Illinois Public Media News
University of Illinois trustees have elected Chicago businessman Christopher Kennedy to be their new chairman.
Kennedy is one of six new members of the university's governing board appointed the past few weeks by Gov. Pat Quinn. Quinn made the appointments following a series of trustee resignations over the university's admissions scandal.
Kennedy was selected over Edward McMillan, a southern Illinois businessman. McMillan was among those who resigned from the board but was reappointed by Quinn.
Kennedy is a son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and he runs Merchandise Mart Properties in Chicago. Earlier this month, he announced that he'd considered but decided against running for Illinois governor and for the Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama.
There were no additional arrests or weapons found after Rantoul Township High School was on a 'soft lockdown' for a second straight day yesterday. Superintendent Janet Koroscik says there will still be a police presence at the school today, but won't require that teachers or administrators accompany students that leave the classroom. There have been at least eight arrests following two fights off school grounds on Friday, and the discovery of knives on three students when searches were conducted Tuesday. Koroscik says school administrators and Rantoul police will meet soon to determine a long-term solution.
Legal video gambling at Illinois taverns is expected to be in place next year, providing tax revenue for state capital projects and local governments. But some local governments have voted to opt out of video gaming. A Champaign County Board committee will consider such a proposal this fall.
The county board's Policy Committee will hold a full discussion on video gaming in November. But committee members heard both sides of the debate over the social impact of video gambling last night. Tom Fiedler of Melody Music in Champaign is president of the Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association, and he says research has shown legal video gaming adds little to a state's gambling addiction problem, thanks in part to strict limits on how many machines a bar can host. "It's a very low impact situation," said Fiedler. "It's not a destination type of thing. It's five machines. It's more for the casual player; it's a form of adult entertainment."
But University of Illinois Business Administration Professor John Kindt --- who's studied the economic impact of legalized gambling --- compares video gaming to crack cocaine when it comes to gambling addiction.
"When these come into a person's backyard, you're in fact doubling the number of addicted gamblers," said Kindt. "And among young people -- students in particular -- it's even worse. It goes up 200, 300, 400 percent."
The impact on students will mean more to the cities of Urbana and especially Champaign, where many bars specialize in serving students. But each city and village can make its own decision on whether to opt out of legal video gaming. Policy Committee Chairman Tom Betz wants local governments to act together on the issue, to avoid creating a patchwork of gambling and no-gambling areas in the county.
An administrator at Eastern Illinois University says enrollment there remains strong, despite economic struggles and the uncertain future of Illinois' Monetary Awards Program, or MAP grants. Just four shy of the optimum enrollment of 12,000 are taking courses on the Charleston campus this fall. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Blair Lord says the numbers show that students realize the importance of a higher education. He says nearly a quarter of EIU's undergraduate population depends on MAP Grants. Just over 12,000 students attended the school a year ago.
University of Illinois negotiators and members of the union that represents graduate student employees held another bargaining session Wednesday.
Graduate Employees Organization members aren't happy with the direction talks are going -- they protested outside the Levis Faculty Center, where negotiations continued with the help of a federal mediator. The grad students' previous contract expired last month.
Carrie Pimblott is the GEO's lead negotiator. She calls the university's proposal for no raises over three years unacceptable - in fact, she claims most union requests are being rejected.
"They came back and said all of the proposals we had suggested that were monetary were untenable because they didn't have the money to do it. And a lot of our non-monetary issues they rejected for various reasons," Pimblott said. "Essentially they came back with a lot of very egregious proposals that not only rejected our central values but suggested that they would want to erode our grievance rights, erode our rights as union workers."
U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler says they won't comment on negotiations while they're in progress.
Pimblott says the GEO wants to put pressure on the university through rallies - she says a labor action is not out of the question.
The September 10th meeting of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees in Urbana will not be business as usual. The board is meeting for the first time since Governor Pat Quinn appointed six new members --- and reappointed a 7th --- in the wake of the admissions scandal. Quinn himself will make a rare appearance at the trustees' meeting. And the board is scheduled to vote on a resolution putting the stamp of approval on admissions reforms called for by the governor's Admissions Review Commission.
U of I spokesman Tom Hardy says the first directive of the resolution is the elimination of Category I --- the infamous list of applicants with political connections --- and a ban on anything resembling it.
"We've done away with Category I", says Hardy. "But this says that anything that might appear or seem to take its place --- whether you call it something else --- anything like that tracking list would be out of bounds."
The resolution also calls for setting up written criteria for admissions that are readily accessible to all, and creating a new code of conduct for admissions that will help create a firewall that insulates admissions officers from unwarranted interference.
Hardy says these are the directives President B. Joseph White gave the administration at a special meeting last month, in line with recommendations from the Governor's Admissions Review Commission. White's goal is to have the reforms in place by the start of the new admissions cycle on September 23rd.
WILL will broadcast the U of I Board of Trustees meeting live, beginning at 9, on AM 580, FM 90.9 HD 2 and HD 3, and online at will.illinois.edu. .
Rantoul Township High School will be on a 'soft lockdown' for a second day Wednesday after two recent fights and the arrests of several students.
Superintendent Janet Koroscik says there were about five arrests following two fights outside the school on Friday. And Tuesday, Rantoul Police removed three students from the building when knives were discovered on them. The knives were found as officers went from room to room, bringing students out individually to search them. Officers and school administrators also searched backpacks and lockers. That was prompted after a rumor surfaced that a student would bring a gun to school Tuesday.
Koroscik says the fights could be connected to gang activity... noting the incidents have involved many of the same individuals. But she says they're a poor reflection of the majority of the student body:
"I really want to ensure everyone that the small group of individuals whose behavior is certainly inappropriate in no way reflects on the larger portion of our population who has amazing behavior," Koroscik said. "This is a great place to be and we want to make sure we keep it that way."
Rantoul Township High School has 787 students.
Koroscik says during a soft lockdown, no students are allowed to leave the classroom unless they're accompanied by a teacher or administrator. And extra staff and administrators are monitoring the hallways in between classes.
Ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich's former chief fundraiser pleaded guilty Tuesday to swindling two major airlines as part of an $8.5 million fraud arising from hangar roofing contracts at O'Hare International Airport.
Under his signed plea, 51-year-old Christopher G. Kelly will be sentenced to 57 months in prison. As chief of the Friends of Rod Blagojevich, Kelly bankrolled the now impeached Democrat's rise to the governor's office.
The sentence comes on top of a 37-month federal prison term Kelly must serve after pleading guilty to charges in an unrelated tax-fraud scheme.
Kelly still faces charges as a co-defendant in the same federal indictment that alleges Blagojevich sought to sell or trade President Obama's former seat in the U.S. Senate.
It was to be an array of newspaper vending boxes that would also be a work of art. But the Urbana City Council decided Tuesday night to go with just the vending boxes.
Local artist Frederic Beaugeard's "Urbanastand" would have gone up outside the Champaign County Courthouse, combining newspaper vending boxes with displays of historic headlines from old Champaign-Urbana newspapers, . The project would have cost the city of Urbana more than 60-thousand dollars. Mayor Laurel Prussing persuaded the city council to go with something plainer for about 4-thousand dollars.
"We're just going to buy a commercially available newsstand," says Prussing, "which was going to be the centerpiece of the artwork anyway.and so we'll have a nice looking place for people to buy newspapers. Right now there's kind of a jumble of little news dispensers that are falling over each other and falling down."
Alderman Charlie Smyth proposed last month that private donations could pay for most of the cost of Urbanastand. On Tuesday night, he said that was still possible, but only if someone steps in soon to either pay for the project, or organize a fundraising drive.
Meanwhile, the Urbana City Council will now use 9-thousand dollars from money budgeted for Urbanastand to help erect a sculpture near the city building that's been planned for the last 20 years. The city's contribution will help match private donations for John David Mooney's steel sculpture, which incorporates LED lighting. The city's contribution will help match private donations.
Champaign Police want to hear from neighborhoods in order to gear more officers towards crime prevention strategies.
Police Chief R-T Finney will discuss the strategy of 'problem-oriented policing' in the department's annual report before the Champaign City Council tonight. He says the discussions with residents in the past year have ranged from town-hall meetings with neighborhood associations to those focused on one or two blocks. Finney says the complaints start with traffic, but become more specific:
"They'll begin to point out issues other than speeding that really need to be addressed, said Finney. "Some of those issues are drug houses, inattentive landlords who are allowing crimes to occur in their houses, parks that may be affected by certain types of crimes. It may be something like a burglary spree that is occurring in a particular neighborhood."
Finney says often, the solution is as simple as putting up a fence at one home or increasing patrols at a business that sees more service calls.
He says the economy has forced the department to be creative as it shifts officers toward neighborhoods with greater problems. Problem-oriented policing started with meetings in the Garden Hills neighborhood and later moved to homes in the Hill and Church streets areas. Finney says he expects several more neighborhoods will come forth with concerns following tonight's presentation.
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