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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, political hiring at IDOT and attempts to get a term limits initiative on the November ballot.

Derek French, a recent UIS grad says he's part of a "youth movement" concerned with standing up for citizens' constitutional rights. While he says the rally planned for Saturday from noon to 4:15 at the Old State Capitol is not directly related to the situation in Ferguson, the recent turmoil there makes this an important time for community activists in Springfield to stage a "peaceful assembly." Here's our interview with French:

sangamon.co.il.us

A coalition of labor unions and state retirees is asking a judge for an expedited ruling in a case challenging the constitutionality of Illinois' pension law.  

Attorneys filed the motion in Sangamon Circuit Court Thursday. They want Judge John Belz to factor in a Supreme Court decision that found health insurance premiums were a protected retirement benefit for state workers.  

flickr/denniscarr

The state's top ethics investigator says the Illinois Department of Transportation improperly hired more than 250 employees in the past decade.  

Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza's  report says the practice began in 2003 but continued under Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. 

What Goes Into The Price Of Your Tomato?

Aug 22, 2014

Late summer in the Midwest is tomato season. For tomato growers around that country, it’s time to pick their bounty and calculate their earnings.

While sun and rain might be free, tomato farmers have to carefully weigh everything else they put in to growing their crop. Research and the development of new tools – from novel seed varieties resistant to diseases to additional fertilizers – has changed the input costs for growers.

Courtesy of Danny Wicentowski for the Riverfront Times, @D_Towski on Twitter.

  Since law enforcement in Ferguson, Missouri, began using its federally supplied military-style equipment, the spotlight has been on police departments everywhere. Members of Congress have begun to question the program that distributes extra supplies to local law enforcement. 

The Pentagon has been supplying local law enforcement agencies with its surplus equipment for years, but most of the time, that equipment is out of sight.

Once police in Ferguson pulled out their armored vehicles and military-grade weapons, public debate was sparked.

Wikimedia Commons

  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is condemning the murder of American journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by terrorist organization the Islamic State.

Durbin, a Democrat, says the group also known as ISIS must be stopped from advancing on more territory in Iraq and Syria. And he says the American military can help Iraqi forces do that.

"Ironically, many times ISIS is using American equipment we left behind," he said. "We know the capacity of that equipment, we know its limitations and we can help the Iraqi Army stop this advance."

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Construction of the Tenth Street Rail Corridor in Springfield has officially begun after a ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday. Over the projected two years of construction, an underpass will be built at Tenth and Carpenter for vehicles and pedestrians, allowing trains to pass above.

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says diverting rail traffic from street level will provide better access to hospitals, which is vital especially in a life-or-death situation.

"When somebody has a medical emergency, time is of the essence," he said.

IDOT

The Illinois Department of Transportation is eliminating 58
positions that are at the center of a lawsuit alleging questionable hiring
practices.
 
 Acting Secretary Erica Borggren said Thursday the move is designed to boost
``accountability and restore public trust.''
 
In addition to eliminating ``staff assistant'' positions, IDOT is creating a
board to evaluate hiring, and is continuing a freeze on hiring for positions
that can be filled based on political connections.
 

wikimedia

  Candidates from the Illinois Green Party will not appear on the November ballot.

A federal judge Thursday denied the party reprieve from the state's election requirements for third parties.

The Green Party had sued, claiming the barriers for third parties are too onerous ... threatening the right to free speech and equal protection.

Scott Summers, the party's candidate for governor, says he's disappointed with the judge's ruling.

chathamschools.org

Chatham school district is growing at a steady pace, adding about 75 to 100 students each year. That means changes are on the horizon and schools are undergoing much-needed construction in order to expand. Meanwhile, as is the case in many other school districts in the state, it's a challenge to keep the budget balanced. In this interview, Superintendent Carrie Hruby speaks to WUIS about this and more, including school lunches and a mentor program started by a student...

    

majorenergy.com

 An Illinois watchdog group is celebrating a decision by regulators to launch an investigation of an Orangeburg, New York-based alternative electric supplier.  

The Citizens Utility Board said Wednesday it's pleased the Illinois Commerce Commission adopted a recommendation to investigate Major Energy.  

Consumers have complained about misleading marketing by Major Energy. CUB says the company's rates are the worst it's seen in the Illinois competitive power market.  

wikimedia

  For third parties in Illinois, it's down to the wire to get on the November ballot. Decisions Thursday and Friday will determine how many choices voters will have.

To get their candidates on the ballot in Illinois, the two established parties — Democrats and Republicans — have to collect the signatures of 5,000 registered voters. But to get its nominees on the ballot, a third party must collect five times as many.

flickr/creative commons I love butter

An employee of the firm helping the University of Illinois search for a new president says the school should expect to pay a salary in line with its status as a top university.

Data that Laurie Wilder of Parker Executive Search presented Wednesday to members of the university's search committee made clear that will likely mean paying more than current President Bob Easter earns.  

Amanda Vinicky

  For the second time, a court has deemed unconstitutional a citizen's initiative to would limit how long Illinois lawmakers can serve.

First, it was a Cook County Circuit Court judge.

Now, the decision is from a state appellate court.

Both say the question of term limits for state legislators should not go before voters on the November ballot.

The state Constitution says citizen's initiatives, like this one, must be limited to "structural and procedural" changes to the legislature.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Watching one power-point presentation after another probably doesn't sound all that fun to most folks. But a local version of a worldwide happening strives to make it that way. The unique event draws in a host of diverse characters from the community and gives them about seven minutes to tell their story while showing images that correspond with their talk, each presenter has 20 slides with an image only, that last 20 seconds each.

Instead of hitting the campaign trail alongside Governor Pat Quinn, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon is running for state comptroller. The comptroller is the chief fiscal officer of Illinois. The office pays the state's bills and manages the hundreds of funds that make up the budget. Simon is challenging Republican incumbent Judy Baar Topinka. Simon recently sat down with us for this interview about the race:

otisgibbs.com

The folks who put on Bedrock 66 are bringing singer-songwriter Otis Gibbs to Springfield Thursday (Aug 21) at 7:30 at Donnie's Homespun.    Bill Wheelhouse introduces to Otis and let's us hear a track from his new album.

Tickets for Thursday's show are $7 at bedrock66.com   Find Otis's music and podcasts at otisgibbs.com.

Eastern Kentucky University

The Illinois State Board of Education says Illinois' high school graduating class of 2014 earned a composite score of 20.7 on the ACT.  

The score on the four-subject test is slightly higher than the class of 2013's score of 20.6. The national average is 21.  

Board officials say Illinois had the second-highest composite score among the 12 states that tested 100 percent of graduates, next to Utah.  

Amanda Vinicky

  Backers of a plan to institute legislative term limits in Illinois are putting public pressure on the state Supreme Court to get involved, and soon.

Republican candidate for Governor Bruce Rauner calls it "tragic" that the Illinois Supreme Court, as he put it, "went into delaying mode" instead of immediately taking up a case over the term limits initiative.

But Rauner, who has spearheaded the effort, stopped short of calling the court's choice political.

SJ-R.com

On this week's WUIS/State Journal-Register Business Report, Sean Crawford talks with the SJ-R's Tim Landis about efforts to re-develop property along MacArthur Boulevard that was the home to the Esquire Theatre.  One developer has pulled out and nearby residents have their ideas on what should happen there.

The discussion also centers on downtown Springfield traffic.  It's on the minds of businesses and residents in that area.  There's a plan to slow things down and make it more pedestrian friendly.   

Wikimedia Commons

  As students across Illinois begin the new school year their schools are using funds that rely heavily on property tax wealth. But supporters of a new plan say now is the time to change that.

Illinois' school funding formula works like this: school districts collect property taxes from their residents, then depending on how property-wealthy or property-poor an area is, the state pitches in its share. That frequently means poorer districts stay poor because the state can't give enough, and wealthier districts remain wealthy.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

All Springfield public school students will get free lunches this year. Most schools in the district already were part of a free meal program that qualified students automatically, no matter their household income. This year, all schools in the district will participate. Iles and Ball Charter Elementary schools were added along with Lincoln Middle School and Springfield High.

RodneyDavis.house.gop

Congressman Rodney Davis says despite pundits calling attention to what might be an historic low for passing bills, this congress can point to some key accomplishments. 

"Just a few months ago, we were able to pass a long term farm bill that had been held up by political, partisan purposes," he said.    "That bill also saved taxpayers $23 billion in unnecessary spending, got rid of direct payments and made sure that those who need food assistance are going to get food assistance."

While Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent Bruce Rauner battle over the the job of governor, the races for some of the state's constitutional offices are heating up, too. The treasurer's office oversees Illinois' investments and provides several services, including college savings plans for residents and a loan program for farmers. State Sen. Michael Frerichs, the Democratic candidate for state treasurer, joined us to talk about the campaign. Frerichs is running against former House minority leader Tom Cross. 

Ryne Goodrich

It's been over a week since an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown was shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The demonstrations against what many consider police brutality have yet to end. Some Springfield residents have gone to join the protests, including Ryne Goodrich. He's a hip-hop promoter, a rapper, and a community activist. Goodrich shares his take on the situation in this interview:

It's a modern turn of phrase you've probably heard before: "driving while black." It's the notion some people hold that simply being a black driver can make you a target for traffic stops by police. And, it's the topic of Illinois Times Reporter Patrick Yeagle's recent feature article. He spoke with police, and drivers who say they've been a victim of racial profiling in Springfield. He also looked into a study released by the Illinois Department of Transportation, which collects data about race and traffic stops.

The mayor of Springfield has no authority over the public school district.  But with so many campaign promises dependent on growing the city's tax base and population, District 186's image is pertinent in the race.

Those who have announced a bid for mayor include the incumbent Mike Houston, Sangamon County Auditor Paul Palazzolo and City Treasurer Jim Langfelder.

The WUIS Education Desk asked all three candidates about their views of the district, including how to deal with revenue problems.  

kaiserhealthnews.org

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has signed two pieces of legislation giving seniors and the disabled greater access to people who can address complaints about their care or their living conditions.  

One of the measures allows people with complaints about nursing homes to submit them electronically to the Illinois Department of Public Health. That takes effect immediately.

Brita is recalling approximately 242,500 children's water filter bottles due to a possible laceration hazard.

The company said Tuesday that the lid of the hard-sided bottles can break into pieces with sharp points.

Brita has received 35 reports of lids breaking or cracking. No injuries have been reported.

The recalled bottles include a violet bottle with Dora the Explorer, a pink bottle with Hello Kitty, a blue bottle with SpongeBob Square Pants and a green bottle with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Each bottle has a Brita logo and white lid.

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