Illinois Public Media News
Restoration Urban Ministries in Champaign has survived another financial crisis. Financial officer Judy Stoll says Ameren has dropped its threat to cut off the homeless shelter's electricity --- now that they've caught up with their bill.
"Because of the generous outpouring of the community and the churches and private donations", says Stoll, "we have been able to get caught up with Ameren. and I actually paid the last of the Ameren bill off on Monday. We're also trying to get some of the other utility bills caught up".
Stoll says more than 25-thousand dollars has come to Restoration Urban Ministries since last month, when residents of the shelter came to a Champaign City Council meeting to ask for help --- and Ameren warned of a power cutoff if bills weren't paid. First amendment issues prevent the city of Champaign from giving money to the faith-based shelter. But Stoll says contributions are still coming in from the public. She says that helps make up for a 30-to-40 percent dip in donations to Restoration earlier this year.
The organization currently shelters about 91 people in a former motel on Champaign's northwest side, and provides them with life skills classes to help them get back on their feet.
Stoll says supporters of Restoration Urban Ministries are launching their own efforts to keep the donations coming in. Those efforts include a Facebook page, titled "Help Save Restoration Ministries". Pastor Vincent Elam is hosting the page, and asking 25-thousand people to give a dollar each to help out.
University of Illinois President Joseph White says a series of admissions reforms as recommended by a governor's panel need to be implemented in 8 weeks. White and about 100 leaders from the U of I's three campuses met in a closed-door meeting Wednesday discussing how to move beyond its admissions scandal. He says a firewall must be built around that area to ensure that no one above the level of Dean whose job doesn't include admissions will be involved in the process. The U of I also plans to adopt an admissions code of conduct, and set up a procedure for handling inquiries from lawmakers or anyone else inquiring about student applications.
White says the first action Wednesday was terminating the Category I list of politically-recommended students. He says the U of I needs to lead by example. "I think the University of Illinois, having been through this, has to correct and over-correct,' says White. "I think the practices that are pretty commonplace in other public universities won't be occuring here because we have to win the confidence of applicants and we have to win the confidence of the people of Illinois and I'm confident we will."
White would not comment on personnel matters, saying it remains to be seen whether the admissions scandal will result in anyone on campus losing their job, including himself. But he does say a U of I Board of Trustees with some new members will make the administration a high-priority item.
Ameren says an expanding portion of Southwest Champaign has necessitated plans for a new transmission line.
The first of two public meetings to help determine the route for the utility proposed 138-thousand volt line is Monday. It would extend from the Bondville Route 10 substation to one on the southwest portion of the University of Illinois campus in Savoy.
Spokesman Leigh Morris says what's key are any concerns about 'sensitivities' someone may want the line to steer clear of:
"It could be something like a cemetery, it could be a flood plain, it could be an archaeological site, a hospital, a school," Morris said. "But we need that kind of input, and we certainly want people to come because we need that input to develop the routes."
At a second open house this fall... Ameren IP will unveil its proposals for routes. Morris says feedback will still play a role then in what's submitted to the Illinois Commerce Commission. The filing with the ICC will take place in January, and its review process is expected to take 12 to 15 months.
Many routes for the line are already under consideration... they can be viewed on line at CI transmission-dot-com. Ameren's first public meeting on the transmission line is Monday from 4 to 7 at the Holiday Inn on Killarney Street in Urbana.
A candidate for Illinois governor says Republicans have been unsuccessful getting a governor elected over the last two elections because they've not elevated a quality candidate.
Bloomington homebuilder and state senator Bill Brady ran an unsuccessful primary campaign four years ago and is mounting another effort this year. He says this may be the right time for Republicans to do well in state elections in the wake of the Rod Blagojevich scandal.
"But we've also got to offer more than a corruption-free government," Brady said. "That's first and foremost, but they also have to believe that there's someone with the fiscal discipline to control government spending, to refrain from tax increases and in fact roll back tax and fee increases so business would choose to invest in Illinois again."
Brady is running against five other announced candidates, but he expects the field to narrow closer to next February's GOP primary. He says the last run for the governor's office left him with a fundraising foundation to depend on.
Champaign residents could start seeing more flyers on their cars and doorknobs soon, if the City Council goes ahead with plans to repeal a prohibition against the advertising practice.
Right now, only political and religious groups can leave a flyer on someone's doorknob in Champaign. And it's illegal to leave flyers of any sort on someone's windshield. But after a company that distributes such flyers argued that the ban violates the First Amendment, the council decided to revisit the issue. Council members unanimously endorsed ending the ban on doorknob flyers at Tuesday night's study session. But the council split 5 to 4 on ending the windshield flyer ban. For Councilwoman Marci Dodds, letting commercial handbills be plastered on windshields was too much.
"I don't have a problem with political and religious handbilling. I'm not fond of it because it just one of my pet peeves. But I don't see that commercial (handbilling) falls in the same category as that in the slightest," Dodds said.
But other council members said that the First Amendment wins out and that the council should repeal any law that they believe to be unconstitutional. Council member Tom Bruno said if Champaign resident gets an unwanted handbill on their car or door, they can exercise their own first amendment rights.
"I think a resident who gets an unwanted handbill should take the time to phone the business or the politician and say I'm really upset by this and I'm not going to do business with you," Bruno said.
The council will take a final vote on the issue at a later meeting.
University of Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman has apologized for his role in the university's admissions scandal, but says he has no plans to resign.
In a brief interview Tuesday with the Chicago Tribune, Herman said he was sorry for his role in the scandal and intends now to work on creating a new admissions process.
It was one of Herman's first public remarks since a state commission concluded last week that he acted unethically in admitting politically connected students with less-than-standard academic records.
The noted mathematician has been chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus since 2005, and was provost before that. Herman said he has received very few calls for his resignation and instead is relying on a letter of support signed by 48 of the university's most distinguished faculty members.
University of Illinois administrators will be meeting Wednesday afternoon to look at ways to fix the school's admissions process.
U of I President Joseph White called for the meeting, after a state panel concluded that the university bowed to political pressure in admitting under-qualified students.
University spokesman Tom Hardy says they want to do what they can to fix the problem before the new admissions cycle begins next month.
"The plan is to hit the ground running," says Hardy, "and work immediately --- as the president indicated last week -- on recommendations that came out of the Admissions Review Commission, on how to reform aspects of our admissions procedures, to put up a firewall around admissions, so that we don't have the same kind of problems that were experienced before."
A university statement says the firewall will include a new Code of Conduct for Admissions ... clear and complete details on admissions policies and processes ... and a clear policy for appealing admissions decisions.
The closed-door meeting is set for 1:30 PM, Wednesday afternoon, at the Business Instructional Facility on the Urbana campus. Officials at the Chicago and Springfield campuses will take part via teleconference.
Hundreds of Illinois boards and commissions have members serving on expired terms, vacant positions or no members at all.
Advocates say that can result in delayed decisions and ineffective advocacy for millions of Illinoisans, organizations and businesses. The state Banking Board, for example, hasn't had enough members to meet since 2003.
State officials and advocates place much of the blame on former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, saying he often ignored or delayed appointments.
Gov. Pat Quinn says he hasn't caught up on the appointments because of more pressing state issues and the desire to be extra careful after his predecessor was accused of trading some appointments for political favors.
Quinn says he plans to make many appointments in the next 90 days, and he's set up a Web site so people can apply online.
A new law signed this week sets aside clear boundaries for cities and villages in downstate Illinois to plan their future growth.
Those towns sometimes come into conflict with county zoning plans when they plan or annex new developments -- such as when Champaign approved an annexation agreement with a new Illinois American Water treatment plant two miles outside the city limits. The new law sets a one-and-a-half mile buffer around city or village limits before the county can restrict certain parts of those annexation agreements.
Champaign's deputy city attorney Trisha Crowley says local governments are fine with those limits.
"Basically it adds some certainty to the land use planning, so that's pretty important when you're making decisions that might involve development in 10,15, 20 years," Crowley said.
Smaller villages had also supported the new limits over worries that their planning efforts could be hurt by those of larger nearby cities. The new law doesn't affect counties in the Chicago or Metro East areas.
The Champaign School Board passed resolutions, and introduced new policies last (Monday) night related to the recently concluded Consent Decree for racial equity.
The school board had promised to enact the resolutions and policies as part of its settlement with the Consent Decree plaintiffs. And Unit Four spokeswoman Beth Shepperd says board members are keeping their word.
"It means that our board is committed to equity and excellence for all students, and that we don't require court oversight to do what we believe is right," Sheppard said. "We want to show the community that we mean what we say."
The resolutions were passed unanimously. One reasserts Unit Four's commitment to the Consent Decree promise of adding new classrooms on Champaign's north side. The other resolution promises to continue the Academic Academy alternative program for at least two more years.
The policy proposals commit Unit Four to equity in its special education program, and in deciding school opening and closings. There will also be a new committee to monitor the school district's success in providing equity in education. The Champaign school board votes on the policy questions next month, after a 30-day public comment period.
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