Illinois Public Media News
The city of Champaign will file applications this week for federal stimulus funds to replace its two oldest fire stations.
The Champaign City Council gave city staff the go-ahead to apply for the funds Tuesday night.
Fire Chief Doug Forsman says the want to replace and relocated Fire Station Three on Bradley Avenue on Champaign's northeast side ... and Fire Station Four on John Street on the west side. He says both facilities are old and cramped --- and not in the best locations to provide what he calls "balanced coverage" that allows fast response by firefighters to all parts of the city.
"Our goal," says Forsman, "is to be in compliance with the national standard, which is four minutes travel time to 90 percent of the calls."
Forsman proposes moving Fire Station Three to a spot north of I-74, to better serve expanding developments in that region. Fire Station Four would only move a couple of blocks to the Kenwood and Springfield area. But Forsman says that busier intersection would allow firefighters to get to their destinations more quickly.
Moving Fire Station Three north would leave Champaign's northeast side without a fire station of its own. But Chief Forsman says other fire stations would still be able to serve the region quickly.
"What we were careful to do in placing this," explains Forsman, "was to make sure that every bit of that district that used to be covered by Station Three exclusively is now covered by either Station Five and Station One, or both Five and Station One, within the four-minute time frame."
Champaign's northeast side is represented by City Councilman Will Kyles --- who says he doesn't like the idea of Fire Station Three moving out of the traditionally black neighborhood. And Mayor Jerry Schweighart had questions about the relocation of fire Station Four. But both joined other council members in giving city staff the go-ahead to apply for the stimulus grant.
The federal stimulus grant would pay for construction costs --- but the city would be responsible for buying land and design fees. Forsman says the city doesn't have to commit to anything until they learn if they've won federal funding --- the news is expected in the fall.
Lots of remote employees and nomadic freelancers work without a place they can call an office. But an Urbana company is stepping in to fill the niche and get local entrepreneurs back in desk chairs in a trend known as co-working. AM 580's Marrissa Monson visited co-owners Lucy Cross and Susan Potter (left).
Attorney General Lisa Madigan says she's not running for Illinois governor or senator because she wants to "continue doing the job that I love.''
In a statement Wednesday, the Chicago Democrat said she will seek a third term at state's attorney. That dramatically changes the political landscape in Illinois.
Madigan had been considering a run for higher office. A long list of politicians were waiting to learn her decision before announcing their own plans. Madigan's statement gives few details about her decision to stay put, beyond saying she enjoys a job that lets her watch out for consumers, protect women and children and more.
The sudden announcement from Lisa Madigan leaves two major Democratic primaries fairly wide open next year - but it may also have ramifications for this year's legislative budget deadlock.
Some had theorized that lawmakers led by Madigan's father, House Speaker Mike Madigan, were happy to withhold support for Governor Pat Quinn's spending and income tax proposals in order to help Lisa Madigan in a potential run for governor against Quinn. But University of Illinois political science professor Robert Rich says today's (Wed) news throws that speculation out the window.
"It will put some additional pressure on the Speaker to make his position and why he's doing it totally transparent, Rich said "Alternatively it'll say to his critics that he never did it because of his daughter."
Rich says Madigan's decision to run for re-election as attorney general opens up both races to other potential Democratic candidates, such as state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias or comptroller Dan Hynes. It may also provide more breathing room for Governor Quinn, who hasn't said if he plans to run for a full term.
Residents and supporters of a tent community for homeless people made their case to the Champaign City Council Tuesday night.
Neighbors of the St. Jude Catholic Worker House in Champaign had complained about disorderly people living outdoors in tents. But Catholic Worker volunteers say the tent residents now enforce rules banning such behavior. Jesse Masengale is one of about a dozen people living at what has become the Safe Haven Tent Community on the Catholic Worker House grounds. Addressing city council members Tuesday night, Masengale said, "We have established agreed-upon rules, policies and procedures. We have the benefit of following rules already established by legal tent cities from across the country."
One such tent city is Dignity Village, which the city of Portland Oregon recognizes as a transitional housing campground. Supporters of Safe Haven say Champaign city officials could do the same. But Councilwoman Karen Foster says the tent city worries the neighbors and clearly violates the city zoning code. She says it should go. "If they are in need of housing", says Foster, "then -- like we did with the Gateway people -- we can try to work with them to try to find them affordable housing."
Fosgter referred to the crisis that residents of Gateway Studios suffered in May, after the owner failed to pay utility bills and the property closed down. But Safe Haven supporters say that incident illustrates a shortage of affordable housing that the city needs to address.
Council members Mike LaDue, Deb Feinen and Will Kyles said they'd be willing to meet with people from the Catholic Worker House and Safe Haven. But Foster and City Manager Steve Carter say Safe Haven residents will eventually have to fold their tents.
Governor Pat Quinn began today the process of cutting 2,600 state jobs while sending a portion of the budget back to lawmakers with recommendations on how to cut $1 billion to help balance it.
Quinn could have made some of the cuts himself, but instead chose to veto a budget bill and leave it to lawmakers.
Lawmakers aren't due back at work at the Capitol until next week, but Illinois has been without a spending plan since a new fiscal year started July 1 with Quinn and lawmakers at an impasse over the budget.
Quinn wants an income tax increase to help fill a budget deficit he estimates at $9.2 billion, while some lawmakers have said they wouldn't even consider a tax increase without cuts, spending reforms and government efficiencies.
One of the programs targeted for budget cuts is Illinois Cares Rx, which serves low-income senior citizens and people with disabilities.
Governor Quinn has proposed cutting the program by $40 million, or 25 percent.
The Department of Healthcare and Family Services says that would affect about 150,000 people. They would not lose their coverage completely, but they would have to pay more for their medicine.
The state commission that's investigating allegations that political clout was used to get underqualified students into the University of Illinois is meeting again.
The commission will meet Wednesday in Chicago.
Governor Pat Quinn formed the panel last month to look into the university's admissions system after word of the use of clout first surfaced in the Chicago Tribune. The commission is led by former federal Judge Abner Mikva and is due to issue a report next month.
Among those scheduled to testify is Heidi Hurd, former dean of the College of Law. She's now a law professor.
During testimony Monday, an assistant dean said that over four years, the university forced the law school to accept 24 students with political connections who wouldn't have been admitted otherwise.
The city of Champaign's township buildings streets could be up for sale.
Offices for the township supervisor and assessor are located in two adjacent buildings at the corner of Green and Randolph, south of downtown Champaign. Township Supervisor Pamela Borowski says she's been approached by two commercial Realtors, representing investors interested in re-developing the entire block. Borowski would not give their names. She told Champaign City Council members Tuesday night that if the properties were sold, she'd like to move township offices into a single building.
"I have started looking at properties to potentially purchase or lease," Borowski said. "We haven't nailed down any particular properties yet, although there are a couple that are of interest to me."
Borowski says buildings she's looked at include the former Urban League building. She says if township offices are moved, she wants them to stay in or near downtown Champaign --- as a convenience for General Assistance clients using shelters in the area. And she says the new site would need enough parking for people visiting the township assessor's office.
Borowski says she'll have more details on a possible new site for township offices at an August 4th township board study session. Borowski says that after that, she'll likely ask for a special town meeting where Champaign voters could discuss and vote on the proposal.
Illinois is leading the nation in bank failures so far this year, and a banking group warns that more failures are likely.
Regulators say the state's top ranking is largely because Illinois has more banks than any other state.
Illinois has seen 12 banks fail in 2009. The next highest is Georgia with nine failures and then California with six. Six of the Illinois failures came last week with the shut down of six banks owned by a single company, including Danvulle's First National Bank and John Warner Bank in Clinton.
Experts say they were brought down by investments that went bad. All have reopened with new owners. The Illinois Bankers Association says Illinois has far more banks than any other state, so more failures are likely.
West Nile Virus is back in Champaign County this summer after a very light season for mosquitoes last year.
That shortage of mosquitoes meant no reports of the virus in mosquito pools, animals or humans in 2008. Sanitarian Michael Flanagan of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health district says a trap in the city of Champaign yielded a positive test result in recent days. However, he says it's no reason to panic.
"Starting now, since that we've found this virus in Champaign County, it's time to become more aware of your clothing and mosquito protection for people," Flanagan said.
West Nile disease has led to deaths in Illinois and other Midwest states in previous years. But health officials say many cases are mild, sometimes leading to no overt symptoms. Flanagan says the best protection against the disease is keeping away from mosquitoes - wearing light-colored clothing, using repellent and dumping any standing water on your property.
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