Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 20, 2011

Urbana Council Unanimously Backs New Police Contract

The city of Urbana has a new three-year contract with its police union.

The contract with the Fraternal Order of Police provides raises of 1, 3, and 3 percent over the term of the deal, which is retroactive to July of 2010.

The council unanimously passed the agreement, but Alderman Brandon Bowersox called his yes vote a begrudging one that he's making because of state law, which requires binding arbitration.

Bowersox said the officers do a great job, but Urbana can't afford any raises right now. He said he fears any further ones would come from property taxes.

"It's disappointing, but our only choice is to move ahead with this, and to give this one unit of the city raises when others don't get raises, despite the fact that we can't afford it," Bowersox said.

The city started a 1 percent tax on packaged liquor, raised the hotel-motel tax from 5-to-6 percent, and it cut funding to Champaign County's Convention and Visitors Bureau in order to pay its police officers.

Urbana Police Chief Patrick Connolly said there was give and take on both sides of the three year contract, and the best outcome the union could have asked for.

"There was give and take on both sides," Connolly said. "The city was certainly in financial dire straits, and the city was very generous in recognizing there were certain needs that had to be met on the part of contractual issues, legal issues."

Mayor Laurel Prussing also touted the police department's recent efforts, citing a report of decreased crime in Southeast Urbana.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 19, 2011

Circuit Clerk Frank to Retire, Endorses Former Legislator Winkel

There will be a new Circuit Court Clerk in Champaign County in 2013.

Linda Frank has not only announced her retirement from the office after next year, but is endorsing former Republican state legislator Rick Winkel for the job. Since leaving the legislature in 2007, he has been a faculty member with the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

Winkel said he likes public service more, and wants to use his experience as an attorney and legislator to operate the clerk's office during tight financial times.

"Along the way, I've learned quite a lot about technology, and how to apply it to government solutions," Winkel said. "This is like every place. County government is having a budget problem, and it's revenues are down, having to cut back on expenditures. We're going to have to figure out new and innovative ways to use technology to become much more efficient and effective."

Winkel served in the Illinois House from 1995 to 2003, and in the Senate from 2003 to 2007. Frank will have been in office 21 years at the end of next year. Frank decided to retire about a week ago. She said one of her main goals has been realized - operating a paperless courthouse:

"Now all the files have been digitally scanned," Frank said. "We have the option of sending those to the courtroom now. It will be up to the judges to decide now whether they want to pursue that or not. But it is available."

Winkel said he expects to have primary competition. Republican Champaign County Board member Stephanie Holderfield announced plans earlier this year to run for circuit clerk. Frank said she isn't sure of her plans after leaving office, but says there are 'endless possibilities' for her at the end of 2012.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 19, 2011

Indiana Sets Up Special Process for State Fair Claims

The state of Indiana is asking families of those killed or injured in a deadly stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair to complete a new customized claim form by Nov. 1 so the state can expedite settlements.

The attorney general's office said Monday the new form is available online at the agency's website and by calling 1-800-760-4616.

The form allows victims to apply for payments from the Indiana Tort Claim Fund. As of Monday, the agency said 21 claims had been filed against the $5 million fund.

The agency says claims can still be filed after Nov. 1, but the funds will likely be exhausted.

Seven people died and more than 40 were injured as a result of the Aug. 13 accident.

The claim form can be downloaded at http://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/2849.htm

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 19, 2011

Cook County Turns to Commemorative Marriage Licenses to Raise Revenue

The Cook County Clerk's Office is trying to raise revenue by selling commemorative marriage certificates.

If the county board votes to pass the new fees this week, Chicago residents will be able to buy a large-scale, 10"x12" version of their marriage certificate meant for framing or scrap booking.

"It's a new product entirely that really has a lot of potential," Clerk's office spokeswoman Courtney Greve said. "Because our customers are not obligated to buy it, we really think that it'll be very marketable."

Greve said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle had tasked the Clerk's office with finding new, creative methods of raising revenue. The office was inspired by states like Alaska, Texas, Massachusetts, Ohio, Iowa, and Florida, all of which have similar programs.

Cook County reportedly has almost five million marriage records. In order to break even on costs, the clerk's office would need to sell 75-to-100 licenses at $65 apiece. The office will have to buy a new printer for the specialty archival linen paper. A basic marriage certificate in the county costs $15.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 19, 2011

Champaign County to Discuss Publicizing Restaurant Inspections

Champaign County to Discuss Publicizing Restaurant Inspections

A Champaign County Board member says he will push for a new rule requiring restaurants in the county to post their health inspection scores.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 19, 2011

U of I College of Law Posts Corrected Student Data

University of Illinois officials say its College of Law has posted corrected student profile information online.

Urbana-Champaign campus officials say the corrected median entrance exam scores and median undergraduate grade point averages for the class of 2014 were posted Monday. College of Law admissions dean Paul Pless was placed on leave earlier this month and an investigation was started into whether the school previously posted inflated test scores and grades.

School officials say the inquiry into the posting of the original data continues. Urbana-Champaign campus provost Richard Wheeler says the law school "sincerely regrets'' the original inaccuracy. Wheeler says the investigation's findings will be shared when it is completed.

The snapshot data of law school students are often used to attract future students, among other things.

Categories: Education

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 18, 2011

Another Democrat Eyeing 13th Congressional Run

A retired school administrator from Litchfield is latest to consider a run for Congress in Illinois' re-drawn 13th District.

Democrat James Gray, who has over 30 years in education, says he'll appeal to voters since he's not a politician. Gray says he's become frustrated with 'politics as usual' in places like Wisconsin, where collective bargaining rights have been limited.

"It gives the individual some power and some authority at the table," said Gray. "It's the only way you can garner enough energy and power to gain a better standard of living. And when the standard goes up, the standard of the whole country goes up. It floats all the boats up."

But Gray says the hardships experiences by his 85-year old mother convinced him to become involved in the race.

"She's sitting there at the table when that debt refinancing was going on, and wondering if her next check was going to come in, and whether she could buy food or her drugs" he said. "It's just unbelievable. It's almost like they would would throw people out into the street."

Gray says the wealthy and Fortune 500 companies and are paying far too little of federal revenues today. He also pledges to serve no more than four terms if elected, saying the seniority system in Congress is giving undue power to a handful of people.

Gray says he'll know for sure by late this month if he's running, as he collects signatures on his campaign petitions. He admits if former state legislator Jay Hoffman decides to run, he'll be tough to beat for the Democratic nomination. Bloomington physician David Gill has already entered the race, and Greene County State's Attorney Matt Goetten is also considering a run.

The winner would likely face Urbana Republican Tim Johnson, but he's facing Springfield truck driver Sam Spradlin in the March primary.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 17, 2011

Former Illinois Sen. Charles Percy Dies at 91

Former Sen. Charles H. Percy, a former Foreign Relations Committee chairman whose moderate Republican views put him at odds with conservatives including former President Richard Nixon, died Saturday in Washington. He was 91.

Percy's daughter, Sharon Rockefeller, announced in March 2009 that he had Alzheimer's disease. His death was announced by the office of his son-in-law, West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

Elected to the first of his three Senate terms in 1966, Percy was mentioned as a possible presidential candidate. He was helped by handsome looks, a rich baritone voice and the relaxed self-confidence of the successful business executive he once was.

But the silver-haired senator, a supporter of the GOP's Nelson Rockefeller wing, came to power when moderate Republicans were becoming unfashionable on Capitol Hill. He ended up backing former President Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination in 1976 rather than go for it himself.

After that his chances seemed to fade. He won one more term in 1978 but was narrowly defeated for re-election in 1984 by Democrat Rep. Paul Simon.

Jay Rockefeller praised his father-in-law's even-handed political stances in a statement sent Saturday.

"His insistence on a balanced perspective in his public life, (calling himself "fervently moderate"), helped us understand it is both possible and preferable to live in a world without partisanship," he said. Percy's differences with conservative Republicans showed early on as he clashed with Nixon, opposing two successive U.S. Supreme Court nominees - Clement F. Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell.

He was the sponsor of a resolution calling for a special prosecutor in the Watergate scandal and became a critic of the Vietnam War.

He rankled the Reagan administration by opposing the nomination of Earnest Lefever as head of the State Department's human rights program. Lefever had said he wanted the job only so he could dismantle the program.

But the former boy wonder business executive who engineered a spectacular turnaround at Bell & Howell Co. was also an apostle of free markets who sought to ease federal regulation of America's corporations. Percy often said that like Dwight D. Eisenhower he was "a conservative on money issues but a liberal on people issues."

He also opposed excessive partisanship, particularly as Foreign Relations Committee chairman.

"I don't want foreign policy developed just by one party and ride roughshod over the other party," he told the Chicago Tribune in 1984. "I'd much more value a bill that has bipartisan support. That's what this committee achieved in World War II, achieved in the Marshall Plan."

Percy made his first foray into electoral politics in 1964 and was beaten for governor by Democratic incumbent Otto Kerner in an election year marked by a Democratic landslide.

Two years later, Percy ran for the Senate and unseated incumbent Democrat Paul H. Douglas, a classic New Deal liberal who had been one of his economics professors at the University of Chicago in the 1930s.

A tragedy occurred in mid-campaign. One of Percy's 21-year-old twin daughters, Valerie, was bludgeoned and stabbed to death in her bed in the family's lakefront home in suburban Kenilworth. Both candidates suspended campaigning for two weeks. No one has ever been charged in the case.

The surviving twin, Sharon Rockefeller, is president and chief executive of WETA, the public broadcasting station in Washington. Percy also had a son, Roger, with his first wife, Jeanne Dickerson, who died in 1947. He married Loraine Guyer in 1950, and they had a daughter, Gail, and son, Mark.

Percy's political problems multiplied in the 1970s. He was a kindly person who, drawing on his rich baritone voice, voluntarily recorded the entirety of Alexis de Toqueville's "Democracy in America" for use by the blind. But he sometimes lacked the common touch.

He was elected when Illinois was a swing state where he could get votes from some Democrats and liberals. Early in his career he had support from the United Auto Workers and always addressed the Illinois AFL-CIO at campaign time.

But the state gradually became more Democratic.

In 1978, Percy was able to dig out from a deficit in the polls with only weeks until Election Day, going on TV with ads in which he looked into the camera and said: "I got the message." He barely squeaked in.

Six years later he was defeated as some party conservatives deserted him, the liberal Simon highlighted his ties to President Ronald Reagan, and pro-Israel groups incensed by Percy's support of selling AWACS radar planes to Saudi Arabia poured contributions into Simon's campaign.

After his defeat, Percy remained in Washington, where he opened a consulting business, giving advice to clients on the foreign policy issues that had been his main interest in the Senate.

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 17, 2011

WIU Police Training Facility To Replace Shuttered Program at U of I

The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board plans to open a new residential Police Academy and Research Institute at Western Illinois University.

The board said Friday that its members voted to set up the new institute to replace the program at the University of Illinois. The University of Illinois decided last year to close its Police Training Institute.

The board says the new facility will train new police officers and sheriff's deputies. It will also conduct research into police training.

Western Illinois is already home to the School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration, and offers a degree in criminal justice.

The board oversees 12 police and corrections academies around the state.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 16, 2011

Illinois Poverty Growing as State Help Shrinking

State budget cuts are leaving many Illinois social services agencies scrambling, especially homeless shelters.

The result is many of the state's poorest and most vulnerable are left with fewer options and more uncertainty. This comes at a time when census data show Illinois' highest poverty rate in nearly two decades and a high jobless rate.

Legislators chopped the Department of Human Services budget by hundreds of millions of dollars, including $4.7 million for homeless services.

That includes money for REST Shelter in Chicago. It was once a 24-hour homeless facility for more than 100 people, but had to lay off workers and close during the day.

Toni Irving is Gov. Pat Quinn's deputy chief of staff. She says Quinn is trying to get money reallocated, but it's a difficult situation.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

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