Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 08, 2011

Judge Rules Against Ill. Union on Canceled Raises

A federal judge has ruled against state employees in a dispute over whether Gov. Pat Quinn can cancel raises promised in union contracts.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said Thursday it will appeal the ruling.

The union says Judge Sue Myerscough questioned the governor's actions and said he could simply have asked legislators for more money rather than canceling raises. But she ultimately ruled Wednesday that his action wasn't an illegal "impairment'' of the contract.

The Democratic governor canceled raises that were supposed to take effect July 1. His move affected about 30,000 state government employees.

Quinn said lawmakers didn't provide enough money to provide the required raises and still keep government running for a full year.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 08, 2011

Ind. Lawmakers to Weigh University Tuition Cost

A top Indiana legislator is asking state university officials to defend tuition hikes made over the last decade.

State Budget Committee chairman Jeff Espich says that growth in tuition costs at public universities "far outpaces'' inflation and the growth in Hoosier incomes. He noted that in 2000 average in-state tuition rate accounted for about 12 percent of per capita income. That average is expected to grow to 19 percent of income by 2013.

Representatives from Indiana University, Purdue University and other state universities are expected to testify Thursday during a budget committee meeting.

University leaders have argued that tuition increases have been necessary to maintain education quality during a time of reduced state funding.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 07, 2011

Greene County State’s Attorney Could Enter 13th District Race

Another Democrat has surfaced as a potential challenger in the new 13th District Congressional race.

Greene County State's Attorney Matt Goetten says he's not extremely familiar with Urbana Republican Congressman Tim Johnson's voting record, but says there are areas where they disagree.

"He had voted for the (Rep. Paul) Ryan budget, which I think is extremely dangerous, it effectively ended Medicare for seniors as we know it," said Goetten. "We are looking at a time when Social Security is a hot-button topic. I have some concerns about some positions he's taken on that."

But Goetten says he agrees with Johnson that it's time to tighten the fiscal belt in Washington. But he believes voters will be looking for someone with a little government experience, but not so much a part of it that they've 'been part of the problem.'

The 39-year old Goetten says job creation will be a key to a successful run.

"In this new 13th district, obviously, the agri-economy is obviously a staple," he said. "It's our bread and butter here, and I don't think that changes from Greene County to Macoupin County over into Champaign County, and even a small segment of Sangamon County. It's a farming area."

Goetten would likely face Johnson next fall. Former Democratic State Representative Jay Hoffman is also exploring a run for the 13th District. Bloomington physican David Gill is the only Democrat to have officially entered the race.

Goetten is a University of Illinois graduate and serves as a judge advocate general in the Illinois Air National Guard. He'll be in Poland for a training exercise at the end of this month, but says he'll decide whether to run for office after the trip, sometime around October 1st, after weighing family considerations and whether to give up what he calls 'a dream job.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 07, 2011

Final Blagojevich Co-Defendant to Stand Trial

Prosecutors are are filing documents outlining their evidence against William Cellini, the final co-defendant indicted with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Cellini's trial is scheduled for next month.

Cellini had contracts with the state under Republican governors and prosecutors say he raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Blagojevich to maintain his clout and business under the Democratic administration.

Prosecutors say he used his clout on boards to extort campaign contributions for Blagojevich from people hoping to do business with the state, and in return for raising cash prosecutors say Cellini was rewarded with lucrative state contracts of his own.

Prosecutors have laid out some of their case against Cellini in the last couple days. The evidence includes a recorded phone call from 2004 in which Cellini worries that Blagojevich's fundraisers are being too brazen in their attempts to get political contributions in return for state business. Cellini worries that authorities will start investigating because "too many people are talking."

Attorneys for Cellini did not return calls for comment.

The other co-defendants indicted along with Blagojevich include staffers Lon Monk and John Harris who both pleaded guilty and testified against their former boss. Chris Kelly was a Blagojevich friend and fundraiser and he committed suicide before going on trial in the case although he was indicted and convicted in other cases. Then there's Blagojevich's brother, Robert. Prosecutors dropped the charges against him after the first trial because many of the jurors found him a sympathetic character.

(AP Photo/file)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 07, 2011

Judge Orders Northwestern Students to Turn Over Emails

A Cook County judge has ordered Northwestern University journalism students to give more than 500 emails to prosecutors. The emails detail efforts by students to free a man they believe was wrongfully convicted.

Northwestern has argued the information gathered by students is protected under the Illinois Reporter's Privilege Act. But Judge Diane Cannon ruled students were acting as investigators in a criminal proceeding and that makes the emails "subject to the rules of discovery." Prosecutors are looking for emails between former journalism professor David Protess and students discussing the conviction of Anthony McKinney, who is currently serving a life sentence.

Evan Benn is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He was one of the Northwestern students working on the project. He said he has disappointed in the ruling.

"But if it means the case will move forward and we can get past this subpoena issue and finally dig toward the innocence of Anthony McKinney," Benn said. "Then I welcome today's ruling, and hope that it moves forward."

In a statement, Protess said his students were investigating the case for two years before any attorneys got involved. He said all decisions were made at the school without the influence of lawyers.

Northwestern has 10 days to decide whether to appeal the ruling. A statement from the school says it will review a written statement from the judge and will evaluate its options.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 07, 2011

Former Gov. Thompson Says US Still Vulnerable to Another Attack

The United States has become complacent regarding homeland security since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson.

Thompson, who served as a member of the 9/11 Commission, said the urgency after Sept. 11 is gone, which he said is mostly due to no major attacks occurring since 9/11.

"It's easy to lose the advantage of recollection memory and easy to put this issue aside when nothing bad has happened," Thompson said. "But you can't because there will be another attack, somewhere in the country."

Thompson predicts that another attack wouldn't involve airliners crashing into buildings. Instead. he said it is more likely to be a simple plot more easily carried out.

He said the ten year anniversary of the attacks should be a time to take stock of national security. The 9/11 Commission issued a recent report that listed several accomplishments over the decade, such as better air passenger screening and intelligence agencies sharing information. But many of its recommendations have yet to be implemented. Those include a dedicated radio frequency for emergency responders and limiting bureaucracy for those whose job it is to keep the country safe.

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 07, 2011

Report: 2,300 Layoffs Set at Illinois Companies

A new state report finds that nearly 2,300 workers at eleven Illinois companies will be laid off in the next few weeks.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the information from an August report by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Among the cuts are about 630 at Chicago Restaurant Partners, nearly 500 at an Edwardsville warehousing and storage company and nearly 200 at Lowe's Home Centers.

Employers must inform the state before any mass layoffs under the Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. Mass layoffs include 250 or more full-time employees or 25 or more full-time employees if they consist of more than a 1/3 of full-time workers at a company.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 07, 2011

Urbana City Council Sends Container Ordinance Back to Committee

The Urbana City Council will take a little more time to work on guidelines for how long people can leave portable storage containers outdoors on their property.

These bins may hold items waiting for pickup, or they hold household items while a home is undergoing renovations. Whatever their contents, Urbana Planning Manager Robert Myers said the containers have created eyesores for residents and delays for commuters.

"Say if they're there for months and months sitting on the grass for instance, or if people come dropping them off on the street," Myers said. "Sometimes they can block fire hydrants, and block people's views pulling out of their driveway, be difficult for traffic flow and circulation around the neighborhood."

Myers said council member talked with several container storage companies to find out how well they could adjust to the regulations.

"We didn't want to provide some standards that just would not work out at all for the container companies," he said. "We want to work with them. A couple of container companies in fact said should you adopt standards; just let us know what they are and we'll tell any customers who call us from Urbana."

Tuesday night, council members looked at new guidelines what would allow the bins to be left on a street corner for up to 72 hours and on a driveway for up to 30 days, with the option of a 30-day extension.

But Alderwoman Diane Marlin said she has found from her own experience that 60 days may not be enough when a home improvement project is involved. She wanted the rules to be changed to give residents more leeway in keeping storage containers on their driveways.

Council members voted to send the storage container measure back to committee. Myers said the language may be changed to tie usage of the bins to the length of a home building permit.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 06, 2011

Teaching 9/11 History in the Classroom

As teachers prepare to talk about the history of the September 11, 2001 attacks to their students, Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers visited a group of freshmen at Oakwood High School, right outside of Danville. Their social studies teacher says he doesn't want them to forget about 9/11, even if they don't personally remember it.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

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Categories: Education, History

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 06, 2011

Groundbreaking Held for Big Broadband Project in Champaign-Urbana

Construction is officially underway on the fiberoptic broadband network that will reach more than 25-hundred underserved households in about 15 months.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday afternoon in Champaign's Douglass Park to launch construction of the UC2B project. About 200 were on hand, including many of the legislators and local officials that sought funding for the nearly $30-million project. The Douglass Park area is one of the neighborhoods benefitting.

The University of Illinois' Mike Smeltzer says the public will slowly start seeing some progress. He says one crew will be working in Urbana, while the Champaign contractor starts up two weeks from now.

"They're going to start with two crews, then they're going to wrap it up to four, then to six, just to get everything flowing in a nice way instead of just descending on the community all at one time," said Smeltzer. "So there will be a slow ramp up, but by the time everything is said and done, there will be somewhere between 10 and 15 crews working simultaneously in different areas of the community."

University of Illinois Interim Chancellor Robert Easter says community anchor institutions will be part of the network as well.

"It's an opportunity to provide our schools, our libraries, our fire stations, our infrastructure, and parts of our campus with access to the broadband that would not exist, were this not to come to pass," he said. "As I think about what it is, I also think about the aspirations that we have as university for our community."

Urbana alderman Brandon Bowersox notes the project will not only address homes and businesses, but a wide range of social service agencies, like the Boys and Girls Club. Lori Sorensem with the Illinois Century Network says the project will provide jobs for both the short term and long term. Champaign City Council member Will Kyles says he's enthused about minority hiring, including opportunities for canvassing, in which employees will knock on doors and explain what UC2B is.

UC2B will be on line no later than February 2013.


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