Illinois Public Media News
Plans for extending Olympian Drive through Urbana to U-S Route 45 could take on more solid form this spring --- with the signing of an intergovernmental agreement.
The agreement would commit Champaign County and the cities of Champaign and Urbana to working together on the multi-year project. Plans call for extending Olympian Drive over the Canadian National tracks, and through the north end of Urbana to U-S Route 45.
Champaign County Board members heard details of the project Thursday night from County Engineer Jeff Blue. He says state funding for the project has been secured.
"A majority of that money is (for building) the overpass of the railroad", says Blue. " We have five million dollars from the Capital Bill. And no, the money can't be used to build Monticello Road or or any other road. has to be used on the Olympian Drive project."
Much of the cost would be paid for with money from the federal government ---- money which local officials are still lobbying for. But Blue said Champaign County won't have money for the project until about 2013, because its available motor fuel tax dollars are currently funding other projects.
Thursday night's county board discussion did not require any action. But board members heard plenty of opinions.
Critics of the Olympian Drive extension told the board that the project would pave over valuable farmland, encourage urban sprawl --- or may be under-utilized because it's not really needed. Champaign County Board member Stan James noted that last argument. He said past projections of urban growth in Champaign County may have been over optimistic.
"We're looking at this road, and if it was desperately needed and the growth was for certain, that's something that should be taken into account" says James. "But we are seeing buildings, factories, the scope of our industrial, auto plants and everything changing. What type of growth we're talking about, I don't know."
But Olympian Drive's supporters told the county board that extending the road would meet a growing need for an east-west artery between I-57 and U-S Route 45. County Board member Steve Beckett said the county agreed to the project years ago in its Fringe Road Agreement with Champaign and Urbana.
"Why don't we do what we gave our word that we're going to do", said Beckett. "Just because Urbana stalled, doesn't mean that we should stall. We enetered into an agreement as a body politic. We ought to continue with our agreement. We ought to fund this project, in the way that Jeff has directed us to. And we ought to move forward."
Beckett referred to the city of Urbana's decision ten years ago to back out of the Olympian Drive project , while Champaign went ahead with its portion of the road. Now Urbana is back on board, and Mayor Laurel Prussing spoke in the project's favor at Thursday night's county board meeting.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says he expects Scott Lee Cohen ultimately will have to step down as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor over charges that he once abused his girlfriend.
Quinn called Thursday for Cohen to answer all questions about his 2005 arrest for domestic battery -- Cohen denies harming his former girlfriend. But Quinn says he thinks Cohen will end up dropping out of the race.
Illinois voters choose the nominees for governor and lieutenant governor separately. Quinn and Cohen did not campaign together, but now they make up the Democratic ticket.
Quinn says he learned of the allegations after Tuesday's primary election.
Cohen was charged with holding a knife to the woman's throat and pushing her head against a wall. Cohen says the couple did argue but that he never laid a hand on her. Charges were dropped after the girlfriend missed a court date.
The Chicago Tribune reports police records also show the girlfriend had been arrested for prostitution. Cohen says he did not know that at the time.
Cohen is a pawnbroker and owner of a cleaning-supply business with no political experience.
Groups representing Illinois hospitals and doctors are disappointed by an Illinois Supreme Court ruling involving caps on some medical malpractice lawsuit awards, but trial lawyers are hailing the decision.
A divided court ruled Thursday that limiting non-economic damages in malpractice cases violates the principle of separation of powers in the state's Constitution. The court says limits the Legislature adopted in 2005 would infringe on the judicial branch's power. In a partial dissent, Justice Lloyd Karmeier says it's the court that is violating separation of powers by second-guessing the Legislature's attempts to reduce health care costs.
Illinois State Medical Society President James Milam says he fears doctors in high-risk specialties will leave the state if their medical liability insurance rates go up as a result of the ruling.
Maryjane Wurth is president of the Illinois Hospital Association. She says the court's decision highlights the need for President Barack Obama and Congress to embrace meaningful medical liability reform as part of health care legislation.
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association President Peter Flowers applauds the decision and says it's time to focus on meaningful insurance reform.
Democrat Dan Hynes has conceded in the Illinois primary race for governor, saying he's throwing his support behind Gov. Pat Quinn despite what had often been a contentious battle between them.
Hynes says he called Quinn to congratulate him Thursday morning. Hynes urged people to support Quinn and dismissed their campaign strife as "a spirited discussion about our future.''
Quinn had already declared victory, but Hynes had refused to concede the day after Tuesday's Illinois primary.
Hynes now says all of the votes have been counted and the people have spoken. With all precincts reporting, Quinn held an 8100 vote lead.
A write-in candidate running unopposed in Tuesday's Republican primary appears to have enough votes to challenge Democratic State Senator Mike Frerichs in November.
Al Reynolds of Danville needed a thousand write-in votes to advance to the November ballot in the 52nd Illinois Senate District --- and unofficial tallies show he received 11-hundred-32 ---- 561 votes in Champaign County, 372 votes in Vermilion County and 199 votes in Danville. So, pending formal certification, the 64-year-old retired businessman will run against Mike Frerichs, who was nominated without opposition to run for a second term in the Senate.
Reynolds says the decline of manufacturing in Danville, and the resulting loss of jobs inspired him to run. He says balancing the state budget and lowering taxes is the first step in enticing employers back to Illinois.
"You can't tell people you're going to hire 'em, if there's no place for them to go", says Reynolds. "So we've got to do something to entice business to come, and you can't do that if you're taxing everything. So you're going to have to find some way to cut taxes or give some kind of incentives to businesses (to) start up and hire people."
Reynolds says he believes Republican victories in recent elections are evidence that voters have "had enough of overspending, taxation and corruption in government".
Reynolds organized the East Central Illinois Tea Party in Danville, and says the Tea Party movement was an important supporter in his primary campaign.
Police say the suspected gunman at a western Illinois farm supply store is dead and the standoff is over.
Macomb Police Chief Curt Barker says the suspect died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was found Wednesday evening in the housewares section of the Farm King store in Macomb.
Barker says police don't know a motive but the gunman is not believed to be associated with the store.
Barker says no one else was injured. He would not name the suspect.
Witnesses say the standoff began around 1 p.m. Richard Moulton says he was buying a battery charger at the store when someone in an aisle nearby began arguing and shouting. Seconds later he heard about four or five gunshots and he and other customers ran from the store.
It's evaluation time for candidates in yesterday's Illinois primaries, even as we still don't know for sure who will be the Democratic and Republican nominees for governor. University of Illinois political science professor Brian Gaines stayed up late last night along with many other political observers, only to see two dead-heat races with no clear resolution in sight. AM 580's Tom Rogers interviewed him.
There was an upset Tuesday in the only contested Republican county board primary race in Champaign County.
Stephanie Holderfield of Mahomet received 1,349 votes, or 52 percent of Republican ballots cast in District One, to defeat the incumbent, fellow Mahomet resident Chris Doenitz in the GOP primary. Doenitz received 1,231 votes.
Holderfield is a Realtor who's running for office for the first time. She says one of her concerns is the rural land use plan that's been in the works in Champaign County for the past three years.
Holderfield says she wants the plan to be flexible enough so that owners of farmland can sell it for development.
"If you own it, you ought to be able to do what you want with it, within reason", says Holderfield. "Imposing so many restrictions on your land goes against all of your property rights, and I am a property rights advocate."
Holderfield will be running against Democrat Eric Thorsland in November.
In County Board District Six, Michael Richards of Champaign will be running for re-election in November. Richards won the Democratic primary in District Six --- beating out Debby Auble and Joshua Hartke.
But Richards, with 434 votes, came in second to a newcomer. Pattsi Petrie received 523 votes, and will join Richards in running for two available county board seats in District Six. Petrie ran unsuccessfully for the county board in 2008, and says her political platform remains "the macro-issue of sustainability", in its economic, environmental and social dimensions.
Petrie says that includes discouraging urban sprawl in Champaign County. She says she opposes the extension of Olympia Drive through the north end of Urbana, because it would take healthy farmland out of commission.
Andrew Timms won the Republican primary for District 6 without opposition. Republicans could name a 2nd candidate later.
In County Board District 6, which covers parts of Urbana and Urbana Township, James Quisenberry and Christopher Alix won the Democratic primary. Quisenberry led the primary with 810 votes, followed by Alix with 644 votes. They'll face Republican Robert Brunner --- and perhaps a 2nd Republican to be named later.
Also in Tuesday's balloting in Champaign County, voters in Mahomet came out in favor of legalized leaf burning in the village.
Voters approved an advisory referendum in favor of lifting the leaf-burning ban, with 740 "yes" votes --- or 62 percent of the total --- compared to 447 "no" votes.
Two other referenda were defeated in Champaign County.
Voters in the Compromise-Kerr-Harwood multi township assessment district in the northeastern Champaign County rejected a tax increase by a two to one margin ---- 273 "no" votes to 145 "yes" votes..
And nearly 61 percent of voters in Sidney turned down a bond issue request to build a sewage treatment plant. The referendum received 165 "yes" votes and 257 "no" votes.
Gov. Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes were in a near-dead heat for the Democratic nomination. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Quinn had 437,327 votes to Hynes' 432,422.
The Republican contest was similarly close. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, state Sen. Bill Brady had 154,134, or 21 percent, to 152,038, or 20 percent, for Senate colleague Kirk Dillard, and 141,396, or 19 percent, for former GOP state chairman Andy McKenna.
Democrat Alexi Giannoulias has won the chance to defend President Barack Obama's old Senate seat against Republican Mark Kirk.
Democratic voters nominated the Illinois treasurer in Tuesday's primary. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Giannoulias had 39 percent of the vote.
GOP voters picked the five-term congressman Kirk. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Kirk had 56 percent of the vote.
Republicans have targeted the seat since then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested for trying to sell it. Blagojevich later appointed Roland Burris, who didn't run for a full term.
Illinois is being even more closely watched after an upset win by the GOP in Massachusetts that cost Democrats the late Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat.
In the state treasurer's race to replace Giannoulias, his deputy Robin Kelly defeated Justin Oberman for the Democratic nomination. She will face 52nd district Republican State Senator Dan Rutherford in November.
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