Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT 90.5 FM. He has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and twice by the Houston Press Club as Radio Journalist of the Year. Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.

Regional
2:28 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Panhandling Suit Filed In Springfield

Credit flickr/cristasphoto

Springfield is defending its policies on panhandlers after a new lawsuit accused the city of violating free-speech rights by barring panhandlers from asking for money.  
The suit filed on behalf of panhandlers this week in federal court says police wrongly tell panhandlers that what they're doing is illegal.  Springfield's ordinance is a bit confusing.  It prohibits vocal requests for money, but allows someone to hold a sign making a similar request.  The city passed the measure back in 2007 for the downtown area.

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Harvest Desk
1:59 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Report: Farmers Could Do More To Lessen Impact Of Drought

Credit plantcovercrops.com

Farmers across the country received more than $17-Billion in federal crop insurance  payouts after last year’s drought. A report by one environmental group blames farmers for not doing enough to shield the soil against the heat. 

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Southwind Park
11:49 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Playgrounds for Everyone

Southwind Park accessible tree house.

Southwind Park in Springfield is on the NPR accessible playground list, Playgrounds for Everyone.  Do you know of other accessible parks in the area?

Springfield City Government
10:32 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Houston: I'll Start Thinking About Re-Election Next Spring

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston
Credit City of Springfield

The city of Springfield is still nearly two years away from a mayoral election.  But half-way through a term he had said would be his last, Mike Houston is now hinting at the possibility of re-election.

Mayor Houston says he's not made any decisions about his political future at this time, but he says they may come in sring 2014.

Houston says his decision-making will be likely affected by long-term challenges facing the city, such as road and sewer improvements, consolidation of train traffic and a search for a source of water to supplement Lake Springfield: 

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Springfield City Government
9:26 am
Wed September 4, 2013

City To Help Foot Bill For EPA Coal Tar Cleanup

Aerial view of Factory Street in Springfield, where environmental remediation efforts will begin to remove coal tar
Credit Google Maps

The city of Springfield has agreed to pay the EPA an estimated $1.6 million to clean up coal tar seeping out of the ground on the city's northeast side.

This fall the Environmental Protection Agency will send contractors to dig up Factory Street, about five blocks north of Lanphier High School.

The city owns part of the site where Springfield Iron Co. used to operate in the 1900's.  A power substation and water storage tank sit there today.

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Education
9:01 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Higher Ed Leader Says President's Plan Reflects Illinois Efforts

Dr. Harry Berman
Credit uis.edu

President Obama has plans for higher education in the U-S.  His ideas are a mix of old and new, aimed at keeping college affordable for students but also trying to raise the bar on quality of instruction.
In Illinois,  some of what the President wants is already part of the landscape.  For example, Illinois has moved toward tying a small portion of state funding to graduation rates and other metrics.  
The Illinois Board of Higher Education's Executive Director says some of the other changes the President is pushing won't be so easy.  

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Election 2014
6:27 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Political Newcomer Rauner Seeks To Overhaul Statehouse

During Republican Day at the state fair over the summer, candidate for governor Bruce Rauner said Illinois is in a "death spiral." He repeated the phrase in an interview about his petition drive, seeking a 2014 ballot question to institute legislative term limits.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is drumming up his campaign for governor with a second campaign. Rauner, a Republican, is trying to get a question on the 2014 ballot that could lead to major changes in state government.   He says he'll donate a sizable portion of his personal fortune into the effort.   Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky spoke about it with him at length in the following interview:

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Election 2014
4:40 pm
Tue September 3, 2013

Dillard Calls Rauner Plan 'Slap In The Face To Downstate'

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner speaks with reporters in this Aug. 15 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Of the four Republicans running for governor, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is the only one who's never before served in government. But he's already looking to change it, and in significant ways.

Rauner is heading a petition drive to institute term limits, to make it harder for legislators to override a governor's veto, and to reduce the size of the General Assembly. His plan adds a handful of members to the Illinois House, but takes away 18 senators.

Rauner says that'll make elections more competitive.

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