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October 21, 2014, 8:36 am
970 WMAY News Archives for 2013-08

Feds Approve $14 Million For Carpenter Street Underpass

The federal government has awarded Springfield $14 million for construction of the first new underpass connected to the railroad relocation. 


The money represents the full local request for federal assistance to build that underpass at 10th and Carpenter.  That intersection was chosen first to ensure that the east side would continue to have unrestricted access to the city’s hospitals and medical district during the multi-year rail project. 


The underpass will cost more than $21 million total.  The City of Springfield plans to ask the Illinois Commerce Commission to fund the rest of the project through its safety improvements program.

UCP Gets More Assistance Following Group Home Fire

More help is on the way for United Cerebral Palsy in the wake of a fire that destroyed a group home for three disabled individuals. 


The United Way of Central Illinois has approved more than $6,000 in emergency funding to help UCP cope with some of the expenses from the fire earlier this month. The money will cover insurance deductibles and replacement of some of the personal items lost in the blaze. 


There have been other cash and in-kind donations from local businesses and private individuals, but more help is needed.  To see a list of what UCP still needs, go to

Major Labor Day Anti-DUI Push Underway

More than a million dollars is being spent on special traffic enforcement details over the last couple of weeks… and lasting through the Labor Day weekend. 


State transportation officials say the money comes from federal grants and is being passed through to more than 200 state and local police agencies.  The funding will pay for thousands of man-hours in extra patrols, primarily aimed at stopping drunk drivers. 


Officials say such efforts have paid off in recent years, with a steady decline in DUI fatalities across the state since 2007.

House GOP Unanimously Behind Durkin's Leadership Bid

Downstate remains shut out of the legislative leadership… after Representative Raymond Poe abandoned his bid to become the next House Republican leader.


Poe withdrew his nomination Thursday and urged his colleagues to throw their support behind his chief rival, Jim Durkin, who was then elected unanimously to the post.


Poe said the rescheduled caucus meeting meant several of his supporters could not attend… but he decided not to press the issue for the sake of party unity.


He says he and Durkin are both on the same page, and will work together to elect more Republicans to the House.

Raoul Passes on Gubernatorial Bid

Another potential candidate has decided to take a pass on next year’s race for governor.


Speculation in recent days had centered on state Senator Kwame Raoul and a possible run that would have given Democratic voters an alternative to either Governor Pat Quinn or challenger Bill Daley.


But Raoul says he decided against it after considering the resources that would be needed for a successful campaign… and his ongoing responsibilities as chairman of the bipartisan committee working on pension reform.

Drought Conditions Come to Parts of Sangamon County

Drought conditions have returned to portions of Sangamon County.


The northwest corner of the county is now listed as being in a “moderate” drought.


That’s the least severe of several categories of drought.


About 20 percent of the state is listed under “moderate” drought, mostly in west central Illinois.


The rest of Sangamon County, and nearly half the state, is listed as “abnormally dry,” but not technically yet in drought.

Labor Groups Support Fast-Food Workers Call for Increased Wages

Organized labor groups say they support fast food workers who picketed outside restaurants in Springfield, and around the country, Thursday to demand a higher minimum wage.


The head of the Springfield and Central Illinois Trades and Labor Council says the current federal wage is not sufficient for workers who are trying to support a family.


Terry Reed says boosting that wage from the current $7.25 to $15 an hour would likely only add pennies to the cost of a fast-food burger… but would make a huge difference for workers and their families, and the economy as a whole.

History Files Springfield's Skies

A piece of American military history is on display this holiday weekend in Springfield. One of the last remaining World War II era B-17 bombers is open for ground tours and flights.


Some World War II veterans are among those getting the chance to see the historic aircraft up close at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.


For more details on tours, or to book a flight, go to the website,


Aluminum Overcast Takes Flight Over Springfield

An historic aircraft is in town for the holiday weekend for the public to take flights and tours.


The World War II era B-17 Aluminum Overcast never saw a moment of the war, but that doesn't matter to WWII veterans who see the plane.


Organizers say some veterans who see the flights end up telling stories to family members they may have never shared before.


Flights and tours are available by calling 800-359-6217 or by visiting the website


Poe Gives Up Leadership Fight; Durkin Unanimously Elected As House GOP Leader

Just a day after vowing to keep fighting to become House Republican leader, Representative Raymond Poe has dropped his challenge, offering up rival Jim Durkin's name in nomination just before Durkin was unanimously chosen to lead the caucus.


Poe says his change of heart was because of simple mathematics -- he didn't have the votes to beat Durkin.  Seven House members were unable to attend the rescheduled caucus meeting Thursday in Springfield, dooming Poe's chances.


But Durkin and Poe say they are now united on common goals -- to bring Republicans together, elect a GOP governor, and reclaim enough Republican seats in the House to end the Democrats' veto-proof majority.

Drought Returns To Sangamon County

Drought conditions have returned to Sangamon County. 


The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor puts the northwest corner of the county in its lowest drought category, “moderate.”  Roughly 20-percent of Illinois, primarily the west central part of the state, is listed in the moderate drought category. 


The rest of Sangamon County… and much of the northern two-thirds of the state, is listed as “abnormally dry,” but not technically yet in drought conditions.

Fast Food Workers Picket For Higher Minimum Wage

Some Springfield fast-food workers are joining in a nationwide protest aimed at getting Congress to enact a much higher federal minimum wage. 


The workers picketed outside local restaurants Thursday, saying they can’t make ends meet or support their families on the current minimum wage.  Local labor leaders support the effort, saying no one can survive on the minimum wage right now.  They say raising it to a living wage would craete enormous benefits, at a cost that they say corporations and consumers can afford.


Illinois currently has a higher minimum wage than the $7.25 an hour federal standard… but the protest is aimed at getting it boosted to $15 an hour nationwide.  The Obama administration has called for raising the national rate slightly, but far less than what the striking workers are demanding.

Allgaier Hopes To Learn On The Job As Sprint Cup Driver

Justin Allgaier admits he will have a steep learning curve as he moves into the big leagues of auto racing.  But the Riverton native says he will make the most of his chance to drive in three NASCAR Sprint Cup series races this fall. 


Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Allgaier says the Sprint Cup cars are faster and handle differently… and says he may only get a couple of hours of practice in one before his first race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet on September 15th


He says he’s not counting on victories, just on showing he has what it takes to stay in Sprint Cup competition next year. Allgaier’s Number 51 Chevy is being sponsored by Springfield-based Brandt Consolidated.

New Theme Park Attractions Planned For 2014

Area amusement park fans will have a couple of new attractions to choose from next year. 


Six Flags Great America, north of Chicago, says it will have the world’s fastest and steepest wooden coaster.  Construction will start this fall on the Goliath, which will reach top speeds of 72 miles an hour, and includes a 180-foot drop at an 85-degree angle.  It opens in 2014. 


And Six Flags St. Louis is also adding a new ride, although one that will be considerably slower.  The Tsunami Soaker will let riders shoot water cannons at each other on a spinning “teacup”-style ride.  It will also open next spring.

City Attorneys Seek Documents From Calvin Christian

The City of Springfield wants a lot of information about the man who is suing over the destruction of police department internal affairs files.


The City has sent a request to Calvin Christian’s attorneys, seeking documentation of all of Christian’s efforts to obtain IA records leading up to the file shredding in April.


The request also asks for information on anyone who may have helped Christian formulate his FOIA requests for those records, as well as information on Christian’s business associations and his agreement with his own attorneys.


The request is part of the ongoing discovery process in the lawsuit, where Christian is seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for the destruction of the records he had been seeking.

Riverton Native to Race NASCAR Sprint Cup, Sponsored By Brandt Consolidation

Riverton native Justin Allgaier will fulfill his longtime dream of driving in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series next month, after his longtime Nationwide Series sponsor Brandt Consolidated stepped up to sponsor him in three races this fall.


Allgaier is getting his shot after the sale of Phoenix Racing to Harry Scott, Jr. Scott then turned to Allgaier and Brandt for the team's Sprint Cup debut.


Allgaier will first compete in a Sprint Cup race on September 15th at the Chicagoland Speedway.


He will also drive the Number 51 Chevy for Brandt in Charlotte on October 12th, and Talladega on October 20th.

GOP House Members to Vote on Leadership Today

A showdown vote is set for today in Springfield to determine who will lead Illinois House Republicans heading into the election year.


Representative Raymond Poe is in the running, but fears that moving the vote up to today will hurt his chances, since some of his supporters are unable to attend.


Poe’s main rival is Jim Durkin.


Poe says whatever the outcome, he’ll work to keep the caucus united.

Springfield Fire Chief Calls on Area Fire Districts To Pay Their Share

Springfield’s fire chief is calling on a number of small outlying communities to do more to cover the cost of the fire protection services they receive.


The city is currently renegotiating its contracts with nine small fire protection districts who rely on the city for all firefighting services.


Fire Chief Ken Fustin says those districts should consolidate and raise taxes within their districts in order to contribute more to the city’s expenses for providing that service.


And Fustin says if that doesn’t happen, the city may be forced to reduce the level of response it provides for fires in those districts.

Former Cop's Name Removed From Consideration For Review Commission

A former Springfield cop has withdrawn his name from consideration for a post on the Police Community Review Commission.


Mayor Mike Houston had nominated retired deputy chief Mike Geiger to serve on the panel, which oversees the department’s handling of civilian complaints.


But some aldermen questioned whether Geiger could be objective in dealing with complaints about his former colleagues on the force.

High School Consolidation Idea Doesn't Find Much Support

The reaction has been almost uniformly negative to a trial balloon floated by a Springfield school board member.


Adam Lopez raised the possibility of closing one of the city’s three high schools to help close the school district’s ongoing budget gap. Lopez acknowledges that even suggesting the idea won’t make him popular.


But he says it might help the community realize the severity of the district’s financial trouble and make voters more open to considering a future tax referendum.

Allgaier Advances To NASCAR Sprint Cup; Brandt To Sponsor Riverton Native In Three 2013 Races

Riverton native Justin Allgaier will fulfill his longtime dream of driving in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series next month, after his longtime Nationwide Series sponsor Brandt Consolidated stepped up to sponsor him in three races this fall.


Allgaier is getting his shot after the sale of Phoenix Racing to Harry Scott, Jr.  Scott then turned to Allgaier and Brandt for the team's Sprint Cup debut.  Allgaier will first compete in a Sprint Cup race on September 15th at the Chicagoland Speedway.  He will also drive the Number 51 Chevy for Brandt in Charlotte on October 12th, and Talladega on October 20th.


Allgaier says he's thrilled to finally get his long-awaited opportunity to drive in stock car racing's premier circuit.  Springfield-based Brandt says it's equally happy to get the increased exposure that goes along with a Sprint Cup sponsorship.

City Asks To See Christian's Documents

The City of Springfield wants to see some private documents from the man who is suing the city over destruction of public records. They also want to know just how much help he had in crafting his well known FOIA request. 


In the ongoing file shredding controversy, a request to produce documents was sent to Calvin Christian's attorneys this week.


Christian is the Pure News Reporter who is suing the city over the premature destruction of police internal affairs files that he requested in April of this year. In the most recent filing, the city asks for emails, phone records and other forms of communication in which Christian was in pursuit of documents from the city.


The city wants everything since January of this year. Christian had several FOIA requests leading up to the April request that seems to have triggered the premature destruction of Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher's 2008 IA file.


The city, being represented by Daniel Noll and the Assistant Corporate Counsel to the city Steven Rahn, are also asking for a copy of the agreement between Christian and his attorneys.


In another filing, the city is asking about Christian's business associations, including documentation of his work at Pure News and all the people he worked with in crafting the FOIA requests.


The city also wants to know who told Christian the documents were destroyed. A series of depositions of other key players in the files destruction has been going on for the past couple weeks.


Christian is suing the city on 73 counts of destroying documents with a pending FOIA request. The city settled on one file, the 2008 Cliff Buscher file.


A special appellate prosecutor and the Illinois State Police are investigating if any criminal wrongdoing happened in the early destruction of the requested IA files.


Police Chief Robert Williams retired while the city's chief legal counsel Mark Cullen resigned in the aftermath of revelations of the destruction of internal affairs files. 

Poe Concerned About Rescheduled Leadership Vote

Representative Raymond Poe says he’s not giving up on his quest to become House GOP leader, even though it appears the deck may be stacked against him in a showdown caucus vote on Thursday. 


That vote was moved up by allies of Poe’s main rival for the job, Representative Jim Durkin.  Poe insists he could line up a majority, but some of his supporters cannot be in Springfield for the rescheduled vote on Thursday.  And Poe says his request to let them vote by phone was rejected. 


But appearing on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Poe said that if the vote doesn’t go his way, he will still work with Durkin to improve the party’s fortunes in the race for Governor and legislative seats.

Services Set For Cancer Victim Susan Baird

Funeral arrangements have been set for Susan Baird.  The 10-year-old Chatham girl lost her battle with cancer this week. 


A visitation will be held Saturday from 4-7pm at Staab Polk Memorial Home in Chatham, and again from noon until two on Sunday.  Then at 2pm, a Celebration of Life for Susan will be held at that same location.  That will be followed by burial at Chatham Memorial Cemetery. 


Susan’s family has issued a statement thanking the community for their support following her diagnosis.  People are invited to wear “Team Susan” or Chatham Glenwood colors in her honor during those weekend services.

Lopez: Talk Of Closing High School Could Trigger Backlash -- Or Boost Support For New Revenues

A Springfield school board member admits his proposal to look at eliminating one of the city’s high schools won’t make him popular around town. 


But Adam Lopez says the looming prospects of millions more in budget cuts requires looking at everything, especially high school expenses.  Lopez says closing one high school… and moving those students to the other two… would reduce expenses, although he’s not sure by how much.  District 186 is also considering reducing the high school day from seven periods back to six. 


Lopez says the proposed cuts may help convince the public that it’s time for new revenues for Springfield schools.

Springfield Schools To Dismiss Early For The Rest Of The Week

High heat and humidity will keep cutting the school day short in Springfield, at least through the end of this week. 


District 186 has decided to continue with early dismissals through Friday, because of a forecast that continues to call for triple-digit heat index readings at least until then.  Students will get out one hour early at all city public schools, except for the Ball Charter School. 


The district hopes to return to its regular schedule after the Labor Day holiday.

Proposed Rules Would Mean Healthier Snacks, No TV In Day Care Centers

Day care centers could no longer serve chocolate milk, cookies, or other sugary or fatty foods… and wouldn’t be allowed to sit kids in front of a TV… under proposed rules that are currently under consideration by the state of Illinois. 


The rules are aimed at promoting healthier choices for children.  They would also require giving children outdoor activity time twice a day, and would ban using food for rewards. 


The Bloomington Pantagraph says the proposed rules would apply only to day care centers, not in-home day cares.  Many center operators say they are already following similar standards, and don’t think the rules would affect them much.

Flamini Says Tax Hike Talk Could Come During Next School Board Meeting

Tax hike talk for Springfield public schools could start sooner than expected.


In a live interview Tuesday morning on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” school board president Chuck Flamini said that conversation should wait until a new superintendent is in place… which could take nearly a year.


But later, Flamini told the State Journal-Register that he wants to initiate the conversation at the board’s next meeting in early September.


The district is facing another potential multi-million dollar shortfall next year… and has nearly depleted the money in its education fund.

Dist. 186 To Get Over $3 Million From Expired TIF

District 186 could see some financial relief, at least in the short term.


Springfield city budget director Bill McCarty says the school district will get more than $3.6 million when the remaining money from the expired Park South TIF district is distributed in November.


And with Park South property taxes no longer partially going into the TIF fund, the district could see an additional million dollars every year after.


But not all the news is positive.


The condemnation of properties for railroad relocation could reduce property tax revenues in the short term… although officials think the rail project will spur more development for a net increase in the long run.

Gravel Pit Study Called Into Question, City Defends Findings

Angry words are being exchanged over Springfield’s efforts to find a backup water supply.


The latest controversy is over the recent study that finds the city’s gravel pits would not provide an adequate supply of water in a severe drought situation.


Springfield attorney Don Hanrahan… who has long opposed the idea of building a second lake… suggested that the latest study is part of an “agenda” by City Water Light and Power to jump start the Hunter Lake project.


But chief utilities engineer Eric Hobbie denies that, and says his only agenda is to make sure Springfield has enough water, whatever the source.

Vote for House GOP Leadership Post Could Come Thursday

Illinois House Republicans are speeding up their vote for a new caucus leader.


That vote had originally been scheduled for mid-September… but will now be held Thursday.


The change appears to favor suburban Representative Jim Durkin… and may hurt the chances of Springfield lawmaker Raymond Poe.


Poe says the schedule change may keep some of his supporters away when the vote is taken.


The move comes after Chicago business leader Ty Fahner warned Republicans that they risk losing business support if they back Poe… because Poe has sided with AFSCME and other public sector unions in the pension reform fight.

Corrections Defends Early Release Program After Ex-Con Charged in Murder

The state Department of Corrections is defending its revamped early release program… even though one of the parolees who was let out early back in May is now charged with a murder in Decatur.


Joshua Jones is accused of fatally shooting a man just three months after he was released. Jones was let out under a program that tries to reduce prison overcrowding by speeding up the release of non-violent offenders.


A Corrections spokesman says Jones was in prison on drug charges, not a violent offense, and therefore was eligible for the program.


The Associated Press notes that since the revamped program was started in March, fewer than one-percent of the inmates released under it have gone back to prison.

AP: Parolee Who Got Out Of Prison Early Charged With Decatur Murder

A man who was let out of an Illinois prison early under the state’s revamped early release program is now accused of murder. 


The Associated Press reports that Joshua Jones was released in May, five months ahead of his scheduled release on drug charges.  But just three months after he was let out, Jones was charged in the murder of a Decatur man earlier this month. 


The revised early-release program replaced one in 2010 that let some violent offenders out early. So far, under the new program, only about one-percent of the released offenders have been sent back to prison.

Business Leader Blasts Poe's Leadership Bid

One of the most vocal advocates of sweeping pension reform is warning Republicans not to back Raymond Poe as the next House GOP leader. 


Poe is hoping to replace Tom Cross as caucus leader.  But former Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner is blasting Poe, accusing him of being too beholden to AFSCME and other public sector unions. 


Fahner tells Crain’s Chicago Business that any Republicans who support Poe should not expect political support from the state’s business community.  Poe has said the state should keep its pension promises… and has even suggested extending the state’s income tax increase to pay for pensions.

School Board President Softens Tax Comments

The president of the Springfield school board now says he wishes he had phrased things differently when he said the community needs to, quote, “grow up” regarding school finances. 


But Chuck Flamini isn’t backing away from his assertion that there has to be a community conversation about education funding and a possible tax referendum for schools. 


However, appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Flamini acknowledged that such a conversation is unlikely to happen until a new superintendent is hired and on the job… which may not be until next summer.  In the meantime, Flamini says District 186 will have no choice but to “limp along” and hope things don’t get worse.

Springfield Schools Face Tax Ups And Downs

Springfield schools have a mixed bag of news on the horizon related to revenues. 


City officials say the district will collect more than three-million dollars this fall from the distribution of money remaining in the Park South TIF fund that expired last year.  The end of that TIF should also mean an additional million dollars in property tax revenue coming to District 186 annually. 


On the downside, officials say the railroad relocation project could reduce the district’s property tax revenues by removing dozens of properties from the tax rolls.  But they say other development spurred by the railroad project should eventually make up for that lost ground.

Chatham Girl Loses Fight Against Cancer

Family, friends, and even strangers are mourning a young Chatham girl who lost her fight with cancer early Tuesday. 


Susan Baird passed away after battling the disease for months.  A huge community effort to raise money… and show support… for Susan and her family started after her diagnosis was made public. 


Hundreds of people have posted messages of condolences and support on a Facebook page that was set up to document her battle. 

High Heat Index Leads to Early Dismissal of Some Area Schools

School gets out early today and tomorrow in Springfield… because of the late summer heat wave.


With feels-like temperatures expected to be well over 100 for the next two afternoons, District 186 will dismiss students one hour early both days.


Some district schools are air-conditioned, but not all… and the district says transportation logistics require all schools to be dismissed on the same schedule.


Buffalo Tri-City schools are also dismissing early all this week… and Mt. Pulaski is letting students out an hour early today.

Two Public Meetings For School Supt. Search Set For Today and Tomorrow

It’s your chance to have some input into the selection of a new Springfield school superintendent.


A series of focus group meetings will be held over the next two days at the board of education offices.


Teachers, parents, staff and community leaders are all taking part in the discussions.


There will also be two open public sessions, tonight at 6 at Grant Middle School, and Wednesday at noon at the school board office at 1900 West Monroe.


Input from those meetings will be used to narrow the field of possible contenders for the vacant superintendent job.

Candidate Says Pension Problem is From State's Failed Promise, Not Workers' Benefits

A Republican candidate for the Illinois legislature says a pension reform plan under consideration by a bipartisan committee is unfair and unconstitutional… because it diminishes promised pension benefits.


Mike Bell of Edinburg is a long-time member of AFSCME because of his work as an educator in the Illinois prison system.


He says the state’s pension problem is not the fault of workers, and contends their benefits are not overly generous.


Bell says the real issue is the state’s failure to keep up its end of the bargain.


He says he would consider extending the state’s temporary income tax and using that revenue to pay down pension debt.


Bell is running for the House seat currently held by Democrat Sue Scherer.

Rutherford to Announce Running Partner Via Twitter

Dan Rutherford’s Twitter followers will get the first word of his pick for Lieutenant Governor.


The GOP gubernatorial hopeful says he will tweet the announcement of his pick in the near future.


Rutherford says he has made his selection and is working out a few last announcement details before going public with it.


The other candidates for governor are also expected to announce their choices for running mates in the next few weeks.

Heat, Humidity Prompt District 186 Early Dismissal Tuesday And Wednesday

This week’s high heat will cut the school day short in some communities… including Springfield. 


District 186 says it will send students home one hour early on both Tuesday and Wednesday because of the forecast calling for triple-digit heat index readings.  Although many district schools are air-conditioned, some are not… and the district says concerns about the welfare of students and staff in those buildings, and the need to keep all schools on the same bus schedule, will lead to all students being dismissed one hour early Tuesday and Wednesday. 


The district will make a decision about Thursday and Friday dismissal times later in the week.

GOP Legislative Candidate Vows To Preserve Workers' Pension Benefits

A Republican candidate for the state legislature is also a long-term member of AFSCME… but says he can balance his loyalties to both. 


Mike Bell is a veteran educator who has taught for years in the Illinois prison system.  He says pension reform must be fair to state workers… and must keep the promises that the state has already made.  But Bell says it makes sense to do that, because those pension payments help keep the economy vibrant in communities with large numbers of state workers and retirees. 


Bell says the state’s pension benefits are not overly generous, and the crisis is the fault of the state not meeting its obligations.  He suggests the state’s temporary income tax increase could be made permanent… with the money earmarked for pension payments.


Bell is running in the 96th House District for the seat currently held by Democrat Sue Scherer.  Bell appeared live Monday on the 970 WMAY News Feed.

Concealed Carry Arguments To Be Heard In October

A federal appeals court will hear arguments in October on the lawsuit that seeks to force the state to let residents carry concealed weapons right away. 


The complaint is being pushed by gun rights supporters… including a crime victim who blames her attack on the state law that banned her from carrying a firearm.  Even though the state enacted a concealed carry law last month, it will take months to put the permit process in place.  The plaintiffs say that’s too long, and deprives gun owners of their rights. 


A lower court already refused to order immediate implementation of the law, so the gun rights supporters appealed, leading to that October 3rd hearing.

Rutherford To Announce Running Mate On Twitter

It’s a sign of the times… the first word on at least one of the upcoming candidates for Illinois Lieutenant Governor will come from Twitter. 


GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Rutherford says he has made his choice for a running mate… and will make the announcement first through his Twitter feed.  Rutherford says a few details are still being worked out, so there’s no specific date or time yet for making that announcement. 


This is the first year that governor and lieutenant governor candidates run together as a team in the primary… and those names must be disclosed when campaigns begin circulating nominating petitions, which can start next month.

School Board President: Community Needs to Grow in Regards to School Finances

The president of the Springfield school board says it’s time for the community to “grow up” and face the financial challenges confronting the city’s public schools.


Chuck Flamini says, quote, “we stop living as a community if we don’t start dealing with these problems.”


The district is facing millions more in budget cuts next year… after already approving millions in cuts for this school year.


Flamini didn’t specifically call for a tax referendum, but notes that it’s been 30 years since the community supported increased revenues for operating expenses.

Gubernatorial Candidates Will Have to Announce Running Mates Soon

The candidates for Illinois governor will soon have to announce their selections for running mates.


For the first time, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor will run as teams in the primary, and both names must be listed on nominating petitions that can be circulated starting in early September.


Some candidates like Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard plan to announce their choices in the next couple of weeks.


Others, including Governor Pat Quinn, say they will wait till later this fall.

Investigation Continues Into Weekend Parachute Gliders Crash

The investigation continues into a weekend accident where two powered “parachute gliders” collided in mid-air near Franklin in Morgan County.


The sheriff’s department says 75-year-old Charles Birdsell and 68-year-old Harold Mansfield were piloting the two aircraft when they collided Saturday night.


Both were taken to the hospital… so was a 15-year-old boy who was also reportedly aboard one of the gliders.


Their conditions were not immediately available.


The FAA is among the agencies looking into that crash.

Lincoln Movie Sets Could Find Permanent Home at Presidential Library and Museum

Mr. Lincoln’s hometown could someday get a visit from Mr. Lincoln’s Hollywood side.


The Bloomington Pantagraph reports that the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is in talks to display some of the set pieces from the hit Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln.”


Some of those items are currently on display at the Reagan presidential library in California… including the set of Lincoln’s office from the movie, as well as Mary Todd Lincoln’s vanity set and some of the costumes from the film.


But there’s been no final decision on bringing the items to Springfield.

Latest Pension Proposal A Mixed Bag For State Workers

The latest possible pension reform idea has good news and bad news for state workers. 


The draft proposal would reduce overall retirement benefits… by eliminating the compounded annual cost-of-living increases in pension payments.  But it would also reduce the amount deducted from workers’ paychecks for their share of their pensions. 


The plan is estimated to save $145 billion over 30 years, but a bipartisan pension reform committee says there’s no consensus yet on this approach.

School Board President: Time For Community To ''Grow Up'' About School Funding

The president of the Springfield school board has a message for residents of District 186… it’s time to grow up and face the district’s financial problems. 


Faced with another likely round of budget cuts next year… and a new round of teacher budget talks starting in January… Chuck Flamini says the entire community has to make a commitment to ensure the district has the operating revenue it needs to function. 


Flamini did not directly call for a school tax referendum, but noted he was part of the team that helped win approval of the last successful tax hike vote in District 186… 30 years ago.

Three Hurt In Parachute Glider Collision In Morgan County

Three people are reported hurt after two parachute gliders collided in mid-air near Franklin Saturday night. 


The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office says two men, ages 68 and 75, and a 15-year-old boy were injured.  All three went to the hospital, but there was no immediate word on their conditions. 


The accident is under investigation by local authorities and the FAA.

Governor Candidates Will Have To Choose Running Mates Soon

The candidates for Illinois governor will soon have to announce their selections for running mates. 


For the first time, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor will run as teams in the primary, and both names must be listed on nominating petitions that can be circulated starting in early September. 


Some candidates like Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard plan to announce their choices in the next couple of weeks.  Others, including Governor Pat Quinn, say they will wait till later this fall.

Mayor Tells Residents Near Tracks: Don't Wait Around For Rail Project

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has a message for property owners near the 10th Street railroad tracks… don’t stand around waiting for the government to buy your property. 


Houston says there’s no way to know how quickly land acquisition will begin for dozens of parcels that will eventually have to be demolished to make way for an expanded rail corridor. 


State and local officials are trying to secure grants and other federal funds for a big chunk of the estimated $380 million cost… but funding is likely to come in a little at a time, over a period of years.

Christian: Lt. Mueller Deposition Reveals More Details About File Shredding

The head of Springfield police internal affairs… and one of the most vocal critics of the department’s decision to shred IA files ahead of schedule… insists he was not the source of a leak of one damaging file.


That statement by Lieutenant Chris Mueller was made in a deposition this week in the lawsuit brought by reporter Calvin Christian. Christian revealed details of the deposition in a live interview Thursday on 970 WMAY’s “Kramer Show.”


Mueller testified to details of the timeline for the document destruction… and said that as far as he knows, the reason for the shredding was to protect Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher.


Buscher’s file was among those destroyed… but a copy survived and was later leaked to Channel 20. The identity of the leaker remains a mystery.

Grandview Dog Bite Incident Under Investigation

An investigation is continuing into the circumstances of a severe dog attack that left a woman with more than 100 stitches.


The pit bull that allegedly attacked Mary Sherer is back with its owner, under quarantine, after the animal was checked to make sure it had all required documentation and vaccinations.


Grandview Police Chief Mike Feleccia says it could be a lengthy legal process to determine if the dog should be declared “vicious.”


The dog’s owner has declined to comment on the incident.

Poe Lays Out GOP Goal In Bid For Leadership Post

Republicans have two main goals in the 2014 elections… elect a GOP governor and end the Democrats’ veto-proof stranglehold on the legislature.


That’s according to state Representative Raymond Poe… who hopes to help with that effort as House Republican leader.


Poe is one of at least three GOP members of the House who are jockeying for position, now that Leader Tom Cross has announced he will give up that post to pursue the race for state Treasurer.


Poe says he is within striking distance of locking up the votes he needs, but isn’t there yet.


House Republicans could elect their new leader early next month.

2013 IL State Fair: Tax Revenue Record Set, Best Attendance in a Decade

The 2013 Illinois State Fair was a record-setter on several fronts.


The attendance of 961,000 was not an all-time high, but it was the biggest in more than a decade.


However, the Fair did generate record sales tax revenues of more than $257,000 from fairgrounds vendors.


The state says that translates into more than $4 million worth of sales of corn dogs, lemon shake-ups and other items.


Grandstand ticket sales topped $2 million, smashing the previous record of $1.5 million set just a year earlier.

Severe Dog Bite Under Investigation

An investigation is underway to determine if a pit bull should be declared “vicious” after it attacked a woman in Grandview last weekend. 


Family members say Mary Sherer required more than 100 stitches to close the wounds to her arms suffered in the attack.  The dog’s owner took the pit bull to Animal Control himself after the attack… but the dog was returned to him after it was shown that it had all the required vaccinations. 


Grandview’s police chief says the dog is with the owner under quarantine for now… while officials try to determine if they should seek a court order that could lead to the dog being destroyed.

Poe Working To Line Up Support For House GOP Leadership Bid

Representative Raymond Poe is hitting the road to convince colleagues that they should break with decades of tradition… and choose a true Downstater for their caucus leader. 


Poe is hoping to replace Tom Cross, who is stepping down from his leadership post ahead of a likely run for state Treasurer.  Poe is competing against two other House Republicans for the post. 


He says he has experience in running and assisting campaigns in all areas of the state… but says his Downstate roots will bring an important perspective to the big issues facing lawmakers, like pensions and taxes. 


Poe says the House GOP could vote on its next leader within two to three weeks.

I-55 Bridges In Logan County Slated For Repairs

A dozen bridges on Interstate 55 through Logan County will get upgrades… under a $17 million construction project announced by Governor Pat Quinn’s office. 


Sangamo Construction Company of Springfield got the contract for deck replacement, joint repairs and concrete overlay for those bridges, located between Business Loop 55 in Lincoln and County Highway 6 in Atlanta. 


No immediate timetable was given for starting or completing the project.

Official State Fair Numbers Confirm Biggest Success In Years

Official final numbers from the Illinois State Fair confirm that this year’s edition was the most successful in more than a decade. 


961,000 people went through the gates this year… matching the estimate that fair manager Amy Bliefnick gave 970 WMAY News earlier this week.  That’s five-percent higher than last year… and the biggest amount since 2002. 


And those extra people meant extra money… the fair generated a record $257,000 in sales taxes just from vendors on the grounds.  The governor’s office says that translates to more than $4 million in sales of corn dogs, lemon shakeups and other items sold at the Fair.  And Grandstand revenues were the highest ever, with more than $2 million in ticket sales.

Cross to Seek Treasurer, Steps Aside GOP Leader in State House

One of the legislative “Four Tops” is giving up his leadership post… which could open up an opportunity for a local lawmaker.


Tom Cross will step aside as leader of the House Republican caucus in order to launch a campaign for state Treasurer.


His decision is setting off a battle to replace him… and one of the contenders is Representative Raymond Poe.


He’s one of at least three GOP lawmakers hoping to take over and reverse the party’s poor showing in recent legislative elections.


Cross has indicated he won’t take sides in the fight over his successor.

Noll Not Disqualified to Defend City in Police Harassment Case

The attorney hired by the City of Springfield to handle a couple of pending lawsuits against the police department will be allowed to stay on the case.


A judge has rejected a motion from plaintiff Calvin Christian to remove attorney Jon Gray Noll.


Christian said he had a brief phone conversation with Noll about his case months ago… before Noll signed on to represent the city.


But the judge ruled that very short conversation did not pose a conflict of interest or violate ethical rules.


Christian is suing Springfield police, both over the destruction of internal affairs files and over his claim that numerous officers have conspired to harass him.

Man and Teenager Arrested for String of Break-Ins

A Springfield man and a Spaulding teenager are charged in connection with a string of home break-ins over a span of hours earlier this month north of Springfield.


21-year-old Donald Roach and a 16-year-old boy are charged in connection with four burglaries in the Holiday Estates subdivision on the night of August 4th and the early morning hours of the 5th.


Roach is being held on $100,000 bond, while the teen is in the juvenile court system.


Donald Roach

Donald Roach

Security to Remain Tight at ISU After Bomb Threat Note

Security will remain tighter at Illinois State University through at least the end of this week… even though nothing was found after a handwritten bomb threat was discovered in a campus restroom.


The note was discovered in Schroeder Hall and prompted a much more visible security presence, including bag checks of students and staff entering the building.


But a sweep of the campus found no suspicious devices or anything else out of the ordinary. ISU officials say no classes will be cancelled or postponed.

Centennial Park Upgrade to be Unveiled Tonight

A ribbon-cutting is planned for this evening for the newest upgrade at Springfield’s Centennial Park.


A $400,000 state grant paid for the addition of walking trails, a playground, a picnic shelter, and an “adult fitness station.”


That station… with four separate sections for sit-ups or other types of calisthenics… is believed to be the first of its kind in a Springfield park.


The new area is located immediately adjacent to the Centennial Park Place subdivision and will give residents there easy access to the park and the new features.


The ribbon-cutting is set for 5:30 this evening.

Man and Teenager Arrested for Multiple Break-Ins

A Springfield man and a teenager from Spaulding are charged with multiple residential break-ins earlier this month northeast of Springfield.


21-year-old Donald Roach is being held on $100,000 bond in connection with four burglaries on August 4th and 5th in the Holiday Estates subdivision in Spaulding.


A 16-year-old boy is facing charges in juvenile court.


Donald Roach

Donald Roach

Judge Rejects Christian's Request To Disqualify City's Hired Attorney In SPD Lawsuit

The attorney hired by the City of Springfield to represent it in lawsuits against the police department will remain on the case. 


Plaintiff Calvin Christian had asked the judge to disqualify Jon Gray Noll and the Noll Law Offices, because Christian says he had a brief phone conversation with Noll about his issues with the SPD months ago as Christian was looking for an attorney.  Christian claimed that conversation posed a conflict of interest, but the judge disagreed and refused to remove Noll. 


Christian says he’s not bothered by the ruling… but merely wanted to get the matter on the record as his lawsuit progresses.  Christian is suing over the destruction of police department files… and is alleging a coordinated campaign of harassment against him by numerous Springfield cops.

Cross To Step Down As House GOP Leader; Move Could Open Door For Poe

A big political shakeup is in the works in the Illinois Legislature. 


House Republican Leader Tom Cross is notifying his caucus that he will give up that post to run for State Treasurer. Cross hopes to succeed his fellow Republican Dan Rutherford, who is giving up the Treasurer’s office to run for Governor. 


Cross’s decision could open the door for local GOP Representative Raymond Poe, who has been trying to line up support to succeed Cross.  Cross reportedly will stay out of the debate over who should replace him as leader of the House Republicans.

Latest Gravel Pit Study Signals Need for Another Backup Water Supply

Springfield’s fallback plan for a secondary water source falls short of what the community needs… according to the latest study of the gravel pits the city purchased years ago.


An engineering firm finds the city could only pump 1.6 million gallons of water per day from the pits without affecting the water supply of neighboring towns and private wells.


That’s only one-tenth of earlier estimates, and well short of what would be needed for a viable water source.


The city has been searching for alternatives to the stalled Hunter Lake project as a backup water supply.

Major Electric Transmission Line Approved

The Illinois Commerce Commission has given the green light to construction of a major power transmission line stretching from the Mississippi River to Illinois’s eastern border.


While much of the route for Ameren’s Illinois Rivers project was approved, the Commission deferred a decision on where to locate the line in a 30-mile stretch from Pawnee to Pana to Mt. Zion.


Thousands of property owners could be affected by construction of the $1 billion high-voltage line.

Direct to Orlando Flights Offered Through Allegiant Air at Capital Airport

Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport officials say it’s proof that if people use the available air service in Springfield, they’ll be rewarded with even more options and destinations.


The success of Allegiant Air’s seasonal service to Punta Gorda, Florida, has led the carrier to add year-round direct service between Springfield and Orlando.


The twice-weekly flights begin November 22nd. An introductory $99 round trip fare is available for flights booked by tomorrow and taken before the end of April 2014.

Rep. Davis: Small Business Roundtable is Proof Obamacare Must Go

Congressman Rodney Davis says a small business roundtable in Springfield has left him more convinced than ever that Obamacare needs to go.


Davis says nearly the entire conversation with local business owners centered on their concerns about the unknown consequences of the President’s health care reform plan and what it might cost businesses.


Davis says Obamacare needs to be repealed… but since that appears to be politically impossible, he vows to keep working to either de-fund the law or at least further delay its implementation.

Retired Law Enforcement Panel To Weigh In at Sangamon County Sheriff's Office

Sheriff Neil Williamson hopes a new panel of retired law enforcement professionals can provide expertise and insight into tricky questions about policies and procedures.


Williamson and Undersheriff Jack Campbell have launched the program, called “Statesmen of Law Enforcement,” which brings together former top officials from city, state and federal law enforcement.


Williamson says the group will be asked to weigh in on one imminent decision… whether to allow on-duty deputies to keep using hand-held cell phones behind the wheel.


Governor Pat Quinn has signed a law banning the practice for most drivers, starting January 1st. But law enforcement is exempt from the new law.

Confusion About New Speed Limit Increase Law

It’s still not clear how the state’s new higher speed limit will affect its busiest interstates around Chicago and St. Louis.


Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill this week that will raise the speed limit to 70 miles an hour, starting January 1st.


But the governor says the new law won’t affect the congested highways around Chicago and St. Louis.


However, the bill’s sponsor, state Senator Jim Oberweis, says the bill raises the speed limit for all Illinois interstates.


It may require follow-up legislation to clear up the confusion.

Updated Gravel Pit Study Shows Possible Impact on Area Wells

A study that could determine the future of a second lake supply for Springfield says the volume of water stored in Springfield's gravel pits is much smaller than previously understood.


Aldermen requested the study in order to determine if drawing upon the city's various gravel pits would be a drain upon other area water supplies.  The study was presented during Tuesday's Springfield City Council Meeting. 


Layne Christensen, who conducted the study, says previous studies determined the city could draw up to 18 million gallons a day during severe drought conditions.


Those studies didn't take into consideration the impact on other area and municipal wells and were done without updated models of Springfield's gravel pits.


The updated study says there would be an impact on other wells during a drought, including impacting the South Sangamon Water Commission wells, whether water is pumped from Springfield's gravel pits or not.


The Army Corp. of Engineers could use this study before they give their input on a second water supply for the city.


A second lake for the City of Springfield has been debated for decades.

Direct Springfield-Orlando Flights Start In November

It’s one of the most popular destinations for Springfield travelers… and starting this fall, you’ll be able to fly there direct from Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. 


Allegiant Air will offer twice-weekly direct flights between Springfield and Orlando, Florida.  Airport executive director Mark Hanna says the success of Allegiant’s service to Punta Gorda, Florida… and the popularity of Disney World and other vacation getaways in the Orlando area… convinced Allegiant that Springfield would be a good market for the service. 


The flights will be offered on 160-passenger jets every Monday and Friday, starting November 22nd.  Flights can be booked through

Davis Still Targeting Obamacare After Local Business Roundtable

If he can’t stop it, he at least wants to slow it down. 


Congressman Rodney Davis remains fiercely opposed to President Obama’s health care law… and says it is to blame for major uncertainty that has slowed down business hiring and prompted some doctors to plan their early exit from the medical field. 


Davis appeared live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air” following a small business roundtable in Springfield.  He says that he would still prefer to repeal Obamacare completely… but since that’s unlikely to happen in the current Congress, he at least wants to delay implementation of the most burdensome parts of the law to allow time for it to be modified.

New Speed Limit Law Spurs Confusion

There appears to be some confusion over the state’s new higher speed limit. 


It was widely believed that the new 70 mile-per-hour limit won’t apply to the most congested interstates near Chicago and St. Louis when it takes effect on January 1st


But the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Jim Oberweis, disputes that interpretation.  He says the intent of the bill was to allow faster speeds on all interstate highways, including those in Chicagoland and the Metro East.  But some local officials disagree.  It may require follow-up legislation to clear up the confusion.

Sheriff Turns To Law Enforcement All-Stars For Advice

The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office is assembling an all-star lineup of former law enforcement officials to serve as a braintrust for the department. 


Sheriff Neil Williamson and Undersheriff Jack Campbell say they worked together to create the “Statesmen of Law Enforcement.” Those retired lawmen will form an advisory panel that will provide guidance on policy decisions, officer morale, and implementation of new laws. 


Campbell says the idea originated in part from Williamson’s desire to stay involved after he leaves office next year.  The panel includes former State’s Attorney and U.S. Attorney Bill Roberts and former Springfield police chief Harvey Davis.

City To Vote on Intent to Purchase Downtown Property

The City of Springfield is closer to purchasing some vacant land in the downtown area with an ordinance on the consent agenda.


Mayor Mike Houston calls the land at the corner of 4th and Capitol prime downtown real estate and says the $1.5 million asking price from the state is lower than he expected.


But the cost of the property could go up after the purchase if the city wants to demolish some buildings.


Houston says that could cost up to $450,000.


Houston says once the city has purchased the property, they would open up the process for developer proposals.


The money for the purchase would come from the soon-to-expire Downtown TIF.

Speed Limit on Most IL Interstates To Be 70 MPH

It will be a faster New Year for Illinois drivers.


Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation raising the speed limit on most Illinois interstates to 70 miles an hour from the current 65.


The higher limit takes effect January 1st.


Quinn says more than 30 other states already have speed limits of 70 or higher.


Quinn approved the bill over the objection of his transportation secretary and state police director, both of whom predicted the faster speeds would lead to more highway accidents and fatalities.


It will cost nearly $200,000 to replace speed limit signs around the state.

One-Year Contract Approved for Dist. 186 Teachers

Springfield teachers and the school board have approved a new one-year contract with no across-the-board pay raise.


The agreement contains a “soft freeze,” keeping most provisions of the union’s last contract in place.


Some teachers will see pay increases for longevity and experience, under the terms spelled out in that last contract.


But 40% of the district’s teachers won’t see any pay hike at all.


The contract also calls for the creation of committees to study three contentious issues… high school scheduling, prep time for elementary school teachers, and recruitment of minority educators and special ed teachers.


Bargaining will resume in January on a new contract that would start in the summer of 2014.

School District: Teacher Certification Issue Resolved at Dist. 186

District 186 says it has resolved the status of dozens of teachers who didn’t have the proper paperwork certifying that they were qualified for the grades or classes they were teaching.


The problem came to light last year after a Lanphier High School teacher was arrested for an alleged affair with a student… and it was discovered she didn’t have the correct credentials to teach that class.


More than 60 teachers were found to be non-compliant, although in most cases they were correctly certified but hadn’t submitted the right paperwork.


District officials say there is now only one teacher still on the list… and that person’s paperwork has been submitted and is awaiting final approval.

Unofficial State Fair Attendance Up By 4 Percent

The numbers are still unofficial, but it appears attendance at this year’s Illinois State Fair topped last year by as much as four-percent.


That would make the 2013 edition the biggest in well over a decade. Fair manager Amy Bliefnick says good weather and a strong Grandstand lineup both get credit for drawing an estimated 961,000 people to the Fairgrounds.


Bliefnick says revenues were also up this year. She anticipates no change in the fair’s $7 admission fee for at least one more year.

Auburn Approves Video Gambling, Reversing Earlier Position

Video gambling is coming to Auburn.


Just weeks after rejecting an ordinance to allow video gaming machines in the community, the Auburn City Council reversed itself.


Mayor Barb Stamer switched her vote, voting in favor of gambling after opposing it back in June.


The State Journal-Register reports an Auburn business wants to open a gaming parlor in the community’s strip mall, saying it will increase traffic and make the mall a more attractive destination for other businesses.

Teachers Contract Contains ''Soft Freeze,'' No Increase In Base Pay, 40% Of Teachers See No Raise At All

The Springfield School Board and the teachers union have both approved a new one-year contract that includes a "soft freeze" with no base pay raise for teachers.  Some teachers will receive scheduled "step" or "column" increases based on experience and longevity, but district officials say 40% of teachers will receive no raise at all in the coming year.


As part of the deal, the district agreed to establish committees to make recommendations on three pressing and potentially costly issues for the years to come: the daily high school schedule, the issue of "prep time" for elementary school teachers, and recruitment of minority teachers and special ed instructors.  Bargaining for the next contract will begin in January after those committees submit their recommendations.


School board president Chuck Flamini says the district is headed for a collision between what it wants to achieve and its available resources, but the one-year deal will provide some time to prepare for what's ahead.  The contract will cost an additional $1.1 million in the current school year, nearly depleting the Education Fund unless additional cuts are made elsewhere.

Quinn Signs Legislation Raising Interstate Speed Limits To 70 MPH

Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation raising the speed limit on most Illinois interstates to 70 mph.


In his signing statement, Quinn noted that more than 30 other states already allow speeds of 70 mph or greater.  The governor approved the bill over the objection of his transportation secretary and state police director, both of whom opposed the bill on the grounds that it could lead to more highway accidents and fatalities.


The higher speed limit takes effect January 1.  It will not apply to several interstates in the immediate Chicago area.

No Internal Investigation Planned Into Leak Of Buscher File

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston won’t pursue an internal investigation of who leaked a police department internal affairs file. 


Houston had asked the Illinois State Police to look into the leak of a copy of Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher’s file… but the ISP told 970 WMAY News last week that it had no plans to open an investigation. 


Houston spokesman Nathan Mihelich says it wouldn’t be appropriate for the city to conduct the leak investigation internally.  He says Houston will wait to see what transpires in another separate State Police investigation of the decision to shred internal affairs records, including the original of Buscher’s file.

Portions Of Railroad Project Could Proceed, Even Without Full Funding Guarantees

Supporters of Springfield’s railroad relocation project hope to move ahead with the early phases… even though there’s no guarantee of enough funding to see it through to completion. 


The $315 million project calls for moving the 3rd Street tracks to the 10th Street corridor… and building a series of overpasses and underpasses to allow traffic to move through the city without lengthy delays from the increased rail traffic through town. 


Experts from Hanson Engineers say some of those underpasses along 10th Street could be built with whatever money is available… and they say that would make life easier for drivers, even if the funding never materializes to make all the improvements or move the 3rd Street tracks.

Fair Numbers Grow; Admission Prices Should Stay The Same Next Year

Unofficial numbers show both attendance and revenue were up for this year’s edition of the Illinois State Fair, which ended Sunday.  And that should mean that gate admission prices will stay the same next year. 


Although noting that the $7 adult admission price to the Fairgrounds is still below the average ticket price for state fairs around the country, Fair manager Amy Bliefnick says she’s inclined to keep the price the same for next year, and then evaluate it after that. 


But Bliefnick says she does prefer incremental increases to keep pace with expenses, rather than holding on for years and then having to institute a big increase all at once.

Lawmaker Says Concealed Carry Law Too Restrictive, Seeks Changes

A local lawmaker wants to loosen some of the restrictions in the state’s new concealed carry law. 


Republican Representative Bill Mitchell of Forsyth says the price of a concealed carry permit is too high… he wants to lower it to $100 from the current $150.


And Mitchell says the new law requires too much training.  His proposal would require only eight hours of safety training to get a permit, instead of 16.

Quinn Signs ''Puppy Lemon Law''

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation Saturday he said would help protect consumers who buy a dog or cat and then learn the animal is seriously ill.


The so-called "puppy lemon law" allows pet owners to get a full refund or replacement if they buy a pet from a store and it dies within 21 days. Pet owners also could get a replacement pet or be reimbursed for the cost of veterinary care if they keep the animal and a veterinarian determines it was sick or diseased when it was sold.

Illinois In Middle Of Pack For Obesity

Illinois is in the middle of the pack in a new national study on obesity. 


The state ranks 24th in the nation in terms of the percentage of adults who are considered obese. 


Sangamon County has one of the lower rates of obese or overweight adults in the state, even though more than half of county residents fall into one of those two categories based on body mass index.

SJ-R: Memorial Disputes Low Surgery Ranking

Memorial Medical Center is objecting to a recent ranking in a national magazine that lists it as one of the worst in the state for surgeries. 


Consumer Reports says the ranking is based on a variety of data, including deaths or extended hospital stays after surgery. 


Memorial tells the SJ-R that the ranking does not match its own internal studies or the findings of other outside groups.  St. John’s was ranked in the middle of the pack in that Consumer Reports study.

Quinn Signs Legislation Banning Hand-Held Cell Phone Use While Driving

Put down the handset.


Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation that will ban Illinois drivers from talking on a hand-held cell phone behind the wheel.  Drivers would still be allowed to use Bluetooth or other hands-free or speakerphone devices.


Quinn says the new law will reduce distractions for drivers and make Illinois roadways safer.  The new law takes effect January 1, 2014.

UPDATE: ISP Has No Plans To Investigate Leak Of Buscher's IA File

Illinois State Police say they have no plans at the moment to investigate the leak of a Springfield police internal affairs file. 


Mayor Mike Houston asked the agency to look into who obtained a copy of the IA investigation of Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher's 2008 arrest for a drunken incident in Missouri.  That IA file was among those shredded by the city in April, but a copy of the report was later leaked to Channel 20 and became the basis for a report that ultimately led to the departure of two top administration officials. 


State police spokesman Monique Bond says the agency will notify the city that it does not intend to open an investigation of the leak.  (So far, there has been no reaction from the City to the ISP decision.)

City Gives Christian's Attorneys Huge Stash Of Emails Related To Document Shredding

The City of Springfield has turned over a large flash drive filled with emails pertaining to the decision to shred police department internal affairs files earlier this year. 


Mayoral spokesman Nathan Mihelich says the 19 gigabytes of documents were released following a meeting with attorneys for Calvin Christian, who is suing the city over those shredded documents.  Mihelich says it is a comprehensive compilation of all documents retrieved from the city’s computer system since last April that reference keywords like “shred” or “files.” But because of the size of the files, Mihelich says the information has not been fully redacted, and therefore Christian's attorneys are not allowed to share it with anyone... including their client. 


Some of those emails were sent by Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher.  The city had earlier told Christian that it had no emails from Buscher pertaining to the file shredding controversy from the months of Apirl and May.  Mihelich could not immediately say when Buscher wrote and sent the emails that were included on the flash drive.


Christian’s attorney Don Craven says the two sides are making progress on setting up a schedule for discovery and depositions in the case, but are not close to setting a trial date.

New Air Service En Route To Springfield; Details Next Week

Springfield is about to get another new travel destination from Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. 


Airport officials have called a news conference for Tuesday to announce the new service… but so far are not disclosing any additional details about what airline is involved or where it may be flying. 


The airport currently offers service to Chicago, Dallas and Punta Gorda, Florida through its three carriers… American, United and Allegiant.

Fair Manager Touts Solid Numbers

The numbers are looking good heading into the final weekend of the Illinois State Fair, according to manager Amy Bliefnick.


Appearing live on 970 WMAY from the Fair Friday, Bliefnick says attendance figures at midweek were running about 2% ahead of last year's sizable crowds.  Bliefnick says the numbers got a lift from the huge crowds at Wednesday's Toby Keith concert... and thinks good weather and big-name weekend acts like Ke$ha and Journey can help maintain that pace.


Bliefnick also defends the big money that the state shells out for Grandstand acts.  She says the state still makes more money than it spends from those shows, because big crowds for the top acts also mean more money from gate admissions, parking, and concessions.

GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Visit Republican Day at State Fair

The Republican candidates for governor have spelled out their arguments for why they are the most electable option for 2014.


State Senator Bill Brady argues that he learned valuable lessons from his narrow loss to Governor Pat Quinn in 2010, and can now get the last few thousand votes needed for victory.


State Treasurer Dan Rutherford says he's the only one among the four who has actually won a statewide race.


Senator Kirk Dillard says he's the right template for victory... a suburbanite who can appeal to both conservatives and moderates.


And Bruce Rauner says his advantage is that he's never held elective office... so he hasn't been part of the problem for the past 20 years.


All four appeared at Thursday's Republican Day rally at the Illinois State Fair.

On First Visit to Springfield Since Stroke, Sen. Kirk Touts Rehab

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk is still showing obvious physical effects from a serious stroke well over a year ago.


But Kirk says he feels good... and is proof that physical rehab after a stroke works.


Now Kirk says he is working on legislation to make it easier for stroke victims to return to work with dignity after their illness.


The Illinois Republican also says he is trying to reduce the backlog of VA claims by disabled veterans.


But he still has concerns about the effects of Obamacare on small businesses.


Kirk's appearance at the State Fair Thursday marked his first visit to Springfield since his stroke.

Judge Refuses to Toss Remaining Counts in FOIA-Shred Case

A Sangamon County judge is refusing to dismiss the remaining counts in a pending lawsuit against the City of Springfield over the early destruction of internal affairs records.


The City has admitted to wrongdoing and agreed to pay a $5,000 fine for shredding the file of Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher.


But city officials argue that the rest of Calvin Christian's request for records was unduly burdensome and should be thrown out.


However, the judge has refused to do that. Instead, lawyers for the city and Christian will meet again today to further discuss the case.

Teen Tan Ban Goes Statewide

Springfield's teen tanning ban is going statewide.


Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation that prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from using commercial indoor tanning beds.


The new law was co-sponsored by Republican Representative Raymond Poe and is modeled after the ban approved last year by Springfield aldermen.


Supporters say there's a direct link between indoor tanning and a sharp increase in skin cancer cases.


The new ban takes effect January 1.

Springfield's Drive-In Theater Converted to Digital Years Ago

Drive-in movie theaters may be an endangered species in some parts of the country... but not in Springfield.


A report this week stated that the transition by most movie studios to all digital formats for new movies may force some drive-ins to close, because of the cost of converting their equipment.


But Springfield's Route 66 Drive-In at Knight's Action Park anticipated the changeover and switched to all-digital three years ago, ensuring it will stay open.

Republican Governor Hopefuls Rally At State Fair

The Republican candidates for governor are highlighting their differences with each other... and the one big thing they have in common. 


Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard, Bruce Rauner (ROW'-ner) and Dan Rutherford (ROO-ther-ferd) each told the party faithful at the Illinois State Fair that he was more electable than his opponents... but all agreed that it was most important that any Republican replace Governor Pat Quinn in 2015.


Kirk Makes Triumphant Return To Springfield At GOP Day

The highlight of Republican Day at the Fair was the return of U.S. Senator Mark Kirk to Springfield, for the first time since Kirk suffered a serious stroke early last year. 


Kirk continues to show significant physical effects from the stroke, and spoke only briefly to the large crowd that gathered at the Fairgrounds for the party's annual rally. 


But he says he's feeling good and is a testament to the benefits of a quality physical rehab program.

Teen Tanning Ban To Go Statewide

Springfield's ban on underage tanning is going statewide. 


Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation co-sponsored by state Representative Raymond Poe that prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from using commercial indoor tanning beds. 


The new law is based on Springfield's ordinance, which was aimed at combatting an increase in skin cancer linked to indoor tanning. The new statewide law takes effect January 1.


Springfield's Drive-In Ready For Digital Age

Drive-in movie theaters may be an endangered species in some parts of the country... but not in Springfield. 


A report this week stated that the transition by most movie studios to all digital formats for new movies may force some drive-ins to close, because of the cost of converting their equipment. 


But Springfield's Route 66 Drive-In at Knight's Action Park anticipated the changeover and switched to all-digital three years ago, ensuring it will stay open.

Governor's Day Speeches Moved Off Fair Grounds

His primary opponent says Democrats should dump Governor Pat Quinn next spring... because Quinn can't win next fall.


But Quinn says challenger Bill Daley is making the same mistake that many pundits made in 2010... and is just as wrong now as they were then.


The governor and the former White House chief of staff faced off against each other in speeches to a Democratic party event in Springfield Wednesday.


But they did not have a political showdown at the State Fair.


Quinn cancelled the usual Democratic rally on Governor's Day at the Fair, replacing it instead with live entertainment... which drew a significantly smaller crowd.

Republican Day at State Fair Featuring Sen. Kirk

Today is Republican Day at the State Fair... and all four of the contenders to replace Quinn are expected to be on hand.


So is U.S. Senator Mark Kirk... making his first visit to Springfield since he suffered a serious stroke more than 18 months ago.


Kirk will be the guest of honor during the GOP's political rally on the Fairgrounds at noon today.

Fatal Accident Claims Father and Son

A Virden man and his son are dead following a two-car crash in Macoupin County Tuesday night.


60-year-old Frank Maynerich and his 19-year-old son Paul died when their car was struck by a vehicle that reportedly failed to stop at a stop sign.


That accident remains under investigation.

Springfield School District and Teachers Union Closer to Contract

There is word of a tentative agreement between District 186 and the Springfield teachers union.


That contract offer is scheduled for a ratification vote by teachers on Monday, followed by final approval from the school board a few hours later.


But the State Journal-Register reports the public is unlikely to see the terms of the contract until just before that school board vote.


District 186 officials say they agreed not to discuss the terms until the union has the chance to present them to its members.

Police Asking Public for Help in Catching Burglary Suspect

Springfield police are asking for help to find the suspect who they believe carried out three tavern burglaries last week alone... and attempted a fourth.


The suspect robbed Dude's Saloon twice and JW's Lounge once... and tried to break into Knuckleheads, but fled when a newspaper carrier spotted him.


Officials have surveillance photos of the suspect... you can see those pictures at


A still from surveillance video of the suspect

A still from surveillance video of the suspect -- see more pictures here.

State Fair Officials Not Changing Butter Cow Security

Illinois State Fair officials say they're not beefing up security for their butter cow... despite a vandalism attack on its Iowa cousin.


Animal rights activists hid in a building at the Iowa State Fair last weekend and then poured red paint on that fair's butter cow.


But here in Illinois, officials say their 500-pound butter bovine is under lock and key... and monitored by a 24-hour webcam feed.

Police Searching for Burglary Suspect

Springfield police are searching for a suspect that they say is responsible for three recent burglaries and a fourth attempt.


A close up of surveillance video
See more images here

The break-ins all occurred within a four-day period last week.


Dude's Saloon was hit twice, on August 3d and again on the 6th. Police believe the suspect exited Dude's Saloon on the 6th and then tried to break into Knuckleheads... but fled when he was spotted by a newspaper carrier. JW's Lounge was hit in the early morning hours of August 7th.


Surveillance video appears to show a white male with red hair and a receding hairline.


Anyone with information about the crimes is asked to call Crimestoppers.

Quinn, Daley Square Off Before Party Faithful

Governor Pat Quinn and his primary challenger have had a chance to make their case before Democratic party leaders at a gathering in Springfield.


Both addressed the annual Democratic County Chairmen's brunch at the Crowne Plaza.  Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley said the party needs to nominate a candidate who can win in the general election... and said that he, not Quinn, fits that description.


But Quinn says he's beaten long odds before and can do it again.  And he shrugged off his low job approval ratings, saying he is not governor to win popularity contests, but to "do the right thing."

Dems Not Automatically Rallying Around Quinn

Governor Pat Quinn isn't necessarily getting the automatic backing of Democrats heading into the 2014 election season. 


Quinn did receive a louder and longer ovation than primary challenger Bill Daley during the Democratic County Chairmen's brunch at the Crowne Plaza.  But that isn't necessarily tranlsating into endorsements.  Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon... who ran with Quinn in 2010  but decided to leave the ticket next year... says she is staying neutral in the race and focusing instead on her campaign for comptroller.


And Sangamon County Democratic Chair Doris Turner says the local party won't automatically get behind Quinn.  She says the governor and Daley will both have the chance to go through the party's endorsement process to see if they can win party backing.

Comptroller Candidate Blackburn Ends Campaign, Endorses Opponent Simon

In a surprise announcement at Wednesday's Democratic Party gathering in Springfield, comptroller candidate Duffy Blackburn told the crowd that he is suspending his campaign for statewide office and endorsing his opponent... Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon.


Blackburn was the first to announce that he would run for the Democratic nomination for comptroller in 2014, but then Simon also jumped into the race.  Blackburn says his decision is in the best interest of the party and the state.


The move clears a path for Simon to face popular GOP incumbent Judy Baar Topinka in the November 2014 general election.

Mayor Calls for Investigation Into Leaked IA File

Mayor Mike Houston is asking Illinois State Police to investigate who leaked an explosive internal affairs file to the media... after the city believed that file had been destroyed.


Houston wants to see if any laws were broken by the person who gave Channel 20 a copy of the file stemming from Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher's arrest for a drunken incident during a Missouri vacation in 2008.


That file was among those that were shredded prematurely earlier this year... prompting a different ISP investigation.


But somehow a copy of Buscher's file survived and became the basis for a series of reports that ultimately led to the departure of the city's police chief and corporation counsel.

Scandals Could Begin Serving Alcohol As Early As Today

A Springfield bar and restaurant could begin serving alcohol as early as today... after finally being granted a liquor license following several weeks of delays.


The license for Scandals and the adjacent Mama's Kitchen restaurant on South 11th became a flashpoint on the City Council, with Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson demanding that other aldermen defer to her wish to block another liquor establishment from opening in her ward.


But even after aldermen overruled her, Mayor Mike Houston held up the license until the owners agreed not to seek a 3am liquor license.


A Scandals spokesman says that provision now only applies through the end of Houston's term, and that compromise allowed the license to go forward.

Ald. Simpson: Objection to Liquor License Has Nothing to do With Race

Alderman Gail Simpson denies that racism played any role in her opposition to the liquor license for the Scandals bar and restaurant.


Supporters of Scandals have suggested that her objection may stem from the fact that the owner is white.


They note that Simpson did not oppose a black-owned bar that opened at that same location just three years ago.


Simpson says she does not recall that specific request, but insists that her only motivation was concern over the number of liquor establishments in her ward.

Hanners to Exit Barr Campaign for Sheriff

Sangamon County Sheriff candidate Wes Barr says a longtime friend and local media personality will no longer have a public role in his campaign.


Former state police master sergeant Flynn Hanners had generated headlines in recent weeks for his public endorsement of Barr, despite his role as a news reader on a local radio station.


And this week, Hanners was back in the news after it was revealed that he served a 30-day suspension for sending a humorous but insensitive email on his government account in 2008.


Barr tells the State Journal-Register that Hanners remains a friend and supporter, but will not be publicly involved in the campaign going forward.

Mayor Asks for Investigation Into Leaked IA Documents

Springfield's Mayor has asked for another investigation into the ongoing file shredding scandal at the city's police department.


This time, Mayor Mike Houston wants the Illinois State Police to investigate the leaking of Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher's file to the media. The mayor confirms he drafted a letter to the Illinois State Police to prompt an investigation into the leaking of the file.


Houston previously requested an investigation into the improper shredding of that and other files, an investigation that is ongoing.


The Mayor says he thought internal affairs documents were safe under lock and key, but with the documents being leaked to the media, Houston called for the investigation.


He would not elaborate if there were other documents that could be leaked or as to how many people would have access to those documents.


Houston also wouldn't talk about the legality of someone legally getting the documents and sharing them with a third party.


Documents pertaining to a 2008 incident involving Police Chief Cliff Buscher were leaked to an area TV station.


After several media reports, the city's police chief retired and the corporation counsel resigned.

Alderman Denies Racial Bias in Liquor License Dispute

A Springfield Alderman is denying that her opposition to a restaurant getting a liquor license in her ward has anything to do with race.


The liquor license for the Scandals bar on South 11th Street was approved by aldermen last week and signed by Mayor Mike Houston Tuesday morning.


When asked by WMAY News if Scandals thought there was a bias from Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson, Michael Stoker said he didn't think there was an issue with sexuality but with race.


Simpson emphatically denies that and says her opposition to the liquor license was because her ward doesn't need another bar, and not because the business owners are white.


When asked about her support for a 3am liquor license for a black business owner in the same location as Scandals, only three years ago, Simpson says she doesn't remember that liquor license request and reiterated she didn't think there should be more liquor establishments in her ward.


Simpson also denies meeting with the Mayor after the license was voted on, something the Mayor also denies.

Scandals Liquor License Finally Granted

After several contentious weeks, a liquor license has finally been issued for a bar and restaurant that became a battleground for Springfield aldermen.


Mayor Mike Houston issued that license to Scandals and the adjacent Mama's Kitchen restaurant, after insisting on some stipulations.  Initially, the mayor had demanded that owner Aaron Hurley agree to never seek a 3am liquor license for the establishment.  Hurley's partner and business spokesman Michael Stoker says that stipulation now only covers the remainder of Houston's time in office, giving Hurley the option of seeking the later closing time in the future.


The license had originally been held up by Alderman Gail Simpson's vocal objection to another bar in Ward 2, and then by Houston's demands.  Stoker says he can't help but feel that the opposition may have been affected by Scandals' reputation as a gay bar... or even by its status as a white-run business setting up shop in a black area of town.  But he says he hopes people of all races and orientations will embrace the bar and restaurant.

Congressman Not Alarmed About Genetically-Modified Foods

On Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair, a local congressman is downplaying the fears that some are expressing about the biggest issue in food production these days.

The issue is the use of genetically-modified foods. A number of different crops have been altered genetically to grow faster and more plentiful, and to be more resistant to the effects of bugs and disease. But some people are concerned about what effect those foods are having on the people who eat them. However, Congressman Rodney Davis says genetically-modified organisms are essential to meeting the nation's and the world's demand for food.

Appearing live on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show" from the State Fair, Davis said he expects a push from some in Congress to put more regulation and restriction on genetically-modified crops, but he warned that too many new rules will hurt production and damage the agriculture economy.

Sheriff, Campbell Tour Rural Safety At State Fair Ag Day

On Ag Day at the Illinois State Fair, Sangamon County's top two law enforcement officers are stressing safety in the county's rural areas.


Sheriff Neil Williamson and Undersheriff Jack Campbell took part in a Farm Bureau news conference on the fairgrounds. They are reminding drivers to be alert for large farm implements that will be on county roadways in the weeks ahead.


They also touted the county's electronic system for alerting rural areas about crime and other issues. But Williamson also repeated his advice to the county's farm families to keep a loaded shotgun handy... because of the longer time it takes for police to respond in those areas.

Dist. 186 To Consider Stricter Residency Policy for Top Admin Jobs

The Springfield School Board will consider a stricter residency policy for top administrators... including cabinet-level department heads, principals and guidance deans... at its next meeting.


The board's policy committee has been working to refine the long-standing policy and put some teeth in it.


The current policy is seen as vague and inconsistently enforced.


Administrators who fail to prove that they live within the district could be terminated.

Another Fake Cop Incident, Unclear if Linked to Other Earlier Attempted Pullovers

There's been yet another incident involving someone trying to look like a cop, using flashing lights in a bid to get a driver to pull over.


The latest happened last Friday night near Riverton.


Sangamon County Undersheriff Jack Campbell says someone with a flashing blue light followed a female driver for a couple of miles.


She kept driving toward Springfield, and the other driver eventually turned off.


Campbell says there is nothing concrete at the moment to connect this incident to a string of cop impersonation reports west of Springfield early this year... or another incident where a phony cop pulled a motorist over on Springfield's north end several weeks ago.

SPD IA Investigation of Carpenter Leads to Two-Day Suspension

An internal affairs report says a controversial Springfield police detective conducted his own surveillance on a neighborhood where he believed his son was being harassed... leading to an incident in which the detective himself was accused of harassing and threatening a couple.


The Illinois Times reported on the IA investigation of Detective Paul Carpenter, who was sued after the altercation with that couple.


The city eventually settled for $24,000.


Carpenter served a two-day suspension over the incident.

Rochester Teen's Death Prompts Call for Safer Skateboarding

Friends of a Rochester teen who died in a skateboarding accident last week are hoping to use the tragedy to encourage other skateboarders to take safety more seriously.


15-year-old Riley Severns was not wearing a helmet when he fell while skateboarding near St. Louis.


He struck his head on the concrete and died the next morning.


The State Journal-Register reports a group of Riley's friends want to promote "Riley's Rules," urging skateboarders and others to wear helmets and other safety gear when they ride.

Governor Quinn Uses Veterans Day at Fair to Sign Veteran Bills

Governor Pat Quinn has used the occasion of Veterans Day at the Illinois State Fair to sign a number of bills affecting veterans into law.


During Sunday's festivities at the Fair, Quinn signed five bills... including one calling for a study and recommendations on dealing with the unique issues confronting women veterans.


Another bill will mandate that anyone building a veterans' memorial on public property must raise enough money not only for construction, but also for ongoing maintenance and upkeep.

Senior and Scout Day at Illinois State Fair

Today is Senior Citizens and Scout Day at the Illinois State Fair.


Events for seniors include the "Not-So-Newlywed Game" and a senior spelling bee, both at the Illinois Building.


In the Grandstand, it's harness racing today, and tonight it's a free performance by New Odyssey, three guys who between them play 30 different musical instruments.


Fair officials have also announced a change in the daily parade by the Budweiser Clydesdales.


It will happen each day at 3:30, not the previously-announced time of 4pm.

Woman Wins Husband Calling Contest 8th Time

It's becoming a dynasty at the Illinois State Fair.


A Cornland woman has won the husband-calling contest for the eighth time.


Kelley Tierney combines her powerful voice with elaborate skits... this year playing a confused old lady searching for her husband.


The hog calling contest also saw a repeat winner... Kyle Barton of West Des Moines, Iowa won for the third time, to go with titles from fairs in Iowa and Nebraska.

United Cerebral Palsy Group Home a Total Loss

Springfield fire officials say a United Cerebral Palsy group home is a "total loss" after a fire Sunday.


Firefighters who responded to the call Sunday afternoon found the house fully involved by the time they arrived.


Fire Chief Ken Fustin says three UCP clients and a house manager lived in the home at Sangamon and Hastings.


The four were at church when the fire broke out.


No one was injured, but the cause is still under investigation.

Ten Percent of Births in Sangamon County to Teen Mothers

More than 10-percent of all births in Sangamon County were to teenage mothers, according to statistics from 2009, the most recent year that such data is available.


The Sangamon County total is slightly higher than the statewide average of 9.6 percent... but significantly lower than several adjacent counties.


Christian, Macon and Montgomery Counties all had teen birth rates of 13-percent or more.

2013 Illinois State Fair Is Underway

Governor Pat Quinn is pledging to “eat his way” through the Illinois State Fair… and he’s almost certainly not alone. 


Quinn has cut the ribbon to open the 2013 State Fair, where food is always one of the highlights.  One of this year’s new offerings is an Oreo cookie wrapped in cookie dough, then batter-dipped and deep-fried. 


The fair also boasts a big spotlight for Illinois agriculture, and a daily parade featuring the popular Budweiser Clydesdales.  The fair runs through Sunday, August 18th.

Quinn Calls Off State Fair Political Rally On Governor's Day

Governor Pat Quinn is breaking with tradition… and eliminating the usual political rally on the Illinois State Fairgrounds for Governor’s Day next Wednesday. 


Quinn says the fair should be about families and fun, not politics.  He says the Democratic rally on the fairgrounds will feature live entertainment, not political speeches. 


The decision could help Quinn avoid uncomfortable encounters with fellow Democrats who are unhappy with the governor, although some of those same encounters could happen earlier in the day when the party convenes a meeting of county chairmen at the Crowne Plaza.

City Files Motion To Award Plaintiff $5,000 in File Shred Case

The City of Springfield has admitted that it improperly shredded the internal affairs file of Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher, and is asking the court to rule in favor of plaintiff Calvin Christian on that single count of Christian's lawsuit against the city.


But Thursday's court filing says the city will continue to fight the other 72 counts in that case.


City officials are agreeing to pay a $5,000 penalty to resolve the single count over Buscher's file, which was destroyed despite a pending FOIA request for those documents.

Official Emails as Public Records Now Under Question at SPD

There are new questions about what documents Springfield City Hall is keeping, and what documents it is destroying.


Lawsuit plaintiff Calvin Christian says he has been told by city officials in response to his latest FOIA request that they have no emails from Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher for the months of April and May.


That covers the time when Buscher's file and other internal affairs records were shredded.


A mayoral spokesman says not all emails from city computers are public record, and those that are not can be purged within two weeks.


But a state official says emails that relate to official department business should be retained and accessible by the public.

Former State Official Indicted for Grant Fraud

The top federal prosecutor in Central Illinois says fraud is not the norm for state government contracts and grants... even though 13 people have now been indicted in an ongoing investigation of exactly that kind of fraud.


The latest is the one-time chief of staff to former state Public Health director Eric Whitaker.


She's accused of taking $433,000 in kickbacks in exchange for handing out contracts and grants.


U.S. Attorney James Lewis says most state grants and contracts are awarded properly and fairly... but says his office will keep working to weed out the instances of wrongdoing.

Twilight Parade Kicks Off State Fair

Illinois State Fair time is here!


The annual Twilight Parade Thursday night marked the start of festivities.


Governor Pat Quinn walked in the parade, which ended up at the state fairgrounds for a "preview night."


The fair officially opens today with the governor cutting the ribbon at 9:30 this morning.


And listen for 970 WMAY broadcasting live each weekday of the Illinois State Fair, which runs through August 18th.

Police Issue Warning About Phone Scam

Springfield police are putting out a warning about a telephone scam in the area. 


A caller is telling the intended target that they’ve won a large cash prize… but that they have to send $1500 to an out-of-state address to process the transaction. 


If the person on the other end is skeptical, the caller says they will have Springfield police contact the target to verify the information.  A short time later, a caller from a restricted number identifies himself as Lieutenant Handlin and says the prize offer is for real.  It isn’t, and neither is Lieutenant Handlin. 


Springfield police say you should never send cash to claim a prize.  The case is under investigation.

SPD Emails Come Under Scrutiny In Latest Twist In Calvin Christian Case

New questions are surfacing about the handling of Springfield police records. 


Calvin Christian… who is already suing the city over the destruction of internal affairs files… now says the city is also withholding emails that Christian believes fall under open records laws.  Christian requested all emails from Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher sent during April and May, but says the city told him it had no documents that met his request. 


Mayoral spokesman Nathan Mihelich says not all emails from city computers are considered public records… and emails that are not considered public records are routinely purged from the system within two weeks.  But the city has not explained how Buscher… in his capacity as deputy chief and press spokesman… generated no emails over those two months that fall under the definition of “public records.”

Former Top State Official Indicted For Fraud, Bribery

Despite more than a dozen indictments related to fraud in state government contracts and grants, Springfield’s top federal prosecutor says those cases are still the exception, not the rule. 


The latest indictment accuses the former chief of staff in the state Department of Public Health of using her position to shake down grant recipients for kickbacks.  Prosecutors say Quinshaunta Golden took in more than $433,000 in kickbacks and bribes, and then tried to obstruct a federal investigation. 


But U.S. Attorney James Lewis says Golden and the dozen other defendants represent only a small portion of state grant money… and says far more money is spent properly, in ways that help many people.

SJ-R Reporters Seeking Public Help To Increase Pressure On Newspaper Owners

Reporters at the State Journal-Register are hoping the public will come to their aid in an ongoing contract battle with the newspaper’s management. 


The newsroom formed a local chapter of the Newspaper Guild last year, and since then has been involved in contract talks.  But those talks have moved slowly on a variety of issues… including pay and benefits, outsourcing of jobs, and whether reporters should be required to write ad copy. 


Members of the Guild will be at the Labor Pavilion at the State Fair this weekend, asking members of the public to sign cards expressing support for the union.  Those cards will then be sent to Gatehouse Media in hopes of spurring the company to step up negotiations.

State Fair Getting Underway; Traffic Patterns Altered

Altered traffic patterns are now in effect for the run of the Illinois State Fair.  Traffic runs one way counterclockwise around the fairgrounds. 


Springfield police are also warning that most side streets around the fairgrounds are being designated as “no parking zones” for the duration of the fair.  No on-street parking will be allowed from 5th Street to Peoria Road and from Sangamon Avenue to Griffiths Street.  That will last until the conclusion of the fair on August 18th.


Meanwhile, be ready for traffic tieups and multiple street closures for tonight’s State Fair Twilight Parade.  The parade steps off from 9th and North Grand at 6pm, and the route runs down Peoria Road to the fairgrounds.  But portions of North Grand, 9th and 11th Streets will be closed down earlier for parade participants to line up. 


And Springfield police are also urging people to be careful during the parade, particularly in keeping small children from running into the roadway to retrieve candy.

Winning Powerball Tickets Not Sold in Illinois

If you’re waking up this morning wondering if you won the big Powerball jackpot last night... you didn’t, unless you bought your ticket in New Jersey or Minnesota.


A total of three grand-prize-winning tickets were sold for Wednesday’s drawing in the multi-state game.


The jackpot had grown to nearly $450 million, the fourth biggest prize in U.S. lottery history. The numbers are: 05, 25, 30, 58, 59 and Powerball 32.

Scandals Plans Moves Forward Against Alderman Simpson's No Vote

A new east-side bar and restaurant is going forward… over the objections of the alderman for that ward.


The Springfield City Council voted 7-1 Wednesday to approve a liquor license for Scandals.


The former downtown bar will serve both alcohol and food at its new location on South 11th.


The only “no” vote was cast by Alderman Gail Simpson, who just a week earlier had persuaded aldermen to keep the liquor license on hold.


Supporters of Scandals accused Simpson of opposing the business because of its reputation as a gay bar, but Simpson denies that and says she was only opposed because she doesn’t think her ward needs another liquor establishment.

Three Men Arrested For Lewd Behavior in Park

Three men have been arrested in a sting operation aimed at cracking down on lewd behavior in Springfield parks.


Park police say all three men exposed themselves and asked an undercover officer to perform a sex act.


The sting was set up in response to a recent increase in complaints about similar activities in Riverside and Carpenter parks… as well as a surge in Craigslist postings soliciting such encounters.


The State Journal-Register identifies the three men who were taken into custody as 79-year-old Charles Welsh of Divernon, 67-year-old Elmo Orton of Jacksonville, and 48-year-old William Huckeby of Springfield.

Rep. Brauer Applauds Gov. Quinn on Creation of Violence Prevention Task Force

State Representative Rich Brauer is praising Governor Pat Quinn’s approval of a bill creating a statewide Violence Prevention Task Force.


Brauer cites new State Police crime stats that show homicide is the second leading cause of death for Illinoisans in their teens and 20s.


The director of the state Department of Public Health also supports the task force as a way to find meaningful solutions to violence around the state.


LaMar Hasbrouck says the state cannot cry or pray its way out of the problem, it has to assess and then act.

Fahner Says He Misspoke About Pension Downgrade Request

Public sector unions are not buying a business leader’s claim that he “misspoke” in controversial comments earlier this year.


Former Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner told an audience earlier this year that he and other members of an influential business group had urged credit rating agencies to downgrade Illinois… in order to put pressure on state leaders to pass pension reform.


But after being criticized for those comments, Fahner now says he “misspoke,” but that he did not make contact with the ratings agencies.


The “We Are One” union coalition says it appears Fahner is now trying to cover his tracks… and wants state lawmakers to investigate the incident.

Aldermen Pass Liquor License for Scandals, Pass Moratorium on Boathouse Work

A new bar is coming to a restaurant in Ward 2, against the wishes of that area's alderman.


During Wednesday's Springfield City Council meeting, 7 aldermen voted to allow a liquor license for the planned Scandals on South 11th street a week after Ward 2's Gail Simpson pleaded to aldermen to keep the liquor request in committee.


The owner of the bar and restaurant delivered over 600 petition signatures to aldermen Wednesday, of that 400 were from Ward 2.


It was implied by one citizen addressing the committee that there was opposition because Scandals caters to a gay clientele. Simpson declared that she didn't care "who you sleep with" and that Ward 2 doesn't need another bar.


Scandals also has a restaurant and the liquor license is for an establishment that sells 50% or more of food.  They also plan on hosting comedy nights and Sunday brunch.


Also at Wednesday's meeting, aldermen kept an ordinance to bring on a new health care management company, even after an amendment to split it ordinance between union and non-union employees, in committee.


An ordinance to continue a franchise agreement with Ameren for another 10 years passed, despite some concerns from aldermen about the lack of stronger language to favor the city.


On emergency passage, aldermen agreed to a moratorium on building permits for boathouses until new regulations are developed.

Court Sets Another Date in Lawmakers Pay Dispute Case

Illinois lawmakers could miss at least one more monthly payday before their dispute with Governor Pat Quinn is resolved.


A judge in Chicago has set September 18th as the date for oral arguments in the lawsuit filed by House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.


They say Quinn violated the state Constitution by eliminating funding for legislative salaries in order to force lawmakers to pass pension reform.


All 177 legislators have missed their August paycheck and will apparently also not get paid at the start of September, unless some other resolution to the impasse is found.

Moratorium on Boathouse Construction on Emergency Passage

Springfield aldermen meet in a rare Wednesday session tonight, and on the agenda is an emergency ordinance to put a moratorium on permits for boathouse construction or renovation.


The ordinance from Ward 1 Alderman Frank Edwards is in response to the construction of a large boathouse near the Lake Springfield shoreline.


Current rules do not put restrictions on the size of boathouses, but neighbors say the oversized facility now under construction will be an eyesore that will hinder the view of the lake.


The moratorium would be in place until Edwards and Lake Springfield residents can propose new rules and limits on boathouse construction.

Sheriff Candidate Barr To Change Ad Removing Toys for Tots Leadership Mention

Sangamon County sheriff candidate Wes Barr says he will change a radio ad after an objection from the National Toys for Tots organization.


Barr had previously been the local coordinator for Toys for Tots, and his successor in the local position appears in the radio ad, praising Barr’s “leadership ability and commitment to our community.”


But the national organization tells the State Journal-Register that its local leaders should not use their official positions to take sides in political campaigns.

Lawmakers' Paychecks Still On Hold; Hearing Set For Sept. 18th

It looks like Illinois lawmakers will have to wait weeks… at least… to get their next paycheck. 


A judge in Chicago has set a hearing date of September 18th for arguments in the lawsuit brought by two legislative leaders trying to undo Governor Pat Quinn’s veto of legislative salaries.  Quinn eliminated the pay to force lawmakers to pass a pension reform plan… but House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton say Quinn’s action is unconstitutional. 


It appears the veto will stand at least until the hearing is held next month… meaning lawmakers will miss at least two monthly paychecks before they get their day in court.

District 186 Kids Below State Average For Obesity Rates

An effort to get Springfield schoolkids more active and more focused on healthy eating may be paying off. 


A doctor with the SIU School of Medicine says the program appears to be translating into lower obesity rates for grade schoolers.  A check of the body-mass index of first- and fourth-graders at eight Springfield elementary schools finds 16% would be listed as “obese” under current standards. 


That’s even with the national average, and four points lower than the Illinois statewide average.  And it’s also four points lower than a similar study at Springfield schools a year ago, although that survey measured a different group of students.

Powerball Jackpot Grows To $425 Million

Get those Powerball tickets. 


The jackpot for Wednesday night’s drawing has jumped up again.  Several weeks of rollovers have pushed the top prize for a single winner to the third biggest in Powerball history… and fourth highest overall for any U.S. lottery game. 


A single winner Wednesday night would win $425 million.  That would translate to a lump sum of $171 million after taxes.  The odds of winning are 1 in 175 million.

Morgan County Teens Killed In Crash May Have Street Named After Them

Two teens who were killed in a motorcycle crash in South Jacksonville last month may have a street renamed in their honor. 


19-year-old Leo Alfano and 17-year-old Morgan McKinnon were killed when their motorcycle struck the side of an SUV that had turned in front of them.  WLDS Radio reports that the village has proposed renaming a nearby street as “Leo-Morgan Memorial Way.” 


The families of the victims would have to consent, and the village hasn’t decided yet which street may get that designation.

GOP Challenger Goes On The Attack Against Durbin

The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate says Democratic incumbent Dick Durbin is not getting results… despite being one of the most powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill. 


Doug Truax is a political newcomer but says he will work to reverse Durbin policies that he says have hurt middle class families and put Illinois on a downward spiral.  Truax says he will repeal Obamacare and make health care more accessible by making it more affordable… allowing people to purchase insurance policies across state lines in order to find better deals. 


The suburban Chicago businessman appeared live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”

Christian County Man Dies In Scuba Diving Accident

A Christian County man has drowned in a scuba diving accident at an Arkansas lake. 


Officials say Philip Schwab of Stonington was diving in 74 feet of water when he ran out of air.  Schwab was not a certified diver but was diving with someone who was.  The certified diver also ran out of air but was able to get to the surface in time. 


Authorities had to search for three hours before they located Schwab’s body.  It was the third drowning at Bull Shoals Lake in northern Arkansas so far this year.

Poe: Pension Deal May Not Come Until October

A local lawmaker thinks it could take until the fall veto session in October before a pension reform plan is crafted.


And if lawmakers go without a paycheck for that long, Representative Raymond Poe says many of them will face real financial hardship.


But Poe says he’s doing OK despite Governor Pat Quinn’s veto of legislative pay over the pension stalemate, because a family business provides another source of income.


Meanwhile, Poe says he’s open to making the temporary state income tax increase permanent… if a lot of the money is earmarked toward paying down the pension debt.

First Hearing on Legislative Pay Veto Today

The first court hearing will be held this morning in the lawsuit filed by two top legislative leaders over Governor Pat Quinn’s move to eliminate lawmaker salaries until the pension crisis is resolved.


House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton are seeking an emergency injunction overturning the governor’s action and reinstating lawmakers’ paychecks.


Madigan and Cullerton are also asking for interest on the delayed pay.


Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office will defend the governor and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka in the lawsuit, even though Madigan’s father is one of the plaintiffs.

School Board to Hold Community Meeting in Superintendent Search Process

The Springfield school board is planning two days of community meetings to refine its search for a new superintendent.


Initially, the meetings with as many as eight focus groups were supposed to happen in a single day to reduce lodging and meal costs for the district’s search firm… but board members say it’s more important to do the search thoroughly and well, even if it costs a little more.


The meetings are tentatively set for August 27th and 28th.


So far, eight candidates have expressed an interest in Springfield’s superintendent vacancy, even though the position has not been widely advertised.

Engineers Brief Dist. 186 on Railroad Relocation

Construction could begin next year on the first of a series of overpasses and underpasses as part of Springfield’s massive railroad relocation project.


Experts from Hanson Engineers briefed the school board Monday night on the plan.


The first crossing to be rebuilt will be at 10th and Carpenter… chosen to ensure that east side residents will continue to have unobstructed access to the city’s major hospitals and the medical district.


School board officials remain concerned that a new overpass on North Grand could have an impact on Lanphier High School and Memorial Stadium.

Two Arrests in Separate Armed Robbery Cases

Springfield police have made arrests in two separate brazen robbery cases.


Steven Jungan
Steven Jungan

In the first incident Saturday morning, a man who claimed to be Mob-connected held a gun to a bar customer’s head and demanded the night deposit bag at the Elixir Bar on East Washington downtown.


Police developed leads and got a search warrant for a storage area on North Second, where they found suspect Steven Jugan living inside.


He was arrested without incident.


Wyman Allen
Wyman Allen

In a separate case Monday, a man robbed the United Community Bank on Bruns Lane after giving a threatening note to a teller.


The man either displayed or implied that he had a weapon.


A short time later, police found a man matching the suspect description inside a nearby Walgreen’s…and found the cash from the robbery stashed outside.


39-year-old Wyman Allen was arrested.


Both men could face multiple felony charges.

Auburn City Council to Reconsider Video Gambling

Auburn is still struggling with the issue of video gambling.


After casting the deciding vote against allowing video gaming earlier this year, Auburn’s mayor is now asking the city council to reconsider.


The State Journal-Register reports Barb Stamer now says Auburn can’t afford to pass up the revenues that the gambling machines could generate.


Earlier she had opposed gambling because of strong community sentiment against it.


A new vote on the issue could happen later this month.

Springfield Police Nab Bank Robbery Suspect; Money Recovered

Springfield police have arrested a man in connection with the Monday morning robbery of a westside bank.


Authorities say a man entered the United Community Bank branch on Bruns Lane around 10:30am and put a note on the counter, demanding money and threatening violence if the teller did not comply.  There were conflicting reports on whether the suspect displayed a gun or merely implied that he had one.  He escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash.


Police searching the area found a man matching the suspect description a short distance away, inside a nearby Walgreen's.  They also found the cash from the robbery and other items connected to the suspect stashed in the area.  39-year-old Wyman Allen is facing armed robbery and other charges.

Republican Poe Would Consider Permanent Tax Hike If Money Goes To Pensions

A local Republican lawmaker says he is willing to consider permanently extending the “temporary” state income tax increase… if a big chunk of the money goes to pay the state’s unfunded pension liability. 


Raymond Poe’s position may once again put him at odds with his party’s leadership on the issue of pensions.  Poe says the state should keep its commitments to its workers and retirees, and thinks using a portion of the income tax money could be a way to do that. 


But appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Poe says the law would have to be written with an ironclad guarantee that those expanded pension payments would be made on schedule.

Appeals Court Rejects Request For Immediate Concealed Carry

A federal appeals court has rejected a request from gun rights supporters to immediately allow lllinoisans to begin carrying concealed weapons.


The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals... which issued the initial ruling that ordered Illinois to pass a concealed carry law... turned down that request from 2nd Amendment supporters.  They say the new concealed carry law is unconstitutional because it still forces Illinoisans to wait for months while a new permit process is implemented.


The justices on the appeals court do promise a speedy ruling on the merits of the case.  But so far, no oral arguments in the case have been scheduled.

Rally Urges Approval Of ''Comprehensive'' Immigration Plan

A group that tries to promote President Obama’s political agenda is hoping to turn up the heat on local congressmen to support comprehensive immigration reform. 


The group Organizing for Action staged a march and rally in downtown Springfield Monday.  The objective is to urge Republican congressmen Aaron Schock and Rodney Davis to get behind the reform plan that recently passed the Senate… with support from Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Mark Kirk. 


Scott Cross with OFA says the plan has the backing of big corporations, labor groups, churches and social services agencies… and says the GOP should set partisanship aside and approve the package.

Armed Robbery Suspect Arrested In Storage Area

Springfield police have arrested a suspect in an armed robbery that happened early Saturday morning in a downtown Springfield bar. 


Employees of the Elixir bar told police that a man entered the bar just before 1am and sat and drank beer until closing time at 3am.  During that time, he told workers that his name was Giovanni, and that he was involved with the Mob.  As employees prepared to close down, one of them prepared a bank deposit bag... and that’s when the suspect pulled out a gun, held it to a customer’s head and demanded the cash.  He got away with around $2,000. 


But police say they developed leads that their suspect was living in a storage facility on North 2nd Street.  After executing a search warrant, police took 51-year-old Steven Jugan into custody. He’s facing multiple charges, including Armed Robbery and Aggravated Assault.

New Illinois Law Give Tax Breaks for Businesses Hiring Ex-Felons

Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation aimed at making it easier for felons to find work once they’re out of prison.


One new law creates a state income tax credit for businesses of $600 to $1500 for each ex-offender they hire.


Another will make it easier for some former criminals to have their records expunged.


Quinn signed the laws at a church in a Chicago neighborhood where it is estimated that 70% of men age 18 to 45 are ex-felons.

Chatham Road Bridge Construction Begins Today

Big road work projects could mean some big hassles for Springfield drivers today.


Work begins this morning to replace a heavily-traveled bridge on Chatham Road, just north of Wabash.


That bridge was labeled earlier this year as “structurally deficient.” Traffic will be reduced to just one lane in each direction on that stretch of Chatham Road.


Meanwhile, several lanes will be blocked on North Grand between 9th and 11th today, while crews dig down below the surface to do some testing on the ground in preparation for upcoming railroad relocation work.


In both cases, the city recommends finding an alternate route where possible.

Woman Loses Arm in Sunday Morning Crash

A Springfield’s woman has lost her arm in a single-vehicle crash.


The wreck happened early Sunday morning at 17th and Ash.


Police say the driver was westbound on Ash when he ran off the road, hitting two signs and a fire hydrant before striking a church building and a tree.


The State Journal-Register reports 20-year-old Melissa Hawkins was a passenger in the vehicle.


Her right arm was severed in the crash. Bystanders provided first aid until EMTs arrived.

Sen. Durbin Wants Accounting of Surveillance Programs

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin wants some tighter oversight on the Obama administration’s surveillance activities.


Durbin has attached an amendment to a budget bill that would require the administration to report just how many phone records of Americans it has collected… and how many terrorist attacks were thwarted by those surveillance activities.

State Fair Price Just Right, According to Fair Manager

Illinois State Fair officials say the current admission price strikes the right balance between affordability and fiscal responsibility.


An adult admission to the fair will be seven dollars again this year.


Fair manager Amy Bliefnick says the former admission price of three dollars was simply too low… and says the seven dollar price will allow fairgoers to enjoy a lot of free entertainment while still leaving them with enough money for food, drinks and other expenses on the grounds.


The fair officially opens Friday, following Thursday’s parade and preview night.

Pedestrian Killed In Jacksonville

A pedestrian has been killed after being struck by a dump truck on a busy Jacksonville street. 


WLDS Radio reports that the truck was turning right from Clay Street onto Morton when it hit the woman.  Authorities are not sure if she had entered the roadway or was standing on the curb, and are still investigating whether she was walking against the light. 


No citations have been issued yet, and the victim’s name has not been released.

Chatham Road Bridge Construction Starts Monday

Work begins Monday to replace a heavily-traveled bridge on Chatham Road that has been labeled “structurally deficient.” 


The bridge between Iles and Jerome carries around 19,000 cars a day.  In order to accommodate the work, traffic will be reduced to a single lane in each direction on what are usually the northbound lanes on Chatham.  In addition, Reed Avenue will be closed at Chatham Road during the first phase of construction, which should last through the winter. 


Drivers are advised to use caution and to consider alternate routes in heavy traffic periods.

State Fire Marshal Withdraws Proposed Sprinkler Rule

The State Fire Marshal is withdrawing a proposed change to the state’s fire safety code… one which drew fierce opposition from home builders and other business groups. 


Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis (mat-KAY’-tis) had proposed requiring automatic sprinkler systems in new home construction.  But local builders groups say that rule would add thousands of dollars to the price of a newly-constructed home, and would price many potential buyers out of the market. 


Matkaitis says the strong response shows that his proposal needs more refinement.  The proposal has been removed from the docket of a legislative rule-making panel, and a planned public hearing next week in Springfield has been cancelled.

Jockey Suspended For Allegedly Throwing Race To Benefit Another Rider

An Illinois jockey has been suspended from horseracing for 60 days for allegedly trying to rig the outcome of a recent race. 


The State Racing Board is looking into whether several jockeys at Fairmount Park conspired to let another jockey win a race on July 23rd.  The victory would have been history making for 70-year-old R.A. “Cowboy” Jones, who would have become the first known rider to win thoroughbred races in seven different decades. 


Instead, Jones finished second… and the rider who finished third, John Lejeune, is accused of holding back at the end to let Jones beat him.

Retired Judge Named Acting Corporation Counsel for City of Springfield

A retired Sangamon County judge has been named as the acting corporation counsel for the City of Springfield.


John Mehlick will take over for Mark Cullen, who resigned last month as the heat intensified from the Springfield police file shredding controversy.


Cullen remains on the payroll until the end of August, and Mayor Mike Houston says he will be available to provide information and guidance on issues related to the document destruction.


But Houston says he did not want Cullen to return to his office, saying it’s time for the city to move forward.

Christian Says Deposition Reveals Key Details

The deposition of the top union representative for Springfield police has revealed that more than two dozen internal affairs files that were initially targeted for early destruction were in fact preserved.


That’s according to Calvin Christian, the plaintiff in a lawsuit stemming from the file shredding incident.


Appearing live on 970 WMAY, Christian said Thursday that there was no explanation for the preservation of some records… and no word on why the preserved records were not turned over to comply with a pending Freedom of Information Act request.

Ald. Edwards Concedes Question Wasn't Asked in Executive Session

After a week of back-and-forth fingerpointing, a Springfield alderman now admits that Mayor Mike Houston is correct.


Frank Edwards had accused the mayor of failing to answer a direct question about whether anyone in the police department had objected prior to the destruction of internal affairs files.


Houston says he was never asked that question during a May executive session.


Edwards now confirms that Houston has it right.


But Edwards says aldermen shouldn’t be faulted for not asking all the right questions, because the city isn’t giving them enough information to know which questions to ask.

Couple To Settle With City Over Accusations Cop Threatened Them

The City of Springfield has reached a tentative settlement with a couple who accused a city cop of harassing them.


The State Journal-Register reports the deal will mean a payout of $24,000 to Erik and Andrea McCubbin.


They accused detective Paul Carpenter of threatening them and displaying his weapon.


It’s not the first brush with trouble for Carpenter, who was reinstated to the force by an arbitrator after being fired in 2006 over allegations of numerous violations of department rules.

Gov. Quinn Signs Medical Pot Into Law

Illinois doctors will have the option of prescribing marijuana to treat certain specific conditions, under a pilot program signed into law Thursday by Governor Pat Quinn.


When the new law takes effect January 1st, it will include numerous restrictions, including limits on what marijuana can be used to treat and where the drug can be obtained.


The sponsor of the bill, Representative Lou Lang, says marijuana is actually a safer and more effective alternative to treat some symptoms than many readily-available pharmaceutical drugs.

Illinois State Fair Preview Features Deep Fried Oreo

There will be a few changes at this year’s Illinois State Fair.


In a preview of the event, which opens next week, fair officials announced that you’ll see more horses… in the form of a daily parade by the Clydesdales… and less horsepower, by restricting the number of golf carts on the grounds each day.


The big food highlight will be an Oreo, wrapped in cookie dough, dipped in batter and deep fried.

John Mehlick Named Acting Corporation Counsel

Later this month, Springfield will have an acting corporation counsel in John Mehlick, according to an announcement from Mayor Mike Houston.  


The letter says that with Mehlick's experience as assistant state's attorney, an associate judge and his time in private practice he will be "perfect for leading the city's team of lawyers."  


In the letter, Mehlick is quoted saying he understands the "challenges in this period-of-transition and will use all my years of experience to provide Springfield with the exemplary representation it deserves.”  


The Springfield native will replace Mark Cullen August 15th.  


Cullen, whose resignation kicks in at the end of the month, resigned after media reports revealed he was involved in the decision to prematurely shred Springfield Police Department internal affairs files. 

Christian: Deposition Reveals New Details About SPD File Shredding

New details about the police department file shredding scandal are emerging from lawsuit plaintiff Calvin Christian, describing a deposition taken for the case he’s pursuing against the City of Springfield. 


In a live interview on 970 WMAY's "Bishop On Air," Christian says police union leader Don Edwards was deposed this week and offered up new information about the agreement between the union and the police department to speed up the destruction of those internal affairs files. 


Christian says among those in the room for the signing of that agreement was Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher… whose own file was reportedly among those shredded.  Christian says Edwards also revealed that 25 to 35 internal affairs files that were slated for early destruction were not shredded after all.  But those files have also not been turned over in response to Christian’s open records act request.

Edwards Now Concedes Houston Was Not Asked About Objections To File Shredding

A Springfield alderman is now backing away from his claim that Mayor Mike Houston misled the City Council by failing to answer a direct question about the police department file shredding scandal. 


Last week on 970 WMAY, Alderman Frank Edwards said Houston was, quote, “basically asked” during a closed-door meeting if anyone had objected to the destruction of those internal affairs files before they were shredded… and that Houston did not answer.  But the mayor says that question was never put to him in the meeting, and Edwards has now conceded that the mayor is correct. 


But Edwards also says that it should have been clear from other questions that aldermen wanted to know such details.  He says aldermen often don’t know what specific questions to ask, because they are not getting adequate information from the administration.

Cullen Resignation Will Take Effect Aug. 31, But He Won't Return To His Office

Springfield Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen will remain on the city payroll until the end of August… but he will not be in his office or making day-to-day decisions on the city’s legal affairs. 


Mayor Mike Houston says he met with Cullen Wednesday and worked out the timeline for his departure, after Cullen resigned last month following new revelations in the police department file shredding scandal.  Houston says Cullen will remain on the payroll to answer questions about that issue and provide guidance in the ongoing litigation stemming from it.  But he indicated that he doesn't want Cullen to come back to the job, so that the city can "move forward."


There is still no indication as to when Houston will name an interim replacement for Cullen.

Illinois Lawmakers Won't Get Paychecks

The check is not in the mail for Illinois lawmakers… who will miss a paycheck today because of Governor Pat Quinn’s veto of their salaries.


Quinn eliminated lawmakers’ pay in order to pressure them into completing work on pension reform.


Two of Quinn’s fellow Democrats… House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton… have sued, claiming Quinn’s move is an unconstitutional abuse of power, but no hearing has been set in the case.


Quinn says his move is legal… and says lawmakers should spend less time suing and more time fixing the pension crisis.

Gov. Quinn to Sign Medical Marijuana Law

Illinois is about to become the 20th state in the nation to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for the treatment of certain conditions.


Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign legislation today that will create a pilot program with strict standards for the use of medical marijuana.


It would only be permitted for patients with certain specific ailments… and could only be obtained through special state-licensed dispensaries.

Foul Play In Rochester Murder, Investigation Continues

Investigators still have no specific suspects, and are not discussing possible motives, in the homicide death of an elderly Rochester woman.


78-year-old Norma Lipskis was found dead in her home last week. An autopsy Monday showed that her fatal injuries were the result of foul play.


Rochester police chief Bill Marass won’t comment on whether there was any sign of forced entry, or whether Lipskis may have known her attacker.


But despite the first homicide in Rochester in recent memory, Marass says residents don’t need to fear for their safety.

Attorneys for City of Springfield Being Investigated by ARDC

The panel that oversees the conduct of Illinois attorneys has subpoenaed records related to the Springfield police file shredding scandal.


The Illinois Times first reported those subpoenas from the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, related to its investigation of an unnamed “attorney John Doe.”


At least two attorneys in the city’s legal department… including outgoing Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen… were involved in the discussions before the police union contract was changed to allow internal affairs records to be destroyed early, in possible violation of state records laws.

Lt. Gov. Simon Running for Comptroller

Illinois’s lieutenant governor would like to be the state’s next comptroller.


Sheila Simon kicked off her campaign Wednesday with stops in several cities, including Springfield.


In a live interview on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Simon acknowledged a lack of direct experience in accounting or finance, but says her background in the law may be even more important for dealing with the complex legal questions that the comptroller faces these days.


And she says she wants improved oversight not only of state government, but also of local government finances.

Millikan Professor's Murderous Past Revealed

A long-time professor at Millikin University in Decatur has been revealed to be the same person who, as a teenager, shot his parents and sister to death in the family’s Texas home.


James St. James has been a psychology professor at Millikin since 1986… but in 1967, he was Jim Wolcott, a 15-year-old who was sentenced to a state mental hospital for the murders of his family.


He was released six years later, changed his name and started his career in academia.


St. James has been the head of the school’s psychology department, but Millikin won’t comment on his current employment status, or on whether the school had been aware of his past before it was disclosed in a recent newspaper investigation.


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