Illinois Public Media News
In March of 1860, the people of a little town called West Urbana voted to incorporate as the city of Champaign. Now, 150 years later, Champaign is preparing to celebrate it sesquicentennial.
Champaign's 150th anniversary celebration will be built on the themes of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Yesterday is featured first, with a local history exhibit scheduled for March and April at the Illinois Terminal building. Some of the artifacts to be displayed were brought to Tuesday night's Champaign City Council study session ... old newspapers, theater programs, a 19th century fire helmet decorated with an eagle's head design.
City Planner TJ Blakeman says they're looking for more pieces of city history - and invites the public to call him at 217-403-8800, if they have items they can loan for the exhibit. Items being sought include objects associated with the Illinois Central Railroad, Parkland College, the Champaign Police Department and Burnham City Hospital --- with other items from Champaign's past welcome as well.
The Champaign sesquicentennial will also feature a downtown music festival in July to honor the city's present accomplishments ... and the dedication in March of next year of a fountain to look toward the future. The Legacy Fountain will be erected at One Main Plaza. 150th Anniversary Celebration Coordinator LaEisha Meaderds says the 200-thousand dollar fountain is still in the early design stages.
While the city of Champaign and the Champaign Park District are donating some funds for the Sesquicentennial Celebration, they hope to raise another $250,000 from private organizations. Donations from Individuals will be accepted, but not actively sought.
WILL plans to be part of Champaign's 150th anniversary celebration as well --- with the production of a 13-part television series about the city.
CLTV political reporter -- and former Illinois Public Radio reporter -- Carlos Hernandez Gomez has died at the age of 36.
Hernandez Gomez, who had been with CLTV since 2005, died Sunday in Northwestern Memorial Hospital after more than a yearlong bout with cancer.
Hernandez Gomez, who was known for his trademark fedora and machine-gun style of questioning public figures, covered the administrations of former Govs. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich, as well as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Cook County Presidents John and Todd Stroger.
Before starting at CLTV, Hernandez Gomez covered local and national politics for WBEZ and the Chicago Reporter. He also worked in Chicago for Los Angeles' Spanish-language daily, La Opinion.
Survivors include his wife, WGN-TV reporter Randi Belisomo Hernandez.
The Champaign County Board has slated a public hearing for February 9th on a proposal for single-member county board districts, coupled with a reduction in the number of county board members.
County Board Policy Committee Chairman Tom Betz put the hearing on the agenda for the board's February 9th committee of the whole meeting --- and he hopes board members will discuss the idea more than once before making a decision. Betz says the current multi-member districts make county board members less accountable to voters.
"Multi-member districts -- and I used to not feel this way -- allow people to duck their responsibilities. Someone else could do the work because they could be invisible," Betz said. "Unfortunately, I think that's one of the problems of the current system."
Betz' proposal couples single-member districts with a smaller county board --- some 13 to 17 members. Betz says the current 27-member board is too big for single-member districts to be workable, and that shrinking the board further to 9 members would rob it of its diversity.
Champaign County voters rejected single-member districts in an advisory referendum in 2001.
Officials at the University of Illinois say they're creating a Web site that will allow people to review the school's budget and give feedback.
University spokeswoman Robin Kaler says the idea is to make one place for students, staff and faculty to learn as much as they want about how financial decisions are made. It also allows people to get involved.
The site is called "Stewarding Excellence at Illinois'' and will launch later this month. The site will be linked to the university's home page. It includes an organizational chart of committees making budget decisions.
The new site comes as the university could face possible furloughs or other budget cuts.
Balancing the budget was a top priority for the five Republican candidates for Illinois governor, at a debate held in Urbana for broadcast on statewide public radio and TV Thursday night. Jim Meadows reports.
Frontrunners Andy McKenna and Jim Ryan declined to appear, giving the five other GOP governor candidates more time to outline their plans for balancing Illinois' budget. Dan Proft said he was ready to sell the Illinois Lottery, and then make 4 billion dollars in spending cuts.
Proft said the list includes "specific cuts like 400 million dollars for high-speed rail from Chicago to St. Louis, which isn't even high-speed rail ... 100 million dollars for spending to buy up land in Peotone for the third airport that's not coming".
Adam Andrzejewski said he was ready to do away with entire agencies.
I'll zero out every agency", said Andrzejewski, "like the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, that's not performing on its mission. That'll save us a billion dollars. With me, everything's on the table."
All the candidates opposed Democratic proposals to raise taxes, and some, like Bloomington State Senator Bill Brady, called for tax cuts to spur business growth.
"Cutting the double sales tax penalty on Illinois families and businesses" was one of Brady's examples. Another was "cutting the estate tax penalty, and cutting the taxes and fees that the Blagojevich/Quinn administration imposed on Illinois families and businesses."
State Senator Kirk Dillard and DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom also took part in the debate.
Dillard says his years in the Edgar administration showed he has what it takes to stand up to political heavyweights on the Democratic side.
"I have the experience as Jim Edgar's chief of staff. I've dealt with Mike Madigan. I've told him "no". I've said we're going to keep the legislature in session until we pass property tax caps for beleaguered suburban homeowners. I've told Mayor Daly "no". I Had to tell Mayor Daley you'not going to get a land-based casino the size of four football fields."
Bob Schillerstrom pointed to his experience as the County Board Chairman in DuPage County, the state's 2nd most populous county.
"As essentially the governor of a small state for the last eleven years, I know what leadership is all about", said Schillerstrom. "I know how to run a government. I know when to say no. You go up to DuPage County, you talk to some people --- I've made them mad up there, because I know when to say no."
A 2nd debate featuring Democratic candidates Pat Quinn and Dan Hynes is set to be held in Carbondale next Thursday, January 21st at 7 PM, for airing on public broadcasting stations
A University of Illinois soybean research program may take a new turn after this week's Haitian earthquake.
The National Soybean Research Laboratory based at the U of I has been working with a school nutrition program at a girls' school near the Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince. But the lab's associate director, Bridget Owen, says they've not been able to make phone or email contact with the school or its leaders since the quake on Tuesday.
Owen says he project's consultant, a native of Haiti, has also been hit by the tragedy - at least two of his family members have died.
"He lives in Chicago and also lives in Haiti, so he splits his time. He's a person we have worked with in Haiti for a number of years and is someone we consider a part of our family as well," Owen said.
Owen says the lab is working with its partners in the project to put together a response to the disaster.
Draft recommendations from an Illinois task force on nursing home safety are drawing both praise and criticism.
Thursday's report recommends increased staffing for nursing homes. Pat Comstock of the state's largest nursing home trade group says that may be impossible. She says it's already difficult to find qualified workers.
Praise for the report comes from Tony Zipple, who heads a Chicago-based nonprofit agency serving people with mental illness.
Zipple gives the task force high marks for recognizing the need for affordable supportive housing. He'd like the state to do more to prevent people with severe mental illnesses from ever having to move into a nursing home.
Illinois ranks highest in the nation in the number of mentally ill adults under age 65 living in nursing homes.
A Champaign County judge has imposed a 26-year prison sentence on a Champaign teenager convicted of raping a young woman 10 months ago.
In sentencing 19-year-old Marlone Pendleton on Wednesday, Circuit Court Judge Tom Difanis said he hoped the stiff penalty would serve as a deterrent.
Pendleton was one of five young men charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault for raping the 16-year-old girl in the garage of his aunt's home.
The other four defendants were acquitted.
Assistant State's Attorney Duke Harris argued for the maximum 30 years for Pendleton, who had prior convictions for domestic battery and obstructing justice.
But Pendleton's attorney, Harvey Welch, noted Pendleton's young age and said his criminal record didn't support a maximum sentence.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn used his first traditional "State of the State" address Wednesday to highlight his record...push again for more tax revenue...and salute veterans.
The one hour 12 minute speech included references to Abe Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Paul Simon - two Roosevelts and a tribute to Secretary of State Jesse White.
Quinn struck his usual populist tone, noting he uses his VIP card at a discount hotel chain, and lobbying for a constitutional amendment to let voters put ethics reforms on the ballot.
"Democracy is a process that goes on year after year", said Quinn, "and it's very important that we bring the people in to our democracy and let them set the rules for our conduct and our behaviors.
Quinn didn't talk directly about the state's deep budget problems until more than 45 minutes into his speech. The governor said he's cut the budget ... but argued that Illinois needs to raise taxes.
"Now I do believe we need more revenue", said Quinn. "I think after cutting all the costs, after using strategic borrowing, after getting as much money as we can get from the federal government, we're still short."
But that was all Quinn said about state finances.
The campaign of Comptroller Dan Hynes, Quinn's opponent in next month's primary election, released a statement calling the speech a - quote - "rambling and unfocused performance" that lacked "concrete plans."
Republican candidates for governor were uniformly critical. One of them, State Senator Bill Brady of Bloomington said Quinn is sending an anti-business message.
"He knows he's wrong, but it's in his DNA to do exactly the wrong thing --- he knows he shouldn't be talking about it", said Brady. "I can gurantee you there are thousands of business leaders that are saying right now, 'wait a second, this guy's scaring me.'"
Among other east-central Illinois lawmakers, Democratic State Representative Naomi Jakobsson of Urbana was the most supportive. In an audio news release sent out by the Illinois House Speaker's office, Jakobsson said the governor gave a "pretty good review" of how much progress Illinois has made in the year since he took office.
"He talked about a lot of the things that we were able to accomplish, and I often do that too", said Jakobsson. "It's good to remind people that we can work together, we do things together, both sides of the aisle, and we get some good things done."
State Senator Dale Righter, a Mattoon Republican, said Quinn talked only in "broad strokes" about the budget deficit, and has failed to consider cuts proposed by the Republican miniority.
"The governing party here in Illinois doesn't want to take ahold of the reins, and do something we all know is responsible, because that would potentially be politically unpopular", said Righter.
Democrat State Senator Mike Frerichs of Champaign, said he wanted to hear more specifics about the budget --- and hoped they would be forthcoming in the governor's budget address. Frerichs says quick action is needed to solve the state's budget crisis.
"I'm hopeful we do something this Spring", said Frerichs, "because quite frankly, I don't see how we make it through next November, when some people say we'll deal with those issues, without defaulting on a lot of our promises.
NPR's David Schaper reports on how Governor Pat Quinn and other politicians are addressing the budget crisis in Illinois. First aired on All Things Considered, 1/13/10.
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