Illinois Public Media News
Supporters of Flex-n-Gate Unionization Rally at U of I Campus
A rally protesting labor conditions at Urbana-based Flex-n-Gate --- and supporting a union's effort to organize workers there --- drew about 30 people on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Thursday.
Flex-n-Gate owner and CEO Shahid Khan is a U of I alumnus and benefactor, whose donations paid for a new addition to Huff Hall. Rally organizers gathered outside the Khan Annex to accuse the industrialist of allowing unsafe working conditions at his non-union plants --- including the Flex-n-Gate Guardian West plant in Urbana.
Stephanie Seawell of the Graduate Employees Organization told rally participants holding homemade signs that the U of I plans to give Khan its Alumni Achievement Award at next month's commencement ceremonies.
"This university, the University of Illinois, is going to give an award, a prestigious alumni award, to a man who poisons his employees, doesn't give them the right protective gear, and when they say, 'hey that isn't fair' tries to get them kicked out of the housing that they live in," Seawell said.
Members of union locals and student groups at the rally accuse Flex-n-Gate of forcing workers to handle hexavalent chromium --- widely regarded as a carcinogen --- without property safety equipment. Flex-n-Gate has stated in the past that all its facilities, including Guardian West, meet or surpass federal environmental and safety standards.
The United Auto Workers union is trying to organize at non-union Flex-n-Gate plants, including the one in Urbana. Thursday's rally at the U of I was tied to a UAW rally in New York City.
A former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson still wants to replace his former boss on the November ballot in spite of Johnson saying he shouldn't.
Dave Bender is a spokesman for former chief of staff Jerry Clarke. Bender says Clarke still hopes to replace Johnson on the ballot in the 13th Congressional District.
Johnson announced this month that he will end his re-election campaign and retire. Clarke is among a number of people who hope to replace him.
A Johnson spokesman said Thursday that the congressman believes Clarke should be excluded after suggestions were made by some Republicans that Johnson withdrew after winning the March primary to benefit Clarke. Johnson's decision means GOP county chairmen rather than voters are choosing who will run in November.
University of Illinois Trustees are expected to vote as soon as next month to close the Police Training Institute on the Urbana campus.
U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler confirms that vote could happen at the Trustees' May 31st meeting in Chicago.
She says funding sources have run dry, and legislators have had no success finding a new one.
Illinois House member Chapin Rose of Mahomet, Champaign Democratic Senator Mike Frerichs, and Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing are among those who have been seeking a funding solution to keep PTI open.
Kaler says without the funds, the state's Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board will refuse to certify the courses.
"So without a funding source, or the ability to have our courses certified, it's really appropriate at this point to announce the closure," she said.
But Prussing cites another reason.
"The head (executive director) of the standards board, Kevin McClain, wants to open an academy that he can be in charge of at Western Illinois University," she said. "And Western (its facility) can't open as long as the University of Illinois (PTI) is open because the students will go to the U of I because they like it better and it's much more accessible."
Prussing, a member of the Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, says it makes no sense given Illinois' financial woes and the fact some cities can't afford to hire police officers.
She notes that two recent PTI courses, including one with 55 applicants, were cancelled as part of McClain's efforts to 'undermine' the U of I.
McClain didn't return a phone call seeking comment.
Convicted former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White is losing his law license.
The Indiana Supreme Court issued an order Wednesday suspending White's law license on an interim basis effective May 10th because of his convictions earlier this year on six felonies including vote fraud, perjury and theft. The charges stem from using his ex-wife's address as his voting address when he was serving on the Fishers Town Council and running for secretary of state in 2010.
White was sentenced Feb. 23 to one year of home detention. He has said he plans to appeal his convictions, which also cost him his elected office.
An email message seeking comment was sent to White.
U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson says a former chief of staff shouldn't replace him on the November ballot after some questioned whether Johnson's planned retirement was engineered to benefit him.
Jerry Clarke is among a number of Republicans who say they would like to replace Johnson. The longtime congressman announced earlier this month that he will end his re-election campaign and retire.
Johnson said in a statement Thursday that none of his former staff members should be considered.
Spokesman Phil Bloomer said that includes Clarke. Bloomer said Johnson issued the statement because of suggestions made by some Republicans that Johnson withdrew after winning the primary to benefit Clarke. His decision means GOP county chairmen rather than voters are choosing who will run in November.
Clarke did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
(Reported by Pam Dempsey of CU-CitizenAccess)
The second property manager of the Cherry Orchard Village Apartments has been arrested. An extradition hearing is scheduled next week for Bernard Ramos, who was arrested in Washington D.C. by the Metropolitan Police Department on April 10.
A civil contempt warrant had been issued for Bernard, as well as his father, Eduardo Ramos, by a Champaign County judge. The two failed to appear to a schedule court hearing last year in connection with problems at Cherry Orchard. The property, which is located near Rantoul, was closed by health officials for a broken septic system.
Bernard refused extradition and was released on a $5,000 cash bond and is due back in a D.C. court Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Eduardo Ramos was in Champaign County Court on Thursday. At a hearing last month following his arrest in February, a Champaign County judge gave him permission to return to D.C. for medical care. Thursday's hearing was continued until June and Eduardo Ramos was again given permission to return to D.C.
Cherry Orchard typically houses migrant workers in the summer. It remains closed.
Champaign County State's Attorney Joel Fletcher said that the county continues to seek better security of the property. He said there is evidence of ongoing activity there.
In March, county health officials investigated reports of people living on the property and removing boards from windows off of one of the buildings. Health officials replaced the boards and posted a more permanent sign warning people away.
"Our main goal is that nobody lives in the property until the septic is fixed," said Julie Pryde, the administrator for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
Indicted Lawmaker Smith Fails to Show For Legislative Hearing
Indicted State Representative Derrick Smith was a no-show Thursday at a meeting of a special House committee investigating his conduct.
Illinois State students are on notice: campus police are about to get tough - on jaywalking.
The Pantagraph newspaper in Bloomington reports (http://bit.ly/IeVgz1) that more than 30 percent of the people who took a recent campus survey said jaywalking is a serious problem. And police are taking it seriously.
ISU Police Chief Aaron Woodruff says fliers warning students are being handed out this week. Next week jaywalkers will get tickets and have to pay fines.
In the same survey more than a quarter of the respondents said drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks are a big problem, as well. The chief says those drivers will be getting tickets, too.
Of the 1,500 traffic accidents in Normal in 2011, 17 involved pedestrians.
One potential Republican candidate for Illinois' 13th Congressional District has withdrawn his name from consideration.
In an e-mailed statement, Bloomington State Representative Dan Brady cites family reasons, his duties as a state legislator, and a business partnership as a funeral director for withdrawing his name.
Brady thanked 'the very generous and kind individuals who have e-mailed, written, or stopped me to convey their confidence in me to represent them in the United States Congress.'
Brady says he won't rule out future elective office, but says he's now seeking re-election to his seat in the newly drawn 105th House District.
Illinois Republicans have come up with a timetable for selecting their candidate in the state's 13th Congressional District.
14 county GOP chairs are now slated to conduct a weighted vote on Saturday, May 19th.
Illinois Republican Party Chair Pat Brady says prior to that, candidates will submit applications that were posted on the party's web site Wednesday afternoon.
The person selected would replace retiring Urbana Republican Tim Johnson on the November ballot.
Brady says he doesn't have a voice in this decision, leaving it solely to county chairs and their constituents, who have a two-week gap between the first presentation and final vote. Brady says he feels good about the selection process.
"I'm confident we will have a strong candidate," Brady said. "I'm confident when Democrats put up a very left of center guy who's way out of the touch with the district, and lost 3 times already."
Brady is referring to Bloomington Physician David Gill, who lost three times to Congressman Johnson for the 15th district race. Last week, Gill was officially declared the Democratic nominee when Matt Goetten conceded the race, losing by just over 150 votes.
Brady says as many as 8 or 9 names are being considered for the Republican nomination.
Meanwhile, Brady denies the state GOP is under any pressure from one of those names, former Johnson aide Jerry Clarke.
A report Wednesday in the Champaign News-Gazette indicated Clarke had registered a campaign domain name nearly two months before Johnson announced his retirement. But Brady says anyone interested in the Congressional seat is getting a fair shake.
"In response to allegations like this, whether it's true or not, that's why we set this process up," Brady said. "An open, fair, and transparent process, so everyone has input. So it doesn't appear that there was some kind of deal cut prior, and that everybody as a Republican, or every interested conservative or otherwise gets a chance to voice an opinion on who's going to be their candidate."
Brady says he first heard of Johnson's retirement about 12 hours before it was announced on April 5th. Clarke started campaigning a few days later.
Other possible candidates include State Representative Dan Brady of Bloomington and former Illinois House Member Mike Tate of Decatur.
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