Illinois Public Media News
Illinois U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., and his Democratic opponent are arguing over who was a more reliable vote in Congress for President Obama. The very existence of the debate was a positive development for Jackson, who's had difficulty moving the election conversation beyond the topic of ethics.
Jackson's campaign in recent days has pushed the theme "88 times" - the number of votes Jackson said his opponent, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, cast against the wishes of the president during her single term in Congress, from 2009 to 2011. The theme is central to a radio ad featuring U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters and Corrine Brown.
"Halvorson voted with the Republicans and against President Obama 88 times," Waters, of California, said in the ad.
"How many? She voted 88 times with the Republicans and 88 times against President Barack Obama? She's crazy!" Brown, of Florida, is heard saying emphatically.
Halvorson Response, Jackson Re-response
In a press conference she called Tuesday to denounce the vote claim, Halvorson pointed to a handful of times she voted with President Obama, when Jackson did not.
Halvorson also explained that for a lot of the 88 votes in question, the president never stated an opinion. But she acknowledged sometimes siding against the majority of Democrats.
"Does that automatically mean it's against the...president? No," Halvorson said. "That means that sometimes we have to cross the aisle and take a look at how it is to move this country forward."
"Democrats should stick together," responded Jackson campaign spokesperson Kevin Lampe. "[Halvorson] is running for the Democratic nomination. She should vote with the Democrats when she's in Congress."
Also Tuesday, Halvorson said she believed Jackson was trying to "divide [voters] racially" by using the radio ad, even as she acknowledged not hearing it herself. Halvorson said she'd been told it contained "rap music in the background" and was running on two stations geared toward African-American audiences.
The Jackson campaign distributed a radio ad to reporters it said had to be the one Halvorson was referring to, as it was the campaign's only ad making the "88 times" claim. That ad contained no rap music.
The newly drawn Second Congressional District, which stretches from Chicago's South Side down to Kankakee, is 54 percent African-American, according to Census demographics released by the Illinois General Assembly.
The president has endorsed Jackson in the race. Still, as Halvorson pointed out, the president himself hasn't said the words publicly, instead relying on aides to confirm his support for the congressman.
Meanwhile, Halvorson responded to the Chicago Tribune's endorsement of the incumbent. While noting ethical questions surrounding Jackson that've led to a continued U.S. House probe, the paper's editorial board wrote last week that the congressman "ran circles around Halvorson in our interview, showing a 16-year incumbent's command of the issues."
Conversely, the Tribune wrote that Halvorson "is alarmingly unqualified to represent the district."
"I've never had a very good relationship with the Tribune," Halvorson said Tuesday, before implying the paper had a financial stake in a Jackson victory. "If you're going to sell newspapers, who would you rather cover? Someone who's on the front page or someone who just works hard and creates jobs. And my stories end up...on page 10.
The chair of the University of Illinois' Board of Trustees is defending University President Michael Hogan, who has been asked to resign by 130 professors on the Urbana campus.
In a letter, Chairman Chris Kennedy addresses the points raised by faculty who called on President Hogan to step down.
Regarding allegations that Hogan interfered with discussions by the Faculty Senates Conference concerning his enrollment management plan, Kennedy says information Hogan received from those deliberations was obtained in a lawful manner.
Faculty also criticize the President for allowing his former chief of staff to stay with the U of I as a full-time tenured professor, after she resigned amid an investigation into emails sent to the Senates Conference concerning Hogan's enrollment policy. Kennedy said details about the employment agreement were hashed out a year and a half ago.
Professors also accuse Hogan of bullying Urbana's chancellor to quell faculty opposition to the enrollment policy.
While Kennedy doesn't address that allegation directly, he does say there is a need for mutual respect and dialogue regarding shared governance.
Meanwhile, University spokesman Tom Hardy said President Hogan will likely accept an invitation from faculty leaders to address their concerns.
The Board of Trustees is slated to meet on the Urbana campus on March 15.
In a Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 broadcast on WILL-TV, Champaign Mayor Don Gerard and Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing talked about a range of issues such as a stormwater utility fee, police leadership, roundabouts and Unofficial St. Patrick's Day. They spoke with Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows and took questions from callers.
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk is continuing to improve after a major stroke and has been upgraded to fair condition.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital neurosurgeon Richard Fessler says Kirk is alert, talking and responding well to questions.
The Chicago hospital released a statement Monday about Kirk's progress, a little more than a week after he suffered a stroke that's affected his left side.
Fessler says doctors are very pleased with Kirk's progress.
Kirk is 52 and was in good health when he was stricken.
Doctors believe a clot developed from a tear in an artery in his neck and lodged in his brain. Doctors removed part of his skull to relieve pressure and allow the brain to swell.
Illinois U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is doing well, according to his doctor. Kirk suffered a stroke last weekend and has undergone two surgeries to relieve swelling in his brain.
Dr. Richard Fessler is a neurosurgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Dr. Fessler provided the following update on Senator Kirk's condition Friday morning.
"Senator Kirk is doing quite well this morning. He is alert, responding more rapidly to questions and the swelling in his brain has stabilized. While he remains in serious but stable condition, we are pleased with his continued progress."
Meanwhile, Kirk's colleagues are still processing the news of Kirk's situation.
U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley said he thought his staff made a mistake when they informed him of Kirk's stroke. Quigley recently traveled to Poland with Kirk on business.
"He was vibrant, strong, articulate, and rip-roaring ready to go," Kirk said.
Quigley said Kirk kept up his jogging routine despite the trip's demanding schedule. The Senator remains in serious but stable condition.
Urbana Assistant Police Chief Anthony Cobb has been selected as the new chief of police for the city of Champaign.
Champaign City Manager Steve Carter said Cobb has a solid track record based on his 20-year tenure with the Urbana Police Department.
"He's very clear from a leadership standpoint, which is really important about understanding the issues and some of the things that need to be done," Carter said.
Cobb said his top priority will be to improve morale within the Champaign police force.
The issue of police community relations in the department has come under scrutiny in the last few years following the 2009 police shooting death of teenager, Kiwane Carrington.
A number of citizens have also alleged that Champaign police have used excessive force when arresting two African American youths in the last few months.
Cobb said he plans to take a closer look at the department's use of force policy, and work to improve relations with the community.
"Situations and obstacles that we're facing at the Champaign Police Department, those didn't come about overnight and we're not going to get them corrected overnight. It's going to take time. It's going to take commitment. It's going to take effort," " Cobb said. "I would love to get to the point when I'm ready to retire from the city of Champaign, everyone who's back here says he's done a good job."
Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery said she is looking forward to working with Cobb. She said having someone who is familiar with Champaign-Urbana will go a long way.
"He has shown that he is a leader in the community," Avery said. "I think his community policing speaks for itself. So, I think that we're off to a great start with our new Chief Cobb."
Cobb has been with the Urbana Police Department since 1992, starting off as a patrol officer for about four years, later advancing to a school resource juvenile officer, to eventually becoming assistant chief of police in 2010. He was the department's first community policing officer, and he piloted a program related to the Urbana Police Department's current community policing approach.
"A lot of people feel that since I'm an African American from an African American community that's where all my interests and talents are going to lie," Cobb said. "That's not true. I am committed to the citizens of Champaign period."
The last time Champaign had an African American police chief was in the early 1980's with William Dye, who held that position from 1975 until 1982.
Cobb was selected to lead Campaign's Police Department from a field of more than 45 candidates following the retirement of R.T. Finney in Jan. 2012. He will join the Champaign Police Department on March 12, and will earn a salary of $140,000 a year.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
Michael Pollan thinks of himself as a writer, a professor...and eater. But many people would call him a food activist. The author of controversial books like "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food," Pollan is known for his vivid critiques of industrial agriculture and the modern American diet. He recently spoke with Illinois Public Radio's Véronique LaCapra about his views on food and agriculture - starting with what he sees as a healthy diet.
(Photo courtesy of Ken Light)
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
The Indiana House of Representatives has approved a controversial bill that would ban unions from collecting mandatory representation fees from workers.
The House voted 55-41 Wednesday to approve the right to work legislation. If it becomes law, Indiana will become the first state in more than a decade to pass right-to-work .
Critics of the measure chanted "No right-to-work!" outside the House chambers as lawmakers were gearing up to vote. Speaking on the House floor before the vote, Michigan City Democrat Scott Pelath urged lawmakers to reject the bill.
"It makes me ashamed that we would do this, that we would crush people's dreams, that chance for them to make their lives better," Pelath said. "All they want to do is work and earn a wage, and not have corporate America stepping on their necks."
House Republican sponsor Jerry Torr of Carmel said the bill will not depress wages as opponents argue.
"This has nothing to do with busting or trying to end unionism in Indiana," Torr said. "I've been studying this issue since 2003. I'm convinced that it will bring jobs, more employers to Indiana, and I'm doing this simply for the freedom for the individual worker and to help put unemployed Hoosiers back to work."
Of the 44 lawmakers who voted against the right to work bill in the House, five were Republicans.
The measure is expected to face little opposition in the GOP-controlled Senate and could reach Republican Governor Mitch Daniels' desk before the Feb. 5 Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
Republicans have struggled with similar anti-union measures in other Rust-Belt states like Wisconsin and Ohio where they have faced a massive backlash. Ohio voters overturned Gov. John Kasich's labor measures last November and union activists delivered roughly 1 million petitions last week in an effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Urbana High School's principal will leave her job this summer to become the Champaign School District's assistant superintendent of achievement and pupil services.
Laura Taylor has worked at Urbana High for the last decade as an assistant principal and then principal, and before that taught at Columbia Center, which was Unit 4's alternative high school. She said the decision to leave her current job wasn't an easy one to make.
"I really love what we've done there, and I've worked with an incredible group of people," Taylor said. "While I'm so looking forward to working with (Champaign School District Dr. Judy Wiegand), and her term, it's just a hard decision. But I am glad that I've made it."
Taylor said while at Urbana High, she has worked hard to improve opportunities for all students, and she wants to continue those efforts in Champaign.
"I think I can bring some of that, how we've been able to open doors to our low-income and minority students and make sure that we raise the bar, but while raising the bar of expectations, we include everybody in that," Taylor said.
Taylor said she is also interested in looking at progress made under the now-expired federal Consent Decree, which was put into place in Champaign to help solve racial disparities with educational equity.
Wiegand said she is looking forward to working with Taylor, praising her work to close the graduation gap in Urbana.
"Laura I know is very, very committed to issues around equity and excellence and social justice, and that's why I want her here as well, to help us continue our work," Wiegand said.
Taylor will start her new job with Champaign Schools on July 1st.
Her departure from Urbana High School comes a few days after Preston Williams announced his plans to retire as the superintendent of the Urbana School District.
A federal judge is set to rule late Tuesday afternoon on whether convicted power broker William Cellini will get a new trial. Cellini's case was supposed to be the last trial directly related to the decade-long investigation of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Late last year Cellini was convicted of corruption. But Cellini's lawyers requested a new trial on the grounds one juror lied about her criminal record during the jury selection process. The Chicago juror, Candy Chiles, didn't disclose past convictions for drug possession and a DUI.
Cellini's lawyers say that created a built-in bias.
But prosecutors say even if she lied intentionally, there's no proof she had any bias against Cellini or did a poor job as a juror.
Judge James Zagel is asking for evidence that the juror's behavior directly affected the outcome of the trial.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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