Illinois Public Media News
A World War II veteran who became famous as the Empire Carpet Man has died at age 89.
Empire Today spokeswoman Marlo Michalek says Elmer Lynn Hauldren died Tuesday at his Evanston home. A cause of death wasn't given but Michalek said he had been sick.
Hauldren was the voice of Empire carpet on television advertising in the 1970s. The ads later aired around the country in cities like New York, Washington and San Francisco. He was the company spokesperson until he died.
The company says it chose Hauldren as its on-air talent after auditioning several others for the role. Hauldren helped launch the carpet company's "588-2300" jingle.
Hauldren was the father of 6, grandfather of 18 and great-grandfather of 10. He also was a singer in a barbershop quartet.
Indiana is poised to become the first state to cut all government funding for Planned Parenthood.
The move would be a significant victory for anti-abortion activists but could pose a political predicament for Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels as he considers running for president.
The Indiana House voted 66-32 Wednesday to cut off the $3 million in federal money the state distributes to the organization for family planning and health programs. The Senate approved the measure earlier this month.
Indiana risks losing $4 million in federal family planning grants if Daniels signs the bill.
A veto could antagonize ardent conservatives wary of Daniels' calls for a truce on "social issues" to focus on the economy. But signing the bill also could provide the political cover he needs from critical social conservatives.
The Army Corps of Engineers is waiting to decide if it will intentionally break a levee to help relieve flooding problems in a Southern Illinois town. But farmers in Missouri are objecting to the plan.
Flooding in Cairo, Illinois is so bad, more than 100 people have been evacuated. It's a town of 2,800 residents at the southern tip of Illinois between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
"I'm 50 years old, and I can't recall seeing it higher before," said Sheila Simon, Illinois' lieutenant governor.
She said she hopes the water levels start to go down, or else the Army Corps might have to poke holes in a Mississippi River levee near Cairo.
But farmers in Missouri say that would flood their land and ruin crops. In a statement, Blake Hurst, the head of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said 130,000 acres of farmland could be destroyed.
Missouri has filed a lawsuit to block efforts to break the levee. A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel says no group is immune from the sweeping changes he plans to make in the city of Chicago.
Emanuel said Wednesday that means changes for non-profits and charitable organizations as well. For instance, he said he no longer wants non-profits and charitable organizations to get free city water in their facilities.
He says it's all part of his philosophy that every group needs to make some sacrifices so no one group has to sacrifice more than it should. Emanuel takes over as mayor May 16. He says nobody is in a "sacrifice-free zone."
Emanuel made his comments at an arts event in downtown Chicago. He was initially asked whether non-profits should pay property taxes. He promised to look into it and give a fuller answer later.
Henning-based Full-Fill Industries in Vermilion County plans to expand its operation thanks to $2.5 million dollars in state tax incentives, which will be administered to assist in areas such as job training, tax credits, and infrastructure improvements.
Full-Fill Industries, which is owned by the Clapp Family of Danville, produces cooking spray products.
"Family-owned businesses like Full-Fill are the backbone of our economy," Governor Pat Quinn said in a statement. "We must do what we can to give them the tools they need to grow and succeed."
The company plans to double its size by constructing three new high-speed production lines in 25,000-square-feet of new manufacturing space. In addition, it will build a 108,000 square-foot warehouse and distribution building, which will include eight new docks and additional bulk tank storage for edible oils.
Company CEO David Clapp anticipates construction will begin this summer, and wrap up within the next year and a half.
"We've been in business for a little over 10 years and this kind of news is very exciting for us," he said. "It's a once in a lifetime dream come true."
The company currently employs 94 employees, but will be able to hire an additional 150 people for various jobs including management, administrative and production positions.
Clapp adds because of the financial support from the state, the company will start producing cooking spray products for ConAgra Foods, which has relied on service from a plant in Rossville that is expected to close. That plant employs about 170 people, and Full-Fill Industries said there is a possibility it will be able to retain some of those jobs.
The lead attorney at Rod Blagojevich's first trial walked into the courtroom where the ex-governor's retrial is under way to wish his former client luck.
Sam Adam Jr. showed up just before proceedings began Wednesday. He shook hands with Blagojevich and gave one of the ousted governor's new attorneys a hug.
During the first trial, Adam's courtroom style led to clashes with Judge James Zagel and raised the ire of prosecutors.
Current defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky turned to prosecutors sitting nearby on Wednesday and joked that Adam would be giving the opening statement for the defense.
Jury selection hasn't finished, and Zagel has said openings could take place Monday.
Champaign County Board members haven't had a raise in more than 20 years.
And based on a straw poll conducted Tuesday night, a majority of them don't want to change the method they're paid, earning a specific per diem per meeting plus mileage, rather than an annual salary. But the amount of that per diem has yet to be set. It's currently $45, an amount some call woefully short. Urbana Democrat Tom Betz said it's kept some people from serving.
"It costs them more in the evening to pay the babysitter than they're getting in the per diem," he said. "It has really happened. I know one very good board member we lost because of that. No entity goes 25 years without any salary increase. It's really kind of ludicrous."
Champaign Democrat Michael Richards agrees, saying his party has trouble recruiting candidates with the current level of compensation, but Mahomet Republican John Jay said a raise can't be justified after the sacrifices county employees have made.
"So I'm hoping that we don't raise it at this time..," he said. "..In due respect to our employees, and to the taxpayers of this county, until we get our county back into some kind of reasonable fiscal shape."
Urbana Republican Steve Moser said money was never an incentive for him to serve on the county board, saying it's no different from serving on a school board.
County Administrator Deb Busey suggests the board set compensation rates every 10 years, and prior to a change in county board structure. It's expected to have 22 members instead of the current 27 after the 2012 elections. Voters recommended the change in an advisory referendum last fall.
The rates for board members don't have to be set until about six months before a new county board is sworn in, but county board chair Pius Wiebel said he'd hope to do it much sooner.
In another straw poll, the County Board also rejected a suggestion that the title of county board chair become an elected member of the county rather than one chosen by county board members.
Chicago-based Groupon is getting some stiffer competition.
Facebook has launched a new program that's a direct challenge to Groupon.
You can add Facebook to the increasing list of web sites with products similar to Groupon. Google is also offering its own brand of daily deals sent straight to your Inbox, along with countless smaller web sites.
So can any these discount deals really put a dent in Groupon, one of the fastest-growing companies in the world?
"At the end of the day, I think it benefits Groupon as well," said Andrew Razeghi, who's with Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. He said bigger companies can help promote the business as a whole.
"If you get Facebook promoting deal sites, 500 million people, it's only going to help Groupon over time," Razeghi said. "So it'll probably grow the category overall and everybody in it is going to be better off over time."
A Groupon spokeswoman would not comment for this story.
(Photo courtesy of Franco Bouly/flickr)
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, nearing an announcement on whether to run for president, is spending the final week of his state's legislative session pushing for the final pieces of a record that would be ready-made for a Republican campaign: a balanced budget, tax refunds and a school voucher program.
This week's unexpected decision by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Daniels friend, to forgo a presidential candidacy seemingly makes it more likely the Midwestern governor will seek the GOP nomination. Party insiders close to the two men say Barbour and Daniels, whose early careers intersected as aides to President Ronald Reagan, had indicated privately they would not both seek the 2012 nomination.
But Daniels, 62, is not rushing to join the field.
The governor, who typically keeps his own counsel, is staying mum about his plans. Even his closest advisers here say they still aren't sure what he will do.
He's kept open the possibility of a run for months, if only to make sure his top issue - enormous deficits and the national debt - was a serious part of the debate. And he is keeping his pledge to tend to business in Indiana before making an announcement or taking even the most preliminary steps toward a national run.
"He has said he's focused on the legislative session and he would make a decision when that's over," Jane Jankowski, the governor's spokeswoman, said Tuesday. The Legislature is slated to adjourn by the end of this week.
Daniels is the first to acknowledge he's done little to lay the groundwork for a campaign, and his lack of planning has been striking to some who would support him if he ran.
"I don't know if he's got the fire in the belly, drive and desire to run for president of the United States. I haven't seen it," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad told The Associated Press. "At this point, I don't think it's likely that he'll run."
Branstad, Republican governor of the first state to hold a leadoff nominating contest, got that impression last week when Daniels called to discuss education policy but made no mention of a presidential campaign.
No "absolute fire in the belly" was the reason Barbour gave for bowing out of the race.
Barbour's announcement surprised many Republicans who had expected the former Republican National Committee chairman to mount a serious campaign based on fiscal issues and the economy. His decision could open the door for Daniels, a hero to the anti-deficit wing of the party, a former pharmaceutical executive, and a George W. Bush budget director. He can check many of the same boxes that many Republicans are seeking: private sector background, executive experience running a state or federal department, balanced state budget.
He would enter a race that lacks a clear front runner. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is trying to position himself as the fiscal conservative in the race despite overseeing a health care overhaul in Massachusetts that is strikingly similar to the President Barack Obama's massive health overhaul that many Republicans loathe. Others, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, are struggling to gain attention.
As a candidate, Daniels could trumpet his success in balancing the state budget, weakening teachers' unions and setting in motion a substantial education agenda - all this year.
"He's going to have some victories at the Statehouse," said Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker. "He's got the majorities."
Republicans hold 60 seats of the 100-member state House and 33 of the Senate's 50 seats.
"For anyone who underestimates Mitch, they do so at their own risk," Parker said.
Daniels, a political strategist who served in the Reagan White House, called many of the shots in his two gubernatorial races. The last made a huge impression in the GOP: He was the rare Republican governor who won re-election in a state that Obama carried in 2008.
Since taking office in 2005, Daniels has logged victories central to fiscal conservatives' goals: He scrapped the requirement that state employees belong to unions, privatized the state's toll road, turned budget deficits into surpluses and expanded health care to more than 130,000 residents with tax hikes on cigarettes.
As he enters the last two years of his term, he's working to expand his national profile.
Daniels plans to address the conservative American Enterprise Institute next week to talk about his education agenda. If lawmakers don't weaken his plan in the final days, it will include the nation's broadest school voucher program allowing middle- and low-income families to use taxpayer funds to send students to private schools.
His wife, Cheri, is to headline an Indiana GOP fundraiser later in May, a notable shift for a spouse more likely to show up at county fairs unannounced than to take the podium in front of thousands of political activists.
And Daniels is to release a policy book this fall called "Keeping the Republic: Limited Government, Unlimited Citizens."
In Iowa, some of the state's most prominent and potent operatives are eagerly awaiting Daniels' decision now that Barbour isn't in the race emphasizing solving the federal government's fiscal problems.
"I think there's an opening to take up that message," Branstad said.
Des Moines Republican Doug Gross, long involved in party politics in the state, has spoken highly of Daniels, too, and says there's a place in the field for a budget hawk.
Even so, Daniels' suggestion that social issues take a backseat to economic and fiscal concerns would cause him headaches in Iowa. Branstad said evangelical conservatives - who account for roughly half of Iowa Republicans - would hold Daniels to account even though he has a record as a loyal social conservative.
Still, with Barbour out of the race, Daniels could benefit from donors and operatives who no longer have a candidate to back.
His advisers privately acknowledge that he hasn't done the legwork other Republicans weighing bids have done, and that could put him at a disadvantage.
Most GOP presidential prospects have reached out to Iowans - and other voters in early primary states - over the past year to gauge interest. But Daniels has avoided it and declined several invitations to speak in the states.
He also spent his political capital last year working to bolster the GOP ranks in his state Legislature, rather than aiding Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina Republicans, as some 2012 prospects did with their political action committees.
This week as the Barbour decision roiled political circles, Daniels' advisers emphasized that the governor wanted to keep focused on the Statehouse before looking seriously at his own future. They said he worried that even a momentary break could spell havoc for his agenda as governor - and, perhaps, his platform should he run for president.
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
Arthur Culver has resigned as the Champaign Unit 4 superintendent, and now the focus for the school district is finding his replacement.
Culver's last day will be June 30, 2011. He has served as Unit 4 superintendent for nearly a decade, and publically announced his intention to resign during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
"I really do think that I've run my race, and it's just time to pass that baton," Culver said, who took long pauses to regain his composure. "It's not right to continue to collect a paycheck knowing that I don't have that same passion and fire in the belly that I used to."
Culver said he first started thinking about moving on from the Champaign School District last summer. Just until this week, he was on the shortlist for the top job in the DeKalb County school system in Georgia, but withdrew his name as a finalist.
"When I look at the recent events surrounding that search, I just felt it was in my best interest to remove myself and withdraw," Culver said. "I'm sure at some point they will discover a great superintendent that will lead them through their troubled waters."
Culver wouldn't give specifics about other professional opportunities he is interested in pursuing, but didn't rule out staying in Champaign County.
Champaign School Board President Dave Tomlinson touted Culver's achievements during his tenure, including a successful end to the district's Consent Decree, bringing up achievement levels for students of all races, three years of having a budget surplus, and a high school graduation rate that went from just below 90-percent to nearly 96-percent.
Tomlinson said the search process for the next superintendent will begin as early as Thursday, April 28, and that an interim superintendent will be named by July 1st. Tomlinson said while there are currently six people within the school district who are qualified for the job, a national search will take place to find the next superintendent.
"We have no one in mind at this point," Tomlinson said. "That will be a process of an unknown length."
Culver said he will be part of the transition process. He added that he hopes the next superintendent makes cutting down on disciplinary problems among students a priority.
There will be a series of public forums in the coming months to gather community input about the search. Anyone interested in being part of the search team should send an e-mail with their interests and qualifications to U4BOE@ChampaignSchools.org.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
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