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October 23, 2014, 2:56 pm
Breaking News

The Council Roundup

The Council Roundup, Wednesdays at 10 with Bishop On Air


970 WMAY News Archives for 2013-05

Gambling, Same-Sex Marriage Bills ApparentlyDead For This Session

Some of the major items on the legislature's to-do list apparently won't get done this session.  Rep. Robert Rita, sponsor of a gambling expansion bill, says he will not call it for a vote, dashing the hopes of Chicago city officials who had hoped to win authorization for the city's first casino.


And reports from the Capitol Friday night indicated that the same-sex marriage bill also would not be called for a vote.  The bill cleared the Senate earlier this year, but languished just short of the 60 votes it needed for final passage in the House.

Traffic Stop Leads To Drug Bust; DIRT Team Recovers Crack, Pot, Cash

A traffic stop has resulted in a major drug bust… and the arrest of a suspect who was the target of nine outstanding warrants. 


Officers with Sangamon County’s DIRT team say Alfred Clayborne fled the vehicle… leaving the female driver behind… after police pulled them over on I-55.  Clayborne was caught a short time later, and investigators found suspected crack and marijuana, and $16,000 in cash. 


Clayborne was already wanted on multiple prior warrants, and now faces additional charges.

Concealed Carry Passes Both Chambers; Bill Heads To Governor's Desk

The Illinois General Assembly made history Friday with passage of a bill that would end Illinois's status as the last state in the nation to allow citizens to legally carry concealed weapons.


The latest compromise bill won support in both chambers after last-minute amendments that keep the "shall issue" standard for the issuance of permits, but that also preserve many existing local gun regulation ordinances.


The bill now goes to Governor Pat Quinn, who has not yet said what he thinks of this version of the legislation.



Senate Rejects Limits On High-Capacity Ammuniition Magazines

The Illinois Senate has narrowly defeated a bill that would have banned ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds.


Bill sponsor Sen. Dan Kotowski expressed frustration over what he says is the undue influence of the gun lobby on regulatory issues, at one point exclaiming, "Screw the gun industry!"  But opponents to the bill say it would further inhibit the ability of law-abiding people to protect themselves against criminals who are unlikely to abide by such limits anyway.


The bill failed with 28 voting yes and 31 voting no.

Christopher Harris Guilty Of Murder, Other Charges In 2009 Killings Of Beason Family

A jury in Peoria has found Christopher Harris guilty on all counts in the beating deaths of five members of a Beason family in 2009.


Harris was convicted of first-degree murder for killing Rick and Ruth Gee and three of their children with a tire iron.  He was also convicted of attempted murder for striking, but not killing, 3-year-old Tabitha Gee, as well on charges of armed robbery and home invasion.  Harris faces a mandatory natural life sentence for the convictions on all charges.

Topinka Blasts Democrats' Budget

The new state budget put forward by legislative Democrats is taking a bad situation… and making it worse. 


That’s the assessment of Republican Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka.  She says lawmakers are adding new spending… while ignoring the commitments they’ve already made. 


Topinka says a recent infusion of revenues should be going to pay down the state’s backlog of bills… and says Illinois should be fulfilling its pension promises and paying back raises owed to state workers, rather than taking on new obligations. 


And Topinka says the state may have no choice but to extend the temporary income tax increase that’s set to expire next year.

Topinka Hopes For Moderate GOP Chair, Won't Take Sides Yet In Governor Primary

One of Illinois's top Republican statewide officials hopes her party will choose a more moderate chairman.  Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is herself a former state GOP chair.  Appearing live on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show," Topinka said the party needs to elect a new chair this weekend who will bring people together, not an "extremist" who will alienate blocs of voters.

But Topinka is declining to take sides yet in the upcoming GOP race for governor.  Her fellow constitutional officer, Treasurer Dan Rutherford, will announce his campaign this weekend.  But Topinka says it's too soon to endorse anyone until more is known about the field of contenders.

Airport Passes FAA Inspection With Flying Colors

Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport has passed its latest inspection with flying colors. 


The Federal Aviation Administration annual review covers most aspects of airport operations, from employee training to fire safety to a wildlife management plan. 


Airport officials say the FAA inspection found no deficiencies in the airport’s performance.   The airport’s certification is contingent on passing that inspection.

Strong Winds Derail Empty Rail Cars, Other Damage Through County

Another round of strong storms has created more headaches in Sangamon County.


55 to 60 rail cars that were sitting on tracks near the Lowder grain elevator were knocked over by wind gusts of 70 miles an hour or more.


Sheriff Neil Williamson says it appears those cars were empty, and no injuries were reported.


The high winds also uprooted trees and snapped power poles in southern and western parts of the county, leaving hundreds of Ameren customers without power in Auburn, New Berlin, and elsewhere.


There were also reports of damage to mobile homes in Loami.

Weather Service Radios Offline Until Just Before Severe Weather

As severe weather was approaching on Thursday, the weather radios that often serve as a first warning of danger went out of commission for hours.


The National Weather Service says a phone line problem disabled the transmitters serving Springfield, Peoria and Jacksonville.


The problem was resolved shortly before a line of severe storms moved through the area Thursday night.

Pension Deal Still Unresolved With One Day Left in Legislative Session

Just one day left in the legislative session… and it’s anybody’s guess whether any kind of pension deal can come together.


The Illinois Senate resoundingly rejected House Speaker Mike Madigan’s pension reform plan.


Opponents say the Madigan plan is unfair and unconstitutional.


But Madigan remains opposed to the plan favored by Senate President John Cullerton, leaving prospects for a compromise in limbo.

Bill to Shift Pension Costs Back to Colleges Passes House

The House has approved a bill to gradually shift the state’s share of college and university pensions back onto those schools.


The bill passed 60-55, over the objections of opponents who say the move will simply send higher education costs soaring and force community colleges to seek tax increases to cover their higher costs.


That bill now goes to the Senate.

Senator Manar: State Must Make Good on Promises

Budget bills are moving forward in the General Assembly… but some lawmakers say they don’t go far enough.


Democratic State Senator Andy Manar objects to the lack of guaranteed funding for the back pay raises that the state has agreed to pay its union workers under its new contract.


Manar says the state needs to keep its promises and meet its obligations.


Lawmakers could still approve a supplemental appropriation to cover that estimated $140 million cost.

Fracking Bill Heads to Illinois Senate

The House has overwhelmingly approved legislation that gives a green light to the practice of “fracking” in the state.


The bill also sets strict regulation for the use of hydraulic fracturing to release oil and natural gas reserves deep below the Earth’s surface.


The measure now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.

Search Continues for US Bank Robbery Suspect

Springfield police are still searching for the gunman who robbed the US Bank Branch on South Sixth Street Thursday morning.


The black male, wearing a hat and jogging pants with a red stripe, entered the bank before 9am, pointed a gun at the teller and demanded money. Police think he left the area in an older model beige vehicle.


Photos of the suspect can be seen below or at this link or on the 970 WMAY Facebook page.


Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call Springfield police or Crimestoppers.


US Bank Robbery Suspect Wanted by Police

Jury Continues Deliberating Christopher Harris Murder Trial

Jury deliberations resume Friday at the murder trial of Christopher Harris. Jurors got the case Thursday after closing arguments.


Defense lawyers insist that Christopher Harris discovered teenager Dillen Constant killing the other members of his family at their home in Beason in 2009, and that Christopher killed Dillen in self-defense.


But prosecutors call that claim, quote, “laughable.”

Dozens Of Empty Rail Cars Toppled In Southwestern Sangamon County

Very high winds that moved through Sangamon County Thursday night have toppled as many as 55-60 rail cars sitting on tracks near the town of Lowder, in the southwestern part of the county.


Sheriff Neil Williamson says it appears they were empty grain cars connected to the Lowder grain elevator.  It is believed that high winds, in excess of 70 miles an hour, knocked the cars over.  Crews responded to the scene to assess the situation.


The high winds also snapped some power lines in western and southern Sangamon County, knocking out power to hundreds of Ameren customers in Auburn and New Berlin.

Senate Rejects Madigan Pension Reform Plan

The fate of pension reform efforts at the Capitol is in doubt, after the Illinois Senate overwhelmingly rejected the pension reform plan supported by House Speaker Mike Madigan. 


The Democratic-controlled Senate voted down Madigan's plan, calling it unfair and unconstitutional.  But Madigan is opposed to the plan favored by Senate President John Cullerton, raising questions about whether any meaningful deal can come together by Friday's scheduled adjournment.

Manar Opposes Budget Plan; Says It Fails To Address Needs Of Schools, State Workers

Democrats continue to push through their state budget plan… but some in the party don’t like it. 


State Senator Andy Manar… whose district includes Springfield… doesn’t think it goes far enough to prevent teacher layoffs and other cutbacks affecting the quality of education in local school districts. 


Manar says the budget plan also fails to resolve questions about whether state workers will get the pay raises they’ve been promised for years.

Unions Warn Madigan Pension Plan Will Cost Schools

A coalition of public sector unions is warning that House Speaker Mike Madigan’s pension reform plan could become a huge unfunded mandate for local school districts. 


The We Are One coalition says Madigan’s plan could force teachers across Illinois into the Social Security system… and require local districts to pick up the employer’s share of contributions into that system.  The unions say school systems would be forced to hike property taxes to cover those costs. 


The unions have been fighting Madigan’s plan and urging lawmakers to adopt an alternate proposal from Senate President John Cullerton.

Update: Detectives Investigate Early Morning Bank Robbery

Police are in the preliminary phase of investigating an early morning bank robbery in Springfield.


Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher says that a black male wearing a black hat and jogging pants with a red stripe entered the US Bank on 6th street this morning and demanded money while holding a handgun.


The suspect then fled on foot.


Buscher says he may have gotten into a car in the County Market parking lot on 6th Street.


The call came in shortly before 9 this morning.


Authorities say that the man got into an older model beige vehicle.


Detectives are currently on the scene. Buscher says no one was injured in the incident.


See more photos here.





City Hands Over DVDs of Digital Files in Ongoing File Destruction Case

It’s possible that not everything related to a year’s worth of Springfield police internal affairs records wound up in the shredder.


The city has turned over two DVDs with computer files and other digital data related to a Springfield man’s lawsuit over the destruction of those records.


The electronic data was submitted under seal, so it’s not known what those DVDs contain.


In addition to the civil lawsuit, a special prosecutor has also been appointed to look into whether the early destruction of those records violated state law.

State Budget Work Coming Down to the Wire

Illinois lawmakers are making progress on a new state budget… through a series of party line votes.


Democrats are using their overwhelming majority in both chambers to approve budget bills that maintain funding levels for education and human services.


Republicans object to the budget, saying it spends too much and fails to address the state’s underlying fiscal crisis.


Legislative leaders say there is still time, once the budget work is done, to address pension reform before Friday’s scheduled adjournment.

Crunch Time at Illinois Capitol With Mounting List of Unfinished Business

Unfinished business at the Capitol still includes concealed carry legislation.


Senate President John Cullerton convened a group of lawmakers Wednesday in hopes of ironing out differences between competing House and Senate proposals.


Participants say there was progress, but no final deal yet.


Votes could also happen in the next 48 hours on bills to legalize same-sex marriage and expand the number of casinos and slot machines around the state.

Sex-Change Insurance Plan Approved for U of I Chicago Students

The student insurance plan at the University of Illinois’s Chicago campus will now cover sex-change operations.


U of I trustees authorized that change and approved an overall 15-percent increase in the rates charged to students for that optional insurance.


The sex-change coverage is only for the Chicago campus, and does not apply to students attending UIS or the flagship campus in Urbana.

Christopher Harris Murder Trial Nearing End With Closing Arguments Expected Today

Closing arguments are expected today in the Peoria trial of Christopher Harris, accused of murdering five members of his ex-wife’s family in 2009.


Defense lawyers wrapped up their case on Wednesday, continuing to focus on their theory that teenager Dillen Constant killed other members of his family, and was then killed by Harris in self-defense when Harris inadvertently stumbled onto the crime scene.

Henson Robinson Zoo to Reopen After Storm Debris Cleanup

Henson Robinson Zoo will reopen today for the first time since violent storms caused significant damage Monday.


Fencing around a number of animal exhibits, which was heavily damaged by fallen trees and limbs, has now been repaired.


Meanwhile, cleanup and repair work continues at Lincoln Place Mobile Home Park, where dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed when 75 mile an hour microburst winds swept through the area.

Riverton 12-Year-Old Eliminated From National Spelling Bee

Four Illinois spellers are still alive at the Scripps National Spelling Bee… all from the Chicago area.


But a 12-year-old Riverton student was eliminated from the competition, despite spelling two words correctly during the first round of live competition.


Kyle Campbell didn’t make the cut based on scores from a computerized spelling and vocabulary test that was added to the event this year.

City Delivers Backups Under Seal in FOIA Shred Case

The City of Springfield has delivered on an agreement in the ongoing file-shredding case.


In a notice of filing dated Tuesday, the city says they have delivered two DVDs to the courts under seal.


The city agreed to produce and preserve whatever digital documents they may have related to a Freedom of Information Act Request from Pure News reporter Calvin Christian, documents that were reportedly destroyed.


Christian is suing the city over the destruction of the documents.


It's unclear if the DVDs contain any information related to the FOIA case because they're under seal.


Part of the agreement in Christian's case was to preserve the documents for possible investigation of violating state records laws.


A special prosecutor has been assigned to the case after State's Attorney John Milhiser recused himself for having perceived conflicts of interest because of his work with Springfield Police and because of current litigation with Christian.

Chamber Worries About Effects Of Legislative Inaction

The head of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce is keeping a watchful eye on the Statehouse… to see if legislative action on budgets and pensions will derail the city’s efforts to attract new jobs. 


Steward Sandstrom says Springfield has had a lot of positive news recently that can make it more attractive to companies looking to expand or relocate. 


But he says if lawmakers don’t address the state’s pension crisis, the negative reaction on Wall Street could keep companies from even looking at Illinois as a destination.

Reported Home Invasion Leads to Rollover Accident, Suspect in Custody

Springfield police say a man who was fleeing a home invasion flipped his vehicle and crashed into a utility pole… knocking out power to more than 80 homes for a few hours Wednesday morning. 


Police reports say Jeffrey Sanders allegedly forced his way into his ex-girlfriend’s home on the city’s north end and battered her… then left at a high rate of speed.  Officers observed Sanders lose control of his vehicle near Dirksen and Nichols Road. 


Sanders was treated for minor injuries and is now facing multiple charges, including home invasion, domestic battery and DUI. 


The power in neighborhoods around that crash scene was out for nearly three hours before crews repaired the damage.

Hilltop Road At Route 29 To Be Closed Thursday For Work

Water line work will close southbound Hilltop Road at Route 29 southeast of Springfield until around 2:30pm Wednesday, and then again for much of the day Thursday. 


City Water Light and Power says it was forced to close down the road because the high volume of traffic was putting its crews at risk. 


That closure is scheduled to last from 8am until 2:30pm Thursday, but that schedule could be affected by the weather.

Special Prosecutor Appointed to Investigate Springfield Police File Destruction

For the first time, an outside agency will take a closer look at the shredding of Springfield police internal affairs documents.


As 970 WMAY News was the first to report, a special prosecutor has been appointed to review the case and determine if the document destruction violated state law.


That move was made at the request of Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milhiser, who says his office faced a conflict of interest, because it handles cases involving Springfield police, as well as pending charges against a plaintiff who sued the city over the disposal of those records.

Police and Fire Investigators Look Into String of Suspicious Enos Neighborhood Fires

The fire that destroyed three adjacent homes on North Fourth Street two weeks ago was an arson… and now authorities are trying to determine if it’s connected to a string of other recent fires in the Enos Park neighborhood.


A total of nine fires between May 2nd and May 18th are viewed as suspicious, but police and fire investigators cannot say for certain yet if they are all related, or who may have been responsible.


They are asking anyone in that area… or elsewhere… to watch out for suspicious behavior, and if they see something or someone that appears out of place, to call police.

Kidzeum Organizers Seeking More TIF Money Than What's Offered

The organizers of the planned downtown Kidzeum are still pressing for a bigger financial commitment from the city of Springfield.


City officials have recommended awarding $675,000 in downtown TIF district funding toward the cost of renovating a building on East Adams to house the children’s museum.


But that’s $300,000 less than museum organizers had requested.


Kidzeum board president Rachael Thompson says the city will see a big return on investment once the museum is up and running, but says it needs more money now to make that happen.

Storm Damage: CWLP Restores Nearly All Outages, Zoo to Reopen Thursday

Virtually all City Water Light and Power customers have had their power restored following Monday’s violent weather.


CWLP was down to fewer than 100 customers in the dark as of late last night, and expected to finish reconnecting them in the overnight hour.


But a number of street lights around the city are still not working… those repairs may not begin until next week.


Meanwhile, cleanup continues at the Lincoln Place Mobile Home Park near Riverton, where residents were allowed to return on Tuesday.


And Henson Robinson Zoo is closed again today while they remove debris and repair damage from fallen trees.


The zoo should reopen Thursday.

Mayor Houston: If State Withholds Revenues, Cuts or Tax Raise May Be Necessary

Work continues on the new state budget… ahead of a Friday deadline to get it passed.


And while the budget attempts to preserve education and human service funding, it may do so at the expense of Springfield and other local governments.


Mayor Mike Houston says it appears the state plans to withhold revenues that would ordinarily go back to municipalities.


As a result, Houston says the city may be faced with cutting services or raising taxes to make up for the losses.

Concealed Carry Gridlock as End of Legislative Session Looms

The concealed carry compromise that sailed through the House last week has run aground in the Senate.


A Senate committee rejected that bill… which would have pre-empted most local gun ordinances.


Instead, that panel advanced a different concealed carry bill, which leaves most of those local ordinances in place, and includes further restrictions on where a gun could legally be carried.


Lawmakers are racing to beat Friday’s scheduled adjournment, as well as a June 9th deadline to pass some kind of concealed carry law.

Senate Panel Rejects House-Approved Concealed Carry Bill, Passes More Restrictive Version

The concealed carry legislation that easily passed the House last week has been rejected by an Illinois Senate committee. 


Senators instead went with a more restrictive measure that would allow local governments to keep their own gun ordinances,  unlike the House version.  The Senate's version would also further restrict where weapons could be carried. 


Lawmakers are scrambling to pass a concealed carry bill before Friday's scheduled adjournment.

Special Prosecutor Appointed To Investigate Destruction Of Police Records

A special prosecutor has been named to look into the actions of Springfield police officials that led to the shredding of internal affairs records a year ahead of schedule. 


Sangamon County State's Attorney John Milhiser requested the appointment of a special prosecutor because of perceived conflicts of interest.  Milhiser notes that his office works closely with many of the same police officials that may come under investigation.  His office is also prosecuting several cases against the man who filed a civil complaint against police over the destruction of those records. 


The State's Attorney's Appellate Prosecutor's office will take over the case to determine if police department brass violated state law when they destroyed those documents without getting authorization from the state.

Cities Could Pay The Price Of State Budget Plans

The new budget being developed at the State Capitol could rely on snagging revenues that had been earmarked for local governments. 


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says current budget talks involve freezing the share of income tax receipts that go back to cities... as well as the state keeping the local share of the "personal property replacement tax."


Houston and other municipal leaders oppose the idea and are lobbying against it. Houston says Springfield's own budget is doing well enough that it should be able to absorb the losses if necessary, but says the proposals could hit smaller communities hard.

CWLP Gradually Restoring Power; Asking Anyone Still In The Dark To Call Back In

City Water Light and Power is making steady progress at reconnecting customers who have been without power since Monday’s severe weather. 


As of shortly before 1pm, around 600 CWLP customers were still without power.  Local crews are being assisted by workers from other municipal utilities around the state under a mutual aid agreement. 


A total of 8,000 customers were originally without power because of lines brought down by high winds and falling limbs.  CWLP is asking anyone who is still without power and who hasn’t called since Monday to once again call the utility at 789-2121 and report the outage again, in order to speed the process of getting help where it is most needed.

Storm Damage Closes Zoo Until At Least Thursday

Springfield’s Henson Robinson Zoo will be closed until at least Thursday because of damage caused by Monday’s violent storms. 


Zoo director Talon Thornton says a number of old, large trees were uprooted and must be cleared.  Some of those trees damaged or destroyed fencing around exhibits or around the zoo itself.  No zoo exhibits were damaged, and no animals were injured.


The storm led to a few tense moments when a tree demolished the fencing around the African painted dog exhibit.  Zookeepers at first could not locate the dogs, which are considered dangerous, and notified 911.  But the animals were quickly located inside the enclosure, unharmed, and were secured.

Police, Fire Investigators Looking Into String Of Suspicious Enos Park Fires

Springfield police and fire investigators are looking for common threads in a series of suspicious fires earlier this month, all centered in the Enos Park neighborhood. 


The fires, which happened between May 2nd and May 18th, burned vehicles and garages… but one blaze earlier this month destroyed three adjacent homes on North Fourth Street. 


Investigators cannot say for certain if the fires are related… but are asking residents of the Enos Park area and elsewhere to be alert for suspicious activity and to report anything unusual to police.

High Winds Cause Memorial Day Storm Damage

The National Weather Service indicates it was 75 mile an hour downdraft winds… but not a tornado… that caused extensive damage to dozens of homes across Sangamon County.


Storm damage at Lincoln Place Mobile Home Park in Riverton
Storm damage at Lincoln Place Mobile Home Park in Riverton

The worst damage was concentrated in the Lincoln Place Mobile Home Park, which was evacuated after downed trees and limbs damaged more than 50 homes, causing one minor injury.


Numerous other trees were brought down across the city.


Henson Robinson Zoo also sustained damage to fences and other structures from downed trees.


City Water Light and Power estimates that as many as 1,500 customers could still be without power, from pockets of outages scattered across the city.


And more heavy rain and strong storms are in the forecast for today… with a flash flood watch extended through this evening.

Illinois House Approves Medicaid for Low Income Adults Without Children

The Illinois House has approved a major expansion of the Medicaid program, allowing coverage to be extended to low-income adults who do not have children living at home.


The expansion is a key portion of President Obama’s health care law.


Up to half-a-million Illinoisans would be eligible for coverage if Governor Pat Quinn signs the measure into law.


The federal government will pay the cost for the first three years, but critics worry about the price tag for the state after that.

Competing Concealed Carry Bills In State Senate Today

The Illinois Senate could take up two different approaches to concealed carry legislation today.


Senate President John Cullerton says a new measure will be presented in committee today… one which would keep local gun laws like Chicago’s assault weapons ban intact.


But Cullerton says the committee will also consider the version that passed the House last week, which overrides those local ordinances.


Cullerton and Governor Pat Quinn oppose the House bill.

Bridge Work to Cause Lane Closures On I-55 This Week

Work to replace damaged beams on a bridge over Interstate 55 will cause some traffic disruptions over the next week.


That work starts Tuesday on the Sudduth Road bridge, just north of the Sherman exit.


Two southbound lanes of I-55 will be closed during the overnight hours… and all the southbound lanes will be closed from 7pm to 7am on June 1st and 2nd.


Traffic will be diverted at Williamsville and will return to the interstate at Sherman during those overnight hours next weekend.

Springfield Sliders' Season Opener Tonight

The Springfield Sliders open their season tonight at Robin Roberts Stadium.


The minor league baseball team has been working to boost its roster in hopes of delivering a winning product.


But the team is also working overtime to ensure the crowd has fun even if the game isn’t going their way.


A big fireworks display is planned after tonight’s season opener.


The Sliders have also booked comedians and music acts to perform at various games throughout the summer.

Flash Flood Watch Extended Into Tuesday Evening

A flash flood watch for Sangamon and surrounding counties has been extended to Tuesday evening.


A full weekend of heavy rain, including some torrential downpours during the severe Memorial Day storms, has completely saturated the ground.  And Tuesday's forecast calls for additional heavy rain and strong storms.


Officials say that could lead to standing water on roadways that could lead to cars getting stuck, and moving water underneath the surface could even wash vehicles off the road.  Officials say you should never drive or wade through standing flood waters.

Severe Storm Causes Extensive Damage, But No Major Injuries; Dozens Of Mobile Homes Damaged At Lincoln Place Park

Residents across Springfield and Sangamon County are cleaning up follow severe storms and a possible tornado that cut a wide swath of damage across the area on Memorial Day.


The warnings hit around 3pm, and there were immediate reports of tree limbs and power lines down.  The Lincoln Place Mobile Home Park near Riverton was hard hit, with between 50 and 100 homes damaged, some very heavily.  One minor injury was reported -- a shoulder injury sustained when a tree limb fell on a park resident.  Residents were evacuated from the park to a Red Cross shelter set up in Riverton.


Other areas of Springfield sustained property damage from downed trees and limbs; power outages from snapped poles and downed lines; and flooding that closed some roads and viaducts.


Stay with 970 WMAY for the latest on storm damage.

Lots To Do For Lawmakers; New Concealed Carry Compromise Sought

Illinois lawmakers have a very long to-do list… and less than a week to complete it.


The General Assembly is back to work for a home stretch that could include action on a new state budget, pension reform, concealed carry, same-sex marriage, gambling expansion, and even fracking regulation.  The session is scheduled to end on Friday.


Budget negotiators say they have a framework that will maintain education funding, but could reduce money to local governments.


Meanwhile, with Senate Democrats and Governor Pat Quinn flatly rejecting a compromise concealed carry bill that cleared the House last week, work has begun on a compromise to the compromise.  Senate President John Cullerton objects to the House bill because it would override almost all local gun regulations.  An alternate version that pre-empts local concealed carry rules, but keeps other local gun laws intact, is reportedly in the works.

Bridge Repair Will Cause Traffic Disruptions On I-55 North Of Springfield

Work to replace damaged beams on a bridge over Interstate 55 will cause some traffic disruptions over the next week. 


That work starts Tuesday on the Sudduth Road bridge, just north of the Sherman exit.  Two southbound lanes of I-55 will be closed during the overnight hours… and all the southbound lanes will be closed from 7pm to 7am on June 1st and 2nd.  Traffic will be diverted at Williamsville and will return to the interstate at Sherman during those overnight hours next weekend.

17-Year-Old Woman Arrested For Sex With 15-Year-Old Boy

Young love… or a crime?  A 17-year-old Decatur woman has been booked on a charge of criminal sexual abuse for her alleged contact with a 15-year-old boy. 


The Decatur Herald and Review reports that 17-year-old was arrested after the boy’s parents complained to police.

Springfield Mile Races Postponed Because Of Rain

The wet weather has forced the postponement of this weekend's Springfield Mile motorcycle races at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. 


The Illinois Motorcycle Dealers Association, which sponsors the event, says this weekend's races will be rescheduled to Labor Day weekend, and will be held along with the races that had already been scheduled for that weekend.

Coroner Identifies Motorcyclist Killed In Dirksen Parkway Crash

The Sangamon County Coroner has released the name of the motorcyclist killed in a collision with a passenger vehicle Friday on North Dirksen Parkway. 


25-year-old Matthew McClain of Virden was pronounced dead shortly after that wreck near the Super Walmart. 


Springfield police initially indicated that it appeared the vehicle had pulled out in front of McClain, who was northbound on Dirksen.  That crash remains under investigation.

Quinn, Cullerton Vow To Stop Concealed Carry Bill ''In Its Tracks''

Governor Pat Quinn says the compromise concealed carry bill that easily passed the House Friday is “wrong for Illinois,” and Quinn vows to work with the Senate to, in his words, stop the bill in its tracks. 


Quinn and Senate President John Cullerton object to provisions in the bill that eliminate local gun regulations, like Chicago’s assault weapons ban.


The measure overwhelmingly passed the House Friday on a vote of 80-35.

Democrats Say Budget Deal Is Falling Into Place

The Democratic majority in the Illinois House and Senate says it has a budget plan in place with days to spare before a Friday deadline.


The plan would keep education funding level and pay down the backlog of money owed to human service providers. 


But it could also cut the revenue sharing money that the state sends to cities like Springfield.

Bittersweet Endings For CCPA, Two Other Springfield Schools

Some parents of Capital College Preparatory Academy students describe themselves as being in mourning. 


The end of the school year means the end of CCPA, which was eliminated by the school board earlier this year for budget reasons. 


Two other Springfield schools are closing… students from Pleasant Hill and Wanless will be bused to CCPA’s former home at Feitshans School next fall.

Motorcyclist Killed In North Dirksen Parkway Crash

A motorcyclist has died following a collision with a vehicle that closed down northbound lanes of North Dirksen Parkway for several hours Friday night.


Accident reconstructionists were working the scene, but Springfield police tell 970 WMAY that it appears the motorcyclist was heading northbound near Super Walmart when the passenger vehicle pulled out in front of him.  Few other details were immediately available.

Concealed Carry Bill Passes House; Quinn Opposes Legislation

A compromise bill that would end Illinois's long-standing ban on carrying concealed weapons has sailed through the Illinois House... but its future is uncertain, as both Governor Pat Quinn and Senate President John Cullerton are lining up in opposition to the bill.


They object to provisions that would eliminate most local regulations of guns, including a number of ordinances on the books in Chicago, such as an assault weapons ban.  The measure passed in the House with more than enough votes to override a veto, but it's unclear if the votes are there to pass it in the Senate.


Local lawmakers Raymond Poe, Sue Scherer and Rich Brauer all voted in favor of the concealed carry compromise.

Springfield Named ''Leading Locator'' For Business Expansion, Site Development

Springfield has been named a “Leading Location” by a publication that guides businesses on site selection and facility planning. 


Area Development ranks Springfield 28th on its list of communities that offer favorable economic and workforce conditions for business expansion.  Topping the list is Lafayette, Louisiana.  The ranking is based on 21 different economic indicators. 


Springfield is ranked 5th in the Midwest, and 8th among communities of comparable size.

Counselors On Hand In Riverton Following Student Suicide

Counselors have been talking with students in Riverton following the suicide death of a teenager there. 


The 14-year-old boy took his own life earlier this week, according to the Sangamon County Coroner’s Office.  Riverton school district officials say they have been trying to help students deal with their grief, and are referring families for additional assistance as needed. 


But they also say, contrary to numerous social media accounts, there is no evidence that bullying was in any way a factor in the boy’s death.

Higher Speed Limit Could Cost $200,000 In New Signage

If Governor Pat Quinn signs legislation raising the speed limit on many Illinois highways to 70 miles per hour, taxpayers could foot the bill for more than $200,000 to update signage.


The state Department of Transportation estimates that replacing or revising more than 900 speed limit signs on affected roads would cost between $150,000 and $200,000 in new signs, labor, and other related costs.  That only accounts for the price tag on interstates overseen by IDOT; new signage on toll roads would be an additional cost, coming out of the budget of the Illinois Toll Highway Authority.


Quinn has not said yet whether he will sign the bill, which received final legislative approval this week.

Area Boy Scouts Promote Importance of Scouting in Light of Vote on Allowing Gay Scouts

The head of the Boy Scout Council that serves the Springfield area says there has not been any backlash locally... so far... over the decision of the national council to allow gay youth to become scouts.


Dan O'Brien of the Abraham Lincoln Council says the consensus so far has been that it's most important to make sure as many young men as possible have the chance to benefit from scouting.


O'Brien says it's still possible the local group could lose sponsors or donors because of the controversial decision... but he's seen nothing to suggest that's going to happen.

Senate Approves Limits to Cell Phone Use While Behind the Wheel

If you haven’t invested in hands-free technology for your cell phone yet… you may not want to wait too long.


Legislation that will prohibit drivers from talking on handheld cell phones behind the wheel has cleared the state Senate.


The bill has already passed the House, and will go back for concurrence on one Senate amendment.


After that vote, the measure will go to Governor Pat Quinn.


Supporters of the bill say people talking on cell phones are four times more likely to be in a crash.


But opponents say cell phones are just one of many distractions that could put drivers at greater risk.

House Vote on Concealed Carry Expected Today

The Illinois House could vote today on a concealed carry bill that one lawmaker called a great compromise… because no one is happy with it.


That measure cleared a House committee on Thursday, and supporters believe they have the votes to get it through the full House.


But opposition is mounting to the bill in the Senate… and Governor Pat Quinn also objects to the bill, because it pre-empts local gun laws like Chicago’s assault weapons ban.

Extra Patrols and Enforcement Expected for Holiday Weekend

The holiday weekend won’t be a holiday for many area law enforcement agencies.


Local and state police plan extra patrols, roadside safety checks and other strategies in an effort to reduce the number of crashes over the heavy travel period.


The main focus is on speeding, seat belt usage and drunk driving.

Comcast Opens Up Free Wi-Fi Hotspots Around Springfield

Connecting to the Internet should get a lot easier across Springfield.


Comcast has turned on nearly 100 Wi-fi “hotspots” around town to give customers and visitors access to high-speed wireless broadband.


The State Journal-Register reports the service is free through July 4th.


After that, Comcast subscribers will get it for free, while others will be allowed two free one-hour sessions per month.

Jobless Numbers May Not Reflect Those Not Looking for Work

Springfield’s unemployment rate is now at a four-year low… but that number may not tell the whole story.


Joblessness fell to 6.4 percent in April, a steep drop from March and a decline from April of 2012.


But the decrease may partly reflect people who are not being counted… because they are not actively looking for work.


The State Department of Employment Security says Springfield had 11-hundred fewer jobs last month than at the same time a year earlier.

Springfield's Jobless Rate Falls Dramatically In April

Springfield's unemployment rate plunged from March to April, resulting in the lowest jobless rate locally in four years. 


New state figures show Springfield's unemployment rate fell to 6.4 percent in April... a sharp drop from the 7.8 percent rate in March.  The April rate was also lower than the same time a year earlier, even though there were more than a thousand fewer total payroll jobs in the city this year. 


State officials say the mixed numbers are the result of fewer people looking for work and an ongoing sluggishness in the national economic recovery.

Senate Votes To Ban Handheld Cell Phone Use Behind The Wheel

The days of driving and talking on a cellphone handset at the same time may be numbered in Illinois. 


The state Senate has approved a ban on the use of handheld devices behind the wheel.  Hands-free technology would still be permitted. 


Supporters say drivers are four times more likely to be involved in crashes while using a handset.  But opponents say the bill unfairly chips away at freedom. 


The bill now goes back to the House for approval of the Senate's changes, before heading to Governor Pat Quinn's desk.

House Committee Approves Concealed Carry Bill; Full House Vote Likely Friday

An Illinois House committee has decisively approved a compromise plan that would end Illinois's long-standing ban on carrying concealed firearms.


The measure that passed the Judiciary Committee on a 13-3 vote sets a "shall issue" standard that would require State Police to issue permits to applicants who pass a background check, meet training standards, and pay a $150 fee.  Local law enforcement would have the right to object to permit applications, and a separate panel would then decide whether to grant one.


The bill also sets statewide rules for where guns cannot be carried... including schools, parks, public transportation and most government buildings.  A vote in the full House is expected Friday.

United Way of Central Illinois Awards $1.7 Million to Local Organizations

The United Way of Central Illinois has awarded $1.7 million to local organizations to provide health and human service progams.


The 39 grants were funded by individual and corporate contributions to the local 2012 United Way campaign.


This year's list includes four programs that received United Way support for the first time... dentistry services through Central Counties Health Centers; the Contact Ministries Women and Children's Emergency Shelter; a suicide prevention hotline through Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois; and MERCY Communities' Homeless Management Information System.

Compromised Concealed Carry Bill Could Get Vote This Week

A compromise concealed-carry bill that is intended to bridge the wide gap between gun rights supporters and gun control advocates could come up for a vote this week in the Illinois House.


House Speaker Mike Madigan supports the legislation, as does pro-gun Democratic Representative Brandon Phelps.


While the bill contains a “shall issue” standard that requires state police to give permits to anyone who meets basic requirements, it also allows local law enforcement to object…which would send the permit request to an oversight panel.


The bill also creates a long list of places where people could not carry concealed weapons, including schools, amusement parks, libraries, and state and federal government buildings.

70 MPH Limit Heads to Quinn's Desk

The General Assembly has given final approval to a bill that would raise the speed limit on most Illinois interstates and toll roads to 70 miles per hour.


That bill now goes to Governor Pat Quinn, who hasn’t said yet if he will sign it.


But some key members of Quinn’s cabinet oppose the bill.


Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider says it will lead to more crashes, and fatalities, on Illinois highways.


The Illinois State Police also opposed the legislation.

Comprehensive Sex Ed Bill On Way to Governor's Desk

Another bill on its way to Governor Pat Quinn would require school districts which offer sex education classes to include comprehensive information on birth control and STDs… not just on abstinence.


School districts would still have the ability to opt out of offering any sex ed… but if they did offer it, they could not provide abstinence-only instruction.


The measure passed despite opposition from groups like the Illinois Family Institute… which sent out an urgent e-mail Wednesday asking members to, quote, “pray that God would hold this bill back” until the legislature adjourns next week.

Springfield Hires Private Firm To Defend Federal and Civil Cases

The City of Springfield will pay a private law firm up to $25,000 to assist with two pending lawsuits against the city police department.


The same plaintiff filed both suits… one over the department’s destruction of internal affairs records, the other alleging a conspiracy by police to harass him.


Mayor Mike Houston says the Noll law firm has more experience in federal litigation and public records cases than the city’s own legal department… and he says the taxpayers deserve the best representation possible in both cases.

Alderman: State's Attorney May Have to Pass on File Destruction Investigation

Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milhiser says he is reviewing information referred to him after the Illinois Attorney General’s Office declined to look into the Springfield police file shredding case.


Milhiser has made no determination yet on whether he will open up his own investigation in the case.


But one Springfield alderman thinks Milhiser may also have to take a pass.


Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air,” Sam Cahnman (mp3 download) said the close working relationship between police and prosecutors may pose a conflict of interest for Milhiser’s office.

Man Sentenced to 65 Years in Armed 2009 Deadly Armed Robbery

A Springfield man has been sentenced to 65 years in prison for the murder and armed robbery of another man in 2009.


23-year-old Antonio Phillips was convicted earlier this year in the death of William Suggs, whose body was discovered in the driver’s seat of a car found at Lincoln and Mossman Avenues in December of 2009.

Springfield Green Raises Money For Beautification Efforts

Springfield Green is working to add more color to the downtown area for the summer months… and beyond.


The city’s beautification effort held a fundraiser Wednesday evening.


Some of the proceeds will pay for ongoing work to change out the soil and replant flowers in the large sidewalk planters throughout downtown.


Public Works Director Mark Mahoney says the next big project is to work on improved holiday decorations downtown when Christmastime rolls around again.

70 MPH Speed Limit Bill Goes To Quinn

Illinois lawmakers have given final approval to a bill that would raise the speed limit on most interstates and tollways in the state to 70 miles per hour. 


That bill now goes to Governor Pat Quinn, who hasn't said whether he will sign it or not.  But Quinn's transportation secretary, Ann Schneider, opposes the bill... saying it will cause more crashes and deaths.


Killer Gets 65 Years

A Springfield man has been sentenced to 65 years in prison for a 2009 armed robbery and murder.


23-year-old Antonio Phillips was convicted earlier this year of robbing and then fatally shooting William Suggs.   Suggs was discovered slumped over in a car at Mossman and Lincoln Avenues in December of '09.

Alderman: State's Attorney May Have To Refer Police Files Case Elsewhere

The ball is now in State’s Attorney John Milhiser’s court over the Springfield police department’s destruction of internal affairs files.  But Milhiser may also have to kick it away to someone else. 


Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office declined to open an investigation of the matter, saying that if criminal charges were warranted, the state’s attorney would have jurisdiction. 


Springfield Alderman Sam Cahnman says Milhiser may also have to step away from the case… because of the close working relationship between prosecutors and Springfield police.  Milhiser says he is reviewing the case.

City Hires Outside Firm To Assist With Lawsuits Against Springfield Police Department

The City of Springfield is moving to hire another private law firm to handle pending litigation. 


Mayor Mike Houston wants the Noll Law Offices to represent the city in two pending lawsuits stemming from the police department destruction of internal affairs files.  The city is facing a complaint under public records laws… and that plaintiff has also filed a federal lawsuit alleging a police conspiracy against him. 


Houston says the Noll firm has more expertise in handling federal lawsuits and FOIA cases than the city’s own legal staff.  The firm will be paid a maximum of $25,000 total for the two cases.


The city is also planning to hire a different firm to represent it in upcoming litigation over Chatham's decision to end its contract to purchase water from Springfield.

Attorney General: Springfield School Board Violated Open Meetings Law

The Illinois attorney general’s office says the Springfield school board violated Illinois open meetings laws, when it signed an agreement behind closed doors to sever ties with former superintendent Walter Milton. 


That agreement was negotiated and signed in private, weeks before it was publicly disclosed and voted on.  The attorney general says that constituted final action in private, which violates state laws requiring that the public’s business be conducted in the open. 


The AG’s office also found violations because the board did not make recordings or take detailed minutes of those closed door meetings where Milton’s exit was discussed.

Springfield Green Fundraiser Promotes City Beautification

A fundraising event will be held this evening to support Springfield Green, the city’s beautification effort. 


Although coordinated through the Department of Public Works, Springfield Green is funded mostly through private donations and grants. 


The program is trying to raise money to complete the work of repotting the large planters stationed on the sidewalks in downtown Springfield.  The fundraiser is set for the Old Capitol Plaza… near 6th Street… from 5 to 7 this (Wednesday) evening.

Springfield Sliders Announce Special Promotions

There will be more than just baseball happen at Springfield Sliders games this season.  The minor-league team has announced a number of promotional events aimed at drawing families out to Robin Roberts Stadium this summer.  The team plans fireworks displays after at least three games… including Opening Night next Tuesday night, May 28th.  The Sliders also plan to bring in some entertainment acts to perform before or after games… including comedian Taylor Mason on July 14th and “America’s Got Talent” contestants the ZOOperstars on July 28th.  For more on the schedule, visit

Attorney General Denies Request to Investigate Premature Destruction of Files

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will not get into the middle of the controversy over the Springfield police department’s destruction of internal affairs records.


Madigan’s office has turned down Mayor Mike Houston’s request for an investigation… saying any criminal case should originate with the Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s office, and noting that a civil case is already pending.


Houston says State’s Attorney John Milhiser has been notified of the attorney general’s decision.


There’s no indication yet of whether Milhiser would pursue such a case.


Click for larger image

Aldermen Act on Ordinances In Response to File Destruction

Mayor Mike Houston has cast the tiebreaking vote against an ordinance that would have required city departments to get formal permission before destroying any records.


The City Council split on the measure, 5-5, until Houston cast his “no” vote. The mayor says the ordinance is unnecessary because it simply restates what state law already says.


Aldermen did approve an ordinance that requires them to sign off on any memoranda of understanding that change the terms of union contracts.


An MOU between the police department and police union served as the basis for destroying internal affairs records that were being sought under state public records laws.

Springfield's Corporate Budget In Good Shape

It’s some of the best news in a long time coming out of Springfield City Hall’s budget office.


Budget director Bill McCarty says reductions in headcount and other spending have put city finances back in the black for the moment.


The city has a budget surplus of more than $4 million and now shows a positive daily cash balance.


But Alderman Frank Edwards notes that some of the city’s increased revenues come from grant money to hire firefighters… money which will run out in a couple of years, leaving the city to pick up the tab after that.

City of Springfield Uses State Grant to Start Voluntary Alert System

It can happen without warning… a natural disaster like Oklahoma or a manmade one like the Boston bombings.


And if anything like those emergencies were to happen in Springfield, the city wants you to have instant information.


A $10,000 state grant is paying for a system that will allow residents to sign up for alerts that can be delivered by text message, voice message or e-mail.


The system is voluntary and free to participants.


You can sign up through the city’s website,

Mt. Olive Tornado Confirmed

Officials now confirm that it was a tornado that hit downtown Mt. Olive Monday night.


The storm damaged nearly three dozen buildings… at least four of them are expected to be total losses.


Only minor injuries were reported.


Mt. Olive is in Macoupin County, about an hour south of Springfield.

Area Red Cross on Standby for Oklahoma Assistance

Local Red Cross volunteers are on standby, waiting to be dispatched to the Oklahoma City area to help with disaster relief.


The head of the Illinois Capital Area Chapter says she expects to receive the call for assistance soon, as the first responders on the scene will need reinforcements after long days and nights helping victims.


The Red Cross is seeking donations to help with the disaster relief effort.


Locally you can text REDCROSS to 70000 to start the process of making a donation.

Attorney General Declines To Investigate Police Department File Shredding

The Illinois Attorney General's Office has turned down Mayor Mike Houston's request for an investigation into the premature destruction of police department internal affairs files, saying if criminal charges were indicated, it would fall under the jurisdiction of the Sangamon County State's Attorney.


The letter from Chief Deputy Attorney General Brent Stratton did not indicate whether any charges might be warranted, but simply noted that the state's attorney has primary jurisdiction in criminal cases.  Because the file destruction prompted a civil lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act, the AG's office says it would not be appropriate to intervene under that statute.  And the letter says the other potentially applicable statute, the Local Records Act, does not include any provision for legal action in the event of a violation.


It was not immediately clear if Houston intends to redirect his request for an investigation by asking State's Attorney John Milhiser to get involved.

Mayor Votes Down Resolution Supporters Say Reinforced State Records Law

Third time wasn't a charm for an ordinance that several aldermen said would simply reinforce the city follow state law when it comes to destruction of public records.


Click to see letter

A picture of the Attorney General letter. Click to enlarge.

The ordinance from Alderman Sam Cahnman was a resolution that said the city would have to get a certificate of destruction before destroying records, as state law requires.


Mayor Mike Houston provided the tie breaking no vote.


Another measure that requires the mayor to sign changes in collective bargaining agreements passed the council.


However, aldermen moved to hold off on passing an ordinance that requests the Illinois Attorney General's office investigate the destruction of public records that were requested through FOIA.


A spokesman with the city says a letter from the AG's office indicates they will not investigate.  The city provided a copy of the letter.


The three ordinances were requested after police internal affairs files requested by a newspaper reporter were destroyed.  


The reporter is suing the city over the destruction of those files.

Springfield Launches Emergency Notification System

Pointing to recent disasters from Boston to Oklahoma, Springfield city officials are offering a new way to make sure citizens have emergency information as quickly as possible. 


A $10,000 state grant will pay for a multi-media notification program that will let people receive alerts through text message, e-mail or voice message... delivered to smartphones, landlines, computer or tablets. 


People can sign up through the City of Springfield website and designate which type of alerts they wish to receive.

Local Red Cross Gearing Up To Help After Oklahoma Tornado

Volunteers with Springfield’s Red Cross chapter are making preparations now, in anticipation of being called in to assist with tornado recovery efforts in Oklahoma. 


Colleen Stone with the Illinois Capital Area Chapter says they haven’t gotten the call for help yet.  She says chapters in and near Oklahoma City would handle the immediate aftermath of the disaster and then call for reinforcements.  Stone expects local volunteers will head to Oklahoma in the next several days. 


In the meantime, Stone says anyone who wants to help can text “REDCROSS” to 70000.  The local chapter will then contact the donor and arrange that donation through credit or debit card, or check.

17-Year-Old Woman Grazed By Bullet

A 17-year-old woman is being treated after being grazed by a bullet this morning on South 16th Street. 


Springfield police say the victim did sustain a head wound, but describe the injury as non-life-threatening.  Authorities are talking to several persons of interest, but have made no arrests so far.


The shooting happened near Iles School as students were playing outside.  School officials brought the children inside quickly as a precaution.

Congressman Supports Sales Tax Requirement For Online Businesses

Republican Congressman Rodney Davis and Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin are in agreement… Internet businesses should pay the same sales taxes as brick-and-mortar stores. 


Davis supports Durbin’s “Marketplace Fairness Act,” which requires online companies to collect the appropriate sales tax from customers and send it to the state where that customer lives. 


The Taylorville Republican says the current system creates an unfair disadvantage for local stores who pay property taxes and hire local employees.  Davis appeared live Tuesday on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show."

School Board Member Wants Closer Review Of Top Administrators' Residency

A Springfield school board member is suspicious that some District 186 administrators aren’t obeying the district’s residency requirement. 


District rules allow teachers employed by District 186 to live in other school districts… but administrators and supervisors must reside within district boundaries.  But Adam Lopez says he thinks some officials are skirting those rules. 


Lopez didn’t identify anyone or offer evidence of his claim… but wants a policy that would require officials to produce proof that their primary residence is, in fact, within the school district.

New State Law Could Complicate District 186 Superintendent Search

District 186 is just getting started on its search for a new superintendent… but some potential candidates may already be out of the running. 


School board president Chuck Flamini says a change in state law may leave most out-of-state candidates ineligible to take the job. 


The state has moved to a “licensure” system for teachers, one which eliminates a grace period for job applicants to fix any gaps between their own record and the state’s requirements for the job.  Without that, Flamini says, almost any out-of-state contender would not be able to meet the requirements for superintendent and therefore could not be hired.

Senate Executive Committee Passes Ban on Magazines Over Ten Rounds

An emotional appeal from parents of some of the young Newtown school shooting victims has spurred an Illinois Senate committee to approve a ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines.


The Newtown parents say more lives might have been spared at Sandy Hook Elementary School if shooter Adam Lanza had not had access to 30-round magazines that allowed him to fire more shots without reloading.


But opponents of the bill say the practical effect is to ban many popular types of guns, making the bill unconstitutional.

School Board Members Favor Hiring Search Firm for New Supt.

Springfield school board members are all now in agreement that they should hire an outside firm to conduct the search for a new superintendent.


But it could still be weeks before a firm is chosen and the search gets underway.


At least four companies are competing for the job, which could pay more than $20,000.


Once a firm is chosen, it could take six months or more to find a permanent replacement for Walter Milton, who was forced out this spring.

Preservationists Want to Save Enos School for Residential Use

A group of preservationists say it’s not too late to save the historic Enos School building.


That nearly century-old building is slated for demolition, now that work is nearly complete on a brand new school building on the same site.


But the preservationists say both buildings can remain standing… with the older one converted to residential use.


They are asking for at least a 60-day moratorium on demolition while other options are explored.


The school board will consider that request next month.

Some Question State Job Appointment as Political Payback

Republican state senators say the appointment of a former congressional candidate to a high-paying state job looks like political payback.


Governor Pat Quinn named Dr. David Gill to that $125,000-a-year job as assistant director of public health.


The appointment ended talk that Gill might seek a rematch with GOP Congressman Rodney Davis, who narrowly defeated Gill last November.


The Republican senators say it looks like Quinn used the taxpayer-funded job to clear a path for a different opponent to take on Davis next year.

State Wide Tan Ban for Minors Heads to Governor's Desk

Springfield’s tan ban is on its way to going statewide.


Illinois lawmakers gave final approval to a bill modeled after Springfield’s ban on commercial indoor tanning by anyone under the age of 18, whether or not they have a parent’s permission.


The bill attracted bipartisan support, with Republican Raymond Poe serving as House sponsor and GOP leader Christine Radogno taking the lead in the Senate.


That bill now goes to Governor Pat Quinn.

School Board Wants Private Firm To Help With Superintendent Search, But No Final Decisions Made

Springfield school board members have decided one thing about the search for a new superintendent: they definitely want outside help for a job they feel is too big to handle on their own.


But despite the unanimous agreement from board members that they will spend the money to hire a search firm, no other concrete action has been taken on the search.  The board must still decide which of four or five competing firms will get the contract, what the search criteria will be, and what the timeline is to find a replacement for former Superintendent Walter Milton.


No action will be taken until at least June 3, prompting warnings that the board may have to find another interim superintendent before a permanent replacement is hired.  Current interim Bob Leming can only work 100 days in the upcoming school year before putting his teachers pension in jeopardy.

Fate Of District 186 Worker Implicated In CCPA Leak Still Unresolved

The third of three workers involved in the improper disclosure of student names and test scores from the Capital College Preparatory Academy remains on paid leave, after conflicting actions from the Springfield school board.


After hearing from both supporters of the worker, and outraged parents who are demanding her firing, the school board rejected a proposal to retain but demote the employee.  However, an alternate resolution, which would have resulted in the worker's firing, was tabled until the next school board meeting.

Preservationists Urge School Board To Save Historic Enos School

Several local preservationists are joining forces to urge the Springfield School Board to postpone the planned demolition of a historic school building, to allow time to study alternatives that might allow the nearly century-old structure to remain standing.


The current Enos School building is supposed to face the wrecking ball soon, to make way for completion of a new Enos School which has been under construction on the same property, right next door.  Preservationists including Jerry Jacobson and Steve Myers are asking the new school board to halt the demolition for at least 60 days.


In that time, the preservationists want to offer details of a plan to adapt the current building as a privately-owned residential complex.  The close proximity to the new building is seen as a complicating factor, but supporters of the project say it can be overcome.  The school board did not take action Monday night, but say they will address the issue at their next meeting in early June.

Senate Committee Approves Ban Of High-Capacity Ammo Magazines

An Illinois Senate committee has approved a bill that would prohibit the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines, like the ones used by the shooter in last year's Connecticut school massacre. 


The vote came after intense testimony from both sides.  Several parents of the young victims at Sandy Hook urged senators to approve the bill... which they say would save lives by reducing the ability of a shooter to get off as many rounds uninterrupted. 


But gun rights supporters say the bill will leave law-abiding citizens vulnerable, and would in effect ban many popular handguns and rifles, which already come with larger capacity magazines than the 10-round limit spelled out in the bill.

CWLP: No Way To Predict Size Of Electric Rate Hike

The chief engineer at City Water Light and Power says that while the utility will almost certainly ask for an electric rate increase next year, it's impossible to say at this point how big the rate hike might be.


Eric Hobbie says the electric fund has been hurt by rising costs... especially the high cost of federal regulations... and by a sharp decrease in the money CWLP can make selling its energy on the open market.


But Hobbie says the utility can get by for the rest of this year, and it's too soon to know what the situation will be next year.  Hobbie says any attempt to predict the utility's needs next year would almost certainly be wrong.

GOP Sees Political Payback In Quinn Appointment Of Ex-Congressional Candidate

Some Republican lawmakers say they want more assurances that there wasn’t some kind of backroom deal to appoint a former congressional candidate to a top position in the State Department of Public Health. 


Dr. David Gill narrowly lost to Republican Rodney Davis in the 13th Congressional District last fall.  Now Governor Pat Quinn has named Gill to be Assistant Public Health Director… clearing the path for another candidate to challenge Davis next year. 


State Senator Sam McCann and others say the appointment… quote… “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Black, Latino Caucuses Want Quinn To Dump HFS Director

The Democratic black and Latino caucuses in the Illinois Senate are openly rebelling against Governor Pat Quinn’s reappointment of Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos. 


Senators Martin Sandoval and Donne Trotter sent a letter on behalf of their caucuses telling Quinn that Hamos has advocated “elitist” policies that slash vital programs and make it harder for poor and minority Illinoisans to receive essential healthcare services. 


They are recommending that the Senate reject her re-appointment, and are urging Quinn to choose a new director.

Statewide Tan Ban Clears Legislature

The General Assembly has given final approval to a bill that would take Springfield’s ban on indoor tanning by minors and apply it statewide. 


The bill was co-sponsored in the House by Republican Raymond Poe.  In the Senate, Republican leader Christine Radogno was the lead sponsor for the bill… which would prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from using a commercial tanning bed, even if they had a parent’s permission. 


The bill now goes to Governor Pat Quinn.

Newtown Parents Push Illinois Senators for High Capacity Magazine Ban

Parents of some of the victims of the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre will be in Springfield today… encouraging state senators to support a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.


Those same parents stood Sunday with Governor Pat Quinn and Senate President John Cullerton at a Chicago news conference.


They contend that if shooter Adam Lanza had not had access to 30-round clips, he would have spent more time reloading and fewer children would have died at Sandy Hook Elementary.


Cullerton says he hopes the presence of the parents will make senators, quote, “very uncomfortable” about voting against the ban.

Gov. Quinn Still Will Consider Signing Medical Pot Law

Governor Pat Quinn isn’t saying yet whether he will sign the medical marijuana bill that was sent to his desk last week.


But Quinn says he has been listening to supporters of the legislation… including a veteran who says marijuana could have provided relief for symptoms he’s been battling for years.


On Friday, lawmakers gave final approval to a four-year pilot program described as the most tightly-controlled medical marijuana initiative in the nation.

Crunch Time For Illinois State Budget

It’s a two-week sprint to the finish line for Illinois lawmakers… with a whole lot still remaining on their to-do list.


In addition to hot button issues like concealed carry, same-sex marriage, or even an increase in the state’s speed limit, the General Assembly must also approve a budget which is likely to include painful cuts in some programs… and make some attempt to gain control over the runaway debt in the state’s public sector pension funds.

Woman Rolls Vehicle on Rt 29, Cited for DUI

A Cantrall woman is in serious condition following a roll-over accident late last night that authorities say was alcohol-related.


35-year-old Cari Ferguson was southbound on Route 29, approaching Andrew Road, when authorities say she ran off the road, struck an embankment and overturned.


Emergency crews had to free her from the vehicle.


Authorities say her injuries are not life-threatening.


She was cited for driving under the influence.

Newtown Parents Will Visit Springfield Monday To Lobby For Ban On High-Capacity Ammo Clips

Several parents of children killed in last year's Newtown, Conn., school massacre will be in Springfield Monday to urge lawmakers to approve a statewide ban on high-capacity ammunition clips.


Some of those parents appeared in Chicago Sunday with Governor Pat Quinn and Senate President John Cullerton to advocate in favor of the ban.  The parents say the Newtown shooter's use of 30-round clips allowed him to get off more shots without stopping, adding to the death toll at Sandy Hook Elementary School.


Cullerton says it is always difficult to go up against the National Rifle Association, but says he hopes the presence of the Newtown parents will make lawmakers "very uncomfortable" about voting against the ban.

Quinn Considers Medical Marijuana Bill

Governor Pat Quinn says he is giving serious thought to the legislation that would, for the first time, allow Illinois doctors to prescribe marijuana to treat the symptoms of certain illnesses.


The governor hasn't indicated yet whether he would sign the legislation, but hinted that he has been listening to supporters of the legislation.  In particular, Quinn referenced a veteran who said marijuana could have relieved symptoms he's battling for years.


The bill sent to Quinn on Friday authorizes a four-year pilot program with limits on when pot could be prescribed and how it would be distributed.

Police Lawsuit Plaintiff Released From Jail

He was in jail, then he was out… then in, and now he’s out again. 


Calvin Christian, who has several pending lawsuits against Springfield police, has been released after an overnight stay in the county jail on a contempt of court charge. 


The judge allowed Christian to go free after Christian promised to either pay a delinquent noise ordinance fine… or to turn over financial information to the city.  Christian has one week to comply or risk returning to jail.

AFSCME Approves Contract With State... Again

The largest state employees union has ratified a new contract… for the second time. 


AFSCME conducted a second vote on the deal when the state failed to drop its appeal of a court ruling on back pay raises for union members… something that had been promised in the original contract. 


The state is still pledging to make good on those overdue raises… but the legislature hasn’t approved the funding yet.

Lawmakers Go Home For Weekend With Major Issues Unresolved

With less than two weeks to go in the scheduled legislative session… and most of the major issues still unresolved… Illinois lawmakers are taking the weekend off. 


The legislature did send a medical marijuana bill to the governor’s desk for the first time.  But a vote on a concealed carry bill was postponed. 


And there’s little sign of progress on pension reform and no clear picture on a new state budget.

Schock Wants More Answers, Accountability In IRS Scandal

Congressman Aaron Schock says not enough is known… and not enough heads are rolling… in response to the IRS scandal. 


Schock is part of the House Ways and Means Committee… and he says lawmakers were misled in recent months by IRS officials who denied that there had been any effort to subject conservative groups to greater scrutiny. 


The IRS has now admitted that it happened… and Schock says that it is wrong.  But he also says neither the agency nor the White House has yet fully disclosed who was involved… or how widespread it was.

Springfield Prepares For Court Fight With Chatham

Springfield is preparing to lawyer up for a possible court fight with Chatham over water. 


The city says Chatham is in breach of its contract to purchase water from City Water Light and Power through this summer.  Chatham cut off those water purchases early when it joined the South Sangamon Water Commission. 


An ordinance that goes before Springfield aldermen this week would pay the law firm of Sorling Northrup up to $50,000 to handle the case against Chatham.

Illinois Senate Approves Medical Marijuana; Bill Goes To Governor

After a lengthy debate, the Illinois Senate has approved legislation that would for the first time allow doctors in the state to prescribe marijuana to treat the symptoms of certain specific illnesses.


Opponents of the bill claim any relaxation of marijuana laws will mean more illicit drug use, especially among teens.  But supporters say marijuana is a safer and more effective way to treat the effects of cancer, multiple sclerosis and other ailments than many of the prescription drugs commonly in use today.


The measure passed on a vote of 35-21.  The bill had earlier passed the House, and now goes to Governor Pat Quinn, who has not indicated whether he will sign it.


Legislature Takes Weekend Off; No Action On Concealed Carry

Even though there are only two weeks left in the scheduled legislation session, Illinois lawmakers are taking the weekend off.  Both the House and Senate adjourned for the weekend, leaving a number of major issues still hanging. 


The Senate had been expected to take up a controversial concealed carry bill that is opposed by the gun lobby, but did not vote on it before senators headed for home.  There’s no word on when that bill might be called. 


Major budget and pension questions are also still unresolved with the clock ticking toward the end of the month.

No Criminal Charges In CWLP Tree Removal Case

There will be no criminal charges stemming from the incident where City Water Light and Power workers used city equipment on city time to remove a tree from private property. 


State’s Attorney John Milhiser reviewed both the alleged misuse of city resources… as well as a complaint from an eyewitness that one of the workers attempted to intimidate him.  But Milhiser says he has concluded that the issue is really a CWLP personnel matter, and does not warrant criminal charges. 


All three workers were disciplined, and one was fired… but was later reinstated.

GOP Gubernatorial Hopeful Rauner Goes On Attack Against Public Sector Unions

A Republican businessman who is considering a run for governor is taking direct aim at public sector unions. 


In an interview for 970 WMAY’s Michael Koolidge Show, Bruce Rauner said that groups like AFSCME and the major teachers unions in Illinois are running Springfield… using their leverage to get taxpayer-funded raises and benefits.  And Rauner says those groups then use that money to support friendly politicians, a practice he equates with bribery. 


Rauner is vowing to shrink union influence in the state’s politics and to reduce the tax burden for Illinois residents and businesses.

Motorcyclist Killed In Cass County Crash

A motorcyclist is dead following a collision with a pickup truck driven by a 16-year-old.  State police say the accident happened this (Friday) morning on Route 125 in Virginia. 


The teen driver told authorities he was stopped on a side street and did not see the motorcycle traveling eastbound on the highway.  The driver pulled out in front of the cycle, which struck the passenger side of the truck. 


The motorcyclist died at the scene.  The teenager was ticketed for failure to yield.

Police Nab Burglary Suspects, Investigate Possible Connection To Several Break-Ins

Springfield police say they caught two burglary suspects in the act… and think the pair may be responsible for other break-ins. 


Officers were called to an address on West Vine by a neighbor who reported seeing two people breaking into a garage.  The witness told police that the men entered the garage just seconds before officers arrived. 


Police surrounded the garage and found the suspects inside.  They also found a pair of gloves and a flashlight.  30-year-old Walter Cunninghman and 29-year-old Michael Brown face multiple charges for this burglary and perhaps others.

Preservationist Tries Again To Save Enos School

A Springfield preservationist is making one last attempt to save the historic Enos School. 


The nearly 100-year-old building is slated for demolition as soon as work is complete on a new replacement building right next to the existing school.  But Jerry Jacobson with Save Old Springfield wants the new school board to overrule that demolition decision made by the prior board. 


Jacobson says the historic building can be saved and converted to residential use, which would generate property taxes for the school district.  Jacobson will formally make his request to the school board Monday night.

Man With Multiple Lawsuits Against City Behind Bars Second Time in Two Days

The plaintiff in multiple lawsuits against Springfield police is back behind bars.


As 970 WMAY News was the first to report, Calvin Christian was taken into custody Thursday afternoon after being held in contempt of court.


Christian refused to turn over personal financial information that was being sought by the city of Springfield, as it tries to collect more than $800 in fines that Christian owes for noise ordinance violations.


Christian told the court that he did not want to disclose the information while he has pending lawsuits against the city.


Christian has sued over the police department’s destruction of internal affairs records, and has also claimed a sweeping conspiracy among officers to target and harass him.

Attorney: Plaintiff's Motives for Requesting Files Doesn't Matter

The attorney representing Calvin Christian in the police department file shredding case says it doesn’t matter why Christian wants to see those internal affairs documents.


Police Chief Robert Williams has said the department sped up its destruction of those records in order to more efficiently deal with a flood of “nuisance” requests for documents.


But attorney Don Craven says Christian’s motivation for seeking a large number of police department documents is irrelevant.


He says any member of the public is entitled to see and obtain those records, and they don’t have to disclose or justify their reasons for wanting them.

Competing Conceal Carry Bills Moving Through General Assembly

The full Illinois Senate could vote today on a more restrictive concealed carry bill that has drawn fierce opposition from the gun lobby.


Democratic Senator Kwame Raoul’s bill gives state police more latitude to reject concealed carry permit applications, and allows local communities like Springfield to set their own rules for where guns can be carried.


Pro-gun groups say Raoul’s bill is intended to make it difficult or impossible for most people to legally carry a firearm for self-defense.


In the House, Democrat Brandon Phelps says they are working on a bill that would have a "shall issue" standard, but says he is willing to concede banning loaded weapons on public transportation to get the "shall issue" provision.  Phelps appeared on 970 WMAY's Bishop On Air Thursday (mp3 download).

Springfield Man Arrested on Child Porn Charges After Search of Home

A Springfield man is facing multiple child pornography counts following a search of his home.


31-year-old Jeremy Best was arrested as part of the Operation Glass House crackdown on child porn traffickers around the state.


Investigators from the Attorney General’s Office, Springfield police and the Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s office obtained a search warrant last week for Best’s home on Old Rochester Road, and recovered evidence that led to the charges.


Best is free on $50,000 bond and will be back in court next month.


Jeremy Best booking photo

Jeremy Best booking photo

Arrests Made in South Renfro Shootings

Springfield police have arrested two men in connection with a series of shootings on South Renfro Street… one of which sent a man to the hospital.


27-year-old VonTa Commer is facing multiple charges including unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon.


31-year-old Demetrious Commer is charged with aggravated battery.


In addition to the shooting that struck a man in the wrist and chest last week, another incident involved shots fired at a house just down the street.

Harris Trial: Defense Attorneys Attacks Credibility of Brother on Witness Stand

Defense lawyers have gone after the credibility of the star prosecution witness in the Christopher Harris murder trial.


During hours on the stand Thursday, Harris’s brother Jason admitted that he had repeatedly lied and changed his story throughout the investigation of the killings of five members of a Beason family in 2009.


Jason Harris now claims he waited outside while his brother entered the home with the tire iron that was used to kill Rick and Ruth Gee and three of their children.

Police Files Plaintiff Behind Bars Again For Second Straight Day

The man who is suing the City of Springfield over those shredded internal affairs files has been taken into custody for the second time in two days.


Calvin Christian was arrested Thursday on a contempt of court charge after refusing to turn over personal financial information to the city.


City officials sought that information after Christian failed to pay $800 in noise ordinance fines, one of a series of tickets and fines he's received in recent months.


Christian told the court he did not want to reveal the information while he has pending litigation against the city over the internal affairs files, as well as his claim that police are conspiring to harass him.

Springfield Man Arrested On Child Porn Charges

A Springfield man is facing child pornography charges after being caught up in an ongoing statewide investigation. 


Agents from Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office… along with Springfield police and the Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s office… conducted a search of a home on Old Rochester Road last week.  Based on evidence collected there, 31-year-old Jeremy Best has been charged with five counts of aggravated child pornography.  Best is free on $50,000 bond and will appear in court next month. 


Madigan says this is the 42nd arrest as part of Operation Glass House, a statewide effort targeting the “most active child porn traders in Illinois.”

Illinois Unemployment Drops Slightly In April

Illinois’s jobless rate dropped slightly in April, compared to a month earlier. 


The jobless rate for April was 9.3%, down from 9.5 in March.  But the rate was higher than it was in April of 2012, even though the state reports 40,000 more payroll jobs now than at the same time last year. 


State officials say the up-and-down employment numbers in Illinois reflect an ongoing uncertainty about the national economic recovery.

Attorney: Christian's Motivation For Seeking Records Is Not Relevant

The Springfield man who is suing to obtain police department internal affairs records has had plenty of his own run-ins with police… a fact that his attorney says is not at all relevant to his fight to obtain those documents. 


Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air,” Don Craven says it doesn’t matter why Calvin Christian wants the documents. 


Police Chief Robert Williams has complained that the department has been swamped with “nuisance” requests for records… but Craven says they are public records, and any member of the public is entitled to them, regardless of the reason.

Schock Calls For Criminal Prosecutions In IRS Scandal

Congressman Aaron Schock says resignations are not enough… he wants criminal prosecutions for the IRS scandal. 


Schock is reacting to the resignation of acting Internal Revenue Service commissioner Steven Miller, following revelations that IRS agents improperly targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny over their request for tax-exempt status.  The Peoria Republican says getting rid of Miller does not restore public trust in the IRS. 


Schock will participate in a House hearing Friday, and says he wants to know why the IRS misled lawmakers about the scandal for so long.

Durbin: Legislation Will Help Cope With Next Drought

Legislation passed by the US Senate will help the state of Illinois if there is another severe drought, according to Senator Dick Durbin. 


The bill approved Wednesday would create a pilot program to improve the nation’s water infrastructure through public-private partnerships, and would also authorize a study of the entire Mississippi River Basin. 


Durbin says the steps are necessary because “weather events are becoming more severe and more frequent.”


City Agrees to Turn Over Documents in Ongoing File Destruction Case

The City of Springfield has agreed to preserve all remaining records… including any electronic files… pertaining to the police department internal affairs files that were shredded under an accelerated timetable.


The agreement came during a court hearing into an emergency request by reporter Calvin Christian to prevent the loss of any computer files that may contain information about those destroyed documents.


Christian is suing because the shredded files included documents he had requested under state public records laws.


Any information retrieved by the city will be turned over to the court under seal while the case continues.

Reporter Claiming Police Harassment Arrested on Bench Warrant

The Pure News reporter who is pursuing several lawsuits against the City of Springfield landed in the Sangamon County Jail Wednesday.


Calvin Christian was arrested on a bench warrant after he failed to appear earlier in the day for a hearing on a charge of obstructing a police officer.


Christian has claimed harassment by Springfield police, accusing more than a dozen officers of a conspiracy to follow him, pull him over, and ticket him for multiple offenses.


Christian is free after posting bail.

Investigations Into Wednesday's Three-House Fire Ongoing

Investigators looking into the fire that destroyed three homes on North Fourth Street early Wednesday have not ruled out anything… including the possibility that the fire was foul play.


The blaze began in one structure… which collapsed shortly after firefighters arrived. That spread the fire to two other houses, one on each side.


All three buildings are a total loss… and nine people have been displaced.

Springfield Alderman Moves for Conceal Carry Ordinance

A Springfield alderman wants a plan in place in case Illinois lawmakers fail to meet a court-ordered deadline to pass a concealed carry law.


Amid concerns that missing the deadline could allow any legal gun owner to carry that weapon… concealed or in the open… Alderman Tim Griffin is proposing that the city adopt its own rules to put some restrictions on who can carry, and where.


That proposed ordinance is still being drafted.

City Econ Director: State Overestimated City's Unemployment Numbers

Springfield’s unemployment picture may not be as bad as recent state numbers suggest.


The most recent monthly numbers, from March, put unemployment in the city at 7.8%... up from the same time a year earlier.


But city economic development director Mike Farmer says the city has objected.


Farmer says the state overestimated job losses in some sectors and failed to account for seasonal employment.


Farmer says the state is reviewing its numbers and could revise the figure.

Tougher Impaired Driving Laws for Drivers-for-hire Introduced in State Legislature

Illinois lawmakers have introduced legislation to toughen penalties for drivers-for-hire who drive under the influence.


The bill would make it a felony for limo drivers and others to transport passengers while drunk.


Currently it’s just a misdemeanor, unless the professional driver is operating a school bus with passengers under 18.


The proposed tougher rules follow the arrest of a limo driver who was allegedly drunk while taking students to a Chicago-area prom.

City Agrees To Preserve Any Electronic Records Of Shredded Files

The City of Springfield has agreed to search for and preserve whatever electronic remnants still exist of police internal affairs documents that are now the subject of several lawsuits and investigations. 


The hard copies of those records were destroyed weeks ago, but could still exist on the city's servers, if they haven't already been overwritten. 


The agreement came after a reporter sought an emergency court order to preserve any remaining records in the case.

Still No Cause For Fire That Destroyed Three North-End Homes

There's still no word on what caused a fire that destroyed three adjacent homes on North 4th Street early Wednesday morning. 


The fire began in a two-and-a-half-story house, which collapsed shortly after firefighters arrived.  That sent the flames spreading to the home on either side, causing both of them to also burn. 


All three homes are total losses.  No injuries were reported.

Springfield Officials Defend Reduced Grant Recommendation For Kidzeum

Springfield economic development officials say they have been very generous in their support of the proposed downtown Kidzeum. 


The city is defending its recommendation to provide $675,000 in downtown TIF money for the project, far less than what the Kidzeum wanted.


The city says even that smaller amount makes it one of the biggest contributors to the non-profit museum project.

Brother Versus Brother In Christopher Harris Murder Trial

The brother of murder suspect Christopher Harris says he heard screams and thumps coming from inside the home on the night in 2009 that five members of a Beason family were killed. 


Jason Harris is testifying against his brother as part of a plea deal that will get Jason Harris a reduced sentence on lesser charges.  He says he waited outside the home while Christopher went inside, carrying the tire iron used to kill the family.

Agreement Reached On Fracking

A coalition of labor and business groups says an agreement is now in place to allow hydraulic fracturing... also known as "fracking"... to move forward in Illinois. 


The deal would set strict regulations on the practice, which uses high-pressure extraction techniques to release oil and gas from deep below the Earth's surface. 


Opponents are still concerned that fracking could cause environmental damage.

City Ordered to Mirror Back Up Servers in Ongoing File Destruction Case

The city of Springfield has ten days to prepare a forensic mirror image of their computer backups in an effort to find police internal affairs files that were destroyed after a Freedom of Information Act request was made.


That’s according to attorney Esther Seitz one of the lawyers for Calvin Christian, the Pure News reporter that requested the files.


Seitz says that the city agreed to an order that will not only make a backup of the city’s servers in hopes of finding the destroyed files; they will also preserve and provide any internal communications about the destruction of the documents and Christian’s FOIA for a possible criminal investigation.


The motion was part of an initial suit filed against the city seeking $5,000 for each file destroyed.

Aldermen Crafting Conceal Carry Ordinance for Capital City

Regardless of how the Illinois General Assembly acts on passing some kind of carry legislation, a Springfield alderman wants to get a concealed carry ordinance passed giving gun owners the ability lawfully carry in the capital city.


Ward 10 Alderman Tim Griffin says that if the state legislature fails to pass a law by the court ordered June 9th mandate, or if they pass something that gives local municipalities the ability to craft their own measures, he wants to be ready.


Some initial ideas include having individual business owners decide if they want to allow carrying of concealed firearms in their business.


If not, they will be responsible for posting a sign.


Griffin also wants to have a database of Springfield businesses that won’t allow carrying concealed firearms accessible online so people can chose whether they want go to that establishment.


Griffin hopes to have a measure in front of aldermen in a few weeks.

UPDATE: Investigation Ongoing Into Three-House Fire

The Springfield Fire Department is investigating whether a car fire earlier this morning may be linked to an early morning blaze that destroyed three houses on 4th Street in Springfield.


Fire Chief Ken Fustin says that a car fire on 7th street was reported a few hours before the blaze on 4th street broke out, but investigations have yet to find a connection.


The first house on 4th street collapsed shortly after firefighters arrived at the scene just after 3:30 this morning.


Nine people were displaced from surrounding homes.


The other two homes involved in the fire were also a total loss.


Fustin says that there are no reports of injuries at this time and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.


Picture of fully involved fire taken by Nathan Paul Frey

Picture of fully involved fire taken by Nathan Paul Frey

Several Ordinances Dealing With File Destruction Make It Through Committee

Springfield aldermen are moving ahead with two ordinances filed in response to the controversy over the early shredding of police department internal affairs records.


The City Council committee of the whole advanced a measure that would require aldermanic approval for any memorandum of understanding that alters a labor contract, like the one that authorized the document destruction.


And aldermen are also pressing ahead with a request for an attorney general investigation of the matter… despite a request from Mayor Mike Houston’s corporation counsel that they hold off.


Mark Cullen says the A.G.’s office requested a delay in any additional action, but Alderman Sam Cahnman says he also talked to the attorney general’s office and got no such request.

Residency Rule for Boards or Commissions Fails To Move Out of Committee

Springfield aldermen have rejected a proposal to impose a residency requirement for anyone serving on any of the city’s boards or commissions.


Some of those boards had been exempt from a rule requiring that members live in the city limits.


Alderman Gail Simpson’s ordinance would have changed that, but it failed to get enough votes to get out of committee.

Harris Brother Expected to Testify In Multiple Murder Trial

The brother of murder suspect Christopher Harris is expected to take the stand today at Harris’s trial in Peoria.


Jason Harris was also originally charged with murder in the deaths of five members of a Beason family in 2009.


He will testify as part of a plea deal that will land him a 20-year sentence for pleading guilty to lesser charges.

Sangamon County Sheriff Supports Lowering Allowable BAC

Sheriff Neil Williamson says a proposal to lower the standard for DUI from .08 to .05 would likely save lives.


The idea was put forward by the National Transportation Safety Board.


Although Williamson says such a standard would probably cut deeply into the bottom line of bars, restaurants and other liquor establishments, he thinks it would mean fewer drunk drivers on the road.


But the sheriff says even more lives could be saved if lawmakers would do more to address distracted driving… including the use of cell phone handsets.

Lanphire Teacher Named Dist. 186 Educator of the Year

A Lanphier High School music teacher has been named the District 186 Educator of the Year, in ceremonies sponsored by Horace Mann.


Maryna Mitchell had been a finalist several times previously before winning the award on Tuesday.


The honor also continues a family tradition… Mitchell’s husband Bob was also recognized as Educator of the Year, back in 2000.

Three Houses On Fire on 4th Street in Springfield, One Collapses

Springfield fire crews are on the scene of a three house fire at the 1100 block of 4th Street working to put out the blaze.


One house has collapsed because of the fire and houses on each side have also been caught up in the flames.


Springfield Fire Chief Ken Fustin says that the call came in at 3:30 this morning.


He also says that one house seemed to be unoccupied while another houses’ occupants were able to escape unharmed.


There no indication yet as to if there are injuries or fatalities in the house that collapsed due to the fire.

Three Ordinances Addressing File Destruction Debated in Committee of the Whole

Three ordinance put in front of Springfield aldermen dealing with the premature destruction of police internal affairs files faces a split council.


The council has again failed to move forward an ordinance that sponsors say simply makes the city follow the state law when it comes to destruction of public records.  During Tuesday's Committee of the Whole, Aldermen voted 5-5 to place the ordinance on the debate agenda.  It would need a majority to move forward.  


The ordinance requires the city to get a certificate of destruction for any documents was in response to last month's destruction of IA files that were requested through FOIA.  


Mayor Mike Houston was absent from Tuesday's meeting.  Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen said that the mayor told him that he talked with the Attorney General's office and they requested the council hold off on passage of three ordinances dealing with the document destruction.  Alderman Joe McMenamin says that is hearsay.  


Alderman Sam Cahnman says he talked directly with the AG's office and they said that an investigation may be done through the State's Attorney's office, but didn't indicate the city should hold the request.  The ordinance making certificates of destruction necessary failed to pass on emergency passage last week.  


Another ordinance that would codify that memorandums of understanding should be signed by the mayor and approved by aldermen was placed on the debate agenda.  The IA files were destroyed after a MOU was signed by the Cheif of Police and the police union president. 


A third ordinance formally requesting the attorney general investigate the file destruction also was placed on the debate agenda.  Some aldermen wanted to hold off on all three ordinances at the request of the mayor who requested an investigation from the AG last week.

Lanphier High Music Teacher Named Educator Of The Year

Lanphier High School music teacher Maryna Mitchell has been named the 2013 Horace Mann Educator of the Year.  Mitchell finished first among five finalists for the honor. 


This year's award also continues a family tradition for Mitchell... her husband Bob also won the Educator of the Year award, back in 2000.

Sheriff: Lower DUI Limit Would Save Lives

Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson says a proposal to lower the blood alcohol limit for drunk driving would save lives… but warns there could also be a cost. 


The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending that states impose a point-oh-five DUI limit, instead of the current point-oh-eight.  Williamson thinks that would mean fewer DUI deaths… but says it could also hurt bars, restaurants and other liquor establishments. 


And the sheriff says more lives would be saved if the state cracked down harder on distracted driving, instead of focusing even more on drunk driving.

Illinois Lawmakers Debate What's Next For Juveniles Facing Life Sentences

Even though the Supreme Court has already ruled the practice unconstitutional, Illinois lawmakers are still discussing what to do with juveniles who have been sentenced to life without parole. 


The high court found that because their brain chemistry is still developing, it’s cruel and unusual to make teens pay for the rest of their lives for crimes they committed as juveniles. 


But Chicago Public Radio reports that lawmakers are concerned about the effect on victims and their families if sentencing is reopened in those cases.

Killer Gets Maximum Sentence In Murder Of Hospice Nurse

A Springfield man has been given the maximum sentence for the brutal murder of a hospice nurse in 2010. 


44-year-old Kenneth Bell will have to serve 100-percent of that 60-year sentence for the killing of Pauline Cormier.  Bell had previously done yard work for Cormier, who lived near his home.  Testimony indicated that he had gone to her home seeking to rob her… and wound up stabbing her more than 100 times. 


Bell was also convicted on a residential burglary charge and will serve that 10-year sentence at the same time.

School Board President: Management Structure Will Hamper Next Superintendent

The next superintendent of Springfield public schools may start off at a disadvantage… because of the management structure of the district.  That warning comes from school board president Chuck Flamini, a former district administrator. 


Flamini says there is no longer an assistant or deputy superintendent who serves as a clear second-in-command.  And he says that’s a problem because the job is just too big for one person alone at the top. 


But Flamini says he won’t look at adding another layer of administration until the budget picture stabilizes.

Kidzeum Seeks Downtown TIF Funding

Organizers of the planned children’s museum in downtown Springfield are urging city aldermen to dig deeper to help the project. 


An ordinance that should be introduced next week will propose spending $675,000 in downtown TIF district money to support renovation work for the Kidzeum on East Adams. 


But museum organizers had requested $975,000 for the project.  They’re asking the public to pressure aldermen to amend the ordinance and increase the funding.

Emergency Order Requested For Internal Communications Surrounding Controversial File Shredding

Another lawsuit has been filed in connection with the growing controversy over the destruction of Springfield police internal affairs files.


Pure News reporter Calvin Christian’s second lawsuit connected to the case seeks all internal communications related to the decision to speed up the timeline for shredding those records.


It also asks for the preservation of any electronic records or other parts of those internal affairs files that may still exist.


The suit notes that it is still unclear whether the destroyed records were only in paper form or whether they were computerized and may still exist in some form on city servers.

Dist. 186 Hears From For-Profit and Non-profit Superintendent Search Firms

The Springfield school board has lots of decisions to make as it gears up to search for a new superintendent.


First and foremost is whether to hire an outside search firm.


A for-profit company and the Illinois Association of School Boards both made presentations to board members Monday, explaining why it makes more sense to pay an outside group to handle the search.


Whichever way the board goes, it still must make other key decisions… including setting a timeline for making a selection and deciding whether to keep the search open or confidential.

MacArthur Park Apartments To Re-open

The troubled MacArthur Park Apartments has been given a green light to re-open… and may soon be allowed to rent to Section 8 public housing tenants.


The city declared the apartments off-limits because of hundreds of building code violations.


But the State Journal-Register reports that after months of work, the violations have been corrected and the complex has been recertified for occupancy.


An agreement with the city also clears the way for MacArthur Park’s owners to resume accepting public housing vouchers.


But business and resident groups along MacArthur Boulevard are urging a cautious approach to make sure the problems don’t return.

Developer Pushes for TIF Agreement For Northwest Springfield

Local officials hope to start making use of a TIF district for northwest Springfield that was created seven years ago, but has never been used.


Wendy Chronister with the Qik ‘n’ EZ convenience store chain hopes to use future revenues from that TIF fund to bolster development that she hopes will spring up around a store and gas station planned for Veterans and Jefferson.


There’s almost no money in the TIF right now, but if aldermen approve, increases in tax revenues from future development can be rolled back in to pay for additional improvements.


Chronister wants approval quickly in order to take advantage of this year’s warm weather construction season… which is already underway.

Jury Watching Video Tape of Christopher Harris Interrogation Days After 2009 Murders

Jurors at the Christopher Harris murder trial have been watching a videotaped interview in which the suspect denied being at the crime scene the night that five members of a Beason family were killed in 2009.


In that video, shot days after the murders, Harris insisted he was, quote, “absolutely innocent.”


Harris later changed his story to admit that he had been at the home, and had stumbled upon teenager Dillen Constant murdering his family.


Harris now says he killed Dillen in self-defense.

Increased Seat Belt Enforcement Begins Before Memorial Day

The Memorial Day weekend is already underway for police agencies locally and around the state.


Sangamon County is among the agencies already stepping up patrols and safety checks in hopes of pushing drivers to buckle up.


The “Click It or Ticket” campaign will especially focus on late afternoon and overnight hours.


Studies show those are the times of day when drivers are less likely to wear seat belts… and more likely to lose their lives in traffic accidents as a result.

Protective Order Filed In Document Destruction Case

Another legal motion is on the books in the ongoing saga over destruction of Springfield Police internal affairs records and this time Calvin Christian is asking that all internal communications discussing his requests and the destruction of the files be retained and copied.


The suit asks the city to produce and preserve the communications related to the destruction of the files to be used in a possible criminal investigation after Christian filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the files dating back five years.  


After the initial request, Springfield's police chief and the police union agreed to change the retention of IA files from 5 to 4 years. 


Last week Aldermen Sam Cahnman moved to freeze future file destruction, but that ordinance failed to get the necessary 8 votes needed for emergency passage.  Seven aldermen voted for the ordinance.  Three others joined the mayor in voting no.


This Tuesday, the Springfield City Council will discuss the failed ordinance and a separate move to formally request an investigation by the Illinois Attorney General.


David Joens, the director of the Illinois State Archives, says that the destruction of documents without a certificate of destruction from the local records commission could be a Class 4 Felony.


Cahnman has another ordinance before the council committee of the whole that would require changes to union contracts be approved by aldermen.


Christian's most recent suit, filed Monday in Circuit Court, also states he requested certificates of destruction the city has on file from as far back as 2008 and the originally requested files did not have a certificate of destruction as required by law.  Mayor Mike Houston says 30 files were destroyed.


Christian's attorney, Don Craven, says that a judge will hear the motion Wednesday.

School Board Weighs Options For Superintendent Search

The Springfield School Board has a lot of decisions to make as it considers options for its forthcoming search for a new superintendent. 


The school board is debating whether to conduct the search on its own, or to hire an outside company.  A private firm and the Illinois Association of School Boards both made presentations to board members Monday night.  Discussion centered on cost estimates, the timeline for a possible search, and how much of the search process should be conducted in public view. 


The board could act as early as Monday, but board president Chuck Flamini thinks it could take longer to sort through the variables.

Quinn: No Gaming Bill Until Pension Reform Passes

While Illinois lawmakers push for an expansion of gambling around the state, Governor Pat Quinn is playing “Let’s Make A Deal.” 


Quinn is sending a message to lawmakers that if they want him to sign a gaming bill that adds more casinos around the state, and adds slot machines to airports and racetracks… then they need to send him a pension reform bill first. 


A Quinn spokesperson directly linked the two bills in comments to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Local Realtors Positive Despite Dip In Home Sales, Prices

It’s a mixed bag in the latest numbers from the Capital Area Association of Realtors. 


Both the number of home sales and the median price for those homes fell in April, compared to the same month a year ago.  But sales of foreclosed properties also declined for the first time in four months, which the association sees as a positive trend. 


Realtors Association president Don Cave says that while the group will keep monitoring the trends, he says the market fundamentals are sound and expects a busy spring in the local housing market.

Effort Underway To Revive Dormant NW Springfield TIF District

A Springfield business owner is now racing the clock to take advantage of a long-dormant TIF district to boost development on the city’s northwest corner. 


Wendy Chronister of the Qik ‘n’ EZ stores hopes to build a new gas station and convenience store… and other businesss… at Jefferson and Veterans.  The TIF was set up seven years ago but was never utilized, and has almost no money in it.  Chronister wants a commitment that future revenues will be used to further develop that area. 


The project is taking on additional urgency in hopes of getting construction underway during the warm spring and summer months.

Memorial Day Seat Belt Enforcement Campaign Already Underway

Memorial Day is coming early for police agencies around the state.  State police and transportation officials are announcing an early start to their stepped-up enforcement efforts. 


The “Click It or Ticket” campaign will focus primarily on drivers who aren’t obeying the state’s seat belt law. 


Much of that enforcement will target the overnight hours, but IDOT says there will also be an emphasis on late-afternoon hours, when seat belt usage begins to drop and related fatalities start to climb dramatically.

Powerball, Mega Millions Jackpots Soar

Lottery fever is being fed by steadily-climbing jackpots in two major multi-state games. 


The Powerball prize has now climbed to $350 million for Wednesday’s drawing… third-biggest in the game’s history, and the sixth-largest for any lottery game in U.S. history.  A single winner would get a lump-sum payout of $222 million before taxes. 


At the same time, another multi-state game, Mega Millions, has also had multiple rollovers.  Its top prize now stands at $170 million for its next drawing Tuesday night. 


No one has won the top prize for either game since March.

Jurors Watch Videotaped Interview In Harris Murder Trial

Jurors at the Christopher Harris trial in Peoria have been watching a videotape interview with the murder suspect, conducted just days after the killings of a Beason family in 2009. 


In the interview, detectives question Harris about his whereabouts the night of the murders.  On the tape, Harris denied being at the crime scene. 


He would later change his story and claim that he walked in on teenager Dillen Constant killing the rest of his family, and then killed Dillen in self-defense.

Aldermen Suggest Possible Felony in Early Destruction of IA Files

Several Springfield aldermen are suggesting that the destruction of police department internal affairs files, ahead of schedule, could constitute a felony.


Four aldermen have introduced an ordinance asking for the Attorney General to investigate the situation, and specifically whether the police department violated the Illinois Local Records Act when it shredded those documents.


The aldermen point out that such a violation could be a Class 4 felony. The ordinance goes before the committee of the whole this week.


Mayor Mike Houston has also sent his own letter to the Attorney General requesting an investigation of the matter.

Mayor Houston Hasn't Made Final Decision on Possible Second Term

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston isn’t sounding quite as firm these days about his pledge to serve only one term as mayor.


Houston recently held a campaign fundraiser, fueling speculation that he’s gearing up to run again in 2015.


The mayor says there are other reasons to shore up his campaign fund… but also indicates now that he hasn’t made a final decision on whether or not to run.


Houston says that’s a decision he will make, quote, “going down the road.”

Superintendent Search Firms To Be Evaluated

Springfield school board members are about to start evaluating possible search firms that could help them find the district’s next superintendent.


At least two firms will make their pitch tonight at a meeting of the school board finance committee.


That meeting gets underway at 5:00 at the board offices on West Monroe.


Another special meeting is set for Wednesday afternoon at 1 to hear from more prospective search firms.

State Senate Prepares For Potential Concealed Carry Debate

The debate over concealed carry is expected to heat up at the Capitol this week.


State Senator Kwame Raoul will introduce a revised proposal this week.


He withdrew his last proposal before it was officially filed when the draft language was leaked and caused a backlash among pro-gun groups.


Meanwhile, the state is getting ready for the inevitable.


The Southern Illinoisan newspaper reports the state has purchased $175,000 in computer hardware and software to build a system to keep track of concealed carry permit applications and denials.

Allowable Blood Alcohol Levels of On Duty Police Being Debated

Illinois lawmakers are trying to reach a deal for a statewide standard on how much alcohol on-duty police officers should be allowed to have in their system.


Right now, it varies from department to department… Decatur, for example, allows officers to have up to a .08 blood alcohol level.


Some lawmakers want a zero-tolerance standard.

Aldermen: Investigate SPD Document Shredding As Possible Felony

Several Springfield aldermen are requesting an independent investigation of the destruction of police department files… and say the shredding of those documents could constitute a felony. 


A proposed ordinance that goes before the City Council committee of the whole this week says the destruction of any public record without lawful authority is a Class 4 felony, and asks Attorney General Lisa Madigan to look into the matter.  Mayor Mike Houston has already sent his own letter to the Attorney General, asking for a review of the matter.


It's one of several ordinances that will push the document destruction case front and center before the City Council this week.  Aldermen will also discuss one that prohibits document destruction without City Council approval, and another that says the mayor can execute changes to contracts if they have been approved by aldermen. (The documents were destroyed after a memorandum of understanding was reached by the poilce chief and police union, without the input of the mayor or city council.)

Houston: Decision On Re-Election Bid Will Come ''Down The Road''

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is leaving himself some wiggle room when it comes to the question of whether he will seek a second term. 


Houston ran for office two years ago with a statement that he would only be a one-term mayor. 


But after a recent campaign fundraiser generated new questions, Houston now says a decision on a re-election bid is one he will make “going down the road.”

State Purchases Computers Ahead Of Concealed Carry Law

Even though there’s no agreement yet on a concealed carry law for Illinois, state officials are trying to get ready for what they see as the inevitable. 


The Southern Illinoisan reports the state has made a no-bid purchase of $175,000 in computer equipment to begin building the system that will keep track of concealed carry permit requests and denials. 


The state is under a court-imposed June 9th deadline to pass a concealed carry law.

Lawmakers Debate Standard For On-Duty Cops' Alcohol Level

Illinois lawmakers are trying to reach a deal for a statewide standard on how much alcohol on-duty police officers should be allowed to have in their system.


Right now, it varies from department to department… Decatur, for example, allows officers to have up to a .08 blood alcohol level. 


Some lawmakers want a zero-tolerance standard.

State Grants Boost Parks In Decatur, Lincoln

The Lincoln Park District will build a new public pool with a $400,000 state grant announced Saturday. The facility will include a six-lane lap pool, a zero-depth toddler pool and a water slide. 


Governor Pat Quinn also announced a separate $400,000 grant for the Decatur Park District to renovate Nelson Park, including construction of a “fitness trail with exercise stations,” a mountain biking trail and a fishing pier.

Springfield Woman Convicted In Deadly DUI Crash

A Springfield woman has been found guilty by a Sangamon County judge in a DUI case that killed one of her friends. 


22-year-old Amber Kline could face up to 14 years in prison when she is sentenced on the aggravated DUI charge this summer.


Prosecutors say she was drunk and speeding when she flipped her car last August, killing 23-year-old Amanda Smith and injuring others in the vehicle.

Superintendent Search Firms To Make Pitch To Springfield School Board

Another special Springfield school board meeting has been called for the coming week. 


Board members will hear from search firms who are hoping to be hired to assist with finding the next superintendent for District 186.  That special meeting is planned for 1pm Wednesday afternoon at the school board offices at 1900 West Monroe. 


Board members will also hear from search firms during the regularly scheduled finance committee meeting on Monday.

11 Illinois Counties Declared Federal Disaster Areas

Eleven Illinois counties have been declared federal disaster areas because of this spring’s flooding.  The declaration means that federally-backed grants and low-interest loans will be available to help people repair flood damage in those eleven counties, primarily in Northern Illinois.

Comprehensive Sex Ed Bill Moves Through Legislature

State lawmakers are close to passing a bill that would require any sex education classes in school to include information about birth control. 


Currently schools can teach an abstinence-only curriculum, but if the bill becomes law, any school that offers sex ed would have to make it comprehensive. 


Schools would still have the option of not teaching sex ed at all.

Harris Trial Prosecutors Admit Error In Videotaped Evidence

The Christopher Harris murder trial in Peoria adjourned early Friday after prosecutors realized they had failed to edit out a potentially prejudicial remark from a videotape that was being shown to jurors. 


The Bloomington Pantagraph says the video showed an interview that Harris gave to investigators days after the murders of a Beason family in 2009.  In it, Harris acknowledges that officers from a methamphetamine task force had recently come to his home. 


Testimony in the case resumes Monday.

ISU Chooses New President, Raises Tuition And Housing Costs

It's good news/bad news for students at Illinois State University.


The college in Normal has chosen a new president.  Timothy Flanagan currently serves as head of Framingham State University in Massachusetts.  He will start at ISU in mid-August.


Meanwhile, the college's trustees have voted to raise tuition, fees, housing and dining costs.  Most of those charges will climb 2 to 3 percent this fall.  An incoming freshman starting at ISU in the fall will pay more than $22,000 to attend the university next year.

Jurors See Physical Evidence In Harris Trial

Jurors in the Christopher Harris murder trial have been shown a tire iron that authorities say was used to kill five members of a Beason family in 2009. 


It was among physical evidence introduced at the trial in Peoria.  The tire iron was recovered from under a bridge in the town of Armington, about 25 miles away from Beason. 


Jurors also saw a laptop computer that had reportedly been taken from the home of Rick and Ruth Gee after the killings.  The laptop had been damaged, apparently from being run over by a vehicle.

Groundbreaking Set For Next Week For Memorial Medical Center Expansion

Groundbreaking is planned for Tuesday for what is described as the biggest expansion project in the history of Memorial Medical Center. 


When it’s completed in 2016, the project will add three patient care units, six operating rooms and 114 private inpatient rooms.  A new Center for Learning and Innovation will also be built. 


Memorial calls the project “Advancing Care by Design” and says it will lead to greater patient safety, privacy and comfort.

Social Media Flash Mobs Could Lead To Enhanced Penalties

Take part in a violent mob action and you could go to jail.  Organize that mob action on Facebook and you could go to jail longer.  That’s the point of legislation that overwhelmingly passed the General Assembly this week. 


It would allow prosecutors to seek enhanced penalties for people who use Facebook, Twitter or other social sites to recruit people to take part in violent “flash mobs.”


The bill is in response to incidents in which groups of people descended on locations in Chicago to rob or attack others.  The bill now goes to Governor Pat Quinn.

Patrol Bikes Donated To Sheriff's Department By Green Toyota

The Sangamon County sheriff’s department has two new sets of wheels. 


The department has received a donation of two fully-equipped patrol bikes from Green Toyota.  The bicycles are suitable for travel both on pavement and off-road, and are equipped with lights, sirens and built-in equipment storage. 


Undersheriff Jack Campbell says they will be useful for patrol during special large events like the county fair, and could also be used for patrols on area bike paths.  The two bicycles are valued at $8,000.

Dist. 186 School Board Piecing Together Plans for Superintendent Search

The Springfield school board is taking the next steps toward hiring a new superintendent… but that person is unlikely to be in place before classes start in August.


Board members will interview search firms next week, even though the board has not committed to hiring such a firm.


The cost of hiring a company to conduct the search could reach $30,000.


There has also been no discussion yet of what qualifications the next superintendent must have, or what salary could be offered.


Still, board member Scott McFarland believes someone could be hired and in place by September or October.

Stage Set for Competing Pension Reform Plans

The Illinois Senate has approved a pension reform plan backed by Senate President John Cullerton and public sector unions… setting the stage for a potential showdown between that plan and a more stringent one with bigger cost savings, favored by House Speaker Mike Madigan.


Just as the Cullerton plan has cleared the Senate, the Madigan plan has already gotten a thumbs-up from the House… but it’s unclear how either bill will do in the opposing chamber.


Madigan says his plan will make a bigger dent in the state’s pension crisis, but Cullerton says his has a better chance of surviving a legal challenge.

Madigan Continues Push for Teacher Pension Shift

House Speaker Mike Madigan is vowing to press ahead with legislation that would transfer the cost of teacher pensions away from the state and back to local school districts.


Madigan has described the current teacher pension system as a “free lunch” for local districts.


But opponents of the idea say the cost shift would force deeper program cuts… or higher property taxes… in school districts around the state.

Man Sues City and Police Again, This Time in Federal Court For Harassment and Excessive Force

The Springfield man who is suing the city over the destruction of internal police records has now filed a federal lawsuit… accusing more than a dozen officers of conspiring to harass him.


Calvin Christian says police have routinely pulled him over without probable cause… at times unlawfully restraining him or engaging in excessive force.


The lawsuit also names the city and seeks unspecified monetary damages.


Christian’s other lawsuit… which says the city illegally destroyed records that he was seeking under state law… is still pending.

Mayor Houston: Several Differing Legal Opinions About Destruction of IA Files

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston declines to say whether he personally thinks it was wrong for the police department to destroy internal affairs records while there were pending requests to obtain those documents.


But Houston says there are differing legal opinions about whether such actions break the law.


The mayor does say he continues to have confidence in Police Chief Robert Williams, who signed the agreement with the police union that sped up the timeline for destruction of those records.

ISRA Apologizes for Comments About Newtown Families

The Illinois State Rifle Association is apologizing for an e-mail alert sent to its members which stated that gun owners don’t give much credence to the parents of the young shooting victims in last December’s Newtown school massacre.


The message stated, quote, “having a child murdered doesn’t automatically make one an expert in violent crime.”


The association later issued an apology, expressing regret that its remarks were misconstrued. The apology goes on to say that the association, quote, “equally abhors the pattern of bashing law-abiding gun owners” in the aftermath of tragedies like Newtown.

Witness Testifies About Sex and Drugs in the Gee Murders

Testimony at the Christopher Harris murder trial is ranging from descriptions of the bloody crime scene to discussions of sexual relationships between victims Rick and Ruth Gee and other couples.


One expert witness testified that it appeared Harris had moved the bodies of at least two members of the Gee family after the killings in Beason in 2009.


The Bloomington Pantagraph reports the judge later threatened one witness with jail until she agreed to testify about sexual activity and drug use involving the Gees and other couples.

New Springfield Superintendent Unlikely To Be In Place Before Start Of Next School Year

Springfield school board members are picking up the pace on their search for a new superintendent, but acknowledge that it is unlikely they can find one before the next school year gets underway.


Nearly six weeks after the forced departure of Superintendent Walter Milton, the newly-elected school board is just now starting to interview search firms to see if one can help find the district's next leader.  But the board has not committed to actually hiring such a firm, and may still conduct the search on its own.  There has also been no agreement on what qualifications will be required for the next superintendent, or what salary may be offered.


Board member Scott McFarland says a new superintendent could conceivably be in place by September or October, but others say it could take six to nine months to make a selection.

Senate Approves Cullerton-Union Pension Plan

The Illinois Senate has approved a pension reform plan championed by Senate President John Cullerton and public sector unions, leaving lawmakers with a choice between two plans, each championed by one of the top two Democrats in the General Assembly.


Cullerton and the unions say their plan is better, even though it saves less money than a plan put forward by House Speaker Mike Madigan, because it has a better chance of surviving a court challenge. Madigan's plan has cleared the House, but neither bill has a certain future in the opposite chamber.

State Rifle Association Takes Heat For Remarks Critical Of Newtown Parents

The Illinois State Rifle Association has apologized for comments that some saw as insensitive to the parents of the young victims of the Newtown school massacre. 


A message from the pro-gun group stated, quote, “gun owners don’t put much credence in what the Newtown parents have to say.  After all, having a child murdered doesn't automatically make one an expert in violent crime.” 


The organization has now offered an apology, posted on the Capitol Fax website, in which it expresses regret that some construed the remarks as being insensitive to the families of violent crime victims.

Plaintiff In Police Files Lawsuit Files New Court Case, Accusing Cops Of Conspiring To Harass Him

The man who is suing the City of Springfield over the destruction of police department records has now filed a new lawsuit… accusing more than a dozen officers and the City of Springfield of conspiring in a campaign of harassment against him. 


Calvin Christian’s suit accuses five officers by name… but says as many as ten other unidentified officers were also involved.  He says that after filing an earlier complaint against the city, the officers conspired to repeatedly pull him over and issue baseless traffic citations, and on at least one occasion used excessive force. 


The suit asks for compensatory and punitive damages, but does not name an amount.

New Poll Gives Quinn Low Marks On Job Approval

Governor Pat Quinn continues to post some of the worst job approval ratings in the country. 


A new automated poll from “We Ask America” finds 62-percent of Illinois voters disapprove of the job Quinn is doing as Governor.  Only 28% approve.  Quinn does not even get majority support among his fellow Democrats… only 48% of Democrats say they approve of his performance. 


And nowhere is the picture worse for the Governor than downstate… where 77% of voters give Quinn a thumbs-down.

Houston Expects To Seek Another CWLP Electric Rate Hike Early Next Year

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is warning that another electric rate hike may be inevitable within the next year. 


Aldermen approved an increase of 4.75 percent last year and another 2-percent this year… a hike that Houston calls a “small band-aid” for the electric division’s cash flow problems. 


Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” the mayor said the utility will try to get through this year by moving funds around to cover expenses.  But he expects that next year’s city budget will have to include another increase in electric rates in order to meet expenses and pay the utility’s debt service.

Houston Withholds Personal View Of SPD Document Destruction

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says he’s withholding judgment on the actions taken by some of the police department top brass related to the destruction of internal affairs documents. 


In a live interview on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Houston declined to say whether he thought it was inappropriate for the department to shred documents that were the subject of a pending request under state public records laws.  And the mayor noted that he has heard differing legal opinions about the legality of such actions, but declined to say whether his own corporation counsel had told him such shredding would be allowable. 


Houston has asked Attorney General Lisa Madigan to weigh in, saying it’s important to get an independent perspective from an outside agency.

Mayor Says He Has No Vendetta Against SOHO

The SOHO music festival will go on as scheduled this year… even though it is moving to a new downtown Springfield location. 


That promise comes from Mayor Mike Houston, who insists he does not have it in for the popular festival that draws thousands of people downtown each year.  Houston says he welcomes events that draw happy crowds into the heart of the city… and says it was just a snafu that left this year’s event in doubt. 


Houston says all of the details have been finalized for SOHO to proceed June 7th and 8th on Adams, between 6th and 7th Streets.

Medical Marijuana Passes Senate Committee Despite Chiefs of Police Opposition

A bill to allow the use of marijuana to treat certain illnesses is a step closer to passage.


A Senate committee approved the measure Wednesday on a vote of 10 to 5.


A full Senate vote could happen next week, and if it passes there, the bill goes to Governor Pat Quinn.


Passage came despite a push against the bill from the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, which warns that legalizing medical marijuana will mean more impaired drivers on the road.

Cullerton Pension Reform Plan Passes Committee, Faces Opposition

A Senate committee has approved the latest pension reform plan to surface at the Capitol.


That plan crafted by Senate President John Cullerton and public sector unions was approved on a strict party line vote, with Democrats voting in favor and Republicans opposed.


At least one group is already threatening to sue if the bill passes.


The Illinois Retired Teachers Association says this plan… like other pension reform proposals… violates the state constitution, which prohibits a diminishment in pension benefits.

Jason Harris to Testify Against Brother Christopher in Beason Murder Trial

One of the two brothers charged in the murders of a Beason family has agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges… in exchange for his testimony against his brother.


As the trial of Christopher Harris opened in Peoria Wednesday, prosecutors revealed that his brother Jason will take the stand against Christopher.


Jason is expected to contradict the defense theory that Christopher walked in on 14-year-old Dillen Constant killing the rest of his family… and that Christopher then killed Dillen in self-defense.


The trial could last the rest of this month.

DIRT Team Nabs $20,000 of Cocaine and a Loaded Gun in Hotel Drug Sting

The Sangamon County DIRT team has recovered $20,000 worth of cocaine after arresting a convicted felon and registered sex offender on drug and weapons charges.


36-year-old Nathaniel Garecht was taken into custody after police set up a fake drug buy at a Springfield hotel.


Authorities say he was carrying nine ounces of cocaine and a loaded gun on him when he was taken into custody.


A search of his home and a storage shed turned up more drugs and another gun.

Investigation Continues in Young Girl's Stabbing/Sexual Assault

Detectives still have not identified a suspect… or even released a description of one… but they continue to investigate a teenage girl’s claim that she was stabbed and sexually assaulted in a home on West Calhoun last week.


The girl had multiple stab wounds to her arms and chest, but the injuries were not life-threatening.


Sangamon County Undersheriff Jack Campbell says deputies talked to the girl last week, but had not been able to question her again until yesterday.


They are still asking anyone with information about the case to call the sheriff’s office at 753-6840.

Woman Sells Childhood Home For Medical Center Expansion

A Springfield woman has decided to sell her childhood home rather than dig in for what could have been a long and costly fight to save it.


The State Journal-Register reports Judy Ansell has agreed to sell the home on West Miller to Memorial Medical Center, which plans to demolish it as part of a hospital expansion project.


Ansell is the sister of the late Springfield finance commissioner Jim Dunham, and says she wanted to save the family home for sentimental reasons.


But Memorial intended to ask the Mid-Illinois Medical District to use its eminent domain powers to seize the home if Ansell had refused to sell.

Retired Teachers Group Threatens Lawsuit Over Cullerton Plan

A group representing retired Illinois teachers is threatening to sue if lawmakers pass a compromise pension reform plan supported by Senate President John Cullerton and public sector unions. 


The Retired Teachers Association says the Cullerton plan, like other pension plans on the table, would force retirees to accept decreased benefits and is therefore unconstitutional.


Cullerton believes his plan would survive a court challenge.

Police Chiefs: Medical Marijuana Bill Will Mean More Impaired Drivers

Chiefs of police from around Illinois are raising concerns that a proposed medical marijuana law could lead to more impaired drivers on the road. 


A group representing the lawmen says there should be a provision for requiring blood and urine tests from motorists suspected of driving under the influence of prescribed marijuana. 


Supporters of the bill say current field sobriety tests are sufficient to determine if a driver is impaired.

Felon Arrested On Drug,Weapons Charges

A convicted felon and registered sex offender is now facing drug and weapons charges after a bust by the Sangamon County DIRT team. 


36-year-old Nathaniel Garecht was arrested at a Springfield hotel where authorities had set up a fake drug purchase.  Authorities say he was carrying a gun and nine ounces of cocaine when he was arrested.  Police also searched his home on West Reynolds and a storage shed, where more cocaine and another gun were recovered. 


The street value of the drugs is around $20,000.  Garecht is being held in the Sangamon County Jail on $250,000 bond.

Brother Takes Plea Deal, Will Testify Against Christopher Harris

The brother of murder suspect Christopher Harris has agreed to testify against him as part of a plea deal that will send Jason Harris to prison for 20 years. 


Jason was also charged along with Christopher in the deaths of Rick and Ruth Gee and three of their children in Beason in 2009.  Christopher Harris was taken to trial first… and prosecutors now say that Jason Harris will plead guilty to lesser charges, including concealing a homicide, and will receive a 20-year sentence in exchange for testifying against his brother. 


The Christopher Harris trial in Peoria is expected to last the rest of this month.

Police Still Investigating Attack On Teenager

Sangamon County detectives are still investigating a teenage girl’s claim that she was stabbed and assaulted last week at a home on Calhoun Street. 


The 14 year old was taken to the hospital with multiple stab wounds to the arms and chest, but the wounds were not life-threatening. 


A statement from the sheriff’s office says physical evidence has been sent to the State Police Crime Lab for testing.  The department has not identified or even put out a description of a suspect in the case, but is still asking anyone with information to contact the sheriff’s office at 753-6840.

Firefighter Laid To Rest

Mourners lined the route on Springfield’s north end today as a long line of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles led a procession for Chicago firefighter Sean Sloe.  He was laid to rest after funeral services this morning in Springfield. 


Sloe was killed last week in a motorcycle crash on Interstate 55 at the Clear Lake Avenue exit. 


He had been a firefighter and paramedic in Chicago, but often spent time in Springfield, where he grew up and where his brother serves as a firefighter. Burial took place at Roselawn Cemetery, just east of Springfield.

DCFS Warns Of Childhood Drowning Risk

With the arrival of warm weather, state officials are reminding parents about the risk of childhood drownings. 


The Department of Children and Family Services says there were 21 preventable child drownings in the state last year.  Nearly half took place in pools, with most of the rest happening in lakes, ponds or rivers.  One child drowned in a bathtub. 


DCFS has just one word of advice… pay attention at all times whenever a child is in or near the water.

CWLP Electric Operations In Deep Financial Hole

City Water Light and Power’s electric division is in a deep financial hole… and the problem could easily get worse before it gets better. 


Chief Engineer Eric Hobbie says the electric side is currently more than three-million-dollars in the red.  Best practices call for the utility to have 60 days of working cash on hand, or around $33 million dollars.  The huge gap puts the utility at risk of a credit downgrade. 


Hobbie blames the shortfall on CWLP’s current borrowing costs, and low prices for power sold on the open market… as well as the cost of new federal regulations.


The good news, according to Hobbie, is that the water division is running in the black, and has a 90-day supply of working cash on hand.

Ordinance To Halt File Destruction Fails Emergency Passage

A group of Springfield aldermen have fallen one vote short of the number needed for an emergency ordinance that would prohibit the destruction of any city records without City Council authorization.


Seven aldermen supported the measure… but eight votes were needed for emergency passage.


The proposal was in reaction to the agreement between Police Chief Robert Williams and the police union that led to the accelerated destruction of some internal affairs files.


The ordinance will come up for a vote again in two weeks… when only a simple majority will be needed for approval.

Mayor Asks Attorney General For Investigation Over IA File Destruction

Mayor Mike Houston has asked Attorney General Lisa Madigan to investigate the destruction of Springfield police internal affairs files.


Mayor Mike Houston (left), Attorney General Lisa Madigan (right)
Mayor Mike Houston (left), Attorney General Lisa Madigan (right)

Houston’s letter to Madigan acknowledges that the files were the subject of pending Freedom of Information Act requests when they were destroyed late last month.


The letter also contends that only 30 files were destroyed… a pending lawsuit alleges more than 70 files were eliminated.


The mayor’s request puts him out in front of several Springfield aldermen, who have introduced their own ordinance requesting an outside investigation of the controversy.

Backlash Over Cullerton/Union Pension Reform Plan Mounts

A backlash is starting over an alternate pension reform plan crafted by public sector unions and Senate President John Cullerton.


A coalition of retired teachers… and even some current teachers union members… argue that the Cullerton-union plan also represents a diminishment of current benefits and therefore violates the Illinois Constitution.


The “We Are One” coalition of public sector unions says their proposal is constitutional because it gives workers and retirees choices… but opponents say the choices are all bad.

Teacher Pension Shift Plan Pushed by Madigan

It’s not part of his comprehensive pension reform plan, but House Speaker Mike Madigan is pressing ahead with separate legislation that would shift the state’s share of teacher pensions back on to local school districts.


The state covers those costs for downstate and suburban Chicago districts… a practice that Madigan calls a “free lunch” for those school systems.


The cost shift idea had been included in several previous failed attempts at pension reform.


Opponents say the move will simply lead to more program cuts or higher property taxes at the local level.

Aldermen Fail to Pass Ordinance Freezing File Destruction

Springfield Aldermen failed to pass an ordinance that would require records to get a certificate of destruction from the local records commission according to Illinois law, before those files are destroyed.


The ordinance, on emergency passage, was in response to the Springfield Police Department's accelerated schedule of destruction of internal affairs files from 5 to 4 years.


That action, which changed the agreement between the city and the police union, was done without the council's approval and in light of several FOIA requests for the documents.


Aldermen Gail Simpson, Doris Turner, and Frank Lesko joined Mayor Mike Houston in voting against the ordinance.  Ordinances on emeregency passage requires 8 votes for passage.


Several aldermen and the director of labor relations said there are 23 different bargaining units and each one has different standards dealing with the retention of files and that passage of the ordinance could change those contracts.


Aldermen could bring the ordinance back up for a vote next week after more legal opinions are provided.


The city is being sued by the individual who requested the prematurely destroyed documents and Houston requested Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to investigate if the actions were appropriate.

Mayor Houston Requests Attorney General to Investigate IA File Destruction

Springfield's Mayor is asking the Illinois Attorney General to investigate the destruction of internal affairs documents at the city's police department.


Mayor Mike Houston's letter acknowledges the files were destroyed

even though there were pending FOIA requests for the documents. In a letter to Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Houston also states that only 30, not 72 files--as had been previously reported--were destroyed.


The Mayor's spokesman says that the letter was circulated to Aldermen Monday night... several aldermen had also been discussing a possible investigation into the controversy.

State GOP Chairman Resigns; Top Republican Sets Criteria For Replacement

A top Illinois Republican Party official says the next party chairman needs to be a good communicator who can reach out to both conservatives and liberals in the party… but who will also toe the line on the party platform. 


Appearing live on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show," State Senator Jim Oberweis laid out his criteria for a replacement for Pat Brady, who has submitted his resignation as party chair.  Oberweis had led a charge to get rid of Brady because of the party’s performance in the 2012 elections… and because Brady openly opposed the party platform stance on same-sex marriage. 


Brady says he is resigning to care for his wife, who has cancer… not because of the attempt by Oberweis and others to dump him.

Tentative Agreement, But No Final Deal, In Place For SOHO

The organizer of the SOHO music festival says he’s willing to do what’s needed to “make everybody happy” and allow the downtown event to go on as scheduled. 


Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Eric Welch says he has a verbal and handshake agreement to move the street festival a couple of blocks away, after the City of Springfield told him he couldn’t have his original location next to the Old State Capitol.  A Civil War re-enactment has also been booked on the Old Capitol grounds for that weekend. 


Welch says the new location isn’t ideal, but he’ll make it work. However, he says city officials are still reviewing the plans and haven’t given final approval.

Houston Blames Internal Factions for IA File Controversy at Police Department

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston blames the controversy over police department file shredding on “factions” within the department who are seeking to discredit a possible future contender for police chief.


Houston indicates the issue arose out of an attempt to embarrass Cliff Buscher, the deputy police chief who got into hot water in 2008 for an incident in which he fired his service revolver during a vacation in Missouri.


It is widely believed that Buscher’s internal affairs file was among those destroyed ahead of schedule.


Buscher declined to comment on the situation because of the pending lawsuit that was filed by a Springfield man who had requested the files prior to their destruction.

SOHO to Move After Old State Capitol Double Booked by City

There is a tentative deal in place to move next month’s SOHO festival to a new downtown location after the latest clash between the popular music event and the Houston administration.


A year after Mayor Mike Houston sought to impose a curfew on amplified music that threatened the close the charity event, SOHO is facing a new conflict… after Civil War re-enactors were given permission to stage an encampment on the very same weekend, right next to SOHO’s location on Washington between 5th and 6th.


Houston warned that if SOHO didn’t move or change its date, the city might deny its liquor license.


Now the SOHO organizer says there is an agreement for SOHO to go on a couple of blocks away… on Adams between 6th and 7th.

New Dist. 186 School Board Seated, Chuck Flamini Becomes President

The new Springfield school board has been seated… and one of the brand new members has already been installed as board president.


Former district administrator Chuck Flamini, who was elected to the board last month, was chosen to lead the board.


That prompted a complaint from board member Judy Johnson, who suggested Flamini’s selection was engineered in advance and who warned Flamini that he would be president… not dictator. Another board newcomer, Adam Lopez, was chosen as vice-president.


Also seated was Donna Moore, who won her seat by one vote. Moore’s opponent, Katharine Eastvold, dropped her bid for a recount and conceded the race earlier in the day.

Union Leaders Push for Cullerton's Pension Reform Plan

Illinois union leaders are urging lawmakers to support a pension reform plan they recently agreed on with the state Senate President John Cullerton.


A coalition of unions announced yesterday it reach an agreement with Cullerton on a possible solution to the state's $97 billion pension crisis.


The bill gives workers and retirees multiple choices on aspects of their retirement contributions and benefits… and supporters say providing those choices will help the bill survive a constitutional challenge.


House Speaker Mike Madigan has pushed a different plan which would save the state more money… but Cullerton says Madigan’s plan could be thrown out as unconstitutional, and then it wouldn’t save anything at all.

Opening Statements Expected Wednesday in Christopher Harris Trial

Opening statements are now planned for Wednesday in the murder trial of Christopher Harris… accused in the killings of five members of a family in Beason in 2009.


A 12-member jury has now been seated, but four alternates must still be chosen for a trial that could last nearly a month.

Springfield Receives Grant Dollars for Historical Reenactments and Musicians

History will once again come alive at historic sites around Springfield this summer.


The city has received another grant to allow for musicians, re-enactors and other performers to appear at various city locations, as a way to draw more visitors to town.


It’s part of a big tourism push this summer that will also include a social media contest to find “Little Abe” at various locations around Springfield… and a state Bureau of Tourism ad campaign that will spend $2 million to purchase time on national cable networks, aimed at luring vacationers to Illinois.

Houston Blames ''Factions'' Within Police Department For Files Controversy

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says the controversy over shredded police department files is the work of “factions” within the department that are seeking to discredit Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher and derail a possible future promotion to chief. 


Houston made the comment while talking with reporters about Police Chief Robert Williams’s decision to speed up the timetable for destroying internal affairs records, including some that had already been sought under state public records laws. 


Records pertaining to Buscher may have been among those shredded… although Houston says the number of destroyed documents is fewer than the 70-plus that had been originally alleged.

SOHO Festival Threatened Again

A year after the SOHO music festival was threatened by Mayor Mike Houston’s call for an outdoor amplified sound curfew, there’s a new threat to the downtown street festival. 


Houston says a conflicting permit has been granted for a Civil War re-enactment group to use the Old State Capitol grounds and adjacent Washington Street on the same weekend as SOHO. 


The mayor acknowledges that both permits should not have been granted, but says it is now up to SOHO to either find a new date or to move to a different downtown location… or risk not being granted a city liquor license.

Eastvold Concedes In School Board Race

She trailed by only one vote, but Katharine Eastvold says the evidence just is not there to challenge that razor-thin margin of victory in her Springfield school board race.  So Eastvold has called Donna Moore to concede and to congratulate Moore on her victory. 


Eastvold had sought a partial recount in that Subdistrict 5 race, but it produced no change in the outcome.  She also obtained other elections office documents and checked them for discrepancies, but says there was nothing there that could be used as a basis for a court challenge. 


[Moore will be sworn in tonight with other newly-elected school board members.]

''History Comes Alive'' To Return To Springfield This Summer

History will once again come alive at historic sites around Springfield this summer.


The city has received another grant to allow for musicians, re-enactors and other performers to appear at various city locations, as a way to draw more visitors to town. 


It’s part of a big tourism push this summer that will also include a social media contest to find “Little Abe” at various locations around Springfield… and a state Bureau of Tourism ad campaign that will spend $2 million to purchase time on national cable networks, aimed at luring vacationers to Illinois.

Ward 6 Fund Grants Money for Neighborhood Associations

Six neighborhood associations in Springfield’s Ward 6 are the recipients of grant dollars from Alderman Cory Jobe’s Ward 6 Fund … and more is on the way.


The grants were announced during Sunday’s Ward 6 Block Party where Jobe organized the community to enjoy food and entertainment, including face painting, bounce houses and a fire truck from Springfield’s Fire Department.


A press release from Jobe states individual home owners will also get a chance at some of the $15,000 in grants later this month.


The Ward 6 fund also received $2,000 more dollars from Kohl’s Care Sunday.

Springfield Aldermen Seek to Approve Future Destruction of Public Files

Destruction of internal affairs files… or any other public records maintained by Springfield city government… would have to be approved first by the Springfield City Council, under an ordinance that has been proposed for emergency passage at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.


Three aldermen… Frank Edwards, Sam Cahnman, and Joe McMenamin… have introduced the ordinance in response to the controversy over an abrupt change in police department policy.


That change, enacted last month, led to the destruction of more than 70 internal affairs files, including some that were the subject of a pending FOIA request.

City Council to Consider Residency Requirement for Boards and Commissions

Anyone serving on any Springfield city government board or commission would be required to live within the city limits… under an ordinance proposed by Alderman Gail Simpson.


A residency requirement had previously existed for most boards and commissions, but that did not apply to several specific commissions, such as those dealing with rules about plumbing, electrical, mechanical or elevator standards, as well as the building code board of appeals.


Aldermen recently rejected a couple of Mayor Mike Houston’s appointees because they did not live within the city limits.

Many Questions Unanswered As Authorities Complete Manchester Murder Investigation

Even though multiple agencies say they have concluded their investigation into the crime, many questions remain unanswered about the murders of five people in Manchester last month.


Those agencies say Rick Smith planned the killings because of a custody dispute involving his three-year-old daughter.


Smith’s victims were related to his estranged girlfriend, Rita Luark.


But neighbors of the victims tell the Jacksonville Journal-Courier that Smith apparently believed his daughter was being harmed when she had stayed with the victims in the past.


Morgan County authorities say they investigated those claims but found no evidence. State police say they have no information about allegations that Smith had battled mental illness.


They are also still looking into how Smith… a convicted felon… obtained the weapons used in the killings.

Competing Pension Reform Plans Take Center Stage This Week

This could be a critical week in the debate over public pensions in Illinois.


Senate President John Cullerton and public sector unions could roll out details of a plan that they say help resolve the crisis without violating the state constitution.


The unions say a plan from House Speaker Mike Madigan is unconstitutional and would not survive a court challenge.


The House approved Madigan’s plan last week, setting the stage for a showdown between the competing proposals.

Quinn Vetoes Electric Rate Hike Bill, Lawmakers Expect Override

Governor Pat Quinn has rejected a plan to increase electric rates by about $70 million.


Quinn vetoed the plan Sunday, saying the bill would undermine oversight and force automatic rate hikes.


ComEd says the proposal would have helped get so-called Smart Grid technology back on track.


The Smart Grid plan covers ComEd and Ameren homes.


Lawmakers are expected to override Quinn’s veto, but the governor says lawmakers who support an override are voting to raise your electric rates.

Former Madison County Judge Could Announce 13th Congressional District Bid

The chief judge in Madison County has resigned… which could set the stage for a campaign for Congress in a district that includes part of Springfield.


Ann Callis first became a judge in 1995 and has been the chief judge in Madison County since 2006.


The Edwardsville Intelligencer newspaper reports that Callis will announce today that she will seek the Democratic nomination in the 13th Congressional District… the seat currently held by Republican Rodney Davis.

Gill Appointed to Assistant Director of Public Health Job, Awaiting Senate Approval

The Democrat who narrowly lost to Rodney Davis last November has landed a lucrative state job.


Dr. David Gill was appointed by Governor Pat Quinn to serve as assistant director of the state Department of Public Health.


Gill’s appointment to the $128,000-a-year job must still be approved by the Illinois Senate.

Aldermen: No Documents Should Be Destroyed Without City Council Approval

Several Springfield aldermen want to make sure the City Council has a say in which public documents are destroyed and which are retained.


Frank Edwards, Sam Cahnman and Joe McMenamin have introduced an ordinance on emergency passage which would require city departments to get City Council approval before destroying any records.


The move follows the growing controversy over the shredding of police department internal affairs files. [Ald. Frank Edwards will appear live Monday on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show" to discuss the proposed ordinance.]

Ordinance Would Strengthen Residency Requirement For Springfield Boards And Commissions

Future members of Springfield city government boards and commissions would have to live in the city limits, under a proposed ordinance.


Alderman Gail Simpson's plan would remove the ability of the City Council to grant exemptions for non-city-residents to serve.


Aldermen recently rejected a couple of Mayor Mike Houston's appointees to city commissions because they live in neighboring towns.

Gaming Industry Promotes Help For Problem Gambling

The Illinois gaming industry and groups that treat gambling addiction are working together to increase awareness of problem gambling.


The state lottery, casinos, and the horse racing and video gaming industries are joining with therapists and medical professionals to work for increased access to resources to treat gambling addiction.

Mayor Clamps Down On Contract Changes; Aldermen Demand Involvement In Decisions On Document Destruction

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has signed an executive order to prevent a repeat of this week’s controversy in the police department. At issue is the agreement between the police chief and police union to move up the timeline for shredding internal affairs investigation documents. 


Houston’s order says any change to labor agreements must go through the city’s labor relations manager… and be signed by the mayor himself.


Meanwhile, three aldermen have filed an ordinance requiring city council approval before public records are destroyed.  That ordinance from Frank Edwards, Sam Cahnman and Joe McMenamin will be considered on emergency passage this week.

Manchester Murders Sparked By Custody Fight; No Word On Where Shooter Got Weapons

Law enforcement agencies have concluded that Rick Smith killed five members of a family in Manchester last month because he believed they were interfering in a custody battle over his three-year-old daughter.  Most of the victims were related to Smith’s estranged girlfriend, Rita Luark. 


Smith himself was killed by police after he opened fire on them.  State police say they’re still investigating where Smith got the guns he used in the killings.

$300,000 Restoration Of Oak Ridge Cemetery Entrance Planned

With plans in the works to recreate Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession in Springfield in 2015, local leaders are hoping for one finishing touch.  They want to restore the original look of Oak Ridge Cemetery… Lincoln’s final resting place… by building a replica of the overhead arch through which his body was carried in 1865.  Officials are hoping to raise $300,000 for the project.

Gill's New Job Clears Path For New Democratic Opponent To Challenge Davis

He lost a race for Congress last year… but Bloomington physician David Gill may have gotten a nice consolation prize.  Gill has been named by Governor Pat Quinn to become the assistant director of the state Department of Public Health. 


Gill narrowly lost the 13th Congressional District race to Republican Rodney Davis.  His appointment to that $128,000 job will require approval by the Illinois Senate.


Gill’s new job clears the way for a different Democrat to take on Davis next year.  Madison County Judge Ann Callis is stepping down from the bench, and will reportedly announce on Monday that she will seek the Democratic nomination to face Davis in the 13th Congressional District in 2014.

Houston Orders Changes In Response To SPD Controversy

Mayor Mike Houston has ordered changes in the way labor contracts are revised at City Hall… after an embarrassing episode involving the police department. 


Houston’s executive order comes after learning that the department changed its policies on disposing of internal affairs records, without notifying the Mayor or city labor negotiators.  The change was included in a “memorandum of understanding” between Police Chief Robert Williams and the police union. 


Houston’s order now requires that the city’s labor relations manager be involved in any discussions about changes to the contract… and that such agreements must be signed by the mayor.  Houston also ordered that the city council be notified of such changes… but did not require that aldermen approve those modifications to labor contracts.

Police: Custody Dispute Was Motive For Manchester Murders

Several law enforcement agencies have concluded that the killer of five people in the town of Manchester last month was motivated by his belief that the victims were interfering in an ongoing custody battle involving his three-year-old daughter. 


The victims were all relatives of Rita Luark… the mother of gunman Rick Smith’s three-year-old daughter.  Although police had been involved in a custody exchange without incident a month earlier, the situation deteriorated by the time of the killings on April 24th


After Smith killed the five victims… including Rita Luark’s adult daughter Brittney, who was pregnant… he traveled around in a 25-mile radius of Manchester.  Police located him several hours later and fatally shot him when he fired at officers. 


A statement from Illinois State Police say all the investigating agencies have concluded their reviews of the case.

Union Blames Quinn Policies For Attack On Prison Guard

The union representing Illinois prison guards is blaming Governor Pat Quinn’s policies for a violent attack on a female correctional officer. 


The incident occurred early Thursday at the Danville Correctional Center.  AFSCME says the guard was attacked and punched in the jaw by an inmate who was being housed in gymnasium space at the prison. 


The inmate also allegedly attempted to rape the guard… but the assault was stopped by another inmate who responded to the guard’s call for help. 


The union says Danville is overcrowded and understaffed… and contends that one guard is routinely assigned to watch over hundreds of inmates on the night shift, violating policies that call for two guards to be assigned.

Police Seeking Suspect In Stabbing, Assault Of 14-Year-Old Girl

Sangamon County deputies are trying to identify and locate a suspect and additional witnesses as they investigate a stabbing that sent a 14-year-old girl to the hospital.  The victim suffered multiple wounds to her arms and chest. 


Police were called to the residence on West Calhoun by the girl’s mother. The victim told officers that she had been sexually assaulted.  The girl is reportedly in stable condition. 


The sheriff’s department is asking anyone with information to call the Investigations Division at 753-6840.

State Archives Director: Destruction Of Records Raises Serious Legal Questions

The director of the Illinois State Archives says the destruction of Springfield police records ahead of schedule… with no oversight… could put the police department in legal jeopardy. 


The State Archives inventories local public records… and Director David Joens says permission must be obtained before those records are destroyed.  Joens says the destruction of records without that permission could not only lead to fines and civil penalties, it could potentially be a felony under Illinois law.

Citing Lawsuit, Houston Won't Comment On SPD Controversy

A lawsuit filed against the city of Springfield has prompted Mayor Mike Houston to clam up about a growing controversy in the police department. 


A Springfield man is suing, claiming the department violated state law by destroying internal affairs records that he had been seeking through a Freedom of Information Act request. 


Houston had not yet commented on the situation… and now a spokesman says the mayor cannot comment because of the pending litigation. 


More than 70 files were destroyed a year earlier than scheduled because of a policy change agreed to by the department and the police union.

Madigan Granted Extension For Possible Appeal Of Concealed Carry Ruling

Attorney General Lisa Madigan has been granted an extension, giving her more time to file a possible appeal of a ruling that requires the state to pass a concealed carry law. 


That decision by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan does not free the state from the court order mandating approval of a concealed carry law by June 9th.  But it does allow Madigan to pursue the appeal if lawmakers fail to meet that deadline. 


Madigan says if the legislature can come to agreement on a concealed carry law, then there’s no reason to pursue the appeal.

Quinn Makes Executive Appointments

He lost his bid for Congress next year… now Bloomington physician David Gill is in line for a state job.  Governor Pat Quinn has appointed Gill to be the Assistant Director of the State Department of Public Health.  Gill narrowly lost to Republican Rodney Davis in the 13th Congressional District race in November. 


Quinn is also again trying to fill vacancies on the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees… where a bitter fight for control of the board is continuing.  The governor named former Illinois National Guard leader Randal Thomas and retired SIU professor Shirley Portwood to the posts.  Three earlier Quinn appointments to the SIU Board were unanimously rejected by the state senate.

New Salem Farm Show Cancelled Because Of Rain

The wet weather has forced the cancellation of a farming demonstration planned for Lincoln’s New Salem this weekend. 


The event on Saturday was supposed to show historic farming techniques and equipment… but the fields are too muddy to allow the planned demonstrations. 


Officials say the show cannot be rescheduled this year… but will be on the historic site’s schedule for 2014.  Other events at New Salem in Petersburg will still go on as scheduled.

Overnight Stabbing of 14-Year-Old Girl Investigated as Possible Sexual Assault

A 14-year-old girl is in stable condition after being stabbed multiple times overnight on West Calhoun, according to the Sangamon County Sheriff’s department.


Undersheriff Jack Campbell says authorities are investigating the case as a possible attempted sexual assault.


Campbell says the victim is able to speak with police about the attack.


Police continue to investigate the incident at this time.

Springfield Police Sued For Destroying Internal Affairs Investigation Files

A man who sought files of Springfield police department internal affairs investigations has filed suit against the city, following the revelation that department rules were changed and dozens of those files were destroyed as a result.


Calvin Christian says he filed a Freedom of Information Act request before the documents were destroyed, and contends that the move to dispose of the files violates state law.


He is seeking $5,000 for each file that may have been improperly destroyed.


More than 70 files may have been shredded after department brass entered into a "memorandum of understanding" with the police union to speed up the process of expunging internal affairs records.

Chicago Fire Fighter Killed Riding Motorcycle on I-55

A Chicago firefighter whose brother serves on the Springfield Fire Department has been identified as the motorcyclist killed in a crash on Interstate 55 Thursday.


37-year-old Sean Sloe died when he lost control of his cycle while entering the southbound lanes of the interstate from Clear Lake Avenue.


He and the bike were struck by two semis.


The accident closed down the southbound lanes of I-55 for more than four hours Thursday.


It remains under investigation.

House Approves Madigan's Pension Plan

The Illinois House has approved House Speaker Mike Madigan’s pension reform plan.


The bill calls for public sector workers to contribute more to their retirement, and reduces cost-of-living benefits.


Governor Pat Quinn says it’s the biggest step yet toward fixing the state’s pension and fiscal crisis.


But public sector unions continue to insist Madigan’s plan is unconstitutional and will be tossed out of court.


They are working with Senate President John Cullerton on an alternate plan, but the details have not yet been disclosed.

New School Board Swearing in Monday, Candidate Eastvold Says Complete Vote Review Necessary

Donna Moore will be sworn in Monday night along with other newly-elected members of the Springfield school board.


But Moore’s opponent in that school board race is still considering legal options that could force a full recount of Moore’s razor-thin victory.


Katharine Eastvold lost to Moore by one vote… and says such a close outcome requires a complete review to be certain that the true will of the voters was carried out.


A full recount would require a court order, and Eastvold has not yet requested one. She has until May 23rd to do so.

More Jurors Chosen in Christopher Harris Murder Trial

Four more jurors have been chosen to hear the case of Christopher Harris, accused in the murders of a Beason family in 2009.


Prosecutors and defense lawyers have been questioning dozens of people as they try to select a jury of 12 people and four alternates for a murder trial that could last more than a month.


Some of that questioning focused on how the prospective jurors could handle viewing crime scene photos, which both sides describe as very graphic and bloody.

St. John's Hospital CEO Leaving for Larger Des Moines Facility

The CEO of St. John’s Hospital is leaving to take over operations of a much larger facility in Des Moines, Iowa.


Robert Ritz has run St. John’s since 2008.


His resignation takes effect next month, and a search for his replacement will get underway soon.


The State Journal-Register reports that although Ritz took over St. John’s shortly after the hospital began running annual operating deficits, he has overseen an expansion program and put the hospital on pace to be back in the black by next year.

State Senator Dislocates Knee Cap in Senate-House Softball Game

A legislative softball game is serious business. Just ask State Senator Matt Murphy, whose participation in the annual game this week may land him in an operating room.


Murphy had to be carted away by ambulance after being struck in the leg by a ball during the contest between the House and Senate in Springfield Wednesday.


It turns out Murphy may have dislocated his kneecap and may need surgery to repair the damage.

Lawsuit Filed Over Destruction Of Police Department Records

A man who sought files of Springfield police department internal affairs investigations has filed suit against the city, following the revelation that department rules were changed and dozens of those files were destroyed as a result.


Calvin Christian says he filed a Freedom of Information Act request before the documents were destroyed, and contends that the moves to dispose of the files violates state law.  He is seeking $5,000 for each file that may have been improperly destroyed.  More than 70 files may have been shredded after department brass entered into a "memorandum of understanding" with the police union to speed up the process of expunging internal affairs records.

Motorcyclist Killed In I-55 Collision With Semis; Accident Snarled Traffic For Hours

A Chicago man is dead after his motorcycle was struck by two semis on Interstate 55 near Springfield Thursday.


The victim is identified as 37-year-old Sean Sloe.  Authorities are still investigating the accident, which blocked the southbound lanes for hours on Thursday.  Police attempted to divert traffic off the interstate onto Clear Lake and Sangamon Avenues, but both of those roads also became clogged with traffic.  At one point, vehicles were backed up for as much as five miles on I-55.

House Approves Madigan Pension Plan; Unions Still Seek Alternative With Cullerton

The Illinois House has passed a pension reform plan backed by Speaker Mike Madigan, but the workers who would be most directly affected are stepping up their efforts to find an alternative.


Governor Pat Quinn calls the Madigan plan the most significant step yet to stabilize the state's finances.  But the "We Are One" coalition of public sector unions insists Madigan's proposal is unconstitutional and will only worsen the state's fiscal problems.


The unions have been in talks with Senate President John Cullerton in hopes of crafting an alternative that can win legislative support and survive any legal challenges.

Eastvold Continues To Seek Full Vote Recount

Even though she continues to trail by one vote, Katharine Eastvold is not giving up on her quest to join the Springfield school board. 


A discovery recount did not change the one-vote margin of victory for Eastvold’s opponent, Donna Moore.  But appearing live on 970 WMAY, Eastvold says she is still considering other legal options in hopes of getting a full recount. 


Eastvold says with such a small margin at stake, voters deserve to know that every single vote has been accurately counted.  Moore is expected to be sworn in as a school board member next Monday.

Ceremony Honors Fallen Police Officers

Police from around Illinois have paid tribute to their fellow officers who were killed in the line of duty.


The annual Police Officers Memorial ceremonies were held Thursday at the Statehouse.  This year’s ceremony was particularly emotional for local law enforcement, because of the death last November of state police trooper Kyle Deatherage during an I-55 traffic stop.  State Police director Hiram Grau says it’s a somber reminder of the risks that every peace officer assumes.


Among the speakers at the ceremonies in Springfield was the brother of Brian McMillen, a state police trooper who died in a duty-related traffic accident near Illiopolis in 2007.

Two Separate Pension Proposals Could Clash in General Assembly

After months with little movement on pension reform, there are now two separate proposals picking up steam… and they could be on a collision course.


House Speaker Mike Madigan’s plan sailed through the pensions committee Wednesday and could come up for a full House vote today.


But public sector unions call Madigan’s plan unconstitutional.


They are working with the other top Democrat in the legislature, Senate President John Cullerton, on a different plan that Cullerton calls “credible and constitutional.”


But so far, Cullerton is not releasing details of that plan.

Police Chief Stands by Decision to Destroy IA Files A Year Early

Springfield Police Chief Robert Williams says there was nothing improper about a policy change that led to the destruction of dozens of the department’s internal affairs files a year earlier than expected.


But Williams declines to comment on whether it was proper… or legal… to destroy those records while there were pending Freedom of Information Act requests for some of the documents.


Williams did apologize for not informing Mayor Mike Houston or the department’s labor negotiator about the change, but says modifications to the department’s union contract are routine.


When asked whether the decision to destroy files may have benefited any particular officer, Williams dismisses the idea as “conspiracy theories.”

Couple Files Lawsuit Accusing Springfield Cop of Aggressive Behavior

A Springfield police officer is the subject of a lawsuit filed by a couple who claim the officer acted aggressively and threatened them last year.


Erik and Andrea McCubbin say Detective Paul Carpenter was sitting in his car near the couple’s home.


When Andrea McCubbin left the home in her car, they claim Carpenter first gunned his car and aimed toward Erik, who was walking to the mailbox, and then sped off after Andrea and attempted to run her off the road.


Carpenter later returned to the couple’s home, and when they confronted him, they say he threatened to shoot Erik McCubbin.


The lawsuit was filed last month… city officials have not commented on the allegations.

Discovery Recount Finds No Irregularities in Subdistrict 5 School Board Race

Still no word from Katharine Eastvold about whether she will continue to pursue a further recount in her race for the Springfield school board.


Eastvold lost to Donna Moore by just one vote out of 1500 cast, and sought a discovery recount to look for any sign of discrepancies in the tabulation.


But a review of three precincts chosen by Eastvold produced no change in the results.


Eastvold’s attorney said he would consult with his client about her next move, but acknowledge it would be difficult to get a judge to order a full recount without any evidence of irregularities.

State Transportation Secretary Urges Governor to Veto Increased Speed Limit Law

A proposal to raise the speed limit on most Illinois interstates and tollways to 70 miles an hour has one big opponent… the state’s transportation secretary.


Ann Schneider says raising the speed limit will lead to more wrecks and more fatalities.


Schneider says she is preparing a report for Governor Pat Quinn, recommending that he veto that legislation if it reaches his desk.


That bill has passed the Senate and is pending in the House.

First Four Jurors Seated for Christopher Harris' Murder Trial

The first four jurors have been selected for the Christopher Harris murder trial in Peoria.


Three women and one man were chosen for the jury after being questioned on whether they could set aside anything they had heard previously on the case… and could devote up to a month hearing testimony in the trial.


Harris is charged with more than two dozen felony counts in the murders of five members of a Beason family in 2009.

Police Chief: No Wrongdoing In Decision To Shred Internal Affairs Files

Springfield Police Chief Robert Williams insists neither he nor the department did anything wrong in changing the rules related to the records of internal affairs investigations… and then using that rule change to destroy dozens of files. 


Williams says the change was made strictly to improve the department’s efficiency in responding to a large number of requests for records from the press and public. 


But Williams is apologizing for not notifying Mayor Mike Houston or the department’s labor negotiator of the change before it was enacted.

School Board Partial Recount Shows No Change In Vote Total

A partial recount in the photo-finish race for the Springfield school board has shown no change from the initial vote count. 


Katharine Eastvold sought that discovery recount after the official tally showed her losing by one vote to Donna Moore.  But the count of three precincts produced the exact same totals as the original tabulation. 


Eastvold’s attorney says no decision has been made yet on how to proceed, but acknowledges that it could be difficult to get a judge to order a full recount without any evidence of discrepancies in the original total.

Aldermen Demand Information on Decision to Destroy Internal Affairs Files

Springfield aldermen are demanding answers about an agreement between the police department and the union representing officers which calls for internal affairs records to be expunged more quickly.


The contract approved late last year calls for records of internal investigations to be destroyed after five years… but then, without city council approval, department brass approved a change to get rid of those records after four years.


As a result, some records that were being sought under a Freedom of Information request were destroyed.


Police Chief Robert Williams says the change was made to improve “efficiency” in the department.

Another Ratification Vote Expected in AFSCME Contract

The contract agreement between the state and AFSCME is suddenly unsettled again.


The union says its members will take another ratification vote on the deal.


The union ratified the contract weeks ago, but now says the terms have changed.


At issue is the state’s agreement to drop its appeal of a court order requiring that union workers receive promised back pay raises.


Attorney General Lisa Madigan has refused to drop the appeal, saying it’s necessary to keep it active until lawmakers approve money to pay those raises.

AFSCME: Madigan Pension Proposal Won't Stand Up Against Legal Challenge

There’s another new pension plan on the table at the Statehouse.


House Speaker Mike Madigan has introduced his own proposal, similar to a bipartisan proposal that passed the House earlier this spring.


Madigan’s bill has slightly more generous provisions for cost-of-living increases and a lower cap on the salary upon which pension benefits are based.


Republicans at the House say there are ideas in the plan worth considering, but AFSCME calls Madigan’s approach unconstitutional and predicts it wouldn’t survive a legal challenge.

Thornton to Step Down from Henson Robinson Zoo

The longtime director of Henson Robinson Zoo has resigned.


Talon Thornton had run the zoo since 1995.


His resignation is open-ended, and he will stay on until a replacement is found. Thornton reportedly cited “personal reasons” for deciding to leave. He did not return calls seeking comment.


The zoo has been under a microscope in recent months.


Its bid for accreditation was put on hold last year pending improvements to its facilities and exhibits.


The park district also adopted a new master plan last year for upgrades at the zoo.

Historic Springfield Black Orphanage Among Ten Most Endangered Sites

A historic black orphanage in Springfield is among the ten most endangered historic places in the state, according to a new list from Landmarks Illinois.


The home on South 12th Street was the first orphanage established in the state to for black children, and one of the first of its kind in the nation.


The building is now owned by the family of the late Lyman Hubbard, the former Tuskegee Airman who had planned to turn it into a museum.


The family lacks the funds to restore or even maintain the building, leaving its future in doubt.

Beason Murder Trial Could Take a Month

Prospective jurors in the Christopher Harris murder trial are being told the case could last a month.


Harris is one of two brothers accused in the 2009 murders of Rick and Ruth Gee of Beason and three of their children.


Potential jurors are filling out questionnaires and will be evaluated by attorneys on both sides, who hope to select a panel of 12 jurors and four alternates by the end of the week.


Prosecutors have dropped more than two dozen of the counts they originally filed against Harris, a move they hope will streamline and simplify the case they present to the jury.


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