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This I Believe 2014
7:35 am
Fri February 28, 2014

26 Letters

Amelia Paries - Lanphier HS
Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

From the moment we're born, we're bombarded with an endless array of words. Long, short, pretty, ugly—but all meaningless. Until we’re taught to read and write. But, even before then, we have to learn the alphabet. It's amazing, truly, how many ways those 26 little letters can be manipulated; the seemingly endless combinations that make up the language we know and take for granted. I love words. I love how they can take simple bedding and turn it into softly ruffled sheets, bathed in sleepy whispers and sweet dreams.

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Harvest Desk
3:44 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

DOT Extends Fuel Emergency As Propane Costs Fall

www.eia.gov

Truckers delivering much-needed heating fuel to homes and businesses throughout the Midwest will remain on the road longer now that the federal government has extended regional emergency declarations

Liquid propane was in short supply in dozens of states during the month of January.  

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Regional
1:34 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

State Police Investigation on Local Officers Released

Credit commons.wikimedia.org

A 300 page report by Illinois State Police investigating  alleged misconduct by two Springfield Police detectives Paul Carpenter and Jim Graham has been released. 

After several Freedom of Information Act requests by local  media outlets for several years, Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt ruled that the report should be made available to the public. 

Springfield Corporation Council Todd Greenburg says his office can review about 250 pages every 30 days, stretching release of the full document over nine months. 

Follow the link for the first installment. 

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Regional
11:56 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Full Audio of Oak Ridge Cemetery Closed-Talks

Credit Flickr photo by edebell

Before Tuesday's Committee of the Whole meeting, Springfield City Council held a special meeting to release the full audio from a November 5, 2013 executive session discussion about Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Mayor Michael Houston said release of the audio required majority consent of the council.

The vote came after a Sangamon County Judge John Schmidt ruled the discussion a violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.  The topic of the audio is a plan to seek proposals for private management of the city-owned cemetery.   The plan has since been abandoned.

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Regional
9:37 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Springfield Approves Budget, Creates New Position

Credit springfield.il.us

The city of Springfield approved a nearly 600 million dollar budget Wednesday for the new fiscal year.

New to the budget this year is an inspector general position, which officials set aside 79 thousand dollars to fund. 

Council member Cory Jobe before making the position permanent, they will look at results from the first year.

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This I Believe 2014
7:35 am
Thu February 27, 2014

The Most Powerful Element

Kelsey Hubble - Southeast HS
Credit Randy Eccles / WUIS

During my freshman year of high school, my circle of friends was fairly limited.  I had three friends who I associated with daily, and I was perfectly content with this.  In place of expanding my social standing and friend group, I spent a good number of my days walking home after school and doing nothing besides laying in my room listening to music.  This might sound lonely to some, but I was happy doing it, so I felt no need to change.  Music was and is one of the greatest companions I’ve had, and one of the best tools I feel people can use to connect with themselves, and even others.

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Statehouse
6:43 am
Thu February 27, 2014

DCFS Director Resigns After One Month

Arthur Bishop
Credit WBEZ

The director of the state's child welfare agency who pleaded guilty to stealing money from clients of a Chicago social-service agency 20 years ago has resigned from his post.  

Department of Children and Family Services Director Arthur Bishop submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Pat Quinn's office Wednesday. The letter notes that his background could be a distraction for Quinn in the upcoming election.  

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Disaster Aid Denied
6:00 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Illinois Politicians Challenge FEMA Formula UPDATED

A home all but wiped away in Washington, Ill. during the November tornado.
Lee Strubinger/WUIS

UPDATE:  On Tues., March 4, FEMA denied Illinois' appeal for public assistance for nine counties.  

This week, Gov. Pat Quinn gave a keynote speech at a forum in Washington, D.C. on natural disasters. The governor says Illinois has suffered a record-number of incidents in recent years. And yet the state has come up short when it's sought help from the federal government. That includes a rejection following the outbreak of 25 tornados in Illinois at the end of last year — tornadoes from which the towns of Washington, Gifford, and others are still recovering.

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Regional
2:00 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Study Shows Demand For Residential Space In Downtown Springfield

Credit flickr/pasa47

The Sustainable Design Assessment Team has been focused on the future of Downtown Springfield for about two years. 

SDAT sees the need for more residential space downtown.  A recent study confirms that view. 

"We're really talking about millenials, people in their 20's plus or minus.  And we're talking about the other end of the spectrum, empty nesters," Action Committee Co-chair Chuck Pell said.  Students from UIS or SIU could also be another group looking for a downtown living experience. 

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Minimum wage debate
5:56 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Ralliers Demand Minimum Wage Bump

Minimum wage workers and union members rally for a higher minimum wage in the Capitol rotunda.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  The battle over raising the minimum wage got lot louder on Wednesday. Several hundred minimum wage workers and union members rallied in the Capitol.

A coalition of unions and activist groups lobbied lawmakers and shared their stories of life on minimum wage.

Rachel Bittenbender is 25 and earning $8.25 an hour. She works just shy of full-time at a fast food restaurant in Dixon, near Rockford.

"After I pay my bills? That's about it," she said. "I have a little bit aside to help with some groceries...and then get my car with some gas if I need it for that week."

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Regional
5:42 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Same Sex Couple Gets Marriage License In Champaign County

Marissa Meli, 28, and Laura Meli, 27, have been in a relationship for more than eight years, and on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 became the first same-sex couple in Champaign County to get a marriage license.
Credit Sean Powers/Illinois Public Media

Champaign County Wednesday became the second county in Illinois to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses before June 1st. That’s when a state law says same-sex couples can marry. 

A federal judge ruled last week that Illinois' same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. Urbana residents Marissa and Laura Meli were the first same-sex couple in Champaign County to get a marriage license.

They’ve been together for more than eight years, and they tell  Sean Powers that they’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.

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Election 2014
4:56 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

13th Dist. Congressional Candidate Erika Harold

Erika Harold
Credit Jim Meadows/WILL

Over the next few weeks, you'll be hearing from Congressional candidates running in Illinois' 13th District. There are three Republicans and three Democrats seeking their party's nomination.  

Attorney Erika Harold (R-Urbana) is making her second run for Congress. Two years ago, she tried to replace former Congressman Tim Johnson on the ballot after Johnson announced plans to retire from politics. But Republican Party chairs instead chose incumbent Rodney Davis.

Harold talks with  Sean Powers about her campaign and what she hopes to accomplish.

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Statehouse
2:44 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Lawmaker Calls For Reducing Propane Sales Tax

Credit flickr/rejon

A southern Illinois lawmaker wants to temporarily cut the tax on propane.  
The Belleville News-Democrat reports the proposal is being introduced by Salem Republican Rep. John Cavaletto.

He wants to lower the tax from 6.25 percent to 1.25 percent. If it's approved, the decrease would take effect June 1 and last through August.  
 

Cavaletto says the temporary reprieve could mean ``hundreds of dollars in savings for the average homeowner'' if they fill propane tanks before the temperature drops in the fall.  
His says his bill would offer one-time relief.  

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Election 2014
1:50 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Dillard Picks Up Teachers' Endorsement; Rauner Still Pouring Own Money Into Race

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard, a state senator from Hinsdale, accepts the endorsement of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association Wednesday in the Illinois Capitol.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard got the endorsement of a retired group of teachers Wednesday. But he’s still lagging front-runner Bruce Rauner, who continues to tap his significant personal fortune for his campaign.

The Illinois Retired Teachers Association has nearly 36,000 members. President Bob Pinkerton says this is the first time the group has endorsed a candidate for governor.

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Regional
11:51 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Springfield Close to Finalizing Budget

Credit springfield.il.us

The City of Springfield is putting the final touches on a nearly 600 million-dollar budget.

Aldermen have proposed several changes to the spending plan, which could be adopted tonight at a special council meeting.   Alderman Cory Jobe and others want to move nearly 80-thousand dollars from other areas to pay for a new inspector general position.  The job would involve investigating possible corruption within city operations.

Mayor Mike Houston says he will work with the position if it’s approved.

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Regional
11:30 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Springfield Pension Problem Worst in State According to Think-Tank

Credit illinoispolicy.org

A conservative think tank recommends the City of Springfield switch its employee pension system to a 401K style plan rather than a defined benefit.

"First and foremost you need to make sure the data is pure." -- Budget Director William McCarty

The Illinois Policy Institute presented aldermen data that indicate the city of Springfield has the worst funded pension system among larger cities in the state.

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Local Bands
11:03 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Local Group War Magic Plays Unique Neo-Folk

Mark Reynolds (left, on keys) & Alistair Reynolds (on guitar) of War Magic
Credit Rachel Otwell

War Magic is a local folk band that you probably haven't heart of. The group's been called "dream-folk" and "neo-folk" - and they've only played a handful of shows in town. Alistair Reynolds and Mark Reynolds recently joined us to talk about their project and share some of their unique music: 

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Business
8:45 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Illinois Products Expo This Weekend

Some of the best Illinois has to offer will be on display this weekend in Springfield.  It's the annual Illinois Products Expo at the Orr Building on the state fairgrounds.  More than 70 companies will be represented.  

Jennifer Tyree,  Bureau Chief of Marketing and Promotions with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, says it's a variety of offerings.

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This I Believe 2014
7:35 am
Wed February 26, 2014

I Believe in Snow Cones

Alex Brosseau - Southeast HS

I used to live right on the busiest street in the world. Maybe, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it seemed pretty busy to me. Cars zoomed up and down the street, traveling around the world, and I wasn’t allowed to go past my block on my own, which now seems to be very logical, but at the time it seemed like the most ridiculous rule. On hot summer weeks when I was cooped up to my huge lawn and vast house, my sole escape was Snow Cone Tuesday.

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Statehouse
5:49 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Effort To Consolidate Pension Lawsuits

Efforts are underway to consolidate four lawsuits challenging Illinois' new pension reform law.  

Lawyers representing the respective groups of state retirees who filed class-action suits have asked the Supreme Court to allow them to present their cases as one.  

The groups share the common claim that the new pension reform plan violates the state constitution, which says benefits may not be diminished.  

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'Hastily Implemented'
11:50 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Audit Slams Anti-Violence Program Pushed By Quinn

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

An audit Tuesday criticized an anti-violence program Governor Pat Quinn pushed during his 2010 election campaign.Republicans wasted no time in calling for an investigation.

The non-partisan audit (PDF) says the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was "hastily implemented" and did not use standard financial safeguards.

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District 186
4:31 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Dist. 186 Will Look At Additional Cuts To Budget

The original list of proposed cuts as presented to the School board on 2/24/14
Credit provided by District 186

As Springfield public schools look to save around $5 million dollars, jobs and programs are on the chopping block. And yet, some say even those cuts would not save enough. 

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Statehouse
4:07 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

House Sets Spending Cap — Down $1b From Last Year

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois House took a key first step in the state budgeting process Tuesday.

It adopted what's called a "revenue estimate" — how much money Illinois is expected to be able to spend in the next fiscal year.

The cap, of $34.495 billion, is significant in several ways: It's about a billion less than last year's number, which means lawmakers are going to have extend the tax increase or find other sources of money, or they'll have to make a lot of cuts. On the other hand, it's not as bad as some people had feared.

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The Arts
11:22 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Students Compete With 'Poetry Out Loud'

Area high school students who competed in the 2014 Central Illinois 'Poetry Out Loud' Regional Contest
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Most teenagers spend more time on the internet chatting with friends than reading books - let alone poetry. However, the art form has seen a recent resurgence, and in some circles is even considered "hip." In Springfield, 14 area high school students recently competed in the regional version of the Poetry Out Loud contest to recite a wide variety of poems from memory.

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This I Believe 2014
7:35 am
Tue February 25, 2014

The Sneetches

Gabrielle Gardner - Southeast HS
Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

I believe that Sneetches are Sneetches. This probably sounds ridiculous to most people, but it is a belief that has greatly affected my outlook on life. In the children’s story “The Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss there is a very important lesson about people and their differences. In this story, there are Sneetches that live on the beach (or the beaches, as Dr. Seuss would say).  Some of these Sneetches were born with big stars on their bellies while others hadn’t anything on theirs.

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Regional
7:28 am
Tue February 25, 2014

FutureGen Gets OK For Morgan County Pipeline Route

FutureGen site in Meredosia
Credit WUIS

Illinois regulators have given the FutureGen Alliance the go-ahead for a 30-mile carbon dioxide pipeline.  

The  State Journal-Register reports  the pipeline would be buried at least four feet underground in northeast Morgan County. It'd be even deeper under farmland.  

The $1.68 billion project will refit a coal-fired power plant in Meredosia  in western Illinois. Authorities want to remove carbon dioxide from the coal and store it underground. The greenhouse gas is linked to climate change.  

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Regional
7:16 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Area Gets Money for Storm Cleanup

Sandbagging last spring at Meredosia
Credit Bill Wheelhouse WUIS

Some federal money is heading into the area to help pay for storm cleanup and recovery from last year.

The state will get $6470,000 to help pay temporary workers to help with the cleanup from flooding, tornadoes and other storms last April and May.

The most recent grant will be spent in Calhoun, Cass, Fulton, Mason, Morgan, Pike, Schuyler and Scott counties.

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Prosecutor Backing Electronic Privacy Bill

The Illinois Senate is considering limits on the ways law enforcement can use electronic tracking information. Both privacy advocates and police are in favor of the change.

With the popularity of GPS-enabled smart phones, many of us are constantly broadcasting our location. And Illinois law doesn't have much to say about how that information can and can't be used against us in court.

Privacy advocates want restrictions. And even law enforcement can be left guessing as to what's legal.

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Harvest Desk
6:01 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Changing Dairy Industry Leaves Some Farmers In The Dust

Donnie Davidson turns off the lights in his dairy parlor. His family has been producing grade A milk in Holden, Mo., since the 1930s.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Donnie Davidson’s family has been producing bottled milk in Holden, Mo., since the 1930s. But the 63-year-old farmer decided to sell his herd of 50 milking cows in November after the roof on one of his barns collapsed from last winter’s snow.

Rebuilding the barn would have cost about $20,000. Then there were the costs of renovating a silo and paying for hired help since Davidson’s children won’t be taking over the business. It made financial sense to close the dairy, and grow crops and build a herd of beef cattle instead.

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Election 2014
1:29 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

13th Cong. District Candidate: George Gollin

George Gollin launches his bid for the 13th Congressional District on July 23, 2013.
Credit Jeff Bossert/WILL

University of Illinois physics professor George Gollin is one of three Democrats seeking their party's nomination in the 13th Congressional District, along with three Republicans.

He hasn't run for elected office before, but he tells  Sean Powers that he has worked on federal legislation, while serving on the board of a higher education group.

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