Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 23, 2012

Emanuel Offers Obama Advice on State of the Union

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered President Barack Obama some advice on his upcoming State of the Union address Thursday during a panel discussion at the University of Chicago.

Emanuel, who served as Mr. Obama's chief of staff before leaving the White House in 2010, said Tuesday's State of the Union Address is the last time Obama will have to outline his plans for a second term. He said he wants to see his former boss do just that.

"Make it all about the future, because elections are all about tomorrow. They're not about the past," said Emanuel. "If you are going forward looking through the rear view mirror, they'll catch you on that, and you'll have an accident."

Emanuel discouraged the president from using the State of the Union address to detail his accomplishments since taking office three years ago. Emanuel called Mr. Obama an inspirational leader, and said using that image will be one of Mr. Obama's strengths in the upcoming speech.

"If he's big and goes to his strengths as an inspirational leader, he plays to what I think are his more dominant strengths," said Emanuel.

The State of the Union address is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 23, 2012

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk Undergoes Surgery After Stroke

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), 52, has suffered a stroke and has undergone surgery.

Kirk checked himself into Lake Forest Hospital in Illinois on Saturday. He was later transferred to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where tests revealed that he had suffered a stroke.

Doctors say the stroke occurred on the right side of Kirk's brain, which controls movement of the left arm and left leg. A statement from Kirk's office said he had a tear in the carotid artery on the right side of his neck. Carotid arteries carry blood to the brain. He underwent surgery early Monday morning to relieve brain swelling.

Kirk is in intensive care, but doctors say they are happy with his status, noting that the Senator appeared to recognize those around him and respond to commands.

A statement from Kirk's office said the surgery was successful and that doctors are "very confident'' in his recovery based on his age and health.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) released a statement, saying he expects Kirk will make a speedy recovery.

"I was stunned to learn that Mark suffered a stroke," Durbin said. "I have reached out to his staff and offered to do anything I can to help with his Senate duties."

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn also issued a statement about Kirk's condition:

"Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the senator and his family as we wish him a swift and strong recovery. We can all take comfort knowing that as a Navy commander, Sen. Kirk knows how to fight and he will fight through this to return to his work on behalf of the people of Illinois as quickly as possible."

Kirk at times exaggerated his record in the Navy Reserves. He incorrectly said he had been named intelligence officer of the year and took part in the invasion of Iraq. He said he came under fire while on a military flight but wouldn't provide details and stopped making the claim when questioned about it.

"I'm not perfect. I made a mistake and then apologized," Kirk said in a 2010 interview with The Associated Press. "Going forward, the question we have and the choice we make as to who our senator is has a lot less to do with what happened in the 20th century and a lot more with what's happening in the 21st century."

Kirk ended up filling President Barack Obama's old Senate seat in 2010, defeating Democrat Alexi Giannoulias in a close race. Kirk previous served in the U.S. House of Representatives for about 10 years.

He is divorced and has no children.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 22, 2012

Fighting Illini Lose 2nd Straight to Wisconsin. 67-63

Illinois' Basketball team has now lost two straight, including an upset at home Sunday at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers.

The 67-63 loss also breaks a 14-game home winning streak dating back into last season. Meyers Leonard led Illinois with 16 points and 11 rebounds, followed by Joseph Bertrand with 15 points.

The team has to wait until Saturday to try and get back on the winning track, taking on the Golden Gophers in Minnesota. Leonard dismissed notions of being too tired in a game that relied little on the Illini bench.

"Between me, D.J. (Richardson), Joe (Bertrand), and Brandon (Paul), we played a lot of minutes," Leonard said. "Obviously, you'll get a little fatigued with your legs and the contant pounding throughout the game, but I wouldn't say that. We're all really good athletes and able to play that many minutes. Those couple plays that made a difference - we didn't make them and they did. And we just have to get better, and make sure next time that happens, we make them."

Jordan Taylor had 19 points in Wisconsin's fourth straight win. Badgers Coach Bo Ryan says his team has to do the little things to succeed.

"We don't strike fear in a whole lot of hearts when we show up on the court, even though Jordan (Taylor) probably doesn't realize it," Ryan said. "But there's a lot of good players out there on every team that we play. But hustle opportunities are things should be trying to get, and every team should play off of. That's the way the game should be played."

Sunday's Assembly Hall crowd of over 16-thousand 600 was also the first sellout of the 2011-2012 season.

Categories: Education, Sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 21, 2012

Alan Nudo Drops Out of State Senate Race

Champaign County Board member Alan Nudo has dropped out of the race for the 52nd Senate District.

In a statement posted on his campaign website, Nudo said:

"I have made the decision to withdraw my name in the primary for the 52nd State Senate District. I want to thank all of the great people supporting me from the bottom of my heart. Many, many people have been helpful and kind. This decision is what's best for me and my family at this time."

Nudo is president of the development firm, Robeson's Inc, and has served on the Champaign County Board since 2007.

Nudo's withdrawal comes after a charge made on the political blog Prairie State Report earlier this month. Blogger Todd Warner Houston charged that Nudo had supported Frerichs by signing checks to his campaign in 2007 and '08. The News-Gazette reported Saturday that Nudo explained that he co-signed the checks for Triple R Development LLC, as part of his duties at Robeson's Inc, which handles Triple R's day-to-day business operations.

The newspaper also reported that Nudo subsequently accused Bambanek and Frerichs of working together, since information supplied by Frerichs appeared on a blog that Bambanek hosted through his consulting firm. In reporting on Nudo's withdrawal from the state Senate race, the News-Gazette quoted Nudo as saying those remarks were "a mistake on my part. I should have tried to stay above the fray and explain it as best I could."

The News-Gazette also reports that Nudo plans to step down from his Champaign County Board seat.

On both his Facebook and Twitter pages, Bambenek writes, "I wish all the best to Alan Nudo (@alannudo). He is a good man and we will miss his great leadership on the Champaign County Board."

Nudo's departure from the state Senate race leaves John Bambenek the only candidate running as a Republican in the 52nd District. Bambenek will face incumbent Democrat Mike Frerichs in the November general election.

The newly redrawn district includes Champaign-Urbana and Danville.

(Story updated at 10:52 AM Jan 22, 2012)

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 21, 2012

Champaign Salvation Army Short on Funds

The Salvation Army of Champaign County says it has to cut some of its spending after holiday fundraising fell short of the charity's goals.

Mike Fuqua of the Salvation Army of Champaign County told The News-Gazette newspaper in Champaign ( the group fell about $46,000 short of the $430,000 goal for its annual Red kettle campaign.

Fuqua said some employees will have hours cut while the group will hold off on some planned maintenance and equipment purchases.

The Salvation Army operates an emergency shelter for men and helps needy families get food.

This is the first year the religious-based social service group has fallen short on its fundraising goal.

Categories: Business, Economics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 21, 2012

Urbana School Superintendent to Retire

Urbana school superintendent Preston Williams has announced plans that he is retiring.

At a special board meeting Tuesday night, Williams will announce he is stepping down at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

According to a statement, School Board President John Dimit said the district is 'greatly saddened yet challenged' by this announcement.

Williams has spent 27 years with the district, which includes time as a coach, teacher, and dean. He has been the leader of the District 116 for the last five years.

Dimit said the transition comes way too soon, but he noted that the board respects Preston's decision as he and his family enter into a new phase of their lives.

"The professionalism, leadership, and enthusiasm Preston has brought to the Superintendent's office will be greatly missed," Dimit said.

Tuesday night's board agenda not only includes an announcement by Williams, but also a vote to appoint a new superintendent. Dimit said the board will announce how it plans to move forward with the next phase of district leadership. He said the 18-month notice gives District 116 ample opportunity to prepare for new leadership.

Tuesday's special board meeting starts at 8:15 Tuesday night at the Jean F. Burkholder Administrative Service Center.

(Photo courtesy of District 116 schools)

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 20, 2012

Rehab Expected Soon at UI’s Natural History Building

A building on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus that has hosted classes ranging from geology to zoology is close to getting a major renovation.

Built in 1892 by campus architect Nathan Ricker, the Natural History Building is on the National Register of Historic Places. But nearly half of the facility was shut down in 2010 after engineers found structural problems.

On Thursday, the U of I's Board of Trustees hired a construction company to complete $70-million worth of upgrades. The work is being paid for by local funds, including a deferred maintenance fee that students pay, as well as donations. Geology Professor Stephen Marshak said work may begin as soon as this summer, but requires alternate space for moving lots of research and teaching labs.

He said most of the building's interior bears little resemblance to the original design, and that's one of the goals of an architect. Marshak said in some cases, the building's appearance is worse than conditions in Lincoln Hall before upgrades started there.

"There's termite-eaten wood. There's places where the plaster is falling off the walls, and the paint is peeling off," he said. "The floors are wrinkled. The rooms are basically unusable, In fact, even now, even though we had to compact ourselves into the northern end of the building, there are large areas of the building that are not closed, but are just not occupied because they're unusable."

Marshak, who's also the U of I's Director of the school of Earth, Society, and Environment, said one goal is returning the building to its original design. He said the largest single addition was in 1908, which wasn't constructed properly.

"Then there was a third part that was built in 1924," Marshak said. "They were all built with the same design, so that the building looks fairly consistent, but if you look close, you'll see that there's slight differences in brick color and things like that. But what gives it its historic character is the original Ricker design."

The work still requires $11-million in funding. The goal for the Natural History Building is to be finished by fall of the 2015 at the earliest.

Categories: Education, History

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 20, 2012

Illinois’ High Court: More Defamation Suits Can Go Forward

A ruling issued Friday morning by the Illinois Supreme Court means more defamation lawsuits involving public figures can go forward. The decision could help a former candidate for Chicago alderman who sued his opponent over negative advertising.

Illinois courts have interpreted the 2007 Citizen Participation Act to apply to any statement aimed at getting the government to do what you want. If that was your true goal, you could not be sued for defamation.

But on Friday, the Illinois Supreme Court reined in the lower courts. The justices unanimously found that lawmakers were trying to prevent "only meritless, retaliatory" suits aimed at stopping people from speaking out. If a plaintiff who feels they've been defamed is "genuinely seeking relief for damages," the court said the suit can proceed.

The justices said that was true in the case at hand, in which a Dixon high school basketball coach, Steve Sandholm, sued members of his community who claimed he abused his players.

The decision could also help John Garrido, who ran for Chicago alderman and later sued labor unions and his opponent over campaign ads he alleges were lies. That case was thrown out using the Citizen Participation Act, leaving Garrido on the hook for the defendants' many thousands in legal fees. The court's ruling Friday essentially writes Garrido's appeal for him.

Garrido said Friday he was "definitely pleased with this decision" by the Supreme Court.

A spokesperson for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, who sponsored the 2007 legislation, said the court's interpretation of the legislature's intent was correct.

"The Senate President wants to encourage civic engagement by protecting the rights of people to voice their concerns with public policies and actions," Rikeesha Phelon said in an email. "Those protections were not designed to...provide safe harbor for those who promote mistruths and lies. For that reason, [Cullerton] believes that the court made the right decision."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, however, is unlikely to be pleased by the ruling, as it was one of several groups who filed briefs in support of the Sandholm defendants. Asked for comment on the court's ruling, ACLU spokesman Edward Yohnka said the staff was still "reading and digesting the opinion."

"It is complicated and complicates the application of the CPA in Illinois," Yohnka wrote in an email.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 20, 2012

Demonstrators in Urbana Call for Campaign Contribution Limits

About three dozen demonstrators chanted near the Federal Courthouse building in Urbana on Friday, opposing a U.S. Supreme Court decision that removed most limits on corporate and labor spending in federal elections.

A coalition called Move to Amend organized the Occupy the Courts protest and others like it in more than 100 cities. The group is trying to overturn the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision. The case allows private groups to spend on political campaigns with few restrictions

Nancy Dietrich, who was at the rally in Urbana, said she hopes more political candidates begin to re-evaluate where they get their campaign contributions.

"We don't think corporations are people, and corporations shouldn't have as much power to influence political decisions as the people do," Dietrich said.

Ivan Ruiz was also at the rally. He described excessive corporate campaign contributions as an "epidemic" that is not getting better.

"The corporations now are the ones that are choosing our president because they're the ones that have the money to influence public opinion, and that's been a problem in the past," Ruiz said.

Matt Murphy, who was at the demonstration in Urbana, said he doesn't know if Citizens United will actually get overturned, but he said he is optimistic that campaign contribution limits will change.

"This may not fix all the problems, but it's certainly something we can do, and it's certainly a good start to get people to sort of take back our elections from the corporations," Murphy said.

Occupy Wall Street activists also participated in the demonstration in Urbana.

Meanwhile, around 50 people lent their voices to the protest in Chicago, chanting across the street from the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

Categories: Government, Politics

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