Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 28, 2012

Fire Destroys West Champaign Apartment Building

Occupants of a West Champaign apartment building were safely evacuated after an early morning fire.

Champaign fire officials were called to a building at Stone Gate Village Apartments at 2403 West Springfield Avenue just before 4 a.m., after numerous reports of flames seen from the 3-story wood-framed structure.

As many as 14 fire apparatus and command cars were on the scene for several hours, applying water to smoldering areas as late as 9:30 a.m., and fire investigators remained on the scene around noon Wednesday.

Building owners will relocate all residents to other apartments. Damage is estimated at $1-million.

There's no word on the cause of the fire.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 28, 2012

Illinois Names New Women’s Basketball Coach

Illinois has named University of Wisconsin-Green Bay's Matt Bollant as its new women's basketball coach.

Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas announced Bollant's hiring Wednesday morning. Thomas said Bollant has a proven track record and the type of experience that will help him duplicate that success in Champaign.

Bollant said he cannot guarantee instant success, but he said the effort will eventually pay off.

"I will promise you this," Bollant said. "You're going to have a head coach that will be in the community. You'll have a head coach that works his tail off to make this great. I'm going to get up every morning and come to work. Find a job that you love, and you'll never have to work a day in your life. That's what I feel like I have. And our players are going to learn to play hard. As talented as they are, when they give as much effort as they can give, good things will happen. And everything else will take care of itself."

Under Bollant this season, Wisconsin-Green Bay finished 31-2 and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. The 41-year-old coach was 148-19 in five seasons at Green Bay, and four of his teams made the NCAA tournament.

Bollant said he is proud of the success he has had in Green Bay, but is honored to take the Illinois job. He will make $330,000 annually plus incentives.

His Green Bay Phoenix finished 6-0 against Big Ten schools the last two seasons. But Bollant says coaching within the conference opens up new opportunities in terms of recruitment.

"If we're the 10th-ranked team in the country, which we have been the last two years, we can go after any recruit." Bollant said. "At Green Bay, we still struggle to beat out the Big Ten. We can beat them on the basketball court, but still, because of the academics, because of the campus, and all those other things, it was a challenge."

Bollant replaces Jolette Law, who was fired at the end of the season. Law was 69-93 in five seasons with the Illini.

(Photo courtesy of The Associated Press)

Categories: Education, Sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2012

UI Enrollment Management Will Continue Without Hogan

University of Illinois President Michael Hogan steps down in three months, but faculty leaders say a revised document central to his departure will have life.

University Senates Conference Chair and U of I Chicago biology professor Don Chambers says the university's individual campus Senates and president-designate Robert Easter need time to review changes to an enrollment management plan. Many faculty members sparred with Hogan over the original proposal.

But the 3-campus Senates Conference has signed off on the plan, one Chambers thinks all parties will agree to.

"I think it will come back to university administration and I think that Bob Easter - whose appointment I applaud - will embrace it, or will learn what embracing it means," Chambers said. "And I think we'll go on from there."

U of I Senates Conference Vice Chair Nick Burbules says the new report eliminates the most controversial points - including a branding idea that would have established the U of I as a single entity, and not a 3-campus system.

"A degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana is not the same thing as a degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield or Chicago," Burbules said. "Each school has its own strengths and its own missions, and we felt that the danger of an overall branding would be to erase or minimize some of those distinctions, which particularly matters, I think, to this (Urbana) campus."

Burbules says he's also happy that the plan will no longer have an executive director overseeing enrollment on all three campuses.

Chambers says it's 'sad' that it took about six months after Hogan's initial report to revise the enrollment plan.

Easter will take over as president in July, when Hogan leaves the office to become a tenured faculty member in the U of I's history department.

Categories: Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2012

Indiana Lottery Watching Illinois’ Online Sales

Indiana lottery officials are keeping their eye on an Illinois effort to sell lottery tickets online.

The Hoosier Lottery hasn't started formally looking at online sales. But spokesman Al Larsen tells The Journal Gazette ( ) that they'll consider it depending on how the program in Illinois works out.

Illinois began online sales on Sunday of tickets for the multistate Mega Millions game and its state lottery. It's the first state to try an online program.

The system in Illinois sets up a direct deposit account for players with winnings of less than $600. Those who win more than that will receive email notification that they've won. Players will also be able to set up subscriptions for automatic wagers.

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2012

Health Care Advocacy Group: Federal Health Care Law Helping People

Claudia Lennhoff is the executive director of Champaign County Health Care Consumers.

As arguments over the constitutionality of the federal health care law continue at the Supreme Court, one local supporter of the law is pointing out its benefits. The group Champaign County Health Care Consumers said even though the law has not been fully implemented, it's already helping the people they serve. Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows spoke with Health Care Consumers executive director Claudia Lennhoff. She had supported a single payer healthcare system, but Lennhoff said the law now in place goes a long way towards improving healthcare coverage in America.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2012

Ill. Panel Asks Feds for Info on Arrested Lawmaker

A special committee of the Illinois House began investigating Representative Derrick Smith today. He was arrested two weeks ago on federal bribery charges. The hearing is one of the first steps in a long process that could lead to Smith being expelled from the House.

The committee's first meeting was mostly organizational. Its next step is asking federal prosecutors for more information on the charges against Smith. The Chicago Democrat is accused of accepting $7,000 in cash from a daycare in exchange for writing a letter supporting its grant application.

Specifically, the six representatives on the investigative panel want a copy of the letter and a list of witnesses. But even if federal prosecutors say no, legislators say they have enough to continue. State Rep. Dennis Reboletti, of Elmhurst, is the committee's ranking Republican.

"Rep. Smith has not been in session since the allegations," Reboletti said. "There are constituents who are going to be calling his office (and) may need other support, and so these are things we're going to have to take a look at. I think there's going to be things outside the four corners of that petition that we'll be able to take into evidence and consider but right now I have made no presumption either way."

A lawyer for the committee said he notified Smith of the hearing, but Smith did not show up. Attempts to reach Smith by phone and e-mail were unsuccessful. The committee expects to hear from federal prosecutors in time to meet the week of April 9.

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2012

Holderfield: Possible Legal Challenge to Election Result

Republican Champaign County Circuit Clerk candidate Stephanie Holderfield said on Monday she doesn't want to file a lawsuit against the county's clerk's office after coming in second to a candidate who had dropped out of the primary race. But in a letter sent to County Clerk Gordy Hulten, Holderfield's attorney indicates a complaint may be filed with the circuit court to resolve the matter.

In a letter dated on March 22, attorney Mark Hewitt cites a recent legislative contest in which former State Rep. Roger Eddy withdrew his candidacy after ballots were printed. Hewitt said notices were posted in polling places telling voters that votes for Eddy were not counted. He said Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten should have followed the same procedure in Winkel's case.

"We do not understand why Mr. Hulten did not do the same," Hewitt wrote. "We hope to get this resolved very soon because if not, we will be forced to file a Petition of State Election Contest before the end of the month with the circuit court."

In cases where a candidate drops out of a race, the Illinois State Board of Elections has said votes for that candidate should be ignored. That recommendation is binding for state races, but only advisory on local elections.

Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said counting votes for Holderfield's opponent, Rick Winkel, was the right thing to do since Winkel dropped out the race after overseas ballots were sent out.

"I don't have any disagreements with Ms. Holderfield. This is a disagreement about what the law says and how the law should be applied here," Hulten said. "I think it's wise to remember that voters have rights here, too. And 8,133 voters voted for Rick Winkel. I don't think any of us want to get into a situation where an election authority just has the discretion to just ignore 8,133 votes."

Winkel has said he will formally withdraw as a candidate after the ballots are certified.

When asked Tuesday morning if she would file a legal challenge to the March 20 election result, Hodlerfield said "all options are on the table."

"And they will remain there until I have secured enough of the precinct committeemen votes to feel like I can walk into that room and know that I will win," Holderfield said. "It's that simple."

Republican Party precinct committeemen will determine a nominee on April 12.

"Our top priority is that we conduct an open and fair process to nominate a candidate for Circuit Clerk," said Champaign County Republican Central Committee Treasurer Habeeb Habeeb. "All interested Republicans who are eligible to serve as Circuit Clerk, including Stephanie Holderfield are encouraged to apply."

Holderfield said more than half of the precinct committeemen have committed to appointing her as the nominee.

On the Democratic ticket for Champaign County Circuit Clerk, Barb Wysocki won a three-way Democratic Primary by just 16 votes.

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2012

Illinois House Approves State Park Fees

A bill passed by the Illinois House would require visitors to state parks to pay admission fees.

The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. JoAnn Osmond of Antioch, who says the cash is needed to keep the parks open. Osmond says the money also could help pay to improve the parks because they've fallen into a state of disrepair.

Under the measure, Illinois would be able to charge annual fees for vehicle stickers to get into the parks and daily admission fees for pedestrians or drivers without annual passes. Park officials would set the amount of the fees.

The House approved the bill on a vote of 81-29 on Monday, so it now goes to the Illinois Senate.

A spokeswoman says Gov. Pat Quinn backs the proposal.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2012

Urbana Council Moves Ahead with Electric Aggregation

Urbana's city council is wasting no time moving ahead with municipal electric aggregation following last week's approval by voters.

Aldermen expect a second and final vote on the program next Monday after unanimously backing it in a committee of the whole meeting Monday night. It will allow the city to negotiate lower power rates by bundling together residential and small business accounts.

Through a consultant, Urbana will negotiate lower power supply rates through a chosen provider, lowering that portion of Ameren bills. With a number of aggregation referenda approved statewide, Alderman Charlie Smyth says the important thing is to keep the ball rolling.

"I think it really is a race," Smyth said. "And when you have 230 cities pursuing the same thing, we want to get there first, or close to first in terms of getting a good bid."

Consultant Mark Pruitt is working with the city to find a provider to negotiate a lower rate for the supply portion of Ameren bills. He says details of the agreement have yet to be ironed out, with length of the contract among the most important.

"Because that's going to have a real effect on the underlying price of the power that's secured," Pruitt said. "And the issue of renewable energy - how much, what price, and what type of impact that has - which is consistent with what the council has indicated through their questions."

Smyth says he hopes to see a large web-based presence from the city's provider, helping answer questions for new Urbana residents, or for those who want to opt-out of the plan. Other council concerns include how to enroll new residents, and how aggregation impacts those in Ameren's budget billing program. A hearing will precede the council's vote next week.

Champaign is expected to take up the measure soon after its voters approved the program as well.

Categories: Energy, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2012

Imprisoned Former Gov’s Home Taken Off The Market

A spokesman for Rod Blagojevich says the imprisoned former Illinois governor's family is no longer selling their Chicago home.

Glenn Selig tells WLS-TV in Chicago ( former Illinois first lady Patti Blagojevich has decided taking the house off the market is best for daughters Amy and Annie. Selig says Patti Blagojevich wants to avoid the stress of showing a house during a time already filled "with so much upheaval."

Earlier this month Rod Blagojevich started serving a 14-year sentence at a Colorado federal prison.

The house had been for sale since last year with an asking price of $1.07 million. The 13-room brick home is in Chicago's Ravenswood neighborhood.

The house was where FBI wiretaps captured Blagojevich talking. It's also from where federal agents led him away in handcuffs.

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