Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - February 23, 2011

Emanuel Faces Big Money Woes as Next Chicago Mayor

Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel won't have much time to celebrate his victory as Chicago's new mayor.

Emanuel, who overwhelmed the race with truckloads of money and friends in high places from Washington to Hollywood, will take control of a city in deep financial trouble with problems ranging from an understaffed police department to underperforming schools.

On Tuesday, Emanuel won 55 percent of the vote, easily outdistancing former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, who had 24 percent, and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and City Clerk Miguel del Valle, who each had 9 percent. He succeeds Mayor Richard M. Daley, who is retiring after 22 years in office as the longest-serving mayor in Chicago's history.

But the city he inherits, though perhaps more beautiful than ever after years of extensive urban improvements, is in financial straits that it hasn't seen since before Daley's father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, came to power in the 1950s.

"Not since the Great Depression have the finances of the city been this precarious," said Dominic Pacyga, a historian and author of "Chicago: A Biography." The city's next budget deficit could again exceed $500 million, mostly the result of reduced tax revenue from the recession, and could reach $1 billion if the city properly funds its pension system.

Emanuel, who takes office May 16, also faces a fractious political landscape.

He'll have to find new leadership for the struggling public school system, as two top interim executives plan to leave. He'll also need a new police chief, having said he would not renew Police Superintendent Jody Weis' contract.

The department is suffering from low morale and staffing estimated at 1,000 officers below previous levels.

Members of the City Council, including a number elected Tuesday, have made clear they will demand more authority after years of domination by Daley.

In 25 years of public life, Emanuel has earned a reputation as a skilled politician and as a political operative, serving in both the Clinton and Obama administrations and as a congressman from Chicago. But the mayor's office will test his mettle as an executive.

Throughout the campaign, Emanuel has acknowledged he'll have to make budget cuts, and has promised to spread the pain as fairly as possible, starting with his own office.

But, like the other candidates, he has been vague about how he'll accomplish the reductions. And nothing he has suggested comes close to the projected deficit.

Emanuel said he can save $110 million by streamlining "outdated and duplicative work processes to focus on front-line service delivery," according to his campaign. His campaign did not use the word "layoffs," but it did allude to "reducing layers of management bureaucracy and consolidating redundant tasks."

"What comes next is a bunch of ugly," said Ralph Martire, executive director of the bipartisan Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. "It's going to be a brutal budget year and there are not quick and easy fixes."

The politics of the cuts could be perilous. Most of the deficit is in the $3.1 billion general fund, which pays for the police and fire departments, which have been cut significantly since 2000, Martire said.

As for the underfunded pensions, Emanuel said he wants to "preserve" the pensions but may seek to negotiate changes. He insists the city can solve the problems without a confrontation like the one in Wisconsin, where tens of thousands of people have been demonstrating outside the Capitol to protest anti-union budget cut legislation. "We have to find, I think, common ground and a sense of hope," he said during a campaign stop this week.

Still, some Chicago officials say the pensions will be hard to finesse. "This mayor is going to have to find a way to balance that too, in a way that doesn't alienate our city workers, who are incredibly hardworking folks," said Alderman Sandi Jackson.

Already, various unions are bracing for a fight. More than a half dozen unions endorsed Chico, including the police and fire unions.

Emanuel has also talked about expanding the city sales tax to include more services, while lowering its overall rate, but he'll need approval from the state General Assembly.

Many voters hope Emanuel's clout in national politics will help him find outside avenues for help. President Obama expressed support for Emanuel when he left the White House, and heavy hitters in the political and entertainment communities contributed to his campaign.

"He's (got) political savvy. He's politically tied in. That's important to me because he can get things done," said Ralph Vallot, 57, dean of students at a Chicago high school.

Loren Miller, 65, who is retired and served as an election judge at a Michigan Avenue polling place, said it's a turning point for the city. "The future's going to be interesting. This is going to be a tough period of time for the city," Miller said.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 23, 2011

Ind. House Democrats Make Urbana Their Home in Exile

The Democratic caucus of the Indiana House is holding court one state over.

Thirty-five state representatives left Indianapolis Tuesday. They're staying at a hotel in Urbana as they try to hold up bills they say would negatively impact organized labor and education.

Representative Craig Fry said they had few other options to block bills, including one that would prohibit union memberships or dues as a requirement for employment.

"It's been pretty obvious for about a week that we would have to do something pretty dramatic to make Republicans take notice," Fry said inside a conference room where the fugitive Democrats are holding caucus meetings. "Constitutionally this is all we can do, to deny quorum."

But Representative Charlie Brown said Democrats' anger goes beyond the so-called right-to-work bill. He said their walkout is also stalling bills to allow private-school vouchers and curtail collective bargaining rights for public-school teachers.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has said he won't order state police to round up House Democrats, and he had asked Republican House leaders not to bring up the right-to-work legislation. He also told reporters yesterday in Indianapolis that he respected the Democrats' decision as part of the political process, though he wants them to return immediately to vote on the legislation, but Brown is skeptical.

"It's sometimes difficult to understand and appreciate whether the governor is playing good cop or bad cop," Brown said. "It would appear as though he's sincere, but then who knows for sure. I will leave that interpretation and judgment up to greater minds than mine, as to whether we should take him at his word."

Neither Brown nor Fry will say how long they expect to stay in Urbana. Brown said in a couple of days they may have less-weighty issues to deal with, like clean clothes. He is also not sure whether the delegation would have to leave the hotel if rooms are reserved for a future event in town, such as an Illini basketball game.

(Photo by Tom Rogers/WILL)

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 23, 2011

Danville Mayoral Candidates Look Ahead to April Election

The race for Danville mayor is in the final lap.

With a 14-percent voter turnout at Tuesday night's primary, four candidates will advance to the April 5th general election. They are Vermilion County Board Chairman James McMahon, current Mayor Scott Eisenhauer, Alderman Rickey Williams Jr., and restaurant owner David Quick. Williams, who received the third largest number of votes and ran as a write-in candidate, said he is confident he will walk away with a victory in April.

"We had 300 folks who had to take a special imitative to write me in and that means a lot," Williams said. "I think once you see my name actually listed on the ballot, those numbers are going to change even more significantly."

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer is running for a third term. He ran unopposed in the 2007 primary, and beat his opponent in that year's general election by more than 2,400 votes. Even with more challengers this time around, he said he is optimistic he will retain his seat.

"My fear is that if we are not successful in April in maintaining the mayor's chair, we're going to find ourselves sinking back into the stagnation that we had for a 16-year period prior to our administration coming into office," Eisenhauer said. "That can't happen if this community is going to be successful."

Eisenhauer said moving forward, he wants to focus on projects like reducing section-8 housing, bringing a casino to Danville, and looking at other opportunities to generate revenue.

Vermilion County Board Chairman James McMahon beat Eisenhauer in Tuesday's primary. McMahon said if elected, he will focus on creating opportunities for businesses to grow by lowering the city's debt without raising taxes.

"We can lower taxes once you run government like a business," McMahon said.

The other candidate in the race, David Quick, could not be immediately reached for comment. Truck driver Donald Norand lost out on his mayoral bid Tuesday by receiving the lowest number of votes in the primary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Candidates Primary Votes
James McMahon 1,061
Scott Eisenhauer 956
Rickey Williams Jr. 318
David Quick 282
Donald Nord 19

 

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 22, 2011

Rally on UI Campus in Support of Wisconsin Workers

As protesters flock Wisconsin's capitol in response to legislation to strip most public employees of bargaining rights, a group held its own rally on the University of Illinois campus.

About 125 people made up of university students and staff, and nearby residents stood in front of the Alma Mater statue chanting: "The workers united will never be defeated. The workers united will never be defeated. The workers united will never be defeated."

The Graduate Employees' Organization, a labor union representing 2,500 U of I teaching and graduate assistants, helped organize the event. Union member Stephanie Seawell said workers in Wisconsin and all across the country should be able to negotiate for better contracts, a right she criticizes Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for trying to take away.

"That fundamental right is being challenged in Wisconsin, and if it can be challenged in Wisconsin, it can be challenged here," Seawell said. "Workers should join together and say this is enough."

At the close of the rally, participants marched to the YMCA on campus to hold a 24-hour-a-day vigil, which Seawell said will last until Governor Walker backs down from his proposal to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most of Wisconsin's public employees.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - February 22, 2011

Indiana Senate OKs Contentious Immigration Bill

The Indiana Senate has approved a contentious Arizona-style bill to crack down on illegal immigration.

The Republican-ruled Senate voted 31-18 Tuesday for the bill, which contains penalties for businesses that hire illegal immigrants and allows police officers to ask someone for proof of immigration status if they have a reasonable suspicion the person is in the country illegally.

Supporters say Indiana must act because the federal government has shirked its responsibility to deal with illegal immigration. Opponents say the bill will lead to racial profiling and hurt economic development.

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has declined to take a public stance on the proposal.

The bill was proposed by Republican Sen. Mike Delph of Carmel. He couldn't vote on his own bill because he's taking the bar exam Tuesday and Wednesday.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - February 22, 2011

Rahm Emanuel Elected Mayor of Chicago

Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has been elected mayor of Chicago, to succeed the retiring Richard Daley.

With 86 percent of the precincts reporting, Emanuel was trouncing five opponents Tuesday with 55 percent of the vote to avoid an April runoff. Emanuel needed more than 50 percent of the vote to win.

The other major candidates _ former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and City Clerk Miguel del Valle _ had hoped to force a runoff but were no match for Emanuel.

Chico had 24 percent of the vote compared to 9 percent for both del Valle and Braun. Two other lesser-known candidates each got about 1 percent of the vote.

Emanuel's win caps off a campaign that included an unsuccessful legal challenge to try to keep him off the ballot.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 22, 2011

Authorities Renew Call for Information on Holly Cassano Murder

Champaign County authorities have renewed their call for the public to come forward with information on the 2009 murder of Holly Cassano. And they are revealing more information about the case that had previously been held back.

The 22-year-old Cassano was found stabbed to death at her home in the Candlewood Estates mobile home park in Mahomet, in November, 2009. But Sheriff's Lieutenant Ed Ogle said Cassano had also been sexually assaulted --- the information had been held back to help identify people who might make false confessions. Ogle said they believe the assault took place after the murder. He said that from the blood found at the crime scene, they believe the killer may have suffered cuts to his arms or hands during the attack.

"We want people to come forward with information about anyone who had cuts to their arms or hands during that period of time," Ogle said. "We're asking for people to think back to the night after Halloween, 2009, and recall any suspicious activity they may have noticed in their particular area --- that being in the Meijer's store or in the Candlewood area."

Holly Cassano worked as a cashier at the Meijer's store in Champaign, and Ogle said the killer may have known her from the store, or from Candlewood neighborhood on the northeast side of Mahomet.

Ogle said an FBI psychological profile indicates that the killer could be a young male, perhaps as young as a teen-ager, who had targeted Cassano before the attack. But he said they have no specific suspects at this time, although DNA evidence from the crime scene has helped them eliminate more than 100 people as suspects. Ogle and Sheriff's investigator David Sherrick emphasize that no scrap of information is too small or trivial, if it is related to the case.

Champaign County CrimeStoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in the Cassano murder. But Holly Cassano's mother, Toni Cassano, has been raising additional reward money, through the sale of bumper stickers asking for information into the crime. It was Toni Cassano who discovered Holly Cassano's body, after she had been babysitting Holly's daughter, who was then 17 months old. Nearly 16 months after the murder, Toni says she has not yet told her granddaughter what happened to her mother.

"And when it gets to the point that I have to tell her," she said. "I'm hoping that we have the name of the person who did this, and he is being held responsible, because I want to be able to tell her that there is justice."

If you have information relating to the murder of Holly Cassano, you should contact the Champaign County Sheriff's Department Investigative Unit at 384-1213, or call anonymously to Champaign County CrimeStoppers at 217-373-TIPS.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - February 22, 2011

Democrats Delay Ind. House Amid Union Protests

(With additional reporting from WFYI Public Radio's Marianne Holland in Indianapolis)

Indiana House Democrats are leaving the state to avoid a vote on Republican-led legislation restricting the rights of unions.

The political battle is over a bill that prohibits union membership and fees from being a condition of employment, while also disallows payroll deductions for union dues. In the Indiana House, 67 members are needed to take action, but only 63 showed up after House Democrats walked out Monday. Only two returned Tuesday morning.

Without Democrats at the statehouse, Republicans don't have a quorum to conduct business. Republican Governor Mitch Daniels said he is waiting for the Democrats to come back to Indianapolis.

"I'm not going to divert a single trooper from their job of protecting the Indiana public," Daniels said. "I trust that people's consciences will bring them back to work. I choose to believe that our friends in the minority, having made their point, will come back and do their duty."

The House Democrats are now headed out of the state, to either Illinois or Kentucky. Both states have Democratic governors, a condition that prevents the lawmakers from being taken into police custody and returned to Indiana.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - February 22, 2011

Ind. Treasurer to Challenge Lugar in 2012 Primary

Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock will challenge longtime U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar in next year's Republican primary.

Mourdock announced his Senate bid during a Tuesday news conference in downtown Indianapolis with about 200 supporters.

He told the gathering he appreciates Lugar's decades of service to Indiana but said the six-term Republican has lost touch with the state's needs. Mourdock says he has the support of 67 of Indiana's 92 county Republican chairmen for his Senate run.

Mourdock has courted tea party groups that have been disgruntled with Lugar and say he hasn't been conservative enough.

He told the gathering that Lugar doesn't respect the tea party movement.

Mourdock is from the Evansville area and has been state treasurer since 2007.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 21, 2011

Four of Six Names Will Remain on Ballot for Decatur Council Race

Macon County Clerk Steve Bean says having solely write-in candidates for a Decatur city council race means counting the ballots could take longer than a typical primary.

But Bean also anticipates a low voter turnout for a non-mayoral election of 3-to 5-thousand voters. He noted the spelling of all six candidates' names are very different, making it easier for election judges to read the name in the single blank provided. Four of the six names will advance to the April 5th ballot.

The voter needs to indicate their choice for the council seat formerly held by Adam Brown, who was elected to the state legislature in November. Bean stated that it is an expensive election.

"The State Board (of Elections) would not allow us to cut any corners," he said. "We had to set up all the machinery, which is an expensive deal. We had to print regular ballots, hiring election judges, the cost of publishing in the newspaper, the cost of polling places and everything - it's about $100,000, which all the taxpayers in Macon County will pay."

One candidate, Reggie Anderson, is not eligible to serve in office due to a felony conviction. But Bean said Anderson, who has a felony robbery charge on his record, may challenge Decatur's municipal code if he is successful in April. Bean said if Brown had resigned earlier, that would have forced candidates to fill out nominating petitions, and someone could have filed an objection.

"But since Mr. Brown waited so late (to resign from the City Council), there's no way to legitimately remove a write-in candidate," Bean said. "Nobody has ever wanted to challenge the city's municipal code."

Also running are Jamie Duies, Robert Lewis, Pat McDaniel, Ed Bland Junior, and James Thomas Taylor.

Categories: Government, Politics

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