Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 07, 2011

Judge to Rule on Suit Against Indiana Secretary of State White ‎

A judge in Indianapolis says he'll decide Thursday whether or not Democrats can proceed with their lawsuit to disqualify Republican Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White from holding office.

Marion Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg heard arguments from both sides Wednesday.

Democrats contend state law requires the runner-up in November's election, Vop Osili, to take office if Rosenberg rules that White was ineligible to run for secretary of state last year. Their lawsuit claims the state recount commission improperly dismissed their challenge to his election in December.

A grand jury separately indicted White in March on voter fraud and other charges alleging he voted in last May's Republican primary after moving out of his ex-wife's home and the town council district he represented. He would have to resign if convicted.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 07, 2011

Quinn Touts Update to State Road Program

Gov. Pat Quinn says the state has to spend money to ensure Illinois has safe roads and bridges.

Quinn on Thursday announced the latest update to the state road program that includes improving more than 3,200 miles of roads and replacing or repairing 611 bridges over the next six years.

He says the timing of the announcement was tied to a law that requires the state to announce its long-term road program.

Construction costs are estimated at $11.5 billion for the extensive list of projects. Money for the road program will come from federal, state and local funds.

The governor's office estimates the construction projects will create about 155,000 jobs. And Quinn says such projects are a good way to get Illinois' economy back on track.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 07, 2011

State’s Decision to Drop Health Alliance HMO Sparks Protest

Urbana-based Health Alliance says it will file a protest with the state over its decision not to continue their HMO contract for state employees and retirees.

The state Department of Healthcare and Family Services announced Wednesday it was awarding HMO contracts for the next fiscal year to Blue Cross Blue Shield, with Open Access Plan contracts to PersonalCare and HealthLink. The state said the new contracts would save taxpayers over $100 million a year, and over one billion dollars over the next ten years.

Health Alliance CEO Jeff Ingrum argues the savings aren't really there --- in part because people who had been under Health Alliance will be required to either change doctors, or go to the more expensive Open Access Plans selected by the state, or to the Quality Care Preferred Provider plan, which offers less coverage.

"One, it will increase the costs to state workers," Ingram said. "But it will also increase the costs to the state of Illinois, because those programs are anywhere from 10 to 20 percent higher than the Health Alliance HMO program."

Ingrum says Carle, Springfield Clinic and McDonough District Hospital in Macomb had signed exclusive agreements with Health Alliance that barred them from working with other state HMO plans.

In a statement, Carle says it's studying the implications of the DHFS decision. The company calls on their patients who are Health Alliance members to "share their concerns with the state and with elected officials."

The company says it will be reviewing options "for state employees to continue accessing Carle physicians and hospital services", but that the plans and costs for such access will change if the state's decision stands.

And the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services says --- in a fact sheet on its managed care announcement --- that while Carle and other hospitals and clinics may not be available through their new HMO plans immediately, it expects them to "adjust to market needs" over time.

Carle says that Carle Foundation Hospital has a long-standing contract with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, for hospital services. But Health Alliance's Ingram says the contract is for a Preferred Provider plan, not the HMO plans which the state approved its employees and retirees in FY 2012.

State Representative Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana) has complained about the state's decision not to use Health Alliance next year. She says the company was not given sufficient advance notice of the decision. Jakobsson is inviting people concerned about the change to sign a petition on her legislative website.

NOTE: This story was updated to show additional comments from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 07, 2011

Undocumented UI Student Released from Jail After Georgia Protest

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

An undocumented University of Illinois student was released Thursday morning from an Atlanta jail after taking part in a protest to demand more rights for undocumented immigrants.

Police arrested 22-year-old Andrea Rosales and six other illegal immigrants Tuesday after they sat in the middle of a downtown Atlanta street for more than an hour. The protesters were charged with obstructing traffic. Atlanta police do not participate in a local-federal partnership that empowers local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law, so the likelihood of the students being turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was low.

Rosales says the protest was triggered by a policy Georgia's university system approved last year banning illegal immigrants from attending the five most competitive public schools in the state.

"We see that happening due to political inaction, as well as lack of support - institutionally and locally," Rosales said. "This is why we felt we needed to escalate and even risk arrest and facing being put into detention proceedings because we are tired and something needs to change."

Rosales must perform five-to-10 hours of community service. She is part of the social justice student organization, La Collectiva, which helped fund her trip to Georgia.

The protests were part of The Dream is Coming project, which was created to advocate for the DREAM Act, legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for certain young people who were brought here at a young age. It failed to pass Congress several times, most recently in December.

Illinois is one of 10 states that provides in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who attend public universities. Members of La Collectiva want Illinois lawmakers to introduce an Illinois-style Dream Act that would open up a financial pathway for more undocumented immigrants who want to attend college by setting up a private scholarship fund.

(AP Photo/David Goldman)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 06, 2011

Former Paxton Jail, Charleston Theatre on State’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Building List

Members of state preservation group are trying to save ten of what they say are the most endangered places in Illinois. Most of the structures on the list are threatened with demolition as development projects expand. Some are falling into disrepair due to a lack of funds or mismanagement.

President of Landmarks Illinois Jim Peters says in the case of some structures, community meetings are being held to decide the building's fate.

"That's kind of an imminent threat, that doesn't mean it'll be demolished tomorrow, but there's a decision that could impact it's future," Peters said at a Wednesday news conference. "I think that's the case with all of these; there's some kind of threat."

The vacant Sheriff's Residence and Jail in Ford County made the list of endangered buildings. County officials purchased the building a few years ago and may be planning a demolition.

Susan Satterlee of the Ford County Preservation Coalition says the building's more than 100 year history deserves protection.

"Up until 1992 it was used as a functional jail and our county sheriff actually lived there," Satterlee said. "At one point, the spouse of the sheriff was responsible for feeding all the inmates."

Satterlee says the combined use of the building in Paxton makes it one of the oldest of its kind in the state. It sits next to the Ford County courthouse. If demolished, the space it is on would likely be used for a new county building.

Also on the list is the Will Rogers Theatre in downtown Charleston, an Art Deco building from 1938. It was still showing movies until last year, when it was closed and sold. Tom Vance does historic preservation consulting, and recently helped with a petition drive to get the theater named to that list. He says the facility could ideally become an entertainment venue for different acts, much like the Virginia Theater in downtown Champaign.

"There may be somebody out there who has the investment capital to come in, buy it, and restore it," said Vance. "There are TIF (Tax Increment Finance) funds available to help with the exterior restoration of it, and put in a venue of performing arts and movies. That would be the ideal thing."

The current owners, American Multi-Cinema, is also looking to sell the theater and adjoining commercial block. Vance says if a buyer doesn't come forward, the other option is for a local non-profit group to form and re-open the theater. But he estimates the restoration would cost three quarters of a million dollars. The Charleston City Council has yet to decide whether to recommend the Will Rogers Theater for local landmark status, protecting it from further demolition.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 06, 2011

Voters Approve Finance Plan for New Urbana Aquatic Center

In just a couple of years, Urbana is expected to have a new outdoor aquatic center at Crystal Lake Park.

There's been talk about building a new outdoor pool in Urbana ever since Crystal Lake pool closed in 2008. Voters that year rejected a 25-cent property tax increase that would have helped fund a new outdoor aquatic center. But on Tuesday night, voters backed an 11-cent property tax increase supporting one.

The Urbana Park District's Executive Director Vicki Mayes credits the success of this year's referendum to outreach for the project.

"The money in the taxes that people will pay will be right here in this community, and it will benefit them directly," she said. "So, it's something that they wanted, and it's something that they really would be willing to pay for."

The property tax increase will provide enough funds for the park district to sell and pay back bonds to finance the project's construction and maintenance.

The new aquatic center priced at $7.725 million will include three pools - one that's shallow, one that's deeper, and one reserved for fitness. It will be built where Crystal Lake pool once operated. The design for the center begins this spring, and it is expected to open sometime in 2013.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 06, 2011

Cherry Orchard Landlords to Stand Trial for Code Violations

The Cherry Orchard Village apartments lie just south of the abandoned Chanute Air Force Base near Rantoul - and like the base itself, Cherry Orchard has seen better days. Now the two landlords who manage the eight-building complex are charged with failing to maintain it - to the detriment of its tenants, mainly migrant worker families. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers has been collaborating with the investigative journalism group CU-Citizen Access. He reports on the legal battle to bring Cherry Orchard up to code.

(English language voice over by Jenn Kloc)

(With additional reporting from Pam Dempsey and A. H. Gorton of CU-CitizenAccess)

A Timeline of Key Events at Cherry Orchard:

 

 

 

Photos from the Cherry Orchard Village Apartments:

 

Download mp3 file

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 05, 2011

Eisenhauer Wins Third Danville Mayor Term

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer brushed back three challengers to his office on Election Day, winning with 42% of the vote.

Eisenhauer beat Vermilion County Board member James "Mouse" McMahon, who received 34%. Rickey Williams Junior received 13% of the vote, followed by David Quick with 10%.

Eisenhauer says he was overwhelmed to see the support he got in his third bid for mayor. He says it was good to see that "although the community certainly doesn't like everything you do as mayor ,they at least have confidence in our team to appreciate what we've done for eight years, and more importantly the confidence that we've been moving the city in the right direction and will continue to do that over the course of next four years."

new aldermen will join the City Council under Eisenhauer, including longtime State Representative Bill Black, who retired from his post late last year. He soundly defeated incumbent 7th ward alderman Ron Candido. Kevin Davis, Michael O'Kane and Thomas Stone won seats, joining victorious incumbents Rick Strebing and Jon Cooper. City Treasurer Linda Monson defeated challenger Carol Nichols.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 05, 2011

Gerard Unseats Champaign Mayor Schweighart, Faraci Wins Council Term

University of Illinois employee Don Gerard will become the next mayor of Champaign, defeating three-term incumbent and retired police officer Jerry Schweighart.

Gerard picked up 51% of the vote in a race that at times had turned testy over budget issues and campaign funding.

"It's all been a process of being prepared. To see it to fruition is just remarkable," Gerard said after his win. "I think it's a real testament to our team and to the community. People really got out and supported us and worked really hard. I think we had a lot of numbers pushed up in a lot of different places, and I think we really made a statement."

Speaking by phone after the vote count, Schweighart blamed lack of union support and very low turnout in Champaign, which he called "pathetic."

When asked if he had any words of advice for the new mayor, Schweighart responded, "He's smarter than I am. I'll let him figure it out."

There was also one Champaign City Council seat left open by resignation -- state economic development official Paul Faraci has won that seat, defeating two other write-in candidates. Faraci received 787 votes to Cathy Emanuel's 518 and James McGuire's 415.

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 05, 2011

Power at Brookens Center Restored

Just hours to go before polls close, the Brookens Center in Urbana lost power, but power has now been restored.

On his Twitter page, Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said all election operations after 7 PM will occur at Brokens as planned. For a short time, Hulten had said the outage may affect the release of unofficial results, but that doesn't appear to be the case anymore.

Ameren has not yet released a cause for the outage.

Polls close at 7 PM.

Categories: Government, Politics

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