Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 18, 2010

New Signs Proclaim Urbana Bike Friendly Community

Signs will soon go up along streets leading into Urbana that tell people their bicycles are welcome.

The purple signs recognize Urbana's new designation as a bike-friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists.

Public Works Director Bill Grey says the signs send an important message.

"It does send a message that this is a town that is accommodating bicycling as a mode of transportation", says Grey. And we're implementing the facilities to do so, and the education and enforcement that go along with that. And encouragement of people to want to get out of their cars , or seek this as a viable mode of transportation."

City councilman and avid cyclist Charlie Smyth says the designation is important for Urbana because of the estimated 8 percent of city residents who use bikes to get to work. Smyth says that's according to the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission. And he says it's important for the city to upgrade its designation from bronze to silver-level. Smyth says that will require more and better bicycle education programs in Urbana --- and better connections between bike paths.

Champaign has not been named a Bicycle Friendly Community --- but the League of American Bicyclists did name Champaign city government a Bicycle Friendly Business.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 18, 2010

Urbana City Council Puts Recycling Pickup Bids on Hold

New contracts for residential recycling pickup in Urbana are on hold, until the city council gets answers about why apartment dwellers would be able to recycle more materials than those who live in single-family homes

The extra material in question is number six polystyrene plastic. Urbana-based Community Resource is offering to pick up the hard-to-recycle plastic --- except for foam --- in its winning bid for multi-family recycling in the city. But ABC Sanitary Hauling of Champaign would NOT recycle Number Six, under its winning bid to continue as Urbana's single-family curbside recycler.

Alderman Charlie Smyth says he wants both residential recycling programs in Urbana to accept Number Six Plastic.

"Because really, it's confusing to have one program doing more than the other", says Smyth. "I'll just as soon put my stuff in Multi-Family, because I'll be able to more. I want to be able to put all my plastic film and #6 plastic in, and not have to worry about checking all the stupid numbers. If I just know I can put every bit of plastic in the barrel, I'm going to be happy."

The Urbana City Council was set to vote on both the curbside and multi-family recycling bids Monday night. But now the issue goes back to the city council's Committee of the Whole for more discussion.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 17, 2010

Team Finds Duplication of Services In U of I’s Public Engagement Practices

The latest report aimed at cutting costs on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus suggests some redundancies are taking place, and that's partially brought on by a lack of communication.

College of Business Dean Larry DeBrock headed a team asked to review the Office of Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement. Units under it include the U of I's Office of Corporate Relations. DeBrock's team says that office doesn't always disseminate information it shares with the private sector with fundraising groups on campus. His team also learned that some faculty need more help in facilitating relationships with corporations. DeBrock says another key to his group's findings involved sustainable practices, like cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

"There's a lot of very great and intense interest in sustainability issues on this campus, as there are on all research campuses right now," said DeBrock. "Because these are imporatant issues off the front page of the newspaper, and they mean to where our society is going to go over the next generation that has caused a lot of interest among both faculty and students... indeed even the campus in a sense of thinking about the sustainability of our operations."

DeBrock's team suggests there should be a central position on the Urbana campus concerned with sustainability, but the group was unsure if a central office would be necessary for getting the message out. His group says the campus is missing an opportunity for failing to coordinate the work of U of I Facilities and Services with the energy efficient research, and studies of students and faculty.

The U of I will take letters in response to the report on Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement through May 28th.

Categories: Economics, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 17, 2010

Shriver to UI Graduates: “Find Your Why

The man who directs Special Olympics has challenged this year's graduating class at the University of Illinois to "find their "why."

Timothy Shriver told students at Sunday's commencement ceremonies that they face society in a crisis of values and they can help correct what current generations got wrong by searching for the reason why they are here. Shriver also let graduates know that the rest of their life is a continuation of their studies.

"Evey person you meet will be a new reading. I urge you to try to look beyond the covers and look at what lies within," Shriver said. "Every moment of sadness is an invitation to come see the professor, and every moment of happiness is the same. There is a final, except you won't attend it here."

Shriver heads Special Olympics, which was founded by his mother Eunice Kennedy Shriver. His cousin, U of I Trustees chair Christopher Kennedy, introduced him. Earlier in the commencement ceremonies, Kennedy apologized to graduates for the actions of the previous board of trustees - many members were forced out by last year's admissions scandal.

Categories: Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 14, 2010

Proposed Urbana Budget Avoids Layoffs, Uses Reserve Money

Urbana's proposed budget doesn't include any tax hikes, but eliminates raises and leaves a number of jobs vacant in order to do that.

The city will also rely on $6 million in reserves to balance the budget. Mayor Laurel Prussing says the $48 million dollar proposed spending plan also relies on fine and fee hikes from the past year. The city will leave seven jobs unfilled, including a police officer, a public works maintenance worker, and an executive assistant job that's being eliminated for good. Prussing says one area of revenue - the state motor fuel tax... really hasn't changed in 20 years, and suggests the city should enact its own. She says a 2-cent tax would bring a half-million dollars a year for street improvements. "This is something that has to be discussed with the council, and I'd like to talk about it with Champaign," said Prussing. "But I think it's something that Urbana really has to take seriously because we have a need for this and I think since we'd only be asking for a fairly modest amount, we'll have to see what the public thinks." Prussing says a 5-cent motor fuel tax has worked well in Danville, where residents don't mind spending the extra money to upgrade streets.

Mayor Prussing says she's also concerned about what courts decide on Provena Covenant Medical Center's tax exemption. She says if local hospitals provide enough charitable care to be exempt, then Urbana taxpayers are paying for it. She says that doesn't seem fair for the city to pick up that cost. Urbana's city council gets its first look at the budget plan on May 24th - a final vote on the plan will be on June 21st.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 13, 2010

New UI President Michael Hogan Vows To Take On Challenges

The University of Illinois' 18th president says it's easy to dwell on the financial problems of the state, rather than the good things the 3-campus institution has to offer. When introduced Wednesday, Michael Hogan also stressed the need to look beyond an admissions controversy that led to the previous president's resignation. The Iowa native got a large ovation in Urbana... about six weeks before he takes the helm of the U of I. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert has this report:

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Categories: Economics, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 12, 2010

Michael Hogan Arrives in Urbana to Take the UI’s Helm in Tough Times

The next president of the University of Illinois will have the task of maneuvering the school through shrinking state funding and lingering mistrust.

But Michael Hogan says he's up to the task. Hogan today visited the Urbana campus, one day after his appointment was announced. Hogan is leaving the presidency of the University of Connecticut to take over for interim president Stan Ikenberry, who stepped in after the U of I admissions scandal. Hogan told trustees, faculty and students that he knows adversity.

"There are challenges ahead for the University -- everyone knows that. These are tough economic times not only here but for public and private higher education across the country," Hogan said. "But I'm looking forward -- I'm really looking forward -- to addressing these challenges, and mostly to addressing them in partnership with the faculty, the staff, the students and the board of this great university."

Hogan rose above more than 200 applicants for the U of I's top job, including other university presidents and provosts. Professor May Berenbaum sat on the search committee - she's happy that the U of I is still held in high esteem in spite of its problems.

"It speaks well for our campus and its reputation, and it's hope for the future that there were so many people who wanted to face those challenges," Berenbaum told Illinois Public Media's Celeste Quinn. "In that sense, it was quite reassuring -- daunting at first, but as the process unfolded it was more and more encouraging."

Hogan will receive a $620,000 salary according to the U of I plus a $225,000 retention bonus after five years. Trustees chair Chris Kennedy says even at that salary, the university is getting a bargain and is not paying top dollar.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 12, 2010

Schools Should Share Their Ideas on Health and Nutrition, Say Lawmakers

In an effort to improve students' health, legislators want Illinois schools to share good ideas. The measure creates a database districts can access to learn about successful wellness programs offered at other schools statewide.

The legislation's sponsor, Plainfield Democratic Senator Linda Holmes, says many schools already have nutrition and physical education programs in place. But she says others don't even know where to start. "This gives you the ability to go to this database and it will have the best practices of other schools you can look and say 'wow look, we can incorporate this activity our school has this capability," Holmes said. "So it's everybody's best practices, leaving you as school coming not having to try and reinvent the wheel, but finding out what's working in others." Holmes adds that using the database would be voluntary.

Lawmakers also gave their seal of approval to creating a co-op-like relationship between farmers and schools, so local fresh foods can be incorporated into lunch programs. Both proposals now head to the Governor.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 12, 2010

IL Supreme Court Plans Hearings on Admitting Evidence

Illinois' courts are in the process of getting an update for how judicial evidence is handled. Hearings will be held next week in Chicago and Springfield.

The rules the courts in Illinois follow when handling evidence are scattered in common law, statutes, and court decisions.

Most states have these rules outlined in one authoritative source, but not Illinois. Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald wants to change that, which is why he appointed a special committee to write a blueprint of the state's evidence rules.

This committee includes appellate judges, trial judges, law school professors, and legislators. The manual they've designed is intended to make the judicial process more efficient.

Supreme Court spokesperson Joe Tybor says a judge or lawyer could consult the legal manual to determine the validly of the defense's accusation based on previous rulings. "It should help any lawyer, any judge, and any client who needs information to make a decision on how to proceed," Tybor said. The Supreme Court would have to approve the final product.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 12, 2010

Mahomet-Seymour Students Expected Back in School After Bomb, Firearm Threat

Mahomet-Seymour school students are scheduled to return to school tomorrow after a threat prompted school officials to evacuate the schools and ultimately dismiss students for the day.

The district received the threat at about 9:00 this morning. The threat involving bombs and firearms originally came to the Mahomet police department, which notified the school district.

Superintendent Keith Oates says the school doesn't often receive bomb threats, and this threat is different from others they've received in the past:

"It's rare and usually it involves just one building or a specific location within a building. So this is a first for us as far as involving all buildings," Oates said

Oates said canine units from the U of I and Urbana police departments swept the buildings and found nothing.

According to Oates, the district's crisis protocol was followed. It includes removing students to two churches. Oates says all of the students were picked up from these off-campus locations.


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