Illinois Public Media News
Champaign City Council members will be given a set of proposals for new city council districts at their study session on Tuesday night.
The proposals come from members of the public, who used special software on the Champaign city website to design their own map proposals.
City Planning Director Bruce Knight said the council will be drawing up a new council district map for a city population that grew 22 percent over the last decade --- to 81,050 people. A special census in 2007 confirmed the growth in new territory on the edges of Champaign. But Knight said the full census in 2010 showed that growth occurred throughout the city.
"Probably the most interesting thing, especially working from the changes we made from the special census just a few years ago --- what we have seen is more population growth in the core of the city than we'd seen previously," Knight said.
Knight says the number of council redistricting proposals from the public has been small --- just four, as of Monday morning. But the city planned to take proposals through its website until midnight Monday night.
Assistance Information Technology Director Mark Toalson says users may find the special redistricting software slow to load. But once it's in place, he says it's pretty easy to design your own map of Champaign city council districts.
"It's pretty straightforward," Toalson said. " You just pick, essentially the pieces of the puzzle that you want in a new district. And the program will recalculate population and demographic statistics for you. So it kind of keeps a running total on the populations of your proposed districts."
There's a link to the mapping software on the city council page of the Champaign website. The Champaign City Council is scheduled to discuss designs for a new council district map at its Oct. 25 study session.
A man from the state of Kansas accused of fatally shooting his cousin near Mahomet on Friday is expected to make his first court appearance Tuesday.
News reports indicate 68-year old Gerard James allegedly killed Harlan James of Champaign after a dispute in a field northwest of Mahomet around 3 p.m. Friday. He's lodged in the Champaign County Jail.
Deputy Charles Glass with the County Sheriff's Department confirms Gerard James is scheduled for arraignment at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. The court appearance was postponed from Monday, due to the Columbus Day holiday.
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)
Nathan Scheelhaase and A.J. Jenkins hooked up on two long TD passes to lead No. 19 Illinois to a 41-20 victory Saturday at Indiana.
Illinois (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) is bowl eligible, and is off to its best start since the 1951 team was 7-0. Indiana (1-5, 0-2) lost its third in a row, still has not beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision team this season and has lost 13 consecutive games against Top 25 teams since a 31-28 victory over then No. 13 Iowa on Oct. 14, 2006.
Sparked by Shane Wynn's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the Hoosiers took a 10-0 lead early.
But Illinois came back with a 77-yard scoring pass to Jenkins, took the lead on Tavon Wilson's 66-yard fumble return for a TD and made it 27-13 at the half on Nathan Scheelhaase's 67-yard TD pass to Jenkins. Defensive end Whitney Merciless now leads the nation in sacks after dropping Hoosier quarterbacks three times.
"I was notified about two weeks back that I as starting to lead," he said. "It's a challenge to stay up there. Each week, when I go into it, I'm just thinking I want to keep contending to be in the lead with everybody else. Definitely I want to bring something to this program."
Merciless also forced a fumble which Tavon Wilson scooped from the turf and returned 66 yards to give Illinois its first lead.
"I feel like that was the momentum changer of the game," said Wilson. "Coach (Ron) Zook is always talking about turnovers, and helping the offense out with points."
The 6-0 Illini return to Champaign next Saturday afternoon against Ohio State.
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)
Chanting protesters from two different groups have filled portions of downtown Chicago. The groups eventually joined forces Saturday afternoon.
Occupy Chicago is a spinoff of anti-wall Street protests in New York. They held signs and chanted slogans including "This is what democracy looks like'' before joining the Midwest Anti-War Mobilization rally.
That group gathered on the 10th anniversary of the start of the Afghanistan War to call for an end to U.S. military action there. Protesters planned to march past President Barack Obama's re-election headquarters and a military recruiting station.
Chicago police reported no arrests. A similar anti-war event was held at the University of Illinois' Urbana campus on Friday.
Meanwhile, downtown Champaign was the site of a noon-hour rally on Saturday, held by Central Illinois Jobs with Justice, along with members of the Illinois Education Association, the Channing-Murray Foundation, and the Service Employees International Union.
SEIU field organizer Ricky Baldwin says the march is meant to send a strong message to lawmakers that large corporate layoffs are not acceptable, especially after the federal bailout.
"We want action to create jobs, not to destroy them," said Baldwin. "The bailout recipients - if they're not going to use the money - to help with the economic problems that regular people are having, then they should pay the money back.
Attorneys for Catholic Charities are asking an appellate court to stay a ruling that allows Illinois to stop working with the groups on adoptions and foster-care placements.
An emergency motion filed Friday asks for a stay of an August ruling by a Sangamon County judge.
That ruling sides with the state, which severed work with Catholic Charities after the agency refused to recognize Illinois' civil union law.
Catholic Charities says it developed a "property interest'' in the work after 40 years of state contracts. The agency says it should be able to object to state action. The judge ruled no one has a legal right to a state contract.
The Catholic Charities are affiliated with the Joliet, Springfield and Belleville dioceses.
A response from the state is due Wednesday.
Governor Pat Quinn says the state could be re-structuring some of its debt in light of a report showing improved revenues from Illinois' income tax hike.
The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability says that growth is exceeding the rate of the hike, bringing in $1-point-4 billion last month. COGFA also showed a steady growth in income tax and sales tax revenues during the summer months.
With the legislature's fall veto session approaching, Quinn says the state is at a spending limit of just over $32-billion. But he says spending could be re-allocated within that limit, and help some of those anxiously waiting state funds.
"We can use that to pay bills that we owe, and we'd like to use some of the revenue to restructure debt we have so that those who are owed money, like the University of Illinois, get paid right away," said Quinn. "And I think that's something that needs to be addressed."
Governor Quinn was at the U of I Friday morning for the groundbreaking of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering's new facility.
The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled a teacher can't be prosecuted for giving a classroom aide permission to strap a disruptive autistic student into a chair.
The Indianapolis Star reports the court this week dismissed charges of confinement, battery and neglect of a dependent against Indianapolis Perry Township teacher Catherine Littleton.
Court documents indicate the aide restrained the 12-year-old Perry Meridian Middle School student to keep him from harming himself in February 2010. The three-judge panel ruled that Littleton was immune to prosecution because she acted in good faith.
The judges wrote that the child wasn't harmed and laughed while being restrained.
Littleton remains on administrative leave without pay from the school.
The University of Illinois has broken ground on a $95-million facility that will one day encompass all the work for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The state will foot half of the expense, through the capital bill Governor Quinn signed in 2009. The other half is coming from private donations to the university, although $10-million still remains to be raised. U of I President Michael Hogan told the gathering at Friday morning's groundbreaking that financial collaboration is making possible construction of a building that the university has sought since the 1970's.
"The state couldn't afford to foot the bill alone, nor could we, but working together, we've ensured that this great university will remain a world leader in high tech innovation and education for generations to come," said Hogan.
Gov. Pat Quinn said the building is a sharing opportunity, putting people who may be working alone into the same facility. ECE is currently split among six buildings.
"That kind of sharing of talented people can result in great things," Quinn said.
Quinn brought up the accomplishments of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
"He understood that technology is not a goal in and of itself," Quinn said. "The purpose is to communicate and bring people together. And I really see this building as doing exactly that in a living memory of what he accomplished on his days on earth."
The building will pull together electrical and computer engineering facilities currently spread throughout the U of I Urbana campus. A 400 seat auditorium in the new building will become one of the largest gathering spots on campus.
The project will create about 620 construction jobs, with completion scheduled for spring of 2014.
Eastern Illinois University has replaced its old coal-fired steam plant with one the largest renewable energy projects in the U.S.
The school holds a grand opening Friday afternoon for its Renewable Energy Center. The facility using gasification technology will rely on more than 27,000 tons of wood chips a year to heat the campus. The chips are fed into a low-oxygen, high temperature environment, and gas emissions will generate the steam for that heat.
EIU President William Perry says just a handful of American universities have this type of plant, one that will provide some academic lessons as well.
"We can do some public service in the areas of alternative energy," he said. "We plan to use the site, which has more land available for field trips, for K-12 students, and other individuals in the community who are interested in that kind of operation."
Perry says the savings on the energy contract allowed Eastern to pay off the cost of the energy center without state money or student fees. EIU Energy and Sustainability Coordinator Ryan Siegel says a lot of things had to fall in place.
That includes two bills passed by Illinois lawmakers - one extended the payback periods for performance contracts to 20 years, and another allowed pilot projects to be paid for under that same window of time.
Siegel says those measures, and the energy savings from the Center itself, will pay for the $80-million facility.
"The entire project reduced the forward energy and water consumption of campus," he said. "It reduced our future costs, allowing us to pay off the debt over a 20-year time frame."
The facility is the result of a collaboration with Honeywell. It's expected to save EIU more than $140-million over the next two decades.
(Photo courtsey of Eastern Illinois University)
State Senator Shane Cultra has come up with one way to try and reign in Medicaid costs.
Legislation sponsored by the Onarga Republican would require drug testing for those on public aid. It would require an initial test when applying for Medicaid, and subsequent random tests for current recipients. Cultra says the measure serves a dual purpose in that it targets those who need help, who will cost the state more if they aren't treated.
"There's going to be a cost savings just in identifiying those that are on drugs," he said. "Usually, there are family situations there. It's better for the family, it's better for everyone involved."
Cultra says he's confident the measure will get co-sponsors, but is skeptical the measure will find its way through the legislature in the approaching fall veto session. He says Democrats haven't looked kindly on similar measures.
The Senator notes federal regulators have objected to bi-partisan Medicaid reforms that were passed in January. One of them would have required applicants to produce more than one pay stub to prove income eligibility. But Cultra says any other method that Illinois attempts is considered a 'new' and forbidden eligibility restriction.
'I don't understand why they would do that, but even if we got this passed, maybe the federal government would do the same thing, we don't know," he said. "But I think it's a start."
Cultra says reforming Medicaid and other entitlement programs has to start somewhere. He says savings from the bill could 'astronomical' if it properly identified those who get their lives turned around.
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