Illinois Public Media News
Tuesday kicks off the annual "Bike to Work Day" in Champaign-Urbana. If you don’t own a bicycle or if you have a bike that’s gathering dust, then this might be the right day to release the kickstand and take off. As part of our series on efforts in the region to increase health and wellness, Illinois Public Media’s Sean Powers recently ended a long-time hiatus from bike riding to share the stories of people in the community who are passionate about cycling.
(Funded in part by a grant from the Lumpkin Family Foundation)
Once again, registration for this weekend's Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon in Champaign-Urbana is at a new high, according to figures as of Friday morning.
Race Co-director Jan Seeley says participation in the Saturday morning marathon itself will be about the same as last year, with 2,269 long-distance runners. But she says registration for all events --- including a half marathon, and 5 and 10 K races --- had reached about 20.300. That's up by about 1,700 from last year.
Seeley says the Illinois Marathon has probably gotten as big as it can get, and still be manageable in a metro area the size of Champaign-Urbana. In fact, she says the big challenge for the organizers and volunteers is making sure people get to where they need to be for the various events.
"We've spent almost all of our brain-trust energy this year, working on ways to move people", says Seeley, who notes improvements in crowd management this year at the Health and Fitness Expo that accompanies the marathon. "And hopefully the changes that we've instituted tomorrow, on the field and up in the food area will show that we've made good changes in logistics, moving people. That's been just a huge goal of ours this year. "
The field of runners includes 43 top-flight runners, categorized as Elite Athletes. Mike Olmquist of the sports event management firm Go Far Events is working with the Elite Athletes. He says the Illinois Marathon is giving more top runners reasons for returning each year.
"Number one, is it is a flat, fast course; it's got a reputation for being fast", says Olmquist. "Number two, it's well-managed; all the bells and whistles are here; they know they're going to have well-organized, marked race. Course safety is an issue. And number three, they really enjoy the east-central Illinois hospitality. There's a good community support here, there's fans. People are very gracious here.
Some of the top contenders in the Saturday marathon include Jose Munoz of San Antonio, who won last year's marathon; Kenyan runner Kipkurui Geofry; ... and Kentuckian Peter Kemboi, who's won marathons in Mississippi, Scranton, Akron and Louisville.
The women's field includes Jackie Pirtle-Hall, who won the GO! St. Louis Marathon earlier this month.
The 4th annual Illinois Marathon kicks off Saturday morning, April 28th at 7, on a route that travels around Champaign and Urbana. But the first race is a 5-K run and walk set for Friday evening at 6:45.
Supporters of Flex-n-Gate Unionization Rally at U of I Campus
A rally protesting labor conditions at Urbana-based Flex-n-Gate --- and supporting a union's effort to organize workers there --- drew about 30 people on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Thursday.
Flex-n-Gate owner and CEO Shahid Khan is a U of I alumnus and benefactor, whose donations paid for a new addition to Huff Hall. Rally organizers gathered outside the Khan Annex to accuse the industrialist of allowing unsafe working conditions at his non-union plants --- including the Flex-n-Gate Guardian West plant in Urbana.
Stephanie Seawell of the Graduate Employees Organization told rally participants holding homemade signs that the U of I plans to give Khan its Alumni Achievement Award at next month's commencement ceremonies.
"This university, the University of Illinois, is going to give an award, a prestigious alumni award, to a man who poisons his employees, doesn't give them the right protective gear, and when they say, 'hey that isn't fair' tries to get them kicked out of the housing that they live in," Seawell said.
Members of union locals and student groups at the rally accuse Flex-n-Gate of forcing workers to handle hexavalent chromium --- widely regarded as a carcinogen --- without property safety equipment. Flex-n-Gate has stated in the past that all its facilities, including Guardian West, meet or surpass federal environmental and safety standards.
The United Auto Workers union is trying to organize at non-union Flex-n-Gate plants, including the one in Urbana. Thursday's rally at the U of I was tied to a UAW rally in New York City.
A former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson still wants to replace his former boss on the November ballot in spite of Johnson saying he shouldn't.
Dave Bender is a spokesman for former chief of staff Jerry Clarke. Bender says Clarke still hopes to replace Johnson on the ballot in the 13th Congressional District.
Johnson announced this month that he will end his re-election campaign and retire. Clarke is among a number of people who hope to replace him.
A Johnson spokesman said Thursday that the congressman believes Clarke should be excluded after suggestions were made by some Republicans that Johnson withdrew after winning the March primary to benefit Clarke. Johnson's decision means GOP county chairmen rather than voters are choosing who will run in November.
University of Illinois Trustees are expected to vote as soon as next month to close the Police Training Institute on the Urbana campus.
U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler confirms that vote could happen at the Trustees' May 31st meeting in Chicago.
She says funding sources have run dry, and legislators have had no success finding a new one.
Illinois House member Chapin Rose of Mahomet, Champaign Democratic Senator Mike Frerichs, and Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing are among those who have been seeking a funding solution to keep PTI open.
Kaler says without the funds, the state's Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board will refuse to certify the courses.
"So without a funding source, or the ability to have our courses certified, it's really appropriate at this point to announce the closure," she said.
But Prussing cites another reason.
"The head (executive director) of the standards board, Kevin McClain, wants to open an academy that he can be in charge of at Western Illinois University," she said. "And Western (its facility) can't open as long as the University of Illinois (PTI) is open because the students will go to the U of I because they like it better and it's much more accessible."
Prussing, a member of the Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, says it makes no sense given Illinois' financial woes and the fact some cities can't afford to hire police officers.
She notes that two recent PTI courses, including one with 55 applicants, were cancelled as part of McClain's efforts to 'undermine' the U of I.
McClain didn't return a phone call seeking comment.
Convicted former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White is losing his law license.
The Indiana Supreme Court issued an order Wednesday suspending White's law license on an interim basis effective May 10th because of his convictions earlier this year on six felonies including vote fraud, perjury and theft. The charges stem from using his ex-wife's address as his voting address when he was serving on the Fishers Town Council and running for secretary of state in 2010.
White was sentenced Feb. 23 to one year of home detention. He has said he plans to appeal his convictions, which also cost him his elected office.
An email message seeking comment was sent to White.
U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson says a former chief of staff shouldn't replace him on the November ballot after some questioned whether Johnson's planned retirement was engineered to benefit him.
Jerry Clarke is among a number of Republicans who say they would like to replace Johnson. The longtime congressman announced earlier this month that he will end his re-election campaign and retire.
Johnson said in a statement Thursday that none of his former staff members should be considered.
Spokesman Phil Bloomer said that includes Clarke. Bloomer said Johnson issued the statement because of suggestions made by some Republicans that Johnson withdrew after winning the primary to benefit Clarke. His decision means GOP county chairmen rather than voters are choosing who will run in November.
Clarke did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
(Reported by Pam Dempsey of CU-CitizenAccess)
The second property manager of the Cherry Orchard Village Apartments has been arrested. An extradition hearing is scheduled next week for Bernard Ramos, who was arrested in Washington D.C. by the Metropolitan Police Department on April 10.
A civil contempt warrant had been issued for Bernard, as well as his father, Eduardo Ramos, by a Champaign County judge. The two failed to appear to a schedule court hearing last year in connection with problems at Cherry Orchard. The property, which is located near Rantoul, was closed by health officials for a broken septic system.
Bernard refused extradition and was released on a $5,000 cash bond and is due back in a D.C. court Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Eduardo Ramos was in Champaign County Court on Thursday. At a hearing last month following his arrest in February, a Champaign County judge gave him permission to return to D.C. for medical care. Thursday's hearing was continued until June and Eduardo Ramos was again given permission to return to D.C.
Cherry Orchard typically houses migrant workers in the summer. It remains closed.
Champaign County State's Attorney Joel Fletcher said that the county continues to seek better security of the property. He said there is evidence of ongoing activity there.
In March, county health officials investigated reports of people living on the property and removing boards from windows off of one of the buildings. Health officials replaced the boards and posted a more permanent sign warning people away.
"Our main goal is that nobody lives in the property until the septic is fixed," said Julie Pryde, the administrator for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
Indicted State Representative Derrick Smith was a no-show Thursday at a meeting of a special House committee investigating his conduct.
But legislators are requesting he make an appearance next time.
Legislators on the bipartisan investigative committee had asked the U.S. Attorney for more information about the circumstances leading to Smith's arrest.
He's accused of taking a $7,000 bribe in exchange for writing a letter of recommendation for a preschool.
Prosecutors refused, and said it could jeopardize the case if the committee investigated on its own.
With one exception, legislators are free to interview Smith.
The committee is sending a letter to Smith and his attorneys asking he come before it.
"We are dedicated to obtaining as much information as we possibly can before we come to a conclusion, and we owe that I think to the charge that's been given us," said committee chair Elaine Nekritz, a Democrat from Northbrook. "We owe this to the public and we certainly owe that to Representative Smith."
Otherwise, Nekritz says the committee members hands are "significantly tied" by the criminal proceedings.
Vic Henderson is Smith's attorney, and he's strongly hinting he'll argue the government entrapped his client.
"They manufactured documents, created fictitious website venues and things of that nature," Henderson said.
The legislative panel is waiting to set its next hearing until after Smith's arraignment on Monday. He's expected to plead not guilty.
Illinois State students are on notice: campus police are about to get tough - on jaywalking.
The Pantagraph newspaper in Bloomington reports (http://bit.ly/IeVgz1) that more than 30 percent of the people who took a recent campus survey said jaywalking is a serious problem. And police are taking it seriously.
ISU Police Chief Aaron Woodruff says fliers warning students are being handed out this week. Next week jaywalkers will get tickets and have to pay fines.
In the same survey more than a quarter of the respondents said drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks are a big problem, as well. The chief says those drivers will be getting tickets, too.
Of the 1,500 traffic accidents in Normal in 2011, 17 involved pedestrians.
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