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April 23, 2014, 2:35 am
970 WMAY News

State Fair Announces More Grandstand Dates, Happy Hollow Makeover


A Grandstand favorite is returning… and a beloved part of past Illinois State Fairs will get an extensive makeover.  Those are among the announcements made by fair officials in a preview of the 2014 event. 

 

Fair manager Amy Bliefnick filled in some more of the blanks for the Grandstand lineup… announcing the return of the popular, free Million Dollar Quartet concert on the Monday of the fair.  Cuban-American rapper Pitbull will also be a Grandstand headliner. 

 

And Bliefnick announced a three-to-five year plan to redesign Happy Hollow, with new landscaping and plans for a permanent amphitheater in the area that used to be home to the fair’s carnival rides.

McMenamin Rips Mayor, Aldermen Again On Pension Crisis


The rift at Springfield City Hall is getting to be almost as wide as the gap between the city’s police and fire pension obligations and the money available to pay for it. 

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin continues to chastise Mayor Mike Houston and his fellow aldermen for failing to take adequate steps over the past three years to address the funding shortfall. 

 

Houston this week suggested “revenue enhancements” may be necessary to fix the $230 million unfunded pension liability.  But McMenamin says there needs to be a wage freeze and more benefit changes before there’s any talk of higher taxes.  And he’s repeating his contention that nothing is likely to change until there’s a new mayor and City Council in place.

House Committee Will Revote On Obama Library Funding


An Illinois House committee will hold another vote on a proposal to set aside $100 million to bring the Obama Presidential Library to Chicago. 

 

The measure was approved by a House committee last week on a unanimous vote… but only because Democrats on the committee used a procedural move to use an attendance roll call from the previous day as the official vote tally on the library funding.  That resulted in some Republican lawmakers being listed as “yes” votes, even though they weren’t in attendance. 

 

Speaker Mike Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown says the revote coming up on Monday should put the controversy over the vote to rest once and for all.  But critics still object to the high price tag for the project.

WSEC-TV To Experience Broadcast Interruptions


Many viewers of Springfield’s public TV station will see some periodic interruptions in programming over the next couple of weeks. 

 

Crews will be working on the WSEC tower in Franklin, replacing lighting that was damaged by lightning strikes early this year.  The work starts Monday, weather permitting, and will require the transmitter to be shut down at times during the day. 

 

That will cut off the signal to anyone watching over the air, on satellite TV or on Mediacom cable… although viewers with Comcast cable will continue to get a direct feed of the station.  The project is expected to take about two weeks to complete.

School Board Hears Concerns Over Late Start Proposal


A proposal to start classes in District 186 an hour late, one day per week, is up in the air after concerns were voiced by parents and school board members.

 

That one hour per week would be used for teacher professional development.

 

But a meeting with a small group of parents found about half either somewhat or strongly opposed to the idea, because of the complications it would cause for parents trying to balance work demands and their child's school schedule.

 

School board members are also concerned, with some saying they would prefer a one-hour early dismissal once per week.

 

Others say they want more community input before the calendar must be finalized in mid-June.

Dist. 186 School Board Officers Election Postponed


The Springfield School Board has postponed its scheduled election of new officers.

 

The board was expected to choose a new board president to succeed Chuck Flamini, who opted not to seek another one-year term as President.

 

But the vote was delayed because only four of the seven board members were present.

 

While that is enough for a quorum, the members on hand say it's preferable to have the full board present to choose its leadership for the next year.

 

The board will vote at its first meeting in May on a new president and vice-president, as well as the adoption of board policies for the coming year.

Mayor: Comprehensive Package Needed to Address Pension Liability


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston isn’t taking a stand on any specific proposal to address a widening gap in police and fire pension funding.

 

Houston says a comprehensive package has to be developed, so it doesn’t make sense to commit to one piece of the puzzle before those pieces are all put together.

 

But in an interview for the 970 WMAY News Feed, Houston said additional revenues, including possible tax hikes, will almost certainly have to be part of the mix to address the city’s $230 million unfunded liability.

Proposal to Limit Video Gambling in Springfield Gains Support


A Springfield alderman says he’s a supporter of the free market… but also sees a place for government to step in to protect established businesses from unfair competition.

 

And that’s what Alderman Cory Jobe says he’s doing with his proposal to restrict future video gaming licenses.

 

Jobe says video gaming has become an important revenue stream for local bars and restaurants that have made a significant investment in facilities and jobs locally… and he wants to prevent them from being undercut by storefront gaming parlors that operate on a shoestring.

 

Half of the City Council has now publicly expressed support for Jobe’s plan, although some amendments could be introduced when the measure comes up for consideration next week.

Phone Scam Targets Ameren and CWLP Customers


A phone scam appears to be targeting customers of Ameren and City Water Light and Power.

 

ABC Newschannel 20 says the caller poses as a utility representative, demanding immediate payment of a bill and threatening to shut off power unless the person makes payment over the phone with a debit or credit card.

 

Both utilities say they will never demand immediate payment over the phone in that way.

District 186 Proposal For One-Day-Per-Week Late Start Runs Into Opposition


A proposal to start classes in District 186 an hour late, one day per week, is up in the air after concerns were voiced by parents and school board members.

 

That one hour per week would be used for teacher professional development.  But a meeting with a small group of parents found about half either somewhat or strongly opposed to the idea, because of the complications it would cause for parents trying to balance work demands and their child's school schedule.

 

School board members are also concerned, with some saying they would prefer a one-hour early dismissal once per week.  Others aren't sure there's enough time to implement any kind of dramatic change in the school schedule before the calendar must be finalized in mid-June.

School Board Postpones Selection Of New Officers


The Springfield School Board has postponed its scheduled election of new officers.

 

The board was expected to choose a new board president to succeed Chuck Flamini, who opted not to seek another one-year term as President.  But the vote was delayed because only four of the seven board members were present.  While that is enough for a quorum, the members on hand say it's preferable to have the full board present to choose its leadership for the next year.

 

The board will vote at its first meeting in May on a new president and vice-president, as well as the adoption of board policies for the coming year.

Houston: New Revenue May Be Needed To Fix Police, Fire Pensions


Mayor Mike Houston says it may very well take some “revenue enhancements” for Springfield and other Illinois cities to get out of the big hole being caused by police and fire pensions. 

 

A group of Illinois mayors is calling on the General Assembly to approve pension changes to help close the pension funding gap, which is more than $230 million for Springfield alone.  Houston says the way to do that is still under discussion… and he’s not advocating any specific changes to benefits. 

 

But in an interview for the 970 WMAY News Feed, Houston said benefit changes alone probably won’t get the job done… and says the city will have to find more revenue to apply to those pension funds.

''Free Market Supporter'' Jobe Defends Measure To Regulate Gaming Licenses


A Springfield alderman says he’s a believer in the free market… but also thinks there’s a place for government to step in to make sure that long-term local businesses are protected from being hurt by small, start-up storefront gaming parlors. 

 

Alderman Cory Jobe says established bars and restaurants have made a significant investment in the community.  He wants limits on city gaming licenses so that in the future, a business that gets its revenue primarily from gaming terminals could not get a license. 

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY's "Bishop On Air," Jobe says in addition to Alderman Frank Edwards, two more aldermen… Gail Simpson and Doris Turner… have signed on as co-sponsors.  But in a separate interview for the 970 WMAY News Feed, Mayor Mike Houston says he's asked city lawyers to draft an alternate proposal that Houston says would be less restrictive.  However, the mayor says that draft is still in progress, and he declined to elaborate.

Coroner: First Crash Killed Springfield Woman; Collision Involving Ambulance Not A Factor


The Sangamon County coroner says a Springfield woman died of trauma suffered when the car she was driving was hit by another vehicle… and a second crash involving the ambulance she was in does not appear to be a contributing factor in her death. 

 

Amanda Poole’s car was struck on the driver’s side after police say she pulled out in front of an approaching pickup truck.  Coroner Cinda Edwards says that crash caused injuries that proved to be fatal. 

 

Paramedics were working on Poole in the ambulance when it crashed head-on with another vehicle while en route to the hospital, but Edwards says there’s no direct link between that crash and Poole’s death.  An autopsy was performed Monday, although toxicology tests are still pending.

Speaker Madigan Faces Low Voter Approval Numbers


He’s one of the most powerful politicians in Illinois… but he may also be one of the most unpopular. 

 

A recent Rasmussen poll says House Speaker and state Democratic Party chair Mike Madigan gets a 65% unfavorable rating from voters around the state.  Even Madigan’s fellow Democrats are divided… with 50-percent offering a negative opinion on the Speaker. 

 

Not even Madigan’s home town will rally around him.  Columnist Rich Miller reports that Madigan has a 57-percent disapproval rating among Chicago voters… but that’s still better than he does in any other region of the state.

Poll Showing Rauner With Slight Lead Also Shows Favor for Unions


A recent statewide poll gives Republican Bruce Rauner a slight edge over Governor Pat Quinn in the November general election… but also suggests that one of Rauner’s big issues may not connect with Illinois voters.

 

That Rasmussen poll taken earlier this month finds 54-percent of those surveyed support public sector unions.

 

41-percent of voters say they are opposed to those unions.

 

Rauner campaigned hard in the primary against the corrupting influence of public sector unions, but has softened that rhetoric somewhat in the general election campaign.

Website: Illinois Ranks Among Worst for Retirement


A website for retirees lists Illinois as one of the ten worst states for retirement.

 

The survey from topretirements.com looked at multiple factors, from economy to climate.

 

It ranked Illinois low because of the state’s high property taxes and because it has an estate tax… although Illinois did get high marks for not taxing retirement income, at least for the moment.

Autopsy Expected for Woman Who Died After Two Separate But Related Accidents


An autopsy will be conducted today on a woman who died after being involved in two separate but related traffic crashes Friday night.

 

34-year-old Amanda Poole had been driving a car that was struck by a pickup truck at South Dirksen and Niccolls Road.

 

After she was extricated from her vehicle, she was being taken by ambulance to the hospital… when the ambulance collided head-on with an SUV at Dirksen and Clear Lake.

 

Poole died later that night at the hospital. Several other people were hurt in those two collisions.

Weekend Violence Leaves Nine Dead, 35 Wounded, in Chicago


It’s been another very violent weekend across Chicago.

 

Shootings have left nine people dead and at least 35 people wounded. The dead include a Cook County corrections officer and his wife, a Chicago cop.

 

Authorities believe the corrections officer shot his wife to death and then killed himself. Five children, ages 11 to 15, were wounded in a separate drive-by shooting on the city’s South Side.

 

Witnesses said someone in a passing car asked the children if they belonged to a gang… and then opened fire.

 

An 11-year-old girl is in critical condition.

Lawmakers Considering Ban of Non-biodegradable Micro-beads


Illinois lawmakers are considering a ban on products containing microbeads.

 

Many skin-care products contain the beads, which are supposed to gently scrub and exfoliate the skin.

 

But the tiny beads are made of non-biodegradable plastic and are starting to collect by the millions in Illinois waterways.

 

A pending bill would prohibit the manufacture of such products in the state by the end of 2017, and would ban their sale here a year later.

Interdenominational Easter Services Draws Several Thousand to PCCC


More than two-thousand people took part in an interdenominational Easter service Sunday at the Prairie Capital Convention Center.

 

Two local churches… the iWorship Center and Abundant Faith Christian Center… brought their congregations together for the large Easter service.

 

Both pastors say it could be the beginning of a new annual tradition.

Autopsy Monday For Woman Killed In Bizarre Linked Accidents


An autopsy is planned for Monday for a woman who died after she was involved in a pair of traffic crashes just minutes apart in Springfield Friday.

 

34-year-old Amanda Poole was critically injured when the car she was driving was struck by a pickup truck at South Dirksen and Niccolls Road Friday afternoon.  She had to be extricated from the vehicle.  Then as an ambulance was rushing her to the hospital, it collided head-on with an SUV that police say failed to yield at Dirksen and Clear Lake.

 

Several other people were also injured in the two crashes, including a Springfield firefighter on-board the ambulance who was treated and released.

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