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October 21, 2014, 6:53 am
970 WMAY News Archives for 2013-07

Still No Suspects In Apparent Rochester Homicide

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.

Attorney Discipline Panel Looks Into ''Filegate''

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.

Corporation Counsel Vacancy Raises Concerns

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.

Sheila Simon Launches Campaign For Comptroller

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.

Aldermen Table Release of Executive Session, Mayor To Waive Attorney-Client Privilege for Investigation

The minutes and audio recording of a closed-door meeting about Springfield’s police file shredding scandal will remain under wraps for now.


Aldermen tabled an ordinance to release the record of that meeting, based upon a request from the State’s Attorney’s Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, which is investigating the document shredding.


Mayor Mike Houston says publicly releasing the discussion could compromise that ongoing investigation.


But Houston is waiving attorney-client privilege, in order to allow outgoing Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen to talk with investigators about his role in the mess, without violating ethics rules.

Alderman Simpson Demands Common Courtesy In Stalling Liquor License

Springfield aldermen have tabled an ordinance to give a liquor license to a new east side bar.


Scandals… which had been located downtown… wants to relocate to a site on South Eleventh Street.


But Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson objects.


Simpson asked aldermen to go along with her wishes to put the ordinance on hold, saying that she knows what’s best for her ward.


Simpson did not say why she opposes the license, but has in the past complained that bars and liquor establishments make up too much of the new development in Ward 2.

Rochester Death Investigated as a Homicide

The death of a 78-year-old Rochester woman is being investigated as a homicide.


Norma Lipskis was found dead in her home last Thursday, and it initially appeared she may have been fatally injured in a fall.


But an autopsy on Monday revealed injuries consistent with a homicide, according to Coroner Cinda Edwards.


Police have so far not disclosed any information on suspects or a possible motive.

Top State Democrats Suing Gov. Quinn Over Legislative Pay Freeze

The two top Democrats in the Illinois legislature are suing Governor Pat Quinn… saying his recent veto of lawmakers’ salaries is an unconstitutional abuse of power.


Quinn zeroed out the budget item for legislative pay because the General Assembly has not approved a pension reform plan.


But House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton say Quinn’s action violates the separation of powers and threatens the legislature’s independence as a co-equal branch of government.

Mom Sues School District and Teacher in Alleged Affair With Student

The mother of a Lanphier High School student is suing a former Lanphier teacher and District 186 over the teacher’s alleged affair with her son.


The State Journal-Register reports the woman claims Jennifer Tyree targeted and groomed her son for sexual contact, taking advantage of the boy’s learning disability and emotional issues.


She also says district officials were aware of the inappropriate relationship because of numerous complaints from other students and teachers, but took no action to stop it.


Tyree was eventually arrested after her husband learned of the alleged relationship with the student. She is still awaiting trial.

Aldermen Keep Executive Session Closed, Mayor to Waive Attorney-Client Privilege for Investigation

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.

Rochester Woman's Death Investigated As Homicide

The death of a 78-year-old Rochester woman is now being investigated as a homicide. 


Norma Lipskis was discovered in her home last Thursday.  She had sustained injuries, but it wasn't until an autopsy on Monday that officials determined that the death was consistent with a homicide. 


Police have not identified any suspects or a possible motive in the killing.

Legislative Leaders Sue Quinn Over Salary Veto

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.

Decatur Woman Among Those Arrested In Nationwide Human Trafficking Sweep

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.

Mayor Says Outgoing Police Chief Had Department's Best Interest At Heart

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.

Winslow: No Big Changes At SPD For Now

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.”]

Interim Police Chief Named, Mayor Hopes to Pick Permanent Replacement by October

Springfield has a new police chief this morning.


Mayor Mike Houston has named Kenny Winslow to serve as the city’s top cop on an interim basis, following the retirement of Robert Williams.


Winslow is an 18-year veteran of the department who has served in many different roles, most recently as Commander of Field Operations.


Winslow was promoted over three higher-ranking Deputy Chiefs to take over the department.


Houston says Winslow is liked and respected throughout the department.


The mayor also says Winslow had no advance knowledge of the file shredding scandal that helped speed up Williams’s departure.

Mayor Houston Says Internal Affairs File Shredding Was Mistake

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 Appeal of Federal Judge Ruling Dismissing Call for Immediate Concealed Carry

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.

Bill Daily Officially Files to Challenge Gov. Quinn in Primary

Bill Daley is no longer “exploring” a primary challenge against Governor Pat Quinn… he’s now officially running.


The Chicago Democrat and former White House chief of staff will submit paperwork today to remove the “exploratory” status from his campaign committee, giving his candidacy full and official status.


Daley announced weeks ago that he wanted to run against Quinn.


Since then, another prospective primary challenger, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, decided against running for governor and will seek another term in her current job.

Gov. Quinn Makes Rounds Downstate

Governor Pat Quinn has taken some criticism in recent weeks for not devoting enough attention to Downstate.


Perhaps coincidentally, Quinn went on a Downstate swing Monday.


Quinn stopped in Springfield for a private event where the Chicago Blackhawks’ recent Stanley Cup trophy was on display.


Quinn then announced state grants in Peoria and Rock Island.


A Quinn spokesman says the governor wasn’t as visible in parts of Downstate earlier… because he was busy in Springfield trying to get a deal on pension reform.

Two Dead After Fleeing Police, Second Fatal Crash Following Attempted Traffic Stop in a Week

For the second time in a week, an attempted traffic stop in Springfield has led to a fatal crash.


Authorities say two men died Sunday night when their car crashed into a dump truck after they sped away from a cop who was trying to pull them over.


Just like a similar incident last week, authorities say police did not chase the vehicle, but it continued on at a high rate of speed until it hit the truck at 11th and Madison.


25-year-old Austin Stults of Springfield and 52-year-old Roderick Ross of Chicago were pronounced dead a short time later.


There’s no word yet on what prompted them to flee police.

Search Continues for Sangamon County Stabbing Suspect

The search continues for a woman accused of stabbing her boyfriend several times Sunday.


The sheriff’s department has an arrest warrant for Ambrosia Renicks on several charges, including aggravated domestic battery.


Police say she stabbed her 21-year-old boyfriend multiple times in the upper body, apparently with a small pocket knife.


He is expected to recover from his injuries.


Anyone with knowledge of her whereabouts should call the Sheriff’s Department at 753-6666.

Kenny Winslow Named Interim Springfield Police Chief

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.]

Water Line Repairs Could Disrupt Downtown Springfield Traffic Monday Afternoon

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.

Judge Throws Out Suit Seeking Immediate Implementation Of Concealed Carry

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 Houston Disputes Alderman Edwards' Recollection of Executive Session Questions

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.

Mayor Houston: Interim Police Chief To Be Announced in 48 Hours

Mayor Mike Houston has made his choice to serve as interim Springfield police chief… and expects to announce his selection in the next two days.


Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Houston says he has offered the position to someone, and that person has indicated they would accept.


But Houston did not identify the person he has chosen.


Houston says he was in constant contact with City Hall and was making decisions, even during his controversial vacation last week amid the fallout from the police department file shredding scandal.


And he revealed that Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher was in charge of day-to-day operations last week, despite Buscher’s own connection to the controversy.


Buscher, however, is not in the running to be either the interim or permanent chief of police.

Back From Vacation, Mayor Faces Touch Criticism and Choices

Mayor Mike Houston is back from an out-of-state vacation… and returns to face scorching criticism and big decisions.


The mayor is under fire from some aldermen for leaving on his scheduled trip as the police department file shredding scandal is heating up.


And the mayor himself could be on the hot seat when the City Council discusses the handling of the scandal at a special meeting Tuesday.


Meanwhile, the mayor still has to name an interim police chief and find a new corporation counsel to replace the officials who stepped aside as fallout from the controversy mounted.


Mayor Houston is scheduled to appear this morning on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show” to talk more about the issue. That’s set for 6:40am.

Online Voter Registration For Illinoisans Signed Into Law

Illinoisans will soon be able to register to vote online, under a new law signed over the weekend by Governor Pat Quinn.


Supporters say the system will make it easier for more people to sign up and exercise their right to vote.


And they insist the online registration will be both secure and far less expensive than paper registration.


But the system is not in place yet.


Under the legislation signed by Quinn, the state must have online registration up and running by next July.

More Layoffs Possible at Caterpillar

Layoffs at a Caterpillar plant have already driven Decatur to its highest unemployment rate in decades… and more bad news may be coming.


After sharp declines in revenues and profits, Caterpillar is saying more layoffs could be coming company-wide.


But Cat has not specified how many, or where.

First Murder in 4 Years in Jacksonville, Realtor Charged

Jacksonville is reeling following that community’s first murder in four years… and the arrest of a prominent businessman who is now charged in the killing.


48-year-old Robert Heitbrink is president of the Jacksonville Area Association of Realtors.


But the Jacksonville Journal-Courier reports he is accused of fatally stabbing an elderly relative.


Officials have not disclosed how Heitbrink was related to the victim, 70-year-old William McElhaney of Charleston, South Carolina. And they are not discussing any possible motive for the killing.

Woman Charged With Battering Ex-Boyfriend, An On-Duty Springfield Cop

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.

Alderman Raises Questions About What Mayor Did -- And Did Not -- Tell Alderman About Shredding Scandal

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.

Springfield Investigator Seeks Pardons For Former Murder Suspects

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.

Lincoln's Tomb Interior To Be Closed In October; Renovation Could Take Six Months

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.

Ethics Commission Will Review Madigan's Intervention On Behalf Of Friend

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.

Comptroller Cannot Cut Checks for Lawmakers After Gov. Quinn's Line Item Veto

It looks like it will be a payless payday next week for every member of the Illinois legislature.


Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says she cannot legally issue the scheduled monthly paychecks to lawmakers next week, because Governor Pat Quinn vetoed the funding for their salaries.


Topinka says court rulings make it clear that she cannot issue a check without an approved appropriation.


Quinn eliminated legislative salaries in a bid to force lawmakers to approve a pension reform plan.


Topinka says she hopes someone will file a court case to address what she calls a “dangerous” precedent by Quinn… and says the governor’s action is no way to lead the state.

Special Springfield City Council Meeting Called To Discuss File Shredding Case

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.

Driver Dies in Accident After Eluding Police

Springfield police are still investigating why an 18-year-old man sped off as officers tried to pull him over late Wednesday… leading to a crash that killed that driver.


Officers saw David Mims fail to come to a complete stop at an intersection.


As they attempted to pull him over, they say he took off at a high rate of speed.


Officers did not engage in a high-speed pursuit, but tried to keep him in their sight.


But they lost him a short time later, and not long after that, dispatch received a call about a crash.


Police found Mims’s car crashed into a tree.


Mims had to be extricated from the car, and died a short time later.

Man Faces DUI Charge After Fatal Accident

A Petersburg man is facing a DUI charge in connection with the crash on Route 97 Wednesday that killed the driver of the other vehicle.


27-year-old Travis Suter of Decatur was pronounced dead at St. John’s Hospital shortly after that noon hour crash.


Authorities say 51-year-old Charles Farrell crossed the center line and crashed head-on into Suter’s vehicle.


Farrell remains hospitalized for the injuries he suffered in the crash.

Springfield Unemployment Numbers Lowest in Four Years

Unemployment in Springfield is at its lowest level in four years.


The jobless rate for the metro area dropped to 7.5% in June, the best showing since June of 2009.


Unemployment fell in eight of 12 metro areas last month, and Springfield is tied for the second-lowest rate in the state.


The highest jobless rate is in Decatur, where recent manufacturing layoffs sent unemployment climbing to 12.5%.

Springfield Man Dies In Crash; Police Say Driver Was Attempting To Elude Traffic Stop

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.

Topinka Won't Issue Paychecks For Lawmakers, But Blasts Quinn For Vetoing Their Pay

No paychecks for lawmakers. 


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. 

Springfield Jobless Rate Down In June

Springfield’s jobless rate is down compared to a year ago, according to the latest numbers from the state Department of Employment Security. 


The metro area posted 7.5% unemployment in June, down from 7.8% in June of 2012. 


Unemployment was down last month in 8 of the state’s 12 major metro areas.  The Quad Cities had the lowest rate, while Springfield and Bloomington-Normal were tied for second best.

Durbin: Another Debt Ceiling Showdown Looming

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.

Cropduster Accidentally Sprays Teen Detasslers Near Champaign

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.

Trash Talk Fired Back Up in Springfield

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.

Warrant Issued For Calvin Christian Later Rescinded

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.

Prosecutors May Push for 6 Month Sentence for Former State Rep Convicted of Fraud

A former state lawmaker could face up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced on a federal fraud charge in November.


But prosecutors say they will recommend just a six-month sentence for 70-year-old Constance Howard.


The former state representative from Chicago appeared in federal court in Springfield Wednesday to enter a guilty plea in the case.


Prosecutors say she diverted more than $20,000 from a charity golf outing for personal and campaign use.

County Democrats Revamp Endorsement Process Ahead of Possible Scherer/Taylor Rematch

The chairman of Sangamon County Democrats says she’s not taking sides right now in a potential primary for a local legislative seat.


But Doris Turner also indicates that incumbent Sue Scherer won’t necessarily get an automatic endorsement from the party.


Winston Taylor… who had Turner’s backing when he narrowly lost to Scherer in the 2012 Democratic primary… has announced he plans to seek a rematch.


But Turner says she’s heard nothing official about that and considers the challenge to be “hypothetical” at this point.


She does say that the county party is revamping its endorsement process and says any candidate is welcome to go before the party and seek its backing.

Fatal Accident Near Petersburg Under Investigation

One person is dead following a two-car crash in Menard County.


The accident happened on Route 97 near Lake Petersburg Wednesday afternoon.


The victim was transported to St. John’s Hospital and was pronounced dead there.


That accident remains under investigation.

Wrath of God Warning Lands Chicago Man in Hot Water With Judge

A federal judge in Chicago has scolded a preacher who told a newspaper that “the wrath of God” would visit the judge’s home after the judge ruled against him in a case.


But Judge Sharon Coleman did not revoke Preacher Herman Jackson’s bond or send him to jail.


However, federal prosecutors are still deciding whether to charge him with threatening the judge.


Jackson… who is awaiting trial on charges that he defrauded the state out of subsidies for child care centers… says his comment about the “wrath of God” was not intended as a threat of physical harm.

Unions Say Powerful Businessmen May Have Tried To Undermine Illinois Credit Rating

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.

Jobe Cites Personal Experience In Push For Tougher Code Violation Rules

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.

County Dem Chair Says Party Endorsement Process Will Be Open To All

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.

Gov. Quinn Hints at Special Legislative Session During State Fair

Governor Pat Quinn is raising the possibility of another special legislative session during the State Fair to deal with pensions.


While he hasn’t said definitely that he will call lawmakers back to Springfield in August, he noted that many members of the legislature will come to town for the annual political rallies at the fair.


The legislature held a special session for pensions last year during the Fair as well… but it produced no real progress toward a solution.

Springfield Business Lands Concealed Carry Database Contract With State Police

Illinois has awarded contracts for computer upgrades intended to screen people applying for concealed carry licenses.


The Illinois State Police is contracting with a division of Levi, Ray & Shoup in Springfield to automate the entry of names into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.


LRS also landed a separate contract that will improve reporting of people with mental health or developmental issues that could keep them from obtaining a concealed carry permit.

Alderman Jobe Responds to Police Report Involving Neighbor

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.

Parsons Accused of Hiding Millions in Assets

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.

Pinching Pennies Could Lead to Lower Borrowing Costs at Springfield City Hall

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.

Crash Leaves Motorcyclist With Life-Threatening Injuries

A motorcyclist has been hospitalized with what police say are life-threatening injuries after a crash near downtown Tuesday.


Police say 33-year-old Gary Martin was critically injured when his bike hit the side of a van that was making a left turn at 16th and Clear Lake around 3pm.


Police are still investigating who is to blame for that collision.

Nine Week Citizens Police Academy Course Begins August 20th

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.

Alderman Responds To Battery Accusation

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.

Improving City Finances Could Lower Cost Of Infrastructure Borrowing

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.

State Chamber Of Commerce Opposes Graduated Income Tax

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.

Man Sentenced To 18 Years For Severely Injuring Son

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.

Lincoln Papers Project Facing Funding Shortfall

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.

Citizens Police Academy Accepting Applications

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.

Mayor Houston Takes Vacation Without Naming Interim Police Chief

The Springfield Police Department is currently without a chief or interim chief… while Mayor Mike Houston is out of state on vacation.


Police Chief Robert Williams announced his plan to retire last week, as criticism intensified over his role in the destruction of police department internal affairs records.


Williams remains on the payroll, but a Houston spokesman says the chief is unlikely to return to work.


Houston said last week he would name an interim chief, but has not yet done so… and is now on a long-planned canoeing trip in Missouri.


Spokesman Nathan Mihelich says deputy chiefs are handling day-to-day department operations, and are reporting to Houston’s executive assistant, Willis Logan.

Ald. McMenamin: City Corporation Counsel Tough Job to Fill

A Springfield alderman thinks the toughest job facing Mayor Mike Houston right now might be finding a new corporation counsel.


Mark Cullen resigned last week on the same day that Police Chief Robert Williams announced he would retire.


Both men were involved in the decision to speed up the shredding of internal affairs files.


Alderman Joe McMenamin says the job of attorney for city government is an important one, especially with multiple lawsuits looming.


But he says it may be tough to fill because of the long hours… and long-term uncertainty working for a mayor who has indicated he will not seek re-election when his term expires in 2015.

Sen. Durbin Urges Illinois Police to Use Federal Gun Database

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.

State Senator Manar Criticizes Gov. Quinn

A local Democratic lawmaker is openly critical of Governor Pat Quinn on several key issues, including pensions.


State Senator Andy Manar held a town hall meeting in Springfield Monday night.


In an interview for the 970 WMAY News Feed, Manar says he’s still waiting for Quinn to show leadership on the pension crisis.


But Manar says he’s not personally concerned about the fact that he and other lawmakers will likely miss a payday next week because Quinn vetoed their salaries over the pension dispute.


Manar says any difficulties he might face are nothing compared to the economic challenges that lots of Illinois families are facing.

First of Several Lucy's Place Video Gambling Parlors Set to Open

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.

Long-Dormant Railroad Crossing Becoming Active Again

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.

Local Democrat Critical Of Quinn

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.

Quinn Signs Major Expansion Of Medicaid

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.

No Interim Police Chief Yet As Houston Departs On Vacation

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.

Suspect In May Bank Robbery Apprehended

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.


Ronald Wiley

Ronald Wiley


Images from the May 30th Bank Robbery

Images from the May 30th Bank Robbery

McMenamin: Search For New City Attorney Will Be Tough

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.

Mayor's Next Task: Find New Police Chief and Corporation Counsel

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.

NAACP Springfield: Zimmerman Acquittal Example of the Racial Divide

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.

Debate Over Graduated Income Tax for Illinois Back Out Front

Talk is continuing about a possible move to a graduated income tax in Illinois.


Some lawmakers see it as a matter of fairness… requiring those who make more to pay more.


They say moving away from the current flat tax in Illinois would lower the tax burden for many, other than the wealthiest Illinoisans.


But opponents call the idea a tax increase in disguise, and say raising taxes on top earners will drive them, and their businesses, out of the state.


It would require a state constitutional amendment to change Illinois’s current flat tax system.

Sen. Kirk Backs Away From Earlier Statements on How to Curb Chicago Crime

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk is backing away a bit from his statements on how to deal with Chicago’s gang and crime problem.


Kirk made headlines when he called for mass arrests of thousands of members of the Gangster Disciples gang.


Congressman Bobby Rush ripped Kirk, calling his proposal a, quote, “elitist white-boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about.”


Kirk now tells Chicago Public Radio that Rush was, quote, “somewhat correct,” and acknowledges the mass arrest idea is impractical.


But Kirk continues to push for $500 million in additional federal spending on law enforcement.

Gun Safety Training Classes Fill Up After Concealed Carry Passage

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.

Gov. Quinn Signs Tightened Dog Leash Rules

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.


Violations could result in a 6-month jail term.

Gov. Quinn Signs Boater Safety Laws

Governor Pat Quinn has signed two bills into law aimed at improving boating safety.


One of the new laws requires boaters involved in an accident that causes serious injury or death to submit to drug and alcohol testing.


If they refuse, or if the test shows impairment, the boater will have their Illinois drivers license suspended.


The other new law changes the requirements for safety equipment and rules for tubing or skiing behind boats on Illinois waters.

Alderman: Next Police Chief Should Come From Within Ranks

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.

Buscher Says He Was Stupid In '08, But Is Now Changed

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.

Springfield NAACP Chief: Zimmerman Verdict Shows Racial Challenges Remain

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.

Demolition Of Historic Enos School Underway

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.

New Law Tightens Rules, Penalties For Tethering Dogs Outdoors

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. 


Violations could result in a 6-month jail term.

Police Chief To Retire, City Corporation Counsel Resigns Amid Uproar Over SPD Shredding Scandal

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.

Candidate Wants Rematch In 96th House Race

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 Gains Worldwide Fame For On-Camera Laughing Fit

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.

Ald. Edwards: Vote of No Confidence Could Come Soon Over Shredding Controversy

Springfield aldermen could soon get more involved in the response to the widening controversy over the shredding of police department internal affairs files.


Alderman Frank Edwards says he and several others on the City Council believe they were misled by administration officials about what they knew of the shredding, and when they knew it.


He says they will push for the release of executive session minutes and transcripts from the closed-door meetings where Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen briefed aldermen.


And Edwards says it’s possible the City Council could take no-confidence votes against some of the key players.

Overall 24 Percent Drop in Springfield Crime

Crime is down… significantly… so far this year, compared to the first half of 2012.


Crime stats released by Springfield police show a 24% drop in overall crime in the first six months of the year.


A lot of that decrease came in the property crime categories, like burglary and theft.


Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher says some of the credit goes to a reorganization of police department resources, to use officers more efficiently and effectively.


But he also notes that one big crime category last year… copper thefts… is down significantly this year because of a steep drop in the prices thieves can get for the scrap metal.

Last Day for Illinois Communities to Restrict Certain Firearms

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.

Structurally Deficient Bridge to Be Replaced

A Springfield bridge that has been labeled “structurally deficient” will be replaced.


19,000 cars a day travel over that bridge on Chatham Road north of Wabash.


But deterioration in the bridge structure led to that designation in a recent report by a transportation watchdog group.


State transportation officials insist the bridge is safe… but have now put up more than $3 million to build an entirely new bridge there.


The City of Springfield will contribute another $600,000 for the project.


Work is expected to start next month… and the project could take a year to complete.

Woman Cited in Fatal Wednesday Crash, Victim Identified

A Springfield woman has received several citations for a crash near Auburn Wednesday that killed an 11-year-old boy.


Police say 27-year-old Jessica Hillman was traveling on Route 104 east of Auburn when she lost control of her vehicle, veering off the road.


Her car struck a vehicle that was stopped at a stop sign on a cross street.


11-year-old Michael Davenport of Quincy, a passenger in that vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Weekend Event to Honor Fallen State Troopers

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.

Edwards Says Administration Misled Aldermen; Suggests No-Confidence Votes Could Take Place

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.

Crime Down Significantly In Springfield In First Half Of 2013

The crime statistics for Springfield are looking better, so far this year. Numbers from the first six months of 2013 show crime is down overall by 24%, compared to the same time period in 2012. 


Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher says there are several factors behind the decline, including a reorganization of police resources that allows officers to be more proactive, instead of reactive.


But Buscher says the decline also reflects a drop in copper thefts… because the price that crooks get for stolen copper has also declined.

''Structurally Deficient'' Springfield Bridge To Be Replaced

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.

With Madigan In, Cross Out Of Race For Attorney General

The leader of Illinois House Republicans has lost interest in running for Attorney General… now that Democratic incumbent Lisa Madigan has decided to seek another term. 


Tom Cross says Madigan’s decision changes the dynamic of the race, so he’s opting out.  Cross says he is committed to leading House Republicans. 


His decision also affects the ambitions of several GOP lawmakers who had hoped to replace Cross, including Springfield representative Raymond Poe.

Report: Police Chief and Corporation Counsel Signed Off on Premature File Destruction

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.

Mayor Houston Defends Top Cops, Annoyed by TV Reporter

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.

Christian: FOIA Requests Were Investigating Springfield Police Street Crimes Unit

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.


Listen to Bishop's interview with Christian here (mp3 download).

Mortgage Slowdown Prompts Wells Fargo Layoffs

Layoff notices have been issued to more than 70 workers at Springfield’s Wells Fargo office.


The company says a slowdown in mortgages prompted the staff reduction.


The affected workers will get pay and benefits for the next 60 days, and will be given the opportunity to transfer to other positions within Wells Fargo.

Few Details in Fatal Accident Near Auburn

Few details are available yet about a deadly crash near Auburn that left an 11-year-old boy dead.


The name of the victim and details about the conditions of other victims were not immediately released.


The accident happened on Route 104 near Auburn Wednesday afternoon.

Young Woman Sentenced to 9 Years in Fatal DUI Crash

A Springfield woman has been sentenced to nine years in prison for a DUI crash that killed one of her passengers.


Police say Amber Kline was drunk and speeding when she wrecked her car west of Springfield almost a year ago.


The rollover crash killed a backseat passenger, 23-year-old Amanda Smith, and injured the other occupants, including Kline herself, who lost an eye in that wreck.

High Temps Means Cooling Centers Across Area

The state is opening up cooling centers to help people without air conditioning find some relief from the heat wave that’s gripping the Midwest.


Locally, most of those centers are inside State Department of Human Services offices.


White Oaks Mall has also been designated a cooling center.


The high heat and humidity should continue through Friday, but relief is expected this weekend.

Houston Backs Top Cops, Explains Door-Slamming Run-In With Reporters

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.

Roundtable Urges Fast Action On Comprehensive, ''Common-Sense'' Immigration Reform

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.

Commission Member Says Metro Government Deserves Closer Look

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.

Fallout Continues in File-Shredding Case, Mayor Refuses To Address Press

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.

Home Builders Urge Opposition to Proposed Sprinkler Mandate

Local builders are continuing to sound the alarm about proposed new state rules that could add thousands of dollars to the cost of home construction.


As 970 WMAY first reported earlier this month, the State Fire Marshal wants to require automatic sprinklers in all new home construction.


Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis says the regulation will save lives.


But Dean Graven of the Springfield Area Home Builders Association says the proposal is a costly intrusion into the private marketplace, and will hurt the slow recovery of the local housing market.

Citizens Efficiency Commission Traveling to Study Consolidation Efforts

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.

Simon Rethinks Political Future After AG Madigan Announces Reelection Bid

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.

New Voting System for Aldermen To Make Info Available to Public

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.

AG Madigan Not Running for Governor After All

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.

State Senator Dillard Announced Gubernatorial Run, Talks Taxes

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.

Dropped Concealed Carry Charge Relief for Area Man

A former Springfield man says he has paid a high price for exercising his constitutional rights.


Donnell Jackson became a local face in the concealed carry debate as he faced prosecution for unlawfully carrying a weapon.


He was arrested in 2011, a year before a federal appeals court struck down the state’s ban on concealed carry.


But the charges were not dropped until 7 months after the court ruling, when the state passed a new concealed carry law.


Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air,” Jackson says having that felony charge hanging over him was stressful and hurt his ability to find a job.


Now that the charge is dropped, he’s hoping to land a job in healthcare.

State Senator Wants to Amend Recently Approved Concealed Carry Law

Just a week after Illinois enacted a concealed carry law, a state senator is already trying to amend it.


Democrat Dan Kotowski has filed a bill to make it illegal to take a concealed weapon into a church, mosque or synagogue.


The new law already prohibits taking guns into schools, casinos or amusement parks… but houses of worship were not included on that list.

Newly Formed City Committee Accused of Contempt of Court

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 Teens Arrested and Charged in String of Arson Fires

Three teenagers have been charged in a series of small arson fires in the Enos Park neighborhood in May.


But authorities are still trying to link the three to a much larger fire that destroyed three homes on North Fourth Street at around the same time.


The names of the suspects are not being released because they are juveniles.


Two of the boys are 16, the other is 15.

Teens Arrested For Some Enos Park Arsons, May Be Connected To Other Fires

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.

Fire Heavily Damages Bar And Grill; Cause Unknown

Fire has heavily damaged a Springfield bar and restaurant. 


That blaze was reported around 2am Monday at the Fox Bridge Bar and Grill on Fox Bridge Road.  Fire crews found heavy flame and smoke pouring out of the structure when they arrived. 


Springfield fire officials say the damage is extensive, but don’t know yet if the building can be salvaged.  The cause of that fire is still under investigation.

After Charges Are Dropped, Man Decries High Price Of Exercising Gun Rights

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.

Dillard Kicks Off Campaign, Talks Taxes, Pledges To Create ''Office Of The Repealer''

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.

Durbin Challenger Relishes Role Of Underdog

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.

Early Morning Fox Bridge Fire Under Investigation

Springfield Fire investigators are working to determine the cause of an overnight fire that burned up a bar on Fox Bridge Road.


The call came in just before 2am Monday.


Springfield Fire’s Mark Hart says that fire crews arrived minutes later to heavy flame and smoke pouring out of the front of Fox Bridge Bar and Grill.


There are no injuries reported.


Investigators have yet to determine what the cause of the fire was.

State Senator Kirk Dillard Officially Enters Race for Governor

The race for Illinois governor gets more crowded today… as Republican state senator Kirk Dillard enters the field.


Dillard is the fourth Republican to announce that they are running.


He came up just short in the 2010 GOP primary, but Dillard says this time he is the only candidate from Republican stronghold DuPage County, and says that will give him an advantage over his rivals.


Dillard will appear with former governor Jim Edgar in Decatur today… but he will not be making a stop in Springfield.


You will hear more from Dillard during the 970 WMAY News Feed, starting today at noon.

Critics Say Quinn Neglects Downstate Illinois

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.

Gov. Quinn Goes Toe-to-Toe with Texas Gov. Perry on CNN

Governor Pat Quinn has gone toe-to-toe with his counterpart from Texas.


Quinn and Rick Perry appeared together on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.


Quinn and Perry sparred over competition between the states for business development and jobs.


Perry says Texas has the advantage because of its lower tax rates and less intrusive regulation.


But Quinn says Texas also has much higher rates of poverty and industrial accidents.


Quinn says Illinois offers a better quality of life for corporate executives and workers.



Watch Gov. Quinn on CNN here.


Watch Texas Gov. Perry on CNN here.

First Republican Challenger To Sen. Durbin Posts Campaign Video

The first contender for next year’s Republican U.S. Senate nomination enters the race today.


Doug Truax is a West Point graduate, an army veteran, and a business owner from Downers Grove.


In a campaign announcement on YouTube, Truax tries to link incumbent Democrat Dick Durbin to the ongoing problems in state government under Democratic administrations.


He says the state and country are, quote, “drifting away from us,” and vows to bring a new approach to issues of taxes and job creation.


Decatur Police Dig Up Lot in Decades-Old Missing Persons Case

Decatur police have not indicated what, if anything, they found after digging up part of a vacant lot.


But they have confirmed that the dig was part of a renewed investigation into the disappearance of a boy nearly 30 years ago.


That lot was once the site of a house owned by the aunt of TJ Davidson.


The four-year-old boy was reported missing by his aunt in 1985.


She said she had left him sleeping in a car at a shopping center and when she returned, he was gone.


Decatur police began looking more closely at the disappearance recently, after a complete review of the cold case file.

Two Members Of Sangamon County DIRT Team Injured While Serving Search Warrant

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.

Report: Top Springfield Cop Wore Racially-Provocative Shirt In 2008 Arrest Booking Photo

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.

State Will Now Step Into Efforts To Merge Regional Offices Of Education

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.

Bridge Will Pay Tribute To Both Musial, Veterans

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.

Judge: FOIA Case Against City Can Move Forward

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.

State Seeks Dismissal of Motion To Implement Concealed Carry Immediately

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.

Decatur Correctional Facility Back to Normal After Powder Scare

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.

Camp Lincoln to Get Renovations, Part of Illinois Jobs Now

Nearly $400,000 in state money will be used for renovations at Camp Lincoln in Springfield.


Governor Pat Quinn’s office says the A.G.O. building at the base will get a new “green” roofing system.


The 35-year-old, 88,000-square-foot structure will also receive interior improvements.


The project is being paid for through the “Illinois Jobs Now” program, which Quinn says is maintaining the state’s infrastructure and creating construction jobs.

IL Supreme Court Upholds Abortion Notification Law

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.

SIU School Of Medicine Criticized for Plans to Use Live Pigs During Training

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 Filed in Killing of Charles Hunter

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.




Two Springfield Men Indicted, Accused of Financial Indiscretions

A federal jury has returned indictments against two Springfield men.


George Jaworski is accused of filing false federal income tax returns related to his business, “The Granite Guy.”


The indictment alleges that Jaworksi underreported his income from the business by more than $700,000 between 2005 and 2008.


In a separate case, 50-year-old Michael Carr is accused of concealing assets and making false statements as part of a bankruptcy filing.


Among other charges, Carr is accused of failing to reveal his ownership of an SUV, a motorcycle and four all-terrain vehicles.


The charges in both cases could result in prison terms if the defendants are found guilty.

Speaker Madigan Admits to Letter Supporting Pay Raise for Metra Worker

House Speaker Mike Madigan admits that he sent a letter to Chicago mass-transit agency Metra, asking officials there to consider a pay raise for a Madigan associate.


But Madigan says he later withdrew the request after Metra officials expressed discomfort.


Madigan wrote the letter on behalf of Patrick Ward, who was earning $57,000 as a labor relations specialist.


The speaker says he has worked with Ward on a variety of projects over a 15-year period, but did not go into detail about the nature of that working relationship.

Chicago Officials Give Initial Approval of Wrigley Field Jumbotron

Chicago’s landmarks commission has approved a controversial plan to let the Cubs build the first-ever Jumbotron electronic sign at historic Wrigley Field.


The team says the sign will bring the stadium in line with every other major league ballpark and provide a source of needed revenue for the Cubs.


But residents near the ballpark say the huge illuminated sign will change the character of the neighborhood.


And owners of rooftop clubs that overlook Wrigley Field say the sign will obstruct the view and put them out of business.

Two Springfield Men Indicted In Separate Federal Cases

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.

Parental Notification of Abortions Upheld By IL Supreme Court

The state of Illinois now has a green light to enforce a law that has sat dormant for nearly 20 years… requiring parents to be notified before their underage daughter obtains an abortion.


The law was approved in 1995, but enforcement has been blocked since then while court challenges continued.


Opponents say the law lacks the ability for girls to exercise their right of choice when their family situation makes it difficult for them to confide in parents.


But the Illinois Supreme Court says the law as written is valid and can be enforced, beginning next month.


However, the justices did leave open the possibility of yet another appeal… to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Illinois Lottery Hopes Change to Lotto Draws More Interest

Illinois lottery officials hope some changes will get people more interested in the classic Lotto game.


Lotto sales… and jackpots… have gotten smaller as more people turn their attention and dollars to multi-state games with bigger prizes, like Powerball and Mega Millions.


The revised Lotto game, starting July 14th, will still be played the same way, but will now cost $1 for each set of numbers.


The higher price is expected to lead to bigger jackpots.


Starting next week, Lotto drawings will now also be held three times a week on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Despite Recent Dip in Home Prices, Local Numbers Stronger Than Last Year

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.

Quinn ''Suspends'' Legislative Salaries After Pension Reform Inaction

Governor Pat Quinn has raised the stakes in his dispute with lawmakers over pension reform.


Quinn used his line item veto Wednesday to withhold pay for lawmakers until they approve a pension plan and send it to his desk.


The governor says he will also refuse his own paycheck until a deal is put together.


Quinn says fixing the pension crisis is the biggest job facing the legislature… but lawmakers aren’t getting the job done, so they shouldn’t get paid.

Reaction to Quinn's Lawmaker Pay-Cuts Mixed

Reaction is generally… but not entirely… negative to Governor Pat Quinn’s move to suspend salaries and stipends for lawmakers.


Several of Quinn’s potential opponents in next year’s election call the move a political stunt.


Senate President John Cullerton says threats and ultimatums make it tougher to get anything done.


And Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka questions whether the move is even legal.


But House Speaker Mike Madigan says he understands the governor’s frustration… and hopes the tactic will finally push lawmakers to pass a pension bill.

Prosecution Expected for Those Caught Carrying Concealed Without Permit

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 Area Tourism Up 2.5 Percent Since 2011

Springfield officials say tourism numbers set a record in 2012.


Local sites logged more than 1.76 million visits last year, and tourism generated $388 million in economic activity… an increase of 2.5% from 2011.


Mayor Mike Houston says Springfield is the tourism anchor for downstate Illinois.


Sangamon County was the most visited destination in the state, outside of Cook and the five surrounding collar counties.

Dist. 186 Working on Tightening Residency Rules for Administrators

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.

Several County Clerks Move to Dismiss Same-Sex Marriage Lawsuits

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.

West Nile Virus Found in Area Mosquitoes

West Nile virus is back in Sangamon County… at least in mosquitoes.


Health officials found the virus in a mosquito sample collected last week in Springfield.


It’s an earlier arrival for the virus than last year… when the state was gripped by drought.


West Nile has now shown up in mosquitoes or birds in 17 counties.


No human cases have been reported so far this year, but state officials say it’s only a matter of time.

Milhiser: No Concealed Carry Without Permit

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.

Quinn ''Suspends'' Legislative Salaries

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.

Quinn Moved Criticized

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 Dropped Against Man Charged With Concealed Carry Violation

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.

West Nile Virus Turns Up In Sangamon County

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.

Illinois General Assembly Overrides Gov. AV, Concealed Carry Now Law

Illinois has now joined the ranks of all other states, with a law now on the books allowing residents to legally carry firearms in public.


But it could still be months before the first concealed carry permits are issued.


The new law gives state police 180 days to put a system in place for evaluating permit applications.


Once applications are accepted early next year, the state will have 90 days to process them and issue permits.


The law took effect after lawmakers overrode Governor Pat Quinn’s amendatory veto of the legislation.


Quinn calls the override vote a “bad day for public safety in Illinois,” but supporters of the new law say it will reduce crime and allow law-abiding citizens to protect themselves.

Village of Pawnee Shoots Down Zoning Change for Shooting Range

Village officials in Pawnee have rejected a zoning change that would have allowed construction of an indoor shooting range in a residential area.


The State Journal-Register reports the facility would be part of an existing Pawnee business that provides firearms safety training to law-enforcement officers and others.


But village residents were concerned about safety, noise, and the potential effect on property values from having a shooting range so close to their homes.

Quinn Calls For Budgetary Announcement, Warned of Consequences Over Failed Pension Reform

Today could be the day that Illinois lawmakers face “consequences” for failing to meet Governor Pat Quinn’s deadline to send him a pension reform plan.


Quinn had threatened to take some kind of unspecified action if a bipartisan committee did not agree on a pension plan before yesterday’s special legislative session.


Speculation has centered on a pending appropriations bill that includes money for lawmaker paychecks.


And Quinn has called a news conference for this morning regarding what his office describes as a “major budgetary announcement.”

Garage Sale Ordinance Tweaked, Given Initial Approval

Springfield aldermen are tweaking an ordinance to make it easier for city residents to hold more garage sales each year.


Alderman Kris Theilen had originally proposed letting residents hold four garage sales every six months… up from the current limit of two.


Now Theilen’s ordinance has been amended to allow for four in a 12-month period.


But Theilen says that’s better because it will allow residents to hold those four sales during the warm weather months… peak time for garage sales.


A final vote is expected next week.

City of Springfield Seeking Property Near Governor's Mansion for Development, TIF

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.

Daley Changes Tune on Campaign Finance

Democratic candidate for Governor Bill Daley is rethinking part of his proposed ban on campaign contributions anywhere in the state during legislative sessions.


Daley had pledged to adhere to that standard, even though his proposal is not yet law.


But he now says he will accept donations during legislative sessions between now and election day.


He says that since he is not yet an elected official, he’s not in a position to have undue influence on behalf of his donors.

Concealed Carry Now The Law In Illinois After Lawmakers Override Quinn Veto

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.

Houston: Concealed Carry Unlikely To Lead To Major Changes In Springfield

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's Office Investigating Alleged Misuse Of City Computers To Attack Plaintiff In SPD Lawsuits

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 “” 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.

Quinn Warns of Consequences Over Missed Pension Reform Deadline

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.

State Rep. Poe Eyes GOP Leadership Role

Representative Raymond Poe says his years of experience in the legislature and his involvement in tough campaigns gives him what it takes to lead the GOP caucus in the House.


Poe has thrown his hat in the ring to take over as House Republican Leader if Tom Cross steps aside to make a run for statewide office.


The 18-year veteran lawmaker says he wants to make the party more inclusive, and bring more African-American and Hispanic lawmakers into the Republican caucus.

Sharefest Looks for Thousands of Volunteers and Donations for School Makeovers

Two Springfield schools will benefit from a massive volunteer effort aimed at giving both schools a makeover.


Springfield Sharefest is hoping to find as many as 2,000 volunteers who can donate labor, materials or cash to assist in the big renovation projects at McClernand and Jane Addams elementary schools.


A similar project at Harvard Park Elementary two years ago has led to higher test scores and improved staff morale.


The head of Sharefest says improved surroundings create a better outlook… and better results.


To learn how to volunteer, go to

Research: Flaxseed Diet Lessens Occurrence of Ovarian Cancer

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
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.


Hales tells 970 WMAY's Bishop On Air (mp3 download) that he will work with several researchers at the SIU campus in Springfield on research involving a flaxseed diet for women.


Since flaxseed is a nutritional supplement and not a manufactured drug, Hales says it is not regulated by the FDA and is available in grocery and health-food stores across the country.

Poe Hoping To Succeed Cross As House GOP Leader

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.

Volunteers Needed For Schools' ''Extreme Makeovers''

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

$6 Million Lotto Ticket Sold In Jacksonville

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.

Concealed Carry Override and Pension Reform Discussion Expected For Special Session

Illinois lawmakers will once again spend part of their summer vacation in Springfield this week.


A special session has been called for Tuesday to consider an override of Governor Pat Quinn’s amendatory veto of concealed carry legislation.


That’s the only item officially on the agenda, but House Speaker Mike Madigan has warned members to be prepared to spend more than one day in town.


The legislature is also under pressure to finalize a pension reform plan.


A bipartisan committee on that issue meets today in Springfield, but has already said it won’t meet Quinn’s deadline of Tuesday to reach a final compromise.

Gov. Quinn Defends Changes to Concealed Carry Bill, Override Expected

Governor Pat Quinn is still hoping to beat the odds and avoid an override of his changes to the concealed carry bill.


Quinn held events over the weekend defending the sweeping changes he made to the bill that cleared the legislature in May.


He’s hoping to enlist the public’s help to encourage lawmakers to adopt his changes during a special session Tuesday.


That day is also the court-imposed deadline for the state to adopt some kind of concealed carry law.

Poll: 85 Percent Want Behind The Wheel Hand-Held Phone Ban

Illinoisans are overwhelmingly in favor of banning the use of hand-held cell phones behind the wheel, according to a survey commissioned by the Chicago Sun-Times.


That poll finds 85-percent of people questioned think Governor Pat Quinn should sign that legislation, which was approved by state lawmakers this spring.


The bill would impose fines for using a cell phone handset while driving, but hands-free devices would still be allowed.


10 other states already prohibit talking on hand-held cell phones while driving.

Road Work To Cause Traffic Tie-Ups Through Parts of Springfield

Road work will cause some traffic tie-ups for Springfield drivers in the days ahead.


Starting today, Carpenter Street will be closed between 9th and 11th for repair work on the 10th Street tracks.


That project is expected to last a week.


Motorists will need to use alternate routes.


And starting Tuesday, a major repair and resurfacing project starts on East Lake Drive over the Spaulding Dam bridge.


The bridge will be reduced to just a single lane of traffic from 7am to 4:30pm weekdays, leading to alternating delays for east- and west-bound cars.


That $600,000 project… which also includes adding in a storm sewer and a wider sidewalk… will last 10 weeks.

Travel To Illinois Up, Details Expected Later Today

More people traveled to Illinois from other parts of the country last year than ever before, according to the Chicago Tribune.


The Tribune cites statistics expected to be unveiled by state officials later today.


Domestic travel jumped more than six-percent last year, with a total of 99 million Americans traveling to the state last year.


Most of them were vacationers… business travel accounts for less than 20-percent of that total.

Most Illinois Communities Take A Pass On Weapons Bans

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.

Fireworks Blamed For Blaze Near Williamsville

Authorities believe smoldering fireworks ignited a blaze that heavily damaged a home near Williamsville early Friday. 


The fireworks had been discarded in an outdoor trash can after a Fourth of July celebration… but then ignited, causing the flames to spread to the home. 


A 91-year-old woman inside the home was rescued by her adult son, a retired firefighter who lives next door.

Quinn Seeks Public Pressure On Lawmakers To Uphold Concealed Carry Changes

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.

Zoo Officials Optimistic About Accreditation; Thornton Exit Now Set For September

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.

Park District Still Uncertain About Jefferson Crossing Green Space

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.

Lawmakers Reinstate Writing Test, But Not Money To Pay For It

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 Springfield Men Arrested In Connection to Fatal Shooting

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.









Poll: Brady Leads GOP Field, Madigan Tops Quinn in Race for Governor

A statewide poll commissioned by a conservative PAC finds Bill Brady currently leads the crowded field of Republicans hoping to become governor.


The Americas PAC survey gives Brady 25% of the vote among registered GOP voters.


Kirk Dillard is at 20%, while Dan Rutherford and Bruce Rauner are tied at 16%.


On the Democratic side, Attorney General Lisa Madigan leads Governor Pat Quinn 25 to 23 percent… even though Madigan hasn’t said yet whether she will challenge Quinn in the March primary.

Poll: Nearly Three-Quarter of Respondents Won't Get Concealed Carry Permit

Even when concealed carry becomes the law of the land in Illinois, it’s not likely to change the habits of most residents.


A statewide poll finds 74% of respondents have no plans to obtain a concealed carry permit.


Only 20% of those surveyed say they will get a permit so that they can legally carry a firearm.


Lawmakers return to Springfield Tuesday to vote on whether to override Governor Pat Quinn’s recent amendatory veto of concealed carry legislation.


If they do so, the state will have six months to set up the process for issuing permits.

Pension Committee Will Miss Quinn Deadline

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.

Ex-Governor Ryan Released From Home Confinement

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 Now Allowed To Vote In Primaries

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.

Gov. Quinn Uses Amendatory Veto on Bipartisan Passed Concealed Carry Law

Governor Pat Quinn says the changes he’s made to concealed carry legislation is an attempt to improve a flawed bill and make the public safer.


Quinn used his amendatory veto powers Tuesday to dramatically alter portions of the bill.


One of his changes would prevent people from taking guns into any establishment that serves alcohol on-site, including restaurants.


Another would allow permit holders to carry only one gun and a single 10-round ammo magazine at a time.


Quinn would also allow employers to ban guns at workplaces, and removes a provision from the bill that prevents local governments from implementing assault weapons bans.


The changes come just a week before a court-ordered deadline for Illinois to put a concealed carry law on the books.

Lawmakers React to Quinn's Amendatory Veto

Lawmakers will return to Springfield next Tuesday… and gun rights supporters say they’re confident they can override Governor Quinn’s changes to the concealed carry bill.


Representative Brandon Phelps… who, like Quinn, is a Democrat… says Quinn is simply pandering to Chicago voters with his changes.


Phelps says a fast override next week will show that Quinn has become, quote, “irrelevant.”

Aldermen Approve TIF for Jefferson Crossing

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.

City Attorney: No Conflict For City Hired Law Firm

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.

David Primary Challenger Doesn't Offer Much Policy Disagreement

The challenger who wants to unseat Republican Congressman Rodney Davis in next year’s GOP primary is not offering any specific areas of policy disagreement with Davis.


But Erika Harold says she can do a better job of reaching out to swing voters and keep a Republican in that seat in a district drawn to favor Democrats.


Harold touts her conservative credentials, but says she is not running an ideological campaign against Davis.


Listen to Harold on The Jim Leach Show here (mp3).

Another Police Imposter Reported

Springfield police don’t think a report of an apparent police impersonator this week is connected to a string of similar incidents earlier this year.


The latest incident happened Monday night near Sangamon Avenue and Piper Road.


A 19-year-old male says he pulled over after someone in a Crown Victoria shined a bright light into his rear view mirror.


A man described as biracial in his mid-20s approached the vehicle and asked to see a license and registration.


The victim asked to see a badge, and the man said he was undercover and didn’t have one.


The victim locked his windows and doors, and the man sped off. Police are asking anyone with information to call Crimestoppers.

County Deputies Check Compliance of Area Fireworks Stands

Sangamon County deputies have not found any problems so far at any of the four fireworks stands operating in the Springfield area.


Deputies have done compliance checks in an effort to prevent illegal fireworks sales or purchases.


The restrictive fireworks laws in Illinois put the state in the minority.


Fewer than ten states have such extensive rules against fireworks.


In fact, some states have relaxed their fireworks rules in recent years because they were losing sales and revenue to neighboring states with looser regulations.

Illinois Highways Poorly Rated in Efficiency

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.

Angry Reaction To Quinn's Concealed Carry Changes

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.”

Quinn Makes Major Changes To Concealed Carry Bill

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.

Harold Makes Her Case For Replacing Davis In Congress

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.

Another Fake Cop Incident Reported; Apparently Unconnected To Earlier Cases

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.

Motion: City Hired Law Firm Disqualified

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.


Read an affidavit from Christian also filed Monday in Federal Court here.

Veterans and Spaulding Village Officials Working on Compromise

There’s no resolution yet to the dispute over a proposed cell phone tower in Spaulding… but the two sides are still talking.


Veterans groups object to the plan to put that tower in the community park, near a memorial set up in honor of Spaulding’s veterans.


Village officials say the project will bring needed revenue to the community.


But after a public hearing Monday, both sides agreed to keep looking for alternatives.

Focus Groups Next Step in Dist. 186 Supt Search

Next step in the search for Springfield’s new school superintendent… the creation of focus groups which will help devise the qualifications needed in the next leader of District 186.


Three separate groups of around 20 members each will be created… one made up of teachers, another with parents, and a third consisting of “community leaders.”


The school board hopes to identify a candidate and make an offer by late fall.

School Name Change on Hold

A proposal to change the name of a Springfield school is on hold for the moment.


Administrators at Matheny-Withrow School want to change the name to just Matheny.


They say the move will reduce confusion over the school’s identity, and will lend itself to the adoption of a new school mascot and team name, the Matheny Mustangs.


But board member Judy Johnson disputes the idea that there is widespread confusion over the school’s name… and wants more discussion about the change before it is made.

Dist. 186 Hires Back Laborers

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.

Deputies To Check For Fireworks Compliance

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.

Motion: Noll Law Office Disqualified Because of Substantial Relationship

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.


An affidavit from Christian, also filed Monday, says that he talked with John Noll for seven minutes over the phone back in 2012.


Christian says he remembers the conversation vividly because Mr. Noll mentioned his parents and that they are "good people and tell them he said hello."


Neither side could be immediately reached for comment.

Local Officials Advise Against Amateur Fireworks Displays

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.

Hearing Tonight In Spaulding Cell Phone Tower Dispute

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.]

Daley Calls For New Limits On Campaign Fundraising

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 Finishes Fiscal Year In The Red... And Getting Redder

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.

Aldermen: Constituents Asking For Opportunity To Hold More Garage Sales

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.

Many State Retirees Paying for Health Insurance Premiums For First Time

Today marks the start of the state’s new fiscal year… and a new fiscal reality for state government retirees, many of whom will start paying health insurance premiums for the first time.


The change was implemented as a way to start bringing pension and related costs under control.


Some retirees have challenged the new policy in court, saying it amounts to an unconstitutional diminishment of their retirement benefits.


But a Sangamon County judge is allowing the state to collect those premiums and hold them in a segregated account until the court fight is resolved.

State Retirement Numbers Down From Last Year

Uncertainty over the state’s unresolved pension crisis may have spurred more state workers to keep working instead of retiring this year.


3100 state workers retired in the fiscal year that ended Sunday… down from 4700 a year earlier.


But even this past year’s total is higher than the historical average of around 2200 retirements annually.


State officials say as more baby boomers hit their senior years, they expect higher-than-average retirement numbers for the foreseeable future.

First Sewer Rate Increase In Springfield Since 1996

The first of ten annual increases in sewer rates takes effect today in Springfield.


Aldermen approved the increase earlier this year to pay for improvements to the city’s sanitary and storm sewers.


Each of the ten annual increases will add about 50-cents a month to the typical sewer bill.


The State Journal-Register reports the last sewer rate hike in the city was in 1996.

Alderman Seeks Tighter Controls For Lawyer 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.

Alderman Wants to Rework Garage Sale Regulations

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.

Record Turnout for Chicago's Gay Pride Parade

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.


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