In his final weekend on the job, outgoing Springfield school superintendent Walter Milton suggests the deck was stacked against him from the time he arrived in town.
Milton says there are elements of what he calls “ethnocentrism”… and what others have called “racism”… throughout the community, and he says that made it more difficult for him to achieve what he wanted to do.
[Milton made his comments for our weekend “Podium” program.]
A Springfield school board member says she stands by her vote to close the Capital College Preparatory Academy… despite the backlash it has caused.
Lisa Funderburg says the district had no choice financially but to close the school. But Funderburg’s challenger in the April 9th election, Teresa Jones, says the school board did not fully explore all other alternatives before pulling the plug on CCPA.
Funderburg and Jones are facing off in Subdistrict 1, one of four contested races for the Springfield school board.
Although he doesn't want to call it "racism," outgoing Springfield school superintendent Walter Milton says prejudice worked against him during his tenure in District 186.
Milton says there is "ethnocentrism" in the community that made it harder for him to achieve his goals. When asked if that bias was present on the school board, Milton replies that it exists in the community, quote, "overall."
A majority of the board pushed for Milton's early exit, but Milton says being forced out in the middle of the school year is highly unusual and something he didn't deserve.
He appeared on our weekend show "Podium," which airs Saturday morning at 5:30 and Sunday morning at 5 and 11am.
Mayor Mike Houston has now decided to put an infrastructure funding plan before Springfield aldermen… even though he doesn’t yet have majority support for any aspect of the plan.
Houston is introducing four separate ordinances, representing individual pieces of his plan.
Three of the ordinances would raise the city sales tax… if all three were adopted, the full increase would be one-percent, with the money to go to major road and sewer projects and ongoing maintenance.
The fourth ordinance would raise the city’s sewer fee to leverage an EPA loan program for sewer repairs.
The mayor hopes letting aldermen “pick and choose” will lead to some combination of ideas that will address growing infrastructure needs.
Two Springfield aldermen have now introduced an ordinance to release recordings from executive session meetings where a disciplinary case involving City Water Light and Power employees was discussed.
Frank Edwards and Gail Simpson say they want to shine some light on the comments of city officials about a whistleblower who reported that the workers were doing tree removal on private property… using city equipment on city time.
Eric Reiss claims the city falsely described him as non-cooperative in the case.
Those recordings cannot be released without a majority vote of the aldermen.
Officials in Virden now say that a report of another police impersonator incident appears to be unfounded.
A motorist called authorities Thursday to report a man in an unmarked vehicle with a flashing light on the dash. The motorist did not pull over, and the other car eventually passed him.
But after investigating, authorities now tell the SJ-R the other motorist may have just flashed his headlights at the first driver, and was not attempting to pull him over. They say there is no apparent connection to a handful of police impersonation incidents in Sangamon and Macoupin Counties in recent weeks.
Most candidates for the Riverton School Board agree that their district may be forced into consolidation in the next few years.
Eight of the nine candidates for the board took part in a public forum Wednesday. While none liked the idea of consolidation, virtually all said that financial problems and state pressure could make it inevitable in the not-too-distant future.
The school board voted this week to eliminate 27 teaching positions as part of an effort to cut $2 million from the budget... which has been affected by cutbacks in state fundng.
A suspect that Springfield police say went on a weeklong one-man crime spree has been arrested.
Authorities captured 29-year-old Joshua Rego of Springfield after he allegedly carjacked and robbed a woman in the parking lot of Kohl's Thursday afternoon. After taking $600 cash from the victim, police say Rego forced her at gunpoint to drive him to the downtown area. From there they traced him to the north end, and then to a motel, where he was arrested.
Rego is also suspected of stealing a car from Friendly Chevrolet last weekend, and another car from his girlfriend earlier this week. He is also a suspect in the theft of cash from a register at M&M Pools.
The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office’s DIRT team are at it again. They conducted two search warrants in Sangamon County, both related to the same case.
The team received several complaints about illegal drug sales at a Detail Shop located behind a residence in the 2900 block of South Holmes, so they made a controlled buy and busted 29-year-old Milton Holmes at his home in the 700 block of North 6th, and seized a nearly two pounds of suspected marijuana and $7,100 in cash. Holmes is charged with Manufacture and Delivery of cannabis, but more charges are expected to be filed.
The Springfield Police Department’s PAC unit provided information on the case.
Mayor Mike Houston has decided to send his infrastructure funding plan to aldermen piece by piece.
Houston is introducing four separate ordinances, each with components of his original plan to pay for street and sewer repairs. The first three take his original one percent sales tax hike and split it into pieces of one half, one quarter, and one quarter percent. The fourth ordinance provides an alternate funding plan for sewers by increasing the city’s sewer fee five percent a year for ten years.
Houston says breaking the plan apart will let aldermen pick and choose the best way to pay for infrastructure needs, but he admits that so far, none of the ordinances have enough votes for passage.
A candidate for Springfield school board who recently picked up the endorsement of the teachers union says she would be willing to consider a wage freeze for teachers as a cost-cutting move.
Subdistrict 5 candidate Donna Moore says it is one idea that could be considered as District 186 tries to find a way to cut millions more from its budget.
Moore received the Springfield Education Association’s endorsement this spring over opponent Katharine Eastvold… who says she thinks teachers should receive a reasonable salary increase from year to year.
At least two aldermen say they will push for the release of recordings of City Council executive sessions related to the discipline of City Water Light and Power workers accused of doing private work on city time.
Frank Edwards says administration officials may have misled aldermen with comments they made about the complaining witness in the case.
That witness, Eric Reiss, says he was falsely accused of failing to cooperate or show up for hearings in the case.
970 WMAY requested the recordings in question, but the request was denied on the grounds that aldermen must vote to release executive session materials.
Edwards and Alderman Gail Simpson are now asking for that vote.
By this time next week the public may get a rare chance to review records of a behind-closed-doors meeting with Springfield officials.
Ward 1 Alderman Frank Edwards says he feels the city council was lied to by the Houston Administration about the credibility of a witness who complained about misconduct by CIty Water Light and Power employees. Edwards says those executive session recordings must be made public to set the record straight. Ward 2's Gail Simpson is joining in the call to release the recordings.
970 WMAY News has requested the records from closed meetings where the firing and subsequent rehiring of CWLP employee Matt Winters was discussed. But that request was rejected by the city clerk, who says executive session minutes can only be released with a city ordinance. Winters was the center of attention last March when a ratepayer reported to seeing him and several other people using City Water Light and Power equipment on city time to cut down a tree on private property.
A candidate for the Springfield School Board says it might be necessary to consider a wage freeze for teachers, as District 186 looks for ways to cut millions more from its budget.
Subdistrict 5 candidate Donna Moore... who got the endorsement of the city's teachers union this spring... says it's just an idea that should be considered among other ways of bringing spending under control.
Moore's opponent, Katharine Eastvold, says teachers are the biggest expense for the district because they are its biggest asset. Eastvold says there's nothing wrong with giving teachers a reasonable increase in salary from year to year. Both candidates appared live on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show."
A Springfield alderman says it's time to call the question about how to pay for the city's urgent infrastructure needs.
Alderman Cory Jobe says various funding proposals should be put into ordinance form and brought before the City Council in order to put aldermen on the record. Mayor Mike Houston has so far declined to introduce his funding plan because he lacks the votes for passage.
Jobe believes there are at least four votes in support of finding infrastructure funding from a sales tax increase... which would be paid by both residents and visitors to the city. He's also calling on other aldermen with different proposals to bring their ideas forward in ordinance form.
Top Springfield city officials will work together to formulate strategies for boosting minority hiring at City Hall.
Mayor Mike Houston has formed a Diversity Council… led by community relations coordinator Sandy Robinson and made up of other city department directors.
The mayor says the objective is to make sure that the city’s workforce reflects the racial makeup of the community… and to change a perception in the community that certain groups do not have a fair shot at city jobs.
Several Springfield Aldermen are suggesting that the city release executive session recordings where the council talked about an incident that led to the firing and rehiring of a City Water Light and Power employee. Current CWLP employee Matt Winters was fired and later rehired from cutting down part of a tree on his brother's property last March. Some aldermen say that releasing the recordings of the session will clear the credibility of the witness, Eric Riess, who claims he was not allowed to testify during an arbitration hearing that led to Winters getting back his job. Riess contends that criminal charges should be pressed against Winters. Mayor Mike Houston says there was enough evidence to fire Winters but not to press criminal charges.
In other city business, another hospital skywalk could soon start construction if the city council approves an agreement for Memorial Health System to lease some airspace over Miller Street. The ordinance granting the request for a lease was placed on the consent agenda. Plans provided to the city shows a second floor skywalk that attaches a parking garage with the hospital's Center for Learning and Innovation.
Meanwhile, a sports complex that will have baseball, softball and soccer fields is now closer to becoming reality. The area just northwest of the I-72, I-55 interchange could soon be the place for the Legacy Sports complex, a field that developers hope will host area and national little-league tournaments Aldermen Cory Jobe initially held up the ordinance granting a zoning variance because of concerns raised about traffic and drainage. Jobe says those issues have been addressed and the project is ready to move forward.
Aldermen will continue to debate an ordinance that would give nearly $1 million to a company to dispose of yard waste. The three year contract with Evans Cartage would have the company taking all yard waste from the city to process it into compost and other organic material. The agreement will also declare a tub grinder surplus and provide for the sale of the machine to Evans. Public Works Director Mark Mahoney says this deal could mean some savings in the long run because of gas and wear and tear upkeep for the grinder and space rental for the yard waste plus other factors. Alderman placed that ordinance on the debate agenda.
An ordinance that would cap the number of non-seasonal employees at city hall will have to wait another day for Aldermen to pass. The measure failed to get enough votes to get out of committee. Aldermen Stave Dove, one of the sponsors of the measure, was absent from Tuesday's committee meeting. Several members of the public spoke to aldermen, commending the mayor and the city for cutting back but also pushing the importance of holding the city accountable when it comes to headcount.
The City of Springfield is working to change a perception that minorities do not have an equal opportunity to land jobs in city government.
Mayor Mike Houston has announced the creation of an internal working group known as the Diversity Council.
That group, to be led by Community Relations Director Sandy Robinson, will meet to evaluate the current culture of city employment… and how to best change those practices to be more inclusive and reflect the racial makeup of Springfield. Robinson says that the newly formed council will also evaluate ways to improve diversity in the awarding of contracts.
Several items on the agenda for tonight’s Springfield City Council committee of the whole…
Aldermen will consider a proposal to require a financial impact statement be attached to all future ordinances. The proposal came up after aldermen voted earlier this year to cut the city’s towing fee in half… only to be told at the last minute would havea financial impact.
Also on tonight's agenda is a resolution that would oppose Governor Pat Quinn's proposals to withhold a portion of the state shared income tax. Budget Director Bill McCarty says that could cost the city up to $1.3 million dollars in the first year alone.
The sponsor of a bill to legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes is asking people to contact their local lawmaker and urge them to support the bill.
State Representative Lou Lang (D-Skokie) says he is only one or two votes short of approval in the House… and believes more than a dozen lawmakers want to support the bill but fear a political backlash.
Lang dismisses the idea that approving medical marijuana will open the door for more widespread use of pot. He says the point of the bill is simply to provide relief for seriously ill people.
Even though he views himself as the “Number One” target of Democrats in next year’s Congressional elections, Republican Rodney Davis says he’s still optimistic about a more cooperative working relationship with the other side of the aisle on Capitol Hill.
Davis appeared live on 970 WMAY, ahead of a meeting with business leaders at the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
Davis says his message is despite years of partisan gridlock, there is a greater desire among rank-and-file lawmakers to work together and start getting things done.
Many roads in and around Springfield are in much better shape… a day after the end of the biggest snowstorm in the city’s history.
Springfield public works crews have been working around the clock since the 18-inch-plus snowfall began early Sunday.
Public works director Mark Mahoney says the record snow gave the city a chance for a real-time test of its tracking equipment to show where plows have been… and what parts of town haven’t yet been plowed.
Main roads in the city and county are largely clear, but some side roads may still be snowpacked.
Most local schools are expected to resume classes today, and Springfield Mass Transit District buses should be back to normal operations today.
Sangamon County has two major projects on Governor Pat Quinn’s half-billion-dollar list of road and bridge work for the spring construction season.
The state plans to seek bids next month for the projects… including a $1.8 million resurfacing project on Route 4 from Chatham to Auburn, and a million-dollar program for widening and other improvements on South Sixth Street Road from Stevenson Drive to the 6th Street frontage road.
Quinn says the 200 projects statewide represent one of the biggest spring construction plans in the state’s history.
State lawmakers are trying to address a growing shortage of primary care physicians, especially in rural areas around the state.
But those efforts have not gone smoothly.
Several bills in Springfield attempt to alleviate the effects of the doctor shortage by giving nurse practitioners more autonomy, licensing midwives, allowing dentists to administer vaccinations, and allowing psychologists to prescribe certain mental health medications.
None of those bills have yet passed the Illinois legislature.
Springfield Mass Transit District buses will not be running for the remainder of the day today or tonight.
Because of the heavy snowpack still on many bus routes throughout the city, the SMTD first delayed and then cancelled service for the day. Access Springfield transit for the disabled is also cancelled for the day.
The agency expects to resume normal operations on Tuesday.
Among the casualties from Sunday’s record snowfall was an open-air shed used to store lumber at the Carter Brothers lumber facility near Sherman.
An official with the company says the weight of snow piled on the roof… combined with strong winds… was too much for the structure to bear, causing the roof to cave in. But the lumber inside was not damaged and will be salvaged.
The company has two other similar sheds… but officials say so far they remain intact.
At least two major Sangamon County projects are among nearly half-a-billion dollars in road and bridge work planned for the spring construction season, under a list released by Governor Pat Quinn.
Quinn says the $486 million package will create thousands of jobs and improve public safety by upgrading the state’s infrastructure.
Those projects… which will go out for bid next month… include $1.8 million for resurfacing and other work between Chatham and Auburn… and $1 million for widening, sidewalks, traffic signals and other improvements on South Sixth Street Road from Stevenson Drive to the Sixth Street Frontage Road.
Road crews have been working through the night in an effort to clear streets of more than a foot of snow that has fallen since early Sunday morning.
Latest totals from around Sangamon County range from 13 to 15 inches, shattering records for this time of year. Most schools in the area are closed today, and it’s a good idea to call ahead before venturing out for other activities.
In addition, a snow emergency remains in effect for Springfield… vehicles may not be parked on designated snow routes until Wednesday, or until the snow emergency declaration is lifted.
Springfield Mass Transit District buses will not be running until at least 9:45am Monday.
But take heart… temperatures will be in the mid- to upper- 50s by next weekend.
A planned sports complex for Springfield’s southwest side now appears to be on a fast track for approval… after months of delay amid concerns about traffic and drainage.
Several Springfield aldermen say their concerns about the Legacy Sports Complex have been addressed, and Alderman Cory Jobe says he will seek to have a zoning ordinance for the facility placed on the consent agenda for next week’s City Council meeting.
The Legacy complex will offer baseball, softball and soccer fields.
The developer says it could mean millions of dollars in economic impact for the city.
Four days after the official start of spring, Central Illinois is buried under one of the biggest snowfalls in years. As of 8pm Sunday night, a foot of snow had officially fallen in Springfield, with even higher amounts recorded in other parts of Sangamon County. And more snow was expected overnight.
Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on the weather and road conditions.
The biggest snowfall of the winter has forced school districts across Central Illinois to cancel classes for Monday. Springfield District 186 is among the districts that will be closed. In addition, Springfield Mass Transit District buses will not be running until at least 9:45am Monday. For the complete list of closings and cancellations, click here.
The City of Springfield has declared a snow emergency because of the heavy snowfall. That means vehicles cannot be parked on designated snow routes for 72 hours from the time of the declaration Sunday afternoon, or until the order is lifted. Vehicles parked in violation of the snow emergency declaration may be towed.
Sangamon County has issued a Level 2 snow emergency. The advisory declaration states that some county roads may be impassable, and travel on county roadways is discouraged.
A Springfield man has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for a series of residential burglaries in Decatur.
But the Herald and Review newspaper says Floyd Brown’s attorney may appeal the verdict. Attorney Jon Gray Noll says evidence against Brown was improperly obtained when Springfield police entered his residence without a search warrant.
Illinois House Republicans have proposed a constitutional amendment that they say will put some teeth behind the state’s requirement to have a balanced budget.
Under the GOP proposal, any spending plan approved by the legislature must be certified as “balanced” by the Auditor General. If the spending plan is found not to be balanced, the state would be ordered to halt paychecks to lawmakers and top state officials, and to stop payments for all non-essential services, until a balanced budget is passed.
Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport officials are relieved at the news that the air traffic control tower her will stay open.
Springfield had been on a preliminary list of possible tower closures because of the federal budget sequester. But the list of FAA cuts focuses on towers that are manned by contractual personnel, rather than a full FAA tower like Springfield. That means several Illinois airport towers will close temporarily... including Bloomington and Decatur.
Springfield airport manager Mark Hanna says closing those towers is, quote, "an embarrassment" to the American aviation system, but he warns it could also be hazardous. And he says no one may really know just how dangerous it will be until something bad happens.
Congressman Aaron Schock has introduced legislation that he says will take power away from the federal government and give it back to local school boards.
Schock started his political career by being elected to the Peoria School Board at the age of 19 on his way to becoming one of the youngest members of Congress. Now the Peoria Republican says the feds are putting too many rules and regulations on local school boards by, for example, piling on requirements for districts seeking federal grants.
Schock says his legislation will limit the ability of the U.S. Department of Education to impose new rules on local districts.
Illinois’s auditor general has pleaded guilty to driving under the influence. 61-year-old William Holland entered the plea today in Sangamon County Circuit Court.
He admitted to driving while intoxicated in Springfield on February 6th, when he was pulled over by Illinois State Police. Holland was sentenced by Judge Rudy Braud to one year of court supervision, and was ordered to pay court costs of more than $1500.
Holland issued a statement saying he made a mistake and is glad no one was hurt in the incident.
The number of jobs is up in Illinois, but so is the statewide unemployment rate.
The February jobless rate jumped to 9.5%... up from 9-percent in January, and 8.9% in February of 2012. The State Department of Employment Security blames the spike on an increase in people actively looking for work as the number of payroll jobs rises.
The department says the state added more than 12,000 jobs in February, despite the uptick in the jobless rate.
February was a big month for home sale. And not just in Springfield.
Statewide numbers from the Illinois Association of Realtors show a strong increase in sales numbers across Illinois… up 16-percent in February compared to the same month a year earlier. Median home sale prices were also up around the state, a year-to-year increase of five-percent. The numbers are strong, especially for February, which is typically a slow month for home sales.
But the statewide figures are not as strong as the Springfield numbers, which were up 30-percent this year over last.
After rejecting one proposed pension reform plan, the Illinois Senate has approved a much smaller attempt to fix a portion of the problem.
And it took two Senate votes to get the bare majority needed to approve Senate President John Cullerton’s bill… which only applies to current working teachers, but excludes other public sector employees and retirees.
Cullerton’s bill would require those workers to choose between cost-of-living increases or state-subsidized health care after they retire.
One critic says it barely scratches the surface of the pension crisis.
The new state contract with AFSCME calls for workers to receive raises that were promised under past contracts… but never delivered.
But a spokesman for House Speaker Mike Madigan says he’s not sure where that money will come from.
It would cost an estimated $140 million to cover the cost of those raises, which Governor Pat Quinn withheld because he said the legislature did not appropriate enough money for them.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown says lawmakers approve lots of money each year… but it will be up to the governor and his agencies to decide whether to apply that money to raises or to other spending priorities.
It appears that a large cell phone tower… disguised as a giant pine tree… will not become part of the landscape at Pasfield Golf Course.
The State Journal-Register reports that park district officials have discovered that the 1967 grant which was used to purchase the course contains a provision that prohibits such commercial use of the property.
AT&T had wanted to erect the 100-foot tower on the property, and vowed to camouflage it to make it look like a large tree.
But neighbors had objected, saying the tower would be an eyesore that would reduce their property values.
The state's new contract with AFSCME calls for union members to receive $140 million in pay raises that were previously promised, but never delivered. But a top legislative spokesman says it's not clear where that money will come from.
House Speaker Mike Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown appeared live (Wednesday) on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show." Brown says there are no guarantees that an additional $140 million can be added to current budget and revenue projections to cover the cost of those past raises.
But he says the legislature will approve billions of dollars for state government operations...and it will be up to Quinn and his agency directors how to allocate that money, and whether other jobs or services will have to be cut to accommodate the raises.
Tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings may sound a little different this spring.
The National Weather Service is expanding a pilot program to put more specific information about potential storm damage into the warnings.
Under the new system... known as "Impact Based Warnings"... a severe weather alert will include one of three different types of warnings: that tornado damage is possible but the storm will be short-lived; that serious damage is expected from a long-lived storm track; or that "catastrophic" damage to life and property is expected from a long-track storm. The last category is extremely rare, happening only 8 times in Central Illinois since 1950.
Springfield Alderman Steve Dove is joining ranks with Alderman Joe McMenamin about seeking a modest increase in Springfield’s sewer fee.
The effort, which would raise the fee by about $4 a month, would raise $2 million for the sewer infrastructure, according to a post on Dove’s Facebook page.
Dove says the best thing about the proposal is that the money would be designated only for sewer projects.
Another proposal from Mayor Mike Houston to increase the sales tax by one percent is getting mixed reactions from aldermen and constituents who fear increased sales tax will keep businesses selling big ticket items out of the city.
The city is grappling with how to fund tens of millions of dollars in street, sidewalk and sewer repairs.
AFSCME members have approved a new three-year contract with the state… one that will mean higher health care costs for workers and retirees, but that is also supposed to give those workers long overdue raises.
Under the deal, workers will pay an additional one-percent of their salary for health care.
And retirees who had no health care premiums in the past will now have to pay for their coverage.
But the deal also calls for the state to fund salary increases that had been promised in the past but were withheld because the money wasn’t appropriated.
The city of Springfield may stop enforcing energy-efficiency provisions of the city’s building code entirely… rather than impose new stringent standards mandated by the state.
State law requires the city to use the most recent published International Energy Conservation Code standards… but builders say that would increase the cost of new construction.
For now, a proposal to adopt those stricter standards remains stalled in a City Council committee… and unless that changes, Mayor Mike Houston says the city will not be able to enforce any energy-efficiency codes.
Springfield police will take the lead in investigating the leak of confidential student data from the Capitol College Preparatory Academy.
The Springfield school board voted Monday night to seek an outside investigation into whether state and federal laws were broken when student names and standardized test scores were released to members of the public and the press.
District 186 officials had also planned to consult with the FBI, but deputy Springfield police chief Cliff Buscher says the city will take charge for now… and will call in the feds as needed.
Investigators spent the day Tuesday reviewing records and interviewing staff at the school district’s administrative offices.
AFSCME members have ratified a new three-year contract, which Governor Pat Quinn describes as the best deal for taxpayers in Illinois history, as the union agrees to cutbacks that Quinn says will save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
The deal includes no cost of living increase in the first year, and just two-percent in each of the remaining two years of the pact. In addition, starting pay for new hires will be cut by as much as nine-percent from current levels. And retirees -- many of whom currently pay no health care premium -- will have to start paying something toward their insurance, effective July 1st.
In exchange, Quinn agrees to seek funding for pay raises that were promised under past contracts, but which were not paid because lawmakers did not appropriate the money for them. The deal was worked out during a contentious 15-month negotiation, said to be the longest in state history.
The City of Springfield is moving to not enforce any energy conservation code, after an ordinance to update the city's code with the latest published International Energy Conservation Code standards failed to come out of committee for a third time.
Beginning this year, the state of Illinois mandates local units of government enforce the most recently published code book.
Mayor Mike Houston says if the city refuses to pass the latest IECC updates into the code books as acording to state law, he will just have the building department simply not enforce any energy conservation measures.
Currently on the City of Springfield's books is the IECC of 2009, not the most recent published, as is the language in state law.
Aldermen could go through and gut the code book of any energy conservation measures, but that remains to be seen if that's how the aldermen will act.
Future construction in Springfield will still have to be built to the most recent codes, but the city will not seek compliance.
Supporters of having the city enforce the state law say it creates a level playing field for builders.
The area home builders association says it wants the city to support repealing the state law entirely because it increases the cost of home more on the low end market.
Aldermen will decide the fate of the city's energy conservation enforcement efforts next week.
Area public drinking water systems are being recognized by the state’s Division of Oral Health for fluoridating drinking water, but critics of the decades old practice say the public health policy needs to be reevaluated.
A press release from the Illinois Department of Public Health congratulates over 440 public drinking water systems, including City Water Light and Power's water division, for complying with the state’s fluoride mandate. However, critics at the Fluoride Action Network say recent studies show too much fluoride can harden bones, cause fluorosis of the teeth and also hinder growing children's cognitive development.
City Water Light and Power has complied with Illinois' fluoride mandate for fifteen years, according to the Department of Public Health.
The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office busted a Springfield Man this morning for an indoor marijuana growing operation.
Sheriff Neil Williamson says 40-year-old James E. Merrifield was charged with production and possession of over 50 cannabis plants and possession of marijuana over 500 grams, after police searched his home and found over 100 pot plants.
Police say throughout the home at 252 North English, they found numerous pieces of drug paraphernalia, a scale, and nearly two thousand dollars in cash.
Springfield police will take the lead in the investigation of the leak of private student data from the Capital College Preparatory Academy.
SPD investigators arrived at the District 186 administrative offices this (Tuesday) morning to begin looking through records and talking to staff as they try to determine who released confidential records containing student names and test scores.
School district officials had also discussed calling in the FBI to investigate possible violations of federal law, but deputy Springfield police chief Cliff Buscher says his department will handle the case and will only call in the feds if necessary.
A compliance audit of District 186 finds 68 teachers -- roughly 5% of the district total -- do not have the proper certification, and in some cases lack the proper qualifications for their current teaching assignment.
Regional Superintendent Jeff Vose says many of the violations are minor, but 12 are considered major violations -- including elementary school teachers with high school assignments (and vice versa), and regular ed teachers in charge of special ed classes. Some of the violations were left over from the last audit of the District in 2010.
The audit is held every two years, but this year's version was moved up after a Lanphier High School teacher was found to lack proper certification following her arrest on charges of having sexual relations with a student.
Because of the audit findings, Vose has recommended that the District's certification of compliance be withheld "pending further review." Vose and district officials say corrective action is being taken.
UPDATE: School board votes 7-0 to seek external investigation of leak of CCPA student data. Superintendent Walter Milton says Springfield police and FBI have been contacted.
PREVIOUS: Springfield school board president Susan White accuses board VP Bill Looby of attempting to smear her and of "unethical" conduct in comments regarding leak of private student data from CCPA, then refuses to allow Looby to respond immediately to allegations.
White says no board member had access to or was responsible for the leak, and says Springfield police have been consulted about investigation.
Stay with wmay.com or connect with WMAY on Facebook or Twitter for updates on this story.
About 150 female inmates have been transferred to the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln… with hundreds more to follow in the weeks ahead.
In all, around 950 women will be moved from the Dwight Correctional Center to Logan… which will become a maximum-security facility for female prisoners.
As part of the complicated process of closing Dwight, about 1,000 male prisoners from Logan were transferred to the nearby Lincoln Correctional Center… and hundreds more were shipped out to other prisons around the state, where they are being housed in gymnasiums and other temporary space.
There’s been another apparent sighting of that fake cop driving around with flashing red-and-blue lights.
The latest happened earlier this week in Macoupin County. An 18-year-old woman driving with a 19-year-old male passenger reported the car driving erratically with those lights flashing Monday night on Illinois Route 16. The woman did not stop and the vehicle eventually turned off.
It’s the second such incident in Macoupin County in recent weeks, along with three such cases in Sangamon County.
State health officials are trying to raise awareness about the alarming number of homicide deaths among Illinois teens and young adults.
A PSA campaign from the State Department of Public Health says homicide is the number two cause of death for Illinois residents ages 10 to 24. The campaign is trying to send the message that youth violence is preventable… not inevitable.
U.S. Senator Mark Kirk says he’s hopeful for bipartisan compromise on legislation to keep guns out of the hands of illegal traffickers and expand background checks for firearm purchases. The Illinois Republican says he spoke with President Obama this week about his efforts on Capitol Hill.
A Senate committee has approved two pension-reform proposals… even as lawmakers continue to debate whether or not the ideas are even constitutional.
Several of the senators who supported the measures in committee Wednesday say they’re only doing so to keep the debate going… and are not committing to voters for either proposal when they come up for a full Senate vote.
While some lawmakers question the constitutionality of changing promised pension benefits, others say the current proposals don’t go far enough to reduce the state’s unfunded liability.
The Boy Scout Council serving Sangamon and surrounding counties expects to suffer some fallout from the renewed debate over gays can be a part of scouting… no matter which way the decision goes.
The national Boy Scout organization announced earlier this year that it would reconsider its longstanding refusal to admit gay scouts or scoutleaders… and then put off a final decision while it conducts a survey on the issue.
Dan O’Brien with the Abraham Lincoln Council says whatever decision is ultimately made, the outcome of the process is likely to affect fundraising and recruitment.
Springfield's Catholic Bishop will hold a Mass of Thanksgiving Thursday in celebration of the selection of a new Pope.
Bishop Thomas John Paprocki says he believes Pope Francis I will inspire American Catholics because of his historic status as the first Pope chosen from the New World. Paprocki believes Francis will be a strong spiritual leader who will fiercely defend traditional Catholic teachings.
The celebration Mass will be held at noon Thursday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The head of local Boy Scout programs says the current debate over allowing gay scouts and scoutleaders will likely have an effect on the organization's fundraising and membership... no matter which way it goes.
Dan O'Brien says that while the national Boy Scout organization is compiling information and opinions for the next few weeks, the local Scouting group will simply remain focused on trying to provide quality programs for thousands of Central Illinois youngsters.
A budget proposal from Governor Pat Quinn's office could cost the City of Springfield and other municipalities shared income tax revenue.
Alderman Sam Cahnman is requesting an ordinance be drafted for passage by the city that would urge the Governor and the General Assembly against capping shared income tax revenue at last year's levels.
Budget Director Bill McCarty said the proposal from Quinn's office has been estimated to cost the city between $600,000 to $1.3 million in the first year.
Cahnman says that number could increase year-after-year.
A board member of the State's Home Builders Association wants the city of Springfield to decide what it will do about updated energy efficiency codes.
Dean Graven wants the city to either ditch it's compliance to the International Energy Conversation Codes and force the state of Illinois to enforce the standards or get the city in place to enforce the standards. Either way, Graven says the city must make that decision.
An ordinance in front of Springfield aldermen would change the city's code to adhere to the most recent code standards as prescribed by state law.
Graven says the state Association of Home Builders will soon provide a policy paper to the city and the state to urge a change in the law to keep the playing field level and not force high costs onto new construction.
Graven says that the city refusing to comply with the latest IECC codes won't keep builders from having to comply with the law, but it puts an unnecessary burden on consumers, the home builders and the home building process.
Aldermen Frank Edwards said if it's the state's law, let the state enforce it.
Edwards says as Springfield considers a tax increase for infrastructure, the last thing they should be doing is hiring more building code enforcers to enforce the latest published IECC Codes.
Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen says that the city could drop all energy efficiency standards enforcement and let the home builders comply with state law on their own.
Graven says that the law will hurt the lower end consumer and homes for organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
Graven also says there are a series of discussions with various organizations throughout the state to continue lobbying the state to change the state law.
Aldermen decided to hold the ordinance in committee for further analysis on its financial impact.
The City of Springfield is finishing up some analysis to answer questions about the capital city's gravel pits before it can move forward with any plans concerning Hunter Lake.
One question contractor Layne Hydro required the city to answer is how pulling water from various gravel pits will affect other wells throughout the area, according to City Water Light and Power Water Division Manager Ted Meckes.
A recent completed study says that there is enough water in the area's dozen gravel pits, but they didn't look into the impacts on other water supplies.
The second lake, also known as Hunter Lake, has been discussed for decades and the city says the permit with the US Army Corps of Engineers is inactive.
A recent demand analysis said that Springfield could use 12 million gallons a day in case of severe drought and a second lake would provide for nearly double that, according to Meckes.
Alderman Kris Theilen requested the update to get a synopsis for constituents urging aldermen to break ground without the necessary approval from the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 14.6 percent of wage and salaried workers in the state belonged to a union in 2012… down from 16.2 percent a year earlier.
Union membership has been on the decline since peaking at 21-percent in 1993. But the numbers here remain substantially higher than the national figures, with just over 10-percent of workers belonging to a union.
Top Illinois Republicans say the way to keep streets safe is to crack down on gangs, not guns. House Republican Leader Tom Cross and GOP lawmakers have introduced bills that they say will confront the real danger in Chicago and elsewhere… the prevalence of gangs and gang activity.
One bill would increase the mandatory minimum penalty for gang-related gun violence from three to four years with no chance at probation. The other would expand gang recruitment laws by allowing someone to be prosecuted even if there is no sign that they used physical force to coerce someone into a gang.
The Republicans call the bills the “Protect Our Children” initiative.
Two major projects could slow drivers down in Springfield on Wednesday.
The city says the middle lanes of South Grand between 12th and 13th Streets will be closed for a week, starting Wednesday, to repair a sewer cave-in. Motorists may want to avoid that area during peak traffic times.
And the westbound curb lane of Clear Lake will also be closed on Wednesday for tree removal. That project should only take a day.
The Capital Area Association of Realtors says that area sales are on a sustained uptrend, but more homes are needed to meet demand.
The latest numbers released by the association says local home sales are up just over 30 percent in February over the same time period last year with median homes sale prices up 10 percent from last year.
Foreclosures were also up in February over last year.
Don Cave, President of the CAAR, says that “pent-up demand and job creation, along with … rising rents” are key reasons for the increase.
Cave also says that new home construction would help increase the available homes on the market and keep prices from quote “overheating.”
It’s a relic from a bygone era… when people had to buy blocks of ice to keep food cool in the days before electric refrigerators.
But now the century-old icehouse on Springfield’s east side is being torn down.
There are no immediate plans for the property at 9th and Edwards… although it may become a desirable property for development, because it is located on the old Route 66 and is near a planned intermodal transportation hub along the 10th Street railroad tracks.
One downtown businessman is tired of pressing his luck with St. Patrick’s Day partiers.
The State Journal-Register reports the owner of Abe’s Old Hat Antiques on North Sixth Street will close his business down on Saturday… rather than deal with the unruly crowds that can come out for the noon-hour parade.
Despite some new restrictions this year… including a wristband requirement for anyone drinking liquor outside Saturday… store owner Michael Maylor says he doesn’t need the hassle.
He posted a sign on his store that talks about, quote, “putting up with the crap” from the parade… and says he will re-open Monday, quote, “after the city cleans up the beer, vomit and urine from our streets and sidewalks.”
Yet another woman has reported an encounter with a possible police impersonator.
The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office received a report from an 18-year-old woman who says her car was followed by a vehicle with flashing red-and-blue lights… but no front license plate… on Old Route 36 near Curran Friday night. The woman says she turned on her emergency lights and kept driving. The white car that was trailing her turned off the road and drove away.
It’s at least the third such incident reported in Sangamon County in the past month. The sheriff’s department notes that the incident was not reported until nearly nine hours after it happened… and asks anyone involved in a similar incident to call 911 immediately.
Some agencies that provide in-home care to senior citizens say they’ve been asked to keep providing the care… even though the state program to pay for the care is almost out of money, and there’s no telling when those agencies will get paid.
The state notified in-home care providers last week that funds for the program would be used up within days.
Lawmakers are blasting the Quinn administration for failing to plan farther ahead and make the necessary budget adjustments to keep paying for those services.
There are fears that some agencies will have to lay off workers… or perhaps close their doors… because of the lag in state funding.
Illinois Republicans are backing away from an attempt to dump party chairman Pat Brady.
Brady was in the hot seat after encouraging Republicans to support a same-sex marriage bill in the legislature earlier this year. Several committeemen called a special meeting for Saturday to vote on Brady's future, but cancelled the meeting late Friday, reportedly because they lacked the votes to fire him.
Brady still has the support of some top elected Republicans, including U.S. Senator Mark Kirk. But the chairman's fate could come up for discussion again at the next regular meeting of state committeemen, scheduled for April.
A student who was found dead in his dorm room at Blackburn College in Carlinville in January reportedly died of a drug overdose.
The information comes from a letter sent to the parents of Blackburn students from the college president. The letter says Blackburn is working with local authorities on their investigation, and continues to offer counseling for students who are grief-stricken over the death of 24-year-old Josh Ramza of Romeoville.
Illinois Republicans have cancelled the meeting they had scheduled to consider whether to dump party chairman Pat Brady over his support for same-sex marriage.
Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax says a notice was sent out late Friday night abruptly canceling the Saturday meeting… blaming it on Brady’s refusal to commit to participating in the meeting in person or by phone.
The conservative committeemen who want to dump Brady say the meeting will be rescheduled.
The races for Springfield school board seats this spring appear to be focusing on three main issues... finding a new superintendent, closing the district's budget gap, and figuring out how to make the board work more effectively.
Former district administrator Chuck Flamini... who is now a candidate in Subdistrict 7... told the audience at a school board forum Thursday night that the board needs less drama, and less trauma for teachers and students.
Other candidates agree, saying the board has a "trust deficit" with the community.
City Water, Light and Power says they’ve a couple of calls over the past week about customers receiving suspicious phone calls from out of state.
One call from a Minnesota number told the customer they had overpaid their electric bill and would receive a credit if they provided personal information. A second call from an Arkansas number said the customer’s electric account was in arrears and they were in danger of disconnection, and tried to get a payment over the phone. In both instances, the customer hung up and called CWLP.
Any customer receiving a suspicious call is urged to call CWLP at 789-2030 immediately.
It's OK to water your car or your lawn again in Springfield, whenever you want.
Mayor Mike Houston has lifted the water restrictions that were put in place last summer in response to severe drought conditions. Lake levels have risen more than two-and-a-half feet since January, and are now back up to the 75-year-average and climbing.
That increase allowed Houston to sign an executive order lifting the restrictions, effective immediately.
Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is revamping his proposal to pay for infrastructure projects but so far he still lacks the votes to pass it.
Houston had earlier proposed increases in sewer fees and the city's sales tax to pay for the multi-million-dollar plan but never introduced the ordinance because he didn't have the five votes needed for approval.
On 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show" today, Houston said he's now proposing just a one-percent sales tax hike, to be split among major road and sewer projects and routine maintenance. But the mayor says he's still at least one vote short.
We may not have heard the last of the debate over Springfield's towing fee.
Aldermen cut that $500 fee in half this week, overriding Mayor Mike Houston's veto of the ordinance. But Houston still insists the higher fee is appropriate, since nearly all of the vehicles that the city tows and impounds are involved in DUI or drug offenses, or had drivers with suspended or revoked licenses.
Houston says he may consider an idea floated by 970 WMAY's Ray Lytle to propose reinstating the ordinance for those specific offenses. The mayor says he likes the idea, but hasn't committed yet to actually introducing it.
To Springfield city officials and economic planners, the newest County Market location is more than just a grocery store.
Mayor Mike Houston says the store at 2nd and Carpenter could be a linchpin for development of downtown and surrounding areas. The store is located on the edge of the Mid-Illinois Medical District and is seen as a crucial step in drawing future residents to live in both the medical district and downtown.
The store’s official opening today means jobs for around 110 employees.
Just days after the drug interdiction team was reactivated after being sidelined for budgetary reasons, deputies have arrested a mother and son accused of operating a drug house on the city’s east side.
Authorities executed a search warrant on the house and found marijuana, paraphernalia and nearly $900 in cash.
46-year-old Michelle Buchanan and 24-year-old Braxton Buchanan will face multiple charges.
A veteran Bloomington firefighter… who was working as a volunteer firefighter in the town of Hudson… has died after a semi plowed into emergency vehicles which had responded to another accident in McLean County Tuesday night.
39-year-old Chris Brown was assisting with that weather-related collision when a rig carrying automobiles lost control and hit three emergency vehicles. Brown was killed and five others were injured.
Brown had served for 12 years on the Bloomington Fire Department.
A crowd estimated between 7 and 10 thousand people marched to the Capitol to lobby their lawmakers today in support of a reasonable carry law.
The State of Illinois is under a federal court order to produce some kind of carry law and members of the Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day urged their lawmakers to piece together a comprehensive measure that allows for commercial training, statewide rules, and also members oppose any restriction on semi-automatic weapons.
Illinois has until June 9th to enact some kind of carry law.
Governor Pat Quinn has laid out his plan for the new state budget… with a healthy dose of finger-pointing at the General Assembly.
Quinn says lawmakers are to blame for what he calls the most difficult budget of his time as governor, because they have failed to send him a comprehensive pension reform plan. Quinn says he would make changes through executive order if he could… but says he can’t do anything unless the legislature passes a bill.
Quinn and lawmakers will also be at odds over the size of the budget. The governor based his spending plan on revenues of $35.6 billion, but the legislature is operating on a revenue estimate that’s nearly $600 million less. [The governor's speech was heard live Wednesday on 970 WMAY.]
A mother and her son were arrested this morning after Sangamon County Sheriff’s Drug Interdiction Response Team conducted a raid on a house on the 300 block of S. Livingston seizing 400 grams of cannabis, scales and $877 in cash.
Sheriff Neil Williamson says 46-year-old Michelle Buchanan and her son, 24-year-old Braxton Buchanan, were arrested this morning just after 6 am.
Authorities got a search warrant after information about drug sales out of the house were provided by informants.
Both mother and son are charged with possession and sale of over 30 grams of cannabis and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Walter Milton has lost his job with District 186… and lost out on his bid for a new job in Little Rock, Arkansas… all in the same day.
Just before the Springfield school board approved a separation agreement that will lead to Milton’s departure from the district at the end of this month, the Little Rock school board offered its superintendent’s job to someone other than Milton.
However, for some, the fight over Milton’s job in Springfield isn’t over.
The local branch of the NAACP accuses the school board of violating the Open Meetings Act and failing to be transparent in its dealings with Milton. In addition, the group charges that budget cuts and layoffs unfairly target minorities, potentially putting the district in violation of the federal desegregation court order. The NAACP says it may consider legal action.
Despite the pleas of students and parents, the Springfield school board has closed the door on the Capital College Preparatory Academy for the second time in a month. By the same 4-3 vote, board members upheld last month’s decision to close the school in a cost-cutting move.
Board member Bill Looby had proposed a compromise to allow the college prep program to keep operating as a “school-within-a-school,” instead of as a stand-alone program, but that proposal was also rejected.
Supporters say CCPA has improved test scores and lowered the “achievement gap” in Springfield public schools.
The head of the Oak Ridge Cemetery board has resigned, after warning that the cemetery’s budget is based on what she calls unrealistic revenue projections.
The State Journal-Register reports Kate Peters stepped down after raising concerns that Oak Ridge will fall well short of its projections and will have to turn to the city for additional funds to keep cemetery operations running.
Peters also complains that the cemetery board is not getting reliable or understandable budget information from the city.
Tonight’s Springfield school board meeting has been moved to an alternate location… to accommodate the large crowds that are expected.
The meeting will be held in the Grant Middle School gymnasium, next door to the school board offices on West Monroe.
Among the items on the agenda will be a reconsideration of last month’s decision to close the Capital College Preparatory Academy… and final approval of the separation agreement between the school board and outgoing superintendent Walter Milton. The meeting gets underway at 6:30pm.
The head of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce says the business group is willing to consider supporting a sales tax increase… if there are solid guarantees that the money will go to address the city’s critical infrastructure needs.
Steward Sandstrom says the Chamber is firmly behind Mayor Mike Houston’s call to invest tens of millions of dollars into streets, sidewalks and sewers in the next few years, and supports raising city sewer fees to generate some of the money needed. And Sandstrom says the Chamber would keep an open mind on other funding ideas… including a sales tax hike.
Houston has not proposed a plan for fully funding his infrastructure proposal… because he says he lacks the votes on the City Council needed to pass it.
The tentative new contract for state workers includes a big incentive for lawmakers to fully fund pay raises.
Under the language of the agreement… posted on Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax Blog website… the contract states that if lawmakers do not appropriate money to pay for wage increases, then workers will not have to pay the higher health insurance premiums also spelled out in the contract.
The deal also calls for workers to receive “step increases” based on years of service, and to pay those increases retroactively. So far, neither the union nor Governor Pat Quinn has put a price tag on the various salary and step increases contained in the three-year deal.
Friends and colleagues on both sides of the aisle are remembering Dawn Clark Netsch as a political icon who served the people of the state with honesty and integrity.
The former state senator and comptroller… who became the first woman to win a major party nomination for Illinois governor… died Tuesday morning at the age of 86. She revealed in January that she was battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Democrats and Republicans alike say Netsch was a trailblazer for women in politics and someone who set a standard for public service.
A wealthy Chicago businessman is launching an exploratory committee… with an eye toward seeking the Republican nomination for Governor next year.
Bruce Rauner says he doesn’t have all the answers to the state’s problems… but plans to spend the next 60 days on a “listening tour” of the state to get the input of Illinois residents.
Rauner describes himself as an entrepreneur, not a politician, and says he is “heartbroken” over the current state of Illinois government. He is one of at least a half-dozen Republicans actively considering a run for the party’s 2014 nomination for governor.
A driver who allegedly ran a stop sign in Springfield last week is now facing drug and weapons charges.
Illinois State Police say a District 9 trooper spotted the driver running that stop sign at State and Laurel last Wednesday afternoon and pulled him over. The trooper called for a Springfield Police canine unit… and the dog indicated the presence of drugs.
Consent was given for a search of the vehicle…and afterwards, police say the driver gave consent for a search of his home on South Spring.
Altogether, police say they recovered 10 pounds of cannabis, 8 cannabis plants, and a stolen handgun. 24-year-old Jeffrey Moss is facing multiple charges.
The Sangamon County Sheriff’s office has released two sketches of a possible suspect in the case of a police impersonator who has tried to pull over at least two women on Springfield’s far west side in the past month.
Undersheriff Jack Campbell says despite some differences in the sketches, which are based on the separate recollections of the two victims, authorities believe the same man is responsible for both incidents.
They ask that anyone who may recognize the suspect or has other information about the case to call the sheriff’s investigations division at 753-6840.
State Senator Andy Manar wants the state to make up for some of the money it costs Springfield schools by its very presence.
Manar notes that District 186 loses an unknown amount of property tax dollars that would go into its coffers because of the large number of state-owned facilities… which are exempt from property taxes. He would like the state to make small payment to the district in lieu of the full property tax value. Manar’s plan calls for the state to pay one-half of one-percent… an amount he estimates at 200-to-600 thousand dollars.
But he acknowledges it will be a tough bill to pass, even though several other Illinois communities already get such payments.
The next Springfield school superintendent may have a provision in their contract prohibiting them from conducting outside consulting work.
There is no such provision in outgoing Superintendent Walter Milton’s contract, and the State Journal-Register reports that a firm started by Milton has made tens of thousands of dollars performing consulting services for several districts in other states.
Milton says he has conducted that work on personal or vacation time… but school board president Susan White says the next superintendent should be focused only on District 186.
Governor Pat Quinn is putting the finishing touches on his new state budget, which will be delivered to lawmakers on Wednesday as Quinn offers his annual budget address.
In addition to the state’s growing pension crisis and an increasing stack of unpaid bills, the governor also has to find funds to pay for the contract he negotiated with AFSCME last week… one that reportedly will hand out the pay raises that Quinn withheld two years ago because lawmakers did not approve enough money for them.
970 WMAY will have live coverage of the governor’s budget speech from the Capitol, Wednesday at noon.
A local lawmaker hopes that controversy on the campus of Southern Illinois University will lead to a greater voice for Springfield.
SIU is embroiled in a battle between university president Glenn Poshard and former board chair Roger Herrin.
After lawmakers rejected Governor Pat Quinn's appointments to the board last week, a bill has been introduced to require equal representation from the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses on the board. And state Senator Andy Manar also wants to give the SIU Medical School in Springfield a guaranteed board seat. [Manar will be a guest Monday morning on the Jim Leach Show on 970 WMAY.]
The Illinois National Guard officially has a new commander.
Brigadier General Daniel Krumrei was sworn in Saturday in a ceremony in Chatham. Krumrei had been the command staff chaplain for the guard. He was appoined by Governor Pat Quinn to replace Bill Enyart, who stepped down to make a successful run for Congress last year.
There’s another reported incident of a police impersonator pulling over a young woman on a remote highway… and Sangamon County authorities say there are reasons to think it may involve the same individual suspected in two other local cases.
The latest incident happened earlier this week, near Shipman in Macoupin County. A woman reported that a man in an unmarked vehicle with flashing lights pulled her over and asked to see her license. The man ultimately let the woman go.
The Macoupin County victim said the man had a shirt and hat with the word “Police” embroidered on them, and she described a dark-colored car… not the white vehicle reported in the Sangamon County stops. But local authorities say there are enough similarities to cause concern, and they are asking anyone with timely tips to contact police.
State workers will begin voting next week on a tentative contract agreement with the Quinn administration.
The deal was hammered out in the early morning hours Thursday… following 15 months of talks that had seemed at times to be hopelessly stalled.
The agreement avoids the possibility of a first-ever walkout by state workers.
Neither side will openly discuss details of the contract proposal, but a bargaining committee member tells the Associated Press that it includes the pay raise that Governor Pat Quinn withheld in 2011… and also includes pay raises in the final two years of the three-year deal.
In exchange, workers would pay more for their health care coverage.
The contract is also believed to address the fate of the free health insurance premiums that many state retirees currently enjoy.
A Springfield High School student will accompany Congressman Aaron Schock and other members of Congress on a weekend tour of major sites related to the civil rights struggle.
That three-day tour through Alabama will include stops at Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma… where protests and, at times, violence marked the long quest for racial equality.
Onsi Kamel, who serves as the student representative on the Springfield School Board, was chosen to join the congressional delegation on the trip, which will also include participation in a re-enactment of a civil rights march.
Vice-President Joe Biden will also take part in that event.