Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 28, 2011

Miller Refutes Police Account of Son’s Alleged Beating

Critics of the Champaign Police Department are expressing outrage, and a differing account of the arrest of an African-American teen last weekend, that they say involved excessive use of force.

Police say Calvin Miller ran a red light and swerved into traffic to avoid police on Monday at around 1:30 am, and then at one point, jumped from a moving van, which hit the front of the house. Police say Miller then reached for the officer's duty belt, and the officer struck him with his hand.

"It's a situation that could have been resolved very, very minimal with the officer stopping, the potential for a ticket, and the offender going on," Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney told WDWS radio. "We don't make the decision for people to run....if you run from the police, not only is it illegal, but it's going to have some dire consequences."

Responding to the police department's account of what happened, Calvin's father, Martel Miller claims police rammed into his son's car, and then maced him with pepper spray, struck him repeatedly on the face, head and ankle, and hit him with a baton.

"This is part of racial profiling," Miller told a crowd Thursday outside of the Champaign Police Department. "What I want you all to understand is abuse with black young men has been going on for too long, and it's by this department."

The incident comes two years after the police shooting death of teenager Kiwane Carrington.

Miller said he hasn't yet filed a formal complaint against the police department. In the last few days, there has been flurry of outrage over the alleged police beating of his son, and there are calls for major changes in the police department. Aaron Ammons, the co-founder of C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice, said there is no reason Miller should have been struck in the first place.

"We're asking for and demanding that these officers be removed, those who have been problems throughout the community ongoing that they can be removed and that new officers are brought in," Ammons said. "And bring more African American and people of color officers into this department who live here, who know the community, and who have a stake in the community."

Finney said the case will be reviewed to determine if there was excessive force used. Finney noted that officials with his department will likely address the city council on Tuesday night. Critics of the police department are expected to do the same. The Champaign City Council plans to discuss a proposal for a citizens police review board later this fall. That proposal was brought up last week, before the Calvin Miller arrest.

"Certainly the officers had every reason to get him into custody, and protect themselves in that backyard, and I think that's what they did," Finney said, adding that there wasn't anything he believed the police officers could have done in the situation.

At Thursday's demonstration outside of the Champaign Police Department, 30-year-old Gary McFarland of Champaign came forward. He said at the start of October, a Champaign police officer hit him as he was trying to enter his home.

McFarland said that incident resulted in his jaw having to be wired shut: "He never asked my name. He never asked for my ID. He never searched me. I could have been anybody."

A review of court records show McFarland was charged with resisting a police officer and criminal trespassing on Oct. 3, 2011.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 28, 2011

Robert Blagojevich: ‘Unanswered Questions’  Regarding US Rep. Jackson

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother wants to testify before the U.S. House Committee on Ethics investigating whether an Illinois congressman sought to raise money for Blagojevich for an appointment to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat.

Robert Blagojevich told Thursday''s Chicago Sun-Times he's written to committee members offering testimony about Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr.

Rod Blagojevich was convicted of trying to sell Obama's seat. Related charges Robert once faced were dropped. Trial witnesses alleged Jackson supporters offered fundraising for the governor if Jackson became senator.

Jackson's denied wrongdoing and hasn't been charged. He testified at Blagojevich's retrial that he's "never directed anyone to raise money for another politician.'' His spokesman declined comment yesterday.

But Robert Blagojevich says "there are a lot of unanswered questions (Jackson) should be required to answer.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 27, 2011

House Lawmakers Reject Gov. Quinn’s ROE Funding Plan

Legislation to restore salaries for regional school superintendents after they were wiped out by Gov. Pat Quinn has failed in the Illinois House.

The vote Thursday was 59 to 55, but lawmakers can vote again later.

Quinn eliminated the money for the superintendents and their assistants in July because he says the state can't afford the $11 million. He wants local governments to pay from an alternative fund. The legislation lawmakers rejected would have done that.

Some lawmakers say the regional school officials should be paid, others question the need for the offices.

Illinois has 44 regional offices of education. Their responsibilities range from inspecting school buildings to certifying teachers to running GED programs.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 27, 2011

Ill. Commission Votes to Block Facility Closures

A bipartisan legislative commission is rejecting Gov. Pat Quinn's proposal to close three social-service facilities and a youth prison.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability cast advisory votes Thursday against closing a juvenile detention center in Murphysboro, a developmental center in Dixon and mental health hospitals in Rockford and Chester.

Quinn announced last month he needs to close seven facilities and lay off nearly 2,000 employees because of budget shortfalls.

A spokeswoman says Quinn has no choice but to shut the facilities unless the Legislature appropriates more money.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees opposes the closures. Executive Director Henry Bayer says the votes indicate lawmakers believe the facilities are necessary. The commission has yet to vote on closing facilities in Lincoln, Jacksonville and Tinley Park.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 27, 2011

Frerichs Says Bill on New Group Health Plans Still Alive

NOTE: This story was updated and expanded on 10/27/11.

State Sen. Mike Frerichs (D-Champaign) says he is disappointed that his bill to nullify the new group health insurance plans for state workers and retirees failed to survive a gubernatorial veto on Wednesday.

Senators failed to override the veto on a vote of 28-to-28, with Senate President John Cullerton voting Present. But Frerichs said the fight against what he sees as an inferior package of health plans isn't over yet.

"We're not done fighting, and this is a speed bump, it's not a roadblock," Frerichs said. "We still have a very good case going through the courts. And we still have time, because we extended contracts through June 30, to work on a solution in the spring session."

Frerichs was referring to the contract extensions of existing health plans --- including those from Urbana-based Health Alliance. They are meant to give time for the dispute over the health plans to play out. Frerichs' legislation would have gone further, canceling the new health plans entirely and starting the process of approving new contracts all over again --- but taking oversight of the procurement process to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and returning it to the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.

Frerichs also says he hasn't entirely given up on reaching a compromise with Governor Pat Quinn, despite his veto of the bill.

"The governor made fairly clear that he was opposed to this bill", says Frerichs. "But he did leave open the possibility of some sort of negotiations. So I'm going to listen to him, see if there's some sort of compromise that we can reach. If we can't though, we're prepared to go forward and try again."

Frerichs charges the Quinn administration with working to switch votes in the Senate on his bill, which passed the chamber 37 to 12 in May

The new health insurance plans announced by the Quinn administration last April drew criticism because they replaced existing health plans --- such as those from Health Alliance --- with ones not generally available in many counties or with certain physician groups --- such as Carle, which owns Health Alliance, and has an exclusive contract with them.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 27, 2011

Man Thought to be Gacy Victim, Found Living in Florida

A man thought to have been a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy has been discovered living in Florida.

After the Cook County Sheriff exhumed remains of eight Gacy victims, the family of Harold Wayne Lovell came forward in an effort to find a match. Instead, they discovered that Lovell had been living in Florida all along. He'd vanished from Aurora in 1977 and had some trouble with the police along the way. Sheriff Tom Dart said the family was convinced Lovell was a victim based on a piece of jewelry found at Gacy's house. But they had no dental records to make a comparison at the time.

Lovell, now 53, has been reunited with his family.

Sheriff Dart said investigations have become more accurate over the past couple of decades.

"Back in the late 70s and prior to that, the way that missing persons were handled as a whole was not very scientific at all. And so people that had concerns back then, now would be the time whether or not they thought they were involved in the Gacy case or not. Come forward and have your DNA submitted," Dart said.

Dart said more than 120 families have come forward to see if their loved one is possibly among the victims. Results could be revealed in two to three weeks.

Gacy was convicted of murdering 33 men and boys in the 1970s. He was executed in 1994.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

Police Release Description of Events Leading up to Teen’s Arrest

The Champaign Police Department has released its account of what occurred early Monday morning when 18-year old Calvin Miller was arrested.

The arrest and alleged police beating of the teen sparked a protest from around 100 people at Tuesday's Champaign City Council meeting, including his father, activist Martel Miller. The press release described what occurred before Miller's arrest on counts of Resisting a Police Officer, Fleeing or Attempting to Elude, and a traffic signal violation.

In the release issued Wednesday night, police say an officer saw a van speeding as it left the University Village apartments about 1:30 a.m. Monday. Police say the officer had trouble catching up with the eastbound driver, who ran a red light at Moreland Boulevard and Marketview Drive, and the officer wasn't able to catch up until he reached Neil Street.

Police say the officer turned on his overhead lights, but the driver continued on until jumping from the moving van, which had slowed down just before hitting the front of a home on Arcadia Drive. Police say damage wasn't serious, and that the squad car made no contact with the van.

A foot chase then ensued, in which police say the officer gave out clear and loud commands for the subject to stop. Police say he jumped a fence in the 200 block of Arcadia, and fell to the ground. When ordered to put his arms behind his back, the man resisted. Police say when he reached for the officer's duty belt, the officer struck the subject with his hand to subdue him. When a second officer arrived, he used pepper spray before making the arrest.

Officers say the 18-year old Miller was taken to Carle Hospital for a medical evaluation before being transferred to the Champaign County Satellite Jail. He later posted bond and was released.

Champaign police say to date, there has not been a formal complaint filed regarding Miller's arrest, although Martel Miller said Tuesday he is talking to lawyers about his son's case.

Champaign Police says staff will assess the officers' responses to ensure that all actions were in accordance with departmental policies and procedures.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

Final Work Underway on UI Reactor Building

The final elements of an old atomic reactor on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus should be removed by next spring.

The decommission process is expected to start in the next few days. U of I Head of Nuclear Plasma and Radiological Engineering, James Stubbins, says the facility housed next to the Engineering Science Building was used a lot for research and training from 1960 through 1998.

That year, he says U of I administrators chose not to renew the license for financial reasons. Stubbins says it's a decision the university should regret.

"I think in terms of the campus, it's a real loss in terms of those kinds of capabilities," he said. "The argument was about budget, but (compared to) the actual cost of running the reactor, actually this is is much more expensive than what it would have cost to continue to run the reactor."

Stubbins says the facility was less of a threat over the last several years, particularly after the fuel was removed from the reactor in 2004. He says cleaning what remains won't require workers to be greatly protected.

"What we expect is even the dust levels inside won't be enough for people to have to wear respirators," said Stubbins. "We expect a normal kind of building tearing down working environment. But because we're using saws to go through the concrete, we don't even expect so much dust to be pushed up into the air."

He says any areas with residual radioactivity should be removed first, followed by a concrete block that served as a biological shield, surrounding the reactor's core. Stubbins says any staff near the site at Springfield and Goodwin Avenues shouldn't be impacted.

The final work should be completed in May.

Categories: Education, Energy, Science

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

Ill. Lawmakers OK Electricity Measure Despite Veto

Illinois lawmakers have approved major changes to the state's electricity system over Gov. Pat Quinn's veto.

Both the House and Senate voted to override the governor Wednesday.

They rejected Quinn's argument that the legislation guarantees unfair profits to power companies and seriously weakens the oversight power of state regulators.

The Senate voted 36-19 to override. Moments later, the House did the same on a 74-42 vote.

The legislation lets ComEd and Ameren raise rates to pay for improving electrical systems, including the creation of a high-tech "smart grid.''

Supporters say it will create jobs and help customers conserve energy. Critics call it a sweetheart deal for power companies.

Categories: Energy, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

Ill. Senate Examines Quinn Gambling Ideas

The Illinois Senate is moving toward action on a gambling expansion based on Gov. Pat Quinn's recommendations.

Lawmakers passed a major expansion plan earlier this year, but Quinn says he'll veto it.

He wants a plan that creates five new casinos, including one in Chicago, but does not allow slot machines at race tracks.

A Senate committee debated the proposal today. A vote by the full Senate could come later in the day.

If the measure fails, it would help lawmakers argue that only the larger expansion can draw enough support to pass. That might build a veto-proof majority for expansion.


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