Illinois Public Media News
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.
Longtime University of Illinois administrator Robert Easter began work on Monday as the university's newest president. He comes into an office that has been marked by controversy in recent years.
Within the last three years, two U of I presidents have resigned. Easter said he is focused on creating a sense of stability at the university, and making education affordable despite lagging state support for higher education. He told Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers that he has spent a lot of time over the last few months talking with faculty and students about their concerns.
EASTER: What I'm hearing is we want to be part of any decision, and as a longtime faculty member, I resonate with that. The faculty in some sense are the university. They embody the values of the institution. They embody the knowledge base. They are what make the university. They because of what they do in their individual disciplines within their departments have more insight than any of us in leadership have to what's the best strategy for moving forward. Our role is to capture their insights, to understand them, and then to work within the constraints that we have financial and otherwise to move the institution forward.
POWERS: How have you been able to address their concerns and their comments? Have you been able to in this short amount of time?
EASTER: One of the early conversations we had was around pension reform, and I think in formulating the positions that we have taken and been asked to do so, we've tried to consider their viewpoints on what might work and I think we've been very effective in doing that.
POWERS: On the issue of pension reform, this past month more faculty and staff did retire from Illinois' community colleges and state universities than in recent memory, and for the three campuses at the University of Illinois, retirements for the last fiscal year topped a thousand...large number of people leaving their jobs comes a few months after Governor Quinn introduced a plan that would leave state employees, university workers, and teachers with smaller pensions. With fewer trained and skilled staff on all three campuses, what will this mean for the university next semester?
EASTER: I think it means that we have opportunities, perhaps larger than in the normal year to re-energize our campus, to choose to make directional changes as appropriate, and that's the responsibility of the local level to figure out what that is. It also gives us the opportunity to ask the question where we had two staff doing this previously, could we with technology do that same job with less input, and thus control cost and tuition increases and so forth.
POWERS: Do you see a lot of people taking on multiple roles in the next year because of all of this?
EASTER: Yeah, I do. I think we have a long tradition in units when there are retirements that others step in to make sure that the programmatic needs are met, that the quality remains constant, but at the same time, we may well find ourselves needing to bring some people back if they're willing to fill in on a part time basis. As you well know, the legislature did put some boundaries around that, and as we have those conversations going forward a year from now, we'll be very conscious of those boundaries.
POWERS: What is your plan right now in terms of tuition?
EASTER: The board of trustees put in place a policy...I think two years ago now thinking back when it took place...that constrains the increases in tuition to (the rate of inflation), and my goal would be to stay within those boundaries. As cost increase, inevitably tuition reflects that. If we go through a period of minimal cost increase, one would hope we would have minimal tuition increases.
POWERS: The University has had a rough period over the last few years. It's been marked by the admissions scandal, the enrollment management policy that was highly criticized, resignations of two presidents...what do you say to prospective students who look at the U of I and ask themselves, 'Why should I go here? This place doesn't necessarily seem to have its act together.'
EASTER: The University of Illinois is a very robust organization, and the true values of the university lie within the faculty. They lie within the staff, the very competent staff. They lie within the department leadership, and college leadership, and campus leadership. I think those intuitions, those individuals are incredibly strong. The ship, if you will, is rock solid, and I have absolutely no problem telling anyone that this is still a great institution.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
Gov. Mitch Daniels is touting state cash reserves he says will send an additional $100 to each Indiana taxpayer through automatic tax credits next year.
Daniels said Tuesday he expects the state to close its books for the fiscal year with $2 billion in cash reserves. Roughly $300 million would go to 2013's tax credits and another $300 million would go toward the state's unfunded teacher pension liability.
Final numbers won't be available for at least another week as state budget leaders continue wrapping up the fiscal year that ended Saturday.
The cash reserves have come from a mix of three major factors _ improved tax collections, spending cuts to state agencies and an error in which the Daniels administration discovered $320 million in untouched tax collections.
Former Cook County commissioner Joseph Moreno and former Chicago Alderman Ambrosio Medrano are being charged for taking bribes.
Prosecutors say Moreno took a $5,000 bribe to insure development of a waste transfer station in Cicero while he sat on the town's economic development panel. They say he also used his position as a Cook County commissioner to get kickbacks for pushing Stroger Hospital to buy bandages from a particular company.
Ambrosio Medrano worked for Commissioner Moreno. He's also charged, but he was also a Chicago alderman who pleaded guilty in 1996 in another bribery scheme. Medrano is being held in jail because prosecutors say he's a flight risk. Judge Young Kim will hear more on that at a hearing on Tuesday.
The charges were unsealed Thursday afternoon in Chicago federal court. Medrano and Moreno were among seven defendants charged in the case.
Illinois Lawmakers Consider Expelling Derrick Smith
An Illinois House committee plans to meet in Chicago to discuss whether to expel state Rep. Derrick Smith.
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.
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)
The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago has released a photo of Sen. Mark Kirk that is the first public image of the Illinois Republican since his January stroke.
The photo shows Kirk with closely trimmed hair, looking alert and sitting up as he rests his right arm on a table.
The director of the institute's Center for Stroke Rehabilitation, Dr. Richard Harvey, also gave an update Tuesday on Kirk's progress with recovery.
Harvey says the senator has walked more than 10 miles in total since he arrived at the center in February. He's also able to climb stairs and get in and out of vehicles.
Doctors have said the 52-year-old Kirk should make a full mental recovery, although they expect the stroke will limit movement on his left side.
(Photo courtesy of The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago)
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