Illinois Public Media News
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
Wind Turbine Project Gets Smaller As Urbana Residents Learn About Energy Plan
A plan to generate renewable energy by constructing three wind turbines on the University of Illinois' South Farms site has been scaled down to one turbine located on the corner of Old Church Road and Philo Road.
The project is estimated to cost $4.5 million, and the university said it can only afford to support one tower with that budget.
"It's unlikely we'll be able to do more than one at this time," said Morgan Johnston, the University of Illinois' sustainability and transportation coordinator.
Voters in the Urbana Park District will be asked to approve an 11-cent property tax increase to help pay for a new outdoor swimming pool complex at Crystal Lake Park.
The Urbana Park Board voted Tuesday to place the question on the April 5 ballot. The increase would be added to a park district tax rate that is already higher than its counterpart in Champaign.
The old Crystal Lake Pool was shut down in 2008 due to electrical and other problems. Urbana Park Board President Michael Walker said having an outdoor pool in Urbana is important to the community, but he conceded that the tax hike request is a difficult one to make in the current economy.
"We understand it's not the best of economic times," Walker said. "The flipside of that is interest rates and construction costs are lower right now than they will be once the economy warms up a bit."
The proposed aquatic center would also be a more ambitious facility than the 1970s-era pool it would replace. Instead of a single pool, the $7.725 million aquatic center would include a multi-lane competition pool, a deep plunge pool with a drop slide, two leisure pools, and areas for picnics and sand play.
Walker says the larger facility is what Urbana needs.
"We've looked at some that were a bit more modest," he said. "The area where we're shooting for on this is about where you have to be to get the kind of usage that will justify the facility."
The Urbana Park District also operates an indoor aquatic center in conjunction with Urbana High School, but Walker said that is not enough to serve the community's needs.
If approved, the 11-cent tax referendum would come on top of a 15-cent property tax increase approved in 2009. That helped pay for park district operations, plus design work on the aquatic center. Walker says the Urbana Park District would also look for grants and private donations to help pay for the facility. Walker says the tax increase would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $37 a year.
A coroner said the mayor of Illinois' capital city died in his home of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Sangamon County Coroner announced the finding Wednesday after an autopsy on 53-year-old Timothy Davlin. His body was found the previous day after a 911 call directed Springfield police to the two-term officeholder's home.
The shooting happened the same day Davlin was to appear in court as ordered in a probate case involving the estate of one of his cousins. Davlin reportedly missed a court deadline for a financial accounting of the estate.
Davlin had been Springfield mayor since 2003 and has announced he would not seek a third term.
An alderman, Frank Kunz, is mayor pro tem. City law requires that a new mayor be selected within 60 days.
Funeral services for Davlin will be this weekend. Staab Funeral Home said visitation will be from 2 to 7 p.m. Friday at Springfield's Blessed Sacrament Church, where Davlin's funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery, with the procession passing Davlin's former mayoral office.
Contributions may be made to the Timothy J. Davlin Grandchildren Scholarship Fund in care of Heartland Credit Union or the Blessed Sacrament Building fund.
View Funeral Route in a larger map
The Champaign County Board has taken the initial steps towards reducing the number of its members after voters overwhelmingly supported the measure to reduce the size of the board.
The 27-member board takes a formal vote next Tuesday on a resolution to reduce that number to 22, but representing 11 districts rather than 9. The board's committee of the whole Tuesday night supported the measure on a 23 to 1 vote. Seventy four percent of voters backed the change in an advisory referendum last month, but Democrat Alan Kurtz said it is possible other proposals could come forward next week.
"People are looking for efficiency and saving of money," Kurtz said. "I think if we had put in 18, or we had put in 25, or any number, they (voters) would have voted for it. 22-11, I still have reservations about that. We can bring in othe resolutions next week. This was an advisory."
Kurtz sits on the county's redistricting commission. He said the resolution does put that panel in a bit of a quandary - since it has to wait for census numbers to determine the 11 new districts. The change would take effect with the 2012 election.
Republican Alan Nudo called a 22-member board a start and a compromise, since the county's Farm Bureau doesn't want single-member districts, but he said this change should appeal to rural residents.
"They will have the chance with smaller district size to have somebody representing them who understands agriculture and rural issues," Nudo said. "I've worked hard at it, and I'm not ashamed at what I've gotten accomplished. They just awarded a number of us the 'Friend of the Farm Bureau' award. But that being said, I would prefer to see more rural representation that's pure."
The only 'no' vote came from Democrat Lloyd Carter Jr., who said problems lie in the board's membership, not its size.
Springfield residents are shocked and grieving at the loss of Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin, who was found dead at his home on the city's west side Tuesday morning. Davlin, a son, father, and grandfather, was a popular public figure who recently announced he would not run for a third term as mayor. Officials say they will not detail a cause of death until an autopsy has been performed. One is scheduled for Wednesday. Illinois Public Radio's Amanda Vinicky has more on Davlin's life, and his death.
(Photo by Amanda Vinicky/IPR)
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