Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 19, 2012

Champaign Resident Remembers Kindertransport

One of the lesser known stories about the Holocaust is what is known as the Kindertransport - rescue missions that brought thousands of mostly Jewish children from Nazi-controlled territories in the months leading up to World War II. One of those children was Champaign resident, Heini Halberstam. He was born in Czechoslovakia, and separated from his mother during the Nazi occupation. He believes she died in a labor camp. Halberstam said that changed his life forever. He tells Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers about his experiences on the Kindertransport.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

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Categories: Biography, History
Tags: history, people

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 18, 2012

Danville Aldermen Differ on Downtown Promotion

Danville has a new city budget for the next fiscal year, but not before alderman disagreed Tuesday on how best to promote the downtown area.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer wanted to eliminate funding for Downtown Danville Inc, which ended up receiving $20-thousand, $10-thousand less than it's currently getting from the city.

Alderman Bill Black voted against the move. He says that group appears to be repeating what's being done by the Danville Convention and Visitor's bureau, and particularly, Vermilion Advantage.

"They have a proven track record, they've been around, and I just think the days are over when you can afford a duplication, or sometimes a triplication of effort, " Black said. "It's not against Downtown Danville, or the people on the board, they're fine people. But I just thought in these days of tight budgets, you need to put your money where you get the best return for your dollars."

Black says he disagrees with taking the money to lure business out of the city's general liability line item.

Alderman Rickey Williams Jr. supported the funding for Downtown Danville Inc., saying the focus of Vermilion Advantage should remain on the greater Vermilion County area. But Williams says he considers the vote a victory, since Mayor Eisenhauer wanted to zero-out funding for the group.

"Downtown Danville has struggled for years, and I feel like they're finally starting to have those type resurges that we need in terms of the services offered, in terms of having a little more retail and such downtown," Williams said. "And I think that it's imperative if we want that area to continue to grow, that we support them as a city."

Williams serves on the board of Vermilion Advantage, but says it's focused instead on development in greater Vermilion County.

That group received $70-thousand from the city Tuesday, $20-thousand more that it's currently getting, after a year that's seen retail developments, including new Meijer and Kohl's stores that are underway.

The Danville city budget passed Tuesday on a 10 to 2 vote.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 18, 2012

Illinois Senators Scrutinize Prison Cuts, Funding to Ceasefire

An Illinois Senate Appropriations Committee questioned the closing of two state prisons and other program cuts proposed by the Illinois Department of Corrections at a time of prison overcrowding.

The IDOC is looking to reduce costs as its proposed $1.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2013 is $112 million less, or 9.2 percent, than this year.

IDOC director Salvador "Tony" Godinez defended the cuts given the department's shrinking budget.

"Obviously, this budget request reflects the reality of the economic situation we're facing here in the State of Illinois. This budget request contains many difficult choices that must be made given our overall fiscal climate," Godinez said Tuesday. "There's absolutely no area of area of our agency that is not going to be impacted."

The IDOC, as directed by Gov. Pat Quinn, is looking to close by August two state prisons: the Tamms Super Max facility in southern Illinois and the Dwight Correctional Center in central Illinois.

Combined, closing the facility will save the department nearly $60 million but cause the layoff of 800 employees.

The IDOC is also proposing to eliminate six adult transition centers.

Some senators expressed concerned about the closing of Tamms, since it houses 181 of what the state considers its most dangerous inmates.

State Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, wondered if it would be better to reduce the pay of IDOC employees but keep the facilities running.

"Would it make more sense for taxpayers and those that are operating facility to have the facilities stay open and perhaps have a reduction of pay so that a larger number of people can keep their job?" Murphy asked. "I assume the 800 people would probably rather take a pay cut and stay rather than lose the job. And for the benefit of the taxpayer, keeping more facilities, since we do still have an overcrowding situation. "

As IDOC considers the cuts, Murphy questioned the agency's proposed spending of $4.4 million to fund Chicago's Ceasefire program that aims to reduce violence in urban neighborhoods.

But Murphy and fellow State Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), also on the committee, questioned the effectiveness of Ceasefire.

"Seeing homicides up 60 percent in [Chicago], it's a reasonable conclusion that ... the program needs to justify itself," Murphy said.

Trotter said of the Ceasefire program, administered through the University of Illinois Chicago, "They have good P.R."

Godinez said Ceasefire is a nationally-based program that's well accepted across the nation.

"It services many communities in Illinois. Every corner of the state has Ceasefire programs in place," Godinez said.

Murphy also wondered if Quinn will reinstitute the Meritorious Good Time (MGT) program that he suspended in 2009.

The program allowed some non-violent offenders to be released early from the sentence.

It was suspended by Quinn after questions arose on whether some prisoners were being given good time credit but not earning it.

Some see it as an effective way of reducing the state's prison population and reducing costs.

Just last week, Quinn's deputy chief of staff Toni Irving said lawmakers would have to adopt a new law to allow MGT since the old statute is outdated.

Godinez said Quinn has given tentative approval to allow electronic home monitoring of some non-violent offenders as a possible option to reduce prison overcrowding.

It was suspended from use around the same time Quinn suspended MGT.

The state's prison population now stands at 48,000. They system is designed to handle 33,000 inmates.

The electronic detention system would allow up to 2,900 inmates to complete their sentences at home.

Godinez told the state senate committee that 1,200 non-violent inmates are now involved in adult transition centers, or ATC, and are put in contact with the public.

"They could be working, going to school, receiving treatment. If we find the best of that population and put them on electronic detention, those that are maybe even 90 days from release, they are already out there, they are actually going to be scrutinized more than if they were in the ATC," Godinez said.

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Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 18, 2012

Illinois Senators Scrutinize Prison Cuts, Funding to Ceasefire

An Illinois Senate Appropriations Committee questioned the closing of two state prisons and other program cuts proposed by the Illinois Department of Corrections at a time of prison overcrowding.

The IDOC is looking to reduce costs as its proposed $1.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2013 is $112 million less, or 9.2 percent, than this year.

IDOC director Salvador "Tony" Godinez defended the cuts given the department's shrinking budget.

"Obviously, this budget request reflects the reality of the economic situation we're facing here in the State of Illinois. This budget request contains many difficult choices that must be made given our overall fiscal climate," Godinez said Tuesday. "There's absolutely no area of area of our agency that is not going to be impacted."

The IDOC, as directed by Gov. Pat Quinn, is looking to close by August two state prisons: the Tamms Super Max facility in southern Illinois and the Dwight Correctional Center in central Illinois.

Combined, closing the facility will save the department nearly $60 million but cause the layoff of 800 employees.

The IDOC is also proposing to eliminate six adult transition centers.

Some senators expressed concerned about the closing of Tamms, since it houses 181 of what the state considers its most dangerous inmates.

State Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, wondered if it would be better to reduce the pay of IDOC employees but keep the facilities running.

"Would it make more sense for taxpayers and those that are operating facility to have the facilities stay open and perhaps have a reduction of pay so that a larger number of people can keep their job?" Murphy asked. "I assume the 800 people would probably rather take a pay cut and stay rather than lose the job. And for the benefit of the taxpayer, keeping more facilities, since we do still have an overcrowding situation. "

As IDOC considers the cuts, Murphy questioned the agency's proposed spending of $4.4 million to fund Chicago's Ceasefire program that aims to reduce violence in urban neighborhoods.

But Murphy and fellow State Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), also on the committee, questioned the effectiveness of Ceasefire.

"Seeing homicides up 60 percent in [Chicago], it's a reasonable conclusion that ... the program needs to justify itself," Murphy said.

Trotter said of the Ceasefire program, administered through the University of Illinois Chicago, "They have good P.R."

Godinez said Ceasefire is a nationally-based program that's well accepted across the nation.

"It services many communities in Illinois. Every corner of the state has Ceasefire programs in place," Godinez said.

Murphy also wondered if Quinn will reinstitute the Meritorious Good Time (MGT) program that he suspended in 2009.

The program allowed some non-violent offenders to be released early from the sentence.

It was suspended by Quinn after questions arose on whether some prisoners were being given good time credit but not earning it.

Some see it as an effective way of reducing the state's prison population and reducing costs.

Just last week, Quinn's deputy chief of staff Toni Irving said lawmakers would have to adopt a new law to allow MGT since the old statute is outdated.

Godinez said Quinn has given tentative approval to allow electronic home monitoring of some non-violent offenders as a possible option to reduce prison overcrowding.

It was suspended from use around the same time Quinn suspended MGT.

The state's prison population now stands at 48,000. They system is designed to handle 33,000 inmates.

The electronic detention system would allow up to 2,900 inmates to complete their sentences at home.

Godinez told the state senate committee that 1,200 non-violent inmates are now involved in adult transition centers, or ATC, and are put in contact with the public.

"They could be working, going to school, receiving treatment. If we find the best of that population and put them on electronic detention, those that are maybe even 90 days from release, they are already out there, they are actually going to be scrutinized more than if they were in the ATC," Godinez said.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 18, 2012

Indiana Gov. Daniels Endorses Romney for President

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is endorsing Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination that he has all but sewn up.

The Romney campaign announced the support from Daniels on Wednesday. That step that comes after Daniels declined for months to publicly support any of the Republican candidates, saying he wanted to stay neutral if Indiana's May primary ended up being contested.

The endorsement statement from Daniels echoed his message raising concerns about the federal debt that drew him attention as a possible GOP presidential candidate before he bowed out last year.

Daniels says Romney has proven that he understands the nation's challenges and "is prepared to summon Americans to the changes that will restore the American Dream.''

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

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Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 18, 2012

Indiana Gov. Daniels Endorses Romney for President

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is endorsing Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination that he has all but sewn up.

The Romney campaign announced the support from Daniels on Wednesday. That step that comes after Daniels declined for months to publicly support any of the Republican candidates, saying he wanted to stay neutral if Indiana's May primary ended up being contested.

The endorsement statement from Daniels echoed his message raising concerns about the federal debt that drew him attention as a possible GOP presidential candidate before he bowed out last year.

Daniels says Romney has proven that he understands the nation's challenges and "is prepared to summon Americans to the changes that will restore the American Dream.''

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 18, 2012

Chicago Symphony to Perform Rare Moscow Shows‎

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is performing in Russia for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union as part of U.S. efforts to improve relations between the two countries.

The orchestra's musical director - the world-renowned conductor Riccardo Muti - says Chicago was chosen not only for its fine orchestra but because it is the hometown of President Barack Obama.

Muti describes Chicago as "one of the symbols where all the people in the world look, hoping that the world ... can reach a future of peace and mutual understanding.''

U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul says the orchestra's visit will help bring together Russians and Americans.

The orchestra performs at the Moscow Conservatory on Wednesday, the first of three concerts in Russia.

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Categories: Music

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 18, 2012

Firefighters to Get Autism Awareness Training

Illinois firefighters and paramedics will begin getting special training to help people with autism and related disorders.

The new program will help them recognize the disorders and understand techniques to communicate. The online training will be free for first responders.

State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis says the training is important for first responders to understand how someone with autism may respond in high stress situations like a fire.

The program was developed by staff at the Illinois Fire Service Institute and the Office of the State Fire Marshal to raise awareness among first responders.

Fire departments with 75 percent or more staff members who complete the training will be recognized with plaques and magnets for their fire trucks.

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Categories: Health
Tags: health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 18, 2012

Chicago Symphony to Perform Rare Moscow Shows‎

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is performing in Russia for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union as part of U.S. efforts to improve relations between the two countries.

The orchestra's musical director - the world-renowned conductor Riccardo Muti - says Chicago was chosen not only for its fine orchestra but because it is the hometown of President Barack Obama.

Muti describes Chicago as "one of the symbols where all the people in the world look, hoping that the world ... can reach a future of peace and mutual understanding.''

U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul says the orchestra's visit will help bring together Russians and Americans.

The orchestra performs at the Moscow Conservatory on Wednesday, the first of three concerts in Russia.

Categories: Music

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 18, 2012

Champaign Council Grants Final Passage to Stormwater Fee

After about two years of discussion, the Champaign City Council has signed off on a stormwater utility fee.

Starting next spring, residents will pay roughly $5 to $15 a month for storm sewer operation and maintenance. But larger properties with more impervious area, or buildings and pavement, will pay more.

Tuesday night's 7-2 vote came after two hours of discussion, including concerns from about 50 members of the city's religious community.

Rev. Claude Shelby of Salem Baptist Church asked council members to exempt churches. He said their financial support is far too shaky to be burdened with the fee.

"We have nothing to do with the act of God as far as the weather goes," Shelby said. "However, on the Sundays when God sends the rain, it runs in the sewers, or the snow, or what have you, many of or members are not there. If they're not there, their offerings are not there."

But council member Tom Bruno said the fee should be one of shared sacrifice.

"The problem, of course, with exempting segments of the society is someone else has to pick up and carry that weight," Bruno said. "And if we closed it at churches, and we defined it by people who believed in a God above, we would probably have constitutional problems."

The two 'no' votes came from Paul Faraci, who's concerned about the fee's effect on businesses, and Kyle Harrison, who says the cost won't be distributed evenly enough, and feels credits and tax breaks tied to the fee could go further. Both also opposed the fee in February's study session.

Members of the John and Washington Street watersheds also praised the plan, calling it the fair thing to do. Mayor Don Gerard says he knows the stormwater fee will help the city in the long run.

The Urbana City Council considers its own version of the stormwater fee at a Monday study session.

Meanwhile, with no discussion, the Champaign City Council unanimously passed a program for municipal electric aggregation. The city will negotiate with a Chicago-area consultant to seek out lower power rates for customers. The Urbana City Council approved the hiring a consultant for its aggregation program Monday night.

The council has also unanimously backed an intergovernmental agreement with Urbana and Normal to seek a 'Sole Source Aquifer' designation from the EPA for the Mahomet Aquifer.

Champaign City Manager Steve Carter said the University of Illinois and other nearby cities may also join the agreement and help share the cost.

The 'Sole Source' designation would make it harder for the EPA to approve a plan to store PCB's in the Clinton Landfill. The Urbana and Normal city councils both signed onto the plan Monday.

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Categories: Government, Politics

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