Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 16, 2011

Professor Says New Congressional Map Will Hurt Chicago-Area GOP

With Illinois' new congressional map now intact, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois says Republicans from around Chicago will have the most trouble in next year's elections.

On Thursday, a 3-judge appeals panel threw out a suit filed by the GOP over a new map of congressional boundaries drawn by Democrats. Brian Gaines says the map was specifically rough on Republicans, but he said the party had to know the chances of having it thrown out were slim. The federal judges agreed that it was a blatant political move, but added that it wasn't illegal.

Gaines says Republican Congressman Tim Johnson of Urbana could have some problems in 13th district, where he's running this spring, since much if it is unfamiliar territory. But Gaines says Johnson, incumbent John Shimkus, and other downstate Republicans should not be the party's concern with March's primary approaching.

"The Republicans that lose their seats will the be Republican members in the (Chicago) suburbs who were newly elected last time, and have been drawn either together, so that after the primary only one of them will be left standing, or their residences were put into districts that were pretty tough for the general election."

But Gaines says even if the GOP wins the presidency, there's a good chance the party won't hold the 11 to 8 seat advantage it has in Illinois. As a result of the lawsuit, the filing period was pushed back to late this month. But Gaines says it's likely too late for newcomers to get involved.

"You never know if there's someone capabable of self-financing - someone sitting on a couple million dollars who's restless," he said. "But other than an extremely wealty candidate who can self-finance all the way, it's awfully late to be appearing now."

The filing period for the March 20th primary for Congress in Illinois is December 23rd through the 27th.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 16, 2011

Health Dis. Won’t Meet January Goal for Posting Restaurant Inspections Online

Health Dis. Won't Meet January Goal for Posting Restaurant Inspections Online

--- Reported by Dan Petrella, CU Citizen Access

Despite promises over the past four years to post restaurant inspection reports online, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District will miss another self-imposed deadline to do so.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 16, 2011

Champaign Police Issue Plea for Help in Locating Renard Jackson

Renard Jackson has now been missing for nearly three weeks, and Champaign police are putting out another call for the public's help in locating him.

The 49-year old Jackson was last seen on the afternoon of November 26th , as he left his home just north of Judah Christian School to run an errand on his bicycle. His family reporting him missing two days later.

Champaign Detective Patrick Funkhouser says Jackson's wallet, some its contents, and the bike have all been recovered, all within a couple of blocks of his home in the 15-hundred block of Holly Hill Drive. The bike was discoverd last Friday. Funkhouser believes someone in the community has to know something about the man's whereabouts.

"You know, the holidays are fast approaching, his family is here, some family members have come down from Chicago, we really want to provide them with some kind of answers," he said.

A number of Champaign officers were seen canvassing Jackson's neighborhood Thurssday for clues to his disappearance.

"What we're looking for at this point is anybody that has any infomation about Renard Jackson, or anybody that knows 'Ray-Ray' personally that can contact us, and give us some more insight into him as a person," Funkhouser said.

Renard Jackson is described as a tall black male with a skinny build, 6-foot-1 and 154 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black-hooded jacket with fur trim. Police are asking the public for any information that might lead them in the right direction by calling Champaign Police or Crimestoppers. Information can be left anonymously.

Categories: Community, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 16, 2011

Central Illinois First Responders Weigh in on Homeland Security Plan

Emergency personnel from Central Illinois say more communication on the local level is needed before the state even responds to a disaster.

Greater coordination in one region is a concern that came out of brainstorming sessions in a Homeland Security Town Hall meeting in Urbana Thursday. It's the second of eight the state is using to gauge strategies on how to handle disasters, as well as emerging threats.

Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Jonathan Monken says the first such town hall, held in the Metro East area, focused more on the state's efforts to respond.

"I was very interested to hear the conversation about how they can improve at the local level, at the regional level to say how we can be better to prepared for the first four to six hours of an event before the state can even get there," Monken said.

Richard Jahne, director of the Illinois Fire Service Instiute at the University of Illinois, says one area he wants to see upgraded is bringing in all the right responders. Jahne says emergency personnel have a wide range of capabilities, but he's still concerned with the way the skills are applied.

"Does the way we use them match the way we train to prepare people to use them," said Jahne. "And who's missing? Who isn't part of the team that needs to be included in training and preparation and exercises."

Mahomet Police Chief Mike Metzler says even for a small agency like his, it's important to stay in involved with other agencies, and further develop mutual aid agreements that are already in place.

"Obviously, a place like Mahomet, resources are one of those things that we're always looking for to improve our standing, coming with money for training and equipment.," Metzler said.

The Urbana meeting was also intended to bring in more people from the private sector, but only a couple attended. John Dwyer is Deputy Director of Champaign County's Emergency Management Agency.

"What they can bring to the table during disasters - they're an untapped resource - working with our local businesses to see what they can help us with," he said.

The state will gather input from six more town hall meetings in different areas to develop a response strategy at a final summit in Springfield next September.

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 16, 2011

Carle Physicians Return to Monticello’s Kirby Hospital

A ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday marks the return of Carle physicians to the Kirby hospital campus in Monticello.

Carle had a building on the old Kirby hospital grounds for years, until a business dispute between the two forced Carle to move into temporary buildings. But a new agreement was reached, and a new building next to the new Kirby Medical Center should be fully open by Monday. Carle Monticello medical director, Dr. Steven Sparenberg, says being neighbors with the hospital again will be a plus for their patients.

"The community's going to have the benefit from having everything in one location for both in-patient and obviously for out-patient services," he said. "It helps keep medical care closer to home, and we have the support of the radiology and lab services through Kirby Medical Center."

Sparenberg says the new Carle building offers twice as much room as the temporary buildings they used. And he says it provides room for visiting specialists, as well as additional physicians who could be hired as soon as 2012. The new Kirby Medical Center campus is located on the edge of Monticello, just off I-72.

Categories: Health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 16, 2011

Illinois Volleyball Advances to First National Championship

(Updated with additional coverage from Greg Echlin)

The University of Illinois women's volleyball team will remember the Alamodome. It was at the Alamodome in San Antonio that the third-seed Fighting Illini (32-4) defeated top-seed USC(29-5) Thursday night, winning three out of five sets, (25-27, 25-18, 25-22, 18-25, 15-10) to qualify for the NCAA championship game for the first time.

The victory came on Illinois' third trip to the women's volleyball Final Four, and their first since 1988.

Senior outside hitter Colleen Ward had 27 kills and Michelle Bartsch added 22 kills for the Illini victory.

The drama intensified as the fifth set reached match point, with Illinois fans showing their anticipation with a chant of "One more point! One more point!"

That last rally turned out to be the most dramatic, and the crowd oohed and ahhed as each powerful spike was answered by an inspiring dig on the net's other side. It continued for a minute, seeming longer, until U-S-C's Katie Fuller committed an attack error. The match belonged to the Fighting Illini.

Liz McMahon, a 6-foot-6 freshman from Ohio, had five kills in that deciding set. After the game, she was soaking in the experience.

"It's a blast, I can tell you that", McMahom said of the win that ushered her team into the finals. "Yeah, it's just fun, but with this team and how far we've come."

The Illini's post-game celebration was subdued, with Coach Kevin Hambly reminding his players that they still had one more game. Nevertheless, Hambly spoke glowingly of what his team had accomplished.

"I'm proud of the girls", Hambly said. "You know our goal was to get to this match, the next match, and they stuck to that. Well, more than just get to the match. But I thought they were determined to make that happen."

Alex Jupiter had 32 kills for USC. The Trojans lost in the semis for the second consecutive year after being pushed to five sets for a third consecutive match this tournament.

Illinois will play UCLA in the championship match Saturday night at 7:30 PM Central Time. The Bruins defeated Florida State in three sets (25-16, 25-17, 25-21) in the Thursday night semifinals. Illinois is 0-and-9 in all-time play against UCLA in volleyball.

(Reported for Illinois Public Media News by Greg Echlin; additional reporting by the Associated Press)

Categories: Education, Sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 15, 2011

US Rep. Johnson Criticizes Colleagues From House Floor

Congressman Tim Johnson scolded his congressional colleagues Thursday, accusing them of preferring to play politics instead of addressing the nation's problems.

In a one-minute speech from the floor of the House, the Urbana Republican said the current session of Congress had been marked by "animosity and gridlock", and that the public was responding with a "level of anger" he had never heard before.

"We are gripped in gridlock because people on both sides of the aisle, in both chambers and in the White House, are more concerned with politics than in progress," Johnson said. "As our economy continues to stagger, our attention should be focused on putting people to work and providing stability in public policy. We can only do that through cooperation, compromise and civility."

Earlier this week, Johnson voted against a GOP bill that tied an extension of payroll tax cuts and jobless benefits to construction of the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline and other unrelated elements. The congressman said the bill was guaranteed to fail in the Democratic Senate, and that leaders needed to come up with a measure both sides could support. In his remarks on the House floor Thursday, Johnson called on members of Congress to quote "do the business the people expect us to do, efficiently and in an adult-like manner".

Johnson previously promoted civility in Congress, by co-founding the Congressional Center Aisle Caucus, with Democratic Congressman Steve Israel of New York.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 15, 2011

Court Upholds Democratic-Drawn Congressional Map

A federal court has upheld a new congressional map drawn by Illinois Democrats.

The map preserves existing Democratic-leaning districts and creates new ones. It also forces several Republican incumbents to run against each other in primaries.

Republicans had sued to overturn the map, claiming that Democrats drew only one Hispanic district when more were needed because of population growth. A panel of three judges, including two Indiana Republicans, disagreed on Thursday.

In their ruling, the judges said that they agreed that the crafting of the adopted map was a "blatant political move to increase the number of Democratic congressional seats'' but that it wasn't illegal.

The map was drawn by Democrats who control the legislature and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

The new congressional map was drawn with no input from Illinois Republicans. It forces most GOP congressmen in the state into unfamiliar territory or races against each other.

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 15, 2011

Ind. GOP, Dems Squabble Over Proposed Labor Bill

The Indiana General Assembly's top Republicans and Democrats are squabbling over a contentious labor bill that looks likely to dominate their upcoming session.

The "right-to-work'' proposal dominated debate at a Thursday legislative conference. It also provided a preview of the contentious debate planned for their 2012 session.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, House Democratic Leader Pat Bauer, Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long and Senate Democratic Leader Vi Simpson took turns rebutting each other during a Thursday's conference.

Bauer and Bosma touted dueling public opinion polls bolstering their case. Long occasionally interjected on Bosma's behalf and Simpson said the issue will "eat'' the entire 2012 session.

Bauer proposed kicking it back until after the 2013 session, but Bosma said it will stay front and center next year.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 15, 2011

Blagojevich Said to be ‘Ripe’ for Drug Program

A probation report says ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich may be a "ripe candidate'' for a drug treatment program in prison.

That's according to defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky, who says he doesn't know what Blagojevich said to a probation officer to lead to that conclusion.

Judge James Zagel has agreed to recommend Blagojevich for a drug treatment program when he starts his 14-year prison sentence for corruption in March.

Sorosky tells the Chicago Sun-Times that there's documentation Blagojevich has a history of drug abuse, but he didn't elaborate.

No one has revealed why Blagojevich would be eligible for the drug program.

The request could be a move to cut time off his sentence. Prisoners in the program are eligible for up to a year in reduced time.

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