Illinois Public Media News
Two 16-year old boys are in Champaign County's juvenile detention center in connection with an unprovked attack on a Champaign man near Centennial High School on September 24.
The suspects are charged with aggravated battery for allegedly hitting former WILL forecaster Mike Sola while he was walking home from the Central High School football game last Friday night. Champaign Police Chief RT Finney said while this incident was outside the area where similar unprovoked attacks have occurred in recent weeks, the method of attack was the same. Finney said an anonymous tip led to the first arrest, and he expects it will lead to more.
"Right now, we're continuing to investigate each and every one of them and we expect to make as many arrests as we can," said Finney.
Julie Ogle in the Champaign County State's Attorney's office said the first teen arrested was upset about breaking up with his girlfriend and had prior contacts with police.
The first arrest was made Thursday, while the second teen was picked up late Friday morning. Sola sought treatment at a hospital for a cut to his earlobe and sustained a black eye.
Two people close to Rahm Emanuel say he will resign as White House chief of staff on Friday, and will begin his campaign for Chicago mayor by meeting with voters in the city on Monday.
The people who are familiar with Emanuel's plans spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt his announcement.
The people say Emanuel will return to Chicago over the weekend and begin touring neighborhoods on Monday to talk with voters. They say Emanuel also will launch a website with a message to Chicago voters.
Emanuel's plans have been the source of widespread speculation both in Chicago and Washington, D.C. ever since Mayor Richard Daley announced he would not seek re-election earlier this month.
(Photo courtesy of the White House)
Federal officials have taken one more step toward making the re-worked FutureGen clean-coal project a reality.
The Department of Energy signed an agreement with Ameren Energy Resources to start design work to retrofit a power plant near Meredosia. Under FutureGen 2.0, carbon dioxide produced from that plant would be piped to a site where it would be stored underground. Mattoon bowed out of the project this summer, leaving the site of that storage facility in question.
Also in question is how much the project could cost Ameren and its customers. Utility spokeswoman Susan Gallagher said Ameren will have to ask state lawmakers for some sort of cost-recovery plan. Gallagher said it was too early to elaborate, saying, "We do have a lot of analysis, review, cost estimates, analyzing commercial viability before we go forward."
Gallagher said the first two phases of the project will have to be completed before any construction work begins and an exact dollar estimate would be in place.
On Tuesday the Energy Department formally committed $1 billion to FutureGen.
At least two people want to challenge Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart next spring.
For Charles Mingee, it is his second attempt at running for mayor. In 2007, some signatures were declared invalid on his nominating petitions. Mingee, who presently works for Wal-Mart, served in the Navy from 1978 to 1982. The northwest Champaign resident said the city has done a poor job handling the aftermath of last fall's police shooting death of Kiwane Carrington.
Officer Daniel Norbits' gun discharged in the 15-year old's accidental shooting death last October. Norbits remains on leave during an appeal of his 30-day suspension. Mingee said the appeals process is hurting everyone involved.
"They've got to make a decision," said Mingee. "Either get rid of him, or re-instate him. It's just prolonging the agony for everybody."
The Carrington family rejected a $470,000 settlement that Champaign city council members approved last week. Mingee said city leaders are too focused on 'throwing money' on downtown development instead of rehabbing areas like Wilbur Heights.
Longtime Champaign resident Don Gerard is also exploring a mayoral run. He said some of his priorities include developing infrastructure with the growth of the big broadband high-speed internet project, and future recycling needs. Gerard said he also wants leaders to reach out more to Campustown merchants to better serve alumni and visitors.
"These are the people who are serving the individuals who will be returning to the community as alumni, potentially for years to come," said Gerard. "And I think it's important to recognize that and to work with them to accommodate our guests as they may very well become a part of our community, or return often."
Gerard has been in the city more than 40 years, has served as a day camp leader for the Champaign Park District, and has kids in the city schools. The Central Champaign resident added it is his job as a Facilities Manager at three biology departments at University of Illinois that has earned him a reputation as someone who works well with others to solve problems. Gerard said the success of downtown music festivals should prompt consideration for such an event in the Campustown area.
Potential candidates need to collect 63 signatures on a petition before they can declare a candidacy in November.
Pilot training at the University of Illinois' Willard Airport will go on for now, but its future is not guaranteed if academic faculty at the Institute of Aviation are reassigned elsewhere.
As part of a campus-wide cost-savings program, a committee has recommended that all academic curricula at the Institute be either discontinued or transferred elsewhere on campus.
Interim chancellor and provost Robert Easter says the Urbana Campus Senate will be asked to approve the changes - but so far, he says no place on campus has been found for the Aviation Institute's Human Factors degree program.
However, Easter stresses that current students have nothing to worry about. "We feel that when we accept a student into a program, we take on an obligation to provide the educational experiences that get them to the degree they plan to take," said Easter. "We would just stop.accepting new students."
Easter says a consulting firm based on campus will study the feasibility of existing pilot training at Willard without the academic program.
The changes have sparked concerns that air traffic would fall off considerably at Willard - enough to endanger the future of commercial air service. Easter says the committee found little evidence to support that. Though federal regulators may drop the rating of the airport's control tower, he says it wouldn't reduce operating hours, which airlines rely on for passenger service.
Republicans running for the Champaign County Board are endorsing two referenda going before voters soon.
The slate of six first-time candidates say while the job of County Auditor is crucial, elected leaders in that office are treating it as a mere 'political stepping stone' with few responsibilities. The County Board last week opted to put an item on the April ballot asking voters whether they want to make that position an elected or appointed one. But the GOP candidates note that the incumbents in their districts opposed the ballot item.
District 8 candidate Jim Phillips says it's a false dichotomy to say making the job an appointed one won't mean the person doing it doesn't represent the people. "I don't think it's a question of democracy vs. not democracy," said Phillips. "It's a question of - 'do the voters want to make this decision themselves, or would they rather delegate it to their already democratically elected representatives on the County Board, who are in a position where direct voter interaction much more important because you're supposed to be making decisions, you're supposed to be representing the will of the people."
The GOP candidates are also backing a non-binding referendum on November ballots to reduce the number of county board members from 27 to 22, and changing the number of multi-member districts from 9 to 11. District 7 candidate Sher Hempel says the mix of future candidates alone would be worth the change. "There's no doubt that each of the 11 compact, contiguous districts would have a diverse mix of socioeconomic, ethnic, professional, and amateur backgrounds, affording a potential competitive slate of candidates in future elections," said Hempel. "The rural areas will be able to fulfill the equal population requirement with smaller, compact, and contiguous election districts, and not have to reach deeply into the city precincts in order to fulfill that requirement."
The other candidates are Bill Glithero and Andrew Timms in District 6, Stephanie Holderfield in District 1, and Mary Jo Reik in District 5.
The city of Champaign's new Fire and Police Memorial will be dedicated Tuesday evening at West Side Park.
Connie Finney, wife of Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney, co-chairs a committee of fire and police officers' wives. She organized the effort to choose a design and raise money for the new memorial. Finney said the memorial features a flagpole on a granite base featuring the names of Patrolmen Thomas Doddsworth and Robert Tatman and Firefighter Edward Hoffman.
"Fire and police officers put themselves out there every day," she said. "They make sacrifices that most people wouldn't do."
The new fire and police memorial replaces one erected on the same site in 1913, after Patrolman Dodsworth was killed while trying to arrest two suspected bootleggers. The old memorial had been the site of annual ceremonies held by the Champaign Fire and Police departments in previous years, but Finney noted the structure had deteriorated over the years.
"Being close to 100 years old, the concrete was crumbling, and it was kind of crooked," said Finney. "And one of the plaques was very hard to read. So I talked to my husband and said, 'You know, you really need to do something about this, because it doesn't look that great, and people really don't know it's a memorial.'"
So far, donors have contributed about $40,000 for the memorial. Finney said when another $60,000 is raised, statues of a police officer and firefighter will be added to the memorial site.
Fund-raising efforts for the new Champaign Fire and Police Memorial include the sale of bricks, which will pave the memorial site. For information on making a contribution, contact the city of Champaign at 217-403-8700.
A source close to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said his decision on whether to quit his job to run for Chicago mayor could come as soon as Friday.
Emanuel is widely expected to leave the White House. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because no decision had been made.
Emanuel is still considering the effect that his decision would have on his family. He has long has expressed interest in running for Chicago mayor. The incumbent, Richard Daley, announced earlier this month he would not seek re-election after more than two decades in office.
Even President Barack Obama acknowledged that Emanuel would have to leave soon, should he choose to run, to set up his campaign for the mayoral race in 2011.
The president has previously said that he expected Emanuel to stay on as his right-hand man until after the Nov. 2 midterm elections, which could be challenging for Democrats.
However, speculation has been growing that Emanuel would return to Chicago, where he served as a North Side Congressman.
If he does decide to jump into the mayoral fray, Emanuel would have until Nov. 22 to gather the 12,500 voter signatures needed to get on the February ballot.
(Photo courtesy of the White House)
Champaign County Administrator Deb Busey said lagging state dollars and a poor economy mean further cuts to county departments, but she said departments are being asked to make 4% average cuts for fiscal 2011. She said they should be able to maintain their current level of services.
The full budget plan will be unveiled next month, with a vote by the county board in November. Some county departments have already seen furlough days, including the State's Attorney's Office, Court Services, the Supervisor of Assessments, and Emergency Management. Many positions were also left vacant. Decreased revenues, including state income tax dollars, have led to the new cuts, but she said she believes the worst is over.
"From this point forward, hopefully with some stabilization of the economy, we should be able to maintain this going forward," she said. "We don't anticipate a great deal of growth anytime in the near future, but hopefully we've reached the point where have reached the point where we should not have to continue cutting."
She said part of that preparation is also knowing to expect less and less in state revenues.
"This budget anticipates a fairly substantial reduction in state revenues," said Busey. "This budget is balanced, with the anticipation that those revenues are going to continue to be at a lower level than what we saw in 2008, and prior to that."
Busey added only possible impact on the public from the new cuts could come in a delay of requests for information.
The Champaign County Board has gone on record opposing the county clerk's plans to move early voting to an alternate site on the University of Illinois campus.
On a party line vote of 13 to 11, Democrats backed a resolution in support of using the Illini Union, but Republican County Clerk Mark Shelden said he was not at all swayed by the vote, and he will follow through with using a location at 700 South Gregory Street in Urbana. Members of three U of I student groups spoke up to oppose the change, saying Gregory Place is hard to find, and will not have the convenience of the union. Democrat Steve Beckett said he has been a long supporter of student voting, but he added that Shelden and prior Champaign County Clerks have made it difficult.
"The only thing the students are asking for is the same opportunity to early vote as everybody else in this county," said Beckett. "And they want an opportunity to vote in a place that's close to them just as I want an opportunity to vote for early voting in a place that's close to me."
Shelden, a republican, said his goal all along was to find a location free from political activity, and accessible to everyone.
"If we really want to have a discussion about early voting, if people are really concerned, then we need to have a discussion about how we offer this to every voter in Champaign County."
In four years of early voting, Shelden says this is the first time the county board has taken interest in the issue. With some marketing, he says the Gregory Street location can be a big success.
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