The federal government has awarded Springfield $14 million for construction of the first new underpass connected to the railroad relocation.
The money represents the full local request for federal assistance to build that underpass at 10th and Carpenter. That intersection was chosen first to ensure that the east side would continue to have unrestricted access to the city’s hospitals and medical district during the multi-year rail project.
The underpass will cost more than $21 million total. The City of Springfield plans to ask the Illinois Commerce Commission to fund the rest of the project through its safety improvements program.
More help is on the way for United Cerebral Palsy in the wake of a fire that destroyed a group home for three disabled individuals.
The United Way of Central Illinois has approved more than $6,000 in emergency funding to help UCP cope with some of the expenses from the fire earlier this month. The money will cover insurance deductibles and replacement of some of the personal items lost in the blaze.
There have been other cash and in-kind donations from local businesses and private individuals, but more help is needed. To see a list of what UCP still needs, go to springfieldunitedway.org.
More than a million dollars is being spent on special traffic enforcement details over the last couple of weeks… and lasting through the Labor Day weekend.
State transportation officials say the money comes from federal grants and is being passed through to more than 200 state and local police agencies. The funding will pay for thousands of man-hours in extra patrols, primarily aimed at stopping drunk drivers.
Officials say such efforts have paid off in recent years, with a steady decline in DUI fatalities across the state since 2007.
Another potential candidate has decided to take a pass on next year’s race for governor.
Speculation in recent days had centered on state Senator Kwame Raoul and a possible run that would have given Democratic voters an alternative to either Governor Pat Quinn or challenger Bill Daley.
But Raoul says he decided against it after considering the resources that would be needed for a successful campaign… and his ongoing responsibilities as chairman of the bipartisan committee working on pension reform.
Organized labor groups say they support fast food workers who picketed outside restaurants in Springfield, and around the country, Thursday to demand a higher minimum wage.
The head of the Springfield and Central Illinois Trades and Labor Council says the current federal wage is not sufficient for workers who are trying to support a family.
Terry Reed says boosting that wage from the current $7.25 to $15 an hour would likely only add pennies to the cost of a fast-food burger… but would make a huge difference for workers and their families, and the economy as a whole.
Just a day after vowing to keep fighting to become House Republican leader, Representative Raymond Poe has dropped his challenge, offering up rival Jim Durkin's name in nomination just before Durkin was unanimously chosen to lead the caucus.
Poe says his change of heart was because of simple mathematics -- he didn't have the votes to beat Durkin. Seven House members were unable to attend the rescheduled caucus meeting Thursday in Springfield, dooming Poe's chances.
But Durkin and Poe say they are now united on common goals -- to bring Republicans together, elect a GOP governor, and reclaim enough Republican seats in the House to end the Democrats' veto-proof majority.
Drought conditions have returned to Sangamon County.
The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor puts the northwest corner of the county in its lowest drought category, “moderate.” Roughly 20-percent of Illinois, primarily the west central part of the state, is listed in the moderate drought category.
The rest of Sangamon County… and much of the northern two-thirds of the state, is listed as “abnormally dry,” but not technically yet in drought conditions.
Some Springfield fast-food workers are joining in a nationwide protest aimed at getting Congress to enact a much higher federal minimum wage.
The workers picketed outside local restaurants Thursday, saying they can’t make ends meet or support their families on the current minimum wage. Local labor leaders support the effort, saying no one can survive on the minimum wage right now. They say raising it to a living wage would craete enormous benefits, at a cost that they say corporations and consumers can afford.
Illinois currently has a higher minimum wage than the $7.25 an hour federal standard… but the protest is aimed at getting it boosted to $15 an hour nationwide. The Obama administration has called for raising the national rate slightly, but far less than what the striking workers are demanding.
Justin Allgaier admits he will have a steep learning curve as he moves into the big leagues of auto racing. But the Riverton native says he will make the most of his chance to drive in three NASCAR Sprint Cup series races this fall.
Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Allgaier says the Sprint Cup cars are faster and handle differently… and says he may only get a couple of hours of practice in one before his first race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet on September 15th.
He says he’s not counting on victories, just on showing he has what it takes to stay in Sprint Cup competition next year. Allgaier’s Number 51 Chevy is being sponsored by Springfield-based Brandt Consolidated.
Area amusement park fans will have a couple of new attractions to choose from next year.
Six Flags Great America, north of Chicago, says it will have the world’s fastest and steepest wooden coaster. Construction will start this fall on the Goliath, which will reach top speeds of 72 miles an hour, and includes a 180-foot drop at an 85-degree angle. It opens in 2014.
And Six Flags St. Louis is also adding a new ride, although one that will be considerably slower. The Tsunami Soaker will let riders shoot water cannons at each other on a spinning “teacup”-style ride. It will also open next spring.
The City of Springfield wants a lot of information about the man who is suing over the destruction of police department internal affairs files.
The City has sent a request to Calvin Christian’s attorneys, seeking documentation of all of Christian’s efforts to obtain IA records leading up to the file shredding in April.
The request also asks for information on anyone who may have helped Christian formulate his FOIA requests for those records, as well as information on Christian’s business associations and his agreement with his own attorneys.
The request is part of the ongoing discovery process in the lawsuit, where Christian is seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for the destruction of the records he had been seeking.
Riverton native Justin Allgaier will fulfill his longtime dream of driving in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series next month, after his longtime Nationwide Series sponsor Brandt Consolidated stepped up to sponsor him in three races this fall.
Allgaier is getting his shot after the sale of Phoenix Racing to Harry Scott, Jr. Scott then turned to Allgaier and Brandt for the team's Sprint Cup debut.
Allgaier will first compete in a Sprint Cup race on September 15th at the Chicagoland Speedway.
He will also drive the Number 51 Chevy for Brandt in Charlotte on October 12th, and Talladega on October 20th.
The reaction has been almost uniformly negative to a trial balloon floated by a Springfield school board member.
Adam Lopez raised the possibility of closing one of the city’s three high schools to help close the school district’s ongoing budget gap. Lopez acknowledges that even suggesting the idea won’t make him popular.
But he says it might help the community realize the severity of the district’s financial trouble and make voters more open to considering a future tax referendum.
Riverton native Justin Allgaier will fulfill his longtime dream of driving in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series next month, after his longtime Nationwide Series sponsor Brandt Consolidated stepped up to sponsor him in three races this fall.
Allgaier is getting his shot after the sale of Phoenix Racing to Harry Scott, Jr. Scott then turned to Allgaier and Brandt for the team's Sprint Cup debut. Allgaier will first compete in a Sprint Cup race on September 15th at the Chicagoland Speedway. He will also drive the Number 51 Chevy for Brandt in Charlotte on October 12th, and Talladega on October 20th.
Allgaier says he's thrilled to finally get his long-awaited opportunity to drive in stock car racing's premier circuit. Springfield-based Brandt says it's equally happy to get the increased exposure that goes along with a Sprint Cup sponsorship.
The City of Springfield wants to see some private documents from the man who is suing the city over destruction of public records. They also want to know just how much help he had in crafting his well known FOIA request.
In the ongoing file shredding controversy, a request to produce documents was sent to Calvin Christian's attorneys this week.
Christian is the Pure News Reporter who is suing the city over the premature destruction of police internal affairs files that he requested in April of this year. In the most recent filing, the city asks for emails, phone records and other forms of communication in which Christian was in pursuit of documents from the city.
The city wants everything since January of this year. Christian had several FOIA requests leading up to the April request that seems to have triggered the premature destruction of Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher's 2008 IA file.
The city, being represented by Daniel Noll and the Assistant Corporate Counsel to the city Steven Rahn, are also asking for a copy of the agreement between Christian and his attorneys.
In another filing, the city is asking about Christian's business associations, including documentation of his work at Pure News and all the people he worked with in crafting the FOIA requests.
The city also wants to know who told Christian the documents were destroyed. A series of depositions of other key players in the files destruction has been going on for the past couple weeks.
Christian is suing the city on 73 counts of destroying documents with a pending FOIA request. The city settled on one file, the 2008 Cliff Buscher file.
A special appellate prosecutor and the Illinois State Police are investigating if any criminal wrongdoing happened in the early destruction of the requested IA files.
Police Chief Robert Williams retired while the city's chief legal counsel Mark Cullen resigned in the aftermath of revelations of the destruction of internal affairs files.
Representative Raymond Poe says he’s not giving up on his quest to become House GOP leader, even though it appears the deck may be stacked against him in a showdown caucus vote on Thursday.
That vote was moved up by allies of Poe’s main rival for the job, Representative Jim Durkin. Poe insists he could line up a majority, but some of his supporters cannot be in Springfield for the rescheduled vote on Thursday. And Poe says his request to let them vote by phone was rejected.
But appearing on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Poe said that if the vote doesn’t go his way, he will still work with Durkin to improve the party’s fortunes in the race for Governor and legislative seats.
Funeral arrangements have been set for Susan Baird. The 10-year-old Chatham girl lost her battle with cancer this week.
A visitation will be held Saturday from 4-7pm at Staab Polk Memorial Home in Chatham, and again from noon until two on Sunday. Then at 2pm, a Celebration of Life for Susan will be held at that same location. That will be followed by burial at Chatham Memorial Cemetery.
Susan’s family has issued a statement thanking the community for their support following her diagnosis. People are invited to wear “Team Susan” or Chatham Glenwood colors in her honor during those weekend services.
A Springfield school board member admits his proposal to look at eliminating one of the city’s high schools won’t make him popular around town.
But Adam Lopez says the looming prospects of millions more in budget cuts requires looking at everything, especially high school expenses. Lopez says closing one high school… and moving those students to the other two… would reduce expenses, although he’s not sure by how much. District 186 is also considering reducing the high school day from seven periods back to six.
Lopez says the proposed cuts may help convince the public that it’s time for new revenues for Springfield schools.
High heat and humidity will keep cutting the school day short in Springfield, at least through the end of this week.
District 186 has decided to continue with early dismissals through Friday, because of a forecast that continues to call for triple-digit heat index readings at least until then. Students will get out one hour early at all city public schools, except for the Ball Charter School.
The district hopes to return to its regular schedule after the Labor Day holiday.
Day care centers could no longer serve chocolate milk, cookies, or other sugary or fatty foods… and wouldn’t be allowed to sit kids in front of a TV… under proposed rules that are currently under consideration by the state of Illinois.
The rules are aimed at promoting healthier choices for children. They would also require giving children outdoor activity time twice a day, and would ban using food for rewards.
The Bloomington Pantagraph says the proposed rules would apply only to day care centers, not in-home day cares. Many center operators say they are already following similar standards, and don’t think the rules would affect them much.
Tax hike talk for Springfield public schools could start sooner than expected.
In a live interview Tuesday morning on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” school board president Chuck Flamini said that conversation should wait until a new superintendent is in place… which could take nearly a year.
But later, Flamini told the State Journal-Register that he wants to initiate the conversation at the board’s next meeting in early September.
The district is facing another potential multi-million dollar shortfall next year… and has nearly depleted the money in its education fund.
District 186 could see some financial relief, at least in the short term.
Springfield city budget director Bill McCarty says the school district will get more than $3.6 million when the remaining money from the expired Park South TIF district is distributed in November.
And with Park South property taxes no longer partially going into the TIF fund, the district could see an additional million dollars every year after.
But not all the news is positive.
The condemnation of properties for railroad relocation could reduce property tax revenues in the short term… although officials think the rail project will spur more development for a net increase in the long run.
Angry words are being exchanged over Springfield’s efforts to find a backup water supply.
The latest controversy is over the recent study that finds the city’s gravel pits would not provide an adequate supply of water in a severe drought situation.
Springfield attorney Don Hanrahan… who has long opposed the idea of building a second lake… suggested that the latest study is part of an “agenda” by City Water Light and Power to jump start the Hunter Lake project.
But chief utilities engineer Eric Hobbie denies that, and says his only agenda is to make sure Springfield has enough water, whatever the source.
Illinois House Republicans are speeding up their vote for a new caucus leader.
That vote had originally been scheduled for mid-September… but will now be held Thursday.
The change appears to favor suburban Representative Jim Durkin… and may hurt the chances of Springfield lawmaker Raymond Poe.
Poe says the schedule change may keep some of his supporters away when the vote is taken.
The move comes after Chicago business leader Ty Fahner warned Republicans that they risk losing business support if they back Poe… because Poe has sided with AFSCME and other public sector unions in the pension reform fight.
The state Department of Corrections is defending its revamped early release program… even though one of the parolees who was let out early back in May is now charged with a murder in Decatur.
Joshua Jones is accused of fatally shooting a man just three months after he was released. Jones was let out under a program that tries to reduce prison overcrowding by speeding up the release of non-violent offenders.
A Corrections spokesman says Jones was in prison on drug charges, not a violent offense, and therefore was eligible for the program.
The Associated Press notes that since the revamped program was started in March, fewer than one-percent of the inmates released under it have gone back to prison.
A man who was let out of an Illinois prison early under the state’s revamped early release program is now accused of murder.
The Associated Press reports that Joshua Jones was released in May, five months ahead of his scheduled release on drug charges. But just three months after he was let out, Jones was charged in the murder of a Decatur man earlier this month.
The revised early-release program replaced one in 2010 that let some violent offenders out early. So far, under the new program, only about one-percent of the released offenders have been sent back to prison.
One of the most vocal advocates of sweeping pension reform is warning Republicans not to back Raymond Poe as the next House GOP leader.
Poe is hoping to replace Tom Cross as caucus leader. But former Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner is blasting Poe, accusing him of being too beholden to AFSCME and other public sector unions.
Fahner tells Crain’s Chicago Business that any Republicans who support Poe should not expect political support from the state’s business community. Poe has said the state should keep its pension promises… and has even suggested extending the state’s income tax increase to pay for pensions.
The president of the Springfield school board now says he wishes he had phrased things differently when he said the community needs to, quote, “grow up” regarding school finances.
But Chuck Flamini isn’t backing away from his assertion that there has to be a community conversation about education funding and a possible tax referendum for schools.
However, appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Flamini acknowledged that such a conversation is unlikely to happen until a new superintendent is hired and on the job… which may not be until next summer. In the meantime, Flamini says District 186 will have no choice but to “limp along” and hope things don’t get worse.
Springfield schools have a mixed bag of news on the horizon related to revenues.
City officials say the district will collect more than three-million dollars this fall from the distribution of money remaining in the Park South TIF fund that expired last year. The end of that TIF should also mean an additional million dollars in property tax revenue coming to District 186 annually.
On the downside, officials say the railroad relocation project could reduce the district’s property tax revenues by removing dozens of properties from the tax rolls. But they say other development spurred by the railroad project should eventually make up for that lost ground.
A Republican candidate for the Illinois legislature says a pension reform plan under consideration by a bipartisan committee is unfair and unconstitutional… because it diminishes promised pension benefits.
Mike Bell of Edinburg is a long-time member of AFSCME because of his work as an educator in the Illinois prison system.
He says the state’s pension problem is not the fault of workers, and contends their benefits are not overly generous.
Bell says the real issue is the state’s failure to keep up its end of the bargain.
He says he would consider extending the state’s temporary income tax and using that revenue to pay down pension debt.
Bell is running for the House seat currently held by Democrat Sue Scherer.
This week’s high heat will cut the school day short in some communities… including Springfield.
District 186 says it will send students home one hour early on both Tuesday and Wednesday because of the forecast calling for triple-digit heat index readings. Although many district schools are air-conditioned, some are not… and the district says concerns about the welfare of students and staff in those buildings, and the need to keep all schools on the same bus schedule, will lead to all students being dismissed one hour early Tuesday and Wednesday.
The district will make a decision about Thursday and Friday dismissal times later in the week.
A Republican candidate for the state legislature is also a long-term member of AFSCME… but says he can balance his loyalties to both.
Mike Bell is a veteran educator who has taught for years in the Illinois prison system. He says pension reform must be fair to state workers… and must keep the promises that the state has already made. But Bell says it makes sense to do that, because those pension payments help keep the economy vibrant in communities with large numbers of state workers and retirees.
Bell says the state’s pension benefits are not overly generous, and the crisis is the fault of the state not meeting its obligations. He suggests the state’s temporary income tax increase could be made permanent… with the money earmarked for pension payments.
Bell is running in the 96th House District for the seat currently held by Democrat Sue Scherer. Bell appeared live Monday on the 970 WMAY News Feed.
A federal appeals court will hear arguments in October on the lawsuit that seeks to force the state to let residents carry concealed weapons right away.
The complaint is being pushed by gun rights supporters… including a crime victim who blames her attack on the state law that banned her from carrying a firearm. Even though the state enacted a concealed carry law last month, it will take months to put the permit process in place. The plaintiffs say that’s too long, and deprives gun owners of their rights.
A lower court already refused to order immediate implementation of the law, so the gun rights supporters appealed, leading to that October 3rd hearing.
It’s a sign of the times… the first word on at least one of the upcoming candidates for Illinois Lieutenant Governor will come from Twitter.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Rutherford says he has made his choice for a running mate… and will make the announcement first through his Twitter feed. Rutherford says a few details are still being worked out, so there’s no specific date or time yet for making that announcement.
This is the first year that governor and lieutenant governor candidates run together as a team in the primary… and those names must be disclosed when campaigns begin circulating nominating petitions, which can start next month.
The candidates for Illinois governor will soon have to announce their selections for running mates.
For the first time, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor will run as teams in the primary, and both names must be listed on nominating petitions that can be circulated starting in early September.
Some candidates like Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard plan to announce their choices in the next couple of weeks.
Others, including Governor Pat Quinn, say they will wait till later this fall.
Mr. Lincoln’s hometown could someday get a visit from Mr. Lincoln’s Hollywood side.
The Bloomington Pantagraph reports that the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is in talks to display some of the set pieces from the hit Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln.”
Some of those items are currently on display at the Reagan presidential library in California… including the set of Lincoln’s office from the movie, as well as Mary Todd Lincoln’s vanity set and some of the costumes from the film.
But there’s been no final decision on bringing the items to Springfield.
The latest possible pension reform idea has good news and bad news for state workers.
The draft proposal would reduce overall retirement benefits… by eliminating the compounded annual cost-of-living increases in pension payments. But it would also reduce the amount deducted from workers’ paychecks for their share of their pensions.
The plan is estimated to save $145 billion over 30 years, but a bipartisan pension reform committee says there’s no consensus yet on this approach.
The president of the Springfield school board has a message for residents of District 186… it’s time to grow up and face the district’s financial problems.
Faced with another likely round of budget cuts next year… and a new round of teacher budget talks starting in January… Chuck Flamini says the entire community has to make a commitment to ensure the district has the operating revenue it needs to function.
Flamini did not directly call for a school tax referendum, but noted he was part of the team that helped win approval of the last successful tax hike vote in District 186… 30 years ago.
The candidates for Illinois governor will soon have to announce their selections for running mates.
For the first time, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor will run as teams in the primary, and both names must be listed on nominating petitions that can be circulated starting in early September.
Some candidates like Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard plan to announce their choices in the next couple of weeks. Others, including Governor Pat Quinn, say they will wait till later this fall.
Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has a message for property owners near the 10th Street railroad tracks… don’t stand around waiting for the government to buy your property.
Houston says there’s no way to know how quickly land acquisition will begin for dozens of parcels that will eventually have to be demolished to make way for an expanded rail corridor.
State and local officials are trying to secure grants and other federal funds for a big chunk of the estimated $380 million cost… but funding is likely to come in a little at a time, over a period of years.
The head of Springfield police internal affairs… and one of the most vocal critics of the department’s decision to shred IA files ahead of schedule… insists he was not the source of a leak of one damaging file.
An investigation is underway to determine if a pit bull should be declared “vicious” after it attacked a woman in Grandview last weekend.
Family members say Mary Sherer required more than 100 stitches to close the wounds to her arms suffered in the attack. The dog’s owner took the pit bull to Animal Control himself after the attack… but the dog was returned to him after it was shown that it had all the required vaccinations.
Grandview’s police chief says the dog is with the owner under quarantine for now… while officials try to determine if they should seek a court order that could lead to the dog being destroyed.
Representative Raymond Poe is hitting the road to convince colleagues that they should break with decades of tradition… and choose a true Downstater for their caucus leader.
Poe is hoping to replace Tom Cross, who is stepping down from his leadership post ahead of a likely run for state Treasurer. Poe is competing against two other House Republicans for the post.
He says he has experience in running and assisting campaigns in all areas of the state… but says his Downstate roots will bring an important perspective to the big issues facing lawmakers, like pensions and taxes.
Poe says the House GOP could vote on its next leader within two to three weeks.
A dozen bridges on Interstate 55 through Logan County will get upgrades… under a $17 million construction project announced by Governor Pat Quinn’s office.
Sangamo Construction Company of Springfield got the contract for deck replacement, joint repairs and concrete overlay for those bridges, located between Business Loop 55 in Lincoln and County Highway 6 in Atlanta.
No immediate timetable was given for starting or completing the project.
Official final numbers from the Illinois State Fair confirm that this year’s edition was the most successful in more than a decade.
961,000 people went through the gates this year… matching the estimate that fair manager Amy Bliefnick gave 970 WMAY News earlier this week. That’s five-percent higher than last year… and the biggest amount since 2002.
And those extra people meant extra money… the fair generated a record $257,000 in sales taxes just from vendors on the grounds. The governor’s office says that translates to more than $4 million in sales of corn dogs, lemon shakeups and other items sold at the Fair. And Grandstand revenues were the highest ever, with more than $2 million in ticket sales.
The attorney hired by the City of Springfield to represent it in lawsuits against the police department will remain on the case.
Plaintiff Calvin Christian had asked the judge to disqualify Jon Gray Noll and the Noll Law Offices, because Christian says he had a brief phone conversation with Noll about his issues with the SPD months ago as Christian was looking for an attorney. Christian claimed that conversation posed a conflict of interest, but the judge disagreed and refused to remove Noll.
Christian says he’s not bothered by the ruling… but merely wanted to get the matter on the record as his lawsuit progresses. Christian is suing over the destruction of police department files… and is alleging a coordinated campaign of harassment against him by numerous Springfield cops.
A big political shakeup is in the works in the Illinois Legislature.
House Republican Leader Tom Cross is notifying his caucus that he will give up that post to run for State Treasurer. Cross hopes to succeed his fellow Republican Dan Rutherford, who is giving up the Treasurer’s office to run for Governor.
Cross’s decision could open the door for local GOP Representative Raymond Poe, who has been trying to line up support to succeed Cross. Cross reportedly will stay out of the debate over who should replace him as leader of the House Republicans.
Congressman Rodney Davis says a small business roundtable in Springfield has left him more convinced than ever that Obamacare needs to go.
Davis says nearly the entire conversation with local business owners centered on their concerns about the unknown consequences of the President’s health care reform plan and what it might cost businesses.
Davis says Obamacare needs to be repealed… but since that appears to be politically impossible, he vows to keep working to either de-fund the law or at least further delay its implementation.
A study that could determine the future of a second lake supply for Springfield says the volume of water stored in Springfield's gravel pits is much smaller than previously understood.
Aldermen requested the study in order to determine if drawing upon the city's various gravel pits would be a drain upon other area water supplies. The study was presented during Tuesday's Springfield City Council Meeting.
Layne Christensen, who conducted the study, says previous studies determined the city could draw up to 18 million gallons a day during severe drought conditions.
Those studies didn't take into consideration the impact on other area and municipal wells and were done without updated models of Springfield's gravel pits.
The updated study says there would be an impact on other wells during a drought, including impacting the South Sangamon Water Commission wells, whether water is pumped from Springfield's gravel pits or not.
The Army Corp. of Engineers could use this study before they give their input on a second water supply for the city.
A second lake for the City of Springfield has been debated for decades.
It’s one of the most popular destinations for Springfield travelers… and starting this fall, you’ll be able to fly there direct from Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.
Allegiant Air will offer twice-weekly direct flights between Springfield and Orlando, Florida. Airport executive director Mark Hanna says the success of Allegiant’s service to Punta Gorda, Florida… and the popularity of Disney World and other vacation getaways in the Orlando area… convinced Allegiant that Springfield would be a good market for the service.
The flights will be offered on 160-passenger jets every Monday and Friday, starting November 22nd. Flights can be booked through allegiant.com.
If he can’t stop it, he at least wants to slow it down.
Congressman Rodney Davis remains fiercely opposed to President Obama’s health care law… and says it is to blame for major uncertainty that has slowed down business hiring and prompted some doctors to plan their early exit from the medical field.
Davis appeared live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air” following a small business roundtable in Springfield. He says that he would still prefer to repeal Obamacare completely… but since that’s unlikely to happen in the current Congress, he at least wants to delay implementation of the most burdensome parts of the law to allow time for it to be modified.
There appears to be some confusion over the state’s new higher speed limit.
It was widely believed that the new 70 mile-per-hour limit won’t apply to the most congested interstates near Chicago and St. Louis when it takes effect on January 1st.
But the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Jim Oberweis, disputes that interpretation. He says the intent of the bill was to allow faster speeds on all interstate highways, including those in Chicagoland and the Metro East. But some local officials disagree. It may require follow-up legislation to clear up the confusion.
The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office is assembling an all-star lineup of former law enforcement officials to serve as a braintrust for the department.
Sheriff Neil Williamson and Undersheriff Jack Campbell say they worked together to create the “Statesmen of Law Enforcement.” Those retired lawmen will form an advisory panel that will provide guidance on policy decisions, officer morale, and implementation of new laws.
Campbell says the idea originated in part from Williamson’s desire to stay involved after he leaves office next year. The panel includes former State’s Attorney and U.S. Attorney Bill Roberts and former Springfield police chief Harvey Davis.
Springfield teachers and the school board have approved a new one-year contract with no across-the-board pay raise.
The agreement contains a “soft freeze,” keeping most provisions of the union’s last contract in place.
Some teachers will see pay increases for longevity and experience, under the terms spelled out in that last contract.
But 40% of the district’s teachers won’t see any pay hike at all.
The contract also calls for the creation of committees to study three contentious issues… high school scheduling, prep time for elementary school teachers, and recruitment of minority educators and special ed teachers.
Bargaining will resume in January on a new contract that would start in the summer of 2014.
District 186 says it has resolved the status of dozens of teachers who didn’t have the proper paperwork certifying that they were qualified for the grades or classes they were teaching.
The problem came to light last year after a Lanphier High School teacher was arrested for an alleged affair with a student… and it was discovered she didn’t have the correct credentials to teach that class.
More than 60 teachers were found to be non-compliant, although in most cases they were correctly certified but hadn’t submitted the right paperwork.
District officials say there is now only one teacher still on the list… and that person’s paperwork has been submitted and is awaiting final approval.
The numbers are still unofficial, but it appears attendance at this year’s Illinois State Fair topped last year by as much as four-percent.
That would make the 2013 edition the biggest in well over a decade. Fair manager Amy Bliefnick says good weather and a strong Grandstand lineup both get credit for drawing an estimated 961,000 people to the Fairgrounds.
Bliefnick says revenues were also up this year. She anticipates no change in the fair’s $7 admission fee for at least one more year.
Just weeks after rejecting an ordinance to allow video gaming machines in the community, the Auburn City Council reversed itself.
Mayor Barb Stamer switched her vote, voting in favor of gambling after opposing it back in June.
The State Journal-Register reports an Auburn business wants to open a gaming parlor in the community’s strip mall, saying it will increase traffic and make the mall a more attractive destination for other businesses.
The Springfield School Board and the teachers union have both approved a new one-year contract that includes a "soft freeze" with no base pay raise for teachers. Some teachers will receive scheduled "step" or "column" increases based on experience and longevity, but district officials say 40% of teachers will receive no raise at all in the coming year.
As part of the deal, the district agreed to establish committees to make recommendations on three pressing and potentially costly issues for the years to come: the daily high school schedule, the issue of "prep time" for elementary school teachers, and recruitment of minority teachers and special ed instructors. Bargaining for the next contract will begin in January after those committees submit their recommendations.
School board president Chuck Flamini says the district is headed for a collision between what it wants to achieve and its available resources, but the one-year deal will provide some time to prepare for what's ahead. The contract will cost an additional $1.1 million in the current school year, nearly depleting the Education Fund unless additional cuts are made elsewhere.
Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation raising the speed limit on most Illinois interstates to 70 mph.
In his signing statement, Quinn noted that more than 30 other states already allow speeds of 70 mph or greater. The governor approved the bill over the objection of his transportation secretary and state police director, both of whom opposed the bill on the grounds that it could lead to more highway accidents and fatalities.
The higher speed limit takes effect January 1. It will not apply to several interstates in the immediate Chicago area.
Springfield Mayor Mike Houston won’t pursue an internal investigation of who leaked a police department internal affairs file.
Houston had asked the Illinois State Police to look into the leak of a copy of Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher’s file… but the ISP told 970 WMAY News last week that it had no plans to open an investigation.
Houston spokesman Nathan Mihelich says it wouldn’t be appropriate for the city to conduct the leak investigation internally. He says Houston will wait to see what transpires in another separate State Police investigation of the decision to shred internal affairs records, including the original of Buscher’s file.
Supporters of Springfield’s railroad relocation project hope to move ahead with the early phases… even though there’s no guarantee of enough funding to see it through to completion.
The $315 million project calls for moving the 3rd Street tracks to the 10th Street corridor… and building a series of overpasses and underpasses to allow traffic to move through the city without lengthy delays from the increased rail traffic through town.
Experts from Hanson Engineers say some of those underpasses along 10th Street could be built with whatever money is available… and they say that would make life easier for drivers, even if the funding never materializes to make all the improvements or move the 3rd Street tracks.
Unofficial numbers show both attendance and revenue were up for this year’s edition of the Illinois State Fair, which ended Sunday. And that should mean that gate admission prices will stay the same next year.
Although noting that the $7 adult admission price to the Fairgrounds is still below the average ticket price for state fairs around the country, Fair manager Amy Bliefnick says she’s inclined to keep the price the same for next year, and then evaluate it after that.
But Bliefnick says she does prefer incremental increases to keep pace with expenses, rather than holding on for years and then having to institute a big increase all at once.
Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation Saturday he said would help protect consumers who buy a dog or cat and then learn the animal is seriously ill.
The so-called "puppy lemon law" allows pet owners to get a full refund or replacement if they buy a pet from a store and it dies within 21 days. Pet owners also could get a replacement pet or be reimbursed for the cost of veterinary care if they keep the animal and a veterinarian determines it was sick or diseased when it was sold.
Memorial Medical Center is objecting to a recent ranking in a national magazine that lists it as one of the worst in the state for surgeries.
Consumer Reports says the ranking is based on a variety of data, including deaths or extended hospital stays after surgery.
Memorial tells the SJ-R that the ranking does not match its own internal studies or the findings of other outside groups. St. John’s was ranked in the middle of the pack in that Consumer Reports study.
Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation that will ban Illinois drivers from talking on a hand-held cell phone behind the wheel. Drivers would still be allowed to use Bluetooth or other hands-free or speakerphone devices.
Quinn says the new law will reduce distractions for drivers and make Illinois roadways safer. The new law takes effect January 1, 2014.
Illinois State Police say they have no plans at the moment to investigate the leak of a Springfield police internal affairs file.
Mayor Mike Houston asked the agency to look into who obtained a copy of the IA investigation of Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher's 2008 arrest for a drunken incident in Missouri. That IA file was among those shredded by the city in April, but a copy of the report was later leaked to Channel 20 and became the basis for a report that ultimately led to the departure of two top administration officials.
State police spokesman Monique Bond says the agency will notify the city that it does not intend to open an investigation of the leak. (So far, there has been no reaction from the City to the ISP decision.)
The City of Springfield has turned over a large flash drive filled with emails pertaining to the decision to shred police department internal affairs files earlier this year.
Mayoral spokesman Nathan Mihelich says the 19 gigabytes of documents were released following a meeting with attorneys for Calvin Christian, who is suing the city over those shredded documents. Mihelich says it is a comprehensive compilation of all documents retrieved from the city’s computer system since last April that reference keywords like “shred” or “files.” But because of the size of the files, Mihelich says the information has not been fully redacted, and therefore Christian's attorneys are not allowed to share it with anyone... including their client.
Some of those emails were sent by Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher. The city had earlier told Christian that it had no emails from Buscher pertaining to the file shredding controversy from the months of Apirl and May. Mihelich could not immediately say when Buscher wrote and sent the emails that were included on the flash drive.
Christian’s attorney Don Craven says the two sides are making progress on setting up a schedule for discovery and depositions in the case, but are not close to setting a trial date.
The numbers are looking good heading into the final weekend of the Illinois State Fair, according to manager Amy Bliefnick.
Appearing live on 970 WMAY from the Fair Friday, Bliefnick says attendance figures at midweek were running about 2% ahead of last year's sizable crowds. Bliefnick says the numbers got a lift from the huge crowds at Wednesday's Toby Keith concert... and thinks good weather and big-name weekend acts like Ke$ha and Journey can help maintain that pace.
Bliefnick also defends the big money that the state shells out for Grandstand acts. She says the state still makes more money than it spends from those shows, because big crowds for the top acts also mean more money from gate admissions, parking, and concessions.
The Republican candidates for governor are highlighting their differences with each other... and the one big thing they have in common.
Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard, Bruce Rauner (ROW'-ner) and Dan Rutherford (ROO-ther-ferd) each told the party faithful at the Illinois State Fair that he was more electable than his opponents... but all agreed that it was most important that any Republican replace Governor Pat Quinn in 2015.
The break-ins all occurred within a four-day period last week.
Dude's Saloon was hit twice, on August 3d and again on the 6th. Police believe the suspect exited Dude's Saloon on the 6th and then tried to break into Knuckleheads... but fled when he was spotted by a newspaper carrier. JW's Lounge was hit in the early morning hours of August 7th.
Surveillance video appears to show a white male with red hair and a receding hairline.
Anyone with information about the crimes is asked to call Crimestoppers.
Governor Pat Quinn and his primary challenger have had a chance to make their case before Democratic party leaders at a gathering in Springfield.
Both addressed the annual Democratic County Chairmen's brunch at the Crowne Plaza. Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley said the party needs to nominate a candidate who can win in the general election... and said that he, not Quinn, fits that description.
But Quinn says he's beaten long odds before and can do it again. And he shrugged off his low job approval ratings, saying he is not governor to win popularity contests, but to "do the right thing."
Governor Pat Quinn isn't necessarily getting the automatic backing of Democrats heading into the 2014 election season.
Quinn did receive a louder and longer ovation than primary challenger Bill Daley during the Democratic County Chairmen's brunch at the Crowne Plaza. But that isn't necessarily tranlsating into endorsements. Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon... who ran with Quinn in 2010 but decided to leave the ticket next year... says she is staying neutral in the race and focusing instead on her campaign for comptroller.
And Sangamon County Democratic Chair Doris Turner says the local party won't automatically get behind Quinn. She says the governor and Daley will both have the chance to go through the party's endorsement process to see if they can win party backing.
In a surprise announcement at Wednesday's Democratic Party gathering in Springfield, comptroller candidate Duffy Blackburn told the crowd that he is suspending his campaign for statewide office and endorsing his opponent... Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon.
Blackburn was the first to announce that he would run for the Democratic nomination for comptroller in 2014, but then Simon also jumped into the race. Blackburn says his decision is in the best interest of the party and the state.
The move clears a path for Simon to face popular GOP incumbent Judy Baar Topinka in the November 2014 general election.
Mayor Mike Houston is asking Illinois State Police to investigate who leaked an explosive internal affairs file to the media... after the city believed that file had been destroyed.
Houston wants to see if any laws were broken by the person who gave Channel 20 a copy of the file stemming from Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher's arrest for a drunken incident during a Missouri vacation in 2008.
That file was among those that were shredded prematurely earlier this year... prompting a different ISP investigation.
But somehow a copy of Buscher's file survived and became the basis for a series of reports that ultimately led to the departure of the city's police chief and corporation counsel.
A Springfield bar and restaurant could begin serving alcohol as early as today... after finally being granted a liquor license following several weeks of delays.
The license for Scandals and the adjacent Mama's Kitchen restaurant on South 11th became a flashpoint on the City Council, with Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson demanding that other aldermen defer to her wish to block another liquor establishment from opening in her ward.
But even after aldermen overruled her, Mayor Mike Houston held up the license until the owners agreed not to seek a 3am liquor license.
A Scandals spokesman says that provision now only applies through the end of Houston's term, and that compromise allowed the license to go forward.
Springfield's Mayor has asked for another investigation into the ongoing file shredding scandal at the city's police department.
This time, Mayor Mike Houston wants the Illinois State Police to investigate the leaking of Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher's file to the media. The mayor confirms he drafted a letter to the Illinois State Police to prompt an investigation into the leaking of the file.
Houston previously requested an investigation into the improper shredding of that and other files, an investigation that is ongoing.
The Mayor says he thought internal affairs documents were safe under lock and key, but with the documents being leaked to the media, Houston called for the investigation.
He would not elaborate if there were other documents that could be leaked or as to how many people would have access to those documents.
Houston also wouldn't talk about the legality of someone legally getting the documents and sharing them with a third party.
Documents pertaining to a 2008 incident involving Police Chief Cliff Buscher were leaked to an area TV station.
After several media reports, the city's police chief retired and the corporation counsel resigned.
A Springfield Alderman is denying that her opposition to a restaurant getting a liquor license in her ward has anything to do with race.
The liquor license for the Scandals bar on South 11th Street was approved by aldermen last week and signed by Mayor Mike Houston Tuesday morning.
When asked by WMAY News if Scandals thought there was a bias from Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson, Michael Stoker said he didn't think there was an issue with sexuality but with race.
Simpson emphatically denies that and says her opposition to the liquor license was because her ward doesn't need another bar, and not because the business owners are white.
When asked about her support for a 3am liquor license for a black business owner in the same location as Scandals, only three years ago, Simpson says she doesn't remember that liquor license request and reiterated she didn't think there should be more liquor establishments in her ward.
Simpson also denies meeting with the Mayor after the license was voted on, something the Mayor also denies.
After several contentious weeks, a liquor license has finally been issued for a bar and restaurant that became a battleground for Springfield aldermen.
Mayor Mike Houston issued that license to Scandals and the adjacent Mama's Kitchen restaurant, after insisting on some stipulations. Initially, the mayor had demanded that owner Aaron Hurley agree to never seek a 3am liquor license for the establishment. Hurley's partner and business spokesman Michael Stoker says that stipulation now only covers the remainder of Houston's time in office, giving Hurley the option of seeking the later closing time in the future.
The license had originally been held up by Alderman Gail Simpson's vocal objection to another bar in Ward 2, and then by Houston's demands. Stoker says he can't help but feel that the opposition may have been affected by Scandals' reputation as a gay bar... or even by its status as a white-run business setting up shop in a black area of town. But he says he hopes people of all races and orientations will embrace the bar and restaurant.
On Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair, a local congressman is downplaying the fears that some are expressing about the biggest issue in food production these days.
The issue is the use of genetically-modified foods. A number of different crops have been altered genetically to grow faster and more plentiful, and to be more resistant to the effects of bugs and disease. But some people are concerned about what effect those foods are having on the people who eat them. However, Congressman Rodney Davis says genetically-modified organisms are essential to meeting the nation's and the world's demand for food.
Appearing live on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show" from the State Fair, Davis said he expects a push from some in Congress to put more regulation and restriction on genetically-modified crops, but he warned that too many new rules will hurt production and damage the agriculture economy.
On Ag Day at the Illinois State Fair, Sangamon County's top two law enforcement officers are stressing safety in the county's rural areas.
Sheriff Neil Williamson and Undersheriff Jack Campbell took part in a Farm Bureau news conference on the fairgrounds. They are reminding drivers to be alert for large farm implements that will be on county roadways in the weeks ahead.
They also touted the county's electronic system for alerting rural areas about crime and other issues. But Williamson also repeated his advice to the county's farm families to keep a loaded shotgun handy... because of the longer time it takes for police to respond in those areas.
There's been yet another incident involving someone trying to look like a cop, using flashing lights in a bid to get a driver to pull over.
The latest happened last Friday night near Riverton.
Sangamon County Undersheriff Jack Campbell says someone with a flashing blue light followed a female driver for a couple of miles.
She kept driving toward Springfield, and the other driver eventually turned off.
Campbell says there is nothing concrete at the moment to connect this incident to a string of cop impersonation reports west of Springfield early this year... or another incident where a phony cop pulled a motorist over on Springfield's north end several weeks ago.
An internal affairs report says a controversial Springfield police detective conducted his own surveillance on a neighborhood where he believed his son was being harassed... leading to an incident in which the detective himself was accused of harassing and threatening a couple.
The Illinois Times reported on the IA investigation of Detective Paul Carpenter, who was sued after the altercation with that couple.
The city eventually settled for $24,000.
Carpenter served a two-day suspension over the incident.
Governor Pat Quinn is pledging to “eat his way” through the Illinois State Fair… and he’s almost certainly not alone.
Quinn has cut the ribbon to open the 2013 State Fair, where food is always one of the highlights. One of this year’s new offerings is an Oreo cookie wrapped in cookie dough, then batter-dipped and deep-fried.
The fair also boasts a big spotlight for Illinois agriculture, and a daily parade featuring the popular Budweiser Clydesdales. The fair runs through Sunday, August 18th.
Governor Pat Quinn is breaking with tradition… and eliminating the usual political rally on the Illinois State Fairgrounds for Governor’s Day next Wednesday.
Quinn says the fair should be about families and fun, not politics. He says the Democratic rally on the fairgrounds will feature live entertainment, not political speeches.
The decision could help Quinn avoid uncomfortable encounters with fellow Democrats who are unhappy with the governor, although some of those same encounters could happen earlier in the day when the party convenes a meeting of county chairmen at the Crowne Plaza.
The City of Springfield has admitted that it improperly shredded the internal affairs file of Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher, and is asking the court to rule in favor of plaintiff Calvin Christian on that single count of Christian's lawsuit against the city.
But Thursday's court filing says the city will continue to fight the other 72 counts in that case.
City officials are agreeing to pay a $5,000 penalty to resolve the single count over Buscher's file, which was destroyed despite a pending FOIA request for those documents.
There are new questions about what documents Springfield City Hall is keeping, and what documents it is destroying.
Lawsuit plaintiff Calvin Christian says he has been told by city officials in response to his latest FOIA request that they have no emails from Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher for the months of April and May.
That covers the time when Buscher's file and other internal affairs records were shredded.
A mayoral spokesman says not all emails from city computers are public record, and those that are not can be purged within two weeks.
But a state official says emails that relate to official department business should be retained and accessible by the public.
The top federal prosecutor in Central Illinois says fraud is not the norm for state government contracts and grants... even though 13 people have now been indicted in an ongoing investigation of exactly that kind of fraud.
The latest is the one-time chief of staff to former state Public Health director Eric Whitaker.
She's accused of taking $433,000 in kickbacks in exchange for handing out contracts and grants.
U.S. Attorney James Lewis says most state grants and contracts are awarded properly and fairly... but says his office will keep working to weed out the instances of wrongdoing.
Springfield police are putting out a warning about a telephone scam in the area.
A caller is telling the intended target that they’ve won a large cash prize… but that they have to send $1500 to an out-of-state address to process the transaction.
If the person on the other end is skeptical, the caller says they will have Springfield police contact the target to verify the information. A short time later, a caller from a restricted number identifies himself as Lieutenant Handlin and says the prize offer is for real. It isn’t, and neither is Lieutenant Handlin.
Springfield police say you should never send cash to claim a prize. The case is under investigation.
New questions are surfacing about the handling of Springfield police records.
Calvin Christian… who is already suing the city over the destruction of internal affairs files… now says the city is also withholding emails that Christian believes fall under open records laws. Christian requested all emails from Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher sent during April and May, but says the city told him it had no documents that met his request.
Mayoral spokesman Nathan Mihelich says not all emails from city computers are considered public records… and emails that are not considered public records are routinely purged from the system within two weeks. But the city has not explained how Buscher… in his capacity as deputy chief and press spokesman… generated no emails over those two months that fall under the definition of “public records.”
Despite more than a dozen indictments related to fraud in state government contracts and grants, Springfield’s top federal prosecutor says those cases are still the exception, not the rule.
The latest indictment accuses the former chief of staff in the state Department of Public Health of using her position to shake down grant recipients for kickbacks. Prosecutors say Quinshaunta Golden took in more than $433,000 in kickbacks and bribes, and then tried to obstruct a federal investigation.
But U.S. Attorney James Lewis says Golden and the dozen other defendants represent only a small portion of state grant money… and says far more money is spent properly, in ways that help many people.
Reporters at the State Journal-Register are hoping the public will come to their aid in an ongoing contract battle with the newspaper’s management.
The newsroom formed a local chapter of the Newspaper Guild last year, and since then has been involved in contract talks. But those talks have moved slowly on a variety of issues… including pay and benefits, outsourcing of jobs, and whether reporters should be required to write ad copy.
Members of the Guild will be at the Labor Pavilion at the State Fair this weekend, asking members of the public to sign cards expressing support for the union. Those cards will then be sent to Gatehouse Media in hopes of spurring the company to step up negotiations.
Altered traffic patterns are now in effect for the run of the Illinois State Fair. Traffic runs one way counterclockwise around the fairgrounds.
Springfield police are also warning that most side streets around the fairgrounds are being designated as “no parking zones” for the duration of the fair. No on-street parking will be allowed from 5th Street to Peoria Road and from Sangamon Avenue to Griffiths Street. That will last until the conclusion of the fair on August 18th.
Meanwhile, be ready for traffic tieups and multiple street closures for tonight’s State Fair Twilight Parade. The parade steps off from 9th and North Grand at 6pm, and the route runs down Peoria Road to the fairgrounds. But portions of North Grand, 9th and 11th Streets will be closed down earlier for parade participants to line up.
And Springfield police are also urging people to be careful during the parade, particularly in keeping small children from running into the roadway to retrieve candy.
A new east-side bar and restaurant is going forward… over the objections of the alderman for that ward.
The Springfield City Council voted 7-1 Wednesday to approve a liquor license for Scandals.
The former downtown bar will serve both alcohol and food at its new location on South 11th.
The only “no” vote was cast by Alderman Gail Simpson, who just a week earlier had persuaded aldermen to keep the liquor license on hold.
Supporters of Scandals accused Simpson of opposing the business because of its reputation as a gay bar, but Simpson denies that and says she was only opposed because she doesn’t think her ward needs another liquor establishment.
Three men have been arrested in a sting operation aimed at cracking down on lewd behavior in Springfield parks.
Park police say all three men exposed themselves and asked an undercover officer to perform a sex act.
The sting was set up in response to a recent increase in complaints about similar activities in Riverside and Carpenter parks… as well as a surge in Craigslist postings soliciting such encounters.
The State Journal-Register identifies the three men who were taken into custody as 79-year-old Charles Welsh of Divernon, 67-year-old Elmo Orton of Jacksonville, and 48-year-old William Huckeby of Springfield.
Public sector unions are not buying a business leader’s claim that he “misspoke” in controversial comments earlier this year.
Former Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner told an audience earlier this year that he and other members of an influential business group had urged credit rating agencies to downgrade Illinois… in order to put pressure on state leaders to pass pension reform.
But after being criticized for those comments, Fahner now says he “misspoke,” but that he did not make contact with the ratings agencies.
The “We Are One” union coalition says it appears Fahner is now trying to cover his tracks… and wants state lawmakers to investigate the incident.
A new bar is coming to a restaurant in Ward 2, against the wishes of that area's alderman.
During Wednesday's Springfield City Council meeting, 7 aldermen voted to allow a liquor license for the planned Scandals on South 11th street a week after Ward 2's Gail Simpson pleaded to aldermen to keep the liquor request in committee.
The owner of the bar and restaurant delivered over 600 petition signatures to aldermen Wednesday, of that 400 were from Ward 2.
It was implied by one citizen addressing the committee that there was opposition because Scandals caters to a gay clientele. Simpson declared that she didn't care "who you sleep with" and that Ward 2 doesn't need another bar.
Scandals also has a restaurant and the liquor license is for an establishment that sells 50% or more of food. They also plan on hosting comedy nights and Sunday brunch.
Also at Wednesday's meeting, aldermen kept an ordinance to bring on a new health care management company, even after an amendment to split it ordinance between union and non-union employees, in committee.
An ordinance to continue a franchise agreement with Ameren for another 10 years passed, despite some concerns from aldermen about the lack of stronger language to favor the city.
On emergency passage, aldermen agreed to a moratorium on building permits for boathouses until new regulations are developed.
It looks like Illinois lawmakers will have to wait weeks… at least… to get their next paycheck.
A judge in Chicago has set a hearing date of September 18th for arguments in the lawsuit brought by two legislative leaders trying to undo Governor Pat Quinn’s veto of legislative salaries. Quinn eliminated the pay to force lawmakers to pass a pension reform plan… but House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton say Quinn’s action is unconstitutional.
It appears the veto will stand at least until the hearing is held next month… meaning lawmakers will miss at least two monthly paychecks before they get their day in court.
An effort to get Springfield schoolkids more active and more focused on healthy eating may be paying off.
A doctor with the SIU School of Medicine says the program appears to be translating into lower obesity rates for grade schoolers. A check of the body-mass index of first- and fourth-graders at eight Springfield elementary schools finds 16% would be listed as “obese” under current standards.
That’s even with the national average, and four points lower than the Illinois statewide average. And it’s also four points lower than a similar study at Springfield schools a year ago, although that survey measured a different group of students.
The jackpot for Wednesday night’s drawing has jumped up again. Several weeks of rollovers have pushed the top prize for a single winner to the third biggest in Powerball history… and fourth highest overall for any U.S. lottery game.
A single winner Wednesday night would win $425 million. That would translate to a lump sum of $171 million after taxes. The odds of winning are 1 in 175 million.
Two teens who were killed in a motorcycle crash in South Jacksonville last month may have a street renamed in their honor.
19-year-old Leo Alfano and 17-year-old Morgan McKinnon were killed when their motorcycle struck the side of an SUV that had turned in front of them. WLDS Radio reports that the village has proposed renaming a nearby street as “Leo-Morgan Memorial Way.”
The families of the victims would have to consent, and the village hasn’t decided yet which street may get that designation.
The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate says Democratic incumbent Dick Durbin is not getting results… despite being one of the most powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Doug Truax is a political newcomer but says he will work to reverse Durbin policies that he says have hurt middle class families and put Illinois on a downward spiral. Truax says he will repeal Obamacare and make health care more accessible by making it more affordable… allowing people to purchase insurance policies across state lines in order to find better deals.
The suburban Chicago businessman appeared live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”
A Christian County man has drowned in a scuba diving accident at an Arkansas lake.
Officials say Philip Schwab of Stonington was diving in 74 feet of water when he ran out of air. Schwab was not a certified diver but was diving with someone who was. The certified diver also ran out of air but was able to get to the surface in time.
Authorities had to search for three hours before they located Schwab’s body. It was the third drowning at Bull Shoals Lake in northern Arkansas so far this year.
The first court hearing will be held this morning in the lawsuit filed by two top legislative leaders over Governor Pat Quinn’s move to eliminate lawmaker salaries until the pension crisis is resolved.
House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton are seeking an emergency injunction overturning the governor’s action and reinstating lawmakers’ paychecks.
Madigan and Cullerton are also asking for interest on the delayed pay.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office will defend the governor and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka in the lawsuit, even though Madigan’s father is one of the plaintiffs.
The Springfield school board is planning two days of community meetings to refine its search for a new superintendent.
Initially, the meetings with as many as eight focus groups were supposed to happen in a single day to reduce lodging and meal costs for the district’s search firm… but board members say it’s more important to do the search thoroughly and well, even if it costs a little more.
The meetings are tentatively set for August 27th and 28th.
So far, eight candidates have expressed an interest in Springfield’s superintendent vacancy, even though the position has not been widely advertised.
Construction could begin next year on the first of a series of overpasses and underpasses as part of Springfield’s massive railroad relocation project.
Experts from Hanson Engineers briefed the school board Monday night on the plan.
The first crossing to be rebuilt will be at 10th and Carpenter… chosen to ensure that east side residents will continue to have unobstructed access to the city’s major hospitals and the medical district.
School board officials remain concerned that a new overpass on North Grand could have an impact on Lanphier High School and Memorial Stadium.
Springfield police have arrested a man in connection with the Monday morning robbery of a westside bank.
Authorities say a man entered the United Community Bank branch on Bruns Lane around 10:30am and put a note on the counter, demanding money and threatening violence if the teller did not comply. There were conflicting reports on whether the suspect displayed a gun or merely implied that he had one. He escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash.
Police searching the area found a man matching the suspect description a short distance away, inside a nearby Walgreen's. They also found the cash from the robbery and other items connected to the suspect stashed in the area. 39-year-old Wyman Allen is facing armed robbery and other charges.
A local Republican lawmaker says he is willing to consider permanently extending the “temporary” state income tax increase… if a big chunk of the money goes to pay the state’s unfunded pension liability.
Raymond Poe’s position may once again put him at odds with his party’s leadership on the issue of pensions. Poe says the state should keep its commitments to its workers and retirees, and thinks using a portion of the income tax money could be a way to do that.
But appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Poe says the law would have to be written with an ironclad guarantee that those expanded pension payments would be made on schedule.
A federal appeals court has rejected a request from gun rights supporters to immediately allow lllinoisans to begin carrying concealed weapons.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals... which issued the initial ruling that ordered Illinois to pass a concealed carry law... turned down that request from 2nd Amendment supporters. They say the new concealed carry law is unconstitutional because it still forces Illinoisans to wait for months while a new permit process is implemented.
The justices on the appeals court do promise a speedy ruling on the merits of the case. But so far, no oral arguments in the case have been scheduled.
A group that tries to promote President Obama’s political agenda is hoping to turn up the heat on local congressmen to support comprehensive immigration reform.
The group Organizing for Action staged a march and rally in downtown Springfield Monday. The objective is to urge Republican congressmen Aaron Schock and Rodney Davis to get behind the reform plan that recently passed the Senate… with support from Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Mark Kirk.
Scott Cross with OFA says the plan has the backing of big corporations, labor groups, churches and social services agencies… and says the GOP should set partisanship aside and approve the package.
Springfield police have arrested a suspect in an armed robbery that happened early Saturday morning in a downtown Springfield bar.
Employees of the Elixir bar told police that a man entered the bar just before 1am and sat and drank beer until closing time at 3am. During that time, he told workers that his name was Giovanni, and that he was involved with the Mob. As employees prepared to close down, one of them prepared a bank deposit bag... and that’s when the suspect pulled out a gun, held it to a customer’s head and demanded the cash. He got away with around $2,000.
But police say they developed leads that their suspect was living in a storage facility on North 2nd Street. After executing a search warrant, police took 51-year-old Steven Jugan into custody. He’s facing multiple charges, including Armed Robbery and Aggravated Assault.
Big road work projects could mean some big hassles for Springfield drivers today.
Work begins this morning to replace a heavily-traveled bridge on Chatham Road, just north of Wabash.
That bridge was labeled earlier this year as “structurally deficient.” Traffic will be reduced to just one lane in each direction on that stretch of Chatham Road.
Meanwhile, several lanes will be blocked on North Grand between 9th and 11th today, while crews dig down below the surface to do some testing on the ground in preparation for upcoming railroad relocation work.
In both cases, the city recommends finding an alternate route where possible.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin wants some tighter oversight on the Obama administration’s surveillance activities.
Durbin has attached an amendment to a budget bill that would require the administration to report just how many phone records of Americans it has collected… and how many terrorist attacks were thwarted by those surveillance activities.
Illinois State Fair officials say the current admission price strikes the right balance between affordability and fiscal responsibility.
An adult admission to the fair will be seven dollars again this year.
Fair manager Amy Bliefnick says the former admission price of three dollars was simply too low… and says the seven dollar price will allow fairgoers to enjoy a lot of free entertainment while still leaving them with enough money for food, drinks and other expenses on the grounds.
The fair officially opens Friday, following Thursday’s parade and preview night.
A pedestrian has been killed after being struck by a dump truck on a busy Jacksonville street.
WLDS Radio reports that the truck was turning right from Clay Street onto Morton when it hit the woman. Authorities are not sure if she had entered the roadway or was standing on the curb, and are still investigating whether she was walking against the light.
No citations have been issued yet, and the victim’s name has not been released.
Work begins Monday to replace a heavily-traveled bridge on Chatham Road that has been labeled “structurally deficient.”
The bridge between Iles and Jerome carries around 19,000 cars a day. In order to accommodate the work, traffic will be reduced to a single lane in each direction on what are usually the northbound lanes on Chatham. In addition, Reed Avenue will be closed at Chatham Road during the first phase of construction, which should last through the winter.
Drivers are advised to use caution and to consider alternate routes in heavy traffic periods.
The State Fire Marshal is withdrawing a proposed change to the state’s fire safety code… one which drew fierce opposition from home builders and other business groups.
Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis (mat-KAY’-tis) had proposed requiring automatic sprinkler systems in new home construction. But local builders groups say that rule would add thousands of dollars to the price of a newly-constructed home, and would price many potential buyers out of the market.
Matkaitis says the strong response shows that his proposal needs more refinement. The proposal has been removed from the docket of a legislative rule-making panel, and a planned public hearing next week in Springfield has been cancelled.
An Illinois jockey has been suspended from horseracing for 60 days for allegedly trying to rig the outcome of a recent race.
The State Racing Board is looking into whether several jockeys at Fairmount Park conspired to let another jockey win a race on July 23rd. The victory would have been history making for 70-year-old R.A. “Cowboy” Jones, who would have become the first known rider to win thoroughbred races in seven different decades.
Instead, Jones finished second… and the rider who finished third, John Lejeune, is accused of holding back at the end to let Jones beat him.
The deposition of the top union representative for Springfield police has revealed that more than two dozen internal affairs files that were initially targeted for early destruction were in fact preserved.
That’s according to Calvin Christian, the plaintiff in a lawsuit stemming from the file shredding incident.
Appearing live on 970 WMAY, Christian said Thursday that there was no explanation for the preservation of some records… and no word on why the preserved records were not turned over to comply with a pending Freedom of Information Act request.
There will be a few changes at this year’s Illinois State Fair.
In a preview of the event, which opens next week, fair officials announced that you’ll see more horses… in the form of a daily parade by the Clydesdales… and less horsepower, by restricting the number of golf carts on the grounds each day.
The big food highlight will be an Oreo, wrapped in cookie dough, dipped in batter and deep fried.
Later this month, Springfield will have an acting corporation counsel in John Mehlick, according to an announcement from Mayor Mike Houston.
The letter says that with Mehlick's experience as assistant state's attorney, an associate judge and his time in private practice he will be "perfect for leading the city's team of lawyers."
In the letter, Mehlick is quoted saying he understands the "challenges in this period-of-transition and will use all my years of experience to provide Springfield with the exemplary representation it deserves.”
The Springfield native will replace Mark Cullen August 15th.
Cullen, whose resignation kicks in at the end of the month, resigned after media reports revealed he was involved in the decision to prematurely shred Springfield Police Department internal affairs files.
New details about the police department file shredding scandal are emerging from lawsuit plaintiff Calvin Christian, describing a deposition taken for the case he’s pursuing against the City of Springfield.
In a live interview on 970 WMAY's "Bishop On Air," Christian says police union leader Don Edwards was deposed this week and offered up new information about the agreement between the union and the police department to speed up the destruction of those internal affairs files.
Christian says among those in the room for the signing of that agreement was Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher… whose own file was reportedly among those shredded. Christian says Edwards also revealed that 25 to 35 internal affairs files that were slated for early destruction were not shredded after all. But those files have also not been turned over in response to Christian’s open records act request.
A Springfield alderman is now backing away from his claim that Mayor Mike Houston misled the City Council by failing to answer a direct question about the police department file shredding scandal.
Last week on 970 WMAY, Alderman Frank Edwards said Houston was, quote, “basically asked” during a closed-door meeting if anyone had objected to the destruction of those internal affairs files before they were shredded… and that Houston did not answer. But the mayor says that question was never put to him in the meeting, and Edwards has now conceded that the mayor is correct.
But Edwards also says that it should have been clear from other questions that aldermen wanted to know such details. He says aldermen often don’t know what specific questions to ask, because they are not getting adequate information from the administration.
Springfield Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen will remain on the city payroll until the end of August… but he will not be in his office or making day-to-day decisions on the city’s legal affairs.
Mayor Mike Houston says he met with Cullen Wednesday and worked out the timeline for his departure, after Cullen resigned last month following new revelations in the police department file shredding scandal. Houston says Cullen will remain on the payroll to answer questions about that issue and provide guidance in the ongoing litigation stemming from it. But he indicated that he doesn't want Cullen to come back to the job, so that the city can "move forward."
There is still no indication as to when Houston will name an interim replacement for Cullen.
The check is not in the mail for Illinois lawmakers… who will miss a paycheck today because of Governor Pat Quinn’s veto of their salaries.
Quinn eliminated lawmakers’ pay in order to pressure them into completing work on pension reform.
Two of Quinn’s fellow Democrats… House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton… have sued, claiming Quinn’s move is an unconstitutional abuse of power, but no hearing has been set in the case.
Quinn says his move is legal… and says lawmakers should spend less time suing and more time fixing the pension crisis.
The panel that oversees the conduct of Illinois attorneys has subpoenaed records related to the Springfield police file shredding scandal.
The Illinois Times first reported those subpoenas from the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, related to its investigation of an unnamed “attorney John Doe.”
At least two attorneys in the city’s legal department… including outgoing Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen… were involved in the discussions before the police union contract was changed to allow internal affairs records to be destroyed early, in possible violation of state records laws.
Illinois’s lieutenant governor would like to be the state’s next comptroller.
Sheila Simon kicked off her campaign Wednesday with stops in several cities, including Springfield.
In a live interview on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Simon acknowledged a lack of direct experience in accounting or finance, but says her background in the law may be even more important for dealing with the complex legal questions that the comptroller faces these days.
And she says she wants improved oversight not only of state government, but also of local government finances.
A long-time professor at Millikin University in Decatur has been revealed to be the same person who, as a teenager, shot his parents and sister to death in the family’s Texas home.
James St. James has been a psychology professor at Millikin since 1986… but in 1967, he was Jim Wolcott, a 15-year-old who was sentenced to a state mental hospital for the murders of his family.
He was released six years later, changed his name and started his career in academia.
St. James has been the head of the school’s psychology department, but Millikin won’t comment on his current employment status, or on whether the school had been aware of his past before it was disclosed in a recent newspaper investigation.