Illinois Public Media News
Prosecutors say a central figure in the administration of disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich never provided particularly useful information about his former benefactor to investigators.
The government makes the claim in a new filing that recommends a prison sentence of between 11 and 15 years for Tony Rezko.
Prosecutors note Rezko only agreed to cooperate after his 2008 conviction on fraud and other charges.
They contrast that with the help provided by Rezko's co-conspirator, Stuart Levine (leh-VYN'). Levine pleaded guilty in 2006 and testified at Rezko's trial and at millionaire William Cellini's recent trial.
The filing says Levine's cooperation was "dramatically more valuable'' than Rezko's.
Rezko offered to testify at Blagojevich's and Cellini's trial. But prosecutors say Rezko's persistent lies after his indictment would have opened him up to damaging cross-examination.
It took two attempts, but Champaign County's Zoning Board of Appeals has recommended the county board approve the construction of a wind farm near Royal.
The 4-to-3 vote Thursday night came after Chicago-based Invenergy added language to a reclamation agreement concerning salvage value of its 30 wind turbines should the wind farm have to shut down early. ZBA members have also cited the potential for noise pollution at neighboring homes.
Invenergy has also said its standards regarding noise pollution will comply with the Illinois Pollution Control Board. But ZBA member Brad Passalacqua says that language in the permit is too vague for him.
"My concern is for the good of the county, and for the participating (land) owners, as well as the people who don't participate in this project," he said. "We don't want to create a situation where they have injury to their property, or their happiness and life, and their home. It's just a very tender area that we need to be very cautious with."
Republican Champaign County Board member Alan Nudo says he still hasn't decided how he'll vote when the full board takes up the issue in two weeks. Two weeks ago, ZBA members cited its concerns in a 5-2 vote against approving the wind farm. The Champaign County Board's Committee of the Whole sent the project back to the ZBA earlier this week.
But Nudo says he now has a better perspective on this issue after Invenergy added language to its special use permit giving Champaign County 'absolute protection' against liability.
"I still don't want to be a speculator in commodities, and I think that there's some room for negotiations with them to come up with a better formula," he said. "But that being said, I have a much better perspective of what they're trying to do, and I think that they are offering something that they haven't offered to other counties."
Invenergy attorney Michael Blazer says new language in the agreement ensures that whoever the company finances the project with will also be obligated to decommission the turbines in the event they ever take over the project.
The full Champaign County Board will take up the wind farm on November 17th. Construction on Vermilion County's portion of the wind farm is already underway.
A suspect in last month's robbery of a customer outside a Campustown coffee shop has turned himself in.
Dennis Boston, 19, surrendered at the Champaign County Jail, early Thursday morning.
Boston was wanted for armed robbery with a firearm, in connection with the Oct. 10 robbery at the Expresso Royale coffee shop on East Daniel Street near the U of I campus. A surveillance video recorded one man taking an iPad from a customer seated outside the coffee shop and running away. He was followed by a 2nd man who displayed a handgun to the victim.
Champaign and U of I Police are continuing to look for the 2nd suspect in the robbery, who is identifed as a 23-24 year-old black male. He was last seen wearing a blue Milwaukee Brewers baseball cap, a long-sleeved black shirt, khaki colored shirt, and black tennis shoes
Anyone with information is asked to call either police department, or leave an anonymous tip with Champaign County Crimestoppers.
Police are asking for the community's assistance in providing information, especially regarding the identity and/or location of the second suspect. Information can reported to the Champaign Police Department by calling (217) 351-4545 or the University of Illinois Police Department by calling (217) 333-1216. Callers can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 373-8477 (TIPS).
Close to 4,000 students have received scholarships from the state to attend private schools under Indiana's broad new school voucher law.
State Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett said Thursday the months-old program is already succeeding at providing new opportunities for low and moderate income families.
Indianapolis Public Schools lost the most students under the new program, sending close to 650 students to private schools. The South Bend and Fort Wayne school corporations lost the second and third highest number of students to private schools under the program.
Opponents including the state's teachers unions say the program amounts to a wealth transfer from public to private schools. The Indiana State Teacher's Association is backing a legal challenge to the voucher law.
The director of Illinois' downstate library system hopes the Champaign Public Library can come up with an alternative to charging some out of town patrons a $200 dollar annual fee.
The Heartland Library System board voted last week to suspend Champaign's membership as a result of that fee. Champaign started charging that fee to Tolono and Mahomet district patrons last year due to the strain their borrowing had on the library's resources. In 60 days, the suspension will kick in, barring the library from checking out books from other resources. It also wouldn't be eligible for receiving state and federal grants.
Heartland director Leslie Bednar says the move to suspend the library wasn't an easy one, but its board wanted to send a message.
"I mean, that's kind of where we are now, and why we are there is to hopefully resolve this," said Bednar. "But ultimately, it's a decision for the Champaign Public Library board to make, and they have to make the decision for the patrons that they serve. They were imposing a fee which is in direct opposition to the Library System Act."
Champaign Library Director Marsha Grove says her board will likely explore another option, such as limiting the number of items patrons from the neighboring districts can check out. She says losing the annual $77,000 per capita grant (a federal grant filtered through the state) that all libraries receive would have a detrimental effect.
"It doesn't really seem fair to Champaign residents that they would have to lose that," said Grove. "It certainly doesn't seem fair to the library board. We don't want to give up that $77,000. That's pretty important."
Grove says the library is already doing more with less. She says about 90-percent of the library's revenue comes from property taxes, which have remained flat the last couple of years while expenses go up. Champaign's library has had to leave 14 positions vacant through attrition the last 3 years.
Grove says the fee on the Tolono and Mahomet systems has helped deter some of those patrons, who are now using their home libraries more often.
The Heartland Library System is fairly new, the result of a merger last summer of four smaller systems. It includes 594 member libraries.
Chicago is handing out new report cards to each of its schools. The grades are meant to spark discussion between parents and schools about how to improve.
At Spry Community School, Principal Nilda Medina says the report cards are about transparency. "For the parents and the teachers as well, and for administrators, this is where we are at," she said.
At Spry, some things looked good, she said. "Well, student attendance-that's outstanding. It's 96.2. Safety-our students feel that they're very safe here-safe coming to school."
The report cards feature teacher attendance rates, and even report on whether the school is offering students enough healthy food and exercise. They don't report ISAT scores-which have come under fire lately for overstating student achievement.
Many Spry parents who came to school to get their own children's grades seemed unphased by their school's designation as a "middle-performing school that needs improvement."
Parent Martha Del Villar said she is satisfied with Spry, and quipped that if parents had complaints, it would probably be about their kids, not the teachers.
The district would not say how many schools received its lowest score. It's said those schools are at risk of being closed down.
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley is one step closer to being deposed in connection with alleged torture by Chicago police.
On Wednesday, a Federal judge ruled for the second time that Daley can be sued over alleged police torture.
The former mayor was the Cook County state's attorney back in the 1980s. That's when Michael Tillman was arrested for murder. Tillman said police under former commander Jon Burge tortured him into confessing. He said they put a gun to his head, poured soda in his nose and choked him with a plastic bag.
Last year, Tillman was exonerated after two decades in jail, and then sued several people he says were connected to the torture, ranging from individual officers to Daley.
In July, Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ruled that Daley can be included in Tillman's lawsuit in his capacity as mayor.
Daley's lawyers appealed, but Wednesday the judge shot them down again. Tillman's lawyers reportedly hope to question the former mayor as soon as next month.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says he expects a vote on gambling expansion when lawmakers return to Springfield next week for the fall session.
The Chicago Democrat says he expects a gambling expansion vote when lawmakers return to the Illinois Capitol Nov. 8 for a second week of work. He acknowledged disagreement remains over slots at race tracks.
Gov. Pat Quinn has threatened to veto legislation lawmakers passed in May that would add five casinos, including one in Danville and another in Chicago, and put slots at tracks. Quinn has said he's willing to support the new casinos but opposes slots at tracks. Some lawmakers say a gambling measure can't pass without including slots at tracks.
Cullerton says lawmakers have gotten input from Quinn but he can't say they have an agreement on legislation.
WILL runs tests of the Emergency Alert System every week --- maybe you've heard them. But those tests are on the state and local level. Coming up Wednesday, Nov. 9th, a national EAS test will involve every broadcast, cable and satellite station in the country.
On November 9th at 1 PM, FEMA will send out an alert code for a national emergency to the first level of broadcast stations in the Emergency Alert System relay structure. Other stations will relay it until it reaches every station in the country, including this one. Patti Thompson is with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
"it is just a test," Thompson said. "It's important for the federal government to test the entire system, so that if there are any weaknesses identified that they can be corrected before we have a true emergency."
The test, scheduled to last for approximately 45-to-60 seconds, will include audio telling you that a test is being conducted. But the text shown on TV screens won't mention that there is no real emergency. The Federal Communications Commission is encouraging TV stations to run their own text explaining the test. And they're trying to get the word out that when the Emergency Alert System is triggered across the country, Wednesday afternoon at 1 PM Central time --- it's only a test.
More than a decade ago, a man named Wes Moore was convicted of murdering a police officer during a botched robbery. What he didn't know was that another man with the same name grew up not far from him in Baltimore. The two frequented the same places, had run-ins with the law, and were fatherless. While one Wes Moore will spend the rest of his life behind bars, the other has a successful career as a businessman, motivational speaker, and author.
In the book titled "The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates," Wes Moore talks about meeting the man with the same name, but a very different life. Moore spoke with Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers shortly before giving a presentation on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at the University of Illinois' Alice Campbell Alumni Center as part of the United Way of Champaign County's Pillar Celebration.
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