Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 04, 2010

Arcola Homestead Savings Bank Closed by Regulators

State banking regulators closed the Arcola Homestead Savings Bank Friday, and turned it over to the federal regulators. But unlike many failed banks, Arcola Homestead will not be opening under a new name.

FDIC spokesman David Barr says Arcola Homestead Savings Bank will be closing for good.

"More than nine out of ten bank failures result in a transition over to a new ownership group", says Barr. "However, in this case, Homestead was one of the four or five percent of the bank failures we've seen, where we haven't been able to find a buyer."

But Barr says Homestead depositors will still be getting their money back. He says checks for all insured deposits will be mailed to account owners, starting on Monday. In addition, Homestead depositors have the option of transferring the checking and NOW accounts over to the First Mid-Illinois Bank in Arcola. Barr warns that account holders will have to go over to the First Mid-Illinois branch in Arcola to make the switch --- and that checks from their Homestead checkbooks are no longer valid.

The FDIC says 81 federally insured banks have failed so far this year. Arcola Homestead Savings Bank 12th Illinois bank to fail.The federal agency says the bank had about $17 million in assets and $18.1 million in deposits, as of March 31st.

Categories: Business, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 04, 2010

Court-Mandated Unit 4 Committee Member Says Panel Lacks Direction

A member of the Champaign school district committee aimed at reviewing equity areas is frustrated by the group's lack of progress after one semester.

The Education Equity Excellence Committee was mandated by a court through Unit 4's consent decree settlement. Melodye Rosales says some members fail to understand that they're supposed to help guide district administrators, and have things the other way around based on vague language on how the committee operates. The triple-E committee is assigned with looking at academic progress among minority students in areas like special education, Advanced Placement courses, and discipline areas. The panel is also reviewing the results of a racial climate study done at Unit 4 by a University of Illinois psychology professor. It's one Rosales contends was a waste of district resources.

"We could do it for free," said Rosales, implying there were other departments at the U of I, like its Informatics Institute, where such a study wouldn't require thousands of dollars. "I gave them a road map on how to do it for free every year. We could get a general idea of what happens, we could work with the university, they could process the information. We don't need to spend $58,000 or $74,000 on something that's not even worth the paper it's written on at this point and time." Rosales also contends Unit 4 has done a poor job of promoting the Triple-E committee, and needs to be meeting more often.

But Champaign School Board President and committee member Dave Tomlinson says the committee is taking the right approach to focusing on broad issues, and is glad the panel plans to expand its meeting schedule in the fall. "I think the committe has got a large task and we need to make sure we keep the district moving in the right direction, and also to make sure the community feels involved," said Tomlinson. "I think we're on that path, and we've got a varied group of people here that has the information that they need to make the decisions." A task force will lay out that meeting schedule before the triple-E committee meets this fall.

Categories: Education, Race/Ethnicity

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 03, 2010

Another Year of Status Quo for IL Legislator Scholarship Program

A bill designed to change Illinois' often-abused legislative scholarship program is heading nowhere, and that means lawmakers may avoid one more touchy vote before the fall election.

The Senate faces a deadline next week to consider Gov. Pat Quinn's veto of the measure. But a spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton says senators have no plans to return to the Capitol by then.

Cullerton is a Chicago Democrat who sponsored a series of restrictions on the scholarships rather than support an outright ban passed by the House.

Quinn vetoed Cullerton's proposal on May 11, saying he preferred to eliminate the program.

Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon says this particular bill is dead but the issue isn't.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 03, 2010

Jurors Answer Judge’s Questions as Blagojevich Trial kicks Off

The judge in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has begun questioning potential jurors for the case.

Among the first questions Judge James Zagel asked them today were whether they had read much about the case and whether they could set aside any preconceived notions about Blagojevich.

The former governor is accused of scheming to profit from his power to fill President Barack Obama's former Senate seat. He denies any wrongdoing.

One potential juror said she had seen the former governor's wife, Patti Blagojevich, on a reality TV show eating a bug.

Jurors were referred to in the courtroom by numbers only. Zagel plans to keep the jury anonymous until after the trial and denied a request by news organizations to reverse that.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 03, 2010

Terre Hute NAACP Branch Ordered to Reorganize

The NAACP's national headquarters has ordered its Terre Haute branch to reorganize and remove all of its top officials for failing to comply with the civil rights group's policies.

The Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sent a letter to its Terre Haute branch directing it to reorganize and remove all of its elected officers and executive committee members.

Rev. Gill Ford of the national group says the branch is being reorganized, not disbanded.

The move comes seven months after the Terre Haute branch hosted the statewide NAACP convention in Terre Haute. That event attracted 300 statewide delegates.

Categories: Civil Rights

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2010

I-57 Crash Victims ID’d as Mississippi Women

Three people killed in a nine-vehicle crash on Interstate 57 have been identified as Mississippi women traveling to Illinois' Amish country.

Coles County Coroner Ed Schniers says the women killed Monday just north of Mattoon were: 61-year-old Sheila Douglas of Batesville, Miss.; her mother, 80-year-old Juanita Hall of Sarah, Miss.; and family friend Doris Mayo, who was 68 and also lived in Sarah.

Police say another of Hall's daughters, 58-year-old Anne Faust of Sardis, Miss., remains hospitalized.

Friend Angelisa Weaver of Sardis says the four were driving to the Amish country that's about 15 miles north of Mattoon.

State Police say 12 other people were injured when a big rig crashed into cars slowing for construction.

Categories: Biography, Transportation

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2010

Family Searches for Son, a Missing U of I Student

Relatives and friends have been looking for two weeks for a missing University of Illinois student but so far have no leads.

Police in Urbana say Nizam Ahmed was last seen May 17 packing up his car at the mosque in Urbana where he lived. He was supposed to arrive in Indianapolis to visit relatives later that day.

Urbana police Detective Matt Quinley says investigators have no reason to believe foul play was involved. He says they've received no tips about the 23-year-old Danville native.

Relatives say he left his cell phone behind and there's been no activity on bank accounts.

Ahmed's father, Syed Ahmed, says hundreds of people are praying for his son.

Categories: Biography, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2010

Blagojevich Corruption Trial Starts Thursday with Jury Selection

18 months after his arrest on federal corruption charges, jury selection begins Thursday in Chicago in the trial of Rod Blagojevich. The former Illinois governor is charged with trying to trade state decisions and appointments for cash and political favors --- including an appointment to the President Obama's old Senate seat.

A University of Illinois law professor says a major point of contention in the Blagojevich trial will be the link between favors granted by the former governor and requests for campaign donations and favors.

Professor Andrew Leipold says he thinks arguments by the defense will not focus on what Blagojevich said, but on what those statements mean.

"When the former governor said X, did he mean, 'and if you don't give me money I won't do it', says Leipold. "Or was he discussing two different topics: 'I'm prepared to do this'; and perhaps separately, 'Are you going to be contributing to my campaign, because we're doing a lot of good work, and I would value your support'."

Leipold says that question will make testimony by someone like former Blagojevich aide Lon Monk especially important ... because he would be in a position to know the former governor's intentions. Monk is cooperating with federal prosecutors in the Blagojevich trial.

Meanwhile, while opening arguments in the trial are still days away, Blagojevich has been make his cause before the public,w ith TV and radio appearances, and the publication of a book.

Leipold says it's an unusual move for a defendant in a trial.

"The notion that your client would be out going on talk shows and on the radio and on reality television is normally not something that defense lawyers would encourage", says Leipold. "Anything the governor says in any of his many, many, many public appearances are fair game, in the sense that if he says something that turns out to be different that what he says at trial, then he's subject to impeachment by that."

And Leipold says it's clear that Blagojevich intends to testify in his own defense at the trial. It will be Blagojevich's word against his words recorded in wiretapped conversations that prosecutors say show the former governor engaging in a "public corruption crime spree".

But Leipold says he expects the defense to argue that Blagojevich's requests for money and political favors were not connected to any of his actions as governor.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2010

Champaign County Board Members Are In No Hurry To Come Agreement with Employee Unions

Two Democratic Champaign County Board members say there's been a real sense of cooperation with employee unions as the county seeks out more than a million dollars in cuts.

Both Labor Subcommittee Chair Sam Smucker and committee member Brendan McGinty say there's no sense of urgency in getting an agreement approved. 127 employees, including 70 union workers, are expected to take furlough days in the next fiscal year. Smucker says the county is trying to avoid layoffs, and without naming specifics, says both sides have discussed a number of other mechanisms to make up for a lack of state funds. "I think all of them have been discusseed publicly and privately, and again, the thing that's most heartening is I think the employees really do recognize the situation that the county's in and are coming to the table with that sort of seriousness."

McGinty says departments did a good job of avoiding layoffs and furloughs last year by trimming travel and training budgets. And he says department heads have left the equivalent of one payroll off their budgets for the last six months. "They handled that in different ways," said McGinty. "But we've done it, for all intents and purposes, with minimal impact to our work force. And that's been a real show of cooperative spirit between the employees and department heads and elected officials."

Smucker says he hopes any additional cost-saving measures will put Champaign County in a position to provide regular raises a couple of years from now. The majority of the union workers impacted by furloughs are clerical staff. Another $600,000 in cuts may be required, but county officials are waiting to see if the flow of funds from state appropriations and county fees improve.

The Champaign County Board's Labor Subcommittee meets again Thursday afternoon.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2010

Blagojevich Trial Will Go On Despite Defense Request

A federal judge in Chicago today turned down a last-minute request for a delay in former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial and told his attorneys to get ready to start picking a jury tomorrow.

The impeached Illinois governor's racketeering and fraud trial is set to get under way following 18 months of skirmishing in the courts and the media.

Blagojevich and his brother, Nashville, Tenn., businessman Robert Blagojevich, have pleaded not guilty. They're accused of scheming to profit from the governor's power to fill the U.S. Senate seat that President Barack Obama vacated following his November 2008 election.

Blagojevich's lawyers contend they've been swamped by as many as nine million pages of documents, 270 hours of tapes and summaries of interviews with more than 700 people. They say they haven't had time to prepare.


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