Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 21, 2011

Lincoln Trail Libraries System Nixes Champaign Library Non-Resident Fee

The Lincoln Trail Library System says Champaign's library may no longer charge out of town residents a $200 fee to check out materials.

The head of the system says she understands why Champaign's library started charging the fee for residents of Mahomet and Tolono last fall. Champaign library Director Marsha Grove said reciprocal borrowing had become much higher through patrons from neighboring towns than in Champaign and Urbana. Last year, the library lent 700,000 items through the Lincoln Trial system, while Champaign -Urbana residents borrowed about 200-thousand.

Grove said the plan was to evaluate the fee after six months, and the library is sticking to it.

"The board and I will very carefully look at the all the facets of this, and do so, as we have always done, with our primary concern of serving our residents right here in Champaign," Grove said. "That's what we want to do well."

But Lincoln Trail Director Jan Ison said she's surprised to hear the Champaign Public Library board would wait about a month before deciding whether to waive that fee, and she said residents of rural towns still pay taxes for library services.

"They are not non-residents in a legal sense," Ison said. "A non-resident would live outside of any tax-supported public library. And so the residents of Tolono and Mahomet, of those library districts, do pay taxes. Now, those taxes may not be as great as Champaign's tax, which is one of the reasons the board understands that they should perhaps be restricted."

Libraries in the Lincoln Trail system are allowed to limit the items a non-resident patron can check out to five, but Ison called the special use fee 'unacceptable' to both the Lincoln Trail System and Illinois State Library.

The Lincoln trial board said libraries that continue to charge the fee could lose their reciprocal borrowing privileges. Ison said the idea is get Tolono and Mahomet patrons using their local libraries more often.

But no decisions are expected soon. Neither the Champaign Library Board nor the Lincoln Trail Library board will meet until the 3rd week of May.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 21, 2011

Storm Shelters Scarce for Champaign Neighborhood

Residents of a mobile home park that has become a center of Champaign-Urbana's Hispanic community has no central place to go in an emergency. As Jose Diaz of the investigative reporting unit CU-Citizen Access reports, residents want the situation to change.

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WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 21, 2011

Cherry Orchard Landlords Continue to House Tenants

Despite a court order barring Bernard and Eduardo Ramos from accepting tenants at the Cherry Orchard Village apartments, they continue to do so, according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

The Ramoses were found guilty Monday in Champaign County court of failing to legally connect the property's sewer and septic systems. They must pay more than $54,000 in fines ($100 per day for 379 days for the unlawful discharge of sewage, $100 per day for 160 days for renting out the property during the health code violation; and $200 for not having a proper construction permit and license when they tried to repair the sewage and septic systems).

The judge in the case, John Kennedy, also issued an injunction, preventing the Ramoses from housing tenants until Cherry Orchard is brought up to code.

The Ramoses submitted a notice of appeal following the ruling.

Public Health administrator Julie Pryde said her department sent a health inspector to Cherry Orchard twice after the verdict. About 20 vehicles were discovered on the property. The health inspector spoke to a tenant who said she confronted Bernard Ramos about media coverage surrounding the trial. Pryde said the tenant was told by Ramos that he is appealing the court ruling, and that there's "no reason to move."

"It's clear that he has been moving people in almost continuously since we told him to stop," Pryde said. "He's actually gone out of his way to tell people that it's ok that they continue to live there."

Pryde said her department is working with different state agencies to help find remaining Cherry Orchard tenants permanent homes.

"I can't even begin to imagine how much time has been spent on this Cherry Orchard situation, and you know none of that money comes back to these agencies," she said.

This is not the first time efforts have been made to find emergency homes for Cherry Orchard tenants. Back in January, Pryde organized a meeting with groups including the Salvation Army, the United Way, and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to help get tenants into safe, permanent housing.

Pryde said she would like to see increased enforcement to ensure that the court order is followed. A request for comment from the Champaign County State's Attorney was not immediately returned.

Bernard Ramos and his family have owned more than 30 properties in Champaign County; however, several are now or have been under foreclosure during the past few years - with at least seven sold in sheriff's auctions since 2008, according to an analysis of Champaign County Recorder's Office documents.

Cherry Orchard is located right outside of Rantoul, and has traditionally housed migrant workers.

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 21, 2011

Ind. Elections Chief Appeals Ruling

Embattled Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White is appealing a judge's ruling sending a dispute over his November election back to the state recount commission.

Marion Circuit Court officials say the notice of appeal was filed today.

White lawyer Jim Bopp says the judge's ruling improperly asks the commission to decide an issue that's already being decided in a separate criminal case - whether White committed voter fraud.

Democrats are seeking to have White's candidacy disqualified and their candidate named winner in his place. Judge Louis Rosenberg ruled April 7 that the recount panel should reconsider Democrats' claims that White committed voter fraud by lying about his address on a registration form.

Bopp says such a decision is beyond the scope of the commission's powers.

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 21, 2011

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Invades Illinois

Another Asian import has joined the Asian lady beetle and emerald ash-borer on the list of insect pests in Illinois.

The brown marmorated stink bug first showed up in the Chicago area last fall. By January, it was being seen in Kane County. And just this month, it was spotted downstate in Champaign and McLean Counties.

Kelly Estes of the Illinois Natural History Survey said the insects are a year-round problem, because they gather on and in the sides of buildings when cold weather comes.

"Looking for that place to hide out for the winter, and then in the spring," Estes said. "They move out and will feed on a wide variety of plants: ornamental shrubs and trees, as well as corn and soybeans, and many of the fruits and vegetables that we raise here in Illinois."

The brown marmorated stink bug is a big enough problem on the east coast that insecticides are marketed there to kill them specifically. Estes said experts tell her that insecticides may not be the best approach in Illinois, since the stink bug's numbers are still small.

"For infestations that people potentially have in their homes, just with the potential danger of using foggers and things like that, they're not recommending people necessarily bomb their houses to get rid of infestations," Estes said. "Vacuuming them up and physical removal is what they're recommending right now."

The brown marmorated resembles other stink bugs, but has a speckled body, red eyes, black and white banding along the edge of its body and white stripes on its antennae.

If you see any of them, Kelly Estes wants to know about it for the Illinois Cooperative Pest Survey. She would like to see a photo of any bugs that you find, or better still, a specimen in a crush-proof container. Kelly Estes can be reached at 217-333-1005.

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 21, 2011

Houston Opera CEO to Head Lyric Opera of Chicago

The Lyric Opera of Chicago named Houston Grand Opera CEO Anthony Freud as its new general director Thursday, making him the first Lyric head appointed from outside the company ranks.

Freud was chosen after an eight-month international search, Lyric officials said, and he agreed to a five-year contract starting Oct. 1, the opening night of Lyric's 57th season.

"He has an outstanding record of fiscal responsibility and fundraising success," Lyric president and CEO Richard Kiphart said in a statement. "He has also been enormously successful at reaching out to, and engaging, audiences who are not part of an opera company's traditional family. I think he is exactly the right person for Chicago at this time."

Freud, 53, will work with music director Sir Andrew Davis and famed soprano Renee Fleming, who joined the Lyric in December as its first creative consultant. The Lyric Opera, one of the nation's most prominent after New York's Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera., has a nearly $53 million operating budget and 26,000 season ticket holders.

"I am honored to be chosen to lead Lyric Opera of Chicago, which I have so long admired," Freud said in a statement. "The Lyric Board and our superb company of artists, technicians, and administrators are the envy of our field. I have been inspired by the discussions I have had so far."

He called collaborating with Davis and Fleming "an extraordinary opportunity."

Freud becomes the fourth person to head the Lyric Opera and succeeds retiring director William Mason. Salary terms were not publicly disclosed.

Freud began working in Houston in March 2006 and helped create and implement the opera's first comprehensive business plan. Fundraising increased under his leadership and the opera brought in $72 million in donations in three years. Capacity sold has also increased significantly under Freud and is expected to surpass 90 percent this year - up from 76 percent when he took over in 2006. Freud's tenure has also seen 14 new productions and co-productions.

He came to Houston after heading the Welsh National Opera for more than a decade, and is also credited with overseeing an award-winning program aimed at bringing opera to communities throughout Houston. Freud, a London native, graduated in 1978 with a law degree from the University of London's King's College.

"We are enormously proud of the company's achievements under Anthony's leadership these past six seasons. His extraordinary vision and commitment to excellence have made a lasting impact on the company and our community," Glen Rosenbaum, the chairman of the Houston Grand Opera's board of directors, said in a statement. "While we are disappointed that Anthony has chosen to move on to Chicago, we wish him well in his new position."

Currently, the Houston board is working on a management succession plan, Rosenbaum said. In the meantime, Anthony will continue to work with the opera "to ensure that our future projects proceed smoothly with the artistic excellence that is internationally renowned."

(AP Photo/Welsh National Opera, Roger Donovan, File)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2011

IHSA Tightens Policy on Head Injuries

The Illinois High School Association board revised a policy this week regarding high school athletes who sustain head injuries during a game.

IHSA executive Kurt Gibson said students in Illinois have traditionally not been required to seek medical care the day after a head injury. He said according to the new policy, athletes must get care in the days after an incident happens, and they can only take part in a game if given clearance to do so by a licensed health care provider.

"We know so much more about concussions now than we did even a decade ago," Gibson said. "We realize and can see the need to have clear return to play policies in place in order to protect the safety of student athletes."

The policy change follows months of reports about long-term injuries sustained by athletes. The Center for Injury Research and Policy reports that about 20 percent of injuries during high school athletic competitions last year were diagnosed as concussions.

Scott Hamilton, the athletic director at Unity High School in Tolono, said he hopes the guidelines bring to the light the seriousness of sports-related injuries.

"There are so many different degrees of a kid getting hit or a kid falling or a kid bumping his head or two kids running into each other," Tolono said. "I think the important thing that's happening with all this is just awareness.

Categories: Health, Sports
Tags: health, sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2011

RNC Chair Says Illinois in Play for Republicans in 2012

The head of the Republican National Party says he thinks there's a chance the GOP can win Illinois in the 2012 presidential election.

Reince Priebus spoke at the Union League Club of Chicago Wednesday. He downplayed the thought that Republicans in Chicago would be nothing more than financial donors to campaigns, since it's Democrats who control most statewide offices.

"I don't really look at it as donor city or Cook County," Priebus said. "I mean, I look at it as the State of Illinois as a whole. And we're not conceding Illinois."

Priebus also gave insight into the rhetoric Republicans are likely to use in their campaigns against Democratic President Barack Obama.

"The battle we're in is more than just financial," he said. "The battle we're in is fundamentally a battle about freedom. It's a battle about opportunity. And it's a battle about self-determination."

Priebus gave little insight into individual Republican candidates for president.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, at an unrelated news conference, said he thinks Mr. Obama will receive less votes in 2012 compared to 2008, but he wouldn't say Republicans have a shot of winning Illinois in the presidential race.

(Photo by Tony Arnold/IPR)

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2011

Repair Continues to Power Lines Downed by Tuesday Night Storm

(With additional reporting by the Association Press)

Ameren says its crews are working to turn the lights back on for more than 29,000 Illinois customers who were still without power Wednesday afternoon --- following Tuesday night's severe storm. That number is down from a peak of roughly 83,000 outages in Ameren Illinois service territory.

Ameren Illinois spokesman Leigh Morris said he hopes to see electricity restored to most households by Wednesday night --- but some work will take more time.

"I'll be honest with you," Morris said. "we're not going to get everybody back on (Wednesday). Some of the damage is very extensive, and we're going to have outages persisting through Thursday. It's going to be Thursday afternoon and into the evening hours and perhaps even into Friday, before every last customer is back on."

Morris said most of the remaining outages are concentrated in southern Illinois, including Carbondale, Carterville, DuQuoin and Mount Vernon. In east-central Illinois, a few hundred households were still without power Wednesday afternoon in Piatt and Macon Counties.

Morris said the severity and complexity of some of the damage is responsible for the extra time it's taking to finish repairs. For instance, he cites the Rend Lake reservoir near Benton, where 12 Ameren power poles were knocked into the water.

"We actually had to bring in specialized equipment," Morris explained. "Because these poles aren't lying by the side of lake, they're in the lake. You have to have equipment that floats --- that can get out there and repair that damage that we done."

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service say its crews are out inspecting some of the storm damage, trying to confirm whether it was the work of tornadoes. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries. Officials say the strong winds overturned some rail cars, at least one tractor-trailer and damaged dozens of buildings.

Categories: Energy
Tags: energy

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2011

Champaign City Council Backs 2-Year Police Contract

Champaign's city council has reluctantly signed off on a new two-year contract with its police union.

Most council members supporting the average annual raise of one and three-quarters percent admitted the city couldn't afford it, while leaders are calling for $2-million in cuts. But concerns of the Fraternal Order of Police negotiating an even higher raise through an arbitrator resulted in a six-to-three vote. Council member Deb Frank Feinen said finances are a concern, but was willing to support the contract, saying the FOP met the city halfway.

"Part of what this contract tries to do is take into account where we are at today, and hope for some better times further into the contract," she said. "It's possible we won't have better times further into the contract, and I think we all have to go into this with our eyes open and understand it could mean layoffs or people without jobs." '

Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart backed the plan, saying unions in other communites are using arbitration to seek out two-to-three percent raises.

"If we decide to go that route on principal, we have to be ready to find some deeper cuts into the budget to amount to what it's going to cost us, and it's going to set the tone for the other unions that we're dealing with." he said.

But council member Marci Dodds said the city can't afford something that will ultimately lead to layoffs in a city forced to trim $2 million from its budget.

"I can't bring myself to vote for this," she said. "I know how much it is and I know the risk we're taking going to arbitration, if we go to arbitration. I just can't do it. Not this year. Not now."

Council member Tom Bruno voted the plan down, saying there's no guarantee the city would come out worse in arbitration. Aaron Ammons with C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice contends the city ignored his group's requests that the contract include a residency requirement for officers. It also wants drug testing for officers in the event someone is accidentally injured or killed, pointing to the 2008 fatal shooting of teenager Kiwane Carrington.

Bruno noted that residency used to be a requirement of officers, and says the city should provide incentives for the union to consider it again. Council member Michael LaDue said the drug test demand isn't unreasonable, suggesting the same could apply to employees that use heavy machinery that could result in accidental injury or death.

Categories: Government, Politics

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