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September 30, 2014, 11:01 pm
970 WMAY News Archives for 2014-09

Hope Institute Director On Leave; DCFS Halts New Admissions To Springfield-Based Agency


The director of Springfield’s Hope Institute is on administrative leave… and the residential facility for developmentally disabled people is not being allowed to accept any new admissions for the time being. 

 

DCFS has halted new admissions to Hope because the agency has reportedly been slow in providing information to the state about the progress of residents. 

 

A Hope Institute spokesman won’t discuss the reasons Karen Foley was placed on leave, but says the school is implementing a new online system to transmit info to DCFS more quickly.

Springfield-Chicago Flights Back On Track; Airport Assesses Losses From Disruption


Flights between Springfield and Chicago are nearly back to normal in the aftermath of last week’s air traffic disruptions. 

 

Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport director Mark Hanna says none of Tuesday’s scheduled arrivals or departures had been cancelled… although some were running late. 

 

Now the next step for the airport is to calculate the financial losses it suffered because of the multiple cancelled flights since last Friday.  Hanna says the airport may ask Congress for federal aid to recover some of its lost revenues related to the security breach at that FAA center.

McFarland Questions Need For Metal Detectors At High Schools


A Springfield school board member is raising doubts about the need for metal detectors at the city’s high schools. 

 

Scott McFarland says the schools are safe… despite two incidents this school year of students bringing guns into high schools.  And he says the metal detectors could create logjams at school entrances that could pose other safety problems for students. 

 

McFarland… who announced this week that he is running for City Council… says he will keep an open mind when the school board discusses metal detectors next week.

IHSA To Boycott Legislative Hearing


The Illinois High School Association is boycotting a legislative hearing this week into the organization’s finances. 

 

Some lawmakers are demanding more transparency from an association that has tight control over most sanctioned athletic events at high schools around the state.  But IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman says he’s been told the association won’t be allowed to testify or call its own witnesses at that hearing on Friday, so he's skipping the event.

Manar Accuses Audit Commission Of Grandstanding In NRI Investigation


A state legislative commission will resume its hearings next week into Governor Pat Quinn’s controversial anti-violence program… but at least one commission member predicts the hearing will be mostly grandstanding with very little in the way of productive solutions. 

 

Democratic State Senator Andy Manar says the Legislative Audit Commission’s job is to recommend policy changes to prevent future problems like the alleged misuse of money in the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.  But he says the commission has been acting more like a team of criminal investigators… which he says is not its job.

 

Manar appeared live Tuesday in the Newsmaker Spotlight on the News/Talk 970 WMAY News Feed.

 

Urban Flooding To Be Subject Of Public Hearing In October


A public hearing on a big local problem… urban flooding… is on the agenda for October… which is National Community Planning Month. 

 

The Regional Planning Commission says that hearing on October 23rd at the Sangamon County Building will feature an expert who can offer ideas on how to reduce flooding in areas like downtown Springfield. 

 

The commission is also offering a downloadable activity book for kids to help spur their interest in their communities and the need for proper planning.

Quinn Touts Affordable Care Act Numbers


Governor Pat Quinn is touting what he calls the success story of the Affordable Care Act, one year after it was implemented. 

 

Quinn says more than 685,000 Illinoisans now have insurance that didn’t have it a year ago.  More than two-thirds of that total was signed up under the expanded Medicaid program, but more than 200,000 people purchased policies through the health insurance exchanges.

Springfield School Board Member Sets Sights On City Council


A Springfield school board member says he can do more to help city schools, and neighborhoods, by serving on the City Council instead. 

 

Scott McFarland has launched his campaign for the open seat in Ward 4.  He made the announcement Monday at a North End shopping plaza where several of the available retail spaces are vacant. 

 

McFarland says he will work for more economic development and infrastructure improvement for the North End… including expanded use of TIF districts to fund that effort.  But McFarland says he will also seek to have a portion of TIF funds rebated back to the school district.

 

Business Owners Generally Optimistic About Local Economic Outlook


Springfield-area business owners continue to be gradually more optimistic about prospects for the local economy. 

 

The latest Economic Outlook Survey conducted by the University of Illinois Springfield finds a six-point gain in positive expectations for the next 12 months.  Only one in five business owners expect the local economy to get worse in the coming year. 

 

Business owners point to the quality of health care locally as the biggest asset for doing business in Sangamon County… while “total state taxes on business” is seen as the biggest liability.

 

 

Durbin, Oberweis Meet, Clash On Issues Including Guns


A rare joint appearance by the major party candidates for U.S. Senate highlights the sharp differences between them. 

 

In a conversation before the Chicago Tribune editorial board, Democratic incumbent Dick Durbin and Republican challenger Jim Oberweis clashed early and often.  The two split on issues like background checks for all gun purchases, including those at gun shows and on the Internet. 

 

Durbin says it would reduce crime, but Oberweis doubts that… and says the checks raise fears about a federal database of gun owners.

 

Legislative Hearings On Anti-Violence Program Can Proceed


An Illinois legislative commission has a green light to proceed with its own hearings into Governor Pat Quinn’s anti-violence program and allegations that it misspent millions of tax dollars. 

 

Those hearings had been put on hold while federal prosecutors in Springfield conducted their own investigation.  But the committee chairs say U.S. Attorney James Lewis has told them they can proceed with their hearings, tentatively scheduled to start October 8th in Chicago. 

 

Former top Quinn administration staffers could be called to testify about the program…less than a month before Election Day.

Manar, Colleagues Spar Over School Funding Reform


Some Illinois lawmakers are squabbling openly about a school funding reform plan. 

 

State Senator Andy Manar’s bill would require most state education dollars to be allocated on the basis of need… which would take funding away from wealthier districts and shift it to poorer ones.  The bill has hit a roadblock in the House, where members representing those upscale districts are trying to derail the legislation. 

 

Manar says those opponents shouldn’t pretend that they care about fairness in school funding.  But Representative Ron Sandack says lawmakers need to find a different approach that doesn’t, quote, “crush suburban schools.”

Ball-Chatham Schools Reject Request To Remove Controversial Graphic Novel From Reading List


The Ball-Chatham school board has unanimously rejected a parent’s request to eliminate a graphic novel from the approved Glenwood High School reading list. 

 

The book… “Persepolis”… is author Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical account of growing up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran.  The book is critically-acclaimed, but is also controversial because of graphic images and themes. 

 

The State Journal-Register reports that a parent complained about the tone and images of the book, but school board members agreed with principal Jim Lee that it’s OK to present challenging material to students.

 

Not Many Takers For State Airplanes


An attempt to sell off half the state’s fleet of airplanes isn’t finding many takers. 

 

Governor Pat Quinn’s administration has put eight planes and one helicopter up for sale in an online auction, to reduce the cost of maintaining the fleet. 

 

But the Quad-City Times reports only two of the aircraft sold Sunday… the two cheapest, going for around $65,000 each.  More expensive planes, including one with an estimated value of more than $2 million, got no bids.

Springfield School Board Member Giving Up Seat To Run For Alderman


A Springfield school board member says he thinks can accomplish more… for schools and for the rest of the community… as a city alderman. 

 

Scott McFarland has announced that he will seek the Ward Four seat being vacated by Frank Lesko, who is running for city clerk. 

 

McFarland says one of the most important issues is to stabilize finances at City Water Light and Power… and says everything should be on the table, from budget cuts to the possibility of rate increases, but only as a last resort.

Economic Outlook Positive Among Local Business Owners


Most Springfield business owners think the local economy will get better in the next year… or at least that it won’t get any worse. 

 

The latest Economic Outlook Survey of local companies has been released, and it shows more than a third of those surveyed expect economic growth in the coming year… but more than 40-percent only think the economy will stay the same.  Just 20-percent are predicting economic declines over the next 12 months.

 

Manar Pushes Back Against Attempt To Derail School Funding Revamp


State Senator Andy Manar is fighting back against efforts to water down his school funding reform bill. 

 

Senate Bill 16 would allocate most state education dollars on the basis of need… which would divert money away from wealthier school districts and toward poorer ones.  It has already passed the Senate, but has run into objections in the House from lawmakers representing those wealthier districts. 

 

Manar says his bill is a move toward “fundamental fairness”… and says those who oppose his bill should stop pretending that they want a more fair system.

Old Charge Resurfaces In Congressional Race


As Election Day gets closer, more dirt is coming out about some of the candidates in the November races. 

 

The Huffington Post reports that a check of records about state lawmaker and congressional candidate Mike Bost reveals he was arrested and stood trial for shooting a dog after the animal bit his 4-year-old daughter.  Police reports on the 1986 incident say Bost shot the beagle while it was penned up in a neighbor’s yard… however, Bost was acquitted of the charge by a Southern Illinois jury. 

 

Bost is challenging Democratic incumbent Bill Enyart in the 12th Congressional District.

 

Durbin, Oberweis Duel Over Guns


The candidates for U.S. Senate have many disagreements… and most were on display when the two met before the Chicago Tribune editorial board Monday. 

 

Democrat Dick Durbin favors universal background checks for all gun purchases, including those at gun shows and elsewhere.  But Republican Jim Oberweis opposes the idea, citing fears that it could lead to a federal database of gun owners and expressing doubt that the checks would really reduce crime.

 

Mother Convicted In Clinton Lake Drownings Fights For Custody Of New Kids


The woman who spent five years in prison for her role in the drowning deaths of her three children in Clinton Lake is now out of prison… and mother to three more children. 

 

But the Bloomington Pantagraph reports the state took custody of the children of Amanda Hamm… who is now married and goes by the name Amanda Ware… because of her previous child endangerment charge. 

 

Ware and her husband are now fighting in court to have the children… ages 4, 2 and six months… returned to them.

Durbin Wants Security Review After Arson Fire Disrupts Flights Across U.S.


Friday’s arson fire at an air traffic control center near Chicago is still having an effect on flights around the Midwest. 

 

And U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says the incident has exposed a vulnerability in the system that is designed to safely coordinate thousands of flights in crowded airspace every day. 

 

Although Friday’s fire appears to be the work of a disgruntled employee – and not related to terrorism -- Durbin says he and other senators will ask for a security review of FAA practices to prevent future sabotage that could cripple air travel around the country.

 

 

Callis Blasts Davis On Minimum Wage, Social Security


The challenger in the 13th Congressional District is attacking incumbent Rodney Davis for his stance on the minimum wage and Social Security. 

 

Democrat Ann Callis says Davis has voted against increasing the minimum wage, a position which she says hurts women and working families.  Callis says raising the minimum wage will give the poorest people more buying power, and would bolster the economy. 

 

Callis also accuses Davis of supporting a GOP plan to privatize Social Security.  But when asked how she would improve the solvency of entitlement programs, Callis said there should be a bipartisan panel to make recommendations for the future of Social Security and Medicare.

 

Suspect Arrested In Shooting At Weekend Cookout


Springfield police have made an arrest in a weekend shooting at a neighborhood cookout. 

 

The State Journal-Register reports 39-year-old Jermel Oneal has been charged with attempted first-degree murder.  He’s accused of shooting a man in the face when an argument broke out during that cookout outside an apartment building on West Capitol Avenue. 

 

The victim… whose name has not been released… is reportedly in critical condition.

Obama To Campaign For Quinn This Week


President Obama will travel to Illinois this week to campaign for Governor Pat Quinn. 

 

Details of the President’s appearances with Quinn haven’t been announced yet, but Obama is expected to be in Chicago Wednesday night and Thursday. 

 

First Lady Michelle Obama is also scheduled to campaign in Illinois for the governor early next month.

Route 66 Festival Closes Out Successful Weekend Run


Organizers say this year’s International Route 66 Mother Road Festival may turn out to be the biggest yet.

 

Exceptional weather was one key factor in the big turnout for the show… which drew hundreds of classic cars from across the U.S. and Canada. 

 

This was the 13th year for the downtown street festival, which wrapped up Sunday afternoon.

Springfield Can Still Enforce Ban On Downtown Panhandling


Springfield can continue to enforce its ordinance prohibiting panhandling on downtown streets. 

 

A federal appeals court this week rejected a request to block enforcement of the law while a legal challenge is pending.  Two panhandlers say the city ordinance violates their right of free speech. 

 

That lawsuit is still active, despite the refusal of the appeals court to issue an injunction in the case.

Nine-Year Sentence In First Local Drug-Induced Homicide Case


A Springfield man has been sentenced to nine years in prison on a charge of drug-induced homicide. 

 

29-year-old Gary Clark supplied the heroin that a New Berlin man later injected, causing a fatal overdose.

 

The State Journal-Register reports that Clark is the first person to be charged in Sangamon County with homicide for providing drugs that cause another person’s death.

Bond Set At $500K For Child Porn Suspect


Bond is set at $500,000 for a Capital Area Career Center custodian accused of downloading thousands of child pornography images. 

 

Prosecutors say some of the pictures linked to Jacob Stark depict children under the age of 9... and some show children directly engaged in sex acts.

 

If Stark is able to post bond, he will be prohibited from having contact with children and won’t be allowed to use computers or cell phones.

Flight Schedules Returning To Normal After Chicago Disruptions


Most weekend flights should be back on schedule at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport… after Friday’s disruptions caused by an arson fire at an air traffic control center near Chicago. 

 

That blaze grounded flights at O’Hare and Midway Airports, and caused the cancellation of most of Friday’s flights between Springfield and Chicago. 

 

Officials still recommend that you call ahead or check online before heading out to the airport.

UPDATE: Missing Woman Found


UPDATE: A 73-year-old woman has been found after her family reported her missing.  Nancy Kaye had boarded a flight from Dallas to Springfield… but then relatives expecting to meet her could not locate her. 

 

A State Police missing persons advisory went out Friday afternoon… but a half-hour later, police reported that she had been located in Athens.

 

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

 

ORIGINAL STORY: Police are looking for help in finding a missing 73-year-old Springfield woman.

Nancy Kaye is described as Caucasian, approximately 5'1 and 110 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. Officials say that Kaye boarded an American Airlines´╗┐ flight in Dallas and has not been seen or heard from since.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Springfield Police Department or Illinois State Police.

Air Traffic Disruption In Chicago Affects Springfield Travelers


A fire at an air traffic control center near Chicago has caused headaches for some air travelers to and from Springfield. 

 

Several United Express flights from Springfield to Chicago O’Hare were cancelled Friday… as were at least some of the inbound flights from Chicago. [One inbound flight was still scheduled to arrive in Springfield late Friday evening.]

 

Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport director Mark Hanna says all weekend flights are listed as running and on schedule right now.  Hundreds of flights at O’Hare and Midway were cancelled or delayed after that fire… which authorities say was intentionally set.

 

To learn more about the status of flights from Springfield to Chicago, go to the United Airlines website or visit flyspi.com.

Ex-Office Manager For Chatham Fire District Pleads Guilty In Embezzlement Case


There’s been a guilty plea in yet another local embezzlement case. 

 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says the former office manager for the Chatham Fire Protection District had admitted taking more than $50,000 in department funds for personal use.  Dawn Sanchez wrote checks to herself from the fire protection district accounts.  She also used the district’s credit and debit cards to buy money orders that she then deposited in her own accounts. 

 

She could face 20 years in prison and a million dollar fine when she’s sentenced in January.

CACC Custodian Faces Child Pornography Charges


A custodian at the Capital Area Career Center is charged with multiple counts of downloading and possessing child pornography… and investigators say it appears he used a modified computer at the school to do so.

 

26-year-old Jacob Stark of Chatham was arrested early Thursday after authorities executed a search warrant at the CACC.

 

Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office says Stark was the biggest trader of child porn currently under investigation by the state… with more than 14,000 files allegedly traced to Stark.

 

Officials say Stark did not have direct contact with students at the career center, and insist no children there were in danger.

Police Continue to Investigate Fatal Shooting of 17-year-old


Springfield police still have no one in custody in the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old and the wounding of another man Wednesday night.

 

Officers responding to a call on Ladley Court… in the Lake Victoria subdivision… found 17-year-old Deandre Atkinson with multiple gunshot wounds.

 

He died a short time later at Memorial Medical Center.

 

The 18-year-old is expected to recover from his wounds.

 

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call city police or Crimestoppers.

Village of Sherman Paying in Settlement With Veteran Police Officer


The village of Sherman is paying big bucks to end its efforts to discipline a veteran police officer.

 

The village had taken action against Officer Phil Brown, accusing him of multiple offenses, including mishandling of a firearm and speeding in his squad car.

 

But the union representing Brown accused Mayor Trevor Clatfelter of a vendetta against Brown, who had spoken out against a new police contract. After several lawsuits and unfair labor practice complaints, the village has now settled the issue.

 

Brown will keep his job but serve a one-week unpaid suspension. But the village is paying $50,000 to the union’s attorneys… in addition to its own $67,000 legal bill.

 

And it’s paying another $5,000 directly to the union… money which the union says is going directly to Brown.

Northbound I-55 Work at Stevenson Drive Exit Starts Monday


You’ve seen the long delays and frequent accidents on a stretch of southbound Interstate 55 around Springfield during a road construction project over the last couple of weeks.

 

Starting Monday, drivers in the northbound lanes will get their turn.

 

A similar project to lengthen exit ramps at the Stevenson Drive exit will require reducing traffic on northbound 55 to one lane… and the closure of the ramp from the northbound lanes onto Stevenson.

 

But the southbound work should be wrapping up by Monday.

 

The construction work is expected to stretch into early October.

Unemployment Rate in Springfield Remains Steady


Springfield’s jobless rate in August held steady compared to July… but remains tied for the lowest in the state among major Illinois cities.

 

Unemployment was at 6.5% locally last month. Compared to the same time a year ago, unemployment was lower in every one of the state’s metropolitan areas, and in most cases is at six- or seven-year lows.

Report: A Dozen Rauner-Connected Businesses Have Gone Bankrupt


At least a dozen companies connected to Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner have gone bankrupt, according to a review of records by the Lee newspapers.

 

The report looked at hundreds of companies created or overseen by Rauner’s venture capital firm GTCR.

 

One of those bankrupt companies is now involved in a trial in Florida alleging the company fraudulently tried to avoid liability for a series of nursing home deaths.

 

The Rauner campaign says the vast majority of GTCR companies were successful.

UPDATE: Victim Identified in Wednesday Night Shooting


A 17-year-old from Springfield is dead, following a shooting on Wednesday night in Springfield.

 

Police responding to a call in the 2400 block of Ladley Court in the Lake Victoria area found two male victims. In addition to the 17-year-old, identified in a press release this afternoon as Deandre M. Atkinson, who was fatally wounded, an 18-year-old suffered less serious injuries. Atkinson was pronounced dead at Memorial Medical Center at 9:44PM.

 

Police have not indentifed any suspects or a motive in the case, and their investigation continues. They ask anyone with information on the crime to contact city police or Crimestoppers.

I-55 Tie-Ups To Affect Northbound Lanes Next Week


After days of big delays on southbound Interstate 55, it’s about to be the northbound lanes’ turn. 

 

Work begins Monday morning on extending the exit ramp on Northbound I-55 at Stevenson Drive.  As a result, traffic will be reduced to one lane… and the exit ramp from the interstate to Stevenson Drive will be closed. 

 

A similar project on the southbound side has led to frequent delays and numerous accidents, but that work is set to wind down by early next week.

Sherman Settles Dispute With Veteran Cop


The village of Sherman has approved a settlement to end its dispute with a Sherman police officer. 

 

The village had sought to fire Officer Phil Brown for several alleged infractions, including speeding in his squad car and mishandling of a weapon.  But under the settlement, Brown will keep his job after serving a one-week unpaid suspension. 

 

But the settlement also calls for the village to pay $5,000 to the police union… money which the union says is going to Brown.  The village will also pay $50,000 in union legal fees in addition to its own costs for outside lawyers. 

 

Neither side admits wrongdoing… but all pending complaints and court actions will be dismissed.

Developing: Fatal Shooting Overnight in Springfield


A 17-year-old is dead and another person is recovering from non-life threatening injuries after a shooting last night at the 2400 block of Ladley in Springfield.

 

Springfield Police Lt. Bob Markovich tells News/Talk 970 WMAY the report came in at 8:37 pm Wednesday where police arrived to find the two males shot.

 

Markovich says there are no suspects at this time and no further details were immediately available.

 

Police ask the public to come forward with any information.

Dozens of IDOT Employees To Stay On Job For Now


58 Illinois Department of Transportation employees will not lose their jobs at the end of this month after all.

 

The workers had been slated for termination because they originally got their “staff assistant” jobs through improper political connections.

 

But the workers sued, alleging that they are only being fired to provide political cover for Governor Pat Quinn.

 

The Quinn administration agreed this week to postpone the firings until the workers’ complaint can be heard in court.

Three Wrecks Per Day Around I-55/Stevenson Drive Construction


There’s been an average of three wrecks per day since last weekend on a stretch of southbound Interstate 55 where a major road construction project is underway.

 

Illinois State Police are reminding motorists to slow down and be cautious and alert when approaching that area from the South Grand Avenue to exit to 6th Street.

 

Traffic has been slowing and stopping abruptly, leading to 13 crashes in the past four days.

 

Most have involved only property damage or minor injuries.

Convention and Visitors Bureau Coins Springfield as Always Legendary


Springfield has a new marketing strategy for attracting leisure and business travelers to the city.

 

The Convention and Visitors Bureau staged a street party downtown Wednesday night to unveil the new campaign… built around the slogan “Always Legendary.”

 

CVB Acting Director Gina Gemberling says the campaign will, of course, focus on Abraham Lincoln… but also on other “legendary” aspects of Springfield life, from Route 66 to the arts community to local institutions like the horseshoe or the Cozy Dog Drive-In.

 

The campaign will primarily target regional travelers through print, online and radio ads.

State Gives Money for Salvation Army of Sangamon County


The long-awaited conversion of an empty downtown office building to a new headquarters and homeless shelter for the Salvation Army is now ready to move forward.

 

Governor Pat Quinn provided the final piece of the fundraising puzzle Wednesday, when he announced a $1.2 million state grant for the project.

 

Quinn labeled it a program for homeless veterans… even though vets only make up about one-fourth of the homeless population served by the Salvation Army.

 

The renovation will double the agency’s beds for the homeless, while allowing an expansion of counseling and other services.

 

Work should begin early next year and take about a year to complete.

Sheriff Williamson: War On Drugs Has Been a Failure


He’s been on the front line of the fight against drugs for a long time… but now Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson says he expects marijuana will be legal for recreational use within five years.

 

And he says that may be the right way to go.

 

Williamson… whose 20-year tenure as sheriff ends later this year… calls the war on drugs a “failure” and says it has been tremendously expensive to arrest, prosecute and jail non-violent drug offenders.

 

Williamson admits that some of his views on pot have “softened” in recent years.

Quinn and Rauner Exchange Jabs About Their Past Performance


The back-and-forth in the race for governor is getting more intense. Republican Bruce Rauner has new ads attacking Governor Pat Quinn for an early prisoner release program four years ago which led to some violent offenders being put back out on the streets.

 

Quinn, meanwhile, says Rauner companies were involved in nursing homes where there were multiple cases of abuse, neglect and fraud.

 

Meanwhile, the Rauner camp is also targeting Quinn in the black community… saying African-Americans have lost ground economically under Quinn.

 

Quinn fires back that there were no blacks at all among more than 50 top executives at Rauner’s firm.

Jimmy John's Hit by Data Breach, Two Springfield Stores Impacted


Yet another company has been hit by a possible data breach.

 

Customers who used debit or credit cards at two Springfield Jimmy John’s locations are being advised to check their statements for any sign that their accounts have been compromised.

 

The possible breach could affect the sandwich chain’s stores on South Sixth and West Iles, and appears to involve cards that were swiped at the store, not any that were used for online orders.

Data Breach Affects Springfield Jimmy John's Locations


Two Jimmy John’s locations in Springfield are included on a list of over two hundred locations affected by an apparent data breach, announced by the company on Wednesday. The locations at 3128 S. 6th Street and 2925 Iles Avenue had their credit and debit card data compromised during a period between June 16th and August 7th. Company officials learned of the breach on July 30th.
 

Cards affected by the breach appear to be those swiped at stores and not those that were hand-keyed or used online. Jimmy John’s recommends that all customers of those two stores – on South 6th and on Iles – monitor their statements and credit reports. The other three Jimmy John’s locations in Springfield did not appear to be affected by the breach.

Sheriff Predicts Pot Could Be Legal In Illinois Within Five Years


Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson not only thinks Illinois will legalize marijuana for recreational use within the next five years… he think that might be a better plan than a war on drugs that he calls a “failure.” 

 

Williamson is responding to the proposal from Chicago’s mayor to reduce penalties for drug possession.  Williamson says it is too costly to investigate and prosecute non-violent drug offenses… and to put those who get busted behind bars. 

 

Williamson has been a vocal opponent of illegal drug use, but on the News/Talk 970 WMAY News Feed, he said his position on marijuana may be “softening.”

Crashes Stack Up On I-55; State Police Urge Motorist Caution


State police are urging motorists to be much more careful in a heavily-congested work zone on southbound Interstate 55 around Springfield. 

 

There have been 20 crashes in that work zone from the South Grand exit to Sixth Street in the past two weeks… including 13 so far this week alone. 

 

Trooper Emanuelwel Edwards says drivers need to slow down, pay attention to warning signs, be aware of their surroundings… and maybe think about taking an alternate route.

 

Fired IDOT Workers To Keep Jobs, For Now


58 Illinois Department of Transportation workers won’t be losing their jobs at the end of the month after all. 

 

Governor Pat Quinn’s administration fired the workers after it was revealed they had improperly been hired on the basis of political connections.  The workers then sued, claiming the termination was unfair. 

 

Quinn’s office has rescinded the layoff notices for now, until a court hearing on the workers’ complaint.

 

Recaptured Inmate Facing Additional Time Behind Bars


A day of freedom could mean more time behind bars… and under much tighter security… for a recaptured Illinois prison inmate. 

 

Marcus Battice was apprehended Wednesday morning, about three-and-a-half miles from the minimum-security Vandalia Correctional Center.  He will now be sent to the maximum-security facility at Pontiac, where he will be held in segregation, while officials pursue additional charges against him. 

 

Battice was less than four months away from parole when he walked away from the prison.

 

$10 Billion Tobacco Verdict To Go Before State Supreme Court


The Illinois Supreme Court will hear the latest appeal of a $10 billion ruling against tobacco giant Philip Morris. 

 

The judgment was originally handed down more than a decade ago in a case that accused the company of misleading consumers by labeling cigarettes as “light” or “low-tar.” But it’s been tied up in various appeals since then. 

 

Last spring an appeals court reinstated the $10 billion verdict, but now the state’s highest court has granted the company’s request to appeal.

 

Pipeline Company Promotes Central Illinois Project


An energy company says its plan to build an 11-hundred mile pipeline across Central Illinois will mean safer transport of crude oil… and lots of jobs. 

 

Energy Transfer Partners is holding public meetings this week in Litchfield and Jacksonville over its proposal to build the pipeline, which could move nearly half-a-million barrels of crude oil a day.  The company says it could also mean 2,000 construction jobs over the next two years. 

 

Environmentalists are concerned about the risk of spills from that pipeline if it is built, but the company says it’s safer than transporting the oil by rail.

Vandalia Prison Escapee Captured by Illinois State Police


A southern Illinois prison escapee is back in custody this morning after he jumped a fence at the Vandalia Correctional Center Tuesday.

 

A release from the Department of Corrections says that 21-year-old Marcus Battice was picked up by Illinois State Police a few miles from the Vandalia prison early Wednesday morning.

 

Battice will undergo a medical evaluation and then taken to the Pontiac Maximum Security Prison.

St. John's Children's Hospital Leader Charged With Stealing From Hospital


The head of St. John’s Children’s Hospital is now charged with stealing more than $700,000 from the institution over the past six years.

 

55-year-old Margaret “Peggy” Curtin appeared in court Tuesday, where a judge kept her bail set at $1 million.

 

Prosecutors say the theft was discovered after hospital executives detected financial irregularities and notified law enforcement.

 

But no one is saying yet how someone could have allegedly gotten away with so much for so long. Curtin could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Former State Employee Pleads Guilty to Scheme Involving Millions of Grant Dollars


A former state official has pleaded guilty to her role in a bribery and kickback scheme that involved millions of state grant dollars.

 

Roxanne Jackson was a human resources officer in the state Department of Public Health when prosecutors say she struck a deal with the agency’s chief of staff, Quinshanta Golden.

 

According to the plea, Jackson conspired with Golden over grant money that went to certain agencies.

 

Jackson was later hired by one company that got grant money… and steered a share of the proceeds back to Golden. Golden has also pleaded guilty in the plot.

 

Another defendant is set to go to trial next month.

Chicago Mayor Says Statewide Marijuana Decriminalization Would Save State Money


Illinoisans could save tax dollars… and see less crime… by lowering the penalties for simple drug possession offenses.

 

That’s according to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is recommending that the state decriminalize possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana… making it the equivalent of a traffic ticket.

 

Emanuel also says people caught with a gram or less of harder drugs like cocaine or heroin should only face misdemeanor instead of felony charges.

 

He says that would free up resources in the court system and prisons… and make it easier for drug users to get back on track.

Palazzolo: Rather Than Rate Increase, CWLP Should Find Other Ways to Shore Up Debt


A Springfield mayoral candidate says city residents shouldn’t be left holding the bag for management deficiencies at City Water Light and Power.

 

Paul Palazzolo says the utility needs to find another way out of its financial mess than imposing higher charges or taxes on CWLP customers.

 

Palazzolo says in the short term, the city should consider refunding millions of dollars in “PILOT” payments the utility has given to the city’s general fund, although it’s unclear how the overall city budget would absorb that loss.

 

In the long term, Palazzolo says as mayor he would hire a professional general manager to run CWLP. Currently chief utilities engineer Eric Hobbie is in charge.

Police: Pedestrian Killed by Car on S. 6th Struck in Same Vicinity 3 Months Ago


A Springfield man who died after being struck by a vehicle on South Sixth Street Tuesday morning had also been struck by a car in that general vicinity three months earlier.

 

Springfield police tell News/Talk 970 WMAY that 54-year-old David Johnson suffered a broken leg in the earlier incident.

 

Tuesday morning, police say he was crossing Sixth near Stevenson Drive when he was hit and thrown up onto the roof of the vehicle. An autopsy is planned for today.

Search is On for Escaped Prison Inmate


The search for an escaped prison inmate is on in southern Illinois.

Authorities say Marcus Battice scaled a fence at Vandalia Correctional Center Tuesday afternoon. Battice is described as an African-American male, 21 years old, 5’9, approximately 170 pounds, and last seen wearing prison-issued dark pants, a dark blue shirt, and white tennis shoes. Battice – who was to be eligible for parole in January – has been serving a four-year sentence for possessing a stolen vehicle in Cook County.

In a release provided to News/Talk 970 WMAY, the public is reminded that although Battice was not incarcerated for a violent crime, the public should exercise extreme caution with any escapee and, if sighted, contact law enforcement.

Ex-State Official Pleads Guilty In Kickback Case


A former state official has pleaded guilty to taking part in a bribery and kickback scheme that involved the misuse of millions of state grant dollars. 

 

Roxanne Jackson admitted to conspiring with former Public Health chief of staff Quinshaunta Golden.  Jackson took a job with a security firm that got $2 million to conduct background checks on nursing home residents.  Jackson got a cut from each background check, and kicked some of that money back to Golden.

 

Jackson also admitted filing fraudulent tax returns. She could serve more than four years in prison for the scheme.

Head Of St. John's Children's Hospital Charged In $500K Embezzlement Scheme


The head of St. John's Children's Hospital is now behind bars... accused of embezzling half-a-million dollars from the hospital. 

 

Margaret "Peggy" Curtin is being held on one-million dollars bond for allegedly stealing the funds over a six-year period.  The Sangamon County State's Attorney's Office says hospital officials discovered irregularities in the books and contacted law enforcement. 

 

The FBI has been called into the case... and additional charges are possible.

Mayoral Candidate Palazzolo Opposes Hike In CWLP Bills


A Springfield mayoral candidate says city utility customers should not have to foot the bill for problems managing the finances at City Water Light and Power. 

 

Paul Palazzolo pins the blame for the utility's $8 million shortfall on two of his opponents... Mayor Mike Houston and City Treasurer Jim Langfelder.  He says they both failed to detect mounting problems or to alert aldermen or the public. 

 

Palazzolo says the city should refund millions in PILOT funds that it has taken from CWLP to help the utility's short-term stability.

Food Bank Turms To Geo-Thermal Energy


Its move to a much larger facility a year ago has allowed it to collect and distribute more food in and near Springfield.  But now the Central Illinois Food Bank says it needs to make the former Pepsi plant on Cook Street more energy-efficient. 

 

The Food Bank plans to install a geo-thermal system that will use air that is heated and cooled deep underground to maintain temperatures in the building. 

 

It's a nearly $850,000 project... but 90-percent of the cost is funded by money from a U.S. EPA settlement with the owners of the Kincaid Power Station

Chicago Mayor Wants To Reduce Drug Penalties


One of Illinois's most powerful politicians wants to significantly reduce penalties for drug possession in the state. 

 

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says possession of less than a gram of any controlled substance should be only a misdemeanor... not a felony.  And he says possession of small amounts of pot should not be a criminal offense at all, but more akin to a traffic ticket. 

 

Emanuel says those changes will cut costs for prisons and courtrooms... and give small-time drug users a better chance to rehabiltate themselves without a felony on their record.

UPDATED: Victim Of Fatal Car-Pedestrian Crash Identified; Man Had Also Been Struck Along Same Stretch Of Road Back In June


UPDATE: The Sangamon County Coroner has identified the man who died after being struck by a car on South Sixth Street early Tuesday.

 

54-year-old David Johnson was killed when he was hit while crossing Sixth near Stevenson Drive around 5:30am. The driver of the car was also taken to the hospital after exhibiting symptoms of possible shock.

 

Springfield Police say Johnson was also hit by a car in almost the same location back in June... suffering a broken leg in that incident.

 

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

 

[ORIGINAL STORY:] The pedestrian who was struck and killed by a car early Tuesday morning along South Sixth Street had been struck and injured by a car in that same general vicinity three months ago. 

 

Springfield police say the victim sustained a broken leg back in June while crossing the street near the Wal-Mart and Aldi stores.  On Tuesday, he was crossing near Stevenson Drive when he was hit and fatally injured. 

 

The driver of the car in Tuesday's collision was also taken to the hospital for treatment of possible shock.

 

Aldermanic Candidate Disputes Need For CWLP Rate Hike


The latest candidate for Springfield alderman says he doesn’t think the case has been made for charging City Water Light and Power customers more to shore up the utility’s finances. 

 

CWLP is facing an estimated $8 million shortfall in its electric fund… and has proposed an increase in consumer charges to help make up the difference.  

 

But Ward 9 candidate Jim Donelan… a former top aide to the late Mayor Tim Davlin… says the utility needs to try deeper cuts and other strategies before taking more from ratepayers.

Early Morning Fatal Accident Involving Pedestrian Diverting Traffic on S. 6th


A pedestrian is dead and southbound traffic on 6th street is being diverted onto Stevenson Drive while Springfield Police investigate an early morning accident.

 

Springfield Police say a male pedestrian was struck by a car on southbound 6th Street at Stevenson Drive just after 5:30 this morning. While authorities investigate, traffic is being diverted from Southbound 6th Street to Eastbound Stevenson.

 

Northbound 6th Street into Springfield is clear.

Suspect Charged in Pipe Bomb Case


The pipe bomb that was found on a downtown sidewalk back in July may have actually sat in the vicinity for several days before it was discovered and safely defused.

 

Sangamon County prosecutors aren’t sure how the explosive device wound up in front of the Brewhaus, on the north side of East Washington… but contend it was originally placed on the south side of the street in an attempt to blow up the ATM at Chase Bank and get the cash inside.

 

34-year-old Bradford Moss is charged with planting the bomb… and could face up to 30 years behind bars if convicted.

 

He was already in custody… after being arrested earlier this month in connection with the robbery of a Marine Bank branch a week after the pipe bomb incident.

Former Davlin Executive Assistant Donelan to Run for Ward 9


More candidates are diving into next year’s local races. Jim Donelan… who served as executive assistant to late Mayor Tim Davlin… will run for alderman in Ward 9.

 

The State Journal-Register reports Donelan is touting his prior City Hall experience as a reason he can effectively represent residents of the ward.

 

Incumbent Steve Dove is not seeking re-election, but Prairie Capital Convention Center board member Tony Smarjesse has already announced that he’s also running for the open seat.

Candidate for Ward 2 Calls for Youth Center on East Side


The first formal candidate for the open seat in Springfield’s Ward 2 says the city should try to establish an east-side youth center to give kids some alternatives to street crime and violence.

 

William Bishop the Third announced his candidacy over the weekend in a social media video.

 

He’s running for the seat being vacated by Alderman Gail Simpson… who’s running for mayor.

 

Bishop says kids need activities that can help keep them away from gangs and guns… and wants to see the city either provide funding or help steer grant dollars to such a project.

Window Closed for Medical Marijuana Business Applications, Numbers Expected Soon


The application deadline for establishing a medical marijuana business has now passed… but we still don’t know how many applications were submitted or where they’re coming from.

 

The coordinator of the state Medical Cannabis Pilot Program says he’s hopeful there are enough good applications to establish cultivation centers and dispensaries in every region of the state.

 

The number of applications could be released later this week… but it could be weeks more before we learn exactly who applied or who will obtain licenses.

 

The medical marijuana law keeps big parts of the process secret… in an attempt to ensure the permits are handed out on the merits, not on favoritism.

Bowman's Death Finding in Quincy Challenged, Murder Charges Filed Against Former Prosecutor


The saga of a homicide investigation in Quincy has a familiar ring to it.

 

Former Adams County prosecutor Curtis Lovelace is now charged with killing his wife… eight years after she died on Valentine’s Day 2006.

 

Her death was originally ruled inconclusive… based on the findings of pathologist Jessica Bowman, who was also behind several questionable or disputed rulings in Sangamon County death investigations.

 

A later review by outside experts determined Cory Lovelace had been suffocated, leading to the charges against her husband. Bowman did not return calls seeking comment about her role in the investigation.

Suspect Arrested In Downtown Pipe Bomb Incident; Incendiary Device May Have Been Sitting There For Days


The pipe bomb that was found on a downtown street back in July may have actually been sitting for several days before it was discovered.  That’s part of what’s alleged in the charges that have now been filed against a suspect in the case. 

 

State’s Attorney John Milhiser says Bradford Moss is accused of planting the device at an ATM at the Chase Bank downtown in an attempt to blow it up and get the cash inside.  The device didn’t go off, and was then found across the street several days later.  The Secretary of State Bomb Squad defused it and no one was hurt.  

 

Moss was already in custody on unrelated charges stemming from the robbery of a Marine Bank branch later in the summer.

 

Local Health Needs Assessment About To Get Underway


Your help is being sought to determine the community’s health needs… and the best way to meet them in the coming years.  

 

Sangamon County public health officials and the city’s two main hospitals are working together on a Community Health Needs Assessment, a requirement of the Affordable Care Act.  Online surveys and public meetings will be used to determine the relative wellbeing of county residents… the biggest health challenges they face… and whether there are adequate resources to address those issues.  

 

The assessment begins Tuesday and will be completed next spring.

Aldermanic Candidate Wants East-Side Recreational Center For Youth


A candidate for Springfield alderman says the city should provide more recreational opportunities for east-side youth… to help keep them off the streets and out of trouble. 

 

Bill Bishop announced on Facebook over the weekend that he is running for the Ward Two seat being vacated by Gail Simpson… who is running for mayor. 

 

Although the Springfield Park District now handles most rec programs in the city, Bishop says Springfield could either find the funds or help bring in grant dollars to support an effort that he says could reduce east-side violence.

Fatal Accident Involving Car and Train in Taylorville


A woman has died in a collision between a car and a train in Taylorville.

 

WAND-TV reports 66-year-old Kathleen Rhodes was just a few blocks from home when her car was struck by the train and burst into flames.

 

Several of the train cars contained flammable liquids, complicating the rescue effort.

 

The accident happened at South Webster and Third Street in Taylorville.

We Ask America Poll: Dead Heat Between Rauner and Quinn


The latest poll in the race for Illinois governor indicates the race has become a virtual dead heat.

 

The survey from We Ask America gives Republican Bruce Rauner a three-point lead over Governor Pat Quinn… in a poll that has a three-point margin of error.

 

That same survey several weeks ago had Rauner up by eight points. With the race getting closer, expect the candidates to step up their attacks on each other.

 

Quinn has been painting Rauner as out-of-touch, while Rauner’s latest ads tie Quinn to former Governor Rod Blagojevich and House Speaker Mike Madigan.

Libertarian Candidate for Governor Acknowledges Uphill Battle


One of the candidates for Illinois governor admits his campaign is a long shot. But Libertarian Chad Grimm could still play a critical role in determining who will lead the state.

 

Grimm concedes that it will be difficult for him to beat the major-party contenders for governor, but hopes that his campaign will make it easier for future Libertarian and other third-party candidates to get on the ballot.

 

Republicans have been trying to knock Grimm and the rest of his party slate off the ballot… fearing he could take votes that would otherwise go to GOP nominee Bruce Rauner.

Motorcyclist Recovering After Accident on I-55 Sunday


A motorcyclist is recovering after a frightening crash on a congested stretch of Interstate 55 just outside Springfield Sunday.

 

Southbound traffic on the interstate was slowing to a crawl because of an ongoing road work project… but authorities say the biker failed to slow down in time and struck the rear of one vehicle.

 

The impact threw him from his bike into two other cars and then onto the ground.

 

Even so, authorities say the motorcyclist was treated and released from Memorial Medical Center. Tickets are pending.

Deadline for Medical Cannabis Cultivation and Dispensaries is Today


Today is the application deadline for businesses hoping to get one of the limited number of state licenses to grow or sell medical marijuana.

 

Two state agencies – Agriculture, and Financial and Professional Regulation – will accept applications for cultivation centers and dispensaries until 3pm this afternoon.

 

Only serious contenders need apply… there’s a non-refundable $25,000 application fee.

 

The state will issue up to 21 permits for cultivation centers and 60 for dispensaries.

Report: Money for Illinois' Locks and Dams an Urgent Need


It’s not the first thing people think of when discussing Illinois infrastructure… but a report coming out today says there’s an urgent need for more money to repair locks and dams on Illinois waterways.

 

According to the Chicago Tribune, the report from the Illinois Chamber of Commerce will argue that breakdowns in the aging locks and dams are causing delays that have reduced the average tonnage moved through Illinois locks by 20-percent.

 

The report says water traffic is essential for the movement of coal, road salt, petroleum products and construction materials… but the 1930s-era locks and dams cannot keep up with the traffic.

Bond Set At $250K For Suspect Linked To Skeletal Remains


The investigation is continuing, even though a man has now been charged in connection with the skeletal remains found in a shed in Rochester over the summer. 

 

Former local resident Bradley Perkins is being held on $250,000 bond on charges of concealment of the homicidal death of Tracy Trimby.  Authorities believe Trimby was killed in early 2010. 

 

And while Perkins is not currently charged with her murder, State’s Attorney John Milhiser says more charges could be coming… and that there are no other suspects in her death.

Fundraiser Puts DSI Closer To Goal


A fundraiser this week has given Downtown Springfield Inc. a lift as it tries to close a $50,000 deficit. 

 

The State Journal-Register reports the fundraising event Thursday night produced cash and pledges totaling $35,000.  DSI plans another fundraising push next month and will also ask the City of Springfield for help. 

 

The agency… which promotes downtown businesses and events… is in financial trouble after bad weather slashed revenues from major summer events.

 

Quinn: No Backup Plan If Pension Reform Is Ruled Unconstitutional


Governor Pat Quinn says he doesn’t have a backup plan in place if the courts rule that his pension reform law is unconstitutional. 

 

Quinn says it wouldn’t make sense to tell the courts that he has a “Plan B” and give them an opening to throw out the pension law that he championed. 

 

Recent court rulings have suggested Quinn’s pension law could be found unconstitutional… and if it is, the state would find itself in an even deeper financial hole.

 

New Bike Lanes Annoying Some Local Drivers


Frustration is mounting over delays on Second Street, as city crews have revamped the layout of the road, reducing lanes for motor vehicles and adding bike lanes. 

 

Even Springfield Public Works Director Mark Mahoney says he’s been frustrated by the traffic tieups.  But Mahoney says it will get better as traffic signals are retimed… and as drivers get used to the changes. 

 

The work is part of the city’s efforts to become more “bike-friendly.”

Suspect Charged In Connection With Body Found In Rochester Shed


A man is charged with concealment of a homicidal death... and additional charges are possible in connection with the woman whose skeletal remains were found in a Rochester shed over the summer.

 

Bradley D. Perkins is being held on $250,000 bond following his arrest in connection with the death of Tracy Trimby.  She may have been dead for years when her remains were found under debris inside that shed at a Rochester residence.

 

State's Attorney John Milhiser says the case remains under investigation and more charges could be filed against Perkins.  He says there are no other suspects in the case.

Libertarians To Remain on Ballot After Judges Ruling


A slate of Libertarian candidates will remain on the November ballot, after a Sangamon County judge rejected the latest attempt by Illinois Republicans to get them kicked off.

 

GOP attorneys had argued that the Libertarians had not submitted enough valid signatures to qualify… and that the State Board of Elections had made a mistake in allowing them onto the ballot.

 

But Judge Patrick Kelley ruled that there was no evidence that the board’s decision was “clearly erroneous.”

 

There’s no word yet on whether the Republican Party plans to appeal the decision.

Flamini Critical of One-Year Contract for Dist. 186 Teachers


A Springfield school board member who voted “present” this week on a new teachers contract says he did so because he thinks the one-year deal doesn’t show proper appreciation for the work teachers do.

 

Chuck Flamini says the contract… which gave teachers a flat $500 annual raise, along with some increases based on years of service… barely covers the cost of an extra tank of gas each month.

 

On the News/Talk 970 WMAY News Feed, Flamini said he thinks teachers were let down by the school board, and by their own union… and he’s afraid things could be even worse in the next round of contract talks next year.

School Board Member Expects Tough Conversation About Metal Detectors


The Springfield school board is expected to discuss the possibility of metal detectors in the city’s high schools after two incidents in recent weeks of students bringing guns to school.

 

Board member Chuck Flamini says there are some obvious complications with going that route… such as trying to get thousands of students through the machines at the start of each school day.

 

But if one of those gun incidents had taken a turn for the worse, Flamini questions whether the district could say it had done everything it could do to prevent it.

State Senator McCann Files Legislation for CO Detectors in Schools


All Illinois schools would be required to have carbon monoxide detectors, under legislation introduced by State Senator Sam McCann.

 

McCann’s bill comes days after dozens of children and adults were sickened by a CO leak at a school in Girard. Everyone has recovered… and classes resumed Thursday in the North Mac district. But McCann says the incident was very nearly an “absolute tragedy.”

 

Similar legislation has failed to gain traction in the past, but the Girard leak may give it new momentum.

Illinois' Unemployment Rate Down For Sixth Straight Month


Illinois’s jobless rate has fallen again… for the sixth straight month.

 

State officials say August’s rate of 6.7 percent was the best showing since the summer of 2008… before the Great Recession struck.

 

Illinois employers created nearly 14,000 jobs last month. Governor Pat Quinn says the numbers show Illinois’s recovery is on track.

 

But Republican opponent Bruce Rauner says the showing is not enough. He says the state economy should be running on jet fuel… but under Quinn, it’s “struggling along on leaded gas.”

Purveyor of Fake Peoria Mayor Twitter Account Sues City Officials


The man whose fake Twitter account spoofing Peoria’s mayor led to a police raid is now suing… claiming Peoria officials violated his civil rights.

 

Jon Daniel says the Twitter feed… portraying Mayor Jim Ardis as a sex-crazed drunk… was an obvious parody, even though it wasn’t labeled as such, and says therefore it is constitutionally protected speech.

 

Police raided Daniel’s home and sought a warrant on a charge of impersonating a public official, but prosecutors eventually dropped the case.

Sangamon County Judge's Ruling Keeps Libertarians On Ballot


It’s another victory for Illinois Libertarians. 

 

A Sangamon County judge has rejected the latest effort by state Republican Party officials to knock the third-party slate off the November ballot.  The GOP argued that the Libertarians had not submitted enough valid petition signatures, and that the State Board of Elections was wrong to allow the party slate to appear on the ballot.  Judge Patrick Kelley says the State Board’s ruling was not “clearly erroneous.”

 

Some Republicans fear the Libertarians could take votes away from GOP candidates, including governor nominee Bruce Rauner.

Springfield School Board Member Rips New Teacher Contract


The only Springfield school board member who did not vote in favor of a new teacher contract says he found the one-year deal insulting to the district’s educators. 

 

Chuck Flamini voted “present” on the contract, which will give teachers a flat $500 raise and some additional increases for years of service.  Flamini says the contract shows little concern for teachers on the part of either the school board or the teachers union… and says more could have been done for teachers if the contract negotiators had tried harder.

McCann Bill Would Require CO Detectors In All Schools


All Illinois schools would be required to have carbon monoxide detectors, under legislation introduced by State Senator Sam McCann. 

 

McCann’s bill comes on the heels of this week’s carbon monoxide leak that sent dozens of children and adults at a Girard school to the hospital. Everyone has now recovered, but McCann says the Girard incident could have been an “absolute tragedy.” 

 

Similar legislation has been introduced in the past but failed to advance, but the Girard leak is likely to give new momentum to the idea.

Springfield Tourism Bureau To Launch New Marketing Strategy


Springfield’s main tourism promoter is about to launch a new marketing campaign geared at attracting both leisure travelers and those who are putting together business meetings and conventions. 

 

The Convention and Visitors Bureau says its new branding strategy is the result of months of study.  Acting executive director Gina Gemberling says the campaign will emphasize Lincoln but also promote other attractions like local restaurants. 

 

The new campaign will be unveiled next week.

Oversight Boards Working Together Over Future Of ALPLM


There appears to be a cease-fire in the hostilities over the future of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. 

 

The advisory boards for the library and museum and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency say they will work together to identify issues and find solutions in the operation of the complex in downtown Springfield. 

 

The two boards have been at odds over a proposal to take the library and museum away from IHPA and turn it into an independent agency.

Dozens Of Illinoisans Stranded In Mexico After Hurricane Odile


Dozens of Illinoisans may be among thousands of U.S. citizens stranded in a Mexico resort town that was hard hit by a hurricane this week. 

 

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin’s office says he’s been contacted by a number of constituents seeking help in getting their loved ones out of Los Cabos and back to the U.S. mainland.  Durbin says the State Department has made evacuating Americans out of the region a top priority. 

 

He says people seeking assistance can find phone numbers, web page links and email addresses at his website, durbin.senate.gov.

Illinois Jobless Rate Falls Again


Illinois employers created nearly 14,000 jobs last month… helping the statewide unemployment rate to fall for the sixth consecutive month. 

 

The 6.7 percent rate in August is the lowest it’s been since July of 2008. 

 

The Department of Employment Security says the drop… down from 9.2 percent a year ago… represents the biggest year-to-year decline since 1984.

City Zoning Recommends Against Proposed Meat Market/Slaughter House


The Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission has narrowly recommended against allowing a combined meat market and slaughterhouse operation at Stevenson and Stanton… but the final decision will be up to Springfield aldermen.

 

The commission voted 4-3 to recommend denial of a zoning variance that would have let Magro Meats of Auburn slaughter livestock onsite one day per week as part of its planned retail meat business in the former Eagle supermarket. Neighbors say they are concerned about odor, noise, and the operation’s potential impact on their property values.

 

The City Council will make the final decision at its October 21st meeting.

SPD To Test Body Cameras for Patrol Officers


Springfield’s police chief is ready to start trying out body cameras for his officers… and ready to start using them in just about any situation where cops interact with the public.

 

Chief Kenny Winslow says the department plans to borrow some of the portable cameras from manufacturers so that they can be tested during training exercises at the police academy.

 

Winslow says that will show the effectiveness, durability and reliability of the cameras. He tells News/Talk 970 WMAY that he wants the cameras to record most incidents involving police… from traffic stops to domestic disturbances.

 

Mayor Mike Houston hopes to include funding for dozens of the body cams in next year’s city budget.

Springfield Police Describe Presence at City Schools After Two Gun Incidents


Springfield cops are spending more time at and around the city’s high schools these days… following two recent incidents of students bringing guns onto school grounds.

 

Police Chief Kenny Winslow says in addition to off-duty cops hired by the school district, the department sends on-duty officers to schools at the start and end of the day… and conducts periodic checks during the day when time permits.

 

Winslow says officers also look for other opportunities for positive interaction with young people, to encourage them to find better alternatives than guns and violence.

Former Student Allegedly Posted Threats Against School on Social Media


A former Ball-Chatham School District student has been arrested after allegedly posting an online threat against Glenwood High School.

 

The 17-year-old’s name has not been released, but he was taken into custody after another student alerted school authorities to the Twitter post.

 

Officials in Chatham say it was a general threat, but say the former student was never on school grounds and students were not in danger.

North Mac Schools Back in Session, Carbon Monoxide Detectors Installed


School is back in session in the North Mac school district today… and officials there say students are returning to safe schools.

 

It’s the first day of classes since a carbon monoxide leak at the intermediate school in Girard sent more than 130 people to the hospital Monday.

 

Superintendent Marica Cullen says the faulty water heater has been fixed, all other equipment has been checked, and carbon monoxide detectors have been installed at all schools.

 

Counselors will also be available today to talk to any students who may have questions or fears after Monday’s incident.

Waverly Women Arrested, Faces Kidnapping Charges


A Waverly woman is facing a kidnapping charge after taking her child from a caregiver… in violation of court-ordered custody arrangements.

 

The Sangamon County sheriff’s department says Kayla Justice did not have custody or visitation rights with the three-year-old.

 

After being called by the caregiver, police traced Justice to a home in Jacksonville, where she was arrested and the child was recovered.

Rauner Condemns NFL Handling of Players' Domestic Abuse Allegations


Seems like everyone is talking about the NFL and domestic violence… even the candidates for Illinois governor.

 

Republican Bruce Rauner was asked about the league’s recent controversies because he is a part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

At first, Rauner declined to comment… drawing criticism from Governor Pat Quinn.

 

Rauner later issued a statement condemning the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice incident… and blasting Quinn for budget cuts that reduced funding to domestic violence shelters.

North Mac Classes Will Resume Thursday; District Says Schools Have Been Declared Safe


North Mac School District officials say students will be returning to safe schools when classes resume on Thursday. 

 

All district schools have been closed since a carbon monoxide leak at the Intermediate School in Girard sickened dozens of students and staff on Monday.

 

A letter to North Mac families says the schools have all been checked and declared safe.  The letter also says counselors will be available to help students who may have been frightened by the experience.

SPD Could Start Testing Body Cams Soon


Springfield police could soon begin testing body cams to see how they would work in day-to-day use. 

 

Mayor Mike Houston wants to equip every officer with the recording devices in the new fiscal year that starts next March.  But police chief Kenny Winslow says the department may borrow some of the devices from manufacturers right away, so that they can be tested during training exercises at the police academy. 

 

Winslow says rank-and-file officers are overwhelmingly in favor of using the devices, although details about how and when they would be used will have to be negotiated with the union.

Davis: Any Talk Of Ground Troops In Fight Against ISIS Purely ''Hypothetical''


Congressman Rodney Davis won’t discuss what action he would take if the U.S. military mission against the Islamic State terrorist group becomes a ground war. 

 

Despite assurances from President Obama that ground troops won’t be used in the fight against ISIS, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff raised that possibility in congressional hearings this week. 

 

But Davis calls that prospect purely hypothetical, and says he believes U.S. air power and missiles can eliminate the ISIS threat.

 

Police Chief Skeptical Of Claim That Students Brought Guns To School For Protection


Springfield’s police chief isn’t convinced that two high school students who have recently brought guns to school were doing so only for protection. 

 

That was the theory advanced by Superintendent Jennifer Gill after the most recent incident, where a 15-year-old brought a gun to Southeast High last Friday.  Police Chief Kenny Winslow says he can’t discuss the particulars of either case, but says he’s not sure that those actions were strictly defensive.

 

Police are stepping up patrols around the high schools and looking for other ways to connect with teens and steer them away from trouble.

 

Ethics Is Latest Battleground In Governor's Race


Governor Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner are trading potshots over ethics. 

 

Rauner has put forward an ethics plan that, among other things, calls for questionable hires at IDOT under the Quinn administration to be fired… and prohibits top state officials from lobbying lawmakers for a year after leaving government. 

 

But Quinn’s camp says Rauner has his own ethics problems, stemming from companies affiliated with Rauner’s GTCR firm. The campaign says Rauner can’t be taken seriously on ethics issues.

North Mac Schools Closed Again For Safety Checks


Classes are cancelled again today in the North Mac School District, as officials continue to check for any other malfunctions like the faulty water heater that caused a carbon monoxide leak Monday.

 

That leak sent 130 students and staffers from the North Mac Intermediate School in Girard to the hospital, although everyone is now recovering.

 

Meanwhile, Springfield District 186 acknowledges that it does not have carbon monoxide detectors in its schools, although buildings with the newest HVAC systems have carbon dioxide detectors.

 

The district also says that systems are checked daily, and the mechanical rooms are sealed.

Juvenile Charge for Teenager Who Brought Gun to Southeast High School


The teenager accused of bringing a gun to Southeast High School last week is currently being charged as a juvenile… although prosecutors could move the case to adult court later.

 

The State Journal-Register reports one factor could be the teen’s prior record… at the time of the gun incident, he was facing charges in connection with the theft of a pickup truck from a local car dealership last month.

 

It’s the second firearms incident at a city school in less than a month.

 

In a separate incident at Lanphier High School, the teen suspect is being tried as an adult.

CWLP Discuss Electric Bill Increase to Avoid Technical Default


City Water Light and Power officials say an increase in customer electric bills might be one way for the utility to avoid its second technical default in less than four years.

 

The utility again went before aldermen Tuesday night to spell out the extent of its electric fund problems.

 

Among the ideas floated is a restructuring of rates and other charges that could push the average residential bill up by 12 dollars a month.

 

The utility needs a combination of new revenue and spending cuts totaling eight-million dollars to avoid a default that could lead to a credit rating downgrade or cancellation of its line of credit.

Houston Defends Infrastructure Record Amid Criticism


Mayor Mike Houston is defending his administration’s track record on infrastructure… but says Springfield residents may have to resign themselves to more flooding problems if the city keeps getting hit by the torrential rains that have become increasingly common in recent years.

 

Houston is objecting to a newspaper editorial that suggested the city needs to get more serious about its sewer problems.

 

The mayor says those problems are being addressed as part of an overall infrastructure plan… but says no system could withstand the kind of downpours that have hit Springfield multiple times in the last few years.

Rauner Would Have Vetoed Medical Cannabis Law If Governor


Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner says he would have vetoed the state’s medical marijuana bill if he had been governor when it passed.

 

But Rauner says it’s not that big an issue to him, and thinks there are more important priorities.

 

But his comments have drawn fire from the bill’s legislative sponsor. Democrat Lou Lang calls Rauner’s comments “heartless” and “appalling.”

 

Meanwhile, Rauner is still critical of the secrecy in the medical cannabis law… saying it’s allowing politically-connected people to seek licenses without being subjected to public scrutiny.

Fracking Rules Deadline Delayed by Legislative Committee


There’s been another delay in approving state rules governing hydraulic fracturing… but a pro-fracking group isn’t bothered by the latest snag.

 

A legislative committee has put off action for 45 days… and is directing the state Department of Natural Resources to tweak the rules to make sure they comply with the fracking law approved last year.

 

Fracking supporters say DNR’s first draft of the rules imposed too many restrictions on an industry that they hope will create jobs and provide more energy independence.

No School Wednesday for North Mac Intermediate School


There will be no classes held on Wednesday at North Mac Intermediate School in Girard.

 

The school was closed on Tuesday, following a carbon monoxide leak on Monday that sickened over one hundred students and staff. Superintendent Marica Cullen - in a statement to the media - said that a team of experts attempted to recreate the leak on Tuesday, in order to verify the reported cause from Monday's incident, which was a faulty hot water heater flue. The results of the test verified the cause.

 

The North Mac School District has said that it will not hold classes at the Intermediate School on Wednesday, in order to allow the carbon monoxide introduced to the building during Tuesday's test to fully dissipate and to be able to declare the building free of the dangerous gas.

Houston Defends Infrastructure Plan, But Warns Flooding May Be Unavoidable


If Springfield continues to see the types of massive downpours that have become increasingly common in recent years, Mayor Mike Houston says residents may just have to accept flooding as a recurring fact of life. 

 

Several bouts of flooding in recent years have led to calls for upgrades to the storm sewer system.  Houston says improvements are being made through the city's infrastructure program... but doubts that a system can be built that could cope with the volume of rain the city has seen at times in the past few years.

AFSCME Picks Quinn... As The Lesser Of Two Evils


There’s no love lost between AFSCME and Governor Pat Quinn… but the largest state employees union has nonetheless thrown its support behind the Democratic incumbent. 

 

A statement from AFSCME acknowledges differences with Quinn over issues like pension reform… but says the union is backing him because it's more important to defeat his GOP opponent, Bruce Rauner.  Rauner has been an outspoken critic of public sector unions.

 

Ex-Lawmaker Leads Charge Against Noisy Downtown Trains


A former state lawmaker contends that freight traffic has already picked up dramatically through downtown Springfield, especially during the late night hours… but says no one appears to be tracking the exact number of trains rolling through. 

 

Bill Edley is leading a push for a full accounting of train traffic… and is calling for a fast track to establish a “quiet zone” in downtown where those trains would be restricted from blowing their horns.  That could require warning signal upgrades or even closing some crossings.

Physician: 1 In 3 Springfield Schoolkids Is Overweight Or Obese


A study of Springfield grade schoolers suggests 1 in 3 is overweight or obese. 

 

The SIU School of Medicine and other agencies formed the Springfield Collaborative for Active Child Health.  It looked at 1st and 4th graders in eight participating schools and found one-third of them exceeding body mass index standards. 

 

But a doctor with the medical school says the good news is that as those students learn more about healthy eating choices, they tend to make better choices, and to encourage others in their family to do the same.

Action On Fracking Postponed Again


There’s been another delay in finalizing the rules that will allow fracking to proceed in Illinois. 

 

But a pro-fracking group says it’s not bothered by that 45-day postponement in a legislative hearing on those rules.  The coalition has complained that the first draft of rules from Governor Pat Quinn’s administration will hamper efforts to extract oil and gas from below the Earth’s surface, and hope the delay will allow for the changes the group wants to see.

New Child Safety Seat Push Underway


A new push on child safety seats gets underway this week… with an emphasis on the proper use of the devices for the smallest children.  IDOT says it will be encouraging the use of rear-facing seats up to the age of 2.  The agency notes that a child under 2 is five times less likely to die or be significantly injured in a crash if they are properly restrained in a rear-facing seat. A child safety seat check will be held this Saturday from 10 until 1 at Green Hyundai on South Dirksen Parkway.

North Mac Schools Closed Today, Carbon Monoxide Detectors to Be Installed


There is no school today in the North Mac school district, while all schools there undergo a health-life-safety check.

 

Officials want to make sure there are no other hidden problems like the faulty gas water heater that caused a carbon monoxide leak at North Mac Intermediate School in Girard… sending well over 100 students and staff to area hospitals.

 

Most of them have now been released, although at least three people were admitted to St. John’s Hospital for overnight observation.

 

First responders from a three-county area, along with Girard residents with medical training, rushed to the scene to help students suffering from headaches and nausea from the leak.

 

There were no carbon monoxide detectors at the school, and no requirement for them… but the devices are likely to be installed in the days ahead.

New Dist. 186 Teachers' Contract Costs $1.5 Million in Additional Pay Increases


Springfield teachers have a new contract.

 

The Springfield Education Association and the school board both ratified that one-year deal Monday night.

 

It provides an across-the-board $500 pay raise, along with “step” increases based on years of service.

 

SEA president Crysta Weitekamp says teachers believe they deserve more, but understand the budget crunch the district faces.

 

The pact will cost the district $1.5 million in additional pay.

 

That would still leave close to a million dollars in cash reserves at the end of the year, if the state makes good on its funding promises.

School Security to be Focus of Sit-down Between District and Springfield's Police Chief


Springfield school officials plan to sit down with police chief Kenny Winslow this week to discuss security issues at school… and beyond.

 

The district has seen two incidents of students bringing guns to school since the start of the school year, less than a month ago.

 

Superintendent Jennifer Gill thinks the students were not intending to use the guns at school… and were carrying them for protection against threats out on the street after they left school grounds.

 

She says it’s a problem for the school district, and for the community as a whole, to try to fix.

Two Dozen Students Kept From Classes at Dist. 186 Lack Proof of Immunization


Twenty-five District 186 students are still being held out of class for lacking proof of immunizations... two weeks after the deadline set by the district.

 

That's far fewer than in recent years, because of an intense public relations push to remind parents of the earlier deadline to get the required shots.

 

School board president Mike Zimmers says he doesn't know what's wrong with those 25 families and why they haven't taken care of the problem... but Superintendent Jennifer Gill says there are lots of different reasons, and the district is working with each of those families to fix the problem and get the kids back in school.

Durbin Doesn't Back Down for Criticizing Companies Contemplating Inversion


Republican Jim Oberweis accuses Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of “bullying,” but Durbin makes no apologies for his tough talk against American companies who are contemplating moving their headquarters overseas.

 

Durbin has called companies like Walgreen’s and Burger King “unpatriotic” for considering the strategy called “inversion.” Walgreen’s dropped the idea after Durbin publicly berated the Illinois-based corporation.

 

Durbin says it’s his job to stand up against companies who want to turn their back on America.

Years Old Video of Lawmaker Throwing Papers Passionately Resurfaces in Political Ad


A viral video that became an Internet sensation a couple of years ago has popped up again… in a race for an Illinois congressional seat.

 

The video shows state lawmaker Mike Bost throwing papers and yelling on the House floor.

 

Now Bost is running against Democratic Congressman Bill Enyart… and Enyart has a new ad showing the tirade while calling Bost “Meltdown Mike” and saying he would make Washington worse.

 

But Republicans say the ad may help Bost by showing his passion and fire.

More Than 100 Taken To Hospital After Gas Leak At Girard School


Dozens of students are recovering from the effects of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning at the North Mac Middle School in Girard. 

 

The school was evacuated and multiple emergency responders were called in after students began complaining of feeling nauseous.  More than 100 students were reportedly sickened, and many of them were transported to Springfield hospitals. 

 

The leak was traced to a faulty water heater at the school.  All North Mac schools will be closed Tuesday for a complete health-life-safety check.

 

District 186: Gun Incidents Prompted By Students' Fears Away From School


Two separate incidents of students bringing guns into Springfield schools appear to have been motivated by the students’ fear of dangers awaiting them after school, and off of school grounds. 

 

District 186 Superintendent Jennifer Gill says there’s no indication the students had any aggressive intent toward anyone at the school. 

 

The district has beefed up security… and is conducting random sweeps of classrooms this week in hopes of deterring students from bringing weapons or any contraband into the building.

 

Aldermanic Candidate Warns Against CWLP Rate Hike


A candidate for Springfield alderman warns against raising city electric rates to deal with a financial crisis at City Water Light and Power. 

 

The utility says a rate hike may be inevitable as it faces an $8 million shortfall in its electric fund.  But Ward 8 candidate Ernie Slottag, appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” says a rate hike is a permanent solution to what may be a temporary problem. 

 

Slottag… who is challenging incumbent Kris Theilen in Ward 8… also says he has no problem with imposing a residency requirement on new city hires.

Dozens Of Students Sickened By Carbon Monoxide At North Mac Middle School In Girard


UPDATE (12:30pm): The carbon monoxide leak appears to have been caused by a flue that came loose from a water heater.  All North Mac schools will be closed Tuesday for a complete health-life-safety check.

*******
 

UPDATE (11:35am): St. John's Hospital has received 21 patients from the carbon monoxide leak at North Mac Middle School. The hospital says 15 of those patients are "stable," two are listed in fair condition, and four are being assessed. More patients may be arriving, according to a hospital spokesperson.

Memorial Medical Center has received 25 students; there is no breakdown yet of their conditions.  MMC is asking parents or guardians of North Mac students who are checking on their child's status to call 788-3333.  You must provide the first and last name, gender and date of birth of the child.  Parents and legal guardians can also report in person to the registration desk at Memorial's Emergency Department.

******

[ORIGINAL STORY:] An apparent carbon monoxide leak has sickened between 65 and 100 students at North Mac Middle School in Girard.

 

Multiple agencies responded to the scene Monday morning, including a dozen Springfield firefighters who were dispatched to assist with traige and treatment on the scene.  There was no immediate word on the conditions of those who were sickened by gas, although officials tell News/Talk 970 WMAY that some of the students were expected to be transported to Springfield for additional treatment.

 

Stay with News/Talk 970 WMAY for updates on this developing story.

Increased Security Expected at Springfield Public High Schools


Students in Springfield’s three public high schools could see much tighter security in the days ahead… including the possibility of law enforcement searches of classrooms, lockers and backpacks.

 

Those searches could include the use of metal detecting wands and drug-sniffing dogs.

 

Random searches are allowed under school board policy… but are likely to be stepped up after two separate incidents of students bringing guns into a high school.

 

No one was hurt in either incident, the latest of which happened last Friday at Southeast High School.

Report: Bel-Aire Motel Owner Dies in Florida


The owner of the embattled Bel-Aire Motel has reportedly died in Florida.

 

The State Journal-Register says news of Gopal Motwani’s death was confirmed by Motwani’s son, who declined any further comment.

 

Motwani had been trying to sell the residential motel, which has been the target of city enforcement actions to crack down on hundreds of alleged building code violations.

 

Motwani’s wife is a co-owner of the motel, which the city wants to have condemned and torn down.

Latest Chicago Tribune Poll Gives Quinn Lead Over Rauner


It’s some of the best news Governor Pat Quinn’s campaign has gotten in a while… a new Chicago Tribune poll over the weekend gives Quinn a sizable lead over GOP opponent Bruce Rauner.

 

The Tribune survey of 800 voters found 48-percent supporting Quinn, 37-percent backing Rauner, and five-percent planning to vote for Libertarian candidate Chad Grimm.

 

The numbers suggest Quinn’s attacks on Rauner may be working… 49-percent of those surveyed said Quinn was more in touch with the concerns of average voters, while only 30-percent said that of Rauner.

Education Groups Weary of Rauner Plan to Shift Towards Merit Pay


Even some education reformers are raising questions about Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner’s education plan.

 

Rauner’s plan calls for moving teachers toward a merit pay system, and bringing an end to teacher tenure.

 

The groups say the state should evaluate recent changes it has already made in teacher evaluation and compensation before making sweeping new moves.

 

Those changes do call for student test scores to be among the factors used in teacher evaluations, which can in turn be used to make decisions about pay and tenure.

Security To Be Tightened, Sweeps Expected At Springfield's Public High Schools, In Wake Of Gun Incidents


Expect tighter security… including possible sweeps for contraband… at Springfield’s public high schools in the days ahead. 

 

An unloaded gun was recovered at Southeast High School Friday… the second incident involving a student and a firearm in District 186 so far this school year. 

 

Superintendent Jennifer Gill says student security is the highest priority… but so far, the district is apparently not considering installing metal detectors at the high schools.

New Springfield Teacher Contract To Come Up For Vote Monday


The Springfield school board is expected to vote Monday night on a new teachers contract… and, as usual, the board will not release any details about the agreement until after the vote. 

 

The board and the Springfield Education Association have been in talks for months… and reached a tentative agreement earlier this week. But neither side is discussing the length of the contract, or how much it will cost the district in additional pay.

 

The union will hold its own ratification vote for the contract Monday, just before the school board takes final action.

Fired IDOT Workers Sue; Other Questionable Hires Still On State Payroll


A group of 50 IDOT workers are suing over their firing last month… saying their jobs were eliminated only to provide political cover for Governor Pat Quinn as he seeks re-election. 

 

The workers were laid off following an investigation that indicated they, and perhaps as many as 200 others, got their jobs improperly because of political connections instead of merit.  The lawsuit filed this week demands the state turn over information that the workers say will show they were unfairly fired.

 

Meanwhile, more than 160 people who may have been improperly hired as “staff assistants” at IDOT are still on the job in different job titles.  That’s according to a review of state records by the Associated Press.  Some of those hires date back to 2002. 

 

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner has called for those workers to also be fired, but IDOT says there are no plans to do so.

Another Gun Found At A High School In Springfield


Another incident of a firearm at a high school in Springfield. 

 

District 186 says police and school administrators recovered an unloaded firearm at Southeast High School Friday.  The gun was not on a person when it was recovered, but a statement from the district says suspects were detained as part of a police investigation into the incident. 

 

The district beefed up security for Friday night’s football game at Southeast against visiting Chatham Glenwood. Superintendent Jennifer Gill also says there will be tighter security at the city's high schools in the days to come, with more informal "sweeps."  But for now, Gill is downplaying the idea of installing metal detectors at the schools, because she says they are expensive to obtain and operate.

Pay Raise Ordinance Would Boost Salaries For City Officials Elected Next Spring


Springfield aldermen will get the chance to vote on a pay raise for the next city council… and citywide elected officials. 

 

An ordinance on first reading next week would provide annual raises tied to increases in the Consumer Price Index.  Any annual raise could not exceed three-percent, but if prices actually went down in a year, the officials would still automatically get a one-percent raise. The raises would take effect after next spring’s city elections. 

 

Currently the mayor makes more than $129,000… the city clerk and treasurer get almost $89,000 each… and aldermen are each paid $15,000 a year.

 

Illinois Rail Safety Week Starts Sunday


Sunday marks the start of Illinois Rail Safety Week. 

 

Springfield police plan educational efforts and enforcement actions… including targeted patrols around some of the city’s busiest train crossings.  They’re trying to crack down on drivers who ignore lights and crossing gates… and pedestrians who trespass on railroad property. 

 

Last year nearly 50 Illinoisans died in collisions with trains while in vehicles or on foot.

Prayer Walk To Seek Divine Guidance On Race Relations


An improvement in race relations in Springfield will be one of the things hundreds of people will be praying for during a prayer walk to the State Capitol Saturday morning. 

 

The second annual “God Belongs In My City” event will begin at around 10am at Comer Cox Park and travel to the Statehouse for more prayers and speeches.  Various Christian denominations around the city are taking part.

 

Local Sites Rebound After Natural, Manmade Crises


Life is getting back to normal at Washington Park after the oil spill that affected the park lagoon this week. 

 

Park district officials say the Carillon Art Festival will go on as scheduled this weekend. 

 

Meanwhile, the water-logged Dana Thomas House has rebounded from a basement flood last month… and more heavy rains in the past few days.  The historic site will resume live music concerts later this month.  The September 20th musical event has been jokingly titled “Who’ll Stop the Rain?”

Rock Island Sheriff Resigns After Cyberstalking Allegation


The sheriff of Rock Island County has resigned… and will forfeit his pension… after entering a plea on a charge of attempted official misconduct. 

 

Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office prosecuted the case against Sheriff Jeffrey Boyd, who was accused of cyberstalking a woman he met at a gym in Rock Island.  Prosecutors say the woman was an undocumented immigrant… and that Boyd sent her repeated coercive and harassing text messages, including one that constituted a threat. 

 

Despite the plea, Boyd told reporters he does not believe he committed a crime.

Surcharge On Criminal, Traffic Cases Could Fund Police Cams


Springfield’s plan to purchase body cameras for police officers could get a boost from a proposal by two state lawmakers. 

 

They’re proposing a $6 surcharge on the fines paid in criminal cases and traffic offenses.  That could generate $4 to 6 million a year, which could be used for grants to local law enforcement agencies for the purchase of dashboard or body cams. 

 

The lawmakers say the cameras provide protection for both police and the public… and could prevent the type of upheaval that followed the police shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Missouri.

 

Cleanup Crews Still Making Headway Against Oil Spill


Crews have cleaned up more than 80-percent of the oil that spilled following an auto repair shop fire in Springfield this week… but it could take a couple of weeks or longer to mop up the rest. 

 

There continues to be no sign of long-term damage at Washington Park or other places affected by that thousand-gallon spill of waste oil from the Merlin 200,000 Mile Shop on Wabash.  Crews are no longer working around-the-clock… but still have days of work ahead to collect the rest of the oil and remove contaminated debris from the scene. 

 

The bill for the cleanup could be tens of thousands of dollars... and that bill will be sent to the owners of the Merlin shop.

 

EPA TO Study Sangamon River Contaminants


The Illinois EPA wants more study about contaminants that are making their way into the Sangamon River between Decatur and Springfield… which could lead to recommendations on ways to reduce the problem. 

 

The last study a decade ago showed that several portions of the river had elevated levels of fecal coliform… which can cause health problems in humans.  Some parts of the river watershed in Sangamon, Macon and Christian counties had other contamination issues as well. 

 

The Decatur Herald-and-Review says any recommendations for changes in land use practices would be voluntary.

 

U Of I Trustees Refuse To Hire Professor Over Anti-Israel Tweets


The University of Illinois board of trustees has upheld the decision of university chancellor Phyllis Wise to rescind a job offer to a controversial professor. 

 

Steven Salaita had been hired for a tenured position, but the job offer was withdrawn after controversy erupted over Salaita’s Twitter feed, which had numerous harshly-worded posts that were sharply critical of Israel’s military action in the Gaza Strip. 

 

Trustees voted 8-1 to reject Salaita’s demand to honor the original job offer.  Salaita has indicated he may sue over the decision.

Channel 3 Anchor May Only Have Months To Live


A Central Illinois news anchor is telling viewers that he may only have a few months to live. 

 

WCIA-TV anchor Dave Benton has been battling brain cancer… and announced Thursday that it has returned, and that the tumor is inoperable.  Benton says he will be trying an antibody treatment that he hopes will slow the tumor’s growth, and says he will keep working for as long as he is able. 

 

But Benton also says he is at peace with his fate, and says he is now in God’s hands.

Surcharge On Criminal, Traffic Fines Could Fund Police Body Cams


As Springfield considers body cameras for its police officers, help could be on the way from the state. 

 

Two state lawmakers are proposing an additional $6 charge to be tacked on to the fines that people pay for criminal convictions or traffic violations.  A portion of that money would be used to pay for grants to help law enforcement agencies buy the body cams.

 

The devices can record audio and video of an officer’s interaction with citizens.

 

United Way Sets $3 Million Fundraising Goal


For the first time, six members of a Springfield family will all serve as co-chairs of the local United Way’s annual fundraising campaign. 

 

And the effort has set an ambitiously large goal to go along with the large Becker clan that will oversee it.  The United Way will attempt to raise $3 million this year… an increase of more than 10-percent over last year’s $2.65 million effort.

Round-The-Clock Oil Cleanup Ending, But Crews Still Hard At Work


Round-the-clock cleanup efforts are coming to an end at Washington Park and other areas affected by the spill of waste oil from a Springfield auto repair shop. 

 

But crews could still be on hand during daylight hours for the next two weeks or more… trying to mop up the last bits of oil still affecting water and soil from Wabash Avenue to north of the park. 

 

An Illinois EPA official says the cost of the cleanup could be in the “tens of thousands of dollars.”  The owners of the fire-damaged Merlin store would be responsible for that cost.

Poe, Brauer Oppose Shifting Teacher Pension Costs To Local School Districts


Two local lawmakers have signed on to a resolution rejecting the idea of passing teacher pension costs back on to local school districts. 

 

House Speaker Mike Madigan has supported the idea of a “cost shift” to ease the state’s pension burden, but opponents of the idea say it will just transfer the state’s problems to local districts… forcing either property tax hikes or deep cuts in school spending. 

 

Republicans Raymond Poe and Rich Brauer are co-sponsors of the resolution that opposes the cost shift.

U of I Trustees Uphold Decision To Rescind Job Offer To Controversial Prof


The University of Illinois board of trustees has overwhelmingly rejected a professor’s request to reinstate the job offer that was rescinded because of the professor’s anti-Israel posts on social media. 

 

Steven Salaita was supposed to start as a tenured professor this fall… but his harsh rhetoric over the Gaza War led to the offer being withdrawn.  The vote was eight-to-one against Salaita… who has threatened to sue over the lost job. 

 

Trustee Karen Hasara of Springfield was among the majority voting to reject Salaita.

 

Springfield Leaks Website Still Fighting Subpoena Seeking Info On Site Commenters


The Springfield Leaks website is continuing to fight a subpoena that seeks to learn the identity of people providing information and posting to the site. 

 

The anonymously-operated site contends the City of Springfield is trying to learn the identity of whistle-blowers who have leaked info to the website about issues like the police department file shredding scandal. 

 

The subpoena was issued as part of the city’s effort to fight a harassment lawsuit brought by reporter and blogger Calvin Christian… whose clashes with the police department are frequent subject matter on the Springfield Leaks site.

 

Suspect In Murder Of Five Kids Had Gone On Illinois Crime Spree


The man now accused of killing his five children in South Carolina had done time in an Illinois prison for a crime spree when he was 19. 

 

Timothy Jones was arrested in McHenry County in 2001 for stealing a car, burglary and passing bad checks.  He already had a drug arrest on his record.  Jones was sentenced to six years in prison… but served less than a year. 

 

He’s now 32 and being held in the murders of his children, ages one to eight.  Authorities say they don’t have a motive for the crime.

Local Lawmakers Give Guarded Support To Obama's ISIS Plan


Local members of Congress are offering cautious support for President Obama’s strategy to deal with the Islamic State terror group. 

 

Republican Congressman Rodney Davis says he supports the call for airstrikes against the group in both Iraq and Syria… but wants Obama to bring all of his ideas before Congress for debate and votes. 

 

Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin also supports broader military action against ISIS… as long as no American ground forces are involved.

 

Christie Stumps For Rauner In Springfield


On a campaign swing in Springfield for Bruce Rauner, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he will keep trying to convince businesses to leave Illinois for New Jersey, even if Rauner is elected governor this fall. 

 

But Christie says he thinks he’ll be less successful than he would if Pat Quinn gets four more years. 

 

The head of the Republican Governors Association… and a possible 2016 White House contender… appeared at two closed-door fundraisers for Rauner in Springfield, and then met supporters and posed for pictures at the Brickhouse Pub downtown Wednesday.

 

Rauner Demands Quinn Sever Ties With Former Top Aide


Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is demanding that Governor Pat Quinn’s administration end all contact with Quinn’s former chief of staff. 

 

Jack Lavin left the administration last year, and now works as a lobbyist on key state issues like medical marijuana licenses.  Rauner says Lavin symbolizes “corruption and cronyism” in Quinn’s administration, and notes that Lavin’s emails have been subpoenaed as part of an ongoing investigation into Quinn’s botched NRI anti-violence program. 

 

The Quinn camp says Rauner is engaging in smear tactics.

 

Oil Spill Spreads Past Washington Park, But Cleanup Makes Progress


Heavy rains have pushed an oil spill beyond Washington Park… and as far north as Washington Street. 

 

But the Illinois EPA says cleanup crews are making progress against the spill… which happened when a fire Monday night ruptured waste oil storage tanks at the Merlin 200,000 Mile Shop on Wabash.  Crews have soaked up about two-thirds of the estimated 1,000 gallons of oil that flowed into a storm sewer, and eventually traveled along a creek until it hit the Washington Park lagoon. 

 

Round-the-clock work is continuing today, but authorities say there’s no evidence of harm to wildlife.  They’re still evaluating the long-term effects on soil and water.

 

St. John's Accuses SIU Of Retaliation In Trauma Center Decision


St. John’s Hospital accuses the SIU School of Medicine of engaging in retaliation when the med school decided to designate Memorial Medical Center as the permanent Level 1 trauma center for the region. 

 

The two hospitals had alternated the designation on a yearly basis, but SIU’s recent decision could end that 16-year arrangement. 

 

The State Journal-Register reports that St. John’s officials believe the decision was in response to the hospital’s request for an audit of how SIU spent $9 million in funding from St. John’s… an allegation the medical school denies.

Springfield Man Dies In Motorcycle Crash Near Collinsville


A Springfield man is dead following a motorcycle crash near Collinsville. 

 

The Belleville News-Democrat says 56-year-old Robert Dicken died when he lost control of his bike on the exit ramp from southbound Interstate 55 onto I-255.

 

State police say Dicken was wearing a helmet when he ran off the road, laid his bike down and crashed into the guard rail.  The coroner says he died of blunt chest trauma.

Oil Spill Reaches Washington Park; Rain Complicates Cleanup


Heavy rains are not helping efforts to clean up an oil spill that has now traveled at least to the Washington Park lagoon. 

 

The waste oil had been held in storage tanks at the Merlin 200,000 Mile Shop on Wabash… which was destroyed by fire Monday night.  The flames ruptured the plastic storage tanks, sending up to 1,000 gallons of oil into the storm sewer… and from there to a creek that flows to the lagoon. 

 

Cleanup crews have been trying to contain and mop up the oil… and are also assessing the impact on birds and fish.

 

CWLP Electric Fund Shortfall Worsens, Default Looms


The options range from bad to worse as City Water Light and Power tries to stabilize its finances and avoid a default that could send its debt into junk bond status. 

 

Chief utilities engineer Eric Hobbie gave an updated fiscal picture to Springfield aldermen Tuesday night, and said it would take $8 million in new revenues and spending cuts to prevent that default.  But headcount at CWLP is already at a 20-year low… and aldermen expressed concerns about yet another electric rate hike. 

 

Another possibility is returning some of the PILOT payments the utility makes to the corporate fund… which would help CWLP but would blow a hole in the city’s general finances.

 

Houston Abandons Plan To Tax Medical Marijuana


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston’s idea of assessing an additional city tax on medical marijuana sales has officially gone up in smoke. 

 

Houston floated the idea last month… and still vowed to pursue it even after state revenue officials said such a tax would not be permitted under the law.  But now mayoral spokesman Nathan Mihelich says Houston has concluded that there is no way for the city to levy the tax, and has now dropped the idea.

 

Ex-Bookkeeper Gets Four Years In Prison For School Theft


A former Southeast High School bookkeeper has been sentenced to four years in prison for stealing more than $135,000 from student athletic and extracurricular funds. 

 

Amy Day siphoned off the money over a period of more than two years that she worked at the school.  In addition to the prison term, she was ordered to pay restitution. 

 

Since the theft was discovered last year, school district officials say they have tightened controls to make it more difficult to get away with crimes like that.

UIS Enrollment Hits Record High


Enrollment at the University of Illinois Springfield has surpassed 5,400 for the first time in the school's history.

 

The fall census of 5,431 students eclipsed the previous record of 5,174 set in 2010.

 

UIS Chancellor Susan Koch tells the Associated Press that more students are living on campus this semester and campus housing is more than 97 percent occupied.

Quinn, Rauner Clash In Face-To-Face Meeting


It’s getting personal… and even more heated… between the major party candidates for Illinois governor.  Incumbent Pat Quinn and challenger Bruce Rauner met face-to-face in a session before the Chicago Tribune editorial board Tuesday. 

 

Rauner said Quinn was just like predecessor Rod Blagojevich… except for the hair.  And Quinn accuses Rauner of unethical business practices and a failure to spell out a workable budget plan.

 

Downtown Improvements Taking Shape


A couple of big upgrades in downtown Springfield… right around the corner from each other. 

 

The relocated Widow at Windsor Antiques held a ribbon-cutting Tuesday at 7th and Monroe… occupying a former state office building that had sat vacant for seven years.  The accountancy firm Eck, Schafer and Punke will take over the second floor of that building… filling the last available commercial space on that block. 

 

Meanwhile, construction work will start Friday morning on the first “parklette” in the downtown area… an elevated outdoor dining area that will occupy two parking spaces right in front of Maldaner’s restaurant.  Chef Michael Higgins says the structure… modeled after outdoor dining areas in cities like San Francisco… should be ready for customers by lunchtime Friday.

Houston Drops Plan For Medical Marijuana Tax


A change of heart for Mayor Mike Houston. 

 

He’s now abandoning his idea of imposing a tax on medical marijuana transactions after concluding that state law does not allow any community… even home rule cities like Springfield… to add that extra tax. 

 

As recently as last week, Houston said he believed the tax would be possible, despite statements to the contrary from the Illinois Department of Revenue. But as News/Talk 970 WMAY was the first to report, mayoral spokesman Nathan Mihelich now says the idea is dead.

 

Fire Leads To Waste Oil Spill; Cleanup Continues From Wabash To Washington Park


What began as a business fire has turned into an environmental headache on Springfield’s west side. 

 

The fire that heavily damaged Merlin’s 200,000 Mile Shop on Wabash ruptured waste oil storage tanks… spilling hundreds of gallons of that oil into the storm sewer, and from there into a nearby creek.  The Illinois EPA is attempting to contain and clean up the mess, which may have spread as far north as Washington Park.

 

The fire caused $300,000 damage to the building and another $100,000 to the contents, including 3 cars inside.  The cause is still under investigation.

Relocated Antique Store Adds To Revival Of East Monroe Downtown


The new owners of a Springfield antique store say they’re excited to be part of a resurgence along a busy downtown street. 

 

Court and Karen Conn recently purchased the Widow at Windsor Antiques… and moved it into a former state office building on East Monroe that had sat vacant for seven years.  The accountancy firm Eck, Schafer and Punke will fill the upper level of the 35,000-square foot building… filling the last available commercial space along that block.

 

Karen Conn expects the business to attract both local shoppers and tourists.

Simpson Undecided On Proposed Slaughterhouse In Her Ward


Springfield Alderman Gail Simpson says she’s keeping an open mind about a proposed slaughterhouse in her ward. 

 

Simpson says she initially had the same concerns as many residents that the proposed facility near Stevenson and Stanton would create odor, noise and other problems.  

 

But she says she’s getting assurances that modern technology has largely eliminated those problems… and says she’s willing to learn more before taking a final position on the idea.

Downtown ''Parklette'' To Open Friday


It’s something you might see in a big city… and now it’s about to become part of the downtown Springfield landscape. 

 

Chef Michael Higgins says a “parklette” will be built at Maldaner’s restaurant Friday morning… and will be open in time for lunch that day.  The structure will fill two parking spaces in front of the restaurant, allowing more open-air dining right next to 6th Street. 

 

Higgins says the close proximity to the street poses no risk to diners… and should get motorists to slow down.

[Based on information provided by Maldaner's restaurant, this story originally reported that construction was planned for Thursday.  But those plans have been pushed back one day, and now the parklette will be built on Friday.]

Rauner, Quinn Engage In Verbal Combat At Joint Appearance


Republican Bruce Rauner says the only difference between Governor Pat Quinn and predecessor Rod Blagojevich is the hair. 

 

Rauner says Quinn is carrying on his former running mate’s tradition of “cronyism and corruption.”  The candidates met face-to-face in an endorsement session for the Chicago Tribune. 

 

Quinn accuses Rauner of offering a budget plan that doesn’t add up… and that will ultimately lead to, quote, “savage” cuts to education.

 

IEA Dismisses Rauner Education Plan As Unproven ''Fads''


The head of the Illinois Education Association says Republican Bruce Rauner’s education plan is nothing more than a collection of “fads” that have already been tried, and failed. 

 

Rauner has proposed shifting teachers to a merit pay system, ending teacher tenure, and pumping more money into charter schools as part of an overall funding increase for education. 

 

But Cinda Klickna… whose group has endorsed Governor Pat Quinn… says Rauner’s plan doesn’t address the most urgent needs for Illinois schools.

 

Rollover Accident Victim Identified


The Sangamon County coroner’s office has identified the victim of a fatal rollover accident on I-55 Monday afternoon. 

 

32-year-old Kristopher Henderson of Monterey, California died when he and another person were ejected from their Ford Explorer after it ran off the highway near the Toronto Road exit.  Henderson died of blunt force trauma. The woman who was traveling with him suffered serious injuries.

 

Blood tests are still pending, and the accident remains under investigation.

UPDATE: Merlin Fire Causes Environmental Concerns


UPDATE 7:30AM: Springfield fire and hazmat crews are still dealing with some of the aftermath of last night's blaze at the Merlin 200,000 Mile shop on Wabash. 

 

Fire Chief Ken Fustin tells us that the extra-alarm fire breached containers of waste oil stored onsite... causing that oil to leak out and spill into the storm sewers.  Waste oil has been found in the sewer system as far north as Chatham and Iles.  The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois Emergency Management Agency are both on the scene, trying to contain and clean the mess. 

 

Still no word on the cause of that fire... which took six hours to bring under control.  Two firefighters were treated at the scene for heat-related problems while battling that fire.

 


[ORIGINAL STORY, POSTED 5AM: Fire overnight has heavily damaged the “Merlin 200,000 Mile” shop on West Wabash. 

 

The fire broke out around 9 Monday night, and flames were visible shooting through the roof of the structure.  No injuries were reported, but the Springfield Fire Department could not immediately provide information about the extent of the damage to the building and its contents… including any cars that may have been inside.  There’s no word yet on a cause.]

Two Separate Viruses Have Local Health Officials On Alert


Sangamon County public health officials are keeping a close eye on two viruses. 

 

An especially nasty strain of the enterovirus has sickened dozens of children in several Midwestern states, including Illinois.  Public health director Jim Stone says he’s not aware of any cases locally… but a doctor at St. John’s Children’s Hospital tells the State Journal-Register that the hospital has apparently treated more than a dozen cases of the respiratory illness. 

 

Meanwhile, as News/Talk 970 WMAY was the first to report, West Nile virus has turned up in Sangamon County for the first time this year.  An infected mosquito was caught in a health department trap.  So far, there have been no local human cases of West Nile this year… and Stone says it’s possible that people are just building up an immunity to the bug.

 

Springfield Slaughterhouse Proposal Worries Nearby Residents


Several residents near the old Eagle and Dane’s Discount stores off of Stevenson Drive are up in arms about plans for a retail meat market that would include a slaughterhouse inside the building. 

 

A zoning hearing is planned for next week on a variance that would allow Magro Meats of Auburn to slaughter livestock onsite as part of its plans for the site.  A similar proposal in Auburn was derailed last year over concerns about odor, noise, and possible other health issues from the slaughtering operation.

 

One Dead, One Hurt After I-55 Rollover Crash


One person is dead following a rollover crash on southbound Interstate 55 between 6th Street and Toronto Road Monday. 

 

According to state police, a man and a woman were traveling together in a Ford Explorer when the driver tried unsuccessfully to change lanes, and then lost control after veering back in the other direction.  The vehicle left the road, went through the fence and overturned.  Both people were ejected. 

 

The man died, while the woman was seriously injured.  Their names have not been released.

Rauner Ed Plan: End Teacher Tenure, Move To Merit Pay, Boost Charter Schools


Teacher tenure would be on the way out… and pay raises based on years of service could be replaced by merit pay… under Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner’s education reform plan. 

 

Rauner… who has pledged to dramatically cut Illinois income taxes over the next four years… nonetheless says he will provide more funding to education.  But he also says changes are needed to reward good teachers… and make it easier to get rid of bad ones. 

 

Rauner also wants more funding and equal footing for charter schools.

 

Chris Christie To Campaign For Rauner In Springfield This Week


A possible Republican presidential candidate will visit Springfield this week to support Bruce Rauner’s campaign for governor. 

 

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will make several stops with Rauner, as part of Christie’s role as head of the Republican Governors Association. 

 

Two of the stops will be closed to the press… but Rauner and Christie are expected to appear together at a “retail shop” in Springfield Wednesday afternoon.

West Nile-Infected Mosquito Found In Sangamon County


West Nile virus has returned to Sangamon County. 

 

As News/Talk 970 WMAY was the first to report, an infected mosquito was found last week in one of the many mosquito traps set up around the area by the county public health department.  A decade ago, West Nile was linked to dozens of illnesses and several deaths locally, but in recent years, few people have become sick from it. 

 

Even so, the health department recommends taking precautions, including using an insect repellent with DEET to keep those mosquitoes away.

Enterovirus In Illinois, But Not Yet In Sangamon County


There are some confirmed or suspected cases of a serious respiratory virus affecting children in Illinois… but so far, none in the immediate Springfield area. 

 

The enterovirus has sent dozens of kids in Kansas City to the hospital… and there have been some hospitalizations in the Quincy area.  Sangamon County health officials are on the lookout, but say they haven’t seen any cases locally yet.

Federal Grant Dollars For Public Safety Bound For Springfield


Federal money is on its way to Sangamon County for various public safety initiatives. 

 

Sangamon County will get $200,000 to enhance drug court activities… while two Springfield-based organizations, the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, will split another $200,000 for victim services and public awareness programs.

Rauner Education Plan Calls For Merit Pay, End Of Teacher Tenure


Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner has unveiled an education reform plan that calls for merit pay for teachers… more charter schools… and more overall funding for education. 

 

In addition to a merit pay system, Rauner says he would end teacher tenure… moving Illinois to a system of annual contracts for teachers like one currently in operation in Florida.

Video Cameras In Nursing Home Rooms Proposed


Your loved one in a nursing home could soon have a camera keeping watch over them… under an idea being backed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. 

 

Madigan supports changing state law to allow the video monitoring in nursing home rooms… if the family covers the costs.  The proposal would allow the video to be used in court… and would include penalties for anyone who tampers with the cameras.

NAACP Seeks Meeting Between Cops, Young Black Males


The head of the Springfield NAACP branch wants a face-to-face meeting between some Springfield cops and young black men… in order to get to the bottom of whatever antagonism exists between the two groups. 

 

Appearing live on the News/Talk 970 WMAY News Feed, Teresa Haley says she wants to know what it is about young black males that seems to, quote, “infuriate” some cops and make them want to pull over those black males.

 

The NAACP wants to devise “action plans” to deal with issues raised at this week’s town hall meeting on racism.

 

Number Of Springfield Students Missing School Over Vaccinations Down By Half


The number of Springfield public school students being kept out of class over vaccinations is down by more than half since Tuesday. 

 

District 186 says as of Thursday afternoon, 139 students were still “excluded” from school for either not having the shots, or not having the proper paperwork.  That’s down from 283 on Tuesday. 

 

District officials say they’re assisting the remaining families so those students can return to class.

Big Demand For Medical Marijuana


More than 2,000 people have begun applying for access to medical marijuana in Illinois… in just the first three days of signup. 

 

And that just covers patients whose last names start with the letters “A” through “L.”  They were allowed to start the process this week, while all others have to wait till November. 

 

And even then, medical marijuana is not expected to be available for sale and consumption in Illinois until next year.

 

 

Durbin Wants Review Of Police Use Of Military Equipment


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is calling for a Pentagon review of the program that sends surplus military equipment to local police agencies. 

 

Durbin says there has not been sufficient oversight on the use of such equipment… and not enough training for local cops on how to use it. 

 

Springfield and Sangamon County have received military firearms and armored vehicles under the program… which has prompted concerns about the “militarization” of civilian police.

CWLP To Provide Update On Finances


Expect to hear more next week on the shape of finances at City Water Light and Power… and on the possible options for dealing with anticipated shortfalls. 

 

A recent heat wave probably won’t make up for the revenues lost from an unusually cool summer… leaving CWLP at risk of a second technical default in just over two years.  Aldermen are pressing for more details on the scope of the problem… and what it may take to fix it.

Rauner Ad Touts His ''Trashcan Van''


In the latest campaign clash over the wealth of the candidates for governor, Republican Bruce Rauner has a new ad featuring what he calls his “rolling trashcan,” a beat-up van with nearly 200,000 miles on it. 

 

The ad rips Governor Pat Quinn for flying in the state plane… and vows that Rauner will live in Springfield, sell the state plane and drive his, quote, “ugly van” to work. 

 

Quinn’s campaign has blasted Rauner for revelations that he belongs to a wine club with a $140,000 membership fee.

Jacksonville Teen Charged Over Baby In Dumpster


A 17-year-old Jacksonville woman faces felony child abandonment charges after her infant was found in a dumpster last weekend. 

 

A Jacksonville radio station says authorities have not released the woman’s name… because they have not yet decided whether to try her as an adult.  The baby is now out of the hospital and in foster care.

Ald. Simpson Running for Springfield Mayor


She says there are two Springfields… one that is flourishing and one that is floundering.

 

And Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson says that’s why she’s decided to run for mayor next year.

 

Simpson says being an alderman has not allowed her to bring about the changes that the city needs, especially in underdeveloped neighborhoods.

 

And she vows that, if elected, she will give a voice to people that she says are routinely ignored by City Hall… including those making less than 100-thousand dollars a year.

Community Urges Training and Accountability for Officers During NAACP Forum


Frustration is on full display following Thursday’s NAACP town hall meeting… in which many African-Americans in Springfield complained of unfair and punitive treatment by the police department and the school district.

 

One speaker after another urged better training and more accountability for officers… or expressed concern about the high rate of minority students who are suspended or expelled.

 

Police Chief Kenny Winslow insists that his officers are trained to be fair and respectful to everyone… and vows that any who don’t follow that directive will be held accountable.

 

A follow-up meeting is planned for November 13th.

Stocks-Smith Considering Another Bid for Springfield Mayor


The race for Springfield mayor may get more crowded before it’s over.

 

2011 contender Sheila Stocks-Smith says she is still considering another run for the office.

 

Appearing live on the News/Talk 970 WMAY Red Cross Talkathon at Scheels Thursday, Stocks-Smith said her decision won’t be affected by the entry of another woman, Gail Simpson, into the race.

 

Stocks-Smith said the next mayor… whoever that might be… should focus on improving the “central city” and Springfield’s older neighborhoods.

Complaint Against Alderman Cahnman Says More Than a Dozen Conflicts of Interest


More hot water for Springfield Alderman Sam Cahnman.

 

The state panel that oversees and disciplines attorneys has filed a complaint accusing Cahnman of numerous conflicts of interest.

 

The complaint alleges that Cahnman violated ethical rules by representing more than a dozen clients in various traffic cases brought by the City of Springfield.

 

The Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission says Cahnman cannot represent his client’s interests and still uphold his oath of office to act in the financial best interest of the city.

Circuit Court Judge Will Factor Recent Supreme Court Ruling Into Pension Reform Decision


State workers, teachers and retirees should know sooner rather than later what will happen to their pensions.

 

A Sangamon County judge says the numerous legal challenges to the state’s pension reform law should be put on the fast track… because a recent state Supreme Court ruling on retiree health benefits cannot be ignored.

 

That ruling held that the benefits were protected by the Illinois Constitution… and Judge John Belz says the decision is “the elephant in the room” in addressing all other issues for public sector workers and retirees.

Public Comment Period for Local Transportation Plans Open


Now you have a chance to offer your critique of local transportation plans.

 

A long-range proposal for local street, bridge and bike trail projects is now on display for a month-long public comment period.

 

That plan covers projects from Fiscal Year 2015 to 2018… including the long-awaited 11th Street extension, which under the plan would be completed sometime in 2016.

 

You can review the plan at the Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission website or at several other locations, including Lincoln Library downtown.

Ward 2's Simpson city's fourth candidate for Mayor


It's an announcement that could dramatically shake up Springfield politics.

Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson has decided to run for mayor instead of
seeking another term on the City Council.  Simpson says the job of
alderman has not allowed her to bring about the kind of changes that she
says the city needs.  Simpson contends a big part of the city does not
feel "valued" by their city government.

 

Simpson will be taking on incumbent Mayor Mike Houston and two announced challengers, Paul Palazzolo and Jim Langfelder.  She has in the past talked about a "good old boys" club in Springfield, but says that's
about to change.

 

Simpson made her announcement in front of a dilapidated east side
building that she says has been vacant for 20 years.  She says that
represents Springfield... but it's a part of Springfield that she says
her opponents won't talk about.

Forum on Relationship Between Police and Community Tonight


Tonight’s the night when all the cards… including perhaps the race card… get laid on the table.

 

Springfield’s NAACP will hold a town hall meeting tonight to talk about what they see as unfair treatment of young black men in the community, particularly by police.

 

Police Chief Kenny Winslow and others will take part in the forum, which gets underway at 6 o’clock at Southeast High School.

Like Springfield, Chicago Looking Into Body Cameras for Cops


Springfield is not alone in exploring the use of body cameras for police officers.

 

Chicago’s police superintendent is also interested in the technology… but admits he’s not sure if he’ll get pushback from rank-and-file officers or their union.

 

As News/Talk 970 WMAY was the first to report this week, Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is planning to include funding for the devices in next year’s city budget.

 

But he too acknowledges that there’s been no discussion yet with the police union about the devices and how those audio and video recordings could be used.

Quinn Attacks Ruaner for Past Comments on Minimum Wage


Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner has taken heat for advocating in the past that Illinois’s minimum wage should be rolled back to the lower federal rate.

 

But now it turns out he’s gone even further than that in the past. A radio interview has surfaced in which Rauner confirmed that in the past he even proposed eliminating the minimum wage entirely to make Illinois’s business environment more competitive.

 

Rauner now says both ideas are a mistake and there are better ways to improve the business climate… but Governor Pat Quinn’s campaign is stepping up its attacks on Rauner over the minimum wage issue.

New Attempts to Keep Libertarians Off Ballot


There’s a new effort to throw the Libertarian Party off of Illinois’s November ballot.

 

An attorney with the Springfield law firm Brown, Hay and Stephens has filed suit seeking to overturn last month’s State Board of Elections ruling that lets the Libertarian slate of candidates appear on the ballot.

 

That suit was filed on behalf of objectors who still believe the Libertarians did not submit enough valid signatures to get on the ballot.

 

Republicans are concerned that Libertarian candidates could siphon off voters and hurt their chances in key statewide races.

Group Encouraging Students to be In School and On Time


Expect to see a lot of messages this fall encouraging children to attend school and not be tardy.

 

The Faith Coalition for the Common Good hopes constant repetition of its message of “In School and On Time” will let kids know that school attendance is important and necessary.

 

The group hopes the message… which it’s sending through yard and bus signs and by encouraging neighborhood involvement… will raise the graduation rate in District 186.

State Representative Reis Attempts Forensic Audit of NRI Emails


An Illinois lawmaker accuses Governor Pat Quinn is breaking his pledge for full transparency in the investigation of his botched anti-violence initiative.

 

Republican Representative David Reis showed up at Central Management Services with a computer forensics expert and sought access to the department's email servers to see if there are additional emails related to the NRI controversy that haven't been turned over yet.

 

Quinn's office has turned over more than 2,000 emails... but has blocked the release of others, citing attorney-client privilege. CMS cited privacyand security issues in refusing to give Reis access to its email system.

Chicago, Like Springfield, Considering Body Cams For Cops


Springfield is not alone in its discussions about outfitting police officers with body cameras. 

 

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy is also looking at the devices for his officers… although there’s no timeline for acquiring the equipment. And he says he’s not sure his officers will support the idea. 

 

As News/Talk 970 WMAY was the first to report, Springfield Mayor Mike Houston hopes to include funding for body cams in the new city budget that takes effect March 1st.

Springfield Attorney Seeks To Have Libertarians Thrown Off Ballot


Illinois Libertarians may not want to get too comfortable on the November ballot. 

 

An attorney with the Springfield law firm Brown, Hay and Stephens -- representing two objectors -- has filed a challenge to the recent State Board of Elections ruling that allowed Libertarian candidates to appear on the ballot. 

 

The lawsuit claims the Libertarians did not submit enough valid signatures to qualify, and asks the court to overturn the state board’s decision.

Local Group Pushes School Attendance Message


Expect to see a lot of messages this fall encouraging children to attend school and not be tardy. 

 

The Faith Coalition for the Common Good hopes constant repetition of its message of “In School and On Time” will let kids know that school attendance is important and necessary. 

 

The group hopes the message… which it’s sending through yard and bus signs and by encouraging neighborhood involvement… will raise the graduation rate in District 186.

Durbin Praises CVS Decision To Snuff Out Sales Of Smokes


If you stop off at a CVS pharmacy for a few items… don’t bother looking for cigarettes.  You won’t find them there. 

 

The newly renamed CVS Health chain has stopped all tobacco and e-cigarette sales, a month ahead of schedule. 

 

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is praising the corporate move… saying it’s both an important public health step and a smart business move.

 

Woman Arrested In Springfield On Child Abduction Charge


A Gurnee woman is being held in Springfield on child abduction charges after allegedly taking her seven-year-old daughter without permission. 

 

The Daily Herald newspaper says Siomara Alvarado was arrested in Springfield after arriving here on a bus from Galesburg.  She had been with her daughter in Gurnee on Sunday but then disappeared. 

 

Police say the girl is now back in the custody of her father.

 

 

Houston: Body Cams for Springfield Police Could be Part of Next Year's Budget


In a story you heard first on News/Talk 970 WMAY, Springfield police officers could find themselves wearing body cameras next year.

 

Mayor Mike Houston says he would like to include funding for the devices in next year’s city budget.

 

It could cost close to $200,000 to equip every patrol officer with the cameras, which record audio and video of every interaction between the officer and the public.

 

Houston hopes the cameras can address concerns that police don’t treat everyone fairly or equally… but there’s been no discussion yet of how the video would be stored, or how it might be used.

Houston Still Eying Tax for Medicinal Marijuana


The state says he can’t do it… but that isn’t deterring Mayor Mike Houston from his idea to impose an extra tax on medical marijuana purchases.

 

If the city lands a dispensary for the drug, Houston wants to assess a tax on top of the state sales tax that is already applied to medications.

 

He says many people will come from outside the city to get the drug, and will use city services while they’re here, so they should pay a share of the cost.

 

The Illinois Department of Revenue says such an additional tax is not allowed, but Houston contends Springfield’s home rule status allows it.

Downtown TIF Money Tight In Final Years


Springfield’s downtown TIF district is winding down… but the money in the fund may not last all the way to the end.

 

City economic development director Mike Farmer presented figures Tuesday showing the TIF fund operating at a deficit.

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin is concerned that the mayor’s office isn’t keeping aldermen updated on the status of the fund… and is worried that aldermen may approve more projects than the fund can afford to support.

 

Farmer says the fund is fluid… and notes that not every project that seeks TIF funding will actually get the money.

Aldermen Create Sub-Committee to Find New Council Coordinator


It’s a debate that may show why a city council coordinator is so important. Springfield aldermen went back and forth in a lengthy debate Tuesday night before finally settling on a four-member subcommittee to help find the next coordinator.

 

Several people have expressed interest in replacing Joe Davis, the longtime coordinator who is retiring next year.

 

Several aldermen want to put off the search until next spring, after the new city council is seated.

 

But the rest say they want to find someone fast… so that Davis can help train his successor before he leaves.

Several Hundred Dist. 186 Students Kept Out of Class Because of Vaccinations Records


Far fewer kids in Springfield are missing school this week because of immunizations than after last year’s deadline… but District 186 officials say it’s still too many.

 

As of Tuesday afternoon, 283 students were still being held out of class because they didn’t have the shots… or at least hadn’t submitted the paperwork to prove that they did.

 

That compares to nearly 750 last year… when parents had until mid-October to get those vaccinations.

 

Superintendent Jennifer Gill says a big community push helped to reduce those numbers… which she expects will continue to shrink steadily this week.

Quinn Uses Rauner's Taste in Fine Wine for Politics


While Governor Pat Quinn says he’s still trying to get through this week on a minimum wage income, his opponent is apparently reaping more benefits of a maximum wage.

 

The Chicago Sun-Times reports Republican Bruce Rauner belongs to an exclusive wine club… one which requires at least a $140,000 initiation fee to join.

 

Rauner confirmed that he belongs to the Napa Valley club after a newspaper story recounted how Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had been spotted together in Montana, with bottles of the exclusive and pricey wine.

 

Quinn’s campaign says it’s more proof that Rauner is out of touch with average Illinoisans.

Mayor To Propose Body Cams For City Cops In New Budget


In a story you heard first on News/Talk 970 WMAY, Springfield police officers could soon be wearing body cameras that would record both video and audio of their interactions with citizens.

 

Mayor Mike Houston says he plans to include funding for the devices in the next city budget that takes effect in February.

 

The cameras are seen as a way to ensure that police treat citizens fairly and equally. But Houston says there's been no discussion yet with the police union on how that video will be stored or used.  Houston made his comments during an interview for the News/Talk 970 WMAY News Feed.

Far Fewer District 186 Students Held Out Of Class This Year Because Of Immunizations


Some Springfield public school students are still being held out of class for not having the proper immunizations... but District 186 says the number is far lower than last year, even though the deadline then was more than a month later. 

 

As of Tuesday afternoon, 283 students across the district were still being "excluded" from class -- but that compares to 750 last year, when parents had until October to provide the proper paperwork.  Superintendent Jennifer Gill says a big community push to remind parents and hold vaccination clinics helped keep the numbers down.

Houston Won't Abandon Medical Marijuana Tax Plan


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston isn't giving up on the idea of assessing an additional tax on people who purchase medical marijuana in Springfield, if the city lands a dispensary here.  

State officials have said Springfield wouldn't be allowed to tax those transactions, beyond the sales tax that is already applied to medications.  

But Houston says he doesn't see anything in the law that would prevent a home rule community like Springfield from doing that.

Labor Day Parade Works Politics Into Equation


Labor Day celebrations across Central Illinois had an air of political uncertainty about them.

 

While a large contingent of union members took part in festivities in Springfield Monday, they are facing uncertain prospects at the state level… with Governor Pat Quinn and Republican opponent Bruce Rauner both generating anger, especially among members of public sector unions.

 

The grand marshals at Monday’s parade were members of the SJR Newspaper Guild… the bargaining unit set up at the State Journal-Register to negotiate a contract for writers and reporters with the newspaper’s owners, Gatehouse Media.

Area Accidents Cap Off Holiday Weekend Travel


The Labor Day travel weekend came to a difficult end on area roadways Monday.

 

One accident involved an Illinois State Police trooper. State Police say the trooper had lights and sirens activated when he entered the intersection at South Grand and Dirksen and struck a car driven by a woman from Macon. The trooper’s vehicle overturned.

 

Both drivers were taken to the hospital for minor injuries. The accident closed the intersection for a couple of hours.

 

Meanwhile, a three-car accident on Interstate 55 northbound near Lincoln also slowed down holiday traffic Monday afternoon.

Deadline for Dist. 186 Students Vaccinations Today


If your child doesn’t have all their required shots… or the paperwork to prove it… they may not be allowed in class today.

 

Today is the first day of school since Friday’s deadline in District 186 to show proof of required immunizations.

 

The district has not said officially how many students may be kept out of class this morning until the proper paperwork is submitted.

Medical Marijuana Patient Applications Opens Today


Today is the day patients can begin applying for authorization to purchase and use medical marijuana… at least some of them can.

 

For now, only patients with last names starting with “A” through “L”, or their caregivers, can submit applications.

 

Everyone else will have to wait a couple of months to start the process.

 

And it’s still likely to be next year before anyone can actually obtain the drug for treatment of various specific conditions.

Despite Level 1 Trauma Center at Memorial, St. Johns Could Seek Designation


The SIU School of Medicine says it will only provide physicians to staff a Level 1 trauma center at Memorial Medical Center… not at St. John’s.

 

The two hospitals have alternated that designation for years… but now SIU says it wants to stick with just one, and thinks Memorial provides a better environment for that emergency treatment.

 

The State Journal-Register reports St. John’s could still seek to remain a Level 1 center… putting that designation at both hospitals simultaneously.

 

But it could only do so if it can find enough physicians from other places to staff the trauma center.

Governor's Mansion Residency Issue in Race


So does a governor need to live in the Governor’s Mansion?

 

Expect that debate to heat up again… now that Republican Bruce Rauner has pledged that he will do so if elected next year.

 

It’s similar to a pledge made by Governor Pat Quinn after he took office in 2009. But since then, Quinn has only averaged about 70 nights a year at the Mansion in Springfield.

 

Quinn now says he will continue to split time between Springfield and Chicago if he wins another term.

Charge: Bus Driver Drove With Passengers Still Standing on Bus's Stairway


His job was to drive intoxicated bar patrons home… but police in Bloomington say he may have gotten too involved in his work.

 

Steven McKenna is now charged with aggravated drunk driving.

 

Bystanders flagged down police after McKenna reportedly started driving the limo bus with the door open and passengers still standing on the bus’s stairway.

 

Police say his blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

Holiday Weekend Ends Badly On Area Roadways


Only minor injuries are reported from a rollover crash at South Grand and Dirksen on Labor Day afternoon.  Initial reports say a state police trooper in an unmarked police vehicle entered the intersection and struck another car.  The trooper’s vehicle rolled over.  The trooper and the driver of the other car were taken to the hospital for observation. A separate accident was also reported near that same location at around the same time, but it’s unclear how the two wrecks are related.

 

Meanwhile, injuries are also reported from a three-vehicle collision on Northbound Interstate 55 near Lincoln Monday.  The wreck slowed holiday traffic to a standstill, adding to delays from road work that is also going on in that area.  There was no immediate information on the number or extent of injuries.

September Is National Preparedness Month


September is National Preparedness Month. 

 

Illinois Emergency Management Agency officials are stressing a different them for each week of the month… including how to put together an emergency kit, practicing for what to do in an emergency, and planning for how to reconnect with family members after a disaster. 

 

More details are at ready.illinois.gov.

 

Question Of Whether To Live At Governor's Mansion Or Not Returns As Campaign Issue


Is it important for a governor to live in the governor’s mansion? 

 

That question is back on the political landscape in Illinois… with a new vow from Republican Bruce Rauner to call Springfield home if he’s elected in November. 

 

Governor Pat Quinn… who initially said he planned to live in the Mansion… only averages about 70 nights a year there, and says he’ll continue to split his time between Springfield and Chicago if re-elected.

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