Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 27, 2011

UI Administrator, Aviation Director Meet Over Program’s Future

Informal talks continue that may allow Parkland College to take over the University of Illinois' Institute of Aviation in three years.

The U of I's Board of Trustees voted last week to shut it down, once current students complete the program in 2014. The Institute's Interim Director, Tom Emanuel, met Wednesday with Interim Chancellor Robert Easter for what he calls a preliminary conversation.

Emanuel said the next step is for administrators at both schools to meet, and see if Parkland's finances will allow such a transfer. Those meetings likely will not happen until the fall semester starts. But Emanuel said Parkland could offer courses in addition to flight training.

"I do know Parkland has some interest in looking at a broader aviation program that would include maybe some other things, even conceivably, something with aviation mechanics... I just heard that through the grapevine literally," Emanuel said. "But it makes sense. Aviation is the second largest money producer in the state of Illinois after agriculture."

Easter said he holds out hope that flight training would have a future locally beyond 2014.

"Having a quality program locally available for students coming to the University of Illinois with an interest in learning flying skills," he said. "Proceeding to certification (with Parkland) would be a real plus. And so our interest is if there's a way we can facilitate that, as I told the Board (of Trustees) last week, we will do that."

Easter called last Thursday's decision to close the Institute one of the tougher days in his role of administrator, but said it was the right one to allow for the growth of other programs on the Urbana campus. Administrators say closing Aviation would save $750,000 in a program suffering from declining enrollment.

Emanuel said any arrangement with Parkland would have to be done on smaller scale, since Parkland is a two-year institution and doesn't have the authority to offer a baccalaureate degree. And Emanuel said the Institute's aircraft belong to the U of I's Board of Trustees, and cannot be transferred to a community college. But Emanuel said he believes some arrangement could be made for Parkland to use the planes if everything else falls into place.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 27, 2011

Dress Code a Possibility in Some Danville Schools this Fall

Every school in Danville School District #118 will get the choice this year of implementing a dress code for their students.

Parents are learning more about the proposal in public forums Wednesday night and in one week. Associate superintendent Dianna Kirk said it will be up to parents at each building.

"We will ask that parents vote during registration to say yes or no for the uniform dress code policy in their child's particular building," Kirk said. "When a particular school's survey reaches 60 percent in favor of the standard, then we have proposed that we implement this uniform dress code beginning January 4."

The fall semester could be used to help parents and kids prepare for the new code.

The code would be the same for all schools that accept it -- it would require certain solid color, button-down or polo shirts and forbid items ranging from jeans to hoodies to t-shirts.

Kirk said administrators have heard both opposition and support from parents and students.

"Some parents feel that it's less expensive once they've established the basic wardrobe," Kirk said. "Some students also say that people won't talk when they don't have this brand name on or that brand name on."

But Kirk acknowledges that other students and parents oppose the dress code's effect on individuality. She said there has been talk of a so-called uniform closet where those who can't afford the new wardrobe can get help.

Categories: Community, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 27, 2011

Illinois Gets $1 Million for Veteran Homelessness

Two Illinois agencies will get more than $1.1 million in federal grant money to prevent homelessness among military veterans.

The grants from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will serve about 340 vets and their families who are homeless or don't have a permanent home.

An agency called Thresholds in Chicago will get $439,722 and Chicago-based Volunteers of America in Illinois will get $719,400.

The money is among nearly $60 million the department will award to 85 nonprofit agencies in 40 states and Washington, D.C.

The Supportive Services for Veteran Families programs provides money to community agencies to help with such services as getting Veterans Administration benefits, and paying rent, utilities or moving costs.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 27, 2011

GOP Sues Over New Congressional Map; Rep. Johnson Stays Out

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media and Illinois Public Radio)

Prominent Republicans say they are filing a federal lawsuit to block Illinois' new Democrat-drawn congressional map.

The lawsuit they are filing on Wednesday claims the new map is "outrageous partisan gerrymander" designed to eliminate five Republicans in next year's election.

The lawsuit also makes the case that Latino voting power is being diluted. The map, it claims, packs "an excessive super-majority of Latino voters" into Congressman Luis Gutierrez's district.

Filing the lawsuit is the Committee for a Fair and Balanced Map, which includes such prominent Republicans such as former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Also named as plaintiffs are Illinois' five freshman Republicans who voters sent to Washington in the 2010 election.

In fact, 10 of Illinois' 11 Republican U.S. House members released a statement, saying "an impartial review of the facts in court will expose the serious deficits in this map and reverse the naked partisan power-grab contemplated by Democrats."

Urbana 15th District Republican Congressman Tim Johnson chose to stay out of the lawsuit. His spokesman, Phil Bloomer, said it is not because the Congressman doesn't support it.

"Congressman Johnson certainly believes that the redistricting process leading up to this map was unfair and a distortion of the people's issues," he said. "He's been in office and public service one way or another for over 40 years, and none of these challenges have ever succeeded. So he's decided to devote his energy and resources to his re-election campaign in the 13th District."

Johnson's new territory includes all or part of 33 counties in Southeast Illinois.

The lawsuit claims the map aims to erase Republican gains and dilute Latino voters. Democrats drew the map because they control the Illinois Legislature and the governor's office. Gov. Pat Quinn signed it into law last month. The new map gave Illinois 18 instead of 19 congressional districts because of the state's slowing population growth.

If the lawsuit fails, some members of the group may face each other on the ballot next year. One Republican who finds himself in a complicated political position is freshman Congressman Joe Walsh from the Northwest suburbs.

I know I'm running somewhere," Walsh said. "I don't know where. I live in what would be the new 14th. My district office is in what would be the new 10th. A big chunk of my district is in what would be the new 6th."

If Walsh does choose to run where he lives - the 14th - it's likely to set up a primary challenge with another freshman congressman, Randy Hultgren.

Yesterday, the heavy-weight conservative group Club for Growth announced that if the redistricting lawsuit fails, it will endorse Walsh in that race, saying he is distinguished himself as a "pro growth leader" during his short time in Congress.

Hultgren's staff didn't return requests for comment.

Last week the GOP's leaders in the Illinois legislature, state Rep. Tom Cross and state Sen. Christine Radogno, sued the state over the boundaries included in the map for state legislative districts.

Both lawsuits name as defendants the Illinois State Board of Elections, which will be represented in court by the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Regarding both cases, Madigan spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler emailed, "We plan to vigorously defend the state.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2011

Champaign Council Considering “Smart” Parking Meters

The city of Champaign is looking to give some motorists another option for those who don't have change for the parking meter.

City council members Tuesday will be asked to give preliminary approval for a test run of 'smart meters' downtown. The first 37 of them, which accept debit and credit cards, would be installed in the 100 block of North Walnut Street, and on Chester Street between Neil and Market Streets.

Patti Anderson is a management analyst with Champaign's Public Works Department. She says the meters should boost city revenue, but also cut down on parking tickets.

"You can expect to see parking violations decrease because people are more inclined, with the credit card, to put in the full amount for the time limit," said Anderson. "And so, that way you need more revenue generated because they put more money in in the first place, but you do see a decrease in parking fines."

The city is planning a six-month trial for the first meters to see how colder weather affects them. Champaign may then purchase those meters, install about 30 more north of the trial area, and 100 additional ones in the easternmost portion of Campustown.

The city council meets in a study session starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday. But even if they're finalized next week, city staff says it could be a while before the meters are actually in place, since Champaign first has to set up a schedule with a vendor for installing them.

The University of Illinois and city of Urbana are also exploring the use of smart meters.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2011

Ind. Commerce Chief Backs Right-to-Work Law Push

Indiana lawmakers are debating right-to-work legislation that sparked a five-week walkout by House Democrats and could set a contentious tone when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

Commerce Secretary Mitch Roob opened a day-long hearing Tuesday, saying he supported legislation because it makes it easier to bring manufacturing jobs to Indiana.

But Gov. Mitch Daniels said Tuesday he's unsure if he would support a bill.

House Democrats left the state for five weeks this year to block Republicans from advancing the measure. The move was similar to that of Wisconsin Senate Democrats who staged a walkout to stifle Republican Gov. Scott Walker's efforts to cut collective bargaining rights.

The proposal would allow workers to be protected under labor contracts without having to pay union dues.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2011

Quinn Meets with Emanuel on McCormick Place

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn wants to negotiate with unions to keep labor reforms at Chicago's McCormick Place convention center.

But he also says he and top lawmakers are ready to bring legislators back to Springfield in September to fine tune any necessary legislation.

Quinn met Tuesday with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the state's four legislative leaders about ways to keep the work rule changes.

A federal judge ruled in March that many of the labor reforms lawmakers wanted at McCormick were illegal because they went beyond the terms of union contracts.

The judge also ruled legislators overturned collective bargaining rights in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

Some conventions have pulled out of the city because of the high cost to host events at McCormick.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2011

Post Offices in East Central Illinois Up for Review

The financially-struggling U.S. Postal Service is putting thousands of post offices under review for possible closure - including many in east central Illinois.

Two of them are Champaign's Campustown post office and the facility inside the U of I's Altgeld Hall. But most are rural post offices in some of the smallest communities. They include Bondville, Dewey, Ivesdale, Penfield, Royal and Longview in Champaign County as well as Armstrong, Collison, Indianola and Muncie in Vermilion County and DeLand in Piatt County.

Valerie Welsch is with the post office's district headquarters in Saint Louis. Welsch said being on the list does not necessarily mean closure -customers who use those post offices will be given questionnaires before any closing decision is made.

"The local operations manager will make a determination whether they think that's possible," she said. "If they do, that'll get forwarded to the district manager. If he feels it's warranted, then it will go to our national headquarters in Washington, DC for a final decision."

Welsch said if a post office is tagged for closure, there is another 30-day public appeal process. She said the Postal Service is seeing more people use online and other retail services for things like stamps. Welsch also said post offices in communities are sometimes replaced by community postal boxes.

Categories: Business, Economics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2011

Blagojevich Files for New Trial

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is asking a federal judge for a new trial after being convicted last month on 17 counts of corruption, including trying to sell a vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Blagojevich's lawyers filed a 158-page motion with 10 different categories detailing why they think the former governor didn't get a fair trial.

In a signed affidavit, Blagojevich stated that he only took the stand because his attorneys assured him he would be able to tell jurors he sincerely believed his actions had been legal. He added that he would not have waived his constitutional right to not testify had he known Judge James Zagel would sustain prosecutors' objections whenever he started talking about the perceived legality of his actions.

In the filing, Blagojevich's attorneys say Judge Zagel tried to read the mind of defense lawyers, limiting which topics they could and couldn't bring up. Attorneys also assert Zagel should have allowed the defense to play secretly-recorded conversations in which Blagojevich talked about appointing Attorney General Lisa Madigan to a vacant senate seat.

Defense attorneys says that prosecutors tainted the jury pool by holding a press conference the day Blagojevich was arrested.

In the filing - defense attorneys say even before the trial began - they tried to make sure people like Juror #116 didn't get on the jury. Juror #116 said he believed Blagojevich was guilty, but the judge let him pass through.

On the other hand - Blagojevich's attorneys say Juror #213 should not only have sat on the jury - but also should get an award - because she said defendants are innocent until proven guilty. That juror was dismissed from the jury pool.

A hearing is scheduled before the judge next week.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2011

Durbin Hits GOP for Debt Limit ‘Brinkmanship

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) says House Republicans are pushing the country to the brink of an economic disaster. But with a debt limit deadline just over a week away, the Illinois Democrat himself opposes a plan that could temporarily avert default.

Durbin Monday talked of the dire consequences to interest rates, if no debt limit deal is reached.

"It is a decision by the Republicans to push us to absolute brinkmanship here and to risk this economy and the jobs that are associated with it," Durbin said at an unrelated press conference in Chicago.

Durbin said he wants a compromise. But he flatly dismissed Republican House Speaker John Boehner's short-term bill to cut spending by about $1.2 billion and extend the debt ceiling for about six months.

"This is exactly the wrong time to do this, with economies failing all around Europe, with our own economy under attack by those giving credit reports, we should not be lurching from one political and economic crisis to another," Durbin said.

Boehner's measure could come to a vote on Wednesday. House GOP leaders have scheduled a second vote Thursday on a balanced-budget constitutional amendment long favored by rank-and-file conservatives.

Durbin said he has been in contact with Democratic leader Harry Reid, who's pushing a budget-cutting plan that would extend the debt limit through 2012 - past next year's election.

With an Aug. 2 deadline rapidly closing, Congress and the White House had limited options to avoid a potential government default that could send the already weak economy into a damaging swoon.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

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