Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 18, 2011

Another Democrat Eyeing 13th Congressional Run

A retired school administrator from Litchfield is latest to consider a run for Congress in Illinois' re-drawn 13th District.

Democrat James Gray, who has over 30 years in education, says he'll appeal to voters since he's not a politician. Gray says he's become frustrated with 'politics as usual' in places like Wisconsin, where collective bargaining rights have been limited.

"It gives the individual some power and some authority at the table," said Gray. "It's the only way you can garner enough energy and power to gain a better standard of living. And when the standard goes up, the standard of the whole country goes up. It floats all the boats up."

But Gray says the hardships experiences by his 85-year old mother convinced him to become involved in the race.

"She's sitting there at the table when that debt refinancing was going on, and wondering if her next check was going to come in, and whether she could buy food or her drugs" he said. "It's just unbelievable. It's almost like they would would throw people out into the street."

Gray says the wealthy and Fortune 500 companies and are paying far too little of federal revenues today. He also pledges to serve no more than four terms if elected, saying the seniority system in Congress is giving undue power to a handful of people.

Gray says he'll know for sure by late this month if he's running, as he collects signatures on his campaign petitions. He admits if former state legislator Jay Hoffman decides to run, he'll be tough to beat for the Democratic nomination. Bloomington physician David Gill has already entered the race, and Greene County State's Attorney Matt Goetten is also considering a run.

The winner would likely face Urbana Republican Tim Johnson, but he's facing Springfield truck driver Sam Spradlin in the March primary.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 17, 2011

Former Illinois Sen. Charles Percy Dies at 91

Former Sen. Charles H. Percy, a former Foreign Relations Committee chairman whose moderate Republican views put him at odds with conservatives including former President Richard Nixon, died Saturday in Washington. He was 91.

Percy's daughter, Sharon Rockefeller, announced in March 2009 that he had Alzheimer's disease. His death was announced by the office of his son-in-law, West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

Elected to the first of his three Senate terms in 1966, Percy was mentioned as a possible presidential candidate. He was helped by handsome looks, a rich baritone voice and the relaxed self-confidence of the successful business executive he once was.

But the silver-haired senator, a supporter of the GOP's Nelson Rockefeller wing, came to power when moderate Republicans were becoming unfashionable on Capitol Hill. He ended up backing former President Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination in 1976 rather than go for it himself.

After that his chances seemed to fade. He won one more term in 1978 but was narrowly defeated for re-election in 1984 by Democrat Rep. Paul Simon.

Jay Rockefeller praised his father-in-law's even-handed political stances in a statement sent Saturday.

"His insistence on a balanced perspective in his public life, (calling himself "fervently moderate"), helped us understand it is both possible and preferable to live in a world without partisanship," he said. Percy's differences with conservative Republicans showed early on as he clashed with Nixon, opposing two successive U.S. Supreme Court nominees - Clement F. Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell.

He was the sponsor of a resolution calling for a special prosecutor in the Watergate scandal and became a critic of the Vietnam War.

He rankled the Reagan administration by opposing the nomination of Earnest Lefever as head of the State Department's human rights program. Lefever had said he wanted the job only so he could dismantle the program.

But the former boy wonder business executive who engineered a spectacular turnaround at Bell & Howell Co. was also an apostle of free markets who sought to ease federal regulation of America's corporations. Percy often said that like Dwight D. Eisenhower he was "a conservative on money issues but a liberal on people issues."

He also opposed excessive partisanship, particularly as Foreign Relations Committee chairman.

"I don't want foreign policy developed just by one party and ride roughshod over the other party," he told the Chicago Tribune in 1984. "I'd much more value a bill that has bipartisan support. That's what this committee achieved in World War II, achieved in the Marshall Plan."

Percy made his first foray into electoral politics in 1964 and was beaten for governor by Democratic incumbent Otto Kerner in an election year marked by a Democratic landslide.

Two years later, Percy ran for the Senate and unseated incumbent Democrat Paul H. Douglas, a classic New Deal liberal who had been one of his economics professors at the University of Chicago in the 1930s.

A tragedy occurred in mid-campaign. One of Percy's 21-year-old twin daughters, Valerie, was bludgeoned and stabbed to death in her bed in the family's lakefront home in suburban Kenilworth. Both candidates suspended campaigning for two weeks. No one has ever been charged in the case.

The surviving twin, Sharon Rockefeller, is president and chief executive of WETA, the public broadcasting station in Washington. Percy also had a son, Roger, with his first wife, Jeanne Dickerson, who died in 1947. He married Loraine Guyer in 1950, and they had a daughter, Gail, and son, Mark.

Percy's political problems multiplied in the 1970s. He was a kindly person who, drawing on his rich baritone voice, voluntarily recorded the entirety of Alexis de Toqueville's "Democracy in America" for use by the blind. But he sometimes lacked the common touch.

He was elected when Illinois was a swing state where he could get votes from some Democrats and liberals. Early in his career he had support from the United Auto Workers and always addressed the Illinois AFL-CIO at campaign time.

But the state gradually became more Democratic.

In 1978, Percy was able to dig out from a deficit in the polls with only weeks until Election Day, going on TV with ads in which he looked into the camera and said: "I got the message." He barely squeaked in.

Six years later he was defeated as some party conservatives deserted him, the liberal Simon highlighted his ties to President Ronald Reagan, and pro-Israel groups incensed by Percy's support of selling AWACS radar planes to Saudi Arabia poured contributions into Simon's campaign.

After his defeat, Percy remained in Washington, where he opened a consulting business, giving advice to clients on the foreign policy issues that had been his main interest in the Senate.

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 17, 2011

WIU Police Training Facility To Replace Shuttered Program at U of I

The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board plans to open a new residential Police Academy and Research Institute at Western Illinois University.

The board said Friday that its members voted to set up the new institute to replace the program at the University of Illinois. The University of Illinois decided last year to close its Police Training Institute.

The board says the new facility will train new police officers and sheriff's deputies. It will also conduct research into police training.

Western Illinois is already home to the School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration, and offers a degree in criminal justice.

The board oversees 12 police and corrections academies around the state.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 16, 2011

Illinois Poverty Growing as State Help Shrinking

State budget cuts are leaving many Illinois social services agencies scrambling, especially homeless shelters.

The result is many of the state's poorest and most vulnerable are left with fewer options and more uncertainty. This comes at a time when census data show Illinois' highest poverty rate in nearly two decades and a high jobless rate.

Legislators chopped the Department of Human Services budget by hundreds of millions of dollars, including $4.7 million for homeless services.

That includes money for REST Shelter in Chicago. It was once a 24-hour homeless facility for more than 100 people, but had to lay off workers and close during the day.

Toni Irving is Gov. Pat Quinn's deputy chief of staff. She says Quinn is trying to get money reallocated, but it's a difficult situation.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 16, 2011

Health Officials Probe Illness Tied to Cantaloupe

State and local health officials are investigating an outbreak of a serious infection caused by eating a kind of cantaloupe grown in Colorado that was shipped to Illinois and 16 other states.

The Illinois Department of Health says at least 20 people across the U.S. have become ill after eating cantaloupes contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, two of whom have died.

There have been reports of possible Listeria cases in Illinois, including some in Cook County, but the health department says none of those have been confirmed.

The confirmed cases have been linked to what are called Rocky Ford cantaloupes shipped by Jensen Farms in Colorado.

The health department is working with the Centers of Disease Control, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and local health departments in Illinois.

Categories: Health
Tags: health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 16, 2011

Newport Depot Transferred to Indiana Reuse Authority

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)

The Newport Chemical Depot is now in the hands of the Indiana Reuse Authority.

The U.S. Army signed an agreement yesterday, officially transferring the depot to a civilian body, so that the former weapons facility can be used for industrial development.

For the last several years, the facility in western Indiana had stored 275-thousand gallons of the deadly nerve agent VX. But that stockpile was finally destroyed in 2008.

Conservationists opposed the transfer plan, saying that industrial development would destroy all but 44 acres of Indiana's largest restored black-soil tallgrass prairie. But Phillip Cox, Vice President of the Wabash Valley Audobon Society, admits that plans for preserving the land and wildlife are long-term.

"There's a discussion and agreements with the Department of Natural Resources where there is around 18-or-19-hundred acres that could be designated as a conservation area, but it might not happen for 15 or more years," said Cox.

Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana calls yesterday's transfer a new chapter in the facility's history and says it will serve as an economic engine for the region.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 16, 2011

Will County Offers Temporary Support to Regional Office of Education

The funding situation for Illinois' regional offices of education is still in a state of flux after Gov. Pat Quinn slashed about $11 million in state support for 44 superintendents and about 40 assistants earlier this summer.

However, the Will County Board isn't waiting for the state to restore funding to its Regional Office of Education.

Board members unanimously voted Thursday to provide $2,000 a month in assistance for the regional superintendent and the assistant superintendent. That temporary funding will last until the end of the year, but county officials say it would be reimbursed if state funding is restored.

Will County Board Chair Jim Moustis is urging the General Assembly to override the governor's veto of state funding of regional offices of education. Quinn has said local governments should pick up the tab for those salaries, but Moustis said that is not a feasible long-term solution.

"I mean this would be like saying, 'What if they said tomorrow we're not paying judges? And let the counties pay judges, or you pay the state's attorney.' It's the same type of principle. Wouldn't you think?" Moustis said. "Until there's a viable alternative presented, this is what we have."

The superintendents have been working without pay since July 1. They perform a list of duties-many required by the state-including certifying teachers, doing background checks and running truancy programs.

Despite a lawsuit filed by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools demanding paychecks from the state, a circuit judge last month upheld Gov. Quinn's authority to eliminate salaries for regional school superintendents across Illinois.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 16, 2011

Burge Torture Case to Go Before Ill. Supreme Court

The case of an alleged torture victim under former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge is now in the hands of the Illinois Supreme Court. It's the first time in over a decade that a Burge related torture case is in front of the state's highest court. Since then, the former lieutenant was convicted of lying about torturing suspects and was sentenced to prison.

The state supreme court heard arguments for the Stanley Wrice case Thursday morning--they will now deliberate whether Wrice will receive a hearing on his claim that officers tortured him into confessing to a rape 30 years ago. Wrice has been in prison since the 80s for that crime.

Prosecutors for the state of Illinois argue they could convict Wrice even without the alleged coerced confession. Lead attorney Myles O'Rourke called the torture "harmless error" that doesn't affect the outcome of the case. Justices pressed O'Rourke Thursday on what evidence was available, and he acknowledged there are no fingerprints or DNA.

No matter what the outcome, some advocates, like attorney Locke Bowman, say the case will have an affect on the torture scandal as a whole.

"This is the case that presents the Illinois supreme court with an opportunity to exercise leadership in the Illinois criminal justice system and to take a dramatic step if it chooses to help us put this scandal behind us," Bowman said.

Bowman was an attorney for alleged victims in previous torture cases, and he heads the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University. He said justices could use the Wrice case to grant hearings to other alleged torture victims. He said justices could take a few months, if not longer, to decide the outcome of this case.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 16, 2011

Springfield Firm Receives Federal Employer Award

A Springfield engineering and architecture firm is one of 15 recipients of the U.S. Defense Department's highest employer award.

The Pentagon announced Thursday that Hanson Professional Services Inc. is a recipient of the 2011 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. The award is given for "exceptional support'' of employees serving in the National Guard and Reserve.

Freedom award honorees will meet privately with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in conjunction with a Sept. 22 ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Also attending are the workers who nominated their employers for the award.

Officials say since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, more than 1.1 million Guard and Reserve service members have been deployed. They have made up almost half of the U.S. military strength.

Categories: Business, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 16, 2011

Indiana Unemployment Creeps Higher in August

Indiana's unemployment rate inched higher in August but remains below the national average.

The state Department of Workforce Development said Friday that the Indiana jobless rate increased from 8.5 percent in July to 8.7 percent, with about 274,000 people seeking work last month. Workforce Development commissioner Mark Everson says that revised numbers from July helped offset some that downturn.

The national unemployment rate is 9.1 percent.

The state agency says growth in construction and government employment last month wasn't enough to offset job losses in manufacturing, transportation and other sectors.

Indiana's jobless rate is still significantly lower than a year ago, when it stood at 10 percent. Indiana's rate is also slightly lower than rates in neighboring Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

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