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October 21, 2014, 2:05 am
970 WMAY News Archives for 2013-06

Retiree Health Care Premiums Kick In Monday


The start of the new fiscal year on Monday means many state government retirees will have to begin paying health insurance premiums for the first time since they retired. 

 

A Sangamon County judge on Friday refused to block the state from collecting those premiums, but ordered the money held in a separate account while court challenges continue over whether the new retiree premiums are constitutional.

Aldermen To Consider Tighter Control Over Legal Contracts


Springfield aldermen may seek tighter control over City Hall's use of outside attorneys. 

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin has introduced an ordinance that requires City Council approval for any legal services contract worth more than $5,000.  Right now, aldermanic approval is only needed for contracts over $25,000.

Ordinance Would Allow More Garage Sales In Springfield


A Springfield alderman wants to relax the limits on garage sales.  The current city ordinance only allows residents to hold two garage sales in a six-month period. 

 

Alderman Kris Theilen wants to double that, to allow up to four garage sales per resident every six months.  Residents will still be limited to no more than three consecutive days per garage sale, and could only conduct them between 7am and 6pm.

Madigan: No Reason For Her Father To Step Aside If She Runs For Governor


Some people are calling it the “Daddy Problem.”  But Attorney General Lisa Madigan says her father’s powerful position isn’t a problem… even if she decides to run for governor. 

 

The Chicago Sun-Times quotes Madigan saying there is no reason House Speaker Mike Madigan would have to step down if she decides to challenge Governor Pat Quinn in next spring’s Democratic primary. 

 

Some observers and potential opponents have suggested it would be a conflict of interest to have Madigan in the governor’s office while her father dominates the legislative branch.

Residents Say Sangamon County On Right Track, But Remain Concerned About Crime, School Funding


A majority of Sangamon County residents believe things are on the right track here… and find the county to be a good place to raise kids. 

 

But a new survey of county residents also finds they are concerned about crime, and a substantial percentage has struggled to pay for essentials like food or health care. 

 

The survey results… which were formally released today… find a majority of county residents would favor some kind of tax increase to provide more money for local schools.

Panel Recommends Combining All County 911 Operations In Single Center


Sangamon County should have just one 911 dispatch center to cover all communities… instead of the current system where two towns run their own call centers, in addition to the main county facility. 

 

That’s the recommendation of the Citizens Efficiency Commission.  Chairman Karen Hasara says the current system is wasteful, and eliminating the separate centers in Chatham and Auburn could save residents there a half-million dollars a year without diminishing 911 service. 

 

The recommendation is non-binding.  It’s up to officials in those communities to decide whether to pursue the idea.

Lawmakers Question July 9th Deadline for Pension Reform


There are not many visible signs of progress after the first meeting of a legislative committee looking for a pension reform compromise.

 

But there are continued signs of tension between some committee members and Governor Pat Quinn.

 

State senator Kwame Raoul is the chairman of the bipartisan conference committee… and says he doesn’t necessarily feel bound by Quinn’s demand that the panel produce a compromise for a vote by July 9th.

 

But Quinn says some committee members are spending more time complaining about his deadline than they are actually working on a solution.

Mother and Two Children Die in Morgan County Fire


It could be days before the State Fire Marshal determines a cause of the fire that killed three members of a Morgan County family early Thursday.

 

Kayla Perry and her two sons… 7-year-old Joshua and 4-year-old Christopher… died when their mobile home was engulfed in flames.

 

A neighbor saw the fire and pulled Kayla Perry out, but she later died of her injuries.

 

The neighbor was unable to get to the boys. Authorities do not believe the fire was suspicious.

AG Madigan Predicts Amendatory Veto on Concealed Carry Bill


Attorney General Lisa Madigan is predicting that Governor Pat Quinn will issue an amendatory veto of the concealed carry legislation now sitting on his desk.

 

Madigan says Quinn may attempt to alter provisions of the bill that relate to where guns could be legally carried, and says the governor may make his changes within the next few days.

 

Quinn is under a July 9th court deadline to enact a statute that will allow Illinoisans to legally carry weapons for self-defense.

Springfield Unemployment Numbers Down, Decatur's Up Over 10 Percent


Unemployment is down again in Springfield.

 

The local jobless rate fell to 6.5% in May, compared to 6.8% a year ago.

 

Springfield has the third lowest unemployment rate among major Illinois metropolitan areas, with only Bloomington-Normal and the Quad Cities doing better.

 

In contrast, Decatur has the highest unemployment rate in the state.

 

Recent layoffs at a Caterpillar plant there caused the jobless rate to shoot up past 10%.

State Official: Springfield Bridge Is Safe and Sound


State officials say there’s nothing to worry about… even though 19,000 cars a day drive over a Springfield bridge rated as “structurally deficient.”

 

An IDOT engineer in charge of bridges says if a bridge is open, it’s safe to drive on.

 

Carl Puzey, in an interview for the 970 WMAY News Feed, says the bridge in question, on Chatham Road north of Wabash, has been inspected and is sound, although its age does mean regular maintenance is essential.

 

More than a dozen Springfield bridges have some degree of structural deficiency.

Springfield Jobless Rate Dips, Decatur's Soars


Springfield’s jobless rate is down from a year ago. 

 

Latest numbers from the State Department of Employment Security put local unemployment at 6.5% in May, down from 6.8% one year earlier.  Springfield has the third-lowest jobless rate among major metropolitan areas around the state… only Bloomington-Normal and the Quad Cities were lower last month. 

 

The highest metro jobless rate in the state is in Decatur, where layoffs swelled the number last month to 10.3%.

IDOT: Bridges Are In Good Shape; Future Funding A Concern


State transportation officials are wondering where the money will come from to pay for ongoing upkeep and maintenance of thousands of Illinois bridges. 

 

Illinois ranks well above the national average in terms of bridges in good condition, but about 1 in 12 bridges around the state are listed as “structurally deficient.” That includes more than a dozen in the immediate Springfield area. 

 

IDOT officials say as long as a bridge is open, it is safe to travel… but they also wonder how to maintain that track record once funding from the “Illinois Jobs Now” public works program runs out.

Funding Released For Local Road Projects


Governor Pat Quinn is releasing nearly half-a-million dollars for Springfield-area road projects. 

 

The biggest local project in the new round of funding is a $283,000 contract for “microsurfacing” of more than four miles of Old Route 36 at, and east of, New Berlin. 

 

The projects also include resurfacing of nearly 12 miles of Interstate 55 from the Lake Springfield bridge to the Montgomery County line… patching on Old Route 36 east of Farmingdale Road… and lighting at three intersections along Illinois Route 97.

Woman, Two Children Die In Morgan County Fire


Three people are dead following an early morning fire in Morgan County. 

 

The sheriff’s department there says an adult female and two children under the age of 10 died when their mobile home burned near Marnico Village. 

 

A neighbor spotted the flames and entered the home trying to rescue people.  That person was able to pull the woman out of the home, but she later died.  A fourth person who lives there was not home at the time. 

 

Authorities do not believe the fire was suspicious, but the State Fire Marshal is still investigating the cause.  The names of the victims have not yet been released.

Republicans Just Say ''No'' To Progressive State Income Tax


Top legislative Republicans are vowing to block any attempt to move Illinois to a “progressive” income tax.

 

For decades, Illinois has operated with a flat tax, where all individuals are taxed at the same rate, regardless of income levels.  Some Democrats are proposing a switch to a system where higher incomes are taxed at higher rates. 

 

But the GOP says that move is nothing more than a tax increase… under a pretense of “tax fairness.”

Equality Illinois: Supreme Court Ruling Shows Civil Unions Not Equivalent to Marriage


Supporters of same-sex marriage say Wednesday’s landmark Supreme Court ruling bolsters their efforts to get it approved in Illinois.

 

The gay rights group Equality Illinois says the high court decision shows there is no justifiable reason to deny same-sex couples the same benefits that heterosexual married couples receive.

 

Supporters also say the ruling… which extends federal tax and other benefits to legally-married gay couples… shows that civil unions are not an adequate substitute for full marriage equality.

Mixed Reaction From Supreme Court's DOMA Ruling


Reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage has been intense… and mixed.

 

Governor Pat Quinn applauded the high court ruling, and said he hoped it would push the General Assembly to complete work on a pending same-sex marriage bill.

 

But Springfield Catholic Bishop Thomas John Paprocki blasted the decision as “devoid of moral authority,” and said the five majority justices gave, quote, “legal protection to an intrinsic evil.”

Milhiser: Unlikely to Charge Concealed Carry Cases Unless There Are Other Offenses


The ban on concealed carry remains on the books in Illinois, for the moment… but if you get busted for it in Sangamon County right now, you’re likely to get a pass.

 

State’s Attorney John Milhiser says he is not currently bringing charges in case involving people carrying concealed weapons… as long as there are not other criminal offenses connected to the incident.

 

But Milhiser… in a live interview on 970 WMAY… says he will not issue a blanket statement telling county residents it’s OK to carry a concealed weapon, as a number of other county prosecutors have done.

 

Listen to Jim Leach interview John Milhiser here.

Brady Launches Campaign for Governor


Even though Bill Brady lost the 2010 governor’s race, he says the last three years have proven that he was right in that campaign… and that he should now replace the man who beat him.

 

Brady formally launched his latest campaign for governor on Wednesday, attacking Governor Pat Quinn for raising taxes, presiding over high unemployment, and failing to fix the pension mess.

 

Brady will face at least three challengers in next spring’s Republican primary.

Credit Downgrade Doesn't Keep Bond Buyers Away


Despite recent credit downgrades, Illinois has had no problem finding buyers for its latest bond sale.

 

But Governor Pat Quinn says the state paid a price for not resolving the pension crisis.

 

Uncertainty about the state’s finances drove up the interest rates that Illinois will have to pay to bondholders.

 

Quinn says that will cost taxpayers $130 million over the 25-year lifespan of those bonds.

 

The bonds are being used to finance various state construction projects.

CWLP Preparing for Coming EPA Standards


City Water Light and Power says it knows one thing for sure about President Obama’s new push to address climate change… it’s going to cost the utility money.

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air,” chief utilities engineer Eric Hobbie says proposed new restrictions on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants like CWLP’s will inevitably lead to higher costs.

 

Hobbie says the utility seek to avoid rate hikes to cover those costs, so those upcoming changes will likely force cutbacks at CWLP.

Springfield Police Warn About Possible Scam


Springfield police are putting out a warning about a possible scam that appears to play off the excitement over the forthcoming Hy-Vee store on South MacArthur.

 

Authorities say the incident started a couple of days ago, when a local woman received a call from a female claiming to be conducting a survey for the planned supermarket.  The next day, the intended target got a follow-up call from a male who called himself "Derek," who said the woman had won some in-store coupons.  He then said he needed to deliver the coupons to her in person.

 

Hy-Vee was notified of the incident and contacted police.  The company says it is not conducting any surveys in the Springfield market.  Police advise residents never to give out personal info over the phone, and to report suspicious solicitations.

 

 

Bishop Paprocki: Supreme Court Ruling On Gay Marriage ''Devoid Of Moral Authority''


The landmark Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage are being harshly condemned by Springfield’s Catholic bishop. 

 

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki issued a statement saying the court’s decision gives, quote, “legal protection to an intrinsic evil.” 

 

The bishop calls the two high court rulings “hollow decisions” which are “absolutely devoid of moral authority.” And he calls on people of faith to reject what he calls the “redefinition of marriage.”

Quinn Applauds Landmark Supreme Court Ruling On Gay Marriage


Governor Pat Quinn says the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage provides 11-hundred reasons for Illinois to pass a marriage equality law. 

 

That number is a reference to the estimated 11-hundred federal rights and benefits that are extended to married couples… but which were denied to legally-married gay couples until now.  The high court ruled that denying those benefits to same-sex couples who were married in a state that permits such unions is unconstitutional. 

 

Quinn again called on lawmakers to approve a pending bill which cleared the state Senate in February but was never called for a vote in the House.

Milhiser: Charges Unlikely In Concealed Carry Cases Unless Other Offenses Are Involved


Sangamon County's state's attorney won't issue a blanket statement telling county residents they can carry concealed weapons before a new state law is approved.  But John Milhiser acknowledges that as a practical matter, there is very little chance he will prosecute anyone for doing so at this point unless some other offense is involved. 

 

Milhiser says he has personally reviewed every such case since a federal court struck down Illinois's ban on concealed carry last year, and has not filed charges in any of them. 

 

There are several pending cases that were filed before that court ruling... but Milhiser says they could very well be dismissed once a new concealed carry law is enacted.

Brady Runs Again For Governor


Bill Brady says he doesn't plan to change his message from his last, unsuccessful, campaign for governor... because time has proved that he was right.

 

The Bloomington Republican is running again, despite losing to Governor Pat Quinn in 2010 by less than one-percent of the vote.

 

Brady says since then, Quinn has raised taxes, presided over high unemployment, and failed to fix the state pension mess.

 

He's vowing to roll back the tax hike and "reprioritize" state spending if elected.

 

He is one of at least four candidates running in next year's GOP primary.

Jefferson Crossing Development TIF Approval Moving Forward


Springfield aldermen have tentatively approved a $9.2 million investment of TIF district funds into the planned Jefferson Crossing redevelopment.

 

City officials believe it is the largest single TIF project in Springfield history.

 

The money will support infrastructure improvements for the property at Jefferson and Veterans, which is slated for a Qik ‘n’ EZ convenience store and other retail outlets, along with green space.

CWLP Insurance Up for Passage, Includes Terrorism Coverage


So you think your insurance bill is high?

 

Springfield aldermen will vote next week on an insurance policy for City Water Light and Power.

 

The premium for one year of coverage for the utility… $1.7 million.

 

The contract with R.W. Troxell includes a $90,000 rider to cover the utility against terrorism events.

Springfield's Utility Preparing for Possible New Emission Standards


City Water Light and Power still isn’t sure how President Obama’s new push on climate change might affect utility operations.

 

Obama wants new limits on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

 

But a CWLP spokesman says those limits have not yet been set… and once they are, the utility will have time to come in compliance.

 

 

State Police Now Investigating Springfield Police File Shred Case


Illinois State Police are now involved in the investigation of document shredding within the Springfield Police Department.

 

That word comes from the State’s Attorney’s Appellate Prosecutor’s office… which took over the case because Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milhiser had a conflict of interest.

 

The appellate prosecutor’s office says state police investigators are looking into whether SPD brass violated state law by destroying internal affairs records ahead of schedule, and without prior approval from state officials.

 

There’s no timeline for completion of that investigation or a decision on how to proceed with the case.

Cross Says Pension Deal Can Happen By Deadline


House Republican leader Tom Cross does not share the skepticism of some of his fellow lawmakers about meeting Governor Pat Quinn’s deadline for a pension reform deal.

 

Cross says working out a compromise on the complex issue can be done before July 9th, the date Quinn wants to bring lawmakers back to Springfield for a final vote.

 

In an interview on the 970 WMAY News Feed Tuesday, Cross noted that the major players all want a deal sooner rather than later… and there are only a limited number of things that can be done to address the crisis, so he thinks an agreement can come together.

Brady to Launch Campaign for Governor Today


Another candidate enters the race for Illinois governor today.

 

Republican state senator Bill Brady will formally launch his campaign with a four-city fly-around, including a noon hour stop in Springfield.

 

It’s Brady’s third try for the Governor’s Mansion.

 

He finished third in the 2006 GOP primary.

 

In 2010, he narrowly won the primary, and then narrowly lost the general election to Governor Pat Quinn.

CWLP Bracing For Impact Of Obama Climate Control Plan


City Water Light and Power doesn't know yet how President Obama's climate change initiatives might affect the city's electric operations. 

 

Obama wants new restrictions on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.  But a CWLP spokesperson says those standards have not yet been developed, and it's not clear how long the utility will have to comply.

State Police Investigating SPD Document Shredding


Illinois State Police are now involved in the investigation of the shredding of Springfield police internal affairs documents… a year ahead of schedule. 

 

The State’s Attorney’s Appellate Prosecutor’s office says ISP investigators are looking into whether the actions of police department brass violated the law by destroying those documents.  There’s no timeline for the completion of that investigation or a determination by the appellate prosecutor on whether to proceed with a case against those involved. 

 

The documents were shredded earlier this year, despite a pending request under state records laws for many of those files.

Brady To Launch Campaign For Governor; Will Appear Live Wednesday On 970 WMAY


Yet another candidate formally jumps into the Republican race for governor Wednesday… and this one has been there before. 

 

State Senator Bill Brady will kick off his 3rd try for the Executive Mansion during a statewide fly-around that will include a stop in Springfield.  Brady finished third in the 2006 GOP primary, and then narrowly defeated Kirk Dillard in 2010… only to lose the general election to Governor Pat Quinn by less than one-percent. 

 

Brady says in a statement that he’s not giving up on Illinois… and with the right leadership the state can prosper again. 

 

He will make a noon hour stop at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport on Wednesday… Brady will also be a guest Wednesday morning at 8:10 on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”

Quinn Delivers Ultimatum On Terms Of Pension Deal


Governor Pat Quinn has drawn a line in the sand when it comes to pension reform… he says any plan sent to him by lawmakers must erase the state’s pension debt and provide 100-percent for public pension systems. 

 

Quinn delivered the ultimatum in an op-ed piece that appeared in several Illinois newspapers Tuesday.  The governor’s demand appears to be an attempt to deter a legislative conference committee from adopting the plan put forward by Senate President John Cullerton and public sector unions. Cullerton’s plan does not meet either criteria. 

 

Quinn wants that committee to devise a plan for a final legislative vote by July 9th.

Cross: Pension Deal Possible By Quinn's July Deadline


The leader of Illinois House Republicans believes a pension plan can come together by the July 9th deadline set by Governor Pat Quinn. 

 

Minority leader Tom Cross says all the major players want to find a resolution… and want to do so quickly.  Cross says there are only a limited number of ways to fix the pension mess and stay within the confines of the Illinois Constitution, so it shouldn’t take that much time to build a consensus around one and bring it back before lawmakers next month. 

 

Cross made his comments in a live interview on the 970 WMAY “News Feed.”

Cross Proposes Commemorative Lincoln Coin For Sesquicentennial Observance


A top Illinois lawmaker wants the U.S. Treasury to mint a special coin in honor of the upcoming sesquicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s death. 

 

House Republican leader Tom Cross has introduced the resolution, which asks for such a coin to be produced and distributed in April and May of 2015… to coincide with the anniversary of Lincoln’s death and the re-enactment of his funeral train procession back to Springfield. 

 

Cross hopes lawmakers can take action on that resolution when they return for another special session the week of July 8th.

Blackhawks Win Stanley Cup


It’s a morning of celebration in Chicago, and for hockey fans across Illinois, as the Blackhawks get their second Stanley Cup win in four seasons.

 

The ‘Hawks won it in dramatic fashion.

 

After trailing 2-1 with just one-minute-16-seconds to play in regulation, Chicago scored two goals in a 17-second span to secure a 3-2 victory and the NHL title over the Boston Bruins.

Demolition Work for New Hy-Vee Marks Potential MacArthur Blvd. Revitalization


Demolition work has already started on some of the vacant buildings that sit on the property that will eventually become the new Hy-Vee supermarket on MacArthur Boulevard.

 

City officials believe the project will be the anchor for a resurgence of development along a corridor that was once a major retail hub in Springfield.

 

When it’s completed next spring, the Hy-Vee store will feature a sit-down restaurant, an in-store chef and dietician, a drive-up pharmacy, and an adjacent convenience store with a drive-up window for coffee.

Quinn Carefully Reviewing Concealed Carry Law


Governor Pat Quinn says he is carefully going through every line and every provision of the concealed carry bill that lawmakers sent to him last month.

 

A number of legislators have called on Quinn to take quick action on the bill so that they have time to act on any changes he might make before a July 9th court-ordered deadline to get a concealed carry law on the books.

 

But Quinn says, quote, “politicians will have to wait,” because he wants to make sure that the bill protects public safety.

Brady To Announced Governor Candidacy This Week


Another Republican formally jumps into the race for governor this week.

 

State Senator Bill Brady’s campaign announced that he will travel to Springfield and several other cities on Wednesday to kick off another bid for the job.

 

Brady won the 2010 Republican primary by a razor-thin margin… only to lose to Governor Pat Quinn in the general election.

 

He joins State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and businessman Bruce Rauner in the race.

 

State Senator Kirk Dillard is also expected to make a formal campaign announcement soon.

Illinois To Sell Bonds In Shadows of Poor Bond Ratings


Illinois will try to sell a new round of bonds this week… despite weak outlooks from credit rating agencies and a volatility in the bond market that could drive the state’s interest costs even higher.

 

Standard and Poor’s gave Illinois an A-minus ranking for its bonds, with a negative outlook… barely a passing grade in the competitive bond market.

 

And that low grade could force Illinois to offer higher interest rates to bond buyers… potentially adding millions to the amount it will eventually take to pay off those bonds, which will be used to finance construction projects.

Pana Woman Found


A Pana woman has been found more than 24 hours after she was reported missing.

 

68-year-old Viola Howell was found with her vehicle on a dirt road near a cemetery in Shelby County.

 

She was discovered just hours after police issued an “endangered missing person” advisory for Howell.

 

She had last been seen around noon on Sunday at a Walgreen’s in Pana, where witnesses said she appeared disoriented before driving off.

 

Howell was taken to Pana Hospital for treatment.

Pana Police Search For Missing Woman


Pana police have issued an “Endangered Missing Person” notification for a 69-year-old woman who was last seen around noon Sunday in the parking lot of the Walgreen’s in Pana. 

 

Witnesses say Viola Howell appeared disoriented before driving off alone.  She is described as a white female, five-foot-four inches tall, with brown hair and blue eyes.  She was driving a 1992 red Ford four-door, license plate VPV 963. 

 

Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to call the Pana police department at 562-2141.

Ground Is Broken On New MacArthur Blvd. Hy-Vee Store


You know people are looking forward to a new grocery store when they start gathering in the parking lot... almost a year before it opens. 

 

A large crowd of neighbors joined Springfield city and business leaders for a groundbreaking to mark the start of construction on the new Hy-Vee supermarket complex on South MacArthur. 

 

By the time work is done late next spring, the old K-Mart store and several adjacent empty buildings will be converted to a 90,000 square foot grocery store with a convenience store on the same property. 

 

The store will employ 400 full- and part-time workers, and is viewed as a major step in the effort to attract more business and revitalize the MacArthur retail corridor.

Report: 17 Percent of Payroll Going to State Workers Who Make $100,000 or More


A published report finds more than 6,200 Illinois state government workers took home compensation of more than $100,000 last year.

 

GateHouse Media Illinois reports that 8 percent of the state's workforce topped $100,000 in 2012, making up about 17 percent of a $4.5 billion payroll.

 

About 10% of state workers in Sangamon County make over $100,000, led by Robert Rupnik, chief investment officer for the Teachers Retirement System.

 

He made $357,000 last year, the highest state worker salary in Illinois.

 

Most of the highest paid employees in Sangamon County are circuit court judges or associate judges, whose salaries are covered by the state.

 

The analysis looked at all compensation, including overtime pay.

Physician Shortage Among 22 Illinois Counties


Menard and Macoupin Counties are among 22 in Illinois with chronic physician shortages.

 

The situation could become even more severe next year, when thousands more people become eligible for state-backed insurance programs.

 

State officials have been working on strategies to ease the shortage.

 

But the State Medical Society has opposed efforts to let nurses and physician assistants provide more of the services that only doctors can currently perform.

Macon County Allows Concealed Carry With Conditions


Macon County is the latest in Illinois to say it will no longer prosecute concealed carry cases… even though a new law is not yet on the books.

 

But the state’s attorney there says it won’t be a free-for-all.

 

Prosecutors say people will be allowed to carry concealed weapons for self-defense if they have a valid FOID card, have undergone a safety training course, and are not under the influence.

 

But they say anyone who carries a gun without meeting those requirements will feel the full weight of the law.

Compared With Other States, Socioeconomic Conditions of IL Kids In The Middle


Illinois is sitting near the middle of the pack among the 50 states when it comes to the well-being of children.

 

The annual Kids Count report ranks Illinois 23rd among the states on a variety of economic, educational and health factors.

 

That’s actually a drop from the previous year, when the state ranked 21st.

 

Child poverty is a big concern… the number of children in poverty rose three-percent from year to year.

 

But the state does well in access to health care, and has seen improvement in high school graduation percentages.

More Candidates Enter Statewide Races


More candidates are lining up to run for statewide offices in 2014.

 

Democratic State Senator Michael Frerichs has announced his plans for run for Treasurer.

 

Republican incumbent Dan Rutherford plans to leave the office to run for governor.

 

And Will County Auditor Duffy Blackburn will seek the Democratic nomination for Comptroller.

 

Blackburn hopes to challenge popular GOP incumbent Judy Baar Topinka, who is seeking another term.

Menard, Macoupin Face Doctor Shortages; Situation Could Get Worse


Menard and Macoupin Counties are among 22 in Illinois with chronic physician shortages. 

 

The situation could become even more severe next year, when thousands more people become eligible for state-backed insurance programs. 

 

State officials have been working on strategies to ease the shortage.  But the State Medical Society has opposed efforts to let nurses and physician assistants provide more of the services that only doctors can currently perform.

TRS Investment Officer Is Highest Paid In State Government, At $357,000 A Year


The highest paid employee for the State of Illinois works out of offices in Springfield. 

 

A review of state worker salaries by Gatehouse Media finds the biggest annual salary last year was earned by Robert Rupnik, chief investment officer with the Teachers Retirement System. 

 

He made $357,000 last year, but an agency spokesman says Rupnik could have made three times that much in the private sector.

Lawmakers Will Face Furlough Days In New Fiscal Year


Illinois lawmakers will take a pay cut in the new fiscal year that starts next week. 

 

 

Governor Pat Quinn has signed a bill requiring legislators to take one unpaid furlough day a month for the next 12 months. 

 

The bill also prohibits cost-of-living increases for state elected officials and freezes reimbursement rates for hotels, meals and mileage.

Fire-Damaged Building In Downtown Lincoln Not A Total Loss


Fire officials in Lincoln believe the historic former bank building that caught fire Friday night can be salvaged. 

 

But most of the contents of the Oasis Senior Center, which occupied that downtown building, were lost. 

 

The building burned Friday night after a strong storm moved through the area, and investigators believe a lightning strike caused the fire.

Democrat Launches Bid To Replace Topinka


A Democrat is launching a campaign to replace Republican incumbent Judy Baar Topinka in the Comptroller’s office. 

 

Will County Auditor Duffy Blackburn says the office needs a professional accountant to manage the state’s checkbook… not just a politician who will try to blame others for the state’s fiscal crisis.

Macon County Latest To Allow Concealed Carry


Macon County is the latest Illinois jurisdiction to allow residents to carry concealed weapons, even before the practice is officially signed into law. 

 

The Decatur Herald and Review says Macon County prosecutors won’t charge anyone for carrying a weapon… if they have a valid FOID card and have completed a safety training course.

Fire Heavily Damages Century-Old Building In Downtown Lincoln


Fire has heavily damaged a historic building on the downtown square in Lincoln. 

 

The century-old one-time bank building, which currently houses the Oasis Senior Center, went up in flames Friday evening. Several people inside got out safely, although three firefighters suffered minor injuries. 

 

Investigators think a lightning strike may have sparked that blaze in Lincoln.

State Officials Warn Of Dangers From Lightning Strikes


The dangers of lightning go beyond the risk of fire… and state officials want you to take those dangers seriously. 

 

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is issuing a reminder about summer storm safety… warning that if you can hear thunder, you could be within range of a lightning strike, even if the storm isn’t directly overhead. 

 

Officials say there is no safe place outdoors during a lightning storm.  Two people have already died in Illinois this year from lightning strikes.

Former Legislative Aide Charged With Defrauding State


A federal grand jury in Springfield has indicted a one-time aide to a former state lawmaker on charges that he misused part of a million-dollar AIDS awareness grant to benefit himself and that representative. 

 

The indictment against Lloyd Kelly was handed down last year, but was only unsealed this week. 

 

It alleges Kelly and the representative… identified as Public Official A… used the money for personal and political expenses, and to attend athletic events.  The investigation is ongoing.

O'Fallon Man Charged In Death Of Toddler Left In Hot Car


An O’Fallon man has been charged with involuntary manslaughter after his toddler son died when the boy was left in a hot car. 

 

Authorities say Wayne Hubert put the 23-month-old boy in a car seat, then went back into his house and passed out drunk.  The boy was dead when he was found by his mother more than two hours later after she came home from work.  Temperatures in O’Fallon Thursday were in the 90s.

Montgomery County GOP Head Resigns After Email Comments


The Republican Party chairman in Montgomery County has resigned… after making national headlines for his e-mail rant against a GOP primary challenger to Congressman Rodney Davis.

 

Davis joined other party leaders in demanding that Jim Allen step down because of that e-mail, in which Allen referred to candidate Erika Harold in terms that were viewed as sexist and racist.

 

Allen had been a supporter of Davis before the controversy erupted… and Davis says he hopes the incident doesn’t harm his re-election campaign.

Lawmakers Urge Quinn to Act on Concealed Carry Legislation


A group of Illinois lawmakers says it’s time for Governor Pat Quinn to pull the trigger on the pending concealed carry bill… no matter what he’s going to do with it.

 

A letter signed by 23 Democratic senators urges Quinn to take action quickly on the legislation, in order to beat a court-ordered deadline to get a concealed carry law on the books.

 

The letter does not say what Quinn should do, just that he should do it quickly.

 

The governor is still deciding whether to sign, amend, or veto the legislation.

Six State's Attorneys Say No To Prosecuting Concealed Carry Violations


More than half a dozen Illinois prosecutors are no longer enforcing the concealed carry law that remains on the books in the state for now.

 

But it turns out that’s not anything new.

 

Some state’s attorneys tell the Associated Press they have rarely, if ever, brought concealed carry charges unless there was some other criminal activity involved.

 

The Effingham County State’s Attorney, Bryan Kilber, says he has not prosecuted concealed carry violations, quote, “as long as the person is not acting like a jerk.”

Overtime Issue for City Budget in First Quarter


Springfield is closely monitoring expenditures after the city racked up higher-than-expected overtime costs in the first three months of the fiscal year.

 

Overtime is well ahead of projections in the public works department… mainly because of the manpower needed to respond to a major blizzard in March and a damaging windstorm on Memorial Day.

 

The fire department has also racked up large amounts of overtime to meet minimum staffing levels.

 

Mayor Mike Houston says starting in August, a new firefighter recruit class will reduce some of the need for that overtime.

Traffic Tie Ups For Sangamon County Fair Could Get Worse Tonight


Just as county officials predicted, traffic was a nightmare on Interstate 72 heading into New Berlin Thursday night.

 

And the situation is likely to get worse tonight, with country superstar Trace Adkins taking the stage at the Sangamon County Fair.

 

The sheriff’s department has been encouraging people to get off the interstate sooner and take back roads to the fairgrounds.

 

But despite those warnings, people described I-72 west of Springfield as a “parking lot” Thursday night.

Montgomery County GOP Chair Resigns Under Pressure


The chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party has resigned following a firestorm that erupted over a controversial e-mail that he authored.

 

Jim Allen submitted his resignation to the state GOP after several calls for him to step down, including one from Congressman Rodney Davis.  Allen was a supporter of Davis, and in the e-mail, he attacked Davis’s primary opponent, Erika Harold.  In that e-mail, Allen referred to Harold as “miss queen,” compared her to a streetwalker, and suggested she would eventually be hired by a law firm seeking to meet a minority quota. 

 

Davis called the remarks “asinine,” but says they are not in his control and not something he would ever condone, so they should not reflect on his campaign.  Both state party chair Jack Dorgan and national GOP chairman Reince Priebus urged Allen to step aside.

State Medical Society Applauds Decision To Classify Obesity As A Disease


The head of the Illinois State Medical Society is applauding a decision by the American Medical Association to classify obesity as a disease. 

 

Appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Dr. Eldon Trame says the decision is important because it clears the way to begin treating obesity as a serious condition on its own… rather than waiting until the condition triggers other serious conditions like diabetes or heart disease. 

 

He says the AMA position could have an impact on what insurance policies and other health initiatives will cover.

Illinois Jobless Rate Dips In May


Illinois’s jobless rate dropped slightly in May compared to April, but the rate remains higher than a year ago. 

 

The statewide unemployment rate fell to 9.1% in May, down two-tenths from a month earlier.  But it was below 9 percent in May of 2012. 

 

State officials say Illinois businesses added nearly 12,000 jobs last month… and they hope that indicates a trend toward more job creation.

Another Chance To ''Meet The Mayor'' Tonight


You will get another chance to Meet the Mayor tonight. 

 

Mayor Mike Houston will meet with city residents for his monthly face-to-face chats.  Residents can have up to ten minutes each to ask questions or seek the mayor’s help with city government issues. 

 

No appointment is needed… it’s first come, first served, starting at 5pm at the Mayor’s office in the Municipal Center East.

Little Big Town Headlines Sangamon County Fair Thursday


It should be a busy night at the Sangamon County Fair, with popular country band Little Big Town as the headline act in the Grandstand.  The Sangamon County sheriff’s office still recommends that you take an alternate round to the fairgrounds in New Berlin, to avoid huge traffic backups on Interstate 72.

Quinn Gives Deadline for Pension Reform


They’ve debated the issue for months without success.

 

Now Governor Pat Quinn says lawmakers have just three weeks to complete their work on a pension reform plan that he can sign.

 

Quinn has set a July 9th deadline for a newly-appointed bipartisan committee of lawmakers to hammer out an agreement based on competing pension reform proposals.

 

But many legislators are skeptical that the complicated talks can be completed in that tight timeframe.

Overdue AFSCME Raises Coming Next Month


A number of state workers will get hefty raises starting next month… reflecting salary increases that had been promised but not delivered in two previous contracts.

 

Combined with a two-percent increase in the state’s new contract with AFSCME, workers in six agencies will see a total increase of 7.25 percent.

 

But most workers will not receive the back pay that they would have gotten if those raises had been honored as promised.

 

Lawmakers did not approve a $140 million supplemental appropriation to fund that back pay.

GOP Gov. Candidate Rauner Blasts State Worker Pay


Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner says government workers are overpaid… and points to that as his first example of where he will cut state spending.

 

Rauner campaigned in Springfield Wednesday, and continued his attack on public sector unions.

 

He says their support of politicians who then negotiate and fund union contracts amounts to a corrupt conflict of interest.

 

Rauner says anyone doing business like that in the private sector would go to prison.

Montgomery County GOP Head Apologizes for Harold Remarks


A Republican county chairman is apologizing for what critics call a “racist rant” in an e-mail attacking congressional challenger Erika Harold.

 

Montgomery County GOP Chairman Jim Allen is a supporter of Congressman Rodney Davis.

 

In his email, he refers to Harold as “miss queen,” described her as a street walker, and predicted after the campaign, she would go to work for a law firm looking to meet its quota for minority hires.

 

Davis’s campaign says Allen’s comments are “misguided and wrong,” and is now distancing itself from Allen.

Springfield Area Bridges Listed as Structurally Deficient


More than a dozen bridges in the immediate Springfield area are listed as “structurally deficient” in a new report from a transportation group.

 

That group finds that one in 12 Illinois bridges fall into that category.

 

A ranking of structurally deficient does not mean the bridges are unsafe at the moment, but indicates they need regular monitoring and maintenance, and should be considered for replacement.

 

The most heavily traveled local bridge in that category is on Chatham Road, north of Wabash.

 

An average of 19,000 cars a day pass over that 46-year-old bridge.

Man Arrested Twice Selling Drugs to Undercover Cops


Sangamon County authorities say a suspected drug dealer was out on bond after his arrest last week… when he was busted again for suspicion of selling heroin.

 

48-year-old Steven Davis was taken into custody Monday after DIRT team members made controlled drug purchases from him.

 

That came just 11 days after Davis had been arrested on charges of selling heroin and cocaine to undercover officers.

 

His new bail is set at $75,000.

Alternate Routes to Enter Sangamon County Fair Encouraged


The Sangamon County Fair is now underway… and the sheriff’s office is asking you to consider using alternate routes to get there.

 

In a press release, Undersheriff Jack Campbell says on big concert nights… such as Friday’s upcoming appearance by country star Trace Adkins… traffic gets backed up on Interstate 72 at the New Berlin exit, creating a hazardous situation.

 

Campbell recommends exiting instead at either the Curran exit from the east, or the Alexander exit from the west, and then taking back roads to New Berlin.

 

The fair runs through Sunday. Tonight’s lineup features country band Little Big Town.

Springfield Man Busted For Drugs -- For The Second Time In Two Weeks


The old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again” may have been taken a bit too literally by a Springfield man.

 

Sangamon County authorities have arrested 48-year-old Steven Davis for possession and sale of heroin… less than two weeks after they busted him following a controlled purchase of heroin and cocaine.  Undersheriff Jack Campbell says Davis was out on bond after the first arrest when DIRT team members nabbed him for the second offense.

 

In both instances, police recovered sizable amounts of narcotics, drug paraphernalia, and thousands of dollars in cash.  Following the latest arrest, Davis was taken back to the Sangamon County Jail… where his bond is now set at $75,000.

Body Identified As That Of Missing Man


The Sangamon County Coroner now confirms that a body discovered Tuesday night near the Stanford Avenue overpass is that of a man who's been missing since June 3rd.

 

57-year-old Timothy "Mo" Ryan's death appears to be a suicide, according to Coroner Cinda Edwards.  A .45 caliber handgun was recovered at the scene. 

 

Authorities had been searching for Ryan for more than two weeks.  Authorities had been searching for Ryan for more than two weeks.  He had last been seen not far from where his body was discovered Tuesday night by rescue squad team members on a training exercise.

 

The coroner had withheld the name from official release until Wednesday afternoon, until Ryan's family could be notified.

Rauner Campaigns In Springfield, Says Government Workers Are Overpaid


Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner (ROW’-ner) brings his campaign to Springfield with a daring message in the Capitol City… government workers are getting paid too much.

 

The wealthy Chicago businessman is vowing to bring a more businesslike approach to government… and he says that means getting spending under control.  And in an interview for the 970 WMAY “News Feed,” Rauner points to one specific area where he says Illinois needs to spend much less.  He says government workers are overpaid by 23% compared to public sector workers in neighboring states, and contends the disparity is even worse compared to the private sector.  Rauner calls that unfair.

 

And he says that, and other, spending has to be reduced because taxes also must come down.  He promises a comprehensive review of the state’s entire tax structure… from income to sales to property… with an eye toward cutting it as much as possible.

 

Rauner says the big problem is that Illinois politicians are being controlled by public sector unions, in a system that he calls a corrupt conflict of interest.  Rauner is vowing to end the union influence if he’s elected.

1 in 12 Illinois Bridges May Be ''Structurally Deficient''


Here’s a number that could have you white-knuckling the steering wheel. 

 

A transportation safety group claims that 1 in 12 Illinois bridges are “structurally deficient,” putting them at risk of collapse.  The group Transportation for America says more than 2300 Illinois bridges are in need of extensive maintenance work… or should be replaced entirely. 

 

Despite those numbers, Illinois actually scores better than most states… 34 others had a higher percentage of potentially dangerous bridges.

Sheriff's Office: Use Alternate Routes For Sangamon County Fair


The Sangamon County Fair is now underway… and the sheriff’s office is asking you to consider using alternate routes to get there. 

 

In a press release, Undersheriff Jack Campbell says on big concert nights… such as Friday’s upcoming appearance by country star Trace Adkins… traffic gets backed up on Interstate 72 at the New Berlin exit, creating a hazardous situation.  Campbell recommends exiting instead at either the Curran exit from the east, or the Alexander exit from the west, and then taking back roads to New Berlin.

 

The fair runs through Sunday.  Tonight (Wednesday), events include the Motocross competition and the Miss Sangamon County Fair pageant.

Search Crews Discover Body During Training Exercise


Search and rescue crews on a training exercise have discovered the body of a man near the Stanford Avenue overpass.

 

The coroner’s office says it has not positively identified the man or determined a cause of death.

 

An autopsy will be conducted.

 

Those rescue squad members were training in that area as part of the ongoing search for a Springfield man who disappeared more than two weeks ago, but officials have not confirmed whether the body is that of the missing man.

Aldermen Approve TIF Money for Murals


Murals are coming to more building exteriors in downtown Springfield.

 

A week after a contentious argument over the project in a Springfield City Council committee of the whole meeting, aldermen on Tuesday unanimously, and without debate, approved $50,000 in downtown TIF district money to help the project.

 

Mayor Mike Houston dislikes the use of TIF money for the project, saying it will not generate additional tax dollars for the downtown TIF, but says a veto would be pointless because of the overwhelming support on the City Council.

Pension Reform Talks Could Go Beyond Today's Special Session


Illinois lawmakers will make another try at passing pension reform during today’s special session… but it’s likely to be July before a deal is approved.

 

The game plan now among legislative leaders is to appoint a “conference committee” of lawmakers from both chambers and both parties to work out a compromise from the various competing pension proposals.

 

The legislature would then come back in July for a final vote.

 

Governor Pat Quinn wants to bring them back in early July… which would also allow for any follow-up votes on concealed carry legislation if necessary.

 

But legislative leaders say the pension deal may not be done that soon.

House Speaker Madigan Pushes Gov. Quinn to Sign Concealed Carry Bill


House Speaker Mike Madigan predicts that if Governor Pat Quinn vetoes or makes major changes to a pending concealed carry bill, the General Assembly will easily override him.

 

Quinn is facing a July 9th deadline to sign the bill, after a federal appeals court ordered the state to lift its ban on concealed carry.

 

But Quinn has expressed concerns about concealed carry and other aspects of the bill approved by lawmakers last month.

 

In the meantime, Attorney General Lisa Madigan has been granted an extension… to July 22nd… to decide whether to challenge that earlier appellate court ruling.

You May Be Overcharged For Your Data Plan


If you’re like the average Illinoisan, you are paying way too much for your smartphone data plan.

 

The Citizens Utility Board says most people never come close to exceeding the limits on their data plan… and wind up paying for far more than they use.

 

The average customer is spending $200 more a year than they need to, according to CUB. Statewide, that adds up to more than a billion dollars a year.

Talks About Use of One Vacant School Building In Initial Phase


Springfield’s interim school superintendent says there is some initial interest in at least one of the two school buildings that were closed down last month in the latest round of budget cuts.

 

Bob Leming says there has been some conversation with a community service agency… which he did not identify… but he says it’s too early to go into much detail about where that could lead.

 

School board member Scott McFarland is pressing for the district to either use or sell the former Pleasant Hill and Wanless school buildings so that they don’t just sit empty in the middle of their North End neighborhoods.

School Looks to Change Name


A Springfield school wants to change its name. Staff at Matheny-Withrow School want to switch the name back to just Matheny.

 

That was the name of the school they came from before it was closed and they were moved into the former Withrow School building.

 

Both names have local historical significance.

 

W.O. Withrow was a longtime educator in the community, while James Matheny was a Springfield city founder and longtime friend of Abraham Lincoln.

No Pension Reform Deal Expected Until July At The Earliest


Wednesday’s special legislative session won’t be the last time that lawmakers convene in Springfield this summer. 

 

Governor Pat Quinn’s office says the plan now is to appoint a “conference committee” made up of lawmakers from both chambers who will negotiate agreement on the competing pension reform plans now on the table.  The legislature would then come back in early July to give final approval to that deal. 

 

State Senator Andy Manar (muh-NAR’), in an interview for the 970 WMAY “News Feed,” says he’s more optimistic now that a deal can actually come together… after months of disagreement.

Madigan Given More Time For Possible Appeal Of Concealed Carry Ruling


Attorney General Lisa Madigan has been granted a little more time to craft a possible appeal of the ruling that ordered the state to pass a concealed carry law. 

 

Madigan hasn’t decided if she will appeal that ruling… but wants to keep the option open until Governor Pat Quinn decides what he plans to do with a concealed carry bill that’s now sitting on his desk. 

 

The U.S. Supreme Court has now given Madigan until July 22nd to take action.

Another State's Attorney Allows Concealed Carry


Another state’s attorney has decided to allow people to carry concealed weapons in his county. 

 

The top prosecutor in White County joins at least four others around the state in choosing to no longer prosecute such cases… following the court ruling that ordered Illinois to repeal its ban and pass a concealed carry law. 

 

Other state’s attorneys are also considering similar moves… including Macon County, where prosecutors are still developing what standard they may apply while the state concealed carry law is in limbo.

Durbin, Davis Share Concerns Over NSA Data Collection


Both a top Democrat and a local Republican on Capitol Hill are expressing concerns about the size and scope of government snooping. 

 

U.S Senator Dick Durbin and GOP representative Rodney Davis appeared live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”  In separate interviews, each said the collection of phone records on the vast majority of Americans has the potential for abuse. 

 

Davis says he’s not aware that the privacy of innocent Americans has actually been violated, and notes that privacy and security are a delicate balance. 

 

But Durbin sees little difference between the current program and similar surveillance under President George W. Bush… and says in both cases, the government went too far.

 

Listen to the interviews here.

No Plan In Place For Vacant Springfield School Buildings


Despite a plea for fast action from a Springfield school board member, District 186 officials acknowledge they have no plans at the moment for two recently-vacated school buildings. 

 

Furniture is being moved out of Wanless and Pleasant Hill schools… most of it going to Feitshans (FIGHT’-shuns), where those students will attend classes in the fall. After that, some space will be used for storage, but beyond that, the district has made no arrangements to either occupy or sell the buildings. 

 

Board member Scott McFarland is asking for a plan as soon as possible, saying those vacant buildings could hurt property values in their north-end neighborhoods.

Springfield School Wants To Change Its Name


One Springfield school could start the new school year with a new name. 

 

Staff at Matheny-Withrow School are asking the school board for permission to change their name to just Matheny.  That was the name of the school before it was moved into the former Withrow building. 

 

Both Matheny and Withrow are local historical figures… W.O. Withrow was a longtime educator, while James Matheny was one of the city’s founders and a friend of Abraham Lincoln. 

 

The school board will consider the name change next month.

Former Channel 20 Anchor Back On The Air


A popular local TV newscaster is now popping up… on a different channel.

 

Marianne Manko… who abruptly left WICS Channel 20 earlier this year… has now been hired as an afternoon news anchor at WAND-TV in Decatur.  On her Facebook page, Manko says she will be anchoring the 4pm and 5pm newscasts. 

 

She has never explained the circumstances of her departure from WICS, but says on a Facebook post that “things work out for the best.”

Lopez Questions Residency for School Administrators at Dist. 186


A residency requirement is back in the news… but this time, it’s an issue for District 186.

 

School board vice-president Adam Lopez wants to clamp down harder on the district’s residency rule for administrators, saying the rule is vague about who is affected by it, and is only loosely enforced.

 

Interim superintendent Bob Leming says at least four administrators in the district appear to be in violation of the rule at the moment.

 

Lopez and others say if the district is good enough to work for, it should be good enough to live in.

Dist. 186 To Vote on Uniforms for Two Elementary Schools


Are uniforms the wave of the future for Springfield public schools?

 

Two more elementary schools are requesting permission to require students to wear uniforms… solid-colored shirts with dark or khaki pants.

 

The new Feitshans Elementary School… made up of students from the former Pleasant Hill and Wanless schools… wants to require a school logo on the shirt to establish a sense of identity in the new location.

 

The school board will vote on both requests next month.

Chatham Schools Settle with Former School Superintendent


Weeks of controversy surrounding the former superintendent of Chatham schools is over.

 

The Ball-Chatham district has reached an agreement with former superintendent Bob Gillum over allegations of improperly documented travel and expense reimbursements.

 

The SJ-R reports Gillum will pay the district $16,000 and will give up $1,000-a-month in health insurance coverage that was being paid by the district.

Strong Push for Cullerton Pension Reform Proposal Ahead of Special Session


As lawmakers head back to Springfield for a special session on pensions, public sector unions are pushing for a House vote on their preferred plan.

 

The unions negotiated a pension proposal with Senate President John Cullerton.

 

It saves less money than an alternate plan from House Speaker Mike Madigan… but the unions say their plan is more likely to survive a court challenge.

 

However, Madigan has refused to call the bill for a vote in the House.

 

More than two dozen lawmakers… and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka… have sent a letter to Madigan asking him to let the House consider the Cullerton proposal.

Quinn Signs Fracking Bill in Private


Governor Pat Quinn has signed a bill to allow “fracking” in the state… with strict regulation.

 

Quinn signed the bill in private, without a signing ceremony, apparently because the measure remains controversial with environmentalists who think hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and natural gas from the ground will damage soil and groundwater.

Edwards Joins Others in Support of TIF Money For Downtown Murals


A week after he used the term “fluff” while debating a proposal for murals in the downtown area, Alderman Frank Edwards has apparently had a change of heart.

 

Edwards joined Aldermen Sam Cahnman and Joe McMenamin Monday in voicing support the mural project and the use of TIF district dollars to pay for it.

 

The three aldermen also dispute Mayor Mike Houston’s contention that the downtown TIF has been overextended.

 

They say Houston is counting money for future projects that he wants… but that haven’t been approved by aldermen yet.

VIDEO: Sentimental Journey Flies Springfield


A refurbished World War II B-17 Bomber plane is in town and available for tours and flights throughout this week.

 

The plane that was originally built nearly 70 years ago was barely used before the end of the war.

 

Named The Sentimental Journey, it was then used to battle wild fires and also as a coast guard plane.

 

Eventually Commemorative Air Force out of Arizona purchased the plan and brought it back to it's original purpose as a B-17.

 

The Sentimental Journey will be in Springfield at the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport throughout most of this week.

 

Tours and flights are available by calling Landmark Aviation at the airport.

 

Watch video of Monday's media flight below:

 

Aldermen Support Murals, Criticize Houston Over TIF Funds


One dispute related to a downtown TIF project is being patched up… and another one is breaking out. 

 

Three Springfield aldermen are announcing their support for the use of $50,000 in TIF funds to pay for a downtown mural project.  That includes Alderman Frank Edwards, who last week used the term “fluff” when discussing the project, but now says it will provide a boost to downtown’s image. 

 

But Edwards and other aldermen are now criticizing Mayor Mike Houston, who claimed last week that the city council was draining the downtown TIF dry.  The aldermen say Houston is simply way off the mark.

Madigan Seeks Another Extension Of Deadline For Concealed Carry Appeal


Attorney General Lisa Madigan is asking for yet another extension of the deadline for a possible appeal of a court order mandating that Illinois put a concealed carry law on the books. 

 

The original order required that law to be in place by June 9th, but the U.S. Supreme Court gave Madigan until June 24th to file an appeal if one is necessary. 

 

But since Governor Pat Quinn has not acted yet on the bill that cleared the legislature last month, Madigan is asking the High Court to stretch that further… to July 24th... to see what Quinn will do and whether an appeal would be needed after that.

Quinn Signs Fracking Bill


Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation that clears the way for fracking to go forward in the state… under the watchful eye of regulators. 

 

Supporters say the bill will create jobs and revenue in the state… and allow companies to extract more needed oil and natural gas from well below the Earth’s surface. 

 

Quinn signed the bill in private and did not stage a signing ceremony, apparently to avoid antagonizing environmentalists who say the effects of fracking on the Earth and groundwater are still unknown.

GOP Pushes 401(k)-Style Plan For Public Employees


The latest pension plan to be floated before the General Assembly is coming from a group of conservative Republican lawmakers. 

 

The GOP plan calls for state workers to be moved to a 401(k)-style plan… with defined contributions, but not necessarily defined or guaranteed benefits. 

 

The plan is also supported by the conservative think tank Illinois Policy Institute.  Executive director John Tillman, appearing live on 970 WMAY, says public sector pay and benefits are far more generous than the private sector, and taxpayers can’t afford  to pay for benefits that they themselves can’t get.

Daley Offers Plan To Get Pension Bill Passed


Governor Pat Quinn’s challenger in next year’s Democratic primary is offering a road map that he says could break the logjam over pension reform. 

 

Bill Daley says a pension plan isn’t getting passed because Quinn is not showing enough leadership on the issue.  Daley says Quinn and another potential Democratic candidate for governor, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, should make the case that House Speaker Mike Madigan’s pension bill is constitutional. 

 

Daley says Quinn should then threaten to veto any other plan… and pledge to earmark a portion of the savings from Madigan’s plan for education.  The governor has said it’s now up to the legislative leaders to reach a deal on pensions.

Sangamon County Fair Opens Wednesday


Organizers of the Sangamon County Fair say they are thriving where other county fairs are struggling… because of a mix of affordability and top flight entertainment. 

 

The Grandstand lineup is heavy on country… including stars like Trace Adkins and Little Big Town.  Fair manager Kris Neuman says the emphasis on country reflects both its popularity and the comparatively low cost of booking those acts. 

 

That lets the fair include the concerts and carnival rides as part of a single admission price.  The fair opens Wednesday in New Berlin.

Motorcycle Fatalities Are Up, Crashes Down


Motorcycle fatalities are on the rise in the state of Illinois… even though the total number of motorcycle crashes is down.

 

148 motorcycle drivers or passengers died in crashes last year… a 13-percent increase from the previous year.

 

Experts say more people… especially baby boomers… are riding motorcycles, and think their inexperience may be a factor in the increase of fatalities.

 

Illinois is also one of only three states that does not have a helmet law, although it ranked 8th in the nation in motorcycle fatalities last year.

New Pension Plan Gets Hearing Tuesday


A proposed pension reform plan would have Illinois university employees paying more toward their pensions while receiving annual retirement-pay increases tied to inflation.

 

The plan would also shift employers' portion of pension payments from the state to universities and community colleges over a dozen years.

 

Senate President John Cullerton is expected to hold a hearing on it on Tuesday.

 

But most of the focus on Wednesday’s special session will be on House Speaker Mike Madigan’s pension plan, which is expected to be called again for a vote… even though it was overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate last month.

Auburn Denies State-Licensed Video Gambling at Liquor Establishments


One area community is saying “no thanks” to video gaming.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the Auburn City Council has voted down a proposal to allow liquor establishments to install state-licensed video gambling terminals.

 

The deciding vote was cast by Auburn Mayor Barb Stamer, who says two-thirds of residents who contacted her were opposed to allowing legalized gambling in the town.

 

But even Stamer says she may want to revisit the issue.

Quinn Urges the Purchase of Local Produce in Buy Illinois Challenge


Governor Pat Quinn is concerned about your diet.

 

Quinn is encouraging local shoppers to devote at least $10 of their weekly grocery bill to purchasing fresh Illinois-grown produce.

 

Quinn says if everyone took part in the “Buy Illinois Challenge,” it could mean two-billion-dollars in growth for the Illinois food industry.

 

A number of local stores and farmers’ markets are taking part in the state’s “Where Fresh Is” campaign, where Illinois produce is clearly marked.

 

In addition to corn and soybeans, the state is a leading producer of pumpkins and horseradish, and ranks in the top ten in asparagus, green peas and lima beans.

No Leads in Near Fatal Springfield Shooting


Springfield police don’t have much to go on in a weekend shooting that left a man in critical condition.

 

The 32-year-old victim was standing on a porch talking to another man near 13th and Cass when he was struck several times.

 

Authorities have not released the name of the victim… and have been unable to develop a solid description of the shooter.

Prospects Shaky For This Week's Special Session On Pensions


There’s still no clear path to a consensus on pension reform. 

 

Governor Pat Quinn and legislative leaders say they’ll try again during this week's special legislative session to pass House Speaker Mike Madigan’s more stringent pension plan… even though the Senate overwhelmingly rejected Madigan’s proposal last month.  The Senate prefers a plan put forward by President John Cullerton… but Madigan has refused to call Cullerton’s bill for a vote in the House.

 

Republicans say it’s clear that the Democrats who run the legislative and executive branches are not close to an agreement to address the growing pension crisis.

Tazewell County Is The Latest To Stop Enforcing Concealed Carry Ban


A third state’s attorney in Illinois has now said that he won’t prosecute concealed carry cases from this point forward… even though the state’s ban remains on the books for now. 

 

Tazewell County prosecutor Stewart Umholtz says the recent court ruling ordering the state to pass a concealed carry law makes it pointless to pursue charges based on that discredited ban.

Superman Movie Provides Heroic Lift For Two Illinois Towns


The new Superman movie “Man of Steel” could give a lift to two Illinois towns. 

 

Metropolis in southern Illinois is considered Superman’s “official hometown.”  But the town of Plano in northern Illinois is also getting a super boost.  Plano was used in the movie for scenes set in Superman’s fictional boyhood home of Smallville, Kansas.

SPD: Professional Pickpocket Ring Racks Up Thousands In Credit Card Charges


Springfield police think a professional ring of pickpockets has been working the city… stealing wallets and using the credit cards inside to rack up big purchases at local stores. 

 

A press release from the police department says they first began receiving reports of similar crimes in August of last year. The most recent theft last week led to $8,000 in fraudulent charges.  In all, police are investigating 15 such cases, totaling almost $60,000. 

 

In many cases, a wallet was removed from a purse that was hanging on the back of a chair in a local restaurant… although sometimes the suspect used a disturbance to distract the victim and steal their billfold.  Police say the credit cards were used to buy gift cards or high-end electronics. 

 

There are multiple suspects, both male and female, of various ages and races, and police have been unable to identify . Police are asking women to keep their purses closed and secure… and ask anyone with information on the crimes to contact SPD or Crimestoppers.

SOHO Sets Records Despite Late Move


Last-minute upheaval… including a change in location… did not hurt this year’s SOHO music festival, according to organizer Eric Welch. 

 

In fact, appearing live on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show," Welch says the music event last weekend apparently drew a record crowd, and may raise a record amount of money for the Mini O’Beirne Crisis Nursery. 

 

SOHO had to relocate a few blocks away from its original downtown spot after the City of Springfield said it would conflict with a Civil War re-enactment at the Old State Capitol.  But Welch says the success of the event in spite of the move has him thinking about trying to expand the event next year.

Daley: Name Poses Big Challenge


The Democrat who is challenging Governor Pat Quinn in next year’s primary admits that his name could be one of his biggest challenges.

 

Bill Daley is the son of one former Chicago mayor and the brother of another… and the Daley family name has become synonymous with the Windy City’s influence on state politics and policy.

 

Daley acknowledges he will have work to do to convince Downstate voters that he would be a governor for the entire state, not just one part of it.

 

Daley spoke live Thursday to 970 WMAY, in one of his first extended interviews since announcing his candidacy earlier this week.

More GOP Members Suspicious of Top Democrats Continued Standoff Over Pension Reform


Some local Republican lawmakers think there’s reason to be suspicious of the standoff between the top Democratic legislative leaders over pension reform.

 

The impasse between House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton raises questions about whether anything can be accomplished in next week’s special legislative session.

 

House GOP leader Tom Cross thinks Madigan and Cullerton are working together to block a pension reform deal.

 

Local representatives like Rich Brauer say it’s reasonable to conclude that, since the Democrats could easily pass any bill they wanted… if they wanted to.

Illinois Lawmakers Look To Give Higher Ed Tax Credits


House Republicans are proposing some tax breaks to help families send their kids to college.

 

The GOP package includes a $1,000 tax credit for families with dependent college students and a total annual income under $150,000.

 

It would also allow more tax deductions for families using private savings programs to put money away for college.

 

The Republicans say they don’t know yet what the impact would be on state revenues, but say the money could be made up elsewhere in the budget.

Gov. Quinn Announces Projects Including Fair Grounds Building Updates


A couple of big-ticket construction projects in Springfield have gotten the green light.

 

Governor Pat Quinn has released nearly a million dollars to pay for widening and resurfacing of South Sixth Street Road between Stevenson Drive and the Sixth Street Frontage Road.

 

Another project worth nearly $600,000 will mean upgrades to several buildings on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

 

The governor’s office says the work of putting new roofs on the Artisans Building and nine horse barns will not interfere with any activities during the State Fair in August.

More Layoffs Expected for Decatur


Decatur could be facing even more hard economic times in the next few weeks.

 

Several major employers have given notice to workers that they could face layoffs before the end of summer, according to filings with the federal government.

 

Caterpillar could add another 300 workers to the nearly 500 already facing the loss of their jobs at the company’s heavy equipment manufacturing plant in Decatur.

 

Another Decatur company, All Tri-R, says 173 workers could be laid off this summer after the commercial builder lost a major contract.

Local GOP Lawmakers Agree: Top Dems Could Pass Pension Reform If They Wanted To


A group of local lawmakers are standing behind House GOP leader Tom Cross, who suggests that House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton may have ulterior motives for not wrapping up a pension reform deal.

 

Madigan and Cullerton have been clashing over their differing approaches to pensions, but Cross thinks they may be working together to keep anything from happening.  And he speculates that the reason may have something to do with the political ambitions of Madigan's daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

 

Local House Republicans agree that Madigan and Cullerton could get a deal passed if they wanted to.  And Representative Rich Brauer says it's not unreasonable to think that Lisa Madigan's political plans might be a factor in the impasse.  Both Lisa Madigan and her father deny that claim.

House Republicans Offer College Affordability Plan


Illinois House Republicans are offering legislation that they say will help families cope with the high cost of higher education. 

 

One bill would offer a thousand-dollar tax credit for families of college students with a total income under $150,000.  Another bill would take the tax deductions in the state college savings program and extend them to similar private programs. 

 

Representative Rich Brauer doesn't know how much the tax breaks would cost, but says improving access to higher ed has to be a bigger priority.

Woman Dies From Injuries In Motorcycle Crash


A Springfield woman has died from the serious injuries she suffered in a motorcycle crash last weekend.

 

48-year-old Sue Fickas died Wednesday afternoon.  She had not awakened after suffering severe head injuries when the cycle she was riding on collided with a car at the corner of Stevenson and Woodward Saturday night.  Police say Fickas was not wearing a helmet.  The driver of the motorcycle suffered less serious injuries.

 

No autopsy will be conducted.  The accident remains under investigation.  So far, no citations have been issued.

Sheriff's Candidates Hold Similar Views


Both Republican candidates for Sangamon County Sheriff say they wouldn’t change much about the department’s current operations. 

 

The latest contender in the race, Wes Barr, says the department is already top-notch and he would work to maintain that and improve it where possible.  Barr’s opponent, Jack Campbell, has also said that he does not see the need for significant changes in how the department is run. 

 

Both candidates say they would like to see the office’s budget and headcount increase… but only if the county economy improves and results in additional tax revenue to fund that growth.

Daley, In Live Interview On 970 WMAY, Won't Rule Out Tax Hike Extension


The latest candidate in the race for Illinois Governor says the temporary income tax increase approved two years ago has done nothing to fix the state’s fiscal problems… but he isn’t saying that tax hike should be allowed to expire. 

 

Bill Daley announced this week that he will challenge Governor Pat Quinn in next year’s Democratic primary.  Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Daley said the tax increase shouldn’t automatically be extended… unless there is a plan on how to use the revenue to address the budget crisis. 

 

But Daley acknowledges that “it’s hard to see” how the state would get by without that extra revenue.

 

Listen to Bill Daley on The Jim Leach Show here (mp3 download).

Is the Downtown TIF Running Dry?


Springfield’s downtown TIF district fund may be out of money.

 

Mayor Mike Houston told the State Journal-Register Wednesday that the city cannot even fund all the projects that it has already promised to support… even as aldermen continue to consider additional requests for TIF funds.

 

Houston’s comments contradict statements made by his economic development director, Mike Farmer, last month.

 

In a live interview on 970 WMAY on May 15th, Farmer said, quote, “we won’t commit money we can’t deliver.”

Madigan Against Joint Pension Reform Approach


Compromise is not in the air as Illinois lawmakers prepare for next week’s special session on pension reform.

 

House Speaker Mike Madigan has introduced an amendment to Senate President John Cullerton’s pension bill.

 

Madigan’s change effectively guts Cullerton’s bill… and replaces it with Madigan’s own plan, which the Senate has previously rejected.

 

A Cullerton spokesman says the Senate will consider a bill which puts both plans in a single piece of legislation… but Madigan has already come out against that approach.

Cross: Pension Reform Gridlock Purposeful


House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton appear to be hopelessly deadlocked on pension reform… but some under the Capitol dome think that may be just an act.

 

House Republican leader Tom Cross is suggesting that the two Democratic leaders are actually working together… to block pension reform.

 

And Cross thinks the reason is to prop up the gubernatorial hopes of Madigan’s daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

 

Cross told CBS Chicago that the Democrats could pass anything they wanted to… so if something isn’t getting passed, it’s because they don’t want to.

Retired Deputy Barr Enters GOP Race for County Sheriff


The stage is set for a showdown to determine who will be the next Sangamon County Sheriff.

 

Former deputy Wes Barr told a large crowd of supporters in Springfield Wednesday that he’s “in it to win it” as he kicked off his campaign for the Republican nomination for sheriff.

 

Barr will face Undersheriff Jack Campbell, who announced his own candidacy in April.

 

Campbell has the support of Sheriff Neil Williamson, who is not seeking re-election.

 

Barr says he would like to reinstate the department’s crime prevention bureau… but isn’t sure yet how he would juggle the budget to pay for it.

No Interest For Assault Weapons Ban From Springfield City Council


Springfield aldermen appear to have no interest in Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon’s suggestion that they move quickly to pass a local assault weapons ban.

 

Simon said this week that home rule communities like Springfield should pass such bans before the pending concealed carry legislation takes away their power to do so.

 

But a cross-section of city aldermen finds almost no support for the idea, with most saying such laws should be consistent around the state, rather than changing from city to city.

Milhiser Will Continue to Enforce Concealed Carry Ban


At least two state’s attorneys around Illinois aren’t waiting for a new concealed carry law.

 

Prosecutors in Randolph and Madison Counties now say they will no longer prosecute such cases… citing last year’s federal court ruling that ordered the state to end its ban on concealed carry.

 

But that ruling is on hold while Governor Pat Quinn reviews legislation approved by the General Assembly last month, but the two prosecutors say gun owners have waited long enough.

 

Locally, though, the ban remains in force.

 

State’s Attorney John Milhiser has said he will enforce the laws on the books… until those laws are changed by the legislature or the courts.

Ward 6 Fund Gives Homeowners Money for Improvements


14 homeowners in Springfield's Ward Six will share $7,000 in matching grants to improve the exteriors of their homes.

 

The money comes from Alderman Cory Jobe's Ward Six Fund.

 

The property owners will put up some of their own money to be eligible to receive $500 each in matching grants to fix up painting, windows, siding, front porches or sidewalks.

Madigan Makes New Attempt To Pass His Pension Plan


House Speaker Mike Madigan is making another attempt to get his version of pension reform through both houses of the General Assembly. 

 

Madigan has introduced an amendment to Senate President John Cullerton's reform plan... which reportedly removes Cullerton's language and replaces it with the bill Madigan proposed.  Madigan's plan easily passed the House this spring but was overwhelmingly defeated in the Senate. 

 

A special legislative session on pensions is set for next week.

Cross: Madigan, Cullerton Working Together To Block Pension Reform


The top Republican in the Illinois House isn't convinced that House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton are really fighting over pension reform. 

 

In fact, Tom Cross suggests the two are actually working together to block a deal.  Cross says Madigan and Cullerton could strike a deal if they wanted to... and thinks the delay may have something to do with the possible gubernatorial hopes of Madigan's daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Ward Six Homeowners Get Grants For Exterior Improvements


14 homeowners in Springfield's Ward Six will share $7,000 in matching grants to improve the exteriors of their homes.  The money comes from Alderman Cory Jobe's Ward Six Fund. 

 

The property owners will put up some of their own money to be eligible to receive $500 each in matching grants to fix up painting, windows, siding, front porches or sidewalks.
 

Barr Kicks Off Campaign For Sheriff


The race for Sangamon County Sheriff is on… and, for now, all the action is on the Republican side. 

 

Former deputy Wes Barr has kicked off his candidacy with a news conference at Madison Park Place… the site of the former John Hay Homes.  Barr says that neighborhood is an example of how communities can fight back against crime.

 

He says if he’s elected, he wants to reinstate the sheriff’s department crime prevention bureau to help other parts of the county reclaim their streets.  But Barr isn’t saying yet how he’d pay for that. 

 

Barr will meet Undersheriff Jack Campbell in next spring’s GOP primary.  Campbell has the endorsement of Sheriff Neil Williamson, who isn’t seeking re-election.

Springfield Aldermen Have No Interest In Local Assault Weapons Ban


Despite Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon’s suggestion that local communities move quickly to pass their own assault weapons ban… before they lose the ability to do so… there appear to be no takers for that idea in Springfield.  

 

The concealed carry legislation on Governor Pat Quinn’s desk would eventually prohibit home rule communities like Springfield from passing their own weapons ban, something they can do under current law. 

 

But a check with a number of city aldermen finds there has been no discussion… and no apparent interest… in pursuing the idea here.  Aldermen Doris Turner and Tim Griffin both say any such policies should be statewide… not piecemeal around the state.

Man Missing for Over a Week


Mo Ryan
Timothy "Mo" Ryan

Authorities are searching for a Springfield man who has been missing for more than a week.

 

57-year-old Timothy "Mo" Ryan was last seen on June 3rd in the vicinity of the South Sixth Street frontage road in Southern View.

 

His family is concerned for his well-being.

 

He is described as five-foot-10 and 170 pounds.

 

If you have information on his whereabouts, call the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department or Southern View police.

Aldermen Debating Use of Public Money for Downtown Art Project


Call it a tiff over a TIF.

 

Efforts to beautify downtown Springfield through public works of art have hit a snag.

 

Some city officials are questioning whether TIF district funds can legally be used for such projects.

 

Downtown Springfield, Inc. is seeking $50,000 to help pay for a series of murals on downtown building facades.

 

The dispute led to some sharp words among aldermen… with Ward 6’s Cory Jobe accusing some at City Hall of trying to throw a wrench into the project, which prompted Ward 1’s Frank Edwards to charge that Jobe was interested in, quote, “fluff” without asking the tough questions.

 

Get a complete rundown of city business with The Council Roundup during Bishop On Air today at 10.

Aldermen Move to Change Procedure of Releasing Exec. Session Records


Springfield aldermen could soon have more direct control over the release of information about executive session meetings.

 

Currently the city’s corporation counsel determines when those minutes and recordings can be released.

 

But Alderman Sam Cahnman’s ordinance would give the final say to the City Council.

 

The council’s committee of the whole advanced the ordinance Tuesday night, with a final vote planned for next week.

AG Madigan Still Considering Primary Challenge


Attorney General Lisa Madigan says she is still actively considering a run for Governor next year… despite the entry of another candidate into the 2014 Democratic primary.

 

Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley announced Tuesday that he would challenge Governor Pat Quinn in the primary next spring.

 

Madigan has been thinking about her own primary challenge against Quinn for months.

 

Two Republicans have already announced their campaigns for governor next year, and at least two more are expected to enter the race soon.

McFarland: Empty School Buildings Could Hurt Overall Property Value


A Springfield school board member is pledging to keep the pressure on district officials to do something with two North End school buildings that now sit empty.

 

Pleasant Hill and Wanless Elementary Schools were closed last month because of budget cuts.

 

Both schools are located in residential neighborhoods, and board member Scott McFarland says having large empty buildings sitting idle will be very damaging to the surrounding areas.

 

He wants the district to either find some use for the buildings… or to consider selling the properties.

Decatur Teens in Hot Water Over Sexting Naked Pics


Six Decatur teenagers could face child porn charges… and may have to register as sex offenders… for being in possession of nude photos of an underage girl in a sexting incident.

 

WAND-TV reports the girl took the pictures of herself with a cell phone and sent them to one or more friends.

 

The mother of one of the teens discovered one of the pictures and contacted authorities.

 

The teens have been arrested but not formally charged yet, but authorities say they may pursue the case to teach them… and others…a lesson about the dangers of sexting.

Aldermen Move to Change Rules on Release of Executive Session Details


Springfield Aldermen will be the ones to make the decision on releasing details about executive session meetings, under an ordinance given initial approval Tuesday.

 

The ordinance would change the language about executive session records to, as the sponsor says, be in line with state records laws.

 

Currently the corporation counsel's office determines if executive session information would be made public.

 

Under the ordinance from Alderman Sam Cahnman, aldermen would take corporation counsel's advice, but will ultimately be the ones to determine the release of meeting information.

Aldermen Get Into Tiff Over Art Project TIF


Things got personal between some Springfield Aldermen while debating how the city should go about supporting public art projects.

 

During Tuesday's City Council Committee of the Whole, Aldermen heard about a proposed Tax Increment Finance allotment of $50,000 for a public art project that would include large murals on the facade of several buildings around the downtown area.

 

Aldermen Frank Edwards asked about the legality of using TIF money for art projects, something Ward 6's Cory Jobe says is an attempt to "put a wrench" in the project.

 

The city's corporation counsel says there may need to be a facade easement program in place to give the city more control over what's put on walls, but Downtown Springfield Inc. said they have a design council to make those decisions.

 

Director of Economic Development Mike Farmer says there are ways to fund public art projects without purchasing the art. DSI says they don't care where the money comes from ... it could even be a grant ... their only objective is to enrich the downtown area to make it more vibrant and inviting for residents and visitors.

 

The ordinance was placed on the consent agenda for passage next week.

 

Video of some "Artification" ideas from DSI:

City Council To Discuss Rail Engineering Study and TIF Money for Downtown Art


The Springfield City Council will consider Hanson Professionals to put together the 10th Street Rail Consolidation engineering study worth $8.65 million.

 

That's how much money the city is set to receive from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

 

Aldermen could also discuss giving fifty-thousand dollars of TIF money to a downtown Springfield art project.

 

Another ordinance would change the city's code concerning executive session recordings.

 

Aldermen meet in the Committee of the Whole tonight. You can follow live updates with WMAY's Twitter (at)WMAYSpringfield.

Decatur Teens Could Face Child Porn Charges For Sexting


Six Decatur teenagers have been arrested… and could face child pornography charges… for forwarding a nude picture of an underage girl.

 

The girl reportedly took the picture of herself and then sent it to other teens.  WAND-TV reports that police were brought in when the mother of one of the teens found the picture on his Facebook page. 

 

Although the six have been arrested, they have not been formally charged yet.  But officials say they may pursue the case to send a strong message and deter other teens from sexting.

Politicians React To Daley Announcement


He’s considering a run in next year’s Democratic primary for governor… but Bill Daley is already taking hits from one of the Republican contenders for the job. 

 

Bruce Rauner… who announced his candidacy last week… says Daley is part of the, quote, “entrenched political power structure” that has failed to fix the state’s problems. 

 

Meanwhile, Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn, who could face Daley in the primary next spring, isn’t taking on the challenger directly.  Quinn’s campaign issued a statement saying there will be plenty of time for politics… later.

Blood Center Breaks Ground For New Headquarters


Ground has been broken for the new administrative headquarters for the Central Illinois Community Blood Center. 

 

The 27,000 square foot facility on the former Allis Chalmers site at 10th and Linton will house administrative offices, a blood typing laboratory and a “product distribution” hub.  Blood donation will continue to operate out of the organization’s current building on South Seventh Street. 

 

The $7 million building is partially funded with City of Springfield TIF funds.  Construction is scheduled to be completed next year.

School Board Member Concerned Over Vacant School Buildings


A Springfield school board member remains concerned about the impact on two North End neighborhoods after the closure of two elementary schools. 

 

Scott McFarland first raised the issue months ago when the school board began discussing the plan to close Pleasant Hill and Wanless schools… and move those students to the Feitshans building.  And McFarland says there are no plans yet to either occupy or sell those empty buildings. 

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” McFarland repeated his concern that those vacant buildings, sitting idle, will hurt property values and… in his words… “kill those neighborhoods.”

Congressional Hearing On Rail Traffic Held In Springfield


A congressional subcommittee hearing on rail traffic in Illinois is giving Mayor Mike Houston cause for optimism. 

 

Houston testified before that hearing at the State Capitol… and says he was pleased that members of Congress traveled here to learn about the need for more federal funding for rail projects. 

 

Houston says he believes members of the subcommittee showed a willingness to make rail improvements… including Springfield’s rail consolidation program… a bigger part of the federal transportation agenda.

Daley Challenges Quinn in Democratic Primary


There apparently will be a primary on the Democratic side in the race for governor.

 

Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley issued a press release early this morning announcing that he has formed an exploratory committee with the intent of challenging incumbent Pat Quinn next year.

 

Daley… the brother and son of former Chicago mayors… says Quinn’s lack of leadership is hurting the state, and says, quote, “the people of Illinois can’t wait.”

Quinn Wants Hybrid Madigan-Cullerton Pension Reform Plan


Governor Pat Quinn wants Illinois lawmakers to pass a bill that includes the two competing pension reform plans put forward by House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.

 

Under that hybrid proposal, if Madigan’s more restrictive plan is ruled unconstitutional, Cullerton’s plan would kick in.

 

But Quinn says now, it’s really up to Madigan and Cullerton to work it out and get some kind of pension deal to his desk.

 

The legislature returns in a special session next week to continue work on a reform package.

School Supt. Search Firm Says New Hire May Not Start Until 2014


The Springfield school board now has a search firm on board to help find the district’s next superintendent… but it may take more than a year until that new hire is on the job.

 

Officials with School Exec Connect have recommended a thorough search that could stretch through December… and say it is likely that whoever is hired would not be available to start until the summer of 2014.

 

They say a faster search will dramatically shrink the pool of applicants.

 

The lengthy search could mean the district will have to hire a second interim superintendent in the coming school year. Current interim Bob Leming is only available through December.

One Suspect Named in Suspicious Fire of Ex-Girlfriend's Home


A suspect has been charged with an arson fire on Springfield’s North End… but officials say there is nothing so far to connect him to a string of suspicious blazes last month in the Enos Park neighborhood.

 

Shane Wombles is accused of setting fire to an ex-girlfriend’s home on North 11th Street on May 31st.

 

City arson investigators say it appears to be an isolated incident and not related to more than a half-dozen fires that hit homes, garages and cars in that area of town earlier in the month.

Fatal Motorcycle Crash Near Auburn Monday


A 47-year-old Auburn man is dead after crashing his motorcycle near Auburn early Monday.

 

Authorities are still trying to figure out why Timothy Hanson’s cycle left the roadway on Route 104 and struck a culvert.

 

Hanson was pronounced dead at the scene.

 

Meanwhile, a Springfield woman remains in critical condition after the motorcycle she was riding on collided with a car Saturday night.

 

Sue Fickas was reportedly not wearing a helmet when that crash occurred at Stevenson and Woodward.

Durbin Calls on Kids' Programs to Pick Better Ads


SpongeBob SquarePants could still eat all the Krabby Patties he wants… but U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says the commercial breaks in the popular cartoon series should not be trying to sell fast food to kids.

 

Durbin and several other Democratic senators are asking the Nickelodeon networks to stop accepting advertising in kids’ shows for “unhealthy products” like fast food or sugary snacks or soft drinks.

 

One study says as much as two-thirds of the advertising on Nickelodeon kids’ shows are for such products.

Consultant Recommends Longer Search For New District 186 Superintendent; New Hire May Not Be Seated Until July 2014


The search firm that is poised to start a national effort to find Springfield's next school superintendent says it's in the district's best interest to use a longer, slower search process -- one which could mean the new hire won'tbe on the job until July of 2014.

 

Officials with School Exec Connect presented an expedited plan which could allow a new superintendent to be chosen and on the job as soon as this October, but they say that will limit the pool of potential candidates, reduce community involvement, and make it harder to find the ideal choice.

 

The school board is just getting started with the process of finding a replacement for Walter Milton, who stepped down as superintendent back in March.  Bob Leming is currently serving as interim superintenent, but under the terms of his pension, another interim may have to be appointed to serve part of the coming school year until a permanent hire is in place.

Quinn Says Pension Reform Is Up To Madigan, Cullerton


Governor Pat Quinn says it’s now up to the top two Democrats in the legislature to reach agreement and pass some kind of comprehensive pension reform. 

 

Quinn met Monday with both House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton… and says now the fate of pension reform is in their hands.  Quinn says he has put forward ideas and suggestions, but he can only act on what the legislature sends him. 
 

The governor is urging the legislative leaders to take their cue from the teamwork and cooperation that has propelled the Chicago Blackhawks into the Stanley Cup Finals.

Suspect Arrested In North End Arson, But Authorities Find No Connection To Other Enos Park Fires


Authorities have made an arrest in connection with one of a series of fires last month in the Enos Park neighborhood… but say this one does not appear to be connected to more than a half-dozen other blazes in the same area at roughly the same time. 

 

Officials had been looking for possible connections among a number of fires, which struck homes, garages and vehicles over a 16-day span in May. 

 

But authorities say this particular fire on May 31st appears to be an isolated case of revenge… as the suspect is accused of torching his ex-girlfriend’s home on North 11th Street.  They say that so far, there’s nothing to link that fire to the others.

Auburn Man Killed In Morgan County Motorcycle Crash


Authorities have now identified the 47 year old Auburn man who was killed in a motorcycle crash Monday morning.

 

47 year old Timothy Hanson was traveling east on route 104, when for an unknown reason, he lost control of his bike- running off the road and striking a culvert. 

 

He was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after 5am Monday at the crash site about a half a mile east of Waverly.

Durbin, Other Senators Criticize Nickelodeon Advertising


SpongeBob SquarePants would need to find some new advertisers… if U.S. Senator Dick Durbin has his way. 

 

Durbin and several other Democratic senators are calling on the Nickelodeon cable networks to stop accepting advertising for “unhealthy” products aimed at children.  A study finds that more than two-thirds of the ads on Nickelodeon channels were for fast food, sugary cereals or other sweet snacks.

 

Durbin says Disney is now refusing such ads for all of its media platforms… including TV and the Internet… and says Nick should follow suit.

Lt. Gov. Simon Tells Localities to Ban Assault Weapons While They Can


A top state official is recommending that local communities move quickly to pass their own assault weapons bans… before they lose the ability to do so.

 

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon says the pending concealed-carry legislation on Governor Pat Quinn’s desk could block future attempts to ban certain types of weapons at the local level, so she’s suggesting that cities and counties act now while they still can.

 

Quinn has not indicated yet whether he will sign the bill, which was passed on the last day of the legislative session.

Gov. Quinn and Speaker Madigan to Talk Pension Reform Today


Governor Pat Quinn and House Speaker Mike Madigan will finally sit down today to discuss the state’s unresolved pension crisis.

 

Quinn had tried to get Madigan into a meeting on the subject last week, but Madigan was out of town and… according to Quinn… couldn’t call in to the meeting because the Speaker doesn’t have a cell phone.

 

Today’s meeting is the latest effort to find some negotiating room after lawmakers failed to reach agreement on a pension reform plan last month.

 

The governor has called a special session for June 19th in another effort to hammer out a deal.

Deputy Director of Corrections Steps Down Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations


A deputy director of the State Department of Corrections has resigned… following allegations of sexual harassment.

 

Ty Bates is a former prison warden and served as a top administrator for Corrections’ southern district.

 

He stepped down after an investigation into complaints that he sent harassing text messages to a female prison staffer.

 

A department spokesperson says the incident did not rise to the level of sexual harassment under the law, but did violate department policies.

Investigation Of Sexual Assault at Youth Prisons Called For


The director of the State Department of Juvenile Justice wants a full investigation into federal findings that sexual assaults are occurring at an alarming rate in the state’s youth prisons.

 

The U.S. Department of Justice finds that 15 percent of young inmates report being sexually assaulted by other young offenders… or by staff.

 

That rate is about 20 percent at the Illinois Youth Center in Joliet.

 

One advocate says Illinois youth prisons are larger than in many other states… and there is no inspector general to follow up on complaints from young victims of assault in the system.

Mayor Houston Says Unions May Influence Some Aldermen Too Much


The unions representing Springfield city hall employees may be exerting too much influence over some aldermen… according to Mayor Mike Houston.

 

But Houston declines to say which aldermen he thinks are dancing to the unions’ tune.

 

Houston notes that even though overall city headcount is down, payroll expenses continue to climb, in part because of deals reached through collective bargaining.

Weekend Bike-Car Accident Leaves One in Critical Condition


A Springfield woman is in critical condition after a weekend motorcycle crash.

 

Springfield police say 48-year-old Sue Fickas was a passenger on the bike that collided with a car at Stevenson and Woodward.

 

Neither she nor motorcycle driver Thomas Rhodes was wearing a helmet, according to police.

 

Rhodes was less seriously hurt. The accident remains under investigation and no tickets have been issued.

Rauner: Oberhelman's Early Endorsement Shows Business Support


He wants to focus on education, Illinois’ business climate, term limits and pension reform in his run for governor.

 

Business man Bruce Rauner says he is ready for the job, and being a political outsider won’t hurt his chances. The wealthy business man has already raised a significant amount of money and says he can raise more.

 

He also says the early endorsement of his candidacy from Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman shows how his run for governor will be focused on the business climate.

 

Rauner will run in support of term limits for elected office and he also says he supports “Right to Work” legislation to make public sector union membership optional.L

 

Listen to Bruce Rauner talk with WMAY's Greg Bishop here (mp3 download).

Illinois Policy Institute Calls for 401(K)-Style Public Employee Retirement


The Illinois Policy institute says that the nearly $100 billion pension obligation must be addressed in a meaningful way if Illinois wants to rebound from a week of two credit downgrades in just a matter of days.

 

Ted Debrowski with the IPI says that lawmakers should look at setting up a 401(K)-style retirement plan for state works that resembles what the private sector has.

 

That would give state workers more control over their retirement and would not have state employees relying on politicians to fund their pensions.

 

Debrowski says there’s a danger in how the general assembly acts.

 

If they fail to pass meaningful pension reform that could lead to more downgrades in the future.

 

Listen to Greg Bishop talk with IPI's Ted Debrowski (mp3 download).

Christian Expected Back in Court Today


The newspaper reporter at the center of the Springfield Police Internal Affairs document destruction case is back in court today, after being convicted of several crimes earlier this week.

 

Calvin Christian will face charges of driving without a valid license today.

 

Monday he was convicted by a jury of running a red light, not securing a toddler in a car seat and driving without a license and was issued a $390 fine.

 

Aside from his lawsuit where he’s suing the city for destroying police IA files a full year early, he is also suing in federal court that police conspired to harass him.

 

Christian says he looks forward to the day that all the facts come out in federal court.

 

Several other charges have been dropped after Christian met with State’s Attorney John Milhiser and Springfield’s Police Chief.

 

Milhiser recused himself from investigating wrongdoing in the file destruction case because of perceived conflicts of interest.

Kirk Seeks Assurance of Separation of Powers in Verizon Phone Records Story


It’s a question about Verizon phone records being monitored by the Federal Government that will have to be answered behind closed doors.

 

During a finance committee hearing for the Department of Justice Thursday, Senator Mark Kirk asked Attorney General Eric Holder if the Executive Branch has abused the separation of powers by monitoring phone records of members of congress and those serving in the legislative branch.

 

Holder didn’t provide any assurance and said he would be more comfortable answering that question in a quote “appropriate setting.”

 

Kirk told Holder the answer should have been “the executive branch stayed within its lanes” and didn’t challenge the separation of powers.

 

The committee chair said a classified briefing should be set up to address the concerns.

 

Cops Hit, Kicked, Spit On and Bitten After Responding to Street Fight


A handcuffed pregnant woman spit and even bit a police officer after police responded to a street brawl on North 9th Street Thursday, according to police reports.

 

20-year-old Osheanya Jones was arrested after officers arrived to the scene of a reported fight.

 

When Springfield Police were assisting a Sangamon County Deputy removing and arresting Jones from a vehicle at the scene of the fight, Jones spit and even bit an officer.  

 

Before being handcuffed, it's alledged she hit and tried kicking officers.

 

Another individual, 20-year-old Darron Harris was arrested and charged with assault.

 

There were also reports that someone in the street fight was seen with a pipe and even unidentified witnesses saying they saw a handgun.

 

Other initial details about the case, including possible injuries to police officers, were not immediately available.

Durbin on NSA: Disturbing, But Not Surprising


Senator Dick Durbin says it’s disturbing, but shouldn’t be surprising when it comes to the reports of the National Security Administration getting phone records from Verizon.

 

The Senior Senator from Illinois says he has been trying for years to reform provisions of the Patriot Act to only allow secret collection of information from those who are connected spies or people plotting to attack the US, but has failed to come through with those reforms.

 

Durbin says quote “the cloak has been lifted” and it’s time to have the important debate about privacy in the face of keeping American safe.

 

It was reported and since confirmed that a secret court order extended the NSA’s access to Verizon records.

 

The Senate Intelligence Committee says the practice has been going on for years.

Illinois' Credit Rating Downgraded Twice in Two Weeks


Two downgrades in one week … Moody’s that has downgraded Illinois' credit rating.

 

This time Governor Pat Quinn is out front saying that the failure of the legislature to act on pension reform is not his fault.

 

In a release Thursday afternoon, Quinn says he has pushed the legislature time and again to act on pension reform.

 

Moody’s has downgraded the state From A2 to A3, citing the failure to enact pension reform.

 

Earlier this week Fitch downgraded the state from A to A-.

 

Quinn says taxpayers are paying $17 million a day because of the inaction by the General Assembly.

 

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford also put out a statement Thursday saying two downgrades in one week is unprecedented.

 

Rutherford said “This week has been a disgraceful reminder” that “there is an obvious lack of leadership in our great state.”

 

Governor Quinn has called for a special session June 19th to deal with public sector pension reform.

City Applying for Federal DOT Grants for Rail Underpass


The City of Springfield is working to shore up more money for rail consolidation, including an application for $14.8 million in US Department of Transportation grant money for a rail underpass.

 

The city, alongside The Illinois Department of Transportation and Sangamon County, announced the underpass plan for Carpenter Street as something that will allow for safer traffic flow for everything from regular traffic to those needing emergency medical attention from area hospitals.

 

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says the city’s plan to get an engineering study prepared for rail consolidation will help with the US DOT grant.

City Still in Court in Eminent Domain Case for 11th Street Extension


Mayor Mike Houston says the city will have to secure some property in order to move forward with the planned 10th Street rail consolidation efforts, but Springfield is also still in litigation over property to extend 11th street.

 

The city has taken CONTECH to court to acquire land for the extension.

 

Houston says there have been disagreements about the value of the property and the city is seeking to use eminent domain to take over the property for the extension.

 

Houston says the 11th Street extension will open up for more traffic to Lincoln Land Community College and the University of Illinois Springfield.

 

There's no indication when the a decision on the case will be made.

Mayor: Lake Springfield Beach Won't Open


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says that the city has no plans to open the beach up for the summer months, or in the foreseeable future.

 

During Talk to the Mayor on 970 WMAY Thursday, Houston said the city cannot justify the cost of opening the beach for the public.

 

He also says there are ideas being kicked around at renting the beach house out for private functions and even possibly turning into a public marina.

 

Alderman Kris Theilen tells WMAY news that the beach is also at toxic levels because of a concentration of bird droppings.

 

The beech has been closed for several years because of a lack of funding.

 

 

AMVETS Hosting Free Town Hall Meeting for Veteran Benefit Info


Illinois AMVETS is holding a town hall meeting tonight for veterans looking for information on filing VA claims and other benefits.

 

The event at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Hotel and Conference Center is open to all vets who are looking for information on employment services, the post 9-11 GI Bill and new and re-opened claims.

 

Veteran Service Officer George Sebastian says there won’t be any actual files processed, but there will be plenty of information for vets, so they should bring a notebook.

 

The event begins at 6 tonight and Sebastian says AMVETS will be there until the last person is served.

Enos Park Development Approved for TIF Money


It’s definitely not another tavern …

 

Developers in the historic Enos Park Neighborhood have been approved for just over $80,000 in Tax Increment Finance money to purchase an old tavern and turn it into a retail salvage shop that will specialize in vintage housing hardware like doorknobs, colorful windows and other things.

 

Michelle Higginbotham with the Enos Park Neighborhood Association says the goal is to also have the old tavern set up as a meeting place for community functions.

 

Aldermen approved the TIF allotment Tuesday on emergency passage.

General Assembly Fail to Set Up Health Insurance Exchange


Is it another failure? 

 

When the legislature called it a spring session Friday, among the many items left on the To Do List was setting up an insurance marketplace as required by the Obama Healthcare Law.

 

The inaction by Illinois lawmakers virtually ensures that the Federal Government will take over the state’s online insurance marketplace and keep control for years to come.

 

The insurance marketplace will open on October first.

Gas Price Hike Blamed on Refineries and Mild Temps


Gas prices in Springfield rose Monday back near four dollars a gallon and are staying there, and the reason why is typical.

 

The petroleum industry is blaming refinery problems and cold weather for the 31 cent jump in gas prices from this past weekend.

 

The AAA is expecting prices to drop this summer as gas works it’s way back to full flow at the Midwest refineries. Gas national is 3.62 a gallon.

Bus Driver Charged for Soliciting Boys


A former bus driver in Christian County is charged with soliciting young boys.

 

43-year-old James Owens of Owaneco is charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

 

Police say Owens had sex with a 16 year old and he was soliciting sexual favors from others over Facebook.

 

Owens has also served as a fire fighter and chaplain.

 

The Christian County Sheriff's Department asks any other potential victims to come forward.

 

Owens is being held in Taylorville with bond set at 1-hundred thousand dollars.

Bruce Rauner Campaign Video Posted Online


Republican venture capitalist Bruce Rauner says he's running for Illinois governor in 2014.

 

Rauner's campaign video

In a video posted on his website, Rauner says Illinois is in a financial mess.

 

He says the state needs a political outsider to fix things.

 

Rauner will face state Treasurer Dan Rutherford in the GOP primary.

 

Republican Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady also have expressed interest. Gov.

 

Pat Quinn has said he'll run for re-election. Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley and Attorney General Lisa Madigan are considering a Democratic primary challenge.

 

It's Rauner's first bid for public office, but the wealthy Winnetka businessman already has shown he can raise campaign funds.

 

He brought in $1.3 million in the first month after forming his exploratory committee.

 

That includes a $249,000 personal contribution.

Bill Brady to Make Another Governor Run


Illinois state senator Bill Brady plans to announce within the month that he's seeking his second Republican nomination for governor.

 

The Bloomington businessman and 20-year lawmaker said Tuesday he hopes to make it official by late June.

 

Brady hoped to have a solution to the state's pension crisis first.

 

He says Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn should call lawmakers into a special session to deal with the $97 billion mess after they adjourned Friday without a plan.

 

Quinn beat Brady in 2010 by 32,000 votes out of 3.7 million cast.

 

Brady barely beat fellow GOP Sen. Kirk Dillard in the primary.

 

Dillard says he'll announce his bid in coming weeks.

City Enters Into Agreement for $8.65 Million From State For Rail Consolidation Engineering Study


The city of Springfield is in line to get $8.65 million dollars in state money for engineering the 10th street rail consolidation efforts for high speed rail.

 

Aldermen passed an ordinance entering into an intergovernmental agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation and Sangamon County for the state funds.

 

That's only half the money that would be needed for the engineering study. Before emergency passage Tuesday, Aldermen expressed urgency for the federal government to work on providing funds for the other half of the engineering study.

 

Mayor Mike Houston says the eventual study will provide the necessary frame work for when the Federal Government has money available to fund parts of the more than $300 million project.

Kidzeum To Get TIF Money Only if State Pays Up


The Kidzeum of Health and Science has $675,000 of Tax Increment Finance money coming from the City of Springfield ... that is if the state of Illinois makes good on a build Illinois grant that just passed the Illinois General Assembly and awaits Governor Quinn's desk.

 

Conceptual design of Kidzeum
Conceptual design of Kidzeum 

A last minute amendment to the ordinance that received support from all but one aldermen would make the TIF money available to the children's museum only if an expected $1 million grant from the state makes it to Kidzeum.

 

Another amendment from Aldermen Sam Cahnman to increase the TIF by $129,000 failed to get enough support.

 

The Kidzeum is expected to develop a building on East Adams in Downtown Springfield for a children's museum focusing on health and science.

 

See conceptual images of Kidzeum here.

Kirk Dillard To Announce He's Running for Governor


Like a store that opens for business then holds a grand opening, State Senator Kirk Dillard isn't being coy about his political plans.

 

He told WMAY's Greg Bishop today he is making a Republican run for Governor, ahead of an official announcement in the next few weeks.

 

Dillard says in his most recent run for Governor, his status as a suburban Chicago lawmaker won't be a detriment downstate, where he ran strong in Central Illinois and the metro-east in his narrow defeat in the 2010 GOP governor's race.

 

Listen to Dillard and Bishop at this link (mp3 download).

Several Repaving Projects Set to Begin in Springfield


It could be two weeks but after that there’ll be new pavement on some select streets throughout Springfield.

 

The city says that the Office of Public Works will begin milling and resurfacing Old Jacksonville Road between Chatham Road and Monroe Street beginning today.

 

Meanwhile, construction on Liberty Street between Constitution Drive and Robbins Road, Lindbergh Boulevard between Freedom Drive and Robbins Road, and Freedom Drive from Constitution Drive to Lindbergh Boulevard will begin Thursday.

 

The city asks that motorists drive with caution and to avoid the area during heavy traffic times.

New Oak Ridge Cemetery Gate Near Replica of Old Gate


Everyone knows someone buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery, whether it’s Abraham Lincoln or a family member and that’s what makes an unveiling of a new entrance Tuesday even more special.

 

The Oak Ridge Cemetery Foundation held a ceremony Tuesday morning to showcase the replica gate on Monument Avenue.

 

The new gate is a near replica of the original gate at the now blocked off 3rd Street entrance. Even the same company that forged the original gate had a hand in the new gate.

 

The Oak Ridge Cemetery Foundation still has plans to restore the 3rd Street entrance gate before a planned Lincoln Funeral Procession Reenactment in 2015.  Restoration of the old gate could cost upwards to $350,000.

 

Mayor Mike Houston says that will have to be raised privately because Government just doens't have the money to support something that size.

Kirk Dillard To Join Race for Governor


Dan Rutherford has company in the Republican race for Governor. State Senator Kirk Dillard told WMAY's Greg Bishop that he will indeed run for the republican nod next year.

 

State Senator Kirk Dillard
State Senator Kirk Dillard

He rejected concerns that he is a political insider with the onetime Jim Edgar aide noting that he was a part of the most significant legislative ethics reform effort of the past quarter century.

 

He called Governor Quinn MIA in dealing with the state financial mess.

 

He says the governor should be in charge of leading the general assembly.

 

An official announcement should be coming from Dillard later this month or early next month.

Fitch Downgrades Illinois Because of Pension Inaction


Illinois has been downgraded again, this time by the ratings agency Fitch.

 

The lowering from "A" to "A-" is because of the "ongoing inability of the state to address its large and growing unfunded pension liability" and in particular the state's inability to pass pension reform during the regular legislative session that ended Friday.

 

Fitch is the first ratings agency respond to the most recent legislative session.

 

Other ratings agency have warned that a downgrade could be coming.

Concealed Carry Board Called Into Question


A seven member board created by the concealed carry law passed by lawmakers last week is unjustly exempted from the Open Meetings and Freedom of Information Acts, according to the Illinois Press Association.

 

The law, which Governor Pat Quinn has yet to sign, exempts the group of governor appointed board members from publicizing meetings.

 

There would be monthly reports to the governor, but identifying information would be exempt.

 

Gun rights advocates say the secretive board could lead to individuals not knowing why they are being denied a permit.

 

Attorney General Lisa Madigan has asked for more time from the US Court of Appeals so that Quinn can continue reviewing the law.

Suit to Block Health Insurance Deduction Filed


A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of several retired state employees contending diminished benefits.

 

The suit for five nonunion employees is trying to block the deduction of health insurance premiums from retiree paychecks.

 

A law passed by the general assembly last year allowed for the premiums to be charged to retirees who had previously been given the benefit for free if they served for 20 years or more.

 

A Sangamon County Associate Judge previously ruled that the insurance benefits were separate from pension benefits.

School Board Looks Into Residency of Administrators and Other Issues


The Springfield School Board is discussing residency after a board member raised the issue of District 186 Administrators living outside the district boundaries.

 

Board Vice President Adam Lopez says that he'd like the incoming human resources director to check the status of some administrator's residency and clarify the policy of people holding certain positions having to live within the district's boundaries.

 

Board members say that there may be some violations from some holding administrative positions.

 

The District 186 board also took a step toward finding a new superintendent, tabbing a Suburban Chicago firm to search for a new district chief.

 

School Exec Connect has been awarded a $17,500 contract as the lowest bidder among five competitors.

 

The board reconvenes Monday to further discuss the search.

 

The third employee tied to the leaks of test score from Capital College Preparatory Academy will stay with the district.

 

Jennifer Gilson will move from a guidance counselor post to a yet to be determined classroom teacher post. Two others tied to the leaks have resigned.

 

Board members Scott McFarland and Judy Johnson voted against the reassignment.

 

Interim Superintendent Bob Leming recommended the shift, noting that termination would bring an extended legal process.

 

The leak of test scores was investigated by police but led to no criminal charges.

Kidzeum TIF Agreement Decision Expected Tonight


Springfield Aldermen will consider an ordinance giving Kidzeum $675,000 in downtown TIF money.

 

The ordinance is on the debate agenda for this evening but some the planned location on East Adams is not ideal for the children's museum because of Parking.

 

One Aldermen, Ward 10's Steve Dove, says he has major concerns about the parking situation on that stretch of street during times the Farmers Market is open and when there are other events in the area.

 

Kidzeum asked the city for nearly $1 million.

General Assembly Failures Could Hurt Quinn Chances


Could the failures of the most recent legislative session hurt Governor Pat Quinn’s reelection efforts?

 

With an already low approval rating, Quinn could be held responsible for the legislature not acting on key pieces of legislation like pension reform or same-sex marriage.

 

Rumblings of a possible run to unseat the democrat have come from Attorney General Lisa Madigan and even former White House chief of staff Bill Daley.

 

Several republicans are also lining up to oppose the governor … the first from the GOP being Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who announced his candidacy for Governor over the weekend.

Rutherford Announces Bid for Governor


The race for Illinois Governor has begun. Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford says he'd be active advocate for Illinois, if he were elected governor in 2014.

 

Though he says he'd reside in governor's mansion, he says the issues this time are jobs, pensions and the budget, among other things.

 

Treasurer Rutherford is the first to officially put his name out there for Republicans.

 

The first term treasurer says he has a history of winning and also has a history in small and large business along with experience in government.

 

Rutherford is touring the state over the next couple of days announcing his vision for Illinois.

 

He was in Springfield Sunday night with supporters at the American Legion.

 

Springfield's Bishop Paprocki Thankful for Gay-Marriage Failure


Springfield’s leading catholic figure is thanking those who helped stop a vote on same-sex marriage.

 

In a statement over the weekend, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki says he commends the efforts of all who helped dissuade the Illinois House from voting for the bill that would allow same-sex marriage.

 

In his statement Paprocki says the “notion of marriage between people of the same sex is contrary to natural law.”

 

The Illinois Senate passed the bill on Valentines day, but the House failed to take up the measure before the legislative session ended.

Kidzeum Offers Sneak Peek, Asks for $300K More


The Kidzeum of Health and Science is offering up a sneak peek of what the children’s musesum would look like, if they reach their fundraising goal.

 

Concept image of Kidzeum display
Concept image of Kidzeum display

In a press release, the non profit children’s museum is asking the public to contact their Springfield Aldermen to support Kidzeum’s efforts at getting downtown Tax Increment Finance money.

 

Springfield aldermen will consider the proposal of $675,000 from the TIF, but Kidzeum says they would need $300,000 more.

 

Final action on that ordinance is planned Tuesday.

 

See concept images from the children’s museum online at WMAY.com.

Crime Commission Calls for Task Force to Fight Heroin "Virus"


The Illinois State Crime Commission is asking the Illinois Attorney General to create a task force to battle the spread of heroin.

 

The group highlights recent stories out of St. Clair County where one judge is charged with heroin possession and a probation officer is charged with dealing the drug.

 

Another judge died of a suspected cocaine overdose.

 

The Crime Commission says there needs to be an anti-heroin task force the likes of the prohibition era “Untouchables.”

 

The executive director says “this heroin virus has the potential to corrupt every facet of our society and must be stopped”.

Treasurer Rutherford Announces He's Running for Governor


The race for Illinois Governor has begun.

 

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford says he'd be active advocate for Illinois, if he were elected governor in 2014.

 

Though he says he'd reside in governor's mansion, he says the issues this time are jobs, pensions and the budget, among other things.

 

Treasurer Rutherford is the first to officially put his name out there for Republicans.

 

The first term treasurer says he has a history of winning and also has a history in small and large business along with experience in government. 

 

Rutherford is touring the state over the next couple of days announcing his vision for Illinois.  He was in Springfield Sunday night with supporters at the American Legion.

Few Details In Springfield Homicide Investigation


Springfield police are investigating the death of a city woman as a homicide.  The coroner's office identifies the victim as 47-year-old Rebecca Cleaton.  Her body was found Saturday morning in the 900 block of North Ninth.  Officials aren't saying how she died, because of the ongoing investigation.  That area of North Ninth has seen other violent crimes in recent months... and police are not ruling out a possible connection.

 

Confirmed: EF-2 Tornado Struck Gillespie Friday


The National Weather Service confirms that it was an EF-2 tornado that ripped the roof off of Gillespie High School in Macoupin County... and heavily damaged a number of other buildings Friday night.  Winds from the storm were estimated at 115 miles per hour. It was the second tornado in two weeks to hit Macoupin County.  A twister on May 20th damaged a number of buildings in Mount Olive.

 

New State GOP Chairman Chosen


Illinois Republicans have a new leader.  Jack Dorgan was chosen on the first ballot to become the new state party chairman.  Dorgan is a lobbyist and served for years as a legislative aide and campaign coordinator.  He says it's his goal to reunite his party and make it competitive with Democrats in statewide and legislative races.

Springfield Police Investigating Suspicious Death


Springfield police are investigating a death that Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher says may be suspicious.

 

Few details were immediately available, other than that the body was found at a home on North 9th Street between Carpenter and North Grand. Detectives were trying to determine how the victim died and the underlying circumstances.

 

Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on this developing story.

Wind Damage, Floods Batter Central Illinois (Again); Gillespie High School Heavily Damaged


Relief is finally in sight after a week of wet and often violent weather. 

 

Central Illinois rode out another round of strong storms Friday night, with high winds and a possible tornado causing more damage south of Springfield.  Gillespie High School sustained heavy damage, with the roof being torn off the gymnasium.  The high winds once again brought down trees and large limbs in southern Sangamon County, causing some property damage.

 

And very heavy rains caused flash floods that closed a number of area roads temporarily.  A flood warning was issued for southwestern Sangamon County through midday Saturday, and a flash flood watch continued through Saturday evening for most of Central Illinois.

Legislative Session Marked By Big Wins, Big Failures


The legislative session that ended Friday night in Springfield will be remembered for history made… and opportunities missed.  Lawmakers finally passed a compromise concealed carry bill that could end Illinois’s longtime status as the only state in the nation that does not allow citizens to carry concealed firearms.  The bill passed both the House and the Senate Friday.  Governor Pat Quinn hasn’t said yet if he will sign it.

 

But lawmakers adjourned without taking significant action on pension reform… despite statements from Democrats and Republicans alike that it was the top priority of the spring session.  And supporters of same-sex marriage are expressing deep disappointment after the measure was not called for a final vote.  The sponsor says some lawmakers felt they couldn’t vote for it now… but might be able to during the fall veto session.

 

The Democratic majority in the legislature did approve a budget… one that Republicans criticized as irresponsible.  And lawmakers passed a bill to allow, and regulate, the practice of “fracking.”  But a bill to put a new casino in Chicago and four other cities died when talks fell apart at the last minute.

Big Day For Gun Rights Supporters At The Capitol


Gun rights supporters are celebrating a couple of big wins at the Capitol.  Lawmakers approved a concealed carry bill Friday… one which sets a “shall issue” standard for State Police, but still allows local law enforcement to object to concealed carry permits.  The law allows some local regulation of guns, but puts limits on those regulations.  That bill now goes to Governor Pat Quinn.

 

And the Illinois Senate narrowly rejected a bill that would have banned the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.  Some parents of the Newtown school shooting victims had lobbied in support of the bill… but it lost on a vote of 28 in favor, 31 against.  Democratic State Senator Dan Kotowski, who sponsored the bill, expressed frustration that pro-gun groups had successfully opposed the bill, at one point declaring, "Screw the gun industry."

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