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July 27, 2014, 11:11 pm
970 WMAY News Archives for 2014-04

Quinn Defends Handling Of Growing Scandals


Governor Pat Quinn says he was already trying to find and root out problems in his administration… even before other agencies began to intervene. 

 

Quinn is defending his handling of several burgeoning scandals… including the alleged misuse of anti-crime funds and reports of improper political hiring in the State Department of Transportation. 

 

He says he will hold people in his administration accountable for any wrongdoing.

Houston, Other Mayors Demand Action On Police/Fire Pensions


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston and a group of other Downstate mayors are insisting that if Illinois lawmakers take action to bail Chicago out of its police and fire pension crisis, they must extend the same fix to their communities.

Springfield has one of the most serious police and fire pension problems, with an unfunded liability of more than $230 million.  Houston says unless the problem is corrected, the city will have no choice but to either raise taxes or slash services.

 

The mayors did not offer many specific proposals to fix the crisis, except to say that the current 3% annually-compounded cost-of-living increase for retired police and firefighters must be "decreased." And the mayors agree that the legislature must stop passing laws that further sweeten pensions and drive up costs for local governments.

Rauner Group Files Petitions To Put Legislative Term Limits On November Ballot


A group chaired by Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner has filed more than half-a-million signatures to put a term limits amendment on the November ballot. 

 

Rauner’s initiative would limit all Illinois lawmakers to no more than eight years in office… and would change the makeup and procedures of the General Assembly.  In announcing the results of the petition drive, Rauner tied it to his campaign for governor… saying allegations of corruption in the Quinn administration show the need to make big changes in how things are done at the Capitol. 

 

The amendment could still face legal challenges before it is officially placed on the ballot.

Springfield Police Asking Community To Help Solve Rash Of Shootings


Springfield police are asking people to come forward with information that could help stop a recent rash of shootings around town.  But a city alderman says that lack of cooperation may be the result of past bad actions by the department. 

 

Ward 2’s Gail Simpson says even though things have gotten better in recent years, there is still distrust of the police by many minorities… and that may make people reluctant to come forward. 

 

But Police Chief Kenny Winslow thinks it may be that people just don’t realize that something they saw might be important.  He’s asking anyone with information about the recent shootings to contact the police department or Crimestoppers.

''Hot Bike'' Tour To Bring Hundreds Of Motorcycles To Springfield In August


As many as 1,000 motorcycles could be rolling into Springfield in August… one day after the State Fair ends. 

 

Springfield will be one of five stops on the Hot Bike Tour… sponsored by Hot Bike Magazine and GEICO.  Hot Bike… a magazine for fans of customized and home-built motorcycles… says Springfield has a great tradition of support for motorcycles, tied to events like the Springfield Mile and its spot along Route 66. 

 

The stop on Monday, August 18th, will be the third of five stops on a tour that starts in Joplin, Missouri and ends in the Wisconsin Dells.  The Springfield event will include live music and a demonstration of custom-built cycles.  City officials say it will bring lots of visitors and money to Springfield.

Alderman Move Forward With Video Gambling Limits


A proposal to limit future video gaming licenses appears headed to final passage next week.

 

Springfield aldermen overwhelmingly supported the measure during Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting.

 

Only two aldermen opposed the new rules… which are intended to stop the growth of storefront video gaming parlors and protect the investment of established bars and restaurants who are supplementing their income with revenues from video gaming machines.

 

Alderman Sam Cahnman warns that the limits could lead to lawsuits against the city… or could result in more small gaming parlors opening up just outside the city limits.

New City Ward Map Put on Debate Agenda


It’s less than a year until the 2015 city elections… and work is continuing on a new ward map for Springfield.

 

A proposed map will be on next week’s City Council debate agenda… and there could be a lot of debate about it.

 

Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson and others are raising questions about how the map was assembled and why certain precincts were assigned to certain wards.

 

But others say it’s time for the Council to make a decision, so that candidates and voters can start preparing for the upcoming election season.

Police Ask For Public's Help in Solving Recent Shootings


Springfield police are asking for the public’s help in solving a recent rash of shootings that are spilling out across town.

 

Police Chief Kenny Winslow says many… but not all… of the shootings appear to be related, and says the escalating violence is putting innocent people in harm’s way.

 

Police have identified numerous “persons of interest,” but so far police have had difficulty in gathering enough evidence to make arrests.

 

Anyone with information about the shootings is asked to call Springfield police or Crimestoppers.

Few Details in Fatal Fire Investigation


Investigators are still releasing few details about two suspicious fires at the same Springfield duplex, one of which killed a 63-year-old woman.

 

Fire Chief Ken Fustin says the fires were started separately, apparently hours apart, but cannot say how or why they were started.

 

Sangamon County sheriff’s detectives are assisting the Metro Arson Squad with the investigation.

Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce Selects Hembrough as CEO


The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce has selected its new CEO.

 

Chris Hembrough will leave his current post as head of Big Brothers/Big Sisters locally to take over the leadership of the business group.

 

Hembrough replaces Steward Sandstrom, who was fired by the Chamber earlier this year.

 

At the time, the Chamber said it would look for someone local who had a knowledge and understanding of Springfield and its unique issues.

 

21 people applied for the vacancy, and 12 were granted interviews, before the Chamber selected Hembrough.

 

He will start the new position on July 1.

Graduated Income Tax Amendment Not Brought Up for Vote


A proposal to switch Illinois to a graduated income tax appears to be dead.

 

The Illinois Senate did not vote on the proposed constitutional amendment Tuesday, making it impossible for the plan to clear both chambers before Thursday’s deadline.

 

A Senate subcommittee also killed a proposed amendment to impose term limits on constitutional officers.

 

However, a separate amendment to place term limits on lawmakers is moving ahead.

 

Supporters will hold a news conference today to announce that they have compiled enough signatures to put the measure on the November ballot.

White Warns of Cuts If Tax Hike Expires


There are more warnings about what will happen if lawmakers don’t extend the state’s temporary income tax increase.

 

Secretary of State Jesse White says the resulting budget cuts will mean he will have to lay off 200 workers and close two dozen drivers license facilities around the state.

 

White also says he may have to reduce or eliminate the armed Capitol Police force that has patrolled the Statehouse since an unarmed security guard was fatally shot there a decade ago.

Springfield Police: All Hands on Deck Investigating Recent Shootings


Another shooting incident in Springfield Tuesday evening, this time it's a house that's been targeted before. That's according to Police Chief Kenny Winslow who says police have all hands on deck to put an end to the violence. The most recent shooting is the latest in a string of connected incidents, according to police, between two groups of people.

 

When asked if Springfield has gangs, Winslow says not in the traditional sense. He calls them "hybrid gangs" because loyalties can shift for many different reasons. Winslow says police have persons of interest but they need that extra bit of information to get an arrest. Police encourage anyone with information contact police or Crime Stoppers.

 

Another organization in Springfield that police work with is CeaseFire. Winslow says they provide information on shooting incidents in a timely manner to the group of volunteers.

 

Hear more on the Council Roundup with Bishop On Air, Wednesdays at 9 on 970 WMAY.

 

During Tuesday's Springfield City Council Committee of the Whole, aldermen heard from James Johnson. Johnson is no stranger to the council chambers and declared that once school gets out the violence is going to get worse. He also said the public is afraid of the police and that's why they don't provide information to authorities. Johnson says the reason there is violence is because there are no jobs and declared that if he wasn't employed he would "sell drugs, and rob from you!" Alderman Joe McMenamin too exception to that statement which led to a few tense moments in the chambers.

 

Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson, who's ward has suffered several shootings, says that police leadership needs to continue fostering a focus on community within the police department. She also encourages the public to contact police or someone else they trust if they have information on the shootings.

 

Before Tuesday evenings shooting on S. 13th Street there have been three shootings police say are connected.

 

 

Chamber Of Commerce Chooses New CEO


The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce has selected its new CEO.  Chris Hembrough will leave his current post as head of Big Brothers/Big Sisters locally to take over the leadership of the business group.

 

Hembrough replaces Steward Sandstrom, who was fired by the Chamber earlier this year.  At the time, the Chamber said it would look for someone local who had a knowledge and understanding of Springfield and its unique issues.

 

21 people applied for the vacancy, and 12 were granted interviews, before the Chamber selected Hembrough.  He will start the new position on July 1.

Many Questions Unanswered In Fatal Fire Probe


Investigators are still not releasing details of what they’ve learned so far about a pair of suspicious fires in adjoining halves of a Springfield duplex… leading to the death of a woman who lived there. 

 

The fires broke out four hours apart Monday morning… and the second fire took the life of 63-year-old Eva Pellizzari.  Fire Chief Ken Fustin says it still appears that both fires were started separately and both were suspicious… but there’s no information yet on how they started, or who might have set them. 

 

Sangamon County sheriff’s detectives are assisting the Metro Arson Squad with the investigation.

State Inspector General Looking Into Quinn Administration Hiring Practices


Lawyers for Governor Pat Quinn confirm the state’s inspector general is now looking into whether dozens of people were improperly hired for jobs at the State Department of Transportation of the basis of political connections. 

 

The unusual admission came during a court hearing in which the administration asked for… and was granted… more time to respond to a lawsuit alleging that IDOT’s hiring practices violated state laws against political patronage. 

 

That lawsuit seeks the appointment of a monitor to watch over Illinois government hiring and to intervene when anti-patronage rules are broken.

Rally Pushes Increased Funding For Tuition Grants To Help Poor Students Go To College


Colleges and universities around the state are echoing Governor Pat Quinn’s call for more money in a program that provides tuition assistance to low-income students. 

 

Quinn wants to add $50 million to the program next year… and to ultimately double the current $373 million allocation over five years. 

 

A rally at the Statehouse Tuesday was aimed at persuading lawmakers that the additional money would be a solid investment in the state’s future… giving many poor students their best, and perhaps, only shot at going to college.

Proposed Nursing Home Bill Of Rights Seeks To Limit Impact Of Managed Care


A nursing home lobbying group is rallying residents and their relatives and caregivers to push state lawmakers to support a “Nursing Home Residents Managed Care Bill of Rights.” 

 

The push was brought about by the state’s plans to transition all Medicaid residents in nursing homes to a managed care system.  The Health Care Council of Illinois says that threatens to strip patients of the ability to make decisions about their own care… and could actually lead to outcomes that are more expensive and potentially harmful to patients. 

 

But state officials contend the managed care system will lower costs and provide better coordination of health services.

Investigation Continues Into Fatal Duplex Fire


The investigation continues into two suspicious fires… in the two halves of a Springfield duplex… that left a 63-year-old woman dead.

 

The first fire broke out just before 1am Monday in the unoccupied half of the duplex on West Jefferson and was put out quickly.

 

The occupant of the other half of the structure, Eva Pellizzari, decided to stay in her home. Four hours later, firefighters were called back to find her side of the duplex engulfed in flames. Pellizzari died of trauma from the fire.

 

Fire Chief Ken Fustin says the second fire was started separately, and was not just a rekindling of the first blaze.

 

But officials haven’t said how the fires started, or discussed any possible suspects or motives.

Former State Lawmaker Farnham Charged With Possessing Child Pornography


A former state lawmaker has been charged with possession of child pornography.

 

The federal complaint says two child porn videos were found on a state-owned computer seized from Keith Farnham’s legislative office during a raid in March.

 

The complaint says an email address linked to Farnham was being used to seek out and acquire specific types of child pornography between last June and January of this year.

 

Farnham resigned his seat after last month’s raid. Despite the charges, he was not taken into custody and will be allowed to report to court voluntarily at a later date.

Deadline Approaches for Ballot Initiative to Change Illinois' Income Tax Structure


The main sponsor predicts victory today in the Illinois Senate for his proposed constitutional amendment to change the state’s flat income tax to a graduated tax that would require those who earn more to pay a higher tax rate.

 

But it’s far less certain if the bill can get the votes it needs in the House before a fast-approaching deadline.

 

The amendment must clear both chambers by Thursday in order to be placed on the November ballot.

Hy-Vee Opening Day May 13th


Opening Day has been set for the new Hy-Vee store on South MacArthur. The store announced on Facebook Monday that it will open its doors at 6am on Tuesday, May 13th.

 

 

 

An adjacent gas station and convenience store will also open at the same time. The store’s manager says hundreds of full- and part-time workers will continue their training right up until the opening.

 

And he says other preparations will also go down to the wire. The store’s supply of fresh produce and dairy won’t arrive until the day before the official opening.

Crews Clear Flipped Firetruck Hours After Accident


It took nearly four hours for crews to clear the debris and reopen southbound Interstate 55 at Sangamon Avenue after a crash involving a fire truck.

 

The rig from the Harrisburg Fire Department was traveling north on the interstate, headed to Peoria for repairs, when a tire blew.

 

That sent the truck into the median and through concrete barriers on the other side, causing it to overturn in the southbound lanes.

 

Traffic had to be diverted at Sangamon Avenue, causing massive backups until the scene was cleared. No one was hurt.

 

Tornado Watch Until 7pm Monday For Portions Of Listening Area


A tornado watch has been issued until 7pm Monday for Sangamon and several surrounding counties.

 

The watch also affects Menard, Morgan, Mason and Scott counties.  A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms with hail and damaging winds.

 

Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on this developing weather situation.

Overturned Fire Truck Temporarily Closes I-55 At Sangamon


A noon-hour crash involving a fire truck has forced the temporary shutdown of the southbound lanes of Interstate 55 at the Sangamon Avenue exit.

 

The truck actually belongs to the Harrisburg Fire Department, and was being transported to Peoria for repairs when it blew a tire while traveling northbound on I-55.  The truck crashed through the metal wire barriers on one side of the median, proceeded through and smashed concrete barriers on the other side, and then came to rest in the southbound lanes.

The southbound lanes were closed and traffic was re-routed until crews can remove the truck and clean up the debris.  One person was on board the fire truck when it crashed and was uninjured; no other vehicles were involved and no one else was hurt.

 

Click for larger picture

 

Click for larger picture

''Fair Tax Amendment'' Fate Uncertain As Deadline Rapidly Approaches


The main sponsor of the so-called “Fair Tax Amendment” says he has the votes in the Senate to pass his plan for a graduated income tax. 

 

But state senator Don Harmon acknowledges that the amendment’s fate is far less certain in the House… with less than three days to go to beat the deadline for putting the amendment on the ballot this year. 

 

Harmon’s plan would raise income taxes from the current flat five-percent rate to 6.9% for those making over $180,000 a year.  For everyone else, Harmon says they would pay less in income taxes than they do now.  But opponents respond that most people will pay more than they’re scheduled to pay after the state’s temporary income tax hike expires next year. 

 

The Senate will vote on the plan Tuesday… and then it must also clear the House no later than Thursday.

Hy-Vee Opening Set For May 13th


The long-awaited new Hy-Vee store on South MacArthur will be opening in about two weeks.

 

The store announced on its Facebook page Monday that it will open to the public on Tuesday, May 13th at 6am.  The adjacent gas station and convenience store will also open at the same time at MacArthur and Outer Park.

 

Store director Kyle Thornsbrough says there is still plenty of work to do to prepare for the opening, including ongoing training of hundreds of full- and part-time workers.  And Thornsbrough says all of the store's fresh products... from dairy to produce... won't arrive until the day before the official opening.

One Person Dead After Two Fires Hit Springfield Duplex


Springfield fire officials say two fires… in two halves of a duplex in northwest Springfield… were started separately, and both appear to be suspicious. 

 

The second of those two fires claimed the life of a 63-year-old woman who lived in one half of that structure.  The first fire broke out in the unoccupied half of the duplex in the 25-hundred block of West Jefferson shortly before 1am.  That fire was put out quickly, and Fire Chief Ken Fustin says damage was limited. 

 

The woman who lived in the other half stayed in her home… but then the second fire broke out just after 5am in her half of that same duplex.  She was found dead inside, but investigators aren’t saying yet where in the home she was discovered. 

 

Both fires are under investigation, and fire officials haven’t said yet exactly how they started.  But Fustin says the second fire was not a rekindling or extension of the first fire, and says it appears to have started separately and independently.

Rain Moves Through Area, Slight Risk Storms Could Be Severe


A storm system that has produced deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma and Arkansas will continue to bring rain and storms to Central Illinois for the next several days.

 

But Springfield and Central Illinois are at only a slight risk of the most severe and dangerous weather.

 

The federal government’s storm prediction center says the biggest threat over the next day is from strong winds and hail… but says there is little risk of tornadoes like those that killed more than a dozen people Sunday.

Police Continue Investigating String of Shootings


There have still been no arrests after a series of shootings last week around Springfield… some or all of which may be connected.

 

The most serious incident was a drive-by shooting on Stevenson Drive that led to a two-vehicle car crash.

 

Two people in one of the cars were hurt, and a pedestrian suffered a foot injury from a bullet ricochet.

 

Authorities are investigating whether that incident is linked to at least three other shootings across the city last week.

 

Anyone with information on any of those incidents is asked to call Crimestoppers.

Springfield City Council to Debate Video Gambling License Restrictions


The Springfield City Council will take a first vote Tuesday on an ordinance to limit future video gaming licenses.

 

The measure… which would only allow local gaming licenses for establishments that make most of their money for food and beverage sales… could affect plans already in the works for several more storefront gaming parlors.

 

The State Journal-Register reports at least five of those parlors have received zoning changes necessary to operate… but have not gotten their liquor or gaming licenses yet.

Quinn and Rauner Clash Over Murray Closure


A Southern Illinois center for residents with developmental disabilities is still slated for closure… but Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner says it should remain open.

 

Rauner says Governor Pat Quinn made the decision to close the Murray Developmental Center without ever having visited it. He says it remains the best option for residents and families.

 

Some Murray families are suing to block the closure.

 

A Quinn campaign spokesperson says Murray residents should be moved out of institutions and into more community-based care… and calls Rauner “shameless” for, quote, “playing politics with the quality of people’s lives.”

Democrats Consider Minimum Wage Referendum


Still struggling to find the votes to approve a state minimum wage increase, Illinois Senate Democrats are considering an alternative plan… one that would put the issue before voters in November as a non-binding referendum.

 

Even though Democrats have a supermajority in the Senate, some of the party’s Southern Illinois lawmakers are resisting the wage increase bill… saying it would likely drive jobs across the border into neighboring states.

 

It’s also still unclear if a wage hike has the votes needed to pass the House.

Decatur Family Seeks New Trial in Murder/Dismemberment Case


A hearing is set for today to consider whether three members of a Decatur family should get a new trial in a 1996 murder case.

 

Michael Slover, Jr. and his parents… Michael Sr. and Jeannette Slover… were convicted in 2002 of the killing and dismemberment of Michael Jr.’s estranger wife Karyn.

 

The Downstate Innocence Project says the three were wrongfully convicted and want the court to consider new physical evidence in the case.

Mumps, Measles Hit Illinois; Health Director Blames Anti-Vaccine Movement


On the heels of a mumps outbreak locally, Illinois is now also part of the biggest surge in measles cases in nearly 20 years.  S

 

tate public health director Dr. Lamar Hasbrouck… appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed… pins some of the blame on a growing number of people who are refusing to have their children immunized. 

 

Hasbrouck says people are falling for “myths” about vaccines… and are failing to take the most important step to protect the health of their children and everyone else around them.

Appeals Court Bolsters Union Argument Against Pension Law


An appeals court ruling this week could give a boost to state workers and teachers who hope to have the state’s new pension reform law thrown out. 

 

That appeals court in Springfield ruled that the state was required by its constitution to pay full stipends to county treasurers… even though lawmakers had not appropriated the full amount. 

 

Crain’s Chicago Business says the ruling echoes the argument made by public sector unions that the state constitution… and its prohibition on reducing compensation and benefits… takes precedence over any law.

Quinn Pledges, If He Wins, Next Term Will Be His Last


If Governor Pat Quinn wins in November, he is pledging that he won’t run again after that. 

 

A victory this year means Quinn would be in office just shy of ten years at the end of his next term.  The governor this week endorsed a constitutional amendment that would prohibit anyone from serving as governor for longer than ten years.

Documents Show Increase In Political Hires At IDOT


Documents released by the Quinn administration show a significant increase in political hiring within the state Department of Transportation over the past 10 years. 

 

The governor’s office finally released 137 pages of documents that had been sought by a Chicago attorney looking into allegations of improper hiring at IDOT. 

 

The memos had originally been withheld… but Quinn’s office released them after that attorney filed suit this week.

Vote On Graduated Income Tax Expected Tuesday


The Illinois Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on a proposal to move Illinois to a graduated income tax system… where people who earn more would pay a higher tax rate. 

 

The measure appears to have a good chance of passing the Senate… but its prospects are far less certain in the House.  It would have to clear both chambers by next Thursday in order to go before voters in November.

Springfield Police Look For Links In Rash Of Shootings


There’s been a rash of shootings around Springfield this week… and police are looking to see if some… or all… of them are connected. 

 

The most serious was a drive-by on Stevenson Drive that left three people injured.  Police already think the same groups of people were involved in another shooting on South 16th

 

But they are also looking for links to a shooting at 18th and South… and multiple shots fired near an apartment complex off of Durkin Drive.

Police Looking For Auburn's Illilni Bank Robber


Police are still looking for the gunman who robbed the Illini Bank branch in Auburn and got away with cash.

 

Authorities say the suspect is a white male, about six-feet-tall and 180 pounds.

 

They think he may have fled in a vehicle after the holdup at around two o’clock Thursday afternoon.

Police Investigating Shooting Connections This Week


Springfield police are investigating whether a drive-by shooting on Stevenson Drive Wednesday night was related to another shooting on South 16th Street earlier in the week.

 

They say it appears the same two groups of people are involved. Someone in a white car… possibly a Pontiac Grand Prix… opened fire on another vehicle as the second car left a convenience store parking lot.

 

Two people in the second car were hurt when they crashed into another car as they attempted to evade the gunfire. A pedestrian also suffered a bullet wound to the foot.

 

Authorities say the white car had been seen circling the area prior to the shooting.

Hy-Vee Opening Soon on MacArthur


If you’ve been waiting for that new Hy-Vee supermarket on MacArthur Boulevard, you won’t have to wait much longer.

 

The director of the new store says it will be opening in the very near future. But the exact opening date won’t be known until Monday.

 

That’s when Hy-Vee plans to announce it on Facebook… and on billboards that will go up around town.

 

The store is employing hundreds of full- and part-time workers… and is seen as a key element of the revitalization of MacArthur.

North End Group Homes Cited for Code Violations, Neighborhood Group Airs Concerns


The operator of a pair of North End group homes says he’s simply trying to help people in need. But the Enos Park Neighborhood Association says those homes are a hazard and should be closed.

 

The two Joyce’s Community Home sites on North Fifth Street house residents with mental and physical disabilities.

 

City officials have slapped the homes with numerous building and zoning code violations for everything from too many people in one dwelling… to no fire alarms… to bedbugs.

 

But the city says the owner usually fixes the problems after they are brought to his attention.

 

The city says it doesn’t have a clear basis to shut down the homes right now.

Historic Documents Show Springfield Spent $20K to Defray President Lincoln Funeral Costs


The Springfield City Clerk’s office is sharing some City Hall history with the organizers of next year’s effort to recreate Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession through Springfield.

 

The clerk’s office located the original 1865 records of City Council action related to the funeral… including an ordinance to spend $20,000 to defray costs.

 

Deputy City Clerk Rianne Hawkins says that’s equal to about half-a-million dollars today.

 

The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Coalition says it hopes to display the digitized reproductions at various events leading up to next year’s 150th anniversary.

Driving Selfies Dangers a Focus for Ford's Driving Skills for Life Event


A driving skills event for teens has been around for nearly a decade… but is constantly having to change with the times.

 

For example, this year’s Ford’s Driving Skills for Life event at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport is devoting part of its training to the hazards of a recent phenomenon… the “driving selfie.”

 

Trained instructors show kids how even taking their eyes off the road and hand off the wheel for a couple of seconds to take that picture can have disastrous results.

 

Selected students from schools that won safe driving competitions are taking part in the event on a controlled course at the airport. The two-day event concludes today.

Hy-Vee Opening Date To Be Announced Monday


An official with Hy-Vee says the long-awaited new store on MacArthur Boulevard will be opening very soon.  And while he won’t give the exact opening date yet, he says that date will be announced Monday. 

 

The date will be posted on the store’s Facebook page, which you can find by searching Facebook for “Hy-Vee MacArthur Boulevard.”  Billboards announcing the opening date will also go up on Monday. 

 

The supermarket… which has created hundreds of full- and part-time jobs in a long-vacant building at MacArthur and Outer Park… is seen as the anchor for extensive redevelopment of the MacArthur corridor in the years to come.

Quinn Endorses Term Limits For Governor, Other Constitutional Officers


Governor Pat Quinn is endorsing a term limits proposal for statewide constitutional officers. 

 

The proposed constitutional amendment was put forward by Republican legislative leaders Christine Radogno and Jim Durkin.  It would limit Executive Branch officials to no more than two terms in office… although someone could serve longer if they were appointed to a position with less than two years remaining in the term. 

 

Quinn says he is a longstanding supporter of term limits and hopes lawmakers approve the measure and put it on this November’s ballot.

Rauner Skips GOP Event Over Pastor's Controversial Comments


Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner is backing out of a GOP event in the Quad Cities… over concerns about statements made by the pastor who had been invited to give the invocation. 

 

That pastor, Don Johnson, is an African-American who says President Obama’s policies are “anti-Biblical” and “pro-Islam,” and who accuses Obama of… quote… “homosexualizing the military.”  Rauner’s campaign says there’s no place in politics for such inflammatory rhetoric.

 

Local Republicans asked Johnson not to attend after Rauner objected… but when Rauner cancelled anyway, the Rock Island GOP re-invited Johnson to give the prayer and a short speech.

STDs On The Rise In Illinois


State health officials are warning of an increase in the number of sexually transmitted disease cases around the state over the last several years. 

 

Gonorrhea and Chlamydia cases were up 15% statewide between 2010 and 2012… while cases of syphilis soared 82%.  The most at-risk group for STDs are those between the ages of 15 and 24.  And the state public health department says people can often have… and spread… the diseases without even realizing it. 

 

They are urging sexually active adults to talk to their doctor and get tested for STDs.

''Driving Selfies'' Latest Dangerous Trend Behind The Wheel


Teens from around the state are taking part in a two-day event in Springfield that gives them an advanced education in hazards behind the wheel… and how to avoid them. 

 

Ford’s Driving Skills for Life event at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport subjects that invited group of teens to a series of challenges on a closed, controlled course.  The program has been here before… but continues to evolve. 

 

This year, for example, teens get a chance to see how the growing trend of “driving selfies” can put them in danger in a matter of seconds.  The attendees won the right to participate by holding safe driving events at their schools.

Police Deal With Shooting, Car Crashes, Overturned Semi and More


Area police had their hands full on Wednesday with multiple accidents sending people to local hospitals.

 

Three people were hurt when someone fired shots from a car on Stevenson Drive. The shots hit a woman on the street, wounding her in the foot… and struck a car which collided with another vehicle.

 

Two people sustained injuries from that crash, although they were not hit by gunfire.

 

Shortly after that, the sheriff’s office reported an accident with injuries at Old Jacksonville and Archer Elevator Roads, but had no immediate additional details.

 

And a truck driver was injured when his rig overturned as he was attempting to exit I-55 at the Route 54/Sangamon Avenue exit.

 

It took crews several hours to clear that wreckage.

Autopsy Results of Lincoln Man Shot By Police Expected Today


Autopsy results could be released today for a Lincoln man who was shot and killed by police inside a Lincoln tavern.

 

62-year-old Donald Letterle reportedly had a gun when he got into a fight with a woman inside the Glass House Tavern.

 

Police responding to a 911 call encountered Letterle and opened fire.

 

He was pronounced dead at the scene. The woman was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

 

Authorities haven’t said yet what led police to shoot Letterle, or how many times he was hit.

Rauner Pushes for Term Limits of Executive Branch Officials


Bruce Rauner doesn’t want to just limit the terms of Illinois lawmakers.

 

Rauner is pushing a constitutional amendment to restrict members of the legislature to no more than eight years… and is now endorsing a separate amendment that would apply the same limit to Executive Branch officials.

 

The GOP nominee for governor is vowing to serve no more than two terms if elected this fall.

 

He’s calling on Governor Pat Quinn to also endorse the new proposal, and to pledge that Quinn’s next term will be his last if he’s elected.

Ebertfest To Pay Tribute to Roger Ebert With Bronze Statue


This year’s “Ebertfest” film festival in Champaign-Urbana will feature a new, lasting tribute to the late film critic Roger Ebert, who founded the festival.

 

A bronze statue of Ebert will be unveiled next to the Virginia Theatre. It will feature a likeness of the critic, who died last year from cancer at the age of 70.

 

The Ebert sculpture will feature him with his iconic “thumbs up” pose. On either side of Ebert will be two empty theater chairs, where attendees can sit and pose for pictures.

 

The sculpture is titled “C-U at the Movies.”

Shots Fired, Crashes Keep Police Busy


It was a busy Wednesday for area police. 

 

Three people were injured when someone fired shots that struck a car on Stevenson Drive Wednesday afternoon, causing that car to collide with another vehicle.  Two people in the car were injured, and so was a bystander. 

 

Police also dealt with an overturned semi that closed I-55 exit ramps at Sangamon Avenue for several hours, and responded to another accident with injuries at Old Jacksonville and Archer Elevator Roads Wednesday evening.

 

Details Still Scarce In Police Shooting Of Man In Lincoln Tavern


State police are still withholding details of an incident in which an armed man was fatally shot by police in Lincoln Tuesday night. 

 

62-year-old Donald Letterle was pronounced dead at the scene of that shooting in the Glass House Tavern on Pulaski Street.  Police say Letterle was in an altercation with a woman inside the establishment when police arrived. 

 

But authorities haven’t said yet what caused an officer to open fire… or how many times Letterle was hit.

 

GOP Senator Says Warnings Of School Funding Cuts Is A ''Charade''


A Republican state senator says Democratic predictions of dramatic cuts in school funding are, quote, a “charade.” 

 

Democrats say schools will lose hundreds of millions of dollars next year unless the temporary income tax increase is made permanent.

 

Senator Dale Righter of Mattoon says that claim assumes no money can be cut elsewhere in the budget… but he says continuing fraud problems in Medicaid prove more cuts can be made.

 

No Charges To Be Filed In Peoria Fake Twitter Case


The mayor of Peoria is defending the response to a fake Twitter account… including a police raid on the home where the spoof account originated. 

 

Mayor Jim Ardis says he was not involved in the police decision to raid the home, but also says he has a right not to have someone pretending to be him.  The fake account, which included off-color jokes and profanity, was not initially labeled as a parody.  It was eventually shut down by Twitter, even before police raided the home.

 

Authorities now say no one will be charged in the case.

 

Rauner Calls Out Quinn On Patronage, Term Limits


Republican Bruce Rauner says a lawsuit accusing Governor Pat Quinn of political hiring violations should come as no surprise. 

 

Rauner says Quinn has a long history of political hires and patronage, dating back to his work in the Dan Walker administration in the 1970s.  A Chicago attorney is suing Quinn, saying he improperly reclassified dozens of IDOT jobs so that political hires could be put in those positions.

 

Rauner is also upping the ante in his call for term limits.  He’s already proposed a constitutional amendment that would impose eight-year limits on state lawmakers… and now the GOP nominee for governor is endorsing a separate proposed amendment to put a similar cap on Executive Branch officers. 

 

Rauner says he will serve no more than two terms if elected… and is calling on Governor Pat Quinn to support that term limit proposal, too.

Man Fatally Shot By Lincoln Police; ISP Investigating


A man is dead after being shot by a Lincoln police officer late Tuesday. 

 

Illinois State Police say the man was armed and was involved in a physical altercation with a female at a location on Pulaski Street.  Lincoln police arrived and "engaged" the male suspect. 

 

He was shot and was pronounced dead at the scene.  The female was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.  State Police are investigating the incident.

Calvin Christian Arrested For Criminal Trespass, Says Doesn't Expect Charges


Springfield police have once again arrested the man who is accusing them in court of a campaign of harassment against him.

 

Calvin Christian was booked into the Sangamon County Jail Tuesday after being accused of criminal trespass.

 

Christian tells 970 WMAY News that he was arrested after his girlfriend called police, because Christian allegedly refused to leave her driveway.

 

Christian was later released, and says he was told that no charges will be filed.

 

Springfield city authorities confirm that Christian was arrested, but offered no further comment.

Lawsuit Claims Hundreds of IDOT Jobs Are Political Hires


A Chicago attorney has filed a federal lawsuit, accusing Governor Pat Quinn of improperly hiring hundreds of IDOT employees on the basis of political considerations.

 

Michael Shakman… whose lawsuit years ago resulted in bans on political patronage for Chicago and Cook County jobs… says the Quinn administration improperly reclassified some IDOT jobs as exempt from patronage rules.

 

Shakman says anyone who was improperly hired should lose their jobs.

 

An IDOT spokesman says the department conducted an internal review and found about 50 positions had been improperly reclassified… and in the future, political hiring for those positions will be prohibited.

Alderman McMenamin Says Council Lacks Leadership and Focus on Pension Crisis


Springfield Alderman Joe McMenamin is still on the offensive against Mayor Mike Houston and his City Council colleagues, accusing them of a lack of leadership and a lack of action in dealing with the city’s pension crisis.

 

Springfield has a $230 million unfunded liability in police and fire pensions.

 

McMenamin says Houston should have taken a get-tough approach with employee unions to help lower that pension liability… and says aldermen should have held the mayor’s feet to the fire.

 

And McMenamin repeated his contention that the pension crisis won’t get any better unless voters install a new mayor and a number of new aldermen in the 2015 elections.

Happy Hollow To Get Makeover, Including Permanent Amphitheater


Illinois State Fair officials say Happy Hollow will never go back to being the home of the fair’s carnival rides.

 

But they hope a makeover of the area just inside the main gate will help a new generation of fairgoers make different memories.

 

Fair officials announced a three-to-five year makeover plan for Happy Hollow Tuesday, including plans for a permanent amphitheater.

 

Tuesday’s fair preview also included more Grandstand announcements, including a show by rapper Pitbull and the return of the free Million Dollar Quartet concert.

 

Two Grandstand dates still haven’t been booked.

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.

McMenamin Supports Gaming Restrictions, Despite Potential Benefits To ''Fake Taverns''


A Springfield alderman says he supports a proposal to restrict future video gaming licenses in the city… even though he thinks it might create a monopoly for existing businesses that he calls “fake taverns.” 

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin says video gaming parlors who have liquor licenses… but whose primary business is the gaming terminals… will probably applaud the proposal for future limits, because it will protect them from other, similar competitors.

Pension Law Typo Could Push Hundreds Into Retirement


University of Illinois officials are urging state lawmakers to correct a mistake in last year’s pension reform bill that threatens to slash benefits for hundreds of university employees around the state unless they retire by June 30th

 

Officials say if the mistake isn’t corrected, they could lose lots of talented employees who will retire right away in order to avoid a reduction in monthly pension payments. 

 

But some lawmakers worry that re-opening the pension bill could start a tidal wave of requests for changes.

Lawmakers Push To Get New State Police Cars On The Road


Some GOP lawmakers have introduced a bill to push Illinois State Police to get dozens of new squad cars equipped with radios and computers, and get them out on the street. 

 

At least 80 brand new cars are sitting idle in a Springfield parking lot, because ISP says it doesn’t have the skilled manpower to install all the equipment that a police car has to have.

McMenamin Wants to Amend Video Gambling Ordinance


A Springfield Aldermen is raising questions about the intent of an ordinance that is meant to curb the number of gambling licensees issued by the city.

 

Springfield aldermen Cory Jobe and Frank Edwards have proposed an ordinance that would only provide video gaming licenses to businesses that make most of their revenue from food and alcohol sales.

 

During the 970 WMAY News Feed, Alderman Joe McMenamin says he agrees with the direction of the proposal but has concerns that would provide a monopoly for what he calls “fake taverns,” establishments that get a liquor licenses only for the potential of getting video gaming terminals.

 

Jobe says he put forth the ordinance because of concerns from restaurant and bar and grill owners, not gaming parlors. McMenanin says he wants to amend the ordinance to only allow 5 terminals, not 10, as is being floated by state lawmakers.

 

Aldermen are set to debate the proposals Tuesday during the Committee of the Whole.

Springfield Man Under Arrest for Not Filing Tax Returns


Not even two days after the tax filing deadline a Springfield man is under arrest for not filing his individual income tax returns.

 

Fredrick I. Harrold is being held on four counts of failure to file his taxes for 2009 through 2012.

 

Harrold is being held at the Sangamon County Jail with a bond of $50,000.

 

The Director of the Illinois Department of Revenue says the arrest sends a message that the state will prosecute people who don’t take their responsibility to file tax returns seriously.

 

If Harrold is convicted on all counts he could be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison. Harrold’s first hearing is May 21st.

Obama Presidential Library Vote Erupts In Controversy


An Illinois House committee has unanimously approved spending $100 million to establish the Obama Presidential Library and Museum in Chicago after President Obama’s term is up.  But that 9-to-nothing vote is causing controversy. 

 

Illinois Public Radio reports only five members were in attendance at the hearing Thursday.  Lawmakers used a procedural move that declared the attendance roll call from Wednesday’s committee hearing would serve as the vote for Thursday’s consideration of the library funding.

 

A Republican lawmaker who is now listed as a “yes” vote for the Obama library and museum… even though he wasn’t present… says he thinks the move was illegal.

Full ISP Report On Graham And Carpenter Released


The full 23-hundred page report on the actions of two Springfield police detectives has been released. 

 

The city had indicated that it would have to issue that report a little at a time over a period of months… so that it could thoroughly review the document and remove sensitive or confidential material.  But the city abruptly reversed course Thursday and issued the entire massive report on DVD. 

 

The 2005 investigation outlined findings into alleged misconduct by detectives Jim Graham and Paul Carpenter.  You can find a link to download the entire report here.

Taylorville Couple Claims $20 Million Lotto Prize


It may be the best wedding present of all time. 

 

A Taylorville couple who got married less than three weeks ago is now enjoying the windfall from a winning lottery ticket they bought last week.  Steve Durbin purchased the Quick Pick ticket while buying groceries at the Taylorville Kroger store. 

 

The retired Department of Corrections employee discovered the next day that he had won the $20 million Lotto jackpot.  He and his new wife Wilma will take a lump sum of more than $11 million, before taxes.

Illinois Jobless Rate Hits Five-Year Low


Illinois’s unemployment rate has hit a five-year low… even though it remains well above the national average. 

 

The State Department of Employment Security says the March jobless rate fell to 8.4 percent, the best it’s been since January of 2009.  The drop came even as more Illinoisans returned to an active job search… and despite the effects of ongoing harsh winter weather in March. 

 

The biggest areas of job growth are in professional services, health and construction… while government jobs are down statewide.

Mumps Outbreak Hits Central Illinois


There’s been a big spike in cases of the mumps in Central Illinois in recent days… and public health officials are trying to figure out why.

 

Sangamon County public health director Jim Stone says the numbers locally are huge compared to recent years.  There have been 12 cases in the last 30 days in Sangamon County... compared to just one in each of the past three years.  In neighboring Morgan County, 40 cases have been reported.  Last year, there were only 25 cases of mumps in the entire state of Illinois.

 

The Sangamon County cases are concentrated among adults between the ages of 25 and 53.  Most adults in that age group would have received the MMR vaccine, which protects against mumps, measles and rubella.  But Stone says it’s unclear if the victims haven’t been immunized or if this is just a very aggressive strain of the virus. 

 

Mumps can cause swelling of the salivary glands, along with fatigue, headache and other problems.  Stone says people who haven’t been vaccinated should get that done.  And he says good hygiene practices will slow the spread of the bug.

Democrats Say Schools Would Take Hit if Temporary Tax Hike Expires


District 186 could find itself with another $4 million hole in next year’s budget… while Ball-Chatham and Rochester could have to make up $1 million each… if the state’s temporary income tax increase expires at the end of the year.

 

That’s according to new numbers from Illinois Senate Democrats.

 

But the State Journal-Register reports local Republican lawmakers are skeptical of the numbers… and think they represent scare tactics in an effort to drum up support for a vote to make the tax hike permanent.

Rauner's 401-K Plan Wouldn't Include Police and Fire


Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner says he would not include police officers and firefighters in his plan to move public sector workers to a 401-k type of retirement plan.

 

Rauner has proposed such a system for teachers, state workers and others in cash-strapped state-funded pension systems.

 

But he tells a Chicago TV station that the unique dangers that police and firefighters face means they should not be treated the same way.

 

AFSCME blasts the idea, saying Rauner forgets the dangers faced every day by corrections workers, highway crews, or workers at mental health facilities.

Still No Solid Numbers in Local ACA Signups


There’s no clear indication yet of how many Sangamon County residents have been able to obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

 

County public health director Jim Stone says the health department helped just over 600 people sign up.

 

Most of them qualified for the state’s expanded Medicaid program, but around 200 signed up for private policies in the health insurance exchanges.

 

But Stone says those numbers don’t include other local agencies who helped county residents sign up… or people who simply went to the website on their own and obtained a policy.

Ald. Simpson Critical Over City Employees Appearing on TV Show


A Springfield alderman is critical of a recent TV appearance by two city employees… including Mayor Mike Houston’s director of human resources.

 

The segment on the “Steve Harvey Show” featured a city worker getting tips on how to ask for a raise or promotion.

 

The show then brought out HR director Melina Tomaras-Collins to hear the employee’s pitch.

 

On the show, Tomaras-Collins said she would recommend that the mayor grant the promotion and raise.

 

Alderman Gail Simpson says that was inappropriate and sends a wrong signal to other employees.

 

But Tomaras-Collins says employee Sara Taylor deserves the bump… and sees nothing wrong with supporting her on a nationally-televised show.

 

Alderman Critical Of City Employees' TV Show Appearance


A Springfield alderman is concerned about a recent nationally-televised appearance by the city’s director of human resources and one of her employees. 

 

The segment on the syndicated “Steve Harvey Show” featured city employee Sara Taylor in a segment about how to ask your boss for a promotion.  Unbeknownst to Taylor, HR director Melina Tomaras-Collins was also on the show to hear Taylor’s pitch.  Tomaras-Collins said she would recommend the promotion. 

 

But Alderman Gail Simpson found the piece to be “exploitative” and says it sends a wrong message to other city workers.  Mayor Mike Houston says the piece was good publicity for the city… and says the promotion request is under consideration.

 

Watch the clip from the show below:

 

Petersburg Woman Killed In Early-Morning Crash


A 22-year-old Petersburg woman is dead following a single-vehicle crash early Wednesday morning. 

 

Illinois State Police say the woman was eastbound on Route 123 when for some reason the car ran off the road and began to overturn.  The driver was thrown from the vehicle and suffered fatal injuries before the car came to rest in the eastbound traffic lane. 

 

The victim has not been identified yet.  The accident remains under investigation.

Despite Signup Milestone, Congressman Still Determined To Repeal Obamacare


Despite millions of signups through the national health insurance exchanges, Congressman Rodney Davis says he will not stop trying to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. 

 

The White House is touting a figure of 7.5 million people who have obtained health insurance under the President’s health care reform law.  But Davis says it remains to be seen how many of those people will actually pay for and maintain their premiums… or how many people have lost existing policies because of the requirements of the law. 

 

Davis contends the majority of Americans still want to do away with the controversial law and replace it with something less intrusive and restrictive.

Aldermen Pass NAPA Deal, Part of Garage Consolidation


After weeks of debate, Springfield aldermen have finally approved a deal to let NAPA Auto Parts manage the parts inventory for the new consolidated city garage.

 

The three-year, $3.75 million deal is expected to save the city around $50,000 a year… part of an overall estimated million-dollars in savings each year from combining all of city government’s garage operations.

 

Aldermen had balked at the contract over questions about how NAPA was chosen and what would happen to three city employees whose jobs are in jeopardy because of the consolidation.

 

The vote was 7-to-2 in favor of the contract.

Aldermen To Consider Measure Curbing Future Video Gambling


A Springfield alderman says a proposal to restrict future video gaming licenses in the city is intended to be a starting point for a conversation about the future of gambling in the city.

 

Ward 1’s Frank Edwards says he was approached by several bar and restaurant owners who are concerned about the growth of storefront video gaming parlors.

 

Edwards says he doesn’t think those parlors were really the intent of the state’s video gaming law.

 

Edwards and Cory Jobe have proposed a measure that would require future city gaming licensees to make most of their money from food and beverage sales… not from gambling.

Edwards Confirms Bid for City Treasurer


He’s been leaning toward it for a while… and now Springfield Alderman Frank Edwards confirms he will run for city treasurer in 2015.

 

Edwards is a former mayor of the city, serving for several months in 2011 after Mayor Tim Davlin’s death.

 

But he says he’s much more interested in the financial side of city government than in the day-to-day administration of City Hall.

 

The longtime Ward 1 alderman must give up his City Council seat next year because of term limits.

Rutherford Asking Judge to Dismiss Harassment Suit


Attorneys for state Treasurer Dan Rutherford want a judge to throw out the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by a former employee.

 

A court filing says Edmund Michalowski has not offered evidence that he was harassed by Rutherford or forced to do political work on state time.

 

The filing also says Rutherford is entitled to limited immunity because of his role as a government official.

 

Michalowski’s lawsuit and Rutherford’s response to it was widely blamed for the collapse of Rutherford’s campaign for governor. A hearing on the motion to dismiss is set for Thursday.

Oberweis Releases Tax Information, Blasts Durbin as Career Politician


Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jim Oberweis has released tax information showing his gross income last year was more than $1.3 million… up from just over a million in income in 2012.

 

But Oberweis is launching a pre-emptive strike against any suggestion that his wealth makes him out-of-touch.

 

The Chicago Tribune reports that Oberweis says his opponent Dick Durbin is also a millionaire.

 

Durbin’s last 2012 tax return showed him with income of $280,000… but studies have put his net worth at just over a million dollars.

 

Oberweis recently led a crowd at a political rally in a chant: “Millionaire. Career Politician. Dick Durbin. Must go.”

Report: Smith Admitted to FBI He Accepted Bribe Money as State Representative


State representative Derrick Smith reportedly admitted to FBI agents that he had accepted bribe money and even turned some of the cash back over to authorities, hours after his 2012 arrest on corruption charges.

 

The information is contained in court documents filed in Smith’s upcoming bribery trial. Smith reportedly told agents that he had screwed up in taking the money in exchange for trying to intervene in a state grant award.

 

Prosecutors want to use Smith’s statements against him at trial… while defense lawyers are trying to keep those statements away from the jury.

Edwards Confirms Run For City Treasurer In 2015


Another candidate is definitely in the race for citywide office in Springfield in 2015. 

 

Ward 1 Alderman Frank Edwards says he will be a candidate for treasurer next year.  Edwards has talked about that possibility for months, but had made no formal campaign announcement yet. 

 

Appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Edwards confirmed he is definitely running.  Edwards… who served as mayor following Tim Davlin’s death in late 2010… says he has always been most interested in the financial end of city operations. 

 

[Term limits prevent Edwards from seeking another term as alderman.]

Alderman: Gaming Ordinance Intended To Spark Conversation


A Springfield alderman who has proposed restrictions on future video gaming licenses in the city says he just wants to start a conversation on the issue. 

 

Ward 1 Alderman Frank Edwards is joining Ward 6’s Cory Jobe in the proposal to require that future city licenses only go to businesses that make most of their money from food or beverage sales, not primarily from the gaming machines themselves. 

 

Edwards appears flexible on the details.  He says the city needs to have a discussion on the future of gaming in Springfield… and the most effective way to do that is to tie that conversation to a specific proposal.

State Worker Pension Fund Wants Delay In Effective Date Of Reform Law


The pension fund for state workers is asking for a delay in implementing the state’s new pension law… until the courts decide whether or not the law is constitutional. 

 

The State Employees Retirement System says there are implementation issues as the fund tries to meet the new law’s effective date… but warns there will be much bigger problems if it starts to implement the law and then the law is thrown out. 

 

The fund’s board of trustees is asking Attorney General Lisa Madigan to request a stay in implementation until all the legal issues are resolved.  If Madigan refuses, the board will seek to hire its own attorney to make the request.

Davis Supports Pay Equity, Criticizes Minimum Wage Push


Congressman Rodney Davis says he’s a supporter of equal pay for equal work… and hopes an upcoming House bill on the issue will gain some traction. 

 

Senate Republicans defeated a pay equity bill on a procedural vote recently, but Davis says the House will offer its own plan to address concerns that women on average are paid far less for comparable jobs.  Davis wasn’t sure what kind of enforcement mechanism would be included in the House bill. 

 

Meanwhile, appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Davis criticized the White House focus on raising the minimum wage… saying it should be focused on creating better-paying jobs.

Local Gas Station Owners Oppose Increasing Gas Tax


Local gas station owners say Illinois lawmakers should resist any effort to raise motor fuel taxes to pay for infrastructure improvements.

 

The Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association and local station owners say such a tax hike would hurt drivers who are already struggling with the high price of gas… and would be damaging to small businesses.

 

A coalition of business and labor groups recently recommended the tax hike as part of a package of long-range funding for road and bridge repairs.

 

But the gas station group says the state should simply stop diverting Road Fund money for other purposes and spend it directly on infrastructure.

Several Springfield Aldermen Float Tighter Controls on Video Gambling


Those storefront video gaming parlors that have started popping up around Springfield could be blocked from future expansion… under a proposal being floated by two city aldermen.

 

The State Journal-Register reports Aldermen Frank Edwards and Cory Jobe want to only give future city video gaming licenses to businesses that make most of their money from food and beverage sales.

 

The move would protect bars and restaurants who have added the machines to enhance their revenue, at the expense of storefront chains where gaming is the primary attraction.

Springfield Cop Busted for DUI


A Springfield police officer is charged with DUI following a weekend incident. Officer James Stewart is a 15-year veteran of the force.

 

Police Chief Kenny Winslow says officers responded to a report of a disabled vehicle on Stevenson Drive early Saturday… and allegedly found Stewart behind the wheel.

 

Winslow wouldn’t say how officers determined that Stewart was intoxicated.

 

Stewart is on paid leave while the criminal case and an internal affairs investigation run their course.

Steely Dan Scheduled for State Fair


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artist Steely Dan will play the Illinois State Fair this year.

 

The duo of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker will perform in the Grandstand on August 15th.

 

It’s the latest addition to a lineup that also includes a classic rock bill headlined by Boston, along with country acts Florida-Georgia Line, Hunter Hayes and Jake Owen.

 

There are still several Grandstand dates that have not been officially announced.

Springfield Cop Arrested On Suspicion Of DUI


A 15-year veteran of the Springfield police department has been arrested on suspicion of DUI. 

 

A press release from the police department says officers responded early Saturday to a report of a disabled vehicle on Stevenson Drive.  When they arrived, they found veteran officer James Stewart behind the wheel.  Stewart was arrested and taken to the Sangamon County Jail. 

 

He is on administrative leave while both criminal and internal investigations are conducted.

IEA President: Endorsement In Governor's Race No Foregone Conclusion


Even though Governor Pat Quinn appeared to get a much warmer reception from the state’s biggest teachers union than his GOP opponent did last week, the head of the Illinois Education Association says an endorsement decision is no foregone conclusion. 

 

IEA president Cinda Klickna says Friday’s joint appearance between Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner was not an endorsement session.  And even though Klickna says Quinn gave a more realistic assessment of the state’s finances and the crisis facing public education, she says both candidates will get another chance to make their pitch before the union decides who… if anyone… it will support in the November election.

 

Klickna appeared live Monday on the 970 WMAY News Feed.

Durbin Wants Tougher Regulation Of E-Cigarette Marketing


Manufacturers of e-cigarettes are deliberately targeting minors in their marketing… according to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, who wants tighter regulation on how and where the nicotine-infused smoking alternative is advertised. 

 

Durbin says e-cigs still pose a significant health hazard and risk of addiction for young people, made all the worse by manufacturers who use sweet flavorings for the water vapor and advertise in social media and other outlets targeting youth. 

 

Durbin is calling on the industry to voluntarily halt broadcast advertising and wants federal regulations limiting other marketing techniques.

Steely Dan To Play Illinois State Fair Grandstand


Another big name has been signed to play this year’s Illinois State Fair. 

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers Steely Dan will perform in the Grandstand on August 15th, according to the band’s website.  The duo of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen hit their peak in the 1970s and early ‘80s, with hits including “Reelin’ In The Years,” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Peg,” and “Deacon Blues.” 

 

Other confirmed acts for this year’s fair include Boston and Florida-Georgia Line.

Christian: Politics at Play in Prosecution


The plaintiff who accuses Springfield police of a campaign of harassment against him says he was prepared to drop that case as part of a deal to resolve some of the multiple traffic charges against him… but says State’s Attorney John Milhiser scuttled that deal for political reasons.

 

In a letter sent to media outlets, Calvin Christian accuses Milhiser of trying to intimidate him because his pending federal lawsuit would show that Milhiser’s office was involved in the police campaign of harassment.

 

Milhiser has said his office objected to Christian’s sentence on the traffic charges because state law doesn’t allow him to receive supervision on multiple charges… and that’s why he’s now trying to have that sentence overturned.

 

Christian says his lawsuit will proceed… and will help to expose corruption in, quote, “the good ol’ boys network” in Springfield and Sangamon County.

Over 80 New ISP Squad Cars Sit Idle Since Last Summer


85 brand-new State Police squad cars are sitting in a Springfield parking lot… where they’ve been since they were delivered last summer.

 

But the cars have never been driven, because they lack the lights, radios and other essential police equipment they need.

 

The Chicago Tribune says state officials point to budget concerns and a lack of qualified technicians to install the equipment.

Springfield Retina Specialist Receives Most Medicare Reimbursements in State


A Springfield retina specialist received more money in Medicare reimbursements than any other Illinois physician, according to a review by the Chicago Sun-Times.

 

The paper found Doctor David Dodwell was paid $5.8 million in 2012.

 

But Dodwell says much of that money covers the cost of drugs that he buys out of his own pocket… meaning he only keeps a fraction of the Medicare money he receives.

Rochester Man Accused of Smuggling Marijuana on Amtrak


A Rochester man is due in court in Galesburg today on charges that he attempted to smuggle more than a pound of marijuana into Illinois on an Amtrak train.

 

Authorities believe 28-year-old Kriss Barton acquired the pot in Las Vegas and was bringing it back to resell it in the Springfield area.

 

Barton is facing two felony counts… the most serious of which could carry a sentence of three to seven years in prison.

 

He was being held over the weekend on $75,000 bond.

Road Work Expected Throughout Springfield Starting This Week


You could see lots of road crews… and potentially some delays… all over Springfield this week.

 

Road patching and paving projects are slated to begin at multiple locations around the city, as Springfield’s three-year infrastructure program kicks into high gear.

 

Several neighborhoods will also see sidewalk replacement projects.

 

City officials are asking drivers to be alert for work crews and to slow down in construction zones.

Sangamon Valley Trail Getting $4 Million


More than $4 million has been allocated for Phase Two of the Sangamon Valley Trail.

 

The project to extend the trail from near Stuart Park to Irwin Bridge Road along an abandoned rail corridor is part of $52 million in federal funds sent to Illinois for so-called “alternative transportation” projects… like walking and bike trails and streetscapes.

 

Petersburg will get nearly $850,000 to restore brick pavement on three streets adjacent to the historic city square.

Walgreen Company Could Move Headquarters From Illinois to Europe


Shareholders are reportedly pressuring Illinois-based Walgreen Company to move its corporate operations to Europe… a move that could shave the company’s tax bill almost in half.

 

But the Wall Street Journal says so far, the drug store giant’s corporate executives have resisted the move to leave the state where the company was founded more than 100 years ago.

 

Walgreen’s acquired a major stake in a Swiss-based company two years ago, and that could serve as the basis for a new headquarters if the company did decide to leave the Chicago area.

Brand New State Police Cars Sit Idle For Months


85 brand-new State Police squad cars are sitting in a Springfield parking lot… where they’ve been since they were delivered last summer. 

 

But the cars have never been driven, because they lack the lights, radios and other essential police equipment they need. 

 

The Chicago Tribune says state officials point to budget concerns and a lack of qualified technicians to install the equipment.

Springfield Eye Doctor Leads All Illinois Physicians In Medicare Reimbursements


A Springfield retina specialist received more money in Medicare reimbursements than any other Illinois physician, according to a review by the Chicago Sun-Times. 

 

The paper found Doctor David Dodwell was paid $5.8 million in 2012.  But Dodwell says much of that money covers the cost of drugs that he buys out of his own pocket… meaning he only keeps a fraction of the Medicare money he receives.

Multiple Springfield Road, Sidewalk Projects To Start This Week


Crews will be picking up the pace of Springfield’s major infrastructure improvement program this week. 

 

Multiple road paving and patching projects are slated to begin on Monday, weather permitting.  Sidewalk repair and replacement is also slated for several neighborhoods. 

 

City officials are asking drivers to be alert for road work and to slow down in those work zones.

$4 Million Sangamon Valley Trail Project Included In New Federal Funding


Governor Pat Quinn says $52 million in federal dollars will be used for local “alternative transportation” projects, like bike trails, walking paths, historic preservation, and streetscape beautification. 

 

Local projects include $4 million for Phase Two of the Sangamon Valley Trail, along an abandoned rail corridor from north of Stuart Park to Irwin Bridge Road.

 

Petersburg will get $850,000 to restore brick pavement on three streets adjacent to the historic city square.

Rochester Man Accused Of Smuggling Pot Into Illinois On Amtrak


Bond has been set at $75,000 for a Rochester man accused of bringing more than a pound of marijuana into Illinois on an Amtrak train with plans to sell it.

 

Galesburg police arrested 28-year-old Kriss Barton on Thursday during a stop on a train journey that began in Arizona.

Quinn, Rauner Face Off In Joint Forum Before Teachers Union


Illinois teachers have disagreements with both candidates… but applause levels at a joint appearance suggest they are more inclined to support Governor Pat Quinn than GOP opponent Bruce Rauner. 

 

Quinn and Rauner both took questions from the head of the Illinois Education Association.  Rauner got a lukewarm response to his call for a 401-k style retirement plan for teachers, while Quinn got big cheers when he called that “risky” and vowed it wouldn’t happen on his watch.

 

In other lines of attack that are likely to recur during the campaign, Rauner accused Quinn of cutting education funding when he didn’t have to.  Quinn said Rauner failed to disclose his company’s connection to convicted felon Stuart Levine… and said Rauner should return fees his company got from the Teachers Retirement System.

Jacksonville High Teacher Arrested For Comments To Student


A Jacksonville High School teacher has been arrested for making “inappropriate comments” to a female student. 

 

Authorities aren’t saying what John Lawless allegedly said to the student… but ABC Newschannel 20 reports that the Jacksonville police chief said, quote, “it wouldn’t be pretty” if someone said the same thing to his daughter. 

 

Lawless is facing a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge…and is reportedly on paid leave from his job.

 

SOHO Prepping For Less Turbulent Year


After several years of drama, Springfield SOHO Festival is hoping for a turmoil-free year. 

 

Organizers of the downtown music festival say they’re getting help and cooperation from the city to make final arrangements for the event in early June.  In past years, Mayor Mike Houston had called for an outdoor music curfew that would have forced SOHO to close up early…and last year, it was required to move to a different downtown location. 

 

This year, SOHO is returning to its original spot on Washington by the Old State Capitol.

Attorney General: School Board's Deal With Milton Violated Open Meetings Act


New review, same result. 

 

The Illinois Attorney General’s Office has once again concluded that Springfield school board members violated the state Open Meetings Act last year with the way it handled its deal to part company with former superintendent Walter Milton. 

 

The office had earlier ruled that the board violated the act by signing the agreement behind closed doors, but a judge overturned that.  However, the AG’s office was directed to review the board’s actions again, and concluded that it violated the act by voting without discussing the terms of the deal ahead of time. 

 

The opinion is binding, but contains no fines or other penalties against the school board.

Lawmakers Approve Two Constitutional Amendments For November Ballot


Illinois voters will have their say on at least two proposed revisions to the state constitution.

 

Lawmakers have approved placing two amendments on the November ballot.

 

One would prohibit the state from enacting any laws that would result in suppression of voting rights on the basis of factors like race, ethnicity, sex or income.

 

Supporters say that hasn’t been a problem in Illinois yet, but it has in other states, and they want to get out in front of it here.

 

The second amendment would add some teeth to the Crime Victims Bill of Rights that’s already in the state constitution, by creating an enforcement mechanism for the rights of crime victims.

Manar Open to Changing School Formula Funding Legislation


A local lawmaker says he’s open to making changes in his bill that would overhaul the state’s school funding formula.

 

Democratic Senator Andy Manar says he will take “constructive criticism” into account before bringing the bill for a final vote.

 

Manar’s legislation would require that most state education dollars be distributed on the basis of a district’s financial need.

 

Critics worry that will drain dollars away from successful school districts and send them to Chicago Public Schools.

 

State officials haven’t provided a breakdown yet of which districts will gain or lose funds under Manar’s bill.

Senate Approves Measure to Ban Disciplining Officers Based on Number of Tickets They Issue


Police departments would no longer be able to set quotas that require officers to issue a certain number of tickets each month… under legislation that won overwhelming approval by the Illinois Senate Thursday.

 

Senator Andy Manar’s bill prohibits departments from evaluating or disciplining officers based on the number of tickets they write… although they could still evaluate officers on the basis of the total number of “contacts” they have with the general public.

 

The bill now goes to the House.

House Approves Bill Seeking More Accommodations for Pregnant Employees


The Illinois House has approved a bill that would require businesses to make “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant employees.

 

Democratic Representative Mary Flowers’ bill would mandate that employers allow frequent bathroom breaks, less strenuous physical duties, and work schedule adjustments during the pregnancy.

 

Opponents say the bill goes even beyond what’s required in federal law and will put too much of a burden on small employers. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Chapa LaVia Apologizes Twice For Remarks on House Floor


An Illinois lawmaker has apologized… for a second time… for racially-charged remarks on the House floor this week.

 

Democrat Linda Chapa LaVia first appeared to claim that all minorities in the House were on the Democratic side.

 

When reminded of an African-American Republican lawmaker, she said, quote, “We have a half,” an apparent reference to GOP Representative John Anthony’s biracial heritage.

 

Chapa LaVia says she is sorry for what she calls a “personality meltdown.”

 

Republicans say they accept her apology and hope it will lead to more civil debate going forward.

Oberweis Introduces Minimum Wage Increase for Workers Older Than 26


The GOP nominee for U.S. Senate opposes an increase in the federal minimum wage… but has now introduced a bill to raise the state minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2017.

 

Republican state senator Jim Oberweis says his bill is a better option because it would not apply to workers under the age of 26.

 

Oberweis is running against Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin… who says Oberweis’ bill would still leave lots of working people in poverty.

United Way Fundraising Down Two-Percent From Last Year


Springfield’s United Way chapter says it will have a little less to go around in the coming year.

 

The agency’s annual fundraising campaign took in more than $2.6 million last year… but that was down more than two-percent from the year before.

 

United Way president John Kelker says it remains a difficult fundraising environment, but says the agency will keep working to fund worthwhile local programs that get measurable results.

Family Dollar Plans To Close 370 Stores, Uncertain If Springfield Stores On List


Family Dollar plans to close 370 of its stores around the country… but it’s still not known if any of the chain’s six stores in Springfield will be on the chopping block.

 

Poor earnings numbers in the last quarter prompted the retailer to decide to scale back its operations.

 

Any store closings would probably take place in the second half of this year.

Lawmakers Approve Two Constitutional Amendments For November Ballot


Two proposed amendments to the Illinois Constitution have cleared the General Assembly and will go before voters in November. 

 

One would prohibit any law that would impede a person’s right to vote on the basis of several factors, including race, sex or income. 

 

The second would strengthen the existing Crime Victims Bill of Rights in the constitution, by creating an enforcement mechanism so that a victim could go to court to seek enforcement of their rights.

Fate Of Springfield Family Dollar Stores Still Undecided


Family Dollar plans to close 370 of its stores around the country… but it’s still not known if any of the chain’s six stores in Springfield will be on the chopping block. 

 

Poor earnings numbers in the last quarter prompted the retailer to decide to scale back its operations and focus on lowering prices and improving the look of its remaining stores. 

 

Any store closings would probably take place in the second half of this year.  In addition to the six Springfield locations, the chain also has stores in Petersburg and Virden.

Still No Formal Policy On SPD Use Of License Plate Scanner Cams


More than two years after obtaining, and using, high-tech cameras that can scan and read license plates, Springfield police still have no formal written policies for their use. 

 

That concerns the American Civil Liberties Union, which says the technology could be misused to target and track people even without probable cause. 

 

Police Chief Kenny Winslow says recent shakeups in the police and city legal departments have postponed those rules, but he hopes to finalize them soon.

Ex-State Official Pleads Guilty In Kickback Scheme


The former chief of staff in the state Department of Public Health has pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and accepting kickbacks for a scheme to divert millions of dollars in state grants. 

 

Quinshaunta Golden admitted steering more than $11 million in grants to three organizations, which had hired an individual to serve as a paid consultant.  Golden was then to get a cut of the money paid to the consultant. 

 

She could face more than ten years in prison when she’s sentenced in August.

SOHO Festival Hopes To Create Largest Rock Band


Organizers hope to make this year’s SOHO music festival one for the record books. 

 

The downtown music festival wants to set a Guinness record for the world’s largest rock band. It’s trying to line up 600 singers and musicians to perform three songs at the festival on June 6th and 7th

 

You can sign up or learn more at springfieldsoho.org.

Manar's Education Funding Bill Advances


A bill to dramatically revamp school funding in Illinois has won the approval of a state Senate committee… but it’s uncertain when the measure will get a full Senate vote. 

 

Senator Andy Manar’s bill would require that most education dollars be distributed on the basis of a school district’s financial need.  Right now less than half of those dollars are distributed using that criteria. 

 

Republicans contend the measure is just a way to siphon off money from rich districts and send it to Chicago.  Manar says many poor Downstate districts will also benefit.  But he doesn’t plan to call the bill for a full Senate vote until state officials complete their breakdown of how the money would be divided for each school district.

Madigan Pulls Millionaire Surcharge Amendment Proposal


The proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed the state to impose an income tax surcharge on millionaires is dead.

 

House Speaker Mike Madigan pulled the plug on his own proposal after it became clear he did not have the votes to pass it.

 

Madigan’s spokesman puts the blame for the amendment’s failure on Republicans… saying they chose millionaires over the schoolchildren who would have benefited from the extra revenue.

 

But even some of Madigan’s own Democrats had come out against the speaker’s plan.

Plan Would Freeze Public Safety Pension's Cost-Of-Living Increases


Retired cops and firefighters in Illinois could face a 10-year freeze on cost-of-living increases in their pension benefits… if lawmakers approve a plan put forward by a mayors’ group.

 

The proposal from the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference would replace the current three-percent COLA, compounded annually… a benefit that the group says is unsustainable.

 

After the 10-year freeze, a smaller, non-compounded cost-of-living increase would be applied.

 

The mayors say if nothing is done, police and fire pension funds will go broke, and those first responders will have nothing in their retirement years.

Christian Says State's Attorney is Siding With SPD


The Springfield reporter who accuses city police of a campaign of harassment against him now says Sangamon County’s lead prosecutor is siding with police in that effort.

 

Calvin Christian’s comments live on 970 WMAY follow State’s Attorney John Milhiser’s motion to have a judge reconsider the sentence of court supervision that was given to Christian for four traffic offenses after Christian entered an open plea last month.

 

Milhiser says state law does not allow supervision for so many cases simultaneously… but Christian says Milhiser is simply piling on in order to preserve his working relationship with the police department.

 

Christian says he will ask for a special prosecutor to handle the dozens of charges still pending against him.

House of Rainbow Faces Daily Fines For Violating City Zoning Rules


A hearing officer has ruled that a group of halfway houses on Springfield’s north end is operating in violation of city zoning rules… and the owner will face daily fines until the violations are corrected.

 

The decision against the four House of Rainbow properties comes even though the homes have operated along North 10th Street for nearly a decade.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the hearing officer rejected arguments that each home’s occupants… up to five state prison parolees on electronic monitoring… constitutes a “family” under city zoning rules.

 

An attorney for House of Rainbow says he will seek a court review of the ruling.

Springfield Investment Adviser's License Revoked For Defrauding Elderly Clients


The state has revoked the license of a Springfield investment advisor after concluding he defrauded 21 elderly clients out of thousands of dollars.

 

Richard Lee Van Dyke persuaded customers… ranging in age from 61 to 82… to sell their existing annuities early and purchase different annuity packages. Secretary of State Jesse White says that cost the clients a total of $250,000, while earning Van Dyke $177,000 in fees.

 

Van Dyke was ordered to pay fines and court costs of more than $350,000.

Gov. Quinn Unveils $8 Billion Transporation Program


Governor Pat Quinn has rolled out a six-year, $8 billion transportation program that he says will address major highway and mass transit needs.

 

Among the projects on Quinn’s list is a $27 million upgrade of Interstate 72 from New Berlin to Chatham Road.

 

The proposal also includes money to keep acquiring land for a third Chicago-area airport.

 

Most of the money would come from federal dollars, but Quinn is still pushing for lawmakers to come up with a separate multi-year overall public works program and the revenue to pay for it.

Ruaner and Quinn Spar Over Cellini, Blagojevich


Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner says he “repudiates” Bill Cellini and wants nothing to do with the disgraced former GOP powerbroker.

 

Rauner initially dodged questions about Cellini, who was in attendance at an event in Springfield this week where Rauner spoke to local Republicans. Cellini said he found Rauner “impressive.”

 

Governor Pat Quinn’s campaign accused Rauner of trying to cozy up to Cellini, who recently got out of prison on corruption charges.

 

Rauner’s campaign responded with harsh words about Cellini… and harsher words about Quinn, who was Rod Blagojevich’s running mate in 2002 and 2006.

Pension Proposal Would Freeze COLAs For Police And Firefighters For 10 Years


Cost-of-living increases could be frozen for 10 years for retired police and firefighters, under a proposal aimed at making their pension funds solvent over the next few decades. 

 

The proposal comes from a group of DuPage County mayors, who says the current 3-percent compounded cost-of-living increase has made those pension funds unsustainable and at risk of collapse.  Downers Grove Mayor Martin Tully says Illinois lawmakers will have to scale back benefits now… and resist the temptation to add future sweeteners… or the pension funds could collapse, leaving police and firefighters around the state with no benefits at all. 

 

Springfield currently has an unfunded public safety pension liability of more than $230 million.

Christian Accuses Milhiser Of Piling On Him To Appease City Police


The Springfield reporter now involved in a legal tangle over multiple traffic offenses and a pending civil lawsuit says Sangamon County prosecutors are targeting him in order to protect police. 

 

Calvin Christian entered guilty pleas last month on several of those traffic charges… even though he claims the traffic stops are part of a coordinated campaign of harassment against him by city cops.  State’s Attorney John Milhiser is now seeking to have the sentence of court supervision in four of those cases overturned… saying it was improper to let Christian off so easy. 

 

Now, appearing live on 970 WMAY, Christian accuses Milhiser of refusing to make deals with him because Milhiser is trying to preserve his working relationship with the police department.  Christian says he wants a special prosecutor named to handle the remaining cases against him.

Quinn And Rauner Clash, With More Fireworks To Come


The candidates for governor are ratcheting up the rhetoric over who has the worse circle of friends. 

 

Governor Pat Quinn started the ball rolling by blasting GOP opponent Bruce Rauner.  Rauner spoke at a Springfield event Tuesday night where longtime Republican powerbroker Bill Cellini was in attendance and appeared to endorse Rauner.  It was a rare appearance for Cellini in the aftermath of his prison term for corruption charges. 

 

Rauner declined to comment on Cellini’s support, promping Quinn to accuse Rauner of still trying to curry favor with Cellini.  But Rauner soon fired back, saying Quinn has no room to talk… since he ran for election twice as Rod Blagojevich’s running mate.

 

Meanwhile, both Quinn and Rauner are committed to attending that event in Chicago before hundreds of members of the Illinois Education Association.  IEA President Cinda Klickna will put questions to both candidates. 

 

The union has been openly hostile to Rauner… who has often criticized “corrupt union bosses” and accused them of improperly influencing state officials.  But there’s also no love lost between the IEA and Quinn for his pension reform law.

State's Attorney Objects to Christian Guilty Pleas, Asks Judge to Reconsider Sentence


Calvin Christian may not get off as easy as he thought after entering multiple guilty pleas on a number of pending offenses last month.

 

The Springfield reporter and blogger pleaded guilty… even as he continues to pursue a lawsuit accusing city cops of harassing him.

 

Christian received court supervision for at least four of those pleas, on charges that included reckless driving and fleeing police following a traffic stop.

 

But State’s Attorney John Milhiser wants the judge in the case to reconsider that sentence.

 

Milhiser says state law only permits supervision twice in a 12-month period… not four times simultaneously.

 

There’s no hearing date set yet for Milhiser’s request, and it’s unclear if Christian would be allowed to withdraw his plea if the sentence were changed.

Unions Protest Rauner Visit to Springfield


Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner was greeted with a demonstration from union workers during a political event in Springfield Tuesday night.

 

Public sector unions accuse Rauner of trying to dismantle their pensions.

 

Rauner… who spoke to a gathering of the Sangamon County Republican Foundation… says he’s not anti-union, but remains committed to ending the conflict of interest that comes from unions negotiating with politicians after giving them campaign donations.

Palazzolo Says He Would Work With Whoever is Governor to Bring Back State Jobs


Springfield mayoral candidate Paul Palazzolo says he would have a “seat at the table” with the next governor of Illinois to encourage them to bring more state jobs back to downtown Springfield.

 

Palazzolo says he is concerned about the impact on downtown from the steady exodus of state jobs since Rod Blagojevich took office in 2003.

 

Palazzolo says he wouldn’t have any special influence with fellow Republican Bruce Rauner if Rauner is elected, but believes he would have access to be heard.

 

But Palazzolo says he thinks he’d also have access to Governor Pat Quinn if Quinn wins another term.

NAPA Contract for Garage Consolidation Held in Committee


It’s still “no go” for a proposal to let the NAPA chain handle the parts inventory for Springfield’s new consolidated city garage.

 

Aldermen have held the proposal in committee for weeks, as they continue to raise concerns over how the national chain was chosen for the contract.

 

And now there’s another new wrinkle, as several aldermen express concern that folding all the city’s garages into one will force out several long-time administrative staffers in those garages.

 

Some aldermen say they want to make sure those workers can be reassigned, but the Houston administration says there’s no guarantee of that.

State Senator Manar's School Funding Bill Clears Subcommittee


A bill that would make major changes in how education dollars are distributed around the state has cleared its first hurdle.

 

State Senator Andy Manar’s bill won approval from a Senate subcommittee Tuesday.

 

The vote was along party lines, as Republicans say they need to know more about which districts would gain dollars… and which would lose them… if the formula is changed.

 

Manar’s bill… which would allocate most dollars on the basis of need… now goes before the full Senate Executive Committee.

Kids Taken to Hospital After Being Served Alcohol At Chicago Pizzeria


Ten children have been taken to Chicago hospitals… after a waitress at a pizza place mistakenly served alcohol to them.

 

Police say it appears an alcoholic drink was inadvertently included among the beverages that were given to the children.

 

Several of the children apparently consumed some of the booze… but all 10 were taken to the hospital as a precaution.

PCCC Outdoor Pavilion Announces First Show


The first big concert has been announced for the new outdoor pavilion at the Prairie Capital Convention Center.

 

The BOS Plaza will play host to a rock show featuring popular bands Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Uncle Kracker and Blues Traveler.

 

The show is set for Sunday, June 29th at 6pm. Seating options will include “skyboxes” that are being set up in the parking garage that overlooks the plaza just outside the convention center.

Prosecutors Object To Court Supervision For Calvin Christian; Seek Reconsideration Of Sentence


Sangamon County prosecutors are objecting to the guilty pleas entered last month by the Springfield reporter who is accusing city police of harassing him. 

 

Calvin Christian pleaded guilty to multiple offenses, including reckless driving and fleeing police.  He was given court supervision in four cases, allowing him to avoid jail and keep his license. 

 

But State’s Attorney John Milhiser believes state law does not allow supervision with guilty pleas in so many cases simultaneously.  He’s asking the judge in the case to reconsider the sentence in those cases.  There's no hearing date yet on the state's attorney's motion, and it's unclear if Christian would be allowed to withdraw his plea if the judge does reconsider the sentence.

Palazzolo: City Should Consider Handing Over Control Of Oak Ridge Cemetery


As part of his call to move Springfield city government “back to basics,” mayoral candidate Paul Palazzolo says the city should consider turning over control of Oak Ridge Cemetery to someone else. 

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Palazzolo said the city needs to focus on its most important priorities… like police, fire, and City Water Light and Power. 

 

He says as mayor he would explore the possibility of transferring the cash-strapped cemetery to another locally-controlled governmental body, but did not immediately indicate which one.  Palazzolo says he does not favor privatizing Oak Ridge.

Flamini Won't Run For School Board President Again, May Leave Board Entirely Next Year


Springfield school board president Chuck Flamini won’t seek another term in charge of the board when his current run as president ends later this month. 

 

Flamini will remain on the school board, but even that may not be in his long-range plans.  He says he is strongly considering not running for re-election to the board when his current two-year term expires next year. 

 

Flamini says it’s a tougher job on the inside than it appears to be from the outside.

Controversial Constitution Workbook to be Edited and Used in Future Lessons


Teachers at Grant Middle School will use a controversial workbook on the U.S. Constitution again next year… but only after editing it to remove a passage that misstated the provisions of the Second Amendment.

 

But that may not end the dispute or the debate.

 

At Monday’s school board meeting, interim superintendent Bob Hill again defended his handling of the erroneous material… calling it an issue of academic freedom and saying it was appropriate for Grant staff to make the call on the workbook.

 

But with several police officers on standby at the meeting, one angry parent slammed his hand down on a podium after berating Hill… and school board members say they’re expecting a bigger and more vocal demonstration on the issue at the April 21st meeting.

School Board Proposal: Start One Day A Week An Hour Late


The Springfield school board is considering a schedule change for next year that would have all city public school students start their day one hour late, one day per week… so that teachers can use that time for collaboration and professional development.

 

District officials say the change would result in fewer days off for students because there would be fewer teacher in-service days.

 

And they are working on plans to provide day care at elementary schools for younger children during that one-hour late start each week.

 

But they acknowledge the change would complicate school bus schedules and could make life difficult for parents trying to get their kids off to school and get to work on time.

Paul Palazzolo Officially Announces Bid for Springfield Mayor


Sangamon County Auditor Paul Palazzolo has officially launched his campaign for mayor of Springfield.

 

Palazzolo says he doesn’t have any specific criticism of how city government is being run right now… but says he believes he is the best choice to keep it on the right track.

 

And Palazzolo says he will stay in the race even if incumbent Mayor Mike Houston decides to seek another term.

 

Palazzolo says he will seek to maintain city services while holding the line on costs… and suggested he might try a voluntary severance package like one he developed for county government, in order to reduce headcount.

Local Road Projects Get Boost From State's Public Works Program


Springfield and Sangamon County will each get more than half-a-million dollars for local road projects through the state’s public works program.

 

Other cities and townships in Sangamon County will split nearly $400,000 more in funding. Gov. Pat Quinn announced the money on Monday.

 

It represents some of the final funding from the public works plan, which expires at the end of the year.

 

Local officials say the cash will help them address a long list of needed local road improvements.

Two Teens Charged With Arson For North Grand and North Ninth Fires


Two Springfield teens are now charged with arson for two separate fires that broke out in vacant homes on the city’s north end this weekend.

 

The boys, ages 15 and 14, are accused of starting those fires inside a home on North Grand Avenue East, and another nearby structure on North Ninth.

 

Two other teens are charged with criminal trespassing in those fires Sunday afternoon.

Hill Defends Handling Of Controversial Workbook


Springfield interim school superintendent Bob Hill is defending his handling of a controversial and inaccurate workbook on the Constitution, saying he was standing up for academic freedom and would do it again.

 

The workbook incorrectly stated that the 2nd Amendment provides for gun ownership, provided the weapons are registered.  Hill initially refused to yank the workbook, which had been created by a Grant Middle School teacher, saying it was board policy not to intervene in teacher-generated content unless it was intended to "proselytize."  Hill says he received death threats and had his "character assassinated," but still contends he made the proper initial decision.

Grant Middle School staff ultimately decided to keep the workbook but to edit and change the section in question, which Hill says is appropriate.  He says it would be "dangerous" to have a policy that removes teacher materials for "inaccuracy," because he says that can be a subjective standard (although he acknowledges that was not the case in this instance).

School Board Considers Calendar Change; If Approved, District 186 Schools Would Start Late One Day Per Week


The Springfield school board will consider a change to next year's school calendar that calls for school to start an hour late, one day per week, to allow additional time for teacher collaboration and professional development.

 

As crafted by District 186 staff, the proposal would result in more total attendance days, with four days made slightly longer to accommodate the shorter fifth day, and would generate more hours devoted to teacher development.

 

It would also require adjustments for parents, including bus schedule changes on the one late day per week and the possible expansion of the SCOPE program to care for children on that day.  Board members say if the plan is to go forward, it should be adopted quickly to give parents plenty of lead time to prepare.

Flamini Won't Seek Another Term As Springfield School Board President


Springfield school board president Chuck Flamini says he won't seek another term at the helm when his current term expires later this month.

 

Flamini will remain on the board, but will no longer serve as president.  Board members are expected to elect new leadership at their next meeting.

 

Flamini referred to his successor as president by jokingly saying "God rest their soul..." but did not finish the thought.

Palazzolo Launches Bid For Springfield Mayor


The 2015 race for Springfield mayor is officially underway.

 

Sangamon County Auditor Paul Palazzolo became the first candidate to formally announce his candidacy at a news conference Monday at Lincoln Park.  Palazzolo says he will bring experience, effectiveness and trust to the mayor's office. 

 

He says he doesn't have any particular criticism of how City Hall is being run right now... but also says he will stay in the race even if incumbent Mayor Mike Houston decides to seek another term. 

 

Palazzolo says he will seek to make city government run more efficiently, and will consider a voluntary severance program for city workers like the one he implemented for county government... as a way to reduce costs.

Christian Pleads Guilty In Cases Linked To Harassment Lawsuit


The Springfield man who is suing city police, claiming they have been harassing him for years, has now pleaded guilty in more than a half-dozen of the cases pending against him. 

 

The Illinois Times reports Christian pleaded guilty late last month to charges including reckless driving and fleeing police. The charges stem from a 2012 traffic stop which Christian had claimed was illegal and unfounded. 

 

Christian was slapped with more than $2,500 in fines… but evaded jail and was given court supervision, apparently allowing him to keep his license.  Christian tells the Illinois Times that he doesn’t think the guilty pleas will compromise his pending federal lawsuit against the city.

Specialty License Plate Could Raise Money To Maintain WWII Memorial


A new specialty license plate could provide more money for upkeep of the state’s World War Two veterans memorial in Springfield. 

 

Representative Raymond Poe’s bill would create that specialty plate depicting the memorial at Oak Ridge Cemetery.  Each plate would have a $40 fee in addition to the normal license plate costs.  The extra fee would be split between maintenance of the memorial and a fund to defray administrative costs for issuing a new plate. 

 

Poe’s bill easily passed the House last week and now moves to the Senate.

New Raunder TV Ad Features Wife Identifying with Democrats


The latest TV ad for Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner touts his bipartisan credentials… by featuring his wife, Diana, who identifies herself as a Democrat but says her husband will take on both parties in Springfield.

 

But a Chicago Tribune report raises questions about Diana Rauner’s involvement in the Democratic Party.

 

Although she voted in Democratic primaries between 2004 and 2008, she apparently hasn’t since.

 

And the newspaper found that of half-a million dollars she’s given to political candidates and causes since 1995, more than three-fourths of that money went to Republicans.

Scheduled Palazzolo News Conference Could Be Mayoral Bid Announcement


It appears the 2015 race for mayor officially gets started today.

 

Sangamon County Auditor Paul Palazzolo has scheduled a news conference for this afternoon, where he is expected to officially announce that he’s running for mayor.

 

Palazzolo would become the first candidate to officially launch their campaign, although several others have indicated they are likely to run next year.

Jesse Jackson Junior Transferred After Clash With Prison Guard


Former Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Junior, was transferred to a different federal prison facility after reportedly being placed in solitary confinement after a clash with a prison guard.

 

The Chicago Sun-Times… citing a confidential source… says Jackson had a run-in with a guard who didn’t like Jackson advising other prison inmates on their legal rights.

 

After several days in solitary, Jackson was reportedly cleared of any wrongdoing and requested the prison transfer.

 

He is now being held at a minimum security prison camp in Alabama, awaiting his scheduled release in December of 2015.

Otis McDonald Remembered As Father of Second Amendment in Illinois


Gun-rights activists in Illinois are remembering Otis McDonald as the father of the Second Amendment in Illinois.

 

McDonald passed away Friday in Chicago after a long illness. Valinda Rowe with IlliniosCarry.com says McDonald was asked if he would consider the opportunity to sue the city of Chicago for banning hand guns. Rowe says McDonald didn’t have any second thoughts.

 

Rowe says McDonald’s role in having the courts force the state’s hand to allow handguns in Chicago began with the case in Washington DC where the Supreme Court struck down the handgun ban in the nation’s capital.

 

McDonald argued that having a handgun was his way of trying to protect himself and his family from violence outside his front door. Rowe says that McDonald’s victory laid the groundwork for Mary Shepard’s case against the state which forced the lawmakers to craft a carry law.

 

McDonald passed away in Chicago. He was 80-years-old.

Rauner's Wife Calls Herself Democrat In New Ad, But Gives Mostly To GOP


Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner’s new campaign commercial touts his bipartisan credentials by featuring his wife Diana, who identifies herself as a Democrat. 

 

But the Chicago Tribune reports that more than three-quarters of the political donations she has made over the past 20 years have gone to Republican candidates and causes, including $2500 each to three different GOP presidential candidates in 2012.

 

Diana Rauner did vote in Democratic primaries in 2004, 2006 and 2008, but not in 2010 or 2012.  There's no word yet on whether she voted in the 2014 primary and for which party.

Bond Reduced For Suspect In Attempted Child Abductions


Bond has been reduced for a Springfield man accused of attempting to lure children into his vehicle. 

 

30-year-old Anthony Sims was originally held on $50,000 bond, but that was reduced to $10,000 at a court hearing on Friday. 

 

Sims is charged with child abduction after authorities say he tried to get minors into his minivan on two separate occasions this week.  Each time the child fled and contacted authorities.

Bond Agencies Warn: State Credit Rating Could Hinge On Revenue Picture


Bond rating agencies are warning that Illinois could face credit downgrades if it doesn’t extend the state income tax increase… or find some other way to make up for a huge revenue shortfall. 

 

The agencies are keeping the state’s bond rating intact for the moment… but say that could change depending upon the outcome of budget talks, and the fate of the state’s new pension reform law.

Sewer Cave-Ins Tangle Traffic On Some Springfield Streets


Sewer cave-ins are causing traffic problems around Springfield. 

 

The city has had to reduce lanes and restrict parking in the 12- and 13-hundred blocks of Carpenter because of a cave-in.  It could take two weeks to repair the sewer and street. 

 

Meanwhile, the left lane of Cook Street is closed between the 3rd Street tracks and 1st Street because of a cave-in.  Those repairs could take a week, weather permitting.

Springfield Man Accused Of Attempted Child Abduction


A Springfield man has been arrested after authorities say he attempted to lure minors into his vehicle on two separate occasions this week. 

 

30-year-old Anthony Sims is facing Child Abduction charges for two separate incidents this week.  In one, he is accused of trying to coax a 14-year-old girl into the minivan he was driving in the 2200 block of East Cedar.  Authorities say he left after the girl pulled out a phone and called police. 

 

Sims is also accused of trying to lure another juvenile into the vehicle in the 1400 block of East Kansas.  That child ran to a nearby church and reported the incident. 

 

Police are asking anyone with information about these or similar incidents to call Crimestoppers.

More Arrests In Fatal Shooting


Springfield police have made more arrests in connection with a fatal shooting last week on Wirt Avenue. 

 

Earlier this week, police arrested 29-year-old Leon Neal on charges of first-degree murder and other charges for the incident in which Anthony McGrone was killed and 36-year-old James McGrone was wounded. 

 

Now a second suspect has been taken into custody.  28-year-old Jason Underwood is charged with first-degree murder.  In addition, a third person, 21-year-old Shanae Williams, is charged with obstructing justice for allegedly interfering with the police investigation. 

 

Authorities believe robbery was the original motive for the home invasion that led to the shootings.

Constitutional Amendment to Change Illinois' Tax Structure Passes Senate Committee


An Illinois Senate committee has approved a constitutional amendment that would change Illinois’s current flat income tax to a progressive structure… where people who make more would pay a higher rate.

 

Supporters call it the “Fair Tax,” and say it would transfer more of the state’s tax burden to those who are better able to handle it.

 

But opponents say it will drive more job creators… and jobs… out of Illinois. Passage comes just days after a House committee rejected a similar amendment.

 

The amendment would have to win supermajorities in both chambers in order to be placed on the November ballot.

Springfield Mayor: More Infrastructure Funding Needed


Springfield has just embarked on a major three-year infrastructure program… but Mayor Mike Houston says that alone won’t be enough.

 

Houston says the city needs to commit to an ongoing program of infrastructure maintenance after the three-year program is done… and must find a dedicated source of revenue to pay for it.

 

Houston had originally proposed an additional half-percent sales tax for maintenance… on top of the half-percent increase that took effect this year to finance the bonds for the current work.

 

The mayor says if the city doesn’t pay for upkeep now, it will have to pay even more later… but he predicts the issue won’t be addressed until after next year’s city elections.

Fracking Opponents Push to Restrict or Halt Practice


Opponents of fracking admit they are fighting an uphill battle to persuade Illinois lawmakers to restrict or halt the practice.

 

But they say they will keep looking for the votes to pass a package of 12 bills that would impose a moratorium on fracking… or require much stricter regulation and oversight.

 

Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing, which uses high-pressure sprays to break up rock formations far below the Earth’s surface, releasing oil and natural gas underneath.

 

Supporters say fracking will mean more energy self-sufficiency and jobs… but opponents say it threatens to contaminate groundwater and may even contribute to dangerous earthquakes.

Arrest Made in Wirt Avenue Shooting


Authorities have made an arrest in last week’s fatal shooting in a home on Wirt Avenue.

 

The State Journal-Register reports 29-year-old Leon Neal is charged with first-degree murder, home invasion and armed robbery.

 

He’s accused of killing 28-year-old Anthony McGrone and wounding a second man last Friday.

 

Authorities don’t think Neal acted alone, and expect to make another arrest in the case.

Effingham Native Killed in Fort Hood Shooting


An Illinois native is among the soldiers killed in this week’s mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas.

 

Sergeant Timothy Owens was born and raised in Effingham.

 

He worked as a counselor at the military base where an Iraq War veteran opened fire this week, killing Owens and two others… and wounding 16 more… before taking his own life.

Convicted Serial Killer Who Admitted to Illinois Murders Put to Death


A serial killer whose string of murders included several in Illinois has been put to death in Texas.

 

Tommy Lynn Sells was executed after a temporary delay prompted by legal wrangling over the lethal injection drugs that were used to put him to death. Sells admitted to murdering a Southern Illinois couple and their children in 1987.

 

He also reportedly told researchers that he killed an Illinois boy in the 1990s… a crime for which the boy’s mother was convicted and then later exonerated.

 

Sells was never put on trial for those Illinois crimes.

Fire Destroys Petersburg Garage Full of Classic Cars


Fire has destroyed a Petersburg garage… and the collection of classic cars inside.

 

10 vintage cars… including a Model A and several from the 1960s and ‘70s… were lost in the fire.

 

It’s not yet known how the blaze started, and there’s no official damage estimate yet.

Houston: More Infrastructure Funding Will Be Needed In Springfield


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says the city’s current three-year program to make major improvements to its infrastructure won’t be enough. 

 

Houston says there will still be a need for a coordinated program… and a stable funding source… to pay for maintenance and upkeep of the repairs that are currently being made.  Houston had originally proposed an additional half-percent sales tax increase to pay for long-range maintenance, but that idea was rejected.

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” the mayor said the need to pay for maintenance isn’t going away… but he expects it won’t be addressed until after next year’s city elections.

Anti-Fracking Group Lobbies Illinois Lawmakers


An anti-fracking group is pushing lawmakers to halt, or severely limit, the practice in Illinois. 

 

“Fracking” is short for hydraulic fracturing… a process of releasing oil and natural gas that’s concealed in rock formations far below the Earth’s surface. The group “Frack Free Illinois” contends the practice causes pollution and may even trigger earthquakes.  It wants to see a moratorium or much stricter regulations. 

 

But the group admits that will be an uphill climb against supporters who say fracking will create jobs and improve America’s energy self-sufficiency.

Flood Watch Through Friday, Severe Weather Possible for Central Illinois


Central Illinois is bracing for the possibility of severe weather today.

 

An outbreak of storms is likely across the Plains today, with damaging winds, hail, and a possibility of tornadoes.

 

Southern Illinois is at the biggest risk of dangerous storms… with the risk labeled as “slight” for the Springfield area.

 

But forecasters warn that even a slight risk is still a risk, and advise residents to be prepared and pay attention to forecasts and weather bulletins.

 

A Flood Watch remains in effect through Friday morning as well.

Manar: Reworking School Funding Formula Helps Districts in Financial Crisis


A local lawmaker says his school funding proposal will help the state’s limited education dollars go farther and accomplish more.

 

Democratic state senator Andy Manar is proposing a significant overhaul in the state’s school funding formula, one which would allocate most dollars on the basis of a district’s financial need.

 

Currently, less than half of education funding uses that as the criteria.

 

Manar says as a result, the state has a handful of wealthy, overachieving districts… and a lot that are on the brink of financial collapse.

Civil Engineers Group Gives Illinois Infrastructure C-Minus Grade


Infrastructure in Illinois gets a passing grade… but just barely, according to an association of civil engineers.

 

The group has issued a report card that gives a “C-minus” overall to the state’s infrastructure… but that finds serious deficiencies in some areas, especially roads and navigable waterways.

 

The civil engineers say the state needs a long-range, sustainable funding source to pay for immediate repairs and ongoing maintenance.

 

But it did not explicitly endorse a proposal from a separate group this week, calling for tax and fee increases to fund infrastructure improvements.

Formosa Plastics Plant Cleanup Nearly Complete Almost a Decade Later


Nearly 10 years after a devastating and deadly explosion at the site, the cleanup of the old Formosa Plastics plant in Illiopolis is nearly complete.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the last couple of buildings will be removed and a final soil cleanup should be concluded by this summer.

 

But it’s still unclear what will become of the property that had housed the biggest employer in Illiopolis.

 

Four people died in that blast in April of 2004… a fifth later died of injuries related to the explosion.

Flood Watch, Storm Risk Through Friday


Not long after getting our first taste of spring, Central Illinois could soon get a first taste of violent spring weather. 

 

In addition to a Flood Watch that’s in effect until Friday, Central Illinois is also in a risk area for severe storms Thursday afternoon and evening.  The risk is higher in Southern Illinois, but conditions locally could produce dangerous winds, hail, and even a chance of tornadoes. 

 

Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on the developing weather system.

Execution On Hold For Serial Killer Suspected In IL Murders


A serial killer suspected of several Illinois murders… including one that sent an innocent woman to prison for years… will not be put to death in Texas Thursday as scheduled. 

 

A judge has halted the execution of Tommy Lynn Sells until more information is provided about the supplier of the drugs that would be used to kill him.  Defense lawyers say they want to be sure the new drugs won’t cause their client pain that would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Durbin Rips SCOTUS Ruling Lifting Campaign Contribution Caps


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is blasting a Supreme Court ruling that struck down limits on the total amount one person can give to political campaigns and PACs in a single year. 

 

Durbin says the ruling sells American elections to the highest bidder.  He calls the decision great news for the nation’s most powerful people… but says it will be terrible for average citizens.

Manar Introduces School Funding Revamp


Months of hearings on education funding in Illinois have now produced a bill that would dramatically rearrange how money is distributed to school districts. 

 

Democratic state senator Andy Manar’s bill would change most state funding to a formula based on a school district’s need.  Right now many dollars are based on student population without regard to a district’s overall financial health. 

 

Manar says the current system has produced a few very strong districts… and a lot that are barely staying afloat.  He says that’s not good for the state as a whole, and says it’s in everyone’s interest to fix it… even if it means some districts get less state funding as a result.

Civil Engineers Echo Infrastructure Concerns


An association of civil engineers says Illinois has made some modest improvements in taking care of its infrastructure… but not nearly enough. 

 

The group has delivered an updated report card on the condition of all aspects of the state’s infrastructure.  The overall grade of “C-minus” is a slight improvement from the last one in 2010… bolstered by improvements in airports and bridges. 

 

But the group finds road conditions only warrant a “D-plus,” and inland waterways used to move goods get a “D-minus.” And the group says sustainable long-term funding is needed to keep pace with needed repairs and upgrades.  The study comes out a day after a coalition of business and labor groups raised similar concerns... and issued its own call for a long-term funding plan for Illinois infrastructure.

Wife Found Guilty of Murdering and Dismembering Husband


Guilty on all counts… that’s the verdict returned Tuesday night against a Springfield woman in the murder and dismemberment of her husband.

 

A Sangamon County jury deliberated seven hours before convicting Juatasha Denton-McCaster of first-degree murder, dismemberment, concealment of a homicide and obstruction of justice.

 

She will be sentenced in June.

 

Prosecutors believe Denton-McCaster killed her husband Norman and cut off his head, hands and feet… which have never been found.

 

His body was found east of Springfield in October of 2012… just after what would have been the couple’s second wedding anniversary.

Mayor Casts Tie Breaking No Vote on Police Age Ordinance, Will Talk With Union


An ordinance that would have allowed older applicants to become Springfield cops… but would have lowered the mandatory retirement age for officers… has been voted down in the Springfield City Council.

 

Mayor Mike Houston cast the tiebreaking vote to defeat the ordinance after the police union objected to an amendment… backed by Houston… to require officers to retire at age 60.

 

The union wants to negotiate that change, and Houston agrees there should be talks on the issue.

Aldermen Approve Triune Contract Change to Hire Outside of County


The Springfield City Council has approved a contract change that will allow Triune Health Services to hire someone from outside Sangamon County to review city workers’ comp claims.

 

Triune’s original contract with the city mandated that the job go to a county resident, but Triune said its most qualified candidate actually lives in Macon County.

 

Mayor Mike Houston joined five aldermen in supporting the contract revision.

Ghetto Tree Taken Down By Springfield Resident


The “ghetto tree” is gone.

 

North-end resident Earl Reese has taken down his collection of junk and Christmas lights, which had been hanging in his front yard since before Thanksgiving last year.

 

Reese said the display was intended to draw attention to problems of crime and trash in his neighborhood, and he says it achieved that goal.

 

But the display had also drawn complaints from neighbors and scrutiny from city zoning officials in the days before Reese decided to take it down.

Business/Labor/Trade Coalition Pushes for Infrastructure Investments


A coalition of business, labor and trade groups is pushing the state to invest another $1.8 billion a year for road and bridge repairs and mass transit upgrades.

 

The Transportation For Illinois Coalition says its proposal…which would raise motor fuel taxes and impose a sales tax on automotive-related services like oil changes… would result in a “pay as you go” system that would make roads and bridges safer and make it easier to move goods through the state.

 

In addition to the tax hikes, the proposal also requires motor fuel proceeds that currently go to the state’s general fund to be dedicated to infrastructure repairs… which could add another $800 million to the state’s general revenue shortfall.

Anti-Voter Suppression Amendment Advances Illinois House Committee


An Illinois House committee has unanimously advanced a proposed constitutional amendment intended to prevent attempts at voter suppression.

 

House Speaker Mike Madigan introduced the measure, which would prohibit any law or regulation that winds up limiting voter rights on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, income or other factors.

 

Madigan says other states have imposed rules that “disproportionately” affect the poor and minorities.

 

If the full House and Senate approve, the amendment will go before voters in November.

Business-Labor Coalition Calls For More Investment In Infrastructure -- And Higher Taxes


A coalition of business and labor groups is calling for Illinois to make a much bigger investment in infrastructure… and for substantial new revenues to pay for it. 

 

The Transportation for Illinois Coalition says the state should invest $1.8 billion a year in road, bridge and mass transit improvements.  The group says if nothing is done, one-third of Illinois roadways and 10-percent of the state’s bridges would be in unacceptable condition by 2018. 

 

The group… whose members include the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and numerous trades and labor groups… says the projects can be funded through multiple sources, including increasing the motor fuel tax on gasoline by four cents a gallon and creating a state sales tax on automotive services like oil changes and auto repair.

Body Found Outside Springfield Business's Dumpster Identified


Authorities have released the name of the man whose body was found near a dumpster outside a north end Springfield business late last week.

 

22-year-old Nathan Durham was found inside an enclosure surrounding that dumpster on Denver Drive.

 

Toxicology tests are still pending that could shed more light on the exact cause of death, but Coroner Cinda Edwards says there is no indication of foul play.

Springfield Aldermen Clash Over Questions of Union Influence at City Hall


Springfield aldermen are still squabbling about political support from labor unions… and whether it automatically constitutes a conflict of interest.

 

Ward 7’s Joe McMenamin said last week that his fellow aldermen, and Mayor Mike Houston, have a conflict because they are voting on contracts negotiated by the same unions who have given campaign cash to them.

 

But Ward 6 Alderman Cory Jobe says the unions are not getting any special deals.

 

Jobe says he is not beholden to anyone.

 

McMenamin has encouraged candidates to step forward to challenge sitting aldermen in next year’s elections… but Jobe says some aldermen may also be encouraging people to come forward and take on McMenamin in 2015.

Springfield Man Reportedly Admits to Starting Fire That Destroyed Apartment Building


A Springfield man is charged with aggravated arson after he reportedly told authorities he started the fire that destroyed a four-unit apartment building.

 

Fire investigators say the blaze began in Joseph Misra’s first-floor apartment at the Old Towne complex on Bruns Lane.

 

Misra allegedly indicated that he set some cardboard on fire in his apartment because he was bored… but then the flames got out of control. Misra was treated for minor burns.

 

The occupants of the other apartments got out safely. The building is said to be a total loss, with damage topping $450,000.

Grassroots Gun-Rights Group Wants Changes in Concealed Carry Law


Just a month after the first concealed carry permits were issued in the state, some gun rights groups say there is a need for major changes in the law.

 

Illinoiscarry.com wants to see a number of rules and restrictions in the law relaxed… including a lowering of fees and the number of hours of required training, and a reduction in the number of places where concealed firearms are still banned.

 

The group also wants to see changes in the review process when a concealed carry permit application is rejected.

Passavant Hospital in Jacksonville Joins Memorial Health Systems


Passavant Area Hospital in Jacksonville is now officially part of Memorial Health System. The change takes effect today.

 

With the new designation, Passavant becomes the 7th affiliate in the Memorial network, and the 2nd largest hospital in the system, which is anchored by Memorial Medical Center in Springfield.

 

Passavant… which was founded in 1875… says the partnership with Memorial will help it meet the needs of Jacksonville residents as it adapts to changes under national health care reform.

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