Illinois Public Media News
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.
Ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich's former chief fundraiser pleaded guilty Tuesday to swindling two major airlines as part of an $8.5 million fraud arising from hangar roofing contracts at O'Hare International Airport.
Under his signed plea, 51-year-old Christopher G. Kelly will be sentenced to 57 months in prison. As chief of the Friends of Rod Blagojevich, Kelly bankrolled the now impeached Democrat's rise to the governor's office.
The sentence comes on top of a 37-month federal prison term Kelly must serve after pleading guilty to charges in an unrelated tax-fraud scheme.
Kelly still faces charges as a co-defendant in the same federal indictment that alleges Blagojevich sought to sell or trade President Obama's former seat in the U.S. Senate.
In central Illinois, many employers large and small have downsized or closed altogether, forcing thousands of laid-off workers to consider new options. In our latest report as part of our outreach project "WILL Connect: The Economy", AM 580's Jeff Bossert looks at the retraining of workers. Ingenuity and government-funded training are giving many of them a jump on a new career, or a better shot at an old one:
The Montgomery family of Philo spent Wednesday night in their new home --- courtesy of the TV show "Extreme Makeover Home Edition", and a host of local volunteers and businesses.
Local businesspeople bringing housewarming gifts applauded Wednesday, as Ed Brady of Brady Homes handed over the keys to Nathan and Jenny Montgomery's new home in Philo, with the words, "These are yours.". In just one week, construction crews and volunteers tore down the Montgomery's crumbling old house and built a brand new one. Nathan Montgomery says her youngest daughter summed up their feelings of excitement and disbelief as they saw the house for the first time on Tuesday.
"I think Lily was saying as we walked up the steps, she just kept repeating, 'this is real, this is real'", says Montgomery. "And I am catching myself reminding myself of that --- and I'm sure we will for awhile --- this is really our house."
Nathan and Jenny Montgomery says they can't say thank-you enough for the house, as well as the outpouring of community support for both them and Salt and Light Ministry, the faith-based charity that Nathan Montgomery founded. And the attention has also been good for Philo, a village of about 1300 people in southeast Champaign County. Mayor Craig Eckert says the Extreme Makeover producers told him Philo should expect more visitors as news about the Montgomery's new house gets around.
Eckert says the visitors are welcome. "Certainly as mayor, we love when people spend some of their money here in the community," says Mayor Eckert. "But it's going to highlight our town, and we're real proud of our community. And the Montgomery's just add to an already really wonderful place
The Montgomery family spent most of Wednesday filming segments inside their new house for the Extreme Makeover show about them that airs October 25th on ABC.
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