News Around Illinois – Severe Weather Expected This PM

National Weather Service: Severe Weather Expected This Evening

Updated March 28 at 4:30 p.m. – The Tornado Watch has been expanded to areas along and south of I-70, where it is in effect until 10 pm. In that area, the storms will be capable of producing hail up to golf ball size, as well as a few tornadoes. The greater threat of tornadoes and very large hail will be north from I-70 across central Illinois. Remain alert for severe weather through mid evening, and be prepared to move quickly, as the storms will be traveling around 50-60 mph. – National Weather Service

Updated at 12:00 p.m. – An unseasonably warm and humid air mass will move across central Illinois today resulting in a favorable environment for thunderstorm development. Thunderstorms are expected to redevelop this afternoon and evening, particularly 3pm and later. At this time, it appears that significant severe weather is possible, including tornadoes, damaging winds, and very large hail. Thunderstorms will be ongoing in the morning, but the MAIN SEVERE WEATHER THREAT will materialize during the afternoon and evening. Be alert for watches (your first heads-up) and warnings (TAKE ACTION) this afternoon and evening. When you receive a warning, quickly go to a secure shelter in a basement or lowest floor of a sturdy building away from windows and doors. – National Weather Service, Central Illinois


Illinois Sets Guidelines For Schools During Pandemic

CHICAGO — Illinois has set new guidelines for schools during the coronavirus pandemic, as it seems more likely remote learning and other changes will continue further into the academic year. The Illinois State Board of Education said late Friday that all districts must implement remote learning plans for all schools starting Tuesday. The board said districts may use online or non-digital learning, such as giving out homework packets. But it said districts must find ways to engage students. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has suspended state-mandated standardized testing, including the SAT.  – Associated Press

Macon County Reports First Cases Of COVID-19; New Testing In Champaign County

DECATUR – At a Friday night news conference, The Joint Crisis Communication Team in Macon County announced the first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Macon County. One patient is a woman in her 50s. She is in stable condition at St. Mary’s Hospital according to officials. The second patient is a male in his 60s, who is being quarantined at home. Earlier today, Champaign County reported it has 11 COVID-19 patients. Also, Carle Foundation began on-site COVID-19 testing on Friday for approved patients. Testing is still limited at the guidance of state health officials. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Surgeon General: Chicago Among ‘Hot Spot’ Cities For Virus

CHICAGO — The U.S. surgeon general says Chicago is among a number of American cities identified as a “hot spot” for COVID-19 cases and that it will see numbers continue to rise. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on “CBS This Morning” on Friday that he is hopeful New York, which has a nation-high 519 deaths and more than 44,000 confirmed cases, will see cases begin to come down next week. He warned that Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans “will have a worse week next week.” Cases in the city and suburban Cook County account for about three-quarters of Illinois’ 3,026 positive tests. – Associated Press

U of Illinois Wants Suit By Slain Scholar’s Estate Dismissed

URBANA — The University of Illinois is seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the estate of a slain visiting Chinese scholar against two social workers at a campus counseling center. A judge dismissed a federal lawsuit against the social workers in December. But the woman’s estate refiled it in state court in January. Brendt Christensen was later convicted of kidnapping Yingying Zhang. Her body has never been found. The News-Gazette reports that her family has argued that the social workers should have done more when Christensen told them about his fascination with serial killers and that he had bought items to move and dispose of a body. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – March 27, 2020

Illinois Coronavirus Cases Tops 2,500; Death Toll Now 26

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health says there are now 2,538 cases of COVID-19, a growth of 673 cases from Wednesday.  The death toll is now stands at 26. The newest deaths include a man in his 50’s, two men and two women in their 60s, a man in his 70s and a woman in her 90s. Cases are now in 37 counties. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Sharp Increase In Illinoisans Applying For Unemployment Claims

CHAMPAIGN – Illinois is seeing a surge in the number of people applying for unemployment benefits, which mirrors the record-high surge across the nation. The state Department of Employment Security says that as of Thursday, 133,763 unemployment claims had been filed so far this month. That’s nearly five times the number of claims filed during the same period a year ago. The sharp increase in jobless claims comes after Illinois reported a February unemployment rate of 3.4 percent, a new record low and lower than the nation’s unemployment rate for the second consecutive month. But that was before Illinois felt the impact of stay-at-home measures intended to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Sanitary Sewer Experts: Please Don’t Flush Disposable Wipes

CHAMPAIGN – With toilet paper being harder to find, more people are using and flushing disposable wipes. But officials with sanitary sewer systems in Illinois say that’s a bad idea. The makers of disposable wipes say they’re flushable. Karen Cotton with Illinois American Water says disposable wipes dissolve too slowly, creating problems for sewer systems and in residential plumbing. Illinois American Water operates wastewater systems in several Illinois towns, from Alton and Grafton along the Mississippi River, to towns in the Chicago suburbs. She says along with disposable wipes, grease and cooking oil can also cause sewer problems, and should not be poured down the drain. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Governor Tabs Obama Aide, His Sister, For COVID-19 Relief

SPRINGFIELD  — The Illinois governor has turned to a former member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet to raise money for those hurt by the coronavirus outbreak. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker says his sister, Penny Pritzker, is leading the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund to assist nonprofit agencies battered by the pandemic. A Commerce secretary under Obama, Penny Pritzker took charge last week. She praised a bevy of cooperating businesses and organizations for $23 million already collected. J.B. Pritzker and his wife, M.K., have donated $4 million personally and through their family foundation. – Associated Press




News Around Illinois – March 26, 2020

Illinois Delays Income Tax Deadline As Virus Cases Climb 

CHICAGO — Illinois taxpayers will have until July 15 to file and pay their state income taxes because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the three-month delay Wednesday as officials reported an elderly resident has died at a suburban Chicago nursing home where dozens of people have been sickened by the coronavirus. The 90-year-old woman at Chateau Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook was one of 33 residents and 13 staffers who have contracted the virus. The state reported 330 newly confirmed coronavirus infections Wednesday, the largest one-day jump since the first case was reported Jan. 24. There have now been 1,865 cases reported.  – Associated Press

Champaign County Has 8 COVID-19 Cases; Douglas County Has First Case

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Wednesday announced four new cases of COVID-19 … bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the county to eight. Health District Administrator Julie Pryde says the new cases are two men in their 70s, one man in his 50s and one woman in her 80s. She didn’t provide any further information on their condition. Of the eight confirmed cases, five are men and three are women.  They range in age from their 30s to their 80s. There have so far been no deaths reported in Champaign County from COVID-19. The Illinois Department of Public Health also announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Douglas County. No further information was immediately available about that case. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Emergency Room Doctors Brace For Onslaught Of COVID-19

CHAMPAIGN – Some hospitals in Illinois have seen a sharp rise in patients showing up with symptoms of COVID-19. That’s according to Emergency Room Dr.  Ernest Wang, president of the Illinois College of Emergency Physicians. He says the many unknowns about what the future holds makes this a scary time for ER doctors. But it’s also what they were trained for. “You swallow your fear… you gown up and you go in and do the job,” said Wang. “That’s the soul of emergency physicians, it’s different than other areas in medicine. You can’t do this job unless you’re able to do that effectively.” Wang says the biggest problem right now is the lack of widespread testing and the real possibility hospitals will run out of protective gear. He says the best way the general public can help is by staying home as much as possible to help prevent hospitals from getting overwhelmed. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Danville Schools Feeding Students With Drive-Through Program

DANVILLE – A pilot program launched by the Danville school district is sending students to the drive-through window to get meals, while classes are suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. The program offers two free meals this week at Danville’s three McDonald’s restaurants to District 118 schoolchildren during breakfast and lunch hours. Deanna Witzel owns and operates the restaurants with her husband Don. She says officials from the McDonald’s corporation are reviewing the effort as well. District Superintendent Alicia Geddis says McDonald’s and the Illinois State Board of Education are looking at the program’s potential for expansion to other communities. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Domestic Violence Victims At-Risk As Virus Spreads

ROCKFORD – During the COVID-19 pandemic, survivors of domestic violence can be especially at risk. Becky Winstead is the vice president of domestic violence services at Remedies Renewing Lives in Rockford. She says survivors seeking assistance often wait for the moment when their partner leaves to go to work. “If they’re not working and they’re staying at home, it’s going to be even harder to reach out for help,” said Winstead. But domestic violence services are still available across the state. Remedies Renewing Lives’ 24-hour domestic violence hotline is still open. Winstead says they’ve had to cancel some face-to-face support groups, but counseling sessions are still being done over the phone. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233Peter Medlin, WNIJ News



News Around Illinois – March 25, 2020

Illinois Could Need 38K More Beds If Virus Isn’t Contained

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. J.B. Pritzker says Illinois would need tens of thousands of additional hospital beds for COVID-19 patients within the next two weeks in a worst-case scenario amid a pandemic that has now claimed 16 lives in the state. The Democrat said at his daily briefing that the state would need almost 38,000 additional hospital beds, including more than 9,000 in intensive-care units, along with nearly 5,000 ventilators, if containment strategies aren’t successful. The administration is evaluating closed hospitals for temporary reuse and setting up triage centers outside existing hospitals to evaluate potential patients. – Associated Press

East-Central Illinois Health Care Providers Now Accepting Cloth Mask Donations

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign County health care providers and public health officials say area facilities have received offers from volunteers interested in donating homemade cloth masks, according to a news release. Area facilities “currently have sufficient supply of surgical masks and other PPE and continue to follow guidelines for the safety of patients and staff,” the statement reads. But Champaign county facilities have created a way for community members to contribute cloth masks, because, while they don’t prevent COVID-19 and aren’t recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use by the general public, they can help prevent the spread of germs when worn by people who are sick. For those who wish to make masks, area providers encourage people to follow the directions available in this video on YouTube and email when masks are ready for pickup, bundled in groups of 25 in ziplock bags. Read the full story here.  – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Businesses Adapting To Physical Distance Order

CHAMPAIGN – Governor J.B. Prizker’s coronavirus Stay-At-Home order is changing the landscape for Illinois businesses. One such business is Rogards, a century-old office equipment supplier in Champaign. President and CEO Tonya Horn says that to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, their delivery crews now carry plenty of hand sanitizer, and practice “no-contact” delivery techniques.  “You know, pretty much dropping things off at a front desk or in a foyer or at a delivery dock, things like that,” said Horn. “A lot of times we do some pretty extensive inside delivery. So we’ve cut back on that for right now.” Horn says if the current restrictions continue for more than a month, many small businesses like hers will be in trouble. And she would hope for a government grant, loan or payroll tax deduction to continue. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

FAA Reopens Midway Air Traffic Control Tower Closed By Virus

CHICAGO — The Federal Aviation Administration has reopened the air traffic control tower at Chicago’s Midway International Airport. The FAA closed the tower last week after three workers tested positive for the coronavirus. The FAA kept the airport open despite the control tower’s closing and subsequent cleaning. Flights into and out of Chicago’s second-largest airport were curtailed with traffic being directed from an alternate control facility located outside the city. In announcing the airport’s reopening Tuesday, the FAA did not address whether other workers at Midway had been tested or asked to self-quarantine. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 24, 2020

Pritzker Works With Manufacturers To Boost Medical Supply Orders

CHICAGO – Governor J.B. Pritzker in his daily COVID-19 briefing on Monday says he has  linked together the state’s manufacturers and biotech industries to boost production of medical supplies. Manufacturers in both industries were asked to focus production on essentials such as N95 masks, gloves, gowns, ventilators and sanitizer. Pritzker says as the federal government has failed to provide needed medical items, his staff has been trying to work out deals with companies throughout the world. Meanwhile, Pritzker said he had spoken to President Donald J. Trump on Monday to get more federal help in supplying states with essential equipment. – Maureen McKinney, NPR Illinois

Food Bank Donations Down But Demand Increasing

URBANA – The coronavirus pandemic is affecting food banks across Illinois. Many have seen a decline in volunteers and donations, even as the number of food-insecure people increases due to lost jobs. That’s according to Molly Delaney, Vice President of Development for the Eastern Illinois Food Bank. Speaking on WILL’s The 21st show, she says food pantries are doing all they can to meet the increased need. “With a few exceptions, our network of 170 partner agencies and programs remain open and continue to serve,” said Delaney. “At this point, we’re continuing to function. One of the difficult things is that communication, making sure we are getting all the information out as quickly and accurately as we can.” Delaney says anyone in need of food at this time should call their local food pantry ahead of time to confirm hours of operation. The organization Feeding America estimates more than 1.3 million people in Illinois struggle with hunger. Roughly a third of them are children. Click here for a complete list of food banks, animal shelters and other organizations where you can donate.Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois State’s Unemployment System Inundated

SPRINGFIELD – Governor J.B. Pritzker Monday acknowledged that the state’s unemployment request system had been overwhelmed. He said the number of claims was unprecedented even as compared to the 2008 recession. Tens of thousands filed for jobless benefits in the days after the governor ordered closures for bars, restaurants and nonessential businesses. “We found over the weekend and over the last couple days of the week that the systems that we had that were supporting the online applications wasn’t robust enough to take all of the applications that were coming in at one time,” said Pritzker. A new software system was put in the place and staff to take phone calls has been moved from nonessential positions, he said. He urged that those seeking unemployment go online to make claims and said he believes the move to the new software platform will make the process less frustrating for residents. – Maureen McKinney, NPR Illinois

Chicago Reserving Hotels For Isolation Or Quarantine Needs

CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the city plans to reserve thousands of hotel rooms for people with mild cases of the coronavirus and others unable to return to their homes while awaiting test results. Lightfoot announced Monday that the city has partnered with five hotels and will have 1,000 rooms available by Tuesday. Chicago officials describe the plan as a proactive measure to keep hospital beds available for people with severe symptoms. Illinois officials have reported 1,285 cases as of Monday and 12 deaths; that’s up from 1,049 cases and nine deaths on Sunday. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 23, 2020

Illinois COVID-19 Cases Top 1,000

URBANA – The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 296 new cases of coronavirus disease in Illinois. The number of cases now stands at 1,049 in 30 counties.  There are also three new deaths: a Cook County man in his 80s, a Chicago man in his 80s and a woman in her 70s from McLean County. The youngest patient in the state is an infant (younger than one). The oldest is 99-years-old. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Champaign County Coronavirus Cases Grow To 3

CHAMPAIGN – Two more Champaign County residents tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. Both are University of Illinois  Urbana-Champaign employees, one in his 30s and one in his 50s. They are the first confirmed cases within the campus community. They’re both at home recovering, and while public health officials are reaching out to those who may have come into contact with the infected individuals, they say the risk of transmission is low. The two new cases brings the total known cases in Champaign County to three. The first was announced on March 15. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Grocery Stores Looking For Workers As Others Begin Layoffs

NORMAL – Many grocery stores in Illinois are in a hiring frenzy as they struggle to keep their shelves stocked, their stores clean and their workers healthy amid the COVID-19 response. Kroger stores have said they can put applicants on the job within days and will pay up to two weeks if an employee contracts COVID-19 or is forced to quarantine. Meijer is hiring to help meet increased demand for its delivery and pickup services. Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club say they are providing bonuses to hourly staff. Wal-Mart says it is hiring 150,000 workers nationwide. Jewel-Osco said it has 3,000 job openings for part-time in-store employees, delivery drivers and workers in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. – Eric Stock, WGLT News

Dental Society Recommends Medical Donations

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Dental Society has recommended that its doctors keep their offices closed except to perform emergency services. The guidelines are intended to protect both dentists and patients, says Dental Society spokeswoman, Dr. Alice Boghosian. She practices in suburban Park Ridge. “Under no circumstances would I, as a patient, visit a dentist for a routine procedure feel that it’s critical that we make the public aware that it is not a good idea,’ said Boghosian. Emergency services that would be provided include severe pain, uncontrollable bleeding, extreme swelling that impedes breathing, infection or trauma such as a fall causing the loss of a tooth. – Maureen McKinney, NPR Illinois

Many Caterpillar Workers To Work From Home

DEERFIELD – Thousands of Caterpillar workers will continue heading to work classified as essential employees under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive stay-at-home order meant to control the spread of COVID-19. A Caterpillar spokeswoman said via e-mail Sunday that the earth moving giant’s Illinois facilities will continue to operate while adhering to Pritzker’s executive order. She says employee health, safety, and well-being remain a “top priority.” The governor’s executive order exempts many types of businesses, including those considered vital to continuing to keep the supply chain flowing. – Tim Shelley, Peoria Public Radio

Civil rights activist and Emmett Till relative dies at 50

CHICAGO — A relative of Emmett Till who spent her life educating others about the legacy of the black teenage lynching victim through her foundation has died. Airickca Gordon-Taylor was 50. Her family says the suburban Chicago woman died early Saturday after decades of kidney problems. Her mother, Ollie Gordon, was Till’s cousin. Gordon says her daughter was a fighter for equal justice. Gordon-Taylor started the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation in 2009. It was named after Till’s mother, whom she considered a surrogate mother. Till’s brutal death in 1955 helped energize the civil rights movement. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 21/22, 2020

Illinois Governor Imposes Stay-At-Home Order To Curb Virus

CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has ordered the state’s residents to remain in their homes except for essential needs, joining similar efforts in California and New York to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Pritzker’s order announced Friday will still allow the state’s 12.6 million residents to seek essentials including groceries and medicine. The order will take effect Saturday and last through April 7. Pritzker says the move could potentially prevent tens of thousands” of deaths. He says people can continue to shop for groceries, visit pharmacies and gas stations, exercise outdoors and pick up meals from restaurants. Click here for details of the order. – Associated Press

Illinois: Woman Dies From Coronavirus; Cases Grow To 585

URBANA – The Illinois Dept of Public Health announced 163 new cases of the coronavirus in our state. A woman in Cook county in her 70s is the latest person to die. She’s also the fifth person to die. Right now, the state says there are a total of 585 COVID-19 cases in 25 counties in Illinois. Those affected range from ages 3 to 99. Additionally the state is working with the US Department of Health and Human Services, Wal-Mart and Walgreens to set up drive-thru testing in the hardest hit areas of the state. – Reginald Hardwick/Illinois Newsroom

Weather Service Says 2 Tornadoes Struck Southern Illinois

SUNFIELD — The National Weather Service says preliminary findings by surveyors indicate damage done to structures in two southern Illinois counties was caused by two tornadoes. One person was slightly injured and about a dozen homes were damaged Thursday in Hamilton and Perry counties. A tornado, estimated to be 125 yards wide, traveled a little over three miles through the town of Sunfield in Perry County. Surveyors estimate the twister reached peak winds of 100 mph. Surveyors estimate the second tornado, nearly 300 yards wide with peak winds of an estimated 110 mph, hit Dahlgren. Authorities say trees in both communities were snapped or uprooted and power lines downed. – Associated Press

Oberweis Declared Winner Of 14th District GOP Primary

CHICAGO —  Illinois state Sen. Jim Oberweis has come out on top in the scrum of Republican candidates seeking to reclaim the 14th District U.S. congressional seat from first-term Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood. The Associated Press on Friday declared Oberweis the winner over six other candidates in Tuesday’s Republican primary. Underwood flipped the longtime GOP seat in 2018 when she defeated Rep Randy Hultgren, who was elected in 2010. The 14th District, west of Chicago, includes city suburbs and rural areas. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – March 20, 2020

Illinois Officials: 3 More Dead, 422 Now Positive For Virus

CHICAGO — Illinois public health officials say three more people have died after contracting the coronavirus and 422 people statewide have now tested positive for the disease caused by the virus. A total of four people have died in the state as a result of COVID-19. Earlier Thursday, Chicago officials ordered all people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 or showing symptoms of the disease caused by it to stay indoors. Mayor Lori Lightfoot also announced extended school closures by several weeks, saying the nation’s third-largest school district would remain closed through April 20.  – Associated Press

Champaign County Brookens Center Now Off Limits To The Public

URBANA – UPDATE: The Champaign County Brookens Administrative Center is Urbana is now completely closed to the public. County Executive Darlene Kloepple announced the closing Friday, effective immediately and continuing through April 7, in response to Governor Pritkzer’s “stay at home” order. The move comes after the several county offices at the Brookens Center and the Champaign County Courthouse had already been closed to public visits.  County offices can still be reached by phone, email and the Champaign County website.  Property tax payments can be left at a drop box at the front entrance of the Brookens Center, near the flagpole. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom, 3/20/20 4:45 PM

Health & Hospitals Asking For Equipment Donations

PEORIA – The Illinois Health and Hospital Association is asking for donations of face masks, respirators, and other personal protective equipment for hospital workers tackling COVID-19 cases. Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson says the requests are coming in “full-force.” She says local emergency management agencies are working with federal and state agencies to procure supplies, but that might not be enough. “It is getting to the point where we are asking as much as we can around community partners that are closing down shops, such as dentists or someplace where they do elective procedures, to bring in the supplies to our first responders,” said Hendrickson. She says maintaining a stash of equipment is one of the reasons why it’s important to control who’s visiting the ER. Medical personnel are now wearing extra gear when seeing people with flu-like symptoms. – Tim Shelley, Peoria Public Radio

Man Faces Federal Charges In Illinois Trooper’s Killing 

EAST ST. LOUIS — A federal grand jury has indicted a southern Illinois man accused of fatally shooting a state trooper on drug and weapons charges. U.S. Attorney Steven Weinhoeft announced Thursday that 46-year-old Christopher R. Grant of East St. Louis, faces eight counts including using a firearm to murder Illinois State Trooper Nicholas Hopkins in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense. The 33-year-old Hopkins was fatally shot Aug. 23 while serving a search warrant. Grant also faces three counts of distributing crack cocaine, maintaining a drug house and other charges. Online court records don’t list an attorney for Grant. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 19, 2020

Ill. Virus Cases Top 200, Include 42 Tied To Nursing Home

CHICAGO — Illinois officials say an additional 128 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the state, including 20 more individuals living or working at a nursing home in a southwestern suburb of Chicago. The additional results announced Wednesday by the Illinois Department of Public Health bring the state’s total to 288 cases in 17 counties. The patients have ranged in age from 9 to 91. Operations at Chicago’s Midway International Airport also remained limited Wednesday after technicians’ positive tests for the coronavirus prompted federal authorities to close the control tower. The city’s Department of Aviation urges travelers to check with their airlines about flight plans. – Associated Press

Health Providers Launch COVID-19 Hotlines, Digital Screenings, Drive-Thru Sample Collection

URBANA – Hospitals and clinics across east-central Illinois are seeing an uptick in calls from people concerned about the coronavirus. In response, many are developing tools to help answer questions and determine whether people need to seek medical care. Carle Health System has created new coronavirus screening tools for people experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, such as fever, dry cough and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Tools include an online survey to assess a patient’s risk and a dedicated COVID-19 hotline. OSF Healthcare has launched a virtual assistant chatbot on its website and has created a free text messaging tool. Christie Clinic now has a drive-thru for collecting samples from patients who may have the illness. Click here for more information. – Christine Herman and Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Visitation Restricted at Veterans Health Care Hospitals & Clinics

DANVILLE – To help limit the spread of the coronavirus, the VA Illiana Health Care System announced “no visitors of any age will be allowed to enter the medical center or CBOC facilities.” The policy includes the main facility in Danville and outpatient clinics in  Bloomington, Decatur, Mattoon, Peoria and Springfield. Exceptions will be made if the visitor is essential for supporting patient care activities or visiting a patient with grave illness or imminent death of a family member under care in the facility. Those visitors will be subjected to pre-screening prior to admission. Veterans who have flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath are encouraged to call the nurse triage line at 1-888-598-7793, before visiting their provider at the VA medical center or local VA clinic. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Despite Virus Outbreak, Search For SIU Chancellor Continues

CARBONDALE — The search for a chancellor at Southern Illinois University will continue despite the coronavirus outbreak. The Southern Illinoisan reports that in a letter to faculty and other university stakeholders, President Dan Mahony said a search committee has been reviewing application materials and screening candidates for the past two months and recently settled on finalists. Mahony says the coronavirus pandemic will limit large face-to-face participation in campus interviews of finalists. Typically, chancellor candidates meet with various public interest groups on campus to introduce themselves and answer questions before a decision is made. – Associated Press

Neville Keeps Seat In Crowded Primary For Supreme Court

CHICAGO — Illinois Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville Jr. has won the primary election to keep his seat on the high court. He’s emerged from a field of a six other Democrats. No Republicans ran, making him the presumed winner in November for the 10-year term. Democrat Charles Freeman, who died this month, held the post from 1990 to 2018, when he retired. He was the court’s first black judge. Neville, who is black, was appointed to finish the term. He was formerly a First District Appellate Court justice. The other challengers included five 1st District appellate justices and an attorney. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 18, 2020

Currently, there are 160 individuals in 15 Illinois counties who have tested positive for COVID-19. Click here for a map of the affected counties and other resources from WILL’s Coronavirus Information Center.

Chicago Woman In 60s Is State’s 1st COVID-19 Patient Death

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the first death in Illinois of a person who tested positive for the coronavirus. The victim was a Chicago woman in her 60s who had an underlying health condition. The only additional information Pritzker released about the woman on Tuesday was that she was not a nursing home patient. The Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting 160 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, among them are 18 residents of a nursing home and four members of the facility’s staff. For most people, the novel coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. Older adults and people with existing health problems can develop more severe illness. – Associated Press

Biden Wins Illinois Primary, Widening Lead Over Sanders

CHICAGO — Former Vice President Joe Biden has won the Illinois Democratic primary for president, widening his lead over rival Bernie Sanders in an election complicated by the coronavirus pandemic. Biden also won in Florida, which along with Arizona held its primary Tuesday. Ohio delayed in-person voting until June amid the COVID-19 outbreak, but Illinois officials declined to postpone. The virus caused problems including polling places that didn’t open and lower than usual voter turnout in some areas. Other races were on the ballot, including for Congress and Legislature. – Associated Press

Opponents for 13th and 15th Congressional Races Set

Left: Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (D) Right: Rodney Davis (R)

URBANA – The 13th congressional district appears headed for a rematch in November. Springfield native Betsy Dirksen Londrigan bested her Democratic opponent Stefanie Smith in Tuesday’s Illinois primary. She will now challenge Republican incumbent Rodney Davis. Londrigan lost to Davis in the 2018 race by a slim margin. The sprawling 13th Congressional District includes parts of Bloomington-Normal, Springfield, Champaign-Urbana, and Decatur. Experts say both campaigns have already built up war chests and the race may become one of the most expensive in the state. 


Left: Erika Weaver (D) Right: Mary Miller (R)

Meanwhile, attorney Erika Weaver beat three opponents in the Democratic primary in the 15th congressional district. On the Republican side, farmer Mary Miller bested three opponents to run in the general election. Both women are vying to replace Rep. John Shimkus (R), who is retiring. Illinois’ 15th congressional district is larger in land size than the state of Maryland. It stretches north to Rantoul, south to the Kentucky border, and west to the east St. Louis suburbs. Click here to learn more about all of the candidates.Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom


Funeral Association Recommends Smaller Services

PEORIA – The Illinois Funeral Directors Association is recommending no more than 10 people attend funerals, visitations, and graveside services for the foreseeable future. This is in accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Greg Henderson, president of the funeral directors association, says all services of more than 10 people should be canceled. He says viewings will only be held for embalmed bodies. – Tim Shelley, Peoria Public Radio

University of Illinois Cancels May Commencement Ceremonies

URBANA – University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen announced Tuesday that May commencement ceremonies in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield will not take place as scheduled. In a statement to students, parents, faculty and staff, the university said diplomas will be mailed. The university system is also exploring ways to hold virtual events to honor the graduating class. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

News Around Illinois – March 17, 2020

Currently, there are 105 individuals in 15 Illinois counties who have tested positive for COVID-19. Click here for a map of the affected counties and other resources from WILL’s Coronavirus Information Center.

Illinois Governor: Election Still On, Despite Virus Concerns

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker says the primary election in Illinois will proceed despite a spreading COVID-19 and new federal suggestions that gatherings of 10 or more people be avoided. Pritzker pointed to Tuesday’s election as a touchstone of normalcy in a chaotic time. His state public health director reported that the number of cases in Illinois has hit 105 in 15 counties. Illinois elections officials scrambled to avoid voting disruptions while the Illinois House canceled legislative sessions until further notice. – Associated Press

Coronavirus Concerns Cause Cancellations

MACON COUNTY – Concerns about the coronavirus have affected the ranks of election judges for Tuesday’s primary election in one central Illinois county. Macon County Clerk Josh Tanner says more than 70 of his election judges have dropped out in the days leading up to the primary more than twice the usual number. “We’ve had a lot of election judges who’ve fallen into the category where they’ve been recommended not to go out in public,” said Tanner. “And so they’ve called us to cancel. And since this has been a relatively recent event, it’s been difficult to fill all those vacancies.” As of Monday evening, Tanner said he had enough replacements to fill all the vacancies. But he says many of them have less experience than the election judges who dropped out. Tanner says Macon County typically requires about 350 election judges to staff polling places at each election. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Pritzker Endorses Biden On Eve of Illinois Primary

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker is endorsing Joe Biden for president on the eve of Illinois’ primary, saying the Democratic former vice president “is the right candidate to beat Donald Trump and lead us into a new era.” Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are facing off on Tuesday in Illinois. Pritzker had held off endorsing any of the candidates in the once-crowded Democratic field. His team told the Chicago Sun-Times that Pritzker opted to give his endorsement on Monday because he wanted to remind residents of the importance of voting despite the COVID-19 pandemic. – Associated Press

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Suspends Face To Face Courses; Asks Students To Move Home

URBANA – In the latest effort to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 disease, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign says it will suspend face-to-face instruction for the rest of the spring 2020 semester. Also, students in residence halls and Greek housing are being asked to begin to move out. The university wants students to return to their permanent home address to take the rest of their classes online. The details were spelled out in an email to students, faculty and staff on Monday afternoon from Robert J. Jones, Chancellor of U of I Urbana-Champaign. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

COVID-19 Update from Champaign County 

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign County Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde says coronavirus tests are pending for more than 80 people; 13 negative results have been received so far. The county has one confirmed COVID-19 case, which was first announced Sunday, involving a woman in her 50s who reported having contact with people who recently traveled to Italy. Efforts to conduct coronavirus testing locally are still in progress. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

News Around Illinois – March 16, 2020

Currently, there are 93 individuals in 13 Illinois counties who have tested positive for COVID-19. Click here for a map of the affected counties and other resources from WILL’s Coronavirus Information Center.

Champaign County Woman Diagnosed With COVID-19

URBANA – Champaign County’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 is a woman in her fifties. She called the office of her primary physician’s office before going to Carle Hospital’s Emergency Department in Urbana to be checked out. Local public health officials announced the diagnosis on Sunday. The patient was not hospitalized, but was tested for COVID-19. She is now recovering in home isolation.  – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Danville City Buildings Shut Down For Two Weeks

DANVILLE – Danville city buildings will be closed to the public for the next two weeks, to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The closure affects Danville’s city hall, police and fire, public works and mass transit administration buildings. Mayor Rickey Williams, Jr. says city employees will report to work as usual, but public contact will be limited to phone and email. And since many businesses and vendors make payments and submit reports in person at Danville city buildings, any impending deadlines have been extended by 14 days. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Shuts Down Bars, Restaurants Due To Coronavirus

CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to close to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The Democratic governor said Sunday the closure will take effect Monday night and run through March 30. Officials in other parts of the country said they are considering similar restrictions after revelers ignored warnings against attending large gatherings. – Associated Press

Many State Workers May Telecommute Soon

SPRINGFIELD – Many state government workers in Illinois are being told to prepare to work from home.  It’s another change to slow down the coronavirus spread. Governor J.B. Pritzker says plans are being made.  “These changes will roll out over the coming days and state workers should expect communication from their agency directors shortly,” said Pritzker on Sunday. Pritzker also says some government functions could be reduced, but essential operations will continue.  AFSCME, the state’s largest employee union, supports the move.  The Governor says all employees will be paid during the period. – Sean Crawford, NPR Illinois

Illinois Primary Races For US House and Senate On Tuesday

CHICAGO — Competitive primaries for the House and Senate are being held across Illinois. Five Republicans are vying for the uphill battle of unseating U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, while U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski faces a strong primary challenge from small business owner Marie Newman and two others. Tuesday’s contest also features the only open congressional primary in Illinois. The impending retirement of U.S. Rep. John Shimkus has triggered a spirited primary in southeastern Illinois. Voters will also choose Republicans to face U.S. Reps. Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood in November. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – March 13, 2020

Champaign Mayor Declares Emergency, Ebert Fest Canceled

CHAMPAIGN – On Thursday, Champaign mayor Deborah Frank Feinen issued an Executive Order related to the COVID-19 virus. The action will give the city increased flexibility to operate during emergency operations. On Friday, the city council will hold a special emergency meeting to consider passing an ordinance related to the order.  Meanwhile, the 22nd Annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival set to take place April 15-18  has been canceled as a result of concerns about the new coronavirus. The festival was co-founded by Chaz Ebert. It was scheduled to take place at the Virginia Theatre in downtown Champaign. As of now, there are no coronavirus cases reported in Champaign County. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Pritzker Asks Sports Teams To Cancel Games Or Bar Fans

CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is asking the owners of all the state’s major sports teams’ owners to cancel games or play without fans until May 1 in another move to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which affects 32 people in the state. Pritzker said during a news conference that he also is mandating events of 1,000 or more people be canceled or postponed immediately and requested that events of 250 people be canceled or postponed as well. Pritzker said he is not ordering schools to close. The governor is asking private businesses that can allow employees to work remotely. – Associated Press

IHSA Cancels March Madness Tournament Due To COVID-19 Concerns

PEORIA – Peoria Convention and Visitor’s Bureau CEO JD Dalfonso says it’s too soon assess the economic blow of spectator restrictions at this weekend’s IHSA Boys Basketball Tournament will have. He says the CVB estimated $4.4 million in local economic impact from the tournament over the next two weekends. But Dalfonso says those potential losses are secondary to public health. The IHSA implemented 60-person spectator restrictions at 1A and 2A basketball games at this weekend’s Peoria Civic Center tournament at the recommendation of the health department which is seeking to protect the community from COVID-19 exposure. – Tim Shelley, Peoria Public Radio

Senior Centers Closed To Stem Coronavirus

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department on Aging is closing senior centers across the state. Elderly people are more vulnerable to the coronavirus disease. Tessa French is with Senior Services of Central Illinois. She says loneliness and “social isolation” a big problems among older people but are secondary concerns to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We need to make sure that we keep our seniors safe so that they can continue to come back once we get this coronavirus under control and can open back up to the public,” said French. The state says there are 399 centers where senior citizens gather to eat lunch, see friends, and pursue hobbies. For now clients can still get boxed lunches. The state also wants meals-on-wheels programs to pick up some of the slack. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

State Farm Workers Told To Work From Home

BLOOMINGTON – State Farm has told about 15,000 employees in Bloomington Normal to work from home if they can. That extends to nearly 60,000 workers across the country. If they can’t work from home, the company urges them to talk to supervisors about paid administrative leave. State Farm is also closing its operations center in Dupont, Washington for two weeks. The company says it is not aware of any COVID-19 cases among its workers. State Farm also asks customers to be patient. – Charlie Schlenker, WGLT News

News Around Illinois – March 12, 2020

Illinois Colleges Suspend In-Person Classes Due To COVID-19

CHICAGO  — Illinois, DePaul, Northwestern and Illinois State universities have decided to suspend in-person classes due to coronavirus fears. The schools on Wednesday joined colleges and universities around the U.S. that have announced a halt to face-to-face instruction. None of the universities are reporting cases of COVID-19 on their campuses. In an e-mail to about 90,000 students at its campuses in Chicago, Champaign and Springfield, University of Illinois officials said there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus among faculty or students. However, in-person instruction was being halted to help curb its spread. Northwestern’s spring break will be extended one week until April 4 and then classes will be conducted remotely for at least three weeks. – Associated Press

Lawmakers Cancel Session

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois General Assembly is canceling its work days next week. Lawmakers say they’re doing their part to prevent  community spread of the coronavirus disease. Session days can draw thousands of people to the Illinois Capitol from legislators to everyday citizens. State Rep. Bob Morgan (D-Deerfield) says lawmakers should do what they can to protect the public. “We function and our whole existence relies on the ability of the public to access us,” said Deerfield. “And when that exact premise is what is putting people in danger, I think we have to be very, very thoughtful about that, and take the steps necessary to keep people safe.” Officials are also banning large groups from the Capitol Complex including rallies and school tours. Public health authorities say “social distancing” is one of the key ways to prevent or at least slow the spread of COVID-19. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

Secretary of State Office Questioned

SPRINGFIELD – Republicans are questioning whether the Illinois secretary of state’s office can handle being in charge of Automatic Voter Registration. The latest in a string of problems involved 1,100 people incorrectly “opted out” of voting. State Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield) says the agency’s front-line staff already has its hands full. “Renewing your driver’s licenses, figuring out REAL ID vs non REAL ID, your state ID vs. that…getting your registration for your car, everything like that,” said Butler. “They have a lot of other things to do other than registering people to vote.” Republicans want another meeting between Secretary of State Jesse White and local election authorities, and an independent audit of the state’s voter database. They also say the automatic voter registration system should be suspended, fixed, and back up and running by the end of 2021. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

2020 Census Launches Thursday

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois census officials say residents can begin filling out the 2020 US Census form online starting Thursday. Counting efforts are moving forward despite public health concerns about the spread of  COVID-19. Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou says in light of the new virus that’s so far affected the Chicagoland area, remote methods for filling out the nine question form are crucial. “There is an option, right, to do it online, by phone, or by mail, and I think potentially that’s an even more important message today more than ever: that there is an opportunity to do it on your own,” said Hou. Illinois has dedicated nearly $30 million to its counting efforts in the hopes of securing tens of billions of dollars in federal money that is based on its census count. Click here to fill out the online census form. –Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

News Around Illinois – March 11, 2020

Illinois COVID-19 Cases Increase To 19

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CHICAGO – State officials say Illinois now has 19 confirmed cases of coronavirus. The state identified eight new cases since yesterday afternoon – including a teenager from McHenry County. Dr. Ngozi Ezike is the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “Yes I know people will be concerned that they see a youth in this new identification of cases,” said Ezike. “Although we do have younger individuals The virus appears to show more severe illness in older adults.” Ezike says people older than 60 should limit their activities with other people, especially large indoor events. She says people should be prepared for the virus to start spreading more widely in Illinois. – Patrick Smith, WBEZ News  

School  Districts Preparing For Extended Closings 

McLEAN COUNTY – School districts that have run digital learning days during weather emergencies may be better prepared for extended closings from the coronavirus. But McLean County educators say prolonged e-learning poses its own challenges. Olympia superintendent Andrew Wise says e-learning has worked well, except for the 10 percent of students who lack reliable internet at home. Wise says he’s not sure the district has enough wifi cards for everyone. Unit 5 in Normal does not have any e-learning program and must now develop one. Bloomington School District 87 superintendent Barry Reilly says schools must now develop long-term lesson plans for online classes.  – Charlie Schlenker, WGLT News

Lawmakers Deciding If Childcare Can Be Paid By Campaign Funds

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois General Assembly is considering whether to allow money raised for political campaigns to be used for childcare. State Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) co-chaired the state’s Anti-Harassment, Equality, and Access Panel. She says she thinks it’s already legal to pay for childcare with campaign funds but that fact is not widely known. “Women didn’t run for office many times because they have childcare expenses and were not able to cover those expenses, and therefore many of them didn’t run for office,” said Bush. A spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections says there’s never been a complaint about the practice. He says the board has been asked about childcare in the past, and always said it was okay citing a law that lets officeholders use campaign money to cover “customary and reasonable expenses.” – Brian Mackey, Illinois Newsroom

Proposed Law Named For Ex-Inmate Limits Isolation In Prisons

CHICAGO (AP) — A man’s decades-long stay in isolation in an Illinois prison has prompted proposed legislation that would limit how long a prisoner can stay in solitary confinement. Called the Anthony Gay Isolated Confinement Restriction Act, the legislation would bar the Illinois Department of Corrections from placing an inmate in isolation for more than 10 days in a six-month period. Corrections would also be required to give isolated inmates access to therapy. Anthony Gay went to prison in 1994 for stealing a dollar bill and a hat. Behavior problems, including self-mutilation, added to his sentence. By the time he was released in August 2018, he had served 22 years in solitary. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 10, 2020

Lawmakers Pushing For Privacy Protections From Smart Speakers

SPRINGFIELD – A pair of Illinois lawmakers want privacy protections for data from smart appliances and virtual home assistants. State Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) says the information collected by those devices deserves the same protection as everything else in a home.  The legislation would require police to get a warrant before they could get information from devices like Alexa from Amazon or Siri from Apple. It would also require companies that share with third parties the data from those devices to disclose it on their websites. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

Grant Proposals Sought To Help With Shortage of Special Needs Educators

URBANA – The Illinois State Board of Education is calling for grant proposals to help school districts across the state grapple with a shortage of special education teachers and school psychologists. The grant totals $7.5 million dollars in federal aid. Barbara Moore is the director of special education for ISBE. Moore says whoever receives the grant will be expected to help schools create individualized plans for students with special needs which she says should help prevent the use of seclusion and restraint of students. Moore says grant recipients will be expected to conduct workshops and webinars on behavioral assessments and interventions. Statewide there are nearly 700 unfilled special education teaching positions, and almost 150 unfilled psychologist positions, according to ISBE. – Lee Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Pritzker Issues Disaster Declaration To Fight COVID-19

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker has announced four new cases of COVID-19 in Illinois and issued a disaster proclamation that will help the state respond to the potentially deadly virus. Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Monday that two of the new cases involve relatives of a patient diagnosed with the flu-like malady last week. The other two involve a woman who traveled to Illinois from California and a woman who recently returned from an Egyptian cruise. – Associated Press

Fourth Chicago Convention Canceled Due To Coronavirus Worry

CHICAGO — Fears of coronavirus transmission has prompted the cancellation of another event planned this month for Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center. The American College of Cardiology on Monday cancelled its annual World Congress of Cardiology, which was expected to attract 18,000 people March 28 through March 30. The organization said the decision followed updates and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Last week the International Housewares Association among other groups scrapped events scheduled for Chicago, causing the loss of about 100,000 visitors to the city. – Associated Press

Nobel-winning Physics Professor Donates Papers To Illinois

CHAMPAIGN — A Nobel Prize-winning physics professor has donated papers from more than 50 years of work to the University of Illinois Archives. Anthony Leggett was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics for contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids. He came to the university in 1983 as a physics professor. The donated material includes Leggett’s early correspondence, research and lectures, along with handwritten research notes and correspondence with other scholars. Leggett was born in London in 1938. He retired from the University of Illinois in December. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – March 9, 2020

Lawmakers Okay SNAP Participants To Use Benefits Online

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois House passed legislation this week meant to let recipients of food aid use their benefits online. Representative Anne Stava-Murray (D-Naperville) says not being able to spend food assistance on the web has directly hurt her constituents. “It really has been a struggle in my area specifically that food pantries won’t deliver, and they can’t use their snap benefits for online services. So this will help feed children in my district,” said Staya-Murray. Other backers say the legislation would also help home bound seniors and people with disabilities. If the measure becomes law, it would direct Illinois to apply for a test project within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or SNAP. So far people in four states are allowed to use SNAP benefits online. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Lake Land College Tuition Vote on Monday Night

MATTOON – Trustees at Lake Land College are scheduled to vote Monday night on a $5 per credit-hour tuition increase for the community college in Mattoon. The increase is described as a modest one by Vice President for Business Services Greg Nuxoll, and needed to maintain education quality while remaining affordable. If approved, in-district students at Lake Land would pay $110.50 per credit-hour, beginning in the fall. By comparison, trustees at Parkland College in Champaign voted last month to keep their tuition the same, while trustees at Danville Area Community College voted to raise fees by $5, but not tuition. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Trial Set To Begin In Southern Illinois Woman’s 2010 Death

JERSEYVILLE — The trial of a southern Illinois man charged with a woman’s murder is set to begin Monday, nearly ten years after she went missing. The Alton Telegraph reports that Roger Carroll is charged with three counts of first-degree murder, concealing a homicide and aggravated kidnapping in 48-year-old Bonnie Woodward’s death. Two weeks have been reserved for the trial. Woodward was last seen in June 2010 outside her work, a nursing home in Alton. Authorities considered Carroll a suspect at the time of Woodward’s disappearance because fingerprints found on her truck matched his. – Associated Press

Illinois Campaign Focused On Marijuana Use Education

CHICAGO — Illinois officials launched a new statewide campaign this week focused on health and safety information for people who use marijuana. The campaign is centered around a new website, and advertisements via social media, digital media and radio. The Illinois Department of Human Services developed the campaign with Prevention First, a nonprofit that offers substance use prevention services, and Rescue, a communications agency. Illinois began broadly allowing the sale and use of cannabis products by adults in January, becoming the 11th state with a similar approach to the drug that remains federally illegal. –Associated Press

Town’s Leaning Tower Replica Will Play New Tunes

NILES — A half-scale replica of Italy’s famed Leaning Tower of Pisa in suburban Chicago is undergoing some renovations. The tower in Niles was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. The bells are now being restored. Once they’re back in action, they will be playing some new tunes. The founder of a group called Community Bell Advocates says she arranged a collection of “familiar tunes” for the seven bells to play. One such tune is “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The tower was built in 1934 by businessman Robert Ilg as part of a park for his company’s workers. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 6, 2020

Lawmakers Hear How Greenhouse Gas Emissions Are Being Cut

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois state senators heard testimony Thursday from environmental groups and power companies on how to curb future greenhouse gas emissions and what’s being done to do that right now. Utilities like Commonwealth Edison say they are meeting clean energy goals set out by agreements like the Paris Climate Accord with existing nuclear technology. Some environmental advocates, though, say a measure called the Clean Energy Jobs Act would do more to reduce CO-2 emissions by increasing state investment in the clean energy sector. Governor JB Pritzker says approving some form of energy legislation is a priority for his administration. Data from the federal government shows Illinois utilities give off the sixth highest amount of carbon dioxide in the nation. – Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

R. Kelly Pleads Not Guilty; Feds Say New Charges Planned

CHICAGO  — R&B singer R Kelly has pleaded not guilty to a 13-count federal indictment that includes child pornography charges and allegations involving a new accuser. An attorney for the 53-year-old musician entered the plea on his behalf in Chicago federal court on Thursday. Kelly stood silently beside his attorney in orange jail garb. The superseding indictment unsealed last month includes multiple counts of child pornography. Prosecutors say another superseding indictment is expected in the coming weeks, but provided no details. Kelly faces several dozen counts of state and federal sexual misconduct charges in Illinois, Minnesota and New York. He has denied abusing anyone. – Associated Press

Correctional Officers Charged With Sexual Misconduct

MARION — Two southern Illinois correctional officers have been charged with custodial sexual misconduct for an alleged assault on several women in their custody. Williamson County Sheriff Bennie Vick announced Thursday that in addition to the custodial sexual misconduct charges, officers Russel Herzog and Brandon Elam have been charged with official misconduct. Elam is alleged to have offered special treatment to three women in exchange for them “fondling their sex organs” in front of him. Herzog allegedly made the same offer to two women. The prosecution of the men is being handled by Union County State’s Attorney Dan Klingemann. – Associated Press

Body Of Former ‘Jane Doe’ Reburied In Illinois Next To Kin

BELVIDERE — The body of a woman whose identity was unknown for 20 years following her 1999 death has been moved from a cemetery in Wisconsin and reburied next to her family in Illinois. Peggy Lynn Johnson was known as “Jane Doe” until last November when investigators were able to identify her and arrested 64-year-old Linda La Roche in connection to Johnson’s death. According to WDJT-TV, investigators say she was 23 when she was killed. Her body was found in a Wisconsin cornfield. Her burial was held Wednesday in Belvidere. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 5, 2020

Involve Women In Policy That Involves Women: Report

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois officials say the state should be doing more to level the playing field for women and girls. A council working toward that goal released its first annual report on Wednesday. Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton is leading the Illinois Council on Women and Girls, which is working to provide women with more leadership roles, increase economic and academic opportunities, and address barriers such as gender-based violence and issues related to health and healthcare. Stratton and other lawmakers said these barriers have been preventing women from reaching their full earning potential. The council also wants to empower women and girls to take on issues facing their communities. –  Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

State Economy Is Not Doing Badly: Report

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois economy is in “decent shape” for a state that still has significant problems. That’s one of the key points of a report by Moody’s Analytics, prepared for the General Assembly’s non-partisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. Analyst Jim Muschinske says compared to how the state was doing a few years ago, Illinois is in a “better place.” Among the issues identified by the report are “a slowdown in manufacturing, poor agricultural conditions, and numerous demographic and fiscal problems.” Experts say the trade war with China had a significant effect on the state’s agricultural exports and although a new deal is in place, the rise of coronavirus could interfere with a recovery. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

State Police Identify 3 Victims Of Plane Crash

LINCOLN — A former Bradley University baseball player was among the three people killed when a small airplane crashed on the median of an interstate highway near Lincoln. Illinois State Police announced Wednesday the victims of Tuesday’s crash were 22-year-old Mitchell W. Janssen of Princeville; 33-year-old Matthew Hanson of Pulaski, Wisconsin and 30-year-old Kevin Chapman of Urbana. Janssen, a right-handed pitcher who attended Bradley from 2015 to 2019, was piloting the single-engine Cessna 172 when it crashed on Interstate-55 and burst into flames. The National Transportation Safety Board is looking into the cause of the crash. – Associated Press

United Is First To Cut US Flying Due To Virus Outbreak

CHICAGO – United Airlines is cutting back on flights both internationally and within the United States as it grapples with lower travel demand because of the new virus outbreak. United is also asking employees to volunteer for unpaid time off. The news on Wednesday is the clearest yet of the damage that the coronavirus outbreak is having on the U.S. airline industry. The CEOs of several airlines went to the White House to discuss the impact of the outbreak on travel. The administration is seeking the airlines’ help in tracing travelers who might have come in contact with people ill with COVID-19. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – March 4, 2020

Police: 3 Die In Plane Crash On I-55 In Central Illinois

LINCOLN — State police say three people died when a small plane crashed and burst into flames on Interstate 55 in central Illinois. Mindy Carroll of the Illinois State Police said in a statement that all three occupants of the plane were killed in the crash in Lincoln at about 8:49 a.m. Tuesday. The National Transportation Safety Board has described the aircraft as a single-engine Cessna 172. Authorities have not described what caused the crash. The NTSB says it is investigating. The Federal Aviation Administration is responding to the scene.  – Associated Press

Illinois City To Pay $11M In Wrongful Conviction Settlements

ROCKFORD — Three men who say they were framed by police in the 2002 murder of a boy will each receive $3.7 million in a settlement with a northern Illinois city. Thirty-nine-year-old Anthony S. Ross, 38-year-old Tyjuan T. Anderson and 46-year-old Lumont D. Johnson were imprisoned for more than a decade after their sentencing to 50 years for killing 8-year-old DeMarcus Hanson in Rockford. Their convictions were overturned in 2015 and they filed wrongful conviction lawsuits against Rockford. The Rockford Register Star reports that the city agreed Monday to pay each of them $3.7 million after former police detective Doug Palmer testified that he had fabricated evidence and coerced testimony. – Associated Press

Panel Recommends Disbarment For Ex-Illinois Gov. Blagojevich

CHICAGO — A panel of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission has recommended that former governor Rod Blagojevich’s suspended law license be permanently revoked. The panel’s ruling Tuesday came a week after commission attorneys reminded the three-member panel about some of the things that led to Blagojevich’s conviction on corruption charges and 14-year prison sentence. In its four-page decision, the panel noted that Blagojevich sought to “further his own interests” as governor despite his oath of office and “has not acknowledged that his conduct was wrongful or expressed any remorse.” The Illinois Supreme Court would have to approve the panel’s decision before Blagojevich could be disbarred. – Associated Press

Lawmakers Consider Adding “Sexting” To State’s Sex Education Curriculum

SPRINGFIELD – Under the proposal, schools that are already offering sex education for grades 6 through 12 grades would have to teach about the consequences of sexting. Parents would be able to opt their children out of such lessons. State Representative Maurice West, a Democrat from Rockford, is sponsoring the legislation. He says many students do not understand the consequences of sharing a sexually explicit text, which could include felony charges. West says education is key, because it would be difficult to change the law to keep teens from getting in trouble. Even if a sext is consensual between minors, West says anyone convicted of distributing the material would have to register as a sex offender. Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois


News Around Illinois – March 3, 2020

Illinois Officials Announce 4th Positive Test For Virus

CHICAGO — Health officials say a person in Illinois has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the fourth suspected case in the state. The woman is the spouse of the third patient, whose case was announced over the weekend. The Illinois and Cook County public health departments made the announcement Monday. Officials say the unidentified patient, a woman in her 70s, is quarantined at home and reported to be in good condition. The number of U.S. cases climbed to over 100 and the country recorded its sixth death. – Associated Press

Illinois Praised For Handling Of Legionnaires Cases

SPRINGFIELD – A national group is praising Illinois for taking the initiative to control sporadic cases of Legionnaires Disease in the state. National water safety expert Bob Bowcock says the federal government should come up with a nationwide standard modeled after regulations in the state of Illinois. Legionnaires’ Disease made headlines in Illinois two years ago — after public radio station WBEZ reported more than a dozen deaths at the state-run veterans’ home in Quincy. Exposure to the disease comes from breathing water vapor — like the steam of a hot shower. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 569 cases of Legionnaires Disease last year, with 43 fatalities. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

1st African American On Illinois High Court Dies At 86

Justice Charles E. Freeman

CHICAGO  — The first African American to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court has died at 86.  A statement from the state’s high court says Charles E. Freeman died on Monday, though it didn’t specify a cause of death. Current Chief Justice Anne M. Burke heralded Freeman as someone with a sharp legal mind who broke down barriers throughout his life.  She calls him a “trailblazer” who was also a “gentleman” who never had an unkind word to say about anyone. Freeman was also the first African American to become chief justice on the court. He won election to the open seat in 1990 and retired in 2018. Freeman is survived by his son, Kevin Freeman, two grandchildren and a brother in Virginia. – Associated Press



Proposed Program Would Create College Savings For Children Of The Incarcerated

CHAMPAIGN – Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton and State Treasurer Michael Frerichs have proposed creating college savings accounts specifically for children of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. The two government officials hosted a discussion about the idea Monday afternoon in Champaign. Stratton had few details to share about how such a program would work. She says the first step is to gather input from stakeholders. Stratton leads the Justice Equity and Opportunity initiative, which is tasked with recommending criminal and social justice reforms. Frerich’s office already operates two college savings programs for families in the state. Stratton says they plan to host another discussion about the idea in southern Illinois. – Lee V. Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

News Around Illinois – March 2, 2020

Bill Would Allow Parents To Opt Students Out of Shooter Drills

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois lawmakers are considering whether parents should be allowed to keep their children from participating in active shooter drills at school. Some parents and school personnel say the exercises have a negative effect on children. State Sen. Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) said he’s not against active shooter training, but he said it should be conducted with more sensitivity. Bennett said there are more effective ways to prepare students and administrators for drills, like practicing basic lock down procedures. Since 2013 Illinois law has required schools to conduct active shooter drills, but it was left up to the school district on whether or not to involve students. But in 2018, the state mandated that children participate in the exercises, which must be conducted within the first 90 days of the school year. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Illinois Bill Requires Rules For Native American Mascot Use

ROCKFORD — A Rockford lawmaker has proposed a bill requiring Illinois schools with Native American mascots and logos to meet certain requirements and failure to meet them would make the school ineligible to participate in playoff competitions. The Rockford Register Star reports state Rep. Maurice West pitched the amendment after students at Hononegah High School led a protest over the use of the Princess Hononegah Indian mascot and other Native American imagery and iconography. Hononegah students however, have asked the school board to completely end the school’s tradition of having a cheerleader dress as an Indian princess and dance at sporting events. – Associated Press

Former State Rep. Costello To Head Agriculture Department

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker has tapped another former legislator to be director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Pritzker on Friday named Jerry Costello II as acting director, a job which pays $157,000 annually. The 51-year-old former state representative has been director of law enforcement for the Department of Natural Resources since leaving the General Assembly in May 2019. Costello replaces former state Sen. John Sullivan, who resigned as director Jan. 13. Expressing confidence in Costello’s appointment, Pritzker said agriculture drives the “state’s economy to the tune of $19 billion every year.” – Associated Press

Illinois Man Gets 30 Years For Methamphetamine Trafficking

URBANA — Federal prosecutors say a man had been sentenced to serve 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to distributing more than 45 pounds of methamphetamine in East Central Illinois. Travis Tuggle, a 38-year-old from Mattoon, pleaded guilty in September.  U.S. District Judge James E. Shadid sentenced him on Feb. 18. The office for U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois John Milhiser says Tuggle was at the center of a drug trafficking conspiracy selling methamphetamine in Coles County starting in 2013 and ending in 2016. – Associated Press

Voting Opens For ‘Coolest Thing Made in Illinois’

SPRINGFIELD — Voting has begun in the “Makers Madness” contest to determine the “Coolest Thing Made in Illinois.” The contest that’s sponsored by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association is a bracket-style tournament to highlight many different products made in Illinois, from food to military flashlights. First-round online voting is open through March 8.  It includes 259 products which will be winnowed to 16. Voters may cast up to five votes per day in the first round as the field narrows. The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois will be crowned in an awards ceremony April 1 at the Governor’s Mansion.  – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 28, 2020

Fees, Not Tuition Rising At Danville Area Community College

DANVILLE – Student fees will be going up at Danville Area Community College, but tuition will remain the same. Trustees for the community college voted unanimously Thursday to increase the technology-and-activity fee for students from $20 per credit hour to $25. The college’s basic tuition rate of $140 per credit hour will remain the same, as will tuition for other residency categories. The decision at Danville Area Community College comes one week after trustees at Champaign’s Parkland College also voted to keep their basic tuition the same, at $148.50 per credit hour. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Governor Seeks To Spend $40M For River Port Project

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants the state to spend $40 million to develop a river port in Cairo, where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers meet. The Southern Illinoisan reports that Senate President Don Harmon filed the capital bill proposal last week as a formality on Pritzker’s behalf. The measure would spend $110 million for statewide public port projects that include constructing the terminal in Cairo. Pritzker’s proposal comes after Sen. Dale Fowler spent months advocating for an inland Cairo port. Fowler says the earmarked money indicates the project is inching closer to becoming a reality. – Associated Press

Two Top Chicago Tribune Editors Leaving As Part Of Shakeup

CHICAGO — The exodus of journalists from the Chicago Tribune continues since a hedge fund with a reputation for eliminating jobs became the parent company’s largest shareholder.  On Thursday, the paper reported that Bruce Dold, the paper’s publisher and editor-in-chief, is leaving after 42 years. Also leaving is Managing Editor Peter Kendall. The departures come days after several reporters and editors from the Tribune and other papers in Tribune Publishing’s chain of papers took voluntary buyouts. They come weeks after Tribune Publishing CEO Tim Knight stepped down. Alden Global Capital took a 32% stake in Tribune Publishing last November. – Associated Press

Chicago Schools Drop Columbus Day For Indigenous Peoples Day

CHICAGO — Chicago’s public schools will no longer observe Columbus Day, replacing that October school holiday with Indigenous Peoples Day. The decision by the Chicago Board of Education has aroused the ire of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. It’s president, Sergio Giangrande, on Thursday called the decision a “slap in the face” of the more than 500,000 Italian Americans in Chicago. Grande says his group, which sponsors the city’s annual Columbus Day parade, is moving to reverse the school district’s decision. The five-to-two decision by the Chicago Board of Education follows similar efforts elsewhere, including South Dakota, to recognize the negative effect of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the western hemisphere on the indigenous population.  – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 27, 2020

Decatur Schools And Union Meet With Mediator

DECATUR – Negotiators for Decatur Public Schools and their teaching assistants union met with a federal mediator for about three hours on Wednesday. But talks ended without a settlement, and no date for another session has been set. A District 61 news release called the meeting “productive” and said another bargaining session would be held soon. Meanwhile, Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants president Paula Busboom said in a statement that the Decatur School Board was refusing to budge from their positions and accused them of a “complete lack of understanding” of the needs of union members and students. Teaching assistants in the Decatur school district have spent the school year without a contract. But they have stayed on the job, except for a brief strike last October. The union has frequently cited district proposals for new health insurance rates as a major point of contention in negotiations. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Lawmakers Considering Mandatory Sex Ed For Grades K-12

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois lawmakers are debating whether to join 29 other states that require sexual education in public schools. Legislation would mandate a curriculum that focuses on healthy relationships, consent, and sexual identity. Brigid Leahy of Planned Parenthood says the curriculum must also be medically accurate, culturally inclusive, and age appropriate. If approved, the requirement would be phased in so schools and teachers have time to prepare. Parents would still have the right to remove their children from sexual education classes. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

House OKs Partial Red-Light Camera Ban, Part Of Fed Probe

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House approved a ban Wednesday on some Chicago suburbs’ red-light enforcement cameras, an unpopular program with motorists which is now part of a federal bribery investigation. Rep. David McSweeney’s plan to ban red-light cameras in non-home rule cities where the Legislature has more power was OK’d 84-4. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty last month in federal court to taking bribes  to be a “protector” of red-light programs in the Legislature. Critics say red-light cameras are a municipal money-grab. Advocates say they increase safety and free police for other duties. – Associated Press

Biden Looks Beyond Super Tuesday With Illinois Endorsements

CHICAGO — Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and more than 80 other top Illinois Democrats are endorsing Joe Biden for president. Biden’s campaign announced the endorsements on Wednesday. Biden is hoping to notch his first Democratic primary victory in South Carolina on Saturday and take that momentum into next week’s Super Tuesday contests and beyond. Illinois’ primary is on March 17, two weeks after Super Tuesday. Besides Quinn, the endorsement includes former Chicago Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp, state Sen. Iris Martinez and Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering. Zopp says Biden knows the struggle working people go through to get out of poverty because of his own family’s experience.- Associated Press

Illinois Lawyers Say Blagojevich Should Be Disbarred

CHICAGO — Government attorneys say former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich should be stripped of his law license. Lawyers for the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission urged a commission panel Tuesday to recommend that Blagojevich be disbarred because of all the corruption charges he was convicted of in 2011.  Blagojevich didn’t attend the hearing, but his attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, told the panel that Blagojevich didn’t break the law.  The panel is expected to issue its ruling within three months. A commission review board would then decide whether to recommend Blagojevich’s disbarment to the state supreme court. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 26, 2020

Special House Committee Challenges Newcomer

SPRINGFIELD – On Tuesday, the Illinois House formally began investigating the appointment process used to replace former State Rep. Luis Arroyo. The Chicago Democrat resigned from office last fall after he was arrested for allegedly attempting to bribe a state senator. But two lawmakers are challenging the qualifications of his replacement, State Rep. Eva Dina Delgado (D-Chicago). They say Arroyo participated in her selection. State Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Raymond) is on the special House committee that’s hearing the challenge. “We are not interested in personal attacks,” said Bourne. “We are not even interested on whether or not the committee chose the right person in the appointment process. Our focus in this committee should be on whether or not the appointment process was fair and whether or not the selection process was proper.” The committee will allow lawyers for Delgado and her challengers to present their cases starting next month. In a statement, Delgado says the challenges against her are “purely political.” – Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

Police: Opioid Overdoses Down, Meth Use Up

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Police says opioid overdoses are declining. But they’re also reporting an uptick in the use of methamphetamines. In the past, meth was homemade, so the state restricted access to some of the ingredients, like sudafed. But now drug cartels are smuggling the drug into the US. State Police Major Troy Phillips says his task force has seen a significant increase in the amount of meth on the streets. Phillips also says price is driving people toward methamphetamine, which is cheaper than heroin. Although opioid overdoses are declining overall, they’re on the rise in black and Latino communities. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Fewer Bald Eagles Spending Time Along Mississippi River Near Quad Cities

QUAD CITIES – During this year’s mid-winter bald eagle count, wildlife biologist and consultant, Kelly McKay, counted 912 between Clinton, Iowa and Keithsburg, Illinois. It’s the fourth lowest count in the last 20 years for that 80 mile section of the river. From 2000-2009, McKay says the number of bald eagles he counted in the same area averaged nearly 2,500 per year. McKay also says the problem may be due to a dwindling supply of food. Bald eagles mainly eat a fish called gizzard shad. Eagles didn’t roost in large numbers along the Mississippi this year because of a lack of ice on the river. That may have contributed to the lack of gizzard shad, too. – Michelle O’Neill, WVIK News

Sheriffs: Illinois Halts Transfer Of Some Facing Deportation

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Sheriffs Association says some violent felons who had faced deportation are instead being released into local communities after their prison terms end as a result of a policy change by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration. The sheriffs said Tuesday they object to ending the Department of Corrections’ practice of allowing Kankakee County authorities to pick up released immigrants for possible deportation. Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh says it violates the 2017 Trust Act which bars Illinois police agencies from detaining anyone based on immigration status alone. She says Pritzker is trying to counter President Donald Trump’s “attacks on immigrant communities.” – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – February 25, 2020

Union Vows To Fill Decatur School Board Meeting 

DECATUR – The teaching assistants union at Decatur Public Schools is calling on members show their solidarity by packing Tuesday night’s  school board meeting. The meeting comes one day before the union and school district hold a bargaining session with a federal mediator. Teaching assistants have been without a contract at Decatur Public Schools since last summer. The Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants held a strike in October, but ended it after the school district withdrew health insurance benefits. Contract negotiations have stalled over the district’s new health insurance proposal which the union calls unaffordable. The Decatur School Board meets Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Keil Administration Building. The bargaining session between the district and its teaching assistants unions is set for Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Prison Education Program Receives Grant

URBANA – Northwestern University’s Prison Education Program has received a one million dollar grant from a charitable foundation to expand to prisons outside of the Chicago area. Jennifer Lackey is the director of the program, which offers credit-bearing courses to inmates at Stateville prison. Illinois Newsroom reporting shows that few people in Illinois prisons have access to post-secondary education. Lackey says they’ll use the grant to expand to Logan Correctional Center, a women’s prison near Springfield. She also hopes state officials will provide more resources to the Illinois Department of Corrections to educate prisoners. – Lee V. Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Lawmaker Wants Harsher Punishments For Harming Domesticated Animals​

SPRINGFIELD – An Illinois lawmaker says people who injure or kill domesticated animals should face a harsher punishment. State Senator Steve McClure (R-Springfield) wants to raise the penalty for aggravated animal cruelty. He says the idea is to deter would-be abusers from committing the crime. “If people don’t appreciate the fact that animals are so valuable in the lives of so many, they should appreciate the fact that this is a telltale sign that a person is capable of doing horrendous things to humans,” said McClure. The bill would make injuring or killing a pet a Class two felony – meaning those convicted would face 3-7 years in state prison and fines of up to $25-thousand. The crime currently carries a sentence of 1-3 years. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

Metal Scrapper Finds Body Of Man In Springfield Garage

SPRINGFIELD — Police in Springfield say a man searching for scrap metal discovered the decomposed body of another man in a garage. The body was reported around 4:30 a.m. Sunday. An autopsy is planned. Springfield Lt. Christopher Russell says a man found the body after noticing that a door to a garage near an alley was open. The nearby house is vacant. – Associated Press

Actor Jussie Smollett Pleads Not Guilty To Restored Charges

CHICAGO — Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has plead not guilty to restored charges that accuse him of staging a racist, homophobic attack against himself last year and falsely reporting it to Chicago police. His lawyer, Tina Glandian, entered the not guilty pleas on his behalf to six counts of felony disorderly conduct. She also told Judge James B. Linn that she’s asked the Illinois Supreme Court to halt the case. Glandian told reporters that the revived prosecution is “an ordeal” for Smollett. Smollett has repeatedly denied police allegations that he staged the attack to get attention and further his career. His next court date is March 18. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 24, 2020

State Lawmaker Sponsoring ‘Crown Act’ In Illinois

PEORIA – State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) wants to amend the Illinois Human Rights Act to ban hairstyle discrimination. She says her Crown Act will likely come up for a vote near the end of the legislative session. The goal is to help black and Latinx women who are disproportionately impacted by hairstyle discrimination in the workplace or their daily lives. Leading up to the vote, Gordon-Booth is recruiting powerful women like Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx for “The Politics of Hair” campaign. – Tim Shelley, WCBU News

Illinois Supreme Court Candidate Forum Set For Chicago

Hospital, College In Springfield Team Up On Nursing Shortage

SPRINGFIELD — Lincoln Land Community College and Memorial Health System will team up to expand nursing education to address a national shortage. The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports Lincoln Land will admit 90 additional nursing students beginning in the fall of 2021, for a total of 215 per year. Memorial Health System will contribute $6.1 million to renovate a campus hall as a nursing center, buy state-of-the-art equipment and hire additional faculty. Lincoln Land President Charlotte Warren said there will be a shortage of 21,000 nurses in Illinois next year. She says one-quarter of the current nursing workforce will retire within the next five years. – Associated Press

Fire Officials Say Homes Need Approved Smoke Alarms By 2023

SPRINGFIELD — State fire officials are reminding Illinois residents to get approved smoke alarms in their homes ahead of a 2023 deadline. A state requires that all smoke alarms and detectors have to have a sealed 10-year battery unless the alarms are hardwired into the residence. The Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal says there were 105 residential fire deaths in 2018 and more than 70% took place in homes without smoke alarms. Illinois Fire Marshal Matt Perez says smoke alarms will provide an early warning to evacuate before circumstances become dire.  – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 21, 2020

Higher Profits, Lower Sales For Deere In First Quarter

Despite a decline in sales, profits rose for John Deere in first quarter results reported Friday morning. Profits rose four per cent to $1.63 per share, compared with $1.54 last year at this time. Worldwide sales fell four percent, to 7.6 billion dollars. For its two major divisions, sales of farm equipment fell four percent, while construction and forestry dropped 10 percent. CEO John May says the first quarter results show “early signs of stabilization in the US farm sector,” thanks to lower trade tensions and the hopes for higher agriculture exports. But the construction sector continues to slow down, so the company is reducing production. – Herb Trix, WVIK

Sanders Holds Small Lead Over Competitors In Illinois Poll

SPRINGFIELD – With less than a month until Illinois’ primary election, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is leading in a new poll of Illinois voters. The poll of likely voters is from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. It was taken from February 10-17 before the most recent debate. 

Support Among Democrats

  • Bernie Sanders 22%
  • Mike Bloomberg 17%
  • Joe Biden 14%
  • Pete Buttigeig 13%
  • Amy Kloubuchar 8%
  • Elizabeth Warren 6%

The wildcard in the results is that nearly one in five Democrats is still undecided. On the Republican side, 89 percent of GOP voters say they support President Donald J. Trump. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

Poll: Most Voters Approve Of Pritzker’s And Durbin’s Job Performances

SPRINGFIELD – Just over half of Illinois voters approve of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s job performance. Fifty-one percent either strongly or somewhat approve, versus 38 percent who disapprove. That’s according to new polling results from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The poll also asked about Democratic Illinois US Senator Dick Durbin, who’s up for re-election this year. His numbers were similar to Pritzker’s — with 52 percent approving of his performance.  President Trump, meanwhile, has just a 39 percent approval rating in the state. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

Pritzker Calls Out Statehouse Separatists In Budget Speech

SPRINGFIELD – Dividing Chicago and the rest of Illinois into two separate states has become a pet issue for a small group of Republicans. This week, Governor J.B. Pritzker used his budget address to chastise them and call for unity. “Trying to separate Chicago from the rest of Illinois will not solve the economic challenges of downstate Illinois,” said Pritzker. But separatist state Representative Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) says he did not feel chastised. He says the governor’s mention legitimizes his point of view.  “If it was just something that he could dismiss or brush, I doubt that he would have said anything. So we’re, we’re getting our message across,” said Caulkins. Proposals to separate Chicago from downstate Illinois have never gone anywhere in the past. Even most Republicans refuse to support the idea. – Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

Custer Fair Moving To Indiana After Dispute With Evanston

EVANSTON — A suburban Chicago arts festival that’s been held for nearly a half-century is moving to northwestern Indiana following a dispute with Evanston officials. Tammy Szostek organizes the Custer Fair with her husband. She tells the Chicago Sun-Times the festival’s move from Evanston to Whiting, Indiana, comes after Evanston officials sabotaged the event’s attendance numbers last year, leaving the festival in debt to the city. She says the two-day festival’s attendance dropped to less than 10,000 last year after previously averaging about 85,000 annually. Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty says the street fair had many issues, including organizers’ failure to pay the city and their non-profit partners. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 20, 2020

Women Will Share Empowering Stories In Champaign This Weekend

URBANA – “That’s What She Said” will take the stage at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign this Saturday night with a series of performances by women from the local community. The speakers will share personal stories in a monologue format in what will be the group’s sixth installment in the C-U area. In addition to live events featuring women in the community, the She Said project produces a podcast in partnership with WILL/Illinois Public Media based on previous live events. The group also helps empower teen girls to tell their stories through a program “That’s What Teens Say” taking place later this month. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Former IL US Attorney Calls On US Attorney General To Resign

PEORIA – A former U-S Attorney from central Illinois is part of the call for Attorney General William Barr’s resignation. More than 1,000 former Department of Justice officials say Barr’s interference in the sentencing of Roger Stone shows he’s allowing politics to corrupt the judicial process.​ Jim Lewis retired from the Justice Department in 2016. He says it wasn’t the fault of the federal prosecutors who presented the case.​ “They had reported it accurately,” Then, all of the sudden, for one reason or another, someone put their thumb on the scale and the work they had done was undone.” The four prosecutors handling the case then resigned.​ Lewis says the Stone case is just a “trigger” reviving larger concerns about the culture within the department.​ – Dana Vollmer, WCBU News

Proposed Bill Would Allow Affordable Housing Residents To Have Pets

SPRINGFIELD – A state lawmaker wants to keep Illinoisans living in affordable housing from having to give up their pets. The legislation would require housing authorities and state-subsidized public housing to allow tenants to keep a cat or dog. State Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) says everyone in Illinois should be able to enjoy the benefits of having a pet. “They influence social, emotional, and cognitive development in children and they promote an active lifestyle,” said Holmes. If passed, the legislation would still let property owners make rules for pets such as requiring registration, vaccination, and sterilization and complying with noise and sanitation standards. And if a pet causes an injury, the owner would be held responsible, not the housing provider. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Illinois Restricts How Students Are Secluded And Restrained

CHICAGO — The Illinois State Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt the state’s most restrictive permanent rules that ban the use of locked seclusion rooms and prohibit schools from using prone restraint. The new rules approved on Tuesday specify that seclusion may not be used “as discipline or punishment, convenience for staff, retaliation, a substitute for appropriate educational or behavioral support, a routine safety matter, or to prevent property damage.” The vote comes after a Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois investigation in November revealed extensive misuse of isolated timeout and restraint in Illinois schools. The new rules ban locks on rooms and employees from holding the doors shut. – Associated Press

EPA Orders Cleanup Of Zinc Smelter Site In DePue

DEPUE — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an administrative order to those responsible to clean up contaminated soil at a site near the northern Illinois town of DePue, where a zinc smelter and fertilizer plant was once located. The city of DePue on Tuesday announced the issuance of the order by the EPA to TCI Pacific Communications and CBS/Westinghouse. The order requires what the EPA calls “potentially responsible parties” to clean up a portion of the New Jersey Zinc/Mobil Chemical Corp. site. The site is contaminated with elevated levels of zinc, lead, arsenic, cadmium and other metals.   – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 19, 2020

New Tool Will Help Farmers Calculate Crop Insurance

URBANA – Farmers must make decisions about crop insurance over the next few weeks, and a new tool from the University of Illinois can help. The crop insurance calculator allows farmers to enter their state, county, crop, and other farm information, and it spits out different premiums. It was created by teams at the University of Illinois and farmdoc daily. Gary Schnitkey is a professor at the U of I and helped develop the calculator. He says crop insurance is important, especially in these uncertain times. Schnitkey says premiums this year are generally lower than last year. The decision deadline for farmers is March 15. Click here to access the tool. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Lawmakers Want To Reduce Delays In Medical Care

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois lawmakers are considering legislation intended to reduce the amount of time it takes insurance companies to approve medical care. Backers say the process, known as “prior authorization,” is time-consuming and raises unnecessary obstacles for people in need. Isabella McKenna was just 14 years old when she was diagnosed with arthritis. She says prior authorization only made her condition harder to deal with. “My father had to make countless phone calls,” said McKenna. “My doctor had to take the time to give them reason after reason why I needed this test, and in the end, they, the insurance company, not my doctor, decided it was unnecessary.” Supporters of the legislation say reducing prior authorization would save money and allow medical providers to focus on people rather than paperwork. Insurance-industry representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

Groups: Laws, Courtroom Changes Hit Police Training Budget

SPRINGFIELD — Two Illinois law enforcement groups say training for police officers is suffering because of an unexpected shortfall in state funding. The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police are asking lawmakers to fill a $5 million gap in the budget of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board. The board finances local training with traffic fines. But a state law last year changed the allocation of the money. Another new law allows judges to waive traffic fines and the police groups believe there are fewer citations being written. – Associated Press

SIU Medical School To Pilot State Prison Health Care

SPRINGFIELD — Southern Illinois University School of Medicine will provide health care for inmates at two prisons in a test which the school hopes can expand. Dean and provost Jerry Kruse said Monday the $5 million pilot project with the Illinois Department of Corrections is in keeping with the school’s mission of universally adequate health care as well as a chance for economic expansion. It’s unclear how the plan will affect inmate health services provided by Wexford Health Sources. The Pittsburgh-based Wexford has been criticized for staff shortages and inadequate care. Its 10-year, $1.4 billion contract expires next year. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 18, 2020

President Commutes Prison Term Of Former Gov. Blagojevich

CHICAGO – President Donald Trump says he has commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The 63-year-old Democrat is expected to walk out of prison later Tuesday. Trump told reporters the sentence was “ridiculous.” The former governor was convicted of political corruption in 2010, just months after he appeared on Trump’s reality TV show, “Celebrity Apprentice.” He was convicted on charges included seeking to sell an appointment to Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat and trying to shake down a children’s hospital. – Associated Press

Eastern Illinois University Swimmer Talks About Being Detained At Gunpoint In Front Of Team

Jaylan Butler
Jaylan Butler, Eastern Illinois University student athlete ACLU

QUAD CITIES – A lawsuit filed last month against several police officers alleges a college swimmer was subject to excessive force and false arrest during an incident last year. Eastern Illinois University sophomore Jaylan Butler says he was traveling with his swim team last February when they stopped in East Moline. When Butler, the only black student on the team, stepped away from the bus, he was approached by police, who handcuffed him, pressed his face into the snow and pointed a gun to his head.  Butler was eventually let go but says the experience was traumatizing.  “I had a huge breakdown in summertime, I kind of let myself feel the events that had happened and just kind of understanding that I didn’t do anything wrong but it’s okay to feel saddened and angered and upset,” said Butler on Monday’s episode of  WILL’s The 21st Show. Statements from at least two of the police agencies cited in the lawsuit say the allegations are without merit. –Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

First Families Begin Moving Into Bristol Development

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign city officials say the first families began moving into the new Bristol Development over the weekend. The 90-units making up Phase One of the development were built on the site of the old Bristol Place neighborhood on the city’s north side. The last residents were moved out of Bristol Place more than two years ago. Local officials had decided the area was too blighted to save without a total rebuild. The city says former Bristol Place residents were given the first opportunity to move into the new development provided they met its tenant selection criteria. The new Bristol Development is a project of the city of Champaign, the Housing Authority of Champaign County and a private developer. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Climatologist: Climate Change Evident In Illinois

DEKALB – The major effect of climate change on northern Illinois is projected to be large increases in precipitation. These weather events may lead to further agricultural erosion, which strips the nutrient rich topsoil from Illinois’ farmland. State Climatologist Trent Ford says that can potentially cause toxic algal blooms in local waterways. “We’re seeing changes in precipitation, more precipitation overall, but also more intense precipitation that really has significant impacts but also varied impacts on hydrology and how that water is managed,” said Ford. “And that is something that northern Illinois has been dealing with. And the projections suggest that those issues will continue and increase in magnitude into the future.” His office forecasts increasingly wet springs in the coming years. – Claudia Baker, WNIJ News

Illinois State President Creates Role Focused On Diversity

NORMAL — Illinois State University’s president has created a new position focused on diversity and inclusion on campus. The Pantagraph reports that President Larry Dietz appointed Doris Houston as the university’s first assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion last week. Houston is currently the interim director of the university’s School of Social Work. She called the new role a natural fit with her background. Dietz said existing diversity initiatives on campus focus on student and academic affairs. Those efforts often overlap. Dietz said Houston will be responsible for making sure separate efforts know about each other’s work and measuring their effect. – Associated Press

Illinois Officials To Detail Battle Plan Against Gypsy Moth

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois officials’ plan to combat infestations of the gypsy moth will be the focus of several upcoming meetings in the northern part of the state. The Illinois Department of Agriculture has planned nine open houses to discuss treatment strategies at infested sites, including the use of a naturally occurring bacteria and a pheromone specific to gypsy moths that prevents males from breeding. Officials said there’s no danger to humans, pets or other wildlife. The non-native pest eats more than 250 species of trees and shrubs but particularly feeds on oak leaves. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 17, 2020

Families Begin Moving Into Champaign’s New Bristol Development

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign city officials say the first families began moving into the new Bristol Development over the weekend. The 90-units making up Phase One of the development were built on the site of the old Bristol Place neighborhood at Bradley Avenue and Market Street on the city’s north side. The last residents were moved out of Bristol Place more than two years ago, after the city and the Housing Authority of Champaign County decided the area was too blighted to save without a total rebuild. The new Bristol Development is a project of the city of Champaign, Housing Authority of Champaign County and the project developer, AHDVS, LLC. –— Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Man Found Guilty Of Murder In Woman’s 2009 Stabbing

URBANA — Jurors on Friday found an Illinois man guilty of murdering a 22-year-old woman, more than a decade after she was stabbed to death in her home.  Michael Henslick, now 31, was 21 at the time of Holly Cassano’s murder in a mobile home park in Mahomet in November 2009, The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported. Police have previously said Henslick’s arrest was made possible by techniques used by Parabon NanoLabs. The Virginia company often works on cold cases with law enforcement, comparing DNA evidence to information in public databases used by people seeking more information about their ancestry.  – Associated Press

Parents Allege Daughter, 6, Was Sexually Assaulted At Recess

EDWARDSVILLE — The parents of a 6-year-old southern Illinois girl are suing local school officials, alleging that their daughter was sexually assaulted by another kindergartner during recess. The lawsuit names the Edwardsville School District 7 as the defendant and accuses the school district of being negligent in its supervision of students during recess. The Glen Carbon girl’s parents contend that she told them in February 2019 that a male student in her kindergarten class had forcibly kissed her and touched her inappropriately on multiple occasions during recess. Their suit seeks $50,000, legal costs and other damages as determined by the court. – Associated Press

New Sculpture Honoring Lincoln Planned At Springfield Museum

SPRINGFIELD — A new sculpture honoring the 16th U.S. president is coming to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. Museum officials announced plans last week for the “Beacon of Endurance” piece, which will stand more than 24 feet tall. Renderings show an obelisk, with a base inscribed with quotes from Lincoln and a stainless-steel upper portion engraved with words describing Lincoln. Members of an advisory panel will weigh in on which words to include, and the museum also plans to take ideas from the public through social media. – Associated Press

Trucks Haul Massive Beams For Rebuild Of Mile Long Bridge

CHICAGO — Trucks hauling massive concrete beams destined for the Mile Long Bridge along the Tri-State Tollway are getting police escorts from a Wisconsin factory to a tollway plaza in Chicago’s southwest suburbs. The Chicago Tribune reports the beams will be used in the $4 billion rebuilding and re-widening of Interstate 294 near O’Hare International Airport. A chief engineering officer for the Tollway says concrete beams require less maintenance than steel ones and are more cost-efficient. Officials say the project can be done without raising tolls and is expected to be completed in 2026. – Associated Press

Officials Hope To Name New SIU Carbondale Leader By April

CARBONDALE – Officials hope to name a new chancellor to lead the Southern Illinois University Carbondale by spring. Phil Gilbert is the chair of the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees. Gilbert said at a meeting this week that a 23-member advisory committee has chosen semifinalists.  Those candidates will be interviewed then narrowed to a list of finalists, who will be invited to visit campus in late March or early April. Board members hope to hire the new chancellor when they meet in April, The Southern Illinoisan reported. The board’s selection will replace Interim Chancellor John Dunn. Dunn has led the campus since December 2018 when then-Chancellor Carlo Montemagno died. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 14, 2020

Jury Finds Henslick Guilty In 2009 Holly Cassano Murder

URBANA — Jurors on Friday found an Illinois man guilty of murdering 22-year-old Holly Cassano, more than a decade after she was stabbed to death at her mobile home in Mahomet.  Michael Henslick, now 31, was 21 at the time of Cassano’s murder in November 2009, The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported. Police have previously said Henslick’s arrest was made possible by techniques used by Parabon NanoLabs. The Virginia company often works on cold cases with law enforcement, comparing DNA evidence to information in public databases used by people seeking more information about their ancestry.  – Associated Press

State Police Support Fingerprinting FOID Card Applicants

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Police supports legislation that would fingerprint applicants for the Firearm Owners Identification card. The change could help discover those with violent criminal histories and prevent them from owning firearms. The proposal is getting more attention nearly one year after a workplace shooting in Aurora that left five dead along with the gunman.  The measure also would charge more for FOID applications and renewals with the extra money going toward enforcement. The Aurora shooter had his FOID card revoked, but his guns were never seized.  The legislation passed the House last year but would still need Senate approval.  – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

Weather Service: High Flood Risk Along Mississippi

DAVENPORT, Ia. – For the second year in a row, the risk of major flooding on the Mississippi River is high. On Thursday, the National Weather Service in the Quad Cities released its first Spring Flood Outlook. Hydrologist, Jessica Brooks, says compared to this time last year, more snow is on the ground in Minnesota and Wisconsin. And its water content is high. Historically, the chance of major flooding is 22 percent, on average but under current conditions, it’s more than 95 percent. – Michell O’Neill, WVIK News

Students: Teacher Told Classmate To Leave US For Anthem

CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools says it has launched an investigation after four students complained that a teacher told a Hispanic student she should go back to her own country because she didn’t stand during the national anthem. The Senn High School students allege the teacher made the comment during a Jan. 30 Hispanic heritage assembly. The school district says if the teacher did make such a comment it would be a violation of the district’s anti-discrimination policy. The students staged a sit-in Wednesday to protest what they consider the district’s slow response to their complaint. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 13, 2020

Presidential Candidate Bloomberg Opens Offices In Illinois

ROCK ISLAND – Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg plans to  open 14 campaign offices in the state, with 80 staff members, according to Will Dubbs, Bloomberg’s Deputy States Director. Between now and the Illinois primary on March 17, campaign workers will focus on recruiting volunteers for phone banks and canvassing. Five offices are located in Chicago, plus Rock Island, Springfield, and Belleville. Others will open soon in Aurora, Rockford, and Waukegan. – Herb Trix, WVIK News

Investigators Want To Know Why Transport Company Placed Child In Shackles

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois investigators are looking into what happened when a transportation company working for the state’s Department of Children and Family Services shackled a young foster child for several hours. The company, Jim Stewart Transportation, worked with the department since 2017. But DCFS says it revoked their contract after it allegedly shackled a child during a trip between Moline and Springfield, Missouri. That violated the department’s rules, which ban the use of hard restraints. DCFS spokesperson Jassen Strokosch says the agency is conducting its own investigation into the matter and will be reprimanding any employees who approved the transfer.  – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

State Releasing Half-Billion Dollars For Innovation Programs

CHICAGO – Governor J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that the state is releasing $500-million in capital funding for the University of Illinois’ Discovery Partners Institute and Illinois Innovation Network. Pritzker says the capital funds will allow DPI and the other hubs to begin architectural design work. The project seeks to spur economic growth through research and public-private partnerships. There are 15 hubs being built at public university campuses in the Illinois Innovation Network stretching from Rockford to Carbondale. – Brian Moline, Illinois Newsroom

Advocates Call For More Fair Distribution Of Illinois Medicaid Funds

SPRINGFIELD – A group of Illinois lawmakers and health care advocates want the state to more equitably provide money for low income hospital patients. State Rep. Chris Welch (D-Hillside) and state Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) have proposed legislation to change what’s known as the Medicaid hospital assessment program. That program sets aside an estimated $3.6 billion to help reimburse hospitals that care for patients who cannot afford expensive hospital stays and those without medical insurance. The money is supposed to be spread evenly among providers throughout Illinois each year based on a number of criteria. But supporters of the change argue that has not happened in the past.  – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Black Eastern Illinois University Athlete Sues Local Police 

QUAD CITIES – Several police officers are being sued in federal court following their arrest of a black college student traveling through the Quad Cities last year. Jaylan Butler is a member of Eastern Illinois University swim team. He said on February 24, 2019, he was on a bus traveling back from a tournament when the bus stopped at a rest area along I-80 in East Moline. While standing outside, several officers raced up with guns drawn, threw him on the ground and arrested him. The officers eventually realized Butler was not the person they were looking for. The ACLU says Butler was arrested because he was a young black man. The defendants in the suit include East Moline police officer Travis Staes, Hampton officer Ethan Bush, and Rock Island County deputy Jack Asquini, plus a deputy whose last name is Pena, and two other officers listed as “John Doe’s.” The Rock Island County Sheriff says Butler was only detained briefly before the officers left to join the hunt for a fugitive in the area. – WVIK News

Southern Illinois Man Charged; Dog Suffered Chemical Burns

MADISON — A southern Illinois man is facing animal torture and cruelty charges for allegedly spraying a corrosive substance on a dog, causing chemical burns. Madison County prosecutors say 45-year-old Rodney W. Johnson of Granite City, was charged Tuesday. Prosecutors say the dog, a 10-year-old Maltese mix named Charlie, was dropped in critical condition at the Madison Police Department on Feb. 6. Police contacted an animal rescue agency in Granite City to get the dog emergency treatment for the burns. Madison city Detective Kyle Graham says the substance “completely ate away at the dog’s skin.” Investigators believe the burns were intentional. Johnson was being held on $40,000 bail. – Associated Press

No Injuries Or Hazards After Barges Break Loose At St. Louis

ST. LOUIS  — Towing vessels are working to gather up several barges that broke away from a fleeting area on the Mississippi River at St. Louis. The U.S. Coast Guard said the incident was reported at 3 a.m. Wednesday. Officials with the Coast Guard, Missouri Department of Transportation, Illinois State police and local agencies responded. The Coast Guard said there were no injuries or reports of pollution. The river was closed briefly before reopening. The exact number of barges that broke loose was not disclosed. The cause of the accident is under investigation. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 12, 2020

Actor Jussie Smollett Faces 6 New Charges In Chicago

Census Still Looking For Workers In Rural Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – The US Census Bureau is still looking for people to go door-to-door in the coming months to help residents participate in the once-a-decade population count. Theresa Miles is the assistant regional census manager covering central and southern Illinois. She says the Census Bureau is in the final stages of a recruitment push. “Certainly, we still need many people, in particular in the rural counties that may not be as populated,” said Miles. “It’s hard to reach people sometimes in places like that, so we need candidates everywhere.” The part-time jobs pay between $19 and $23 an hour. Click on this sentence for more information. – Mary Hansen, NPR Illinois

Proposed Bill Would Allow “Mental Health Days” For School Children

SPRINGFIELD – New legislation would allow children to take five days off from school to address problems related to their mental health. Kevin Rubenstein is president of the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education. He supports the idea, but says the legislature should also provide more money to help kids while they’re at school. The five days off would be in addition to other absences already allowed, like for religious observances. Opponents of the legislation say it would do more harm than good and that staying home won’t solve the kids’ problems. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Education Group Says Illinoisans Gives Schools Low Grade

Man Buried In Corn, Dies Inside Farm’s Grain Bin

MORRISONVILLE — A central Illinois man has died after becoming buried in corn while working inside a farm’s grain bin. Sixty-one-year-old David L. Lowis was pronounced dead at the scene Monday morning at a farm in rural Morrisonville. Christian County Coroner Amy Calvert Winans says first responders had to cut a hole in the grain bin to get to Lowis, but he died after being submerged in corn. WCIA-TV reports that an autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday on the Taylorville man. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – February 11, 2020

13th District Democratic Primary Candidates Discuss Issues At Forum

CHAMPAIGN – Healthcare was a major issue for both Betsy Dirksen Londrigan and Stefanie Smith at a candidate’s forum in Champaign Monday evening. But the two Democrats competing to run against U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis in Illinois’ 13th District disagreed on what’s the best plan. Smith, a first-time candidate from Urbana, supports a single payer or “Medicare for all” option that would replace private health insurance. “Anything less than single payer is eugenics,” Smith said. Londrigan, who lost narrowly to Davis in 2018, backs the public option. Under that proposal, private insurance continues, but the government offers a Medicare-like option as an alternative. “I have a problem forcing people to give up insurance that they want to keep,” said Londrigan. The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Champaign County, Champaign County NAACP and the News-Gazette, and will air on CGTV, Champaign’s government TV channel.Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Cancer Center Uses Laser, Microscope And Algorithms In Cancer Diagnosis

URBANA – Researchers at the University of Illinois are working to improve the way cancer diagnosis is done. Rohit Bhargava is a bioengineering professor and director of the Cancer Center at Illinois. His research team has developed a new technique to analyze human tissue biopsies using a laser, an optical microscope and machine-learning algorithms. The results are published in the Journal of the National Academy of Sciences. “The idea here is to not just measure the shape that you see in a microscope, but measure the chemistry,” said Bhargava. “So at every pixel, instead of getting a red, green and blue color, we get a list of chemical compounds and their concentrations. So now suddenly, instead of just thinking of cancer as how it appears under a microscope slide, we can ask the question, well, what is it composed off?” Bhargava says the technique needs to be validated on large numbers of patients before it can be used in routine practice. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Voter Registration Error Risks Deportation For Immigrants

CHICAGO — A mistake in Illinois’ automatic voter registration system could mean deportation, criminal charges or both for a handful of immigrants who cast ballots. Hundreds of people who acknowledged that they weren’t U.S. citizens were mistakenly registered. Sixteen of them voted. The fiasco has triggered a partisan battle, infuriated voter advocacy groups and forced immigrant rights activists to do  damage control. Margarita Del Pilar Fitzpatrick is a Peruvian citizen who was deported in 2017 after she mistakenly cast a ballot. She hasn’t seen two of her three American citizen daughters in years. – Associated Press

Tazewell County Lincoln Document On View For 211th Birthday

PEKIN — A mortgage document presented to Abraham Lincoln in 1844 in Tazewell County will be on display Wednesday in Pekin for the late president’s 211th birthday. Historians will present historical background about the document later that evening. The Pekin Daily Times reports that the Tazewell County Recorder of Deeds announced last week that the newly discovered document was presented to Lincoln, then a lawyer, on Sept. 10, 1844. The mortgage on 234 acres of farmland located near Tremont was for $284.94 and used as collateral on a debt for legal services Lincoln provided. – Associated Press

New Cruise Ship Scheduled To Visit Great Lakes In 2022

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A cruise ship currently being built in Norway is scheduled to visit the Great Lakes, including a stop at Traverse City in northern Michigan eight times starting January 2022. The Traverse City Record-Eagle reports that the Discovery Center & Pier about a year ago announced plans to transform a former coal dock in Michigan into a site that ships could use to land passengers. It’s part of efforts to attract more cruise ship traffic to Grand Traverse Bay. The 665-foot-long Viking Octantis is offering four different itineraries, starting in January 2022. Discovery Pier officials say they’re excited about the scientific bent of the planned cruises. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 10, 2020

OSF Healthcare Touts Emergency Care App

URBANA – OSF Healthcare is encouraging people to install an app on their phone that will alert them when people nearby are in need of life-saving CPR. The PulsePoint app launched a couple years ago in Peoria and Champaign counties and recently expanded to Vermilion county. The American Heart Association says the survival rate for people experiencing cardiac arrest is less than 12 percent but CPR can double or triple the chances of survival. OSF Healthcare reports that since PulsePoint launched in Champaign county in 2017, more than 7000 people have subscribed to the app. Formal CPR training is encouraged but not required. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Stepping Down

SPRINGFIELD – University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch has announced she is retiring this summer after 9 years at the school.  Her tenure has been marked by challenges, such as falling enrollment.  The total number of students is just under 4,300 and the lowest in nearly two decades. She has also faced criticism from faculty, who say they’ve been kept out of decision-making. But there have also been successes, including the construction of the first student union on the campus and the addition of several new academic programs. Koch says she wants to spend more time with her family. The university’s president has promised a transparent leadership transition. – Sean Crawford, NPR Illinois

Economist: 2020 Uncertain For Soybean Farmers

DEKALB – Illinois soybean farmers continue to face uncertainty selling their product to China.  The recent coronavirus epidemic has lowered demand, but it isn’t the only factor. University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Todd Hubbs says there was already anxiety about China’s demand with the ongoing trade war. “There’s an expectation that China’s going to buy more soybeans to meet their commitments in the phase one trade deal, and maybe later than a lot of people expected, which means we’re pushing the price rally deeper into 2020 than we would like to see,” said Hubbs. The “phase one” trade deal was signed in January, and includes commitments that China will buy more agricultural products. But until demand rises, Hubbs says Illinois farmers will have difficulty selling their products to China at more profitable prices. – Chase Cavanaugh, WNIJ News

Illinois Extends Medical Marijuana Sales Hours Amid Pressure

CHICAGO — Illinois officials are allowing medical marijuana businesses to stay open later. The change announced Friday follows complaints that people seeking those products have been at a disadvantage since a new state law allowing recreational sales took effect this year. The department also reminded retailers that they must prioritize medical cannabis patients during product shortages, according to a separate statement released last week.  Marijuana product shortages have been widespread in Illinois in recent months. The state law broadly permitting adults to purchase and use marijuana products took effect Jan. 1. – Associated Press

SIU Edwardsville Gets Record Number Of Fall Applications

EDWARDSVILLE — An increase in the number of applicants to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has officials feeling hopeful about enrollment for the coming fall semester. Admissions officials at the school say freshman applications for fall of this year totaled 10,860, beating a previous record from 2015. The Alton Telegraph reports that the number of total applications is up 21% compared to last year. Admissions officials say they will now focus on keeping in touch with applying students as they decide where to attend college. – Associated Press

Man Hopes Thrift-Store Urn Filled With Ashes Finds Real Home 

PEORIA — A thrift-store find in Illinois has prompted its buyer to find the person to whom it rightfully belongs _ and might not know it’s even gone. The Journal Star of Peoria reports bargain-hunting Robert Ray spotted what was labeled “figurine” in a Peoria Goodwill store. Upon closer inspection, he recognized it was actually an urn, with ashes still inside. Ray said he bought the $2.99 jar, decorated with a military-style flag and eagle, with the intention of finding the owner. He bought it in late December, a day or two after it arrived in the store. Goodwill officials say they don’t know the source of the donation. Ray hopes someone realizes it was mistakenly donated and contacts the newspaper. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 7, 2020

Judge Orders Municipalities 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 a ruling issued Wednesday, 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. Meanwhile, Carle President and CEO James Leonard says the court’s ruling confirms the importance of tax exemptions, which “free up resources that help provide free or discounted care.”  Mayor Marlin says the city has set money aside to pay its share of the refund, which is $2.5 million, according to the Champaign County Treasurer’s office. 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

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


News Around Illinois – February 6, 2020

Survey: Most Americans Want Changes To US Health Care System

URBANA – More than 90 percent of Americans say changes are needed to make the U.S. health care system more affordable and lower drug costs. That’s according to a new national survey from Public Agenda, USA Today and Ipsos. Chris Jackson is vice president of Ipsos. He says across partisan lines, there’s wide support for better access to care, coverage for people with preexisting conditions, and price transparency from hospitals. “Republicans and Democrats actually have very similar goals, what they want to see the healthcare system achieve. And they also have very, relatively similar ideas in how it should go about doing that,” said Ipsos. The survey shows people are divided on the issue of whether to raise taxes and increase the size of government in order to create a better health care system. But Jackson says the findings suggest there’s more common ground on the issue of health care reform than people tend to think. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Lawmakers Grill State Election Officials Over Voter Registration

SPRINGFIELD – Secretary of State Jesse White and officials from the Illinois State Board of Elections found themselves on the hot seat Wednesday as a panel of lawmakers grilled them on automatic voter registration. State Rep. Chris Welch (D-Hillside), says he’s comfortable with the way White’s team has addressed accidental registration of non-citizens and teens too young to vote, but immigration lawyer Mony Ruiz Velasco disagreed. “We are very concerned because it really harms our immigrant communities when these kinds of things happen,” said Ruiz Velasco. “People can be subjected to deportation so we really think the Secretary of State needs to go farther, that what he did wasn’t enough to address to address the possible harm that could come to these families.” State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) offered Velasco a document he said would function as a “pass” to absolve people who were erroneously registered to vote. But Velasco said it needs an official seal, and that people affected need reliable access to the documents. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Emergency Managers Pleading With You To Be Ready for Earthquakes

SPRINGFIELD – February is earthquake preparedness month in Illinois and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency wants residents to be ready. Agency spokesperson Rebecca Clark says it’s important to know what to do, even if earthquakes aren’t common in the midwest. Clark’s number one safety tip for earthquakes is “drop, cover and hold on.” If an earthquake occurs, drop to the floor, take cover under a sturdy object like a desk or table, and hold on, even if you have to move with the object. Illinoisans should also take precautions like strapping water heaters and large appliances to walls, anchoring heavy furniture and learning how to shut off their gas, water, and power in an emergency. Click here for more safety information. – Stephanie Whiteside, NPR Illinois

Illinois Tax Amnesty Collects More Than $237M In Back Taxes

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Department of Revenue says it collected more than $237 million in back taxes during a six-week tax amnesty period last fall. That revenue from more than 63,000 delinquent taxpayers exceeded the $175 million that Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration was expecting to help fund the state’s $40 billion budget. Revenue department officials say the final tally could be higher because they’re still reviewing some payments. The amnesty period ran from Oct. 1 to Nov. 15 and allowed qualified taxpayers to avoid paying penalties and interest by paying off outstanding state tax liability incurred between June 30, 2011, and July 1, 2018. – Associated Press

Ban Proposed On Red-Light Cameras, Heart Of Bribery Scheme

SPRINGFIELD — Red-light enforcement cameras would be banned in some suburban Chicago communities under legislation that won House committee approval Wednesday. The measure is sponsored by Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills). It would ban photo enforcement of traffic violations in some Chicago suburbs. McSweeney and other critics complain they are unfair revenue-generators. They were spotlighted last week with the guilty pleas of an ex-state senator who admitted taking bribes in part from a red-light vendor in exchange for being a “protector”of the industry in the General Assembly.  – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 5, 2020

State Senator Trying To End FOID Cards

QUAD CITIES – Once again Sen. Neil Anderson (R-Moline) is trying to eliminate Illinois’ firearm owners identification (FOID) card. He thinks the firearm owners identification card is un-necessary, and a costly burden for the Illinois State Police. Getting a FOID card requires a background check by the state police, then when someone tries to buy a gun, they’re also subject to a federal background check.
Anderson says practically his bill makes sense, but maybe not politically for some members of the General Assembly. Anderson is also unhappy the cost of a FOID card may go from the current $11 for ten years, to $50 for only five years. The FOID law was enacted in 1968.  – WVIK News

Questions Arise After Foster Children And Adoptees Lose Health Insurance

SPRINGFIELD – Lawmakers are demanding answers about Illinois changing the health coverage for 19,000 current and former wards of the state. A supposed computer glitch left at least 2,500 foster kids and adoptees with no health insurance. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services is defending the system. The state says it’s making sure all qualifying children have access to a managed care plan. Officials say they hope to have all technical issues fixed by the end of the week. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

More Illinois Colleges Drop Test Requirements

SPRINGFIELD – A high score on the SAT or ACT is no longer required for admission to more than a dozen 4-year colleges and universities in Illinois. As of last week, that includes Northern Illinois University. It will now accept a high school GPA of 3.0 for admission. Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Western Illinois University, and many private colleges had already have adopted similar policies. The first Illinois school to adopt this policy was Knox College in Galesburg, back in 2005. The University of Chicago, DePaul, and Lake Forest also have test-optional admission policies. – Dusty Rhodes, NPR Illinois

Former Illinois Legislator Pleads Innocent In Bribery Case

News Around Illinois – February 4, 2020

Champaign Central High School Closed Tuesday

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign Unit 4 Schools tweeted Monday night that there will be no classes at Central High School for students on Tuesday, February 4. Repair to a water leak continues to affect the building’s heating. Staff members are expected to report to work. They will work in the heated part of the building according to the district. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Flash Index: State Economy Dipped In January

URBANA – The Illinois economy dipped slightly in the new year. That’s according to the University of Illinois Flash Index, which is calculated every month and is based on receipts for individual and corporate income, in addition to retail sales taxes. The index fell to 105.4, down from 105.6 the previous month. Fred Giertz is an economist at the U of I and compiles the index. He says despite the slight dip, the Illinois economy is still in good shape. “Illinois’ unemployment rate fell to 3.7%, the lowest in over half a century,” said Giertz. “It’s very close now to the national average.” Historically speaking, Giertz says economic growth has steadily increased in Illinois since the 2008 recession. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Pro-Gun Groups Sue Illinois State Police

SPRINGFIELD – A pair of gun-rights groups have sued the Illinois State Police for taking too long in handling gun licenses. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two men who have been trying since 20-17 to restore their Firearm Owner’s Identification cards and Concealed Carry Licenses. Attorney David Sigale says the State Police are effectively denying the men’s Constitutional rights by sitting on their applications. One of the men lost his licenses when he moved out of state but has not been able to get them restored despite moving back. The other man’s licenses were taken away after he was arrested for domestic battery. Since then the charges were dropped and the arrest was expunged. Meanwhile, the Illinois State Police says last year, 90 percent of applicants saw their paperwork processed in less than a month. – Michael Smith, NPR Illinois

Illinois Mistakenly Cancels Ex-Inmates’ Voter Registrations

CHICAGO — Illinois election officials say they may have mistakenly canceled the voter registrations of 774 former inmates. The State Board of Elections on Monday blamed a “data-matching error” with the Department of Corrections. In Illinois, the voting rights of inmates convicted of crimes are suspended during incarceration but restored upon release. The error involves people who’d completed their sentences and been discharged. Officials say the records were included in roughly 126,000 shared between 2014 and 2019. Local election authorities have details so the registrations can be reviewed for reinstatement by Thursday, when early voting starts for Illinois’ March 17 primary.  – Associated Press

IEPA Opens Internships In Engineering, Science And Law

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has developed a 12-week, paid internship program for students in technical fields who want to see regulatory work in the field. Agency Director John Kim says the Engineering, Science and Law Internship Program is open to college juniors and seniors and those pursuing graduate studies in engineering, chemistry, natural science and other science disciplines and law. There are internships available in four IEPA areas: six in engineering and two each in chemistry and related fields, natural sciences and the legal department. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – February 3, 2020

Proposed Bill Would Add ‘Sexting’ To Sex Ed

DEKALB – A recently-proposed plan would add sexting to the list of topics covered in Illinois sex education courses. Middle and high schools in the state would be required to discuss with students the social, academic and legal consequences of sending or receiving sexually explicit images. State Rep. Maurice West (D-Rockford) introduced the measure. “Underage photos are under age photos, no matter who’s sending it. It doesn’t matter if a 16-year-old is sending it to another 16-year-old,” said West. “It’s still considered child pornography in the law.” And it’s still a felony that could get them labeled a sex offender for life. West also says sexting can make them an easier target of sexual exploitation or sex trafficking. – Peter Medlin, WNIJ News

New University Admission Guarantee Proposed

SPRINGFIELD – A state representative wants to guarantee university admission to any Illinois student with high enough test scores. State Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) is sponsoring legislation that would require Illinois’ public universities to admit anyone who scores in the top 10 percent nationwide on the ACT or SAT. Batnick also says high tuition costs are a huge recruiting problem. Public universities are already making changes with regard to test scores. Northern and Western Illinois are offering “test-blind admissions,” where students don’t have to submit standardized test scores. Meanwhile, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers free tuition for Illinois students from families with income of less than $67,000 a year. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Report: Required Parental Leave Would Not Hurt Economy

SPRINGFIELD – Requiring employers to offer paid parental leave would not hurt the Illinois economy — at least according to a University of Illinois report released today. The report argues more than 200,000 workers would have greater access to cash, potentially boosting local economies. The study comes from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and its Project for Middle Class Renewal, which is headed by Robert Bruno. The leader of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce says the group supports the concept of paid family leave but not as a state mandate. Meanwhile, a lawmaker told public radio she plans to reintroduce mandatory paid leave legislation during the new session of the General Assembly. – Maureen McKinney, NPR Illinois

Transportation Agency Plans Event For Minority Entrepreneurs

SPRINGFIELD — State transportation officials are planning an event next month in Springfield for minority- and women-owned businesses. The conference on Feb. 10-11 will offer workshops and seminars on topics including financing, insurance, cybersecurity and making a safe work environment. Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman says the state’s $45 billion capital program will make things busier than ever for the agency. The conference is called “Today’s Challenge, Tomorrow’s Reward.” – Associated Press

Judge OKs Removal Of Sex Offenders From Aurora Halfway House

AURORA — A northern Illinois judge has ruled the city of Aurora can force the removal of registered sex offenders from a halfway house that is less than 500 feet from a park and playground. Kane County Judge Kevin Busch on Friday denied a temporary restraining order that would have barred the eviction of 18 sex offenders from the Wayside Cross Ministries halfway house. Under Illinois law, registered sex offenders can’t live less than 500 feet from a park or playground. Mark Weinberg, an attorney representing the sex offenders, told the Daily Herald  lawyers were prepared to appeal the judge’s decision. – Associated Press

Man Convicted For Second Time In Death Of 3-Year-Old Boy

WAUKEGAN — A northern Illinois man has been convicted a second time in the 2011 beating death of a 3-year-old boy. Thomas Albea’s first conviction in 2015 for the murder of X’Zavion Charleston was reversed in 2017 and remanded back to the Lake County Circuit Court by an appeals court ruling citing trial error. The 27-year-old was serving a 33-year sentence at the time. A jury late Thursday found Albea guilty in the death of X’Zavion Charleston. Prosecutors say the child died the day after Albea punched the boy repeatedly in the stomach. Albea told investigators he became angry after the boy swore while playing a video game. – Associated Press

Atari Plans To Open Video Game-Themed Resorts In 8 US Cities

LAS VEGAS — Atari, the arcade game company that ushered in the gaming revolution in the 1980s, is opening eight video game-themed hotels across the U.S. The company said this week it will break ground on its first hotel later this year in Phoenix. Atari says it wants to create a unique lodging experience combining the iconic brand with a video game-themed destination. In addition to Phoenix, hotels are planned in Las Vegas, Denver, Chicago, Austin, Texas, Seattle, San Francisco, and San Jose, California. Timeline for hotels other than Phoenix were not released. Founded in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, Atari was known for such games as Asteroids, Centipede, and Missile Command. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – January 31, 2020

Illinois Unemployment Rates Fell in December

URBANA – December unemployment rates were down from a year earlier in all fourteen of Illinois’ major metropolitan areas, according to new figures from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The following are the rates and gain of non-farm jobs over the year from three areas:

  • Champaign-Urbana: 3.3%  Gain 3,000 jobs
  • Decatur: 5.1%  Gain 700 jobs
  • Danville: 5.3%  Job number unchanged

Job growth in most metro areas was strongest in education, health services, government, transportation, warehousing and utilities. Illinois’ statewide unemployment rate for December is 3.5 percent, the lowest rate on record. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Coronavirus Concerns Could Affect New US-China Trade Deal

URBANA – The coronavirus outbreak has trade experts worried about the fate of the phase one trade agreement between the U.S. and China. Todd Hubbs is an agriculture economist at the University of Illinois. He says even before the outbreak there was concern that China wouldn’t be able to meet trade targets set in the agreement. He says the problem is that a slowdown in the Chinese economy means that people buy less goods, including agricultural goods. Hubbs says the coronavirus outbreak has already had a negative impact on commodity prices, especially soybeans. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois AG Sues To Protect ERA

SPRINGFIELD – On Thursday, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed a lawsuit aimed at defeating a Trump administration effort to block the Equal Rights Amendment. Virginia ratified the amendment on Monday becoming the last state needed. The lawsuit, joined by Virginia and Nevada, was filed in federal court in Washington, DC. It seeks to have the national archivist certify the ERA as the 28th amendment, which would guarantee equal rights regardless of gender. The attorneys general of the last three states to ratify, including Illinois in 2018, said the ERA should be considered the law of the land despite a Congressional deadline for ratification that expired in 1982. – Maureen McKinney, NPR Illinois

Chicago Police Unveil Sweeping Department Reorganization

CHICAGO — Chicago’s interim police superintendent has announced sweeping changes to the force, including a plan to move more than 1,100 detectives and specialized officers from the city’s five regional headquarters to its 22 smaller districts. Interim Superintendent Charlie Beck said Thursday that the move will put those personnel in closer contact with the officers who patrol those neighborhoods. He also said the department will create an office to carry out civil rights reforms and another new counter-terrorism unit. Beck was named the interim superintendent after Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired the city’s previous top cop after saying he lied about an incident in which he was found asleep in his running vehicle. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – January 30, 2020

EIU Reports 2% Spring Enrollment Increase

CHARLESTON – Spring enrollment is up at Eastern Illinois University, although by a smaller margin than a year ago.  Tenth-day enrollment figures at the state university in Charleston were up two percent from last spring, at 7,621. That compares to a seven percent increase reported last spring. Undergraduate enrollment was down slightly, but graduate student enrollment rose by more than a hundred students, or nearly ten percent. Graduate School Dean Ryan Hendrickson says in a news release, that Eastern’s graduate student population is at its higher level in a decade. EIU is among several state universities in Illinois trying to bounce back from years of enrollment declines. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Plane Crash Killed Former Springfield Mayor, Coroner

Hundreds Attend Funeral For ‘Unclaimed Veteran’ In Illinois

Ex-East St. Louis Official Sentenced For Official Misconduct

BELLEVILLE — A former East St. Louis, Illinois administrator and City Council member has been sentenced to 30 months of probation and a $500 fine for public corruption. June Olivette Hamilton was convicted last fall of forgery and public contractor misconduct. In addition to probation, the fine and 120 hours of community service, St. Clair County judge John O’Gara prohibited the 56-year-old Hamilton from any job in public administration for 10 years. Before her sentencing, her defense attorney and prosecutors agreed the two charges she was found guilty of are merged and she be sentenced on the misconduct charge alone. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – January 29, 2020

Answers Demanded About DNA Testing Backlog

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois State Police are working their way through the backlog of DNA evidence, and have recently decreased the number of delayed cases by 16 percent. But the turnaround time is still, on average, 215 days. On Tuesday, Carrie Ward, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, told a panel of lawmakers that’s too long. “And when we consider reasons why victims may not report crimes, this waiting period has to be a factor,” said Ward. “Why report a crime when you know it may take years to slog through the system? Justice delayed is justice denied, especially for sexual assault survivors.” State Senator Patricia Van Pelt, chair of the Public Health Law committee, told state police she wants the turnaround time reduced to two months. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Lawmakers Propose Anti-Poaching Laws

SPRINGFIELD – A pair of Illinois lawmakers are taking on the practice of offering tax breaks to lure companies from other states. The legislation would have Illinois agree to stop trying to poach businesses from any state that made the same agreement with Illinois. Backers say similar legislation has been introduced in at least half-a-dozen other states this year — including Missouri, Iowa, Florida and New York. – Michael Smith, NPR Illinois 

Ex-Illinois Lawmaker Pleads Guilty In Red-Light Bribery Case

SPRINGFIELD — A former Illinois state senator has pleaded guilty to accepting around $250,000 in bribes for protecting the interests of a red-light camera company. Martin Sandoval entered the plea in an agreement with prosecutors during a hearing in Chicago Tuesday, a day after federal prosecutors listed charges against him. Under the plea deal, the 56-year-old promises to cooperate with federal prosecutors in ongoing public corruption investigations. Sandoval is well connected in the Illinois Democratic Party, and his decision to cooperate comes after more than a year of home and office raids against multiple Democrats, several of whom have been charged. – Associated Press

Autistic Futures Trader Who Triggered Crash Spared Prison


News Around Illinois – January 28, 2020

Supreme Court: Domestic Violence Survivor Can Own A Gun

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Supreme Court says a woman once convicted of domestic violence is entitled to own a gun. At issue is a federal law meant to keep guns away from people convicted of domestic violence. The Illinois State Police used that to justify denying the woman’s application for a Firearm Owners’ Identification Card. But the Illinois Supreme Court essentially ruled that because the woman had done her time, the state had restored her civil rights — which includes the right to own a firearm. The woman’s attorney, David Jensen, says this decision could influence other courts around the country. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

Illinois Students Following Impeachment In Classrooms

URBANA – As the Senate Impeachment trial of President Trump enters its second week, many students around Illinois are following along in their classrooms. Clinton Mathewson is a social studies teacher at Farmington Central High School, located west of Peoria. We are living history, we are living government class right now. So obviously we were going to talk about the impeachment process in class, but why don’t we live it through our current events?,” said Mathewson on WILL’s The 21st show.  He says talking to students about impeachment is important because teaching current events is required by Illinois state law.  – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Campaign To Save A County’s Remaining Oak Woods Begins

DEKALB – Illinois has lost much of its original ecosystem to farming and development. That includes prairies, wetlands, and in some places, oak woods. Conservationists are trying to preserve what’s left. The Land Conservancy of McHenry County launched “The 5,000 Acre Challenge.” The group is educating landowners on how to best care for their oaks. It also encourages negotiating conservation easements– voluntary, legal agreements that protect land. – Guy Stephens, WNIJ News

Illinois To Continue Voter Registration Program After Error

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker says there are no plans to suspend Illinois’ automatic voter registration program as election officials work to contain the fallout from hundreds of mistaken registrations. The Democrat addressed the issue Monday at an election security news conference. Republicans and government watchdog groups say the mistake threatens the integrity of the voter rolls. A legislative hearing is planned for Thursday. A “programming error” by Secretary of State Jesse White’s office led to 545 people who said they weren’t U.S. citizens being registered to vote as they applied for drivers’ licenses. Officials say 370 registrations have been canceled.   – Associated Press

Ex-Illinois Lawmaker Charged With Red-Light Camera Bribery

CHICAGO — The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago has filed bribery and tax charges against a former Illinois state senator and longtime chairman of the powerful transportation committee.  A two-page filing in U.S. District Court Monday says the allegations relate to former State Sen. Martin Sandoval’s support for the installation of red-light cameras. It says the Chicago Democrat “corruptly solicited, demanded, agreed to accept and accepted” payments for “continued support for the operation of red-light cameras in the State of Illinois.” Agents raided Sandoval’s office in Springfield, his office in Chicago and his home on Sept. 24 amid still-active federal investigations of public corruption that have ensnared multiple Democrats. – Associated Press

Aurora Promotes New Hub For Non Profits And Entrepreneurs

AURORA — Officials in Illinois’ second-largest city say a new center opening this month will be a gathering place for nonprofit groups, entrepreneurs and social innovators. Aurora officials say the Thrive Collaborative Center will provide low-cost space for groups and organizations to meet, along with workshops and training. Members of the center can rent a meeting room or get a day pass. Topics for upcoming workshops include fundraising for research and non-profit leadership. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – January 27, 2020

Pritzker Signs Law To Limit Cost of Insulin

SPRINGFIELD – Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a law Friday intended to bring down the cost of insulin. Beginning next year, a 30-day supply of insulin will be capped at $100 but only for people who have health insurance. Pritzker says the current average monthly price of $500 and more has been driven higher by middlemen. Pritzker says the Illinois Department of Insurance will be taking a closer look at insulin pricing. The price caps in the law do not go into effect until January 1st of next year. – Mike Smith, WUIS News

Abortions In Illinois Increased About 7% In 1 Year

Hunters Bagged 153,000+ Deer In Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – The State of Illinois reported that 153,048 deer were harvested during the 2019-20 archery and firearm seasons. The most recent season concluded on January 19. More males were harvested than does. Some of the harvests by county:

  • Champaign: 635
  • Coles: 1430
  • Cook: 145
  • Douglas: 334
  • DeWitt: 903
  • Douglas: 334
  • Ford: 175
  • Macon: 769
  • Moultrie: 661
  • Sangamon: 1515
  • Vermilion: 1510

The total is up from 151,709 deer in 2018-2019. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Sports Historian: NFL Hasn’t Fully Reckoned With Racism

NORMAL – A sports historian says a Normal native’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame nearly a century after he helped break the league’s color barrier shows the league hasn’t fully reckoned with the racism that’s plagued the league for generations. The NFL recently named Duke Slater to its centennial Hall of Fame class. He was the league’s first black lineman. Author Jack Silverstein says the NFL still struggles with diversity in coaching and ownership. Silverstein notes the Chicago Bears are among four teams still owned by the same families since the league banned black players in the 1930s and 40s. – Eric Stock, WGLT Radio

If The $6.5M Hat Isn’t Lincoln’s, Why Not Ask For A Refund?

SPRINGFIELD — With a gleaming new museum to Abraham Lincoln open, organizers seeking to populate it with relics of the late president paid $6.5 million for the most symbolic, one of Lincoln’s stovepipe hats. But a dozen years later, there’s still no concrete evidence the hat ever belonged to the Great Emancipator. It was purchased as part of a $23 million, 1,500-piece acquisition from California collector Louise Taper. Officials with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the foundation that bought the collection say there are no plans currently to ask Taper for a refund. – Associated Press

Official: Naval Base ‘Gate Runner’ Was Just A Base Worker

GREAT LAKES — Officials say a man who drove onto a naval station north of Chicago without showing credentials, leading to the base being locked down, turned out to be an employee who didn’t follow directions. John Sheppard, a spokesman for Naval Station Great Lakes, said in a news release that the man was caught a short time after entering the base shortly after 7:00 a.m. Friday. The base issued an initial warning on its Facebook page for personnel to “RUN, HIDE, FIGHT!” but it later described it as a “minor situation” and lifted the lockdown. Sheppard says the worker didn’t follow the gate sentry’s directions. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – January 24, 2020

Champaign Co. Board Republicans Block Budgeting For Treasurer Staffing

URBANA – $25,000 in budget amendments to cover extra staffing last year in the Champaign County Treasurer’s office fell short of needed super-majorities at Thursday night’s county board meeting. Republicans opposed the amendments to show their disapproval of the office’s performance under Democrat Laurel Prussing. The 78-year-old treasurer had hired additional help, (including former County Board chairman Pius Weibel as acting chief deputy treasurer) as her office fell behind in issuing financial reports and delivering tax revenue to local governments. Democrats said failure to pass the budget amendments would hurt Champaign County’s financial standing. Meanwhile, Republicans accused Democrats of ignoring their concerns over mounting problems in the office. Prussing has announced her resignation, effective January 31st, after just over a year on the job. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Bodies Of Three Men Found In Danville Home

Pritzker Touts Childhood Investment In Visit

MARION – Governor J.B. Pritzker visited the Heartland Kids Early Learning Center in Marion Thursday to discuss investments in early childhood development and set the bar for success. Pritzker wants to address the staffing crisis facing childcare workers. He pointed to last month’s announcement of increased reimbursement rates for the state’s childcare assistance program and a doubled investment in the Gateway scholarship to train teachers. The governor renewed his goal of bringing universal preschool to Illinois.  Pritzker also pushed his goal of having universal home visits for at risk children by 2025. – Steph Whiteside, WSIU Radio

Champaign Bids For Basketball Tournament

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign is hoping to win back the IHSA boys’ basketball finals for the first time since Peoria won the bidding back in 1995. Visit Champaign County President and CEO Jayne DeLuce is coordinating the city’s bid. She says one of Champaign’s biggest selling points is high school students getting to experience the renovated State Farm Center. Champaign and Peoria are the two cities bidding for the boys basketball finals, while Peoria is also bidding for the girls basketball finals, which are currently held at Redbird Arena in Normal. – Brian Moline, Illinois Newsroom

Portraits Of Obamas To Begin 5-City US Tour In Chicago

CHICAGO — The official portraits of former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama from the National Portrait Gallery will begin a five-city national tour in Chicago in June 2021. The gallery said Thursday the Art Institute of Chicago will host the portraits from June 18, 2021, to August 15, 2021. Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of Barack Obama and Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama were unveiled in February 2018. Kim Sajet, director of the Portrait Gallery, says that since the unveiling, the gallery has experienced a record number of visitors. After leaving Chicago, the portraits will travel to New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Houston. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – January 23, 2020

Gov. Pritzker Signs Law Allowing More Young People To Vote

SPRINGFIELD – A new law signed Wednesday will give students two hours out of their school day to go vote in elections. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker approved the change to give high schoolers of legal age a chance to vote during school hours. Senator Elgie Sims, a Chicago Democrat, says he was motivated to sponsor the change by students who want to participate in the electoral process.  School administrators will still have discretion over which hours students can leave class to vote. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

NIU Professor To Study Mental Health In Finland

DEKALB – Northern Illinois University Sociology Professor Fred Markowitz says, in the U.S., it’s difficult to get good information on programs that might prevent jail time for those grappling with mental illness. Markowitz says, to a lesser degree, Finland is dealing with some of the same issues. But the system there is streamlined and centralized. He says that makes it possible to gather data from different places and compare them meaningfully. He’s hoping that will make it possible to come up with answers that can work in both countries. – Guy Stephens, WNIJ News

Teacher Takes Leave Case To State Supreme Court

SPRINGFIELD – Margaret Dynak, a teacher in the Wood Dale School District, west of Chicago, had banked 30 days of sick leave before her baby girl was born. But her daughter arrived on the last full day of the school year, so the first chance Dynak had to use those paid sick days didn’t come until school re-opened in the fall. The district said that’s not really sick leave. The Illinois Education Association — the state’s largest teachers union is pleading Dynak’s case before the state’s highest court. Dynak ended up taking the time off without pay. The school district says she can use those banked days later, if needed, or cash them out upon retirement. – Dusty Rhodes, NPR Illinois

Intruder Shot During Danville Home Invasion Identified

DANVILLE — Police say an eastern Illinois homeowner shot and killed an intruder during a home invasion. Danville Police Commander Josh Webb says the man told officers that at least two people armed with handguns and wearing ski masks kicked in his door and attempted to rob him Sunday night. Webb says the homeowner had a handgun and shot at the intruders. Officers located a man inside the home suffering from multiple gunshot wounds who later died at an hospital. Vermilion County Coroner Jane McFadden has identified the man as 23-year-old Jordan Parrish. The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports the homeowner told police that at least one other intruder fled the scene. – Associated Press

Coroner: Juice WRLD Died Of Accidental Drug Overdose

CHICAGO — The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office has determined that last month’s death of rapper Juice WRLD was the result of an accidental overdose of the opioid oxycodone and codeine. The rapper whose given name was Jarad Anthony Higgins went into convulsions at Midway International Airport on Dec. 8 while federal authorities searched a private plane he had been on after flying from Los Angeles to Chicago. A search of the plane revealed 41 bags of suspected marijuana, bottles of liquid codeine, guns and ammunition. Juice WRLD, who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Homewood, was gaining a national reputation as a musician. – Associated Press

Illinois Prosecutors Make Plan For Their 1st R. Kelly Trial

CHICAGO — Illinois state prosecutors say the first of the four Chicago sexual abuse cases against R. Kelly that they’ll take to trial involves a hairdresser who alleges that Kelly tried to force himself on her during a 2003 appointment. Cook County prosecutors told the judge their plan during a hearing Wednesday that Kelly didn’t attend. Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood scheduled that first trial to begin on Sept. 14, but it’s possible it could be delayed. Kelly, who has been jailed since last year, also faces state charges in Minnesota and federal charges in Illinois and New York. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – January 22, 2020

Pritzker Says SIU-Carbondale Project Is Sample Of Higher Ed Improvements

CARBONDALE – Illinois Governor JB Pritzker visited the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus Tuesday to highlight the state’s capital program funding for higher education. Pritzker touted over eight million dollars in funding to start planning the renovation and expansion of the campus’ Communications Building, built in 1964.  Planned improvements include state-of-the-art media labs and a combined broadcast-print newsroom.. The governor noted that he signed the bipartisan budget that contained tens of millions of additional funding for this and other higher education projects. The money comes as welcome relief for SIU, one of several state universities that have seen their enrollment numbers shrink in recent years. Enrollment at SIU’s flagship Carbondale campus fell to 11,695 last fall, down 8.75% from the year before. – Brad Palmer, WSIU

Campaign Begins To Make Starved Rock State Park More Accessible

OGLESBY – Starved Rock State Park lacks a single trail accessible to people with physical disabilities. The “For the Love of Starved Rock” campaign aims to change that. Amy Trimble is the president of Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center. She says the new trail will start at the parking lot and wind behind the lodge’s cabins. A group called the Starved Rock Walkers is spearheading the accessible trail project. The group also hopes to raise money to repair a bridge over Tonti Canyon and address erosion issues at LaSalle Canyon so trails can reopen. – Tim Shelley, WCBU News

Illinois: Error Registered A Possible 545 Noncitizen Voters

CHICAGO — Officials say a computer error in Illinois’ new automatic voter registration system may have led to 545 non-U.S. citizens being registered to vote, 16 of whom cast ballots. The Illinois secretary of state’s office has acknowledged the mistake, saying it was an isolated incident. Officials are working to confirm how many people were mistakenly registered and canceling improper registrations. A group of Republican lawmakers has called for an immediate hearing into the issue, calling it a “serious breach” of voter protections. Illinois made automatic voter registration law in 2017, but it wasn’t fully in swing until last year.  – Associated Press

Illinois Healthcare Company Closes Briefly To Meet State Law

WAUKEGAN — An Illinois healthcare manufacturing company has temporarily closed because it couldn’t meet new state standards for ethylene oxide, a cancer-causing chemical. The Lake County News-Sun reports that Medline Industries in Waukegan is in the process of completing $10 million in upgrades designed to bring the plant into compliance with the state law. The facility closed about a month ago. Medline spokesman Jesse Greenberg says the company expects to start full operations in a few weeks once the equipment is tested. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is funding testing, which is required for at least 30 days after Medline finishes installing its new equipment. – Associated Press

Police Officer Charged With DUI After Fatal Crash

JOLIET — A suburban Chicago police officer faces a drunken driving charge after she was involved in a traffic collision in which an officer from another department riding with her was killed. Illinois State Police say Joliet Police Officer Erin Zilka was driving in Will County on Interstate 55 early Sunday when her vehicle slammed into a truck that had been involved in a crash a short time earlier. Berwyn Police Officer Charles Schauer, a passenger in Zilka’s vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene. Joliet Police, where Zilka has been an officer for 12 years, says it has launched an internal investigation. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – January 21, 2020

Peoria Bidding To Keep High School Basketball Tournaments

PEORIA – The Peoria Civic Center placed bids to host both the IHSA Boys and Girls Basketball Tournaments for the next three years. Peoria has some competition. Champaign wants the boys tournament, and Normal is bidding to keep the girls tournament. Peoria has played host to the boys tournament for the last 25 years. The IHSA board will make its final decision in April. – Tim Shelley, WCBU News

U Of I Professor Speaking In Davos This Week

URBANA – A University of Illinois professor will give a speech in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday. Professor Ming Kuo is with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, and will speak about her research into the effects of nature on mental health. The World Economic Forum draws thousands of attendees each year, including global business leaders and heads of state. Professor Kuo is the first University of Illinois faculty member from the Urbana-Champaign campus to speak at the forum. She’ll speak again on Thursday. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Suburban Police Officer Charged With DUI After Fatal Crash

Law Eliminates License Suspension For Non-Moving Violations

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed a law that eliminates driver’s license suspensions for most non-moving violations. The Democrat signed the measure last week. He says it will allow tens of thousands of motorists to have driving privileges reinstated. That means more people will be able to work. “Suspending licenses for having too many unpaid tickets, fines, and fees doesn’t necessarily make a person pay the bill, but it does mean that people don’t have a way to pay,” Pritzker said. According to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a study showed that 42% of those who had their licenses suspended lost their jobs. – Associated Press

Museum Program On African Americans’ Work Marks 50th Year

CHICAGO  — The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is marking the 50th anniversary of a program honoring the achievements of African Americans in science, technology, engineering, art and medicine and encouraging young people to consider those fields. The Black Creativity program began in 1970. This year’s event is focused on innovation. The program begins Monday and runs through March 1. The program includes hands-on activities for school groups and a museum exhibit featuring more than 200 works by black artists. The museum also has scheduled a career event on Feb. 29 highlighting black artists, scientists and engineers working in Chicago. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – January 20, 2020

U Of I And SIU Partner To Bring Higher Education To Springfield

SPRINGFIELD – Two universities with local ties are collaborating to bring a new higher education presence to downtown Springfield. On Thursday, the University of Illinois Springfield and Southern Illinois University publicly announced their partnership to create an innovation space in close proximity to the Capitol Building. UIS’s Bruce Sommer  presented the plan at a dinner sponsored by the civic group Downtown Springfield Inc. He says he hopes the project is more than just one building — but rather an entire district devoted to education, commercialization of technology, and business incubation. Sommer says the exact location and scope of the project have yet to be decided. One plan, from the Springfield-Sangamon Growth Alliance, would encompass four city blocks adjacent to the Statehouse. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

Durbin Warns Colleagues On Impeachment: ‘History Will Find You’

As the U.S. Senate prepares for President Trump’s impeachment trial, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin has a warning for his colleagues. Durbin is among the senators who’ve been through an impeachment before: he was in his first term when President Bill Clinton was tried and acquitted in the Senate. He’s urging a few of his Republican colleagues to break ranks, and push their party leaders to allow witness testimony at the impeachment trial. “I hope at the end of the day, enough Republican Senators will understand: History will find you. Make certain that you make a decision that you can life with, in terms of our Constitution and your own professional career,” Durbin said. Democrats are calling for witness testimony at the trial. But leaders of the Republican majority have so far rebuffed that idea. The impeachment trial is set to resume at noon (CST) Tuesday. – Brian Mackey, NPR Illinois

U Of I Professor Wins Fellowship For Study Of Violin In UK

URBANA — A University of Illinois music professor has been awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Musicology professor Christina Bashford was awarded one of 188 humanities grants across the nation receiving $30.9 million. She will use the grant on a book project about the impact of the violin on Great Britain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. U of I Chancellor Robert J. Jones noted that the fellowship is one of the nation’s more competitive humanities programs. The NEH awards an average of 79 grants a year out of 1,100 applications received. – Associated Press

DNA Tests Confirm Coyote Captured In Chicago Attacked Boy

CHICAGO — Animal control officials in Chicago say DNA tests confirm a coyote recently captured in the city is the same animal that attacked a 6-year-old boy. Chicago Animal Care and Control released a statement Sunday saying that the animal had been shot in the chest with a BB gun, which could have caused its aggressive behavior. The animal is expected to remain at a local wildlife rehabilitation center. It was captured after being chased by Chicago police and animal control officers for several blocks. Animal control officials say another coyote was spotted in the same part of the city but eluded capture. – Associated Press

Jet Slides On Illinois Airport’s Taxiway In Wintry Weather

MOLINE — Officials in western Illinois say a mix of icy conditions and high winds contributed to a jet sliding along a taxiway. No injuries were reported when a Delta jet carrying 50 passengers slid Saturday afternoon at Moline’s Quad City International Airport. The jet was bound for Detroit. Airport spokeswoman Ashleigh Johnston says the airport closed Friday just before 3 p.m. and reopened Saturday after 10 a.m.  Johnston says crews were working to keep runways and taxiways clear of ice and snow, when temperatures dropped and created icy conditions. Wind gusts at the airports were measured at 51 mph. – Associated Press

Illinois Approves Coal Company’s Mine Water Pumping Proposal

CARBONDALE — The Illinois Department of Natural Resources approved the first of three permits for a coal company’s plan to discharge waste water from a mine into the Big Muddy River. The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale reports that Williamson Energy LLC’s Pond Creek Mine pipeline would dump millions of gallons of mine wastewater into the river. The department made a final decision in December on Williamson Energy’s application through its Office of Mines and Minerals. The company still needs authorization from the state’s Environmental Protection Agency, which is awaiting its application fee. Critics say they will continue efforts to halt the pipeline. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – January 17, 2020

Durbin And Duckworth Help Pass USMCA Trade Deal

SPRINGFIELD – Both U.S. Senators from Illinois voted Thursday in favor of a new United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. Lawmakers negotiated bipartisan support for the measure. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) says the plan is good for farmers, manufacturers, and working people. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) says Illinois is the sixth-ranked state for exports, supporting more than 325,000 jobs. The agreement, known as USMCA, allows for free trade among the U-S, Mexico and Canada — which are Illinois’ largest export partners. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

More College Campuses Promoting Their Cannabis Classes

URBANA – Now that recreational cannabis is legal in Illinois, college campuses around the state are promoting their programs that prepare students to work in the industry. There’s growing interest from cannabis industry officials in standardizing a workforce and creating a more qualified applicant pool. Steve Fix is a faculty member at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines and spoke on WILL’s  “The 21st Show.”  Fix says that since launching the program in the fall, other campuses have expressed interest in developing their own programs. Campus officials say there’s been a lot of interest from students. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

​Weather Service: Tornado Hit Southern Illinois On Saturday

WARE — The National Weather Service says a tornado packing winds of up to 100 mph struck far southern Illinois during last weekend’s severe weather outbreak. The weather service says in a summary of the severe storms and flooding that an EF-1 tornado left a nearly 1-mile-long path of damage Saturday morning in Ware, an unincorporated Union County community that’s near the Mississippi River. That storm caused no injuries but a weather service survey crew found that roofs were blown off several structures and numerous trees were snapped and uprooted in Ware, which is located about 70 miles southeast of St. Louis. – Associated Press

Police Commander Charged With Battery

DIXMOOR — Prosecutors have charged a suburban Chicago police commander with aggravated battery for allegedly dragging a 66-year-old grandmother into a police station and slamming her face into a wall. Cook County prosecutors also charged Dixmoor Commander Ronald Burge Jr. with official misconduct Wednesday in connection with the October altercation with Carla Bourgouis. The 31-year-old commander surrendered after investigators obtained a warrant for his arrest. He was ordered held on $20,000 bond. Bourgouis says the altercation escalated after she refused to give Burge a cellphone she was using to record him. Dixmoor Police Chief Ronald Burge Sr., the commander’s father, released video showing Bourgouis breaching a secure area and ignoring arrest orders. – Associated Press

Top Senate Republican Disappointed In Property Tax Relief Proposals

BLOOMINGTON — The Illinois Senate’s top Republican said he’s disappointed so far in what he’s seen emerge out of the state’s property tax relief task force. The task force was created after lawmakers agreed to ask voters in November whether they want to ditch Illinois’ flat income tax and move to a graduated or progressive rate structure. Some see that as an opportunity to reduce the property tax burden on home and business owners. The task force failed to meet its Dec. 31 deadline to deliver a final report, although a draft summary has been circulated. It includes ideas such as school district consolidation, merging units of local government, and broadening the sales tax base to fund schools. Brady said the best way to deliver property tax relief is to grow Illinois’ economy and commit any extra revenue created to education, while also asking schools to lower property taxes. – Ryan Denham, WGLT

News Around Illinois – January 16, 2020

School Nurses Can Treat With CBD Now

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois has distributed some 94,000 medical marijuana licenses, and about 600 of those went to children under the age of 18. A new law allows school nurses and officials to administer such medications on campus, at school activities, or even on a school bus. No school personnel will be required to administer these meds. A State Board of Education webinar assured educators they wouldn’t have to flout federal law.  Students would have to provide a variety of documentation, including a registry identification card, two signed certifications from healthcare professionals, and parental permission. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

Some Tax Revenue From Cannabis Sales To Help Communities 

URBANA – It’s called the Restore, Reinvest and Renew, or R3 program. A quarter of all cannabis tax revenues will be diverted to the program, with the mission of reinvesting in communities most harmed by the war on drugs. Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton’s office spearheads the initiative. Speaking on WILL’s “The 21st show”, she says the program will award grants to a variety of community-based organizations.  “Legal aid services, reentry programs, other opportunities for economic development, making sure we think about violence prevention,” said Stratton. Stratton says her office has identified the communities that will be eligible for the funding. The next step she says is to educate them about the program — and help community-based organizations prepare strong grant proposals. – Lee Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Senators Demand Review Of Army Reserve Sexual Assaults

MADISON, Wis. — Two Democratic senators are demanding that Army officials investigate allegations that leaders of a reserve unit mishandled sexual assault complaints and ignored protocols. Illinois Sens. Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth sent a letter to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy on Wednesday demanding the review. The senators cited an Associated Press story last week about allegations that commanders in the Illinois-based 416th Theater Engineer Command improperly opened internal investigations into at least two cases, failed to hold monthly sexual assault management meetings and suspended a victim advocate who reported the shortcomings to Army investigators. – Associated Press

Billionaire Businesswoman Penny Pritzker Endorses Joe Biden

WASHINGTON — A major Democratic fundraiser and former commerce secretary under President Barack Obama has endorsed Joe Biden for president. The former vice president’s campaign announced the endorsement of billionaire businesswoman Penny Pritzker on Wednesday. Pritzker’s support could give Biden a considerable fundraising boost. Pritzker is an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune and played an instrumental role in Obama’s rise, helping him raise money for his Senate campaign and his 2008 presidential primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. Pritzker served as Obama’s commerce secretary from 2013 until he left office. Pritzker praises Biden’s years of Washington experience and joins a list of Obama administration officials who have endorsed Biden. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – January 15, 2020

Pritzker Wants Says Green Energy Laws Should Move Ahead

SPRINGFIELD – Governor JB Pritzker says Illinois needs to move ahead with clean-energy legislation even as one of the state’s biggest utilities remains under a cloud of federal investigation. With the disclosure of federal subpoenas to Commonwealth Edison last year, and federal raids on some of the utility giant’s key lobbyists, backers of energy legislation pumped the brakes. ComEd’s parent company, Exelon, runs several nuclear reactors in Illinois. Pritzker says both companies need to clean up their act. Exelon says it might have to close several nuclear plants without legislation that would effectively let it charge higher rates. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

Pritzker Defends Red-Light Cameras

SPRINGFIELD – Governor J.B. Pritzker is defending the value of red-light cameras. It comes as federal investigators have been looking at ties between the industry and certain towns. Comptroller Susana Mendoza recently announced her office would stop helping municipalities collect red-light fines, citing the investigations. But Pritzker says he’s heard from “many law enforcement and public safety officials” who say there are benefits to the cameras. Mendoza also pointed to news reports saying the tickets disproportionately affect minority and low-income drivers. On that point, Pritzker seems to agree. He says no one should lose their livelihood for being unable to pay a relatively low-stakes fine. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

Treasurer Wants To Change Cash-Only Cannabis Sales

URBANA – Whether it’s for medicinal or recreational use, Illinois’ cannabis industry operates on a cash-only basis. A bill in Congress could change that, but only if it gets a vote in the Senate. The cash-only transactions are because banks won’t deal with cannabis businesses.  Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs said the federal ban on cannabis means banks fear prosecution if they give a business that grows or sell cannabis so much as a checking account. A bill allowing banks to serve cannabis businesses if they’re legal at the state level passed the U.S. House last September, with the support of nearly all Democrats and 91 Republicans. Frerichs says it might pass in the Senate, too, But Republican Leader Mitch McConnell won’t allow a vote. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Ex-priest Gets 9-Year Prison Sentence For Child Pornography

BELLEVILLE — A former southern Illinois priest who pleaded guilty last year to distributing child pornography and processing methamphetamine has received a nine-year prison sentence. Gerald Hechenberger, who formerly pastored Holy Childhood Catholic Church in Mascoutah, was sentenced Tuesday in St. Clair County Circuit Court. He was arrested at the church in January 2018 after police received a tip from the organization Internet Crimes Against Children. He was stripped of his priestly duties within days of his arrest. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – January 14, 2020

Sullivan Resigns Over ‘Rape’ Email

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s agriculture director has resigned after acknowledging that he received, but did not act on, a lobbyist’s email seven years ago which referenced an alleged rape cover-up and illegal hiring practices. The email was originally obtained by Chicago public radio station WBEZ. John Sullivan said in a statement Monday that he did not read the email thoroughly at the time but said, “I accept responsibility for what was truly an unintentional oversight and the subsequent inaction.” The July 2012 email from Michael McClain sought leniency from gubernatorial aides for a “loyal” state employee who “has kept his mouth shut on … ghost workers, the rape in Champaign and other items.” – Associated Press

Northern Illinoisans Planning For Women’s March

ROCKFORD – Women’s March Rockford is preparing for this weekend’s event. Organizers recently held a sign making party at Womanspace. Julie Thompson was one of the first to arrive. Her sign said, “Liberty – Equality -Diversity.” My sign means that this is a country made of immigrants and that we all can achieve according to our effort and that everybody is welcome,” said Thompson. “I just think that the more women who stand up for women’s rights, the better.” Saturday is the fourth year for planned marches around the country including a larger march in Washington D.C. – Connie Kuntz, WNIJ News

Food Company Pursuing Expansion To Cannabis

EAST PEORIA – The owner of an East Peoria food distribution company wants to start up a craft cannabis operation in his building. Roy Sorce says he never intended to become a cannabis grower. But with severe truck driver shortages hampering growth in his industry, he says he needs to expand to something new to stay in business. Sorce’s business is located on an industrial stretch of Illinois Route 116. He employs about 20 people. The East Peoria zoning board of appeals approved his request Monday. If the full council approves, Sorce can apply for a state permit to begin operations. – Tim Shelley, Peoria Public Radio

Durbin Criticizes SNAP Benefit Changes

SPRINGFIELD – Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) is criticizing the change that’s putting tens of thousands of Illinoisans are at risk of losing food aid over work requirements. The work requirements apply to able-bodied adults, under 50, and without dependents. Such people will be limited to three months of assistance in a three-year period. Durbin says he’s OK with incentivizing people “to move toward jobs, but not by withholding their food.” The requirements have existed for years, but states could get exemptions. A recent change from the Trump administration is expected to make that less likely. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio 

23 Apply For Chicago Police Chief Vacancy

CHICAGO — The Chicago Police Board says it has received applications from 23 people who want to become the city’s next police superintendent. Board president Ghian Foreman says the applications were sent in by job seekers from across the nation as well as locally. The superintendent post became vacant in December when Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired Eddie Johnson. She said Johnson lied about an October drinking-and-driving incident. Former Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck is serving as interim Chicago police superintendent until a permanent replacement is picked. – Associated Press

UIC Proposes $191M Outpatient Care Center In Chicago

CHICAGO — The University of Illinois’ health system has proposed a $191 million outpatient care center next to its hospital on Chicago’s West Side. The proposed six-story 200,000-square-foot building would be connected to the main hospital through a bridge. An application for the project says it would be funded through a public-private partnership. A hearing is planned for April 7.  Mike Zenn is CEO of University of Illinois Hospital and Clinics and says it could be finished by 2022, pending state approval. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – January 13, 2020

2 Soldiers Killed In Afghanistan From Illinois, Virginia

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Pentagon says the two soldiers killed Saturday in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb were from Illinois and Virginia. On Sunday, military officials identified the casualties as 21-year-old Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon of Joliet, Illinois; and 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin of Newport News, Virginia. Both soldiers were assigned to 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Pentagon says their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province. Two other soldiers were injured. – Associated Press

East St. Louis Official Faces $175K In Fines To State Board

EAST ST. LOUIS — An East St. Louis elected official owes more than $175,000 in accrued fines to the Illinois State Board of Elections if he wants to appear on the March primary ballot. The (Belleville) News-Democrat reports it’s the highest amount a candidate has accrued with the board. East St. Louis Township Supervisor and former mayor Alvin Parks has until Tuesday. He hasn’t said if he’ll be able to pay. He recently attempted to settle the outstanding amount by offering about 50 percent of what he owes. Board members rejected it, saying Parks disregarded campaign finance laws. – Associated Press

Sanders, Delaney, and Walsh Stop In Quad Cities

Two Democrats and one Republican turned out for a political forum in Davenport, Iowa on Sunday. Sponsored by a social justice organization, Gamaliel of Illinois and Iowa, Bernie Sanders, John Delaney, and Joe Walsh were given time to make brief statements. But most of their time was spent answering questions. And their answers were very similar – to protect the environment, restore rights to former prisoners, and how to handle immigration. Walsh also won applause from the audience for his answers, very similar to those from Sanders and Delaney. – Herb Trix, WVIK

County’s Printing Glitch Led To Duplicate Voter Cards

PEKIN — Officials in central Illinois say a printing glitch is responsible for some residents receiving up to eight voter registration cards recently. Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman tells The (Peoria) Journal Star that a printer froze and got multiple orders to reprint. That led to duplicate cards printed, some of which were mailed. Ackerman apologizes for the inconvenience and “waste of resources.” A new printing process was expected to save around $6,000 this year, however after the glitch the savings was around $4,800.  – Associated Press

Black Hawk statue
Loredo Taft’s statue of “The Eternal Indian”, also known as the Black Hawk Statue, stands over the Rock River in Lowden State Park near Oregon, Illinois. IvoShandor/Wikimedia Commons

Illinois’ Black Hawk Statue Is Finally Finished

OREGON — An Illinois landmark known as the Eternal Indian statue is finally complete after years of planning and fundraising. The Rockford Register Star reports the scaffolding surrounding the sculpture, also known as Black Hawk, is being removed and should be taken down within weeks. Restoration efforts paused in 2016 after the conservator and project engineer disagreed over how much of the statue’s exterior concrete skin should be removed. The statue sat under a black tarp for about two years. Workers began erecting the scaffolding in September after repair work was to begin in 2018. An unveiling ceremony is planned for spring. – Associated Press


Illinois Updating Birth Certificates For Transgender Dads

Kerry Campaigns For Biden In Quad Cities

Unity and the salvation of the United States are the stakes in this year’s presidential election. That’s what former Secretary of State John Kerry told Iowa voters in Davenport, Iowa on Saturday, as he campaigned for Joe Biden. Kerry says President Trump was reckless to walk away from the nuclear deal Kerry and the Obama administration negotiated with Iran. He says it was Biden who pushed President Clinton to respond to the bloodshed in the Balkans and eventually bring peace to the region. Three Democratic US Representatives also campaigned for Biden at “We Know Joe” rallies over the weekend in the eastern part of Iowa. – Michelle O’Neill – WVIK

Illinois Agency, Volunteers Join To Fight Human Trafficking

News Around Illinois – January 10, 2020

Michael Madigan’s Friend Dodges Questions About ‘Rape’ Comment In An Email

Consummate Illinois Democratic insider Michael McClain dodged questions Thursday about an email in which he sought leniency for a state worker in a disciplinary case, having argued that the man was politically loyal and had stayed silent about “the rape in Champaign.” In his first public comments since FBI agents raided his home last May, the former Springfield lobbyist and close confidant of Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan said he would consult with his lawyer before deciding whether he could explain what he was referring to in the cryptic, 2012 email. – Dan Mihalopoulos and Dave McKinney, WBEZ

Proposals To Allow Cannabis Businesses In Rural Champaign County To Get Public Hearing

URBANA – The Champaign County Board’s land use committee has sent two compromise proposals to allow cannabis-related businesses in unincorporated areas over to a zoning board for a public hearing. The stricter of the two plans would limit cannabis businesses in unincorporated Champaign County to a mile-and-a-half-wide buffer around Champaign and Urbana. The second plan would, in addition, allow cannabis businesses like growers and transporters — but NOT dispensaries — in much of the county’s unincorporated areas. The two proposals now go to Champaign County’s zoning board for public hearings, before coming back to the land use committee. – Jim Meadows, Illinos Newsroom

Carle To Acquire Advocate Hospitals In Normal & Eureka

URBANA  – The Carle health system is promising no impact on patient care, as it acquires hospitals in Normal and Eureka from Advocate Aurora Health. Carle will take over Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, and Advocate Eureka Hospital in Woodford County, as well as affiliated sites in central Illinois. According to the Pantagraph, Carle President James Leonard said the two hospitals will be a good fit for them. He says that’s due to their devotion to patient care and because the hospitals are close to Carle’s home base in Urbana. Most other Advocate Aurora hospitals in Illinois are located in the Chicago area. Terms of the transaction, which is subject to regulatory approval, are not being disclosed. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

University of Illinois Police Chief Moving To Ohio

URBANA – The police chief of the University of Illinois is leaving. The university announced Thursday that Craig Stone is moving to Columbus, Ohio to become that city’s Deputy Director of Public Safety. Chief Stone joined UIPD in June 2018. Since then, the department filled 20 new or vacant positions, added a third K-9 unit and a crime analyst. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois, Stone served as police chief at Ohio State and Cleveland State Universities. Chief Stone’s last day will be January 15. Deputy Police Chief Matt Myrick will serve as interim while the university searches for a new chief. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Pritzker Wants Cash Bail To End

CHICAGO – Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker says he wants to end the use of cash bail throughout the entire state. Pritzker says judges should decide whether a person should be free while awaiting trial based on their danger to the community. He says he believes cash bail will be eliminated in Illinois during his time as governor. Pritzker announced his priorities for criminal justice reform at an event Thursday. Besides ending cash bail, the governor says he wants to get rid of most mandatory minimum prison sentences and make sure drug users get sent to treatment instead of prison. – Patrick Smith, WBEZ

Chicago Coyote Captured After 2 Suspected Attacks Reported


News Around Illinois – January 9, 2020

Illinois Task Force On Property Taxes Earns Critique

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin says a statewide task force designed to address local property taxes has so far failed to do so.  He and other House Republicans roundly criticized the group Wednesday, which was created shortly after state lawmakers approved a ballot question about allowing a progressive state income tax.  Voters will have a say this fall. Though the task force hasn’t released its final report yet, Durkin says he’s not convinced Democrats who control it will put forward anything substantive.  Democrats on the task force, meanwhile, have accused Durkin and others of making partisan arguments. Data from the Illinois Department of Revenue shows property taxes statewide went up by at least a billion dollars between 2017-2018. – Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

Duckworth Delivers Harsh Critique Of Trump

WASHINGTON – Speaking on the Senate floor, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) said President Donald Trump is easily manipulated — particularly by despotic foreign governments. “Sweet talk him, or thump your chest and issue a few school-yard threats, and you’ve got him,” said Duckworth. She said the president’s choices play into the Iranian regime’s hands — giving them license to go on the offensive in Iraq. Iran fired missiles on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops. The Iranian strikes had come days after Trump authorized the targeted killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force. Duckworth, a wounded veteran of the Iraq war, said Congress needs to take action — and vote to limit the president’s authority to wage war against Iran without congressional approval. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

Chicago Airports Add Boxes For Travelers To Dump Marijuana

CHICAGO — Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway international airports have installed boxes where travelers can dispose of recreational marijuana before they board their flights. The cannabis amnesty boxes, as they’re called, were installed at each airport last week, just as legal marijuana sales began in Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reports the boxes are located just past the airports’ Transportation Security Administration checkpoints. Chicago Police Department spokeswoman Maggie Huynh says that while it’s not illegal to have cannabis at the airport, possessing marijuana is still illegal under federal law. She says the boxes give people an opportunity to ensure they won’t run into an issue when they land at their destination. – Associated Press

IDPH Recommends Residents Obtain Hepatitis A And Flu Vaccinations

The Illinois Department of Public Health says vaccination is an excellent defense against two prominent diseases. The first is Hepatitis A. This is a highly contagious liver disease that can cause symptoms such as fatigue, stomach pain, and jaundice. Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said the disease is widespread, and there’s been an outbreak in Illinois since September 2018. Health departments around Illinois have a supply of the vaccine, and can be used if it can’t be obtained via private coverage. Ezike said proper hand hygiene is also effective, since the disease often spreads through contaminated food or water. Ezike said it’s also important to get an influenza vaccine. She noted it’s particularly important when more tests for the disease are coming back positive. – Chase Cavanaugh – WNIJ

Former Wisconsin Official To Lead EPA’s Chicago Office

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A former Wisconsin official has been appointed to lead a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional office covering six Midwestern states. Kurt Thiede will become chief of EPA’s Region 5, which is based in Chicago and oversees operations in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Thiede succeeds Cathy Stepp, who is resigning for a professional opportunity in Missouri. Previously, she was secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Thiede was Stepp’s chief of staff at the EPA regional office and also served 18 years with the Wisconsin DNR. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – January 8, 2020

An Email From A Powerful Former State Lobbyist Hints At A Rape Cover-Up

A powerful former Springfield lobbyist and close friend of House Speaker Michael Madigan once sought leniency for a state worker in a disciplinary case by arguing that the worker “kept his mouth shut” about an unspecified rape in Champaign. In the previously undisclosed 2012 email, ex-lobbyist Michael McClain urged two top aides to then-Gov. Pat Quinn to avoid firing the worker, also telling them the man was politically “loyal” to Quinn and stayed silent about “ghost workers.” The disclosure of the 2012 email — which WBEZ obtained recently through an open-records request — immediately prompted calls for an investigation from Gov. JB Pritzker and the top Republican in the Illinois House, who called the email’s contents “horrific.” – Tony Arnold and Dave McKinney – WBEZ

Lawmakers Demand Answers On ‘Seclusion Rooms’

Illinois lawmakers on Tuesday grilled officials about the practice of locking kids in “seclusion rooms” in schools. It’s the first legislative hearing since a news report brought attention to the practice late last year. The story, from ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune, revealed thousands of incidents in which kids with special needs were locked away, usually alone, and often for reasons that broke the law. Experts and advocates at the hearing told lawmakers that schools need more resources for training and oversight of all staff. Education officials also said there was a difference between legitimate, therapy-based de-escalation techniques and the abuse exposed by the investigation. – Mike Smith – NPR Illinois

New Law Requires Illinois To Better Regulate Coal Ash

URBANA – A new law passed last year requires the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to develop rules regulating ponds that store waste from coal-fired power plants. The agency released a draft rule last month and stakeholders met Monday in Springfield to share their thoughts. Andrew Rehn represents the clean water advocacy group Prairie Rivers Network. His group is pleased with some of the groundwater monitoring regulations in the initial draft. “Senate Bill 9 demands that the EPA develop a rule that’s stronger than the federal rule, and they definitely did so in the case of groundwater monitoring,” said Rehn. Coal ash contains arsenic, chromium, lead and other minerals that can leech into groundwater, which are dangerous for human consumption. The Illinois EPA is taking public comment about the proposed rule through Monday January 13. – Brian Moline, Illinois Newsroom

Durbin Calls On Colleagues For War Powers Resolution

CARBONDALE – Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) is co-sponsoring a War Powers Resolution in response to the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. The Illinois Democrat took to the Senate floor on Monday, urging members of Congress to consider the resolution – which calls for debate and a vote to prevent further escalation of hositilities with Iran. Durbin says US leaders should remember lessons learned during and after the Vietnam War – particularly that Congress has the constitutional responsibility to officially declare war. President Donald Trump ordered the Jan. 2 strike against Soleimani after the death of an American contractor in Iraq. – Jennifer Fuller, WSIU News

Merging Governments Tops Property Tax-Reduction Plan

Man Gets 13-Year Sentence For Making Counterfeit Pills


News Around Illinois – January 7, 2020

Decatur Schools, TA Union Fail To Reach Agreement In Latest Talks

DECATUR – Negotiators for Decatur Public Schools and the union representing its teaching assistants met with a federal mediator for more than three hours Monday night. It was the first bargaining session between the two sides in nearly a month. A statement released by District 61 calls the session “productive,” but says no agreement had been reached. Both sides say they hope to schedule another meeting soon. Negotiations between Decatur Public Schools and its teaching assistants’ union have been going on since last spring. T-A’s went on strike briefly in October, but returned to work after the school district suspended their health insurance. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

More Illinois Students Qualify For College Financial Aid

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois is now providing college funding for groups of in-state students who have previously been unable to apply for federal assistance. The new “Alternative Application” is now available for students who are undocumented or transgender students who didn’t sign up for the draft. The application allows those students to qualify for state-funded Monetary Award Program, or MAP, grants. Last year, the program provided students around $450 million worth of financial aid. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has pledged to increase that funding by another $50 million this coming school year. – Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

Illinois Congresswoman Concerned About US Assassination of Iranian General

PEORIA – Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Illinois) says she’s concerned about the recent killing of an Iranian general. Last week, President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Qassem Soleimani. Bustos says all she knows about the attack is from the same media reports available to the public at large. She says most lawmakers were kept in the dark, including the so-called “Gang of Eight” composed of congressional leaders who are supposed to be notified before major military actions. Bustos says she’s set to take part in an intelligence briefing on Iran later this week. – Tim Shelley, WCBU News

Champaign County Circuit Judge To Retire In March

URBANA – The judge behind Champaign County’s drug court is retiring. The News-Gazette reports that Circuit Judge Jeff Ford will step down March 25 after almost 35 years on the bench. Ford became an associate judge in 1985, and was appointed as a circuit judge in 2005. Voters approved his retention as a judge three times, most recently in 2018. He’s presided over the drug court for 21 years. Ford is the longest serving of Champaign County’s 11 sitting judges. The News-Gazette reports that state Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman is expected to soon organize a committee to screen possible replacements. – Brian Moline, Illinois Newsroom

Report: 123 Children Died In 2019 Despite Contact With DCFS

CHICAGO — A report highlighting persistent problems within Illinois’ child welfare agency shows 123 children died in the past fiscal year despite having contact with the Department of Children and Family Services. That’s the highest number in roughly 15 years. Of the 123 deaths, 24 were ruled a homicide, 37 were considered accidental, 34 were natural, seven were suicide and 21 were undetermined. The annual report investigates the deaths of children who came into contact with the state agency within 12 months. Released this month, the report covers the fiscal year that ended last June. – Associated Press

World War I Sheet Music Collector Dies

ROCKFORD – A longtime collector of rare sheet music died January 2 after a long battle with Lymphoma. Lee Schreiner donated much of his collection to Northern Illinois University where it found new life. In 2014, the Rockford resident started donating his collection to his alma mater. Librarians at Northern Illinois University created an online database for the World War I sheet music which is now in the public domain. Schreiner was 70-years-old. – Jenna Dooley, WNIJ News

Illinois Will Stop Collecting On Unpaid Red-Light Tickets

CHICAGO — The Illinois comptroller says her office will stop collecting fines against drivers who are ticketed after cameras catch them violating red lights. Susana Mendoza says poor and minority motorists appear to be most affected by the $100 tickets, which can double if not timely paid. She also notes that federal investigators are looking at relationships between some communities and a red light vendor. A 2012 state law allows local governments to use the comptroller’s office to collect debts. Unpaid traffic tickets can be deducted from tax refunds. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – January 6, 2020

Chicago-Area U.S. Soldier Killed In Attack In Kenya

A U.S. solider from the Chicago area was among three people killed in an attack on a military base in Kenya. The family of Henry Mayfield Jr. of Hazel Crest confirmed his death to NBC affiliate WMAQ. The 23-year-old held the rank of Army Specialist. Mayfield’s mother says she last spoke to her son on New Year’s Day. Mayfield joined the Army in 2018. Two other Americans, both contractors with the U.S. Department of Defense, were also killed Sunday by al-Shabab extremists at Manda Bay Airfield. – Associated Press

Sixteen File In Illinois For White House Race

SPRINGFIELD – Sixteen men and women have submitted paperwork to run for president in Illinois. The campaigns had just two days last week to file petitions with the State Board of Elections. President Donald Trump has just two Republican rivals: Rocky de la Fuente and John Schiess. On the Democratic side, there are 13: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. The Illinois primary is March 17. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

State Will License Dozens More Cannabis Businesses

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois’ new cannabis law lays out a timeline for how the state will allow the marijuana industry to grow over the next several years. By the end of next year, Illinois will license more than 180 new dispensaries and 40 new small-scale growing operations. Many of those are expected to be operational by then. Right now, around 30 cannabis dispensaries throughout Illinois are selling to recreational customers, and several more are expected to come online in the next few months. Meanwhile, starting this fall, up to eight Illinois community colleges will be allowed to offer cannabis courses to students interested in training for a career in the industry. – Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

Champaign County Treasurer Resigns After A Year In Office

URBANA – Champaign County Treasurer Laurel Prussing is resigning after serving only about a year in office. The News-Gazette reports that the Democrat announced her resignation Friday, and it’s effective January 31. Prussing says she ran for the office in 2018 because it was expected to be a strong election year for Democrats and no one else in her party wanted to run. She tells the News-Gazette she has hired former county board chair C. Pius Weibel to serve as the chief deputy treasurer. That position had been vacant for several months, contributing to a backlog of work in the treasurer’s office. Current county board chair Geraldo Rosales will need to appoint a new treasurer to replace Prussing. – Brian Moline, Illinois Newsroom

Volunteers Remove Invasive Plants Around Chicago Area

CHICAGO — A volunteer group says its efforts to remove invasive plant species at eight Chicago-area forest preserves is paying off. The Centennial Volunteers project has been targeting river-edge sites and says that native plants appear to be returning to the targeted locations. Invasive plants can impact native growth and block sunlight from reaching the ground. Funding for the project comes from a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The volunteer project was started in 2014 by several organizations including Friends of the Chicago River and the Forest Preserves of Cook County. – Associated Press

More Illinois Seniors Eligible For State Benefits In 2020

SPRINGFIELD — More Illinois seniors will qualify for state benefits such as discounted license plates in 2020. The Illinois Department of Aging says it’s using new, higher income limits to determine eligibility for the state’s Benefit Access Program as of Jan. 1. The program includes discounts on license plates, the Seniors Ride Free Benefit and the Persons with Disability Free Transit Ride Benefit. Under the new guidelines, single-person households will qualify if they earn less than $33,562 in annual income. That’s up from $27,610 last year.  – Associated Press

News Around Illinois — January 3, 2020

Illinois Sold More Than $3 Million In Legal Weed On First Sales Day

Illinois’ recreational cannabis dispensaries made around $3.2 million in sales on New Year’s Day, according to early estimates from a state agency overseeing the now-legal industry. Customers lined up at 20 dispensaries that were open across the state and made more than 77,000 thousand individual purchases of flower, edible, and concentrated liquid products, according to Illinois’ Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Industry officials have indicated the first day of legal sales went pretty smoothly. Cannabis Business Association of Illinois Executive Director Pam Althoff said only one dispensary ran out of product, thanks in part to the 20 in-state cultivation centers currently supplying cannabis products to retailers. There had been widespread anticipation that many cannabis sellers would sell out due to strong demand. – Sam Dunklau – NPR Illinois

Illinois Looks To Map Who Has Internet Access And Who Doesn’t

Illinois plans on spending $400 million over the next several years to improve internet access to farms and small towns. But first, the state needs to know who has a reliable internet connection and who doesn’t. The federal government tracks where high-speed internet is available. But the mapping has been criticized for overstating access, particularly in rural areas. Around 30 percent of residents living in rural Illinois lack internet access at speeds of 25 mbps and above, according to a report from the Federal Communications Commission. Right now, telecommunication companies report to the Federal Communications Commission by census tract where they offer internet and at what speeds. The problem, according to broadband advocates, is that if internet access is available to even one house in the census tract, that area is considered served. Matt Schmit, director of the new Illinois Office of Broadband, said the office’s first project is developing the state’s own map, which it is currently looking for a third-party vendor to do. – Mary Hansen – NPR Illinois

No, You Won’t Lose Your Gun Just For Smoking Pot Recreationally

Rumors that Illinois gun owners will lose their firearms if they use cannabis under the state’s new legalization mandate are false. That’s according to multiple authorities after major news outlets published stories claiming gun owners who purchase adult-use cannabis in Illinois would be placed into a database banning them from buying firearms. The Illinois State Police said Dec. 31 it will not revoke Firearm Owner Identification Cards based solely on someone’s marijuana usage. Illinois State Rifle Association lobbyist Ed Sullivan said cannabis dispensaries cannot share identifying information with law enforcement agencies unless the customer authorizes it. The Illinois State Police did say it would revoke FOID cards from anyone deemed addicted to cannabis, though the agency didn’t specify the criteria it would use to determine what qualifies as an addiction. – Tim Shelley – WCBU

Johnson Publishing Artwork Going On Auction Block

Some of the last assets of bankrupt Johnson Publishing Co., the former owner of Ebony and Jet magazines, will be sold off when an art collection that once decorated the company’s Chicago headquarters is put on the auction block. The art that will be auctioned Jan. 30 at a New York gallery includes paintings, sculptures and other works from 75 African American artists. Johnson Publishing filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in April, citing debts and unsuccessful attempts to restructure or sell the company. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois — January 2, 2020

Illinois Sees First Legal Sales Of Recreational Cannabis

The sale of cannabis for recreational purposes is now legal in Illinois. The change took effect with the new year, to the delight of pot fans. Many began lining up hours early at dispensaries. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that about 500 people were outside Dispensary 33 in Chicago on Wednesday morning. Illinois Newsroom reports that more than 500 people were in line at Sunnyside in Champaign before 6:00 a.m. Wednesday. WCBU reports that three dispensaries in the Peoria area were also open for business on January 1. Illinois is the 11th state to broadly allow marijuana’s use and sale for people 21 or older. Neighboring Michigan made it legal starting Dec. 1. — Associated Press, Christine Herman, and Tim Shelley

On Eve Of Legal Marijuana In Illinois, Governor Pardons 11,017 Past Convictions

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday issued pardons for more than 11,000 low-level marijuana convictions. The move came on the eve of cannabis becoming a legal, commercial product under Illinois law.The governor made the announcement at Trinity United Church in Chicago, where Senior Pastor Otis Moss III called mass incarceration the main civil rights issue of the 21st century.Pritzker said the main purpose of Illinois’ marijuana legalization is not to make cannabis widely available, but to “maximize equity,” which includes addressing past wrongs in the so-called war on drugs. — Brian Mackey, NPR Illinois

Opening Date Of Obama Presidential Center Still Uncertain

Four years after Chicago was chosen as the site of the Obama Presidential Center, it’s still unclear when construction will begin. Early predictions were that the $500 million facility could open in 2020. But the Chicago Tribune reports that the Obama Foundation has been reluctant to publicly release a new timeline. Part of the holdup is a lengthy federal review process that’s needed because of the location of a lakefront park that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s also been a lawsuit and protests over neighborhood displacement. — Associated Press

Legionnaires’ Case Identified At Quincy Veterans’ Home

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration is investigating a case of Legionnaires’ diseases at the veterans’ home in Quincy, the site of 13 deaths from the malady starting with a 2015 outbreak. The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and the Illinois Department of Public Health are reviewing the case of the resident with the flu-like illness. Officials say the resident of the home has received medical treatment and is recovering. The last case of Legionnaires’ at Quincy was in 2018. An earlier outbreak caused the deaths of 13 residents and sickened dozens more. — Associated Press

News Around Illinois – December 27, 2019

Students Serve Ex-Prof With Sexual Assault Suit Via Email

URBANA – The alleged victims of a former University of Illinois associate professor turned to email to finally serve him with their federal lawsuit accusing him of sexually and emotionally exploiting them. The civil lawsuit filed by some of Gary Xu’s former students had been held up by their inability to deliver the lawsuit to him. The News-Gazette reports that Xu was served via email on Dec. 10 with a summons and a copy of the suit. He’s accused of sexually and emotionally exploiting some of his Chinese students, who depended on him for their visas. – Associated Press

Man Arrested In Fatal Shootings Of 3 In Small Illinois Town

CULLOM — A 53-year-old man has been arrested in the Christmas Day shootings of three people in a small eastern Illinois community. The bodies of a 51-year-old man, 48-year-old woman and a 27-year-old man were found at a home early Wednesday morning in Cullom, about 95 miles southwest of Chicago. Dispatchers received a call about the shootings shortly after 2 a.m. State police say the suspect was arrested Wednesday and jailed on three counts of first-degree murder. A court hearing is expected Friday.  The names of the victims, their relationships to the suspect and a motive behind the shootings were not immediately released. About 550 people live in Cullom. – Associated Press

Census Aims To Stop Misinformation In Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – With reports of misinformation around the 2020 census in other states, the directors of Illinois’ Census Office say they’ve not heard of anything like that here. Oswaldo Alvarez is one of the directors of the Illinois Census Office. He says they have received questions about other points of confusion around the population count set to start in 2020. Illinois gave out tens of millions of dollars to groups around the state to encourage census participation. Alvarez says Illinois has been working closely with them to make sure they all have the same and correct information. Facebook recently announced it would ban posts on its social media sites that attempt to interfere with the count. – Mary Hansen, NPR Illinois

Judge: Prisons Must Reform Treatment Of Transgender Inmates

News Around Illinois – December 26, 2019

Illinois Boy Charged In Fatal Fire To Be Evaluated By Expert

EUREKA — A 9-year-old boy charged in a central Illinois fire that killed five people will be evaluated by a child trauma expert to determine if he’s fit to stand trial. The Chicago Tribune reports that the boy’s attorney, Peter Dluski, said in a recent court filing that he has doubts about the child’s fitness to stand trial. The boy was charged with murder and arson in an April fire in Goodfield that killed four relatives and his mother’s boyfriend. His next court hearing is in February. Charging a young child with murder is unusual, something that juvenile justice experts criticize. – Associated Press

Crews Make Christmas Rescue Of Stranded Climber

ALTON — Authorities in southwest Illinois have made a Christmas morning rescue after a woman who climbed bluffs above a city park got stuck on a ledge for hours. The (Alton) Telegraph reports a 911 caller reported hearing a woman calling for help around 1 a.m. Wednesday. Alton Fire Chief Jesse Jemison says the woman climbed the bluffs in an area that’s thick with wooded brush. He estimates she’d been there since 4 p.m. Tuesday and was stranded about 30 feet off the ground in an area with loose rock. Rescue crews used a ladder after cutting a path with a chainsaw. – Associated Press

Black Hawk Statue Restoration To Be Complete Soon

OREGON – Restoration of an iconic Illinois statue is expected to be complete by the end of 2019. Artist Lorado Taft called the monumental concrete figure “The Eternal Indian,” but most know it as “Black Hawk.” He constructed it 108 years ago on a bluff above the Rock River near Oregon, Illinois. Work began this fall following years of fundraising and delays at the state level. Both arms had to be replaced. Major work also had to done on the head and other parts of the statue before a final layer of concrete could be sprayed on and shaped to match Taft’s original work. – Guy Stephens, WNIJ News

Students In 2019 Will Learn About Sexual Assault And Consent

DEKALB – A pair of new laws is encouraging schools to discuss sensitive topics like sexual assault in the workplace and consent. Northern Illinois Representative Emanuel “Chris” Welch was a sponsor of both plans. Beginning in the next school year, grades 6-12 sex education courses will also have to include the unit on consent. Welch says the workplace preparation course is optional, but many schools in Illinois are already teaching similar classes. “Let’s just teach the basics and how people should behave,” said Welch. “And I think that’s what we’re doing here, and I think it’s going to create a better generation of workers.” A major workplace sexual harassment training law and the workplace transparency act also go into effect at the beginning of the year. – Peter Medlin, WNIJ News

U of I Study: Yoga Is Better For The Brain

URBANA – Practicing yoga could lead to better brain health. That’s according to a University of Illinois review of the available research on how the practice affects the brain. The review found that the areas of the brain that control memory, complex thought and decision making, as well as emotional regulation, are larger in people who regularly practice yoga. Neha Gothe is an assistant professor at the U of I, and coauthored the research review. Gothe says the research on yoga and the brain dates back only about 20 years. Given the rising popularity of yoga, she says she’s hopeful future studies will shine more light on how the practice impacts brain function and health. – Lee Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

News Around Illinois – December 24, 2019

Rantoul Votes To Acquire Land For Sports Complex

RANTOUL – An agreement for the village of Rantoul to acquire 65-acres of land from the Warner farming family for use as a new sports complex won unanimous approval from village trustees Monday night. The resolution calls for the village to lease the land south of the Rantoul Walmart for the first six months, with the expectation of buying it after that. The total price is $860,000, plus 33 acres of property through a land swap involving the Rantoul Park District. Rantoul Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer says site development could begin as early as January, and if all stays on schedule, the complex could see its first sporting events in the spring of 2021. Eisenhauer adds that the Warners are also interested in using adjacent land for commercial developments that would be attracted to the sports complex. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Joint Commission Begins Work On Ethics Reform

CHICAGO – A group of Illinois officials met Monday to begin a review of the state’s ethics laws for lobbyists and elected office holders. In response to a remarkable year for corruption allegations, even by Illinois standards, the General Assembly last month approved the 16-member Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform. After Monday’s organizational meeting, Democratic Senator and commission co-chair Elgie Sims issued a statement saying current laws “fall sort in ensuring … officials are held accountable for their actions.” A final report from the commission is due in March. – Brian Mackey, NPR Illinois

Professor: 2019 Was A Bad Year For Illinois Farmers

PEORIA – A University of Illinois professor says 2019 was a historically bad weather year for farmers. Scott Irwin spoke at the recent 2019 Illinois Farm Economics Summit in East Peoria. He says by June 5, the traditional end of the planting season, only 45% of the corn crop was planted. He says part of the poor agricultural year is due to the “near monsoon” of continual rainfall the region suffered in May. Irwin says wet weather gave farmers a tough choice of risking late planting or applying for prevented planning insurance. Many farmers chose the former as corn futures soared in June. – Tim Shelley, Peoria Public Radio

Health Officials: New HIV Diagnoses On Decline In Chicago

Effort To Reopen Bridge Between Indiana, Illinois Gets Boost

News Around Illinois – December 23, 2019

Rantoul To Vote Monday Night On Sports Complex

RANTOUL – The Rantoul Village Board is holding a special meeting Monday night, where they’ll vote on an agreement to acquire land for a 65-acre outdoor sports complex. The resolution calls for the village to lease the site south of the Rantoul Walmart for the first six months, with the expectation of buying it after that. The total price is $860,000, plus 33 acres of property through a land swap involving the Rantoul Park District. Rantoul Mayor Charles Smith says they hope the sports complex will spur both commercial and residential development nearby. He says preliminary site development could begin next month. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Grants Available For Children To Visit Lincoln Presidential Library

Schools in five central Illinois counties can apply for grants for visits to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The John Ullrich Foundation is providing grants to cover transportation and admission costs for students in grades 4 to 12 in Coles, Douglas, Macon, Moultrie and Piatt counties. Schools must apply by January 31. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

WIU Student Sentenced For Fraud Against Amtrak

Sentencing is now set for April for a former student at Western Illinois University who was accused of cheating Amtrak. On Friday, Ryan Minter from Calumet City pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. Federal prosecutors say from 2016-2018, Minter used stolen credit card information to buy Amtrak tickets online, sold them at a discount to other WIU students for travel between Macomb and Chicago, and then kept the money – believed to total more than $15,000. The maximum penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison. – WVIK News

Congressional Candidate Drops Out

PEORIA – 18th Congressional District Democratic candidate Mark Haasis is ending his campaign. In a Facebook post, Haasis says some medical issues have come up that will “take him off the battlefield for too long.” He says he will refund campaign contributions. This leaves incumbent Republican Representative Darin LaHood effectively unopposed in the November 2020 general election for the conservative Central Illinois district. – Tim Shelley, WCBU News

Transgender Prisoner Treatment Must Change Under Ruling

SPRINGFIELD – A federal judge has ordered Illinois state prisons to immediately overhaul their medical policies for treating transgender inmates. The ruling came Thursday, partway through a class-action lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Corrections. The prisoners named in the suit allege that the department denied them medication and other forms of care for gender dysphoria. The department has until late January to devise a plan for bringing its policies up to internationally recognized standards of care. The department declined to comment. – Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

Pair From Alabama Face 9 Murder Counts In Illinois Shooting

SPRINGFIELD — A man and woman from Alabama were charged Saturday with killing three people in southwest Illinois, authorities said. Brady Witcher, 41, and Brittany McMillan,28, face nine counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Shari Yates, 59, and her 30-year-old son, Andrew Brooks, in their home, along with another man, John McMillian, 32. Police in Bethalto, Illinois, discovered the bodies Thursday night after they were asked to check on the well-being of the residents. – Associated Press

Faster Ill. Teacher-Training Takes Aim At Classroom Shortage

WAVERLY — A nonprofit teacher-training program is using a $750,000 addition to the state budget to speed up certification to address a rampant teacher shortage. Golden Apple is recruiting college students not studying education and professionals with bachelor’s degrees seeking a career change to join “Accelerators.” It provides a $30,000 stipend and yearlong on-the-job training in a school with high teacher vacancies while the candidate takes coursework to be licensed in 15 months. Increasing public school enrollments and slipping interest in a sometimes-burdensome teaching field is prompting experts to estimate the state will have a shortage of 20,000 teachers by 2025. – Associated Press

Re-established Springfield Brewer Fixes Fairgrounds Pavilion

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois State Fair’s popular food court will be renovated for 2020 with a $10,000 donation from Reisch Charities. The Food-A-Rama roof will be repaired, its superstructure sandblasted and freshly painted. Reisch Charities is financed by sales of a historic Springfield beer, that the company began brewing again this year with the sole purpose raising money to maintain city landmarks. John Slayton, chairman of the Illinois State Fairgrounds foundation, said Reisch offered the money to fix a fairgrounds facility and state officials chose Food-A-Rama. – Associated Press

Chicago Police Reduce Publicly Funded Security For Ex-Mayor

CHICAGO — Chicago police have reduced taxpayer-funded security for a former city mayor but eliminated detail for current city officials. The Chicago Tribune reports the Chicago Police Department conducted threat assessments for former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Clerk Anna Valencia and Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin. Although the police reviewed security for Emanuel, officials say the department did not perform a threat assessment on the risk posed to former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who continues to have security detail more than eight years after he left office. The department indicates that Emanuel was never at risk of losing his detail. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has defended the practice, saying she thinks it’s appropriate and necessary, even for Daley. But opponents have criticized it. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – December 20, 2019

Knott Named University of Illinois Secretary

URBANA – Gregory Knott has been named the new secretary of the University of Illinois. Beginning next month, he’ll take on a wide-range of duties, from setting agendas and maintaining records for the board of trustees … to advising and assisting administrators, including President Tim Killeen. Knott has been with the U of I since 2002, most recently as the Assistant Dean of Libraries. He is also the chair of the Parkland College board … but will leave both positions to become university secretary.  The 53-year-old Knott has two master’s degrees from the U of I, and operates a small farm near St. Joseph. As U of I secretary, he will succeed Dedra Williams, who is retiring.

Danville Approves Recreational Cannabis Use But Only At Home

DANVILLE – The new Illinois recreational cannabis law will allow public consumption of the product only at cannabis dispensaries and so-called smoke shops or cannabis cafes. But that won’t be allowed in Danville, under new rules approved by the city council this week. Danville Mayor Rickey Williams, Jr. says smoking cannabis in Danville will only be allowed in private. A cannabis dispensary expected to open in Danville by this coming March will not be able to allow customers to use its product on the premises. Recreational cannabis use becomes legal in Illinois on January 1, 2020. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Quad Cities Chosen For Disc Golf Championships

QUAD CITIES – The 2021 US Masters Championships for the Professional Disc Golf Association will be held in the Quad Cities. Chase Roberts, owner of a disc golf supply store in Moline, says the association chose the Quad Cities because it successfully hosted two previous national competitions, in 2007 and 2017. Disc golf is similar to golf, with something resembling a frisbee. It’s scored the same as golf, but instead of holes competitors “putt” into baskets. The 2021 Masters Championships will be for those age 40 and above, and will be held in September, 2021. Roberts says the Quad Cities is a “hotbed” for disc golf, with 11 courses in the area, and a total of about 40 within easy driving distance. – WVIK News

Church Seeks Return Of Statue Of Priest Who Helped Kids

Willis Tower Receives Highest Level Of Green Certification


News Around Illinois – December 19, 2019

Teen Charged In Fiery Crash That Killed Woman In Home

Lawsuit: Children In State Care Abused At Chicago Hospital

CHICAGO — Cook County’s public guardian is suing a private psychiatric facility that treated children who were in state custody calling it a “hospital of horrors.” The federal lawsuit filed Wednesday on behalf of seven children and teenagers who were formerly patients alleges sexual abuse and improper medication. The lawsuit against Chicago Lakeshore Hospital also names several Department of Children and Family Services officials. The state stopped admitting children to the troubled hospital last year. Hospital officials have said they’ve made improvements. Messages left Wednesday for those named in the lawsuit weren’t immediately returned. – Associated Press

Chicago Police Overhauling Detective Divisions

CHICAGO – The Chicago Police Department is beefing up its detective ranks and spreading detectives around the city in the hope of catching up to departments in other major cities that solve a far higher percentage of homicide cases. Interim Police Superintendent Charlie Beck announced Tuesday that the number of detective divisions will increase from three to five _ a move that comes seven years after the city closed two detective divisions to save money.  The department says by moving detectives closer to where many crimes are committed, they’ll be able to reach crime scenes before witnesses have dispersed and evidence has been destroyed. – Associated Press

City Appoints First Poet Laureate

AURORA – Karen Fullett-Christensen is the city of Aurora’s first poet laureate. She started writing poetry after journaling. Her mission is to work with the city’s young people. An official installation ceremony will take place in January at Gwendolyn Brooks Elementary School. Click here to read one of her poems. – Yvonne Boose, WNIJ News


News Around Illinois – December 18, 2019

Boiler Work Will Close Dr. Howard School On Wednesday

CHAMPAIGN – Dr. Howard School in Champaign is closed Wednesday to allow for repair of the building’s boiler. Unit 4 officials say Dr. Howard students will not be penalized for staying home from school on Wednesday. But families with no other options on that day may send their children to Stratton School, about a block south of Dr. Howard’s temporary location on Neil Street. School buses for Dr. Howard students will be routed to Stratton on Wednesday. Unit 4 officials say they hope that classes at Dr. Howard will resume on Thursday. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Congressman Will Be In Africa During Impeachment Vote

CARBONDALE – U.S. Representative John Shimkus (R-Illinois) says he’s embarrassed by this week’s impeachment vote on Capitol Hill, but he won’t be in Washington to make his displeasure known. Shimkus is traveling to Tanzania to visit his son, who is in serving in the Peace Corps. The Republican from Collinsville says Democrats are politicizing a constitutional question, and he’s against it. Shimkus voted in favor of three out of the four articles of impeachment against former President Bill Clinton. The House is scheduled to take up debate of the two articles of impeachment on Wednesday. – Jennifer Fuller, WSIU News

Congresswoman In Flipped District Backs Impeachment

SPRINGFIELD – Freshman Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D-Illinois) says she will vote to impeach President Donald Trump. Underwood’s 14th Congressional District encompasses suburban, exurban and rural areas outside Chicago, from the Wisconsin border to the suburbs of Joliet. The area was long considered a Republican stronghold — President Trump won it by 3.74 percentage points in 2016 — but last year she upset incumbent Rep. Randy Hultgren by 5 percentage points. Underwood said she made her decision after reviewing the evidence, studying the articles of impeachment, and listening to her constituents. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Newsroom

Man Who Pointed Laser At Helicopter Gets 15 Months In Prison

ROCKFORD — A Rockford man who aimed a laser pointer at a law enforcement helicopter has been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. Brenton Wells admitted that he pointed the laser at the helicopter for two minutes while in his backyard a year ago. His attorney says he didn’t intend any harm. – Associated Press

Chicagoans Asked To Stop Feeding Raccoons

CHICAGO – Chicago city agencies are telling people to stop feeding the raccoons on the city’s northern lakefront. WBBM-TV reports people are hand-feeding kitchen scraps to the dozens of raccoons living in the area, and the agencies say that’s dangerous. Chicago Park District spokeswoman Irene Tostado said in a statement that it asks that visitors not feed wildlife in parks or along the lakefront for their own safety and the health and wellness of the animals. Chicago Animal Care and Control says that since access to food drives the majority of raccoon-related problems, it recommends residents not feed raccoons or any other wildlife.  – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – December 17, 2019

Champaign Council Will Vote To Welcome Refugees

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign City Council will vote Tuesday night on a resolution allowing a local agency to continue its work with refugees. Lisa Wilson with the Refugee Center says a recent White House executive order requires them to get the formal consent of all the communities where they resettle refugees. Besides Champaign and Urbana, the center still needs consent from Savoy, Rantoul and Champaign County. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Northern Illinois University Freezes Rates To Increase Students

DEKALB – Northern Illinois University officials continue to look for ways to attract new students. Fall enrollment hit its lowest level in 50 years. Officials recently announced they will freeze tuition rates for the sixth year in a row. Room and board rates will also remain flat next year.  The university will cap tuition around $4,700 per semester for students taking 12 or more credit hours. – Chase Cavanaugh, WNIJ News

Gov. Pritzker Says He Hasn’t Spoken To Speaker Madigan About Investigations

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said Monday he has not spoken to House Speaker Michael Madigan about a series of federal inquiries. That’s despite reports that investigators appear to be targeting the speaker’s inner circle. Pritzker has always taken a diplomatic approach to Madigan, even as the speaker faced scandals over aides accused of sexual harassment and, more recently, was named in federal inquiries. Asked whether he had spoken to Madigan about the investigations, Pritzker suggested a conversation is unnecessary. Madigan has not be charged with wrongdoing and has said he’s “not a target” of an investigation. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Newsroom

Former Illinois City Clerk Convicted Of Child Porn

HARVARD — A former city clerk in the northern Illinois community of Harvard faces a maximum sentence of five years in state prison after being convicted by a judge of one count of possession of child pornography.  Andrew Wells was arrested in 2016 after a flash drive that had many of his personal documents on it was found to contain pornographic images. In finding Wells guilty, the judge said he couldn’t understand how Wells could not have noticed the pornography. Wells, who was acquitted on two other counts of the same felony charge, is scheduled to return to court for sentencing next month. – Associated Press

DNR: Illinois Hunters Bagged 75K Deer During 7-Day Fall Hunt

SPRINGFIELD — Hunters took more than 75,000 deer during Illinois’ seven-day firearm hunting season this fall, according to preliminary totals compiled by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. That number represents a 7% drop in the number of deer harvested from 2018, when nearly 81,000 deer were taken. But the second part of this year’s season, from Dec. 5-8, saw an uptick over last year. More than 25,000 deer were harvested during the second season, a 14 percent increase from 2018. State wildlife officials say that there are other hunting opportunities under way or approaching, including archery hunting and hunting with muzzleloaders. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – December 16, 2019

WIU Board Opts for Presidential Search Rather Than Appointment

MACOMB – The Western Illinois University Board of Trustees deadlocked on appointing Dr. Martin Abraham as the university’s 12th president. The vote came after the board held a five hour executive session Thursday night and met behind closed doors for more than an hour Friday morning. Chairperson Polly Radosh and trustees Carin Stutz, Patrick Twomey, and Erik Dolieslager voted in favor hiring Abraham. Trustees Greg Aguilar, Kisha Lang, Doug Shaw, and Justin Brown voted against the motion to appoint Abraham. Western hired Abraham in the spring to serve as provost starting July 1, 2019. But when President Jack Thomas announced in mid-June that he would step down at the end of the month, the board agreed to have Abraham serve as acting president. – Rich Egger, TriStates Public Radio

Volunteers Needed For Champaign Holiday Dinner

CHAMPAIGN – About 400 people are expected to enjoy a ham dinner on Christmas Day, at the annual Community Christmas Dinner in Champaign. And about 200 volunteers will be needed on that day to put on the dinner at Champaign’s First Christian Church. Organizer Lynne Barnes says the volunteers do everything from food preparation to dish washing to hosting at table and serving the food. She says the 1:00 p.m. dinner is open to anyone who wants a meal or just some fellowship on Christmas Day. The deadline for dinner reservations and volunteer signup is December 22. Click here to sign up at the Champaign First Christian Church. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Public Media

SIU No Longer Requires ACT or SAT For Admission

CARBONDALE – Southern Illinois University Carbondale will no longer require students to take the ACT or SAT to be admitted to the university. The Southern Illinoisan reports Interim Chancellor John M. Dunn said research has shown the most important predictor of college success is a student’s high school grade point average. Dunn says standardized tests like the ACT and SAT can be a barrier to higher education for many students. He says the university has a responsibility “to level the playing field and ensure that every student with potential has an opportunity to study at SIU.” – Associated Press

Legionnaires’ Cases May Be Linked To Chicago-Area Hospital

WINFIELD — State health officials are investigating whether three cases of Legionnaires’ disease are linked to a suburban Chicago hospital. The Illinois Department of Public Health said Friday the three people were all patients at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, about 30 miles west of Chicago. One person was an inpatient, while the other two had outpatient visits. IDPH said the three patients also had other possible sources of exposure in the 10 days before their symptoms began, so the hospital may not be the source. Most healthy people don’t get Legionnaires’ disease after being exposed. – Associated Press

Mayor Fires Veteran Chicago City Spokesperson

CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has fired a longtime city spokesman. Her office has issued a statement saying Bill McCaffrey was “terminated for cause” and is declining to give further details, citing a “personnel matter.” McCaffrey most recently served as a Law Department spokesman. He worked at City Hall for 15 years serving as spokesman for several agencies under three different mayors.  He declined to comment to the Chicago Sun-Times, which says it came after McCaffrey raised “ethical issues.” The report cited an unnamed source. Lightfoot’s office said that claim is false. – Associated Press



News Around Illinois – December 13, 2019

Central Illinois Man Arrested On Charges Of Threatening US Rep. Rodney Davis

ROCHESTER – A man has been charged with threatening to shoot central Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis. 64-year-old Randall Tarr lives in the town of Rochester, just outside Springfield. Federal prosecutors say late last month, he saw a TV ad about Davis, called a number in the ad, and left a voicemail. According to a transcript in court documents, the message is threaded with profanity, repeatedly calls Davis “stupid,” criticizes him for (quote) “backing the Russians,” and just before the threat, he says “I’m a sharpshooter. I could.” Tarr was released to home detention. He faces up to 10 years in prison for “threats to assault, murder or kidnap a federal official.” – Brian Mackey, Illinois Newsroom

Pritzker Drops $5M On Tax Campaign, Expects Expensive Fight

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is giving $5 million to a campaign supporting a graduated income tax. It’s the first reported contribution in what’s expected to be an expensive fight over the state’s tax policy. Next fall, voters will decide whether to end the Illinois Constitution’s requirement that the income tax be flat — where everyone pays the same rate. Pritzker is advocating for a change that would result in higher taxes on annual income greater than $250,000. The group on the other side of the issue is called “Vote No on the Blank Check Amendment.” It has yet to report any contributions and did not immediately respond to a request for comment. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Newsroom

Woman Charged With Stealing As Much As $100,000 From PTO

ELMHURST — A suburban Chicago couple whose house was ransacked this week is begging whoever made off with some belongings inside to return just one thing: The small white box containing the ashes of their infant son. Sue and Jim LaDeur say the burglar or burglars who broke into their Elmhurst house on Tuesday may have mistaken the white box on a dresser in their bedroom for a jewelry box. And now the LaDeurs who had hoped to bury the ashes next to their own graves some day hope that by telling their story that someone will mail the box to the crematorium that is named on a label or just drop it off at a fire or police station.  – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – December 12, 2019

Many Farmers Celebrate New Trade Agreement

URBANA – Illinois farmers are celebrating a new trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. The USMCA – which was finalized Tuesday — essentially updates the North American Free Trade Agreement and maintains trade relationships with two of Illinois’ main trading partners. Marty Marr is a farmer in New Berlin and grows corn and soybeans. “We were just hoping for a Christmas present like this to come about, and certainly grateful for that,” said Marr. According to the Illinois Corn Growers Association, Canada is the top export market for U.S. ethanol. And about half the corn exported to Mexico is grown in Illinois. The agreement now heads to the US House of Representatives floor, with a vote expected later this month. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Cook County Vacating Past Convictions For Marijuana Possession

CHICAGO – Marijuana will not be legal in Illinois until January 1. But in Cook County’s criminal courthouse, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx filed paperwork Wednesday to erase more than a thousand convictions. She began with cases that had relatively small amount of marijuana — less than 30 grams — and they could not have been tied to violence. For cases not covered by the Cook County state’s attorney, Governor J.B. Pritzker’s office says he’ll issue pardons and authorize expungement of records. The administration says the state police has already combed its files and gotten that process underway. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

Immigration Attorneys Urge Caution With New Marijuana Law

CHICAGO  — Legal experts are warning non-citizen immigrants to exercise caution before Illinois legalizes recreational marijuana in a few weeks.  Several groups, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, say while it’ll be legal in Illinois in January, it’s still banned federally. That means using marijuana, possessing it or profiting from it could lead to deportation or detention. The organizations held a news conference Wednesday in Chicago and plan a related workshop next week. Experts say they’ve seen immigrants denied citizenship elsewhere, including in Colorado, because of work in cannabis-related jobs. – Associated Press

UAW Workers Ratify New Contract With Fiat Chrysler

DETROIT — Unionized workers at Fiat Chrysler have voted overwhelmingly to approve a new four-year contract with the company. The ratification means the United Auto Workers union has settled with all three Detroit automakers.  The union said Wednesday that about 71% of Fiat Chrysler workers voted in favor of the deal. The UAW has about 47,000 members at Fiat Chrysler. The deal includes a $9,000 bonus per worker upon ratification. The company also has promised $4.5 billion worth of new investments in U.S. factories. General Motors workers ratified an agreement in October after a 40-day strike, while Ford Workers settled in November. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – December 11, 2019

Champaign ACLU, NAACP Call Out Lack Of Progress On Racial Equity In Unit 4 Schools

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign County chapters of both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) jointly sent a letter to the Champaign Community Unit School District 4 Board of Education and superintendent Susan Zola last week, highlighting a lack of access to gifted and advanced placement classes in the district for black students, as well as disparities in discipline and academic proficiency for black pupils, as compared to their white peers. Less than 10% of black students in Unit 4 schools are proficient in math and reading, compared to nearly 50% of white students, the letter states. White Unit 4 students are also more than seven times more likely to take AP classes than their black peers, according to federal data.

In their letter to the district, the groups urged school district officials to meet with them to specify how the district intends to address the disparities. A spokesperson for Unit 4 schools, John Lyday, wrote in an email that district officials plan to meet with the NAACP and ACLU members soon. – Lee Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Illini Sell More Beer Than Expected At Home Football Games

URBANA – University of Illinois athletic officials say football fans have been thirstier than expected. The News-Gazette reports Memorial Stadium beer sales totaled roughly $488,000 at home games. When school officials announced plans earlier this year to sell beer, they predicted sales in the low six figures. Sales were strongest during three Big Ten football games: Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin. The lowest came during a sparsely attended loss to Northwestern two days after Thanksgiving. Campus police say fan arrest and ejection statistics have been consistent with previous years. Officials say revenue will be split between the university’s Division of Intercollegiate Athletics and Spectra, which provides concessions for athletic events. – Associated Press

Proposed Illinois School Rules Would Ban Secluded Timeouts

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois State Board of Education has submitted its proposed rules for how schools can restrain students who exhibit dangerous behavior. The rules filed Tuesday seek to protect children and faculty from outbursts but ban the use of prone restraints except as a last resort and the practice of locking such students in timeout rooms all by themselves. The rules were drafted in response to a report last month by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica that found that public schools were misusing timeout rooms. They will be open to public comment until Feb. 4. – Associated Press

Ex-Assistant Pastor Of Illinois Church Accused Of Sex Crimes

URBANA — A former assistant pastor of an Illinois church has been accused of sexually assaulting a teenager in the congregation. The News-Gazette reports 48-year-old Roger VanRaden was arraigned Monday on sexual assault and abuse charges in a Champaign County courtroom. He was released from jail after posting bond and ordered back to court Jan. 21. The Associated Press left a message for a public defender assigned to his case. Prosecutors say the charges stem from contact he had with the girl from about 2015 to August of this year. Investigators say most of the incidents happened at Faith Baptist Church in Champaign. – Associated Press

Illinois Approves 2 More Marijuana Cultivation Centers


News Around Illinois – December 10, 2019

Groups Pushing For Accurate Census Count In Rural Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois is in a precarious position when it comes to the 2020 census. Nearly 12 percent of Illinois residents live in small towns or sparsely populated areas. Anita Banerji is with Forefront Illinois, a civic engagement non-profit. She says a lack of awareness, access to technology and distrust in government make getting an accurate count in rural areas a challenge. Banerji says central and southern Illinois appear most vulnerable to losing a congressional seat, which is why it’s especially important to make sure everyone participates. Representatives from the farm bureau, local governments and other nonprofits met recently to learn how to promote census participation. Residents can expect a letter directing them to fill out census forms online in mid-March. – Mary Hansen, NPR Illinois

U of I Urbana-Champaign Receives Grant To Study Mars/Moon 

URBANA – A group of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professors received more than $500,000 from NASA to produce research to help get humans safely to the Moon and eventually to Mars. U of I’s aerospace engineering department will simulate rocket landings on the Moon and Mars to understand how particles on those surfaces react during landings. Data is needed to protect both equipment and astronauts during future space missions. NASA aims to return humans to the Moon by 2024 in preparation for a future Mars mission. – Lee Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Agriculture Secretary Defends SNAP Changes

INDIANAPOLIS – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue made several stops around Indianapolis on Monday. The visit comes on the heels of his announcement last week tightening eligibility for the supplemental nutrition assistance program – or SNAP, commonly referred to as food stamps. The new rule makes it harder for states to waive a requirement that able-bodied adults without children work a certain number of hours in order to receive benefits. “When there are a million jobs, more than people looking for jobs, why are these able-bodied adults without dependents unable to find a job?,” said Perdue. Illinois state officials say the move could cut off benefits for approximately 140,000 Illinoisans. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Rapper Juice WRLD Dies After Medical Emergency In Chicago

CHICAGO — Chicago-area Rapper Juice WRLD has died at age 21 after what authorities describe as a “medical emergency” at Midway International Airport. The artist was named top new artist at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards in May. Chicago police are investigating. An autopsy is planned for Monday. The artist got his start on SoundCloud and then became a streaming juggernaut. He rose to the top of the charts with the Sting-sampled hit “Lucid Dreams.” He was from the Chicago suburb of Homewood where he stood out as a talented high school musician. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – December 9, 2019

Survey Collects Travelers’ Opinions On Illinois Highways

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois officials want travelers’ opinions on the state’s transportation systems. An online survey that opened this week and runs through Dec. 31  asks travelers to weigh in on everything from cleanliness of Illinois roads to other drivers’ behavior. The Illinois Department of Transportation says the annual survey has been done since 2001. The agency says the information collected is vital to improving the transportation system. – Associated Press

State Board of Education Will Help Fund School Safety Programs

DEKALB – The Illinois State Board of Education will help school districts fund safety-related projects. The grants are meant to prioritize under-resourced Tier 1 and 2 school districts. These safety improvements can be anything from high-tech upgrades like x-ray machines to professional development. The Illinois Association of School Boards recently passed a resolution to advocate for legislation providing similar grants for School Resource Officers. – Peter Medlin, WNIJ News

Rapper Juice WRLD Dies After  Medical Emergency In Chicago

CHICAGO — Chicago-area Rapper Juice WRLD has died at age 21 after what authorities describe as a “medical emergency” at Midway International Airport. The artist was named top new artist at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards in May. Chicago police are investigating. An autopsy is planned for Monday. The artist got his start on SoundCloud and then became a streaming juggernaut. He rose to the top of the charts with the Sting-sampled hit “Lucid Dreams.” He was from the Chicago suburb of Homewood where he stood out as a talented high school musician. – Associated Press

SIU Reports Spike In Enrollment Applications For Next Year

CARBONDALE — Officials at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale say they’re already seeing an increase of applications for the next school year. The Southern Illinoisan reports the school has received 27% more freshman applicants than during this time last year. More than 2,600 students have been admitted, which is an increase of 21% over the same time last year. School officials credit fresh recruitment efforts, including the addition of a recruiter in St. Louis and new campus visit programs. Interim Provost Meera Komarraju says it’s too soon to say if the applicants will mean a bigger incoming class in the fall.  – Associated Press

Illinois Power Company Hires Goats To Clear Out Brush

HILLVIEW — An Illinois power company turned to a herd of goats to clear a steep, rocky plot of land so crews could reach electric lines. The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports the 50 goats spent about about two weeks earlier this year chewing dense honeysuckle bushes and poison ivy down to the nub for Ameren Illinois on a 4-acre area near the Greene County village of Hillview. The company’s construction services director says he was skeptical at first but was amazed at how quickly the goats cleared the section. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – December 6, 2019

Loves Park Students Make Ornaments For National Christmas Tree

LOVES PARK – Harlem Middle School art students in Loves Park were chosen to make ornaments representing Illinois for the annual National Christmas Tree Lighting celebration. Teacher Ruth Meissen said the 24 students spent hours handcrafting every piece of the 24 ornaments for the last several months. She says they decorated all of the ornaments with the same white oak tree design so they could each work on all of them.  Thanks to a fundraising effort, 18 Harlem students made the trip to Washington, DC for Thursday night’s tree lighting. – Peter Medlin, WNIJ News

Reports: Illinois Made Major Cuts At Environmental Agency

CHICAGO — Two reports show staffing cuts and dwindling funding at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in recent years. An Environmental Integrity Project report released Thursday shows the agency’s workforce was reduced by 38% between 2008 and 2018.  A November report by the University of Chicago Law School and former federal EPA officials shows the state lags behind others in funding allocated to its environmental agency. The Chicago Tribune says federal statistics show Illinois is in the top 10 states for the amount of industrial air and water pollution released into the environment annually.  – Associated Press

United’s Kirby To Take Over For CEO Oscar Munoz

CHICAGO – United Airlines says company president Scott Kirby will succeed CEO Oscar Munoz next May. Munoz recruited Kirby from American Airlines in 2016. At American he had been considered as the likely successor to that carrier’s CEO. Kirby is widely credited with improving United’s fleet and operations. There were even rumors this year that American might try to lure him back as CEO. Munoz has been United’s CEO since mid-2015. It has been a tumultuous period that included a controversy over the bloody dragging of a passenger off an overbooked plane in Chicago. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – December 5, 2019

Savoy Bars Cannabis-Related Businesses Ahead of Legalization

SAVOY – The Savoy Village Board voted Wednesday night to bar any cannabis-related businesses from opening within their borders. With one trustee absent, the board voted 5 to nothing to prohibit all cannabis businesses in Savoy. The trustees said most residents they heard from opposed allowing the businesses, and that it would hurt Savoy’s reputation as a family-oriented community. In Champaign County, Rantoul and Fisher have also banned cannabis businesses. Meanwhile, medical dispensaries in Champaign and Urbana are preparing for recreational marijuana sales in 2020. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

State Board Of Education Bans Seclusion Rooms And Restraints

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education on Wednesday amended emergency rules that banned the use of certain physical restraints in schools. Those rules had been enacted two weeks ago in response to an investigation published by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica documenting thousands of incidents where children with special needs were put into seclusion rooms at school. The board reacted by banning not only seclusion rooms, but also the use of restraints that can make it difficult for children to breathe or communicate normally.  Some schools told the board that physical restraints can be the only means of preventing children from harming themselves or others. Some private facilities in Illinois and elsewhere even threatened to dis-enroll Illinois students if the new rules were enforced. The amended rules also require a second layer of review when physical restraints are used more than once on the same child in the span of a month. – Dusty Rhodes, NPR Illinois

Chicago Cop Who Had Officers Babysit His Son Is Demoted

CHICAGO — Chicago’s interim police superintendent demoted a commander whom the city’s inspector general accused of directing on-duty officers to babysit his son with special needs. Interim Superintendent Charlie Beck’s demotion of Commander Anthony Escamilla to captain is one of his first moves since Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday that she was firing Superintendent Eddie Johnson because she said he lied to her about his behavior the night in October when he was found asleep in his running vehicle. – Associated Press

Boeing Chief Engineer Who Defended Max Airliner Is Retiring

CHICAGO – The Boeing engineer who has played a key role in the company’s response to the grounding of the 737 Max is retiring. Boeing says John Hamilton planned to retire last year but stayed on to help get the Max back into service. In October, he appeared before Congress alongside CEO Dennis Muilenburg to defend and explain the design and production of the Max, which has been grounded since March following two deadly crashes. Hamilton will be replaced by Lynne Hopper, vice president of engineering for Boeing’s commercial airplanes business. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – December 4, 2019

University Of Illinois Will Change When It Asks About Student Criminal Histories

URBANA – The University of Illinois system will no longer ask prospective undergrads about their criminal histories as part of the application process. But the university’s three campuses will still ask provisionally admitted students about their records. The policy change comes in response to national and statewide movements urging universities and colleges to ban the box on applications. Research indicates the question may discourage people with convictions from applying.  University officials said the change balances the concerns of those who advocate for removing the question while also keeping campuses safe. The U of I system and other higher education institutions have opposed legislation that would remove the question altogether. – Lee Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Parking Could Get More Expensive 

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois will soon tax certain parking spots. State lawmakers approved the parking tax as a way to generate money for Illinois’ new $45-billion infrastructure plan. Illinois Department of Revenue spokesman Sam Salustro said the tax will pay for public building construction. The tax rate will be 6-percent for hourly, daily and weekly parking — and 9-percent for monthly and annual rates. Parking spots owned and maintained by government entities, hospitals, and apartment complexes will be exempt from the new tax. It kicks in on January 1. – Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

Beatification For Fulton Sheen Delayed By Vatican

PEORIA — Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s journey to sainthood has been delayed as Vatican officials postponed this month’s scheduled beatification in Peoria. The Catholic Diocese of Peoria said in a news release Tuesday that Vatican officials postponed the ceremony that would have put Sheen one step from sainthood. No reason was given why Sheen, ordained in Peoria in 1919 and who died in 1979, will not be beatified this month or why a “few members of the Bishop’s Conference asked for further consideration.” Pope Francis notified the diocese last month that the beatification of Sheen had been approved and would take place on Dec. 21. No new date has been set for the beatification. – Associated Press

Chicago Police Blame Facebook For Illegal Gun, Drug Sales

CHICAGO — Chicago police said investigators have arrested more than 50 people accused of using private Facebook groups and messages to sell guns or drugs. The department’s new interim superintendent and other officials also blamed the social media company for complicating such cases by taking down investigators’ fake profiles during a Tuesday press conference announcing results of the two-year investigation. A message seeking comment from Facebook’s press office was not immediately returned Tuesday. – Associated Press

SIU Names Daniel Mahony New President

SIU’s Board of Trustees will vote Thursday on the appointment of a new system president.

The university announced Tuesday the selection of Daniel Mahony as the system’s new leader. Mahony currently serves as President of Winthrop University in South Carolina.

“I’m excited about working across the system to advance all of SIU,” Mahony said. “The level of commitment to the system’s success and to the welfare of its campuses is clearly strong, from the Board of Trustees to faculty and staff to community members, alumni and donors. SIU has a powerful impact on students and the SIU region, and I look forward to building on its strong foundation.”

Mahony’s proposed four-year contract includes a $435,000 annual salary, and he’ll start in March of next year. He takes over for Interim President Kevin Dorsey, who has led the SIU System since Randy Dunn’s departure in 2018.

In addition to leading Winthrop University, Mahony has leadership experience at Kent State University and the University of Louisville. SIU Board Chair Phil Gilbert says Mahony’s work in strategic planning, fundraising, and collaborative leadership made him the ideal candidate.

“Dr. Mahony is a proven leader and problem solver who has been described as a visionary in his professional experience,” Gilbert said. “He has had success in key areas of importance to SIU to include enrollment strategies, diversity and inclusion, improving finances, and communicating effectively with internal and external agencies to include foundations and legislative bodies.”

Mahony will be introduced later this week in Carbondale and Edwardsville.

News Around Illinois – December 3, 2019

Shooting Wounds 10-Year-Old Boy In Champaign

CHAMPAIGN – The investigation continues into a Sunday night shooting in Champaign’s Garden Hills neighborhood, which critically wounded a ten-year-old boy. Champaign Police said the boy was struck by two shots that were apparently fired from outside into a house on Williamsburg Drive where he was located. News reports identify him as Decari Williams. Police do not believe Williams was the intended target. The boy underwent surgery at a local hospital and remained in critical condition as of Monday afternoon.  Police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to contact them or send an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Economy Growing At Steady Pace

URBANA – The Illinois economy continues to grow at a steady pace, just a bit behind the national economy. Economist Fred Giertz analyzed Illinois income, corporate and sales tax receipts to compile the Flash Index. For November, the Index was at 105.4, up slightly from both October, and 12 months ago. Giertz said the Illinois economy, like the nation’s economy, is growing slowly but steadily, which he said is pretty good for an economic expansion that’s been going on for a decade. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Parking Tax Would Support Building, Hit Private Land

SPRINGFIELD — A tax on parking places to help finance Illinois’ $45 billion statewide construction plan has lawmakers taking a second look. The State Journal-Register reports that the tax takes effect Jan. 1. It is 9% on spaces that are rented by the month or year. It’s 6% for spaces rented hourly, daily or weekly. It will raise $60 million annually, and is part of more than $800 million in new taxes and fees that will finance state construction. – Associated Press

Western Illinois College To Include Books With Tuition

MONMOUTH – Monmouth College is going to help its students pay “one of the hidden costs of college.” Starting next fall, the cost of textbooks will be included in the college’s tuition. The college has worked out a deal with the Follett book store in Monmouth, so at the beginning of each semester students can walk in with their schedule, and walk out with the textbooks they’ll need. Mark Willhardt, Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs, said despite the availability of some class materials online, and textbook rental programs, many college classes these days still require textbooks. – WVIK News

Climatologist: Illinois November Was Colder Than Normal

CHAMPAIGN – Temperatures in November 2019 were below the average across Illinois according to State Climatologist Trent Ford with the Illinois State Water Survey at the University of Illinois.  The statewide average temperature was 35.6 degrees, which is seven degrees below the 30-year-normal. The Survey also said 177 daily low maximum temperature records were broken  across the state.  Data also suggests that November was drier than average for most of the state. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

News Around Illinois – December 2, 2019

Champaign Charity For Hungry, Homeless Faces Deficit

CHAMPAIGN — A Champaign charity that aids the hungry and homeless is more than $270,000 in the hole as it enters the holiday season. The News-Gazette reported that Restoration Urban Ministries budgets $650,000 for housing, food and clothing. It offers church services, substance-abuse recovery programs, and self-sufficiency education. But the Rev. Ervin Williams, the executive director, said funding has not kept up with demand and the organization’s two buildings need repairs to floors, ceilings and heating units in housing units. Staff has been cut and the amount of food purchased monthly has been reduced. Ervin said people are giving at the same level as in the past but there are more charities vying for donations. – Associated Press

OSF HealthCare To Stop Accepting Some Medicaid/Medicare Patients

PEORIA – OSF HealthCare hospitals, doctor’s offices, and home care services will stop accepting Medicaid and Medicare patients enrolled in a Meridian-managed plan on December 15. Randy Billings, OSF HealthCare Senior Vice President of Population Health, said it could not reach an agreement with Meridian for a new contract. Patients have been notified. Meridian serves about 800,000 Illinois Medicaid users, and about 80,000 Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan users. – Tim Shelley, WCBU

Financial Disclosure A Target Of Lawmakers’ Ethics Quest

SPRINGFIELD — Ethics scandals rocking the Illinois Statehouse this fall have lawmakers promising to tighten rules around influencing legislation. One focus is on financial disclosure. More than 26,000 legislators and other state employees must annually file a statement of economic interest. Experts say it falls short. A Virginia attorney who helps federal judges complete financial disclosure said the Illinois form requires reporting income, dividends and capital gains. But she said it’s light on compelling an explanation of how they were obtained. Another expert said Illinois needs a law prohibiting lawmakers to vote on issues where they have conflicts of interest. – Associated Press

Health Officials Urge Flu Vaccine Before Peak Season

CHICAGO — The Chicago Department of Public Health is hosting four flu clinics this week, offering free vaccines. The events are on Monday, Tuesday and Saturday. Acting commissioner Alison Arwady said the flu season typically peaks in January and February. She said getting a vaccine is the best protection against the flu. Officials recommend that everyone older than six months get a flu shot. The most vulnerable are pregnant women, young children, elderly adults and anyone with an existing health condition including asthma, diabetes and heart disease. – Associated Press

$20 Million In Projects Planned For University of Illinois Willard Airport

SAVOY  — More than $20 million in construction is planned at Willard Airport in central Illinois during the next two years.

The News-Gazette reports that the work includes reconstruction of a runway, an added taxiway and a redone entrance road to the University of Illinois-owned airport in Savoy.

Airport officials also expect a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility to be completed and opened early next year.

Airport Executive Director Tim Bannon says that means private international flights can arrive direct, rather than stopping elsewhere to clear customs.

Long term, airport officials hope to secure federal funding to renovate the terminal which was built in 1988 and add an air control traffic tower.

But Bannon says requests for that funding through the Federal Aviation Administration can take time.

Illinois, Michigan Set To Usher In Recreational Pot Sales

ANN ARBOR, Mich.  — James Daly is eager to make marijuana history on Sunday, when he plans to open the doors to Arbors Wellness, beckon the lengthy line outside and legally start selling recreational pot for the first time in the Midwest.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Marijuana in Illinois:

  • Starts Jan. 1, 2020
  • Ages 21 and older will be able to buy marijuana products from licensed sellers in Illinois – with or without a medical marijuana card.
  • Medical marijuana dispensaries will be the only legal sellers of marijuana for recreational use in January 2020.


“We’ve worked very hard to be prepared,” said Daly, who owns the medical dispensary that, for now, is among just six shops in Michigan — mostly in Ann Arbor — also approved to start selling for adult use in December. The business is doubling staff and has fielded calls from potential customers across the state along with neighboring Ohio and Indiana.

“The end of prohibition is historic,” he said. “We wanted to rip the Band-Aid off.”

Both Michigan and Illinois, which allows sales starting on Jan. 1, are officially joining nine other states that broadly allow marijuana sales. Companies are rushing to complete renovations at dispensaries, expand their growing facilities, and get staff hired and trained.

The Midwestern states’ launch into the potentially lucrative recreational market comes at a turbulent time for the industry, which has been rocked by layoffs, the vaping health scare and investor disappointment with Canada’s marijuana program.

In both states, a limited number of businesses have received state licenses letting them sell recreational products initially. But those same retailers must keep enough product on hand to supply people certified as patients under medical marijuana laws.

The conditions are “almost a guarantee” that Illinois and Michigan customers will experience long lines, product shortages and potentially high prices in the early stages, said Adam Orens, co-founder of the Marijuana Policy Group.

“They’ve got to get through the growing pains to get a system implemented,” he said.
Taking marijuana from a small cutting to dried flower ready to be sold or transformed into edible gummies or oils takes months.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Marijuana in Illinois

  • County and municipal governments will decide whether to allow sellers in their area.
  • Adults can legally possess 30 grams, or about an ounce, of cannabis flower. Illinois visitors can possess half of those amounts.
  • It will be legal to smoke in one’s own home and on-site in some cannabis-related businesses.
  • Use is prohibited in any public place, near someone under 21 or school bus drivers, police officers, firefighters or corrections officers


In Michigan, where voters legalized recreational pot just over a year ago, regulators who began accepting license applications Nov. 1 are aiding the transition by letting medical growers, processors and dispensaries transfer up to half their products to the recreational side under certain conditions.
But marijuana is unlikely to be more broadly available until more businesses become licensed and additional communities authorize sales.

More than 1,400 of Michigan’s nearly 1,800 cities, townships and villages are not allowing recreational businesses. Even Detroit, home to the most medical dispensaries in the state, has delayed recreational sales until at least Jan. 31.

“This is brand new for a lot of municipalities. I think it’s important that they are doing their due diligence and taking an approach that honors the will of their people,” said Andrew Brisbo, executive director of the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, which has awarded 18 licenses and approved 78 pre-qualification applications.

He said he expects adult sales to occur in “some consistent form” at a greater number of Michigan locations by the end of March.

In Illinois, seven months will have separated Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signing of legislation permitting people 21 and older to buy and possess marijuana and the start of sales in January.

The first round of applications is limited to existing medical marijuana retailers, and about 30 are newly licensed to sell recreational products. More could be approved before January.

Most of the state’s licensed cultivation companies are expanding their space to meet higher demand for marijuana products. But that work takes time, too.

Mark de Souza, CEO of the state’s largest marijuana producer Revolution Global, said he has heard from dispensary operators “panicked” that they could have empty shelves within months of adult sales beginning.

But he believes the overall structure Illinois’ law created will become the industry’s “gold standard.”

“You’re going to ensure everything from compliance to truth in labeling to taxes to consumer safety,” he said. “We don’t think any short-term supply issues are going to be harmful.”

Still, retailers are considering appointment-based systems rather than lining up customers in winter weather. Others have retrofitted their dispensaries to let medical patients in one door and recreational customers in another, hoping to limit confusion if their product supplies run low.

Amy Manganelli, chief operating officer at Mapleglen Care Center in the western Illinois city of Rockford, said she is anticipating long lines and taking steps to prepare employees.

“We can’t open January 1 and have somebody futzing with the scanner,” she said. “That won’t make the people in line, standing outside in winter, very happy.”

State law lets local governments bar recreational dispensaries, and at least two of Illinois’ existing medical dispensaries are in communities that decided to prevent expanded sales. Chicago set up seven districts with a limited number of dispensaries allowed in each, and business owners only learned at a lottery event in mid-November where they could operate within the city.

Illinois lawmakers said they expected a slow start. Their long-term goals, though, hinge on parts of the law intended to ensure people of color can open and work for marijuana businesses despite historic inequities in enforcement of state and federal drug laws.

The law includes a scoring bonus during the license-award process for social equity applicants — people living in communities most affected by enforcement of marijuana laws, or individuals arrested for or convicted of marijuana offenses that would be legal under the new law. A low-interest loan program for these applicants also was created as part of the law.

Michigan has cut marijuana licensing fees for prospective business owners living in 41 cities whose residents were disproportionately impacted by drug enforcement.

Toi Hutchinson, a former Illinois state senator who oversees the work of all seven state agencies that interact with cannabis businesses, said she is confident that regulators are hitting their deadlines. And she said they will be prepared for other significant milestones in 2020, including the first round of applicants seeking 75 additional licenses to sell recreational products.

January will bring “hiccups,” Hutchison acknowledged. But she said Illinois must stay focused on broader goals including making sure people of color get opportunities in the marijuana industry.
“If we’re really serious about equity, this is a long game,” said Hutchinson, who co-sponsored the marijuana legalization proposal. “This isn’t just about January 1.”

This story has been corrected to show that the name of Illinois company is Revolution Global.

LED Inventor Is Grand Marshal Of Champaign Parade of Lights

The man credited with inventing the LED light  is the honorary grand marshal of the Champaign Center’s 19th Annual Parade of Lights. Nick Holonyak, Jr. created the first light emitting diode — or LED — in 1962 at General Electric.

He began teaching at his alma mater, the University of Illinois, a year later. Today, LEDs are used in everything from household lamps to streetlights, as well as holiday lights.

Genevieve Kirk is the executive director of the Champaign Center Partnership, the nonprofit that hosts the annual parade. She said it was only fitting that this year’s parade honors Holonyak.

“There’s a clear tie-in for the inventor of the LED and Parade of Lights, an event that’s all about celebrating light,” said Kirk. “And so many of our lighted floats will have LEDs on them this Saturday.”

Holonyak is 91-years-old and won’t be able to physically participate in the parade.

The Champaign Center Partnership honored the professor at a reception held earlier this week at his retirement home in Urbana. They presented Holonyak with a small fiber optic Christmas tree replete with LED lights.

The Parade of Lights begins Saturday at 6:00 p.m. in downtown Champaign.

Free Dinners Being Served In Champaign & Urbana On Thanksgiving

Everyone’s invited to community Thanksgiving dinners being held Thursday, at midday in Champaign and during the evening in Urbana.

The Champaign dinner will be served from 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at the Salvation Army Red Shield Center and Thrift Store, on North Market Street, across from Market Place Mall. The local Lone Star Masonic Lodge and Berean Covenant Church are putting on the dinner. Free bus transportation will be provided, with pick-ups at 11, 12 and 1, from bus stops at the Illinois Terminal building in downtown Champaign and the Sav-A-Lot store in downtown Urbana.

Later in the day, the Urbana High School Student Senate will serve their 49th annual Thanksgiving Dinner, at the Urbana High School cafeteria, from 5:00-7:00 p.m.

Both dinners are free, and advance registration is NOT required.

News Around Illinois – November 27, 2019

State Crop Sustainability Goal Is Centuries Away

PEORIA – Illinois is still two centuries away from hitting towards its goal of planting enough cover crops to make a significant dent in nutrient pollution in waterways. That’s according to a coalition of environmental groups responding to the state’s recently-released biennial Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy report.  Nutrient runoff from farms can promote blue algae growth. That depletes oxygen levels in the water and harms the ecosystem. The state currently has about 710,000 acres of cover crops planted each winter to reduce runoff. The goal is to have 19 million acres planted by 2035. – Tim Shelley, WCBU 

School Bus Driver Charged, Accused Of Drinking Beer On Route

AURORA — A 44-year-old bus driver in suburban Chicago has been arrested after authorities say she drank beer while taking more than 30 elementary students to school. Michelle Passley of North Aurora was charged Monday with misdemeanor endangering the life and health of a child. Aurora police say bus video appears to show the driver drinking from a brown paper bag on Nov. 15 along a morning route about 40 miles west of Chicago. The bus company told police that a store clerk called the school district after selling beer to a woman who drove off in a school bus. The company says it then reviewed bus camera footage. Passley has been fired. Police say she was arrested Monday and faces a Dec. 27 court hearing. – Associated Press

City Council Approves Chicago Mayor’s $11.6B Budget Plan

CHICAGO — The Chicago City Council has passed Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $11.6 billion budget plan by a 39-11 vote. Lightfoot’s office says Tuesday the budget is balanced and will close an $838 million shortfall without a “significant” increase in new property taxes. Lightfoot says in a release that a review of city expenditures identified “structural solutions to balance the budget.” The budget also increases funding for affordable housing, mental health, anti-violence and homeless prevention efforts by more than $30 million over last year. – Associated Press

State To Crackdown On Illegal Parking In Handicapped Spaces

SPRINGFIELD — State officials are reminding holiday shoppers in Illinois not to park in handicapped-accessible spaces. WLS-TV reports Tuesday that a state-wide wide crackdown on illegal parking will start Friday at shopping malls and shopping centers. It will continue through the holiday season. The television station reports that fines for parking in such spaces can be up to $350. Secretary of State Jesse White warns that “if you don’t belong here, don’t park here.” – Associated Press



News Around Illinois – November 26, 2019

Pritzker Vetoes Tax Break For Private Jet Manufacturers

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker has vetoed a plan to forgive $50 million in past-due taxes from private jet manufacturers. Pritzker vetoed the legislation Monday. It would also extend the breaks through 2024. The Democrat says it “is not the right fiscal decision.” Lawmakers approved the tax breaks in 2010. They ended them in 2014 but the companies never paid. A veto reversal is likely. The House unanimously adopted the measure. The Senate recorded just one “no” vote. – Associated Press

Autopsy Shows Student Found In Car Died of Strangulation

CHICAGO — The death of a University of Illinois at Chicago undergraduate student whose body was found inside a campus parking garage has been ruled a homicide The Cook County medical examiner says Sunday’s autopsy showed 19-year-old Ruth George of Berwyn died of strangulation. UIC police Chief Kevin Booker said Sunday that a person of interest was in police custody and the suspect has no affiliation with the Chicago school. Campus police found George unresponsive in the garage on Saturday after her family had reported her missing. – Associated Press

Illinois Soldier Awarded Purple Heart for Iraq War Service

PEORIA — A central Illinois man has been awarded the Purple Heart and other military honors for his role in combat during the Iraq War. The  Journal Star reports that Sergeant Matthew Bohm also received the Army Commendation Medal with Valor, the combat action badge and the meritorious unit citation. Bohm was honored for his role in combat during an ambush of a transportation convoy on April 9, 2004. Three soldiers and five contractors were killed and 16 others were wounded. U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood presented the decorations on Friday. He calls Bohm a “hero” in the community. LaHood’s office worked with the Department of Defense to secure the medals. – Associated Press

2 Charged After 2 horses found dead, others malnourished
MARENGO — Authorities say two people have been charged with animal cruelty after two horses were found dead and five others severely malnourished in northern Illinois. McHenry County Animal Control officers were verifying vaccine records at dog a breeding operation in Marengo when they discovered the horses. The Hooved Animal Rescue & Protection Society were contacted and found two dead miniature horses that appeared to have starved. Five malnourished horses were also found Friday. They’ve been taken to a facility for treatment and are expected to recover. – Associated Press

Holiday Events Scheduled At Springfield State Historic Sites

SPRINGFIELD — There are full slates of special events and celebrations scheduled for the holiday season at two state historic sites in Springfield.

Santa will be available regularly at the Old State Capitol to collect children’s Christmas wishes and specially themed tours are scheduled for the Dana-Thomas House designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Children and families may visit with St. Nick and play holiday games at the Old State Capitol from 1 to 5 p.m. each Saturday from Nov. 30 to Dec. 21 and from 5 to 8 p.m. each Wednesday from Dec. 4-18.
Each day will feature a different musical group as well.

A dozen variously themed tours of the Dana-Thomas House are scheduled periodically from Nov. 29 through Dec. 20. Some require reservations.

News Around Illinois – November 25, 2019


DOT Grant Gives MTD $17 Million For Terminal Expansion

CHAMPAIGN – The largest piece of the funding pie is now in place for the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District’s Illinois Terminal expansion. That’s after the US Department of Transportation awarded the MTD a grant of more than $17-million for the project. The Illinois Terminal expansion is part of the larger proposed Yards development, which would include a new downtown hotel and conference center along with a new arena for a yet-to-be-announced University of Illinois varsity hockey team. – Brian Moline, Illinois Newsroom

Men Of Color Experience Racism While Using Online Platforms

URBANA – Gay and bisexual men of color who use online platforms to find romantic partner experience racial discrimination in various forms. That’s according to a recent study led by University of Illinois social work professor Ryan Wade.  Speaking on The 21st show, Wade said sexual racism includes anything from a person being told they’re not desirable because of their race to erotic objectification of entire racial groups. Wade said the anonymity offered on many digital platforms may embolden people to express their racist views.  – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Fewer Hunters In Illinois Means Fewer Conservation Efforts

SPRINGFIELD – Conservation officials in Illinois are trying to overcome a near half-century of declining participation in hunting. Jared Duquette with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said as state revenue declines from hunting licenses and the sale of firearms, ammunition and archery equipment, the state has had to cut back on conversation efforts. Duquette said the IDNR is looking for new revenue streams from outdoor activities that are becoming more popular such as hiking. The state is also promoting its online ‘Learn to Hunt’ program. – Eric Stock, WGLT Radio

State Board of Education Wants Info On Seclusion Rooms

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education is encouraging anyone with information about abusive time out rooms or restraints in any school setting to share that information directly with the agency. The request follows a report by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica documenting thousands of instances of children, usually with special needs, placed in seclusion in their schools.  The board has already implemented emergency rules banning isolated seclusion as well as restraints that could make it hard for a child to breathe or speak normally. Anyone with relevant information can email – Dusty Rhodes, NPR Illinois

News Around Illinois – November 22, 2019

Quad Cities Waiting For FEMA Checks After Flooding

EAST MOLINE – Most local governments in the Quad Cities are waiting for checks from FEMA to help pay for flood expenses. Davenport, Iowa asked for $3.5 million. In Illinois, Rock Island County asked for $884,000; East Moline and Rock Island each submitted around $540,000 in eligible flood expenses; and Moline applied for $404,000. Nonprofits and places of worship that provided food and child care to low income residents during the floods also applied to FEMA for reimbursement.  Steady rain during the spring led to the state’s worst flooding in 25 years along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. – Michelle O’Neill, WVIK

Illinois Officer Fined $350 For Illegally Parking Patrol Car

CRYSTAL LAKE — A northern Illinois police officer has been ticketed for parking his patrol car in a handicapped-accessible parking space. Lakemoor Police Chief David Godlewski said Tuesday that the officer was issued a $350 fine Sunday for parking illegally at the Lakemoor Crossings Shopping Center.
The Northwest Herald reports that a resident texted the chief about the parking infraction on Sunday. The department also received calls, and one resident posted a photo of the Lakemoor Police SUV on Facebook. The police chef says the officer is being disciplined and declined to release his name. In October, a McHenry County Sheriff’s officer also was issued a citation for parking in a handicapped-accessible parking space. – Associated Press

Parole Approved For Inmate In 1960 Triple-Killing

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois officials granted parole on Thursday to an 80-year-old inmate sentenced to life in prison for the 1960 killings of three suburban Chicago women, whose brutalized bodies were found in a cave at a state park. The Illinois Prisoner Review Board voted 9-4 to approve Chester Weger’s 24th request for release. He had sought parole since 1972. Weger won’t be released for at least 90 days per a request from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. Weger was convicted of the murder of Lillian Oetting. He also confessed to killing Oetting’s two companions, Frances Murphy and Mildred Lindquist, at Starved Rock State Park Near Utica, saying he intended to rob them. Weger later recanted the confession and since has maintained that it was coerced. – Associated Press

Salad Product Recall Over E. Coli Bacteria Impacts 22 States

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says thousands of pounds of salad products are being recalled due to a possible E. coli contamination. The department said Missa Bay, LLC from Swedesboro, New Jersey, is recalling more than 75,000 pounds of salad products that contain meat or poultry because the lettuce may be contaminated with a strain of E. coli. The products were sold on Oct. 14 through Oct. 16 in Illinois and 21 other states. Authorities say the Maryland Department of Health tested an unopened salad product with chicken and the lettuce came back positive for a strain of E. coli bacteria, which can cause diarrhea and vomiting.  – Associated Press


Lawsuit Alleges McDonald’s Puts Employees In Physical Danger

CHICAGO (AP) — A group of employees from 13 McDonald’s restaurants in Chicago filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging that the company’s drive for profits puts workers at “daily risk” of physical attack by dangerous customers.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “McDonald’s takes seriously its responsibility to provide and foster a safe working environment for our employees” -McDonald’s statement [/perfectpullquote]

In the lawsuit filed in Cook County court, the 17 workers say McDonald’s has failed to protect them from what they say is a “citywide and nationwide” pattern of violence and that police respond to more than 20 911 calls every day regarding Chicago McDonald’s restaurants. They cite several examples of the violence, including an incident in which a customer beat an employee with a sign and another in which a customer urinated on a worker.

“McDonald’s has failed, at a systemic level, to protect its workers from violence in the workplace,” said Danny Rosenthal, an attorney for the workers. “Throughout the country, McDonald’s workers are regularly threatened, assaulted, and injured by customers.”

McDonald’s did not respond to the lawsuit’s specific allegations, but it said in a statement that,

“McDonald’s takes seriously its responsibility to provide and foster a safe working environment for our employees, and along with our franchisees, continue to make investments in training programs that uphold safe environments for customers and crew members.”

The lawsuit contends that in its effort to increase profits, McDonald’s has taken steps that have made working at its restaurants more dangerous. For example, it alleges that by lowering and tearing down physical barriers at check-out counters, the company has made it easier for dangerous customers to attack workers. McDonald’s has also ignored the “recommended practice” of designing drive-thru windows so that customers cannot crawl through them, according to the lawsuit.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “McDonald’s has failed, at a systemic level, to protect its workers from violence in the workplace,” said attorney Danny Rosenthal. [/perfectpullquote]

Because McDonald’s does not allow workers to lock bathroom doors when they are sent there to clean them, the company puts workers at greater risk of sexual violence, the lawsuit asserts. One of the plaintiffs “was cleaning inside the men’s bathroom when men entered and exposed themselves to her in a sexual manner,” it states.

The lawsuit marks the latest in a string of legal problems for the fast food giant. McDonald’s has faced protests and dozens of lawsuits over what workers say is sexual harassment at its restaurants and the company’s failure to address their complaints. Earlier this month, a former employee sued McDonald’s and one of its Michigan franchisees, alleging that the general manager did nothing to stop a co-worker from groping and physically assaulting her. And just days before that lawsuit was filed, McDonald’s fired its CEO, Steve Easterbrook, for having a consensual romantic relationship with an employee.

News Around Illinois – November 21, 2019

Nearly 2,500 Drivers Caught Speeding At 100 MPH In 2019

SPRINGFIELD – In a tweet, the Illinois State Police said troopers have handed out 2,492 tickets since January for driving 100 miles per hour or faster on Illinois roadways.  Spokeswoman Mindy Carroll said that’s actually down slightly from last year. She also said state police will increase patrols over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. – Sam Dunklau, WUIS

Chicago School Board Approves New Teacher, Staff Contracts

CHICAGO – The Chicago Board of Education has approved deals with teachers and support staff that ends labor strife that included an 11-day strike. Chicago teachers last week approved the five-year contract deal that includes pay raises, $35 million to enforce limits on class sizes and a pledge to supply each school with a nurse and a social worker. The board on Wednesday also passed a new school calendar to make up five of the 11 days students missed during the strike. – Associated Press

DeKalb School Board Votes Against Arming Teachers

DEKALB – The DeKalb School Board voted unanimously against a proposal before the Illinois Association of School Boards on allowing teachers to be armed. The downstate Mercer School Board first introduced the measure last year.  Schools wouldn’t be forced to arm teachers, even if the resolution results in a new law this spring. The association will vote on the resolution later this month. – Peter Medlin, WNIJ

Chinese Consul General: Trade War Talks At Critical Point

NORMAL – The Chinese Consul General from Chicago said talks to end the trade war between the US and China are at a critical point. During a speech at Illinois State University on Wednesday, Zhao Jian said the world’s two largest economies are interdependent.  Zhao said US exports to China support more than a million US jobs and he noted the strong agricultural exports of Midwestern states to China.  He did not address US complaints about intellectual property theft, currency manipulation or other industry supports the Chinese government allegedly facilitates. – Charlie Schlenker, WGLT


‘Slave For Sale’ Craigslist Post Leads To Hate Crime Charges

NAPERVILLE (AP) — A suburban Chicago 14-year-old faces hate crime and other charges for allegedly posting on Craigslist a picture of an African American classmate with the caption, “Slave for sale.”

Prosecutors allege the white Naperville Central High School freshman also included “an offensive racial slur” in the ad that they called “beyond disturbing.” The defense attorney counters the students were friends and school authorities are handling the matter with an apology and suspension.

The juvenile appeared Wednesday in DuPage County juvenile court, where he is charged with two counts of committing a hate crime and one count of disorderly conduct. He is due back in court Dec. 18.
Assistant State’s Attorney Lee Roupas said the youth took the photo last week while the two sat at the same lunch table. Prosecutors describe the allegations as “serious and aggravating,” and the actions risked the safety of the victim.

“Hate crimes have no place in our society and will not be tolerated,” the county’s State’s Attorney Robert B. Berlin said in a statement. “Anyone, regardless of age, accused of such disgraceful actions will be charged accordingly.”

Defense attorney Harry Smith said the two were friends and Central’s principal is “getting the two friends together” and coordinating an apology. Authorities say the youth is serving an in-school suspension.

It’s not yet clear what kind of penalty the juvenile might face if convicted. Paul Darrah, a spokesman for the state’s attorney office, told The Associated Press that the aim for juveniles is “accountability, not punishment,” though the student is “going to face probation at a minimum.”

The ad follows an Oct. 26 incident at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Naperville, in which some black customers said they were asked by restaurant employees to change tables because of a regular customer’s request.

Darrah said that case “had no bearing on our decision to file charges against the juvenile.”

News Around Illinois – November 20, 2019

Urbana Board Votes To Increase Police Presence In Schools

The Urbana District 116 Board of Education voted 4 to 3 Tuesday night to quadruple police presence in the district’s middle and high schools. The measure comes after a fight in February at the high school that resulted in multiple arrests and injuries. Since 1993, the district has had one part-time school resource officer. The board voted on a 2 and a half year intergovernmental agreement that would provide for two full-time officers — one at each school. The district will also have to foot the bill for the officers — an expense totaling more than $300,000 per year. Previously, the police department covered the cost. – Lee Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Champaign Unit 4 Officials Prepare To Sell More Bonds

The Champaign Unit 4 School Board approved a measure during a special meeting on Tuesday allowing the district to issue up to $73.4 million worth of school building bonds. Unit 4 voters in 2016 approved a referendum allowing the district to sell $183.4 million in school building bonds to put toward construction projects at six schools and two parks; the district sold $110 million in bonds about two years ago, and Tuesday’s decision takes up the remaining amount that voters approved.

When Unit 4 voters went to the polls three years ago, the projects were expected to cost about $209 million. Now, budgets for all eight projects total more than $245 million. In addition to the bond sales, the district will use $25 million in reserves to pay for the projects.  – Lee Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Asked To Improve Mental Health Treatments For Inmates

A federal judge is being asked to force Illinois to improve mental health treatment for people in prison.  Attorney Harold Hirshman said the state isn’t hiring enough mental health professionals to comply with past court orders. He said the Department of Corrections should have been doing more to enforce its contract with Wexford, the private company hired to run health care in the prisons. Last year, a judge found Illinois’ care for inmates with mental illness was so bad it violated the U-S Constitution. Attorneys for inmates suing the state say Illinois needs to hire at least 75 more mental health professionals in order to comply with court orders. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio Network

Parents Upset Students Opened Child-Proof Bottles At School

Parents of students at a northern Illinois elementary school are angry after an older student led an experiment that asked their children to open child-proof medicine bottles. Parents weren’t told in advance about Friday’s project at Leland Elementary School. The principal and the Leland School District superintendent sent parents a letter on Sunday saying that a junior high school student worked with kindergarten and first grade students “to gather data for a science fair project.” Superintendent Jodi Moore told the Chicago Tribune that the older student wasn’t acting maliciously. – Associated Press


Embattled Cook County Prosecutor Announces Bid For Re-Election

The top prosecutor in Cook County, Illinois, who was harshly criticized when her office suddenly dropped charges against actor Jussie Smollett, says she’s running for re-election.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx says in a Tuesday news release that she hopes to continue reforming the criminal justice system in the county including Chicago that she began implementing when she was elected in 2016.

The bid by Foxx, the first black woman to head the office, comes after a judge appointed a special prosecutor to examine why felony counts against the actor who had been charged with staging a racist and homophobic attack against himself last January were dropped. Foxx had recused herself after she had conversations with the actor’s family.

Foxx’s challengers include a former judge and two former prosecutors.

News Around Illinois – November 19, 2019


Illinois Faces Regional Propane Shortage

Illinois is one of seven states with a much greater demand for propane than is available.  An early snowfall and wet weather has led to greater consumption of the gas, especially in rural areas.  Farmers in particular use it to both heat their homes and to reduce the moisture content of their crops.  Illinois Director of Agriculture John Sullivan said it’s mostly a problem of not having enough propane in the area.  That’s why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration granted a regional emergency declaration to address obstacles to delivery. Other states affected by the shortage include Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Kansas, and Nebraska. – Chase Cavanaugh, WNIJ

Health Center Celebrates 50 Years Of Providing Low Cost Care

The Frances Nelson Health Center in Champaign was created in 1969 after a University of Illinois study on racial health disparities revealed something stark: black babies in Champaign county were twice as likely to die in their first year of life as white babies. Nancy Greenwalt leads Promise Health Care, which includes the Frances Nelson Health Center. She said Frances Nelson is unique in that the health center’s own patients serve on the Board — to ensure the clinic is continuing to meet the changing needs of the community. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

32,000 State Workers Saving For Retirement Thanks To New Plan

Illinois officials says 32,000 workers are now saving for retirement thanks to the state’s Secure Choice Retirement Plan.   The law targets industries where companies do not typically offer retirement plans. Any business with more than 25 workers and no retirement plan is required to join. By default, employees have 5 percent of their checks put into individual retirement accounts, though they can increase that amount or opt out. The state treasurer’s office says nearly 4,691 businesses have registered, but 19,000 more could be failing to comply. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio Network

100 Guns Turned In At St. Sabina Buyback Program In Chicago

A gun buyback program at St. Sabina Church in Chicago produced at least 100 firearms.  The Chicago Sun-Times reports that police on Saturday traded gift cards for guns — $100 for handguns and rifles and $10 for BB guns, air rifles and replicas. The Rev. Michael Pfleger’s church collects guns year-round. The last buyback day in April netted 400 guns. More than 1,800 people have been shot in Chicago this year. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – November 18, 2019


Durbin Pushes For More Science Research Funding

Senator Dick Durbin (D) Illinois wants to reverse a half-century decline in federal funding for science research with legislation he’s hoping will become part of the next budget. The Democrat supports bills to finance research in medicine, technology and agriculture with a mandatory five percent increase each year. Durbin appeared on the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana campus on Friday. He said the federal government’s discretionary funds invested in research has gone down since the 1960’s.  He said China’s investment in research and development has increased sharply since the early 2000’s. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

SBA Flood Disaster Approved

The U.S. Small Business Administration has issued a disaster declaration for Illinois. Counties included under the SBA disaster declaration are Stephenson, Carroll, Jo Daviess, Ogle, Winnebago, Rock Island, Henry, Mercer, Whiteside, Jersey, Calhoun, Greene, Madison, Macoupin, Alexander, Pulaski, and Union. The deadline to apply for property damage loans is December 9. Click here to apply or call the SBA Customer Service Center  at (800) 659-2955. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency said people and companies affected by flooding on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers have been waiting months for help from the federal government. – Michelle O’Neill, WVIK

Hate Crimes Rise 30 Percent In Illinois

In 2018, hate crimes rose by 30 percent in Illinois, according to a recently released FBI report. Nationally, gender-based hate crimes, such as those targeting transgender people rose six percent. Bias crimes against Latinos grew 14 percent.  – Maureen McKinney, NPR Illinois

$10M Trail Connecting 2 Southwest Illinois Counties Opens

A $10 million pedestrian trail connecting two southwest Illinois counties has opened after 15 years of planning. The trail runs seven miles connecting Troy in Madison County to O’Fallon in St. Clair County. Organizers have estimated that roughly 115,000 people will use it every year, including cyclists and joggers. – Associated Press