Illinois Public Media News
A taxi service owner in Decatur says he plans to sue the city for shutting down his company.
Last week, City Manager Ryan McCrady ruled that AOK Taxi used an unregistered vehicle and failed to inform the city about changes in its fleet. Assistant City Manager Billy Tyus confirms the cab service was shut down last week after violating city codes.
"The decision to revoke the license was based on the operation of unlicensed taxis," he said. "The city is responsible for licensing taxi services. It was decided that taxis were operated without a valid license, among other things."
AOK Taxi owner Anthony Walker said those allegations don't stack up, and he said he is determined to get his company's license back through a federal lawsuit.
"I know for a fact, 150 percent sure, that I can actually go in and prove every allegation was unfounded and there was no merit to it," Walker said. "With that being the case, I need to do that because my creditability and who I am as a business person in this community, I need to do that."
The city had contracted with Walker's company to provide a pick-up service for people who need help getting to a physician or bus stop.
Tyus said the Decatur Public Transit System will now run that program, but he said AOK will still be able to operate its livery service. The city also claims that a number of other vehicles couldn't be on the street because of technical issues.
Losing taxi service in Decatur is nothing new. And a bar owner in the city says it's come to the point where some sort of collaborative effort is needed to give rides to patrons.
Kim Miller co-owns the Bourbon Barrell, which is located near Millikin University. She said patrons have started to complain since learning that AOK taxi has shut down.
"Our cab situation in Decatur has been ongoing for years," Miller said. "We've had companies come in, they do ok for a while, and then they're gone. I don't know if it's just that we don't have enough customers to keep it going. Because obviously, it's just not bar customers. Other customers just need to do their day-to-day activities."
Miller said there needs to be some serious discussions with other owners and the city about offering some sort of shuttle service.
She says AOK network is offering a $10 shuttle service to or from anywhere in the area. But the company only offers a few vehicles, and Miller said its status is uncertain given the problems with the taxi company.
Bourbon Barrell used to provide free rides to some patrons who were in no condition to drive, but Miller said that's no longer feasible.
Health officials say roughly 1 in 25 adolescents in the United States are taking antidepressants.
A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the first to offer statistics on how many kids ages 12 to 17 take antidepressants.
It's based on surveys and depression screenings of about 12,000 Americans.
The study found about 1 in 10 adults take antidepressants.
And perhaps more should - the researchers said only one third of people with depression symptoms in the study were taking medication.
The CDC report was released Wednesday. It also found that women take the drugs more than men, and whites use them more than blacks or Mexican-Americans.
Indiana officials who want to cut funding to Planned Parenthood say the organization could solve the issue by simply splitting its abortion business into a separate affiliate.
But officials in states where Planned Parenthood has done that say it isn't an answer and that the organization could quickly find itself under new pressures as social conservatives target abortion providers across the nation.
Indiana and Planned Parenthood have been locked in a legal battle since Gov. Mitch Daniels in May signed a law cutting off funding to the group.
Planned Parenthood won a temporary injunction in June allowing it to continue receiving Medicaid money. On Thursday, the case goes before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
A central Illinois regional school superintendent has announced his resignation after going without pay for 14 weeks.
Christian and Montgomery County Regional Superintendent of Schools Tom Campbell on Wednesday told the Breeze-Courier (http://bit.ly/keaUC6) in Taylorville he can't continue. Campbell blames "political decisions made by our governor" for taking "a tremendous toll" on his ability to "stay positive and focused on remaining in office."
In July, Gov. Pat Quinn cut off pay to superintendents and their assistants. He says the state can't afford to pay the salaries. Quinn wants local governments to pay the salaries, but made no arrangements before vetoing the money.
Campbell says the decisions by state leaders show "total disrespect" for those who work in regional education offices in Illinois.
Taylorville is about 25 miles southeast of Springfield.
Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford says the state needs to come up with a budget that avoids any more debt.
Rutherford was in Champaign on Wednesday to address the local Chamber of Commerce. While Gov. Pat Quinn has supported borrowing to pay off a large backlog of bills, Rutherford said that particular proposal wouldn't improve the state's cash-flow situation. He said borrowing has saddled taxpayers with nearly $45 billion in debt.
"I understand restructuring debt," he said. "I'm open to that, but it has to be something that passes the smell test. It has to be something that a fiscally astute and responsive person will say, 'It's good, it's better, let's go.'"
Rutherford said Illinois' budget should be based on the state's actual revenue. He also said changes to worker compensation and the pension system are essential.
Rutherford added that the mass demonstrations across the country against financial greed and corruption should be a wake-up call for lawmakers.
"I think it is a signal to those that are policy making in Washington, DC and the state capitol of Springfield is they better get their act together because actions have consequences and the biggest consequence will be coming in November 2012, and that's the election," Rutherford said.
With the state having nearly five billion dollars in unpaid bills, lawmakers are expected to review the budget during the veto session that begins next week.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told a group of Chicago law students on Tuesday that the only thing political about the nation's highest court is the selection process.
Scalia said the process - especially confirmation hearings - have been highly politicized because the public has finally realized the court's immense responsibility. But once the judges do their work, he said political lines don't matter to the five Republican-appointed and four Democrat-appointed judges.
"I don't care a fig if a statute has been passed by a Democrat or Republican," Scalia said. "Once you're on the court, you don't owe anybody anything. Justices are notorious ingrates."
Scalia, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, did not elaborate on high-profile cases last term involving campaign finance rules and limits on class-action lawsuits where the court ruled along political lines.
Scalia spoke to students and took questions at Chicago-Kent College of Law for a keynote address during a conference on property rights. His lecture-style remarks delved into the court's 2010 decisions on a case involving owners of beachfront homes in Florida.
But he also weighed in on two other issues some Chicagoans might find equally as important - Chicago-style pizza and baseball.
"I like so-called deep dish, it's very tasty," he said as some audience members cheered. "But it should not be called a pizza. It should be called a tomato pie."
His answer to the second question, about whether he preferred the Cubs or White Sox, elicited some boos.
"I am a Yankees fan," he said.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Illinois patients once again can use a public website to find out whether their doctors and chiropractors have shady histories.
The Physician Profile became available Wednesday on the website for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
It allows consumers to see whether a doctor has been disciplined in Illinois or in another state. Malpractice judgments and settlements going back five years are posted.
The searchable database was taken offline last year when the Illinois Supreme Court declared a medical malpractice reform law unconstitutional.
A new law reinstated the database and gave doctors 60 days to review the information before the site went live. That review period has passed, allowing the comeback.
The website drew more than 150,000 hits weekly before it went dark in 2010.
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
Ford union autoworkers have approved a new four-year contract that's expected to bring 2,000 jobs to the Chicago region.
At first, it didn't seem like a slam dunk deal. Many workers complained the new contract reinforced an unfair two-tier payment system with part time workers doing the same work as full-timers and getting paid substantially less. The new contract included profit-sharing in lieu of pay raises, and many living in expensive metropolitan areas like Chicago wanted a cost of living pay increase.
Chicago's union workers were so against the contract that 77 percent of the South Side assembly plant voted against it last week; 70 percent at the Chicago Heights stamping plant did the same.
But as big 'yes' votes came in over the weekend from major facilities in Michigan and Kansas City, the scales began to tip tellingly in favor of the contract. Workers in Louisville, Ky., approved the agreement Tuesday, according to a post on the Louisville local's Facebook page. That was the last large local to vote, and it ensures the agreement will go into effect.
A final tally was not immediately available from the UAW Wednesday morning.
Richard Hurd, Professor of Labor Studies at Cornell University, said he's not surprised at all in the variation between plants on the vote. He said typically in votes for or against a contract, a local union leader holds a lot of sway.
Regarding the case of the Chicago plants' rejection, he thought it could go deeper.
"It could be that there are tensions in the facility and the vote reflects things other than the workers particular view towards the terms of the agreement. There may be bad relations between the current plant manager and workers, or between supervisors and workers. So workers less happy with situation will be more likely to vote against a contract," Hurd said.
The UAW represents approximately 41,000 hourly and salaried workers across 27 Ford manufacturing and assembling facilities in the United States. Now that the vote is in, the new four-year contract will begin moving forward. According to a UAW press release, it includes adding 5,750 new UAW jobs.
"These new UAW jobs mean more than 12,000 new jobs in total with jobs previously announced by Ford," said UAW President Bob King.
Chicago's two area plants are expected to reap 2,000 new jobs out of the deal by 2015. The agreement also promises $16 billion Ford is investing in new and upgraded vehicles and retooling plants.
A signing bonus for workers comes in at $6,000 dollars, which according to Hurd, is a big figure in these days of a depressed economy.
Now that the contract is approved, local unions will continue work on bargaining on behalf of individual plant agreements.
By a 4-to-3 vote, the Urbana School Board decided Tuesday night to cut off negotiations with U.S. Cellular on a 150-foot cell phone tower that would have gone up next to Urbana Middle School.
School board President John Dimit had said he was concerned about aesthetics, but also felt much of the opposition to the plan was the result of misinformation he was receiving on the topic.
"For instance, some of the e-mails talked about razor wire on top of the fence, around the base of the tower" he said. "Well, nobody has talked about razor wire. As a matter of fact, the folks at U.S. Cellular first talked about putting a fence around the base of the tower that matched the fence that other e-mails have been praising us for that go around the athletic field."
Dimit supported the estimated $1 million in revenue the tower would bring over 25 years.
Champaign County board member Ralph Langenheim told the school board there could be an ethical dilemma if the District 116 rents out public property to a private company. Historic preservationist Brian Adams said he's concerned what a tower would do the neighborhood's historical character, including the Lincoln the Lawyer statue, Carle Park, and Urbana High School.
"That whole area just has a very unique character," he said. "My neighborhood consists of old houses. I live about a half mile away from this neighborhood. And unfortunately, we've lost a lot of integrity in our historic neighborhood. And I would hate to see something like that happen to this neighborhood."
School board member Peggy Patten said the tower would "certainly" be an aesthetic blight, with its height and 8-foot wide base. While it's uncommon for cell towers to fall, Patten said Urbana city planners have been told it happens on rare occasions.
Debate over the proposed tower lasted about eight months.
An expert on the operation of airports says forming a local authority with funding by local taxpayers might be one way Willard Airport can cut costs.
Jack Penning, who's with Portland-based Sixel Consulting, is laying out this and other options that don't include the University of Illinois. He made his suggestions Tuesday before the annual meeting of Champaign County's Economic Development Corporation.
Penning said Willard simply doesn't compete well with other nearby airports, largely because it doesn't involve the community, whereas Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington is under the guidance of a local airport authority, and involves local property tax dollars.
"Because of that, there's a lot more community input into how the airport is run, because it's your neighbor running the airport," he said. "The airport here is run by the (U of I) Board of Trustees, which doesn't have single member from Champaign County outside of a student trustee. And so the people who use the airport, the people who live in Champaign County, really have very little say over how it's run."
Penning said in Bloomington, airlines pay about $1.50 per passenger, while they're paying more than $9 a passenger at Willard. He said the big difference is property taxes in Bloomington, as well as the U of I's wages and benefits to those who work at Willard.
Seamus Reilly co-chairs the EDC's airport committee. He said each of the consultant's suggestions offered greater possibilities for Willard.
"It's not so much that one or other governing structures is necessarily superior, but I think what came through was the fact that some of these other airports have a much stronger funding platform," Reilly said. "In other words, that they have money available and resources available to help develop the airport to move it forward."
Penning said the airport also has the option of being made part of the Champaign Urbana Mass Transit District, being operated through the Regional Planning Commission, or Willard could be operated by a private management firm. He didn't endorse one of the plans for Willard.
Penning's final report on Willard should be available for public review in about a month.
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