Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 03, 2010

Frerichs, Righter Easily Fend Off Challenges for IL Senate

One of the incumbent state senators says Democrats will be willing to let Republicans make suggestions on ways to straighten out Illinois' budget, but wholesale cuts shouldn't be in the equation.

Senator Mike Frerichs won a third term over Republican Al Reynolds, a former tea party organizer. But legislative Democrats will have to work with a smaller majority after GOP wins elsewhere in the state. Frerichs says for the Republicans, having a larger minority should bring more accountability.

"In the past you've had one party sitting on the sideline saying 'it's your responsibility, you make those cuts, we're not interested in being involved,'" said Frerichs. "Now is the real time for bipartisanship. After the election and the next election a couple of years off, maybe these people will be willing to work together."

Frerichs says no one likes to see tax increase or spending cuts, but he says both will be needed to resolve the state's deep debt.

Rejoining Frerichs in the state Senate will be 55th district Republican Dale Righter, who easily fended off a challenge from Josh Weger.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 03, 2010

Illinois House Remains a Democratic House, Though Less So

Election night was a good one for legislative incumbents in east-central Illinois as well as one candidate who had a longtime legislator's seal of approval.

Republican Chad Hays will replace retiring state Representative Bill Black next year after beating Democrat Michael Puhr. Hays is a hospital administrator and former mayor of Catlin - he had received campaign assistance from Black.

Democrat Naomi Jakobsson will go to Springfield for a fifth term after beating Norm Davis. The former social service executive says services to people with disabilities or mental illness should not meet the budget knife.

"These cut across all parts of our population," said Jakobsson. "It's very important that we make these services available. These are some of things that I want to make sure we're able to do, and that's going to take some people really putting their votes on the line."

In the 110th district, Republican Chapin Rose racked up one of the largest winning margins in Illinois with a win over Dennis Malak.

"A major message has been sent to people who think you can continue to borrow your way out of this problem, and there's been a major message sent to people whose first option is to run and raise taxes," said Rose. "All across the country, the message has been, 'you've got to get your fiscal house in order.'"

Shane Cultra easily defeated Green Party candidate Vince LaMie in the 105th.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 03, 2010

Urbana Congressman Elected to 6th Term

Urbana Congressman Tim Johnson will serve a sixth term after besting Democrat David Gill for a third time.

The Republican Johnson says he'll continue to strive for a limited government, a free-market economy, and cutting through the bureaucracy of agencies like the Veterans Administration. He still wants to repeal the health care reform bill. But with the Democrats still in control in the US Senate, Johnson says it won't be an absolute repeal.

"But I think we can work to make some constructive changes and were funding is relevant, to limit funding to that," said Johnson. "So my hope is that we'll be able to bring some more sense to a health care system, or at least a health care bill that's out of control." Gill, an emergency room physician, calls that kind of talk 'politicking'. He likes parts of the package, but says it needs some re-crafting.

Johnson finished with 64-percent of the vote to Gill's 35-percent. Gill says this loss is disappointing for the people. He says elected winners on each side of the political aisle are failing to compromise, and that proves there's something wrong with our government. "Maybe eventually there will be enough pain for voters that they'll understand that they need to look beyond the 'D' and the 'R' and find out who's funding the different candidates," said Gill. "And maybe then they'll start supporting those who are interested in accomplishing good things for people."

Gill has described himself as an independent-minded Democrat, but says he may consider a true independent campaign for Congress in the future - calling it the fastest-growing part of the electorate.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 02, 2010

High Turn Out of Voters Head to the Polls in Champaign County

Champaign County clerk Mark Shelden said he expects a near-record turnout by the time polls close Tuesday night.

Shelden said he thinks more than 55,000 voters will make it to the polls, which is well above the 2002 record for a non-presidential election year. By contrast, Shelden said more than 84,000 Champaign County residents voted in the 2008 presidential race.

"We had to bring a few ballots out to places, especially federal only ballots," Shelden said. "I think we're seeing kind of a significant uptick in those ballots, and those are people who didn't get their addresses updated in time."

Election judges at two Champaign polling sites report that there has been a steady stream of voters coming in throughout the day. About 400 people cast their ballots by Tuesday afternoon at St. John's Lutheran Church. At the McKinley Foundation, things were slower, as they often are for Campustown polling sites. Still, more than 40 came in by late morning while as many as four had to wait in line.

At The Church of Christ on Philo Road, voter Melanie Kruger said she rarely misses an election, and used this one to take some frustration out on incumbents by choosing third-party candidates in some races.

"I'm just tired of people getting into the office, and then seeming to put priority on their party rather than on their constituents," Kruger said. "I don't know how else to protest."

Shelden said more than 6,000 votes were cast well before Tuesday's opening of the polls, and he said a few more absentee ballots will trickle in over the next few days. He added that there have been few minor problems at a couple of Champaign County polling places with tabulators, but he said those problems were eventually resolved with no effect on voting.

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 02, 2010

UI Urbana Faculty Senate Rejects Proposed Administrative Restructure

The University of Illinois' Urbana Faculty Senate has unanimously rejected administrative changes proposed by President Michael Hogan.

In a written three page statement, the Senate reported that plans to add a vice president, new duties for some administrators, and change titles for others simply have too many unanswered questions. However, Senate Executive Committee Chair Joyce Tolliver said U of I Trustees have been encouraged to refine the proposals, and discuss them further with campus Senators. Tolliver said one key area of concern is money, especially when the U of I's fiscal situation is dire.

"We are told that this is an investment we should make," Tolliver said. "That is probably true. I think some of us accept that logic, but many of us on the campus are very worried about where the money is going to come from in order to create new positions, and in order to do searches for re-defined existing positions."

Tolliver said the entire process for whatever changes occur needs to be slowed down.

"We were given an extraordinary tight time frame to respond to the proposed changes to the University administration," she said. "There are still entire areas in which we have asked for more information, and haven't been addressed."

A capacity crowd rejected President Hogan's plan at the Senate's regular meeting on Monday. The Senate's executive committee will send a much longer version of its statement to the Senates Conference, which is made up of elected officials from all three U of I campus Senates. That group will forward that document, along with its own advice on the proposed changes, onto the U of I Board of Trustees. Tolliver said the Senate is not afraid of change, but would like to seek out new ways to accomplish these goals.

Categories: Economics, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 01, 2010

Quinn, Brady Urge Voters to Get to the Polls

Candidates for Illinois governor touted their efforts to create jobs and reduce the state's $13 billion budget deficit during campaign stops in Savoy.

Democratic Governor Pat Quinn returned to Savoy's Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Hall where he was joined by union members and state elected officials.

Quinn said while his Republican opponent, State Senator Bill Brady of Bloomington, seeks to cut the state's minimum wage and slash education funding by more than a billion dollars, he said his own initiatives while serving as governor have helped the state's unemployment rate begin to drop in the past nine months.

"We're not going to be tearing down Illinois; we're building up," Quinn explained. "We want to make sure we have the proper funding for our schools, and for our students."

Quinn touted his efforts to rescue Illinois' Monetary Awards Program, which provides grants to college-bound students. He blasted Brady for wanting to cut education programs and the minimum wage.

"If you're working 40 hours a week, you shouldn't have to live in poverty," Quinn said.

As Quinn was talking to supporters, Brady was nearby at Savoy's Willard Airport where he criticized Quinn's track record as governor, and reiterated his own plans to balance the state's budget without raising taxes.

"The last two years have been a failure for Illinois under (Quinn's) reign," Brady said. "Illinois needs a governor who will put the people first, not a governor who has secret deals, secret early release programs, secret pay raises, secret tax increases, and record unemployment."

Looking forward to Tuesday's legislative races, Brady predicted Republicans will set victory records across the state.

"We're going to do better than we've ever done," Brady said. "For too long we've had a Chicago-centric governance that needs to understand that there's more to Illinois than Chicago."

With Congressman and U.S. Senate hopeful, Mark Kirk, by his side, Brady also said he thinks Illinois voters will shift party leadership in the U.S. House of Representative by sending as many as four more Republicans to Congress.

Despite polls showing Brady ahead, both candidates are working to get out the vote until the polls close. The Green Party's Rich Whitney, Independent Scott Lee Cohen, and Libertarian Lex Green are also on the ballot.

(Photos by Jeff Bossert/WILL and Sean Powers/WILL)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 01, 2010

Reminding Voters to Vote While at the Polls

A computerized alert system is reminding voters this election year to choose a candidate for each of Illinois' constitutional offices, which include governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.

The technology aimed at catching ballot errors stems from a 2007 law that took effect during the February 2 primary election. If a voter forgets or chooses not to vote for a candidate, they are notified to make that vote if they choose.

The alerts are only used during election years when constitutional office holders are on the ballot. Sixty seven counties in the state use the ballot alerts at polling places, but not every county uses them in the same way.

For example, in Champaign County, voters get an on-screen notification when they do not fill out a response for one of the state's six constitutional offices. However, in Macon County, voters are alerted when they skip any ballot measure. Macon County Clerk Steve Bean said election laws should apply to every item on the ballot.

"The most concern of most clerks is this is a law that affects six offices selected in the state of Illinois," Bean said. "It doesn't care about any of the others."

County Champaign Clerk Mark Shelden, whose county restricts the alerts to constitutional offices only, filed a lawsuit in November 2009 against the Illinois State Board of Elections. He claimed that the alerts violated voters' rights to privacy. However, Shelden later dropped the lawsuit because of budgetary reasons.

"If the legislature doesn't act in the spring," Shelden explained. "I definitely think the lawsuit needs to be brought back."

While the technology alerts people of a missed vote, it does not discard ballots.\

(Photo by Tom Rogers/WILL)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 01, 2010

IL Senate Candidates Make Final Campaign Stops

Whoever wins Tuesday's U.S. Senate race in Illinois will likely get to work right away rather than waiting until President Barack Obama's old senate term ends in January.

Roland Burris currently holds that seat. Burris was appointed to the Senate by former Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested, impeached, and then removed from office. A special election coupled with the general election will allow voters to choose a candidate for a six week term before starting a full six year term.

At a campaign stop Monday at Savoy's Willard Airport, Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Mark Kirk told a crowd of supporters that change in the U.S. Senate will come sooner in Illinois than in any other state.

"Your vote counts more than the vote of all 49 other states because you send a senator right away to the United States Senate," Kirk said.

Kirk, who has represented Illinois' 10th congressional district since 2001, said he plans to return to Washington to help stop a trillion dollar spending bill and a national sales tax.

Kirk's opponent, Illinois' Democratic State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, said there is not a race in the country with a "sharper contrast'' between candidates than him and Kirk. He said Kirk has consistently voted against what he calls Obama's efforts to get the economy back on track. Giannoulias stopped at the Abraham Lincoln Capitol Airport in Springfield earlier in the day to greet supporters. Giannoulias blasted Kirk's record in Congress.

"Now (Kirk) says he's the candidate who spends less, taxes less and borrows less," Giannoulias said. "No one in this race has spent more, borrowed more, taxed more and led less than Congressman Kirk in Washington DC."

Kirk and Giannoulias are in a tight race. Recent polls show the two candidates neck-and-neck, with Kirk having a slight lead. The Green Party's LeAlan Jones and Libertarian Mike Labno are also vying for the U.S. Senate seat.

(Photos by Sean Powers/WILL)

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 01, 2010

New Fastest Supercomputer Will Be Outpaced by Blue Waters, Says U of I

A supercomputer in China last week took over the title of world's fastest, outpacing a supercomputer in the United States. However, a new supercomputer under development at the University of Illinois is still projected to be even faster.

The Tianhe-1A supercomputer in the Chinese city of Tianjin is reported to have a peak computing capacity of around 2.5 petaflops --- a petaflop equals one quadrillion calculations per second. Still, the Blue Waters supercomputer at the U of I is expected to have a peak capacity of 10 petaflops when completed, and there are other differences.

Thom Dunning of the University's National Center for Supercomputing Applications said the Chinese supercomputer uses two types of processors: a central processing unit (CPU) and a graphics processing unit (GPU). Dunning said Blue Waters will be based on CPU's only. He said Blue Waters will be designed to take on a much broader range of science and engineering problems, compared to Tianhe 1A.

"It is a bit of an apples and oranges comparison because you're comparing a very general purpose supercomputer with a very specialized purpose supercomputer." Dunning said. "But even given that comparison, Blue Waters is going to outperform the new Chinese supercomputer, even on those applications for which the Chinese supercomputer is well-suited."

The U of I is working with IBM on Blue Waters, which will use the company's new POWER7 microprocessors. Meanwhile, new Chinese-designed interconnect or network technology is a notable feature of Tianhe 1A. Blue Waters is set to start operation next fall, and be at full capacity in 2012.

Categories: Education, Technology

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 29, 2010

Area Superintendent Critical of State Testing, Other Criteria Ranking School Districts

The Rantoul City Schools are among the nearly 2,000 Illinois schools that did not make Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, this year.

Superintendent Bill Trankina called the Illinois Student Achievement Test a mere snapshot of performance. His district includes four grade schools and a middle school.

Rantoul Township High School has a separate administration, but it also failed to make AYP. Trankina noted that his district has a mobility rate of about 35-percent, and a poverty rate of over 80-percent. Still, he said students are making fundamental changes in reading and writing. He noted that his district has installed smart boards into each classroom, which should help state test scores. Trankina said he is frustrated by the lack of clarity on the state's report card, citing an example of how a subgroup's performance impacts an entire district.

"If a child attended school all day everyday, had passing grades, then in the fourth quarter happened to fail one course, and (the district said) 'we know your child passed everything every quarter, except for the fourth quarter they fail one subject - your child's going to be retained for next year," Trankina said. "Immediately the parent would be very upset. I think we all see the absurdity in that example."

Trankina also said analyzing test scores in two time periods with different standards really is not a fair comparison.

"To a certain degree, we're being evaluated and placed on certain academic watch status based upon how students did when the standards were administered in the past," Trankina said. "And we think that only compounds to the confusion that most people feel about the standards."

Trankina also said it is terribly unfair that the performance of one subgroup on the Illinois Student Achievement Test would decide whether the entire district made AYP. On a local level, he said the district is making strides with a new writing and reading curriculum.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

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