Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 31, 2011

Weber Staying at Illinois After Oklahoma Talk

Illinois says basketball coach Bruce Weber will remain coach of the Illini after reports he was a strong candidate to fill the vacant job at Oklahoma.

Weber said Thursday in a statement that he'd received calls from other unspecified schools but doesn't intend to leave.

The Transcript in Norman, Okla., linked Weber to the vacant Sooners job on Wednesday. Oklahoma fired Jeff Capel earlier this month.

Some Illinois fans have called for Weber to be fired after Illinois' 20-14 finish. The Illini opened the season in the Top 25 with talk about a potential Big Ten title but finished unranked and in fourth place.

Adding to the uncertainty in Champaign is 65-year-old athletics director Ron Guenther's situation. His contract ends this summer and he hasn't ruled out retiring.

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Categories: Education, Sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 31, 2011

Comptroller-Treasurer Merger Advances in Ill. Senate

Illinois' treasurer invests the state's money. The Comptroller pays the bills. A measure approved by the Senate today would merge the two constitutional offices.

Supporters say it makes "sense" - literally and metaphorically. According to projections, the consolidation would result in a savings of $12 million.

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, supports it, as does Treasurer Dan Rutherford.

"If government can be more efficient by having less officers and less departments and so forth than government should do that," Rutherford said.

He says the current setup stems from a half century old scandal. Former state auditor Orville Hodge embezzled $1.5 million from taxpayers.

"There was some cooking of the books and some money lost," Rutherford said. "The 1970 constitution envisioned the fact of having two officers so you have the check for one person investing the money and the balance for the other person writing the checks."

But Rutherford says that concern for checks and balances is outdated because now the offices' books are audited, and there's electronic accounting.

"Back in the days of Orville Hodge you were still using typewriters, pieces of paper and pencils," Rutherford said.

Rutherford and Topinka wouldn't be out of a job anytime soon - if it happens, the positions would stay separate until 2014.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 31, 2011

Illinois House Formally Enters Redistricting Game

The Illinois House has formed its own redistricting committee, a few days after its state Senate counterpart got started with public hearings. The committees are tasked with taking public input, and then drafting new boundaries for legislative and congressional districts based on the recently released Census data.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat, will chair the panel. The other Democratic members include Reps. Frank Mautino of Spring Valley, Lou Lang of Skokie, Karen Yarbrough of Maywood, Marlow Colvin of Chicago and Edward Acevedo of Chicago. Mautino is the only Democrat on the committee who lives outside the Chicago area. The Republican members have not yet been announced.

Currie, who chaired a similar panel during the redistricting process ten years ago, said that 15 committee hearings are scheduled, with more likely to be added. The first three will take place on April 16th in Champaign, Cicero and McHenry.

At the meeting this week of the Senate's redistricting committee, several speakers argued there should be time allotted for public comment before the General Assembly signs off on a map proposal. They want a week delay between whenever the draft map is made public, and when lawmakers vote.

"That would be dandy if we have time to do that," Currie said. "A lot of people kind of work up to deadlines."

The deadline in this case is May 31, the last day Democrats will be able to pass new legislative and congressional maps without Republican votes. The vote threshold moves from a majority to a super-majority when June begins.

The House committee, like the Senate one, has set up a website for Illinoisans to check out the census data.

Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago chairs the Senate redistricting committee. That panel next meets on April 6 in Springfield.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 31, 2011

Raw Audio of the Danville Mayoral Debate (3/31/2011)

The candidates for Danville mayor debated for the last time Thursday, March 31 before the Tuesday, April 5 election. The candidates in the race are incumbent Scott Eisenhauer, Vermilion County board chairman Jim McMahon, Alderman Ricky Williams, Jr., and businessman David Quick. They tackled a range of issues from their integrity on the campaign trail, to their views on public housing, to whether they would support bringing a casino to the city.

(Audio courtesy of WDAN)

Download mp3 file
Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 31, 2011

Vermilion County Health Department Schedules Meeting to Address Ranking in Study

A dismal ranking of overall health in Vermilion County for the second straight year has prompted a call to action from the county's health department.

Department administrator Shirley Hicks says about 130 people in affected areas have been invited to a meeting Thursday morning at her offices. She notes a lot of the findings in the county's ranking of 98th place out of the state's 102 counties have nothing to do with her department, like unemployment and education levels.

But Hicks says Illinois' fiscal woes will just force her department to work that much harder with social service agencies, primary care providers and others to seek solutions.

"The state of the Illinois economic crisis is a player as part of all of this," said Hicks. "So I think it's going to take all disciplines to look at what part can we do, and how can we best utilize resources that we do have."

Hicks commends the work of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute for putting the findings together. She says the ranking for the county isn't nearly as important as the process researchers used to arrive at that figure.

"Any time you're looking at those reports, you're looking at where did the data come from, how did they ask the questions, so you can better understand the root cause of the problem," said Hicks. "I don't have any dispute with the actual data, it's really trying to dissect it down the the most common denominator and say 'how can we target our initiatives and our resources and pull those together to make an impact."

Hicks commends the work of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute for putting the findings together. Thursday's meeting at the Vermilion County Health Department is expected to include primary care providers, social service agencies, law enforcement, hospitals, and members of the Vermilion County Board.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 30, 2011

Japan Radiation Shows Up In Illinois

Trace amounts of radiation from Japan have shown up in Illinois, but state officials say there's no reason for concern.

Minute levels of radioactive materials have been detected in both northern and central Illinois. The state's Emergency Management Agency says radioactive iodine was found in grass clippings in Will County and in an air sample collected at a lab in Springfield.

The materials are believed to be related to the troubled nuclear reactors in Japan, but Illinois' Director Jonathon Monken says the levels are extremely low and present no danger. For example, the air sample is 200,000 times lower than what is allowed for nuclear plant effluent.

Traces of iodine have shown up in other states. In Illinois, the state has stepped up its monitoring of grass, air, milk and eggs in the wake of the Japan crisis.

Categories: Energy, Health, Science

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 30, 2011

Indiana House Backs Greater Abortion Restrictions

Both houses of the Indiana Legislature have now approved bills that would restrict access to abortions.

The Indiana House voted 72-23 on Wednesday to require that women seeking an abortion be told that human life begins at conception and ban the procedure after 20 weeks unless the woman's life is in danger.

The bill also requires those seeking abortions to be told in writing that they faced a greater risk of infertility and breast cancer.

Republican Rep. Eric Turner of Cicero says it's the responsibility of lawmakers to protect the unborn and that he hoped the additional requirements would lead to fewer abortions.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which last month approved a bill with many of the same provisions.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 30, 2011

Caterpillar CEO: No Plans to Leave Illinois

The CEO of Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc. now says a letter he wrote to Gov. Pat Quinn complaining about the state's business climate was never intended as a threat to move the Fortune 500 manufacturer out of Illinois.

Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman said Wednesday in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington that news reports about the letter sensationalized his statements about the state's business climate.

According to a copy of the speech, Oberhelman said he'd like to invest further in Illinois. But he said Illinois lawmakers have created an unfriendly business environment.

Lee Enterprises' Springfield bureau reports Oberhlman says in the letter that the company had been courted by other states and while he'd like to stay he also had to "do what's right" for the company.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 30, 2011

East Central Illinois Doesn’t Follow Trend in Annual County Health Rankings

A second annual ranking of the overall health of each of Illinois' 102 counties shows a mixed bag of results for East Central Illinois.

The annual report of County Health Rankings serves as a kind of 'check up' on how people in Illinois live, according to 28 different factors. Vermilion County ranked among the worst, finishing 98th, but Piatt County finished 15th, McLean County was 13th, Ford County ranked 11th, and Champaign County finished in 34th place.

The report was put together by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute to show counties where they can improve. Julie Willems Van Dijk is an Associate Scientist with the Institute.

"We want to be able to describe those things you can change," she said. "Because you can change your economic environment. You can work to attract new businesses to locate in your community. You can work to support your schools to have higher graduation rates. You can work to make your community more accessible for people who want to walk and bike."

Each report starts with health factors among residents, like the rate of premature death and the number of those in poor physical and mental health. They include social and economic factors like the number of uninsured adults, and the high school graduation rate. It also relies on physical features, like a county's quality of air and access to healthy foods. Van Dijk says the report is also intended to inspire local leaders to help themselves.

"When those leaders get together from different areas, they can talk about what resources are already available in your community, and how they might use them even better than they are now," she said. "Because we all know budgets are tight, and we're living in tough economic times. So it's really important that we use the resources we have to the best of our ability."

The majority of higher-ranking counties are in the north and west, including Jo Daviess, Lake, and McDonough, while the many of the lowest-ranked counties are in the south, including Marion and Alexander counties. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is providing grants for up to 14 communities in the U.S. seeking to improve their overall health.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 29, 2011

Champaign, Decatur School Superintendents Finalists for Georgia Job

The Superintendent of Champaign's school district is a finalist for the top job at a school district in Georgia.

A website with the DeKalb County School System, located in metropolitan Atlanta, confirms that Unit 4 Superintendent Arthur Culver is one of three finalists for superintendent there. And another one of the finalists is Gloria Davis, the Superintendent of Decatur Public Schools.

The third candidate is the superintendent at a district in Hickory, North Carolina. The three are scheduled to speak in a DeKalb schools public forum Thursday night. The district has more than 100,000 students and nearly 150 schools and centers.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

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