Rochester police still have no suspects in the apparent homicide of a 78-year-old woman in her home.
The death of Norma Lipskis last week is the first homicide in memory in that village. Police Chief Bill Marass (MARS) won’t say whether there were signs of forced entry in the home, or if Lipskis may have known her killer.
But he does say there is no reason for Rochester residents to be fearful for their safety, although he does recommend common-sense precautions, such as keeping their home doors locked.
Another agency is taking a look at the Springfield police file shredding scandal… and the actions of top city officials leading up to the destruction of those internal affairs records.
The Illinois Times reports that the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission has subpoenaed information from Springfield City Hall as it investigates an unnamed “attorney John Doe” in relation to the case.
At least two attorneys on the city’s legal staff… including outgoing Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen… were involved in discussion of the plan to shred those documents ahead of schedule, in possible violation of state law.
The ARDC is the panel that oversees the conduct of lawyers. It can sanction attorneys who violate legal or ethical standards.
Springfield’s top City Hall attorney has resigned… and so far, no one has been named to replace him. But Mayor Mike Houston says that vacancy at the top is not impeding business at City Hall.
Houston says he is working on a plan for replacing Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen, who resigned almost two weeks ago after being linked to the police department file shredding scandal.
Some aldermen are voicing frustration that it is hard to get questions answered by the city’s legal department… but Alderman Frank Edwards says that was often the case even before Cullen stepped aside.
Illinois’s lieutenant governor is officially seeking a new job.
Sheila Simon has announced that she will run for Comptroller in 2014. Simon says the state needs a comptroller that will focus on accountability, not just accounting… and says she will use the office to oversee the fiscal operations not just of state government, but also of local governments.
Simon had already announced earlier that she would not be Governor Pat Quinn’s running mate again next year. She goes up against Will County Auditor Duffy Blackburn in next year’s Democratic primary. The winner will face Republican incumbent Judy Baar Topinka.
Springfield aldermen will not be releasing an executive session recording dealing with the file shredding controversy at the police department after all.
During a special Springfield City Council meeting Tuesday, aldermen said they received a letter from the State's Attorney Appellate Prosecutor's office requesting that May meeting be kept closed while the investigation by Illinois State Police goes forward.
Attorney John Gray Noll, an attorney hired by the city to handle the FOIA case in the courts, told aldermen there is case law that shows the head of a governing body can give an order to waive the attorney client privilege.
Mayor Mike Houston says he will execute that power and release former Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen to talk with ISP investigators. Cullen resigned over a week ago after revelations in the media of his involvement in the file shredding case.
Houston says the investigation should be timely and complete.
The State's Attorney Appellate Prosecutor's office took over the investigation after State's Attorney John Milhiser recused himself because of perceived conflicts.
Illinois lawmakers are suing Governor Pat Quinn... contending that his veto of their salaries is unconstitutional.
Quinn zeroed out the budget line for legislative pay this month in an attempt to force the legislature to pass pension reform. The suit from House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton says the governor's action violates the separation of powers and threatens the independence of the General Assembly as a co-equal branch of government.
The nationwide sweep related to human trafficking has resulted in the arrest of a Decatur woman.
The U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement says 19-year-old Brittney Creason… who also goes by the name Kitty Amor… was taken into custody in Las Vegas. She’s accused of working with a Maryland man to lure teenagers into prostitution and to keep them there through force and coercion.
If convicted on all counts, Creason could face life in prison.
Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says it was appropriate to allow Police Chief Robert Williams to retire… rather than fire him for his role in the police department file shredding scandal.
Williams will formally retire on October 22nd, when he will receive a salary bump tied to his birthday… but is using up vacation and sick time between now and then.
When asked if Williams is getting off easy, Houston says the chief’s departure does send a message that there will be, quote, “repercussions for actions.” But Houston also says that while approving the document destruction was a mistake, he believes Williams had the department’s best interest at heart.
Springfield’s new acting police chief says he has some ideas on how to improve the department… but he’ll only be making small changes as long as he has “interim” attached to his title.
Kenny Winslow was named by Mayor Mike Houston to take over the department temporarily, while Houston decides who he will appoint as the permanent replacement for retiring Chief Robert Williams.
Winslow says he will work to resolve possible morale problems within the department... and trust issues in the community. But he says he won’t do anything major that might have to be undone if someone else is eventually named chief. [Winslow appeared live Tuesday on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”]
Mayor Mike Houston says the shredding of police department internal affairs files was “a mistake”… and then admitted he may have said too much, given that the city is still fighting a big-dollar lawsuit over the scandal.
Those concerns may also play into tonight’s debate over whether to release an audio recording of a City Council executive session meeting from May, where Houston and others briefed aldermen on the situation.
Attorney Jon Gray Noll, who is representing the city in the lawsuit stemming from the document destruction, will brief aldermen on the ramifications of releasing the recording now, while the investigation of the file shredding continues.
Alderman Frank Edwards says the recording will show that Houston and others misled aldermen about the incident, a charge Houston denies.
Gun rights supporters plan to appeal Monday’s ruling against them in the latest court case over concealed carry laws in Illinois.
The Illinois State Rifle Association and crime victim Mary Shepard had sued, arguing that the state was still violating constitutional rights, despite passing a concealed carry bill earlier this month… because the first permits won’t be available until next spring.
A federal judge in East St. Louis tossed out the case, giving the state time to set up its system for issuing permits.
But the plaintiffs say they will take their case to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals… the same panel that last year ordered the state to pass a concealed carry law.
The city of Springfield has a new interim police chief.
Mayor Mike Houston has named Commander of Field Operations Kenny Winslow to take over the department temporarily, following the retirement earlier this month of Chief Robert Williams amid the fallout from the department's file shredding scandal.
Houston says Winslow has experience across many parts of the department, and has the respect of the troops. Winslow leapfrogged over three Deputy Chiefs to become the interim leader of the department.
Houston hopes to pick a permanent replacement for Williams by October 22nd. [Winslow will appear on the Jim Leach Show, Tuesday morning at 8:40am, on 970 WMAY.]
Traffic could be tied up for a while today (Monday) in downtown Springfield.
City Water Light and Power says South Sixth Street will be reduced to one lane in the 200 block between Adams and Monroe Streets for emergency repairs to a broken water line. The affected lanes will re-open once the work is completed.
Motorists are encouraged to plan alternate routes and to always slow down and be aware of construction and repair crews and equipment in and near roadways.
Gun rights supporters will have to wait a while longer to exercise their right to carry concealed firearms.
A federal judge in East St. Louis has tossed out the lawsuit filed by crime victim Mary Shepard and the State Rifle Association. The suit had claimed that Illinois was still violating constitutional rights, despite passing a concealed carry law earlier this month… because the new law gives the state up to nine months to set up a permit system and process the first applications.
The lawsuit asked for the new law to be implemented immediately, but the judge ruled the suit was without merit.
Mayor Mike Houston disputes the contention that he misled aldermen during a closed-door discussion about the police department file shredding scandal back in May.
Some aldermen want to release the audio recording of that meeting.
Alderman Frank Edwards says it will show that the mayor did not disclose what he knew about whether objections had been raised within the police department prior to the destruction of those records.
But Houston says he was not specifically asked that question, and did not withhold information that the aldermen requested. Both Edwards and Houston say the recordings will prove their side of the story.
But the mayor has asked attorney Jon Gray Noll to address the City Council Tuesday about whether releasing those recordings now could compromise the ongoing investigation, or pending litigation, related to the document destruction.
An Auburn woman is facing charges of domestic battery… and aggravated battery of a police officer… after a physical altercation with her ex, a Springfield cop.
Police reports say the officer was on duty when he went to the Subway on South MacArthur Thursday, after his current girlfriend notified him that she was having trouble with his ex, Irma Anaya-Villa. The officer said Anaya-Villa struck or grabbed him several times, but he held his hands up in the air and did not touch her.
His account was corroborated by several eyewitnesses, one of whom shot cell phone video that was turned over to police. Other officers who went to the scene took Anaya-Villa into custody on possible felony charges.
A Springfield alderman says a special City Council meeting Tuesday will focus not only on what the former city attorney told aldermen about the police department file shredding scandal… but also about what Mayor Mike Houston didn’t say.
Appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Alderman Frank Edwards said that he wants to release the minutes and audio recordings of a May executive session where the controversy was discussed. Edwards contends those records will show that Mayor Mike Houston was asked whether any objections were raised before the documents were shredded… and that Houston did not disclose the concerns that had been brought up within the police department.
Former corporation counsel Mark Cullen has resigned amid the latest revelations about the scandal, but Edwards says he’s not the only one that should be held accountable. That special meeting is set for 5:30pm Tuesday in the City Council chambers.
A Springfield private investigator has asked Governor Pat Quinn to pardon two men who were convicted of killing a Southern Illinois couple… but who were later released from prison because the evidence against them was flawed.
Randy Steidl spent years on Death Row for the killings, and co-defendant Herb Whitlock was sentenced to life in prison. Both men were behind bars for well over a decade before being set free.
PI Bill Clutter says both men are completely innocent and should receive a full pardon.
The interior of Lincoln’s Tomb at Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery will be off-limits to visitors for up to six months, starting in October, as a major renovation project gets underway.
Springfield tourism officials describe the work as a “full restoration,” including a complete revamp of the lighting system throughout the tomb.
The tomb’s interior will be closed to visitors after October 5th, and could be closed until April of 2014, although the work may be completed sooner. Officials say the exterior will still be accessible for people to take pictures or rub the nose of the iconic Lincoln bust outside.
The Legislative Ethics Commission will launch a formal review of whether Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan violated any rules when he tried to help an associate get a pay raise from the Chicago mass transit agency Metra.
Madigan requested the investigation, saying he did nothing wrong when he wrote that letter on behalf of Patrick Ward. Ward had been a friend and backer of Madigan's for years... and was already receiving a pension from the City of Chicago in addition to his Metra salary when Madigan sought the raise for him.
Madigan later withdrew the letter after the CEO of Metra objected, but that official now claims that he was ousted because he resisted political pressure from bigwigs like Madigan.
Springfield aldermen still want more answers about the police department’s file shredding scandal… and exactly who knew what about it.
A special City Council session has been called for Tuesday evening to discuss the possible release of minutes and audio recordings from an executive session in early May where Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen briefed aldermen on the controversy.
Some aldermen say Cullen misled them, and they want to know more about the process that led to the decision to destroy internal affairs files.
But other aldermen are concerned that releasing those closed-door minutes could inhibit discussion at future executive session meetings.
A Springfield man is dead after crashing his car late Wednesday after allegedly fleeing a traffic stop.
Police say 18-year-old David Mims was spotted by a patrol car failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. Officers turned on their flashing lights to pull him over, but he sped off. They attempted to follow him, but did not engage in a high-speed chase. They say Mims ran stop signs and drove erratically until they lost sight of him.
Moments later, dispatch received a call of a crash at 9th and Stanford. Officers found that Mims’s vehicle had hit a tree. He had to be extricated from the vehicle and was pronounced dead a short time later. Police are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident.
State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says she cannot issue paychecks as scheduled next week because Governor Pat Quinn vetoed the appropriation for their salaries and stipends. And Topinka says under the law, she cannot issue a paycheck without an appropriation.
But Topinka is very critical of Quinn’s tactic of eliminating the salaries in an attempt to force lawmakers to pass a pension reform plan. She says “threats, blackmail and inertia” are no way to lead the state.
Topinka says it will ultimately be up to lawmakers or the courts to resolve the standoff with the Governor.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is warning of a potentially damaging showdown on Capitol Hill later this year… over an ongoing source of conflict, the nation’s debt ceiling.
Durbin says he expects Congressional Republicans will again fight efforts to extend that debt ceiling, which limits the amount of money the U.S. government can borrow to pay its bills. Although estimates of the annual budget deficit are shrinking, Durbin says the borrowing must happen in order to avoid a default that could derail an economic recovery.
Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Durbin said people need to contact their lawmakers now and let them know how they feel about the upcoming debt ceiling vote.
More than 75 kids who were detassling corn near Champaign have been checked out just as a precaution… but officials say there were no serious injuries after a crop duster accidentally sprayed the workers with a fungicide.
The kids were working in the field when the plane came overhead. The workers reported feeling droplets on their skin. Several of the teens complained of nausea or skin irritation afterwards. All of the workers were hosed off and then taken to the hospital for a brief medical evaluation.
Last year’s contentious debate over trash pickup in Springfield may not be over yet.
Aldermen Cory Jobe and Doris Turner say they still think it would make sense to add garbage collection to the City Water Light and Power bill, to ensure that all city residents are in fact paying for waste hauling.
The idea was shot down last year, but both aldermen say trash deadbeats remain a big and costly problem in the city.
For now, they have no specific plans to revive the proposal, but both are working on other ways to address abandoned and un-maintained properties around town.
It’s another brush with the law for Calvin Christian.
The Pure News reporter who has clashed with Springfield police over internal affairs records… and who alleges a police conspiracy to harass him… was the subject of an arrest warrant for a brief time Wednesday.
That warrant was issued when Christian failed to show up for a hearing in a misdemeanor case, but was rescinded when Christian showed up later in the day.
The State Journal-Register reports Christian’s attorney accepted responsibility for confusion over the scheduling of that hearing.
Public sector unions want an investigation into whether powerful interests in the state actively worked to undermine Illinois’s credit rating.
The We Are One coalition is asking for the probe based on comments made by former Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner (FAY’-ner), now the head of the Civic Committee, a group that has been pushing for drastic pension reforms. In a clip posted on Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax website, Fahner says he and other members complained to agencies like Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s that they were “enabling” bad practices by maintaining the state’s credit rating.
The group says Fahner and other businessmen could have profited from the higher interest rates that resulted from the credit downgrades that followed.
A Springfield alderman says his long-running battle with a neighbor shows the need for tougher city rules when it comes to chronic violations of city safety and sanitation codes.
Cory Jobe says the neighbor who filed a police report against him last month has long been a thorn in the side of many in his neighborhood, because of repeated violations for overgrown weeds, trash piling up, abandoned cars, and more. Jobe says the problem has gone on for years, proving that the ordinances need more teeth.
For now, Jobe and Alderman Doris Turner are working on an ordinance that would keep landlords with problem properties from getting building permits for other properties.
The chairman of the Sangamon County Democrats is not taking sides… yet… in a possible primary battle for the state legislature.
Doris Turner backed Winston Taylor in his campaign for the 96th House District in 2012… but Sue Scherer narrowly beat him in the Democratic primary and went on to win the general election.
Taylor has indicated on Facebook that he will again challenge Scherer in the primary next spring. While Turner has at times expressed dissatisfaction with Scherer’s positions, she says she’s heard nothing directly from Taylor, and won’t speculate on what she says is still a “hypothetical” challenge.
Turner says the county party is changing its process for endorsements, and says any and all candidates will be welcome to seek the party’s blessing for next year’s races.
A Springfield alderman says a police report accusing him of knocking a neighbor to the ground last month is just the latest in a series of run-ins that he and a number of other neighbors have had with the woman.
No charges were filed after that complaint was lodged against Alderman Cory Jobe last month.
The woman told police that Jobe knocked her down during a heated argument.
But Jobe says the woman was obstructing the gate to his yard and fell down as he opened the gate.
The woman was not injured.
Jobe says he and other neighbors have frequently had to report the woman for code violations on her property, and notes that such disputes between neighbors can often be difficult.
A complaint filed in federal bankruptcy court accuses the former head of THR and Associates of attempting to conceal millions of dollars in income and assets.
The State Journal-Register reports the allegation against Jeff Parsons is contained in a complaint filed by a bankruptcy trustee.
It alleges that Parsons did not report more than $8 million in income in his bankruptcy filing, and that he moved other assets, from diamonds to motorcycles, to storage areas or to a business operated by his son.
Springfield city officials are hoping their penny-pinching pays off in the near future… on the bond market.
As the city has stabilized its finances and improved its cash balances, budget director Bill McCarty hopes that will mean an improved outlook from credit rating agencies.
McCarty says that in turn could mean lower borrowing costs when the city sells bonds later this year to fund major infrastructure improvements.
Nearly halfway through the fiscal year, McCarty says the city remains on pace to post a large surplus, although he says the bottom line could be affected by ongoing contract negotiations with Springfield firefighters.
A Springfield alderman says a police report filed against him is just the latest in a series of disputes with a neighbor.
The report was filed in June by an unnamed woman who lives next door to Ward Six Alderman Cory Jobe. She accuses him of battery for an incident in which she claims he pushed her to the ground during a heated argument. The woman told police she was not hurt but was shaken up.
Jobe tells a different story. He says the woman began yelling at him and obstructed the gate to his yard. He says when he attempted to open the gate, the woman fell. He also says he and other neighbors have had frequent run-ins with the woman over code violations on her property.
Jobe says in a statement that anyone who has ever had a dispute with a neighbor knows it can be a difficult situation.
The City of Springfield’s improving budget picture could pay off big in a few weeks… when the city goes to the bond market to finance its upcoming infrastructure program.
City budget director Bill McCarty says the city’s near record high fund balances could translate into better bond ratings… and lower borrowing costs… when those infrastructure bonds are sold.
The last change in the city’s bond rating was a downgrade by Moody’s… but McCarty says the rating agency was relying on old numbers, before the effects of Mayor Mike Houston’s budget moves were fully felt.
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is coming out against the proposal for a graduated income tax for Illinois.
Chamber president Doug Whitley says the group’s board of directors recently voted to oppose any effort to change the Illinois Constitution to allow a system where people with higher incomes pay a higher tax rate. Whitley says such a system discourages success and will drive businesses out of Illinois.
Some Democratic lawmakers say the graduated tax is more fair and will actually reduce the tax bill for most Illinoisans.
A Springfield man has been sentenced to more than 18 years in prison for seriously injuring his infant while under the influence of drugs.
Demarco Elbert was caring for his two-month-old son when, according to authorities, Elbert took acid and then fell down a flight of steps while holding the boy. The child suffered a traumatic brain injury and now, at 17 months old, has visual and developmental impairment.
Prosecutors say there were also signs that the child had been previously abused.
Part of a project that has been trying to catalog all of the official papers and documents related to Abraham Lincoln may have to scale back… as funding dries up.
The Papers of Abraham Lincoln Project is based at the presidential library in Springfield, but also relies on the efforts of researchers at the National Archives in Washington. A five-year charitable grant had boosted the Washington effort, but that money is about to run out.
Officials say unless new revenue is found, the project will concentrate on material found or stored in Springfield.
Springfield police are now accepting applications for the next class of their Citizens Police Academy.
Participants get hands-on and classroom instruction in areas ranging from investigations, tactical operations, firearms, communications and crime prevention. The nine weekly sessions will begin Tuesday, August 20th and continue through October 22nd.
The course is free, but prospective students must submit an application and pass a criminal background check. For more information, call the Springfield Police Academy at 788-8415 or 788-8416.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin wants to encourage more police departments to use a federal gun tracing system for weapons involved in violent crimes.
Durbin has introduced legislation tying federal COPS grants and other incentives to use of the ATF National Tracing Center, which attempts to track illegal guns back to their point of origin to determine who provided the weapon for illicit purposes.
Springfield police say they already use that system… but Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson says his department only does so in certain major cases, like homicides.
The first two Springfield businesses designed primarily as a place for people to gamble are slated to open next week.
The State Journal-Register reports state video gaming licenses have been granted to two Lucy’s Place locations, near 5th and North Grand and on Denver Drive, just off of North Dirksen.
Unlike other gaming establishments, where the machines have been installed in existing bars or restaurants, Lucy’s Place was designed to function as a gaming establishment, although there will be food and alcohol sales.
A total of six Lucy’s Place gaming centers could open in Springfield by this fall.
Drivers, pay attention… a railroad crossing south of Springfield that hasn’t been used for years is about to become active again.
On Tuesday, IDOT will remove the “EXEMPT” signs from the crossing on Route 104, four miles west of Kincaid. There had been no trains at that crossing for years, but it is becoming active again, and will be used to transport materials to the Kincaid Generation Station.
Drivers are advised to pay attention… and school buses, tanker trucks and other large vehicles will be required to stop at that intersection.
A local Democrat is sharing his unhappiness with Governor Pat Quinn on several key issues.
State Senator Andy Manar says he is still waiting to see leadership from Quinn on the issue of pension reform. Quinn recently vetoed funding for paychecks for all Illinois legislators, including Manar. Manar says he’s not worried about that, but thinks it’s no substitute for real leadership and ideas from the governor.
The Macoupin County Democrat also accuses Quinn of being too focused on economic development for Chicago and the suburbs, at the expense of Downstate.
Manar will hold a town hall meeting on education funding and other issues tonight (Monday) from 6 until 8 at Southeast High School. He appeared live Monday on the 970 WMAY News Feed.
Governor Pat Quinn touts it as the biggest increase in health care coverage in Illinois history.
Quinn has signed legislation that dramatically expands eligibility in the Medicaid program, allowing hundreds of thousands of low-income adults to sign up for the program. The expansion will make the program available to adults whose income is less than 138-percent of the federal poverty line.
Signup for the new program… which is part of President Obama’s health care reform law… begins on October 1, with coverage taking effect on January 1.
Don’t expect any major moves toward a new Springfield police chief this week. A spokesman for Mayor Mike Houston says the mayor is on a long-planned canoeing trip, as scheduled.
So far, Houston has not named an interim chief to take over on a short-term basis for Police Chief Robert Williams, who announced his retirement last week. Williams has not returned to the job since, and it’s unclear whether he will come back before his retirement takes effect. In the meantime, the department’s deputy chiefs are handling day-to-day operations and reporting to Houston’s executive assistant, Willis Logan.
Houston is accepting applications to become the next chief, and spokesman Nathan Mihelich says he will look at applicants from both inside and outside the department.
A suspect is in custody in connection with the armed robbery of the U.S. Bank branch on South Sixth Street back in May.
28-year-old Ronald Wiley of Chicago was taken into custody in Springfield last Friday by Springfield Police and the U.S. Marshal’s Violent Fugitive Task Force. Wiley was also being sought for warrants in Champaign and Cook counties.
Deputy police chief Cliff Buscher says investigators were able to follow leads generated from surveillance photos of that bank robbery on May 30th.
Mayor Mike Houston has to fill two major vacancies in his administration… and a Springfield alderman is warning that filling one of those jobs may be tough.
Both Police Chief Robert Williams and Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen are stepping aside amid the backlash from the SPD file shredding scandal. Alderman Joe McMenamin says replacing Cullen may be tougher… because it’s a difficult job with long hours and challenging issues. And finding the right candidate may be complicated by the fact that Houston’s term ends in less than two years… and he has said he won’t seek a second term.
McMenamin made his comments during a live interview with 970 WMAY’s Greg Bishop.
After Friday’s big shakeup at City Hall, Mayor Mike Houston will now get to work looking for a new police chief and corporation counsel.
Chief Robert Williams announced his plans to retire… and city attorney Mark Cullen submitted his resignation Friday, after a week of revelations put them squarely in the middle of the controversy over the destruction of police department internal affairs records.
Houston hasn’t said who he’s considering for either post… but Alderman Sam Cahnman says the next chief should come from within the current ranks of the SPD.
The head of the Springfield NAACP chapter says the acquittal in the recent George Zimmerman trial in Florida is an example of the racial divide that still exists in America.
Teresa Haley says Trayvon Martin came under suspicion by Zimmerman simply because he was a young black male walking down the street… a scenario that she says plays out in the lives of African-Americans every day.
Appearing live Friday on 970 WMAY’s “Kramer Show,” Haley says she thinks the Zimmerman verdict would have been different if Martin had been white, and Zimmerman were black.
Some Illinois gun shop owners say that while they’re not seeing a big increase in sales following the enactment of the state’s new concealed carry law, they are seeing a lot of interest in safety training classes.
Such classes will be required to obtain a concealed carry permit.
One instructor says he has a waiting list of 900 people for an upcoming training class.
Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation tightening the rules for leaving a dog tethered outside.
In addition to mandating that the dog have access to adequate food and water, the new law also requires using a leash of at least 10 feet in length, and ensuring the tether won’t allow the dog to reach a roadway or property line, and that it can’t become entangled with another tethered dog.
A Springfield alderman says Mayor Mike Houston should shop local... when it comes to picking replacements for Police Chief Robert Williams and Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen.
Alderman Sam Cahnman wants the next police chief to come from within the existing ranks of the Springfield Police Department. And he also says the city should find a, quote, "good new city attorney from the ranks of local lawyers."
Both Williams and Cullen informed Houston Friday that they would be leaving their posts, in the midst of the uproar over the destruction of internal affairs records.
In his first comments since embarrassing new details came to light about his 2008 arrest in Missouri, Deputy Springfield Police Chief Cliff Buscher tells the State Journal-Register that he was naïve and stupid back then… but that he used his 30-day suspension from the force to evaluate his life and make changes.
He vows that he will never again engage in conduct unbecoming an officer.
Buscher has taken himself out of consideration to replace Police Chief Robert Williams on either a temporary or permanent basis. Williams announced Friday that he will retire, after he came under fire for speeding up the destruction of internal affairs files, including one with information about Buscher’s arrest.
Rallies objecting to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin were held in three Illinois cities Saturday, but not in Springfield. However, the head of the local NAACP chapter says she agrees with the sentiment.
Appearing live Friday on 970 WMAY's Kramer Show, Teresa Haley said Martin's death shows that young black men are often viewed suspiciously for no other reason that their color. And she contends the verdict might have been different if Martin had been white, and Zimmerman was black.
The fight to save a historic Springfield school has failed.
Demolition work has begun on the nearly 100-year-old Enos School on the city's north end. A new Enos School building has already been constructed on the same lot, next to where the old school is being torn down.
Developers and preservationists had wanted to save the building and find another use for it, such as residential.
Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation tightening the rules for leaving a dog tethered outside.
In addition to mandating that the dog have access to adequate food and water, the new law also requires using a leash of at least 10 feet in length, and ensuring the tether won’t allow the dog to reach a roadway or property line, and that it can’t become entangled with another tethered dog.
There’s been a big shakeup at Springfield City Hall.
Amid turmoil over new revelations and new questions over the police department’s destruction of internal affairs records, Police Chief Robert Williams has announced his intention to retire… and Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen has submitted his resignation. Both were key players in the decision to speed up the shredding of those documents… some of which were the subject of pending Freedom of Information Act requests.
Mayor Mike Houston says Williams is eligible to retire in October, but will use accumulated vacation and sick time to leave before then. His exact departure date has not been set. The mayor will appoint an interim chief in the near future.
As for Cullen, Houston says the city attorney did not want to be a distraction. Houston declined to answer directly when asked if he had encouraged either man to step aside.
A rematch is shaping up in next year’s Democratic primary for the 96th Illinois House district.
Winston Taylor narrowly lost the 2012 primary to Sue Scherer, who went on to win the general election and is now serving her first term at the Statehouse. But Taylor is raising money and seeking volunteers to assist in a bid to challenge the incumbent.
He has established a Facebook page in which he asks for help to avoid a repeat of last year’s 70-vote primary loss. Taylor declined an interview request, but says he will have more to say on his campaign in a few weeks.
Channel 20 weatherman Joe Crain is getting his 15 minutes of international fame.
A clip of Crain on the morning news has gone viral on the Internet… and even led to an article in London’s Daily Mail. The clip shows Crain laughing hysterically after morning anchor Natalie Sparacio read a story about a Russian woman who holds the record for giving birth to the most children. Sparacio commented that the woman has, quote, “quite the uterus.”
That caused Crain to lose his composure and fall to the floor laughing in the middle of his weathercast. You can see the clip on YouTube.
A dozen Illinois communities have moved to toughen their local gun laws while they still can… and a dozen more could take such a vote today, the last day they can do so under the limits set up in the state’s new concealed carry law.
The Chicago Tribune reports that while some of the communities, mostly Chicago suburbs, have voted to ban assault weapons, others are simply imposing new restrictions on where and how they can be carried.
Meanwhile, the Illinois State Rifle Association says 30 other Illinois communities have considered, but rejected, new limits ahead of today’s deadline.
A weekend event in Springfield will pay tribute to two fallen Illinois State Police troopers… and raise money for a planned memorial park dedicated to all 60 of the state police officers who have died in the line of duty over the years.
The 6th Annual Motorcycle and Fun Car Run begins in Downers Grove Saturday morning and will travel to Springfield in the afternoon, where a brief ceremony will honor Kyle Deatherage and James Sauter.
Both troopers were killed in traffic accidents while on duty in the past year. The fundraising event supports construction of that park on donated land near the State Police headquarters in downtown Springfield.
A Springfield alderman says he believes the City Council has been misled by the Houston administration over the police document shredding incident… and suggests aldermen are gearing up to take action over it.
Alderman Frank Edwards appeared live on the 970 WMAY News Feed… and said the revelations in news accounts this week about the timing of the document destruction don’t match up with statements made to aldermen behind closed doors by Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen.
Edwards says aldermen plan to push for the release of those executive session recordings and transcripts… and hints at more action to follow, including the possibility of no-confidence votes directed toward some city officials connected to the scandal.
A heavily-traveled bridge in Springfield that recently made headlines for being labeled “structurally deficient” will be replaced. Governor Pat Quinn announced that project as part of a total of $17 million in public works funding for Sangamon and surrounding counties.
19,000 cars a day pass over that bridge on Chatham Road north of Wabash. State transportation officials had said it was safe, despite being declared “structurally deficient.”
Replacing it will cost more than $3 million. The list of projects also includes parking lot and sidewalk improvements at Lincoln’s Tomb.
New revelations and even more questions in the Springfield Police file shredding controversy.
The latest report from Channel 20 says both Police Chief Robert Williams and Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen signed off on the plan to speed up the destruction of internal affairs records… over the repeated objections of the head of Internal Affairs.
Lieutenant Chris Mueller expressed concern that some of the files… including one pertaining to the 2008 arrest of Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher… were the subject of a pending FOIA request.
The Channel 20 report says within minutes of the issuance of the final order to destroy the documents, city officials sent a response to Pure News reporter Calvin Christian, telling him they did not have any documents pertaining to his request for Buscher’s IA files.
Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is still standing behind his top cops… and defending his actions earlier this week when he slammed a door in the face of reporters trying to ask him about the problems in the police department.
Houston is rejecting the suggestion of Alderman Frank Edwards that Police Chief Robert Williams and Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher step aside until the file shredding investigation is concluded.
And the mayor says he was so abrupt with reporters because he was being badgered by one in particular… the Channel 20 reporter who uncovered some of the latest damaging revelations in the case.
Beyond that, though, Houston declines to discuss most aspects of the situation, citing the ongoing investigation and pending lawsuits.
The reporter whose public records requests have sparked controversy in the Springfield Police Department says he was seeking those records as part of a deeper investigation of the department’s conduct.
Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air,” Calvin Christian says he was trying to learn if there had been internal affairs complaints about alleged improprieties against officers connected to the department’s Street Crimes Unit. But some of the records that Christian requested were destroyed prematurely.
Police officials say Christian’s frequent requests for records were a nuisance that bogged down the SPD, but he says he… and the public… have the right to know what’s happening within the department, and on the streets.
Mayor Mike Houston says he’s not dodging questions about the latest controversies in the Springfield police department… but he also says he won’t be badgered.
Houston raised eyebrows Tuesday night by rapidly exiting and slamming a door in the face of reporters who were trying to question him about the latest revelations in the department’s file shredding scandal. He blamed it on what he described as unprofessional conduct by a single reporter… for Channel 20, which broke the story about previously-undisclosed details on the 2008 arrest of Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher.
Houston is publicly backing Buscher and Police Chief Robert Williams… and rejecting Alderman Frank Edwards's suggestion that the two step aside until a probe is comlpeted. Houston says the community should wait for the results of a state police investigation before jumping to conclusions on the document destruction.
Illinois business leaders are pressing for what they call a “common-sense, comprehensive” approach to immigration reform… an issue that they say is about far more than immigrants who enter the country illegally.
Participants at a roundtable discussion in Springfield say the current immigration system is broken… and is keeping them from filling jobs that require highly-skilled, high-tech workers.
Mark Peters is a corporate attorney with Caterpillar, and says there are simply not enough Americans with the skills needed for Caterpillar to remain competitive with other manufacturers around the world. The panelists are urging the U.S. House to adopt the immigration bill recently approved by the Senate.
A member of the panel that will make recommendations on a possible move toward “metro government” in Springfield and Sangamon County acknowledges the long-standing resistance to the idea… but notes that railroad consolidation languished for decades, and now it’s moving forward.
Joan Walters is the former budget director under then-Governor Jim Edgar, and is part of a Citizens Efficiency Commission group that went to Indianapolis this week to study how merged government works there.
Walters says the committee noted a number of benefits from consolidating government operations… but says it has not made a final decision on whether to recommend a renewed push for metro government here.
New controversy is erupting over the destruction of Springfield Police internal affairs files… and the details of a top cop’s 2008 arrest that may have been contained in those files.
This follows a report from WICS-TV that the station says was based on the internal affairs records of Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher… records the city had claimed did not exist because they were shredded earlier this year.
Alderman Frank Edwards tells the State Journal-Register that Buscher and Police Chief Robert Williams should step aside until investigations are completed into how those records were handled.
970 WMAY News attempted to ask Mayor Mike Houston for comment on these new developments… but Houston walked away and slammed a door in the face of reporters.
Some local government officials are taking another look at how other communities have fared with consolidated operations.
Representatives of the Citizens Efficiency Commission traveled to Indianapolis Tuesday to see the results of that community’s brand of “metro government,” where many city and county functions are combined.
The idea has been implemented on a limited basis locally, and the commission is studying whether its use should be expanded here.
A formal recommendation is expected in the next several months.
Lisa Madigan’s decision to seek a fourth term as attorney general has other Illinois politicians rethinking their plans… including Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon.
Simon announced earlier this year she would not be Governor Pat Quinn’s running mate again, and speculation had centered on a run for AG if Madigan decided to challenge Quinn in next year’s Democratic primary.
Now several media accounts say Simon is gearing up to run for comptroller… pitting her against popular Republican incumbent Judy Baar Topinka.
An application meant to make it more seamless for aldermen to get the information they need during city council meetings will soon be made available online for the public to follow along in real time.
The Springfield City Council will used a new system to view and vote on ordinances during Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Springfield City Clerk Cecilia Tumulty says in a few weeks the public will be able to not only watch the meetings, they’ll be able to pull up detailed ordinance information and how aldermen vote all from one internet browser application.
The application was developed internal at no extra cost to the city, according to Tumulty.
It’s a decision that could have ripple effects across Illinois politics.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan has decided not to challenge Governor Pat Quinn in next year’s Democratic primary.
Madigan says it would not be right for her to run for or serve as governor while her father remains Speaker of the Illinois House.
Political observers are split on whether Madigan’s decision improves Quinn’s chances in what is now a one-on-one primary against Bill Daley.
But her move does affect other politicians, including House GOP Leader Tom Cross and Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, both of whom had been thinking of running for attorney general if Madigan had decided not to seek another term.
The latest Republican candidate for governor says everything should be on the table when it comes to overhauling Illinois’s tax structure… except one thing.
State senator Kirk Dillard says he will veto any bill that raises income taxes, including any attempt to create a “progressive” tax structure that imposes higher tax rates on people with higher incomes.
But Dillard says he wants to look at bringing the sales tax code into the 21st Century, and to address the state’s over-reliance on property taxes.
Dillard acknowledges that it may be difficult for the state to repeal the “temporary” 2011 income tax increase and still meet its obligations.
The City of Springfield has been ordered to pay $12,000 in legal fees to an Illinois Times reporter who challenged the closed-door meetings of a committee that made decisions about city employee health care coverage.
Meanwhile, that reporter, Bruce Rushton, is filing a new complaint asking that the revamped committee be held in contempt of court.
Attorney Don Craven tells the State Journal-Register that the committee is still holding discussions in private that impact all city employees and retirees, in violation of an earlier court order.
Three teenagers are charged with some of the fires that rattled the Enos Park neighborhood this spring… and authorities have not ruled them out in connection with several other suspicious blazes.
The teen boys… two 16-year-olds and one 15-year-old… are accused of setting six fires in that North End neighborhood during May. In most cases, the three apparently worked together, but in at least one case, one of the teens apparently acted alone. One of the teens is also suspected in setting a trash can fire on South MacArthur in early May.
The three have not been charged, but remain potential suspects in a fire that destroyed three houses on North 4th Street… and an earlier fire in Grandview back in April. Investigators say they found lighter fluid containers with fingerprints at both fire scenes.
A former Springfield man says he doesn’t believe he was doing anything wrong when he was caught carrying a concealed weapon back in 2011.
But when police caught him with the gun, Donnell Jackson was slapped with a felony charge that remained over his head until the charge was dropped last week, after lawmakers approved a bill to allow residents to carry concealed firearms.
Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air,” Jackson says he believed then, and now, in his right to protect himself. But he says the pending felony charge hurt his ability to land a job. Now that the charge is dropped, Jackson hopes to pursue a career in healthcare.
The latest Republican to announce a run for governor says his focus will be on more jobs… and less taxes.
State Senator Kirk Dillard is vowing a complete review and overhaul of the tax structure, although he has ruled out any discussion of moving from Illinois’s flat income tax to a progressive rate system. Dillard also says the sales tax needs to be brought into the 21st Century, and says it might be difficult to roll back the 2011 income tax increase and still meet the state’s obligations.
Dillard is also vowing to create an “Office of the Repealer,” which would focus on getting rid of state regulations that make it more difficult for businesses to be profitable.
He’s a political newcomer who is starting out with one of the biggest challenges an Illinois Republican can face… going up against Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.
But Downers Grove businessman Doug Truax says he likes being in the role of the underdog. Truax has kicked off his campaign against Durbin, the number-two Senate Democrat who is seeking his fourth term in the job.
Durbin won his last re-election campaign with nearly 70-percent of the vote. But Truax says Durbin represents failed policies that are inhibiting economic recovery and ”decimating” the middle class.
Frustrated Democrats have been talking about trying to find a Downstater to challenge Governor Pat Quinn in next year’s primary.
Quinn is already facing a challenge from fellow Chicagoan Bill Daley, and may also be challenged by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, another Chicago Democrat.
But Downstaters say Quinn has all but forgotten about them.
A Quinn spokesperson denies that the governor is neglecting Central and Southern Illinois.
Quinn will be announcing several state-funded construction projects Downstate today, with stops in East St. Louis, Marion, and one in Decatur scheduled for almost exactly the same time that Republican Kirk Dillard has a campaign stop there.
Two members of the Sangamon County Sheriff’s drug enforcement team are recovering from injuries they received while trying to execute a search warrant at a Springfield home Saturday.
Undersheriff Jack Campbell says someone unleashed a pit bull on the officers, and the animal bit a detective on the hand. That detective and another officer drew their guns and shot the dog… but a piece of shrapnel, perhaps a bullet fragment, hit a deputy in the leg.
The injuries are not life-threatening, but other details about the incident were not immediately available.
A booking photo from the 2008 arrest of Deputy Springfield Police Chief Cliff Buscher shows Buscher wearing a T-shirt with a racially-provocative message on it.
Buscher had been arrested in Missouri after firing his weapon into a lake while intoxicated, during a camping trip that included other city officers. In the photo… posted Friday on the Illinois Times website… Buscher is wearing a T-shirt that reads “Hooked on Ebonics… Get Wit Da Program.”
Internal affairs records about Cliff Buscher’s arrest are reportedly among the documents destroyed prematurely earlier this year by the Springfield police department. Now a Sangamon County judge has ruled that a lawsuit over that document destruction can proceed.
Judge John Belz rejected a motion by city attorneys to dismiss the case, brought by Pure News reporter Calvin Christian. Belz says the case will ride on whether the SPD destroyed the documents in good faith… or bad.
Although Sangamon and Menard counties have agreed to merge their regional offices of education, not every Illinois county signed off on a plan to reduce the number of ROEs. So now the State Board of Education will take a crack at it.
The Decatur Herald-and-Review reports that it’s not clear if the State Board will accept the mergers that have been agreed to, like in Sangamon and Menard, or if it will start from scratch.
A new Mississippi River bridge connecting Illinois and Missouri has been officially named the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. The name is a compromise between efforts to honor the late St. Louis Cardinals legend and to pay tribute to the sacrifice of military members.
A Sangamon County judge has rejected a motion by the City of Springfield to dismiss a lawsuit filed against city police by Pure News reporter Calvin Christian.
Christian is suing the city over the destruction of Springfield Police Department records, and that case will be allowed to proceed.
Judge John Belz says the focus of the case will be on whether the city’s document destruction was done in good or bad faith.
Several other motions by the city to limit the scope of the case or the discovery process were denied, although the judge did agree to a motion to reduce the overall number of counts in Christian’s complaint.
The state of Illinois is asking a federal judge to dismiss a motion that seeks to implement the state’s new concealed carry law immediately.
That motion was filed by Mary Shepard, the plaintiff in the original lawsuit that led to the overturning of Illinois’s concealed carry ban.
She says the 180-day period for the new law to be implemented still represents an unconstitutional infringement on gun owners’ rights.
But Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office says it is not unreasonable for the state to take time to set up a system for implementing the new law. There’s no timeline for a ruling on the competing motions.
Officials still have not determined what was in the white powder that led to the evacuation of administrative offices at the Decatur Correctional Center Thursday, but they have determined it was not hazardous.
The powder was in a small, sealed plastic bag that was mailed to the correctional facility.
Inmates were locked down and the administrative offices were cleared.
Corrections officials say operations have returned to normal.
They are not commenting on whether that envelope was addressed to an inmate at the prison, and say the incident remains under investigation.
Planned Parenthood says it is “disappointed” by Thursday’s Illinois Supreme Court ruling that will allow the state to begin enforcing its parental notification law, which has been tied up in legal challenges since it was passed in 1995.
Starting next month, parents must receive 48 hours notice before their underage daughter can obtain an abortion.
Planned Parenthood says that won’t be an issue in most cases, but could pose a serious obstacle for some teens who come from violent or abusive homes.
The organization says it will try to assist teens by helping them go through the courts to seek a waiver to the notification requirement.
A physicians group is critical of the SIU School of Medicine for its plan to use live pigs to teach emergency room techniques to doctors in residency.
The med school says the live pigs will be under anesthesia when those procedures are performed on them… and will later be euthanized.
The State Journal-Register reports a Washington, DC-based group, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, says such practices are inhumane and outdated… and contends most medical schools now use computer simulations or cadavers.
Murder charges have now been filed against one of the three men arrested last week in connection with a June shooting death on Springfield’s east side.
Bond is now set at $2 million for 19-year-old Trevonte Jackson.
He and two other men had originally been arrested on weapons charges, but investigators now believe they can show that Jackson was the shooter who killed 34-year-old Charles Hunter during an early-morning altercation on South 23rd Street.
A federal grand jury has returned indictments against two Springfield men in separate cases.
In one case, businessman George Jaworksi… known as “Jerzy”… is facing four counts of filing false income tax returns. Prosecutors accuse Jaworski of dramatically underreporting income from his business, “The Granite Guy.” They say Jaworski failed to report more than $700,000 in income between 2005 and 2008. Each of the four counts carries a potential penalty of up to three years in prison.
In the other case, a Springfield man is accused of concealing assets in a bankruptcy case. The indictment alleges that Michael Carr did not disclose his ownership of several vehicles in his bankruptcy filing. It also claims that Carr told the bankruptcy court that his wife had $20,000 in a bank account… when in fact she had already withdrawn most of that money and given it to Carr. Nine of the ten counts against Carr carry prison terms of five years… while one count of falsifying records could bring a 20-year sentence.
Home sales and prices dipped slightly in the Springfield area last month… but the numbers for the first half of the year are stronger than 2012, and are poised to go higher in the remaining months of 2013.
The Capital Area Association of Realtors says home sales were down 3.4% in June compared to the same month a year ago.
And sale prices were down more than 5%, because of the effect of sales of foreclosed properties.
But overall for the first half of the year, sales were two-percent higher this year compared to last… and pending sales are up 15%, a sign of more growth in the housing market in the months ahead.
Passage of the state’s new concealed carry law has ironically made it tougher for local residents to carry a firearm… at least temporarily.
Last month, State’s Attorney John Milhiser said he would not press charges against people who were caught carrying a concealed weapon in violation of the state’s ban… which had been tossed out by a federal appeals court but remained on the books.
But now the new law is in place, which allows concealed carry, but only with a state permit, the first of which won’t be issued for months.
Milhiser says county residents are expected to abide by the new law… and could face prosecution if they are carrying without a permit.
Springfield school board members are digging into the debate over which administrators should have to fulfill a residency requirement… and just how strict that requirement should be.
The board’s policy committee debated how to implement the measure… including whether some veteran administrators should be grandfathered in after being allowed by past superintendents to disregard the requirement that they live in the district.
A final vote on an updated policy is not expected until mid-August at the earliest.
A ruling could come as soon as August 6th on competing motions in a pending lawsuit that seeks to force Illinois to allow gay couples to marry.
25 same-sex couples are seeking summary judgment in the case, citing a recent Supreme Court ruling that requires the federal government to recognize and provide full benefits to legally married gay couples.
But two county clerks have filed their own motion, asking that the case be thrown out.
A week ago, you might have gotten away with carrying a concealed weapon in Sangamon County… but not now.
Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milhiser said last month that he would not bring charges against people under the state’s concealed carry ban, which remained on the books despite being ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court.
But now that ban has been replaced with a law that allows people to carry firearms… but only with a state permit. And those permits won’t be issued for months.
Milhiser says he’s glad the legislature enacted that law… but warns that people must obey that law, including the permit requirement, or face prosecution.
Governor Pat Quinn has imposed the "consequences" that he threatened against lawmakers for failing to meet Quinn's deadline on pension reform -- by using his line item veto authority to "suspend" their salaries.
Quinn cut the line for legislative pay and stipends, contained in an appropriations bill that also included other state government salaries. The governor says lawmakers need to understand the urgency of the pension crisis, and he contends the only way to do that now is to hit them in the pocketbook.
Quinn says, "admittedly, this is a drastic step," but argues that it will send the message that taxpayers are fed up with the legislature's inability to approve a plan to address the state's growing unfunded pension liability.
Governor Pat Quinn is taking some heat for his move to withhold legislative salaries until lawmakers send him a pension reform bill he can sign. Senate President John Cullerton calls the move counterproductive. He says lawmakers have been working hard to find a workable solution to a very complex issue, and says the governor’s ultimatums are not helping. And several of Quinn's political rivals call it a "stunt."
Meanwhile, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is seeking a legal ruling on whether Quinn’s action violates the state Constitution, which prohibits lowering lawmakers’ salaries during their term.
Charges have been dropped against a Springfield man who had faced a court date next month for violating the state’s now-discarded concealed carry ban.
Donnell Jackson was arrested back in 2011 after police discovered that he was carrying a firearm with him. Jackson had not been accused of any other offense except for violating the concealed carry ban… which was tossed out by a federal court in December of 2012.
State’s Attorney John Milhiser had recently indicated that he was rethinking the prosecution of Jackson in light of the court ruling, and his office made the motion to dismiss the case.
For the first time this year, West Nile virus has been found in a mosquito collected in Springfield.
The virus… which can be transmitted to humans by mosquito bite… has now been found in mosquitoes or birds in 17 counties, although no human cases have been reported yet this year. It first showed up in Sangamon County in a sample collected last week.
State health officials say the presence of the virus shows the importance of taking proper precautions against the disease, by using insect repellent and eliminating standing water around your home.
The City of Springfield is closer to purchasing a square city block of prime downtown real estate.
State officials have declared that block at 400 East Jackson… across from the governor’s mansion… as surplus property.
The block consists mostly of state parking lots and the old, shuttered YWCA building.
The declaration will allow the city to purchase the property after it is appraised.
Mayor Mike Houston hopes to use money from the current downtown TIF fund to buy the block… and then to make it the linchpin for future development under a new downtown TIF to be created after the current one expires.
Illinois now joins the ranks of all other states with approval of the state's first concealed carry law. Both the House and Senate overrode Governor Pat Quinn's amendatory veto to a bill approved by both chambers in May. That means the law takes effect immediately.
However, under provisions of the new law, the Illinois State Police still has 180 days to implement concealed carry policies and set up a system for evaluating and honoring applications for permits. And once that deadine passes early next year, it could still take as long as 90 days for an applicant to receive their permit.
Despite the override, there was an attempt to keep some of Quinn's changes alive by adding them in as an amendment to a separate piece of legislation. That bill passed the Senate 45-13, but it's unclear if it will even be called in the House.
Mayor Mike Houston doesn’t think concealed carry will change things in Springfield, for better or worse.
Houston doesn’t expect the arrival of concealed carry to make much of a dent in the crime problem in certain sections of the city. Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” the mayor acknowledged that illegally-obtained guns are at the heart of much of Springfield’s crime problem… but tracing those guns and getting them off the streets is an overwhelming task.
Houston also predicts no problems from concealed carry permit holders. He says most gun owners understand and respect the responsibility… and liability… that comes from carrying that loaded weapon with them.
Mayor Mike Houston’s administration is now looking into allegations that a city employee may have misused city computers.
The allegation comes from the “Springfield Leaks” website, which claims that derogatory comments posted on its message boards came from an e-mail account with a “cwlp.com” domain. Those comments were critical of Calvin Christian… the plaintiff in two separate lawsuits against the city. Last week, Houston was dismissive of the claim, saying he doesn’t read “blogs.” But in a live appearance on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” the mayor now says the city is trying to get to the bottom of the issue.
The posts, which refer to Christian as “dummy” and mock him for recent run-ins with the law, came from computers using Internet provider networks assigned to Springfield City Hall. Christian is still pursuing his claims against the city, including one alleging that he has been targeted and harassed by Springfield police.
Governor Pat Quinn is threatening consequences for lawmakers if they don’t send him a pension reform plan today.
He isn’t saying what those consequences might be, but one of the rumors at the Capitol is that Quinn could block a pending appropriations bill… the one that contains the money for legislative salaries.
A bipartisan committee looking at pension reform says it will not meet Quinn’s deadline.
Committee members ripped Quinn during a Springfield hearing Monday, blasting him for declining the committee’s invitation to appear before them and accusing him of playing politics and making it harder to reach consensus.
A recently published study on the benefits of flaxseed shows that a steady diet of the so-called “super food” in hens cuts down on the occurrence of ovarian cancer … something researchers hope to prove is the same for women.
The research from physiologists at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine took four years and showed a significant decrease of the cancer cells of hens that ate the flaxseed diet.
Dr. Buck Hales talked with 970 WMAY's Bishop On Air Monday morning
Now lead researcher Dr. Buck Hales says he’s going to do more research to discover the benefits of Omega-3 oils found in flaxseed on the diets of humans.
After 18 years in the General Assembly, a local lawmaker is ready to move up in the ranks.
Republican Raymond Poe has thrown his hat into the ring to become the House GOP leader… if the current leader, Tom Cross, decides to step down to run for statewide office. Poe says he would focus on winning more seats for Republicans in House races across Illinois… and on improving the party’s outreach to minority candidates and voters.
Poe expects a decision soon on whether Cross will step aside, and who may be chosen to replace him. He appeared live Monday on the 970 WMAY News Feed.
The call is going out for as many as 2,000 volunteers to help with major renovations at two Springfield schools.
The project is being organized by Springfield Sharefest, a church-based non-profit which formed to carry out an “extreme makeover” of Harvard Park Elementary School two years ago. The group says that makeover gave students and staff more pride in their school and spurred an increase in student performance and test scores.
Now they are hoping to achieve the same results with renovation projects this summer at McClernand and Jane Addams schools. People wishing to donate labor, materials or cash can contact the group at springfieldsharefest.org.
If you’ve got friends in Jacksonville… be nice to them. One of them could be a millionaire.
Someone bought a winning Lotto ticket at a Jacksonville gas station last week… good for a $6.2 million jackpot in the drawing held this past Saturday night. The winning ticket was sold at the Clark station on Comfort Drive. That station will get a $62,000 bonus, equal to one-percent of the prize.
The winning ticketholder has not come forward yet. Those lucky numbers were 07 - 10 - 14 - 22 - 32 - 41.
Only a handful of Illinois cities are taking advantage of what could be a limited window of opportunity to pass their own local assault weapons bans.
The Associated Press says four communities have decided to pass more restrictive weapons rules in the aftermath of the state’s pending concealed carry legislation. That bill would eventually prohibit municipalities from enacting their own weapons bans, although Governor Pat Quinn is attempting to amend that bill to restore that power to local governments.
An amendatory veto wasn’t enough… Governor Pat Quinn is now taking his case about guns directly to the people.
Quinn held a press event Friday in Chicago to defend the changes he made to a concealed carry bill. The governor says his alterations to the bill are “common-sense” changes intended to improve public safety.
He’s hoping public pressure may stop the legislature from overriding his veto when they return to Springfield on Tuesday.
Henson Robinson Zoo officials are confident that the zoo will have its accreditation renewed this fall.
An inspector visited the zoo late last month for a follow-up… after the Association of Zoos and Aquariums put that renewal on hold last year. Zoo director Talon Thornton says the concerns raised last year have been largely corrected… and a couple of new issues that came up in the inspection are also being addressed.
The AZA vote on accreditation is expected in September… right around the time that Thornton will leave his job as zoo director after 18 years.
The Springfield Park District continues to express an interest in operating a park adjacent to the proposed Jefferson Crossing development… but can’t make any commitment to the idea right now.
The district’s former executive director Mike Stratton had previously indicated a desire for the park district to maintain that 18 acres of green space at Jefferson and Veterans. But Stratton has since left, and acting executive director Derek Harms says that letter from Stratton is not binding.
Harms says the district is always looking for ways to expand, but hasn’t yet determined if it can afford to take on the expense of operating another park at this time.
Illinois lawmakers will once again require high school juniors to be tested on their writing skills. But educators say it’s the lawmakers who need a crash course… in math.
They’re complaining that the legislature reinstated the testing requirement… but didn’t approve any funds to pay for the cost of conducting and scoring the tests, estimated at around $2.5 million dollars. The State Board of Education says it may seek a supplemental appropriation to cover those costs.
Three people are in custody in connection with the shooting death of a Chicago-area man on Springfield’s east side last week.
So far, none of the three have been charged with murder, although authorities say that could still happen as their investigation proceeds.
20-year-old Jeramy Jones, 19-year-old Trevonte Jackson, and 28-year-old Raymond Wallace are all facing weapons charges in the death of Charles Hunter, who was shot in the back during a large group altercation on South 23rd Street, during the early morning hours of June 28th.
The bipartisan committee trying to find a resolution to Illinois’s pension crisis says it will not meet the deadline set by Governor Pat Quinn to offer a solution.
State senator Kwame Raoul says the committee will need to conduct a savings analysis of several different proposals… and says that work will take at least two weeks, pushing past the July 9th deadline demanded by Quinn.
The state legislature is returning to Springfield next week… but will apparently only take up Quinn’s amendatory veto of a concealed carry bill.
For the first time in years, George Ryan is a completely free man.
The former governor has been released from home confinement, where he has been since early this year. Ryan had only been allowed to leave his Kankakee home to attend church or doctor’s appointments, but now can come and go as he pleases.
Ryan served nearly six years behind bars for his conviction on federal corruption charges.
17-year-olds can now cast ballots in Illinois… in certain situations.
Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation allowing a 17-year-old voter to take part in a primary… if that voter will turn 18 by the time of the subsequent general election. Quinn says the new law will increase participation in democracy.
Illinois becomes the 21st state to include such a provision in its election code.
Springfield aldermen have approved one of the biggest TIF requests in city history, authorizing up to $9.2 million for the developers of a convenience store and other businesses at the busy intersection of Jefferson and Veterans Parkway.
Only Alderman Joe McMenamin voted against the Jefferson Crossing project, saying it could cost the city in the long run by luring businesses from other parts of town and locking up that additional tax revenue in the TIF… a concern that Mayor Mike Houston says he does not understand.
Springfield’s city attorney sees no reason why an outside law firm cannot continue to represent the city in two lawsuits stemming from the actions of Springfield police.
Attorneys for lawsuit plaintiff Calvin Christian are trying to have the Noll Law Offices disqualified from representing the city, because they say attorney Jon Gray Noll had a seven-minute conversation with Christian to discuss his case last year.
Corporation counsel Mark Cullen says he doesn’t believe there is any conflict of interest that would prevent Noll from handling the lawsuits.
This will probably come as no surprise as you get ready for some holiday travel… Illinois highways do not score well compared to other states.
A study puts Illinois near the bottom of the pack in “highway efficiency,” a category that looks at multiple factors, including accidents and deaths, traffic congestion, and money spent on maintaining roads.
Reaction is fast… and furious… to Governor Pat Quinn’s amendatory veto of the bill to allow Illinoisans to carry concealed weapons.
The bill’s House sponsor and Quinn’s fellow Democrat Brandon Phelps says the governor is “pandering” to Chicago voters and running the risk that his changes could derail the whole bill… opening the door for people to carry firearms with no permit or training necessary.
In a live interview on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Phelps said he is filing a motion to override Quinn’s veto… and predicts lawmakers will reject the changes and show the governor that he’s “irrelevant.”
Governor Pat Quinn is making sweeping changes to the concealed carry bill that lawmakers approved back in May. Quinn calls the bill flawed, and says his changes are necessary to protect public safety.
Quinn’s changes would prohibit people from carrying guns into any establishment that serves alcohol, including most restaurants… limit a permit holder to carrying only one gun, and ten rounds of ammo, at a time… and restoring the rights of local governments to pass their own more restrictive rules, including assault weapons bans.
It will now be up to lawmakers whether to accept or reject Quinn’s changes before a court-ordered deadline next week.
The Republican challenging incumbent Congressman Rodney Davis in next year’s 13th District GOP primary says she can do a better job reaching out to certain groups of voters.
Erika Harold is an attorney and former Miss America who launched her campaign against Davis last month.
In a live interview on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Harold did not offer any specific policy disagreements between herself and Davis… but said that she has a track record of success in taking her conservative message to groups that Republicans have struggled to connect with. And Harold says any policy differences will become more clear as the campaign unfolds.
There’s been another incident involving someone allegedly pretending to be a police officer… but Springfield police don’t think this incident was related to a string of similar cases earlier in the year.
Monday night, a 19-year-old male told police that he was pulled over on Sangamon Avenue, by someone in a Crown Victoria who was shining a bright light in the victim’s rear view mirror.
A man described as a biracial male in his mid 20s approached the vehicle and asked to see the driver’s ID. When the teenage driver asked to see a badge, the man told him he was undercover and didn’t have his badge on him. The victim rolled up his window and locked his doors, and the suspect fled.
Police are asking anyone with information on the incident to contact Crimestoppers.
Attorneys for the Pure News reporter who is suing the City of Springfield over police department actions are now seeking to have the city’s hired attorney disqualified from the case.
The city brought in the Noll Law Offices to represent it in two separate lawsuits filed by Calvin Christian… one over the destruction of police department internal affairs files, and the other alleging systematic harassment of Christian by Springfield cops.
But the new motion says Christian consulted with Jon Gray Noll about his legal issues back in 2012.
Even though Christian did not retain Noll, the motion says that seven-minute conversation included confidential information, and that should exclude Noll from now working for the other side.
The Springfield school board has voted to reinstate three laborers whose jobs were eliminated earlier this year in a round of budget-cutting.
Two bricklayers and a general laborer were cut back in February.
But district officials now say it is more cost-effective to keep those workers on the payroll to respond to needs right away, rather than to hire workers on a contractual basis after a sufficient number of work orders has piled up.
The reinstated workers will still face a 16-week layoff during the winter months.
Sangamon County deputies may spend some time over the next couple of days checking out the few remaining fireworks stands in the county… looking for illegal sales.
Undersheriff Jack Campbell is reminding county residents that purchasing or possessing most standard fireworks is illegal without the proper permit… and the deadline for obtaining one has already passed.
Campbell says deputies will try to respond to complaints about people shooting off fireworks illegally, but more urgent matters will take priority.
Attorneys representing the Pure News reporter who is suing the city of Springfield say the law firm the city hired to work the case is disqualified ... according to a motion filed in Federal Court.
The motion filed Monday (.pdf) reveals that the plaintiff, Calvin Christian III, consulted with The Noll Law Office over six months before the city hired the Noll Law Office.
The filing on Christian's behalf says he provided Noll Law Office with confidential information concerning the case in August of 2012.
The city hired Noll Law Office this past May to defend against the two suits: one in Federal Court claiming police harassment, another a FOIA case involving destroyed Internal Affairs Files--both suits from Christian.
If you’re planning a big home fireworks display this week, Sangamon County officials have one word of advice… don’t.
Undersheriff Jack Campbell notes that virtually all forms of what he calls “classic fireworks,” from firecrackers to bottle rockets to Roman candles, are all prohibited in the state. The only exception is to obtain a local permit… and the deadline for that has passed.
Campbell says his deputies will be checking local stands to make sure they are not selling illegally, and will check out reports of illegal amateur displays as time and manpower permits.
A public hearing will be held this (Monday) evening on what has become a controversial issue in the village of Spaulding… whether to allow construction of a large cell tower in the village park that also contains a veterans memorial.
Opponents of the idea say the tower is too big and too close to the memorial, and would be a disrespectful distraction to that place of tribute. But supporters say there are no better options for a project that would bring needed revenue into the village.
[The public hearing on the project is set for 6:30 this evening at the Spaulding Village Hall.]
A candidate for governor wants to impose new limits on political fundraising… and is vowing to abide by them himself, even if lawmakers won’t impose those limits on everyone.
Democrat Bill Daley says the current system that bans political contributions during the legislative session is “a joke,” because it only applies to contributions made in Sangamon County. Daley would prohibit contributions anywhere in the state during regular, special or veto sessions of the legislature... except for 120 days prior to a primary or general election.
And Daley says if elected, he will follow those rules for the first three years of his term, even if they are not enacted into law.
Illinois finished its fiscal year more than $6 billion in the red… which was actually an improvement over the previous year, but not an improvement that is likely to last.
Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says an unexpected spike in tax receipts this spring provided more money to pay down the state’s backlog of bills. But Topinka says that so-called “April surprise” is now gone, and the state’s debt is climbing again.
Topinka expects the stack of unpaid bills will grow to $7.5 billion by August… and keep climbing after that.
A Springfield alderman says some of his constituents feel two garage sales in a six-month period is not enough.
Alderman Kris Theilen has proposed changing the city’s zoning code to allow homeowners as many as four garage sales in a six-month period.
Appearing live on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show," Theilen says many families with small children need to replace clothes regularly for their growing kids… and the garage sales help generate the money needed to buy new, larger clothes. Aldermen will debate the proposal next week.
Despite disappointment over the failure to pass a same-sex marriage bill during the spring legislative session, a record crowd turned out Sunday for Chicago’s annual Pride Parade and cheered the large contingent of politicians who took part.
Governor Pat Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka were among those participating in the event, which drew more than 850,000 spectators.
Gay rights activists also announced plans for a “March on Springfield” in October, to coincide with the start of the fall veto session, where they hope the marriage bill can be brought for a final vote.