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October 21, 2014, 10:13 am
970 WMAY News Archives for 2012-10

Dist 186 Superintendent Unveils Proposal For 2013-14 School Budget

Springfield School Superintendent Walter Milton is laying out a proposal to slash 8 million dollars from next year’s school budget - a plan that includes a reduction of nearly 100 teaching positions.


Milton says not all of those positions are classroom teachers, some are team leaders who provide instruction and support to teachers in the classroom. But in other cases, Milton acknowledges the cuts will affect course offerings and classroom sizes. But he says the district and its staff are determined not to let the reductions affect the quality of education. The proposal is preliminary and must get approval from the school board – a process that could take months.


The reductions would not take effect until the 2013-14 school year.

State's Attorney Challenger Accuses Milheiser Of Breaking Pledge

In the homestretch of the campaign, the challenger for Sangamon County State’s Attorney is accusing incumbent John Milhiser of breaking his pledge to bring criminals to justice.


Democrat Ron Stradt is pointing to several cases where he says Milhiser failed to bring charges, even though there was probable cause to do so. One case involves three men suspected in a street shooting who were arrested and held for five days before Milhiser dropped the charges.


Another case involves a lawyer who was the victim of an extortion plot. Stradt says authorities wanted a search warrant to learn whether the lawyer had in fact had sex with a minor and then paid money to conceal it, but Milhiser refused to authorize the warrant.


Milhiser says both cases were thoroughly reviewed to see if there was enough evidence to pursue them further, but there wasn’t.

Dist 186 Superintendent Ready To Unveil Budget For Next Year

Springfield School Superintendent Walter Milton will unveil his proposed budget cuts for the next school year later today. Milton has been under pressure from school board members to provide more information earlier, so that they have more time to evaluate the recommendations and prepare the budget well ahead of the start of the new fiscal year next summer.


Milton has indicated that he may have to cut more than six-million dollars from the budget to stay within the district’s fund balance guidelines.

Unidentifiable Body Found in Burning Building

Investigators have yet to determine the age and sex of a body found inside a burning building in the Tall Grass Subdivision off of East Lake Drive.


Springfield Fire Chief Ken Fustin says that the fire was reported just before 6:30 Wednesday morning.


One firefighter suffered minor injuries battling the blaze.


Fire investigators are currently on the scene. The Sangamon County Coroners Office will conduct an autopsy of the body.

Critics of JDC Closure Say Other Facilities Not Equipped

It appears to be the end of the line for the Jacksonville Developmental Center. A state panel has overruled the recommendations of its professional staff and has given Governor Pat Quinn the green light to close the facility.


Quinn wants to move JDC’s remaining developmentally-disabled residents to smaller, community-based residential programs.


Many objectors attended Tuesday’s hearing in Bolingbrook, arguing that residential group homes are not equipped to handle the profound disabilities of many of the JDC residents.


Jacksonville officials are also concerned about the economic impact of closing the facility and eliminating its 200 jobs.

Murder Of Man Found Near Mechaniscburg Described As Brutal Crime

Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson calls it one of the more brutal crimes that he’s seen.


But he won’t say much more about what happened to the unidentified black male who was found dead along a rural Mechanicsburg road Monday night.


An autopsy is being performed today in Bloomington that may reveal more about the cause and manner of death or the identity of the victim.


A neighbor found the victim along Griffiths Creek Road Monday night, but Williamson says it appears the victim was killed someplace else and the body was dumped there.

Local Utility Crews Help in Aftermath of Sandy

Help from Illinois is on the way to the East Coast, in the form of utility crews from City Water Light and Power and Ameren Illinois.


A dozen linemen and a supervisor from CWLP have taken some heavy equipment to assist with power restoration in Ohio, and from there will move on to New Jersey.


Meanwhile, dozens of Ameren workers are already in Jersey, one of the hardest-hit areas by Hurricane Sandy.

Be Cautious of Trick-or-Treaters in Springfield and Surrounding Areas

Police in Springfield and surrounding communities are reminding drivers to be cautious tonight, as trick-or-treaters will be out and about in the late afternoon and early evening.


Official trick-or-treat hours in Springfield are 4:30 to 7:30pm, and hours vary in the towns around Springfield.

Developer Says TIF Offer Not Enough

Springfield Aldermen are looking at ways to help the PNC Bank development in downtown Springfield get the money they need to restore the building.


Developers of the building say the project could cost $2.7 to $3.5 million and the $312,000 the city offered in Tax Increment Finance funds will not help complete the project.


Economic Development Director Mike Farmer said that the Central Area TIF district is getting low on funds and it's to the point now where developers may have to wait until 2016 to get the promised money while the district accumulates more funds.

International Election Observers Visit Springfield

Lincoln and Route 66 aren't the only things that attract people to the capital city from all around the world. Our elections are another big draw.


Several weeks ago, the Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe visited the Sangamon County Board of Elections with two members of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.


Sangamon County Complex
Sangamon County Complex

Stacy Kern, the Director of Elections for Sangamon County, says the two observers visited two different days. The first day they asked to see the voter registration process and asked about deputy registrars. The second day they toured the office and watched a sample ballot demonstration.


Kern says it was odd they didn't call ahead.  "I was a little bit surprised that they didn't call ahead or make and appointment and just walked in and said 'can we talk to you about elections.' It's just not a typical thing that you have happen everyday."


OSCE Spokesperson Thomas Rymer, speaking from Warsaw, Poland, tells WMAY News that the Organization's election observation stems from an agreement the United States made in the OSCE Copenhagen document of 1991. Participating states committed themselves to invite OSCE observers to observe each others' elections.  "US Observers have had a major role in going to the other 55 participating states.  They have committed to each other that they will assist each other to improve procedures and processes." 


OSCE/ODIHR Logo. Read more about the group's US mission here.

Rymer says OSCE has conducted six election observation mission in the United States since 2002. OSCE will hold a press conference the day after the election in Washington DC where they will address issues like new voting technology, alternative voting methods, candidate and voter registration, and campaign finance, among others things.


These mission included interviews with state, federal, and local election officials, candidates, members of civic society and the media. Rymer says it's a way to see how the organization can help improve the way elections are run.  "We try to gain a comprehensive understanding on how the elections are run and how they relate to international OSCE commitments and international standards for democratic elections."


Rymer says the observations are part of an international obligation the United States is a founding member of the 56 member OSCE that houses the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Not all states in the US are hip to the idea of international observers. The Attorney General for Texas has threatened to arrest the observers if they try to interfere with the elections. Rymer says that goes against the obligation the United States has with it's OSCE member states, but they will abide by the law.


"This is a high profile case where the Texas law is out of line with the United States international commitments.  It's an issue for the Untied States to deal with internally."


The Sangamon County Board of Elections says that regardless where they're from, if someone wants to be a poll-watcher the day of the election, they would have to get permission from the County Board of Elections, a candidate, political party or civic organization.

Foul Play Suspected In Death Of Man Found Near Mechanicsburg

Foul play is suspected in the death of a man whose body was found alongside a rural road near Mechanicsburg late Monday. 


Sheriff Neil Williamson confirms that authorities believe the man’s death was the result of foul play, but declined to comment on how the man may have died.  An autopsy will be conducted today. 


The name of the victim has not been released.

CWLP Crews Help With Power Restoration in Aftermath of Sandy


More than a dozen City Water Light and Power workers are heading east to assist with efforts to restore power in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. 


CWLP says 12 linemen and a supervisor will help restore power in and around Cleveland, Ohio, in an area served by First Energy Corporation.  When that work is complete, the local crew will move on to New Jersey and help with the company’s efforts in that hard-hit state. 


First Energy will pay for material, labor and other costs incurred by the CWLP crew. 


The CWLP team took four line trucks and two derrick digger trucks that will be used in the power restoration effort.  The assistance is provided under a mutual aid agreement through the Illinois Municipal Utility Association.

No Visible Signs of Injury on Body Found in Park Sunday

It may take several weeks to learn what caused the death of a man whose body was found in a car at Southwind Park Sunday.


The Sangamon County Coroner’s office says there were no visible signs of injury on the body of 43-year-old Daniel Buehrle.


An autopsy was conducted Monday, and authorities are now waiting for test results that may help determine how Buehrle died.

Quinn and Unions Battle Over Planned Prison Closures

The Quinn administration and AFSCME are now battling in two different courtrooms over plans to close two Illinois prisons and other correctional facilities.


This comes after an arbitrator ruled that Governor Pat Quinn should be allowed to proceed with the closure, despite union concerns that it will put prison guards in danger.


AFSCME has asked a Southern Illinois judge to reject the arbitrator’s finding and keep in place an injunction that is currently preventing Quinn from proceeding.


But lawyers for the governor have to court in Cook County, to ask a judge there to throw out the injunction and allow the closures to go forward.

State Board Meets Today To Decide Fate of JDC

The state Health Facilities and Services Review Board meets today to consider whether to grant a permit for the Quinn administration to proceed with moving residents out of the Jacksonville Developmental Center and shutting the facility down.


Opponents of the move say residents were still being moved out over the weekend… including some being transferred to other large state facilities, instead of the smaller group-home settings that Quinn says are a better alternative than institutions like JDC.


The board today will decide whether to accept the recommendations of its professional staff, which says JDC should not be closed because there are not enough adequate facilities to care for its entire population.

McMenamin Wants Year-to-Year Union Contracts

One alderman is not satisfied with three union contracts up for consideration by the Springfield City Council Committee of the Whole.


The three contracts for mechanical and aerospace workers, Laborers International Union and the International Union of Operating Engineers all include three year contracts; something Ward 7’s Joe McMenamin says should be limited to a year-to-year contract.


The contracts also include pay raises.


The Laborers International Union contract has a 2.3% increase in year one and a 3% increase in year two.


The mechanical and aerospace workers contract has an initial 3% increase in year one, while the Operating Engineers contract has yearly raises linked with CPI.


McMenamin says he would support a wage freeze for union contracts to make up for generous raises handed out before the recession of 2008.

Davis Leads Gill in New Poll Numbers For Key House Races

There are new poll numbers in some of the state’s key congressional races, with Election Day just a week away.


The polling firm We Ask America says Republican Rodney Davis has a five-point lead over Democrat David Gill in the 13th Congressional District.


That survey of 1,360 likely voters in the 13th has a margin of error of 2.7%.


In the 12th District, Democrat Bill Enyart leads Republican Jason Plummer by five-points.


And in the nationally-watched 8th District in Northern Illinois, Democrat Tammy Duckworth now leads Tea Party Republican Joe Walsh by nine points.

Guilty Verdict Handed Down in Illinois' First Televised Trial

A 20-year-old man has been convicted of murder in the first trial in Illinois to feature live, gavel-to-gavel television coverage.


Demetrious Jones was found guilty yesterday in the shooting death of 27-year-old Marcus Sanders.


The Kankakee County trial is part of an Illinois Supreme Court experiment to lift camera bans in select courts.

Update: Quinn Asks Court To Lift Injunction Preventing Prison Closures; AFSCME Seeks To Keep It In Place

Both Governor Pat Quinn and AFSCME are asking a judge to rule in their favor, after an arbitrator’s decision in the dispute over prison closings. 


The arbitrator ruled in favor of Quinn, who is seeking to close the Tamms and Dwight correctional centers. AFSCME had sued to block the shutdowns, saying they would increase overcrowding, and dangers, in other Illinois prisons. 


The arbitrator says that although it would be wiser to keep all facilities open, the closures would NOT pose a clear and present danger to workers and do not violate the union contract. 


In light of that ruling, Quinn has asked a judge to lift the injunction that was put in place earlier this fall, preventing him from going forward with the closures.  But AFSCME is asking that the arbitrator’s decision be thrown out and the injunction kept in place. 


There’s no word yet on when the courts may rule on either side’s request.

Arbitrator Rules In Favor Of Quinn Prison Closure Plan

An arbitrator has ruled that Governor Pat Quinn should be allowed to proceed with plans to close the Tamms and Dwight Correctional Centers. 


The decision is not yet binding… a judge earlier issued an injunction blocking the closures, but that injunction was issued pending the arbitrator’s findings.  The state is now expected to ask the judge to lift the injunction so the closures can proceed. 


AFSCME had sued to block the shutdowns, saying they would increase overcrowding, and dangers, in other Illinois prisons.  The arbitrator says that although it would be wiser to keep all facilities open, the closures would not pose a clear and present danger to workers and do not violate the union contract.  AFSCME says it will ask the arbitrator to reconsider.

Gov. Quinn: Grassroots Pension Reform Won't Come Until After Elections

Gov. Pat Quinn says details of a so-called grassroots campaign to rally support for an overhaul of Illinois' pension system won't come until after next month's election.


Quinn has been promising since the summer to take his case for pension reform directly to the people, but has so far not offered any specifics on the idea.


Lawmakers have failed to come up with a plan to deal with the roughly $85 billion pension funding gap, which is the worst of any state in the country.


Legislators couldn't agree on an approach during an August special session and they won't meet again until after the Nov. election.

Media Tours of Prisons Won't Allow Photos or Videos

No Camera or Video Equipment is Prohibited

After months of blocking media access, the Quinn administration now says it will allow reporters to tour Illinois prisons for a first-hand look at conditions inside.


But it may still be difficult for the public to get a complete picture.


The state Department of Corrections says it will not allow video or audio recording or photographs during those reporter visits.


A number of media organizations have been requesting the opportunity to observe the effects of overcrowding on the state’s prisons.

Some 50 JDC Residents To Be Moved Today, Before Hearing on Closure

A group that opposes the closure of the Jacksonville Developmental Center says as many as 50 residents are being moved out today, one day before a state board holds a hearing on whether that closure should proceed.


Most of those residents are being relocated to smaller, community-based homes, which was the goal of Governor Pat Quinn’s decision to close JDC.


But the opposition group says more than a dozen residents are being transferred to other large state facilities.


State officials say that’s because their families have not consented to moving them to a smaller group home setting.

Workers Transferred From JDC to Illinois School for Visually Impaired

The impact of the likely closure of the Jacksonville Developmental Center may be felt at other state facilities.


Under union bumping rights, workers who are being displaced from their jobs at JDC have the right to move into similar positions at nearby facilities.


The Jacksonville Journal-Courier reports that several have taken jobs at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired in Jacksonville.


But a former superintendent at the school says those workers don’t have the special skills and training needed to work with blind students.


A state spokesman says the workers are qualified for their new positions.

Death Investigation Continues After Body Found at Southwind Park Sunday

Springfield police are investigating the death of a 43-year-old man whose body was found in a car at Southwind Park Sunday... just hours before a large public Halloween event there.


Authorities have not disclosed information about how the man died, or whether they believe the death was homicide, suicide or natural.

Twitter Messages and Re-tweets Lead to Student Suspensions

At least ten high school students in Granite City have been suspended for comments they made… or merely repeated… on Twitter.


One of the comments was from a girl who said she’d like to blow up Granite City High School so she could have time off from school.


Granite City Superintendent Harry Briggs says all threats are treated very seriously.


In another case, a student was suspended for describing a female teacher as a “MILF.”


Suspensions were handed down to the students who posted the comments... along with several who “re-tweeted” the objectionable posts.

Prison Media Tours Won't Allow Recorders, Photography

Even though Governor Pat Quinn has had a change of heart and will allow reporters to tour Illinois prisons, it may still be difficult to get a complete picture of what’s happening behind prison walls. 


The State Department of Corrections says no electronic recording or photographs will be allowed during those media tours. 


Media outlets have been trying for months to gain access to state prisons in order to show what, if any, impact overcrowding is having on living conditions.

Advocacy Group Warns Dozens Of JDC Residents To Be Moved Monday

A group opposing the shutdown of the Jacksonville Developmental Center warns that the state plans to move 50 residents out of JDC Monday… one day ahead of a state hearing into whether the facility should be closed. 


Governor Pat Quinn wants to close JDC and move its residents to small, community-based facilities.  But the opponents’ group says 14 of the residents being moved Monday are being transferred to other big state facilities, not to group homes.


Meanwhile, a state senator wants an investigation into whether some patient records are being altered at the Jacksonville Developmental Center.  Senator Sam McCann tells WLDS Radio in Jacksonville that he’s been told of such incidents, and wants the state’s inspector general to look into it. 

Conservative Group Targets Schmidt For Defeat In November Election

The Illinois Family Institute is targeting Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt over his ruling last year that allowed the state to sever a contract with Catholic Charities to provide foster care and adoption services.


The State Journal-Register reports the IFI is making robocalls urging people to vote against Schmidt in next month’s election, saying his ruling violates religious freedom. 


Schmidt says he was simply following the law with his ruling, which stemmed from Catholic Charities’ opposition to providing such services to couples in civil unions.

Granite City Students Suspended For Twitter Posts

Ten students have been suspended at Granite City High School for posting comments on Twitter… or for “retweeting” those comments. 


In one case, a student referred to a teacher at the school with a slang term indicating that the teacher is attractive.  In another case, a student referenced blowing up the school so she could have a day off from classes.


Both students… and several others who reposted the comments… were suspended for five days each.

Decatur Lifts Water Restrictions, But Limits Remain In Place In Springfield

Springfield’s water restrictions aren’t going away any time soon. Even though Decatur has now lifted its limits on car washing and lawn-watering, Springfield is keeping its rules in place. Despite recent rains, levels at Lake Springfield are still around three-and-a-half feet below full pool.


City Water Light and Power spokesperson Amber Sabin says there are no plans to either lift or tighten the city’s current water restrictions.

Senator Dick Durbin Goes After Energy Drinks

He’s gone after cigarettes and stimulants sold over the counter in convenience stores… now U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is setting his sights on energy drinks.


After media reports linking at least five deaths around the country to consumption of the drinks, Durbin is asking the Food and Drug Administration to investigate loopholes in the law that he says allow energy drink manufacturers to avoid oversight. Durbin also wants the agency to study the caffeine content in such drinks and the possible health risk they may pose to children.


The senator says it’s the third time he has made such a request of the FDA.

Car Strikes Ambulance

A mother and child are recovering from injuries they suffered when their car struck an ambulance at Sangamon and Dirksen Friday afternoon.


Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson says the ambulance was westbound on Sangamon with lights and sirens on, and had stopped for a red light before proceeding into the intersection. The mother and child were in a northbound vehicle that hit the ambulance, pushing it into a third car.


Williamson says the woman and her child were taken to the hospital, but their injuries are not life-threatening. And the patient being transported in the ambulance will also be OK, according to the sheriff.

New Scam Targets Elderly

Springfield police are putting out a warning about a scam that appears to be targeting elderly residents.


Police have been notified of two cases where victims have been called at home and told that someone stole money from their bank account. The victims were instructed to withdraw funds from the account as part of a ruse to catch the thief… they then took the money to a parking lot to meet someone who identified himself as bank official named “Mr. Marshall,” and took the money.


The women did not realize until later that they had been scammed. In the two cases, the con artist got away with a total of more than $6,000. Police are alerting residents to be aware of such scams and to avoid falling victim to them.

Unemployment Down in Springfield

Unemployment is down sharply in Springfield compared to this time last year.


Latest numbers from the state Department of Employment Security puts the September jobless rate at 7.3-percent… down from 7.9-percent a year ago.


Unemployment was lower in all of the state’s 12 major metropolitan areas, although it is still in double digits in four of those 12 cities.

Steep Drop in TRS Fund Returns

The Teachers Retirement System says it’s not panicking, despite a sharp decline in its rate of return on its investments.


The pension fund had a return of less than one-percent on its investments in the past fiscal year.


In the previous fiscal year, its return had been above 23-percent.


TRS officials say such investments cannot be evaluated one year at a time, but must be looked at over the long run, and notes that its 20-year average return on investment is well over 7-percent, close to its projections.

Town and Gown Fight Between MacMurray College Students and Jacksonville Reisdents

In college communities, conflicts between “town and gown” are nothing new.


But they don’t usually go this far.


Nine people have been arrested in Jacksonville after a huge fight broke out between MacMurray College students and a group of Jacksonville residents.


Authorities tell the State Journal-Register the dispute may have begun several weeks ago, when a group of “townies” were asked to leave a student’s off-campus party.


The argument escalated Tuesday night, when authorities say the community residents came to the campus and assaulted a group of students, triggering the fight.

Judge Candidates Acknowledge Subjectivity When Sentencing

The candidates for a Sangamon County judgeship both say there is no double standard for justice in local courtrooms... even as both acknowledge that there is some subjectivity to the decisions they make, particularly in sentencing.


Incumbent Judge John Schmidt was appointed to the bench two years ago, and is now running for a full term against Democrat Tim Londrigan.


Schmidt says in sentencing decisions, he looks at the life and achievements of a defendant, saying the things you do in life matter.


Londrigan agrees with Schmidt that judges do strive for fairness in their decisions, but believes there is a perception in the community that justice isn’t always dispensed equally.


Watch the 7th Judicial Circuit Judge Candidate Forum below. See other candidate forum videos, and podcasts at this link.


No Jaycees Haunted House This Year

It has long been a Halloween tradition in Springfield, but not this year.


The Jaycees are not putting on their annual haunted house.


The group has pointed to difficulties in finding volunteers and stiff competition from other haunted houses that have sprung up around the area.


It’s unclear if the Jaycees will attempt to revive the event next year.

Governor's Office Mulls Allowing Media In Prisons

Governor Pat Quinn’s administration may be reconsidering its refusal to let reporters have a first-hand look behind prison walls.


For months, Quinn has been refusing media requests to observe conditions in the state’s overcrowded correctional facilities. The governor’s office has said media visits could pose a security risk. But this week it was revealed that students from a community college in Normal were allowed to tour parts of the Pontiac Correctional Center.


Now a corrections spokesperson says the department is working on procedures that could allow such visits to take place. But she did not say for sure that media visits will be allowed… or under what conditions.

Drought Continues

Sangamon and surrounding counties remain in a drought, even in spite of recent rains.


New info from the U.S. Drought Monitor put Sangamon County in the least severe drought category, “moderate.” More than 60-percent of the state remains in the grips of one of the worst droughts in recent memory… with the worst conditions in North Central and Northwest Illinois.


The numbers are an improvement over three months ago… when the entire state was considered to be under drought conditions.

Judge Candidates Agree With Cameras In Courtrooms

The candidates for a full term as judge in the 7th Circuit both agree that cameras should be allowed in courtrooms in Sangamon and surrounding counties.


Republican incumbent John Schmidt… who was appointed to the bench two years ago… is competing with Democrat Tim Londrigan for election to a full term as judge. Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” both candidates said cameras in court would improve the public’s awareness and understanding of the judicial system… and would not compromise the cause of justice.


The candidates also talked about their experience, with each saying they have worked with and are knowledgeable about an extensive variety of civil and criminal cases.

Gill: Davis Hypocritical About Healthcare

All three candidates in the 13th Congressional District met in a televised debate Wednesday night in Springfield, but the fireworks were limited to two of them -- Democrat David Gill and Republican Rodney Davis.


Davis talked about his wife’s struggle with cancer more than a decade ago and how she had options to find specialists who helped cure her.


Davis says he wants to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a market-driven system that will give all consumers those choices.


But Gill called Davis hypocritical for taking advantage of opportunities through his government-funded health insurance plan then… while seeking to deny others the chance for a similar program today.


Read about the independet candidate for the 13th District here.

Auditor Candidates Spar Over Wording of Political Ad

Sangamon County Auditor Paul Palazzolo says his opponent should stop airing a radio ad which Palazzolo calls “false and misleading.”


But his Democratic challenger Chris Boyster says he won’t take down the ad. The script says Palazzolo has received $21,000 a year in pay increases.


But Palazzolo says his annual salary has gone up by a total of $21,000 over ten years, not $21,000 a year.


Boyster says the message is clear, that Palazzolo is taking more of taxpayers’ money. Boyster says he will take a pay cut if elected.


Listen to the forum with the media player below or download the podcast at this link.



Get more candidate forums, including videos and podcasts here:

 970 WMAY's Election Coverage

Visiting Congressman Says Voter ID Laws Similar to Poll Tax

A visiting Congressman from South Carolina says efforts around the country to require people to show photo IDs in order to vote are the 21st Century equivalent of a poll tax.


Poll taxes were common in the pre-civil rights era, and were often used to make it difficult or impossible for minorities to vote.


They were eventually found to be unconstitutional.


At a roundtable discussion in Springfield, Democratic Congressman James Clyburn says it is clear that such laws are attempts at voter suppression, and are not necessary to prevent voter fraud.

13th Congressional District Candidates Face Off On Health Care, Corporate Influence

All three candidates in the 13th Congressional District met in a televised debate Wednesday night in Springfield, but the fireworks were limited to two of them -- Democrat David Gill and Republican Rodney Davis.


Gill called Davis hypocritical for lauding the benefits of his government health care plan in allowing his wife to seek out specialists to cure her colon cancer more than a decade ago, while vowing to repeal Obamacare today. But Davis calls Obamacare a "boondoggle" that the country can't afford.


And Davis went on the attack against Gill, accusing him of breaking his pledge not to take corporate dollars for his campaign.  But Gill insists that support he received from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was restricted to grass roots donations, and says Davis is the one in the pocket of major corporations.

Independent Candidate Ignored By Opponents In 13th Congressional District Debate

The independent candidate running in the 13th Congressional District was a virtual afterthought for his major party opponents, as all three met in a broadcast debate in Springfield Wednesday night.


John Hartman is an Edwardsville businessman who describes himself as "not on the left, not on the right, and not in the center."  He got equal time to answer questions in the hourlong debate, but Republican Rodney Davis and Democrat David Gill turned their fire on each other, and did not respond to or challenge anything said by Hartman.


The independent candidate raised eyebrows at one point while discussing his support of same sex marriage.  Hartman said that when he hears the voice of someone who's gay, he knows that, quote, "you could no more take the gayness out of that fellow than you could take the tallness out of me." 

96th House District Candidates Vow To Oppose Voter Photo ID Laws

The candidates in the 96th Illinois House District all agree that they would oppose efforts to require a photo ID in order to vote. 


All three were invited to take part in a roundtable discussion in Springfield on possible threats to voters’ rights.  Only write-in candidate Andrew Dambrauskas (Dam-BROSH’-kuss) attended, and said he would oppose any attempt to make it more difficult to vote. 


But Democrat Sue Scherer and Republican Dennis Shackelford both sent written messages to the meeting… and both said photo ID laws are not necessary and could inhibit the ability of some voters to cast a ballot.  All three candidates say they would fight any attempt by the General Assembly to impose such a requirement.

Political Ad Becomes Issue in County Auditor Race

Sangamon County Auditor Paul Palazzolo is calling on his opponent to pull a radio ad over wording that Palazzolo says is misleading.


That ad for Democrat Chris Boyster says Palazzolo has gotten $21,000 a year in pay increases.


Palazzolo says that while his salary is $21,000 higher now than it was when he took office a decade ago, it has grown gradually.


Palazzolo says the $21,000 a year wording is false and the ad should be pulled.


Boyster is refusing to take the ad off the air, saying that Palazzolo's salary has grown... even while some of the functions of the auditor's office have been transferred to other departments.


Listen to the candidate forum with the media player below or at this link.


Memorial Medical Center Sends Precautionary Notice to 2,000 Patients

While there are no known instances of Springfield area facilities prescribing a drug linked to a deadly meningitis outbreak, several local medical providers have distributed other drugs that came from the same Massachusetts pharmacy.


Memorial Medical Center is sending letters to about 2,000 patients who have received those other drugs since May 21st of this year.


The hospital says the notices are being sent out of an “abundance of caution,” but says there’s no indication of any health risk from those drugs.


The Food and Drug Administration says injectable drugs from that Masschusetts pharmacy… NECC… were also sent to Springfield Eye Consultants, the Illinois Retina Center, and Prairie Surgery Center in Springfield.

City Says Going After 55K From Obama Camp is Waste of Time

The City of Springfield is throwing in the towel on collecting $55,000 it is owed for expenses related to a campaign stop here in 2008 by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.


The city incurred huge overtime costs for police and other personnel for that stop, in which Obama introduced Joe Biden as his running mate.


City budget director Bill McCarty tells the State Journal-Register that the city has tried everything it can think of to collect the bill, and thinks further efforts would be a waste of time.


It’s been unclear who is actually responsible for the security costs… the Obama campaign or the Secret Service.

State's Attorney Challenger Questions Prosecutor's Discretion

The challenger in the race for Sangamon County State’s Attorney thinks incumbent John Milhiser may be too quick to dismiss some cases.


Democrat Ron Stradt questions some recent decisions where suspects were released without being charged or were allowed to plead down to a lesser charge.


Stradt says there should be more disclosure about the reasons why.


Milhiser says he can’t proceed with cases when there is not enough evidence to go forward, and defends plea bargains as a way to ensure that someone is punished for a crime without taking a chance on acquittal at trial.


See this and other candidate forums at this link.

State's Attorney Candidates Clash Over Prosecution Decisions

The candidates for Sangamon County State’s Attorney continue to clash over what cases they would or would not bring to trial. 


Democratic challenger Ron Stradt says Republican incumbent John Milhiser has dropped too many cases that should have been brought to trial, without sufficiently explaining why.  But Milhiser says he pursues cases only when there is sufficient evidence to score a victory at trial. 


The candidates also disagree on how to handle concealed carry cases.  Stradt believes the state’s ban on concealed carry is unconstitutional and says he won’t pursue violations of that law, but Milhiser says it is still the law until the Supreme Court rules otherwise. 


[Both candidates appeared live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”]

Possibly Tainted Products From Massachusetts Pharmacy Made it to Illinois

The Illinois Department of Public Health is alerting 49 more Illinois hospitals and clinics which may have received tainted products from a Massachusetts pharmacy that has been linked to a deadly meningitis outbreak.


The new warning expands the list of products that may have health risks, including an injectable drug given to some patients after eye surgery.


Health officials say any patients who received those drugs on or after May 21 of this year should contact their health provider right away if they experience any unusual symptoms.

Coroner Candidates Debate Need for Inquests

Are inquests necessary in Sangamon County death investigations?


The candidates for coroner have very different answers to that question.


Incumbent Cinda Edwards has virtually discontinued the practice, and says a jury of average citizens is not as well equipped to render a verdict on a suspicious death as coroner’s office staffers.


But Democratic challenger Jerry Curry says it’s helpful to have more public oversight of the coroner’s findings, and says he would resume holding inquests if elected.

Circuit Clerk Candidates Debate Office Budget

Spending is a hot topic in the race for Sangamon County Circuit Clerk.


Democratic challenger Kristin DiCenso says the office’s current budget may be too small to meet its responsibilities.


And she proposes spending additional money to offer night and weekend hours that may be more convenient for taxpayers.


Republican incumbent Tony Libri says he’s proud of having cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from his budget.


But he also defends the money he gets for an auto and cell phone allowance… saying they are simply reimbursements for the cost of doing the people’s business.

Massage Parlor Prostitution Sting Nabs One

Springfield police have arrested a woman who they say has been in the country illegally while operating a prostitution business out of a west-side massage parlor.


The State Journal-Register reports the 54-year-old woman, Ping Xiao, was taken into custody late last week after a search warrant was executed at Eastern Massage on Clocktower Drive.


They say she has overstayed her visa by more than a decade.


The arrest is part of an ongoing investigation that will look at other massage parlors and a possible connection to prostitution.

Coroner Candidates Disagree On Need For Inquests

Sangamon County Coroner Cinda Edwards says inquests are not really necessary in most death investigations… but her challenger disagrees. 


Edwards has virtually discontinued the practice of inquests, where a panel of six citizens hears evidence and delivers a verdict on the manner of death.  She says in most cases, there is no doubt about the manner of death… and when there is, coroner’s staffers are better equipped to render that verdict. 


But Democrat Jerry Curry says oversight from citizens can be a valuable check-and-balance, and says he would reinstate the practice if elected. 


[Both candidates appeared live Monday on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”]

Circuit Clerk Candidates Argue Budget, Ethics... And Who Has Better Relationships With Republicans

The Democratic challenger for Sangamon County Circuit Clerk thinks the office’s budget may be inadequate for its needs… and contends she could be more effective in negotiating additional resources for the office with the county’s Republican leadership. 


Kristin DiCenso says she has a history of working well with both parties… but contends Republican incumbent Tony Libri wouldn’t be as effective, because of internal disputes in the local GOP. 


Libri acknowledges that he had differences with fellow Republicans over his leadership of the party before he stepped down as Sangamon County GOP chair this year… but says top county leaders are firmly behind his management of the circuit clerk’s office.


[Both Libri and DiCenso appeared live Monday on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”]

Durbin: Tenth Street Decision Expected By End of Year

Now that high-speed rail is picking up steam across Illinois, there is still one big unanswered question, where will those trains go when they reach Springfield?


There’s been no final determination yet, but U.S. Senator Dick Durbin believes federal and state officials will approve a plan to consolidate train tracks onto the 10th Street corridor.


And Durbin thinks more federal money will be on the way to help pay for the project, but can’t say yet how much.


However, he does say the appropriations will likely be spread out over a period of years.

Jackson Jr. Robocalls Constituents, Asks for Patience

Congressman Jackson has sent a recorded phone call to constituents asking for their patience while he continues his recovery.


Jackson says his extended absence from work and his district is because a lot of issues came together in his life all at the same time, and he’s been struggling to sort through them.


Jackson did not elaborate on what issues he’s referring to, but reports say federal authorities are looking into possible improper expenditures of campaign funds.

Delays Around Clear Lake and Dirksen Expected

Expect the possibility of delays this morning around the heavily-traveled intersection of Clear Lake and Dirksen.


Crews begin work today on resurfacing the intersection, which is being redesigned and rebuilt.


This part of the project is expected to last around 10 days.

Caterpillar CEO Says Company Is Not Leaving Illinois

He remains sharply critical of Illinois’s finances, tax structure, and leadership.  But the CEO of Caterpillar says his company isn’t leaving the state. 


Doug Oberhelman took heat months ago for saying that other states had been trying to lure the company's headquarters to move, statements that were seen as veiled threats from the company that it might pack up and move.


However, despite his pledge to keep Caterpillar headquarters and thousands of jobs in Peoria, Doug Oberhelman says Illinois has an anti-competitive business environment, with a higher cost of doing business than other states.

Newspaper Ad Points Finger At Quinn For Death Of JDC Resident

A group that opposes the closure of the Jacksonville Developmental Center has taken out a full page newspaper ad suggesting Governor Pat Quinn’s policies are to blame for the recent choking death of a JDC resident. 


Under the heading “Shame On You Governor Quinn,” the ad says staff turnover and the hiring of contract nurses are the result of uncertainty over the planned closure, and says that upheaval is putting JDC residents in danger.

Durbin Expects More Federal Dollars For Springfield Rail Consolidation

Now that Illinois has gotten high-speed rail up to speed, the next question is: what will happen when those trains reach Springfield? 


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he believes there will be a final decision within weeks in favor of consolidating train traffic on the 10th Street tracks… and that there will be additional federal money for that effort.


But how much more money… and over what period of time… are still open questions.

Delays Expected With Clear Lake-Dirksen Resurfacing Project

If your morning commute takes you through the intersection of Clear Lake and Dirksen, you may want to leave a little early for the next couple of weeks. 


Starting Monday, crews will begin a resurfacing project at the intersection, which is being redesigned and rebuilt.  Delays are likely during the work, which is expected to last about 10 days.

Jesse Jackson Jr. Speaks About Illness, Absence

Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. has spoken publicly for the first time about the illness that has kept him off Capitol Hill and the campaign trail for months. 


In a “robocall” to constituents, Jackson says he’s been undergoing treatment after a series of events came together in his life that have been “difficult to sort through.”  Jackson said, quote, “I am human.  I’m doing my best. And I’m trying to sort through them all.” 


The call asked constituents to be patient but did not indicate when he might return to work.

JDC Closure Postponed Three Weeks

The planned October 31st closure of the Jacksonville Developmental Center has been pushed back for another three weeks. 


State officials say their new target date is November 21st, because they need more time to find suitable placements for the remaining JDC residents. 


Opponents of the closure remain skeptical that even that would be enough time to safely move the profoundly disabled residents of JDC.

Protests Planned Outside Sunday Mass At Springfield's Cathedral Over Paprocki Comments

Several local groups plan to protest outside Springfield’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Sunday morning. 


The self-described “secularist” groups object to recent statements by Catholic bishop Thomas John Paprocki about next month’s elections.  Paprocki told local Catholics that parts of the national Democratic Party platform represent “intrinsic evils,” such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.  Paprocki says supporting candidates who back that platform could put a Catholic voter’s eternal salvation in jeopardy. 


The protestors say the bishop’s comments violate the principle of separation between church and state.

Republican Congressman Walsh Backtracks On Abortion Comments

Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh is backtracking from earlier comments about abortion. 


Walsh said this week that abortion isn’t ever necessary to save the life of the mother, because advances in medical technology have virtually eliminated such situations. 


But after medical experts sharply disputed Walsh’s comments, the Chicago-area Republican now says that abortion is acceptable in those limited cases where the mother’s life is in jeopardy.

Questions Persist About Gill/DCCC Ad

Democratic congressional candidate David Gill is facing more questions about a campaign ad jointly funded by a party committee. 


Gill insists the ad does not violate his pledge not to take corporate or Wall Street dollars. 


The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says money for the ad came from “grassroots” donations… but also says it does not keep such donations in a segregated fund, making it impossible to verify that no corporate dollars were used.

Illinois Rides High-Speed Rail Into the Future

Illinois is on track for the future of rail transportation with the successful test of high-speed rail Friday.


State and federal officials, alongside members of the media, rode an AMTRAK train from Joliet to Normal--a 15 mile stretch of that trip, the train went an average of 110 miles per hour.


Before leaving the station in Joliet, Governor Pat Quinn, Federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, US Senator Dick Durbin and others spoke about the history and the future of rail.


The moment Illinois railways went high-speed
The moment Illinois railways went high-speed

During the test run, two different cabins were set up with speedometers hooked up to GPS so passengers could see the progression of the train on a map plus the moment where the train reached the historic threshold of 110 miles per hour.


Shortly after the apex of the high-speed rail test Governor Quinn,  Secretary LaHood and Senator Durbin visited with the media in the aisle of a rail car. They talk about the historic nature of the test, and also the economics and politics of high-speed rail.


Durbin criticized republicans in congress of trying to stop stimulus money that was used to fund the high-speed rail project. He also was critical of attempts to de-fund AMTRAK.


Governor Quinn and Secretary LaHood talked about how college students can use AMTRAK to get back and forth from school and home. They also highlighted the wireless internet on the trains that will make them more productive during their travels.


LaHood talked about the importance of Illinois in the high speed rail industry and how new high-speed cars will be produced in the Land of Lincoln.  


The goal is to increase the 110-mile-per-hour service along nearly 75 percent of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor by 2015. Officials say the high speeds will reduce travel time by more than an hour.


Ridership among AMTRAK’s four Illinois routes has grown nearly three-quarters in the past six years with more than 2.1 million passengers last year.


As for the future of rail traffic through Springfield, Senator Dick Durbin says he believes by the end of the year Springfield will be able to resolve its issues and come to a consensus on the tenth street approach and then the next step is to secure federal funds to make it happen in the next few years.


Watch video below or at this link.


Boy Scout Perversion Files Shed Light on Local Cases

New documents from the so-called “perversion files” released by the Boy Scouts of America do not shed any new light on five cases from Springfield.


The local cases, from 1988 to 2002, are listed among nearly 5,000 incidents involving individuals who were blocked from Scouting programs because of allegations of child molestation.


But the Springfield cases were not among the files released Thursday.


However, those documents do contain more details about other Central Illinois cases.


In one 1984 case, a man was immediately barred from participating with the Scouts in Jacksonville after his conviction on child sex abuse charges.


But in a 1977 case from Decatur, a man apparently remained a scoutmaster for weeks after pleading guilty to contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor.

Candidate Gill Denies Hypocrisy in New Ad

Democratic congressional candidate David Gill insists he’s not breaking his pledge to refuse corporate and Wall Street donations, even though his campaign is running an ad paid for by a Democratic campaign committee which gets money from both sources.


In the ad, Gill calls such donations “legalized bribery.”


But he says the money from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee came from a segregated fund, with money collected from online individual “grass roots” donations.


Gill’s Republican opponent Rodney Davis accuses Gill of hypocrisy for taking the D-triple-C money.

High-Speed Rail Test Today

The quest for high-speed rail takes another step forward today with a test run along part of the route between Joliet and Bloomington.


A train carrying Governor Pat Quinn, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and a contingent of reporters is expected to hit speeds of 110 miles per hour for a short stretch during that trip… about 30 miles an hour faster than the current top speed.


But that faster speed will only be maintained for about 15 miles. Work is continuing to rebuild the tracks and eventually allow the faster speeds all the way from Chicago to Springfield to St. Louis.

Police Roundup Suspects in Drug Sweep After Months Long Investigations

14 people have been rounded up in a drug sweep carried out by the Central Illinois Enforcement Group and numerous local police agencies.


Most of those arrested are from Jacksonville, and the roundup stems from multiple drug investigations carried out over a period of months.


All 14 are charged with possession of controlled substances, ranging from cannabis to meth to prescription drugs.

Supt. Milton Won't Press Charges in Fisticuffs at Youth Football Game

Springfield School Superintendent Walter Milton says he does not intend to press charges against a man who punched him during an argument that broke out at a youth-league football game this month.


The State Journal-Register website reports it happened during a Springfield Boomers game in Rochester.


Both Milton and the other man are parents of players on the fourth grade team.


The other man reportedly got into a heated exchange with the team’s coach, and when Milton attempted to intervene, the man struck Milton.


Police reports say Milton struck the man back.


The man also reportedly got into an altercation with another parent.


Police were called and a report was sent to the State’s Attorney’s Office, but it has not yet been reviewed.

Logan County Struggles To Pay For Beason Murder Trial

Faced with the possibility of enormous costs from an upcoming major murder trial, Logan County authorities are developing two budgets… one that borrows up to a million dollars through a bond sale, and another that makes cuts to the health department, paramedic funding and senior citizens programs. 


County board members say the trial of Christopher and Jason Harris for the murder of a Beason family could cost taxpayers up to $600,000… because the brothers are represented by public defenders. 


Board members favor the bond sale, which would allow the county to pay off trial costs over 20 years.  But if county residents object through a petition drive, the board could decide to go with the budget cuts instead.

Local Cases Among Boy Scout ''Perversion Files''

At least five cases from Springfield are among nearly 5,000 files where the Boy Scouts blocked someone from volunteering with the organization because of allegations of child molestation, even though critics say the Scouts often did not report the alleged abuse to authorities. 


Details on some of those 5,000 cases are now being made public after a court ordered the disclosure of the documents, but it appears most of the newly-released files date back farther than the Springfield cases.  The local cases all happened between 1988 and 2002. 


There are also cases from Taylorville, Jacksonville, Lincoln and Decatur among those 5,000 files.  One Decatur case from 1977 shows that it took months to formally ban an accused sex offender who was serving as a scoutmaster.  The man continued to serve as a scoutmaster even after he was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor.  He wasn't officially banned until at least nine months after that conviction.

14 Arrested In Morgan/Cass County Drug Sweep

Fourteen people have been taken into custody in Morgan and Cass Counties following a major drug sweep. 


Police agencies including Jacksonville Police, the Morgan County Sheriff, and the Central Illinois Enforcement Group took part in that roundup, which follows months of investigation into the drug trade in West Central Illinois. 


The 14 are all facing charges of unlawful delivery of cannabis, meth, or other controlled substances.

Gill Takes Heat Over Funding Of Ad

Democratic congressional candidate David Gill is trying to defend himself against accusations of hypocrisy. 


Gill’s latest TV ad touts his refusal to take money from corporations or Wall Street interests.  But the ad is paid for in part by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee… which gets funds from both sources. 


Gill says the money for the ad comes from a special D-triple-C “grass roots” fund that does not include corporate dollars.  And Gill says it’s absurd for opponent Rodney Davis to criticize him, because he says Davis gets extensive corporate support.

Local First Springfield Has a First of Their Own

Bill McMahon, Executive Director of Local First Springfield
Bill McMahon, Executive Director of Local First Springfield

Local First Springfield announces their first-ever staff member, and their first-ever Executive Director.


Bill McMahon’s first task with the organization will be to communicate with local businesses on the importance of networking with Local First Springfield in an effort to continue educating consumers on the importance of buying local first.


He also says he will strive to get people to think about what happens when spend their money--13 percent of their dollar stays local when they buy from a big box store and 45 percent of their dollar stays local when they buy local.


McMahon says the first big push is the Home for the Holidays campaign that will focus on local conusmers and businesses to spend their holiday shopping money in the Springfield area.


Local First works to encourage consumers to buy local through educational campaigns and networking locally owned businesses together to build the local economy.


McMahon moved to Springfield from Chicago where he was the Assistant Commissioner for Workforce Development for the City of Chicago.  He has been in Springfield since early 2011.


For more information about Local First Springfield visit

Staff Report: JDC CLosure Would Create Hardships, Recommends Not Closing

The staff of a state board has recommended against Governor Pat Quinn’s plan to close the Jacksonville Developmental Center.


That staff report from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board finds that closing JDC would create hardships for residents and their families.


Quinn wants to close JDC and move its residents to smaller, community-based settings, but the board staff found that the state has not identified an adequate number of suitable facilities to handle the JDC population.


The staff report is a recommendation… but a final decision is up to the board itself, when it meets at the end of the month.

JDC Nurse Let Go Following Choking Death

A nurse working under contract at the Jacksonville Developmental Center has been fired following the choking death of a resident there earlier this month.


State officials won’t comment on the decision to terminate Cyndi Rutledge’s contract, citing an ongoing investigation.


But Rutledge told the Jacksonville Journal-Courier that she believes she was fired because she left the scene of the incident momentarily to get a defibrillator, violating protocol in such cases.


She says several other staffers were providing first aid for the choking man at the time.


Advocates for JDC residents contend the death is attributable to staff turnover since Governor Quinn announced plans to close the center.

Another Attempt To Save Enos School From Demolition

Historic preservationists are making another attempt to stop the Springfield School District from tearing down and replacing Enos School.


Jerry Jacobson of Save Old Springfield contends the demolition violates state law, because school district numbers show it would cost more to build a new school than to renovate the historic current building.


That would not be allowed under rules governing the use of life-safety bonds, which are the funding source for the project.


But District 186 tells the State Journal-Register that revised figures show that it would in fact be less expensive to build a new school.


County and state officials say the district’s plans appear to comply with the law and will be allowed to proceed.

Jackson Jr. Says He's Not Doing Well, Sees Doctor Twice a Day

Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. has made his first brief comments since taking a mysterious leave of absence for health reasons nearly four months ago.


Jackson told a reporter that he is, quote, “not doing well” and continues to see a doctor twice a day for treatment of his ailments.


He was hospitalized over the summer for bipolar disorder and gastrointestinal problems.


Jackson would not comment on reports that he is under federal investigation, reportedly looking into whether he misused campaign funds for personal expenses.

New App For Sangamon County Courts

There’s a new app for the Sangamon County court system. Users of the Sangamon County Circuit Clerk’s Office can get a mobile app to navigate the Clerk’s office from your smart phone.


The app allows users to find court schedules by date, case type, attorney, court room, judge and police agency. And allows the user to search name, case number, drivers license number, ticket number and filing date.


The Victory App is available on the Google Play market for Android Users.

City Votes to Subsidize Oak Ridge Cemetery

Springfield city taxpayers now have a share of the cemetery business.


Aldermen voted 9-1 Tuesday night to spend nearly $400,000 to subsidize operations at Oak Ridge Cemetery.


The city-owned cemetery is supposed to be self-sustaining, but income is not meeting expenses, and the Houston administration wants to avoid spending down an endowment fund for the cemetery.


The mayor’s office says the city will eventually have to include cemetery operations in the city’s general budget.

Scackelford Goes After Scherer Over Madigan Funds

The Republican candidate in the 96th House District says his Democratic challenger will have to answer to Mike Madigan, because of the huge amounts of money that Madigan has poured into the race.


Dennis Shackelford says with money comes obligation, and as a result, Democrat Sue Scherer will have to push Madigan’s agenda, rather than the needs of her district.


Shackelford has also received funding from his party’s leadership, but says it is much less and wouldn’t prevent him from responding to his constituent’s needs.

Harris Attorneys Will Get Mental Health Documents of Victim

Attorneys for two brothers accused in the 2009 murders of a Logan County family will be allowed to subpoena records related to the mental health of a teenager who died in the violence.


Lawyers for Christopher and Jason Harris want to bolster their claim that the brothers went to the home of Rick and Ruth Gee in Beason and found 14-year-old Dillen Constant killing his family, and that they in turn killed Dillen in self-defense.


The records are aimed at showing whether Dillen Constant had a history of violence or mental illness.


The judge in the case will review the records to determine whether they are admissible.

Aldermen Pass Subsidy for Oak Ridge Cemetery

Lincoln's Tomb located in Oak Ridge Cemetery
Lincoln's Tomb located in Oak Ridge Cemetery

For the first time in years, Oak Ridge Cemetery has dollars to cover it's operations for the rest of the fiscal year without having to dip into two their endowment funds.


The Springfield City Council voted to give the site where Abraham Lincoln is buried money from the city’s corporate fund.


Springfield Budget Director Bill McCarty says that for as far as he can tell the cemetery has been operating by taking up to a million dollars over a handfull of years from funds set up to continue care for the grounds long after it there are no more plots available to sell.


Aldermen passed the measure 9-1 with Ward 1’s Frank Edwards as the only no vote.

Aldermen Vote Down Proposed Zoning Change for Ready Mix Concrete Plant

Children from Montessori School hold signs inside the council chambers to protest a proposed zoning change
Children from Montessori School hold signs inside the council chambers to protest a proposed zoning change

A ready mix concrete plant will have to scrap plans to develop a lot in Springfield after Aldermen voted to deny their petition for a zoning change.


The proposed change has area residents worried about the impact on their community and their children.


The property on Bachmann Drive off of N. Peoria Road is currently a residential area but a developer has proposed changing that to industrial to put in a ready mix concrete plant.


Opponents of the zoning change say that clouds and debris from the operation contain toxic chemicals and substances that could cause health problems and the increased number of trucks will tear up the roadways.


Montessori School is also in the area and they petitioned to oppose the zoning change. The chamber was full of families who stood in opposition to the development.


The zoning change was denied with a 9-0 with one voting present.


Alderman Steve Dove, whose children attend Montessori School, voted present because what he called three conflicts of interests--his three children.

Killarney Sister City Visits Springfield, Points Out Differences

They are considered sister, or twin, cities. But visiting leaders from Killarney, Ireland, say that despite their affection for Springfield, there are some key differences between the two communities.


The town manager and several city councilors have spent a few days visiting Springfield and looking for ways to promote more tourism back-and-forth. But appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” they also discussed their different approach to key issues.


For example, Killarney is one of the few Irish cities with government trash pickup. The city is also about to start charging for water for the first time… up until now, residential customers got water for free. And there is no residency requirement for Killarney city employees… even town manager John Breen lives outside Killarney.

Springfield Schools Scoring Better, But Not Up to Par with No Child Left Behind

Springfield public schools are showing some modest improvement overall in reading and math test scores, but most schools remain well below the “Adequate Yearly Progress” standards required under the federal No Child Left Behind law.


Fewer than two-thirds of students meet the federal reading standards, and only about 75-percent are making sufficient progress in math.


However, Superintendent Walter Milton says those standards will soon be obsolete.


He expects Congress will scrap No Child Left Behind in favor of a system that focuses on “growth” from year to year, rather than meeting an arbitrary number.


And Milton says the district is showing growth.

Dist. 186 Could Ask for Percentage of TIF Increase

District 186 will ask the City of Springfield for a share of the money generated by a planned Tax Increment Financing district along Dirksen Parkway, near the JC Penney store.


Ordinarily, increases in property tax values in a TIF district are rolled back in to improvements within that district, which means taxing bodies like the school district don’t get their usual share of the increased revenue.


But school board member Scott McFarland says District 186 should ask for as much as ten-percent of the increase, in order to help schools keep pace with expected growth related to the TIF district.

State's Attorney Candidate Stradt Indicates He Won't Prosecute Concealed Carry Cases

The Democratic candidate for Sangamon County State’s Attorney is suggesting he won’t prosecute concealed carry cases if he’s elected… because he expects any such prosecutions would ultimately be overturned as unconstitutional. 


Ron Stradt says he’s not encouraging or advocating anyone to carry a concealed firearm.  But he also says in light of recent Supreme Court rulings on gun rights, it would be a waste of time and resources to bring charges against, quote, “law-abiding citizens.”  Stradt says that decision falls within his discretion as a prosecutor. 


He is urging his fellow Democrats in the state legislature to allow a vote on concealed carry… Illinois is the only state in the nation that does not permit it.

Staffers Say SJ-R Unionization Effort Is Attempt To Preserve Newspaper's Future

An organizer of a union effort in the State Journal-Register newsroom says the goal is to preserve the quality of the newspaper and save the jobs of the local people who report the news. 


Veteran medical reporter Dean Olsen says he believes strengthening that workforce will ultimately strengthen the paper and make it better equipped to compete in a changing media world.  Olsen says after cutbacks in other areas of the newspaper, newsroom staffers see a need to have a formal contract to protect their rights and interests. 


Those staffers voted overwhelmingly last week in favor of establishing the union, but it could take up to a year to negotiate a contract.

Poll: Illinoisans Split on Gambling Expansion

Illinoisans are split on the question of gambling expansion.


A new Chicago Tribune survey finds 47-percent of state voters are against the plan to create new casinos and add slot machines at horse racing tracks, while just 43-percent support the idea.


That gap is within the poll’s margin of error. Residents of Chicago... which would get its first casino under the proposal... were against the expansion, but downstate residents supported it, 47-to 42-percent.


While 51-percent of men were in favor of the gambling bill, only 36-percent of women supported it.


Governor Quinn vetoed the gambling expansion bill in August, but lawmakers still have a chance to override.

Uphill Battle For Illinois GOP With Democrat Drawn Map

Despite ongoing concerns about the state economy and budget under Democratic leadership, the odds are stacked against the Illinois GOP when it comes to challenging Democrats for control of the General Assembly.


Republicans need to pick up a dozen seats — six in the state Senate and six in the House — to win a majority in either chamber for the first time in a decade.


But they're trying to do that in new legislative districts drawn by Democrats to help Democrats.


And even though every House and Senate seat is up for grabs, nearly half of those races are uncontested.

Jesse Jackson Jr. Investigated For Use of Campaign Funds to Remodel Home

Embattled Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is now the subject of a federal investigation... and a published report says the probe is over whether Jackson improperly used campaign money to redecorate his home.


Sources say this investigation is unrelated to allegations that Jackson was involved in former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s attempts to sell an appointment to the state’s vacant U.S. Senate seat in 2008.


Jackson remains absent from his job and from the campaign trail, now four months after he checked himself into a hospital for treatment of bipolar disorder and gastrointestinal problems.


Neither he nor his staff will comment on the new allegations.

Woman and Two Daughters Found Safe After Disappearance

A Lake County woman and her two young daughters have been found safe, days after their disappearance prompted a massive search and a candlelight vigil.


Authorities said late Sunday that Aneta Marsek and the two girls had been vacationing in the Wisconsin Dells and were unharmed.


They were discovered a day after her estranged husband made a public plea for their safe return.


Authorities had feared that foul play was a possibility, since no family members knew of her whereabouts and her cell phone had been turned off and could not be traced.


There was no immediate explanation for why Marsek had left the state without notifying anyone.

Resident's Death Prompts New Concerns About JDC Shutdown

An advocate for residents of the Jacksonville Developmental Center thinks the choking death of a resident last weekend can be tied to the upheaval surrounding the pending closure of the facility. 


Lonnie Johns contends staff is being shuffled around to compensate for workers who have left before their jobs are eliminated.  Johns says he fears JDC could become like the Lincoln Developmental Center, where 29 patients died after the state decided to close it a decade ago.


Meanwhile, a state lawmaker wants an investigation of the company hired by the state to oversee the shutdown of JDC.  Republican Representative John Cavaletto of Salem says Community Resource Associates has been accused of ignoring advice from medical staff and family of JDC residents… and of rushing to move residents out before thorough reviews of their status are completed. 


The company is trying to meet an October 31st deadline to close JDC, although it does not appear that everyone will be moved out by that time.

Report: Jesse Jackson Jr. Under Federal Investigation

Several media reports say federal authorities are investigating the finances of Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr… who remains off the job after taking a medical leave of absence last summer. 


The probe reportedly centers on expenditures by Jackson from a fund overseen by Congress… perhaps the money allocated to each member of Congress for staff and office expenses.


NBC News says Jackson’s lawyers have asked prosecutors not to file any possible charges before the November election… but prosecutors reportedly would not make any commitments.


Jackson has not been at work since entering a hospital in June for treatment of bipolar disorder and gastrointestinal issues.  He has also been absent from the campaign trail, but at this point is still seen as a favorite for re-election against three virtually unknown challengers.

SJ-R Newsroom Staff Votes To Unionize

Reporters and other newsroom staffers at the State Journal-Register have voted to form a union. The proposal passed overwhelmingly, 26-4. The United Media Guild will now request formal contract negotiations.


The unionization movement follows months of cutbacks at the newspaper, as owner Gatehouse Media has closed the paper's printing press and transferred copy editing and layout operations to a centralized desk in Rockford.

Quinn Approval Rating Hits New Low, Especially Downstate

Governor Pat Quinn’s approval ratings have hit an all-time low in a new Chicago Tribune poll.  Only 26-percent of Illinois voters say they approve of the job Quinn is doing. 


Quinn’s 26-percent approval rating is two points lower than his previous worst from September of 2010... just two months before the governor won election to a full term.


The rating is even worse among Downstate voters, where only 16-percent of voters back Quinn's overall job performance.  And the numbers are even worse when it comes specifically to Quinn’s handling of the state budget… only 9-percent of Downstate voters give Quinn a thumbs up there.

DCFS Holds Off Layoffs, Will Reorganize to Cut Costs

Several hundred workers who were facing layoffs at the Department of Children and Family Services have a reprieve for now.


The agency says it is putting the layoffs on hold in hopes that lawmakers will provide more funding.


In exchange, DCFS says it will work on a reorganization plan intended to lower costs while protecting positions that are currently filled.

Group Pushing for Residency to Distribute 40,000 Flyers

The group formed to push for passage of a new residency requirement for Springfield city employees plans to distribute 40,000 lyers around town ahead of next month’s advisory referendum on the issue.


Springfield Citizens for Residency says it wants to respond to arguments from opponents of the referendum… including Mayor Mike Houston, who says imposing a new residency rule on future hires would force the city to make costly concessions to nearly two dozen unions.


Alderman Joe McMenamin and other members of the group contend that the unions would accept the change without pressing for concessions.

Henson Robinson Zoo Accreditation Extended for One Year

Springfield’s Henson Robinson Zoo has had some conditions attached to its effort to renew its accreditation.


The Association of Zoos and Aquariums has extended the accreditation for just one year... instead of the usual five-year renewal.


The abbreviated renewal will require the zoo to make some facilities improvements and devise new emergency plans by next fall.


Park District Director Mike Stratton says such conditional renewals are not unusual.

Harris Brothers Defense to Focus on 14-Year-Old Victim's Mental Health

Defense lawyers for two brothers accused in the murder of a Logan County family have submitted a more detailed request for information that could bolster their clients’ claim of self-defense.


Attorneys for Christopher and Jason Harris contend they found 14-year-old Dillen Constant killing his family in their Beason home... and in turn killed Dillen in self-defense.


The Bloomington Pantagraph says the defense is seeking information from doctors, pharmacies and schools.


They say that will show Dillen Constant had been medicated to bring extreme violent impulses under control.


A hearing on the request will be held next week.

Pro-Residency Group To Distribute 40,000 Flyers

A group formed to push for passage of a referendum on next month’s ballot plans to distribute 40,000 flyers… urging Springfield voters to support the return of a residency rule for city workers. 

Springfield Citizens for Residency inside the city council chambers
Springfield Citizens for Residency inside the city council chambers

Springfield Citizens for Residency is also trying to refute some of the claims from those who oppose that non-binding referendum.  Alderman Joe McMenamin and other members of the group say that Mayor Mike Houston is wrong when he claims the city would have to make costly concessions to unions in order to get them to accept a new residency requirement. 


Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, the final say on residency is up to Springfield aldermen.

New City Hall Photo ID Rules Won't Apply To ''Meet With The Mayor'' Sessions

Springfield officials are clamping down tighter on security at the Municipal Center East. 


New rules require visitors to the building to show a photo ID and to state the nature of their business.  The building houses the office of the mayor, the police chief, and City Water Light and Power administration.  The changes were recommended in a security audit. 


But a spokesman for Mayor Mike Houston says the rule will not apply to the monthly “Meet with the Mayor” evening sessions in Houston’s office.  Nathan Mihelich says even city residents who don’t have a photo ID will be able to get a 10-minute face-to-face sitdown with the mayor during those monthly events.

Popular 970 WMAY Caller Known As ''Lincoln Lady'' Passes Away

A woman who became a local celebrity as a regular caller to 970 WMAY has passed away. 


Mary Dorgan… who gained fame as “The Lincoln Lady,” starting back in the 1990s… passed away this week in Lincoln.  She charmed listeners with her sense of humor and stories about her life. 


Dorgan had not been heard on the air for several years because of health issues.  She died Wednesday morning at a Lincoln nursing home.  She was 89.

Quinn Blocked Again From Prison Closure Plan

Governor Pat Quinn is still being blocked from implementing his plan to close two Illinois prisons and other facilities.


A Southern Illinois judge is extending the injunction he issued that prevents the plan from going forward.


The judge sided with AFSCME, which claims there are serious safety issues raised by the plan to close the Tamms supermax prison and the Dwight Correctional Center, and to transfer those inmates to other, already-overcrowded facilities.


The governor’s office says the delay in implementing the closure plan is costing the state $7 million dollars a month.


A spokesman says Quinn will appeal the ruling.

County Inmates Receiving Unemployment Checks

More than a dozen Sangamon County jail inmates have collected unemployment benefits while sitting behind bars.


The 16 inmates are among 11-hundred statewide who were found to have improperly gotten benefits.


The State Journal-Register reports the state cross-referenced its list of benefit recipients with lists of jail inmates.


State law requires that anyone receiving unemployment must be able and available to work, something that would not be possible while the recipient was in jail.


Inmates who got benefits will be required to repay them, and could face additional charges.

Investigation Ongoing in Fatal Wednesday Morning Fire

Authorities are still investigating the cause of a duplex fire early Wednesday, and what led to the death of a woman inside the home.


Firefighters who responded to that blaze on Hayley Court found 63-year-old Pamela Hagan unresponsive inside the bedroom of the home, where that fire apparently started.


She was taken to Memorial Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.


The fire was mostly contained to that bedroom area on one side of the duplex.

Shimkus Endorses Davis for 13th District

Congressional candidate Rodney Davis has picked up the formal endorsement of his former boss.


Republican Congressman John Shimkus gave his backing to his long-time aide during a Springfield news conference Wednesday.


Shimkus and Davis held a joint appearance to talk about energy policy. Both came out strongly against EPA rules which they say will hurt Illinois coal, and both vowed to push for completion of the Keystone XL pipeline.


Davis is running against Democrat David Gill in the 13th Congressional District.

New Chicago Budget Comes With No Tax or Fee Increases, Emanuel Wants State Action on Pensions

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has presented a new $8.3 billion budget to the City Council.


The plan presented yesterday includes no increased taxes and no new fees.


Emanuel also says the new budget cuts the deficit to $298 million.


But Emanuel also called for more action from state lawmakers to address public-sector pensions.


Emanuel says Chicago will soon be on the hook for more than a billion dollars a year in pension expenses.


He says lawmakers in Springfield need to, quote, “step up and take their share of responsibility.”

Local TV Weather Man Dies After Battle With Cancer

A veteran TV weatherman has died. Robert Reese was chief meteorologist at WCIA Channel 3, and had also worked at WAND in Decatur.


Reese died Tuesday after a four-year battle with cancer.

Free Leaf Drop-Off Begins Monday In Springfield

Free leaf drop-off begins in Springfield on October 15th. The City is working with Evans Recycling at 2100 J. David Jones Parkway this year as their free drop-off site for residents to take their bagged leaves. However, for those using the free curbside pickup, they’ll have to wait until November first.


Leaves, whether they’re dropped off or set at the curb must be in paper yard waste bags, or in a can clearly marked ‘YARD WASTE’. Bags must not be secured with any type of tape. Bags will be picked up once per week through the month of November, beginning November first.

College Student Attempts Write-In For 96th House District

Even the candidate himself admits he’s a long shot for victory. But Andrew Dambrauskas  says he’s still accomplishing something by waging a write-in campaign for the state legislature.


The 23-year-old college student says his candidacy allows him to raise issues that the better-funded major party candidates in the 96th House District are not addressing. Dambrauskas says he would do more to bolster education… which in turn would lead to more job opportunities and lower crime in the district.


Dambrauskas is hoping voters write in his name instead of marking their ballot for either Democrat Sue Scherer or Republican Dennis Shackelford.

sangamon County Rakes In Half-Million Worth Of Uncollectible Fines

Two Sangamon County officials are touting their success in bringing in nearly half-a-million dollars in fines that had been written off as “uncollectible.”


Circuit Clerk Tony Libri and State’s Attorney John Milhiser say by hiring a revenue recovery firm out of Chicago, they have been able to collect over $463,000 in fines that were assessed for speeding, seat belt violations and other traffic offenses.


The company is paid out by a share of the money it brings in. The two officials… both of whom are seeking re-election next month… say they hope to expand the effort to include fines for DUI and other misdemeanors and felonies.

Dick Van Dyke Appliance World Breaking Ground For New Store

A rapidly-growing Springfield appliance store is getting ready to build a new facility. Dick Van Dyke Appliance World will break ground next week on a new store that will go up next to the AMC Showplace 12 on West Wabash.


The retailer’s current west side store in White Oaks Plaza will remain open until the new store is completed in June of 2013. Dick Van Dyke Appliance World was started in Springfield and now has four Central Illinois stores.


It’s been ranked as the fastest-growing home appliance dealer in the U.S. for two of the past four years.

Early Morning Fatal Fire Under Investigation

A 64-year-old woman is dead after an early morning fire just south of Toronto Road in Springfield.


Springfield Fire Chief Ken Fustin says that the call came in just after 1 in the morning to the 6200 block of Hayley Ct. in the Cotton Hill neighborhood where firefighters found an active fire in the bedroom of a duplex.


Fustin says that crews found the woman unresponsive and tried to resuscitate her but the victim was later pronounced dead at the hospital.


The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

Aldermen Put Waste Hauling Ordinance Back In Committee

Springfield’s waste hauling ordinance is headed to the recycling bin, for now.


Aldermanic sponsors Cory Jobe and Doris Turner decided to hold the proposal in committee after determining that it did not have enough votes to advance.


But Jobe says he will meet with waste haulers to see if further changes can be made that will ease their concerns.


Opponents fear that having the city take over billing for waste hauling will add to bureaucracy and cost… a claim that Jobe denies.

Video Gaming Starts With 65 Machines Up and Running Statewide

The Illinois Gaming Board says video poker machines have been activated at 65 bars and other locations throughout the state.


The board yesterday announced the long-anticipated start of video gaming.


The board says it's processing license applications for more than 2,200 other establishments.


So far, no Springfield establishment has been cleared to operate the machines.

Citizens Committee Says Dist. 186's Numbers Don't Add Up

New questions are being raised about the reliability of budget numbers coming from District 186.


A citizens committee that will offer recommendations on budget cuts says it is receiving conflicting figures and numbers that don’t stand up to closer scrutiny.


Several school board members have also challenged the accuracy of the district’s budget figures.


The head of the citizens committee tells the State Journal-Register that estimates for next year’s budget gap have fluctuated between $6.5 million and $11 million.

Local Attorney Survey Give Low Marks To Local Judge

One of the Sangamon County judges up for retention next month has been ranked as “not recommended” in a survey of local attorneys.


Judge Leslie Graves is the only judge on the ballot to score below the 65-percent threshold necessary to be recommended for retention.


Fewer than 61-percent of attorneys said she met the requirements of the office of judge.


Graves was scored low on legal ability and court management.


Voters next month will decide whether to retain Graves and four other 7th Circuit judges.


A judge will stay on the bench if they receive 60-percent of more of the vote.

Aldermen Debate Subsidy For Oak Ridge Cemetery

Springfield Aldermen may subsidise the struggling, yet nationally historic, Oak Ridge Cemetery with an ordinance placed on the debate agenda for possible passage next week.


The $380,000 allocation from the corporate fund will go towards the rest of the cemetery’s fiscal year.


Budget Director Bill McCarty says the administration will no longer allow the cemetery to dip into its enterprise funds, something the past administrations allowed to happen, to make up for declining revenue.


McCarty also says that this may be the first step of eventually folding the cemetery’s financial position into the city’s corporate fund.


If the funds are not available, that means that payroll may not be met for cemetery employees.


Aldermen will debate the ordinance further next week before possibly passage.

Trash Ordinance Left In Committee

The waste hauling overhaul ordinance is trashed ... for now.


Moments after opening the meeting of the Springfield City Council Committee of the Whole Tuesday, Ward 3 Alderman Doris Turner motioned to place her ordinance to overhaul waste hauling in the Capital City back in committee.  


The controversial ordinance would have put a waste hauling fee on the City Water Light and Power bill of city residents in what sponsors Turner and Ward 6's Cory Jobe hope will cut down on fly dumping.  


Turner and Jobe held three public meetings to discuss the ordinance and said they would have revisions made available before Tuesday's meeting.  


Some proposed revisions included lowering the assessed fee, plus making it easier for so-called snow birds, people who leave the city for weeks or months at a time, to get rebates from waste haulers for the time they don't put garbage out.


Around two dozen members of the public got up and left the council chambers after aldermen approved to leave the ordinance in committee.  

Waste Hauling Overhaul Ordinance May Be In Trouble

Even with new revisions, Springfield’s proposed trash overhaul ordinance appears to be in trouble.


A spot check of aldermen by the State Journal-Register finds six of the ten are opposed to billing for garbage collection through City Water Light and Power.


Only three are firmly in favor, including the two sponsors, Cory Jobe and Doris Turner.  At least five votes would be needed to approve the plan.


The revised ordinance, which lowers the base rate for trash pickup and makes it easier for customers to temporarily halt service without being billed, goes before the City Council committee-of-the-whole tonight.

Springfield Lake Levels Still Dropping, More Restrictions Possible

Recent rains have not reversed the trend of falling water levels at Lake Springfield, and city officials say it may be necessary to move to the next stage of water restrictions.


The lake is about three-and-a-half feet below full pool, and roughly two feet below normal for this time of year.


And levels are still dropping, primarily because of evaporation.


CWLP water manager Tom Skelly says within the next several weeks, the city may have to look at moving to "Stage 2" of water restrictions, which could include surcharges for customers who exceed a certain usage level.


And even tighter rules are possible next spring if the drought drags on.

Quinn Targets Emanuel For Blocking Kraft from IL Sports Facilities Authority

Governor Pat Quinn is accusing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel of plotting a “backroom deal” to make renovations at Wrigley Field, at taxpayer expense.


Quinn says that’s why Emanuel is blocking Quinn’s choice to head up the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the body which helped finance U.S. Cellular Field and the Soldier Field renovations.


Quinn wants his communications chief, Kelly Kraft, to run the agency.


But Emanuel questions whether she has enough experience in finance to handle the job.

Lake Springfield Levels Still Dropping; City Contemplating Tighter Water Restrictions

Recent rains have not reversed the trend of falling water levels at Lake Springfield, and city officials say it may be necessary to move to the next stage of water restrictions. 


The lake is about three-and-a-half feet below full pool, and roughly two feet below normal for this time of year.  And levels are still dropping, primarily because of evaporation.


CWLP water manager Tom Skelly says within the next several weeks, the city may have to look at moving to "Stage 2" of water restrictions, which could include surcharges for customers who exceed a certain usage level.  And even tighter rules are possible next spring if the drought drags on.

Groups Want Injunction on Illinois' Campaign Donation Limitations

Conservative groups plan to seek an emergency injunction after a federal judge upheld Illinois laws limiting the amount of money that individuals, corporations, unions and PACs can donate to candidates.


The judge says removing the limits could open the door to more political corruption in the state.


But the Illinois Policy Institute, Liberty PAC, and others say the limits are an infringement on free speech.


They want an injunction that would prevent the state from enforcing the limits in the weeks leading up to Election Day.

Trash Ordinance Model For Future Private-Public Partnerships

The proposed changes to Springfield’s trash collection system can serve as a model of a public-private partnership that benefits the interests of business and government, according to Alderman Cory Jobe.


Jobe is responding to critics who say the pending ordinance opens the door to a City Hall takeover of waste pickup.


He says it’s not a takeover, it’s both sides working together for everyone’s benefit.


An amended version of the waste hauling ordinance is expected to be made public ahead of Tuesday’s city council committee-of-the-whole meeting.

U of I Coach Caught Using Smokeless Tobacco On Sidelines During Game

There’s controversy surrounding the University of Illinois football team, and not just because of the team’s lackluster performance on the field.


During Saturday’s losing effort against Wisconsin, ESPN cameras caught coach Tim Beckman using smokeless tobacco on the sidelines.


The use of any tobacco, including smokeless, is prohibited for athletes and coaches during NCAA competitions and practices.


The U of I will report itself to the NCAA and the Big Ten for a “secondary rules violation.”


Beckman says it’s a bad habit and attributed it to stress, but vows it won’t happen again.

Chicago Man Stabbed To Death In Florida After Football Game

A Chicago area man who traveled to Florida for Sunday’s Bears game against the Jacksonville Jaguars is dead following an altercation early Sunday inside a Jacksonville bar.


Police say William Christopher Pettry was stabbed to death during a clash with two other people in the bar.


They haven’t indicated yet what led up to the deadly confrontation.


One man is in custody on murder charges.

Statewide Bicycle Path Plan Underway

Illinois is seeking bids for developing a statewide bikeway plan, one which could eventually link up bike paths all over the state and theoretically enable cyclists to use those paths to get from one end of Illinois to the other.


State officials say the plan could also focus on road development to ensure that they are constructed in a way that allows bicyclists to also use them safely to get to work or other destinations.

Voter Registration Grace Period Runs Through Wednesday, Nov. 3rd

Federal, state and county offices are closed today for Columbus Day.


That includes the county election office, even as the deadline looms to register to vote in next month’s election.


Tuesday is the deadline for voter registration, but there will be a registration grace period that runs from Wednesday until November 3.


County residents will be able to register to vote at the county building during that time, but must cast their ballot right there when they register, they will not be allowed to vote at their regular polling place on November 6th.


Meanwhile, although other government offices are closed, Springfield city government is open, and downtown parking meters will be enforced.

Cardinals Advance In NL Playoffs After Disputed Call In Wild Card Game

The St. Louis Cardinals have kept their postseason hopes alive, in unusual fashion.


The Cardinals advanced to the National League Divisional Series with a 6-3 win over the Atlanta Braves.  But the game prompted a protest from the Braves, after an unusual call in the 8th inning gave a lift to the Redbirds.


The Cardinals failed to field a shallow fly ball, which appeared to leave the Braves with the bases loaded and one out, trailing 6-3.  But the umpire had already ruled the batter out, citing the infield fly rule.  That left the Braves with two out.  They failed to score in the inning and ultimately lost 6-3. 


Angry fans littered the field with trash, forcing a nearly 20-minute delay in the game.  Atlanta filed a protest, but Major League Baseball quickly rejected it, saying the umpire made an appropriate judgment call.


St. Louis advances to the next round of the playoffs, facing Jayson Werth and the Washington Nationals, starting Sunday.

Town & Country Shell Closing

A longtime fixture along South MacArthur is closing its doors… and cites the beautification efforts along the boulevard as one reason.


Town and Country Shell… which has operated near the former K-Mart building for decades… is shutting down with little advance notice.


Owner Jim Benson says high gas prices and the cost of processing credit card transactions have hurt his bottom line. But he also points to frequent city citations for building code violations connected to the beautification push.

Cellini Gets 366 Day Sentence, Says He Takes Personal Responsibility

He had been one of the most powerful behind-the-scenes players in Illinois and local politics, but now Bill Cellini is headed to federal prison.


The longtime Springfield businessman and political insider was sentenced to one year and one day behind bars for his role in an extortion scheme related to the corruption under former Governor Rod Blagojevich.


He was also ordered to pay a $75,000 fine.


Before he was sentenced, Cellini told the court that he took responsibility for his actions and apologized for the pain he caused his family.


He is scheduled to report to prison on January 4th… there’s no word yet on where he will be incarcerated.

Cellini Sentence Reaction

Reaction is coming in from all over to the prison sentence for Bill Cellini.


Prosecutors say time behind bars is justified, and hope Cellini’s fate will be a stark reminder to other political figures around the state not to engage in corrupt activities.


But defense lawyers think the sentence is overly harsh and plan to appeal.


Meanwhile, friends and supporters of Cellini are expressing sadness, and say prison is inappropriate for a man that has donated time and money to numerous important local causes and projects.

Proposed Trash Ordinance Revisions Expected Today

A revised version of a trash ordinance for Springfield could be out later today.


And its sponsors say it will include a waiver provision that would allow people to opt out of garbage pickup, and not be billed for it, if they will be away for an extended period.


The original version of the ordinance would have continued to assess the trash pickup fee on the customer’s City Water Light and Power bill, requiring the homeowner to seek a rebate from their waste hauler.


The revised ordinance will also change the “base rate” that would be charged for garbage pickup.


The changes are intended to address concerns raised by residents and waste haulers ahead of a City Council vote later this month.

Mayor Houston Urges No Vote on Residency Referendum

Mayor Mike Houston wants you to vote “no” on next month’s advisory referendum about a new residency rule for Springfield city workers.


Houston says he’s a supporter of a residency requirement, but says the reality is that imposing the rule on future hires would be a material change in working conditions that would have to be negotiated with nearly two-dozen employee unions.


And Houston says that could force the city to make costly concessions.


Alderman Joe McMenamin doesn’t believe the city would have to make major concessions to implement the change, but Houston says he has a bridge to sell anyone who believes that.

Quinn Fires Worker Comp Arbitrator Who Was Wife of Vocal Critic

The Quinn administration is refusing to answer questions about the firing of a workers comp arbitrator, who happens to be the wife of a vocal Quinn critic, AFSCME leader Henry Bayer.


Jacqueline Kinnaman was not reappointed to her post by the governor, but The State Journal-Register reports no reason was given for the decision.


An AFSCME spokesperson says he doesn’t know if the firing was related to Kinnaman’s relationship with Bayer, but says if it was, it’s unethical public policy and a slap in the face to women.

Cellini Sentenced To One Year And One Day

Springfield powerbroker Bill Cellini has been sentenced to time behind bars for his role in the corruption that flourished under former Governor Rod Blagojevich.


The veteran political insider was ordered to serve one year and one day in prison for taking part in an attempt to shake down a Hollywood producer for a campaign donation in exchange for his effort to do business with the state.


Cellini was also ordered to pay a $75,000 fine.  Judge James Zagel ordered him to report to prison on January 4, 2013.


Prosecutors had sought a harsher prison term, saying it was needed to send a clear signal to others who might think about engaging in political corruption. But defense lawyers had urged leniency, seeking probation for a man who they said was an upstanding and generous citizen who is now in frail health with heart problems and other issues.

Mayor Urges Springfield To Reject Residency Referendum

Mayor Mike Houston says he’s remains a firm supporter of a residency rule for city workers… but he’s still urging Springfield residents to vote against the idea in next month’s advisory referendum.


Houston says any push by aldermen to reinstate a residency requirement would put the city in a position of having to negotiate the change with nearly two dozen unions… and to make costly concessions to get them to go along with it. 


Alderman Joe McMenamin… who is pushing to reinstate the residency rule… says he doesn’t think the city will have to make concessions in order to impose the new requirement.  But Houston says anyone who thinks that doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Houston: City Will Monitor Power, Water Usage To Determine When Household Doesn't Need Trash Pickup

The city of Springfield will be able to use its City Water Light and Power computers to determine which households are unoccupied, and therefore don’t need to be billed for trash pickup… according to Mayor Mike Houston. 


Houston is trying to defuse concerns from residents who fear that the proposed shift of billing waste pickup to CWLP will make it harder for them to temporarily halt trash pickup, and to halt the bills, while they’re away. 


Houston says the city can see when electricity and water usage drops below a certain level… and will know that the residents are away and won’t need to be billed for garbage collection. 


The proposed trash pickup ordinance is undergoing revisions… an amended version could be released by this weekend.

Trash Talk Leads to Possible Ordinance Revisions

While local waste haulers gear up to oppose a trash pickup overhaul plan in Springfield, the plan itself may get an overhaul.


Aldermen Cory Jobe and Doris Turner, appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Ray Lytle Show” Wednesday, say they will tweak the ordinance based on concerns raised by the waste haulers and by residents who have attended town meetings on the issue.


They did not offer many details, except to say there will be a change in the base rate that residents would be charged for trash pickup through their CWLP bill.


But it’s not clear if the revisions will address other concerns from the waste haulers, including fears that the plan will create a costly new bureaucracy that will diminish service.

Cellini To Be Sentenced Today

It’s the day of reckoning for Bill Cellini.


The former state powerbroker could be facing a prison term when he is sentenced today for his role in a shakedown scheme involving campaign contributions to former Governor Rod Blagojevich.


Prosecutors say Cellini needs a meaningful sentence, including time behind bars, to send a strong signal about this kind of corruption.


But defense lawyers say Cellini’s record of public service, and his failing health, should earn him leniency at his sentencing hearing.

Cellini Legacy Enters County Auditor Race

The legacy of Bill Cellini is becoming an issue in the race for Sangamon County auditor.


Democratic challenger Chris Boyster is attacking Republican incumbent Paul Palazzolo for ties to the convicted powerbroker.


Palazzolo says he has donated money to charity in an amount roughly equal to funds he got from Cellini’s Good Government Council, but says he won’t return money he got from two other funds that are partially connected to Cellini.


Boyster is also raising questions about county contracts with the property management firm founded by Cellini and now run by his children.


Palazzolo says the contracts are under review.

State Corrections Dept. Stands By Eased Security Concerns

The state department of corrections has eased security measures that will be used to manage the violent offenders being transferred from the Tamms supermax prison to the facility at Pontiac.


The new rules reduce the number of officers that must accompany the Tamms inmates, change the restraints used on them, and require Pontiac inmates in segregation to double up in order to accommodate the influx of new prisoners.


Prison officials say there are sufficient safeguards in place to handle the Tamms population.


But workers say the moves will add to the dangers at Pontiac.

Waste Hauling Ordinance Will Be Tweaked To Reflect Concerns Of Residents, Haulers

The concerns of Springfield residents and waste haulers over a proposed trash pickup ordinance are being heard. 


Appearing live on 970 WMAY's "Ray Lytle Show," Aldermen Cory Jobe and Doris Turner say they will revise their ordinance to reflect issues raised at recent town meetings on the proposal. 


One of those changes would alter the base rate that would be billed to all city residents through their CWLP bill, but Jobe and Turner aren’t saying yet how much it will change. 


Jobe also says he will include a guarantee that local waste haulers won’t be pushed out of the picture.  The amended ordinance should be released before the weekend.

Aldermen Will Debate Lowering Towing Fee

Springfield aldermen may soon decide to lower the tow fee for vehicles pulled over in suspicion of a crime.  Currently the fee is $500, an amount several alderman believe is too high.  


Ward 3 Alderman Doris Turner says that she is working to get information from the Houston Administration about how much it costs to tow a vehicle and base the proposed amount off that figure.  


She also wants to include language that will provide for a refund of the towing fee if the person accused of a crime is found not guilty.

Nearly 10% Of Adult Illinoisans Do Not Have Valid Photo ID

Even as more states are looking at laws to mandate a photo ID in order to vote, nearly 1 in 10 voting-age adults in Illinois do not have one. 


That’s according to a survey from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, which found that 9.4% of those responding said they did not have a drivers license or other form of ID.


The Institute also found the problem disproportionately affects minorities… with 16-percent of blacks and 18-percent of Hispanics falling into that category.


Voter ID laws have become controversial… with Republicans saying it’s necessary to combat rare instances of fraud, while Democrats view it as an attempt to disenfranchise certain groups of voters.

City May Take Over Financial Responsibility for Oak Ridge Cemetery

The City of Springfield may have to take financial responsibility for the operations of Oak Ridge Cemetery.


That warning comes from city budget director Bill McCarty, who is asking aldermen to approve $380,000 to cover the cemetery’s expenses for the rest of the current fiscal year.


Eventually, McCarty says the city may have to pay for the cemetery’s entire operating budget.


Oak Ridge is suffering from a drop-off in burials, and is not taking in enough to meet expenses.


Oak Ridge is the second-most-visited cemetery in the United States, because of its status as the burial place of Abraham Lincoln.

Aldermen Approve TIF Funds for Blood Center

Springfield aldermen have approved nearly two-million-dollars in TIF district funding to help the Central Illinois Community Blood Center build a new headquarters at the south end of town.


Only Alderman Joe McMenamin voted against using money from the soon-to-expire Park South TIF to help underwrite the project.

Gov. Quinn: Sale of Thompson Should Help Pay Backlog Bills

Governor Pat Quinn says money from the sale of the Thomson Correctional Center should be used to pay off the prison's bond debt and the state's stack of unpaid bills.


State officials announced Tuesday the state will sell the closed prison to the federal government for $165 million.


In addition to the infusion of cash from the initial sale, Quinn says operating Thomson at full capacity will create hundreds of jobs in and around the prison.


Thomson is located 150 miles west of Chicago. It was built in 2001 but never fully opened.

U of I Prof: Vaguely Worded Constitutional Amendment on Ballot Targets Public Employees

A proposed constitutional amendment could put the pensions of state workers, teachers and other public sector employees in jeopardy.


That’s according to a retired U of I professor, who says the amendment on next month’s ballot is vaguely worded, but appears to contain a provision that would undo the current provisions in the Illinois Constitution that prevent a reduction in pension benefits for those workers.


The amendment would require a three-fifths vote before any public body could increase pension benefits, but retired professor John Kindt says that’s a smoke screen for an all-out assault on public sector pensions.

Police Investigate Shooting, Find Drugs and Paraphernalia in Victims Home

Springfield police are investigating a shooting that left one man with serious injuries.


The victim was shot once in the back in a home on Eastman Avenue.


Police investigating the incident found marijuana and drug paraphernalia in the home, and suspect the shooting is related to that.


Authorities are looking for a suspect described as black, five-foot-eleven, thin and wearing a diamond stud in his left ear.

13-Year-Old Joyriders Busted

Four kids are facing vandalism charges after allegedly causing $20,000 in damage to the former Pillsbury Mills plant on Springfield’s north end.


The State Journal-Register reports the four are all around the age of 13.


Police think they broke into the vacant plant Monday night and found a truck with a key inside.


They went joyriding around the property, crashing into other vehicles on the lot.


Police tracked them down shortly afterwards and charged all four.

City Making Steps to Change Funding Structure of Oak Ridge Cemetery

Despite steps to change how an historic Springfield cemetery is funded, Budget Director Bill McCarty says that burial services at Oak Ridge will not be diminished.


The nationally historic cemetery where President Abraham Lincoln is buried has, for a while, been operating with expenses surpassing revenue. During that time, Oak Ridge has been drawing down from their pre-need and perpetual care endowment funds.


McCarty says that the city is in the process of appropriating funds from the corporate fund to the cemetery to help stabilize its finances and may soon fold the two cemetery funds into the city’s corporate fund.

Aldermen Approve TIF Funds for Blood Center Development

Springfield aldermen approved an ordinance that would give the Central Illinois Community Blood Center just over $1.9 million dollars in Tax Increment Finance Funds from the Park South district for a new building. 


The developer, a non-profit, will use the money to build a new 24,000 square foot building on two vacant lots just south of Stanford on 10th Street.  This will be the site for the blood center's storage and labs.


Aldermen Joe McMenamin had a laundry list of objections for using the TIF funds for the project.  Among those reasons, McMenamin says the Blood Center won’t build upon the tax base.


He says another development that could improve the tax base would be more suited for that area and the TIF funds could be used for another project to beautify an area of downtown.


The vote was 9-1 with McMenamin as the lone no vote.

Dist. 186 School Board Votes Down Principal Raises

Springfield public school principals are questioning whether their work is valued after the school board voted to deny them pay raises or "longevity increases" based upon years of service.


The blow may have been magnified by a botched vote which at first appeared to grant the pay increases... until board member Judy Johnson indicated she had voted incorrectly and switched her vote, defeating the pay hikes.


Susan Palmer with the Springfield Principals Association says the group understands that times are tough, but says there should at least be some recognition for the years of service that principals put in.

Supt. Milton Downplays Dist. 186 Credit Downgrade

Springfield School Superintendent Walter Milton is downplaying the effects of a decision to downgrade the credit rating for District 186.


That rating was lowered last week, citing continued financial instability and deficit budgets.


But Milton says the rating had been at its highest level in years, and says even after it was lowered, it still remains higher than it had been before he took office.


And Milton insists that he’s working on a budget plan that will stabilize the district’s finances and restore its credit rating.

Elderly Woman Funds Group Pushing For Springfield Residency Requirement

The new committee set up to push for approval of a new residency rule for Springfield city workers is so far funded entirely by an elderly widow.


Alderman Joe McMenamin says the committee was established with a $2,000 donation from Margot Kramer.  She is also a major contributor to McMenamin’s separate campaign fund, donating another $3,000 to him over the past two years.


“Springfield Citizens for Residency” has begun distributing literature asking city residents to vote “yes” on a November advisory referendum about the residency issue.

Elderly Man Suffers Life Threatening Injuries Following Weekend Garage Fire

An elderly man is being treated for what authorities describe as life-threatening injuries from a weekend garage fire in Springfield.


A neighbor who saw smoke coming from the structure on Kirkley Lane pulled the man from the garage.


The victim’s name and condition were not immediately released.

Springfield Principals Angry After School Board Rejects Pay Raises

Springfield public school principals are questioning whether their work is valued after the school board voted to deny them pay raises or "longevity increases" based upon years of service.  The blow may have been magnified by a botched vote which at first appeared to grant the pay increases... until board member Judy Johnson indicated she had voted incorrectly and switched her vote, defeating the pay hikes.  Susan Palmer with the Springfield Principals Association says the group understands that times are tough, but says there should at least be some recognition for the years of service that principals put in.

Group With Ties To Alderman McMenamin Distributing Pro Residency Literature

A group calling itself “Springfield Citizens for Residency” is distributing literature asking city residents to support the upcoming referendum on a residency requirement for future city workers.


The group was established late last month, and has several ties to Alderman Joe McMenamin, the leading city council supporter of a residency requirement.


The group’s mailing address is the same as McMenamin’s law office, and McMenamin’s wife is listed as its treasurer.


A piece distributed by the group over the weekend says a residency rule would grow the city’s tax base, create demand for real estate, and, quote, “generate vested city employees.”

Dozens of Local Businesses Apply for Video Gaming Licenses

As legalized video gaming ramps up in Illinois, lots of Springfield businesses are lining up for a piece of the pie.


The State Journal-Register reports 70 local businesses have applied for licenses to install the machines, which will be connected to a state mainframe.


Among the local applicants for gaming licenses are bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, and Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.


Only one local license has been approved by the state so far.


It’s All About Wine on West Wabash plans to install the gaming devices as soon as possible.

No Charges for Shimkus Aide in Lohan Dust Up

A law enforcement official says a 25-year-old former staffer for Congressman John Shimkus will not be charged after being accused of assault by actress Lindsay Lohan.


Authorities interviewed both Lohan and Christian LaBella and determined the accusations against him couldn't be substantiated.


Lohan had told police that LaBella grabbed her forcefully during an argument in a hotel room over cell phone pictures he had allegedly taken of her.

Bacon Shortage Rumor Hogwash Says Farm Bureau Federation

It’s been a hot topic on Facebook and Twitter recently, but Midwestern agriculture experts say the idea of a supposed bacon shortage is hogwash.


The American Farm Bureau Federation and pork producers say the overall supply of pork will be down only slightly, if at all.


But even though you’ll be able to find bacon, you may be paying more for it.


They warn that the effects of the drought will drive up prices for livestock feed, and that, in turn, could raise the price of bacon by 10-percent or more.


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