Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 06, 2012

NIU: Police Investigating Secret Fund

Northern Illinois University officials are investigating reports of an alleged secret bank account channeling thousands of dollars to several university workers.

NIU employees working at a campus physical plant allegedly sold scrap metal to a local company, which would write checks to an account known as the "coffee fund.'' University spokesman Paul Palian said the university's police department is looking into the matter:

"There is currently an investigation underway," Palian said. "It was launched Friday afternoon."

Electronic records show checks from the DeKalb Iron and Metal Company to the fund have totaled more than $13,000 dollars since 2005.

School officials say they have no record of such a fund.

A spokesperson for DeKalb Iron and Metal Company could not be reached.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 06, 2012

Governor Amps Up Pressure to Overhaul Pensions

Gov. Pat Quinn is warning of dire financial consequences for school districts unless lawmakers overhaul Illinois' pension systems.

The Chicago Democrat supports a plan to make suburban and downstate school districts pay their own retirement costs, which the state currently pays.

Republicans have objected and claim it'll burden schools and increase property taxes.

Quinn's office released figures yesterday, claiming Illinois' unfunded liability is increasing so fast that it'll cost school districts more in the long run because lawmakers will have to slash education funding.

Quinn's office estimates that under the shift plan schools would pay $49 million in new pension costs for the 2014 fiscal year. Without reforms, those same districts would see their budgets slashed by $152 million.

He's called an Aug. 17 special session to deal with pensions.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 06, 2012

Dickson Sworn in as Indiana’s Chief Justice

Longtime Indiana Supreme Court Justice Brent Dickson has been formally sworn in as the state's first new chief justice since 1987.

The 71-year-old Dickson is the longest-serving current member of the five-member Supreme Court and became the acting chief justice when Randall Shepard retired in March. He was sworn as chief justice by Gov. Mitch Daniels during a Statehouse ceremony on Monday.

Dickson takes over a court in transition. After 10 years of no changes, the court has its third vacancy in the past two years.

Dickson was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986 by Republican Gov. Robert Orr. Dickson will reach the court's mandatory retirement age of 75 in July 2016, before his five-year term as chief justice ends.

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Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 05, 2012

Senator Kirk Releases Video on Recovery from Stroke

Sen. Kirk Releases Video on Recovery from Stroke
Sen. Kirk Releases Video on Recovery from Stroke

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk has released a second video message detailing his recovery after a January stroke, saying he's in contact with his office several times a day and has climbed 145 flights of stairs.

The three-minute video was released Sunday. It's his second since he began rehabilitation.

The video shows scenes of the Republican senator walking up stairs with help and speaking from his Fort Sheridan home. His office says he recently completed a 9-week mobility study at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. During the study he walked nearly 15 miles and climbed stairs.

In the video, Kirk says he's in touch with his office several times daily and is helping Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin find a replacement for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald who's announced his resignation.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 01, 2012

Neighbors: Habeeb Habeeb

Illinois Public Media’s Neighbors series is designed to introduce us all to our neighbors here in east central Illinois. If you have an interesting neighbor you think we should know about, tell us – you can e-mail us at willnewsroom@illinois.edu.

By Sean Powers

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(Duration: 4:32)

The Habeeb family

In recent months, you may have heard the name Habeeb Habeeb, in news stories about Illinois’ 13th district congressional race. As the Republican Party Chairman for Champaign County, he had a role in identifying Rodney Davis as the GOP candidate to replace retiring Congressman Tim Johnson. Habeeb is a self-described “average U.S. citizen who’s very passionate and just happens to be involved in politics.” But there’s more to his story, as Illinois Public Media’s Sean Powers reports in the latest installment of our continuing “Neighbors” series profiling your fellow neighbors in east central Illinois.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 19, 2012

Higher Education’s Ties with Banks, Impact on Students

By Jeff Bossert

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(Duration: 5:28)

A growing number of U.S. colleges and universities, including the University of Illinois, have arrangements with banks, providing student ID’s that also function as debit cards. Earlier this year, a consumer group cited concerns with some of them, and now members of Congress are raising their own questions.

Categories: Economics, Education

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 15, 2012

Healthy Cooking 101

Funded in part by a grant from the Lumpkin Family Foundation

It's easy to be swayed to turn to fast and affordable food that may not be healthy. But in Urbana, there’s a push to teach people the basics of healthy cooking on a budget.

Urbana High School students Kaitlyn Breitenfeldt, Miranda Bullok, and Tessla Varvel make a salad in the school's teaching kitchen.

At Urbana High School, Amanda Perez teaches an independent living class that aims to prepare teenagers as they enter the “real world.”

“So, we’re preparing students to live on their own,” Perez explained. “So, a lot of that is focused on the financial career aspect, but what goes into that is, ‘Ok, you’re living on your own. What kind of food are you going to eat because the kind of food that you eat kind of influences everything else you do?’"

Perez is working with teenagers to help them think about think about food differently. Students in the class are required to prepare a healthy meal on a budget with ingredients that meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new dietary recommendations.

Categories: Consumer issues, Food, Health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 06, 2012

First Auditor General of Illinois Dies

Illinois' first Auditor General has died. Robert Cronson was 87 years old when he passed away earlier this week at St. John's Hospital in Springfield.

The uditor General position was created when the state's Constitution was redrafted, in 1970.

It was an outgrowth of a scandal from the '50s. Then, Illinois had an elected, statewide Auditor of Public Accounts, a position held by Orville Hodge.

"He made off with a couple of million dollars," said current Auditor General Bill Holland. "And back that that was a lot of money. That's a lot of money today."

Holland, who is only the second man chosen by the legislature for the position, has been in office for 20 years. Before him, there was only Cronson, who was appointed Auditor General in 1974.

Holland credits Cronson with setting a standard of professionalism for the office.

"My work, over the last 20 years, has in large part, built upon the early years in which the office was first being organized," Holland said.

In a 1975 edition of the "Illinois Issues" magazine, Cronson identified himself as "bipartisan."

In the published interview, Cronson said policy wasn't his purview. He called the Auditor General's office a "fact-finding agency." He is quoted saying "It is our job to make these audits and operational reviews and investigations, and then report the facts to the legislature."

The Auditor General is responsible with monitoring state spending, and checking to see that agencies comply with federal and state laws and regulations.

A memorial service is scheduled for Sunday, July 8 from 5 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. at the Kirlin, Egan and Butler Funeral Home in Springfield, with a eulogy set for 7 p.m.

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Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 06, 2012

Jesse Jackson Jr. Requires In-patient Treatment

The office of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., said Thursday that the Chicago Democrat's medical condition is more serious than staff initially thought or believed.

"Recently, we have been made aware that he has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time," an emailed statement said.

It said Jackson is being evaluated and treated at an in-patient medical facility, and his doctors believe he will be there for an extended period of time, followed by outpatient treatment.

"We ask that you keep Congressman Jackson and his family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult period," the statement concluded.

This is the first update on Jackson's health in over a week, when his staff said he was on medical leave and being treated for "exhaustion."

The once-rising Democratic star has faced accusations that he signed off on a pay-to-play offer aimed at winning a U.S. Senate appointment from ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Jackson has never been charged and has denied wrongdoing, though the House Ethics Committee is investigating.

In addition, the congressman acknowledged a private marital issue.

Long known for a near-perfect voting record in the U.S. House, Jackson has missed more than 70 straight votes.

Meantime, Jackson's Republican opponent in the November election said the public deserves to know more about the congressman's health.

"My heart goes out to him - keep him in our thoughts and prayers for a good, quick recovery," Brian Woodworth said Thursday.

But on the other hand, Woodworth said, Jackson's office is not being specific enough.

"Somebody who had a stroke like Senator Kirk - it's assumed he's going to be out for a long time. Somebody who's having hernia surgery, you're going to be out for a couple days," Woodworth said. "So, for the public to understand what's going on with the representative, I think there's an obligation to be more open. And that's all I'm saying."

The Second Congressional District, which stretches from Chicago's South Side to past Kankakee, is overwhelmingly Democratic.

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WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 06, 2012

Champaign County Board of Review Gets New Members

The Champaign County Board of Review - the three-member panel that hears appeals of property tax assessments in the county - now has two new members.

The Champaign County Board voted last month to appoint Democrat Elizabeth Patton and Republican Steve Whitsitt to 2-year terms on the Board of Review - replacing Wayne Williams and Steve Bantz. The third board member, Democrat Laura Sandefur, is in the middle of her term, which ends next year.

The vote came after some county board members noted complaints about Board of Review performance from several areas, including the public, other county officials, and the state panel that hears appeals on Board of Review rulings.

Urbana Democrat Christopher Alix voted for the changes on the Board of Review ... and says he hopes the new lineup will improve its performance.

Categories: Government, Politics

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