Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 26, 2010

Quinn Wants Sheila Simon as his Running Mate as Dems Pick Lt. Gov. Candidate

Gov. Pat Quinn is set to announce that the daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon is his pick for a running mate.

A person familiar with Quinn's selection process tells The Associated Press that Quinn wants Sheila Simon to fill the lieutenant governor spot. The person didn't want to pre-empt Quinn's announcement at a Friday afternoon news conference and would speak only on condition of anonymity.

While Simon might be Quinn's choice, the Democratic Party State Central Committee has the final say. They'll meet Saturday in Springfield to make the official pick.

Simon is a law professor at Southern Illinois University and a former member of the Carbondale City Council.

Democrats get to pick Quinn's running mate because primary winner Scott Lee Cohen quit amid questions about his past. Simon is on a list of finalists they'll choose from.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 26, 2010

Emerald Ash Borer Discovered In Iroquois County

A tree-killing beetle is inching closer to Champaign and Vermilion Counties.

Field workers recently found the emerald ash borer in about a dozen ash trees at a rest stop along I-57 near the Iroquois County town of Loda. A quarantine on bringing in firewood already impacts all or part of 21 Illinois Counties... most of them in northern and northeast Illinois. But it was extended downstate to McLean County after beetles were discovered in some trees in Bloomington two years ago. Warren Goetsch is the Illinois Department of Agriculture's bureau chief of environmental programs. He says there's a good chance those boundaries will extend to the east soon. "Just because of the way the infestations have been in Indiana - they're kind of looking at it from a national perspective," says Goetsch. "And sometimes, that big picture perspective perhaps causes us to work in some areas that maybe would have liked to have done a little differently. And so this gives us a little more confidence that we need to be doing some more trapping in East Central Illinois."

Goetsch says by telling people not to move firewood, to purchase it locally, and to burn it all when camping, they'll minimize the 'artificial' spread of the insect. Goetsch says he expects a number of ash borer traps to soon be set in Champaign and Vermilion Counties. The larvae from the green beetles burrow into the bark of ash trees, cutting off their food supply. The ash borer has killed more than 25 million ash trees in states like Michigan, Ohio and Missouri since 2002. It was first found in Illinois in northern Kane County in 2006.

Categories: Environment

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 26, 2010

Illinois to Play ISU in WNIT on Sunday

It will be the Illini versus the Redbirds in Women's NIT quarterfinal action this Sunday, following wins by both teams in third round play Thursday night.

Illinois defeated the Missouri State Lady Bears 65 to 53, with 17 points apiece from Lacey Simpson and Karisma Penn. Illinois' defense held Missouri State to 31 percent shooting and a season-low 53 points.

Meanwhile, Illinois State beat Kansas 71 to 51 at Redbird Arena in Normal. Ashleen Bracey led the Redbirds with 15 points and seven rebounds, while four of her teammates also scored. in double figures. The win was a reversal from 2009, when KU eliminated ISU from the WNIT in the semifinals.

Illinois State will host Illinois in the WNIT quarterfinals, Sunday, March 28th at 2:05 PM at Redbird Arena. The two teams last met in a non-conference game last November, when the Illini defeated the Redbirds, 62 to 51.

Categories: Education, Sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 26, 2010

Roger Ebert to Launch New Movie Review Show, While Old Show is Cancelled

Movie reviewer Roger Ebert says he and his wife are going ahead with plans to produce a new movie review television program with the working title "Roger Ebert presents At the Movies.''

The Champaign-Urbana native wrote Thursday on his Chicago Sun-Times blog that he can't give details, but they're "deeply involved'' in talks. Ebert says they've held tests with potential hosts and they know who they will use. He says the new show would have a strong presence online.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning reviewer writes that he would like to make "occasional appearances'' on the air. Ebert lost his ability to speak after cancer surgery.

Ebert also writes: "the Thumbs will return,'' referring to the well-known "thumbs up'' and "thumbs down'' reviews.

Also Thursday, Disney-ABC Domestic Television announced the cancellation of "At The Movies,'' the successor show to Ebert's review programs with the late Chicago Tribune critic Gene Siskel and later with the Sun Times' Richard Roeper.

Disney-ABC said the last show with A.O. Scott of the New York Times and Michael Phillips of the Tribune will air in August.

Categories: Biography

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 25, 2010

Another Slight Increase for IL Unemployment

Unemployment in Illinois rose slightly from January to February.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate for February was 11.4 percent. That compares to 11.3 percent in January. There were 900 fewer jobs in Illinois in February.

Illinois Department of Employment Security Director Maureen O'Donnell says she's encouraged that the job loss pace is slowing in the state. She says a few more months of data are needed before it's possible to assess the path of recovery.

Illinois' jobless rate is at its highest level since July 1983. Since the recession began in December 2007, the nation has lost 8.4 million jobs and Illinois has lost 403,600 jobs.

The national unemployment rate in February was 9.7 percent.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 24, 2010

Citizen Police Review Board Question on City of Champaign Town Meeting Agenda

A Champaign resident says citizens haven't been given the full opportunity to weigh in on the debate over a police review board in the city. So Wayne Williams has submitted a proposal to put an advisory referendum on the November ballot in Champaign, asking voters if they favor a citizens police review board. William's proposal is on the agenda at the April 13th City of Champaign annual town meeting, where voters in attendance will decide whether it gets on the ballot.

"Police officers are employees of the citizens of the city", says Williams. "And I believe that having a review board just gives individual citizens --- or the citizens at large --- more control over the government."

The fatal shooting last October of teenager Kiwane Carrington during a scuffle with a Champaign police office led to renewed calls for a citizens police review board in the city. But Williams says he favored the concept before the shooting.

The city of Urbana has a citizen police review board, as does Danville... but Champaign City Council members turned down the idea of having their own three years ago on a 5-to-4 vote.

Williams says a police review board is not intended to be anti-police. He compares his proposal to police department's use of dashboard cameras... and notes they've proven useful after some officers were initially against the idea.

Another proposal from Williams on the annual town meeting agenda in Champaign concerns health care reform. Williams admits when he filed paperwork for that proposal, he didn't believe health care overhaul legislation would be passed by Congress and signed by the president. But Williams says he still may push for that referendum just to gauge citizen support for the reform package.

Williams is a Democratic precinct committeeman in Champaign, who was recently appointed to the Champaign County Board of Review. He's run unsuccessfully for the Champaign County Board and City of Champaign Township Assessor.

Townships across Illinois will hold their annual town meetings on Tuesday, April 13th. The annual town meeting for the City of Champaign Township begins at 6:55 PM in the council chamber of the Champaign City Building.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 24, 2010

Illinois Falls to Dayton 77-71 in NIT Quarterfinals

The Fighting Illini men's basketball team bowed out of the N-I-T Wednesday night, with a 77 to 71 loss to the Dayton Flyers.

Chris Johnson scored 18 points and Dayton used a strong start to win the game.

The third-seeded Flyers (23-12) advanced to play Mississippi on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. They also joined Rhode Island in the semifinals, giving the Atlantic 10 Conference two of the four teams remaining in the tournament.

Dayton jumped out to a 23-9 lead behind excellent shooting and never let up. The Flyers shot 48.1 percent from the field, including 8 of 18 from 3-point range.

The Illini's struggles to get back on defense led to quick, easy baskets for Dayton. Illinois trailed by as many as 16 points before cutting it to four with 18 seconds left.

Johnson was 4 for 11 from the field but 9 of 10 at the foul line.

Demetri McCamey had 13 points and 10 assists for No. 1 seed Illinois (21-15).

Meanwhile, the Illini women's basketball team will be in Springfield, Missouri Thursday night to play Missouri State in the Women's N-I-T. The game starts at 7 PM, Central Time.

Chris Johnson scored 18 points for the third-seeded Flyers (23-12). They advanced to play Mississippi on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. They also joined Rhode Island in the semifinals, giving the Atlantic 10 Conference two of the four teams remaining in the tournament.

The Illini's struggles to get back on defense led to quick, easy baskets for Dayton. Illinois trailed by as many as 16 points before cutting it to four with 18 seconds left.

Johnson was 4 for 11 from the field but 9 of 10 at the foul line.

Demetri McCamey had 13 points and 10 assists for No. 1 seed Illinois (21-15).

Categories: Education, Sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 24, 2010

Illinois Lawmakers Pass Pension Overhaul

Illinois is one step away from a two tiered pension system for most public employees. The House and Senate easily approved changes for future workers Wendesday . Those currently on the payroll and retirees won't be affected.

But anyone hired beginning next year will face limits on how much they can earn and be required to work longer... until age 67... to retire.

The move is touted as a cost savings for state government. Illinois is considered to have the worst funded pension system in the country... but unions representing downstate teachers, university employees, state workers and others argue that's NOT their members' fault. AFSCME Executive Director Henry Bayer says state leaders have a history of failing to put enough money in....

"The problem of our pensions is not a problem of rich benefits", says Bayer. "The problem with our pensions is we have not funded them year in and year out as we were supposed to have done."

Bayer says the changes would make it harder to recruit top talent to the public sector.

Unions were outraged when Democratic leaders ended negotiations last week. House Speaker Mike Madigan says the state had to act fast. Madigan says otherwise... the state faces a financial downgrade that could make it more expensive to borrow money for infrastructure and other needs...

"It's currently acting as an impediment for the State to borrow money for activities that we all agreed to do", says Madigan.

Madigan estimates the state will save 100-billion dollars in the next few decades by paying out less in pensions. But that's led to speculation the state might also look to use some of that savings up front and make a smaller contribution to the systems next fiscal year.

Governor Quinn said in a statement Wednesday night that he looked forward to signing the bill.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 24, 2010

Champaign to Move Forward with Study of Stormwater Utility Fee

The Champaign City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to start exploring a stormwater utility fee to help pay for the city's storm sewer and drainage system.

Property owners would pay a fee based on the square footage of structures that cause water runoff, such as buildings and driveways. City officials also discussed the possibility of property owners earning credits to reduce their fees, by installing rain barrels, water gardens, or other devices to reduce runoff.

Susan Hart agrees that using credits is a good way to encourage those behaviors. She's a member of a steering committee that studies flooding problems in Champaign's Washington West Watershed. But, Hart says, the most important thing for now is to collect the money to improve the city's storm sewer system:

"I think it's good", Hart said of the credit idea. "Yes, absolutely. I think the behaviors are a big part of it but there are parts of the city that need pipe first. And then, of course, we can go into the behaviors, but right now we need pipe."

Public Works Director Dennis Schmidt says the city could use a G-I-S or geographic information system to measure the square footage of impervious surfaces on properties, for the purpose of determining their fee.. Mayor Jerry Schweighart says the lack of such technology had discouraged the city from adapting a stormwater utility fee when it last considered the idea in 2002.

"We were discussing ways of measuring it, and the discussion was measuring the amount of rainfall that came off of your roof, and a lot of other things that were just not practical, and (the council) just kind of lost interest", says Schweighart. "I'm glad to hear we've gotten a lot more scientific in the way of measuring these properties."

A feasibility study to assess how the stormwater utility fee should be calculated will take 10 to 12 months. Champaign Public Works Director Dennis Schmidt says it could take an additional year to set up a collection system for the fee. Urbana city officials are also studying the idea.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 23, 2010

Four-Day School Week Concept Passes Illinois House

The Illinois House wants to give struggling schools a chance at saving money by having students in class only four days a week.

The measure easily advanced to the state Senate. Supporters say costs like busing students and electricity would be lower. The sponsor, Danville Republican Representative Bill Black, says it would require schools that drop a day to have longer hours when school is in session. That way, students would still be in class the same amount of time.

But opponents, like Chicago Democratic Representative Monique Davis, say the state should avoid placing money problems on the backs of students and their families. "I don't believe that children should be told you can stay home alone for a full day and take care of yourselves, take care of your little brothers, take care of your little sisters because the state can no longer afford to educate you," Davis said.

Under the proposal, school districts interested in dropping to a four day school week would have to hold public hearings. The State Board of Education would also review the plan.

Public education faces one-point-three billion dollars in cuts next school year. Governor Pat Quinn is suggesting lawmakers approve a tax increase to plug that hole.


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