Illinois Public Media News
Champaign's Police union says some members of the community are rushing to judgment on this week's arrest of 18-year old Calvin Miller.
In a press release issued by the state's Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, the union mentions the events of Monday's early morning hours, when police say the teen ran red lights, ran over a curb, and his van struck the front of a house after exiting the vehicle. Miller then reportedly ran on foot, and struggled with police before the arrest. The incident has led to angry comments from local activists, including Martel Miller, the teen's father, who claims police beat the teen repeatedly.
The FOP says it's encouraging all citizens of the city, and especially elected officials, to withhold judgment until all of the facts and circumstances have been released. The union says it's 'confident they will demonstrate that use of force was appropriate and reasonable under both department policy and the law.'
Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney says officials with his department will likely address the city council on Tuesday night.
If legislation to use local funds for the salaries of Illinois' regional school superintendents can pass it two weeks, one of those officials says it should be enough.
Jane Quinlan is the superintendent for Champaign and Ford Counties. She says it's a little hard to tell what the overall amount in personal property replacement tax will be, but Quinlan says anticipated Department of Revenue figures for Fiscal 2012 appear to be slightly better than last year, and would cover areas vetoed by Governor Pat Quinn. The bill failed Thursday by four votes, but is expected to come up for another vote in two weeks.
Quinlan says she holds out hope for this measure.
"We do have funding to pay for the staff that provides the services and programs that we have," she said. "I think the question is out there about 'how do those services (function) without the regional superintendent, who has the authority to execute those?"
If the bill doesn't pass when lawmakers return to Springfield November 8th, Quinlan says each regional superintendent and their assistant will have to take a hard look at their options, which may include retirement. She says it's unrealistic for these officials to work a few months more without pay.
Quinn eliminated the money for the superintendents and their assistants in July because he says the state can't afford the $11 million.
State Senator Shane Cultra says the bill that failed Thursday is likely the only one that will be considered on this issue when legislators return to Springfield. The Onarga Republican says he's all for restoring these salaries, but not with the personal property replacement tax. The measure needed 71 votes to pass, but failed 59-to-55 in the House.
Cultra says this issue lies in the hands of Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan, who isn't directly impacted, since Cook County has no regional superintendents.
"He's basically letting us fight over how we're going to pay them, and who we're going to take the money from" said Cultra. "Somebody's going to get hurt. Is it the superintendents, or is it going to be local units of government? So I don't like that discussion. I don't think it should be that way. But unfortunately, that's what we're stuck with."
Cultra says lawmakers should have been allowed to override Governor Pat Quinn's veto of those salaries, and take the funds out of general state revenue. The bill that failed was put on 'postponed consideration', meaning the sponsor can drum up support before bringing it up for another vote. The fall veto session continues November 8th.
It's been more than two years since Illinois American Water last filed for a rate hike. Now, the company is asking state regulators for a big enough increase to generate an additional $38 million statewide.
Getting approval for a rate increase is a slow process, and Illinois American's Chris Bacon says it may be 11 months before the Illinois Commerce Commission rules on their request. Bacon says about 70% of the money they're seeking would pay for new infrastructure.
In Illinois American's Champaign District, Bacon says their latest major project not covered by the current rate structure was an upgrade to their Mattis Avenue water treatment center in Champaign.
"The U-S EPA had made some recommendations in regards to our treatment center", says Bacon. "We always had high quality water, and maintained EPA standards with our water. But they did have some suggestions for our treatment plant, to make some upgrades. And we've complied with that."
But Bacon says the larger part of the money sought for the Champaign District would pay for replacing aging water mains.
"There are a couple of areas in Pesotum (along) Oak Street and then also on Coler Street (in Urbana) that we were looking to do some basic main replacement", says Bacon. "What those projects do is help improve customer service, reliability and fire flows for our existing customers in those areas."
In the Pontiac District, Illinois American says the requested increase would pay for new fire hydrants, valves and meters, as well as new water main. A project at the water treatment plant located along the Vermilion River includes additional flood protection.
In the Champaign District, Illinois American's requested rate increase would come out to about $7.21 for the average residential customer --- that same customer in the Pontiac District would pay $7.06 a month more. Rate hikes would differ in other service areas around the state --- and the ICC might decide to approve an increase lower than what Illinois American Water has filed for.
Belleville-based Illinois American Water is a subsidiary of American Water, based in Vorhees, N.J.
New Records Show More Restaurant Inspection Failures
(Reported by Dan Petrella of CU-CitizenAccess)
When public health officials conducted a routine inspection of Quizno's in Urbana last month, they discovered 12 critical health-code violations.
Gov. Pat Quinn wants to know who cast votes for about 18 Illinois House members who weren't on the floor when utility rate-hike legislation he opposed passed.
Quinn said Thursday legislation involving such high stakes shouldn't have anyone other than the House member casting a vote. He said the action should be investigated by the House, adding it was a `'violation of ethical conduct."
On Wednesday, lawmakers gave electric companies the authority to raise rates to produce money for modernizing the state power grid. House rules bar a member from voting on a question before the House unless on the floor before the vote is announced. However, it is not unusual for the rule to be ignored.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown says Quinn is trying to explain a huge defeat.
When Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in the state earlier this year, it spared the lives of 15 men on death row.
But one of them may not be off the hook.
Andrew Urdiales, 47, a former U.S. Marine, could be put to death if he is found guilty in the deaths of five women in Southern California.
The Orange County District Attorney's office announced this week that it will seek the death penalty against Urdiales if he's convicted in the murders.
"We will be seeking the death penalty for the crimes that he committed in California," according to Howard Gundy, senior deputy district attorney for the Orange County D.A.'s office. "The factors of aggravation, which would call for the stiffest penalty, far outweigh any of the factors in mitigation."
Urdiales is now awaiting trial in Orange County for the deaths.
He was extradited from the Pontiac Correctional Facility in Pontiac, Illinois in late September.
At Pontiac, Urdiales had been on death row for the murders of Laura Uylaki, 25, of Hammond, Ind., and Lynn Huber, 22, of Chicago.
Their bodies were dumped near Wolf Lake which straddles the Illinois-Indiana state line near Hammond.
In 2004, Urdiales was sentenced to death again for the 1996 murder of Cassandra "Cassie" Corum, 21, of Hammond.
Prosecutors say Urdiales dumped her body in the Vermilion River in Pontiac.
But the change in Illinois law in March abolishing the death penalty commuted Urdiales' sentence to life without the possibility of parole.
Urdiales will be arraigned in Orange County on Dec. 1for the additional five homicides. Of the five homicides, three took place in Riverside County, one in San Diego County, and one in Orange County.
Gundy said it was decided to consolidate the five cases with the trial happening in Orange County.
Prosecutors say the killing started back in 1984 when Urdiales was a 19-year-old Marine stationed in Southern California until his discharge in 1991. That's when he returned to the South Chicago neighborhood where he grew up.
Four of the five California victims are described as prostitutes ranging in age from 21 to 32.
His first California victim was 23-year-old Robbin Brandley who had been volunteering as an usher at a concert. Prosecutors say Urdiales wanted to kill a random person so he sought Brandley out following the concert and as she walked to her car. He's alleged to have stabbed her 41 times with a six-inch hunting blade.
The case was cracked open in November 1996 when Urdiales was arrested by police in Hammond, Ind., for loitering in his truck near an area known for prostitutes. Police confiscated a handgun which he was not licensed to carry.
Ballistic testing in April 1997 by Illinois police found the gun confiscated by Urdiales was the same firearm used to shoot and murder three of the victims.
Urdialeswas soon after arrested for the three murders.
(AP Photo/Illinois Department of Corrections, File)
A former state lawmaker says he'll forgo a run for Congress and attempt a return to the legislature instead.
In a statement issued late Thursday night, Democrat Jay Hoffman announced he would run for State Representative in the new 113th district. Hoffman had already announced a run for Congress' new 13th district in an attempt to unseat Urbana Republican Tim Johnson. But now Hoffman says a run for the Illinois House gives him the best opportunity to advocate for the issues he cares about most passionately, including capital construction, education, and economic development.
The Belleville News Democrat reports the St. Clair County Democratic Party is endorsing Hoffman for the 113th district seat. Democrat Tom Holbrook quit the seat Monday in order to become chair of the Illinois Pollution Control Board.
Hoffman says running for the legislature allows him to serve the community where he grew up, and the people he knows best.
Critics of the Champaign Police Department are expressing outrage, and a differing account of the arrest of an African-American teen last weekend, that they say involved excessive use of force.
Police say Calvin Miller ran a red light and swerved into traffic to avoid police on Monday at around 1:30 am, and then at one point, jumped from a moving van, which hit the front of the house. Police say Miller then reached for the officer's duty belt, and the officer struck him with his hand.
"It's a situation that could have been resolved very, very minimal with the officer stopping, the potential for a ticket, and the offender going on," Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney told WDWS radio. "We don't make the decision for people to run....if you run from the police, not only is it illegal, but it's going to have some dire consequences."
Responding to the police department's account of what happened, Calvin's father, Martel Miller claims police rammed into his son's car, and then maced him with pepper spray, struck him repeatedly on the face, head and ankle, and hit him with a baton.
"This is part of racial profiling," Miller told a crowd Thursday outside of the Champaign Police Department. "What I want you all to understand is abuse with black young men has been going on for too long, and it's by this department."
The incident comes two years after the police shooting death of teenager Kiwane Carrington.
Miller said he hasn't yet filed a formal complaint against the police department. In the last few days, there has been flurry of outrage over the alleged police beating of his son, and there are calls for major changes in the police department. Aaron Ammons, the co-founder of C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice, said there is no reason Miller should have been struck in the first place.
"We're asking for and demanding that these officers be removed, those who have been problems throughout the community ongoing that they can be removed and that new officers are brought in," Ammons said. "And bring more African American and people of color officers into this department who live here, who know the community, and who have a stake in the community."
Finney said the case will be reviewed to determine if there was excessive force used. Finney noted that officials with his department will likely address the city council on Tuesday night. Critics of the police department are expected to do the same. The Champaign City Council plans to discuss a proposal for a citizens police review board later this fall. That proposal was brought up last week, before the Calvin Miller arrest.
"Certainly the officers had every reason to get him into custody, and protect themselves in that backyard, and I think that's what they did," Finney said, adding that there wasn't anything he believed the police officers could have done in the situation.
At Thursday's demonstration outside of the Champaign Police Department, 30-year-old Gary McFarland of Champaign came forward. He said at the start of October, a Champaign police officer hit him as he was trying to enter his home.
McFarland said that incident resulted in his jaw having to be wired shut: "He never asked my name. He never asked for my ID. He never searched me. I could have been anybody."
A review of court records show McFarland was charged with resisting a police officer and criminal trespassing on Oct. 3, 2011.
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother wants to testify before the U.S. House Committee on Ethics investigating whether an Illinois congressman sought to raise money for Blagojevich for an appointment to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat.
Robert Blagojevich told Thursday''s Chicago Sun-Times he's written to committee members offering testimony about Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr.
Rod Blagojevich was convicted of trying to sell Obama's seat. Related charges Robert once faced were dropped. Trial witnesses alleged Jackson supporters offered fundraising for the governor if Jackson became senator.
Jackson's denied wrongdoing and hasn't been charged. He testified at Blagojevich's retrial that he's "never directed anyone to raise money for another politician.'' His spokesman declined comment yesterday.
But Robert Blagojevich says "there are a lot of unanswered questions (Jackson) should be required to answer.
Legislation to restore salaries for regional school superintendents after they were wiped out by Gov. Pat Quinn has failed in the Illinois House.
The vote Thursday was 59 to 55, but lawmakers can vote again later.
Quinn eliminated the money for the superintendents and their assistants in July because he says the state can't afford the $11 million. He wants local governments to pay from an alternative fund. The legislation lawmakers rejected would have done that.
Some lawmakers say the regional school officials should be paid, others question the need for the offices.
Illinois has 44 regional offices of education. Their responsibilities range from inspecting school buildings to certifying teachers to running GED programs.
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