Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 03, 2010

Jurors Answer Judge’s Questions as Blagojevich Trial kicks Off

The judge in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has begun questioning potential jurors for the case.

Among the first questions Judge James Zagel asked them today were whether they had read much about the case and whether they could set aside any preconceived notions about Blagojevich.

The former governor is accused of scheming to profit from his power to fill President Barack Obama's former Senate seat. He denies any wrongdoing.

One potential juror said she had seen the former governor's wife, Patti Blagojevich, on a reality TV show eating a bug.

Jurors were referred to in the courtroom by numbers only. Zagel plans to keep the jury anonymous until after the trial and denied a request by news organizations to reverse that.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2010

Blagojevich Corruption Trial Starts Thursday with Jury Selection

18 months after his arrest on federal corruption charges, jury selection begins Thursday in Chicago in the trial of Rod Blagojevich. The former Illinois governor is charged with trying to trade state decisions and appointments for cash and political favors --- including an appointment to the President Obama's old Senate seat.

A University of Illinois law professor says a major point of contention in the Blagojevich trial will be the link between favors granted by the former governor and requests for campaign donations and favors.

Professor Andrew Leipold says he thinks arguments by the defense will not focus on what Blagojevich said, but on what those statements mean.

"When the former governor said X, did he mean, 'and if you don't give me money I won't do it', says Leipold. "Or was he discussing two different topics: 'I'm prepared to do this'; and perhaps separately, 'Are you going to be contributing to my campaign, because we're doing a lot of good work, and I would value your support'."

Leipold says that question will make testimony by someone like former Blagojevich aide Lon Monk especially important ... because he would be in a position to know the former governor's intentions. Monk is cooperating with federal prosecutors in the Blagojevich trial.

Meanwhile, while opening arguments in the trial are still days away, Blagojevich has been make his cause before the public,w ith TV and radio appearances, and the publication of a book.

Leipold says it's an unusual move for a defendant in a trial.

"The notion that your client would be out going on talk shows and on the radio and on reality television is normally not something that defense lawyers would encourage", says Leipold. "Anything the governor says in any of his many, many, many public appearances are fair game, in the sense that if he says something that turns out to be different that what he says at trial, then he's subject to impeachment by that."

And Leipold says it's clear that Blagojevich intends to testify in his own defense at the trial. It will be Blagojevich's word against his words recorded in wiretapped conversations that prosecutors say show the former governor engaging in a "public corruption crime spree".

But Leipold says he expects the defense to argue that Blagojevich's requests for money and political favors were not connected to any of his actions as governor.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2010

Champaign County Board Members Are In No Hurry To Come Agreement with Employee Unions

Two Democratic Champaign County Board members say there's been a real sense of cooperation with employee unions as the county seeks out more than a million dollars in cuts.

Both Labor Subcommittee Chair Sam Smucker and committee member Brendan McGinty say there's no sense of urgency in getting an agreement approved. 127 employees, including 70 union workers, are expected to take furlough days in the next fiscal year. Smucker says the county is trying to avoid layoffs, and without naming specifics, says both sides have discussed a number of other mechanisms to make up for a lack of state funds. "I think all of them have been discusseed publicly and privately, and again, the thing that's most heartening is I think the employees really do recognize the situation that the county's in and are coming to the table with that sort of seriousness."

McGinty says departments did a good job of avoiding layoffs and furloughs last year by trimming travel and training budgets. And he says department heads have left the equivalent of one payroll off their budgets for the last six months. "They handled that in different ways," said McGinty. "But we've done it, for all intents and purposes, with minimal impact to our work force. And that's been a real show of cooperative spirit between the employees and department heads and elected officials."

Smucker says he hopes any additional cost-saving measures will put Champaign County in a position to provide regular raises a couple of years from now. The majority of the union workers impacted by furloughs are clerical staff. Another $600,000 in cuts may be required, but county officials are waiting to see if the flow of funds from state appropriations and county fees improve.

The Champaign County Board's Labor Subcommittee meets again Thursday afternoon.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2010

Blagojevich Trial Will Go On Despite Defense Request

A federal judge in Chicago today turned down a last-minute request for a delay in former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial and told his attorneys to get ready to start picking a jury tomorrow.

The impeached Illinois governor's racketeering and fraud trial is set to get under way following 18 months of skirmishing in the courts and the media.

Blagojevich and his brother, Nashville, Tenn., businessman Robert Blagojevich, have pleaded not guilty. They're accused of scheming to profit from the governor's power to fill the U.S. Senate seat that President Barack Obama vacated following his November 2008 election.

Blagojevich's lawyers contend they've been swamped by as many as nine million pages of documents, 270 hours of tapes and summaries of interviews with more than 700 people. They say they haven't had time to prepare.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2010

Illinois Governor Won’t Say Where He Will Cut Budget

Gov. Pat Quinn isn't saying exactly how he plans to cut state spending to close the multibillion dollar budget gap --- only that he's going to.

Just days after Illinois lawmakers left many key spending decisions up to Quinn, the governor said Tuesday only that he's willing to make the tough cuts that lawmakers are unwilling to make.

But when pressed for details, Quinn talked only about how some costs will be trimmed through furlough days for lawmakers and himself and a reduction in travel expenses for state workers. Those steps don't come close to closing a $13 billion budget shortfall.

Quinn was clear on what he does not want to cut and hopes he won't have to cut much: education, public safety, human services and health care.

That would rule out cuts to most of the state budget.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2010

Champaign City Council Disbands Liquor Advisory Commission

After 17 years, the Champaign Liquor Advisory Commission is no more. The Champaign City Council voted 8-0 Tuesday night to dissolve the panel set up to advise council members on changes to the Champaign liquor code.

Issued discussed by the Liquor Advisory Commission in recent years include Unofficial St. Patrick's Day, package liquor deliveries, and regulations for nuisance parties. But the commission -- which was made up of six Champaign liquor license holders, two University of Illinois representatives and a city council member --- canceled many of its monthly meetings, and held actual meetings just four times in the past year. The Liquor Advisory Commission had never exercised its powers to hold hearings or inspect bars and liquor stores. Champaign Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Jerry Schweighart says the panel no longer serves a useful purpose.

"They only meet once a month for what, an hour, hour and a half", says Schweighart. "Some of these issues drug on for a long time with the LAC studying them. On some of these things, I need a quicker response. So I think I can get that quicker response by using direct communication with all the license holders."

Schweighart says the Liquor Advisory Commission canceled many meetings, because there were few issues for them to discuss. "And they were getting frustrated with that", adds the mayor. "I know that some of the commissioners were disgusted with the fact that they'd spend so much time on an issue, and then the council would just totally out-of-hand reject it. So, there was frustrations on both parts."

No Liquor Advisory Commissioners or other liquor license holder spoke up about the vote to disband the panel during the council meeting.

Schweighart says he'll keep in touch with liquor license holders by mail and email, and reach out to members of the now defunct commission informally when he needs their input. In the meantime, the mayor says he's looking at phasing out some other city commissions he thinks are no longer needed.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 28, 2010

Legislature Ends Session with Larger Gap in State Budget

Illinois lawmakers have approved a budget and returned home, but they refused to give Governor Pat Quinn all he wanted.

Over the past few weeks it became clear Governor Pat Quinn's efforts to get a tax increase were being pushed aside. Instead, Quinn pinned his hopes on borrowing nearly 4 billion dollars. The proceeds would go into public employee pension systems, freeing up tax dollars that could be used on various needs like schools. One problem was that Quinn was unable to convince enough legislators to give him borrowing authority. The majority party Democrats in the Senate still needed Republican help, and they didn't get it, angering Senate President John Cullerton. "We don't have any Republican votes like they did in the House," Cullerton said following the session.

The House narrowly approved borrowing earlier in the week, getting a pair of Republicans to go along. Cullerton says he envisions returning to the Capitol in a couple of weeks, before the new fiscal year begins.

The Senate failure means Quinn will have to try again or try to manage the state's $13 billion deficit with $4 billion to spend. Democrats could also vote to skip the payment altogether, a move Quinn says would be more costly in the long run.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 24, 2010

Urbana City Council Reviews Budget Plan, Worries More Might Be Needed

As the Urbana City Council looked over the mayor's $48 million budget plan during Monday night's Committee of the While meeting, some members wondered if they should be making plans in case they need to make some mid-year spending cuts a few months from now.

Mayor Laurel Prussing's budget plan for 2010-2011 would freeze salaries and wages, and leave several positions unfilled. But some Urbana council members worry more cuts might be needed if tax revenues don't meet projections. When city Comptroller Ron Eldridge mentioned provisional plans for mid-year staff cuts if needed, Alderwoman Diane Marlin said she needed to know more.

"I'm concerned that these optimistic projections on revenue may not come to pass", said Marlin. "And I think it's my job as a council member to kind of think of more of a worse-case scenario, and at least about being prepared for it."

But Mayor Prussing was reluctant to release details --- in part because the staff cut scenarios name specific people. Later, the mayor said if they needed to cut more, they wouldn't just consider one plan.

"There isn't just one way of doing it", said Prussing. "We'd come up with many different things, and the council would have to decide what our top priorities are."

Prussing says her administration will monitor city tax revenues carefully, to see if mid-year spending cuts are needed --- and also watch for new revenue sources. One potential source is a local motor fuels tax. The mayor says Urbana council members will discuss that idea next month.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 24, 2010

Appeal Of Champaign Officer’s 1-Month Suspension Denied

A Champaign Police officer involved in the fatal shooting of a teenager in the city last October has seen the appeal of his 30-day suspension denied.

Champaign city manager Steve Carter says the decision on Daniel Norbits was handed down on Friday. Norbits was given the month's suspension without pay last month. Carter said while Norbits didn't intend to fire his weapon, he failed to maintain control of it on October 9th when Kiwane Carrington was shot and killed following a report of a break-in. The Fraternal Order of Police then filed an appeal on behalf of Norbits, who said the suspension was unjustified. If the officer chooses to continue in the appeals process... Carter says the next step would be for Norbits to appear before an arbitrator.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 24, 2010

Legislation to Help More College Students Vote Goes Nowhere

An attempt to expand the state's early voting program to college campuses in time for November's general election is stalled.

Senator Michael Frerichs, a Champaign Democrat, wants to make it easier for students to vote before Election Day by letting them cast ballots without leaving campus. "You can go on campus and see long lines waiting to vote, and students stand there for a little while realizing, 'Eh, I don't have the time. I'm going to go off to my class'," Frerichs said. "And if we spread this out over a longer period before the election, I think that won't be as big of a problem."

He's sponsoring a measure that would begin a trial program at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Southern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, and Lewis and Clark Community College. The legislation requires county clerks to set up early voting stations at those schools. While the proposal made it through the Senate, it hasn't moved in the Illinois House. Critics, including Representative Chapin Rose of Mahomet, estimate it could cost counties about one hundred thousand dollars to set up the voting stations. Rose says communities shouldn't be left to pick up that tab when college students can already head to the polls on their campuses on Election Day.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

Page 281 of 346 pages ‹ First  < 279 280 281 282 283 >  Last ›