Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 20, 2010

New Minor League Franchise Fills Supporting Roles

While minor league baseball works to develop stars of the future... it also strives to create a family atmosphere. The tickets are far cheaper than the cost of a big league game, and teams rely on various promotions, mascots, and a team of on-field enthusiasts to complete that minor league experience.

Central Illinois' newest franchise recently held a casting call to fill some of those roles. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talked with some of the hopefuls:

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Categories: Entertainment, Sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 19, 2010

Lawmakers and SEIU Question New U of I Pres Salary

University of Illinois trustees will vote Thursday (May 20th) to confirm the schools' incoming president and to raise tuition. But first ... a trio of legislators and union members will protest.

Michael Hogan will make $620,000 a year as the U of I's president. The last Illinois president. B. Joseph White, made $450,000.

State Senator Marty Sandoval of Cicero is one of several Democrats who say Hogan should forgo the hike. He says it will start Hogan off on the wrong foot ... given that the school's set to increase tuition by 9.5%.

"Everyone has been very public about holding the line on cost", says Sandoval. "And ... it's just apparent that the board of the University of Illinois, and President Hogan just don't get it. That people are hurting."

Sandoval wants a tuition freeze. The SEIU union says when its members are asked to take furloughs and accept layoffs, the university's top administrator should set an example. University spokesman Tom Hardy defends Hogan's package as comparable with peer institutions. Hardy says the pay is what's needed to get the best person for the job.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 19, 2010

Vermilion Co Health Dept to Phase In Cutbacks

Sharp reductions in services and staff at the Vermilion County Health Department will start next week. The cutbacks were announced as the department adjusts to the latest round of budget cuts, due to delays in state funding.

Friday, May 21st, is the last day the Vermilion County Health department will offer three state-funded maternal and child healthcare programs. In fact, it's the last Friday the department will be open at all. Administrator Steve Laker says starting next week, the department will be closed on Fridays, at least until the new county fiscal year begins December 1st.

"We're doing that to minimize expenditures during the remainder of the fiscal year, just to make sure we survive", says Laker. "Really, what we're imposing is a mandatory furlough day on all employees --- all administrative staff, all employees. So it's going to cut their compensation by 20 percent, for real close to six months."

The Vermilion County Health Department will also phase out testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

The cutbacks also mean that the Health Department's satellite office in Hoopeston will close. Laker says people who relied on that location will have to come to their Danville office instead. He says the Hoopeston site mainly served people living in the upper third of Vermilion County --- north of US Route 136 and Illinois Route 119.

"So we probably had about 400 clients up there", says Laker. "And they're all going to have to transfer down to (the Health Department's Danville) facility. And we're anticipating transportation difficulties for a number of them, but we don't have any choice."

The Hoopeston satellite facility is slated to close June 30th. By that date, the Vermilion County Health Department's staff will be down to around 30 --- compared to about 74 when the year began. Among those departing will be Laker himself, who's retiring as administrator. The Vermilion County Board of Health has chosen administrative services director Shirley Hicks to take his place.

Categories: Health
Tags: health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 19, 2010

Ernie Pyle Site in Western IN Gets a Brief Reprieve

The state of Indiana says the boyhood home of famed World War II journalist Ernie Pyle will no longer be a state historic site, but its supporters say the battle to reopen it hasn't ended.

The home in the Vermilion County town of Dana has been closed to visitors since January. The state Department of Natural Resources has put off a vote to de-access the property - in other words, to sell or reassign the frame house, a Quonset hut and the exhibits on the site. Spokesman Phil Bloom says the museum attracted few visitors and wasn't economically viable.

But Phil Hess, who heads the group Friends of Ernie Pyle, contends that the state didn't give the museum a fair chance when it laid off the site administrator.

"That was the first position lost, and the staff was cut periodically through the whole time to where the Ernie Pyle site was down to only 1/6 the hours of the average of the other sites in the Indiana system," said Hess. "We were kind of predestined to fail."

Now that the DNR has postponed a decision on disposing of the property until November, Hess says his group will ask the governor's office to reverse the closure decision. Hess claims museum donors were led to believe the exhibits would remain in Dana. DNR officials have proposed moving the most important Ernie Pyle memorabilia to the state museum in Indianapolis.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 19, 2010

Ayers Lawsuit Against Wyoming College Being Dropped

Former 1960s radical and University of Illinois-Chicago Professor Bill Ayers and a student are dropping their lawsuit against the University of Wyoming.

Court papers asking that the lawsuit be dismissed with prejudice were filed Tuesday afternoon. The move will bring to a close a situation that caused some to question UW's commitment to academic freedom and others to criticize the college for inviting a person with Ayers' past.

Ayers and student Meghan Lanker filed the lawsuit a month ago in U.S. District Court, contending that the university was preventing Ayers from speaking on campus. They contended the college had violated their rights to free speech and assembly.

A judge granted a preliminary injunction that allowed Ayers to speak on campus, which he did on April 28.

Categories: Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 19, 2010

Champaign City Council Prepares for Multi-Family Recycling Service

Recycling pickup for multi-family housing will come to Champaign next year, under an item approved for the new city budget.

In a tight budget year, Champaign officials are counting on user fees to pay for recycling pickups at multi-family buildings. The fee is expected to be 2 to 3 dollars per month per dwelling, or per person in shared housing such as fraternities and sororities.

City Councilwoman Deb Feinen says she's waited a long time for Champaign apartment dwellers be able to get recycling pickup, which has been offered in Urbana for years.

"When I got on Council, I was basically told by some other council members, 'no way, not gonna happen, we've voted on that before, go away, I don't wanna talk to you about it'", says Feinen. "I am delighted that we are now in a situation, four years later, to see multi-family recycling."

Apartment building owners in Champaign were always allowed to contract for recycling pickup on their own. But the budget item approved Tuesday night requires the service at all multi-family dwellings citywide.

The recycling issue was part of a review of the proposed city budget which Champaign City Council members wrapped up Tuesday night. They'll take a final vote in June.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 19, 2010

Renovations to Building in Champaign Means the End for African-American History Mural

The renovation of an old warehouse on Champaign's north end will mean the end of a mural celebrating local African-American history.

The Champaign City Council approved a special use permit Tuesday night that will allow Sullivan Plumbing to convert and expand a one-story warehouse at 5th and Park into a two-story building with both office and apartment space.

But the conversion will cover up the African-American history mural painted on the building's north wall in 1978. Dave Monk was among those involved in the mural project, which he says helped bring white and black together.

"It has connotations of not only local interest, but a demonstration at the national level of how we could interact on the fringe of black-white communities", Monk told council members.

Monk said a way might be found to preserve the mural, if Champaign council members would delay their vote. But the council approved the special use permit unanimously.

Councilman Tom Bruno noted that the mural's creator, Angela Rivers, had told the News-Gazette that it would be too expensive to restore the badly faded work.

"It would be nice if this mural could be preserved", said Bruno. "But it would be even nicer if this building could improve that neighborhood. And perhaps we can't have both."

However, other council members said they hoped the mural would be well-documented for history's sake.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 19, 2010

State Liquor Panel Admits Clarity Needed In Happy Hour Promotions

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission admits some changes need to be made in laws concerning happy hour promotions at bars. The Commission dismissed some of those violations at its first-ever meeting in Urbana Tuesday. Most of the tickets were issued during the weekend of March 5th, when many University of Illinois students and guests celebrate 'Unofficial' St. Patrick's Day. Acting Commission Chairman Stephen Schnorf says it was never the panel's intention to punish a bar for misinterpreting the law.

"If we saw things that we thought were encouraging binge drinking or encouraging underage consumption, we wouldn't be very patient with that," said Schnorf. "In these cases, it looked like there were some legitimate misunderstandings, and so we want a little more clarity before we start doing rigorous enforcement in some of these areas of the happy hour law," The violations at Campustown bars like Kam's and Legends were related to concerns that they were offering discounts on refills, or that patrons gave off the impression that they were allowed to engage in binge drinking by purchasing two drinks at once.

Kam's owner Eric Meyer says happy hour laws have created confusion not only around campus area bars, but across the state. He says it's common knowledge that sports venues enable someone to purchase two drinks at once. "I think that's been a standard practice at most of our sporting venues." said Meyer. "We've been able to go up and grab two drinks everywhere we go. That's kind of common knowledge and this is probably an area that has not been enforced. I understand the agent's concern to enforce this during a weekend of great concern and potential binge drinking. I don't think that was the intention here of any of the individuals involved."

Most underage drinking violations handled by the state in Tuesday's 2-hour hearing concerned grocery and convenience stores in Champaign, Urbana, and Danville. Schnorf says the Liquor Control Commission's decision to hold hearings away from Springfield and Chicago was to accommodate bar owners and the attorneys representing them, letting them cut down on travel time.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 18, 2010

New Signs Proclaim Urbana Bike Friendly Community

Signs will soon go up along streets leading into Urbana that tell people their bicycles are welcome.

The purple signs recognize Urbana's new designation as a bike-friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists.

Public Works Director Bill Grey says the signs send an important message.

"It does send a message that this is a town that is accommodating bicycling as a mode of transportation", says Grey. And we're implementing the facilities to do so, and the education and enforcement that go along with that. And encouragement of people to want to get out of their cars , or seek this as a viable mode of transportation."

City councilman and avid cyclist Charlie Smyth says the designation is important for Urbana because of the estimated 8 percent of city residents who use bikes to get to work. Smyth says that's according to the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission. And he says it's important for the city to upgrade its designation from bronze to silver-level. Smyth says that will require more and better bicycle education programs in Urbana --- and better connections between bike paths.

Champaign has not been named a Bicycle Friendly Community --- but the League of American Bicyclists did name Champaign city government a Bicycle Friendly Business.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 18, 2010

Urbana City Council Puts Recycling Pickup Bids on Hold

New contracts for residential recycling pickup in Urbana are on hold, until the city council gets answers about why apartment dwellers would be able to recycle more materials than those who live in single-family homes

The extra material in question is number six polystyrene plastic. Urbana-based Community Resource is offering to pick up the hard-to-recycle plastic --- except for foam --- in its winning bid for multi-family recycling in the city. But ABC Sanitary Hauling of Champaign would NOT recycle Number Six, under its winning bid to continue as Urbana's single-family curbside recycler.

Alderman Charlie Smyth says he wants both residential recycling programs in Urbana to accept Number Six Plastic.

"Because really, it's confusing to have one program doing more than the other", says Smyth. "I'll just as soon put my stuff in Multi-Family, because I'll be able to more. I want to be able to put all my plastic film and #6 plastic in, and not have to worry about checking all the stupid numbers. If I just know I can put every bit of plastic in the barrel, I'm going to be happy."

The Urbana City Council was set to vote on both the curbside and multi-family recycling bids Monday night. But now the issue goes back to the city council's Committee of the Whole for more discussion.


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