Illinois Public Media News
The University of Illinois is scrapping plans to spend nearly $100,000 on a sculpture of university President Stanley Ikenberry. U of I spokesman Thomas Hardy says Ikenberry called off the project this week shortly after the Chicago Tribune began asking questions about it. But Hardy would not talk on tape with WILL Radio, saying he felt the Tribune was trying to make a news story out of something that wasn't worth the attention. Hardy did say the $98,000 project was a fraction of the cost of the $75 million Ikenberry Commons residence hall project. The university originally planned to hang the sculpture in the dining hall that's opening this fall. The art was to be paid for with student housing fees.
The Tribune reports that the school hadn't yet signed a contract, but university officials had filed paper work with the state to justify the no-bid, $98,000 purchase. The U of I had reportedly planned to award the project to Urbana-based sculptor Peter Fagan. Hardy says Ikenberry stopped the plan because he didn't want to generate any ill will. The expenditure would have come amid a budget crisis that's led university officials to furlough employees and raise tuition. Hardy says private funding of the sculpture could be explored at later.
Nearly 70 years after opening as a site for producing explosives, about 7,000 acres in Western Indiana are now being prepared for industry. The US Army held a deactivation ceremony yesterday to signal the closure of the Newport Chemical Depot.
When Terry Arthur came to work there 1993, she was told her job would last five years, as the Army set out to store and dispose of the chemical nerve agent VX.
But the 9-11 terrorist attacks brought about a new age... and changed a lot of jobs there as about 200 soldiers were brought into secure the Depot. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert spoke with Arthur:
The Los Angeles Lakers have won their 16th NBA championship, dramatically rallying from a fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 83-79 Thursday night in Game 7 of the NBA finals.
Kobe Bryant scored 23 points despite 6-of-24 shooting while winning his fifth title with the Lakers, who repeated as NBA champions for the first time since winning three straight from 2000-02.
Ron Artest added 20 points for the Lakers, who shot terribly while trailing for most of the first 31/2 quarters. Yet they reclaimed the lead midway through the fourth quarter and hung on with big shots from Pau Gasol and Artest.
With their fifth title in 11 seasons, the Lakers moved one championship behind Boston's 17 banners for the overall NBA lead.
After the game, hundreds of jubilant Los Angeles Lakers fans poured into the streets near Staples Center, and Los Angeles Police declared an unlawful assembly.
Police urged people to disperse immediately outside Staples Center Thursday night.
A police spokesman says at least two people have been arrested --- both misdemeanors for drinking in public.
Police massed around the arena before the game, aiming to prevent a repeat of the violence that accompanied the Lakers' victory last year.
A small central Illinois school district says the company that supplies bread for its lunches has declined to bid to for a new contract because of the state government's financial mess.
Superintendent Bruce Owen of the Unit 30 school district in Dieterich says Lewis Bakeries of Indiana cited the state's slow rate of providing appropriated money.
Dieterich is in Effingham County, about 70 miles south of Champaign. The two-school district has just under 500 students.
School districts and other state-dependent institutions have been waiting for months on money the state has promised but says it can't provide.
Illinois' state government is facing a $13 billion budget deficit.
Owen says no other companies bid for the contract. The district may have to buy its own bread from local bakeries.
There's no action Friday in the corruption trial of ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Testimony this week concluded on Thursday with the jury hearing from a former Blagojevich donor.who scored a job leading a state agency.
Ali Ata says in 2002 and 2003, he twice donated $25,000 to Blagojevich's campaign...each time having conversations with the governor that included vague talk of a state job.
With support from Blagojevich and his now-convicted fundraiser Tony Rezko, Ata was appointed executive director of the newly-created Illinois Finance Authority.
The ex-governor's attorney, Sam Adam, Junior, asked Ata several times whether Blagojevich ever told him he needed to contribute to get the state job.
Ata repeatedly said no.
That continued line of questioning clearly frustrated Judge James Zagel.
The judge told Adam that if he didn't think the jury understood that argument by now, "then you should just give up all hope".
Zagel made the remark in front of jurors - some of whom laughed.
Ata returns to the stand on Monday when trial resumes.
President Obama has nominated an Illinois appeals court judge to the Federal Bench for the Central District of Illinois.
Justice Sue Myerscough sits on the appellate bench in Springfield and ran unsuccessfully for the State Supreme Court. She has her law degree from Southern Illinois University and clerked for former federal judge Harold Baker. She has also served on the circuit court and in a private law practice.
Obama says Myerscough has shown an unwavering commitment to public service throughout her career and iis grateful for her decision to serve the American People from the District Court Bench. The nomination requires Senate Approval.
People receiving food stamp benefits will soon be able to double their purchasing power at the Champaign Farmers Market.
A total of $1500 was awarded by the Lumpkin Foundation and Provena Covenant Medical Center to the market, which is held every Thursday on North First Street. The funds will allow food stamp recipients to buy up to $20 worth of food while being charged $10 on their Illinois Link Cards.
Valerie McWilliams of the North First Street Association of Champaign says there's a perception that food is more expensive at farmer's markets than at large grocery stores. She says that for people on a very limited income this can be discouraging, and the double-value program will help make fresh produce more affordable for them.
But Market Director Wendy Langacker says the program value should also boost sales at the market, and keep vendors coming back.
"The vendors who might feel that they're maybe not making as much as they would like, I think it will help add to their bottom line", says Lanaker, "which will encourage them to come back to the market, which has a long-term benefit in terms of the whole market itself."
The value program begins June 24th. The Champaign Farmer's Market is held from 3 to 7 in the police department parking lot on the corner of North First Street and University.
Prosecutors in the corruption trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will continue to question Joseph Cari Thursday morning. Cari is a former Democratic big-wig who previously pleaded guilty to attempted extortion.
Cari managed fund-raising during Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000.
So - Cari testified Wednesday - when he found himself on a private plane headed to New York with Blagojevich back in 2003, the governor asked him about setting up a national fundraising operation.
Cari says, on the flight, Blagojevich told him that, as governor, he could raise big bucks by giving out state contracts, and hitting up those businesses for donations.
Cari told the same story two years ago during the corruption trial of Blagojevich fundraiser Tony Rezko.
On Thursday, Cari will likely detail the extortion attempt he's pleaded guilty to involving a state pension board.
Prosecutors say that was part of a broad conspiracy Governor Blagojevich took part in to enrich his campaign, himself and others.
Cari is cooperating with the government in exchange for a lighter prison sentence for himself.
The Subway restaurant chain has issued an apology for a salmonella outbreak that has sickened 80 people across 26 Illinois counties.
As state health investigators continue working to pinpoint the cause of the outbreak, Subway corporate spokesman Kevin Kane said Wednesday the company was sorry for the problems.
The Illinois Department of Public Health says people began getting sick after eating in Subway restaurants beginning May 11.
Kane noted that all the cases cited by the health department are in people who ate at the restaurants before June 3. He said that since then, the chain has discarded and replaced lettuce, green peppers, red onion and tomatoes.
The 26 Illinois counties that were affected includes Champaign, Vermilion, DeWitt, McLean, Macon, Coles and Moultrie.
Champaign County voters could get a chance this November to give their opinion on a proposal for a smaller county board. County Board members voted Tuesday night in committee to put the non-binding resolution on the November ballot.
County Board Vice-Chairman Tom Betz says the proposal --- for a 22-member board with eleven two-member districts --- is a compromise. It's not exactly what he wants, but Betz says it's the version that the county board appears willing to put on the ballot.
"If you're going to change the structure, I think the public needs to get itself invested in it", says Betz. "This is the public's county board, it's not MY county board."
Betz believes a smaller Champaign County Board --- it currently has 27 members -- would be a more responsive body. But fellow Democrat Alan Kurtz says the current 27-member board with three members per district allows for more diversity.
"We have a tremendous background of everything from attorneys to hard-working farmers", says Kurtz. "And they give us their opinions, their experiences, their life experiences, and it helps me make a decision for my constituents as well."
Whatever the voters would say, the Champaign County Board would have the final say on how their board is constituted. A final vote on the referendum takes place next week --- six county board members were absent during last night's committee-level vote.
Also on Tuesday night, a measure to put another non-binding referendum on the ballot --- this one to ban video gaming machines --- received only five "yes" votes from the Champaign County Board. Gambling opponents say video gaming is too addictive. But supporters say the games --- which are soon to be legalized in Illinois --- will produce tax revenue that's needed to help fund highway and other state construction projects.
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