Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 05, 2011

Arrest Warrant Issued for Cherry Orchard Landlords

(With additional reporting from Pam Dempsey of CU-CitizenAccess)

A Champaign County judge issued two warrants Thursday for a father-son landlord team who have failed to comply with court orders to empty out an apartment complex in Champaign County.

Judge John Kennedy issued a civil contempt warrant and a criminal contempt warrant for both Bernard Ramos and his father, Eduardo. The arrest warrants each include a $10,000 bond. If arrested, the judge requires that the Ramoses post the full amount - $20,000 each - rather than the typical 10 percent bond before they can be released.

The Ramoses were accused of failing to legally connect sewer and septic systems for six out of their eight apartment buildings on the property. The apartment complex has traditionally housed many migrant workers.

Last month, Judge Kennedy found the Ramoses guilty of failing to legally connect the property's sewer and septic systems. They must pay more than $54,000 in fines ($100 per day for 379 days for the unlawful discharge of sewage, $100 per day for 160 days for renting out the property during the health code violation; and $200 for not having a proper construction permit and license when they tried to repair the sewage and septic systems).

The Champaign County Public Health Department also sought to stop the Ramoses from renting out the property until the septic system could be legally fixed.

The pair was ordered to pay the fines within six months and vacate the complex immediately, which lies between Thomasboro and Rantoul.

A hearing on the case was scheduled for Thursday after public health inspectors noted tenants still living on the property.

Julie Pryde, director of the Champaign County Public Health Department, said a neighbor of Cherry Orchard reported that tenants were moving from one building to another building on the east side of the complex. The building they were moving into lacks electrical service, inspectors confirmed in October.

"I'm definitely happy that the state's attorney's office is moving forward," Pryde said after Thursday's hearing.

Pryde said inspectors have noted at least 10 cars on the property, indicating that the complex remains occupied. She said she is worried more tenants will move to Cherry Orchard.

"I am definitely concerned that if they are in Texas like they report to be, then they could be bringing back migrants because they have a history of doing that," Pryde said. "(Bernard Ramos) has made no bones about that, and that would be a real problem."

Pryde said health inspectors would continue to monitor the situation, but that assistance for the tenants who need help moving is being handled by social service agencies such as the Salvation Army. A summons for the Ramoses could not be served as the two were not found.

Champaign County Assistant State's Attorney Joel Fletcher told the judge that the Ramoses said they were in Texas and would not be at Thursday's hearing.

Bernard Ramos and his family have owned more than 30 properties in Champaign County; however, several are now or have been under foreclosure during the past few years - with at least seven sold in sheriff's auctions since 2008, according to an analysis of Champaign County Recorder's Office documents.

A call to Bernard Ramos seeking comment was not immediately returned.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 05, 2011

IL House Votes Down Medical Marijuana Bill

The Illinois House has once again rejected allowing medicinal marijuana for those with certain medical conditions.

The proposed measure would hae implemented a three-year pilot program for medical marijuana. The program would've allowed people suffering from certain kinds of illnesses, including cancer and AIDS, to receive a prescription for marijuana to help alleviate pain and nausea.

The measure failed on a 61-to-53 vote.

The bill would have barred people from buying the marijuana anywhere except 59 licensed, not-for-profit sellers. But critics argue it sends the wrong message to kids and could make the drug problem worse.

The measure's Sponsor, Lou Lang (D-Skokie), had limited the program to three years and added a provision to allow the purchase only from licensed dispensaries, but it wasn't enough.

"Maybe as many as 100 members believe we should pass a medical marijuana law but for whatever reason are unable to convince themselves to do it," Lang said.

Lang could call the measure for another vote this Spring. He said he believes he has the necessary support, but has to convince enough colleagues to follow through and vote for it.

House Republican Leader Tom opposed earlier versions of the measure, but endorsed it this time it, saying it's only right to help relieve people's suffering.

"Shouldn't we be able to provide to them the best relief and the best available source to do that?" Cross said.

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 05, 2011

Concealed Carry Bill Goes Down in IL House, Could Be Resurrected

A measure that would allow Illinois residents to carry concealed guns in public fell short of the supermajority needed to pass Thursday in the Illinois House.

It would have allowed people to carry guns if they were properly registered and had completed eight hours of training, including target practice. Applicants would have needed to pass a background check with a review of their mental health status.

The vote was 65-32, giving the measure a solid majority. But it needed 71 votes to pass, a standard requirement for legislation that restricts local communities' regulatory power.

Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said he called the bill for a vote despite thinking it would probably fail. He could call another vote, but Phelps said Thursday was likely the best chance to pass it.

Phelps and other supporters said concealed carry wouldn't make Illinois more dangerous. It would just give people a chance to defend themselves in an emergency, he said.

"There's guns on the streets right now because of the guns the bad guys have," Phelps said.

Gov. Pat Quinn promised this week to veto any concealed carry bill. He reiterated his position Thursday at a memorial service for slain police officers, calling the timing of the vote "ironic" considering the event he was attending.

"I happen to believe that that particular bill will not in any way protect public safety," the Chicago Democrat told reporters. "It will do the opposite."

Supporters of the bill say Illinois should emulate the rest of the nation, as it and Wisconsin are the only states without some form of concealed carry. They also say concealed carry is a sensible option for people who wish to protect themselves.

Critics say those who obtained concealed carry permits in other states have later been convicted of violent crimes. They argue putting more guns on the street will increase crime rather than safety.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 05, 2011

Prairie Center/Community Elements Merger Delayed

Two social service agencies facing potentially drastic state budget cuts have delayed a decision to merge.

Last March Prairie Center and Community Elements said they were exploring a merger. Prairie Center provides substance abuse treatment and prevention while Community Elements, formerly the Mental Health Center of Champaign County, provides other mental health services.

Prairie Center director Bruce Suardini said neither agency is clear on their funding from the state for the rest of the fiscal year, not to mention the outcome of the fiscal year 2012 budget. At one point, Prairie Center and other substance-abuse treatment facilities were threatened with a total cutoff of state money.

"Because of the instability of the funding, merging the two agencies together just to merge is not a good business decision," Suardini said. "And not having the budgets in place to understand where we're going for Fiscal Year 2012 keeps that process from finalizing."

Suardini said all other indicators point to a merger as the best option for both mental health providers. But he said merger talks won't resume until the second half of 2011, with a decision possibly delayed until next January.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 05, 2011

Mike Pence to Run for Indiana Governor In 2012

U.S. Rep. Mike Pence is running for Indiana governor in 2012.

The conservative Republican told supporters on a conference call Thursday that he will seek the office currently held by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels. Most already expected Pence to run after he ruled out a White House bid and resigned his No. 3 GOP House leadership position.

Pence is considered the favorite in the race because he carries strong name recognition, a network of supporters and campaign cash that could help him clear the field of other Republicans considering a run.

Democrats still lack a candidate, but former House Speaker John Gregg says he is considering entering the race.

Daniels cannot seek a third consecutive term and is set to announce in coming weeks whether he'll run for president.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 04, 2011

Champaign County Redistricting Commission Starts Over

A panel assigned with re-drawing County Board districts in Champaign County essentially starts from scratch Wednesday night.

The board Tuesday rejected the design known as '1E' on a party line vote. County Board Democrat Michael Richards, who also sits on the panel, says the map was the worst design in terms of compactness. He also said the design disenfranchises black voters.

The board also voted 20 to 7 to recommend that the redistricting commission suggest multiple maps for the county board to consider. Richards says it's hard to predict what the commission will do at this point. And he says politics is only one thing to consider.

"Even if you take the straight party numbers out of it, both of the parties are going to have different priorities for a map," said Richards. "It's quite possible that we could find a compromised map that everybody thinks is okay, but not necessarily."

Mahomet Republican Stephanie Holderfield contends that a higher number of maps could become confusing at some point, saying the criteria set by the county board is more important.

"Let's make it work where the voting body is pleased with how it operates," she said. "I think the goal of the redistricting commission is not to muddy the waters, but give clarification and clear the waters a little bit." Holderfield says the ideal map will provide the opporutunity for any single person who wants to run for elected office

Republican Alan Nudo says he agrees with a couple of concerns cited by Democrats Chris Alix and James Quisenberry, who wanted to be clear a final map include so-called 'majority minority' districts as required by law, that breaking up precincts would be the last thing considered, and that Urbana not have too many districts. He says having an agreement between parties is 'big.'

"This has the ability, I think, if we can make something happen here, it could roll out to other counties or even go statewide," said Nudo. "But let me put it very blunty - there are people who are interested in not having this happen. I hadn't realized the pressures that individuals are under from a party standpoint."

The Champaign County Board has to sign off on a re-drawn map of 11 districts by July.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 04, 2011

All Praise for Mayor Daley in Final Council Meeting

Chicago's outgoing mayor, Richard Daley, presided over his final city council meeting Wednesday. In more than two hours of speeches, the mayor was praised for his leadership - even by aldermen he often bickered with.

As he often does, Alderman Ed Burke started the speeches off - applauding the mayor for everything from his tree planting efforts to Northerly Island to the "museum campus, the remaking of public education, the Sox 2005 World Series Victory, the Blackhawks Stanley Cup."

Daley laughed and added, "The Bulls this year."

Daley occasionally joked during the meeting. But mostly he sat quietly, at times nodding or smiling while nearly every alderman there stood to speak.

With the big fights behind them, even some aldermen Daley was most often at odds with, like Bob Fioretti and Joe Moore, had nice things to say about him. Moore said he agreed with the mayor more often than he disagreed with him.

Daley was joined by two of his children at the council meeting. His ailing wife, Maggie, remains in the hospital, "recuperating," the mayor said.

Daley's last day in office is May 16th. He told reporters he has no regrets about leaving after 22 years in charge.

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 04, 2011

Unior Retiree Group Readies to Fight GOP Medicare Proposal

Opponents of the changes to Medicare proposed in the budget plan passed by the US House are gearing up their campaigns. The union-affiliated Alliance for Retired Americans made its case to a luncheon for retirees of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Urbana Wednesday.

The budget plan was proposed by Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan and passed by the House last month. It calls for switching the Medicare system over to vouchers used to help pay a choice of competing private health plans.

But the Alliance for Retired Americans argues the change will result in sharply higher out-of-pocket payments. Beatrice Stratton is the vice-president of the AFSCME retirees group that saw the Alliance's presentation. She says the increase would be too high for seniors like herself who are on limited incomes. "Those people, from what I understand, are going to end up paying anywhere from $5,000-6,000 a year for their healthcare," said Stratton. "I mean, they're only going to give them a voucher for so much money. And you know that older people are going to spend more money at the doctor's."

The Alliance for Retired Americans called on people at the AFSCME retirees' luncheon to contact Congressman Tim Johnson, who voted for the budget plan that includes the Medicare changes. A spokesman for Johnson's office could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. A website promoting Congressman Ryan's budget ideas says the Medicare payments under the new plan would be pegged to inflation and give higher payments to those facing greater medical risks.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 04, 2011

IL Nursing Homes: We’ve Already Cut Our Budgets, Can’t Afford Another 6%

A group representing nursing homes in Illinois says the governor's proposed budget cuts would leave many of them struggling to provide adequate care, or even to survive.

The Health Care Council of Illinois' membership is mainly privately-run nursing homes, but they accept many patients relying on Medicaid. For one home in Champaign where patients and staff rallied this morning, that amounts to 70 patients out of 118 paying for their care through Medicaid.

Governor Pat Quinn's plan to ease the state's budget deficit includes a 6% cut in Medicaid funding. Health Care Council director Pat Comstock said such a cut would further hurt a system that already provides the least nursing home assistance of any state in the nation.

"Every facility will be impacted differently, but facilities may more and more make a decision not to take Medicaid residents, and then the poorest of the poor and the frailest of the frail won't have anywhere to get services," Comstock said. "Some facilities are undoubtedly going to close."

Comstock acknowledges that state senators are considering less drastic cuts - 3-percent instead of 6-percent. But she says for each dollar nursing homes lose from the state for Medicaid patients, they lose another dollar in federal matching funds -- a total of $140 million less in reimbursements if the state follows through with its $70 million proposed reduction.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 04, 2011

Pence Sets Call with Backers on Ind. Governor Bid

Republican Rep. Mike Pence plans to talk with supporters on an invitation-only conference call Thursday morning, when many political observers expect Pence will announce his intentions to run for Indiana governor in 2012.

Pence said this week that he's made up his mind about whether he'll run for governor. He planned to tell supporters about his decision during a call Monday, but delayed the announcement because of the death of Osama bin Laden.

In an e-mail sent Wednesday to supporters and obtained by The Associated Press, Pence rescheduled the call for 10 a.m. Thursday.

Most political observers expect Pence to run for governor after he ruled out a White House bid and resigned the No. 3 GOP House leadership slot after winning a sixth term in November.

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

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