Illinois Public Media News
The names of Steve Beckett and Barb Wysocki won't appear on Champaign County ballots next year. It's a move that could change the slight 15-12 advantage that Democrats hold on the County Board. The two Democrats both say the time is right, with a lot of building projects that they were part of having been completed. For Beckett, that includes the restoring of the county courthouse clock and bell tower. But he says it's been a frustrating time on the County Board, and that it's 'unwieldy' and too large. Beckett says it needs a diverse representation, but with less than its current 27 members.
He says there are also too many instances in which members of one political party aren't free to express their mind. "Because they go into a caucus..' says Beckett. "...and a majority of them think one way on a particular issue, means that the people that were in the minority on that issue within the party caucus has to surrender their views and vote the way the party thinks they ought to vote. I don't believe in that. I just don't think it's right." Beckett says he and Wysocki both became outcasts as the result of some caucus votes.
Wysocki says she agrees the county board should be reduced from 27 to about 18 members. She's hoping the Board will make an effort to merge the Champaign-Urbana Public Health Board with the County Board of Health, saying services aren't currently being provided in an efficient manner. Neither Beckett or Wysocki have suggested anyone to succeed them in County Board District 9.
Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes formally announced his campaign for governor Wednesdayby saying he would try to raise state income taxes on the wealthy as a way to address the state's budget crisis.
Hynes will probably face incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn in next year's Democratic primary.
At a news conference in Chicago, Hynes described a new progressive tax --- which taxes higher-income earners at higher rates --- as the cornerstone of his plan to put the state's financial house in order. He said his plan would spare 97 percent of Illinois residents from paying more.
Hynes contrasted his call for a progressive tax with proposals this year from Quinn to raise the existing flat-income tax rate by 50 percent on everyone. Only a few states use a flat income tax, which taxes everyone at the same rate.
But Quinn says a progressive tax is the kind of thing he pushed for five years ago but that Hynes then opposed. And Quinn characterized Hynes as a professional naysayer who's refused to work with him on anything.
Quinn didn't directly say he wants a progressive tax. But he did say he believes taxes should be paid according to one's ability to pay.
Quinn's original tax hike proposal in March included a tripling of the personal tax exemption, which he said would actually lower state income tax payments for about half of Illinois taxpayers.
When he announced last week that he wouldn't run for another term as state representative, Bill Black (R - Danville) predicted a front-runner would emerge quickly in the race to succeed him in the 104th House District. On Wednesday, Black made it clear who he thinks the front-runner should be, by endorsing the former mayor of Catlin, Chad Hays.
At a news conference in Catlin kicking off the Hays campaign, Bill Black said Chad Hays had earned his unqualified endorsement. He told a crowd of supporters and schoolchildren that Hays had "a proven record", and was "a hard worker, an honest man who would not let Springfield change that". Black's introduction of Hays was greeted with applause from the gathering assembled in the bleachers at the Catlin Recreation Complex's football and track field. Hays co-chaired the committee that led efforts to build the Complex. Construction of the all-weather track with the help of volunteers earned Catlin a Governor's Home Town Award in 2003.
When it came his turn to speak, Hays pointed to his leadership role on the committee that oversaw construction of the complex as one of his qualifications for the legislature. He says if elected to the Illinois House, he'll be a hard worker and a consensus builder. Hays, who served two terms as mayor of Catlin in the 1990s, says Illinois faces serious problems, "but we must have the courage to reinvent Illinois as a place that is ready and open for business". He continued, "We must invite and encourage a new generation of leadership. We must embrace the change and articulate a vision for the future, that ensures that all parts of this state get a fair shake and an equal opportunity."
Hays is vice-president of Development and Mission Services at Provena United Samaritans Medical Center in Danville. He describes himself as a fiscal conservative, pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment, but ready to consider a casino for Danville, if it brings jobs to the area.
Former State Senator Judith Myers also endorsed Hays at the news conference.
Chad Hays is the first to announce his candidacy for the 104th District seat in the Illinois House. Vermilion County Recorder of Deeds Barb Young has also been mentioned as a possible Republican contender.
Laws banning the placement of handbills on the windshields of parked cars and on the doorknobs of people's homes have been lifted in Champaign.
The Champaign City Council voted 8 to 1 lTuesday night to repeal its ban on distributing handbills on cars and as doorhangers in residential areas. City officials say recent federal court decisions indicate that the bans are likely unconstitutional.
City Councilman and attorney Tom Bruno says he's heard from residents who want to see the bans on doorhangers and windshield handbills continue in Champaign. But he says if they did so, they would be impossible to enforce.
"We would never our city attorney or expect the (county) state's attorney to prosecute somebody for an invalid law", says Bruno, "so, as much as you might wish we left this ordinance on the books, it's already unenforceable --- legally unenforceable."
City officials say there may still be options --- such as licensing and the city's litter ordinance --- for limiting the use of doorhangers and windshield handbills. But for now, Councilman Bruno says you can legally forbid doorhangers at your home by posting "No Trespassing" or "No Soliciting" signs. He says it might be even more effective to complain to the advertisers involved. And Councilwoman Karen Foster suggests complaining to the owners of parking lots that allow windshield handbilling.
It will soon cost you more in Champaign, any time your car gets towed by the city.
Starting in October, the city of Champaign will charge a 25 dollar fee whenever they initiate a tow. That's on top of the fee charged by the tow truck operators the city hires --- and that fee will be going up five dollars as well.
Police Chief R-T Finney says the new fee will cover the cost to the city of handling the paperwork on each city-initiated tow.
"Every tow that occurs in the city that's a relocation tow off of private property, or a city-initiated tow from a traffic accident, any type of initiated tow that the police department or Public Works or Parking would initiate, that all has to be processed by the police department," explains Finney.
The fee will NOT apply to private towing --- such as when your car breaks down, and you hire a tow-truck to take it to a mechanic.
The towing administrative fee is one of several new and increased fees the Champaign City Council approved last June to help balance the city budget. Council members approved the specifics of the towing fee Tuesday night.
Tow truck operators resisted the new fee, which they have to collect on behalf of the city. The five-dollar increase in their own fee came as a result of negotiations between the operators and Champaign city officials.
The faculty-student Senate at the University of Illinois Urbana campus is calling on Governor Pat Quinn to create a task force to advise him on selecting new members of the U of I Board of Trustees. A resolution passed by the Academic Senate Monday also recommends that chairs of the Senates at each campus be among the members of the panel. It also calls for the eventual appointment of faculty to the U of I Board itself.
Business professor and Academic Senator Mark Roszkowski says having faculty representation at the top level of university governance would ensure real shared governance between the university's administration and its faculty. "So I think this vaults the (Academic) Senate into its proper position as the protectors of the academic mission of the university", he added.
Roszkowski says if faculty serve as U of I trustees, they might have to recuse themselves from voting on certain matters to avoid conflicts of interest, as student trustees now do. But he says that even in those cases, a faculty voice during board discussions would be good for the university.
Roszkowski says a delegation from the Academic Senate is to meet with Governor Quinn on the proposal, before he appoints any additional trustees. Quinn has said he plans to appoint more trustees on Friday.
Passage of the resolution on faculty participation in choosing and serving as trustees came at the same meeting where senators agreed to postpone a vote on a resolution recommending that U of I President B. Joseph White and Urbana Chancellor Richard Herman step down.
Illinois consumers will pay more for toiletries, candy, soft drinks and liquor starting Tuesday as lawmakers raise cash to pay for a statewide construction program.
Most candy _ currently carrying a 1 percent sales tax _ will be taxed at 6.25 percent. And it'll be the same for shampoos and toothpastes that until now were considered "medicated.''
Bottled soft drinks with added sweetener or flavoring, such as iced tea, will be taxed more. And liquor distributors will pay more for alcohol. In many cases, the cost will be passed on to consumers.
All told, the changes should raise about $150 million a year toward a $30 billion roads-and-schools building plan. The program also includes hundreds of millions of dollars for local pet projects of lawmakers.
Leaders of the University of Illinois' faculty want the school's president and the chancellor of its flagship campus replaced in the wake of an admissions scandal.
But the faculty's Senate Executive committee said Thursday that it would be best if President Joseph White and Chancellor Richard Herman don't get fired or quit immediately.
Faculty leaders instead called for an "orderly transition'' to new leadership. They didn't recommend a timeline.
White has said they won't step down. And in a statement this morning, Herman said he'll remain in his job as long as possible.
The two answer to the university's board of trustees. Some members say they plan to start reviewing the two school leaders' performance.
The state of Illinois has another lodging facility on its hands, and it's trying to find a buyer.
The state already owns one hotel in which it had invested money, and last year it unloaded a second. The latest possession is a property on state park land. The firm that held the concession for the Eagle Creek Resort and Conference Center near Shelbyville had fallen into receivership, and last month the receiver asked that it be closed. Today the state began asking for bids to revive the sprawling resort.
Tom Flattery is a planner with the state Department of Natural Resources. He says the closure has come at a bad time for the resort industry, so finding an operator may be tough.
Flattery says the Eagle Creek Resort had deteriorated over time, so he estimates that it could take 1.5 million dollars to restore it. In the meantime, the DNR is keeping the resort mothballed, spending about 50 thousand dollars a year to provide security and maintain the 18-hole golf course.
Bids for running the resort are due by mid-November.
Governor Pat Quinn has started making fresh appointments to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.
That's after most members resigned in the wake of an admissions scandal.
Quinn says he wants to replace the seven trustees who've resigned in the next week and a-half.
On Wednesday, he announced two new appointments: those of Merchandise Mart CEO Chris Kennedy, and Lawrence Oliver, an attorney for the Boeing Company.
Quinn says the board's first item of business will be dealing with U of I President B. Joseph White and Urbana Campus Chancellor Richard Herman, who were key players in the scandal.
"I think they have a lot of explainin' to do", says Quinn. "But I don't want to prejudge things until the full board that I appoint has an opportunity to review this report, listen to the various individuals involved, and come to a reasoned decision."
The report issued by a state panel recommended all nine trustees step down.
Two trustees, Frances Carroll and James Montgomery, have refused... But Quinn says he's allowing them to stay on to avoid a protracted legal fight.
"You can be as legalistic as you want," explained the governor. "I do not think that having a legal battle with two trustees who refuse to resign is the central focus of our work."
Quinn says that would be a "sideshow" that could detract from the U of I's fundraising and faculty recruiting.
Trustee Montgomery congratulated Quinn for not firing him. But Quinn was criticized by others for his handling of the situation.
Illinois Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno said the situation was still unresolved because some trustees were staying on.
Quinn's Democratic primary challenger, Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, accused the governor of failing to lead.
The governor says, in the next week or so, he plans to finish appointing replacements for trustees who've already offered to step down.
--- Additional reporting from The Associated Press
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