Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 04, 2010

Rouse Settles into New White House Role

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) knows the new White House chief of staff well.

Pete Rouse served in a similar role under Durbin as chief of staff when he was in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1980's. Durbin calls him intelligent, more low profile than Rahm Emanuel, and "extremely talented."

"He is not the kind of person you are going to like as a newsman," said Durbin. "He just wants to go to work and do his job."

The Democrat Durbin said whether or not Rouse can advance the Obama Administration's agenda in the coming months depends on many factors, including the opposite party.

"The reality is there are likely to be fewer Democrats in Congress after this election," he said. "That's what happens in every off year election, and it means the President will have to carefully choose his agenda."

Durbin said Rouse as Chief of Staff will need a period of adjustment.

Emanuel left the post to run for Chicago Mayor. As Emanuel tries to garner support for a possible run, Durbin said he has no plans to endorse a candidate in what could be a crowded primary.

(Photo courtesy of the White House)

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 01, 2010

Ameren Corporation Merges Subsidiaries

The Ameren Corporation is trying to cut costs and improve service by merging three of its electric and natural gas subsidiaries. The St. Louis-based utility says it will consolidate AmerenIP, AmerenCIPS, and AmerenCILCO into a single public entity known as Ameren Illinois.

"This merger is the logical next step in the evolution of our business in Illinois," said Thomas R. Voss, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Ameren Corporation. "For the last several years, we have been moving towards operating our Illinois utilities as one company to reduce the cost of operations and gain efficiencies for our customers.

The parent company will be headquartered in Peoria, and spokesman Leigh Morris said the reorganization will not affect electricity and natural gas rates. Morris added that he expects the merger will lead to greater customer service for approximately 1.2 million customers in the state.

"It's those kind of stream lining things that will go forward, and it's going to allow us to become more efficient," he said. "It's going to allow us to reinforce our commitment to providing safe, reliable energy delivery service."

Ameren Illinois serves all or part of 85 of Illinois' 102 counties and ranks as the second-biggest Illinois electricity delivery operation in terms of total customers. The subsidiary has 813,000 natural gas customers.

While each one of the electric and gas utilities that now make up Ameren Illinois charged different rates, Morris said flat fee will eventually be available to all Ameren customers. However, for now, customers will continue to pay the same rates they were paying before the merger. Customers who want to report an outage or obtain account information can call a toll-free number at 1-800-755-5000.

Categories: Energy, Environment

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 01, 2010

Two Teens Arrested in Champaign Beating

Two 16-year old boys are in Champaign County's juvenile detention center in connection with an unprovked attack on a Champaign man near Centennial High School on September 24.

The suspects are charged with aggravated battery for allegedly hitting former WILL forecaster Mike Sola while he was walking home from the Central High School football game last Friday night. Champaign Police Chief RT Finney said while this incident was outside the area where similar unprovoked attacks have occurred in recent weeks, the method of attack was the same. Finney said an anonymous tip led to the first arrest, and he expects it will lead to more.

"Right now, we're continuing to investigate each and every one of them and we expect to make as many arrests as we can," said Finney.

Julie Ogle in the Champaign County State's Attorney's office said the first teen arrested was upset about breaking up with his girlfriend and had prior contacts with police.

The first arrest was made Thursday, while the second teen was picked up late Friday morning. Sola sought treatment at a hospital for a cut to his earlobe and sustained a black eye.

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 30, 2010

Police Make Meth Bust on 1-57

Two California men are in custody in Champaign County for allegedly possessing more than $600,000 worth of methamphetamine.

State's Attorney Julia Reitz said nearly seven pounds of the drug was discovered after State Police made a traffic stop on I-57 late Wednesday afternoon. Reitz said 25-year old Leonel Galaviz-Galaviz and 34-year old Jose Canizalez-Cardenas, both of Los Angeles, were pulled over north of Rantoul for speeding and tailgating.

"Illinois State Police had their drug detection dog present, and the dog alerted on the vehicle, then following that alert, the troopers searched the vehicle," she explained.

Police found a hidden compartment underneath the vehicle, which is where they discovered the drugs. Reitz said this is by far the biggest amount of meth discovered locally, but she noted there is no indication the men were bringing the drugs into the Champaign area.

"Certainly they were passing through with the drugs in their vehicle intending to deliver them somewhere," she said.

The two men made their first court appearance Thursday afternoon. If convicted for intending to deliver methamphetamine, the men face a Class X felony with a six to 30 year prison sentence.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 30, 2010

Emanuel Expected to Announce Mayoral Bid on Friday

Two people close to Rahm Emanuel say he will resign as White House chief of staff on Friday, and will begin his campaign for Chicago mayor by meeting with voters in the city on Monday.

The people who are familiar with Emanuel's plans spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt his announcement.

The people say Emanuel will return to Chicago over the weekend and begin touring neighborhoods on Monday to talk with voters. They say Emanuel also will launch a website with a message to Chicago voters.

Emanuel's plans have been the source of widespread speculation both in Chicago and Washington, D.C. ever since Mayor Richard Daley announced he would not seek re-election earlier this month.

(Photo courtesy of the White House)

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 29, 2010

Sex Offender in Vermilion County Arrested

A registered sex offender from Vermilion County is in custody on child pornography charges, and authorities say a national organization was partially responsible for the arrest.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan was in Danville Wednesday to announce one count of child pornography filed against 70-year old Leroy Piehl of Tilton. Madigan said his arrest is the sixth since her office launched an initiative targeting the most active participants in downloading and distributing child pornography.

Vermilion County State's Attorney Randy Brinegar said a search warrant was conducted Tuesday night at his home where law enforcement officials seized six computers and external hard drives and discs. The disc contained more than 5,000 images of young boys.

Piehl had been posting pictures of children to a social networking website.

Madigan said the presence of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children provided the tip. Scott Mulford, a spokesman for the Illinois attorney general's office, said the center has targeted the most active child porn viewers.

"There have been arrests and charges made in virtually every corner of the state," said Mulford.

Piehl is already a registered sex offender. Brinegar said it is not unusual for such people to re-offend. Piehl is being held on a $50,000 bond.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 29, 2010

Champaign Police Chief Talks About Series of Random Attacks

Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows talked with Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney about a series of attacks in the past several weeks, where groups of young men have attacked lone individuals on the street late at night. In 21 attacks spread out over a month and a half, the victims have been mostly young men on the University of Illinois campus. Champaign Police are asking anyone with information on any of the attacks to call 217-351-4545, or contact Champaign County Crimestoppers anonymously at 217-373-TIPS.

(Photo by Jim Meadows/WILL)

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 29, 2010

Feds Commit Billion Dollars to FutureGen, Ameren Launches Study to Retrofit Plant

Federal officials have taken one more step toward making the re-worked FutureGen clean-coal project a reality.

The Department of Energy signed an agreement with Ameren Energy Resources to start design work to retrofit a power plant near Meredosia. Under FutureGen 2.0, carbon dioxide produced from that plant would be piped to a site where it would be stored underground. Mattoon bowed out of the project this summer, leaving the site of that storage facility in question.

Also in question is how much the project could cost Ameren and its customers. Utility spokeswoman Susan Gallagher said Ameren will have to ask state lawmakers for some sort of cost-recovery plan. Gallagher said it was too early to elaborate, saying, "We do have a lot of analysis, review, cost estimates, analyzing commercial viability before we go forward."

Gallagher said the first two phases of the project will have to be completed before any construction work begins and an exact dollar estimate would be in place.

On Tuesday the Energy Department formally committed $1 billion to FutureGen.

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 29, 2010

Candidates Jump into Champaign’s Mayoral Race

At least two people want to challenge Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart next spring.

For Charles Mingee, it is his second attempt at running for mayor. In 2007, some signatures were declared invalid on his nominating petitions. Mingee, who presently works for Wal-Mart, served in the Navy from 1978 to 1982. The northwest Champaign resident said the city has done a poor job handling the aftermath of last fall's police shooting death of Kiwane Carrington.

Officer Daniel Norbits' gun discharged in the 15-year old's accidental shooting death last October. Norbits remains on leave during an appeal of his 30-day suspension. Mingee said the appeals process is hurting everyone involved.

"They've got to make a decision," said Mingee. "Either get rid of him, or re-instate him. It's just prolonging the agony for everybody."

The Carrington family rejected a $470,000 settlement that Champaign city council members approved last week. Mingee said city leaders are too focused on 'throwing money' on downtown development instead of rehabbing areas like Wilbur Heights.

Longtime Champaign resident Don Gerard is also exploring a mayoral run. He said some of his priorities include developing infrastructure with the growth of the big broadband high-speed internet project, and future recycling needs. Gerard said he also wants leaders to reach out more to Campustown merchants to better serve alumni and visitors.

"These are the people who are serving the individuals who will be returning to the community as alumni, potentially for years to come," said Gerard. "And I think it's important to recognize that and to work with them to accommodate our guests as they may very well become a part of our community, or return often."

Gerard has been in the city more than 40 years, has served as a day camp leader for the Champaign Park District, and has kids in the city schools. The Central Champaign resident added it is his job as a Facilities Manager at three biology departments at University of Illinois that has earned him a reputation as someone who works well with others to solve problems. Gerard said the success of downtown music festivals should prompt consideration for such an event in the Campustown area.

Potential candidates need to collect 63 signatures on a petition before they can declare a candidacy in November.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 29, 2010

UI Proposes Dropping Institute of Aviation’s Academic Programs, Evaluating Pilot Training

Pilot training at the University of Illinois' Willard Airport will go on for now, but its future is not guaranteed if academic faculty at the Institute of Aviation are reassigned elsewhere.

As part of a campus-wide cost-savings program, a committee has recommended that all academic curricula at the Institute be either discontinued or transferred elsewhere on campus.

Interim chancellor and provost Robert Easter says the Urbana Campus Senate will be asked to approve the changes - but so far, he says no place on campus has been found for the Aviation Institute's Human Factors degree program.

However, Easter stresses that current students have nothing to worry about. "We feel that when we accept a student into a program, we take on an obligation to provide the educational experiences that get them to the degree they plan to take," said Easter. "We would just stop.accepting new students."

Easter says a consulting firm based on campus will study the feasibility of existing pilot training at Willard without the academic program.

The changes have sparked concerns that air traffic would fall off considerably at Willard - enough to endanger the future of commercial air service. Easter says the committee found little evidence to support that. Though federal regulators may drop the rating of the airport's control tower, he says it wouldn't reduce operating hours, which airlines rely on for passenger service.

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