Illinois Public Media News
The Champaign Fire Department's only female firefighter was arrested Thursday on arson charges.
Monica Hall of Mahomet is charged in connection with fires set two vehicles owned by Champaign firefighters --- both hers and that of a co-worker. The fires occurred early on the morning of August 6th, in the employee parking lot of the main Champaign Fire Station on Randolph Street.
Hall has been placed on administrative leave, with pay. An arraignment hearing is expected to be held Friday.
In a news release, Champaign Fire Department says it acknowledges Hall's arrest "with profound regret and disappointment". The release says department officials are cooperating with Champaign Police and the State Fire Marshal in investigating the case.
University of Illinois President Joseph White says a series of admissions reforms as recommended by a governor's panel need to be implemented in 8 weeks. White and about 100 leaders from the U of I's three campuses met in a closed-door meeting Wednesday discussing how to move beyond its admissions scandal. He says a firewall must be built around that area to ensure that no one above the level of Dean whose job doesn't include admissions will be involved in the process. The U of I also plans to adopt an admissions code of conduct, and set up a procedure for handling inquiries from lawmakers or anyone else inquiring about student applications.
White says the first action Wednesday was terminating the Category I list of politically-recommended students. He says the U of I needs to lead by example. "I think the University of Illinois, having been through this, has to correct and over-correct,' says White. "I think the practices that are pretty commonplace in other public universities won't be occuring here because we have to win the confidence of applicants and we have to win the confidence of the people of Illinois and I'm confident we will."
White would not comment on personnel matters, saying it remains to be seen whether the admissions scandal will result in anyone on campus losing their job, including himself. But he does say a U of I Board of Trustees with some new members will make the administration a high-priority item.
A candidate for Illinois governor says Republicans have been unsuccessful getting a governor elected over the last two elections because they've not elevated a quality candidate.
Bloomington homebuilder and state senator Bill Brady ran an unsuccessful primary campaign four years ago and is mounting another effort this year. He says this may be the right time for Republicans to do well in state elections in the wake of the Rod Blagojevich scandal.
"But we've also got to offer more than a corruption-free government," Brady said. "That's first and foremost, but they also have to believe that there's someone with the fiscal discipline to control government spending, to refrain from tax increases and in fact roll back tax and fee increases so business would choose to invest in Illinois again."
Brady is running against five other announced candidates, but he expects the field to narrow closer to next February's GOP primary. He says the last run for the governor's office left him with a fundraising foundation to depend on.
Champaign residents could start seeing more flyers on their cars and doorknobs soon, if the City Council goes ahead with plans to repeal a prohibition against the advertising practice.
Right now, only political and religious groups can leave a flyer on someone's doorknob in Champaign. And it's illegal to leave flyers of any sort on someone's windshield. But after a company that distributes such flyers argued that the ban violates the First Amendment, the council decided to revisit the issue. Council members unanimously endorsed ending the ban on doorknob flyers at Tuesday night's study session. But the council split 5 to 4 on ending the windshield flyer ban. For Councilwoman Marci Dodds, letting commercial handbills be plastered on windshields was too much.
"I don't have a problem with political and religious handbilling. I'm not fond of it because it just one of my pet peeves. But I don't see that commercial (handbilling) falls in the same category as that in the slightest," Dodds said.
But other council members said that the First Amendment wins out and that the council should repeal any law that they believe to be unconstitutional. Council member Tom Bruno said if Champaign resident gets an unwanted handbill on their car or door, they can exercise their own first amendment rights.
"I think a resident who gets an unwanted handbill should take the time to phone the business or the politician and say I'm really upset by this and I'm not going to do business with you," Bruno said.
The council will take a final vote on the issue at a later meeting.
University of Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman has apologized for his role in the university's admissions scandal, but says he has no plans to resign.
In a brief interview Tuesday with the Chicago Tribune, Herman said he was sorry for his role in the scandal and intends now to work on creating a new admissions process.
It was one of Herman's first public remarks since a state commission concluded last week that he acted unethically in admitting politically connected students with less-than-standard academic records.
The noted mathematician has been chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus since 2005, and was provost before that. Herman said he has received very few calls for his resignation and instead is relying on a letter of support signed by 48 of the university's most distinguished faculty members.
University of Illinois administrators will be meeting Wednesday afternoon to look at ways to fix the school's admissions process.
U of I President Joseph White called for the meeting, after a state panel concluded that the university bowed to political pressure in admitting under-qualified students.
University spokesman Tom Hardy says they want to do what they can to fix the problem before the new admissions cycle begins next month.
"The plan is to hit the ground running," says Hardy, "and work immediately --- as the president indicated last week -- on recommendations that came out of the Admissions Review Commission, on how to reform aspects of our admissions procedures, to put up a firewall around admissions, so that we don't have the same kind of problems that were experienced before."
A university statement says the firewall will include a new Code of Conduct for Admissions ... clear and complete details on admissions policies and processes ... and a clear policy for appealing admissions decisions.
The closed-door meeting is set for 1:30 PM, Wednesday afternoon, at the Business Instructional Facility on the Urbana campus. Officials at the Chicago and Springfield campuses will take part via teleconference.
Hundreds of Illinois boards and commissions have members serving on expired terms, vacant positions or no members at all.
Advocates say that can result in delayed decisions and ineffective advocacy for millions of Illinoisans, organizations and businesses. The state Banking Board, for example, hasn't had enough members to meet since 2003.
State officials and advocates place much of the blame on former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, saying he often ignored or delayed appointments.
Gov. Pat Quinn says he hasn't caught up on the appointments because of more pressing state issues and the desire to be extra careful after his predecessor was accused of trading some appointments for political favors.
Quinn says he plans to make many appointments in the next 90 days, and he's set up a Web site so people can apply online.
A new law signed this week sets aside clear boundaries for cities and villages in downstate Illinois to plan their future growth.
Those towns sometimes come into conflict with county zoning plans when they plan or annex new developments -- such as when Champaign approved an annexation agreement with a new Illinois American Water treatment plant two miles outside the city limits. The new law sets a one-and-a-half mile buffer around city or village limits before the county can restrict certain parts of those annexation agreements.
Champaign's deputy city attorney Trisha Crowley says local governments are fine with those limits.
"Basically it adds some certainty to the land use planning, so that's pretty important when you're making decisions that might involve development in 10,15, 20 years," Crowley said.
Smaller villages had also supported the new limits over worries that their planning efforts could be hurt by those of larger nearby cities. The new law doesn't affect counties in the Chicago or Metro East areas.
Candidates for Illinois governor are making their initial trips across the state as they gear up for a crowded race next year.
Republican state senator Matt Murphy visited a Champaign restaurant early Monday morning in an attempt to get his name out among GOP faithful outside the Chicago suburbs. Murphy says his ability to win a close race three years ago in the Palatine area proves he's a worthy competitor for his party.
"I was outspent 2 to 1 in a horrible Republican year and won by 6 (percentage points). In a rematch in '08 I tripled that margin to 18 during the President Obama wave," saod Murphy. "So I'm a proven winner in elections and have the right message and the credibility to offer it."
As a relative newcomer to Illinois politics, Murphy also claims distance from disgraced former governor George Ryan as well as Democrat Rod Blagojevich. Fellow state senators Bill Brady of Bloomington and Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale are also in the Republican race, as well as DuPage County GOP chair Bob Schillerstrom, Dan Proft and Adam Andrzejewski.
The Admission Review Commission's final report points to the practices of another U of I school as a guide to how political clout can be taken out of the process.
It says the College of Medicine received letters of interest from trustees or political leaders over at least six prospective students in the last six years, but none were admitted and the inquiries didn't affect the integrity of the process. Dean Joe Flaherty says the faculty committee that chooses med students is not accessible to outside influence - not even his.
"I couldn't get one of my own kids admitted even if I wanted to, which I wouldn't of course do it that way," Flaherty said. "They see all the grades, the scores, all the non-cognitive evaluations, everything that comes in. They make their decisions collectively every month. There isn't a way of sneaking a candidate in from the outside."
The report quotes Flaherty as telling inquiring trustees who asked about students that admitting people with political favor of any kind is the third rail of medical school.
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