Illinois Public Media News
The state has come through with some last-minute funds for the University of Illinois as the fiscal year draws to a close.
That includes a payment of about $30 million reported Tuesday by Chief Financial Officer Walter Knorr. U of I Interim President Stanley Ikenberry says that brings the state's backlog of payments to about $295-million, when it was more than $430 million back on December 31st. Ikenberry says while Illinois still needs to address its financial crisis as soon as possible - the U of I is getting more orderly state payments, and that's a surprise. But he says university staff has done everything it can to receive those funds.
"Our finance people have been unrelenting in their telephone calls to the comptroller's office to seek the payment of the bills," said Ikenberry. "..and to remind them that we're out here living from hand to mouth, and that we need the payment of those receivables." Ikenberry will step down from the role of interim president this week, turning over the office to new President Michael Hogan. The 75-year old has served as interim president since January, and was U of I President from 1979 to 1995.
The oil spill along the Gulf of Mexico is spreading. It's already crept to the coastlines of Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, and Alabama, and it's continuing to move forward. A group of young kids in Savoy met last week to talk about the spill as part of a week-long Green Camp. They took part in a simulation of the oil spill, and shared their ideas about containing the spill. Then John Warren Kindt, a professor of business and legal policy at the University of Illinois, talks about the future of offshore drilling. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports.
A change at the top doesn't mean University of Illinois Interim President Stanley Ikenberry is retiring just yet. He served in the office the last six months, and was U of I President from 1979 to 1995. The 75-year old Ikenberry will now see to it that a working group follows through with a series of consolidations and other cost-cutting moves. He'll report on the team's progress to new President Michael Hogan, who starts his job Thursday.
Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talked with Ikenberry about that role, and other challenges he foresees in the months ahead:
State agencies and organizations are waiting for details on next year's Illinois state budget, which Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign on Wednesday or Thursday. A group representing people with disabilities is bracing for the possibility its programs will take a hit.
The Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities is worried the governor will slash funding for home and community care programs.
Tyler McHaley says he's enrolled in the home services program. He fears cutbacks will mean he...as well as other people with developmental disabilities ... will get less help.
"The cuts will mean fewer hours in terms of having meals prepared for us, to go outside the home, for laundry....all the things that everyone takes for granted are being cut for us,", says McHaley.
McHaley says it could also mean providers may lose their jobs.
Nellie Logan is a home care assistant for the elderly in Springfield. She says she stops by elderly and disabled people's homes to help out with laundry and dishes.
"They're not going to be able to stay and be able to function as they need to be, as they want to be," says Logan. "And if these people have to go into nursing homes, it's going to cost the state a hell of a lot more than paying me to come help these people."
Logan says she doesn't think she'll lose her job because of job cuts ... but says lawmakers need to understand ... that people...many of whom can't live on their own ...are at the mercy of state government.
A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Human Services, which oversees the programs, didn't want to comment on any possible cuts and says the agency is waiting to hear from the Governor.
Governor Quinn plans to discuss his budget plans during a 10:30 AM Chicago news conference on Thursday. Quinn has said he'll try to protect education, public safety and human services as much as possible. But he says because the General Assembly failed to approve new revenues, he has no choice but to cut the budget.
The University of Illinois plans to use nearly $1 million in federal stimulus money on a center to train people to improve the energy efficiency of low-income residents' homes.
The university says it received a more than $959,000 grant for the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program. It will be run by the university's Building Research Council. The council already offers classes on weatherizing homes.
Council instructor Paul Francisco says the money will help train workers to improve home energy efficiency.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk says he's sorry for being careless and making mistakes about his accomplishments.
Kirk addressed supporters Tuesday in his first news conference since reports that he had embellished his military record, including claiming a prestigious award he didn't win.
The Illinois congressman says he isn't perfect. But he pledged he'll do better and that it won't happen again.
Meanwhile Kirk's Democratic opponent's campaign calls the Republican candidate's apology "hollow.''
A spokesman for Alexi Giannoulias criticized Kirk, saying the congressman wasn't careless as he claims. Spokesman Matt McGrath says Kirk "lied.'' McGrath contends there are too many inconsistencies for Kirk to claim he was careless.
Kirk also acknowledged twice being scolded by the Pentagon for improperly mingling politics with his military duties.
It's something his campaign had flatly denied just two weeks ago.
When a blogger disclosed a Defense Department memo referring to Kirk being "counseled'' for political activity while on duty, the Kirk campaign said the memo was "off the mark'' and that he had never violated Pentagon policies. His campaign called the document "a baseless political ploy.''
Kirk acknowledged today that he was counseled in late 2008 after he gave interviews about former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's arrest. He also says he was counseled for a Twitter post he said his staff made in July 2009 when he was on duty.
Kirk is locked in a tight battle for President Barack Obama's old Senate seat with Democrat Giannoulias and Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones.
Maintenance workers found a body floating in a public swimming pool in Decatur that is believed to be that of a suspect in a knife attack.
The Macon County Coroner's office says Tiheyon D. Freeman was found early Tuesday in the Fairview Park pool. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.
Decatur police say Freeman was a suspect in an attack early Monday that left one woman hospitalized after undergoing surgery to remove part of a knife from her head. A second victim was stabbed several times, but was treated and released from a local hospital.
Decatur Park District officials say the pool in which the body was found will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Testimony from a labor union official shows ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich angled for job offers and other help from supporters of President Barack Obama.
The SEIU's Tom Balanoff says in November 2008 he acted as a go-between between Blagojevich and members of Obama's inner circle.
In a secretly taped call played at the trial on Tuesday, Blagojevich talks to Balanoff about Senate candidates, including Obama friend Valerie Jarrett.
Then the governor wonders aloud if Obama donors would give millions to start a health care advocacy group Blagojevich could work for.
BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah and then we can help our new senator, Valerie Jarrett, go out and push that. BALANOFF: So let me...let move this idea and...let me put that flag up and see where it goes.
Balanoff testified Tuesday he never had any intention of looking into Blagojevich's idea.
On cross examination, Balanoff acknowledged Blagojevich never explicitly said he'd appoint Jarrett in exchange for personal benefits or favors.
Balanoff also testified that state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias told him in passing, "Maybe (Blagojevich will) appoint me."
When Balanoff told the governor this, he says Blagojevich responded with a expletives aimed at Giannoulias.
Giannoulias' current Senate campaign says his comment to Balanoff about being interested in the seat was made "half jokingly."
Meantime, Balanoff says Blagojevich also dismissed suggestions that Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky get the appointment.
He says Blagojevich told him he wanted to pick an African American, so the governor said - quote - "If Jan could show me she had any ancestors who came over on a slave ship, she'd be fine."
A statement from Schakowsky says the comment "demonstrates Blagojevich's cynical attitude toward the African-American community.
An independent candidate for Champaign County Sheriff faces a possible roadblock in his effort to get on November's ballot.
Jerommie Smith of Sidney says he'll carefully examine the voter registry and contest a challenge from Stephen Frank. The Fisher resident is objecting to more than 1,000 signatures on Smith's petitions - claiming a number of them aren't from registered voters. Other claims from the former law partner of Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh include that the signatures are illegible, voters from outside the county signed the petitions, and that petitions were signed more than once.
Smith, who's from Sidney, says he expected an immediate challenge when filing the petitions, noting Sheriff Walsh hasn't had an election opponent. "I think that anytime you start getting competition, and you throw that out there, and if you can win an election by not having to a campaign, I guess that's what they're trying to do." said Smith. "The question I have is - who checked the voter registry to our petitions? All I know is that he (Frank) filed, and they're claiming an objection to this, and I don't know who checked them, who didn't, and I don't know if it matters or not. But our job is to go through it ourselves to see if their claims are valid or not."
The 3-member Champaign County Electoral Board has scheduled a hearing for Thursday at 1 at the county courthouse to hear Frank's objections. One of that's panel's members, Urbana Circuit Clerk Linda Frank, is the ex-wife of Stephen Frank, and has already said she'll step down for that hearing. Smith calls that an 'admirable' move.
A study of the spread of West Nile virus shows it has a new culprit.
A team of researchers from the University of Illinois says robins are unwittingly spreading the virus after being bitten by mosquitoes carrying it. Professor Jeff Brawn heads the U of I's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. Unlike crows and jays, which die when they get the disease, he says some robins survive when bitten by an infected mosquito. And Brawn says that's a problem in urban environments. "They seem to be to amplify the virus in their bloodstream but they don't die from it at a real high rate," said Brawn. "So you've got a common bird that the mosquitoes prefer, and one that the virus seems to do very well in, too."
Brawn and a team of U of I researchers are tracking West Nile in Chicago's southwest suburbs. The group has been able to detect what mosquitoes have been feeding on through DNA samples. Brawn says if another mosquito bites a robin, the mosquito gets the virus and can then transmit it to another host, possibly another bird or human. He suggests wearing long sleeve shirts, minimizing outdoor time from dusk to dawn, and using insect repellent this summer to avoid the illness. "It's not like robins are the enemy, and if you see one, you're going to get West Nile virus," said Brawn. "It's just that robins are species that seems to be involved in kind of a epidemiology of the virus."
Brawn's study includes several institutions, including Michigan State and Emory University. It's funded by the National Science Foundation.
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