Illinois Public Media News
For politicians in a supposedly "blue" state, quite a few Illinois Democrats are looking vulnerable right now. Republicans could pick up a number of statewide offices, and also a few congressional ones. In fact, as Illinois Public Radio's Sam Hudzik reports, some Illinois voters will play a large role in deciding which party controls the U.S. House and the coveted speaker's gavel.
(Photo of Congressman Bill Foster (D-14) by Sam Hudzik/IPR)
Champaign's school board is scheduled to vote next week on the design of a new grade school in Savoy.
A Unit 4 board member who is an architect said the key to the new Carrie Busey Elementary building will be flexibility in educational space. Christine Chalifoux said older school facilities have a hard time helping some students, since many kids develop at a different pace while they are still in the same classroom.
The Savoy grade school will feature collaboration spaces that teachers can adjust based on different teaching styles. Chalifoux said Unit 4 is taking the right approach with this building.
"We try to teach the way the kids learn," Chalifoux said. "We need flexibility in spaces. We need places we can have break-outs so we can have large groups. We can have special projects and things like that, and that's really been important in all three of these new schools: BTW (Booker T. Washington), Garden Hills, and the new Carrie Busey."
Champaign School Board member Greg Novak said the collaborative space concept is already in place at Stratton and Barkstall elementary schools.
Savoy Village Trustee Joan Dykstra said the configuration of classroom space and open areas will pay dividends for the school district and neighborhood, but she said the school will get its share of use in evening and weekend hours as well.
"There's agreements too that the building will be able to be used for multiple events," Dykstra said.
Dykstra explained that the plans for the new grade school have also been well thought out for special education needs, adding that she appreciates the traffic pattern for buses and parents to pick up and drop off students.
The preliminary design of the Savoy school also allows the library to serve as the anchor, with classrooms grouped around it. A second story will be built to allow for additional outdoor play space. The new Carrie Busey school is scheduled to open in 2012.
The city of Decatur will lose about 80 jobs at one of its biggest employers, but a city official said it is better than losing the entire facility.
Reports of Tate and Lyle looking for a new headquarters site near Chicago stirred worries that the firm with deep roots in Decatur was going to relocate its U.S. headquarters, but on Tuesday the British-based food ingredients processor announced plans to build a "Commercial and Food Innovation Center" in Hoffman Estates. The new operation will house the majority of research and development now being done in Decatur. About 160 positions will be based in the new Center, but the firm said only about 80 will be relocated from Decatur.
"We're excited about this investment that we're making, and it's really helping to transform the company into the world leading specialty food and ingredients business," said company spokesman Chris Olsen.
The company, which makes products such as high fructose corn syrup, will keep its American headquarters and leadership team in place - and for that, Decatur city manager Ryan McCrady credited the persuasive powers of area leaders.
"At the end of the day we don't exactly know why they make their decisions," McCrady said. "Obviously Decatur is a much lower-cost alternative as far as operating when you compare it to Chicago. Low water and sewer rates and our inexpensive housing for their employees we feel are all a factor."
Tate and Lyle will get a $15 million package of incentives from the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for the new Chicago-area facility, but McCrady said the state has to walk a fine line between helping one location and helping the entire state retain jobs.
With about 500 jobs remaining in Decatur, Olson said the company will continue to be a significant part of the community.
Champaign department heads are developing a contingency plan, in case $2-million in cuts are needed.
Those reductions are in addition to the $9-million in reductions the city has already made the last few years. Several pages of suggested cuts will be discussed late next month by the city council. Assistant City Manager Dorothy David said cuts could include customer service jobs in the city building and police department's front desk, and reduced service hours in public works. She said it is getting to the point where snow removal could be impacted, and the city may need to make adjustments in routes and how quickly snow is removed. David said Champaign's resources to run city government are at 2006 levels.
"Even though we are seeing very slow revenue growth, our revenues are not growing as fast as our costs," said David. "When your costs grow faster than the amount of money that you're bringing in, you have to make adjustments. So the economy has really impacted us in that way."
David said if the state takes further action to reduce revenues that it shares with the city, like income tax, that would mean additional cuts. The city council will discuss these proposals in a study session November 23rd, and could develop a plan to implement them in January.
It is likely that the upcoming election will be overseen by the sitting Piatt County Clerk. A challenge to Piatt County Clerk Pat Rhoades has been thrown out of a county court.
Attorney Dan Clifton argued that Rhoades moved out of the county and thus should not be able to serve the last two months of her term. Rhoades is retiring at the end of the year, and her successor will be determined in the next election. Attorney Dan Clifton had charged that Rhoades and her family had permanently moved to Champaign County - Rhoades had said the move was temporary while they built a new home.
Judge John Shonkwiler dismissed Clifton's complaint.
Deanna Mool, who represented Rhoades, argued that Clifton did not allow a state's attorney or the attorney general to file or deny the challenge first.
"In order to get a declaratory judgment, you have to have some right that's going to be irrevocably harmed," Mool said. "This is just not that kind of controversy."
Clifton said he will not be able to file a new complaint until after Election Day, and he said he is not sure if he will try to challenge Rhodes in the last month of her term.
If no other challenges are filed, Rhoades will oversee the November 2nd election in Piatt County. Clifton stressed that the judge dismissed the case on a legal technicality and did not rule on whether Rhoades is eligible to serve.
Preliminary talks have started about building a new Central High School in Champaign.
About 50 residents attended Unit 4's first meeting to look at seven potential sites for replacing the more than 70-year old school. The district will use more than $3-million in facilities sales tax money to buy land for the school by next spring or fall, and a tax referendum for school construction will not go before voters until 2012 or 2013. If it passes on the district's first attempt, the new school would be built about two years later.
David Frye has a son in 7th grade, and said he hopes the work is done by time he graduates.
"That's six years from now. and I guess I've got my doubts at this point that he's going to benefit from this at all," Frye said. "I know there's always this question of, 'what's in it for me?' But what's in it for me is the chance to see my son and my son's friends get to graduate from a nice, modern high school. I'd love to see that."
Frye said his older son was involved in music and sports at Central, forcing him to walk to other school campuses for practice or games.
Unit 4 wants the new school to accommodate 1,500 or more students, with those practice areas on site, and nearby park space. Unit 4 School Board President Dave Tomlinson said he estimates a tax referendum would require $50 to $80 million. He said the seven sites are being studied not only with population growth in mind, but the transportation available for getting to them.
Nancy Hoetker is a Central High parent.
"There's a lot of us who currently drive a fair amount to get our children where they need to be here at Central," Hoetker said. "And we're going to be able to do that wherever we are, but there's another population that relies on the public transportation or proximity, and how are they going to be served by these locations."
Of the seven potential sites for the new school, four are near the north end of Prospect Avenue, including one along Olympian Drive. Two are west of First Street and south of Windsor Avenue, and one is west of I-57 in Northwest Champaign. Unit 4's web site will soon contain a place for sending in comments on those locations.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
(Graphic Courtesy of Champaign Unit 4 Schools)
Whoever wins the election for Illinois governor will face a budget deficit hovering somewhere around $13 billion. Democratic Governor Pat Quinn supports an income tax hike that would reduce the deficit - but not eliminate it. Republican state Senator Bill Brady says he would start by cutting all areas of the budget by 10-percent or more. There are more ideas out there - from the three other candidates for governor. Illinois Public Radio's Sam Hudzik takes a look at their plans for the budget.
(Photo courtesy of Daniel Schwen)
UPDATE: This story was updated October 15th to include comments from Alfred Ivey, attorney for Jeshuan Manning-Carter and Laura Manning.
The teen arrested last October when 15-year old Kiwane Carrington was killed during an altercation with Champaign Police has filed a lawsuit against the city.
In the suit filed October 6th by 16-year old Jeshaun Manning-Carter and his mother, Laura Manning - they contend that it was Police Chief RT Finney, and not officer Daniel Norbits, who fired the bullet that killed Carrington. The shooting was ruled accidental, and no charges were filed. Norbits remains on leave while contesting a 30-day unpaid suspension. The lawsuit filed by attorney Alfred Ivy reads that Finney "fired a shot downward into the chest of Kiwane Carrington, killing Carrington."
Champaign Deputy City Attorney Trisha Crowley said the allegations are completely false, and she added that the city will vigorously defend them.
"There's been extensive internal and external investigations by law enforcement agencies and others," said Crowley. "The evidence has always been extremely clear that Chief Finney was not the shooter in this case."
Alfred Ivey, the attorney for Manning-Carter and his mother, says he filed the suit using the story Manning Carter gave him - a version of the shooting incident that he says went untold because the teenager was traumatized by Carrington's death.
"I saw this (Manning-Carter's delay in speaking out) as him trying to get himself back in balance", says Ivey. "Because, instead of being allowed to grieve properly for his best friend, who he saw shot and killed in front of him, he's now fighting a criminal case."
Manning-Carter was charged with resisting a peace officer, but the charges were later dismissed.
The family of Kiwane Carrington recently settled with the city after a separate lawsuit, agreeing on an amount of 470-thousand dollars.
It has been just over a year since Carrington was killed following a report of a break-in at a home on West Vine Street. The home was used as a starting point for this year's Champaign-Urbana Unity March, held October 9th
Illinois EPA Chief Doug Scott came to Champaign County Wednesday to announce funding for three local projects aimed at cleaning up local air and water.
Scott visited the Champaign-Urbana MTD bus garage to announce a $445,000 Clean Diesel grant --- backed by federal stimulus money --- to retrofit 43 diesel buses with special exhaust filters designed to keep diesel particulate from getting into the outside air.
"They capture about 90 percent of the diesel sub-particulates, and 75-80 percent of the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide emitted from diesel engines," Scott said. "This will provide more clean air for the employees and also for the public, the staff, the students at the U of I who ride the buses or walk near the bus routes."
The CU-MTD worked with researchers at the University of Illinois College of Agricultural Consumer and Environmental Sciences to choose the right filters for their buses and the local climate, as well as setting protocol for installation and maintenance.
While in Urbana, Scott also announced $47 million in federal stimulus and state loans to finance improvements at the Urbana-Champaign Sanitary District's Northeast Wastewater Treatment plant in Urbana.
Later, Scott visited the small Champaign County village of Homer, which is receiving more than $10 million dollars in state grants and loans to finance the construction of its first-ever wastewater plant and centralized sewage collection system. The project will replace the individual septic systems currently used by Homer residents and businesses.
During his Urbana stop, Scott also said the Illinois EPA is working to meet a federally imposed deadline for strengthening state regulation of large confined-animal farms, known as confined-animal feeding operations (CAFO).
The federal EPA has given its Illinois counterpart until the end of the month to complete an inventory of the state's CAFO's, overhaul its inspection program and set procedures for investigating citizen complaints.
Scott said his agency has been working on the issue for the last couple of years, and expects to have a "good response" for the federal EPA's demand.
"We take this issue very seriously," Scott said. "We know that these facilities have the potential to cause some large (scale) pollution, and we know that it's important for us to get the best handle we can on that --- both in terms of permitting, but also in terms of enforcement. And that's the steps we have been taking, and what we will continue to do."
A federal EPA report last month found widespread problems with Illinois' oversight of large-scale cattle, hog and chicken operations, and the huge amounts of waste that they produce. The report found state inspection reports that failed to say if a CAFO was following pollution laws or not, and many cases where the state failed to get farms to comply with those laws.
The report also indicated that the Illinois EPA's enforcement powers are too weak. Scott said he will ask state lawmakers next year to give his agency authority that is currently left to the state attorney general.
The 17th congressional district in Illinois is one of the most odd looking districts in the nation. It twists and turns through Western and Central Illinois from the Mississippi River to Decatur. The district was drawn that way to ensure it remains in the Democratic Party's hands, but conservatives feel the incumbent is vulnerable and are ratcheting up the pressure as they try to change the seat from blue to red. Illinois Public Radio's Rich Egger reports.
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