Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 20, 2009

Champaign Centennial to Play Oswego Saturday for Illinois 3A Title

The Champaign Cenntennial Chargers will face the Oswego Panthers Saturday at 12:45 PM at Peoria's Carver Arena, for the Illinois Boys High School Basketball Class 3A Championship.

Rayvonte Rice scored 22 points, including two after an offensive rebound with two seconds left, to lead the chargers to a 66-65 win over defending 2A state champs Chicago North Lawndale in the first of Friday's Boys 3A semifinals.

Senior guard James Kinney also had 22 points for Champaign Centennial.

North Lawndale started the game with a technical foul for a uniform violation. An Illinois High School Athletics Association official said the stripe on the Phoenix's uniform was too long.

North Lawndale was led by senior forward Jonathan Mills' 16 points and 15 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Oswego Panthers defeated Chicago Leo 56 to 55 in their Class 3A semifinal match on Friday. Oswego's win came with senior guard Jordan Mitchell's 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Categories: Sports
Tags: sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 20, 2009

Urbana Mayoral Challengers say City Clerk Failed to Conduct Ballot Lottery

Illinois law requires that a lottery be held to determine in what order candidates are listed by party on an election ballot. But that didn't happen in the city of Urbana.

The April 7th ballot for Urbana's municipal elections lists Democrats first. Democratic Mayor Laurel Prussing says City Clerk Phyllis Clark, also a Democrat, decided the sequence according to the order in which candidates filed their petitions. But Prussing's Green and Republican challengers say that violates state election law.

Republican mayoral candidate Red Bradfield says if a lottery isn't held now and the ballots reprinted to match the result --- then at least, notices should be posted at polling places in Urbana, telling voters that the ballots were not prepared in accordance with election law. "This was not a casual oversight", says Bradfield.

But Mayor Prussing says the failure to hold a ballot lottery was an honest mistake, and she says it's not clear what the remedy should be. Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden says it's not clear to him either. He says reprinting new ballots according to results of a lottery would cost thousands of dollars.

Green Party Mayor candidate Durl Kruse says the order in which candidates appear on the ballot can influence the outcome, especially in races with smaller voter turnouts.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 20, 2009

Champaign County Board Prepares for Single County Administrator

When Champaign County government switches to a single-county-administrator system later this year, the county will hire from within.

The Champaign County Board approved a resolution Thursday night that says the position will be filled by hiring another county employee. But Chairman Pius Weibel would not say who that might be, following a closed-door meeting on the issue.

The county board appointed Weibel and former County Board Chairman Steve Moser to negotiate a contract for the single county Administrator position.

Weibel says they'll have a lot to do before a new administrator is hired. That includes putting together a job description, setting salary limits, and deciding what duties performed by the current two administrators should be moved over to another county position.

Deb Busey and Denny Inman have managed Champaign County government as a team for the past decade. Busey manages Finance and Human Resources while Inman is in charge of Facilities and Procurement. But the county board has decided that system will end in December, when a single administrator will take over. Backers of the change have argued that many of the duties assigned to Inman no longer require a separate manager, because the county is no longer involved in major construction projects like the nursing home and courthouse addition.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 20, 2009

Champaign County Board Proposal Would Ask Voters if Auditor Should be Appointed, not Elected

A March 22nd News-Gazette article reported that Champaign County Auditor Tony Fabri is frequently absent from work, according to office phone records. Now, the Champaign County Board will consider putting a referendum on the ballot asking voters if they want to switch the auditor's post from elected to appointed.

Republican County Board member Al Nudo says the controversy over Fabri's apparent high absentee rate provides an opportunity to consider whether appointing the auditor might provide more accountability and professionalism than elections. But at Thursday's County Board meeting, Democrat Carol Ammons said the proposal coming so quickly after the News-Gazette article looked more like a witch-hunt to her.

"If we're going to look at actual strategic changes to the county", said Ammons, "we look at the auditor, we look at the recorder, we look at all of the non-constitutional offices, and we consider them alike."

Fabri is also Champaign County's Democratic Chairman. Nudo says he's open to discussing the recorder's and coroner's offices, which are held by Republicans. But Democrat Steve Beckett told the County Board Fabri's poor work attendance as measured by his office phone calls is a valid reason for reviewing the auditor's office alone.

"I can't ignore what I read this past weekend", said Beckett. "And it's not a witch-hunt if there's a witch".

Fabri could not be reached for comment Thursday night. According to the News-Gazette, he says office phone use is not a fair measure of his attendance, because he often uses his own cell phone at his desk, to avoid using county phones for political work.

Nudo's proposal now goes to the County Board Policy and Administrative Structure committees, which may take their time in considering it. A referendum on the auditor's office wouldn't show up on the Champaign County ballot until 2010, and any change wouldn't take effect until 2012, after Fabri's current term is over.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 19, 2009

IL Supreme Court Limits Governor’s Ability to Clear Criminal Records

Governors can issue pardons but they can't automatically clear a convict's criminal record, according to a new Illinois Supreme Court ruling.

The ruling involves pardons saying two men were innocent and could have their convictions expunged, or officially wiped away.

One pardon went to Stanley Howard, who was convicted of murder based on a confession that may have been obtained through torture. The other went to Dana Holland, who was convicted of rape but was later cleared by DNA evidence.

When they took steps to expunge their records, the courts said no.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that despite the governor's pardons, the courts ultimately decide whether to expunge convictions.

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 19, 2009

Illinois Marathon Gets Needed Volunteers, Could Use More

It didn't take long for organizers of the first-ever Illinois Marathon to find the volunteers they needed.

The marathon will be held on the streets of Champaign, Urbana and the U of I campus on the day before Easter. But local police said organizers needed to show by April 1st that they had 350 volunteers ready to help with traffic control, if they wanted to keep their special-events permits.

Marathon volunteer coordinator Mary Anderson says they issued the call for help on Monday, and by Tuesday night, they had enough volunteers signed up to ensure the race will take place. She says they're grateful for the response, but they could still use even more volunteers. Anderson says nearly 8-thousand runners have signed up for the Illinois Marathon and its related races --- and they'll need a total of 2-thousand volunteers. Volunteers will help staff the marathon and related events on Friday and Saturday, April 10th and 11th.

To volunteer to help on the Illinois Marathon, go to their website,, and click on the volunteer link.

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 18, 2009

Higher Education, UI Would Get Funding Increases under Budget Proposal

Higher education would get a slight increase in funding in a year when many other states are preparing their colleges and universities to accept flat funding or cuts.

Governor Quinn's budget proposal lifts operating funds for higher education by a little over one percent - in the University of Illinois' case, that means a nearly eight million dollar boost from the current year, to around 750 million dollars.

U of I spokesman Tom Hardy says that's not close to what the school requested, but it's realistic.

"When you look at what's been proposed here, you see an increase in operating appropriations for the University that makes us whole on the 2 1/2% cut that we received in the current fiscal year, and then adds another one percent on top of that," said Hardy.

Governor Quinn's proposal for a capital bill also includes U of I projects, including the long-postponed renovation of Lincoln Hall and money for a new engineering and computer building. But Hardy is expressing caution, saying the state hasn't passed a capital bill in several years.

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 18, 2009

East Central IL Lawmakers Have Mixed Feelings on the Quinn Budget Proposal

A member of the legislative majority says he sees good faith in Governor Quinn's budget proposal, but he would still like to see some changes.

Democratic Senator Mike Frerichs of Champaign acknowledges that many lawmakers and the public are questioning the size of the tax increases in the plan. "I think there are those of us who would like to see a little more detail about what cuts we need to make in Illinois government first. I think there are more opportunities for cuts out there. But I think overall deficit reduction will be some combination of cuts in state services as well as revenue enhancement," said Frerichs.

Frerichs also says the proposed income tax hike was made fairer paired with a higher exemption for lower-income families. But he says it might stifle efforts from him and other downstate lawmakers to swap higher state taxes for lower local property taxes to fund education.

Pontiac Republican Senator Dan Rutherford says he credits Governor Quinn for unveiling a budget proposal free of smoke and mirrors. But he says Illinois families can't take the hit of a 50% income tax hike during the current economic crisis, calling the plan a 'non-starter.' And Rutherford says a proposal to boost corporate taxes and remove a manufacturer tax credit will hurt the incentive of companies to expand and create jobs. He says this is especially true in his district, where employers like Interlake and Caterpillar are already faced with layoffs:

"When it's time for investment into their plants, and a manufacturer says it's time to upgrade my tooling or upgrade my machinery, I think it's appropriate for us to give them credit and benefit in Illinois so they do it here rather than in another state, which those big companies can do," said Rutherford.

Rutherford says he's also concerned the Governor will shortchange Illinois' pension system by skipping payments. Fellow Republican Chapin Rose of Mahomet, a state representative, went further, calling the income tax hike proposal an assault on the middle class.

But Democratic Representative Naomi Jakobsson of Urbana wanted to remind colleagues that the Governor's proposal only forms the basis for budget debate over the next few weeks, and she blamed former Governor Rod Blagojevich for putting the state in its current situation.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 18, 2009

Gov. Quinn Proposes Budget, Income Tax Hike

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has laid out his budget plan to get the state's finances on track. But lawmakers have yet to get on board.

During his budget address Wednesday, Quinn cautioned the General Assembly that the state won't be able to cut its way out of the financial crisis. He called such thinking mean spirited and says it would lead to layoffs as well as to children and the elderly losing access to health care, saying he believes people would not support a "doomsday budget."

Governor Quinn says an historic budget deficit forced him to propose hikes in the income tax, vehicle registrations, cigarette purchases and call for employee furloughs and major changes in government pensions. But Palatine Republican Senator Matt Murphy says he doesn't buy Quinn's claims about further spending cuts.

"They're not easy and I'm not here to say it is," said Murphy. "But you can either raise taxes that will put more people out of work or you can balance the budget like everyone is having to do at home."

Lawmakers will debate the budget plan.... and likely make changes to it... over the next couple of months.

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 18, 2009

Champaign City Council Endorses Six Million Dollar Budget Patch

The Champaign City Council voted Tuesday night to endorse a plan to fill a projected six-million dollar budget shortfall, created by a drop in city tax revenues.

The study session vote gives Champaign city staff the go-ahead to develop a budget plan that cuts spending, moves more money into the general fund from other areas, and increases some city fees while creating new ones. Council members had questions about the fees, as well as proposed cuts in staff postions --- all of them currently vacant, or expected to become vacant soon.

Council member Marci Dodds says despite her misgivings, she thinks the overall proposal will fill a budget hole without doing lasting harm to city services. "The whole goal", says Dodds, "was not to have tremendous impact on the public, or to just do a slice-and-dice, across-the-board cut; but really, to do this so we would preserve core city services".

Council members paid particular attention to the changes in city fees. Champaign Finance Director Richard Schnuer says the fee changes make up only about 20 percent of the overall proposal, and that the details are subject to change. The fee proposals include a more than 13-thousand percent jump in the license fee for ambulance services, an expansion of the natural gas tax to cover non-AmerenIP customers and a hike in the city franchise fee for cable TV customers.

Schnuer says they'll present a complete budget proposal to the city council in six weeks. Council members will review in study sessions in May, before taking a final vote in June.

The city of Urbana does NOT plan a similar cut to its budget. Mayor Laurel Prussing says she's been told by city comptroller Ron Eldridge that sales tax dollars from new retail developments puts Urbana on a firmer financial footing that some other local communities.

Categories: Government, Politics

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