Illinois Public Media News
Imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan's wife and lawyer say they are seeking clemency from President Barack Obama, citing health reasons for seeking Ryan's early release.
Ryan's 75-year-old wife, Lura Lynn, has a terminal lung disease and says she now is on oxygen 24 hours a day.
And Ryan's attorney, former Gov. Jim Thompson, says Ryan himself has health problems, including kidney disease and infected teeth.
Ryan, who was sent to a federal prison in Indiana after his 2006 conviction on corruption charges, turns 76 next Wednesday.
In a telephone interview Wednesday with the Chicago Tribune, Lura Lynn Ryan confirmed she had made a previous plea for clemency for her imprisoned husband in 2008 by calling then-President George W. Bush's mother, former first lady Barbara Bush. She said she was unsuccessful.
Funeral services are scheduled for Thursday for former Champaign County auditor and Democratic Party Chair Gerrie Parr --- who died last week at age 63.
Parr was elected Champaign County Auditor in 1992. She had worked in the auditor's office under her predecessor, Laurel PrussingAs auditor, Parr was frequently at odds with the Champaign County Board's Republican majority --- perhaps all the more so because she had also become the county's Democratic Party Chair. Al Klein holds the post today, and says Parr was a great leader of the party..
"She came on in 1994", Klein says of Parr's chairmanship, "when we were at the nadir of our experience, down to the minimum on the county board, and helped bring the party back until, by 2000, we had taken the county board for the first time in county history."
Klein says Parr was industrious, energetic, and bore no ill will towards anyone during her ten years as auditor and Democratic party chair. He credits her success as party leader to hard work, and an attitude of "get things doneand do what you can and keep on going".
After stepping down as auditor and party chair, Parr held other Democratic party positions, but she also battled cancer. Her death came late Friday at her sister's home in Waukegan, where she was receiving hospice care.
A memorial service for Gerrie Parr will be held Thursday at 1 PM at St. Pat's New Church in Wadsworth, located near Waukegan. Klein says the family plans to hold another memorial service in Champaign-Urbana, possibly in March.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch is reporting that the head of an Urbana company plans to buy the majority share of the St. Louis Rams.
Shahid Khan is the president of auto parts maker Flex-n-Gate and a University of Illinois engineering graduate. The newspaper quotes several NFL sources saying current Rams majority owners Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez, the children of former owner Georgia Frontiere, plan to sell their 60 percent interest to Khan. The remainder of the football franchise is owned by Stan Kroenke. The newspaper's sources say Khan intends to keep the Rams in St. Louis.
CLTV political reporter -- and former Illinois Public Radio reporter -- Carlos Hernandez Gomez has died at the age of 36.
Hernandez Gomez, who had been with CLTV since 2005, died Sunday in Northwestern Memorial Hospital after more than a yearlong bout with cancer.
Hernandez Gomez, who was known for his trademark fedora and machine-gun style of questioning public figures, covered the administrations of former Govs. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich, as well as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Cook County Presidents John and Todd Stroger.
Before starting at CLTV, Hernandez Gomez covered local and national politics for WBEZ and the Chicago Reporter. He also worked in Chicago for Los Angeles' Spanish-language daily, La Opinion.
Survivors include his wife, WGN-TV reporter Randi Belisomo Hernandez.
More than 200 grade school students in Champaign are learning their way around a new building.
Unit 4 bid farewell to Booker T. Washington Elementary school before the holidays. Its students, teachers, and staff will spend the next year and a half in the Columbia Center while the Washington building is demolished and replaced.
It's a time of mixed emotions for 3rd grade teacher Julie Peoples, who's in her 21st year with Washington Elementary. She's sad to see the building go, but she also serves on a committee that will oversee the new Washington's transition to a magnet school program. Peoples notes her current students will be first to graduate from that new school:
"They want to know when the wrecking ball is going to tear down the old school, and I keep saying, 'Drive by.' I don't even have a date yet," Peoples said. "People have even been calling me -- people in the community, ex-parents -- wanting to know how they can get a brick. I talked with the principal and she said we're going to start selling bricks and make some money for the school. So it's kind of exciting."
Peoples says she can't say enough about district staff that helped with the transition over the holiday break.
Unit 4's Columbia Center was built in 1903 and has seen five additions added since then, the most recent one built in 1965. It's been used as an elementary school, middle school, and most recently for alternative education.
Terre Haute's mayor will travel to Poland next month with a Holocaust survivor to mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.
Mayor Duke Bennett will join about 50 other people on the trip to the former Nazi death camp where more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, died during World War II.
Eva Kor, a Terre Haute resident who founded the city's CANDLES Holocaust Museum, will be part of the group.
Kor's family was taken to the death camp near the end of World War II. She and a twin sister, Miriam, survived being subjected to Nazi experiments, but their parents and two older sisters died in the camp's gas chambers.
Auschwitz was in the headlines Friday, when Polish police reported that the camp's infamous iron entrance sign, which declares in German "Work Sets You Free,'' has been stolen.
A federal judge whittled down the list of defendants for Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial, dropping Springfield power broker William Cellini and leaving only the former governor and his brother.
And Michael Ettinger, an attorney for Blagojevich's brother, said Monday he will ask the judge within weeks to severe his client from the trial as well.
Judge James Zagel didn't drop charges against Cellini. Prosecutors are still free to bring him to trial after they finish with Blagojevich.
Meanwhile, Zagel says he's hoping to keep the June 3 trial date but left the door open for a brief delay requested by Blagojevich's lawyers.
Family members of Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott say they appreciate the outpouring of support they've received in the wake of his death.
The family issued a statement through Chicago Public Schools on Monday after Scott's body was pulled from the Chicago River on Monday.
An autopsy and investigation into the death are under way. Police say officers were called to the city's River North neighborhood at about 3:15 a.m., where they found his body in the water.
The Scott family's statement says arrangements for a public memorial service will be announced soon.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the Rev. Jesse Jackson are among the leaders expressing shock over Scott's death.
A homeless community in Champaign appears to have a place to stay through the winter after several moves the last few months.
This weekend, cleanup will begin on 17 vacant rooms at Restoration Urban Ministries, with hopes that the residents the Safe Haven group can move in there in about three weeks. An agreement is being finalized between those two groups and Empty Tomb, which is providing the volunteers, including many contractors. The Safe Haven community was forced to leave the backyard of the Catholic Worker House in June when the city ruled its tents violated a zoning ordinance. The group has moved twice more since then, now staying in the parsonage center of St. Mary Catholic Church.
Empty Tomb's Sylvia Ronsvalle says many hours of work will be needed to bring Restoration's rooms up to code. "Plumbing issues that need to be addressed, there are holes in the drywall, there are water heaters that will have to be replaced," says Ronsvalle. "We have a donation of carpeting as well, since that will have to be replaced, and things need to be painted. So there's definitely work to be done." It's not known if Safe Haven will need all 17 rooms - but Ronsvale says it only makes sense to renovate them, so all of them will be available next spring when that group moves out. Area churches are securing the funds to collect the materials for completing the work in those rooms. Ronsvale estimates it will cost about $1,000 per room, with about $7,000 in donations collected so far.
Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar says calls the state's financial crisis the worst he's ever seen since first being involved in state government.
The Republican says he was optimistic after the ouster of former Governor Rod Blagojevich in February. But Edgar says he's now pessimistic since no one stepped forward to address Illinois' finances, calling last spring's legislative session one of his greatest disappointments.
Edgar says an income tax hike is unavoidable. But he says the proper cuts need to take place first, including those in so-called 'sacred cows' like elementary and secondary education:
"I believe if tell people and you're fair about it and you don't just pick on one segment, one part of the state to make those cuts, I think the public will understand," said Edgar. "It's going to take people with leadership willing to step forward and do what has to be done."
Ethics is also on the table for legislators when they meet in just over a week, but Edgar says Illinois really has a bipartisan leadership problem that exists in both the House and Senate.
Edgar spoke at the Illinois News Broadcasters Association conference over the weekend, where he received the Illinoisan of the Year award.
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