Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 22, 2010

Chad Hays Sworn Into Il. Legislature

Chad Hays was sworn in Wednesday afternoon as Illinois' newest state representative from the 104th House District.

Hays replaced Bill Black who held the seat for about a quarter of a century. Hays said he hopes his experience managing a city budget as a former mayor of Catlin will help the state overcome one of its biggest obstacles - paying its bills to businesses and organizations that are on the verge of bankruptcy.

"It's a very proud and humbling moment for me, and I look forward to serving," Hays said. "I really do consider it a privilege and an honor to hold, at least for a while, the people's seat."

Hays currently serves as vice-president of development for Provena United Samaritans Medical Center, and said he will step down from that post on Thursday, Dec. 30 to focus on his duties in the General Assembly.

Black's days in the state legislature may be over, but he is still hoping for another chance to serve in public office as a member of the Danville City Council.

"I like the fact that I'll be active," Black said. "Certainly being on the city council is much more of a part time job than a state legislator is, and I kind of look forward to that change."

Black's opponent in the April election is Ward 7 Alderman Ron Candido, who has served on the council for more than seven years. Black said he put his hat into the race after hearing rumors that Candido would not seek re-election. Candido said he is puzzled that Black's name will be on the ballot

"I think I'm more in touch with the local issues," Candido said. "He was going to run for mayor, and now he's not going to run for mayor. He was going to run for the House of Representatives, and then he's not going to run. I mean it's just back and forth. So, I really don't know where he's coming from.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 22, 2010

Whooping Cough Cases Up in Macon County, Statewide

There has been a sharp increase in the number of whooping cough cases in Illinois this year.

The majority of them are in and around Chicago, but Macon County's Health Department currently has five confirmed cases and four probable ones. Director of Nursing Debby Durbin said the greatest concern is that babies will contract pertussis from adults, who may not show as violent a cough as young people.

"Our concern is with Christmas coming and people having these coughs -with an adult, they may not be all that bad," Durbin said. "But then if they go around a new baby and transmit it, that's very, very dangerous."

Infants cannot receive a shot for the disease until they are two months old, and Brandon Meline with Champaign-Urbana's Public Health Department says lots of viruses will cause a cough, so pertussis is hard to detect in adults. He said some shots have been updated since 2005, so lots of adults likely have not received it.

"New pertussis vaccines that have been out on the market for several years now that are included in the tenanus that we typically get every ten years - there's a tetanus vaccine with the pertussis in it for adults to help prevent that transmission to the little ones," Meline said. "The majority of cases that you see in infants and kids are ususally passed on from a parent or a day care provider."

Meline said contracting whooping cough likely has more to do with many people staying indoors than the conditions outside, but he said the disease is passed on more easily in the winter. An Illinois public health spokeswoman said statewide, there have been 925 cases of pertussis in 2010, compared to about 650 last year. In California last year, 10 children died from the illness.

Outside Macon County, there are no reported cases currently in east central Illinois. Champaign County has had 11 cases this year, McLean County has had 11 cases, while Vermilion County has reported six of them.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 22, 2010

Hulten Unanimously Appointed Next Champaign County Clerk

Gordy Hulten is officially in place to succeed Mark Shelden to the office of Champaign County Clerk.

The County Board Tuesday unanimously approved the Republican's appointment in a brief 30-minute meeting. It comes eight days after County GOP Precinct Committee-men chose him for the job. Shelden is leaving the clerk's office to work for Congressman Tim Johnson (R-Urbana). Hulten will start the new job January 5th, and will step down from the Champaign City Council the night before.

The Champaign County Board heard briefly Tuesday from State's Attorney Julia Reitz, who said state statues did not require the appointment of a temporary County Clerk before naming a permanent one. Hulten said he is glad to be taking the job free of those concerns.

"Everybody wanted to make sure that everything that we did tonight was both the most efficient way to do things, so that services provided to county taxpayers wouldn't be jeopardized in any way, and also make sure that everything was done in a legally appropriate way, so there was never any question that that was done." said Hulten, who noted that he is quickly getting acquainted with the clerk's office. "I've spent probably 8 or 10 hours total in the office since the Republican Party voted last week, so Mark (Shelden) is helping me get up to speed as soon as possible."

Hulten also plans to leave his sales and marketing job with MSA Professional Services on January 4. He will oversee his first primary in February, when recent Urbana City Council appointee Eric Jakobsson faces a challenge from Brian Dolinar in Ward 2. Hulten said working with three precincts will help him get his feet wet in the new job.

A longtime blogger, Hulten oversaw the websites Illini Pundit and Champaign Pundit. Shelden has maintained a blog as well from the County Clerk's office, but Hulten said he has a lot to learn before he can generate a blog in his new job.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 21, 2010

Il. Loss of a US House Seat in New Census Could Hurt Downstate - EIU Prof

As many had expected, Illinois will be losing a U.S. House seat as a result of the 2010 Census. With an official population of 12,830,632, the state's population grew 3.3 percent --- an increase dwarfed by double-digit growth in many western and southern states.

Eastern Illinois University political science professor Andrew McNitt said the new census includes a downwards reapportionment for Illinois, from 19 House seats to 18. Unlike the legislative remaps of 1990 and 2000, Democrats are now in firm control of state government, and McNitt said they will not have to send the job of redistricting to a bipartisan commission. But he said they will still have to produce a map with one fewer member of Congress.

"What happens is that somebody has to lose," McNitt explained. "So if there is a congressman who retires, their district will mostly likely be cannibalized. It also has to do with relative population shifts within the state. Probably it means a somewhat larger increase in the districts downstate."

McNitt said a lack of growth in most downstate communities means that congressional districts in the region will be redrawn to cover more territory. He said the suburban collar counties surround the counties have seen most of Illinois' population growth in recent years, and will probably take a larger share of the remaining 18 House districts.

"The seats go to where the population goes," McNitt said. "And if it goes to the collar counties, which seems to be where it's going mostly, both the downstate and the inner city of Chicago are going to suffer some difficulties in terms of representation."

The neighboring states of Iowa, Michigan and Missouri will also lose one U-S House seat each as a result of the census, but Indiana, Kentucky and Wisconsin will keep the seats they currently have in place.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 21, 2010

Ex.-Ill. Gov. Ryan to Remain in Federal Prison

A federal judge has ruled that former Illinois Gov. George Ryan must remain in prison.

Ryan's attorneys want elements of his conviction tossed based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision curtailing anti-fraud laws known as "honest services'' laws.

Last week, Ryan's attorneys made an urgent plea for his release after his wife was hospitalized. Doctors have given Lura Lynn Ryan as few as three months to live. She's been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ruled that Ryan must remain in prison.

The 76-year-old former governor has served three years of a 6 1/2-year sentence on convictions of racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI.

(Photo courtesy of spsarge/flickr)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 21, 2010

Census Data Shows Illinois Losing 1 Congressional Seat

With the expectation that Illinois will lose one of its congressional seats, the state's politicians are poised to begin their once-a-decade finagling over drawing the state's political boundaries based on new census data.

On Tuesday, Census Bureau officials plan to release initial population estimates for the nation. A continuing population shift from the north to the south and west means Illinois is likely to lose one of its 19 seats in the House, and the clout that goes with it.

While nationally the reapportionment is expected to help Republicans, Democrats in Illinois have an advantage because they control both chambers of the General Assembly and the governor's office, which are tasked with determining how the new political lines are drawn.

Census data so far suggests new Hispanic-dominated districts could emerge, particularly with growth in some Chicago area neighborhoods. States are required under the Voting Rights Act to respect the interests of minority voting blocs.

Other scenarios include a lost seat in downstate Illinois, which has lost population.

"It could be good news for Democrats," said U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, who lost a former Democratic stronghold to tea party-backed GOP challenger Bobby Schilling in November, but could benefit from redrawn lines if he decides to run again in 2012.

Pat Brady, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, warned that the GOP would push back if the Democrats in Springfield become too "heavy handed" and don't cooperate in creating new congressional and legislative districts that are competitive for both sides.

He appealed to Gov. Pat Quinn to make sure that Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton play fair.

"When it's too much one-party control, there's unintended consequences, and it's going to backfire," Brady said. "I don't think for a second that (Illinois House Speaker) Mike Madigan's not going to shove this right down our throat."

Steve Brown, a spokesman for Madigan, said that the Illinois process will comply with federal election laws. "That makes who's in the majority, who's in the governor's office, not nearly as important as some of the hand-wringers want you to think," he said.

So-called redistricting is a tedious and politically charged process that protects strongholds, affects influence in Washington and makes or breaks political careers. The task over the next few months is analyzing population data while considering geography, race and political interests so legislators can re-divide the state's population into nearly equal pockets.

"Redistricting is the most political activity that occurs in a decade," said Chris Mooney, a political science professor at the University of Illinois in Springfield. "It's almost purely about who gets what and who wins what seat."

Officially, the state legislature comes up with a plan and approves it like a bill. It also requires the governor's signature. In cases of deadlock, Illinois leaves the key decision over which party gets to draw the political map to random chance: One year, the secretary of state picked the winner out of Lincoln's stovepipe hat.

The process, outlined in the 1970s Constitution, can drag for months and undergo court challenges. Efforts to reform the system stalled earlier this year.

Each decade brings a set of unpredictable and unprecedented circumstances. This year is the first time since the current redistricting laws have been in place that Illinois has both a Democratic governor and Democratic-majority in both houses of the legislature.

The last time Illinois redrew its congressional map -- in 2001, when Republican George Ryan was governor and the state Senate was Republican majority -- the state also lost a seat.

Two Illinois congressmen, then Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Lipinski, came up with a plan that largely protected incumbents. But it left out Democratic Rep. David Phelps, whose district was combined with others.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, heads a committee which has been looking at overhauling the state's redistricting laws. He said there has been surprisingly little chatter on new boundaries so far, which he believes means the state legislature will maintain a central role instead of "just punting to the congressional delegation."

The sprawling 17th District, which the GOP's Schilling just won, hugs a long stretch of the state's western border, but juts into central Illinois to include Decatur and portions of Springfield. Hare said lines could be drawn to pick up more Democratic areas from Republican Rep. Don Manzullo's 16th District.

Another scenario includes making two districts from the 17th District and two others represented by Republican Congressmen Aaron Schock in the 18th District in west-central Illinois and Tim Johnson in the 15th District, which covers a chunk of eastern Illinois.

Brady said he doesn't see any district being particularly safe, and that any of them -- Democratic or Republican -- could be subject to change. And he said he's confident that GOP candidates will be competitive, especially those who won in November.

"No matter how they slice and dice it, we're going to have good candidates," Brady said.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 18, 2010

Springfield Residents Say Goodbye to Mayor

Residents of Illinois' capital city said goodbye to their leader Saturday, tossing flowers at Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin's hearse as it carried his body past city hall, the Statehouse and the state fair's grounds for the last time.

Hundreds of mourners packed Springfield's Blessed Sacrament Church for funeral services, one day after thousands paid their respects during visitation. Davlin's daughter, Tara, gave an emotional speech during the service, The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported.

Tara Davlin read a thank-you note she'd written her father last October during a trip to Ireland. The note thanked him for walking her down the aisle at her wedding, holding her hand while she delivered her children and for her thick skin.

She said her father had asked her to read the note at his funeral.

"I had no idea it would be so soon," she said.

Friends at the service remembered Davlin for his infectious smile and deep love for his family, city and the Chicago Cubs.

The mayor died Tuesday morning from a close-range gunshot wound to the chest. His body was found by Springfield officers responding to a 911 call. An autopsy indicated the 53-year-old Democrat fired the fatal shot himself.

Residents stood along the street as Davlin's body was driven past the city's landmarks, led by city police and fire vehicles. At city hall, supporters tossed carnations onto the hearse in honor of Davlin's St. Patrick Day parade tradition of handing out the flowers.

The procession ended at Calvary Cemetery, where Davlin was to be buried.

Davlin was to have appeared in court Tuesday to address questions about his handling of the estate of a cousin who died in 2003.

He had been mayor of the city with 120,000 residents since April 2003. He told Springfield radio station WFMB last month that he would not seek a third four-year term next spring because he wanted to leave office before getting burned out. Davlin, who had four children and four grandchildren, insisted then that financial issues had nothing to do with that decision involving the nonpartisan post he called "grueling."

Staab Funeral Home, which handled arrangements, said contributions may be made to the Timothy J. Davlin Grandchildren Scholarship Fund in care of Heartland Credit Union or to Blessed Sacrament Church's building fund.

(Photo by Jenna Dooley/IPR)

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 18, 2010

Boneyard Creek Facelift Gets Unveiling Under Snow

Champaign city leaders may have taken the wraps off a new public recreation space southeast of downtown, but it is still covered in a thick layer of snow.

Beneath the snow is a new detention basin, the latest phase of the Boneyard Creek flood control project that's been decades in the making. However, city councilman Michael LaDue says the 11-million dollar Second Street Reach project is much more than just a place to hold excess water.

"On the ground it looks better than it looked on paper, and every effort was made by highly trained professionals to make it look as good on paper as possible," LaDue said during Friday's ribbon-cutting ceremony. "This beats the schematics. This is spectacular."

The pond is surrounded by walking paths, water features and a small amphitheater. Work also surrounded a stone-arch bridge in a corner of the park, one of the original bridges over Boneyard Creek from the mid 19th-century. City planner T. J. Blakeman said some additional work still needs to be done on the site - much of it to be done in the spring. But he said the walking paths are now open to the public.

(Photo by Tom Rogers/WILL)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 18, 2010

UI Leaders Want Extension Service to Establish Central Campus Location

University of Illinois administrators want its Extension service to develop a campus-level location to better promote its mission and fundraising.

The campus review of Extension has been completed, in a year when some offices have closed and jobs have been cut. But the report does not suggest eliminating any more jobs. In the latest of cost cutting measures entitled 'Stewarding Excellence', Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Richard Wheeler said Extension should consider moving from its current location within the school of ACES to a campus level position.

The letter co-signed by Vice President and Interim Chancellor Robert Easter also suggests that would increase U of I Extension's visibility and opportunities for funding. But Wheeler says a lot has yet to be determined, including making sure that any further re-structuring be done while considering USDA regulations.

"Making sure that we are staying within the permissible ranges of that extensive regulatory system, and the funding mechanism for that matter," Wheeler said. "Most of extension money comes from outside the campus, and will be very crucial. But I don't think any of us can anticipate exactly what organization will emerge at the end."

The 'next steps' for U of I Extension also asks that its Interim Dean Robert Hoeft and Associate Chancellor Bill Adams generate a plan to implement these recommendations, which include combining the functions of Public Engagement and Extension into one office to 'bring coherence to an outreach portfolio that has traditionally been diffuse and poorly aligned.'

They are to develop a preliminary report by early spring. Wheeler says there's no clear-cut model from other states for running the extension service. He said the present model has just worked for Illinois, since the programs involve more than agriculture.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 17, 2010

Failure of Senate Spending Bill Nixes Earmarks for Three U of I Projects

An omnibus spending bill was voted down in the U.S. Senate Thursday, because of Republican opposition to earmarks. Those earmarks included funding for three projects at the University of Illinois. Terry McLennand with the university's Office of Federal Relations said they are preparing to try again to get the funding from the new congress to be sworn in next month.

The largest of the three funding requests was $3.2 million to help pay for a cyber-security project the U of I is working on with the U-S Navy. McLennand said partnering with other agencies like the Navy could help in efforts to win federal funding through the authorization process, rather than through an appropriations process such as earmarks. But he added that it is easier in times when, in his words, "the money is cheap".

"Institutions such as the University of Illinois have tremendous faculty, and tools that can be brought to bear on national defense needs," McLennand said. "But it's a question of, is funding going to be available to do these things. You certainly would think so, but those are going to be the challenges going forward."

Besides the cyber-security project, the U of I also had earmarks in the failed spending bill to provide $617,000 for a new crop breeding program at the College of ACES; and $500,000 in continuing funding for "Cease Fire", a neighborhood crime prevention program based at the university's Chicago campus.

McLennand said the university will be working with both Democratic and Republican members of the Illinois delegation to secure funding for the projects in the new congress. And while he says the use of earmarks may decline under the new Republican leadership in the House, he still thinks Senator Dick Durbin will be able to help the university in the Democrat-led Senate.

"Senator Durbin has been very strong in his support of congressionally directed funding," said McLennand, using a term he prefers to describe earmarks. "That's how a delegation can support their state and their districts."

McLennand said funding from earmarks accounts for only about five to eight million dollars of federal funding for University of Illinois projects --- compared to $650 million secured through federal grants and contracts. As for the three projects that failed to win earmarked funding this week, McLennand said they will continue next year in smaller forms, with funding from other sources.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

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