Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 13, 2010

Illinois EPA Chief Announces Local Fund, Discusses CAFO Regulation

Illinois EPA Chief Doug Scott came to Champaign County Wednesday to announce funding for three local projects aimed at cleaning up local air and water.

Scott visited the Champaign-Urbana MTD bus garage to announce a $445,000 Clean Diesel grant --- backed by federal stimulus money --- to retrofit 43 diesel buses with special exhaust filters designed to keep diesel particulate from getting into the outside air.

"They capture about 90 percent of the diesel sub-particulates, and 75-80 percent of the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide emitted from diesel engines," Scott said. "This will provide more clean air for the employees and also for the public, the staff, the students at the U of I who ride the buses or walk near the bus routes."

The CU-MTD worked with researchers at the University of Illinois College of Agricultural Consumer and Environmental Sciences to choose the right filters for their buses and the local climate, as well as setting protocol for installation and maintenance.

While in Urbana, Scott also announced $47 million in federal stimulus and state loans to finance improvements at the Urbana-Champaign Sanitary District's Northeast Wastewater Treatment plant in Urbana.

Later, Scott visited the small Champaign County village of Homer, which is receiving more than $10 million dollars in state grants and loans to finance the construction of its first-ever wastewater plant and centralized sewage collection system. The project will replace the individual septic systems currently used by Homer residents and businesses.

During his Urbana stop, Scott also said the Illinois EPA is working to meet a federally imposed deadline for strengthening state regulation of large confined-animal farms, known as confined-animal feeding operations (CAFO).

The federal EPA has given its Illinois counterpart until the end of the month to complete an inventory of the state's CAFO's, overhaul its inspection program and set procedures for investigating citizen complaints.

Scott said his agency has been working on the issue for the last couple of years, and expects to have a "good response" for the federal EPA's demand.

"We take this issue very seriously," Scott said. "We know that these facilities have the potential to cause some large (scale) pollution, and we know that it's important for us to get the best handle we can on that --- both in terms of permitting, but also in terms of enforcement. And that's the steps we have been taking, and what we will continue to do."

A federal EPA report last month found widespread problems with Illinois' oversight of large-scale cattle, hog and chicken operations, and the huge amounts of waste that they produce. The report found state inspection reports that failed to say if a CAFO was following pollution laws or not, and many cases where the state failed to get farms to comply with those laws.

The report also indicated that the Illinois EPA's enforcement powers are too weak. Scott said he will ask state lawmakers next year to give his agency authority that is currently left to the state attorney general.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 13, 2010

The Debate Over the 17th Congressional District District

The 17th congressional district in Illinois is one of the most odd looking districts in the nation. It twists and turns through Western and Central Illinois from the Mississippi River to Decatur. The district was drawn that way to ensure it remains in the Democratic Party's hands, but conservatives feel the incumbent is vulnerable and are ratcheting up the pressure as they try to change the seat from blue to red. Illinois Public Radio's Rich Egger reports.

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Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 13, 2010

Senate Committee Begins Discussion of Proposed Admin Changes

The University of Illinois' Senate Executive Committee held the first in a series of forum's Monday to discuss three administrative changes introduced by University President Michael Hogan at last month's Board of Trustees meeting.

One of the proposals covered at the meeting was about adding a new vice president who would oversee health services at all three campuses. The Board of Trustees approved a 3.9 percent increase in its operating budget last month, even with about a $245 million backlog in payments from the state.

U of I officials have said cuts and consolidations would help offset the cost of creating this new position.

Harriet Murav, who teaches in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, attended the forum. Murav said she is worried changes to the university's administrative structure could mean other departments and programs will take a hit.

"How could it possibly make sense to take funding away?" she asked. "Class size has gone up. Tuition waivers have gone down. Academic salaries have gone down because we're bleeding faculty."

Some of the other administrative changes under consideration include making each campus chancellor a vice president and adding a "research" element to the portfolio of the vice president for technology and economic development. Interim chancellor Robert Easter said the campus-wide discussions will help shed light on what he calls "ambitious" proposals.

"I don't know that there's any reason to be concerned until we fully understand the proposals," he said. "I understand the president is meeting with various groups to talk about it, and so I think we'll have productive conversations and at the end, we'll come to good decisions."

The faculty-student Senate committees on all three campuses in Urbana, Springfield, and Chicago will make recommendations on the proposals to the U of I Board of Trustees before the board's November 18 meeting in Chicago.

Joyce Tolliver, chair the Urbana campus' Senate committee, raised doubts over whether a month is enough time to fully discuss the proposals.

"The discussion is not going to be a clean straight forward one," Tolliver said. "It's going to be a messy one. It's probably going to be a rambling one, and I'm glad that I have set aside all this extra time for it."

University President Michael Hogan will be at the next town hall Senate meeting set for October 18 at 3 PM in College of Business' Deloitte Auditorium on the Urbana campus. The Senate has also scheduled meetings for October 25, November 1, and November 8.

Categories: Economics, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 12, 2010

Urbana Table Tennis Player Takes Top Honors in Seniors Competition

A year after claiming a silver medal, an Urbana woman has returned to an international competition to claim the top prize in table tennis.

82-year old Phyllis Hughes took the gold medal over the weekend in singles competition at the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah. Hughes had quit playing for more than 50 years as she worked as a psychologist and raised a family. But she only started in competitive play three years ago. Hughes says having a supportive husband and network of friends plays a big role. "It's a very, very good feeling to be able to compete at this point," said Hughes. "We have open tennis night here at the home every Thursday night, and usually all men come to play. I usually enjoy playing their game."

Aside from table tennis, the now-retired Hughes stays active as an artist, musician, and gardener. She was the lone Illinois representative at the senior competition in Utah, which concludes this weekend.

(Photo Courtesy of Phyllis Hughes)

Categories: Sports
Tags: sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 12, 2010

New Poll Suggests Quinn Trails Brady by Wide Margins

A new poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale shows Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) with a nearly nine-point lead over his opponent, Democrat Pat Quinn, in the race for Illinois Governor.

The data, released Tuesday, gives Brady 38 percent of the vote to Quinn's roughly 30 percent.

Simon Institute Director David Yepsen said Quinn should be worried about the 22 percent of voters who still say they are undecided. The report also indicates that Republicans are "more enthusiastic" about this election than Democrats, which could translate to fewer people voting on Election Day.

"That's a huge number, and it certainly can tip in any direction," Yepsen said. "I think that's a bad thing for Governor Quinn that the undecided are that high because in a race featuring an incumbent, many undecided will tend to break for the challenger come election day."

As for the senate race, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk are nearly tied with Kirk at 37.3% support to Giannoulias' 36.8%. Yepsen said he is not surprised by the nearly dead heat between Giannoulias and Kirk. He said the results of the poll show the battles will be won or lost in the collar counties, where voters remain on the fence on many issues in the race. Third party candidates LeAlan Jones of the Green Party has 3.3 percent and Libertarian Mike Labno has 1.8 percent. There are 20.7 percent who are undecided or who favor another candidate.

(Photo of Pat Quinn courtesy of Chris Eaves & photo of Bill Brady courtesy of the Bill Brady for Governor campaign)

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 12, 2010

Early Voting Center Opens in Urbana

The new Early Voting Center at the University of Illinois Urbana campus is open for business, but there's disagreement about the center's location and level of convenience.

Champaign County Democrats wanted the state-mandated early voting center to be in the U of I's Illini Union, but Republican County Clerk Mark Shelden rented an unfinished storefront in the Gregory Place complex on the east side of campus instead. Shelden said the location would suffer less interference from political activity. Election Judge Kathy Hamilton was helping to staff the center on Tuesday, and she said it is a central location, and accessible for people with disabilities.

"If someone is in a wheelchair, there's a ramp right in front of us," Hamilton said. "They can come in, there's no threshold, and it's all on one floor."

Hamilton also noted that on-street parking is readily available. Democratic County Board member Steve Beckett pointed out that all the parking spaces have parking meters. He said free parking is one reason the Illini Union would have been a better spot.

"I knew one of the things said over at the (Illini) Union was, there was going to be free parking in the circle drive," Beckett said. "I was very disappointed about that."

Beckett also complained that about dim lighting, which he said could pose difficulties for older voters like him. Hamilton said that so far, voters in their 30s or above have been in the majority at the Campus Early Voting Center, which exists because of a state law aimed at encouraging student voting. Shelden says he plans to follow up on a letter to Gregory Place development, requesting free parking spaces at the site, and will install additional lighting. He also hopes to see the U of I promote the site,

"I hope the university will send e-mails out to people - they've done that in the past," said Shelden. "Maybe the student government group (the UI Student Senate) that was talking about how much money they were willing to spend on promoting early voting at the union - it would be nice if they would spend some of that money promoting early voting over here."

All Champaign County voters are welcome to vote early at either the campus Early Voting Center, at 700 South Gregory Street in Urbana, or at the Champaign County Clerk's office in the Brookens Center, 1776 East Washington Street in Urbana, through October 28th. Both locations are open weekdays from 8 AM to 4:30 PM, and Saturdays and Sundays from 9 AM to noon.

(Photo by Jim Meadows/WILL)

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 11, 2010

Quinn Rallies Labor Behind Him, Warning of Cuts

Governor Pat Quinn's election campaign took him to some friendly crowds on Monday, including one in Champaign County.

Union members rallied around Quinn in a statewide series of appearances. After the last one of the day before a spirited crowd at Savoy's Plumbers and Pipefitters Hall, Quinn felt like his core constituency was primed to get out the vote, even amid questions about apathy among Democratic voters.

"I didn't see any apathy today," Quinn said. "I think a lot of folks are ready to vote, and that's best way to show your citizenship, flex your muscles."

Quinn dished out criticism of Republican challenger Bill Brady's plans to rein in spending, saying programs such as college scholarships for students in need would be in danger of more cuts.

"The working people of Illinois deserve a scholarship program that can help their kids go to (school). I'm running against someone who wants to cut that back. We're never going to cut that back," Quinn said to applause. "We're going to invest in the brains of everyday people. They're going to make our state even better."

The rally also featured welder Matt Langendorf of St. Joseph, whose homemade commercial for Quinn has made it to statewide airwaves.

As Quinn crossed the state, Brady and his campaign bus tour hit Charleston as it swings through southeast Illinois.

(Photo by Tom Rogers/WILL)

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 11, 2010

Champaign Social Service Agency Adopts New Name

The head of a Champaign social service agency said its name had become too narrow when examining its broad range of services.

New signs are up at the Mental Health Center of Champaign County, changing its name to Community Elements.

CEO Shelia Ferguson said the name change came as a result of three-year strategic plan. She said it reflects the fact that the agency does much more than help those with conditions like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. She said it has also been reaching out to the homeless.

"We also have residential services and shelters and community kitchens," Ferguson said. "So this allowed us to have a dialogue with the community that we're more than mental health, but also to allow people to come meet us, reach out to us, if there needs were other than mental health."

Ferguson said the name change will also help the agency do more with less, by partnering with other social service groups in the community.

"We also need to partner where we can save money, where we can deliver services better, more efficiently," she said. "Where we can deliver services to the people who need then, who aren't community-based because they're limited by transportation or other resources in order to get to us. So you'll see a lot more partnership, a lot more discussing amongst social service agencies to make sure that continuum of care is available to those who need it in Champaign County."

Ferguson said Community Elements is still dealing with slow payments from the state. It's owed about $2.5 million between the last and current fiscal years.

(Photo courtesy of Community Elements)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 08, 2010

UI President Hogan, Labor Unions Call Meeting a Positive First Step

University of Illinois President Michael Hogan and a number of campus labor groups say they have started a productive dialogue on issues like employee salaries and affordable education.

Friday's one-hour meeting came a day after many of these unions rallied on campus, giving administrators a failing grade in areas like transparency and accountability. Hogan said it was not a bargaining session, but simply a conversation between people with shared interests.

"I think they would feel very good about having an opportunity occasionally, even only once a semester, or two or three times a year, just to sit in that room (the President's conference room) and not negotiate the details of a contract, but just have a dialogue between interested parties," said Hogan. "I would be very comfortable doing that."

Further meetings haven't been scheduled, but Hogan said the parties already share one common interest.

"That's linking arms in Springfield and trying together to convince our legislators that we're a very good investment," Hogan said. "And if we can get some stability, some predictability, and hopefully increased support out of them, we're able to do more for everybody here."

U of I Campus Faculty Association President and history faculty member Kathryn Oberdeck said it is good to see that groups like hers and the Graduate Employees Organization will be allowed to become part of the decision making process. She said the president and unions will likely have their share of disagreements, but Oberdeck said this meeting was simply about laying the ground work, but she said U of I faculty members continue to have concerns about the voice they will have.

"What sorts of research gets funded and the ways in which the restructuring of the university will reach down and take account of the voices of people who actually work on the ground, and the way that actual process evolves remains to be seen," Oberdeck said. "But I did get the sense that he heard and sympathized with that desire."

Gene Vanderport with the Illinois Education Association said he is pleased with the tone and tenor of President Hogan.

"We feel that this administration may be more in contact with what need to be looking as as priorities," Vanderport said. "We can't get into specifics, but we're pleased with some of the answers we got. I feel a lot better about what our future holds."

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 08, 2010

Annual Unity March to Mark Carrington Shooting Anniversary

The fatal shooting last year of Kiwane Carrington is the driving spark of this year's Unity March in Champaign-Urbana. The 7th annual social justice march takes place Saturday, October 9th, one year to the day after the 15-year-old Carrington was shot and killed during a police altercation. The march is sponsored by C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice, Champaign County NAACP, the Ministerial Alliance of Champaign County, and the Graduate Employees Organization on the U of I campus.

Aaron Ammons of C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice said that while he thinks progress in city government has been slow, Carrington's death has inspired many people and groups to make new efforts towards positive change.

"I believe most entities and institutions have opened up, and are trying to see things from a different perspective, since the killing of Kiwane Carrington," Ammons said. "Honestly, I believe some of it is out of genuine desire to change, and some of it is political pressure that comes, but certainly, there's been a lot more talk and a lot more meetings among several different entities since the killing."

Ammons said the Unity March is aimed at inspiring empowerment among victims of poverty and injustice, so they can take their own steps towards change.

"There are things that we can do as far as our own food security," Ammons said. "For example, to grow some of your own food at the community garden, or at your own home. That's a really basic thing that surrounds the idea of empowerment."

Ammons said another example is teaching young people how to act in contacts with police.

The march begins at noon, 906 West Vine Street where the Kiwane Carrington shooting occurred. From there, marchers will proceed north on Prospect to Bradley Avenue, and then head west to the Randolph Street Community Garden. At the garden, fruit trees will be planted in Carrington's memory, and a garden party will be held, featuring food and music. Ammong said the march is open to all.

In addition, a pre-march symposium is scheduled for 6:30 PM, on Friday, October 8th, at the Asian American Cultural Center, 1210 West Nevada Street, Urbana, on the University of Illinois campus. The topic is "Other Deaths and Other Truths" Communities Confronting State Violence". The symposium is sponsored by the "Landscapes of Struggle in Illinois" Focal Point Group of the Independent Media Center of Urbana Champaign.

Last year's shooting death of Kiwane Carrington by a police officer was ruled accidental, but the officer involved, Daniel Norbits, was given a 30-day suspension for improper handling of his weapon, which he is appealing. Critics say the incident is a symptom of long-standing problems in Champaign police-community relations, particularly where African-American youth are involved. Champaign city officials say they've made several changes in police procedures in the wake of the incident.


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