Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 22, 2010

Champaign Council Approves Carrington Settlement, Family Members Criticize Decision

Family members of Kiwane Carrington are condemning the wrongful death settlement unanimously approved by Champaign City Council members Tuesday night.

The father of the 15-year old killed in a police shooting nearly a year ago, Albert Carrington, said he will do whatever he can to get a larger amount, but he would not indicate how much more than the $470,000 settlement he is seeking.

Kiwane Carrington's sister, Kenesha Williams, got emotional when telling the council that she had turn the settlement down.

"This amount of money that you guys have offered or are deciding on tonight," said Williams. "You guys don't need to decide on it because I'm not taking it."

Williams declined further comment, but Albert Carrington challenged council members.

"Just think about what's going on," said Carrington. "My son was not an insurgent. He was not in Afghanistan. It's real out here."

Council members say they know no amount can make up for what Carrington's family has lost. Will Kyles said it is unfortunate that it took this tragedy to bring about change in the community, but he said those changes are underway, citing improved police relations with the African-American community.

"I do see people coming together," said Kyles. "I do think that we're going to make it out of this. I don't think we're going to make it out of it over rhetoric, but I do believe that we're going to make it out of it."

Council member Michael LaDue said Tuesday night's decision is "not a consummation." He said said city officials are grieving too because the community "is our family."

"The depth and range of emotion with respect to this has brought home to all of us who are charged with representing the people and their interests in this community," said LaDue, who choked up as he talked. "It is a profound thing but there is nothing more profound than the loss of an immediate loved one. There's nothing so permanent."

Champaign County NAACP President Jerome Chambers told the city council not to be satisfied solely with this decision.

"It's time for us now to build bridges instead of walls," said Chambers. "You've got this facade up that we can throw money at a situation. A band-aid will not cover a bullet hole."

Community activist Martel Miller told the council he is willing to meet with city officials and Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney. He noted that there is something wrong with a community if it can't settle its differences after the death of a young person.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 21, 2010

Compromise Sought in Dispute Between Champaign Library and Tolono, Mahomet Libraries

The board president of the Lincoln Trail Libraries System said she hopes a compromise can replace a new policy of charging Tolono and Mahomet library members $200 a year to check out materials from the larger Champaign Public Library.

The topic was a major topic of discussion at a meeting of the Lincoln Trail board Monday in Champaign.

Board president Roseanne Reidner said a recent change in Lincoln Trail's Reciprocal Borrowing policy allows a member library to restrict out of town borrowing in some cases. She added the Champaign policy is extreme, especially since it bars inter-library loans.

"The change that we made in the Reciprocal Borrowing Policy really was meant to allow some restrictions in reciprocal borrowing, and not to take the borrowing down to zero," said Ridener. "And it was to have nothing to do with the Interlibrary Loan."

Patrons in the Lincoln Trail Libraries System can normally borrow materials for free from any public library in its nine-county region, but Champaign library officials say residents of Mahomet, Tolono and Savoy are using their library so much that it is causing a strain on the system during times of tight budgets.

Reidner said she will organize a "brainstorming" session with Champaign, Tolono and Mahomet library officials in the next few weeks to try to come up with an alternative plan.

Reidner said the principle of allowing reciprocal borrowing is important to all member libraries in the nine-county Lincoln Trailsystem, and she said she wants to preserve that principle.

"But at the same time, we realize that there are certain financial concerns," she said. "We hope that those can be resolved, and we also hope that people are able to use their home library more."

Champaign library officials say the use of their library by out of town residents is up sharply --- especially by members of the Mahomet and Tolono libraries. Officials with the larger library say that is a financial strain on them. Ridener attributes the heavy use of the Champaign library to changing lifestyles, with many people finding it more convenient to use the library near where they work, rather than using a library in the town in which they live.

The Champaign Public Library plans to institute its new policy in November, on a six-month trial basis.

(Photo courtesy of Lester Public Library/flickr)

Categories: Community, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 21, 2010

Survey: Health Care Tax Credits Will Reach More Than 1 Million Illinoisans in 2014

A health advocacy group says benefits from the new health care reform law are just starting to come to Illinois residents.

It will be 2014 before one of the biggest benefits takes effect, but the group Families USA says more than a million people in Illinois will be eligible for some sort of tax credit from the legislation that passed this spring. Those tax credits are meant to offset the cost of insurance.

The slow introduction of the health care law coincides with political opposition to the law as election season nears. But Jim Duffett, who heads the Champaign-based Campaign for Better Health Care, says more and more Illinois residents will hear about the program's intended purpose in the weeks ahead, such as health insurance exchange programs aimed at offering lower-cost policies.

"I think as these programs start to kick in, and definitely as the focus at the state level is intensifying, those types of activities are going to start to generate much more interest and education so that the people in Illinois will be able to know exactly what they need to do to sign up," Duffett said.

The group cites a survey that suggests the biggest tax credits will affect people at the lowest income levels, with about 60% of the credits going to those who carry health insurance but are struggling to keep up with premiums.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 21, 2010

The Impact of Farm Aid on the Nation’s Farmers

This week marks the anniversary of one of the largest efforts to raise money for the nation's farmers, who in 1985 were battling lower land values and higher interest rates. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers looks at how this benefit concert has helped small family farms in the last 25 years.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

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Categories: Architecture, Community, Music

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 21, 2010

Body Found in Cornfield Identified as Missing U of I Professor

The Champaign County Coroner's Office has identified a body found near Longview Monday afternoon as that of a missing University of Illinois German Studies professor.

Coroner Duane Northrup has identified the man as 48-year old Frederick Schwink of Longview. He had been missing since September 9th, and his disappearance prompted a plea for help from local authorities. A farmer discovered the body in a car sitting in a cornfield northwest of Longview Monday. An autopsy was conducted Tuesday morning. Northrup said dental records were used to identify the body, and an inquest may be held at a later date. Schwink's death is under investigation by U of I Police, the Champaign County Sheriff's Department, and the Coroner's Office.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 20, 2010

Champaign County Clerk Will Sign Lease for Alternate U of I Polling Site

Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden will follow through with plans to make a vacant storefront the early voting site for the University of Illinois campus.

Shelden said he will sign a lease Tuesday to use the property on South Gregory Street, instead of the Illini Union's Pine Lounge. County Board Democrats and the U of I Student Senate oppose the move, saying state law dictates that the location of the polling site should be in a high traffic location, like the Union.

A spokesman for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton also said public universities are legally obligated to provide the space, and that local elections officials will work with them.

However, Shelden said political activity in the Illini Union make it an unsuitable location for early voting, and he added the U of I cannot afford what state law mandates.

"Maybe if the state legislature properly funded the University or if Lincoln Hall wasn't in the middle of renovation, and had been completed like it should have been 4 or 5 years ago," he said. "I can give a variety of ways in which the university could have less problems with space if the state of Illinois had done what they were supposed to do."

Champaign Senator Mike Frerichs was a sponsor of a law ensuring that public universities will provide polling places. He said Shelden is trying to 'flout' state law by using the Gregory site for polling. Frerichs also said it 'smells' that the building is owned by JSM Development. One of that company's principals is former Champaign County Republican Chair Steve Hartman.

"This University did offer the space for free," said Frerichs. "He would rather pay money to a private developer than take the space for free, and that doesn't make sense."

Shelden said he did not base his decision decision on politics, but rather, finding a convenient location for voters at an affordable price. It will cost his $800 to lease the site.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 20, 2010

A Look Back at Farm Aid

Twenty five years ago this week, the Champaign area was all about Farm Aid. The 12-hour event in Champaign, Illinois featured more than 40 acts, including organizers Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young. It drew in more than $9 million dollars to help the nation's struggling farmers. But beyond raising money, Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports that the concert helped shed light on the challenges facing farmers in the 1980s.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 20, 2010

Champaign County Clerk Says Officials Are Prepared to Use Alternate Campus Polling Site

Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden believes the dispute over a University of Illinois campus early voting site has been settled, and local officials won't be taking him to court.

Many Democrats on the Champaign County Board and members of the U of I Student Senate want registration and voting at the Illini Union, but Shelden prefers moving it to a vacant storefront about a half mile from there. A new state law requires that each public university provide such a site in a high traffic location. Shelden contends the Union an inappropriate location for early voting because of heavy political activity... and it's hard for those off campus to get to. And he disputes the argument that voters won't find the alternate site at 700 South Gregory Street.

"I certainly would consider it high traffic," said Shelden. "And I think it's a little bit disappointing when people say, 'nobody can find that' or 'nobody knows where it's at.' It's across from Rosati's Pizza which is a really popular campus location. I just don't see that there's going to be any getting students there. It's actually closer to more people where they live than the union is."

Shelden says he's meeting with the student Senate on Wednesday with hopes of convincing them that the Gregory Street location will best serve voters. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says county clerks don't have unregulated discretion over an early voting site. But Shelden says county board members have backed off on talk of going to court over the voting site. County Board Democrat Brendan McGinty also says he'd like to avoid legal action, but he does say students and U of I employees would prefer voting at the Union.

"The union, as I understand it, has set up to allow for parking in the circle drive up front," said McGinty. "It would be free as I understand it. The other location would come with a rent - I think it's $800 a month. There are a lot of people who think the logical location is the union. The clerk has a different opinion. The board doesn't have any control over it. " A resolution on paying for a campus early voting site is on Thursday's Champaign County Board agenda.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 17, 2010

Tree-Killing Beetle Discovered in Champaign County

One of the big purple insect traps across Champaign County has caught the county's first confirmed emerald ash borer.

The state Department of Agriculture says it found the insect in a trap hanging at the village of Rantoul's Prairie Pine Campgrounds. Spokesman Jeff Squibb says the discovery will likely mean that the quarantine placed over 23 Illinois counties will eventually be extended south to Champaign. Squibb says it's nearing the end of flying season for adult emerald ash borers -- but their destructive work is just beginning, and he says the beetle is likely in Champaign County to stay.

"The adults lay eggs underneath the bark of ash trees," said Squibb. "Those eggs will hatch, and the larvae will start feasting on the inner wood beneath the bark. And it's actually the larvae that causes the damage to the ash trees." Squibb says the quarantine will ban the transportation of firewood from Champaign County to other states, as well as transporting all parts of local ash trees. The pest was also discovered at the Three Rivers Rest Area off Interstate 80 in the Grundy County town of Morris.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 17, 2010

City of Champaign and Kiwane Carrington Family Reach Settlement, Pending City Council OK

If the city council approves on Tuesday, the city of Champaign will pay $ 470 thousand to the family of Kiwane Carrington, to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.

Even before the Champaign County state's attorney ruled that the shooting of the 15-year-old Carrington last October was accidental, his family had sued the city for wrongful death and survivors' benefits.

Champaign city attorney Frederick Stavins says the $470 thousand settlement is an effort by the city and the family to put Kiwane Carrington's death behind them --- and does not represent an admission of guilt by the city.

"There are no admissions in the case of negligence or wrongdoing," says Stavins. "What this does is, it brings peace between the parties. It allows the parties to go on. Speculating about what would happen now is a moot point."

Carrington was killed last October during an altercation with police investigating a report of a possible break-in at the home of a family friend where the 15 year old often stayed. The officer involved, Daniel Norbits, is appealing a 30 day suspension he received for not handling his weapon properly during the incident.

City Council member Will Kyles says he's ready to approve the settlement, if it's what the family wants. The Carrington shooting led to heavy criticism of Champaign Police relations with African-Americans, especially with young people. But Kyles says those relations have improved in the past year, thanks to increased community involvement.

"That's the key ingredient to healing, is community, city and police working together", says Kyles. "And I've seen a lot of that going with, with the Six Initiatives, CCAP, and the countless meetings that don't get broadcast, but occur on a weekly basis."

Kyles referred to City Manager Steve Carter's six initiatives for improving police-community relations, and the Champaign Community and Police Partnership, a city-organized panel of city and African-American community leaders. But Campaign officials have resisted calls from critics to form a citizen police review board, similar to the panel in Urbana.

Attorney James Montgomery, representing the Carrington Estate, says the family is pleased that the lawsuit has been settled. But Champaign City Council approval is still needed before any money is paid out.


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