Illinois Public Media News
The Republican pursuing an East Central Illinois Senate seat may only have $50 left in his campaign fund, but he says that hasn't slowed down what he calls a grassroots campaign.
Campaign disclosure reports filed Tuesday showed Tea Party organizer Al Reynolds spent about $8,000 dollars thus far, while Democratic incumbent Mike Frerichs spent more than $50,000. And the 52nd District Senator still has more than $200,000 available. Reynolds says he's just starting to approach businesses to seek out donations to help with campaign ads and mailings, but wants to focus on the issues. "(Congressman) Tim Johnson and his campaign last time... he raised under $300,000 for a US-Rep seat," said Reynolds. "And so I'm thinking for a state senator, we shouldn't have to raise that kind of money. The issues alone should speak for what we do here. And basically, it's my getting out in front of people, and telling them what it is."
Reynolds says amassing a huge campaign fund also goes against the tea party's stance of wasteful spending, and has gotten out his campaign message in rallies. Senator Frerichs says he's focused on doing a lot of fundraising on his own. "I think in any election, you can't take your opponent for granted, and especially this year when there seems to be a lot of voter frustration," said Frerichs. "It's frustration I share with the direction the state's going." Frerichs also says he'd like to rely on money he raised, and not the state Democratic party, to maintain independence in the race. Reynolds says state Republican campaign funds would be nice, but suspects it's too early for Illinois GOP leaders to decide whether they'll get involved in his campaign.
Rod Blagojevich's attorneys say the ousted Illinois governor will not testify at his corruption trial. They promptly rested the defense case this morning.
Blagojevich had long pledged to take the stand in his own defense, saying for months that he wanted to do so to set the record straight.
But his attorneys initially said Tuesday they could rest the case without calling a single witness. They confirmed that Wednesday. They say the prosecution did not prove its case.
Experts have said putting Blagojevich on the stand could be risky.
Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to scheming to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat and to scheming to launch a racketeering operation in the governor's office.
Champaign city officials are looking forward to having recycling for apartment buildings by the end of the year. The City Council voted Tuesday night to sign a contract with Allied Waste Transportation to provide recycling pickup for multi-family dwellings. Currently, recycling pickup in Champaign is only mandated for single family homes and apartments with four units or less.
Council Member Mike Ladue is a longtime recycling booster. He says the city had once been a leader in community recycling, before pulling back in the 1990s. But with the introduction of recycling pickup for apartment buildings, LaDue says the recycling will expand to a new scale and scope, "including the 55 percent of our residents who are renters, a great majority of whom live in multiplex dwellings. This will reach all those residents, many of whom have been interested in recycling for many, many years."
In contracting with Allied Waste Transportation, Champaign will join the city of Urbana in mandating recycling pickup for all residential buildings. City officials estimate the contract will cost about $ 1.5 million over five years, to be paid for with user fees.
The Champaign City Council took a step toward addressing area housing problems Tuesday night --- by voting to hire a consultant to conduct a regional study of the issue.
Plans for the study were first announced last November, after Champaign County was hit by a slew of housing crises --- the sudden closures of Rantoul's Autumn Glen and Champaign's Gateway Studios apartments, a narrowly averted financial crisis at Restoration Urban Ministries and the Safe Haven group of homeless people who defied zoning regulations by living as a tent community. Champaign City Council Member Deb Feinen says the study will give them a fresh look at the countywide housing situation.
"It seems to me before we can make any changes, or start trying to figure out what type of housing should be provided, we need to know what's going on and what currently exists", Feinen said during the council meeting. "So updating our information is a great start."
Champaign, Urbana, Champaign County, the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission and the Housing Authority of Champaign County will pay an Columbus, Ohio-based consulting firm Vogt Santer Insights Ltd. $45,000 to do the study. The city of Champaign's portion will be $21,411. Other groups, including the Champaign County Realtors Association and the United Wat of Champaign County, will also be asked to contribute.
Champaign Neighborhood Programs Manager Kerri Spear says their current analysis of the area housing situation is based on the 2000 census. She says the study will provide projections based on other, more recent data sources, until new census figures on housing are available in a couple of years. Results of the study are expected this coming November.
Both candidates running to replace Bill Black in the Illinois House say they can't be concerned with whether their state party will provide some campaign money.
Black, a Danville Republican, is retiring after nearly 25 years. With Tuesday's deadline to disclose campaign donations passed, Republican Chad Hays of Catlin holds a clear edge in fundraising. The city's former mayor says his grassroots campaign has included a lot of contributions of $100 or less, which is why disclosure reports show he's collected more than $12,000 in non-itemized donations. Hays says his campaign has seen a large response throughout the 104th House District. "We're going to continue to be very assertive in our fundraising efforts to match that with our plan to run a very effective campaign clear to November," said Hays. "So as it relates to any party money, it that remains to be seen in terms of need."
Hays' campaign fund still has more than $50,000... while that of Michael Puhr has about $3,000 left. The Danville Democrat and city alderman admits he hasn't held many fundraisers, saying running against Hays is somewhat like campaigning against an incumbent. But Puhr says a lot of things can change... calling himself an 'independent Democrat' who plans to spend a lot of time knocking on doors. "I believe the best way to win a race is to go out and meet the people," said Puhr. "And that's one thing I've been doing.. a minimum of 5 to 6 events in any particular weekend, and numerous other contacts and things, so money doesn't buy a race." And Puhr says he's not thrilled of the prospect of receiving state money, saying he doesn't want to serve as the Democratic Party's mouthpiece.
Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing continued her promotion of a local gasoline tax, Monday night, by bringing in an official from another city that already has one.
City Manager Dennis Keif of Pekin told the Urbana City Council about the four-cent-a-gallon gas tax his Tazewell County city has had since 1996 to raise money for a major highway project, regular street maintenance and property tax relief. He says gas station owners warned that the tax would force them to charge more for gasoline than competitors in Peoria with its two-cent gas tax, and smaller nearby towns with no tax. But Keif says there's no sign that gas stations in Pekin have suffered.
"Almost without exception, the price is exactly the same in all of the communities", Kief told Urbana council members. "Typically, it actually runs a little bit higher in Peoria than the other communities. But Pekin is no higher than the other communities."
Kief's answer was in reply to questions from Alderman Dennis Roberts, who said afterward that he's "inclined to support" Mayor Prussing's proposal for a two-cent gasoline tax to help pay for street maintenance. He thinks a vote could come later this summer.
Also Monday night, the Urbana City Council approved a $250 administrative fee to be imposed on motorists whose vehicles are towed after being arrested for certain serious offenses like D-U-I, felony drug offenses, and fleeing and eluding a police officer. The fee would be charged in addition to the towing fee. Champaign began imposing a similar fee for cars towed for serious offenses last year.
The first black scholar admitted to the National Academy of Sciences is being remembered as a mathematician who had a unique way of getting to the heart of the problem.
David Blackwell died of natural causes July 8th at the age of 91. The Centralia native attended the University of Illinois at age 16, earning his doctorate in mathematics in 1941. Blackwell's time at the U of I was followed by an appointment at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, alongside Albert Einstein, as well as time teaching at Howard University, and the University of California at Berkley, where he taught math for over 30 years. UCLA statistics professor Thomas Ferguson says he first met Blackwell as a student at Berkley in the early 50's. "He had this way of finding the right questions to ask that were the right problems to look at," said Ferguson. "Then he would go after those problems, and actually come out with something really interesting to say about them. In each of these areas that I'm thinking, he writes some sort of fundamental paper that everybody else jumps on, and then keeps going."
David Blackwell was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1965. His career had its share of obstacles. In 1942, he was blocked from becoming an honorary Princeton faculty member because of his race. Blackwell's initial efforts to teach at U-C Berkeley were also blocked for the same reason. But he also wrote two books, published more than 80 papers and eventually held 12 honorary degrees from schools like Harvard and Yale.
Funeral services are tentatively set for July 31st.
Rod Blagojevich's brother says a businessman claimed he could raise millions in campaign funds if Jesse Jackson Jr. were named to the Senate, but that he and the Illinois governor considered it "a joke.''
Robert Blagojevich testified Monday at the ousted governor's corruption trial. He said businessman Raghuveer Nayak told him that he could raise $1 million if the congressman was appointed to the seat Barack Obama was leaving to move to the White House.
Robert Blagojevich said Nayak said he could raise another $5 million eventually. But Robert Blagojevich said neither he nor his brother took the offer seriously. He said he told Nayak that Jackson was not going to be appointed.
Both Blagojevich brothers have pleaded not guilty to taking part in a scheme to sell the Senate seat.
Meanwhile, the federal judge presiding over Blagojevich's corruption trial has denied a motion from defense attorneys asking that the ousted Illinois governor be acquitted.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel on Monday refused to acquit Blagojevich and told attorneys to go ahead with the defense case. Zagel said he was basing his decision partly on the testimony in the prosecution's case and partly on the tone and manner in which witnesses answered the questions.
Defense attorneys often ask judges for such acquittals at the close of the prosecution case during a trial. The prosecution at the Blagojevich trial rested last week. Such motions are rarely granted.
The Champaign School District reached a tentative contract agreement with its support staff union Monday night.
Negotiators for Unit Four and the Champaign Educational Services Personnel union had been meeting since March - including a session with a federal mediator in June. But when scheduling problems prevented any meetings with the mediator in July, the two sides resumed contract talks on their own. Tomlinson says both Unit Four and the union were committed to reaching a settlement.
"Well I think everybody realized the importance of getting a good contract before school started", say Tomlinson. "And our balanced calendar schools start (their classes) next week. And the union and district came together and worked very hard to get the best contract for everybody involved."
Tomlinson would not release details of the tentative agreement, pending ratification votes by both sides. He expects members of the support staff union to ratify the contract in the next couple of weeks, with a school board vote on Monday, August 9th. The old contract for about 500 teachers' aides, bus drivers and other workers at Unit Four ran out June 30th.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan sat down with Illinois Public Media's Tom Rogers to discuss her office's new Silver Beat effort to combat fraud against senior citizens. But she also took time to talk about her reaction to wiretap tapes played in former Governor Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial naming her a a potential US Senate replacement for President Obama as Blagojevich considered the politics of the selection. Madigan also talks about financial reform legislation and a new nationwide consumer protection agency -- but says she'd rather see someone other than her get the job of heading it.
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