Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 16, 2011

Illinois Volleyball Advances to First National Championship

(Updated with additional coverage from Greg Echlin)

The University of Illinois women's volleyball team will remember the Alamodome. It was at the Alamodome in San Antonio that the third-seed Fighting Illini (32-4) defeated top-seed USC(29-5) Thursday night, winning three out of five sets, (25-27, 25-18, 25-22, 18-25, 15-10) to qualify for the NCAA championship game for the first time.

The victory came on Illinois' third trip to the women's volleyball Final Four, and their first since 1988.

Senior outside hitter Colleen Ward had 27 kills and Michelle Bartsch added 22 kills for the Illini victory.

The drama intensified as the fifth set reached match point, with Illinois fans showing their anticipation with a chant of "One more point! One more point!"

That last rally turned out to be the most dramatic, and the crowd oohed and ahhed as each powerful spike was answered by an inspiring dig on the net's other side. It continued for a minute, seeming longer, until U-S-C's Katie Fuller committed an attack error. The match belonged to the Fighting Illini.

Liz McMahon, a 6-foot-6 freshman from Ohio, had five kills in that deciding set. After the game, she was soaking in the experience.

"It's a blast, I can tell you that", McMahom said of the win that ushered her team into the finals. "Yeah, it's just fun, but with this team and how far we've come."

The Illini's post-game celebration was subdued, with Coach Kevin Hambly reminding his players that they still had one more game. Nevertheless, Hambly spoke glowingly of what his team had accomplished.

"I'm proud of the girls", Hambly said. "You know our goal was to get to this match, the next match, and they stuck to that. Well, more than just get to the match. But I thought they were determined to make that happen."

Alex Jupiter had 32 kills for USC. The Trojans lost in the semis for the second consecutive year after being pushed to five sets for a third consecutive match this tournament.

Illinois will play UCLA in the championship match Saturday night at 7:30 PM Central Time. The Bruins defeated Florida State in three sets (25-16, 25-17, 25-21) in the Thursday night semifinals. Illinois is 0-and-9 in all-time play against UCLA in volleyball.

(Reported for Illinois Public Media News by Greg Echlin; additional reporting by the Associated Press)

Categories: Education, Sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 15, 2011

US Rep. Johnson Criticizes Colleagues From House Floor

Congressman Tim Johnson scolded his congressional colleagues Thursday, accusing them of preferring to play politics instead of addressing the nation's problems.

In a one-minute speech from the floor of the House, the Urbana Republican said the current session of Congress had been marked by "animosity and gridlock", and that the public was responding with a "level of anger" he had never heard before.

"We are gripped in gridlock because people on both sides of the aisle, in both chambers and in the White House, are more concerned with politics than in progress," Johnson said. "As our economy continues to stagger, our attention should be focused on putting people to work and providing stability in public policy. We can only do that through cooperation, compromise and civility."

Earlier this week, Johnson voted against a GOP bill that tied an extension of payroll tax cuts and jobless benefits to construction of the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline and other unrelated elements. The congressman said the bill was guaranteed to fail in the Democratic Senate, and that leaders needed to come up with a measure both sides could support. In his remarks on the House floor Thursday, Johnson called on members of Congress to quote "do the business the people expect us to do, efficiently and in an adult-like manner".

Johnson previously promoted civility in Congress, by co-founding the Congressional Center Aisle Caucus, with Democratic Congressman Steve Israel of New York.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 15, 2011

Court Upholds Democratic-Drawn Congressional Map

A federal court has upheld a new congressional map drawn by Illinois Democrats.

The map preserves existing Democratic-leaning districts and creates new ones. It also forces several Republican incumbents to run against each other in primaries.

Republicans had sued to overturn the map, claiming that Democrats drew only one Hispanic district when more were needed because of population growth. A panel of three judges, including two Indiana Republicans, disagreed on Thursday.

In their ruling, the judges said that they agreed that the crafting of the adopted map was a "blatant political move to increase the number of Democratic congressional seats'' but that it wasn't illegal.

The map was drawn by Democrats who control the legislature and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

The new congressional map was drawn with no input from Illinois Republicans. It forces most GOP congressmen in the state into unfamiliar territory or races against each other.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 15, 2011

Ind. GOP, Dems Squabble Over Proposed Labor Bill

The Indiana General Assembly's top Republicans and Democrats are squabbling over a contentious labor bill that looks likely to dominate their upcoming session.

The "right-to-work'' proposal dominated debate at a Thursday legislative conference. It also provided a preview of the contentious debate planned for their 2012 session.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, House Democratic Leader Pat Bauer, Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long and Senate Democratic Leader Vi Simpson took turns rebutting each other during a Thursday's conference.

Bauer and Bosma touted dueling public opinion polls bolstering their case. Long occasionally interjected on Bosma's behalf and Simpson said the issue will "eat'' the entire 2012 session.

Bauer proposed kicking it back until after the 2013 session, but Bosma said it will stay front and center next year.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 15, 2011

Blagojevich Said to be ‘Ripe’ for Drug Program

A probation report says ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich may be a "ripe candidate'' for a drug treatment program in prison.

That's according to defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky, who says he doesn't know what Blagojevich said to a probation officer to lead to that conclusion.

Judge James Zagel has agreed to recommend Blagojevich for a drug treatment program when he starts his 14-year prison sentence for corruption in March.

Sorosky tells the Chicago Sun-Times that there's documentation Blagojevich has a history of drug abuse, but he didn't elaborate.

No one has revealed why Blagojevich would be eligible for the drug program.

The request could be a move to cut time off his sentence. Prisoners in the program are eligible for up to a year in reduced time.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 14, 2011

Town Hall Style Meeting Seeks Input On Homeland Security

A town-hall style meeting in Urbana on Thursday (December 15th) will seek local input on Illinois' homeland security strategy.

It's the 2nd such meeting that the Illinois Emergency Management Agency is holding around the state, as it gathers input for a major overhaul of that strategy. The first was held in the Metro East area, and a third is scheduled for January 11th in Effingham. The IEMA is holding the meetings in conjunction with the Center for Public Safety and Justice, at the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

State Emergency Management Director Jonathon Monken says a big emphasis of their homeland security strategy has been improving communications between different state and local agencies, as well as those in the private sector. But he says they're finding out about other needs as well.

"Something that we heard in the first round was a big emphasis on training", says Monken. "People felt like there was not enough training that was readily available ... or the training that was available, wasn't targeted specifically enough for the things they felt were most important to train. So that's definitely something that we're looking at as we go forward as well."

Monken says they don't just expect to hear from local first responder agencies like police and fire departments. He says they're also looking forward to hearing from the public, and from area businesses. He says business has a big role to play in emergencies.

"The resources that can brought to bear by the private sector far exceed anything that can be brought to bear by the public sector", says Monken. "And that's a relationship we're trying to develop, to make sure that we can really bring the full resources to bear of both private sector and government to respond to the local and affected populations in a disaster."

Monken says input from the Urbana meeting and others around the state will be used in formulating a new homeland security strategy for Illinois, to be unveiled at a final summit in Springfield next September.

Thursday's meeting runs from 10 AM to 1 PM at the ILEAS Training Center --- the former Champaign County Nursing Home building --- at 1701 East Main Street in Urbana. Anyone can attend, but registration is requested. Registration can be made by calling 877-864-7427, or going to the Vision 20/20 website linked below

Categories: Community, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 14, 2011

Khan’s Purchase of Jaguars Approved by NFL Owners

Khan's Purchase of Jaguars Approved by NFL Owners

University of Illinois graduate and Urbana businessman Shahid Khan is now officially the owner of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 14, 2011

U of I Campus Police Chief Going to UConn

The University of Illinois is losing its police chief.

Chief and Director of Public Safety Barbara O'Connor says she'll be leaving in a few months to take the same job at the University of Connecticut, not far from where she grew up. She's expected to leave for UConn next spring, but a starting date hasn't been set. O'Connor says she's in talks with U of I Chancellor Phyllis Wise about setting up a transition team.

O'Connor became the U of I's chief in 2009, coming from the University of Massachusetts, where she also served as chief. She has since added the role of director for the university's Police Training Institute. The Chief says some of her greatest accomplishments include simply boosting the level of service on campus.

"You really want your officers to come to work with a sense of pride," O'Connor said. "We are service driven, and our primary mission is not us, and it's not about us, it's about our community. The University of Illinois Police Department has a great culture in that regard, so I hope they continue doing great work."

The U of I's Police Training Institute was slated for closure at the end of this month, but was recently given a 6-month extension. O'Connor says she holds out hope that area legislators will find a solution for saving the facility.

O'Connor, who earns $190,000 annually at the U of I, will earn a salary at UConn of $164,700. She grew up in Granby, Massacusetts, and owns a house in in the city of Hadley. O'Connor wil replace retiring UConn Police Chief Robert Hudd.

Categories: Education

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 14, 2011

Champaign Council Backs Amended Plan for Reviewing Arrest, Use of Force Policy

Champaign City Manager Steve Carter now has authority to explore the use of an outside firm to review a controversial June 5 arrest.

But a bill was amended in Tuesday night's 8 to 1 vote by the Champaign City Council, asking that Carter show them a contract first. Some council members cited the $60,000 to $100,000 cost, and whether such a plan needed passage Tuesday.

The review is being sought after Illinois State Police and the FBI found no violations of departmental policy or civil rights violations tied to a June 5 arrest in Campustown. A police video of the incident showed the young man being pepper sprayed, and the officer was seen placing his hands on the arrestee's neck.

The independent review would also look into the police department's use of force policy. A representative of the Fraternal Order of Police contends Carter, and no officers, is responsible for problems tied to the strategy. Becky Dragoo is a field supervisor for the union, based in Springfield.

"How dare you point and accuse a questioning finger at the very police officers -- your own soldiers -- you sent out with this policy to guide their actions," she told Carter. "And now you dare to try to shift the blame to them for its consequences."

Council member Tom Bruno says he hears comments in the community that the council has been "shopping around" until it gets the answer it's looking for.

"I for one just want on whose conclusion we can reasonably rely upon," said Bruno. "That we know that it's well founded and good police work went into the investigation."

Bruno says everyone involved in the June 5 arrest deserves a thorough investigation, one that includes witness interviews. Council member Michael LaDue says a review needs to be done periodically anyway to uphold what he calls "human infrastructure."

"Instead of fastening and fixating one on incident involving a couple of officers, one of whom deployed pepper spray, and the situation defined in that context is resisting, I think we need a broader analysis -- we need a larger field analysis."

Council member Paul Faraci cast last night's lone no vote, saying most people in his district are opposed to spending the money. He says a new Champaign police chief will address these concerns when that person is hired early next year.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 13, 2011

Ill Tax Package Headed to Governor Following Senate Vote

Illinois lawmakers have approved a $330 million package of tax relief to businesses and individuals.

The state Senate approved the business measure 44-9 on Tuesday. The individual tax relief passed 48-4. Both now go to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, a supporter.

Sears and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange see the most benefit. The companies had threatened to leave Illinois without financial help from the state. The legislation offers $100 million in tax relief to them and the Chicago Board Options Exchange.

The other measure increases tax credits for the working poor and raises the personal income-tax exemption.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is congratulating lawmakers who adopted the tax-break package, saying it shows what lawmakers can accomplish when both parties work together.

"The final package I think is a balanced approach to help our employers in Illinois," he said. "We understand to have a research and development tax credit on the books in Illinois, not just for one year, but now it's for five years, so we got that established. We got relief with respect to helping smaller businesses. We've extended some of the tax credits that are on the books, and we also were focused on creating jobs and maintaining jobs. And we also were able to help major employers in Illinois."

Experts on economic development say other companies are likely to demand financial incentives of their own. Companies also may play states against each other to get better deals.

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

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