Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 13, 2011

Ex-Workers Claim Contamination From Flex-N-Gate-owned Facility

Former workers at a shuttered auto parts making plant in the Detroit enclave of Highland Park say the plant may have contaminated the area with a cancer-causing chemical.

The Detroit Free Press reports Tuesday that known carcinogen hexavalent chromium was used at the Chrome Craft plant.

Saad Bolos of Madison Heights worked at the plant 17 years and says leaks included a rooftop pipe that spilled into an alley.

The Chrome Craft plant is owned by Urbana, Ill.-based Flex-N-Gate Group, a manufacturer of bumper systems for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. The company says it has fully investigated the claim and says it has no knowledge of leaks or violations.

Flex-N-Gate is owned by Shahid Khan, an Urbana businessman who hopes to win approval this week from NFL owners to buy the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Flex-N-Gate bought Chrome Craft in 2005. In a 2009 lawsuit, Khan said he was a partner in Chrome Craft dating back to 1993.

Four inspections at the plant from 1992 until its closure found 39 violations of environmental laws, according to documents gathered by the UAW.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality plans to investigate the claims about the plant, which closed about two years ago.

Categories: Business, Health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 13, 2011

Urbana Council Discusses Tourism Promotion Efforts

Urbana City Council members started a discussion Monday night of plans for a city-run tourism and marketing program. The proposal comes after Mayor Laurel Prussing vetoed city funding over the summer for the Champaign County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The proposal would convert the city's part-time Public Arts Coordinator into a full-time job, and create an additional part-time Community Marketing Associate position to handle promotion of city events. Mayor Prussing said a graduate student from the University of Illinois might fill the position. The price tag --- $37,320 a year --- would be about half what the city of Urbana previously provided to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

During discussion at the city council's Committee of the Whole meeting, Alderwoman Diane Marlin questioned if the city could really afford the extra expensive, and wondered if the city could make better use of resources it already has. Meanwhile, Alderman Dennis Roberts wondered if the effort was enough. He says he'd like to see efforts to promote Urbana run by a professional marketing director.

"And it has to be a person who has more experience than a new graduate student", said Roberts, "however talented we have a pool of. I think that the key person needs to be a professional person, because we're hoping for professional results."

But Mayor Prussing said keeping expenses down was one of the underlying goals of the proposal.

"Ideally, it might be nice to hire someone for $75,000, but I don't think we're in that position", said Prussing. "We have nine vacancies right now." In addition to cost, Mayor Prussing had questioned the Convention and Visitors Bureau's effectiveness, when she vetoed its city funding.

Urbana City Council members will continue their discussion of ways to promote tourism and convention business for the city at future meetings. Meanwhile, council members gave preliminary approval to renewing their annual $95,000 agreement with the Urbana Business Association, for their marketing and promotion activities, including oversight of the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 13, 2011

Report Says Ill Youth Prisons Are A “Failure

A new report says Illinois' youth prison system is an expensive failure with more than half of young offenders returning within three years of their release.

Many of them go back to prison for trivial problems such as skipping school or staying out late. The report to Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers is being released publicly today by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission. The report makes recommendations it says could save money - nearly $80,000 per imprisoned youth each year.

Commission chair Judge George Timberlake says Illinois can do better at a lower cost, while making the public safer. The report was required by state law and is based on an examination of the youth prison system, including observations of prisoner review board hearings, and an analysis of parole revocations.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 13, 2011

College Illinois Program Stops Selling New Contracts

The state of Illinois' billion-dollar prepaid college tuition program has stopped selling new contracts at the same time a new study found the fund has a 30 percent shortfall.

Crain's Chicago Business reports that fund administrator Kym Hubbard says the Illinois Student Assistance Commission plans to give the governor and lawmakers comprehensive recommendations on fixing the $1.1 billion College Illinois program. That should happen early next year.

A study from March of this year found the 30 percent shortfall in the program. That's the same shortfall found in June 2010, but the new report incorporates lower forecasts on investment returns.

More than 30,000 Illinois families hold contracts in College Illinois, which lets parents lock in tuition costs at public universities years before students go to college.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 12, 2011

Illinois House Passes Tax Package for Businesses

The Illinois House has approved tax breaks for businesses, including some big names like Sears and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange that are threatening to leave the state.

That measure would cost the state about $150 million next year and $218 million the year after that. It also includes broader tax breaks, like a credit for research and development and a more generous method of writing off losses.

The legislation now goes to the Senate. The Senate had already approved a version of the entire package. Earlier, the House also passed tax relief aimed at poor and middle-class families. It increases the earned-income tax credit, which lowers tax bills for poor families. It also would increase the personal exemption available to all taxpayers.

Among East Central Illinois lawmakers, Democrat Naomi Jakobsson of Urbana voted for both bills, while Republican Jason Barickman of Champaign voted against both.

Republicans Dan Brady of Bloomington, Adam Brown of Decatur, Chad Hays of Catlin, Bill Mitchell of Forsyth and Chapin Rose of Mahomet voted for the bill (SB397) with the business tax breaks. But they voted against the bill (SB400) with tax breaks for families and individuals.

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 12, 2011

Danville School Integrates Health & Wellness Into Curriculum

Northeast Elementary Magnet School in Danville has earned national recognition for its approach to fighting childhood obesity --- by teaching its students how to stay healthy. It's the subject of the first report in our WILL-Connect initiative on health and wellness. Reporter Lisa Braddock paid a visit to the school to see how the program works.

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Categories: Education, Health, Recreation

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 12, 2011

Seven-Hour Standoff in Urbana Ends Peacefully

Five men from Urbana have been arrested and charged with home invasion following a standoff at an Urbana apartment complex Monday morning.

Urbana Police Lieutenant Bryant Seraphin says shortly after 3 a.m., the men broke into a unit at the Country Club Apartments in the 900 block of North Broadway Avenue, wielding guns and knives. But Seraphin says a female tenant was able to escape and call police.

Seraphin says Champaign County SWAT team negotiators were able to talk the four men out of the building around 10 a.m. He says the relationship between the men and victim is still unclear at this point.

"Initial information is that yes, there was some connection," said Seraphin. "We're trying to sort that out as to why this apartment was chosen. But I do not believe it was a random act."

There are no reports of injuries.

UPDATE: The tenant at the apartment complex tells police the five men claimed to be hiding from police when they broke in her apartment and stole items. A robot later used to search the apartment later found it was unoccupied, and the five men were discovered in an adjoining apartment. Those taken into custody are identified as 23-year old Sherrick Cooper, 19-year old Terrell Larue, 19-year old Herbert Shah, 25-year old Eric Kirk, and a 16-year old juvenile. The stolen items were recovered, along with two handguns.

One of the men in custody, Terrell LaRue, was arrested in August in connection with the February murder in Danville of 25-year old Kevin Jackson. But the case against him was dropped last week in Champaign County Court after witnesses couldn't be found to testify against him.

The area near the apartment was blocked to traffic for several hours, but re-opened about 10:30 a.m.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 11, 2011

Occupy C-U Movement Moves Focus to Bank Accounts

(Reported by Azra Halilović)

One of the latest efforts of the Occupy Movement is to not only protest Wall Street banks, but to encourage others to close out their accounts with them.

"Move Your Money" or "Bank Transfer Day", took place in some cities in early November, but those with Occupy Champaign-Urbana started up the campaign in West Side Park on Saturday.

Despite cold temperatures, about 50 demonstrators met to protest banks they say are 'too big to fail.' They passed out harmonicas and performed a call and response as they launched the new "Move Your Money" campaign.

Groups ranging from local unions to family businesses spoke out against Wall Street banks, urging people to close their bank accounts. Demonstrators waved signs, handing out fliers outlining the campaign's mission to promote local industry by boycotting relationships with federal banks. University of Illinois student Scott Kimball spoke on behalf of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He'd like to see the government help veterans adjust to life back home.

"Veterans have an unemployment rate that's about double the national average," Kimball said. "For African-American women veterans, their unemployment rate is over 30 percent, and that's unacceptable. We have veterans that are jobless, that are homeless, that their houses are being foreclosed on. Our nation's veterans aren't getting the treatment they deserve."

Kimball says he's also excited about a change in consciousness within the group, as the Occupy movement welcomes other demographics.

"People of color have a different set of circumstances, there are veterans who have a different set of circumstances, people in the LGBTQ community have issues that they need to voice," he said. "The bigger the tent that we create, the more marginalized voices that we lift up, the better this movement becomes - the more powerful it becomes and then we can really, truly make the claim that we are the 99 percent."

The group made its way to Chase Bank, where one of the demonstrators closed her account - with plans of moving her money to a local credit union. Organizers plan to hold a similar demonstration on Monday, asking protesters to hold signs at some the area's busiest intersections.

(Photo by Azra Halilović)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 11, 2011

Illinois Advances to NCAA Women’s Volleyball Final Four

Illinois is headed to Thursday's Final Four round of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament for the first time since 1988, after beating Florida in three out of four sets Saturday, to win the regional in Gainesville.

Illinois posted a 25-22, 23-25, 25-14, 25-20 victory over the Gators. After a .068 performance in an opening set that saw weak performances from both sides, the Illini players hit .455, .394 and .514 in the final three sets, respectively, and .338 for the night. Former Gator Colleen Ward led the way for Illinois with a .500 performance, with 23 kills in 42 swings ---- including nine out of nine in the final set. Ward was named Regional Tournament MVP, and named to the All-Regional Tournament Team, along with Illinois' Michelle Bartsch and Jennifer Beltran.

Illinois is headed to the Final Four round in San Antonio with a season record of 31-4 and a seven-match winning streak. The Illini will face No. 7 USC,which defeated No. 15 Pepperdine 3-2 to win the NCAA Honolulu Regional.

Categories: Education, Sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 09, 2011

UI Volleyball Team Advances to Regionals

For the first time since 1992, Illinois's volleyball team is heading to a regional final.

The third-seeded Illini won a fierce battle with fellow Big Ten member Ohio State Friday, advancing to Saturday night's regional final in Gainesville, Fla. The Illini will be looking for its third appearance in the national semifinals and first since 1988. The Illini reach the 30-win mark for the 7th time in school history.

The Illini (30-4) reach the 30-win mark for the seventh time in school history, but the first since that 1992 season. Illinois also end a string of three straight years in which their season has ended in the Sweet 16. Illinois wins its seventh straight match overall and eighth straight against Ohio State in the series between the two schools.

Categories: Education, Sports

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