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August 20, 2014, 1:32 pm
970 WMAY News Archives for 2012-11

Sheriff Williamson Splits with Top Republicans on Licenses for Illegal Immigrants


Some top Republicans are coming out in favor of legislation to allow illegal immigrants to obtain Illinois drivers licenses.

 

But at least one local GOP officeholder is strongly opposed. The bill easily cleared a state Senate committee Thursday.

 

Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno and former GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady have both endorsed the bill, saying it will improve safety and protect Illinois residents by making sure that illegal immigrant drivers get some training and obtain insurance.

 

But Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson calls the bill… quote… “just nuts,” and says he worries about what it could lead to next. 

 

Williamson appeared on 970 WMAY's Kramer Show Thursday evening.  Listen to that interview below or at this link (mp3 download).

 

JDC Closes Doors for Last Time


It’s been a part of Jacksonville for over 100 years, but now the Jacksonville Developmental Center has closed its doors, apparently for the last time.

 

The Quinn administration says the last of the developmentally-disabled residents of the center were moved out this week, making the transition to smaller community-based group homes.

 

The governor says the move will provide better care at lower cost, but opponents question whether the community-based facilities can meet the specialized needs of the residents.

 

More than 170 JDC staffers have been laid off as a result of the shutdown.

Gov. Quinn Ranks Low in the Polls


Governor Pat Quinn is at the top… of the bottom.

 

A polling firm has declared Quinn the least popular governor in the country, with only a 25% approval rating, lowest that the pollster has seen in any state this year.

 

The survey from Public Policy Polling also measured how Quinn would do against prospective opponents.

 

It finds he would lose to Republicans Kirk Dillard and Dan Rutherford, and would be neck-and-neck with GOP Congressman Aaron Schock.

 

But Quinn’s problems go farther than that… the poll indicates he would get crushed in a head-to-head Democratic primary matchup against Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Drought Not Over Yet


Don’t declare the Drought of 2012 over yet.

 

After a few rainy weeks in September and October, Illinois has settled back into another dry spell.

 

And that’s taking a toll on Lake Springfield.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the lake has now hit its lowest point of 2012... almost four feet below full pool, and two feet below the average for this time of year.

Sheriff Williamson on Valid Drivers Licenses for Illegals: It's Just Nuts


Sheriff Neil Williamson
Sheriff Neil Williamson

The Sangamon County Sheriff has come out publicly opposed to Illinois passing a law that allow illegal immigrants get driver's licenses.

 

An Illinois senate committee advanced a measure that would allow for undocumented residents in Illinois to obtain a valid driver's licence.

 

Supporters say it will make the roads safer if everyone had insurance and driver's education. Sheriff Neil Williamson says that it's ridiculous and quote "just nuts."

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY's Kramer Show Thursday evening, Williamson also says he's worried of what could come next.

Jacksonville Developmental Center Clears Out


There are no more residents and over 170 state workers have been laid off at the Jacksonville Developmental Center.

 

A press release from Governor Pat Quinn’s office says that all remaining residents from JDC have been transitioned out of the facility into community care settings as of Thursday morning.

 

The same release says that closing the facility will save the state $11 million.

 

As for the 310 AFSCME employees at JDC, the Governor’s office says 130 positions went to other state agencies, eight decided to retire and 172 employees chose the layoff option.

Powerball Jackpot Tickets Sold in Arizona and Missouri


By now you probably know that if you bought your Powerball ticket in Illinois, you didn’t win the big prize.

 

Two tickets were sold that match all five numbers plus the Powerball… but those came from Arizona and Missouri.

 

Even without a share of the Powerball-record $588 million jackpot, the lottery frenzy could still mean a windfall for some people in the state.

 

It will generate millions of extra dollars for the state’s school fund… and the big spike in ticket sales will also feel like an early Christmas for convenience stores and other lottery retailers, who get a percentage of every ticket sold.

 

Winning Powerball Numbers for 11-28-12

 

The winning numbers are 5 - 16 - 22 - 23 - 29 and the Powerball - 6.  Powerball reports that a $1 million dollar ticket was sold in Illinois.

Illinois House Says No To Pay Raises


Even though local Republican lawmakers voted against it, a resolution that tries to close the door on state worker pay raises this year has still easily passed the Illinois House.

 

The vote was 84 to 29 in favor… but local GOP representatives Raymond Poe, Rich Brauer and Jim Watson were among those voting “no.”

 

Opponents argue that the issue of raises should be left to the collective bargaining process.

 

But supporters… including House Speaker Mike Madigan says the Executive Branch can’t keep making promises to workers, and then sending the legislature the bill.

Fatal Accident on Route 97 Takes Two Lives


Two women are dead after their cars collided head-on Wednesday afternoon on Illinois Route 97, west of Hazlett Road in Sangamon County.

 

Illinois State Police say a vehicle driven by 71-year-old Florence Medberry of Petersburg was traveling east on the highway when it crossed into the westbound lane, striking a vehicle driven by 63-year-old Carol Fritzche of New Berlin.

 

Both drivers were pronounced dead at the scene.

 

The crash forced the closure of Route 97 for three hours for crash reconstruction. The accident remains under investigation.

Maximum Sentence Sought in McCaster Murder Case


State’s Attorney John Milhiser says he will seek the maximum sentence possible against a Springfield woman, now accused of murder and other charges in the death and dismemberment of her husband.

 

Bond remains at $5 million for Juatasha Denton-McCaster… who is accused of killing her 22-year-old husband Norman McCaster, cutting off his head and limbs, and then dumping the torso near Mechanicsburg.

 

Among the charges against her is a count of obstruction of justice, alleging she told detectives that her husband had taken all of his belongings and moved away when she knew that he was, in fact, dead.

MacArthur Park Apartments To Pay Tens of Thousands in Fines


The owner of the MacArthur Park apartment complex has agreed to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines… and to move quickly to complete repairs on the property or face additional fines.

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin announced the settlement Wednesday live on 970 WMAY’s “Ray Lytle Show.” Granite Investment Company and owner James Green have paid a $13,000 fine assessed earlier this year… and will pay an additional $57,000 to the city to settle the complaint.

 

And repairs to the complex must be completed by next spring, or more fines are possible.

 

The city has been working for months to correct problems at MacArthur Park, from rundown buildings to squatters to a high crime rate.

Two Women Killed In Route 97 Head-On Crash


Two women are dead after their cars collided head-on Wednesday afternoon on Illinois Route 97, west of Hazlett Road in Sangamon County.

 

Illinois State Police say a vehicle driven by 71-year-old Florence Medberry of Petersburg was traveling east on the highway when it crossed into the westbound lane, striking a vehicle driven by 63-year-old Carol Fritzche of New Berlin.  Both drivers were pronounced dead at the scene.

 

The crash forced the closure of Route 97 for three hours for crash reconstruction.  The accident remains under investigation.

Springfield Woman Arraigned on Murder Charges In Death And Dismemberment Of Husband


Bond remains set at five-million dollars for a Springfield woman who is now formally charged with murder in the death and dismemberment of her husband. 

 

Juatasha Denton-McCaster was assigned a public defender at a court hearing where she was arraigned on seven felony counts... including first-degree murder, dismemberment of a body, concealment of a homicide and obstruction of justice. 

 

State's Attorney John Milhiser says authorities believe she alone is responsible for the death of her husband Norman McCaster, and then cutting off his head, arms and legs and dumping the torso along a rural road near Mechanicsburg in October.

 

Denton-McCaster is scheduled for another court appearance on December 6th.

Heroin Bust - Suspect Hid Drugs In Toy Doll


Springfield police busted a Springfield man for manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance - in this instance - for heroin. Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher says this is the 2nd warrant issued on 45-year-old Michael Fischer at 1734 East Carpenter, and the third warrant issued for him this year by the PAC Unit.

 

Authorities say Fisher and several other residents were detained prior to the warrant service. Officers found a cigarette wrapper with heroin on it, a plate with heroin, tape and foil to package the heroin and 790 thousand dollars.

 

During a search of the toy room, police found a toy doll with about 7.8 grams of heroin hidden inside in 32 individual bundles and 4 small baggies. The other heroin was estimated to be a little over a gram total with a total street value of nearly $2000.

MacArthur Park Apartments Settles Complaint Over Disrepair


City officials call it a big step forward in fixing a longtime Springfield eyesore. 

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY's "Ray Lytle Show," Alderman Joe McMenamin says the owner of the MacArthur Park apartments has agreed to a settlement of the city’s legal action against him. 

 

Under terms of the deal, owner James Green will pay a $13,000 penalty immediately, and must pay an additional $57,000 by next spring… and must meet a series of deadlines to complete repairs at the apartment complex or face additional fines. 

 

The city took action after years of disrepair and complaints about high crime and squatters within the complex.

 

[CORRECTION: Due to incorrect information provided to 970 WMAY News, an earlier version of this story misstated the amount of financial penalty to be paid by the apartment complex owner.  Those figures are now corrected in this version.]

Wife Now Formally Charged With Murder In Dismemberment Death Of Husband


The wife of a Springfield murder victim has now been formally charged with his death. 

 

Juatasha Denton-McCaster is now facing charges of first-degree murder and dismembering a body… in addition to the earlier charges of concealment of a homicidal death and obstruction of justice.  

 

She is accused of killing her 22-year-old husband, Norman McCaster, and dumping his torso along a rural road near Mechanicsburg in October. 

 

McCaster remains held on five-million-dollars bond in the Sangamon County Jail.

New Numbers Predict Strong Growth In Local Economy In 2013


Springfield business leaders are touting new numbers that show growth in the local economy… and high hopes for the year ahead. 

 

Chamber of Commerce CEO Steward Sandstrom says private-sector employment in the greater Springfield area is now back to where it was five years ago, prior to the recession… and is within just a few hundred jobs of the all-time high set back in 2000.  But public sector employment continues to lag well behind its former levels. 

 

In spite of that, another study… the Springfield Enterprise Index… predicts as much as 16% growth in the local economy over the next 12 months.

Lt. Gov. Caught In Middle Of Fight Between Quinn, State Workers


In the ongoing battle between Governor Pat Quinn and state workers, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon says she feels caught in the middle.

 

Simon says she still identifies with public sector workers, because of her years as a university teacher.  And she says those workers are already working lean and mean, with very little waste in state agencies, in her view. 

 

But she also acknowledges the need to reduce the state’s mounting pension and debt costs.  She says she will keep pushing to make sure that state workers have a voice in any eventual solution to the fiscal crisis.

Mechanicsburg Body Identified, Suspect in Custody


Juatasha Denton-McCaster
Juatasha Denton-McCaster

It’s taken nearly a month… but Sangamon County authorities have now identified the body found near Mechanicsburg in late October, and have charged the victim’s wife in connection with the killing.

 

The torso of 22-year-old Norman McCaster was discovered by a nearby resident along Griffiths Creek Road on October 29th… his head, arms and legs still have not been recovered.

 

That forced authorities to rely on DNA testing to confirm his identity, which led to a search of his residence.

 

That produced evidence that led to the arrest of McCaster’s wife, Juatasha Denton-McCaster.

 

She is charged with Concealment of a Homicidal Death and Obstruction of Justice, but other charges are possible.

 

Sheriff Neil Williamson says no other suspects are being sought at this time.

Half-Billion Dollar Powerball Jackpot Up for Grabs


The odds of winning tonight’s record $500 million Powerball jackpot are nearly impossible.

 

But the director of the Illinois lottery says it’s still a good bet. 

 

Appearing on 970 WMAY's Kramer Show, Lottery director Michael Jones says that even with odds of 175-million-to-one, it’s still worth the purchase of a two-dollar ticket for a shot at a half-a-billion-dollar payday.

 

And he notes that in Illinois, the money goes toward education, so there’s a benefit even if you don’t win.

 

A single winner tonight could wind up with a lump sum of more than $225 million after taxes.

 

Listen to Lottery Director Michael Jones talk with Kramer below or at this link (mp3 download)

 

House Committee Says There's No Money For Current Fiscal Year Raises


An Illinois House committee has approved a resolution that says the state has no money to pay for any raises for state workers in the current fiscal year.

 

That resolution… which only covers spending up until June 30th of 2013… must still pass the full House and the Senate.

 

AFSCME calls the resolution an improper interference by lawmakers into the collective bargaining process between the Quinn administration and employee unions.

Springfield Trash Ordinance Taken Off Table


Springfield’s controversial trash ordinance has been officially tossed out.

 

The measure had been stalled in committee for weeks over concerns about its call to include trash pickup charges on residents’ City Water Light and Power bill.

 

Now sponsors Doris Turner and Cory Jobe have withdrawn the measure and say they will start over from scratch.

 

There’s no word yet on a timeline for a new ordinance... or on what it might contain.

Aldermen Move Forward With Affirmative Action Plan


Springfield aldermen are proceeding with an effort to develop an affirmative action plan for city government.

 

Alderman Doris Turner’s ordinance calls for the Houston administration to develop a plan to bring about more diversity and equal opportunity for women and minorities in city hiring.

 

The ordinance has been placed on the consent agenda for next week’s city council meeting.

Body Found Near Mechanicsburg Identified; Victim's Wife In Custody


Authorities have identified the dismembered body found along a rural Mechanicsburg road last month... and have arrested the victim's wife in connection with his death. 

 

Since only a torso was found, and authorities have not located his head or limbs, DNA analysis was required to identify the victim as 22-year-old Norman McCaster of Springfield.  During a nearly month-long investigation, detectives secured a search warrant for McCaster's residence on North Grand Avenue West.  Based on the evidence they obtained, they are charging McCaster's wife Juatasha Denton-McCaster with Concealment of a Homicidal Death and Obstruction of Justice. 

 

State's Attorney John Milhiser says additional charges are possible.  Sheriff Neil Williamson says police are not pursuing any other suspects at this time.  Denton-McCaster is being held on $5 million bond.

 

Juatasha Miechelle Denton-McCaster

Juatasha Miechelle Denton-McCaster 

Illinois State Trooper Killed In The Line of Duty


Family, friends and colleagues are remembering an Illinois State Police trooper who died in the line of duty Monday south of Springfield.

 

Trooper Kyle Deatherage was killed when he was struck by a semi while conducting a traffic stop on northbound Interstate 55 at mile marker 62.

 

There is no word yet on what charges may be pending against the truck driver. Deatherage was a three-year veteran of the state police, assigned to the motorcycle detail in District 18.

 

He was 32, and is survived by a wife and two children.

Coroner: Tattoo Artist Died of Self Inflicted Gunshot Wound


The tattoo artist found dead inside his Grandview business Sunday apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

 

That’s the finding of an autopsy conducted Monday on the body of 33-year-old Frank Ryan.

 

Ryan died of a single gunshot wound to the head. He was discovered by a co-worker inside The Artist’s Edge on North Grand Avenue East.

 

Coroner Cinda Edwards says toxicology test results are still pending, and the investigation remains open.

Alderman Pushes Mayor for Affirmative Action Plan


A Springfield alderman is moving ahead with an ordinance calling for Mayor Mike Houston’s administration to develop an affirmative action plan.

 

Ward 3’s Doris Turner says she wants to make sure the city has a strategy for ensuring diversity in its workforce.

 

Under her proposal, the mayor’s office would have to present such a plan to the city council next spring.

Election Decided by Coin Toss


A DeWitt County Board race has been decided by a coin toss... but even the winner is unhappy with the outcome.

 

George Wissmiller won the toss, which was held because he and incumbent Terry Ferguson were tied at 827 votes each after all ballots and absentee votes were counted.

 

Even though he won, Wissmiller says he disapproves of the race being decided by a process that he considers “gambling.”

 

He says he will refuse to accept the small salary that goes along with the seat.

 

Ferguson could still seek a recount, but would have to pay for it out of his own pocket.

Autopsy: Tattoo Artist's Fatal Injury Consistent With Self-Inflicted Wound


The tattoo artist found fatally shot in his Grandview business Sunday morning had a single gunshot wound to the head, consistent with a self-inflicted injury.  That's according to autopsy findings released Monday night by Coroner Cinda Edwards.

 

33-year-old Frank Ryan's body was discovered by a co-worker inside The Artist's Edge on North Grand Avenue East Sunday morning. 

 

A press release from the coroner's office says toxicology test results are still pending, and the investigation remains open.

State Police Trooper Killed In The Line Of Duty


An Illinois State Police trooper has died in the line of duty while conducting a traffic stop south of Springfield.

 

State Police Director Hiram Grau says Trooper Kyle Deatherage was killed when he was struck by a tractor-trailer while conducting that traffic stop along northbound Interstate 55 at mile marker 62.  Deatherage was pronounced dead at the scene.  The accident forced the closure of the interstate north of Litchfield for several hours.

 

Deatherage worked out of State Police District 18 as a motorcycle officer, and had been a trooper since 2009.  He is survived by his wife Sarah and two young children.  He was 32.

Springfield Police Make Multiple Arrests During Holiday Enforcement Actions


The days before and after Thanksgiving have proven to be a feast-of-plenty for Springfield police officers… who wrote numerous tickets and made multiple arrests during various traffic enforcement actions over a two week period. 

 

The city says the “Click It or Ticket” and “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaigns resulted in 11 DUI arrests, five tickets for seat belt violations and four child safety seat violations. 

 

But the enforcement actions also led to 27 arrests on other felony charges and the capture of 25 fugitives wanted for a variety of charges.  Dozens of citations for speeding and driving without insurance were also issued between November 12th and 25th.

Ongoing Death Investigation of Local Tattoo Artist


Authorities hope an autopsy today will tell them more about the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of a man inside his Grandview tattoo parlor.

 

33-year-old Frank Ryan died of a single gunshot wound, according to Coroner Cinda Edwards.

 

He was discovered by a co-worker Sunday morning inside The Artist’s Edge on North Grand Avenue East.

 

Sheriff Neil Williamson says authorities have opened a death investigation, but says it’s too soon to classify the death as a homicide.

 

Ryan is pictured on the cover of this week’s Illinois Times, for a story about the rise of the tattoo business in Springfield.

Green Business Network Member Pushes City Council to Address Plastic Bag Use


A member of the Green Business Network of Springfield wants the city council to crack down harder on plastic shopping bags.

 

In a weekend newspaper column, Joan Barenfanger called on aldermen to impose fines or institute a ban on the bags, in order to reduce littering and the impact on landfills.

 

Last year, the City Council passed a resolution encouraging more use of reusable, non-disposable bags.

Privately Funded Nativity Scene to be Dedicated at State Capitol


Dedication ceremonies are planned for Tuesday for a Nativity scene at the State Capitol building.

 

This is the fifth straight year for the Nativity scene at the Statehouse.

 

Supporters say the privately-funded display is both a seasonal celebration, and a demonstration of the right of religious people to express their beliefs in the public square.

 

But the group that puts up the Statehouse scene each year is challenging a decision by the Arlington Heights Park District, rejecting a request to erect a similar display there.

 

The group notes that Arlington Heights allows secular holiday decorations in the park, including a snowman and a Christmas tree with presents underneath… and says the religious display should be accommodated, too.

Debbie Halvorson Officially Running to Replace Jesse Jackson Jr.


A former Illinois congressman who lost the Democratic primary to Jesse Jackson, Jr. last March is now officially running to replace him in Congress.

 

Debbie Halvorson confirms she will be part of what could be a crowded field of candidates to fill Jackson’s new term on Capitol Hill.

 

Jackson resigned last week because of ongoing health issues and a looming federal investigation.

 

Cook County Democrats indicate they plan to endorse a preferred candidate for the primary, which will be held sometime early next year.

Powerball Jackpot Up To $425 Million


Powerball could be a powerful draw over the next several days.

 

The jackpot has climbed to at least $425 million for Wednesday night’s drawing… a Powerball record, although it’s still a couple hundred million short of the record for all U.S. lottery games.

 

The top prize could go even higher, depending on ticket sales over the next two days.

 

Powerball tickets cost $2 each… the game raised ticket prices earlier this year in hopes of boosting its jackpots.

Death Investigation Underway After Body Found In Grandview Tattoo Parlor


The Sangamon County Sheriff's Department and Grandview police have launched a death investigation after a man's body was found inside a tattoo parlor on North Grand Avenue East. 

 

The coroner's office identifies the victim as 33-year-old Frank Ryan.  A preliminary investigation found that he died of a single gunshot wound.  More information is expected after an autopsy on Monday.

 

A co-worker discovered Ryan dead of an apparent gunshot wound Sunday morning inside the Artist's Edge parlor in the 2100 block of North Grand East.  Web sites list Ryan as the owner of the business.

 

Sheriff Neil Williamson says investigators are still trying to determine exactly what happened, but would only classify the process as a death investigation, and said it was too soon to say whether the death may have been a homicide.

Lawmakers Return For Veto Session, Other Hot Button Issues


Lawmakers return to Springfield this week for the fall veto session, but their agenda goes beyond whether or not to override the handful of vetoes issued this year by Governor Pat Quinn. 

 

There are a couple of key override votes, including some budget bills and a proposed gambling expansion. 

 

But the legislature may also tackle thorny issues like pension reform, same-sex marriage, and drivers licenses for illegal immigrants.

Activist Suggests Fines Or Ban On Plastic Bag Usage


A member of the Green Business Network of Springfield wants the city council to crack down harder on plastic shopping bags. 

 

In a weekend newspaper column, Joan Barenfanger called on aldermen to impose fines or institute a ban on the bags, in order to reduce littering and the impact on landfills. 

 

Last year, the City Council passed a resolution encouraging more use of reusable, non-disposable bags.

Nativity Returns To Statehouse, But May Spark Showdown In Chicago Suburbs


Dedication ceremonies are planned for Tuesday for a Nativity scene at the State Capitol building.  This is the fifth straight year for the Nativity scene at the Statehouse. 

 

Supporters say the privately-funded display is both a seasonal celebration, and a demonstration of the right of religious people to express their beliefs in the public square. 

 

But the group that puts up the Statehouse scene each year is challenging a decision by the Arlington Heights Park District, rejecting a request to erect a similar display there. 

 

The group notes that Arlington Heights allows secular holiday decorations in the park, including a snowman and a Christmas tree with presents underneath… and says the religious display should be accommodated, too.

Rochester Wins Third Straight State Football Championship


It’s becoming an annual tradition in Rochester… once again, the community is celebrating a state football championship. 

 

The Rochester Rockets pulled off a rare three-peat Friday night, winning their third straight state title, 43-18 over Rock Island Alleman. The game was close early, but Rochester held the Pioneers scoreless in the second half to seal the win.

 

Quarterback Austin Green threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more… despite injuring his hamstring earlier in the playoffs.

 

Rochester is only the fifth school in IHSA history to win three consecutive state football championships.

Secretary Of State Cracks Down On Misuse Of Handicapped Parking Spots


The Illinois Secretary of State's office has started its yearly crackdown on drivers who misuse disability parking placards.

 

Secretary of State police are out at shopping malls statewide over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend looking for motorists who illegally park in parking spots reserved for the disabled. 

 

Springfield shopping centers are among those being targeted in the sting.

Son Of Ex-Governor George Ryan Arrested For DUI


The son of former governor and secretary of state George Ryan has been arrested on a DUI charge. 

 

George Ryan, Jr. was found early Thanksgiving morning, asleep behind the wheel of a vehicle that was parked, but running, at a White Castle in the town of Bradley. 

 

He reportedly failed several sobriety tests and could lose his license for a year.

Black Friday Scuffles At Illinois Malls Unrelated To Shopping


There were some Black Friday scuffles at some Illinois malls… but not because they were fighting over holiday sale items. 

 

Eight teens were arrested at a mall in Bloomington… and six were taken into custody in an unrelated incident in Joliet. 

 

In both cases, police say the fights involved groups of teens with a history of bad blood between them.

Black Friday Began Thursday Evening for Some Stores


It’s Black Friday morning… but for many local bargain-hunters, the Christmas shopping season actually began Thursday night.

 

A number of large local retailers opened their doors on Thanksgiving evening with a promise of big sales to lure impatient shoppers.

 

But despite the jump start, some national analysts think this holiday shopping season may not mark as big an increase for retailers as it did last year.

High Speed Rail Is Running Selectively For Holiday Travel Season


High-speed rail is officially up and running in Illinois, just in time for the Thanksgiving weekend… but it’s probably not getting holiday travelers to their destination much more quickly.

 

Amtrak is running some trains at the top speed of 110 miles per hour, but only along a 15-mile segment between Dwight and Pontiac, and only on the six daily “Lincoln Service” trains along the Chicago to St. Louis corridor.

 

Other trains on that route will continue to operate at a top speed of 79 miles per hour.

 

Watch last month's high speed rail test below or at this link:

 

Former HR Director Steps In To Replace Ikejiaku at Dist. 186


A former human resources director for District 186 will take over that position on an acting basis.

 

Bob Leming is stepping in to help out after the district’s HR director Alexander Ikejiaku resigned Wednesday amid questions about the hiring of teachers without the proper certification.

 

Superintendent Walter Milton says the district has begun a “credential check” of more than 13-hundred certified staff to be sure that every employee has the proper qualifications.

Can Homeowners Associations Hand Out Speeding Tickets?


The Illinois Supreme Court will decide whether a homeowners association has the right to issue speeding tickets to residents and guests within their subdivision.

 

The case involves a northern Illinois man who was pulled over and detained by a security officer hired by the neighborhood association.

 

The man was allegedly driving at 34 miles per hour through the neighborhood, where the speed limit is 25.

 

He says the association does not have the legal right to issue traffic tickets or to impose fines on homeowners.

 

An appeals court agreed with the man, but the homeowners association appealed to the Supreme Court.

People Lining Up to Replace Jackson Jr. in House


There’s a long list of possible contenders to run in a special election to replace Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., who resigned this week.

 

Jackson just won re-election to a new term earlier this month, so whoever wins the upcoming special election will finish out almost all of the full two-year term.

 

Sam Adam, Jr…. who represented former governor Rod Blagojevich… has expressed interest in a run.

 

So has former Congressman Debbie Halvorson, who lost to Jackson in the Democratic primary last March.

 

Jackson’s wife Sandy and brother Jonathan have also been mentioned as possible candidates, but neither one has commented publicly on the possibility.

District 186 HR Director Resigns; Credential Check Of Teachers To Be Conducted


The human resources director for Springfield public schools has resigned, amid questions about how the district hired an improperly certified teacher who was later implicated in a high school sex scandal. 

 

Dr. Alexander Ikejiaku says his departure will clear the way for “new leadership” in the HR department.  Superintendent Walter Milton… who hired Ikejiaku five years ago… says he accepted the resignation with regret. 

 

Milton also announced that the district has begun a “credential check” of more than 13 hundred staff members to ensure that every teacher in the district has the proper qualifications.

AFSCME Makes ''Modest'' Contract Offer, Says Talks Are Not At Impasse


AFSCME says state workers will continue on the job as usual for the foreseeable future… despite Governor Pat Quinn’s move this week to terminate the state’s contract with the union. 

 

Under state law, the contract terms remain in place until there’s a determination that contract talks have reached an impasse.  AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall says there is no impasse… and notes the union just this week submitted another contract offer, one which Lindall describes as “modest,” but which he says will allow workers to keep pace with the cost of living. 

 

Lindall downplays talk of a strike, something which has never happened in the 40 years that AFSCME has represented state workers… but he doesn’t rule out the possibility.

Jesse Jackson Jr. Admits ''Mistakes'' In Resignation Letter


A special election will be held to find a replacement for Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., who resigned Wednesday after months away from Capitol Hill for treatment of bipolar disorder. 

 

In his resignation letter, Jackson… who won re-election just two weeks ago… says his constituents deserve a full-time legislator, a role he says he cannot fill at the moment. 

 

But he also acknowledges an ongoing federal investigation against him, and says he is trying to address that situation and accept responsibility for his mistakes.

Jobless Rate Falls In Springfield, Other Major Illinois Cities


Unemployment rates are down in all major metro areas across Illinois… including Springfield. 

 

Those rates, on average, are at their lowest levels since 2008, according to the state Department of Employment Security. 

 

In Springfield, the October rate fell to 7.1%, down from 7.8% a year ago.

Jesse Jackson, Jr. Resigns From Congress


Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. has submitted a letter of resignation from Congress, just over two weeks after winning re-election to his Chicago area district.

 

House Speaker John Boehner's office acknowledged receiving the letter but did not immediately offer more details about the move.

 

Jackson has been absent from Capitol Hill and his district for months, after taking a medical leave of absence in June for treatment of bipolar disorder.  He is also reportedly under federal investigation for alleged misuse of campaign funds, and according to some media accounts, he has been in negotiations on a plea deal that would have included stepping down from office.

 

Stay with 970 WMAY for more information on this developing story.

City Denies Helping Hands Zoning Variance


The Springfield City Council has rejected a zoning change that would have allowed the Helping Hands homeless shelter to relocate.

 

The shelter had shared space with Contact Ministries on South 11th Street, but Contact Ministries plans to expand, forcing the shelter to move.

 

It had wanted to move a couple of blocks away… but Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson and nearby residents say enough is enough.

 

They want other parts of the city to take on some of the burden of assisting the homeless population.

 

The rezoning failed on a 7-3 vote… Helping Hands says it may have to close its shelter if it can’t find a suitable location soon.

Quinn Terminates Contract with AFSCME


Governor Pat Quinn has moved to terminate the state’s contract with AFSCME, signaling a more confrontational approach in the ongoing talks toward a new agreement.

 

The state’s contract with AFSCME expired back in June, but the contract terms had been extended several times while talks continue.

 

Now Quinn has informed the union that there will be no more extensions, a move AFSCME calls unprecedented.

 

The union says under state law, its current contract terms remain in place anyway, so Quinn’s move is seen as primarily symbolic.

 

But AFSCME says Quinn’s action is counterproductive and will hurt employee morale.

Aldermen Approve $3 Million in TIF Funds and County Preference


Aldermen have authorized spending $3 million in downtown TIF money to help several projects… including a new façade for the PNC Bank building, and renovations at two sites along East Monroe.

 

Alderman Doris Turner voted against the Monroe Street projects, saying she believed the deal was cut before it ever went before the aldermen.

 

She says there should be more open deliberation on proposed TIF projects.

 

The city council also approved granting a three-percent preference on city contracts for businesses located in Sangamon County but outside the Springfield city limits. City businesses get a five-percent advantage.

Jerome Village President Steps Down, Citing Stress on Self and Family


Jerome village president Harry Stirmell has resigned, saying the stress and strain of the job has taken a toll on him and his family.

 

Stirmell says village trustees have blocked his efforts to get the village’s red-ink finances under control.

 

He also points to anonymous derogatory letters that he says were received by his wife and mother-in-law.

 

Stirmell has also had his share of controversies, including the indictment of his son, a former Jerome cop… and his revelation that federal authorities are looking into how Jerome spent funds from DEA enforcement actions.

 

But he says those issues were not a factor in his decision to step aside.

TIF Process Frustrates Developers and Aldermen


The city has more than doubled the amount of Tax Increment Finance funds they are offering Downtown Property LLC to help fix some safety issues with the facade of the PNC bank building just north of the Old State Capitol, but it’s still not enough. For some aldermen, the ordinance also sheds light on the process of TIF requests making their way through the city council.

 

Mayor Mike Houston’s administration first denied the request from Downtown Property LLC, but after continued persistence from the developer and several aldermen, the city offered $417,000.

 

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Mayor Houston amended the ordinance to increase the offer up to $1 million. Houston says given the current financial status of the TIF, which is running a deficit with the number of proposed and promised projects, the new offer is suitable.

 

Alderman Cahnman amended the ordinance to make it $1.25 million. Robert Egizi with Downtown Property LLC said last week they would need upwards to $1.6 million.

 

Ward 3 Alderman Doris Turner said the past month-and-a-half dealing with the requests from Downtown Property LLC has been very eye opening.

 

The corner of 6th and Monroe
The corner of 6th and Monroe

She voted in favor of the $1.25 million for Downtown Property LLC but said she will not vote on any other TIF requests until there is as open a discussion as there was with the PNC bank building project.

 

Another project in the downtown area will get over $1.6 million to refurbish two century-old buildings for mixed commercial and residential units with two ordinances passed by aldermen.

 

Mayor Houston held a press conference earlier this month announcing the $1.6 million proposal for developer Rick Lawrence, something Turner says showed her vote was inconsequential.

 

Houston started the Central Area TIF back in 1981 when he was mayor of Springfield the first time. The Central Area TIF expires in 2016.

Helping Hands Denied Zoning Variance


Springfield’s social service agencies may feel an increased burden after the City of Springfield voted to deny a zoning variance for Helping Hands.

 

The organization that works with the homeless population of Springfield had been housed on a property near Pioneer Park for twenty years, but had plans to move across the street to expand their operations.

 

Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson, whose ward houses a number of social service agencies, says that her ward has sacrificed enough and it’s time for the rest of the city should share the burden.

 

Pioneer Park resident Daryl Harris says that he is frustrated having to explain to his children why people are pulling their pants down in public to go to the bathroom outside the shelter. He also notes that things go missing, or get stolen from residents.

 

Patricia Davis, another resident and long-time social worker, says her neighborhood is being turned into "social service row." Davis and her husband built their house in Pioneer Park twenty years ago.

 

David Smith with District 186 says that Helping Hands moving to the new location could potentially put the children at Lincoln School at risk.

 

Helping Hands had originally sought a location along Tenth Street, but the city encouraged them to move to the suggested location as increased train traffic could interrupt expansion plans.

 

Jeff Baker, legal counsel for Helping Hands, says the decision to deny the zoning change means Helping Hands may have to close within the next few months, putting stress on other social service agencies within the city.

 

Baker also says that the organization will continue to find a property they can move to in order to continue providing services for the homeless population.

Jerome Village President Stirmell Resigns


The Jerome village president has abruptly resigned… a move he says was prompted by a contentious relationship with village trustees, and not by a federal investigation into how the village spent money it received from federal drug enforcement efforts. 

 

In his resignation letter, Harry Stirmell says “times have changed” in Jerome, and points to budget battles with the trustees.  He also says he’s been the target of derogatory anonymous letters sent to his home, causing stress to his family. 

 

Stirmell says the decision has nothing to do with a federal inquiry into how the village spent money that it received from drug seizures.  That money resulted from the work of an enforcement team which includes an officer on loan from Jerome.

 

Village trustees will choose a temporary replacement for Stirmell until a new village president is elected next April.

 

The text of Stirmell's resignation letter follows:

 

M E M O R A N D U M

 

 

 

TO:                  Jerome Board of Trustees

                        Julie DeGroot, Village Secretary

                        Carey Bayless, Village Treasurer

                        Becky Gregory, Village Water Clerk

                        Herman Bodewes, Village Attorney

                        Village of Jerome Residents

 

FROM:            Harry E. Stirmell, Jerome Village President

 

DATE              November 20, 2012

 

RE:                  Resignation as Jerome Village President

 

 

It is with mixed emotions that I submit my letter of resignation as Jerome Village President effective immediately.

 

Before taking over as Village President in 2005, I was a trustee for many years.  Through all of these years, my main objective was to represent and serve the residents of Jerome and keep the Village a special place to live.  In addition, we had several events and services for the residents each year while keeping a balanced budget and maintaining a reserve in both the General Revenue and Water Department funds.

 

In March of 2006 we had a tornado go through Jerome, causing major damage to the Village and its residents.  But we made it through with the help and cooperation of many agencies and the Village residents, making Jerome even stronger than it was.

 

But times have changed.  The last couple of years, the Village’s expenditures have been higher than its revenues.  Earlier this year the Board of Trustees came up with a budget that appeared to be workable which included bringing the DEA officer back to Jerome.  However, the DEA officer is still working for the Department of Justice at a cost of more than $70,000 a year.  Handling all the financial issues for the Village has become a fulltime job for both the Village Treasurer, Carey Bayless and myself.  For the residents that have been attending the Board meetings the last 8 or 9 months, they have seen the stress and frustrations with every meeting.

 

Taking everything into consideration, this has caused extreme stress to both my family and myself, including anonymous derogatory mail received by my wife and mother-in-law.  It has been extremely challenging to serve as Village President, attempting to oversee the Village and to serve our residents on their behalf, without the support of our trustees.

 

I mean it from my heart that it has been a pleasure to represent the Jerome Village residents for all these years.

 

Thank you.

 

 

 

Harry E. Stirmell

Supt. Milton: District Failed to Follow Procedures in Teaching Certificates


Springfield’s school superintendent admits that the district has failed in some cases to follow procedures that are supposed to ensure that only qualified, certified teachers are hired for the city’s schools.

 

One such teacher… who was hired for a slot at Lanphier High School despite lacking certification to teach at the high school level… is now on unpaid leave after being accused of having a sexual relationship with at least two students.

 

Superintendent Walter Milton says a review is underway to determine how many other teachers may have been improperly hired.

Proposed Dist. 186 Budget Cuts Met With Opposition from Teachers and School Board Members


The first group of proposed budget cuts to be debated by the Springfield school board has been met with strong objections from teachers… and even from school board members.

 

The board began debating part of the $8 million in cuts proposed last month by Superintendent Walter Milton.

 

Those cuts include elimination of some Teacher Instructional Leaders and mentors… positions designed to help classroom teachers improve their skills.

 

A number of teachers warned that educational quality will fall if those positions are cut.

 

Milton also proposed combining several alternative education programs… but board member Bill Looby says the $400,000 cut would be a step backwards from the goal of helping at-risk students succeed.

Review Team: Trimesters Will Save Dist. 186 A Million Dollars


After months of study, a review team is recommending that Springfield’s three public high schools move to a trimester schedule.

 

The schedule would give students five longer-class periods each day instead of seven shorter ones, and would split the year up into three 12-week trimesters, instead of two 18-week semesters.

 

The team says trimester scheduling will save a million dollars over the school year, while still giving students the ability to take more electives.

 

Teachers at the high schools will vote on the concept over the next few weeks.

 

If 80-percent approve, then the school board must decide whether to implement the change, and how quickly to do so.

Allowing Undocumented Immigrant Drivers Licenses and Insurance Gets Bipartisan Support


A bipartisan group of politicians will be on hand today to endorse legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain Illinois drivers licenses.

 

Democrats like Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will be joined by Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and former Governor Jim Edgar in support of the proposal.

 

The bill would allow illegal immigrants to obtain three-year licenses, but would also require that they take drivers’ education and obtain insurance.

 

Supporters say the law will address the problem of nearly a quarter-million undocumented workers who are believed to be driving on Illinois roadways without a license… and with no formal driving instruction.

New Congressman Says Bi-Partisanship Needed To Avoid Fiscal Cliff


Congressman-elect Rodney Davis says nothing should be ruled out as lawmakers look for ways to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

 

The newly-elected Republican from the 13th District says he remains opposed to the idea of raising tax rates for wealthy Americans. But he also says it doesn’t make sense to deal in absolutes at this point… or to draw lines in the sand. Davis says both sides need to be willing to consider everything in order to find a workable compromise that will prevent a financial crisis.

 

Davis appeared live Monday on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”  Listen to the podcast below or download the interview at this link.

 

Gov. Quinn Launches Grassroots Pension Reform Plan with New Website


Squeezy, The Pension Python
Squeezy, The Pension Python

Governor Pat Quinn has launched his long-promised grassroots effort to put pressure on lawmakers to approve pension reform measures.

 

Quinn unveiled a website that outlines the history of the state’s pension problems and encourages the use of social media to press for solutions.

 

It also features messages from today’s schoolchildren… asking taxpayers and voters to insist on a pension fix now before soaring costs devour the budgets for other vital services like education.

Watch the video "The Pension Squeeze" below as found on ThisIsMyIllinois.com.

 

Public Sector Unions Not Fans of Quinn's "Grassroots" Pension Reform Plan


Public sector unions are unimpressed with Governor Pat Quinn’s grassroots pension reform campaign.

 

The “We Are One” coalition says Quinn’s public relations campaign is merely an attempt to dress up a pension plan that the unions say is unconstitutional.

 

The coalition says Quinn’s plan will simply lead to costly litigation that will further postpone a realistic solution to the pension crisis.

Durbin on Fiscal Cliff: Everything Must Be On Table


The looming fiscal crisis is manufactured, according to Senator Dick Durbin, who says that years of inaction by a divided congress have led to the possibility of higher taxes for everyone alongside deep cuts in vital government services.

 

Senator Dick Durbin speaking to reporters
Senator Dick Durbin speaking to reporters

Durbin says everything must be on the table as Congress tries to avoid falling off the “fiscal cliff.” And he says that includes each party’s most sacred cows… like military spending and entitlement programs.

 

The senior senator from Illinois also says both spending cuts and new revenue must be part of the mix.

 

But he warns it could take months to determine which percentage of each should go into the final plan, and to craft the legislation to make it happen.

 

Durbin spoke to the Citizens Club of Springfield Friday where he said that the 13 days of work congress has left before the December 31st deadline will not be enough to solve the problem.

 

He says that congress can un-manufacture the crisis by agreeing to extend the tax cuts for another six months so they can come back after the New Year and correct the problem.

 

Durbin says if nothing is done, the consequences will be disastrous.

Proponents of Same-Sex Marriage Say It's Possible in Illinois


Supporters of same-sex marriage think Illinois could become the next state to legalize it, perhaps as soon as the fall veto session.

 

Proponents of the idea point to the recent victories for same-sex marriage ballot measures in four states, and polling data that shows support for the idea continues to grow in Illinois.

 

But there’s still no guarantee that such a proposal could pass in Illinois, either during the lame-duck session or next year, when Democrats will have supermajorities in both the state House and Senate.

School Board Member Not Sold On Elementary Consolidation


A Springfield school board member says he’s not sure why two schools in his subdistrict have been targeted for closure, but he intends to find out. Scott McFarland represents Subdistrict 3, where both Pleasant Hill and Wanless schools are located.

 

Parents from both schools were notified Thursday that District 186 will consider a plan to close both schools… and transport students to the Feitshans building.

 

McFarland says Pleasant Hill is in poor shape and inaccessible for those with disabilities, so it may make sense to close it… but he says he’s not sold on shuttering Wanless. The school board will consider the proposal next month.

Former Jerome Cop Charged With DUI


A former Jerome cop who was fired for allegedly trying to interfere with a DUI case has now himself been charged with DUI. Steven Stirmell was arrested early today following a one-car crash at Iles and Chatham Road.

 

Stirmell… who is the son of the Jerome village president… was fired earlier this year after being indicted on charges that he attempted to alter and falsify a report in a DUI arrest he made while part of the Jerome police force. He faces trial on those charges in December.

Durbin: Multimodal Station Next Step for Springfield's Rail Consolidation


Senator Dick Durbin speaking to reporters
Senator Dick Durbin speaking to reporters

Springfield should follow suit of Normal, Illinois, in obtaining a multimodal station that will help ease congestion and revitalize the downtown area.

 

That’s according to Senator Dick Durbin who says that he’s already working with Congressman Elect Rodney Davis to secure federal funds for the project.

 

He says that a multimodal station similar to what Normal built will help revitalize downtown Springfield.

 

Yesterday, Durbin praised the signing of an environmental impact study that supports rail consolidation through Springfield on the 10th street tracks.

State and Federal Transportation Officials Formally Agree, 10th Street Corridor Best Option


State and federal transportation officials are now formally in agreement on consolidating most rail traffic through Springfield on the 10th Street corridor.

 

The signed Environmental Impact Statement still does not represent a final commitment to 10th Street as part of a full build-out of the Chicago-to-St. Louis high-speed rail corridor.

 

That official decision is expected next month.

 

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and local leaders applauded the development, which follows a lengthy coordinated effort to show full community support for the 10th Street plan.

Two Springfield Elementary Schools Targeted for Consolidation


Two Springfield elementary schools have apparently been targeted for consolidation.

 

Parents from Pleasant Hill and Wanless schools were invited to a closed-door meeting Thursday night, where they were notified that District 186 will consider a plan to close both schools… and move the student population to the under-utilized Feitshans school.

 

The consolidation plan is part of the $8 million budget-cutting plan offered last month by Superintendent Walter Milton.

Arrested High School Teacher Wasn't Certified To Teach High School


The Lanphier High School teacher who now faces criminal charges for an alleged sexual relationship with a student did not have the proper credentials to teach at the high school level.

 

The State Journal-Register reports that Jennifer Tyree was an “emergency hire” by District 186 two days before the start of the school year.

 

District officials say she was seen as the best option to fill a vacancy, even though she only had a certification to teach elementary and middle school, not high school.

 

Tyree was arrested this week and charged with criminal sexual assault over her relationship with a 17-year-old student.

Economist: Outlook is Optimistic Long-Range, Fiscal Cliff Fears Overblown


An economic expert says he has an optimistic long-range view of the economy… and thinks fears of the so-called “fiscal cliff” are overblown.

 

Those remarks from Joe Terrill came at the annual Chamber of Commerce economic outlook breakfast Thursday.

 

The Chamber also released results of a new local business survey… which found that the majority of local businesses expect their financial picture to remain stable or improve over the next year.

 

But at the same time, the business owners are less optimistic about the overall Sangamon County economy, with more than 40% expecting a downturn for the county as a whole.

Senate President Urges Business Group to Support Bipartisan Pension Fix


The Illinois Senate President is critical of a Chicago business group’s assertion that the state’s pension crisis is “unfixable.”

 

That report this week from the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago warned that the problem is even worse because last week’s elections increased the Democratic majority in both chambers of the General Assembly.

 

But President John Cullerton says the Senate has put forward meaningful pension reform… only to have it blocked by Republicans.

 

He urged the business group to put pressure on the GOP to work with Democrats on a solution.

Committee Begins Work on Possible Pension Fixes


A legislative committee has begun work on a bill that would limit state worker pay raises and prevent employees from collectively bargaining on the size of the workforce or on reductions in personnel.

 

The measure proposed by House Speaker Mike Madigan has drawn fire from AFSCME and other public sector unions.

 

AFSCME chief Henry Bayer says the union wants to work with the state to find budget solutions… but shouldn’t have its hands tied at the bargaining table.

Auburn Bicyclist Killed in Accident Identified


Authorities have identified the bicyclist who was killed when he was struck by a car near Auburn Thursday.

 

71-year-old Grover Everett of Taylorville was riding on the shoulder of westbound Route 104 when a westbound car drifted off the road onto the shoulder and struck Everett’s bike.

 

Tickets are pending against the driver of the car, a 22-year-old man from Pawnee.

Spielberg Film About Lincoln Opens Today in Springfield


Movie poster for "Lincoln"Today, Springfield finally gets the chance to see the critically-acclaimed film about its favorite son.

 

“Lincoln” opens in wide release today, one week after it opened in a handful of major cities.

 

The Steven Spielberg film stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln, and focuses mainly on the final months of the 16th President’s life as he tries to win passage of the 13th Amendment, which abolishes slavery.

 

Although the film bypassed shooting in Springfield, Day-Lewis did spend some time at the presidential library and museum to do research.

 

Among the small touches in the film… there is the sound of a ticking pocket watch in some scenes.

 

That sound is Lincoln’s actual pocket watch, which still exists.

 

A museum in Kentucky owns the watch, and wound it so Spielberg could record the ticking sound for use in the film.

Local Businesses Less Optimistic About County's Economy


Local businesses remain upbeat about their own prospects... but are less optimistic about the county's economy as a whole over the next 12 months. The results of a new survey were unveiled at the annual Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook breakfast.

 

It found that the vast majority of businesses expect their income and workforce to remain stable or increase over the next 12 months. Only 20-percent of local businesses predict a decrease in their payrolls in 2013.

 

But more than 40% think the Sangamon County economy will decline in the year ahead. At the same breakfast, economic expert Joe Terril said that he has high hopes for the nation's economy in the long run, and thinks fears about the so-called "fiscal cliff" are overblown.

Derrick Smith May Serve A Year Before Trial


An indicted Illinois lawmaker could serve nearly a year in office before facing trial on bribery charges. A federal judge has set an October trial date for Derrick Smith, who won a full term in the House last week, despite having been thrown out by his fellow lawmakers following the charges that he accepted a bribe in exchange for pushing for approval of a state grant.

 

Smith will return to the House in January, and the state Constitution says he cannot be thrown out again unless he is convicted in the bribery case. But some lawmakers are looking for a way around that in hopes of expelling Smith again before his trial.

More Limits On Collective Bargaining For State Workers?


AFSCME is objecting to legislation proposed by House Speaker Mike Madigan which would put more limits on public sector collective bargaining. Madigan’s legislation would limit the amount of pay increases that could be included in a state worker contract, and would prevent any bargaining on the size of the workforce or on possible reductions.

 

In testimony before a House committee that considered the bill, AFSCME head Henry Bayer said the union opposes the idea not because it’s looking for a big wage hike, but because it wants to preserve its right to collectively bargaining on basic issues of compensation and working conditions.

 

No vote was taken on the bill… the committee will resume its work on November 26th.

Elementary Schools May Consolidate


Parents from two Springfield elementary schools have been called for a meeting this evening… in what could be a first step toward consolidation of those schools.

 

The meeting notice was sent to parents at Pleasant Hill and Wanless schools… both of which have been mentioned as possible sites that could be closed down, with students being moved to the Feitshans building.

 

Two other schools have also been talked about as possible candidates for consolidation, but no meeting has been scheduled for parents at those schools. District 186 officials declined to comment on the reason for the meeting… saying they wanted to talk to parents first.

Taylorville Man Dies When Vehicle Hits Bicycle


A 71-year-old Taylorville man is dead after his bicycle was struck from behind by a car on Route 104 near Auburn this  morning. Illinois State Police say both the car and bike were westbound, about two miles east of Hunley Road, when the car drifted off the road onto the shoulder and struck the bike.

 

Police say charges are pending against the driver of the car, a 22-year-old man from Pawnee. The name of the victim has not been released.

Commercial Club of Chicago Has Harsh Words About Pension Crisis


A group that has been pushing for significant reforms of Illinois’s public pensions now says it may be too late to fix the problem.

 

The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago calls the pension mess “unfixable,” but says the state still needs to make major changes to its pension funds… including cuts in the benefits that current retirees receive.

 

Former Illinois Attorney General Tyrone Fahner says without drastic action, the state will have to take away from other vital services to pay for pensions… and the pension funds will still go bankrupt in a matter of years anyway.

Lanphier High School Teacher Accused of Sexual Relationship with 17-year-old


Jennifer Tyree mug shot provided by Springfield Police
Jennifer Tyree mug shot provided by Springfield Police

A Lanphier High School teacher has been arrested on charges that she had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student.

 

36-year-old Jennifer Tyree of Petersburg was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon on one count of criminal sexual assault.

 

Tyree has been on paid administrative leave from District 186 since the allegations came to light.

 

District officials had planned to meet on Friday to discuss her employment status.

 

A spokesman says that meeting will proceed as scheduled.

Illinois House Member Stepping Down to Lead Petroleum Council


A longtime Illinois lawmaker is stepping down to take a job as head of the Illinois Petroleum Council.

 

Republican Jim Watson won re-election to his Jacksonville-area House seat just last week, but he says the opportunity to lead the Petroleum Council was too good to pass up.

 

Watson will replace David Sykuta, who is retiring.

Traffic Fatalities On Pace to Increase in Illinois


Traffic fatalities in Illinois are on pace to increase this year, compared to last... following three straight years of declines.

 

But state officials hope to reverse the trend.

 

They say warm, dry weather had more people out on the roads early in the year, and that contributed to the increase in accidents and deaths.

 

But they say greater diligence in obeying traffic laws over the holidays will save lives.

 

Police plan to be out in large numbers through Thanksgiving and Christmas, watching out for speeders, drunk drivers, and seat belt violations.

This Year's Christmas Parade Changes from Morning to Evening


An annual holiday tradition in Springfield will have a different look this year.

 

The downtown Christmas parade is being moved from its normal Saturday morning slot, and will this year be held in the evening hours of Saturday, December 15th.

 

The Jaycees say the change is intended to boost attendance, which has been on the decline.

 

They hope the after-dark parade and illuminated floats… on a date closer to Christmas… will be a bigger draw.

 

The parade will also follow a different route this year.

Lanphier High School Teacher Arrested


A Lanphier High School teacher has been arrested on charges that she had a sexual relationship with a student at the school. 36-year-old Jennifer Tyree of Petersburg was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon.

 

Springfield police did not immediately release any more details about the alleged relationship or how it came to light.

 

Jennifer Tyree
Jennifer Tyree mug shot provided by Springfield Police

 

Aldermen and Developers Fight for TIF Information


Springfield aldermen are still complaining about a lack of information from the Houston administration about the status of the downtown TIF and the money available for several pending projects.

 

The city council continues to debate a request for funds to repair the façade of the PNC bank building downtown… a proposal initially rejected by the mayor’s office, but then revived by aldermen.

 

City economic development director Mike Farmer says staff shortages and a desire for complete information have hampered his efforts to get the information to the aldermen.

 

A vote on the PNC building request and two other downtown TIF projects is expected next week.

 

Another TIF request for council consideration is $1.06 million for refurbishing two century old buildings on Monroe that will be transformed into mixed commercial and residential developments.

 

Mayor Mike Houston says the city should focus more TIF moneys on residential developments in the downtown before the Central Area TIF expires in 2016.

Kidzeum Plans Revealed


There may soon be another request for downtown TIF money.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the organizers of the planned Kidzeum have now decided not to locate at Southwind Park as originally planned… and are now looking for a suitable downtown site for the children’s museum project.

 

Kidzeum is more than halfway to its $5.3 million fundraising goal, but says it may need another million dollars to renovate a downtown building, and may ask for TIF funding to help with that.

Chicago Mayor Hopes to Influence Illinois General Assembly


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel hopes to use his clout in the legislature to win approval of three key issues, including same-sex marriage.

 

Emanuel says his top priorities for the next legislative session are, in order, pension reform, approval of a casino for Chicago, and marriage equality.

 

Emanuel may have even greater influence in the General Assembly this year, as Democrats now hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers.

Election Results Could Lead to Shakeup at IL GOP


Last week’s election losses by Republicans could lead to a shakeup in the GOP leadership in the legislature.

 

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno is facing a challenge from Republican State Senator Kyle McCarter of Lebanon, in southwest Illinois.

 

McCarter says the election results… which saw the GOP lose five Senate seats… show a need for new leadership.

 

But Radogno says the party needs an image makeover, not… quote… “an in-your-face, confrontational, white, downstate male” to be in charge.

Blago Attorney May Want Jackson Jr.'s Seat


A prominent Chicago attorney says he may want Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.'s seat.

 

Sam Adam Jr. says he's considering a run for the Chicago-area district because he thinks it needs better representation.

 

Jackson, who has been on a secretive medical leave since June and is reportedly under federal investigation, won re-election just last week.

 

Adam is best-known as one of the defense lawyers for former governor Rod Blagojevich.

Cellini Drops Fight To Stay Out Of Prison Pending Appeal, Will Start Serving Sentence Jan. 4


Bill Cellini says he’s done fighting. 

 

In court papers, the Springfield businessman and longtime political kingmaker is dropping his fight to remain free while he appeals his conviction on corruption charges, and will report to federal prison as scheduled on January 4th

 

And Cellini is considering dropping all appeals entirely, because of the toll the legal battle is taking on his family and his own failing health. 

 

He was convicted earlier this year of taking part in a conspiracy with Blagojevich administration insiders to shake down a movie producer for campaign contributions in exchange for a chance to do business with the state.

Blagojevich Gets New Job Behind Bars


Rod Blagojevich reportedly has a new job behind bars. 

 

The convicted former Illinois governor had been working as a dishwasher in the federal prison in Colorado where he is serving a 14-year sentence for corruption.  But now he has reportedly been transferred to a job in the prison library. 

 

Blagojevich’s lawyer, Sam Adam, Jr., says the former governor was “bored” by the dishwashing job, and is looking forward to the change in work assignments.

Chicago Mayor Downplays Recording Of Reporters' Phone Calls


Chicago city officials insist it’s “much ado about nothing.” 

 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is taking heat following revelations that his staffers recorded conversations with reporters. 

 

Under Illinois law, it’s illegal to tape a conversation with the consent of all parties involved.  Emanuel says the tapings were just a mistake, and says staffers have been reminded of the law.

Purple Heart Memorial Planned For Oak Ridge Cemetery


A new military memorial will go up at Oak Ridge Cemetery, alongside similar monuments dedicated to those who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam

 

The Military Order of the Purple Heart will raise funds over the next one to two years to build the stone memorial, in honor of all Purple Heart recipients. 

 

The total cost and exact design of the monument has not been determined, and details on the fundraising effort are still being formulated. 

 

Under an agreement with the state, the Historic Preservation Agency will be responsible for care and upkeep of the monument.

Ballfield Signs Will Urge Spectators To Go Easy On Little Leaguers


Little league ballfields in Springfield parks will have a gentle reminder next season for parents not to take the game too seriously. 

 

Plaques will be installed at all 64 fields, containing a famous 1930s poem called, “He’s Just A Little Boy.”  The poem talks about a youngster playing in a little league game who is heckled by adult spectators. 

 

Scheels, Illinois National Bank and Alderman Kris Theilen are jointly sponsoring the creation and installation of the plaques.

Marijuana Fight May Resume In State Legislature


State lawmakers say there’s virtually no chance any time soon that Illinois will follow the lead of Colorado and Washington and move to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.  But one state representative does think the state is ready to authorize the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. 

 

Democratic Representative Lou Lang tells the Northwest Indiana Times that he hopes to revive his medical marijuana bill during the upcoming veto session.  The bill stalled earlier this year when it fell just short of the 60 votes needed for passage.

Report: Jesse Jackson Jr. Could Face Jail Time In Plea Deal


Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. could be facing jail time as part of a reported plea deal being negotiated with federal prosecutors. 

 

That’s according to a Chicago TV report, which says the deal could call for Jackson to step down from his House seat for health reasons, but to also plead guilty to charges of misusing campaign funds.  The deal reportedly would require Jackson to pay restitution and to serve time behind bars. 

 

Neither Jackson nor the U.S. Attorney’s office had an immediate comment on the report.

Democrats, GOP Both Face Post-Election Challenges


Now that Democrats will have veto-proof majorities in the Illinois House and Senate, a conservative think tank says Republicans should just go ahead and let Democrats run the show… and see how it works. 

 

Some political science experts say the new Democratic power in the legislature will be a double-edged sword… because the party will have no one to blame but itself if the state’s fiscal crisis gets worse.

 

Meanwhile, Illinois Republicans say they need an image makeover after devastating losses in last Tuesday’s elections.  Although the GOP was at a disadvantage with a legislative district map drawn by Democrats, the party lost even seats that it was expecting to hold. 

 

State GOP chair Pat Brady says the party needs to redefine itself and convince Illinoisans that Republicans aren’t just, quote, “angry people standing in the way of everything.”

Poll: Illinoisans Support Legislative Term Limits


A new poll finds Illinoisans are overwhelmingly in favor of term limits for state lawmakers. 

 

The survey from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute shows 78-percent of respondents like limiting representatives to no more than five consecutive two-year terms, and senators to three four-year terms.

''Lincoln'' Film Expected To Boost Local Tourism


Local and state officials are expecting a boost in tourism from moviegoers who see the critically-acclaimed new film “Lincoln.” 

 

They expect the buzz generated by the movie will bring people to town to see Lincoln’s home and tomb, and to visit the presidential library and museum. 

 

“Lincoln,” which stars Daniel Day-Lewis, opened in a handful of cities over the weekend.  It will go into full release, and will finally arrive in Springfield, next weekend.

Donated Letters Reveal Mary Todd Lincoln's Mindset After Abe


Newly revealed letters written by Abraham Lincoln's widow in the months after the president's assassination show her frantic mindset as she grappled with enormous debts.

 

Three letters written by Mary Lincoln and her son Robert were donated Saturday to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.

Springfield Cops Bound For New Jersey To Assist In Hurricane Relief


Six Springfield cops are among more than 50 police officers from Illinois who will spend more than a week in New Jersey, relieving law enforcement who have been coping with the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy. 

 

The Springfield officers will take marked squad cars out East, joining Illinois State Police and personnel from other Central Illinois departments to keep order after the superstorm.  The deployment is scheduled to last for eight days.

Cullerton: No Lame-Duck Vote On Illinois Income Tax


Don’t look for a January surprise on income taxes in Illinois. 

 

State Senate President John Cullerton says there will not be an attempt during the lame-duck session to make the state’s temporary income tax increase permanent.  Some Republicans had been warning that such an attempt was possible. 

 

Cullerton says that debate should be left for the upcoming 2014 race for governor.

AFSCME Shows Solidarity, Faces New Challenge


AFSCME members plan a series of Unity Day events to show union solidarity in the midst of a contentious contract battle with the state.  But the public sector workers union may have to battle more than just Governor Pat Quinn. 

 

Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax reports House Speaker Mike Madigan has reintroduced legislation that would put new limits on contractual pay raises and on whether the union can collectively bargain on layoffs or the size of the state workforce.

Gill Finally Concedes In 13th Congressional District


Democrat David Gill has thrown in the towel in his fight for the 13th Congressional District seat. 

 

Gill refused to concede on Election Nnight, but now says a county-by-county analysis confirms that he cannot make up the nearly 13 hundred vote margin separating him from Republican Rodney Davis. 

 

Gill says he hopes Davis will get a message from the close race and work toward cooperation and compromise on Capitol Hill.  Davis thanked Gill for his "passion" during the campaign, but also said he was glad Gill has "foregone dragging this out further."

School Board Member Seeks Re-Election, Launching 2013 Campaign Season


The 2013 campaign season is now underway.  Springfield school board member Scott McFarland has announced his candidacy for re-election from his North End subdistrict. 

 

McFarland, who is currently serving his first term on the board, has a campaign website where he says that the district has some hard decisions to make… but shouldn’t make those decisions on the backs of teachers and students. 

 

All seven seats on the Springfield school board are up for grabs in 2013, but McFarland appears to be the first board member to formally announce that he’s running.

Southern Illinois Coal Mine Lays Off 50, Blames Obama


A southern Illinois coal mine is laying off more than 50 workers… and the coal company owner is putting the blame on President Obama’s re-election. 

 

Murray Coal Company owner Bob Murray says the Obama administration is waging a war on coal… and says uncertainty about the industry’s future in the president’s second term is forcing the company to cut back. 

 

Nearly 100 other employees are also being laid off in Utah, although it’s not clear when the layoffs will take effect.

White Oaks Mall Dedicates New Renovation


The newly-renovated White Oaks Mall has been formally reintroduced in a dedication ceremony. 

 

The mall has undergone an extensive renovation inside and out, with new signage, updated lighting and furnishings, and a change in the color scheme. 

 

And the work isn’t done… there are still plans for a restaurant and patio area in the space that had once been occupied by the White Oaks Cinema.

Prospective Governor Candidates Stake Out Positions For 2014 Election


The 2012 campaign is barely over, but for some, the 2014 race for governor has already started.

 

State Senator Kirk Dillard says he’s already making plans for another try at the Executive Mansion.

 

Dillard narrowly lost to Senator Bill Brady in the 2010 GOP primary.

 

Several other Republicans are also considering a run, including Congressman Aaron Schock of Peoria, and Joe Walsh, the Chicago area congressman who lost his re-election bid Tuesday night.

 

Governor Pat Quinn hasn’t made any formal announcement, but it’s widely believed he will seek re-election in two years.

Springfield Fire Chief: Residency Rule Won't Improve Department Operations


Springfield’s fire chief says bringing back a residency requirement for new city workers would do nothing to improve his department’s readiness or response.

 

Fire Chief Ken Fustin says there is no operational benefit to requiring firefighters to live within the city limits.

 

He acknowledges that firefighters who live outside Springfield are less likely to engage in community activities here, like coaching youth sports teams.

 

But Fustin says there are many more important things for his department to be concerned about.

 

The residency issue could be back before aldermen soon, after Springfield voters approved an advisory referendum on the issue this week.

Salvation Army's Tree of Lights Campaign Kicks Off


Starting today, you’ll be seeing the familiar red kettles and hearing the sound of bells all around Springfield.

 

The annual Salvation Army Tree of Lights campaign is underway.

 

Organizers have set a goal of $455,000 this year, roughly the amount the campaign took in last Christmas season.

 

That represents about half of the agency’s budget.

 

Some donations have already come in, including a gift of two gold coins from a couple who purchased them at a Salvation Army auction years ago.

 

The coins, which sold then for $500, are now worth $2100.

 

The campaign also includes the Jim Leach/Fritz Pfister challenge.

 

People signing up online as volunteer bellringers can choose which 970 WMAY host to support.

 

The host whose team brings in the most money will guest host the other’s program one day in January.

SDAT Action Committee Named


Sustainable Design Assessment Team logo.  Read the final report online at SDATSpringfield.com
Sustainable Design Assessment Team logo.  Read the final report online at SDATSpringfield.com

There’s a new team in town and they’ll work to connect the dots on recommendations from the Sustainable Design Assessment Team that visited Springfield in May.

 

The final 98-page report is now available at the website SDATSpringfield.com and provides more recommendations for generating revenue for the city, working with the public sector to subsidize development downtown implementing green-space and more downtown public park areas and also creating more signage for tourists.

 

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston announced the 19-member SDAT Action Committee which is made up of area architects, members of non-profits and also business owners.

 

There was also an announcement that there will be a tourist family friendly tourist attraction for the downtown, thought details on that project are expected in the next couple of months.

 

The Action Committee’s first meeting is December 7th.

Gill Waiting For Absentee and Provisional Ballots Before Calling 13th District Race


Congressional candidate David Gill’s campaign says it is taking time to review its legal options in the wake of a close race that appears to have given the victory to Gill’s Republican opponent, Rodney Davis.

 

Davis holds a nearly 13-hundred vote lead over Gill in the 13th Congressional District, and is already making plans to take over the seat currently held by Republican Tim Johnson.

 

But Gill’s camp says in a close race, it’s important that every vote be counted, including absentee and provisional ballots that haven’t yet been added to the total.

Democrats Get Veto-Proof Majority of General Assembly After Tuesday's Election


Democrats have already controlled both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly, and the Governor’s Mansion.

 

But now the party has even more power in the wake of Tuesday’s election.

 

Democrats now hold veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate, taking advantage of the legislative district map they drew to snag a dozen seats from the Republicans.

 

But the new power for House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton could come at the expense of Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, who won’t be able to use the threat of a veto to pressure lawmakers.

Absentee & Provisional Ballots Could Change Electric Aggregation Outcome


Voters in towns and villages across Sangamon County have overwhelmingly authorized the creation of electricity aggregation plans that could allow them to get power from another supplier, at lower rates.

 

But voters in unincorporated parts of the county narrowly rejected the idea Tuesday, by just seven votes out of more than 15,000 cast.

 

However, county officials say that total could change after absentee and provisional ballots are counted in less than two weeks.

Sen. Kirk Plans to Return to Capitol Hill in January


U.S. Senator Mark Kirk plans to return to Capitol Hill in January, almost exactly one year after a debilitating stroke that has kept him from his office and prevented him from casting votes on key legislation.

 

Kirk continues to undergo intensive physical therapy after the stroke, which limited his mobility on the left side of his body.

 

The stroke also had an effect on Kirk’s speech, although doctors say it did not impair his cognitive functions at all.

President Obama Wins Second Term, Davis Waits for Gill Concession


It’s the morning after another historic election night, as President Obama celebrated in Chicago early this morning following his re-election victory.

 

But Obama will serve his second term in an unforgiving political landscape, with a divided Congress.

 

That Congress will apparently include Republican Rodney Davis, who was declared the winner in a tight 13th Congressional District contest.

 

But Democrat David Gill has not conceded, and says there are still thousands of outstanding votes to be counted, with fewer than four-thousand votes currently separating the two.

Democrats Will Represent Parts of Springfield in the Illinois General Assembly


For the first time in years, Democrats will represent part of Springfield in the Illinois General Assembly.

 

Decatur schoolteacher Sue Scherer won decisively in the new 96th House District, which includes Springfield’s east side.

 

Despite taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign money from funds controlled by House Speaker Mike Madigan, Scherer says she will stand up to Madigan when she needs to.

 

And veteran Democratic Senate staffer Andy Manar (muh-NAR’) will now be a senator himself, defeating Decatur Mayor Mike McElroy for the 48th Senate seat.

Big Night for Sangamon County GOP


Sangamon County Republicans nearly ran the table Tuesday night.

 

All four GOP incumbents in contested countywide races came out on top.

 

Circuit Clerk Tony Libri had the closest race, but still beat Democrat Kristin DiCenso 53- to 47-percent.

 

State’s Attorney John Milhiser, Coroner Cinda Edwards, and Auditor Paul Palazzolo also won.

 

And the GOP took five of six contested county board seats.

 

Winners include former Channel 20 reporter Catie Sheehan.

 

But veteran Republican Tim Moore was defeated by Democrat Anthony Del Giorno.

Schmidt Wins Judgeship After Being Targeted for Catholic Charities Ruling


Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt has won a full term on the bench.

 

Schmidt was appointed to the seat two years ago.

 

He defeated Democrat Tim Londrigan.

 

Schmidt was the target of a phone call campaign, urging people to vote against him for a ruling against Catholic Charities in a fight over adoption and foster care services, and whether they should be provided to couples in civil unions.

 

But Schmidt says he simply followed the law, and thinks the negative calls may have backfired and generated more support for him.

Residency Referendum for Future Springfield Workers Passes, Alderman Mulls Next Step


Springfield voters have given strong support to an advisory referendum asking if the city should reinstate a residency requirement for future City Hall employees.

 

The non-binding question passed 59- to 41-percent.

 

But for a residency rule to be imposed, it still must get approval of a majority of the City Council, and withstand a possible veto from Mayor Mike Houston.

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin, a residency supporter, says he will take his time before bringing the issue back up, and suggests he may even wait until after the next mayor and city council election, in 2015.

Constitutional Amendment Fails to Get 60 Percent Needed to Pass


Even though it got support from a majority of voters, a proposed constitutional amendment dealing with public sector pensions did not get enough support to pass.

 

The amendment needed a 60-percent “yes” vote to be adopted, but fell short.

 

The measure would have required a supermajority vote for any public body to adopt more generous pension benefits for its employees.

Electric Aggregation Referendum Passes, Except in Unincorporated Sangamon County


Most communities in Sangamon County have come out in favor of entering into electric aggregation deals, that could allow their villages and towns to negotiate lower electric rates with a different supplier.

 

But voters in unincorporated Sangamon County appear to have narrowly rejected the idea.

 

There the referendum lost by just seven votes, out of more than 15,000 cast.

Duckworth Wins Despite Heavy Spending by Outside Groups Favoring Walsh


Controversial Tea Party Republican Joe Walsh was tossed out after one term, losing to Democrat Tammy Duckworth despite heavy spending by outside interest groups supporting Walsh and targeting her.

 

And Democrat Bill Enyart defeated Republican Jason Plummer in the 12th District in southwest Illinois.

 

Enyart stepped down as adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard just before entering the race, while Plummer was the running mate of Bill Brady in Brady’s losing effort for governor two years ago.

President Obama Delivers Victory Speech To Cheering Crowd In Chicago


Davis Wins In 13th Congressional District Race


Scherer Wins 96Th House Seat, Says She Will "Unequivocally" Not Be Beholden To Madigan


Republican Incumbents Sweep Countywide Offices; GOP Takes 5 Of 6 County Board Races


Schmidt Wins Full Term As Circuit Judge


Residency Referendum Passes In Springfield


Constitutional Amendment On Pensions Falls Short Of Passage


SPD Nab Bank Robber


Springfield Police say they’ve arrested a man they suspect of having robbed a bank on North Grand. The police department received numerous calls from the public after pictures from the bank’s surveillance video were released.

 

36-year-old Randall A. Welch was arrested for Aggravated Robbery in connection with the robbery of Chase Bank on Halloween. Police say due to the public’s help, they were able to gather enough evidence to make an arrest.

Mayor Houston Says City Comes First In Bidding Process


He vetoed an attempt to give county businesses the same advantage as city businesses in bidding on city contracts… but Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says he is on board with giving a smaller preference to companies located in the county.

 

Houston is in favor of a new ordinance put forward by Alderman Sam Cahnman… that would allow businesses located in Sangamon County, but outside the Springfield city limits… to get a city contract if they are within three-percent of the low bid. City businesses currently get five-percent leeway.

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Ray Lytle Show,” Houston says it’s important to support county businesses… but city companies should still come first.

Healthy Turnout At Sangamon County Polling Places


There are reports of healthy turnout and even occasional long lines at Sangamon County polling places today, but no major problems so far as voters make their voice heard. Sangamon County Clerk Joe Aiello says by the time early votes and absentee and provisional ballots are added in with today’s polling, total turnout may be close to 75% of eligible voters.

 

The polls are open until 7pm – stay with 970 WMAY for election updates and complete coverage of the returns, starting at 7 o’clock, sponsored by Maldaner’s Restaurant.

Voters Will Choose Candidates and More


After months of campaigning and commercials, it all comes down to today, as voters go to the polls in Sangamon County and across Illinois.

 

Locally, in addition to casting a vote for President, voters will be heard in contests for Congress, the state legislature, countywide offices and county board seats.

 

They will also consider a proposed state constitutional amendment intended to make it harder to sweeten public sector pensions.

 

In Springfield, residents will vote in a non-binding referendum on whether the city should adopt a residency requirement for future city employees.

 

And voters in many Sangamon County jurisdictions will decide whether to enter into electricity aggregation plans that could lower their utility costs. The polls are open until 7 p.m.

 

We will have complete coverage of the results tonight, brought to you by Maldaner’s Restaurant.

 

 

970 WMAY Election Central

 

Teachers Union Questions Proposed Dist. 186 Cuts


The proposed budget cuts for Springfield public schools are already drawing a backlash, especially from the teachers union.

 

The head of the Springfield Education Association addressed the school board Monday, and urged them to find other ways to cut costs than to slash 100 or more teaching positions.

 

Dan Ford says many teachers are wondering why their ranks would be targeted so heavily, while only three administrative positions are in line to be cut.

School Board Supports Creation of East-Side TIF


The Springfield School Board has decided to support the creation of an east-side TIF district, even though city officials rejected the school board’s request to receive a share of the increased property taxes that the TIF could generate over the next 23 years.

 

Board members Scott McFarland and Bill Looby wanted to take a stand against the TIF, complaining that the district needs additional revenue now and shouldn’t have to wait for the 23-year lifespan of the TIF to expire to reap the benefits of growth.

 

But board member Judy Johnson says the TIF will create dividends for the east side beyond property tax revenues, and says the district should support that.

Former Lottery Worker Wins Million-Dollar Lottery


A local million-dollar lottery winner has come forward.

 

Shiryl Stevens had actually worked for the lottery for 30 years, retiring earlier this year.

 

She purchased a ticket in the lottery’s Halloween raffle contest in Petersburg, and became one of the game’s four million-dollar winners.

 

She and her husband live in Tallula.

Milton: Should School District Have Made Cuts Sooner?


Springfield’s school superintendent acknowledges that he’s not perfect, and that in retrospect the school district could perhaps have done more cutting sooner to avoid the massive cuts that are proposed for next year. But Walter Milton also says that many of the factors that have put the district’s finances in jeopardy were beyond his and his staff’s control.

 

In a live interview on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Milton also said that he thinks he has cut as much from Central Office administrative staff as he can. Milton has proposed eight-million-dollars in cuts for the next school year, including nearly 100 teaching positions.

Gill Outraged At Political Attack Ad


The candidates in the 13th Congressional District are still working hard to make their case to voters as the long campaign winds down.

 

Democrat David Gill is battling back against a late ad from Republican opponent Rodney Davis, In the ad, Davis says Gill was fired from a hospital for advocating unlawful medical practices. Gill calls that “slanderous,” noting that while he wrote an article supporting the legalization of physician-assisted suicide, he has never suggested that any medical professional do anything that’s against the law.

 

Gill, however, refuses to say whether he still supports legalizing the practice.

Suspicious Package Outside Army Reserve Center Found To Be Harmless


Springfield Police and the Secretary of State Bomb Squad say a suspicious package found outside the gate of the Army Reserve Center on the South 6th Frontage Road is harmless.

 

The package was discovered by the side of the road, and was reported at about 8:30 Monday morning.

 

The road was closed temporarily while crews checked the package, but they discovered that it only contained paper bags.

 

General Elections Come Down to the Wire


It’s the final hours of a long campaign season, and candidates are pulling out all the stops to persuade you before you head to the polls on Tuesday. One of the most hotly-contested races locally is the open 13th Congressional District seat.

 

Democrat David Gill greeted voters in Springfield over the weekend and has been making heavy use of robocalls seeking support.

 

Republican Rodney Davis will make a stop in Springfield today, accompanied by Mayor Mike Houston, who endorsed Davis last month.

 

There are other key races coming down to the wire, including state legislative contests, countywide races, a proposed state constitutional amendment, and a non-binding referendum in Springfield on a proposed residency requirement.

 

And, of course, 970 WMAY will comprehensive coverage of election results Tuesday night, starting at 7 o’clock, sponsored by Maldaner’s Restaurant.

County Preference Ordinance On First Reading for Springfield City Council


Springfield aldermen will take another crack at the issue of providing a preference to Sangamon County businesses, similar to the one already given to companies located within the city limits.

 

Alderman Sam Cahnman has introduced an ordinance that would allow a county business to get a city contract even if their bid was as much as 3% higher than a bid from a business outside the county.

 

Currently, city businesses get a 5% preference on their bids.

 

Mayor Mike Houston vetoed a similar ordinance passed by alderman that gave county businesses outside the city limits the same 5% advantage that city businesses receive. 

Affirmative Action Ordinance Pulled From First Reading for Modifications


A proposal to require the Houston administration to develop an affirmative action plan for Springfield city government will be pulled off the table temporarily, but it will be reintroduced.

 

Alderman Doris Turner requested the ordinance, which asks for development of a plan to ensure a diverse workforce through hiring and recruitment practices.

 

The ordinance was listed on the “first reading” agenda for Tuesday’s city council meeting, but Turner says she wants to modify it and add more detail to it before it goes to the aldermen.

Teenager Facing Multiple Charges After Deadly Weekend Crash


A teenager from Chandlerville is facing multiple charges, including DUI, possession of cannabis, and possession of drug paraphernalia, after a weekend crash that killed a Springfield woman.

 

The victim is identified as 23-year-old Yvonne Salay Tyson.

 

Tyson, who got married just six months ago, was on her way to work when police say a vehicle driven by 19-year-old Dalton Levi Jones crossed the center line and struck Tyson head-on.

 

The crash closed Route 125 in Cass County for several hours Saturday night.

Chicago Father Forgives Wife for Allegedly Killing Their Son


A Chicago-area man says he's "forgiving'' his wife after she allegedly killed their son and a girl she was babysitting.

 

The Chicago Sun-Times reports Artur Plackowski posted on Facebook that his wife, Elzbieta Plackowska, loved their son, Justin, and he can't understand why she would have killed him.

 

Artur Plackowski also wrote a note in Polish to his son.

Springfield Woman Killed In Route 125 Crash; Other Driver Suspected Of DUI


A Springfield woman is dead after a head-on crash on Illinois Route 125 in Cass County Saturday night. 

 

State police identify the victim as 23-year-old Yvonne Salay, but a funeral home handling her arrangements lists her name as Yvonne Salay Tyson. 

 

Her car was struck by a truck driven by 19-year-old Dalton Levi Jones of Chandlerville.  Police believe Jones was driving under the influence… he’s facing multiple charges, including illegal consumption of alcohol, and possession of cannabis and drug paraphernalia.

Springfield Aldermen Will Take Another Look At Contract Preference For County Businesses


Springfield aldermen will take another crack at giving some preference to Sangamon County businesses when they are bidding on city government contracts. 

 

An ordinance proposed by Alderman Sam Cahnman would give businesses located within the county… but outside the Springfield city limits… a preference if their bid is within three-percent of the low bid. 

 

City businesses already get a five-percent preference on city contracts.  An attempt to apply that same five-percent advantage to county businesses failed earlier this year.

Ordinance Calls For Springfield To Develop Affirmative Action Plan For City Government


The City of Springfield may soon be developing an affirmative action plan that will spell out its efforts to improve minority hiring and to more effectively recruit a diverse workforce. 

 

Alderman Doris Turner is the sponsor of a bare-bones proposed affirmative action ordinance submitted to the City Council late last week.  She says she plans to revise it and add more details before aldermen take action on her request.

Nine Counties To Vote On Concealed-Carry Laws Tuesday


Nine Illinois counties will vote Tuesday on whether concealed carry should be the law of the land in the state. 

 

The votes are non-binding, but organizers hope the outcome will send a message to state lawmakers to get them to take action on concealed-carry legislation. 

 

Illinois is the only state in the nation that does not permit lawful gun owners to carry their weapon with them.  Governor Pat Quinn remains adamantly opposed to a concealed-carry law.

 

None of the 9 counties are in the 970 WMAY listening area; the closest is Adams County in West Central Illinois.

District 186 Notifies Parents Of Investigation Into Alleged LHS Teacher-Student Relationship


District 186 has sent recorded phone messages to Lanphier High School parents to alert them to a police investigation now underway, involving a teacher’s alleged inappropriate relationship with a student. 

 

The teacher is now on a paid leave of absence while both Springfield police and the school district look into the case.  The district is not releasing any information about the teacher, and says for now the case is a confidential personnel matter. But a report on ABC Newschannel 20 indicates the teacher is a female.

Peoria Bishop's Letter To Parishioners Draws Criticism


A liberal group says Peoria's bishop may be jeopardizing his church's tax-exempt status by ordering priests to read a letter critical of President Obama's birth control stance from the pulpit this weekend, days before the election.

 

The chancellor of the diocese says the letter doesn't violate IRS guidelines because it doesn't tell anyone how to vote, or mention Obama by name – even though it does reference “the president.”

 

No such letter will be read aloud in Springfield churches, although the diocese did ask parishes to include a statement from the Catholic Conference in church bulletins, advising Catholic voters to follow church teaching when casting their ballots.

Schock Reportedly Weighing 2014 Run For Governor


The 2012 campaign isn’t over yet… but the 2014 race for governor may already be getting started. 

 

The National Journal reports that Congressman Aaron Schock has had conversations with the Republican Governors Association and with donors about making a run for the Executive Mansion in two years. 

 

If he ran and won, Schock would be the youngest governor in Illinois history.

Springfield Teacher Accused Of Inappropriate Relationship With Student


A Lanphier High School teacher is on paid administrative leave as school district officials and Springfield police investigate allegations that the teacher had an inappropriate relationship with a student.

 

A school district spokesman issued a statement saying the district is cooperating fully with law enforcement, but would not release other details about the investigation.

 

The district says, for the moment, the allegations are a confidential personnel matter.

Developer Hopes for $1.7 Million in TIF Assistance for Two Century Old Building Renovations


A developer hopes to get $1.7 million in Central Area Tax Increment Finance funds from the City of Springfield to revitalize a pair of century old buildings.

 

The corner of 6th and Monroe
The corner of 6th and Monroe

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston announced the plan to use the TIF money to restore the Ferguson and Booth buildings on East Monroe in downtown Springfield. Rick Lawrence, the developer, says the goal is to bring the two buildings back to their original purpose with a mixture of residential and commercial units.

 

Houston says a project this size, which renovation of both buildings will cost $6 million, having the TIF funds will be a great help.

 

Springfield Aldermen must approve the use of the Central Area TIF funds, which Houston says is running about a $900,000 deficit with all the planned projects and future obligations.

 

He says it’s important to ensure TIF funds are used wisely and the Ferguson and Booth building project is the kind of project the city should encourage.

 

Houston says that the goal is to get revitalization projects going to increase the property values which in turn will increase the amount of funds in the TIF.

 

Lawrence hopes to get the project going, starting with the eight-story Booth building— which will be predominately apartments—after the first of the year.

 

See more pictures of the Ferguson and Booth Buildings here.

Springfield's First Video Gambling Terminals Operating


Video gambling is up and running in Springfield.

 

The first terminals went active Thursday at It’s All About Wine on Wabash, the first establishment to be issued a state license for the gaming machines.

 

But in recent days the state Gaming Board has approved at least six more licenses for Springfield establishments, four bars and two Road Ranger truck stops.

 

Mayor Mike Houston is enthusiastic about the start-up of video gaming.

 

He plans to use the city’s share of revenue to pay for an infrastructure program.

 

But Houston says he won’t seek a bond issue for street and sidewalk repair until the city has seen the results of a full year of video gambling and knows how much money to expect.

Houston: No Plans to Alter TIF Terms for Dist. 186


A request from District 186 to be given a share of increased property tax revenues from an east-side TIF district is falling on deaf ears.

 

Mayor Mike Houston says he has no plans to alter the usual terms of a TIF, where growth in property tax revenue is reinvested back into infrastructure and other needs in the district.

 

Houston says without the TIF, property values in that area of South Dirksen Parkway would probably decline, so he says the school district is better off with the TIF than without it.

Victim Died of Natural Causes Before Fire Started


A woman whose body was found following a fire in her home Wednesday had died of natural causes before that fire began, according to Sangamon County Coroner Cinda Edwards.

 

Firefighters discovered the body of Donna Bankard inside her home on Troon Drive in the Tallgrass subdivision, near Lake Springfield.

 

It’s still unclear how the fire actually started.

Sangamon County No Longer in Drought


The drought is apparently over in Central Illinois.

 

The latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor no longer puts Sangamon County in one of its drought categories, for the first time since mid-June.

 

The county is still listed as “abnormally dry,” but that is a less severe classification than the lowest drought category.

 

Long-range forecasts are still uncertain, though, with the National Weather Service saying there’s an equal chance of above- or below-normal precipitation over the winter months.

State's Attorney Candidate Issues Apology


State’s attorney candidate Ron Stradt is issuing an apology to a woman whose arrest became a campaign issue.

 

Stradt singled out the case of the woman who worked in the Sangamon County building because he said it appeared that State’s Attorney John Milhiser had not taken action in the case.

 

Milhiser says because of a possible conflict of interest, he referred the case to a special prosecutor.

 

Stradt said he found no evidence of that, but now acknowledges that the case was in fact referred as Milhiser had said.

 

He issued a press release apologizing to the woman for public embarrassment she endured as a result of having her case brought out in the media.

Springfield Mayor Tweaking Tabled Trash Proposal


A revised trash ordinance is in the works…as Mayor Mike Houston tries to tweak the original proposal so that he can get enough votes to get it passed.

 

Houston won’t say what might be included in the new ordinance. But he acknowledges that the original provision to include trash pickup on the City Water, Light and Power bill was not popular with aldermen, which could indicate that it won’t make the cut in the revised proposal.

 

Houston and aldermanic sponsors Cory Jobe and Doris Turner say they want to reduce illegal dumping and the problem of city residents who are not paying for trash pickup. Their first draft is stalled in committee after failing to get enough support.

Sangamon County Slowly Coming Out Of Drought Category


For the first time in nearly five months, Sangamon County is no longer considered to be in a drought.

 

The latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor still lists Springfield and the surrounding areas as “abnormally dry,” but that is an improvement from the last report, which placed the county in the “Moderate Drought” category. Now less than half the state is considered to be under drought conditions, although almost 85-percent of Illinois is listed as at least “abnormally dry.”

 

The last time Sangamon County was not placed under a “drought” category was mid-June.

Video Gaming Expands In Springfield


More Springfield establishments have been approved for video gambling terminals by the State of Illinois. The state Gaming Board issued licenses in October for four Springfield bars… the Bird Tavern on West Jefferson, Bob’s Butternut Hut on 2nd Street, the Converse Street Bar, and Starship Billiards on Stevenson. In addition, two Road Ranger truck stops, on Toronto Road and Sangamon Avenue, were awarded licenses.

 

But the Gaming Board website says American Legion Post 32 on Sangamon Avenue was denied a license. Mike Walton with Post 32 says the denial was based on a technicality, and says a revised license application has already been submitted.

 

Approved facilities can have up to five video gambling terminals that are linked to the state. Both state and local governments will get a cut of the revenue generated by them.

96th District Candidate Outlines Fiscal Plans For Illinois


Republican legislative candidate Dennis Shackelford says Illinois has to make some big cuts in spending… but he wouldn’t include the state’s largest line item, personnel.

 

Shackelford says Illinois has made enough reductions in head count and can’t afford to lose any more workers and still provide basic essential services. He says the state can do more to get rid of fraud and waste and bring costs down. Shackelford also says pension reform is needed, but says the state needs to keep the promises it has already made to workers and retirees. 

 

He is running in the 96th House District against Democrat Sue Scherer and write-in candidate Andrew Dambrauskasand appeared live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”

Woman In Duplex Fire Identified


The woman found dead following a fire in her duplex near Springfield had died of natural causes before that blaze started... according to Coroner Cinda Edwards.

 

The victim is identified as 69-year-old Donna Bankard. She was discovered by firefighters who responded to the blaze Wednesday morning in her duplex on Troon Drive, in the Tallgrass subdivision.

 

Fire officials are still investigating how the fire started.

Supt. Milton Proposes $8 Million Cuts for Next Year


Springfield School Superintendent Walter Milton says there is no way to cut millions of dollars out of the school district budget without eliminating personnel and cutting into programs.

 

And both of those things would happen under Milton’s proposal to slash eight million dollars from next school year’s budget.

 

Milton’s plan would eliminate nearly 140 jobs, most of them teaching positions.

 

It would also limit the number of students who could attend the Capital Area Career Center, and would end the seven-period day at the city’s high schools, reducing the number of electives that students could take.

 

None of the proposed cuts would take effect until next fall, and only if the school board adopts Milton’s recommendations.

Electric Meters Altered For Some CWLP Employee Owned Properties


Some City Water Light and Power workers may have been getting electricity at their homes at a greatly reduced price, because of altered meters installed at their homes.

 

The State Journal-Register reports that CWLP discovered at least six residential meters had been altered years ago to run at half-speed, so that a meter reader would think only half as much electricity had actually been used.

 

The meters were on properties owned or formerly owned by past CWLP employees.

 

Two of the former workers are deceased, the other two have paid thousands of dollars to settle the underpaid bills.

Coroner Confirms Homicide, Few Other Details Available as Investigation Continues


An autopsy confirms that the man whose body was found near Mechanicsburg Monday was the victim of a homicide.

 

But authorities still do not know the identity of the man… and aren’t saying how he died.

 

A neighbor discovered the body Monday evening along Griffiths Creek Road.

 

Coroner Cinda Edwards says the victim is a black male, but otherwise declines to release information about the circumstances of his death, because of the ongoing investigation.

Investigation Continues After Woman's Body Found in Burning Building


Officials are still investigating the death of a woman whose body was discovered inside a burning duplex near Lake Springfield Wednesday.

 

Firefighters were called to the home on Troon Drive, in the Tallgrass subdivision, around 6:30 a.m.

 

They were able to put out the fire quickly, but found the victim inside.

 

Her name and the exact cause of death have not been released.

Man Robs Bank of $2K, Says Bomb Strapped to Body


Springfield police are looking for the man who robbed a North End bank Wednesday.

 

He entered the Chase Bank on North Grand Avenue West and gave the teller a note saying he had a bomb strapped to his body.

 

Authorities say he got away with around $2,000 in cash.

 

The suspect is a white male, believed to be in his 20s, who was wearing a camouflage jacket and jeans.

Leland Grove Police Chief Disputes Stradt's Claims


The challenger for Sangamon County State’s Attorney is accusing incumbent John Milhiser of failing to work with law enforcement to put criminals behind bars, but a police chief cited by Ron Stradt disputes the claim.

 

Among the cases offered by Stradt is one in which he says Milhiser rejected a request from the Leland Grove police chief to investigate an attorney who was the victim of an extortion plot.

 

But Leland Grove Chief Mark Gleason says Milhiser worked well with him, and denies that he sought or was denied a search warrant.

 

Milhiser says if a case is not pursued, it’s because the evidence wasn’t there to do so.

Davis Ad Attacks Gill in Final Days Before Election


Things are getting nasty in the closing days of the race in the 13th Congressional District.

 

Republican Rodney Davis has a new ad in which he says Democratic opponent Dr. David Gill was fired from a hospital for “advocating unlawful medical practices.”

 

Gill was terminated from a clinic in Bloomington after he wrote a letter to the editor saying physician-assisted suicide should be allowed, but he says he would never advocate such a practice unless it were allowed under the law.

 

Gill’s campaign calls the Davis ad “slanderous.”

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