Illinois Public Media News
The Champaign school board plans to issue $14.5 million in bonds for building upgrades and a new transportation facility. The bonds would be paid back over the next 20 years by increased property taxes. But a local citizens group says the voters should have a say on the matter.
Champaign County Board candidate Don Kermath is organizing a petition drive to put the bond question on the ballot. He says the type of bonds Unit Four wants to issue --- working cash bonds --- ought to be used to fill short-term gaps in operational funding --- not for building projects.
"Now it has blown into this fund where you can supersede the will of the people, and exceed normal spending limits by using the working cash funds bonds" says Kermath. "And that's where I think we are putting our schools at financial risk."
Kermath says the financial risk exists, because Unit Four would have to pay the bonds back at a time when state funding for education is in danger of falling even further behind.
Kermath, a Republican, was joined at a Champaign news conference Monday by Democratic County Board member Pattsi Petrie and Champaign County Libertarian Party Chair Dianna Visek.
Visek criticized the Unit Four school board for using working cash bonds, which can be passed without voter input, unless voters collect petition signatures within a 30-day window.
"This issue should be put to the voters in a referendum", says Visek. "And the school board, because they don't want to spend the time and effort having to conduct a referendum, has decided to use this 'backdoor referendum' to not have to talk to the voters. That is not fair."
Unit Four spokesperson Lyn Peisker responded to the group's concerns about further delays in state funding. She says Unit Four is managing its finances so it can pay its own way if state funding gets worse. She says the district has used working cash bonds for capital projects before, and recently paid off such bonds issued in 2006.
Peisker says the district will use the 20-year bonds to pay for wireless technology upgrades at Unit Four buildings, new geothermal systems to keep classrooms cool at the middle schools, and construction of a new transportation facility. Plans to have the bonds also pay for new laptop computers for students have been dropped.
Kermath's group will have to collect over 5,913 signatures by the end of March to put the Unit Four bond issue on the ballot. He's set up a website at AVoiceForSchools.com.
The University of Illinois' Board of Trustees met with embattled university President Michael Hogan on Monday for more than three hours.
The meeting came a week after 130 faculty members signed a letter, urging Hogan to resign. Faculty say they have lost confidence in his ability to lead the U of I, and Board of Trustees Chairman Chris Kennedy said that needs to change.
"I'd say the issues around re-building that support are issues that Mike Hogan needs to play a leadership role in," Kennedy said. "That is not something that the board can do for him, but we're confident that Mike can do it for himself. Time will tell and we'll review it closely over the next few months."
Earlier this year, Hogan's former chief of staff, Lisa Troyer, resigned amid an investigation into emails sent to the Faculty Senates Conference concerning Hogan's enrollment policy. Troyer has denied sending the messages, and an investigation cleared Hogan of any wrongdoing.
Faculty members allege that Hogan pressured Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise to quell faculty opposition to the enrollment plan. Kennedy said it is critical for faculty to have mutual respect for each other.
"We needed our people to change or we needed change in our people," Kennedy said. "We are as trustees committed to the notion of shared governance of a collaborative atmosphere, and we want all the faculty to understand that they have an important role in the leadership of the university, and we're convinced that over the next month or two that we'll see specific evidence of the president's leadership along those lines."
The Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet on the Urbana campus on March 15. Meanwhile, President Hogan is scheduled to release a revised version of his enrollment management plan later this month.
(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
In a move that surprised City Hall and organizers, the White House abruptly announced Monday that the G-8 summit of world leaders would not be coming to Chicago in May, and will instead convene at Camp David in Maryland.
A meeting of some 50 world leaders in NATO, which had been scheduled to take place back-to-back with the G-8 meeting over the weekend of May 19-21, will go ahead as scheduled.
In a statement, the White House gave no clear reason for moving the G-8 meeting.
"In May, the United States looks forward to hosting the G-8 and NATO Summits," the statement reads. "To facilitate a free-flowing discussion with our close G-8 partners, the President is inviting his fellow G-8 leaders to Camp David on May 18-19 for the G-8 Summit, which will address a broad range of economic, political and security issues.
"The President will then welcome NATO allies and partners to his hometown of Chicago for the NATO Summit on May 20-21, which will be the premier opportunity this year for the President to continue his efforts to strengthen NATO in order to ensure that the Atlantic Alliance remains the most successful alliance in history, while charting the way forward in Afghanistan."
Summit organizers and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration were quick to say that the White House was responsible for the decision. Emanuel's administration and the Chicago host committee that has been raising money to pay for the summits just found out about the change Monday, according to sources.
"We are taking this at face value," said host committee spokeswoman Jennifer Martinez. "What we were told is that [President Barack Obama] wants to have a more intimate setting at Camp David," adding that Mr. Obama "wants to have more intimate discussions on some political and economic concerns that are taking place in the world."
Despite the expectation that thousands of protesters would descend on Chicago during the summits, the decision to change the venue was not based on security concerns, said another source with knowledge of the situation.
"We wish President Obama and the other leaders well at the G8 meeting at Camp David and look forward to hosting the NATO Summit in Chicago," the mayor said in an emailed statement. "Hosting the NATO Summit is a tremendous opportunity to showcase Chicago to the world and the world to Chicago and we are proud to host the 50 heads of state, foreign and defense ministers from the NATO and ISAF countries in our great city May 19-21."
The White House announcement means world leaders will now discuss some of the more controversial items on their agenda - including what to do about escalating tensions over Iran's nuclear program - at a secluded, well-secured retreat, rather than in the heart of Mr. Obama's adopted hometown, just months before he runs for re-election.
Emanuel's administration and summit organizers have been touting the May summits as Chicago's opportunity on the world stage. The dual world meetings that had been set to meet at McCormick Place would have marked the first time both NATO and the G-8 have met in the same city since 1977.
But some downtown business leaders and residents have been more concerned about the potential for violent protests accompanying the summits. The left-wing magazine Adbusters, which helped inspire the Occupy movement, recently put out a call for 50,000 protesters to flock to Chicago during May. The prospect of huge demonstrations and tight security have prompted the cancellation of everything from high school proms to arts events.
Summit organizers on Monday offered no explanation as to why the G-8 meetings had been moved, but rather focused on the remaining task at hand.
"We are honored to be the first major American city to host a NATO summit and look forward to showcasing Chicago to the world," said Lori Healey, Executive Director for the Chicago Host Committee that's planning the summits. "Hosting the NATO Summit is a fantastic opportunity to shine a spotlight on Chicago as a global city and an unparalleled destination for travel, tourism, and business.
Governor Pat Quinn's proposed budget cuts to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are so severe, the agency's chief of staff says it's on the brink of closing.
Jay Curtis says in the past decade the department's budget shrunk from $106 million dollars to $45 million. And Curtis says in that ten years the agency has lost over half its employees.
"It's hard to operate an agency when that happens," he said. "We're one of the broadest in scope of all agencies in the state. We affect people's lives everywhere in the state. We own property and we have a presence in every county in the state."
Quinn wants to reduce D-N-R's budget this year by 13.5 percent. The agency will stop producing is monthly magazine, "Outdoor Illinois."
But Director Marc Miller has promised that parks will not be closed.
At least one legislator is suggesting fees to enter state parks as another way to supplement the department's shrinking budget.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have appointed eight members to the board that runs the McCormick Place convention center.
State law gives them each four appointments to the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority.
Quinn's appointees include attorney Carmen Lonstein and union leaders Ronald Powell, Bob Reiter and Becky Strzechowski.
Emanuel is appointing former state Comptroller Dan Hynes, retired ComEd CEO Frank Clark Jr., Bank of America executive Julie Chavez and Roger Kiley Jr., an attorney who was Mayor Richard Daley's chief of staff in the 1990s.
In a news release Monday, Emanuel says it is important to have a good team in place because McCormick Place is essential to Chicago's economic future. Quinn says the appointees have the experience need to attract new tradeshows.
The Illini men's basketball team closed out the regular season with another loss, falling 70 to 56 at Wisconsin Sunday.
Coach Bruce Weber said the game was finished in the first five minutes. He lamented the toll this season has taken on everyone.
"We've been through a really tough stretch in our season, and in our lives to be honest," Weber said after the game. "But you can't do anything except go play basketball - play with a passion if you love the game. And that's the disappointing thing to me. We played very tenative to start the game, and we spotted them 14-2, and that pretty much was the game."
Brandon Paul led all scorers with 22 points. Joseph Bertrand added 10 points, and Meyers Leonard grabbed 12 rebounds.
Wisconsin got 16 points each from Josh Gasser and Jordan Taylor.
Wisconsin finishes 12 and 6 in the Big Ten, Illinois 6 and 12.
The Illini are the 9 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. They play 8th-seeded Iowa Thursday morning in Indianapolis. The winner gets top seed Michigan State on Friday.
A hospital official says an Indiana toddler found in a field after Friday's violent tornadoes has died.
Fourteen-month-old Angel Babcock of New Pekin, Ind., was found after her family's mobile home was destroyed in the storms that ravaged the Midwest and South.
She had been in critical condition at Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, Ky. Chief nursing officer Cis Gruebbel says she suffered head and neck injuries and her family decided to take her off life support.
Her father, mother and two siblings were killed in the storm. Her grandfather, Jack Brough, says the family is thankful for the thoughts and prayers they have received and is looking to God.
The girl's death brings the overall toll from the storms to 39 across five states.
The University of Illinois' Board of Trustees has unexpectedly called a closed-door meeting on Monday at the university's Chicago campus to discuss employment and personnel matters. This meeting comes more than a week after 130 faculty members called on U of I President Michael Hogan to resign.
University spokesman Tom Hardy on Sunday night wouldn't specify what the meeting will cover, but he said no action will be taken. He said this meeting could deal with issues that will come up 90 minutes later at the Urbana campus when a trustees committee meets.
"It came up over the weekend that would be an opportunity for some of the trustees to be able to get together and talk about a few things," Hardy said. "But once you get more than three trustees in a room, you have to make sure that you comply with the open meetings act and declare it as a board meeting."
Hardy said some trustees wanted to discuss these matters before the Trustees' Audit, Budget, Finance, and Facilities Committee meets on the Urbana campus at 1 p.m. U of I President Michael Hogan will attend the meeting.
Faculty members have criticized Hogan's management style and ethics after an outside investigation found that his chief of staff, Lisa Troyer, likely wrote anonymous emails intended to encourage faculty to support a Hogan-backed enrollment initiative. She resigned but denied writing the emails.
Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy stated last week that he supports Hogan.
Meanwhile, the Board has a regularly scheduled meeting on March 15 on the Urbana campus.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has toured damage caused by a deadly tornado in the southern Illinois city of Harrisburg.
Durbin toured the damage in Saline County on Saturday. Durbin says he'll work with members of Illinois' congressional delegation to make sure the area receives the help it needs to recover. Durbin says he's seen tornado damage in the past, but he's "never seen anything this bad.''
Six people were killed in the Wednesday storm and about 100 people were injured. Durbin visited with a woman who was buried under the rubble of two homes.
Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Jonathon Monken accompanied Durbin. Monken credited local emergency workers who responded immediately after the storms.
Durbin says federal emergency workers are expected in the area on Monday.
More than a dozen veteran Indiana legislators are entering the final days of their Statehouse careers, and their departures will cost the Indiana House hundreds of years of experience.
Those retiring include 40-year members Republican Jeff Espich and Democrat William Crawford, who've traded chairmanship of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee over the past decade.
Those retirements mean more than three dozen of the 100 House members who return next year will be in their first or second terms.
Julia Vaughn of government watchdog group Common Cause Indiana worries the departures will mean more influence for paid lobbyists at the Statehouse.
Freshman Republican Rebecca Kubacki of Syracuse says the House has a diverse group of newcomers who won't be unduly influenced by lobbyists.
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