Springfield-area business owners continue to be gradually more optimistic about prospects for the local economy.
The latest Economic Outlook Survey conducted by the University of Illinois Springfield finds a six-point gain in positive expectations for the next 12 months. Only one in five business owners expect the local economy to get worse in the coming year.
Business owners point to the quality of health care locally as the biggest asset for doing business in Sangamon County… while “total state taxes on business” is seen as the biggest liability.
A Springfield school board member says he can do more to help city schools, and neighborhoods, by serving on the City Council instead.
Scott McFarland has launched his campaign for the open seat in Ward 4. He made the announcement Monday at a North End shopping plaza where several of the available retail spaces are vacant.
McFarland says he will work for more economic development and infrastructure improvement for the North End… including expanded use of TIF districts to fund that effort. But McFarland says he will also seek to have a portion of TIF funds rebated back to the school district.
A rare joint appearance by the major party candidates for U.S. Senate highlights the sharp differences between them.
In a conversation before the Chicago Tribune editorial board, Democratic incumbent Dick Durbin and Republican challenger Jim Oberweis clashed early and often. The two split on issues like background checks for all gun purchases, including those at gun shows and on the Internet.
Durbin says it would reduce crime, but Oberweis doubts that… and says the checks raise fears about a federal database of gun owners.
An Illinois legislative commission has a green light to proceed with its own hearings into Governor Pat Quinn’s anti-violence program and allegations that it misspent millions of tax dollars.
Those hearings had been put on hold while federal prosecutors in Springfield conducted their own investigation. But the committee chairs say U.S. Attorney James Lewis has told them they can proceed with their hearings, tentatively scheduled to start October 8th in Chicago.
Former top Quinn administration staffers could be called to testify about the program…less than a month before Election Day.
Some Illinois lawmakers are squabbling openly about a school funding reform plan.
State Senator Andy Manar’s bill would require most state education dollars to be allocated on the basis of need… which would take funding away from wealthier districts and shift it to poorer ones. The bill has hit a roadblock in the House, where members representing those upscale districts are trying to derail the legislation.
Manar says those opponents shouldn’t pretend that they care about fairness in school funding. But Representative Ron Sandack says lawmakers need to find a different approach that doesn’t, quote, “crush suburban schools.”
The Ball-Chatham school board has unanimously rejected a parent’s request to eliminate a graphic novel from the approved Glenwood High School reading list.
The book… “Persepolis”… is author Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical account of growing up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The book is critically-acclaimed, but is also controversial because of graphic images and themes.
The State Journal-Register reports that a parent complained about the tone and images of the book, but school board members agreed with principal Jim Lee that it’s OK to present challenging material to students.
An attempt to sell off half the state’s fleet of airplanes isn’t finding many takers.
Governor Pat Quinn’s administration has put eight planes and one helicopter up for sale in an online auction, to reduce the cost of maintaining the fleet.
But the Quad-City Times reports only two of the aircraft sold Sunday… the two cheapest, going for around $65,000 each. More expensive planes, including one with an estimated value of more than $2 million, got no bids.
A Springfield school board member says he thinks can accomplish more… for schools and for the rest of the community… as a city alderman.
Scott McFarland has announced that he will seek the Ward Four seat being vacated by Frank Lesko, who is running for city clerk.
McFarland says one of the most important issues is to stabilize finances at City Water Light and Power… and says everything should be on the table, from budget cuts to the possibility of rate increases, but only as a last resort.
Most Springfield business owners think the local economy will get better in the next year… or at least that it won’t get any worse.
The latest Economic Outlook Survey of local companies has been released, and it shows more than a third of those surveyed expect economic growth in the coming year… but more than 40-percent only think the economy will stay the same. Just 20-percent are predicting economic declines over the next 12 months.
State Senator Andy Manar is fighting back against efforts to water down his school funding reform bill.
Senate Bill 16 would allocate most state education dollars on the basis of need… which would divert money away from wealthier school districts and toward poorer ones. It has already passed the Senate, but has run into objections in the House from lawmakers representing those wealthier districts.
Manar says his bill is a move toward “fundamental fairness”… and says those who oppose his bill should stop pretending that they want a more fair system.
As Election Day gets closer, more dirt is coming out about some of the candidates in the November races.
The Huffington Post reports that a check of records about state lawmaker and congressional candidate Mike Bost reveals he was arrested and stood trial for shooting a dog after the animal bit his 4-year-old daughter. Police reports on the 1986 incident say Bost shot the beagle while it was penned up in a neighbor’s yard… however, Bost was acquitted of the charge by a Southern Illinois jury.
Bost is challenging Democratic incumbent Bill Enyart in the 12th Congressional District.
The candidates for U.S. Senate have many disagreements… and most were on display when the two met before the Chicago Tribune editorial board Monday.
Democrat Dick Durbin favors universal background checks for all gun purchases, including those at gun shows and elsewhere. But Republican Jim Oberweis opposes the idea, citing fears that it could lead to a federal database of gun owners and expressing doubt that the checks would really reduce crime.
The woman who spent five years in prison for her role in the drowning deaths of her three children in Clinton Lake is now out of prison… and mother to three more children.
But the Bloomington Pantagraph reports the state took custody of the children of Amanda Hamm… who is now married and goes by the name Amanda Ware… because of her previous child endangerment charge.
Ware and her husband are now fighting in court to have the children… ages 4, 2 and six months… returned to them.
Friday’s arson fire at an air traffic control center near Chicago is still having an effect on flights around the Midwest.
And U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says the incident has exposed a vulnerability in the system that is designed to safely coordinate thousands of flights in crowded airspace every day.
Although Friday’s fire appears to be the work of a disgruntled employee – and not related to terrorism -- Durbin says he and other senators will ask for a security review of FAA practices to prevent future sabotage that could cripple air travel around the country.
The challenger in the 13th Congressional District is attacking incumbent Rodney Davis for his stance on the minimum wage and Social Security.
Democrat Ann Callis says Davis has voted against increasing the minimum wage, a position which she says hurts women and working families. Callis says raising the minimum wage will give the poorest people more buying power, and would bolster the economy.
Callis also accuses Davis of supporting a GOP plan to privatize Social Security. But when asked how she would improve the solvency of entitlement programs, Callis said there should be a bipartisan panel to make recommendations for the future of Social Security and Medicare.
Springfield police have made an arrest in a weekend shooting at a neighborhood cookout.
The State Journal-Register reports 39-year-old Jermel Oneal has been charged with attempted first-degree murder. He’s accused of shooting a man in the face when an argument broke out during that cookout outside an apartment building on West Capitol Avenue.
The victim… whose name has not been released… is reportedly in critical condition.
President Obama will travel to Illinois this week to campaign for Governor Pat Quinn.
Details of the President’s appearances with Quinn haven’t been announced yet, but Obama is expected to be in Chicago Wednesday night and Thursday.
First Lady Michelle Obama is also scheduled to campaign in Illinois for the governor early next month.
Organizers say this year’s International Route 66 Mother Road Festival may turn out to be the biggest yet.
Exceptional weather was one key factor in the big turnout for the show… which drew hundreds of classic cars from across the U.S. and Canada.
This was the 13th year for the downtown street festival, which wrapped up Sunday afternoon.
Springfield can continue to enforce its ordinance prohibiting panhandling on downtown streets.
A federal appeals court this week rejected a request to block enforcement of the law while a legal challenge is pending. Two panhandlers say the city ordinance violates their right of free speech.
That lawsuit is still active, despite the refusal of the appeals court to issue an injunction in the case.
A Springfield man has been sentenced to nine years in prison on a charge of drug-induced homicide.
29-year-old Gary Clark supplied the heroin that a New Berlin man later injected, causing a fatal overdose.
The State Journal-Register reports that Clark is the first person to be charged in Sangamon County with homicide for providing drugs that cause another person’s death.
Bond is set at $500,000 for a Capital Area Career Center custodian accused of downloading thousands of child pornography images.
Prosecutors say some of the pictures linked to Jacob Stark depict children under the age of 9... and some show children directly engaged in sex acts.
If Stark is able to post bond, he will be prohibited from having contact with children and won’t be allowed to use computers or cell phones.
Most weekend flights should be back on schedule at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport… after Friday’s disruptions caused by an arson fire at an air traffic control center near Chicago.
That blaze grounded flights at O’Hare and Midway Airports, and caused the cancellation of most of Friday’s flights between Springfield and Chicago.
Officials still recommend that you call ahead or check online before heading out to the airport.
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