Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 02, 2009

What Should Be Included in a Downtown Champaign Arts District?

People in Champaign-Urbana get their chance over the next week to offer opinions about downtown Champaign's cultural offerings and how they can improve.

The cultural group known as 40 North 88 West is wants to form a cultural arts district. Its director of operations, Steven Bentz, says downtown Champaign already has lots of cultural offerings - the goal is to make downtown a destination for families, day or night. He says the public has a big say in how that arts district would look.

"Is it arts facilities? Is it more classes? Is it happenings on the street? Are people wanting to see a greater involvement from multiple groups from around Champaign County -- educational groups, cultural groups, churches? What kinds of buy-in would people like to see happen through a cultural arts district in downtown Champaign?" asked Bentz. "We're encouraging people to really dream big."

After the public comment sessions, 40 North would hire a consultant to help come up with a definitive plan for an arts district.

The public sessions began Thursday night -- others will be held next Wednesday night at at 7:00 at City Hall and Thursday at noon at the Springer Cultural Center.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 02, 2009

Former Gov. Blagojevich Faces 19 Count Federal Indictment

A sweeping federal indictment charges former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich with scheming to auction off President Barack Obama's U.S. Senate set, pressuring a congressman for campaign money and lying to FBI agents.

The 19-count indictment against Blagojevich and others also alleges billions of dollars in state pension bonds were refinanced in exchange for the promise of a massive kickback, among other crimes.

Others indicted included the former governor's brother Robert Blagojevich, Springfield millionaire William Cellini and the governor's onetime chief fundraiser Christopher G. Kelly.

Blagojevich's former chief of staff John Harris also faces a charge in the indictment. Prosecutors say he's cooperating.

US Senator Dick Durbin's reaction to Blagojevich's indictment was short - he says he hopes the governor doesn't see the indictment as a green light for another publicity tour. He says Blagojevich deserves his day in court but the people of Illinois deserve a break. 15th District Congressman Tim Johnson of Urbana says those under indictment brought shame to the state and nation, and their prosecution is overdue.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 02, 2009

Ballot Lotteries Alter the Placement of Local Candidates

Last-minute ballot lotteries will alter the order of candidates on ballots in Urbana and Champaign.

County clerk Mark Shelden says Republican candidates will appear first on the municipal election ballots in Urbana, followed by Democrats and Green party candidates. A lottery for Champaign ballot positions went to Democrats followed by Republicans. The lotteries follow protests from two candidates for Urbana mayor that the city clerk didn't hold a ballot lottery as required by state law. A City of Champaign township supervisor candidate later found that the clerk there didn't hold a lottery either. Shelden suspended absentee and early voting while new ballots are printed - he says absentee and early voting were expected to resume today

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 02, 2009

Blagojevich Indictment Imminent?

Federal prosecutors have worked for weeks to produce an indictment accusing ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich of committing an extraordinary "white-collar crime spree'' in the heart of Illinois government. Their handiwork could be seen as early as today.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald has until Tuesday to get an indictment that would replace a complaint charging the former governor.

Blagojevich is accused of plotting to trade or sell President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat and a host of other crimes.

Today is believed to be the last day the grand jury meets before the deadline, although the government never announces the time and place of grand jury meetings.

Fitzgerald could ask Chief Judge James F. Holderman of U.S. District Court for another deadline extension.

Categories: Criminal Justice, Politics
Tags: crime, politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 02, 2009

Voters Mull Over a 1% Sales Tax for Schools

Voters in Champaign County will have the future of education funding in their hands when they hit the polls next Tuesday. At issue is a referendum to raise the county sales tax by a penny per dollar. The money would fund school building projects, pare down debt and potentially lower property taxes. As AM 580's Tom Rogers reports, after one failed attempt, the referendum's supporters are taking nothing for granted.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 01, 2009

Champaign City Council Endorses Phase One of Five-Year Plan to Raise Liquor License Fees

The Champaign City Council is backing just the first year of what had been a five-year-plan for increasing liquor license fees in the city.

City staff had proposed the multi-year plan to phase in increases on a yearly basis, instead of imposing them all at once. But council members say they want to see a cost-of-service study before approving the entire plan, to see how much it actually costs the city to regulate liquor establishments. That information is especially important, as Champaign looks for new revenue sources due to recession-related drops in tax revenue.

Mayor and city liquor commissioner Jerry Schweighart says Champaign's liquor license fees could stand to be raised anyway, because they're some of the lowest in the region. For instance, he says a bar currently pays $1900 for a Class A liquor license in Champaign, compared to $4000 in Urbana.

The first year increase endorsed Tuesday night will raise fees for all liquor licenses in Champaign by 200 dollars on June 1st --- that would raise the fee for a Class A, or bar license, to 21-hundred dollars. Fines for violations will also go up, and the city will create a new 25-dollar keg fee.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 01, 2009

Toddler Accidentally Shoots Mother in Champaign

A mother was accidentally shot by her two-year-old child. That's the preliminary report from Champaign Police about an incident that occurred Tuesday evening in the 400 block of East Beardsley Avenue.

Police say it appears the toddler accidentally discharged a firearm and shot the mother, but that the injuries were NOT life threatening. The mother was taken to an area hospital.

The two-year-old was one of three children in the home at the time. The others are aged ten and eleven. None of them were injured.

Champaign Police are continuing their investigation.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 01, 2009

Champaign City Council Keeps Status Quo on Downtown Parking Rates

Parking rates in downtown Champaign will stay pretty much as they are, thanks to action by the Champaign City Council last night. Council members endorsed the latest phase of the downtown parking plan, but voted against any change in parking rates and hours.

The city council voted last year to raise downtown parking rates and extend enforcement hours to pay off bonds on the new Hill Street parking deck. Parking rates now go as high as 75 cents an hour in the core of downtown, and those rates are enforced until 9 PM. Some downtown business owners told the council the move was bad news for them. Salon owner Paul Kane told the council, "I think the inception of this parking rate has really hurt the smaller businesses, that depend on people that are going to come down here for an hour or two and spend a short period of time to spend some money".

But Councilman Tom Bruno says the most expensive parking areas in downtown Champaign are usually crowded, because they're where people want to be. "When it's 75 cents hour here by the Equire," said Bruno, referring to a bar across the street from the City Building, "and 50 cents over by West Side Park, they want to spend 75 cents and park right outside the Esquire, because that's where the action's at."

Plus, says Bruno, the city needs parking revenue to pay off the parking deck bonds. But Councilman Mike LaDue says he fears that downtown Champaign will gain a reputation --- deserved or not --- as being difficult to park in.

While there will be no change in basic parking rates, city staff say they'll look at way to clarify parking rules that many find confusing, as well as ways to promote the new downtown parking deck.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2009

Legislature Passes “Speed Parity” for Cars and Trucks

The Illinois House and Senate have approved bills raising the speed limit for trucks on rural interstate highways to 65 miles per hour.

Neither bill affects the speed limit for trucks in Cook County. The House version also exempts the five counties that surround Chicago. Once the two chambers apporve identical bills, the measure will be sent to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature.

The speed limit for cars on interstate highways is 65, but for semis the speed limit is 55. Traffic safety experts believe having two different limits increases the chances of accidents on the roads.

However, Democratic Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park isn't convinced. When Missouri went to a uniform speed, Harmon said, fatalities jumped by more than 70.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2009

Quinn Defends His State Police Director Pick

Gov. Pat Quinn is defending his pick to lead the Illinois State Police, saying Jonathon Monken is the right man to lead the agency in the wake of a scathing audit about the agency's performance.

Monken has taken over the agency, but has yet to be confirmed by the state Senate. Some key lawmakers say he lacks the necessary experience.

The 29-year-old Monken is a decorated military veteran and Quinn says that experience makes him qualified for the post.

Quinn is defending Monken's nomination for the post amid Thursday's release of an audit that found there was a huge backlog in testing crime evidence.

Quinn called Monken a strong leader and he dismisses suggestions that Monken isn't qualified for the post.


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