Lee Strubinger

2014 Public Affairs Reporting Program Intern - City

Lee Strubinger is currently working his way through the University of Illinois Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting program and will be covering a range of issues...  anything from the steps of Springfield City Council to the Capitol.

He went to Illinois State University as an undergrad.  He worked for several media outlets, including WGLT (Bloomington-Normal public radio), the Indy (ISU's independent newspaper) and student newspaper The Daily Vidette.  He was born and raised in Western Illinois, and has lived in or extensively visited every portion of the state.

When Lee's not working at WUIS or his online class, he enjoys listening to country music on vinyl records, reading modernist literature, wearing denim, and losing at solitaire.  

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Regional
5:31 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

East Side Farmer's Market Starts On Monday

Credit moonstarsandpaper.blogspot.com

Summertime means Farmer's Markets.  Springfield has several, but a relatively new one has popped up on Springfield's east side.  Lee Strubinger sat down with Wendy White-Mitter and Mary Rogers from St. John's Hospital, which sponsors the market.  One of the challenges of the East Side Farmer's Market, they say, is that goes underutilized...

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Regional
1:08 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Kidzeum Receives State Grant, Construction Starts Soon

Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

A long awaited children’s museum in Springfield is a step closer to becoming reality.   Construction on a building for the Kidzeum of Health and Science will begin this year.
 

A $1 million dollar grant from the state, along with an additional $675,000 in TIF funds from the city of Springfield, are enough to get the work underway.  The facility will occupy the old Schnepp and Barnes building,  a nearly 70 year old structure on East Adams in the downtown area.   

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Statehouse
3:14 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

New U of I President To Be Named In December

Retiring U of I President Bob Easter.
Credit U of I

University of Illinois officials say they plan to announce the next president for the state's flagship institution by December.  But the process is only just getting started.

President Bob Easter will retire next year.

The search committee in charge of recommending a replacement to the U of I's board of trustees must sift through around 120 candidates.    Some candidates are nominees, and others are those who are qualified to fill the position but already hold a significant post elsewhere.

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Regional
8:15 am
Fri June 20, 2014

Alderman Wants Competitive Bids To Insure CWLP In The Future

Credit springfield.il.us

A Springfield alderman wants to make sure that other insurance companies get the chance to cover CWLP properties for the city.

At the last city council meeting, aldermen approved a 3 year contract with R.W. Troxell to insure the city owned utility.  The cost is around $1.8 million per year.

Under city code, however, anything with a cost over 25 thousand dollars must be competitively bid.
Ward 7's Joe McMenamin says the Mayor's administration got around that caveat by claiming insurance is a service, rather than a purchase.

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Regional
2:19 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Redpath Annouces Run For Ward 1

Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

A familiar face to the Springfield City Council hopes to return after a hiatus from city government.  Chuck Redpath is running for alderman, again.  But this time to represent the city's first ward:

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Regional
2:01 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Mayor Defends CWLP Insurer Despite Lack Of Contract Bid From Other Companies

Credit City of Springfield

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is defending the city’s decision to renew a contract for CWLP insurance, despite criticisms over the lack of a bidding process.

The 3 year contract with R.W. Troxell to insure the city owned utility will cost around $1.8 million per year.  Mayor Houston, during an interview on WUIS’ Illinois Edition, said the local firm has been doing business with the city for 30 years with a solid track record.

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Regional
9:45 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Springfield Approves Halfway House Zoning Despite Precedent From Earlier In The Year

Credit springfield.il.us

One Springfield Alderman called the two zoning changes approved for halfway homes in Springfield during last night's council meeting as "picking and choosing."

Zoning classifications for halfway houses were called into question last fall when a man living in one, known as House of the Rainbow, was arrested for murder.  After that, the council refused to go along with zoning for that operation.   

Yet last night, changes were allowed for properties on East Jackson and South 11th.  

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Regional
9:00 am
Tue June 17, 2014

Sangamon County Fair Kicks Off Wednesday

Credit @SangCoFair

The Sangamon County Fair gets underway Wednesday night.  This year, the fair is featuring several well known acts as well as queen pageant and demolition derby.  Lee Strubinger sat down with coordinator Elizabeth McDevitt, who says this year the fair spent more on entertainment than any other year.

For more information about this year's festival, including festival line-up and prices, click here.

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Regional
9:00 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Dumb Fest 2 Happening In Springfield Southtown This Weekend... Because Why Not?

Credit Black Sheep Cafe

The second ever Dumb Fest gets underway this afternoon at 3 p.m.  Forty bands will grace multiple stages on both Friday and Saturday.  
The festival is a part of the ever changing Southtown scene in Springfield, located at 11th and South Grand Avenue.  Lee Strubinger made his way to Dumb Records to sit down and talk with festival curator Brian Galecki.

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Regional
12:16 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Mayor Moves Forward With NAPA Contract, High-Speed Rail Construction To Start Soon

Credit City of Springfield

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says silence from the council about reaffirming the NAPA contract signals permission to choose how to handle the $3,000,000 deal. 

He’s moving forward with it.

Springfield City Council had the chance to send a message to the mayor, but remained silent during the committee of the whole meeting on the issue.

After the meeting, Ward One Alderman Frank Edwards said because the city didn’t seek out bids from other companies, the NAPA contract puts the city in a bind.

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Statehouse
10:29 am
Wed June 11, 2014

Six Months Into Speed Limit Increase, Driver Fatalities Down Observers Say

Credit senategop.state.il.us

Six months after state law increased interstate highway speeds from 65 to 70 miles per hour, transportation officials say there have been fewer fatalities on the road.  

Opponents of the bill said the increase in speed would lead to an increase in accidents.

Priscilla Tobias, state safety engineer with I-DOT, says while numbers are down, it's hard to discern whether the number is a trend.  As of Monday, Tobias says there's been 341 vehicle fatalities this year.

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Regional
3:58 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Intent of Inspector General To Curb Corruption In City Operations

Credit springfield.il.us

Springfield officials are considering adding a position that will take a closer look at misbehavior in city government.

The description of the investigator general job is still pretty vague, but the city has hired a consultant to outline how it will work.   City council members pointed to incidents such as the police file shredding scandal to show the need for the post.  

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Regional
9:57 am
Thu June 5, 2014

SOHO Expands In Multiple Directions

Credit SOHO Facebook

SOHO music festival will take place in downtown Springfield this weekend.  It's the tenth year for the festival.  Lee Strubinger sat down with Eric Welch, the executive director of SOHO music festival.  Charity is the main caveat for SOHO.  And Welch says the theme this year is "bigger."

Here's a link to SOHO information and here's the line-up.

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Regional
4:21 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Schock Dedicates Pavillion In Western Illinois, Hopes To Establish National Park

Credit Amanda Vinicky

An effort to create a national park at former town site in western Illinois remains stalled in the US Senate.  Congressman Aaron Schock, a Republican, is part of a bi-partisan group of lawmakers seeking the designation for New Philadelphia.

That site in Pike County marks the first town in the country founded by an African American.  Frank McWorter was a freed slave who created the community in 18-36.
Schock says creating a national park would allow more people to know the story of McWorter.  He says it work in tandem with Lincoln attractions in Springfield.

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Regional
11:47 am
Fri May 30, 2014

Sangamon County Issues First Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Tom and Davyd (signing) Daly get their marriage license.
Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

Friday is the first day same-sex couples can get their marriage licenses in Sangamon County.  County Clerk Joe Aeillo says he decided to issue licenses ahead of a new law to accommodate ceremonies taking place this weekend.

Tom and Davyd Daly of Springfield were the first and only couple waiting in line to get their marriage license when the doors at the county clerk’s office opened at 8:30 this morning.  They’ve been together for more than 20 years, and have been in a civil union since 2011.

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Regional
7:00 am
Thu May 29, 2014

One Western Ill. School Cuts Ag Program, Another Hopes To Bring It Back

Barry High School and West Pike High School consolidated into Western High School. This is the entrance to the ag shop in Barry.
WUIS/Lee Strubinger

Pike County calls itself the "pork capital of the world." However, in an area so tied to farming, it might be a bit surprising that a local school district has cut its agriculture education program.  I graduated from high school there five years ago, and went back to report on how districts are struggling to pay for activities not tied to the core curriculum.

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Regional
3:09 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Sangamon County Same-Sex Couples Can Get Marriage Licenses This Week

Sangamon County Clerk Joe Aiello
Credit co.sangamon.il.us

Same sex couples in Sangamon County will be able to get their marriage licenses early.

Sangamon County Clerk Joe Aiello says his office will begin issuing marriage licenses on Friday in order to accommodate ceremonies taking place this weekend.  He says the office will be open during normal business hours from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
 
However, Aiello says a couple's marriage won't be legally valid until the date the same-sex marriage law goes into effect, this Sunday.

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Statehouse
12:00 pm
Mon May 26, 2014

Marijuana Cousin Winding Way Through General Assembly

Hemp rope
Credit Emilian Robert Vicol

Universities in Illinois may soon get the chance to research industrial hemp.  HB5085 is weaving it's way through the legislature.

The Illinois Farm Bureau has been pushing the idea.  But hemp was banned in the 1970’s and labeled a controlled substance, as it is related to marijuana.

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Health Desk
3:11 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Schnucks Walnuts Recalled By FDA

Credit flickr.com/photos/fdaphotos

A St. Louis based produce distribution company is recalling walnuts that the FDA says may be contaminated.

Sherman Produce distributed 10 ounce packages to Schnucks Grocery Stores where they were sold under the store brand.  The FDA says that the walnuts could contain Listeria-which can cause fever, nausea and diarrhea.

Lori Willis, a spokeswoman for Schnucks, says the walnuts were sold a few weeks ago.   But Willis says the company takes the recall seriously.

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Statehouse
3:22 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Medical Marijuana In Illinois Could Be Available By Beginning Of 2015

A panel from the Illinois Department of Public Health takes questions.
Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

Officials say dispensaries in Illinois could start providing medical marijuana early next year . Prospective patients say that's not soon enough.

At a public hearing in Springfield, those seeking marijuana for medical needs argued the rule making process needs to speed up.   Illinois lawmakers voted last year to allow cannabis for certain health conditions.  Since then, the state has been planning how the program will work.
Robert Morgan, an attorney with the Illinois Department of Public Health, says the agency wants to get it right.

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Regional
9:58 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Springfield Council Sets Ward Boundaries

Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

The political boundaries for Springfield aldermen have been set.  The city council approved a new ward map last night on a 9-1 vote.  It will take into account census data.  The map design also was done to ensure an African American represents Ward 2.  

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Regional
4:16 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Illinois Supreme Court Reprimands Springfield Alderman

Credit springfield.il.us

Springfield attorney and Ward 5 alderman Sam Cahnman has received a censure from the Illinois Supreme Court.

The move follows a recommendation the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission made last year.  The Commission says Cahnman intentionally misled an Associate Circuit Judge about how he gained possession of a page from the judge's private calendar.  Cahnman has denied that charge.    

James Grogan is with the Commission.  He says Illinois' high court issues a censure when there has been a violation of the lawyer's ethics code.

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Regional
3:09 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

State Can't Find Agreement The City Used As Basis For NAPA Deal

Credit City of Springfield

The state says there's no evidence of the intergovernmental agreement that Springfield officials relied on as the legal basis for the NAPA contract approved last month.

Last week, city attorneys asked the state to find proof of a state agreement with a national purchasing agency.  Earlier this month, some aldermen questioned the contract used to procure the 3 year, $3 million contract with NAPA Auto Parts.

The city got their answer today, a letter that indicates no trace of the agreement.

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Statehouse
7:30 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

State Unemployment Drops To Lowest Since Recession, But Still Behind The Nation

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois unemployment rate is at its lowest mark in five years. Democratic Governor Pat Quinn is touting the news, but the state still lags the nation.       

Governor Quinn was exuberant during a stop at a manufacturing company in the Chicago suburbs.

“Unemployment is at it's lowest rate in the last 5 and a half years and we're very happy to say that Illinois' economy is on a roll,” Quinn said.

The unemployment rate fell to 7.9 percent, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. 

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Statehouse
10:02 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Lawmaker Calls On Quinn To Nix Private Company That Runs Lottery

Credit Illinois Lottery

A state lawmaker wants Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to fire the company responsible for running the state’s lottery.

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Statehouse
9:57 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Senate President Moves To Save Obama Artifacts For Presidential Library

Credit Illinois Senate

An Illinois Senate panel Wednesday approved a measure to pay tribute to one of the chamber's most distinguished former members.                                         

Barack Obama was once one of 59 state senators. He had a desk. And a chair. And someone had the foresight to put them into storage.

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Regional
12:56 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

As Hy-Vee Opens, City To Focus On Further MacArthur Development

Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

Despite the rain Tuesday morning, customers arrived in droves to the unveiling of the the new Springfield Hy-Vee supermarket along MacArthur boulevard. 

The city offered special tax incentives in hopes of spurring growth along MacArthur.

Springfield Alderman Cory Jobe was president of the MacArthur Boulevard Business Association when the idea to bring Hy-Vee about came around.  He says the building brings life to the core of the city.

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Harvest Desk
10:00 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Chilli Parlor Re-Opens Serving Century Old Recipe

WUIS/Lee Strubinger

A Springfield culinary landmark has re-opened it's doors.  The Dew Chilli parlor was established in 1909, but it closed about 20 years ago.    Mark Roberts is the new owner and a longtime fan.   Lee Strubinger went to the parlor's recent grand opening and he presents this audio postcard:

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Regional
6:00 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Springfield Police Lieutenant Retires Days After Receiving Promotion

Credit commons.wikimedia.org

Earlier this month,  the Springfield Police Department promoted two sergeants to the rank of lieutenant.  One has already retired, able to earn a higher pension because of the promotion.

Under state law, retiring police officers are allowed to collect pension benefits based on rank for their last day of employment.

Springfield Alderman Joe McMenamin says a lieutenant retiring at a rank he never served is quote 'offensive.' He says the public doesn't appreciate a "revolving door of promotions right before retirement.”

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Statehouse
5:58 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Republicans Want State Worker Wages Paid With Extra State Cash

Sen. Sam McCann addresses reporters about SB 3657, a bill that would allow the comptroller to use extra state dollars to pay employee back wages and old bills.
Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

A report says Illinois officials can look forward to more than a billion dollars in tax collections they hadn't been expecting this year. A group of lawmakers already has a plan for the money.

Thousands of state workers are owed an estimated 112 million dollars in back wages. Governor Pat Quinn negotiated raises with members of AFSCME back before the 2010 elections, but lawmakers never came through with the money to pay them.

Now some Republicans say this year's unexpected tax windfall ought to be used to finally make good on the contract.

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