Illinois Public Media News
Work it out. That was the message from the Champaign County Board Thursday night to the County Board of Health and the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. County Board members voted to reject the Health Board's request that they give 12-months notice for the termination of their contract for public health services with the CU-PHD. The Board of Health wanted the termination notice to spur talks to renegotiate their five-year contract with the CUPHD. Board President Julian Rappaport says a hike in CUPHD administrative fees is too high - and that the Public Health District Board defers too much to administrator Julie Pryde - who he says doesn't listen to their concerns. "Basically they don't have to respond to us in any way they don't want to respond to us because it's a contractual arrangment not a geninue intergovernmental arrangment."
But CUPHD Board Chair Carol Elliott accuses the Board of Health of not listening to Pryde when she tells them things they don't want to hear. "The negotiations - there's a lot of tension there because we give information and if they don't agree with it, then that's when they say that we're being unresponsive." Several county board members said the Board of Health and the Public Health District Board need to work things out - perhaps with a mediator - but that a contract termination notice was not the way to encourage dialog.
A committee working for better relations between the Champaign police and the African-American community is scheduled to meet Thursday (November 19th) at 3 PM, at the Douglass Community Center. After a decade of regular meetings, the Champaign Community and Police Partnership is getting more attention, following last month's shooting death of 15 year old Kiwane Carrington during a police confrontation. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports on the group, known as "C-Cap" for short:
Champaign County Board of Health officials are unhappy with the public health services provided for the county through a contract with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. So, in order to re-negotiate, they've asked the County Board to approve a one-year termination notice at its meeting Thursday night.
Board of Health President Julian Rappaport says their arrangement with the CUPHD gives them little flexibility. The Public Health District provides similar health services to both Champaign-Urbana and the county, with the CUPHD administrator acting as the county's health director. Rappaport says there's no incentive for the CUPHD to be responsive to the Board of Health's particular concerns.
"We don't have any ability to set and implement policies that we think would be good policies for the county", says Rappaport. "So the nature of that relationship just completely limits us. Essentially what the County Board of Health becomes is a kind of a pass-through agency."
In addition, Rappaport says the county can't afford a CUPHD budget request for higher administrative costs for next year. A formal termination notice would allow the Board of Health to start negotiating with the Public Health District now, instead of waiting for its contract to expire in 2013. And if the negotiations don't go well, Rappaport says the Board of Health has hired a consultant to look at possible alternatives.
But CUPHD administrator Julie Pryde says there are few changes that can be made to basic state-mandated public health services, especially when little money exists to provide additional services.
"You have core services that your have to provide with Public Health funds", says Pryde. "And it specifies what needs to be done. Anything above and beyond that, there is some discretion. But if you're only covering your costs, you don't have much discretion."
In addition, Pryde says the termination notice would be confusing to the public, giving the false impression that health services might be disrupted. That's what happened in 2003, when a public health services contract ran out before the county and the CUPHD could come to terms on a new agreement. In this case, the termination notice would mean that the Public Health District's current health services to the county would continue for one year, while negotiations proceed.
Pryde says she's very accessible, and the County Board of Health doesn't need a formal termination notice to talk to her.
A Central Illinois Congressman is joining a number of his colleagues in their efforts to block the move of terrorism suspects to Thomson Prison. Urbana Republican Tim Johnson says the Obama administration plan 'flies in the face of common sense... exposing Illinois to a terrorist threat.' But Johnson spokesman Phil Bloomer says the bigger concern is what rights those Guantanamo Bay detainees would have once incarcerated in the U-S.
"If they are tried in civilian courts here, the rules of evidence are far different in civliian courts than in military courts," says Bloomer. "And there is the possiblity of these people getting released on technicalities. That can't happen on U.S. soil." Johnson plans to co-sponsor of legislation sponsored by Peoria Republican Aaron Schock that would prohibit the use of federal funds to support the transfer of those prisoners. And Johnson has signed a letter written by Congressman Mark Kirk requesting a briefing from the Department of Defense. It calls for a Homeland Security Impact Study... looking at the vulnerability of Illinois landmarks.
Bloomer says the DOD has 'stonewalled' the efforts of many to find out more about the Thomson plan and its implications. He also cites a letter written by Republican State Senator Bill Brady. He's asked Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan whether approval from state legislators is needed to sell the prison.
Teaching and graduate assistants return to work Wednesday on the University of Illinois Urbana campus. The Graduate Employees Organization has ended its strike, after reaching a tentative agreement with the administration on a new three-year contract.
The official decision to suspend the strike was made by the GEO's strike committee Tuesday night, following a membership meeting in which members unanimously endorsed the tentative contract and the suspension of their two-day walkout.
Grad student workers had struck over tuition waivers --- and GEO spokesman Rich Potter says the university is promising in a side letter to the new contract, that any changes to the current tuition waiver policy will be subject to negotiation with the union. Potter says the language is a compromise, since the union had wanted the administration to renounce any discussion of a change in the waiver policy altogether.
A U of I news release says that "during the term of the three-year agreement, graduate assistant and teaching assistants will not have their tuition waivers reduced while they hold qualifying assistantships, are in good academic standing, and are making proper progres toward graduation in the program in which they began."
GEO member and mathematics teaching assistant Dan Lior says tuition waivers had been the most important issue for him. And he says he's pleased that the union's efforts created progress on the issue.
"For me personally, the difference is that the union demonstrated the ability of the everyday person to make changes that matter", says Lior. "It's a shame that it had to come to a strike, but we still do have the power to influence the way things are run."
The tentative agreement also includes a ten percent raise over three years for the minimum graduate worker salary --- union spokesman Potter says that's an improvement, but still short of the Living Wage that the union had sought for all graduate employees. He says the GEO will continue to push for a Living Wage for all grad employees when the next contract is negotiated. The new agreement also includes two additional weeks of unpaid parental leave and increases to the university's contribution to health care premiums (reaching 75% in the third year of the agreement).
"I think we're very happy to reach agreement", said Urbana campus administration spokesperson Robin Kaler. "We absolutely value the work that our graduate assistants do, and we're very excited to move forward."
GEO spokesman Rich Potter says they hope to schedule a ratification vote for this week.The agreement would then go the U of I Board of Trustees for their vote. If approved by both sides, the contract would be retroactive to the start of the semester.
The strike by University of Illinois graduate student employees may be winding down.
Their negotiating team has reached a tentative agreement with the U of I over language in their contract regarding tuition waiver security.
The university says the tentative agreement will guarantee that grad assistants and teaching assistants will not have their tuition waivers reduced as long as they're in good standing, hold their assistantships and are making reasonable progress toward graduation.
The contract offer also includes items the two sides agreed on last Saturday, including higher stipends, more subsidies for health insurance and parental accommodation periods after the birth or adoption of a child. That disagreement led GEO members to walk out.
At a rally this afternoon on the U of I quad, spokesman Peter Campbell said members meeting tonight at the Wesley United Methodist Church will determine whether the strike will be suspended - he expects a ratification vote in the next few days.
A new committee to advise the Champaign school district on equity issues is now in place. The Unit Four School Board approved members for the Education Equity Excellence --- or Triple E Committee --- during a special meeting Monday night. And they named ten community members to serve on the panel, including notable local African-Americans such as local N-double-A-C-P President Jerome Chambers and former school board member Nathaniel White.
But the new committee is supposed to study equity issues for all Unit Four residents ... so its members also include white, Asian-American and Latino residents. In the last category, bilingual education teacher Lily Jimenez says she hopes the committee can be a voice for families --- especially Latino Families.
"I would love there to be, kind of like an open forum for Latino families", said Jimenez, "to just come and share their experiences with the district. You know, things that they like, things they would like to see different. And then just start a dialog, to see what things the district is doing well, and what things they could do better."
School Board member Susan Grey says that after years under the Consent Decree, she welcomes the feedback from community members.
"I like having a measure of accountability from our own community", says Grey. "Not court oversight, but community oversight".
Other members of the Triple-E Committee will represent the Unit Four administration, teachers union and school board.
School Board member Susan Grey says the board must meet at least twice a semester, but can meet more frequently. She says it can also recruit more members for subcommittees focusing on specific topics. Grey expects the Triple-E Committee to hold its first one oro two meetings before the year is out.
The Ten Community Members Named to the Unit Four EEE Committee:
Virginia "Ginny" B. Holder --- attorney
Lily Jimenez --- bilingual teacher
Annette McDonald Jones --- Dir. of Trust Services, U of I Foundation
Dr. Christina N. Medrano ---surgeon
Karl Radnitzer - education professor, Milliken University
Melodye Benson Rosales -- commercial and educational publishing
Jamar Brown --- member, Champaign Human Relations Committee
Rev. Jerome C. Chambers - President, Champaign County Chapter of the NAACP
Nancy Hoetker --- President, Champaign PTA Council
Nathaniel C. Banks -- former Unit Four School Board member
A federal judge whittled down the list of defendants for Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial, dropping Springfield power broker William Cellini and leaving only the former governor and his brother.
And Michael Ettinger, an attorney for Blagojevich's brother, said Monday he will ask the judge within weeks to severe his client from the trial as well.
Judge James Zagel didn't drop charges against Cellini. Prosecutors are still free to bring him to trial after they finish with Blagojevich.
Meanwhile, Zagel says he's hoping to keep the June 3 trial date but left the door open for a brief delay requested by Blagojevich's lawyers.
Family members of Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott say they appreciate the outpouring of support they've received in the wake of his death.
The family issued a statement through Chicago Public Schools on Monday after Scott's body was pulled from the Chicago River on Monday.
An autopsy and investigation into the death are under way. Police say officers were called to the city's River North neighborhood at about 3:15 a.m., where they found his body in the water.
The Scott family's statement says arrangements for a public memorial service will be announced soon.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the Rev. Jesse Jackson are among the leaders expressing shock over Scott's death.
Picket lines sprung up around four University of Illinois buildings this morning.
Several hundred Graduate Employees Organization members and supporters picked up picket signs and walked in circles near the entrances of the English and Foreign Languages buildings as well as Davenport and Gregory halls. They wore ponchos or carried umbrellas against today's cold rain.
After negotiations Saturday resolved every issue but one, Graduate Employees Organization leaders opted to call a strike beginning today. GEO spokesman Peter Campbell says currently most teaching or research assistants on the Urbana campus have all or part of their grad school tuition waived as part of their compensation for their work. But Campbell claims the U of I won't put it in writing that those waivers will go on.
"The purpose of a university -- especially a public land-grant university -- it to provide open, accessible and high-quality education, and tuition waivers are an important part of that," Campbell said. "It wouldn't cost the administration anything to provide a contractual guarantee of protection for tuition waivers."
U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler contends that the GEO didn't bring up the guarantee demand until the night of the talks. "The University offered Saturday night that if the Board of Trustees would ever want to change the general rules that affect tuition waivers, we would bargain with the GEO on that."
Kaler says faculty have been asked to make arrangements to hold classes in different locations or make alternate assignments for students during the strike. Campbell says faculty were alerted about picket sites before the strike, and many switched locations. U of I police say the strike has been uneventful so far, aside from a few complaints about excessive noise on the Quad.
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