The first installment of several reports on the investigation on Springfield Police Officers Graham and Carpenter.
Midwest waterways are getting lots of attention this summer. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency have immersed themselves in the ecology of 100 streams from Ohio to Nebraska. It’s a first-of-its kind effort to understand how ag runoff is not just changing the water but affecting the critters that live there. Harvest Public Media’s Abbie Fentress Swanson joined a crew on a rainy day while they gathered water samples and searched for fish eggs on three streams in central Missouri.
An Illinois House and Senate conference committee will meet tomorrow in Chicago as members try to work out a compromise on the state’s pension problem.
Ten lawmakers, six of them Democrats, make up the panel. It was formed after a pension deal eluded the General Assembly in the spring. Republican Jil Tracy of Mount Sterling is among those given the task of coming up with a solution.
The Governor has asked for the committee to wrap it up by June 9th. Tracy says while that seems like a quick deadline, it’s possible. She says the issue has been discussed plenty.
Tracy, like the majority on the committee, supported a plan that would unilaterally cut benefits to teachers, state employees and university workers. But she says that was the only plan that came before the House. She says she is open to alternatives. Continue reading
Amanda Vinicky talks with Tim Landis, Business Editor for the State Journal Register. We’ll talk about Illinois’ growing, and spreading, wine industry. And what to do about high-accident intersections. That and more in this week’s Business Report.
You can read Landis’ stories daily in the SJR.
Retired Illinois Supreme Court Justice John Nickels, who worked to increase the legal access of low-income people, has died after a long illness at age 82.
Illinois Supreme Court spokesman Joe Tybor says Nickels died Monday at his home
in Maple Park.
Nickels served six years on the state high court during the 1990s, participating in 820 cases. He authored 95 majority opinions, including a decision that struck down a gang loitering ordinance in Chicago. The U.S. Supreme Court later upheld Nickels’ decision. Continue reading
Springfield residents living near South MacArthur Boulevard could have a new grocery store in the neighborhood by this time next year.
Iowa-based chain Hy-Vee held a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning in the parking lot of the old Kmart store and bowling alley just north of Outer Park Drive.
Hy-Vee Asst. VP of Operations Mary Fuhrman says her crews will start tearing down the vacant buildings immediately. Fuhrman expects the store to open by late spring 2014. Continue reading
The common refrain to bullied teens is that “it gets better.” A new study finds in most cases, it does decline as teens progress through high school and into adult life. But for some, especially boys identified as gay or bisexual, they continue to face significantly higher rates of bullying after high school.
That was among the findings in research by Joseph Robinson, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois and Dorothy Espelage, the Child Development Chair in the Department of Educational Psychology.
Robinson spoke with WUIS’ Sean Crawford about the work:
You can find more details here.
The Ford Edsel is widely known for being one of the greatest marketing flops in history. It had a brief run from 1958 to 1960. But not everyone gave up on the Edsel, as Rachel Otwell explains:
Photos by Rachel Otwell
Jackie Dougan Jackson grew up like many farm kids. She spent sunbaked summer hours detasseling corn, tending the crops so it can be pollinated. For farm kids, detasseling is one of the ultimate chores. For the 85-year-old Jackson, those memories still put a song in her heart.
The bipartisan committee of lawmakers tasked with fixing Illinois’ $97 billion pension crisis will hold its first meeting next week.
The committee has scheduled a public hearing for Thursday morning downtown Chicago.
Gov. Pat Quinn called lawmakers back to Springfield for a special legislative session to address the pension shortfall.
But the House and Senate remained in a stalemate on how fix the problem. Lawmakers voted Wednesday to form the conference committee in hopes its 10 members will be able to come up with a compromise. Continue reading
A group of Illinois senators is urging Gov. Pat Quinn to reveal his stance on the carrying of concealed guns to avert a “public safety and constitutional crisis.”
A letter signed by 23 Democrats – including Senate President John Cullerton – went to Quinn Thursday and was obtained by The Associated Press. Continue reading
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has rejected a five year, half-trillion-dollar farm bill that would have cut $2 billion annually from food stamps and let states impose broad new work requirements on those who receive them.
Those cuts weren’t deep enough for many Republicans who objected to the cost of the nearly $80 billion-a-year program, which has doubled in the past five years. The vote was 234-195 against the bill, with 62 Republicans voting against it. Continue reading
Regional Offices of Education have often been an overlooked area of government. But the elected positions have unwillingly been in the spotlight over the last couple of years when Governor Pat Quinn tried to eliminate them. A compromise with the legislature resulted in a consolidation of the offices that is underway now. 44 offices are required to drop down to 35. In Sangamon County, an agreement was reached this month to merge with Menard County starting in 2015.
The offices are responsible for certifying teachers and bus drivers, building inspections, providing G-E-D and alternative education services and more.
WUIS’ Sean Crawford spoke with Sangamon County’s Regional Superintendent Jeff Vose about the changes…
Springfield’s Muni out-door theater is putting on its largest production yet. With a cast of just about fifty actors, plus chorus singers, Les Miserables cost 50 percent more than the average Muni show. When Les Mis recently became available to amateur theaters, The Muni was quick to buy the rights. The show is in its second week… performances start at 8:30. They are tonight through Sunday, and again next week – Thursday through Saturday. Rachel Otwell recently spoke with cast members Sydney Assalley & Jerry Hicks and the vocal director, Damien Kaplan.
Photos courtesy of The Muni
CLICK HERE to find out more about The Muni’s procuction of Les Miserables.
The chairman of the Republican Party in Montgomery County has resigned after writing what’s been called a racist and sexist email about U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis’ primary challenger.
Illinois Republican Party chairman Jack Dorgan says he accepted Jim Allen’s resignation on Thursday afternoon. Allen wrote an email Tuesday suggesting Erika Harold could fill a “minority quota” if she lost the Republican primary. The biracial Harvard law school graduate was crowned Miss America in 2003 and launched her bid to challenge Davis this month. Continue reading
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis is distancing himself from a GOP supporter who made harsh remarks about a Davis challenger.
An email from Montgomery County GOP Chairman Jim Allen called Erika Harold of Urbana a “street walker” and “love child” of Democrats. It predicted she will be hired by a law firm meeting a minority-hiring quota.
Harold is bi-racial, a former Miss America and a Harvard law school graduate. The Republican is challenging Davis in next year’s primary. Continue reading
Governor Pat Quinn is giving legislators less than three weeks to come together on a pension overhaul. So far the formation of a rare “conference committee” is the only result of the special legislative session Quinn called to deal with the state’s pension problem.
At Quinn’s request, the legislature named 10 members to a committee to come up with a compromise on pensions, something leaders have not been able to do despite numerous private meetings. Quinn says they should finish the job by July 9th. But there’s nothing in Illinois law that gives him the power to set a deadline, and some lawmakers say every new proposal requires a lengthy analysis to figure out how much money might be saved. Quinn says that’s just an excuse.
QUINN: “Well they’ve had ample time to work on this issues. I’ve been working on this issue for the past coupe years – we’ve had many many different legislative work groups and sessions and meetings and press conferences and everybody’s really had a chance to study these issues.”
House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Democrats from Chicago, have been at an impasse – each pushing their own pension solution. Cullerton says he thinks the committee is a step in the right direction, but will it be the final push needed to pass a comprehensive pension fix?
CULLERTON: “No, not the fact that we have a conference committee. That was the governor’s request and just another way of getting to a vote for a bill.”
It’s been years since legislators have resorted to the political maneuver of conference committees. It’s not entirely clear how a committee of lawmakers will be able to come to an agreement when their leaders continue to have opposing views on solving the problem.
— Rachel Otwell
The presidents of Illinois’ public universities are rallying behind a plan intended to bolster the pension system for their employees. The proposal was the subject of a state Senate hearing Tuesday in Springfield. But as Brian Mackey reports, its future is far from certain.
One by one, university presidents told Senators why they believe something must be done about pensions.
University of Illinois president Robert Easter says his schools are at a competitive disadvantage for recruiting top faculty.
“It’s important to us that we get beyond the current conversation about pension reform to a reliable system that we can articulate to those that work for us today and those that we would like to join us,” Easter says.
The plan would require workers to contribute an extra two percent toward their retirement, and pensions would no longer increase by a compounded three percent a year — instead increases would be half the rate of inflation, which would have been well below three percent in recent years.
Senate President John Cullerton says there are aspects of the plan he likes, and that it should be considered as pension negotiations continue.
But House Speaker Mike Madigan suggests keeping compounded increases in pensions — even at a reduced rate — might not save enough money.
— Brian Mackey
Paper notebooks are still a requirement in schools. But devices like iPads are becoming increasingly more popular in classrooms. In the second half of the WUIS series on technology and teaching, Rachel Otwell visits elementary schools in Springfield’s District 186 to see how the electronic tablets are becoming a common part of the school day:
Members of Illinois’ General Assembly return to the capitol Wednesday for a special session on pensions, where they’re expected to pass off the problem to a yet another legislative committee.
What to do about Illinois’ $100 billion pension debt has confounded legislators for years.
The most recent barrier: the House and Senate — as well as the chambers’ respective leaders — are fixated on different plans. So they’ve agreed to a new approach they’re putting in motion Wednesday.
The House and Senate will each send five members (three Democrats, and two Republicans) to a joint, “conference committee.”
“And hopefully the people appointed to the conference committee, will be able to strike a compromise on the issue,” House Speaker Mike Madigan says.
The Chicago Democrat says he won’t personally serve on it.
“I want others to share in the glory,” he says.
But that raises the question – who WILL be on the committee, and where will their loyalties lie?
“And I think that’s where the concern is,” Rep. Darlene Sengers (R-Naperville) says. “How this conference is controlled, who gets appointed to the committees, how long do the committees last, what … where is the final say on everything? What regulations do you put in it?”
Senger was part of a previous legislative panel assigned to come up with a pension overhaul, but that plan never went anywhere.
Springfield aldermen have agreed to subsidize a project to adorn downtown buildings with large painted murals.
Following a 10-0 vote Tuesday, the city will set aside $50,000 from the central area tax increment finance district.
Mayor Houston didn’t want TIF funds put toward the public art project, but says there’s no sense in prolonging his opposition to something aldermen unanimously support: Continue reading
Thomas Jefferson was more than a founding father. He was an avid gardener. We’ve learned more about Jefferson’s passion for gardening thanks to Peter Hatch and the various books he has written.
Hatch is the retired Director of Gardens and Grounds at Jefferson’s Monticello. He’ll speak on the UIS campus Thursday night. He also talked with WUIS’ Sean Crawford about Jefferson’s gardens….
The event at 6 p.m. Thursday will be held at the Brookens Auditorium at UIS. It’s part of the Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE) Series.
The U.S. Supreme Court is granting the Illinois attorney general more time to decide on an appeal over the carrying of concealed weapons.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the court decided Tuesday to extend the deadline to July 22.
The Democrat is weighing whether to take to the high court a challenge to the December ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that declared the Illinois ban on concealed carry unconstitutional.
The appellate court ordered the ban be lifted by June 9. The Legislature adopted a plan that Gov. Pat Quinn is reviewing and the court extended that deadline until July 9. Continue reading
Tim Landis of the State Journal-Register tells us about the new home for Robert’s Automotive, what’s next in the long awaited Stanford Avenue extension project and who purchased the St. George Building in downtown Springfield:
The Springfield school board continues to discuss a rule on the books that requires administrators to live within district 186 boundaries. Vice president Adam Lopez has adopted the cause, saying the policy should either be enforced, or removed from regulations. It’s his wish to enforce it. But board member Donna Moore questioned the need for the policy:
MOORE: Can I ask a question … I know we have this policy… but what purpose does it serve? Is this policy helping us to achieve the goals that we’re trying to achieve in the school district? Or does it hamper it?”
Lopez says he wants to have a timeline put together on enforcing a residency policy and a list of those in violation by August. Interim Superintendent Robert Leming says there were four district administrators in violation of the policy last school year. The board has yet to vote on whether to keep and/or rewrite the requirement.
The Springfield school board also voted last night to give interim superintendent Robert Leming another 100 day appointment, it will begin in July. Leming says this is the last time he plans on serving in that role. Leming says he’s confident the search for his replacement could be concluded and a new superintendent could take his place by the beginning of the calendar year:
LEMING: “I think the best case scenario would be that they are able to complete the work by mid to late December in terms of the selection process, and if the candidate that the board prefers is available to start sooner than July ’14 then we would do that.”
Others have said it’s unlikely that role will be permanently filled by any time this coming school year. Leming will continue to be paid $650 per day.
— Rachel Otwell
From the City of Springfield Tuesday morning. See below for more information on applicable fees:
City Water, Light and Power has launched a new, updated website that includes the ability for customers not only to pay their bills electronically but also now to manage their CWLP accounts online. The updated website, still located at www.cwlp.com, includes drop-down menus and other design features that make it easier to navigate and quickly find information about the CWLP’s various divisions, Lake Springfield recreation, how to save energy and water, and much more. Continue reading
While most high schools teach an assortment of foreign languages: Spanish, French, German – other types of languages are finding their way into classrooms. Like Java. Never heard of it? It’s basically a language computers speak. At one time, this area was something few kids found interesting. But in the era of video games and smart phones, technology is part of the average students’ everyday life. In the first of a two-part series looking at teaching tech, Rachel Otwell tells us how District 186 is getting the next generation of programmers ready:
The Illinois Pollution Control Board found a coal mine in McDonough County violated water quality regulations more than 600 times.
Scott Stuntz begins a three-part series on the state’s regulation of the coal industry with a visit to the mine site near the town of Industry.
Illinois Public Radio member station WIUM in Macomb looks at why it took the state so long to begin legal action against Springfield Coal Co., LLC and why – despite all the violations – the state renewed the company’s permit: .mp3 – 5:10 Continue reading
Governor Pat Quinn has signed into law what’s touted as the nation’s toughest regulations on “fracking.”
High-volume hydraulic fracturing is a controversial process used to reach oil and natural gas deep underground. The director of the Illinois Environmental Council, Jen Walling, says she wishes the state would ban the practice. But she says given that fracking’s already happening in Illinois, her group and other major environmental organizations agreed to the new law. Walling says it sets stringent, comprehensive standards drillers must follow.
“We don’t allow open pits storage of waste water afterward. This has been a huge problem in other states,” she says. “Our law requires that all waste water be kept in closed loop tanks. That’s a really big deal.”
It’s expected to be a while before fracking really gets underway, though. The state has to draft rules, hire inspectors and issue permits. Business groups say as many as 50-thousand jobs could be created … mostly in economically hard-hit southern Illinois. They also say Illinois should reap millions of dollars in taxes and fees.
The Pharmacy is an artist cooperative in Springfield with studio and gallery space. It’s based in what used to be the Watts Brothers Pharmacy. The group also holds open-mic nights, provides song-writer workshops, and more.
And now, it’s inviting kids to get involved in the culture of creativity. Janet Sgro is a Pharmacy artist who will be leading the group’s first summer of art classes for kids age 5 through fourteen. Rachel Otwell recently spoke with Sgro about it:
Advocacy group Equality Illinois says it’s getting ready to launch a $500,000 effort to promote gay marriage ahead of the 2014 election.
The civil rights group says half the money will go toward voter education efforts, while the remainder will be used by the group’s political action committee to fight opponents. Continue reading
Geocaching in Springfield’s parks starts this week. As Ray Carter explains, it’s a type of scavenger hunt using electronic devices.
.mp3 – :57
Geocaching requires players to use coordinates on G-P-S devices to locate hidden objects, known as caches.
The coordinates are downloaded from the park district’s website and come with clues to guide participants. Continue reading
Decatur Police have arrested the man they believe to be responsible for a hit-and-run accident last week that claimed the life of a 17-month-old boy.
The Decatur Herald & Review reports a 24-year-old man was taken into custody at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, after police tracked him to an address in the 2100 block of East Cantrell Street.
The suspect was booked into the Macon County Jail on a preliminary charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident.
Police plan to release the man’s name after the Macon County State’s Attorney has filed formal charges.
The arrest ends a three-day manhunt triggered by the death of Zyonne A. Cooper in the 2500 block of East Garfield Avenue. According to published reports, the toddler wandered into the street just after midnight Thursday and was struck in the head by an oncoming SUV. The driver sped away striking the child.
Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley plans to lay out a three-step plan to end the deadlock on pension reform in Illinois.
The Chicago Democrat announced last week he’s forming a committee to explore running for governor in 2014. His Monday announcement on pensions will be the first substantive appearance of his campaign.
Daley’s office released little information on his pension ideas ahead of his appearance in Chicago. An advisory says he’ll criticize both Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Continue reading
Governor Pat Quinn says he’s reviewing a measure that would lift Illinois’ long-standing concealed carry ban. It took legislators months to reach a compromise, and still gun control and gun rights activists both say they’re not happy. Other critics say they’re upset about a lack of government transparency.
The concealed carry legislation approved late last month creates a seven-member board to review applications from people who want to be able to carry a gun in public.
Under the measure, that board would be exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Which means the board’s records and activities would be off-limits to the public. The board would also not be included in the Open Meetings Act, so in theory “they could meet at midnight in some guy’s basement,” said Josh Sharp, of the Illinois Press Association. He says the organization is not interested in applicants’ personal information, like how many guns they own. Instead, t”his is about shining more light on government and how they act, rather than applicants for these licenses,” he said.
The measure’s sponsor says he understands those concerns, and he’s willing to introduce follow-up legislation to fix them. He says his priority is keeping private sensitive information, like the names of applicants who get rejected.
Illinois is under a court order to have a concealed carry law by July 9th.
– Amanda Vinicky