News Around Illinois - February 7, 2020

 
Reginald Hardwick/Illinois Newsroom

Judge Orders Urbana To Refund Carle Foundation $6.2 Million

URBANA – A circuit judge has ordered the city of Urbana and other local taxing bodies to refund $6.2 million in property tax payments to the Carle Foundation. In his ruling ordering the refund, Judge Randall Rosenbaum also called on Carle and the taxing authorities to end their years of legal wrangling over the tax-exempt status of Carle Hospital and other Carle medical buildings. Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin says she’s worked to re-establish good relations with Carle, but says their tax-exempt properties place an unfair burden on the city, Cunningham Township and other local governments that collect property taxes in Urbana. But Marlin says the city has set money aside to pay the refund. Local taxing bodies involved in the dispute have until March 31 to appeal the ruling. Marlin says the Urbana City Council will meet Monday night to discuss its next move. Urbana’s park and school districts have already reached their own settlements with Carle. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Official: Illinois Man Believed Kidnapped In Afghanistan

A U.S. official says an American citizen has been kidnapped in Afghanistan by a Taliban-affiliated group and that authorities are working to rescue him. The official says Mark Frerichs of Lombard, Illinois, was believed to have been kidnapped by the Haqqani network. Newsweek first reported the kidnapping. It said Frerichs was taken into custody in the southeastern part of the country last week and that he has worked as a contractor in conflict zones. The investigation is being led by the FBI-led Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, a multi-agency effort created by the Obama administration amid criticism over the government’s response to hostage-taking. - Associated Press

Chicago Flooding Spurs Local, State Disaster Proclamations

CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot have issued disaster proclamations stemming from flood damage along the Lake Michigan shoreline. The local and state proclamations issued Thursday aimed at boosting funding for recovery and rebuilding efforts along more than 30 miles of shoreline in Cook and Lake counties affected by the Jan. 10-11 storm. The severe weather, which included high winds and heavy rain, snow and ice, caused significant property damage, including to beaches and recreational areas.  Pritzker says he’s also requesting additional time from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the city and state to document the information needed to support a federal disaster declaration. - Associated Press

Inspectors: Lawmakers’ Watchdog Too Weak To Matter

SPRINGFIELD — The official in charge of uncovering misconduct in the Illinois General Assembly says the job should allow her confidentiality and be free of interference from lawmakers. Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope testified Thursday before a bipartisan commission studying tighter ethics laws after sitting legislators have faced federal bribery and embezzlement charges. Pope says the legislative inspector’s job is hindered because an eight-member commission of lawmakers must approve investigations and decide whether to publish reports where misdeeds are found. And former inspector Julie Porter testified that the commission has failed to publish reports where she proved wrongdoing. – Associated Press

Southern Illinois University Adds Travel Restrictions To China

CARBONDALE – Southern Illinois University Carbondale has announced travel restrictions in response to the coronavirus outbreak in China. The Chancellor’s office announced that all university-related travel to China is being suspended. That includes study abroad travel and other visits related to academic programs. The university also recommends faculty, staff, and students avoid non-essential personal travel to areas currently under travel restrictions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a warning for all of China. – Steph Whiteside, WSIU Radio

Factory Farms Provide Abundant Food, But Environment Suffers

AKRON, Iowa — Factory livestock farms are spreading across rural America, raising concerns about environmental damage and health risks for people living nearby. An industry once based on small, independent farms is evolving into large operations housing thousands of animals under one roof. The change is helping make beef, poultry and pork more affordable. But animal waste from the mega-farms has fouled waters. The enclosures spew air pollutants that promote climate change and are implicated in illnesses such as asthma. The stench of manure can make life miserable for people nearby. The spread of corporate animal farms is turning neighbor against neighbor in town halls and courtrooms across rural America. Iowa is a major battleground as the top U.S. producer of swine and egg-laying chickens. – Associated Press

Story source: Illinois Newsroom