Illinois Public Media News
Rantoul Township High School will be on a 'soft lockdown' for a second day Wednesday after two recent fights and the arrests of several students.
Superintendent Janet Koroscik says there were about five arrests following two fights outside the school on Friday. And Tuesday, Rantoul Police removed three students from the building when knives were discovered on them. The knives were found as officers went from room to room, bringing students out individually to search them. Officers and school administrators also searched backpacks and lockers. That was prompted after a rumor surfaced that a student would bring a gun to school Tuesday.
Koroscik says the fights could be connected to gang activity... noting the incidents have involved many of the same individuals. But she says they're a poor reflection of the majority of the student body:
"I really want to ensure everyone that the small group of individuals whose behavior is certainly inappropriate in no way reflects on the larger portion of our population who has amazing behavior," Koroscik said. "This is a great place to be and we want to make sure we keep it that way."
Rantoul Township High School has 787 students.
Koroscik says during a soft lockdown, no students are allowed to leave the classroom unless they're accompanied by a teacher or administrator. And extra staff and administrators are monitoring the hallways in between classes.
Ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich's former chief fundraiser pleaded guilty Tuesday to swindling two major airlines as part of an $8.5 million fraud arising from hangar roofing contracts at O'Hare International Airport.
Under his signed plea, 51-year-old Christopher G. Kelly will be sentenced to 57 months in prison. As chief of the Friends of Rod Blagojevich, Kelly bankrolled the now impeached Democrat's rise to the governor's office.
The sentence comes on top of a 37-month federal prison term Kelly must serve after pleading guilty to charges in an unrelated tax-fraud scheme.
Kelly still faces charges as a co-defendant in the same federal indictment that alleges Blagojevich sought to sell or trade President Obama's former seat in the U.S. Senate.
It was to be an array of newspaper vending boxes that would also be a work of art. But the Urbana City Council decided Tuesday night to go with just the vending boxes.
Local artist Frederic Beaugeard's "Urbanastand" would have gone up outside the Champaign County Courthouse, combining newspaper vending boxes with displays of historic headlines from old Champaign-Urbana newspapers, . The project would have cost the city of Urbana more than 60-thousand dollars. Mayor Laurel Prussing persuaded the city council to go with something plainer for about 4-thousand dollars.
"We're just going to buy a commercially available newsstand," says Prussing, "which was going to be the centerpiece of the artwork anyway.and so we'll have a nice looking place for people to buy newspapers. Right now there's kind of a jumble of little news dispensers that are falling over each other and falling down."
Alderman Charlie Smyth proposed last month that private donations could pay for most of the cost of Urbanastand. On Tuesday night, he said that was still possible, but only if someone steps in soon to either pay for the project, or organize a fundraising drive.
Meanwhile, the Urbana City Council will now use 9-thousand dollars from money budgeted for Urbanastand to help erect a sculpture near the city building that's been planned for the last 20 years. The city's contribution will help match private donations for John David Mooney's steel sculpture, which incorporates LED lighting. The city's contribution will help match private donations.
Champaign Police want to hear from neighborhoods in order to gear more officers towards crime prevention strategies.
Police Chief R-T Finney will discuss the strategy of 'problem-oriented policing' in the department's annual report before the Champaign City Council tonight. He says the discussions with residents in the past year have ranged from town-hall meetings with neighborhood associations to those focused on one or two blocks. Finney says the complaints start with traffic, but become more specific:
"They'll begin to point out issues other than speeding that really need to be addressed, said Finney. "Some of those issues are drug houses, inattentive landlords who are allowing crimes to occur in their houses, parks that may be affected by certain types of crimes. It may be something like a burglary spree that is occurring in a particular neighborhood."
Finney says often, the solution is as simple as putting up a fence at one home or increasing patrols at a business that sees more service calls.
He says the economy has forced the department to be creative as it shifts officers toward neighborhoods with greater problems. Problem-oriented policing started with meetings in the Garden Hills neighborhood and later moved to homes in the Hill and Church streets areas. Finney says he expects several more neighborhoods will come forth with concerns following tonight's presentation.
One day after University of Illinois trustees meet to reorganize the board this week, they'll meet with faculty representatives. So says a member of the Urbana campus' Academic Senate, who says he's impressed with Governor Quinn's picks for trustees posts from last week. Still, Nick Burbules says the Governor ought to meet with faculty when he makes future trustee appointments.
"Everything I've heard about the new members is outstanding," Burbules said. "But as always, we're as much concerned with process as the outcome, and I think we're going to continue to work to trying to urge closer consultation with faculty governance about how these decisions get made in the future."
Burbules says the board of trustees is scheduled to meet with faculty members on Friday to discuss ways to reform the U of I's admissions process. Irregularities in that system led most of the previous trustees to resign after a recommendation from the governor's admissions review commission.
Governor Pat Quinn says the five new trustees he appointed to the University of Illinois board are committed to making sure the school's reputation is "second to none.'' Quinn named the five Friday to fill spots that were vacated when other trustees resigned amid an admissions scandal at the school.
One group that's happy with Governor Quinn's trustee selections is the leadership of the U of I Alumni Association. President and CEO Loren Taylor says four of the five appointees came from a list of candidates the association had provided the governor. The fifth had also been endorsed by some alumni, and Taylor says that candidate is a fine choice too. Quinn didn't pick U of I alumni for his first two appointments, Chris Kennedy and Lawrence Oliver. But Taylor says that didn't faze him. "Our experience in working with the governor was that he would want to consider strongly the recommendations that we had made, so we just felt we needed to be patient," says Taylor. "I think that's paid off." He says the alumni group received interest from about 400 people when the call went out for trustee candidates.
One new trustee hopes the newly-reconstituted board can get the admissions scandal behind it as soon as possible. But former Springfield mayor Karen Hasara says she needs more background into the controversy before she makes any decisions on the fate of President Joseph White and Urbana Chancellor Richard Herman. She enters the trustee's job with 17 years of political office behind her, as a state legislator and as Springfield's former mayor. She says that's prepared her for the scrutiny she'll face in the coming weeks. "I don't particularly like negative things being said but I have gotten to be pretty thick skinned," says Hasara. "So I think I'll be able to get through it okay."
One trustee who voluntarily resigned and was passed over for re-appointment by the governor says Quinn misled him and other now-former trustees. David Dorris turned in his resignation last month along with three other members. Only one, Quinn appointee Ed McMillan, was re-appointed. Two trustees who refused to step down are still on the board. Dorris says he doesn't regret his decision to quit because staying in place would have heaped even more public scorn on him and the University. But he accuses Quinn of making a purely political decision not to fire James Montgomery and Frances Carroll.
"What is very disgusting is the fact that he had made such strong statements and we were all told, in no uncertain terms, that if we did not resign he would forcibly remove us," says Dorris. "I don't know how that man can ever explain away his decision to back down against the two." Dorris worries that a board of trustees with six new members won't have the institutional knowledge to run effectively, and they'll vote for a new chairman without knowing each other. Neither Quinn nor his office has returned many calls from WILL seeking comment.
Gov. Pat Quinn has filled five positions on the University of Illinois board of trustees.
The trustees named Friday are all university graduates. The new members are former Springfield Mayor Karen Hasara, Rockford Dr. Timothy Koritz, retired Exelon executive Pamela Strobel and Carlos Tortolero, president of the National Museum of Mexican Art.
Quinn also reappointed Edward McMillan, a businessman from Greenville who resigned from the board this summer.
The governor's moves Friday follow last week's appointments of Christopher Kennedy and Lawrence Oliver II.
Seven trustees stepped down following reports that political connections played a role in some admissions to the university. James Montgomery and Frances Carroll refused calls to resign.
The University of Illinois should soon have a full board of trustees after most of the members resigned after an admissions scandal at the school.
Gov. Pat Quinn said he was ready to fill the five remaining spots on Friday.
The governor said he would announce his picks so there would be a full board in place for next week's meeting.
But he wouldn't say on Thursday whether any of the trustees who resigned at his request would be reappointed.
A state panel investigated how clout influenced university admissions and found that some unqualified students with political connections had gotten in. The panel said all nine trustees should resign as a result. Seven did, but two --- James Montgomery and Frances Carroll --- refused and Quinn decided against removing them to avoid a legal fight.
Last week Quinn appointed two other new commissioners: Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy and Boeing executive Lawrence Oliver II.
The names of Steve Beckett and Barb Wysocki won't appear on Champaign County ballots next year. It's a move that could change the slight 15-12 advantage that Democrats hold on the County Board. The two Democrats both say the time is right, with a lot of building projects that they were part of having been completed. For Beckett, that includes the restoring of the county courthouse clock and bell tower. But he says it's been a frustrating time on the County Board, and that it's 'unwieldy' and too large. Beckett says it needs a diverse representation, but with less than its current 27 members.
He says there are also too many instances in which members of one political party aren't free to express their mind. "Because they go into a caucus..' says Beckett. "...and a majority of them think one way on a particular issue, means that the people that were in the minority on that issue within the party caucus has to surrender their views and vote the way the party thinks they ought to vote. I don't believe in that. I just don't think it's right." Beckett says he and Wysocki both became outcasts as the result of some caucus votes.
Wysocki says she agrees the county board should be reduced from 27 to about 18 members. She's hoping the Board will make an effort to merge the Champaign-Urbana Public Health Board with the County Board of Health, saying services aren't currently being provided in an efficient manner. Neither Beckett or Wysocki have suggested anyone to succeed them in County Board District 9.
Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes formally announced his campaign for governor Wednesdayby saying he would try to raise state income taxes on the wealthy as a way to address the state's budget crisis.
Hynes will probably face incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn in next year's Democratic primary.
At a news conference in Chicago, Hynes described a new progressive tax --- which taxes higher-income earners at higher rates --- as the cornerstone of his plan to put the state's financial house in order. He said his plan would spare 97 percent of Illinois residents from paying more.
Hynes contrasted his call for a progressive tax with proposals this year from Quinn to raise the existing flat-income tax rate by 50 percent on everyone. Only a few states use a flat income tax, which taxes everyone at the same rate.
But Quinn says a progressive tax is the kind of thing he pushed for five years ago but that Hynes then opposed. And Quinn characterized Hynes as a professional naysayer who's refused to work with him on anything.
Quinn didn't directly say he wants a progressive tax. But he did say he believes taxes should be paid according to one's ability to pay.
Quinn's original tax hike proposal in March included a tripling of the personal tax exemption, which he said would actually lower state income tax payments for about half of Illinois taxpayers.
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