Illinois Public Media News
The judge in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has seated a jury.
Judge James B. Zagel named 18 jurors -- a panel of 12 and six alternates. The judge postponed an immediate decision on a request by Blagojevich's attorneys to dismiss fraud and racketeering charges against him. The former governor has pleaded not guilty to profiting from his power by trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's former Senate seat. Opening statements are now expected to begin.
The ex-governor appeared upbeat earlier as he made his way through the courthouse security and addressed reporters in the lobby.
Interest in the trial was high. The main courtroom in downtown Chicago and another overflow courtroom with audio feeds from the trial were filled to capacity.
An ordinance banning outdoor storage of indoor furniture was approved by the Urbana City Council's Committee of the Whole.
The ordinance follows a recent Urbana house fire that left 25 year old Ashley Ames severely burned. The fire started on a front porch couch. Fire Chief Michael Dilley says the ordinance is geared to limit overstuffed furniture such as couches, chairs and mattresses because its a large ignition source.
Dilley says outdoor furniture fires are not an isolated incident in Urbana in past years, and the regulation is not a restriction of one's freedom of choosing a lifestyle.
"We regulate lifestyle every day," Dilley said. "We have codes and ordinances that help people be safe, and this is just another one that over a period of years we've found that it's a problem. We don't just go out and pull something out of thin air. When we start having issues when people die, then we look at them."
Aldermen Dennis Roberts was the only vote in dissent. Roberts says people used to say quote "your home is your castle."
"It's possible, yes, that a fire could start on a porch because of a couch," Roberts told the council. "But does that mean no one should ever have a couch on the porch? I don't think so. I think we have to use common sense, and I think it's a shame that we're trying tro regulate people's styles of living outdoors."
The Urbana City Council will vote on the Ordinance next Monday.
In addition, Mayor Laurel Prussing says that June 8th 2010 has been proclaimed Al Johnston Day in Urbana. The veteran Urbana Police Officer recently retired.
Gov. Pat Quinn has declared four Illinois counties disaster areas after tornadoes tore through parts of the state.
Quinn on Monday declared LaSalle, Livingston, Peoria and Putnam counties disaster areas. Quinn said during a visit to Dwight in Livingston County the declaration would help ensure the flow of state assistance to areas hit by tornadoes. The governor says he expects communities like Dwight and Streator to get federal help as well.
"We want to give everything we can from the state, but under these circumstances there are moneys available from the federal government for disaster assistants." said Quinn. "And I think very shortly we'll be filing for that." The National Weather Service says at least 15 tornadoes touched down across central and northern portions of the state Saturday night. The strongest was a tornado with 140 mph winds that touched down near Dwight before tearing through the town about 60 miles northeast of Bloomington. 14 people were hurt in the town, including one with serious injuries, and about 50 suffered minor injuries in nearby Streator. Dozens were injured and a number of homes and businesses were damaged.
Officials investigating an outbreak of salmonella illness linked with Subway restaurants now report 48 cases in 18 Illinois counties, including Champaign, Macon, and Coles Counties. The Illinois Department of Public Health says everyone who got sick is recovering. Seventeen people were hospitalized. The department urges people who got sick after eating at Subway restaurants on or after May 10 to contact their health care provider or local health department. Last week, officials said illness had struck 34 people and involved restaurants in 14 counties.
Local officials in Livingston County say they expect to request both state and federal disaster assistance after tornadoes there destroyed dozens of homes and injured more than 60 people this weekend.
The twisters that hit the towns of Dwight and Streator Saturday night are among seven being assessed by the National Weather Service. Dwight Village Administrator Kevin McNamara says one of the 14 was seriously injured, and all injuries occurred in a mobile home park, where more than 30 homes were destroyed. He says at least 50 other homes outside the park received moderate to serious damage, and Dwight High School lost part of its roof. For the area impacted, McNamara says a curfew that started Sunday morning remains in effect through 10 this morning. "Com Ed is still doing assessments, checking for power lines," said McNamara. "Nicor is checking for gas leaks. You know, when it's dark and there are no street lights, we just don't want anybody to be injured." More than 800 were still without power in Dwight late Sunday. Governor Pat Quinn is expected to assess the damage there Monday afternoon.
In Streator, Mayor Jim Lansford says about 50 people were treated at area hospitals for minor injuries. He says about 30 homes had major damage, and about 18-hundred residents were without power late yesterday. A perimeter around the area hit hardest in Streator was blocked off as Com Ed was assessing its safety. "The main thing is that nobody lost their life," said Lansford. "And it's unfortunate.. the property damage and some other injuries, but nobody did lose their life. And the support from all the agencies as well as the community itself has been outstanding."
The National Weather Service says storms also damaged or destroyed homes and buildings in LaSalle County (which includes part of Streator), as well as Kankakee, Peoria and Putnam counties. Meteorologist Gino Izzi says most of the tornadoes were EF2's, but there were a couple of EF3's, with wind speeds of around 140 miles an hour. He says the pattern of storms is similar to what the area experienced two years ago today, when a 'super cell' of storms stretching from Livingston County to Chicago's south suburbs produced five or more tornadoes.
A Louisiana truck driver will be ticketed for reckless driving and two other violations for causing the Memorial Day crash on Interstate 57 near Mattoon that killed three people and left 13 others injured.
55-year old Everett Van Duzee of New Liberia, Louisiana was also ticketed for failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash, and given a log book violation for a discrepancy in the amount of hours he'd driven. In their report on the crash released Friday night, Illinois State Police say traffic was merging to one lane due to construction that afternoon, and that Duzee had 'became distracted and took his eyes off the roadway.' He hit three vehicles, and caused five more to crash. Three women from Mississippi died - 61 year old Sheila Douglas of Batesville, 68 year old Doris Hamblin-Mayo of Sarah, Miss. and 80-year old Juanita Hall, also of Sarah. Two injured victims remained hospitalized.
State banking regulators closed the Arcola Homestead Savings Bank Friday, and turned it over to the federal regulators. But unlike many failed banks, Arcola Homestead will not be opening under a new name.
FDIC spokesman David Barr says Arcola Homestead Savings Bank will be closing for good.
"More than nine out of ten bank failures result in a transition over to a new ownership group", says Barr. "However, in this case, Homestead was one of the four or five percent of the bank failures we've seen, where we haven't been able to find a buyer."
But Barr says Homestead depositors will still be getting their money back. He says checks for all insured deposits will be mailed to account owners, starting on Monday. In addition, Homestead depositors have the option of transferring the checking and NOW accounts over to the First Mid-Illinois Bank in Arcola. Barr warns that account holders will have to go over to the First Mid-Illinois branch in Arcola to make the switch --- and that checks from their Homestead checkbooks are no longer valid.
The FDIC says 81 federally insured banks have failed so far this year. Arcola Homestead Savings Bank 12th Illinois bank to fail.The federal agency says the bank had about $17 million in assets and $18.1 million in deposits, as of March 31st.
A member of the Champaign school district committee aimed at reviewing equity areas is frustrated by the group's lack of progress after one semester.
The Education Equity Excellence Committee was mandated by a court through Unit 4's consent decree settlement. Melodye Rosales says some members fail to understand that they're supposed to help guide district administrators, and have things the other way around based on vague language on how the committee operates. The triple-E committee is assigned with looking at academic progress among minority students in areas like special education, Advanced Placement courses, and discipline areas. The panel is also reviewing the results of a racial climate study done at Unit 4 by a University of Illinois psychology professor. It's one Rosales contends was a waste of district resources.
"We could do it for free," said Rosales, implying there were other departments at the U of I, like its Informatics Institute, where such a study wouldn't require thousands of dollars. "I gave them a road map on how to do it for free every year. We could get a general idea of what happens, we could work with the university, they could process the information. We don't need to spend $58,000 or $74,000 on something that's not even worth the paper it's written on at this point and time." Rosales also contends Unit 4 has done a poor job of promoting the Triple-E committee, and needs to be meeting more often.
But Champaign School Board President and committee member Dave Tomlinson says the committee is taking the right approach to focusing on broad issues, and is glad the panel plans to expand its meeting schedule in the fall. "I think the committe has got a large task and we need to make sure we keep the district moving in the right direction, and also to make sure the community feels involved," said Tomlinson. "I think we're on that path, and we've got a varied group of people here that has the information that they need to make the decisions." A task force will lay out that meeting schedule before the triple-E committee meets this fall.
A bill designed to change Illinois' often-abused legislative scholarship program is heading nowhere, and that means lawmakers may avoid one more touchy vote before the fall election.
The Senate faces a deadline next week to consider Gov. Pat Quinn's veto of the measure. But a spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton says senators have no plans to return to the Capitol by then.
Cullerton is a Chicago Democrat who sponsored a series of restrictions on the scholarships rather than support an outright ban passed by the House.
Quinn vetoed Cullerton's proposal on May 11, saying he preferred to eliminate the program.
Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon says this particular bill is dead but the issue isn't.
The judge in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has begun questioning potential jurors for the case.
Among the first questions Judge James Zagel asked them today were whether they had read much about the case and whether they could set aside any preconceived notions about Blagojevich.
The former governor is accused of scheming to profit from his power to fill President Barack Obama's former Senate seat. He denies any wrongdoing.
One potential juror said she had seen the former governor's wife, Patti Blagojevich, on a reality TV show eating a bug.
Jurors were referred to in the courtroom by numbers only. Zagel plans to keep the jury anonymous until after the trial and denied a request by news organizations to reverse that.
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