Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 08, 2012

Commission Says School District Mergers Could Cost Illinois Billions

A commission studying Illinois education says forcing small school districts to merge could cost state government billions of dollars.

The huge price could kill any chance that the Classrooms First Commission will recommend mandatory consolidation. Several commission members told The Associated Press that there is little support for that approach.

The commission was created after Gov. Pat Quinn proposed reducing the roughly 870 Illinois school districts down to just 300. He said that would save $100 million in administrative salaries.

The commission looked at a hypothetical plan to merge all individual high school and elementary districts. It concluded the mergers would cost state government at least $3.7 billion. That's because the state is required to help new districts pay staff and teachers.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 07, 2012

University of Illinois President’s Chief of Staff Resigns

The chief of staff for University of Illinois President Michael Hogan has stepped down amid an internal investigation.

Lisa Troyer resigned from her post this week following allegations that she posed as a member of a faculty advisory group when sending anonymous e-mails to its members about a report that was critical of some of Hogan's proposals.

Nicholas Burbules, who serves as vice-chair of the Senates Conference, said one of the messages urged members of the Conference not to investigate the source of a leaked report that they were working on about enrollment. The e-mail also criticized conference members about their own internal divisions when writing that report.

"This person was basically saying in view of these differences, we should just basically give up and not try to pretend that we can actually issue a report that actually does represent a common view," Burbules said. "The e-mail was pretty clearly intended to influence the deliberations of the conference."

In the end, the Senates Conference did pass an enrollment report by a vote of 13-to-2.

Burbules said the message sent to the Senates Conference was signed by a "Senator." He said he suspects the e-mail sender was Troyer.

"Part of it I think that really is upsetting to people is that it looks as if the poster was posing as a member of the conference, and using anonymity to block their actual identify," he said. "That's, I think, one of the ethical issues that's going to be looked into."

Burbules said the only direct evidence linking Troyer to that anonymous e-mail and other ones sent to the Senates Conference was the embedded text within the body of the messages. U of I computer science professor Roy Campbell told the Chicago Tribune that he was able to connect the embedded text to Troyer's computer.

"Only somebody with a considerable amount of knowledge and information about deliberations within the conference could have written this e-mail," Burbules added. "Whoever wrote this e-mail knew a lot about what had been going on and the argument we had been having within the conference."

Illinois Public Media requested copies of the e-mails. Senates Conference Chair Donald Chambers, a biochemistry professor on the Chicago campus, said he wanted to be cautious about releasing those documents, saying he didn't know what the specific university policy is for that material. University spokesman Tom Hardy said he would check on whether they could be released on Monday.

As of Saturday, Hardy said President Hogan was not available for comment.

Hardy said an investigation began in mid-December looking at the circumstances of the e-mail messages, which he expects will be completed soon. That investigation has also focused on whether hacking was involved in sending the messages.

Hardy could not disclose Troyer's reasons for resigning, and she did not return a request for comment.

"It's a personal decision on her part," Hardy said. "I have not talked to her."

Troyer came to the U of I in July 2010. She had previously served as Hogan's chief of staff at the University of Connecticut, and she was also a former interim associate provost at the University of Iowa. At the U of I, she was making $200,850 during this academic year.

In an announcement to university administrators on Friday, Hogan praised Troyer as "knowledgeable, hard working, loyal, collegial, and dedicated to helping each one of the universities." Hogan explained that Troyer will resume research and teaching duties, concentrating her time in the psychology department.

However, U of I Interim Provost Richard Wheeler told the Chicago Tribune that the U of I needs to finish its investigation before allowing Troyer to stay with the university. Chambers agreed with that assessment.

"The University Senates Conference is the faculty part of shared governance," Chambers said. "So if, in fact, a person is trying to subvert the faculty process, I could easily that a number of my colleagues would be disturbed about just the process of allowing somebody back to the faculty as a default in a potentially ethical situation."

Chambers said concerns in the Conference's enrollment management report are like the issues "that our founding fathers faced."

"We're for things that will facilitate enrollment management and getting the best possible students, and most diverse student body that we can get," Chambers said.

The U of I has tried to move forward following a damaging admissions scandal in 2009 involving politically-backed student applicants. Burbules said he thinks the U of I's Board of Trustees will review the circumstances surrounding the anonymous e-mails, and he said he hopes any knowledge President Hogan had about the messages will also be investigated.

But Hardy said he does not know if there is a sufficient "reason for this matter to go before the Trustees."

"This isn't the first, nor will it be the last time that information technology folks are asked to examine the source of e-mail, and to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the security of our information technology system," he said.

Categories: Biography, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 07, 2012

Labor Measure Boycott in Indiana Holding Up Smoking Ban Talk

Anti-smoking advocates close to success in the Indiana General Assembly must wait out House Democrats' boycott of a divisive labor bill.

The three-day standoff between Republicans and Democrats has put the statewide smoking ban and many other popular issues on hold. Anti-smoking advocates remain optimistic. Democratic Rep. Charlie Brown, of Gary, says "the impasse'' likely will end next week.

Some House committees have begun taking "straw votes'' on measures because they technically have not yet received legislative proposals. They would later take a formal vote after the Democrats end their boycott.

The boycott has even put some question on whether the House can properly gavel in for Gov. Mitch Daniels State of the State address Tuesday. Although Daniels spokeswoman Jane Jankowski says he is planning on delivering the annual speech.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 06, 2012

Cellini Juror Storms Out of Courtroom

There was drama in a federal court in Chicago Friday over whether to throw out the recent conviction of political heavyweight William Cellini.

That jury that convicted Cellini included Candy Chiles, a Chicago woman who didn't tell to the court about past convictions for drug possession and DUI. Cellini's attorney, Dan Webb, said Chiles lied in an effort to get on the jury, and he wants the conviction reversed.

In Friday's hearing, Chiles gave varying explanations for her mis-statements, including "I don't know" and "I was confused. Nervous. Confused and nervous."

Asked specifically why she didn't disclose the drug conviction, from 1999, during jury selection, Chiles said, "It's in my past. I never mention it at all."

Chiles was instantly unsettled by questions from Cellini's attorney, repeatedly accusing him of treating her like a criminal.

"What's this all about?" she loudly asked Webb. "So you can get [Cellini] off? Leave me alone. I'm tired of you."

"I sat here for 5 weeks [during the trial] and watched the way you work," Chiles said to Webb a bit later. "You keep asking me the same questions to try to trip me up."

Webb was scolded several times by Judge James Zagel for asking adversarial questions of Chiles, "sticking a needle in her." The judge said the information he was getting from the combative testimony was not helpful as he decides whether to throw out Cellini's guilty verdicts.

Zagel told attorneys his ruling will not only weigh on whether Chiles was qualified to be a juror, but whether she had any bias or prejudice after she was on the jury.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 06, 2012

Cardinal Apologizes for Linking Gay Parade to KKK

Chicago's Cardinal Francis George is apologizing for remarks comparing an annual gay rights parade to a Ku Klux Klan rally.

In a Chicago Tribune interview, George said he is "truly sorry for the hurt my remarks have caused."

George said he has gay and lesbian family members, and his remarks has "evidently wounded a good number of people. I am sorry for the hurt."

The cardinal's initial remarks were prompted by plans by gay pride leaders to route a parade at a time that would have interfered with services at a church on Chicago's North Side. He said it resembled anti-Catholic marches once staged by the Klan. The time of the parade was changed.

Gay rights groups condemned his comments. The Civil Rights Agenda said George should apologize and resign.



WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 06, 2012

Circuit Clerk Candidate Allowed to Stay on Ballot

A Republican candidate running for Champaign County circuit clerk will remain on the ballot for her party's primary.

The legitimacy of Stephanie Holderfield's candidacy was challenged after she signed the ballot petition of Ben Carlson, a Democratic candidate running for Champaign County auditor. Holderfield signed Carlson's ballot petition during a party on Oct. 8, 2011.

Steve Frank, a Fisher attorney, had asked a three-member electoral panel to remove Holderfield's name from the ballot. However, the board determined on Friday that despite Holderfield's actions, she can still run in the race.

While Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten supported keeping Holderfield on the ballot, he said her actions in this case were extreme.

"Parties have separate nomination contests for a reasons, and candidates in my opinion should be held to higher standards," Hulten said. "It is absolutely clear in my mind that candidate Holderfield violated the statute, and should have known better and did know better."

In citing a similar case that went to trial, Hulten said since Holderfield signed ballot petitions for Republican candidates before signing the ballot petition of a Democratic candidate, her signature is not counted on Democrat Ben Carlson's petition during this election cycle.

Electoral board member and Champaign County States Attorney Julia Rietz also criticized Holderfield and Carlson for collecting signatures from people who signed each other's ballot petitions.

"It is clear that Ben Carlson and candidate Holderfield were not paying attention to who was signing their petitions," Rietz said. "No one is contesting the validity of signatures on (Holderfield's) nominating petition."

Holderfield said she is grateful that she will still be able to stay in the primary race.

"In retrospect, I would have done things differently," Holderfield said. "However, I did not know there were other people at the party that had signed Ben's petition. So, I'm grateful, however, for the opportunity that I had to remain on the ballot."

Attorney Deb Feinen represented Steve Frank, who had asked the electoral board to review Holderfield's place on the ballot. Feinen has five days to appeal the ruling, but she said she hasn't decided yet whether she will do that.

Holderfield is competing in the March 20 primary against former state legislator Rick Winkel.

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 06, 2012

Longtime UI Chaplain Edward Duncan Dies

A longtime associate of Monsignor Edward Duncan says he has heard from a lot of former University of Illinois athletes, who plan to attend Duncan's funeral mass last week.

Duncan, who died this week in California at age 96, was chaplain at the U of I Urbana campus for more than half a century, from 1943 to 1998.

Jack Hatfield worked at the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics for several years, and he is currently the Director of Advancement at St. John's Catholic Newman Center on the U of I Urbana campus. He said said Duncan's strong social skills made it easy for people to talk to him.

"I think he substantially impacted football players from the '50s, '60s and '70s, when he was in his prime," Hatfield said. "So you got thirty or forty years there of people who really relied upon him as a guide, as a counselor, as an adviser, whatever portion they chose to lean on his for their faith or spirituality."

Hatfield said Duncan rescued the center from near bankruptcy when he first arrived there in the 1940s.

Hatfield said the Newman Center benefited from Duncan's strong business sense, having come from a wealthy family with several business interests. He said the same social skills that helped make him an effective chaplain also made Duncan a popular the dinner guest in Champaign-Urbana society circles.

In addition, Hatfield said Duncan channeled his personal wealth into donations to the U of I, notably the Newman Center, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.

A wake and visitation for Monsignor Edward Duncan will be held in his home town of LaSalle, Tuesday, Jan. 10 from 4 PM to 7 PM at Hurst Funeral Home. Peoria Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky will celebrate a funeral mass for Duncan at St. Patrick's Parish, also in LaSalle, on Wednesday, Jan. 11th at 11 AM. A memorial mass will be held at a later date on the U of I campus.

Categories: Biography, Education, Religion

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 06, 2012

UI Professor Tackles Obesity, Diabetes in Immigrant Communities

Obesity is hitting Latino children in the United States harder than any other demographic, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Angela Wiley, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is trying to curb that trend in immigrant communities living in Illinois. She heads the Up Amigos project, which looks at how biological, social, and environmental factors affect rates of obesity and diabetes. Illinois Public Radio's Rachel Otwell talks with Wiley about her research.

(Photo courtesy of the University of Illinois)

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 06, 2012

NFL Labor Group Decries Indiana GOP Efforts to Pass Labor Bill

The NFL Players Association is opposing Indiana Republicans' efforts to pass a divisive labor bill before the nation turns its attention to the state for the Super Bowl.

The players association said Friday that Indiana Republicans are trying to "ram through'' the legislation before Indianapolis hosts the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma has set a quick timetable for passing the measure but has been stymied by House Democrats who entered their third consecutive day of blocking the measure Friday.

Bosma and other Republicans say they gave ample airing of the issue during 20 hours of legislative hearings over the summer. They contend the measure is needed to attract more businesses to the state. Opponents say it will drive down wages and reduce union membership.

Categories: Government, Politics

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