Illinois Public Media News
Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure went to his old school Tuesday morning, and told students at the Centennial High School gym in Champaign what his plans are for the fall.
"I'm here to announce that I will forgo my senior season at the University of Illinois, and enter the 2011 NFL draft," Leshoure announced to cheers from the assembled students.
Leshoure rushed for 17 touchdowns last fall, and set Illinois' single-season rushing record, with 1697 yards, breaking the mark set by Rashard Mendenhall three years earlier. He said he has done everything he can do at the college level, and is ready for professional football. He also said he is not deterred by the possibility that a labor dispute could lead to a player lockout that curtails his first season in the NFL.
"I definitely thought about all those things in my decision, took a long time to think about it, prayed on it," Leshoure said. "I still woke up with the same decision that I made today. So, I'm willing of the risks and I know, you know, what's at stake."
The 6-0, 230-pound Leshoure is projected to be taken anywhere from the first through fourth rounds in the April draft.
Although he is giving up his senior year in college, LeShoure said he still plans to eventually earn his degree in communications. He told the athletes in the Centennial High student assembly to study hard if they want to reach their goals and have a good life beyond the playing field.
"Sports won't be here forever," Leshoure said to students. "Regardless of how good you are and what you think, it won't be forever. You need a backup plan and it starts here at Centennial."
Leshoure's old high school coach was on hand for the announcement. Centennial High School Football Coach Mike McDonnell cited Leshoure's maturity as a high school player.
"I was always impressed with his character and his maturity, because he was always older than what he was," McDonnell said. "I think that's part of his success, because he understood the importance of working out during the off season, getting his grades."
McDonnell credited Leshoure's mother, with instilling her son with self-discipline at an early age.
Illinois football coach Ron Zook also had praise for Leshoure. An article posted on the U of I's Fighting Illini website quoted Zook: "I am extremely proud of how Mikel has matured as a young man and leader for our football team since his arrival at Illinois. He'll be remembered here as one of the greatest running backs in Illinois football history. We hope he has a long and successful NFL career."
Leshoure's announcement comes a day after Illini junior linebacker Martez Wilson said he'll also enter the NFL draft.
(Additional reporting from the Associated Press)
A legislative aide got to step into his boss' shoes for one day to represent residents in the 105th Illinois House District in east-central Illinois.
Shane Cultra left his House seat to become state senator, and he tabbed aide Russell Geisler to take his spot for one day before Jason Barickman was sworn in.
Geisler got to vote while in the House, but Barickman says he's OK with that because he agrees with the votes.
Barickman tells WJBC Radio that Geisler did something in 24 hours that Cultra couldn't do in eight years _ voting to end free public transit for most senior citizens.
Some Republicans criticized the appointment, saying it trivializes the legislative seat.
Cultra was appointed to the state Senate to replace Dan Rutherford, who's now Illinois' treasurer.
The owner of the Jimmy John's sandwich shop chain says his restaurants will be replacing alfalfa sprouts with easier-cleaned clover sprouts, effective immediately.
Chain owner John Liautaud said that, to the best of his knowledge, not one case of salmonella carried by alfalfa sprouts can be traced to one of his restaurants.
The Centers for Disease Control has been investigating a salmonella outbreak that has sickened 112 people over 18 states, including Illinois. The CDC says there is a probable link to alfalfa sprouts distributed by an Urbana company to Jimmy John's and other outlets.
Liautaud says he was making the change to clover sprouts because they are easier to clean than alfalfa sprouts.
Illinois' new Treasurer is challenging all state officeholders to make their mark amid a massive budget deficit.
Longtime legislator Dan Rutherford was among the six officeholders sworn in Monday at the Prairie Capitol Convention Center. Rutherford reflected on coming to an inauguration as a young boy, when his grandfather was vice chairman of the Livingston County Democrats. The former Senator and House member from Pontiac said he will invest Illinois' money in the most secure way possible with solid business practices. But Rutherford said he will also base his work on prior experience.
"I intend to use this statewide stage and not be an obstructionist with my friends in the legislature in the executive branch of government," he said. "But I not going to be shy about articulating what I believe is necessary to help the economic standing of this great state of Illinois."
Rutherford served in the Illinois House from 1993 to 2002, and in the Senate from 2003 until resigning his seat Sunday night.
The proposal that could come up for a vote Tuesday would have a slightly lower income tax hike of 67 percent, compared to 75 percent that was announced last week.
The corporate rate would also see less of an increase. Much of the tax hike would be temporary as the state tries to dig itself out of a massive budget deficit. Cigarette taxes, property tax relief and spending caps are also part of the discussion.
Democratic leaders want to beat a Wednesday deadline. That's when a new General Assembly is sworn in with fewer Democrats, meaning passage of a tax hike would likely be more difficult.
A federal appeals court on Monday denied a request by imprisoned former Illinois Gov. George Ryan to free him on bail so he can spend more time with his terminally ill wife, though the ex-governor's attorneys said they would continue working to win his release.
In a one-page ruling, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago rejected an emergency motion filed by Ryan's attorneys last week after Lura Lynn Ryan was taken to intensive care suffering complications from chemotherapy.
Ryan, the ruling said, hasn't met the legal requirements that would allow for his release while the 76-year-old's defense team tries to overturn his 2006 conviction for racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI.
The three-judge panel notes that Ryan asked in the emergency motion about the possibility of release from his Indiana prison during daylight hours so he could be at his wife's side. The court said it didn't have the jurisdiction to grant that wish.
"This possibility might be a humane way to address the personal aspect of his motion," it says. But "a request for such an arrangement must be presented by the appellant to the Bureau of Prisons."
Prosecutors made public for the first time Friday the news that prison authorities did, in fact, escort Ryan to see his wife for two hours the same day she was admitted to a Kankakee hospital. They cited that clandestine visit as one reason judges shouldn't grant Ryan's release.
"Obviously, I am disappointed and I know the family is exceedingly disappointed," said Ryan attorney and a long-time family friend, former Gov. James Thompson.
But Thompson also assured the family that attorneys would take several steps in response, including asking Democratic President Barack Obama to grant clemency to the former Republican governor. They will ask Obama to commute Ryan's sentence from 6 1/2 years to his three years already served.
Other steps would include asking the Bureau of Prisons to grant Ryan a long-term furlough, possibly under conditions where he would have to stay at a county jail overnight. Thompson added he would ask prosecutors to support that request.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer -- who presided over Ryan's trial -- upheld his conviction and denied his request for bond. She acknowledged his wife's plight, but said Ryan's conduct "exacted a stiff penalty, not only for himself but also for his family."
Ryan's attorneys had argued parts of his conviction should be tossed based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision curtailing anti-fraud laws -- known as "honest services" laws. Pallmeyer said Ryan's circumstances were different enough that his conviction should stand.
Defense attorneys have appealed Pallmeyer's ruling upholding the convictions.
Officials with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD) are scrambling to find homes for a dozen displaced Rantoul residents who left the Cherry Orchard apartments last week after reports of poor living conditions.
Even though most of the Cherry Orchard tenants have left the apartment complex, CUPHD administrator Julie Pryde said one family continues to live there, but will move out once they have a permanent place to live.
"They have heat and water now, so they are safe in that regard," Pryde said.
The rest of the tenants have temporarily moved into hotel rooms. The CUPHD is trying to secure residential leases for those individuals with area landlords. Jennifer Valade, the social services director with the Salvation Army of Champaign County, said her agency's waiting for the public health district to help set up the lease agreements, so that the Salvation Army can work with people who need help with rent.
"It's obvious that they're going to need agencies to help them out, and unfortunately they were put in a situation that they didn't deserve," Valade said.
Problems with Cherry Orchard apartments stemmed from a Sept. 2007 review by health inspectors who discovered a broken septic system leaking sewage into nearby farmland. Since then, tenants have complained about inadequate heating, mold, and power outages.
Pryde said CUPHD has hit a snag in securing a lease for each individual. She said she is close to finding one family a permanent home, but still struggling to find homes for everyone else.
The Cherry Orchard apartments have traditionally housed many migrant workers, who live in Rantoul for part of the year while working for a large agricultural company, like Pioneer, Monsanto, or Syngenta. Some of them may not have a strong credit history, which can make it difficult to get a residential lease agreement worked out.
"The issue is some of these folks don't have a very good rental history, if any," said Andy Kulczycki, executive director of the Community Service Center of Northern Champaign County. "A lot of landlords screen their potential tenants."
Cherry Orchard's landlords, Bernard Ramos and his father, Eduardo, are schedule to appear before a judge during a Jan. 24 bench trial for failing to move their tenants and fix their sewer and septic systems as they originally promised.
Jason Barickman says the message is clear: "I just don't know how you look the voters in the face unless you substantially decrease the spending,"
Barickman was sworn in Monday morning as a State Representative to Illinois' 105th House District. He took the oath of office at the Livingston County Courthouse from Circuit Judge Jennifer Bauknecht with his his wife, Kristin, by his side. Barickman will be sworn in again Wednesday in Springfield for full two-year term. He replaces Shane Cultra, who was appointed Sunday to the State Senate.
Barickman said he is ready to get his feet wet right away, and vote against Democrats' proposed income tax increase of nearly 75-percent.
"Our government in Springfield has continued to spend too much money, and failed to address any of those serious reforms that they talked about," he said. "There's rumors of maybe some reforms to worker's compensation, but it appears to be nothing more than window dressing. We still have a pension system that's dramatically underfunded, and continuing to obligate the state to huge sums of money for the next 10, 20, 50 years."
Barickman hopes that the re-drawing of legislative districts will allow him to run for another term in 2012. A Livingston County native, the 35-year old is a founding partner of the Champaign law firm Bartell, Barickman and Powell. He lives in Champaign, and has served as Champaign County's GOP Chair since 2006.
Democrat Pat Quinn has been sworn in to a full term as Illinois governor, two years after he got the job when his predecessor was kicked out of office and left behind an immense budget crisis.
Quinn began his inaugural address on Monday by calling for unity. He also offered promises to solve the state's fiscal crisis but no firm details of how it would be done.
Quinn takes the reins as the budget deficit could hit $15 billion. He and other Democratic leaders are trying to pass a major income tax increase that would boost the 3 percent income tax rate to 5.25 percent for four years.
Quinn was lieutenant governor until January 2009 when he took over from then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested on federal corruption charges.
Illinois State Police plan to beef up security a bit when Gov. Pat Quinn and other state officials are sworn into office.
Spokesman Scott Compton says there won't be any major changes in the aftermath of an Arizona shooting spree that left a member of Congress critically injured.
But Compton says some additional officers will be present for Monday's ceremony. He says they will be visible to the public in an effort to discourage anyone who might be thinking about causing trouble.
Even before the Arizona shooting, Illinois police had plans for protecting officials as they are sworn in and for responding quickly to any threat.
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