtown Traffic Continues

Another idea is being floated to help improve traffic flow and safety in downtown Springfield. 


Two study groups have explored ideas including more angled parking in the downtown area.  But calling in live to the 970 WMAY News Feed, Alderman Sam Cahnman said the city could look at what has happened in other communities… which have put in “reverse angled parking.” 


Cahnman says that wouldn’t be any more difficult to get into a space than parallel parking… but it would be a lot easier to get out.

Enos Park Goes To Court Against Rundown Properties

If you’re tired of waiting for government to fix a problem, you can take a page from a Springfield neighborhood association. 


The Enos Park Association is filing suit on its own to go after nuisance properties in the neighborhood. The lawsuits say the abandoned properties are a safety hazard and are hurting property values. 


They seek to have the properties repaired, torn down or transferred to another owner.


Decatur May Ditch New Police Radios, But Sangamon County Still Loves Them

Although the city of Decatur is having second thoughts about its new Starcom police radios, Sangamon County law enforcement is standing behind the technology. 


Decatur may pull the plug on its contract because of two recent widespread outages of the system. 


But Undersheriff Jack Campbell says with the exception of one or two sporadic dead spots in Sangamon County, the Starcom radio system has worked very well… far better than the department’s old analog radios.


Lawsuit Stemming From Blagojevich Misdeeds Is Revived

The ghost of Rod Blagojevich’s ethical issues continues to haunt state law… and the courts. 


A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit by casino operators… which claims that bribery was at the heart of Blagojevich’s push for legislation that took three-percent of casino revenues and steered them toward racetracks. 


The legislation at the time was touted as a way to level the playing field and protect Illinois’s economic interest in maintaining a healthy horse racing industry.

Back to School With Changes for District 186 Schedule

It’s the day parents have been waiting for… and students have been dreading. This is the first day of school for most District 186 students.


The new year will bring some changes… including early dismissal every Wednesday to allow more set time for teacher training and collaboration.


School board president Mike Zimmers says one of the district’s goals this year is to more clearly communicate what it’s doing to parents and the public… and he encourages both parents and community members to take time to arrange visits to schools, so they can see for themselves what’s happening inside.

Quinn Signs Smoking Ban on Public University Campuses

Next year, students packing to go away to a public college or university in Illinois should probably leave the cigarettes at home.


Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation that prohibits smoking anywhere on public college or university campuses, indoors or out. Smoking in a private vehicle would still be permitted.


Supporters of the bill say it will reduce overall rates of tobacco use among college kids… but opponents say it’s a big inconvenience without much benefit.


Several major campuses already went smoke-free before passage of the new law, which takes effect next July.

State Fair Attendance May Be Down Ten Percent

It appears almost one in ten of us like staying dry more than we like the Illinois State Fair.


The 2014 fair wrapped up Sunday night, and fair officials expect total attendance will be down close to ten-percent this year... mostly because of rain or the threat of it through most of the fair, especially on the weekends.


Final attendance numbers won’t be in for a few days, but fair manager Amy Bliefnick said last week that the numbers are not bad, given the weather. And since a prediction of rain Sunday didn’t materialize, that could give the final figures a boost.

Fair Officials Increase Recycling Options

Your trip to the fair this year included lots of options for disposing of your trash… with special receptacles for bottles, cans and other items.


Illinois State Fair officials say they ramped up recycling at this year's event as part of an effort to have the most eco-friendly fair in the country.


The fair last year recycled more than 25,000 pounds of aluminum, cardboard and plastic.


It added paper to the recycling effort this year. Officials say manure from the fairgrounds also is used to fertilize gardens.

Groups Work on Recommendations to Make Travel Safer in Downtown

Getting around downtown Springfield… whether on foot or in a vehicle… can and should be easier and safer, according to groups who are studying ways to improve the movement of motorized and pedestrian traffic through downtown.


The State Journal-Register reports the groups are working on several recommendations, including changing the speed limit through downtown from 30 miles an hour to 25.


Other suggestions could include more “parklets” directly adjacent to streets and banning right turns on red at busy intersections, all in an effort to get traffic to slow down and be more mindful of those on foot in the downtown area.

Police Get Surplus Military Equipment Through Pentagon Program

Local police may look more like an offshoot of the military these days… as they make more and more use of surplus equipment that’s no longer needed in war zones.


A recent analysis by the New York Times finds Sangamon County law enforcement agencies have obtained hundreds of assault rifles, night vision equipment and even armored vehicles through Pentagon programs.


Deputy Springfield police chief Dennis Arnold says the equipment is sometimes modified to make it more appropriate for civilian use.


But he and others say the equipment is valuable and essential in a variety of emergency situations.


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