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October 20, 2014, 8:03 am
970 WMAY News Archives for 2012-05

Lawmakers Pass Budget That Cuts Education Funding

Illinois lawmakers have approved a budget that immediately drew fire from both those who say it spends too much and those who say it spends too little. 


The spending plan reduces education funding below the current year's levels and may add to the budget worries for many local districts.  That was sharply criticized by education advocates, but other lawmakers objected to what they see as overall spending increases in the budget.


The spending plan includes money to keep open a number of state facilities that had been targeted for closure by Gov. Pat Quinn, including the Jacksonville Developmental Center.  But Quinn could still act on his own to close down some or all of them.

Pension Reform Delayed; Lawmakers Will Have To Come Back For Special Session

Although it was described as one of the most important issues of the legislative session, a pension reform deal will have to wait until later this summer at the earliest.


A pension plan shepherded by House Republican Leader Tom Cross had to be shelved when not enough Democratic votes could be found for passage.  Most Democrats sided with House Speaker Mike Madigan, who opposed the Cross bill because it did not include a provision to let the state shift some pension costs back to local school districts, colleges and universities.


Governor Pat Quinn says the state does not have the option of failing to take action on pensions, and indicated lawmakers would be called back for a special session to hammer out a solution to the impasse.

Conan Visits Springfield

Team Coco meets Team Abe...


Comedian and talk show host Conan O'Brien visited Springfield with a camera crew Thursday, and the end result may wind up on his nightly TBS show when it originates from Chicago in mid-June.  O'Brien, a history buff, visited the Lincoln Presidential Museum and got video at various Lincoln-related attractions.  He says he has some similiarities with Lincoln -- including above-average height.


O'Brien declined to say how the footage obtained in Springfield would be used in his Chicago broadcasts, saying that his team would have to evaluate what they shot to determine how it would be used.

Madigan Changes Pension Reform Plan Last Minute

Another dramatic twist in the pension reform fight at the Capitol.


House Speaker Mike Madigan is now dropping his call to shift pension costs for teachers back to local school districts.


Madigan says Governor Pat Quinn asked him to drop the idea, and while Madigan says he disagrees with Quinn on the issue, he went along with the governor’s request.


The pension shift could have cost District 186 and other local districts millions of dollars, and was opposed by House Republicans.


Setting the idea aside improves the chances of passing other parts of the pension reform package by tonight’s deadline.

Budget Passed Illinois House, Different Than Senate

The House has passed a budget bill, but lawmakers may have their work cut out for them to reconcile that spending plan with one passed earlier by the Senate.


The House budget spends significantly less than the Senate proposal, particularly on education.


Differences between the two plans must be worked out by tonight, or the legislative session could go into overtime, giving the minority Republicans a much greater voice in the budget negotiations.

Same Sex Couples Sue Illinois for Marriage Equality

Same-sex couples across Illinois say they can no longer wait for legislative action, and are now turning to the courts to make same-sex marriage legal.


More than two dozen couples, including two from Springfield, have joined two separate lawsuits aimed at forcing Illinois to recognize same-sex marriage.


The lawsuits contend the state’s civil unions law enacted a year ago does not provide equal or adequate protection for same-sex couples and their families.

J. Parsons Closing

Just months after it opened, the J. Parsons store in Springfield is closing, the latest setback for its Springfield-based parent company, THR and Associates.


THR has been mired in legal and financial challenges in recent months, with some employees filing suit claiming the company underpaid them. And the company bounced thousands of checks earlier this spring and is still working to repay the money it owes.


The company says the J. Parsons concept just didn’t work as well as predicted, and says it will now focus on its other retail business, the Buy Sell Trade stores located in Springfield and Jacksonville.

Head Start Union Argue For Vacation Time

Union workers at Springfield’s Head Start program say the Urban League, which runs Head Start locally, is not complying with the workers’ contract.


Those workers staged an informational picket Wednesday to call attention to their complaints.


They say the Urban League shortchanged them on vacation time.


The agency says workers got less vacation time this month because the end of school meant they did not work a full month, and only earned six-and-a-half hours, not the full eight hours they would get in a normal month.

For Graham Elementary and Southern View, School's Not Out for Summer

Not all District 186 schools are “out for the summer”.


There are two which are balanced-calendar schools, and they’re asking drivers to be aware their schools are still in session – so speed zones still apply.


Graham Elementary and Southern View will not end their 2011-12 school year until Thursday, June 7th.


The schools will also begin their 2012-13 term on July 19th.


That’s about a month earlier than other district schools.


The district is requesting motorists to remain cautions when driving past schools – regardless of the time of the year.

Illinios State Fair Museum Taking Nominations For Illinoisan Of The Day

The Illinois State Fair is only a couple of months away, and the Illinois State Museum Foundation is looking for individuals who make a difference in their Illinois community, showing Illinois spirit through hard work and dedication to helping others.


Nominations are being accepted for Illinoisan of the Day at the Illinois State Fair.


Each winner will be invited to receive gifts and honors on stage during their special day at the Fair.


Nomination forms can be requested by calling the Museum Foundation at 415-4408, or can be printed from the museum’s website at statefair


The deadline for nominees is June 15th.


Winners will be announced at the Annual Corndog Kickoff on Saturday, July 14th inside the Orr Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Same Sex Couples Sue For Right To Marry

Two Springfield couples are among more than two dozen around the state who are suing for the right to marry. 


The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal are representing those same-sex couples in two separate, but nearly identical, lawsuits filed against Cook County Clerk David Orr.  The suits allege that depriving those couples of the right to marry is unconstitutional and relegates the couples to second-rate status.  They say that civil unions are inadequate because they are poorly understood and not equally recognized around the state.


Lawyers for the two groups say the courts are an appropriate venue to protect the couples’ civil rights.  Even so, they say it could take two to three years for the cases to make their way through the courts.


Tobacco Tax Increase En Route to Quinn's Desk

Illinois lawmakers have approved a hefty increase on tobacco taxes, a key plank of Governor Pat Quinn’s Medicaid reform efforts.


Quinn says he will quickly sign the increase, which will raise the tax on cigarettes by a dollar a pack, to a total of $1.98.


The measure will also double taxes on other forms of tobacco.


The proceeds, combined with additional federal matching funds, will generate more than 700-million dollars for the cash-strapped Medicaid system.

Lawmakers Fume Over Pension Reform

Tensions are riding high, and frustration is boiling over, as lawmakers try to find an answer to the state’s growing pension crisis.


Republican Representative Mike Bost of Murphysboro yelled and tossed papers in the air on the House floor Tuesday, as he vented anger over House Speaker Mike Madigan’s refusal to consider GOP amendments to Madigan’s pension reform bill.


And House Republican leader Tom Cross suggested Madigan was actually trying to kill pension reform, and said Madigan was to blame for the mess the state is in today.


The pension reform bill cleared a House committee Tuesday, but no one’s sure if the votes are there for approval by the full House.

SPD Remains Quiet About Shooting Suspect's Motive

Springfield police aren’t saying what may have led up to a deadly shooting outside a home on North 14th Street early Monday. But eyewitness accounts have led officers to a suspect in the fatal shooting.


34-year-old Johnny Ray Priester was arrested Tuesday morning by members of the U.S. Marshal’s Violent Fugitive Task Force.


He’s accused of firing as many as nine shots into a crowd of people outside the home.


20-year-old Quinton Harden was struck in the head as he tried to shield others from the spray of bullets, he died a few hours later.

ACLU Plans To Sue Illinois For Equality of Same Sex Couples

The debate over same-sex marriage in Illinois is about to head into the courtroom.


The American Civil Liberties Union plans to hold news conferences today in Springfield and Chicago to announce the filing of lawsuits aimed at forcing the state to give gay couples the same rights and benefits of marriage that straight couples now have.


Several same-sex couples will be plaintiffs in the lawsuits, which could eventually make their way to the Illinois Supreme Court, setting the stage for a landmark ruling.

Illinois Symphony Orchestra Picks New Director

A two-year search has finally led to a new music director for the Illinois Symphony Orchestra.


Alistair Willis is a Grammy nominee who formerly worked with symphonies in Seattle and Cincinnati, and was a guest conductor with orchestras around the world, including Chicago and St. Louis.


He was one of five finalists to succeed the last music director for the ISO, Karen Lynne Deal.

Authorities Make Arrest In Fatal Springfield Shooting

A suspect has been arrested in the fatal shooting of a Springfield man early Monday.


Members of the U.S. Marshal's Violent Fugitive Task Force arrested 34-year-old Johnny Ray Priester in connection with the death of 20-year-old Quinton Hardin outside a home on North 14th Street around 3:30 Monday morning.  Witnesses say Hardin was struck in the head as he tried to shield others in a group of people outside the home from the hail of bullets.


Police did not immediately release a picture of Priester, citing the ongoing investigation, and did not offer additional details about what may have led to the shooting or how they identified Priester as their suspect.

Pension Reform Plan Clears House Committee; Poe Votes No

An Illinois House committee has approved a pension reform plan on a vote of 6-3, sending the measure to the full House.  Representative Raymond Poe (R-Springfield) voted against the measure.


It would require state workers to choose between their current guaranteed 3% annual cost-of-living adjustment, compounded -- or accepting a smaller COLA in exchange for access to a state health care plan.


The measure also seeks to transfer future pension costs for teachers and college and university employees from the state to those local school districts.  District 186 says that change could mean millions of dollars in new expenses for the cash-strapped district.

Sen. Kirk's Ex-Wife Files Complaint With FEC

The ex-wife of U.S. Senator Mark Kirk has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission, claiming that Kirk steered campaign funds to his girlfriend, but hid the payments by steering them through another company.


The ex-wife, Kimberly Vertolli, made headlines during Kirk’s 2010 campaign for the Senate by announcing she would not support Kirk’s candidacy.


Shortly after that, Kirk’s campaign brought her onto the payroll.


But now, according to the Chicago Tribune, Vertolli says that Kirk was also paying the woman that he was seeing pri Vor to his divorce fromertolli, and that he covered up those payments by funneling them through a third-party company.


Kirk is still recovering from a stroke he suffered in January.


A spokesman for the senator calls Vertolli’s complaint groundless and says she is using the complaint to air personal grievances.

Dubin: Deal Can Be Made To Keep Student Loan Rates Low

Despite more partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he’s hopeful a deal can come together to keep interest rates on some student loans from doubling this summer.


The rates on those federally-subsidized loans will jump from three-point-four percent to six-point-eight percent on July 1st, unless Congress takes action to keep the lower rates in place.


But two different plans to do that, one from Democrats and the other from Republicans, both stalled in the Senate last week because the two sides couldn’t agree on how to pay for them.


If the rate hike takes effect, the average college student could incur four-thousand dollars in additional debt from interest payments.

Deadline Approaches For General Assembly

Illinois lawmakers are rushing to meet a Thursday deadline to wrap up their business for the year, but there is still plenty on their to-do lists.


While some components of a Medicaid reform plan have been approved, other pieces have not cleared both chambers.


And a controversial pension reform bill is still coming together. And an overall budget must also be approved.


Lawmakers cut their holiday weekend short in an effort to complete their work by Thursday.

Possible Closure of JDC And Other Facilities Unresolved

Among the unresolved budget issues facing state lawmakers is the fate of the Jacksonville Developmental Center and other state facilities targeted for closure.


The state Senate passed a budget plan that includes money for JDC, and the House is working on a draft that would also fund operations at the Jacksonville facility.


But there are significant differences between the House and Senate spending plans, and Governor Pat Quinn, who favors closing the facilities, could use his line-item veto to remove the funding.

Menard Correctional Center Workers Comp Claim Upheld

An appeals panel has upheld the claim of a guard at the Menard Correctional Center, who says “repetitive walking” was the cause of a painful Achilles tendon injury.


The Belleville News-Democrat reports the guard based his claim on the fact that he has walked back and forth through the prison several miles a day for more than a decade, checking cells.


One expert says if walking becomes the basis for a workers comp claim, the system could be bankrupted by other similar claims.

Partisan Battle Over Student Loans

Student loan interest rates are the latest issue to be caught up in partisan Congressional gridlock, but U.S. Senator Dick Durbin believes the issue can be resolved before a July 1st deadline.


That’s when rates on some federally-subsidized student loans will double, unless Congress takes action.


But two completing plans to do that both failed in the Senate last week, in a dispute over how to cover the cost.


Durbin says there is still time for a deal to come together.

Missing Student Mystery May Be Solved

Authorities think they may have solved the mystery of a Chicago theology student who disappeared on a hiking trip more than two years ago.


Searchers in Colorado have discovered human remains around 11-thousand feet up the side of a mountain, and nearby found the remnants of a campsite that still contained a credit card and other personal effects belonging to James Nelson.


Officials believe Nelson may have suffered altitude sickness and wandered away from his camp. Foul play is not suspected.

Quincy Man Dead, Wife in Custody

A Quincy man is dead of a gunshot wound, and his wife has been taken into custody.


But so far 28-year-old Bethany Coyle has only been charged with reckless conduct in the case.


Police who were called to her home early Sunday morning found her husband, 37-year-old Wallace Coyle, dead of a gunshot wound.


So far there’s no word on what may have led to the shooting.

Good Samaritans Pull People From Chicago Fire

A group of good Samaritans has avoided a holiday weekend tragedy in Chicago.


Neighbors and passers-by helped rescue people trapped by a fire in a four-story Chicago apartment building Sunday afternoon.


15 people, eight residents, six firefighters and a police officer, were hurt in that blaze, but authorities say none of the injuries is serious.

Man Accused of Stealing Ribs, Liquor & Infant Formula

If William Sackman was looking to get an early jump on stocking up for the Memorial Day weekend, authorities in southwestern Illinois believe the St. Louis man went about it the wrong way. 53-year-old Sackman is accused of felony retail theft.


He allegedly tried to make off from a Shiloh supermarket May 20 with 10 containers of infant formula, 18 bottles of liquor, ribs and other merchandise without paying. The charge suggests the retail value of the items was more than $300.


He’s being held on 75-thousand-dollars bond.

Over A Billion Dollars Cut From Medicaid

Illinois lawmakers have voted to slash well over a billion dollars from the state’s Medicaid program, but Governor Pat Quinn says their work isn’t done yet.


The one-point-six billion in reductions will drop thousands of people from eligibility, eliminate some programs entirely, including a prescription drug plan for seniors, and intensify efforts to make sure anyone receiving Medicaid is entitled to it.


But Quinn says lawmakers also need to approve a cigarette-tax increase in order to provide the rest of the money needed to stabilize Medicaid.

Injunction Against City's Health Insurance Committee Dissolved

The City of Springfield’s health insurance oversight committee has a new structure but the members representing the city have yet to be determined.


Corporation Council Mark Cullen says that the city and most of the city’s 17 unions came to an agreement on a new committee structure.


The new structure presented to a judge led to an injunction against the old committee to be dissolved, according to Cullen. Cullen says that the new committee will only consist of union representatives and members of management from the city.


The previous committee included retirees and two aldermen.


Cullen says a meeting to decide upon the benefits for civil union partners of city employees has not yet been scheduled.

Former Southern View Cop Indicted

J. Zeid Langan, picture taken from Facebook

A former cop who left jobs with the Springfield and Southern View police departments under a cloud has now been indicted by a Sangamon County grand jury.


J. Zeid Langan is accused of battery and official misconduct for an incident in March while he was on-duty as a Southern View officer.


Two women say Langan groped them and made sexually suggestive comments following a traffic stop.


Langan was fired from the department shortly afterwards.


He left his job as a Springfield cop several years ago after being accused of sexual contact with a woman while on duty.


Read more about the case and read the Sangamon County Sheriff's report here.

County Deputy Accused of Stealing Plants

A Sangamon County deputy has been accused of stealing plants from a Sherman park, while on duty.


A Sangamon County grand jury has indicted Sherry Waldron on two counts of theft. Prosecutors contend she took two potted plants from the park on two different dates earlier this month.


She was reportedly in uniform at the time. The plants are valued at around 80-dollars.

Eavesdropping Law Reform Stalls In Senate

A bill that would allow citizens to make recordings of police officers in public has stalled in the state Senate, because the sponsor wants to give police the same power to record the public.


The measure, which earlier cleared the House, would change provisions in the state’s eavesdropping law which make it a felony to make a public audio recording without the subject’s consent. That law was recently ruled unconstitutional.


But Democratic Senator Mike Noland of Elgin says if the public can record the cops, then cops should be able to make surreptitious recordings in public places.


Opponents say that would give police unprecedented surveillance powers.

City of Springfield Website Back Online After Paperwork Snafu Temporarily Disables It

The City of Springfield’s website is back up and running after being taken offline by the hosting company Neustar, according to Springfield’s Communication Director.


Ernie Slottag says that paperwork sent three months ago to renew the service may not have been processed by the hosting company. Slotag says the company requires real signatures on the paperwork so the city had to fax subscription renewal documents early Thursday morning.


The website came back online a couple of hours after the paperwork was submitted.

Gaming Bill Veto Could Be Imminent

A bill to substantially expand gambling in the state of Illinois has once again cleared the House and is headed to the Senate, but Governor Pat Quinn is already signaling that a veto could be imminent.


The revised bill is scaled back somewhat from a gaming plan that cleared the legislature last year, but was never sent to Quinn because of his vocal opposition.


It would create five new casinos and allow slot machines at race tracks, but not at the State Fair Grandstand. But Quinn says it still fails to do enough to address possible corruption tied to the gaming industry.

Mayor Houston Joins Protest Of Possible State Pension Fix

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is warning that some of the state’s ideas for fixing its pension crisis could just transfer the burden to city government and local taxpayers.


Lawmakers are considering a plan to divert revenues that usually go to local government, and instead using that money to address funding shortfalls in state pension funds.


Houston warns that would lead to either tax increases or layoffs, or both.

Ralston Possibly Jeopardized Ballot Access By Voting GOP

The prospective Democratic candidate for Sangamon County coroner says a state law that jeopardizes her candidacy is the definition of “ex post facto.”


Rachel Ralston voted in the Republican primary in March, because she says Democrats did not have a full slate of candidates in the primary, and she wanted her voice to be heard.


But a state law that was passed and enacted after the primary makes it illegal for someone who votes in one party’s primary to represent a different party in the general election.


The new law codifies an earlier state Supreme Court ruling.

Illinois House Passes Gambling Expansion Bill

The Illinois House has passed a bill expanding gambling in the State of Illinois. The law would create new casinos and slot machines at the state’s race tracks. However – there won’t be any slots at airports or at the State Fairgrounds.


The Governor’s Office released a report back in November saying gambling expansion would bring in around 160 million dollars in new revenue, but others had claimed the figure to be more like one billion dollars.


The bill which passed in the Legislature last year included creating five new casinos, including the first one in Chicago. But the bill was never sent to the governor for his signature.

U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald Stepping Down

He became one of the most important figures in Illinois politics through his prosecutions and convictions against two consecutive governors.  But after a decade as U.S. Attorney in Chicago, Patrick Fitzgerald is stepping down. 


A statement from Fitzgerald’s office did not give any reason why he has decided to leave the post on June 30, following an 11-year tenure that is the longest anyone has ever held that job in Chicago. 


Fitzgerald says he will take the summer off before deciding on his next career move.

Houston, Other Mayors Tell State: Don't Pass Your Pension Problems Onto Us

Mayors across Illinois… including Springfield’s Mike Houston… are calling on Illinois lawmakers not to pass any more pension problems on to local governments. 


The mayors are trying to present a united front, amid reports that the state could divert revenues which ordinarily go to local governments to help pay for the state’s soaring pension costs. 


Houston and the other mayors are demanding that the state leave local government revenues alone… and stop passing new sweeteners for police and fire pensions.  The mayors also want changes to the current system… such as requiring public safety employees to pay more for their own pension and raising the retirement age for cops and firefighters.

Coroner Candidate Says Law That Could Derail Campaign Was Hurriedly Approved ''Ex Post Facto''

With her candidacy in danger from a new state law, the prospective Democratic candidate for Sangamon County coroner says she’s the victim of an “ex post facto” rule that was rushed into effect. 


Published reports say Rachel Ralston may be ineligible to appear on the fall ballot as a Democrat… because she voted in the Republican primary in March.  Shortly after that vote, a bill which had been stalled in committee for months was quickly passed and signed into law, prohibiting a candidate who voted in one party’s primary from representing a different party in the general election. 


Ralston says she voted in the Republican primary because there was not a full slate of Democratic candidates, and she wanted to have a voice in the primary.  She says when she cast that vote, the new law had not been passed… and she had not yet been approached about running for coroner.

Proposed East Springfield TIF Closer to Reality

Yet another TIF district is in the works.


The Springfield City Council is moving ahead with plans for a second east-side TIF district, this one would include the land that will eventually house a new Schnuck’s store.


City officials say the TIF will help spur needed development in that area of town.


A study will be conducted to estimate how much money might be raised from the tax increment financing district, money that will go to pay for further development within the TIF zone.


The newly proposed TIF would join boundaries of an already existing TIF that expires in 2018. If the newly TIF passes as expected, the two districts can share in the deferred property tax money to update and beautify properties.


Final approval of the new east-side TIF could still be months away.



Springfield Fire Department Could Take Over Children's Safety Village Lease

The Springfield Fire Department will be take over a lease for the Children’s Safety Village that's on the campus of the University of Illinois, Springfield, if an ordinance placed on the consent agenda passes.


The village currently houses members of the Springfield Fire Department, who have been using the facility for special training and fire safety demonstrations for children.


Glenna Mason, Chairman of the Children Safety Committee, says that the building is being donated to Springfield’s Fire Department so they can continue to work with children on fire safety.


Mason says it’s an estimated $450,000 donation to the fire department.


Assistant Fire Chief Greg Surbeck said that taking over the property won’t impact their budget as the SDpringfield Fire epartment already pays the utilities there. A nominal fee of $10 a year leased for the property will be paid to UIS for the property.

City Resolution Hopes to Acquire City Block From State

The Springfield City Council has approved a resolution aimed at having the city acquire a downtown city block, with hopes of turning it into a residential and commercial development.


That block, just north of the Governor’s Mansion, is currently owned by the state. The resolution asks the state to declare it surplus property, clearing the way for the city to acquire it and pursue a development project.

Democratic Coroner Candidate Could Be Ineligible

The woman who has been slated to become the Democratic nominee for Sangamon County Coroner may be ineligible to appear on the ballot.


The State Journal-Register reports that Rachel Ralston’s expected candidacy could be derailed by the fact that she voted in the Republican primary in March.


A new state law that just recently took effect prohibits someone who votes in one party’s primary from representing a different party in the general election.


But since that new law took effect after the March 20th primary, it’s not clear if the prohibition would apply to this election cycle.

Springfield Home Sales Brisk in April

April Home Sales in Springfield was brisk, according to the Capital Area Association of Realtors. According to their president Todd Musso, April reflects the sixth straight month-over-month increase in home sales.


There were 311 homes sold in April 2012, compared to 279 sold in April of 2011. Sale prices rose 4.8 percent over a year ago, and 8.3 percent year-to-date.


Locally, on average, homes priced at less than $100,000 will take almost 5 months to sell. And homes priced more than $200,000 generally take 8 and a half months to sell.


Musso says taking the average time for the home to sell in the State of Illinois, the Capital Area stands out as a more balanced market.

Korean Shellfish Recalled

Any oysters, clams, mussels or scallops imported from Korea should be thrown out, if they’re in the fridge or freezer.


The Illinois Department of Public Health says the shellfish harvested from Korean waters have the potential to be contaminated with Norovirus – a virus that attacks the intestinal tract causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and low grade fever.


Consumers who have purchased shellfish recently and are concerned it may have come from Korea should contact the store where purchased.


Importation of shellfish from Korea ended May first.

Quinn Urges Lawmakers To Act On Pension & Medicaid

Governor Pat Quinn is pressing lawmakers to take quick, decisive action on the two big issues looming over the legislative session, pensions and Medicaid.


With the scheduled end of the session just over a week away, Quinn says the state needs “epic” action to resolve its budget crisis. Quinn also downplayed, but did not specifically rule out, a gambling expansion bill as part of a revenue package.


The governor calls the gaming issue a “shiny object” that serves only to distract people from the issues they need to address.

District 186 Questions How Deep To Cut

Springfield school board members are still wrestling with the question of how deep they should cut, and whether they should dip further into the district’s dwindling reserves.


The board continues to hear pleas from parents and teachers not to implement some of the harshest cuts proposed by Superintendent Walter Milton.


But spending more of the reserves would violate a board policy to keep its bank account at 15-to-20 percent of total revenues.


Board vice-president Bill Looby says failing to make difficult decisions now is just postponing the inevitable.

Springfield's Diocese Joins Others In Suit Against Obama Admin

Springfield’s Catholic diocese is one of 43 plaintiffs around the country filing suit over the Obama administration’s rule requiring insurance companies to cover birth control.


Springfield Bishop Thomas John Paprocki says the rule would require most Catholic-affiliated businesses and organizations to go against the teachings of their faith.


The Springfield lawsuit and the others claim the new rule is an unconstitutional violation of religious freedom.

Chinese Company Buys AMC Theaters, Including Springfield's

Springfield’s movie theatres are falling into Chinese hands.


The AMC Theatres chain, which operates all of Springfield’s indoor theatres among its 350 locations nationwide, has been purchased by a Chinese company, Dalian Wanda.


The two-point-six billion dollar deal creates the world’s largest theatre chain.


The AMC name and day-to-day operations of the theatre chain are not expected to change.

Quinn Presses Lawmakers To Act On Medicaid, Pension Reforms; Says We Need "Ten Epic Days" Before End Of Session

Governor Pat Quinn is calling on lawmakers to take quick action to pass his proposed Medicaid and pension reforms.


Quinn held a news conference in Springfield, with ten days to go until the scheduled end of the legislative session.  Quinn says those need to be "ten epic days" of action on the pressing issues facing the state.


The governor says without sweeping changes to pensions and Medicaid, there won't be enough money left for education and other vital services.

Springfield Catholic Diocese Sues Over Birth Control Mandate

Springfield’s Catholic Bishop has filed suit against the U.S. government, claiming that a new federal policy requiring employers to pay for their workers’ birth control is an unconstitutional violation of religious freedom. 


Bishop Thomas John Paprocki… who is himself a lawyer… joins with the bishop of Joliet and two Catholic Charities agencies in filing that federal lawsuit.  The birth control mandate exempts churches, but requires other religious-based businesses and organizations to pay for oral contraceptives. 


Paprocki says it forces religious institutions to act against their religious beliefs.  The lawsuit is one of 12 similar complaints filed around the country against the government mandate.

Davis: I'm No Washington Insider


Listen to Jim Leach interview Rodney Davis with the player above or download the MP3 here.

The new Republican nominee in the 13th Congressional District says he is not a Washington insider, despite his years of work on the staff of Central Illinois Congressman John Shimkus. 


Rodney Davis  was chosen by GOP county chairmen from across the district to take the ballot spot vacated when incumbent Tim Johnson abruptly dropped his re-election bid.  


Davis says his congressional staff work gives him the experience and knowledge to represent the district… but says he makes his home in Taylorville, not Washington, and is tuned in to the needs and issues of the district.  National Democrats are attacking Davis, calling him, quote, “a career political hack.” 


Davis says he is a conservative, and will work for lower taxes, the repeal of "Obamacare," and a reduction in costly federal regulations.  He also said in a live interview on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show" that he respects all couples, and while he opposes same-sex marriage, he also does not support the idea of a federal Constitutional amendment to ban it.


Illinois Family Institute Slams Anti-Bullying Bill

Some Illinois conservatives fear that a pending bill intended to discourage bullying could actually be used to muzzle students who are outspoken about their religious faith, and perhaps force them into indoctrination sessions.


The Illinois Family Institute claims the measure's real goal is "to use public education to promote unproven, non-factual beliefs about the nature and morality of homosexuality and 'transgenderism'."


The group sees the bill as a means for what it calls "homosexual activist organizations” to indoctrinate students and teachers.

Davis Already Under Attack By National Democrats

National Democrats are already targeting the new Republican nominee in the 13th Congressional District.


GOP county chairmen met over the weekend and chose Rodney Davis to fill the ballot spot vacated by incumbent Tim Johnson, who won the March primary and then abruptly dropped out of the race.


The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee immediately went on the attack, blasting Davis as a “career political hack.”


Davis is a longtime aide to Republican Congressman John Shimkus and served as acting state party chair temporarily last year.

Springfield Hopes To Acquire State Owned City Block

Springfield aldermen will vote this week on a proposal to acquire a full downtown city block, just north of the Governor’s Mansion.


The state currently owns the land, which is occupied by a surface parking lot which a city resolution describes as “unsightly.” Under the resolution, the state would declare the land as “surplus property,” opening the door for the city to acquire it.


The city would then work with developers to turn the land into residential property aimed at people who work in the downtown area. The measure will be considered during a special city council meeting Tuesday night.

Fatal ATV Crash Investigation Continues

Authorities are continuing to investigate a weekend ATV accident that killed a Springfield man.


The coroner’s office identified the victim as 57-year-old James Pat Neighbors.


Police say he was riding the ATV along Toronto Road around 3:40 Saturday morning when he was thrown from the vehicle, and it landed on top of him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Motorcyclist Injured After Sunday Afternoon Crash

A motorcyclist has suffered serious injuries after crashing his bike near Cook Street and Dirksen Parkway Sunday afternoon.


Police reports say Andrew Sforza did not initially want medical attention, but was later taken to the hospital by a relative.

Protestors Clash With Chicago Police Just Blocks From NATO Summit

Demonstrations near the site of the NATO summit in Chicago have turned violent, as police and protestors clashed just blocks from McCormick Place, where the summit is being held.


The altercations began as an anti-war rally was winding down, and police ordered the crowd to disperse. A statement from the Chicago Police Department says many in the crowd ignored those orders. 


News video appears to show the protestors surging against the line of police in riot gear, and police responding with force.  But some protestors who say they were injured in the melee insist they were gathered peacefully and had done nothing to provoke the response.

State Board Of Ed Chair: More Funding Cuts Would Be Devastating

The chairman of the State Board of Education is warning of trouble ahead if lawmakers cut school funding. 


A House budget proposal would slash another quarter-of-a-billion dollars from schools, although an alternative Senate plan would leave the funding intact. 


Gery Chico tells Illinois Statehouse News that more cuts would lead to fewer teachers, shorter school days and higher taxes.

57-Year-Old Springfield Man Killed In ATV Accident

A Springfield man is dead following an ATV accident near Toronto Road early Saturday morning. 


The victim is identified as 57-year-old James Pat Neighbors.  Authorities say he was driving the ATV just before 4 a.m. and lost control… he was ejected from the vehicle, which then landed on top of him. 


The accident remains under investigation.

Shimkus Aide Rodney Davis Chosen To Fill 13th District GOP Slot On November Ballot

Republican county chairmen in the 13th Congressional District have selected a top aide to Congressman John Shimkus to replace another congressman, Tim Johnson, on the November ballot.


Rodney Davis was selected over three other hopefuls in the weighted balloting.  In addition to serving as a top staffer to Shimkus, Davis also filled in as acting state party chairman temporarily last year.


He will face Democrat David Gill in the general election.  Johnson won the Republican primary in March, but withdrew from the race shortly afterwards.

City Of Springfield Moves To Acquire Downtown Land For Residential Use

The Springfield City Council will vote this week on a proposal to acquire a full city block just north of the Governor’s Mansion… a step towards eventually converting the land to residential use aimed at individuals and families working in the downtown area. 


The block… bordered by Capitol, Jackson, 4th and 5th… currently holds a surface parking lot, which a city council resolution describes as “unsightly.”


The property is owned by the state… the city’s resolution calls for it to be declared surplus property and transferred to city control.

Funding For Day Care Providers Restored

Help is on the way for day care providers around the state with large numbers of clients who rely on state child care subsidies.  Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation to restore funding to the child care program. 


Funding for the program had run out last month, threatening to cut off payments to day cares and raising fears that some would have to drop clients or even close their doors.

Senate Democrats Release Budget Proposal

Illinois Senate Democrats have put forward a budget plan that is smaller than Governor Pat Quinn’s proposal… but larger than the numbers offered by Democrats in the Illinois House. 


For example, the Senate proposal would keep education spending flat… compared to the House plan that cuts 250-million dollars from schools. 


 Both chambers are scrambling to pass a budget by the May 31st deadline.

Alexander, Sophia Are Top Baby Names In Illinois

“Jacob” may be the most popular boy’s name around the country… but in Illinois, “Alexander” was the top pick, according to census data.  But the state was right in line with the nation on girl’s names… “Sophia” was at the top of both lists.

Slots At Horsetracks May Be Back In Play

A proposal to allow slot machines at race tracks may not be dead after all. 


Governor Pat Quinn has long rejected the idea of adding slot machines to horse racing facilities.  But a report on the Capitol Fax website this week suggests Quinn has softened that opposition.  The governor’s office still calls the idea of slots at racetracks, quote, a “distraction,” but isn’t explicitly ruling out the idea. 


Supporters say it would be a way to raise needed revenue and give a lift to the ailing horse racing industry.

Madigan Joins Suit To Let Disabled Athletes Compete In Some IHSA Events

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has joined a lawsuit which seeks to force the Illinois High School Association to let disabled athletes compete in sanctioned events. 


Madigan is now part of the federal lawsuit brought by the group Equip for Equality on behalf of a 16-year-old girl from the Chicago suburbs who was left paralyzed from the waist down by a degenerative disease.  The girl has been swimming and wants to compete in official IHSA events. 


The lawsuit asks that the association develop a scoring system that would let disabled athletes compete in events like swimming and track and field. The IHSA says it’s working on the issue, but says any proposal is likely to be controversial.

Springfield's Mail Processing Center Will Grow, Not Close

The post office has delivered some good news to Springfield.


The city’s main mail processing center on Cook Street, which had been slated for closure, will now remain open and is expected to add jobs that will be transferred in from other Illinois processing centers.


The moves are part of a revised facility plan from the Postal Service, which is trying to trim billions of dollars from its budget.


It’s not immediately clear how many new jobs will come to Springfield from the realignment.

Federal Court: Quinn Can Block Raises

A federal appeals court agrees that Governor Pat Quinn has the right to withhold scheduled pay raises for state workers, even though the raises were agreed to under contract.


The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the state cannot be compelled to spend money that was not appropriated.


That was Quinn’s rationale for canceling the raises, saying he could not pay them because the funding was not approved by the General Assembly.


AFSCME says it will continue to fight for the raises.

School Volunteer Under Investigation

A 75-year-old volunteer at a Springfield school is under investigation for alleged inappropriate contact.


The State Journal-Register reports several children complained about the way the man touched them, and that at least one saw what was described as an inappropriate poem the man had written.


The man had been part of the foster grandparent program through a group called One Hope United, and had gone through a background check before being allowed to volunteer at the school. The group has now dismissed the man as a volunteer.

Illinois Emergency Management Agency Announces Preparedness Campaign

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is urging Illinois citizens to take an active role in ensuring safety at home and in their neighborhoods. As part of its 2012 Preparedness Campaign, the agency suggests having a disaster supply kit, stay alert to what’s going on around you, preparing for emergencies and getting involved in local organizations that focus on community preparedness. More than 50 Citizen Corps Councils in Illinois have implemented the Community Emergency Response Team - or C.E.R.T. - in which volunteers are trained to help prepare for and respond to emergencies. For information on joining the Springfield C.E.R.T. group, visit

Illinois EPA Announces Hazardous Waste Collection

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has announced they will be having another household hazardous waste collecting coming up in the Fall. The program which began 23 years ago has already served nearly 417 thousand households, collecting over 81 thousand fifty-five gallon drums of toxic materials collected from Illinois citizens. They will accept paints, thinners, chemical cleaners, unwanted pharmaceuticals, motor oil, gasoline, household batteries and similar products. Fluorescent and other high-intensity bulbs will also be collected. The one-day collection is scheduled for Saturday, September 22nd.

Illinois Senators Receive Award

Rebublican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin were honored at the 20th anniversary dinner of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. The senators were presented with an award for their bipartisan work in sponsoring the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, which they introduced last year. The legislation encourages states to require public schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine injectors – or Epi-pens – and permits authorized personnel to administer the injection if a student has an anaphylactic reaction.

Springfield's Post Office Will Stay Open

The official word is expected today on a plan to reorganize and consolidate post offices and Springfield's main mail processing center on Cook Street is set to absorb operations from Quincy, Carbondale and Centrailia.


The word came late Wednesday during a conference all with Postal Officials and union representatives.  Local postal union president James O'Connell says that it's bitter sweet.  Read more about the proposed plan here.

East Springfield TIF Closer To Realization

East Springfield is closer to realizing a new Tax Increment Finance district that will be instrumental in securing a planned Schnucks just off Dirksen Parkway and South Grand.


An ordinance being considered by the Springfield City Council would lay out the boundaries for the second TIF on the east side.


Alderman Doris Turner, who requested the TIF, says the planned Schnucks in her ward will act as an anchor for other development and will also encourage already established businesses in that area to upgrade their properties.

Hearing On Bill To Divert Local Taxes For Pensions Canceled

A bill proposed by Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan to divert corporate personal property taxes from cities and school districts to pay for pensions run by the state isn’t going anywhere … yet.


The State Journal-Register reports a hearing on the bill Wednesday was canceled.


Mayor Mike Houston was scheduled to address the committee to express the devastation to the capital city’s budget if those funds were diverted to the state.


A Madigan spokesperson says that it wasn’t time to bring the bill forward.

Minimum Wage Hike Bill Advances to Full Senate

Even with Illinois having the third highest minimum wage in the country, members of a senate committee voted in favor of raising the minimum wage in Illinois to just over $10 an hour.


Critics of the measure say that the proposed increase in minimum wage would cause some business to go out of business because of the increased cost.


The bill now heads to the full senate.

Strip Club Tax Compromise Focuses on Clubs That Serve Alcohol

There’s been some compromise on a bill in the Illinois Legislature which would cost strip clubs $3.00 per patron.


The strip club tax has undergone some tweaking and is making its way through the Illinois Senate.


Under the revised legislation, strip clubs that serve alcohol will have to paid either $3.00 per customer or pay an annual fee based on gross receipts.


The fees collected would be used to help support under-funded rape crisis centers around the State. Senator Toi Hudson of Olympia Fields is the bill’s sponsor.


Supporters say there’s a direct correlation between strip clubs that serve alcohol and sexual violence against women.


The measure now moves to the Senate Floor for a vote.


Springfield's Deja Vu would not be impacted by the tax because they do not serve alcohol.

Quinn Launches Medicaid & Pension Information

Governor Pat Quinn is taking his plea for cooperation on his suggestion for Pension and Medicaid Reform.


Quinn has launched a website aimed to educate the public on the State’s Medicaid and pension challenges. SaveOurState.Illinois.Gov has detailed about the governor’s proposed solutions and latest media reports on the issue, plus directing citizens with information that will allow them to contact their local legislators.


Quinn says his plan would save taxpayers up to 85 billion dollars, eliminate the unfunded liability over 30 years and allow public employees to continue to receive pension benefits.

SMTD Changes Route This Weekend

Those who ride Springfield Mass Transit Busses downtown will need to be aware that the Night Transfer Center will be moved to 5th & Capitol at Bus Stop C on Friday.


The Night Transfer Center will return to its regular location on Monday.

DNR's "Wear It" Campaign Encourages Boating Safety

It’s soon to be summer boating season on Lake Springfield.


The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is reminding the boating public to “Wear It.” That means everyone in a boat should be wearing a life jacket from the time they board until the time they go ashore.


The IDNR Office of Law Enforcement says there were over 100 boating accidents in 2011, resulting in 70 injuries and 21 fatalities.


Illinois Conservation Police will be patrolling the public waters of the State and will be on the water checking for sobriety by boat operators and compliance with boating laws in Illinois.

Springfield's Post Office To Stay Open and Absorb Others in Consolidation Effort

After months of uncertainty, Springfield's main mail processing center will stay open, according to a postal union representative.


During a Wednesday evening conference call with postal officials, local postal union president James O'Connell says he was told that postal processing centers in Quincy, Carbondale and Centralia will be consolidated with Springfield and that the Springfield processing center on Cook Street will stay open.


News of this consolidation plan comes a day after a moratorium on planned closures expired. It's welcomed news for the capital city months after Springfield's postal processing center was slated for closure. Springfield joined a list of hundreds of other post offices around the country that would have been forced to shutter their doors because of growing budget problems.


Last week the Post Master General revised plans to close hundreds of rural post offices and instead limited the number of hours they would be open.


A document from the American Postal Worker's Union's website says that some of the modified network consolidation plans would being early this summer and workers in affected communities would be notified with more details May 21st. There will be no closures this summer, just consolidation efforts.


No consolidations steps will take place between September through December 2012 because of increased mail volume, but the process will pick back up in early 2013. A second phase of consolidations is being scheduled to begin in 2014.


"Actions taken will comply with collective bargaining agreements, Postal Service regulations and policies, and other applicable law," the document states. It also says that overnight delivery could be effected in some areas because of the consolidation.


O'Connell says that little by little, solid plans of the transition will come forward. He says he is awaiting written confirmation of the plans to absorb the Quincy, Carbondale and Centralia services into Springfield. He also says that it is bitter-sweet that other facilities in other communities will close, but Springfield will stay open.


A recent study suggested a loss of tens of millions of dollars in economic activity to the Springfield area if the more than 230 jobs at the post office in Springfield were transferred to St. Louis or elsewhere.

Nebraska Man Shoots Himself After Exchange With Springfield Police

The Illinois State Police and Sangamon County State's Attorney's Office are investigating an incident that happened last Friday around 4:30 pm in the 3400 Block of Freedom Drive. Springfield Police officers arrived on the scene, prompted by a call of a possible suicidal person, and confronted a man with a handgun. After a verbal exchange, 25-year-old Douglas Smith of Bellevue, Nebraska aimed the weapon at the officers, who shot Smith in the lower leg. Smith then turned his handgun on himself and was immediately transported to the hospital where he later died. The Sangamon County Coroner's Office's preliminary results show Smith died of a single gunshot wound to the head. Smith was described as a transient, possibly suicidal and in possession of a weapon.

Taxes Meant For City Could Go To State For Pensions

The City of Springfield could handover hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes meant for the city to the state to help with their pension crisis in a new bill proposed by House Speaker Mike Madigan.


Springfield Budget Director Bill McCarty says that the proposed legislation would create a dangerous budget problem not just for Springfield but for other municipalities around the state.


Mayor Mike Houston is scheduled to speak to members of the general assembly today to oppose the legislation.


The Illinois Municipal League is also expected to oppose the new bill.

City Opposes State Bill on Plastic Bags

A bill in the Illinois General Assembly would directly impact the ability of Springfield and other cities around the state to govern through home rule when it comes to recycling plastic bags.


The Springfield City Council passed an ordinance on emergency passage Tuesday that stands opposed to a bill in the Illinois General Assembly. The state bill would keep cities from banning plastic bag use and force manufactures to pay a fee and set up recycling centers for plastic bags across the state. The city of Chicago is exempt from the home rule exemption.


Mayor Mike Houston supports recycling, but he says as the bill stands now, it would limit the city’s effectiveness in tweaking certain laws under home rule.


Houston says the city will reach out to the central Illinois delegation and that the Illinois Municipal League is against the proposed legislation.  The State Senate passed the bill in late March 36 to 15.  State Senator Sam McCann voted no with Larry Bomke being marked as a no-vote.

Farmers Market Opens Today

The Farmers Market opens today in downtown Springfield.


You can buy fresh produce and other goods downtown on Adams between Second and Fifth Street every Wednesday and Saturday from 8am to 12:30pm.


The Farmers Market runs through October 27th.

New Elementary School Construction to Begin This Summer

Conceptual design of the new Matheny-Withrow
Conceptual design of the new Matheny-Withrow Elementary School

Students and teachers are entering a transitional phase with the ceremonial ground breaking for the new Matheny-Winthrow Elementary School.


The $7.3 million project could take up to a year and-a-half to complete.


District 186 officials says no taxes were increased to pay for construction of the 32,000 square foot institution. Superintendent Walter Milton says that the new school will be built right next to the old school and could cause some discomfort for students, parents and faculty. Milton also says the building will be a good learning experience for children.


Dave Leonatti, Principal with Melotte Morese Leonatti Parker Architects in Springfield says that it's challenging to design a school to fit a specific curriculum, and community. Another big challenge is the transition period from the old, to the new. But the project is being executed by a good builder, says Leonatti.


Harold O'Shea Builders is the General Contractor that will begin working on the new school in early summer this year.


The school is expected to be ready for the 2013-14 school year.


There's no break in the learning process for students either. After the summer recess, they'll be learning about million dollar construction projects. 


Diane Motley, Principal at Matheny-Withrow Elementary School, says that students will get some first hand-experience during the construction of the new school.


Pete Robinson, a student at Matheny-Withrow Elementary School, says the land where the current school is will be a playground for the new school, eventually.  The project, being funded by health/life-safety bonds will begin early this summer and could last up to a year-and-a-half.


The new building will have a chilled beam geo-exchange climate control system, specially designed overhangs to allow more sunlight inside, separate bus and parent parking lots and improved main entrance security. Officials expect the project to be complete for the 2013-14 school year.

Officials Warning Motorists: Click It Or Ticket

With Memorial Day fast approaching, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Police are ramping up their annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign. Hundreds of safety belt enforcement zones and other patrols are planned over the heavily traveled holiday weekend. Enforcement will place a special focus on nighttime activities. The increased enforcement intended to save lives. Over the past three years, Illinois has seen record lows in vehicle-related fatalities. The Illinois State Police are urging motorists to buckle up and drive responsibly during the busy Summer holiday season.

Sangamon County gets $97,000 Grant

Sangamon County is getting a grant to strengthen the County’s efforts to enhance workplace safety, and cut down on workers compensation costs. County Auditor Paul Palazzolo says the majority of the $97,200 Illinois Public Risk Fund Grant will be used to pay the Triune Health Group – the medical case management firm hired to assist employees in their return to work following an injury. The rest will be spent on equipment and supplies for Animal Control, and eight new Tasers for the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office.

City Officials To Step Up Enforcement of the Downtown Panhandling Ordinance

Begging for money downtown is illegal in Springfield, and city officials plan to get more aggressive in the enforcement of that law.


The city will be stepping up enforcement of the panhandling laws as well as making sure that habitual aggressive panhandlers face stiffer fines and charges.

Cook Street Postal Facility Finds Out Fate Today

Letters going across town may wind up in St. Louis if the Cook Street postal sorting facility is closed. The longtime station is in danger of closing as the post office is looking to save money. While Springfield has one of the highest rated sorting facilities in the country, its closure would send our mail to the second worst sorting facility in the nation at St. Louis.

Chamber Gets a New Interim President

There’s a new President and CEO at the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. Former Chairwoman Valera Yazell grabs the President and CEO reins from Erich Bloxdorf, who steps down to form a new business.


Also joining the Chamber team is former Chamber board Chairman Jim Roth, who will head up the Chamber’s Q-5 economic campaign on an interim basis.

Ten People Injured After School Bus Collides With A Semi

Ten people are recovering from injuries this morning after a school bus rear-ender a semi truck on southbound I-55 Monday afternoon.


Ambulance and fire crews from around the area responded to the accident around mile marker 57.


According to a state police report, the ten injured people, including the bus driver, were transported to hospitals in Litchfield and Hillsboro.


One student was airlifted to Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis. No one was listed in critical condition following the accident.

Matheny-Withrow School Construction Set to Begin Today

Construction of a new 32,000 square-foot elementary school begins today with a ceremony at the planned site on Pope Avenue.


The $7.3 million dollar Matheny-Withrow School facility should be ready for the 2013-14 school year.


Plans include state-of-the-art heating and air condition units, more organized parking for vehicles and busses and improved main-entrance security.


A press release from District 186 says that construction is being paid for by Health/Life-Safety bonds and no property taxes are increasing as a result of the project.

Republican Candidates Vying for Open 13th Congressional District Seat

Four republican candidates vying for the seat being vacated by Congressmen Tim Johnson each think they have the necessary experience and know-how to run a successful campaign against Democratic candidate David Gill.


The four candidates took part in a forum held by the Sangamon County Republican Party. Sangamon County Chairman Rosemarie Long says that her decision will be influenced by area precinct committeemen but things could change before the 14 various county chairmen in the 13th district get together for a vote May 19th.


The four running for Johnson’s seat include former Johnson chief of staff Jerry Clarke, Congressman John Shimkus aid Rodney Davis, Chicago lawyer and winner of Miss America 2003 Erika Harold and small business owner and conservative activist Kathy Wassink.


One candidate says a woman should be the choice of county chairman in the 13th congressional district.


Erika Harold, a Chicago lawyer and Miss America 2003, says with the so-called “war on women” being discussed on the airwaves, having a women run for the spot in the November general election will help the GOP get their message out of women empowerment.


Harold and Kathy Wassink are the only two women being considered to fill the spot being vacated by Tim Johnson.

Zero Tolerance For Downtown Panhandlers

The city of Springfield, alongside Downtown Springfield, Inc., is taking a zero tolerance stance against panhandling in downtown Springfield.


Representatives from the Police Department, Convention and Visitors Bureau, the city’s Corporation Council and Downtown Springfield, Inc. plan a press conference this morning at the Old State Capital Plaza to discuss their policy and how to deal with people asking downtown visitors for money.

11 Students, Bus Driver Injured In School Bus-Semi Crash On I-55 Near Litchfield

11 students from a middle school in Highland, IL and a bus driver are being treated for injuries after their school bus collided with a semi on I-55 southbound near Litchfield.


One of the students was airlifted to a St. Louis hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries.  The other students were reportedly transferred by ambulance.  There was no immediate word on their condition or on that of the bus driver.  Several people had to be extricated from the wreckage of the bus.


The 6th-graders had been on a field trip to Springfield, reportedly to visit the State Capitol and the Lincoln Presidential Museum.  They were returning to Highland when the crash occurred around 4:30pm Monday.

Few Details in Friday Shooting Death of Nebraska Man

Few details have emerged so far about the death of a Nebraska man who was killed in an apparent shootout with Springfield police at a west-side hotel Friday.


Twenty-five-year-old Douglas Smith, described as a transient whose last known address was Bellevue, Nebraska, was pronounced dead shortly after that incident.


Police had gone to the Comfort Inn after receiving a report of a possibly suicidal man.


State police say they still don’t know how many shots were fired… or whether Smith died from a self-inflicted wound or was shot by police.


An autopsy today could shed more light on the incident.

Weekend Shooting Suspect Arrested Blocks From Shooting

Springfield police are investigating another shooting incident over the weekend.


Police reports say a man suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the incident.


The suspected gunman in the case was reportedly being chased by three men near Fourth and Adams, and fired a shot at them, striking one man in the torso.


A Springfield police officer chased down the suspect, identified as James Williams, and arrested him a few blocks away.

Lawyer: Fired Meredosia Superintendent Says She Was Raped and Videotaped

A bizarre set of charges and countercharges surrounds the firing of the school superintendent in Meredosia.


Ruth Schneider was fired last week by the school board, which made only references to issues of “character” in their decision to dismiss her.


But now Schneider’s attorney says the firing stemmed from an anonymous e-mail that directed school board members to an adult website where a video was posted that appears to show Schneider engaging in a sex act with two men.


Schneider’s attorney tells the Jacksonville Journal-Courier that Schneider was a victim who was raped and videotaped without consent.


He says she has been cooperating with law enforcement on the case, but has now been victimized again by the school board.


Schneider is reportedly considering legal action over her firing.

Quinn's Former Budget Director Says Cuts Will Be Painful

The Quinn administration is continuing its push for Medicaid and pension reforms.


Governor Quinn’s former budget director David Vaught, now the acting director of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, traveled the state last week trying to drum up support for deep cuts in both programs.


Vaught acknowledges that the cuts will be painful for many people, but says if the state doesn’t address the funding disparities, it will lead to even more catastrophic cuts down the road.

Power Surge Takes Channel 20 Temporarily Off Air

For fans of T-V’s “Desperate Housewives,” it was a twist that no one saw coming.


In the last five minutes of the series finale last night, a power surge at ABC Newschannel 20 temporarily knocked the station off the air, causing viewers to miss the very end of the show.


The station’s Facebook page says viewers can see the finale online today at abc-dot-com.


Channel 20 is also working on plans to rebroadcast the final episode of the long-running show.

Springfield Police Officer Involved In Fatal Shooting

One person is dead after a shooting at the Comfort Inn on Freedom Drive, a shooting that reportedly involved a Springfield police officer.  The officer was not the victim of the shooting, but other details about the circumstances or the identity of the victim were not immediately available.

Mayor Revises Stand On Downtown Music; SoHo Will Go Till Midnight This Year, Future Events Till 10:30pm

Under fire from a growing outcry, Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has backed away from a new policy stopping amplified music at outdoor downtown events by 9:30pm.


A statement from the mayor's office says the SoHo music festival in June, which had been directly threatened by the new policy, will be allowed to go on until midnight this year.  But after that, future downtown events will have to end amplified music by 10:30pm.


The policy -- which was first disclosed by the mayor on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show" -- prompted an angry response from SoHo fans and others who felt it was counterproductive to efforts to make downtown a more desirable destination for residents and visitors alike.

Chatham Fire and Police Departments Out For Blood

They've seen the need for life-giving blood as a result of their jobs...and now they will be competing to give the gift of life over the next couple of months. The Chatham Fire Department and Chatham Police Department will be pitting against each other in a friendly competition this summer to see which group can encourage the most blood donations for the Central Illinois Community Blood Center. The challenge will run through July, at a time when donations are needed the most, due to a decrease of donations in the Summer. This is Chatham's first year to compete. The winning agency will have the opportunity to toss a pie in the face of the leader of the opposing agency.

Sangamon County Confirms Addresses of Sex Offenders

Sangamon County deputies have found only a handful of problems during a check of registered sex offenders to make sure they’re actually living where they say they are.


The compliance checks are a regular part of keeping tabs on convicted sex offenders after they serve their sentence. In the latest sweep, the county checked the addresses of 75 such offenders. 47 were found to be in compliance… and deputies are still working to confirm the residences of 24 others.


Problems were found with four cases… one was found in non-compliance and the case was referred to the State’s Attorney. Another offender may have moved out-of-state without permission… that case was referred to U.S. Marshals. A third subject was arrested on weapons charges, and a fourth was found in prison on a new sex offense charge.

The Wall That Heals Ceremony


Vietnam veterans gathered Thursday for a ceremony welcoming the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall. The wall will be on display at AMVETS on South 6th in Springfield through Sunday.  Read more and and see other video here.

One Step Closer to Changing State Retiree Heath Benefits

Longtime Illinois state employees could lose the free health insurance they get in retirement.


Legislation to end the benefit was approved by the state Senate yesterday.


It had already passed the House, and will be signed by Governor Pat Quinn.


The plan would require retirees to pay a health insurance premium based on their years working for the state and ability to pay.


State Senator Larry Bomke voted no, saying the bill is unconstitutional and will result in a lengthy court challenge.  State Senator Sam McCann also voted no.

Local Cop Under Investigation

A Jerome police officer... who is also the son of Jerome’s village president... has been placed on leave and is under investigation by more than one agency.


Steven Stirmell was placed on leave Thursday, as investigations continue through the State’s Attorney’s Office, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, and possibly other agencies.


A source tells 970 WMAY News that the investigation is looking into allegations of misuse of Stirmell’s police powers.


He is the son of Jerome village president Harry Stirmell.

Vietnam Vets Remember The Fallen With "Wall That Heals"

Jim King and Ben Flerlage share why they think the Traveling Vietnam Memorial is important for remembering the past and for teaching lessons in the future. The Traveling Vietnam War Memorial Wall is in Springfield May 10 through 13 at the AMVETS location on 6th Street

The Traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is in Springfield this weekend and organizers and veterans say it’s an important way for anyone affected by the war to find some peace and remind future veterans to not fall victim to mistakes from the past.


Visitors can see the replica wall with the names of veterans who died in the Vietnam war at the AMVETS location on South 6th Street.


The wall will be on display through Sunday. Vietnam veterans held a MIA ceremony Thursday afternoon to welcome the wall to Springfield.

Postal Carriers Collecting for "Stamp Out Hunger" Saturday

This Saturday is the United States Postal Service’s 20th Annual “Stamp Out Hunger” Food Drive. Postal customers are asked to leave non-perishable food items at, or next to, their mailboxes. Donations of food go to pantries in the communities where they’re collected. Examples of non-perishable items include canned soups, canned meats and fish, canned vegetables, fruits and juices, boxed goods, pasta and rice. Glass containers are not accepted because they can pose a risk to carriers and pantry volunteers if they’re broken in transit. The Post Office has collected more than one billion pounds of food since it began in 1993.

Derrick Smith Won't Step Down

An indicted state lawmaker is refusing to step down, saying that his constituents did not abandon him and he won’t abandon them. Derrick Smith appeared before an Illinois House committee which is considering whether to proceed with a process that could lead to Smith’s expulsion from the chamber. The Chicago Democrat refused to answer questions about the bribery charges against him, but his lawyer told committee members that they shouldn’t automatically put faith in the federal indictment, because prosecutors are sometimes dishonest or make mistakes.

IDOT Official Accused of Misconduct over NASCAR Tickets

A former top official with the State Department of Transportation in Springfield is the subject of new allegations of misconduct. That report from the Office of the Executive Inspector General accuses Mike Stout of improperly obtaining NASCAR race passes from a department vendor and using them to take friends to the races. Under the vendor’s contract with the state, Stout had the authority to request the passes for use as part of official state responsibilities, but the report found that he instead gave the passes to non-employees with no official connection to the department, and later lied to investigators about the practice. Stout is no longer with I-DOT… he left the department late last year amid other allegations of misuse of state resources.

Mayor Institutes a Music Curfew on Downtown

Listen to the entire "Talk To The Mayor" segment from Thursday's Jim Leach Show above. Download the mp3 here.

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is pulling the plug early on most outdoor live music events in downtown Springfield.


The mayor is instituting a policy of requiring outdoor live music to end no later than 9:30 p-m. A couple of long-term events like Blues and Barbecue are being exempted from the policy, but it is affecting a number of other planned events.


The decision could threaten the upcoming SoHo Music Festival downtown, which in previous years has staged live music up until midnight on a Friday and Saturday night in June.


Houston says amplified music can be a disturbance to the people who live downtown.

SDAT Says Reduce Lanes, More Green Space, Extend TIF

SDAT leader Jane Jenkins shares with the media some findings the team gathered during their time in Springfield

One of the experts assembled for a study of downtown Springfield’s future is recommending that some main downtown roads should be intentionally made more congested.


The idea is that reducing the number of traffic lanes would force cars to slow down, making the roads safer for pedestrians and making it more likely that drivers would notice downtown shops and restaurants and be tempted to stop and go inside.


That’s just one of the ideas that came out of the S-DAT process, but officials say the recommendations are just a starting point for future discussions.


They also say Springfield has a lot of very positive things, but there still needs to be improvement, according to SDAT.


The group of urban planners, architects and economists presented their findings to a group of Springfield residents Wednesday evening.


Some of the recommendations were to focus money and planning on the core of downtown Springfield with an emphasis on pedestrian and bike amenities. Team members also said that the city should work to extend the TIF district to encourage more investment in the downtown.


The team expects a much more thorough follow up document in the near future.

Area Housing Stats Show Positive Trend

Both home sales and home prices are up in the Springfield area, another sign that the local housing market is rebounding.


The Capital Area Association of Realtors says sales of existing homes was up more than five-percent in the first quarter of 2012, compared to the same period a year earlier.


And in that same stretch, median home sale prices jumped more than 15-percent, setting a record for the first quarter.

Springfield Post Office Still Slated for Closure

A reversal by the U.S. Postal Service on proposed closures of rural post offices won’t have any effect on Springfield’s mail processing center… at least not yet.


Talks are still continuing about the fate of the Cook Street center and more than 200 jobs that could be phased out or moved to St. Louis.


The Postal Service could begin implementing that closure as early as next week. But postal officials did announce Wednesday that they won’t shut thousands of rural post offices, although their hours of operation could be reduced.

Home Sales, Home Prices Up Locally

More signs that the local economy may be rebounding… this time coming from the latest housing market numbers. 


The Capital Area Association of Realtors says both home sales and home prices were up sharply in the first quarter of 2012, compared to the same period a year earlier.  Sales of existing homes climbed more than five-percent in the first quarter… while median home sales prices shot up by more than 15-percent.  The median home sale price of 113-thousand-dollars is a new local record for the first quarter. 


The association says the numbers reflect ongoing low interest rates and higher consumer confidence in the economy.

City Could Save Millions In Consolidation Effort

A consultant says Springfield could save millions of dollars by consolidating city government’s four vehicle garages down to just one.


But that study also says the city could have to pay more than a million dollars up front to carry out the consolidation.


The report, commissioned by the City Council, also recommends that the city develop a uniform record-keeping system for all of its vehicles.


Right now, some departments keep computerized records, while others maintain handwritten logs.

County Offers Mass Transit For Areas Outside Springfield

Mass transit… it isn’t just for the city anymore.


The Sangamon County Board has given a green light to a rural transportation system that would let county residents call to get rides.


The transit would be provided by social service agencies like Senior Services, which already provide rides to their own clients. The program is being funded by federal grants, not county tax dollars.

SDAT Recommendations Expected Tonight

Video from Monday's forum

Tonight’s the night that a team of experts delivers its recommendations on future growth and development in downtown Springfield.


The S-DAT team has been compiling information for weeks, including an intensive three-day fact-finding mission through Springfield that began Sunday evening.


The group will lay out its proposals at a public meeting tonight at 6 at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.

New Baseball Theme Lottery Tickets

The Illinois State Lottery has announced yet more new games. The latest instant games are geared toward baseball fans. The MLB instant ticket series will afford the opportunity for Cubs, Cardinals and White Sox fans to win season tickets or even a trip to the World Series. The games offer two ways to qualify for the World Series trip. The tickets are $2.00 and they’re available right now at more than 8,000 lottery retailers throughout the state.

State Official: Medicaid Cuts Bad, But Alternative Would Be Worse

A top state official says Governor Pat Quinn’s Medicaid proposals will create difficult situations for some people… but not as bad as the meltdown that would result if the state doesn’t get the program under control. 


Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos (HAY’-muss) says Medicaid will collapse in another year unless the state finds nearly three-billion in savings. 


Quinn’s proposal would throw some people off the program, limit benefits for others, and reduce the payments to health care providers.  But Hamos says that’s nothing compared to the “calamity” that would result if Medicaid goes broke in another year.  [She appeared live Tuesday on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”]

Rutherford Uses Governor's Race Talk As Pitch For Donations

Is it a first hint about a possible campaign for governor in 2014? 


State Treasurer Dan Rutherford (ROO’-ther-ferd) is touting a Chicago political blog that puts him as the Republican frontrunner for governor in the next statewide election.  And Rutherford’s Facebook pages include not only a link to the article… but a pitch for campaign donations. 


That same blog also ranks Attorney General Lisa Madigan slightly ahead of incumbent Governor Pat Quinn on the list of possible Democratic contenders.

SDAT's Public Forum Gathers Recommendations From Springfield Residents

Video from Monday's SDAT forum

It all comes down to the trains.


The team of experts that is putting together a plan for future development in downtown Springfield is finding that everything revolves around how many trains will be coming through the area… and on which set of tracks.


The city is still waiting for a final determination on whether train traffic will be consolidated on the 10th Street corridor, or whether potentially dozens of trains every day will roll down the 3rd Street tracks.


That looming issue is likely to affect many of the recommendations that the S-DAT team will deliver at a public meeting Wednesday evening at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.

School Board Debates Budget Cuts

Springfield school board members say they can’t deal too much with the future… until they find some answers to the district’s most immediate budget challenges.


The board is still debating how to make up more than 600-thousand dollars in budget cuts, after voting last month to keep administrative interns whose jobs had been targeted for elimination.


District 1-86 is also carefully watching to see if the state will further cut transportation funding or pass more pension costs on to local schools.

Disciplined CWLP Worker Named

Listen to the complaint from a rate-payer above. Download the mp3 here.

A ten-year veteran of City Water Light and Power has been identified as the worker who lost his job for using city equipment, on city time, to clear a tree from a relative’s property.


The State Journal-Register obtained Matt Winters’ name through a Freedom of Information request. He was fired last month for misuse of city resources, and for allegedly trying to pressure a neighbor not to report the incident, and for misrepresenting the nature of the work to his supervisors.


Two other workers received suspensions for their part in the incident. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is appealing the discipline handed down to all three workers.

SDAT Panel Compiles Information, Will Offer Recommendations About Smart Development And Growth In Springfield

A team of experts is gathering lots of information… and opinions… about what Springfield needs to do to thrive in the future. 


The Sustainable Design Assessment Team… or S-DAT… is in the middle of a three-day effort to compile information and data about the city. 


After a series of interviews and a town meeting Monday evening, the team will spend most of Tuesday and Wednesday putting the information together, before delivering its own set of recommendations Wednesday night.

Taylor Concedes In 96th District Legislative Race

Legislative candidate Winston Taylor has thrown in the towel in his 96th District Democratic primary race. 


Initial results from the March primary showed Taylor trailing Sue Scherer by 69 votes.  Taylor sought a discovery recount of certain precincts in Macon and Christian Counties to see if there was enough indication of vote discrepancies to warrant a full recount.  But now Taylor acknowledges that he came up short in the race. 


Scherer, who had the backing of House Speaker Mike Madigan, will face Rochester businessman Dennis Shackelford in the November general election.

Unity Summit Tackles Bullying, Other Acts Of Hatred And Intolerance

Video from Monday's Unity Summit

The head of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says there is no constitutional protection for bullying. 


Martin Castro… who previously headed up the Illinois Human Rights Commission before being appointed to the federal panel… appeared in Springfield as the keynote speaker at the city’s Unity Summit, aimed at developing plans to prevent and respond to acts of hate and intolerance. 


Castro says the types of actions involved in most bullying are not protected speech.  And he says putting a stop to bullying is not only essential to protect the victim, but to stop the bully from increasingly aggressive actions that could eventually lead to violence.


The summit at the Springfield Hilton also included a tabletop exercise to test how the city and various agencies would respond to hate-based incidents.

Washington Middle School Teacher Named Springfield's Educator Of The Year

A language-arts teacher from Washington Middle School has been named Springfield’s Educator of the Year. 


Melissa Beckler received the award at a luncheon in Springfield Monday, in recognition of her work with “struggling and reluctant readers” in 6th through 8th grades. 


It’s the 25th year for the award, which is sponsored by Horace Mann.  Next year, the insurance company plans to expand the awards luncheon to include an Administrator of the Year.

Lottery Proceeds Falling Short Of Initial Predictions

The first year of the Illinois Lottery’s operation by a private firm has generated mixed results, according to the Chicago Tribune. 


Even though lottery profits have been higher since Northstar Lottery took over, the money is less than what Northstar projected when it beat out other bidders to win the contract. 


That could mean Northstar will have to pay up to eleven-million in penalties back to the state.  But the company has reportedly asked an arbitrator to revise the revenue estimates in an effort to avoid paying those penalties.

Local Sites Compete For Facebook Supremacy

Six Springfield attractions are among 64 sites around the state competing for the title of “Fan Favorite” in a new Facebook competition. 


“Fans” of the Illinois tourism Facebook page, called “Enjoy Illinois,” can vote on their favorite attraction.  The top vote-getter will be declared “Fan Favorite,” while people casting votes will be eligible to win one of three Illinois getaway trips and a 500-dollar Shell gas card.  The contests runs for six weeks. 


The local sites in the competition are: the Lincoln Presidential Museum, the Dana Thomas House, The Old State Capitol, New Salem, Lincoln’s Home and Knight’s Action Park.

Circuit Clerk: Judges Should Order County To Report Mental Illness Cases To State Police

Listen above to Circuit Court Tony Libri call "Let's Talk Law" from this past saturday. Download the mp3 here

Sangamon County’s circuit court clerk wants judges to specifically order his office to notify state police when someone in the county is found to be mentally ill by the court system.


A recent audit found that most Illinois counties do not pass that information along to state police, complicating efforts to keep Firearm Owners I-D cards out of the hands of people who would be ineligible because of mental illness.


Circuit Clerk Tony Libri, calling in live to 970 WMAY, says his office cannot track every such case on its own and needs specific direction from judges to make sure that information gets to where it needs to go.

Crime Victims Amendment Won't Be On Ballot

A proposed constitutional amendment to give more teeth to crime victims’ rights will not be on the fall ballot.


The measure cleared the House by a wide margin earlier in the year, and a similar version passed the Senate by a wide margin.


But the measure stalled when it went back to the House for concurrence with the Senate’s changes.


Lawyers’ groups objected to the amendment, saying it could complicate the work of prosecutors and jeopardize the civil rights of suspects.

Ward 6 Fund Announces Grants

Eight neighborhood associations in Springfield’s Ward Six have big plans for the money they received as the first grants are awarded from a fund established by Alderman Cory Jobe.


Jobe held a block party for the ward Sunday to announce the eight one-thousand-dollar grants. Jobe donated half of his aldermanic salary to start the fund, which has since grown through various fundraising events.


The money will be used for projects ranging from new signage to tree planting to removing poison ivy from a neighborhood boulevard.

Four Left in Contention for Johnson's Seat

Now there are only four contenders still in the running to replace Congressman Tim Johnson on the 13th District ballot this fall.


Republican county chairmen in the district have narrowed the field of contenders.


The four remaining candidates are congressional staffers Jerry Clarke and Rodney Davis, attorney and former Miss America Erika Harold, and business owner Kathy Wassink.


A final decision is expected late next week.

S-DAT Community Forum Tonight

Local officials are hoping for a big community turnout at a town meeting this evening.


It’s part of the S-DAT process, aimed at coming up with recommendations for future smart development in the downtown area. A team of experts will take the information from tonight’s meeting and deliver recommendations at another gathering Wednesday.


Tonight’s event starts at 6 at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.

Suicide Investigation at Springfield Park Ongoing

Police are investigating the death of a man found in a Springfield park as an apparent suicide.


The State Journal-Register reports the man’s body was found in the driver’s seat of a red pickup truck in the parking lot of Douglas Park at around 8:30 Sunday evening.


Springfield Park District police are heading up the investigation.

I-55 Chain Reaction Crash Sends Three To Hospital

Three people are expected to recover from injuries suffered in a four vehicle crash on Interstate 55 at Toronto Road Saturday morning.


State police say a semi traveling southbound in the far left lane abruptly changed lanes, causing a Lexus in the center lane to swerve to the right.  It struck another southbound vehicle, a Ford, causing it to spin around and face the other direction.  The Lexus then swerved back to the leftt and both it and the semi hit the median guard wires. 


A Silver Jeep in the left lane swerved to avoid those vehicles, overcorrected and overturned.  The driver of the Lexus and both the driver and passenger in the Jeep were taken to the hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.  The dark blue and white semi continued on without stopping; police are still looking for it.

Tax Increase Takes A Bite Out Of Quinn

Governor Pat Quinn is paying a price for the tax increase he pushed through the legislature last year. 


Quinn has released his 2011 tax returns, the first tax year that reflects his effort to raise the state income tax from three-percent to five-percent. 


As a result, Quinn paid more than 77-hundred dollars in state taxes last year, up from around 44-hundred a year earlier.

Springfield Best Cheapskate City

Springfield's on another list....this one is a pretty good one. In an article released in Kiplingers, Springfield is rated one of the "Ten Best Cities for Cheapskates." They identified the best cities for places where a dollar stretches further. That's good for tourism in the Capital City because Kiplinger's also evaluated cities on the places that offer plenty of free or low cost things to do. In addition to mentioning the Lincoln historic sites, the article also points to the parks and marinas at Lake Springfield – the 7-mile interurban bike and hike trail, and plenty of family friendly art museums and amusement parks.

Springfield Police Nab Credit Card Thieves

Springfield Police nabbed a group of men at a traffic stop and arrested them on suspicion of credit card fraud. Officers stopped a Toyota Rav 4 with New York license plates for a routine traffic violation and found several open beer bottles, a large amount of cash in the driver's pockets, and a significant number of credit cards containing the names of the three occupants – 43 year old Bo Zheng from New York, 48 year old Noboru Urushidani, and 49 year old Koki Kumagai from Japan. Nearly twenty thousand dollars in cash – mostly in $100 bills – and more than two dozen credit and debit cards, as well as numerous bank records. But no weapons were found.

Tourism Week Focuses On ''Hometown Travelers,'' Encouraging Local Residents To Take A ''Staycation'' This Year

After years of encouraging people from around the country or around the world to visit Springfield, city officials are focusing on a new market… getting local residents to take a “staycation” right here in town. 


As National Tourism Week gets underway, Mayor Mike Houston and city tourism officials are encouraging local residents to be “hometown travelers,” and take advantage of the city’s many attractions… from the Presidential Museum and Lincoln’s Home to lesser-known sites like the Illinois Military History Museum. 


Kim Rosendahl with the Convention and Visitors Bureau says it’s easy to take the local treasures for granted, and hopes people will see an opportunity to save gas and money by enjoying local attractions this summer.

Deal Ensures Illinois Bettors Can Wager On Kentucky Derby

It was a close call, but Illinois bettors will still be able to wager on this weekend’s Kentucky Derby. 


Kentucky horsemen had threatened to block transmission of the legendary horse race to Illinois off-track-betting parlors because of a contract dispute between racetracks and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.  But a new contract has been reached just in time to ensure that the race will be available to Illinois horse-racing fans. 


The deal is also good news for the state, which could have lost more than 130-thousand-dollars in betting revenue if the race had been blocked.

Adventure Village On State Fairgrounds Closes

The adventure is over.  Adventure Village… a longtime attraction on the Illinois State Fairgrounds… has closed down and won’t reopen.  Fair manager Amy Bliefnick says the kiddie amusement park had not been profitable, so the rides have been dismantled. 


She says some upgraded rides will be brought in and installed in the Adventure Village area, just inside the main gate, for use during the State Fair in August.  But the rides will be taken down again after the fair ends.

Historic Depot Sold To Local Family

Listen to Kramer talk to Dan Noll about his family's love for local history

The depot where Abraham Lincoln delivered his farewell address before leaving Springfield for the last time has been sold.


Pinky Noll… the wife of Springfield attorney Jon Gray Noll… has purchased the historic building from the State Journal-Register, and plans to convert the upper level to law offices for the family’s practice.


The lower level, containing the depot’s waiting room and ticket office, will remain open to visitors and tourists. Meanwhile, the Journal-Register, which had also considered selling its headquarters building downtown, will now keep the building and consolidate its news operations onto the first floor.


The paper will attempt to lease the second and third floors to other businesses.


Some Oppose Schnuck's Plans for Griffin Woods

Plans for a new grocery store could mean the end of the 20-acre wooded area on Springfield’s west side known as Griffin Woods.


The S-J-R reports that Schnuck’s plans to clear out the woods and use the land for its new store and an adjacent commercial development.


The idea is already drawing criticism from some nearby residents, who say the woods should be saved and who worry that there won’t be enough customers to support all of that new retail development.

Happy Hollow Returns to the State Fair, Admission Goes Up

Amy Bliefnick talks about the 2012 Illinois State Fair

The area of the Illinois State Fair that was known for years as Happy Hollow is getting its name back.


Fair officials even plan to bring some vintage signage out of cold storage to highlight the return of the name for the valley just inside the main gate.


Most long-time fairgoers never stopped referring to the area as Happy Hollow, even though the name was not officially used.


But while the rechristened area will feature some attractions, including a zipline, the actual carnival midway will remain at the opposite end of the fair’s main road.

Clean Energy Group Makes Big Donation To Salvation Army Building Project

Major Paul Logan and Bob Romo from ICECF talk about the capital campaign and the grant totaling $317,450

A clean energy group is donating hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the construction of a new Salvation Army headquarters in Springfield… with the intent of making the building as environmentally-friendly as possible. 


The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation is donating more than 317-thousand dollars to the agency’s capital campaign.  The money will be used to install solar panels and advanced, energy-efficient climate control systems.  Salvation Army officials say 10 to 15-percent of the building’s power will come from solar panel. 


Even with the donation, the Salvation Army says it is still looking to raise an additional two-million dollars for the acquisition and renovation of the building on 9th Street.

Springfield Depot, Site Of Lincoln's Farewell Address, Sold; Historic Downstairs To Be Retained, While Upstairs Will Be Converted To Law Office

A significant part of Springfield’s connection to Abraham Lincoln has been sold. 


The Great Western Depot on Monroe Street… where Lincoln made his farewell address to the city before leaving for Washington, D.C. in 1861… is being purchased by Pinky Noll, the wife of Springfield attorney Jon Gray Noll. The historic depot has been owned for years by the owners of the State Journal-Register, but they put it up for sale earlier this year.


Pinky Noll says she plans to preserve the train station waiting room and ticket office as tourist attractions, but will convert the mezzanine and second floor for use as law offices by her husband and son.  She says she hopes to complete the conversion as soon as possible, and says she is excited that an important part of Springfield history will be preserved.

State Fair Raises Admission Prices, Adds More Grandstand Acts

Amy Bliefnick talks about the 2012 Illinois State Fair

The Illinois State Fair has announced more of the acts in this year’s Grandstand lineup… but it will cost you more to get on the fairgrounds to see them. 


Fair officials have announced that ticket prices for this year’s fair are going up to seven-dollars for adults and three dollars for kids and seniors.  There is an additional charge for Grandstand shows, with a lineup that is nearly complete. 


Country singer Eric Church will perform on August 10th, while another country star, Miranda Lambert is booked for August 18th.  Christian rapper TobyMac will also perform on August 12th.  Previously announced acts include Cheap Trick, Creed, the Charlie Daniels Band and Demi Lovato. 


One date remains open… officials have not yet finalized an act for the last night of the fair, August 19th.

State-Subsidized Child Care Funds Dry Up

The money has run out.


State officials say they are out of funding to pay for state-subsidized child care between now and the end of the fiscal year on June 30th.


The inability to reimburse providers means the cost of child care will now fall to low-income families or to the providers themselves, many of which are small, in-home day care centers.


As many as 85-thousand low-income families depend on the state subsidies to help them pay for child care while a parent is at work.


Lawmakers could consider an emergency funding measure to fill in the gap between now and the start of the new budget year.

Bill to End Retiree Health Care Subsidy Advances

An Illinois House committee has approved a bill that could mean an end to free health care for many state government retirees.


The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Mike Madigan, cleared the House Executive Committee unanimously and now heads to the House floor.


Currently, the state pays five-percent of a retiree’s health insurance premium per year of service, so a worker with 20 years of service does not pay a premium. But the bill would eliminate that subsidy for retired state workers, as well as for retired lawmakers and judges.

Business Community Warms Up to Gov. Quinn

Governor Pat Quinn has a new fan club, Illinois’s business community. Quinn got a warm reception from the trade groups representing manufacturers and retail merchants Wednesday as he talked about his efforts to reform pensions and Medicaid.


The head of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association calls Quinn’s plan “bold and innovative.”


Quinn urged the business leaders to press lawmakers to support his cost-cutting efforts.


The governor says the state’s efforts to resolve the budget crisis is getting positive attention from credit-rating agencies like Moody’s.

End of Legislative Scholarships Near

One of the biggest perks for state legislators is a step closer to ending.


A state Senate subcommittee has approved a bill to eliminate the tuition waivers that lawmakers can hand out to constituents.


The program has been under fire in recent years over allegations that some lawmakers use the lucrative program to benefit political supporters or to assist students outside their district.


Senate President John Cullerton has long supported the tuition waivers, but has apparently changed his mind, allowing the bill to advance.

Names File For Johnson's Seat

Eight Republican hopefuls have filed to fill the ballot slot created when Congressman Tim Johnson abruptly dropped his re-election bid.


The list includes Jerry Clarke, Johnson’s former chief of staff, even though Johnson now says former staffers should not be considered for the spot.


Rodney Davis, an aide to Congressman John Shimkus, has also submitted an application.


Other hopefuls include former Miss America Erika Harold, along with the two candidates who lost to Johnson in the March Republican primary.


No current elected officials threw their hat in the ring for the chance to face Democrat David Gill in the November general election.

City of Springfield Fights Class Action Lawsuit

The City of Springfield says they will defend against a million-dollar class-action lawsuit filed in circuit court this past March.


Corporation Council Mark Cullen says they believe the lawsuit, which calls the City's administrative tow fees unconstitutional, is not a valid lawsuit. Cullen says that attorneys working with the city will show that Springfield's ordinance is legally sound.


The ordinance, passed in October 2010, levies a $500 fine against the owner of a vehicle if their car is towed during an arrest. The suit says the ordinance violates the Illinois Vehicle Code and the Constitution.


Meanwhile Cullen says they will adhere by a judges recent ruling saying the city's Joint Labor/Management Health Committee should be an open meeting.


Cullen says the city is working on a new structure for the committee that keeps the integrity and intent of HIPPA laws while not being closed to the public.

Legislative Scholarships A Step Closer To Being Eliminated

The Illinois General Assembly is moving closer to ending one of their biggest perks… the ability to hand out tuition waivers to constituents. 


A bill that would end the controversial legislative scholarship program has moved out of a Senate subcommittee, with the backing of Senate President John Cullerton.  Cullerton has defended the scholarships in the past, but recent allegations of abuse have spurred calls to end the program altogether. 


The bill to eliminate the legislative tuition waivers has already cleared the House… if the Senate also approves the bill, Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign it.

Bill That Could End Free Retiree Health Care Clears Illinois House Committee

A bill that could effectively end the free health care that many state government retirees receive has cleared an Illinois House committee and is on its way to the full House. 


The bill, which is sponsored by House Speaker Mike Madigan, passed the House Executive Committee without a single “no” vote, despite opposition from the largest state employees’ union, AFSCME. 


The bill was amended to also end health insurance subsidies for retired lawmakers and judges.

CWLP Financial Report

While City Water Light and Power is still trying to stabilize its finances, some Springfield aldermen are still complaining about the controversial wind power contract that the utility agreed to as part of its construction of a new power plant.


The wind power deal averted a possible Sierra Club challenge to construction of the plant, but aldermen say it’s too costly given C-W-L-P’s financial problems.


The utility’s electric fund ended the last fiscal year six-million-dollars in the red.


CWLP says the wind power deal is still cheaper than a drawn-out challenge to the power plant would have been.


In a report to aldermen Tuesday, Springfield’s utility says it is borrowing $4 million to help pay its bills and could owe The Federal Emergency Management Agency $800,000 for the tornado damage suffered six years ago.


During a financial presentation to the city, the first of what will be monthly presentations, CWLP Chief Engineer Eric Hobbie says the city is also taking a hit from wind power but can’t back out of a contract for that power option for another 3 ½ years.


Some aldermen argued about the wind power contracts saying it is costing the city tens of millions of dollars.


Hobbie also says that the utility has notified the market of a technical default because the on it’s debt coverage ratio and that Standard’s and Poor’s will begin a review of the bond rating.

New City/County Deal for Animail Control

Springfield aldermen have narrowly approved a deal to have Sangamon County provide animal control services, despite complaints from residents about slow or no response to animal issues. One city resident told the City Council Tuesday that she had made dozens of calls regarding a dangerous dog, but had not gotten any help. Aldermen voted six-to-four to approve the deal, but say they will monitor the situation and seek answers from county officials.

S-DAT in Springfield Next Week

Experts from around the country who will take part in a whirlwind study of Springfield next week say the 72-hour rapid-fire exercise is a process that works.


The Sustainability Design Assessment Team, or S-DAT, arrives in Springfield Sunday night, holds a town meeting Monday evening, and delivers recommendations on Wednesday.


The team leader says it’s a schedule that allows the experts to get multiple points of view at the same time so that different interests and priorities can be balanced.


But they also say the report to be delivered next week is a beginning… not an end.

Springfield Filed Suit Against THR

More headaches for Springfield-based THR and Associates.


The State Journal-Register reports the city of Springfield has filed a complaint against the company for failing to pay city sales taxes on seven vehicles purchased outside the city. The total bill comes to around one-thousand dollars, but the company could also face fines for failing to pay.


The latest challenge follows a class-action lawsuit filed by an employee who claims THR misclassified employees to avoid paying overtime. And as 970 WMAY News first reported last week, THR is also trying to make good on around four-thousand checks that bounced when a company account at a local bank was abruptly closed.

Survey: Growth is Slow

The latest survey of Illinois economic indicators shows a trend of slow growth.


The University of Illinois “Flash Index” measures corporate profits, personal income and consumer spending. The Index was above 100 for the second straight month, indicating the economy is expanding.


Before the two months of gains, it had been below 100 for more than three years. But a U of I economist says that while the recovery is happening, it is significantly slower than after previous recessions.

Man Pleads Guilty to Murder

A Springfield man has pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge in the stabbing death of another man during a fight. 46-year-old Harry Ross had initially been charged with first-degree murder, but agreed to confess to the lesser charge. He still faces four to 20 years in prison when sentenced in July.

Community Garden Numbers Continue to Grow

More community gardens are in the works for Springfield’s inner city. 


Organizers say they are a way to help residents get easier access to nutritious fresh produce, and to get a more productive use out of land that had once held run-down and dangerous buildings. 


Lindsey Record with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance says establishing and maintaining community gardens is on the increase around the state. 


Private organizers are working on three parcels of land around Miller and North 16th… while the city of Springfield is finalizing agreements with property owners on several similar projects.

Legislative Committee Rejects Facility Closures, But Vote Is Only Advisory

A legislative committee is rejecting Governor Pat Quinn’s call to close several state facilities… but the vote may not prevent those closures. 


The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability voted 7-3 against closing the Tamms Supermax prison and the women’s prison in Dwight.  The legislative panel also voted against closing the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia and reaffirmed its vote last fall opposing the shutdown of the Jacksonville Developmental Center. 


But all the votes are advisory… and Quinn can proceed with the closures despite the committee’s opposition.

U of I Economist: Illinois Economy ''Clearly'' Getting Better, But Not Quickly

A University of Illinois economist says the state’s economy is “clearly” getting better… but is not rebounding from the recession as quickly as during past recoveries. 


J. Fred Giertz (GIRTS) is responding to the latest U of I “Flash Index,” which averages growth rates in corporate profits, personal income and consumer spending.  The index is above 100 for the second straight month, signaling continuing economic growth after several years of decline. 


But Giertz notes that unemployment remains high and is not falling as quickly as it did after other recessions.

Springfield Tornado Warning Sirens Malfunction During Test

The City of Springfield is checking to see what caused a routine tornado siren test to malfunction Tuesday morning. 


The sirens failed to go off at 10 a.m. as scheduled, and had to be retested an hour later.  The system that interrupts cable and broadcast programming to air weather alerts also did not function properly during the test. 


Officials are checking mechanical and electronic systems to see if they can find the source of the problem.

Bel-Aire Appeals Fines

The owner of the Bel-Aire Motel is appealing $140,000 in fines levied by the city because of the chronic disrepair at the residential apartment complex.


The owner says work is continuing to repair hundreds of code violations cited by the city during recent inspections. But city officials say repairing violations after the fact won’t necessarily get owner Gopal Motwani off the hook.


The State Journal-Register reports a hearing on the appeal is set for June 20th.

Car Crash Into Building Won't Stop Business

A car that struck the front of the microbrewery adjacent to a downtown Springfield restaurant has caused some damage to the building and some of the brewing equipment inside. But the crash should not disrupt operations at Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery on South Sixth.


The accident happened late last night when a car traveling down the alley between the restaurant and the microbrewery veered off and struck the building. Police are still investigating the accident.


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