Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 30, 2010

Plans for Taylorville Power Plant Advance in the General Assembly

Lured by the promise of jobs and a boost for the state's coal industry, the Illinois House agreed to a plan that could pave the way for a controversial central Illinois power plant.

Omaha based Tenaska Corporation wants to build a coal fired power plant in Taylorville. It would use Illinois coal, which has fallen out of favor because of its high sulfur content. Emissions would be captured and stored underground.

It has taken years to get the proposal this far. Opponents are concerned about the legislation's requirement that utilities purchase power from the plant, which are expected to lead to higher electric rates over several decades. House sponsor Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) said the cost factor was a sticking point.

"I would say that is part of the cost trade off for improving the overall economy," Mautino said.

Residential rates would be capped at a two-percent increase, but businesses and governmental bodies could pay more. Mautino admits it has been difficult convincing colleagues who represent other areas that it is a good deal for them.

"For example, when I buy a gallon of gas or fill my tank in Spring Valley, part of that money goes to fund the CTA which already gets 97-percent of all mass transit money to fund a bus I will never ride on," he said "Yet that is one of the costs built in to having an overall statewide system."

Mautino said a boost for Illinois coal will benefit the entire state. The plan still needs approval from Senators and the Governor to become law.

Categories: Energy, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 30, 2010

Douglas County Recount Wraps Up in Sheriff’s Race

A discovery recount performed last week in the Douglas County sheriff's race found that the margin of victory for incumbent Charlie McGrew stayed the same over his opponent, Fred Galey.

Douglas County clerk Jim Ingram said this review of the ballots was not an official recount since it does not change the final vote tabulation. If there is sufficient evidence to show ballot error, then the petitioner could file a petition in circuit court for a full recount.

After the November 2 election, Galey made a request for the county's first-ever discovery recount where about a quarter of the local precincts were reviewed for voting errors. Ingram said of the four precincts studied, only two were found to be off by one ballot.

"In one precinct the Sheriff received an additional vote, and in another precinct the petitioner received an extra vote," Ingram said. "That means nothing. It doesn't change any totals."

Ingram said the ballot review process went on without any problems.

Since Galey initiated the recount, he is required to pay a $10 fee for each of the four precincts counted. But Ingram pointed out that the county has to pick up an even larger tab charged by Government Business Systems, the vendor of the voting machines.

"Even though it cost the petitioner himself $10 per precinct, it costs the county an excess of ten times that amount to perform the task," he said.

McGrew defeated Galey by less than 40 votes after the absentee ballots were counted. Calls to Galey for comment were not immediately returned. McGrew's new term as sheriff begins Wednesday, December 1 at 9am.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 30, 2010

Quinn to Keep Temporary Jobs Program Going

Gov. Pat Quinn has pledged another $47 million to keep a temporary jobs program going while the state hopes for more federal money.

The latest infusion of cash is in addition to $75 million Quinn pledged in September to keep the Put Illinois to Work program from ending.

The extension will keep the program going through Jan. 15. Quinn's office says more than 26,000 people have gotten jobs.

The jobs program was a centerpiece of Quinn's campaign in a close election win over Republican state Sen. Bill Brady, who criticized the governor for using state money to keep it going.

The governor's office says the $47 million will come from proceeds of the bond sale of a portion of the state's tobacco settlement money.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 29, 2010

Legislation Seeks to Extend Immigration Rights to Same-Sex Couples

Legislation Seeks to Extend Immigration Rights to Same-Sex Couples

By Sean Powers

The U.S. Senate is expected to consider ending the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bans gays from openly serving in the armed services. But there's another issue that many gay rights supporters are pushing. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports on the political deadlock over legislation to extend immigration rights to same-sex binational couples.

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WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 29, 2010

UI Air Security Expert: More Searches are Not Equal to More Security

Airline passengers are putting up with a new and often unwelcome level of security screenings, but a University of Illinois professor who studies aviation security said those searches may not be useful.

Thanksgiving-weekend travelers at the nation's largest airports reported few slowdowns or other problems with "backscanner" machines that give screeners revealing images of passengers. Those who turned down the scans are subject to intensive pat-downs.

Professor Sheldon Jacobson said he believes federal officials pay too much attention to searching for banned items, and that the high-level searches should not be the first line of defense against terrorists.

"The question is, is this an effective use of a very powerful technology? In our own research, we don't believe it is," Jacobson said. "We believe that using it for secondary screening is far more appropriate and will actually facilitate a far more secure system, which is very counter-intuitive in some sense."

Jacobson says more effective security should focus on a passenger's intent. He said the Transportation Security Administration needs to further its research on ways of filtering out passengers based on background checks and looking for behavioral red flags at the airport.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 29, 2010

Republican Mark Kirk Sworn into US Senate

Republican Mark Kirk has become Illinois' newest U.S. senator.

Kirk was sworn in on Monday in the United States Senate Chambers by Vice President Joe Biden.

The five-term congressman from Chicago's north suburbs won the seat held once held by President Barack Obama.

Roland Burris was appointed to the seat by former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich after the presidential election. Kirk will fill the remainder of Burris' term and a full six-year term. He narrowly won the seat against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 26, 2010

Reports Offer Guidance on Toy Safety

The Illinois Public Interest Research Group is urging parents to be informed as they buy toys for their children this holiday season. The organization released its 25th Trouble In Toyland report this week.

Emily Mueller of Illinois PIRG said the report uses multiple factors to identify harmful toys.

"These are toys that either we've identified as a choking hazard --- while they may meet the legal limit, children are still chocking on them that's very dangerous," Mueller said. "Also there are toys that contain lead and phthalates which are all toxic chemicals that can have adverse health effects on children."

Dr. John Haffner is with the Children's Hospital Of Illinois, housed at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria. He said parents should use common sense when buying toys this season.

"And if they look like they're maybe going to break very easily, and they might have a lot of small parts, those are something that's not suitable for small children," Haffner said. "If it looks like a discount toy or a "no-name" toy, be careful with those, because those have been linked with more reports of lead paint and shoddy workmanship".

Illinois PIRG said people can access the Trouble in Toyland report on its Web site. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan also released her 2010 Play-It-Safe shopping guide that lists toys, cribs and other products recalled this year. The guide is available at the attorney general's Web site. Madigan also said people can register for automatic e-mail notifications for recalled products at cpsc.gov.

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 24, 2010

Barickman Appointed to Cultra’s House Seat

Champaign County GOP Jason Barickman will replace State Representative Shane Cultra in the Illinois General Assembly.

A group of GOP County Chairmen from the 105th Illinois House District unanimously supported Barickman to fill the soon-to-be vacant seat created by Cultra's anticipated departure to the Illinois Senate.

Cultra won re-election earlier this month to the 105 House District, but will begin filling Dan Rutherford's remaining two years in the Senate starting January 9th, the same day Barickman expects to take office. Rutherford said Cultra's the right choice for the job.

"Jason is a likeable guy and an extremely hard worker," Cultra said. "Republicans from around the 105th have asked me to support Jason, and I was proud to do so."

McLean County Republican Chairman John W. Parrott, Jr. led the selection committee. Parrott said he has known Barickman for many years, and he said his experience as head of the Champaign County Republican Party set him over the top.

"He has extremely deep roots throughout the 105th District, and I believe he will be an excellent State Representative who is willing to shake things up in Springfield," Parrott said.

Barickman, a partner in a law firm with locations in Champaign and Bloomington, was raised on his family farm in rural Livington County. He accepted the role of Champaign County Republican Central Committee Chairman in 2006 following his graduation from the University of Illinois College of Law.

"I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve the 105th district and the people of Illinois," stated Barickman. "I look forward to tackling the many challenges facing our great State."

And Barickman said he does not think balancing time in Springfield with his law practice will be a problem. "I have always maintained a busy schedule," says Barickman. "And if you believe in that mantra of asking a busy person to get things done, then I'm a perfect fit, and I'll just have to adjust my schedule accordingly."

With his appointment, Barickman will become the fourth member of the Illinois General Assembly representing Champaign County. He joins State Senator Michael Frerichs (D-Champaign) and State Reps. Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana) and Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet).

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 24, 2010

Unions Plan to Negotiate with Champaign City Leaders Over Job Cuts

Union workers in Champaign's fire and police departments are hoping to compromise with city leaders rather than lose staff, services, or both.

Public works employees could also be among as many as 15 positions cut, as the city looks to trim nearly $2-million from the budget in the current fiscal year, and a total of $4-point-3 million in 18 months. Champaign Police Officer Joe Johnston, 21, chairs the labor committee with the local Fraternal Order of Police. He said reducing front desk staff and the records division means he's a less effective officer.

"Can I do their job? Yes. Can I do it as well or as efficient as them? Absolutely not," Johnston said. "But I guess what I'm trying to say - the point I'm trying to make with that is by taking me or one of the other officers off the street, we have now diminished the services to the citizens of Champaign."

About 20 members from AFSCME and other unions were on hand last night to oppose the job cuts, but Council member Tom Bruno said they need to do better.

"It's not helpful to have various units of city employees come to us and say 'not us.' Anybody else but not us," Bruno said. "I don't find that particularly helpful as a problem-solving technique."

Current proposals also include reducing staff at Fire Station 4 on John Street. Carrol Whitehouse, a Campaign firefighter and union vice president, said that could mean lost response time, particularly if one of its units is already out on a fire or medical call. Whitehouse said the union wants to work out a way to avoid cutting core services, but would not say if that included taking a pay cut since his union is involved in negotiations.

"All of the funding problems are going to be generated by increases in employee compensation," Whitehouse said. "And we're willing to find ways to deal with that that will zero-out the impact of the city, but not impact the core jobs that we do."

The budget strategy endorsed by the city council in Tuesday night's study session also includes enacting a furlough program for AFSCME union workers and a voluntary separation program. Both will be discussed more in January. Champaign City Manager Steve Carter said this is the most difficult financial situation he ha seen in 40 years of working in local government. The city has already enacted $9-million in budget adjustments over the past few years.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 22, 2010

Danville Mayoral Race Attracts Six Candidates

A total of six candidates are running for mayor of Danville, including current mayor Scott Eisenhauer.

Barbara Dreher, who is the executive director of the Danville Election Commission, said because of the large number of mayoral hopefuls, there will be a February primary to narrow the list down to two candidates who will run in the April election.

"There has been a lot of talk around town," Dreher explained. "People are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the city. Some people aren't. The ones that are dissatisfied are taking their chance."

Eisenhauer is up against the largest number of challengers since he was first elected eight years ago. He attributed the high turnout to voter cynicism towards incumbents coupled with the response to unpopular decisions he has made during the recession, like raising the city's sales tax by one percent.

"Why wouldn't you want to be mayor now?" Eisenhauer said. "You're coming in at a time where the city's fiscally solvent. You're coming in at a time where the tough decisions have been made. Yes, there have been some tax increases over the course of the last eight years, but it's been at an effort to decrease the property tax. And so those things have been accomplished."

But Danville alderman and mayoral hopeful Rickey Williams Jr. said Eisenhauer would not have had to make those tough decisions if he did a better job managing the city's finances. Williams explained that financial discipline must go back to a "zero-based budget focusing on needs first."

Williams added that if elected, he would look at raising taxes as a last resort to treating the city's budget problems. He also said he would be open to eliminating middle-management jobs created during Eisenhauer's time in office that are dragging down the economy.

"I'm willing to do what's right, and the decisions I've made have been in the best interest of the people," Williams said.

Other candidates who have tossed their hats into the race include Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon, business owner David Quick, and residents Donald Nord and Rose Marie Carlton-Darby.

Categories: Government, Politics

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