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July 31, 2014, 6:41 pm
970 WMAY News Archives for 2013-10

Springfield, Chatham Add Trick-Or-Treat Hours On Friday


Because of the threat of rain during the set trick-or-treat hours on Halloween, both Springfield and Chatham are adding some extra hours on Friday.

 

A statement from the city of Springfield says trick-or-treating will also be allowed from 5-8pm on November 1st.  The forecast calls for a better than 50% chance of rain during the previously-announced hours of 4:30 to 8pm today.

 

Chatham is also permitting children to trick-or-treat either today or Friday.  Friday's hours will be from 5 to 8:30pm.

 

Officials are still reminding drivers to be watchful for children on both days, and remind residents that if they are handing out candy either today or tomorrow, they should turn on their porch lights.

Exelon CEO: Clinton Nuke Plant Could Be Closed Late Next Year


Clinton’s nuclear power plant could be closed down by the end of 2014 if wholesale electric prices don’t improve by then. 

 

That warning comes from the head of Exelon, which owns Clinton and four other nuke plants in the state.  CEO Christopher Crane tells Crain’s Chicago Business he believes the wholesale market will rebound… but if it doesn’t within the next year, plant closures will follow. 

 

The depressed power market has caused a sharp dropoff in Exelon’s earnings and a decline in the company’s stock price.

Illinois Health Care Site Lets People Get Signed Up -- For Medicaid


The director of the Illinois Department of Public Health says thousands of people are getting signed up for health care coverage through a state website… but only if they qualify for the state’s expanded Medicaid program. 

 

For uninsured Illinoisans who don’t meet the income requirements for that program, Dr. Lamar Hasbrouck says it’s still “hurry up and wait” because of the continuing malfunctions at the federal insurance exchange website.  More than 30,000 people have been able to use the getcoveredillinois.gov website to obtain coverage under Medicaid… but for all others, Illinois’s system kicks them to the federal healthcare.gov site, which still doesn’t work properly, a month after launch. 

 

The state plans a series of informational events on health care reform in Springfield and around the state Saturday.  Get a list of events at getcoveredillinois.gov.

New School Report Cards Show Tougher Grading Curve


The school report cards coming home to parents this week are likely to show student performance numbers that are substantially lower than what those schools had last year. 

 

The State Board of Education says it’s using a different measurement this year that’s more in line with the tougher Common Core standards that are being phased in around the state. 

 

A spokesperson for the board says students are actually showing improvement if measured under the standards used last year… but she says it’s important for parents to know how their school is doing under the new scoring system, which more accurately measures how well students are prepared for high school, college and beyond. 

 

You can see how your school did at illinoisreportcard.com.

Believe It Or Not, Sangamon County Still Listed Under ''Moderate Drought''


Hard as it may be to believe, Sangamon County is still technically in a drought… at least according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. 

 

But that weekly survey of soil conditions was taken earlier this week, before two days of heavy rain that have soaked Central Illinois. 

 

The survey that concluded on Tuesday still shows the entire county in a moderate drought status… just as it has been for the last several weeks.  The next update on conditions is due next Thursday.

Sox Beat the Cards, Take The World Series


It’s a tough morning for St. Louis Cardinals fans… who saw their World Series dreams fade away at Fenway Park last night.

 

The Boston Red Sox dominated the Redbirds 6-1.

 

It was the Cards’ third straight loss in the series, and the worst postseason showing for rookie pitching sensation Michael Wacha, who gave up all six runs and took the loss after four straight postseason victories.

Problems With Healthcare Law Rollout Hits Home


The continuing failures of the federal health insurance website are leaving many uninsured local people with no way to explore options on the insurance exchanges.

 

Illinois’s system is tied into the federal healthcare.gov site… which has been plagued with glitches and breakdowns since it launched nearly a month ago. Last week, President Obama said that people had other options… including by phone or through designated agencies.

 

But Sangamon County Public Health Director Jim Stone says there is no provision for phone sign-up or written applications in Illinois, so county residents have few options until the website problems are fixed.

 

State Public Health Director Dr. Lamar Hasbrouck is scheduled to join us at 8:40 this morning to talk more about the efforts to help Illinoisans sign up for insurance coverage.

Upcoming Budget Talks for Springfield To Include Pension Talk


Expect some battles during the upcoming Springfield city budget process over police and fire pensions.

 

Mayor Mike Houston says he will stick with his current approach for dealing with the issue… including his reliance on an estimated 7.5% return on investment for the pension funds.

 

Critics say that’s too optimistic, but Houston says lowering the estimate would require the city to divert millions more from other city services into pensions.

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin is still pushing for a much more aggressive approach to pensions… including imposition of a wage freeze in order to slow the growth of benefits.

Group Protests Use of Live Pigs for Medical Training


A health care issue of a different sort drew some protestors to the SIU School of Medicine Tuesday.

 

A group of about 15 people picketed the school, objecting to its plans to use live pigs to train emergency room doctors on basic techniques, such as opening an airway.

 

The State Journal-Register reports that the group favors the use of computerized mannequins to simulate the procedures.

 

The protestors say most ER residency programs in the U.S. do not use live animals.

 

But SIU says that while it has not started the use of live pigs yet, it still intends to do so.

Next Tuesday May Be Election Day on Calendar, But Not in Illinois


Don’t believe everything your smart phone tells you.

 

Most calendars… including those on your electronic devices… list next Tuesday as Election Day, and that is true in some states.

 

But not in Illinois.

 

Sangamon County Clerk Joe Aiello issued a reminder Wednesday that there is no November election this year, because Illinois only conducts springtime local elections in odd-numbered off-years.

 

Aiello says his office has gotten numerous calls from people asking where they should vote next week… and who’s on the ballot.

 

The next election in Illinois will be the primary in March of 2014.

Soggy Trick-Or-Treating Expected


It could be a soggy night for trick or treaters in the Springfield area.

 

Authorities say that’s all the more reason for drivers to be cautious during those early evening hours.

 

The forecast is for rain during much of Springfield’s official trick-or-treating time, from 4:30 to 8pm.

 

Other communities may have different times… check with your local officials for the exact time in your town.

Chatham School Officials Email Parents About Empty Shell Casing Found Outside Gym


Chatham school officials say no one was ever in any danger after officials discovered an empty shell casing in Glenwood High School’s west gymnasium earlier this week.

 

An email sent to parents says the casing was not live ammunition and posed no danger.

 

Police were contacted, and school officials conducted a search of the area and locker rooms, but nothing else was found.

County Elections Office Reminds You: Don't Vote This November


The Sangamon County Elections Office has an important message for local voters… there is no election this fall. 

 

County clerk Joe Aiello says the office is getting calls on a daily basis from people asking who is on the ballot or where they vote.  Many calendars do show next Tuesday as “Election Day,” and it is in some states. But in an odd-numbered off-year, the only elections in Illinois are in the spring. 

 

The next official election in the state will be the primary election on March 18, 2014.

Health Care Website Snafus Leave Local People With Few Options


The continuing failures of the federal health insurance website are leaving many uninsured local people with no way to explore options on the insurance exchanges. 

 

Illinois’s system is tied into the federal healthcare.gov site… which has been plagued with glitches and breakdowns since it launched nearly a month ago.  Last week, President Obama said that people had other options… including by phone or through designated agencies. 

 

But Sangamon County Public Health Director Jim Stone says there is no provision for phone sign-up or written applications in Illinois, so county residents have few options until the website problems are fixed.

Houston Plans To Stay The Course On Pensions; McMenamin Disagrees


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston isn’t planning any big changes in the way he approaches police and fire pensions in the next city budget.  But at least one alderman says Houston isn’t taking the problem seriously enough. 

 

The city will pour more than $18 million, or about 20-percent of its operating budget, into police and fire pensions next year, and Houston says any budget surpluses may also be applied to the unfunded liability. 

 

But Alderman Joe McMenamin calls that approach “piecemeal,” and says the city has to get more aggressive about controlling salaries and benefits, as well as putting more money into the pension funds.  [Both appeared live separately on 970 WMAY.]

Springfield Ordinance To Boost Minority- Or Woman-Owned Businesses On Hold


A proposal that could allow for more City of Springfield contracts to be awarded to businesses owned by minorities and women has been tabled… and one alderman says there needs to be some work done before it passes.

 

The proposal modifies the manner of giving preferences to businesses owned by women and minorities.  Aldermen Doris Turner supports the concept, but says that she wants to ensure the proposal doesn't allow for any abuse.  Turner wants to avoid a scenario where a qualifying business gets a city contract…and then subcontracts it out to a business that isn’t minority- or woman-owned.

Monday Accident Claims Life Of Driver


A serious crash at Lawrence and Douglas earlier this week has claimed the life of the driver. 

 

32-year-old Peter Hahn was pronounced dead at St. John’s Hospital Tuesday, a day after the accident that closed Lawrence for several hours.  Fire crews extricated Hahn from his vehicle and revived him at the scene after he ran off the road and struck a wall, causing his car to overturn. 

 

The coroner’s office says an official determination on the cause of death won’t be made until blood analysis and a review of Hahn’s medical history are complete.

Sherman Mayor: We Can Pull The Plug If Video Gaming Causes Any Problems


The mayor of Sherman says video gaming can keep going in his village… as long as it doesn’t create too many problems. 

 

But Mayor Trevor Clatfelter says the businesses that are seeking to install the gaming machines are now on notice that gaming will go away if it becomes a headache.  At least one vendor has already complained about the licensing fees being charged by Sherman, which are far higher than those for non-home-rule communities.  As a result, the village board has attached a sunset provision to its gaming ordinance, meaning it will expire next June unless it’s reauthorized by the board. 

 

Clatfelter says Sherman won’t make enough money from the machines to put up with any drama.

Wall Street Journal Highlights Springfield's Pension Problems


The City of Springfield is getting national attention this morning… and not in a good way.

 

The Wall Street Journal is running an article today which features Springfield as an extreme example of the pension problems that are harming cities around the country.

 

The Journal article says pension liabilities may be chewing up as much as 25% of the city’s operating budget, and claims that’s keeping the city from attending to other basic needs.

 

And it says that combined debt and pension obligations amount to nearly $7,000 for every city resident.

 

Mayor Mike Houston will join us live after 8 this morning to talk about it.

Aldermen Move To Demolish Abandoned and Run-Down Buildings


Springfield aldermen are moving ahead with a plan to tear down nearly 100 abandoned or run-down buildings around the city… and even that may not be enough to keep pace with the problem.

 

The city council committee-of-the-whole gave initial approval to spend an additional $500,000 to knock down 94 structures… including more than 30 that have been declared “unsafe and dangerous.”

 

But Public Works Director Mark Mahoney says the city has identified more than 360 candidates for demolition… and says the number keeps growing.

Mayor's Whistleblower Ordinance Tabled


Mayor Mike Houston’s proposed whistleblower ordinance has been tabled.

 

Houston had put forward an ordinance based on existing state law that spelled out rights and responsibilities for workers who report wrongdoing by other city employees.

 

Acting corporation counsel John Mehlick says the city will retool the ordinance to make it more specific to city government, rather than relying so much on the state statute.

Village of Sherman Places Sunset of June 2014 on Video Gambling


Video gambling will continue for now in Sherman, but village officials are still prepared to pull the plug if the machines become more trouble than they’re worth.

 

The Sherman village board had considered an ordinance to repeal video gaming… after one vendor had complained about the licensing fees charged by the village and hinted at possible legal action.

 

But instead the board unanimously voted to place a sunset provision on its video gaming law.

 

It will now expire on June 30, 2014 unless it is reauthorized by the village board.

 

Two Sherman establishments have received state video gaming licenses, and two more are pending.

Common Core Standards May Take Time to Get Used To


The head of the largest teachers union in the state says Common Core will be a good thing for students… but it may take some time for parents to get used to it.

 

The new, more rigorous standards for reading and math are being phased in around the state… and are already prompting some complaints that they may be too challenging, especially for younger students.

 

Illinois Education Association President Cinda Klickna disputes that, but says there will be a period of adjustment.

 

And she says it will be important to make sure that teachers have adequate time for planning and professional development built into their workday.

Illegal Immigrant Drivers Licenses' to be Issued From Springfield SOS Office


Springfield will be one of the first two locations where illegal immigrants in Illinois can obtain new specialized drivers licenses, beginning December 3rd.

 

The controversial licenses will look different than regular drivers’ licenses, and are not supposed to be used as legal ID or for voting.

 

But supporters of the new law say they will ensure that undocumented immigrants who are driving on Illinois roads anyway will do so more safely.

 

The licenses will be offered at the Secretary of State facility on South Dirksen Parkway.

Sherman Will Allow Video Gaming To Continue For Now


Video gambling will continue in the village of Sherman, at least until next summer.

 

The village board voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance that places a sunset provision on legalized video gaming.  The practice will end on June 30, 2014, unless the village board votes to extend it before then.

 

Sherman officials had considered immediately pulling the plug on video gaming amid concerns voiced by Mayor Trevor Clatfelter.  Clatfelter now says he will work with the village board in an effort to address those concerns over the next few months.

Head Of IEA Defends Common Core Standards


The head of the largest Illinois teachers union says the new Common Core standards will be a good thing for students… if teachers are given the time and professional development to implement it properly. 

 

The standards have been adopted by 45 states, including Illinois, and are intended to set more rigorous standards for students, to better prepare them for college and careers.  Illinois Education Association President Cinda Klickna says it may take some time to adapt to the new standards, but believes students will be better off for it in the long run. 

 

Klickna will take part in a panel discussion to explain the Common Core standards tonight (Tuesday) at 6:30 at Chatham Glenwood High School.

Drivers' Licenses For Illegal Immigrants To Be Available In Springfield In December


Springfield will be one of the first locations to offer those controversial new drivers’ licenses for people who are in the country illegally. 

 

The Temporary Visitor Drivers Licenses… or TVDLs… will be available starting December 3rd at two locations, the Secretary of State’s facility on South Dirksen Parkway and a drivers’ services office in Chicago.  Two more locations will be added a week later, and another 20 will offer the licenses in January. 

 

A new state law allows for illegal immigrants to obtain the license, which permits them to drive once they show proof of insurance and a drivers’ ed class.

Memorial Medical Center Donates $100,000 For Interactive Kidzeum Exhibit


A $100,000 gift from Memorial Medical Center will help pay for a three-story high exhibit depicting the inner workings of a human child’s body… which will serve as the centerpiece of the planned Kidzeum in downtown Springfield. 

 

Officials with the children’s museum say the 40-foot exhibit will have around 100 different components… including an interactive heart, a diabetes zone, and an “esophageal” slide down into a digestive tract.  The goal is to teach kids about healthy eating and prevention of obesity. 

 

Kidzeum officials say the donation from Memorial is a good way to kick off a final $2 million push to complete the capital campaign toward final construction and completion of the facility.

Food Stamp Benefits To Be Reduced Nov. 1


Illinois families receiving food assistance will get less of it starting next month. 

 

Extra money provided under the 2009 federal stimulus bill will expire on November 1st.  As a result, an individual who gets help under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program… or SNAP… will receive $11 per month less in benefits.  A family of four will get $36 per month less. 

 

More than 2 million people in Illinois receive benefits under the program.

Simon: Warehouse Website "Too Litle, Too Late"


A candidate for Illinois Comptroller says the new transparency website put out by Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is “too little, too late.”

 

In a campaign statement Lt. Gov. Shelia Simon says the repurposed web site has the same info that can be found on the comptroller’s website.

 

Simon says her first priority, if elected comptroller, would be to identify and prevent local corruption.

 

Topinka will be in Springfield at the Sangamon County Court House today to unveil “The Warehouse” website where taxpayers can review local financial information and other documents without filing a Freedom of Information Act request.

CWLP Rebate Program for High-Efficiency Washers Begins Next Month


Buy a high efficiency clothes washer and you could be one of 225 Springfield residents eligible for a $150 rebate from City Water Light and Power.

 

The utility is putting the call out to Springfield residents to save 20 percent of household water use by purchasing a new high-efficiency washer.

 

Beginning November 1st, the first 225 qualified Springfield citizens to apply with CWLP’s Energy Services Office could get a rebate up to $150.

 

The program is expected to run through February 15th of next year.

 

For more information, Springfield residents can call the Energy Services Office at 789-2070.

Local Law Enforcement Encourage Safe Trick-or-Treating


Halloween is Thursday and area law enforcement officials are urging parents to take the proper precautions to keep their trick-or-treaters safe.

 

Sangamon County Undersheriff Jack Campbell says that parents should always go with their children when making the rounds in their neighborhoods, and if they don’t go with their children, they should review the planned route.

 

Campbell also says that trick-or-treaters should only visit homes with the porch light on and never enter a home or a car for a treat. Other tips include having reflective tape on costumes, carrying cell phones and flashlights, and obeying pedestrian walkways and don’t assume the right of way.

 

Springfield Interim Police Chief Kenny Winslow says trick-or-treaters are encouraged to collect candy between 4:30 and 8pm Thursday evening.

Federal Health Care Website Snags Causing Problems Locally


The problems with the federal health insurance website are creating new complications for the Sangamon County Public Health Department.

 

Local officials had planned to start holding face-to-face appointments this week to help local uninsured people find a plan on the insurance exchanges.

 

But public health director Jim Stone says those appointments have had to be cancelled because of the continuing snags with getting on healthcare.gov to check plan options and prices.

 

Stone says the meetings are being rescheduled for mid-November in hopes that the website will be working properly by then.

Sherman to Hold Special Meeting to Discuss Video Gambling Tonight


Sherman’s brief experiment with video gaming could come to an abrupt end.

 

The village board will hold a special meeting this evening to discuss whether to repeal its ordinance allowing local establishments to install and operate the gambling machines.

 

One Sherman bar has installed the gaming devices, but village officials say the company that provided the machines objected to Sherman’s license fees and threatened legal action.

 

The board will consider three ordinances at tonight’s meeting, two of which would immediately halt video gaming and another which would set an expiration date of next July.

 

The ordinances say the cost of allowing video gaming exceeds any benefits the village might receive.

Whistleblower Ordinance In Front of Springfield Alderman Tonight


Springfield aldermen will get their first chance to debate Mayor Mike Houston’s proposed whistleblower ordinance tonight.

 

Houston says his proposal is based largely on provisions that already exist in state law, but is intended to set up clear processes to report misuse of city resources and to guarantee that whistleblowers don’t face retaliation.

 

Alderman Cory Jobe has proposed bringing back the office of inspector general to handle such complaints, an idea that Houston says would be too costly.

 

Houston’s ordinance goes before the city council committee-of-the-whole tonight.

IHSA: Punishment Against Rockets Could Have Been More Severe


The Illinois High School Association says Rochester High School’s punishment for a rules violation could have been much more severe… but says Rochester got credit for reporting the issue on its own.

 

The Rockets had to forfeit one of its nine wins… the victory over Sacred Heart-Griffin, resulting in SH-G and not Rochester being declared Central State Eight champs.

 

But IHSA executive director Marty Hickman says Rochester could have had to forfeit eight of its victories, or been kept out of the postseason, over the improper purchase of championship rings for three players by a parents group.

 

Instead, Rochester will be in the playoffs… and the three players will be allowed to compete.

Father of U of I QB Banned From Urbana Campus for a Year


The father of University of Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has reportedly been banned from the Urbana campus for a year.

 

WCIA-TV reports the decision follows Nate Creer’s arrest during a fight with other fans outside Memorial Stadium.

 

Creer was charged with resisting a peace officer during that altercation that broke out following the Illini’s latest loss, 42-3 against Michigan State last Saturday.

Quinn To Seek $200 Million More From Lawmakers


Governor Pat Quinn is asking lawmakers to approve more than $200 million in additional spending… on top of the $35 billion general revenue budget they OK’d last spring. 

 

More than half of the supplemental appropriation request would pay for back pay raises that 25,000 state workers were promised two years ago, but did not receive. 

 

Another $40 million would cover the cost of transitioning Illinois prisons from a three-meal-a-day schedule for inmates to just two-meals-a-day.  Corrections officials say reducing the number of meals while still meeting federal calorie and nutrition guidelines while require changing meal and drink portion sizes, at a cost of millions of dollars per prison.

Rochester Players Will Be Allowed To Compete In Postseason; IHSA Defends Decision


Three Rochester High School football players at the center of a controversy over championship rings will be allowed to compete in postseason play. 

 

The Illinois High School Association has reinstated the players, who sat out the final game of the regular season after Rochester revealed that a parents’ group had purchased rings for the players in violation of IHSA rules.  Association director Marty Hickman, appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” says the decision was based in part on the fact that Rochester reported the violation itself. 

 

But Hickman still defends the decision to force Rochester to forfeit its win against Sacred Heart-Griffin, costing the Rockets a conference championship.  Hickman says Rochester could have had to forfeit the entire season or been held out of the postseason, so he sees this punishment as a reasonable middle ground.

Firefighters Resuscitate Victim Of Springfield Car Crash


Springfield firefighters may have saved a driver’s life after a serious car crash this morning near Lawrence and Douglas. 

 

The driver had to be extricated from the vehicle after that accident around 7am.  Fire department officials say first responders performed emergency resuscitation on the victim, who was then taken to Saint John’s Hospital for treatment of critical injuries.  No other information has been released on the condition of the victim. 

 

The accident forced the closure of Lawrence at Douglas for several hours this morning.

Activist Warns Of Potential Dangers From Nuke Waste Storage In Illinois


A nuclear watchdog group says the federal government's delay in picking a permanent site to store the country's nuclear waste is creating a potential hazard… and some of the proposals for dealing with the problem could instead make it worse. 

 

David Kraft with the Nuclear Energy Information Service, a nuclear energy watchdog group, says that Illinois is already storing 9,000 tons of spent radioactive waste at its various nuclear power plants. Now some reports indicate that Illinois could be a prime spot for a proposed centralized interim storage site, meaning more spent fuel could be on its way. 

 

Kraft says that could mean additional possible dangers in transporting the hazardous waste to that interim site, and then perhaps moving it again later.  He encourages the public to attend a public meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory Committee November 12th in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook.

Sherman Could Repeal Video Gaming


The village of Sherman may be ready to cash in its chips and give up on video gaming. 

 

Just a year after authorizing video gambling machines with restrictions at certain establishments, Sherman will hold a special village board meeting Tuesday to consider several ordinances, including two that would immediately prohibit the gaming machines.  Those ordinances say the cost of allowing video gaming exceeds any benefits that might come from licensing fees and the village’s share of revenues. 

 

A third ordinance would put a sunset provision on Sherman’s gaming ordinance, causing it to expire next July unless it’s renewed by the village board.  That meeting is set for 6pm at the Sherman Village Hall.

Sets, Props From Lincoln Movie To Be Displayed In Springfield


Hollywood is coming to Springfield. 

 

A collection of sets, costumes and props from the Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln” will be on display for the foreseeable future at the Union Station visitors complex across from the Lincoln Presidential Museum.  The collection is on loan from Spielberg and DreamWorks studios, which produced the Oscar-winning film. 

 

Adults will be able to tour the “Lincoln” film exhibit for five dollars, while children are free with a paid adult admission.  Visitors can also purchase a ticket for both the museum and the film exhibit for just $3 over the price for museum admission alone.  The new exhibit will be open in early 2014.

Comptroller Topinka Unveiling Website for Local Finance Oversight


Illinois’s comptroller is touring the state to showoff a new online program that will put local finances at residents’ fingertips.

 

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka travels the state, starting in Chicago Monday morning, to unveil The Warehouse, a new transparency database that puts local government financial information and tens of thousands of records at a single location for public review.

 

Topinka will be in Springfield Tuesday at the Sangamon County Courthouse at 12:15pm.

Civil War Journal Obtained by ALPLM Details POW Insight


A journal kept by a Civil War soldier provides some insight into the life of a soldier that was a prisoner of war.

 

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum has obtained a diary from Thomas C. Davis who was part of the 38th Illinois Volunteer Infantry back in 1861.

 

Davis details in his journal what it was like being captured in the Battle of Chickamauga.

 

In writings just after being freed, Davis wrote about meager rations given to him and other men.

 

The diary was provided to the Museum by Davis’ great-great grandchildren from Maryland.

 

Diary cover
Inside the journal
Inside the journal

 

Fans on Both Sides Not Happy About Ruling Stripping Rochester's Win over SHG


Based on social media reaction, both Rochester and Sacred Heart-Griffin fans are unhappy with the weekend ruling that stripped Rochester of its football win over SH-G… taking the Rockets’ unbeaten season and conference championship and giving them to the Cyclones instead.

 

The Illinois High School Association ruled that Rochester would have to forfeit its narrow win over SH-G because three players were ineligible after a parents’ group purchased championship rings for them that exceeded IHSA limits for such gifts.

 

IHSA executive director Marty Hickman will join us live this morning at 7:40 to discuss the decision.

Pension Reform Close, But Stalled in Bipartisan Committee


A key member of the state’s bipartisan pension reform committee says a pension plan is, quote, “at the one-yard line.”

 

But Representative Elaine Nekritz says it’s been there for weeks.

 

The influential Democratic lawmaker says the committee’s goal is to reach consensus on one plan that can then be presented to rank-and-file lawmakers as their one-and-only option to solve the problem.

 

Nekritz tells the Daily Herald newspaper that if a plan is brought up for a vote and fails… the whole process may have to start over from scratch.

Report: Rutherford Campaign Starting Petition Process Over


The campaign for Republican governor candidate Dan Rutherford is starting over with Rutherford’s nominating petitions.

 

Crain’s Chicago Business reports that a month’s worth of petition signatures had to be scrapped because the petitions failed to include certain language that is required to be on all such petitions.

 

The campaign would not say how many signatures had to be thrown out.

 

The setback is not expected to keep Rutherford from having enough signatures to qualify for the March GOP primary ballot.

Employer Zero-Tolerance Policies Can Be Enforced Under Medical Marijuana Law


The new law that allows for the medical use of marijuana is raising some questions for employers about their own drug-testing and drug-use policies.

 

But state business groups say the new law does not negate company zero-tolerance policies.

 

The law specifically states that workplace drug rules can be enforced, even against employees with valid medical marijuana prescriptions, as long as the policies are applied in a non-discriminatory fashion.

Rochester Forced To Forfeit SH-G Win Over IHSA Rules Violation


Rochester High School must forfeit its biggest win of the season, over Sacred Heart-Griffin, under a ruling handed down Saturday by the Illinois High School Association.  The decision is based on a rules violation that Rochester reported on its own... but it costs the team its unbeaten season and hands the Central State Eight championship to SH-G.

 

Rochester notified the IHSA that a parents' group had purchased championship rings for three students who could not afford them on their own.  But the purchase exceeded limits set by IHSA rules.  Rochester officials say they and the three players were unaware of any rules violations until after the fact, but the IHSA says the purchase means the players were ineligible. 

 

The association determined that their presence was a determining factor only in Rochester's win over the Cyclones, so the victory now goes to SH-G, giving them a perfect 9-0 record and dropping Rochester to 8-1.  The IHSA will rule soon on whether those three players will be allowed to compete in postseason play.

Father Sues District 186 Over Honor Student's Expulsion


The father of a Springfield High student who was expelled for bringing a knife onto school property is suing District 186. 

 

The State Journal-Register reports Allen Mueller’s lawsuit claims the district’s disciplinary policy is unfair because it didn’t take into account the student’s straight-A academic record or lack of prior disciplinary problems. 

 

Court records say an anonymous tip led to a canine unit checking the student’s car… where a hunting knife and traces of suspected marijuana were found in the trunk.

Aldermen To Consider Building Demolition, Whistleblower Proposal


Springfield aldermen will take an initial vote this week on a proposal to spend half-a-million dollars to demolish more than 30 unsafe and dangerous structures around the city. 

 

The mayor’s office says the money will come from funds that were budgeted, but not yet spent, in the Department of Pubilc Works. 

 

Tuesday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting will also feature the first discussion on Mayor Mike Houston’s proposed whistleblower ordinance.

Fatal I-55 Crash Still Under Investigation


Authorities are still investigating a crash on Interstate 55 near Litchfield Friday morning that killed a woman and two children. 

 

27-year-old Alea Shannon, 8-year-old Alfredo McGee, Jr. and 2-year-old Armando McGee were pronounced dead at the scene. They were passengers in a vehicle that for some reason was stopped in the right-hand northbound lane of the interstate with no lights on.  The car was rear-ended by a cargo van. 

 

Three other people in the car were taken to the hospital for treatment of their injuries.

Sangamon County Still In Grip Of Persistent Drought


Sangamon County’s drought status remains unchanged… despite recent rains.  Rainfall totals so far this month are still below average, and the county remains in “moderate” drought status.  85-percent of the state is listed as either abnormally dry or in moderate or severe drought.

Rutherford Blames Politics and Fear of Court Battle in Stalling Pension Reform


State Treasurer Dan Rutherford says politics may be keeping pension reform at bay and that’s not right.

 

The treasurer, who himself is running for higher office, says that some members of the General Assembly are running for reelection and that could play into whether there is a vote.

 

He also says worrying about lawsuits over pension reform shouldn’t keep reform from happening.

 

The chief fiscal officer of the state says bond ratings houses are closely monitoring the state’s action on pension reform and he hopes they can bring the nearly $100 billion issue back to the forefront when they return in November.

Fagan Sentenced to More Than 30 Years


The man who pleaded guilty to killing a young mother and her 3-week-old daughter will serve at least 38 years in prison.

 

Eric Fagan also pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated arson in the house fire where the bodies of Jade Ostermeier and her daughter Alexis were found in early December 2010. F

 

agan will serve 100 percent of the first-degree sentence and at least half of the second degree term.

Shooting Victim Not Cooperating With Police


A shooting victim doesn’t seem to be giving police much help.

 

The 18-year-old man arrived at St. John’s Hospital Thursday afternoon with a gunshot to his left shoulder.

 

Police say he refused to tell authorities any details about the shooting. Police continue to investigate.

Christian's Attorneys: City's Claims Are Preposterous


The attorneys for Calvin Christian say accusations leveled against themselves and their client are preposterous.

 

Filing last week from the Noll Law Office, who is defending the city in the Springfield Police IA file shred case, provided a defense including accusations that Christian’s attorney John Meyers knew of the change in retention of IA files and worked with Christian and attorney Don Craven for monetary gain.

 

Meyers says testimony in depositions this far contradicts that assertion.

 

A judge Thursday urged both side to agree to a schedule to depose five city officials, including Mayor Mike Houston.

 

A decision on whether Christian will be deposed will may come sometime next month.

County Mayors, Village President Form Group


Mayors and village presidents from across Sangamon County have formally established a "Regional Leadership Council" where they can exchange ideas on ways to improve cooperation and efficiency.  The group was born out of the work of the county's Citizens Efficiency Commission and has already worked together on issues like electric aggregation.  Spaulding Village President Brian Cuffle will serve as the chairman of the group.

Well Over 200 Springfield Students Kept Out Of School Over Immunization Paperwork


The numbers are shrinking, but more than 230 Springfield public school students are still being kept out of class because they lack the proper paperwork that shows they meet state immunization requirements.  District 186 says it is working to assist families in obtaining the documentation that they need.  The Sangamon County Department of Public Health has extended hours, until 6:30pm, on Mondays and Thursdays for vaccinations.
 

Judge: Schedule Depositions in File Shred Case


The next series of depositions in the ongoing Springfield Police file shredding case will continue, after a hearing Thursday urged the two sides to agree on a schedule.

 

Attorneys for plaintiff Calvin Christian want to schedule depositions with Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher, former Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen, Assistant Counsel Geannette Wittendorf, Mayoral Assistant Bill Logan and Mayor Mike Houston.

 

As for the possible deposition of Christian, Judge John Belz says he will determine those terms at a future date.

 

John Meyers, who alongside Don Craven represents Christian, says the city's accusation filed last week saying Christian and his attorneys knew in advance about the file shredding already contradicts the info they've gathered in other depositions.

 

The next hearing has been set for mid November.

 

Treasurer Rutherford: Pension Reform Imperative To Sound State Finances


State Treasurer Dan Rutherford says there is nothing more imperative than passing pension reform and that politics could very well be a reason for inaction during the first week of the fall veto-session.

 

Speaking with 970 WMAY News, Rutherford disagrees with other assessments from lawmakers that the nearly $100 billion pension shortfall is not a crisis.

 

Rutherford says that inaction by the general assembly plays directly into how bond ratings agencies view the state’s finances.

 

As for politics--the treasurer says some in the general assembly are circulating petitions and the potential of reelection could be keeping any meaningful action from taking place.

 

He also says lawmakers should pass something and if the courts have to get involved to settle the situation, so be it.

 

The General Assembly meets again for the fall veto-session this coming November.

Treasurer Rutherford Takes IL GA To Task Over Pension Reform Fumble


Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is blasting the General Assembly for failing to take up the issue of pension reform this far into their fall veto-session.

 

In a statement Wednesday, Rutherford says he is disappointed that the first week has ended without the Governor and the General Assembly making any progress on the “most significant financial issue plaguing Illinois pension reform.”

 

Last weekend, Senate president John Cullerton said the pension issue wasn’t a crisis, but Rutherford says he absolutely thinks the nearly $100 billion issue is a crisis.

Supporters of Traditional Marriage Rally at Capitol Building


Supporters of marriage between a man and woman took to the capital Wednesday and among them were republican gubernatorial candidates Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard.

 

The group rallied outside the capital before heading inside to lobby lawmakers.

 

An estimate of 2,500 people rallied at the capitol building Wednesday in support of so-called traditional marriage.

 

A same-sex marriage bill passed the Senate earlier this year but has stalled in the house.

Layoffs At Tri County Coal Stem From ADM Contract Not Being Renewed


Nearly 190 miners from the state’s last unionized coal mine received layoff notices last week.

 

Tri County Coal issued the 60-day notices to the workers last week.

 

The Crown III mine will close because their major customer didn’t renew a contract for next year.

 

That customer is Archer Daniels Midland.

 

Tom Austin, vice president of Springfield Coal Co., tells the SJ-R that Tri County Coal’s Crown III mine will reopen in the future.

Christian's Status As Reporter Could Be Issue During Hearing


A hearing this afternoon in Sangamon County Circuit Court could determine whether a reporter should turn over information in the ongoing Springfield Police IA File Shred FOIA case.

 

Calvin Christian and his attorneys will be in front of Judge John Behlz this afternoon.

 

Attorneys for the City of Springfield are asking Christian to turn over phone and email records and also disclose the nature of his work with Pure News USA.

 

Christian has said he will not turn over his sources due to reporter privilege.

 

The city recently filed a response in the case saying that Christian and his attorneys knew the files were going to be shred and filed a FOIA in hopes of getting a payout.

DIRT Unit Busts Suspected Indoor Pot Grow


The Sangamon County Drug Interdiction Response Team busted what they believe to be an indoor marijuana growing operation on West Canedy Street in Springfield.

 

The DIRT unit executed a search warrant on the home of Tyrone Lacey on the 400 block of West Canedy and found what they believe to be 24 marijuana plants.

 

Some of the plants were sent to the Illinois State Police for further testing.

 

Lacey is held on $10,000 bond and charge with unauthorized production or possession of cannabis sativa plants.

Opponents of Same-Sex Marriage Rally in Springfield


Opponents of gay marriage are expected to surround the capitol building today to rally and to lobby lawmakers to oppose a bill sanctioning same-sex marriage.

 

Laurie Higgins with the Illinois Family Institute expects republican gubernatorial candidates and State Senators Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady to speak in support of marriage between a man and a woman.

 

The group also expects religious groups from across the state to rally and lobby lawmakers today.

 

Tuesday, the capitol building saw several thousand supporters of same-sex marriage rally in the rain for several hours.

Sankey Hi-Rise Debris Cleanup To Take a Month


The next phase of the Sankey Hi-Rise demolition is cleanup of the debris and that could take about a month.

 

That’s much longer than the 8 hours it took for the south tower to fall after demolition charges were set Tuesday morning.

 

Springfield Housing Authority director Jackie Newman says all area residents are back in their homes after the long ordeal.

 

After the site is cleared, Newman says the SHA will begin the process of developing a new project that will bring 92 units for senior living.

 

Demolition of the Sankey Hi-Rise cost SHA $1.7 million.

Common Core Seminar Coming to Chatham


Members of the business and education community are joining with The Ball-Chatham School District to host a seminar on the school curriculum known as “Common Core”.

 

The meeting scheduled for next Tuesday will discuss why implementing Common Core is necessary for improving education and the economy, according to a release from the school district.

 

Among the presenters will be Cinda Klickna from the Illinois Education Association, Susan Morrison from the Illinois State Board of Education, and Jeff Mays from the Illinois Business Roundtable.

 

The seminar is scheduled for October 29th at 6:30 at Glenwood High School.

Sankey Hi-Rise South Tower Collapses


It took an additional 8 hours, but the south tower of the Sankey Hi-Rise complex finally came down Tuesday evening.

 

The north tower came down about 15 minutes after the scheduled demolition time, but it took nearly 8 additional hours for the south tower to collapse.

 

The demolition company said that there was a sturdy wall that didn’t allow for the structure to collapse right away after being blasted with explosives.

 

Houses closest to the site were evacuated during the demolition.

 

The Springfield Housing Authority spent $1.7 million on the demolition and they hope to start on a new housing project for that area in the next year and a half.

 

Fireworks Over Same-Sex Marriage


There were other fireworks downtown, but this time of the political sort, as thousands rallied at the capital complex for marriage equality.

 

The March on Springfield brought 45 buses and thousands of same-sex supporters to the capital for a noon-hour concert and rally featuring Gov. Pat Quinn and Senator Dick Durbin.

 

There was also a push to go to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to pray for marriage equality, something Bishop Thomas John Paprocki said would not be welcomed in the church.

 

A rally at the capital opposing same-sex marriage is expected for today.

 

It’s unclear if the same-sex marriage bill will be brought in front of lawmakers for their current fall veto session.

Puglia To Retire From Convention and Visitors Bureau


The director of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau is retiring early next year. Fred Puglia, who held the job once before in 1979, joined with the City of Springfield under Mayor Mike Houston 2 years ago.

 

Now, he has announced he will retire January 15th.

 

Houston has tapped the director of convention sales, Gina Gemberling, to replace Puglia, an appointment that will need city council approval.

UPDATE: Remaining Sankey Hi-Rise Tower Is Down


And 8 hours later--the remaining tower of the Sankey Hi-Rise complex came down Tuesday just before 7pm. That was 8 hours after charges were set off to bring the two towers down.

 

The north tower collapsed ten minutes after charges were set, but the south tower remained standing through most of the evening, displacing nearly a dozen families. The next phase will be to clean up the debris.

 

Residents around the site of the Sankey Hi-Rise almost had a long night as demolition crews palnned to continue monitoring the remaining south tower.

 

Jackie Newman with the Springfield Housing Authority says the demolition of the two towers did not go as planned.

 

Omega Demolition Company recommended authorities watch it overnight. The SHA and Omega Demolition Company was ready to help provide overnight arrangements for affected families.

 

Affected families seeking those accommodations can call 217-415-6636.

 

The demolition company says that an exterior wall was kept intact when explosives were being placed and that wall is what’s keeping the building up at this time.

 

There are no hazards from explosives as they were set off at about 10:45 Tuesday morning. The north tower collapsed just before 11am. The south tower came down a few minutes before 7pm Tuesday.

 

The demolition of the Sankey Hi-Rise towers cost $1.7 million.

 

Watch video of the implosion of the north tower here:

 

City Awaits Collapse of South Sankey Tower After North Tower Came Down


The demolition of the two Sankey Hi-Rise towers went off ... with a hitch.  That hitch was a brick wall that kept one of the buildings from falling in on itself, according to officials.

 

Sankey Hi-Rise South Tower Alone After Collapse of North Tower
Sankey Hi-Rise South Tower Alone After Collapse of North Tower

Demolition crews set off a series of explosives just after 10:45 Tuesday morning. About ten minutes after the explosions, the north tower came down on its own footprint.

 

As for the south tower, over three hours later the tower still stands. Crews are using various methods to initiate the collapse, including a water cannon.

 

Officials with the project say that they expect the tower to come down, it's just a matter of when.

 

Since the south tower has not collapsed, area residents are being kept from the area until the structure is brought down.

 

The towers were built in the late 1960s and opened to the public through the Springfield Housing Authority in the early 1970s. It cost SHA $1.7 million to complete the demolition.

Judge Orders Files To Be Released, City Demands Trial


A Sangamon County judge says the media and public should have access to police internal affairs files that remain with the City of Springfield.

 

Judge John Schmidt says the public has a right to view the files that still remain after more than two dozen internal affairs files were destroyed.

 

Those files were requested by members of the media. It's unclear if the police union will appeal that decision.

 

Meanwhile, attorneys for the city claim that Calvin Christian, the plaintiff in a potential six figure lawsuit over destroyed files, knew in advance about the document retention policy change and colluded with attorneys in filing a Freedom of Information Act request in hopes of a big payout.

 

Christian tells 970 WMAY's Frank McNeil that the city is on a fishing expedition.

 

The city has demanded a trial in the case.

Sankey Hi-Rise Buildings To Come Down Today


After today, the Sankey Hi-Rise buildings will be no more.

 

They’re scheduled for demolition today.

 

The public is encouraged to stay clear of the Vinegar Hill area.

 

The controlled implosion of the structurally unsafe 14-story buildings is scheduled at 10:30.

 

Streets around the area will be blocked beginning at 9 and are expected to be back open at 11.

 

We'll have live coverage on 970 WMAY.

Springfield Schools Likely To Seek Tax Hike Next Year, But Details Still Unknown


Springfield school board president Chuck Flamini says it's almost certain that the board will seek some kind of tax increase next year in an effort to avoid another round of deep budget cuts.  But he says any attempt is almost certain to be a tough sell. 

 

A parents group is proposing a four-year temporary property tax increase that could cost the average Springfield homeowner between six and twelve dollars a month extra.  But board vice-president Adam Lopez is pushing a sales tax hike that could be used for school facilities countywide. 

 

Flamini expects a decision sometime in the spring.

High School Test Scores Show Overall Improvement, But Black Students Still Lag Behind


Newly-released scores from the Prairie State Achievement Exam show overall improvement in reading and math for 11th graders in District 186, but African-American students continue to trail behind their white peers, and their reading scores are declining.

 

Interim superintendent Bob Leming says one possible explanation for the lag is that the PSAE is a college-readiness exam with several components, including the ACT.  He says that students who have an individual education plan or who are in lower-track academic classes may be showing improvement in those classes, but are not getting the college preparatory material measured by the PSAE.

 

The three high school principals will appear at the next school board meeting in early November to discuss their strategies for improving the numbers.

Hundreds Of District 186 Students Lacking Required Vaccinations


Several hundred District 186 students may still be sitting out classes because they don't have the required immunizations. 

 

District officials did not have an updated number on Monday, but said that as of last week, more than 500 students had been sent home because they were lacking the necessary vaccinations.  Officials say the number is getting smaller every day, but say a backlog at public health clinics is making it hard for some parents to get the shots for their kids. 

 

Students will be allowed to make up any classwork they miss during their absence.

Judge Schmidt Rules Public Can ''Taste Toothpaste'' And View Old IA Files; City Demands Trial


The City of Springfield is demanding a trial and asking the court for strict proof of many accusations leveled by plaintiff Calvin Christian in the ongoing IA file shred case.

 

The city also claims Christian and his attorneys knew in advance the file retention policy was about to change and filed Freedom Of Information Act requests in hopes of getting a payout.

 

In a filing Friday, attorneys for the city deny accusations from Christian, including that the Police Chief ordered the destruction of internal affairs files after having already received a request for those files.

 

In the filing the city also says they deny willfully violating the Local Records Act. 

 

The four pronged defense states the city's reliance on legal advice from Mark Cullen, the former city corporation counsel. They also say that the public policy of retention is not part of the FOIA law.

 

In their answer, the city also claims the plaintiff consorted with his attorneys in hopes of financial gain.

 

Meanwhile in a separate case where the Police Union brought suit against the city, Judge John Schmidt says the public has a right to taste the toothpaste and are allowed to do so in this case.

 

The Springfield Police Union brought a suit against the city over files the city has not destroyed, files that are much older than the either 4 or 5 year retention policy provided by their contract, saying that keeping the files violates their contract and the city should be kept from releasing the files.

 

In their suit, the union says releasing the files would do irreparable harm and that "once it's out, you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube."

 

In his ruling Judge Schmidt says "The Illinois Freedom of Information Act guarantees citizens the right to see that toothpaste, taste it, and determine whether or not we like it."

 

Some of that toothpaste is also a 2005 Illinois State Police investigation into Springfield Police Detectives Paul Carpenter and Jim Graham.

 

It's unclear what's next for those files or if the union will appeal.

 

The next step in the IA file shredding FOIA saga is for Judge John Behlz to decide on if plaintiff Calvin Christian should be compelled to answer questions from the city about who helped in crafting the FOIA.

 

That hearing Thursday very well could raise the questions of reporter privilege in keeping confidential sources.

Brauer Skeptical That Veto Session Will Accomplish Much


A local representative doesn’t have much hope that anything will get accomplished during the upcoming fall veto-session.

 

Rep. Rich Brauer tells the 970 WMAY News Feed there isn’t much that will be brought for a vote, including a pension fix.

 

With a bi-partisan pension panel still not on the same page for a potential fix, Brauer says he’s uncertain there will be a vote.

 

He also reiterates what Senate President John Cullerton says about the pension problem, that it’s not as big a crisis as has been reported.

 

Brauer says the legislature needs to work on the problem of "paying for past sins" of shifting money out of the pensions.

 

As for other issues, Brauer says there likely won’t be a vote for same-sex marriage either. The legislature meets for their fall session Tuesday.

Gov. Quinn To Push for Marriage Equality


Governor Pat Quinn is taking a stand for marriage equality as lawmakers prepare to head back to Springfield for the fall veto session.

 

The Illinois State Senate passed a measure to allow same-sex marriage earlier this year, but it was never brought for a vote in the house.

 

Quinn will join with others during a rally Tuesday in support of marriage equality.

 

Opponents of same-sex marriage will also stage a rally this week during the veto session.

Hearing Scheduled for Proposed Boating Law


Lawmakers are considering legislation that would impose stiffer penalties on people caught operating a boat while intoxicated.

 

Under the measure, anyone convicted of operating a watercraft while under the influence would have their driver's license suspended for three months.

 

A hearing is scheduled for today in Springfield, though no vote will be taken.

Power Interruption Expected for Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative Customers


Power customers in the Chatham area served by Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative will experience an outage this afternoon.

 

This is because of a maintenance project.

 

It will affect about 1,037 consumers.

 

Around 4 this afternoon, the switching will begin and the power source will be re-routed until Thursday afternoon.

 

Another short interruption will occur when the circuits are returned to normal feeds.

Veto-Session To Deal With Pension Reform


Lawmakers are back at it Tuesday for the fall veto session.

 

Among the unfinished business in front of lawmakers: pension reform.

 

Though a bipartisan conference committee remains split on the best way to tackle the nearly $100 billion problem, a vote for one of two different proposals could be forced onto the floor of the General Assembly.

 

Senate President John Cullerton told WGN over the weekend that he doesn’t consider the pension problem a crisis, but rather says income taxes set to default to a lower rate is a bigger problem.

Same-Sex Marriage and ADM Tax Breaks Linger During Upcoming Veto-Session


Other issues that could come before the General Assembly during the upcoming veto-session includes a bill to legalize Same Sex Marriage.

 

Supporters and opponents both plan events at the Statehouse this week.

 

There could also be an effort to give tax breaks to persuade Archer Daniels Midland to keep it’s global headquarters in Illinois, something Governor Pat Quinn has already said he does not support.

Lawmakers May Not Decide on Illinois Health Exchange Until Next Year


There may be no time in the upcoming veto-session to bring forward a bill approving a state-run health insurance exchange, according to some lawmakers.

 

The two week session begins Tuesday and dominating legislatures’ time will be other important measures like pension reform.

 

The sponsor of a bill creating an Illinois based health care exchange for the Affordable Care Act tells the State Journal-Register the measure could be in front lawmakers again early next year.

 

Questions about effectiveness and efficiency plague the federal online exchange Illinoisans are currently using since the October 1st rollout.

Sunday's Springfield Marathon Draws Over 1,500 Runners


More than 1,500 runners took to the streets around the University of Illinois Springfield Sunday for the inaugural Springfield Marathon put on by the Springfield Clinic.

 

There were several different race options, including a full marathon, a half-marathon and a 10K.

 

Our very own Greg Bishop ran the Springfield Marathon 10K.

 

He finished the 6.2 mile race in about an hour and five minutes.

 

You can see video of his race below.

 

Parents Group Proposes Temporary Property Tax Hike For Springfield Schools


A parents' group is proposing a temporary four-year property tax increase for Springfield schools. 

 

"Invest in 186" says the short-term hike in intended to stop additional cuts of teaching positions and other direct classroom expenses until District 186 finances stabilize. 

 

The group is warning against an alternative plan from school board vice-president Adam Lopez for a sales tax hike.  It says the Lopez plan could provide money for new school buildings... and leave no money for teachers to staff them. 

 

Details on both proposals will be presented at tonight's school board meeting.

Familiar Issues On Agenda When Fall Veto Session Gets Underway


Much like a soap opera, the legislative fall veto session that opens Tuesday will pick up right where the spring session left off… with a lot of unfinished business. 

 

Pension reform is the biggest looming issue on the table, as a bipartisan conference committee remains split on the best way to tackle the costly problem.  But a bill to legalize same-sex marriage could also make a comeback… with supporters and opponents both planning events at the Statehouse this week.

 

One contentious issue before lawmakers this week could be an effort to give tax breaks that might persuade Archer Daniels Midland to keep its global headquarters in Illinois. 

 

ADM is looking at several locations, including some out of state, for the new HQ and 100 or so high-paying jobs that go with it.  But some officials object to giving incentives for a move that will take those jobs out of Decatur, a city with the highest unemployment rate in the state.

Republican Challenger Seeks To Take On Manar In 2014


A local lawmaker will face a challenge next year. 

 

The State Journal-Register reports Macon County Board member Linda Little will seek the Republican nomination next year to challenge Democratic state Senator Andy Manar. 

 

Little describes herself as a fiscal and social conservative.  She says she is opposed to raising taxes and opposes abortion with no exceptions, not even to save the life of the mother.

Southeast High Employee Charged With Stealing $100K From School Activities Funds


A Southeast High School employee has now been arrested and formally accused of stealing more than $100,000 from the school’s activities funds. 

 

Amy Day is expected to appear in court on Monday to face that theft charge.  She had been under investigation for several weeks after an audit uncovered discrepancies in the amount of money deposited into those funds… which are made up of fees and fundraising receipts for various clubs and organizations at the school. 

 

Day has been a District 186 employee for five years, and had worked at Southeast since 2011.

State Warns Of Deeper School Funding Cuts; Local Lawmaker Thinks Otherwise


State education officials are warning school districts that already-diminished education funding could be cut even further next year. 

 

While districts around the state are on average receiving about 89-percent of the normal state school aid allocation, the State Board of Education has reportedly indicated that the number could shrink to 85-percent in the fiscal year that starts next July. 

 

But state Senator Andy Manar, appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed, says it’s far too early to make that kind of assessment… and says he thinks it would be very difficult to pass a budget that included such deep cuts in school funding.

State Supreme Court Strikes Down So-Called ''Amazon Tax''


The Illinois Supreme Court has tossed out a controversial tax on some Internet sales. 

 

The so-called “Amazon tax” was intended to make sure that online retailers faced the same sales tax obligation as bricks-and-mortar stores.  But the high court found that the state was imposing the tax only in some circumstances and not in others, making it a “discriminatory tax on electronic commerce,” which is prohibited under federal law.

Durbin: Don't Rule Out Possibility Of Another Shutdown


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is already predicting who will be to blame if the federal government is shut down again early next year. 

 

Durbin says another shutdown is possible if the budget talks set up under a bipartisan agreement this week don’t produce a solution.  But the Number Two Democrat in the Senate says the biggest impediments to a deal are Republican Senator Ted Cruz and House Speaker John Boehner.  Durbin says if they insist on a hardline approach, another shutdown is likely in January. 

 

But he hopes that more moderate Republicans will work with Democrats to avoid that outcome and another potential showdown in February over the debt ceiling.

Poll Gives Davis Big Lead Over GOP Rival Harold


Congressional Republicans have been taking a beating in nationwide polls from the government shutdown… but it does not seem to have hurt 13th District incumbent Rodney Davis. 

 

The Champaign News-Gazette reports that a poll conducted last week… while the shutdown was still going on… found Davis with a huge lead over GOP primary challenger Erika Harold.  In that survey of Republicans in the district, Davis had 63-percent support… while Harold, a former Miss America, was just under 16-percent. 

 

21-percent were undecided in the poll, which had a margin of error around 3-percent.

Disputed Internal Affairs Files To Remain Locked Away For Now


More than two dozen Springfield police internal affairs files will remain locked up for at least a few more days, while a Sangamon County judge decides whether the files should be disclosed or destroyed.

 

The files, some of which date back more than a decade, have been held far past the point at which they would have routinely been shredded under the police union contract.  Their existence was revealed through information provided in a separate lawsuit over access to IA files.

 

Now the police union wants those records destroyed, while media outlets say that since the records exist, they are public information and should be released.  Judge John Schmidt heard arguments in the case Friday morning, and says he will make his final ruling in about a week.

Missing 12-Year-Old Boy Returns Home


A 12-year-old boy who had last been seen at his home Wednesday night has now returned home safely.

 

Springfield Police say Damion Hunley came home on his own Thursday night.  There was no immediate information on where he had been in the interim.

 

Police had put out information about the boy after his mother reported him missing.

Budgets and Public Trust Issues Top Qualifications for Next Dist. 186 Supt.


The next Springfield school superintendent will have to build some bridges… and mend some fences.

 

That’s according to the consultants who are assisting in the search process, based on the input provided by citizens over the summer.

 

The consultants told a special school board meeting Thursday that the next superintendent will need to be capable of handling difficult budget issues… but also able to rebuild trust and avoid getting mired in politics.

 

More than three dozen candidates have expressed an interest in the job… that will be winnowed down to around six finalists who will be brought to town for interviews in December.

AFSCME Pushing For Promised 2011 Pay Raises


AFSCME is pressing Illinois lawmakers to find the money for millions of dollars in back pay owed to thousands of state workers.

 

At issue are the pay raises that workers were promised in 2011.

 

They finally started getting the extra money earlier this year, but the union says the average affected employee is still owed $4,000 for the two years that the raises were withheld.

 

Henry Bayer with AFSCME says if lawmakers can go to court to fight for their own back pay, they should be able to allocate the $110 million needed to make good on those raises.

Congressman Davis Says GOP Gained Some Ground In Shutdown Fight


Congressman Rodney Davis says the 16-day partial government shutdown was not in vain.

 

Even though Republicans failed to defund or delay the implementation of Obamacare, Davis says the GOP did win a significant concession by requiring income verification for people buying insurance through the health exchanges.

 

But other experts say there was already an income verification component to the health care reform law, and say the deal that ended the shutdown only adds a requirement for the Obama administration to report on the effectiveness of those efforts by next summer.

Stabbing Reported After Fight Over Internet Browser Settings


Be careful before changing the computer settings.

 

A Springfield woman told police that her mother stabbed her because the mother’s Internet “favorites” had been erased from their computer.

 

Police arrested 61-year-old Julie Robison and charged her with unlawful use of a weapon for the fight with her 34-year-old daughter.

 

The victim was stabbed in the arm, near the wrist, and was taken to the hospital for treatment.

 

Police say Robison also sustained some injuries in the struggle, but the daughter was not taken into custody.

Bishop Paprocki To Race in Springfield Marathon Sunday


Runners better be on their best behavior at this weekend’s Springfield Marathon.

 

Catholic Bishop Thomas John Paprocki will be among those taking part. Paprocki had been scheduled to participate in a marathon in South Dakota earlier this month… but a huge October snowstorm prevented him from competing.

 

The race steps off Sunday morning from the University of Illinois Springfield.

Area Congressman Vote To Reopen Federal Government, Avert Default


Local Republican congressmen Rodney Davis and Aaron Schock both voted in favor of the deal that will fully reopen the federal government and avert a crisis over the debt ceiling… at least temporarily.

 

Davis issued a statement saying Congress finally did what it was supposed to do… govern.

 

He also noted that the deal creates a framework for a real budget process that he hopes will lead to substantive talks on reducing spending and debt.

 

They were among 87 House Republicans who supported the deal, while 144 voted against it.

 

All Democrats in the House voted in favor of the deal… which should put all local federal employees back to work and allow the Lincoln Home to reopen later today.

Gov. Quinn's Veto of Legislative Pay Goes to IL Supreme Court


The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to hear Governor Pat Quinn’s direct appeal of a ruling that undid his veto of lawmaker salaries.

 

Quinn withheld legislative pay in an attempt to force lawmakers to approve pension reform, but a lower court found that the governor’s action violated the state constitution.

 

Quinn still insists he was within his rights to zero out the salary line item, and says he’s pleased the high court has agreed to take on the case.

Lake Springfield Parks May Get ADA Treatment With City Funds


Springfield hopes to invest money from the city budget to complete the work of making its parks around the lake fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

While some improvements have been made in recent years, a half-dozen parks still have deficiencies… including parking lots, picnic areas and playgrounds that are not fully accessible to people in wheelchairs.

 

City Water Light and Power has been trying to pay for the work through grants, but will now seek an allocation from the next budget to continue the work.

 

It’s unclear how much money will be needed to complete the improvements.

Same Sex Marriage Proclamation Signed By Mayor, Houston Won't Comment on Personal Position


The wording of a mayoral proclamation in support of same-sex marriage is unequivocal.  But Mayor Mike Houston remains far less definitive on the issue.

 

Houston signed the proclamation earlier this month at the request of Alderman Cory Jobe, who will read it at a Statehouse rally next week urging lawmakers to approve a same-sex marriage bill.

 

The text of the document signed by Houston states that the value of marriage is upheld by extending it to, quote, “committed, loving couples regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” and also states that “marriage discrimination is contrary to the best American traditions.”

 

Houston, however, still refuses to say whether or not he agrees with those sentiments.

Open House Event Hopes To Fill Vacancies in Downtown Office Space


Downtown Springfield, Inc. hopes yesterday’s open house will spur some new interest in the benefits of setting up shop in one of the vacant office suites downtown.

 

The departure of a number of state and federal agencies from downtown in recent years has led to a glut of available space… but Victoria Ringer with DSI says that also makes those offices more affordable than comparable space on the outskirts.

 

And she says the close proximity to bankers, attorneys and other professionals in the downtown area enhances the attractiveness of those sites.

Springfield Plans Accessibility Improvements To Parks Around Lake Springfield


The City of Springfield hopes to invest significant amounts of money over the next several years to make the parks around Lake Springfield fully accessible for people with disabilities. 

 

While other city facilities have been made ADA-compliant over the last decade, many improvements at the lake parks have been on hold while CWLP tried to line up grant funding.  Now city officials say they will seek money through the city budget process so that the work can go forward, even as they keep looking for grants to supplement that funding. 

 

Among the first planned improvements are accessible picnic areas and a playground at Tom Madonia Park East and West.  A total cost estimate for the work over the next three years was not immediately available.

Mayor, McMenamin Exchange Words Over Residency, Contracts


The biggest proponent of a residency requirement for new city workers says the issue can’t go forward as long as Mike Houston is mayor… because he says the mayor doesn’t know how to negotiate contracts. 

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin did not mince words about the mayor as he responded to a question at Tuesday’s City Council meeting about why such a rule has not been pursued.  McMenamin says there’s no point in trying to reinstate the rule because the mayor has already said he will, quote, “give away the house” to employee unions. 

 

Houston says the city will be required to make concessions if it tries to impose a new residency rule on union members… and he says the city simply cannot afford to do that.

Houston Still Won't Divulge Position On Same-Sex Marriage; Proclamation Text Revealed


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston still won’t say whether he agrees with the strongly-worded proclamation, issued in his name, in support of same-sex marriage. 

 

That proclamation, which will be read at a Statehouse rally next week, declares next Tuesday as “Marriage Equality Day” in Springfield.  It says that the value of marriage is upheld by extending it to, quote, ” committed, loving couples regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” and also states that “marriage discrimination is contrary to the best American traditions.” 

 

Houston signed the proclamation, but earlier this week told 970 WMAY News only that he issued it at the request of Alderman Cory Jobe, and that he himself has not taken an official position on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Brothers Nabbed In Springfield Drug Bust


Two Springfield brothers are facing drug and weapons charges after police executed search warrants against them. 

 

The operation began after officers conducting surveillance say they spotted 32-year-old Michael McDaniel making deliveries to known heroin users and dealers.  Police then conducted a traffic stop on McDaniel…and found 15 small baggies of heroin on him. 

 

McDaniel’s 31-year-old brother Edward was also in the vehicle.  After the bust, police obtained search warrants against both of their residences and found more drugs, plus guns and cash.

Quinn Urges Participation In Thursday Earthquake Drill


Governor Pat Quinn is urging Illinoisans to take a few minutes Thursday to prepare for the possibility of an earthquake. 

 

A multi-state drill is planned for 10:17 Thursday morning, urging residents to practice “Drop, Cover and Hold On.”  In a major earthquake, people should drop to the ground, get under a sturdy table or desk, and hang on until the quake stops.

 

Illinois sits on two big fault lines, and experts say some parts of the state are vulnerable to severe damage if a major quake strikes.  The drill also encourages other readiness activities… including having an emergency kit of food, water and first aid supplies on hand.

City Council Denies Zoning Variance for Helping Hands


As expected, the Springfield City Council has rejected an attempt by the Helping Hands Homeless Shelter to move into a new location on North 4th Street.

 

Only Mayor Mike Houston and Alderman Joe McMenamin supported the zoning change… which was opposed by nearby residents and property owners who feared that the shelter would simply add to problems in the neighborhood.

 

Aldermen Sam Cahnman and Steve Dove are proposing a long-term lease to let the shelter stay at its current location, in a building that houses the city’s emergency overflow shelter.

 

But such a solution may be only temporary, since the building is in the eventual path of the planned railroad consolidation project.

Ald. Jobe: Concentrate All Social Service Agencies in One Location


With the defeat of the proposed new location for Helping Hands, the debate now turns to the best way to help Springfield’s homeless population in the long haul.

 

Alderman Cory Jobe says the various organizations that provide services to the homeless should consider pooling their resources to create one large shelter… a move that he says would minimize resistance from neighbors every time a shelter tries to set up shop in a new location.

 

But Rod Lane with Helping Hands says the idea is unrealistic… and doesn’t address his need for a permanent home for his agency.

SHA Talks Future After Sankey Hi-Rise


The Springfield Housing Authority plans a more modern, functional facility to replace the long-vacant Sankey Hi-Rises, which are slated for demolition next week.

 

But the agency is still working on funding for the $20 million Villas at Vinegar Hill.

 

If it all comes together, construction on the 92-unit complex could start next fall… but wouldn’t be completed until late 2015 or early 2016.

Riverton School Officials Want to Move On After Supt. Resigns


Riverton school officials say they hope to move on from the controversy over the district’s finances, now that Superintendent Tom Mulligan has resigned.

 

Mulligan had been under fire for months after a group of parents raised questions about expenditures on the district’s credit cards.

 

Mulligan had admitted using the cards for personal expenses and then reimbursing the district.

 

But audits raised other questions about the district’s financial oversight.

 

Mulligan will stay on the job until mid-December.

 

A search for a replacement will get underway soon.

Compromise Pension Plan Could Go To Floor for Vote


The latest pension reform plan does not yet have majority support on the bipartisan conference committee working on the issue.

 

But that may not stop it from getting a full legislative vote.

 

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says even if the proposal can’t get the required six votes on the conference committee, it could be amended to another bill and brought to the floor of both chambers anyway.

Third Quarter Fund Raising Numbers in For IL Gubernatorial Candidates


Candidates for Illinois governor are filing reports showing how much money they raised in the third quarter.

 

Four Republicans are competing in the March GOP primary. State Treasurer Dan Rutherford finished the quarter with $1.2 million in his campaign fund.

 

Bruce Rauner ended the quarter with less in his bank account… but he both raised and spent more than Rutherford during the quarter.

 

Meanwhile, State Senator Bill Brady had about $273,000 on hand.

 

Kirk Dillard raised more than Brady, but also spent more and now has the least cash on hand, around $205,000.

 

And Governor Pat Quinn, running unopposed on the Democratic side, has the biggest bank balance of all, with nearly $3 million in his account.

City Denies Zoning Variance for Proposed Helping Hands Location


Helping Hands of Springfield will have to find another location for their planned homeless shelter and it could be a place that doesn't need a zoning variance. This, after the Springfield City Council voted to deny their zoning variance for a proposed 4th Street location.

 

During Tuesday's City Council Meeting, a packed chamber heard from proponents and opponents of the measure that would have the Ace Sign Company selling a third of their N. 4th Street location to Helping Hands.

 

The shelter says they plan 40 beds in that location. Counsel for the petitioners say that the proposed location is a perfect fit because it is around other social service agencies in downtown, including medical care. Opponents says Helping Hands in that location would increase problems for other area residents.

 

Aldermen Steve Dove and Sam Cahnman said there is another alternative to work with the Springfield Housing Authority to keep Helping Hands in their current location, but Rod Lane from Helping Hands says that would be continuing in an uncertain location that would need substantial upgrades.

 

Lane says he will have to meet with the Helping Hands board to go over the options which could include getting property that doesn't need a zoning variance, including a parcel that's around the corner form City Hall in downtown.

SHA Looks Ahead To Life After Sankey


After the dust settles on the demolished Sankey Hi-Rise towers next week, the Springfield Housing Authority will begin work in earnest on a new low-rise development to replace them. 

 

The Villas at Vinegar Hill will be only five stories… compared to the 14-story Sankey buildings… and will contain 92 units of housing for low and moderate-income seniors. 

 

SHA director Jackie Newman says if funding from various sources comes together, construction on the $20 million project should start next fall… and be completed in late 2015 or early 2016.

Jobe Asks Whether Agencies Could Pool Resources For One Big Homeless Shelter


With all indications pointing to a defeat of the proposed new location for the Helping Hands homeless shelter, local leaders are already looking ahead to the next steps for dealing with the problem. 

 

Alderman Cory Jobe says he is working on new strategies for addressing the homeless problem and all of its related issues, including substance abuse and mental illness.  Jobe acknowledges that there is likely to be ongoing resistance to new shelter locations… and says the different agencies that provide shelter services should consider pooling their resources to run one big shelter, rather than several smaller ones. 

 

The director of Helping Hands, though, says that idea may be unrealistic.  Rod Lane says other agencies are not going to relocate... and in the meantime, Lane says his agency needs a permanent home.

Jobe Questions Houston Whistleblower Ordinance


The Springfield alderman who wants to reinstate the post of inspector general is raising concerns about an alternative plan from Mayor Mike Houston. 

 

Houston has introduced a whistleblower ordinance that spells out procedures for city workers and bans retaliation for employees who make complaints.  But Alderman Cory Jobe says Houston’s plan could still force employees to go through mayoral appointees to register their complaints… and says they may still feel vulnerable. 

 

Jobe still thinks an independent inspector general is needed, and says he’s willing to work on ways to address Houston’s concerns about cost.

Deer Disease Returns To Illinois


A disease that can be fatal to deer is popping up again around Illinois, but state officials say the outbreak is not as severe this year. 

 

They say there are fewer cases overall of the disease known as EHD.  And in the counties where it was most prevalent last year, including Macon, there are almost no cases this year… a sign that the deer population is building up an immunity to the virus. 

 

So far this year, around 400 confirmed deer deaths have been reported in 51 counties.  While EHD can be fatal to deer, it poses no risk to humans or pets.

Riverton School Supt. Resigns, After Questions About Credit Card Charges


Riverton’s school superintendent has resigned… amid ongoing questions about the district’s finances and use of district credit cards.

 

WICS reports Tom Mulligan submitted his resignation to the school board Monday night, and it was unanimously accepted.

 

Some parents had been demanding Mulligan’s departure for months after they found questionable charges on the district’s credit card records.

 

Mulligan acknowledged using the credit cards for personal purchases and then reimbursing the district… in violation of policy.

 

Mulligan will reportedly step down in December.

Sankey Hi-Rise Demolition Plans Set for Next Week


The team in charge of demolishing the Sankey Hi-Rise towers says every precaution is being taken to minimize inconvenience… or more serious problems… when the towers are brought down next week.

 

The demolition of the two 14-story towers is set for next Tuesday at 10:30am.

 

People within 500 feet of the site will be asked to evacuate their homes for a couple of hours… while those between 500 and 1000 feet will be allowed to stay, but must remain indoors and away from windows.

 

The demolition team says vibrations from the controlled implosion should not damage nearby homes, and says that while dust will be a factor, the effects should be minimal.

Helping Hands Shelter Vote To Move Forward, Needs 8 Springfield Aldermen Votes


A vote will apparently go forward tonight on the proposal from the Helping Hands homeless shelter to move to a new location on North Fourth Street… even though it does not appear there is enough support to pass it.

 

Because a formal protest has been filed, it would take eight votes on the City Council to approve the zoning change that would allow the shelter to move into a portion of the old Ace Sign Company building.

 

Nearby residents and property owners say putting another social service agency in that area will just add to existing problems.

 

Alderman Sam Cahnman says his efforts to work out a compromise have not resulted in much progress.

Mayor's Office Offers Official Proclamation Supporting Same-Sex Marriage, Houston Takes no Public Position


Mayor Mike Houston is distancing himself from an official proclamation from his office… declaring next Tuesday as Marriage Equality Day in Springfield.

 

Houston says he issued the proclamation at the request of Alderman Cory Jobe, who will read the proclamation at a Statehouse rally next week that will urge lawmakers to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

 

The mayor says when aldermen make such requests, they are usually honored.

 

Houston says he has not taken a public position on whether gay couples should be allowed to marry.

Houston Moves to Codify Whistleblower Protections With Ordinance


A proposed new whistleblower ordinance proposed by Mayor Mike Houston mirrors protections that already exist in state law.

 

That’s according to Houston, who nonetheless thinks it’s a good idea to clarify the procedures city workers should follow when they witness wrongdoing on the job.

 

Houston’s ordinance spells out who should be contacted, and reminds employees that retaliation against workers who make whistleblower complaints is prohibited.

 

Houston denies that his proposal, which is on first reading tonight, is in response to Alderman Cory Jobe’s recent push to reinstate the inspector general position at City Hall.

Springfield Catholic Diocese To Offer Legal Help for the Poor


Poor people can get a public defender to help with criminal cases… but now the Springfield Catholic Diocese wants to help those who can’t afford lawyers for civil actions.

 

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki has announced the creation of a legal services program called “Caritas,” which will rely on a $1.5 million endowment and the volunteer services of area lawyers.

 

Paprocki… who is both a bishop and an attorney… says it is unjust to deny the poor the same access to legal representation that others enjoy.

Houston: Whistleblower Ordinance Clarifies Policy, Is Not In Response To Inspector General Idea


A proposed whistleblower ordinance for Springfield city government largely echoes policies already established in state law, according to Mayor Mike Houston. 

 

ut Houston says his ordinance will specify and clarify procedures for city workers to report allegations of wrongdoing… and reiterate the policy that workers should not face retaliation for making such reports. 

 

The mayor insists the proposal is not in response to a recent call by Alderman Cory Jobe to reinstate the inspector general position at City Hall to handle whistleblower complaints.

Houston Issues ''Marriage Equality Day'' Proclamation


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has issued a city proclamation declaring next Tuesday, October 22nd, as Marriage Equality Day in the City of Springfield.

 

But Houston says the proclamation was done at the request of Alderman Cory Jobe… and says he hasn’t expressed a personal viewpoint on the issue. 

 

Jobe is scheduled to read that proclamation at a rally in support of same-sex marriage next week.  That rally at the State Capitol will coincide with the return of Illinois lawmakers for the fall veto session.

Davis Doesn't Want To Find Out What Default Might Mean


With the clock ticking toward a deadline that could trigger a federal government default on its debt, Congressman Rodney Davis says he doesn’t want to see what would happen if that deadline passes with no deal on the debt ceiling. 

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Davis did not offer a scenario for what might happen if Congress fails to approve a debt ceiling increase, but says he… and most Americans… don’t want to see the nation test those uncharted waters. 

 

Gridlock on Capitol Hill has prevented a vote on raising the debt ceiling, even temporarily.  The White House says the government could face default by Thursday unless that vote takes place.

Christian Vows To Fight City Legal Tactic, Protect His Sources


The plaintiff suing Springfield City Hall over police internal affairs records goes back to court next week to fight the city’s attempt to get him to turn over information. 

 

The city is requesting Calvin Christian’s phone records and information on who gave him tips or helped him shape his request for IA files… some of which were shredded by the city after Christian requested them.  Christian says his status as a reporter for the Pure News protects his sources and prevents the city from seeking that info. 

 

But he says even if he weren’t a reporter, the law does not require any citizen to disclose phone records or explain their motivation for seeking public documents. 

 

That hearing was originally set for Tuesday… but has been rescheduled for October 24th.

Houston Moves for Formal Whistleblower Policy At City Hall


You might have thought it already existed, but Mayor Mike Houston says there is a need for a formal whistleblower policy in Springfield’s city ordinances.

 

Houston has introduced a policy that spells out the responsibility of workers to report misuse of city resources when they see it… and prohibits retaliation against workers who make such reports.

 

The proposal is on first reading before the City Council this week.

Plans For Sanky High-Rise Demolition Include Water Shutoff


Around 40 City Water Light and Power customers will be without water for several hours this morning.

 

It’s being shut off to accommodate preparations for the upcoming demolition of the Sankey High-Rise Apartments.

 

The outage will affect customers in the 400 & 500 blocks of W. Williams Street , the 1000 block of S. Pasfield Street and the 300 block of W. Scarritt Street.

 

It's expected to start at around 9am and is scheduled to last around 3 hours.

 

The timeline for tearing down the hi-rises will be discussed at a public meeting tonight at 6:30 at Vinegar Hill Mall.

LINK Cards Working In Illinois After Weekend Outage


LINK cards are working again in Illinois following a system outage Saturday that kept public aid recipients from using the cards for hours.

 

Xerox says the system failed during a routine backup, affecting the cards in Illinois and 16 other states.

 

The problem happened Saturday morning and was not corrected until Saturday night.

ISP Releases Details About No Guns Allowed Signs


Illinois State Police have released the specifications for signage that businesses will be required to post if they don’t want firearms brought into their establishment after the state’s concealed carry law is implemented.

 

The signs must be at least 4 inches by 6 inches and depict a graphic of a handgun, surrounded by a red circle with a slash through it.

 

Samples of the sign are available for download on the state police website.

 

No Gun sign from ISP

Montgomery County Husband and Wife Arrested After Drugs Found in Package


A husband and wife in Montgomery County are accused of trafficking in many different types of drugs, from marijuana to LSD to an increasingly sought-after drug called MDMA.

 

Bryan and Jessie Richardson were arrested, after postal inspectors flagged something suspicious about a package that was supposed to be delivered to their home.

 

WICS-TV says what was described as a “free air search” of the package indicated the presence of drugs, and police were notified.

 

The couple was taken into custody after authorities delivered that package to them.

Professor Removed From State Committee After Perceived Conflict


A Bradley University professor has been removed from his spot on a state committee that oversees the design work of roads and bridges… after he co-hosted a fundraiser for a state lawmaker who chairs the Transportation Committee.

 

Engineering firms were asked to attend that fundraiser for Senator Martin Sandoval, but complained that the involvement of Amri Al-Khafaji gave the impression of political pressure.

 

The Chicago Sun-Times reports IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider suspended Al-Khafaji from his seat on the panel that selects firms to do that design work. Al-Khafaji denies that his involvement in the fundraiser poses a conflict of interest.

Houston Seeks Formal Whistleblower Policy For City Employees


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has introduced a formal whistleblower policy for city employees. 

 

The policy specifies that employees have a responsibility to report wrongdoing, such as misappropriation of city resources… and that retaliation against an employee who makes such a report is prohibited.

 

The measure will be on first reading before the City Council this week.

Water Service To 40 Customers To Be Affected Monday, Ahead Of Hi-Rise Demolition


Around 40 City Water Light and Power customers will be without water for several hours Monday morning.  It’s being shut off to accommodate preparations for the upcoming demolition of the Sankey High-Rise Apartments. 

 

The outage will affect customers in the 400 & 500 blocks of W. Williams Street , the 1000 block of S. Pasfield Street and the 300 block of W. Scarritt Street.  It's expected to start at around 9am and is scheduled to last around 3 hours.

 

The timeline for tearing down the hi-rises will be discussed at a public meeting Monday evening at 6:30 at Vinegar Hill Mall.

LINK Cards Working Again After Temporary System Failure


LINK cards are working again across Illinois following a disruption Saturday that made the cards difficult or impossible to use here and in 16 other states. 

 

Xerox says a malfunction in its Electronic Benefits Transfer system occurred during a routine backup.  As a result, retailers were unable to process or verify the cards for hours. 

 

The problem was finally corrected Saturday night.

Davis Named To Farm Bill Conference Committee


Local congressman Rodney Davis will try to do what Congress has been unable to do for months… find enough common ground to pass a federal farm bill. 

 

Davis (R-Taylorville) has been named to the bipartisan House-Senate conference committee that will try to work out differences in competing versions of the bill. 

 

The previous farm bill… which covers everything from agriculture subsidies to food stamp spending… expired earlier this month.

State Police Release Specifications For Concealed Carry Signage


State police have released the specifications for signage that businesses will be required to post if they don’t want people bringing concealed weapons on the premises. 

 

The approved sign includes a graphic depicting a handgun… surrounded by a red circle with a slash through it.  The sign must be at least 4 inches by 6 inches. 

 

A sample is available for download through the Illinois State Police website.

 

Illinois State Police No Gun Sign

Ruling Due Friday On Old SPD Internal Affairs Files


More than two dozen Springfield police internal affairs files and other documents will remain stored, and unreleased, for at least the next week until a judge can make a ruling on their fate. 

 

The police department has been holding onto those files for years… long past the point where department policy would have called for their destruction.  The police union wants them shredded now, while media outlets want them released. 

 

Judge John Schmidt says he will rule on the matter on Friday.

Five Members Of Springfield Firm Charged With Defrauding IEPA


Five people connected to Springfield-based Environmental Management, Inc. have been charged with defrauding the Illinois EPA. 

 

The federal indictment claims the workers overcharged the state by millions of dollars for cleanup of leaking underground storage tanks. 

 

Eric M. Andrews, Joel C. Andrews, Michael R. Keebler, Duane T. Keebler and Joseph R. Keebler are facing felony charges that could carry prison terms, and may also face fines and restitution if convicted.

Judge Orders Older IA Files Preserved, Not Released


More than two dozen old Springfield police internal affairs files will be preserved for now… pending a judge’s ruling on a request to have them destroyed. 

 

The union representing city cops wants to have those records destroyed, saying their release would cause irreparable harm to current and former officers named in the files.  But attorney Don Craven, representing media outlets, says the files are public records and there is a public right to see them. 

 

Judge John Schmidt says there are conflicts between the police union contract and state open records laws… but says his ruling next week will clear up those conflicts.  The next hearing in the case is set for next Friday.

Mayor Requested, Then Rejected, Reading ISP Report On Detectives


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston confirms that not only was the city still hanging on to a huge state police report on the activities of two city detectives, but he requested a copy of it so that he could review it. 

 

But Houston says after a stack of documents “six feet high” was delivered to his office, he decided not to read it after all and had the documents taken away. 

 

That 2005 report on detectives Jim Graham and Paul Carpenter is one of the targets of the lawsuit by the Springfield police union… which wants it and about two dozen old internal affairs files destroyed so that they don’t fall into the hands of the press or public.

Mayor Chooses McCarty To Serve On Police Pension Board


The newest member of the Springfield police pension review board says he doesn’t think wholesale changes are needed in the way the board conducts business. 

 

But city budget director Bill McCarty says the board does need to carefully review state laws and rules to make sure it is accurately calculating pension benefits. 

 

McCarty has been named by Mayor Mike Houston to fill a vacancy on the board… which has come under fire from Alderman Joe McMenamin over a discrepancy that led to apparent overpayments to some retirees.

DIRT Team Seizes Drugs, Guns In Raid


A drug raid in Springfield has uncovered thousands of dollars in crack… and thousands more in cash… along with marijuana and guns. 

 

The Sangamon County DIRT team executed a warrant at an apartment in the 12-hundred block of Orchard on Thursday.  The warrant was issued after undercover officers reportedly made numerous drug buys from 27-year-old suspect Anthony Williams. 

 

Williams is now facing multiple drug and weapons charges.

Poe Backs Dillard For GOP Nomination For Governor


If you’ve been wondering who State Representative Raymond Poe was backing in next year’s race for governor… here’s your answer. 

 

Poe is endorsing the ticket of State Senator Kirk Dillard and his running mate, Representative Jil Tracy.  Poe says he’s choosing Dillard over three other GOP contenders because Illinois has had enough of “ineffective” governors, and he believes Dillard will know how to get things done.

City Police Union Sues Over IA Files Kept Beyond 4 Years


There’s a new court battle looming over Springfield police internal affairs files.

 

In a story first reported by 970 WMAY, the union representing city cops is suing to block any release of the 26 IA files that are still being held by the city, despite the fact that they date back well beyond the four-year time limit after which such files are scheduled to be destroyed.

 

A court hearing will be held today on the union complaint… which says releasing those documents would do “irreparable harm” to the individuals involved.

 

The complaint also alleges that in addition to the 26 files disclosed in an affidavit from the head of internal affairs, SPD is also still hanging on to a massive report outlining a 2005 state police investigation into the conduct of two detectives, Paul Carpenter and Jim Graham.

 

The complaint seeks the destruction of that report and the other 26 files.

McMenamin Blasts Police Pension Board, Urges Mayor for New Appointments


The Springfield police pension board is coming under fire for miscalculating pensions… and misusing its expense account.

 

Those are the claims from Alderman Joe McMenamin, who is urging Mayor Mike Houston to appoint two new members to the board from outside the ranks of former officers.

 

McMenamin says the recent revelation that some pension benefits had been figured incorrectly may have led to more than $2 million in overpayments since 1999.

 

He also accuses pension board members of spending tens of thousands of dollars for travel to conferences in far-flung locations like California or Hawaii.

Gateway Entrance A Block from Bel-Aire Motel Attempts to Polish Initial Appearances


Springfield city officials are expressing pride at a new 'gateway entrance" into the city... and a little embarrassment at what lies just beyond it.

 

The "gateway" on South Sixth heading into downtown boasts an electronic information sign and refurbished green space.

 

A mix of public and private dollars paid for the spruced-up area, which officials hope will create a more welcoming atmosphere for visitors heading into the city. But in the next block or two are eyesores like the Bel-Aire Motel.

 

Ward 6 Alderman Cory Jobe says the city will keep up the pressure on property owners to clean up problem areas.

ATV Dealer Skeptical of Proposed Use of Revenue From Required $15 Sticker


State officials still plan to assess a $15 fee on all-terrain vehicles.

 

But actually collecting it may be another story.

 

The owner of Overturf Powersports in Springfield says her customers are defiant… and most say they have no intention of paying the state to be able to ride their own vehicle on their own property.

 

The Department of Natural Resources says the fee will be used to improve facilities for off-road riding… but Karen Overturf says similar promises have been made before, but have not been kept.

Restaurant Association Supports Same Sex Marriage in Illinois


More support for same-sex marriage in Illinois.

 

The Illinois Restaurant Association has issued a statement expressing support for a law that would extend full marriage rights to same-sex couples.

 

The group says promoting marriage equality would be "good for business," potentially generating millions of dollars a year from events that are now going to other state where the practice is allowed.

 

But the Illinois Family Institute, which opposes a same-sex marriage law, says the restaurant group does not speak for all restaurants… and says business owners should be free to follow their conscience and religious beliefs.

Police Sue City For Not Destroying IA Files, Including 2005 Graham/Carpenter Case


Members of the Springfield Police Union are suing the city over 27 internal affairs files that haven't been destroyed, and are motioning to keep the city from ever releasing them.

 

In a filing provided to 970 WMAY News, lawyers for the police union say releasing the files through Freedom of Information would do irreparable harm.

 

Filings from a different lawsuit against the city from Calvin Christian revealed there were 26 files that haven't been destroyed.  Christian requested those files beforehand.

 

One key thing the union says is still whole in their filing against the city is: an Illinois State Police Investigation involving Paul Carpenter and Jim Graham from 2005.  That was not mentioned to be in the vault of other IA files, according to the head of IA in an affidavit to the courts.

 

The union says the city is in violation of the contract that states files should be expunged after 4 years, a duration that was changed without the mayor's signature or city council awareness.

 

26 files were destroyed earlier this year after requests for the files were made through the Freedom of Information Act. The city has already settled on one count of improperly destroying Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher's file as one of the 26 expunged documents.

McMenamin Rips Police Pension Board For Overpayments, High Travel Costs


A Springfield alderman who has long been critical of police department pensions is now training his fire on the board that oversees them. 

 

Ward 7's Joe McMenamin says the recent discovery of miscalculated pensions that resulted in overpayments actually dates back more than a decade, and may have cost the city more than $2 million. 

 

Meanwhile, McMenamin says police board members have abused travel expenses, using taxpayer dollars to go to places like Hawaii for conferences.
 

ATV Owners Balking At New State Fee


The state of Illinois wants to collect a $15 fee from ATV owners to pay for recreational areas for off-road vehicles.  But they may find it hard to get people to pay up. 

 

The owner of Overturf Powersports in Springfield says her customers are balking at the fee... and saying they have no intention of paying the state to drive their own vehicles on their own property.

New Gateway Entrance In Sharp Contrast To Nearby Eyesores


Springfield city officials are expressing pride at a new 'gateway entrance" into the city... and a little embarrassment at what lies just beyond it. 

 

The "gateway" on South Sixth heading into downtown boasts an elecronic informtion sign and refurbished green space.  But in the next block or two are eyesores like the Bel-Aire Motel. 

 

Ward 6 Alderman Cory Jobe says the city will keep up the pressure on property owners to clean up problem areas.

Challenge For Dixon: What To Do With $40 Million Settlement


It's a good problem to have. 

 

Residents of Dixon are brainstorming ideas on what to do with a lump sum of $40 million.  The money will arrive in that town later this year, the results of a settlement with a bank and accounting firm that failed to detect the massive theft of Dixon's former comptroller, Rita Crundwell. 

 

Crundwell was convicted of embezzling $53 million dollars from the city.

Restaurant Group Supports Same-Sex Marriage


More support for same-sex marriage in Illinois. 

 

The Illinois Restaurant Association has issued a statement expressing support for a law that would extend full marriage rights to same-sex couples.  The group says promoting marriage equality would be "good for business," potentially generating millions of dollars a year from events that are now going to other state where the practice is allowed.

Next Schools Supt. May Need to be Versed In Generating New Revenue


Between 25 and 50 people have reportedly expressed interest in Springfield’s vacant school superintendent job… but the person who eventually gets the job may need some skill in getting a tax referendum passed.

 

The school board is still more than two months away from a final selection… but board member Scott McFarland says he expects the next superintendent will have to help make the case to the public about the need for more revenue.

 

The school board is considering a couple of different tax hike options… McFarland says the only alternative at this point is to cut teaching positions and direct classroom expenses.

Downtown Mural Promoting Farmers' Market Needs Permit From City


The next in a series of planned murals for downtown Springfield is on hold… because City Hall is now requiring a zoning change before it can proceed.

 

The mural was intended to promote the downtown farmers’ market, which runs from May to October.

 

But city officials say that makes it a sign, not just a work of art, and therefore requires a zoning variance.

 

Because it could take weeks to get that approved, the State Journal-Register reports that work on the mural will most likely be pushed back to next spring.

Coroner Edwards Announces County's Next Forensic Pathologist


Sangamon County Coroner Cinda Edwards has announced who will take over as the county’s new forensic pathologist.

 

Dr. Nathaniel Patterson will move here from Texas, and will begin performing autopsies as soon as his Illinois license is issued.

 

Patterson has completed a Forensic Pathology fellowship and recently sat for his examination in forensic pathology.

 

The county board this week approved hiring Patterson, which will allow the county to stop sending bodies to Bloomington for autopsies.

Two Car Accident at Comanche and 104 Sends Both Drivers To Hospital


Three people are hurt following a crash on Route 104 at Comanche Road Wednesday evening.

 

State police say 69-year-old Glen Spindel of Divernon was attempting to cross 104 on Comanche Road and did not see an approaching vehicle driven by 35-year-old Peter Williamson of Pawnee.

 

Williamson’s car struck the Spindel vehicle, causing it to overturn.

 

Both drivers and a passenger in Williamson’s car were taken to Saint John’s Hospital.

 

Spindel was ticketed for failure to yield.

Truck Driver Being Treated For Injuries After Wednesday Afternoon Rollover


A truck driver is being treated for the injuries he suffered when his rig overturned on an I-55 exit ramp Wednesday.

 

The driver was exiting the interstate and attempting to get onto Sixth Street when his truck overturned on the ramp.

 

The accident closed the ramp for about an hour.

 

There was no immediate word on the condition of the driver.

25-50 People Express Interest In Springfield Superintendent's Job


Between 25 and 50 people have reportedly expressed interest already in Springfield’s vacant school superintendent job… even though the school board hasn’t yet finalized a list of qualifications for the next superintendent or determined a salary range for the job. 

 

That work will happen next week at a special school board meeting, where community input from earlier this year will be used to finalize the criteria for the job.  The board will meet behind closed doors to discuss salary and benefits. 

 

Those decisions will help weed the list of dozens of candidates down to 7 or fewer by early December.  From there, 2 or 3 finalists will be chosen for a final round of interviews and a selection before Christmas.

Measure To Require Mayor To File Executive Orders With City Clerk Nears Final Vote


Mayor Mike Houston appears to be on board with a move to require all of his executive orders to be filed with the city clerk. 

 

Alderman Sam Cahnman introduced the ordinance after he was surprised to learn that such orders are not officially archived through the clerk. Alderman Joe McMenamin is also a supporter… noting that in the past, controversial measures have sometimes been enacted through executive orders with little or no scrutiny. 

 

Houston says most such orders are non-controversial, and he sees no problem with filing them with the clerk. A final city council vote on the idea is expected next week.

CWLP Warns Of Phone Scam


City Water Light and Power is warning of a phone scam that appears to be targeting local businesses. 

 

At least 7 companies, including a home-based business, have gotten calls from an “888” number, claiming the business owes CWLP money and threatening to cut off their power unless they make immediate payment over the phone. 

 

The utility says that it never makes calls from an outside area code, and never demands immediate payment by phone to settle a delinquent account.  Anyone who may have given personal information to such a caller is asked to contact Springfield police.

Mayor Houston Defends Minority Hiring Record, Ald. Simpson Says More Needs To Be Done


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is defending his minority hiring record during his time in office.

 

Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson renewed her criticism of the city’s track record at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, pointing out that fewer than 9-percent of city employees are minorities.

 

But Houston says 17-percent of the workers hired since he took office are minorities… boosting the total in the overall workforce from seven-and-three-quarters percent in 2011 to eight-and-three-quarters percent now.

SPD IA Files Being Maintained While Investigation Continues


No Springfield police internal affairs files are being shredded now, or for the foreseeable future, while an investigation of the handling of those files continues. That assurance comes from interim police chief Kenny Winslow.

 

The department is under scrutiny after the timeline for file destruction was speeded up this year, leading to the shredding of more than two-dozen files that had been sought by a local reporter.

 

Meanwhile, Mayor Mike Houston refuses to discuss why the department continues to retain more than two dozen IA files, some of which date back more than a decade and which involve former cops who were involved in high-profile litigation against the city.

 

Houston says he can’t talk about it because of the ongoing investigation.

Gov. Quinn Directs State Agencies to Remove Question About Arrests on Applications


Governor Pat Quinn has directed state agencies to no longer include a question on job applications, asking prospective employees if they have a criminal record.

 

Quinn says applicants should be evaluated on their merits, instead of being pre-emptively excluded because of past run-ins with the law.

 

Agencies could still run background checks and inquire about criminal convictions later in the hiring process.

 

But Republican lawmaker Tom Cross… a candidate for state treasurer… thinks the policy is a bad idea, and says the people doing the hiring for the state should get full disclosure at the beginning of the process.

County Board Moves to Hire Forensic Pathologist


Sangamon County has decided to hire its own forensic pathologist… ending the practice of sending bodies to Bloomington for autopsies.

 

The county board approved the arrangement Tuesday night.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the name of the new pathologist has not been released yet… because he is still awaiting approval of his Illinois license.

 

He will be paid a guaranteed salary of $175,000 a year.

Dist. 186 Employee Reportedly Admits Taking Money From Activity Fund


A Southeast High School employee is suspended without pay after reportedly admitting to police that she had taken a “substantial” amount of money from the school’s activity funds.

 

Acting superintendent Bob Leming would not name the employee… who has not yet been arrested. The missing money was discovered during a routine audit, and State Police were called in to investigate.

 

They are now taking a closer look at all school funds to see if there are other discrepancies.

Rauner Selects Running Mate for GOP Gubernatorial Primary


Bruce Rauner says if he’s elected governor and can’t serve out his term, the best person to take over for him is a Wheaton city council member.

 

Rauner has chosen Evelyn Sanguinetti to be his running mate.

 

She’s the daughter of Latino immigrants who says she shares Rauner’s vision of lower taxes and education reform… including limits on the power of teachers unions.

 

Rauner was the last of the four GOP candidates for governor to announce a running mate.

 

Governor Pat Quinn still has not said who will join his ticket in 2014.

District 186 Employee Accused Of Stealing From Activity Fund


A District 186 employee is accused of stealing a significant amount of money from an activity fund at Southeast High School. 

 

A press release from the district says the theft was discovered during a routine audit... and State Police were called.  The district says the employee has not been arrested yet while the investigation continues, but has been suspended without pay pending formal charges.  The district will also seek to recover the stolen money, but so far is not saying how much is missing. 

 

The thefts are believed to have occurred over the past year, but investigators are now looking more closely at the school's funds to see if there are other discrepancies.

State Gearing Up To Issue Drivers Licenses To Illegal Immigrants


Springfield will have one of 25 locations around the state where immigrants in the country illegally will be able to apply for special drivers licenses. 

 

Under a new state law approved earlier this year, illegal immigrants will have the opportunity to obtain a license allowing them to drive legally if they prove they have taken a driving class and have insurance.  Applicants will have to report for an in-person interview before they can obtain the license… which will look different from a standard drivers license and which cannot be used to vote, fly on an airplane or buy a gun. 

 

The Secretary of State’s office is still setting up the program, but expects to start scheduling those face-to-face appointments early next month.

Quinn Orders State Agencies Not To Ask About Criminal Records On Job Applications


Governor Pat Quinn has signed an administrative order that bars state agencies from asking prospective employees on a job application about their criminal record. 

 

The order from Quinn still allows the state to conduct background checks and inquire about criminal offenses later in the hiring process, but the order is intended to give ex-felons more of a chance to compete for state jobs.  The order applies only to state agencies, not to private employers. 

 

But Republican lawmaker Tom Cross… a candidate for state treasurer… says it doesn’t make sense to keep important information away from the people doing the hiring.

City, Christian Likely To Square Off In Court Next Week Over Latest Discovery Demands


The reporter and blogger who is suing the city of Springfield over access to public records is prepared to fight to keep the city from trying to access his own records. 

 

Attorneys for Calvin Christian expect to be back in court next week to fight the city’s request that Christian submit to a deposition…and turn over his phone records and information about who helped him craft his request for police department internal affairs files. 

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY, attorney Don Craven says the request is unprecedented and not relevant to the case.  It will be up to a judge to settle the dispute.

Lopez: Sales Tax Hike Could Address Both Construction And Education Needs


The vice-president of the Springfield school board is promising more details soon on how a sales tax increase for school construction could lead to more money for hiring teachers and other direct educational expenses. 

 

Adam Lopez is reviving the idea of a countywide 1% sales tax hike, with the money divided among all Sangamon County school districts for construction projects.  But for District 186, Lopez contends there is a way to use the proceeds to pay down old bonds… and then use the savings to increase educational funding. 

 

Lopez says the district’s business manager will lay out the details of the plan at the next school board meeting on October 21st.

Rauner Chooses Wheaton City Council Member As Running Mate


Yet another contender is in the running to be Illinois’s next lieutenant governor. 

 

Republican Bruce Rauner has introduced his running mate, Evelyn Sanguinetti.  She’s a first-term city council member in Wheaton, as well as lawyer, a law professor and former assistant attorney general.  Sanguinetti is the daughter of Hispanic immigrants… her mother was a Cuban refugee while her father came to the country legally from Ecuador. 

 

She says her major issues cutting taxes, reducing state spending, and limiting the control of teachers’ unions over public education.

City Retains Internal Affairs Files Beyond 4 Year Retention Policy


It’s a story you’re hearing first on 970 WMAY: Despite rushing earlier this year to shred dozens of internal affairs files that were more than four years old, Springfield police have continued to hold on to more than two dozen such files, some of them dating back well over a decade.

 

That’s according to an affidavit submitted by Lieutenant Chris Mueller, the head of internal affairs for the SPD.

 

Many of those files are about former cops who were involved in high-profile litigation against the city… but no explanation was given for why those files are still being retained.

Countywide Sales Tax Hike Proposal Floated by School Board Member


There is now a second tax hike proposal for Springfield schools on the table.

 

School board vice-president Adam Lopez wants the board to consider another attempt at a countywide referendum for a 1% sales tax increase, with the money to be used for school construction and renovation projects.

 

Lopez says at least four superintendents in outlying communities have pledged to support the proposal, if District 186 takes the lead.

 

But the new idea could interfere with a proposed property tax hike being sought by a parents’ group.

 

Unlike the sales tax hike, a property tax increase would only apply to District 186, and the money could be used for a variety of educational expenses, not just construction projects.

Lanphire Teachers Offended By Board Member's Comments Leave Meeting


A presentation on the progress that resulted from a $6 million school improvement grant at Lanphier High School degenerated into angry words and hurt feelings at Monday’s Springfield school board meeting.

 

While Lanphier officials tout an overall increase in test scores, board member Judy Johnson complains that black students’ scores dropped last year, and still lag far behind their white peers.

 

Johnson says all students have to be treated equally. When Lanphier teachers said they were offended by Johnson’s remarks, Johnson replied that if they’re offended, maybe they need to work a little harder.

 

That prompted the Lanphier group to walk out of the meeting.

 

This is the last year of that grant, and Lanphier is still working on a plan to retain some of the programs it paid for after it expires.

Pedestrian Treated After Being Struck by Car By County Building Downtown


A 51-year-old woman is being treated for serious injuries after she was struck by a car as she crossed a downtown street Monday.

 

The woman reportedly had a “walk” signal when she entered the crosswalk on Adams at 9th Street.

 

But a vehicle that was attempting a left turn struck her, pinning her under the vehicle.

 

Neither the name of the driver nor the pedestrian has been released.

Elderly Man In Serious Condition After Wrong Way Wreck on Interstate 72


An 89-year-old man is in serious condition after he wound up driving the wrong way on Interstate 72 near Springfield, leading to a three-car crash that also sent another driver to the hospital.

 

State police say William Parrish turned onto the wrong ramp off of MacArthur Boulevard, and wound up traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes of the interstate.

 

An approaching westbound driver was unable to avoid him and struck him head-on.

 

A third vehicle then became tangled up in that wreckage. The second driver was treated and released… the third driver was not injured.

Prayer Breakfast To Be Organized By Faith-Based Groups and Chamber of Commerce, Not Mayor's Office


The annual Springfield Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast will go on again this year… but without the direct involvement of the mayor’s office.

 

Mayor Mike Houston decided to end the city’s direct participation in organizing the event, after the Freedom From Religion Foundation objected to the use of public dollars to promote a prayer breakfast.

 

So instead, this year the breakfast is being organized by three faith-based groups and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

 

They say bringing people of different faiths together to work toward common goals strengthens the community.

 

The breakfast will be held Tuesday, November 19th at the Springfield Hilton.

New Tax Hike Plan Floated By Springfield School Board Member


There is now more than one tax hike proposal under discussion by the Springfield school board.

 

Board vice-president Adam Lopez on Monday recommended that the board consider another attempt at a countywide sales tax increase that could pay for school construction projects.  Such an attempt failed in 2010, but Lopez says the idea has the support of several nearby school superintendents -- if District 186 takes the lead.

 

But the idea could conflict with plans from a parents group to seek a property tax increase next year.  While the sales tax could only be used for school construction and improvement projects, a property tax hike could be used for direct classroom and educational expenses.  The school board plans to discuss both ideas at its next meeting.

Lanphier Teachers Walk Out Of School Board Meeting After Criticism Of Test Scores


A group of educators from Lanphier High School who came to the Springfield school board to give a status report on a three-year school improvement grant instead stormed out of the meeting after a board member criticized the lack of progress by African-American students.

 

Board member Judy Johnson questioned why even though overall results are up, black students saw declines in both reading and math last year.  Johnson said the school needs to be more focused on educating all students.  One teacher responded, "I don't know if you intended to offend us, but you definitely did." Johnson replied, "If you're offended, maybe you need to work harder," prompting the Lanphier contingent to abruptly leave the meeting.

 

This is the final year of the $6 million Lanphier SIG grant, which has allowed for an extended school day and extra teaching time for struggling students.  Lanphier plans to come back to the board early next year with a plan for how to try to continue some of those programs in the absence of the grant money.

City Still Holding Onto IA Files Beyond 4 Year Retention Policy


The City of Springfield is holding on to the internal affairs files of several former officers who were involved in lawsuits against the city years ago ... files that should be destroyed according to a recently changed policy.

 

The revelation of certain files being retained comes from filings in a case about the early destruction of some IA files. The files of Ricky Davis, Ranatta Frazier, Ralph Harris and others remain whole with the city, according to an affidavit filed in circuit court by the head of IA Chris Mueller.  That raises questions for the plaintiff in a case against the city.

 

The affidavit from Mueller indicates the city has 26 files that are older than four years. The same affidavit says 26 other IA files were expunged on April 25th of this year, including the file of Deputy Chief Clifford Buscher, a file the city has already admitted it improperly destroyed.  That file was also being requested by Calvin Christian.

 

A partial list from the Mueller's Affidavit
A partial list from the Mueller's Affidavit

Live with 970 WMAY's Frank McNeil Show Monday, the plaintiff in a suit against the city over the improper destruction of files has more questions. Christian says he can't get a straight answer from the city about what the current retention policy is because of his ongoing lawsuits against the city. Christian asks why those officers' files were kept and another group of files over the four year retention policy were "expunged".

 

The files that have been kept are investigations of officers who have been gone from the force for longer than the four year retention policy. The retention policy of IA files was recently changed with a questionable memorandum of understanding. That MOU between top police brass and the police union was done without the consent of the Mayor.

 

In the ongoing case, the deposition of Christian requested is still uncertain as Christian's attorney's say Christian has reporter privilege. Christian says he will not turn over any information about his communications to the city because "as a reporter it is my right not to release it and I will not be releasing it."  That sets up the potential of a judge ruling on the matter.

 

On the flip side, Christian says the city has yet to schedule the next deposition with Mayor Mike Houston. Houston, a few weeks ago, denied knowing of the file destruction beforehand, regardless of reports his assistant stumbled into the room where the change in retention and subsequent file destruction was being discussed. That was revealed in a deposition of former Police Cheif Robert Williams last month.

 

Christian has another lawsuit against the city and several police officers claiming a conspiracy to harass. He says there seems to be a culture of the harassment seen in an exchange between an arresting officer and dispatch. In chat logs obtained by Christian through the Freedom of Information, one officer responds "hahaha" to a report of Christian's arrest over a parking violation.

Three-Car Crash On I-72 Sends Two To Hospital


State police say a 89-year-old Springfield man driving the wrong way on Interstate 72 led to a three-vehicle crash that sent him and another driver to the hospital. 

 

Police reports say the elderly driver’s minivan entered the westbound lanes of I-72 traveling eastbound at the MacArthur Boulevard exit.  An approaching station wagon could not avoid him and struck him head-on.  A third vehicle then hit the wreckage of the first two. 

 

The elderly man and the second driver… a 45-year-old Litchfield woman… were taken to the hospital for treatment of their injuries.  The wreck closed the westbound lanes of I-72 for about two hours.  Charges are pending.

Springfield Mayor's Prayer Breakfast To Be Staged By Private Groups This Year


The annual Springfield Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast will be held again this year… but it won’t be organized by the mayor’s office. 

 

Instead, a coalition of four private groups will stage the event.  Mayor Mike Houston halted the city’s direct involvement in the event last year following a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation… which objected to the use of city resources for a religious event.

 

This year, the prayer breakfast is co-sponsored by The Faith Coalition for the Common Good, The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, The Greater Springfield Interfaith Association, and The Ministerial Alliance of Springfield and Vicinity.  Those groups say bringing people of various faiths together strengthens the community. 

 

The prayer breakfast is set for Tuesday, November 19th at 7:30am at the Springfield Hilton.

Man Killed In Weekend Accident; Springfield Man Injured In Separate Crash


Authorities are still investigating a wreck early Sunday morning that killed a 39-year-old New Berlin man.  Kevin Becker died when he was partially ejected from his vehicle after losing control on the Waverly blacktop near New Berlin.  Witnesses told police that Becker appeared to be traveling at a high rate of speed on Route 54 at around 3:45 Sunday morning.  He lost control when he attempted to turn onto the blacktop.  Becker was pronounced dead at the scene.

 

A 38-year-old Springfield man is in critical condition after crashing the tow truck he was driving west of the city Saturday afternoon.  38-year-old Aaron Carpenter was ejected from the truck after it ran off of Old Jacksonville Road and overturned.  Witnesses reportedly stopped and rendered aid to Carpenter until emergency crews arrived.  That accident remains under investigation.

300 Furloughed National Guard Workers In Springfield Back On The Job


About 300 Illinois National Guard employees in Springfield are among more than a thousand around the state who are back on the job… almost a week after they were furloughed as part of the federal government shutdown. 

 

All those workers are federally-funded “military technicians” who perform a variety of functions on National Guard bases.  They were initially sent home without pay, but over the weekend, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel invoked a law that had been passed just prior to the shutdown, saying it authorized him to put those employees back to work. 

 

But even though they are on the job, they won’t be getting a paycheck until the shutdown ends and federal spending authority is restored.

Illinois Appeals Court Giving State Time to Implement Concealed Carry


The appeals court that ordered Illinois to pass a concealed carry law seems inclined to give the state time to implement the law.

 

Attorneys for the original plaintiff in the concealed carry case went back before the justices last week to argue that a ramp-up period of months continues to violate the constitutional rights of gun owners.

 

But the judge who wrote the original opinion told those lawyers that the state has done what it was ordered to do, and an implementation period does not violate that order.

 

In audio posted on Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax blog, Judge Richard Posner told the attorneys that the Constitution does not require allowing untrained people to carry guns in public.

Polls Show 13th Congressional District Voters Oppose Government Shutdown


A new poll suggests the ongoing federal government shutdown could provide political ammunition against some Republican incumbents in swing districts… including Taylorville Congressman Rodney Davis.

 

That survey from Public Policy Polling found that nearly 60-percent of voters in the 13th Congressional District opposed the shutdown, and then asked people their voting preference if they knew that Davis supported the shutdown.

 

Based on that scenario, voters favored an unnamed Democratic opponent over Davis, 47- to 42-percent.

 

Davis has said he opposes the government shutdown… and blames the impasse on Democrats who won’t negotiate over President Obama’s health care reform law.

Village of Jerome Battles Internet Hoax About Middle School That Doesn't Exist


The village of Jerome wants to spread the word… it doesn’t have a middle school that’s requiring children to pray to Allah every day.

 

In fact, it doesn’t have a middle school at all.

 

But that fact hasn’t deterred some people who have been calling the village to complain… after falling for an Internet hoax.

 

A spoof site called “National Report” posted an article last week claiming that Westhills Middle School, located in Jerome, had instituted Muslim Appreciation Month, and would require students to wear Muslim clothing and recite Islamic prayers.

 

There is no such school and no such observance… but the story has continued to spread, prompting the village to issue a statement over the weekend trying to debunk the rumor.

Village Of Jerome Tries To Debunk Wild Internet Hoax


The Village of Jerome is trying to put the brakes on a runaway Internet hoax. 

 

An apparent humor site posted a story about Westhills Middle School in Jerome and its purported plans for Muslim Appreciation Month, supposedly requiring all students to pray to Allah and to wear Muslim clothing. 

 

Of course, there is no such school in Jerome, but the village says it’s been getting calls from people who have fallen for the hoax.

Illinois Inmate Back In Custody After Mistaken Release


An Illinois prison inmate is back behind bars… just hours after he was mistakenly paroled. 

 

The Department of Corrections says Michael Sanders was released from the Vienna Correctional Center because officials miscalculated his parole date, mistakenly using the lesser of two concurrent sentences.  Sanders was serving time for non-violent offenses. 

 

He was returned to prison without incident about three hours after his release… and will serve the rest of his time until his actual parole date in November.

Clinton Haunted House Cancelled Over Fire Fears


A long-running haunted house in Clinton has been cancelled this year, because of fire safety concerns. 

 

The “Terror on Washington Street” event had run for 19 years, until the fire marshal realized the building did not have an adequate sprinkler system. 

 

Organizers hope to find the money to bring the event back next year.

Pink Steel Ribbon Makes The Rounds For Breast Cancer Awareness


It’s a six-foot-tall breast cancer awareness ribbon… made of pink steel. 

 

The ribbon is making the rounds across Springfield this week, and people are being encouraged to sign it in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

 

The “Pink Steel” ribbon will go on permanent display later this month at Springfield Clinic.

Spa Worker Charged With Groping Female Customers


Springfield police have arrested a spa employee for groping two female customers during massages… and authorities are asking other possible victims to come forward. 

 

Tongfie Zhang is being held on $500,000 bond on charges of criminal sexual abuse and aggravated criminal sexual assault.  He allegedly fondled two women during massages at You You Spa at White Oaks Mall. 

 

Authorities say they believe there are other victims, and ask anyone who may have been accosted to contact Springfield police.

Man Struck And Killed By Train; Police Suspect Suicide


Springfield police believe the death of a man who was struck by a train on the 10th Street corridor this afternoon was a suicide. 

 

A police official says the man apparently laid down on the tracks in front of an approaching train.  The man’s name has not been released. 

 

The incident happened around two this afternoon, near 10th and Madison, and delayed train traffic on the 10th Street tracks for a time.

WIC Program Still Running Despite Federal Shutdown


State officials want to get the word out that the WIC program is still up and running… despite the partial federal government shutdown. 

 

WIC is the abbreviated name for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.  Statewide, the federally-funded program serves 280,000 women, babies and children up to the age of 5. 

 

Illinois received contingency funds from the feds that will allow the program to continue operation through at least the month of October.  If the shutdown continues beyond that, the program's future is uncertain.

Shooting Leaves Man Critically Injured; Police Seach For Suspects


Springfield police are investigating an early morning shooting that left a man critically injured. 

 

Police say two black males entered a mobile home on Grand Valley Drive and shot the victim in the leg at around 5:20 in the morning.  At least five witnesses were on hand when the shooting occurred. 

 

Police are still searching for the two suspects in the case.

Health Department Personnel Still Cannot Provide One-On-One Insurance Counseling


Sangamon County public health employees still don’t have the green light to begin providing one-on-one counseling for people looking to sign up under the state’s health insurance marketplace… but they hope to have it soon.

 

The delay in certification has been one of the main snags with this week’s launch of “Get Covered Illinois.”  Nearly a dozen employees of the county health department have been certified, and 7 more are pending. 

 

But they must also be registered in the state’s “Application for Benefits Eligibility” program… or ABE… in order to help people determine if they qualify for Medicaid or require private insurance.  Health department director Jim Stone says that registration is still on hold. But he hopes his workers can start scheduling appointments to assist clients next week, with the first actual appointments to take place the week of October 21st.

 

Stone says the delay hasn’t posed a big problem so far… because comparatively few people have turned to the health department for assistance in the first week.  Consumers have until mid-December to sign up for a plan that would take effect on January 1st.

Veteran Architect Takes First Citizen Honors


A Springfield architect who has had an enormous influence on the look of the community has been honored as this year’s State Journal-Register First Citizen. 

 

82-year-old Wally Henderson was the architect who designed the restoration of the Old State Capitol in the mid 1960s, when the historic building was taken apart and put back together brick-by-brick. 

 

He also designed the Municipal Plaza, including the bridge and fountain between the two Springfield municipal centers, as well as the Willard Ice Building and the Public Affairs Center at UIS.  Henderson also spearheaded the push to rename Capital Airport in honor of Abraham Lincoln.

Drivers Urged To Be Cautious At Harvest Time


The Sangamon County Sheriff and the Sangamon County Farm Bureau are both warning drivers to be especially cautious as harvest time approaches. 

 

Tractors and other farm implements will be common on rural roads in the weeks ahead. 

 

A joint statement from both agencies urges drivers to slow down when they see farm vehicles or grain trucks, since a car moving at normal speed will close in on those slower-moving vehicles rapidly.  And they urge drivers to be patient, even if the farm machinery causes a slight delay for other vehicles.

Ald. McMenamin: Some First Responders Overpaid


A Springfield alderman says some police and firefighters are simply overpaid… and he thinks the city needs to re-evaluate its entire pay structure.

 

But Ward 7’s Joe McMenamin thinks any action is unlikely in the short term.

 

Just days after he proposed a wage freeze for city workers, McMenamin now says he’s abandoning the idea for now, because he says it will require a different City Council… and different leadership in the mayor’s office… to get anything done.

 

McMenamin says the city needs to spend less on salaries so that it can put more money toward its unfunded police and fire pension liability.

Springfield Police Looking For Suspect in Jogging Attack


Springfield police are still searching for a man that they believe attacked a female jogger on West Washington early Wednesday morning.

 

The 55-year-old woman was grabbed from behind as she jogged west of Chatham Road.

 

The man dragged her down an embankment and tried to pin her down, striking her.

 

But police say she screamed and fought back, kicking the man until he fled. The suspect is described as black, around six feet tall, and thin.

 

He reportedly got into a car driven by another man and sped off.

 

Anyone with information on the suspect is asked to call Crimestoppers.

Congressman Davis Thanks Capitol Police for Quick Response


Congressman Rodney Davis is offering thanks and appreciation to the U.S. Capitol police for their fast response to the crisis on Capitol Hill Thursday.

 

Police wound up fatally shooting a woman that they say tried to ram a barricade at the White House and then sped toward the Capitol.

 

Davis was in his House office, some distance away from the incident, and was not in danger.

 

He says the Capitol police are under-appreciated in a difficult job. Those officers are currently going without pay as a result of the government shutdown.

Dist. 186 Parents Form Invest in 186 Tax Referendum Campaign


Even though Springfield voters have not approved a tax referendum for public schools in 30 years, a member of a parents’ group thinks the mood is different now.

 

Katharine Eastvold says people have seen the effects of several years of multi-million-dollar budget cuts, and now understand the need to devote more resources to public education.

 

Eastvold and other parents have formed “Invest in 186,” and hope to put a property tax referendum on the November 2014 ballot.

 

But they haven’t decided how big a tax hike to seek.

Davis Safe, Sends Thanks To U.S. Capitol Police After Capitol Hill Incident


Congressman Rodney Davis says he and his staff are safe and accounted for after that harrowing police incident on Capitol Hill. 

 

Davis was among those at the U.S. Capitol who were ordered to “shelter in place” after reports of shots fired just outside the building.  Davis later posted to Facebook that he was unharmed… and extended a message of thanks to Capitol police, who he says are greatly under-appreciated.

McMenamin Abandons Wage Freeze Proposal


Just days after he raised the issue, a Springfield alderman is now apparently abandoning his idea of trying to impose a wage freeze on city workers. 

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin suggested the wage freeze earlier this week in a live interview on 970 WMAY… with a goal of using any savings to pay down the city’s pension debt.  But now McMenamin says it will take a different City Council… and a different mayor… to move ahead with that idea. 

 

But McMenamin still hopes to use the upcoming city budget process to focus more attention, and more money, on addressing the unfunded pension liability.

Drought Persists In Sangamon County


Sangamon County remains in moderate drought status under the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report.  But portions of Logan and Macon Counties are now considered to be in a severe drought. 

 

Nearly half of Illinois is now listed as in a drought situation.  Just three months ago, no part of the state was considered to be in drought status.

Parents Form Group To Push District 186 Tax Referendum


Several parents upset about recent budget cuts in Springfield public schools have now formed a group that plans to put a property tax referendum on the November 2014 ballot.

 

"Invest in 186" is being spearheaded by that parents' group, which includes former school board candidate Katharine Eastvold.  Appearing live on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show," Eastvold acknowledged that tax hike votes are always a tough sell in Springfield... but she says the impact of the recent cuts may be enough to persuade local voters to approve a referendum for the first time in 30 years.

 

The group hasn't decided yet how large a property tax increase it will seek.

Quinn Takes Legislative Pay Dispute To Illinois Supreme Court


Illinois lawmakers already have their back pay… but Governor Pat Quinn wants to reserve the right to withhold future paychecks from them if they don’t do what he wants. 

 

Quinn has filed a direct appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court… seeking to overturn a Cook County judge’s ruling that Quinn violated the state constitution when he vetoed legislative salaries.  Among the governor’s arguments is that the constitutional prohibition against “changing” legislative salaries during their term really only bans increasing salaries… not decreasing them. 

 

Quinn wants to use the paychecks as leverage to pressure the General Assembly to approve a pension reform plan.

Cullerton: Latest Pension Proposal ''Less Unconstitutional'' Than Previous Options


The president of the Illinois Senate says he supports a pension reform plan that would reduce cost-of-living increases for retirees… but could also lead to higher COLAs in the future if inflation goes up. 

 

John Cullerton tells the State Journal-Register editorial board that the flexible cost-of-living hikes… and a provision that reduces the amount that employees pay toward their own pension… makes the plan, quote, “less unconstitutional” than other options and could help it survive a court challenge. 

 

But roadblocks remain… a bipartisan pension committee hasn’t signed off on the plan yet, and Cullerton expects public sector unions will probably oppose it.

Alderman Hints At Possible Legal Action Over City Minority Hiring


A Springfield alderman says city government's minority hiring record is worse than some agencies that wound up under federal court order to make changes.  And Gail Simpson hints that some similarly extreme action may be necessary to fix the problem at City Hall.

 

Appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Simpson says qualified African-Americans are not even getting the chance to interview for good jobs... and she thinks it's because connected people are being plugged into those spots, and any job postings are merely for show.  But Simpson says she does not have solid evidence to back up her claim.

 

But she does say that she will keep pressuring Mayor Mike Houston to make substantive changes to hiring practices... and warns that "something needs to be done" to repair what she calls a broken system in city government.

Shopping For Policy On Health Insurance Marketplace Can Be ''Daunting'': Spokesperson


A spokesperson for lllinois’s health insurance exchange admits that many consumers may find it, quote, “daunting” to wade through dozens of policy options in order to find the right plan for themselves. 

 

But Kelly Sullivan says help is available, and more is on the way.  Sullivan says that there are potentially thousands of different combinations of insurance plans… and the details may be confusing, especially for people who have until now been uninsured. 

 

Sullivan says the state is making headway in certifying people to provide guidance to customers in the insurance marketplace… and there’s plenty of time to study options before making a decision.

Preservationist Scrambles To Save Pre-Civil War Era Springfield Home


A Springfield preservationist is making a last-ditch attempt to save a pre-Civil War building that could face the wrecking ball next week. 

 

The John Taylor House on South 12th Street is a two-story, 20-room residence that has sat vacant for years.  In pre-Civil War days it was the home of a prominent Springfield citizen, John Taylor… and later became one of the first “rescue homes” for ex-prostitutes and their children in Downstate Illinois. 

 

The home was first slated for demolition in 2002, but money from Save Old Springfield helped to spare it at the time.  Now Jerry Jacobson says more than $50,000 must be raised by next week in order to save the historic building.

Congressman Davis Refuses Paycheck While Shutdown Continues


Congressman Rodney Davis is vowing not to accept a paycheck while the government shutdown continues. 

 

The Taylorville Republican says he and other Republicans did not want a shutdown… but he says, since it happened, no member of Congress should be getting paid until the impasse is resolved. 

 

Davis has asked that his pay be “withheld” until the shutdown is over, although presumably he will receive the full amount once the government reopens.

Airport Drill Test Emergency Response To Mock Emergency


More than 30 government and private agencies have gotten the chance to test their plans and procedures in the event of a major emergency.

 

First responders from state, county and local government... as well as from Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, the Illinois Air National Guard, and private ambulance companies... all took part in the drill that simulated the crash of a mid-sized jet with 50 to 60 casualties.

 

Students played the roles of injured victims, while participating agencies practiced triage and the logistics of response.  Participants say it's a valuable way to prepare for the unpredictable.

City Council Approves Infrastructure Spending Over McMenamin's Objection


The Springfield City Council has approved a $2 million plan to fix alleys and correct drainage problems around the city. 

 

The only “no” vote was Alderman Joe McMenamin… who at first wanted to divert money from the infrastructure plan to the city’s pension funds.  When told that couldn’t be done under the law, McMenamin questioned how the city found $2 million that wasn’t part of the original public works budget… and whether that means the upcoming sales tax hike for infrastructure was unnecessary. 

 

But other aldermen say the city needs all that money… and then some… to keep pace with infrastructure needs.

Alderman Blasts City's Minority Hiring Numbers


Despite Mayor Mike Houston’s pledge to improve diversity in city government hiring, a Springfield alderman says the numbers remain dismal, and unacceptable. 

 

Alderman Gail Simpson says fewer than eight-percent of city employees are minorities… and the percentage of minority supervisors is less than three-percent.  Both percentages are well below the ratio of minorities in the city’s population as a whole. 

 

Houston was absent from Tuesday’s City Council meeting, but Simpson vows to raise the issue with him when he returns.

Springfield Aldermen OK Settlement In Discrimination Complaint


Without debate, Springfield aldermen have approved an $85,000 settlement with a former city employee who claimed he was the victim of discrimination on the job. 

 

Robert Horton was fired from his public works job in 2008.  City officials say he was insubordinate, but Horton filed a civil rights complaint, alleging that white workers were not disciplined for the same behavior. 

 

The city claims no wrongdoing, but says it’s better to settle than to keep fighting the claim.  Horton will get $60,000… while his attorneys collect $25,000.

Buffalo Tri-City School Mold Problem Not Believed To Be Serious


Buffalo Tri-City School District officials say an ongoing mold problem at the school does not pose a serious health risk, and cleaning it up should not cause a major disruption. 

 

The mold has forced the district to close down several rooms at the school, including a girls locker room and a classroom.  Superintendent H. David Bruno says until it’s cleaned up, exposure to the mold could cause some irritation to students and staff who are allergic to it. 

 

The district has a remediation plan and is working to hire a company to carry it out.  It’s still not known how much that project will cost.

Taylorville Man Killed In Christian County Crash


A Taylorville man is dead following a three-vehicle crash Tuesday night on Route 48 near Stonington in Christian County. 

 

State Police say 43-year-old Melvin Norris was northbound on 48 when for some reason his car crossed the center line and crashed head-on into a semi.  Debris from the crash hit a third car.  Neither that driver nor the driver of the semi was injured, but Norris was pronounced dead at the scene. 

 

The crash remains under investigation.

Quinn Says Insurance Marketplace Is Historic, Despite Glitches


He acknowledges that there are… and will be… glitches, but Governor Pat Quinn says that’s no reason to give up on the federal health care reform law. 

 

Quinn says the start of the new health insurance marketplaces for uninsured Illinoisans to buy policies is historic moment that will lead to better health and more dignity for people around the state. 

 

Quinn says problems are inevitable whenever a major program gets started… but says that’s no reason to delay or shut down the program, as some critics want to do.  More information on the insurance exchange is available at getcoveredillinois.gov.

Sangamon County Health Department Still Waiting For Insurance Marketplace Certification


The Sangamon County Department of Public Health is a step closer to being able to provide direct assistance under the new health insurance marketplace. 

 

Nine department employees have now been certified by the state to help clients seeking to purchase one of the dozens of plans offered through the marketplace.  But they still cannot provide that direct advice until the department as a whole receives its own certification… which director Jim Stone says may still be a day or two away. 

 

The state has fallen behind in issuing those certifications, leading to uncertainty about where local residents can turn for answers to their questions about the health care reform law.

Interest Cost Of Delaying Lawmaker Paychecks Still Not Tabulated


It’s still not known how much extra the state will have to pay in interest for the two-month delay in issuing paychecks to Illinois lawmakers. 

 

A judge who last week ruled that Governor Pat Quinn overstepped his bounds in vetoing legislative salaries ordered that the House and Senate members receive their back pay with interest. 

 

A spokesman for Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says the paychecks have gone out, without the extra amount tacked on for interest.  He says the office is seeking a clarification from the court on how much interest will have to be paid.

Jacksonville Firehouse Dog Wins National Contest


A Jacksonville pooch who was adopted by firefighters after they rescued and revived her has been named “Top Firehouse Dog” in a nationwide contest that will land her on primetime TV. 

 

Smokey was not breathing when firefighters pulled her from a burning home… but they were able to revive her.  Afterwards, she went to live at the firehouse and is now used in classroom demonstrations for kids. 

 

Smokey beat out two other finalists in a contest put on by NBC’s “Today Show.”  As a result, she will make a guest appearance in an upcoming episode of the network’s drama, “Chicago Fire.”

Lincoln Home Among Shutdown Casualties; Federally-Funded Workers Go Without Paychecks


Hundreds of visitors could be turned away disappointed today from the Lincoln Home… just one of the federal facilities affected by the partial government shutdown that went into effect overnight. 

 

The Lincoln Home site superintendent says about 30 workers are being furloughed without pay… and the site’s visitors center and parking lot are closed because of the lack of a budget deal.  He says bus tours are common at the Home this time of year… but he’s been working to help those groups find other things to do in Springfield since the site is off-limits.

 

A budget director for Gov. Pat Quinn says as a result of  the federal government shutdown, Illinois employees paid by federal funds could face temporary layoffs as early as Wednesday. Assistant budget director Abdon Pallasch said those affected could include workers at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Veterans Affairs and Military Affairs.

Health Insurance Marketplace Opens In Illinois


The health insurance marketplace is open. 

 

The joint state-federal initiative to help uninsured Illinoisans get health coverage has gone live at the website getcoveredillinois.gov.  That site also directs people to local agencies to provide further assistance… but many of them may be unable to provide it right away. 

 

For example, the Sangamon County Department of Public Health is listed… but director Jim Stone says his staff is still waiting for the state to certify them to provide guidance under the health care reform law.  Stone says he doesn’t expect that certification to arrive until next week at the earliest.

Concealed Carry Curriculum Set


Illinois State Police has posted on its website a list of approved concealed carry firearms training curricula.The list has all skills required by the Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act. It includes firearm safety; basic principles of marksmanship; care, cleaning, loading and unloading of a concealable firearm and transportation of a firearm.

Motorcyclist Critically Injured In Collision With SUV


Another motorcycle rider is fighting for his life following a collision with a passenger vehicle. 

 

That accident Monday afternoon shut down Stevenson Drive for several hours while accident reconstructionists worked at the scene. 

 

Police say the biker was traveling west on Stevenson when an SUV pulled out in front of him.  He hit the side of the vehicle, and was taken to Saint John’s Hospital with life-threatening injuries.  Tickets are still pending.

Alderman Proposes City Worker Pay Freeze To Bolster Pension Funds


A Springfield alderman is reviving the idea of a pay freeze for city workers… with the savings to be used to pay down the city’s unfunded pension liability. 

 

Ward 7’s Joe McMenamin says workers should pick up more of the burden so taxpayers don’t have to take on as much. 

 

McMenamin says he will also try to keep a $2 million infrastructure project in committee, at least temporarily.  He wants to use some of that money… which is earmarked for alley improvements and drainage projects… and instead apply it to the pension funds.  The City Council meets tonight.

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