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October 21, 2014, 2:06 am
970 WMAY News Archives for 2013-04

Zoo Director Thornton Resigns

Talon Thornton, director of Springfield's Henson Robinson Zoo since 1995, has resigned.


Thornton submitted his resignation Tuesday, but no immediate explanation was given.  He plans to stay on at the zoo until a replacement is chosen.


The zoo's accreditation was put on hold last year, and the park district recently implemented a master plan to oversee improvements at the zoo.


Neither Thornton nor acting park district director Derek Harms returned calls seeking comment.

Aldermen and Police Chief Discuss Conspiracy Theories About Internal Affairs Records

Springfield Aldermen are questioning recent actions taken by the Chief of Police and the city's Corporation Counsel about changes in police contracts without council consideration.


Ward 1 Aldermen Frank Edwards says changes to the handling of Internal Affairs investigation reports seems to be "done in the dark of night." Edwards is demanding information regarding the legality of a memo of understanding concerning the destruction of internal investigation files of police officers after four years, instead of the agreed upon five years, as passed late last year.


Aldermen Gail Simpson says that the lack of aldermen being notified of the change shows a failure and "doesn't do anything to help with public trust." Aldermen were alerted to the change because of a citizen's Freedom of Information Act Request.


Police Chief Robert Williams, who appears as a signing member of the memo along side the police union president, says that the decision to destroy the IA records is to be more efficient and eliminate waste. He also says he will not address "conspiracy theories" about destroying IA files of a potential candidate for police chief, who may have had an IA investigation just over 4 years ago.


Edwards fired back that the only person talking about conspiracy theories was the police chief and that the memo "won't hold water." Williams says before signing on to the agreement, he checked with the City's Corporation Counsel office.  


Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen says he was not aware of the conversations.  He also says that it was a mistake not to include the director of labor relations in the decision.


Cullen says he will get a written legal opinion on the legality of the memo to aldermen soon.


The most recent police contract was agreed upon by aldermen last December.

AFSCME Contract Still Up In The Air

AFSCME’s contract with the State may no longer be a done deal.


The largest state employees union says it will conduct a re-vote on the contract because the state isn’t keeping one of the promises that was made in the agreement. The deal calls for the state to drop its appeal of a court order granting union workers back pay raises.


Attorney General Lisa Madigan is refusing to drop that appeal because lawmakers have not yet approved the money to fund that back pay.

Some Murder Charges Dropped Against Christopher Harris

Prosecutors have dropped more than two dozen charges against one of the brothers accused of killing a Beason family in 2009… but well over 30 counts remain.


The various counts all argue different legal theories of the case against Christopher Harris, but prosecutors say they want to narrow and simplify the case for the jury that will be seated to hear the evidence. Prosecutors have also dropped five counts of attempted criminal sexual assault, related to a 16-year-old victim, Justina Constant, who was found bludgeoned to death along with four other members of her family.


The Bloomington Pantagraph reports that Christopher Harris decided to stay in his cell rather than go to court for the first phase of jury selection.

Two Springfield Lending Companies Fined

Two Springfield lending companies have been fined by the state.


The Department of Professional Regulation says Title Cash of Illinois was fined more than $28,000 for multiple violations, including allegedly issuing loan documents that don’t carry the required transaction number or information about repayment. T


he state has also fined Check Into Cash of Springfield $3,000 for failing to post signs… with one-inch type… informing consumers that their loans are intended for short-term cash needs only, and are not intended to address long-term financial issues.

New State Pension Proposal

There’s another new pension proposal on the table at the State Capitol… and this one comes from one of the top dogs himself. House Speaker Mike Madigan has added his own amendment to an earlier bill sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton.


Madigan’s proposal is similar to an earlier bipartisan effort which passed the House and is pending in the Senate, but makes some modest changes to that bill’s provisions on cost-of-living increases and on guarantees of state funding for pension requirements. Madigan’s amendment will go before the House Personnel and Pensions Committee on Wednesday.

Victim's Statements About Child Not Admissible in Beason Murder Trial

A judge has delivered a setback to the defense team for accused killer Christopher Harris, just ahead of his trial for the killings of five members of a Beason family.


Lawyers for Harris had wanted to bring up statements reportedly made by murder victims Rick and Ruth Gee, two years prior to the killings, raising concerns about their son Dillen and possible violent tendencies.


The defense claims that Dillen… not Christopher Harris… killed the couple and two other children, and that Christopher Harris then killed Dillen in self-defense.


The Bloomington Pantagraph reports that the judge ruled the statements had been made too far ahead of the murders to be relevant.

Schock Says Illinois' Political Landscape One Factor in Not Seeking Governorship

Congressman Aaron Schock acknowledges that the Illinois political landscape next year was one of the factors in his decision to drop the idea of running for governor, and seek another term in Congress instead.


Schock announced his decision last week, saying he could do more good on Capitol Hill.


But when asked Monday if negative ads that were run against him this year were a factor in his decision, Schock said everything was a factor… including the field of challengers he might face in a GOP primary or the 2014 general election.


Schock says he has not ruled out seeking a different office in the future.

Fundraising Efforts Continue to Restore First African-American Firehouse in Springfield

Fundraising continues for a project to restore the façade of the building that housed Springfield’s first African-American firehouse.


In the early 1900s, segregation in the fire department led to black firefighters being assigned to their own fire stations, the first of which was located at 1310 E. Adams.


Donations by several local groups have raised thousands of dollars for architectural and engineering studies… but another $200,000 will likely be needed for the actual construction of the façade.


Donations can be made through the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

Schock Explains Why No Gubernatorial Run

Congressman Aaron Schock says a number of factors went into his decision not to run for governor next year. Schock announced last week that he will seek re-election for another term on Capitol Hill rather than try for the Republican nomination for governor.


Schock says he thinks he can do more good as a member of the Republican majority in the house. But he also acknowledges that the lineup of potential GOP opponents and the General Election contest were factors in his decision. Schock says he does believe a Republican can claim the Governor’s mansion next year, but he’s not getting behind any particular candidate right now.

New Emergency Operations Center in Sherman

The Village of Sherman is showing off its new emergency operations center, a facility staffed mostly by volunteers and constructed with only a few thousand dollars of taxpayer money.


The facility which allows officials in Sherman to track severe weather and other emergencies is housed below ground in the new police department headquarters, a building that was donated last year by Illini Bank.


Authorities say it is safer and more secure than the previous ground-level operations center. Other equipment was donated or was purchased as military surplus at a fraction of its original cost.

Judge Delivers Setback To Christopher Harris Defense

A Peoria judge will not let the jury hear a statement that could have been a pivotal part of the defense case for Christopher Harris… accused of killing five members of a Beason family. 


Defense lawyers argue that Harris discovered the family being killed by 14-year-old Dillen Constant… and that Harris then killed Dillen in self-defense.  They had wanted to introduce a statement supposedly made by Dillen’s mother discussing the boy’s violent tendencies. 


But according to the Bloomington Pantagraph, the judge ruled that the statement, from two years before the killings, was too old to be relevant.  Jury selection in Peoria is scheduled to start Tuesday.

Latest Gun Bill To Be Rewritten

Senate Democrats say the latest proposal for a new concealed carry law in Illinois will be withdrawn and rewritten before it’s officially filed. 


The Associated Press obtained a draft of that bill, sponsored by Democratic Senator Kwame Raoul.  It calls for granting concealed carry permits only to persons of, quote, “good moral character” who have shown a “proper reason” to have one. 


Gun rights advocates call that language too vague and say they want an objective standard where permits could only be denied if a person was a felon or did not get proper training.  A spokesperson for Senate Democrats says the bill will be revised.

Rutherford Sounding More Like A Candidate For Governor

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is making it sound like he’s a lock to jump into next year’s race for governor. 


The Kankakee Daily Journal reports that Rutherford confirmed his intentions in a speech to an Iroquois County GOP women’s group over the weekend.  Members of that group say that Rutherford told them he plans to run and will make an official announcement in June.

Local Groups Support Effort To Restore Springfield's First Black Firehouse

Local groups are seeing early success with a fundraising effort that hopes to eventually restore the façade of the historic building that once served as Springfield’s first African-American firehouse. 


When the building was built around 1902 or 1903, the fire department… like most of Springfield… was racially segregated, and black firefighters were assigned to their own separate fire stations. 


Donations from groups including the Springfield Area Basic Crafts Council, Operating Engineers Local 965, and the Springfield Project have raised nearly three-fourths of the money needed for architectural and engineering studies for the project. 


But it may take another $200,000 to eventually complete that restored façade on the building at 1310 E. Adams.

Flood Waters Begin to Recede, Still Puts Pressure on Levees

Water levels are finally starting to drop on the Illinois River at Beardstown and Meredosia.


Levees are continuing to hold following the river crest over the weekend, but officials say they will still monitor carefully, because the receding waters are still putting tremendous pressure on those levees.


State officials have warned that flooding fears may be back within weeks, as snowmelt from northern states sends water levels rising on the Mississippi River and the waterways that feed into it.

Beason Murder Trial Gets Underway in Peoria

A long-awaited trial gets underway today for the first of two brothers accused in the 2009 murders of a Beason family.


The trial of Christopher Harris has been moved to Peoria because of pre-trial publicity in Logan County.


Prosecutors contend he and his brother Jason murdered Rick and Ruth Gee and three of their children after going to their home to steal a laptop and sexually assault 16-year-old Justina Constant, one of the victims.


But defense lawyers contend that Christopher walked in on 14-year-old Dillen Constant murdering the rest of his family, and say Christopher then killed Dillen in self-defense.


The trial could last up to three weeks.

Memorial Vigil in Manchester Pay Tribute to Slain Family

Family, friends and supporters have gathered in tribute to the victims of last week’s mass killings in Scott County.


A memorial vigil was held in Manchester last night, drawing a large crowd of people who are still trying to understand why an acquaintance broke into a residence there and killed five people inside, including a pregnant woman.


Authorities revealed over the weekend that suspected shooter Rick Smith had a shotgun, two rifles and an 18-inch machete with him when he was shot and killed by police last week… but still have not revealed anything about his possible motive.

Quinn and ISRA Battle Over Local Control for Concealed Carry As Deadline Approaches

Governor Pat Quinn is sticking to his guns about what should go into an eventual concealed carry bill in Illinois.


Quinn wants to see the standards about who gets to carry weapons left up to the control of local municipalities, rather than being set at the state level.


But the Illinois State Rifle Association adamantly opposes that, saying it would lead to a patchwork of different laws that would be impossible for gun owners to keep track of, or obey.


The difference of opinion could jeopardize efforts to craft a bill that can win approval of lawmakers and be signed into law before a court-ordered deadline for the state to approve “reasonable” concealed carry legislation.

Weekend Plane Crash in Afghanistan Kills Captain from Scott Air Force Base

An Air Force captain stationed at Scott Air Force Base is among four servicemen killed in a weekend plane crash in Afghanistan.


Captain Brandon Cyr was on his fourth overseas deployment in four years.


He was flying NATO missions in southern Afghanistan when his plane went down.


The causea of the crash is still under investigation, but Pentgon officials say there is no sign of enemy activity in that area at the time of the crash.

Adams County Drug Court Probation Officer Busted for Meth

An Adams County probation officer who helps to oversee that county’s drug court program has been arrested on methamphetamine charges.


The Quincy Herald-Whig reports 59-year-old John Grotts was taken into custody after authorities executed a search warrant.


Also arrested was 35-year-old Devin Lawton.


She graduated from the Drug Court program last year.


Authorities say she was living at Grotts’s residence.

New Details On Suspected Manchester Shooter's Arsenal

The suspected shooter in the Manchester murders had two rifles, a shotgun, and an 18-inch machete with him when he was fatally wounded in a gun battle with police after the mass killings Wednesday. 


State police offered new details on the arsenal that Rick Smith was carrying… but still have not shed any light on his possible motive for the murders of five people, including a pregnant woman.

Two Funds Set Up For Murder Victims' Funeral Expenses

Two funds have been set up to help with funeral expenses for the victims of this week’s multiple homicide in Scott County. 


One was established at People’s Bank and Trust in White Hall to assist the mother of pregnant victim Brittney Luark, who was killed along with her two sons, her unborn child and her grandmother. 


A second fund is set up at Carrollton Bank in Carrollton for the family of Brittney Luark’s boyfriend, James Roy Ralston, who also died in the incident.

Local Business Owners Have Mixed Feelings On Economic Outlook

Local business owners are generally positive about their own prospects for the coming year… but less optimistic about the outlook for the rest of Sangamon County. 


A new survey from the University of Illinois Springfield finds about 40-percent expect the local job picture to stay the same… while just over 30-percent expect at least modest job growth in the next 12 months, and just under 30-percent expect at least small declines.


The state of Illinois’s ongoing fiscal problems are also weighing heavily on the minds of local business owners.  80-percent say the state’s budget crisis will have a negative impact on their own bottom line in the coming year. 


The local health-care sector is the most optimistic about their own growth in the next 12 months, while employers in the education sector have the least positive outlook.

Low-Interest Loans Available For Flood Victims

The state of Illinois is offering low-interest loans to help victims of the ongoing flooding in northern and western Illinois. 


The loans are made through private banks but are backed by deposits of state funds into that bank. 


More details are available through State Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s website.

Sangamon County Economic Outlook

Sangamon County business owners generally feel good about their own prospects for the coming 12 months, but they’re not as sure about the county’s economy as a whole.


The latest economic outlook numbers from the University of Illinois Springfield show that around 40-percent of employers expect the local job picture to remain roughly the same, while just over 30-percent expect some increase in employment, and just under 30-percent think it will decline.


Employers in health-care related businesses have the most positive outlook, while the education sector is the most pessimistic.

Fund Established For Manchester Murder Victims

A fund has been established to help with burial and funeral expenses for the victims of this week’s mass killings in the town of Manchester. That fund was established on behalf of Rita Luark, the mother of pregnant victim Brittney Luark and grandmother of the two young boys who were killed along with Brittnehy Luark’s boyfriend and grandmother.


A statement from People’s Bank and Trust says the family does not have the money to pay for all five burials. That fund has been set up at the People’s Bank and Trust branch in the Greene County town of White Hall.

Manchester Murders: Autopsy Confirms Victim's Pregnancy, Police Quiet on Relationship of Suspect

While family and friends mourn the victims of this week’s mass murders in Scott County, authorities are still refusing to discuss the relationship between the victims and the shooter.


An autopsy confirms that one of the victims, Brittney Luark, was pregnant, and officials say they are counting her unborn child as the sixth murder victim from that shooting in Manchester.


Luark’s boyfriend, their two sons, and Luark’s grandmother were also killed.


A six-year-old girl who was injured in the attack has now been upgraded to fair condition at a Springfield hospital.


Police will only say that the victims were acquainted with the shooter, Rick Smith, but haven’t disclosed the nature of the relationship.


Smith was killed in a shootout with police hours after the murders.

Schock Says No Go for Gubernatorial Candidacy, Wants to Stay in House of Reps

Congressman Aaron Schock has decided not to trade Capitol Hill for the state capital.


Schock announced in a statement overnight that he will seek re-election to his congressional seat next year, rather than run for governor.


Schock had been thinking about entering a crowded Republican primary for governor next year, but now says he can do more good if he remains in Washington.


Schock serves on the powerful House Ways and Means committee, where a spokesman says he plans to continue working on comprehensive tax reform legislation.

Discovery Recount Set for Wednesday in Dist. 186 Subdistrict 5 School Board Race

As expected, the candidate who currently trails by one vote in a disputed Springfield school board race has asked for a discovery recount.


Katharine Eastvold wants ballots recounted in three precincts from Subdistrict 5.


Eastvold’s opponent Donna Moore received the tiebreaking vote on an absentee ballot earlier this week, giving her a one-vote lead in that race.


The three precincts will be recounted next Wednesday, and the results could give Eastvold ammunition to go to court to seek a full recount of the entire subdistrict.

Illinois Senate Approves Funds for Schools

The Illinois Senate has approved a bill that could mean hundreds of thousands of extra dollars for Springfield public schools.


That bill from Democratic Senator Andy Manar calls for the state to make a payment to compensate for state government-owned buildings that are not on the property tax rolls.


That amount could range from $100,000 to $600,000, depending upon average property values.


The bill now goes to the House.

State's Appeal of AFSCME Raises Ruling To Stay Until Legislature Approves Money for Back Pay

Governor Pat Quinn wants the state to drop its appeal of a court ruling over back pay for state employees… but Attorney General Lisa Madigan is refusing to do it for now.


AFSCME won that case in court, with a judge ordering the state to pay the raises that had been withheld for two years.


The state appealed, but now AFSCME wants the appeal dropped before it formally signs a new contract that includes that back pay.


Quinn agreed to that, but Madigan says the appeal should stay in place until the legislature approves the money for the back pay.


She says if lawmakers fund the raises, the lawsuit is moot and she’ll drop the appeal… but if they don’t, she wants the option to proceed in court.

Illinoisans Continue to Battle Flood Waters

Volunteers will keep filling sandbags in Meredosia over the weekend, as officials continue to monitor how well levees are holding up against the floodwaters of the Illinois River.


The river appears to have crested overnight in Beardstown, and should reach its crest in Meredosia later today.


But the waters will recede slowly, keeping enormous pressure on the levees for several more days.


Meanwhile, Governor Pat Quinn has added four more counties to the list of state disaster areas, bringing the total to 48 counties now eligible for expanded state assistance.

Illinois Senate Passes Measure to Help Local School Districts

The Illinois Senate has approved a measure that could bring more money to Springfield schools.


The bill, sponsored by Democratic state senator Andy Manar, would give District 186 a payment to make up for the money lost because state government buildings are removed from the property tax rolls. A formula would be used to calculate the payment, based on the current average property value per acre within the district. That amount hasn't been determined yet, but could mean anywhere from $100,000 to $600,000 extra for Springfield schools in the next fiscal year.


The bill now heads to the House.

Several Big Local Capital Projects Slated

The state of Illinois has awarded contracts for several big local projects this spring and summer. More than a million dollars in state money will go to complete an upgrade to the perimeter fence at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. Some federal and local money is also involved in that project.


The state will also spend nearly $300,000 to improve sidewalks around Williamsville Junior High School, and more than $300,000 on a bridge near Greenview. Governor Pat Quinn says the money comes from the state’s $31 billion “Illinois Jobs Now” public works program.

Springfield Unemployment Up

Springfield’s unemployment rate is up… and the total number of jobs in the area is down… compared to last year, according to the latest state figures. The numbers from the Department of Employment Security show the city’s jobless rate stood at 7.8% last month… two-tenths higher than in March of 2012.


Meanwhile, the total number of non-farm jobs declined slightly from last year, with the biggest decrease coming in Business and Professional Services.  Layoffs in Decatur leave it tied for the highest unemployment rate among major Illinois cities.

Autopsy: Manchester Murder Victim Was Pregnant

An autopsy confirms that one of the five people shot to death in a home in the town of Manchester was pregnant when she was killed. 


23-year-old Brittney Luark was also the mother of the two boys who were fatally shot by a gunman who entered their home early Wednesday. In addition to Luark, 5-year-old Nolan Ralston and 1-year-old Brantley Ralston, the other victims were Luark’s boyfriend and the boys’ father, 29-year-old James Roy Ralston… and Luark’s grandmother, 67-year-old Jo Ann Sinclair. A six-year-old girl was also wounded in the attack at the home, and is now listed in serious condition at a Springfield hospital.


Investigators are still trying to determine the connection between the family and gunman Rick Smith, who was fatally shot during a gun battle with police.

Police Still Investigating Relationships in Scott County Killings

Authorities say they’re still trying to figure out why a Morgan County man broke into an apartment in the small Scott County town of Manchester and shot five people to death.


Rick O. Smith
Rick O. Smith

43-year-old Rick Smith also critically wounded a six-year-old girl, then carried her out of the home and handed her to a neighbor before fleeing.


Smith was tracked down less than three hours later, and was himself fatally shot in a gunfight with police.


The victims have been identified as 66-year-old Joanne Sinclair; her granddaughter, 23-year-old Brittany Luark; Luark’s boyfriend, James “Roy” Ralston; and two children, five-year-old Nolan Ralston and one-year-old Brantley Ralston.


State police say they’re investigating the exact relationship between Smith and the victims.

Scott County Reacts to Mass Killing

Scott County residents are reeling from the first multiple homicide in the county’s history.


State’s Attorney Michael Hill says such violent crime is rare in his county, but it can happen anywhere.


Ron Drake… who is both the village president of Manchester and the uncle of shooting suspect Rick Smith… says the crime is “devastating,” and says all the community can do is ask the Lord for help to get through it.

Getting Businesses Back Up and Running After Floods Top Priority

Businesses hard-hit by flooding… and those who are assisting in the relief and recovery efforts… will get top priority in state bill payment, according to Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.


Topinka says despite the backlog in paying the state’s bills, it is essential to get money back into the flood zones as soon as possible to minimize the economic damage from the disaster.

Waverly Man Sentenced for Fatal DUI Crash

A Waverly man has been sentenced to eight years in prison for a DUI accident that killed another driver.


27-year-old Alex Robertson pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI for the crash last July at 9th and Monroe.


Robertson ran a red light at the intersection and struck a van driven by 22-year-old Quana Poole.


She died the next day.


Robertson could have received a maximum of 14 years behind bars on the felony charge.

Reports of Aggressive Cellmates Just Before String of Prison Murders

Inmates at a maximum-security prison in southern Illinois reported concern about "aggressive cellmates" shortly before a string of killings at the penitentiary, according to a report by an independent group.


Since then, three inmates at the Menard Correctional Center have been killed… and a cellmate is suspected in each case.


Authorities have now filed murder charges in one of those three incidents.


State corrections officials say they are reviewing their policies regarding cell assignments.

Alderman Simpson Calls for Board and Commission Members to Reside in Springfield

It’s not on the books yet in Springfield, but city aldermen may have already instituted a residency requirement on some of the city’s boards and commissions.


The State Journal-Register reports the City Council last week rejected the reappointments of two people to unpaid positions on the city’s electrical commission.


Alderman Gail Simpson told the paper that people who live outside the city shouldn’t make decisions that affect city residents.


One of the rejected appointees is an electrician who lives in Mechanicsburg.


Glenn Baugh says he still works and owns property in Springfield, and questions the idea that he wouldn’t have the city’s best interests at heart.

Authorities Piecing Together Motive For Manchester Murder

Authorities in Scott County are still trying to piece together the motive for a shooting that left five members of one family dead. The murders happened early this morning in Manchester about 50 miles west of Springfield.


Police believe 43-year-old Rick O’Dell Smith forced his way into the home and killed the five victims, including two children. Another child was injured. Police say Smith brought her out of the home and handed her to a neighbor before fleeing. She is in critical condition at St John’s Hospital. Smith died later after being shot in a gunfight with police.


Authorities are still investigating the relationship between Smith and the victims. They have not officially released the victim’s names yet.

Grandstand Tickets Go On Sale Saturday

Tickets go on sale this Saturday for most of the shows in this year’s State Fair Grandstand lineup.


The fair in August will feature acts ranging from classic rock with Styx and REO Speedwagon, to country stars like Toby Keith and the Band Perry, to current pop stars like John Mayer and Kesha. Tickets for Mayer and Keith are already on sale, but your first chance for tickets to the other Grandstand concerts begins at 10am Saturday through Ticketmaster.


The Grandstand ticket office at the fairgrounds will not open for in-person ticket sales until June.

Comptroler Promises To Put Flood Bills First

The state still has a multi-billion-dollar backlog of bills… but Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is promising to push bills related to the ongoing flooding around Illinois to the top of the stack. Topinka says the flood waters affecting nearly half of Illinois counties have caused economic devastation in many communities… and she says affected residents and businesses can’t afford to wait. Topinka says she will expedite payments owed to businesses that have been impacted by the floods… along with any money owed to businesses that have contracted to help with cleanup and recovery in the 44 counties under the state disaster declaration.

UPDATE: Five Shot Dead In Scott County; Suspect Also Dies After Shootout With Police

Five people have been found shot to death in a residence in Manchester, in Scott County, and the suspect is also dead following a shootout with police.


The tragedy began to unfold with the discovery of the bodies of the five victims early Wednesday morning.  The victims had all been fatally shot.  A sixth person, a child, was taken to a hospital and is reportedly in serious condition.


Manchester is located about 50 miles west of Springfield. Several school districts in that area called off classes for the day while authorities looked for the shooter.


Police pursued the suspect, and shots were exchanged when they caught up to him several hours after the murders.  The suspect was wounded and later died of his injuries at an area hospital.  Authorities say he had multiple weapons with him when he was apprehended.


Officials say they are not looking for any other suspects, and there is no danger to the general public.  They did not discuss any possible motives for the murders.


Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on this unfolding story.

Final Vote Tallied in Subdistrict 5 Race, Discovery Recount Sought

It’s not over until the last vote is counted… and even then it’s not over.


Donna Moore now has a one-vote lead in the race for Springfield School Board Subdistrict 5… after a mail-in absentee ballot broke a tie in her favor.


But Moore’s opponent Katharine Eastvold isn’t giving up yet.


She will seek a discovery recount, the results of which could be used to seek a full recount.


Eastvold says with a difference of one vote out of 1500 cast, the voters deserve to be certain that the count was accurate.


The newly-elected school board is scheduled to be seated on May 6th.


Watch video of the ballot being revealed and the candidates reactions in the video below or at this link.


Towns Battle Flood Waters with Hope and Sandbags

Officials in Beardstown remain hopeful that levees and flood walls will be enough to prevent significant damage from the near-record-high levels of the Illinois River.


But the town has closed schools and cancelled prom for this weekend as a precaution.


Meredosia also has some tense hours ahead, as it waits to see whether its levee and a sandbagging effort can hold up against the rising river waters.


The Illinois River isn’t expected to crest there until Friday.

State Senate Approves 70 MPH Speed Limit

The Illinois Senate has overwhelmingly approved raising the speed limit to 70 miles an hour on most interstates and tollways around the state.


The vote was 41-to-6 in favor, with supporters saying the change would bring Illinois in line with most other states… and with the reality that many drivers routinely ignore the current 65 mile-an-hour limit.


That bill now goes to the House.

Tan Ban Passes IL Senate, Likely to Head to Governor's Desk

The state Senate has followed the lead of the House and approved a statewide ban on teen tanning.


The bill… similar to a local ordinance approved by Springfield aldermen last year… was passed by the Senate on a vote of 42-to-9, with no debate.


It would prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from using an indoor commercial tanning bed, regardless of whether they had parental permission.


The House has already approved a separate, but nearly identical, bill, making it likely that one version or the other will make its way to Governor Pat Quinn’s desk.

Sheriff Williamson Stands Strong Against Medical Pot

Another controversial piece of legislation is drawing a strong reaction from a top local law enforcer.


Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson is staunchly opposed to a bill that would let doctors prescribe marijuana to treat the symptoms of serious illnesses, from cancer to AIDS.


Williamson says if marijuana is authorized for some people, it will inevitably fall into the wrong hands, giving teenagers more access to the drug.


Williamson says he opposes any loosening of marijuana laws, calling it “another chip away in our society.”

Final Subdistrict 5 Vote Goes To Donna Moore; Recount Expected

The tied race in Springfield school board subdistrict 5 has been resolved, with a single mail-in absentee ballot cast in favor of Donna Moore.


Moore says she is "thrilled" with the result, but also acknowledges that the process is not over yet, because a recount is expected.

Opponent Katharine Eastvold says she will seek a discovery recount to ensure that the count is accurate, saying that the voters deserve to know that.


Moore will be certified the winner, but Eastvold can still pursue the discovery recount.  If it shows reason to question the final tally, Eastvold can seek a court order for a full recount.


Watch the vote revealed and the candidates reaction in the video below or at this link.


Trucker Charged With Reckless Homicide In Trooper's Death

The truck driver who struck and killed an Illinois State Police trooper on Interstate 55 near Litchfield last year has been charged with reckless homicide. 


52-year-old Johnny Felton was taken into custody in his home state of Georgia after being indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury. He will be returned to Illinois for indictment, and will be held on $250,000 bond. He could face 14 years in prison if convicted. 


Prosecutors say Felton was speeding when he hit Trooper Kyle Deatherage, who was conducting a traffic stop.

Sheriff Opposes Medical Marijuana

Illinois lawmakers are still debating whether to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for very ill people… but one local lawman says they should reject the idea. 


Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson says giving people access to marijuana for any reason is simply going to make it easier for people who shouldn’t have it to obtain it. 


Williamson says introducing cannabis into the mix… even to treat the symptoms of serious illnesses… will make matters more complicated for law enforcement and will become, in his words, a “slippery slope.”

Two Dist. 186 Employees Resign Over Leaked CCPA Student Data

The Springfield school board has accepted the resignations of two employees… including the district’s longtime director of technology Sue Ruff… following the investigation into the unauthorized release of student names and test scores from the Capital College Preparatory Academy.


The board also approved a motion to apologize to CCPA students and parents over the incident.


A police report indicated the data was provided to a member of the district’s citizens budget review committee, who was permitted to see it.


But board members now say that committee should not have had such sensitive data, and it remains unclear who initiated the effort to obtain the confidential information.

Sheriff Williamson Announces Retirement, Leave Political Future Open

Saying he’s running out of gas after nearly 20 years in office, Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson confirms that he will not run for a sixth term next year.


Williamson says it is time for a “fresh face” in the office.


But the end of a law enforcement career that spans more than four decades doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Williamson’s political career.


He has not ruled out a run for another office in the future… and left open the possibility he could run for something else as early as next year.

Undersheriff Campbell Announces Sangamon County Sheriff Candidacy

The first candidate is already in for what could be a crowded race to replace Sheriff Neil Williamson.


Undersheriff Jack Campbell has announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for sheriff in 2014.


Campbell is Williamson’s hand-picked choice to take over, but he will likely have competition.


Longtime deputy Wes Barr is also expected to announce he will enter the Republican primary for sheriff after he retires from the department next month.


County GOP chair Rosemarie Long says both men would make a great sheriff, but for now she’s not taking sides.

Last Absentee Ballot to be Counted in Tied School Board Race, Candidates Will Seek Recount

It’s proof positive that every vote counts.


Sangamon County election officials will open and count a single mail-in absentee ballot today from school board subdistrict 5.


If the vote is valid, it will break a tie between candidates Katharine Eastvold and Donna Moore.


But it won’t be the last word on the race.


Both candidates have indicated they plan to seek a recount if the vote doesn’t go their way.

Gov. Quinn Asks for Federal Assistance in Flood Cleanup

Governor Pat Quinn is asking for federal assistance… and dollars… to help sections of Illinois that continue to battle near-record floods.


Quinn visited Meredosia Monday and talked about a massive state effort across multiple agencies to help communities keep the rising waters at bay.


The Illinois River is expected to crest today in many locations, although the new projections are lower than what forecasters had predicted over the weekend.

School Board Accepts Resignations Of Two Employees, Apologizes For Leak Of Student Data

The Springfield school board has accepted the resignations of two employees -- including Technology Director Sue Ruff -- and has approved a motion formally apologizing for the unauthorized release of student test scores from the Capital College Preparatory Academy.


But some board members are still raising questions about the leak, despite a police report indicating that no crime had taken place.  Bill Looby said a member of a citizens budget committee did not have approval to obtain those numbers, contrary to the findings of the Springfield police investigation.  That committee member told police he was providing school board members with information.  Looby asked if any board members would acknowledge that they had been working with that committee member, but none would do so.


The two employees were among three named in the police report as violating district policy by accessing the data outside of normal procedures, or by trying to cover up that fact.  The fate of the third employee will be decided at the next school board meeting in May.

Undersheriff Tosses Hat Into Ring To Run For Sangamon County Sheriff

The first candidate has already jumped into the race for Sangamon County’s open sheriff’s seat. Under Sheriff Jack Campbell…the number two man in the department…wasted no time in announcing that he will attempt to succeed Williamson.


Campbell is the sheriff’s hand-picked choice for the job and says there is very little that he would do differently than what Williamson has done in the job. Campbell is a 17-year veteran of the department and was appointed as Williamson’s top deputy in 2008.

Springfield Chamber of Commerce Concerned About City's Skilled Workforce

A skilled workforce, or the lack of it, has some local business leaders worried.


The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce says there are not enough skilled workers to meet the demand for such employees, now and in the future. The Chamber says future job growth will focus primarily on jobs that require some kind of degree beyond high school, but six out of ten working-age adults in Sangamon County currently don’t have as much as an associate’s degree.


The Chamber will hold a news conference Tuesday to discuss strategies to cope with the problem.

State Treasurer Urges Businesses To Stay In Illinois

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is telling Illinois businesses that they have plenty of good reasons to stay put, even as he admits that Texas Governor Rick Perry makes some good points as Perry tries to lure those businesses away.


Rutherford, who is a Republican like Perry, says the state has plenty to offer businesses, including a skilled workforce, an excellent transportation system, and strong cultural and recreational programs. But Rutherford, a likely candidate for governor, says Perry has pointed out valid concerns about the state’s finances and pension crisis, and says that should be a wake-up call to lawmakers.

Sheriff Williamson Will Not Seek Another Term

Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson will not seek another term as the county’s top law enforcement official in an announcement Monday morning.


Williamson says he is ready to retire from the position he’s held for nearly 20 years.


He didn’t say whether he would seek another political office after leaving the sheriff’s post. Undersheriff Jack Campbell is set to make an announcement later today.


It’s speculated that Campbell could seek the Sheriff’s office, something Williamson says he would support.


That could set up a primary challenge with another sheriff’s deputy, Wes Barr, who is thought to be a strong candidate.


As for Williamson, he says he will fill out his entire term as sheriff, even the few months after the time he’s eligible to retire.

Flooding Concerns Brings Out Sandbags in Beardstown

Flooding fears are mounting, as the Illinois River continues climbing.


They’re filling sandbags in Beardstown, where the river is expected to crest at an all-time high by the end of the week.


That expected crest over 30 feet is adding to concerns that levees could be breached, inundating the town with floodwaters.


Governor Pat Quinn visits Meredosia today, where volunteers have been filling sandbags all weekend.


Making matters worse, more rain is in the forecast for tonight and Tuesday, with as much as another inch expected to fall.

Gov. Quinn Adds More Flooded Counties to Disaster Area Designation

As Governor Pat Quinn tours flood-ravaged areas of the state, he is adding more counties to the list of those designated as disaster areas.


Quinn added several more Northern Illinois counties to the list Sunday, bringing the total to 44.


The declarations will bring more state assistance into those affected areas, and Quinn hopes they will bolster the case for the need to receive federal funding to help with the response and recovery.

Dist. 186 Eyes More Cuts At School Board Meeting

More budget-cutting votes are on tonight’s agenda for the Springfield school board.


The board will consider a proposal for unpaid furlough days for top staffers at the District 186 central office.


A dozen administrators and managers could face anywhere from one to five days off without pay in the coming school year if the measure is approved.


The board will also vote on whether to drop dues-paying memberships in organizations ranging from the Illinois Association of School Boards to the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.


That move could save $24,000.

Questions Raised About Volunteer Auxiliary Officers Used By Police Around State

A new report is raising questions about the widespread use of volunteer auxiliary officers by police departments around the state.


The Chicago Tribune reports that the state agency which oversees the use of auxiliary units acknowledges that its record-keeping is incomplete, making it impossible to determine how many of the 1,000 armed volunteers have received proper training.


27 county sheriff’s departments around the state… including Sangamon County… have such volunteer units, which provide assistance with traffic and crowd control.


That frees up full sworn officers to concentrate on other priorities.

Sheriff Williamson To Make Political Announcement Today

Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson will make an announcement today about his political future… amid speculation that he may be about to hang up his badge.


Williamson has called a news conference for an announcement about next year’s election.


Many believe Williamson will announce that he won’t seek another term.


He will have been in office 20 years by the time the 2014 general election arrives.


Williamson considered not running in the last election, but ultimately decided to seek another term and cruised to an easy win.

Homeless Population Numbers Are Mixed

New numbers on homelessness have good and bad news for Illinois.


Overall, the number of people identified as homeless at some point during the year went up 1% in 2012… even though the national rate was down slightly.


But officials say there are still hopeful signs… including a 13% decrease in the “chronically homeless,” identified as those who are homeless for a year or longer.


They say the credit goes to an increase in federal funds for “supportive housing” and other programs for the chronically homeless.

Flooding Continues To Worsen In Central, Northern Illinois

Governor Pat Quinn is touring areas that are battling ongoing… and worsening… flooding.  Some of those areas include Marseilles (mar-SAYLZ’), where flooding has heavily damaged the elementary school, which will likely stay closed for the rest of the school year… and Morris, where a hospital had to be evacuated because of the flooding. 


With flood waters approaching, Caterpillar is closing its facility in East Peoria for the next few days… and moving some 6800 workers to different locations for the time being.  A company spokesman says the move is being made out of an abundance of caution, to protect workers and equipment as the Illinois River climbs to near-record levels.


Locally, the Sangamon River continues to climb, and is now not expected to peak until Monday, at about a foot-and-a-half above flood stage.  The swollen river is still expected to affect primarily farmland.


41 Illinois counties have now been declared state disaster areas.

Officials Warn Of Scams Related To Boston Bombings, Illinois Floods

The two biggest stories of the week could both provide opportunities for con artists.  Attorney General Lisa Madigan is warning Illinoisans to be careful of scams that claim to seek money to help victims of the Boston bombing, or that supposedly offer repairs for damage related to the ongoing Illinois flooding.

School Board Considers More Budget-Cutting Options

The Springfield school board will vote Monday night on whether to require top District 186 administrators to take unpaid furlough days in the next school year.  If the measure passes, 12 top staffers would be docked anywhere from one to five days next year as part of the district’s budget-cutting effort.


Meanwhile, District 186 may end its membership in several professional organizations as it continues to pinch pennies while wrestling with a multi-million-dollar budget deficit.  The school board will vote Monday on whether to stop being a dues-paying member of groups ranging from the Illinois Association of School Boards to the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.  The move would save around $24,000 a year.

Judge Grants Class Action Status To Ex-THR Employees

A federal judge has granted class action status to former employees of the now-bankrupt THR and Associates. 


The State Journal-Register reports hundreds of workers may be eligible to join a lawsuit claiming the company required employees to work more than 40 hours a week without overtime and violated other wage and labor laws.


However, the judge dismissed the company itself and former owner Jeff Parsons from the suit.  Two former managers remain as defendants in the case.

Ex-Big Leaguer In Springfield Gets World Series Ring Back

A former major league ballplayer from Springfield has his World Series ring back. 


Dick Schofield’s ring from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 1960 championship team was stolen from his home this week.  But a local jeweler who bought the ring from two men realized it belonged to Schofield and returned it. 


Police are still looking for the men who pawned the ring.

Worst Of Central Illinois Flooding Yet To Come

Communities along the Illinois River are bracing for record flooding over the next few days.  In Peoria, streets near the riverfront have been closed and shelters have been set up in Peoria and several other river towns. 


Governor Pat Quinn has already issued disaster declarations for 38 counties… including Morgan, Mason, Cass and Scott… and says conditions will get worse in the days ahead.


Moderate flooding is still forecast for the Sangamon River, but it is only expected to affect farmland.

Local Impact Of Proposed Boy Scout Change Unclear

The head of Springfield’s Boy Scout council says he’s not sure yet what the reaction will be to a proposed national policy change that would allow gay youth to become scouts. 


The proposal from the Boy Scouts of America would still prohibit gay adults from volunteering as scoutmasters or in another capacity. 


Dan O’Brien with the Abraham Lincoln Council says many local troops are sponsored by churches, and he doesn’t know yet how they’ll respond if that change is adopted.

New Poll Shows Madigan Leading Quinn; No GOP Frontrunner

If Attorney General Lisa Madigan decides to challenge Governor Pat Quinn for the Democratic nomination next year, a new poll suggests she could have the edge. 


The poll for Crain’s Chicago Business shows Madigan leading Quinn among Democratic voters, 30 percent to 15-percent.  But nearly 4 in 10 voters are undecided. 


There is no clear GOP frontrunner… State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and State Senator Bill Brady are tied at 12-percent each.

Madigan, Quinn Clash Over Convicted Officeholder

Attorney General Lisa Madigan has sued to get a convicted felon removed from a suburban Chicago school board… but her case may have just been hurt by Governor Pat Quinn. 


Quinn has pardoned that school board member and ordered her record expunged, which could derail Madigan’s case that the woman was holding office improperly. 


Janet Rogers was convicted in 2004 of falsifying her income to get a better financial aid package for her son.

House Votes To Expand School Zone Speed Limits

The Illinois House has approved a bill that would require drivers to slow down to 20 miles an hour in school zones anytime a child is near… not just during regular school hours.


School speed zones are generally enforceable from 7am to 4pm, but supporters of the bill say most accidents where children are struck by cars happen later in the day.

Flash Flood Warning and High River Levels Remain After Strong Rains

The rain is over for now, but the remnants remain.


A flash flood warning remains in effect for low-lying areas along Sugar Creek downstream of Lake Springfield.


Heavy rains over the last several days prompted officials to release water from Spaulding Dam, in turn leading to rapid rises in water levels downstream.


Authorities say people should stay away from the affected flood zones.


That warning is in effect through early afternoon.


A flood warning is also in effect for the Sangamon River at Riverton and Petersburg, but that moderate flooding should only affect farmland.

Less Restrictive Concealed Carry Bill Fails to Pass Illinois House

Another attempt to pass concealed carry legislation has failed in the Illinois House… even though a majority of members voted for it.


The measure is less restrictive than one that failed a day earlier, and uses the “shall issue” standard that requires the state to issue concealed carry permits to anyone meeting the basic requirements.


The vote was 64 to 45 in favor… but the bill needed a supermajority of 71 votes to pass because it would override the ability of home-rule communities like Springfield to create their own, more restrictive rules.

Sheriff Williamson Changes Venue for Political Announcement

Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson will still make a political announcement next week… but he won’t be doing it in his government office now.


A media advisory Thursday… sent by Undersheriff Jack Campbell on the county government e-mail system… said Williamson would be making a political announcement.


Williamson told 970 WMAY News that he was advised by people with “political knowledge” that it would be OK to make the announcement in the government office, but he declined to say who gave him that advice.


A short time later, Williamson announced that the location would be changed.


There’s no word on the nature of the announcement, but the sheriff says it does pertain to next year’s election.

Durbin Plans To Seek Fourth Term

It’s still not technically official, but it’s no longer in doubt… U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is running for a fourth term.


Durbin tells Chicago public radio that he likes the job and is now actively raising money and making plans for a re-election campaign.


The Springfield Democrat had been keeping his options open, at least publicly, but now says he will make a formal re-election announcement at some point.

Illinois Jobs Numbers Plunged Last Month

The number of payroll jobs in Illinois plunged last month. State officials say the state lost nearly 18,000 jobs from February to March.


But unemployment held steady at 9.5% for the second straight month.


The state Department of Employment Security blames the job losses on “economic uncertainty nationally and abroad.”

Longtime Springfield Radio Personality Passes Away

Friends and fans are mourning a longtime Springfield radio personality who died earlier this week after a long illness.


Jeff Hofmann was the news director and morning show co-host on WFMB-AM.


He passed away Wednesday night at St. John’s Hospice. Hofmann first came to Springfield on what was then 1450 WCVS in the early 1980s.


He left the station in 1990 and then returned in 1998.


Visitation will be held tonight from 5 until 8 at Kirlin, Egan and Butler Funeral Home, with services tomorrow at St. Al’s Church.

Flash Flood Warning Downstream Of Lake Springfield

A flash flood warning is in effect for areas downstream of Lake Springfield through early Friday morning. 


The release of water from Spaulding Dam this afternoon could send water levels in Sugar Creek rising rapidly.  Emergency officials recommend anyone near low-lying areas of Sugar Creek downstream of the lake to evacuate the area because of rapidly-rising floodwaters. 


That warning will be in effect until 1:00 Friday morning.

Flood Warning Issued Along Sangamon River

A flood warning has been issued for the Sangamon River as heavy rains threaten to push it out of its banks.  That warning affects the Sangamon River at Riverton and Petersburg. 


The river is expected to crest Saturday, just slightly above flood stage… and the floodwaters will mostly affect farmland.  Emergency officials do advise people near the river to use caution and pay attention to river levels over the next several days. 


[Meanwhile, a flash flood watch remains in effect for the 970 WMAY listening area through early Friday morning.]

Quinn Activates State Command Center Because Of Flooding

Governor Pat Quinn has activated the State Incident Response Center in Springfield in order to coordinate the statewide response to severe flooding in northern and central Illinois. 


Flood waters have hit Chicago especially hard, closing freeways and schools.  I


n Central Illinois, some roads are closed or have lots of standing water on them.  In Peoria, rescuers had to reach some people by boat.  Quinn is traveling to several communities around the state hard hit by flooding.

UPDATE: Sheriff Moves ''Political Announcement'' To New Location After Questions

Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson has now decided to move what he describes as a “political announcement” away from his governmental office. 


The initial notice of the event was sent out by Undersheriff Jack Campbell… using the county government e-mail system.  Campbell says he was directed by the sheriff to send the notice for the Monday news conference. 


Williamson says he talked to people, quote, “with political knowledge” who assured him it would not be a problem to hold the news conference in the government office.  But he declines to identify those people or to talk about the nature of the "political announcement." 


After a reporter's inquiry, Williamson now says he will hold the event at a different location to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

Unemployment In Illinois Holds Steady In March

Illinois’s jobless rate is holding steady at 9.5 percent… even though the state lost thousands of payroll jobs between February and March. 


The state lost nearly 18,000 from month to month, according to the Department of Employment Security, although the March number was substantially higher than the figure from the same time a year ago. 


State officials say a single month in isolation doesn’t give the whole picture… and insist the long-term trends for employment in the state are positive.

River Flood Warning Issued, Governor Activates SIRC

Large areas of farmland can expect to be inundated with water as a flood warning for the Sangamon River takes effect.


The river is expected to rise above flood stage by tomorrow evening and continue to rise throughout Saturday morning.


Meanwhile Oak Crest Road from the Sangamon River Bridge to Overpass Road is closed due to flooding.


The State Incident Response Center in Springfield is assessing flooding in areas throughout the state as more storms with heavy rain are expected.


Governor Pat Quinn activated the group to provide assistance to local authorities who may be battling flash foods.


After a briefing here in Springfield, Quinn is expected to travel to assess flooding in other areas of the state.

Heavy Rain Expected for Central Illinois

Central Illinois is bracing for heavy rains and strong storms today… and flash flooding remains a significant concern.


A flash flood watch is in effect through early Friday morning, with another couple inches of rain expected to fall on ground that is already saturated from recent heavy rains.


Large hail and strong winds are also possible with the storms that will move through the area today.

Medical Pot Passes IL House

It’s a major move forward for supporters of medical marijuana.


For the first time, a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to treat the symptoms of specific serious illnesses has passed the Illinois House.


The bill got one vote more than the minimum number needed for passage.


All Springfield-area representatives, including Raymond Poe, Sue Scherer and Rich Brauer, voted against the proposal.


The measure now heads to the Senate.

Concealed Carry Debate Heats Up In Illinois House

It’s a sign of just how heated the debate on concealed carry is likely to get before a final bill is passed.


Lawmakers erupted in a shouting match on the floor of the Illinois House Wednesday, while debating an amendment that would give law enforcement more latitude to reject concealed carry permits.


Republican Representative Mike Bost began screaming at a Democrat who was criticizing the remarks of pro-gun lawmakers.


That Democrat, Scott Drury, then said of Bost… “we don’t want someone like that carrying a concealed weapon,” sparking another tirade from Bost.


That amendment was ultimately defeated.

Sen. Kirk Disappointed Senate Rejected Expanded Background Check Bill

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk says he's disappointed that the Senate has rejected expanded background checks for gun purchases.


Kirk was one of four Republicans to vote in favor of the proposal, which failed yesterday even though 54 of the 100 senators voted in favor.


Prior to the vote, Kirk met with family members of victims from the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre.

Dist. 186 Seeking Comments on Proposed Rule Change

Springfield District 186 is seeking public comment about a proposed rule change that could have a major effect on special education students.


A post on the district’s website says the State Board of Education has proposed removing all class size requirements for students with disabilities.


According to the district, the rule change would mean no limits on class sizes for special ed students… and no limits on the number of special ed students that could be in a single general education classroom.


The district is asking interested parties to send comments to the State Board of Ed.


More details and a link are available at the Springfield Public Schools website,

State Transportation Projects Planned for Springfield Area

Some major Springfield-area projects are on a multi-billion dollar list of state transportation projects planned over the next six years.


Governor Pat Quinn unveiled the list at a Statehouse news conference.


Among the local projects included in the plan are a $19 million widening of Wabash Avenue from Koke Mill Road to Park Avenue… and $9 million to add additional lanes to Dirksen Parkway between Clear Lake and Ridge Avenues.

Gov. Quinn Says Gov. Perry is a Big Talker

Governor Pat Quinn says he’s not concerned that his Texas counterpart wants to poach Illinois businesses.


Quinn calls Texas Governor Rick Perry a, quote, “big talker,” but notes that he didn’t do a very good job of impressing GOP voters in last year’s presidential primaries.


Perry will travel to Chicago next week and has started an ad blitz trying to lure Illinois companies to Texas.


But Quinn says Illinois has better infrastructure and a better pool of workers.

Illinois House Defeats ''May Issue'' Amendment To Concealed Carry Bill

In a setback to gun control advocates, the Illinois House has overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would have given local law enforcement the ability to reject permits to carry concealed weapons.


The proposed amendment drew an angry-reaction from pro-gun lawmakers.  Republican Representative Mike Bost accused Democrats of "playing games" that could derail passage of a concealed carry law. 


The failed amendment would have created what's known as the "may issue" standard, giving police latitude to reject permits for people who otherwise meet the basic requirements.  Pro-gun groups want a "shall issue" standard, where permits would be automatically granted to anyone who meets basic requirements.

Medical Marijuana Bill Passes House; Local Lawmakers Vote ''No''

A bill that would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to provide relief from the symptoms of certain serious illnesses has cleared the Illinois House, even though all Springfield-area representatives voted against it.


The measure creates a four-year pilot program with significant restrictions.  It would allow doctors to prescribe, and patients to use, marijuana to combat the symptoms of specific illnesses, from cancer (and chemotherapy) to multiple sclerosis to AIDS.


Critics fear the the legislation will open the door to more widespread use of marijuana.  Among those voting "no" were Springfield area representatives Sue Scherer, Raymond Poe, Rich Brauer and Wayne Rosenthal.  The bill now goes to the Senate, where supporters think it will pass.  Governor Pat Quinn says he's keeping an open mind on the bill.

State Proposes Ending Limits On Special Ed Class Sizes

Springfield District 186 is seeking public comment about a proposed rule change that could have a major effect on special education students. 


A post on the district’s website says the State Board of Education has proposed removing all class size requirements for students with disabilities.  According to the district, the rule change would mean no limits on class sizes for special ed students… and no limits on the number of special ed students that could be in a single general education classroom. 


The district is asking interested parties to send comments to the State Board of Ed.  More details and a link are available at the Springfield Public Schools website,

Aldermen Approve Sales Tax and Sewer Fee Increase for Infrastructure

Springfield aldermen have approved a higher sales tax and increased sewer fees in an effort to address the city’s major infrastructure needs for years to come.


On a 6-3 vote, the City Council approved a one-half-percent sales tax increase that will finance bonds for major street and sidewalk projects across the city.


Two additional smaller sales tax hikes, including one to fund regular ongoing maintenance, were voted down.


The sewer fee increase… which will generate dollars for sewer maintenance… passed when Mayor Mike Houston cast the sixth and deciding vote in favor.

Aldermen Vote Down Proposed Liquor Store on 5th and Stanford

Score one for the neighbors who live near the site of the old Chantilly Lace nightclub.


After receiving petitions signed by nearly 100 nearby residents, aldermen rejected a zoning change that would have allowed a package liquor store to be built on the site.


Neighbors feared the store would add to the problems in the area, given the proximity to the notorious Bel-Aire Motel across the street.


Only two aldermen… Frank Edwards and Tim Griffin… voted in favor of the zoning change.

The proposed liquor store layout on the corner of Stanford and 5th Street
The proposed liquor store layout on the corner of Stanford and 5th Street


Boston College Student From Springfield Injured in Marathon Bombing

A college student from Springfield is among the dozens injured in the bombings at the Boston Marathon this week.


As 970 WMAY News was the first to report, the woman was part of a group of sorority sisters from Emerson College in Boston that attended the marathon.


Several members of that group sustained injuries including cuts, perforated eardrums and concussions.


The student from Springfield and the others are now out of the hospital and recuperating with family and friends.


The school has requested that the name of the student not be released out of respect for her privacy.

State's Attorney: No Criminal Charges in Leaked Student Data Case

No criminal charges will be filed in connection with the distribution of confidential student data from the Capital College Preparatory Academy.


State’s Attorney John Milhiser agrees with the assessment of Springfield police that criminal charges are not warranted.


Three District 186 employees are on paid leave and face further disciplinary action for their role in the incident.


The police report indicates one worker generated a document with student names and test scores, at the request of another employee, outside of normal school district procedures.


A third worker then allegedly tried to have computer files deleted to cover up the fact that the information had been accessed.

250 Doctors Support Medical Pot

Nearly 250 physicians are calling on Illinois lawmakers to legalize the use of marijuana for patients with serious illnesses.


Three physicians from Springfield are part of the group that says marijuana can be a safer and more effective treatment for certain patients.


The Illinois House is expected to vote today on a bill that would create a medical marijuana pilot program.

Reported Grenades Were Realistic-Looking Toys

Several homes were evacuated in the Macon County town of Forsyth Tuesday after the discovery of what appeared to be grenades under a manhole cover.


But WSOY Radio in Decatur reports that the grenades were actually realistic-looking toys.


Bomb squad personnel from Springfield had been dispatched to Forsyth and made the determination that the devices posed no threat.

Springfield Aldermen Vote to Increase Sales Tax and Sewer Fee

Springfield Aldermen have increased the city's sales tax by half a percent and increased the sewer fee after debating and voting on four different ordinances to fund the city's infrastructure.


During debate Tuesday, Aldermen passed one ordinance that raises the city's sales tax by half a percent with a quarter of that being repealed after the bonds for funding the infrastructure are paid off.


That passed 6-3 with Alderman Steve Dove absent.


Two other ordinances that if combined would have raised the sales tax by an additional half percent failed.


Meanwhile, aldermen passed a proposal that raises the city's sewer fee over a number of years to pay for sewer improvements.


Alderman Joe McMenamin, who supported the sewer fee increase, says that raising the city's sales tax is reckless.


Other aldermen said that there must be more revenue into the city to fund infrastructure.


Springfield faces tens of millions in dollars of immediate infrastructure needs.

Springfield Aldermen Vote Down Proposed Liquor Store on Former Chantilly Lace Site

Aldermen voted down a zoning variance that would have allowed a new liquor store on a notorious corner.


Ward 6's Cory Jobe stood with the Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association, the Harvard Park Neighborhood Association and about 100 residents in his ward in opposing a proposed new liquor store to go on the site where Chantilly Lace once stood.


The proposed liquor store layout on the corner of Stanford and 5th Street
The proposed liquor store layout on the corner of Stanford and 5th Street

The developer, Jeff Hamrick, says that the property is identified with a very busy intersection and urged aldermen to support the project as a benefit for the whole city.


Hamrick says there could be a $120,000 additional tax money coming into the capital city, though some aldermen said those numbers may be a bit inflated.


Meanwhile, Hamrick said there will be significant property improvements for the area and there could be a quarter of a million dollar investment in the community's labor force.


The developer says he has agreed to not sell certain types of packaged liquor.


Opponents say that the planned establishment just another liquor store saturating the neighborhood.


Aldermen voted to deny the variance request, 7 to 2.

College Student From Springfield Among Those Injured At Boston Marathon

A college student from Springfield is among the dozens of people injured in Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon.


As 970 WMAY News was the first to report, the young woman was part of a group of sorority sisters in attendance at the marathon when the blast occurred. A press release from the school says the students suffered injuries ranging from cuts to perforated eardrums to concussions. But all members of the group are now out of the hospital and recuperating with family or friends.


The school has asked that the names of students not be released to protect their privacy.

Springfield Bomb Squad Called To Forsyth To Investigate Possible Grenades

A false alarm in Forsyth. Residents in the Stephens Creek area were evacuated from their homes Tuesday morning when the Forsyth Police Department and Macon County Sheriff’s Office were alerted to possible hand grenades found under a manhole cover.


The bomb squad, from Springfield, identified the grenades as toys and dismissed the threat. WSOY radio reports that Macon County Sheriff Tom Schneider says the images that were taken of the grenades by responding officers looked realistic enough to call the bomb squad for further examination.

No Criminal Charges In Leak Of Student Test Scores

There will be no criminal charges filed in the investigation of how confidential student test score data was distributed within District 186.


State’s Attorney John Milhiser agrees with the conclusion of a Springfield police report that said criminal charges were unwarranted. However, three school district employees have been placed on paid leave and are facing disciplinary action next week for allegedly accessing the information or trying to cover up the fact that they did so.

Springfield Runner Plans To Keep Racing; Vows Not To Let Boston Bomber ''Have The Last Word''

A Springfield-area resident who participated in Monday’s tragic Boston Marathon says he’s determined to race again, despite the chilling effect of the bombings near the finish line. 


Richard Sgro says he traveled to Boston to meet up with high school friends from around the country.  He finished the race an hour before the bombs went off and was in a café nearby when the blasts occurred. 


He says he understands that security will be beefed up at future races, but is also determined that the races will go on. Sgro says he, quote, “won’t let [the bombers] have the last word.” 


Two explosive devices detonated near the finish line of the race Monday, killing three people and injuring dozens of others.

Local Doctors Back Medical Marijuana

Three Springfield doctors are among 250 physicians around the state voicing their support for the legalization of medical marijuana. 


The statement says that doctors should not be punished for recommending marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of very ill patients… and the patients should not face prosecution for taking that medical advice from doctors.  It was signed by Springfield doctors James LaFata, Stefan Kozak, and Patrick O’Donnell. 


Legislation that would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for patients with certain specific conditions is awaiting a final vote in the Illinois House.

District Emphasizes Suicide Prevention After Death Of WMS Student

District 186 is posting information about suicide prevention on the district and Washington Middle School websites following the death of a 13-year-old eighth grader. 


The district notes in a statement that it’s unclear what may have cause that Washington student to take his own life… and says the reason may never be known.  But they are hoping to send the message to other students that there are many other options. 


A statement on the websites links to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention… their toll-free number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

All Springfield-Area Runners In Boston Marathon Accounted For

All Springfield-area runners who competed in Monday’s Boston Marathon appear to be accounted for and safe in the aftermath of the deadly explosions near the finish line.


One competitor, Richard Sgro, says he was just a few blocks away when the blasts occurred, and says it took a long time to work through the chaotic scene to get back to his hotel.


Another runner, Joy Guardia, had completed the race and was already back in her room a half-mile away at the time of the explosions.


She wonders what effect the attack will have on security for both runners and spectators at future major races.

Quinn Directing Emergency Management and Homeland Security To Keep Chicago Marathon Safe

Governor Pat Quinn is expressing solidarity with the victims of the Boston bombing… and is hopeful that the tragedy won’t have a damaging impact on Chicago’s own marathon.


Quinn says he has directed Illinois emergency management and homeland security officials to provide any assistance possible… and to remain vigilant for any threats that may arise here.


The governor says he’s hopeful that the Boston case can be solved quickly, and that any lessons learned from it can be applied to keep the Chicago marathon safe for all involved.

Attorney General Madigan Says Supreme Court Decision Of NY Gun Laws Impacts Illinois

Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to intervene in a case of gun laws in New York state could send a clear signal to Illinois lawmakers.


The high court declined, without comment, to hear a challenge to the restrictive law that took effect in New York Monday, putting stringent limits on concealed carry permits.


Madigan says that is a sign that the General Assembly can put strict limits on issuing permits without violating the Constitution.


The legislature is under a court order to pass a concealed carry law in the next few weeks. Madigan still hasn’t decided whether to appeal that ruling.

School Officials: No Evidence of Bullying Before Apparent Suicide of 13-Year-Old Student

Springfield school officials say they have no evidence that bullying played a role in the apparent suicide of a 13-year-old student from Washington Middle School.


Jaylin May was found dead at his home Friday. The coroner’s office says the death is “consistent with hanging.”


Online postings were rampant with rumors that the boy had been bullied, but District 186 spokesman Pete Sherman says conversations with numerous students and teachers have revealed nothing to indicate that.


A crisis response team of counselors was dispatched to the school to help students and staff cope with the boy’s death.

Alderman's Law License Not Suspended After Testimony from Mayor And Fellow Council Member

Springfield alderman Sam Cahnman has been censured by the state panel that oversees the conduct of attorneys.


The Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission heard testimony regarding three incidents involving Cahnman, including his arrest for allegedly soliciting sex from two undercover female cops… a charge for which he was ultimately acquitted.


But Cahnman was found to have made a false statement regarding his acquisition of a page from a judge’s appointment book.


The ARDC’s administrator had recommended a 90-day suspension of Cahnman’s law license, but the panel rejected that, in part because of testimony from Mayor Mike Houston and Alderman Joe McMenamin that they had faith in Cahnman’s honesty and integrity.

Watch Account Closely if Debit or Credit Card Used at Schnuck's

Customers who used credit or debit cards at the two Springfield Schnuck’s stores between December and last month are being advised to watch their accounts closely for signs of fraud.


The two stores are among 79 Schnuck’s locations affected by a hacker attack that compromised more than two million credit and debit card numbers.


The grocery store chain says it is working with the banks of all affected consumers to watch out for signs that the numbers are being used for fraudulent charges.

Springfield Runner In Boston Safe And Sound

One of the Springfield-area runners who traveled to Boston for the ill-fated Marathon is safe and sound, having finished well before the explosions that shattered the race.


Joy Guardia was already back in her hotel room when the explosions took place.  While she did not hear the blasts themselves, she did hear the sirens from the massive emergency response.  Speaking live with 970 WMAY's Kramer, she said that she and others from Springfield who had traveled to Boston were all safe and accounted for.


Guardia says she does not fear for her safety in Boston while waiting to return to Springfield by mid-week, but does wonder what the incident will mean for security procedures for runners and spectators at future major marathons.

Several Springfield Runners Took Part In Boston Marathon; Phone Number Set Up For Families

At least six runners from Springfield are listed as competing in today's Boston Marathon website.  An official with the Springfield Road Runners Club says the initial indication is that all are safe.  970 WMAY News has spoken with one, Joy Guardia, who had already completed the race and was back in her hotel room when the explosions happened; she is unharmed. Relatives of other runners have also contacted us to let us know they are OK.


A phone number has been set up for people seeking information about family members who are competing today.  That number is 617-635-4500... again that number is only for family members seeking information about loved ones who took part in the Boston Marathon.

District 186: No Evidence Of Bullying In Death Of WMS Student

Springfield school officials have been talking to students and staff at Washington Middle School, but so far they've found no indication that an eighth-grade student who apparently took his own life had been bullied. 


Rumors of bullying have been rampant since news broke of the death of 13-year-old Jaylin May.  The coroner's office says the death is "consistent with hanging." District 186 spokesman Pete Sherman says he cannot say whether Jaylin had been bullied, no students or staff report witnessing anything like that. 


A "crisis response team" has been brought in to help Washington Middle School students and teachers deal with the tragedy.

BREAKING: Fatalities Now Reported From Blasts At End Of Boston Marathon; Live Coverage Now On 970 WMAY

UPDATE (3:22PM): AP says two more devices have been found at scene of Boston Marathon and are being dismantled.


UPDATE (3:19PM): Boston police say two dead, 22 injured.


UPDATE (3:09PM): ABC now reporting fatalities in connection with the apparent bombing at the Boston Marathon.  Two devices went off in short succession; a nearby hotel was evacuated amid reports that police had found a third possible device.


UPDATE (2:49PM): Deadspin website has compilation of pictures and video from the moment of the exlposion and the immediate aftermath.  Link here.


UPDATE (2:43PM): Boston hospitals report victims with severed limbs and severe burns.  Boston police telling people to stay away from trash cans in the vicinity of Boston Marathon route.  ABC reporting "dozens" of victims.


ABC News reporting at least two explosions near the finish line, with reports of multiple injuries.  Tune to 970 WMAY for live coverage, and check back for updates at

Washington Middle School Mourns Apparent Suicide Death Of 8th-Grader

Extra counselors are on hand for students and staff at Washington Middle School following the apparent suicide of an eighth-grade student. 


13-year-old Jaylin May was found dead Friday evening. The coroner’s office says the death appears to be the result of hanging. 


District 186 has issued a statement expressing grief over the student’s death, and noting that a crisis response team was dispatched to the school to help students and staff cope with the tragedy. 


The full text of the district statement follows:

Dear Community,
The faculty and staff of Washington Middle School and Springfield Public Schools are deeply saddened to learn of the reported death of an eighth-grade student over the weekend.

Counselors, teachers, and a crisis response team are at Washington to help our school community deal with this loss. We are doing everything that we can to support our students and our staff through this tragic experience.

On behalf of our staff and students, we thank you for your concern, support, and sensitivity during this difficult time, especially as we learn more about the cause of death and take pro-active steps to reach out to one another.


Schnuck's Data Breach Affects Customers Of Springfield Stores

The two Springfield Schnuck’s stores are among the 79 locations affected by a breach of credit and debit card data. 


Schnuck’s now confirms that more than two-million numbers may have been compromised by hackers between December 10, 2012 and March 29th of this year.  Some customers have already found fraudulent charges on their accounts. 


The company has posted information on its website,, including a toll-free number to answer questions from consumers.

Lincoln Woman Sentenced To 22 Years For Child Porn

A Lincoln woman has been sentenced to nearly 22 years in prison for producing child pornography… in order to get rent money. 


Federal judge Sue Myerscough imposed the sentence on 26-year-old Laura Sigler… who used a five-year-old child to create the pornographic images.  Sigler and a co-defendant, Anthony Ferguson, were taken into custody in March of last year. 


The two were living in a motel at the time they produced the images.  Ferguson pleaded guilty earlier and was sentenced to 19 years in prison.

Lt. Gov. Simon Proposes Tax Receipt on Income Tax Deadline

Today is Tax Day… the deadline for filing your 2012 taxes or for seeking an extension to do so.


The State of Illinois expects to process around 6 million individual returns… the majority of them filed electronically rather than mailed in.


If you do mail it in, it must be in the mail and postmarked by midnight tonight.


Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon thinks you should get a receipt when you pay your taxes.


Simon is proposing that taxpayers who file electronically get an itemized receipt breaking down how the state spends their tax dollars.


Her proposal could take effect as early as next year.

Gov. Quinn Admits to Filing Taxes Last Minute

If you have been procrastinating about filing your taxes, Governor Pat Quinn says he completely identifies with you.


Quinn acknowledges that he has also at times pushed it right to the deadline when doing his taxes.


And if you are scrambling to finish in these final hours, Quinn hopes you’ll take the opportunity to use the checkoff box for the Illinois Military Families Relief Fund.


The program on state tax returns provides assistance to families who find themselves in economic need while loved ones in the Illinois National Guard or military reserves are deployed overseas.

IL GOP Chairman Brady Keeps Seat

Illinois Republican Party chairman Pat Brady has survived an attempt to oust him.


Although party leaders met for hours behind closed doors Saturday, there was apparently no vote on Brady’s future.


Some top party officials began pushing for Brady to be fired after he urged GOP lawmakers to support a same-sex marriage bill in the legislature.


But Brady’s opponents insist the fight is not about gay marriage, but about Brady’s willingness to break from the party’s platform on any issue.


Brady says he will not resign, but is also unlikely to seek another term as chairman next spring.

State's Attorney Reviewing Still Reviewing Cases from Dist. 186 and City of Springfield

It could be a busy week for Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milhiser.


Milhiser is still reviewing police reports about the distribution of confidential student data from the Capitol College Preparatory Academy.


Although three District 186 workers have been placed on paid leave as a result of the investigation, police concluded that no crime occurred.


However, Milhiser says he wants to complete his review before deciding if charges are warranted.


Milhiser is also reviewing documents from the City of Springfield about its handling of three City Water Light and Power workers involved in misuse of city resources and an alleged attempt to intimidate an eyewitness.

AMBER Alert Canceled After 12-Year-Old Girl Found in Indiana

Authorities have cancelled an AMBER Alert that was issued over the weekend for a 12-year-old girl who had reportedly been abducted from Texas.


That alert was sent out in Illinois because of a belief that Sommer Brown-Ivory’s mother was taking her to Chicago.


Now police say the girl has been found safe in Indiana, but did not offer other details about her recovery.


The girl’s mother reportedly has a history of abusive behavior, and the initial AMBER Alert indicated that Sommer could be in “grave or immediate danger.”

Three District 186 Employees Placed On Leave Over Dissemination Of Student Data

Three District 186 employees have been placed on paid leave and could face further discipline, following a Springfield police investigation into the distribution of confidential student data. 


While the police report concludes that the conduct of workers likely does not constitute a crime, it spells out apparent violations of school district policy, including an alleged attempt to cover up accessing those student names and test scores.

State's Attorney: No Decision Yet On Charges In Student Data Leak Probe

Although Springfield police don’t see evidence of a crime in their investigation of leaked student data, State’s Attorney John Milhiser hasn’t reached the same conclusion yet. 


Milhiser says he is still reviewing the police report, which was delivered to him earlier this week… and hasn’t made a final decision as to whether to pursue criminal charges in the matter.

State Worker Fired Over Explicit Images On Computer

A Springfield-area state employee has been fired after an investigation found he had taken sexually explicit photos and a video of himself at work and emailed inappropriate images.


The Illinois Executive Ethics Commission says the Illinois Department on Aging fired John Hastings in December. Investigators found 225 pornographic images on his state computer, including 13 explicit images and a video of a man identified as Hastings.

Another Lawmaker Faces Backlash Over Same-Sex Marriage Comments

Another state lawmaker is taking heat over comments made about same-sex marriage. 


Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax blog says Republican representative Tom Morrison compared the marriage of a same-sex couple to an adult marrying a child. 


Morrison insists he was not equating the two, only trying to show the dangers of changing the definition of marriage.  Morrison says critics are trying to “assassinate [his] character.”

Three District 186 Employees On Leave For ''Misuse'' Of Student Data

Three District 186 employees have been placed on administrative leave and will face what the district calls “final personnel actions” later this month for their role in the “misuse” of confidential student data. 


The actions follow the Springfield police investigation which indicated that several district employees were involved in either accessing a report with student names and test scores on it… or may have sought to alter computer records in an attempt to conceal that access. 


Among the employees named in the police report is the district’s technology coordinator, Sue Ruff, who allegedly asked a district employee to delete and cover up records showing another district employee gaining access to the student info.  A school district spokesman would not identify the three workers or discuss their possible punishment. 


In the meantime, the district will meet with parents of the students whose data was compromised, and is tightening restrictions on who can access that data.

UPDATE: Police Say No Crime Committed In Release Of CCPA Data; State's Attorney Still Reviewing The Case

Springfield Police say the distribution of documents containing confidential student data from District 186 does not appear to constitute a crime, but may instead reflect violations of district policies and procedures. However, Sangamon County State's Attorney John Milhiser says he is still reviewing the report and hasn't decided if charges are warranted.


The SPD has released its official report, where it says the unredacted document of student names and test scores from the Capital College Preparatory Academy was initially given to a member of the district’s community budget review committee… who was authorized to have it.  That version was not released publicly, but a copy with the student names redacted was turned over to a State Journal-Register reporter. 


The police report indicates that confidential data was not improperly released… but says some district employees may have violated policy by generating the report and then trying to cover up that fact.



[So far, District 186 has not had an official comment on the police findings or whether any employees violated district policies.]

Take Note of Possible Changes in Sangamon River

Authorities are warning of the potential for sudden changes in water levels and currents in the Sangamon River as a result of this week's heavy rains.


Decatur city officials plan to release excess water from Lake Decatur into the river, which will in turn dramatically increase river levels, especially in eastern Sangamon County.


Emergency management officials say that could affect, and pose potential dangers for, boaters, fishermen, and land owners and residents near the river.


The river is expected to rise by several feet in just the next day or two, according to a press release from the City of Decatur.

Recount Expected in Tied Dist. 186 Subdistrict 5 Race

It appears that no matter what happens when the final few votes are counted in a tied Springfield school board race, there will be a recount.


Katharine Eastvold and Donna Moore finished with 749 votes each after Tuesday’s election… but anywhere from one to perhaps five absentee ballots remain uncounted until April 23rd.


Eastvold has issued a statement saying no matter the outcome, she expects there will be a discovery recount. Moore has also indicated plans to seek a recount in the deadlocked race.

IL Supreme Court To Hear Appeal Over State Retirees Health Care

The Illinois Supreme Court will hear an appeal of a Sangamon County judge’s ruling that the state can start charging retirees for their health care.


Judge Steven Nardulli’s decision held that health insurance is not a “pension benefit” that is protected under the Illinois Constitution.


Lawyers for retirees and the state both asked the Supreme Court to take the case on direct appeal, in order to get a final decision more quickly.

Gov. Quinn Pushes for More Gun Control at Capitol Rally

Governor Pat Quinn is expressing his support for efforts to pass more restrictive gun laws in the current legislation session.


Quinn spoke at a rally sponsored by the Illinois Coalition Against Handgun Violence.


The group is in favor of a more restrictive standard, known as “may issue,” that would give authorities more latitude in whether or not to grant a concealed carry permit.


Quinn expressed his support for that and for other measures… such as bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Parents Confront Gov. Quinn on Planned Closure of Institutional Care Centers

Parents of developmentally-disabled adults have confronted Governor Pat Quinn over his push to place more such individuals in small community-care facilities, rather than larger state institutions.


As a result of Quinn’s policies, two developmental centers, including one in Jacksonville, have been closed… and a third will be soon.


But the parents who stopped Quinn after a Statehouse rally Thursday say those larger institutions often provide better care for profoundly disabled people like their children.


Other disability rights advocates agree with Quinn that community-based settings provide better and more affordable care.


Watch video of the confrontation below or at this link.


Illinois House Approves Referendum to Nix Lt. Gov. Position

The Illinois House wants to let voters decide whether the state needs a lieutenant governor.


The House approved a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the office, which has long been the target of mockery.


If the Senate goes along, the measure would go on the ballot in 2014.


If approved, the attorney general would be next in line to replace a sitting governor. Supporters say eliminating the post would save $2 million a year.


Current Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon opposes the idea, even though she is not seeking another term in the office.

Smokeless and Electronic Cigarettes Debated in House Committee

The tobacco industry says it’s a far less harmful alternative to smoking.


But health advocates say it’s just another way for Big Tobacco to try to get people hooked on nicotine.


Both sides aired their views about “going smokeless” before an Illinois House committee Thursday.


Tobacco companies hope the state will adopt policies to encourage people to switch from cigarettes to alternatives like chewing tobacco or electronic cigarettes.


They say the change will save lives.


But anti-smoking advocates and doctors’ groups say the alternatives still cause cancer and keep people hooked on the tobacco companies’ products.

Rapid Sangamon River Level Changes Expected

Authorities are warning of the potential for sudden changes in water levels and currents in the Sangamon River as a result of this week's heavy rains.


Decatur city officials plan to release excess water from Lake Decatur into the river, which will in turn dramatically increase river levels, especially in eastern Sangamon County.  Emergency management officials say that could affect, and pose potential dangers for, boaters, fishermen, and land owners and residents near the river.


The river is expected to rise by several feet in just the next day or two, according to a press release from the City of Decatur.

Quinn Speaks At Statehouse Gun Control Rally

Governor Pat Quinn is expressing his solidarity with supporters of gun control legislation. 


Quinn was a featured speaker at a Statehouse rally put on by the Illinois Coalition Against Handgun Violence.  He told the crowd, "we are tired of going to funerals" for victims of gun violence. 


Quinn expressed his support for an assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, but told reporters later that it will be up to the legislature to work out many of the details.

Parents Of Disabled Adults Confront Quinn

Mothers of developmentally disabled adults have confronted Governor Pat Quinn over his efforts to move more such individuals into small community-based settings. 


The women approached Quinn after his appearance at a State Capitol rally on gun control.  They say their children could be harmed by Quinn's emphasis on community-based care.  The women told Quinn that the structure of the institutional setting is better for many profoundly-disabled individuals. 


Other disability-rights activists have praised Quinn for his decision to close several of the big developmental centers like the one in Jacksonville.  They say the smaller facilities provide more dignity and better care at lower cost.


Watch video below or at this link.


State's Attorney Seeks Info On CWLP Tree-Trimming Incident

There’s another twist in the story of those City Water Light and Power workers who were caught using city equipment on city time to remove a tree from private property. 


Long after the workers were disciplined… including one who was fired and then rehired… the Sangamon County State’s Attorney is now requesting information on the case with an eye toward possible charges. 


The city initially did not pursue a criminal case against the workers, because city attorney Mark Cullen claims that they would have had to profit personally from their actions in order to be charged with theft of services.  But State’s Attorney John Milhiser says he wants to take a closer look at the facts of the case.

One Absentee Ballot Received in Tied School Board Race, Won't be Revealed for 2 Weeks

It could become the deciding vote in the dead heat contest between two Springfield school board candidates.


An absentee ballot arrived by mail Wednesday from a voter in school board subdistrict 5, where candidates Donna Moore and Katharine Eastvold finished in an exact tie after Tuesday’s voting.


There are still four other outstanding ballots that could yet be returned.


If they are postmarked on or before April 8th… the day before the election… they will also be counted.


But none of those votes will be tallied or revealed until a two-week waiting period ends on April 23rd.

Central Illinois Gets a Soaking from Overnight Rain

Strong storms that moved across Illinois last night created few problems in the Springfield area… except for the heavy rain.


One-and-a-third inches of rain was recorded at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.


In Lincoln, more than two inches of rain fell, setting a record for that date.


The storms were more severe to the south, with high winds and suspected tornadoes causing damage in the St. Louis area.

Gov. Quinn Plans to Move More Developmentally Disabled Patients to Community-Based Homes

Governor Pat Quinn plans to put hundreds more developmentally disabled people into small community-based homes… rather than state institutions… in the upcoming fiscal year.


Quinn addressed a Springfield rally on Wednesday, put on by disability advocates who support the governor’s effort to move away from institution-based care of severely disabled individuals.


That move led to last year’s closure of the Jacksonville Developmental Center.


Quinn’s budget plan calls for 1150 more people to be placed into community-based care.

Regulators Say Expanded Gambling Would Increase Corruption

Illinois senators seeking to eliminate a major stumbling block to new casinos and slot machines in the state went toe-to-toe Wednesday with regulators who say expanded gambling could open the door to political corruption and organized crime.


Gaming officials said they're worried the proposal being considered by the Senate wouldn't give them enough regulatory authority over a Chicago casino - a concern lawmakers said was unfounded.


Regulators also said they don't have enough staff to take on the additional workload and that hiring can take months because of state rules.

Dice Game Goes Sour, Police Charge Two with Gun Crimes

A dice game that ended badly for one of the players wound up ending badly for just about everyone involved.


Springfield police say a man who lost a large amount of money in that game at a home on Renfro decided to take his money back…at gunpoint.


Carmichael Bennett and three other men fled in a car and were pursued by others at the game.


Authorities say one of the men in the lead car fired shots back at the pursuers.


Police eventually caught up to the cars on an I-55 exit ramp, and found a handgun in the grass near S&K Buick-GMC.


Bennett is facing multiple charges. So is Michael Bolden, who police accuse of firing the shots out of the car window.


Carmichael Bennett

Carmichael Bennett

Michael Bolden

Michael Bolden



Details Out About Shots Fired On Springfield's East Side

Springfield police have released more details about a shooting incident  Wednesday morning that led to four men being arrested on Interstate-55.


Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher says 31-year-old Carmichael Bennett lost an unknown amount of money playing dice at 1802 Renfro, allegedly took the money back at gunpoint and fled with three other men. The victim gave chase in his car, and the victim’s sister followed in her vehicle. She says one of the men turned and fired several shots at her car near Singer & Eastdale. Officers stopped the suspect’s vehicle at the I-55, Route 29 Northbound ramp and found a handgun in the grass near S&K Buick-GMC.


All the suspects were taken in for questioning. Bennett and another man are facing multiple charges.

Carmichael Bennett

Carmichael Bennett

Michael Bolden

Michael Bolden



DEVELOPING: Police Investigating Shots Fired Gets Suspect on Interstate Ramp

Springfield police have converged on two vehicles on I-55 at mile marker 96 after a report of shots fired. Few other details available at this moment. Stay with 970 WMAY for updates.

Dist. 186 School Board President White Loses to Zimmers

Springfield voters upset about the direction of District 186 have taken out their frustration on board president Susan White.


White was decisively defeated in Tuesday’s election, losing to longtime educator Mike Zimmers by a nearly two-to-one margin in subdistrict 4.


Zimmers says his candidacy was helped by a backlash over school board dysfunction, but says voters also trust him because of his years of experience as a teacher and administrator.

Moore and Eastvold Tied For Dist. 186 School Board Bid

One Springfield school board race remains undecided this morning.


In subdistrict 5, Donna Moore and Katharine Eastvold finished the night tied at 749 votes apiece.


The race could be decided by five outstanding absentee ballots which have not yet been returned.


If any or all of the five ballots arrive in the next two weeks… and are postmarked on or before April 8th, the day before the election… they will be added to the tally.


If the candidates remain tied, a lottery will determine the winner.

Funderburg, Flamini, Lopez Win Dist. 186 School Board Seats

Incumbent Lisa Funderburg has won another term on the school board with a narrow victory over Teresa Jones.


And Chuck Flamini easily beat two challengers in subdistrict 7.


Adam Lopez will also join the board after his uncontested win in subdistrict 2.


Lopez says he will immediately call for a 10-percent pay cut for all administrators, including principals and guidance deans.

Springfield Park Board Gets Two New Trustees

Two newcomers will join the Springfield Park Board.


Robin Schmidt and Grant Hammer were among the top three vote-getters among four candidates Tuesday.


Incumbent Gray Noll won another term on the board.


That left Sandra Douglas out in the cold.


Douglas came in fourth, less than 100 votes behind Hammer.

Area Village President and Mayoral Races Decided

Jerome will have a new village president… and a new source of revenue.


Mike Lopez beat interim village president Scott McTaggart Tuesday.


Voters also approved a sales tax increase for Jerome, with the money to go to infrastructure projects.


Tom Gray survived a challenge from Matt Mau to win another term as Chatham village president.


Tom Rader is the winner in the race for Riverton village president.


In Auburn, challenger Barbara Stamer defeated Mayor Joseph Powell by just over 100 votes.


And in Carlinville, former state senator Deanna Demuzio won a three-way race for mayor.

Aldermen Keep Infrastructure Funding Ordinances in Committee, Expect Debate Next Week

Springfield aldermen have put the debate over infrastructure funding on hold temporarily.


Aldermen decided to leave four separate ordinances in committee when Mayor Mike Houston was unable to attend Tuesday’s city council committee of the whole meeting.


The ordinances offer alternate ways of paying for street and sewer projects, through raising sales taxes, sewer fees, or some combination of the two.


Aldermen discussed the measures for two hours, and heard from supporters and opponents of the various funding ideas.


More discussion is expected at next week’s full council meeting.

Green Family Stores Donate to Boys and Girls Club of Central Illinois

A donation from the Green Family Stores is keeping the doors open at the Boys and Girls Club of Central Illinois.


The agency had been threatened with the cutoff of its utilities as it continues to deal with a financial crisis triggered by cutbacks in government grants and private donations.


The Green Stores donated $4500 to pay the bill, and is purchasing other equipment for the organization.


Todd Green is also challenging other local businesses to pitch in.

Moore, Eastvold Tied In School Board Subdistrict 5; Five Outstanding Absentee Ballots Not Yet Counted

The two candidates for Springfield school board subdistrict 5 have finished election night in a dead heat... and may have to wait weeks to learn the eventual winner.


Donna Moore and Katharine Eastvold finished with 749 votes apiece after early and available absentee ballots were counted.  But there are still five absentee ballots that were sent out and have not yet been returned.  If those five ballots come back within the next two weeks -- and are postmarked April 8th or earlier -- they will be added to the final tally.


If the candidates remain tied when all valid votes are counted, a lottery will determine the winner.  The losing candidate can then seek a discovery recount which could again alter the outcome.

Zimmers Overwhelms White In Subdistrict 4; Funderburg, Flamini Win

Mike Zimmers has won a decisive victory over embattled Springfield school board president Susan White in Tuesday's election.  Chuck Flamini was an easy winner over two opponents in subdistrict 7, while incumbent Lisa Funderburg won a close race over Teresa Jones.

Noll, Schmidt, Hammer Win Park Board Seats

The three seats on the Springfield Park Board have gone to incumbent Gray Noll and two newcomers, Robin Schmidt and Grant Hammer.  Sandra Douglas missed the cut after trailing Hammer by fewer than 100 votes.

Recap Of Other Major Local Races

In some of the other big contests from Tuesday:  voters in Jerome selected a new village president, Mike Lopez, and also approved a sales tax increase, with the proceeds to pay for infrastructure needs in the village. 


Chatham voters chose Tom Gray over Matthew Mau.  Tom Rader beat Rich Pottier (poh-TEER’) for Riverton village president. 


The four Republican candidates beat three Democratic challengers for seats on the Capital Township board. 


And Ginger Payne, Leigh Ann Hughes, Pam Cuffle and Staci McTague won the four seats in the hotly-contested Riverton school board race.

Springfield Aldermen Hold Infrastructure Funding Plans in Committee

Springfield aldermen seem split about what funding plan to approve for the city's infrastructure needs.


During discussion at Tuesday's Committee of the Whole, aldermen heard from several businesses that were in opposition to three ordinances that if all passed would raise the city's sales tax by a full percent and a raise of the sewer fee.


They also heard from city planners and other Chamber of Commerce members about the need for new revenue.


Aldermen Frank Edwards is asking the Chamber, which supports raising the sewer fee and also a half of a percent sales tax increase, to study comparable cities and their funding solutions.


Meanwhile, there seems to be a consensus to increase the city's sewer fee.


The mayor was absent from Tuesday's meeting and aldermen opted to debate the measures further next week when the Mayor would attend a full council meeting.

Dist. 186 Leak Investigation Turned Over To State's Attorney

A Springfield Police report on the leak of confidential student data from District 186 is now in the hands of State’s Attorney John Milheiser. But neither Milheiser nor police will comment on the findings of that investigation for now.


Police were called in to determine who may have disclosed student names and test scores from the Capital College Preparatory Academy.


Officials say no further information will be released until Milheiser decides what, if anything, to do with the information from the police investigation.

Green Stores Save Local Boys And Girls Club Of Central Illinois

A Springfield social service agency has been saved from the brink of closure but it’s not out of the woods yet.


Steady declines in grants and donations have cut deeply into revenue for the Boys and Girls Club of Central Illinois. The situation got so bad that the agency couldn’t pay its utilities. But now the Green Family Stores have stepped in with 45 hundred dollars to pay the gas and electric bills.


Owner Todd Green also plans to purchase more needed equipment for the agency and he’s urging other businesses to also step up and help the troubled organization.

District 186 Minority Hiring Numbers Still Lag

Nearly 40 years after being placed under a federal desegregation order, Springfield schools remain far short of their goal of having a workforce that reflects the racial makeup of the community. 


In fact, the numbers declined in the current fiscal year, with African-Americans making up less than ten-percent of district employees.  The goal is more than 18-percent… reflecting the minority workforce totals in the most recent census. 


District officials say budget cuts, teachers union rules and a lack of accountability have contributed to failure to meet the hiring goals.

Foreclosures Drag Down Median Home Sale Prices In Springfield

Sales of foreclosed homes have led to a sharp dropoff in local home prices, according to the Capital Area Association of Realtors. 


The Association says the median home sale price last month was down more than 20-percent from the same period a year earlier… dragged down by the low prices being paid for “distress sales” of foreclosed homes. 


But the Association says the picture is not as bleak as it appears… once foreclosed homes are factored out of the equation, median prices were actually up more than three-percent last month compared to 2012.

Low Voter Turnout Expectations for Today's Elections

Despite some key school board and park board races on the ballot, voter turnout is expected to be low for today’s local elections.


Based on early voting totals, Sangamon County Clerk Joe Aiello predicts only about 16 to 18 percent of eligible voters will cast ballots by the time the polls close tonight at 7pm.


But he says turnout could be higher in parts of Springfield, as well as Chatham, Riverton and Pleasant Plains… where there are high-profile contests for school boards, village boards and other offices.


970 WMAY will have complete election returns tonight after the polls close.

SPD Forwards Leaked Student Data Investigation to State's Attorney

Springfield police have completed their investigation into the leak of confidential student data from District 186… and will forward their findings on to State’s Attorney John Milhiser.


Neither police nor school district officials will comment yet on what the investigation revealed… or whether criminal charges are expected.


The investigation has centered on who was responsible for distributing student names and achievement test scores from the Capital College Preparatory Academy during the debate on whether that school should remain open.


The school district’s lawyer has vowed that information about the investigation will be made public after the state’s attorney takes action on the police report.

School Board Secretary Taking Steps to Fix Busted Executive Session Recording Problems

The Springfield school board secretary says new procedures are in place to make sure that executive session meetings are properly recorded.


The new system was set up following revelations that portions of three separate meetings were not recorded.


In each case, the missing recordings pertain to the school board’s agreement to part ways with former superintendent Walter Milton.


Board secretary Julie Hammers… who is not in the room during executive session meetings… says it appears that a board member simply hit a wrong button, stopping the recording when he thought he was actually starting it.


She says she will be able to visually monitor those recordings in the future to be sure that they are working… even though she won’t listen in on the closed-door discussions.

Dist. 186 Increases Line of Credit to Make Payroll

Despite giving final approval to millions of dollars in budget cuts Monday night, the Springfield school board has also been forced to approve an increase in the school district’s line of credit… in order to meet payroll.


District officials say the move is a temporary correction for cash flow problems.


The board voted to enact the cuts they agreed to earlier this year… cutting more than 100 positions, including 59 certified teaching jobs.


Because of attrition, a total of 16 teachers are getting pink slips.


Most of them will ultimately be rehired, but the teachers union says the end result will still be fewer teachers and a decrease in educational quality.

Mayor Houston: Funding Infrastructure and Future Pensions Biggest Challenge

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says the city is rebounding nicely from the economic downturn of recent years… but warns there are some big potholes in the road, figuratively and literally.


In his annual “State of the City” speech, Houston says the city needs to act on its infrastructure needs, and won’t be able to simply cut other areas of the budget to pay for it.


The mayor also warns that the massive unfunded liability in police and fire pensions is another major hurdle facing the city.


Watch video highlights below or at this link.


Riverton Man Dies After Being Hit By Car in Church Parking Lot

A Riverton man has died of the injuries he suffered when he was struck by a car in a church parking lot a week ago.


89-year-old Martin Vala died Monday morning.


He and another man were hit while they talked in the parking lot of St. James Church in Riverton last Tuesday morning.


The second man had minor injuries.


The driver told police that she didn’t see the men in the bright morning sun.


The woman was cited for driving on a suspended license.


A statement from the coroner’s office says the accident is still under investigation.

Former Waverly Cop Faces Sexual Assault Charges

A former Waverly cop will appear in court next week on charges that he sexually assaulted a teenage girl in a back room of the police station.


The Jacksonville Journal-Courier reports 30-year-old Jeremy Angelo of Chatham will be arraigned on two felony counts stemming from the March 14th incident, which allegedly involved a 16-year-old girl.


Angelo had been a part-time officer in Waverly, but resigned from the force after being suspended by the police chief when the allegations came to light.

School Board Approves Job Cuts

The District 186 school board has given final approval to implement the cuts that were laid out weeks ago.  Monday's vote cuts more than 100 positions in the district, including 59 teaching positions. 


But because of attrition, the actual number of teachers receiving pink slips is 16.  Most of those individuals will be rehired before the start of the next school year as more vacancies arise, but Springfield Education Association president Dan Ford notes that the 16 teaching positions will be gone -- and that will have a detrimental effect on class size and student performance.


Other cuts include adminstrative assistants, math coaches, district mentors, and non-teaching staff.

District 186 Losing Ground On Minority Hiring

A new report shows District 186 still failing to meet the minority hiring goals spelled out under the federal school desegregation that dates back to the 1970s.


The district backslid in the current fiscal year, and total minority staff in the district is now below 10%.  The desegregation order calls for the district's staffing to reflect the makeup of the community, with about an 18% minority population.


The study says there are several factors that inhibit minority hiring, including the District's practice of filling vacancies late, failure to hold administrators accountable for not meeting the goals, and teachers' union contracts that give veteran teachers "recall rights' which make it harder for new minority teachers to enter the district.

Riverton Man Dies Of Injuries From Church Parking Lot Accident

A Riverton man has died of the injuries he suffered when he was struck by a car in a church parking lot almost a week ago. 


89-year-old Martin Vala had been in critical condition since the accident last Tuesday morning, when a woman struck him and another man as the two stood talking in the parking lot of St. James Church. The second man suffered minor injuries, but Vala died early Monday morning.


The woman told police that she was blinded by the morning sun and didn't see the men.  No charges were immediately filed... but a statement from the coroner's office says the accident remains under investigation.

Springfield Police Wrap Up Investigation Into Leak Of Student Data

Springfield police have wrapped up their initial investigation of the leak of confidential student data at District 186... and will soon forward their findings to the State's Attorney's Office. 


But Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher declines to say whether the police will recommend charges against anyone in the case. 


Police were called in after someone released a list of student names and test scores from the Capital College Preparatory Academy in the midst of discussions about whether the school should be kept open. 


Buscher says a final decision on how to proceed will be up to State's Attorney John Milhiser after he receives the police report, most likely in the next couple of days.

Low Turnout Predicted For Tuesday's Election

Sangamon County election officials are predicting another year of low turnout for Tuesday’s off-year elections. 


Despite some key contested races for Springfield school board and park board seats… and lively contests in communities like Chatham, Riverton and Pleasant Plains… County Clerk Joe Aiello says turnout is likely to be somewhere from 16 to 18-percent of eligible voters.  He bases the estimate on early voting numbers, which Aiello says are down from four years ago, when turnout overall hit 18-percent. 


[The polls are open Tuesday from 6am to 7pm.  970 WMAY will have complete coverage of election returns Tuesday night.]

Houston: Infrastructure, Pensions Are Major Looming Problems For City

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says he’s delivering on his promise to provide both smaller government and “world-class” city services.  But Houston warns that pensions are a looming serious problem for the city. 


He delivered his annual “State of the City” address Monday, and pointed to a $210 million unfunded liability for police and firefighters as a significant problem that he is working to solve. 


And Houston warned that it won’t be possible to cut enough money from the budget to pay for infrastructure needs… and the city will either pay now or pay more later.


Watch video highlights below or at this link


Illinois To Make Bar Exam Harder To Pass

Aspiring young lawyers may find it harder to clear the bar in Illinois. 


The American Bar Association Journal reports that the minimum passing score will increase by four points this fall… and by another four points in 2015.  The Illinois bar exam has been seen as one of the easier ones around the country to pass. 


The changes were directed by the Illinois Supreme Court, which reportedly resolved to increase the degree of difficulty needed to become a lawyer in the state.

Tuesday Elections Cover Area School Boards, Park Boards, Village Elections

It’s the last full day of campaigning for a variety of local government seats before voters head to the polls on Tuesday.


Among the most closely-watched races are four contested seats on the Springfield school board and three seats on the Springfield Park Board.


Both organizations have had leadership changes and controversy in recent weeks.


A number of other local races for school board, village board, and similar positions will be decided tomorrow. 


970 WMAY will have complete election returns after the polls close Tuesday night.

Illinois Lawmakers Have Full, Post Spring Break, Agenda

Illinois lawmakers get back to work this week, after a two-week spring break.


Pension reform remains the biggest issue on their plate… and it’s also the issue that may have the longest way to go to resolution.


But there are plenty of other big issues still pending… from same-sex marriage to medical marijuana to the concealed-carry law that lawmakers are under a court order to approve.


The General Assembly must also pass a new state budget in the eight weeks left until the scheduled end of the legislative session.

Top IL GA Republican Supports Same-Sex Marriage

A top Republican in the Illinois House now says he will support the bill to legalize same-sex marriage.


Ed Sullivan, Jr. of Mundelein had previously opposed civil unions, but now says he has gone through a personal evolution on the issue.


Sullivan says his mother-in-law is in a same-sex relationship.


He is only the second GOP member of the House to publicly support the bill… and the first member of the House Republican leadership to do so.

School Bus Crash Spurs Debate About Need for Seat Belts

A crash that resulted in an overturned school bus in Northern Illinois last week has renewed discussion about requiring seat belts on buses.


Democratic state lawmaker Lou Lang has pushed for those seat belts for years, but says resistance is high from local districts who fear it will add to the cost of busing.

School Board Member Says Technology, Not Malice, To Blame For Missing Recordings

The Springfield school board member who hit the record button on closed-door discussions about former superintendent Walter Milton… only to have those recordings fail three separate times… says he’s disappointed the recordings don’t exist. 


But Scott McFarland says there’s no evidence of anything malicious, and cautions against calling the situation a “scandal.”  McFarland chalks up the missing recordings of executive session discussions to a software glitch... and doesn’t think there was any kind of “smoking gun” in the missing audio.


The Illinois Attorney General’s Office had sought the recordings to determine if the discussions violated the state’s open meetings laws.

Quinn Signs Bill Limiting State Worker Union Membership

Governor Pat Quinn has signed a law restricting union membership among state employees.


The law aims to bar some employees from joining collective bargaining units and could force nearly 2,000 to give up recently granted membership.


The Democrat signed the bill Friday while on a trade mission to Mexico.

Madigan Building Money Advantage Over Quinn

If Attorney General Lisa Madigan challenges Governor Pat Quinn next year, she may have a money advantage. 


Madigan raised more money than Quinn in the first quarter of this year… and currently has more than $3.6 million in her campaign account, compared to just over a million for the governor.


Madigan hasn’t said yet if she will run against Quinn in the Democratic primary.

Prosecutors Seek Another Move For Beason Murder Trial

The trial for a man accused of killing five people in Beason has already been moved once… and now prosecutors want to move it again. 


They claim that comments from a defense lawyer to Peoria media could taint the pool of prospective jurors when jury selection gets underway later this month.


They are also asking for a gag order blocking the defense from talking to the press ahead of the trial of Christopher Harris.  

Pop Star Ke$ha Booked For Illinois State Fair

The Illinois State Fair has landed another big name for its Grandstand lineup. 


Pop star Ke$ha… whose name is spelled with a dollar sign instead of an “S”… will headline a concert on August 17th


Her song “Tik Tok” is one of the best-selling digital downloads in history.

School Board Candidates Propose Cutting Some Middle School Programs

Two of the three candidates for the Springfield school board in subdistrict 7 say the district should reduce the number of middle school programs. 


Tom Shafer and Gary Pierce say the various programs duplicate each other and are too costly to operate.  Both say they would support ending the middle school classes at Iles and Ball Charter schools. 


The third candidate for that open seat, Chuck Flamini, disagrees, and says both programs are successful and provide valuable opportunities for children, and shouldn’t be disrupted.

Decatur Faces Another Round Of Manufacturing Job Losses

It’s another big blow to the city with the highest unemployment rate in Illinois. 


Decatur will absorb another 460 layoffs this summer when Caterpillar cuts jobs at its plant there.  The company says the cutbacks are necessary because of a dropoff in demand for mining equipment.


Decatur has lost more than a thousand manufacturing jobs in recent months.

Shooting Suspect Arrested

Springfield police have made an arrest in a mid-week shooting on the city’s east side. 


24-year-old Deantre Nash is facing multiple charges, including aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm, and being an armed habitual criminal. 


He’s accused of shooting another man in the leg Wednesday night in the 25-hundred block of East Adams.  The victim was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Dist. 186 Executive Session Tapes Dealing With Milton's Departure Fail to Record

The mystery surrounding former Springfield school superintendent Walter Milton’s departure from District 186 is deepening.


The school board has notified the Illinois Attorney General’s Office that recordings of executive session discussions about Milton’s exit agreement “failed.”


The State Journal-Register reports that discussions about Milton were recorded separately from other parts of the executive sessions, but the recordings were not successful on three different dates when various parts of the eventual severance agreement were discussed.


The Attorney General’s Office is investigating whether the district violated open meetings laws by reaching and signing the agreement in private, ahead of a final public vote.

Houston Wants Three-Quarters Percent Sales Tax and Sewer Fee Increase for Infrastructure

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is still hoping aldermen will approve a big enough increase in sales taxes and sewer fees to take care of the city’s major infrastructure needs, now and for the foreseeable future.


Houston prefers raising the city sales tax by three-quarters of a percent… along with a gradual hike in sewer fees over ten years.


He says that will take care of major immediate needs and pay for a program of ongoing regular maintenance.


The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce has endorsed a one-half-percent sales tax hike along with the sewer fee increase.


So far, it’s not clear that any of the proposals have majority support on the City Council.

Tree Trimming Witness Says He Was Intimidated

The witness who blew the whistle on City Water Light and Power employees doing private work on city time says he definitely felt intimidated by one of those workers and wanted to testify against him.


A series of rescheduled hearings and communications breakdowns led to Eric Reiss not being able to testify in that disciplinary case.


Eventually, a fired worker was reinstated, in part because the claim of intimidation could not be established.


City officials had told aldermen that Reiss was not cooperative, a claim that Reiss again denied in a live interview Thursday on 970 WMAY.


Reiss accuses the city of “looking the other way” about the theft of city services, but Mayor Mike Houston says the city couldn’t pursue criminal charges because the workers did not personally profit from their actions.

Riverton Man in Critical Condition After Being Struck By Vehicle in Church Parking Lot

An 89-year-old Riverton man is in critical condition after being struck by a car in a church parking lot this week.


Martin Vala was talking with a second man when they were both struck by a car driven by a mother who had just dropped her children off near St. James Church.


She told police that she was blinded by the morning sun and did not see the two men in the parking lot. The second man was treated and released.


The driver was ticketed for driving on a suspended license.

Lt. Gov. Simon Outlines Her Conceal Carry Ideas

A top state official says the fee for permits to carry concealed weapons should cover the cost of processing those applications and doing the necessary background checks.


But Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon doesn’t know yet exactly how much that might be.


Simon has put together a checklist of items that should be a part of a concealed carry bill… which includes funding, a training requirement, and input from local law enforcement about applicants whose possession of concealed weapons may pose a danger to others.


But she also says any bill must comply with the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Chamber Supports Tax, Fee Hike For Infrastructure; Houston Wants More

The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce has endorsed part of Mayor Mike Houston’s infrastructure funding plan… but the mayor isn’t sure that support goes far enough. 


The business group has given its backing to a one-half-percent sales tax increase and a hike in sewer fees to pay for major projects.  But Houston is still hoping aldermen will also approve an additional one-quarter-percent sales tax hike to pay for ongoing basic maintenance of streets and sewers.  That would bring the total sales tax increase to three-fourths of one-percent.


Several aldermen remain reluctant to support any kind of a tax or fee increase.

Lt. Gov. Lays Out Guidelines For Concealed Carry Law

As Illinois lawmakers wrestle with devising a concealed carry law for the state, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon is offering a checklist of ten things that she says have to be a part of the discussion.


Simon has formed a working group of lawmakers to research the issue, and says that has led to the list of essential components of any new law.  She says first on the list is to make sure a concealed carry law complies with the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. 


But she also says it must include a training component, it must give local law enforcement the ability to have input into potentially dangerous applicants for a permit, and it must be able to pay for itself.  Simon says she doesn’t know yet how expensive a permit would have to be to cover the cost of background checks and processing applications.

Railroad Established By Lincoln Donates Half-Million To Presidential Library Foundation

Union Pacific Railroad is returning the favor. 


The railroad has donated $500,000 to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.  Company officials say there is a strong link between their railroad and the 16th President.  


Lincoln signed federal legislation in 1862 that created what is now known as Union Pacific, and established a federal subsidy to support the development of the transcontinental rail line.

Chamber of Commerce Supports One-Half Percent Tax and Sewer Fee Increase

The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce is endorsing part of Mayor Mike Houston’s plan to pay for infrastructure repairs.


The Chamber is supporting a one-half percent increase in the city’s sales tax, with the proceeds used to finance an $86 million bond issue for major street, sidewalk and sewer projects.


The Chamber’s board also endorsed a second ordinance that would gradually raise the city sewer fee, to leverage low-interest loans from the Illinois EPA for sewer repairs.


Chamber officials say they don’t support tax and fee increases lightly, but say these are necessary for future economic growth and quality of life in Springfield.

Executive Session Tapes Reveal City's Characterization of Witness

Audio recordings of two Springfield city council executive session meetings are raising questions about how the city handled a complaint against City Water Light and Power employees.


In the first recording, from October of last year, city corporation counsel Mark Cullen tells aldermen that the complaining witness, Eric Reiss (reese), was uncooperative.


But a week later, aldermen confront Cullen with evidence to the contrary.


Cullen told aldermen behind closed doors that he relied on another CWLP employee for his conclusion that Reiss would not assist the investigation.


Reiss had complained that the workers were doing private tree removal on city time.


One worker was fired, but was reinstated after Reiss did not show up for a hearing. Reiss says he was not notified of the hearing until it was too late.


Hear the first executive session from October 30th, 2012 where Aldermen are told by Corporation Counsel Cullen that witness Eric Reiss was uncooperative:


click here for mp3 download


Hear the second meeting from November 6th, 2012 where Aldermen give Cullen a chance to respond to the conflicting statements:


click here for mp3 download

Effort to Recreate Lincoln Funeral Procession In Springfield Underway

A fundraiser is planned for the end of April to raise the money needed to stage a re-creation of the funeral train that carried Abraham Lincoln’s body back to Springfield.


Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert will be the featured speaker at the April 30th event at Edwards Place on North 4th Street.


Organizers are trying to raise $750,000 to bring a replica of Lincoln’s funeral car into town in May of 2015… marking the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s death and burial.

City Working to Get New Sign To Welcome Visitors

It could be a big, bright, new way to welcome visitors to Springfield.


The city plans to install an eight-by-ten-foot electronic sign on northbound 6th Street just south of Stanford Avenue.


The State Journal-Register reports the sign would promote tourist attractions and activities, and historic sites.


Cost of the sign is estimated at $45,000. The city is trying to get a state grant to defray that cost.

Curbside Pickup and Drop Off For Yard Waste Starts Monday

The spring yard waste collection effort in Springfield gets underway Monday.


City residents can leave yard waste in paper bags or cans by the curbside. City crews will move through neighborhoods to pick up the items.


The collection period runs through May 3rd.


City residents who can show proof of residency can also take their yard waste directly to the Evans Recycling facility on J. David Jones Parkway between 7am and 5pm weekdays, and 7 to noon on Saturdays.

AUDIO LINKS: After Executive Session Tapes Released, City and Eye Witness Versions Clash

What aldermen were told about the firing and subsequent re-hiring of a CWLP employee contradicts what the witness says happened.


In executive session records released by the city’s legal department, corporation counsel Mark Cullen says that eye witness Eric Reiss was uncooperative and if he were to testify at an arbitration hearing, the city would lose the case.


That goes against what Reiss says, who claims he tried to go to an arbitration hearing to provide that side of the story.


The tapes were released after several aldermen requested they be made public.


Hear the first executive session from October 30th, 2012 where Aldermen are told by Corporation Counsel Cullen that witness Eric Reiss was uncooperative:


click here for mp3 download


Hear the second meeting from November 6th, 2012 where Aldermen give Cullen a chance to respond to the conflicting statements:


click here for mp3 download

Springfield Yard Waste Pickup Dates

It’s Spring again. And with Spring comes yard waste. The City of Springfield will be conducting yard waste pickup and drop-off through May 3rd.


Residents may drop bagged or loose yard waste to Evans Recycling at 2100 J. David Jones Parkway from 7am to 5pm Monday through Friday, and from 7am to Noon on Saturday. Residents need to show proof of residency. Or residents may place bagged yard waste at the curb beginning April 8th to be picked up by Friday, May 3rd. Only paper yard waste bags will be accepted, or loose yard waste in a bin clearly marked “yard waste.”

Springfield Tells State Building Code Enforcement To "Stuff It"

The City of Springfield is telling the state to "go stuff it" when it comes to enforcing building codes for energy conservation. That's after aldermen passed an ordinance that guts the capital city's energy conservation enforcement measures.


Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen says that contractors must abide by state law that says new construction must comply with the latest published International Energy Conservation Code. Alderman Frank Edwards says the ordinance means the State of Illinois, not the City of Springfield, will have to pay for inspectors to enforce the codes.


Not everyone was on board with the measure. Alderman Gail Simpson says it sends a bad message to residents that the city will use a loophole to get around enforcing the energy conservation codes.

Springfield Police Nab Robbery Suspect Within Moments

Springfield police nabbed a robber within moments of the robbery.


A call was made to the police department that a man had entered the Northend Pantry on Black Avenue just after 9pm Tuesday, fired a shot into the ceiling and demanded cash from the employees. When a description of the suspect was aired, an officer responding to the call saw a man who matched the description at 2nd and Calhoun. After hearing more descriptive information on the police radio, 20-year-old Remarco Smith tried to flee, but Officer Redpath was able to grab him and force him to the ground.


Officers found a stocking cap with holes cut out (that can be used as a mask), money and the weapon used during the robbery in his backpack.


Remarco Smith

Remarco Smith

Springfield Executive Session Council Meeting Tapes Released

Springfield’s Corporation Counsel has reviewed and released recordings of executive session meetings from October 30th and November 6th where officials discussed disciplinary action against several City Water, Light and Power employees.


The audiotapes will be kept at the City Clerk’s office for public inspection. Those who are interested in copies should contact Deputy Clerk Rianne Hawkins at 789-2216 (extension 104) or visit the City Clerk’s Office.


Read the Summary of Discussion at this link.

City Continuing Investigation of Weekend Taser Incident

The City of Springfield is continuing its review of a weekend incident where an officer used a Taser on a pregnant woman during a parking lot altercation… but so far, officials say it appears proper procedures were followed.


The incident is in the spotlight because a bystander shot cell phone video of the struggle between officers and the woman… and posted it on YouTube.


Police say the woman was trying to interfere as officers attempted to take her boyfriend into custody… and say the Taser was the safest way to make her comply with police orders.

Springfield Aldermen Pass Cap on City Employment

After two aldermen changed their earlier votes, the Springfield City Council has adopted a cap on city employment.


The ordinance from Alderman Joe McMenamin limits the city workforce to no more than 1500… 640 at City Water Light and Power and 860 in the rest of city government.


The cap could be exceeded only with city council permission. Aldermen Cory Jobe and Kris Theilen previously voted against the cap idea, but supported McMenamin’s modified version Tuesday.


Mayor Mike Houston opposes the idea… even though his administration is currently under the cap.


But Houston wouldn’t say if he will veto the ordinance.

City Could Release Tree Trimming Executive Session Recordings Soon

As early as today, we could get the chance to listen in behind the closed doors of the Springfield City Council.


Mayor Mike Houston says he plans to release recordings of executive session meetings where officials discussed disciplinary action against several CWLP employees.


The recordings could shed light on how the city handled a complaint from a witness who say the workers doing a tree removal on private property… using city equipment on city time.


Houston says the city council doesn’t need to vote on releasing the recordings, and says the city will provide them in the next day or two.

Sen. Kirk Says Government Shouldn't Get in Middle of Love

The life-threatening stroke that U.S. Senator Mark Kirk suffered last year may have changed his outlook on the issue of same-sex marriage.


The Illinois Republican is now stating his support for allowing gay couples to have full marriage rights.


He says in a statement that after he returned to Capitol Hill following his stroke, he vowed to have a more open mind and greater respect for others.


Kirk says our time on this earth is limited, and the focus should be on who we love and who loves us back… without government getting in the middle of that.

Regular WMAY Caller Shaves Head For Children's Hospital

He’s still got his well-known mustache… but a lot of the rest of Bill Marvin’s hair is no longer on his head.


Marvin… known to 970 WMAY listeners as caller “Ervie”… had his head shaved by students Tuesday.


It was part of a fundraising effort to raise money for St. John’s Children’s Hospital.


For the chance to shave Marvin’s full-length hair… which hadn’t been cut in six years… students raised more than $2100.


Listener Ervie before and after shaving his head for charity

Listener Ervie before and after shaving his head for charity

City Investigating City Police Use of Taser on Pregnant Woman

The City of Springfield is investigating an incident that led a Springfield police officer using a taser on a pregnant woman over the weekend.  A viral video posted on YouTube (caution: graphic language) shows the incident right as a police officer approached a woman with a stun gun.  The officer then forcibly throws the woman to the ground using his taser.  The woman is clearly heard in the video saying she's pregnant.  


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says he's grateful everyone is safe and not injured, but currently the mayor says all indication is that proper procedures were followed.  


The officer that used the taser is still on duty pending the outcome of the investigation.  

City to Open Up Four Executive Session Recordings

No ordinance necessary -- The City of Springfield will release records for four executive sessions dealing with last year's tree trimming incident.  The issue of a CWLP employee using city equipment on city time to trim a tree on private property resurfaced after a rate payer addressed the city that he felt his credibility was called into question when it came to testifying in the case.  Alderman Frank Edwards pushed for an ordinance to release the tapes.  Mayor Mike Houston says that the city's legal department will soon release the records without the need of an ordinance. 

City of Springfield Strikes Energy Conservation Code Enforcement and Other City Business

The City of Springfield is saying "go stuff it" when it comes to enforcing building codes for energy conservation.  That's after aldermen passed an ordinance that guts the capital city's energy conservation enforcement measures.  Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen says that contractors must abide by state law that says new construction must comply with the latest published International Energy Conservation Code.  Alderman Frank Edwards says the ordinance means the State of Illinois, not the City of Springfield, will have to pay for inspectors to enforce the codes.  Not everyone was on board with the measure.  Alderman Gail Simpson says it sends a bad message to residents that the city will use a loophole to get around enforcing the energy conservation codes.


Springfield city government will have to keep within a certain number of employees after aldermen voted in favor of capping the workforce at 1,500 people. The measure sponsored by Aldermen Joe McMenamin and Steve Dove would split the headcount into two side: the corporate side and utility. Mayor Mike Houston has said he doesn't see the ordinance as being necessary, but wasn't clear if he would veto the ordinance. McMenamin says that the ordinance will hold future mayoral administrations accountable when it comes to keeping the workforce limited. Once signed, the mayor would have to come to the city council with an ordinance to go beyond the 1500 threshold.


A budget proposal from Governor Pat Quinn to cap shared income tax with cities across the state doesn't sit well with the capital city. Springfield aldermen voted in favor of a resolution to oppose the Quinn's proposal to cap shared income tax money at 2012 levels. Springfield Budget Director Bill McCarty has said Quinn's proposal could cost the city up to $1.3 million a year, and even more in the years to come. The president of the Illinois Municipal League attended the city council meeting Tuesday to applaud the city for taking a stand.


On the consent agenda, aldermen approved the Legacy Sports Complex proposal, and also voted for a $55,000 contract with Layne Christensen to provide what could be the last review of city gravel pits before the Army Corp. of Engineers and EPA approve the long debated plans for Hunter Lake.


GOP Senator Kirk Supports Same-Sex Marriage

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk has become one of the most prominent Republican officeholders in the country to support same-sex marriage. 


Kirk links his support to a change in perspective following his debilitating stroke last year. He issued a written statement saying, quote, “Our time on this Earth is limited, I know that better than most.  Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back-- government has no place in the middle.” 


Kirk says since his return to the Senate in January, he has tried to conduct himself with an open mind and greater respect for others.


The full text of Kirk's statement:


"When I climbed the Capitol steps in January, I promised myself that I would return to the Senate with an open mind and greater respect for others.


Same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage. Our time on this Earth is limited, I know that better than most.  Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back-- government has no place in the middle."


Springfield Police Defend Use Of Taser Against Pregnant Woman

Springfield police say they used appropriate and justified force when a pregnant woman was tasered during an altercation with officers over the weekend. 


A video of the incident has now been posted on YouTube (WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE), and shows an officer attempting to subdue the woman as she tried to intervene with police who were restraining her boyfriend in the parking lot of Best Buy.  The officer ordered the woman to comply or risk being tasered… when she did not obey the commands, she received what police call a “drive stun,” where the taser is applied directly against her leg. 


Deputy police chief Cliff Buscher says police followed proper procedure and did what was necessary to minimize risk both to the woman and to the officers involved in the altercation.  The woman and her boyfriend are both facing charges, and the incident remains under review.

School Board President Wants Lower Salary for Next Superintendent

The president of the Springfield school board says the next superintendent of District 186 should make less than former superintendent Walter Milton.


Susan White says the salary should be in line with those in other “area” school districts… even though Springfield is the largest district in the area.


White’s opponent in next week’s election, Mike Zimmers, says he’s not sure that Milton was overpaid… and thinks the job of running Springfield schools should pay a salary comparable with other large urban school districts around the state.


State Senators Say Downstate Schools Getting Raw Deal

Two Republican state senators say downstate schools are getting a raw deal when it comes to state funding.


Bill Brady and Jason Barickman released a study showing that Chicago gets a disproportionate percentage of state funding for poverty grants, special ed funding, early childhood education programs, and more.


The Republicans say those numbers refute Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan’s contention that downstate schools are getting a free lunch on teacher pension funding and should have to pay more of those costs.

General Assembly Contemplates Proposals to Increase Speed Limit to 70

When lawmakers return to Springfield this month, they will take up competing bills that could raise the state speed limit on some roads to 70 miles per hour.


A House bill would only authorize the higher speed limit on interstate highways outside of major urban areas.


The Senate bill would also permit the higher limit on other four-lane divided highways.

Edwards Stands By Opposition to Tax and Fee Increases to Fund Infrastructure

Springfield alderman Frank Edwards is standing by his insistence that Springfield needs to cut a lot more before it gives any thought to raising sales taxes to pay for infrastructure.


Appearing live Monday with 970 WMAY’s Greg Bishop, Edwards notes that Bloomington has one of the lowest sales tax rates in the state… and also has the lowest unemployment rate.


He says the city should look there as an example of a way to reprioritize spending, instead of just constantly asking taxpayers for more.

Sangamon County Fair Entertainment to Feature Trace Adkins

Country music dominates again this year at the Sangamon County Fair.


This year’s Grandstand lineup for the fair in New Berlin features Trace Adkins, whose long list of country hits includes “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.”


The opening act for Adkins will be local singer Gracia Harrison, who was featured last year on the NBC show “The Voice.”


Also announced for the county fair this year are country acts Little Big Town and Jake Owen.


The Sangamon County Fair opens June 19th.

Edwards: More Cuts Needed at City Hall

A Springfield alderman says the city hasn’t cut nearly enough spending to justify asking voters for a tax increase to pay for infrastructure.


Ward 1 Alderman Frank Edwards posted on Facebook over the weekend in opposition to Mayor Mike Houston’s proposed tax and fee hikes to fund an infrastructure program.


Edwards disputed the idea that the city has already cut as far as it can, saying that as long as employees are receiving raises, then the city hasn’t cut to the bone.


Edwards says that constituents shouldn’t even bother contacting him about the issue… because there is no way he would vote to support a tax hike for infrastructure.

Milton: Despite Mid-Year Departure, Not Damaged Goods

Former Springfield school superintendent Walter Milton says he is not “damaged goods,” despite his unusual mid-year departure from the job.


Milton ended his six-year tenure in Springfield over the weekend, after being forced out by a majority of the school board.


He has struck out in at least two recent attempts to find another job, amid controversy over scandals here and in past jobs.


But Milton says he believes there is a school district out there that is the right fit for him.


In the meantime, he says he may try to expand his private school consultancy business.

Another Arrest Warrant Issued for Jennifer Watkins

A new arrest warrant has been issued against a former Cass County woman, caught up in a bitter visitation battle with the parents of her murdered husband.


The State Journal-Register reports Jennifer Watkins is facing criminal contempt charges after failing to appear in Cass County for another hearing on the court-ordered visitation that was granted to Dale and Penny Watkins.


Their son, Steven, was murdered by Jennifer Watkins’ grandmother… and they have been trying to see Steven and Jennifer’s daughter Sydney ever since.

New Gambling Proposal Would Allow Internet Gaming in State

The latest attempt to expand gambling in the state of Illinois may run into new snags.


Governor Pat Quinn has vetoed two previous gaming bills because he says the expansion of casinos and slot machines around the state did not include enough ethical safeguards.


The latest attempt to pass the bill tries to address those concerns, but now adds a new wrinkle… allowing people to gamble in the privacy of their own home, over the Internet.


Quinn is also skeptical of that idea, and says there needs to be a lot more study about the concept.


Only three other states have approved internet gambling.

Comcast Caves to Elderly American Idol Fan

An Illinois grandmother is no longer facing a threatened termination of her “unlimited” digital phone service.


Fox News reports that Comcast threatened to cut off the service after 72-year-old Ilene Henry made hundreds of calls over the course of an hour… casting votes for her favorite American Idol contestant.


The company had said that the woman’s dialing patterns were “inconsistent with residential phone use.”


But after Henry and her granddaughter complained, Comcast has now backed off the termination threat.


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