Illinois Public Media News
The price of a gallon of regular-grade gasoline rose to an average of $3.96.9 at the start of the week --- according to GasBuddy.com. That average had dropped by three-cents as of Tuesday, March 6. But that's still an increase of more than a quarter a gallon, according to the gas-price-tracking website.
GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan said several factors are contributing to high gas prices, including concerns about Iran, and problems with oil refinery and pipelines. DeHaan said that refinery capacity in the Great Lakes states typically shrinks this time of year, as refineries shut down for maintenance, in preparation for summer gas production.
"Some of it's planned --- like Citgo just disclosed that they're going to work on their plant in April," DeHaan said. "But as they restart their facilities, and tweak them for summer gasoline, we do have some unexpected issues that creep up."
The Citgo refinery is located in Lemont, west of Chicago. Other refineries in the region are located in northwest Indiana, the St. Louis/Metro East area, southern Indiana and near Toledo Ohio. DeHaan says he doesn't expect the sharp increases in gasoline prices to occur every week --- but he does think another spike is possible later this month.
GasBuddy is currently projecting nationwide gasoline prices to reach $3.75 to $4.15 a gallon by mid-May. But DeHaan said if the current round of price hikes continue, they may have to revise that projection upward.
Hundreds Attend Rally Opposing Dwight Prison Closure
Hundreds of people in northern Illinois have rallied to show their support for Dwight Correctional Center.
Ill. Rep. Candidates Brown & Roman Differ on Gambling Expansion
State Rep. Adam Brown (R-Decatur) and his GOP primary challenger, Rob Roman (R-Chrisman) agreed on most issues at a forum at the Champaign Public Library on Monday.
The Illinois Green Party's state convention drew the party faithful to Macomb March 3-4. But the Greens will need to attract many more true believers if they hope to make an impact.
Around 40 people took part in the convention in the Sandburg Theater at Western Illinois University. The empty seats far outnumbered the party members.
Nonetheless, Illinois Green Party Chair Phil Huckelberry believes most Americans have a lot more in common with the party than they might realize. He called the Greens the "majoritarian" party in the US.
"On issue after issue, we really believe that our position is in line with the majority of the general public, and neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are there," Huckelberry said.
Huckelberry said the Greens oppose handouts to big businesses, they want to see more participatory democracy, and they oppose the escalation of international conflicts.
The Green Party will not appear on ballots during the March 20 primary in Illinois. It failed to earn enough votes during the 2010 election to retain automatic ballot status. Huckelberry said the convention was used to launch a petition drive to gather 25,000 signatures to ensure the Green Party appears on ballots in the November election.
"We hit kind of a wall after 2010 when we lost established party status," Huckelberry said. "We're hoping that this meeting is really going to rev things back up."
The party chose to hold its convention in Macomb after the Campus Greens at WIU made a splash during last fall's mock election at the university.
"Having a campus organization that's a third party be one of the largest organizations on campus, and be the most involved, really drew in a lot of attention," Campus Greens President Staci Buster said.
"I think it impressed a lot of the Illinois Green Party members."
The convention featured policy discussions and the selection of delegates to the party's national convention, which will take place in Baltimore in July. The candidates for the party's presidential nomination are Dr Jill Stein and Roseanne Barr.
The Illinois Green Party also used its convention in Macomb to host seminars on sustainable foods, renewable energy, and strategies for winning local elections.
The Urbana Police Department has picked a new assistant chief of police to replace Anthony Cobb, who will become the head of the Champaign Police Department on March 12.
On Monday night, the Urbana City Council unanimously approved the appointment of Sylvia Morgan.
During her nearly 20-year tenure with Urbana police, Morgan has served as a patrol officer, a detective, and as a sergeant overseeing the street crimes unit. In her new role, she said she wants to work on improving morale within the Urbana Police Department.
"The police aren't always viewed in the best light, so that wears on police officers," Morgan said. "I think it is important and I have a good relationship now with most of the department from working with them every day. So, I think keeping up the morale of the police department would be one of the ways we could try to work well with the community as well."
Morgan is the first woman to serve as the assistant chief of police in Urbana.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
Urbana City Council Approves Naming Courthouse After Burgess
The Urbana's City Council Monday night approved a resolution to name the city's federal courthouse after Champaign County's first African-American elected official.
A new website collects thousands of free video and audio clips from public television and radio.
Illinois PBS Learning Media is meant for teachers. But anyone can sign up for an account, including parents who home-school their children. The project is a joint effort by PBS headquarters in Washington and local public broadcasting stations, both TV and radio.
Mark Leonard is president of the Illinois Public Broadcasting Council and general manager at WILL. He said the website will help teachers meet the needs of a generation raised on digital media.
"Kids today have access to everything from video games to online services, and they are conditioned to being able to learn using these kinds of tools," Leonard said. "And yet our classrooms have still relied on chalkboards and on textbooks."
The media can be organized by grade level, from kindergarten through high school. It can also be broken down by subject matter, from math and science to social studies and the arts. Seventy four teachers from more than 40 schools were part of a pilot program that started last fall.
The program is looked upon as a more streamlined way of offering this content, rather than schools doing their own web searches. Sharon Pool is director of student services at Gibson City Melvin Sibley Schools, one of more than 40 districts in a pilot program that started last fall.
"It's always tough for teachers to find good quality materials," she said. "And while they can go to YouTube and some of the other teacher resources, a lot of those aren't ever edited or they're not evaluated. And so by having a source like PBS where they can go directly to those, knowing it's a quality digital library that has been approved, it really is a great benefit."
University of Illinois Assistant Dean of Learning Technologies Evangeline Pianfetti commissioned the pilot study. She said the next steps include following up with those teachers, and finding where the lessons are most effective. Pianfetti said some students are using it to train for the Illinois Standard Achievement Test.
"That's where a lot of the teachers would like to be able to use these tools because of the engagement and how you could look at it," she said. "How the students could at concepts, and use the media to support these concepts. Specifically, there were a lot of science-related and math-related resources that were heavily used."
Pianfetti said there's a wealth of information within this program, but teachers are able to pick and choose at what volume they wish to use it. She said early feedback from teachers should help expand the use of PBS Learning Media's resources.
The Champaign school board plans to issue $14.5 million in bonds for building upgrades and a new transportation facility. The bonds would be paid back over the next 20 years by increased property taxes. But a local citizens group says the voters should have a say on the matter.
Champaign County Board candidate Don Kermath is organizing a petition drive to put the bond question on the ballot. He says the type of bonds Unit Four wants to issue --- working cash bonds --- ought to be used to fill short-term gaps in operational funding --- not for building projects.
"Now it has blown into this fund where you can supersede the will of the people, and exceed normal spending limits by using the working cash funds bonds" says Kermath. "And that's where I think we are putting our schools at financial risk."
Kermath says the financial risk exists, because Unit Four would have to pay the bonds back at a time when state funding for education is in danger of falling even further behind.
Kermath, a Republican, was joined at a Champaign news conference Monday by Democratic County Board member Pattsi Petrie and Champaign County Libertarian Party Chair Dianna Visek.
Visek criticized the Unit Four school board for using working cash bonds, which can be passed without voter input, unless voters collect petition signatures within a 30-day window.
"This issue should be put to the voters in a referendum", says Visek. "And the school board, because they don't want to spend the time and effort having to conduct a referendum, has decided to use this 'backdoor referendum' to not have to talk to the voters. That is not fair."
Unit Four spokesperson Lyn Peisker responded to the group's concerns about further delays in state funding. She says Unit Four is managing its finances so it can pay its own way if state funding gets worse. She says the district has used working cash bonds for capital projects before, and recently paid off such bonds issued in 2006.
Peisker says the district will use the 20-year bonds to pay for wireless technology upgrades at Unit Four buildings, new geothermal systems to keep classrooms cool at the middle schools, and construction of a new transportation facility. Plans to have the bonds also pay for new laptop computers for students have been dropped.
Kermath's group will have to collect over 5,913 signatures by the end of March to put the Unit Four bond issue on the ballot. He's set up a website at AVoiceForSchools.com.
The University of Illinois' Board of Trustees met with embattled university President Michael Hogan on Monday for more than three hours.
The meeting came a week after 130 faculty members signed a letter, urging Hogan to resign. Faculty say they have lost confidence in his ability to lead the U of I, and Board of Trustees Chairman Chris Kennedy said that needs to change.
"I'd say the issues around re-building that support are issues that Mike Hogan needs to play a leadership role in," Kennedy said. "That is not something that the board can do for him, but we're confident that Mike can do it for himself. Time will tell and we'll review it closely over the next few months."
Earlier this year, Hogan's former chief of staff, Lisa Troyer, resigned amid an investigation into emails sent to the Faculty Senates Conference concerning Hogan's enrollment policy. Troyer has denied sending the messages, and an investigation cleared Hogan of any wrongdoing.
Faculty members allege that Hogan pressured Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise to quell faculty opposition to the enrollment plan. Kennedy said it is critical for faculty to have mutual respect for each other.
"We needed our people to change or we needed change in our people," Kennedy said. "We are as trustees committed to the notion of shared governance of a collaborative atmosphere, and we want all the faculty to understand that they have an important role in the leadership of the university, and we're convinced that over the next month or two that we'll see specific evidence of the president's leadership along those lines."
The Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet on the Urbana campus on March 15. Meanwhile, President Hogan is scheduled to release a revised version of his enrollment management plan later this month.
(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
In a move that surprised City Hall and organizers, the White House abruptly announced Monday that the G-8 summit of world leaders would not be coming to Chicago in May, and will instead convene at Camp David in Maryland.
A meeting of some 50 world leaders in NATO, which had been scheduled to take place back-to-back with the G-8 meeting over the weekend of May 19-21, will go ahead as scheduled.
In a statement, the White House gave no clear reason for moving the G-8 meeting.
"In May, the United States looks forward to hosting the G-8 and NATO Summits," the statement reads. "To facilitate a free-flowing discussion with our close G-8 partners, the President is inviting his fellow G-8 leaders to Camp David on May 18-19 for the G-8 Summit, which will address a broad range of economic, political and security issues.
"The President will then welcome NATO allies and partners to his hometown of Chicago for the NATO Summit on May 20-21, which will be the premier opportunity this year for the President to continue his efforts to strengthen NATO in order to ensure that the Atlantic Alliance remains the most successful alliance in history, while charting the way forward in Afghanistan."
Summit organizers and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration were quick to say that the White House was responsible for the decision. Emanuel's administration and the Chicago host committee that has been raising money to pay for the summits just found out about the change Monday, according to sources.
"We are taking this at face value," said host committee spokeswoman Jennifer Martinez. "What we were told is that [President Barack Obama] wants to have a more intimate setting at Camp David," adding that Mr. Obama "wants to have more intimate discussions on some political and economic concerns that are taking place in the world."
Despite the expectation that thousands of protesters would descend on Chicago during the summits, the decision to change the venue was not based on security concerns, said another source with knowledge of the situation.
"We wish President Obama and the other leaders well at the G8 meeting at Camp David and look forward to hosting the NATO Summit in Chicago," the mayor said in an emailed statement. "Hosting the NATO Summit is a tremendous opportunity to showcase Chicago to the world and the world to Chicago and we are proud to host the 50 heads of state, foreign and defense ministers from the NATO and ISAF countries in our great city May 19-21."
The White House announcement means world leaders will now discuss some of the more controversial items on their agenda - including what to do about escalating tensions over Iran's nuclear program - at a secluded, well-secured retreat, rather than in the heart of Mr. Obama's adopted hometown, just months before he runs for re-election.
Emanuel's administration and summit organizers have been touting the May summits as Chicago's opportunity on the world stage. The dual world meetings that had been set to meet at McCormick Place would have marked the first time both NATO and the G-8 have met in the same city since 1977.
But some downtown business leaders and residents have been more concerned about the potential for violent protests accompanying the summits. The left-wing magazine Adbusters, which helped inspire the Occupy movement, recently put out a call for 50,000 protesters to flock to Chicago during May. The prospect of huge demonstrations and tight security have prompted the cancellation of everything from high school proms to arts events.
Summit organizers on Monday offered no explanation as to why the G-8 meetings had been moved, but rather focused on the remaining task at hand.
"We are honored to be the first major American city to host a NATO summit and look forward to showcasing Chicago to the world," said Lori Healey, Executive Director for the Chicago Host Committee that's planning the summits. "Hosting the NATO Summit is a fantastic opportunity to shine a spotlight on Chicago as a global city and an unparalleled destination for travel, tourism, and business.
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