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July 23, 2014, 10:51 am
970 WMAY News Archives for 2014-07

Sheriff Uses MRAP Armored Vehicle to End Standoff Near Riverton


An armed standoff at a mobile home park near Riverton has ended peacefully.

 

The incident started Tuesday evening when a man called police to say someone had pointed a gun at him in the Lincoln Place mobile home park. When deputies arrived, the armed man allegedly pointed his weapon at them, too.

 

Officers retreated and called in the tactical response unit and hostage negotiators.

 

After around four hours, the sheriff’s office brought in its recently-acquired MRAP… Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected… armored vehicle. The vehicle pulled up next to the suspect’s home and shined spotlights inside.

 

Undersheriff Jack Campbell says the man then came out, laid down his weapon and surrendered.

 

The mobile home park was locked down and some residents were evacuated for hours, but everyone has now been allowed to return to their homes.

Autopsy of Human Remains Fails to Answer Most Questions


An autopsy indicates that the skeletal remains discovered in a garage in Rochester last weekend are those of an adult white female.

 

But it did not indicate her identity, or how or when she died. Coroner Cinda Edwards says an anthropologist was brought in to help determine the race and gender of the remains.

 

Now DNA samples and X-rays will be used to match the remains against any missing persons cold cases in the area. Edwards says she believes the death is a homicide.

 

Illinois State Police are handling the criminal investigation.

Subsidies for Health Insurance Will Continue in Illinois Despite Court Rulings


Officials with the state programs that are encouraging people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act says nothing has changed… despite a court ruling Tuesday threatening the federal subsidies for low-income enrollees in states like Illinois.

 

A federal appeals court ruled those subsidies only apply to states that set up their own insurance exchanges… not those like Illinois that steered residents to the federal exchange.

 

However, a second appeals court reached the opposite conclusion in a separate case Tuesday.

 

Get Covered Illinois says for now, subsidies will continue as the rulings are appealed.

Quinn Signs Capital Bill, Includes Millions for Springfield Area Roads Projects


Governor Pat Quinn has signed a billion-dollar capital construction bill that allocates millions of dollars for Springfield-area projects.

 

Among the work to be funded under the updated public works plan is a $22 million resurfacing of Interstate 72 between New Berlin and Springfield, $4.6 million for resurfacing and bridge deck repair on I-55 near Lake Springfield, and $3.7 million for resurfacing of Veterans Parkway between J. David Jones Parkway and Jefferson.

States Attorney Issues No Confidence Letter to Block ISP Trooper Testimony


The St. Clair County state’s attorney has issued a “no confidence” letter stating that an Illinois State Police trooper can no longer be called as a witness by prosecutors in criminal cases.

 

Trooper Bradley Wilkin is currently on restricted duty after being accused of choking a motorist during a traffic stop.

 

The Belleville News-Democrat reports Wilkin has had a history of questionable incidents… including a training simulation in Springfield that had to be halted when Wilkin allegedly fired deliberately in the direction of participants who were playing the role of hostages in the exercise.

Howlett Building Expected to Reopen


Springfield’s Howlett Building is scheduled to reopen today, one day after a small mechanical fire closed the building.

 

Secretary of State offices in the Howlett were closed Tuesday because the fire disabled the building’s air conditioning system.

Armed Standoff Ends Peacefully Near Riverton


UPDATE: A nearly four-hour standoff in a mobile home park near Riverton has ended peacefully.

 

Sangamon County Undersheriff Jack Campbell says the suspected gunman surrendered to authorities after the county deployed its MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) military-style vehicle.  The large armored vehicle pulled up to the man's door, and shined spotlights inside.  Campbell says it appears the suspect was intimidated, prompting him to come outside, lay down his weapon and surrender to authorities.

 

He says no shots were fired and no one was hurt.  Residents are being allowed to return to their homes in the Lincoln Place mobile home park.

*********************

 

[Here is our earlier story on the standoff:]

 

Hostage negotiators are on the scene of a standoff at a mobile home park near Riverton. 

 

The incident began around 6pm Tuesday when a man in the Lincoln Place park called police, saying another man had pointed a gun at him.  Sangamon County deputies responded, and Undersheriff Jack Campbell says the armed man then pointed his gun at an officer.  Deputies retreated and called in the tactical response unit. 

 

Several adjacent mobile homes have been evacuated as police try to bring a peaceful end to the standoff.  Campbell is asking everyone to stay away from the Lincoln Place mobile home park… and says any residents currently at home in the park should stay indoors for their safety.

 

Stay with 970 WMAY and wmay.com for updates on this developing story.

Autopsy Identifies Remains As Those Of White Female, But Few Other Details Emerge


An autopsy reveals that the skeletal remains found in a garage in Rochester over the weekend are those of a white female.  But there’s still no information on the identity of the woman, her exact cause of death, or when she died. 

 

Coroner Cinda Edwards says the death appears to be a homicide… and that the victim died quite some time ago.  The coroner’s office will use DNA samples and X-rays in an ongoing effort to identify the victim, while state police handle the criminal investigation.

Health Insurance Subsidies For Illinoisans In Jeopardy After Court Ruling


Tens of thousands of Illinoisans who signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act could be on the hook for the full cost of their premiums… with no help from federal subsidies… because of a federal appeals court ruling. 

 

That three-judge panel ruled two-to-one that the subsidies are only available to states that set up their own insurance exchanges… not to those like Illinois that steered residents to the federal exchanges.

 

The White House says the subsidies will continue for now.  The ruling is certain to be appealed.

 

GOP Attorney General Candidate Accuses Lisa Madigan Of Putting Family Before Constitution


The Republican challenger for attorney general says Democratic incumbent Lisa Madigan is showing more loyalty to her father’s political agenda than to the state constitution. 

 

Madigan’s father… House Speaker Mike Madigan… was a chief architect of the state pension reform law that is currently facing legal challenges.  Lisa Madigan is fighting those challenges… but Republican opponent Paul Schimpf says parts of pension reform are clearly unconstitutional, and contends that Madigan should have refused to defend the law.

Quinn Signs $1 Billion Capital Bill; Millions Set Aside For Springfield-Area Projects


Governor Pat Quinn has signed a billion-dollar capital construction bill that allocates millions of dollars for Springfield-area projects. 

 

Among the work to be funded under the updated public works plan is a $22 million resurfacing of Interstate 72 between New Berlin and Springfield, $4.6 million for resurfacing and bridge deck repair on I-55 near Lake Springfield, and $3.7 million for resurfacing of Veterans Parkway between J. David Jones Parkway and Jefferson.

Howlett Building Closed After Small Tuesday Morning Fire, Expected to be Open Wednesday


The Howlett Building downtown will be closed today because of a small fire.

 

A message posted to CyberDriveIllinois.gov says the building is closed Tuesday because of mechanical issues caused by a small fire.

 

Henry Haupt with the Secretary of State’s office says Springfield’s Fire Department responded to the fire shortly after 1am Tuesday morning and the damage was minimal.  Haupt also says there is no air conditioning, but no further information was available.

 

Normal hours and work schedules are expected to resume Wednesday.

Autopsy Today on Body Found in Rochester


An autopsy will be held today on human remains discovered over the weekend at a home in Rochester.

 

The discovery was made on Saturday as residents of the home were cleaning out items. Rochester authorities called in Illinois State Police to take over the investigation.

 

There was no immediate word on the gender of the remains or how long the person may have been deceased.

School District Reminds Parents of Vaccination Requirements for Balanced Calendar Schools


The clock is now running for students of Springfield’s two balanced calendar schools.

 

Those students now have just 10 days to show proof of proper vaccinations, or they will be prohibited from attending school until the paperwork is in.

 

School board officials are reminding all other parents to take action now to make sure their children have the required vaccines before classes start in the rest of District 186 next month.

 

Free school physicals and vaccinations will be offered at Washington and Jefferson Middle Schools on August 4th and 5th… and at Springfield High School on August 9th.

School Board Continues Televising Meetings, Seeks Sponsors for Next Year


Springfield school board meetings will stay on TV for this year… but their future beyond that may depend on whether the district can line up sponsors for its educational access channel.

 

Funding for Channel 22 on the Comcast system was cut from this year’s budget, but the school board agreed to restore the money because of public interest in keeping the board meetings and other video of district events on the air.

 

Sponsors would not be allowed to run commercial messages, but would be allowed to make a statement of support for Springfield public schools.

 

Prices for the various levels of sponsorship have not yet been set.

 

Candidate Rauner Open to Tax Rate Negotiations


Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is opening the door to discussions after the election on where the state income tax rate should be set, in the short term… even as he continues to call for a four-year phased reduction down to three-percent.

 

Rauner tells the Chicago Tribune that voters shouldn’t worry too much about rates in the short term… because in the long run, he says he will significantly reduce the income tax burden and create a more favorable economic environment for business.

 

Rauner’s statement leaves open the possibility that he will ask the legislature to extend the current 5-percent income tax rate past its scheduled expiration at the end of this calendar year.

 

If the rate rolls back to 3.75 percent as scheduled, it could create a huge budget gap in the current fiscal year.

Authorities Investigate Discovery Of Possible Human Remains In Rochester


An investigation is underway after the discovery of what appears to be human remains in Rochester over the weekend. 

 

A Rochester resident contacted authorities after discovering those remains.  Illinois State Police have been called in as the lead investigating agency. 

 

An autopsy is being conducted to determine more about the time and manner of death.  [Stay with 970 WMAY and wmay.com for updates on this developing story.]

State Lawmaker Pushes Retirement Savings Plan For Those Without 401(k)


A state lawmaker says millions of Illinoisans don’t have access to a 401(k)-style program through their job… and without it, he says they are unlikely to set up a retirement account on their own. 

 

Democratic state Senator Daniel Biss of Evanston is calling for the creation of the “Secure Choice” progam, which would automatically enroll workers who are not covered by another employer-based retirement plan.  Workers would have the ability to opt out. 

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show," Biss said the program does not pose any financial risk to the state.

Sherman Officials Touting ''Controlled Growth''


Work continues on a major new development in Sherman that officials say will meet the needs for a new municipal building, added green space, and more opportunities for retail growth. 

 

Sherman is developing a major park, including an outdoor amphitheatre, on a 10-acre site near the Rail Golf Course, where a new municipal building will also be built.  An adjacent 25 acres is being set aside for commercial development. 

 

Village president Trevor Clatfelter says the goal is controlled growth for Sherman. Clatfelter appeared live Monday on the 970 WMAY News Feed.

Petersburg Man Dead After Stabbing, Pending Charges for Half-Brother


A Petersburg man is dead… and his half-brother is charged with fatally stabbing him as the two traveled together in a pickup truck in Pike County.

 

47-year-old Dennis Coffman of Petersburg was pronounced dead at a hospital in Hannibal, Missouri, after authorities found him and his half-brother inside that truck on Interstate 72 near the state line.

 

Coffman’s half-brother, 28-year-old Joseph Coffman of Arizona, is currently being held on charges of aggravated battery, but Pike County authorities say additional charges are likely.

Lincoln and Logan County Economic Organizations to Merge


Four separate organizations focused on economic growth in Lincoln will merge into a single entity this fall.

 

The Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln and Logan County Development Partnership, Logan County Tourism Bureau and Main Street Lincoln will join forces by November 1st.

 

The Decatur Herald and Review reports the new organization will hire one CEO to oversee all operations, and the merged agency will be governed by a seven-member board.

 

Officials say the move will end duplication and make for a more efficient, coordinated approach to economic development and job creation.

West Frankfort Considers Ban on Single-Wide Mobile Homes and Trailer Parks


The city of West Frankfort is considering a ban on new single-wide mobile homes and the construction of new trailer parks.

 

West Frankfort Mayor Tom Jordan says those types of homes can decrease the property value of neighboring structures.

 

At least one city resident calls the policy discriminatory, and says his single-wide mobile home is his best option for living on a fixed income.

 

WesThat proposed ordinance comes up for a vote later this week.

Illinois Congressional Delegation Reacts To Downing Of Malaysia Airlines Jet


A local congressman says the U.S. needs to impose even tougher economic sanctions on Russia if it is shown that Vladimir Putin’s government is linked to the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet this week. 

 

But Congressman Rodney Davis is rejecting the idea of a military response to the incident.  The jet was apparently brought down by a missile, which officials believe was fired from an area of Ukraine where insurgents are getting weapons and support from Russia.

 

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois says in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines disaster, commercial jetliners ought to be equipped with technology to help them avoid missile strikes.  Kirk says an anti-missile system that’s built here in Illinois could have prevented the tragedy. 

 

It would cost $2 million each to equip every passenger jet with the technology, but Kirk says the cost is small compared to the 300 lives lost in this week’s shootdown.

Officials Say Connections Won't Factor Into Medical Marijuana Business Licenses


State officials say safeguards are being put in place to ensure that the limited number of valuable licenses for medical marijuana businesses don’t go to just the politically connected. 

 

They say that when applications for those licenses are scored, the reviewer won’t know the identity of the applicant. 

 

Illinois hopes to license growing operations and dispensaries so patients can begin obtaining medical marijuana by early next year, but only if they have cash-in-hand.  The coordinator of the medical cannabis pilot project here says medical marijuana is likely to be a cash-only business…because credit and debit card companies won’t process transactions for a drug that is still illegal under federal law. 

 

It’s not known yet how much a dose of pot will cost when the program is implemented next spring.

Durbin Rips Illinois Company That Plans To Renounce U.S. Citizenship


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is blasting an Illinois company for its plan to use its acquisition of an Irish company to declare itself an overseas corporation… allowing it to evade U.S. corporate taxes. 

 

Durbin says AbbVie… formerly Abbott Laboratories… has benefited from federally-funded research through the National Institutes of Health, and has made billions of dollars selling its drugs through programs like Medicare and Medicaid. 

 

Durbin is urging AbbVie to reconsider that legal strategy.

Illinois Among The Highest-Risk States For Earthquakes


Illinois is considered one of the high-risk states for a major earthquake in the next 50 years.

 

Updated data from the U.S. Geological Survey says seismic activity on the New Madrid Fault and in the Wabash Zone put Illinois among the 16 states with the highest risk of significant quake activity.

Medical Marijuana Likely To Be Cash-Only Business In Illinois


If you plan to use medical marijuana to treat specific illnesses in Illinois next year… bring cash. 

 

The coordinator of the state’s medical cannabis pilot program says dispensing pot to patients will likely be a cash-only business… because credit and debit card companies won’t process transactions for a drug that is still illegal under federal law. 

 

It’s unclear how much medical marijuana will cost, but the state hopes that competition among dispensaries will keep prices down.

Davis: Use Economic Sanctions -- Not Military Action -- To Respond To Downing Of Jet


A local congressman says the U.S. should use tougher diplomacy and stricter economic sanctions… but not military action… if a link is shown between Russia and the downing of the Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine. 

 

Congressman Rodney Davis says the death of at least one American on board means the U.S. has a vested interest in how the attack is dealt with. 

 

He says Secretary of State John Kerry will have to be firm and resolute… something that Davis says hasn’t always happened in other international crises.

Rauner Pours Another $1.5 Million Of Own Money Into Campaign


The biggest donor to Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner’s campaign continues to be… Rauner himself. 

 

The Chicago Tribune reports Rauner has pumped another $1.5 million of his own money into his campaign fund.  Altogether, Rauner has pumped more than $8 million of his own dollars into his effort to unseat Governor Pat Quinn. 

 

Quinn still has more total money in the bank for the fall campaign, but Rauner has been steadily closing the gap in recent months.

Term Limits Group Seeks Fast Ruling On Appeal


The head of the committee that is trying to put a term limits measure on the November ballot is asking for a fast ruling on its appeal of an earlier court decision. 

 

A judge ruled late last month that the term limits measure is outside the scope of the Illinois Constitution.  The state Supreme Court refused this week to hear a direct appeal of the case… and there’s only a few weeks left for lower courts to decide before the deadline for final ballot certification.

Springfield Airport Gets High Marks From FAA


Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport passes another inspection with flying colors. 

 

A Federal Aviation Administration review of airport operations and documentation found full compliance with all FAA regulations.  Airport director Mark Hanna says the findings are proof that the airport is run in a safe and efficient manner.

Legislative Audit Commission's NRI Investigation to Reconvene October 8th


An Illinois legislative panel has agreed on a timeline to resume its own investigation of a state anti-violence program that has also attracted the scrutiny of federal prosecutors.

 

After two days of often-contentious hearings, the Legislative Audit Commission agreed to reconvene on October 8th… following a 90-day postponement requested by Springfield’s U.S. Attorney, James Lewis.

 

Lewis warned lawmakers that if they attempted to question witnesses, it could compromise a federal criminal investigation.

 

But the state panel will still collect documents from officials involved in the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, including Governor Pat Quinn… and plans to post those documents online.

Candidate Rauner Proposes Overhaul of State's Tax Structure


Republican Bruce Rauner is proposing a significant overhaul of Illinois’s tax structure… lowering the state income tax, freezing property tax rates, and expanding the sales tax to cover dozens of services that are not currently taxed.

 

It’s part of what Rauner calls a “jobs agenda” that would also make business-friendly changes to the workers comp system.

 

Governor Pat Quinn’s campaign attacked the Rauner plan… saying it would impose “regressive” sales taxes that will hurt small businesses, while shifting the tax burden away from the wealthiest Illinoisans.

State Supreme Court Won't Hear Appeal of Term Limit Ballot Proposal Rejection


The Illinois Supreme Court has refused to hear a direct appeal of the decision that tossed a term limits proposal off the November ballot.

 

A lower court judge had ruled the proposal to limit Illinois lawmakers to no more than eight years in office went beyond the scope of the state constitution.

 

Allies of Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner… who is a driving force behind the term limits effort… had wanted the Supreme Court to step in right away, but the justices declined without comment.

 

Term limits supporters will now go to the Appellate Court, seeking to have the original ruling overturned.

Illinios Unemployement Drops Again


Illinois’s unemployment rate has dipped again.

 

The statewide jobless rate fell to 7.1 percent in June… down from 7.5 in May.

 

Since March, unemployment in Illinois has fallen 1.3 percent… the best three-month showing since records started being kept in 1976.

 

Governor Pat Quinn touted the latest numbers as signs of progress… but opponent Bruce Rauner’s camp notes that unemployment in Illinois is still well above the national average, and says the numbers aren’t good enough.

More Than 300 Area Motorists Ticketed For Using Cell Phone Behind the Wheel


Lots of local drivers still aren’t following the new state law that prohibits use of hand-held cell phones behind the wheel.

 

The State Journal-Register reports Springfield police have issued 313 tickets for violating the law since it took effect on January 1st.

 

Sangamon County… which gave drivers an unofficial grace period when the law first hit the books… did not have specific numbers on citations deputies have written.

 

Springfield police sergeant Charles Kean says, like seat belt laws in recent years, motorists will eventually come around and comply with the cell phone ban… but he says it will take time.

Kayakers Safe After Being Tangled in Tree on High Waters of Sangamon River


Two kayakers are OK after their boat overturned while they were on the high waters of the Sangamon River Thursday.

 

The kayak became entangled in a tree and tipped over.

 

The two people on board… who were wearing life vests… were able to hang on to the tree while other kayakers with them called for help.

 

Numerous rescue agencies responded… but a couple of fishermen reached the kayakers first and pulled them to safety.

 

No one was injured.

Jobe Plans to Announce Mayoral Ambitions After State Fair


Springfield alderman Cory Jobe says he isn’t worried about stepping on toes as he considers a run for mayor next year.

 

Jobe is a Republican…as are two already-announced candidates for mayor, incumbent Mike Houston and Sangamon County Auditor Paul Palazzolo.

 

Jobe says he’s not concerned about party affiliations, and if he runs, he hopes to attract support from Republicans, Democrats and independents alike.

 

Jobe notes his closest ally on the City Council is Ward 3’s Doris Turner… who is also the county Democratic chairman.

 

Jobe plans to announce his political plans next month, right after the Illinois State Fair.

Audit Commission Agrees To Reconvene In October; GOP Says Quinn May Not Be Complying With Records Requests


The Legislative Audit Commission has agreed to reconvene on October 8th to begin questioning former Quinn administration officials about their role in the governor’s botched anti-violence program. 

 

The panel had bickered for most of the previous day about when and how to question those witnesses… after the U.S. Attorney’s Office asked state lawmakers to delay their investigation to avoid interfering with a federal criminal probe.  Lawmakers also agree that if the feds ask them to stay away from a particular witness or subject area, they will.

 

Some Republicans on the Legislative Audit Commission say Governor Pat Quinn and a former top aide may be dodging demands to provide all documentation related to Quinn’s anti-violence program. 

 

The panel is considering going to court to enforce a request for records from former Central Management Services director Malcolm Weems.  And Republicans say Governor Pat Quinn may not have turned over everything that’s being sought… but Democratic state Senator Andy Manar says he thinks the governor has complied with the commission’s demands.

Rauner Plan Would Roll Back Income Tax, Expand Sales Tax


Bruce Rauner has issued his tax plan… one which would roll back income tax rates, freeze property taxes, and expand sales taxes to include dozens of services that are not currently taxed. 

 

The Republican candidate for governor says reducing the income tax over four years and blocking property tax hikes will spur more growth. 

 

And Rauner says it makes no sense to assess a sales tax on essentials like clothing… and not on services like landscaping or graphic art design.

 

Manufacturers Group Endorses Rauner


The Illinois Manufacturers Association is endorsing Bruce Rauner for governor. 

 

The group says its decision was motivated by what it calls a “hostile climate’ for job creators in the state under Governor Pat Quinn.  It’s also critical of delays by the Quinn administration to approve rules to allow the practice of fracking to get underway.

 

State Jobless Rate Falls In June


Illinois’s jobless rate has fallen again. 

 

The rate dipped to 7.1 percent in June… its lowest level since October of 2008.  It’s down from 7.5 percent in May, on the strength of a net gain of 6,000 jobs statewide. 

 

And state officials say an overall 1.3 percent decline in unemployment since March is the best three-month showing since records were kept, beginning in 1976.

Jobe Plans Public Meeting To Help Bel-Aire Residents Find New Homes


Springfield alderman Cory Jobe is promising a public meeting soon with residents of the Bel-Aire Motel… to help them identify other places they might be able to live. 

 

Jobe says securing new housing for dozens of residents is the first step in closing down the Bel-Aire for good.  A deadline imposed by Jobe passed this week without action from Mayor Mike Houston’s administration to close the site and have the property condemned. 

 

Jobe says he will now proceed with a resolution asking police to gather info to have the Bel-Aire declared a “chronic nuisance.”

Springfield Landfill Could Reach Capacity In 14 Years


Springfield’s main landfill could be full in less than 15 years. 

 

A report from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency says the Sangamon Valley Landfill will reach full capacity in the year 2028 at current disposal rates.  The landfill currently accepts more than 450 tons of garbage per day. 

 

Overall, the West Central Illinois region that includes Sangamon County has a combined remaining landfill capacity of 20 years.

Panel Takes Backseat to Federal Prosecutors in NRI Investigation


It appears that a legislative panel will hold off on questioning witnesses tied to Governor Pat Quinn’s botched anti-violence program.

 

But it’s unclear what the next steps will be for the Legislative Audit Commission.

 

Lawmakers from both parties say they will honor a request from federal prosecutors to temporarily postpone enforcing subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify… so that they don’t interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation.

 

But panel members haggled for hours over when to reconvene and resume their efforts to dig deeper into how millions of dollars may have been misspent.

Police: Vehicle Tows After Arrests Based on Probable Cause, Not Race


Black drivers are more likely than whites to have their vehicles towed and impounded in Springfield… according to city figures dating back to 2010.

 

During that time, the cars of black drivers were towed after traffic stops more than 3,000 times, compared to fewer than 2500 for whites. That’s a 54-percent rate… three times higher than the percentage of black residents in the overall city population.

 

Deputy Police Chief Dennis Arnold says cars are towed based on the facts of each situation… not based on race, and says anyone suggesting otherwise is looking for someone to blame for their own mistakes.

 

Springfield reporter Calvin Christian says the numbers could form the basis for an appeal of his failed lawsuit against the city over towing policies.

Topinka Denies Clout Allegations, Says She Was Bragging About Son Around Open Mic


Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is denying that she tried to pull strings to land her son a job at Southern Illinois University.

 

A video of a recent event where Topinka appeared with Governor Pat Quinn captured audio from a live microphone.

 

Although the entire conversation can’t be heard, Topinka at one point appeared to be encouraging Quinn to help find a job for her son at SIU, emphasizing his qualifications for a position.

 

Topinka’s Democratic opponent, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, issued a press release accusing Topinka of trying to use political clout to help her family.

 

A Topinka spokesman says the comptroller was just bragging about her son, not trying to land a job for him.

Blagojevich Lawyers Appeal Conviction Based on Supreme Court Ruling


A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on campaign donations is forming the basis of a new appeal by lawyers for former Governor Rod Blagojevich.

 

The attorneys say the language of that ruling allows for more latitude in giving and accepting donations… and as a result, the defense says it was improper to convict Blagojevich on charges related to donations he sought or received.

 

The appeal says conviction is only appropriate if Blagojevich made explicit promises to carry out official state action in exchange for the cash… something his lawyers say he never did.

 

Blagojevich is serving a 14-year sentence for corruption.

Despite IDOT PR Effort, 15 Fatalities on Roads for July 4th Weekend


Another big PR push this year did little to affect the numbers of traffic deaths on Illinois roads over the Fourth of July holiday.

 

15 people were killed in traffic accidents between Thursday the 3rd and Sunday the 6th. That’s a slightly higher daily average than in 2013… when 18 people died over a four-day holiday travel period.

 

IDOT officials say they will keep pressing hard to remind drivers not to drink and drive, speed, or violate seat belt laws.

Most Subpoenaed Witnesses Opt Not To Appear Before Legislative Panel


Most former Quinn administration officials who were subpoenaed to testify before a state legislative committee have opted not to show up. 

 

Several, including the former head of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, said through attorneys that it would be inappropriate to testify after the U.S. Attorney in Springfield asked lawmakers to put their investigation of the governor’s anti-violence program on hold for 90 days. 

 

Some Republicans on the panel say they may seek court orders to at least require those officials to turn over relevant documents.

Black Drivers' Cars Disproportionately Towed In Springfield


Springfield police say there is no policy targeting any one group over another when it comes to the towing and impounding of vehicles. 

 

Numbers sought by reporter Calvin Christian as part of his legal battle with the city over towing show cars with black drivers are towed more often than those of white drivers.  Since 2010, the city has towed more than 3,000 vehicles driven by blacks… compared to fewer than 2,500 with white drivers.  That’s a 54-percent rate… even though blacks make up less than 20-percent of the city’s population. 

 

Deputy police chief Dennis Arnold says cars are towed when circumstances warrant, and not for any other reason.

Man Dies Of Injuries Suffered In ATV Crash


A Springfield man has died from injuries he suffered in an ATV accident earlier this month. 

 

21-year-old Cody Ballard had been hospitalized since he was found pinned under the vehicle early in the morning of July Fourth.  Authorities believe that Ballard had crashed the vehicle hours earlier, but the wreckage wasn’t found until the next morning when an injured female passenger made her way to a nearby house seeking help. 

 

Sheriff Neil Williamson says Ballard was driving the vehicle… and his death effectively closes the investigation of the incident.

15 Died On Illinois Roadways Over Fourth Of July Weekend


Highway fatalities across Illinois over the Fourth of July weekend were virtually unchanged this year compared to last. 

 

Numbers from IDOT show 15 people lost their lives on Illinois roads over the three-day holiday driving period from Thursday evening to Sunday night.  That compared to 18 who died last year over a four-day span.  That means an average of 4.6 people died per day over the holiday weekend this year… slightly higher than last year’s average of 4.2. 

 

IDOT officials say they won’t give up trying to bring those numbers down.

U.S. Attorney Asks Legislative Committee To Delay Hearings Into NRI


The U.S. Attorney in Springfield has made a direct request to a legislative commission to delay its planned questioning of former Quinn administration officials connected to the governor’s troubled anti-violence program.

 

A similar request had recently been made by the Justice Department’s lawyers in Washington, but the latest outreach comes directly from U.S. Attorney James Lewis.

 

The Legislative Audit Commission will meet this morning in Chicago to consider the request.

 

Seven former officials were subpoenaed to testify, and the commission has asked them all to show up for today’s meeting.

 

Meanwhile, Governor Pat Quinn has released more than 2,000 emails related to the controversial program.

Aldermen Override Two Mayoral Vetoes of Halfway Homes


Two rehabilitation homes for recently-paroled prison inmates will be allowed to keep operating at their current Springfield locations.

 

Mayor Mike Houston had vetoed zoning changes to keep those facilities open, but aldermen voted Tuesday night to override the mayor.

 

More than a dozen people spoke on the issue at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, with some expressing concern the homes are too close to places where children hang out.

 

But others said the facilities are making a positive difference for ex-cons and need to stay open.

Aldermen Overwhelmingly Vote Down NJPA Authorization


Springfield aldermen have overwhelmingly rejected the Houston administration’s attempt to authorize future contracts through an out-of-state purchasing consortium.

 

The National Joint Powers Alliance is the organization that originally negotiated the city’s deal with NAPA Auto Parts to provide inventory for the consolidated city garage.

 

But the city learned after the NAPA deal was approved that it did not have authorization to work through NJPA.

 

On a 9-to-1 vote, aldermen shot down an ordinance to grant that authorization, amid concerns that working through the out-of-state agency would cut local vendors out of the chance to compete for contracts.

Palazzolo: City Should Work With Other Taxing Bodies to Keep Burden Low


A candidate for Springfield mayor says if the city has to consider a tax increase to shore up police and fire pensions, he would ask other local governmental bodies to lower their tax rates to offset the burden on city residents.

 

Paul Palazzolo offered the idea after Mayor Mike Houston said this week that the city may have to find a dedicated revenue source to address the unfunded liability in public safety pensions, since help from the state appears increasingly unlikely.

 

Palazzolo says a strong leader should be able to convince other taxing bodies that a stronger, more financially stable Springfield is better for everyone in the long run.

Palazzolo Would Ask Other Governments To Lower Taxes To Offset City Increases


Springfield mayoral candidate Paul Palazzolo says if the city has to raise taxes to fund police and fire pensions, he would try to persuade other units of local government to lower their rates to help out. 

 

Palazzolo says a strong city leader could persuade those taxing bodies that they would benefit in the long run from a stronger, more financially stable Springfield. 

 

Mayor Mike Houston this week raised the prospect of a tax hike if lawmakers fail to take action to fix those underfunded police and fire pensions.

 

Davis: GMO Labels Would Hurt More Than Help


Congressman Rodney Davis says labeling foods that contain genetically-modified organisms would simply add to “hysteria” over what he says is a common, safe practice that is improving the quality and quantity of food production. 

 

GMOs including crops grown from seeds modified to be more resistant to pests and disease.  Critics of the practice question their safety, and say consumers have a right to know if they’re eating GMOs. 

 

But Davis says anyone who’s really concerned about it can just buy foods labeled “organic.”  He appeared live Tuesday on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show."

 

New Parking Garage To Be Built At MMC


A new structure will be going up soon at Memorial Medical Center. 

 

The hospital board has approved construction of a new five-story parking garage on the north side of Carpenter Street between Rutledge and Klein. The garage will also provide for rooftop parking… providing four floors of spaces for hospital employees.

 

The bottom two floors will be reserved for people attending events or classes at the hospital’s Center for Learning and Innovation, now under construction. Both facilities should be open in the first quarter of 2015.

Houston Announces Another Bid for Springfield Mayor


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says it comes down to whether voters care more about promises… or performance.

 

That could be a deciding factor as Houston launches a re-election campaign… despite a 2011 pledge that he would step aside after one term.

 

Houston says the city has come too far under his leadership to risk backsliding now.

 

He says if voters give him four more years, he will keep working to add more jobs, get rid of rundown and abandoned buildings, move toward railroad consolidation, and try to get a final answer on whether a second lake will be built.

 

Listen to Houston's announcment here

Potential Mayoral Candidates React to Houston's Announcement


Mike Houston’s confirmed, and potential, challengers in next year’s race for Springfield mayor are reacting to his decision to seek another term.

 

Paul Palazzolo’s campaign handed out press releases… at Houston’s news conference… blasting the mayor for broken promises.

 

Jim Langfelder… who says he is running but hasn’t held a formal kickoff yet… says he’s not surprised at Houston’s decision, but says it won’t affect his campaign.

 

And Alderman Cory Jobe… who formed an exploratory committee to consider a run… says he’s disappointed by Houston’s decision.

 

Jobe says he will confer with his committee and make an announcement on his own plans soon.

Houston: Dedicated Revenue Stream Needed to Shore Up Public Safety Pensions


As Mayor Mike Houston was announcing his re-election bid, he also dropped another bombshell Monday.

 

In a live interview on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Houston said the recent state Supreme Court ruling on retiree health benefits could derail legislative efforts to solve the growing crisis in local police and fire pensions.

 

And as a result, Houston says it may be necessary for the city to seek a dedicated source of revenue to shore up those funds… which are hundreds of millions of dollars in the red.

 

Houston did not speculate on where that revenue might come from… and says nothing is likely to happen until current pension cases make their way through the court system.

Springfield Exploring "Parklets" For Downtown Businesses


The City of Springfield is exploring the development of “parklets” to make more use of outdoor space downtown.

 

The idea is being pioneered by Maldaner’s restaurant on South Sixth downtown, which wants to use two parking spaces right in front of its building to construct additional outdoor dining space.

 

City officials say the deck-like structure will be slightly elevated… and should have the effect of getting traffic to slow down a little as it moves through that area of downtown.

ISP Enacts Emergency Rules to Notify Concealed Carry Applicants Why They're Rejected


Illinois State Police are enacting new “emergency” rules to address ongoing concerns about the process of applying for concealed carry permits.

 

Under the new rules, which are already in effect, anyone whose application is rejected must be notified about the reason why, and told which agency objected to that application.

 

Applicants would then have 10 days to respond.

 

Up until now, applications could be rejected with no reason or other information provided… leading dozens of people to sue over the process.

Rauner Leads Quinn in Capitol Fax Poll


Bruce Rauner continues to hold a healthy lead over Governor Pat Quinn, with less than four months to go till Election Day.

 

A survey commissioned by the Capitol Fax website gives Rauner a 51-to-39 percent edge over Quinn… with a margin of error of plus or minus three-percent.

Houston To Seek Another Term As Springfield Mayor


Despite a pledge in 2011 to serve only one term in office, Springfield Mayor Mike Houston now says he needs four more years to finish the job. 

 

Houston says the city has made a lot of progress… and can’t afford to “go backwards.” He admits he hasn’t been a perfect mayor… and says in hindsight, he could have handled issues like the police file shredding scandal better. 

 

But Houston says he is a proven leader who can keep Springfield on a path to greater success and prosperity.

 

Opponents Rip Houston For Decision To Seek Re-Election


Mayor Mike Houston’s potential opponents are reacting to his decision to seek another term in the mayor’s office. 

 

County auditor Paul Palazzolo had a staffer on hand at Houston’s news conference to distribute a press release that blasted Houston for breaking his pledge to serve just one term. 

 

Alderman Cory Jobe says he's disappointed that Houston broke that promise, and contends many voters supported Houston specifically because of his pledge to serve one term.  Jobe had formed an exploratory committe for mayor… but said earlier his decision might be contingent on Houston’s plans.  Jobe now says he will meet with supporters and will have an announcement soon about his own political plans. 

 

And City Treasurer Jim Langfelder says he’s not surprised by the mayor’s decision… but that it won’t affect his plans to run.

Houston: Tax Hike May Be Needed For Police-Fire Pension Fix


The recent state Supreme Court ruling on state retiree health care could put the brakes on legislative efforts to fix police and fire pensions. 

 

In a live interview on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says the city may wind up having to find a dedicated new revenue source to make up for the shortfall if state lawmakers can’t find a solution that can withstand a constitutional challenge. 

 

Houston did not offer any ideas for where that revenue might come from.

Houston to Announce Political Plans From Council Chambers Today


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston will make an announcement about his political future this morning… one in which he will say that the city cannot afford to get off course or go backwards.

 

That quote is contained in a press release announcing that news conference at the City Council chambers.

 

Houston… who served two terms as mayor in the 1980s… returned to City Hall in 2011, after a campaign in which he had said he would only be a one-term mayor.

 

But more recently, Houston has left the door open, and has recently told multiple audiences that Springfield should “stay the course”… and that no one is better qualified than he is to do that.

Unclear How Gubernatorial Candidates Would React to Possible Pension Reform Ruling


Neither Governor Pat Quinn nor opponent Bruce Rauner appears to have a backup plan for the state budget… at least not one they will discuss publicly… if the current Illinois pension reform law is struck down as unconstitutional.

 

Rauner last week said everyone should just wait to see what the high court does… even though a recent ruling on retiree health benefits appears to directly threaten the legal basis of the pension law.

 

Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan both say the issues surrounding the pension law are different than the ones addressed by the court in the retirees’ case.

Quinn Pushes for Ban of Certain Weapons, Extended Ammunition Magazines


Governor Pat Quinn is once again calling for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines in the state.

 

It’s not the first time the governor has raised the issue, but it has gone nowhere in the General Assembly.

 

But Quinn says continuing deadly gun violence in Chicago is evidence of, quote, “a war being waged on our streets,” and says the easy availability of military-style weapons is making that possible.

 

His bill would allow FOID card holders to keep assault weapons, but they could not sell them, except to family members.

 

It also calls for background checks before a weapon is transferred… except to a family member or at a gun show.

Legislative Committee to Consider Medical Marijuana Rules Tuesday


The move toward the legal use of medical marijuana in Illinois could take a big step forward this week.

 

A legislative committee that creates the rules for implementing a variety of state laws and programs meets Tuesday to consider proposals under the medical marijuana law.

 

If those rules are approved, the state can begin the process of licensing growers and dispensaries, and approving patients to use the drug.

 

That could mean patients will be able to legally obtain pot for treatment of specific illnesses by early next year.

Rauner Says He Followed All Tax Rules, Declines To Discuss ''Fairness'' Of His Tax Strategies


Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner is making no apologies for personal tax strategies that dramatically reduce his overall tax burden. 

 

Rauner was able to avoid paying Social Security or Medicare taxes in 2011 or 2012… despite income of tens of millions of dollars. 

 

He declines to say whether such tax strategies are “fair,” saying he will have more to say about revamping the tax code later.

Good News, Red Flags On Illinois Economic Outlook


Governor Pat Quinn is touting new estimates that predict Illinois will lead the Midwest in economic growth over the next six months. 

 

The Federal Reserve estimates nearly two-and-a-half percent growth in the state through the end of the year… compared to one-and-a-half for Indiana, just over one-and-a-quarter for Wisconsin, and less than one-percent for Missouri.

 

But at the same time, Wall Street has new worries about llinois’s fiscal future after a state Supreme Court ruling last week. 

 

The high court ruling that retiree health insurance plans are protected benefits under the state constitution raises significant questions about the future of the recent pension reform law.  If that law is struck down, Moody’s says that will create severe financial problems that will harm Illinois’s credit rating.

Palazzolo Pledges Commitment To Constituent Outreach If Elected Mayor


Springfield mayoral candidate Paul Palazzolo is vowing to be more closely in touch with city residents if he’s elected. 

 

Palazzolo says he will hold regular office hours in each of the city’s ten wards, to make it easier for residents to get help with problems. 

 

Palazzolo is launching the effort with public get-togethers in his campaign office on South Fifth Street every other Saturday to discuss issues.

Rauner Says Legislative Probe Of Quinn Anti-Violence Program Should Continue


Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner says a legislative panel should proceed with its own investigation of Governor Pat Quinn’s troubled anti-violence program… despite a request from the U.S. Justice Department that lawmakers back off temporarily so they don’t interfere with an ongoing federal criminal investigation. 

 

Rauner says he believes both investigations can go on simultaneously without affecting each other.  Rauner continues to press Quinn to fully disclose everything he knows about misspent money in that program.

 

Rauner spoke to reporters following a brief speech to the American Legion convention Friday at the Prairie Capital Convention Center.

UPDATE: Car Overturns After Accident With Police Cruiser in Downtown Springfield


Traffic is all clear at 4th and Jefferson downtown Springfield after a two car accident caused delays early Friday.

 

Police say a police cruiser involved in the accident did not have their emergency lights activated at time of crash.

 

A civilian vehicle overturned because of the accident.

Police say the incident is still under investigation. Injuries are described as not serious.

 

Stay tuned for more details on this developing story.

Republicans Want Audit Commission To Push Forward With NRI Hearings Despite Justice Department Request


Republican state lawmakers say they want to press ahead with hearings and testimony about Governor Pat Quinn’s much-criticized anti-violence program… despite warnings from federal prosecutors that the move could interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation.

 

The Legislative Audit Commission is scheduled to meet next week to take testimony from former Quinn administration officials about allegations that the program misspent millions of dollars.

 

But the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Springfield has issued subpoenas for documents from some of those same officials.

 

The commission will vote next week on whether to agree to a delay in its proceedings… or to go ahead with its hearings.

Jobe Moving Forward With Chronic Nuisance Ordinance, Gets Support From Other Aldermen


Alderman Cory Jobe has a draft resolution urging Springfield police to gather information for a “chronic nuisance” complaint that Jobe hopes can be used to speed up the closure of the Bel-Aire Motel.

 

And Jobe says at least four other aldermen are supporting his push to turn up the heat on the dilapidated facility.

 

The Houston administration has resisted… saying it would be difficult to convince a judge to evict more than 100 people from the Bel-Aire.

 

But Alderman Joe McMenamin says the nuisance ordinance is specifically written to address the health and safety concerns that exist there.

 

Jobe plans to introduce his resolution next week.

Christian to Appeal Judge's Ruling in Tow Fee Case


The City of Springfield has won a round in its ongoing legal battles with local reporter Calvin Christian.

 

A Sangamon County judge has ruled in favor of the city in Christian’s lawsuit claiming that the fees charged for towing and impounding vehicles are unconstitutional.

 

The judge ruled that the city fees were a reasonable effort to recover costs incurred by the city when it takes control of vehicles from drivers who are arrested.

 

But Christian isn’t giving up… an appeal is in the works, and Christian has submitted a request for records on the number of vehicles that are towed each year, broken down by the race of the driver.

Parsons to Turn Over Financial Records of New Business


The founder of the now-defunct THR and Associates says he will turn over financial records from his new company… which is also in the business of buying and reselling gold, antiques and other collectibles.

 

Jeff Parsons had been ordered to appear in court to answer questions about his finances as part of an ongoing case filed by former THR workers… who are owed millions in back pay and overtime.

 

The State Journal-Register reports Parsons testified that he did return to the same type of business that got THR in trouble… just to provide himself with a source of income.

 

Parsons asked for eight weeks to hire an attorney… but the judge ruled he’s had plenty of time to get his records together.

 

He was ordered to turn over the documents within 30 days, with the next hearing set for August 27th.

Former State Bank of Lincoln Teller Could Get 30 Years for Embezzlement


The former head teller at a bank in Lincoln has admitted that she embezzled around $2 million in a scheme that went on for 17 years.

 

62-year-old Nancy Huskins apparently covered her tracks by participating in audits of the State Bank of Lincoln… during which she would represent that a currency bag contained a certain amount of cash, when in fact it only contained other empty currency bags.

 

Huskins could be sentenced to 30 years behind bars and face $1 million in fines when she’s sentenced in November.

Fire Causes Cosmetic Damage to State Office Building


Carelessly discarded smoking materials may have sparked a blaze that damaged the exterior of a state office building near downtown.

 

Flames climbed up three stories on the outside of the building on West Jefferson that houses part of the Secretary of State’s Office.

 

Only a small number of workers are stationed there, and everyone got out safely.

 

Fire Chief Ken Fustin says the damage appears to be mostly cosmetic.

 

Picture Provided by Twitter user Thespar

Picture Provided by Twitter user Thespar

Young Boys Found After Wondering in Cornfield


Two small boys are OK after wandering into a cornfield and getting lost for more than an hour Thursday.

 

The six- and three-year-old boys may have followed a dog into the field… and then their babysitter couldn’t find them.

 

Officials from various agencies responded, and a state police airplane was deployed to assist in the search.

Thousands Get Same Sex Marriage Licenses in Illinois Since Last Month


More than 5,000 same-sex couples in Illinois are now legally wed since the state’s new marriage law took effect last month.

 

The gay rights group Equality Illinois says nearly 3300 marriage licenses have been issued and around 1700 civil union couples had their status converted to marriage.

 

The group says Sangamon County issued 116 licenses to same-sex couples and converted 79 civil unions.

City Prevails In Calvin Christian Lawsuit Over Towing


The City of Springfield has won a round in court against Calvin Christian. 

 

The Illinois Times reports that a judge has rejected Christian’s claim that the city’s rules for towing vehicles… and assessing hefty fines to get the vehicle back… are unconstitutional. 

 

But Christian apparently isn’t giving up… he’s filed a records request asking for numbers of drivers whose vehicles were towed ni recent years… broken down by the race of the driver.

5,000 Same-Sex Couples Wed Since New Law Took Effect; Around 200 In Sangamon County


More than 5,000 same-sex couples in the state are now legally wed since the state’s new marriage law took effect last month. 

 

The gay rights group Equality Illinois says nearly 3300 marriage licenses have been issued and around 1700 civil union couples had their status converted to marriage. 

 

The group says Sangamon County issued 116 licenses to same-sex couples and converted 79 civil unions.

Fire Breaks Out At State Office Building; Damage Minor


There’s no word yet on the cause of a fire that broke out at a state office building in downtown Springfield Thursday afternoon. 

 

Fire Chief Ken Fustin says it appears the fire started on the outside of the building… and flames traveled up three stories of the structure on West Jefferson, across from the Willard Ice Building.  The damage appears to be mostly cosmetic, according to Fustin.

Ex-Lincoln Bank Teller Pleads Guilty In $2 Million Embezzlement Case


The former head teller at a Lincoln bank has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $2 million over a 17-year period. 

 

62-year-old Nancy Huskins admitted taking the money… and then covering her tracks by misrepresenting bank assets during audits at the State Bank of Lincoln. 

 

Huskins could get 30 years in prison and face a million dollar fine when she is sentenced in November.

 

 

Legislative Commission May Proceed With Investigation Of Quinn Program, Despite Request By Feds To Hold Off


The top Republican on the state’s Legislative Audit Commission is raising concerns about a request from the U.S. Justice Department… asking that the commission postpone its questioning of former Quinn administration officials. 

 

The commission subpoenaed several officials to testify about Governor Pat Quinn’s anti-violence program… but that program is also the apparent target of a possible criminal probe by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Springfield.  

 

Appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Senator Jason Barickman said lawmakers have their own duty to get to the bottom of the controversy.

Jobe Not Backing Away From ''Chronic Nuisance'' Approach To Bel-Aire Mess; Other Aldermen Support Him


Springfield Alderman Cory Jobe says he will push ahead with a resolution calling for use of the city’s chronic nuisance ordinance to hasten the shutdown of the Bel-Aire Motel. 

 

The Houston administration says it’s unprecedented and impractical to use that law to evict dozens of people, many of whom have done nothing wrong.  But Jobe says at least five other aldermen support his effort to utilize every available weapon under the law to close down the facility… which has been plagued by crime and substandard living conditions.

 

Springfield Alderman Joe McMenamin says Mayor Mike Houston and the city’s top lawyer are misreading the city’s chronic nuisance ordinance.  Houston is resisting Jobe’s push to use that ordinance to speed up the closure of the rundown Bel-Aire Motel… saying the law wasn’t really intended to clear out all residents of a large-scale apartment complex. 

 

But McMenamin says the law provides for exactly that.  However, McMenanin also says more needs to be done to find other housing for Bel-Aire residents before the city takes action to shut it down.

Tourism Numbers Still On The Rise In Illinois


Illinois has drawn a record number of tourists for the third consecutive year. 

 

Almost 106 million people traveled to Illinois from other states or other nations last year. 2.2 million were international visitors, a three-percent increase from the previous year.  Leisure travel was up more than five-percent over 2012.

 

The governor's office estimates visitors spent more than $34 billion last year in Illinois, generating nearly $2.6 billion in state and local taxes

Jobe Plans to Use Chronic Nuisance Ordinance to Attempt Crack Down on Bel Aire


A Springfield alderman is ready to try a new tactic in his push to speed up the closure of the Bel-Aire Motel… but Mayor Mike Houston says Alderman Cory Jobe is off the mark.

 

After setting a deadline of next week for more aggressive city action against the rundown residential motel, Jobe says he will introduce a resolution calling for the city to use its chronic nuisance ordinance to start moving residents out and close the Bel-Aire.

 

But Houston and corporation counsel Todd Greenburg say that ordinance is ordinarily used to forcibly evict people engaged in criminal conduct… not to remove dozens of tenants, many of whom have done nothing wrong.

Springfield Man Suing State Police Over FOID Card Appeal


A Springfield man is suing Illinois State Police for denying his application for a Firearm Owners ID card… and then not responding to his request for an appeal.

 

The State Journal-Register reports Donn Malwick’s application was apparently rejected because of a felony conviction for forgery more than 40 years ago… when he was 20 years old.

 

He ultimately received a pardon from Governor Jim Edgar… wiping the felony off his record.

 

Despite that, state police refused to issue a FOID card, and has not responded to an appeal petition filed nine months ago.

Justice Department Requests Legislative Panel Put Hold on NRI Investigation


An Illinois legislative panel may put its investigation of Governor Pat Quinn’s troubled anti-violence program on hold… as a separate federal investigation appears to be picking up steam.

 

The Legislative Audit Commission had subpoenaed several former administration officials to appear at a hearing next week into how and why millions of tax dollars were misspent in the program.

 

But the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Springfield recently subpoenaed emails from many of those same officials as part of an apparent criminal probe of the program.

 

The Justice Department has requested that the commission postpone its questioning of the officials so that it doesn’t interfere with the federal investigation.

Topinka Says Impacts of Tax Hike Expiration Equates to Heart Attack for Budget


A leading Illinois Republican is warning of significant problems ahead if the state’s temporary income tax increase is allowed to lapse as scheduled at the end of this year.

 

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says the lost revenue would cause a… quote… “$2 billion collapse” in the budget, comparing the impact on state finances to a “heart attack.”

 

Topinka says she prefers a more gradual rollback of tax rates to give lawmakers more time to develop and implement spending cuts.

Jobe Pushes Use Of Chronic Nuisance Ordinance As New Weapon Against Bel-Aire


The next step in the saga of the Bel-Aire Motel could be a demand from Springfield aldermen that the city use its chronic nuisance ordinance to come down harder on the building’s absentee owner. 

 

Alderman Cory Jobe says he will introduce an ordinance to that effect next week… at the end of the ten-day deadline he set for more aggressive city action against the rundown residential motel. 

 

Appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Jobe says that ordinance would allow the city to require that residents move out because of the Bel-Aire’s chronic problems with crime and substandard living conditions.

Report: Feds Ask State Lawmakers To Back Off Questioning Of Ex-Officials In NRI Probe


The U.S. Justice Department is asking state lawmakers to back off their plans to question former Quinn administration officials about the governor’s questionable anti-violence program. 

 

Those former officials are due to appear before a legislative panel next week.  But many of those same officials are under scrutiny by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Springfield, which has subpoenaed their emails related to the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. 

 

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the feds are concerned that legislative hearings could interfere with the ongoing federal investigation.

Topinka: Tax Hike Expiration Could Cause Budget ''Collapse''


A top Illinois Republican is warning of serious problems ahead if the state’s temporary income tax increase is allowed to lapse at the end of this year. 

 

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says rolling the tax rate back will cause a… quote… “$2 billion collapse” in the state budget, and says the impact would be the equivalent of a “heart attack” on state finances. 

 

Topinka suggests the rate could be scaled back more gradually… to give lawmakers more time to cut spending.

Several Aldermen Object to NJPA Authorization Proposal


Several Springfield aldermen are raising concerns about Mayor Mike Houston’s attempt to authorize the use of an out-of-state organization to arrange some major city purchases and contracts.

 

The National Joint Powers Alliance was the original basis for the city’s contract with NAPA to provide auto parts for the consolidated city garage… but the city realized after that deal was approved that it did not have legal authorization to use NJPA. Some aldermen fear that letting NJPA handle the bidding process will exclude local vendors.

 

Houston says the arrangement would be primarily used for City Water Light and Power purchases of specialized equipment that local vendors couldn’t provide anyway. The measure goes before the full City Council next week.

IG Consultant Isn't Authorized to Take Complaints


The company that got a $79,000 contract to make recommendations on a new inspector general position for the city of Springfield says it has set up an email account to take whistleblower complaints… but doesn’t have the ability or authority to act on those complaints at the moment.

 

Officials with Hillard Heintze gave an update on their work so far at a special public hearing Tuesday. The company plans to make a formal proposal to the City Council in October.

 

City corporation counsel Todd Greenburg warns that if aldermen try to put the inspector general outside of the mayor’s control, it may require revising the federal consent decree that established the mayor-aldermanic form of government.

Cahnman Wants to Change Ward Map To Keep Enos Park Whole


Just weeks after Springfield aldermen approved a new ward map, one of them wants to change it.

 

Alderman Sam Cahnman wants to revisit his desire to keep the entire Enos Park neighborhood together in his ward. He says Alderman Doris Turner… whose ward would also be affected by that change… does not object.

 

Turner was absent from Tuesday’s meeting… but other aldermen oppose re-opening the ward map after it’s already been approved.

Rauner Will Release 2013 Taxes Before Election


Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner says he will release his 2013 tax returns as soon as they are finalized… and pledges that will happen before Election Day.

 

Governor Pat Quinn and campaign surrogates have been hammering Rauner for releasing incomplete tax information, suggesting the full returns may contain politically embarrassing information about Rauner’s strategies for lowering his tax burden.

 

Rauner says he obtained an extension for filing his 2013 returns but will release the information… and then demanded that Quinn be just as forthcoming with answers about the governor’s controversial anti-violence program, which is being scrutinized by federal prosecutors.

Shakman Filing Calls for Monitoring IDOT Hiring


An anti-patronage crusader is still pushing for a federal monitor to oversee hiring practices at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

 

In a court filing, Michael Shakman disputed Governor Pat Quinn’s contention that such a monitor is unnecessary and would unlawfully interfere with the executive branch’s responsibility for hiring and firing.

 

Shakman says a monitor would not impose hiring decisions… but would review and report on them.

Incoming AFSCME Head Encouraged by Illinois Supreme Court Ruling on Subsidized Health Insurance for Retirees


The incoming head of the largest state employees union says a state Supreme Court ruling last week appears to confirm the union’s view that Illinois’s pension reform law cannot stand.

 

The high court ruled last week that retiree health insurance benefits are protected under the state constitution and cannot be diminished. Roberta Lynch of AFSCME says it should be clear that the pension reform law will face the same legal hurdle.

 

She says the union is willing to work with the state to find a legal resolution to the crisis… but so far, no one has reached out to AFSCME to discuss alternatives.

Libri Says He Plans to Plead Guilty to Seat Belt Violation


It’s a situation many people find themselves in… but what happens when the guy who oversees the court system has to go to court?

 

Sangamon County Circuit Clerk Tony Libri has a date before a judge… after being busted for a seat belt violation during the recent holiday crackdown.

 

Libri admits he was caught dead to rights.

 

He says he normally wears a seat belt, but forgot to buckle up while running errands and got caught.

 

He says he’ll go to court, plead guilty, take his lumps…and ask for no special favors.

Firm Hired To Create City Inspector General Position Not Able To Take Complaints Yet


The company hired to design a new inspector general position for Springfield City Hall says it has set up an email to take whistleblower complaints... but doesn't have the ability or authorization to act on them just yet. 

 

Officials with Hillard Heinze say they've already received one complaint... but say there's not much they can do with it at the moment.  Company executives met with aldermen and the public Tuesday to provide an update on the status of their $79,000 contract with the city. 

 

Officials with the firm say they are continuing to develop recommendations that they expect to present in October.

Incoming AFSCME Head Says New Approach Needed On Pension Crisis


The incoming director of the largest state employees union says an Illinois Supreme Court ruling appears to confirm the union’s view that the state’s recent pension reform law is unconstitutional. 

 

Roberta Lynch of AFSCME Council 31 says it’s too soon to know the full impact of the ruling, but thinks it shows the state will have to find another way out of the pension mess. 

 

She says the union is willing to work with state officials to find a fair solution… but says there has been no recent attempt by state officials to hold talks with the union.

Durbin: Improvements Needed At Presidential Library And Museum


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin… who led the push for federal funding to help build the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum… now says there is room to improve its operations. 

 

Durbin says it appears that interest and enthusiasm about the library and museum have waned in the last decade, and he wants to see that trend reversed.  But Durbin isn’t endorsing any specific plan for the management and oversight of the institution.

Springfield Home Sales, Prices Hit Record In June


Local realtors are celebrating a record month in the Springfield housing market. 

 

There were 470 home sales in June… an all-time high, and a 28-percent increase over June of 2013.  Median home sale prices were also sharply higher, jumping to more than $136,000, another record. 

 

The head of the Capital Area Association of Realtors says after sales were depressed during the harsh winter, they are now rebounding to where they should be.

Circuit Court Clerk Headed To Court; Libri Nabbed For Seat Belt Violation


It’s a situation many people find themselves in… but what happens when the guy who oversees the court system has to go to court? 

 

Sangamon County Circuit Clerk Tony Libri has a date before a judge… after being busted for a seat belt violation during the recent holiday crackdown.  Libri admits he was caught dead to rights.  He says he normally wears a seat belt, but forgot to buckle up while running errands and got caught. 

 

He says he’ll go to court, plead guilty, take his lumps…and ask for no special favors.

Semi Rollover Accident on I-55 Closes Exit 105 Ramp


An I-55 exit ramp is closed at this hour after a semi rollover accident.

 

State police say the driver of that rig was traveling too fast as he entered the ramp at Exit 105 from northbound I-55, causing the semi to overturn.

 

The driver was reportedly not injured, but crews are still working to clear the wreckage from the scene.

 

State police say citations are pending.

Springfield Police Recover around Ten Percent of Stolen Guns Over Past Year


Springfield police say 109 guns were reported stolen in the city over the past 12 months… and only 13 of them have been recovered.

 

But police have seized dozens of other firearms in the city over that same period.

 

According to numbers requested by 970 WMAY News, police seized 146 other firearms between July 1st of last year and June 30th of this year.

 

Those guns may have been recovered during arrests or the execution of search warrants… or may have even been found by citizens and turned over to police.

Chicago Police Don't Have Explanation for Surge in Violence


Chicago police say they don’t have a clear explanation for a surge in violence over the long holiday weekend.

 

More than 80 people were shot… and 14 were killed… in incidents across the city between Thursday and Sunday.

 

Five people were shot by police, including two teenagers who were killed in separate incidents in which they refused orders to drop their weapons.

 

Police superintendent Garry McCarthy blames part of the problem on the continuing prevalence of firearms on Chicago streets… and is calling for tougher penalties for those who violate gun laws.

AP: Rutherford Fires Three Administrators From Treasurer's Office


The Associated Press has learned Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford fired three top administrators after an investigation by the treasurer's inspector general.

 

Letters from Rutherford's office indicate Patrick Carlson, George Daglas and Ashvin Lad were dismissed July 2nd. Each was dismissed for allegedly violating timekeeping policies and falsifying records.

 

Carlson was also accused of violating office rules against workplace harassment.

 

The Treasurer’s office would not provide any details of the allegations against the three.

Lt. Gov. Simon Calls on Rauner to Release Complete 2013 Tax Returns


She’s not on the ticket with Governor Pat Quinn this fall, but Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon is going on the attack against Quinn’s Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner.

 

Simon is calling on Rauner to release his complete 2013 tax returns.

 

Rauner has released partial information from 2011 and 2012… which showed that he paid no Social Security or Medicare taxes either year, despite income in the tens of millions of dollars.

 

Simon says Rauner needs to be transparent and accountable to voters.

 

But Rauner’s campaign says Quinn is just trying to distract attention away from the scandals affecting his administration.

Coroner Identifies Victims of Sunday's I-55 Motorcycle Accident


The two people who were killed in a motorcycle crash on Interstate 55 near Springfield Sunday died of “multiple blunt force traumas.”

 

Sangamon County Coroner Cinda Edwards identifies the victims as 48-year-old Mitchell Bledsoe of Normal and 35-year-old Karla Blake of Colfax.

 

Two helmets were found at the scene, but it’s unclear if Bledsoe and Blake were wearing them at the time of the crash, which occurred when Bledsoe swerved to avoid traffic that was slowing down suddenly because of a separate wreck on I-55.

Durbin Blames Republicans for Impasse in Congress Over Highway Funds


Money for area road projects… including future plans to widen I-55 around Springfield… could be in danger unless Congress can resolve an impasse over highway funds.

 

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin blames House Republicans for refusing to allocate enough money to cover road projects that have already been slated for the current fiscal year… and says that could bring some projects to a halt.

 

And Durbin predicts the impasse could continue in the years ahead without an agreement on new funding sources for the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

 

One idea floated by Durbin is a modified federal motor fuel tax assessed not on the number of gallons consumed… but on the number of miles driven.

Springfield Police Recover More Than 150 Guns Off City Streets In Past 12 Months


Springfield police have pulled more than 150 guns off of city streets over the past 12 months, according to numbers provided to 970 WMAY News. 

 

Of 109 guns reported stolen in the city between July 1st of last year and June 30th of this year, 13 have been recovered. 

 

In addition, the department seized 146 other firearms... including those confiscated during arrests and search warrants, and some that were turned into police after being found by citizens.

Durbin Warns Highway Funding Impasse Could Jeopardize Area Road Projects


The latest clash on Capitol Hill could slow down, or stop, some key highway projects in Illinois and around the country. 

 

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin blames the impasse on House Republicans, who he says are refusing to add money to make up a shortfall in the Federal Highway Trust Fund.  Without that money, Durbin says states will either have to dramatically delay payments to vendors, or close down projects completely until more funding is found.

Victims Of Fatal Motorcycle Crash Identified


The Sangamon County Coroner’s office has identified the two people killed in a motorcycle crash on Interstate 55 near Springfield Sunday. 

 

The motorcycle driver, 48-year-old Mitchell Bledsoe of Normal, died after swerving to avoid traffic that had slowed suddenly because of an unrelated wreck on northbound I-55 approaching Springfield.  His passenger, 35-year-old Karla Blake of Colfax, died later at Memorial Medical Center. 

 

The accident remains under investigation.

Simon Calls On Rauner To Release 2013 Tax Returns


Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon is calling on Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner to release his complete 2013 tax returns. 

 

Rauner has released partial information from 2011 and 2012... which showed that he paid no Social Security or Medicare taxes in either year.  But so far he has not disclosed any information about last year's taxes.  Simon says Rauner needs to be transparent and accountable to voters. 

 

Rauner's camp says Simon's push is just an attempt from Governor Pat Quinn to distract from the scandals plaguing his administration.

Tally Of Dead And Wounded Grows In Chicago After Holiday Weekend


The numbers continue to climb in Chicago, where at least 14 people were killed among 82 people who were shot over the long Fourth of July weekend. 

 

Included in the tally are five people who were shot by police, including a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old who were each shot and killed in separate incidents when they refused police commands to drop their weapons.

Illinois Dems Hold Fundraising Advantage Over Republicans


Overall, Illinois Democrats hold a big fundraising advantage over Republicans, with four months to go until Election Day. 

 

Crain's Chicago Business looked at all the statewide races, legislative contests and state party organizations, and found Democrats with almost twice as much cash on hand as Republicans. 

 

But some GOP candidates are closing the gap... including Bruce Rauner, whose funding has substantially outpaced Governor Pat Quinn's since the March primary.

Effort Underway To Save Bel-Aire's ''Sputnik'' Globe


It may be the only piece of the old Bel-Aire Motel that anyone wants to save. 

 

An online campaign is underway to preserve the "Sputnik," the twinkling globe that has sat on top of the motel's sign since the 1960s.  It once served as a beacon for travelers coming into Springfield on Route 66... and it's still functioning, even though most of the rest of the Bel-Aire has fallen on hard times. 

 

Fans of local history hope to save the "Sputnik" from being lost to the wrecking ball, even if the rest of the Bel-Aire is eventually torn down.

Motorcyclists Dead After I-55 Accident


A motorcyclist and his passenger are dead following a crash on Interstate 55 near Springfield Sunday afternoon.

 

State police say northbound traffic was slowing down because of a separate crash… and the biker had to swerve to avoid traffic that was stopping in front of him. He laid the motorcycle down on the left shoulder, and it came to rest against the median wires.

 

The 48-year-old motorcyclist from Normal was pronounced dead at the scene. The passenger… a 35-year-old woman from Colfax… was found in the median and died later at the hospital.

 

Traffic was backed up for hours on I-55 as a result of those crashes.

Deputies Continue Investigating ATV Accident


Sangamon County deputies are still trying to piece together details about an ATV crash that critically injured a Springfield man.

 

21-year-old Cody Ballard was discovered pinned under an ATV Friday morning, apparently hours after he and a passenger were involved in the crash.

 

Ballard's life-threatening injuries have left him unable to speak with police, and Sheriff Neil Williamson says the female passenger has so far refused to speak with investigators.

 

Williamson says detectives are looking for anyone who may have been with the victims prior to the crash.

Former Illinois Senator Alan Dixon Passes Away


Former U.S. Senator Alan Dixon is being remembered as a dedicated public servant and a devoted advocate for Illinois.

 

Dixon died Sunday at the age of 86. He served two terms in the U.S. Senate before being unseated by Carol Moseley-Braun in the 1992 Democratic primary.

 

Prior to his time in the Senate, Dixon had served as Illinois Secretary of State and Treasurer, and had also served in the General Assembly. Dixon earned the nickname "Al The Pal" for a style that favored accommodation over confrontation.

 

His family says he died at home, one day before his 87th birthday.

 

 

Nine Dead, 60 Wounded in Chicago Over Holiday Weekend


It’s been a deadly holiday weekend in Chicago… with nine people dead and more than 60 people wounded in shootings across the city.

 

At least five of those who were shot were struck by bullets fired by police… including a 16-year-old who was reportedly shot and killed when he refused police commands to drop his own weapon.

 

Despite the deadly toll, authorities say there have still been fewer homicides this year in Chicago than at the same point last year.

Two Dead After I-55 Motorcycle Crash


A motorcycle crash on northbound I-55 near Springfield has killed two people.

 

State police say traffic was slowing down because of a separate accident as the motorcycle approached.  The cyclist swerved off the road and slid onto the left-hand shoulder.  The motorcycle struck the median wires.  The 48-year-old male driver from Normal was pronounced dead at the scene.  His passenger, a 35-year-old female from Colfax, died later at the hospital.

 

Those crashes bottlenecked traffic for hours on northbound I-55 approaching Springfield.

Investigators Looking For More Info About ATV Crash


Sangamon County deputies are still trying to piece together details about an ATV crash that critically injured a Springfield man.

 

21-year-old Cody Ballard was discovered pinned under an ATV Friday morning, apparently hours after he and a passenger were involved in the crash.  Ballard's life-threatening injuries have left him unable to speak with police, and Sheriff Neil Williamson says the female passenger has so far refused to speak with investigators.

 

Williamson says detectives are looking for anyone who may have been wth the victims prior to the crash.

Former U.S. Senator Alan Dixon Dead At 86


Former U.S. Senator Alan Dixon is being remembered as a dedicated public servant and a devoted advocate for Illinois.

 

Dixon died Sunday at the age of 86.  He served two terms in the U.S. Senate before being unseated by Carol Moseley-Braun in the 1992 Democratic primary.  Prior to his time in the Senate, Dixon had served as Illinois Secretary of State and Treasurer, and had also served in the General Assembly.

 

Dixon earned the nickname "Al The Pal" for a style that favored accommodation over confrontation.  His family says he died at home, one day before his 87th birthday.

Authorities Investigate ATV Crash That Critically Injured Springfield Man


Sangamon County authorities are still investigating an ATV crash that left a Springfield man with life-threatening injuries. 

 

21-year-old Cody Ballard may have been pinned under that vehicle for hours before authorities found him Friday morning.  Police were called after a woman who had been with him and was apparently also injured in the crash came to a house on Archer Elevator Road early Friday seeking help.

Emails Subpoenaed By Feds Investigating Quinn Anti-Violence Program


A federal grand jury has subpoenaed emails from five officials connected to Governor Pat Quinn’s troubled anti-violence program. 

 

The subpoenas… issued in mid-May from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Springfield… are the latest indication that the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative remains an explosive issue for Quinn’s re-election prospects.

 

Suspect In I-39 Rest Stop Killing Captured In Wisconsin


Police in Wisconsin have captured a Rockford man who was being sought for two murders… including the killing of a Monticello woman at a rest stop along Interstate 39. 

 

Authorities say they spotted Terence Doddy driving that woman’s stolen car on the Illinois side of the state line.  Aerial surveillance tracked him into Wisconsin, where that high-speed chase ended when Doddy crashed into some trees.

Supreme Court Favors Retirees In Suit Over Health Insurance Costs; Decision Cast Doubt On Pension Reform Law


The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled in favor of public sector retirees who sued over a state law requiring them to start paying for health care benefits that they used to get for free. 

 

In a six-to-one decision, the high court held that health insurance coverage is a benefit that cannot be reduced or impaired under the Illinois Constitution. 

 

That decision could also signal big problems ahead for the pension reform law approved late last year, since it also reduces benefits that appear to be protected under the language of the state constitution.  The Supreme Court ruling says that when there is doubt about the effects of a law that changes pension benefits, it should be resolved in favor of pensioners.

Jobe Gives Mayor 10 Days to Shutdown Bel Aire Motel


A Springfield alderman wants more aggressive action on a notorious city eyesore… but Mayor Mike Houston says the problem can’t be resolved that quickly.

 

Alderman Cory Jobe issued a statement Wednesday giving Houston 10 business days to close the Bel-Aire Motel and start condemnation proceedings.

 

Jobe says if that deadline isn’t met, he will introduce an ordinance before the City Council to make it happen.

 

But a spokesman for the mayor says there are major legal hurdles that would have to be cleared. He says Houston has been in talks with the lawyer for the Bel-Aire’s absentee owner, and that the city continues to issue citations for numerous building code violations.

 

But Jobe says that approach is ineffective.

Two Springfield Cops, and SPD, Recognized for DUI Enforcement


A Springfield cop is being honored as number one in the state… when it comes to writing tickets for driving under the influence.

 

Officer Timothy Jenkins wrote 182 tickets for DUI in 2013, more than any other law enforcement officer in the state. Another Springfield officer, Robert Jones, was ranked 6th statewide, with 128 tickets.

 

Overall, the Springfield Police Department was 4th among around 700 law enforcement agencies in Illinois, according to rankings from the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists.

Millions in Federal Funds to Spot Drunk Driving, Cycling and Boating


State officials are issuing the usual holiday warnings against drinking and driving… no matter what type of vehicle you’re operating.

 

Shannon Alderman with IDOT says a million dollars in federal funds is being used for expanded police patrols… targeting DUI, especially in the late night hours.

 

But he says there will also be a focus on impaired motorcyclists, who often tend to be older and who are more likely to commit their offenses in the late afternoon or early evening.

 

Meanwhile, the Department of Natural Resources says it will be on the lookout for drunk boaters.

State Officials Warn of Health Hazards for Independence Day Weekend


The Fourth of July weekend could be hazardous to your health. Numerous state agencies are issuing reminders of the potential dangers that could go along with your holiday fun.

 

State health officials advise taking precautions against sunburn and heat stroke… tick and mosquito bites… and even food poisoning from family picnics and potlucks.

 

The state fire marshal’s office is putting out the word that most fireworks are both illegal in Illinois and carry a high risk of injury.

 

And DCFS is urging parents to protect their children from the risk of drowning while at the pool or beach.

Toddler Dies Two Weeks After Falling Into Above-Ground Pool


A Springfield toddler who fell into an above-ground pool last month has died.

 

The State Journal-Register reports Teshonn Wilson was pronounced brain-dead late last week, almost two weeks after he was found in that pool at a residence on Griffiths Avenue.

 

An autopsy performed this week indicates the death was accidental.

 

At least eight children drowned in separate incidents across Illinois over the past two months.

Former Governor Ryan Opens Up for Interviews, Won't Talk About Corruption Trial


Former Governor George Ryan is talking more about his career and legacy, and even his life behind bars. But he is refusing to answer questions about the corruption trial that sent him to prison for years.

 

Ryan granted a series of interviews this week, marking the end of his supervised release after being let out of federal prison last year.

 

Ryan says he prays every day for the six Willis children… whose deaths in a fiery car crash triggered the investigation into the selling of illegal drivers licenses in the secretary of state’s office under Ryan.

 

But Ryan says he is not responsible for their deaths. He also says prison guards made life difficult for him behind bars because they were unhappy that he cleared Illinois’s death row.

 

However, Ryan says he is done talking about the charges that sent him to prison.

Quinn Camp Slams Rauner On Taxes


Governor Pat Quinn’s campaign is trying to make an issue out of opponent Bruce Rauner’s taxes.

 

A campaign press release claims Rauner, quote, “gamed the system” to reduce his tax burden.  The Chicago Tribune says Rauner used legal tax strategies to avoid paying any Social Security or Medicare taxes in 2012… even though he had an income of over $53 million that year.

 

Quinn is calling on Rauner to release complete tax returns for the past three years… something that Rauner has so far declined to do.

State Issues Multiple Warnings On July 4th Dangers


It wouldn’t be a holiday weekend without a reminder from state transportation officials to straighten up and drive right. 

 

IDOT is issuing its standard reminder of increased police patrols… looking in particular for people driving cars or motorcycles while under the influence.  Last year an average of more than four people per day died in traffic accidents over the long 4th of July weekend.

 

Many other state agencies are also issuing warnings about the potential dangers linked to the Independence Day holiday. 

 

The state fire marshal is warning of the risk of fireworks injuries.  State health officials are urging precautions against sunburn, ticks and mosquitoes, and food poisoning from family picnics.  And DCFS is telling parents to take precautions to protect their children from drowning while at the pool or beach.

Jobe Seeks Fast Action To Condemn Bel-Aire; Houston Responds


A Springfield alderman says time’s up for the building that has become the symbol of blight and decay in the city. 

 

Alderman Cory Jobe says Mayor Mike Houston should act immediately to close down the Bel-Aire Motel and have the property condemned.  And Jobe says if the city doesn’t do it within the next 10 business days, he will introduce an ordinance to make it happen. 

 

Jobe says repeatedly citing the residential motel’s absentee owner for building code violations isn’t accomplishing anything.  He says he will work with the city and state to find a new place to live for the Bel-Aire’s residents.

 

But Mayor Mike Houston’s office says it’s been working for a long time to get the Bel-Aire Motel shut down… and says there’s no way to do it in the time frame demanded by Jobe. Houston’s spokesman says the mayor has been in talks with the Bel-Aire’s lawyers and continues to work through the courts on the situation… but says that legal process takes time.

Mayor Vetoes Zoning Change for Two Halfway Homes


Mayor Mike Houston has vetoed a zoning change that would have allowed a halfway house to keep operating in the location where it has been for years.

 

Houston says the rehab home for recent parolees does not fit with the commercial and residential properties in that area. Some aldermen say the veto will harm a facility that has been well run and provides a valuable service.

 

But it’s unclear if the votes are there on the City Council to override the mayor.

Aldermen Approve Comcast Franchise Agreement Extension


Springfield aldermen are not ready to pull the plug on Comcast yet.

 

Aldermen have approved another extension of the cable company’s franchise with the city.

 

That will allow more time for completion of an audit that could determine if the city is getting all of the compensation it is owed under the agreement.

 

But at the same time, aldermen say they want to pursue other options to provide more competition for Comcast… including the possibility that City Water Light and Power could use its own fiber optic network to give customers an alternative.

Quinn Defends Shakeup at IDOT


Governor Pat Quinn admits he wasn’t happy to learn that the stepdaughter of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider may have benefited from questionable hiring practices at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

 

But he insists that Schneider’s resignation this week was voluntary… and that she was not forced out.

 

Schneider departs the agency next week, and Quinn has selected the head of the state Veterans Affairs Department to replace her.

 

He says Erica Borggren can do what needs to be done at IDOT… even though she does not have direct transportation experience.

Rauner Uses Accounting Strategies to Reduce Tax Rate


Despite an income of more than $53 million in 2012, Republican Bruce Rauner was able to dramatically reduce his effective tax rate through a variety of accounting strategies… according to an analysis by the Chicago Tribune.

 

The Tribune analysis says that Rauner was able to classify a substantial amount of income as capital gains… which is taxed at less than half the rate of standard income at that level.

 

He also claimed millions in losses in the regular business income category, allowing him to pay no Social Security or Medicare taxes in 2011 and 2012.

 

The Tribune analysis notes that the tactics are all permitted under the current tax code.

Hoelzer Hasn't Given Up On Washington Park Dog Park Idea


The financial backer of a proposed dog park for a new park in southwest Springfield says she hasn’t given up on building a similar site within Washington Park.

 

Dr. Karen Hoelzer shifted plans for the dog park to the planned Barker Park after some people raised objections to the original Washington Park proposal. But Hoelzer says there’s interest in both locations… and she hopes that both might someday become reality.

 

In the meantime, Hoelzer is asking for the public’s help with an online contest that could provide a $100,000 prize toward the Barker Park project. Anyone can cast votes through the website petsafe.net.

Governor Signs Bill To Allow Election Day Registration


Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation that will allow voters to register to vote on Election Day… and to expand early voting opportunities prior to that. 

 

Quinn says the bill meets his goal to make voting as easy as possible… but Republicans call it a cynical attempt to drive up Democratic turnout in November. 

 

Sangamon County officials have said they will comply with the law… even though they expect it to add to the cost of the November election.

 

Quinn: IDOT Secretary Resigned Voluntarily


Governor Pat Quinn says IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider resigned voluntarily… and was not forced out. 

 

But Quinn is still releasing few other details of Schneider’s departure… amid criticism that a number of department employees, including her stepdaughter, got jobs or promotions outside of the usual hiring rules. 

 

Quinn has named state Veterans Affairs director Erica Borggren to replace Schneider.

Dog Park Backer Not Abandoning Washington Park Idea


The benefactor who hopes to create a dog park within the planned Barker Park development at the south end of Springfield hasn’t abandoned her original plan. 

 

Doctor Karen Hoelzer hopes it might still be possible to also create a dog park within Washington Park… even though the idea has been temporarily sidelined amid concerns that it could be too disruptive to other park users. 

 

In the meantime, Hoelzer is asking the public to help with online voting that could secure a $100,000 prize toward the Barker Park project.  The website is petsafe.net.

Blood Bank Seeks Donations, While Food Bank Gets A Major One


The call is going out for blood donors… as local officials face an all-too-common summer problem. 

 

Vacations and other activities mean that blood donations are down… while holiday travel may increase the risk of accidents that would create a greater demand for blood.  The Central Illinois Community Blood Center says there is a particular need for type O-negative, which can be given to patients in need of any blood type.

 

Meanwhile,  the Central Illinois Foodbank is starting the second half of the year with a big infusion of food and funds.  Horace Mann Insurance has donated more than $9,000 in cash… in addition to the food raised during a two-week food drive among company employees. 

 

The total effort is equivalent to more than 74,000 pounds of food… a record amount for the annual Horace Mann drive.  The food will help stock shelters and pantries across Central Illinois.

IDOT Director Stepping Down, Reasons Unclear


There’s been a shakeup at the top of the Illinois Department of Transportation… but no one is saying why.

 

Ann Schneider has submitted her resignation as transportation secretary, effective next week. No reason was given for her departure.

 

She has been under fire recently after questions arose about whether her stepdaughter and other IDOT employees may have benefited from hiring practices that appeared to circumvent state patronage rules.

 

Governor Pat Quinn has named state Veterans Affairs Secretary Erica Borggren to replace Schneider.

Quinn and SEIU Say They'll Fight to Protect Workers After Supreme Court Rules Against Them


Governor Pat Quinn says he’s disappointed in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibits requiring home healthcare workers to pay “fair share’ union fees if they don’t wish to join the union.

 

Both Quinn and SEIU Healthcare say they will fight to protect workers from any adverse effects of the ruling… but don’t say what steps they will take to do so.

 

The lead plaintiff in Harris v. Quinn tells 970 WMAY that she simply wants to provide care for her son in their home without interference from a union… while union officials say their representation has improved pay and training for those home workers, and say that could be jeopardized by Monday’s ruling.

 

The 5-4 decision only applies to home healthcare providers… and not to public sector workers across the board.

Bishop Paproki Reacts to Hobby Lobby Ruling


Springfield’s Catholic Bishop says another U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday could open the door for businesses to refuse to provide services to married same-sex couples if doing so would violate the owners’ religious beliefs.

 

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki is praising that 5-4 ruling in the case brought by Hobby Lobby, which objected to federal mandates requiring the company to cover various types of contraception in its employee health plans.

 

Paprocki says it’s a victory for religious freedom… and sets the stage for court fights on other such issues of conscience.

 

Paprocki will lead a prayer rally in defense of religious liberty today at noon in front of the Statehouse at 2nd and Capitol.

Quinn Announces Additional Budget Cuts, Intends to Sell State Planes


Governor Pat Quinn has signed the new state budget… after making some minor changes to it.

 

Quinn used his line item veto to cut $250 million that had been set aside for renovations at the State Capitol.

 

The governor also announced that he has ordered the state to sell 9 of its fleet of 21 airplanes… seven of which are maintained by IDOT and two which belong to Illinois State Police.

 

The modest cuts did not impress Republicans.

 

GOP nominee for governor Bruce Rauner says the budget still represents Quinn’s “broken promises” to taxpayers.

 

And Republican treasurer candidate Tom Cross says the budget is unbalanced and unconstitutional… and vows to sue over it if he’s elected this fall.

Palazzolo: City Needs New Long-Range Plan


A candidate for Springfield mayor says it’s time to update the city’s long-range plan.

 

Paul Palazzolo says the current city plan was put together in the year 2000… and hasn’t had a serious review since 2007.

 

He says if elected he will put a team together to craft a new plan with an eye toward job creation and economic development.

 

But Palazzolo says he hasn’t decided yet if Springfield needs a full-time city planner. Paul O’Shea currently serves on a contractual basis as “planning and design coordinator” for the city.

Longtime WMAY Listener and Caller Bill Kelty Passes Away


He became known to hosts and listeners simply as “caller Bill.”

 

For years, Bill Kelty was a fixture on 970 WMAY, a regular caller whose distinctive voice and unique insights made him a radio celebrity in his own right.

 

Kelty died Sunday morning at Memorial Medical Center… he was 70 years old.

 

Private family services are planned, but memorial gifts can be made to the Animal Protective League’s Waggin’ Tails Animal Shelter on Taintor Road.

 

Watch video of Bill visiting the studio during a 970 WMAY program from a few years ago below:

 

 

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