Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 04, 2012

US Rep. Shimkus Talks about Health Care, Energy

Congressman John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) is running for re-election in the re-drawn 15th Congressional District, which includes parts of Champaign County, and all of Vermilion, Douglas, Edgar, Coles and Moultrie Counties.

Last week, Shimkus sat in on the U.S. Supreme Court's final day of hearings about the federal health care law. He told Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers that there are parts of the law he supports, but he said requiring people to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty goes a step too far.

He also discussed a bill he has introduced that would protect retailers, engine manufacturers, and fuel producers from lawsuits related to E15, a new fuel combination that is made up of 15-percent ethanol. And Shimkus looks ahead to the November general election.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

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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 - March 31, 2012

Ex-Illini Coach Bruce Weber Hired by Kansas State

Bruce Weber knows that Kansas State fans may not accept him right away. That much became clear when a small rally for another coaching candidate turned into a protest of his hiring.

The former Illinois coach doesn't have a problem with that, though.

Weber is up for any challenge that's presented to him.

The former Illinois coach was hired by Kansas State on Saturday to replace Frank Martin, whose departure for South Carolina earlier in the week sent shockwaves through the program. The school moved quickly on the hiring, reaching out to Weber in the last few days and finalizing a deal late Friday.

Weber agreed to a five-year, $8.5 million contract that will pay him $1.5 million next season and an additional $100,000 each remaining year. There are also several benefits.

"It's been a whirlwind, to be honest. Just a few hours ago I was in New Orleans thinking I was going to have gumbo," said Weber, who was attending the Final Four before hopping on a plane with Kansas State athletic director John Currie and heading to Kansas on Saturday.

"We wanted a coach who recognized the tremendous opportunity that exists here at Kansas State," Currie said. "Bruce Weber's name repeatedly rose to the top of the list, whose personal values and integrity matched those of K-State."

Weber was greeted at Bramlage Coliseum by a small group of fans who had been planning to support another candidate, and who were displeased with the hiring of a coach recently fired by Illinois.

Weber was let go after compiling 210-101 record over nine seasons, which included six trips to the NCAA tournament and a national runner-up finish in 2005. The Illini went 17-15 and 6-12 in the Big Ten this season, prompting the administration let Weber go with three years left on his contract.

"I'll be honest: We had a young team, six freshmen, one returning starter," Weber said. "The disappointment of a lot of close losses took a toll. It happens." Weber takes over for Martin, who returned a once-proud program to national prominence after Bob Huggins' departure for West Virginia five years ago. Weber will be the fourth coach to lead Kansas State in the past eight seasons - and the third to cause some consternation among fans.

Huggins was hired still carrying baggage from his messy divorce with Cincinnati, while Martin was a nondescript assistant who had never been a college head coach. Weber certainly has experience running a program. It's just that not all of it has been good.

He was considered one of the rising stars of the profession after taking Southern Illinois to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances, one of which ended in the regional semifinals. He then took over a program at Illinois that had been built into a perennial contender under Bill Self - now the coach at Kansas, just down the Interstate from Manhattan, Kan., and the Wildcats' biggest rival.

The Jayhawks were scheduled to play Ohio State in the Final Four on Saturday, just hours after officials at Kansas State were to announce Weber's hiring. Weber had immediate success at Illinois with players largely recruited by Self, returning to the NCAA tournament his first four seasons. That included a 37-2 record during the 2004-05 season, which ended with a 75-70 loss to North Carolina in the national championship game.

The program began to slip soon after, though, and fans who had grown accustomed to winning began to sour. The Illini had a losing record by Weber's fifth season in charge, and despite winning 20 or more games the next three seasons, the program had faded from the national spotlight.

Weber never seemed entirely comfortable following Self at Illinois, and now he'll be matching wits with the Jayhawks' coach at least twice a year.

In fact, Weber had grown so tired of the comparisons to the uber-successful Self that he walked into the locker room before a game in 2003 dressed entirely in black. The quirky coach told the Illini that he was "going to throw a funeral. It's the end of Bill Self."

The idea was to somehow get across the message that the program had moved on.

That's exactly what Kansas State fans are being forced to do.

Martin's intense style and own quirks endeared him to many Kansas State fans. Of course, the winning helped - at least 20 wins each of the past five seasons, four of them ending in NCAA tournament berths, with a trip to the regional finals with Jacob Pullen in 2010.

The school's career scoring leader, Pullen grew up in Chicago and now plays overseas. He offered his assessment of the hiring via Twitter, even misspelling Weber's name: "Bruce Webber didn't think I was good enough to play at Illinois and I don't think he is good enough to coach at Kansas State."

Others have praised the hiring of Weber, whose strong recruiting ties to Chicago will no doubt come in handy at a school that's forced to recruit nationally. Weber is also energetic and personable, two traits that will help as he attempts to quell a fan base wary of more change.

"Give me a chance," Weber said. "It doesn't matter where you go or which coach you hired, there was always going to be a question mark. There's no doubt about that. That's part of college sports.

Categories: Biography, Education, Sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2012

Health Care Advocacy Group: Federal Health Care Law Helping People

Claudia Lennhoff is the executive director of Champaign County Health Care Consumers.

As arguments over the constitutionality of the federal health care law continue at the Supreme Court, one local supporter of the law is pointing out its benefits. The group Champaign County Health Care Consumers said even though the law has not been fully implemented, it's already helping the people they serve. Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows spoke with Health Care Consumers executive director Claudia Lennhoff. She had supported a single payer healthcare system, but Lennhoff said the law now in place goes a long way towards improving healthcare coverage in America.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2012

Ill. Panel Asks Feds for Info on Arrested Lawmaker

A special committee of the Illinois House began investigating Representative Derrick Smith today. He was arrested two weeks ago on federal bribery charges. The hearing is one of the first steps in a long process that could lead to Smith being expelled from the House.

The committee's first meeting was mostly organizational. Its next step is asking federal prosecutors for more information on the charges against Smith. The Chicago Democrat is accused of accepting $7,000 in cash from a daycare in exchange for writing a letter supporting its grant application.

Specifically, the six representatives on the investigative panel want a copy of the letter and a list of witnesses. But even if federal prosecutors say no, legislators say they have enough to continue. State Rep. Dennis Reboletti, of Elmhurst, is the committee's ranking Republican.

"Rep. Smith has not been in session since the allegations," Reboletti said. "There are constituents who are going to be calling his office (and) may need other support, and so these are things we're going to have to take a look at. I think there's going to be things outside the four corners of that petition that we'll be able to take into evidence and consider but right now I have made no presumption either way."

A lawyer for the committee said he notified Smith of the hearing, but Smith did not show up. Attempts to reach Smith by phone and e-mail were unsuccessful. The committee expects to hear from federal prosecutors in time to meet the week of April 9.

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2012

Holderfield: Possible Legal Challenge to Election Result

Republican Champaign County Circuit Clerk candidate Stephanie Holderfield said on Monday she doesn't want to file a lawsuit against the county's clerk's office after coming in second to a candidate who had dropped out of the primary race. But in a letter sent to County Clerk Gordy Hulten, Holderfield's attorney indicates a complaint may be filed with the circuit court to resolve the matter.

In a letter dated on March 22, attorney Mark Hewitt cites a recent legislative contest in which former State Rep. Roger Eddy withdrew his candidacy after ballots were printed. Hewitt said notices were posted in polling places telling voters that votes for Eddy were not counted. He said Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten should have followed the same procedure in Winkel's case.

"We do not understand why Mr. Hulten did not do the same," Hewitt wrote. "We hope to get this resolved very soon because if not, we will be forced to file a Petition of State Election Contest before the end of the month with the circuit court."

In cases where a candidate drops out of a race, the Illinois State Board of Elections has said votes for that candidate should be ignored. That recommendation is binding for state races, but only advisory on local elections.

Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said counting votes for Holderfield's opponent, Rick Winkel, was the right thing to do since Winkel dropped out the race after overseas ballots were sent out.

"I don't have any disagreements with Ms. Holderfield. This is a disagreement about what the law says and how the law should be applied here," Hulten said. "I think it's wise to remember that voters have rights here, too. And 8,133 voters voted for Rick Winkel. I don't think any of us want to get into a situation where an election authority just has the discretion to just ignore 8,133 votes."

Winkel has said he will formally withdraw as a candidate after the ballots are certified.

When asked Tuesday morning if she would file a legal challenge to the March 20 election result, Hodlerfield said "all options are on the table."

"And they will remain there until I have secured enough of the precinct committeemen votes to feel like I can walk into that room and know that I will win," Holderfield said. "It's that simple."

Republican Party precinct committeemen will determine a nominee on April 12.

"Our top priority is that we conduct an open and fair process to nominate a candidate for Circuit Clerk," said Champaign County Republican Central Committee Treasurer Habeeb Habeeb. "All interested Republicans who are eligible to serve as Circuit Clerk, including Stephanie Holderfield are encouraged to apply."

Holderfield said more than half of the precinct committeemen have committed to appointing her as the nominee.

On the Democratic ticket for Champaign County Circuit Clerk, Barb Wysocki won a three-way Democratic Primary by just 16 votes.

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 26, 2012

Holderfield Moving Ahead with Circuit Clerk Candidacy

A candidate for Champaign County Circuit Clerk said she doesn't want to sue the County Clerk's office over its decision to count the votes in favor of her opponent in last week's Republican primary.

Election results show Stephanie Holderfield lost to Rick Winkel by 245 votes, even though Winkel withdrew his candidacy in early February. Speaking Monday with her attorney, Mark Hewitt, by her side, Holderfield said votes cast for Winkel should not be counted since he dropped out of the race.

"I hope to move forward in a positive manner as a Republican in Champaign County," Holderfield said. "I think it's very important that everyone understand that we may have some hiccups in the road but it's how we come through those hiccups, those bumps that make us better for it."

In cases where a candidate drops out of a race, the Illinois State Board of Elections has said votes for that candidate should be ignored. That recommendation is binding for state races, but only advisory on local elections.

The Champaign County Republican Party said a weighted vote will be conducted by precinct committeemen to determine a nominee, which could happen sometime in the next month. Holderfield said she is confident she will get the support needed to head to the General Election in November.

Winkel has said he will formally withdraw as a candidate after the ballots are certified

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 26, 2012

Neighbors: Meet Mary Ann Pettigrew

Part of the WILL series "Neighbors"
Mary Ann Pettigrew of Danville, Illinois

Illinois Public Media's Celeste Quinn visits Mary Ann Pettigrew, a long-time resident of Danville, Illinois. Pettigrew spent a number of years working as a Registered Nurse for the Santa Fe Railroad, for an oil company in the Middle East and St. Francis Hospital in Peoria. She came back to Danville in the early 1970s and has lived at the house on Buchanan Street ever since.

(With production assistance from Crystal Kang)

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Categories: Biography, Community

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 25, 2012

Incoming U of I President Optimistic About University’s Future

U of I President Robert Easter talks with WILL's Sean Powers

Robert Easter takes the helm as president of the University of Illinois on July 1, when the resignation of current President Michael Hogan takes effect. Easter earned his doctorate at the U of I in the early 1970s before taking a faculty position there. He recently served as Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, and then interim Provost and Chancellor on the Urbana campus. The university has gone through a rough period over the last few years marked by an embarrassing admissions scandal, and the resignations of two presidents.

Easter will stay on as president for two years, and he tells Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers that he's ready to help move the university forward.

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Categories: Biography, Education

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