Illinois Public Media News
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is endorsing Mitt Romney for president.
Kirk said Monday that the former Massachusetts governor knows how to work with Democrats and independents. The Illinois senator touts Romney's work as the head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Kirk said Romney would cut spending, promote economic growth and repeal the health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama. Kirk told reporters Monday that Republicans need to pick the right candidate to beat Obama.
He said his endorsement could be a factor for Romney in Illinois.
"Because it looks like we will have a pretty big battle for the Republican primary across many states," Kirk said. "We're now going to have a battle in Illinois. Illinois normally had a primary that was too late. But this year I think the voice of Illinois voters is going to matter."
He argued that Illinois will matter in the race for the Republican nomination even though its primary is not until March 20. Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford says Romney's campaign is working hard in the state.
Romney donated to Kirk's campaign during his successful run for Senate last year.
Urbana's City Council gets its first chance Monday night to hear about a proposed six-story mixed use development designed to be a 'stimulus' for downtown.
Champaign architect Gary Olsen said his Metro Centre on South Vine Street would use a retro style of development, and compliment buildings like the Champaign County Courthouse. The development would include condominiums, commercial retail, restaurants, as well as parking space. A second building to its east would consist of townhouses.
Olsen said he is open to ideas for businesses the public wants to see in Urbana.
"We're encouraging anyone in the Champaign County area who has a wonderful boutique they love in Chicago, or a sports place that they have found in Indianapolis they would like to replicate here," he said. "We're not just looking for restaurants, we're looking for a lot of commercial retail use of the first-floor level."
Olsen responded to a request for proposal from the city, after it purchased property on the square block across from the federal courthouse downtown. Urbana holds a lease on the Goodyear Tire shop on South Vine, and will negotiate to relocate that business.
There is no action expected at Monday's initial presentation, but Olsen hopes construction can completed by 2014, which would coincide with Lincoln Square Village's 50th anniversary.
The Urbana City Council meets at 7 p.m. Monday at the city building.
Illinois authorities investigating the deaths of a family in the small farming community of Emington say the mother shot her three children and live-in boyfriend before killing herself.
The murder-suicide Friday afternoon claimed the lives of 30-year-old Sara McMeen, 29-year-old Daniel Warren and McMeen's three children: 8-year-old Skyler Lemke, 7-year-old Ian Lemke and 10-month-old Maggie Warren.
Authorities previously declined to identify the shooter, although a neighbor told The Associated Press she saw McMeen shoot her baby in the family's backyard.
Livingston County Sheriff Martin Meredith said Monday that authorities found McMeen and the three children outside the home and Daniel Warren inside. Autopsy results show all five died of gunshot wounds.
Authorities are looking for anyone who spoke to McMeen or Daniel Warren before the shootings.
The Vermilion County Coroner has identified the man who was fatally shot Sunday night at a Danville public housing complex as 25-year old Latrell Smith.
Doug Miller, deputy director of Danville police, said a resident of an apartment in the Fair Oaks public housing complex arrived at 6 p.m. Sunday, finding the victim with a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at Provena United Samaritans Medical Center.
Miller says the man who found Smith lives at that apartment, but is not a relative of his. It wasn't immediately clear if Smith lived at that apartment. Miller says detectives are talking to relatives and anyone else who knew Smith in hopes of finding out what happened.
An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday morning.
A judge says Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White must face trial on criminal charges including voter fraud that could lead to his removal from office.
Hamilton Superior Court Judge Steven Nation on Monday spurned White's motion to dismiss the seven felony counts. His ruling says an Indiana Recount Commission ruling upholding White's 2010 election has no bearing on the court case and there's no legal authority limiting a prosecution of White.
The Republican won election despite accusations he lied about where he lived in the 2010 primary so he could continue collecting his salary from the Fishers Town Council. A Marion County judge is expected to rule soon on a civil lawsuit by Democrats that seeks to have White declared ineligible for office because he allegedly committed voter fraud.
Fans of the U of I women's volleyball team came to Willard Airport Sunday to welcome the team back home, the day after their NCAA national title loss to UCLA on Saturday.
That loss capped a year in which the Illini team had the most wins since 1992, their first NCAA semifinal appearance since 1988, and their first championship game ever. A tired Michelle Bartsch couldn't pick a particular moment of the season that stood out for her. But Bartsch, who was named to the All-Tournament Team along with fellow Illini players Colleen Ward and Annie Luhrsen, says she remembers when she first realized she was on a team ready to compete for the championship. Bartsch says she knew it last January, when they first started training for the season.
"I switched positions", explains Bartsch. "We had people filling different roles. And I know that we had a team that could go really far. And with our freshmen coming in, it kind of solidified. Our freshmen are awesome, and they make us better every day in practice."
Coach Kevin Hambly agrees, saying that they had a great recruiting class with a lot of talent this season, and players who came expecting to compete for the national championship.
But if the players were charges up, so were the fans. Hambly says their response this season has been overwhelming.
"We sold out more matches this year than we have in the past", says Hambly. "And our attendance went way up. But what I think more important was just the amount of support from the community just walking around town, and the amount of emails and calls and everything. It's been overwhelming."
As for Michelle Bartsch, she plans to take the spring semester off to play volleyball professionally. But Hambly says the senior will be back at Illinois in the fall as part of the coaching staff.
Illinois's first trip to the NCAA finals in women's volleyball ended in defeat Saturday night. The UCLA Bruins won the match in four sets (25-23, 23-25, 26-24, 25-16) at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Coach Kevin Hambly says the Bruins played hard, and made the plays they needed to make at key moments, especially in the fourth and deciding set.
As for his own team, Hambly said, "I've never been around a group of people that were more committed to each other, more committed to the process, and more committed to just being, not just great volleyball players, but great people. It's truly been a pleasure to work with this group."
It was the final game for senior Colleen Ward, who earned First Team All-American honors earlier in the week. Afterwards, an emotional Ward fought back tears as she looked back on her time with the Illini.
"I couldn't have picked a better team, better coaches, betters support from my fans", said Ward. "I'm really thankful for what we had here and what we accomplished this year. I'm really proud of my team."
Illinois won the 2nd set by two points, and lost the 3rd by two points. Ward said it was difficult coming out of that close third-set loss into the final set. Michelle Bartsch had seven kills in the first set and seven more in the third, en route to a match high 22 kills on the night. Rachel Kidder had a team high 20 kills for the Bruins. Illinois finished the season with a record of 32-5.
The Illini's Ward, Bartsch and junior setter Annie Luhrsen were named to the All-Tournament Team. Luhrsen had 47 assists and six kills.
A fan welcome reception was planned for Sunday for the Illini volleyball team at Flightstar at Willard Airport --- the team was expected to return around 12:15 PM.
Unlike other schools, The Fighting Illini volleyball team can boast that most of its players come from Illinois.
For example, Penn State won four straight national championships before this year. But that's largely due its recruiting beyond the border of Pennsylvania.
Heading into Saturday night's title match, Fighting Illini coach Kevin Hambly doesn't feel he needs to go too far to lure high-quality volleyball players.
"We're fortunate that the University of Illinois is close proximity to some very good recruiting bases," he said. "Ohio, the Chicago area, the St. Louis area, and Indianapolis. Most kids, especially with the nature of how early recruiting is going, want to stay closer to home."
Illinois will take on UCLA at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The Fighting Illini are attempting to win their first national title in women's volleyball.
Authorities say they are not searching for a suspect in the deaths of five people found in a home small eastern Illinois town.
Livingston County Sheriff Martin Meredith says first responders found the five people dead in Emington after dispatchers received a call Friday afternoon. Meredith says residents are "safe from any harm'' and authorities are "not looking for anyone in this crime.''
The sheriff said Coroner Michael Burke would release the names of the victims once relatives are notified.
Livingston County board member Bob Young says a man, woman and three children were found dead. He says the children include an infant, a first-grader and a fourth-grader.
A neighbor says he heard two rounds of gunshots before another neighbor called police. Ronald Groetsema lives a street away from the Livingston County home. He says he heard six to eight gunshots on Friday afternoon.
Groetsema says about three minutes passed before he heard another four to six gunshots. He says he saw first responders and a woman's body with children.
Groetsema says the children got off the school bus with his son. He says the children were excited because it was the last day of school before Christmas. His wife Tricia says the children were "sweet little kids.
With Illinois' new congressional map now intact, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois says Republicans from around Chicago will have the most trouble in next year's elections.
On Thursday, a 3-judge appeals panel threw out a suit filed by the GOP over a new map of congressional boundaries drawn by Democrats. Brian Gaines says the map was specifically rough on Republicans, but he said the party had to know the chances of having it thrown out were slim. The federal judges agreed that it was a blatant political move, but added that it wasn't illegal.
Gaines says Republican Congressman Tim Johnson of Urbana could have some problems in 13th district, where he's running this spring, since much if it is unfamiliar territory. But Gaines says Johnson, incumbent John Shimkus, and other downstate Republicans should not be the party's concern with March's primary approaching.
"The Republicans that lose their seats will the be Republican members in the (Chicago) suburbs who were newly elected last time, and have been drawn either together, so that after the primary only one of them will be left standing, or their residences were put into districts that were pretty tough for the general election."
But Gaines says even if the GOP wins the presidency, there's a good chance the party won't hold the 11 to 8 seat advantage it has in Illinois. As a result of the lawsuit, the filing period was pushed back to late this month. But Gaines says it's likely too late for newcomers to get involved.
"You never know if there's someone capabable of self-financing - someone sitting on a couple million dollars who's restless," he said. "But other than an extremely wealty candidate who can self-finance all the way, it's awfully late to be appearing now."
The filing period for the March 20th primary for Congress in Illinois is December 23rd through the 27th.
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