Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2011

Illinois’ Ban on Capital Punishment to Take Effect

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

Starting Friday, Illinois' ban on capital punishment will take effect, but advocates on both sides of the death penalty debate say their work is not done.

State lawmakers voted in January to abandon capital punishment, and Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation in March. That happened more than a decade after the state imposed a moratorium on executions out of concern that innocent people could be put to death by a justice system that had wrongly condemned 13 men.

Gov. Quinn also commuted the sentences of all 15 inmates remaining on death row who are now serving life sentences in prison with no hope of parole.

Fifteen other states have also abolished the death penalty.

With the law in place, it would seem that The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty could declare "mission accomplished." But the group's director, Jeremy Schroeder, said that is not the case.

"I wish I could tell you we're all retiring," Schroeder said. "But unfortunately there will always be some need for the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty."

Schroeder admits his group is downsizing, and has considered changing its name to "the Coalition Against the Death Penalty." Schroeder said the key task going forward is to make sure the ban remains.

However, critics like State Representative Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst) are working to overturn it.

"I still believe, as studies do show, that the death penalty is a deterrent to these most heinous of crimes," Reboletti said.

Reboletti's legislation stalled in the House this past session, but he said he believes there is enough support for it to pass.

The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty says it's poised to fight back legislation to overturn the ban.

Illinois has executed 12 men since 1977, when the death penalty was reinstated. The last execution was Andrew Kokoraleis on March 17, 1999. At the time, the average length of stay on death row was 13 years.

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2011

U of I Cuts Back on Campus Printing Operations

Thursday, June 30th is the last day for ten jobs at the University of Illinois Urbana campus.

That day marks the end of large offset press operations at the campus printing department. The department will continue to print stationery, posters and small, digital printing jobs for the campus for one more year. But Director of Printing Barbara Childers said the shutdown of offset, letterpress and bindery operations ends a printing tradition that began at the Urbana campus in 1918.

"It's extremely difficult," Childers said of the cutback. "And we have maintained a close relationship with our retirees. So there are a number of old printers, who've come back in the last month or two to visit, just to see the operation while the presses were still running."

Childers said changes in the printing industry have led to an overall decline in offset printing around the world.

"There was a change in the tax rules that made it --- certainly not for the university but for other people --- less attractive to warehouse printed materials," she said. "And so, digital came on in a big way, because it provides a more instant printing. And as the quality in digital (printing) got better, offset volumes fell even further."

But Childers said she disagrees with assumptions that outsourcing all campus printing work beginning next summer will save the U of I money. Still, she said there are many fine private printing operations in Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities that can take up the work they do.

One of the final offset printing jobs at the U of I Urbana campus printing department is the biennial compilation of board of trustee minutes. Childers said that is a publication that dates back more than 90 years, to the printing department's first year of operations. One of the other final campus offset printing projects is the July issue of WILL's Patterns Magazine. Beginning with the August issue, Patterns will be produced by Premier Print Group in Champaign.

Meanwhile, Childers said there plans for continued use of the printing department's letterpress. She said the Soybean Press hopes to use the letter press for both its own printing projects, and for training students in fine letterpress printing. The four-year-old Soybean Press is a joint venture of the University of Illinois' Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the School of Art + Design and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

Categories: Biography, Education, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2011

Illinois Group Gets $1.4 Million to Help Migrants

The U.S. Department of Labor is giving an Illinois group $1.4 million to provide job training and other services to migrant farmworkers.

The department said Wednesday the money will go to the Illinois Migrant Council. The money is part of $78.3 million being provided by The National Farmworker Jobs Program to 52 groups around the country to pay for job training, employment services and other needs for seasonal farmworkers and their families.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said the money is intended to help migrant farmworkers and their families lead more stable lives. Another $5.7 million will go to 16 groups across the country to provide housing assistance for migrant farmworkers.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2011

Quinn Expected to Sign Budget

Illinois' new budget takes effect Friday, the first day of the fiscal year. The state won't have enough money to pay businesses that are waiting for state payments.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign the state budget Thursday. He can accept the blueprint as lawmakers sent it over, or slightly amend it. State law restricts how much he can change.

Regardless, the budget won't include enough money to catch up on old bills. One person waiting to get paid is Ralph Ditchie, who runs two day care center for adults.

"I'm just a little guy from the south side of Chicago who started a business, and about five months ago, they owed us three-quarters of a million dollars," Ditchie said.

The state has caught up a little in what it owes Ditchie. But the delay he and others have gotten used to is not expected to ease up, even after Quinn signs the budget.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2011

Great Lakes Face Pressure for Water

The Great Lakes hold six quadrillion gallons of water, which is 20 percent of the world's fresh surface water. As scarcity grows, there is concern more and more people are eying that water. A historic compact to protect the Great Lakes became law in 2008, and it's being tested for the first time in a thirsty suburb of Milwaukee. Illinois Public Radio's Lynette Kalsnes looks into the law and its history.

(Photo courtesy of Qfamily/Flickr)

Download mp3 file
Categories: Environment

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 29, 2011

Illinois Library Systems Prepare to Merge

Come July 1st, four library systems in Decatur, Champaign, Edwardsville and Carterville will merge to form the Illinois Heartland Library System.

The change comes in response to the state's financial problems.

One of the groups involved in the merger is Rolling Prairie Library System in Decatur. Executive Director Beverly Obert said her library system is waiting on about $350,000 from the state. She said the system's nearly 260 member libraries will notice some changes following the merger, such as a lack of continued education and consulting services

"It's a little bit of looking forward to it, and also sadness at what's being lost," Obert said. "Next few days is to get through the merger, and start serving the people."

Obert noted that there will be more of a focus on resource sharing, delivery and the "Talking Book Service" in the new library system. She said reciprocal borrowing privileges between libraries in the system should also stay the same.

Another library system involved in the merger is Champaign-based Lincoln Trail Libraries System, which serves 120 libraries. It is currently waiting on $300,000 to $400,000 from the state, according to its executive director Jan Ison. She said the people who will notice a difference in service are librarians who rely on her staff to answer questions quickly.

"Now that doesn't mean my staff won't answer questions and they won't be quickly, but hopefully we're going to do the best we can," Ison said. "It's quite likely that some staff will be telecommuting, or perhaps working out of some of the member libraries."

While some library systems involved in the merger are cutting staff - like Rolling Prairie - Ison said the only positions that will be eliminated at the Lincoln Trail Libraries System are those that are currently open. She said all existing staff who want to stay on board will be able to do so.

Illinois Heartland Library System will include 594 member libraries: 38 Academic, 231 Public, 260 School and 65 Special. In addition, five library systems in northern Illinois will merge into one consolidated system known as Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS). Meanwhile, the Chicago Public Library System will remain as its own entity.

Categories: Business, Economics, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 29, 2011

Indiana Schools Ending Cursive as Writing Requirement

The days when Indiana's elementary school students were required to perfect the looping script of cursive handwriting are coming to an end.

Starting this fall, the state Department of Education will no longer require Indiana's public schools to teach cursive writing. State officials sent school leaders a memo April 25 telling them that instead of cursive writing, students will be expected to become proficient in keyboard use.

The Times of Munster reports the memo says schools may continue to teach cursive as a local standard, or they may decide to stop teaching cursive altogether.

Andree Anderson of the Indiana University Northwest Urban Teacher Education Program says teachers haven't had the time to teach cursive writing for some time because it's not a top priority. Anderson says students' handwriting is atrocious.

(Photo courtesy of crashlikethunder/flickr)

Categories: Education
Tags: education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 29, 2011

Emanuel to Unions: Concessions or 625 Possible Layoffs

Hundreds of city workers could face layoffs if they don't agree to make concessions that would save the city $20 million, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday.

Emanuel said that he will not have to lay off workers if he and the unions reach an agreement by a Thursday night deadline, but added: "If they don't agree to it, then 625 people and their families will lose that job. And that's not necessary."

The mayor would not say whether layoff notices would go out immediately.

Emanuel said he still hopes unions can be his "partner" in helping close a multimillion dollar budget gap left to him by former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. In order to balance the 2011 budget, the Daley administration struck an agreement with labor to make workers take several unpaid days off, for an annual savings of $30 million. But that agreement expires Thursday at midnight, leaving it up to the Emanuel administration to negotiate with labor on concessions for the second half of the year.

Emanuel has said he is against imposing more furlough days on city workers. But he declined to offer specifics on the $20 million in savings he proposed to Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez when they met on Tuesday, other than to say that they comprise several "work rule and workplace reforms and efficiencies" that he said are common practice among private sector unions.

The 625 workers who could be laid off have been identified as a "precautionary" measure, Emanuel said. But he declined to say which workers might face layoffs, or what city services they could affect.

A statement Wednesday afternoon from union leaders claims there have been no negotiations between them and the city. Jorge Ramirez from the Chicago Federation of Labor and Tom Villanova of the Chicago & Cook County Building Trades Council said union workers have already sacrificed a lot, and should not be blamed for the city's budget problems.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 29, 2011

Reconstruction Plan in Place for Fire-Damaged Campustown Building

A building nearly destroyed by fire in Champaign's Campustown neighborhood could be operating again by early 2012.

The fire that began in the upstairs of the structure in the 600 block of East Green Street brought business to a halt at Mia Za's café, Zorba's restaurant, and Pitaya clothing on March 23rd.

But an architectural firm has filed a permit to rebuild, and work with the three owners going from the drawings of the shell of the outer building. Neil Strack with Architectural Expressions LLP said the initial plans are to place a new upstairs, roof, and front façade on the building. He expects it will be about 60 days before the building's occupants can do their work.

"How long does it take for their drawings to get ready, ordering materials, contracts, so on and so forth," said Strack. "That would be past that 60 days, so you're talking about another 3 or 4 months after that before you see your first tenants open back up again."

Strack said communication will be a big concern moving forward since the building has three different owners and four different tenants, which includes two upstairs apartments.

Champaign's Building Safety Supervisor, Gary Bowman, said the challenge now is restoring the roof and outer shell after reviewing drawings of the building's original 1920's design.

"It's always a bit more complicated when you're trying to go back and repair something that's damaged and somewhat of an existing structure as opposed to building brand new from ground level," Bowman said. "A lot of times it's actually faster to build brand new than it is to try to repair an existing structure and correct all the things that are necessary for that. That inevitably adds time to the project."

Strack said it will take some time to comply with current codes in the old structure. The demolition and removal of remaining debris has been completed.

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)

Categories: Business, Economics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 29, 2011

Blagojevich Sentencing Still Not Scheduled

The corruption re-trial is over, and now former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich awaits his sentencing.

Blagojevich was found guilty Monday of 17 of the 20 counts charged against him. With all the counts added up, Blagojevich could face as much as 300 years in prison.

Attorney Joel Bertocchi is a former federal prosecutor. He said it is highly unlikely Blagojevich would face that severe of a sentence, but he said the fact that the ex-governor did not accept responsibility for the charges won't help either.

"Mr. Blagojevich, I think, may present an unusual case," Bertocchi said. "Not only did he go to trial, but he made an awful lot of public noise about not accepting responsibility for the charges that the government leveled against him."

Bertocchi said six to 11 years could be closer to what the judge may be considering. It is uncertain when Blagojevich will be sentenced.


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