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September 22, 2014, 1:11 am
Breaking News


The Council Roundup

The Council Roundup, Wednesdays at 10 with Bishop On Air

 


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970 WMAY News Archives for 2013-11

Sacred Heart-Griffin Wins Class 5A Title; Leonards Clinch Spot In IHSA Record Books


Another football championship comes to Sangamon County, as Sacred Heart-Griffin mounted a remarkable come-from-behind win to take the Class 5A title, 38-28 over Lombard Montini.

 

The Cyclones, who had trailed 21-7 in the first quarter, played shutdown defense the rest of the way, while quarterback Gabe Green's rushing prowess put SH-G on top.

 

The win for Coach Ken Leonard follows Friday night's win for the Rochester Rockets and Leonard's son, Coach Derek Leonard.  They become the first father-and-son combo in Illinois to win football championships for different teams in the same season.

Phone Scam Targeting Local Residents


Local police are urging residents to be cautious after multiple reports of a phone scam that operates through text messages.

 

Targets of the scam get a message that claims to be from a local bank, claiming their credit or debit card has been deactivated and instructing the recipient to call a number in the 217 area code.  The Sangamon County Sheriff's Office says the message is a scam, aimed at extracting card numbers or other personal information from victims.

 

If you receive such a message, police say you should not call the number on the message.  Instead, call your financial institution or local law enforcement.

Rochester Wins Fourth Straight State Football Title


Rochester has done it again. 

 

The Rockets have won an unprecedented fourth straight state title, the first public school in Illinois to do so.  The Rockets capped off a nearly-perfect season with a 16-8 victory over Geneseo in the Class 4A title game, heard live here on 970 WMAY.

 

The victory made history in more ways than one.  Coach Derek Leonard became part of the first father-son combo to coach separate teams in IHSA football championship games in the same year, as dad Ken Leonard is also vying for a state title with his Sacred Heart-Griffin Cyclones.

Rauner Leads Rivals In Two New Polls


A media blitz may be helping GOP candidate for governor Bruce Rauner.  Two recent polls show Rauner leading his three rivals in the March primary.  Both surveys put Rauner at around 25% support from Republican voters, while closest rival Bill Brady is at 18-percent or less. Dan Rutherford is a close third in the two polls, with Kirk Dillard trailing.

Focus Shifts To Locally-Owned Shopping Options


Lots of folks hit big box stores on Black Friday, but now the holiday shopping focus is turning to smaller, locally-owned retailers. 

 

Small Business Saturday, observed nationwide, aims to get shoppers to explore unique products and services at local businesses… where more of the money they spend stays in the community. 

 

Meanwhile, Downtown Springfield, Inc. is getting ready to launch its Holiday Walks this week, also promoting local downtown businesses.

Opposition Grows As Pension Reform Details Emerge; Bill On Fast Track For Tuesday Vote


A local lawmaker says he’s being inundated with calls opposing the latest pension reform proposal… and expects the same is true for most lawmakers. 

 

Republican Raymond Poe says his office has had 200 to 300 calls since the first of the week… and all of them but one urged him to vote against the proposal, which would make big changes in cost-of-living allowances and the retirement age for public sector workers.

 

Pubilc sector unions oppose the new pension reform proposal because they say it goes too far.  But GOP candidate for governor Bruce Rauner and some conservative groups are also against it, because it doesn’t go far enough. 

 

They say it still provides overly-generous benefits, doesn’t save enough money, and funds pensions at the expense of other essential programs.

 

Even though details are only just starting to surface, the proposed pension reform plan is on a fast track for a legislative vote on Tuesday.  A bipartisan conference committee will consider the bill on that day, and if it’s approved, it would go before the House and Senate the same day. 

 

Poe thinks the objective is to pass it quickly in order to speed up a legal review that should determine if the bill is constitutional.

 

Pension Reform Plan Votes Being Gathered, Unions Stand in Opposition


Work will continue through the weekend, trying to line up votes for a pension reform plan that is already drawing fire from public sector unions.

 

Details of the plan have not been formally released yet, but Crain’s Chicago Business reports it would cap cost-of-living adjustments, based upon a worker’s years of service.

 

Workers under the age of 45 would also have to work more years before they would be eligible for benefits.

 

And workers would have the option of moving into a 401-k-style plan.

 

The four legislative leaders have agreed to the framework of the plan, and Governor Pat Quinn has issued a statement in support of it.

 

But the unions will be intensely lobbying against it ahead of a planned vote during a special legislative session next Tuesday.

Police Fire Upon Suspected Shoplifter in Romeoville


Black Friday is off to a violent start near Chicago.

 

A police officer trying to apprehend a suspected shoplifter at a Kohl’s store in Romeoville wound up being dragged by the suspect’s vehicle in the parking lot.

 

A second officer then opened fire, wounding the driver.

 

Both the officer and the suspect were taken to the hospital but are expected to recover from their injuries.

Dog Found in Tornado Rubble After 9 Days


A happy story has emerged from the rubble of a demolished apartment building in Washington.

 

The Chicago Sun-Times reports an Illinois National Guardsman has been reunited with his dog, which was in the apartment when the tornado destroyed the building on November 17th.

 

Specialist Jacob Montgomery says he never gave up hope of finding his pit bull Dexter.

 

The dog was found in the rubble by a member of a group that has been searching for missing animals since the storm.

 

Dexter had not eaten for nine days but was otherwise OK.

Oak Ridge Cemetery Foundation Raising Donations for Capital Projects


Oak Ridge Cemetery officials say private donations could help bridge the gap between the cemetery’s own revenues and the boost it gets from Springfield’s city budget each year.

 

The cemetery has a foundation, which is currently raising money to make improvements to the historic site’s entrance gate.

 

But officials hope that once that project is done, the foundation can continue to bring in private donations and relieve the pressure on city finances.

First Same-Sex Couple Ties The Knot In Illinois


Two Chicago women have become the first same-sex couple to legally wed in Illinois.

 

The new same-sex marriage law that was approved earlier this month doesn't take effect until next June, but a federal judge ordered the process to be expedited for Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert.  Gray is terminally ill and may only have weeks to live.  The couple wanted to be legally married so that Ewert can have full access to spousal benefits.

 

The court ruling applied only to them, but attorneys say it could open the door for other same-sex couples in similar circumstances to seek to move up their wedding dates.

Report: Legislative Leaders Reach Pension Deal


Illinois’s four legislative leaders say they have an agreement on a pension reform plan to be voted on next week.  But they’re not saying exactly what’s in it until they can brief rank-and-file lawmakers, something that’s unlikely to happen before Friday because of the Thanksgiving holiday. 

 

House GOP leader Jim Durkin tells the Chicago Sun-Times in broad terms that the plans includes changes to cost-of-living allowances and the retirement age, along with provisions on “defined contribution” plans.  All of those elements are likely to draw fierce opposition from unions representing teachers, state workers and other public sector employees. 

 

The General Assembly will hold a one-day special session Tuesday to consider the new plan.

Tornado Relief Efforts Continue


Efforts continue to assist the victims of this month’s deadly tornadoes in Central Illinois. 

 

The United Way of Central Illinois has approved an emergency $10,000 donation to the Illinois Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross to assist with disaster recovery efforts. 

 

Meanwhile, more entertainment has been added to the lineup of a benefit concert planned for next Wednesday in Bloomington.  In addition to headliners Styx and REO Speedwagon, the lineup now includes rocker Ted Nugent, along with Survivor, Richard Marx and more.  Tickets for that show are available through Ticketmaster… which is waiving its usual service charges for the December 4th benefit.

City Releases Some Details Of Six-Figure Settlement With Calvin Christian


The City of Springfield has now released information about the proposed settlement to end Calvin Christian’s lawsuit against the city over the destruction of police department internal affairs files.  The settlement is contained in an ordinance on emergency passage before the Springfield City Council. 

 

Under the proposed agreement, Christian would get $30,000… while two law firms, Rabin & Myers and the Craven Law Offices, will split $70,000 plus costs.  The total settlement will cost taxpayers nearly $103,000. 

 

The ordinance says neither party admits liability, and the settlement released the city from all past, present and future claims related to the document destruction.

Some Aldermen Skeptical Of Proposed Settlement


The city of Springfield’s proposed settlement with Calvin Christian in the file-shredding case may not be a done deal. 

 

Several aldermen are suggesting that they will need more information about the matter before they would sign off on any settlement.  Frank Edwards and Sam Cahnman are among those who say they expect more accountability from the mayor’s office… and want to make sure that anyone who engaged in improper conduct at City Hall is suitably disciplined.  

 

Both say they want to make sure that the settlement isn’t an attempt to bury the truth or protect those responsible for the mess.

Mayor Waiting on ISP Investigation of File Shredding Before Holding Anyone Accountable


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says he’s waiting the results of an Illinois State Police investigation before taking action to hold people in his administration accountable for the police department file shredding scandal.

 

The mayor declined to discuss a proposed settlement of the lawsuit filed over that document destruction, although sources say the deal does not require the city to disclose who was responsible for the decision to shred those files.

 

Houston says he will take appropriate action after the independent investigation is complete.

 

Police Chief Robert Williams retired and Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen resigned after details of the scandal emerged last summer, but others who may have played a role in the matter remain employed at City Hall.

Options for Increasing Revenue for Oak Ridge Being Reviewed


The director of Oak Ridge Cemetery says he and his staff are constantly looking for ways to boost revenue and improve the bottom line.

 

The finances of Oak Ridge have become a hot topic in recent weeks, after Mayor Mike Houston floated… and then abandoned… the idea of finding a private company to take over its operations.

 

Director Mike Lelys says he’s had discussions about focusing on “pre-need sales” as a way to bring more money in.

 

The city plans to budget around $400,000 in the next fiscal year to make up for shortfalls in the cemetery budget.

 

In the current fiscal year, it’s only spending about half that amount.

Federal Disaster Deceleration for 15 Illinois Counties Approved by President


President Obama has given fast approval to a federal disaster declaration for 15 Illinois counties that sustained heavy damage from violent tornadoes earlier this month.

 

The declaration opens the door for grants and low-interest loans for residents and business owners in the affected areas.

 

The declaration came just hours after U.S. Senator Mark Kirk toured the devastation in the town of Washington, which saw hundreds of homes damaged or destroyed by an EF-4 twister.

Public Sector Unions Vow Fight Over Possible Pension Plan


Public sector unions are vowing to fight hard against any pension plan that cuts into their expected retirement earnings.

 

Lawmakers appear ready to vote on a pension reform plan next week, and even though the details haven’t been fully released, the “We Are One Illinois” coalition says it expects the bill will sharply reduce cost-of-living adjustments, which could significantly shrink pension payouts to retirees.

 

The unions plan to call and visit legislative offices ahead of that special session next Tuesday.

More Patrols Planned During Holiday Travel Period


State and local police have already been busy this week looking out for drunk drivers and people not wearing seat belts… and they’re just getting started.

 

Expect more intensive patrols between now and Sunday, the end of the busy Thanksgiving travel period.

 

An IDOT official says the frequent complaint that such patrols are simply an attempt to collect lots of fines from drivers is a myth.

 

She says the patrols usually cost more to put on than they collect in fines… but she says they are effective in getting people to slow down and buckle up, which reduces accidents and fatalities.

Sangamon County Remains Close to Top of List in Crashes Involving Deer


There were fewer accidents, injuries and deaths last year from collisions between cars and deer… but Sangamon County remains close to the top of the list of places in Illinois where such crashes are most common.

 

Sangamon is number six on the list of Illinois counties with the most car-deer collisions, with 335 last year.

 

Overall there were 15,000 such crashes statewide in 2012, down from 18,000 the previous year.

 

Officials say you should be particularly cautious in the hours around dusk and dawn, when deer are most active.

Houston Waiting on ISP Investigation Before Holding Anyone Accountable in Shred Case


Mayor Mike Houston says he is waiting for an Illinois State Police investigation into the shredding of Internal Affairs files before he holds anyone in his administration accountable.

 

Without discussing details of a possible settlement in the case, Houston says that he will let the investigation run its course and take whatever action pending the outcome.

 

When asked if he knew who was responsible, outside of an investigation, Houston refused to answer the question.  Police Chief Robert Williams retired and Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen resigned amid the scandal, but a few others who may have been involved are still employed by the city.

 

The City has already settled on one count in the case of improperly destroying Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher's file.  Buscher's file was not included in the change of retention for IA files that pertains to members of the union.

 

Several aldermen have requested copies of the depositions from the civil case so they can review them before making any decision on a possible settlement.

 

Aldermen may soon consider an ordinance that would accept a settlement with Calvin Christian over the destruction of Police Internal Affairs files. 

 

An appellate prosecutor told WMAY back in June that Illinois State Police were investigating possible violations of public records laws, but a status of that investigation is unknown.

Car Vs. Deer Crashes, Fatalities Decline; Sangamon County Still Among Top Ten In State For Such Accidents


Injuries and fatalities from crashes involving a vehicle striking a deer fell in Illinois last year… but Sangamon County remains in the top ten around the state for such accidents. 

 

More than 15,000 such collisions were reported last year… a sharp decline from more than 18,000 a year earlier.  Four fatalities were reported from car-deer collisions, down from six in 2011. 

 

Cook County remains the most common place for such accidents, with 460 last year.  Sangamon County was in sixth place with 335.  State officials say drivers should be particularly cautious around dusk and dawn, when deer are most active.

Despite Lack Of Details, Unions Prepared To Battle Possible Pension Plan


Public sector unions are gearing up for a fierce fight against a pension reform plan they haven’t even seen yet.  But the “We Are One Illinois” coalition says all signs indicate the plan that lawmakers could vote on next week will include significant reductions in overall pension benefits. 

 

Appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Anders Lindall with AFSCME Council 31 says cutting the compounded 3% cost-of-living adjustment would amount to “pension theft.” 

 

The unions are spending this week and next calling and visiting lawmakers, urging them to oppose any plan that does not have the backing of the unions.  The Illinois House is set to return next Tuesday for a possible pension reform vote.

Alderman: Houston Overstating City's Budget Support For Oak Ridge


The debate over Oak Ridge Cemetery… and its effect on the city budget… isn’t over yet. 

 

Mayor Mike Houston announced this week that he was dropping any discussion about a possible private takeover of the historic city-owned cemetery.  Houston says he will simply pull $400,000 out of the upcoming city budget and set it aside to subsidize Oak Ridge operations. 

 

But Alderman Frank Edwards says the city is actually paying closer to $200,000 a year to fill budget gaps at Oak Ridge.  And he says more could be done by the Houston administration to reduce that amount even further, including working more closely with funeral homes to encourage people to look at Oak Ridge for burial options.

Quinn Neck-And-Neck With GOP Rivals In New Poll


Despite continuing poor approval ratings, Governor Pat Quinn is holding his own against the Republicans who want his job in a new statewide survey. 

 

The numbers from Public Policy Polling find only state Treasurer Dan Rutherford leads Quinn in a head-to-head matchup… 41 to 39 percent.  Quinn is dead even against both Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady, and has a slight lead over Bruce Rauner. 

 

Rutherford is also the only one of the four GOP candidates with a positive approval rating, although more than half of all voters say they haven’t formed an opinion yet on any of the Republicans.  Most voters do have an opinion of Quinn… and it’s not a good one.  Only 34% of voters approve of the job he’s doing, while 60% disapprove.

IDOT: Seat Belt Details Not A Money Grab


Among the many heightened police patrols over the long Thanksgiving travel weekend will be “seat belt enforcement zones” around the state. 

 

One was held Tuesday in Springfield, and around 200 more are planned statewide through the end of the month. 

 

Jennifer Toney with the Illinois Department of Transportation says the details are not a money-maker… in fact, she says the government spends more to hire back officers for the patrols than it collects in fines.  But she says they are proven to increase compliance with seat belt laws… and, therefore, they save lives.

Possible Oak Ridge Cemetery Privatization Laid to Rest by Houston


The idea of turning control of Oak Ridge Cemetery over to a private company appears to be dead and buried.

 

Mayor Mike Houston issued a statement Monday saying he was dropping the idea because of aldermanic opposition.

 

Houston said he began looking at privatization because aldermen had directed him to find a way to reduce the city’s $400,000 annual subsidy for cemetery operations.

 

Now the mayor says the city will have to get used to taking that amount out of the budget each year in order to help Oak Ridge make ends meet.

Weeklong Candidate Petition Filing Period Begins


It’s off to the races… dozens of candidates have reserved a spot on the March primary ballot after submitting nominating petitions Monday, the start of a weeklong filing period.

 

All four Republican candidates for governor turned in their petitions Monday, as did Democratic governor Pat Quinn.

 

And so did a potential Democratic primary challenger for the governor.

 

Tio Hardiman is an anti-violence activist who was fired from his job after being accused of domestic battery by his wife, who later dropped the charges.

One-Day Special Session For Possible Pension Reform Bill


Mark the date on your calendar.

 

The Illinois House is being called back to Springfield next Tuesday, December 3rd, for what Speaker Mike Madigan’s office says will be a one-day special session.

 

A Madigan spokesman says talks among the legislative leadership about a possible pension reform deal have been “productive.”

 

Specific details of the plan have not yet been released, but most of the recent discussion has centered on changes to the cost-of-living allowances that are already built into most public sector pensions in the state.

Terminally Ill Woman Granted Right to Marry Same Sex Partner in Chicago


A same-sex couple in Chicago will apparently become the first to be allowed to legally wed in Illinois, perhaps as soon as this week.

 

A federal judge ordered Cook County to issue a marriage license immediately to Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert… even though the state’s new same-sex marriage law does not take effect until next June.

 

The judge ruled that they should get the license sooner because Gray is battling terminal cancer and may have only days or weeks to live.

After Two Dozen Tornadoes Hit, Quinn Asks for Disaster Declaration


Governor Pat Quinn has asked President Obama to declare 15 Illinois counties as federal disaster areas.

 

Those counties were the hardest-hit by devastating and deadly tornadoes earlier this month.

 

The National Weather Service now says 24 tornadoes struck the state on November 17th, the worst November outbreak on record.

 

One twister, the EF-4 that struck the town of Washington, is believed to be the single most powerful tornado to hit the state in more than 100 years.

 

More than 2400 homes were damaged… including 700 that were destroyed by the storms.

 

A federal disaster declaration would open the door for federal grants and low-interest loans for residents in the affected counties.

Quinn Seeks Federal Assistance For Storm Victims In 15 Counties


Governor Pat Quinn has requested federal disaster assistance for 15 Illinois counties hard hit by this month’s deadly tornadoes. 

 

Quinn says FEMA teams identified more than 2,400 homes in those counties that were damaged by the storms… more than 700 of which were destroyed.  If federal aid is provided, residents and businesses would be eligible to apply for grants or low-interest loans to help with recovery efforts.

 

Forecasters now say 24 tornadoes struck the state on November 17th.  That includes the EF-4 that demolished hundreds of homes in the town of Washington.  That is believed to be the most powerful tornado to strike in Illinois since record-keeping began.

Houston Pulls The Plug On Oak Ridge Privatization


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is pulling the plug on privatizing Oak Ridge Cemetery. 

 

A statement from the mayor’s office says it is now clear that there are not enough votes on the City Council to proceed with any discussion of turning Oak Ridge operations over to a private firm.  So the mayor says the city will continue to subsidize Oak Ridge operations to the tune of $400,000 a year, and will include that amount in the new city budget that his staff is preparing. 

 

Houston says he was just following the direction of aldermen when he began looking into the possibility of contracting for a private firm to manage the cemetery.

Local Freshman State Lawmakers Face Challenges


Two local freshman lawmakers will be facing challenges to their re-election bids next year. 

 

Republican Linda Little has filed petitions to challenge Democratic State Senator Andy Manar (muh-NAR’) in the 48th Senate district.  Little currently serves on the Macon County Board. 

 

In the 96th House District, Democratic incumbent Sue Scherer has filed to run for a second term, but she is facing a Democratic primary opponent, Gina Lathan of Springfield.  Republican Mike Bell has also filed to run in the 96th and will face the winner of the Scherer-Lathan primary.

Campbell, Barr File For Sheriff's Race; No Democrats For Countywide Office Yet


So far, no Democrats have filed petitions to run for countywide office in Sangamon County next year. 

 

As expected, two Republicans have submitted petitions to succeed GOP Sheriff Neil Williamson.  Williamson’s handpicked successor, Undersheriff Jack Campbell, got in at the start of the filing period Monday, and so did Republican opponent Wes Barr.  A lottery will be held to determine their ballot position. 

 

Incumbent Republican treasurer Tom Cavanagh has filed for another term, but no challenger has come forward yet.  And although Republican county clerk Joe Aiello says he will run for re-election, he doesn’t plan to file his petitions until the last day… next Monday.

Early Thanksgiving Traffic Enforcement Effort Dedicated In Memory Of Fallen Trooper


Illinois State Police will be getting an early start on this year’s Thanksgiving holiday enforcement action, in memory of a state trooper who died in the line of duty one year ago this week. 

 

“Operation Kyle” is named for Trooper Kyle Deatherage, who was killed when he was struck by a semi while conducting a traffic stop on Interstate 55 south of Springfield.  State police say all sworn troopers will take part in the 24-hour enforcement action Tuesday and Wednesday... with an “aggressive” emphasis on DUI and other risky behaviors by drivers. 

 

Heightened patrols will continue through the end of the holiday driving period on Sunday.

Drug Raid Nets $2,000 Worth Of Pot; Woman Arrested


A Springfield woman is free on bond after her arrest on drug charges. 

 

The Sangamon County DIRT team took 34-year-old Crystal Greathouse into custody following a raid at her home on North 24th Street.  A statement from the sheriff’s office says the team obtained a search warrant after making numerous “controlled buys” of drugs. 

 

During that raid, officers seized 400 grams of cannabis… worth around $2,000.  Two scales and $350 in cash were also recovered.  Greathouse is facing charges of possession and distribution of marijuana.

Republican Hopefuls Submit Petitions For Governor; Democrat Files To Run Against Quinn


No big surprises in the early hours of candidate filing. 

 

All four of the announced Republican candidates for governor submitted their nominating petitions first thing when the State Board of Elections office opened at 8am.  Dan Rutherford, Bruce Rauner, Kirk Dillard, Bill Brady and their running mates all submitted petitions and will all be in the running for top position on the GOP primary ballot after a lottery is conducted next month. 

 

Governor Pat Quinn has also submitted his petitions… but not before a Democratic challenger got in ahead of him.  Tio Hardiman is an anti-violence activist who was himself charged with domestic battery… but his wife later dropped the charges.  Hardiman will face Quinn in the Democratic primary… barring any petition challenge that could knock Hardiman off the ballot.

Congressional, Senate Hopefuls Submit Petitions


A full slate of candidates is lining up for some of high-profile races on next year’s ballot. 

 

Republicans Jim Oberweis and Doug Truax have both submitted petitions to challenge Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.  Durbin also turned in his petitions to be on the 2014 ballot.  A

 

nd in the 13th Congressional District, Republican incumbent Rodney Davis has a primary challenger… former Miss America Erika Harold made good on her plan to run against the incumbent.  Three Democrats have also filed to take on the winner of the Davis-Harold primary.  Ann Callis, George Gollin and David Green will face off in the March 18th Democratic primary.

Filing Begins for 2014 Elections


The 2014 campaign season officially gets underway today… the first day that candidates can file petitions to appear on the March primary ballot.

 

Candidates for state office will submit their petitions to the State Board of Elections offices in Springfield.

 

Contenders for countywide office will turn their petitions in to their respective county clerks.

 

December 2nd is the last day of the petition filing period.

Jim Oberweis Filing For A Run Against Sen. Dick Durbin


It’s official… Republican Jim Oberweis is launching his bid to unseat longtime Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.

 

It’s not Oberweis’s first time running for Senate.

 

He ran in the Republican primaries in both 2002 and 2004, coming in second both times.

 

He also made unsuccessful attempts for Governor and U.S. Representative before winning a state senate seat in 2012.

 

In a campaign announcement video released over the weekend, Oberweis admitted making mistakes in past campaigns, but says he’s a more “respectful and reasonable” candidate this time.

 

He criticized Durbin for spending decades in Washington, and vows that if he’s elected, he will only serve two terms.

Minor Changes to City Deal On Collecting Debts


It could soon cost more for the city to collect outstanding fees and fines, if an ordinance makes it through the Springfield City Council.

 

The Local Debt Recovery Program allows for municipalities around the state to work with the state’s Comptroller’s office in collecting debts from vendor payments or tax refunds.

 

City Treasurer Jim Langfelder says the Comptroller is boosting their fee for processing those debts from $15 to $20.

 

The new changes also preclude collecting debts from liens or arrest warrants.

 

The ordinance on first reading this week before the city council says there is a positive impact of up to $150,000 in collected debts.

Teens Recovering From Rollover Accident


Two teenagers are recovering from injuries they suffered when their vehicle rolled over on Interstate 72 near Springfield Sunday night.

 

19-year-old Taylor Long and a 14-year-old passenger were traveling eastbound at mile marker 90, just west of the city, when Long ran off the road, causing the vehicle to overturn.

 

Both teens were taken to St. John’s Hospital for treatment.

 

Long is facing multiple citations, including reckless driving, speeding, and failure to wear a seat belt.

Relief Agencies: No More Food, Clothing Donations Needed For Tornado Zones


They’ve got enough stuff… but they could use more cash. 

 

Agencies helping with the relief effort after last weekend’s tornado in Washington are asking people not to send any more material items.  They say they’ve run out of places to store the food, water and clothing they’ve received. 

 

But they say cash donations continue to be helpful and will allow assistance to be immediately targeted where it’s needed the most.

State Adopts Sangamon-Menard Regional Office Of Education, Rejects More Costly Option


Sangamon County taxpayers may have dodged a very expensive bullet. 

 

The State Board of Education has decided to proceed with the original plan to merge the Sangamon and Menard County regional offices of education, as part of an effort to cut the total number of R.O.E.’s from 44 to 35. 

 

An alternate plan surfaced this week that would have grouped Sangamon and Menard with three other West-Central Illinois counties.  Sangamon County regional superintendent Jeff Vose says under state mandates, the office’s budgetary impact on Sangamon County could have gone from $250,000 to double, or even triple that. 

 

The new Sangamon-Menard regional office will take effect in July 2015.

Report: City Proposes $100K Settlement in File Shred Case


There is word this morning of a possible settlement in the lawsuit filed by Calvin Christian against the City of Springfield over the destruction of police department internal affairs files.

 

ABC NewsChannel 20… citing “well-placed sources”… says the city will pay Christian and his attorneys over $100,000 to resolve the complaint.

 

The report says the city won’t have to disclose the names of everyone involved in the decision to destroy those records.

 

Christian would not confirm or deny such a settlement on the record, but told the TV station that such a settlement would deter the city from such conduct in the future.

Mayor Downplays Option of Property Management Firm for Oak Ridge


Mayor Mike Houston appears to be trying to tone down some of the uproar over discussions about the possible privatization of Oak Ridge Cemetery.

 

Houston tells the State Journal-Register that it’s unlikely there will be any attempt to turn control of the city-owned cemetery to a private company, because of aldermanic opposition.

 

But the mayor would not definitely rule out issuing requests for proposals on what such a private takeover might look like.

 

Several aldermen have already emphatically stated they won’t support any move toward privatization, and remain angry at Houston for failing to keep them in the loop on the issue.

State Board of Education To Decide On Consolidating Regional Education Offices


Sangamon County’s regional superintendent of education says county taxpayers will pay the price if state officials expand his office’s responsibilities.

 

Jeff Vose will be in Chicago today to argue against a last-minute proposal to add four more counties to his office’s jurisdiction. The move is designed to meet a state mandate to shrink the number of regional offices of education from 44 to 35.

 

But Vose says under state law, the budget formula for a multi-county regional office would require a much bigger investment from Sangamon County.

Q5 Sets Aside $50K For Rail Relocation Effort


Springfield’s Q5 jobs initiative is setting aside some money… just in case… for the ongoing railroad relocation project.

 

Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce CEO Steward Sandstrom says the $50,000 fund may be used for media outreach to make city residents understand what the project entails and how it will affect them.

 

But he says the money could also be used to fend off any legal challenges that could delay the project.

 

Sandstrom says upgrading the 10th Street corridor so that it can handle a big increase in train traffic… without disrupting the flow of cars through the city… is essential to Springfield’s long-term economic health.

PCCC Renovations Ready To Roll


The biggest event at the Prairie Capital Convention Center tonight may not be the Brad Paisley concert. 

 

Instead, it could be the unveiling of the finished product after a $16 million renovation of the 35-year-old Center.  The project includes the first-ever public restrooms on the first floor… correcting one of the biggest complaints about the venue. 

 

Improvements to the lobby, concession areas, and even the outdoor smoking areas are other main features of the two-year project.

Several Firsts Planned For This Year's First Night


The party starts earlier than ever this year at First Night Springfield. 

 

The annual New Year’s Eve celebration downtown will actually get underway this year on Sunday, December 29th… with the first ever First Night 5K “Run/Walk/Stroll” event, stepping off at 11am from Scheels, a new sponsor of the celebration. 

 

On December 31st, activities will include another first… a buffet dinner at the Hoogland Center for the Arts from 5-7pm.  Advance reservations are required for the dinner.  Children’s events will be held in the afternoon at Springfield High, and the main entertainment downtown will run from a new start time of 5pm through 11:15… with fireworks at 8pm. 

 

For more details, go to the Springfield Area Arts Council website, www.springfieldartsco.org.

Q5 Supports Local Development, Education Initiatives


Springfield’s Q5 initiative is supporting three major projects aimed at improving aspects of life in the community. 

 

The group’s Strategic Leadership Council is setting aside $50,000 for use in the ongoing railroad relocation project. The money may be used for marketing and public information campaigns… but could also be tapped to fend off any legal challenges against the project. 

 

Q5 is also allocating $25,000 toward a $60,000 study of best educational practices… in hopes of adapting some of those to Springfield-area schools to help better prepare kids to meet future workforce needs. 

 

Finally, Q5 is studying the creation of a Community Development Corporation that would try to coordinate development in the downtown area, especially in areas affected by railroad relocation.

Gov. Quinn Signs Same-Sex Marriage Into Law


Gay couples across Illinois can start making their plans and setting the date.

 

Using a desk that once belonged to Abraham Lincoln and that was transported to Chicago for the event, Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation Wednesday making Illinois the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage.

 

Quinn says the new law ensures that love is not relegated to second-class status for any Illinoisan.

 

It takes effect on June 1st of next year.

Bishop Paprocki: Same-Sex Marriage A Serious Sin


Hundreds of Catholic faithful gathered into Springfield’s Cathedral Wednesday as Bishop Thomas John Paprocki offered prayers of exorcism in response to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

 

Paprocki says he was not trying to create controversy, but felt that God had called on him to speak out against what he calls a serious sin by those who enter into a same-sex marriage… and those politicians who are allowing them to do so.

 

Paprocki says the enactment of the new law does not mark the end of the fight to defend traditional marriage, but will instead spur greater efforts to repeal the law.

Closed Door Interviews With School Supt. Finalists Next Month


The field of contenders to become Springfield’s next school superintendent has been whittled down to six.

 

The consultants hired by the school board to assist in the search have submitted the names of six semifinalists… but those names are not being made public.

 

Instead, the school board will conduct closed door interviews on December 7th and trim the list to two or three finalists.

 

Those names will be made public, and the candidates will take part in public question-and-answer sessions.

 

A final decision will be made by December 11th, and if contract terms are reached, the new superintendent should be announced by the end of the year.

Final Decision on Consolidation of Regional Offices of Ed Expected Friday


There’s a new complication in efforts to shrink the number of regional offices of education around the state.

 

Original plans had called for Sangamon County’s regional office to be combined with Menard County.

 

But now the State Journal-Register reports an 11th-hour change would also add Cass, Morgan and Scott counties to the office.

 

Sangamon County Regional Superintendent Jeff Vose says the move will put a strain on his office… and on Sangamon County taxpayers.

 

A final decision by the state board of education is expected Friday.

Consultant to City: Put Out RFPs For Privatization of Oak Ridge Cemetery


A consultant recommends that Springfield put out a request for proposals from private companies interested in taking over operations at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

 

The consultant’s report says the flat death rate in the Springfield area… and the growing number of people choosing cremation over burial… will make it difficult for Oak Ridge to get out of its current financial hole.

 

But the report says private companies may be able to find other sources of revenue… such as selling burial plans and “merchandise”… that would be more problematic for a government-owned cemetery.

 

Mayor Mike Houston has expressed an interest in privatizing Oak Ridge, but several aldermen object.

Car Dealer Association Oppose Proposed Change in Sunday Sales


The association that represents car dealers across Illinois says those dealers oppose a proposed change in the law that would allow them to open on Sunday.

 

Car sales on Sunday have been banned in Illinois since 1983…at the request of the dealers themselves, who said the ban would help them reduce costs and ensure a day off for employees.

 

But Republican state senator Jim Oberweis says the ban is “anti-consumer” and doesn’t make sense.

 

He plans to introduce legislation next year to repeal the ban.

Consultant Recommends Springfield Pursue Oak Ridge Privatization


A consultant recommends that Springfield should try to find a private company to take over operations of Oak Ridge Cemetery for at least the next ten years. 

 

That report was commissioned by Mayor Mike Houston over the summer… drawing complaints from aldermen who say they weren’t notified about it in advance. 

 

The $3,000 study says flat death rates… and increasing numbers of cremations… are cutting Oak Ridge revenues and making it harder for the city to break even.  The report identifies four companies that it says would be capable of taking over cemetery operations. 

 

Several aldermen say they will never vote for turning control of Oak Ridge over to a private firm.

McMenamin Accuses Mayor, Mehlick Of ''Censoring'' His Request To Release Meeting Recording


A Springfield alderman is accusing Mayor Mike Houston and the city’s acting corporation counsel of “censorship” by trying to keep him from presenting an ordinance. 

 

Ward 7’s Joe McMenamin wants the City Council to vote on whether to release a recording of a closed door meeting earlier this month in which Houston talked with aldermen about a possible privatization of Oak Ridge Cemetery.  That meeting prompted a civil lawsuit… and the filing of a police report. 

 

McMenamin says Acting Corporation Counsel John Mehlick is dragging his feet on drafting the ordinance… and he says it’s not the first time it’s happened.  Houston says he wants a judge to review the recording and decide if it must be released.

Airport Dodges Big Hike In Health Insurance Costs -- For Now


Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport officials say they’ve managed to avoid a big hit on health insurance costs linked to the Affordable Care Act… but maybe only temporarily. 

 

Airport director Mark Hanna says the airport learned that the policy that provides coverage to 33 employees won’t be offered next year because it did not meet requirements of the new law.  And he says the only comparable policy he could find would have cost 75% more… an increase of more than $300,000. 

 

Hanna says the airport board moved up the renewal date for the current policy from next July to December 1st of this year, allowing the airport to keep the current plan at only a slightly higher rate.  He says that will allow extra time to shop for a replacement policy that he hopes will not have as large an increase in rates.

State Lawmaker Wants To Allow Sunday Car Sales In Illinois


An Illinois lawmaker says he will try to repeal the state law that prohibits automobile sales on Sunday. 

 

Republican State Senator Jim Oberweis says the 30-year-old law is, quote, “anti-consumer.”  The law was enacted in 1983 at the request of automobile dealers, who said it would lower their costs, create a level playing field and allow their employees to have Sundays off. 

 

The head of the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association says most dealerships still support the Sunday ban and wouldn’t want to see the law changed.

Classes Set To Resume In Washington


Classes will resume at Washington High School Thursday morning for the first time since a powerful tornado demolished hundreds of homes in that community. 

 

The school itself was relatively undamaged from the twister last Sunday.  The high school was opened up on Wednesday so students could “reconnect” with classmates and teachers, and could talk to counselors if they wished. 

 

Washington High is also still in preparations for Saturday’s high school football playoff game in Springfield against Sacred Heart-Griffin.

Aldermen Criticize Mayor Over Handling of Oak Ridge Cemetery


There’s more controversy over the discussions about privatizing Oak Ridge Cemetery.

 

Aldermen sharply criticized Mayor Mike Houston Tuesday for hiring a consultant to study the idea without notifying aldermen first.

 

Houston defended the $3,000 contract, saying it’s important to have a range of options rather than to just keep subsidizing operations at the city-owned cemetery.

 

The mayor and aldermen are also facing legal action for earlier closed-door discussions on the future of Oak Ridge.

 

An Illinois Times reporter has filed a civil lawsuit and is also pursuing misdemeanor criminal charges against city officials for alleged violations of the Open Meetings Act.

City Approves $15 Million Line of Credit for CWLP


Springfield aldermen have approved a new $15 million line of credit for City Water Light and Power.

 

The utility says that will give it the ability to do short-term borrowing that will allow it to make payroll and pay other bills at times of insufficient cash flow.

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin tried to amend the ordinance to require City Council approval every time CWLP taps the line of credit, but that amendment was voted down on a vote of 4-to-5.

Illinois Times Reporter Files Criminal Complaint Against Mayor and Aldermen


An Illinois Times reporter says filing lawsuits over Open Meetings Act violations just doesn’t cut it, because there’s no meaningful penalty for such a violation.

 

So Bruce Rushton is pursuing a criminal complaint against Mayor Mike Houston and all 10 city aldermen, accusing them of committing a misdemeanor violation of the law with their closed-door discussion of the possible privatization of Oak Ridge Cemetery.

 

Rushton filed a police complaint with the Sangamon County Sheriff’s office… after Springfield police refused to take the report.

 

Rushton says if prosecutors pursue the case, he would settle for making the defendants write a longhand essay on the value of open government.

 

Listen to Rusthon with Bishop On Air from Tuesday.

Demonstrations Expected Around Same-Sex Marriage Bill Signing


Thousands of people are expected for today’s event in Chicago, where Governor Pat Quinn will sign same-sex marriage into law.

 

At around the same time, both supporters and opponents of the new law will have their say in Springfield.

 

Catholic Bishop Thomas John Paprocki will offer “prayers of supplication and exorcism” in services at the Cathedral downtown starting at 4pm.

 

Just before that, a group that supports the new law says it will hold its own prayer service outside the church.

 

 

And the Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Springfield will also hold a prayer service in support of marriage equality, beginning at 3:30 this afternoon.

Possible Legal Fights Over Same-Sex Marriage Law and Wedding Vendors


Attorneys are bracing for the possibility of legal fights stemming from the new right of gay couples to get married.

 

The new law says religious institutions or clergy don't have to allow or officiate at gay weddings.

 

But it's not as clear for florists, caterers, tailors and photographers who object on religious grounds.

Tornado Ravaged Town's High School Football Team Finding Help From Rivals


It’s a story that’s now getting national attention.

 

Sacred Heart-Griffin is still hoping to beat Washington in Saturday’s upcoming Class 5A football semifinal match. But between now and then, SH-G is doing what it can to make life easier for their opponents.

 

Several players and coaches from Washington were among the hundreds of residents there whose homes were destroyed in a devastating tornado last weekend.

 

SH-G is providing meals for the team before and after the game, and has also arranged for buses and food for fans who want to take a break from the cleanup effort to cheer for their team.

 

Other fundraising efforts to benefit Washington are also underway.

 

The winner of Saturday’s matchup will advance to the state title game Thanksgiving weekend.

Springfield Outlet Stores Being Announced


The first stores are being announced for the upcoming Outlets at Springfield.

 

The outlet mall is scheduled to open next summer at Legacy Pointe at MacArthur and I-72.

 

The management group began posting some of the first tenants on its Facebook page Tuesday.

 

They include Coach, Jones New York, Nine West, Famous Footwear, Dress Barn, American Eagle, and Book Warehouse.

 

The company says more names will be posted as leases are finalized.

Aldermen and Mayor Clash Over Handling of Oak Ridge Cemetery Options


Several Springfield Aldermen are embarrassed by what they say is perceived secrecy concerning the fate of Oak Ridge Cemetery.

 

It began during unfinished business Tuesday when Alderman Frank Edwards blasted Mayor Mike Houston for not telling aldermen about a consultant hired by the city to look into how to handle the historic cemetery.

 

Houston says the consultant was hired for $3,000 over the summer.

 

Alderman Gail Simpson says the city can do better to be more open and shouldn't operate in the dark.

 

Houston says the city was tasked to find a range of options but only provided three Tuesday evening: subsidizing, handing operations to a property management company or selling.

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin says those were not the options aldermen were looking for. Both Edwards and McMenamin said they will never vote for a property management company to take over Oak Ridge.

 

Meanwhile, Aldermen Joe McMenamin's amendment to an ordinance for a $15 million line of credit for City Water Light and Power failed. The ordinance went through as was proposed on the debate agenda.

 

McMenamin's amendment would have provided greater oversight and council approval for which bank would handle the loan and approval for withdrawals from the line of credit.

 

The amendment failed 5 to 4.

 

The Mayor and utility say the rarely used line of credit is there as insurance for possible emergencies.

First Tenants Of The Outlets At Springfield Announced


Some of the first names to set up shop in the upcoming outlet mall in Springfield are being announced. 

 

Among those retailers signing leases for the Outlets at Springfield will be the Gap, Banana Republic, Nine West, Dress Barn, Oshkosh B’Gosh, Book Warehouse and Crocs.  In all, about 20 companies are listed on the outlet mall’s Facebook page, with a promise of more to come as additional leases are signed. 

 

About 75 stores are planned for the Outlets at Springfield, which is slated to open next summer in Legacy Pointe at MacArthur and I-72.

SH-G Rallying To Aid Of Playoff Opponent


They will be opponents on the football field Saturday, but before and after the game, Sacred Heart-Griffin and Washington High Schools will be on the same team. 

 

SH-G is pulling together a major effort to help players, coaches and fans from Washington, a town that was devastated by an EF-4 tornado on Sunday.  SH-G is providing food for the Washington team before and after the game… and is also arranging buses and a meal for fans from Washington, many of whom had vehicles destroyed in the storm.  Other fundraising efforts are also underway, with the proceeds going back to Washington to assist with tornado recovery. 

 

Sacred Heart-Griffin and Washington are both unbeaten, and will play in a Class 5A semifinal game at 1pm Saturday at SH-G Stadium.

Springfield Airport Makes Big Investment In Solar Technology -- For Small Annual Savings


Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport is investing more than $28,000 in a solar panel project… that will save the airport only about $900 a year in electric charges. 

 

That means it would take around 30 years to recover the investment in the panels, which will be used to heat the water supply for the main passenger terminal.  But airport director Mark Hanna says nearly half the cost is being covered by a private grant from a foundation underwritten by Commonwealth Edison.  That means the project will pay for itself in around 15 years, perhaps sooner if electric prices continue to climb.

Springfield Crews Help in Storm Recovery


Springfield crews are continuing to help with the cleanup from Sunday’s devastating tornado outbreak across Illinois.

 

Nearly a dozen city firefighters have been assisting with a building-to-building search amid the rubble in Washington, near Peoria, to make sure no victims remain trapped.

 

And around 20 City Water Light and Power workers are helping Ameren reconnect tens of thousands of customers who lost power in the storms.

 

The EF-4 tornado that hit Washington, with wind speeds in excess of 170 miles an hour, is believed to be the most powerful storm to strike Illinois since the late 1800s.

Washington High School: Unbeaten Team Ready To Play SHG, Even After Devastating Tornado


Washington High School’s football team will travel to Springfield Saturday to face Sacred Heart-Griffin in the Class 5A semifinals… even though some players and coaches were among those who lost homes in Sunday’s tornado.

 

No members of the team were injured in the storm, and school officials say the unbeaten Washington team will be ready to go.

 

But they also say preparations for the game are taking a back seat to the cleanup and recovery efforts.

 

The team cancelled practice Monday, but plans to travel to Normal today to practice at Illinois State University.

Dist. 186 Faces Possible Legal Action From NAACP Over Minority Hiring


The NAACP says it will take District 186 back to court unless it sees improvement… soon… in the district’s track record on minority hiring.

 

A report to the school board Monday night says the numbers are improving, but still below levels required under the 1970s consent decree to desegregate the city’s public schools.

 

School board members say the district is trying, but efforts to attract qualified minority teachers are often hampered by budget problems and a hiring process that stretches into August and September.

Citizens Efficiency Commission Releases Final Report


The commission set up to find ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs among Sangamon County’s many different units of government is saving some of its biggest recommendations for last.

 

The Citizens Efficiency Commission issued its final round of proposals Monday, including calls for several smaller fire protection districts and police departments to consider consolidating.

 

The commission says those smaller departments simply cannot sustain themselves financially in the long run.

 

The group also recommends that Springfield’s sanitary sewer system be turned over to the Metro Sanitary District… but only if Springfield’s decaying system can be repaired or if the district can be compensated for taking on that burden.

UIS Considering New Team Name


The University of Illinois Springfield has laid out the various options for its team name in the future. The school’s sports teams have been called the Prairie Stars since 1977, in the days when the school was called Sangamon State University.

 

But now the Student Government Association is exploring the possibility of a change.

 

Students, staff and alumni are being asked to choose among keeping the Prairie Stars name, or shortening it to “Stars,” or choosing one of four new options.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the new contenders are Mammoths, Stampede, Sabers or Springers… named for a type of spaniel, not the notorious talk show host. A final recommendation will be submitted early next year.

150th Anniversary of Gettysburg Celebrated Overnight At Presidential Museum


Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln’s most important speech as president and widely considered to be one of the greatest works of oratory in history.

 

The occasion was marked overnight with a reading of the speech by Lincoln presenter Fritz Klein, in an event that was beamed around the world in a live webcast.

 

Historians, authors and filmmakers will take part in events at the Lincoln Presidential Museum for the rest of the week marking the occasion.

Springfield Firefighters Overwhelmed By Damage As They Search Rubble In Washington


A team of Springfield firefighters on the ground in the town of Washington says the damage there is as bad as anything they’ve ever seen.  

 

Ten members of the Technical Response Team and a staff chief are going from building to building, using listening equipment to determine if anyone is still trapped in the rubble of homes or apartment buildings that were heavily damaged in Sunday’s deadly tornado.  

 

400 homes were destroyed in Washington, and another 100 were destroyed or heavily damaged in nearby Pekin.

SH-G/Washington Playoff Game Will Go On Despite Storm's Destruction


This weekend’s playoff game between Sacred Heart-Griffin and Washington High School is still expected to be played on schedule Saturday… despite the devastation in the town of Washington from Sunday’s violent tornado. 

 

Illinois High School Association executive director Marty Hickman says he’s been told that Washington still plans to play, even though some players were directly impacted by the storm that demolished more than 250 homes. 

 

School is cancelled indefinitely in Washington, but Hickman says that won’t prevent the school from playing in the Class 5A semifinals. Hickman says he was told the team has made arrangements to use other practice facilities to prepare for Saturday’s game.

City Council Will Vote On New Tourism Mural On Side Of Power Plant


One of the most visible features for drivers heading north on Interstate 55 & 72 could soon become a huge city-owned billboard for Springfield’s Lincoln sites. 

 

Aldermen are poised to approve a zoning variance sought by the city to paint a nearly 3500-square-foot sign on the side of the Dallman Power Plant.  The sign will read “Visit… Mr. Lincoln’s Home Town, Springfield, Exit 98B,” and will also include a silhouette of Lincoln’s profile. 

 

If the variance is approved by aldermen Tuesday, Ace Sign Company will paint the sign after being awarded a $24,000 contract for the project.

 

See the draft mural here:

 

A rendering of the planned mural

A rendering of the planned mural

Springfield Fire Fighters Sent to Washington, IL, To Assist in Rescue Efforts


Eleven Springfield firefighters have been dispatched to the town of Washington to assist in rescue and recovery efforts following Sunday’s deadly tornado.

 

Ten members of the Technical Rescue Team and a staff chief have been deployed for what is expected to be a 24- to 48-hour tour of duty, assisting Champaign firefighters with the search-and-rescue mission.

Six Killed in Tornadoes Across State Sunday


The death toll now stands at six across Illinois from a series of violent November tornadoes that struck from one end of the state to the other.

 

Hardest hit appears to be the town of Washington, near Peoria, where one person was killed and dozens of others hurt… and hundreds of homes and businesses were demolished.

 

National Guard firefighters and other rescue workers have been dispatched to conduct home-to-home searches looking for victims and survivors.

 

Tornadoes caused death and destruction from the Chicago suburbs to deep Southern Illinois.

 

In the Springfield area, there were no confirmed funnel clouds or touchdowns, and the primary damage appears to be downed tree limbs. However, some property damage was reported in Menard County, where 170 Ameren customers are still without power.

 

More than 3,000 people in Christian and Montgomery counties are also in the dark this morning.

Springfield Fire Contract on First Reading Before Aldermen


Springfield aldermen are getting a first look at a proposed three-year contract for the city’s firefighters.

 

The deal… which is retroactive to last March… calls for pay increases of one-percent in each of the first two years, and one-and-a-half percent in the third year.

 

But it also makes some changes to scheduling and policy intended to reduce the city’s overtime costs.

 

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

150th Anniversary of Gettysburg Address Tuesday, Copy on Hand at Presidential Museum


Tuesday marks the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and one of only five known copies of the speech written in Lincoln’s own hand is on display this week at the Presidential Museum.

 

The state came into possession of the historic document in the 1940s, when children were enlisted to participate in a coin drive.

 

The project raised $60,000 to purchase it from a New York manuscript dealer.

 

Governor Pat Quinn will be on hand at the museum at midnight tonight for a reading of the 272-word speech by Lincoln presenter Fritz Klein.

Chicago's Cardinal Refuses To Comment About Politicians' Support of Same-Sex Marriage


Chicago Cardinal Francis George is refusing to comment on whether he will seek to deny Communion or impose even harsher punishment on Governor Pat Quinn and other Catholic politicians who support same-sex marriage.

 

George told the Chicago Sun-Times that his words are often misinterpreted by the press, so – quote – “What’s the point of talking?”

 

George did offer some words on the issue to churches in the archdiocese, saying same-sex marriage will contribute to the further dissolution of marriage and family life.

 

But he also says Catholics have lived with bad laws before, and will adjust to this one “for the sake of social harmony.”

Gov. Quinn Orders Flags Half-Staff in Remembrance of JFK


Flags will fly at half-staff at all Illinois state facilities this Friday to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

 

Governor Pat Quinn is also asking Illinoisans to observe a moment of silence at 1pm Friday, the moment the President was declared dead on November 22nd, 1963.

 

Quinn says Kennedy inspired a generation of young people to fight injustice in all forms.

Tornadoes Cause Widespread Damage Across Illinois; Large Portion of Washington, Near Peoria, Demolished; At Least Two Dead In So. Illinois


November tornadoes have left a trail of death and destruction from one end of Illinois to the other.

 

Among the hardest hit locations is the town of Washington, near Peoria, where a huge swath of the town was destroyed by a long-track tornado.  Authorities, including National Guard personnel, were conducting a house-to-house search.  Initial reports said at least 15 people were seriously injured, but disruptions to communications made it difficult to get a comprehensive picture of damage and injuries.  Significant damage was also reported in nearby Pekin and East Peoria.

 

Two people are reported dead in Southern Illinois from tornadoes that swept through that region of the state.  And the threat of tornadoes forced the evacuation of Soldier Field and a two-hour weather delay in the Bears-Ravens game.  In the Springfield area, the strong storms and high winds resulted mostly in downed tree limbs.

Springfield City Council To Vote On Firefighters Contract


Springfield aldermen will get to weigh in this week on a proposed new contract for city firefighters. 

 

The three-year deal, retroactive to this past March, provides pay increases of one-percent in each of the first two years, and one-and-a-half percent in the third year.  But it also makes changes intended to reduce the city’s overtime costs, and eliminates the pay spike that firefighters often used to sweeten their pensions.

Sangamon County Health Dept. Now Able To Start Meeting With, Assisting Residents With Obamacare Signup


Sangamon County public health officials are finally able to start holding face-to-face meetings with residents who need help getting signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. 

 

Those meetings have been postponed for weeks because of technical glitches in accessing the websites for signup.  County health director Jim Stone says his staff is now fully certified to get people signed up under the state’s expanded Medicaid program. 

 

However, if any of the 94 people currently on the county’s waiting list don’t qualify for Medicaid and need to go through the federal insurance exchange website, Stone says they may still hit a brick wall.  He says access to healthcare.gov continues to be sporadic and unreliable.

Bullying Is Focus Of Film Screening, Town Hall Meeting Tonight; Listen Live On 970 WMAY


Bullying is a problem that extends beyond the schoolyard.  And a local task force is working on recommendations for area police agencies on the best approaches for coping with incidents of bullying away from school. 

 

Peggy Cormeny with District 186 says bullying may start at school… but may lead to physical confrontations off school property, or to taunting and harassment online or through text messaging. 

 

Strategies on handling the issue will be the subject of a town meeting tonight at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.  The event begins with a free screening of the PG-13 documentary “Bully” at 5:30pm, and then the live broadcast at 7 o’clock here on 970 WMAY, sponsored by Springfield Pepsi and the Illinois Educators Credit Union.

GOP Governor Candidates Have No Plans To Seek Repeal Of Same-Sex Marriage


Springfield’s Catholic bishop says Illinois politicians must work for the repeal of same-sex marriage.  But the four Republicans running for governor say that would not be on their agenda if they’re elected. 

 

The Chicago Sun-Times asked each of the four GOP contenders if they would push for repeal of the law that Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign into law next week. 

 

Kirk Dillard says he thinks the law might be overturned by the courts as unconstitutional, but says he would not push for repeal.  The other Republicans… Bill Brady, Dan Rutherford, and Bruce Rauner… say their focus would be on fixing the state’s economy, not on trying to repeal the newly-passed same-sex marriage law.

Fundraiser Hopes To Add Holiday Cheer To Downtown Springfield


A fundraising effort is underway to pay for enhanced lighting and other holiday decorations for the downtown area. 

 

Downtown Springfield, Inc., the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Springfield Green and Maldaner’s Restaurant are all taking part in the fundraising drive.  Victoria Ringer of DSI says the joint private-public effort will make the holiday season brighter downtown for years to come. 

 

A fundraiser will be held next Wednesday from 5 to 7pm at Maldaner’s downtown.  Donations are also being accepted through the Chamber of Commerce.

Same-Sex Bill Signing To Be Met With Exorcism Prayers By Springfield's Catholic Bishop


Same-sex marriage is the work of the devil, according to Springfield’s Catholic bishop… who plans to offer prayers of exorcism next week at around the same time that Governor Pat Quinn will sign the bill allowing gay couples to marry.

 

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki says anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage is committing a serious sin… and any politicians who voted for or support the concept are facilitating that sin.

 

The bishop says Illinois politicians now have a moral obligation to work for the repeal of the upcoming law.

 

Paprocki plans to conduct “prayers of supplication and exorcism” in services at the Cathedral next Wednesday from 4 to 5pm.

 

Quinn will sign the same-sex marriage bill into law that afternoon in Chicago.

Brauer Hopes To Extend Deadline for Retiree Health Care Coverage Change


A local lawmaker says he remains hopeful that changes can be made before state government retirees are locked into major changes in their health care coverage.

 

The Quinn administration is dropping Health Alliance and is instead offering several other “Medicare Advantage” plans to retirees. The deadline to choose a new option is December 13th.

 

State Representative Rich Brauer says he wants to get that deadline extended, and hopes lawmakers may address that when they return to Springfield next month.

 

Brauer also wants more investigation into how and why Health Alliance was dropped… and whether it can be reinstated.

Mayor Houston Doesn't Know Woman He Nominated to Homeless Commission


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says he knows nothing about the woman he nominated for a spot on the city’s homeless commission two years ago… a woman who is now reportedly the target of both state and federal investigations.

 

Marlene Liss is under scrutiny for her relationship with Secretary of State Jesse White and for the high-paying job she landed in his office.

 

A report from White’s inspector general also says Liss is connected to a federal fraud investigation.

 

Houston says he doesn’t know how Liss’s name came to his attention, but thinks it may have been submitted to him from a non-profit group.

 

A mayoral spokesman says Liss did not attend a meeting during her one-year term and was not renominated.

Area Home Sales On Pace For Best Year in 5 Years


Springfield-area home sales are on pace for their best year since 2007.

 

The Capital Area Association of Realtors says sales this year are tracking close to 2009… a year in which the group says the numbers were artificially inflated by a government incentive program for first-time homebuyers.

 

And the totals could wind up being the best since before the economic meltdown, despite a recent uptick in mortgage rates.

Both GOP Sheriff Candidates Will Refuse State Stipend


Both candidates for Sangamon County sheriff say they will reject a state stipend that bolsters the salaries of sheriffs in 101 Illinois counties.

 

Jack Campbell was the first to announce he would refuse the $6500 stipend, or would donate that amount to charity.

 

GOP primary opponent Wes Barr also says he’ll reject the money, but his alternative would be to put that cash directly back into the sheriff’s department operating budget.

Local Home Sales Could Have Biggest Year Since 2007


Springfield-area home sales are on track for the best year since before the economic meltdown. 

 

The Capital Area Association of Realtors says nearly 3200 homes have been sold locally through October 31st of this year… a 7-percent increase over 2012.  The Association says sales are now comparable to 2009… when a first-time homebuyer incentive program inflated market activity… and this could wind up being the best year locally since 2007. 

 

Sales are up even though national average mortgage rates are almost a point higher than they were a year ago.

Questions Remain About State Retiree Health Insurance


Confusion and uncertainty remain for many state government retirees who want more information about how changes to their health coverage will affect them. 

 

The Quinn administration is dropping Health Alliance and instead offering several Medicare Advantage plans.  State Representative Rich Brauer says big questions persist about how and why Health Alliance was excluded… and he’s pushing for the Auditor General to look into it. 

 

Brauer says lawmakers could also intervene in an effort to extend the enrollment period, which is now scheduled to end on December 13th.

Bishop To Offer Prayers Of Exorcism In Response To Same-Sex Marriage Bill Signing


Springfield’s Catholic bishop says same-sex marriage is the work of the devil… and he will offer prayers of exorcism next week, at the same time Governor Pat Quinn signs that new definition of marriage into law. 

 

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki’s statement quotes Pope Francis from the days when Francis was a cardinal in Argentina.  At that time, Francis said same-sex marriage came from, quote, “the father of lies." 

 

In his written statement, Paprocki says anyone entering into a same-sex marriage is committing a serious sin… and politicians who voted in favor of it are, quote, “morally complicit as co-operators” in that sin. 

 

The prayers of “supplication and exorcism” will be held next Wednesday from 4 to 5pm at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.

Houston: No Idea How Controversial Figure Came To Be Appointed To City Commission


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says he has no idea how a controversial former aide to Secretary of State Jesse White came to be one of his appointees to the city’s homeless advisory commission. 

 

Marlene Liss is under scrutiny for the high-paying job she landed after years of friendship with White, and has been linked to a federal investigation of Medicaid fraud.  She was also appointed by Houston to that city commission in 2011. 

 

Houston says he’s never met Liss, but says it would not be unusual for a non-profit organization to submit a name that he would in turn nominate for such an appointment.  A spokesman for Houston says Liss never showed up for a single meeting of the commission, and her appointment to the unpaid position was not renewed in 2012.  However, her name remains listed as a commission member on the city’s website.

Campbell Will Refuse $6500 State Stipend If Elected Sheriff


County sheriffs across Illinois just won a round in court restoring a portion of the state stipend that helps to fund their salaries.  But Sangamon County Undersheriff Jack Campbell says he’ll refuse the $6,500 stipend if he’s elected next year. 

 

Appearing live with 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air,” Campbell said he knows the savings to the state won’t amount to much… but says given the scope of Illinois’s fiscal problems, every dollar that doesn’t get spent someplace can go to another urgent need elsewhere. 

 

Campbell says if he cannot simply refuse to accept the money, he will donate it to charity.  Opponent Wes Barr says he will also reject the stipend if elected, and will seek to apply that amount directly to the sheriff’s department budget.

Rauner Ad Attacks Quinn; Candidate Gives Half-Million Of Own Money To Campaign


Republican Bruce Rauner is running a new TV ad in the race for governor… but in it, he virtually ignores his GOP primary opponents. 

 

Instead, Rauner is already training all his fire on Democratic Governor Pat Quinn.  Rauner says Quinn is responsible for, quote, “one of the worst-run governments in America.” 

 

The millionaire businessman is helping to pay for the big TV buy by donating $500,000 of his own money to his campaign.  That move triggers a provision of state law that removes donation limits, allowing all of his opponents to begin accepting unlimited contributions from supporters.

Special Session on Pensions Could Come First Week of December


A pension reform deal could be getting closer.

 

The chief of staff to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan is telling lawmakers to be ready to come back for a special session that could start on or around December 3rd.

 

There are few concrete details yet on what kind of plan might be ready for lawmakers to act on when, or if, they return to Springfield.

 

Governor Pat Quinn declined to comment about the possibility of a special session during a stop in Springfield Wednesday, but said lawmakers need to get a pension deal passed as soon as possible.

Slow Start for Illinoisans Signing Up for Obamacare


Fewer than 1400 people in Illinois signed up for health insurance plans through the troubled federal website during its first month of operations.

 

They were among only about 27,000 people nationwide who were able to successfully navigate the technical glitches on the site and obtain coverage.

 

The Obama administration had projected 10,000 Illinoisans would sign up in October.

 

Illinois is among the states that require residents to go through the federal site, after deciding not to set up its own separate state-run exchange.

Houston: Christian is Manipulating the Legal System


Mayor Mike Houston says the reporter and blogger who has filed multiple lawsuits against the city is trying to manipulate the legal system.

 

Among the complaints filed by Calvin Christian is a suit alleging that Springfield police frequently stop and ticket him in a coordinated campaign of harassment.

 

Houston charges that Christian racks up multiple tickets and then insists on jury trials… prompting prosecutors to dismiss the cases rather than go through that process.

 

But Houston suggests Christian won’t be able to get out of tickets like that in the future.

Judge Rules Springfield School Board Did Not Violate Open Meetings Act


A Sangamon County judge has ruled that the Springfield school board did not violate the Open Meetings Act when members in closed session signed an agreement that led to the departure of former superintendent Walter Milton.

 

That ruling contradicts an opinion from the Illinois attorney general’s office that executing that agreement behind closed doors, without prior public notice, was improper.

 

The State Journal-Register reports that Judge Steven Nardulli was still critical of the board, saying that their actions created an appearance of impropriety, even if they weren’t technically improper.

 

Nardulli also called for further study into whether the board might have violated the law by failing to publicly discuss the terms of the agreement before re-approving it later in open session.

Gov. Quinn Touts Expansion of Convention Center


Governor Pat Quinn is touting the role of state public works dollars in the renovation and expansion of the Prairie Capital Convention Center.

 

Quinn held a news conference Wednesday in the lobby of the building, where the $16 million project is still underway.

 

The state kicked in $4 million for the work, which includes expanded floor and lobby space and the addition of first-floor restrooms. Q

 

uinn and city officials say the work will bring more visitors… and more dollars… to Springfield.

Activists Calls for Excommunication of Quinn and Other Catholic Lawmakers


A conservative activist is calling on Chicago Cardinal Francis George to excommunicate Governor Pat Quinn and any other Catholic politicians in the state who supported the same-sex marriage bill that passed last week.

 

Robert Klein Engler wrote on the Illinois Review website that by supporting the new law over the objections of the Church, Quinn and others are destroying the sacrament of marriage, and may be guilty of blasphemy and heresy.

Houston Accuses Christian Of Manipulating The Legal System


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says a headline-grabbing reporter and blogger is trying to game the system to make life difficult for city officials… and avoid accountability for his own actions. 

 

Houston’s comments come after the latest lawsuit filed against the city by Calvin Christian.  It’s one of several pending lawsuits, including one in which Christian claims a pattern of harassment against him by Springfield police. 

 

Houston accuses Christian of racking up citations and then getting the charges dropped because he insists on a jury trial, which the state’s attorney’s office didn’t want to go through that process.  However, Houston says that technique most likely won’t work in the future for Christian, suggesting he may face trials on multiple citations for driving without a valid license.

Quinn Touts PCCC Money, Ducks Questions On Pension Special Session


Governor Pat Quinn is touting the state money that’s helping to pay for the renovation and expansion of the Prairie Capital Convention Center. 

 

The $16 million project includes $4 million that came from Quinn’s public works program, Illinois Jobs Now.  Quinn says the money will support a facility that boosts the local economy and creates jobs. 

 

Meanwhile, Quinn is dodging questions about a possible special legislative session on pensions.  The governor says lawmakers need to come back soon to finish the job on pension reform, but would not say if he would force them back in special session before the end of the year.

Local Cardiologist Says New Heart Health Guidelines Don't Change Need For Better Diet, Exercise


A Springfield cardiologist says new guidelines on heart disease and cholesterol are long overdue. 

 

Dr. Roberto Pacheco of Prairie Cardiovascular Consultants says the new approach… which could result in more people being put on cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins (STAT’-ins)… is based on the latest research. 

 

Pacheco says an increased reliance on the drugs doesn’t mean people can ignore diet and exercise, but thinks it will help reduce the total number of heart attacks and strokes.  [Pacheco appeared live on the 970 WMAY News Feed.]

Survey: Local Business Owners Expect Economy To Hold Steady Or Improve In 2014


Local business owners predict the economy will get a little better… or at least it won’t get any worse… in the coming twelve months. 

 

That’s the key finding of the latest Economic Outlook Survey commissioned by the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.  Those taking the survey are more optimistic about their own business than they are about the local economy as a whole… but they are troubled by uncertainty surrounding the state pension crisis and Obamacare. 

 

The survey finds most business owners expect inflation to be on the rise in 2014… but that may actually be a sign of economic strength, because inflation usually follows increased demand for products and services.

Rutherford Wants Better Planning For Facility Closures


State facilities are being closed down with no plan for what to do with those empty buildings afterward… according to Republican candidate for governor Dan Rutherford, who says that will change if he’s elected next year. 

 

Rutherford says he’s not objecting to the need to shut down facilities from time to time, but says it shouldn’t happen without a game plan for what comes next… such as selling the property or finding an alternative use for it. 

 

Rutherford says right now, there isn’t even a comprehensive list of all state property assets, much less a plan for how to dispose of them.  That lack of planning has led to abrupt, unpleasant surprises in communities where large facilities suddenly sit vacant… like Jacksonville after the shutdown of its developmental center.

City Readies RFP For Private Management of Oak Ridge Cemetery


Concerns are being raised about the possibility of turning Oak Ridge Cemetery over to a private company.

 

Mayor Mike Houston plans to put out a request for proposals from companies interested in taking over the city-run cemetery, where Abraham Lincoln is entombed.

 

Oak Ridge has required city subsidies to operate for the past several years.

 

But several aldermen and other interested parties say the cemetery is too important for the city to give up control.

 

Among those opposed are funeral director P.J. Staab and a rep for union workers at the cemetery, who fears a private takeover would bust the union.

Christian Sues City Again, This Time A Class Action Suit Over Tow Fees


The City of Springfield is facing yet another lawsuit from a familiar plaintiff.

 

Calvin Christian has filed a class-action suit claiming the city’s towing and noise ordinances are unconstitutional.

 

The noise ordinance permits the city to tow the vehicle of a driver who is busted for loud music twice in a 24-month period.

 

The towing ordinance also imposes stiff fines for someone to reclaim their vehicle.

 

It’s the latest of several lawsuits against the city filed by Christian, who also has pending cases over the destruction of police department internal affairs files and an alleged campaign of police harassment against him.

Sangamon County Board Passes Budget, Increase by $2 Million


The Sangamon County Board has approved a new budget for the fiscal year that starts December 1st… one that will spend $2 million more than in the current budget.

 

Most of that increase is in payroll and pensions, even though headcount is expected to decline next year through attrition.

Congressman Schock: No Calls In Support of Obamacare


Congressman Aaron Schock says his office has received thousands of calls from people who are losing their health insurance coverage or facing dramatic increases in costs because of Obamacare… and not a single call from anyone who says they are getting a better deal under the new federal law.

 

Schock says the Affordable Care Act is making health care completely unaffordable for millions and threatens to destroy the private insurance market.

 

He is calling for passage of a House resolution this week that would allow people to keep their existing policies… even if they don’t meet the standards spelled out under the health care reform law.

Quinn Makes First Public Appearance With Running Mate


Governor Pat Quinn has made his first public appearance with new running mate Paul Vallas.

 

Vallas himself ran for governor in 2002, losing in the Democratic primary to Rod Blagojevich.

 

But he says he has no problem playing second banana to Quinn.

 

Both men say finding a lasting fix to the state’s pension crisis will be their top priority.

Aldermen Discuss Possible Privatization of Oak Ridge Cemetery


The future of Oak Ridge Cemetery came into focus during Tuesday's Springfield City Council Committee of the Whole when several citizens, including a former alderman and a representative of a prominent funeral home, stood in opposition to the possibility of a private property management firm taking over operations.

 

P.J. Staab from Staab Funeral Home said the city should keep control of the sacred land where Abraham Lincoln is buried.

 

Former aldermen and businessman Bob Vose said he's gonna work to raise $1 million in private funds for an overlay program.

 

Roger Griffin, who represents union members at the cemetery, says that if a property manager takes over and the union contract expires, there could be a move to get away from unionized workers at the cemetery.

 

Several aldermen agreed that the city must keep control of the property and should consider more options to raise funds for the cemetery. Aldermen requested Oak Ridge Cemetery Executive Director Michael Lelys and the Oak Ridge Cemetery Foundation to regularly report to the council on the status of the cemetery and more ideas to raise money for the operations.

 

The city included hundreds of thousands more in funding for the cemetery to keep operations going and may consider more subsidies in the upcoming budget talks.

Springfield Nuisance and Tow Ordinance Questioned in New Class Action Suit


The City of Springfield's sound nuisance and vehicle impounding ordinances are being challenged in court by the same reporter who is already suing the city over destroyed IA files.

 

In a class action suit filed against the city Tuesday, Calvin Christian says the city's impoundment ordinance is repugnant and a violation of several Amendments to the US constitution, including the 4th Amendment and 5th Amendment.  The suit also says the ordinances violates the Illinois vehicle code.

 

A similar suit against the city filed by Derek Fultun was dismissed in circuit court this past August.

Schock: Obamacare Is ''Destroying'' Health Insurance System


Obamacare is destroying the private health insurance market… according to Congressman Aaron Schock, who says Congress has to step in quickly to prevent irreparable harm to millions of Americans. 

 

Schock was joined at a Springfield news conference by several businesspeople who say their premiums or out-of-pocket costs are skyrocketing because of changes to their policies forced by the Affordable Care Act. 

 

A Springfield business owner says his cost for providing health insurance for his employees will go up by 150% because of President Obama’s health care reform law.  Tony Kulavic of Kulavic’s Auto Body says his annual cost for his 10 employees will jump from $19,000 to more than $45,000, and he doesn’t know if he will try to absorb the cost, pass it on to his workers… or drop their health plans altogether.  Kulavic says he doesn’t know if he could find a cheaper plan because of problems logging onto the healthcare.gov website.

 

Schock… who says his office has received “thousands” of complaints about Obamacare and not a single call in support… is supporting legislation that would allow people to keep their existing policies, something President Obama promised but has been unable to deliver.

Barr Agrees With Campbell: No E-Cigs In County Jail


Now both candidates for Sangamon County Sheriff are extinguishing the idea of letting jail inmates smoke electronic cigarettes. 

 

Two Southern Illinois counties are allowing the practice, saying it may improve morale.  But Undersheriff Jack Campbell last week said the idea has been rejected for the Sangamon County Jail, in part because of fears that inmates could use the battery-operated devices as a weapon. 

 

Campbell’s Republican primary opponent Wes Barr is also opposed to it.  On the 970 WMAY News Feed, Barr said the jail works just fine as a smoke-free environment, and sees no need to revert back to letting inmates smoke at all, even if the smoke from the device is really just water vapor.

AP: Negative Environmental and Economic Impacts from Ethanol


An Associated Press investigation is raising new questions about the environmental and economic impacts of ethanol… and spurring calls for the federal government to abandon mandates related to production of the corn-based fuel.

 

The AP says that while ethanol production has boosted the price of corn, it has also prompted many farmers to convert wetlands and other conservation areas into cornfields…and led to increased levels of fertilizers and other chemicals into drinking water.

 

Ethanol mandates and subsidies are a significant part of the agriculture economy of Illinois… the third-largest ethanol-producing state.

Quinn Tours State Promoting Veterans Cash Lottery


Monday’s Veterans Day observances brought out lots of people to show their appreciation for men and women in uniform.

 

It also brought out lots of politicians touting programs to help vets. Governor Pat Quinn did a statewide flyaround to promote “Veterans Cash.”

 

Since 2006, the annual scratch-off lottery game has raised $11 million for programs that assist veterans.

Operation Reunite Program Helps Forgotten Military Medals Get to Rightful Owners


State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is looking for the rightful owners of more than 100 military medals and decorations.

 

Rutherford’s “Operation Reunite” is an offshoot of his unclaimed property division, which deals mostly with cash left in forgotten or dormant bank accounts. The medals, including 16 Purple Hearts, were left for years in safety-deposit boxes before being turned over to the state.

 

A list of names linked to those medals can be found on the Treasurer’s office website.

Sheriff Candidate Barr Proposes Rule Change Waiving Education Requirement for Veterans


A candidate for Sangamon County sheriff is formally unveiling a policy that he says will help military veterans use their skills to protect and serve county residents.

 

Wes Barr is officially proposing an idea he offered live on the air on 970 WMAY back in September.

 

Barr says he would recommend a rule change that would permit active duty veterans to apply for jobs as deputies or jail guards even if they have not gone to college.

 

Current rules require deputy applicants to either have a bachelor’s degree… or 60 hours of post-secondary education and two years of military or law enforcement experience.

UIS Conducts Survey About Potential of Smoke Free Campus


The University of Illinois Springfield is thinking about making its entire campus smoke-free.

 

Currently UIS allows smoking in certain designated outdoor areas, but other college campuses around the state… including the main U of I campus in Urbana… are prohibiting smoking anywhere on school property.

 

UIS is conducting an online survey of students and staff… and also plans to ask the opinion of people who see shows at Sangamon Auditorium, which would also lose its outdoor smoking area.

 

A decision could come early next year.

IEA Head Not a Fan of Quinn's Selected Running Mate


The head of the Illinois Education Association is not happy with Governor Pat Quinn’s selection of Paul Vallas as his running mate.

 

Cinda Klickna told Salon.com that as a school administrator, Vallas often chose confrontation with teachers unions instead of collaboration.

 

Vallas is a former Chicago Public Schools chief who has generated controversy in other large school districts, including at his current post in Connecticut.

Chilly Temps Cause Tri-City Schools to Cancel Two Days


Tri-City Schools will be closed for a couple of days because of the chilly temperatures.

 

School district officials say the school’s heating system hasn’t been fully cleared for use after a mold problem in the building earlier this year. And with high temperatures only in the 30s, Tri-City officials have decided to call off classes Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

Classes are scheduled to resume Thursday, when the forecast calls for a high around 50 degrees.

UIS Considering Completely Smoke-Free Campus


The University of Illinois Springfield is asking for input from student and staff on whether the campus should go completely smoke-free.  

 

Currently UIS allows smoking in some designated outdoor areas… but the Urbana campus recently announced plans to ban all smoking anywhere on campus property.  So the Springfield campus wants to measure sentiment about such a move here as well.

 

In addition to the student-staff survey, UIS will also ask the opinions of Sangamon Auditorium patrons, who are currently allowed to step outside to have a cigarette.  A final decision could come early next year.

IEA President Displeased With Quinn Running Mate Choice


The head of the Illinois Education Association is not happy with Governor Pat Quinn’s selection of Paul Vallas as his running mate. 

 

Cinda Klickna told Salon.com that as a school administrator, Vallas often chose confrontation with teachers unions instead of collaboration. 

 

Vallas is a former Chicago Public Schools chief who has generated controversy in other large school districts, including at his current post in Connecticut.

Rutherford Seeks To Return Military Decorations To Rightful Owners


State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is using Veterans Day to remind the public that he is holding on to dozens of military medals, ribbons and other artifacts that he'd like to return to the rightful owners.

 

The items, including 16 Purple Hearts, have been turned over to the state after being left unclaimed for years in dormant safe-deposit boxes.  Rutherford has posted the names of the last rightful owner of those boxes on his website and is encouraging them to come forward.  If the owner is deceased, Rutherford says next-of-kin can claim the items if they can show proper proof that they are entitled to do so.

 

Rutherford frequently holds auctions of unclaimed property, but says he will never auction off military items.  To see the list of names linked to Rutherford's "Operation Reunite" program, go to treasurer.il.gov.

Lottery Ticket Raises Money For Veterans' Programs


The State of Illinois is once again rolling out an instant lottery ticket in hopes of making veterans the big winners. 

 

Proceeds from the sale of the “Veterans Cash” tickets help to fund grants for programs that address veteran homelessness and hunger, job training, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

 

Since its inception in 2006, the Veterans Cash game has generated $11 million that has been distributed to more than 200 organizations and programs statewide.

Veterans Day Events Planned Through Area


It’s Veterans Day, and many events are planned across the area to pay tribute to men and women in uniform.

 

The annual Veterans Day parade in downtown Springfield steps off at around 10:20 this morning from 10th and Capitol.

 

This year, parade organizers have decided to keep politicians out of the lineup, in order to keep the focus on veterans.

 

The parade will head west on Capitol to the Statehouse, where a cerermony will be held in the rotunda.

 

Ceremonies are also planned at UIS, Lincoln Land Community College, and Camp Butler National Cemetery.

Military Medals and Ribbons Among Other Unclaimed Items With Treasurer's Office


On this Veterans Day, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford is trying to return some buried treasures to veterans or their descendants.

 

Rutherford is promoting his office’s Operation Reunite program, which seeks to find the rightful owners of nearly 200 military medals, ribbons and other artifacts.

 

Often, such items are stored in bank safety deposit boxes and then forgotten… and are ultimately turned over to the Treasurer’s office.

 

A list of names that may be connected to those items is available through the Treasurer’s office website.

General Assembly Neglects Big Issues During Fall Veto-Session


Another legislative session is likely to be remembered as much for didn’t get done as for what did.

 

Although lawmakers approved a historic same-sex marriage bill, most of the other big issues on their plate are still unresolved.

 

Those include pension reform, tax breaks for major corporations that are threatening to leave Illinois, expanded gambling, and several of Governor Pat Quinn’s big agenda items… increasing the minimum wage, tightening ethics rules, and clamping down on gun violence.

Lawsuit Seeks to Force Implementation of Gay Marriage in Illinois


Even though Governor Pat Quinn is poised to sign same-sex marriage into law later this month, a lawsuit that was filed to force that change is still pending… and attorneys for the plaintiffs say the legal fight may not be over yet.

 

The attorneys say they may seek a court order to allow gay couples to wed right away, instead of having to wait until next June 1st, the current effective date of the new law.

 

The plaintiffs say the lack of marriage equality is a violation of their rights… a violation that would persist for months unless the court intervenes.

 

The case is currently on hold, but another hearing is planned for November 14th.

Scrutinized Secretary of State Employee Has Ties to Springfield City Hall


A woman who is now under scrutiny for her connections to Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White also has… or at least had… a connection to Springfield City Hall.

 

Marlene Liss is a longtime friend of White’s and held a $75,000-a-year job in his office.

 

She recently left that post after an inspector general’s report uncovered discrepancies in her educational record and found that she is part of a federal investigation into allegations of Medicaid fraud.

 

Liss was also appointed in 2011 to serve on Mayor Mike Houston’s homeless advisory commission.

 

A Houston spokesman says Liss never attended a meeting, and her one-year term was not renewed.

 

However, she remains listed as a commission member on the city’s website.

Eligibility of Quinn's Running Mate Called Into Question


Governor Pat Quinn’s choice of Paul Vallas as his running mate could revive old questions about Vallas’s legal residency.

 

Vallas has been running out-of-state school districts for years… most recently in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where his residency status led to a court fight about whether he was legally qualified to serve as a school superintendent in that state.

 

In 2005, Vallas briefly explored a run for governor but decided against it when a judge refused to declare him a legal resident of the state.

Lawmakers Could Return In December


It’s not definite yet, but Illinois lawmakers could come back to Springfield next month for a vote on pension reform. 

 

Actuaries are still crunching the numbers on the latest proposals to plug a $100 billion hole in the pension funds. 

 

One date being discussed for a special session is December 5th… just after the deadline for potential challengers to file petitions for next year’s elections.

Veterans Day Events Planned In Springfield; Politicians Not Welcome At Parade


Many events are planned to honor local veterans on Monday. 

 

The annual Veterans Day parade steps off just after 10am Monday from 10th and Capitol, and heads straight west down Capitol Avenue to the Statehouse, where a ceremony is planned. 

 

The annual Veterans Day parade in the capital city has a new rule this year: No politicians, and no campaigning. The change is part of an effort to refocus Monday's event on the military men and women who served the country. Sam Montalbano is a parade organizer. He says World War II veterans "aren't going to be around much longer" and it's time to salute them.

 

Other events are scheduled for UIS, Lincoln Land Community College, and Camp Butler National Cemetery.

Chicago Business Leaders Want Term Limits, Pension Benefit Cuts


Chicago-area business leaders are strongly in support of term limits for Illinois politicians. 

 

A survey of 250 business decision-makers in and around Chicago finds 82-percent support limiting the length of time elected officials can serve. 

 

80-percent support reducing pension benefits for public sector workers as a solution to the state’s pension crisis.

Decatur Park Singers Disbanding


After more than 40 years, the Decatur Park Singers performing group is disbanding. 

 

Park District officials say rising costs and shrinking attendance at concerts led to the decision.  The district says it will apply the group’s budget to other entertainment and educational programs.

Embattled Jesse White Friend Also Linked To Springfield City Hall


Secretary of State Jesse White's longtime friend and former employee of… who is now under scrutiny for several questionable practices… was appointed by Mayor Mike Houston to the city’s homeless advisory commission in 2011. 

 

An inspector general’s report says Marlene Liss may have billed the state for providing home health-care services at the same time she was supposedly on the clock for a high-paying job in White’s office. 

 

A spokesman for Houston says Liss was appointed to a one-year term on the commission but never attended a meeting and was not reappointed.  However, her name still appears as a commission member on the city’s website. Spokesman Nathan Mihelich did not say how Houston came to know or nominate Liss.

Only Hundreds Of Illinoians Have Signed Up On Insurance Exchanges So Far


Illinoisans who have been able to sign up for insurance through the troubled healthcare.gov website number only in the hundreds, according to a top state official. 

 

Jennifer Koehler says it does appear that problems with the website are improving, allowing more people to obtain coverage. 

 

That estimate does not include thousands who have qualified for the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

Some African-American Pols Dislike Quinn Running Mate Choice


Some African-American politicians in Chicago are complaining about Governor Pat Quinn’s selection of a running mate. 

 

Quinn chose former Chicago public schools chief Paul Vallas… who is himself a former candidate for governor. 

 

There had been widespread speculation that Quinn might choose a black woman to join him on the ticket.  Several politicians say that by choosing a white male, Quinn appears to be taking the black vote for granted.

Suspect Arrested In Springfield Bank Robbery


A Virden man has been arrested in connection with an armed robbery at a Springfield bank earlier this week. 

 

Springfield police, the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI all took part in the investigation that led to the arrest of 33-year-old Shawn Graves.  Graves was actually arrested at his home in Virden on Wednesday, two days after a masked man with a handgun held up the Warren-Boynton State Bank branch on Spring Mill Drive on Springfield’s far west side. 

 

Police say that after they released a description of the suspect and his vehicle on Monday, they received Crimestoppers tips that led them to the suspect.

 

Shawn T. Graves

Shawn T. Graves

 

Poe Hopes Lawmakers Might Intervene On Health Alliance Switch


A local lawmaker is still hoping there might be some way to intervene before state government retirees are locked into big changes in their health care coverage. 

 

The Quinn administration has opted not to renew the contract with Health Alliance and is instead offering four new Medicare Advantage options for retirees.  But many people are complaining about the change… and about the tight timeline for deciding which coverage to switch to. 

 

Representative Raymond Poe hopes there could be a vote on a measure to move the enrollment period from next month and delay it until May.  But that couldn’t happen unless lawmakers are called back for a special session on pensions… and nothing’s been scheduled yet.

Quinn Chooses Vallas As Running Mate


Governor Pat Quinn has chosen former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas to be his running mate in the 2014 election.

 

Vallas ran for governor in the 2002 Democratic primary, but lost to Rod Blagojevich.  Since then he has been in charge of the school districts in Philadelphia, New Orleans and Bridgeport, Connecticut.  But Vallas has reportedly maintained residency and voting status in the state of Illinois.

 

The selection is viewed as a surprise move, but Quinn says Vallas has a solid record for education reform and support of working families.  Vallas had been at the center of controversy in Bridgeport over whether he had the proper certification to run a school district in Connecticut.

Springfield-To-Florida Flights Resume


Florida is back on the flight path out of Springfield. 

 

Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport has resumed its seasonal non-stop flights between Springfield and Punta Gorda, Florida.  The twice-weekly flights have proven to be popular with local travelers seeking to escape the cold weather. 

 

As a result, the airport and Allegiant Air recently announced a second route, with regular flights to the Orlando-Sanford airport.  Those flights begin on November 22nd.  The airport says additional Florida flights may be added to schedule for peak times around the holidays and spring break.

Dozen People Arrested For String Of Decatur Shootings


Twelve people have been arrested in a sweep following a series of shootings in Decatur last weekend. 

 

Five separate shooting incidents were reported last Sunday in what authorities believe is part of an ongoing feud.  One person was injured. 

 

The dozen people taken into custody are facing weapons and other charges.  Police have also filed drug charges against several suspects in connection with the investigation.

Springfield Schools Could Face Lawsuit Over Lack of Minority Teachers


The head of the Springfield NAACP branch says District 186 could face a lawsuit unless it does more to hire minority teachers.

 

Teresa Haley tells the State Journal-Register that the district is in violation of the 1976 federal consent decree that desegregated the city’s schools.

 

That decree calls for the teaching ranks to reflect the minority population of the city.

 

But right now, only 11-percent of teachers are minorities.

 

The district’s minority recruitment committee says that number would have to be more than 18-percent to meet the requirements of the consent decree.

 

Haley says the group is willing to give the next superintendent time to make improvements… but she says the problem can’t go on indefinitely.

Work on Rail Consolidation Project To Begin Next Year, Pending Final Approval


Plans are still on track to begin construction next year on a new Carpenter Street underpass between 9th and 11th Streets.

 

The project would be the first of the planned improvements aimed at consolidating most rail traffic in the city onto the 10th Street corridor.

 

Hanson Professional Services has released a preliminary design for the underpass, and is aiming for final approval by next spring.

 

The project is expected to be the template for as many as eight new underpasses that will allow traffic to move smoothly through town, even as more trains come down the 10th Street line.

Lincoln's Tomb to Close December 1st for Repairs


The interior of Lincoln’s Tomb will be closed down December 1st for a $633,000 renovation project.

 

The work will repair years of water damage and other deterioration, and will also replace the tomb’s interior lighting.

 

The project will close the tomb interior, where Lincoln’s body is laid to rest, until early March… which could interfere with the annual wreath-laying ceremony held inside the tomb on Lincoln’s Birthday.

 

The exterior will still be accessible to visitors.

Questions Arise About Hiring of High Ranking Secretary of State Employee


A report from Secretary of State Jesse White’s inspector general raises questions about the hiring of a longtime female friend of White’s.

 

Marlene Liss earned $75,000 a year as the Number Two official in White’s securities division, even though her job was primarily to track vacation and time off, and was not involved in securities regulation.

 

Liss has also used multiple different names on various official documents… and is reportedly under investigation for obtaining payments to provide home health care services at times when she was supposed to be on the clock for the state.

 

A spokesman says White and Liss have had a “non-romantic social relationship” for 15 years, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

Houston Plans To Bring Appointment Up for Vote When Votes Are Lined Up


Mayor Mike Houston is taking the blame for failing to follow up on his appointment of a former aide to a $95,000 job at City Water Light and Power…a position that has never gone before the City Council for approval.

 

Houston says he plans to put the appointment of Bob Braasch up for a vote… as soon as he has the votes needed for approval.

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY, Houston defended his right to make interim appointments without aldermanic input, saying it’s part of the executive function that falls to him, not the City Council.

Mayor Says Police Pension Board Should Recover Money From Legal Adviser


Mayor Mike Houston is repeating his view that the city’s police pension board should try to recover thousands of dollars in pension overpayments… but Houston says that money shouldn’t necessarily have to come from the officers who received the extra money.

 

Instead, the mayor suggests the board could try to recover damages from anyone who provided faulty legal advice about the way those pension benefits were calculated.

 

The error led to at least $16,000 in overpayments to around a dozen officers.

Salvation Army Launches Tree of Lights Campaign


Lots of ways to help people here at the holidays: the Salvation Army has launched its annual Tree of Lights campaign.

 

The agency hopes to raise $455,000 through the efforts of bell-ringers alongside the familiar red kettles.

 

Meanwhile, the Green Family Stores is helping with a coat drive for local kids.

 

New coats can be dropped off at any Green Stores auto dealership, while Burlington Coat Factory is accepting used coats in good condition.

Lincoln's Tomb Interior To Close December 1 For Repair Project; Exterior To Remain Open


December 1st is the target date to close down Lincoln’s Tomb for a major renovation project.  The state has allocated $633,000 for repairs of damaged and deteriorating sections of the tomb’s interior.  The tomb's interior lighting will also be replaced.

 

As 970 WMAY News first reported back in July, the project will close the interior… where Abraham Lincoln’s body rests… until March, although the exterior will still be accessible to visitors.  It's still not clear how the closure will affect February's observance of Lincoln's Birthday, which usually includes a wreath-laying ceremony inside the tomb each year.

Report Questions Jesse White's Hiring Practices


An internal report is raising questions about Secretary of State Jesse White’s hiring practices. 

 

Crain’s Chicago Business reports the former Number Two person in White’s Securities Division has used nine different names on various government documents, lied about her educational background, and may have claimed reimbursements for providing home health care services at times when she was supposedly on the clock at her state office. 

 

Marlene Liss left her $75,000 a year job after White’s inspector general filed the report.  The document states that Liss is under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Springfield as part of a probe of Medicaid fraud. 

 

A White spokesman says White and Liss have had a, quote, “non-romantic social relationship” for more than 15 years.

Mayor Defends Right To Indefinite Interim Appointments, Will Seek Council Approval Only If He Has Votes


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is indicating that he may finally bring a controversial appointment before the Springfield City Council… but only if he has the votes to win approval. 

 

It’s been more than a year-and-a-half since Houston appointed his friend Bob Braasch to a $95,000-a-year post at City Water Light and Power.  The mayor previously cited a lack of support on the Council as his reason for not submitting the appointment for a vote. He tells 970 WMAY’s Jim Leach that it is something he should have followed up on. 

 

But he also says city and state laws allow him to leave Braasch in an acting capacity indefinitely if he sees fit.  Houston says he’s confident that aldermen would confirm Braasch if they considered him on the merits, but he is offering no timeline for bringing the appointment before them.

Houston: Police Pension Board Should Recover Overpayments, But Not From Cops Themselves


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston suggests the city’s police pension board might want to go after anyone who provided faulty legal advice that led to thousands of dollars in pension overpayments. 

 

The pension board miscalculated how much of a pension boost should go to officers who retired under a temporary twice-yearly pay spike written into their contracts.  As a result, the pension fund paid out at least $16,000 too much to around a dozen cops. 

 

Houston has said the board should try to recover the money.  He now says it shouldn’t necessarily go after the cops themselves, but perhaps find another route to recover the money. 

 

Houston says he hasn’t been told what the pension board intends to do.  He recently appointed city budget director Bill McCarty to serve on that board, but the board hasn’t met since McCarty was chosen.

Illinois House GOP Wants Numbers On Obamacare Effects


Illinois House Republicans are asking for answers from state officials on the extent of problems related to implementation of President Obama’s health care reform law. 

 

They say they have heard from numerous constituents who have been notified that their policies are being cancelled… or who are facing much higher premiums for their coverage.  The GOP lawmakers say they believe the law was an attempt to deal with a real problem… but that it may be making matters worse.  They say they need to know the scope of the problem so that they can find an effective solution. 

 

[So far the state Department of Insurance has not responded to a request for comment.]

Coat Drive Underway For Needy Local Schoolkids


Colder weather has arrived… and potentially hundreds of local schoolkids don’t have adequate winter coats for the chilly weather. 

 

A Riverton schoolteacher has started a push to collect coats for children in needs.  Tracy Day approached the Green Family Stores about providing coats for up to 100 kids in the Riverton school district.  The Green Stores, in cooperation with Wal-Mart and Burlington Coat Factory, was able to provide those coats and to help the Matthew Project, which assists homeless students in Springfield schools. 

 

Now the coat drive is seeking public donations.  New coats for kids can be dropped off at any Green dealership in Springfield… used coats can be taken to Burlington Coat Factory.

Sangamon County Clerk Looks Ahead to Implementation of Same-Sex Marriage


Same-sex marriages are expected to begin in Illinois on June 1st of next year… but Sangamon County couples may have to wait until the 2nd.

 

The legislation’s effective date falls on a Sunday, when the county clerk’s offices that issue marriage licenses are ordinarily closed.

 

Some clerks around the state say they will open on that day, but Sangamon County Clerk Joe Aiello has no plans to do so.

 

Aiello says the point of the new law is equality, so it doesn’t make sense to have special hours for one group that others wouldn’t ordinarily get.

 

Aiello says he’s looking forward to issuing licenses to gay couples during regular business hours on Monday, June 2nd.

Dillard: Time to Move On After Same-Sex Marriage Vote


He has been an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage… and even said that if he would try to repeal the state’s civil unions law if he became governor.

 

But now that same-sex marriage is about to become law, Kirk Dillard now says it’s time to move on.

 

The GOP candidate for governor appeared live Wednesday on 970 WMAY, and was asked how he would address any negative effects from the new law.

 

But Dillard said he’s going to focus on the economy and jobs, and hopes lawmakers do the same.

Cellini Out of Prison, Moved to Home Confinement


Bill Cellini is back home from prison.

 

Cellini was released last week from the federal lockup in Terre Haute, Indiana, and is now serving a period of home confinement until early December.

 

Cellini went to prison back in January to serve a year and a day for his role in a shakedown scheme connected to corruption under then-Governor Rod Blagojevich.

 

He was given time off for good behavior.

Senate Committee Moves Forward With Tax Breaks for Two Corporations


An Illinois Senate committee has approved tax breaks in a bid to keep two major corporate headquarters in Illinois.

 

The breaks would benefit Archer Daniels Midland and the company created by the merger of Office Depot and Office Max.

 

The measure was approved despite a disruption earlier in the day, when protestors in the House gallery who object to the tax breaks threw fake money down on lawmakers.

 

Meanwhile, it does not appear the legislature will vote this week on a measure to give back pay raises to thousands of state workers.

 

The money was promised in their 2011 contract but went unfunded and unpaid for two years. No action is expected on pension reform, either.

City's Financial Software Created by HealthCare.gov Contractor


A company that is mired in the controversy over the malfunctioning federal health insurance website is also the provider of crucial fiscal software used by the City of Springfield.

 

CGI developed the proprietary software which helps the city manage budgets and expenditures across departments.

 

Several sources from the city tell 970 WMAY that the software is clunky, hard to use and hard to update.

 

City budget director Bill McCarty acknowledges the complaints, but says other departments have adapted to the six-year-old system well.

 

And he says there is no money in the city budget to replace it, so everyone will have to make do.

Firm Behind Healthcare.gov Also Designed Crucial Fiscal Software For City Of Springfield


A company that helped to design the malfunctioning federal healthcare website is also the firm that developed crucial financial software in use at Springfield City Hall. 

 

CGI… one of the contractors behind healthcare.gov… also manages the proprietary Enterprise Resource Planning program used by the City of Springfield for day-to-day finance management.  City budget director Bill McCarty acknowledges that some departments hate the software, while others have adapted to it well. 

 

The city paid $6 million for the program in 2007, and spends half-a-million a year in maintenance costs.  The city is working out a long-term maintenance deal with CGI.  The software is not to confused with the city's new fiscal http://www.springfield.opengov.comtransparency website, springfield.opengov.com, which was designed by a different firm

Cellini Released From Prison, On Home Confinement


Longtime Springfield powerbroker Bill Cellini has been released from the federal prison where he had been confined since January. 

 

Cellini reportedly is in home confinement until his release becomes official in early December. 

 

Cellini had been sentenced to a year and a day behind bars for his role in a shakedown to get a Hollywood producer to give a campaign donation to then-Governor Rod Blagojevich.  He was allowed to serve less than the full sentence because of time off for good behavior.

Quinn To Sign Same-Sex Marriage Bill This Month; Reaction Still Mixed


Governor Pat Quinn says he will sign landmark legislation allowing gay couples to marry at a ceremony later this month. Quinn says it will take some time to plan a bill-signing event that is expected to draw a large crowd.  The governor says he wants to acknowledge all the people who have worked to steer the legislation to passage. Quinn says the time and place of the bill signing will be announced soon.

 

Meanwhile, others are reacting to Tuesday's vote.  A Republican candidate for governor… and a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage… says it’s now time to move on and focus on the pressing financial issue facing the state.  Kirk Dillard was front and center at last month’s Statehouse rally opposing passage of gay marriage, but the bill was approved Tuesday.  Appearing on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Dillard said only time will tell whether he and other opponents are on the right or wrong side of history.  But he says now the legislature needs to turn its attention back to pension, balancing the state budget, and job creation.

 

And one of the loudest critics of gay marriage is silent, for now.  There’s been no reaction yet from Springfield’s Catholic bishop to the passage of a same-sex marriage law by the Illinois General Assembly.  A spokesperson says Bishop Thomas John Paprocki is in Rome for meetings, and will most likely issue a statement when Governor Pat Quinn signs the legislation later this month.  Chicago Cardinal Francis George says the measure is “bad legislation” that will, quote, “change the nature of our society over a period of time.”

Lawmaker Left Dying Son's Bedside To Cast Same-Sex Marriage Vote


A lawmaker who provided a key vote for the passage of same-sex marriage left her dying son’s bedside in order to cast that vote. 

 

Representative Naomi Jakobsson of Urbana was late arriving to the Capitol Tuesday because she had been caring for her son, who was in a hospice facility in Urbana.  Jakobsson arrived in time to cast her vote for the legislation, which passed with just one vote more than the minimum number required. 

 

She left immediately afterward and returned to her son.  He died a few hours later, according to legislative leadership.

Head Of State Medical Society Sees Obamacare As Both Opportunity And Challenge


The head of the Illinois State Medical Society says Obamacare is a good idea in principle, but he is concerned about some of the unintended consequences. 

 

Dr. Eldon Trame chairs the group that represents the interests of Illinois doctors.  He says it’s much better to have more people with insurance than to have them relying on emergency rooms for medical care. 

 

But Trame says there may not be enough general practitioners to see all of those insured people on a timely basis, at least at first.  The group is also concerned about timely payments from the state for patients under the newly-expanded Medicaid program.

 

Trame appeared Wednesday on the 970 WMAY News Feed.

Same-Sex Marriage Passes Illinois House, Gov. Quinn Says He'll Sign Measure


Gay couples across Illinois are already making plans for weddings next summer.

 

The General Assembly has given final approval to a bill making Illinois the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage.

 

Governor Pat Quinn says he will sign it into law.

 

During nearly three hours of debate Tuesday, opponents argued that the bill takes away religious freedom from people who oppose homosexuality, and will be harmful to children.

 

But supporters say gay couples and their families deserve the same protection that other married couples receive.

 

Once Quinn signs the bill, it will take effect next June 1st.

Dist. 186 School Board Vice President Pushes for Countywide Sales Tax Increase


The vice-president of the Springfield school board says it would be possible to put more money into direct classroom expenses, build new schools, and lower the property tax burden in District 186.

 

And Adam Lopez says all it will take is a 1% countywide increase in the sales tax. School board members heard Tuesday night from an expert in the state law that allows county voters to enact a sales tax for school facility construction.

 

Anne Noble says that money could be used to pay for some bond debt that the district is currently paying from the education fund, potentially freeing up $2 million for education expenses.

 

A one-percent hike would raise $21 million per year, with nearly half going to District 186 and the rest being split among all other county school districts.

Springfield Unveils Financial Transparency Website


The City of Springfield says most of its financial data will be accessible to anyone with a couple of clicks of the mouse, starting later today.

 

The city is rolling out its new financial transparency website, springfield.opengov.com.

 

It contains information on city expenses, including salaries and pensions.

 

Budget director Bill McCarty says vendor payments and City Water Light and Power information won’t be on the website right away, but he hopes to add them in the future.

Pension Reform Remains Illusive During Veto-Session


Just two days left in the fall veto session, and no one seems to hold out much hope that a pension reform deal can get done in that time.

 

Republican Senator Sam McCann says he’s seen nothing concrete, and says any deal needs to have the input of state worker unions in order to avoid a long and costly legal fight.

 

Lawmakers could be called back later this year for a special session if there is no vote on a pension plan this week.

New Transparency Site for City of Springfield Finances Unveiled


If you ever wanted to pour through the finances of Springfield City Government, beginning Wednesday you can.

 

The City of Springfield unveiled the website Springfield.OpenGov.com, a new website that allows the public to view the city's financial data in many different ways like bar graphs or pie charts.

 

Budget Director Bill McCarty announced the new portal Tuesday during the Springfield City Council meeting.

 

McCarty showed off how the public can look at things all the way down to personal services costs ... including salaries, pension costs and other items like overtime and even workers' comp payouts.

 

The transparency portal is part of a system that costs only $6,000 a year contract with OpenGov.com.

 

McCarty says OpenGov.com's Springfield site bypasses the Enterprise Resource Planner, another program to manage the city's budget numbers.

 

The Springfield.OpenGov.com site is password protected until Wednesday morning, according to McCarty.

 

He also says that the site currently doesn't involve City Water Light and Power data yet, but that is on the way.

BREKAING NEWS: Illinois House Approves Same-Sex Marriage


The Illinois House has approved legislation that will legalize same-sex marriage in the state.  The measure received 61 votes, one more than was needed for passage.

 

The bill passed the Senate earlier this year, but was not called for a House vote in the spring session because supporters did not have the votes.  That changed in the fall veto session, after the bill was slightly modified to remove the immediate effective date, and to clarify that private halls related to church groups... such as Knights of Columbus facilities... would not be required to host same-sex weddings or receptions.

 

Because of those changes, the measure now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.  From there, it will go to Governor Pat Quinn, who says he will sign it into law.  The measure won't take effect until next summer.

 

Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on this story and for your chance to react, live on the air.

Pension Reform Vote This Week Seen As Unlikely


Illinois lawmakers see it as increasingly unlikely that a pension reform vote will take place during the fall veto session. 

 

Even though it’s been months since Governor Pat Quinn declared pension reform the number one priority in the state… and even went so far as to try to withhold lawmaker paychecks to prove the point… a deal still hasn’t come together.  Local lawmakers say there are still too many details to be worked out, and don’t think that can happen before adjournment Thursday. 

 

The impasse raises the possibility that lawmakers could be called back to Springfield for a special session later in November or December, if a deal does come together.

Public School Principals Say More Must Be Done To Improve Student Performance


Test scores at Springfield’s three public high schools are low… and in some cases, falling.  And the principals of the three schools say they know they have to do more to address the problem. 

 

All three appeared before the Springfield school board Monday night to talk about the results of the most recent round of state standardized tests.  They say they are seeing improvement in some demographic groups… like low-income students, but overall acknowledge that scores aren’t where they need to be. 

 

They expressed hope that the Common Core curriculum will get students better prepared for the college-level skills that they will need to succeed on the state tests… and to thrive after graduation.

Chatham Police Investigating Reports of Tampered Halloween Candy


Chatham Police are investigating two separate reports of foreign items found in candy.

 

Police Chief John Holm wouldn't indicate what the items were, but did say two reports came in from Springfield residents who say the items were collected in Chatham.

 

The reports came in Friday and Saturday.

 

Holm says no one was harmed from the tampered items and that they were discovered by parents. An investigation is ongoing into the reports.

Second Week of Fall Veto-Session Begins Today


Illinois lawmakers are back in session today… with no guarantees that they will pass, or even vote on, the biggest issues still on their plates.

 

The biggest of them all is pension reform, but top lawmakers are still haggling over details in hopes of crafting a plan that saves enough money while still meeting the requirements of the state constitution.

 

Also up in the air is House action on a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, but it looks more and more like that legislation could be called for a vote this week.

 

Lead sponsor Greg Harris posted on his Facebook page Monday that he is, quote, “heading to Springfield to get it done.”

Springfield Police Search for Suspect in Armed Bank Robbery


Springfield police are still looking for a suspect in an armed bank robbery on the city’s far west side Monday.

 

A man armed with a handgun held up the Warren Boynton State Bank branch on Spring Mill Drive.

 

Police haven’t said how much money he got. The suspect is described as a white male under six-feet-tall, wearing a camouflage mask and a gray hooded sweatshirt.

 

He may have gotten away in an older model black pickup truck. Anyone with information on the crime is asked to call Springfield police or Crimestoppers.

Springfield's Postmaster Arrested for Suspected Drunk Driving


Springfield’s postmaster has been arrested on a charge of drunken driving.

 

The State Journal-Register reports 50-year-old Philip Geraci was taken into custody Sunday evening.

 

Geraci was sworn in as postmaster less than six months ago. No other details of the incident were immediately available.

No E-Cigs For Sangamon County Jail Inmates


The Sangamon County Jail will remain a smoke-free zone… even if the smoke is only water vapor.

 

Undersheriff Jack Campbell says county officials did consider following the lead of two Southern Illinois counties that now allow inmates to use “electronic cigarettes,” battery-operated devices that produce a nicotine-infused water vapor.

 

But Campbell says there were concerns that an inmate could figure out some way to rig the device to cause damage or use it as a weapon.

 

The counties that are using them say it’s a way to improve inmate morale, but Campbell says jail inmates here already get plenty of perks, like cable TV and gym facilities.

Watkins Murder Featured in "Elder Skelter" on Discovery Channel Later This Month


The case of Steven Watkins will be revisited on an upcoming cable TV show.

 

The 2008 murder of the Chandlerville man by his estranged wife’s grandmother will be featured on an episode of “Elder Skelter,” a show on the Investigation Discovery channel.

 

It’s scheduled to air on November 20th.

 

The network is seen locally on Comcast cable channel 471, and is also available on Dish Network and DirecTV.

Area Do-It-Yourself Electric Vehicle Team Featured in New Book


A local group that built a fully electric vehicle from scratch in a barn is getting charged up after being featured in a book that hits stores Tuesday.

 

The book is “Ingenious” by Jason Fagone and the team is Illuminati Motor Works from Divernon.

 

Fagone says he features several different teams from universities and other groups, but what set Illuminati Motor Works apart from the others was the fact they built their electric car from scratch with very little funding … all while getting maximum efficiency.

 

Right now the car named Seven can go over 200 miles on one charge.

 

That’s more than double what some electric vehicles available on the open market can go.

 

Illuminati Motor Works team captain Kevin Smith says he plans on touring parts of the US with Fagone and Seven to promote the book and EV cars.

 

Listen to Team Illuminati Motor Works and author Jason Fagone with Bishop On Air at this link.

Police Seek Suspect In Springfield Bank Robbery


Springfield police are investigating an armed robbery at a far west side bank branch this morning. 

 

The suspect had a handgun and made off with an unknown amount of cash from Warren-Boynton State Bank on Spring Mill Drive, west of Veterans Parkway. 

 

Springfield police are looking for a white male, under six feet tall, who was wearing a camouflage face mask and a gray hooded sweatshirt.  He may have fled in an older-model black pickup truck with no front bumper.  If you have information on the crime, contact Springfield police or Crimestoppers.

No Plans To Allow E-Cigarettes In Sangamon County Jail


Sangamon County jail inmates won’t be lighting up with “e-cigarettes” any time soon. 

 

At least two Southern Illinois counties have begun allowing the devices, which simulate actual cigarettes but produce nicotine-infused water vapor rather than actual smoke. 

 

Even so, Undersheriff Jack Campbell says there’s still a chance the battery-operated devices could be rigged in such a way that they could be used as a weapon.  Campbell says the sheriff’s office has considered the idea, but for now has no plans to implement it.

Sangamon County Pre-Halloween Sex Offender Sweep Nets Arrests


At least two Sangamon County sex offenders are facing charges… and more could be in the same boat… after county deputies did a registration compliance check just ahead of Halloween. 

 

The sheriff’s department says 55 of the roughly 100 registered sex offenders in the county were checked because they live near neighborhoods where children were expected to be trick-or-treating. 

 

One person on the list is charged with failing to register within the set time limit… the other is facing a charge of changing his address without notifying authorities.  Five other cases have been referred to prosecutors for possible charges, and police are still following up on two cases.

Watkins Case To Be Revisited On Cable Show


The Steven Watkins case will be back in the national spotlight later this month. 

 

The “Investigation Discovery” cable network will feature the case in an episode of a new series called “Elder Skelter,” about senior citizen killers. 

 

The Chandlerville man was gunned down five years ago as he arrived at his in-laws’ home to pick up his daughter.  His estranged wife’s grandmother, Shirley Skinner, was convicted of shooting him in the back of the head and remains behind bars. 

 

The Investigation Discovery show is scheduled to air November 20th… the cable network appears on Channel 471 on Comcast cable in Springfield, and is also on Dish Network and DirecTV.

Ald. McMenamin Pushes for Time Limit of Interim Mayoral Appointees


A Springfield alderman says it’s time to put the brakes on a mayor’s ability to appoint someone to a key position in an “acting” capacity… and then leave them there indefinitely.

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin tells the State Journal-Register that his idea for a six-month time limit on interim appointments was spurred by three personnel moves by Mayor Mike Houston.

 

One of those, Bob Braasch, has been serving in an administrative role at City Water Light and Power since early last year, but the $95,000-a-year appointment has never gone before the City Council for a vote.

 

Houston had also indicated he planned to make a formal selection for police chief by late October, but Kenny Winslow is still serving as acting chief.

 

And Houston says he may leave acting corporation counsel John Mehlick in place for now to maintain continuity while the city battles several lawsuits.

Senators Durbin and Kirk Agree on Updated Workplace Non-Discrimination Act


Senators Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin are on opposite sides of the political aisle… but they’re both in agreement on a controversial piece of legislation that comes up for a key Senate test vote today.

 

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would ban workplace policies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

Both Durbin and Kirk support the legislation… Kirk is one of only two Republican co-sponsors of the bill.

 

The proposal… which was first introduced in the 1990s… needs only one more vote to block a potential filibuster.

More Corporate Tax Break Requests Leads to Calls For More Consistent Criteria


Yet another corporate request for state tax breaks is renewing calls for more careful review and development of guidelines for when and how such perks are offered.

 

A new proposal to give Archer Daniels Midland $24 million in tax credits… in exchange for leaving jobs in Illinois and creating additional jobs here… is just one of several pending requests.

 

Several lawmakers and economists say the state needs to come up with consistent criteria for dealing with such proposals.

U of I Professor: Solving Illinois' Fiscal Problem Requires "Very Tough Choices"


A University of Illinois economist says he's not sure lawmakers understand the magnitude of the state's budget crisis.

 

Professor Richard Dye is one of the authors of a new study by the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs Fiscal Futures Project.

 

Dye says the problem is serious and will require "very tough choices."

 

And Dye contends those choices will have to include both painful spending cuts and finding additional revenue.

Affordable Care Act Could Mean Coverage For Parolees


The Affordable Care Act could mean health insurance will be available for more than 30,000 recently paroled Illinois inmates.  Most would fall under the eligibility rules for the state’s expanded Medicaid program. 

 

State officials say giving them access to insurance would reduce financial pressures on those former inmates and might mean fewer repeat offenders.

Professor: Lawmakers Still Don't Grasp Seriousness Of State Budget Crisis


A University of Illinois economist says he's not sure lawmakers understand the magnitude of the state's budget crisis.

 

Professor Richard Dye is one of the authors of a new study by the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs Fiscal Futures Project. Dye says the problem is serious and will require "very tough choices." 

 

And Dye contends those choices will have to include both painful spending cuts and finding additional revenue.

Chances For Meaningful Action In Veto Session Remain Uncertain


Legislative leaders are trying to lower expectations about what might get done on pension reform during the second half of the fall veto session. 

 

A pension proposal has been in the works for weeks, and there has been speculation that it could be brought for a vote.  But new House Republican leader Jim Durkin is among those who think it may take more time to craft a bill that can pass.

 

A historic vote could be looming this week in the Illinois House on a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.  Or it might not happen after all. 

 

The bill’s lead sponsor, Representative Greg Harris, posted on Facebook late last week that he’s, quote, “counting noses and twisting arms.”  But Harris hasn’t committed to calling the bill for a vote yet, and says he won’t unless he’s confident he has the votes to pass it.

More Prospective Candidates Weighing 2015 Chances


Long before the 2014 elections take shape, some local contenders continue to stake out ground for the 2015 local races. 

 

They include former Springfield school board president Art Moore, who has been raising money and says he is looking at a possible run for city treasurer. 

 

Incumbent Jim Langfelder can’t run again because of term limits… Langfelder has reportedly been considering a run for mayor.

Manar Wants Lawmakers To Intervene On Retiree Insurance Changes


State Senator Andy Manar hopes Illinois lawmakers can slow or stop the state’s move toward Medicare Advantage plans for state government retirees. 

 

The state’s decision to adopt that model means that longtime insurance provider Health Alliance has been dropped as an option for retiree health care. 

 

Manar says Medicare Advantage plans haven’t worked well in other states, and he wants the legislature to intervene.

Rutherford Trips Mix Government, Politics


State Treasurer Dan Rutherford has spent more on travel than any of Illinois’s other constitutional officers… and an Associated Press report says many of those state-paid trips coincided with campaign events in those same communities. 

 

Rutherford was reimbursed more than $12,000 over the past 18 months for expenses, mainly lodging… that’s more than twice as much as Governor Pat Quinn.

 

But Rutherford… who is now a Republican candidate for governor… says the expenses are legit and are linked to government work he was doing on behalf of taxpayers.

Audit Questions Ex-Ball Chatham Superintendent's Expenses


Former Chatham school superintendent Bob Gillum failed to properly document nearly $30,000 in expenses during his five-year tenure, according to an audit commissioned by the Ball-Chatham School District. 

 

The State Journal-Register reports the audit also questioned the relationship between Gillum and two companies that obtained lucrative contracts with the district. 

 

Gillum stepped down this year after reaching a settlement with the school board that included him paying the district more than $16,000.

Set Clocks Back One Hour Overnight -- And Change Smoke Detector Batteries, Too


Make sure you set your clocks back one hour this weekend, as we move back into Standard Time overnight (Saturday night into Sunday). The State Fire Marshal says it’s also a good time to change your smoke detector batteries.

Manar Predicts More Action When Veto Session Resumes; Pensions, Retiree Benefits Could Be Key Issues


The second part of the legislature’s fall veto session next week could be a lot more productive than the first two days were last month. 

 

That’s the view of Democratic state Senator Andy Manar (muh-NAR’), who says the nature of legislative calendars and rules often means that sessions start off slow, and pick up steam toward the end.  Manar says there may even be a vote on a pension reform plan next week, although there still seems to be disagreement on key provisions of such a plan.  

 

The senator also hopes lawmakers will take action to undo the state’s move toward Medicare Advantage plans.  Manar contends that unless lawmakers intervene, thousands of state government retirees will face big changes in their insurance coverage, and not for the better.

Driver Of Car In Triple-Fatal I-55 Crash Charged With DUI


The driver of a car where three passengers died in a crash on Interstate 55 south of Springfield last week has been ticketed for driving under the influence. 

 

The Macoupin County State’s Attorney’s office says other charges are possible against Alfredo McGee. 

 

His car was reportedly stopped in a driving lane, with no lights on, before daybreak on October 25th.  The car was struck from behind by a cargo van, killing 27-year-old Alea Shannon and two children, 8-year-old Alfredo McGee, Jr. and 2-year-old Armando McGee.

Medical Problem Blamed For Crash That Killed Hartsburg Man


Illinois State Police say a medical issue may have led to a single-vehicle crash in Logan County that killed a Hartsburg man. 

 

52-year-old Steven Newman was pronounced dead at the scene of that crash on Route 121 near Lincoln Thursday night.  Authorities say Newman was southbound on the highway when the medical problem caused him to cross the northbound lane, run off the road and into a ditch before striking a utility pole.

Extended Trick-or-Treat Hours for Springfield, Chatham


It’s the first day of November, but in Springfield and Chatham, it’s the second day of Halloween.

 

Both communities have added trick-or-treating hours tonight after heavy rains cut into some of the fun last night.

 

 

In Springfield, kids can get back out in costume between 5 and 8pm… in Chatham, the hours are 5 to 8:30pm.

 

Local authorities are reminding drivers to keep looking out for trick-or-treaters during those hours… and don’t forget, if you do plan to hand out candy tonight, make sure you turn your porch light on.

Tax Break Deal to Keep ADM's Global HQ in Illinois Includes Jobs for Decatur


A proposed deal over a tax break for Archer Daniels Midland aims to ensure that Decatur gets some jobs to make up for the ones that ADM plans to move to Chicago.

 

The agribusiness giant plans to move its global headquarters out of Decatur…and sought the tax break in exchange for keeping those jobs in Illinois.

 

State Senator Andy Manar has introduced legislation that would provide that break… but would also require ADM to move at least 100 jobs from out of state into Decatur, and to create at least 100 more jobs there as well.

 

The move is intended to cushion the blow on a city with the highest unemployment rate in the state.

Man Pleads Guilty to Abuse in Toddler's Death Years After Botched Autopsy


A Springfield man has pleaded guilty to charges in the abuse death of a toddler… five years after the boy’s death was mistakenly attributed to an undiagnosed cancer.

 

That botched finding in the death of Anakin Credit ultimately led to Sangamon County severing its ties with pathologist Jessica Bowman… and contributed to the eventual departure of Coroner Susan Boone.

 

A later autopsy by outside experts determined the two-year-old boy had died of abuse.

 

His mother’s boyfriend, Mason Weems, pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge of aggravated battery of a child, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Drug Task Force Secretary Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement


The former secretary of an area drug task force has admitted embezzling thousands of dollars from the group.

 

Pamela Watts pleaded guilty to taking more than $43,000 over a six-year period by writing checks to herself from the accounts of the Central Illinois Enforcement Group, or using task force credit cards to make personal purchases.

 

The State Journal-Register reports Watts will be sentenced on February 18th, but that prosecutors plan to ask for a sentence at the low end of the range of options.

GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Rauner Pushes for 401(K)-Style Retirement


Republican candidate Bruce Rauner thinks it would be constitutional to move all state workers onto a 401(k)-style plan if he’s elected.

 

Rauner says under his plan, workers could keep the pension benefits they’ve already accumulated under the existing “defined benefits” plan, but any new benefits going forward would have to come from the new “defined contributions” plan.

 

Rauner says that would be enough to survive a constitutional challenge. He appeared live Thursday with 970 WMAY’s Fritz Pfister.

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