Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2011

Champaign Council Considering “Smart” Parking Meters

The city of Champaign is looking to give some motorists another option for those who don't have change for the parking meter.

City council members Tuesday will be asked to give preliminary approval for a test run of 'smart meters' downtown. The first 37 of them, which accept debit and credit cards, would be installed in the 100 block of North Walnut Street, and on Chester Street between Neil and Market Streets.

Patti Anderson is a management analyst with Champaign's Public Works Department. She says the meters should boost city revenue, but also cut down on parking tickets.

"You can expect to see parking violations decrease because people are more inclined, with the credit card, to put in the full amount for the time limit," said Anderson. "And so, that way you need more revenue generated because they put more money in in the first place, but you do see a decrease in parking fines."

The city is planning a six-month trial for the first meters to see how colder weather affects them. Champaign may then purchase those meters, install about 30 more north of the trial area, and 100 additional ones in the easternmost portion of Campustown.

The city council meets in a study session starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday. But even if they're finalized next week, city staff says it could be a while before the meters are actually in place, since Champaign first has to set up a schedule with a vendor for installing them.

The University of Illinois and city of Urbana are also exploring the use of smart meters.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2011

Ind. Commerce Chief Backs Right-to-Work Law Push

Indiana lawmakers are debating right-to-work legislation that sparked a five-week walkout by House Democrats and could set a contentious tone when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

Commerce Secretary Mitch Roob opened a day-long hearing Tuesday, saying he supported legislation because it makes it easier to bring manufacturing jobs to Indiana.

But Gov. Mitch Daniels said Tuesday he's unsure if he would support a bill.

House Democrats left the state for five weeks this year to block Republicans from advancing the measure. The move was similar to that of Wisconsin Senate Democrats who staged a walkout to stifle Republican Gov. Scott Walker's efforts to cut collective bargaining rights.

The proposal would allow workers to be protected under labor contracts without having to pay union dues.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2011

Quinn Meets with Emanuel on McCormick Place

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn wants to negotiate with unions to keep labor reforms at Chicago's McCormick Place convention center.

But he also says he and top lawmakers are ready to bring legislators back to Springfield in September to fine tune any necessary legislation.

Quinn met Tuesday with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the state's four legislative leaders about ways to keep the work rule changes.

A federal judge ruled in March that many of the labor reforms lawmakers wanted at McCormick were illegal because they went beyond the terms of union contracts.

The judge also ruled legislators overturned collective bargaining rights in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

Some conventions have pulled out of the city because of the high cost to host events at McCormick.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2011

Blagojevich Files for New Trial

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is asking a federal judge for a new trial after being convicted last month on 17 counts of corruption, including trying to sell a vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Blagojevich's lawyers filed a 158-page motion with 10 different categories detailing why they think the former governor didn't get a fair trial.

In a signed affidavit, Blagojevich stated that he only took the stand because his attorneys assured him he would be able to tell jurors he sincerely believed his actions had been legal. He added that he would not have waived his constitutional right to not testify had he known Judge James Zagel would sustain prosecutors' objections whenever he started talking about the perceived legality of his actions.

In the filing, Blagojevich's attorneys say Judge Zagel tried to read the mind of defense lawyers, limiting which topics they could and couldn't bring up. Attorneys also assert Zagel should have allowed the defense to play secretly-recorded conversations in which Blagojevich talked about appointing Attorney General Lisa Madigan to a vacant senate seat.

Defense attorneys says that prosecutors tainted the jury pool by holding a press conference the day Blagojevich was arrested.

In the filing - defense attorneys say even before the trial began - they tried to make sure people like Juror #116 didn't get on the jury. Juror #116 said he believed Blagojevich was guilty, but the judge let him pass through.

On the other hand - Blagojevich's attorneys say Juror #213 should not only have sat on the jury - but also should get an award - because she said defendants are innocent until proven guilty. That juror was dismissed from the jury pool.

A hearing is scheduled before the judge next week.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2011

Durbin Hits GOP for Debt Limit ‘Brinkmanship

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) says House Republicans are pushing the country to the brink of an economic disaster. But with a debt limit deadline just over a week away, the Illinois Democrat himself opposes a plan that could temporarily avert default.

Durbin Monday talked of the dire consequences to interest rates, if no debt limit deal is reached.

"It is a decision by the Republicans to push us to absolute brinkmanship here and to risk this economy and the jobs that are associated with it," Durbin said at an unrelated press conference in Chicago.

Durbin said he wants a compromise. But he flatly dismissed Republican House Speaker John Boehner's short-term bill to cut spending by about $1.2 billion and extend the debt ceiling for about six months.

"This is exactly the wrong time to do this, with economies failing all around Europe, with our own economy under attack by those giving credit reports, we should not be lurching from one political and economic crisis to another," Durbin said.

Boehner's measure could come to a vote on Wednesday. House GOP leaders have scheduled a second vote Thursday on a balanced-budget constitutional amendment long favored by rank-and-file conservatives.

Durbin said he has been in contact with Democratic leader Harry Reid, who's pushing a budget-cutting plan that would extend the debt limit through 2012 - past next year's election.

With an Aug. 2 deadline rapidly closing, Congress and the White House had limited options to avoid a potential government default that could send the already weak economy into a damaging swoon.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2011

Cities Nearing Construction on Big Broadband Project

The cities of Champaign and Urbana are close to signing off on plans that will start construction on the 'Big Broadband' project with the University of Illinois.

The U of I has taken the lead in getting the more than $22-million federal grant and a $3.5 million state grant, but is leaving much work to the cities as work starts up.

The university's Mike Smeltzer, the principal investigator of the grant, said the agreements will explain the relationship between the two cities and U of I with regard to the project. The U of I will then agree to reallocate a portion of grant funds to the cities for the project, along with contracts dealing with construction companies. Smeltzer said these agreements, by and large, mean avoiding disagreement later.

"We're getting some things down in writing that certainly have been in some people's heads," he said. "But you know, if three people have a conversation and not everybody walks away from that conversation with the exact same memory of what was talked about, this is getting it all down in writing so there's really a not a whole lot of room for misunderstanding in terms of who's doing what, and where's the money going, and why."

Smeltzer said the construction contracts for both and Urbana and Champaign's portion of Big Broadband, or UC2B, are expected to go before their city councils by next week. He said that means construction could begin by late August or early September, and the project should be completed on time, by February of 2013.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 25, 2011

Quinn Returns from Trip to Israel

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is back from a week-long trip to Israel.

Quinn raved about the trip Monday. He says he hopes he can bring businesses from Israel to Illinois. He also wants to export some of the state's technology there in the areas of biotechnology and water conservation.

He says there is "great opportunity'' for renewed and even greater partnerships with Israel. Illinois has trade representatives there.

While he was there, Quinn signed a sister lakes agreement between Lake Michigan and Lake Kinneret, also known as the Sea of Galilee. He says there is great potential in that partnership, which could mean jobs and research.

Quinn's trip was paid for by the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 25, 2011

Gov. Daniels Seeks Disaster Status for Vermillion, Wayne Counties

Gov. Mitch Daniels has asked President Barack Obama to add Vermillion and Wayne counties to 32 counties approved for a federal disaster declaration last month.

If Monday's request is approved, state and local governments and certain non-profit organizations in the two additional counties would be eligible to apply for federal aid to pay 75 percent of the approved cost of debris removal, emergency services and repairing damaged public facilities such as roads and buildings.

The disaster declaration Obama issued last month covers damage from flooding, tornados and straight-line winds between April 19 and June 6.

Wayne County is along the Ohio state line and Vermillion is along the Illinois state line.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 23, 2011

Bradley Alum Who Served as Chair of Joint Chiefs of Staff Dies‎

Retired Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, the first foreign-born chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who counseled President Bill Clinton on the use of troops in Bosnia and other trouble spots, has died, the Army said in a statement. He was 75.

Shalikashvili died Saturday morning at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state following complications from a stroke suffered on August 2004 that paralyzed his left side.

President Barack Obama said Saturday that the United States lost a "genuine soldier-statesman," adding in a statement that Shalikashvili's "extraordinary life represented the promise of America and the limitless possibilities that are open to those who choose to serve it."

The native of Poland held the top military job at the Pentagon in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1997, when the general retired from the Army. He spent his later years living near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington state, and worked as a visiting professor at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation.

Clinton pointed out that "Gen. Shali" made the recommendations that sent U.S. troops into harm's way in Haiti, Rwanda, Bosnia, the Persian Gulf and a host of other world hotspots that had proliferated since the end of the Cold War.

"He never minced words, he never postured or pulled punches, he never shied away from tough issues or tough calls, and most important, he never shied away from doing what he believed was the right thing," Clinton said.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement that he relied on Shalikashvili's advice and candor when he served as Clinton's chief of staff during the foreign policy crises in Haiti, the Balkans and elsewhere.

"John was an extraordinary patriot who faithfully defended this country for four decades, rising to the very pinnacle of the military profession," Panetta said. "I will remember John as always being a stalwart advocate for the brave men and women who don the uniform and stand guard over this nation."

In a farewell interview with The Associated Press in 1997, Shalikashvili said American military and civilian authorities need to cooperate more when they decide to get involved in such trouble spots, because so much of what the military is asked to do involves humanitarian or peacekeeping operations.

For example, he said, the military might need assistance from the Justice Department to help set up police forces, or advice from the State Department on economic aid.

"We know the agencies, but who is responsible for coordinating it, bringing it all in at the right time?" he said. "Haiti, Bosnia, Rwanda, even Somalia, showed us these things go forward from the first day, and there is no coordinator."

Shalikashvili was head of the Joint Chiefs when the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military was adopted. He had argued that allowing homosexuals to serve openly would hurt troop morale and undermine the cohesion of combat units. Years later, though, he said that he had changed his mind on the issue after meeting with gay servicemen.

"These conversations showed me just how much the military has changed, and that gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers," Shalikashvili wrote in a January 2007 New York Times opinion piece.

Earlier in his career, under the first President George H. W. Bush, Shalikashvili served as NATO's supreme allied commander and also commander in chief of all U.S. armed forces in Europe. At the end of the first Gulf War, he was in charge of the Kurdish relief operation in northern Iraq.

In 2004, Shalikashvili also served on a senior military advisory group to the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, as did another former NATO commander, Gen. Wesley Clark.

Not long before his stroke, Shalikashvili spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, saying, "I do not stand here as a political figure. Rather, I am here as an old soldier and a new Democrat."

Shalikashvili was born June 27, 1936, in Warsaw, the grandson of a czarist general and the son of an army officer from Soviet Georgia. He lived through the German occupation of Poland during World War II and immigrated with his family in 1952, settling in Peoria, Illinois.

He learned English from watching John Wayne movies, according to his official Pentagon biography, and he retained a distinctive Eastern European accent.

Shalikashvili, who studied engineering at Bradley University in Peoria, enrolled in the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps, but his eyes were not good enough to be a pilot, according to a Defense Department biography. He became a U.S. citizen in 1958 and was drafted months later. In addition to being the first foreign-born Joint Chiefs chairman, he was the first draftee to rise to the top military job at the Pentagon, the Defense Department said.

"He knows how to put combat power together, understands policy options and will also be highly regarded by the troops," retired Col. Roy Alcala, who worked with Shalikashvili in the Pentagon, said in 1993.

Shalikashvili was the 13th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The current chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, said Shalikashvili "skillfully shepherded our military through the early years of the post-Cold War era, helping to redefine both U.S. and NATO relationships with former members of the Warsaw Pact."

Shalikashvili and his wife, Joan, moved to Steilacoom, near the Army's then-called Fort Lewis south of Tacoma, Washington, in 1998.

Shortly after Shalikashvili was tabbed by Clinton, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said documents it found indicated the general's late father, Dimitri Shalikashvili, collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. The center said it found the elder Shalikashvili's unpublished writings in the archives of Stanford 's Hoover Institution.

Shalikashvili is survived by his wife Joan, their son, Brant, and other family members.

(AP Photo/Ruth Fremson)

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 23, 2011

Judge Halts State Union Raises Temporarily

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn won a temporary halt on paying state employee raises that were due earlier this month.

Cook County Circuit Judge Richard Billik granted Quinn's request Friday to hold off paying the 2 percent raise. An arbitrator ruled earlier this week that Quinn had to pay.

Another hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Quinn announced July 1 he wouldn't pay the 2 percent raise ---_worth about $75 million --- that's owed to nearly 30,000 state workers. He says lawmakers didn't give him enough money to cover them.

The arbitrator had said the contract requires paying raises to members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The union has already delayed another 2 percent raise to help in the budget crisis.

Categories: Government, Politics

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