Here's another indicator of an unusual election year: the tightest legislative election in eastern Illinois involves not an open seat nor a vulnerable rookie lawmaker -- but one of the state's most senior legislators. 22 years in the statehouse have brought Bill Black of Danville a high profile and a devoted following. But as AM 580's Tom Rogers reports, an unusual chain of events has led to a battle with first-term Vermilion County board member Lori DeYoung.
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Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz says a change in philosophy has allowed some of those who go through the justice system to take responsibility for what they've done, recover and get on with their lives. But challenger Janie Miller-Jones disagrees with that assessment and says the office needs to do more to prevent crime to begin with. AM 580's Jeff Bossert previews the race for State's Attorney.
The two candidates for Champaign County Auditor say county finances are on shaky ground, and the global economic crisis may make matters worse. Each candidate says they're the best choice to keep an eye on those finances for the next four years. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports.
State Representative Naomi Jakobsson has held her seat in the Illinois legislature since a redrawing of district lines made for more Democrat-friendly boundaries in 2003. Her challengers since then have included a former county coard member and two engineers. This year, she's opposed by a University of Illinois student who believes a youthful perspective will help bring about an end to political infighting in Springfield. AM 580's Jeff Bossert previews this year's race for the 103rd House district.
Frustration with state government over education funding reform has led to the call for a higher sales tax in Champaign County. The county's 14 school boards promise local property tax relief if voters approve a one-percent hike in the county's sales tax. As AM 580's Tom Rogers reports, it's generated some uneasiness - even among some people who say schools need more money.
This month the International Monetary Fund released a bleak outlook for economic growth in the United States and many European countries in 2009. The IMF estimates the US economy will grow by only 0.1 percent -- and for countries like Spain, the United Kingdom and Italy, it projects a probable recession. Under the current EU presidency of France, the European Union is working to get its economies back on track. AM 580's Michael Koliska talked with France's Ambassador to the US, Pierre Vimont, as he visited the UI. Vimont says currently, Europe is working on three fronts.
Many people are just beginning to notice the debate over whether to draw up a new state constitution for Illinois. But the question will be right in front of voters' faces this fall. A referendum on whether to hold a constitutional convention comes up every 20 years in Illinois, and 2008 is the year. AM 580's Jim Meadows has this two-part series.
Since the beginning of the new millennium, the US has lost millions of jobs to countries overseas. With a recession looming, many union leaders say more hard times lie ahead for the working class. Richard Trumka is the Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO. He says it's time to switch from a public policy of constant deregulation to one that empowers American workers. AM 580's Michael Koliska talked to Trumka during a visit to he University of Illinois.
Rural America has seen an exodus of residents and businesses for decades. But now it's evolving into a garden spot for entrepreneurs. Many don't have much of a choice - jobs in large companies or farms are drying up, and self-employment helps pay the bills. Still others (like Becky and Freddy Smith, left) get into business for love of their communities - they're helping small-town storefronts spring back to life. What can government do to help them out? AM 580's Tom Rogers reports on the challenges these rural entrepreneurs face, and what the presidential candidates want to do about it.
AM 580 is joining with public radio stations across the country to look into how the Presidential race impacts rural residents.
The debate over alternate energy sources like wind and solar power is not only aimed at reducing dependence on natural resources like coal and natural gas. Driving cars and using other machines rely more on these sources. While John McCain stresses greater production of oil, and nuclear energy, Barack Obama speaks more of using alternates. One getting a lot of attention in recent years is ethanol. But lately, supply and demand have hurt the development of new facilities that produce it. AM 580's Jeff Bossert looks at how the state of the industry is affecting two rural Central Illinois towns and what the presidential candidates' energy policies could mean for their future.