A court-appointed monitor will look into hiring irregularities at the Illinois Department of Transportation, a ruling that challenges Governor Pat Quinn’s assertion that he’s already addressed the problem.
Cook County Judge Sidney Schenkier ruled that an independent review is needed to make sure that laws against political hiring are being followed. The ruling came in a case that resulted from an investigation by News/Talk 970 WMAY’s watchdog partner, the Better Government Association, which found people were improperly given jobs at IDOT based on political connections instead of merit.
Quinn’s Republican opponent Bruce Rauner says the ruling shows Quinn is, quote, “corrupt and cannot be trusted to clean up state government.”
A highly-regarded political reporter based in Springfield has quit his job… and is accusing the newspaper’s owner of caving in to pressure from Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner.
Chicago Sun-Times reporter Dave McKinney was pulled off his beat for several days this month after the Rauner camp tried to stop a critical story prior to publication… and accused McKinney of a conflict of interest because his wife works for a PR firm that has Democratic clients.
McKinney notes that shortly after the controversy, the paper abruptly reversed its position against endorsing candidates and threw its support to Rauner. He says the incident is having a “chilling effect” on reporting.
The candidates for U.S. Senate have met in their one and only debate of the fall campaign.
Republican challenger Jim Oberweis says Illinoisans and all Americans have seen their personal finances get worse while Dick Durbin has served as one of the top Democrats on Capitol Hill. Durbin says he wants to boost American job prospects by rewarding companies who keep jobs here rather than moving them overseas.
And there was one surprising area of agreement between the two… when Oberweis said he would support a federal law legalizing same-sex marriage. He has opposed it as a state senator.
Another Lincoln-era home in Springfield is about to meet the wrecking ball… unless someone steps up to take on the cost of repairing and moving the building.
The State Journal-Register reports a hearing is set for November 12th on the city’s request for a demolition order against the crumbling Condell House… which was built on South Fourth Street in 1842. Located across from the Governor’s Mansion, the home has partially caved in… and it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to short it up and relocate it.
Local preservationists are hoping a benefactor will step forward to take on the project… but admit it’s a long shot.
Members of the statewide coalition that supports a non-binding referendum on the November ballot to raise the minimum wage to $10/hour are urging voters to take advantage of early voting procedures across the state.
A spokesperson for the Service Employees International Union told the press that many of those workers that would be affected by a potential minimum wage increase work multiple jobs and may not be available to vote on November 4th and that early voting opportunities are “critical”. The Raise Illinois coalition is touting a study that suggests that 1 in 5 Illinoisians would get a raise, if the minimum wage were to increase from the current $8.25/hour.
A court-appointed monitor will be put in place at the Illinois Department of Transportation to look into the department’s hiring practices and ensure that laws against political hiring are being followed.
A judge ordered that monitor over the objections of Governor Pat Quinn, who says his administration has corrected hiring problems at IDOT, making the additional oversight unnecessary.
Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner says the ruling shows that Quinn is “corrupt and can’t be trusted.”
The owner of a retail meat and meat processing operation hopes to be open for business in Springfield by Memorial Day 2015.
Tony Magro received City Council approval Tuesday night for his operation, which will focus mostly on retail sales but which will also slaughter and process livestock on a small scale one day per week.
Magro says the former Eagle Supermarket and Dane's Discount site needs extensive renovations, but he hopes to have the work completed and be ready to open by late next spring.
Random searches at Springfield’s middle and high schools in recent weeks have turned up one item of “contraband,” according to Superintendent Jennifer Gill.
Gill would not disclose the nature of the item or say where or when it was discovered, because the case is still going through the student discipline process.
District 186 has stepped up random searches in recent weeks after two incidents of guns brought to school in the early days of the current school year.
Springfield fire officials will consider equipping all units with a higher level of personal protective gear that could be used in the event first responders encounter someone with Ebola-like symptoms.
Fire Chief Ken Fustin says the department has inventoried its protective equipment and is evaluating how it may have to be used if the current, small outbreak in the U.S. gets bigger.
Fustin says the department has more than enough to outfit every rig with a supply of head-to-toe protective covering, but says such a move may be, quote, overkill.
The former AT&T call center on the West Side will soon have a new tenant. After sitting vacant for a couple of months after AT&T moved approximately 50 jobs out of Springfield and eliminated about 190 others, Bunn has announced that it will acquire the building for an as of yet undisclosed amount – although the facility has a fair market value of $9.7M, according to the Sangamon County Assessor.
In a statement released to the media, the company said that the acquisition of the 101,000 square foot facility would allow for more flexibility at the company’s location on Stevenson Drive.
Springfield Representative Raymond Poe will undergo an adult stem cell transplant that is intended to replace his bone marrow, in hopes of curing a rare blood disease.
Poe was diagnosed earlier this year with a syndrome known as MDS. He will undergo the procedure in Houston. He will spend three weeks preparing for the procedure, which will happen in mid-November, followed by an “extended recovery period” that could last until February of next year.
Poe says his staff and legislative colleagues will handle constituent issues in his absence.
Governor Pat Quinn and opponent Bruce Rauner have met in their third and final debate… one in which they stuck with mostly familiar lines of attack.
Rauner repeatedly called Quinn a “failure” as governor, while Quinn hammered Rauner over and over for his early support of a reduction in the state minimum wage… a position from which Rauner has since backed away.
And each candidate accused the other of trying to raise taxes on middle-class families… because of Quinn’s support for extending the temporary income tax hike and Rauner’s plan to expand sales taxes to cover some services. Election Day is in two weeks.
Overall, Springfield public school students are showing improvement in standardized reading and math tests… even though fewer than half of District 186 students in most categories are meeting state standards in reading and math.
The district notes that this year, for the first time, the tests are fully aligned to the more demanding Common Core standards… and say the increase in scores is a positive sign for the future. But they acknowledge they have much more work to do to improve the numbers, especially among black and low-income students.
As the CDC issues new guidelines to hospitals on how to be prepared if an Ebola patient arrives at their doors, Springfield’s Memorial Medical Center says it already has equipment and procedures that go beyond the CDC guidelines.
But the hospital’s chief medical officer warns it is possible to do too much. Doctor Rajesh Govindaiah (GOH-vin-dye-uh) says the hospital has advised staff not to double up on gowns and gloves… since that can actually make it tougher to remove the gear later, inadvertently increasing the risk of accidental exposure.
Officials say it is still highly unlikely that they will have to deal with a case of the deadly virus.
It’s the first of its kind in Downstate Illinois… a partnership of health care providers will seek to compile data on medical errors that can jeopardize patients.
The program will be based at Memorial Medical Center, and will compile data from Memorial, SIU Healthcare, and other participating businesses, including ambulance services and nursing homes.
Memorial’s chief operating officer Dr. Charles Callahan says health care has gotten much more complicated, as patients often juggle multiple medications for multiple conditions. He hopes the data put together by the group can show patterns that can help doctors and nurses prevent harmful mistakes in treatment.
Another Springfield restaurant closes its doors. Cheddar’s abruptly shut down Monday.
No reason was given for the closure of the restaurant on Horizon Drive, just off of South Dirksen Parkway. Several customers say on social media that the restaurant had been busy over the previous weekend, and say the closure took them by surprise.
The Cheddar’s chain did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s a reminder that football can be a dangerous game… even at the high school level.
A defensive tackle for Watseka High School is in intensive care in the Chicago area after suffering a broken neck during a game Friday night. Hayden Schaumburg’s spinal cord was compressed, but not severed. He has no feeling from the chest down but has been able to move his shoulders and fingers following an eight-hour surgery.
Watseka’s coach says the player’s fate is, quote, “in the Lord’s hands.”
Illinois middle and high school students could be required to put in service hours as a condition of graduation… under a recommendation being put forward by a state task force.
The panel also wants to beef up social studies requirements and discussion of current events in schools… all with the goal of making those students into more responsible, productive citizens as adults.
The task force says its ideas could be paid for by reallocating school funds away from electives. It will hold a public hearing on its ideas Tuesday from 4-6pm at Lanphier High School.
A new organization dedicated to improving patient safety is said to be the first of its kind in Downstate Illinois.
The Quality Alliance Patient Safety Organization has received federal certification. The organization is run by an official with Memorial Health System… who says it will seek to bring hospitals, health-care workers, paramedics and others together to find ways to reduce medical errors that can harm patients.
It will encourage voluntary reporting of incidents so that trends can be documented and addressed.
The chief medical officer for Memorial Medical Center says the medical staff there has a supply of protective gear that goes beyond current CDC guidelines. But the standards being set forth are continuing to evolve as the nation grapples with its first cases of Ebola.
Dr. Rajesh Govindaiah says Memorial is a “resource hospital” for other smaller hospitals in the area and so it has plenty of personal protective gear on hand in the unlikely event it’s needed.
Another Springfield restaurant closes its doors.
A person answering the phone at Cheddar’s on Horizon Drive, just off of South Dirksen Parkway, confirms that the restaurant is closed as of today, and says the closure is permanent.
That person did not offer a reason for the shutdown… and a message left with the Cheddar’s chain has not yet been returned.
For the second year in a row, four local groups are organizing the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in Springfield.
The groups, including Faith Coalition for the Common Good, the Ministerial Alliance, and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, took over last year after an anti-religion group threatened to sue if the city continued to put it on.
The breakfast will be held November 18th at the Hilton downtown. A keynote speaker has been selected but has not been announced yet.
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