Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 01, 2011

AFSCME Urges Champaign to Preserve Police Funding

With about 50 jobs eliminated in Champaign as part of a round of budget cuts over the last few years, AFSCME local 31 says some of those positions should be saved - especially as city department heads and the city manager are poised to receive a two percent pay hike.

One area impacted by recent budget cuts is the Champaign Police Department, which could lose a few positions that would keep the front desk from staying open overnight. At a time when administrator salaries are going up, AFSCME spokesperson Michael Wilmore said the city should do more to keep the front desk open 24 hours a day.

"We are trying to draw attention to the fact that they're giving themselves raises," Wilmore said. "It is really insulting to the workers and to the citizens of Champaign."

The Champaign City Council considered a liquor tax in June to restore funding for three of the department's front desk positions and one of its record services positions, but that measure failed to get enough support.

There are currently two out of three three positions at the police department's front desk that are vacant. No changes in the status of these jobs will occur until the Champaign City Council provides more direction, which means for now, the two vacated positions will not be filled and the third position will not be eliminated. The city council is expected to discuss potential new sources of revenue and the future of those jobs during its July 12th meeting.

Champaign Mayor Don Gerard said he is hopeful that the city will find a way to keep the front desk staffed all the time.

"Those positions are vital to the support of the police staff," Gerard said. "I voted against not giving the city manager a raise not because I didn't think he deserved it, but because from a leadership standpoint in these budgetary times, we need to have shared responsibility."

City Manager Steve Carter, whose salary will go up by two percent, defended the pay increases for non-union employees. Carter has not received a pay raise for the last couple of years. He noted many of the other non-union workers who are expected to make more money this year also did not get a raise last year.

"If there has been a group of employees that have scarified - if you will - recognizing the budget condition, it has been the non-union employees," Carter said. "All the union employees, including AFSCME, have received salary increases all along based on contracts, some in existence and some negotiated."

Union workers from the Fraternal Order of Police and the Plumbers and Pipefitters saw their salaries go up last year, and continue to rise this year. However, no future pay raises have been budgeted for AFSCME workers since contract negations with the city are ongoing.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 01, 2011

Cuts to Illinois’ Regional School Superintendents Leaves Questions

The Regional Superintendent of Schools for Champaign and Ford Counties says it is too early to speculate on the long-term impact of Gov. Pat Quinn's cuts to her office and others like it.

The Democratic governor signed a budget Thursday night that would cut salaries for Jane Quinlan and her assistant. The Quinn administration suggests local school districts should pick up those salaries. He has also cut out funds for professional development and training at regional superintendents' offices across the state.

But Quinlan said state lawmakers would have to decide whether to challenge those changes in the fall. For the time being, Quinlan is starting a new four-year term, and she said legislators appear to back that.

"It was put back in both the House budget and the Senate budget," Quinlan said. "The governor had vetoed it again, which would take it back to what his original proposal was. There are some comments in the newspapers that indicate that he thinks it might be paid from other sources, or from county sources. But I haven't really seen a plan for that."

Quinlan said she hopes to learn more about the governor's plan next week. Champaign Unit 4 School Board President Sue Grey said she intends to contact legislators to express her concerns about the budget cuts.

Like Quinlan, Peoria's Regional Superintendent of Schools was sworn in Friday to another term in office. Gerry Brookhart said the Illinois Association of School Superintendents will likely file an injunction to block Quinn's action.

"Myself and our staff will continue to work and the legal entanglement that this will create will probable take some time," Brookhart said. "Ultimately, it will be sorted out and the public will get what we think they really want and deserve which is good quality education delivered in a very effective and meaningful fashion."

The Executive Director of the IARS, Michael McCreery, said he is 'baffled and miffed' by the governor's decision to cut funding for regional school superintendents. Brookhart said the Peoria office brought in $16 million in revenue last year. He said Regional Offices statewide are responsible for more than $100 million in annual revenue. Brookhart said that makes it hard to understand why the governor would cut $11 million and jeopardize ten times that in revenue.

Meanwhile, Mary Fergus with Illinois Association of School Boards said her office has not had a chance to analyze the governor's plan.

There are 46 Regional Offices of Education in the state. Their duties include certifying teachers, overseeing school inspections, and running GED exams.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 01, 2011

Suspect Arrested in Champaign Homicide; Victim Identified

An arrest has been made in the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Nathan Barker of Champaign.

The United States Marshals Service worked with the Champaign Police Department to locate and arrest Keontae Campbell for First Degree Murder and Unlawful Possession of a Weapon.

Campbell was arrested inside a residence late Friday morning on the 7100 Block of Faris in Lawrence, Indiana. The Champaign Police Department said he did not resist arrest.

The homicide occurred early Friday morning at the intersection of Bradley and McKinley on Champaign's northwest side. Police were called to the intersection at 2:42 AM, where they found Barker with a gunshot wound. He was later pronounced dead at Carle Foundation Hospital.

An autopsy will be performed Friday afternoon.

Police say that in their initial investigation, they learned the shooting followed an altercation between Barker and Campbell, and it is believed the two knew each other.

The intersection of Bradley and McKinley was closed to traffic for the investigation. It reopened Friday morning at 7:10 AM.

If you have information about the shooting, contact Champaign Police at 217-351-4545, or to stay anonymous, contact Champaign County Crime Stoppers at 217-373-8477 (TIPS), or online at www.373tips.com, or by texting keyword "Tip397" plus the information to 274637 (CRIMES).


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 01, 2011

Quinn Tries to Skip $75 Million in Raises

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

Gov. Pat Quinn wants to cancel raises for thousands of state employees to help cope with the Illinois budget crisis.

The administration notified 14 state agencies and the affected unions that the 2 percent raises won't be paid as required by contract.

Quinn's office says lawmakers did not provide enough money in the new budget to cover raises for nearly 30,000 employees. Quinn spokeswoman Mica Matsoff says 14 agencies won't have enough money to operate for the full budget year if salaries go up. Canceling the raises would save more than $75 million.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall stated:

"With his illegal and irresponsible actions today, Governor Quinn has trampled on the collective bargaining process and broken his contract with the men and women who do the real work of state government."

"These tens of thousands of Illinois state employees impacted care for disabled veterans, risk their lives in state prisons, monitor paroled convicts, protect children from abuse and neglect, rush to assist in disasters, and much more," Lindall added. "AFSCME will aggressively pursue every available legal recourse to ensure that the collective bargaining agreement is honored and employees are paid according to their contract.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 01, 2011

Treasurer’s Vault of Unclaimed Property to Open to Public

The big state treasurer's vault located underneath the Illinois Statehouse in Springfield is normally closed to the public. But the vault will be open for tours during the 2nd week of July. State Treasurer Dan Rutherford tells Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows about the vault, its history, and how it is currently being used. You can visit the vault, July 11th through the 15th. Tours will be held every half hour from 9 AM until 4 PM daily, starting from Room 203 (the former bank) at the Capitol. Reservations for tours are preferred, but not required. To schedule a tour for an individual, family or group, contact Shirley Johnson at the Capitol, at 217-558-4796 or sjohnson@treasurer.state.il.us.

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Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2011

Quinn OKs New Ill. Budget, with Extra Cuts

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the new Illinois budget into law Thursday, after first trimming money for school buses, eliminating support for regional education offices and chopping Medicaid.

The Democrat suggested the cuts could be part of further negotiations.

"Implementing a budget is not a one-day event but rather a year-round process filled with robust debate and difficult decisions," Quinn said in a statement.

Quinn has repeatedly criticized the spending plan lawmakers sent him, saying it shortchanged many important services. But he cut further.

Money for Medicaid, a health program for the poor, is being cut by an additional $276 million. That brings the Department of Healthcare and Family Services budget to $14.3 billion, or about 4.5 percent below current levels.

Illinois will still have to pay for medical services, however, so less money means bills are simply paid more slowly. Unless something changes, about $1.5 billion in Medicaid bills will be left unpaid at the end of the year, adding to backlog that already amounts to $6 billion or more.

"The point is to get the interested parties to the table to negotiate in good faith" on controlling Medicaid costs, Vaught said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Transportation money the state provides to local schools will be cut by $89 million, which leaves nearly $206 million, a substantial increase.

Vaught said the purpose of that cut is to focus limited state resources on classrooms.

"That's a local function, getting the kids to school," Vaught said, referring to the transportation money as "excess" state funds.

Reducing state aid for transportation is likely to force schools to take money away from other educational services in order to keep buses running.

Quinn eliminated all the money the state provides for regional offices of education around the state. The cut of about $11.3 million does not eliminate the offices, but it would force local taxpayers to come up with the money or close the offices.

Lawmakers rejected both of Quinn's education cuts. They have the option of restoring the $376 million that Quinn cut Thursday. Unless they take action, however, Quinn's version of the budget is the one Illinois will follow for the next year.

His office said Quinn's cuts bring the key measure of state spending to $32.9 billion, about $2 billion below the previous budget. That's a reduction of roughly 6 percent.

Vaught said he didn't know the total size of the budget, including federal funds, fees and other special categories. For the previous year, it was $52.7 billion.

Quinn did not make any public appearance to discuss signing the budget. He does not have any appearances scheduled for Friday either.

The additional budget cuts are likely to frustrate groups that feel the version approved by lawmakers was already deeply flawed. It slashed money to institutions for the mentally handicapped, promised long delays in paying Medicaid bills, reduced education spending and cut money for state employees.

"This is a fundamentally broken budget, an unworkable plan that falls far short of the revenue needed to adequately support basic services," said Anders Lindall, spokesman for the Illinois division of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Lindall urged Quinn to spend at the levels needed to maintain services and then work with lawmakers to come up with more money later in the year.

But Vaught said Quinn must assume no more money will be available. "You implement right away and you do the cuts," he said.

A key question is what cuts Quinn can make. He reached a bargain with AFSCME last year in which the union agreed to make concessions and Quinn agreed not to cut jobs or close state facilities.

Vaught said Quinn will diclose more of his plans soon.

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2011

Gill Running Again for Congress

Bloomington physician David Gill is launching a fourth campaign for Congress.

It will also be the fourth time Gill is seeking a run against Urbana Republican Congressman Tim Johnson, but this time, the two would face one another in very different territory.

Gill said the re-drawn 13th Congressional District should work in his favor since it is a bit smaller, and will include Democratic support in cities like Springfield, and all of Decatur.

"So many times I would go to my part of Macon County, campaigning in the past, and long for the opportunity to connect with more of the voters within Decatur," Gill said. "But that was closed off to me, Decatur was divided up three ways, and now, lo and behold, all of Decatur is there and open to me."

Gill said the 13th district, which now includes an area near St. Louis, is a very winnable race for Democrat, but he expects opposition in the primary.

The Democrat said during Congressman Johnson's time in the 15th District, he has changed course on a number of issues, including the use of military force in Iraq.

"That's the type of big decision where the right decision needs to be made in the first place, before 5,000 service men are dead, and 30-to-40 thousand servicemen are grievously injured," Gill said. "Now, he walks around his old district and this new (the 13th) district and describes himself as an anti-war dub, if you will."

Gill said voters have had a short memory when it comes to Johnson's decisions. The Democrat added that voters don't grasp why Johnson would vote to end Medicare.

Gill ran unsuccessful bids against Johnson in 2004, 2006, and 2010.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2011

U of I Extension Cuts Mean Major Reorganization, Job Losses

More than 100 jobs will be cut from the University of Illinois Extension as a result of a large reorganization.

While initial budget figures called for more than $2 million in cuts, that figure increased to $7.6 million for the new fiscal year.

As it stands, the budget cuts will force the merger of several county offices, and the number of Extension units have been reduced from 70 to 27. And about 50 county extension director positions will be eliminated though layoffs and retirements.

Interim Associate Dean and Director Bob Hoeft said moving educators out of centers and into the counties should actually be a good thing. They specialize in areas like small farms, nutrition, and youth development in local 4-H programs.

Hoeft said while a number of the jobs cut were educator positions, he said no specific areas of expertise were targeted. He also noted that any counties that want to keep their extension office open could - but many will be operating only two to three days a week. He said in most cases, an office will remain open.

"The public spoke - the public said they wanted their offices," he said. "There are counties that said they don't need an office, and Douglas County is one example of that. Talking with elected officials, they've said that they had no real complaints, and it's worked real well."

Among the educator positions that were reduced, he says just six are left in agriculture, because few are needed anymore.

"We have a number of commercial ag people that come directly to campus," Hoeft said. "We also have 1,500 certified crop advisers in this state that are capable of giving sound, agronomic advice, and customers, the farmers of the state, go to them for that advice."

Hoeft said Extension will be relying more on electronic communication in the future since that is what younger generations demand.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2011

Getting Rural Residents Where They Need to Be

The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District gives passengers about 10 million rides each year. But as Dan Petrella of CU-CitizenAccess reports, for Champaign County's rural residents, getting where they need to go isn't as easy as walking to the nearest bus stop.

(Photo by Dan Petrella)

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2011

Illinois’ Ban on Capital Punishment to Take Effect

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

Starting Friday, Illinois' ban on capital punishment will take effect, but advocates on both sides of the death penalty debate say their work is not done.

State lawmakers voted in January to abandon capital punishment, and Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation in March. That happened more than a decade after the state imposed a moratorium on executions out of concern that innocent people could be put to death by a justice system that had wrongly condemned 13 men.

Gov. Quinn also commuted the sentences of all 15 inmates remaining on death row who are now serving life sentences in prison with no hope of parole.

Fifteen other states have also abolished the death penalty.

With the law in place, it would seem that The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty could declare "mission accomplished." But the group's director, Jeremy Schroeder, said that is not the case.

"I wish I could tell you we're all retiring," Schroeder said. "But unfortunately there will always be some need for the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty."

Schroeder admits his group is downsizing, and has considered changing its name to "the Coalition Against the Death Penalty." Schroeder said the key task going forward is to make sure the ban remains.

However, critics like State Representative Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst) are working to overturn it.

"I still believe, as studies do show, that the death penalty is a deterrent to these most heinous of crimes," Reboletti said.

Reboletti's legislation stalled in the House this past session, but he said he believes there is enough support for it to pass.

The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty says it's poised to fight back legislation to overturn the ban.

Illinois has executed 12 men since 1977, when the death penalty was reinstated. The last execution was Andrew Kokoraleis on March 17, 1999. At the time, the average length of stay on death row was 13 years.

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)


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