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October 23, 2014, 5:08 am
Breaking News

The Council Roundup

The Council Roundup, Wednesdays at 10 with Bishop On Air


970 WMAY News Archives for 2014-03

Ameren Illinois Makes Donation To genHkids Effort

A local effort to improve the health and wellness of kids has picked up a new corporate donation.


Ameren Illinois has given 25-hundred dollars to genHkids in support of the group’s “Eat Real” initiative.  The director of genHkids, Doctor Kemia Serraf, says that program encourages kids and parents to use more natural and fresh foods and made-from-scratch meals in their diet… rather than highly processed items loaded with calories and sodium. 


She says the businesses who give to the group don’t necessarily get a direct return on investment… but are making a commitment to the long-range health of the community.

Man Arrested On Arson Charges After Fire Heavily Damages Springfield Apartment Building

A man is facing arson charges for a fire that heavily-damaged a four-unit building at a Springfield apartment complex. 


More than three dozen firefighters responded to that blaze at the Old Towne Apartments Sunday night, just before midnight.  They found heavy flames showing from the building when they arrived.


The only reported injury was minor burns suffered by the 28-year-old suspect, who was taken into custody after being treated.  Damage is estimated at $450,000… and the four-unit building is likely to be a total loss.

Jobe Says Mayoral Bid Next Year Could Be Affected By Houston's Plans

A Springfield alderman says his mayoral ambitions may depend on whether Mayor Mike Houston seeks another term. 


Alderman Cory Jobe says he will consider many factors before deciding whether to run for mayor in 2015, including the issues in the race and the ability to raise the money needed for a campaign.  But appearing live on 970 WMAY, Jobe said his decision might be impacted by whether Houston runs for re-election.  Jobe says he respects Houston and would factor that into his final decision.


At least two other candidates… Jim Langfelder and Paul Palazzolo… have indicated they intend to run for mayor next year.

Preservationist Moves to Take Historic Status Out of Owners' Hands

A Springfield historic preservationist wants to allow the city to give landmark designation to local properties… even against the will of the property owner.


Landmark status makes it more difficult to demolish a property… but currently an owner can object to and block that status.


Jerry Jacobson with Save Old Springfield says that potentially gives an individual veto power over the community’s desire to preserve historic structures.


The city’s Historic Sites Commission is considering that rule change, although the final decision will be up to Springfield aldermen.

Repeal and Replace Obamacare to be Major Theme For GOP

Congressman Rodney Davis isn’t alone this year in making “repeal and replace Obamacare” the centerpiece of his campaign.


The head of the National Republican Congressional Committee says Obamacare is a symbol of Americans’ growing frustration with government overreach in all areas of their lives.


Congressman Greg Walden appeared with Davis at a stop in Springfield Friday.


He expressed confidence that the GOP can retain Davis’s seat and add to its majority in the House… and perhaps retake the majority in the Senate, too.

Investigation Continues Into Fatal Shooting

The investigation continues into a weekend shooting that left one man dead and another injured.


28-year-old Anthony McGrone died of a single gunshot wound that the coroner says is consistent with a homicide.


A second man was wounded in that incident at a home on South Wirt Friday… but police say he was treated and released.


Witnesses said they saw two black men fleeing the scene, but K-9 units were unable to locate any suspects.


Springfield police are asking anyone with information to call the police department or Crimestoppers.

NO ID Yet of Man Found Dead Outside of Businesses Dumpster

There’s still no word on the identity of a man whose body was found near a dumpster outside a north end Springfield business Friday.


Officials have not disclosed the cause of death for the 22-year-old man, but Coroner Cinda Edwards says foul play does not appear to be involved.

St. John's Hospital Previews New Surgical Suites

The CEO of St. John’s Hospital says the upcoming new surgical suites will improve patient comfort… and lead to better medical outcomes.


An open house Sunday was the public’s first chance to see the new surgical complex, which is still under construction.


It will boast real-time electronic patient data, state-of-the-art lighting, new procedures for instrument sterilization, and videoconferencing to allow surgeons to consult with specialists down the hall… or around the world.


The $120 million complex is expected to open in June.

Body Found Near Dumpster On Springfield's North End

Springfield police are conducting a death investigation following the discovery of a body near a dumpster on Springfield’s north end Friday night. 


The 22-year-old male was found outside a business in the 2400 block of Denver Drive.  Officials are trying to determine the exact cause of death and whether foul play was involved.

Two Shot, One Fatally, In Home On South Wirt Avenue

Springfield police are still investigating a shooting Friday that left one person dead and another seriously injured. 


The two men were found in a home on South Wirt.  A 28-year-old man had a fatal wound to the chest, while the other individual had a head wound that officials do not think is life-threatening. 


There is no word yet on possible suspects or a motive in the shooting.

Local Democratic Lawmakers Challenge Quinn On State Budget

Democratic state senator Andy Manar says he won’t be supporting Governor Pat Quinn’s call to make the temporary state income tax hike permanent. 


Manar says he has long been on the record that the temporary increase needs to expire as scheduled at the end of the year.  He says the answer to the state’s fiscal problems can be found in an overhaul of the entire tax code… and a revamp of the state’s school funding formula.


Meanwhile, another local Democratic lawmaker says it’s time for a more common-sense approach to the state budget.  Representative Sue Scherer says she favors spending caps and a line-by-line review of the state budget. 


She’s also calling for grounding the state’s fleet of planes, selling “inefficient” state cars, and rooting out waste and fraud in Medicaid.

School Board Disputes Attorney General Finding Of Open Meetings Act Violation

The Springfield school board says it disagrees with a finding from the attorney general’s office that the board violated the state Open Meetings Act. 


An assistant attorney general says the board’s discussion about the demolition of Enos School last year should have taken place in public, not behind closed doors. 


A statement from the board says the discussion falls under an exemption of the act… but says since the finding was “informal” in nature, there is no need to appeal it.

Armored Combat Event's Future In Springfield In Doubt

A national competition of armored fighters returns to Springfield this weekend… amid fears that this could be last time the event is held here. 


Organizers of the Team USA/Armored Combat League event say they are being wooed by other communities… who are offering financial incentives to land the event and its dozens of participants and hundreds of fans.  Mayor Mike Houston says he’d like to see some state dollars become available to keep the event in Springfield, but believes something can be worked out to ensure that it stays in the city that organizers see as the home of the event. 


Saturday’s competition will determine which team members will compete in the international championship in Spain in May.  The competition starts at noon Saturday at the Livestock Building of the Illinois State Fairgrounds. [970 WMAY's Jim Leach is the official announcer for the Team USA event in Springfield.]

Houston Objects To McMenamin Criticism, Insists He Has Taken Hard Line With Unions

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says every decision he’s made has been motivated by what’s best for the city… not what’s best for employee unions. 


Houston is responding to Alderman Joe McMenamin’s comments this week on 970 WMAY, accusing Houston and aldermen of conflicts of interest for taking campaign donations from unions and then voting on contracts negotiated by those unions. 


Houston says he did accept a donation from the firefighters’ local in his 2011 campaign… but says the contract his administration negotiated took a hard line, and provided only minimal pay raises over three years.

Manar Opposes Quinn's Call For Permanent Tax Increase

A local Democratic lawmaker will not support Governor Pat Quinn’s call to make the state’s temporary income tax increase permanent. 


State Senator Andy Manar says he has been on the record for a long time saying the temporary tax hike should be allowed to expire on schedule. 


Manar agrees with the governor that state services, especially school funding, could face deep cuts because of revenue shortfalls next year.  But Manar says the answer has to be found in a complete review and overhaul of the state’s entire tax structure.  He also supports revamping school funding to ensure that money is distributed primarily on the basis of need.

Springfield School Board Cited For Open Meetings Act Violation

The Springfield school board has been reprimanded for violating the state Open Meetings Act for a closed-door discussion about the demolition of the historic Enos School last year. 


Board members met in private last June to discuss a last-ditch attempt by a developer to save the school and convert it into apartments.  The school board ultimately proceeded with its original plan to tear down and replace the aging structure. 


But the Attorney General’s Office says the debate over the issue should have been done in public, and ordered the minutes of the closed-door meeting to be released.  [School board president Chuck Flamini said he had not seen the ruling yet and declined to comment.]

Springfield Sued Over Tasering of Pregnant Woman

A woman who was eight months pregnant when she was tasered by Springfield police during a parking lot altercation is now suing the city, claiming excessive force.


30-year-old Lucinda White received a “drive stun” jolt from a Taser when police said she attempted to interfere with the arrest of her boyfriend.


The State Journal-Register reports that White claims she was driven to the ground in a display of force that was unnecessary and unreasonable.


The suit also claims Springfield police have a history of using excessive force against pregnant women.


A city spokesman would not comment on pending litigation.

Pathologist: McCaster Died Before Being Dismembered

A pathologist says the man whose dismembered body was found east of Springfield back in 2012 was dead before his extremities were removed.


Bloomington pathologist Scott Denton performed the autopsy on Norman McCaster’s body… and testified Thursday at the trial of McCaster’s wife.


Juatasha Denton-McCaster is accusing of killing her husband and cutting off his head, hands and feet… which have never been found.


Prosecutors have linked her to the purchase of items that could have been used in the dismemberment of the body.


Testimony in her murder trial continues today.

Unemployment Up a Full Point in Springfield

Unemployment in Springfield has jumped a full percentage point since December.


The local jobless rate hit 8.6% in February… compared to 7.6% just two months earlier.


The severe winter weather may have been a factor.


February’s rate was still better than it was a year earlier… when unemployment locally sat at 8.9%.


And it remains the second-lowest jobless rate among major Illinois cities.

House Committee Approves Millionaire Surcharge, Rejects Progressive Tax Proposal

An Illinois House committee has approved House Speaker Mike Madigan’s proposal to impose a three-percent tax surcharge on incomes of over $1 million.


Republicans opposed the proposal, saying it will penalize success and drive more businesses and business owners out of the state.


But Madigan says the plan will generate a billion dollars in year in needed revenue for schools. The measure now goes to the full House.


In a separate vote, committee members rejected another constitutional amendment… one which would have moved Illinois from its current flat tax to a progressive system where bigger earners would pay a higher rate.

Alderman McMenamin Urges Citizens to Challenge Incumbents in City Elections

A Springfield alderman is urging people to come forward and challenge incumbent aldermen in next year’s City Council elections.


Ward 7’s Joe McMenamin accuses many of his colleagues of a conflict of interest for taking money from unions… and then voting on the contracts negotiated by those unions.


McMenamin says he wants to see more people elected to the Council who will not take union money… and who will stand with him against wage hikes and a growing pension liability.


McMenamin acknowledges that his comments won’t endear him to his fellow aldermen.

Health Survey Reveals Present-Day Concerns, Future Hopes For Sangamon County

Sangamon County still ranks near the bottom of Illinois counties when it comes to current health… but may be in position for better outcomes in the future. 


The study from the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation puts Sangamon at #81 out of 102 counties, based on current mortality rates and quality of life and health for county residents. 


But Sangamon does better in a separate ranking of future health factors, such as the local economy and the availability of clinical care.  On that list, Sangamon is at #22 out of 102.

Unemployment In Springfield Up A Full Percentage Point Since December

Springfield’s jobless rate has risen a full percentage point since December. 


Latest figures from the state of Illinois put February’s local jobless rate at 8.6%... up from 7.6% in December and 8.2% in January.  The rate is still lower than February of 2013, when it stood at 8.9% locally. 


The harsh winter weather may have taken a toll on employment… even though the city had slightly more payroll jobs last month than it did a year earlier.  Springfield still has the second-lowest unemployment rate in the state… while Danville has now surpassed Decatur for the worst jobless rate.

Alderman: City Officials' Relationship With Unions Poses Conflict

A Springfield alderman is accusing some of his City Council colleagues… and Mayor Mike Houston… of a conflict of interest for taking campaign money from unions, and then voting in favor of union contracts at City Hall. 


Alderman Joe McMenamin suggests that explains why he’s had trouble getting support from his fellow aldermen for a crackdown on wages and a harder line on employee pensions. 


And appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air,” McMenamin indicates that relationship between city elected officials and unions could become a big campaign issue in the 2015 city elections.

Gov. Quinn Pushes to Make Temporary Income Tax Increase Permanent

Governor Pat Quinn may be betting his political future on his hope that Illinois voters want to maintain school funding and other state services more than they want to see the state’s temporary income tax hike expire.


Quinn is calling for making the increase permanent in order to avoid what he calls “savage” cuts in school funding.


And Quinn is challenging critics who want the tax hike to expire at the end of the year to explain exactly how they would do that and still pay for schools and other essential services.


Quinn’s proposal also calls $500 in property tax relief annually for all homeowners.

Split Among Party Lines Over Making Temporary Income Tax Permanent

Democratic legislative leaders say they support Quinn’s call to keep the temporary income tax increase in place… and pledge to call it for a vote during the spring legislative session.


But Republicans accuse Quinn of broken promises and say he can’t be trusted with more tax dollars.


Interest groups around the state are split... with some fearing the tax plan will drive more businesses out of the state and others praising Quinn for trying to protect education and other programs.


The Retail Merchants Association says it can live with the tax hike extension if Quinn will drop his call to raise the state’s minimum wage.

State of the City is Stay the Course

Mayor Mike Houston’s theme for the coming year is “stay the course.”


Houston used his State of the City address Wednesday to lay out his list of accomplishments since taking office in 2011… including stabilizing the city budget and launching an infrastructure program.


Houston didn’t offer any new initiatives in the speech, but said the city needs to stay on the track he’s set of providing a smaller, more efficient city government.


Listen to Mayor Houston's speech here.

Trial of Woman Accused of Dismembering Husband's Body Underway

The trial is underway for a woman accused of killing and dismembering her husband in 2012.


Juatasha Denton-McCaster is charged with killing 22-year-old Norman McCaster.


The couple had been married for about two years when McCaster’s body was found east of Springfield.


Prosecutors contend his head, hands and feet had been cut off to prevent identification of the body.


Testimony continues today in Sangamon County Circuit Court.

Quinn Says Temporary Tax Hike Should Be Permanent To Avoid ''Savage'' Cuts To Schools

Governor Pat Quinn may be staking his legacy… and his shot at re-election… on an idea that polls say is very unpopular. 


Quinn used his budget address Wednesday to call for making the state’s temporary income tax increase permanent.  The governor didn’t dwell on the idea… referring only briefly to keeping current rates intact. 


Instead, he focused on what he hopes to do with that additional revenue… provide more property tax relief and direct more funding to schools.

Reaction Mixed To Quinn's Budget Proposals

Reaction to Governor Pat Quinn’s budget address is split along party lines.  Republican Bruce Rauner accuses Quinn of a litany of broken promises… and says his proposal to extend the temporary state income tax hike is just “doubling down” on failed policies. 


Legislative Republicans say the Quinn administration should not be trusted with even more tax dollars… because they haven’t spent them wisely.  But the top Democrats in the House and Senate say they support the call to make the income tax hike permanent, and plan to call it for a vote before the legislative session ends in late May.


Some of the top lobbying and interest groups in the state are split in their reaction to Governor Pat Quinn’s budget proposal. 


The Illinois Manufacturers Association opposes Quinn’s call to keep higher income tax rates in place, saying the state needs more business-friendly policies.  But the Illinois Hospital Association supports Quinn’s approach, saying it’s the only way to avoid damaging cuts to vital services. 


And the Retail Merchants Association says it could live with the tax idea… but only if Quinn drops other proposals that could raise costs on business, like hiking the state’s minimum wage or requiring paid sick days for all workers.

Ruling Says Northwestern Football Players Can Form A Union

In a ruling with enormous implications for college sports, a National Labor Relations Board official has ruled that Northwestern University football players are, in effect, employees of the school and are therefore free to unionize.


The players had sought the ruling, saying that their labors were a profit center for the university and that made them employees who should be able to bargain in areas affecting their "working conditions."  The school, along with the Big Ten conference and NCAA, had argued that students are fundamentally different than factory workers, for example.


Northwestern says it is disappointed in the ruling and plans to appeal.

Houston's ''State Of The City'' Speech Is Call To ''Stay The Course''

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says the city needs to keep doing what it’s doing… and not make any big changes to the approach he’s used for the past three years. 


Houston delivered his “State of the City” speech Wednesday at the Business Connections event downtown.  He says the city has turned its finances around, and now has a multi-million dollar cash balance… and has launched a major infrastructure program. 


Now Houston says the city needs to, quote, “stay the course” in favor of smaller and more efficient government.

Cross Supports Term Limits Proposal Despite His Own Long Tenure In House

The Republican nominee for state treasurer says he supports an effort to impose term limits on lawmakers… even though his own tenure in the Illinois House would have ended more than a decade ago if those limits had been in place then. 


GOP Representative Tom Cross has served more than 20 years in the House, and says he has represented the state well.  But Cross says he is still backing Republican governor nominee Bruce Rauner’s term limits proposal to limit all lawmakers to eight years.  Cross says the status quo isn’t working, and something is needed to shake it up.

Workbook That Misrepresents Right to Bear Arms to Be Reviewed and Changed or Removed

A controversial Grant Middle School workbook that misstated the provisions of the Second Amendment will be amended or scrapped.


That word comes from interim Springfield school superintendent Bob Hill, who had earlier declined to change the material, which was created 14 years ago by a Grant teacher who has since retired.


Gun rights groups had erupted over the workbook’s claim that the Second Amendment allows gun ownership, provided that the weapons are registered.


There is no registration requirement in the Amendment.


Hill says the review and final decision on the material will come from Grant Middle School administrators, which he says is the appropriate place for such reviews.


He insists there was no political agenda behind the original misstatement.

NAPA Deal Stalled, City Changes One Union Contract in Garage Consolidation Efforts

Springfield aldermen are still reluctant to move forward on a deal to give NAPA Auto Parts a contract to provide inventory for the city’s consolidated vehicle garage.


The three-year, $3.75 million deal has been stalled for weeks because of concerns about how NAPA was chosen.


The Houston administration says the continuing delays will postpone the opening of the consolidated garage… costing the city thousands of dollars in savings.


Meanwhile, the city has reached agreement with employees in the CWLP garage… the first of four such agreements that will be needed to merge all of the city’s garage operations under one roof.

Contract Change With Triune on Shaky Ground

Springfield aldermen will vote next week on a contract change that would allow a city vendor to use someone from outside Sangamon County to oversee the city’s workers’ comp cases.


Triune Health Services says it has a nurse in Macon County with the specialized skills needed to review workers’ comp claims… while prospective employees in Sangamon County have far less experience.


But some aldermen say Triune needs to abide by the contract which requires that the job go to a county resident.

Progressive Income Tax Proposal Introduced

An Illinois lawmaker has introduced a formal proposal for a graduated income tax.


Senator Don Harmon’s plan would drop the state income tax rate to 2.9% for residents making under $12,500. People making between $12,500 and $180,000 would pay 4.9%, while anyone making more than $180,000 would pay 6.9%.


Harmon says 94% of taxpayers would see a reduction in taxes from current rates.


However, the current 5% tax rate for all individuals is scheduled to drop to 3.75% in January.

Gov. Quinn's Budget Address Today To Touch on Taxes

Illinois’s tax structure will be one of the big issues that Governor Pat Quinn is expected to address in his annual budget speech today at the Capitol.


The speech could be a pivotal moment in Quinn’s re-election bid… opponent Bruce Rauner has blasted Quinn’s handling of the state budget and economy.


We will have live coverage of the governor’s speech at noon today, on 970 WMAY and streaming at

Misdemeanor Charges For Former Illinois State University President

The former president of Illinois State University is facing a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge for the incident that led him to step down last weekend.


Timothy Flanagan resigned after a complaint was filed by a former university groundskeeper, who alleged Flanagan assaulted him as the man was working on the lawn of Flanagan’s university-owned home.


McLean County prosecutors say Flanagan yelled insults at the man while just inches from his face, and flailed his arms in a way that alarmed and disturbed the man.


Flanagan has denied any wrongdoing.

Controversial Middle School Workbook Will Be Changed Or Scrapped

Grant Middle School will review and either amend or stop using a workbook that misstated what’s contained in the Second Amendment to the Constitution.  Pro-gun groups have been furious over the material… which claimed the 2nd Amendment provides for gun registration. 


Interim superintendent Bob Hill initially refused to yank or change the workbook, which was created 14 years ago by a Grant teacher who has since retired.  But he says it’s appropriate for Grant administrators to make that review and take appropriate action.  Hill concedes in an email to district staff that the passage on the 2nd Amendment was, quote, “not totally accurate,” or was at the very least “unartfully” worded. Hill says he is convinced the teacher who designed the material did not have a political agenda. 


The controversy has become a major issue on conservative and pro-gun websites, and on talk radio and TV.  Hill refused a request for a recorded interview on the latest developments.


Quinn Faces Crucial Budget Speech; Live Coverage Wednesday At Noon On 970 WMAY

The stakes could not be higher for Governor Pat Quinn when he delivers his budget address on Wednesday. 


The priorities Quinn lays out… and the positions he takes on issues like extending the state’s temporary income tax increase… could be pivotal in Quinn’s effort to win re-election this fall. 


You’ll hear live coverage of the governor’s budget address starting at noon Wednesday on 970 WMAY or streaming at

Lawmaker Proposes New Progressive Tax Rates

A state lawmaker has laid out an initial proposal for what a progressive tax structure might look like. 


Senator Don Harmon’s plan would drop the current 5% tax rate to 2.9% for people making less than $12,500.  From there to $180,000, the rate would be 4.9%... and would go up to 6.9% for those making more than $180,000. 


Harmon says 94% of Illinoisans would get a tax cut from current rates… although for most people those rates are higher than they would be if the temporary income tax hike expires.


DIRT Team Makes Meth Bust

Sangamon County has made its first meth bust in years after raiding a home in Berlin. 


DIRT team members, following up on a tip, approached several people in a vehicle outside the home.  The sheriff’s department says the occupants threw some items that are used in meth production out of the window.  Police then checked the home and found more meth lab items. 


43-year-old Brian Bennett, his 39-year-old wife Donna, and the home’s owner, 50-year-old Jerry Patterson, all face multiple charges.

Ex-ISU President Faces Misdemeanor Charge

The former president of Illinois State University has been charged with a misdemeanor for the incident involving a university employee that led to his resignation last week. 


Timothy Flanagan got into that altercation in December with a worker who was tending to the lawn of Flanagan’s university-owned home.  Prosecutors say in a statement that Flanagan yelled insults at the employee and flailed his arms in a manner that alarmed and disturbed the worker.


Flanagan denies any wrongdoing.

UPDATE: Controversial Workbook Passage On 2nd Amendment To Be Reviewed And Amended Or Scrapped

A day after a smoldering controversy erupted into an Internet firestorm, there's been a change in how District 186 is handling the workbook passage that claims the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides for gun registration.


Interim superintendent Bob Hill has sent an email to staff saying that Grant Middle School staff will review the workbook and either amend that section or discontinue use of the material entirely.  Hill... who says the workbook was first developed 14 years ago... says the school level is the appropriate place for such reviews.


Hill, who refused a request for a recorded interview, says in the email that he understands concerns that the description of the Second Amendment was inaccurate, or at least... quote... "unartful."  But he also says the original author did not have a political agenda.  And Hill says he respects the ability of staff to develop lesson plans that cover controversial content in appropriate ways.

Poll: Voters Want Less Taxes, Don't Want Cuts to Social Services

A majority of Illinois voters want to let the state’s temporary income tax increase expire next year.


But even bigger majorities don’t want to see cuts to essential state services like education, public safety, or aid to the poor.


The survey from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute also finds a majority of voters think the state can address its fiscal crisis by eliminating waste and fraud.


While voters were generally opposed to new revenue, there was less resistance to expanding the state sales tax to include services or to taxing retirement income if the first $50,000 annually is exempt.

Springfield Schools Supt. Refuses to Remove Controversial Workbook About 2nd Amendment

Pro-gun groups are seething over a workbook that has been in use at Springfield’s Grant Middle School, one which the groups say paints a false picture of the Second Amendment.


That workbook… designed years ago by a teacher who is now retired… says the Amendment allows for the possession of weapons, provided they are registered.


There is no gun registration requirement in the Constitution. Interim superintendent Bob Hill is refusing to yank the book and defends the passage.


He says it explains the practical effect of the Second Amendment in modern-day America, where registration laws may be a requirement for gun owners.


Critics say the book is an attempt to “indoctrinate” children with a false view of guns… an idea that Hill calls “goofy.”


Listen to the Hill talk with 970 WMAY's Jim Leach here.

Springfield's Infrastructure Improvements Officially Underway

Springfield’s long awaited infrastructure improvement plan is officially underway.


Most of the work is being paid for with $30 million in bonds, financed through a sales tax increase that took effect at the first of the year.


Overall the city plans to spend more than $85 million over the next three years to pay for road repair and resurfacing, sidewalk repairs, and improvements to drainage and traffic signals.

So-Called Ghetto Tree Could Come Down By Next Week

One way or another, the “Ghetto Tree” may soon be coming down in a North End Springfield neighborhood.


Resident Earl Reese put up that collection of junk hanging from a tree in the front yard of his house in the Northgate subdivision.


He says it’s a protest against crime and trash in his neighborhood… and even serenaded aldermen about it at Christmastime last year.


But after numerous complaints, city zoning officials are looking to see if it violates any ordinances… and police came to Reese’s home and examined the display over the weekend.


Reese tells 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air” that he’s made his point and expects to take the display down next week.

Workbook Explanation Of Second Amendment Causes Firestorm In District 186

Springfield’s interim school superintendent is refusing to yank a workbook at Grant Middle School that gun rights supporters say paints a false picture of the Second Amendment. 


The workbook… which was created by a teacher who has since retired… says the amendment provides for the right to own weapons, as long as they have been registered.  Gun registration is not a provision of the U.S. Constitution. 


Interim superintendent Bob Hill says materials created by teachers are generally not vetted, and says it’s not his job as superintendent to micromanage those materials.  He acknowledged that Grant’s superintendent could recommend that the workbook be modified. 


Hill says the book was an attempt to explain the modern-day implications of the Second Amendment… not to prosyletize or indoctrinate 7th-graders.

Kirk Won't Campaign For Fellow Republican Oberweis, Says He Wants To ''Protect'' Relationship With Durbin

Republican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk says he will not be campaigning in support of the GOP nominee for the state’s other Senate seat. 


Kirk tells the Chicago Sun-Times that he wants to “protect” his relationship with Democratic incumbent Dick Durbin, and so he won’t be hitting the stump for Jim Oberweis. 


Kirk says he doesn’t want to engage in, quote, a “partisan jihad” that will jeopardize his ability to work with Durbin on issues of importance to the state.

State Medical Society Opposes Bills To Put Some Doctors' Duties Into Others' Hands

Illinois doctors want to block other health care professionals from taking on jobs that have traditionally only been done by certified physicians.  But the head of the Illinois State Medical Society says the opposition is motivated by public health, not a desire to protect turf. 


The society is opposing several bills… one which would let dentists provide immunizations, and another which would allow psychologists to prescribe drugs for people with certain mental illnesses. 


Doctor Eldon Trame says neither group has the medical training needed to administer those medicines safely without risking complications.

City Looking At ''Ghetto Tree'' Display For Possible Ordinance Violations

A north-end Springfield resident who gained notoriety for a junk-filled front-yard display that he calls the “Ghetto Tree” says he’s being harassed by neighbors, and even police, for trying to draw attention to the problems of his neighborhood. 


Earl Reese drew attention to himself at Christmastime when he went before the Springfield City Council to sing about crime and trash in his neighborhood, changing “O Christmas Tree” to “Ghetto Tree.” 


Several squad cars arrived at Reese’s residence Sunday after a neighbor’s complaint, but Reese was not arrested.  Mayoral spokesman Nathan Mihelich says the city’s zoning department is reviewing the situation to see if the tires, broken toys and other junk hanging from Reese’s tree violates city ordinance.

Survey: Illinois Voters Don't Want Tax Hikes -- Or Spending Cuts

A new survey finds an overwhelming majority of Illinois voters oppose making the state’s temporary income tax increase permanent.  They are also opposed to most other tax increase ideas… but at the same time, they don’t want to see spending cut for vital services like education, public safety, or aid to the disabled or poor. 


That survey of 1,001 Illinois voters finds 60% oppose extending the income tax increase, while less than 27% favor the idea.  A majority of residents say the state should fix its budget mess by cutting waste and fraud.


But when asked what specific areas of the state budget should be cut, a majority opposed cuts in each specific area… from school spending to pensions to services for the poor.

Officials Say Missing Malaysian Jet Went Down In Indian Ocean; All Lives Aboard Lost

Malaysian officials say new evidence confirms that missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 did in fact crash in the Indian Ocean, and all 239 lives aboard were lost.  Still no indication yet as to how or why that crash happened.  Stay with 970 WMAY for updates throughout the day on this developing story.

Senator Durbin Supports State Millionaire Surcharge Proposal

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin thinks most Illinois millionaires won’t mind paying more to help a state in crisis.


Durbin gave his support Sunday to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s proposal for a three-percent state surcharge on incomes of over $1 million.


Durbin acknowledged that some millionaires might pack their bags if the tax hike passes, and noted that some have already put family members up in homes in Florida.


That was a thinly-veiled reference to Durbin’s election opponent, Republican Senate nominee Jim Oberweis. Durbin later apologized for injecting Oberweis’s family into a political discussion.

Former Representative Farnham Refuses Comment on Child Porn Investigation

An Illinois lawmaker who resigned last week is refusing to comment on reports that federal agents who raided his home and legislative office were looking for evidence of possession of child porn.


That revelation was contained in search warrants documents released last week.


Agents seized computers from Democrat Keith Farnham’s offices in Elgin and Springfield, and also took a state-owned laptop that Farnham used on the floor of the House.


Farnham resigned days after that raid… saying he made the decision because of unspecified “serious health issues.”

ISU President Resigns, Assault Investigation Continues

Illinois State University President Timothy Flanagan has resigned. Flanagan is being investigated by ISU police after a former campus employee accused him of assault.


He stepped down during a special Board of Trustees meeting Saturday. The resignation took effect immediately.


Then-superintendent of grounds R. Patrick Murphy claimed that Flanagan's saliva hit him in the face, that Flanagan's arm hit his torso and that Flanagan yelled at him on Dec. 5 outside the president’s university-owned home, according to a police report.


Murphy was fired five days after the incident.


Prosecutors are still reviewing the case. Even though Flanagan’s resignation is effective immediately, he will get a lump sum severance of $480,000 and will be allowed to stay in the presidential residence through May.

Raid On Ex-Lawmaker's Office Linked To Child Porn Investigation

Last week’s raid on a state lawmaker’s home and office is part of an ongoing federal investigation into child pornography, according to a federal search warrant obtained by the Chicago Tribune. 


Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were looking for computers, hard drives and similar devices belonging to Representative Keith Farnham. 


The Elgin Democrat resigned this week, citing health reasons and making no mention of that federal investigation.

Organized Labor Supporting Quinn, But Not Unanimously

Organized labor is starting to rally around Governor Pat Quinn in his re-election campaign against Republican Bruce Rauner. 


The Illinois AFL-CIO gave its endorsement to Quinn on Friday.  The coalition of labor unions says there was “no opposition” to the endorsement.  But one member group… AFSCME, representing thousands of state workers… abstained from the endorsement vote.

State Agency Heads Paint Dismal Picture Of Potential Budget Cuts

Top Quinn administration officials are warning that proposed budget cuts for next year could lead to thousands of teacher layoffs and sharp reductions in state services from law enforcement to health care. 


Agency directors testified before legislative committees on Friday.  But some Republican lawmakers think the “doom-and-gloom” scenarios are just a scare tactic to drum up support for extending the state’s temporary income tax hike.

Defeated GOP Candidates Weigh Future

Coming off his second tough loss in four years in a campaign for governor, Kirk Dillard says his career in politics isn’t necessarily over yet. 


Dillard closed the gap but came up just short against Bruce Rauner in Tuesday’s GOP primary, just as he did against Bill Brady in the primary in 2010.  Dillard says he won’t run for governor again… but when asked if he might seek another office, he replied “Never say never.”


State Senator Bill Brady says he will focus on the remaining two years of his current term.  He hasn't ruled out yet another run for higher office.  And state Treasurer Dan Rutherford has kept a low profile since his gubernatorial campaign flamed out following allegations from a male employee that Rutherford sexually harassed him.  Rutherford says he will work to vindicate himself, and also vows to make a political comeback in the future.

Lincoln Advances To Class 3A State Title Game

The Lincoln Railers will play for the IHSA Class 3A state title.


Lincoln advanced to the title game with a 45-42 win over Rockford Lutheran in the semifinal matchup.  The Railers had trailed well into the fourth quarter, but used well-timed shooting and free throws to pull ahead.  Lutheran had a last-second chance to tie, but their three-point attempt came up short.


Lincoln will face the winner of the second semifinal game in the championship match Saturday night.

Quinn Administration Predicts Dire Results From Budget Cuts; GOP Denounces ''Doom And Gloom'' Scenarios

A number of state agency directors are offering dire warnings of what will happen unless Illinois plugs a multi-billion-dollar hole in next year’s budget. 


The state school superintendent says more than 13,000 teachers could be laid off next year because of education funding cuts.  The head of the Department of Corrections predicts three prisons could have to be closed.  And the state police director says there will be fewer troopers on the road and a virtual halt to narcotics enforcement. 


But at least one Republican lawmaker thinks the doomsday scenarios are nothing more than scare tactics to drum up support for a permanent extension of the temporary income tax increase that expires next year.

St. Pat's Celebrations Pretty Sober In Sangamon County

A DUI enforcement push tied to Saint Patrick’s Day was less productive for the Sangamon County sheriff’s department than it was for Springfield police. 


Undersheriff Jack Campbell says deputies only made one DUI arrest during its special St. Patrick’s enforcement detail.  The department also issued three citations for seat belt violations. 


Springfield police, on the other hand, made four DUI arrests and four arrests on other alcohol-related charges… plus one seat belt and two child car seat violations.

Lawmakers Want To Add Another Illinois School To Big Ten

Some Illinois lawmakers want to get involved in deciding which schools should be part of the Big Ten. 


Republican senators Matt Murphy and Michael Connolly have a bill to create a commission aimed at getting another Illinois university into the elite conference.  They say they want to provide another Illinois option for students who don’t get into the state’s current Big Ten schools… the University of Illinois or Northwestern University. 


It’s not clear what authority the commission would have… since membership in the Big Ten is up to the conference, not the legislature.

Madigan Proposes Surcharge for Millionaires to Fund Education

Illinois millionaires could pay substantially more in taxes… to help pay for public education… under a plan being floated by House Speaker Mike Madigan.


Madigan wants to amend the Illinois Constitution to allow a three-percent surcharge on that portion of a millionaire’s income above the first million.


He says the proposal would generate an extra billion dollars a year for education.


Under his formula, that would translate to more than $8 million new dollars for Springfield schools. Madigan predicts millionaires won’t object to carrying more of the load for something as important as education.


But GOP nominee for governor Bruce Rauner believes Madigan’s plan is a first step toward higher taxes for all Illinoisans

Springfield Restaurant Owner Testifies Against Minimum Wage Increase

The owner of a Springfield restaurant says he could be forced to cut minimum wage jobs at his establishment if Illinois raises its minimum wage to more than $10 an hour.


Mike Murphy of Charlie Parkers Diner says his business model is based on offering low prices, so his only option for dealing with the additional cost would be to make do with fewer people.


Despite his warnings, though, an Illinois Senate committee has passed a bill that would gradually raise the state’s wage from the current $8.25 an hour to $10.65 an hour by 2016.


The bill’s sponsor says it may go through more changes before a full Senate vote.

Illinois' Supreme Court Strikes Down State's Eavesdropping Law

The Illinois Supreme Court has struck down the state’s eavesdropping law as unconstitutional.


The 53-year-old statute had made it a crime to record conversations unless all parties consented to the recording.


But the justices noted that potentially made it a crime to make audio recordings in public… where the people being recorded had no legitimate expectation of privacy.


The ruling came in the case of a woman who was jailed for more than a year for recording several phone conversations with a Cook County Courts official.

Rauner Welcomes Democrats and Independents to Campaign

Bruce Rauner says his bid to become governor is transcending party lines.


Rauner has released a list of nearly two-dozen Democrats and independents that he says are backing his candidacy.


That list includes former Democratic state senator Reverend James Meeks… and Chicago attorney Newton Minow, who was the head of the Federal Communications Commission under President John F. Kennedy.


Governor Pat Quinn responds that Rauner should be more concerned about getting support from Republicans… since more people voted against Rauner than for him in Tuesday’s primary.

Carpet Manufacturing Issue Forces Delays in Lincoln Library Remodeling

There’s been a slight snag in the remodeling of Lincoln Library downtown.


Library officials say a “manufacturing issue” with new carpeting has forced a delay in the renovation project.


As a result, the library’s second floor will re-open next week while the project is on hold.


The second floor will close again when work resumes in April.

Madigan Proposes 3% Surcharge On Millionaires' Incomes

House Speaker Mike Madigan is proposing a three-percent surcharge on the income of Illinois millionaires… a move that he says could raise a billion dollars next year for school funding in the state. 


Madigan’s proposal would tack on the additional three-percent only for that portion of an individual’s income above the million-dollar threshold.  Data from the speaker’s office says that even with the surcharge, the overall tax obligation for people making $1 to 2 million a year would still be lower than in most neighboring states. 


Under Madigan’s proposed distribution formula, that tax surcharge, if approved, could mean an additional $8 million for Springfield schools.

Illinois Eavesdropping Law Struck Down

After more than 50 years on the books, Illinois’s eavesdropping law has been struck down by the state Supreme Court. 


Since 1961, the law had made it a crime to record any conversation unless all parties to the conversation consented. But the high court ruled that the law criminalized recordings made in public, where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. 


The American Civil Liberties Union praised the ruling… and noted that the law had generally only been enforced against people who had recorded police offices or public officials carrying out their duties.

State Jobless Rate Holds Steady In February

Illinois’s unemployment rate held steady last month… even as employers added more than 6,000 jobs around the state. 


The net increase in jobs, despite harsh winter weather in February, came primarily in professional and business services and hospitality and leisure. 


The 8.7 percent jobless rate in January and February is the state’s best showing since February of 2009.

Rauner Touts Support Of Democrats, Independents

Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner says his pledge to change the culture of Illinois government isn’t partisan in nature.  And he says the proof is in a list of Democrats and independents that are supporting Rauner’s attempt to unseat Governor Pat Quinn. 


The list includes several Chicago business executives, along with former Democratic state senator Rev. James Meeks… and Newton Minow, who had been head of the FCC under President John F. Kennedy.

Unions Struggle With Choices in Governor's Race

Public sector unions won’t necessarily give their full support and endorsement to Governor Pat Quinn in the general election… but they will definitely mobilize to oppose Republican nominee Bruce Rauner.


The deputy director of the largest state employees’ union, AFSCME Council 31, says Rauner poses a threat to organized labor, retirees, and working class people around Illinois.


But Roberta Lynch says that’s no guarantee that the union will provide financial help or manpower to Quinn’s re-election effort. Meanwhile, Rauner is getting plenty of support, too.


The Republican Governors Association has donated $750,000 to Rauner’s campaign, and the group says it is “all-in” to unseat Quinn this fall.

GOP Unity Tested Post Primary Election

Party unity in the aftermath of Tuesday’s hotly-contested primary races might be easier said than done.


Illinois Republicans came together for an event in Chicago Wednesday. But Kirk Dillard, who finished a close second to Bruce Rauner in the race for governor, was a no-show.


Staffers say Dillard returned to Springfield for the legislative session.


Meanwhile, Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson still says he’s unlikely to get involved in the effort to elect fellow Republican Wes Barr to succeed him.


Williamson had supported Barr’s opponent, Undersheriff Jack Campbell. Williamson says he remains concerned about Barr’s plans for the office, and says he will likely “sit out” the general election.

Bell's Stance on Labor May Run Contrary Party's Pick for Governor

A local legislative candidate says he will fight to make sure the state keeps its pension promises to state workers and teachers… a stand that conflicts with the platform of his party’s nominee for governor.


Republican Mike Bell won Tuesday’s primary in the 96th House District and will face Democratic incumbent Sue Scherer in November.


Bell is himself a retired teacher and state worker, and says public sector workers deserve and are entitled to their full pensions.


GOP nominee for governor Bruce Rauner says those pensions are unaffordable and are the result of the “corrupting influence” of unions.


Bell says he will try to educate Rauner otherwise… but says he will support his party’s nominee nonetheless.

State Rep. Farnham Resigns, Citing Health Issues

An Illinois lawmaker whose Elgin home and office were raided by federal agents last week has resigned… saying that he’s dealing with “serious health issues.”


Democratic Representative Keith Farnham did not explain the nature of his health problems… and did not mention the search warrants that were carried out against him last week.


Immigration and Customs Enforcement hasn’t said what it was looking for, or what it found, when it searched Farnham’s home and legislative office on Friday.

Legislation For Non-Custodial Parents Pending in Illinois

Non-custodial parents in Illinois would get to be with their kids at least 35-percent of the time… under legislation that’s now pending in the Illinois House.


The bill…which is being pushed by a group representing fathers… would reduce a judge’s discretion in deciding how much visitation time a non-custodial parent would get. Right now on average kids spend less than 30 hours a week with the parent who does not have primary custody.


This bill would double that average.

Get Covered Enters Partnership With Dist. 186

The push to get people signed up for health insurance before the Affordable Care Act’s March 31st deadline is now moving into Springfield schools.


Get Covered America says it is entering into a partnership with Springfield schools to get information out about health insurance to the parents of District 186 students.


A signup event is also planned for Saturday at Harvard Park Elementary.

Former THR Employees Seeking Millions in Back Pay

Former employees of the now-defunct THR and Associates are seeking more than $12 million in back overtime pay and penalties, according to a federal court filing this week.


The SJR website reports around 150 workers are seeking that amount against Jeff Parsons and two former company managers, alleging that they illegally classified the workers as “managers” in order to avoid paying them overtime.


The employees are just one among many creditors who are owed money by the bankrupt company.

Lawmaker Resigns After Federal Raid, Cites Health Reasons

An Illinois lawmaker is resigning… days after federal agents raided his Elgin home and legislative office.


Democratic Representative Keith Farnham says he has been suffering from “serious health issues” for a number of years that require his full attention.  Farnham did not elaborate on the nature of those health issues.


Immigration and Customs Enforcement has not said what it was looking for when agents executed search warrants against Farnham.

96th House Republican Nominee At Odds With Rauner Over Pensions

A local legislative candidate may find himself at odds with his party’s nominee for governor. 


Mike Bell easily won the GOP primary in the 96th House District Tuesday.  Bell is a former teacher and AFSCME member who staunchly defends the merits of public sector unions and the pension benefits earned by their members. 


That is a sharp contrast to the rhetoric of Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner, who says those unions have a “corrupting influence” on state government.  Bell says he will try to educate Rauner on the important contributions of those union members… but says he will support his party’s nominee despite their differences.

Some GOP Disunity On Display After Contentious Primaries

It may take more than just a morning-after breakfast to rebuild some party unity after Tuesday’s hard-fought primary. 


Republicans gathered in Chicago for a show of strength following Bruce Rauner’s victory in the GOP primary for governor.  But one main rival was reportedly a no-show.  Kirk Dillard skipped the event after finishing a close second to Rauner.  His staff says Dillard returned to Springfield for the legislative session.


Meanwhile, there appear to be some lingering hard feelings after Tuesday’s Republican primary for Sangamon County Sheriff. 


Retired Lieutenant Wes Barr won the primary, defeating Undersheriff Jack Campbell.  Campbell was the personal choice of outgoing Sheriff Neil Williamson… who said on Election Night that he wasn’t sure he could support Barr in the primary. 


And appearing on 970 WMAY’s Kramer Show Wednesday, Williamson says he remains concerned that Barr could wind up lowering the standards in the department. Williamson says he will probably “sit out” the general election.

Unions Not Necessarily Pro-Quinn, But Definitely Anti-Rauner

Illinois’s largest state employees union says it’s far too early to know if it will support Governor Pat Quinn in the general election.  But the deputy director of AFSCME says there is no question that public sector unions will be working against Republican nominee Bruce Rauner. 


Roberta Lynch says Rauner is openly hostile to organized labor and wants to take away retirement security from thousands of senior citizens… and says groups like AFSCME will be working to educate voters about Rauner. 


Rauner says the union actions against him are proof that they don’t want any limits on their power at the Capitol.

Rauner and Quinn to Face Off in General Election

The stage is now set for a high-stakes, big-money battle for Illinois governor.


Although the race was much closer than pre-election polls had predicted, businessman Bruce Rauner held on to defeat Kirk Dillard and two other challengers to claim the Republican nomination.


Rauner says he will end Governor Pat Quinn’s legacy of failure. Quinn, meanwhile, is wasting no time going on the attack.


He had a new TV ad ready even before the election returns were in, criticizing Rauner’s shifting position on the minimum wage.


Quinn says voters have a lot to learn about the Republican nominee.

Barr Wins GOP Sheriff's Race, Candidates To Hold Beer Summit

Wes Barr and Jack Campbell plan a “beer summit” today to mend fences after a long and bitter campaign that ended Tuesday, with Barr scoring a decisive victory in the GOP primary for Sangamon County sheriff.


But not everyone may be willing to let go so easily.


Incumbent sheriff Neil Williamson… who had backed Campbell in the primary… says he’s not sure he can endorse Barr after arguing through the campaign that Barr was unqualified to be sheriff.


Williamson says he may sit out the general election. Barr will face Jeff Regan, who got enough write-in votes Tuesday to become the Democratic nominee.


Hear election night coverage of the sheriff's race here.

Oberweis, Davis, Callis, Scherer, Bell, Cross, Madonia Win Elections

In other races Tuesday… Jim Oberweis defeated challenger Doug Truax to win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.


Oberweis will face Democratic incumbent Dick Durbin this fall.


Congressman Rodney Davis fought off a challenge from former Miss America Erika Harold to advance in the 13th Congressional District.


He will next face former judge Ann Callis, who beat two opponents in the Democratic primary.


And in the 96th House District, Democratic incumbent Sue Scherer held on to win her primary, and will face Mike Bell, an easy winner in the GOP race for that House seat.


Some other races of note: Tom Cross becomes the Republican nominee for state treasurer, easily beating DuPage County Auditor Bob Grogran.


Locally, Associate Judge John “Mo” Madonia will become a full circuit judge with a two-to-one victory margin over Kent Gray in the Republican primary.


There is no Democratic candidate for that vacant judgeship.

Aldermen Hold Back NAPA Contract for Consolidated Garage

A proposal to let a national auto parts chain handle the parts inventory for Springfield’s new consolidated city garage has once again stalled.


Aldermen sent the measure back to committee Tuesday, as several continue to question how the deal with NAPA Auto Parts was reached and whether it unfairly cut out other potential bidders.


The Houston administration says the deal would save hundreds of thousands of dollars… and says delaying it will cost the city money.


Aldermen also rejected a proposal from Ward 7’s Joe McMenamin to require City Council approval for non-union pay raises.

Mixed Bag As County Voters Sound Off On Referenda

Several referenda were on the ballot: Sherman voters overwhelmingly rejected a sizable property tax increase that would have paid for expanded fire and ambulance services.


Rochester voters also said “no”… decisively… to a proposal to give that community home rule powers.


But Pleasant Plains voters approved a 1-percent sales tax hike to fund village services.


Sangamon County voters gave their OK to a three-year extension of the Citizens Efficiency Commission.


And a proposed school merger was defeated… even though PORTA voters approved it, the idea was rejected by voters in the Ashland-Chandlerville area.

Rauner Hangs On For Narrow Win Over Dillard; Barr Takes GOP Sheriff's Nomination; Oberweis, Davis, Callis Victorious

10:30pm Rauner addresses supporters, vows to "shake up Springfield, bring back Illinois," says he will "tear out corruption by the roots" by imposing term limits, and restore economic vitality


10:15pm Bruce Rauner is declared the winner of the Republican primary for governor


9:25pm: Rodney Davis wins 13th District GOP nomination, will face Callis in November


9:20pm: Wes Barr wins GOP Sangamon County sheriff nomination


9:15pm Ann Callis declared winner of 13th Congressional District Democratic primary


8:45pm Oberweis declared winner of GOP primary for U.S. Senate, will face Democratic incumbent Dick Durbin in November


8:30pm: Wes Barr continues to lead in GOP race for sheriff; incumbent Neil Williamson says it might be difficult to support Barr if Barr wins nomination, says he might sit the general election out


8:00pm: Early leaders -- Bruce Rauner for GOP Governor; Tom Cross for GOP Treasurer; Wes Barr for GOP Sangamon County Sheriff; John "Mo" Madonia for GOP 7th Circuit Judge


7:50pm Governor Pat Quinn has won the Democratic party's nomination to seek a second full term in office.  He is projected to easily defeat Tio Hardiman.  Quinn has already prepared an ad going on the attack against Bruce Rauner, who continues to hold the lead in the four-way GOP race.


7:22pm Dan Rutherford delivers what sounds like a concession speech; says in the short term he will work on redistricting reform.  Says "Dan Rutherford is not going away."


7:05pm: No suspense for most statewide races, since the candidates are running unopposed in their respective primaries.  But there are a few statewide contests: in addition to both parties' races for the nomination for governor, Republicans must also make their choice among Jim Oberweis and Doug Truax for U.S. Senate, and Tom Cross and Bob Grogan for State Treasurer.


In addition, we will be following contested local races for sheriff (GOP), 7th Circuit Judge (GOP -- the winner will earn a spot on the bench since Democrats did not field a candidate in the primary), 13th Congressional (both parties) and 96th Illinois House (both parties).


We will also watch the numbers on several referenda: a countywide proposal to extend the Citizens Efficiency Commission, a sizable tax hike for fire and ambulance service in Sherman, and a vote to extend home rule powers to Rochester.

School Board Authorizes Nearly Three-Dozen Layoffs

The Springfield school board has authorized layoff notices for nearly three-dozen school district employees, including 11 teachers.


But that may not solve the district’s fiscal crisis.


Board members say they are being told that state education funding could be dramatically slashed in the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1st.


That could blow another multi-million dollar hole in the District 186 budget.


Interim superintendent Bob Hill says if that happens, the only option may be to end school two weeks early next year and impose an unpaid furlough on every district employee.

Christian Rejects Settlement Offer From City

Reporter Calvin Christian has rejected an offer from the City of Springfield to settle his lawsuit claiming a pattern of harassment by city police.


Under the city’s proposal, Christian would get no money, but the city would agree not to pursue costs or sanctions for what it calls “frivolous” claims.


But appearing live Monday on 970 WMAY’s “Kramer Show,” Christian said he has witnesses who can back up his claims… and vows to press forward.

Paul Palazzolo Semi-Officially Running For Springfield Mayor

Another candidate is jumping into next year’s race for Springfield mayor… but only “semi-officially” for the moment.


Sangamon County auditor Paul Palazzolo had signs in Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day parade touting him for mayor.


In an interview for the 970 WMAY News Feed, Palazzolo says he’s pretty well made up his mind to run, but won’t formally announce his candidacy until later in the year.


He says he plans to run, even if Mayor Mike Houston decides to seek another term.


Palazzolo says he has great respect for Houston… but his decision to run won’t be affected by Houston’s political plans.

Sangamon County Fair Snags Lynyrd Skynyrd

The Sangamon County Fair has landed a big fish for the entertainment.


Lynyrd Skynyrd will play June 20th at the fair.


The lineup also includes the Swon Brothers from The Voice on the 18th, Justin Moore on the 19th, and Easton Corbin on the 21st.

Christian Says He Will Not Settle Harassment Suit Against City

Calvin Christian will go forward with his harassment lawsuit against the City of Springfield, despite an offer from the city to settle the suit for no money but no further legal action.


Christian claims he will be able to prove harassment in the upcoming federal suit, but could be on the hook for thousands of dollars in legal fees if he loses.

GOP Governor Candidates Pull No Punches On Campaign's Final Full Day

The Republican candidates for governor are pummeling each other as voters across the state prepare to head for the polls on primary day Tuesday. 


Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” both Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard said their opponents are unelectable.  Brady attacked Dillard for allegedly cutting deals with special interests to get political support… while Dillard says Brady has ethical problems and a track record of failure in statewide elections. 


Both candidates also heaped criticism on GOP frontrunner Bruce Rauner.  But both also said they would support the eventual Republican nominee, no matter who wins on Tuesday.

Palazzolo ''Semi-Officially'' In 2015 Springfield Mayor's Race

Another candidate is dipping his toe in the water… and is likely to dive into next year’s Springfield mayor’s race soon. 


Sangamon County auditor Paul Palazzolo says he is “semi-officially” in the race for mayor.  In an interview for the 970 WMAY News Feed, Palazzolo says the decision has virtually been made, it just hasn’t been formally announced yet. 


And he says he expects to make the race, even if his friend and fellow Republican Mike Houston decides to seek another term in the officially non-partisan office.  Palazzolo expects a formal announcement by mid-year.

McMenamin Wants City Council Approval For Non-Union Raises

A Springfield aldermen is renewing his call for tighter control over wages at City Hall as a way to address pension shortfalls and other fiscal concerns. 


Ward 7’s Joe McMenamin has proposed wage freezes in the past… unsuccessfully.  Now his latest approach is to require City Council approval for across-the-board pay raises for non-union employees.  Right now aldermen must approve union contracts but aren’t required to vote if a mayor decides to give non-union workers similar increases. 


McMenamin’s proposal is up for a full Council vote Tuesday night.

Candidates Travel State in Final Hours Before Primary Election

It’s the last full day of campaigning before primary election day in Illinois… and candidates are making their final pitches to voters.


Republican candidate for governor Kirk Dillard is conducting a two-day flyaround with former Governor Jim Edgar, holding campaign rallies at each stop.


In Springfield Sunday, Dillard and Edgar both took shots at GOP frontrunner Bruce Rauner.


Edgar said Illinois cannot afford to elect a governor who has to learn on the job.


And Dillard referred to Rauner as a, quote, “bazillionaire” who is out of touch with Illinois families.


Dillard continues his flyaround today, while opponent Bill Brady flies into Springfield this morning. Rauner is also doing a flyaround… but it does not include a stop in Springfield.

Term Limits Becomes Issue in GOP Race for Governor

The race for governor has forced the issue of term limits into the spotlight… and forced the GOP hopefuls to take a stand on it.


Bruce Rauner has linked his campaign for the Executive Mansion to a push for a constitutional amendment that would impose eight-year limits on lawmakers and change the structure of the General Assembly.


Bill Brady supports term limits for lawmakers, even though he has served 12 years in the Senate, and eight in the House before that.


Brady also wants term limits for the governor.


The other GOP candidates, Kirk Dillard and Dan Rutherford, only want limits on legislative leadership terms.

Senate Candidate Oberweis Back in State Before Election

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jim Oberweis is back in the state… after a trip to Florida a week before Election Day opened him up to criticism from primary opponent Doug Truax.


Oberweis… who at first refused to confirm to reporters that he was in Florida… says he went there to celebrate his wife’s birthday.


She maintains a residence in Florida, which is now designated as the family’s “primary” residence, giving the family a sizable tax break.


Oberweis says his first marriage broke up because he spent too much time working… and said he has vowed not to make that same mistake again.

Still No Insight Into Raid of State Representative's Home and Offices

There’s still no explanation about why federal agents raided an Illinois lawmaker’s home and office Friday.


Agents executed search warrants at Democratic Representative Keith Farnham’s home and district office in Elgin.


Secretary of State police also “secured” Farnham’s office in the Stratton Building in Springfield.


The raids were carried out by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Division, but the agency isn’t saying what they were looking for, or why.

Springfield Police Continue St. Patrick's Day Patrols

Springfield police report few problems after Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. But they’re not letting down their guard.


Extra patrols are still planned through the overnight hours tonight… as celebrations continue through the actual observance of the day today.


Police say they will continue to watch out for drunk drivers and seat belt violations in particular.

State Lawmaker's Home, Office Raided; Feds Won't Say Why

Federal authorities have executed search warrants at the home and district legislative office of a state lawmaker from Elgin. 


Secretary of state police also secured Democratic Representative Keith Farnham’s office at the Stratton Office Building in Springfield. 


The warrants were obtained by the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of an “ongoing investigation,” but officials did not say what they were looking for, or why.

Kincaid Mayor Free On Bail For Allegedly Contacting Teen In Violation Of Order Of Protection

The order of protection that has led to the arrest of Kincaid’s mayor… twice… was obtained by an 18-year-old who reportedly was 17 when he began a relationship with Mayor Doug Thomas. 


Thomas is free on bail after his second arrest in less than a month on charges that he violated the order of protection.  The State Journal-Register reports the teen obtained the OP after claiming that Thomas tried to hit him with his car.


Thomas earlier this week refused to resign, but that was before his second arrest. He has been unavailable for comment since he was picked up at the Kincaid Village Hall Thursday.

Langfelder Discusses 2015 Bid For Mayor

Jim Langfelder says he will be releasing specific plans for what he would do as mayor of Springfield “when the time is right.” Langfelder, who currently serves as city treasurer, is confirming his plans to run for mayor in 2015. 


Langfelder says if he’s elected mayor, he would bring all interested parties into a room together to hash out solutions for the city’s unfunded pension liability.  Langfelder says that discussion would include aldermen, employee unions, pension fund representatives, and even the conservative think tank Illinois Policy Institute. 


The son of former mayor Ossie Langfelder says he’s learned a lot by observing his dad and other mayors before and since… in addition to his own experience in city government.  Langfelder is the first candidate to confirm he’s running next year, although incumbent Mayor Mike Houston and Alderman Cory Jobe are both considering it.

City Proposes $75,000 Study Of Hunter Lake Alternatives

An ordinance before Springfield aldermen seeks $75,000 to update a 16-year-old study on alternatives to Hunter Lake. 


The ordinance would pay the engineering firm Crawford, Murphy and Tilly to take another look at river wells and lowlands wells to see if they could meet the city’s water needs during a drought.

Ordinance Would Raise Maximum Age For New Springfield Cops

Springfield aldermen will consider an ordinance that would raise the maximum age at which someone could be first hired as a city cop. 


Right now, the city follows state law which says a new police department hire cannot be over the age of 35… unless they have military experience.  Alderman Kris Theilen’s ordinance would raise that to 45.

19-Year-Old Dies From Injuries After Being Struck By Train

A Springfield woman has died of injuries she suffered when she was struck by a train Thursday afternoon. 


19-year-old Jennifer Fry died early Friday, about 12 hours after she was struck on the 10th Street tracks near Ash.  She had apparently been walking along the tracks and didn’t hear the train approaching.  Family members think she may have been wearing headphones at the time. 


Coroner Cinda Edwards says an autopsy will be performed.  Her office will also get toxicology results and will review on-board video from the train as part of their investigation of the death.

Durbin Bound For Ukraine

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is part of a bipartisan group of lawmaker traveling to Ukraine this weekend, as the crisis intensifies over a Russian incursion into that nation. 


Durbin and the delegation... including Republican Senator John McCain... will meet with the new Ukrainian government, which is seeking help from the U.S. after Russian forces entered Ukraine's Crimea region.  Durbin says the, quote, "Russian aggression" is reminiscent of Soviet Union tactics during the Cold War. 


The delegation is scheduled to return to the U.S. on Sunday.

Suspect Shot in Leg By Springfield Cop Faces Charges, Cop Acted Justifiably

After a State Police investigation, Sangamon County’s top prosecutor has concluded that a Springfield cop used justifiable force when he shot a suspect during a struggle last month.


State’s Attorney John Milhiser says the incident shows the dangers that police face every day. The suspect who was shot in the leg is now facing multiple felony counts following a grand jury indictment Thursday.


Antonio Florence is accused of home invasion and sexual assault for an attack on a woman at a residence on Gregory Court.


He’s facing additional charges for the violent confrontation with police who responded to a 911 hangup call from that residence.

Kincaid's Mayor to Appear Before Judge

The mayor of Kincaid goes before a judge this morning… after spending the night in jail for his second arrest in less than a month.


Mayor Doug Thomas was taken into custody at the Kincaid Village Hall Thursday, accused of violating an order of protection. State police say Thomas had prohibited contact with an individual on March 1st.


That was just one week after his previous arrest on the same charge.


Thomas is also facing drug possession charges after police say they found multiple pills on him during that earlier arrest.


Thomas has refused to step down while the charges are pending against him.

Treasurer Langfelder to Run for Mayor Next Year

It’s still days before this year’s primary… and next year’s campaign season is already getting started.


Springfield city treasurer Jim Langfelder is announcing his intentions to run for mayor next spring.


Langfelder’s interest in such a campaign had been rumored for months.


Term limits prevent him from seeking another term as treasurer.


Langfelder is the son of former mayor Ossie Langfelder.


The State Journal-Register reports he will informally kick off his campaign by marching with a contingent in Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day parade downtown, wearing shirts that say “Langfelder 2015.”

Rauner and Dillard Debate Gubernatorial Powers at Last Debate Before Primary

Bruce Rauner says if he’s elected governor, he’ll use lots of tactics… including executive orders… to implement his priorities, even if he meets resistance from a Democratic legislature.


But Rauner’s closest challenger in recent polls, Kirk Dillard, notes that the General Assembly can overturn executive orders.


Dillard says he’ll have more success working with the legislature, because of his own legislative experience and his work as Governor Jim Edgar’s chief of staff.


All four Republican hopefuls met Thursday night in their final debate before Tuesday’s primary.

Dist. 186 Accused of Violating Americans with Disabilities Act in Lawsuit

A Lanphier High School parent is suing District 186… saying the district is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act because much of the school is inaccessible to people in wheelchairs.


The State Journal-Register reports that John McQuillan uses a wheelchair because he has cerebral palsy.


His lawsuit says that prevents him from attending parent-teacher conferences in his son’s classroom, observe classroom activities, or attend other events at the school.


His suit seeks an injunction ordering the district to bring the school into ADA compliance.

Former Circuit Judge Cavanagh Passes Away

Funeral services are pending for former state’s attorney and circuit judge C. Joseph Cavanagh.


Cavanagh died Thursday after suffering a stroke while visiting family in California. He was 81.


Cavanagh was elected twice as state’s attorney back in the 1970s, later leaving that job after being appointed to a judgeship.


His death comes just days after another former state’s attorney and judge, Don Cadagin, also passed away after taking ill while on a trip.

Woman Critically Injured After Being Struck by Train

A 19-year-old woman was critically injured after being struck by a train near 10th and Ash Thursday.


Authorities say she was walking along the tracks and apparently did not hear the train approaching behind her.


The engineer said he blew his whistle and tried to stop in time but could not.

Cop Cleared, Shooting Victim Indicted

A Sangamon County grand jury has indicted a man who was arrested after being shot by a Springfield police officer last month.  But the officer is in the clear... State's Attorney John Milhiser says the shooting was a justified use of force.


Antonio Florence is facing multiple charges for the incident February 21st that led to his shooting at a residence on Gregory Court.  Police responding to a 911 hangup call confronted Florence... who allegedly struck and bit the officer while trying to grab his gun.  The officer then shot Florence in the leg.


The investigation determined that the 911 call had been made by a sexual assault victim inside the residence.  Florence is charged with that alleged assault, and is facing other charges, including home invasion and aggravated battery.  He is being held on $1 million bond pending his next court appearance on March 31st.

Kincaid Mayor Arrested Again

For the second time in less than a month, the mayor of Kincaid has been arrested on charges of violating an order of protection. 


Mayor Doug Thomas was taken into custody at the Kincaid Village Hall late Thursday morning by Illinois State Police.  Thomas allegedly had contact with the subject of the order of protection on March 1st.  That’s just a week after Thomas had been arrested by Christian County deputies on a similar order of protection charge.  He is also facing drug possession charges from his earlier arrest. 


Thomas this week flatly refused demands from some Kincaid residents that he resign.

January Jobless Rate In Springfield Up From December

Springfield’s jobless rate jumped significantly from December to January… but was still well below the numbers from a year earlier… according to the latest state unemployment figures. 


The January 2014 jobless rate for Springfield was 8.2%, up from 7.6% in December… but down from the 8.8% rate in January of 2013. 


Springfield still had the second-lowest unemployment rate among major Illinois cities… only Bloomington-Normal had better numbers in January.

As Deadline Approaches, Health Insurance Signup Event Planned Friday In Springfield

With less than three weeks to go until the deadline, state officials will make another big push in Springfield on Friday to get people signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. 


In a vehicle billed as the “Road 2 Coverage RV,” insurance navigators will be at the Sangamon County Department of Public Health to answer questions and help people sign up for coverage.  Brian Gorman with Get Covered Illinois encourages people to sign up before the March 31st deadline… both to avoid penalties and to prevent a situation where someone faces a medical emergency without insurance coverage. 


The signup event runs Friday from 10am to noon at the County Health Department on South Grand Avenue East.

Rest Stop Dedicated In Memory Of Fallen Trooper

For the first time, an Illinois interstate rest stop has been renamed in honor of a fallen state police trooper. 


The rest stops on Interstate 55 at mile marker 64, south of Springfield, have been dedicated in honor of Trooper Kyle Deatherage.  He was killed in the line of duty in November of 2012 as he was conducting a traffic stop along that same stretch of interstate. 


Deatherage’s widow Sarah and other family members joined state lawmakers and state police officials for the dedication Thursday.

U.S. Senate Candidate's Primary Residence Questioned

A Chicago TV report is raising questions about where exactly U.S. Senate candidate Jim Oberweis calls home. 


Oberweis is spending this final week before the GOP primary in Florida, where his wife maintains a residence.  But WMAQ in Chicago says Oberweis has listed that Florida condo as his family’s primary residence.


Oberweis had previously listed his suburban Chicago home as the family’s primary residence… but no longer does so.  Florida provides homeowners with a much larger “homestead exemption,” potentially saving Oberweis tens of thousands of dollars in taxes. 


His GOP opponent Doug Truax says Illinoisans deserve a candidate who is committed to Illinois… not going out-of-state to avoid taxes.

Springfield Police Chief Reworking Department's Organizational Chart

Springfield’s new police chief says the department’s redrawn organizational chart is the result of years of declines in budget and headcount. 


Chief Kenny Winslow acknowledges that he is consolidating some duties in the new management structure that he’s developing.  But he says that’s because he’s eliminating positions that have sat vacant for months… or even years. 


Winslow says past chiefs may have held out hope that those jobs would someday be filled again… but he says it’s time to streamline the command staff to go along with that reduced headcount.

War of Words Heats Up in Sangamon County Sheriff GOP Primary

The war of words is heating up between the Republican candidates for Sangamon County sheriff.


Undersheriff Jack Campbell is demanding an apology from opponent Wes Barr for comments Barr made during a joint appearance Tuesday on 970 WMAY.


But Barr says he won’t apologize… because he was telling the truth.


Barr accuses Campbell of circumventing Merit Commission rules that prevent most sheriff’s deputies from staying on the force while running for office.


Barr says Campbell’s appointment to the position of Undersheriff was a political move by Sheriff Neil Williamson to allow his favored candidate to stay on the payroll.


Barr and Campbell each describe the other as “desperate.”

Sangamon County Has New Forensic Pathologist

Sangamon County’s new forensic pathologist is officially on the job.


The State Journal-Register reports 35-year-old Nathaniel Patterson has already conducted his first autopsy here.


Hiring Patterson will allow the county to stop sending bodies to Bloomington in cases where there are questions about the circumstances of a person’s death.


This is Patterson’s first job as a forensic pathologist…and it follows a reprimand by state regulators for past issues with alcohol abuse.


Coroner Cinda Edwards says she has confidence that Patterson has put his past problems behind him.

Tax Hike Referendum for Sherman on Tuesday's Ballot

Among the ballot issues to be decided Tuesday are three separate tax hike questions for the Sherman Fire Protection District.


Sherman officials are hoping to establish 24-7 fire and ambulance service in the district… paying stipends to keep volunteer personnel on hand around the clock to reduce response times for emergencies.


The proposals also seek to raise money for updated equipment.


A final public forum on the proposals was held in Sherman Wednesday night.

Lt. Gov. Simon: State Should Evaluate Progressive Income Tax

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon… who is challenging Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka in the November general election… says the state should take a close look at adopting a progressive income tax structure.


In an interview for the 970 WMAY News Feed, Simon stopped short of explicitly endorsing the idea… but said she believed it would be more fair and would reduce inequities under the state’s current flat tax.


Simon says when all taxes are added together, low-income households pay a bigger percentage of their incomes in taxes than wealthier families do.


Moving to a progressive tax would require an amendment to the Illinois Constitution.

Gov. Quinn Taps Actor Martin Sheen To Promote Increase in Minimum Wage

Governor Pat Quinn is enlisting some star power in his quest to raise Illinois’s minimum wage.


Quinn will appear with actor Martin Sheen at an event in Chicago today to promote Quinn’s push to hike the state wage to $10 from the current $8.25.


Illinois’s minimum wage is already a dollar-an-hour higher than the federal mandate, but Quinn says it’s still not enough for many people to make ends meet.

Lt. Gov. Simon: Illinois Should Look At Progressive Tax System

A top state official says Illinois should definitely look at a move to a progressive income tax as the state tries to stabilize its budget. 


Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon… who is also a candidate for state comptroller… says a progressive tax structure, where wealthy Illinoisans would pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes, would be more fair than the current system. 


Simon says right now, the overall tax burden takes a bigger percentage of the income of poor Illinoisans than it does from wealthier people.  In an interview for the 970 WMAY News Feed, Simon did not specifically call for the idea to be adopted, but says it should be part of the conversation.

Campbell Demands Apology From Barr Over Comments On 970 WMAY

Republican candidate for Sheriff Jack Campbell is demanding an apology from opponent Wes Barr for comments Barr made during a joint appearance with Campbell Tuesday on 970 WMAY. 


Barr accused Campbell of violating Merit Commission rules by keeping his job as Undersheriff while running for Sheriff.  But Campbell says his actions have been reviewed repeatedly and found to be in compliance. 


Campbell also notes that Barr said on the air that he would not pursue a complaint with the Merit Commission over Campbell’s actions.  Campbell says that’s because Barr knows there’s no validity to the complaint.

Hardiman Insists He's Poised For Dem Primary Upset

Governor Pat Quinn’s challenger in next week’s Democratic primary says he can win… because Democrats are fed up with Quinn.


Tio Hardiman is pointing to a new poll that shows him with 36-percent support among primary voters… despite the fact that Hardiman has had almost no campaign cash and no advertising budget. 


Hardiman says Quinn has failed on all of the state’s most pressing issues.  Among his proposals is to build three to five casinos that would be owned by the state, so that all of that gaming revenue could go toward reducing the state’s budget deficit.


[Hardiman appeared live Wednesday on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”]

Mega Millions Jackpot Now Up To $353 Million

The Mega-Millions lottery game continues to grow. 


The multi-state game is now up to $353 million to a single winner after a series of rollovers.  A winner who chose the lump sum option could take home $135 million after taxes if they match all the numbers drawn this Friday night.  The odds of that happening are roughly 1 in 259 million.

Winter Visits Central Illinois With Slushy Snow

From the low 70s to a blast of winter… in about 12 hours.


That’s the situation across Central Illinois this morning, as springlike temperatures yesterday have been replaced by snow and high winds. A winter weather advisory is in effect through 11am.


Total snow around the area is expected to be in the range of 2 to 3 inches of heavy, wet snow.


Roads around the area are slushy and may be slick, and road crews are working to plow them and put down salt.


Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on the weather and road conditions.

City Contract with NAPA Held in Committee

A contract with NAPA Auto Parts to provide the inventory and personnel for parts at the new consolidated Springfield city garage will idle in committee for a while.


Springfield aldermen say they want more information about how the national chain was chosen for the three-year deal… and whether local businesses were given a fair chance to compete for the $3.5 million contract.


City budget director Bill McCarty says letting NAPA handle the auto parts inventory could save the city a half-million dollars a year.

Rauner On Top of Most Recent Poll of GOP Voters

The latest poll numbers suggest the fierce four-way contest for the GOP nomination for governor may be all but over.


The “We Ask America” poll of 12-hundred Republican voters puts Bruce Rauner at 46-percent… with Kirk Dillard a distant second at 26%. That survey has a margin of error of plus or minus three-percent.


A coalition of labor groups has pulled the plug on its ad campaign targeting Rauner. But three major public sector unions have given $400,000 to Dillard in hopes of giving his campaign a last-minute boost, with less than a week to go until the primary.

Hardiman Gets One-Third of Democratic Voters Support in Pre-Primary Poll

In another sign that Governor Pat Quinn has his work cut out for him in this election year, a new survey finds one-third of Democratic voters plan to vote for Quinn’s nearly-unknown primary opponent.


Tio Hardiman has run no campaign ads and has had little name recognition. But the survey of 563 Democratic primary voters gives Hardiman 36-percent to Quinn’s 64-percent.


Tio Hardiman will appear live this morning just after the 7am news on the “Jim Leach Show” here on 970 WMAY.

Barr Alleges Campbell's Candidacy Violates Merit Rules

Republican candidate for sheriff Wes Barr says he believes opponent Jack Campbell violated Merit Commission rules by running for sheriff while actively serving in the department.


Barr retired last year just before launching his campaign, and contends that Campbell should have also taken a leave.


But Campbell says his position as Undersheriff exempts him from the Merit Commission rules.


Barr says Campbell was given that title for political reasons only.


The two candidates clashed during a live joint appearance Tuesday on 970 WMAY.

Oberweis Spending Time in Florida With Days Until Primary

With just days to go until the primary, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jim Oberweis is spending a few days in Florida.


A Chicago TV station reports that when Oberweis was reached by phone, he initially refused to confirm his location.


His campaign later issued a statement saying that Oberweis was fulfilling a promise to his wife to spend a few days with her in Florida for her birthday, while also doing some fundraising with out-of-state donors.

Court Refuses to Unseal Blago Wiretap Transcripts

A federal appeals court has refused to unseal wiretaps of former Governor Rod Blagojevich that weren’t played at his corruption trial.


Defense lawyers have long argued for the release of the records, claiming the material that wasn’t played will show that Blagojevich was engaged in typical legal political horsetrading.


Prosecutors have argued against the release… saying they are trying to protect the privacy of others caught on those recordings.


The justices say the records will stay sealed for now… but indicated they could be release later as the court continues to consider Blagojevich’s appeal of his conviction.

Third of Those Enrolled in Healthcare Are Ages 55 to 64

About 114,000 Illinoisans have signed up for health insurance in the five months since the Affordable Care Act went into effect.


One-third of those signing up are between the ages of 55 and 64.


But the state is lagging behind enrollment estimates under the health care coverage law.


Officials had predicted 143,000 people in the state would sign up by the March 31st enrollment deadline.

Labor Groups Abandon Anti-Rauner Ad Campaign

A coalition of labor unions is ending its advertising push against GOP candidate for governor Bruce Rauner… with a week to go until the primary. 


The Illinois Freedom PAC… with funding from AFSCME, teachers unions, and other labor groups… had spent more than three million dollars on anti-Rauner ads.  A spokesman for the group tells Crain’s Chicago Business that it accomplished its mission of informing voters about another side of the Republican frontrunner. 


But the decision to drop the campaign now raises questions about whether the group thinks it’s too late to affect the outcome of next Tuesday’s vote.

State School Superintendent Warns Of ''Devastating'' Impact If School Funding Cut

Illinois’s top education official has a dire warning if lawmakers proceed with a budget that slashes hundreds of millions from public schools. 


Christopher Koch calls such cuts, quote, “devastating.”  In an interview for the 970 WMAY News Feed, Koch says some Illinois districts won’t be able to keep their doors open for the full school year if they sustain those cuts… and other districts will face deep and damaging cutbacks in teaching staff, course offerings, textbooks and equipment. 


Koch has proposed increasing education funding in the state by a billion dollars next year… but some legislative budget proposals call for reducing it by that amount.

GOP Sheriff Candidates Trade Potshots In Joint On-Air Appearance

The two Republicans running for Sangamon County Sheriff say they are still friends… and will remain so when the campaign is over next week.  But Wes Barr and Jack Campbell traded some pointed attacks during a live joint appearance Tuesday morning on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.” 


Barr accused Campbell of violating merit commission rules by hanging on to his job in the department while running for sheriff… and questioned what Sheriff Neil Williamson is doing while Campbell is running most day-to-day operations in the department. 


Campbell says Barr has misread the merit rules… and accuses Barr of being uninformed about the department’s budget, training procedures and other policies.

Winter Blamed For Sharp Drop In Local Home Sales, Prices

The impact of this harsh winter is being felt in the local housing market, according to the Capital Area Association of Realtors. 


The group blames February’s snow and bitter cold for a sharp drop in both home sales and median home prices.  201 homes were sold locally last month… down nearly 15-percent from the 231 sold in February of 2013.  Median home prices through the first two months of the year are down 28-percent from a year ago. 


But the association is optimistic that those trends will turn around as temperatures warm up.

High Near 70 Today, Chance of 2 to 4 Inches of Snow Overnight

This wild winter is about to take Central Illinois on another roller-coaster ride.


Temperatures are expected to soar into the 70s this afternoon… and 12 hours later, we could be under a blanket of snow.


A winter weather advisory has been issued for late tonight through midday on Wednesday.


The National Weather Service says some parts of the listening area could get three to five inches of snow from the approaching winter storm, although snow totals in Springfield are expected to be at the low end of that scale.


High winds could also be a part of the storm… which could create tricky driving conditions on Wednesday.


Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on the developing winter weather.

Federal Judge: Christian's Harassment Case Can Proceed

Reporter Calvin Christian’s lawsuit alleging that he was the target of a widespread campaign of harassment by Springfield police will be allowed to proceed.


Federal judge Colin Bruce has rejected the city’s attempt to have Christian’s civil rights complaint dismissed.


The city had argued that Christian’s suit did not offer enough evidence of a conspiracy against him to allow the case to proceed.


But the judge rejected that argument and said the suit can go forward.


Christian alleges he was targeted by police because of his efforts to seek internal affairs files and expose lax disciplinary standards within the department.

Shakeup at Kincaid Village Hall

Chaos in Kincaid… the small Christian County town is dealing with turmoil following the arrests of its mayor and police chief in separate cases.


But at a village board meeting Monday night, it was the city clerk who was fired by Kincaid’s board of trustees… while the chief kept his job on a tie vote, and the mayor refused to resign.


Chief Richard Adams was arrested last month on charges that he used village personnel on village time to repair his private residence… while Mayor Doug Thomas is accused of drug possession and violating an order of protection.


The State Journal-Register reports Thomas cast the tie vote that blocked the removal of Chief Adams.


But the board voted to fire Clerk Cindy Orrison over her job performance… promping Orrison to yell “Kiss my ass” as she stormed out of the board meeting.

Rauner Says Despite Money He's a Regular Guy

Bruce Rauner says he’s not the “one-percent”… he’s the “point-oh-one percent.”


But Rauner says despite his estimated billion-dollar fortune, he’s a regular guy… who drinks beer, smokes cigars and rides a Harley.


And Rauner says he connects well with everyday people, unlike another recent, very wealthy Republican hopeful… Mitt Romney.


But Rauner’s closest competition in next week’s GOP primary, Kirk Dillard, says Rauner simply doesn’t have a clue about the challenges and concerns facing average Illinoisans.

Springfield Police Step Up Enforcement Efforts Around St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick’s Day is already underway in Springfield… as far as Springfield police are concerned.


The department says it has already begun extra enforcement details to crack down on drunk driving… which seems to spike around St. Patrick’s celebrations.


SPD says it will also target seat belt offenses during its special patrols over the next week.

From Spring To Snow In Less Than 48 Hours

Don’t let the springlike weather fool you.  Winter isn’t done with us yet. 


The National Weather Service says a new storm system moving into Central Illinois Tuesday night into Wednesday could drop as much as four new inches of snow on the Springfield area… along with winds gusting to 40 miles per hour. 


Stay with 970 WMAY and for updates on the developing weather situation.

SPD Already Starting St. Patrick's Day Enforcement Push

Springfield police are getting an early start on St. Patrick’s Day.  Noting that the celebration is often associated with heavy drinking, SPD is already launching extra patrols aimed at catching drunk drivers. 


Special patrols will also target people violating seat belt laws.  Police recommend using a designated driver if you plan to indulge at your St. Paddy’s party.

Rauner: I'm Not The One Percent, I'm The .01 Percent

Bruce Rauner says he’s not part of the “one-percent”… he’s part of the “point-oh-one percent.” 


But the GOP candidate for governor says he’s far different than another wealthy Republican candidate of recent years, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.  Rauner tells the Chicago Sun-Times that he’s a pretty regular guy who drinks beer, smokes cigars and rides a Harley. 


Opponent Kirk Dillard says Rauner’s billion-dollar fortune was the result of “pay-to-play,” and shows that Rauner can’t relate to the concerns of average Illinoisans.

Taxpayer-Funded Lawyers Will Defend Rutherford In Harassment Suit

State taxpayers are picking up the tab for expenses related to the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Treasurer Dan Rutherford. 


Three lawyers have been appointed as special assistant attorneys general… and will be paid up to $200 an hour in taxpayer funds through the Treasurer’s office to help with Rutherford’s defense.  A former employee claims he was harassed and coerced into doing political work on state time. 


Rutherford has also spent $27,000 for investigations into those claims… but has refused to release the results because of the pending litigation.

Springfield-Bound Amtrak Strikes, Kills Pedestrian Near Pontiac

It was a late night for Amtrak passengers bound for Springfield Sunday night… after the train was delayed for several hours when it struck and killed a pedestrian near Pontiac. 


Amtrak says someone was trespassing on the tracks when they were struck and killed.  The train had left Chicago and was headed to Springfield and then on to St. Louis.  None of the 233 passengers on that train was hurt.

Poll: Half Of Illinoisans Say Concealed Carry Makes Them Feel ''Less Safe''

More than half of all Illinoisans feel “less safe” with a concealed carry law now on the books in the state… according to a new statewide survey. 


The poll found 52-percent of those surveyed felt less safe now that it is legal for people with permits to carry concealed weapons in public.  Only 32-percent said they feel more safe.  At the same time, the poll found less support for gun control and restrictions than in a similar survey a year ago.


The new poll of 1,001 registered voters, conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIU Carbondale, has a margin of error of plus-or-minus three-and-a-half percent.

SOS Employee Suspended for Personal/Political Business on State Time

An employee of the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office has been slapped with a 15-day suspension without pay and lost the use of his state car after an investigation found he was conducting personal and political business on state time.


The report from the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission found John Karnes was routinely at home or doing personal errands… when his time cards and other documents indicated he was supposed to be on the job.


The report also concluded that Karnes had used his state car, on state time, for activities related to Secretary of State Jesse White’s re-election campaign.

Gov. Quinn Stands By DNR Director

Governor Pat Quinn says he is standing behind his director of Natural Resources… despite recent controversies involving top staffers in the office.


One DNR official resigned when an investigation revealed he was taking part in fishing tournaments while supposedly on paid medical leave.


Two others involved in the regulation of the mining industry have been disciplined for improperly accepting or funneling political money from mining companies.


A Quinn spokesman says the governor still has confidence in DNR director Marc Miller.

Poll: Rauner Still in GOP Primary Lead, Support for Quinn Soft

New polls suggest the Republican race for governor is tightening… and that Governor Pat Quinn will have his work cut out for him, no matter which Republican opponent he faces.


The latest Chicago Tribune survey still puts Bruce Rauner in the lead… but suggests state senator Kirk Dillard is closing the gap.


But the poll still gives Rauner more than a 10-point edge over Dillard, with just days to go till the primary. Meanwhile, Quinn’s general election support remains soft, even among his own party.


A separate survey finds that fewer than half of Democrats say they will vote for Quinn in the general election, no matter who’s running against him.

Former Prosecutor and Judge Don Cadagin Passes Away at 73

A longtime local prosecutor and judge has died.


Services are still pending for Don Cadagin… who died of an apparent stroke while vacationing in South Carolina.


Cadagin was appointed as Sangamon County State’s Attorney in 1986. He became a circuit judge in 1994 and retired in 2005.


Don Cadagin was 73.

Mass Murderer Awarded Nearly Half-Million Dollars

The man convicted of murdering seven people in a Chicago-area Brown’s Chicken restaurant in 1993 has been awarded nearly half-a-million dollars for a beating he sustained while in custody.


A jury ruled that James Degorski was entitled to the $451,000 payout after being battered by a Cook County Jail guard on the first night that Degorski was in custody for the murders.


But Degorski may never see any of the money. The state Department of Corrections will claim most of it as reimbursement for the costs of Degorski’s incarceration.


And family members of his victims say they may pursue wrongful death lawsuits to claim a share of what’s left.

Audit Of Controversial Quinn Program Forwarded To Federal Prosecutors

A potential political problem for Governor Pat Quinn has potentially gotten a whole lot bigger. 


The results of a scathing audit of an anti-violence program launched by Quinn in 2010 have been forwarded on to law enforcement officials, including the U.S. Attorney for the Central District, James Lewis.  The audit found widespread misuse of funding and a lack of accountability. 


Republican lawmakers had asked Auditor General Bill Holland to forward his findings to other agencies.

Rev. Wright's Daughter Convicted In Springfield Of Defrauding State

The daughter of President Obama’s controversial former pastor has been convicted in Springfield of fraud charges. 


A federal jury here returned the verdict against Jeri Wright for her role in a scheme to bilk the state out of more than a million dollars in grant money. 


Wright is the daughter of Jeremiah Wright, who became a lightning rod during Obama’s 2008 run for the White House.

Man Struck By Car After Being Chased By Pit Bull

Officials are trying to track down who last had possession of a pit bull that chased a Springfield man into the street Thursday night. 


Both the man and the dog were struck by a car.  The man suffered minor injuries… the dog was picked up by animal control. 


A chip implanted in the pit bull led authorities to its owner… who said the dog had been taken from her by animal control a year ago.  But county animal control officials say the dog was returned to that woman, who now lives in Chatham.  Neighbors say the pit bull had been roaming free and acting aggressively for weeks before Thursday’s incident along South Grand Avenue East.

Fire Chief: No Sign Of Smoke Detector In Apartment Where Woman Died

Riverton’s fire chief says investigators have not found any sign of a smoke detector in an apartment where a woman died in a fire early Thursday. 


Chief Louie Rogers says damage to the apartment was extensive, but that investigators will usually find some remnants of a detector, and so far have found none. 


An autopsy indicates that 24-year-old Brittany Sullivan died of smoke and soot inhalation, although some test results are still pending.

This Weekend: Spring Forward, Check Your Smoke Detector Batteries

It’s the weekend to change your clocks… and change your batteries. 


State fire officials say that when you “spring forward” one hour into Daylight Saving Time this weekend, you should also replace the batteries in your smoke detectors. 


Officials say 60-percent of fatal fires are in homes without working smoke detectors.

Ronald McDonald House Announces Renovation Project; Home Will Close Temporarily For Work

It’s the classic good news-bad news scenario. 


Springfield’s Ronald McDonald House is announcing a significant renovation that will allow  it to serve more families every night, and will update the interior and exterior of the 28-year-old home.  But the $1.2 million project will force the closure of the home for four months or more. 


The House provides shelter and other assistance to families who have children in one of the city’s major hospitals… but is often filled to capacity.  The project will add two more family rooms.  The home is slated to be closed from June to October… a fundraising campaign to support the renovation effort is also now underway.

Houston Still Pushing Ahead With Hunter Lake Proposal

It’s a project that has gone on for decades… and cost tens of millions of dollars.  And Mayor Mike Houston says that’s one reason the city shouldn’t give up on the Hunter Lake project. 


Houston says after all that time and money, he is determined to keep pushing for an answer from regulators, once and for all, about whether the second lake can be built.  And Houston says he will keep pursuing Hunter Lake because any of the other available options for a backup water supply are likely to be even more expensive than building the lake.

Sangamon County Clerk Mulling Over Same-Sex License Issuance

Sangamon County Clerk Joe Aiello still hasn’t decided if he will follow the lead of several of his counterparts around the state and offer marriage licenses to gay couples… even before the state’s new same-sex marriage law takes effect.


State’s Attorney John Milhiser says the decision is up to Aiello… but warns that issuing the licenses now could lead to legal challenges over the validity of the documents.


Aiello says he is considering going ahead with the licenses… but including a disclaimer that he hopes would protect the county from being sued at some point down the road.

Mayor and Alderman Spar Over Public Sector Pension Funding Numbers

The war of words over Springfield’s pension funds is escalating. Mayor Mike Houston says a recent study of the funds that ranks Springfield as worst in the state is based on inaccurate and incomplete data.


But Alderman Joe McMenamin… who brought that study before the City Council… says even after correcting some errors, the study still shows Springfield tied for the bottom.


Houston accuses McMenamin of offering no ideas to reduce the city’s unfunded liability, but McMenamin says he is offering concrete proposals… such as his latest call for a city wage freeze.


McMenamin is also asking voters next year to elect aldermen who will help him tackle the pension crisis.

Mayor Wants NAPA Auto Parts Deal for Consolidated Garage

The Houston administration wants to enter into a three-year deal with NAPA Auto Parts to provide all of the parts that will be needed by the city’s new consolidated vehicle maintenance garage.


Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Houston said the $3.75 million deal would save the city money because NAPA would maintain the inventory and the company’s employees… not city workers… would be in charge of overseeing it.


Houston defends the proposal to go with a major national supplier… saying a local company would not be able to provide the volume and variety of parts the city will need.

Fire Victim Identified, Investigation Ongoing

Authorities have identified the woman who died in an apartment fire near Riverton early Thursday. 24-year-old Brittany Sullivan was pronounced dead at the scene of the fire on Old Route 36.


An autopsy is planned for today. A boy who lived in the home was injured and was first taken to the burn unit at Memorial Medical Center before being transferred to the pediatric ICU at Saint John’s.


Authorities say Sullivan’s husband escaped the flames but was unable to rescue his wife. The cause of that fire is still under investigation.

State Fair Adds Boston and Jake Owen to Grandstand Lineup

More acts are being announced for this year's Illinois State Fair.


Fair officials say the classic rock band Boston will perform in the Grandstand on August 12th. A couple of other '70s bands... Sweet and April Wine... will also appear on the same bill.


Country singer Jake Owen has also been booked for August 16th. The fair previously announced that country band Florida-Georgia Line will perform on August 10th.


Tickets for Grandstand shows go on sale through Ticketmaster on April 12th... and will also be available at the Grandstand ticket office in June.

Aiello Unsure Of Next Move In Same-Sex Marriage License Debate

It will apparently be up to Sangamon County Clerk Joe Aiello alone to determine if the county will issue marriage licenses early to same-sex couples. 


State’s Attorney John Milhiser has sent Aiello a letter raising concerns that such marriage licenses issued before June could later be declared invalid, since the state’s new same-sex marriage law hasn’t taken effect yet.  But Milhiser says the final decision rests with Aiello as a matter of policy, not of law.  


Aiello says he hasn’t decided what to do… but is considering issuing the licenses with a disclaimer warning of the potential legal difficulties.

Paprocki Says Fight Over Same-Sex Marriage Not Over

Even as more Illinois counties start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Springfield’s Catholic bishop isn’t giving up hope that the controversial new law can someday be overturned. 


Bishop Thomas John Paprocki has been one of the most outspoken critics in the state against same-sex marriage… even conducting prayers of exorcism on the day the bill was signed into law last November. 


In an interview for the 970 WMAY News Feed, Paprocki acknowledged that it’s unlikely the new law can be stopped in the short term.  But he contends society is becoming more opposed to abortion, 40 years after Roe vs. Wade, and says he hopes someday the same shift occurs about same-sex marriage, too.

Houston, McMenamin Trade Shots Over Pension Study

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston thinks there’s an ulterior motive behind a disputed study of the city’s pension liabilities. 


That study from the Illinois Policy Institute has drawn pointed criticism from Houston and others, who suggest the conservative think tank intentionally cherry-picked data to cast the city in the worst possible light.  Appearing live on 970 WMAY, Houston suggested the reason could be that backers of the IPI have a vested interest in steering workers from their current defined benefits plans to a 401-k style system.  But the mayor also acknowledged that his theory is just “speculation.”


Amid growing criticism over a pension study he brought before the City Council, Springfield Aldermen Joe McMenamin is fighting back. 


McMenamin arranged for the Illinois Policy Institute presentation that argued that Springfield had the worst pension crisis of any city in the state.  The Houston administration has attacked the numbers, saying the IPI improperly added in factors that shouldn’t have been considered. 


McMenamin concedes the point… but says the group fixed that error and crunched the numbers again, and says Springfield still tied for worst.  McMenamin says he’s trying to fix a serious problem but can’t do it alone… and says he will need the help of voters next year to elect more reform-minded aldermen.

One Dead, One Hurt In Fire Near Riverton

A woman is dead and a child is badly burned after an apartment fire near Riverton early Thursday.

That blaze broke out in a 3-unit apartment building on Old Route 36 near Camp Butler around 4:30am.  The adult female victim died of her injuries, while the child was taken to the burn unit at Memorial Medical Center and later transferred to the pediatric ICU at Saint John's.  An adult male in the home was not injured.


The names of the victims have not been released.  The cause of that fire is still under investigation.

County Clerk and State's Attorney Hash Out Same-Sex Marriage Details

Sangamon County Clerk Joe Aiello says, quote, "we might as well do it now and get moving on it."


But Aiello isn't moving ahead yet with issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Despite a directive from Attorney General Lisa Madigan this week telling county clerks that it's OK to issue the licenses even before the state's new same-sex marriage law takes effect, Aiello says he wants input from State's Attorney John Milhiser, the county's top legal officer.


Milhiser says there are big questions about whether a marriage license issued before the new law's effective date could be challenged later in the event of a divorce or death.


Aiello says he could begin issuing licenses within days... if all of the legal questions get ironed out.

Gun Lobby Day Calls for Limiting Number of Gun-Free Zones

Gun rights advocates say the state's new concealed carry law isn't the end of their fight... it's only the beginning.


Thousands of gun owners took part in an annual lobbying day in Springfield Wednesday... where they called for changes to the concealed carry law that was passed just last year.


Those changes could include a reduction in the number of places where firearms are still banned under the law... such as parks, libraries, and mass transit buses and trains.


The head of the State Rifle Association says such designated "gun-free zones" are an invitation to criminals to rob or harm people.

School Supt: Turner Given Second Chance, No Special Treatment

Springfield's interim school superintendent says the district did its due diligence... and didn't give anyone special treatment... when it hired Lanphier High School basketball coach Blake Turner years ago, despite an extensive arrest record.


The Illinois Times revealed last week that Turner had multiple arrests on charges ranging from drugs to violent assault in the years before he was hired as an assistant coach in 2008.


Some of the charges were felonies... but were either dismissed or were pleaded down to misdemeanors.


Interim superintendent Bob Hill tells the State Journal-Register that the incidents were thoroughly researched before Turner was hired, and the decision was made to give him another chance.

Dillard Criticized for Union Endorsements

Republican candidate for governor Kirk Dillard is taking heat from his opponents for his close ties to the biggest public sector unions in the state.


Dillard has received endorsements... and promises of financial support and manpower... from the state's two biggest teachers unions and the top state workers' group.


Dillard says that's because he will treat those workers with respect and fairness.


But GOP opponents Bruce Rauner and Bill Brady accuse Dillard of selling out taxpayers for political gain.

Dillard: Early Voters May Miss Last Minute Mind Changing Details

A lot of people are touting the advantages of early voting... but one candidate for governor isn't necessarily among them.


Republican Kirk Dillard says it's not always a good idea to cast an early ballot.


Dillard says many issues could still bubble up that'll change voters mind in the competitive race.


Early voting runs through March 15. The primary is March 18th.

Gas Prices Jump In Springfield

Gas prices are shooting up even higher across Springfield. 


Prices began jumping to $3.69 a gallon at some local stations Wednesday morning… a jump of 20 to 25-cents a gallon.  Despite the increase, gas price tracker websites say the prices around the state are still about a dime lower than they were on average a year ago.

Bomke Endorses Barr For Sheriff

One of the top local Republican vote-getters in recent years is coming out in support of Wes Barr in the tight GOP race for Sangamon County Sheriff.


Former state senator Larry Bomke says Barr is uniquely qualified for the job of sheriff.  Bomke compares Barr’s qualities to those of incumbent sheriff Neil Williamson… who was appointed to that job more than 20 years ago, when Bomke was county board chairman. 


Williamson, of course, is supporting Barr’s Republican primary opponent, Undersheriff Jack Campbell.

AFSCME Backs Dillard In GOP Race For Governor

Another huge public sector union is giving its support to Republican candidate for governor Kirk Dillard. 


AFSCME… the biggest state employee union in Illinois… says Dillard has a proven track record of service and understands how state government works.  The state’s two big teachers unions have also endorsed Dillard… who opposed the pension reform law that unions are suing to block. 


The endorsements provide a sharp contrast between Dillard and GOP frontrunner Bruce Rauner… who has campaigned hard against what he calls the corrupt influence of “government union bosses.”

Aiello: Sangamon County Could Issue Marriage Licenses To Same-Sex Couples By Next Week

Same-sex couples in Sangamon County could be able to legally wed as early as next week.


County Clerk Joe Aiello says he expects to get a final green light to issue marriage licenses to those couples any time now.  Aiello is waiting for a final OK from State's Attorney John Milhiser, the county's top legal officer, but he thinks recent court rulings and advice from the Illinois Attorney General make it virtually certain that he will get that authorization.   


But other experts say jumping the gun on issuing licenses could create serious legal complications with divorces and probate down the road.   Milhiser says he’s still studying the legal issues involved.

Springfield School Board Approves $5 Million In Cuts

Dozens of teaching positions and other jobs will be slashed in Springfield public schools next year, as the school board adopts more than $5 million in cuts in its ongoing effort to balance its books. 


Many of those cuts are at the high school level, where changes in teaching schedules will allow the same number of courses with fewer instructors.  But the board also approved cutting middle and elementary school positions, librarian jobs, and multiple special education staffers. 


And even those cuts may not be enough, depending on the outcome of state budget negotiations and upcoming talks on a new teachers contract for District 186.

Aldermen Won't Commit To Hunter Lake

Springfield aldermen have rejected a resolution declaring support for building a second lake to serve as the city’s backup water supply. 


The resolution earned only four “yes” votes, with five aldermen voting “no” and one… Alderman Joe McMenamin… abstaining.  McMenamin says the vote should have waited until a new round of studies is complete. 


The vote will do nothing to end the years of haggling over a new water supply.  City Water Light and Power says it’s still essential to find a secondary water source… and no matter what is ultimately chosen, the utility says a big water rate hike will be needed to pay for it.

GOP Governor Candidates Say They Would Reinstate Death Penalty

All four Republican candidates for governor say they would reinstate Illinois’s death penalty if elected. 


Capital punishment was among the social issues discussed in the latest debate among the four GOP hopefuls.  Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in 2011. 


The Republican contenders mostly dodged a question about abortion, saying there was very little a governor could do on the issue.  But GOP frontrunner Bruce Rauner said that while he considers abortion a tragedy, he says it should be a decision left to a woman, her family and her doctor… not to the government.

Campbell Says He Would Be ''More Engaged'' Than Williamson

Undersheriff Jack Campbell says if he’s elected sheriff, he would be more engaged in day-to-day operations than the current officeholder… his boss, Sheriff Neil Williamson. 


Campbell says he has learned the job from “the bottom up,” working his way through the ranks… while Williamson entered the sheriff’s department at the top, having been appointed to the job after years as a Springfield cop. 


Campbell is also disputing claims from critics that he was named undersheriff by Williamson just so he could stay in the sheriff’s department while running for Williamson’s job.  He says the change in title several years ago was based on his job duties and did not affect his eligibility to run.

Four Lawsuits Challenging Pension Reform Combined Into One

Sangamon County will be the first major battleground in the looming legal fight over pension reform.


The Illinois Supreme Court has ordered four separate lawsuits challenging the new law to be consolidated into one case, to be heard in Sangamon County.


Various groups representing public sector employees and retirees have sued, saying the law approved late last year is an unconstitutional diminishment of the benefits they have been promised.


Putting all four cases together in Sangamon County could help the litigation move more quickly… although all parties agree that the cases will eventually return to the state Supreme Court for a final decision.

Dillard Picks Up Sangamon County Republican Endorsement

With primary day just two weeks away, Republican candidate for governor Kirk Dillard is picking up more key support.


The Sangamon County Republican Party has thrown its official endorsement behind Dillard… one of several key endorsements made by the party Monday night.


But the local GOP decided not to take sides in the hotly-contested race for Sangamon County Sheriff… saying the contest between Wes Barr and Jack Campbell is too close to call.


Dillard, meanwhile, picked up another key union endorsement, winning the backing of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

DIRT Celebrates One Year, Second Time Around

Sangamon County’s DIRT team is celebrating the first anniversary of its second time around.


The drug interdiction team set up through the sheriff’s department was originally created to battle a surge in methamphetamine cases in the county… but was later disbanded because of budget cuts.


Sheriff Neil Williamson reinstated the team one year ago this week… but this time, the focus has been on marijuana, cocaine, and heroin sold through local drug houses.


In the past year, the unit has seized nearly 5,000 grams of pot, 480 grams of cocaine and 32 grams of heroin, along with cash and guns.

Tornado Sirens Expected at 10am For Statewide Emergency Preparedness Drill

Even though winter still feels like a long way from being over, the National Weather Service is looking ahead to spring.


Tornado sirens will sound this morning at 10am as part of a statewide severe weather emergency preparedness drill.


Even though tornadoes can strike anytime of the year… such as the twister that hit eastern Sangamon County late last month… springtime is considered peak season for the potentially deadly storms.

Gun Owners Prepares To Rally in Springfield

This year’s Illinois Gun Owner Lobby Day is going to be a celebration, according to one of the organizers.


Valinda Rowe from says the annual lobby day will focus not just on pending legislation and court battles but also on past successes.


Rowe says she has personally been involved in lobbying lawmakers to bring about concealed carry in the state, and though she says it’s not a perfect law, the first permits being mailed out over the weekend means this year’s I-GOLD will be upbeat.


Thousands of gun owners from across the state are expected to converge on Springfield with a rally at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Wednesday morning and then an early afternoon march through the streets of Springfield to the capital building to lobby lawmakers.

Quinn Touts Illinois/Chicago's Placement in Magazine

Illinois’ governor is touting the Land of Lincoln’s 3rd place ranking on a list of states for new and expanded businesses.


Governor Pat Quinn says it’s as signs of an economic resurgence.


A press release from Quinn’s office also says that Chicago is ranked the number one metro market in the country for new and expanded corporate facilities, according to “Site Selection” magazine which is a corporate real estate and economic development publication.


Quinn says the new rankings along with last week’s announcement of a new Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute in Chicago is proof Illinois is making a comeback.

Winter Storm Titan Fizzles, Brings Cold And Not Much Snow

Winter Storm Titan didn’t provide much of a snow storm, but the frigid weather is with us for a few more days.


The bulk of precipitation occurred south of I-72 with several inches of snow and freezing precipitation.


A Wind Chill Advisory is in effect until 10 this morning with the wind chill down to 20 below zero at times.


Later this week the temperatures are expected to increase with highs in the low 30s.

Sheriff Williamson Says Criticism Over Campbell's Pot Jokes is Typical Mudslinging

The Sangamon County Sheriff is defending his choice to replace him, even after the current undersheriff made some jokes about marijuana.


During an hour-long interview last Thursday with Sheriff candidate Jack Campbell on the Kramer Show, Campbell joked he wished he would have quote “brought some weed” for Kramer as the radio host had joked earlier in the broadcast.


The State Journal-Register reported that sheriff’s candidate Wes Barr thought those comments were unprofessional, and inappropriate.


Sheriff Neil Williamson says Campbell was attempting humor during a humorous talk show and knows Campbell will perform the duties of Sheriff well.


Williamson says the outrage over Campbell’s statements is typical mudslinging politics with just a few weeks left before the primary March 18th.

GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Dillard Backed by Illinois Federation of Teachers

The Illinois Federation of Teachers is endorsing GOP Gubernatorial candidate and State Senator Kirk Dillard.


The group made up of more than 100,000 teachers and staff says that Dillard has been a an advocate for public schools and a strong voice against the, quote, ”unconstitutionality of recent pension theft legislation.”


A press release from the Federation encourages people to pull a republican ballot and vote for Dillard.


This is the third teacher backed endorsement for Dillard in the Primary.


In the past few weeks Dillard has received endorsements from the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Retired Teachers Association.

State's Bill Backlog Down, But Suggested Cuts Mount

Regardless of who gets the job of Governor in the general election, they’re going to have their work cut out for them finding places to cut and manage the budget.


Though the backlog of bills the State of Illinois owes is reportedly down to $5.6 billion by June 30th, there is still potentially $2.4 billion in sweeping cuts proposed to everything form education, human services and public safety.


The next budget year begins July 1st. The general election is in November.

Squatters May Be to Blame For Vacant House Fire

Springfield Fire officials are investigating the cause of a fire at the 1900 block of Taylor as suspicious.


Firefighters arrived to the blaze early Sunday morning and extinguished the blaze, but not before it caused damage to the siding of a neighboring house that was occupied.


No injuries were reported. The State Journal-Register reports that there of squatters at the vacant house.

Boil Order for Athens, Possibly Until Wednesday

A boil order is in effect for Athens, even after a water main break was repaired over the weekend.


The main broke Saturday morning and was fixed Saturday afternoon, but officials in Athens expect the boil order to remain in effect until Wednesday.

County OEM Works With Rural Firefighters During Severe Winter Weather

Strong winter storms aren’t just difficult for public works crews to clean up and manage, but they can also be a tough job for various fire fighting crews throughout the county as they’re the first responders for rural residents.


David Butt, with the Sangamon County Office of Emergency Management says that during strong winter storms, fire crews often assist in traffic accidents, medical emergencies and fires.


Butt says with all the surrounding elements in a storm, they’re plate is full.


The OEM works to remind area fire districts of the increased need for their assistance in times of snow storms.

Springfield Could See Additional 3 Inches Today, Sleet Possible Further South

A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect until 6 Sunday evening with more snow is on the way.


Central Illinois received upwards to 3 inches in some areas overnight.


Further south of Sangamon County into Southern Illinois there's a Winter Storm Warning which could produce up to 5 inches of snow mixed with sleet causing hazardous driving conditions.


The forecast for the Springfield area calls for 1 to 3 inches more of snow with 20 miles per hour winds. The heaviest snow is forecast for the morning hours. Total accumulation is expected to be about 6 inches.

Bill Would Create Fair Grounds Foundation to Solicit Private Funds For Repairs

A proposal to create a foundation to help generate funds for much needed repairs to the Illinois State Fair grounds could generate money from private donations quicker than getting money from the state.


That's according to a bill filed by State Senator Andy Manar.


The State Journal-Register reports the proposed 12-member board of directors would solicit private funds from businesses and individuals as a way to make repairs to the aging fairgrounds, not just in Springfield but also DuQuoin.


The bill could be up for passage in the State Senate this coming week.

Latest Snow To Make Snowiest Winter in 30 Years, Snow Emergencies Expected

This weekend’s snow won’t only break a 30 year record for the snowiest winter in Springfield---it will also make for some travel headaches.


Before the first snow flake fell Saturday, the City of Springfield declared a snow emergency beginning Sunday at midnight.  That lasts until Tuesday morning.


The Sangamon County Office of Emergency Management says they anticipate declaring a Level 2 snow emergency with rural roads expected to be covered by drifting snow.


As for the amounts of snow, currently the city received 42.3 inches of snow this winter and with estimates of 7 inches, that will surpass the record of 45.2 inches set in 1982.

First 5,000 Concealed Carry Permits In Mail, No Permits Denied in Sangamon County

The first 5,000 concealed carry permits for the state of Illinois are in the mail.


Illinois State Police say that more than 46,000 online applications have been received and reviewed.


Statewide 300 applications were denied and another 800 are under review.


In Sangamon County, Undersheriff Jack Campbell says the more than 600 have been reviewed and zero were denied.


Residents wanting to apply must do so online.


ISP expects to have paper applications available sometime this summer.

Murder Charges Against Two Men for New Year's Eve Double Homicide

First-degree murder charges have been leveled against two men for the New Year ’s Eve 2012 double-murder in Springfield.


Jermain Davis of Springfield and Sancho Mitchell of Decatur face those charges in the murder of Larry Grice and Andrea Pocklington, who was five months pregnant.


Davis and Mitchell are also charged with armed robbery.

Kincaid Police Chief Arrested for Official Misconduct

The Chief of Police for the Village of Kincaid is under arrest.


Illinois State Police say they took Richard Adams into custody for Official Misconduct.


A report from ISP says investigations revealed Adams was using his official position to have repairs on his private residence done by village employees, on village time.


Police expect additional charges with the investigation ongoing.

Former Jerome Cop Given Two Years Probation

A former Jerome Police officer has been sentenced to probation for obstruction of justice, and won’t be able to work as a police officer again, under a deal worked out with county prosecutors.


The State Journal-Register reports that Steven Stirmell was sentenced to two years probation Friday.


Stirmell was indicted in 2012 for changing a DUI police report for the daughter of Todd Renfrow, the former City Water Light and Power general manager.


Stirmell himself was also was accused of DUI in 2012. The plea deal also prohibits Stirmell from possessing or consuming alcohol.

Missing Green County Woman Found Alive in Cornfield

A Green County woman suffering from dementia who went missing has been found in a cornfield.


Illinois State Police say the 58-year-old woman was reported missing Thursday but was found alive after a search involving numerous fire departments, search dogs and even a state police plane equipped with an infrared camera.


The woman was found late Friday night in a Green County corn field, suffering from hypothermia, according to reports.

Alderman Wants Council Approval of Non Union Raises

Ward 7 Alderman Joe McMenamin is making a move to have the city council sign off on pay raises for the city’s non unionized employees.


The ordinance on first reading next week would require city council approval for across the board raises.


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