Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 24, 2011

Van Dyke Headed Back to Danville Via Skype

Dick Van Dyke won't be able to make it back to Danville High School to see the auditorium dedicated to him this weekend. But the 85-year-old comedian will make an appearance of sorts.

Danville High choral director Martha Lindvahl told The (Champaign) News-Gazette that Van Dyke will watch dedication ceremonies and performances Friday and Saturday via Skype. She says Van Dyke was invited and wanted to attend but is having back problems.

Van Dyke has recently been promoting his book, "My Lucky Life, In and Out of Show Business.''

Danville has only about 32,000 residents but Van Dyke is among a handful of famous entertainers from the town on the Indiana border. Others include Gene Hackman, Donald O'Connor and jazz pianist and singer Bobby Short.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 24, 2011

Former Chicago Mayor Daley Accepts University Post

Richard Daley is going back to school.

The recently retired Chicago mayor has taken a position at the University of Chicago.

Daley will not be a professor, and he won't be grading papers. But he will have an office, and - for the next five years - an academic title: "distinguished senior scholar."

The former mayor will be responsible for organizing ten guest lectures a year about big issues facing cities, using his heft to land some big visitors.

"Today's important for me, of course, because it marks yet another step in this the next phase of my life," Daley said in a press conference in Hyde Park. "I can tell you that it's already been quite exciting."

School officials say they started to talk about asking Daley to join the university in some capacity a short time after he announced last fall that he wouldn't seek a seventh term.

"The tradition of the university is to have vehement and sometimes destructive argument about every topic raised," said Colm O'Muircheartaigh, dean of the university's Harris School of Public Policy Studies. "We feel that the mayor's training as mayor for the last 22 years has equipped him well to participate in our discussions."

O'Muircheartaigh wouldn't reveal contract specifics.

"At the University of Chicago, we don't discuss pay for anybody," O'Muircheartaigh said. "And we're not going to break this rule in the case of the mayor."

In an email later on Tuesday, university spokesman Jeremy Manier said the salary is "within the normal bounds for visiting fellows of [Daley's] level of distinction."

Dale's job will be part-time, though O'Muircheartaigh declined to say how many hours the former mayor will be expected to work.

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Categories: Biography, Education, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 24, 2011

Terrorist Back on the Stand in Chicago Trial

An admitted terrorist will be back on the stand Tuesday in a Chicago courtroom.

David Headley is the government's star witness in the terrorism trial of Chicagoan Tahawwur Rana, but Headley is a sketchy star witness. He has been convicted twice for bringing heroin into the U.S. and he seems unapologetic on the stand talking about his participation in the Mumbai terror attack that left more than 160 people dead.

Headley said Rana allowed him to pretend to be an employee of Rana's immigration business. Prosecutors say that allowed Headley to scope out potential terror targets in India with ease because he appeared to be a secular American businessman, rather than a Muslim Pakistani terrorist. Prosecutors say Rana never carried a gun or threw a grenade in the attack, but his support was critical to the success of the Mumbai plot.

Rana's attorneys told jurors they should not trust anything Headley has to say. Headley's cooperation with the government allows him to avoid the death penalty.

(AP Photo/Tom Gianni)

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 24, 2011

Champaign School Board Seeks to Cut Overcrowding at Central HS

The Champaign School Board continued Monday night talking about how to relieve overcrowding at Central High School.

Unlike past discussions, which have centered around building a new high school, this meeting focused on other options to reduce congestion at Central.

Among the proposals discussed, the board looked at having three high schools, fixing up the district's two existing schools, or merging Central and Centennial High Schools into one building that houses up to 3,000 students.

Champaign resident Mark Briggs has a son who is a junior at Centennial High School. He said merging Central and Centennial would open up more academic and extracurricular opportunities for students, like his son.

"He should have the same opportunities that everybody at Central has," Briggs said. "Everybody at Central should have the same opportunities that the students at Centennial have. They're two great schools. Bring them together, and it's going to be a fantastic school."

But Laurie Andrews, a parent of a 2nd grader at Westview Elementary, does not buy the merger idea. She taught at a large high school in Chicago for several years, and she said she found it difficult to regularly interact with many students and fellow teachers. Andrews said she worries having a single high school in the Champaign School District would make it difficult for teachers to connect with their students.

"I am totally against one high school," Andrews said. "I think it's very easy for students to slip through the cracks. It's hard for teachers to get to know students. It's hard for students to get to know each other. "

The school board voiced opposition to that plan, citing its roughly $160 million dollar price tag, the increased likeliness of gang activity, and the possibility some students would have trouble adjusting in a larger school.

"Some students just won't fair well at all in that type of environment because they need smaller one-on-one contact," school board member Jamar Brown said. "I don't know in this community if we can accomplish that in a large school."

Central High School Principal Joe Williams said he would like to stick with the status quo of two high schools, but added that Central should be in a new building. Williams said he is not sure the school district would want to staff a larger school to ensure "students don't fall through the cracks."

He also noted that moving to a larger school would likely force Champaign out of the Big 12 conference to compete against schools in the Chicagoland area.

"So, instead of traveling to Danville, Decatur, and Bloomington, Mattoon, and those areas," Williams explained. "We would actually be traveling north of Kankakee, even north of I-80."

Williams encouraged the school board to study student performance at other schools with varying enrollment sizes.

School board member Greg Novak agrees that having two high schools in Unit 4 has served the community well. He said building a third high school may not be the best idea because it could divert attention away from fixing up Central High School, which he acknowledged has some major problems.

"It doesn't matter how good wireless internet gets, it's still not going to go through the walls at Central very well," Novak said. "We're talking about trying to run a school for the 21st century in a school that was built in the mid-1920s."

If a new school is built, voters would have to approve a tax referendum of at least $50 million to begin construction.

Ideas for the Unit 4 restructuring plan can be e-mailed to CentralComments@ChampaignSchools.org

Categories: Economics, Education

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 23, 2011

Heed the Sirens’ Warning, Say EMA Officials

Sunday's devastating tornado in Joplin Missouri underscores the sudden nature of storms and the challenge that emergency management officials face in sending out warnings.

Only 17 minutes separated the first tornado sirens in the city from the onslaught of the tornado. Champaign County Emergency Management Agency director Bill Keller says the National Weather Service tries to give as much advance warning as possible, and it's up to agencies like his to decide exactly when to set off the sirens.

"A lot of it depends on the past history of the storm," Keller said. "Every once in a while, one just fires up unexpectedly so to speak, like the Joplin (tornado). 17 minutes sounds like a lot of time, but if you don't have a plan on what you're going to do and where you're going to take shelter, that's not very much time."

Keller says sirens go off when a tornado has been visually detected, or if there's other evidence a tornado may be hidden by darkness or heavy rain.

Keller says every household should designate a place to go in the event of a tornado warning, and people in stores and other public buildings need to follow staff instructions when the warning sounds. He assumes that some Joplin tornado victims decided to leave stores and try to beat their storm home in their vehicles, which he says was not a good idea.

Categories: Community, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 23, 2011

Congressional Republicans ‘Left to the Mercy’ of Illinois Dems

It's likely to be a few more days before Democrats propose new boundaries for Illinois' U.S. House districts. But Republicans already know they're not going to like it.

Two things are for sure: (1) Census numbers mean that Illinois is losing a congressional seat; and (2) the new map will favor Democrats, who control redistricting.

"They could push me East. They could push me West. They could change the district altogether. They could leave it as is," said U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a freshman Republican from Chicago's Northwest suburbs. "We don't know and because nobody on the Republican side has any seat at this table, we're left to the mercy of the one party in Illinois that's running things."

Walsh freely acknowledges that if Republicans were in control, they'd draw a map that favors their candidates.

Meantime, Raja Krishnamoorthi isn't waiting for the new boundaries. The former Democratic candidate for Illinois comptroller is publicly "exploring" a run for Walsh's 8th district.

In an interview Sunday, Krishnamoorthi said that based on early reports it's "pretty clear that...Democrats are going to be more competitive in this district and other places as well."

On Tuesday in Springfield, the House and Senate panels tasked with redistricting are scheduled to hold a joint hearing on proposed maps for state legislative districts. This will be the third hearing since those boundaries were released late last week.

A separate public hearing is planned for following the release of the proposed U.S. House map, according to Rikeesha Phelon, a spokesperson for state Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago.

"I don't anticipate that it will be early in the week," Phelon wrote in an email.

Top Democrats want the maps approved before the General Assembly is set to adjourn on May 31st. After that, the proposal would need Republican votes in order to pass.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 23, 2011

FutureGen Hearings Planned for June

The Department of Energy plans three public hearings next month in Illinois on the FutureGen coal-energy project as it gathers information about the potential environmental impact.

A hearing is planned for June 9 in Jacksonville. That's near the Morgan County site where the project will retool a power plant to use new technology that captures the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from coal and then store it underground.

Hearings also are planned for June 7 in Taylorville and June 8 in Tuscola in eastern Illinois. Those are alternate FutureGen locations.

A group of coal companies and other firms known as the FutureGen Alliance earlier this year picked the Morgan County town of Meredosia for the project. An earlier version of FutureGen planned for eastern Illinois was scrapped.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 23, 2011

Location Device for Autistic Children Would Connect with 911

Searching for lost children and seniors may be a little easier under a plan state legislators sent to Governor Pat Quinn.

It's a small wristband and fastens just like a watch, but instead of telling the time, a small microchip inside acts like a GPS system. They are worn by people prone to wandering off like autistic children or someone with Alzheimer's.

Lawmakers voted to allow the device to patch in directly to 911, an exemption not many other private alarm companies enjoy. The wristband itself could call police when a person goes missing. Carol Stream Republican Senator John Millner said a single cop can find the missing person, rather having to activate a whole search squad.

"With this device here, its simply one call, one activation and we would be able to find that person swiftly, saving money, saving time," Millner said.

But Rockford Republican Dave Syverson voted against it. Only one business in the state, Murphysboro-based Care Trak, currently makes the devices.

"For one company we're setting up that they can go to 911 direct, but for burglaries, and for seniors, they still run through the private sector," Syverson said.

Syverson said if the state gives this company an exemption, other alarm systems will want the same perk.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 23, 2011

GE Capital to Add 1000 Jobs in Chicago

GE Capital plans to nearly double the number of its employees in Chicago to more than 2,000, in part because of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's economic plans for the city, the company announced Monday.

Officials with the financial services arm of General Electric joined Emanuel at a news conference, saying that 500 of those new jobs - skilled commercial, technical and regulatory positions - would be added within the next year. The other 500 jobs would come in the next few years.

The company also is looking for a new office in Chicago to accommodate the growing work force.

During his mayoral campaign, Emanuel touted his relationships with business and government leaders from his time as an Illinois congressman and when he was President Barack Obama's chief of staff. Monday's news conference served as a reminder of his national stature as well as a pep rally for Chicago.

Emanuel, who is trying to attract more businesses to the nation's third largest city to help overcome its budget shortfall, downplayed the effect his relationship with GE CEO Jeff Immelt may have had on the company's decision. However, the mayor mentioned that because he had Immelt's phone number and email address, he was able to set up a meeting in March.

"Having a personal relationship obviously didn't hurt," Emauel said. "It pushed it a little, tilted it a little."

But, he added: "If this didn't make economic sense to GE and their bottom line they wouldn't have done it. ... You're not going to do this as a favor."

Chicago's projected budget deficit for next year has been estimated at between $500 million and $700 million.

One GE executive said that Emanuel's "economic platform" helped prompt the company to bring more jobs to the city, saying Chicago was the right place to expand.

"There is a wealth of financial services and banking talent available to us in the city of Chicago at a very good value," said Daniel Henson, President and CEO of GE Capital, Americas.

The Connecticut-based GE currently has 4,000 employees across Illinois, according to a news release.

Categories: Business, Economics, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 23, 2011

Indiana Colleges Proposed Tuition Rates Exceed Cap

Some of Indiana's taxpayer-supported universities are planning tuition increases for the coming school year that exceed caps suggested by a state panel.

Indiana's higher education commission asked Indiana's seven public universities this month to raise their tuition for in-state students by no more than 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent.

Although the universities aren't required to follow the panel's tuition recommendations, commissioner Teresa Lubbers warns that higher increases threaten to "price people out of their opportunity for a middle-class life in Indiana.''

Since Lubbers' request, Indiana University has proposed tuition and fee increase for in-state students totaling be 5.5 percent in 2011-12 and 5.4 percent the following school year.

Ball State University has proposed raising tuition and fees by 3.9 percent next year and by an additional 4.9 percent in 2012-13.


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