Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 03, 2012

March 2012:  The Warmest on Record for Illinois

The warmer-than-usual winter left nine Midwestern states with their warmest March on record, and in Illinois the first three months of the year were the warmest three winter months since 1895.

The Midwestern Regional Climate Center and Illinois Water Survey in Champaign on Tuesday said that Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin all had record warmth for March.

Average temperatures in the states ranged from 57.6 degrees in Kentucky to 42 degrees in Minnesota. Previous records were set in either the mid-1940s or 1910 in all nine states.

Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel says average temperature for the state last month was 54.9 degrees, 13.8 degrees above normal. The warmest temperature reported in the state was at Chicago's O'Hare Airport on March 21 with 87 degrees. The coldest reported was in Monmouth on March 5 with 5 degrees.

The Water Survey says the statewide average temperature across Illinois from the January-to-March period was 40.9 degrees. That's more than nine degrees above normal.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 03, 2012

Urbana Council Approves Hike in Tax Rate

Declining land values have forced Urbana aldermen to increase the property tax rate for 2012.

With little discussion, the city council last night unanimously raised that rate from a $1.29 per $100 of assessed valuation to $1.32.

But Mayor Laurel Prussing's Chief of Staff, Mike Monson, says the city is levying the same amount as last year, and the move will have virtually no impact on residents' tax bills.

"It's just the sign of the times with the economy, and the real estate bubble," Monson said. "We're still feeling the effects a couple of years later. The exact same thing happened in Champaign. Their rate went up a couple of pennies, and they decided to levy the same amount as last year."

Last week, Urbana City Comptroller Ron Eldridge said the 2011 tax levy marked the first time in his time with the city that he's seen the assessed value decrease. The actual amount went down nearly 2-percent. Eldridge also noted that Champaign's tax rate will still be be slightly above Urbana's (Champaign's rate is $1.3227, Urbana's is $1.3190.)

Without an increase in the tax rate, Urbana would have been dealing with a $200-thousand deficit in the current year's budget.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 02, 2012

Fighting Illini’s Leonard Entering NBA Draft

Illinois sophomore center Meyers Leonard has announced he will declare for the 2012 NBA draft.

Leonard averaged 14 points, eight rebounds for the Fighting Illini. His average of two blocked shots last season led the Big Ten. The graduate of Robinson High School in southeastern Illinois earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors.

In a statement, Leonard said it was a very difficult decision, but he believes the timing is right for him to follow his dream of playing in the NBA.

Illinois hasn't had a first round NBA Draft pick since Deron Williams and Dee Brown in 2005. Williams plays for the New Jersey Nets. Brown was waived by the Dallas Mavericks in 2010.

Categories: Education, Sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 02, 2012

Another Veteran Justice Leaving Ind. Supreme Court

Another longtime member of the Indiana Supreme Court is stepping down.

Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. announced Monday that he will be leaving the court after 19 years to join the faculty at Indiana University's law school in Indianapolis. Sullivan says he will remain on the court until near the start of the law school's fall semester.

Sullivan's departure follows the retirement last month of Chief Justice Randall Shepard after 25 years leading the state's top court.

Sullivan was state budget director under Democratic Gov. Evan Bayh before Bayh appointed him to the five-member court in 1993. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels will pick Sullivan's replacement from candidates selected by the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission.

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 02, 2012

Southern Illinois Town Gets Aid After Tornado

Harrisburg and other southern Illinois communities affected by a deadly tornado in February are getting up to $13 million in state and Small Business Administration aid.

Gov. Pat Quinn's office announced Monday that the help includes reimbursements to local governments for some of their disaster-related expenses and road improvements. The aid also involves grants for home repairs and low-interest loans to storm-affected businesses.

Seven people were killed by the twister that tore through Harrisburg on Feb. 29.

Since then, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied the state's request for help from U.S. taxpayers in the recovery effort.

Quinn says recovery from the tornado won't happen overnight but the assistance package detailed Monday will help those hurt by the storm to rebuild their lives.

Tags: weather

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 02, 2012

Unit 4 Tries to Stay Ahead of Nutrition Standards

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this year unveiled new nutrition standards for school meals. It's the first major nutritional overhaul of its kind in more than 15 years. As part of our series on efforts in the region to increase health and wellness, Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports on how the Champaign School District is trying to stay ahead of new federal regulations taking affect this year and beyond.

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Categories: Education, Health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 02, 2012

Illinois Bill Aims to Make Online Dating Safer

State lawmakers in Illinois are trying to make it safer for people to use online dating sites.

The Decatur Herald & Review reported Sunday that legislation aiming to do that passed the Illinois House last week.

It would require Internet dating services operating in Illinois to post disclaimers saying whether they conduct background checks on their members.

The measure is sponsored by state Rep. Michelle Mussman, a Democrat from Schaumburg.

She says she wants to help Internet users "become more savvy" and protect themselves from online predators.

Opponents say the bill overreaches. Republican Rep. Jim Durkin of LaGrange says adults should be responsible for their own safety when using such sites.

The legislation now goes to the Senate.

Categories: Technology

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 02, 2012

U of I Flash Index Climbs Above 100

An indicator of Illinois' economic growth has broken the 100 mark for the first time in more than three years.

The monthly University of Illinois Flash Index came in at 101.0 for March, up from 99.2 in February. Anything over 100 indicates economic growth. Last month's results are the highest since September 2008.

But index author and U of I economist Fred Giertz said there's nothing magical about that level, noting Illinois' unemployment rate is at 9-percent, compared to 8.3 percent nationwide. he said a rating of over 100 doesn't mean the upward trend will continue next month.

"There's always a question - was that an aberration, or is that going to continue?" Giertz said. "But right now, it seems like the signs are pretty good. But there is no assurance. This is not a prediction of the future. It's a kind of measure of where we are right now. So the hope is that we'll continue, but the index doesn't tell us where it's going or how fast it will go up."

Giertz said it will likely be at least a year or two before unemployment rates in the 6-percent range are achieved.

The Flash Index is based on individual, corporate, and sales tax receipts.

Categories: Economics, Education

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 02, 2012

Dow Chemical To Close Charleston Plant In Cost Reduction Move

The Dow Chemical Co. plans to close its plant in Charleston, Illinois --- one of four facilities being closed down in response to weak demand for the company's products in Europe.

The Charleston plant makes Styrofoam Brant building insulation. Dow spokesperson Rebecca Bentley said its closure is slated for the third quarter of this year. About 30 jobs are being eliminated.

Michigan-based Dow is also closing Styrofoam plants plants in Portugal and Hungary, and another plant in Brazil. In addition, Dow is idling a plant in the Nederlands. In all, about 900 Dow employees around the world will lose their jobs.

Dow Chemical said Monday that the positions will be cut as part of a plan to trim costs by about $250 dollars each year.

Dow Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris said the company made the decision to adapt to a volatile economy, especially in western Europe.

Dow said it will book a first-quarter charge of $350 million for severance packages, asset impairments and other items related to its cost-cutting plan.

Categories: Business, Politics
Tags: business, labor

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