Illinois Public Media News
A public forum is planned this week with the four candidates being considered to replace R.T. Finney, whose retirement as Champaign police chief becomes official in January. During a meeting Monday night at the Douglass Branch Library in Champaign, around 30 people participated in a discussion about issues that they felt the police chief candidates should address.
Champaign resident Artice James talked during the meeting about what it would take to make Champaign a safer community.
"The people need to be accountable for what happens in their community, and the police need to be accountable for their actions, and don't use for what they consider the blue code to protect the bad officers," James said.
Champaign resident Otis Noble III was there with his newborn son.
"You know, I always am encouraged by individuals getting a chance to kind of talk and get some of the things that they need off of their chests," Noble said. "So, in that vein, I believe there are some therapeutic qualities to what's happening this evening, but to be honest I think there's bigger steps to these conversations that I think are necessary."
The topic of police-community relations dominated discussions at the meeting. Some of the people who were there said police officers should be required to live within the city, while others touted a proposal to create a citizens police review board in the wake of the 2009 police shooting death of teenager, Kiwane Carrington and the recent arrests of two African American youth.
Comments from the meeting will be given to members of a subcommittee of the police chief search committee, who will come up with a final list of questions for the police chief candidates.
The finalists for the job will each address the public during a televised meeting Thursday at 7:00pm in the Champaign City Council chambers.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has reviewed a June 5 arrest by Champaign police. The agency has concluded that no civil rights violations occurred.
The case involves a college-age African American male who was arrested for jaywalking and resisting arrest. Video from a squad car's dash board camera shows an officer pepper spraying and grabbing the young man by the neck.
The city asked for a federal investigation into the arrest after the Champaign Police Department and the Illinois State Police concluded that the arresting officer followed protocol. After studying the case, the F.B.I. said "from a federal civil rights perspective, this review did not reveal any federal criminal civil rights violations."
Champaign City officials say they intend to ask the city council to hire an independent firm to investigate the matter further.
"There will be an additional independent firm selected to complete a thorough investigation of the incident for the appeal of the citizen complaint," according to a statement released by the city.
Patricia Avery, who is the president of the Champaign County NAACP, said she felt that the FBI should have taken more time to review the case before reaching its conclusion.
"It is what it is according to them, but I think many people that have viewed that videotape will still be having questions in their mind as I do of how that decision was made in such a hurry," Avery said.
Meanwhile, a public forum is planned on Thursday evening at the city building with the four candidates being considered to replace R.T. Finney, whose retirement as police chief becomes official in January.
Watch the police footage from the June 5 arrest:
The struggling U.S. Postal Service says it's moving forward with plans to slash its budget by $3 billion by closing more than 250 mail processing centers around the nation, including nine in Illinois.
The cuts announced Monday would slow first-class mail service, ending next-day deliveries of stamped letters.
The list of processing centers to be closed released earlier this year includes facilities in Bloomington, Effingham, Carbondale, Centralia, Chicago, Fox Valley, Quincy, Rockford, and Springfield.
But the fight to save the centers is far from over. A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo says the plan makes no sense and Manzullo is demanding the postal service produce data that justify the move. The plan calls for closing a center in Rockford and moving its operations to Madison, Wis.
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)
Ron Santo was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Monday, chosen by the Golden Era committee almost a year after the Chicago Cubs third baseman died hoping for the honor.
Santo drew 15 votes from the 16-member panel. It took 75 percent - 12 votes - to get chosen.
Santo was a nine-time All-Star, hit 342 home runs and won five Gold Gloves. He was a Cubs broadcaster for two decades, eagerly rooting for his favorite team on the air.
Santo received 15 votes from the 16-member panel. Twelve votes are need to make it into the Hall of Fame. Other baseball greats considered included Jim Kaat who received 10 votes, and Gil Hodges and Minnie Minoso who each had nine votes. Minoso went on to play for the Chicago White Sox, and he was the first African-American to wear a major league baseball uniform in Chicago.
Santo joined former Cubs teammates Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ferguson Jenkins in the Hall. That famed quartet did most everything at Wrigley Field through the 1960s except reach the World Series.
His longtime teammate, Billy Williams, was among the Hall of Famers on the committee. Williams said Santo's contributions to the community played a role in the decision.
"The numbers are there. Everybody saw the numbers, the Gold Gloves, and I think they looked at it with a different view," Williams said.
Santo will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 22, along with any players elected by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Jan. 9. Bernie Williams joins Jack Morris, Barry Larkin and others on that ballot.
Santo never came close to election during his 15 times on the BBWAA ballot, peaking at 43 percent - far short of the needed 75 percent in his last year of eligibility in 1998.
Santo's wife, Vicki, said the honor will carry on his legacy, but she said it's a disappointment Santo wasn't inducted before he died last year.
"When his number was retired at Wrigley Field and he stood in front of 40,000 people and said this is my hall of fame, he truly meant that," she said. "I always believed he was meant to be in the Hall of Fame, but obviously not during his life time."
A star while playing with diabetes, a disease that eventually cost him both legs below the knees, Santo died last December from complications of bladder cancer at age 70.
Santo had come close in previous elections by the Veterans Committee. The panel has been revamped several times in the last decade, aimed at giving a better chance to deserving candidates.
U.S. Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) are pushing for stronger sanctions against Iran. A bill unanimously passed the Senate last week aimed at shutting down the central bank of Iran.
Kirk said sanctions will help deny Iran the resources it needs for nuclear weapons and send a message about its poor track record on human rights.
"And my hope is that between sanctions and working with the dissident community we can bring about a new policy there," Kirk said.
Kirk is defending members of the Baha'i Faith who are being imprisoned in Iran and denied education.
"The Iranians are not only proliferating nuclear weapons and backing up Syria's Assad dictatorship, they're oppressing 330,000 Baha'is in their country - forcing them all out of university, denying any government contract with any Baha'i business," Kirk said.
Durbin said he thinks earlier sanctions the U.S. has placed on Iran are already working.
"I think it's having some impact," Durbin said. "When the Iranian government turned loose the demonstrators on the British embassy this week, it was a signal to me that our sanctions are starting to be felt in Tehran and around that country."
On Tuesday, Iranian protesters stormed the U.K. embassy compounds in Tehran. In retaliation, Britain has ordered Iranian diplomats off its soil, pulled its diplomats out of Iran, and backed new sanctions on the Islamic republic.
The U.S. sanctions amendment still needs approval from a joint legislative conference made up of House and Senate members.
(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Former Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected to be sentenced this week, following a hearing in federal court that begins on Tuesday. Blagojevich was convicted on 17 corruption counts this past summer, and another one in 2010 - totaling a maximum prison sentence of 305 years.
The ex-governor's lawyers want Judge James Zagel to sentence him to no more than three to four years. The prosecution is asking for 15-20 years, pointing out that a Blagojevich co-conspirator who "held no elected office of trust," Tony Rezko, recently got a 101/2 year sentence. (Rezko's case was not handled by Zagel.)
Another reason the government gives for a long sentence: deterrence. "Sadly, Illinois has a history of corruption in government," the prosecution writes. "The sentences imposed on previous criminals for public corruption crimes were not sufficient to dissuade Blagojevich from engaging in a myriad of criminal acts."
Let's now review the sentences those "previous criminals" got. If the government gets its way, Blagojevich will spend far more time behind bars than any other member of the imprisoned governors' club.
George Ryan: Governor from 1999-2003, Illinois secretary of state from 1991 to 1999. Found guilty in 2006 on 18 federal counts regarding actions during time as secretary of state and as governor. Sentenced to 61/2 years, imprisoned from 2007 to present, with an estimated release date of July 4, 2013.
Otto Kerner: Governor from 1961-1968, federal appeals court judge from 1968 to 1974. Found guilty in 1973 on 17 federal counts regarding actions during time as governor. Sentenced to 3 years, but imprisoned for less than a year (from 1974 to 1975) because of poor health.
Dan Walker: Governor from 1973 to 1977. Pleaded guilty in 1987 to three federal counts regarding actions occurring after he left office. Initially sentenced to seven years, but released after a year and a half (from 1988 to 1989) because of health concerns.
Other Illinois Politicians
Dan Rostenkowski: Congressman from 1959 to 1995. Pleaded guilty in 1996 to two federal counts regarding actions during time in Congress. Sentenced to 17 months, imprisoned for 15 months, from 1996 to 1997.
Mel Reynolds: Congressman from 1993 to 1995. Found guilty in 1995 on state counts related to having sex with a minor. Sentenced to five years. Then found guilty in 1997 on 15 federal counts regarding actions during campaigns for Congress. Sentenced to six and a half years. President Clinton commuted his sentence in 2001.
Betty Loren Maltese: Cicero town president from 1993 to 2002. Found guilty in 2002 on six federal counts regarding actions during time as town president. Sentenced to eight years, imprisoned for seven years, from 2003 to 2010.
Jim Laski: Chicago city clerk from 1995 to 2006. Pleaded guilty in 2006 on one federal count regarding actions during time as alderman and city clerk. Sentenced to two years, imprisoned for less than a year, from 2007 to 2008.
Tom Keane: Alderman from 1945 to 1974. Found guilty in 1974 on 18 federal counts regarding actions during his time as alderman. Sentenced to five years, imprisoned for less than two years, from 1976 to 1978.
UCLA and Illinois will bring interim coaches into their matchup at the Fight Hunger Bowl.
The Bruins (6-7) and Illini (6-6) accepted their bids Sunday to the Dec. 31 game in San Francisco. Illinois opened the season 6-0 before losing its final six games of the season.
That led to coach Ron Zook being fired and replaced by defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who is the interim coach.
UCLA fell below .500 Friday night when it lost 49-31 in the Pac-12 title game to Oregon in coach Rick Neuheisel's final game.
The NCAA approved a waiver for the Bruins because they were bowl eligible before the conference championship game. Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will coach the Bruins in the bowl game.
(With additional reporting by Pam G. Dempsey/CU-CitizenAccess and former University of Illinois journalism student Sabrina Santucci)
An elderly man with Alzheimer's leaves a local nursing home without staff noticing and is found wandering into traffic on Mattis Ave in Champaign.-
A patient in a nursing home in Champaign is left unattended on a bed pan for hours until its shape cuts into her flesh.- In another home a patient who should be only on soft foods is given orange slices that ultimately caused his choking death a few hours later.
These are just a few of the numerous examples of lack of care found in area-wide nursing homes.-Indeed, many nursing homes are across Central Illinois have been cited repeatedly over the past five years for safety violations that put residents at risk for untreated pressure sores, bladder infections, serious medication errors and broken bones.
In some severe cases, residents have been rushed to hospitals or even died from lack of proper care.
Inadequate staffing issues and delayed public health insurance payments are major concerns among nursing home care facilities, but they shouldn't be an excuse for poor care, said Tami Wacker, operations manager and regional ombudsman for the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging.
"When someone says, 'I accept you, I will admit you, I can take care of you,' they have made a promise and you need to fulfill that," she said.
A close review by CU-CitizenAccess.org of hundreds of federal and state inspection reports on 93 Central Illinois nursing homes revealed:
Fifty percent of nursing home beds that are Medicare or Medicaid certified are located in facilities rated below average by the federal regulatory site Medicare.gov.
In Champaign County, four out of the seven nursing homes - which have 75 percent of nursing home beds that are available to Medicare or Medicaid recipients - are rated below average.
Central Illinois nursing homes have paid more than $1 million in fines and penalties for violations between 2006 and 2010.
State inspectors have found that low staffing levels and inadequate training have contributed to resident injuries and deaths at some nursing homes in Central Illinois.
Nursing home administrators across Central Illinois and health care advocates alike acknowledge that rating systems, such as The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid on Medicare.gov, do have problems. And nursing home owners say that late Medicaid reimbursements from the state are increasing their woes.
"But it does give a very good base." Wacker said.
Wacker's office acts as an advocate for nursing home residents across counties in Central Illinois. A private, non-profit group, it handles about 600 complaints each year from across nearly 200 long-term care homes and they report problems to the state when serious health care issues arise.
On the regulatory front, long-term care facilities are certified through the federal agency for receiving Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, but they are licensed through the Illinois Department of Health.
The health department does inspections for the federal agency during their own mandatory yearly survey. If complaints are made at a long-term care facility the department is required by federal regulations to investigate the complaint.
If facilities are funded by Medicare and Medicaid and do not meet their requirements during an inspection, then they can be decertified and lose their funding. For example, Helia Healthcare of Urbana closed in 2009 after regulators pulled its certificate for reimbursements because of poor patient care.
By law facilities have to report any problems with patient care to the Illinois Department of Public Health and then the department investigates. The state looks for a pattern; if the same type of serious violation continues to occur then processes to revoke the facility's license can begin.
"Each home is very different. What you are see in one facility may not correlate to another, direct comparisons are not possible it's like comparing apples to oranges," said Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the state public health department.
"Having them come in and write that deficiency will show that facility, you've got to change your way because this level of care is not acceptable," Wacker said. "And if it's not acceptable for this resident, it's not acceptable for anybody else, currently or in the future, and we want to get that changed immediately."
Nursing Homes Criticize Rating System
Greg Wilson, vice president of quality management for Petersen Health Care, sharply critizes the ratings. Petersen Health Care operates dozens of for-profit nursing homes across the state and the reports reviewed for nine of its facilities in Central Illinois rated those homes below average.
Wilson wrote in an email, "The system is based on a very subjective state survey process that is inconsistently applied across the country, faulty staffing statistics, and quality measures that are affected by too many factors to be descriptive of any resident's actual clinical condition or needs."
He wrote the system "makes no accommodation for the wide disparity between Medicaid reimbursement rates paid throughout the country of which Illinois is historically ranked at the very bottom. The rating has very little or no bearing on the quality of care being provided at any nursing home in the country."
President and chief executive officer Deb Reardanz of the nursing home Clark-Lindsey Village in Urbana said that while the rating system is good for consumers, "it doesn't always capture the full picture."
Clark-Lindsay is rated at average with its current rating of three out of five stars.
"I do not believe that tells the full story," she said. "We are above average and we work hard to be a leader in the field, not just in the area, but throughout the state."
She said the home received too low a rating.
"We're not satisfied with the (rating)," she said.
Inspections and Fines
Whether the ratings are warranted, the deficiencies reported can be shocking.
In one incident in May 2009, a crying and disoriented a man stumbled into the busy lanes of South Mattis Avenue in Champaign during rush hour traffic. Police reports say a passerby called to report the man in the street. The man, a patient at Helia Healthcare of Champaign, had left the nursing home and into the four-lane road without anyone noticing.
According to state quarterly reports the passerby stated, "What scared me so bad was that no one from the nursing home knew he was there!"
The man, who had been admitted to Helia Healthcare of Champaign the month before, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Reports said he wandered out of a door left open with its alarm off while the nursing home was doing maintenance.
But it wasn't the last time a resident had left the facility without the staff's knowledge.
In January 2010, a 53-year-old man with Parkinson's disease and a history of mental disorders was able to leave the facility without anyone noticing. He had been admitted to the nursing home after he "had fallen at home and was found living in unsanitary conditions."
He later told inspectors that he walked out the front door that morning to get a cup of coffee at a local restaurant and rode the bus before he was found later walking along Mattis Avenue, according to a state report. By his estimate, he was gone from the facility for about three hours before staff noticed.
Araceli Henson, administrator, at the Helia Healthcare in Champaign canceled two scheduled interviews for comment.
In summer of 2009, Champaign-Urbana Regional Rehab Center, formerly known as Carle Arbours, was fined $10,000 after a patient choked on mandarin orange slices, ultimately causing his death the next day.
The resident was required to have a pureed diet, and was found with no pulse and solid food protruding from his mouth by a certified nursing assistant, according to a report. It took 24 minutes from the time the staff found the man unresponsive till the time someone called 911.
The home's director of nursing later told investigators that orientation for new employees did not include training for the Heimlich maneuver, CPR, how to respond to resident emergencies or how to use the telephone system in an emergency, according to the report.
One certified nursing assistant told inspectors: "It was a lot of back and forth running around. Afterwards one of the other CNAs asked me why I didn't use the phone in the dining room to call for help or page someone. I didn't even know to use them for emergencies. I should have been told to do that in orientation but they never told me that. It would have saved a lot of time."
An emergency room doctor who treated the man told the inspectors: "I would expect anyone in a medical situation to be informed of the basic life support systems and know how to rapidly access ... (emergency medical systems)."
Administrators at the home did not respond to numerous attempts to reach them for comment.
Champaign County Nursing Home
In another incident in March of this year, a Champaign County Nursing Home resident was left on a bedpan for six hours, which resulted in a pressure sore. The sore - shaped like a bedpan - became infected and turned into a blood infection that required hospitalization and medication.
An employee told investigators, "I looked at her backside and it was split open. When I saw it I said, 'Oh my God' because I saw pink meat. I went and got the nurse."
The nursing home was fined $25,000 in April for the incident.
Champaign County Nursing Home paid nearly $80,000 for violations between 2006 and 2010. In October, Chuck Schuette took over as its administrator and inherited all of its problems.
"I do know that it's really difficult trying to be in compliance with all of these issues," he said. "I'm not saying they don't need to be there, but you have to have a really dedicated work force, a highly-trained workforce and they just have to stay on top of it all the time. "
He added, "And sometimes things happen and you hate it when it does and you have to correct it."
The county nursing home also has been under intense financial pressure because of late Medicaid payments from the state.
But for Schuette, like others, money isn't the main concern.
"If the resident isn't number one in your facility, then how can you expect it to be successful?" said Chris Kasper, administrator of Country Health & Rehab in Gifford. "This is their home and this is who we care for. Regardless of public health ratings and all the inspections, all that aside, it really just comes down to the morals and ethics, you know, what can you do? It's not always about your bottom line."
Map: Champaign County Nursing Homes - 40 Percent Are Below Average:
The Champaign Urbana Mass Transit District is trying to expand the use of technology for its riders.
That is why it has launched a competition for software developers to come up with applications that work on smart phones, desktops, and other devices. Karl Gnadt, who is the CUMTD's director market development, said more people are using this sort of technology to look up information about bus departures and arrivals.
"More and more are telling us that they don't use our schedule books, that they use the real time information," Gnadt said. "Typically, they'll get that on a mobile device. Though, often times they will use a computer as well."
The top three software developers will get a cash prize of $1000, $600, and $200, but Gnadt said all of the applications submitted will be in circulation on smart phones, desktops, and other devices.
"We think that the top three that the judges select are probably going to be the best of the bunch," he said. "So, I would think that those three would be the most popular and the most used."
Gnadt said there are currently about a dozen applications in circulation for CUMTD riders.
The deadline for the competition is Feb. 20.
Lawmakers from Central Illinois urged the University of Illinois' Board of Trustees on Friday to keep the police training institute open on the Urbana campus.
Last fall, a faculty panel suggested closing the institute to save $900,000 annually. It has been around for more than 55 years.
Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing is part of the state's Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, which has been looking to find sustainable funding for the U of I's Police Training Institute. She said the program should stay open.
"We understand the quality, and we don't want a short-term financial difficulty to halt a program that people really depend on and have really depended on as a standard for excellence in Illinois," Prussing said.
State Rep. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) said he and other legislatures have put together a proposal to raise a fee on criminal convictions to help maintain the program.
"My goal is to not just have PTI remain in Champaign County," Rose said. "My goal is to have the best PTI in the world in Champaign County."
If the Police Training Institute does close, University of Illinois Police Chief Barbara O'Connor has said it would make more sense to have such a facility in a central location like Springfield rather than Macomb.
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