Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 12, 2010

Closed Ernie Pyle Museum to be Open for Local Festival

A group fighting to preserve an Indiana museum dedicated to World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle says it sees the state's decision to open the site for a local festival as a step in the right direction.

The Ernie Pyle State Historic Site in the Vermillion County town of Dana will be open through Saturday as part of the Ernie Pyle Firemen's Festival.

The state closed the site in December and has sought to have it deeded or sold to community groups or local government.

The nonprofit Friends of Ernie Pyle hopes to vote on a plan to take over the site in September.

President Cynthia Myers says the group plans a national fundraiser to help pay operating costs.

The group also hopes to open the museum during the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival in October.

Categories: Community, History

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 05, 2010

Walldogs Paint Downtown Danville

Danville is going to look a little brighter by the end of the week. Artists from around the world are gathering in the city to paint a collection of murals on downtown buildings that capture the community's history from its famous natives to old businesses. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers recently had a chance to get acquainted with the group of artists known simply as The Walldogs.

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Categories: Community

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 30, 2010

Weekend Training for Emergency Workers Focuses on Farm Accidents

A fatal accident inside a grain bin this week in northwest Illinois underlines just how dangerous it can be to work in the agriculture industry.

Firefighters, paramedics and other emergency workers are taking part in a three-day workshop on responding to farm-related emergencies.

Amy Rademaker is a farm safety expert with Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, which is hosting the event. She says this week's incident occurred at a grain elevator that's subject to a number of safety regulations. But individually-owned grain bins present special problems.

"Those safety practices may not be implemented -- they're not required by OSHA standards unless you have so many employees," Rademaker said. "So it's different when you talk about an elevator versus on-farm storage. But we do have a lot of elevators here, and so we hope they're taking precautions."

Rademaker says emergency workers this weekend are learning how to respond to grain-bin incidents as well as tractor rollovers and other accidents specific to farms. She says rural crews are obviously prime targets for training, but even urban fire and ambulance workers can be called out to help in farm-related accidents.

Categories: Community, Health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 29, 2010

Black Panther Party Co-Founder Reflects on Civil Rights Issues

Bobby Seale co-founded the controversial Black Panther Party in 1966. The Panthers preached a doctrine of militant black empowerment to end to all forms of oppression against black people. The Black Panther Party was dismantled after 20 years, and Seale and others have taken on non-violent activism. Seale stopped in Champaign to talk to local teachers. He spoke to Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers about the Party's legacy and how changes in the world have shaped his activism.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2010

Champaign Council Considers Working with Public Art League on Sculptures

The Champaign City Council will discuss a proposal at its Tuesday, July 27th Study Session, to work with a private non-profit group promoting local public sculpture. In doing so, the city may change the policy for public art that it set in 2003.

That policy created the city's Community Arts Group, a mayor-appointed panel that has standing by to consider proposals for sculpture on public land. However, very few applications have come in. Now, the city wants to work directly with the recently formed Public Art League, a private group that's raising money to lease eight pieces of sculpture this summer that would be located at downtown public sites for two year periods.

The Public Art League issued a call to artists earlier this year, and from 42 entries, it's chosen eight sculptures plans to bring to downtown Champaign this year. The group has raised funds from private donors to lease the sculptures from the artists for a two-year period. League Treasurer Eric Robeson says the sculptures will be initially displayed during Champaign's Downtown Festival of the Arts next month. He says they then hope to install the sculptures at various public spaces in and around the downtown area.

Robeson says the goal is to bring art to streets where people regularly walk, drive and work.

"You can interact with them", Robeson says of sculpture located on public sites near city streets. "You just kind of happen upon it as you walk by. Or it becomes part of the backdrop of your day, as you go by these sculptures on a regular basic. It just amplifies more and more that way. And the people that we've brought this up to, most people that we've talked to, just kind of love the idea."

City Economic Development Manager Teri Legner says under their proposal to work with the Public Art League, the Champaign Community Arts Group would disband, leaving decisions and finances about public art acquisitions to the new non-profit group.

"What we're proposing now is something that's more proactive", says Legner, "in working with a third party to basically provide for the art, and then the city just facilitating its siting, basically its location on public property."

The Public Art League's goal is to bring new sculptures to public sites in Champaign every year. But Board president Brian Knox says their longterm goal is to find local buyers for the artwork. "And once somebody likes the sculpture and wants to purchase it", says Knox, "they can move it to their facility or their business, or anyplace in town to be part of the public consciousness."

While the Public Art League could take the place of the Champaign Community Arts Group, the two bodies already have a common link. League Treasurer Eric Robeson is the son of Community Arts Group member Phyllis Robeson.

Categories: Community, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 17, 2010

Urbana is Named Officially Bicycle-Friendly

The city of Urbana has been trying to make the area friendlier to bicyclists, and tomorrow an organization will give some recognition to that effort.

For the first time, Urbana will be listed as a Bicycle-Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. It's also a first for any downstate Illinois community.

Jennifer Selby is a civil engineer for the city. She's overseeing Urbana's pro-bicycle effort, which involves what she calls the "5 E's" -- engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation.

"Engineering means bike lanes, bike paths and those types of things," said Selby. "Education is the types of education programs you have, for adults and for kids -- campaign programs, videos, any kind of printed materials. Encouragement means programs such as Bike to Work Day, which we held the first one in May of this year."

The city also stepped up enforcement of bicycle safety issues - both for riders and motorists - and having a long-range plan for further improvements. Selby says more bike routes and year-round efforts to encourage bike use could raise the level of the bicycle-friendly community recognition from bronze to silver.

The League of American Bicyclists formally announces the title at a Saturday morning event at Urbana's Market at the Square.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 07, 2010

Property Tax on November Ballot in Champaign County

A referendum on township property taxes in Champaign will go on the ballot this fall --- nine months later than intended.

The Champaign City Council voted Tuesday night to place the advisory referendum on the November ballot. It asks Champaign voters if they want to increase their township property tax to provide more General Assistance for the poor.

Voters at last year's annual town meeting approved the referendum for placement on this year's primary ballot, but it was omitted by mistake.

City of Champaign Township Supervisor Pam Borowski was running for the office she now holds when the referendum was proposed. Borowski said the law requires that the measure get on the ballot this November, even though she said hopes it fails. "There's not a need for additional tax revenues at this point in time, and until there is, I'm going to keep saying that we don't need more new property taxes," she said.

The imitative would raise the township tax rate to match General Assistance funding levels in Urbana and other comparable cities. Champaign voters approved a similar advisory referendum in 2008, but rejected a binding referendum for a township tax hike later that same year.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2010

Local Boy Scout Council Facing Economic Woes with Other Non-Profits

A surprise windfall from the United Way of Champaign County won't keep the local Boy Scouts organization from ending the fiscal year in the red.

The executive of the Prairielands Council says they've raised about $170,000, but its 2010 goal was $225,000. Tim Manard says donations from families involved in Scouting are especially worrisome.

"We ask our families to be part of that campaign since they're getting the direct benefit of scouting," Manard said. "And we saw that they're having to make some tough choices at home, and that's having an impact on what we're able to do."

This week the United Way announced a surplus in its own fundraising campaign. Manard says that will mean an extra five thousand dollar donation to the Boy Scouts to fund more scholarships for Scouts wanting to attend summer camp. He says even with staff and program cuts over the past two years, the organization has made summer camp a priority for its 5,000 Scouts in 9 Illinois and Indiana counties.

Categories: Community, Economics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 25, 2010

Financial Troubles Extend to the First Line of Assistance for Immigrants

A center that helps immigrants and refugees in Champaign County is facing funding shortfalls and may be forced to close. Shelley Smithson's report is part of the "CU Citizen Access" project.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 09, 2010

Champaign City Staff To Put Additional Language Into Vacant Buildings Ordinance

One Champaign city council member says she's hoping city staff will take some time to clarify a measure that seeks to speed up enforcement of standards for vacant buildings.

The plan is to remedy problems with empty commercial and residential properties without having to go through a drawn-out court process. Council member Marci Dodds says she backs the plan overall, but says the language lacked clarity as to how property owners get back into compliance after getting their building back up to standards. The city council and public discussed the measure for more than three hours in Tuesday night's study session. Dodds says neighborhood service staff should have written the ordinance to say buildings should meet fire safety codes, and not all property codes. "Do you have to bring your plumbing up to current code in a vacant building? Well, no you don't," said Dodds. "But you have to make sure that holes are patched in the wall, the roof's not going to fall in on firemen if they go in, people aren't going to fall through the floor, that kind of thing. Those are two very different standards. And I think that standard needs to be clear. I also think it needed to be clear what triggered going into a building."

Tom Bruno agrees there's a problem with irresponsible property owners and vacant structures, saying there may need to be more details in the proposal. But he says the neighborhood services department needs to be allowed to do its job. "We have inspectors in the field who are trained and comfortable and qualified at exercising some judgment," said Bruno. "And that a lot of the detailed minutia that people are seeking in this ordinance I don't necessarily needs to be there as long as our enforcement people are well-intentioned, well-trained, and well-able to exercise some discretion."

Property maintenance inspector Michael Lambert says the key is finding what triggers use of the ordinance. He says his staff will try to clarify some of its language, and have it back before the council soon.


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