Illinois Public Media News

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.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2009

Urbana City Clerk will Hold Ballot Lottery

Urbana's city clerk has reversed course and will hold a lottery this coming Wednesday to determine which party is first on the ballot in next month's municipal election.

Republican mayoral candidate Rex Bradfield and Green candidate Durl Kruse filed suit Thursday to demand the ballot lottery, which they say is required by state law. Clark had used the order in which candidates filed petitions to set the ballot, which put her own party, the Democrats, first in line.

In a statement issued late yesterday (Friday), Clark said had been reluctant to hold a ballot lottery so soon before the election, out of concern "for those people who have already voted during the early voting process because I did not want those voters disenfranchised". But Clark said Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden has now stated in writing that a new ballot would not endanger early votes already cast. She's scheduled the ballot lottery for Wednesday morning at 10, at the Urbana City Council chamber.

Green Party mayoral candidate Durl Kruse says he's glad that Clark has decided to hold a ballot lottery, but says he's baffled by the delay. He says Shelden had given assurances early on that early voting ballots would still be counted if a ballot lottery required new ballots.

Republican mayoral candidate Rex Bradfield says he's "thrilled" that Clark is holding the ballot lottery in accordance with state law. But he called it "sad" that the decision was not made until after he and Kruse filed their lawsuit.

Bradfield and Kruse says the ballot lottery is important, because the order in which candidates are listed can have an impact on vote totals.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2009

Urbana’s Mayoral Candidates Lay Out Economic Plans

Economic development was a key plank in Laurel Prussing's platform when she first ran for mayor of Urbana. Prussing narrowly defeated Tod Sattherthwaite with the argument that the incumbent hadn't done enough to attract business to the city. Now Prussing faces three challengers who each say they could do a better job, in spite of a recession. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 26, 2009

GOP and Green Mayoral Candidates Go to Court to Seek Ballot Lottery in Urbana Election

The Republican and Green Party candidates for Urbana Mayor are suing the current mayor and city clerk, over the failure to hold a lottery to determine which party shows up first on the April 7th ballot.

Right now, Democrats, including incumbent Mayor Laurel Prussing, will be listed at the top of the ballot in Urbana in the April election. But Green Party candidate Durl Kruse and Republican Rex Bradfield say state election law requires a lottery to determine the order in which candidates are listed by party. Urbana officials admit no lottery was held for this election. And the attorney for Kruse and Bradfield, Bob Auler, says Urbana City Clerk Phyllis Clark failed to hold ballot lotteries in at least two previous elections. Auler says Democrats have been listed at the top of the ballot in the four previous elections held in Urbana under Clark, who is herself a Democrat. "We think that's just kind of funny", says Auler.

Kruse and Bradfield cite studies that show that the candidate listed at the top of the ballot typically gets more votes than if they were listed further down. They say that's why the state requires a lottery to determine ballot positions.

The motion filed in Champaign County Circuit Court on Thursday seeks a temporary restraining order requiring Urbana officials to hold a ballot lottery. The chairs of the Republican and Green Parties in Champaign County have added their names to the complaint. Kruse says Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden has told them that the county would pick up the expense of reprinting ballots and resetting election equipment, if the results of the lottery required it.

Calls to Urbana city officials Thursday have not yet been returned.

Categories: Government, Politics

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