Illinois Public Media News
Republicans running for the Champaign County Board are endorsing two referenda going before voters soon.
The slate of six first-time candidates say while the job of County Auditor is crucial, elected leaders in that office are treating it as a mere 'political stepping stone' with few responsibilities. The County Board last week opted to put an item on the April ballot asking voters whether they want to make that position an elected or appointed one. But the GOP candidates note that the incumbents in their districts opposed the ballot item.
District 8 candidate Jim Phillips says it's a false dichotomy to say making the job an appointed one won't mean the person doing it doesn't represent the people. "I don't think it's a question of democracy vs. not democracy," said Phillips. "It's a question of - 'do the voters want to make this decision themselves, or would they rather delegate it to their already democratically elected representatives on the County Board, who are in a position where direct voter interaction much more important because you're supposed to be making decisions, you're supposed to be representing the will of the people."
The GOP candidates are also backing a non-binding referendum on November ballots to reduce the number of county board members from 27 to 22, and changing the number of multi-member districts from 9 to 11. District 7 candidate Sher Hempel says the mix of future candidates alone would be worth the change. "There's no doubt that each of the 11 compact, contiguous districts would have a diverse mix of socioeconomic, ethnic, professional, and amateur backgrounds, affording a potential competitive slate of candidates in future elections," said Hempel. "The rural areas will be able to fulfill the equal population requirement with smaller, compact, and contiguous election districts, and not have to reach deeply into the city precincts in order to fulfill that requirement."
The other candidates are Bill Glithero and Andrew Timms in District 6, Stephanie Holderfield in District 1, and Mary Jo Reik in District 5.
The city of Champaign's new Fire and Police Memorial will be dedicated Tuesday evening at West Side Park.
Connie Finney, wife of Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney, co-chairs a committee of fire and police officers' wives. She organized the effort to choose a design and raise money for the new memorial. Finney said the memorial features a flagpole on a granite base featuring the names of Patrolmen Thomas Doddsworth and Robert Tatman and Firefighter Edward Hoffman.
"Fire and police officers put themselves out there every day," she said. "They make sacrifices that most people wouldn't do."
The new fire and police memorial replaces one erected on the same site in 1913, after Patrolman Dodsworth was killed while trying to arrest two suspected bootleggers. The old memorial had been the site of annual ceremonies held by the Champaign Fire and Police departments in previous years, but Finney noted the structure had deteriorated over the years.
"Being close to 100 years old, the concrete was crumbling, and it was kind of crooked," said Finney. "And one of the plaques was very hard to read. So I talked to my husband and said, 'You know, you really need to do something about this, because it doesn't look that great, and people really don't know it's a memorial.'"
So far, donors have contributed about $40,000 for the memorial. Finney said when another $60,000 is raised, statues of a police officer and firefighter will be added to the memorial site.
Fund-raising efforts for the new Champaign Fire and Police Memorial include the sale of bricks, which will pave the memorial site. For information on making a contribution, contact the city of Champaign at 217-403-8700.
A source close to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said his decision on whether to quit his job to run for Chicago mayor could come as soon as Friday.
Emanuel is widely expected to leave the White House. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because no decision had been made.
Emanuel is still considering the effect that his decision would have on his family. He has long has expressed interest in running for Chicago mayor. The incumbent, Richard Daley, announced earlier this month he would not seek re-election after more than two decades in office.
Even President Barack Obama acknowledged that Emanuel would have to leave soon, should he choose to run, to set up his campaign for the mayoral race in 2011.
The president has previously said that he expected Emanuel to stay on as his right-hand man until after the Nov. 2 midterm elections, which could be challenging for Democrats.
However, speculation has been growing that Emanuel would return to Chicago, where he served as a North Side Congressman.
If he does decide to jump into the mayoral fray, Emanuel would have until Nov. 22 to gather the 12,500 voter signatures needed to get on the February ballot.
(Photo courtesy of the White House)
Champaign County Administrator Deb Busey said lagging state dollars and a poor economy mean further cuts to county departments, but she said departments are being asked to make 4% average cuts for fiscal 2011. She said they should be able to maintain their current level of services.
The full budget plan will be unveiled next month, with a vote by the county board in November. Some county departments have already seen furlough days, including the State's Attorney's Office, Court Services, the Supervisor of Assessments, and Emergency Management. Many positions were also left vacant. Decreased revenues, including state income tax dollars, have led to the new cuts, but she said she believes the worst is over.
"From this point forward, hopefully with some stabilization of the economy, we should be able to maintain this going forward," she said. "We don't anticipate a great deal of growth anytime in the near future, but hopefully we've reached the point where have reached the point where we should not have to continue cutting."
She said part of that preparation is also knowing to expect less and less in state revenues.
"This budget anticipates a fairly substantial reduction in state revenues," said Busey. "This budget is balanced, with the anticipation that those revenues are going to continue to be at a lower level than what we saw in 2008, and prior to that."
Busey added only possible impact on the public from the new cuts could come in a delay of requests for information.
Lots of baseball fans in and around Danville will spend part of their summer attending collegiate games, but the collegiate Danville Dans have only been around since 1989. Much of the early baseball history surrounding the city involves minor league baseball there, and the Three-I League...or Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa. The league lasted from 1901 to 1961.
Danville's involvement in the league actually predated Danville Stadium, going back to 1910, but John Dowling's first job as a batboy with the Danville Dodgers came as the park opened in 1946- at age 13. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talked with the retired educator to discuss his role with the team
The University of Illinois Board of Trustees has denied controversial professor and Vietnam War protester William Ayers an emeritus faculty position.
Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to deny Ayers the position. He recently announced his retirement in August after more than 20 years as an education professor on the Chicago campus. The vote followed a speech by board chairman Christopher Kennedy.
"I intend to vote against conferring the honorific title of our university whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father, Robert F. Kennedy," he said. "There is nothing more antithetical to the hopes for a university that is lively and yet civil then to permanently seal off debate with ones opponent by killing them."
Williams Ayers co-authored the 1974 book "Prairie Fire", which was billed as "a political statement of the Weather Underground", and included Robert Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, among more than 200 people listed in its dedication.
Ayers, who taught on the Chicago Campus, co-founded the Weather Underground, an anti-war group held responsible for a series of bombings in the 1960s. They included nonfatal explosions at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol.
The Champaign County Board has gone on record opposing the county clerk's plans to move early voting to an alternate site on the University of Illinois campus.
On a party line vote of 13 to 11, Democrats backed a resolution in support of using the Illini Union, but Republican County Clerk Mark Shelden said he was not at all swayed by the vote, and he will follow through with using a location at 700 South Gregory Street in Urbana. Members of three U of I student groups spoke up to oppose the change, saying Gregory Place is hard to find, and will not have the convenience of the union. Democrat Steve Beckett said he has been a long supporter of student voting, but he added that Shelden and prior Champaign County Clerks have made it difficult.
"The only thing the students are asking for is the same opportunity to early vote as everybody else in this county," said Beckett. "And they want an opportunity to vote in a place that's close to them just as I want an opportunity to vote for early voting in a place that's close to me."
Shelden, a republican, said his goal all along was to find a location free from political activity, and accessible to everyone.
"If we really want to have a discussion about early voting, if people are really concerned, then we need to have a discussion about how we offer this to every voter in Champaign County."
In four years of early voting, Shelden says this is the first time the county board has taken interest in the issue. With some marketing, he says the Gregory Street location can be a big success.
On Saturday, October 25th, from 10 AM to 2 PM, enforcement agencies, pharmacies, and other sites will be accepting unwanted prescription drugs as part of a nationwide Drug Enforcement Administration take-back program.
Scott Collier of the US Drug Enforcement Administration in St. Louis says the initiative is part of a larger effort to combat prescription drug abuse.
"There are actually more prescription drug abusers than there are abusers of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and other drugs combined. It's second only to marijuana", says Collier.
In 2009, an estimated 7 million Americans used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.
Another goal of the initiative is to reduce water pollution. Medications flushed down the toilet or washed down the drain go straight to a waste-water treatment plant.
Research hydrologist Dana Kolpin of the U.S. Geological Survey says those plants were never designed to remove pharmaceuticals - and there's no law requiring them to do so. Kolpin says studies have found drugs in effluent and sludge - and trace levels in rivers and streams, where they're having effects on wildlife.
"They're not acute effects where it's causing say massive fish kills", says Kolpin, "but we're seeing say fish that have both male and female characteristics, and those kind of subtle effects that are certainly a concern as well."
Kolpin attributes most water contamination to the routine use of medications to treat people and livestock, but says improper disposal does contribute to the problem.
You can dispose of prescription drugs during the DEA's National Take Back Day, Saturday, September 25th, from 10 to 2, at the following east-central Illinois locations:
Arcola - Arcola Police Dept., 920 S. Washington St. Arthur - Arthur Visitors Center, 106 E. Progress Clinton - Clinton Police Dept., 118 W. Washington St. Danville - Sheriff Office at the Vermilion County Courthouse, 7 N. Vermilion St. Decatur - City-County Law Enforcement Center, 333 N. Franklin St. Normal - Normal Police Dept., 100 E. Phoenix Tuscola - Douglas County Sheriff's Dept., 920 S. Washington St.
The University of Illinois Board of Trustees Thursday finalized its fiscal 2011 budget of $4.8 billion, which is a 3.9% increase over fiscal 2010.
At the meeting, U of I President Michael Hogan said the school's image has been badly damaged by last year's admissions scandal as well as the state's financial crisis.
A recent U.S. News and World Report poll shows the U of I's Urbana campus dropped out of the survey's top 10 ranking as one of the nation's best public universities. At the University of Illinois Board of Trustees' regular meeting Thursday, Hogan said the most striking trend in the report is that the U of I is not improving as fast as other schools.
"So, we need to understand what contributed to this decline," he said. "Cause believe me all good things come to highly ranked institutions."
Hogan said the U of I must concentrate on winning over transfer students who spend a year or two at a community college.
The U.S. News and World Report ranking indicates faculty resources are down at the Urbana campus. Interim Chancellor and Provost Robert Easter said last year, 25 faculty members earning around $106,000 left for better paying jobs.
"Our faculty are held in great esteem by institutions across the country," said Easter.
Hogan said the state's uncertain budget has left the university searching for other revenue streams. About 550 employees took advantage of the voluntary separation and retirement programs, which Easter estimates will save the university about $1.4 million a month.
In June, an Administrative Review and Restructuring (AAR) work group appointed by former President Stanley Ikenberry recommended that the university improve efforts to run its health programs. Following the recommendation, the U of I is considering a plan to hire a new vice president to oversee health services at its three campuses, and administer college of medicine sites in Chicago, Urbana, Rockford and Peoria.
The recommendation to hire a new administrator comes amid sluggish state support with about a $245 million backlog in payments to the university. The U of I has taken steps in recent months to consolidate programs as a way to cut costs, but Hogan said adding this new position would help fulfill the U of I's commitment to health sciences
"Most universities have long ago recognized the size, the complexity of the clinical enterprise, and have responded to it through a single vice president for health affairs, who among other things, can integrate that enterprise across all the campuses and all of its various sites," he said.
Hogan said about a third of the university's budget is dedicated to clinical support. The U of I Board of Trustees would have to vote to add another vice president.
At the Thursday meeting with the Board, Hogan also suggested re-naming the chancellors at the three campuses as vice presidents to re-affirm their role in helping him set a university-wide agenda.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
Details of a new teachers' contract in Danville have been released, following its approval by the District 118 school board Wednesday night. Union members ratified the contract last week.
The first year of the agreement includes one-time bonuses both for certified and non-certified staff, but no increases in base salary or automatic increases, according to a 'step pay' schedule . The second year does include step pay increases.
However, if talks on a new contract in 2012 drag on past July 1st, like they did for this contract, Danville teachers returning in September will not be getting step pay increases until a new contract is reached, according to District 118 superintendent Mark Denman.
"In the past, with the salary schedule, if we were still negotiating in September, people automatically move up," he explained. "It's not that they won't move up in the future, but there will be no increase until both sides can complete their negotiations."
The new contract keeps health insurance and retirement benefits basically the same as they have been. The contract also calls for a special committee to develop a plan that bases pay on student performance. Denman said the committee's findings could be implemented in a future contract.
Denman said compromise was the trademark of the new contract, and that neither side got everything it wanted. The Danville school board also approved a separate contract for secretaries and learning resource clerks.
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