Illinois Public Media News
Chad Hays was sworn in Wednesday afternoon as Illinois' newest state representative from the 104th House District.
Hays replaced Bill Black who held the seat for about a quarter of a century. Hays said he hopes his experience managing a city budget as a former mayor of Catlin will help the state overcome one of its biggest obstacles - paying its bills to businesses and organizations that are on the verge of bankruptcy.
"It's a very proud and humbling moment for me, and I look forward to serving," Hays said. "I really do consider it a privilege and an honor to hold, at least for a while, the people's seat."
Hays currently serves as vice-president of development for Provena United Samaritans Medical Center, and said he will step down from that post on Thursday, Dec. 30 to focus on his duties in the General Assembly.
Black's days in the state legislature may be over, but he is still hoping for another chance to serve in public office as a member of the Danville City Council.
"I like the fact that I'll be active," Black said. "Certainly being on the city council is much more of a part time job than a state legislator is, and I kind of look forward to that change."
Black's opponent in the April election is Ward 7 Alderman Ron Candido, who has served on the council for more than seven years. Black said he put his hat into the race after hearing rumors that Candido would not seek re-election. Candido said he is puzzled that Black's name will be on the ballot
"I think I'm more in touch with the local issues," Candido said. "He was going to run for mayor, and now he's not going to run for mayor. He was going to run for the House of Representatives, and then he's not going to run. I mean it's just back and forth. So, I really don't know where he's coming from.
There has been a sharp increase in the number of whooping cough cases in Illinois this year.
The majority of them are in and around Chicago, but Macon County's Health Department currently has five confirmed cases and four probable ones. Director of Nursing Debby Durbin said the greatest concern is that babies will contract pertussis from adults, who may not show as violent a cough as young people.
"Our concern is with Christmas coming and people having these coughs -with an adult, they may not be all that bad," Durbin said. "But then if they go around a new baby and transmit it, that's very, very dangerous."
Infants cannot receive a shot for the disease until they are two months old, and Brandon Meline with Champaign-Urbana's Public Health Department says lots of viruses will cause a cough, so pertussis is hard to detect in adults. He said some shots have been updated since 2005, so lots of adults likely have not received it.
"New pertussis vaccines that have been out on the market for several years now that are included in the tenanus that we typically get every ten years - there's a tetanus vaccine with the pertussis in it for adults to help prevent that transmission to the little ones," Meline said. "The majority of cases that you see in infants and kids are ususally passed on from a parent or a day care provider."
Meline said contracting whooping cough likely has more to do with many people staying indoors than the conditions outside, but he said the disease is passed on more easily in the winter. An Illinois public health spokeswoman said statewide, there have been 925 cases of pertussis in 2010, compared to about 650 last year. In California last year, 10 children died from the illness.
Outside Macon County, there are no reported cases currently in east central Illinois. Champaign County has had 11 cases this year, McLean County has had 11 cases, while Vermilion County has reported six of them.
Noah Adams is among the anchors who have given "All Things Considered" its personality over its 40 year span on the air. Adams, who's now an NPR contributing correspondent, collaborated with several other NPR reporters to compile a book about the network's progression in time, a book called "This is NPR: The First 40 Years." He told Illinois Public Media's Tom Rogers that even though public radio is strong now, it began as an afterthought.
(Photo courtesy of Random House)
Gordy Hulten is officially in place to succeed Mark Shelden to the office of Champaign County Clerk.
The County Board Tuesday unanimously approved the Republican's appointment in a brief 30-minute meeting. It comes eight days after County GOP Precinct Committee-men chose him for the job. Shelden is leaving the clerk's office to work for Congressman Tim Johnson (R-Urbana). Hulten will start the new job January 5th, and will step down from the Champaign City Council the night before.
The Champaign County Board heard briefly Tuesday from State's Attorney Julia Reitz, who said state statues did not require the appointment of a temporary County Clerk before naming a permanent one. Hulten said he is glad to be taking the job free of those concerns.
"Everybody wanted to make sure that everything that we did tonight was both the most efficient way to do things, so that services provided to county taxpayers wouldn't be jeopardized in any way, and also make sure that everything was done in a legally appropriate way, so there was never any question that that was done." said Hulten, who noted that he is quickly getting acquainted with the clerk's office. "I've spent probably 8 or 10 hours total in the office since the Republican Party voted last week, so Mark (Shelden) is helping me get up to speed as soon as possible."
Hulten also plans to leave his sales and marketing job with MSA Professional Services on January 4. He will oversee his first primary in February, when recent Urbana City Council appointee Eric Jakobsson faces a challenge from Brian Dolinar in Ward 2. Hulten said working with three precincts will help him get his feet wet in the new job.
A longtime blogger, Hulten oversaw the websites Illini Pundit and Champaign Pundit. Shelden has maintained a blog as well from the County Clerk's office, but Hulten said he has a lot to learn before he can generate a blog in his new job.
A marathon strike at Decatur's Huston Patterson plant has dragged on for months, and there does not appear to be an agreement in sight between union officials and the printing company.
Workers began picketing on June 30 outside the company's headquarters to protest contract changes that took affect in August after their old contract expired. The modified contract includes a 15-percent wage cut, mandatory overtime, and reductions in healthcare benefits. Pat Shields is president of the Graphic Communications Conference International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 219M. He said many of the picketing workers have a 15-to-30 year history with the company and have no intention of standing down.
"Our only demand is to sit down and negotiate," Shields said. "We want to talk, and we have no pre-conditions others than let's sit and talk."
Shields contended that the company refuses to negotiate directly with the union, which is why a federal mediator is in place to open up dialogue between the two sides.
William Kaucher is with the District Council 4, the umbrella organization that oversees Decatur's printers union. Kaucher said he does not understand why the company's president and CEO, Thomas Kowa, will not negotiate with union members in Decatur. Kaucher said he successfully worked with Kowa a few years ago on a contract for employees at the Sigma Graphics printing company in Ottawa, Il., and negotiations over that deal lasted a day.
"He claims financial hardship," Kaucher said. "The guy's can understand that right now, but why would you change work rules that have been in place when it doesn't affect the bottom line? What this comes down to is this is more dictating than negotiating."
Kowa declined a request for comment.
Huston Patterson has replaced workers who are on strike, but Kaucher said any new contract would have to guarantee that those employees regain their jobs.
The number of workers on strike has dropped in recent months, but union officials say they will continue picketing for as long as possible. On Tuesday, the United Council Staff Union of Illinois donated $5,000 to the striking workers. Other strike funds through local unions and contributions from individuals have been used during the last several months to support the Huston Patterson employees.
A misconception about African elephants can be put to rest.
Researchers from the University of Illinois, Harvard University, and the University of York discovered that there are actually two species of African elephants, rather than one. The DNA of African elephants was compared with the extinct American mastodon and wooly mammoth.
"Experimentally, we had a major challenge to extract DNA sequences from two fossils - mammoths and mastodons - and line them up with DNA from modern elephants over hundreds of sections of the genome," said research scientist Nadin Rohland of the Department of Genetics at the Harvard Medical School.
African forest elephants are smaller, but have a greater genetic diversity compared to African savanna elephants, according to University of Illinois animal sciences professor Alfred Roca. Roca said the African forest elephants make up about one tenth of the country's elephant population. He said these mammals could face extinction unless there is more of a concentration dedicated to preserving their existence.
"In the forest of Central Africa and certainly in the forest of West Africa, the protection is limited in some countries, and in many cases you have a lot of organized gangs of poachers that are coming in," Roca said. "Really the focus has to be on protecting the forest elephant."
Roca said the evolutionary differences between the mammals are about as old as the split between humans and chimpanzees. He added that it is likely climate change in Africa five million years ago led to their creation.
This research was funded by the Max Planck Society and by a Burroughs Wellcome Career Development Award in Biomedical Science.
(Photo courtesy of Mark Turner/flickr)
Jimmy John's restaurants in Illinois are pulling a key ingredient from their sandwiches.
The company announced Tuesday that it will temporarily discontinue alfalfa sprouts, which are linked to dozens of salmonella outbreaks in nine counties, including Champaign, McLean, and Cook.
"As a good faith and good will gesture, I am asking Illinois stores to pull sprouts until the state can give us some better direction," restaurant owner Jimmy John said in a statement.
The company said its main supplier of sprouts was tested for salmonella last week, and came up negative. There have been no reported cases in recent weeks of people in Illinois becoming ill after eating the sprouts, but the state's Public Health Department is investigating the restaurant's food suppliers and producers. The reported incidents took place between November and early December.
People who eat alfalfa sprouts and become ill with diarrhea and a fever should contact a physician. Illness usually wears off after three to seven days.
As many had expected, Illinois will be losing a U.S. House seat as a result of the 2010 Census. With an official population of 12,830,632, the state's population grew 3.3 percent --- an increase dwarfed by double-digit growth in many western and southern states.
Eastern Illinois University political science professor Andrew McNitt said the new census includes a downwards reapportionment for Illinois, from 19 House seats to 18. Unlike the legislative remaps of 1990 and 2000, Democrats are now in firm control of state government, and McNitt said they will not have to send the job of redistricting to a bipartisan commission. But he said they will still have to produce a map with one fewer member of Congress.
"What happens is that somebody has to lose," McNitt explained. "So if there is a congressman who retires, their district will mostly likely be cannibalized. It also has to do with relative population shifts within the state. Probably it means a somewhat larger increase in the districts downstate."
McNitt said a lack of growth in most downstate communities means that congressional districts in the region will be redrawn to cover more territory. He said the suburban collar counties surround the counties have seen most of Illinois' population growth in recent years, and will probably take a larger share of the remaining 18 House districts.
"The seats go to where the population goes," McNitt said. "And if it goes to the collar counties, which seems to be where it's going mostly, both the downstate and the inner city of Chicago are going to suffer some difficulties in terms of representation."
The neighboring states of Iowa, Michigan and Missouri will also lose one U-S House seat each as a result of the census, but Indiana, Kentucky and Wisconsin will keep the seats they currently have in place.
A federal judge has ruled that former Illinois Gov. George Ryan must remain in prison.
Ryan's attorneys want elements of his conviction tossed based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision curtailing anti-fraud laws known as "honest services'' laws.
Last week, Ryan's attorneys made an urgent plea for his release after his wife was hospitalized. Doctors have given Lura Lynn Ryan as few as three months to live. She's been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ruled that Ryan must remain in prison.
The 76-year-old former governor has served three years of a 6 1/2-year sentence on convictions of racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI.
(Photo courtesy of spsarge/flickr)
With the expectation that Illinois will lose one of its congressional seats, the state's politicians are poised to begin their once-a-decade finagling over drawing the state's political boundaries based on new census data.
On Tuesday, Census Bureau officials plan to release initial population estimates for the nation. A continuing population shift from the north to the south and west means Illinois is likely to lose one of its 19 seats in the House, and the clout that goes with it.
While nationally the reapportionment is expected to help Republicans, Democrats in Illinois have an advantage because they control both chambers of the General Assembly and the governor's office, which are tasked with determining how the new political lines are drawn.
Census data so far suggests new Hispanic-dominated districts could emerge, particularly with growth in some Chicago area neighborhoods. States are required under the Voting Rights Act to respect the interests of minority voting blocs.
Other scenarios include a lost seat in downstate Illinois, which has lost population.
"It could be good news for Democrats," said U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, who lost a former Democratic stronghold to tea party-backed GOP challenger Bobby Schilling in November, but could benefit from redrawn lines if he decides to run again in 2012.
Pat Brady, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, warned that the GOP would push back if the Democrats in Springfield become too "heavy handed" and don't cooperate in creating new congressional and legislative districts that are competitive for both sides.
He appealed to Gov. Pat Quinn to make sure that Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton play fair.
"When it's too much one-party control, there's unintended consequences, and it's going to backfire," Brady said. "I don't think for a second that (Illinois House Speaker) Mike Madigan's not going to shove this right down our throat."
Steve Brown, a spokesman for Madigan, said that the Illinois process will comply with federal election laws. "That makes who's in the majority, who's in the governor's office, not nearly as important as some of the hand-wringers want you to think," he said.
So-called redistricting is a tedious and politically charged process that protects strongholds, affects influence in Washington and makes or breaks political careers. The task over the next few months is analyzing population data while considering geography, race and political interests so legislators can re-divide the state's population into nearly equal pockets.
"Redistricting is the most political activity that occurs in a decade," said Chris Mooney, a political science professor at the University of Illinois in Springfield. "It's almost purely about who gets what and who wins what seat."
Officially, the state legislature comes up with a plan and approves it like a bill. It also requires the governor's signature. In cases of deadlock, Illinois leaves the key decision over which party gets to draw the political map to random chance: One year, the secretary of state picked the winner out of Lincoln's stovepipe hat.
The process, outlined in the 1970s Constitution, can drag for months and undergo court challenges. Efforts to reform the system stalled earlier this year.
Each decade brings a set of unpredictable and unprecedented circumstances. This year is the first time since the current redistricting laws have been in place that Illinois has both a Democratic governor and Democratic-majority in both houses of the legislature.
The last time Illinois redrew its congressional map -- in 2001, when Republican George Ryan was governor and the state Senate was Republican majority -- the state also lost a seat.
Two Illinois congressmen, then Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Lipinski, came up with a plan that largely protected incumbents. But it left out Democratic Rep. David Phelps, whose district was combined with others.
State Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, heads a committee which has been looking at overhauling the state's redistricting laws. He said there has been surprisingly little chatter on new boundaries so far, which he believes means the state legislature will maintain a central role instead of "just punting to the congressional delegation."
The sprawling 17th District, which the GOP's Schilling just won, hugs a long stretch of the state's western border, but juts into central Illinois to include Decatur and portions of Springfield. Hare said lines could be drawn to pick up more Democratic areas from Republican Rep. Don Manzullo's 16th District.
Another scenario includes making two districts from the 17th District and two others represented by Republican Congressmen Aaron Schock in the 18th District in west-central Illinois and Tim Johnson in the 15th District, which covers a chunk of eastern Illinois.
Brady said he doesn't see any district being particularly safe, and that any of them -- Democratic or Republican -- could be subject to change. And he said he's confident that GOP candidates will be competitive, especially those who won in November.
"No matter how they slice and dice it, we're going to have good candidates," Brady said.
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