Illinois Public Media News
Additions to the Champaign County Courthouse in Urbana are coming together, from the new clock and bell tower to some educational aspects inside the building.
People called for jury duty usually wait in a large room before they're summoned into the courtroom. While they're there, they can now step inside a small theatre in one side of the room and learn about Abraham Lincoln's fledgling legal career as an attorney who traveled through Champaign and other area counties. Cheryl Kennedy of the Early American Museum says the theatre is the most prominent expel of several current and future Lincoln displays at the courthouse.
"It's a great opportunity to use some of your time," Kennedy said. "And not only that, we envision more things on the walls out in the foyer, maybe some exhibit cases, and an opportunity to extend that experience past the audio visual program."
The Lincoln exhibits are being assembled as part of the 200th anniversary of the 16th President's birth. The theatre will be dedicated the weekend after next as well as the clock and bell tower as a part of the Urbana Sweet Corn Festival.
Officials with the Federal Reserve say they're committed to returning to Washington with proposals for modifying mortgage loans, and foreclosure mediation. But they also want to hear more from communities hit the hardest by the mortgage crisis.
In Decatur over the weekend, about 500 people from the region heard from the enterprise that creates monetary policy. They also had a chance to apply pressure for changes in lending practices. AM 580's Jeff Bossert reports:
The man in charge of the University of Illinois' Urbana campus says he intends to stay put as long as he's wanted. Chancellor Richard Herman's name was attached to some of the controversial admissions decisions based on inquiries from university trustees or influential politicians. Now the U of I is disowning the so-called Category I clout list and trustees have either resigned or have been asked to do so. Herman and president Joseph White also find themselves facing calls to step down. Herman told AM 580's Tom Rogers he still has the support of a broad constituency.
The pastor of St. Mary's Church in Champaign says he's hosting the homeless members of the Safe Haven Tent Community, in keeping with the gospel call to help the homeless stranger.
Father Tom Royer says the dozen or so members of Safe Haven are camping out in a secluded spot on church grounds, and will be staying at the church for the next 30 days. He calls Safe Haven an attempt to respond to the needs of the homeless by offering some sort of safety and hospitality.
"They've been pushed from one place to another and this, I think, is inappropriate," says Royer. "I think that we, as a community, should take into account the needs of these people."
But as long as Safe Haven members are living in tents on church grounds, Champaign Zoning Administrator Kevin Phillips says St. Mary's is violating city zoning code. Phillips says he's sent notice to the church that they face possible fines of up to 750-dollars a day if the tent community isn't gone in one week. However, he says if St. Mary's moves the Safe Haven members indoors, the church's Multi-Family Three zoning designation may allow them to stay on an emergency basis.
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.
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