Illinois Public Media News
The first of four sculptures is on display in downtown Urbana as part of an initiative to generate more local interest in public art. 'Fanfare' was installed Friday in the courtyard of the Iron Post at Race and Elm streets. One of 98 images considered for placement in the city by two juries, it's a granite art piece conceived by Shawn Morin, the head of the sculpting program at Ohio's Bowling Green University. Urbana Public Arts Coordinator Anna Hochhalter says the sculpture meshes well in its location, a live music venue.
"It has kind of a flair granite at the top and different kinds and colors of granite, and lots of different textures and stone," says Hochhalter. "So the jury thought that it would work really well against the brick background and also really compliment the native plantings that are in the courtyard."
The sculptures are being provided on two-year loans. The other three will be installed in May; one on Green Street by the Urbana Free Library, with two others to be placed along Philo Road. The city has option of obtaining additional art for a temporary exhibit, and even purchasing some later.
The Illinois Supreme Court says former Governor George Ryan must forfeit all of his state pension for crimes he committed as secretary of state and governor.
Ryan is currently serving a 6 1/2-year racketeering and fraud sentence. He had been hoping to salvage a $60,000-a-year pension, based on his years as a state lawmaker and lieutenant governor.
Ryan wasn't convicted of committing any crimes when he held those offices. But the high court ruled 6-1 on Friday that he's ineligible for any state pension. Before his conviction, Ryan had been due to draw a pension of more than $197,000.
A Champaign County Coroner's Jury has ruled that the October police shooting death of Kiwane Carrington was an accident.
Coroner Duane Northrup says he would hope that this information would help provide some closure for the Champaign teen's family. After a task force investigation led by state police, Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Reitz ruled last year that Champaign police officer Daniel Norbits would not face criminal charges. He and Police Chief RT Finney confronted Carrington and another teen following a report of a break-in. Northrup says while some may disagree with the decision of authorities, a coroner's inquest provides an independent review of the death. "And then we can say it's not just a biased opinion by the coroner's office or the police department or the state's attorney," says Northrup. "These jurors were picked randomly from the community. They came in, the same information was given to them, and they made the determination that it was accidental. And I think that has the bigger impact on the familes."
Kenesha Williams, Carrington's sister and legal guardian, says testimony at the coroner's inquest provided conflicting information about what occurred on the afternoon of October 9th, but didn't elaborate. But Williams says she expected the death to be ruled accidental. A state police investigator noted Thursday that marijuana was found in Carrington's blood, but Nortrup noted it's hard to say whether that played a role in the teen's behavior when confronted by police. Based on an interview with Officer Norbits, State Police investigator Lisa Crouder testified that Carrington kept putting his hands in his pockets and failed to comply with orders.
One immediate change following former Governor Rod Blagojevich's removal from office last year was the overhaul of four state pension boards. Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation last spring that not only changed the membership of those boards, but moved the chair of Illinois' Board of Higher Education into the same role with the State Universities Retirement System. Carrie Hightman has served in both capacities since July.
AM 580's Jeff Bossert spoke with her about the dual role, and the funding challenges faced by colleges and universities:
The Champaign Police Department has become the second in the state to follow the requirements of a new state accreditation program.
The Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation program makes sure that police agencies follow common standards. Champaign chief R. T. Finney says the department will now undergo regular reviews to make sure its standards are well-explained and followed. He says the designation is more than just a new level of bureaucracy.
"While it seems like it's paper, much of what the officer on the street does is contained in policy -- how they act, what they should do," Finney said. "So the officers have the ability to go back to the policy when they have a question, be able to read the policy and have some confidence that this policy is within standards for the state of Illinois."
Those standards got an especially close review late last year as Champaign police were dealing with the aftermath of the Kiwane Carrington shooting. The case drew attention to a change in the policy regarding use of lethal force - the city council ordered clarification on when officers are able to use their weapons.
Imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan's wife and lawyer say they are seeking clemency from President Barack Obama, citing health reasons for seeking Ryan's early release.
Ryan's 75-year-old wife, Lura Lynn, has a terminal lung disease and says she now is on oxygen 24 hours a day.
And Ryan's attorney, former Gov. Jim Thompson, says Ryan himself has health problems, including kidney disease and infected teeth.
Ryan, who was sent to a federal prison in Indiana after his 2006 conviction on corruption charges, turns 76 next Wednesday.
In a telephone interview Wednesday with the Chicago Tribune, Lura Lynn Ryan confirmed she had made a previous plea for clemency for her imprisoned husband in 2008 by calling then-President George W. Bush's mother, former first lady Barbara Bush. She said she was unsuccessful.
Authorities say a Champaign teenager charged with resisting arrest will return to court in two months, with hopes that alternative education programs will steer him on the right path.
16-year old Jeshaun Manning-Carter was arrested last October 9th, the same night that Kiwane Carrington was fatally shot in a scuffle with a Champaign police officer following a report of a break-in at a residence. Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Reitz says Manning-Carter has missed some days at the Ready Alternative School, but he's recently been placed in a County program called Parenting with Love and Limits that works to improve lines of communication with adults. Before Manning-Carter's apperance in court Wednesday, activists with the group Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice held a press conference outside Reitz' office. They submitted a petition with 1,700 signatures, demanding that the charges against the teen be dropped.
The group's Carol Ammons says the charge of resisting a peace officer against Manning-Carter has essentially silenced him. "And to date this community doesn't have a true sense of what happened on that day," says Ammons. "We only have the testimony of one side, and are lacking a lot of of testimony that could shed more light on this case, and Jeshaun is critical to that." Champaign Officer Daniel Norbits was not charged in the October fatal shooting of Carrington following an investigation of a multi-agency task force led by Illinois State Police.
Reitz says she won't consider the petition, saying she's simply following the law, but suggests groups like C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice exert their energies in other ways. "They could be down at the Ready School encouraging them to go to class, or offering them tutoring opportunties or mentoring them," says Reitz. "But instead what they do, is they spend their time door to door in the dorms and collecting signatures. That's not helping any." Manning-Carter will be back in court April 13th. Reitz says he's her hope the 16-year old will stick with school in the coming weeks, and stay out of trouble.
The last of three people convicted in the beating and stabbing deaths of a Champaign couple four years ago faces a 30 year prison sentence for the crimes.
Russell Pitcher will first serve out a prison term in Iowa before coming to Illinois to start serving the sentence for helping murder Jerry and Sue Haigh in the couple's home.
Pitcher pleaded guilty Wednesday morning - he had testified in the trials of his niece and accomplice, Crystal Myrick, that he had helped kill Mr. Haigh as the three broke into the home to rob it.
The third participant, Myrick's ex-boyfriend Kenneth Sean Kelly, had pleaded guilty and was given a 50 year sentence. Myrick was convicted and is serving a natural life sentence. Prosecutors say Pitcher will not be eligible for early release.
The Illinois Senate discussed the state's horrible budget problems but did it in a closed-door session that was off limits to the public.
Illinois lawmakers are defending their decision to bar observers from Wednesday's meeting, where national researchers presented details on how state budgets are suffering in the recession.
Senate President John Cullerton's spokeswoman says both Democrats and Republicans agreed to close the session to encourage "bipartisan dialogue.''
The Constitution requires "sessions'' of the General Assembly and its committees and commissions to be open. Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon says the Senate was not in session and senators did not comprise a committee or commission.
Public-access lawyer Don Craven doesn't believe the meeting was legal. He says it's unlikely there was anything discussed that couldn't have been said publicly.
A national ranking of counties based on the health of their residents puts Vermilion County near the bottom in Illinois.
Champaign County ranked 31st, Vermilion 96th in the survey put out by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The authors wanted to put public health in a new light to motivate people to discuss those issues in their communities.
Champaign Urbana Public Health Department administrator Julie Pryde thinks the study will do that, though counties already have a regular four-year process to assess health issues and act on them.
"In Illinois we do something called the I-Plan, which is a local assessment of need, and we're getting ready to do that again," Pryde said. "So I think (the report is) very timely and it will be more data and more information that will help stimulate discussion when we get in these groups."
The study used factors ranging from access to medical care and healthy food to smoking and obesity rates. Vermilion County health administrator Steve Laker says some of his county's low rankings are in areas that use patient interviews rather than raw numbers.
"Self-assessment, self-reported data is always a little suspect," Laker said. "But what they're saying here is true. If they're using the same data everywhere and it's just as suspect everywhere, then it may be relative."
Laker says Vermilion County's blue-collar history has a lot to do with its low public-health ranking. He says community stakeholders are already meeting this afternoon (Wed) to talk about the survey.
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