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April 17, 2014, 2:02 pm

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The Council Roundup

The Council Roundup, Wednesdays at 10 with Bishop On Air

 


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970 WMAY News Archives for 2013-09

County Health Department Workers Still Waiting For Insurance Marketplace Certification


Sangamon County's public health director says his agency probably won't have its state certification to assist customers in the new health insurance marketplace until next week at the earliest. 

 

At least 10 public health employees have applied for the certification, but were notified by the state over the weekend that it would take at least five business days to receive approval.

 

The marketplace opens Tuesday, but the state is lagging behind in processing paperwork to certify workers.  Meanwhile, a new study suggests 6 in 10 Illinois adults are not aware of the insurance marketplace or that it may be able to offer financial help to pay for a health care policy.

Manar Unhappy About ADM Bid For State Incentives


A local lawmaker is objecting to an attempt by Archer Daniels Midland to get state incentives for a possible move out of Decatur.

 

State Senator Andy Manar says ADM should have come to the state asking for help to keep jobs in Decatur... which is coping with the highest unemployment rate in the state. 

 

Manar isn't ruling out state help if it keeps ADM's global headquarters in Illinois, but says the process must be open and transparent.

Former DOC Accountant Sentenced For Embezzlement


A former accountant with the state Department of Corrections has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the Department... and from an association set up to honor DOC employees who were killed or injured in the line of duty. 

 

47-year-old Mary Ann Bohlen was also ordered to pay restitution of $27,000 to the department and another $23,000 to that association.  Bohlen is an Edinburg resident who pleaded guilty in the case back in February.

Odds Of Striking A Deer Drop In Illinois


Your odds of crashing your car into a deer are getting smaller.

 

State Farm Insurance says in the coming year, Illinois drivers will have a one in 214 chance of hitting a deer... down from last year's odds of 1 in 167. 

 

The company says it hopes that drivers are simply being more alert and cautious about the risk... which is especially high in the fall and in the early evening hours.

Lincoln Home Prepares For Possible Government Shutdown


Staff at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site are preparing to close the place down if a looming federal government shutdown actually occurs. 

 

Among the facilities that will be closed are all National Park Service operations, including the Lincoln Home and its nearby visitors center and parking lot. 

 

Superintendent Dale Phillips says a shutdown will disrupt plans for hundreds of visitors every day… and leave around 30 workers without a paycheck.  But he also says the site can be up and running again within hours if the standoff is resolved.

This Year's Route 66 Fest One For The Record Books


Organizers think it’s safe to say that this year’s International Route 66 Mother Road Festival was the biggest in the event’s 12-year history. 

 

It started with Friday night’s parade… which drew more than 22-hundred vehicles, nearly double the previous high amount.  More than 1100 cars were registered for the show itself, with another 200 demo cars on display. 

 

And Springfield police estimate that 85,000 people attended over the three-day event downtown.  Plans are expected to get underway soon for next year’s event.

McMenamin Proposes Pay Freeze For City Workers


Springfield Alderman Joe McMenamin isn’t letting go of his quest to get his fellow aldermen to do more about the city’s unfunded pension liability. 

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air,” McMenamin says he will push to keep a $2 million infrastructure plan for alleys and drainage in committee… so that there can be more discussion about shrinking the plan and using the savings to bolster the pension fund. 

 

McMenamin is also proposing a pay freeze for city workers, so that they can share more of the pension burden.  But so far, there is no specific proposal or draft ordinance from McMenamin.

Cubs Fire Manager Sveum; Is Girardi On Team's Wishlist?


The Chicago Cubs have ended another losing season… by dumping their manager. 

 

The team fired Dale Sveum after just two years in charge.  The Cubs finished last in their division this year, with a combined record of 127 wins and 197 losses under Sveum. 

 

The firing could open the door for the team to look at New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, a former Cub player who earned three World Series rings as a Yankees catcher in the ‘90s… and a fourth as manager in 2009.

County Public Health Workers Still Waiting for Insurance Marketplace Certification


Sangamon County public health officials are still hoping to get confirmation today that some of their employees have been certified to provide guidance to shoppers in the new health insurance marketplace that opens Tuesday.

 

As of late last week, a number of health department employees had completed the training, but still had not received certification from the state.

 

State officials acknowledge that they are behind on certifications… but say Tuesday is merely the first day of a long sign-up process for uninsured Illinoisans, and insist help will be there when consumers need it.

National Park Service Property in Springfield Could Shutdown Tuesday


Lincoln’s Home and its visitors center could be among the first casualties if a federal government shutdown takes effect on Tuesday.

 

Among the hundreds of thousands of government workers that would be sidelined are employees of the National Park Service, which oversees the Lincoln’s Home historic site.

 

That would close the visitors center and put the home off-limits for tours until the impasse ends.

Backlog of FOID Applications Poses Questions About Timely Processing of Carry Permits


The Illinois State Police continues to struggle with a backlog of applications for gun ownership.

 

So it remains to be seen how they can handle an influx of requests for permits to carry concealed weapons.

 

The department has 49,000 applications for Firearm Owners Identification cards awaiting approval.

 

And that’s before factoring in the estimated 400,000 applications for “carry” permits in the first year.

 

Police spokeswoman Monique Bond says the department could add nearly 100 employees to help.

State Lawmakers Consider Tax Deal to Keep ADM in Illinois


Illinois lawmakers are considering a tax incentive package in hopes of persuading agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Company not to move its global headquarters out of the state.

 

The proposal filed Friday in the Illinois House would give ADM a 10 percent break on utility taxes for up to 30 years and a credit against some state income tax withholdings.

 

The value of the incentives was not disclosed.

 

ADM has announced that it intends to relocate its global HQ away from Decatur, but hasn’t said where it might go.

 

Chicago is among the sites being considered.

Springfield Man Drowns in Missouri Lake


Authorities are investigating the drowning death of a Springfield man at a Missouri lake.

 

35-year-old Nathan Hoffman reportedly fell from the back of a boat that was tied to a tree stump at Mark Twain Lake in Monroe City, Missouri.

 

His body was recovered from the water near the boat. It’s unknown why Hoffman fell.

 

An autopsy will be conducted.

Mother Road Festival Brings Large Crowds


No final numbers are in yet, but this year’s International Route 66 Mother Road Festival certainly had the appearance of being one of the biggest yet.

 

Well over 1,000 classic cars were entered into the show over the weekend, and excellent weather seemed to boost the crowds.

 

Event organizers had predicted that more than 80,000 would attend this year’s festival, which wrapped up Sunday.

Insurance Marketplace Scrambles To Get Ready; Springfield Facing Higher Rates Than Chicago


It’s coming down to the wire to get everything ready for Tuesday’s launch of the new state health insurance marketplace. 

 

Appearing live Friday on 970 WMAY, the director of the Illinois Department of Insurance says he’s confident the state will be ready to go.  But dozens of Springfield-area workers and volunteers are apparently still waiting for certification from the state so they can help uninsured local people choose plans to meet the individual mandate under the federal health care law.

 

 

Uninsured Sangamon County residents could pay $20 to $30 more a month for health insurance under the new state insurance marketplace than residents of Peoria or Chicago.  Illinois Department of Insurance director Andrew Boron says rates vary by region, based on which companies are providing insurance plans and what features they’re offering. 

 

The marketplace… called “Get Covered Illinois”… officially opens Tuesday.

Back Paychecks Issued To Illinois Lawmakers


Illinois lawmakers are getting their back pay… after Governor Pat Quinn was rejected twice in one day in his effort to keep them from getting paid. 

 

Quinn on Friday tried two separate appeals of Thursday’s ruling which found his veto of legislative salaries was unconstitutional.  But in both cases, the court refused Quinn’s request to keep the paychecks on hold while the appeal proceeds. 

 

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka issued those paychecks Friday afternoon.

Mayor Supports Helping Hands Relocation Project


The Helping Hands homeless shelter has one big supporter in its quest to move into a new downtown Springfield location. 

 

Mayor Mike Houston tells the State Journal-Register that he supports the proposal for Helping Hands to relocate into the old Ace Sign Company building on North 4th

 

Nearby residents oppose the project, fearing it will add to crime and nuisances in that area.  Ward 5 Alderman Sam Cahnman, who represents that neighborhood, says he’s undecided.

Mother Road Festival Underway Downtown


It’s a big weekend for car lovers. 

 

The International Route 66 Mother Road Festival is underway in downtown Springfield.  More than 1,000 classic cars… and tens of thousands of visitors… are in town for the event, which wraps up Sunday afternoon.

 

A number of downtown streets are closed off for the event.  Get more details at route66fest.com.

Lawsuit Over Same-Sex Marriage Allowed To Proceed


A lawsuit filed by 25 gay couples seeking to force the state to allow them to marry will be allowed to proceed.

 

A Cook County judge has rejected a motion filed by several downstate county clerks, who would be asked to issue marriage licenses if the courts rule in favor of those couples.  The clerks had asked the lawsuit to be dismissed, but the judge rejected their motion.

 

The decision keeps alive the possibility that the courts could find the state's prohibition on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.  In the meantime, legislation to legalize same-sex marriage is still pending in the Illinois House, after clearing the Senate earlier this year.

Girard Couple Dies In House Fire


A Girard couple is dead following an early morning fire.  The Macoupin County coroner says 72-year-old Dale Lehmann (LAY’-mun) and his 65-year-old wife Anne apparently died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The State Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of that blaze.

Judge Rejects Quinn Motion; Lawmakers Receiving Back Pay


A Cook County judge has rejected Governor Pat Quinn’s request to keep withholding paychecks from Illinois lawmakers, while Quinn appeals an earlier ruling from the judge. 

 

On Thursday, Judge Neil Cohen ordered the state to give lawmakers the back pay that they were owed since July, when Quinn vetoed funding for their salaries in an effort to force them to pass pension reform.  Quinn filed an emergency motion to put that order on hold, but the judge denied the request, calling it “cynical” on Quinn’s part. 

 

The ruling means that lawmakers will not only get back pay, they will also get interest on the overdue amount.

Prices Through Insurance Exchange Higher In Springfield Than Chicago


Springfield and Sangamon County will have higher rates than Chicago and many other parts of the state for most plans under the state’s new health insurance exchange. 

 

A variety of factors go into the pricing in each region of the state… including the number of insurance providers offering plans and the features of each plan they offer.  As a result, prices are higher for the region that includes Springfield than they are in Peoria or Chicago.  The director of the Illinois Department of Insurance says that subsidies and tax credits will help bring those prices down for lower-income households around the state.

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show," Andrew Boron says the state will be ready to launch the "Get Covered Illinois" marketplace on October 1.  But it's still unclear how many -- if any -- people in Sangamon County will be certified to assist prospective local customers with purchasing policies through the marketplace.

Vaccine Shortage Not Being Felt In Springfield... Yet


So far it hasn’t caused too many problems locally.  But Sangamon County health officials say they are monitoring shortages of the TDAP (tee’-dap) vaccine. 

 

The shot… which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis… is required for all schoolchildren between grades six and 12.  But the Sangamon County Department of Public Health says its supplies have been limited. 

 

For the moment, health officials are not aware of anyone locally being unable to get the shot… but they say they are keeping an eye on the situation.  There have been shortages reported elsewhere in the state, and schools are being told they won’t be penalized for allowing students in without the shot until the situation improves.

Gov. Quinn to Appeal Judges Ruling on Legislators' Pay


Governor Pat Quinn’s attempt to force lawmakers to pass pension reform… by withholding their paychecks until they do… has been ruled unconstitutional by a Cook County judge.

 

The judge found that Quinn’s line-item veto of legislative salaries violated the plain language of the state constitution, and ordered that all lawmakers immediately receive their back pay, with interest.

 

The governor is expected to go back to court today to ask that the judge’s order be put on hold while Quinn appeals the decision.

 

But it may be too late… Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says she ordered her staff to immediately process the paychecks, and says they will be deposited in lawmakers’ bank accounts first thing this morning.

Survey Numbers Indicate Tight Race in Sangamon County Sheriff GOP Primary


The GOP primary race for Sangamon County Sheriff appears to be as tight as it can get.

 

Candidate Wes Barr has recently indicated that he holds a lead in polls he has seen, and county Republican officials say they’ve seen similar numbers.

 

But a survey conducted last week gives Jack Campbell a lead of just over three-points… roughly within the margin of error.

 

That survey also shows that more than 27-percent of Sangamon County voters are still undecided in the race.

GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Brady Vows to Live in Governor's Mansion If Elected


Republican candidate for governor Bill Brady is vowing to work… and live… in Springfield if he’s elected.

 

The State Journal-Register reports that Brady told a gathering of local Republicans Thursday that he will reside in the Executive Mansion as governor.

 

Brady mocked Governor Pat Quinn for failing to spend much time in Springfield, saying Quinn’s absence hurts the morale of state workers and makes it harder to get things done with the legislature.

Springfield's Unemployment Down to 7 Percent, Lowest in 5 Years


Springfield’s unemployment rate is at its lowest level in five years.

 

The jobless rate dipped in August to seven-percent… down almost a full percentage point from a year earlier.

 

State officials say Springfield has added 1800 jobs over the past year, contributing to one of the lowest metro unemployment rates in the state.

 

But just a few miles away, Decatur continues to suffer through the state’s worst jobless rate, climbing last month to 12-percent.

Springfield Chiropractor Admits to Fraudulently Collecting Reimbursements


A Springfield chiropractor has admitted collecting more than $48,000 in fraudulent claims submitted to Medicare and to private insurance companies.

 

Christopher Leone is the owner of Leone Family Chiropractic on South Sixth.

 

He admitted submitting claims seeking payment for therapies that require a physician or therapist to work one-on-one with a patient… even though the patient was left to perform the therapies on their own, without any professional supervision.

 

Leone has agreed to pay reimbursement for the false claims, and could face jail time or fines when he is sentenced in February.

Former Bank President To Serve Prison Time For Embezzlement


The former president of a Logan County bank will serve two-and-a-half years in prison for embezzling more than half-a-million dollars from the bank… where he had worked since 1966.

 

66-year-old Bryson John Russell worked his way up the ranks and became president of Hartsburg State Bank in 1989… but in 1992, he told authorities he began skimming money from the bank to pay for personal expenses.

 

Eventually, he created phony loans in the names of relatives and other bank customers to cover his tracks.

 

Russell confessed to the crime back in February.

 

He will report to a federal prison at an undetermined future date, and was also ordered to pay restitution of more than $562,000.

Judge: Quinn Veto Of Lawmaker Pay Violates State Constitution; Governor Plans Appeal


Governor Pat Quinn's veto of legislative salaries violated the state Constitution, according to a Cook County judge who ordered Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to issue the back pay immediately. 

 

But Quinn plans to appeal the ruling from the judge, and is asking the order to be stayed while his appeal is pending. 

 

Quinn vetoed funding for lawmakers' paychecks back in July as punishment for failing to pass a pension reform plan.  Senate President John Cullerton says he hopes the judge's ruling will put an end to what he calls a "distraction" so that the real work on pension reform can resume.

Springfield Adds Jobs, Unemployment Rate Falls


Good news for Springfield in the latest unemployment numbers.  The city’s jobless rate fell to seven-percent in August… down eight-tenths of a percent from the same time a year ago. 

 

One reason for the decline is job growth.  The State Department of Employment Security says Springfield added 1800 jobs between August of 2012 and last month. 

 

The local numbers are in sharp contrast to Decatur, which continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the state at 12%, up more than half-a-percentage point from a year earlier.

Illinois Coal Association Also Sounds Alarm Over New Federal Rules


The head of the Illinois Coal Association is echoing the alarm sounded last week by City Water Light and Power… that new coal regulations from the Obama administration will damage the economy, harm consumers, and jeopardize CWLP’s power plant. 

 

Phil Gonet rejects the claim that the new rules from the U.S. EPA are intended to improve the environment, since he says they won’t really reduce global carbon emissions. 

 

Gonet hopes Congress will overrule the President and pass legislation to repeal the EPA rules… which don’t currently apply to CWLP, but which could within the next several years.

Two Teens Arrested In String Of Burglaries In Sherman, Springfield


Springfield police have arrested two teenagers in connection with a string of auto and residential break-ins over the past few days in Springfield and Sherman. 

 

19-year-old Austin Angeli of Springfield, and 18-year-old Jesse Deutchman, who is described as homeless, are facing multiple charges after they were arrested in the Piper Glen subdivision earlier this week. 

 

Police say that both have admitted to being involved in  more than a dozen burglaries of cars, as well as entry into several residences. Angeli also reported admitted to stealing two cars in Sherman last weekend. 

 

Police are still investigating to see if they are connected with additional crimes.

State, Logan County Split Nearly $1 Million Tab For Beason Murders Trial


The bills are in from the trials of two Logan County brothers for their roles in the deaths of five members of a Beason family. 

 

The murder trial of Christopher Harris… and the eventual plea bargain by his brother Jason… will cost taxpayers nearly $1 million total.  More than half that amount is being paid for out of state funds, but the Bloomington Pantagraph reports $419,000 will come out of Logan County’s budget.  The county has sold more than $600,000 in revenue bonds to cover its share of the legal fees racked up by defense lawyers and various expert witnesses. 

 

Christopher Harris is now serving a life sentence for the murders of Rick and Ruth Gee and three of their children.  Jason Harris is serving a 20-year sentence on lesser charges.

Downtown Streets To Close At Noon Friday For Route 66 Festival


This weekend’s International Route 66 Mother Road Festival will mean a lot of changes for traffic in downtown, starting Friday. 

 

Most downtown streets from Jefferson to Capitol and 4th to 7th Streets will be closed starting at noon Friday in order to get ready for more than 1,000 classic cars that will be on display on the street starting Friday night. 

 

In addition, the Springfield Mass Transit District bus transfer center will move to 5th and Jackson Friday and Saturday… it will return to its normal Washington Street location on Monday.

Ald. Cahnman Still Undecided on Potential Location of Homeless Shelter


He could be a key vote on the future of a Springfield homeless shelter, but Alderman Sam Cahnman remains undecided for the moment.

 

Cahnman represents the area on North Fourth Street where Helping Hands wants to relocate, in a section of the old Ace Sign Company building.

 

But nearby residents fear the agency’s clients will add to crime and nuisances associated with other social service organizations in that area.

 

Cahnman says he hopes to find a compromise ahead of a vote next month on a zoning change to allow Helping Hands to move in.

County Efficiency Commission: Merge Fire Districts to Reduce Cost


Sangamon County’s Citizens Efficiency Commission says there has to be a better way to provide fire protection to outlying areas.

 

Currently Springfield provides services to nine so-called “pass through” fire districts, each of which has its own administrative structure and costs.

 

The Commission recommends that those nine districts merge, reducing costs and simplifying the contractual agreement with Springfield.

 

The proposal is not binding and would require action from each of those districts.

Ald. McMenamin: City's Attorney Won't Craft Measure Ending Pay Spike


Alderman Joe McMenamin’s attempt to immediately repeal a perk for Springfield police brass is being blocked… by the city’s attorney.

 

McMenamin tells the State Journal-Register editorial board that acting corporation counsel John Mehlick is refusing to draft an ordinance to repeal the twice-yearly five-percent pay spike that cops have gotten for years.

 

That perk will go away next year anyway under a new police contract… but McMenamin wants to eliminate it before Police Chief Robert Williams retires next month.

 

The mayor’s office says the pay spike falls under executive authority, not legislative.

Friday's Willie Nelson Concert Postponed Because of Singer's Shoulder Injury


Willie Nelson is canceling Friday’s scheduled concert here in Springfield.

 

The 80-year-old country superstar had been expected to appear before a near-sellout crowd at Sangamon Auditorium.

 

Instead, he is canceling several dates across the Midwest this week. Doctors say he suffered a shoulder injury.

 

The auditorium says the show will be rescheduled and ticket holders can simply use their tickets for that performance… or they can contact the box office for a refund.

Refurbished Tennis Courts Unveiled by Springfield Park District


The Springfield Park District has cut the ribbon on its refurbished tennis courts at Washington Park.

 

The courts were redesigned to US Tennis Association specifications… right down to the color scheme.

 

The new courts are blue… the same color scheme in use at the US Open and other major American tournaments.

 

Studies say that coloring makes it easier for players to see the ball. It cost around $90,000 to repair and resurface the courts.

Jewel-Osco Moving Away From Self-Service Checkouts


They are increasingly in use locally… but they could be on the way out in Northern Illinois.

 

Jewel-Osco says it will begin phasing out self-service checkout lanes at some of its grocery stores in the Chicago area.

 

The company says the move will reduce thefts from its stores, while improving customer service.

Sheriffs Office Gets New Police Dog


The Sangamon County Sheriff's Department has a new employee ... And she's a 15-month-old Belgian Malinois named Rajah.

 

The cost of the $8,000 dog was offset with a $7,000 donation from the Grant Family of Landmark Ford.

 

Undersheriff Jack Campbell says police dogs don't only assist in searches for drugs, explosives or people, they can also assist where officers lives may be put in direct danger.

 

Rajah is the counties third police dog and replaces an injured K-9.

Willie Nelson Concert In Springfield Postponed


Friday night’s concert in Springfield by country legend Willie Nelson has been postponed. 

 

The 80-year-old singer had been scheduled to play at Sangamon Auditorium, but has called off several concerts this week, citing health issues and fatigue.  The auditorium says the concert will be rescheduled, but no date has been set. 

 

For information on ticket exchanges or refunds, call the box office at 206-6160.

Alderman Undecided On Homeless Shelter Proposal


The alderman for the area that could serve as the future home of the Helping Hands homeless shelter remains undecided about whether the project should go forward at that location. 

 

Ward 5’s Sam Cahnman says he understands the concerns raised by nearby residents… who fear that adding the shelter and other services into that area will lure more troubled people, and potentially add to crime and other nuisances around the North Fourth Street location. 

 

Cahnman says he would like to find some compromise before the planned October 15th vote on the project, but leaves open the possibility that the vote could be delayed.

Durbin Proposals Target Concussions, Energy Drink Use By Kids


Most major sports leagues in the U.S. are in support of Senator Dick Durbin’s bill to impose new rules aimed at protecting student-athletes from the effects of concussions. 

 

That’s according to a statement from Durbin’s office, which says the NFL, NBA, NHL and NCAA are among the leagues supporting that federal legislation.  Durbin says his bill is modeled after rules already put in place by the Illinois High School Association. 

 

It requires states to develop safety guidelines related to concussions sustained during athletic events, or face the loss of federal funds. It also imposes a “when in doubt, sit out” policy that requires schools to bench any athlete who shows concussion symptoms for the remainder of the day, at least.

 

Meanwhile, Durbin and others on Capitol Hill are trying to increase the pressure on energy drink makers to stop marketing tactics that the lawmakers say are aimed at kids. 

 

A letter from Durbin and the others asks 17 companies to voluntarily regulate themselves and their advertising.  The letter says energy drinks are often promoted at sporting events, concerts, and even SAT prep courses… all with a teenage target audience. 

 

Durbin says energy drinks pose a health risk to young people… and suggests that if manufacturers don’t adopt different practices on their own, Congress might try to impose new rules.

Rutherford Lines Up Local Support From Big Names


Republican candidate for governor Dan Rutherford has lined up a couple of Sangamon County’s most popular politicians for his campaign. 

 

Rutherford says on Twitter that Sheriff Neil Williamson and Circuit Clerk Tony Libri will serve as his county co-chairs. 

 

Rutherford is currently state Treasurer and one of four Republicans seeking the nomination for the chance to challenge Governor Pat Quinn in the 2014 general election.

Legislative, Budget Snafus Put Horse Racing Season At Risk


Horse and harness racing in Illinois could be dramatically scaled back next year… unless Illinois lawmakers find a lot of money in a hurry for the state racing board. 

 

The board is required by law to oversee and regulate racing… but it’s running short of money to do so because of a legislative snafu.  The Chicago Tribune reports the law that allows Internet wagering expired last January… but wasn’t renewed until May, costing the state more than $700,000 in revenues. 

 

If that money isn’t restored, the racing board says it will have to slash the number of racing days, which could result in the closure of some racetracks.

Ribbon-Cutting For Revamped Washington Park Tennis Courts


The renovated Washington Park tennis courts will be officially presented to the public tonight.

 

A ribbon-cutting is planned for this (Wednesday) evening at five o’clock to show off the courts.  Park district officials say they were built to US Tennis Association standards, with a new color scheme… a blue court with green on the outside areas.  This scheme is in use at the US Open and other major tournaments, and is said to improve players’ ability to see the ball. 

 

The $90,000 project also includes special “blended” lines for 10 and under play on some of the 12 courts.

Pricing Details for Illinois' Health Care Exchange Revealed


More details are emerging about the health insurance marketplace that will become active next week as part of the federal health care reform law.

 

Illinois’s marketplace will be called “Get Covered Illinois.”

 

An official website and social media page will go live next Tuesday, the first day that uninsured Illinoisans can buy policies under the new initiative.

 

While the full list of pricing and options hasn’t been released yet, state officials say the cheapest plan will be $120 a month for a 25-year-old nonsmoker in Chicago.

 

Prices go up from there based on age, geography, and the type of plan purchased.

 

But subsidies will drop many of those prices for low-income residents.

Alderman Uses Infrastructure Plan To Highlight Pension Funding


The city of Springfield is proposing a $2 million project to fix some of its biggest trouble spots with alleys and drainage systems.

 

But Alderman Joe McMenamin says that’s too extravagant… and wants to divert half that amount to the city’s police and fire pensions instead.

 

McMenamin says infrastructure and pensions are both important… and one should not be funded over the other.

 

City budget director Bill McCarty, though, says they are really separate issues and says infrastructure money shouldn’t be diverted for pensions.

City Set to Vote on Settlement of 2008 Discrimination Case


Springfield aldermen will vote next week on a proposed $85,000 settlement to end a five-year-old discrimination complaint brought by a former city employee.

 

The city fired Robert Horton in 2008, saying he was insubordinate and did not follow orders.

 

But Horton says he was fired because he was black, while a white worker was not disciplined for similar behavior.

 

A state investigation supported Horton’s complaint… and city officials say it’s in the best interest of taxpayers to settle, even though the city does not acknowledge wrongdoing.

Chatham Cuts Ties With Lobbyist


The village of Chatham has terminated its contract with its longtime lobbyist.

 

Some village board members say they weren’t getting enough information about the work Tim McAnarney was doing for Chatham for his $24,000 a year deal.

 

But members left open the possibility of renegotiating a new contract with him.

Mayor Skeptical Towards Creation of City Inspector General


Mayor Mike Houston is skeptical of the proposal to create a new inspector general position for city government.

 

Alderman Cory Jobe wants to reinstate the position, but to make it truly independent of City Hall.

 

In his version, the inspector general would be hired by and answer to the aldermen, not the mayor.

 

But the proposal could cost $400,000 a year, money which Houston says could be better spent providing police and fire protection.

 

He says there are more cost-effective ways to find and stop corruption.

State Releases Initial Price Information For Health Insurance Under New Exchanges


The State of Illinois has released some of the rates that will be charged for health plans through the insurance exchanges that open next week. 

 

The cheapest plan would cost around $120 a month for a 25-year-old non-smoker in Chicago.  Prices go up from there, depending on age, geography, type of plan, and other factors.  But some of those costs can be offset through subsidies that will be available to low-income households.

 

Governor Pat Quinn says the rates are 25-percent cheaper than original federal estimates for the coverage. Eight different companies will offer various levels of coverage under the plans to be offered through the exchange.

Houston Not Convinced Of Need For Inspector General


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is skeptical of the need for an inspector general to investigate wrongdoing at City Hall. 

 

Houston says such an arrangement would be reactive to problems, not proactive… and wouldn’t really accomplish anything that the current system can’t take care of.  And Houston questions whether a possible $400,000 price tag to reinstate the office couldn’t be better spent offering police or fire protection. 

 

Alderman Cory Jobe says he would like to bring up the inspector general idea during the upcoming city budget talks.

IL Supreme Court Chief Justice Predicts More Cameras In Courtrooms


The new chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court says reaction to cameras in Illinois courtrooms has been overwhelmingly positive so far… and she thinks electronic media will someday be allowed in every circuit courtroom in the state. 

 

Chief Justice Rita Garman says about one-third of Illinois counties are now taking part in a pilot program.  But so far, the 7th Circuit, which includes Sangamon County, has not asked to be a part of the initiative. 

 

Garman recently became Chief Justice to preside over a historic session where the high court is convening exclusively in Chicago until next year… while its century-old Springfield building undergoes a major renovation.  [She appeared live Tuesday on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show."]

Rochester Police Investigating Incidents On Or Near Lost Bridge Trail


Rochester police are hoping to identify and find the individuals involved in two separate incidents in which women were approached on or near the Lost Bridge walking trail in a manner that left them uncomfortable.

 

In one instance, a woman reported that she was walking on the trail when a man appeared from behind some bushes and tried to start a conversation.  The woman told police that the way he approached her alarmed her, and she walked away quickly without further incident.

 

In another case, a man approached two girls in the trail's parking lot and asked them to take a picture of him.  They refused, and say the man then became angry and yelled at them.

 

In a statement on the Rochester Police Facebook page, authorities say the men did not break the law, but they would still like to find them to determine their intentions.

Civil War Diary Written By Springfield Man Donated To Lincoln Library


A piece of history connecting Springfield to the Civil War has been donated to Lincoln Library’s Sangamon Valley Collection. 

 

An original Civil War diary written between 1864 and 1865 by Springfield resident Simon String has been donated by String’s great-great-nephew, John Beam the Fourth of Spokane, Washington.  Beam personally transcribed the tiny handwriting in the small journal before donating it.

 

In the diary, String recounts various skirmishes and battles, and his reaction to the re-election and later assassination of President Lincoln.  Library officials say it offers a rare glimpse into the day-to-day lives of Springfield residents who went off to war in the 1860s.

Many Unknowns Week Before Health Care Exchange Opens


There’s only a week to go until the start of signup for health insurance exchanges under President Obama’s health care reform law… and many of the details are still murky.

 

Numerous local agencies plan to help uninsured individuals determine the appropriate level of coverage they will need under the law’s individual mandate… but so far, those agencies are still waiting for the final certification they will need so that they can legally provide that guidance.

 

And many details of the law still have not been announced… including the price of the various health plans, the subsidies that will be available for low-income people, or even the website addresses where that information will eventually be available.

Davis Defends Vote to De-fund Obamacare at Campaign Announcement


Congressman Rodney Davis says Obamacare is a “disaster,” and that’s why he’s changed his tune about defunding it.

 

A year ago, Davis said efforts to defund the President’s health care law were a waste of time.

 

But last week, Davis cast just such a vote. He says he is just following the will of his constituents and of concerned people around the country.

 

But Davis continues to insist that he doesn’t believe the Capitol Hill standoff will lead to a government shutdown.

 

Davis officially announced his campaign for a second term in Congress Monday with a stop in Springfield.

ADM Plans Move For Global Operations But Will Keep 4K Jobs in Decatur


Archer Daniels Midland is looking for a new home for its global operations.

 

The company is one of the biggest employers in Decatur… which has been rocked by heavy job losses in recent years.

 

But ADM’s plan to relocate its global headquarters won’t necessarily lead to more deep cuts in the Decatur workforce.

 

The company says it will move around 100 top executives to an undetermined new location.

 

Chicago is in the running to serve as ADM’s new global headquarters.

 

But the company’s North American operations will remain based in Decatur, and most of its 44-hundred employees there will stay put.

Garage Consolidation Software In Front of Aldermen


The next phase for consolidation of the city’s fleet of vehicles is in front of Aldermen this week. Springfield’s budget director says the two ordinances totaling nearly $300,000 will give the consolidation life blood as it will help manage in real-time the labor costs for the city’s fleet of over 800 vehicles and hundreds of other pieces of equipment.

 

The first major phase of consolidation was the purchase of a facility to house the equipment.

 

The software purchase is front of Aldermen this week.

 

The next phase is negotiating the labor contracts for the city to combine four operations into one.

Quinn: Guard Deployment Under Certain Circumstances, Still Open To ISP Backup For Chicago Crime


Don’t look for the National Guard to assist with efforts to bring the violence under control in some crime-ravaged Chicago neighborhoods.

 

The governor’s office now says they only have the authority to deploy the Guard in that manner under specific conditions… such as a looming terrorist threat.

 

Governor Pat Quinn says he is still open to dispatching Illinois State Police personnel to provide backup to Chicago police if he is asked to do so.

Guns Stolen From Farm and Home Store


Springfield police say someone used a sledgehammer to smash in a glass door and gain entry to the Farm and Home Supply store on North Dirksen Parkway early Monday.

 

Once inside, authorities say the suspect broke into a gun display case and stole at least two handguns.

 

Several other guns were left behind.

 

Surveillance video shows the burglar was wearing gloves and a mask, but appeared to be between five-foot-four and five-foot-seven.

 

Also on the crime beat: Springfield police are looking for a biter.

 

The State Journal-Register reports two men were arguing over money Monday morning outside their homes on Amos Valley Drive.

 

One man bit the other and grabbed $89 from the victim, then fled in a vehicle. Police have not yet tracked down their suspect.

Local Officials Rushing To Be Ready For Health Exchange Enrollment Next Week


Public health officials and local health care providers are racing the clock to be ready for next week… the start of the enrollment period for health insurance exchanges under the federal health care reform law. 

 

But those officials admit they will be cutting it close… as dozens of employees and volunteers are still in the process of getting the certification they’ll need to assist the public with signup. 

 

A regional coordinator with the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace says the target date of October 1 is not the finish line, but just the start of a signup period that will last for months, allowing time to work out the bugs in the system.

Jobe Proposes Revamped Inspector General Position To Oversee City Hall


A Springfield alderman says spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for a new inspector general’s office for city government would be money well spent… to restore the public’s faith in City Hall. 

 

Ward 6’s Cory Jobe is proposing to revive the office… which existed briefly more than a decade ago but has been dormant since.  He says a truly independent inspector general would reassure the public about city government operations and potentially prevent the high-dollar judgments and settlements that City Hall regularly pays out. 

 

Jobe may try to introduce the office… and a possible price tag of up to $400,000 a year… during the upcoming city budget talks.

State Democrats Slate 2014 Primary Candidates


They have at times appeared to be Illinois’s largest dysfunctional family.

 

But the state Democratic party appears to be coming together ahead of next year’s elections.

 

Democrats held a slating session Sunday, giving the party’s blessing to the re-election of Governor Pat Quinn.

 

When the session was originally scheduled, Quinn was facing a primary challenge from Bill Daley, but Daley dropped out after failing to postpone the slating meeting.

 

Quinn encouraged the party to set aside differences and present a united front in 2014.

Quinn Would Consider ISP or National Guard Intervention in Chicago Crime Problem


Governor Pat Quinn says he would consider sending in the Illinois State Police or National Guard to help control the rampant violence in some Chicago neighborhoods.

 

But Quinn says neither Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel nor the city’s police commissioner has approached him seeking help.

 

Quinn spoke in response to the latest rash of shootings in the city… including a single incident at a Chicago park last Thursday night that left 13 people injured.

 

Other shootings over the weekend have left at least five people dead.

State Lawmaker Urges Passage of Same-Sex Marriage


The number-two Democrat in the Illinois House is urging her fellow lawmakers to approve same-sex marriage, saying the issue now has an economic component that can no longer be ignored.

 

Barbara Flynn Currie says weddings are a booming business… but she says Illinois is losing a substantial amount of that business to other nearby states where gay couples can legally get married.

 

A same-sex marriage bill stalled in the House last spring, but could be revived during the fall veto session.

Springfield To Receive $600K State Grant for Green Projects


Springfield is getting nearly $600,000 under a state grant program that promotes “green” infrastructure projects.

 

A total of $5 million is being awarded to communities statewide.

 

Springfield is getting money for projects that use “bioswale,” a type of landscaping that prevents contaminated runoff from flowing back into waterways… and for capturing and reusing stormwater.

Many Unknowns as Health Insurance Exchanges Set To Start Soon


It’s just days until the scheduled start of health insurance exchanges under President Obama’s health care reform law, and many details are still unknown… including the price of insurance in Illinois under those exchanges.

 

The exchanges are being set up as an alternative for people who don’t have health care coverage through their jobs but will be required to get it under the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

 

Sangamon County public health officials plan a news conference today to update residents on the status of the exchanges.

 

And public health director Jim Stone will be a guest during the Newsmaker Spotlight today on the 970 WMAY News Feed at around 12:20pm.

Sayers Withdraws Suit Against Chicago Bears


Just days after filing suit, the lawyer for former Chicago Bears great Gale Sayers says he will voluntarily withdraw that litigation against the NFL.

 

The suit… which was filed Friday in federal court in Chicago… claimed the league was negligent in failing to do enough to prevent head injuries during Sayers’s playing days in the 1960s and ‘70s.

 

The suit says as a result, Sayers suffers from chronic headaches and memory loss.

 

But now the lawyer says he’s been told by Sayers’s family that the 70-year-old former running back no longer wants to pursue the case.

Springfield Gets ''Green'' Grant From State


The City of Springfield is getting nearly $600,000 from the state as part of a program that encourages “green” infrastructure development. 

 

The money will be used for projects to capture and reuse stormwater runoff… and for “bioswale,” a type of landscaping intended to prevent potentially contaminated runoff from seeping back into waterways.

Top Democrat Pushes For Same-Sex Marriage On Economic Grounds


The number-two Democrat in the Illinois House is urging lawmakers to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriage… for the good of the state’s economy. 

 

The letter from Barbara Flynn Currie points out that the wedding industry is big business… but in Illinois, it’s losing business to nearby states where gay couples can legally get married.

Journalists Object To Contempt Ruling Against Chicago Reporter


Several journalism organizations are criticizing a judge's decision to find a suburban Chicago reporter in contempt for not disclosing how he obtained confidential police reports about a gruesome double murder.

 

Joe Hosey, a reporter and editor for the AOL news website Patch, is being fined $300 a day, and could be sent to jail if he doesn’t disclose his source.

 

The Illinois News Broadcasters Association issued a statement calling the judge's decision "a slap at the First Amendment."

Ruling Over Legislative Paychecks Pushed Back


A Cook County judge needs a little more time to make a decision in the lawsuit over whether Governor Pat Quinn violated the state constitution by vetoing legislative salaries. 

 

The judge had been expected to rule on the case this week, but now says that ruling will come no later than October 3rd

 

The new deadline means legislators could miss a third monthly paycheck before the judge rules in the case.

Ex-Cop Pleads Guilty, Agrees To Never Again Work In Law Enforcement


A former Springfield cop who got into more trouble during a later stint as a Southern View police officer has agreed to never again take a job in law enforcement. 

 

The agreement was part of a plea deal for J. Zeid Langan, in which he also pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts for an incident where he groped two women during a traffic stop. 

 

Langan was fired by Southern View after that incident, which came four years after he resigned from the Springfield police department for allegedly having sex with a woman while on duty.

Springfield Man Takes Plea Deal In 2011 Homicide


A Springfield man has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges in the death of another man in 2011. 

 

Victor Williams had originally been charged with first-degree murder for the fatal shooting of Aaron Johnson, but defense lawyers had contended that Williams was in fear for his life and believed he was acting in self-defense. 

 

Under the plea deal, Williams gets a 25-year sentence on the lesser charge.

Former Bear Sayers Sues The NFL


Former Chicago Bear Gale Sayers is suing the NFL, saying the league failed to do enough to prevent head injuries.  Sayers says he suffers from chronic headaches and memory loss from his playing days in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Quinn Reacts To Chicago Violence


Governor Pat Quinn has issued a brief statement about the mass shooting in a Chicago park Thursday night. 

 

The three-sentence statement says that Quinn is saddened by the violence, and encourages Illinoisans to pray for the recovery of the victims.  The statement closes with Quinn saying, quote, “This senseless violence must be stopped,” but offers no ideas on how to make that happen. 

 

13 people were injured when one or more people opened fire on a crowd in a park on Chicago’s southwest side.

 

The governor's complete statement:
 

“I am deeply saddened by the horrific violence that erupted on a Chicago playground last night.

 

“We pray for the swift recovery of all the shooting victims, and our hearts go out to their families.

 

“This senseless violence must be stopped.”

 

 

No Springfield Flights Affected By Allegiant Disruption


The nationwide disruption in service for Allegiant Airlines is not affecting operations at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. 

 

Allegiant is currently in a “seasonal hiatus” for its service between Springfield and Florida, so no local flights are affected by the grounding of a big portion of Allegiant’s fleet. 

 

The airline is inspecting the evacuation chutes on its fleet of MD-80 jets after discovering an undisclosed problem earlier this week. 

 

Allegiant will resume service between Springfield and Punta Gorda in early November, and later in the month will start direct flights to Orlando.

Campbell: A College Degree Is Important For Next Sheriff


After Sheriff Neil Williamson and GOP candidate Wes Barr have tangled this week over the qualifications for the job, Barr’s Republican opponent in next spring’s primary is also weighing in. 

 

Like Barr, Jack Campbell also did not have a four-year degree when he started in the sheriff’s department. But Campbell eventually obtained his diploma, something Barr has not done.  Campbell says completing that college degree has provided him with skills that he thinks would be essential in running the sheriff’s office. 

 

And unlike Barr, Campbell says he would not make any changes to the current educational requirements for new deputies.  Barr said this week he would consider waiving the college requirement for new hires with active-duty military experience.

Cross Might Sue Over State Budgets If Elected Treasurer


House Republican leader Tom Cross says it might be necessary to go to court to force the legislature to pass balanced budgets… but not until after he’s out of the House and in the Treasurer’s office. 

 

Cross has launched his campaign to become state Treasurer, and says if elected, he would consider filing suit if the General Assembly keeps passing budgets that add to the state’s debt. 

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Cross was asked why he doesn’t file such a suit now… but says he thinks it should come from the Treasurer acting as a fiscal watchdog.

No Arrests in Overnight Chicago Violence, 13 Injured in Single Shooting Incident


Thirteen people are injured in a single shooting spree in a Chicago park overnight, in what witnesses say was a gang-related incident.

 

Those witnesses say dreadlocked men in a gray sedan drove up to Cornell Square Park and opened fire.

 

Among the injured was a three-year-old boy who was critically injured by a bullet to the head.

 

Chicago police are not releasing details of their investigation, other than to say that no arrests had been made as of early this morning.

Mayor Denies Knowing About Shredding Despite Assistant Being In Room Where Decision Was Made


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is repeating what he has said all along… that he did not know about plans to shred police department internal affairs files until after the documents were already destroyed.

 

And Houston says an ongoing investigation of the incident will show that clearly.

 

But questions persist following a deposition by Police Chief Robert Williams.

 

In it, Williams said Houston’s executive assistant Bill Logan was part of a meeting where the file shredding was discussed before it happened.

 

Logan has said he walked in on a meeting about open records requests, but was not aware of any discussion about destroying records.

Interim Police Chief Will Seek Job on Permanent Basis


Interim Springfield police chief Kenny Winslow has made up his mind… and will seek the job on a permanent basis.

 

As of two weeks ago, Winslow was still undecided about whether he would apply for the job, but is now indicating he will be a contender.

 

Around 10 people, from inside and outside the SPD, have applied for the post so far.

 

Winslow tells the State Journal-Register that Mayor Mike Houston… who appointed him as interim chief… neither pushed him to apply for the job or promised he would get it if he did.

Sheriff Candidate Barr Considers Changing Educational Requirement for Future Deputies


Republican candidate for sheriff Wes Barr says he would consider modifying the hiring standards for the department if elected.

 

Current standards require new deputies to have a four-year college degree… or 60 hours of college credit and two years of experience in civilian law enforcement or the military.

 

But Barr says a deputy can be just as effective without a college degree… and says he might eliminate the requirement for any college credit if an applicant served on active duty in the military.

 

Barr’s own educational background has become an issue in the race.

 

He does not have a four-year degree, and incumbent Sheriff Neil Williamson… who is backing Barr’s opponent Jack Campbell… says that makes Barr less qualified for the job.

Priest Temporarily Removed From Ministry After 30 Year Old Sex Claims


A Central Illinois priest has been removed from the ministry temporarily while officials investigate a claim that the priest had sexual contact with a minor more than 30 years ago.

 

A preliminary investigation by the Springfield Catholic Diocese found the allegation had, quote, “a semblance of truth,” leading to the decision to sideline Father Robert “Bud” DeGrand.

 

DeGrand currently serves parishes in Shelby, Effingham and Cumberland counties, but the alleged incident occurred in 1980, when he was stationed at Our Saviour Parish in Jacksonville.

 

Morgan County prosecutors have also been notified about the allegation.

Scherer Wants Repeal of Illinois Sales Tax on Gasoline


A local lawmaker has signed on to legislation to repeal the state sales tax on gasoline.

 

Democrat Sue Scherer says families need a break from high gas prices, and rolling back that 6.25 tax would help.

 

The tax… which is assessed in addition to a separate state motor fuel tax… brings in nearly a billion dollars a year for state and local governments, according to the State Journal-Register.

Boil Order for Dawson After Big Leak Fix


The water is back on in Dawson, after a big leak under Interstate 72 forced water service to the village to be cut off for hours on Thursday.

 

But the village remains under a boil order until further notice.

 

Officials in Dawson say that order is likely to last through the weekend.

Houston Remains Adamant: He Did Not Know Of File Shredding In Advance


Despite new revelations about what led up to the destruction of Springfield police internal affairs records, Mayor Mike Houston is sticking to his guns… insisting that he knew nothing about the plan to shred those files until days after they were destroyed. 

 

And Houston says he takes his executive assistant, Bill Logan, at his word when Logan says he was also in the dark about the file shredding. 

 

Police Chief Robert Williams testified in a recent deposition that Logan was part of a meeting where Williams says he objected to the file shredding, but Logan says he didn’t know the discussion had anything to do with destroying documents. 

 

Houston declines to comment further on the deposition, saying he hasn’t read it yet.

Barr Responds To Williamson Potshot, Says He Might Rethink College Requirement For Some Deputy Applicants If Elected


Sangamon County sheriff candidate Wes Barr says he would match up his experience against anyone with a college degree any day. 

 

Barr’s educational background has been raised as an issue by his fellow Republican, incumbent Sheriff Neil Williamson.  Williamson is backing Barr’s opponent, Undersheriff Jack Campbell.  He says Barr’s lack of a four-year degree makes him less qualified for the job of sheriff. 

 

But Barr says his decades of military and law enforcement experience is far more valuable than a diploma. 

 

And on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Barr said he would consider a policy to eliminate any college requirement for an applicant with active-duty military experience.

Central Illinois Priest Accused Of Misconduct With Minor 33 Years Ago


A Central Illinois priest has temporarily withdrawn from the ministry after an allegation surfaced accusing him of misconduct with a minor in Jacksonville more than 30 years ago. 

 

The Springfield Catholic Diocese says a preliminary review found, quote, “a semblance of truth” in the allegation made against Father Robert “Bud” DeGrand, who is currently assigned to parishes in Shelby, Effingham and Cumberland counties.  DeGrand is accused of sexually abusing a minor at Our Saviour Parish in Jacksonville in 1980, shortly after DeGrand was ordained a priest. 

 

The diocese says his withdrawal from the ministry is not an indication of guilt, but is a necessary step while the investigation continues.  Morgan County prosecutors have also been notified of the alleged incident.

Efficiency Commission Gearing Up For Final Recommendations


Time is running out for the Sangamon County Citizens Efficiency Commission… but some of the group’s most provocative recommendations may be yet to come. 

 

The commission’s charter expires before the end of the year. Commission member Marilyn Kushak says the commission will roll out recommendations over the next few weeks on possible improvements in how law enforcement and fire protection services, among other things, are provided by local governments. 

 

After that, she says the challenge will shift to voters, to keep pressure on local leaders to implement recommendations that save money and reduce duplication of services.

All Of Sangamon County Now In Drought Status


All of Sangamon County is now considered in a moderate drought. 

 

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report puts the entire county in that category... more than 40% of Illinois is listed as being in a moderate drought.  And almost 10-percent of the state, primarily in northwestern Illinois, is now in a severe drought status. 

 

Just three months ago, none of Illinois was considered to be in a drought.

State Jobless Rate Holds Steady In August


Illinois’s unemployment rate is holding at 9.2 percent. 

 

The August numbers from the state Department of Employment Security show the private sector added 59-hundred jobs in the state last month… but government jobs were down more than 11-hundred.  The net effect was to keep the jobless rate right where it was in July. 

 

IDES director Jay Rowell says the numbers show the uncertainty of the economic recovery and the shaky state of consumer and employer confidence.

Brad Paisley Set for PCCC Grand Reopening


The Prairie Capital Convention Center is set to celebrate the completion of major renovations with a big name in country music.

 

Officials with the PCCC announced Brad Paisley will be in Springfield November 21st.

 

Supporting acts Chris Young and Danielle Bradbery will also appear at the convention center. Tickets go on sale September 28th and with tickets starting at $47.

 

The convention center is completing $16 million in renovations, including new bathrooms on the ground level.

Deposition Details Reveals Mayor's Assistant In Room During Document Destruction Talk


Springfield Police Chief Robert Williams now says he objected to the shredding of police department internal affairs files before it happened… but says he was overruled by others in Mayor Mike Houston’s administration.

 

Those comments came in a deposition as part of the lawsuit brought by Calvin Christian over the destruction of those records. Williams… who initially said he pursued the document destruction in order to improve the “efficiency” of the department… told lawyers the decision was made over his objection in a meeting that also included former Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen, Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher, and Houston’s executive assistant Bill Logan.

 

Logan tells the State Journal-Register that he walked in on the meeting and was not aware that the shredding of IA files was being discussed until after those records were destroyed.

Zoning Commission Recommends Against Helping Hands Move to Former Ace Sign Building


The Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission is recommending against a change that would allow the Helping Hands homeless shelter to move into the former Ace Sign Company building on North Fourth Street.

 

But the final decision will be up to Springfield aldermen, who will take up the issue next month.

 

Commission members narrowly rejected the zoning request after hearing from nearby residents who fear the facility will increase problems with loitering, public intoxication and crime in that neighborhood.

 

Helping Hands executive director Rod Lane says the shelter would bring more security and oversight that should improve, not increase, the problems in that area.

Village of Dawson Working to Fix Major Water Leak


The village of Dawson will likely be without running water, starting today, because of a major leak in a water line that runs under Interstate 72.

 

Village officials can’t say yet how long the water may be shut off while repairs are made.

 

Arrangements are being made to provide bottled water to residents until the problem is fixed.

 

Once water service is restored, a boil order will be in effect until further notice.

Judge To Rule On Legislative Salaries Next Week


A Cook County judge says he will rule next Thursday on a lawsuit that seeks to force the state to pay lawmakers.

 

House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton say Governor Pat Quinn acted unconstitutionally when he vetoed legislative salaries to punish the General Assembly for failing to approve a pension reform deal.

 

Lawmakers have not been paid since the first of July.

Sheriff Williamson Ends Speculation of Mayoral Bid


Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson says you can stop asking him… he’s not running for mayor of Springfield.

 

Williamson admits he’s at least partly to blame for the rampant speculation about his political future, which he calls “flattering.”

 

But when friends started talking about who could serve in his administration, and even his wife began asking him what he was thinking, Williamson said it was time to lay the rumors to rest.

 

He says he will not run for mayor or any other office when his tenure as sheriff ends late next year.

Cross Officially Announces Treasury Bid, Finds GOP Primary With Grogan


House Republican Leader Tom Cross will be in Springfield later today as he continues a statewide flyaround to launch his campaign for state treasurer.

 

Cross says he will get the treasurer’s office more involved in ensuring that state budgets actually live up to the constitutional mandate that they must be balanced. Cross will appear live Friday morning on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”

 

In the meantime, Cross will apparently face a Republican primary challenge.

 

DuPage County auditor Bob Grogan says he has far more experience in accounting and finance than Cross, and is better qualified to straighten out the state’s fiscal problems.

Former Heavyweight Champ and Jacksonville Native Ken Norton Passes Away


Former heavyweight champ, and Jacksonville native, Ken Norton has died.

 

Norton started as a gifted athlete at Jacksonville High School but achieved international fame when he defeated Muhammad Ali in a non-title fight in 1973.

 

Ali won two rematches, including a controversial bout that many in attendance thought Norton had actually won.

 

Norton died Wednesday in Las Vegas at the age of 70.

No Ruling Till Next Week On Legislative Paycheck Lawsuit


A Cook County judge will rule next week on the lawsuit brought by legislative leaders against Governor Pat Quinn for his veto of lawmakers' salaries. 

 

The judge says he needs more time to decide whether the governor violated the Constitution by eliminating the funding for those paychecks because lawmakers have so far failed to reach agreement on a pension reform plan.  He promises a decision by next Thursday.
 

Police To Conduct Simulated Live Shooter Exercise Friday At Springfield School


Springfield police will get some practice in the unthinkable this week. 

 

Officers will stage a drill at Lincoln Magnet School Friday to practice what to do in the event of a live shooter incident that requires evacuation of the skill.  No children will be present... Friday is a day off for them. 

 

Teachers will be at the building for an in-service, but won't be taking part in the drill.

Williamson Will Not Run For Mayor Or Any Other Office After Retirement


Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson has made it official -- he will not run for mayor of Springfield in 2015, or for any other office.

 

Williamson will retire as sheriff next year, after 20 years in office, but in recent days his name had surfaced as a possible contender for the mayor's job in Springfield.  The next city election will be in the spring of 2015, just weeks after Williamson leaves the sheriff's office.

 

He called a news conference to put an end to the speculation and confirm that he does not plan to seek any other elected office once he hangs up his badge.

Williamson Delivers Pot Shot At Sheriff Candidate Barr


Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson has made no secret of his support for Undersheriff Jack Campbell to succeed him in office. And now Williamson is offering a new reason why. 

 

The sheriff says Campbell is better qualified because he has a four year degree... something Campbell's Republican primary opponent Wes Barr is lacking. 

 

Williamson says the job of sheriff requires strong skills with words and numbers, and suggests the absence of a degree would make it more difficult for Barr to do the job.

Big Water Leak Could Make Life Dry, Difficult For Dawson


A major water leak is causing major problems for the village of Dawson.  Village officials say that leak occurred near, or perhaps even under, Interstate 72 just south of the Dawson overpass. 

 

The repair will force a temporary cutoff of water to Dawson.  [But first, officials are trying to determine the size and scope of the leak, which will determine how long the water will be shut off and what impact the repairs will have on interstate traffic.  Residents are being asked to conserve water, but also to set some water aside for drinking, flushing toilets, etc.]

 

Once repairs are made and water service is restored, a boil order will be in effect until further notice.

Hobbie: New Federal Rules Could Put CWLP Electric Plant Out Of Business


The top man at City Water Light and Power says it’s only a matter of time before the city’s power plant is endangered by tighter federal regulations. 

 

The U.S. EPA will announce new regulations this week aimed at reducing emissions from future coal-fired power plants.  But appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop on Air… CWLP chief utilities engineer Eric Hobbie said similar rules are expected for existing plants within the next two years. 

 

Hobbie says right now, there is no way to comply with the types of rules he’s expecting… but the only alternative might be to shut the whole plant down.

Alderman Wants New Rules For Jewelry Stores Buying Items From Public


A Springfield alderman expects to have a draft ordinance soon on a plan to require jewelry stores to follow some of the procedures that already apply to pawn shops when it comes to purchasing items from the general public. 

 

Ward 10 Alderman Tim Griffin says the new rules are necessary to protect theft victims, whose stolen jewelry is often taken to retailers for quick cash.  Griffin says the ordinance will likely require stores to check the seller’s photo ID and have them sign a form. 

 

It may also impose a waiting period where the jewelry store would have to hold the item before reselling it or melting it down, but the details are still being worked out.

Houston: Pending Appeal of Spiking Ruling Reason for Withholding Info From Aldermen


Top Springfield officials continue to defend what they did… and did not do… after learning about a discrepancy in how police pension benefits were being calculated.

 

City Treasurer Jim Langfelder read a statement at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, saying he did his duty by notifying Mayor Mike Houston when he became aware of the problem, which resulted in overpayments to a dozen retired cops.

 

And Houston says he did not inform aldermen right away because a state order to change the pension calculation was being appealed.

 

Ward 7 Alderman Joe McMenamin says it’s inexcusable that neither Houston nor Langfelder informed aldermen of the problem for nearly 18 months.

Aldermen Pass MOU for GPS in CWLP Vehicles


It caused a stir among some aldermen a week ago, but there wasn’t even any discussion before the City Council unanimously approved an agreement about the use of GPS systems on City Water Light and Power trucks.

 

That memorandum of understanding spells out how and when information from the GPS devices can be used in disciplinary actions.

 

A week ago, some aldermen had questioned why the city had to justify what it does with its own equipment on its own trucks.

 

When told that state law requires it, Alderman Frank Edwards says that shows what’s wrong with Illinois today.

 

The passage of Tuesday's MOU was the first since the controversial MOU concerning retention of police internal affairs files was approved earlier this year.  That sparked the Mayor to require all MOUs to be approved by aldermen. 

Sangamon County Sheriff Williamson To Talk Political Future Today


Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson says he will put the rumors to rest today.

 

Williamson’s name has recently resurfaced in speculation about a possible run for mayor of Springfield in 2015.

 

He will hold a news conference this afternoon to discuss his political future.

 

Williamson isn’t saying yet what he will announce, but said he expects the news conference to be short… which usually isn’t the case for campaign announcements.

Brady Picks Rodriguez As Running Mate in GOP Gubernatorial Primary


More political moves are being made ahead of next year’s elections.

 

Republican governor candidate Bill Brady has chosen a former suburban Chicago mayor, Maria Rodriguez, as his running mate.

 

She lost a congressional primary to Tea Party candidate Joe Walsh in 2010.

 

And House Republican leader Tom Cross will officially announce his candidacy for Treasurer with a statewide flyaround Thursday.

DUI and Other Charges Pressed Against 16-Year-Old Driver in Monday Accident


A 16-year-old boy is charged with DUI and possession of alcohol and drug paraphernalia following a crash Monday night that sent him and two passengers to the hospital.

 

The driver and a 15-year-old male passenger suffered minor injuries… but a 15-year-old girl in the car was seriously injured.

 

Authorities say the driver was traveling at a high rate of speed west of Springfield when he ran off the road and hit a utility pole, causing the vehicle to overturn.

Congressman Davis Still Opposed to US Intervention in Syria


Congressman Rodney Davis says it’s clear that it was the Syrian government that launched a chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people.

 

But Davis remains opposed to any kind of U.S. military intervention against the regime of Bashar Assad.

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY Tuesday, Davis said a deal being brokered by Russian president Vladimir Putin for Syria to give up its chemical weapons shows some promise.

 

Davis says he has more faith in Putin’s ability to negotiate a deal than he does in the Obama administration’s Syria strategy.

Davis Downplays Fears Of Government Shutdown, Debt Default


Even though time is tight… and the two sides appear to be far apart… a local congressman does not think the latest budget showdown will result in a government shutdown, or a default on our debt. 

 

Deadlines are looming in the next several weeks to approve a federal budget or a temporary extension of the current spending authority… and to approve an increase in the nation’s debt ceiling.  Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Congressman Rodney Davis said he believes both issues will be resolved successfully… but there will have to be some give-and-take to make that happen. 

 

Davis says the constant atmosphere of deadline and crisis is a bad way to govern, but hopes the end result will lead to more limits on runaway spending… and on Obamacare.

New Program Assists Homeless District 186 Students


The organizer of a new effort to help homeless schoolchildren in Springfield says the scope of the problem is staggering.

 

Ann Libri says nearly 700 Springfield public school students are listed as homeless… and those are only the ones the district knows about.  She says every school… in every part of town… has students who don’t have a permanent residence. 

 

Libri is a co-founder of the Matthew Project, which later this month will begin offering an after-school program for some of those homeless children… including tutoring, life skills instruction, and a meal.  She says more volunteers and donations are needed in hopes of expanding the program to help even more of those 700 children.

Sliders Pick New General Manager


The Springfield Sliders have named a new general manager. 

 

The team has promoted its Community Relations Manager, Bill Hill, to take over the top slot.  Sliders owner Shane Martin says Hill has done a great job in building relationships with fans and local businesses. 

 

Hill says he wants to continue those outreach efforts… and to put a winning team on the field.  The Sliders are part of the Prospect League and play a 60-game schedule each year from May to August.

Daley Exits Gubernatorial Race Strengthening Quinn's Bid


One of the announced candidates for Illinois governor is dropping out of the race.

 

Democrat Bill Daley told the Chicago Tribune that he didn’t really have the desire for a grueling campaign… followed by the four difficult years that would follow if he won.

 

The decision gives incumbent Governor Pat Quinn a clear path through the primary season… and the ability to raise lots of money for a general election campaign against one of the four Republican contenders for the job.

Clearer Timeline in Dist. 186 Supt. Search Outlined


The Springfield school board now has a rough timeline for the selection of its new superintendent.

 

Right now, a search firm is collecting applications and matching them against the input from the community about what it wants in its next superintendent.

 

By early November, that field should be narrowed to five to seven candidates.

 

The finalists will be brought in for interviews during the first week of December… with a round of second interviews the following week.

 

The board will then make its choice and conduct a final vote on December 16th.

 

The new superintendent could start as early as January… or may not officially begin the job until next summer.

Dist. 186 Working to Refine Epi-pens Policy


District 186 plans to keep a supply of devices on hand to administer a dose of a potentially life-saving drug if a student has a serious allergic reaction.

 

The board passed a policy last year allowing the use of “epi-pens” by nurses or other staffers in an emergency, but had not acquired any yet.

 

The district will now seek grants to pay for a supply of the pens.

 

Some board members still have questions about the policy and procedures for using the devices… but board member Scott McFarland says the bottom line is that if a student is having a life-threatening allergic reaction, he’ll use the epi-pen, regardless of the policy.

Student Member of School Board Asks for Fairness Training of Teachers


The new student school board member for District 186 is already making her mark.

 

Kala Woodside was sworn in to the non-voting position on the board Monday night.

 

The senior at Southeast will serve as a liaison between students and the school board.

 

And at her first meeting, she raised a concern… asking the board to consider training for teachers to address unequal treatment of students.

 

Woodside says teachers are nicer and more understanding to higher-achieving students than they are to students who are struggling academically.

Alderman McMenamin Points Finger At Treasurer and Mayor Over Pension Spike Snafu


Some Springfield city officials are looking to assign blame for the disputed police pension calculations that may have led to thousands of dollars in overpayments to a dozen retired cops.

 

Ward 7 Alderman Joe McMenamin is pointing fingers at Mayor Mike Houston and city Treasurer Jim Langfelder.

 

McMenamin says both of them knew of the discrepancy in early 2012 but failed to notify aldermen… even though aldermen were debating pension benefits as part of a new police contract.

 

But Langfelder says he did his job by notifying the mayor… and says it was up to the mayor to bring the City Council into the loop.

 

Houston was unavailable for comment.

Bill Daley Drops Bid For Governor, Encourages Another Challenger To Take On Quinn


Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley has unexpectedly ended his Democratic primary challenge against Governor Pat Quinn.

 

Daley tells the Chicago Tribune that he decided he wasn't really interested in long months of campaigning.  But Daley says no one should mistake his departure as a sign that Quinn is a formidable opponent.

 

Daley says he's still convinced that Quinn cannot win re-election, and says another challenger should not be afraid to step up and take on the governor in the Democratic primary next spring.

Fingers Pointing In All Directions Over Pension Snafu


A Springfield alderman is pointing a finger directly at the city treasurer and the mayor for failing to alert aldermen and the public about a potentially-costly pension snafu. 

 

Ward 7’s Joe McMenamin, appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air,” says he believes Treasurer Jim Langfelder knew about the possible overpayment of police pensions nearly a year-and-a-half ago… but did not notify aldermen.  McMenamin says that information could have affected negotiations over the police contract approved late last year. 

 

But Langfelder says he notified Mayor Mike Houston of the problem… and contends it was up to Houston to then take the matter to aldermen.  [Houston has so far been unavailable for comment.]

Topinka Re-Election Effort Brings ''Common Sense Express'' To Springfield


Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says her re-election campaign will infuse a much-needed dose of “common sense” into the debate over the state’s problems. 

 

Topinka says she will try to shed light on policies and spending that hurt the state… but acknowledges that as Comptroller, she doesn’t really have the authority to stop payment on contracts and vouchers if the legislature has appropriated the money. 

 

For example, Topinka agrees with criticism that the State Capitol renovation project was too extravagant… but says she cannot stop payment on the expensive doors and other big-ticket items.

Jobe Picks Up Early Endorsement For Mayor: His Boss


She’s just started her 2014 re-election campaign… but Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is ready to take sides in the 2015 race for mayor of Springfield. 

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Topinka says Ward 6 Alderman Cory Jobe... who works in her office... would have her full support if he does decide to run for mayor.  Topinka says Jobe is like an adopted son to her, and describes him as an exceptional and loyal employee. 

 

Jobe and Topinka are both Republicans… but so are several other possible contenders for the 2015 race, including incumbent Mike Houston, Alderman Frank Edwards, and even Sheriff Neil Williamson, who isn’t discouraging speculation that he might also think about running.

Showdown Vote This Week Over New Location For Helping Hands


People on both sides of the issue are gearing up for a pivotal meeting this week over the future of the Helping Hands facility. 

 

The organization is seeking a zoning change that will allow it to relocate its programs… including a homeless shelter and low-income housing… to a portion of the old Ace Sign Company building on North Fourth Street. 

 

But residents and property owners in that area oppose the idea, fearing it will bring more troubled individuals into an area that is already home to several other agencies serving the same population.  Helping Hands, though, says other service agencies will support the move before the Planning and Zoning Commission when it meets Wednesday night.

Ronald McDonald House To Launch Fundraising Effort Soon


Another significant capital campaign could be starting soon. 

 

Ronald McDonald House Charities in Springfield plans to begin a fundraising effort soon to upgrade and modernize its facility near St. John’s Hospital.  Ronald McDonald House serves families from out-of-town whose children are receiving hospital treatment in Springfield.  The house dates back to the early 1980s and is showing signs of wear and tear.

 

Executive director Kelly Thompson, appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed, says more details about the fundraising effort will be coming in a matter of weeks.

Who Knew What When: Finger Pointing In Police Spiking Findings


A Springfield alderman is pointing a finger directly at the city treasurer and the mayor for failing to alert aldermen and the public about a potentially-costly pension snafu.

 

Ward 7’s Joe McMenamin, appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air,” says he believes Treasurer Jim Langfelder knew about the possible overpayment of police pensions nearly a year-and-a-half ago… but did not notify aldermen.

 

McMenamin says that information could have affected negotiations over the police contract approved late last year.

 

McMenamin says, outside of Mayor Mike Houston’s office, Langfelder had the ability and obligation to let people know about the looming problem. Treasurer Langfelder confirms he was notified by the police pension board in early 2012.  He then informed Mayor Houston of the ruling.

 

Aldermen McMenamin says the treasurer should have notified aldermen before ratification of the Police Union Contract in December of 2012.

 

Langfelder says it is up to the Mayor to notify aldermen about union negotiations.

 

Houston was not immediately available for comment.

Springfield Aldermen Asked to Approve Settlement of Discrimination Case for $85,000


A spokesman for Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says it is in the city’s best interest to settle a five-year-old discrimination case brought by a former city employee.

 

Nathan Mihelich would not discuss details about the complaint made by Robert Horton, a former Public Works employee.

 

But aldermen have been asked to approve an $85,000 settlement… including $60,000 to be paid to Horton and another $25,000 to his attorney.

 

Mihelich says the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing by the city.

Renovation: New Furniture At Capitol Costs Half a Million Dollars


Not all of the cosmetic upgrades in the $50 million State Capitol Renovation project are for the sake of historical accuracy.

 

The project also included $500,000 for new furniture in the revamped offices of lawmakers and legislative staffers.

 

The Chicago Sun-Times reports Capitol architect J. Richard Alsop the Third defends the expenditure, saying the old furniture would not have matched the layout or design of the newly-remodeled space.

 

The revelation may add to the criticism that the project was too lavish and overspent on features like copper-plated doors or vintage-looking chandeliers.

Topinka Re-election Bid In Springfield This Evening


Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has started a statewide bus tour as the formal kickoff of her re-election campaign.

 

The bus that Topinka calls the Common Sense Express will pull into Springfield this evening for a 5:30pm rally at the Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center.

 

Topinka says she can help make state government more efficient and more responsive to constituent needs.

 

She is facing a challenge from Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, who opted to run for Comptroller instead of repeating as Governor Pat Quinn’s running mate.

 

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

Amid Little Resources for Aging Bridges, Chatham Road Bridge Being Replaced


From major spans over the Mississippi River to overpasses on traffic-choked arteries skirting Chicago, some 200 bridges throughout Illinois are in need of replacement or repair because of their outdated, insufficient design and their advanced deterioration.

 

In Illinois, with too little money to throw at the problem, state transportation officials have gone into triage mode, prioritizing the busiest bridges in the worst shape for overhaul, implementing weight limits or closure orders on others, and closely monitoring the rest.

 

But one of the most heavily traveled deficient bridges in Sangamon County is already being replaced… in a major project that is tying up traffic on Chatham Road north of Wabash.

Allgaier Makes NASCAR Debut at Chicagoland Speedway


Justin Allgaier has fulfilled one of his goals… he managed to complete his first-ever race on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup circuit.

 

Even though the race was marred by rain delays lasting for hours, Allgaier eventually finished in 27th place Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet.

 

He stayed in the race despite two separate incidents where he spun out after making contact with other cars.

 

The Riverton native is running in three Sprint Cup races this season… and hopes to become a full-time driver on NASCAR’s top circuit next year.

$85,000 Settlement Offered To End Discrimination Complaint Against City Of Springfield


Springfield aldermen are being asked to approve an $85,000 settlement to close a discrimination complaint brought by a former city employee. 

 

The complaint was originally filed in 2008 by Robert Horton, an employee in the Public Works department.  City spokesman Nathan Mihelich declined to discuss the specifics of Horton’s complaint, but says the settlement proposal is not an admission of wrongdoing by the city. 

 

If aldermen approve the agreement, Horton would get $60,000, with another $25,000 going to his attorneys.

Statehouse Renovation Also Includes $500,000 In New Office Furniture


The costly Statehouse renovation project also includes a nearly $500,000 bill for new furniture in the offices of 19 state senators and a number of legislative staffers.

 

The Chicago Sun-Times reports each renovated office will get more than $7,000 in new desks, chairs, credenzas and tables. 

 

Embattled State Capitol Architect J. Richard Alsop III says the old furniture did not work functionally or aesthetically in the newly-remodeled offices.

Topinka Kicks Off Re-Election Campaign With Bus Tour; Will Appear Live Monday On 970 WMAY


Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is starting her re-election campaign with a ride on what she calls the “Common Sense Express.” 

 

Topinka is taking the bus on a nine-city statewide tour over three days… including a rally in Springfield Monday evening (5:30pm) at the Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center.

 

Topinka will be a guest Monday morning on the Jim Leach Show here on 970 WMAY.

Williamson Doesn't Discourage Speculation On Mayor's Race


It’s been a subject of speculation for a while, and Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson isn’t discouraging talk about a possible run for mayor of Springfield in 2015. 

 

Williamson tells the State Journal-Register that he’d like his name to, quote, “be in the mix.” 

 

Williamson made those comments while attending a fundraiser for a fellow Republican who is also a possible 2015 mayoral candidate, Cory Jobe.

Powerball Swells To $400 Million


Nobody matched all the winning numbers in Saturday’s Powerball drawing. 

 

That will push the top prize in the multi-state game past the $400 million mark.  A single winner in next Wednesday’s drawing could choose a lump-sum cash option of more than $223 million before taxes.

Houston Expects Police Pension Overpayments To Be Returned; Fire Pensions Probably OK


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says he expects the police pension board will try to recover an estimated $16,000 in overpayments to a dozen officers over the past year and a half.  But Houston says any firefighters who may have gotten a similar pension overpayment could well be off the hook.

 

The difference is that the police board was ordered by the State Department of Insurance to stop a disputed method of pension calculation in February 2012, but continued to do so while it appealed the ruling.  In contrast, no such order was given to the fire pension board.  In fact, that board requested a hearing with the state on the issue, but no hearing was held.  Houston thinks that should keep anyone from trying to recover monies paid to those firefighters.

 

The police pension board has refused to comment on what its next moves might be, because of the ongoing appeal of the state decision.

Public-Private Partnership Spruces Up Entryway Into Springfield


At least one major entryway into Springfield will get a brighter look, thanks to a new public-private partnership. 

 

Noonan’s True Value provided the material to landscape the southwest corner of Dirksen and South Grand, and Zara’s Collision Center has taken on the responsibility of upkeep.  Officials say the project creates a green look that will be more welcoming to visitors. 

 

Mayor Mike Houston hopes to expand the program, and is asking other companies to step up and help beautify other entry points and allow a limited Public Works budget to go farther.

Oversight Board Defends Capitol Renovation Project


The board that had oversight of the controversial renovation of the Illinois State Capitol is defending its spending decisions. 

 

Governor Pat Quinn and others have blasted the $50 million revamp because a portion of the money was spent on historically-accurate, but costly, aesthetic features like copper-plated doors or replica chandeliers. 

 

The Office of the Architect of the Capitol board, which is made up of appointees from the four legislative leaders, says those features make up only a fraction of the total project, and says all procedures were followed and fiscal limits were respected.  The board says the result is that the Statehouse is a safer building that will stand the test of time.

Diocese Promises To Closely Monitor Return Of Handcuffed Priest


Less than a year after Springfield Catholic leaders blamed job-related stress for a priest’s ill-fated encounter with a set of handcuffs, that priest is returning to work. 

 

Father Thomas Donovan was removed as pastor of St. Aloysius parish after he had to call 9-1-1 last November for help getting out of the handcuffs.  Police found him bound and gagged in the parish rectory.  Donovan underwent counseling for what the diocese called “non-sexual self-bondage.” 

 

Now an advisory panel tells Bishop Thomas John Paprocki that Donovan can “gradually” return to the ministry.  He will be assigned as chaplain of a convent in Alton, but officials do not rule out his eventual return to a parish assignment.  The diocese says Donovan’s progress and conduct will continue to be closely monitored.

Two Longtime Officials Seek New Terms


Two veteran Illinois politicians want more time in office. 

 

Secretary of State Jesse White announced Thursday that he would seek a record fifth term in office.  White turns 80 next year and hints that a fifth term would likely be his last… something he also said about his fourth term when he ran last time. 

 

Meanwhile, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has also formally kicked off her re-election bid.  [Topinka will be a guest Monday on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”]

Jobe Announces Exploratory Committee; May Run For Mayor In 2015


A Springfield alderman is testing the water for a possible run for mayor in 2015. 

 

Ward Six alderman Cory Jobe officially announced Thursday night that he has formed an exploratory committee that will advise him on the prospects for success if he runs.  Jobe says city residents don’t trust city government right now, and says if he gets into the race, he will focus on “revitalizing the economy and rebuilding the community.” 

 

Jobe promises a decision on whether he will run by late next summer.

Salvage Yard Fire Under Control; Driver Injured When Car Collides With Fire Truck En Route


It took firefighters about an hour to get control of a fire at a Springfield auto salvage yard Thursday. 

 

The blaze at Jerry and Gary’s Auto Salvage on Terminal Avenue may have been sparked by an old propane tank that was part of a pile of debris at the site. 

 

A fire truck that was on the way to the scene collided with a passenger vehicle at Dirksen and South Grand.  The 72-year-old driver of the car was taken to the hospital.

Murdered Girl's Brother Taken Into Protective Custody


The three-year-old brother of a murdered Effingham girl has been taken into protective custody. 

 

The boy and his sister Willow Long lived with their mother and uncle at a home in Watson. The uncle… 22-year-old Justin DeRyke… is accused of fatally stabbing and slashing Willow, and then trying to hide her body. 

 

DCFS says it did not have any contact with the family prior to Willow’s disappearance and death.

Garman Named Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice


One of the longest-serving judges still on the bench in Illinois has reached the top. 

 

Rita Garman has been named the new Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.  Garman says she will continue the court’s recent push to make use of modern technology… including the pilot projects around the state to allow cameras in Illinois courtrooms. 

 

Garman first became a judge in 1974… only one sitting judge in the state has served longer than she has.

Handcuffed Priest To Return To Ministry


A Springfield Catholic priest who left the active ministry after a bizarre incident last year has been cleared for a “gradual return to priestly ministry.” 

 

Father Thomas Donovan was the pastor at Saint Al’s Church in Springfield when he had to call 9-1-1 last year for help getting out of handcuffs and other paraphernalia.  At the time, the diocese indicated the incident may have stemmed from stress related to Donovan’s duties. 

 

But now a panel that advises Bishop Thomas John Paprocki on such matters says Donovan does not pose a danger to himself or others and can return to the ministry.  Donovan will be assigned to a convent in Alton for now, but a spokesperson for the Diocese does not rule out a return to a parish assignment in the future.

Jobe Forms Exploratory Committee For Possible Mayoral Run


Springfield Ward Six Alderman Cory Jobe isn't throwing his hat in the ring just yet in the 2015 race for Mayor… but he's taking a big step in that direction.

 

Jobe is announcing the creation of an exploratory committee to advise him on the prospects for success.  Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Jobe says one of his strengths would be bipartisan cooperation if he decides to enter the race. 

 

Jobe says the theme of the committee will be to look for ways to revitalize the local economy and rebuild the community.

Survey Seeks Input On Springfield Superintendent Search


The public won't have a vote on the next school superintendent for District 186 but they will have input. 

 

The search firm hired to identify candidates for the job has developed a seven-question survey to help residents define the qualities they want in the district's next leader.  The survey is available at the district webpage, sps186.org

 

Survey respondents are asked what they think are the district's biggest educational challenges, what the goals should be for the new superintendent, and top characteristics and skills they want to see from a new superintendent. 

Pension Plan Lawyer Won't Discuss Potential Impact Of State Ruling


The lawyer for the Springfield police pension board says the board will comply with a state order to change the way it calculates a certain pension benefit… but will also continue to appeal that order. 

 

Jim Moody says because of the ongoing litigation, he cannot comment on whether the city will try to recover any overpayments made to at least a dozen officers who retired since the state Department of Insurance first ordered the change back in February of 2012. 

 

It’s also still unclear how the disputed calculation could affect the pension benefits that Police Chief Robert Williams will collect when he officially retires next month.

Jesse White To Seek Record-Breaking Fifth Term


Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White isn’t ready for retirement yet. 

 

White will have stops in Chicago and Springfield Thursday to announce that he will seek an unprecedented fifth term in office.  The 79-year-old Democrat was first elected in 1998. 

 

He is currently the second-longest serving Illinois Secretary of State.  Only James Rose, who was in office from 1897 to 1912, served more years… but White will surpass him sometime next year.

United Way's 2013 Goal: How Much Have You Got?


The United Way of Central Illinois has an unusual goal for this year’s fundraising campaign… one without a specific dollar amount. 

 

Instead, the agency simply says its goal is to raise as much money as possible.  Agency president John Kelker says raising the most money possible is always the goal anyway. 

 

But he notes that even last year’s campaign fell a million dollars short of the requests for assistance that came in from local organizations.  So he says the objective this year is to do everything that can be done to meet as many needs as possible in the Springfield area. 

 

Learn more about how to donate at springfieldunitedway.org.

Upcoming Outlet Mall Could Be An International Draw


No one is saying yet what will be in it… but Mayor Mike Houston is confident the upcoming outlet mall for Springfield will be a big draw regionally, and maybe even internationally. 

 

Houston says the shopping center planned for Legacy Pointe, near Scheels, will easily draw shoppers from across Central Illinois.  But he also says potential for international tourist groups to come for expeditions that combine sightseeing and shopping. 

 

Springfield aldermen will vote on tentative plans for the development next week.

Parents Upset After Students Sickened At Outdoor Mass


Some parents are unhappy with the decision to proceed with Monday’s outdoor Mass involving children from all of Springfield’s parochial schools, despite the high heat and humidity. 

 

The end result at Sacred Heart-Griffin’s football stadium was not pretty… with a number of students suffering from symptoms of heat-related illness, including some who passed out.  Springfield’s fire chief says 16 students were taken to local hospitals just as a precaution. 

 

Officials from Sacred Heart-Griffin declined to be interviewed about the incident, but issued a statement saying that “several” students suffered from a reaction to the heat, but that most were fine after just a drink of water.

After Classified Briefing, Davis Remains Opposed To Intervention In Syria


Congressman Rodney Davis says a classified briefing has not changed his mind about opposing military intervention in Syria. 

 

While Davis agrees that Syrian leader Bashar Assad is, quote, a “genocidal maniac,” he still does not believe that limited military strikes would actually deter Assad from future use of chemical weapons.  And Davis says it’s not worth the potential risk to the lives of American military personnel. 

 

President Obama will address the American people tonight about the crisis in Syria.  We will have live coverage at 8:00 this evening here on 970 WMAY.

Alderman Wants To Immediately Repeal Pay Spikes For Top SPD Brass


A Springfield alderman has had enough.  Ward 7’s Joe McMenamin is calling for an immediate end to the pay spike that top Springfield police officers get on their birthdays and work anniversaries… a spike that can give them a pension boost. 

 

That pay spike is scheduled to be eliminated for department command staff next February… but McMenamin wants it rescinded now.  He tells the State Journal-Register that he’s particularly bothered by the pending retirement of Police Chief Robert Williams. 

 

Williams has been off the job for weeks, but won’t officially retire until his birthday in October, allowing him to receive a higher pension.

AirSoft Guns Prompt Concerns


They are legal… but realistic replica firearms called AirSoft guns are posing new problems for police and school personnel.  

 

Springfield police arrested a teen Sunday night after he allegedly displayed what appeared to a store clerk to be a real weapon… but which turned out to be an AirSoft gun, which fires non-lethal plastic pellets. 

 

Meanwhile, Ball-Chatham school district officials notified parents late last week about an incident involving a student who brought one of the guns to school.  That student could face disciplinary action.

Report: District 186 Settles Lawsuit Over Alleged Teacher Affair


District 186 has reportedly reached a settlement with the mother of a student who allegedly had a sexual affair with a teacher. 

 

The Illinois Times website reports school board approval is not needed for that agreement to pay $100,000 to settle the lawsuit filed by the student’s mother.  She says her son was “groomed” by Jennifer Tyree… who was fired by the district following her arrest on charges related to the alleged affair. 

 

The student’s mother had also claimed in the suit that school district officials had been notified about the affair, but did not take action until Tyree’s husband discovered the situation, notified the boy’s mother and called police.

Body Found In Effingham County Near Where Child Disappeared


There are reports this morning that the body of a child has been found in Effingham County… where volunteers have been searching for the past two days for a missing 7-year-old girl. 

 

Willow Long was reported missing Sunday after her mother awoke from a nap.  Hundreds of volunteers had been scouring the area near the girl’s home in the town of Watson. 

 

The body found last night has not been positively identified yet… and there’s no word on the cause of death.

16 Students Taken To Hospital For Heat Illness During Outdoor Mass At SH-G; Illnesses Reportedly Not Serious


High heat and humdity during an outdoor Mass at Springfield's Sacred Heart-Griffin High School caused dozens of students to show signs of heat-related illness... and led to 16 of them being transported to city hospitals for evaluation.

 

Springfield fire officials say none of those illnesses appear to be serious, even though eyewitnesses say some students passed out from the heat.  8 students were taken to Memorial Medical Center and 8 more to St. John's Hospital as a precaution.  Other students may have been taken home by their parents, but officials did not have an exact count on how many.

 

More than 2,000 parochial school students had been bused to the SH-G campus for a first-ever "All-City" Mass among the city's Catholic schools.

Davis Remains Skeptical Of Administration's Syria Claims


Congressman Rodney Davis is getting ready for classified briefings on the crisis in Syria… but says he can’t imagine what he could hear in them that would convince him that America should get involved in that civil war. 

 

Davis says President Obama hasn’t made the case that his plan for limited military strikes would actually stop Syrian president Bashar Assad from future chemical weapons attacks. 

 

Davis says nothing that has come out so far has persuaded him that getting involved in Syria is worth the risk to American lives.

Chatham Officials Defend Water Moves As Essential To Future Economic Growth


Chatham village officials say they understand why people don’t like the prospect of water rate hikes… but they still say their move to a new water system is a good deal in the long run for village ratepayers. 

 

In a live appearance with 970 WMAY’s Chris Murphy, Village president Tom Gray said water is a precious commodity… and controlling its own water supply gives Chatham a big boost for economic development. 

 

Gray says it’s already producing growth… such as development of the upscale Iron Bridge Estates development and the prospect for attracting more retail and manufacturing jobs.

Interim Springfield Police Chief Undecided About Pursuing Job


Springfield’s interim police chief says he hasn’t decided yet if he will apply to officially receive the title. 

 

Kenny Winslow says he’s still discussing the idea with his wife.  Winslow says he has promised Mayor Mike Houston that he will make a decision soon. 

 

Houston said this week that he’s received numerous applications from inside and outside the department, but that Winslow would definitely be in contention for the job if he applies.

Officials Say DUI Details Accomplished Their Mission: No DUI Arrests


Sangamon County officials say a drunk driving crackdown in the days before Labor Day accomplished its mission. 

 

There were no DUI arrests from multiple special details that were held from mid-August through the holiday weekend.  Officials say that’s because those special details serve as a deterrent. 

 

10 citations were issued for seat belt violations.

Springfield Man Named Governor Quinn's Chief Of Staff


A Springfield man has been promoted to chief of staff for Governor Pat Quinn.  30-year-old Ryan Croke had worked as deputy chief of staff under Jack Lavin, who is leaving the Quinn administration.

Teens Face Felony Charges; Used Cell Phone App To Impersonate Cops


Sangamon County authorities say two teens used a cell phone app to simulate flashing lights that allowed them to pull over one or more drivers earlier this week.  And as a result, the two are now facing felony charges for posing as police officers. 

 

19-year-old Thomas Orme and 17-year-old Christopher Morthland of Chatham were jailed on $25,000 bond each.  They are each facing one count of false impersonation of a peace officer, a Class 4 felony, for an incident early Monday involving a 79-year-old motorist. 

 

Undersheriff Jack Campbell says the two admitted using the flashing light app to pull over two other cars and a pedestrian Monday morning.  But none of those victims have yet come forward, and so no charges can be filed in those cases unless someone files a complaint.

Amber Alert Cancelled After Missing Champaign Teen Found Safe


A missing Champaign teenager has reportedly been found unharmed in Missouri. 

 

Authorities issued an Amber Alert for 13-year-old Cleo Younce after she went missing in Champaign on Thursday.  She called her mother later in the day and told her she had been abducted by a family acquaintance, 21-year-old Nicholas Hurley. 

 

She was with Hurley when she was located Friday in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  Hurley was taken into custody without incident, and that Amber Alert has now been cancelled.

More Of Sangamon County Now In Drought Status


More of Sangamon County is now officially in drought status. 

 

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor puts all but a portion of southeast Sangamon County in the “moderate” drought category.  That southeastern section remains listed as “abnormally dry,” but not in a drought. 

 

Currently 38% of the state is in a moderate or severe drought… up from 21% just a week ago.

Capitol Doors Become Political Football


Those expensive new doors at the State Capitol are providing an opening for some political candidates. 

 

Criticism is mounting over those historically-accurate copper plated doors that were installed at a total cost of $670,000… as part of a $50 million renovation of the 140-year-old building. 

 

Democratic challenge for governor Bill Daley pins the blame on Governor Pat Quinn… and says the buck should stop with him.  GOP candidate for governor Dan Rutherford also says that cost cannot be justified given the state’s current finances.  Quinn himself says he’s “concerned” by the cost of that part of the project.

Two Teens Arrested For Most Recent Cop Impersonator Incident


The two teens that were being questioned for impersonating police while pulling at least one man over earlier this week have now been arrested and charged.

 

Thomas Allen Scott Orme and Christopher Scott Motherland, both of Chatham, are charged with False Impersonation of a Peace Officer which is a class 4 felony.

 

The two teenagers are being held for $25,000 bond.

 

Undersheriff Jack Campbell says the teens used a smart phone app that acts as a red and blue flashing light to pull over a man earlier this week.

Chatham To Consider Water Rate Hike Next Week


Chatham’s move to establish its own water supply is turning out to be more expensive than originally estimated.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the village board will consider a water rate hike for Chatham residents at its next meeting Tuesday.

 

Chatham stopped purchasing water from City Water Light and Power and instead joined the South Sangamon Water Commission with New Berlin… but that commission says it must now raise wholesale rates because of lower revenues and higher costs than anticipated.

 

Chatham officials say they still believe having their own water supply will be a better deal for residents in the long run than staying with CWLP.

County Health Dept. to Accept Some Insurance Cards for Flu Shots


It still feels like summer outside… but for Sangamon County public health officials, it’s flu season.

 

The county will start its seasonal vaccination program on Monday at the health department offices on South Grand Avenue East.

 

Clinics will also be held around the county starting Tuesday.

 

For the first time, the county will be able to accept insurance cards for the flu shots.

Lt. Gov. Candidate Kim Says He's Ready for Position


If he’s elected governor, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford says his lieutenant governor will play a unique role in his administration.

 

Rutherford says running mate Steve Kim will serve as the state’s point person on job creation and retention.

 

Kim is an attorney whose only previous electoral experience is in township office.

 

But he says his understanding of government and business would allow him to step into the governor’s mansion if Rutherford is elected and then cannot finish his term.

More Than 100 Million Tourists Visit State In One Year


Illinois has reached a tourism milestone.

 

State officials say for the first time, more than 100 million visitors came to Illinois in one year.

 

The state had earlier announced 99 million people had come here from other states in 2012.

 

On Thursday, they announced another 2 million international visitors were also part of the mix.

 

The state says all of those tourists spent more than $33 billion last year, and supported 300,000 jobs in the state.

State Chamber of Commerce Head Stepping Down


A top Illinois business advocate is stepping down.

 

Doug Whitley has announced that he will retire as head of the state Chamber of Commerce next summer.

 

The long lead time will give the Chamber months to find a replacement.

 

The organization says it will start a nationwide search for Whitley’s successor.

Sangamon County Flu Vaccination Clinics Start Next Week


Summer isn't even over yet... but Sangamon County health officials are already planning ahead for flu season. 

 

The county's seasonal influenza vaccination program begins next Monday at the health department offices on South Grand Avenue East.  The county will also hold flu shot clinics at locations around the county, starting Tuesday. 

 

And in a first this year, the county will accept most insurance plans for flu shots and other clinical services.  County health director Jim Stone says the county will offer several different types of flu vaccination, including one that is intended to protect against four common flu strains.

Watchdog Group Wants To Close Pension Loophole


A watchdog group wants to close a loophole that allows people convicted of public corruption... including former Springfield powerbroker Bill Cellini... to keep collecting a public pension.

 

Cellini receives a small pension of just over $70 a month for working briefly as a schoolteacher early in his career.  But since his corruption conviction was not related to the job, he remains eligible to receive those monthly payments. 

 

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform wants to change state law so that anyone convicted of public corruption would forfeit all public pensions, even those from jobs unrelated to their crimes.

Homeless Advocacy Group Sues Over Springfield's Panhandling Ban


A homeless advocacy group is suing to overturn Springfield's ban on downtown panhandling. 

 

Homeless United for Change says there is court precedent that bans on people asking for money are an unconstitutional violation of free speech. 

 

The city instituted the ban in the downtown area out of concern that panhandlers were intimidating tourists and driving customers away from downtown businesses.

Prosecutors Reviewing Possible Charges Against Police Impersonation Suspects


The Sangamon County State's Attorney's office is now reviewing the case of two Chatham teenagers for possible charges in one or more recent police impersonation incidents. 

 

The two suspects... ages 19 and 17... were located based on a description of their vehicle provided by a victim who was pulled over early Monday near Springfield. 

 

The unnamed suspects reportedly told police that they had committed similar acts previously, but indicated it was a prank and they did not intend to harm anyone.

Concussion Expert: Proper Treatment The Key To Recovery For Student-Athletes


An expert on concussions says parents don't need to be scared about their sons playing football... despite growing evidence about the dangers of concussions. 

 

Appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Doctor Wendell Becton says as long as an athlete gets proper treatment after a concussion, including several days of rest, there should be no lingering effects. 

 

But he notes that some recent advancements... such as the development of new, harder helmets... may ironically increase the dangers, because players may lead with their heads, thinking they are protected from injury.

Congressman Davis Leaning Against Military Action In Syria


Congressman Rodney Davis says he hasn’t made up his mind yet… but for now, Davis says President Obama has not made the case for military intervention in Syria. 

 

Davis also says the president’s request for authorization of military action is “too broadly written” and does not include a precisely defined strategy for American involvement in the Syrian Civil War. 

 

Davis notes that reaction from his constituents has been overwhelmingly opposed to military action… but also says he wants to get more details in classified briefings when he returns to Washington next week before making a final decision.

District 186 Imposes Stricter Residency Rule


Springfield public school administrators, principals and guidance deans are now on notice… they must live within District 186, no exceptions. 

 

The school board has approved a new tougher residency rule that spells out in more detail who must live in the district… and what steps they have to take to prove their residency.  The policy has been in place for years, but some school board members say it was often ignored or was not enforced. 

 

Only board member Lisa Funderburg voted against the revised policy, suggesting it would still be difficult or impossible to enforce.

Iconic Downtown Springfield Hotel Gets New Brand


It’s a new chapter in the long and sometimes turbulent history of a downtown Springfield hotel. 

 

The President Abraham Lincoln hotel on East Adams once again has a major hotel nameplate… now affiliated with DoubleTree by Hilton.  The hotel started as a Ramada Renaissance hotel… but lost its affiliation in the midst of a long battle with state officials over repayment of a state-backed loan.  The state eventually foreclosed and sold the hotel at auction, setting the stage for a major makeover and the addition of the DoubleTree brand. 

 

DoubleTree operates 350 hotels worldwide…and is known for giving guests a warm chocolate chip cookie upon arrival.

Rock 'N' Roll 'N' Litigation: Founding Members Of Cheap Trick In Legal Fight


Members of a legendary Illinois rock band are battling each other in court. 

 

Three of the founding members of Cheap Trick… Rick Neilsen, Tom Petersson, and Robin Zander… are suing their former drummer.  Brad Carlson, known professionally as Bun E. Carlos, had already gone to court against his former bandmates, claiming they reneged on an agreement to stay on as part of the band’s management after he decided to stop touring.  Carlson says the decision to kick him out cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

 

Now the rest of the group is countersuing, asking a judge to rule that the decision to fire Carlson was legal.  All four were the original founding members of Cheap Trick in Rockford in 1973.

Quinn Declares September "Recovery Month"


Governor Pat Quinn has declared September to be “Recovery Month” in Illinois… to promote awareness of mental health and substance abuse programs in the state. 

 

To help with that public awareness, the state will sponsor a free event in Springfield next week.  The softball game and ice cream social will be held next Wednesday, the 11th, at Cy Young Field on Southwind Road. 

 

Quinn says the state helped to fund programs that provided mental health services for 140,000 people and substance abuse treatment for 80,000 people in Illinois last year.

Springfield School Board President Begins Talk on Tax Hike for Schools


The president of the Springfield school board has begun the conversation that could lead to an eventual tax hike vote for the city’s schools.

 

Chuck Flamini now says the community may not be able to wait until a new superintendent is hired and on the job.

 

He says he wants to get citizens involved on committees that would look at every aspect of the district’s finances and resources, in hopes of making the case that more tax revenue is needed.

 

Flamini did not spell out a timeline for establishing those committees or putting a tax referendum on the ballot, but suggests he’d like to see it done before his current two-year term expires in 2015.

Dist. 186 Officials: Standardized Test Results Skewed by Cut Score


Fewer District 186 students are meeting or exceeding the state’s standards in reading or math, but district officials say those numbers are misleading.

 

Springfield… and most other school districts… are seeing a sharp dropoff in those numbers because the state has changed the “cut score,” the number at which a student is considered to be in compliance with those standards.

 

Officials say if the same standard had been applied last year, the district would show an overall two-percent increase in test scores, with bigger gains among African-American and low-income students.

Aldermen Pass New Health Care Management Contract Despite Legal Questions


Springfield aldermen have approved a new contract for a third-party administrator to oversee the city’s health insurance program… despite a pending lawsuit challenging the legality of that contract.

 

The contract was crafted by the city’s Joint Labor-Management Health Care Committee, working behind closed doors.

 

An Illinois Times reporter is seeking to have that committee held in contempt of court for continuing to conduct its business in secret.

 

But after two months of delays, Alderman Frank Edwards called the contract for a vote, where it passed 6 to 4.

Cleanup of Old Springfield Iron Company Site Could Cost City $1.6 Million


The City of Springfield could pay $1.6 million to clean up coal tar at a former steel plant site that is now being partially used by the city.

 

That site on Factory Road was once the location of the Springfield Iron Company.

 

It’s now home to a city water storage tank, a CWLP substation, and a private electrical business.

 

Those estimated cleanup costs would be split between CWLP and the city’s general fund.

Houston Rethinking One Term Pledge


Mayor Mike Houston acknowledges that he is rethinking his pledge that his time as mayor would be “one-and done.”

 

Houston ran in 2011 saying he would serve only one term, which would allow him to make tough decisions without political considerations.

 

But in a live interview on 970 WMAY Tuesday, Houston confirmed that he will consider seeking a second term.

 

But he says he doesn’t plan to seriously review his options and make a decision until next spring.

 

The mayor says the large amount of unfinished business on his agenda led him to back away from that original pledge.

Police Questioning Two Teenagers in Cop Impersonator Cases


Authorities are questioning two Chatham teenagers in connection with one or more recent police impersonation incidents in and around Springfield.

 

The suspects, ages 19 and 17, were identified after the victim of the latest incident early Monday provided a detailed description… including a license plate… to police.

 

The two suspects reportedly told police they have pulled over several people in recent weeks.

 

But officials don’t think they were involved in earlier incidents, including one more than six months ago where a teenage girl was assaulted.

 

The suspects are being interviewed, but have not been formally charged yet.

Suspects Questioned In Connection With Police Impersonation Incidents


Sangamon County deputies are questioning two individuals in connection with one or more recent police impersonation incidents. 

 

The suspects were located after a seventy-nine year old man was pulled over west of Springfield Monday morning.  The victim gave police a detailed description of the vehicle including a license plate which led authorities to the teenage suspects. 

 

Undersheriff Jack Campbell says the 19- and 17- year olds are being questioned but have not yet been charged.  However, they did reportedly tell police that they had pulled over several other people in the same fashion. 

 

Officials say there is no apparent connection to the very first fake cop incidents this year including one in which a 16 year old girl was assaulted.  But they say they are still investigating to see what other incidents may involve these two suspects before deciding on charges.

Dillard Introduces Running Mate


Republican candidate for governor Kirk Dillard says his running mate will connect with Downstaters, and with working families across Illinois. 

 

Dillard has chosen state Representative Jil Tracy of Quincy to appear with him on next year’s Republican primary ticket.  The two of them stopped in Springfield Tuesday as part of a statewide flyaround to introduce the ticket.

 

This is the first time that candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are running together as a team in the primary.  Tracy is an attorney who serves on the legislature’s pension and ethics committees.  She says she and Dillard hear and understand the concerns of middle-class families around Illinois.

Houston: Derogatory Comments About Christian Could Not Be Traced


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says he did look into allegations that a city employee posted derogatory comments online about a blogger and reporter who is suing the city.  But Houston says he was told there was no way to pinpoint who posted those comments. 

 

The comments surfaced back in July on the Springfield Leaks website, referring to Calvin Christian as a “dummy” and mocking him for his frequent clashes with police.  Christian… who is the plaintiff in two lawsuits against the city… recently filed a FOIA request asking for documents pertaining to the investigation. The city replied that no documents exist. 

 

Houston says that’s because he was told verbally that all city government computers use the same IP address, and the posts could not be traced back to a single source.  Houston says city workers are being reminded about appropriate use of the Internet on city computers.

Houston Rethinks One Term Pledge


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston confirms that he is rethinking his pledge to serve only a single term as mayor. 

 

That was part of Houston’s 2011 campaign for the office, vowing that his decisions would not be affected by political considerations.  But appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show” Tuesday, Houston said the huge amount of unfinished city business on his agenda will factor into his ultimate decision. 

 

The mayor says he’s not focused on it now, but expects to decide on a possible re-election campaign sometime next spring.

Rauner Pushes Term Limit Amendment; Proposal Would Also Change Structure Of Legislature


Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is stepping up his push for legislative term limits in Illinois. 

 

Rauner has added one of the first signatures to a petition aimed at putting a term limit constitutional amendment on the ballot in November 2014… when Rauner also hopes to be on the ballot as the GOP nominee for governor. 

 

Appearing live with 970 WMAY’s Fritz Pfister, Rauner said term limits are the way to break the hold that unions, lobbyists and special interests have over career politicians. 

 

His proposed amendment also calls for changing the structure of the legislature, with three House seats for every Senate district… and increasing the votes needed to override a governor’s veto.

District 186, SIU Med School Plan Concussion Seminar Wednesday


Springfield Public Schools and the SIU School of Medicine will offer a seminar this week for student-athletes, parents, and the community on the issue of concussions. 

 

It’s a hot topic in the athletic world, especially because of the risk of lingering damage for football players who experience multiple concussions. 

 

Dr. Wendell Becton is on the SIU staff… but also serves as a team physician and concussion specialist for the St. Louis Cardinals.  He will talk about the short-term and long-term effects of concussions on athletes. 

 

The free seminar will be held Wednesday evening at 7pm at the Springfield High School auditorium.

Two GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Announce Running Mates


They are the people who are two elections away from being a heartbeat away from being governor.

 

Candidates for Illinois lieutenant governor are now being introduced by their running mates.

 

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford went first, using his Twitter feed to announce his selection of Steve Kim.

 

Kim ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2010. Rutherford notes that if he wins, Kim would be the first Asian-American of either party elected to statewide office in Illinois.

 

Meanwhile, another Republican, Kirk Dillard, visits Springfield today to introduce state Representative Jil Tracy as his running mate.

Cop Impostor Copycat Reported on West Side


There’s been yet another report of a police impersonator in the Springfield area.

 

The latest incident occurred before dawn Monday, when a 79-year-old reported an encounter with someone pretending to be a cop.

 

The man reported that an SUV came up behind him as he traveled on Curran Road, flashed its brights and displayed a flashing yellow light.

 

The SUV then passed the man and swerved in front of him, forcing him to stop.

 

A passenger got out of the SUV and gestured as if he had a gun, and ordered the man out of the vehicle.

 

The man refused. The SUV occupants eventually let the man proceed.

 

Undersheriff Jack Campbell says this appears to be a copycat incident and not the work of the individual who was pulling people over in that vicinity earlier this year.

Chatham Police Investigating String of Vandalism, Several Cars Burglarized in Springfield


Police in Chatham are investigating a vandalism spree involving a dozen reports of random damage.

 

The incidents happened in the Oak Brook and South Main areas of Chatham late Sunday night or early Monday morning.

 

Car windows were smashed and mailboxes were damaged, but nothing was reported stolen.

 

Police in Chatham say the targets all appear to be random.

 

Meanwhile, more than a half-dozen vehicles were broken into along Elm Street and St. Mary’s Court on the northeast corner of Springfield.

Congress to Consider US Intervention in Syria


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is cutting short his summer vacation to return to Washington, ahead of a congressional debate on the possibility of military action against Syria.

 

Durbin issued a statement over the weekend saying he is willing to consider such action, but he did not commit to supporting that strategy.

 

Meanwhile, Democratic congressman Bill Enyart says the job for Congress now is to find the “least bad option.”

 

Enyart is a retired National Guard general, and says, quote, “people are going to die if we act, and people are going to die if we don’t.”

Convicted Felons Can't Be Prescribed Medicinal Pot in Illinois


A woman whose story helped inspire the successful fight for medical marijuana in Illinois won’t be able to use it herself.

 

53-year-old Michelle DiGiacomo has used marijuana for pain relief from multiple illnesses, including fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and spinal stenosis.

 

But while she obtained the drug legally in California, she was using it here, where it was still illegal at the time.

 

As a result, she was arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to a felony drug possession charge.

 

Illinois’s medical marijuana law prohibits doctors from prescribing the drug for convicted felons.

Chatham Police Investigate A Dozen Reports Of Vandalism


Chatham police have no suspects at the moment after receiving a dozen reports of vandalism in the overnight hours from Sunday night to Monday morning.

 

The reports -- primarily of broken car windows and damage to mailboxes -- are centered primarily in the Oak Brook and South Main section of Chatham.  Police say all of the targets appear to have been chosen at random.  They are asking anyone with information to contact the Chatham Police Department at 483-2456, or call Sangamon-Menard Crimestoppers.

Sheriff's Office Investigating Another Fake Cop Incident; Appears To Be Copycat, Not Connected To Earlier Cases


The Sangamon County Sheriff's office says the latest in what has become a rash of fake cop incidents this year in and near Springfield appears unconnected to earlier cases, and seems to be the work of a copycat.

 

A 79-year-old driver told authorities that he was traveling southbound on Curran Road early Monday when an SUV came up behind him, flashing its brights and displaying a yellow oscillating light.  The motorist did not pull over, and then the SUV passed him and turned in front of him, blocking his path.

 

A passenger got out of the SUV, gesturing as though he had a gun and showing something that looked like a badge.  He ordered the man out of the vehicle.  The man asked why, and the passenger said his vehicle had been reported stolen.   The man still refused to get out.  Eventually the SUV passenger told him he was free to go and the man proceeded on his way.

 

Undersheriff Jack Campbell says even though this incident occurred near the scene of some of this year's earliest police impersonator reports, it does not appear to be connected.  But he says deputies take every one of these cases seriously and is working to find the suspect vehicle, described as a red or maroon SUV, perhaps a Tahoe.  And Campbell reminds drivers that if they have any doubts about a vehicle trying to pull them over, they should keep traveling and call 911.

Candidates Begin Announcing Running Mates: Rutherford Picks Kim; Dillard Announcement Tuesday


The candidates for governor have begun to announce their choices for running mate.

 

Since this year, governor and lieutenant governor candidates must run as a team in the primary, the selection process is shaping up to be one of the first major executive decisions for the gubernatorial hopefuls.  Republican candidate Dan Rutherford is first out with an official announcement -- which he made over his Twitter feed, revealing that he has chosen former attorney general candidate Steve Kim to run with him.  Rutherford notes that Kim would be the first Asian-American elected to statewide office in Illinois from either party if they win.

 

Meanwhile, fellow Republican Kirk Dillard will make his announcement in a series of campaign stops Tuesday.  It is widely expected that Dillard will announce that he has chosen state Rep. Jil Tracy as his running mate.

Area Members Of Congress Undecided On Syria Strike


A Central Illinois congressman says the task ahead for lawmakers is to choose “the least bad” option for dealing with the crisis in Syria. 

 

President Obama wants Congress to approve his plan for limited military strikes in Syria in retaliation for that government’s alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people.  Democrat Bill Enyart… a retired National Guard general… says, quote, “people are going to die if we act. And people are going to die if we don’t.”

 

U.S Senator Dick Durbin is not committing to a military strike against Syria, but says he is open to the debate.  Durbin says President Obama did the right thing in calling for Congress to approve any military response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.  And Durbin says if military action is authorized, it will be limited and will not involve U.S. forces on the ground.

Quinn Renews Push For Higher IL Minimum Wage


Governor Pat Quinn is marking Labor Day by renewing his call to raise the state’s minimum wage.

 

Quinn notes that even though Illinois’s wage of $8.25 an hour is higher than the federal standard, it translates to an annual salary that is well below the poverty line for a worker trying to support a family.  Quinn wants lawmakers to boost the state’s rate to $10 an hour.

 

At a Chicago church sunday, Quinn pointed out that the current wage is less than half the average hourly wage in the U.S…. and far below the estimated $3,000 an hour that major corporation CEOs receive.

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