Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 06, 2010

Longtime Indiana Lawmaker Dies at 79

Former Indiana Republican State Senator Joe Harrison is being remembered as an icon and a mentor for many now serving in the legislature.

The 40-year Senator who served as majority leader for 25 years died Thursday in Chicago after suffering a heart attack while visiting his daughters. He was 79.

Senator and Majority Floor Leader Connie Lawson succeeded Harrison as Senate Majority Leader. In her first legislative session in 1997, she said no one was more enthusiastic to see legislators back at the capitol. Lawson said Harrison was eager to explain complicated issues to new lawmakers, having served on his pension and labor committee for her first two years.

"That's not an easy committee to serve on and the bills are not easy to read," Lawson said. "He was always eager to teach each and every one of us what those bills meant. I just remember the way he ran his committee was in a professional and efficient way."

Harrison shared some of the same legislative area as Lafayette Republican Senator Ron Alting when he first campaigned. Alting said Harrison was always a statesman, and never a politician - who acted in the best interests of his constituents, even when his decisions were not the most popular. Alting said Harrison would fight controversial topics head-on, adding that his efficiency helped taxpayers.

"He told you if you testified to get to the point," Alting recalled. "He focused right to what the subject matter was and say your piece and sit down."

Funeral services for Harrison will be Thursday in Attica.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 06, 2010

Election Officials Hearing Objections to Emanuel’s Chicago Mayor Campaign

Dozens of people who don't want former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to be Chicago's next mayor are moving ahead with efforts to keep him off the February ballot. However, the man who moved into Emanuel's house and later decided to challenge him says he won't mount a mayoral campaign himself.

Chicago election officials began handling petition challenges Monday in the mayor's race including more than 30 objections to Emanuel's candidacy.

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners has assigned hearing officers to his case and others wanting to run for mayor, alderman or other citywide office.

Opponents say Emanuel doesn't meet the residency requirement to run for mayor because he lived in Washington for nearly two years while working for President Barack Obama. One challenger is Rob Halpin, who had moved into Emanuel's Chicago home when Emanuel went to Washington.

Halpin said in a Monday statement that the challenges of running for office - starting with the cost - led to his decision to drop out. Halpin didn't mention Emanuel's name, but says he has no plans to endorse or work against another candidate.

Halpin made headlines a few months ago when he said he wasn't moving out of Emanuel's house, despite being asked to. Emanuel moved back to Chicago, but is living elsewhere.

Emanuel, a former Chicago congressman, moved back in October to run for mayor after Richard Daley announced he wouldn't seek a seventh term.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 05, 2010

Sidewalk Snow/Ice Removal Required in Champaign

Sidewalk snow and ice removal requirements for downtown and Campustown in Champaign were put into effect at noon on Sunday (December 5th).

Public Works Director Dennis Schmidt announced that due to the snow accumulated during the weekend snowfall, property owners in the downtown and Campustown areas had until noon on Tuesday, December 7th to clear snow and ice from sidewalks. The deadline is based on the 48 hours warning period established by City Ordinance. Schmidt said through a news release that sidewalks that were not in compliance could be cleared by the City at the property owner's expense.

The downtown Champaign area subject to the Sidewalk Snow Removal Ordinance is bordered by State Street on the west, 2nd Street on the east, Columbia Avenue on the north and Springfield Avenue on the south. The Campustown area subject to the ordinance is bordered by Neil Street on the west, University Avenue on the north, Windsor Road on the south and Wright Street (which is also the Champaign city border) on the east.

Champaign's Sidewalk Snow Removal Ordiance is put into effect when snow accumulation reaches two inches or more.

A map and other details of the ordinance can be seen on the City of Champaign website (www.ci.champaign.il.us/snow).

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 03, 2010

Mobile Food Pantries Making Stops in Champaign County

Free mobile food pantries will be dispatched throughout Champaign County starting this weekend.

The United Way is teaming up with several labor groups to distribute nearly 40,000 pounds of food from the Eastern Illinois Food Bank to low-income families in Rantoul, Mahomet, Champaign and Urbana during the first three Saturdays of the month.

According to U.S. Census Bureau, more than 18 percent of people in Champaign County were living in poverty in 2008, which during that year was about six percent higher than the state's overall poverty level. Eric Westlund, the AFL-CIO Community Services Liason, said the poverty level in Champaign County has not changed substantially, but he said there is still a significant need to feed hungry families.

"You can't really tell by looking at somebody if they're in poverty or not," he said. "It's just not something that's visible, but believe me there's just so many people out there that can use a little help, especially at this time of the year."

Each mobile pantry can feed up to 150 families. Westlund said many children in low-income families are not getting enough protein, which is why the pantry will offer a lot of canned fruits and vegetables.

"We're looking to feed these kids so that they are healthy," he said. "There's a little peanut butter in there, and they'll get some cookies, but there will be fresh produce and other things to offset that too."

The food will be distributed Saturday at the First United Methodist Church, 200 S. Century Blvd., Rantoul at 10 a.m. and at the Mahomet United Methodist Church, 1302 E. South Mahomet Road at 12:30 p.m. On Dec. 11, the pantry will distribute goods at Stratton Elementary School, 902 N. Randolph St., C. Distribution at 10 a.m. On Dec. 18, the final pantry will be set up at Prairie Elementary School, 2102 E. Washington St., U. Distribution at 10 a.m.

Categories: Economics, Health
Tags: economy, health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 02, 2010

Champaign-Based Record Label Earns Grammy Nomination for 5th Straight Year

Archeophone Records will be part of the Grammy Awards for the 5th straight year.

'There Breathes a Hope', the newest release from the Champaign-based label that re-issues some of the earliest known recordings, includes 43 songs performed by the Fisk Jubilee Quartet. The recordings and the accompanying 100-page booklet tell the story of John Wesley Work II, who started taking the Fisk Jubilee Singers, from Nashville-based Fisk University, on the road in the late 1890's in an effort to preserve African-American spirituals and their place in history. The ensemble became the Fisk University Jubilee Quartet in the next century. The re-issue of these songs is nominated for Best Album Notes.

Author Doug Seroff wrote the notes. "I suppose what Work had to do was convince the student body that this music was genuine African-American folk music..," said Seroff. ".. and it had all the potential and all the inherit cultural value that people's music has." The CD also includes portions of a 1983 interview Seroff conducted with Rev. Jerome Wright, one of the last surviving members of the Fisk Jubliee Singers to have performed under John Work II.

Archeophone co-owners Richard Martin and Meagan Hennessey have one Grammy win - that was in 2007 - when another collection of black recordings - Lost Sounds, took the award for best historical album. Previous nominations include "Debate '08: Taft and Bryan Campaign on the Edison Phonograph" and "Actionable Offenses: Indecent Phonograph Recordings From the 1890's." The 53rd annual Grammy Awards will be presented on February 13th.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 02, 2010

Search Begins to Fill Rep.-Elect Adam Brown’s Decatur City Council Seat

A special write-in election will be held to fill State Representative-elect Adam Brown's vacant Decatur City Council seat.

Brown narrowly defeated four-term incumbent Bob Flider (D-Mt. Zion) in the November 2nd election, and last week resigned from the city council. Brown's resignation came after the election filing deadline, which means candidates interested in running for the seat will have to file as write-in candidates on the ballot.

If more than four candidates decide to jump into the race, then a special write-in primary will take place on Feb. 22 with the names of the four top candidates appearing on the ballot in the April 5 election. But if there is not a primary, then Macon County Clerk Steve Bean said voters will have to write-in the candidates' names in the general election. Bean said this will be the largest write-in race that has taken place Macon County in recent years.

"It'll slow down whatever counting process we have for whichever election we do this in," he said.

But before the general election, Decatur Mayor Mike McElroy will have to appoint a new city council member to fill Brown vacated seat. He has 60 days to choose someone following Brown's departure from the council. McElroy, who's up for re-election, acknowledged that it is possible he will appoint someone who plans on running for the seat in the general election.

"I don't know that it behooves anyone to figure that we just want you for five months," McElroy said. "If you're thinking seriously about it, then we want someone that's going to go on and finish out that term."

He said whoever he appoints will have to win the approval of the five current sitting members on the Decatur City Council. McElroy said he hopes to make a decision by next week. People interested in running as a write-in candidate have until Dec. 23 to file the necessary election documents with the Decatur city clerk. Unlike national or statewide races, no signatures or petitions are required for write-in candidates to be on the ballot.

So far, the only person to declare his candidacy is Macon County Historical Society director Patrick McDaniel, who unsuccessfully ran for the Decatur City Council last year. However, others have expressed interest in running.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 02, 2010

1 Dead in Plane Crash Outside Decatur Airport

Federal officials say the pilot of a small airplane is dead after a crash in central Illinois.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro says the single engine home-built aircraft took off from the Decatur Airport on Thursday afternoon and crashed 1.5 miles east of the airport.

Molinaro says the pilot was the only one on board. The pilot'sname was not released.

The plane was manufactured this year and is called a "Freebird Lite Sport.'' It was destroyed in the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

Categories: Transportation

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 02, 2010

Two Children Die in Broadlands House Fire

An early morning house fire in Broadlands has claimed the lives of two young children.

Firefighters were called to the home on Logan Street just past 2 a.m., and worked at the scene for more than 3 hours. The two-story house was destroyed. The names of the one and two-year olds who died are not being released pending notification of other family members. Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup says an autopsy will be conducted in Bloomington on Friday. County Sheriff's Lieutenant Ed Ogle said the six members of the family were all sleeping in the downstairs living room in an effort to stay warm before being awakened by neighbors. He said the parents were able to get the older children out, but couldn't get back in to save the younger children.

The four other family members were not hurt. Ogle said the home was engulfed in flames by firefighters arrived, and spread quickly.

"We don't know how long it had been burning until prior to somebody noticing it," Ogle said. "That's what we're currently working with the state fire marshal's office on now to try to determine how it started, where it started, and what possibly fed it so fast."

Ogle said the fire likely started in a garage which is attached by a breezeway. Five fire departments fought the blaze, including Broadlands, Longview, Villa Grove, Sidney, and Homer. Water hauled to the scene caused the road to freeze up, which was closed until after 6 a.m., after an IDOT crew could spread salt in that area.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 01, 2010

IL Lawmakers Consider Abolishing the Death Penalty

Legislation to abolish the death penalty will be put on hold until the Senate and House return for the lame-duck session in January.

Former Governor George Ryan suspended executions in the state about a decade ago, and since then no prisoner has been put to death. Randy Steidl is one of 20 people exonerated from death row in Illinois. He was released from prison after having been wrongly convicted of the 1986 murders of newlyweds Dyke and Karen Rhoads of Paris, Il. He spent 17 years in prison, 12 of which were on death row.

"As harsh as death row was, I found that five and a half years of life without parole that I did after death row was far harsher," Steidl said. "Let them wake up every morning and think about the crimes they committed. That's punishment, and you don't risk the possibility of executing an innocent person."

Opponents of abolishing the death penalty in Illinois say the issue is too important to decide during the time left in the legislative veto session. Earlier this week, the Illinois House committee narrowly recommending abolishing the death penalty with a judiciary panel voting 4-3 today to send the abolition legislation to the House floor.

The first person in the United States exonerated from death row because of DNA evidence shared his story Wednesday on the University of Illinois campus as part of a ceremony commemorating a federal grant for DNA testing. Kirk Bloodsworth, a former marine who now lives in Idaho, was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1984 rape and murder of a Maryland girl, but he was later released.

"If it can happen to an honorably discharged marine with no criminal history," Bloodsworth said, referring to his wrongful conviction. "It can happen to anyone in the state of Illinois, and it's going to continue to do so."

A $687,448 federal grant named in Bloodsworth's honor from the U.S. Department of Justice will help the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project (DIIP) clear more wrongfully convicted inmates. The group's director, Larry Golden, said with the grant money, the innocence project will sift through 25 to 30 cases over the next year and a half that could be solved through DNA testing. He also said DIIP will be able to hire a legal director, and recruit law students at Southern Illinois University and the University of Illinois to review each case.

"Every one of these cases is very, very demanding," Golden said. "The most success that could occur with innocence projects like ours is if we could work ourselves out of business and there weren't cases out there that we would have to look at."

But Golden said as long as there is a demand to study cases in which someone was wrongfully convicted of a crime, his organization will continue its investigations. Golden acknowledged that while his group usually does not come in contact with death penalty cases, he said more than half of the nation's exonerated cases deal with people who were on death row.

"Do we as a society want to sentence people to death when we know there's a good possibility that a number of those people are going to be innocent?" he said. "It raises some big questions about whether that's good and/or moral public policy.

Categories: Politics
Tags: politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 01, 2010

Rep. Black Takes to the House Floor for the Last Time

State Representative Bill Black has given his last speech on the floor of the Illinois House.

The Danville Republican was emotional in his final address to colleagues before he retires this month after 24 years, but it was not the fiery emotion that statehouse observers are familiar with, when Black would tackle controversial issues, sometimes screaming and slamming down his microphone.

Black kidded fellow lawmakers, complimented staff members and quoted "To Kill a Mockingbird" in his speech. He also reminisced about lawmakers who died during his tenure, citing a recent Chicago Tribune column that examined mortality.

"I prefer to remember the fun and glorious days of being able to walk beside them, work with them, when the sun was shining so brightly on our faces," Black said, his voice quavering. "God, I love this place and I love all of you. But as in everything there is a time."

Black was the House deputy Republican leader until earlier this year, when he was demoted by Republican leader Tom Cross for voting against his party on a borrowing bill. In his speech, Black saluted Cross and said he understood the demotion, thanking Cross for not taking away some of the privileges of the post.

Categories: Government, Politics

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