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July 24, 2014, 9:32 am
970 WMAY News Archives for 2014-06

Supporters, Detractors React To SCOTUS Ruling In Harris V. Quinn


Reaction is coming in from all over to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says home health-care providers in Illinois do not have to pay “fair share” fees if they opt not to join the union that represents such workers. 

 

It’s a victory for plaintiff Pam Harris, who tells 970 WMAY that the state and the union need to stay out of her home as she provides care for her disabled son.

 

But SEIU says the decision threatens a home-care system that has led to a better-paid and more stable workforce since the union began negotiating wages for those workers.

 

Bishop Paprocki Hails Hobby Lobby Ruling As Victory For Religious Freedom


Springfield’s Catholic Bishop says a Supreme Court ruling that allows business to reject some government mandates on religious grounds is a welcome decision that could have wider ramifications in the long run. 

 

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki says the decision in the Hobby Lobby case is an important defense of religious freedom… and thinks the same logic could be used in other cases, such as businesses who may not want to provide services to married same-sex couples because of religious objections.

 

Paprocki will lead a prayer rally outside the Illinois Capitol building Tuesday at noon, part of the Church's "Fortnight for Freedom" prayer effort in defense of religious freedom.

Quinn Approves State Budget After Modest Cuts, Call To Sell Some State Planes


Governor Pat Quinn has signed the new state budget into law… but only after making some changes to it. 

 

Quinn used his line-item veto to cut $250 million that had been allocated for renovations at the State Capitol.  And Quinn ordered the sale of 9 of the state’s fleet of 21 aircraft, getting rid of 7 planes operated by IDOT and 2 from Illinois State Police. 

 

GOP opponent Bruce Rauner says even with the cuts, the budget represents Pat Quinn’s broken promises to taxpayers.

State Police Now Provides Concealed Carry Application Process For Those Without Computers


Illinois State Police have finalized a process for people to obtain concealed carry permits even if they don’t have access to a computer. 

 

Until now, permit applications were only processed online.  But now applicants can provide information and make a credit or debit card payment by phone.  Their completed application will be mailed to them, and it must be signed and returned through the mail with the applicant’s photograph and proof of proper training.

State Fire Marshal Issues Fireworks Warning


The Illinois State Fire Marshal is issuing his annual reminder… leave fireworks displays to the professionals.  Larry Matkaitis says home fireworks displays lead to dozens of injuries around the state each year… mostly affecting children between the ages of 5 and 14.

Supreme Court Rules Home Healthcare Providers Can't Be Forced To Pay Union Dues


The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against Governor Pat Quinn’s administration in a narrow ruling that prevents home health care workers in the state from being compelled to pay “fair share” dues to public sector unions.

 

The case, Harris v. Quinn, was brought by a group of parents providing health care at home to their disabled children.  The state allowed those parents to unionize… but some parents who opposed union representation were nonetheless required to pay dues to cover the cost of that representation. 

 

The ruling appears to be limited only to those home health care providers… and not to public sector workers across the board.

BoS Plaza Opens With Big Weekend of Outdoor Shows in Downtown Springfield


It’s been a big and successful opening weekend for Springfield’s newest concert venue.

 

Large crowds turned out for two outdoor events at the BoS Plaza, just outside the Prairie Capital Convention Center.

 

Country singer Brett Eldredge kicked things off Friday night, and Sunday evening saw performances by four major acts of the last 20 years, including Blues Traveler, Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth.

 

The outdoor venue also features viewing areas from the adjacent parking ramp.

Dove Will Not Seek Another Term as Springfield Alderman


An incumbent Springfield alderman has decided not to seek another term. Ward 9’s Steve Dove says he will not be a candidate in 2015.

 

Dove was first elected in 2007… but briefly vacated the seat in 2011 to serve as executive assistant to then-Mayor Frank Edwards.

 

Dove was re-elected to his Ward 9 seat that spring.

 

Among those thinking about seeking the open seat is Tony Smarjesse, who replaced Dove on the council temporarily during Dove’s absence.

 

Smarjesse says on Facebook that he is giving “serious consideration” to a run for the open seat.

Despite Six-To-One Fundraising Ratio, Rauner Ask Supporters for More Donations To Battle Quinn


Bruce Rauner is issuing an appeal to supporters… saying he needs their help to combat Governor Pat Quinn’s fundraising efforts.

 

An email from Rauner’s campaign notes the Democratic Governors Association transferred a million dollars to Quinn’s re-election effort on Friday, money that Rauner says will be used for a media blitz to attack him… and says he needs more donations to counteract that push.

 

Ironically, since the March primary, Rauner’s fundraising has reportedly outpaced Quinn’s by about six-to-one.

Supreme Court Decision on Fair Share Dues Expected Today


Public sector unions in Illinois and around the nation are bracing for today’s ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Harris v. Quinn.

 

It could be a landmark ruling in which justices may decide whether workers can be required to pay a “fair share” of union dues for benefits they may receive from negotiated contracts… even if the worker does not wish to belong to the union.

 

The case arose after the state allowed unionization by people who are paid by the state to provide home health care to relatives.

 

If the justices rule in favor of Harris, experts say it could dramatically weaken the power of unions.

More Shots Fired Incidents in Springfield


More bullets have been flying over the weekend on Springfield’s east side.

 

In one incident Friday night, a 16-year-old was shot in the leg near Brandon Court and Old Rochester Road, according to WICS.

 

Another person was injured in a separate incident the next day along Moffat Street. Witnesses reported hearing four to five shots.

 

There’s no word yet on any arrests in either case.

Constitutional Amendments Blocked From Ballot; Term Limits Group Will Appeal, But Remap Reform Is Dead


Illinois voters hoping to impose term limits on their lawmakers may be disappointed. 

 

A Cook County judge has ruled that a proposed term limits constitutional amendment goes beyond the scope of what’s allowed to go on the ballot.  The pro-term limits group formed by Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner says special interests derailed their effort… but they are vowing to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

 

Meanwhile, backers of a second proposed constitutional amendment that would change how Illinois legislative districts are drawn are throwing in the towel on their effort.  That same Cook County judge ruled Friday that their proposal also went beyond the types of amendments that can be considered under the state constitution… but the group was also facing a likely ruling from the State Board of Elections that it did not have enough valid petition signatures to get on the ballot. 

 

Supporters say they will take the lessons from this year’s effort and apply them to a future attempt at remap reform.

Quinn Vetoes Bill To Limit ''Nuisance'' FOIA Requests


Governor Pat Quinn has vetoed a bill that would have made it tougher for private citizens who send large numbers of requests for public records to local governmental bodies. 

 

Supporters had said the bill… which would have imposed higher costs to obtain such records… was needed to reduce nuisance requests.  But Quinn said the bill would lessen the transparency of government and unfairly penalized people trying to learn more about what public agencies are doing.

Campaigns Make No Apologies For Fake Press Releases


Neither major party campaign for governor is apologizing for releasing fake media advisories this week. 

 

Governor Pat Quinn’s campaign started it with a press release telling reporters that opponent Bruce Rauner was “coming out of hiding” to answer media questions.  Then the Illinois GOP responded with its own fake release that claimed U.S. Senator Dick Durbin was pressuring Quinn to testify about his troubled anti-violence program. That release even included a fake Durbin quote and the name and phone number of a Durbin press staffer. 

 

Durbin calls the stunt, quote, “a new low,” and says the campaigns risk losing credibility with the press and public.

Ordinance Would Authorize Future NAPA-Style Deals In Springfield


An ordinance going before Springfield aldermen would officially recognize the validity of agreements through the Minnesota-based National Joint Powers Alliance. 

 

A spokesman for Mayor Mike Houston says that would eliminate any questions in the future about deals like the city’s contract with NAPA Auto Parts.  That deal was negotiated through the Joint Powers Alliance… but the city later determined that it did not have specific legal authority to enter into such a deal.

 

The ordinance would not apply retroactively to the NAPA contract, which remains in effect despite the legal questions around it.

Houston Says City Should ''Stay The Course,'' But Still Coy On Re-Election Plans


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is once again calling on the city to “stay the course” with the fiscal improvements he’s made since taking office in 2011… and Houston says there is no one better suited to keep the city on that course than he is. 

 

But appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Houston repeated that he has made no decision about whether to seek another term next year.  Houston had originally said he would only be a one-term mayor, but has since left the door open for a possible re-election bid.

 

Pension Reform Decision Could Take Months


There won’t be any definitive conclusion on the fate of pension reform any time soon. 

 

A Sangamon County judge is rejecting attempts to fast-track multiple lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the state’s pension reform law.  Judge John Belz says all the various issues raised by those suits need to be considered before the issue is sent on to the state Supreme Court.  He says otherwise, there could be piecemeal rulings that could delay a final resolution. 

 

Belz has set a hearing schedule that will stretch to the end of the year and likely into 2015.

Judge Strikes Down Proposed Constitutional Amendments


Two proposed amendments to the Illinois Constitution have been struck down by a Cook County judge. 

 

She ruled that the measures… one that would have imposed term limits on lawmakers, the other to change the way political district maps are drawn… are outside the scope of what’s permitted for such ballot initiatives. 

 

The term limits committee put together by GOP nominee for governor Bruce Rauner says the ruling is a victory for special interests… but vows to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

 

Executive Director Of AFSCME Council 31 To Retire


The longtime executive director of the largest state employees union is retiring. 

 

Henry Bayer will step down as executive director of AFSCME Council 31 at the end of July, but says he will continue to work with the union through the end of the year… including the rest of the campaign season. 

 

Deputy director Roberta Lynch has been selected to succeed Bayer.

 

Candidate Launches Bid For Convention Center Board


A Springfield man is launching a campaign for a seat on the board that oversees the Prairie Capital Convention Center. 

 

Brandon Damm pledges to bring creativity to the convention center board… and to hold the line on taxes by pursuing more naming rights opportunities like the outdoor Bank of Springfield Plaza that will host a big outdoor concert this weekend. 

 

Damm is a pastor who previously hosted a weekly religious show on 970 WMAY.

State Infusion of Cash for Kidzeum Means Renovation Work Begins Soon


Renovation work on the site of the planned Kidzeum in downtown Springfield could begin in a matter of weeks… now that a long-awaited state grant for the project has finally materialized.

 

The $1 million grant from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has been in the state’s capital construction plan since 2009… but the state’s fiscal issues and changes in the plans for the children’s museum held it up until Thursday, when the grant was formally announced.

 

That also triggered a city contribution of $675,000 in downtown TIF funds which were linked to the state grant.

 

The influx of cash means work will start soon on three vacant buildings on East Adams.

 

But Kidzeum officials say they still need to raise another million dollars before officially opening in the summer of 2015.

Quinn Has No Intentions to Provide Testimony At NRI Hearings


Governor Pat Quinn says he has no intention of appearing before a legislative panel that’s looking into Quinn’s botched anti-violence initiative.

 

Quinn has not been subpoenaed or even asked by the Legislative Audit Commission to testify about the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.

 

But state Senator Matt Murphy and Quinn’s GOP opponent Bruce Rauner both say the governor himself should go before the committee and “come clean” about allegations that state funds were misused.

 

Quinn says he has directed everyone involved in NRI to cooperate and answer the commission’s questions about the program.

CPS IG: Rauner Went Outside Normal Appeals Process in Daughter Admittance to Prep School


New details are emerging about allegations that Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner used his wealth and clout to get his daughter into an elite Chicago public school.

 

Rauner has said that his daughter had the grades to get into the Walter Payton Preparatory Academy, and only missed the cut initially because an illness had affected her school attendance.

 

His daughter was later admitted to one of the limited number of slots at the school.

 

But now the outgoing inspector general of Chicago Public Schools says Rauner went outside the normal appeals process to get his daughter admitted… even though she fell short of the qualifications.

 

Critics have suggested the admission was linked to a subsequent $250,000 donation to the school by Rauner’s charitable foundation.

State Senator McCann Wanes in Support for Either Major Party Gubernatorial Candidates


Even though his own brief flirtation with an independent run for governor never got off the ground, a local lawmaker says he’s still not ready to support either of the two major party candidates for the job.

 

Republican state Senator Sam McCann says he’s honored that some supporters encouraged him to run against Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn and GOP nominee Bruce Rauner… even briefly circulating petitions for him before McCann pulled the plug on the effort.

 

McCann says neither Quinn nor Rauner has made the case that they can fix the state’s serious fiscal issues. He says we don’t need Democrat or Republican answers… we need “Illinois answers.”

Anti-Bullying Law Requires Schools Have Formal Policies


Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation requiring all school districts in the state to develop detailed anti-bullying programs.

 

The new law, effective immediately, mandates formal policies on bullying, including how to make complaints and what actions will be taken in response.

 

It wasn’t immediately clear if the new law will require any changes in District 186, which has had anti-bullying policies and programs for years.

Unemployment Down Through Most of State


Unemployment is down across Illinois compared to the same time last year.

 

State figures show the year-to-year jobless rate declined in all 12 of the state’s major metro areas… and in 99 of Illinois’s 102 counties.

 

Springfield’s 6% rate in May was down nearly a full percentage point from May of 2013… and was tied with Bloomington-Normal for the lowest rate in the state.

Man Faces Several Battery Charges After Altercation at Wedding Reception


A Springfield man is facing several charges after an altercation at his sister’s wedding last weekend that resulted in him throwing the bride to the ground.

 

That fight reportedly began when someone asked Joshua Brown to stop urinating near the door of the Anchor Boat Club, where the wedding reception was taking place.

 

In the melee that followed, Brown reportedly threw his sister to the ground in her wedding dress… punched his brother… and had to be tackled and physically restrained by his mother.

 

Another guest told police that Brown also pushed her and damaged her phone.

 

Brown is facing two counts of domestic battery… one count of battery… and one count of criminal damage to property.

Springfield's May Jobless Rate Up From April, Down From A Year Ago


Springfield’s jobless rate ticked up slightly in May, compared to April… but is still sharply lower than it was a year ago. 

 

May’s 6% unemployment rate is up from 5.7% in April.  But in May of 2013, the number was 6.9%. 

 

The state says unemployment is lower than it was a year ago in 99 of Illinois’s 102 counties.

Kidzeum Receives State, City Funding; Renovation Work On Downtown Site To Start Soon


Springfield’s Kidzeum of Health and Science is set to begin construction later this year… after receiving a million-dollar grant from the state. 

 

The money had been held in the state’s capital construction budget since 2009… waiting for a green light from the children’s museum’s organizers.  Now that the money has been released, the city of Springfield is also making good on its commitment for $675,000 in downtown TIF funding. 

 

That brings total fundraising to $5 million, and will allow renovation work to begin in earnest soon… with completion of the Kidzeum expected in the summer of 2015.

 

McCann Still Not Backing Either Rauner Or Quinn


His own brief flirtation with running for governor is over… but state Senator Sam McCann still isn’t ready to support another contender for the state’s top job. 

 

McCann says he can’t support Governor Pat Quinn for re-election, but the Macoupin County Republican says GOP nominee Bruce Rauner also hasn’t made the case that he has the answer to the state’s problems. 

 

McCann says that while he wants to see taxes come down, Illinois also has to live in the “here and now” and deal with its current fiscal reality.

Quinn Won't Testify Before Legislative Panel


Governor Pat Quinn says he has no intention of testifying before a legislative panel looking into his heavily-criticized anti-violence program. 

 

Quinn has not been subpoenaed or even formally asked to appear.  But the governor is closing the door on the suggestion by Republican state senator Matt Murphy, who wants the governor to testify about how and why spending decisions were made for the program… which auditors say wasted millions of dollars.

Allegations Of Clout For Rauner's Daughter Resurface


The issue of how Bruce Rauner’s daughter got into an exclusive Chicago public school is popping up again. 

 

The Republican nominee for governor says his daughter just missed the cut for admission to the Walter Payton Preparatory Academy because illness kept her from meeting attendance requirements.  She was later admitted to the elite school… and Rauner’s foundation later donated $250,000 to the school. 

 

Now a Chicago Public Schools official says Rauner’s daughter didn’t meet academic standards either… renewing questions about whether wealth and clout were the main factors in her admission.

 

Quinn Signs Anti-Bullying Legislation


Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation requiring schools to implement anti-bullying programs right away. 

 

The new law will mandate that schools have formal anti-bullying policies, with specific information on how to report such cases and how they will be handled. 

 

Springfield public schools have had anti-bullying policies for the past few years.  No one from District 186 was immediately available to comment on whether additional steps would have to be taken to comply with the new law.

 

Man Charged With Battering Bride, Others In Wedding Brawl


A Springfield man is facing several charges after an altercation at his sister’s wedding last weekend that resulted in him throwing the bride to the ground. 

 

That fight reportedly began when someone asked Joshua Brown to stop urinating near the door of the Anchor Boat Club, where the wedding reception was taking place.  In the melee that followed, Brown reportedly threw his sister to the ground in her wedding dress… punched his brother… and had to be tackled and physically restrained by his mother.  Another guest told police that Brown also pushed her and damaged her phone. 

 

Brown is facing two counts of domestic battery… one count of battery… and one count of criminal damage to property.

Drivers Escape Early Morning Two Semi Accident Without Injury


Two semi-truck drivers escaped an early morning accident without injury.

 

Illinois State Police report one rig was traveling on the Toronto Road on-ramp to southbound 55 when he was distracted, losing control and driving through the grass ditch to end up partially blocking the right lane of the interstate.

 

Another semi-truck driver headed southbound in the right lane didn’t see the first truck until the last moment and struck the other semi.

 

The second truck immediately caught fire and then veered off the roadway into a wooded area. Springfield Fire Department assisted in clearing the accident.

 

Both drivers, in their sixties, are from out of state.

State Sen. Says Gov. Quinn is Hiding During Probe Into Anti-Violence Program


The maneuvering continues as hearings approach next month into Governor Pat Quinn’s controversial anti-violence program.

 

Republican State Senator Matt Murphy says Quinn himself should testify before the legislative commission that will look at allegations that millions of dollars in the program were misspent.

 

A spokesman for the Quinn campaign accuses Murphy of a, quote, “smear tactic.”

 

Meanwhile, Democratic Representative Frank Mautino has now approved two subpoenas of former administration officials to answer questions at those hearings in July.

 

Mautino had originally blocked those two subpoenas, but changed his mind after reaching agreement with the top Republican on the panel.

Rauner Releases More Budget Plans


Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner says he wants to close loopholes that amount to “corporate tax welfare.”

 

Rauner’s latest set of proposals to balance the state budget includes reforms to state incentive programs that provide tax credits to businesses. He says sometimes businesses are getting those credits… even as they are laying off Illinois workers.

 

Rauner also wants to end some tax exemptions… including breaks given to oil companies, along with a sales tax exemption on the purchase of newsprint and ink by newspapers.

 

The Quinn campaign says Rauner is just rehashing proposals already put forward by the governor.

Denton-McCaster Sentenced to 78 Years For Murdering, Dismembering Husband


A Springfield woman has been sentenced to 78 years in prison for killing and dismembering her husband.

 

Juatasha Denton-McCaster had been convicted in April of the 2012 murder of Norman McCaster.

 

The couple had been married for just two years when prosecutors say Denton-McCaster killed her husband and cut off his head, hands and feet.

 

His torso was dumped east of Springfield. Denton-McCaster… who is 24… would have to serve at least 65 years before she’s eligible for parole.

No Leak at Sangamon County Sheriff's Office


Just a day after confirming an internal affairs investigation, the Sangamon County sheriff’s department says it has concluded that no one in the department improperly leaked details of an ongoing murder investigation.

 

Those details turned up on the Springfield Leaks website, attributed to an unnamed source.

 

Earlier this week, the sheriff’s department said it was looking into the source of the info.

 

But now a statement from Undersheriff Jack Campbell says those details were contained in a document that was available to the public through the Circuit Clerk’s Office… and that no unauthorized leak had occurred.

Public Works Director Apologizes About Ultimatum Tone in Email


Springfield public works director Mark Mahoney is apologizing for an email from a staffer that appeared to impose strict demands if a new downtown event plans to return next year.

 

That email stated, among other things, that the Susan G. Komen 5K race for breast cancer awareness should not be held on a Friday if it returns next year… and should be scheduled so it doesn’t fall the same weekend as other major downtown events.

 

Mahoney says he understands why race organizers felt like the email constituted an “ultimatum,” and pledges that the city will work cooperatively with organizers to bring the race back to downtown next year.

 

But Mahoney didn’t rule out seeking some or all of the accommodations requested in the original email.

Green Stores Donates Bluetooth Devices To Sheriff's Department


Sangamon County deputies are going hands-free behind the wheel. 

 

The Green Stores has donated 63 Bluetooth devices to the sheriff's department...one for each deputy in a squad car.  Although on-duty officers are not required to obey the state's ban on using a hand-held device while driving, the department says the donation will make officers and the public safer. 

 

The total estimated value of the devices is more than $3,000.

Rauner Unveils New Budget Proposal


Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is spelling out another phase of his budget plan. 

 

Rauner says he will reform the state's incentive programs for businesses to make sure that companies don't get tax breaks at the same time they're laying off workers.  Rauner also says he will close some corporate tax loopholes, including one that allows oil companies to dodge Illinois taxes, and another that exempts newspapers from paying sales tax on newsprint and ink. 

 

Most of those ideas have been tried before at the Statehouse, but haven't gotten very far with lawmakers.

Springfield Woman Gets 78 Years For Murdering, Dismembering Husband


A Springfield woman has been sentenced to 78 years in prison for killing and dismembering her husband. 

 

Juatasha (Denton-McCaster was convicted earlier this year of first-degree murder and other charges for killing Norman McCaster in October of 2012, cutting off his head, arms and feet, and then dumping his torso east of Springfield.  She could have received up to 90 years for the crime.

Top Local Cop Supports SCOTUS Ruling Limiting Cell Phone Searches


A top local cop says he agrees with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires police to get a warrant before searching a suspect’s cell phone. 

 

Sangamon County Undersheriff Jack Campbell says the unanimous decision is an appropriate balance between the interests of law enforcement and the privacy rights of citizens. 

 

Campbell says the limits may slow investigations slightly, but he expects investigators will be able to show probable cause to obtain a warrant if needed in major investigations.

Route 29 Widening Set For Completion In 2015; Supporters Tout Economic Benefits


The head of the group that’s been working for years to widen Route 29 between Springfield and Taylorville says some of the economic dividends of the project are starting to come through. 

 

Mike Bell of Project 29 says an industrial park in Taylorville is tied directly to increased traffic flow from the improvements.  He says his home town of Edinburg is also seeing growth… including a planned truck stop and Subway restaurant just off the highway.  The final phase of improvements is set for completion in 2015.

 

A public meeting on the status of the widening and the economic opportunities it could bring is planned for 6pm Wednesday evening at Jan's Bar and Grill in Edinburg.

Springfield's Veterans Pool Remains Closed, As Repairs Take Longer Than Expected


Springfield’s Veterans Memorial Pool remains closed… as work continues to repair an underground leak. 

 

The pool on the city’s north end shut down more than a week ago.  Park district officials had hoped to have it reopened by last weekend, but say they’re having to dig by hand to get to the source of the leak, rather than use a backhoe that could damage other underground pipes. 

 

The new target date for reopening is this coming weekend.

Two of Seven Subpoenas Involving Anti-Violence Program Blocked


The top Democrat on the state Legislative Audit Commission has blocked two of the seven subpoenas that panel members had voted to issue to former officials of the Quinn administration.

 

But five other subpoenas will go forward as part of the commission’s investigation into Governor Pat Quinn’s troubled anti-violence program.

 

Representative Frank Mautino’s signature was required for the subpoenas to be issued, but he says two of those officials handled duties that are outside the scope of the commission’s work.

 

Republican Senator Jason Barickman says Democrats are trying to hinder efforts to find out who was responsible for millions of misspent dollars through the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.

Aldermen Debating Franchise Agreement Between Comcast and Springfield


Springfield aldermen are getting the chance to vent on behalf of their constituents about customer service issues with Comcast.

 

The cable provider has been in negotiations with the city for months about an extension of its franchise agreement, and Mayor Mike Houston is asking aldermen to approve another six-month extension of the contract while the talks continue.

 

But some aldermen say the city may need to look for other options… because many city residents complain about poor and unresponsive service from Comcast. But it’s not immediately clear what other options may exist if the city and Comcast can’t reach a deal.

Koman Race Organizer Critical of Reaction From Public Works


The head of Downtown Springfield, Inc. is asking Springfield aldermen for help after city officials reportedly sought to impose new and tighter restrictions if a new downtown event returns next year.

 

The first Susan G. Komen 5K race to support breast cancer awareness programs was held last month.

 

Victoria Ringer of DSI says the city was cooperative before the race, but afterwards she says public works officials began demanding limits on the event in the future.

 

Public works director Mark Mahoney says the goal is to accommodate big events, but to do so in the least disruptive fashion.

 

He says he will work with Ringer to find a way to address any concerns.

Alderman McMenamin Hints at Watchdog Group


A Springfield alderman says a “watchdog” group is forming that could raise money to target some other members of the City Council.

 

And Ward 7’s Joe McMenamin says he may support that effort. McMenamin says the group… whose members he did not identify… will monitor for indications that campaign cash is unfairly influencing aldermen.

 

And the group may raise money to help candidates who pledge not to take cash from unions or businesses that bring contracts before the City Council.

Sheriff's Office Investigating Possible Leak After Post to Blog


The Sangamon County sheriff’s department confirms that it is looking into whether someone in the department leaked information about an ongoing homicide investigation.

 

That internal probe was apparently triggered by posts on the Springfield Leaks website, detailing aspects of the search for the person or persons who killed Justin Sharp in January.

 

Sharp was found dead of a gunshot wound in the yard of a house on South Whittier. No one has yet been arrested for his killing.

Springfield Small Business Awards Features Family Run Businesses


Many of the businesses honored at Tuesday’s Small Business Awards in Springfield are family affairs.

 

In fact, most of the six winners are running their businesses with spouses, or employ other family members.

 

They include Brad and Julie Zara of Zara’s Collision Center… the Garrison Group’s Glen and Lola Garrison and their daughter and son-in-law… and Court and Karen Conn of Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery.

Democrat Blocks Two Of Seven Subpoenas In Anti-Violence Program Investigation


The ranking Democrat on the Legislative Audit Commission has rejected two of the seven subpoenas approved by other committee members Monday. 

 

Representative Frank Mautino’s signature is required for those subpoenas to be issued… but he says two were for former officials whose duties fell outside the scope of the commission’s probe into Governor Pat Quinn’s controversial anti-violence program.

 

Meanwhile, the leading Republican on the state Legislative Audit Commission says the panel’s investigation of a troubled anti-violence program started by Governor Pat Quinn is not political in nature.  In fact, Senator Jason Barickman of Bloomington says it would be seen as political if the panel ignored obvious problems and failed to do its job in addressing it. 

 

Barickman says the commission has an obligation to review state audits, figure out why deficiencies occur, and make recommendations for change.

Homicide Details on Blog Triggers IA Investigation


The Sangamon County Sheriff's Office is confirming an ongoing internal affairs investigation, but is keeping quite on any of the details.

 

A posting on SpringfieldLeaks.com indicates the Sheriff's Office is asking for the identity of the source for a blog with details about the murder of Justin Sharp. Sharp was found dead in yard along Whittier Street in Springfield late January.

 

Sangamon County Undersheriff Jack Campbell wouldn't provide further details, but he says the Sharp homicide investigation is currently open and ongoing.

Lawmakers Issue Subpoenas to Seven Former State Officials Over Anti-Violence Program


An Illinois legislative panel has voted to subpoena seven former state officials to testify about Governor Pat Quinn’s troubled anti-violence program.

 

The Legislative Audit Commission had originally sought to subpoena just one person… the retired head of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority.

 

But Democrats on the panel insisted on calling six others to testify over the course of just two days next month… so that the matter can be put to rest.

 

Quinn’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative has been the subject of a scathing audit alleging waste and mismanagement.

 

Federal and Cook County prosecutors have also opened investigations into the program.

Ret. Judge Lewis Selected as Ombudsman to Oversee 10th Street Eminent Domain


East-side leaders are warning that real estate speculators will try to cheat residents near the 10th Street tracks… hoping to get their property for a steal and then resell it for a much higher price when the state seeks to condemn the property as part of the railroad relocation process.

 

So they are welcoming the appointment of retired judge Theodis Lewis to serve as an ombudsman for residents and business owners in that area.

 

Lewis is urging people to be cautious about selling right now… and vows to make sure that those who are affected will have plenty of information so they can get a fair and equitable deal for their property.

IHPA to Hire Consultant to Help Steer Task Force on ALPLM


The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency is moving ahead with the creation of a task force to study the idea of separating the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum from the agency’s control.

 

IHPA advisory board chair Sunny Fischer says the panel will include representatives of the agency, the library and museum, and the general public.

 

The panel will also hire a consultant who can help steer the discussion and shape recommendations, but there’s no word yet on what that might cost.

 

She hopes to name the panel next month, so that its work can be completed by this fall.

Recently Arrested, Christian Claims He Was Not Driving


Calvin Christian has landed behind bars again.

 

The Springfield reporter and blogger who has had dozens of run-ins with local police… prompting him to file a federal harassment suit… was arrested again over the weekend.

 

Christian says he was charged with driving on a suspended license… but he insists he was a backseat passenger in his car and someone else was driving.

 

Christian says the arresting officer claims in his report that he could see Christian change seats with someone… despite the vehicle’s tinted windows.

 

Springfield police confirm the arrest… but so far have not provided a copy of the arrest report to 970 WMAY News.

Suspect Arrest From Recent Shots Fired Incident


Yet another “shots fired” incident in Springfield… but this time, the suspect is a 56-year-old man.

 

City police have charged Mark E. Ramsey with multiple offenses.

 

He’s accused of firing several shots that struck a Springfield Housing Authority property on East Mason.

 

Authorities say the shooting stemmed from a domestic dispute.

 

Their investigation led them to Ramsey’s residence on South College, where they executed a search warrant and then arrested him.

Lawmakers Approve Multiple Subpoenas Into Quinn Anti-Violence Program


Illinois lawmakers have approved subpoenas for seven current and former Quinn administration officials as they investigate the governor’s troubled anti-violence program.  

 

Debate over those subpoenas dragged on for hours as Democrats insisted that a legislative hearing on the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative be limited to two days if possible… while Republicans sought more open-ended subpoenas.

 

The hearing is set for July 16th and 17th.

IHPA Moves To Create Task Force On Future Of Presidential Library And Museum


The advisory board for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has decided to create a task force to study the proposal to separate the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum into its own state agency. 

 

The panel will be made up of representatives from the IHPA, the library and museum oversight board, and the general public.  The agency also plans to hire a consultant to help with the process… but has not set an estimated price tag for that work. 

 

Board chair Sunny Fischer hopes the panel can be seated next month… and complete its work by early fall.

Ombudsman Named To Mediate Property Acquisition Along 10th Street Tracks


A retired judge has been asked to take on the role of ombudsman... to ensure fairness and equity in the process of acquiring property to make way for Springfield's railroad relocation process.

 

Theodis Lewis says there will be very specific and precise procedures he will have to follow as he aims to help mediate any disagreement between what IDOT will offer for properties, and what the property owners hope to receive for their homes or businesses.

 

His appointment comes amid warnings from east-side activists that real estate speculators will try to exploit homeowners along the tracks and grab their property for a fraction of what it is worth.  Lewis recommends that no one sign agreements to sell just yet, until he has a chance to get up to speed and start reviewing proposals.

56-Year-Old Man Arrested In Latest ''Shots Fired'' Incident


There’s been another arrest in a shots fired incident… this time of a 56-year-old Springfield man suspected of firing the shots in what authorities believe is a case of domestic violence. 

 

Mark E. Ramsey is accused of firing multiple shots that struck a residence on East Mason. No one was hurt. 

 

Police traced the incident back to Ramsey and arrested him after executing a search warrant at his home.  He’s facing multiple charges.

Calvin Christian Arrested Again


Calvin Christian’s long arrest record has gotten even longer. 

 

The Springfield reporter who alleges that he is the target of a police vendetta confirms he was taken into custody by Springfield police over the weekend.  Christian says he was arrested for driving on a suspended license… but insists he was actually in the back seat of his car and someone else was driving at the time. 

 

Springfield police say they are still compiling reports on the incident.

IHPA Advisory Board to Meet About Future of Lincoln Presidential Library


The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency advisory board meets today… and could deliver its first formal response to the recent attempt to separate the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum from IHPA.

 

The board is expected to approve the creation of a committee to study whether the current structure is hurting the presidential library… and to make recommendations on what, if any, changes are needed.

 

An IHPA spokesman says the panel is expected to include representatives of the agency, the presidential library, and members of the public… and promises a thorough and objective review.

DNR: Could be More Maps of Abandoned Mines Around State


The discovery of more abandoned mines under Springfield residential neighborhoods is sparking a renewed search for more information about mines which haven’t yet been found and could pose a risk of subsidence damage.

 

The state Department of Natural Resources says it only has about 2,000 maps for abandoned mines… but thinks there could be as many as 4,000 of them around the state.

 

They’re asking anyone who may have old maps of underground mines to bring them forward.

IHPA Board To Discuss Panel To Examine Presidential Library And Museum Governance


The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency’s advisory board meets Monday… for the first time since legislation surfaced to take the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum away from the agency’s control. 

 

The board is expected to act Monday to create a panel to review the idea and make recommendations. 

 

Top IHPA officials have expressed concerns about the library and museum proposals… but are promising a thorough and objective review.

 

Latest Criticism Of Quinn Anti-Violence Program Centers On Review Of Spending


Governor Pat Quinn’s anti-violence program has been a target for harsh criticism… now questions are being raised about a $500,000 study of that program.

 

The state paid researchers to look into whether funds from the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative were spent on programs like job creation and counseling.  But critics say the study didn’t actually look to see if any of those costly programs actually met the goal of reducing violence.

State Seeks Help To Find Undiscovered Mines


The discovery of more abandoned mines under Springfield residential neighborhoods is sparking a renewed search for more information about mines which haven’t yet been found and could pose a risk of subsidence damage. 

 

The state Department of Natural Resources says it only has about 2,000 maps for abandoned mines… but thinks there could be as many as 4,000 of them around the state.  They’re asking anyone who may have old maps of underground mines to bring them forward.

Report: Cahnman Under Scrutiny By State Panel


Springfield alderman Sam Cahnman is reportedly under investigation once again by a panel that oversees the conduct of attorneys. 

 

The Illinois Times reports the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission is looking into whether Cahnman had a conflict of interest for representing Calvin Christian in one of the traffic citations issued to him by Springfield police. 

 

Neither Cahnman nor the ARDC would confirm to the newspaper that such an investigation is underway.

Second Person Arrested In East-Side Shooting Incident


A second person has been charged in connection with a shooting incident earlier this week along East Monroe. 

 

A person who was grazed by a bullet told police that 33-year-old Matthew Enoex had pulled a gun and opened fire on him.  Earlier, police had charged 19-year-old Lamond Grice with battery and weapons charges in connection with the same incident, in which four houses were struck by bullets.

Ex-Congressman Returns To Airwaves One Day After On-Air Racial Remarks


Former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh is back on the air… a day after he was cut off in the middle of his radio talk show for using racial slurs. 

 

Walsh said he was trying to make a point about the use of such words as he discussed the controversy over the Washington Redskins team name.

 

The management at that Chicago talk station declined to comment on the issue.

State Fire Marshal Investigates Blaze At Williamsville Trucking Firm


The state fire marshal is investigating an overnight fire that witnesses say heavily damaged a structure at Donley Trucking near Williamsville.

 

Crews from several local fire departments responded to that blaze.  But there was no immediate information on the cause of the fire or the extent of the damage.  No injuries were reported.

Blast Levels One Home, Damages Two Others, Near Decatur Memorial Hospital


Officials in Decatur are investigating an explosion that leveled one home and damaged two others near Decatur Memorial Hospital. 

 

They are looking into the possibility that a gas leak was to blame for the Friday afternoon blast.  There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Renovation Aimed At Restoring Interest In Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices


State historic preservation officials hope a million-dollar renovation project will take a somewhat-obscure Springfield historic site and put it on more people’s “must-see” list. 

 

The Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices are in a prime location on the Old Capitol Plaza downtown, but Historic Preservation Agency spokesman Chris Wills calls it, quote, “sleepy.”  Capital construction fund dollars will pay to refurbish the building and re-create an authentic 1840s-era dry goods store.

Computer Banc Offers Chance To ''Get One - Give One''


A Springfield charity is giving you the chance to help yourself while helping a non-profit of your choice. 

 

Computer Banc is allowing people to purchase a laptop for themselves… a $700 value at a cost of less than $300.  With that purchase, Computer Banc will then donate a refurbished desktop to the charity of the purchaser’s choice. 

 

Details on the “Get One-Give One” program are available at computerbanc.org.

Fundraising Event Raises Pay-To-Play Questions


An event next week is raising questions about the cozy connections between lobbyists, political action committees, and elected officials. 

 

The Roosevelt Group… whose executives have received big-dollar state contracts from the Quinn administration to promote the state’s health insurance exchange… is hosting the event to raise money for the Democratic Governors Association.  The DGA, in turn, is using its resources to support Governor Pat Quinn’s re-electon campaign. 

 

A Quinn spokesperson says the governor is not connected to next week’s event and is not attending.

SIU School of Medicine Employees Union Status Restored


More than 200 workers at the SIU School of Medicine have been restored to union status under an agreement worked out between the school and AFSCME Council 31.

 

The union had filed an unfair labor practice after SIU moved to reclassify the workers as non-union. Their job classifications had apparently been left off the most recent AFSCME contract as a result of what the union called a “clerical error.”

 

The agreement not only reinstates the workers to the union, it requires the medical school to pay the union for three months of union dues and “fair share” payments that it didn’t receive while the reclassification was in effect.

Redpath Wants to Return to City Hall


A former Springfield aldermen… who now wants to return to the City Council… says he will hold the line on taxes, even though he wants to see more spending in several key areas.

 

Chuck Redpath now hopes to be elected from Ward 1 in the Lake Springfield area. He had previously served 20 years representing Ward 4 on Springfield’s North End.

 

Redpath says he wants to see more city incentives that could bolster business development along South Dirksen and Stevenson Drive… as well as more funding for infrastructure, and police manpower and equipment.

Police Arrest Suspect in Recent Shots Fired Incident


Springfield police have made an arrest in a “shots fired” incident along East Monroe earlier this week.

 

One person suffered minor injuries and several homes were struck by bullets. Now police have arrested 19-year-old Lamond Grice… who lives on the block where the shooting took place.

 

Grice is facing multiple charges, including aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, and criminal damage to property. Police say their investigation of the incident is continuing.

Governor's Race Centers on Reaction to GOP Lt. Gov. Candidate's Comments


The latest controversy in the race for Illinois governor centers on comments made this month by GOP lieutenant governor nominee Evelyn Sanguinetti.

 

She told a Republican party event that female candidates possess, quote, “special powers” and a “magical” ability to disarm voters and get them to listen about party candidates and issues.

 

The Democratic Governors Association issued a press release poking fun at Sanguinetti’s statement and suggesting it shows the Republican ticket is out of touch.

 

Now Bruce Rauner’s camp has issued its own release, blasting the DGA statement as “sexist” and demanding that Governor Pat Quinn disavow it. No response so far from the Quinn camp.

Condolences To Radogno Family Come From Both Sides


Politicians from both sides of the aisle are expressing sympathy and condolences to state Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno.

 

Radogno’s 31-year-old daughter Lisa collapsed Tuesday night… and died several hours later of a pulmonary embolism.

 

Her sudden death appears releated to injuries Lisa Radogno suffered when she was struck by a vehicle while walking in a crosswalk in Washington, DC, a few weeks ago.

 

Lisa Radogno had recuperated for a while at her mother’s home, but had recently returned to her job in DC working for U.S. Senator Mark Kirk.

Walsh Removed From Radio Mid Shift After Using Racially Charged Word On Air


A former Illinois congressman… who now works as a radio talk show host in Chicago… has been kicked off the air, at least temporarily.

 

Joe Walsh was removed in the middle of his shift Thursday while discussing the controversy over the Washington Redskins team name.

 

Walsh reportedly was asking why the media could say the word “Redskins” but couldn’t use other racially-charged terms… and then proceeded to say one of those words on the air.

 

Walsh tells the Daily Herald newspaper that he’s been taken off the air “until further notice.”

Former Springfield Alderman Seeks Return To City Hall


A former Springfield alderman is hoping to make a return to the City Council. 

 

Chuck Redpath was one of the original ten members elected in the 1987 transition to the aldermanic form of government… but was forced out of the seat 20 years later because of term limits.  Now he’s running to replace Frank Edwards in Ward 1. 

 

Redpath says he will seek to boost economic development at the south end of Springfield… and to increase the resources devoted to fighting crime in the city.

 

Death Of Radogno's Daughter May Be Linked To Earlier Hit-And-Run Crash


The sudden death of the daughter of Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno may be linked to a hit-and-run accident a month ago. 

 

31-year-old Lisa Radogno was struck by a car while in the crosswalk of a Washington, DC, intersection. Radogno recuperated at her mother’s home before returning to work in Washington… but collapsed and died this week from a pulmonary embolism.  

 

No one has been arrested in connection with the hit-and-run accident.

 

Springfield Police Gearing Up For Early July 4th Enforcement Effort


Springfield police plan to get a head start on the 4th of July travel period. 

 

City cops will join state police and other agencies in a crackdown on drunk and unbuckled driving during an enforcement period that starts next Monday and continues for two weeks. 

 

A statement from SPD says the 4th of July weekend can be one of the deadliest periods on the road… and urges people to plan ahead so that they don’t drive after having too much to drink.

 

Sangamon County Gets Disaster Readiness Grant


Sangamon County is getting more than $50,000 in state grant money to support emergency management operations locally. 

 

County officials say the grant is pretty standard, and the county gets a comparable amount every year for the Office of Emergency Management. 

 

State officials say the money is part of $7 million in federal funds funneled through the state in support of local disaster preparedness and relief programs.

Illinois Jobless Rate Falls Again


Illinois’s overall unemployment rate has dipped again… and is now down to its lowest level since November of 2008. 

 

The rate fell in May to 7.5%... down from 7.9% in April.  The drop in unemployment between March and May marks the biggest two-month decline in nearly 40 years. 

 

State officials say the numbers represent the latest in a series of positive trends for Illinois’s job market.

Troxell Broker Donated Thousands to Mayor Houston Before Renewing Lucrative Deal With City


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from top officials with the company that just saw its lucrative no-bid contract with the city renewed.

 

As 970 WMAY News first reported, Al Klunick of R.W. Troxell has donated 35-hundred dollars to Houston since Houston ran for mayor in 2011… another top Troxell executive also donated to Houston.

 

Aldermen voted 9-to-1 this week to renew the city’s deal with Troxell to broker insurance coverage for City Water Light and Power facilities.

 

The only “no” vote came from Alderman Joe McMenamin, who says city officials should not take contributions from businesses or unions who have contracts going before the City Council.

More Mines Under Springfield Neighborhoods Than Previously Thought


More Springfield neighborhoods than originally thought are sitting on top of old mines… raising new fears about potential damage from mine subsidence.

 

The State Journal-Register reports new data from the state revealed old mines... dating back to before the 1880s… sit underneath homes and businesses in an area bounded by 5th Street, MacArthur, Laurel and Ash.

 

Much of Springfield has been built up over abandoned mines… leading to periodic structural damage when that ground shifts or caves in.

Ald. Turner Working to Craft New Beer Garden Rules


A Springfield alderman may seek some tighter rules on outdoor beer gardens in order to address the concerns of nearby residents about noise and other nuisances.

 

Ward 3’s Doris Turner isn’t releasing details yet about what her ordinance might contain… including a possible curfew forcing those beer gardens to close down early… but says she is working to craft a proposal that will please everyone.

 

Neighbors this week objected to a zoning variance for a bar and beer garden on East Converse, because of noise concerns… but that variance was ultimately approved.

Veterans Memorial Pool Closes Temporarily


Springfield’s Veterans Memorial Pool is closed temporarily because of a leak.

 

The outdoor pool on Springfield’s North End could be closed until at least Saturday while crews work to repair the leak in an underground pipe.

 

For now, passes for the Veterans pool will be honored at Nelson Center.

State Treasurer Candidates Differ on Taxes for Services


Comments made on 970 WMAY by a candidate for state treasurer has led his opponent to launch a new website.

 

Earlier this month, Democratic contender Mike Frerichs appeared live on the 970 WMAY News Feed and expressed his support for an expansion of the state sales tax to cover services, not just products.

 

Now Republican opponent Tom Cross is firing back, accusing Frerichs of supporting… quote… “the mother of all tax increases.”

 

Cross has started a website… overtaxedillinois.com… which contains an online petition expressing opposition to a sales tax on services.

BGA Urges Gov. Quinn to Amend or Veto Changes to FOIA


The Better Government Association is urging Governor Pat Quinn to amend or veto a bill aimed at reducing nuisance requests for public documents.

 

The legislation allows local governments to charge up to $100 for excessive citizen requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

During the weekly "Full Disclosure" segment on 970 WMAY, Andy Shaw of the BGA said that fee is unfair and will inhibit efforts by citizens to keep tabs on government.

Radogno's Daughter Dies of Pulmonary Embolism


Tragedy has struck the family of Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno.

 

Radogno’s 31-year-old daughter Lisa died unexpectedly Wednesday of a pulmonary embolism.

 

Lisa Radogno had been working as an executive assistant in the office of U.S. Senator Mark Kirk.

 

Funeral arrangements are pending.

WMAY's Mike Wennmacher Wins Best Sportscaster Award


970 WMAY has been honored at the annual Illinois Broadcasters Association Silver Dome Awards.

 

Mike Wennmacher wins top honors as Sportscaster of the Year.

 

In addition, the Mancave… heard Fridays on 970 WMAY… was a finalist in the category of Best Broadcast Team.

 

And Johnny Molson was recognized for commercial production.

Springfield Police Investigating New Round Of Shots Fired


Springfield police are investigating an incident with multiple shots fired Tuesday night in the 22-hundred block of East Monroe. 

 

At least one person was grazed by a bullet but was not seriously hurt.  Several homes in that area were also struck.  Police say they don’t know yet how many shooters were involved or how many shots were fired… and say so far, they’re not getting much cooperation from the shooting victim or other witnesses.

Aldermen Approve Contract to Insure CWLP Properties Over Objections


Springfield aldermen have approved a $1.8 million no-bid contract to insure City Water Light and Power facilities… over the objection of one alderman who wants to know why other companies weren’t given the chance to compete.

 

The Houston administration says R.W. Troxell has provided the service for years and the arrangement has worked out well for the city.

 

But Alderman Joe McMenamin questions whether taxpayers are getting the best deal if the contract isn’t competitively bid.

 

But with the expiration of the policy approaching quickly, the City Council voted 9-to-1 to approve the new deal.

Rehab Homes Get Approval From City Aldermen


A rehabilitation home for recent parolees has gotten a zoning change that will allow it to operate in a largely residential area.

 

Springfield aldermen approved the rezoning on a vote of 7-to-3. Alderman Gail Simpson says the Adulthood Transition Center operated by Calvin Jones is different from other similar facilities that have created controversy in recent months.

 

She says it has a good track record and provides meaningful services to residents.

 

But Alderman Frank Edwards… one of the three “no” votes… says recent bad experiences with other such homes leaves him skeptical.

Dist. 186 Clarifies Immunization Requirement Deadlines


District 186 has clarified when Springfield public school students will be kept out of school for failing to have their required immunizations.

 

Under a new policy adopted for the coming school year, students and parents will be notified on the Friday before Labor Day if they lack the proper documentation for those shots… and then those students won’t be allowed to come to school on the following Tuesday until they show proof of the vaccinations.

 

For the city’s balanced calendar schools, notifications will go out on August 1st… and students will be excluded from classes starting on the 4th.

Gillum's Administrator of the Year Award Revoked


The Illinois Association of School Administrators has revoked an honor it bestowed on the former superintendent of the Ball-Chatham School District… after allegations surfaced that he misspent thousands of dollars in district funds.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the association decided earlier this month to revoke the 2011 Illinois Superintendent of the Year Award that it gave to Bob Gillum.

 

The association says the award was issued based on information available at that time… but that its policy allows for revocation of the award if further information comes to light later.

Local Company to Expand With Promise of Incentives From State


A Springfield company is expanding… and adding dozens of jobs to its local workforce… with the help of a state incentive program.

 

Morpho Trust USA provides security and ID services to other businesses.

 

The company had reportedly considered a move out of state… but decided to stay and grow here when the state offered a ten-year tax credit worth up to $1 million, along with other incentives.

 

The company will receive those benefits after it shows proof that it has met its pledge to hire 50 new local employees to add to a current workforce of more than 100.

Rauner Says More Budget Details Coming Soon


Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is pledging to have more to say soon on his plan for cutting spending and balancing the state budget.

 

Rauner’s first attempt at spelling out spending cuts was greeted with criticism that the proposal was too vague and overstated the potential savings.

 

In a live appearance on 970 WMAY’s “Let’s Talk Real Estate” with Fritz Pfister, Rauner said his primary focus is on a “growth economy” that will lower taxes and other costs for businesses.

 

But he says he will also provide more budget details, quote, “every week or two,” for the next several weeks.

School District Confirms Dates That Students Without Vaccines Will Be Excluded


Springfield school officials have clarified their policy regarding students who don't have their required vaccinations at the start of the school year. 

 

Students entering kindergarten, sixth and ninth grades must have updated immunization records on file.  For the coming school year, those who don't have the proper paperwork will be notified on Friday, August 29th, and will not be allowed to attend school starting Tuesday, September 2nd.  They can return when the paperwork is on file. 

 

For balanced calendar schools, students will be held out starting August 4th until they provide the documentation.

Springfield Business To Add 50 Jobs With Help Of State Incentives


A Springfield business has completed an expansion project that will allow it to add 50 employees by next fall. 

 

Morpho Trust spent $3.4 million on the project… but will receive up to a million dollars in tax credits and other incentives from the state over the next 10 years.  The company was eligible for the incentives by pledging to create the 50 new jobs by August of 2015, while retaining its local workforce of over 100 people. 

 

Morpho Trust provides business services including identity verification and ID issuance and authentication.

Davis Supports U.S. Air Strikes In Iraq


An area congressman says the U.S. has to do something to intervene in the growing crisis in Iraq… but stops short of calling for a return of combat forces on the ground there. 

 

GOP Congressman Rodney Davis says the U.S. military should use manned aircraft or drones to deter an insurgent offensive that threatens the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Davis said Americans sacrificed too much during the long Iraq War to allow those gains to slip away now.  He also says that failing to act could send gas prices soaring and hurt the U.S. economy.

Rauner Pledges More Budget Details In A ''Week Or Two''


After enduring lots of criticism for failing to provide details of his budget-cutting strategy, GOP candidate for governor Bruce Rauner says he will reveal more of his plan in the next few weeks. 

 

Rauner has been under fire for a budget-reduction plan that he rolled out last week.  He pledged to cut $500 million from the Depatrment of Central Management Services and $250 million from Medicaid, but didn’t say how he would attain those savings. 

 

In a weekend live appearance on 970 WMAY, Rauner pledged to release more specifics every week or two, for the next three or four weeks.

Springfield School Budget Includes $2.7 Million Reserves


The Springfield school board has approved a budget for next year that restores some money to the district’s cash reserves… even as it leaves intact millions of dollars in cuts that were approved earlier in the year.

 

Superintendent Jennifer Gill says it’s fiscally prudent to start building up a cash balance again… despite cuts in teaching positions, librarian jobs, and the district’s webmaster and audio-visual technician.

 

The projected $2.7 million surplus could still be drawn down by the results of ongoing teacher contract talks and the possibility of additional cuts in state aid.

Dist. 186 Officials to Clarify Immunization Requirement Today


There’s a bit of confusion over exactly when Springfield public school students will be told to stay home from school if they don’t have their required vaccinations.

 

The school board voted this year to dramatically reduce the window for getting the shots, but District 186 staffers are split on whether that will mean that students will be sent home on the Friday before Labor Day… or on the Tuesday after.

 

School board president Mike Zimmers expressed frustration over the lack of a clear answer… but superintendent Jennifer Gill says there will be a final decision today.

Houston: Quota Ban Will Make Cop Evaluation Difficult


A new state law could make it tougher to make sure that local cops are doing the job they’re supposed to be doing.

 

That law signed over the weekend by Governor Pat Quinn prohibits the use of traffic ticket quotas by law enforcement.

 

That law also says that police agencies cannot evaluate officers based on the number of tickets they write. Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says city police do not have a ticket quota… but says ticket activity has been used as one factor in evaluations.

 

He notes that some officers just don’t like writing tickets… and says the new law will make it more difficult to hold them accountable for that part of their job.

Man Allegedly Hits Amtrak Conductor


A Springfield man is facing aggravated assault charges after a fight aboard an Amtrak train over the weekend.

 

Authorities say 39-year-old Robert Moore may have been intoxicated when he got into a physical altercation with the train’s conductor as it approached Springfield.

 

Moore is accused of punching the conductor twice.

 

Police took him into custody as he got off the train in Springfield.

 

The conductor did seek medical treatment.

Signs Go Up Touting Next Year's Lincoln Funeral Procession


It’s a sign of the ongoing preparations for a big anniversary event next year.

 

New banners on Springfield’s north end promote the re-enactment of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession through the city in 1865.

 

Former Springfield alderman Bob Vose was behind the drive to create and produce the banners… and is now trying to raise as much as one-million dollars to overlay the roads at cash-strapped Oak Ridge Cemetery before the funeral re-enactment next May.

Multi-State Earthquake Drill Continues Today


A multi-state earthquake readiness drill continues today in Springfield.

 

State emergency management director Jonathan Monken says first responders are practicing their response to a future major quake in Southern Illinois.

 

Such an event could cause damage to buildings in Springfield… and could cripple portions of the state’s electric and natural gas infrastructure.

New State Law Could Complicate Evaluations Of Springfield Cops


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says it will be more difficult to evaluate the performance of city patrol officers in the future… now that Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation that prohibits using the number of tickets written each month as one component of that evaluation. 

 

Houston says the city did not have a specific quota of tickets that an officer was expected to write each month… but he says supervisors would look at ticket totals to see if officers were using their time productively.

New Banners Are Latest Step In Preparation For Lincoln Funeral Re-Creation


New banners will go up soon marking next year’s re-enactment of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession through Springfield… one of several aspects of the commemoration getting a boost from private donations. 

 

Former Springfield alderman Bob Vose spearheaded the drive to create and produce the banners… which will go up along North Grand Avenue and Monument Avenue leading to the entrance of Oak Ridge Cemetery. 

 

Vose is also hoping to raise up to a million dollars to overlay miles of roadway on the cemetery grounds ahead of the funeral re-enactment next May.

Earthquake Drill Tests First Responders Across Illinois, Seven Other States


measure readiness in the likely event of a major earthquake in one of the state’s main seismic zones. 

 

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency says there is a very good chance of a major earthquake in the future along the New Madrid fault or in the Wabash Valley.  A big quake could cause extensive damage and strain the response capability of first responders. 

 

Teams are working out of the state’s emergency response center in Springfield this week, simulating the actions they would need to take if a real earthquake hit.  The multi-state drill runs through Friday.

Beekeeper Objects To County Crackdown On Unkempt Lawns


There’s two sides to every story… and a local beekeeper wants people to hear the other side of a new county ordinance. 

 

The Sangamon County Board recently passed a measure aimed at fixing overgrown and unsightly lawns in unincorporated parts of the county.  But Arvin Pierce says those long weeds and high grass are a haven for the bees he maintains on his property… and if the county comes in to cut them down, as the new ordinance allows, it could be damaging to his hives. 

 

He’s hoping the county will move cautiously with implementing the new law.

IDOT Hiring Raises Questions Focused on Secretary's Stepdaughter


There are new questions about hiring practices at the Illinois Department of Transportation… and this time, they center on the stepdaughter of IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider.

 

An investigation by 970 WMAY’s watchdog partner, the Better Government Association, finds that Schneider’s stepdaughter Ashley Carpenter was hired as a part-time clerical secretary in 2006.

 

A year later, Carpenter was promoted to a full-time “staff assistant” position with job duties that included “development and coordination of policy.”

 

That allowed the agency to get around rules banning political hiring.

 

Schneider declined to answer questions, but an IDOT spokesman says the secretary did not play any role in Carpenter’s hiring or promotion.

DNR Defends Using State Planes to Bring Prairie Chickens to Illinois


It’s become a political football and a punch line in the race for governor.

 

But state Department of Natural Resources officials are defending a program in which endangered prairie chickens were flown into the state… on a state-owned airplane… in order to boost the species’ numbers.

 

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner used chickens in a coop at a news conference last week to blast the program as an example of wasteful spending.

 

But DNR says no general state tax dollars were used for the program… which is funded by a combination of federal grants and user fees paid by outdoorsmen.

 

And they say it is helping to increase the population of prairie chickens… which had fallen to fewer than four dozen a few months ago.

Quinn's Anti-Violence Program Gives Hundreds of Thousands to Troubled Non-Profit


Governor Pat Quinn’s administration handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars in anti-violence grants to a Chicago non-profit… even though the organization acknowledged in separate state documents that it had had problems for years with managing its money.

 

The Woodlawn Organization made those admissions in audit records that were filed with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office on the same day that it applied for grants under Quinn’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. Despite the admissions, the state gave $800,000 in grants to the Woodlawn Organization.

 

It is now demanding repayment of at least one-third of that money… which may have been misspent on everything from fast food to lobbying activities.

Three Dead, Including Alleged Shooter, At East Peoria Bar


Three people are dead following a shooting in an East Peoria sports bar Saturday night.

 

Authorities say a high school reunion was taking place at that bar when a man entered and shot his ex-wife and her new boyfriend in the head.

 

An off-duty FBI agent who was in the bar at the time then shot and killed the gunman.

 

More than 100 witnesses to the incident provided information as the investigation continues.

Springfield, Comcast Still Negotiating Renewal Of Cable TV Franchise


The City of Springfield and Comcast are still haggling over details of a long-term cable TV franchise agreement. 

 

A ten-year deal expired in early 2013, and since then the contract has been extended for a few months at a time.  A newly-introduced ordinance seeks another six-month extension… through December of this year. 

 

Mayor Mike Houston won’t comment on what issues are still unresolved, but says they are mostly small details that take time to iron out. A Comcast spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.

Historic Depot In Lincoln Could See Renovations


The move toward high-speed rail could lead to renovations of a historic building in Lincoln. 

 

The city recently purchased the century-old depot near the downtown square.  The building was used as a restaurant in recent years. 

 

WAND-TV reports that Lincoln may close off one grade crossing next to the depot to create parking, and will consider renovating and restoring the building to accommodate a possible increase in ridership as high-speed rail takes hold.

SPD Shakes Up Command Structure


Two Springfield cops have been promoted to deputy police chief… and one deputy chief has been demoted. 

 

Police Chief Kenny Winslow says the moves were made so he could have a command staff around him that he was most comfortable with.  He says the decision to remove Bob Markovic as a deputy chief was not related to last year’s file shredding scandal in the department.  Markovic drafted the memo of understanding that allowed for premature destruction of police internal affairs files.

 

The changeup in the command staff at the Springfield Police Department means a new head of the criminal investigations division.  Lieutenant Dan Mounce was named Deputy Chief, overseeing CID.  Meanwhile, Lieutenant Dyle Stokes replaces Markovic as deputy chief over administrative services.  Two other lieutenants were promoted to commander.

Durbin Leads Oberweis In Latest U.S. Senate Poll


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin holds a lead over Republican challenger Jim Oberweis in the latest statewide poll. 

 

The “We Ask America” automated phone survey of 11-hundred registered voters gives Durbin 52-percent of the vote, to 39-percent for Oberweis. 

 

Durbin is seeking his fourth term in the U.S. Senate.  Oberweis is a state senator and runs a successful dairy and ice cream chain.

Two New SPD Deputy Chiefs Promoted; One Demoted


Two Springfield cops have been named deputy chiefs of the police department. 

 

Lieutenant Dan Mounce will oversee the criminal investigations division, replacing Cliff Buscher… who retired earlier this year.  And Lieutenant Dyle Stokes replaces Deputy Chief Bob Markovic as head of administrative services.  City officials say taking the deputy chief title away from Markovic was not related to last year’s file shredding scandal in the police department.

 

Two other lieutenants, Kenny Scarlette and Shawn Handlin, have been named commanders of administrative services and CID, respectively.

City Seeks Another Short Term Extension Of Comcast Franchise


The City of Springfield continues to struggle to reach a long-term deal with Comcast for cable services in the city. 

 

A ten-year franchise deal expired in early 2013.  Since then, it’s been extended nine months at a time, and a new ordinance before the City Council would extend it for another six months… until December. 

 

Mayor Mike Houston says there are no major sticking points, just lots of details that take time to iron out.

 

Ribbon Cutting Saturday For East-Side Park ''Splash Pad''


A formal ribbon-cutting is planned Saturday for the second “splash pad” in a Springfield park. 

 

The $41,000 addition to Comer (KOH’-mer) Cox Park was paid for with private donations of cash, labor and material.  It had been in the planning stages since 2011, when east-side leaders identified it as a desirable addition to the park on Martin Luther King Drive. 

 

The splash pad actually opened nearly two weeks ago, but the ribbon-cutting is timed to coincide with the “Juneteenth” celebration at the park on Saturday.

 

Conservative Activist Roeser Dies


Longtime Illinois conservative activist Jack Roeser has died. 

 

Roeser was a wealthy businessman who used his fortune to promote conservative causes… and was an outspoken opponent of abortion, gay rights, and teachers unions.  His hardline rhetoric sometimes put him at odds with establishment Republicans, but state GOP officials issued a statement praising him for principled leadership and innovation. 

 

Jack Roeser was 90 years old.

Decatur Day Care Employees Accused Of Locking Children In Shed


The owner of a home day-care center in Decatur and three other people are facing multiple felony charges after authorities found 15 children locked in a shed. 

 

DCFS had been investigating a complaint that the day care center was operating above capacity… but in the course of the investigation, discovered the children in the backyard shed. 

 

Owner Marianne Mourning, two of her children, and another daycare center employee are charged with unlawful restraint and child endangerment.

Rauner's Budget News Conference Features Chicken Coop


After weeks of taking heat for failing to offer his own budget plan, Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner has laid out a proposal for cuts… but it’s not doing much to silence his critics.

 

Rauner held a news conference in Chicago which featured a coop of live chickens… in reference to a recent news story about endangered prairie chickens being transported on state-owned airplanes.

 

Rauner says he would eliminate the state’s airplane fleet… reduce legislative pensions… and cut half-a-billion dollars from Central Management Services.

 

Governor Pat Quinn’s camp says the plan shows how little Rauner knows about how state government works.

Poll: Rauner Over Quinn by 10 Points


The latest poll in the race for Illinois governor shows Republican Bruce Rauner with a 10-point lead… and most likely has Governor Pat Quinn hoping history repeats itself.

 

That “We Ask America” automated phone poll of more than one thousand registered voters puts Rauner up 47-percent to 37-percent… with 16-percent still undecided.

 

Quinn also trailed by 10 points or more during the summer of 2010… but went on to defeat Republican Bill Brady in the general election.

Doctor Suing Macoupin County Health Department for Religious Bias


A doctor is suing the Macoupin County Health Department… alleging that he was fired from his job running a health clinic because of religious bias.

 

The State Journal-Register reports Doctor Daniel O’Connor’s lawsuit claims that O’Connor was fired because he refused to prescribe certain drugs because their use violated his beliefs as a Roman Catholic.

 

O’Connor’s suit says other staff provided the services that he refused to provide… but that he was fired nonetheless.

 

The suit seeks to recover lost wages and damages for emotional distress.

County Elections Officials Prepare for Possible Change in Voter Registration


Sangamon County elections officials vow to protect the integrity of the voting process… as they make plans to implement changes that Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign into law.

 

The bill on Quinn’s desk would allow voters to register and cast a ballot on Election Day, and would expand early voting.

 

County elections director Stacey Kern says the bill is likely to increase the county’s cost of putting on the election… which right now stands at around $9 per voter.

Group Promotes Reading for Juneteenth Celebration


A local group that is trying to promote reading will be set up at this weekend’s Juneteenth celebration in Springfield.

 

iMagicNation will feature its Magic House reading tent and give away free books at the event Saturday at Comer Cox Park.

 

Organizers say a celebration of reading is appropriate for the Juneteenth event… which marks the emancipation of African-Americans.

 

They note that it was illegal for slaves to read… so it’s something modern youngsters shouldn’t take for granted.

Sheriff's Office Gets Mine Resistant Vehicle


The Sangamon County sheriff’s department has a heavily-armored vehicle… but it’s not exactly recreational.

 

The department has obtained a “mine resistant ambush protected vehicle.”

 

It was designed for use in overseas war zones… but with the wars in the Middle East coming to a close, the federal government had lots of the M-RAPs left over.

 

The county only had to pay 64-hundred dollars for the 11-foot-tall vehicle… which it plans to use in standoffs with armed suspects.

Quinn Expected to Approve New Voter Laws, GOP Says They're Too Lax


Illinois voters could register to vote on Election Day, have more time to cast early ballots and not be required to bring photo identification to vote early under a bill that is now on Governor Pat Quinn’s desk.

 

Republicans in the legislature opposed the bill… claiming it’s simply an attempt by Democrats to get more of their supporters to cast ballots, and that it increases the risk of voter fraud.

 

Quinn… who is expected to sign the bill… calls the Republican concerns, quote, “baloney.”

Smith Officially Loses Seat After Conviction Filed by Judge


Derrick Smith is officially out of office… again.

 

Smith has lost his House seat now that a federal judge has officially entered his conviction on bribery and attempted extortion charges.

 

The Chicago Democrat is believed to be the first Illinois lawmaker in history to be expelled from the legislature twice.

 

The House voted to kick Smith out following his indictment on charges that he took a $7,000 bribe.

 

But Smith won a subsequent election and returned to the House. This time, his dismissal is automatic.

 

Democratic party leaders from his district will choose a replacement to serve until the term expires in January.

Durin Pushes for Millionaire Tax to Ease Student Loan Burden


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says Republicans have sided with millionaires over the middle class.

 

Durbin is angry that GOP Senators blocked a bill he co-sponsored to allow people to refinance their student loans at lower rates.

 

Increased taxes on millionaires would have covered the added costs. Republicans say the bill did nothing to lower education costs.

 

Durbin says a million Illinoisans could have benefited from the bill.

Springfield Moving Forward With Grant Dollars for Rail Consolidation


Springfield aldermen will vote next week on a package of ordinances that would mark a major milestone in the long effort toward railroad consolidation.

 

The ordinances would approve using $14 million… mostly in federal grant money… to build the first major new underpass on the 10th Street corridor.

 

If the measures pass, work on the Carpenter Street underpass would likely start in August.

 

The project isn’t slated for completion until September of 2016.

 

It’s just the first of a number of improvements planned to help traffic avoid the trains that officials hope to steer onto the 10th Street tracks in the years to come.

CWLP Warns of Dangers When Pools Are Too Close to Power Lines


City Water Light and Power is warning of danger from residential pools set up too close to overhead power lines.

 

The utility says it has already found several violations locally.

 

One concern is that a live line could fall into a pool, but CWLP says another big risk is people accidentally coming into contact with the lines while using a pool skimmer or even just jumping into the water.

Local Events Raising Money for Non Profits Have Different Outcomes


Two popular local charity events are tallying up very different outcomes this year.

 

Last month’s Fat Ass 5K posted one of its biggest years yet… generating $165,000 to be split among around two dozen charities.

 

Those checks are to be presented next week.

 

But last weekend’s SOHO music festival saw its turnout and fundraising dramatically reduced by torrential rains Saturday that kept a lot of people away.

 

To make up for the shortfall, Friday’s ribbon-cutting of the new outdoor plaza at the Prairie Capital Convention Center has been turned into a supplemental fundraiser for SOHO.

 

There will be live music at Friday’s event… and a portion of the money from tickets that are sold on Friday for future events at the outdoor plaza will go to SOHO.

Aldermen Preparing Green Light For First Major Rail Consolidation Project


Springfield aldermen are set to take a big step toward starting the eventual consolidation of rail traffic onto the 10th Street tracks. 

 

The City Council will vote next week on a package of seven ordinances that will clear the way to spend $14 million on an underpass at 10th and Carpenter. The money comes mostly from a federal grant, but the city must authorize its use. 

 

Final approval should allow the project to get underway this summer… with completion set for the fall of 2016.

Cantor Defeat Has Implications For Illinois


The upset loss of U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor could also prove to be a problem for some Illinois interests…and politicians. 

 

Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Cantor’s defeat removes one of the leading supporters of medical research funding… a primary source of federal dollars back into Illinois.  And Cantor was seen as a mentor and supporter for up-and-coming young Republicans like Congressman Aaron Schock.

Durbin Blasts GOP Over Stalled Student Loan Bill


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is bashing Republicans for blocking an effort to ease the burden on people struggling with student loans. 

 

That Democratic-backed bill would have boosted taxes on millionaires in order to pay for refinancing millions of student loans at lower interest rates.  Durbin says as many as one million Illinoisans could have benefited from the legislation.

One Charity Event Posts Big Numbers, Another Seeks Extra Help


After its fundraising power was dampened by heavy weekend rain, the SOHO music festival is hoping to recover some of those lost dollars. 

 

The ribbon-cutting to be held Friday night for the new outdoor plaza at the Prairie Capital Convention Center will also include a supplemental fundraiser for SOHO… with proceeds to go to the various charities supported by the outdoor music festival.  The event will feature live music… and a portion of all tickets sold Friday for future outdoor plaza concerts will be donated to SOHO.

 

Last month’s Fat Ass 5K will result in more than $165,000 going to two dozen charities.  The popular street race in downtown Springfield has raised more than $700,000 in its six-year history.  Race organizers will present checks to its chosen charitable organizations next week.

Elimination of Sick Time Payout for New Non-Union Employees Moves Out of Committee


Springfield aldermen will vote next week on a proposal to end sick time payouts for future non-union city employees.

 

The Houston administration says right now, it can spend more than a million dollars a year in compensation for unused sick time when an employee leaves their job or dies.

 

If the measure passes, it will only apply to workers hired on or after July 1st of this year… so any savings from the proposal could still be years down the road.

 

Some aldermen question whether eliminating the perk could lead workers to take more sick time, affecting productivity.

Aldermen Don't Move on NAPA Reaffirmation Vote, Again


It appears that Springfield aldermen are done discussing the city’s disputed contract with NAPA Auto Parts.

 

Once again, aldermen took no action on an ordinance asking them to reaffirm the deal, which was called into question after it was discovered that the supposed legal basis for the contract does not exist.

 

That aldermanic inaction led Mayor Mike Houston to announce last week that he is moving forward with the contract for NAPA to provide parts for the new consolidated city garage.

 

Alderman Frank Edwards is critical of the move, but says at this point, any attempt by the City Council to block it could lead to a lawsuit.

McCann Closes Door on Possible Independent Gubernatorial Candidacy


After staying silent while speculation swirled around him, state Senator Sam McCann is now closing the book on a very brief flirtation with a campaign for governor.

 

Supporters had begun circulating petitions touting the Macoupin County Republican as a potential independent challenger to both Democrat Pat Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner.

 

McCann declined for several days to comment on the idea, but Tuesday night, he issued a statement saying he is not a candidate for governor.

 

McCann’s name had been floated by social conservatives who dislike Quinn but are also uneasy about Rauner.

Quinn Tours State to Sign Cupcake Bill, Poker Run Bill


Governor Pat Quinn is making the rounds for a series of bill signings.

 

On Tuesday, Quinn signed the so-called “cupcake bill” that’s intended to protect small home-baking operations from being bogged down in too much regulation.

 

He signed it at the home of 12-year-old Chloe Stirling, whose homemade cupcake stand was closed by Madison County health officials.

 

Quinn then went to a motorcycle shop in Marion to approve a bill that will make it easier, and cheaper, for cycle clubs to stage poker runs for charity.

Smith Convicted of Bribery and Extortion, Will Lose Seat He Recently Won


An Illinois lawmaker will lose his seat… again… and may soon be sitting in a prison cell after his conviction Tuesday on charges of bribery and attempted extortion.

 

Democratic state Representative Derrick Smith was found guilty by a federal jury in Chicago, after just a few hours of deliberations.

 

He had been charged with accepting a $7,000 bribe to help steer a state grant to a day care center… but the bribe was really part of an FBI sting operation.

 

Smith had been kicked out of the House after he was indicted, but was already on the ballot and won election back to that seat.

 

No sentencing date for Smith has yet been set.

Coroner: Foul Play Not Factor in Toddler Drowning Death


Foul play is not suspected in the drowning death of a three-year-old boy from White Hall.

 

Briccen Wahl was discovered in a swimming pool there on Monday.

 

He was transported by EMTs to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield but was pronounced dead in the emergency room, according to Coroner Cinda Edwards.

Tow-Day IDOT Summit in Springfield Focuses on Making Roads Safe


A safety seminar continues today in Springfield, with a goal of eventually reducing traffic fatalities to zero around the state.

 

Highway deaths are sharply lower this year compared to last, although IDOT officials say that’s primarily because harsh winter weather early this year kept many people off the roads.

 

They say that through education… and technology… a goal of eliminating car crash deaths is attainable in the years to come.

Toddler From White Hall Drowns In Swimming Pool


A three-year-old boy from White Hall is dead after an apparent accidental drowning. 

 

The Sangamon County Coroner’s Office says Briccen Wahl was pronounced dead in the ER at Saint John’s Hospital after being transported here from Greene County. 

 

The toddler had been found in a swimming pool.  The coroner’s office says no foul play is suspected.

State Lawmaker Found Guilty Of Bribery, Attempted Extortion


An Illinois lawmaker has been convicted by a federal jury on charges that he accepted a $7,000 bribe in exchange for trying to help steer a state grant, in a plot that was actually part of an FBI sting.

 

The jury deliberated less than a day before returning the guilty verdicts against Democratic state representative Derrick Smith.  He had been charged with taking the cash before writing a letter pushing for the grant to go to a day care center.  But the request for help came from a paid FBI informant, carrying out a sting devised by the agency.

 

Smith could face up to 20 years in prison on the charges, although his ultimate sentence is expected to be much less. Smith will also wind up losing his House seat -- for the second time.  Lawmakers voted to expel him after he was indicted on the charges, but Smith won re-election to the seat before his case went to trial.

Petitions Being Circulated On Behalf Of Possible Third Party Run By Local Lawmaker


Petitions are reportedly being circulated to promote a possible third party campaign for governor by Republican state senator Sam McCann. 

 

McCann so far is refusing to comment on rumors that he will try to challenge Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn and GOP nominee Bruce Rauner in November. 

 

According to the Illinois Review website, McCann would have to collect more than 25,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Safety Seminar Aimed At Reducing Traffic Deaths In Illinois


Transportation and safety experts from around the state and nation are taking part in a two-day seminar in Springfield… looking for ways to reduce traffic fatalities to zero around the state. 

 

An IDOT official says impaired and distracted driving and seat belt violations remain significant problems… and says fatigued driving is a growing trend contributing to traffic deaths. 

 

The fatality rate on Illinois roads is sharply lower so far this year compared to last.

Springfield Home Sales Still Down From 2013


Home sales in Springfield in 2014 are still lagging behind last year’s pace… but local realtors hope to reverse that trend by the end of the month. 

 

Efforts to jump start the local market are being hindered, though, because of a small inventory of available homes.  The Capital Area Association of Realtors says even though home sales were up in May compared to a year earlier, overall year-to-date sales are still down four-percent from 2013. 

 

And a survey of local realtors says one-fourth of prospective buyers reported that they’re holding back on a purchase because the smaller selection of houses has made it harder for them to find the right home.

Coal Association President Stands Behind Climate Change ''Hoax'' Comment


The head of the Illinois Coal Association is standing by his assertion that the concept of manmade climate change is, quote, “one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated on the human race.”  ]

 

Phil Gonet… who is also a former general manager at City Water Light and Power… says he believes the climate change agenda is being driven by scientists who hope to land more grant money to keep studying the supposed impact of greenhouse gases on global warming trends. 

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY, Gonet acknowledged that he could also be accused of pushing an agenda… but says he’s concerned that the drive to limit emissions from coal-fired power plants will make electricity more expensive and more scarce… with very little benefit to the environment.

Veterans Wait Average 54 Days To Be Seen at Danville VA Hospital


Veterans seeking appointments for treatment at the VA hospital in Danville had to wait, on average, 54 days to be seen… nearly four times higher than the federal government’s goal of a 14-day maximum wait.

 

And more than 120 veterans who requested appointments over the past decade were never seen by a physician, according to an audit of VA facilities around the country.

 

The wait time at Danville… which is the nearest Illinois facility serving veterans in the Springfield area… was the highest of the five VA medical centers in the state.

Quinn Signs Chicago Pension Fund Bill


Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation aimed at shoring up two of Chicago’s ailing public pension funds… potentially opening the door for a big increase in property taxes or other revenue sources to assist with the bailout.

 

Quinn’s Republican opponent Bruce Rauner attacked the move, accusing Quinn of breaking a promise to seek property tax relief for Illinoisans.

 

But Quinn’s signing statement specifically urges Chicago aldermen not to raise property taxes… and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he will look for other revenue options.

 

However, public sector unions are vowing to file suit over the new law, which also reduces benefits for affected workers.

McCann Won't Confirm or Deny Independent Bid for Governor


So far it’s just a rumor… but one that isn’t being confirmed or denied by the lawmaker at the center of it.

 

A conservative website claims Republican state senator Sam McCann is considering a third-party run for governor this fall.

 

McCann is on the record expressing reservations about his party’s nominee for governor, Bruce Rauner.

 

The Illinois Review website quoted a conservative activist who says he’s heard that McCann has talked with the Illinois Education Association and other groups about possible support.

 

McCann has declined to comment on the speculation.

Hearing Scheduled in Labor Dispute with SIU School of Medicine


A hearing is set for next month on a complaint filed by a state oversight board against the SIU School of Medicine.

 

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board scheduled the hearing into a decision by the medical school to revoke union status for more than 200 employees.

 

That decision prompted a complaint from AFSCME Council 31, accusing SIU of harassing employees for union activity.

 

The union and the medical school will meet with a mediator in an attempt to resolve the dispute ahead of the scheduled hearing before the state board.

Durbin Cancer Free After Surgery


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he is now cancer-free… after doctors removed a malignant growth from his nose.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the basal cell carcinoma is a type of cancer that generally does not spread.

 

Durbin says he underwent surgery that removed all cancerous cells… and says he did not require any follow-up treatment.

Durbin Pushes for Medical Research Funding


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is pushing for a big increase in federal funding to promote medical research.

 

Durbin recently introduced legislation that would earmark an additional $150 billion over the next ten years for research grants.

 

The money would come from higher tobacco taxes and closing some corporate tax loopholes.

 

Durbin touted his legislation during a stop Monday at the SIU School of Medicine… which could stand to benefit from an increase in medical research dollars.

Jury Continues Deliberations in Representative's Bribery Trial


Jury deliberations resume today in the trial of an Illinois lawmaker accused of accepting a $7,000 bribe.

 

Both sides in Derrick Smith’s case presented closing arguments Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

 

Prosecutors say Smith used his position to line his own pockets, instead of watching out for the interests of taxpayers.

 

But defense lawyers say Smith was duped by a paid FBI informant, and say any crime that took place was fabricated by federal agents.

 

Jurors deliberated for several hours Monday but went home for the night without reacing a verdict.

Head Of Coal Association Calls Manmade Climate Change ''Greatest Hoax''


The head of the Illinois Coal Association says manmade climate change is, quote, “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the human race.” 

 

Phil Gonet is also a former general manager of City Water Light and Power.  He’s reacting to proposed U.S. EPA rules that could dramatically limit coal-fired power plants in the future.  Gonet says the rules are unnecessary and unworkable.

 

[He’ll appear live Tuesday morning on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show” to talk more about the issue.]

 

Palazzolo: Layoffs Last Week Show Need For More Consistency In Local Economy


A Springfield mayoral candidate is critical of the leadership climate in the community… linking it to the loss of 250 jobs with two major employers announcing layoffs last week. 

 

Paul Palazzolo says the cutbacks at St. John’s Hospital and AT&T show a need for new leadership. 

 

Overall, state figures show Springfield has gained more than 2,000 jobs over the past year, prior to last week’s pink slips.  But Palazzolo says Springfield needs a more consistent and stable business environment.

 

Springfield Event Tuesday To Help Parolees Adjust To Life After Prison


An event in Springfield Tuesday is aimed at helping former Illinois prison inmates return to society successfully. 

 

The “Summit of Hope” at the State Fairgrounds provides assistance on basics like getting a photo ID and finding a suitable place to live… as well as more complex issues like finding a job or getting help with health issues. 

 

The goal of the summit is aimed at reducing the number of inmates who return to prison after their release… which now stands at around 47%.

Nearly Two Dozen Inmates Walked Away from IL Correctional Facilities in Past 60 Years


Twenty-two people have walked away from Illinois correctional facilities and are now considered fugitives… according to an Associated Press review of prison records dating back to the 1950s.

 

There have been five such incidents in the past decade… most of them involving people who walked away from transitional housing, which is intended to serve as a bridge between life behind bars and life in regular society.

 

The oldest of the cases dates back to 1955… if the escapee were still alive, he’d be 111 years old.

 

At the same time, Corrections has tracked down 11 escaped inmates in just the last two years.

Mayoral Candidate Palazzolo Says Job Losses Shows Need for New Leadership


The loss of nearly 250 jobs in Springfield last week shows the need for new leadership in Springfield, according to mayoral candidate Paul Palazzolo.

 

Palazzolo released a statement over the weekend responding to the planned closure of the AT&T call center and the layoffs of 43 management-level employees at St. John’s Hospital.

 

He says the city needs a leader who will pave the way for new opportunities… and vows to attract “digital and research industries” that will support the medical district and other sectors of the local economy.

Hillsboro Woman Allegedly Makes Up Imposter Cop Story


The latest incident of an alleged police impersonator turns out to be a false alarm.

 

A woman told Montgomery County authorities last week that she had been pulled over on Route 16 by someone in an unmarked car… who then robbed her at gunpoint.

 

But the State Journal-Register reports that woman, 29-year-old Cheri Frisbie of Hillsboro, now admits she made up the story.

 

She is now charged with obstructing justice and filing a false police report.

Video Gaming for Low-Income Retirement Home Called Into Question


State regulators say they will take another look at a proposal for a video gaming facility inside a low-income retirement home in the Chicago suburb of Dolton.

 

The village government owns and operates the home, but hired a catering company which applied for the gaming license.

 

After an investigation by 970 WMAY’s watchdog partner, the Better Government Association, the state gaming board is reviewing discrepancies in the license application.

 

Critics say putting video gaming inside the facility is preying on the old and poor.

Palazzolo: Job Losses Show Need For New City Leadership


Springfield mayoral candidate Paul Palazzolo is reacting to news of nearly 250 jobs lost in the city in the past week. 

 

Palazzolo says the closing of the AT&T call center and the management layoffs at St. John’s Hospital show the need for new leadership in Springfield. 

 

He says he will work to attract employers… especially digital and research industries that could support the medical district and other sectors of the local economy.

Edwards: NAPA Mistake May Not Have Been An Accident


A Springfield alderman isn’t so sure that the “erroneous assumption” behind a controversial auto parts contract was really an error. 

 

Alderman Frank Edwards says it seems to him that Houston administration officials were pushing very hard… at any cost… to get aldermen to sign on to the deal with NAPA to provide parts for the consolidated city garage. 

 

City officials have said they mistakenly assumed there was an intergovernmental agreement that allowed the no-bid contract to go forward… but now can find no evidence of one.

Rauner Denies Pay-To-Play, While Protestors Poke Fun At His Wealth


Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is denying any “pay-to-play” in the lucrative contracts his company got with Pennsylvania’s public pension systems. 

 

Governor Pat Quinn claims Rauner’s firm got a multi-million-dollar contract after Rauner donated $300,000 to the campaign of that state’s Democratic governor, Ed Rendell.  In Springfield Friday night, Rauner said he never discussed pensions or contracts with Rendell.

 

Rauner’s campaign has a character called “Quinnochio” that it sends to Governor Pat Quinn’s campaign events.  Now an anti-Rauner PAC is fighting back. 

 

The Illinois Freedom PAC posted an actor in a top hat and tux with a sign that read “Billionaires for Bruce” outside a Rauner fundraising event in Springfield Friday night.  The group says that Rauner is out of touch with the needs and interests of middle-class Illinoisans.

Caterpillar Closing Three Illinois Facilities


Caterpillar is closing three of its Illinois facilities. 

 

Two plants in Sterling and one in Dixon will be closed… with their functions moved to a similar plant in Michigan.  All three facilities are part of a Cat subsidiary, Anchor Coupling. 

 

About 170 Illinois jobs will be affected by the move.

Mayor Houston to Implement NAPA Contract After Inaction From Council


Inaction from the Springfield City Council has prompted Mayor Mike Houston to take action… to implement the city’s disputed contract with NAPA Auto Parts.

 

That contract had been in limbo because of questions about the legal basis for the no-bid deal. Houston had asked aldermen to reaffirm the $3.5 million deal with NAPA to provide parts for the consolidated city garage.

 

But aldermen left that ordinance in committee this week. Houston revealed live on 970 WMAY Thursday that he interprets that lack of action as a signal to him to handle the matter as he sees fit.

 

He says proceeding with the contract will put the garage consolidation on track for completion in September.

St. John's Cuts 43 Management Jobs, Cites ACA and Decreased Reimbursements


St. John’s Hospital has laid off 43 management-level personnel… in what the hospital calls a response to changing market forces, including the Affordable Care Act.

 

A statement from St. John’s says only managers were affected, and no jobs in direct health care were lost.

 

The hospital blames declining reimbursements from Medicaid, Medicare and private insurers.

 

The statement also links the jobs cuts to the Affordable Care Act, although St. John’s CEO Charles Lucore tells the State Journal-Register that the hospital hasn’t seen the effects of the health care law yet, and won’t know what they will be until they happen.

Petersburg and Cantrall Residents Among Those Charged in Medicaid Fraud


Federal prosecutors in Springfield have obtained indictments against 15 people, accusing them of Medicaid fraud.

 

Two Petersburg residents and one person from Cantrall are among those charged in the sweep.

 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says the defendants are accused of fraudulently billing a Medicaid program for providing home health care services to disabled patients.

 

They submitted time sheets listing hours when the suspects were working other jobs or when the client was hospitalized or was otherwise not receiving services.

 

The most serious charges could carry prison terms of 20 years per count.

Residency Rule Demotes Administrator to Teacher at Dist. 186


A Springfield school administrator has been reassigned to a job as a classroom teacher after failing to provide proof that their primary residence is within the District 186 boundaries.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the reassignment is the first one under a toughened residency policy adopted last year by the school board.

 

Administrators were required to provide three different forms of proof of residency, or face termination or reassignment.

 

The district declined to name the administrator who is being moved back to the classroom.

CWLP Responds to EPA Rules


City Water Light and Power says it doesn’t know yet how proposed new emissions rules for power plants will affect local utility operations.

 

But chief engineer Eric Hobbie says it will almost certainly make electricity more expensive to produce and use. Hobbie objects to several parts of the proposed rules.

 

He says that even though CWLP is investing in wind power, the credit for that will benefit other states where those wind turbines are located.

 

CWLP is working with state officials to prepare a formal response to those proposed federal rules.

U.S. Attorney Indicts 15 In Medicaid Fraud Sweep


15 people have been indicted on federal charges of submitting fraudulent reimbursement forms to Medicaid under a program that pays for home care for people with disabilities. 

 

The suspects… including two from Petersburg and one from Cantrall… are accused of turning in time sheets for hours when they were actually employed at other jobs, or the disabled person was in the hospital or otherwise not in their care. 

 

The most serious charges could result in prison terms of 20 years

St. John's Lays Off 43 Members Of Management


43 management-level employees at St. John’s Hospital are being laid off. 

 

A statement from the hospital says the move, representing about one-percent of St. John’s total workforce, is in response to financial pressures from the Affordable Care Act and lower reimbursement rates from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance. 

 

The hospital says non-management employees are not affected… and says it will provide the fired workers a severance package and help with finding new employment.

Houston To Implement NAPA Deal Without Waiting For Re-Approval By Aldermen


Since Springfield aldermen haven’t taken action one way or the other, Mayor Mike Houston is taking matters into his own hands. 

 

Houston says he is moving forward to implement the city’s disputed deal with NAPA Auto Parts, despite lingering questions about the legal basis for the contract.  An ordinance to reaffirm that contract was left sitting in a City Council committee this week… and Houston says he takes that as a signal from the aldermen that he should handle the matter as he sees fit.

 

NAPA will get $3.5 million to provide parts for the new consolidated city garage over the next three years.

Classroom Slate That May Have Been Used By Lincoln Donated To ALPLM


The latest acquisition by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is a slate that belonged to Lincoln’s boyhood teacher… and which may have been used by a young Abe himself. 

 

The 12 by 16 inch portable chalkboard opens a window into how schooling was conducted in rural Kentucky in the early 1800s, when a 7-year-old Abe Lincoln studied under teacher Caleb Hazel.  Hazel’s family kept the slate… and his fifth-generation descendants have now donated it to the library and museum’s Lincoln Collection. 

 

It’s now on display in the museum’s Treasures collection, along with a page of math problems that is the earliest known writing of the teenage Lincoln still in existence.

AT&T to Merge Springfield Call Center with Rantoul Facility, Impacts 200 Jobs


Nearly 200 workers at AT&T’s Springfield call center will have to relocate… or look for new jobs.

 

The company confirms that it will “consolidate” its local operations into a call center in Rantoul. Call center employees will be allowed to relocate and will get some financial help for the move from the company.

 

Otherwise, those local workers will be given top priority for other jobs within AT&T.

 

Those who choose to leave will receive a severance package. AT&T says the move was done to improve efficiency… and says overall headcount in Illinois will remain steady.

Flooded Basements and Vehicles in Aftermath of Wednesday's Storms


Springfield residents are still drying out from Wednesday’s heavy rains… which left countless basements flooded and more than two dozen motorists stranded after they attempted to drive through standing water on roadways and in viaducts.

 

Weather spotters say more than three inches of rain fell in the early morning hours yesterday.

 

Local officials say work is continuing on improvements to the storm sewer system, which they hope will minimize the effects of such flooding in the future.

Alderman Urges Mayor to Veto Hillard Heintze Contract for IG Study


A Springfield alderman contends a $79,000 study into reinstating the inspector general position at City Hall would be a waste of time and money.

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin says plans for the study will focus on how it should be structured, and to whom the inspector general should answer.

 

But he says current city law requires the position to be under the mayor’s control.

 

McMenamin wants Mayor Mike Houston to veto the ordinance authorizing the study… and is asking his fellow aldermen to reconsider their votes in favor.

Online Craigslist Scam Targets Potential Renters of Local Properties


The Capital Area Association of Realtors is warning about an online scam targeting people hoping to rent property in Springfield.

 

The scam is carried out on Craigslist… as the scammer takes local listings of homes for sale and then posts them as available for lease.

 

The victim is instructed to send the lease payment to a P.O. box… and then the scammer disappears.

 

In one recent twist, the scammer actually obtained a key to the property, and the victim didn’t realize they had been duped until they were moving their belongings into the home.

 

The realtors group recommends working with local brokers and using caution with listings on Craigslist.

AT&T To Close Springfield Call Center; Nearly 200 Workers Affected


AT&T says it is “consolidating” its Springfield call center with another Illinois facility… affecting nearly 200 local employees. 

 

A company spokesman says the workers will be given the chance to relocate to a call center in Rantoul… and will get a relocation allowance. 

 

Workers who opt not to do that would have a chance to apply for other AT&T jobs if they desire. Workers who leave AT&T as a result of the move would get a severance package.  The company says the moves will not result in a reduction in its overall Illinois headcount.

Flooding Rains Strand Drivers Around Springfield


Weather spotters say more than three inches of rain fell in Springfield in the early morning hours today, leaving some drivers in over their heads… almost. 

 

Those heavy rains flooded a number of streets and viaducts… and the rising waters in turn trapped motorists who misjudged the depth and mistakenly thought they could drive through it.  Fire Chief Ken Fustin says his crews assisted more than two dozen motorists in the overnight hours.  No one was hurt.

 

The storms also caused some wind damage west of Springfield… and in Morgan and Logan Counties.

McMenamin Urges Mayoral Veto Of Inspector General Study


There are new questions about the future of a proposed inspector general position for the city of Springfield. 

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin is calling for Mayor Mike Houston to veto the ordinance that was overwhelmingly approved by the City Council Tuesday night, calling for a $79,000 study of the IG position.  McMenamin says the proposal for the study violates current city code, which calls for an inspector general to be under the control of the mayor. 

 

The company that is poised to do the contract, Hillard Heintze, says it doesn’t know yet if the position could be set up to be under the control of the aldermen or run by an outside third party firm.  A company official says those sorts of questions are the whole point of the study.

Craigslist Scam Centers On Phony Leases For Local Properties


The Capital Area Association of Realtors is warning about an online scam in which people are being duped into paying for phony leases on local properties.

 

The scam is carried out on Craigslist… and usually involves getting people to send a check to a P.O. box for a lease on a vacant property.  Those properties are often listed for sale by a realtor… but the scammers claim that they’re taking it off the market and plan to lease it instead.  After receiving the check, the scammer then disappears with the money. 

 

The realtors’ group urges people to make sure they verify who they are dealing with and beware of sending money to distant locations for online property listings.

Dog Park Benefactor Willing To Shift Effort From Washington Park To Planned New South End Site


Efforts to create another dog park in Springfield have taken a turn. 

 

Dog park supporter and benefactor Karen Hoelzer has indicated her support to create that new dog park at Barker Park… a 26-acre parcel of land donated to the park district by the Barker family nearly a decade ago.  The Hoelzer family had wanted to donate fundsand raise money for a dog park within Washington Park… but met resistance from people living nearby. 

 

The Springfield Park Board would have to agree to the proposal to build the dog park at Barker Park. The board has already allocated $40,000 for engineering studies and basic amenities at the site on the south end of Springfield.

Heavy Rain Floods Springfield Streets, Keeps First Responders Busy


It’s been a long night for first responders around Springfield after severe storms dumped torrential rains on the city.

 

More than an inch of rain fell in just over an hour, producing widespread flooding and causing some manhole covers to blow.

 

Springfield police and firefighters had to rescue several motorists who attempted to drive through the standing water and became stranded.

 

Crews were also kept busy responding to automatic burglar and fire alarms that were accidentally set off by multiple lightning strikes all over the city.

 

The storms also produced damage in neighboring counties… with downed trees and power lines and roof damage reported in Logan and Morgan counties.

Aldermen Approve Contract for Inspector General Study, Revamp of Office


Springfield aldermen have given final approval to spending $79,000 to hire an outside firm for a study of whether the city needs an inspector general to handle complaints about wrongdoing within city government.

 

That study will also look at how that position should be structured and what it might cost.

 

Alderman Cory Jobe and others say an independent watchdog is necessary to deal with problems like last year’s file shredding scandal.

 

Two aldermen… Joe McMenamin and Steve Dove… voted against it.

Aldermen Leave NAPA Deal in Committee, Next Step Unclear


The city of Springfield’s flawed contract with NAPA Auto Parts remains in limbo.

 

An ordinance that would reaffirm the deal… despite questions about the legal basis for it… is still stuck in a city council committee.

 

Aldermen took no action on the deal at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

 

The Houston administration says the delay in resolving the disputed contract is adding to costly delays in its effort to consolidate all of the city’s vehicle maintenance garages under one roof… and may threaten the ability to keep fire trucks, snow plows and other essential vehicles in good running condition in the months ahead.

Physicians in Training Claim Discrimination at SIU School of Medicine


Two physicians in training say they are the victims of discrimination by officials with the SIU School of Medicine and St. John’s Hospital.

 

The two were part of the pediatric residency program set up through the medical school and based at the hospital.

 

The State Journal-Register reports that they accuse both institutions of bias against foreign doctors… and of using residents in the program as low-cost labor, forcing them to work excessive hours, in violation of policy, because it’s cheaper than using full-fledged physicians to staff those shifts.

 

Neither SIU nor St. John’s would answer questions about the allegations.

Scherer Defends Vote on Budget


A local lawmaker is defending her vote on the budget plan that even most supporters concede is incomplete and not balanced.

 

Democratic Representative Sue Scherer says the budget protects education and social services that her constituents care about… despite the expected revenue loss if the temporary income tax hike expires at the end of the year.

 

Scherer opposes extending the tax increase. Legislative leaders say there could have to be dramatic cuts in vital services before the end of the fiscal year if that revenue isn’t made up somehow.

Severe Storms Cause Damage, Flooding Across Central Illinois; Flash Flood Warning For Sangamon Until 5am


A line of severe storms has created a host of problems across Central Illinois during the overnight hours.

 

A flash flood warning has been issued for Sangamon County until 5am. Flooding rains in Springfield blew off some manhole covers in the city.  And strong winds in excess of 60 miles per hour brought down large tree limbs in Morgan County.  Dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning also triggered multiple automatic alarms across the area, keeping emergency responders busy.

 

A severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for Sangamon and most surrounding counties until 3am. 

 

Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on this developing severe weather situation.

Springfield Aldermen Approve Inspector General Study; No Action On NAPA Deal


Springfield aldermen have approved a nearly $80,000 contract for an outside firm to study the need for, and potential structure of, a new inspector general position at City Hall.

 

The vote was 8 to 2 in favor of the study, with Aldermen Joe McMenamin and Steve Dove as the only "no" votes.  Hilliard Heinze will conduct the study, which is expected to include a recommendation on whether the city should create a full-time position or hire an outside individual -- or company -- to do the work on a contractual basis.

Meanwhile, the City Council did not take action on the stalled contract with NAPA Auto Parts, leaving the fate of the deal to provide parts for the new consolidated city garage in limbo.

Security To Be Beefed Up For High School Graduation Ceremonies In Springfield Saturday


District 186 says it will beef up security for high school graduation ceremonies this weekend at the Prairie Capital Convention Center. 

 

The move is in part a response to expected large crowds downtown for the SOHO Music Festival.  The district says the tighter security will ensure no disruptions for the ceremonies. 

 

Each of the city’s high schools… plus Chatham Glenwood… has separate commencement ceremonies, one after the other, at the Center on Saturday.

City Officials Discuss Future Of Bel-Aire Motel


A Springfield alderman says it’s time to get creative about the future of a decaying local landmark. 

 

The Bel-Aire Motel is now up for sale, and Alderman Cory Jobe says that offers an opportunity for the city to rid itself of an eyesore and a public health hazard.  Jobe is doubtful that a private investor would put up the estimated million dollars needed to purchase and repair the rundown property. 

 

He says a public-private partnership might work, but says it would have to include state and perhaps federal dollars.  Jobe also says the Bel-Aire property might make a good location for a new fire station to serve the southern part of the city.

Rauner Would Be Open To Repealing Same-Sex Marriage If Voters Ask


Same-sex marriage is now on the books in Illinois… but the debate may not be over yet. 

 

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner says he would be open to a referendum to ask voters if they want to repeal the new law… which was approved by the legislature late last year.  Rauner tells the Chicago Tribune that he wouldn’t try to change the law unless voters said they wanted it repealed in that referendum. 

 

Governor Pat Quinn pounced on the statement.  Quinn says he didn’t need a referendum to tell him that supporting equal marriage rights was the correct thing to do.

Scherer: Not Sure What's Left Unfinished After Legislative Session


A Springfield-area lawmaker doesn’t think the General Assembly left much unfinished business at the end of the spring session. 

 

Democratic Representative Sue Scherer admits the new state budget isn’t perfect, but says it was probably the best that lawmakers could do under the circumstances.  And she says at least the budget that was approved avoids much of the damage that would have resulted from a so-called “doomsday budget” that she voted against. 

 

Legislative leaders say the budget will force a vote after the election on extending the temporary state income tax increase… but Scherer remains opposed to any extension.

Durbin Unsure About Letting Up On Federal Fight Against Pot


The Republican-controlled U.S. House has voted to direct the federal government to stop interfering with state medical marijuana programs… but Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin isn’t sure the Senate will, or should, follow suit. 

 

Durbin says he’s OK with states legitimately using marijuana under a doctor’s guidance to treat certain conditions… but is concerned that in some states, those programs may just be a back-door attempt to legalize pot. 

 

And Durbin says he’s concerned about the impact of trafficking and the potential for marijuana to become a gateway for heavier drugs.

Treasurer Candidates Clash Over Budget


The candidates for Illinois Treasurer are offering very different approaches to fixing the state’s fiscal problems. 

 

Both Republican Tom Cross and Democrat Mike Frerichs say the treasurer can get more involved in shaping fiscal policy.  But Cross says one way he would do it is through litigation… saying that as treasurer, he could sue the state legislature if lawmakers pass an unbalanced budget. 

 

Frerichs says he would work to create a more fair revenue stream… in part by pushing to expand the sales tax to include services, while lowering the overall rate to make it a more progressive tax. 

 

Both candidates appeared live Tuesday on 970 WMAY.

Dist. 186 Urges Parents to Vaccinate Kids Before New School Year


It’s a stern message from District 186 to parents… get moving now to make sure your children have all of their required vaccinations.

 

The district has changed its policy for the coming school year, and will require students to have all of their shots within days of the start of classes… or be sent home.

 

School board president Mike Zimmers says parents need to “step up” now and make appointments with their doctors, rather than waiting till the last minute.

 

The district will offer vaccination clinics in early August as another option for parents to get their kids immunized.

Southeast High School Not Seeking Grant Dollars


Southeast High School is touting its efforts to reverse trends of declining test scores and falling graduation rates.  But not everyone is applauding.

 

Springfield school board members say they appreciate the hard work of Southeast teachers and administrators.  But a future Southeast parent who is also the principal of Grant Middle School says she’s concerned about what’s happening at the school.

 

Tammie Bolden addressed the board and criticized Southeast’s decision not to seek a multi-million-dollar school improvement grant like the one awarded to Lanphier several years ago.

 

Southeast officials say their staff decided to try to bring about improvement on their own rather than rely on the grant dollars.

Bel-Aire Motel Up for Sale


Springfield’s notorious Bel-Aire Motel is up for sale. It was once a popular destination for travelers along Route 66, but in recent years as a residential complex, it has deteriorated badly and now faces tens of thousands of dollars in fines for hundreds of code violations.

 

The building’s absentee owner, Gopal Motwani of Florida, tells the State Journal-Register that he has tried to do everything city inspectors ask… but they keep wanting more.

 

Motwani is asking $750,000 for the property… but it could take another quarter-million-dollars to settle past complaints and bring the building up to code.

Area Lawmakers Sign Pledge for 10th Street Rail Work Oversight


Two local lawmakers have signed an agreement pledging to protect the interests of residents near the 10th Street rail corridor during the extensive railroad relocation process.

 

The Community Benefits Agreement seeks to ensure that residents who may be displaced by the project get a fair price for their properties… and that jobs created by the project go predominantly to local laborers.

 

Senator Andy Manar and Representative Sue Scherer signed the agreement Monday.

 

Scherer says signing the document sends a message to everyone involved in the project that they are being watched… and will be held accountable.

Groups: Proposed Power-Plant Rules Will Mean Higher Electric Costs


Illinois officials and environmental groups say proposed new rules for power-plant emissions are attainable and manageable.

 

But business and trade groups say the proposal unveiled by President Obama Monday will mean higher costs for electricity… and fewer jobs.

 

The rules are aimed at reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

 

The head of the Illinois Energy Association notes that the rules are just preliminary… and thinks there is time to make changes that can minimize their negative impact.

Former State Fire Marshal Armstead Passes Away


Former Springfield Fire Chief and Illinois State Fire Marshal Tom Armstead has died.

 

Armstead was a 28-year veteran of the city fire department, retiring as chief. He then went on to serve 10 years as state fire marshal.

 

Armstead died early Sunday at Memorial Medical Center. He was 77.

 

Visitation will be Wednesday evening at Staab Funeral Home, with funeral service Thursday morning at Christ the King Church.

Power Plant Trade Group Sees Some Positives Among Concerns Over Proposed Emissions Rules


A trade group representing investor-owned Illinois power companies says proposed federal rules on emissions will have an impact on the availability and price of electricity… but says the impact may not be quite as bad as initially feared. 

 

Jim Monk with the Illinois Energy Association notes that the proposed rules give states some flexibility in how to implement them.  He also points that, unlike some neighboring states, Illinois only gets about 40% of its power from coal-fired plants, which may mean less drastic measures will be required. 

 

But Monk says there are still legitimate fears that the proposed rules as written will drive up costs and cause job losses in the years to come.

 

City Water Light and Power has so far declined to comment on how the rules might affect its coal-fired plants.

Aldermen, Houston Administration Still Sparring Over City Garage Consolidation


A Springfield alderman is unsympathetic to the concerns being voiced by the Houston administration about the potential problems from further delays in the city’s garage consolidation process. 

 

The mayor’s office has said in recent days that delays linked to the disputed auto parts deal with NAPA is costing the city money and jeopardizing its ability to make critical repairs on essential city vehicles like fire trucks. 

 

But Alderman Frank Edwards says those delays are the administration’s fault… and says his message would be that if they can’t keep city vehicles running, then aldermen should bring in someone who can.

Advocacy Group: Legalization Of Gay Marriage Does Not End Fight For Equal Rights


A leading gay-rights group says the fight for equality isn’t over… despite the major milestone reached as same-sex marriage is now legal in Illinois. 

 

The president of Equality Illinois, Bernard Cherkasov, says vigilance will still be needed to make sure that married gay couples are not deprived of equal rights and equal protection under the law. 

 

And he says there are other issues that still need to be addressed… including a pending attempt to stop teens from being pushed into “conversion therapy” aimed at changing their sexual orientation from gay to straight.

Sunday Marks First Day Same-Sex Marriage Legal Across State


Same-sex couples can now legally get married across Illinois. Sunday was the effective date for the new state law that allows same-sex weddings… even though a handful of counties had already been issuing those licenses for months.

 

Some county clerk offices opened on Sunday to issue those licenses… in Sangamon County, clerk Joe Aiello opted instead to make licenses available on Friday, but demand on Day One was light.

 

Among the changes brought about by the new law… same-sex couples can now sign up for joint policies through the state health insurance exchange.

 

Governor Pat Quinn… who signed the same-sex marriage bill… issued a statement saying Illinois is now on the right side of history.

 

And gay-rights groups criticized Quinn opponent Bruce Rauner, who said last fall that he would have vetoed the bill, because he thought the issue should have gone before voters in a referendum.

Gov. Quinn Faces Difficult Politics Months Before Election


The outcome of this year’s legislative session poses political difficulties for Governor Pat Quinn.

 

Quinn took on the risk of supporting an extension of the state’s income tax increase, but since he was unable to muster the support of lawmakers, Quinn won’t get the benefit of additional revenue for state programs and services.

 

But Quinn is trying to turn the debate toward Republican challenger Bruce Rauner.

 

Quinn’s campaign says people know where the governor stands… but says Rauner has not offered any clear plan or proposal for how to manage the state’s finances, especially without billions in revenue from the tax hike.

Cullerton Says Presidential Library Governing Structure Could be Shifted to Universities


The issue of who should run the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum isn’t going away.

 

Senate President John Cullerton put the brakes on a bill to turn the library and museum into a separate state agency… but Cullerton says there is good reason to talk about whether there should be a change in the facility’s governing structure.

 

He says Illinois should give some thought to putting it under the umbrella of one of the state’s universities.

 

That pending legislation on the future of the presidential library and museum could be taken up again during the fall veto session.

Durbin Opens Downstate Campaign Office


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin has officially opened his downstate campaign office… and vows that he will not be outworked in his latest campaign.

 

Durbin is seen as a favorite against Republican challenger Jim Oberweis, but the three-term Democratic senator says he takes nothing for granted.

 

At the weekend opening of his office in downtown Springfield, Durbin also declined to say whether this would be his last campaign.

 

Durbin will turn 70 just a couple of weeks after Election Day.

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