Illinois Public Media News
A growing number of U.S. colleges and universities, including the University of Illinois, have arrangements with banks, providing student ID’s that also function as debit cards. Earlier this year, a consumer group cited concerns with some of them, and now members of Congress are raising their own questions.
It's easy to be swayed to turn to fast and affordable food that may not be healthy. But in Urbana, there’s a push to teach people the basics of healthy cooking on a budget.
At Urbana High School, Amanda Perez teaches an independent living class that aims to prepare teenagers as they enter the “real world.”
“So, we’re preparing students to live on their own,” Perez explained. “So, a lot of that is focused on the financial career aspect, but what goes into that is, ‘Ok, you’re living on your own. What kind of food are you going to eat because the kind of food that you eat kind of influences everything else you do?’"
Perez is working with teenagers to help them think about think about food differently. Students in the class are required to prepare a healthy meal on a budget with ingredients that meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new dietary recommendations.
Illinois' first Auditor General has died. Robert Cronson was 87 years old when he passed away earlier this week at St. John's Hospital in Springfield.
The uditor General position was created when the state's Constitution was redrafted, in 1970.
It was an outgrowth of a scandal from the '50s. Then, Illinois had an elected, statewide Auditor of Public Accounts, a position held by Orville Hodge.
"He made off with a couple of million dollars," said current Auditor General Bill Holland. "And back that that was a lot of money. That's a lot of money today."
Holland, who is only the second man chosen by the legislature for the position, has been in office for 20 years. Before him, there was only Cronson, who was appointed Auditor General in 1974.
Holland credits Cronson with setting a standard of professionalism for the office.
"My work, over the last 20 years, has in large part, built upon the early years in which the office was first being organized," Holland said.
In a 1975 edition of the "Illinois Issues" magazine, Cronson identified himself as "bipartisan."
In the published interview, Cronson said policy wasn't his purview. He called the Auditor General's office a "fact-finding agency." He is quoted saying "It is our job to make these audits and operational reviews and investigations, and then report the facts to the legislature."
The Auditor General is responsible with monitoring state spending, and checking to see that agencies comply with federal and state laws and regulations.
A memorial service is scheduled for Sunday, July 8 from 5 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. at the Kirlin, Egan and Butler Funeral Home in Springfield, with a eulogy set for 7 p.m.
The office of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., said Thursday that the Chicago Democrat's medical condition is more serious than staff initially thought or believed.
"Recently, we have been made aware that he has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time," an emailed statement said.
It said Jackson is being evaluated and treated at an in-patient medical facility, and his doctors believe he will be there for an extended period of time, followed by outpatient treatment.
"We ask that you keep Congressman Jackson and his family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult period," the statement concluded.
This is the first update on Jackson's health in over a week, when his staff said he was on medical leave and being treated for "exhaustion."
The once-rising Democratic star has faced accusations that he signed off on a pay-to-play offer aimed at winning a U.S. Senate appointment from ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Jackson has never been charged and has denied wrongdoing, though the House Ethics Committee is investigating.
In addition, the congressman acknowledged a private marital issue.
Long known for a near-perfect voting record in the U.S. House, Jackson has missed more than 70 straight votes.
Meantime, Jackson's Republican opponent in the November election said the public deserves to know more about the congressman's health.
"My heart goes out to him - keep him in our thoughts and prayers for a good, quick recovery," Brian Woodworth said Thursday.
But on the other hand, Woodworth said, Jackson's office is not being specific enough.
"Somebody who had a stroke like Senator Kirk - it's assumed he's going to be out for a long time. Somebody who's having hernia surgery, you're going to be out for a couple days," Woodworth said. "So, for the public to understand what's going on with the representative, I think there's an obligation to be more open. And that's all I'm saying."
The Second Congressional District, which stretches from Chicago's South Side to past Kankakee, is overwhelmingly Democratic.
The Champaign County Board of Review - the three-member panel that hears appeals of property tax assessments in the county - now has two new members.
The Champaign County Board voted last month to appoint Democrat Elizabeth Patton and Republican Steve Whitsitt to 2-year terms on the Board of Review - replacing Wayne Williams and Steve Bantz. The third board member, Democrat Laura Sandefur, is in the middle of her term, which ends next year.
The vote came after some county board members noted complaints about Board of Review performance from several areas, including the public, other county officials, and the state panel that hears appeals on Board of Review rulings.
Urbana Democrat Christopher Alix voted for the changes on the Board of Review ... and says he hopes the new lineup will improve its performance.
Restaurant owners had several months to prepare for the new restriction. The smoking ban become law in March, but it didn't go until affect until the start of this month.
Businesses covered by the policy must remove all ashtrays and post signs stating that smoking is prohibited within 8 feet of an entrance.
Liz Hammer works as a waitress at Benjamin's Restaurant in Covington, and she said business has not been hurt by the ban.
"We've only had two people that have even asked us if we still have smoking," Hammer said. "You know, like most people already know it, and the ones that have we just told them that it's gone statewide and we've had absolutely no problems."
Susan Smith runs the Duck's Diner in West Lebanon. She said she began preparing for the transition about three months ago by creating smoking and non-smoking dining areas.
"I lost, I think, two customers when I separated the two because there were two customers who didn't want to go to back, but in turn, I gained customers because I have a non-smoking dining room," Smith said.
Now, Smith said she hasn't seen a drop in business since the smoking ban started up.
Unlike Illinois where you can't smoke in a public place, in Indiana smoking is still allowed at bars, casinos, horse-racing facilities, retail tobacco shops and private clubs.
Backers of the measure say they want to see the law become more restrictive, while critics argue that it should be up to business owners to allow smoking.
U.S. employers added only 80,000 jobs in June, a third straight month of weak hiring that shows the economy is still struggling three years after the recession ended.
The unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.2 percent, the Labor Department said Friday.
The economy added an average of just 75,000 jobs a month in the April-June quarter - one-third of the pace in the first quarter.
For the first six months of 2012, employers added an average of 150,000 jobs a month. That's fewer than the 161,000 average for the first half of 2011.
Weaker job creation has caused consumers to pull back on spending.
Europe's debt crisis is also weighing on U.S. exports. And the scheduled expiration of tax cuts at year's end has increased uncertainty for U.S. companies, making many hesitant to hire.
Job creation is the fuel for the nation's economic growth. When more people have jobs, more consumers have money to spend - and consumer spending drives about 70 of the economy.
The woman who served as the chief of staff to former University of Illinois President Michael Hogan has agreed to leave the university.
According to an email sent out by the university, Lisa Troyer has resigned her tenured faculty appointment in the Department of Psychology on the Urbana campus of the University effective Aug. 15, 2012.
The U of I has announced Troyer will get $175-thousand as part of a separation agreement.
In January, Troyer stepped down from the chief of staff post amid an investigation into anonymous e-mails traced to her computer. They were sent to faculty, intended to sway opposition to an enrollment management plan backed by Hogan.
Troyer issued a statement through an attorney: "I have always stated that I did not send any anonymous e-mails, and the Investigation Report never concluded that I did."
U of I Senates Conference Vice Chair Nick Burbules says it's best for all involved to move on.
This is, I think, a very reasonable level of compensation," he said. "It was negotiated, of course, as these things are. But for me it isn't about the money. It's about closing the books on this controversy, and moving forward for all parties concerned. And I think it's the best outcome."
University spokesman Tom Hardy said it will not initiate any disciplinary process against Troyer, saying that the resolution was the result of a mediation conference agreed upon by both sides. Troyer earned $109-thousand as a faculty member.
In March, Hogan resigned over faculty and student criticism of his management style.
Robert Easter took over as U of I president Monday. Burbules says he's very optimistic about his tenure.
Lake Decatur water levels are about a foot below where the city would like them to be for this time of year.
Given the 10-day outlook for precipitation, Water Management Director Keith Alexander says it's more likely Decatur will again seek voluntary conservation measures, like it did late last summer.
The city had to enforce mandatory restrictions on use by October through most of December.
Alexander says there are plenty of things residents can do to cut down on water use.
"Not only does it help us out with conservation measures, but saves them dollars as well," he said. "Less water use means a lower water bill."
On any given day, Alexander says 75-percent of the city's water goes to commercial and industrial customers. Last year, the city asked restaurants to stop serving glasses of water, unless a patron asked for one.
"Reduce or eliminate all your outside landscape watering that you can possibly do," Alexander said. "Another thing to do would be to consider not doing any new landscape plantings this summer because it's going to be tough keeping those plants alive."
State climatologist Jim Angel says Decatur Airport registered .75 inches of rainfall in June, when normal precipitation for the month is 4.50 a half inches.
The mayor of Champaign was part of a group that met in Chicago Tuesday with Gov. Pat Quinn --- asking him to veto a plastic bag recycling bill.
The measure (Senate Bill 3442) requires businesses that use plastic bags and plastic wrap to participate in a statewide recycling program. But it also bars home rule communities from setting up their own, stricter, rules --- like a ban or fee which the Champaign City Council is considering. Champaign Mayor Don Gerard said he doesn't see why the bill has to limit the role of local governments.
"In other municipalities around the country, they have done these exact same kind of bills," he said. "Only now, coincidentally, ours has a little caveat that we can't impose fees or bans or have our own ordinances; that they take away our home-rule authority and give the power to the State. I don't need another state program in Champaign."
But the bill's sponsor, State Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan), said the ban on local rules is so businesses won't be confused about the requirements for plastic bags and wrap throughout the state.
"These stores, like a Target, everybody wants a Target to come into their community," Link said. "Well, they want to know what rules they're playing by in those communities. So, if you do a statewide standard, they know the rules they're playing in all these areas."
The clause in Link's bill barring cities from making their own rules on plastic bags was added just days after the Champaign City Council voted to look at proposals for taxing or banning the bags at local stores. The bill passed during the final days of the spring legislative session, and has been sent to the governor.
Besides Mayor Gerard, the group opposed to the bill that met with Governor Quinn included representatives of Sierra Club Illinois, Environment Illinois, the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Chicago Recycling Coalition; Chicago Alderman John Arena, and 12-year old Abby Goldberg of Grayslake, who gathered more than 154,000 signatures against the bill in an online petition drive.
(Photo courtesy of Champaign Mayor Don Gerard)
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