Illinois Public Media News
The city of Champaign is getting ready to launch a recycling program for apartment buildings. At a study session Tuesday night, the city council told city staff to go ahead and develop a city recycling collection program that would be ready for launch next fall.
Waste-haulers in Champaign already must provide recycling pickup for single family homes and apartment buildings with less than 5 units. But under the plan endorsed last night, larger apartment buildings would also have recycling pickup. The city, using Urbana as an example, would contract for the service, and finance it with a mandatory fee charged to the landlords.
City Council member Mike Ladue says he's glad council sentiment has shifted since the early 1990s, when the city council voted to withdraw from a countywide solid waste consortium, and leave recycling to the private sector.
"This has been a question of a rising tide of public will making itself felt at the ballot box in election choices, and constituting a council more amendable to this type of development", says Ladue.
The council vote at last night's study session was met with applause from members of Students for Environmental Concerns at the U of I. Member Justin Ellis says Champaign officials should study recycling programs in other cities --- not just Urbana --- before moving forward.
"Champaign's coming late to the scene here with recycling", says Ellis. "And there's a lot of communities that have already learned a lot of the lessons related to this. And I hope that they look to those communities too in other parts of the country, and adapt the best of all these programs for us here in Champaign."
The program still awaits a final council vote, and is not expected to be up and running until next fall.
A new approach to helping emotionally-disturbed young people is getting nine million dollars in federal money.
Champaign County's Mental Health Board is implementing a new effort called the Access Initiative with the help of the state Division of Mental Health. It's meant to bring families more into the process of assisting troubled youngsters, and it's especially aimed at African-American cultural sensitivities.
Peter Tracy is the director of the county mental health board. He says previous methods of treating those children have not succeeded over time.
"Office-based therapy has not often been really successful with that population," Tracy said. "The departure is that this is a kind of outreach program where services are brought to the client and family as opposed of having them go to the office."
Under the grant, those services would be funded on a per-child basis instead of as a lump sum. They hope to serve about 200 children and teens, with families helping determine what form that assistance takes.
Gov. Pat Quinn is keeping attention on a college financial aid program for low-income students.
Lawmakers cut funding in half for the Illinois Monetary Award Program, also known as MAP grants. About 145,000 low-income students get financial assistance through the program.
The Chicago Democrat wants to see the money restored and he will rally at colleges around the state later this week, including the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University and Bradley University. The UI rally takes place Wednesday at noon at the Illini Union.
But Quinn's Democratic primary challenger, Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, has said Quinn signed off on the cuts to the program. The cuts were part of lawmakers' efforts to deal with a gaping budget hole.
Quinn has had other MAP grant rallies at Northern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Urbana's economic development manager says two hotel operating groups are interested in the Historic Lincoln Hotel.
Tom Carrino didn't name the two companies during Monday night's Urbana City Council meeting. But he says both are interested in possibly bringing a major hotel brand to the facility --- while preserving the building's architectural integrity.
The Historic Lincoln was designed by local architect Joseph W. Royer. It opened in 1924 and closed last March --- about the same time it was acquired by Marine Bank of Springfield in a foreclosure. Its previous owners had struggled to compete with newer hotels located closer to interstate highways. Carrino says the Historic Lincoln's location in downtown Urbana may be a plus to the two hotel groups now considering the property.
"That means that it's relatively close to the University of Illinois", says Carrino. "It's close to some major employers in downtown Urbana. The fact that it was involved in a foreclosure, the bank is motivated to sell the property. That means that a good hotel group could get the property at a relatively reasonable price.
Carrino says he expects both companies will prepare competing offers to Marine Bank for the Historic Lincoln in the coming weeks. He says both companies have discussed possible tax incentives with city officials --- those incentives would be possible due to the hotel's location in a Tax Increment Finance District and a city Enterprise Zone.
Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar says calls the state's financial crisis the worst he's ever seen since first being involved in state government.
The Republican says he was optimistic after the ouster of former Governor Rod Blagojevich in February. But Edgar says he's now pessimistic since no one stepped forward to address Illinois' finances, calling last spring's legislative session one of his greatest disappointments.
Edgar says an income tax hike is unavoidable. But he says the proper cuts need to take place first, including those in so-called 'sacred cows' like elementary and secondary education:
"I believe if tell people and you're fair about it and you don't just pick on one segment, one part of the state to make those cuts, I think the public will understand," said Edgar. "It's going to take people with leadership willing to step forward and do what has to be done."
Ethics is also on the table for legislators when they meet in just over a week, but Edgar says Illinois really has a bipartisan leadership problem that exists in both the House and Senate.
Edgar spoke at the Illinois News Broadcasters Association conference over the weekend, where he received the Illinoisan of the Year award.
Parkland College in Champaign will be the site Thursday evening, October 1st, for the first of three Illinois Commerce Commission hearings on a rate hike request from Illinois American Water. The hearing starts at 7 PM in the 2nd floor Conference Center in Parkland's Building D.
Illinois American is seeking a 30 percent rate increase for water customers in an area that includes Champaign-Urbana, Pontiac, Streator, Alton and Peoria.
The company says the increase will help pay for their new water treatment plant west of Champaign, along with other improvements. Illinois-American won a 47 percent rate increase last year, and the company said that was also needed to pay for the new plant.
Comments from the public at the s hearing will be submitted to the I-C-C for consideration as they study the rate hike request. Public hearings are also scheduled for October 8th in Mount Prospect and October 19th in Homer Glen.
Written comments on the Illinois American rate increase request can be submitted through the "File a Comment" option on the ICC website at http://www.icc.illinois.gov/docket/comment/ , or by calling 1-800-524-0795.
Joseph White's announcement last week that he would resign as President of the University of Illinois is not the only time a president at the university was forced out of office. 56 years ago... the Board of Trustees pressured George Stoddard into stepping down as President after a 7-year tenure marked by controversy. AM 580's Jeff Bossert spoke with Professor Emeritus of History Winton Solberg on both the good and bad of Stoddard's tenure:
Proposed rules prompted by the deaths of two Illinois dental patients would increase the training that's required for dentists and their staffs.
The changes are meant to prevent tragedies like the death of a 5-year-old girl who slipped into a coma after being sedated during a routine procedure at a Chicago dentist's office.
That death in 2006 was followed the next year by the death of a 46-year-old Chicago school principal who suffered cardiac arrest while under sedation for a root canal.
The proposals are on the Web site of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. The department is accepting public comments. The rules are subject to review by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.
As the national debate over health care ensues, the Illinois Supreme Court is considering a case over a Urbana hospital's tax status. The outcome, claim hospital officials, could lead to reduced medical services and higher prices.
Justices will have to decide if Provena Covenant Medical Center provided enough free or discounted care to poor patients to qualify as tax exempt. The state in 2003 determined the answer was no and forced the Catholic-run hospital to pay property taxes.
Assistant Attorney General Evan Siegel defended the state's action before the court. He says the year before, only 300 of Provena's 110 thousand admissions received charity care, not enough to deserve tax breaks.
"It doesn't matter whether an organization itself is charitable," Siegel told the high court. "What matters is whether its using the property for a charitable purpose."
But Provena's attorney, Patrick Coffey, argues the hospital qualifies because it cared for any and all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.
"It doesn't matter what amount of charity, here free care ... was given," Cofey said. "Free care was given without limit."
The court's decision has widespread ramifications statewide. If nonprofit hospitals have to pay taxes, there's speculation they would increase prices or cut back services. The high court is expected to issue an opinion in coming months.
A new member of the University of Illinois' Board of Trustees says talks could begin as soon as Thursday morning on seeking out an interim replacement for President B. Joseph White.
In Chicago, Karen Hasara and the two other members of the Ad Hoc Committee on University Personnel Matters are scheduled to meet Thursday for the first time. The former Springfield Mayor says initial discussions towards appointing that interim could be part of that meeting. Most of it is expected to take place in closed session.
Hasara says she respects White for stepping down, saying it was probably in the best interest of the university. But she's unsure yet about what the fate of Urbana Chancellor Richard Herman should be.
"We really haven't gotten into details of what to do about that", says Hasara. "We've gotten letters, quite a few letters in support of him, and of course, the faculty vote not in support. But that will be the next big decision, I believe --- besides an interim
Hasara says she still needs time to read up on all the reports on improper admissions at the U of I, and who was responsible for them. But she says it will be important to get all Trustees together to discuss the future of university leadership.
Meanwhile, David Dorris --- one of the trustees who resigned in the wake of the admissions scandal --- also commends White for deciding to step down. But Dorris says White was not an effective president, and a change was in order.
Dorris says that after contacts with other former trustees, he believes that a majority of them shared his view. He says they arrived at that conclusion, before the admissions scandal broke. "We just thought it was time for a change in direction for the University of Illinois" says Dorris, "because his leadership as the president had been ineffective, and we thought that we could do better."
Dorris accuses White of mishandling the Global Campus project, and events leading up to the retirement of Chief Illiniwek ---although he doesn't include the Chief's retirement itself as a count against him. Dorris also says that the administration under White circumvented the board's rehiring policy, meant to keep employees from collecting a U of I pension and working for the university at the same time. And he accuses White of keeping 30-million dollars off the university's books without telling the board --- money that suddenly appeared in time to pay skyrocketing utility bills.
Dorris was alarmed by Governor Pat Quinn's comments on a Chicago radio station Wednesday morning suggesting that a replacement for White might be named that very day. That's turned out not to be the case, but Dorris says he's concerned that Quinn might be trying to engineer what should be the board's choice of an interim and eventually a permanent president for the university. Quinn has said it will be up to the Board of Trustees to decide White's successor.
David Dorris was one of seven U of I trustees who resigned in the wake of the admissions scandal --- only one, Ed MacMillan, was reappointed by Quinn. Dorris says the next U of I president needs to be a genuinely excellent choice, with stronger academic credentials in place of White's business background.
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