Illinois Public Media News
You can get information about emergencies in Champaign County by email or text message through a new service being launched this week by local public service agencies
County residents can sign up for the new service at champcoprepares.com. It's similar to the emergency system the University of Illinois set up in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings.
Urbana Fire Department Division Chief Tony Foster says it's easy to sign up. "It asks you general questions like your name and address, your email address, and then what phone number you would like that text or email sent to," said Foster. "It then will allow you to select weather warnings, if you want information from the University of Illinois sent to you, or something else like that. It will prompt and send that information to your wireless device."
Foster says if you work far from home, you can get information for both areas by writing in the zip codes for both places.
champcoprepares.com is getting its official unveiling this week. Foster says other counties in Illinois are also launching the service.
Home bakers who have been selling their goods at the Urbana farmer's market have been speaking out against a health department order that would put them out of business. For years, the city-operated Market On The Square in downtown Urbana has featured local bakers --- including many who bake in their home kitchens, which don't undergo health inspections. But this month, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District announced a ban on the sale of home baked goods at farmers markets and similar venues. The home bakers say the ban came at the last minute, as their preparations for this year's farmer's market are already underway. At Monday night's Urbana City Council meeting, Alderwoman Heather Stevenson said the ban has upset a lot of people.
"I've -- in three days --- heard from about 20 people," said Stevenson. "That's too many to not say anything."
Dan Erwin of Champaign told the city council that he's been selling baked goods made at his home kitchen at the Market in the Square for 20 years. He said the rules had stayed about the same that whole time. "And then all of a sudden, two days before we're supposed to be signing up for this season", said Erwin, "I got this letter saying, in short, you can't do this anymore."
Mayor Laurel Prussing says a memo she received last night from Public Health District Board Chair Carol Elliott seems to say that the home-baked goods are allowed at farmers' markets after all, as long as they don't involve fillings that require refrigeration. But Prussing says she'll check into the matter further. Urbana's Market on the Square opens May 2nd.
A free prescription-drug dropoff program is taking place this week, a year after the first effort brought in an unexpectedly high number of old drugs.
Carle RX Express locations in Champaign-Urbana, Mahomet and Monticello are collecting old, outdated or unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs all this week.
Greg Puszkiewicz is the director of the pharmacies - he says last year the stores accepted 526 pounds of medications and turned them over to the City of Urbana, which is helping sponsor the dropoff.
"The City of Urbana comes and picks it up and takes it to their facility, then the next day the EPA comes and picks it up and they take it to Texas where it's incinerated," Puszkiewicz said.
Puszkiewicz says last year, the first-ever dropoff happened just as news stories appeared about traces of pharmaceuticals found in drinking water supplies. He says that spurred patients to take action and get rid of their old drugs in a safe way, instead of flushing them down the drain or the toilet - in some cases, participants had been holding onto the medications for more than twenty years.
A week full of classes and events in Champaign County is aimed at helping people guide their personal finances through the tough economy.
The Chicago Federal Reserve is kicking off Money Smart Week this week in several Illinois communities. It's meant to boost financial literacy in a time when it's more important than ever.
One of the advisory committee members in Champaign County is Parkland College president Tom Ramage, who says students and their families can use the courses to chart their immediate and long-term financial futures.
"This gives students the opportunity to get direct answers to specific questions they might have in a short, free -- which is a key word -- experience where they can spend a couple hours, or a couple days, on a specific topic that's relevant, timely to them," Ramage said.
Nearly 25 community agencies, banks, schools and other groups are putting on classes and seminars ranging from basic saving and investing to making budgets and preventing against identity theft.
You can find a schedule of events at the Chicago Fed's website, moneysmartweek.org.
From your computer screen to your cellphone to much of what you hear on this radio station, the world is filled with digital media that make it possible for people to express themselves in ways unheard of a generation ago. Now, the University of Illinois is launching a new institute dedicated to promoting arts that use digital media. It's called the edream Institute. AM 580's Jim Meadows spoke with its director, Dr. Donna Cox.
The campus senate at the University of Illinois at Springfield is calling for an outside investigation of the school's athletic program, after incidents which led to the resignation of three coaches last month. But the campus senate is holding off on a vote expressing no confidence in the university's chancellor.
The university is already conducting an internal investigation into the controversy, which prompted the school to call the women's softball team back from a trip to Florida, but officials have declined to discuss details.
Today, the campus senate, which includes faculty, staff and students, passed a resolution to conduct a separate independent investigation. They were also scheduled to consider a vote expressing no confidence in Chancellor Richard Ringeisen.
Before the vote, the senate removed all mention of Athletic Director Rodger Jehlicka from the discussions and is delaying a no confidence vote for Ringeisen until the external investigation is completed. Ringeisen says the school must address concerns about the controversy, but he says he can't elaborate on what happened.
"If you think that a chancellor enjoys not being able to share details with people so that the accusations will stop, you're wrong," Ringeisen said
Ringeisen says if he did reveal details of the incident, he would be risking a lawsuit. The campus senate hopes to have the results of the independent investigation by the fall.
Illinois's governor has appointed a longtime advocate of universal health care to a troubled state board. The move comes amid questions about whether the board should even exist.
Quentin Young will chair the state's Health Facilities Planning Board. The board regulates where the facilities can be built or taken away. Critics say the board stifles competition ... but Young says a little planning will lead to a fairer system.
"There's no perfect way, obviously, to have balance between regulation and competition. But this planning agency is an attempt to control the devastating cost of health care," Young said.
The board has been a venue for graft and kickbacks, involving close associates of former Governor Rod Blagojevich. Congressman Mark Kirk suggests abolishing the board, calling it, quote: "an opportunity for total corruption." Kirk is thought to be mulling a run for governor.
Incumbent Pat Quinn says the key is appointing trustworthy people. Quentin Young has been a civil rights activist, Pat Quinn's personal physician.
General Growth Properties Inc., the nation's second-largest mall operator, says it has filed for bankruptcy protection after failing to convince its debt holders to give it more time to refinance its crushing debt.
The Chicago-based real estate investment trust said early Thursday it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a New York court. Some 158 regional shopping centers under its control also filed for bankruptcy protection.
The company owns Champaign's Market Place Mall.
General Growth says it received a financing commitment from Pershing Square Capital Management LP of about $375 million and expects it will be able to continue operating its malls as it reorganizes.
The operator of jewelry store in Market Place says most changes coming out of the bankruptcy announcement won't impact the common shopper.
Eric Connery... whose family owns Bauble's.... says he knew this news was coming for the past several months. But he believes having a lease intact makes his store an asset instead of a liability. Connery recently renewed the lease for another year.
He says other than some possible changes in management... it should be business as usual at the mall:
"Their financial problems are so far beyond the mall level they wouldn't affect us," Connery said. "I don't foreseeing anything changing for the negative. The only thing I'd see happening is maybe you'll have some different people in different positions, and change isn't always a bad thing."
Connery says General Growth Properties is just a company that needs time to get its finances restructured... and he expects its ownership of the Champaign mall to remain intact.
(from AM 580 and The Associated Press)
The federal economic stimulus contains millions of dollars in research funding - money the University of Illinois is competing for, against dozens of other research institutions.
That's putting an unprecedented burden on the office that handles grant applications, which has already seen a big increase in grants over the past five years. The director of the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research Administration, Kathy Young, says they're still getting a handle on the crush of activity.
"We can't staff for what we don't know about yet," said Young. "It's going to be a concerted effort of the existing staff to shoulder the burden and do what we can. My management team and I are looking at what tasks we can parse off to keep the subject-matter experts working on the really critical issues."
Young says temporary staff may be able to handle the rest of the workload. The U of I says the federal government itself is also undergoing a flood of requests for grants from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy and other agencies that have gotten billions of dollars in research money. Federal officials expect a 60 percent increase in grant activity over the next six months.
A bill to help steer voluntary donations towards crisis nurseries in Illinois has made its second appearance in Springfield.
Crisis nurseries provide free short-term child care for families undergoing emergencies. Stephanie Record (reh-CORD) is executive director of the Crisis Nursery in Urbana. She says the legislation would make more funding possible, at a time when her agency is seeing a drop in grant funding and an increase in demand for services.
"If we get 100,000 people to check off every year, explains Record, "we would be able to remain on there, and then split those dollars between the six nurseries throughout the state".
State Senator Mike Frerichs of Champaign says his bill passed the Senate last year, but was blocked in the House due to infighting between the House Speaker and former Governor Rod Blagjevich. He's more optimistic about the bill's chances this year. The measure passed the Senate last month, and is being sponsored in the House by Danville Republican Bill Black.
If the bill becomes law, crisis nurseries in Illinois would join ten other charities to which Illinois taxpayers may donate part of their tax refund. Frerichs says he doesn't agree with legislators who say that bringing in a new charity will hurt levels of giving to those already on the tax checkoff list.
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