Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 19, 2011

Regional School Chiefs Sue to Get Paid by State

Illinois' 44 regional school superintendents have gone to court to get paid by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools filed a lawsuit in Sangamon County Friday seeking paychecks the Democratic governor cut off in July.

Bob Daiber is president of the superintendents' association. He says Quinn's action is "totally unfair.'' He says the chiefs didn't want to file a lawsuit but have "exhausted all options'' in trying to resolve the issue with Quinn.

The elected school chiefs inspect local public schools, do employee background checks, certify teachers, operate area alternative schools and more. But Quinn calls them unnecessary bureaucrats and halted more than $10 million to operate their offices for the budget year that began July 1.

The superintendents have worked without pay since.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 19, 2011

Champaign County Nursing Home Looking at Single Rooms as Revenue Source

The manager of the Champaign County Nursing Home says it's exploring the idea of offering more private-pay rooms for single patients to boost revenue.

Mike Scavatto told the Champaign County Board Thursday night that a drop in Medicare revenue has dealt what he calls a 'significant blow.' And he says nursing homes everywhere are seeing a delay in state Medicaid reimbursements. Republican and Nursing Home Board of Directors member Alan Nudo says he suggested the single room idea as a revenue stream.

"I think the board kind of said 'let's just go forward with it,' he said. "We don't have to have a flat-screen TV in there or cable hook-up at this stage. Let's just try to put in single rooms. And that still gives us plenty of room for Medicare and Medicaid beds."

Nudo suggests setting up just over 20 private rooms could bring in an extra $100-to 200-thousand. Scavatto says more amenities could be added when the nursing home can afford them.

As another long-term upgrade, the county nursing home wants to add renal dialysis equipment. Scavatto says not many homes offer it, and that could serve as a census builder, allowing residents to receive care in the home instead of forcing them to ride a bus to a medical center.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 18, 2011

Illinois Unemployment up for 3rd Straight Month

State officials say unemployment in Illinois inched up to 9.5 percent in July, the third consecutive month it has increased.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security says there were 24,900 fewer jobs reported last month.

Unemployment for Illinois was 9.1 percent in June. But the rate one year ago in July was 10.1 percent.

The numbers were released Thursday and are based on data from the state agency and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The director of the employment security department is Jay Rowell. He says the July increase, which follows 15 months of declines, reflects uncertainty in consumer confidence and the volatility in the national economy.

He says long term data is a better indicator.

Categories: Business, Economics, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 18, 2011

US Rep. Schock Raises Doubt About Immediate High Speed Rail Funding

A Republican congressman who sits on a caucus of Midwest high-speed rail advocates says now is not the time to find federal money for such a project.

U.S. Representative Aaron Schock of Peoria said if high-speed rail lines become a reality in Illinois, there is a place for such a line connecting Chicago with Champaign-Urbana. But Schock said the political reality is that federal funding won't be easy to get.

"We're running a $1.6 trillion deficit," he said. "We have a highway bill that's been expired for two years. We aren't building roads and bridges and infrastructure because the motor fuel tax is down. So I think we need to take care of the infrastructure, the roads, the bridges, the airports that we have now."

Schock has supported funding for infrastructure on high-speed rail in the past. But he said neither side of the aisle in Congress has funded the idea - the only money has come from President Obama's last stimulus bill.

Schock made his comments at a political fundraiser in Champaign on Wednesday, one day before Champaign County board members scheduled to vote on a statement of support for high-speed rail.

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 18, 2011

Oak Forest Hospital to Close by End of Month

Activists who lost their fight to preserve Oak Forest Hospital now say they're going to focus on holding Cook County to its commitments.

A state board Tuesday approved the county's plan to close the hospital and replace it with a regional outpatient center. Patients, unions and community activists managed to stave off the closure twice before. But at Tuesday's meeting of the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, the county won the day.

Organizers say now the task is to make Cook County honor its pledge not to abandon south suburbanites.

"Let us take those concerns and be very vigilant," said William McNary of Citizen Action Illinois, calling the vote expected but disappointing. "Don't give up today. Because those health care needs are still going to continue beyond what they do here."

McNary sits on an advisory board set up by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. He vowed to make sure the outpatient center offers the best possible care and to press neighboring hospitals to follow through on their promise to absorb Oak Forest patients.

Many of the opponents sat through the four-hour meeting holding protest signs, and some even cried "genocide" as the vote was unfolding.

President Preckwinkle said she understands the anxiety, but condemns the rhetoric.

"To suggest the people on the independent governing board or the health care professionals are motivated by genocidal impulses is demeaning and extremely unfortunate," Preckwinkle said after the vote.

The county made several concessions to opponents, including agreeing to run an immediate care facility on the site around the clock. Ultimately, new appointments to a state regulatory board gave Cook County the votes it lacked in two previous efforts to pass the plan.

County officials say they plan to discontinue hospital operations by the end of August and immediately begin phasing in the clinic services.

Categories: Business, Economics, Health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 18, 2011

Chicago Mayor Announces Foreclosure Stabilization Program

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Wednesday announced a new foreclosure initiative that relies on community groups to identify abandoned properties.

Standing in front of a rehabbed bungalow home in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, Emanuel laid out details for what the city calls the Micro-Market Recovery Program.

The MacArthur Foundation will provide up to $20 million in loans with the idea of leveraging millions more from the private sector. The goal is to collect a total pool of $50 million. The city will select neighborhood groups to find foreclosed properties. Those groups will use the funds to purchase and then rehab the homes, thus making them market-ready.

"It needs a comprehensive, integrated approach rather than home by home because the system is too big and too complicated for that alone. So we are targeting our resources, both public and private and nonprofit," Emanuel said.

The mayor said the program should get about 2,000 homes back on line within three to five years.

Housing and Economic Development Commissioner Andrew Mooney said local groups can purchase the foreclosed properties by using the pooled startup money.

"The idea is straight forward. If we're really going to address the problem, we have to focus on local markets rather than one building at a time. We need to target our resources to help stabilize values, regenerate market forces and reoccupy foreclosed properties," Mooney said.

The city will start the program in nine neighborhoods: Humboldt Park, Chatham, Chicago Lawn, West Woodlawn, Auburn Gresham, West Pullman, Belmont Cragin, Englewood and Grand Boulevard.

Stan Smith, president of the nonprofit New Pisgah Community Service Organization, was on hand for Mayor Emanuel's announcement. Smith said his group hired local construction workers to rehab the bungalow that hosted the mayor, his staff and the press.

Smith said he'd like to participate in the new foreclosure program because in the past he received federal dollars to do rehab work, but that work was only piecemeal.

"We need to do a whole area, capture an area to focus in on it so you don't end up doing one house here and you have 12 more abandoned houses on the block," Smith said.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 17, 2011

Advocates Hopeful in Hearing Over Provena Merger

Local health care advocates hope a plan to create Illinois' largest Catholic hospital system results in greater financial assistance for the low-income.

There was little opposition in a state hearing in Urbana Wednesday, and another held the same day in Danville, over the planned merger between Provena hospitals and Chicago-based Resurrection Health Care.

Those who backed the move during Urbana's 90-minute hearing included Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance, and members of Champaign County Health Care Consumers. The group's executive director, Claudia Lennhoff, said its partnership with Provena Covenant Medical Center has helped low-income patients with medical expenses, and that a new charity care program would emerge, based on the best of both hospital systems, if the merger is approved.

But John Hilty of Urbana was concerned that a larger hospital system makes it less responsive to a community's needs.

"It seems to me that smaller organizations are easier to manage and tend to be more responsive to local communities, rather than large organizations, where the decision making is less personal and less attuned to a particular city or location," he said.

Hilty also said a larger hospital system doesn't necessarily result in less costly medical bills.

Provena Covenant Medical Center lost its property tax exemption in 2004, when the Illinois Department of Revenue ruled the hospital didn't provide enough charity care. The President and CEO of its hospitals in Urbana and Danville, Michael Brown, said Provena Covenant has proved many times since then that the hospital is a community partner. He said the level of charity care should improve with the merger. Brown said the move will produce savings from controlling purchasing prices to office functions.

"When you look at the tsunami that's in front of us as being able to take care of people with the 10,000 people a day eligible to join the Medicare ranks," he said. "There are not enough people in the following two generations to pay for that. So we have to do this a different way. And being able to merge these together and to leverage the resources gives us an opportunity to at least meet that need."

The proposed merger also got letters of endorsement from Champaign State Senator Mike Frerichs and Champaign Mayor Don Gerard.

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board will rule on the merger in October.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 17, 2011

Presidential Bus Tour Passes Through Illinois

President Barack Obama says it likely will be another year to 18 months before home prices start rising again and sales start to pick up.

But he says the federal government can't accomplish that alone, and will need support from the banking industry and others to make sure the market pulls out of its slump.

Obama provided no support for his prediction. His comments Wednesday came in response to questioner at a town hall in Atkinson, Ill.

The president ventured from Iowa into politically familiar territory as he wrapped up a three-state tour through the cornfields, towns and cities of the Midwest. He was holding a second town hall meeing Wednesday afternoon in Alpha, Illinois and was scheduled to meet with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn later in the day.

Dozens of people lined up early Wednesday morning to see President Barack Obama at the first of two town hall-style meetings in rural Henry County.

Supporters Jean Causemaker and Mary Kay Franks were determined to see President Obama when they found out he'd be in town Wednesday. A handful of people without tickets gathered across the street, hoping to catch a glimpse of Obama's bus.

The three-day bus tour is part of an effort by Obama to command attention just after Republican presidential candidates dominated the news with a debate and straw poll in Iowa. He has used the trip to criticize his presidential and congressional opponents and to outline modest economic proposals in advance of Congress' return to Washington next month.

After his stop in Illinois, President Obama will return to Washington to begin a 10-day vacation.

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 16, 2011

Chicago Still Paying for Police Torture Claims

A former Chicago police commander imprisoned for lying about the torture of suspects decades ago is still costing the cash-strapped city money.

That's because Chicago is defending itself and former police Lt. Jon Burge against civil lawsuits from men who claim Burge and his men beat, suffocated and shocked confessions out of them.

Six lawsuits are pending that accuse Chicago officers of torturing suspects _ almost all of them black or Latino_ into giving confessions from the 1970s to the 1990s.

The city's stance has long been that it would defend itself vigorously against any such lawsuits. However, Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times for a story published Tuesday that he's working toward settling them.

Burge-related cases already have cost the city an estimated $43 million.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 16, 2011

Illinois Hospitals Denied Property Tax Exemptions

The Illinois Department of Revenue has denied property tax exemptions to hospitals in Decatur, Chicago, and Naperville in a move that signals the state's plans to get tough on nonprofit hospitals that operate more like businesses than charities.

At stake are millions of dollars in tax revenue that the hospitals could contribute to cities, parks and schools.

Revenue Department officials tell The Associated Press that the hospitals were informed today. The three are: Decatur Memorial Hospital in Decatur, Northwestern Memorial's Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago, and Edward Hospital in Naperville.

The hospitals can ask an administrative law judge to review the decisions.

Illinois' Supreme Court ruled last year that Urbana-based Provena Covenant Medical Center wasn't doing enough free or discounted treatment of the poor to qualify for a tax exemption.

Categories: Business, Economics, Health

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