Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is disputing a claim by the attorney for MacArthur Park Apartments that the City is behind its 1200 violations. Attorney Don Craven had claimed a lack of police protection at the complex has led to a lack of repairs.
Houston said the complex has had only two thefts of copper, and that the repairs are not on the timetable that the building’s owners presented to the city. The building’s owners were fined 13 thousand dollars last year for numerous violations at the complex.
It’s an eight-year-old case of racial discrimination that the city of Springfield is looking to settle once and for all.
An ordinance on first reading for the Springfield City Council would settle the case of three white Springfield police officers who worked for the city, voluntarily left, and then came back on for a much longer period of time.
They claim they were discriminated against because of their race by not receiving pay equivalent to their seniority and length of service.
Two of the officers have since retired and a third, Kevin Groesch, is still employed by SPD.
Groesh is receiving $43,000 over three years while the other two are receiving almost $29,000 each, over three years.
Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen says the city determined the total amount to settle and the claimants’ attorneys decide who got what. $50,000 goes to their attorneys.
The case was originally filed in US District Court in 2004. Cullen says it has since gone to the appeal court twice and he recommended settling as the best way to resolve the matter.
Aldermen will determin whether or not to settle the case for $150,000 in a couple of weeks.
Cullen says their claim was based on what the policies were at the time and that nobody was singled out for discriminatory action. Cullen also says that the policy hasn’t been cleared up yet because they were all part of a collective bargaining agreement and the policies are not something the city can unilaterally change.
The Corporation Counsel recommended the resolution saying the city doesn't believe the policy had any discriminatory impact but because of officers personal circumstances it created a potential dispute that the city would ultimately have to deal with.
“A resolution like this was better than taking a chance and going to court,” something Cullen said would cost the city even more money.
The City of Springfield could soon settle a racial discrimination case for just over $150,000 with three former Springfield police officers.
An ordinance on first reading for Tuesday’s meeting says the settlement also does not hold any party accountable and that it’s in the city’s best interest to pay the the three men and their lawyers over a three year period.
Aldermen could possibly discuss the issue during Tuesday's city council meeting but won't decide whether to pass the measure for a few more weeks.
Ordinances on first reading are introduced to the city council for the first time during full city council meetings. Aldermen then meet for the Committee of the Whole where they determine if the ordinance will be on the debate or on the consent agenda.
Other ordinances on first reading
Budget Director Bill McCarty says he’s been working since April on an ordinance that would equip multiple city vehicles with propane biofuel conversion systems. McCarty says that the project will equip 26 city vehicles with new systems and that he projects could save $70,000 a year. He says he has been working with the city's fuel supplier to get a federal grand to help train the city mechanics to install and work on the new systems.
Some new heavy-duty equipment could be coming to a Public Works project near you with several ordinances purchasing nearly $720,000 of new vehicles. The five vehicles include a two hook lift trucks, a tractor mower, a backhoe, and a barricade truck.
The city is also looking to get $318,000 worth of rock salt.
Another ordinance that would address several changes to the Land Use Plan for property around Lake Springfield would prohibit sinks and toilets and boathouses, prohibit fences except for around pools and also raise the lease transfer fee from $25 to $100.
Review the ordinances online at the City Clerk’s website and stay tuned for extensive coverage of city business with The Council Roundup, Wednesday's at 9 am, only on 970 WMAY, The News and Talk of Springfield.
Seniors and people with disabilities can begin applying for winter heating assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program – or LIHEAP next week.
LIHEAP is a state and federally funded program for low income families where heating bill payments are made on behalf of households, except for those whose utilities are paid through their rent. Funds will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis beginning Tuesday until the funds are exhausted.
For a complete listing of administering agencies, visit liheapillinois.com, or call 877-411-WARM.
Something good has come out of the drought situation locally. Tony Blisset of Springfield waded out into the Sangamon River at Riverside Park while on a family outing and discovered a vertebra from an extinct Harlan’s muskox.
Blisset and his family brought the bone to the Illinois State Museum’s Research and Collections Center for identification. Museum paleontologists recognized it as a neck vertebra from the large head-butting mammal.
Blisset donated the fossil to the museum where it’s on public display.
Illinois workers may get their pay raises, after all. An arbitrator ruled in favor of AFSCME in a dispute over Illinois worker’s pay raises in a contract with the State from 2011. Governor Pat Quinn hasn’t paid about 60 million dollars in raises because he says the Legislature didn’t appropriate it.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Richard Billik, Jr. has ordered Quinn’s administration to hand over a voucher for 18 million dollars in un-spent payroll money to the State Comptroller in case he rules in favor of the union. Millions of dollars more might also be involved.
The issue of teens and tanning beds is back on the front burner in Springfield.
The Sangamon County Medical Society has now endorsed a controversial city ordinance that would prohibit anyone under 18 from using a tanning parlor in the city, regardless of whether they have a parent’s permission.
Dermatologist Judy Knox says indoor tanning poses an extreme cancer risk that justifies the ban.
Alderman Sam Cahnman says he may try to bring the stalled ordinance out of committee as early as next week.
A state senate candidate who just picked up the endorsement of both main statewide teachers unions is vowing to fight to preserve the pensions for current and retired teachers.
Democrat Andy Manar says teachers have sacrificed enough and should get the pensions they were promised, a view that he says also extends to state workers.
Manar says he also wants to end the disparity in funding between the state’s wealthiest and poorest school districts, but says there will have to be a lot of discussion to figure out the best way to make that happen.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says she’s watching out for any evidence of price gouging by gas stations in the wake of Hurricane Isaac.
Madigan says she will be checking to see if price spikes earlier this week are the result of legitimate increases in wholesale prices, or if retailers are taking advantage of the crisis to gouge consumers.
Gas prices locally shot up around 25-cents a gallon, to four dollars a gallon or more, before Isaac even made landfall this week.
But prices have been gradually dropping, down a dime or more from where they were on Tuesday.
Springfield Alderman Sam Cahnman will make another attempt soon… perhaps as early as next week… to pass a ban on indoor tanning in Springfield by anyone under the age of 18. His effort has gotten a boost from the Sangamon County Medical Society, which endorses the ordinance sponsored by Cahnman and Alderman Steve Dove.
Dermatologists and other medical experts agree that indoor tanning poses a serious health risk to teenagers, dramatically increasing their chance of getting skin cancer. And they say indoor tanning should be treated the same as cigarettes, alcohol and other harmful substances which are kept strictly off limits from minors.
The South Sangamon Water System has lifted the boil order that was issued earlier this week for customers in Chatham, New Berlin, New City and Loami.
The boil order was issued following a drop in the system's water pressure. An advisory issued to customers Wednesday says the boil order is now lifted, but did not offer details about what caused the pressure drop.
The state’s two major teachers unions are endorsing Democrat Andy Manar in the 48th State Senate race, based in part on his support for maintaining teacher pensions and preserving education funding.
Manar appeared with union officials and a couple of his childhood teachers at a news conference in Springfield. He says that teachers deserve the pensions they were promised, and says the same holds true for other state workers. And Manar says it doesn’t require deep cuts in education funding to make that happen, despite warnings to the contrary by Governor Pat Quinn.
Manar is running against Decatur mayor Mike McElroy in the November election.
Hurricane Isaac is already being felt in Springfield, at the gas pump.
Prices at most Springfield stations jumped to four-dollars a gallon, or more, Tuesday, with most of the blame going to concerns that Isaac will disrupt oil production and refinery operations along the Gulf Coast.
But the surge in prices is not expected to disrupt most people’s travel plans, instead people will simply pay more to do what they had already planned to do.
Springfield’s Park District could save several thousand dollars with an ordinance on the consent agenda and it could lay the groundwork for even more cooperation with other governments in the future.
Budget director Bill McCarty says that an ordinance allowing an intergovernmental agreement would join Springfield’s Park District with the city of Springfield when purchasing things like supplies and gas.
McCarty says that the park district would save between $6,000 and $8,000.
Aldermen are expected pass the ordinance next week on the consent agenda.
No discussion, no debate, just a green light for Schnuck’s to proceed with a new store on Springfield’s east side.
The fast passage was in contrast to last week’s vote on a west side Schnuck’s, which has run into opposition because it would require bulldozing a large portion of the old-growth trees in Griffin Woods.
Sangamon County will no longer have a deputy assigned exclusively to seeking out and stopping drunk drivers.
Sheriff Neil Williamson is ending the program because federal grant funding that supported it was sharply reduced for the coming year.
Williamson tells the State Journal-Register that the decision was not related to two lawsuits claiming the county’s DUI deputy, Travis Koester, exceeded his authority and improperly Tasered a woman during a traffic stop.
Meanwhile, Williamson also plans another attempt to ask voters to approve a countywide sales tax increase to pay for law enforcement.
A federal grant worth more than $2 million will pay for improvements to the taxiway and perimeter of Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin announced the grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation Tuesday. The money will pay for rehabilitation of the taxiway, and perimeter fencing to prevent unauthorized entry or potentially hazardous incursions from deer or other wildlife.
Rochester Road is opening back up Wednesday. The Sangamon County Highway Department has completed repairs on the section of road between the South Fork of the Sangamon River and Oak Hill Road. The Village of Rochester anticipates repairs to the water main should be completed to allow the road to open.
City Water, Light and Power is offering its water customers a rebate for purchasing high performance and high efficiency toilets – with the “Water Sense” label. Tom Skelly, CWLP’s Water Division Director says for every 20 to 30 year old commode that is replaced with one of the newer, efficient models can save as much as 4,000 gallons of water per person annually.
Rebate funds worth $50.00 are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning Tuesday, September 4th. Participating vendors are both Lowe’s locations in Springfield, both Menard’s locations, plus Connor Company and Capitol Group.
Springfield Residents will have another opportunity to voice their concerns to the Mayor.
The mayor’s office will be open Wednesday evening from 5:30 to 7:30pm in the mayor’s office for “Meet the Mayor.” It’s a monthly opportunity for Springfield citizens to discuss municipal issues. Appointments are not required and there are no forms to fill out. As with previous sessions, the event is free and open to the public.
The mayor’s office is located on the third floor of Municipal Center east, 800 East Monroe.
Protestors from Springfield haven’t gotten very far in getting their message across to Republicans at the party’s national convention in Florida. A group of protestors… including some who traveled to the convention from Springfield… tried to crash the Illinois delegation’s breakfast Tuesday morning.
The group says it wasn’t trying to be disruptive, but it wanted to talk to the delegation about key issues like raising the minimum wage. However, the protestors were escorted from the room by police. There were no arrests.
With a long holiday weekend approaching, gas prices have taken another big leap higher… an increase that may be tied to the effects of Hurricane Isaac in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm has disrupted oil production and is threatening some southern refineries, and that appears to a big factor in the increase.
The price of regular unleaded now sits at nearly four-dollars a gallon at many Springfield stations… some were even higher, pushing them near the all-time record high locally.
Governor Pat Quinn has vetoed legislation that would have dramatically expanded legalized gambling in Illinois. The bill would have created the first casino in the city of Chicago, added or expanded casinos in other Illinois cities, and allowed horse racing tracks to add slot machines.
Quinn says the bill failed to include sufficient regulatory safeguards to make sure that corrupt outside influences did not infiltrate the gaming industry or use their power and money to affect the political process.
The veto sets the stage for an override vote in the General Assembly when lawmakers return to Springfield this fall.
Several ordinances up for Springfield City Council consideration deal with the planned east side Schnucks—one dealing with street offsets and the other would approve the preliminary plan of Schnucks east.
This is the second planned Schnucks for Springfield.
Last week aldermen approved a sketch map and other plans for a west side Schnucks amid objections from citizens concerned about what’s known as Griffin Woods.
The city of Springfield could soon receive nearly $1.5 million to help improve homes and economic development through the capital city, thanks to community block grant funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but it’s less than has been received in the past.
An ordinance up for consideration for the Springfield City Council would approve the block grant funds from HUD and also Home Investment Partnership Funds.
The money would be used to improve housing and economic activity throughout the community, according to Mike Farmer, the Director of Economic Development. He says there are many things the funds will be used for.
Farmer says that people interested in receiving funds for improvements should contact his office for eligibility requirements.
This is an annual allocation of HUD funds that is based on a formula of population and poverty rates.
Farmer says that the annual amount has gone down over the past few years because of economic pressures in Washington D.C.
In a separate ordinance, several grants, totally nearly $138,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice, would go to Springfield Police.
The funds would be used to purchase fully equipped squad cars.
Springfield aldermen will meet with the Committee of the Whole tonight with a slew of ordinances under consideration.
One ordinance would join together the City of Springfield and the Springfield Park Board for the purchase of personal property, services and supplies, including the purchase of gasoline. In the ordinance, the city would charge the Park District per gallon of gas including an agreed upon administrative fee.
There’s also an ordinance that would payout $32,000 for a workers compensation claim where a Public Works equipment operator injured his arm while moving equipment off a truck.
During Tuesday evening's meeting Aldermen will consider to annex several properties along Estill Drive from the Springfield Airport Authority. The Springfield City Council will also consider annexing property on Fox Mill Lane into the city.
Another ordinance that would approve a contract extension with Appliance Recycling Centers of America for $144,000 would allow for the city to recycle refrigerators and freezers. The extension makes the contract for a total of nearly $837,000.
Another contract for City Water Light and Power would mean new software for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition for $1.1 million.
Two Illinois prisons that were set to shut down by the end of this week will stay open for now. The Quinn administration has put the closure plans on hold while a court fight continues over the move.
The Associated Press obtained a letter from the Department of Corrections, directing workers at the Tamms Supermax and Dwight women’s prisons to stay on the job for now. The letter says there has been a “temporary delay” in plans to close the facilities and move the inmate population to other prisons.
The state and AFSCME are in arbitration over the move, which the union says will endanger inmates and staff.
More volunteers from Springfield’s Red Cross chapter are fanning out across the Gulf Coast to assist with the response to Tropical Storm Isaac.
Keith Pigg of Sherman was dispatched Monday to Louisiana, where Isaac could make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane sometime Tuesday or Wednesday. Two other volunteers… Eric Adams of Springfield and Billy Warner of Nokomis… have been sent to Alabama.
They follow others who left last week for Florida and Mississippi, giving the local chapter a presence across the entire Gulf Coast region that could be affected by the storm. The Illinois Capital Area Chapter of the Red Cross says other volunteers are on stand-by to be deployed if needed.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, and yet state transportation and law enforcement officials expect to nab a number of drunk drivers and other offenders with the enforcement blitz they have planned for the upcoming Labor Day weekend.
Appearing live on 970 WMAY, Shannon Alderman with IDOT says the increased patrols, roadside safety checks and other tactics have reduced DUI accidents and fatalities in recent years… but acknowledges that some people will still drive impaired, despite all the warnings.
Alderman says drunk driving is not an accident… it is a choice that shows careless disregard for human life.
Governor Pat Quinn has vetoed legislation aimed at promoting recycling of plastic grocery bags, saying the legislation blocked local communities from coming up with their own innovative ideas for reducing waste.
Plastic bag manufacturers and retailers had supported the bill, which required manufacturers to register with the state and permitted stores only to use bags from registered manufacturers.
But the bill also prohibited more stringent local initiatives, including bans on plastic bags.
Such bans have been implemented in other major cities and was under consideration in Champaign.
Even though he’s had months to make up his mind, and has been outspoken in his criticism of the bill, Governor Pat Quinn insists he’s still thinking over what to do about a gambling expansion measure that sits on his desk.
Quinn must take action by Tuesday night on the bill, which would add new casinos in Chicago and other Illinois communities and allow slot machines at horse racing tracks.
Quinn has blasted the bill for failing to include enough safeguards against corruption infiltrating the gaming industry in the state, but supporters of the bill are betting that Quinn can’t turn away from the revenue it would generate.
Illinois’s Republican delegation is using today’s storm delay at the party’s national convention in Tampa to get better acquainted and get ready for a tighter convention schedule starting Tuesday.
Members of the delegation continued to hold scheduled events on Sunday, but Monday’s activities were called off out of concern for the effects of Tropical Storm Isaac.
Members of the delegation, including some of the GOP’s leading contenders for governor in 2014, say they will keep busy on Monday away from the convention hall and will be able to jump right into the full slate of speeches and activities on Tuesday.
An exodus of workers worried about pension changes is taking a toll on state parks.
Since late last year, almost one-fourth of the park superintendents have retired, taking with them in many cases 30 or more years of experience.
At least 23 park superintendents and another half-dozen assistant superintendents have left the state Department of Natural Resources since late last year. And department officials say they don't know when they will have the money to fill most of those vacancies.
Sangamon County deputies have served another eviction notice for a property occupied by Springfield-based THR and Associates.
It’s the third time in recent weeks the company has been locked out of one of its facilities. THR operations… including local retail outlets and national gold-buying shows… have shut down in recent days as the company battles lawsuits and fraud investigations.
A Springfield woman is being held on one million dollars bond in a suspected DUI crash last weekend that killed a passenger in her vehicle.
22-year-old Amber Kline was arrested at Memorial Medical Center, where she had been treated since the accident last Sunday morning that took the life of 22-year-old Amanda Smith. Two others in the car also suffered serious injuries.
Kline is charged with eight felony counts of aggravated DUI. She’s also facing charges of driving on a suspended license, operating an uninsured vehicle, and failure to reduce speed.
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford agrees with Governor Pat Quinn that something must be done to fix the $85 billion pension shortfall, and he’s using a recent message from Moody’s to push the case.
Moody’s said Thursday that the General Assembly’s failure to reform pensions could lead to another credit downgrade which means it will cost the state more to borrow money.
Rutherford dismisses criticism that minority republicans held up passage of pension reform during last week’s one-day special session and the treasurer says he’s using his “bully pulpit” to get the democratic governor and Speaker of the House Mike Madigan to get their party to act.
Rutherford says that the pension crisis is a problem for tomorrow that must be resolved today.
Springfield area producers hope to raise funds with an event all day Saturday in their continued efforts to bring fresh content to public access channel 4.
Can Fest, Saturday from 1p to 1a Sunday at The Tin Can
“Can Fest” at The Tin Can Pub on East Monroe starts at 1pm and will run until 1am Sunday morning.
President of Access 4 Producers Group, Ted Keylon, says that there will be live music, Access 4 programs airing on a big screen and live-to-tape interviews with some of the big names in Springfield public access.
Keyon also says that the basic problem they’re facing right now is that there is an incredible learning curve because producers never used to do any technical stuff.
Access 4 once operated out of the University of Illinois, Springfield under Insight, but then Comcast took over and provided studios on the west side of town. Comcast then cut off funding and things were uncertain until the city stepped in. Currently the city of Springfield operates public access and the producers group produces content independently.
Funds will be used for equipment upkeep and video production training for current and new producers. Organizers are asking for a $10 donation at the door.
Sangamon County Circuit Clerk Tony Libri says his office is sitting on checks totaling more than $165,000 that were returned by the U.S. Postal Service as undeliverable. About 1,300 people have unclaimed checks at the Clerk’s Office, averaging around $75.00 each.
Libri’s office has set up a list of those names on their website – sangamoncountycircuitclerk.org, and click on “Connect With Cash” to see a list of names the checks for child support and maintenance, bail bond refunds or restitution belong to.
The Clerk’s Office will hold the unclaimed checks for seven years, then turn them over to the State Treasurer.
There’s yet another Lottery scam – this time with a new twist.
The latest involves emails alleged to be from Illinois’ recent $218 million dollar Mega Millions winner, offering to give one-point-five million dollars to three “lucky” recipients, if they’ll just send their personal information.
Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones says scammers often claim to be law enforcement or government officials – but this scammer claims to be a big Lottery winner.
Sangamon County will be receiving close to $503,000 to spend on local transportation needs, thanks to a one-hundred-million dollar capital investment, as part of Illinois Jobs Now.
The announcement by Governor Pat Quinn’s office is the third installment of five investments to fund municipal, township and county projects statewide. The program has created or supported more than 140,000 jobs since 2009.
A disability rights activist is complaining about the slow pace of transitioning residents out of the Jacksonville Developmental Center and other facilities slated for closure.
Don Moss tells Capitol Fax that the overall population of developmental centers statewide is down by only about 15 residents out of a total population of more than 2,000. He notes that 14 people have been moved out of JDC since April, but at other centers, the population has stayed the same or increased.
Governor Pat Quinn has pledged to close the large institutions and move their population to smaller community-based programs, but staff and parents at JDC and elsewhere say the move will jeopardize the well-being of residents.
The McLean County State’s Attorney says he will no longer bring charges against people accused of violating concealed carry or Firearm Owner ID laws, unless there are some other extenuating circumstances.
Ron Dozier says he considers those laws to be unconstitutional, based on Supreme Court rulings.
His stand may be largely symbolic, since Dozier only has a few more months in office, but some Illinois prosecutors say they agree with his decision to exercise prosecutorial discretion.
However, Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milhiser says he will enforce the laws as written.
A veteran Springfield politician who served for 20 years in the Statehouse has died.
Longtime state senator John “Doc” Davidson passed away after collapsing at his home Tuesday night. He was 87. Davidson served as Sangamon County Board chairman before becoming a senator in 1973. He served until 1993. Davidson was also a chiropractor.
J. Parsons truck outside of warehouse where deputies served an eviction Wednesday
More problems for the embattled THR and Associates.
Sangamon County deputies have served an eviction notice on the company, locking them out of a 20,000-square foot warehouse on South Taylor. That warehouse is still loaded with merchandise, but sheriff’s officials say it could be seized by the IRS because of outstanding tax issues involving the company and owner Jeff Parsons.
It’s the second eviction from a THR property in recent days, and more could be on the way. THR has been battling financial problems for months… including a long line of bounced checks, employee layoffs and the recent closure of its J. Parsons store.
Police tape put up at the entrance of the warehouse located on South Taylor in Springfield
Air service between Springfield and Florida’s Southwest Coast will resume on schedule this fall… with a new carrier.
Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport has reached a deal with Allegiant Air to provide twice-weekly flights between Springfield and Punta Gorda, Florida. Those flights had been operated in recent years by Direct Air, until it filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.
The airport used part of a federal grant to provide incentives for Allegiant to come here… and is still in talks about possible expansion of the Florida service or the addition of more markets, including Las Vegas.
An introductory fare of $92.99 one way is available through next week… more details can be found at www.allegiant.com.
A Springfield man faces 20 to 60 years in prison after he was convicted in a bench trial of murdering his mother.
Michael Seal was found guilty by Judge Leo Zappa following a two-day trial. Prosecutors say he stabbed his 53-year-old mother to death in 2009 because she had imposed conditions on him in order for him to live with her… including a rule that he was not allowed to drink.
The McLean County State’s Attorney says he will no longer bring charges in cases that involve violations of Illinois’s concealed carry or firearm owner ID laws. Ron Dozier says he considers those laws to be unconstitutional, based upon recent Supreme Court decisions.
Dozier says he is not encouraging anyone to violate laws on the books, and police agencies in McLean County say they will continue to arrest people if violations of those gun laws are found.
But Dozier says he will not play a part in prosecuting people for exercising their Second Amendment rights… unless their actions involve other factors such as drinking, drugs or gang activity.
Over the objections of protestors who want to preserve Griffin Woods, Springfield aldermen have approved a sketch map, the next step in turning a portion of those woods into a retail development anchored by a new Schnuck’s store.
More than half-a-dozen people urged the city council to save the woods and its old-growth trees.
But Mayor Mike Houston notes the Schnuck’s project would not take up the entire woods, and says the city has to encourage development.
Old-growth trees were not the only concern.
Ward 7 Aldermen Joe McMenamin says that developing land for a new grocery store could lead to an over abundance of vacant properties in the future, something his Ward is dealing with.
Houston says the next step is for the city engineers to finalize plans.
Springfield aldermen approved the consent agenda which means a new fire truck, gateway improvements for the Madison/Jefferson crossover, and a preliminary sketch map of the West-side Schnuks, among others.
The fire truck is a 100 foot ladder truck that the city had originally estimated would cost $1.2 million, but instead are purchasing for $887,000.
Several ordinances deal with improvements to the Clear Lake and the Madison-Jefferson crossover.
The project is designed by Massie and Massie Associates and is funded mainly by a pass-through IDOT grant using federal monies. A 20% match is being funded with Springfield Green donated funds.
A former Republican candidate for governor is demanding an investigation into a mandatory meeting for employees of a state agency that he says turned into a political rally.
Adam Andrzejewski says that meeting last March at the headquarters of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow-PUSH headquarters featured former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who used the occasion to endorse Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. for re-election.
Andrzejewski says the mandatory attendance of workers on state time could violate both state and federal laws.
He plans to forward information about the incident to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
Several public sector unions are suing the Quinn administration over the recent law that requires retired veteran state workers to pay for their health insurance.
Governor Pat Quinn signed that law this summer, ending the sliding scale that allowed retirees with 20 years or more of service to get health care with no premium payments. But the lawsuit... filed by four unions including AFSCME, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and Troopers Lodge 41... says that change violates the Illinois Constitution, which guarantees pensions and prohibits laws that impair the obligation of contracts.
The suit was filed in Randolph County Circuit Court. It's just the latest in a string of court cases brought against Quinn by public sector unions over his budget-cutting tactics.
Springfield is about to get more good news about air travel options.
Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport has called a news conference for Wednesday morning to announce the addition of new flight service to and from Springfield. No details about the new service have been released yet.
Airport officials have been working to secure a carrier for regular flights between Springfield and Florida… but a grant that the airport recently obtained also can be used to work on air service to other destinations like Las Vegas or Phoenix.
[Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on this developing story.]
A mandatory work session for employees of a state agency last spring instead turned into a political rally for top Democrats… according to a Republican activist who says there should be a full investigation of the incident.
It happened last March, at a weekend meeting at the Chicago headquarters of Rainbow-PUSH, the civil rights organization founded by Jesse Jackson. The meeting was supposed to salute workers of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission for their efforts to help students find scholarships.
But that mandatory meeting included an appearance by former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who endorsed Jackson’s son, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., at that event. Former GOP governor candidate Adam Andrzejewski and his PAC, “For The Good of Illinois,” say that makes it a taxpayer-funded political rally.
He is sending documents about the incident to the Attorney General. An ISAC official confirms details of the event, and says had the agency known the endorsement would happen, it would not have required employees to attend.
A local candidate is kicking off his campaign with the release of five years of tax returns… but says the move has no connection to the national controversy over presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s decision not to do so.
Republican Paul Palazzolo released the returns at the formal announcement of his re-election campaign. Palazzolo is running for another term as county auditor.
He says he’s continuing with his tradition of releasing returns because of the financial nature of his office… and because of recent incidents like the alleged embezzlement scheme by a top fiscal officer in Dixon, Illinois.
Palazzolo will face Democrat Chris Boyster in November.
A major union that represents a number of state workers denies any connection between last week’s failure of pension reform and the union’s $97,000 campaign donation to a fund controlled by House Speaker Mike Madigan.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports the donation from SEIU was reported on Friday, the same day that Madigan’s House failed to take action on measures aimed at getting the state’s soaring pension costs under control.
A union spokesman says the donation was made weeks ago and the fact that it was reported to the State Board of Elections Friday was just a coincidence.
Illinois prisons are doing their part to “go green” by growing fresh produce. The Illinois Department of Corrections has begun a vocational opportunity for inmates at 23 prisons and several work camps, teaching horticulture skills at gardens on the prison grounds.
The Department of Corrections has donated over 5,000 pounds of fresh produce to local community food banks, and enough to feed inmates and staff at the facilities. The prison gardens are part of the Department’s recently released sustainability initiative.
Several Illinois utilities have sought… and received… permission to discharge extra-hot water from their power plants into the state’s waterways… a move they say is needed to keep pace with the high demand for electricity this summer. But City Water Light and Power officials say they’ve been able to avoid the need to resort to that.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has granted permits to a number of utilities to temporarily allow the practice, even though experts say the 100-degree-plus water can be harmful to fish that are already stressed from the summer heat and drought conditions.
But CWLP says it has not needed to do that at its Dallman 1, 2 and 3 plants… and the new Dallman 4 does not use hot water discharge as part of its electric generation process.
A Springfield convenience store is open again after an apparent domestic dispute resulted in heavy damage to the store Sunday night.
Sangamon County officials say a woman phoned 911 to report that a man was trying to run her off the road in his vehicle. Dispatchers instructed her to go to a well-lit public area, so she pulled into the Qik-N-EZ parking lot at 11th and Stevenson. But then police say the man pulled in behind her, and used his car to force hers into the front of the store.
The store exterior and an ice storage chest outside sustained heavy damage, but no one was hurt. The suspect, 19-year-old Jerry Fairley, is in custody on multiple charges. The store re-opened Monday morning after emergency repairs were made.
The Springfield Fire Department has extended the Burn Ban for the corporate City Limits of Springfield, as well as jurisdictions which are provided fire protection from the Springfield Fire Department.
The burn ban will continue until August 27th.
The ban is extended because of insufficient totals of rain, low humidity, and wind with unseasonably dry conditions over the past few months, which could cause a fire to get out of control.
Governor Pat Quinn is calling for greater tolerance of religious differences, as he condemns recent incidents that targeted Muslim and Sikh houses of worship in Illinois and neighboring states.
Quinn says recent crimes, including the mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and incidents that caused property damage at a mosque and an Islamic school near Chicago, are a violation of the core constitutional principle of freedom of religion.
During his remarks at a Ramadan observance in Bridgeview, Quinn also signed legislation allowing college students to receive alternate assignments when their schoolwork conflicts with religious holidays.
One woman is dead of injuries sustained in a single-car crash on the far west side of Springfield early Sunday. Three others in the vehicle sustained serious injuries in the crash, which police suspect is alcohol-related.
23-year-old Amanda Smith was killed in the crash. Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson says she was a passenger in the car, which was traveling at a high rate of speed in the 5200 block of West Washington.
The driver of the car, 22-year-old Amber Cline, was hospitalized with what Williamson calls "very serious" injuries. He says her condition has so far prevented her from speaking with investigators about the crash. Two other passengers were also hurt, one with what Williamson described as a "life-threatening" spinal injury.
Illinois State Police accident reconstructionists are working on the case. Williamson says citations and possible charges are pending.
A 56-year-old Chandlerville man is dead after his motorcycle collided with a vehicle early Sunday morning at the intersection of MacArthur and Monroe.
The coroner's office identifies the victim as James Lyman. Lyman was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, which happened just before 1:30am. An autopsy will be held. Springfield police are investigating the accident.
The Sangamon County Coroner has identified the man who was found shot to death outside a Springfield bar early Saturday morning.
22-year-old Landis Bates was pronounced dead in the emergency room at Memorial Medical Center following that shooting. Police found Bates near the Sand Trap bar at 15th and Melrose after responding to reports of shots fired in that area.
No one has been arrested yet in connection with the homicide. Springfield police continue to investigate.
Transfers of inmates out of prisons that are slated for closure will remain on hold through the end of the month. The state has agreed to continue its agreement to halt the transfers… while a court case is pending and an arbitrator reviews the situation.
AFSCME had gone to court to block the transfers… saying the move of dangerous inmates out of the Tamms supermax prison to other facilities would increase overcrowding and make those other prisons more dangerous to both inmates and staff. More talks are planned over the next two weeks.
The Illinois House has voted overwhelmingly to expel one of its own members.
On a vote of 100-6, the House removed Democratic Rep. Derrick Smith, who is facing federal felony charges for allegedly accepting a $7,000 bribe in exchange for steering a state grant to a day care center. Smith has not been tried or convicted of the charge yet, leading several members to argue that the expulsion vote was premature.
But overwhelmingly, House members agreed with Democrat Barbara Flynn Currie, who said whatever the outcome of the criminal case, there was evidence to show that Smith had violated his oath of office and should therefore lose his seat. The expulsion takes effect immediately. It was the first time in more than a century that the House had voted to remove one of its own members.
Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says he approves the residency referendum during a press conference in his office Friday morning.
The reconsidered residency referendum passed the special city council meeting Tuesday evening. Houston said he was uncertain if he would veto the measure after the vote 7-2 vote.
Houston once supported residency but expressed concerns that it would cost Springfield taxpayers millions of dollars in renegotiated union contracts.
The ordinance placing the question of a residency requirement for new hires to the city on the November General Election ballot failed the first time several weeks ago but was brought up for reconsideration earlier this week.
Even though he called the ordinance "meaningless" Houston approved the measure Friday morning.
Compared to Democrats a day earlier, Illinois Republicans presented the picture of unity during their party’s festivities at the Illinois State Fair.
There were no angry protestors like the ones that booed Governor Pat Quinn off the stage at his own fairgrounds rally on Wednesday.
GOP speakers urged voters to support Republicans in legislative races, warning that a vote for any Democrat was a vote for Speaker Mike Madigan, and a continuation of the policies that led to the state’s pension crisis.
Republicans are sticking to their message of smaller government and tax cuts… but a top GOP official is warning that the state may not be able to let its temporary tax increase expire on schedule.
The income tax hike approved a couple of years ago is scheduled to expire in 2014. But State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is still wrestling with billions of dollars in unpaid bills… and is expressing concern about cuts in state funding for vital social services.
Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Topinka conceded that if she were asked her opinion, she would tell the governor and legislative leaders that Illinois can’t afford to lose the revenue from the tax hike.
"I don’t know how they’re going to do that without it," Topinka said, "because you know what’s amazing is even with that tax increase—biggest tax increase we’ve had in the state of Illinois—not a dollar of it has gone to paying the bills."
"It’s gone for paying other things. It has not gone to pay the backlog of bills. So, I don’t know if it helps or hurts. It’s been a total neutral for us.”
Topinka has been trying to use her authority as comptroller to move some unpaid bills to the top of the pile, especially for non-profit agencies that contract with the state to provide services to people with disabilities. But she acknowledges that may pose problems for small business who are also waiting, often for months on end, to get the money they are owed from the state.
The pension crisis moves to center stage today at the State Capitol, as lawmakers meet in a scheduled one-day special session intended to begin addressing the state’s 83-billion-dollar unfunded pension liability.
But there is no clear consensus on how to start.
Even a bill that has already cleared the Senate is in trouble, after Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno withdrew her initial support of it, saying she now believes it won’t be sufficient to avoid a credit downgrade.
Republicans also object to an alternate Democratic plan that would shift the state’s pension costs for teachers to local school districts.
A four vehicle crash early Thursday morning led to one lane of Interstate 55 being closed down for nearly four hours at the Rail-Splitter rest stop.
Police say that a tractor trailer pulled out of the rest stop into northbound traffic when another vehicle side-swiped the truck, significantly damaging the front end and puncturing the gas tank.
That second vehicle then veered left across both lanes and struck the median cable and then back to the right to hit another semi truck where it lodged under the trailer. The second vehicle’s tire detached upon impact and hit a forth vehicle.
The tractor trailer driver from Tinley Park and another driver from Sherman were transported to the hospital for minor injuries. After police, EMS, several area fire departments and the EPA arrived on the scene, the other two drivers, one from South Carolina and the other from Arkansas, were able to leave the scene without injuries.
A day after being heckled by union employees during Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair, Governor Pat Quinn urges republican lawmakers during Republican Day to “rise to the occasion to pass comprehensive pension reform” for the state.
In a statement released Thursday Quinn says that a measure similar to what Republicans supported at the end of the spring legislative session has been introduced by Rep. Elaine Nekritz.
That measure would gradually shift teacher pensions from the state to local districts over 12 years. The Governor says inaction on pension reform is the greatest threat to property taxpayers.
Quinn called lawmakers to a special session Friday to act on pension reform.
The House was already scheduled for a Friday session to vote on possible expulsion of Representative Derrick Smith who is accused of accepting a bribe.
Top Illinois Republicans are doubtful that anything of substance will be accomplished during Friday’s special legislative session on the budget crisis.
Several who appeared on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show” during Republican Day at the State Fair say a lack of leadership from Governor Pat Quinn makes it unlikely that a serious deal can come together… and they contend Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan would rather put off tough pension decisions until after the November election.
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (rah-DOH’-nyoh) says she wants to see a comprehensive plan that covers all five public pension systems… something that the current proposals do not do. But she opposes the idea of shifting teacher pension costs from the state to local school districts.
Radogno and the other legislative leaders will meet with Quinn Friday morning, just hours before the one-day special session.
Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says she doesn’t see how Illinois will be able to make progress toward paying its backlog of bills and supporting vital services without extending the state’s income tax increase. \
That temporary tax hike is scheduled to end in 2014… but Topinka notes that even with the revenue it brought in, the state is still not reducing its load of overdue bills and is having to make damaging cuts to social services.
She says that she doesn’t expect to be included in negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders on the future of the tax hike… but says that if she were, she would tell them that the state will need that revenue to balance its books in the most responsible, least damaging way. [Topinka appeared live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show” during Republican Day at the State Fair.]
The pork kabobs and ribeye steaks weren’t the only things grilled at yesterday’s Illinois State Fair during Governor’s Day. Governor Pat Quinn was of many politicians who were greeted with boos and the wrath of protestors at the fair. A large group of union workers upset about pension reform plans that could sharply reduce their retirement income shouted at the Quinn before, during and after his speech at Governor’s Day.
Quinn made it clear that he will try to enlist public opinion against the unions and their push to keep a pension system Quinn suggested is too generous. He says he will ask the public which is more important—public education or lavish public pensions.
The jeers continued though the rally which was cut short as the crowd drowned out most of the speakers. Union workers also demonstrated outside the fairgrounds, distributing carboard fans and pom-poms printed with anit-Quinn slogans. State police stopped many people from bringing the fans onto the fairgrounds, citing a fair policy against displaying signs on the grounds. But that didn’t’ stop an airplane from flying over the rally, trailing a banner that read “Governor Quinn, unfair to workers.”
The hostile reception has become commonplace for politicians this year as candidates from governors to presidents in both parties are hearing from a frustrated electorate.
Governor Quinn did make a monumental gaffe during his speech yesterday, declaring President Obama was dead and gone. He meant to say Osama, and amid confusion from the crowd, Quinn corrected himself to say that Osama bin Laden is dead.
An angry crowd of union workers may not get what they are looking for in a pension reform plan, but they did manage to force an early end to Governor’s Day events at the Illinois State Fair.
Governor Pat Quinn was dogged by hecklers throughout the grounds… from lunch at the pork patio to his rally on the Director’s Lawn at the fairgrounds. The rally, which had been scheduled to run for more than an hour, ended after less than 20 minutes, as Quinn and other speakers were drowned out by the jeering crowd.
The union workers say Quinn’s pension reform plans are unconstitutional and unfair. But in his speech to the crowd… which lasted only around two minutes… Quinn predicted that the public would side with him, rather than with workers trying to protect benefits that Quinn says the state can’t afford.
Watch video of protesters at the Illinois State Fair's governor's day here:
Aldermen passed an ordinance that will place a referendum on the November General Election Ballot asking Springfield voters if there should be a residency requirement.
The ordinance to reconsider the non-binding referendum passed 7-2 with one voting present.
Last week aldermen voted on the original ordinance where it failed with Mayor Mike Houston casting the deciding no vote. Because Alderman Doris Turner was on the prevailing side of that vote, she is allowed, by council rules, to call for the question to be reconsidered.
Springfield Mayor Houston tried amending the ordinance to strike all the language from the ordinance and replacing it with language that essentially would have called the question of residency for aldermen to vote up or down.
That amendment failed leading to aldermen to vote for the original referendum.
Aldermen Cory Jobe and Aldermen Tim Griffin voted no with Aldermen Kris Theilen voting present.
A local Republican congressional candidate says he’s not tied to the budget plans of GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan… despite the efforts of Democrats to link the two.
Rodney Davis says he agrees with Ryan’s philosophy of trying to bring entitlement spending under control and reduce runaway federal deficits… but isn’t necessarily committed to Ryan proposals like converting Medicare to a voucher-style system.
Davis’s Democratic opponent, David Gill, has tried to paint Davis as an unequivocal backer of Ryan’s budget plan.
Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport is getting a quarter-million-dollar federal grant to help it expand travel options for local flyers.
The money can be used to offer incentives such as marketing or ground services… like ticket-takers or baggage handlers… in order to attract carriers who would operate regular flights between Springfield and certain destinations. Airport director Mark Hanna says the top priority is to find a carrier to resume the seasonal service to Florida that ended when Direct Air went bankrupt.
The grant could also be used to establish regular service to Las Vegas or Phoenix, if the airport can find an interested carrier.
The Springfield School Board has taken the next step toward approval of a deficit budget, one where the red ink could run even deeper than originally thought.
School board members learned Monday that the district will get less state aid than anticipated, leading to a deficit for the current school year of around 11-million dollars.
Board members agreed to post the budget for a 30-day public review period before final action next month, even though several board members say they don’t have confidence in the numbers, which have been revised several times by Superintendent Walter Milton’s administration.
Public sector unions are offering their own alternative pension reform plan, one in which state workers and teachers would agree to pay more toward their own pensions, if the state guarantees that it will make all of its required pension payments in the future.
The unions say the plans currently up for discussion during Friday’s special legislative session are unconstitutional, but say the pension crisis can be fixed through a combination of state payments, increased employee contributions, and the closing of millions of dollars in corporate tax loopholes.
DISH Network is warning that its customers could lose access to ABC Newschannel 20 this week, because the TV station’s parent company is demanding more money to let the satellite provider retransmit its signals.
A press release from DISH says Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns Channel 20 and stations in more than 40 other markets, is asking for more than any other over-the-air broadcaster in the country.
Unless the companies can reach a deal by Wednesday, DISH says it will have to block Channel 20 and all other Sinclair stations.
The State’s leading public employee unions are offering their own proposal to fix the state’s pension crisis.
Unions representing state workers, teachers, and others say the current plans that could come up in a special legislative session this week are unacceptable. They want language that would guarantee that the state would make all its scheduled contributions to pension funds.
The unions say if they get that guarantee, along with a promise to exempt current retirees and action to close corporate tax loopholes, then current public sector workers would agree to pay more to keep their existing pension benefits. The legislature meets Friday in a one-day special session aimed at addressing the state’s 85 billion dollar unfunded pension liability.
The Divernon Fire Protection District has extended the Burn Ban within their District boundaries, which includes the Village of Divernon, Town of Glenarm, Comanche Village and the surrounding rural areas.
Officials say because the weather outlook for some time to come is not favorable and will continue to increase the chances of a fire starting and getting out of control, they’ve extended the ban through August 19th.
It’s been a relatively problem-free Illinois State Fair so far, and the American Red Cross wants to keep it that way.
The Illinois Capital Area Chapter has issued some guidelines to help people avoid injury while attending the fair. They include paying attention to weather warnings and seeking shelter if storms move into the area… going easy on the alcohol… and for parents, listening to your kids if they say they’re too scared to go on a ride.
The Red Cross says a scared child may ignore safety instructions or try to get off a moving ride.
Veterans who apply to become conservation police officers will now be able to get credit for their military experience instead of being required to have a college degree, under legislation signed by Governor Pat Quinn during Sunday’s Veterans Day observance at the Illinois State Fair.
That was one of several new bills affecting veterans that the governor approved on Sunday.
State Veterans Affairs Director Erica Borggren says Illinois is making progress in helping veterans overcome the challenges they face when they return from military service, but says there is still a lot of work to be done to bring down unemployment among veterans and to help them deal with physical or emotional injuries from combat.
Governor Pat Quinn says he thinks lawmakers will come together to pass pension reform during a special session this week… because they have no other choice.
Quinn says the mounting unfunded pension costs are, quote, a fire bell in the night… and believes the same spirit that led to a Medicaid reform plan last spring will produce a compromise on pensions now.
The governor has been trying to get the legislature to agree on pension reform measures for months without success. He did not say what may have changed that would allow a deal to be finalized during Friday's one-day special session.
Eyewitnesses say the pilot who lost his life in a plane crash in Taylorville Saturday was a hero, who did everything he could to avoid casualties on the ground.
30-year-old Brandon Sparrow of Augusta died when the plane crashed into a residential neighborhood, shortly after a group of skydivers had jumped from it safely. According to witnesses, Sparrow dumped his fuel and tried to steer the plane away from homes. No one on the ground was hurt.
The Federal Aviation Administration is compiling information about the crash. The agency will turn its findings over to the National Transportation Safety Board, which will make a determination on the cause.
Springfield Alderman Joe McMenamin isn’t letting a defeat in the city council this week slow him down.
Just days after he failed to win approval for an effort to put an advisory referendum on the ballot, McMenamin has requested a special city council meeting for this Tuesday to reconsider the proposal. He wants voters to say whether or not the city should impose a residency requirement for new city workers. The measure failed this week.on a 5-5 tie, with Mayor Mike Houston casting the vote that kept the measure from passing. But McMenamin says he’s found the sixth vote needed to put the question on the ballot.
Aldermen Doris Turner and Frank Edwards joined McMenamin in seeking the special meeting for a revote on the non-binding referendum
Asian Carp is coming to the Illinois State Fair. On Saturday, The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will be unveiling Asian Carp Smoked BBQ sliders, and Asian Carp corn fritters to try to create a local market for the invasive species.
Fair visitors are invited to sample the food, while they learn about the efforts to protect the Great Lakes from the fish by building an understanding of how a market for the Asian Carp can help manage the population.
As he has every year since becoming governor, Pat Quinn attended Opening Day of the Illinois State Fair Friday… after paying for his ticket out of his own pocket. But it cost the governor more this year… with the adult ticket price now up to seven dollars.
Quinn says it’s still a bargain, considering all of the exhibits and entertainment waiting inside the fairgrounds. Fair officials hope milder weather will bring large crowds out, regardless of the ticket price hike.
Governor Pat Quinn says Illinois prisons are no place for the prying eyes of reporters.
Quinn is defending his administration’s refusal to let the press in for a first-hand look at conditions in some of the state’s most notorious prisons. Inmates and prison guards complain that overcrowded, dirty conditions are creating a volatile, dangerous situation.
The governor says safety is the top priority of his Corrections Department… but says prisons, quote, “are not country clubs” and don’t need visitors walking around.
Police say a pedestrian who was walking in the roadway on I-72 near New Berlin is dead after being struck by a car. It happened around 4:45 this (Friday) morning. A driver called police to report that he had struck someone who was walking in the roadway. Police are investigating why the individual was in the road… the identity of the victim has not been released.
Governor Pat Quinn is urging lawmakers to avoid half-measures during next week's special session on pension reform.
Quinn wants the legislature to adopt a bill that would make pension changes for state workers, lawmakers and teachers.
Teachers were intentionally left off a bill that cleared the Senate in the spring out of concerns that controversial changes to their pensions would kill the chances to reach a deal on other parts of pension reform.
Quinn says the state's unfunded pension liability is growing by millions of dollars each day, and lawmakers have to stop delaying and start acting on the problem.
A recent study of Springfield’s gravel pits says that the city could pump 13 to 18 million gallons a day, but as of right now City Water Light and Power does not have a system set up to get the water if needed.
The study conducted last year and the report presented this week to Council Members only looked at Springfield’s gravel pits and did not evaluate the possible effects on other cities’ nearby water reservoirs.
Even if Springfield would need to get water from the gravel pits, Water Director Tom Skelly says Springfield doesn’t have the infrastructure in place.
Skelly says it would be a physically and logistically difficult project. It’s a ten mile distance from the gravel pits to the lake and he says that if needed they could get portable pumps and a series of pipelines set up, but as of right now there are no plans to get water from the gravel pits.
Meanwhile, concerns that Springfield’s lake levels will drastically drop because of the Illinois State Fair being in town are overblown wives tales, according to the city’s water official.
During the drought, some may have been concerned about how low the lake could get because of the water demand during the State Fair. Skelly says that there is an increased demand from the fair grounds during the annual State Fair, but it’s not as drastic as some people may fear.
Skelly says that the average production at the water plant is 22 million gallons a day and 160,000 gallons is a small amount and is not a big deal. Several weeks ago, the water plant produced a record 40 million gallons in one day.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s tent at the State Fair this week will highlight hazards that could be threatening your children… right under your nose.
The A.G.’s tent is billed this year as the “House of Hazards,’ and the focus is on readily available, but dangerous, items. In particular, Madigan wants to alert parents to the ongoing hazard of synthetic drugs, manmade chemicals that can still be purchased in many convenience stores, even though the state has banned them.
Madigan’s office has conducted stings, resulting in stores voluntarily turning over their inventory of the drugs. But she says the crackdown could start leading to criminal charges against sellers… and will also target manufacturers of the drugs. Madigan’s tent also focuses on product safety and the dangers of Internet predators.
The butter cow will again be on display for Illinois State Fair visitors before it’s even completed. The fair has unveiled the butter cow as a work in progress.
The sculptor will finish it over the first several days of the fair as spectators watch. Fair officials are also touting a redesigned Department of Agriculture tent, just inside Gate 2 of the fairgrounds.
City Water, Light and Power is cautioning boaters at Lake Springfield to use caution when boating in the lake. Low water levels increase the risk of damage in areas where water is more shallow than normal.
The utility is placing barricades at some of the docks at Lindsay Boat Launch because of the low water level. Boaters are encouraged to use caution at all docks in areas where the shallow water could cause problems from unseen hazards like logs or other debris.
CWLP is also encouraging the public to call their security office at 757-8600 to report any such hazards.
The Illinois Department of Public Health is urging parents and caregivers that now is a good time to schedule dental exams for children. Illinois law requires school children entering Kindergarten, 2nd and 6th grades have a dental exam before the start of the school year.
The IDPH will be providing free dental screenings during weekdays at the Illinois State Fair from 10am to 3pm in the Department’s Wellness on Wheels mobile health van. The vehicle will be located in Happy Hollow, next to the Illinois Building on the Fairgrounds.
GE is recalling more than a million dishwashers sold around the country between 2006 and 2009… and are recommending that people who have those appliances unplug them and stop using them immediately.
The affected brands… including GE, Adorna, Eterna, Profile, and Hotpoint… have a malfunctioning heating element that poses a fire risk. Customers with affected brands should not contact the store where they purchased it. Instead, you can get information online at geappliances.com/recall .
Another setback for the effort to impose a residency requirement on new city workers in Springfield.
Alderman Joe McMenamin’s attempt to put the question on the ballot for city voters failed on a 5-5 tie Wednesday.
Mayor Mike Houston joined four aldermen in opposing the non-binding referendum.
Houston says any new residency rule would have to be negotiated with the city’s employee unions, which could demand costly concessions from the city in exchange for agreeing to a residency requirement.
During emergency passage, Aldermen unanimously passed an ordinance that would give the mayor the authority to enact stricter water conservation measures that would be associated with Springfield’s lake levels.
The drought management plan has six stages associated with how low the lake is below full pool.
At four feet below, or stage four, the first of three schedule surcharges would kick in on anything over around 3,500 gallons of water a month for residential customers.
At stage five, or five feet, a higher surcharge would kick in and an even higher charge at stage six.
During Wednesday's Springfield City Council meeting, Aldermen approved the consent agenda which included a three-year, $2.25 million dollar contract with Lincoln Land FS for automotive fuel and a three-year contract worth $135,000 with Quicksilver Mailing Services.
They also approved a lawsuit settlement worth $50,000 in a case involving a Springfield Police car and a Springfield Housing Authority van.
Ordinances on the consent agenda are considered not controversial and are passed all together with one vote.
The Springfield Fire Department announced that Fire Station #9 at 2405 South Chatham Road will be temporarily closed August 13th until August 20th to accommodate the first stage of interior remodeling of the living quarters.
Engine 9 and the assigned personnel will be relocated to the State Fairgrounds for coverage of the Illinois State Fair. In the interim, there will be three fire stations covering the area in which Fire Station 9 currently operates – Chatham Road and Lawrence Avenue, Koke Mill Road, and Glenwood.
Former Governor George Ryan may be getting out from behind bars early after all.
Ryan’s attorney… former Governor Jim Thompson… tells the Kankakee Daily Journal that Ryan will likely be released to a Chicago halfway-house early next year… about five months ahead of his scheduled July 2013 parole date. Ryan, who is 78, will work during the day and then return to the halfway house at night.
But Ryan… who is serving a six-and-a-half year sentence for corruption… hasn’t given up on trying to win his outright freedom early. Thompson says even though Ryan lost yet another appeal this week, he may go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to have the conviction overturned.
Former Illinois first lady Patti Blagojevich is tired of waiting around for her husband’s appeal to be heard.
The wife of convicted ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich says the pace of progress in the case has been incredibly frustrating. Patti Blagojevich says the couple’s two daughters miss their dad. Rod Blagojevich is serving a 14-year sentence for corruption in a Colorado prison.
Governor Pat Quinn is defending the state police investigation of corrections officers inside the supermax prison that Quinn plans to shut down.
Sources tell the Associated Press that investigators have tried to question prison staffers about leaks of information regarding the shutdown and the transfer of inmates. Quinn says that if laws are broken, then the people close to the incident should expect to be questioned.
Quinn did not elaborate on what laws may have been violated in the information that may have gone to members of the press.
Transfers of inmates out of the Tamms Correctional Center are on hold until at least next week.
AFSCME went to court this week seeking an injunction to halt the transfers. Lawyers for the state want their lawsuit thrown out of court… but agreed to temporarily stop moving inmates in order to give the union time to respond to the state’s motion to dismiss.
The union claims that transferring dangerous inmates from the Tamms supermax facility to other prisons will increase overcrowding and put inmates and prison workers in danger.
Haven’t gotten your Mega Pass yet for the upcoming Illinois State Fair? Well, it’s not too late.
The Illinois State Fair has scheduled evening hours this week for a last-minute purchase. The office in the Emmerson Building on the Fairgrounds will be open daily through Sunday, August 12th from 8am to 7pm.
Mega Passes sell for $65.00 and serve as a ticket for unlimited rides at Adventure Village and the Carnival Midway all eleven days of the fair, including Preview Night. Purchases can be made with cash or credit card as payment, but no personal checks.
AFSCME is going to court in an effort to stop the Quinn administration from transferring more inmates out of prisons that are being targeted for closure.
The union is seeking an injunction that would block further inmate transfers until a union grievance can be heard. AFSCME says the transfers are adding to dangerous overcrowding in other prisons… putting staff and other inmates at risk.
A court hearing on the union’s injunction request is set for Wednesday morning in Alexander County Circuit Court.
A program to screen preschoolers to make sure they’re ready for kindergarten is being expanded.
The program started three years ago as part of the local Continuum of Learning, and screens roughly 900 three-, four- and five-year-olds each year. But a $73,000 grant from an endowment fund established by the United Way will allow that program to double… reaching nearly one-fourth of the eligible preschoolers in the county.
The screening is intended to identify areas where children may be lacking and help develop curriculum to meet those needs.
The seven-period day in Springfield’s public high schools could become a casualty of the district’s budget crisis.
District 186 moved to a seven-period schedule three years ago in order to give students more course options and to allow the district to impose stricter requirements for graduation.
Superintendent Walter Milton says reverting back to the old schedule would not leave students better prepared for college, but it would save more than a million dollars a year at a time when the district needs to find as much as 12-million in savings over the next two years.
The Springfield School Board has rejected a proposal for new scoreboards at Memorial Stadium and other school athletic fields, even though district officials say the scoreboards could have eventually paid for themselves.
District athletic officials wanted to the new scoreboards, which would include delay-of-game clocks and electronic message boards that could be programmed to display advertising.
Officials think they could sell enough ads for the scoreboards and electronic displays to pay for the equipment and have money left over.
But the board refused to approve the initial cash outlay on a 3-3 vote.
A local congressional candidate supports Congressman Aaron Schock’s call for a tax break for Olympians. Republican Rodney Davis agrees with Schock that Olympic medalists shouldn’t face a tax bill as the price for their competitive success.
Olympic winners get up to $25,000 for winning a gold medal… but the federal government claims more than a third of that in taxes. Schock and Davis say that most Olympic athletes must invest huge amounts of their own money to train and work their way toward the Olympics… and shouldn’t be penalized for their success.
Former Governor George Ryan may have lost his last chance to get out of prison early.
A federal appeals court has rejected Ryan’s latest attempt to have his corruption conviction overturned. Ryan’s lawyers had argued that Supreme Court rulings on the so-called “honest services” law were directly tied to the charges brought against the former Governor, and should lead to his conviction being reversed.
The appeal was seen as Ryan’s best hope of getting out of prison before his scheduled release next year.
Springfield District 186 students will get the opportunity to participate this fall in the National Student Gallop Poll – a survey that measures, encouragement, hope, and wellbeing.
The poll is designed for students in grades five through twelve and is administered on-line. Gallop identifies the categories as being reliably measured and have a relationship with, or impact on educational outcomes.
The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce’s Quantum Growth Partnership has teamed up with District 186 in the effort for the common goal of improved student performance – which subsequently leads to improved economic outcomes.
A local Olympian’s dreams of gold have come to an end.
Lance Brooks of New Berlin failed to qualify for the men’s discus finals in London. Brooks finished 21st in the preliminary rounds Monday… he needed to be in the top 12 in order to compete in the finals.
His best throw was just over 61 meters… about two meters short of the cutoff mark.
Those are the choices being laid out by Governor Pat Quinn as he tries to ramp up pressure on state lawmakers to take action on the state’s pension crisis.
Quinn says a new analysis shows that unless reforms are implemented, the state will soon spend more on pension costs than it does on education, forcing steep budget cuts to schools.
Quinn has called lawmakers back into special session on August 17th and is pushing them to pass measures, including one that would pass the state’s share of teacher pension costs back onto local districts.
U.S. Senator Mark Kirk's office has released a second video offering new details about Kirk's recovery from a debiliatating stroke in January.
The heavily-produced and edited video features Kirk discussing milestones in his rehabilitation, including work in improving his speech and mobility. In the video, he talks about conversing with his staff daily, meeting with congressional colleagues, and working with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin to choose a new U.S. Attorney to succeed Patrick Fitzgerald in Chicago.
Kirk says he is releasing the video to show other stroke patients and their families that they can recover.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin acknowledges that it's not surprising that he would endorse his fellow Democrat, David Gill, in the 13th Congressional District race. But Durbin says the endorsement is about more than partisan politics.
Durbin says he is choosing Gill because Gill stands in opposition to the Republican budget plan put forward by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Critics say the Ryan budget would privatize, and ultimately phase out, Medicare, and would cause serious financial damage to hospitals who rely on Medicare dollars.
Both Gill and Durbin acknowledge that there will have to be changes to Medicare to keep the program solvent, but say the Ryan approach -- which is supported by Gill's GOP opponent Rodney Davis -- is too drastic and harmful.
Last week's sharp increase in gas prices around Illinois has been tied to a pipeline break in Wisconsin last month that spilled more than a thousand barrels of oil, affecting Midwestern supplies.
Prices soared to nearly four dollars a gallon downstate, and peaked at around $4.25 a gallon in Chicago. The website gasbuddy.com predicts that the price spike will gradually subside over the next three weeks.
Friday afternoon, Senator Dick Durbin toured Springfield's water processing facility and also reviewed Lake Springfield's levels. He and Hobbie talked about the drought, what the federal government can do and what water conservation measures Springfield is taking. Watch the video below:
Current lake levels for lake Springfield are at about 2 ½ feet below normal even with the recent rain. It’s bad, but not the worst Springfield has seen, and has some people asking about a second water source for the capital city.
The current levels of Lake Springfield at about 2 1/2 feet below normal
The decision to move forward with a second water source for Springfield is a local issue that must be worked out by the Mayor and aldermen, not by the Federal government, according to Senator Dick Durbin.
But, if the decision was to move forward with the permitting process, Durbin says he would be glad to get involved.
Senator Dick Durbin (left) & Chief Engineer at CWLP Eric Hobbie (right)
Durbin reviewed recent and historic data about the lake’s levels and toured Springfield’s water treatment plant Friday and says as far as the lake levels, the most the Federal government can do is encourage water conservation.
The current lake levels are in line to match up with the drought of 1988.
Kenmore is recalling 35, 50 and 70 pint dehumidifiers that were sold exclusively at Sears.com and Kmart.com from 2003 to 2009.
The units have a Kenmore logo on top. They’re between 21 and 24 inches tall, around 15 inches wide and about 13-1/2 inches deep with fan and humidity controls either on the top front or by remote control. The dehumidifiers were manufactured in China. They may overheat, smoke, melt and catch fire.
The firm has received 107 reports of incidents with over 7 million dollars in property damage – and three reports of smoke inhalation injuries. Nearly 800,000 units have been recalled. For more information contact the Recall Fulfillment Center at 855-400-4641.
The Centers for Disease Control is urging fairgoers to be careful around pigs because of a new strain of flu spreading to humans.
Officials say 29 human cases of the new strain of swine flu have been confirmed in the U.S. in the last year – most of them children. Ten of the 12 cases confirmed just this week were linked to the Butler County Fair in Southwest Ohio, which ended last weekend.
Fairgoers are advised to wash their hands and avoid taking food and drinks into livestock barns. Pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems should be particularly careful.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is encouraging school personnel to become familiar with emergency procedures since school will starting up in a couple of weeks.
They’ve released a new video called “Tornado Preparedness for Illinois Schools” that outlines steps for identifying shelter spaces within school buildings and other tips for severe weather emergency planning. The video also includes a pre-tornado season to-do list for schools, which can be used as a guideline for training, establishing protocols, and assigning responsibilities to staff members.
The video can be obtained by visiting www.Ready.Illinois.Gov.
The Springfield Police Department plans to respond to a request from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois for information about the license plate reading cameras, even if the department doesn’t have them yet.
Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher says that the cameras are ordered and they should be receiving them soon. In the meantime, Buscher says police will respond to as many questions in the request as possible and will stay in touch with the organization.
Another fatal accident is being reported—this time in Springfield on Chatham Road.
Reports indicate that an unidentified man died after the vehicle he was driving crossed the center line on Chatham Road between Old Jacksonville Road and Laurell, side swiped three vehicles and then hit a forth vehicle head on.
Authorities could not say if the man died because of the wreck or from some kind of medical condition.
An autopsy is planned today. No other passengers suffered severe injuries.
Illinois State Police report at least one person has died as a result of a double-decker MegaBus crash on I-55 near Litchfield. Trooper Doug Francis says one person was killed in the wreck.
The bus which was carrying 81 passengers bound from Chicago to Kansas City blew a tire, slamming head-on into a concrete bridge support Thursday afternoon. It’s reported that four people were flown by helicopter to a trauma center.
Memorial Medical Center spokesman Michael Leathers says their hospital treated two patients. Brian Reardon, a spokesman for St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield says 21 patients were treated there, some of which were treated and released. Others had moderate injuries such as bone fractures.
Illinois State Police responded to an accident involving a double-decker MegaBus which blew a tire and crashed into a concrete piller on I-55.
Multiple injuries reported in that crash which happened about 3 miles south of Exit 60, five miles North of Litchfield. Amanda Byers, a spokeswoman for the MegaBus says it was carrying 81 passengers bound for Kansas City from Chicago when it crashed.
Traffic stopped in both directions on I-55 between Exit 52 northbound and Exit 60 southbound.
Congressman Aaron Schock wants US Olympians to not pay federal taxes on the medals they bring home from the London Games.
In companion bills introduced in the House by Schock and in the Senate by Florida’s Marco Rubio, US Olympic athletes would be exempt in paying federal taxes on the cash prizes they receive upon winning medals at the international games.
Gold recipients receive $25,000. Silver recipients get $15,000 and Bronze winners get $10,000.
As the law stands now, the IRS takes 35 percent of the cash prizes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared 98 of 102 Illinois counties as disaster areas. Approval of the governor’s latest request means federal disaster assistance is now available to help farmers in an additional 50 drought-stricken Illinois counties.
According to the State’s Water Survey, precipitation throughout Illinois averaged just 12-point-6 inches from January to June, making the first half of the year the sixth driest on record. Additionally, each month this year has had above normal temperatures, making this the warmest year on record.
Farmers who believe they may be eligible for assistance should contact their County Farm Services Agency offices.
Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka says Illinois Non-For-Profit Agencies are the backbone of the State of Illinois – their services making all the difference when it comes to quality of life of the state’s most vulnerable residents.
Topinka says government budget cuts and state payment delays have created staggering fiscal challenges for many service agencies. She’s urging agency leaders to contact her office before cutting services or closing their doors.
Vendors can contact their office online at illinoiscomptroller.com, or calling their consumer affairs hotline at 855 - IL – ASK – US.
Illinois Health Care providers are seeing a large increase in pertussis cases – commonly known as Whooping Cough, in Illinois and around the country.
In conjunction with National Immunization Awareness Month, the Department of Public Health is reminding parents and health care providers of the new Whooping Cough vaccine requirement for the 2012-13 school year.
All 6th and 9th grade students are required to show proof they’ve had an immunization against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, or they must show proof that they have an appointment to get the vaccination. Those with medical or religious exemptions must have that on file. Students who don’t will not be able to attend school.
Springfield has new water conservation measures in place that is meant to get residents in the mindset of conserving when they can.
The special city council meeting Tuesday dealt with the one ordinance where several aldermen attempted, but failed, to amend the issue of washing cars at home, car wash fundraisers and even fees associated with getting watering permits and pumping water from the lake.
One thing Aldermen Chris Theilen wanted to make clear is that your vegetable garden is safe. The ordinance allows residents to use buckets and irrigation systems to water their gardens everyday.
The ordinance lines out specific watering times for residents.
Odd number homes can water Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the non-peak times of 7pm to 8am and even number homes can water Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday during the same non-peak times.
Violating the ordinance will in a first conviction fine of $50, a second conviction fine of $100 and a third conviction fine of $500.