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October 21, 2014, 10:12 am
970 WMAY News Archives for 2013-02

AFSCME, Governor Reach Tentative Deal; No Details Yet

A spokesman for AFSCME says the union was determined that it would not lose ground under a new contract… and says the tentative deal reached with the state accomplishes that goal. 


After 15 months of confrontational talks, the largest state workers’ union reached agreement with the governor’s office on a deal… reportedly a three-year contract. 


Neither side is disclosing details of the agreement until the union ratifies it next week.  The tentative contract averts the possibility of an unprecedented walkout by state workers.

Assault Weapons Debate Begins In House Committee

Familiar battle lines are being drawn as Illinois lawmakers tackle the issue of an assault weapons ban. 


The House sponsor of the bill, Representative Edward Acevedo says such guns are, quote, “weapons of war” that don’t have any place in our communities. 


But pro-gun groups say a ban would only deprive law-abiding citizens of weapons used for sport and self-protection.  And the Illinois Sheriff’s Association says a ban doesn’t address the real problem… the need for better mental health treatment in the state.

Area Celtic Groups Plan Trip to Killarney, Ireland

Two local groups that focus on Celtic culture are planning a trip to Springfield’s sister city of Killarney, Ireland, next year.


The St. Andrews Pipes and Drums and Celtic Dancers of Central Illinois plan that overseas trip in September 2014.


In order to fund the trip, both groups will be hosting a series of events at the Hoogland Center for the Arts where the public can come hear and see performances.


The first event is set for March 1st at 6:30 with special guests Celtic pub band Exorna.


Tickets are available at the Hoogland box office.

Park Board: Forensic Audit Ongoing, Charges Not Anticipated

The head of the Springfield Park Board does not believe criminal charges will result from an investigation into unauthorized payments made to the park district’s former executive director and others.


Board president Leslie Sgro says Mike Stratton has reimbursed the district for nearly $3,000 in salary advances and other payments he received.


But Stratton and others also benefited from a policy he implemented that allowed workers to cash in unused vacation time… a policy that was not authorized by the park board.


More than $165,000 was paid out in a two-year period before the board discovered the policy change… which is now being rescinded.


The board plans a forensic audit of its books… while it also starts looking for a new executive director.

Future Dist. 186 Superintendent to Draw Salary and Pension

The man who will become Springfield’s interim school superintendent this spring will continue to receive a six-figure state pension while also drawing a salary from the district.


Bob Leming’s pension is estimated at $108,000 a year, but it allows him to work up to 100 days per school year without affecting his pension payments.


Leming says he has structured his work schedule to stay under that 100-day threshold, sometimes working only three or four days a week.


Leming will take over as superintendent on April 1, following the resignation of Walter Milton.

Illinois House To Debate Pension Reform

House Speaker Mike Madigan is once again calling his members into session today to discuss multiple amendments on a controversial bill… this time, pension reform.


Lawmakers will debate and vote on proposals ranging from raising the retirement age for public sector workers to ending cost-of-living increases for the foreseeable future.


Public sector unions are gearing up to fight the proposals.


Meanwhile, a separate pension plan is drawing support from both parties.


Republican leader Tom Cross and Democratic Representative Elaine Nekritz are sponsors of the bill, which requires workers to pay more toward their pensions and moves future teachers into a “hybrid” pension system.


Critics say the proposal is unconstitutional.

State Senate Rejects SIU Board of Trustees Nominees

The Illinois Senate has unanimously rejected the nomination of a Springfield man and two others to serve on the Southern Illinois University board of trustees.


Quinn had appointed Lee Milner and the others to replace three board members whose terms were not renewed.


But many senators saw the move as an effort by Quinn to stack the board with appointees who would support a former board chairman in a dispute with SIU President Glenn Poshard.


Twenty-three senators voted against Quinn’s picks… while 32 voted present, with none voting in favor of the appointments.

Judge Allows Demolition to Proceed

A Sangamon County judge will allow demolition to proceed on a Depression-era Springfield home, over the objections of a historic preservationist.


Jerry Jacobson and the home’s former owner had gone to court to block the demolition of the Robinson House on West Lawrence… claiming that proper procedures were not followed regarding demolition of a landmarked property.


But Judge John Schmidt ruled that the plaintiffs did not have standing to intervene in the case.

Springfield Remembers Tuskegee Airman With Display at Airport

A Springfield man whose distinguished military career included a role as one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen will be remembered with a display at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.


Lyman Hubbard, Senior, was a member of that World War II aviation unit of black pilots that helped shatter the military’s color barrier.


Hubbard died last year, and his family has now donated some of his medals and memorabilia to the airport museum.


The display is currently visible in the secure passenger area, but plans call for it to eventually be moved to the main terminal where it will be accessible by the general public.

Leming To Work Less Days To Continue Receiving Pension

Even though he acknowledges he will have plenty to do as Springfield’s interim school superintendent, Bob Leming may not spend five days a week on the job.


Leming’s work with the district is structured to allow him to keep collecting the teachers’ pension he began receiving when he retired in 2004. Leming says he can still receive his $108,000 annual pension if he works 100 days or less in the school year. So he says that in his current job as the district’s human resources director, he is only working three to four days a week… and says he may often maintain that four-day-a-week schedule during his three-month stint as superintendent.


Leming will hold the post from April till June while the board searches for a permanent replacement for Walter Milton.

Local Tuskegee Airman Permanenty Remembered

A groundbreaking local airman will be permanently remembered at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.


The family of Lyman Hubbard has donated some of his medals and memorabilia to the airport museum. Hubbard was one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, a unit of African-American pilots who helped shatter the military color barrier in World War II. He also served in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts before returning home to the Springfield area.


Hubbard passed away last year at the age of 85.

State Officials: Beware Of Norovirus

State health officials are warning that it is still prime time for the spread of norovirus.


The highly-contagious bug is a leading cause of what’s commonly called “the stomach flu,” with vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever and chills. It is most common from November to April.


The state public health department recommends regular hand-washing and cleaning of frequently-touched surfaces like doorknobs. And if you contract the norovirus, do not engage in any food preparation until you’re well.

Pension Reform Plan Shifts Burden To Teachers

A new bipartisan pension plan is taking shape under the Capitol dome.


House Republican leader Tom Cross and top Democratic Representative Elaine Nekritz are co-sponsoring the plan… which aims to reduce pension costs by requiring public sector workers to pay more, delaying cost-of-living increases, and placing teachers hired after 2013 into a “hybrid” plan that combines elements of both “defined benefit” and “defined contribution” systems.


The sponsors say their plan is gaining momentum at the Statehouse… and also contend that it will be found constitutional by the courts.

Leming Picked as Interim Dist. 186 Supt.

A longtime Springfield schools administrator has been selected to take over temporarily as superintendent.


Robert Leming will become interim superintendent when Walter Milton steps down at the end of March.


Leming has held a variety of administrative positions in the district over the years, and retired as human resources director in 2004… but came back to that job last year following the resignation of Alexander Ikejiaku.


Leming says he has no interest in the job on a long-term basis, and the search for a new superintendent will get underway soon.

Illinois House Members Debate Conceal Carry Legislation for Hours

Lawmakers have wrapped up hours of debate on concealed carry legislation without a final vote, or even a clear indication of what will wind up in the final bill.


Under an unusual procedure implemented by House Speaker Mike Madigan, the full House debated more than two dozen amendments individually, adopting a number of restrictions and limitations on concealed carry, as well as an overall framework for concealed carry drafted by pro-gun Democrat Brandon Phelps.


But more hearings and amendments are expected before a final vote is taken.

Illinois House Committee Narrowly Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Same-sex marriage is one step closer to final passage in the General Assembly.


An Illinois House committee narrowly approved the bill on a 6-5 vote, sending the measure to the House floor.


It’s still unclear when a final vote will be taken, or whether supporters have the 60 votes needed for passage.


If the measure clears the House, Governor Pat Quinn has said he will sign it into law.

Springfield Park Board Hold Special Meeting Tonight In Search of New Director

The Springfield Park Board will hold a special meeting tonight to discuss details of its search for a new executive director… and an audit of the park district’s finances.


Mike Stratton stepped down as executive director amid questions about payments he received out of district funds.


The board wants a review to determine the extent of any unauthorized payments.


That meeting is set for 5:30 tonight at the Park District offices in Bunn Park.

City Moves to Approve More Video Gambling Parlors

The Springfield City Council appears ready to approve liquor licenses for tow new video gambling parlors.


A final vote will be held next week on the licenses for two “Betty’s Place” locations, one on North Grand Avenue West and the other on Wabash.


The vote comes despite an appeal from an anti-gambling activist, who urged aldermen to wait and see what impact existing video gambling sites have before approving new licenses.

Leming Picked As Interim School Superintendent

The Springfield School Board has decided to name Robert Leming as the interim school superintendent after Walter Milton resigns at the end of March. 


Leming was brought back into the district late last year as human resources director following the resignation of Alexander Ikejiaku. Leming will only serve until June 30th, while a search for a permanent replacement gets underway. 


Cynthia Shambley will serve as the interim human resources director.  The board will finalize the selections at its next full meeting on March 5th.

Mt. Pulaski Woman Involved In Fatal Auto Accident

A Mount Pulaski woman is dead following a single-vehicle crash early this morning on Route 54 in Logan County.


State police say 70-year-old Alberta Reiterman was traveling westbound on the highway when her vehicle crossed over into the oncoming lane and then ran off the road, striking a tree and overturning. She was pronounced dead at the scene.


Police are still investigating and have not determined a cause of the crash yet.

Independent Film "Jump In" To Premiere Saturday at Hoogland

Springfield will host the premiere of a new independent film that was shot here last year by a local filmmaker.


Kimberly Conner says her movie “Jump In” has its roots in her own effort to beat breast cancer… twice. She hopes the movie will prompt other young women to be checked for the disease. But she also says her film is a testament to the level of local talent… and to the cooperation she received from local businesses and artists during the filmmaking process. '


The movie will premiere this Saturday night at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.

More Winter Weather For Central Illinois

Central Illinois is getting its second big taste of winter in less than a week.


Springfield is being spared the worst of it, with 1 to 2 inches of a snow and sleet mixture today, and additional accumulations possible overnight and into Wednesday.


Heavier snow totals are expected in Jacksonville and Petersburg, which are under a winter weather advisory… and up around Peoria, which is under a winter storm warning and could see up to 8 inches of snow today.


Road conditions could be problematic through the day today… stay with 970 WMAY for updates.


Get the latest closings and cancelations here.

Dist. 186 Still Working on Supt. Transition Plan

The Springfield school board is continuing to work behind closed doors to determine who will take over temporary leadership of District 186.


The school board met in executive session Monday night to discuss who could serve as interim superintendent after Walter Milton steps down next month.


Board members would not comment on possible contenders after the meeting, but the State Journal-Register reports human resources director Bob Leming  is under consideration.


Leming was present in the building during the time the board met Monday night.

Ball-Chatham School Board Votes On $3 million In Cuts

The Ball-Chatham school board has unanimously approved $3 million in cuts to next year’s budget.


The proposal will eliminate 24 full-time teaching positions, mostly through attrition, and will also cut administrative and support staff jobs and several smaller athletic programs.


Ball-Chatham officials hope the reductions will balance the budget… but say further cuts in state and federal funding could keep the district in the red.

Dozens of Amendments Related to Proposed Conceal Carry Law Filed in Illinois House

The Illinois House today could start debating amendments related to carrying concealed weapons.


Lawmakers have filed 27 amendments, including two in direct conflict with each other.


One, known as the “shall issue” standard, would require the state to issue concealed-carry permits to anyone who meets basic qualifications.


The other, known as “may issue,” would give local law enforcement some latitude to reject permits.


The state is under a June deadline imposed by a federal appeals court to adopt some kind of concealed carry law.

Autopsy Planned for Suspected Double Homicide, Suicide

Autopsies are planned today for an elderly Pekin couple and their adult son, all found shot to death in the home they shared.


Authorities believe 52-year-old Allen Clemons shot his parents to death before taking his own life.


Clemons had reportedly battled mental illness for years, and police had been called to the home multiple times in the past.


Authorities found several guns at the scene, and think most of the weapons may have belonged to Clemons’ father, a Korean War veteran.

Alderman Jobe Corrects Reported Stance on Possible Residency Deal

An update on a story we told you about yesterday… contrary to claims by Springfield Alderman Joe McMenamin, another alderman says he is not pushing to allow new city hires to live in a handful of select villages adjacent to the city as part of a possible residency requirement.


McMenamin told 970 WMAY last week that Cory Jobe was one of two aldermen who had requested that city workers be allowed to live in Leland Grove, Jerome, Southern View or Grandview if a residency rule were reinstated for new hires.


But Jobe says that’s not correct.


He opposes a residency requirement, but says he told McMenamin that he might consider a rule that allowed city workers to live anywhere in Sangamon County.


McMenamin is still trying to line up votes to pass his proposal.

Springfield/Sangamon County May Dodge Winter Weather Bullet

Springfield is right on the brink of a major winter weather event. For now, the forecast only calls for light snow in Springfield and Sangamon County, with one to two inches expected on Tuesday. But a much messier forecast is in store for neighboring communities.


Jacksonville is under a winter weather advisory and could see three to five inches… while Peoria is under a winter storm warning, with the possibility of four to eight inches. So far, no watches, warnings or advisories for Springfield… but that could change if the storm track shifts.


Stay with 970 WMAY for additional updates.

House Will Take Up Illinois Gun Laws Tuesday

There could be another showdown over guns in the Illinois House Tuesday.


House Speaker Mike Madigan will convene the House at noon Tuesday to consider legislation dealing with “gun safety and unlawful use of weapons.” Concealed carry legislation could be among the items discussed, and that has some gun rights advocates concerned.


The Illinois Carry forum is warning members that Madigan may be plotting to pass a, quote, “nightmarish” restrictive law intended to make it difficult for gun owners to carry their weapons.

Illinois Could See $100 Million Negative Economic Impact In Sequester

The White House is warning of serious consequences for Illinois if the federal budget “sequester” is allowed to take effect at the end of the week.


Numbers released by the White House say that the sequester would mean $33 million less for elementary and secondary education in Illinois this year.


There would also be millions less for employment, law enforcement and public health programs.


And the Obama administration says 14,000 civilian Department of Defense employees in Illinois would be laid off, with a total economic impact of more than $100 million dollars.

AFSCME To Talk Strike If Contract Negotiations Continue to Stall

If contract talks between Governor Pat Quinn and the largest state employees union don’t show any progress this week, AFSCME says it will start talking to its members about a possible strike.


Henry Bayer says his members are frustrated and angry about what they see as an unprecedented assault by the administration.


Quinn has said the state’s fiscal crisis requires everyone to sacrifice.


A walkout would involve most of the 40,000 state employees who belong to AFSCME, but would also raise the possibility that other unions might refuse to cross picket lines.

State's Backlog of Bills Could Triple In Next Five Years

Illinois could see its backlog bills triple over the next five years unless the state makes serious pension and budget reforms soon.


That’s according to the Civic Federation of Chicago, which predicts a $22 billion pile of bills by 2018 unless action is taken.


But that number is actually an improvement over earlier predictions.


Before Governor Pat Quinn approved Medicaid cuts last year, the five-year forecast was actually $35 billion.

Residency Issue Could Soon Be Back In Front of Springfield Aldermen

Requiring future City of Springfield employees to live in the city could be back on the agenda soon as Aldermen work out what the ordinance may look like.


Nearly three months after Springfield residents passed a referendum supporting some form of a residency requirement for future city employees, aldermen may soon discuss the measure, but they are waiting until after some union contracts are worked out before muddying up their negotiations.


Alderman Joe McMenamin, who pushed for last year’s referendum, says votes are also being lined up through a possible amendment allowing for residents of several other areas in and around Springfield to be eligible for employment.


There’s still no timeline on when a residency ordinance would be in front of aldermen.

Former Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Ann McMorrow Passes Away

Former Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Ann McMorrow has died.


McMorrow broke barriers throughout her career, starting when she was the only woman in her law school graduating class, and continuing into the 21st Century, when she became the first woman to head a branch of government in the state of Illinois.


McMorrow passed away Saturday after a brief illness. She was 83.

Illinois Lawmaker Introduces Drone Restriction Regulations

An Illinois lawmaker wants some rules spelled out on where and how law enforcement in the state can use unmanned drones.


Democratic State Senator Daniel Biss has introduced a bill that would prohibit police from using the drones unless they first obtain a search warrant.


It would also ban putting any weaponry on-board the unmanned aircraft, and would require that any information collected by the drone be destroyed unless it is part of an ongoing criminal investigation.


The Chicago Tribune reports at least two Illinois counties are considering the use of drones to assist with investigations.

Spielberg's Lincoln Takes Home Two Oscars

Despite a big Oscar-themed celebration at the Lincoln Presidential Museum Sunday, the actual Oscar ceremony was something of a disappointment for the creators and fans of the movie “Lincoln.”


Even though it had the most nominations, with 12, the Steven Spielberg film took home only two trophies.


But one was for star Daniel Day-Lewis, who won Best Actor for a role that he spent time in Springfield researching.


In another sign of the respect that Hollywood holds for Lincoln, Oscar host Seth McFarlane drew groans from the audience with a joke about Lincoln’s assassination, prompting him to respond: “150 years and it’s still too soon?”

Riverton's Allgaier Walks Away From Horrific Daytona Crash

Riverton racer Justin Allgaier is OK after getting tangled up in that massive crash during the Daytona Nationwide race Saturday. 


Nearly three dozen spectators in the stands were injured, several critically, from flying debris when more than a dozen cars collided on the last lap of the race. 


Allgaier was able to walk away, but was checked out by medical crews before being released.  Despite heavy damage to his vehicle, he was credited with a 7th-place finish.

Suspect In Armed Standoff Facing Weapons, Drug Charges

A Springfield man is facing multiple charges after holding police at bay for hours Saturday in his home at the south end of the city. 


The incident began when neighbors reported 37-year-old John Hatcher firing multiple shots into the air outside his home on South Park Avenue, south of Wabash, before daybreak.  When police arrived, Hatcher retreated into his home and eventually broke off communications. 


Police used explosive charges to gain entry, and Hatcher surrendered.  Hatcher is facing weapons and other charges related to the standoff.  Authorities say they recovered several firearms, including a Glock handgun and an AR-15 rifle.  He is also facing drug charges after police discovered evidence of a marijuana-growing operation in his home.

Fake Cop May Have Struck Again, This Time In Morgan County

That phony cop that allegedly struck twice last week in Sangamon County may be at it again. 


This time, Morgan County authorities say an 18-year-old woman reported that a vehicle with flashing lights tried to pull her over on a rural road Friday night. 


The woman did not stop, and the vehicle eventually turned around and went the other direction.  She could not provide a vehicle description.

Women's Self-Defense Class Offered In Response To Fake Cop Incidents

In response to the recent incidents involving a suspected predator posing as a cop, a local instructor will offer a free self-defense class for women. 


John Geyston's Martial Arts Academy on West Iles will hold the session on Wednesday, February 27th, from 6 until 8pm.  Law enforcement officials will also be on hand to offer advice on women can protect themselves from attack. 


Pre-registration is suggested but not required.  Call 718-4901 to reserve a spot.

Armed Standoff In Springfield Ends With Suspect In Custody, No One Hurt

A standoff with an armed man at the south end of Springfield has ended with the suspect in custody. 


The 37-year-old man surrendered after police used an explosive charge to blow the doors off his residence on South Park.  The incident began before daybreak on Saturdaywhen the man allegedly fired multiple rounds from a handgun and an AR-15 into the air outside his home.  Authorities tried to negotiate with him for several hours before deciding to go in after him. 


No one was hurt in the incident.

Republicans May Oust State Party Chair Over Same-Sex Marriage Support

Illinois Republican Party leaders will meet next month to discuss whether to dump party chairman Pat Brady over his stand in favor of same-sex marriage. 


Crain’s Chicago Business reports five committeemen… including Jerry Clarke, who represents part of the Springfield area… signed the petition calling for the meeting. 


Brady stands by his support of same-sex marriage, saying Republicans are the party of Lincoln and should stand against discrimination.

Springfield Students Score High On Outlook

Springfield public school students seem to have a better outlook about their present and their future than many of their peers around the country. That’s according to a Gallup survey that focused on fifth-through-12th graders in District 186.


Nearly 7,000 students locally took the survey, which measured their levels of “hope, well-being and engagement.” Overall, Springfield students scored higher than the national average, and four schools… Sandburg, Laketown, Owen Marsh, and Lindsay… were among the top 10-percent in the nation.


The numbers are seen as important because students who feel more secure and hopeful generally learn better, and are seen as more likely to succeed in school, and in life.

Several Illinois Cities On Forbes ''Most Miserable'' List

Springfield finds itself surrounded by a lot of misery. But the Capital City itself managed to avoid Forbes Magazine’s list of the 20 “Most Miserable Cities” in America.


Illinois is well represented on the list, though, with three cities in the Top Ten… Rockford at #3, Chicago at #4, and Lake County at #9. And traveling away from Northern Illinois won’t help either. St. Louis also makes the list at #12.


The list is based on many factors, from crime to unemployment to taxes to climate.

Full Appeals Court Rejects Madigan's Request For Rehearing On Concealed Carry Ruling

The full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has turned down Attorney General Lisa Madigan's request to reconsider an earlier ruling that found the state's ban on concealed carry to be unconstitutional.


That earlier ruling from a three-judge panel ordered the state to repeal its ban and replace it with a reasonable concealed carry law by June.  Madigan had asked the full 10-judge panel to review the case, but that request was rejected on a 5-4 vote; one justice did not participate in the discussion on the request for rehearing.


There was no immediate word on whether Madigan would attempt a further appeal of the ruling.

Springfield, Sangamon County End Snow Emergencies

The snow emergencies declared by Springfield and Sangamon County have both been lifted.  Springfield's declaration prevented cars from being parked on designated snow emergency routes, while the county's "Level 1" declaration merely served to remind drivers to use extra caution.


But by mid-morning, conditions had improved enough in both jurisdictions to warrant lifting the emergency declarations.

Springfield Area Digging Out Of Season's First Major Snow

Slick and snow-covered roads will continue to be a problem this morning after Springfield was hit with its biggest snowfall of the winter on Thursday.


Three to five inches of snow fell in the greater Springfield area, prompting both the city and Sangamon County to declare snow emergencies.


In Springfield, cars cannot be parked along designated snow emergency routes for a 72-hour period, ending Sunday evening.


While crews have worked to clear main roads, many side roads remain snow-covered and slick… and a light wintry mix is still possible through mid-morning today.


For a complete list of school closings, click here.

Aldermen To Form Working Group on Infrastructure Funding

Several Springfield aldermen say they will take the lead on trying to craft a plan to address the city’s infrastructure needs.


Mayor Mike Houston has been promising an infrastructure plan since he ran for the office two years ago, but said this week that he won’t roll out his plan because he can’t find enough support among aldermen to pass it.


Now Aldermen Cory Jobe, Doris Turner and Tim Griffin say they will seek input from government, businesses, labor unions, and the public at large to develop a plan that can pass.


But it’s unclear how they can fund an estimated multi-million dollar price tag, since a majority of aldermen say they won’t support any tax increase to pay for it.

Local Preservationist Going to Court To Save Robinson House

A Springfield historic preservationist will go to court today in an attempt to block the demolition of a local landmark.


Jerry Jacobson with Save Old Springfield says a demolition permit has been issued to the owner of the Robinson House at 1801 West Lawrence.


But Jacobson claims proper procedures were not followed for a home that had received a designation as a local landmark.


The Robinson House was built by descendants of Henson Robinson, founder of one of the oldest existing businesses in Springfield, and was designed by a prominent local architect, Clark Bullard.


The 1930 home is described as a rare local example of French Colonial Design.


Jacobson and the home’s former owner are asking a judge to order the city to suspend or revoke the demolition permit.

Man Charged With Drug-Induced Homicide

A Springfield man has been charged for his role in the death of a man whose body was found in a car at Southwind Park last October.


Prosecutors have charged 27-year-old Gary Clark with drug-induced homicide.


They believe Clark provided the heroin that led to the overdose death of Daniel Buehrle, whose body was discovered at the park just hours before a Halloween event there.


State’s Attorney John Milhiser tells the SJ-R that such a charge is unusual, but says it allows authorities to go after people who are peddling dangerous substances.


Clark could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

DirecTV and Sinclair's Channel 20 May End Relationship

Local DirecTV customers could lose access to Channel 20 programming by late next week.


WICS says the satellite provider will stop carrying its signal on March 1st, because of a dispute between DirecTV and the station’s parent company, Sinclair Broadcasting, over the money DirecTV should pay to retransmit Sinclair’s local signals.


The issue does not affect customers of DISH Network or cable companies.


A statement from Sinclair says it has been trying to negotiate the issue with DirecTV before next week’s deadline, but now believes those negotiations will not be successful.

Springfield, Sangamon County Declare Snow Emergencies

The winter storm that hit Springfield Thursday has prompted the city to declare a snow emergency.  The designation means that vehicles may not be parked on designated snow emergency routes for 72 hours, or until approximately 4:30pm Sunday afternoon.


Sangamon County has also declared a "Level 1" snow emergency, which merely serves as a reminder to motorists to use extreme caution when traveling on county roadways.


Stay with 970 WMAY and for updates on the storm, which is expected to drop 5 to 8 inches of snow on the listening area (with the heaviest amounts to the west of Springfield).

Public Survey Shows Opinion On Pensions

Illinois voters are reluctant to break promises on public sector pensions… but they’re even less eager to see their taxes go up to keep those promises.


A new survey from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University finds that a majority of those surveyed don’t want to see cost-of-living increases taken away from state retirees. Public opinion is largely divided on whether the retirement age should be raised, and on the issue of transferring teacher pension costs from the state to local school districts.


But voters are overwhelmingly opposed to making the state’s temporary income tax hike permanent to generate funds for pensions, and don’t want to see the state sales tax expanded to more products and services.

Preservationist Hopes To Save Local Landmark

A Springfield historic preservationist will go to court Friday in an attempt to block the demolition of a local landmark.


Jerry Jacobson with Save Old Springfield says a demolition permit has been issued to the owner of the Robinson House at 1801 West Lawrence. But Jacobson claims proper procedures were not followed for a home that had received a designation as a local landmark. The Robinson House was built by descendants of Henson Robinson, founder of one of the oldest existing businesses in Springfield, and was designed by a prominent local architect, Clark Bullard. The 1930 home is described as a rare local example of French Colonial Design.


Jacobson and the home’s former owner are asking a judge to order the city to suspend or revoke the demolition permit.

Dispute May Cause DirecTV To Drop Channel 20

Local DirecTV customers could lose access to Channel 20 programming by late next week.


WICS says the satellite provider will stop carrying its signal on March 1st, because of a dispute between DirecTV and the station’s parent company, Sinclair Broadcasting, over the money DirecTV should pay to retransmit Sinclair’s local signals. The issue does not affect customers of DISH Network or cable companies.


A statement from Sinclair says it has been trying to negotiate the issue with DirecTV before next week’s deadline, but now believes those negotiations will not be successful.

Police Want Public Help To Catch Fake Cop

Two Sangamon County deputies are still working full-time on trying to track down a predator posing as a cop. Undersheriff Jack Campbell says finding the man who has now attempted to pull over at least two women is a top priority for the office.


One victim wound up getting in the car with the man and was assaulted by him, but was able to escape after striking him. A second woman pulled over when she saw flashing light the man had placed in his car, but became suspicious and sped off when he approached her vehicle.


Campbell says if anyone sees the suspect vehicle… an older-model white sedan with a discolored hood… they should call 9-1-1 immediately.

Illinois May Allow "Fracking"

A deal may be in place that would allow “fracking” in Illinois. The term is shorthand for hydraulic fracturing, a process that uses high-pressure to crack underground rock formations and retrieve oil and gas from underneath it.


Supporters say there could be a rich supply of both in Southern Illinois, and allowing fracking could create thousands of jobs in that area. A coalition of lawmakers, business interests, and even environmentalists worked on compromise language on a “fracking” bill. However, another piece of legislation calls for a two-year moratorium on the practice, while scientists study its long-range effects.

ISP Says Travelling Hazardous Today

Illinois State Police are warning drivers to be very cautious with the winter storm now hitting Central Illinois. They say that if you must be out traveling this afternoon, slow down and leave plenty of room between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. And be sure that your headlights and taillights are on and cleared of snow. But they also recommend that you avoid travel today and tonight unless absolutely necessary.

Springfield Area Under Winter Weather Advisory This Afternoon

Springfield is under a winter weather advisory for later today and tonight.


The National Weather Service predicts one to two inches of snow… at times mixed with sleet… this afternoon, and another one to two inches tonight.


Road conditions are expected to be difficult during the drive home and in the evening and overnight hours.


Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on the developing weather situation.

Sangamon County Authorities: Cop Imposter Suspect Attempts Another Stop

The man who posed as a cop in order to pull over a teenage girl and assault her last weekend may be getting more brazen.


Sangamon County authorities say the man struck again early Wednesday… within two miles of the weekend incident.


And now he’s using a more authentic looking red-and-blue light, not the white one described by the victim in the first incident.


In the latest attempt, a woman told authorities that a man in a beat-up older white car used the light to pull her over… but as he approached the vehicle, she became suspicious and drove off.


She was unhurt.


Police are reminding drivers to use extreme caution, and are asking anyone with information about the case to contact the Sheriff’s Department at 753-6840.

Milton: Circumstances Did Not Permit Him to Stay in Springfield

The “mutual agreement” that will push Walter Milton out of his job as Springfield school superintendent may not have been all that mutual after all.


Milton told reporters Wednesday that he would have preferred to stay in Springfield, but circumstances did not permit that.


But both Milton and school board president Susan White still refuse to discuss what led to the deal to pay Milton $178,000 to leave his job, reportedly by March 31st.


And White also will not discuss any plans for finding an interim superintendent to take over after Milton leaves, or what will be done to ensure a successful transition.


But she insists the secrecy is not unusual, and is in fact typical of most personnel matters.

Peterson Could Get Sentenced Today, If Judge Denies Retrial Motion

Convicted killer Drew Peterson could be sentenced today, if his request for a new trial is rejected.


The judge in the case has listened to two days of testimony on Peterson’s claim that his right to a fair trial was violated because of errors by the lead defense attorney in the case.


That attorney, Joel Brodsky, denies the claim.


The judge says that he will rule today on Peterson’s request, and if a new trial is not granted, he will impose sentence.


Peterson could face up to 60 years for the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.


He remains a suspect in the disappearance of fourth wife Stacy Peterson.

Home Confined Ryan Spotted Dinning Out 30 Miles From Home

Home confinement doesn’t mean former Governor George Ryan is confined to his home.


Chicago TV stations report that Ryan was spotted dining out last weekend at a restaurant more than 30 miles from his Kankakee home, where Ryan is serving out the remainder of his sentence on federal corruption charges.


Ryan’s attorney, former Governor Jim Thompson, says Ryan is allowed several hours each weekend to leave home and socialize with friends, as long as he lets the Bureau of Prisons know in advance where he is going.

Fake Cop Strikes Again; Attempts To Pull Over Another Woman West Of Springfield

A man suspected of posing as a police officer and attempting to pull over female drivers in the early morning hours has reportedly struck again.


Sangamon County Undersheriff Jack Campbell says a woman reported being pulled over near Old Jacksonville and Farmingdale Roads early Wednesday morning.  But she immediately became suspicious of the man as he approached her car, and sped off.  The woman was uninjured.


Campbell says the description of the man's vehicle roughly matches the car used to pull over a teenage driver in the same general vicinity last weekend, but this time the man used a red-and-blue flashing light, instead of the white light used in the first attempt.  In the earlier case, the teen got into the man's car, where he inappropriately touched her before she hit him and escaped.


Police are again renewing their urgent warning to drivers to be careful, and to call 911 if they have any doubts about the authenticity of anyone attempting to pull them over.  If anyone has information about the case, they should call the sheriff's department at 753-6840.

Winter Storm Watch Details For Springfield Area

We haven’t had too many visits from Old Man Winter this year… but one is on the way. The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch for the 970 WMAY listening area from noon Thursday through late Thursday.


The Springfield area should get snow and sleet during the day Thursday, with accumulations of two-to-three inches… more to the north and west. That could change over to freezing rain Thursday night. Authorities say driving conditions could be very bad during the afternoon and evening hours.


Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on Thursday’s developing storm.

Springfield Alderman Angry At City Budget Director

Alderman Doris Turner says she’s not sure she can trust information coming from the city’s budget director. 


Turner is livid at budget director Bill McCarty’s revelation that a reduction in the city’s administrative fee for towing vehicles could blow a $250,000 hole in the city budget.  Turner sponsored the ordinance that cut the fee… but says McCarty never revealed the fiscal impact until after the measure was approved Tuesday night. 


Now some aldermen are having second thoughts, and Mayor Mike Houston says he may veto the bill.  Turner says she’s skeptical of McCarty’s claim, and questions the reliability of his numbers. McCarty stands by the estimate, but concedes that he could have reached out to aldermen sooner.

School Board President Defends Confidential Nature Of Milton Severance Talks

The president of the Springfield school board still won't talk about the deal to get Superintendent Walter Milton out of town, but insists there's nothing unusual about the backroom negotiations.


Susan White says personnel matters are always handled behind closed doors, and aren't disclosed until there's a vote on them... which hasn't happened yet with Milton's severance agreement. 


Until that vote is taken, White says she remains bound by a confidentiality agreement that prohibits her from discussing details of Milton's departure or the transition to new leadership... even though many of those details are contained in documents released this week by the school board's attorney.

Public Help Sought For Fight Against Truancy

Local officials hope public awareness and involvement will reduce the amount of truancy in Springfield schools... especially since many anti-truancy services have been scaled back in recent years.


District 186 will eliminate the job of a truancy intervention specialist as a result of budget cuts.  And the Regional Office of Education says it only has three caseworkers to keep an eye on all of Sangamon County. 


So those educators hope a new public relations effort by the Faith Coalition for the Common Good will remind students... and parents... of the importance of kids being "in school and on time."  The group plans to reinforce that message through yard signs, T-shirts, buttons and more.

Supt. Milton To Get Six Figure Buy Out and Recommendation Letter

Springfield school superintendent Walter Milton will get a six-figure buyout of his contract in exchange for him leaving his job by the end of March.


A separation agreement between Milton and the school board, obtained by the State Journal-Register, calls for the district to pay Milton $177,000… along with possible additional expenses for health benefits if Milton doesn’t find another job right away.


The agreement also spells out the language of a recommendation letter that the board agreed to provide to prospective future employers on Milton’s behalf… and calls for a letter from board president Susan White to be removed from Milton’s personnel file.


Board members still refuse to comment on the reasons for engineering Milton’s exit by March 31st, and have not disclosed who will take over as interim superintendent for the rest of the school year.

Stratton Resigns From Park District Amid Questionable Transactions

Mike Stratton has submitted his resignation as executive director of the Springfield Park District.


Stratton’s days were numbered after board members began scrutinizing payments of park district funds that he authorized to himself.


Stratton described the money as salary advances and said there was nothing improper about the payments, but the board says the money was unauthorized.


An audit is planned to determine if there were additional payments that need to be reimbursed.

Tow Fee Decrease Passes, May Be Reconsidered

Some Springfield aldermen are already having second thoughts about their vote to cut the city’s towing fee in half.


Aldermen voted nine-to-one to cut the fee to retrieve an impounded car from $500 to $250… only to learn after the fact that the move could reduce city revenue for the coming fiscal year by $250,000.


Alderman Frank Lesko now says he may seek a revote on the issue.


Houston Looking for Five Votes To Pass Infrastructure Plan

We’ve been waiting almost two years for Mayor Mike Houston’s infrastructure funding plan… and it looks like we’ll be waiting a while longer.


Houston says he doesn’t plan to bring a plan forward until he has enough support on the city council to pass it… and right now, Houston says he doesn’t have the five votes needed for approval.


Houston had previously indicated that he planned to pursue some combination of hikes in sewer fees and the city’s sales tax in order to pay for tens of millions of dollars in needed improvements.

City Passes Budget, Votes Down Headcount Cap

In other city council news, aldermen have approved the new city budget on a vote of nine-to-one.


Only Alderman Joe McMenamin voted against it.


And Mayor Mike Houston has killed McMenamin’s ordinance to cap the number of employees at City Hall.


Aldermen split five-to-five on the ordinance, and Houston voted “present,” keeping it from getting the sixth vote needed for passage.

Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss in Conceal Carry Case

A Sangamon County judge has refused to throw out the case against a man charged with carrying a concealed weapon… despite a federal appeals court ruling that the state’s ban on concealed carry is unconstitutional.


Defense lawyers for Donnell Jackson argue that he should not be prosecuted under a law that the state has been ordered to repeal.


But prosecutors say the law was valid and enforceable when Jackson was arrested… and remains so now… and say the case should proceed.


Judge Leslie Graves set Jackson’s trial for June 17th… just days after the court deadline set for Illinois to repeal its ban.

Public Hearing on Possible Carry Law Held In Illinois House Committee

A public hearing in Springfield Tuesday on gun legislation has focused heavily on what form a new concealed carry law should take.


Gun rights organizations are pushing for language that says the state “shall issue” concealed carry permits to issues who meet the qualifications.


Gun control groups want the language to read “may issue,” which would give the state or local law enforcement more latitude to reject permit requests, even if someone passes a background check.

Aldermen Approve Tow Fee Decrease, Mayor May Not Sign

The fine that Springfield charges owners of vehicles towed after being pulled over in suspect of a crime has been cut in half for the first offense ... but it might not take effect.


Originally the fine was $500 for the first time, something critics said is causing people to abandoned their cars. The amended ordinance makes the fine $250 for the first time and $500 for the second and subsequent times.


Mayor Mike Houston says that 85 percent of the vehicles towed when someone was pulled over for DUI, Driving While License Suspended or Revoked between September 2010 and November of 2012. Thirteen vehicles were towed for violating the city's sound ordinance.


Budget Director Bill McCarty says if the ordinance takes effect it will put a nearly quarter million dollar whole in the budget for the police department.


Houston says he may not sign the ordinance.  He says that the $500 fine is meant to be a deterent.


As for an ordinance that would cap the number of non-seasonal employees at 1500, aldermen failed to receive a majority vote as Mayor Mike Houston voted present. If passed, the ordinance would have required city council approval of any hires above and beyond 1500.


Supporters said the ordinance would have kept city hall honest and could ultimately lock in more than a million dollars of savings per year. Opponents said they don't think aldermen should be able to tie the hands of the mayor when it comes to hiring.


Meanwhile, aldermen passed an ordinance that would give an additional $1 million to the funds for fire and police pensions. But, several aldermen expressed concern at passing that amount because of the looming infrastructure needs. Eventually, aldermen passed the additional funds with a vote of 9-1.


On the consent agenda, aldermen approved the budget for Fiscal Year 2014 on the consent agenda. The budget comes in just over three percent over last year at $114.7 million. Aldermen also approved a motion that would take a land owner to court using eminent domain. The city wants to use the land owned by CONTECH to extend 11th Street southward.

Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss in Concealed Carry Case, Trial Set For Mid June

A trial date has been set for a man accused of violating Illinois' ban on concealed carry, even after that ban was ruled unconstitutional by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.


Donnell Jackson was arrested in December 2011 with a handgun hidden in his sweatshirt.


A year later, the circuit court found the law Jackson is charged with unconstitutional and gave Illinois 180 days to craft a new law that allows for some kind of carry.


Jackson's defense attorney's motion to dismiss the charges based on the circuit ruling was denied by Sangamon County Judge Leslie Graves.


Defense attorney Dan Noll said the law was unconstitutional when his client was arrested is unconstitutional now and will be unconstitutional in the future.


Sangamon County State's Attorney John Milhiser says the law is still on the books and until the Illinois General Assembly passes some form of carry his office will prosecute.


Jackson was not charged with violating any other law and had a valid FOID card at the time of his arrest.


A trial date has been set for June 17th, just days after the mandate from the 7th Circuit Court lifts Illinois' ban on concealed carry.

Gun Groups Hammer Out Language With Legislators

Illinois is under a court order to allow for some kind of carry law, and in order to comply, the Illinois General Assembly is hearing from gun control advocates and gun rights groups on what kind of law should be crafted.


During a committee hearing Tuesday, gun rights groups say that the state should pass a concealed carry law that states "shall issue," while gun control groups want the state to craft a law that states "may issue."


Lawmakers are under a court order by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to pass a carry law by June 9th. Attorney General Lisa Madigan is appealing the ruling, but it's unclear when that will be heard.

African-American Leaders See Racism In Board's Treatment Of Milton

A Springfield alderman and other black leaders say racism is at the heart of the events that led to School Superintendent Walter Milton’s imminent departure from District 186. 


Alderman Gail Simpson accuses the majority of the board of marginalizing and publicly belittling Milton, and says there is no other way to view the situation than to conclude that racism is involved.  She says the board is trying to take the District back to the 1960s – when Springfield schools were largely segregated, and schools in poor and minority areas were significantly worse than in other parts of town. 


Board president Susan White has said in the past that racism is not in any way a factor in the board’s relationship with Milton, but refuses to discuss the reasons behind the plans to part company with him.

School Board Rejects More Athletics Cuts For Now

The Springfield school board has rejected the idea of making additional cuts to middle or high school athletics… but one board member says they’re only delaying the inevitable. 


The athletics budget is being cut by 15% for the next school year, a reduction of around $110,000.  Director of school support Robert Schurman pleaded with the board not to make any additional cuts. 


Board member Bill Looby says he is now dropping the idea of looking for additional savings from athletics for next year… but says with the district facing another multi-million-dollar deficit a year from now, further cuts to sports will be unavoidable.

Sherifrf's Office Releases More Info On Suspected Predator

The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office is intensifying its efforts to find the alleged predator who posed as a cop and assaulted a teenage girl over the weekend… before he strikes again. 


The department has put out a more detailed description of the suspect vehicle… an older-model white four-door with a hood that is a different shade than the rest of the vehicle.  The vehicle also has “slider-type” heater controls, another sign that it’s an older car. 


Undersheriff Jack Campbell is asking that anyone who may have been accosted by the man, but was too embarrassed to say anything to please come forward.  He says anyone with information on the case should call the Sheriff’s Department at 753-6840 as soon as possible.

Milton To Leave School Board Under Mutual Agreement, Secret Deal Not Being Disclosed

After weeks of rumors and speculation, Springfield School Superintendent Walter Milton confirms that he will be leaving his job… by “mutual agreement” with the school board.


Milton says he has had fundamental policy differences with the board in recent months… culminating with this month’s four-to-three vote to close the Capital College Preparatory Academy.


Milton’s agreement to leave is contained in a confidential document signed by both Milton and school board representatives… a document that has not been voted on publicly.


And many details are still being withheld, including when Milton is leaving, who will take over, and why such a secret agreement was needed in the first place.

Alderman Simpson Blasts School Board on Milton Departure, CCPA Closure

The imminent departure of Superintendent Walter Milton… and budget cuts that hit low-income and at-risk students… have drawn a harsh reaction from Springfield alderman Gail Simpson.


For the second time in three months, Simpson has blasted the school board for its actions, suggesting board members just don’t care about certain segments of the community.


She calls the ouster of Milton a sad day for Springfield… and says the closure of the college preparatory academy and two other schools are… quote… an indelible stain on the community.

Police Still Looking for Police-Imposter Accused of Assaulting Teenager

Authorities are still searching for a man they say posed as a cop to trick a teenage girl into pulling over.


The 16-year-old girl told police that the man told her to sit in his car... where he touched her inappropriately. She punched the man and fled.


The suspect is described as a white male, around 50, between five-foot-ten and six-feet tall, with salt-and-pepper hair and thick glasses.


Police say that if you have doubts when being pulled over, it’s OK to call 911 before stopping, just to verify that the person behind you really is a police officer.

Illinois House Committee To Hold Public Hearing on Guns Today

Supporters of gun rights and gun control will be on hand for today’s public hearing in an Illinois House committee on various bills related to firearms.


That noon hour hearing is expected to touch on everything from a concealed-carry law to a proposed assault weapons ban.


Sheriff Neil Williamson will be watching the hearing closely… he says he hopes the Sheriffs Association stand against an assault weapons ban last week will help steer lawmakers toward a more sensible policy.

Despite Uptick in Prison Assaults, Quinn Defends Tamms Closure

Governor Pat Quinn defends his decision to close some Illinois prisons… despite concerns about overcrowding and an uptick in violent assaults inside prison walls.


The union representing prison guards say the problems have gotten worse since Quinn closed the Tamms supermax prison, moving some of the state’s most dangerous inmates to other facilities.


But Quinn says there were lots of problems at Tamms… and contends the state is better off because he closed it.


Quinn also says overcrowding problems will be alleviated by an early-release program the Department of Corrections plans to implement later this year.

Radogno's Tan Ban for Minors Draw Criticism From Conservative Activists

Some conservatives are angry at Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno for sponsoring a bill to impose a statewide ban on indoor tanning by anyone under the age of 18.


The bill is similar to the local teen tanning ban approved by Springfield aldermen last year.


Conservative activists say the bill puts a state mandate ahead of a parent’s right to make decisions for their own teens.


In addition to Radogno’s Senate bill, a tan ban is also the subject of a House bill co-sponsored by Springfield Republican Raymond Poe.

Milton Confirms Departure, Cites ''Policy Disagreements'' With School Board

Springfield School Superintendent Walter Milton has confirmed that he will leave the district, a decision that he says was made by mutual agreement with the school board.


In a statement read during Monday night's school board meeting, Milton says the decision to leave was prompted by fundamental differences in policy, particularly the board's decision to close the Capital College Preparatory Academy, a school concept pushed by Milton and one which he says was making strides in closing the district's achievement gap.


Milton says when it became clear that he and the board were not on the same page, he sought to "clarify" his employment status by asking for a contract extension, but the request was denied.  Milton says he does not question the integrity of any board member, and believes they were acting in what they perceived to be the best interest of students.


Milton continues to pursue other employment, and is a contender for the top schools job in Little Rock, Arkansas.  There was no immediate word on who would take over for Milton in the short term, or on the details of a search for a permanent replacement.

Simpson Rips Milton Departure, CCPA Closure

Springfield alderman Gail Simpson has renewed her harsh criticism of the Springfield school board over the decision to part company with Superintendent Walter Milton and to enact cuts that she says disproportionately affect low-income and at-risk students.


Simpson was also part of a group last fall that suggested the board's treatment of Milton had racist overtones.  She says Milton's departure and cuts like the elimination of the Capital College Preparatory Academy are an "indelible stain" on the community.


Simpson, who describes herself as "unashamedly black," says the board's actions divide the community, and result in a situaton where "those who have, get more, and those who have not, get left behind."  She vowed that board members who supported those cuts could pay a political price in the April school board elections.

School Board Rejects Further Cuts To Athletics

Faced with an ongoing deficit, even after millions of dollars in budget cuts, a Springfield school board member has proposed cutting more deeply into the district's athletic budget.  But Bill Looby dropped the idea after a majority of the board made it clear that they would not consider any additional cuts.


Athletics are already being cut by about 15% for next school year, a reduction of around $110,000.  But Looby says at a time when entire schools are being closed, and with millons of dollars in cuts still looming in future years, the board must consider deeper cuts, at least at the middle school level.


But other board members adamantly rejected the idea, saying that sports are too important as a way to motivate some young people to stay academically eligible.  Looby said he would not pursue it further, but warned that the board will have no choice but to revisit the issue when it tackles the budget for the school year starting in the fall of 2014.

School Board Member To Seek Revote On College Prep Academy Closure

A Springfield school board member says he will seek another vote on the decision to eliminate the Capital College Preparatory Academy.


Bill Looby says he believes the projected savings of the closure has been overestimated.  The school board voted 4-3 earlier this month to close the school, which is housed in the Feitshans building, in order to save $1.7 million.  But district financial officials say that roughly $400,000-500,000 of that savings will have to be spent to rehire teachers to accommodate the move of students into other middle schools.


Looby says that in light of the revised numbers, he wants the board to reconsider the closure at its next meeting.  But board member Candace Mueller disputes the premise, saying she was aware of the real impact of the cuts when she cast her vote in support of closing CCPA.  And there was no immediate indication that any of the four board members who supported the closure planned to change their vote.

Fake Cop Attempts To Assault Local Teen

Sangamon County detectives are searching for a man who allegedly assaulted a teenage girl after posing as a police officer and pulling over her vehicle. The incident happened on Old Jacksonville Road early Sunday morning.


The teen told police that a car was stopped on the side of the road as she drove past. The driver of that car then turned on a rotating white light. Thinking he was a police officer, she pulled over. The phony cop eventually had the girl sit with him in his car, where he touched her inappropriately. The girl hit the suspect and fled… the man did not pursue her. The suspect is around 50 years old, five-foot-ten to six-feet-tall, with a thin build.


Authorities remind drivers that police cars have red or blue flashing lights… and say that when in doubt, it is OK to call 911 to verify that an actual police officer is the person pulling you over.

Sheriffs' Association: "Don't Ban Assault Weapons"

A public hearing Tuesday at the state capital on guns will come with it a message form the Illinois Sheriff's Association, and that message is "don't ban assault weapons." Just days before the hearing called by House Speaker Mike Madigan, 65 sheriff's from across Illinois signed on to a proclamation that opposes a ban on assault weapons.


Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson says that the proclamation opposes a ban states that sheriff's would only enforce such a ban if it was upheld by the US Supreme Court. Williamson says that guns are a more divisive issue than taxes, gay marriage or abortion.

Sen Durbin Takes Taxpayer Funded Trip To Middle East, Africa

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is off on a weeklong trip to the Middle East and Africa. Durbin’s office says the taxpayer-funded trip is part of the Illinois Democrat’s role as the new chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. He will travel to Bahrain, Djibouti (jih-BOO’-tee), and Uganda.


Durbin’s trip will focus on issues related to military readiness, counter-terrorism and counter-piracy efforts, and humanitarian causes. The senator says he will also examine how deep spending cuts would affect those missions if the looming federal “sequester” takes effect as scheduled March 1st.

Top Republican Supports Statewide Tanning Ban For Minors

A top lawmaker has signed on to the effort to ban indoor tanning by anyone under the age of 18 in Illinois. 


Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno is the sponsor of a Senate bill that would prohibit indoor tanning by minors, even those who have parental permission.  The legislation is similar to a House bill co-sponsored by local Republican Raymond Poe. 


Springfield is already under a tanning ban after the City Council approved Alderman Sam Cahnman’s ordinance last year.

Former Wardens Warn of Trouble From Overcrowded Prisons

Some former Illinois prison wardens are warning of trouble ahead from the state’s decision to move more dangerous inmates into segregation units at less secure prisons.


The move has become necessary because of increased prison overcrowding following the closure of the Tamms supermax prison.


But the former wardens say putting higher-security inmates into lower-security prisons… even in secure segregation units… could pose a danger to staffers who are not used to dealing with those more dangerous prisoners.


The wardens are also concerned about plans to house some inmates in prison gymnasiums temporarily because of lack of cell space.

President's day Holiday Sees Many Closings, Springfield City Hall and Public Schools Open

Today is Presidents Day.


County, state and federal offices are closed today, and there is no mail delivery.


But City of Springfield offices are open, and so are Springfield public schools.

School Board Candidate Says District's Future Should Be Up To New Board

A Springfield school board candidate says any decision about the future leadership of District 186 should not be made until after the new board is seated.


Katharine Eastvold is critical of the school board for its secrecy about Superintendent Walter Milton’s fate, after revelations that some sort of confidentiality agreement between Milton and the board was drafted.


The board’s attorney has refused to disclose the nature of that agreement, saying it’s only been signed by one side so far.


Eastvold says the board should come clean about Milton’s status… but also says decisions about a possible change at the top should not be made by “lame duck” board members.

Cubs Could Sever Ties With WGN

It’s a relationship that dates back to the 1940s, but the Chicago Cubs could soon end their ties with WGN television.


The team is expected to offer up its local broadcast rights to other stations when its current WGN deal expires in 2014, and analysts predict the team’s games could go to another station… for much more money.


For decades, the Cubs and WGN were both owned by the Tribune Company, but now that the Ricketts family owns the Cubs, the long-standing deal with WGN could come to an end.

Valentines Dinner Ends With Tongue Being Bitten Off

Here’s a sure sign of a bad Valentine’s Day date… it ended when a Chicago woman bit off part of her boyfriend’s tongue.


Police say the couple, who had been dating for 10 months, got into an argument during their Valentine’s dinner.


At the end of the night, they say the man tried to kiss and make up, but his girlfriend instead bit off a chunk of his tongue.


Doctors were unable to reattach the severed section.


51-year-old Elaine Cook is charged with felony aggravated domestic battery.

Teen Escapes After Being Pulled Over By Phony ''Cop''

Sangamon County detectives are searching for a man who allegedly assaulted a teenage girl after posing as a police officer and pulling over her vehicle. 


The incident happened on Old Jacksonville Road early Sunday morning.  The teen told police that a car was stopped on the side of the road as she drove past.  The driver of that car then turned on a rotating white light.  Thinking he was a police officer, she pulled over. 


The phony cop eventually had the girl sit with him in his car, where he touched her inappropriately.  The girl hit the suspect and fled… the man did not pursue her. 


The suspect is around 50 years old, five-foot-ten to six-feet-tall, with a thin build. 


Authorities remind drivers that police cars have red or blue flashing lights… and say that when in doubt, it is OK to call 911 to verify that an actual police officer is the person pulling you over.

Gas Prices Set February Record

This won’t surprise anyone who’s stopped at a gas pump in the last couple of days… but gas prices are at their highest level ever for this time of year, according to AAA Chicago. 


The organization blames recent price spikes on the price of crude oil, as well as on refinery problems in the Midwest.

Milton, School Board Won't Divulge Terms Of Confidentiality Agreement

The mystery continues about some kind of apparent agreement between Springfield school superintendent Walter Milton and the school board. 


The board’s attorney confirmed the existence of a draft agreement of some nature between the parties, but told the State Journal-Register that it did not have to be disclosed because it had only been signed by one side. 


Milton and the board have in recent weeks refused to discuss his job status or whether there is some effort to force Milton out before his contract expires next year.

Scherer Pay Hikes Sweetened Pension Before Retirement

Even as lawmakers debate the state’s pension crisis, a local representative saw her own teacher’s pension sweetened through a series of pay raises over the last three years. 


The pay hikes Democrat Sue Scherer received prior to retirement were spelled out in the contract she worked under in the Maroa-Forsyth schools. 


She tells the State Journal-Register that she does not believe the cost of teacher pensions should be shifted from the state back to local districts.

Feds Order Springfield To Fix Sewer Problems

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the City of Springfield to take action to stop the frequent sewer backups that regularly occur after heavy rains. 


City officials tell the State Journal-Register that the order will require the city to do more preventive maintenance on sewers and to invest more money in upgrades.  But it’s unclear how much more the city will be required to spend on sewers, on top of its other infrastructure needs.

Jesse Jackson Jr., Wife To Plead Guilty; Charges Stem From Misuse Of Campaign Funds

Former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. could become the next prominent Illinois politician to do jail time for political corruption. 


Jackson is charged with misusing $750,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses… including the purchase of furs and celebrity memorabilia. 


Jackson’s wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of filing false tax returns.

Local Lawmaker Opposes Delay In Quinn Budget

Governor Pat Quinn will deliver his budget to lawmakers next month… two weeks after the deadline set up in state law.  Lawmakers recently approved legislation to grant Quinn the extension.  But local Democratic state senator Andy Manar voted against it. 


Manar tells 970 WMAY that Quinn had a year to meet the deadline… and says the state’ budget issues are too important to push them back, even by a couple of weeks.


Quinn will deliver his budget address on Wednesday, March 6th.  970 WMAY will carry the speech live from the Capitol.

Defense, Prosecutors File Motions In Beason Murder Case

Prosecutors and defense lawyers are filing a flurry of motions in the case of brothers Christopher and Jason Harris… accused of killing five members of a Beason family in 2009. 


Defense lawyers want the jury to travel to the crime scene where Rick and Ruth Gee and three children were killed.  Prosecutors want to introduce evidence that the brothers consumed drugs and alcohol before the killings. 


A hearing on all the motions will be held next month.

Drug Agents Mistake Syrup Operation For Meth Lab

A southern Illinois farm with its own homemade syrup operation has drawn the attention of investigators… who mistook the syrup equipment for a meth lab. 


Drug agents showed up at the farm near Anna, saying they were responding to a complaint.  But after determining the equipment was being used to collect and cook sap, the agents left… with some bottles of syrup given to them as a gift.

Park District Attorney Looking At ''Operational Irregularities''; Exec Director Remains On Leave

The attorney for the Springfield Park District is now involved in the investigation of executive director Mike Stratton. 


Stratton is on an unpaid leave, at his own request, after the park board raised questions about several job-related issues, including payments issued to Stratton outside of his normal paycheck.  


Board president Leslie Sgro says in a statement that she cannot make any further comment about Stratton or his job status, but says the board will take whatever action is necessary to protect district resources when, quote, “operational irregularities” are found. 


As 970 WMAY News was the first to report, recreation director Derek Harms has been named as Acting Executive Director.

Same-Sex Marriage Passes Illinois Senate on Valentines Day

The futures of countless gay and lesbian couples in Illinois will now be decided by the Illinois House.


The state Senate voted on Valentine’s Day to give those couples the right to marry.


Among those supporting the bill in the Senate was local Democratic state senator Andy Manar, who says he supported it after ensuring that it would protect religious liberty.


The historic vote sends the bill to the House.


If it passes there, Governor Pat Quinn is certain to sign it, making Illinois the tenth state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage.

Springfield Park District Appoints Acting Executive Director

There's a new person in charge at the Springfield Park District, at least for the moment.


Park District employees have received a memo stating that the district's director of recreation, Derik Harms, has been named Acting Executive Director of the park district.


Harms is handling things while the park board decides the fate of Executive Director Mike Stratton, who is on unpaid leave.


Stratton is under scrutiny after receiving more than $2,000 in "salary advances" from the District.


Stratton says that's an acceptable practice and that he did nothing wrong, but requested that he be placed on leave until the board completes its investigation.

County Citizens Efficiency Commission Expires Later This Year

The clock is running for Sangamon County’s Citizens Efficiency Commission, but the chairman is promising that the group will tackle the major issues that it was set up to consider.


The commission was formed by referendum in 2010 to look at ways that units of local government could save money by combining operations.


For many, that meant looking at possible mergers of similar agencies… such as city police and the county sheriff’s office.


Commission chair Karen Hasara says that issue will be addressed before the commission’s charter runs out in November.


Listen to Hasara on The Jim Leach Show.

Lt. Gov. Simon Still Confident in Gov. Quinn

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon insists that her decision not to seek re-election does not indicate a lack of confidence in Governor Pat Quinn’s chances for next year.


Simon says she told Quinn back in December that she would not rejoin him on the ticket in 2014… but only announced her decision publicly this week.


Appearing live on 970 WMAY, she says that the decision was based solely on her desire to find a position that would allow her to more effectively serve the people of Illinois.


She hasn’t said yet what position she will seek next year.

Hillsboro Schools Move to Eliminate Assistant Supt. Job in Cost Cutting Move

An area school superintendent has proposed demoting himself and cutting his own pay to help alleviate his district’s $1 million deficit for next year.


The State Journal-Register reports Hillsboro superintendent David Powell would step down as superintendent and return to the classroom at a lower rate of pay.


The assistant superintendent would become superintendent, and his current position would be eliminated.


The moves would save nearly a quarter-million dollars and would be added to another million dollars in cuts elsewhere in the Hillsboro schools budget.

Illinois Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Illinois is halfway to becoming the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage. 


That bill cleared the Illinois Senate on a Valentine's Day vote of 34-to-21.  It's the farthest a same-sex marriage bill has ever gotten in the General Assembly. 


The measure now moves to the House, and if it passes there, Governor Pat Quinn has vowed to sign it. 


Supporters say the time has come to extend full marriage rights to all couples, but opponents say the bill would force religious people to accept relationships they consider sinful and sacrilegious.

New Man At The Helm Of Springfield Park District

There's a new person in charge at the Springfield Park District, at least for the moment. Park District employees have received a memo stating that the district's director of recreation, Derik Harms, has been named Acting Executive Director of the park district.


Harms is handling things while the park board decides the fate of Executive Director Mike Stratton, who is on unpaid leave. Stratton is under scrutiny after receiving more than $2,000 in "salary advances" from the District. Stratton says that's an acceptable practice and that he did nothing wrong, but requested that he be placed on leave until the board completes its investigation.

CEC Chair Hasara Says The Commission Is Just Getting Started

The commission set up to look at consolidation of some local government functions says it is not shying away from some potentially controversial ideas, like merging Springfield police and the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department. But Citizens Efficiency Commission chair Karen Hasara says the process of looking at some of those big issues is just starting.


Hasara says the commission has been surprised at how long it has taken to research its ideas for consolidation of services, but says that time is necessary to ensure that any changes really will be more efficient and will save money. The commission is scheduled to end its work by November.

Lt. Gov. Simon Explains Decision Not To Run For Lt. Gov. Again

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon says her decision not to run for re-election is a reflection of her personal ambition and career interests... not an indication that she thinks it would be a bad idea to run with Governor Pat Quinn next year. Simon announced Wednesday that she plans to run for a different office in 2014 rather than again serving as Quinn's running mate.


Appearing live on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show," Simon says that she feels like she has accomplished some things as lieutenant governor, but believes she could do more in another office, even though she hasn't publicly decided on what office to seek. But Simon says that was the only basis for her decision, and insists it was not affected by Quinn's political prospects.

Park Board Director On Unpaid Leave After Questionable Pay Advances

The head of the Springfield Park District is on unpaid leave… as the park board continues to examine hundreds of dollars he received in what is described as “salary advances.”


Mike Stratton requested the leave of absence as the board met behind closed doors to discuss his fate.


Stratton tells the State Journal-Register that he doesn’t feel that he did anything wrong, and says Park District employees are allowed to receive advances on their salary, which must be repaid.


Some board members have questioned who authorized the $2,100 payment in January to Stratton… who makes $95,000 a year.

Illinois Senate To Take Valentines Day Vote On Gay Marriage

Today is Valentine’s Day… and the symbolism will be thick as the Illinois Senate takes a vote on whether to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.


The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Senator Heather Steans says she has the 30 votes needed for passage.


The bill’s future is less certain in the Illinois House. And opponents are continuing to urge defeat of the bill.


Springfield’s Catholic bishop Thomas John Paprocki tells lawmakers the bill will weaken the institution of marriage.

City Council Split on Headcount Cap, Decide on Debate and Consent Agenda

The Springfield City Council appears split down the middle on a proposal to cap the number of employees on the city payroll.


Ward 7 Alderman Joe McMenamin wants to limit the number to no more than 1,500… saying it’s necessary to keep city expenses under control.


Mayor Mike Houston has said the ordinance is not needed because he has already cut headcount below that level.


The measure will go on the Council’s debate agenda next week, along with a revised proposal to reduce the fine that the city charges for towing a vehicle.


An ordinance giving FEMA over $700,000 dollars in money they claim the city owes from storm relief was put on the consent agenda.


The utility's financial officer Craig Burns says that FEMA discounted the amount and the city has exhausted all other options.


If the city does not pay the money back, Burns says FEMA would go after IEMA who would then come back to the city for the money.


Aldermen also placed an ordinance on the consent agenda granting the corporation council to proceed in an eminent domain case to acquire property that would extend 11th street southward.


Aldermen will meet again for the full city council Tuesday.

Lt. Gov. Simon Won't Seek Lt. Gov. Seat

Sheila Simon says she wants to serve the public… and thinks there must be better ways to do that than being lieutenant governor.


Simon has announced that she will not seek re-election next year as Governor Pat Quinn’s running mate.


Instead, Simon is likely to seek another office in 2014, but hasn’t said which one she is likely to pursue.


Quinn plans to run for another term next year… there’s no word yet on who might be picked to join his ticket.


Simon will appear live this morning just after 8am on the “Jim Leach Show” here on 970 WMAY.

Citizens Efficiency Commission Says There's More Work To Do

While most local governmental bodies want to be efficient with taxpayer dollars, they have no real processes to make sure that’s happening.


That’s the conclusion of Sangamon County’s Citizens Efficiency Commission, which has been studying ways to reduce duplication and save money.


The commission is urging governmental bodies to start setting up procedures for periodic reviews of their operations, to ensure best practices.


The commission is marking one year in operation by noting its accomplishments so far, but also acknowledging that it has plenty more work to do.

Former Sheriff's Deputy Acquitted of Stealing Planters

A former Sangamon County deputy has been acquitted of charges that she stole two planters from a park in Sherman.


Sherry Waldron acknowledged taking the planters, but testified that she thought they had been abandoned there by someone.


The planters were not marked as Sherman village property.


Waldron was fired last year from her job with the sheriff’s department, but will now reportedly try to get her old job back.

Sheila Simon Won't Seek Another Term As Lieutenant Governor

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon wants a different job.  Simon has announced that she plans to run for something in 2014… but will not be Governor Pat Quinn’s running mate. 


Simon says she remains committed to public service, but wants to find a job where she can play a more effective role. 


Simon hasn’t indicated yet what office she might seek in next year’s election.

Police Investigate Body Discovered On Porch Of North End Home

No foul play is suspected in the death of a man found on the porch of a home on Springfield's north end.


The 31-year-old male was discovered on a couch on the porch of a home in the 2100 block of North 11th Street, shortly before 8:00 Wednesday morning.  While authorities could not immediately say what caused his death, they say there was no indication of homicide.  


Springfield police and the Sangamon County Coroner's Office continue to investigate.

Rescheduled Council Meeting And Public Hearing on Budget Tonight

Springfield aldermen will decide what to do with several ordinances in the coming weeks that could impact the city’s workforce and increase contributions to police and fire pensions.


Aldermen meeting with the Council Committee of the Whole tonight will discuss whether to put a cap of 1,500 full-time employees hired by city hall. 


Mayor Mike Houston says that's not necessary as his administration has significantly reduced the city's headcount, but ordinance sponsor Joe McMenamin says it's intended for future administrations.


Aldermen will also discuss putting an additional $1 million dollars more into the pension fund for the city’s first responders.


Other ordinances up for discussion includes taking action on an eminent domain case, and a proposed reduction of the city’s tow fee.


There’s a proposal in front of aldermen to use eminent domain in the courts to get land owned by CONTECH for a southbound extension of 11th Street.


There’s also an ordinance on the agenda to cut the city’s tow fee in half from $500 to $250.


Springfield Aldermen will also open up a public hearing tonight for the proposed budget that takes effect March 1st.

Durbin and Davis React to State of the Union

It’s not surprising that Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin found President Obama’s State of the Union speech to be one of the best he’s ever heard.


It might be surprising that Republican Congressman Rodney Davis also found plenty to like in the speech.


Davis says he appreciated the President’s focus on manufacturing and energy independence… and that Obama struck a more cooperative tone.


Davis and Obama shared some face time when Obama stopped to talk to him on his way out of the House chamber.


The two discussed their common ties to Springfield, as well as Davis’s hometown of Taylorville.

Illinois Sheriffs: Weapons Ban Not the Answer

Sheriffs from around Illinois… including Sangamon County’s Neil Williamson… say an assault weapons ban is not the way to prevent mass shooting tragedies like Newtown.


The Illinois Sheriffs Association has come out against the proposed ban, and says the state should instead focus on expanding mental health treatment.


Williamson also wants law enforcement to have greater access to information about people diagnosed with mental illness, so that officers are better prepared when responding to situations involving those individuals.


Williamson called 970 WMAY's Kramer Show Tuesday afternoon.  Listen to that conversation here.

Milton: Won't Leave Springfield By Choice

Springfield school superintendent Walter Milton says he loves it in Springfield and wouldn’t leave by choice.


But Milton also says he is now in a situation where he has to explore and look at different options.


Milton made the comments during a live interview Tuesday night on 970 WMAY’s “Frank McNeil Show.”


But he declined to elaborate and won’t say whether some members of the school board are trying to force him out.


Milton did say that he hopes for less drama when the new school board is seated after the April elections.


Listen to Milton talk with Frank McNeil here.

Springfield Park Board Member Resigns After Questionable Payment to Executive Director

The executive director of the Springfield Park District is under scrutiny over an unusual payment he received… and a park board member has abruptly resigned in protest over a lack of action on the matter.


The controversy was first reported on the Illinois Times website, and involves $2,600 paid to Mike Stratton.


The Times quotes park board member Mark Beagles as saying the payments were described as “an advance on salary” and reimbursement for unused vacation time.


Beagles submitted his resignation when the board did not take action on the matter following an executive session discussion this week, but says he may reconsider quitting the board.

Area Home Sales and Prices Strongest in Years

Home sales and home prices continue to look stronger locally than they have in years.


The Capital Area Association of Realtors says last month was the best January since before the economic downturn.


Home sales were up more than six-percent last month compared to January of 2012, and median home prices jumped almost two-percent.


The association says the numbers have shown year-to-year improvement in 15 of the last 16 months.

Man With Gun Report at ISU Turns Out False

Police now say that reports of a man with a gun on the Illinois State University campus turned out to be false.


The university issued alerts and restricted access to some buildings after receiving that report, which resulted from an incident in which a man reportedly accosted a female acquaintance.


The man was taken into custody, but police later determined that he did not have a gun.

Milton Discusses Job Status In Springfield

Springfield school superintendent Walter Milton says he loves it in Springfield and wouldn’t leave by choice… yet acknowledges that he is continuing to pursue other job opportunities elsewhere. 


Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Frank McNeil Show” Tuesday night, Milton declined to say if he was under pressure from the school board to find another position, but said that he and his family are, quote, “in a situation where we have to explore and look at different options.” 


Milton says that if he is still here when a new school board takes office in May, he hopes there will be less drama and more working together on behalf of children.

Sheriff Williamson Opposes Assault Weapons Ban

Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson is standing with sheriffs across the state and across the country in opposing a ban on so-called assault weapons.


Williamson called 970 WMAY's Kramer Show Tuesday afternoon and made the announcement just a week before a public hearing on guns.


Speaker Mike Madigan called for next week's public hearing to hear from gun rights groups, gun control proponents and law enforcement officials.


Williamson says there are around 65 Illinois sheriffs that signed on to the deceleration made at a sheriff's convention earlier this month, but others in the collar counties around Chicago were "wishy-washy."


The sheriff says his email has been full because of this issue for a while now and it was time to take a stand.

Presidential Museum Unveils New "Abe App"

It’s a smart phone app designed to bring a senior citizen into the 21st this case, a senior citizen who’s 204 years old.


The Lincoln Presidential Museum has unveiled its new Abe App, a free download that includes a fact of the day, a Lincoln quiz and information about the museum.


The app is available through both iTunes and the Android store (search for "Abe App").

Lieutenant Governor Wants Affordable College In Illinois

Making college more affordable is the objective of a package of recommendations from Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon. Simon says high college costs are the biggest obstacles keeping young people from completing their degree.


She’s proposing a series of what she calls “game-changing” reforms that include letting students enroll simultaneously in community colleges and universities paying the lower community college rate while still racking up university credits. Simon also recommends exploring income tax waivers for students who agree to live and work in Illinois after receiving their college degree.

Springfield Touts Robust Housing Market

New numbers show increasing strength in the Springfield housing market, according to the Capital Area Association of Realtors.


January home sales were up six-and-a-half percent compared to the same time a year earlier. And median home sale prices were nearly two-percent higher than in January of 2012.


The association says it was the best January for the local housing market in six years… and says home sales have shown year-to-year improvement in 15 of the last 16 months.

Springfield Celebrates Abraham Lincoln's Birthday

Springfield has been observing Lincoln’s Birthday in all the traditional ways. The American Legion conducted its annual pilgrimage to the late President’s tomb, and held a wreath-laying ceremony there. And various Lincoln experts have been leading discussions on aspects of Lincoln’s life and legacy at several of the local historic sites.


While this year’s events are similar to the observances held most years, local planners are already gearing up for much larger Lincoln events in 2015… to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s death and the end of the Civil War.

Law Enforcement Group: Thumbs Down To Assault Weapons Ban

A leading law enforcement group is shooting down the idea of an assault weapons ban for Illinois.


The Illinois Sheriffs Association says the state should really be focusing on improved treatment for mental illness, rather than banning a particular type of weapon. The group says other strategies should also be pursued, including giving police more access to mental health records, and addressing the problem of violent video games.

AFSCME IL: Strike is Real Possibility

The head of AFSCME says a state worker strike is a “real possibility,” unless the Quinn administration backs away from some of its demands in ongoing contract talks with the union.


Appearing live on 970 WMAY, Henry Bayer says Governor Pat Quinn has insisted on changes in health care benefits that would cut the take-home pay of state workers by thousands of dollars a year.


Bayer says the next round of talks, at the end of this month, should give a clear indication as to whether there is room for negotiation… or whether a strike may be inevitable.

Public Sector Union Coalition Summit Doesn't Accomplish Much on Pension Reform

A pension summit organized by a coalition of the state’s public sector unions does not appear to have accomplished much.


House Republican Leader Tom Cross says there was very little movement by anyone during that discussion in the Chicago suburbs.


Cross and other legislative leaders are pushing for changes in pension benefits to ease the underfunding crisis… while the unions want to raise some taxes and close tax loopholes to raise more revenue for the pension funds.

VIDEO: Bishop Paprocki Says Next Pope May Come From Africa or Latin America

The next leader of the Roman Catholic Church could well come from Africa or Latin America… that’s the view of Springfield’s Catholic bishop, Thomas John Paprocki.


Paprocki was named bishop by Pope Benedict in 2010.


Now that Benedict has announced that he will retire this month, Paprocki hopes the Church will choose someone young and “media-savvy” to energize Catholics and keep them engaged in the faith.


Watch parts of Paprocki's comments below or at this link.


Lincoln's Birthday Comes With Area Events Honoring 16th President

Today is Lincoln’s Birthday, and numerous events are planned to mark the occasion.


The American Legion will conduct its annual pilgrimage to Lincoln’s Tomb, with ceremonies planned there at 10-30 this morning.


There will also be numerous lectures and exhibits… and this afternoon, the presidential museum will unveil a new Lincoln smartphone app.

Michael Reagan: Dad's Support of AWB May Have Been From Alzheimer's

The son of the late President Ronald Reagan says Reagan’s support of an assault weapons ban in the 1990s may have been the result of his Alzheimer’s disease.


Michael Reagan spoke with reporters in Springfield while in town for the Sangamon County GOP’s Lincoln Day dinner.


He told the State Journal-Register that his father did not support gun control laws during his presidency, even after being shot in an assassination attempt.


In the ‘90s, Reagan not only joined other former presidents in supporting the assault weapons ban, he also came out in support of the “Brady bill,” named for Reagan’s former press secretary who was critically wounded in the attempt on Reagan’s life.

Alderman Edwards Wants Comparison To Other Cities' Spending

A Springfield alderman wants a detailed comparison of City Hall spending here compared to other similar Illinois citie to see if there are alternatives to raising the sales tax to pay for infrastructure. But Alderman Frank Edwards doesn’t see that happening before aldermen finalize a budget for the fiscal year that starts March 1st.


Appearing live on 970 WMAY, Edwards asserted that police, fire and other city departments are overspending compared to cities like Bloomington-Normal and Decatur. He says if some of Springfield’s spending can be reduced, that could free up money for infrastructure without requiring a sales tax hike, which Edwards opposes.

AFSCME Weighing Possible Strike

The largest state employees union says it will probably become clear by the end of this month whether state workers are headed for an unpredecented strike.


AFSCME has warned members to start preparing for a possible walkout, by setting aside money and putting off major purchases. Henry Bayer with AFSCME says Governor Pat Quinn may force a strike by insisting on benefit cuts that could reduce take-home pay by thousands of dollars a year.


Bayer says unless the administration softens its stance during talks scheduled for late this month, the union may not have any options left but to walk off the job.

We Are One Coalition Summit On Pension Reform

A coalition of public sector unions is holding a summit on pension reform toda but at least one powerful politician is sitting it out. The “We Are One” coalition invited Governor Pat Quinn and legislative leaders to attend that meeting near Chicago.


Quinn plans to drop by, but has sent staffers to take part. The same is true for Senate President John Cullerton. And House GOP leader Tom Cross is attending and taking part in the discussion. But Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan is not attending. He sent the unions a letter last month rejecting their invitation and accusing them of being uncooperative with pension reform efforts.

VIDEO: Springfield Bishop Not Surprised By Pope Resignation

Springfield’s Catholic bishop says he is not surprised that Pope Benedict has decided to retire, although he is a little surprised at the timing. Benedict appointed Bishop Thomas John Paprocki to head up the Springfield diocese in 2010, and the bishop has met the pope on several occasions, most recently about a year ago.


Paprocki says even then, The Pope was noticeably frail. The bishop says it’s surprising that the Pope would announce his resignation right before Lent, but thinks the timing must have been deliberate.


AFSCME to State Workers: Prepare for Possible Strike

AFSCME is telling state workers to start preparing for the possibility of a strike.


A memo from the union says it hopes that a work stoppage won’t be necessary, but says it may be the only way to stop the Quinn administration from imposing benefit cuts that could drastically reduce take-home pay.


The union memo advises workers to start setting aside money from each paycheck now to serve as an emergency fund in case of a walkout.


The memo does not give any timeline for when a strike might take place.

Alderman Edwards: Look At Spending, Don't Raise Taxes

Springfield Alderman Frank Edwards says the city should do a serious reassessment of its spending… including the money it spends on its police and fire departments… instead of considering a sales tax increase to pay for infrastructure improvements.


In a Facebook posting, Edwards… who is a former fire chief and who served briefly as mayor… notes that Decatur and Bloomington-Normal both have significantly smaller police and fire workforces and budgets than Springfield does.


Edwards is opposed to the sales tax hike for infrastructure… a sentiment echoed by many of his Facebook followers.

Sangamon County State's Attorney Proceeding With UUAW Charges

Despite a court ruling that found Illinois’s ban on carrying concealed weapons to be unconstitutional, Sangamon County’s top prosecutor says that ban remains on the books for now and will be enforced until that changes.


John Milhiser is still pursuing charges against a man who is challenging his arrest on weapons charges, based on that appeals court ruling late last year. But the appeals court issued a stay of its order to give lawmakers time to craft a concealed carry law.


Milhiser says he looks forward to the day that such a law is on the books in Illinois, but says until then he will enforce the law as written.

Downstate Lawmaker Wants Downstate Public Gun Hearing

Public hearings will be held next week in Springfield and Chicago to talk about a wide range of proposed gun laws, but a Downstate lawmaker thinks there should be a broader perspective.


Democrat Brandon Phelps says there should also be a hearing held in deep Southern Illinois, where views on guns and gun laws may be significantly different than they are in Chicago, or in the halls of the State Capitol.


House Speaker Mike Madigan says he wants input from all sides of the issue as the legislature prepares to debate proposals for concealed carry, an assault weapons ban, and other gun laws.

Same-Sex Marriage Debate Heats up This Week at Capitol

Both sides of the same-sex marriage debate are increasing the intensity of their efforts ahead of a pivotal Valentine’s Day vote on the issue.


The Illinois Senate plans to vote on the controversial topic this Thursday, a date chosen specifically for the Valentine’s symbolism.


Supporters of same-sex marriage rallied outside Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral Sunday… and religious groups that support marriage equality are planning to lobby lawmakers this week.


But opponents of changing the legal definition of marriage also plan to be visible and vocal at the Capitol this week.

AFSCME Tells State Workers To Prepare For Possible Strike

The largest state employees union is telling its members to get ready for the possibility of a strike. 


AFSCME has circulated a memo that advises employees to set aside some money from each paycheck and to avoid making major purchases for now, in case there is a work stoppage because of the union’s ongoing disputes with Governor Pat Quinn.  The memo was obtained Friday by the Bloomington Pantagraph.


A walkout could cripple a number of state services, although workers considered essential to public safety, like prison guards, would stay on the job.

Judge Tosses Diocese's Lawsuit Over Birth Control Mandate

A judge has tossed out the lawsuit by the Springfield Catholic Diocese and other Catholic groups challenging the Obama adminstration’s mandate of insurance coverage for birth control. 


The federal judge ruled Friday that it’s too soon to bring such a suit because the mandate hasn’t taken effect yet.

Work On New Hy-Vee Expected To Start In May

Construction is expected to begin in May on the new Hy-Vee grocery store and adjacent gas station and convenience store on South MacArthur. 


Company officials tell the State Journal-Register that their acquisition of the former Shell station on MacArthur will allow Hy-Vee to build a larger supermarket and convenience store, and to provide more parking.

Southern Illinois Lawmaker Wants More Gun Hearings

Public hearings on gun legislation will be held next week in Springfield and Chicago, but a Southern Illinois lawmaker says that doesn’t go far enough. 


Democratic Representative Brandon Phelps says there should also be hearings in the far southern portion of the state, and in other areas where guns are viewed differently than they are in Chicago. 


The hearings will look at proposals from concealed carry to an assault weapons ban.

Lincoln's Birthday Events Planned

Numerous events are planned this week in Springfield to commemorate Abe Lincoln’s birthday. 


On Tuesday, the American Legion will conduct its annual pilgrimage to Lincoln’s Tomb for ceremonies to begin at 10:30 a-m.  There will also be several lectures and seminars at various Lincoln sites… and the Presidential Museum will hold a news conference Tuesday to unveil a new Lincoln smartphone app.

Illinois Law Speeds Up Foreclosure Process - Helps Homeowners

Beginning June first, vacant foreclosed homes will no longer languish on the market. Governor Pat Quinn has signed a law that would shorten the normally two year process to a few months, so property values and neighborhoods can be protected.


Quinn says the law also would allow Illinois to invest in families by preventing foreclosures in the first place. The bill allocates funds for housing counseling assistance to help households struggling to keep their homes.

Springfield Man Arrested For Sub Shop Burglary

A Springfield man is in custody thanks to the U.S. Marshall’s Service in connection to a burglary last weekend at Jersey Mike’s, 2318 Wabash. Police say 29-year-old John L. Carver is being held on $100,000 bond.


A man plowing snow in the parking lot noticed broken glass on the sidewalk Sunday. When police arrived they found a store window broken and money was missing from a couple of cash drawers.

Jesse Jackson Jr. May Be Facing Jail Time In Plea Deal

A former Illinois congressman has reportedly agreed to a plea deal that could put him behind bars for years. Several Chicago media outlets say Jesse Jackson, Jr. has signed a plea agreement in which he would admit wrongdoing for converting campaign dollars for personal use.


Jackson would have to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars that he spent on things like a $40,000 Rolex and travel expenses for a woman described as a “social acquaintance.” Some details are reportedly still being finalized, including the fate of Jackson’s wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, who has also been implicated in the misuse of campaign funds.

VIDEO: Knights Competition Saturday

Organizers of this weekend’s medieval fighting event in Springfield say it’s becoming one of the fastest growing sports in the world.


Competitors from around the country will compete in Springfield… in full armor, using authentic swords and clubs like those deployed in combat centuries ago.


The competition at the State Fairgrounds Saturday will determine the team that will represent the U.S. in international knights competition in France this spring.


Mayor Mike Houston says he hopes to someday bring that world competition here to Springfield. The event starts at 10 am Saturday at the fairgrounds’ Livestock Center… 970 WMAY’s Jim Leach is the announcer for the event.


Additional Acts At The Illinois State Fair

Classic rock… with an Illinois flavor… will be featured during one of the Grandstand shows at this year’s Illinois State Fair.


Fair officials announced some additional acts signed to perform at this year’s fair, which opens August 8th. Three bands that got their start in Illinois… Styx, REO Speedwagon, and Head East… are all part of the same bill on Saturday, August 10th. The fair has also signed several more country acts to go along with Toby Keith, which was previously announced. The updated lineup also includes The Band Perry, Billy Currington, and a multi-act country show that will feature Gary Allan and Thompson Square.


Tickets for Toby Keith go on sale tomorrow. Sale dates for the other shows have not been set yet.

Road Projects and DCFS Investigators Get Funds, GOP Says Bill Full of Pork

A massive supplemental spending bill will clear the way for more road projects… and more jobs this spring, and will keep child abuse investigators on the job.


But some Republicans complain that the nearly $2 billion bill goes too far and is loaded down with unnecessary pork.


The General Assembly passed the bill one day after Governor Pat Quinn urged them to do so in his State of the State speech.


Much of the money comes from an influx of federal dollars, or the reallocation of savings from Quinn’s facility closures last year.


But GOP lawmakers say there were other special projects added in to win votes.

From Madison to Little Rock, Dist. 186 Supt. Milton's Job Search Continues

Springfield school superintendent Walter Milton is once again trying for the superintendent’s job in Little Rock, Arkansas.


Milton is reportedly among nine contenders for that job, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


It’s his second bid for the job… Milton withdrew from consideration in Little Rock in 2011, deciding to stay in Springfield at that time.


Milton’s future here has been in doubt for months, as relations with some school board members have deteriorated.


He was also a finalist for the schools job in Madison, Wisconsin, but took himself out of the running for that earlier this week.

Former Ball-Chatham Administrator Being Investigated Named

Former Chatham school superintendent Robert Gillum is the target of an investigation into inconsistencies in travel vouchers and reimbursements, according to the Ball-Chatham school board.


The board has been looking into questionable payments without proper documentation over a five-year period.


An audit found discrepancies that warranted additional investigation, and the board has indicated that it may take legal action.


Gillum has not yet commented on the investigation.

IL Auditor General Charged with DUI

The longtime auditor general for the state of Illinois has been arrested on a charge of driving under the influence.


Court records show William Holland was cited following a traffic stop Wednesday night.


Holland was also charged with improper lane usage.


No other details about the incident were immediately available.


Holland is scheduled to appear in court on the DUI charge on March 14th.

Two Upcoming Public Hearings on Gun Legislation

Springfield will be the site of one of two scheduled public hearings about gun legislation pending before lawmakers.


House Speaker Mike Madigan has scheduled one of those hearings for Tuesday, February 19th at the Statehouse.


The other will be held in Chicago later that week.


Madigan says he wants testimony from gun-rights and gun-control groups, and law enforcement, about a wide range of possible legislation, from an assault weapons ban to a concealed carry law.

Houston Blames Plummeting Electricity Futures For Delay in Infrastructure Plan

Mayor Mike Houston has offered an explanation for the nearly two-year delay in presenting a plan to pay for Springfield’s infrastructure needs.


Houston promised such a plan during his campaign for mayor in 2011, but still hasn’t delivered the details to alderman.


Houston says he had a plan back then, based on the revenues from selling electricity on the futures market.


But after he took office, Houston says prices plunged, eliminating that as a revenue source.


Now the mayor is working on a combination of sewer fee increases and a sales tax hike to finance repairs, but still isn’t saying when he’ll provide the detailed plan to the city council.

Ball-Chatham District Reveals Whose Reimbursements In Question

The Ball-Chatham school district has now confirmed that its ongoing investigation into questionable travel reimbursements involves a former superintendent, Robert Gillum.


The district revealed last month that it had requested an audit of travel records and reimbursements involving a former administrator. That audit indicated that there were discrepancies over a five-year period, and recommended further investigation of the matter with an eye toward possible legal action.


The district has not disclosed what types of travel expenses submitted by Gillum have now been called into question, or how much money is involved in the disputed reimbursements.

Milton Proposal to Mayor Houston - Not Going To Happen

An idea floated last month by Springfield's school superintendent to raise money for education appears dead on arrival.


Superintendent Walter Milton proposed that the city of Springfield considerusing its taxing authority to impose a sales tax increase... and to share the new revenue with District 186. Milton told Mayor Mike Houston that he was going to suggest the idea...but Houston says since then, he's had no further contact with Milton about the idea. And appearing live on 970 WMAY, Houston says there's not much point in a follow-up call from Milton.


The Mayor says the city needs its sales tax revenue for vital city services...including infrastructure... and he has no interest in sharing that money with another governmental body.

Governor Has Spending Bill On His Desk

More jobs, better roads, and safer kids. Governor Pat Quinn says all of those will be the result from a massive spending bill that's now on his desk.


Just a day after Quinn used his State of the State address to ask lawmakers to approve the supplemental appropriation, the Senate followed the House's lead and approved the bill. It devotes more than $600 million to road projects, which Quinn says will boost employment when the construction season begins.


It also takes $25 million in savings from facility closures and uses that to prevent layoffs of child abuse investigators in the Department of Children and Family Services. But Republicans say the state cannot afford the extensive additional spending, which totals nearly $2 billion.

New Prison Violence - AFSCME Blames Overcrowding

There is a new report of prison violence... this time in Lincoln.


AFSCME says more than two dozen inmates were involved in a massive fight at the medium-security Logan Correctional Center earlier this week. And four employees of the prison were injured in a separate incident last month. They are the latest examples of assaults that have broken out in several prisons as overcrowding concerns intensify following the closure of two Illinois prisons late last year.


AFSCME says the attacks in Lincoln are particularly troubling because it shows that the crowding and violence problems are extending beyond maximum-security prisons and into medium-security facilities like Logan, which houses 50% more inmates than it was designed to hold.

Drug Bust On I-55 Turns Up Marijuana

A 58-year-old Decatur man is in custody after authorities found a quarter-pound of cannabis in his car during a traffic stop on I-55 south of Springfield.


An Illinois State Police trooper stopped Clarence Barbee for an obstructed windshield. After pulling him over near the Carlinville exit, the trooper said that Barbee was acting suspiciously. He searched the vehicle and found four bags, reportedly containing pot, on Barbee. Numerous empty bags were found in the vehicle.


Barbee is facing charges including possession of cannabis with intent to deliver. He is being held on $40,000 bond.

Committees Examine Illinois Gun Issues

Controversial gun legislation… from an assault weapons ban to a concealed carry law for Illinois… will be the subject of two public hearings to be held later this month, including one in Springfield.


House Speaker Mike Madigan has called for the hearings to hear from gun-rights groups, gun-control advocates, and law enforcement on a wide range of proposals. The first of the two scheduled hearings will take place at the State Capitol on Tuesday, February 19th. The second will follow three days later in Chicago.


Governor Pat Quinn is pressuring lawmakers to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. At the same time, the state is under a court order to pass a concealed carry law by this summer.

Mayor Houston Explains Delay For Infrastructure Plan

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is offering some new details on why it’s taken so long to present a plan to fund infrastructure improvements.

Houston had promised such a plan within 30 days of taking office… nearly two years ago. But he still hasn’t produced one.


The mayor tells 970 WMAY’s Jim Leach that his initial plan depended on revenues from selling electricity on the futures market… but then prices plunged, and that was no longer a viable option to pay for the city’s massive infrastructure needs. Houston is now working on a plan that includes an increase in direct sewer fees… and a sales tax hike to finance bonds that will be used to pay for street and sidewalk repairs.


The mayor still won’t say how big a tax increase he’s considering… or when he will present that plan to aldermen.

Gov. Quinn Lays Out Coming Year's Agenda in State of the State

Pensions are only part of Governor Pat Quinn’s agenda for the coming year.


While Quinn repeated the urgent need for a pension reform plan during Wednesday’s State of the State speech, he also touched on a number of other, potentially controversial areas.


Quinn called for raising the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour over the next four years.


He once again asked lawmakers to pass an assault weapons ban, and said that if the state does adopt a concealed carry law, it must prohibit guns inside many public places, from schools to shopping malls.


And Quinn pushed for online voter registration and an open primary where voters won’t have to declare party affiliation.

Ethics Committee Continues Investigation of Congressman Schock

An ethics panel says it will continue looking into the actions of Congressman Aaron Schock to determine if he violated campaign finance laws.


The panel says its decision to continue the investigation does not constitute evidence of wrongdoing.


Schock is accused of soliciting a $25,000 donation to a SuperPAC in support of one of Schock’s political allies.


Federal law limits such solicitations to no more than $5,000.


The initial report on the case also notes that Schock’s fellow Republican, Congressman Rodney Davis, refused to answer questions about the case.


Davis at the time was the managing director of the SuperPAC.

Pizza Parlor Gets Video Gambling Machines

Video gambling continues to pop up in more places around Springfield… even pizza places.


Godfather’s Pizza on South Dirksen Parkway now has five video gaming terminals up and running.


The machines are in a separate room inside the restaurant, and no one under 21 years old is allowed into that area.


Godfather’s co-owner Mike Monseur (mon-SOOR’) says he felt like it would be good for his business… and would help generate needed revenue for state and local government.


The machines went online just last week, and Monseur says the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

School Supt. Puts House On Market, Pulls It Hours Later

Is it another sign that school superintendent Walter Milton’s days in Springfield are numbered?


The State Journal-Register reports that Milton put his house up for sale earlier this week… although he apparently pulled the listing off the market just hours later.


It’s the latest in a series of twists surrounding Milton, who abruptly withdrew from consideration for the top schools job in Madison, Wisconsin this week… and indicated that he is now actively pursuing another job in a different, unidentified city.


Milton has been under fire in recent months for his management of District 186, which is being forced to implement millions of dollars in budget cuts for next year.

Local Video Gaming Expands

Video gambling - It's not just for casinos or bars anymore. The Godfather's Pizza on Dirksen Parkway has become one of the latest local businesses to install video gaming machines. Five terminals went online last week at the pizza place. Owner Mike Monseur says the machines are in a private room, and no one under 21 is allowed inside. He says customer use of the gaming devices has been steady and growing and the feedback has been positive.


Video gambling outside of casinos only became legal in Illinois late last year. Proceeds from the machines are split between the business owner, the state, and local governments.

Pension Reform Only Part Of Quinn's State Of The State Speech

While Governor Pat Quinn continues to urge lawmakers to take action on pensions, it was not the dominant issue in his annual State of the State speech. 


Instead, Quinn offered a wide-ranging list of ideas for the coming year… urging the legislature to approve a road construction bill, legalize same-sex marriage, adopt an assault weapons ban, and allow Illinoisans to vote in primaries without declaring party preference. 


Quinn did warn that unfunded pensions still threaten to drain dollars needed for other state priorities, but did not spell out any new ideas for resolving the crisis.

CWLP Must Reimburse FEMA Nearly $800,000 In Tornado-Related Payments

City Water Light and Power says it’s out of appeals and out of options… so it will have to repay nearly $800,000 in money it got from FEMA for expenses incurred in response to the tornadoes that struck Springfield in 2006. 


The utility insists it followed FEMA’s own rules in applying for reimbursement of expenses.  But FEMA says CWLP claimed, and received, payments that it shouldn’t have gotten. 


The repayment to FEMA will wipe out nearly half of the city’s $2 million electric emergency repair fund.

Milton Staying With Dist. 186 For Now

Just days after being named one of the top two finalists for the school superintendent job in Madison, Wisconsin, Springfield school superintendent Walter Milton has withdrawn his name from consideration for that post.


Milton made the decision Tuesday night, just two days before he and the other finalist were scheduled to meet with the public in Madison as part of the final interview process.


Milton told Madison school officials that the job was, quote, not the right fit.


But the Wisconsin State Journal reports that Milton’s withdrawal came after Madison officials raised new questions about his prior work history, including hiring practices and questions about reimbursements.


Milton remains under contract with District 186 through the summer of 2014.

Mayor Houston Says Sales Tax Increase May Be Necessary for Infrastructure Needs

Mayor Mike Houston says a sales tax increase may have to be part of his forthcoming plan to pay for extensive infrastructure improvements.


Houston is under pressure from alderman to produce a plan to pay for tens of millions of dollars in needed street, sidewalk and sewer repairs… something the mayor initially said he would produce within 30 days of taking office, nearly two years ago.


The mayor says that while video gambling will generate some revenue for infrastructure, it won’t be enough… and a sales tax increase may have to be part of the mix.


Houston still has not set a specific date for completing the plan and presenting it to aldermen.

Noise Curfew Passes Springfield City Council

The city council has approved a modified ordinance that sets limits on amplified outdoor music at street festivals… and clarifies the rules for outdoor alcohol sales.


Mayor Mike Houston reassured aldermen that an 11:30pm curfew on outdoor liquor sales would not apply to beer gardens attached to bars and taverns.


And Alderman Sam Cahnman presented an amendment that will allow bars to hold special outdoor events and serve alcohol after midnight, with permission.

Same Sex Marriage Bill En-route to Full Senate Floor

The stage is now set for a historic vote in the Illinois Senate next week on a bill to legalize gay marriage in the state.


The measure passed a Senate committee Tuesday.


It also passed a committee last month but could not get enough votes to win full Senate approval.


Now the bill’s sponsor says she has the votes to pass it, after the bill was amended to make clear that churches would not be required to accommodate same-sex ceremonies.


That bill could be called for a vote in the full Senate next Thursday… Valentine’s Day.

Chilli Man Chilli Creator's Estate Gives $500,000 to Springfield's Public Library

Lincoln Library’s main branch downtown is getting a modern-day makeover.


The first renovation of the library’s second floor since it opened in the 1970s will lead to the construction of a “cyber café” and reading room.


Library officials hope it will draw more people into the main branch.


The project is being funded by a $500,000 grant from the Joe Defraties Foundation… named for the creator of Chilli Man Chilli in Springfield.


Artist rendering of planned updates
Artist rendering of planned updates


Vouchers and Reimbursements for Retired Ball-Chatham Administrator in Question

The investigation will continue into possible irregularities involving travel vouchers and reimbursements for a retired Ball-Chatham school administrator.


Officials say an initial report delivered verbally by the district's auditors finds a lack of documentation to support travel reimbursements over a five-year period.


The auditors recommend further investigation with an eye toward possible legal action.


Ball-Chatham officials did not identify the administrator in question.


A statement notes that the questionable payments span three different school boards, but does not provide further details about how the problem was uncovered, or when a final decision will be made on the next steps to be taken.

BREAKING: Milton Withdraws Name From Consideration For Madison Schools Post

Springfield school superintendent Walter Milton has withdrawn his name from consideration for the top job in the Madison (Wis.) school district, according to Madison media accounts.


Milton had been one of two finalists for the job, and had been scheduled to meet with community members, teachers and students at a forum in Madion Thursday night.  According to media accounts, his abrupt decision follows questions that arose about past controversies, including hiring practices and an audit of some of his expenditures in previous jobs.


News that Milton had been seeking the Madison job prompted a backlash in Springfield as well, as critics complained about his job search while presiding over millions of dollars in budget cuts for District 186.  The Madison school district issued a statement that quoted Milton as saying the Madison job was "not the right fit."  A District 186 spokesperson could not offer any additional details about Milton's decision or what impact it may have on his status locally.

Mayor: Some Form of Tax Increase May Be Necessary to Address Infrastructure

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says that some kind of sales tax increase may be necessary to fund the capital city's infrastructure, but not how much of an increase there should be.  


During a conversation about a possible commission to discuss with the public possible funding sources for the capital city's crumbling streets and aging sewers, aldermen repeatedly differed to Mayor Mike Houston, who ran on a platform of providing an infrastructure plan.


The question is not just what needs to be done, but how to fund it. 


Mayor Houston says that any money raised for infrastructure would be used for a bond issuance. Once that money is pledged, it can only be used for infrastructure needs.


Houston points to the potential growth of gambling revenue being devoted infrastructure needs, but several aldermen talked about needing some kind of tax increase.  


The mayor told the press after the meeting that there may need to be a sales tax increase in order to generate the kind of revenue needed to address some looming problems.  


When asked how much of a sales tax increase would be needed, the mayor said that is still be calculated.  Just last week Public Works said there are over $80 million of needs over the next three years. 


Meanwhile, Springfield aldermen passed an ordinance stating that amplified music at special events must end at midnight, and alcohol sales at those events must end at 11:30.  An amendment to the ordinance clarified language about special permitted liquor licenses granted by Aldermen.

New Wording On Same-Sex Marriage Clears Senate Committee

An Illinois Senate Committee cleared a gay marriage bill Tuesday afternoon. A similar measure was passed by the same committee earlier this month, just as the last General Assembly was winding down. A floor vote on the measure was scrapped because supporters didn’t think they’d have the necessary 30 votes to move the legislation forward.


According to the new wording, the language states that places of worship do not have to open their doors to marriage ceremonies for same-sex partners.

Ball-Chatham Investigation Into Administrator's Expenses Continues

The investigation will continue into possible irregularities involving travel vouchers and reimbursements for a retired Ball-Chatham school administrator.


Officials say an initial report delivered verbally by the district's auditors finds a lack of documentation to support travel reimbursements over a five-year period. The auditors recommend further investigation with an eye toward possible legal action. Ball-Chatham officials did not identify the administrator in question.


A statement notes that the questionable payments span three different school boards, but does not provide further details about how the problem was uncovered, or when a final decision will be made on the next steps to be taken.

Officials Brace For Impact Of School Budget Cuts

In the wake of budget cuts that will leave two Springfield school buildings vacant, a school board member is expressing concern that not enough has been done to get ready for what comes next. 


Scott McFarland says his big concerns are helping parents and students at Wanless and Pleasant Hill schools adjust to a new building.  Those students will attend classes in the Feitshans (FIGHT’-shuns) building this fall. 


But McFarland is also worried about the future of the vacant schools.  He hopes the district will either occupy or sell the structures quickly, so that they don’t drag down property values.

Milton: Career Path Now In God's Hands

Springfield’s school superintendent says his future career path is now in God’s hands. 


Superintendent Walter Milton isn’t talking about his job prospects here or elsewhere, even though he is a finalist for the top schools job in Madison, Wisconsin.  Milton has come under fire from some for searching for work… even as he is overseeing millions of dollars in budget cuts to local schools. 


But Milton says he is a man of faith, and wherever God wants him to be is where he will be.  If Milton does not land the job in Madison, he remains under contract for District 186 until the summer of 2014.

Cyber Cafe, Reading Room Planned For Lincoln Library Main Branch

Lincoln Library’s main branch downtown is getting a renovation that will bring a section of the library out of the 1970s and into the 21st Century. 


The makeover of the second floor will include the construction of a “cyber café” and reading room.  The $500,000 project is being paid for by a donation from the Joe DeFraties Foundation… named for the founder of Chilli Man Chilli in Springfield. 


Mayor Mike Houston and library officials say the project will be the first update of the second floor since the main branch was built in 1977.  They hope the new features will bring more people into downtown and into the library.

Artist rendering of proposed reading room and cafe
Artist rendering of proposed reading room and cafe


Dist. 186 School Board Votes to Cut $7 Million From Budget

Three Springfield schools will be closed as part of nearly $7 million in budget cuts approved by the school board Monday night.


A divided board voted to adopt more than $5 million in cuts proposed by Superintendent Walter Milton, including the closure of Wanless and Pleasant Hill schools, with those students to be relocated to the old Feitshans  building.


The board rejected a list put together by a citizens committee, with one exception… the closure of the Capitol College Preparatory Academy.


Opponents say those school closings will devastate poorer neighborhoods and disproportionately affect the North End and East Side.


More than 100 jobs were eliminated, including elementary and high school teaching positions and security jobs at the middle and high schools.


But middle school teachers and elementary school librarians were spared.

House Committee Suggests Increasing Doctor's Licensing Fees

An Illinois House committee has approved a bill that would dramatically increase licensing fees for doctors… with the money to be used to pay for the state department that oversees the licensing and investigates complaints against physicians.


The measure goes to the full House, but the powerful State Medical Society opposes it, saying the state should find money elsewhere in the budget to pay for the investigation unit, rather than forcing that cost onto doctors.

Springfield City Hall: Final Budget Proposals Presented, Public Hearing Scheduled

The final numbers have been proposed as Springfield aldermen prepare to approve the budgets for fiscal year 2014, but not without your input.


During the final budget hearing Monday, Mayor Mike Houston proposed a budget that is just .9 percent over last year.


Houston says that Springfield Green will be transferred from the mayor's office to Public Works while Homeland Security will be transferred to the Police Department.


The Office of Budget and Management proposed a budget that will be down by just .9 percent.


Budget Director Bill McCarty says he will come back to the city council in the near future with the cost of planned fleet consolidation.


A public hearing on all proposed city department budgets will be held February 13th at 5:45 inside the council chambers.


The budget, which can be found online at, comes in at $114.7 million dollars, which is just over 3 percent over the previous year’s budget.

Driver in Fatal Crash on Phone With Police Dispatch Moment of Accident

The driver of the vehicle involved in a fatal crash in downtown Springfield last week was reportedly on the phone with police dispatchers at the moment of the crash.


The State Journal-Register reports that Deanna Simmering had called police to report that she was being chased.


While on the phone, authorities believe Simmering ran a red light and collided with another vehicle.


The impact pushed Simmering’s SUV into a utility pole.


Simmering’s mother, 49-year-old Sara Richardson, was a passenger in the vehicle.


She died a short time later. The circumstances of that crash are still under investigation.

SPD Encourages Residents to Register Prized Possessions Online

Springfield police are encouraging city residents to register some of their most prized possessions online.


Officials say the “Report It” website allows people to securely store serial numbers, item descriptions, pictures, and even scanned copies of receipts… which can be retrieved in the event of a home burglary.


Police Chief Robert Williams says city police have already recovered more than $10,000 worth of stolen merchandise that was returned to its rightful owner because of the documentation stored on the website.


The free service is available at

School Board Votes To Close Capitol College Preparatory Academy; Iles Middle School Saved

The Springfield School Board has rejected a list of cost-cutting recommendations from a citizens advisory panel, with one major exception: voting to close the Capitol College Preparatory Academy.


Students, parents and staff of CCPA argued in favor of the school, and board member Judy Johnson accused her colleagues of being "elitist" and "cold-hearted" for their vote to eliminate the school, which was aimed at putting kids who have struggled in other school environments on a college track.


But the divided board eliminated CCPA on a 4-3 vote.  Other recommendations from the panel, including a proposal to close Iles Middle School and transfer those gifted students to Franklin, were rejected, also on a vote of 4-3.

Springfield School Board Approves $5.4 Million in Cuts; Another $1 Million In Proposed Reductions Are Rejected

The Springfield School Board has voted to cut $5.4 million from next year's District 186 budget, including the closure of two North End elementary schools and the reduction of dozens of teaching positions.  But the board did reject nearly $1 million in additional cuts, including middle school teaching positions and elementary school librarians.  A divided board also voted to preserve funding for post-secondary coaches, who counsel students on college options, and to retain the Illinois Math and Science Academy after-school program. 


[As of 9:30pm, the board was still considering a separate list of proposed cuts put forward by a citizens committee, including the possible closure of the Capital College Preparatory Academy.]

School Board Candidate Wants Board Members To Be Accountable For Vote

A candidate for Springfield school board objects to the method that will apparently be used to vote on deep budget cuts tonight. The school board agenda indicates up-or-down votes on two long lists of cuts, including the elimination of dozens of teaching positions and the closure of two elementary schools.


School board candidate Katharine Eastvold says voting for the cuts as a group gives board members a way to avoid being held accountable for each individual reduction. She wants separate votes on every cut, to force board members to be on the record for each one and to defend their votes.


The meeting starts at 6:30 tonight at the Southeast High School auditorium.

Springfield Police Encourage Registering Valuables Online

Springfield police are encouraging city residents to use a website to register their most valuable possessions.


Police Chief Robert Williams says using the site for secure registration of serial numbers, item descriptions and other identifying information will make it easier for detectives to return stolen items back to their rightful owner. In fact, Williams says in just a short period of time, police have already recovered and returned more than $10,000 in merchandise to local businesses and residents.


The website where items can be registered is The service is free, according to S.P.D.

Supt. Milton One of Two Finalists For Job in Madison, WI

Even as his current school district prepares for the possibility of millions of dollars in budget cuts that he recommended, Springfield School Superintendent Walter Milton may be on the brink of leaving for a new town.


Milton is one of two finalists for the top schools job in Madison, Wisconsin.


He and a top official of the Chicago Public Schools will appear at a community forum in Madison later this week before a final decision is made.


More than 200 people asked to be considered for the Madison job, and 65 candidates were screened before the field was narrowed to the final two.


A decision is expected within days.

Springfield School Board Plans Vote On Budget Cuts

The Springfield School Board is expected to vote tonight on proposals to slash more than $7 million from next year’s budget.


Cuts proposed by Superintendent Walter Milton would eliminate more than 100 positions, many of them teachers, and would lead to the closure of two elementary schools and the relocation of the Capitol College Preparatory Academy.


The board will also vote on cuts proposed by a citizens committee, including the closure of the college prep academy and an end to the middle school program at Iles.


The board meeting is set for 6:30 tonight at the Southeast High School auditorium.

State of State To Focus On Pension Reform

Pension reform is likely to be the dominant issue when Governor Pat Quinn takes the podium this week for his annual State of the State speech.


Lawmakers are not expecting an upbeat speech from the governor, because of the unresolved pension crisis and its drag on the rest of the state budget.


Quinn is also expected to talk about his desire to see lawmakers pass an assault weapons ban.


970 WMAY will bring you the governor's speech live; coverage begins at noon Wednesday from the Capitol.

Gambling: Establishments Statewide Bring in Nearly $2.5 Million, Players Lost $7 Million

Some Illinois bar owners say they're already profiting from video gambling games that went live statewide last year.


In December, players across Illinois lost nearly $7 million.


Establishments kept $2.45 million, the state earned $1.75 million and cities and counties combined made about $350,000.


Springfield is hoping to use its cut of video gaming proceeds to help pay for infrastructure improvements, but says it’s too soon to know yet just how much money it can count on annually from the machines.

Milton Is Finalist For Superintendent Job In Madison, Wis.

Springfield School Superintendent Walter Milton is one of two finalists for the top schools job in Madison, Wis.


Milton and a top official from the Chicago Public Schools are the final remaining contenders out of 65 original applicants for the job, according to the Madison school system. They will both appear before a community forum later this week.


It's not the first time Milton has been up for consideration for a job in another district since arriving in Springfield.  He has also had clashes with some school board members, prompting several African-American leaders to accuse the board of racism in its dealings with Milton.

Springfield School Board Poised To Vote On Millions In Budget Cuts

It could be a long, difficult meeting of the Springfield School Board Monday night. 


Board members are expected to vote on more than $7 million in proposed cuts from next year’s budget.  If approved, the cuts would result in teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, and the closure and consolidation of two elementary schools.  Most of the cuts have prompted a negative backlash. 


The board meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 Monday at the Southeast High School auditorium.

Dem Lawmaker: Concealed Carry Is Coming To Illinois

An Illinois lawmaker says concealed carry is coming to Illinois, so now it’s up to legislators to craft a rational “common sense” bill to implement it. 


Democratic Representative Ken Dunkin took part in a town meeting Saturday to hear from Chicago-area residents about their thoughts on a concealed carry bill… which a court has ordered the state to pass within six months.

Pensions Likely To Dominate Quinn's State of the State Speech

Pension reform is likely to be the dominant issue when Governor Pat Quinn takes the podium this week for his annual State of the State speech. 


Lawmakers are not expecting an upbeat speech from the governor, because of the unresolved pension crisis and its drag on the rest of the state budget.


Quinn is also expected to talk about his desire to see lawmakers pass an assault weapons ban.  970 WMAY will bring you the governor's speech live; coverage begins at noon Wednesday from the Capitol.

Woman Killed In Downtown Springfield Crash

A Springfield woman has died from the injuries she suffered in a traffic accident downtown Friday night. 


49-year-old Sara C. Richardson was pronounced dead in the emergency room of Saint John’s shortly after that crash at 9th and Jefferson. 


Richardson was one of two people in an SUV that collided with another vehicle at that intersection.  The other person in the SUV was also seriously injured… two people in the other car had minor injuries.  The accident is still under investigation.

Panel Recommends Suspension Of Former Judge's Law License

The panel that oversees the conduct of judges and lawyers has recommended a six-month suspension of the law license for a former county judge. 


The Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission found that Robert Hall engaged in “dishonesty, deceit and misrepresentation” in moving to dismiss a traffic ticket that had been issued to the daughter of another judge. 


The Illinois Supreme Court will have the final say on any professional discipline against Hall.

Brady ''Laying The Groundwork'' For Another Bid For Governor

He came up just short last time… but Republican State Senator Bill Brady is edging closer to another try for the governor’s mansion. 


Brady has sent an e-mail to supporters, saying that he is “laying the groundwork to finish the job” he started in 2010, when he narrowly lost to Governor Pat Quinn. 


Brady would be part of what is expected to be a crowded field of Republican contenders for governor, a list that could also include State Senator Kirk Dillard, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Congressman Aaron Schock.

Kirk Will Not Support Hagel Nomination

Illinois Republican Mark Kirk is the latest GOP Senator to come out against the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be President Obama’s defense secretary. 


Even though Hagel is himself a former Republican senator, Kirk says Hagel appears to be too soft on Iran and that country’s nuclear ambitions. 


Kirk has been a member of the Naval Reserves, but recently announced he would retire from the military because of the effects of the stroke he suffered last year.

Feds Accuse Exelon Of Deception Regarding Nuke Plants

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission accuses Exelon of deliberate deception related to the financial health of funds set aside for cleanup of the company’s nuclear power plants, including the one in Clinton. 


The NRC says Exelon underestimated the money it would need to clean up and restore nuclear plants after they are decommissioned, One report says the cleanup funds may have as much as a billion dollars less than what would be required under federal rules.

Springfield Wants To Use Eminent Domain On 11th Street Extension

The City of Springfield is looking to use eminent domain to acquire property for a planned extension of 11th street, but they are having problems with the land's owner according to an ordinance.


The measure on first reading Tuesday will condemn the property between Stevenson and Lincolnshire, currently owned by Contech, in order to extend 11th street southward. In the ordinance, it states that despite good faith negotiations, the city has been unable to purchase the property.


Eminent domain allows for private property to be taken for public use in exchange for fair market value. The ordinance says the city's corporation counsel will go to court to acquire the land according to Illinois law.

Ordinance May Cut Springfield's Tow Fee In Half

A new ordinance proposed to the city council will cut the current tow fee in half. Currently, if a person is pulled over in suspicion of certain felony crimes or city ordinances violations, the vehicle can be towed and impounded and the owner of the vehicle charged with a tow fee of $500.


The proposed ordinance, sponsored by Alderman Doris Turner, would drop that fee down to $250. Other previously raised concerns of the current tow law, like administrative hearings and or fees being refunded if the person is found innocent, are not addressed. Aldermen will take up the reduction of the tow fee in two weeks.

Aldermen To Vote On Police and Fire Pensions

A Springfield aldermen will soon vote to appropriate one million dollars from the current fiscal year budget to pay police and fire pensions. The underfunded pensions has been a regular topic during unfinished business in city hall.


Mayor Mike Houston's administration says they will continue to find money where they can to put into the fund, but they are cautious of doing too much too fast, something they say could jeopardize other vital city services.

Ordinance Limiting City Employees

An ordinance in front of Aldermen would limit the number of employees the city can hire to 1,500.


The proposal from Ward 7 Alderman Joe McMenamin says the council finds it necessary for economic reasons to limit the number of workers, excluding seasonal employees. McMenamin is also asking for aldermen to receive a monthly report of the city's headcount.

Springfield PD Watching For Drunk Drivers Superbowl Weekend

Springfield police are promising a heavy presence on local roadways Sunday… watching out for people who have enjoyed the Super Bowl a bit too much.


Super Bowl Sunday is one of the most dangerous days of the year for alcohol-related crashes and fatalities. Police are promising extra patrols during and after the game in order to catch drunk drivers.

Choosing Valentine's Day For Gay Marriage Vote

A top state lawmaker is in a romantic frame of mind. Senate President John Cullerton is aiming for a final Senate vote on Valentine’s Day for a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Cullerton says he thinks he has the 30 votes needed for final passage.


He hopes to move the bill through a Senate committee next week, setting the stage for final passage on February 14th. If that happens, the bill would still have to pass the House before Governor Pat Quinn could sign it into law.

Alderman Jobe Calls for Infrastructure Working Group

In an effort to address Springfield’s crumbling infrastructure and the tens of millions of dollars necessary to address the issue, one aldermen is urging the city to join with the business community to form a working group.


Ward 6 Alderman Cory Jobe says not addressing the issue will keep future businesses from investing in the capital city.


But, unlike past committees that provided potential revenue solutions with little support, Jobe says this time there must be results.


In a press release, Jobe says the city and business community must work to educate citizens about the infrastructure needs.


The alderman plans to formally recommend the committee at Tuesday’s full city council meeting.

Springfield Aldermen to Consider All Options to Address Infrastructure Needs

Springfield aldermen say they will have to consider all options as they look for tens of millions of dollars to pay for infrastructure repairs in the years ahead.


Even though the Public Works Department is seeking less money in its budget for the fiscal year that starts March 1st, Director Mark Mahoney warns that Springfield needs to spend more than $85 million in the next three years just to halt the decay in the city’s network of streets, sidewalks and sewers.


Alderman Gail Simpson is again raising her idea of a 1.5 percent tax on dining out, which she says could generate nearly a million dollars a year for infrastructure.

Congressman Davis: Assault Weapons Already Banned

The gun debate continues around the country… and on Capitol Hill.


Republican Congressman Rodney Davis says there is no need for an assault weapons ban because the firearms that he considers to be actual “assault weapons” are already banned.


Appearing live on 970 WMAY, Davis says he would consider other proposals, such as expanded background checks, but only if they are accompanied by measures to expand access to mental health treatment… which he says is the real issue raised by recent mass shootings.

Fire at Historic Home Under Investigation

Investigators have not determined the cause of a fire that destroyed a historic home in the Enos Park neighborhood.


That 90-year-old home with distinctive architecture was destroyed in the blaze that broke out early Thursday.


Fire Chief Ken Fustin says the home has been vacant for several years.


He could not say if the blaze appeared to be suspicious.


One firefighter was treated at the scene for a minor injury after he got debris in his eye.

State Custodian Suspended for On the Clock Political Posts Now Back At Work

A custodian in the state treasurer’s office has served a 20-day suspension without pay for improper use of his state computer.


The State Journal-Register reports the investigation of Kurt Wohler began over a Facebook post.


Wohler shared a photograph of First Lady Michelle Obama with a caption that read: “Share if you agree with the First Lady; it’s time to give everyone a chance at the American Dream.”


State officials say that post amounts to conducting political activity on state time.


The investigation also revealed that Wohler’s computer had been used to access adult Internet sites.


He is back on the job now, but no longer has Internet access on his state computer.


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