Montgomery Co. GOP Official Steps Down Over Remarks

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

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Davis Spokesman Calls Montgomery Co. Man’s Remarks “Misguided”

Cong. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville)

Cong. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville)

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

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Legislature Forms Group Tasked With Finding Pension Fix

Brian Mackey/WUIS

Brian Mackey/WUIS

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

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University Presidents Rally Behind Exclusive Pension Plan

U. of I. President Robert Easter, second from left, testifies at the Statehouse in this May 16, 2013 file photo. (WUIS)

U. of I. President Robert Easter, second from left, testifies at the Statehouse in May. (file/WUIS)

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

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Technology In The Classroom Pt. II: iPads Used Daily

IMG_1764Paper 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:

Continue reading

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Pension Special Session Set To Create Conference Committee

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.

House Speaker Mike Madigan sits in the front row at a pension committee Tuesday.

House Speaker Mike Madigan sits in the front row at a pension committee Tuesday.

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.

-Amanda Vinicky

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Downtown Springfield Murals Get TIF Support

Michael Mayosky begins DSI's "Artification" with mural on north wall of Alamo

Michael Mayosky paints “Lincoln #109” on Alamo’s north wall (photo:

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

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