The committee has begun distributing literature promoting the reinstatement of a residency requirement for future city workers. A piece from the group says such a rule would strengthen neighborhoods, create demand for city real estate, and… quote… “generate vested city employees.”
Illinoisans view their state government with suspicion… and an expectation of corruption.
That’s according to a new statewide survey, which finds 58-percent of Illinois voters believe the state is more corrupt than other states. Another 37-percent think that Illinois is only AS bad as other states… while just two-percent think Illinois is less crooked than other states.
The survey was conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
Republicans are raising questions about an ad from Democratic congressional candidate Dr. David Gill.
In that ad, Gill talks about “Susan,” a woman who died in his ER after her heart disease went untreated because she lacked insurance. But in a campaign ad six years ago, Gill told a similar story about a male patient.
The GOP accuses Gill of manipulating or making up the story. But Gill’s campaign says both patients are real… and says their plight is all too common.
A Logan County highway had to be shut down Friday night… after a semi carrying meat scraps and trimmings spilled its load all over the roadway.
State police say the truck was approaching a railroad crossing on US 136 near Emden when the crossing lights began flashing. The driver slammed on the brakes, causing the load to shift and spill. Crews worked for several hours to clean up the mess.
The Q5 jobs initiative is working on new plans to create a stronger job climate in and around Springfield.
Investors… including some 80 area businesses and organizations… got an update Thursday on the progress of the effort. Plans in the works include the development of “Source Sangamon,” an effort to promote use of local vendors for business-to-business purchasing. That program could be launched early next year.
A Logistics Council has been created to provide strategy for transportation and logistics issues in the community. And another committee is working on beautification programs, such as putting local art in vacant storefronts.
Things are back to normal at Waverly High School after an incident Thursday morning led to a brief lockdown at the school.
Morgan County Sheriff Randy Duvendack says police and paramedics responded when a student had what he described as medical and mental issues.
Other students were kept in their classrooms while first responders tended to the student. Duvendack says no other students were in danger, but did not elaborate on the nature of the incident. The student in question was taken by ambulance to a hospital for evaluation.
A proposal to have Springfield residents pay for trash pickup through their utility bill is getting a chilly reception from many people.
At the first in a series of public hearings on the proposal Wednesday, most speakers objected to the plan… calling it unnecessary or fearing that it’s the first step toward limiting consumers’ choices for waste hauling.
Many people who attended the meeting at Southside Christian Church on South MacArthur wanted to know what accommodations would be made for people who share the cost of trash pickup, dispose of their garbage through their own businesses, or spend the winter months out of state. City officials say they are still working on ways to deal with those situations.
Springfield’s Catholic bishop says there are… quote… “intrinsic evils” in the Democratic Party platform, and warns that Catholics who vote for candidates that back those positions may be putting their own eternal salvation at risk.
Paprocki says the official Democratic support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage promote “serious sins,” and says he would be abdicating his responsibility if he did not speak out about the morality of the issue. Paprocki says he is not telling Catholics how to vote, but says a vote in support of those positions makes the voter “morally complicit.”
The attorney for one of the brothers accused in the massacre of a Logan County family says Chris Harris actually walked in on the murders, and had to kill the killer in order to save his own life.
The Bloomington Pantagraph reports the defense theory came to light through a court filing that seeks records into the mental health and behavior of 14-year-old Dillen Constant, one of the five people found dead inside the home of Rick and Ruth Gee in Beason.
Attorney Dan Fultz says Harris found Dillen Constant killing his parents and siblings, and Harris then killed Dillen in self-defense.
The defense believes the records will show that Dillen Constant had a history of violence and had been prescribed medication to control his impulses.
Harris and his brother Jason are awaiting trial on murder charges.
An e-mail from AFSCME leadership to union members is warning that contract talks with the state are at a near-standstill, and blame the Quinn administration for pushing pay and benefit cuts that could leave many workers with as much as $10,000 less in take home pay next year.
That e-mail, obtained by Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax blog, says the state’s demands are an insult to workers.
Both sides are trying to line up a mediator to assist in the contract talks, but so far have been unable to find one.
At least six Springfield residents have been arrested in connection with a major cocaine and heroin trafficking ring that authorities say has been dealing drugs in Springfield, Decatur and across Central Illinois.
Federal, state and local prosecutors say 30-year-old Eddi Ramirez of Paxton was the leader of the drug ring. So far, 18 people, including the six from Springfield, have been arrested in connection with the nine-month investigation.
Authorities have also seized ten kilos of cocaine, three kilos of heroin, and nearly $900,000 in cash.
The challenger for Sangamon County Circuit Clerk says she’d like to see expanded hours… including some on Saturdays… to make it easier for citizens to make use of the office’s services.
Democrat Kristin DiCenso says she would also try to coordinate with other county officeholders to arrange for expanded hours throughout the County Building. DiCenso says the circuit clerk’s office needs to be more user-friendly and transparent, and vows to put more office information online.
She is challenging Republican incumbent Tony Libri in November.
Sangamon County’s Citizens Efficiency Commission is recommending that the office of township tax collector be eliminated… and that its primary function of collecting property tax payments be turned over to the County Treasurer’s office.
Sangamon is one of only two Illinois counties that use township tax collectors to accept a portion of residents’ annual property tax payments. But the commission finds township collections cost substantially more than simply sending the money to the Treasurer’s office.
The commission says if its recommendation is implemented and the office of township tax collector is eliminated, tax collection costs could drop by $150,000 a year.
A change in the estimated rate of return for the Teachers’ Retirement System could leave Illinois taxpayers on the hook for an additional $300 million, according to one estimate.
Last week, TRS revised its estimate, predicting now that its investments will yield a return of eight percent, instead of the previous prediction of eight-and-a-half percent. Under state law, a lower rate of return forces the state to make up the difference.
State School News Service says that could mean an additional $300 million obligation… and will likely increase pressure on lawmakers to approve pension reform during the lame duck session in January.
The state experiment with cameras in the courts is continuing to grow… but there’s still no indication that Sangamon County will sign on any time soon.
Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride says the pilot project he started last spring will soon move into the Chicago area for the first time, with DuPage County starting to allow cameras and microphones in to cover court proceedings.
Several other jurisdictions around the state are also taking part, and Kilbride says it seems to be going well. But he says that’s no guarantee that the effort will go statewide anytime soon.
Former Governor George Ryan loses yet another round in court.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has turned down Ryan’s request to have the whole court hear his appeal asking for an early release from prison. That request had already been turned down by a three-judge panel from that appeals court last month.
Ryan has been seeking early release even though his six-and-a-half year prison term on corruption charges is nearing an end. He is scheduled to remain in custody until July of next year, but is expected to be moved out of prison and into a Chicago halfway house to take part in a work release program starting in February.
An Illinois appeals court has ruled in favor of two pharmacists who objected to having to provide emergency contraception on religious grounds, setting a precedent their lawyer hopes will protect others from judicial or state sanctions.
Friday’s ruling affirmed an injunction granted by a lower court that found that state law “protects the pharmacists’ decisions not to dispense emergency contraceptives due to their conscience.”
The ruling by the 4th District Appellate Court applies only to the two pharmacists. But their lawyer says it sets an important precedent that should protect other pharmacists who seek to invoke their own religious beliefs in declining to provide the so-called “Plan B” drug.
Organizers of the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival say this year’s edition outpaced last year’s.
The event, which wrapped up Sunday, featured around 1100 cars on display… up from fewer than a thousand a year ago. And the estimated crowds were also larger, with police putting the crowd for the weekend at close to 80,000.
After becoming the target of Mayor Mike Houston’s first veto, Alderman Frank Edwards says he has no plans to reintroduce an ordinance that would give Sangamon County businesses the same preference that city businesses get on City Hall contracts.
Edwards says the issue isn’t that big a deal to him… but he is still critical of the veto. Edwards says that five-percent preference for city businesses could potentially cost taxpayers thousands of dollars on large contracts.
He says expanding the pool of businesses that can compete on a level playing field will help ensure that taxpayers are getting the best deal.
A Chicago alderman now says he needs a clarification of the clarification.
Alderman Joe Moreno says he’s disturbed by new statements from the owner of the Chick-Fil-A restaurant chain that says he has not made any concessions regarding his support of organizations that oppose same-sex marriage.
Moreno announced last week that the chain indicated it would no longer contribute to such groups… clearing the way for Moreno to lift his opposition to a new Chick-Fil-A in his Chicago ward.
Now Moreno says he wants company CEO Dan Cathy to say definitively whether or not the earlier assurances from Chick-Fil-A executives were valid or not.
The Springfield Commission on International Visitors celebrates 50 years of hosting dignitaries from around the world here in the capital city. The organization welcomed the half-century of serving the global community by inviting NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen to Springfield.
NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen
Mayor Mike Houston said that Springfield's efforts to bring people from around the world to capital city is part of the larger effort to get above isolationism. He says it's about the free exchange of ideas.
Rasmussen addressed the group Friday at Erin's Pavilion on Southwind Park where he talked about his early years as part of a similar State Department program in 1982. There he toured the United States to study our culture--local governments, elections, education, journalism, histories, etc.
The former Danish Prime Minister also paid tribute to Andrew Tobin, a fallen soldier from Jacksonville who served alongside NATO in Afghanistan and was killed last year. He also paid tribute to a Danish soldier who also was killed around the same time.
In the aftermath of a rash of international forces being killed by Afghan security forces being trained by NATO, Rasmussen says that NATO has a timeline to hand over operations to Afghanistan's security forces by the end of 2014, but that their International Security Assistance Forces will stay behind. This must be at the will of the Afghan government and the United Nations Security Council. Rasmussen says he knows the Afghan government will invite NATO to conduct training operations after 2014.
As for critics of the rapid withdrawal, Rasmussen says that he believes drawing down the NATO presence in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 it is a realistic timetable.
The United States, coalition countries, and NATO have been conducting military operations in Afghanistan for eleven years.
As for other heated international relationships, Rasmussen says he strongly condemns the crackdowns on civilian population in Syria. He says that the Syrian government must accommodate the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.
As for the opposition forces in Syria, Rasmussen denies any NATO involvement and there are no intentions to be involved. He believes there must be a political resolution in Syria and that NATO is not involved militarily but they will be there to protect Turkey, a NATO ally, if need be.
When asked about the potential for conflicts to boil over between the western world and Iran, Rasmussen thinks Iran should stop their enrichment program and he hopes that sanctions and political pressures leads to a peaceful and political solution.
The Springfield Commission on International Visitors has played host to thousands of visitors thru the years and works to help break down what organizers say are barriers to common understanding.
This wasn't Rasmussen's first visit to the capital city. Springfield is the city where his son, daughter-in-law, and two grand children live. He says that he has jogged through many of Springfield beautiful communities and will always enjoy the view of Lake Springfield. He also holds Abraham Lincoln in high regard.
The sponsors of Springfield’s proposed new waste hauling ordinance admit there are a lot of details to work out… which is why it wouldn’t take effect until 2014.
Aldermen Cory Jobe and Doris Turner say their plan… which calls for trash pickup to be paid for through your City Water Light and Power bill… is a sensible way to make sure everyone is disposing of their garbage legally, without creating major changes for most customers.
But they acknowledge that waste haulers and some customers have questions about the plan… and say the extended effective date will leave plenty of time to iron out any problems.
State officials are running some tests on the newly-authorized video gambling terminals that are going up around the state.
Only a handful of locations have both the required state license and the equipment needed to allow customers to play, and so far they are only allowed to use them for limited periods of time as the state checks the system.
There’s still no firm date for when video gaming will be up and running for real at locations around the state, including Springfield.
Much of downtown Springfield will be blocked off later today, to make room for hundreds of classic cars coming into town for the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival.
Thousands of people, including a number of visitors from overseas, are expected into downtown for the event, which gets underway at 6:15 tonight with a car cruise from Capital City Shopping Center into downtown.
The jobless rate in Illinois has climbed again… the third monthly increase in a row. Unemployment is now at 9.1%... a full percentage point higher than the national rate.
The three consecutive upticks come on the heels of nine straight months of declines in joblessness. State officials hope the trend mirrors last year… when summertime saw joblessness increase, and then the numbers improved in the fall.
A little known domestic intelligence gathering operation known as Fusion Centers are under the magnifying glass of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
A Fusion Centers is a state or local law enforcement agency that works with private companies to gather and store information about people suspected of criminal activity and they share that information with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
There are two fusion centers in Illinois, one in Chicago and one in Springfield.
A poster and saying from the George Orwell novel "1984"
Adam Schwartz, senior staff counsel at the ACLU of Illinois, says we’re not quite in the fictitious novel “1984” yet, but we’re getting close.
In a report found on the ACLU of Illinois website, Schwartz provides examples of how people can be targeted by fusion centers for their political leanings. He says in recent years some of the nation’s military organization have spied on lawful anti-war protesters.
Another example Schwartz uses is a recent protest of Caterpillar where people gathered in opposition of where the manufacture was selling their products.
Schwartz says that the Illinois Fusion center provided threat assessments of the protesters.
Schwartz says in other parts of the country this has happened. One example in Missouri, a fusion center targeted supporters of Congressman Ron Paul.
The ACLU of Illinois says that by having the fusion centers and private companies working together to compile information on large groups of people, it can provide a chilling effect which could lead to people not willing to speak out.
Often times, the threat assessment is based not on criminality but on political leanings.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois says citizens have a right to know if they are a subject in a fusion center database.
The ACLU has filed Freedom of Information Act Requests with the two fusion centers to obtain their privacy policies and are suggesting more transparency for the domestic intelligence gathering operations in Illinois.
The City of Springfield would take over billing for waste hauling services, requiring all city residents to pay for them through their City Water Light and Power bill, under a draft ordinance that could be formally introduced next week.
Private waste haulers would still collect trash, as they do now, but putting the charge on the CWLP bill is intended to prevent people from refusing to pay for waste hauling and then illegally dumping their garbage.
The price of trash pickup would remain the same, but recycling fees would increase by a dollar-a-month, and the program would be expanded to apartment buildings.
Classes are expected to resume on schedule today at Illini Central High School in Mason City, after a lockdown yesterday following a report of a student with a gun.
Students were kept in classrooms for several hours as the building was searched by SWAT teams.
Authorities still have not said whether a weapon was found, but someone was taken into custody for questioning.
Some parents are angry that they were not getting official statements about what was happening inside the school, and were only getting information from text messages and Facebook posts by students inside the school.
Police and prosecutors say it’s an increasingly common problem, and one without any easy solutions.
They are concerned about the rising number of incidents involving law enforcement and mentally ill individuals.
At a meeting in Springfield Wednesday, Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milhiser and other top lawmen say as other services for mentally ill individuals are scaled back, it becomes more likely that they will become a problem for the criminal justice system.
Officials say more training and planning is needed to address the issue.
AFSCME workers are urging Governor Pat Quinn to hold off on laying off hundreds of workers in the Department of Children and Family Services, saying the job cuts will jeopardize the children served by the agency.
But Quinn says the layoffs, scheduled to take effect on October 1st, are really the union’s fault.
Quinn says AFSCME is to blame because it has gone to court to block Quinn’s attempt to close two prisons and several other corrections facilities.
Quinn says he planned to use that money to make up a shortfall in the DCFS budget and keep those 400 employees on the job.
All Springfield residents would have to pay for waste hauling services through their City Water Light and Power bill… under a draft ordinance now circulating among aldermen.
The draft obtained by 970 WMAY News calls for the city to collect the monthly trash pickup fee and then reimburse the city’s waste haulers. A separate recycling fee would also be assessed on the utility bill and would increase from 50 cents a month to a dollar-50.
The changes are intended to make sure that everyone pays for waste hauling… and to reduce incidents of people simply dumping their trash into someone else’s dumpster or onto streets and alleys.
The proposal is expected to be placed on file next week.
A Springfield man will spend the next few decades behind bars after his sentencing on charges that he engaged in sex acts with an 11-year-old girl who was in his care.
Prosecutors say 37-year-old John Throop was a friend of the girl’s family and sometimes watched her. They say that from the time the girl was 11 until she was 13, he periodically had sexual contact with her, and sometimes photographed the activity.
Throop was sentenced to 35 years on one felony count, and 10 years each on two other charges. Those sentences must be served consecutively, which will put him behind bars for more than 40 years.
Police and prosecutors are working together to find ways to better deal with potentially dangerous situations that arise when cops encounter mentally ill people.
A panel of experts… including Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milhiser and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart… say it’s an issue that was put on the back burner in favor of a focus on national security after 9-11. But they say the problem is on the rise and needs a focused, coordinated effort to deal with it.
A group of law enforcement officials met in Springfield Wednesday to discuss the subject and trade ideas.
Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has used his veto pen for the first time, knocking down an ordinance that would have given Sangamon County businesses the same preference in city contracts that businesses located within the city receive.
Currently, city businesses get five-percent leeway on their bids for city government contracts, meaning they can be awarded the contract if their offer is within five-percent of the lowest bid.
Houston vetoed the ordinance to apply that same preference to county businesses, saying that while they should receive some advantage, it should not be as much as city businesses get.
Springfield is moving ahead with converting some of its vehicles to propane, barely.
Mayor Mike Houston had to cast the tiebreaking vote to move ahead with the project, which city officials say will reduce fuel costs and be more environmentally friendly.
Aldermen split five-to-five on the project, with opponents raising questions about whether sufficient grant money would be available to cover the cost of converting two-dozen police and public works vehicles.
Mayor Mike Houston vetoed an ordinance approved by aldermen two weeks ago that would give businesses outside the city limits, but within the county’s boundaries, the same advantage when bidding on contracts that businesses within the Springfield corporate limits receive.
The measure, which passed a split city council, would have allowed the county businesses to be considered the low bidder if they are up to 5 percent over what an out of area business bid.
Houston says that he would support an ordinance giving county businesses a 2 percent advantage, but he did not approve of the level playing field the original ordinance provided to county businesses.
Springfield aldermen approved a measure to spend $240,000 on bi-fuel conversion kits for 24 different city vehicles.
The plan will convert the city owned vehicles, giving them the ability to burn both propane and gasoline.
Propane is cheaper per gallon, burns cleaner and doesn’t diminish vehicle performance, however miles per gallon is taken down 5 to 10 percent, according to Budget Director BIll McCarty.
Several aldermen, including Frank Edwards, Doris Turner, Gail Simpson and Cory Jobe opposed the idea, not because it’s not a good idea, but because they says the proposal should be put together more uniformly.
Edwards says he wants to see the grant application submitted, request for proposals and more documentation on the conversion kits and installation.
McCarty says that two different grants, one for the city and one for the installer to go towards the city as a rebate, will cover the cost of the conversion.
Mayor Mike Houston was the deciding yes vote passing the ordinance 6 to 5.
In an effort to save money at City Water Light and Power, the utility is working with several unions to find furlough days or face layoffs.
Chief Engineer Eric Hobbie said that no one has been laid off but eleven workers within the utility have received notices.
Hobbie says that a few more unions representing utility employees are working out with one going to arbitration.
Aldermen Kris Theilen and Tim Griffin said they are receiving a flood of phone calls with employees expressing uncertainty about their jobs.
Mayor Mike Houston says that rumors get started up and spread to departments that have nothing to do with the utility.
Meanwhile, Hobbie says that despite the long hot summer, the utility not only made money on retail sales for both the water and electric division but the electric side didn’t even come close to peak usage.
After a long debate last week during the committee of the whole, Springfield aldermen say they want to be kept in the loop of any land use changes for projects using Tax Increment Finance funds.
Aldermen and Mayor Mike Houston decided to allow the current agreement with Barker Real Estate to move forward on renovating the Motor Inn.
The original plan was to raze the building and turn the area into four different residential units, but after several circumstances arose, including encouragement from the Historic Preservation Society to renovate the current structure into retail space to keep with the historic nature of the building.
The new plan, as presented Tuesday by Barker Realty, would make several different storefronts on Monroe and 4th with parking space in the rear of the building.
Springfield’s school superintendent is sounding defiant in the face of what he considers a coordinated effort by some members of the school board to undermine him.
Superintendent Walter Milton says sharp criticism directed at him by three board members Monday night was “scripted,” and says he thinks those three have it in for him. But Milton… whose name has been mentioned in superintendent searches for several large districts around the country… indicates he’s not going anywhere voluntarily.
Milton says he will keep working for the children of this school district… but says if the board feels otherwise, they can have that conversation, too.
Senator Mark Kirk is calling for bipartisan support to correct Illinois' poor debt management.
In a YouTube video posted Tuesday morning, Kirk says that everyone in Illinois is at a disadvantave and that taxpayers within the state will have to pay $1.5 million extra for every $100 million borrowed.
As part of its new budget, the Springfield School Board has approved changes that will allow high school diploma and GED programs to continue at Lawrence Education Center.
Those programs were threatened by a loss of grant dollars, but the district says it can find the resources by merging staff and funds at Lawrence and the Springfield Learning Academy, which shares space in the same building.
The board also approved a proposal to install new scoreboards at Memorial Stadium and other athletic fields, to be paid for largely with advertising dollars.
And it signed off on a new athletic handbook, despite controversy over its inclusion of tutors, paid positions that are similar to some that were eliminated in budget cuts earlier this year.
The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office is participating this Saturday in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back initiative. The program is sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Unwanted medication can be disposed of in its original container or by removing the medicine from its container and disposing of it directly into the collection boxes. If disposing of the container as well, officials say to remove any identification from the prescription label.
The Take-Back will take place at the Sangamon County Public Health Building at 2833 South Grand Avenue East from 10am to 2pm on Saturday.
A new survey finds that a former lawmaker who was tossed out of office weeks ago has a big lead in the general election race that could return him to the General Assembly.
The survey... reported by Rich Miller's Capitol Fax blog... finds Democrat Derrick Smith with a lead of 48% to just 9% for third-party challenger Lance Tyson. Tyson was put up by leading Democrats to give voters an alternative to Smith, who is facing federal bribery charges. Those charges led the Illinois House to vote to expel him from his seat, but do not prevent him from running in the November election.
The pollsters think that voters in Smith's Chicago district are not focused on the race and are unaware of the scandal linked to Smith.
An Illinois appeals court has rejected Governor Pat Quinn's effort to overturn an earlier court ruling that prevents him from proceeding with the shutdown of two Illinois prisons.
Quinn wanted the justices to throw out a temporary restraining order that is preventing him from moving forward with closing the Tamms supermax prison and the Dwight women's facility, along with transitional and youth centers around the state. AFSCME is trying to block the closures, saying they will increase overcrowding and add to dangers to inmates and staff.
A lower court had issued a 30-day restraining order on September 4th. The appeals court ruling means the restraining order will stay in place until early next month while talks continue.
A Cook County judge has rejected Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's request for an order that would end the Chicago teachers strike and force those teachers back into the classroom.
Emanuel had sought a temporary restraining order against what he calls an "illegal" strike. State law prohibits striking over non-economic issues such as teacher evaluation standards and recall rights for laid-off teachers. Those are among the issues involved in the strike, but the union and Chicago Public Schools are also at odds over economic issues like pay raises.
The judge declined the request for an immediate hearing but said he could hold one on Wednesday. However, he suggested the case would be moot by then if teachers vote to accept a pending contract offer.
The Chicago teachers strike continues, and the bad blood between the union and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel seems to be getting worse.
Emanuel is now going to court to force an end to what he calls an “illegal” strike.
He says the strike is endangering the health and safety of students, and says state law prohibits strikes over some of the key contested issues, like teacher evaluations and recall rights for laid-off teachers.
The union and school district reached a tentative deal over the weekend, but rank-and-file teachers want more time to review the terms.
A shocking twist to a fatal weekend accident in Lincoln, the motorist who was suspected of driving under the influence and causing that deadly wreck apparently took his own life just hours after being released from the hospital.
Police say 65-year-old Michael Foster of Lincoln turned left in front an oncoming motorcycle Friday night.
The bike collided with Foster’s truck, killing the motorcyclist and critically injuring his passenger, a 40-year-old woman from Palmyra.
Foster was taken to Memorial Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries but was released early Saturday morning.
However, by 8 a.m., police were called to Foster’s home by a friend, who said Foster was suicidal.
Officers tried for several hours to communicate with him, eventually entering the home and finding him dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Local members of Congress are commenting on the embassy attacks overseas that killed an American ambassador and several other State Department workers. Republican Congressman John Shimkus condemns the attacks… but says they also reflect, quote, “the lack of leadership and strength we now show in the Middle East, and the lack of cooperation from the governments of Egypt and Libya.” Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin also condemns the attacks, and says the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others demonstrate the dangers faced by those in the Foreign Service.
Months ago he was riding high, establishing two local retail stores and trying to take his Springfield-based business national.
Now Jeffrey Parsons is in bankruptcy, claiming liabilities of more than $100-million dollars against assets of fewer than $50 million.
Parsons’ court filing lists 17 business names that he has operated under, including Treasure Hunters Roadshow, J. Parsons, and Buy Sell Trade… all businesses that have closed their doors in recent weeks as Parsons has battled allegations of bounced checks and unpaid taxes.
An ordinance that would settle a racial discrimination case three white Springfield Police officers filed against the city is stalled in committee after aldermen failed to place it on the debate or consent agenda.
The case, as reported by 970 WMAY, would settle a discrimination case for three police officers claiming they were not treated the same as a black officer under similar circumstances.
Alderman Joe McMenamin requested an executive session to address some of his concerns.
That closed door session came at the end of a nearly 2 1/2 hour meeting.
With Alderman Tim Griffin absent from the meeting and Aldermen Frank Edwards and Kris Theilen both leaving the meeting before the executive session was over, that left only seven aldermanic votes to place the settlement on either the consent or debate agenda.
Six votes were needed to place the ordinance on either agenda, something aldermen failed to accomplish.
The ordinance now remains in committee.
The case has been around since 2004, according to Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen.
With Tax Increment Finance funds getting low, Springfield Aldermen are asking questions about a 120 year old building being rehabilitated with TIF money.
Aldermen want to know how changes in the land use plans for developments utilizing Tax Increment Finance Funds were made without their knowledge.
At issue is a development that originally was going to use TIF funds approved by the city to develop a downtown space into residential units but later, under pressure from the Historic Preservation Society, changed their plan for the property to be commercial.
Director of Economic Development Mike Farmer says that TIF funds are used for beautification and bettering the value of the property and it doesn’t matter what the ultimate use will be.
Farmer says he did talk with Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen and the Mayor about the change and it was approved.
They also want more transparency about amendments to plans for developments using TIF funds.
The development is the old Motor Inn at 4th and 3rd on Monroe Street being rehabilitated by Barker Real Estate Company.
The City of Springfield could soon be testing propane conversion kits for a couple dozen vehicles.
Aldermen asked Budget Director Bill McCarty a series of questions about the cost of the conversions, the grants from the state and federal governments that will ultimately pay for the conversions, and even the possibilities of other alternate fuels like compressed natural gas and electric vehicles.
McCarty said that propane burns cleaner, runs through the engine with less wear and tear, is cheaper than gasoline, doesn’t diminish performance and will lead to a savings of upwards to $70,000.
He also says that after the grants are in place and conversions complete, the city will not be out of any money.
The ordinance was placed on the debate agenda for possible passage next week.
Several Springfield Aldermen raised concerns about the fluoridation of public drinking water when an ordinance to buy more fluorocicilic acid came before the city council.
Alderman Kris Theilen said that the public discussion opposing the use of fluoride in public drinking water is getting louder and there is even an Harvard Health study pointing to other studies outlining negative health effects of fluoride in water.
Water Director Tom Skelly says that certain levels of fluoride in drinking water is a state mandate from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Alderman Sam Cahnman says that the city should pass a resolution supporting a municipality’s choice of whether or not they want to put fluoride in their drinking water.
The ordinance for fluoride, along with an ordinance to get more chlorine for drinking water were both placed on the consent agenda.
The founder of the now-defunct Treasure Hunters Roadshow has filed bankruptcy, with court documents indicating he has liabilities of over $100 million dollars. Jeff Parsons filed late Monday under Chapter 7, indicating an intention to liquidate his business holdings, rather than attempt to reorganize.
Parsons filed bankruptcy after being pushed by the judge in his divorce case, in order to obtain a full accounting of Parsons’s holdings. The filing lists 17 business names that Parsons is using or has used, and notes assets of 10- to 50-million dollars and liabilities of 100-million to 500-million.
A number of Parsons companies have closed down in recent weeks amid allegations of bounced checks, fraudulent business practices, and unpaid taxes.
A community development in Springfield meant to bring about a positive, family friendly environment for foster, low income and homeless children, has been marred after someone ripped a turtle ride off its spring in a new playground area and stole two picnic tables.
The vandalism and theft comes just a few days after Ward 6 Alderman Cory Jobe announed the demolition of two buildings around 7th and South Grand to make way for the playground and community garden for Family Service Center.
Jobe says the crime overshadows the quickly moving positive changes to the area in the past six weeks.
Alderman Cory Jobe addressing the press about the vandalism and theft
Springfield Police are reviewing video footage and canvassing the neighborhood for any evidence that could lead to anyone responsible in theft and criminal damage.
Springfield Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher says investigators are already doing the legwork but the public’s help is crucial.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is donating an additional $2,000 to cover the cost of the damage and stolen property.
Jobe, alongside the Family Service Center, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and Springfield Police are asking anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers at 788-8427.
Springfield is gearing up for the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival set for next weekend.
The three days of festivities will include a cruise, live music and a classic car and truck show featuring 1,000 vehicles competing in over 40 different categories.
Organizers expect 80,000 visitors to the festival from all around the country and around the world.
The festival teamed with Land of Lincoln Honor Flight as the official charity for this year's event.
Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says that the event highlights Springfield as a crucial piece of history for the historic route and he's seen the significance of Route 66 in places as far away as Hong Kong.
He also couldn't quantify the amount of tax dollars the festival will bring to the capital city but says that this event and other attractions help add to the more than $80 million tourism industry for the capital city.
The International Route 66 Mother Road Festival takes place September 21st through the 23rd. For more information, visit Route66Fest.com
Springfield Mayor Mike Houston’s administration is proceeding with plans to convert part of the city’s vehicle fleet to run on propane.
As 970 WMAY News reported last month, city budget director Bill McCarty says grants will defray the cost of the conversion, and propane will cost thousands of dollars less per month than regular unleaded gasoline.
An ordinance before aldermen this week calls for starting the effort on about two dozen vehicles, but McCarty hopes to eventually expand it to more than 200.
First, Gov. Pat Quinn rejected reporters' requests to tour Illinois prisons as he plans a major shakeup in the state's corrections system.
Now his administration is refusing to reveal precisely who has been allowed to see inside state penitentiaries during his three years in office.
In response to a Freedom of Information request by The Associated Press, Quinn's administration says it is too burdensome to reveal who has been allowed to enter.
Despite the governor's declaration that allowing reporters inside is a "security risk," prison officials say only individual wardens have information about tours by outside groups, and claim that top Department of Corrections brass don't keep track of who's coming and going.
It’s still not clear when Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. will return to work on Capitol Hill.
Jackson was discharged from the Mayo Clinic last week and returned to his Washington, D.C. home to continue his recovery after treatment for bipolar disorder and gastrointestinal issues related to bariatric surgery eight years ago.
A spokesman said late last week that he thought Jackson might be back in his congressional office today.
But Jackson’s father, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and other family members say there is no set timeline for his return to work.
Governor Pat Quinn says he will rely on what he calls “electronic democracy” to launch his grass-roots campaign on pension reform.
While not revealing many details, Quinn says he will use the Internet and social media to rally the public and urge them to press lawmakers to fix the state’s pension crisis.
Quinn has pledged to take his case for pension changes directly to the public, after lawmakers failed to approve a reform plan during a special legislative session last month. Quinn says the $85 billion unfunded pension liability is the biggest fiscal threat facing the state, and warns it will eat up funding that could otherwise go to schools and other essential services.
With Drew Peterson facing a possible 60-year sentence for murdering his third wife, legal experts are skeptical about whether Peterson will… or should… face trial for the disappearance of fourth wife Stacy Peterson.
A number of veteran prosecutors say putting Drew Peterson on trial again would be tricky… since Stacy’s whereabouts are unknown. And they say it would accomplish little, since Peterson is already likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Southern Illinois School of Medicine is looking for individuals to take part in a national multi-state study of the drug Gammagard. The drug is being evaluated for its safety and effectiveness in the treatment of Alzheimers disease. Limited studies say the drug may help stabilize the debilitating disease for up to three years.
Individuals who have been diagnosed with mile to moderate Alzheimers disease who would like to participate in the trail may contact Barbara Lokaitis at 545-9737 weekdays.
An ordinance that could change trash pickup across Springfield could be introduced within the next couple of weeks, but by the time you find out what’s in it, a deal could already be cut to pass it.
Mayor Mike Houston says he won’t disclose the details on the trash ordinance until the votes are lined up to pass it.
Some ideas that have been floated include requiring city residents to pay for waste hauling through their CWLP bills, and dividing the city into zones, which each zone having a designated day of the week for pickup, or perhaps even a designated waste hauler.
Listen to Jim Leach and Mayor Mike Houston's conversation from Thursday's show below or at this link.
Plans are rolling along to establish a rural transportation system to help people in areas not currently served by the Springfield Mass Transit District.
Sangamon County is setting up the on-demand service, which will allow people to call a day or more in advance to schedule a ride that will pick them up at one spot and take them to a location of their choosing within the county.
The service, which is aimed primarily at seniors, will be operated by Senior Service of Central Illinois, using state and federal grants but no county tax dollars.
The county board approved procedures for the service Thursday and hopes to have it operational by the end of the year.
It’s flu shot time again. The Sangamon County Health Department is recommending that everyone six months of age and older get their yearly flu vaccination as soon as they’re available.
Seasonal flu immunizations are free to all Medicare B and Medicaid recipients. Sangamon County residents who do not meet that criteria may also reserve their shot for a $27.00 fee. This year, those 65 and older will have a choice between two vaccines – a regular one and one with a higher dosage.
The Sangamon County Health Department on South Grand has walk-in clinics during their regular hours beginning September 10th.
Former suburban Chicago Police officer Drew Peterson has been found guilty of murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio in 2004. Savio’s body was found in her dry bathtub with bruises and a blow to her head. Authorities had ruled the death as an accident, but later re-classified the death when Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, vanished in 2007. The 58-year-old Peterson faces a maximum 60 year prison term.
An ordinance to revamp trash pickup in Springfield could go before the City Council later this month… but Mayor Mike Houston says he wants to make sure the votes are lined up for passage before he reveals the details.
Houston and aldermen have been talking for months about ways to reduce fly dumping and ensure that all city residents are paying for trash pickup. Ideas have included making waste hauling part of the City Water Light and Power bill… and dividing the city into zones with trash pickup restricted to certain days of the week in a particular zone.
Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Houston did not rule out any of those ideas, but says the final ordinance will depend entirely on what can attract enough votes for passage.
He doesn’t like the ordinance… but Springfield Mayor Mike Houston won’t say whether he will veto a measure approved by the city council this week that would put Sangamon County businesses on a level playing field with those in the city.
Currently, businesses within the city limits get a five-percent advantage when it comes to bidding on city contracts. But aldermen this week approved an ordinance to extend that same preference to businesses in the county.
Houston says he doesn’t mind county businesses getting some kind of a break, but says it shouldn’t be as much as those located in the city. But the mayor says he’s still reviewing the measure, and plans to announce sometime in the next two weeks if he will veto it, sign it, or simply do nothing… in which case it would take effect anyway.
Even while faced with the prospect of slashing millions from its budget in the next several years, the Springfield School Board is struggling with questions over a few thousand here and a few thousand there.
Board members want some detailed recommendations on where to squeeze $57,000 out of other parts of the budget.
They hope to apply that money to preserve high school diploma and GED programs at the Lawrence Education Center.
Those programs are slated to be scaled back because the district lost some grant money that was paying for them.
It looks like Sangamon County businesses will get the same advantage that companies in the City of Springfield enjoy when it comes to bidding on city contracts.
Without debate, aldermen approved a measure Tuesday night that would apply a five-percent advantage to county businesses, meaning they could win a contract as long as their bid was within five-percent of a low bid from a business outside the county.
That puts those county businesses on the same playing field as city companies, which already enjoyed the five-percent advantage.
The Springfield School Board says it will keep looking for savings in other areas, in order to fund high school diploma and GED programs at the Lawrence Education Center. Those programs are facing cutbacks after the district saw a $57,000 reduction in grant funding for those programs.
Several Lawrence students and graduates urged the board to keep the programs intact, saying that Lawrence represents the only way that some students will be able to graduate and have a chance at a brighter future. The board is trying to finalize its budget before the end of the month.
A white powder that prompted the evacuation of two buildings at Camp Lincoln Tuesday afternoon turns out to be harmless, but federal officials have started a criminal investigation to determine who sent it to the base in envelopes that also contained threatening letters.
At least three letters were sent to Camp Lincoln, apparently from the same individual. When the first one was opened, the powder spilled out, leading to a lockdown of the base that kept more than 200 workers from leaving for several hours.
Crews from the Springfield Fire Department and the National Guard responded to the situation.
Three suspicious packages at Camp Lincoln Tuesday afternoon turned out to be harmless, according to a press release issued by the Illinois National Guard.
The "all clear" was given to 240 soldiers at the base in Springfield three hours after several buildings were locked down.
Local authorities responded including the Sangamon County Sheriff's office and the Springfield Fire Department. The Illinois Air National Guard's 183rd Fighter Wing Bio-Environmental Engineering team and the Illinois Army National Guard's 5th Civil Support Team also responded.
The scare came after one soldier opened one of three packages and alerted authorities. The other two packages were not opened.
Maj. Gen. Dennis L. Celletti of Springfield, the acting Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, says "Although this turned out to be a false alarm, the Soldiers, Airmen and civilian employees here on Camp Lincoln responded exactly as they were trained."
An ongoing criminal investigation will be led by the FBI with assistance from the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office and other local law enforcement agencies, according to the release.
After hearing from a myriad of health professionals, Springfield Aldermen voted to pass Alderman Sam Cahnman's proposal to ban anyone under the age of 18 from using tanning beds, 7-3.
Former Springfield Alderman Irv Smith addressed the council in support of the measure along with several plastic surgeons and a mom who gave permission to her teenage daughter for a couple of session later to find out her daughter tanned many more session behind her back.
The ordinance had stalled in committee for weeks but got more support after the Sangamon County Medical Society came out in favor of the measure. Monday, Fit Club said that even without the ordinance they would ban tanning for minors at all three of their facilities.
Alderman Doris Turner said she was sure to push for the ordinance to include language that would help educate district 186 students about the dangers of tanning.
Alderman Cory Jobe said he wants the council to pass a resolution urging the state to pass a state wide ban on minors using tanning beds.
Aldermen Frank Edwards, Kris Theilen and Tim Griffin voted no for the ordinance.
The Illinois National Guard locked down two buildings on Camp Lincoln grounds after an envelope containing a suspicious substance was opened. Three envelopes believed to be from the same, unknown source were delivered to Camp Lincoln.
All three envelopes were turned over to the Springfield Fire Department and Sangamon County Sheriff’s office for their investigation. Personnel with the Illinois Air National Guard’s 183rd Fighter wing Bio-Environmental Engineering Team and 5th Civil Support Team also responded to augment the investigation.
With an aging fleet of vehicles and public dollars drying up, SPARC is welcoming the gift of two quality pre-owned vans from Giuffre Volvo, courtesy of the Lincoln Land Down Syndrome Society.
The vans will be used at the group homes to transfer residents to jobs and other activities.
Lincoln Land Down Syndrome Society raised $16,000 with their charity golf outing earlier this year and Scott Sables with Giuffre shopped for the best vehicles.
SPARC says they serve around 500 people and have already 30 vehicles, but the new vans will be used for their residential services transporting up to 80 people from 13 different group homes to their jobs and community events.
A judge in Southern Illinois has issued a temporary restraining order that blocks the Quinn administration from any moves to close prisons, youth centers or transition centers around the state.
That ruling comes in the ongoing case filed by AFSCME, which claims that Governor Pat Quinn’s facilities closure plans violate the union contract and endanger the safety of workers. The restraining order enforces an arbitrator’s ruling last week that the closures should not proceed until the changes are collectively bargained with the union.
The order halts, for the time being, closure plans for facilities in Decatur, Dwight, and five other cities… including the Tamms supermax prison.
Some Springfield tanning parlors may find some of their best clients off limits soon… if Alderman Sam Cahnman’s predictions are correct. Cahnman says he now has the votes to pass an ordinance that will prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from using a tanning salon, regardless of whether they have a parent’s permission.
The ordinance has been stalled in committee for weeks, but has gotten a boost recently from an endorsement by the Sangamon County Medical Society and a move by FitClub to voluntarily implement the restriction at its three locations. Cahnman plans to bring the ordinance back up for a vote at tonight’s City Council meeting.
Springfield’s Labor Day parade drew a large crowd, of participants.
But turnout by spectators was light, as is often the case with the annual event.
AFSCME’s float was a truck with messages meant for Governor Pat Quinn and lawmakers who are tasked with reforming state employee pensions. One sign worn by AFSME members had a target on the back with pensions and benefits written on the outer rings and jobs written on the bullseye.
Union representatives say organized labor is fighting back against a concerted effort to dilute workers’ rights and benefits, and say they will keep working to send a message that what’s good for unions is ultimately good for all workers.
Any deal on reforming the state’s pension systems may not happen until the legislative lame duck session in January.
That’s according to House Speaker Mike Madigan, who told reporters at the Democratic National Convention Monday that the best opportunity to pass the controversial legislation may be after January 1st, when it will only take a simple majority to pass the bill, but before the new legislature is seated.
Madigan also held open the possibility that Democrats could pass something then without Republican votes.
That could mean a bill that includes shifting the state’s share of teacher pensions back to local districts, something the GOP opposes.
Fake Sun: Real Cancer--A promotional poster supporting Springfield's proposed tanning ban
At least one Springfield business isn’t waiting for a city ordinance to ban use of tanning salons by minors.
FitClub announced Monday that it will no longer allow anyone under the age of 18 to use tanning beds at its three Springfield locations.
Alderman Sam Cahnman, who, alongside Alderman Steve Dove, is sponsoring an ordinance to make that ban mandatory citywide, says he believes he now has the votes to pass it, and plans to bring the ordinance out of committee for a vote at tonight’s city council meeting.
Cahnman says that even if Springfield does pass the tanning ban for minors, other tanning parlors outside the Springfield city limits could still allow minors to tan.
State law says that minors must have their parents permission to use tanning beds at tanning parlors.
Springfield aldermen will soon decide whether to settle a case of reverse discrimination worth $150,000.
The ordinance on first reading for Tuesday’s city council meeting would settle the case where police officers claim they were discriminated against because of their race.
The three officers worked for the police department for a stint, voluntarily left, and then came back for a much longer period of time.
Mayor Mike Houston says that the case is one where the complainants, three white police officers, claim they were treated unfairly when they compared their benefits and pay to another minority officer who was in a similar situation.
Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen says the case goes back to 2004 and that 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.
Two of the three officers are retired from the police department. The third is still employed with Springfield PD.