Illinois Public Media News
Champaign residents had the chance Thursday night to hear from the four people vying to become the city's next police chief. The event was organized by groups like the League of Women Voters of Champaign County, the NAACP, and the ACLU.
This was the first time the city of Champaign held public interviews with each of the police chief candidates. They each answered 11 questions based on topics submitted by the public ranging from police community relations to the use of excessive force.
The police force has faced heavy criticism in the last few years over police-community relations. Those concerns have prompted renewed calls for a citizens police review board.
Urbana Assistant Chief of Police Anthony Cobb said he wants to bring credibility back to the Champaign Police Department. Cobb said he was involved in creating Urbana's Civilian Police Review Board, and he acknowledged that it could work in Champaign.
"In order to do it correctly, it's going to take both sides - the citizens and the police - to sit down and truly tackle what are the issues we're trying to address," Cobb said.
But Kim Johnson, who's the police captain in East Lansing Michigan, said he doesn't have a citizens police review board where he works, and it has worked out just fine.
"We've been very transparent in how we do policing in East Lansing," Johnson said. "So, I'm not in favor of the citizen review board."
Johnson said if he becomes Champaign's next police chief, he would try to make the department more transparent. However, if there is still a need for a citizens police review board, he said he would support one.
Another one of the candidates is St. Louis, Missouri Police Lieutenant Colonel Antoinette Filla, who has worked with the same police force for nearly 40 years. She said she likes the idea of that kind of oversight, and she said other police officers shouldn't be discouraged by it.
"I know officers think that as soon as a citizen's review board comes in that everybody's going to get fired, and that's not the case," she said.
The other candidate being considered for the job is Gregory Anderson, who is the police chief in the Chicago suburb of Oak Forrest. He is opened-minded about a citizens police review board, saying if it's done; it needs to be done right.
"But I would hope there's other ways we could do it by the police department being much more open with the public, being transparent, and explaining the police processes in exactly why we do things in a certain way," Anderson said.
All of the candidates said Champaign's police force could have a stronger relationship with the community that is built on transparency and respect.
"We have a situation in Champaign where we have a great police force and a great community, and we need to integrate them," said Mayor Don Gerard. "I think that community-based policing is the way to go."
Champaign City Manager Steve Carter said one of these candidates will likely be offered the job as the city's police chief right after the start of new year, and begin work in February or March.
The Illinois Attorney General says Rod Blagojevich shouldn't collect the $65,000 yearly pension he earned as governor.
The Thursday opinion comes a day after Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years for corruption including that he tried to sell or trade an appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
The General Assembly Retirement System board moved last month to block payments to newly convicted ex-officials. Blagojevich turns 55 Saturday.
In her opinion, Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the convictions arose in connection with his service to Illinois and that the former governor repeatedly misused his position for personal benefit.
The opinion has been sent to the board, which makes the final decision.
Blagojevich is eligible for a $15,000 annual pension he earned during his six years in Congress.
Chicago will soon be home to another corporate headquarters. Sara Lee announced Thursday it will relocate from the western suburbs to downtown Chicago.
Sara Lee is in the midst of some big changes as a company.
It's scheduled to split into two next year - one company will focus on meats, the other on drinks.
It's the meats company that will call Chicago's West Loop neighborhood home in 2013.
"We would need, as a smaller, more entrepreneurial company, we need to create a lot of buzz and it's very difficult to get that buzz and energy in an area where it's very quiet, so I think we need that environment of Chicago," said Jan Bennink, the executive chairman of Sara Lee.
Bennink said about 500 employees will be shifted from Downers Grove to Chicago.
Meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city will give up to 6.5 million dollars to Sara Lee for moving downtown. Emanuel said he's not in a battle with the suburbs to persuade businesses to move to the city - but he did say - "We won."
(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, file)
Bond has been set at $500,000 for a Fithian man arrested in connection with the stabbing of a University of Illinois law professor.
Joshua Scaggs, 23, faces attempted murder and aggravated battery charges in connection with the attack of Dhammika Dharmapala, 41, of Champaign. The incident occurred shortly before 6 AM on Wednesday in the Amtrak waiting area of the Illinois Terminal Building.
According to a witness account given to Champaign Police, both Dharmapala and the suspect were sitting in the Amtrak waiting area, when the suspect jumped up and shouted that this was his country. He then attacked Dharmapala, grabbing him around the neck. The witness then intervened, pulling the suspect away, and discovering he had stabbed his victim in the neck with a utility knife. Champaign County State's Attorney Julie Rietz said other witnesses stepped forward to keep the situation under control until police arrived.
Dharmapala was taken to Carle Hospital in Urbana, but no information was available on his condition as of Thursday morning. At Scaggs' arraignment in Champaign County Court Thursday afternoon, he appeared via video conference, surrounded by correctional officers.
Scaggs' attorney, Baku Patel of Urbana, has requested that his client undergo mental and physical evaluations. Authorities say he's locked in isolation at the county's satellite jail.
University of Illinois President Michael Hogan wrote in an email to faculty and students said that university was "deeply saddened" by the stabbing, and expressed gratitude for those who intervened.
Champaign Police had originally included hate crime charges in their arrest of Scaggs. But Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz said they would not prosecute him on that charge. She said the attempted murder and aggravated battery charges actually carry stiffer penalties than the hate crime charge. However, Rietz noted that "the underlying motive for the offense will be taken into account as the case moves forward."
Meanwhile, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for federal civil rights charges to be filed against Scaggs. In a news release, the organization stated that Dharmapala is not Muslim, but was singled out due to his perceived ethnicity. CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper stated, "our society must begin to address the rising level of anti-Muslim sentiment that can lead to such disturbing incidents."
Scaggs is due back in court on Dec. 15th.
Three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols agreed Thursday to a $254 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels.
Pujols' contract, which is subject to a physical, is the second-highest in baseball history and only the third to break the $200 million barrier, following Alex Rodriguez's $252 million, 10-year deal with Texas before the 2001 season and A-Rod's $275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees before the 2008 season.
The Angels announced Thursday they were signing Pujols away from the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pujols, who led St. Louis to a World Series title this fall, had been pursued by the Miami Marlins, but they dropped out Wednesday after agreeing to a deal with former Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle. ESPN first reported the Pujols deal.
The Angels have also reportedly signed former Texas Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson.
Judges have thrown out a Republican lawsuit challenging a Democrat-drawn map of new state legislative districts.
A panel of federal judges in Chicago yesterday dismissed the suit filed by top Illinois Republicans.
House Republican leader Tom Cross and Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno sued because they contend the Democrat-drawn map is unfair to minority groups and GOP voters. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the new map into law in June.
Drawing a new legislative district map is an exercise the state goes through every 10 years after a census. Democrats were in charge because they control the General Assembly and the governor's office.
Republicans are reviewing their options and whether to appeal. A Republican challenge to the state's new congressional districts map is still pending.
The Chicago Sun-Times and its 39 affiliated suburban newspapers are scheduled to start charging for online subscriptions.
Starting on Thursday, online readers will get 20 free page views across all Sun-Times Media websites every 30 days before hitting a paywall.
"The journalism we generate has value, and we think our readers and viewers will fully understand and support this decision on our part," said Sun-Times Media CEO Jeremy Halbreich.
Sun-Times Media will charge $6.99 for a four-week, unlimited subscription, about $78 annually. Current subscribers to any Sun-Times affiliated newspaper will be charged for $1.99 every four weeks for online access.
Halbreich said he's not concerned about losing readers after the paywall goes into effect.
The Northwest suburban paper The Daily Herald enacted a similar paywall earlier this year.
Residents of the Urbana school district can find out more about two proposals for a new school board sub-district map, before the board takes a final vote.
District 116 is holding three public presentations on the two proposals Thursday evening.
The Urbana School Board showed its preference for one of the maps at its meeting Tuesday night. Board President John Dimit said that the 4-to-2 straw poll vote picked a map that puts as much of the Historic East Urbana neighborhood into one sub-district as possible.
School Board President John Dimit said that a straw poll vote taken last (Tuesday) night favored a map that redraws Subdistrict Seven in southeast Urbana, so that it includes less of the Historic East Urbana Neighborhood, just east of downtown.
"Right now, (Sub)district Seven actually goes up clear up into the Historic East Urbana Neighborhood," Dimit said. "And that neighborhood is split into three subdistricts. And so there is some concern; that kind of looks like an appendage to the rest of the district. And we're trying to reduce that as much as possible, and also try to make it so the Historic East Urbana Neighborhood, the majority of it, has a single representative."
Dimit voted with the majority in the straw poll, but he says feedback from Thursday's public meetings could change some minds --- or persuade the school board to make minor revisions to the map that they approve.
The public presentations will be held Thursday, Dec. 8 at 5:30 PM at Yankee Ridge School, at 6:30 at Urbana Middle School and 7:30 at King School. The final vote on the sub-district map is scheduled for the Tuesday, December 13th Urbana School Board meeting. The Urbana School District is one of the few in Illinois that elects board members from sub-districts, instead of at-large.
Judge Sentences Blagojevich to 14 Years on Corruption Charges
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media and The Associated Press)
Rod Blagojevich has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.
The head of the Illinois Republican Party says he hopes that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's 14-year prison sentence leads to reform and "fiscal sanity'' in Illinois.
GOP chairman Pat Brady says the former Democratic governor and those around him continued to burden Illinois citizens with financial mismanagement.
Brady says the sentence ends the "Blagojevich saga.'' A federal judge sentenced Blagojevich on Wednesday for corruption that included trying to sell or trade an appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
It's one of the stiffest penalties for corruption in a state with a history of crooked politics.
Blagojevich apologized for his crimes and asked the judge for mercy earlier Wednesday.
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