Illinois Public Media News
Last week's sudden closure of a residential hotel in Champaign forced dozens of people to look for a place to live on short notice. It also forced the City of Champaign into action - not just to condemn the Gateway Studios for lack of utilities, but to help arrange housing for those residents, most of them low-income. Housing advocates see the evictions - and a similar incident at the Autumn Glen apartment Complex in Rantoul - to call for changes in housing policy in Champaign and Urbana. Former Urbana alderman Danielle Chynoweth has brought a proposal to the Champaign and Urbana city councils to offer cash assistance for relocation to people left homeless by condemnation - the landlord would be held responsible for that money. She spoke with AM 580's Tom Rogers.
The head of Champaign's Neighborhood Services department, Kevin Jackson, told AM 580's Jim Meadows last week that while rental help is available from agencies, some of it is based on the applicant's background. Jackson says the city is open to discussion on permanent policy changes.
A Champaign School Board candidate who lost her race by two votes will not contest the election results in court. Lynn Stuckey says after looking at previous case law, there doesn't appear to be any grounds for her to challenge the vote count - a recount last month found that Stig Lanesskog edged Stuckey by two votes for the third of three school board seats in an eight-way election. Stuckey says she'll still attend and speak out at Unit 4 board meetings and will decide later whether to run again.
Seven months after University of Illinois trustees agreed to let the school's Global Campus try to become a standalone, degree-granting institution, they're about to consider scaling it back.
University trustees meeting in Chicago Thursday will consider a measure that would start reshaping the university system's online effort based on a report put together by faculty.
That report calls for winding down the online global campus as it exists and opening again next year with a smaller staff and budget under the control of the university's three campuses.
The measure calls for more study on how to change Global Campus but makes clear that trustees are unhappy with low enrollment. Global Campus has 426 students but was expected to draw thousands.
The chief financial officer for the Champaign School District is expanding on his warning of tough financial times ahead.
In February, Gene Logas told the Champaign School Board that they would have to trim the budget for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 to adjust to recession-driven declines in state aid and sales tax revenue. On Monday night, he told board members that new data indicates that tax revenues may still be down in FY 2012. He says when that budget year approaches, the district should look at repeating something it last did in 2005.
"The working cash bonds that we issued several years ago are completely paid off by the time we get to 2011-2012," said Logas. "I think we'd have to look at the possibility of issuing some working cash bonds".
The Unit four school board could approve the bonds for FY 2012 without a referendum. But Logas says the district should seek public direction before it works out the three million dollar budget cut he's recommending for the FY 2011 budget.
A University of Illinois football player has been charged with two counts of aggravated battery after a bar fight that authorities say sent another man to the hospital.
Nineteen-year-old Mike Garrity of Batavia has pleaded not guilty after the fight at 1:55 a.m. Friday at Kam's, near campus.
Police say women at the bar told Garrity the unidentified man harassed them.
Champaign County prosecutor Julia Rietz says Garrity punched him, fracturing the man's skull. Rietz says the man is a university student and remained hospitalized Monday.
Garrity's attorney, Dan Pope, says he hasn't yet talked to his client.
Garrity is a 6-6, 310-pound sophomore lineman who has never played. A team spokeswoman says he's now suspended.
The assistant director of Ohio's prison system has won the top job at the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Gov. Pat Quinn announced Thursday that he is nominating Michael Randle to serve as director of the Illinois prison agency. He calls Randle "the best of the best.''
If confirmed by the state Senate, Randle will take over a system facing major challenges. Its prisons house far more inmates than they were designed to hold, while the size of the prison staff has been slashed by 25 percent.
Randle says he's concerned about the safety of overworked prison guards, but he's staying quiet about any possible solutions until he reviews the situation.
The Champaign school district's Consent Decree has been extended a few weeks past its scheduled June 30th expiration date --- due to scheduling problems with the judge overseeing the case. Federal Judge Joe Billy McDade has extended the racial equity decree until he can schedule a hearing on motions filed by plaintiffs in the case. School Board President Dave Tomlinson says McDade had no open dates in June --- and the hearing may not be held until July 20th or later.
Tomlinson and plaintiffs attorney Carol Ashley says this extension of the Consent Decree is only due to scheduling problems. Ashley is seeking a multi-year extension until the Unit Four school district works out problems she says remain with achieving goals set by the decree. But Tomlinson says the district has made a good-faith effort towards all the Consent Decree goals.He says the district's objections to the extension were overturned.
Chrysler is closing one out of every four of its dealerships, and the effect will be felt in central Illinois.
O'Brien Auto Group's Chrysler dealership in Urbana is on a list of nearly 800 closures, as are the Chrysler and Jeep franchises at Danville's Carmack Car Capitol and all Chrysler brands at Tuscola's Four Seasons Auto Plaza. Decatur-based Bob Ridings is losing Chrysler brands at its main dealership as well as those in Taylorville and Jacksonville. The owner of the Carmack firm in Danville, Gary Knight, said he was not expecting to see the notice from Chrysler but had no further comment - neither did a spokesman for Four Seasons.
Chrysler has about 3,200 dealers, but the bankrupt automaker says that's too many. It wants to have stronger, more profitable dealers with better facilities.
Annexation talks with a private landowner are going a little slow, so the village of Savoy is trying another approach to gain jurisdiction over a stretch of Curtis Road --- and to keep a road improvement project moving.
The village board voted Wednesday night to acquire county-owned land in Champaign Township along Curtis Road, east of Prospect. The 20 acres includes land for a water detention basin. But most of it is a narrow strip running along Curtis Road. The county obtained the land for the Curtis Road improvement project, and it was slated for eventual annexation by Savoy. But Savoy officials are acquiring it now, to ward off Champaign Township's effort to hold up the project.
Savoy Mayor Robert McCleary says he wants to avoid any delay in the Curtis Road project, which is intended to make the road ready for increased traffic from the new I-57 interchange. He says acquiring the land from the county ahead of schedule is a good solution. "And if it ever quits raining," he adds, "and they can finish up that first phase, we should be in a position to allow that second phase to keep right on marching, and not have to worry about our federal and state dollars."
Champaign Township has refused to approve work on the stretch of Curtis Road under its jurisdiction, until the city of Champaign grants it concessions in a long-running annexation dispute. In response, the city and Savoy have turned to annexing land along Curtis Road in Champaign Township to avoid delays on the road project. Champaign has reached an agreement to annex privately owned land at the corner of Curtis and Mattis.
The Champaign County Board will vote next week on selling the piece of land to Savoy. McCleary says negotiations with the Lo family for farmland along the same stretch of Curtis Road will continue.
The Champaign City Council did some budget cutting during Tuesday night's study session. Council members approved a series of cuts to the budgets of police, fire, public works and administrative departments. Nearly 2.2 million dollars went on the chopping block. Many of the cuts eliminated positions that are currently vacant, or will become vacant in time, due to retirements.
District Four Councilwoman Marci Dodds voted against the cuts in police service --- the only "no" vote cast against the budget cuts last night. Dodds opposed the elimination of three vacant patrol officer positions. She says losing those positions will make it harder for the police department to staff its Community Assistance Teams --- teams she says have made a big difference in the Garden Hills neighborhood.
"And it could be happenstance, but the fire reductions and the public works reductions seemed less onerous than losing three police officers, particularly when we already have an understaffed district that's growing," Dodds said.
Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney says the Community Assistance Teams will continue, even without the three patrol officer positions. But he says any additional cuts could endanger the program. Finney says while the police budget cuts may affect some programs, it will have no impact on the department's ability to respond to emergency calls. And he says the department is apply for a grant to pay the lion's share of restoring the three patrol officer positions.
The Champaign City Council will continue to hold budget hearings in May. A final vote is expected in June.
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