Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - February 23, 2011

Prosecutors Seek Dismissal on Some Charges Against Ex-Gov. Blagojevich

Federal prosecutors are moving to dismiss several charges against Rod Blagojevich.

Prosecutors Wednesday told U.S. District Judge James Zagel they seek to dismiss racketeering and wire fraud counts against the former Illinois governor to streamline the case. Zagel didn't immediately rule on the motion. Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky says the move by prosecutors demonstrate they believe Blagojevich is innocent of those changes.

The 54-year-old Blagojevich faces an April 20 retrial on charges he tried to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat. He's also accused of trying to shake down donors for campaign cash. At his first trial, jurors deadlocked on all but one count of lying to the FBI. Blagojevich's lawyers have recently filed motions seeking to have several corruption charges thrown out.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - February 23, 2011

Ind. Dems Staying in Ill. as Showdown Continues

Indiana Democrats say they won't return to the Statehouse on Wednesday but are ready to negotiate when Republicans who control the chamber are ready to stop pushing their "radical agenda'' against working families.

Democratic House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer told reporters by phone from Illinois that he's ready to talk with Republicans and that he'll consider bringing his caucus back from Urbana, Ill., on a day-to-day basis. But GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma says he won't concede to Democrat demands.

The political showdown erupted after Republicans advanced a controversial "right-to-work'' bill that prohibits union membership from being a condition of employment. Democrats fled to Illinois and their absence killed that bill, but Bauer says Democrats are upset about the general attitude of Republicans and that the boycott is about more than just right-to-work.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 23, 2011

Indiana Democratic House Members Seek Middle Ground During Meetings in Urbana

(Additional reporting from the Associated Press)

A Western Indiana Democrat says the caucus meet-up of House members in Urbana should be looked upon as a time out to reach some common ground.

Dale Grubb of Covington said there are other bills besides a contentious right-to-work legislation that spurred him and over 30 of his colleagues to leave the capitol Tuesday.

"The only opportunity a minority has for input is the quorum issue," he said. "And I'm staying at home, I'm trying to work with people and see how quickly we can find common ground on some of those issues - get down to the issues that are the real sticklers. You have to be talking in order to come to some conclusion."

Grub says there are a number of bills concerning public education that also prompted the move, including one that will allow tax dollars to fund private school tuition for some families.

"The one charge that we have as a General Assembly to pass a budget... and adequately fund public education," Grubb said. "We've only got so many dollars. I don't see how we can take money away from public schools and not hurt our kids."

And a House Democrat from Ft. Wayne says Republicans have a radical agenda that will mean lower salaries across Indiana. Win Moses is also staying at the hotel in Urbana. He says progress has made, since Governor Mitch Daniels has agreed the right-to-work legislation shouldn't be taken up at this time. But Moses says the measure is scattered in several bills, and Democrats need to know for sure it's off the table. He says his party expected to forward more than 100 amendments to the capitol by Wednesday night, but Moses is not willing to predict how long Democrats will stay in Urbana.

""We have the agenda - the house bill list, and we're working on that," said Moses. "So we're prepared when we do go back. I don't know how long we'll be here, it depends on how negotiations go. If anybody predicts a day, the other side will probably use that to their advantage and try to push it a day longer."

Moses says Friday is the deadline for bills to pass out of the chamber they originated. But he says that won't have much of an impact, since half the legislative session is left.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels says Republicans will not be "bullied or blackmailed'' out of pursuing their agenda despite a boycott from House Democrats over contentious labor and education proposals. He told reporters Wednesday that Democrats will not keep him from pursuing his agenda even if it means calling special legislative sessions "from now to New Year's.''

Meanwhile, Indiana's Senate president says the House should have never taken up a contentious anti-labor bill that spurred the boycott by Democrats there, and he said the Senate won't push the issue this year. Senate President Pro Tem David Long said it was a "mistake'' for his fellow Republicans in the House to take up the issue. But he said it is water under the bridge now and he wants House Democrats to return to work.

Long said the Republican-ruled Senate won't push the"right-to-work'' bill that would prohibit union membership from being a condition of employment. Long said the Senate will instead propose a study committee to look into the matter over the summer. Most House Democrats are in Urbana, and their absence is preventing a quorum needed for House business.

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)

Categories: Economics, Education, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - February 23, 2011

Justice Dept. Drops Defense Of Anti-Gay Marriage Law

In a major policy reversal, the Obama administration said Wednesday that it will no longer defend the constitutionality of a federal law banning recognition of same-sex marriage.

Attorney General Eric Holder said President Obama has concluded that the administration cannot defend the federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. He noted that the congressional debate during passage of the Defense of Marriage Act "contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships - precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution's) Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against."

The Justice Department had defended the act in court until now.

"Much of the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed" the Defense of Marriage Act, Holder said in a statement. He noted that the Supreme Court has ruled that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct are unconstitutional and that Congress has repealed the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Holder wrote to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that Obama has concluded the Defense of Marriage Act fails to meet a rigorous standard under which courts view with suspicion any laws targeting minority groups who have suffered a history of discrimination.

The attorney general said the Justice Department had defended the law in court until now because the government was able to advance reasonable arguments for the law based on a less strict standard.

At a December news conference, in response to a reporters' question, Obama revealed that his position on gay marriage is "constantly evolving." He has opposed such marriages and supported instead civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. The president said such civil unions are his baseline - at this point, as he put it.

"This is something that we're going to continue to debate, and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward," he said.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 23, 2011

Jakobsson Wins Urbana City Council Primary

Eric Jakobsson had a commanding lead over Brian Dolinar in Tuesday's Democratic primary for the Urbana City Council seat in Ward Two.

Of the 53 votes cast, Jakobsson picked up all but five votes. Dolinar quit campaigning more than a week ago after a meeting with his opponent in which he endorsed Jakobsson's candidacy. Jakobsson, who is married to State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana), was appointed to the council in December to replace former alderman David Gehrig.

His name will appear on the April 5th ballot, with no Republican opposition expected.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - February 23, 2011

Emanuel Faces Big Money Woes as Next Chicago Mayor

Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel won't have much time to celebrate his victory as Chicago's new mayor.

Emanuel, who overwhelmed the race with truckloads of money and friends in high places from Washington to Hollywood, will take control of a city in deep financial trouble with problems ranging from an understaffed police department to underperforming schools.

On Tuesday, Emanuel won 55 percent of the vote, easily outdistancing former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, who had 24 percent, and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and City Clerk Miguel del Valle, who each had 9 percent. He succeeds Mayor Richard M. Daley, who is retiring after 22 years in office as the longest-serving mayor in Chicago's history.

But the city he inherits, though perhaps more beautiful than ever after years of extensive urban improvements, is in financial straits that it hasn't seen since before Daley's father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, came to power in the 1950s.

"Not since the Great Depression have the finances of the city been this precarious," said Dominic Pacyga, a historian and author of "Chicago: A Biography." The city's next budget deficit could again exceed $500 million, mostly the result of reduced tax revenue from the recession, and could reach $1 billion if the city properly funds its pension system.

Emanuel, who takes office May 16, also faces a fractious political landscape.

He'll have to find new leadership for the struggling public school system, as two top interim executives plan to leave. He'll also need a new police chief, having said he would not renew Police Superintendent Jody Weis' contract.

The department is suffering from low morale and staffing estimated at 1,000 officers below previous levels.

Members of the City Council, including a number elected Tuesday, have made clear they will demand more authority after years of domination by Daley.

In 25 years of public life, Emanuel has earned a reputation as a skilled politician and as a political operative, serving in both the Clinton and Obama administrations and as a congressman from Chicago. But the mayor's office will test his mettle as an executive.

Throughout the campaign, Emanuel has acknowledged he'll have to make budget cuts, and has promised to spread the pain as fairly as possible, starting with his own office.

But, like the other candidates, he has been vague about how he'll accomplish the reductions. And nothing he has suggested comes close to the projected deficit.

Emanuel said he can save $110 million by streamlining "outdated and duplicative work processes to focus on front-line service delivery," according to his campaign. His campaign did not use the word "layoffs," but it did allude to "reducing layers of management bureaucracy and consolidating redundant tasks."

"What comes next is a bunch of ugly," said Ralph Martire, executive director of the bipartisan Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. "It's going to be a brutal budget year and there are not quick and easy fixes."

The politics of the cuts could be perilous. Most of the deficit is in the $3.1 billion general fund, which pays for the police and fire departments, which have been cut significantly since 2000, Martire said.

As for the underfunded pensions, Emanuel said he wants to "preserve" the pensions but may seek to negotiate changes. He insists the city can solve the problems without a confrontation like the one in Wisconsin, where tens of thousands of people have been demonstrating outside the Capitol to protest anti-union budget cut legislation. "We have to find, I think, common ground and a sense of hope," he said during a campaign stop this week.

Still, some Chicago officials say the pensions will be hard to finesse. "This mayor is going to have to find a way to balance that too, in a way that doesn't alienate our city workers, who are incredibly hardworking folks," said Alderman Sandi Jackson.

Already, various unions are bracing for a fight. More than a half dozen unions endorsed Chico, including the police and fire unions.

Emanuel has also talked about expanding the city sales tax to include more services, while lowering its overall rate, but he'll need approval from the state General Assembly.

Many voters hope Emanuel's clout in national politics will help him find outside avenues for help. President Obama expressed support for Emanuel when he left the White House, and heavy hitters in the political and entertainment communities contributed to his campaign.

"He's (got) political savvy. He's politically tied in. That's important to me because he can get things done," said Ralph Vallot, 57, dean of students at a Chicago high school.

Loren Miller, 65, who is retired and served as an election judge at a Michigan Avenue polling place, said it's a turning point for the city. "The future's going to be interesting. This is going to be a tough period of time for the city," Miller said.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 23, 2011

Ind. House Democrats Make Urbana Their Home in Exile

The Democratic caucus of the Indiana House is holding court one state over.

Thirty-five state representatives left Indianapolis Tuesday. They're staying at a hotel in Urbana as they try to hold up bills they say would negatively impact organized labor and education.

Representative Craig Fry said they had few other options to block bills, including one that would prohibit union memberships or dues as a requirement for employment.

"It's been pretty obvious for about a week that we would have to do something pretty dramatic to make Republicans take notice," Fry said inside a conference room where the fugitive Democrats are holding caucus meetings. "Constitutionally this is all we can do, to deny quorum."

But Representative Charlie Brown said Democrats' anger goes beyond the so-called right-to-work bill. He said their walkout is also stalling bills to allow private-school vouchers and curtail collective bargaining rights for public-school teachers.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has said he won't order state police to round up House Democrats, and he had asked Republican House leaders not to bring up the right-to-work legislation. He also told reporters yesterday in Indianapolis that he respected the Democrats' decision as part of the political process, though he wants them to return immediately to vote on the legislation, but Brown is skeptical.

"It's sometimes difficult to understand and appreciate whether the governor is playing good cop or bad cop," Brown said. "It would appear as though he's sincere, but then who knows for sure. I will leave that interpretation and judgment up to greater minds than mine, as to whether we should take him at his word."

Neither Brown nor Fry will say how long they expect to stay in Urbana. Brown said in a couple of days they may have less-weighty issues to deal with, like clean clothes. He is also not sure whether the delegation would have to leave the hotel if rooms are reserved for a future event in town, such as an Illini basketball game.

(Photo by Tom Rogers/WILL)

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 23, 2011

Danville Mayoral Candidates Look Ahead to April Election

The race for Danville mayor is in the final lap.

With a 14-percent voter turnout at Tuesday night's primary, four candidates will advance to the April 5th general election. They are Vermilion County Board Chairman James McMahon, current Mayor Scott Eisenhauer, Alderman Rickey Williams Jr., and restaurant owner David Quick. Williams, who received the third largest number of votes and ran as a write-in candidate, said he is confident he will walk away with a victory in April.

"We had 300 folks who had to take a special imitative to write me in and that means a lot," Williams said. "I think once you see my name actually listed on the ballot, those numbers are going to change even more significantly."

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer is running for a third term. He ran unopposed in the 2007 primary, and beat his opponent in that year's general election by more than 2,400 votes. Even with more challengers this time around, he said he is optimistic he will retain his seat.

"My fear is that if we are not successful in April in maintaining the mayor's chair, we're going to find ourselves sinking back into the stagnation that we had for a 16-year period prior to our administration coming into office," Eisenhauer said. "That can't happen if this community is going to be successful."

Eisenhauer said moving forward, he wants to focus on projects like reducing section-8 housing, bringing a casino to Danville, and looking at other opportunities to generate revenue.

Vermilion County Board Chairman James McMahon beat Eisenhauer in Tuesday's primary. McMahon said if elected, he will focus on creating opportunities for businesses to grow by lowering the city's debt without raising taxes.

"We can lower taxes once you run government like a business," McMahon said.

The other candidate in the race, David Quick, could not be immediately reached for comment. Truck driver Donald Norand lost out on his mayoral bid Tuesday by receiving the lowest number of votes in the primary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Candidates Primary Votes
James McMahon 1,061
Scott Eisenhauer 956
Rickey Williams Jr. 318
David Quick 282
Donald Nord 19

 

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 22, 2011

Rally on UI Campus in Support of Wisconsin Workers

As protesters flock Wisconsin's capitol in response to legislation to strip most public employees of bargaining rights, a group held its own rally on the University of Illinois campus.

About 125 people made up of university students and staff, and nearby residents stood in front of the Alma Mater statue chanting: "The workers united will never be defeated. The workers united will never be defeated. The workers united will never be defeated."

The Graduate Employees' Organization, a labor union representing 2,500 U of I teaching and graduate assistants, helped organize the event. Union member Stephanie Seawell said workers in Wisconsin and all across the country should be able to negotiate for better contracts, a right she criticizes Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for trying to take away.

"That fundamental right is being challenged in Wisconsin, and if it can be challenged in Wisconsin, it can be challenged here," Seawell said. "Workers should join together and say this is enough."

At the close of the rally, participants marched to the YMCA on campus to hold a 24-hour-a-day vigil, which Seawell said will last until Governor Walker backs down from his proposal to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most of Wisconsin's public employees.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - February 22, 2011

Indiana Senate OKs Contentious Immigration Bill

The Indiana Senate has approved a contentious Arizona-style bill to crack down on illegal immigration.

The Republican-ruled Senate voted 31-18 Tuesday for the bill, which contains penalties for businesses that hire illegal immigrants and allows police officers to ask someone for proof of immigration status if they have a reasonable suspicion the person is in the country illegally.

Supporters say Indiana must act because the federal government has shirked its responsibility to deal with illegal immigration. Opponents say the bill will lead to racial profiling and hurt economic development.

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has declined to take a public stance on the proposal.

The bill was proposed by Republican Sen. Mike Delph of Carmel. He couldn't vote on his own bill because he's taking the bar exam Tuesday and Wednesday.


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