Lee Strubinger

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.  

Statehouse
6:00 am
Thu April 17, 2014

State Legislation Hints At Marijuana Legalization

Credit en.wikipedia.org

Last year, Illinois approved medical use of marijuana after years of debating the issue.   But could Illinois be closer to following the lead of some other states that have given the o-k to recreational use?   

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Regional
11:22 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

City Approves More Video Gaming Despite Upcoming Ordinance

Despite concerns over gambling parlors cutting into the bottom line of local bars and restaurants, the Springfield City Council last night approved zoning changes to allow more of the establishments to open shop.  Aldermen Cory Jobe voted in favor, even though he's pushing an ordinance to require video gambling only at places that earn 60 percent or more of revenue from food and beverage sales. 

Jobe says the city is skirting the spirit of the law.  But he says there’s no conflict in his vote.

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Regional
10:12 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Napa Contract Left In Committee Again, Concerns Over Non-Union Employees

Credit springfield.il.us

Several Springfield Aldermen raised concerns about laying off three non-union employees if an agreement with NAPA Auto Parts goes through.

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Regional
4:14 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Sangamon County Auditor Announces Mayoral Bid

Palazzolo at Lincoln Park during his official announcement seeking office of Springfield mayor.
Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

The Sangamon County Auditor says his experience at the county level makes him most qualified to be the city's top executive.

Spring rain held off at Lincoln Park as Paul Palazzolo officially announced his intent to run for mayor of Springfield next year.

Palazzolo served as Sangamon County Auditor since 2002 and says he has a track record of transparency.
Four years ago he said he was running for mayor, but dropped out after failing to get the backing of the county's GOP organization.  The mayor's office is officially non-partisan.    

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Regional
6:00 am
Wed April 2, 2014

City May Set Retirement Age For Police Force, Mayor Vetoes Zoning Change For Liquor Store

The City of Springfield may be looking at setting a mandatory retirement age for all new police hires.  During Tuesday’s city council meeting, both the city’s mayor and police chief say they support a cut off at age 60.

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Regional
12:50 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Ukraine Representatives On Their Visit To Springfield, State Of Their Country

Oleksandr Makovskyi, Christina Dobrovolska, and Roman Yemets (from left to right).
Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

The people of Ukraine ousted their President Viktor Yanukovych earlier this year.  Since then, Russia took over Ukraine's southern peninsula, Crimea.  While officials are trying to turn the country around, a group of delegates from the country made a visit to Washington and Springfield to observe democratic government in action. 

The Springfield Commission on International Visitors six Ukrainians to observe national, state and local government.

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Regional
4:01 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Mayor Highlights Achievements, Says City 'Must Stay Course'

Credit City of Springfield

   Springfield's Mayor has yet to say if he will seek another term in office. During a speech Wednesday, he sounded like a candidate.

    Mayor Mike Houston touted his accomplishments during the almost 25 minute State of the City speech.  Included was the city's 3-year, 86 million dollar infrastructure improvement program and development of the South MacArthur TIF district, which includes the new Hy-Vee Supermarket.  But unlike his previous State of the City Addresses,  Houston shied away from mentioning any new proposals.

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Regional
2:10 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Springfield Mayor's State of The City Address, Full Audio

Credit springfield.il.us

Springfield Mayor Michael Houston celebrates his administration's accomplishments since he took office in 2011.  He addressed the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce in the Prairie Capital Convention Center.

 Audio FileFull audio of Mayor Houston's 2014 State of the City address to Chamber of CommerceEdit | Remove

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Regional
9:19 am
Wed March 26, 2014

City Asked To Change Triune Contract, Aldermen Uncertain

Credit springfield.il.us

The company that manages Springfield's workers comp caseload wants to go outside the county for a key hire.  City aldermen questioned that move last night.

The contract with Triune Health Group says the nurse representative it used must be in Sangamon County.  The company says the job is highly specialized and it can't find anyone within the county who is qualified.

Instead, the firm wants to use a nurse in Macon County.  Some aldermen at the committee of the whole meeting were left scratching their heads, since the Springfield area has a wealth of healthcare workers. 

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Regional
10:31 am
Tue March 25, 2014

UIS Students 'Recharge' Before Night Classes

Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

Commuter student, by nature, spend less time on the UIS campus.  But the University is trying a new way to engage those students in activities.  There's a bribe involved, a practical one.

I'm standing in a restaurant area in the most high traffic part of the university, the Public Affairs Center.  The restaurant is a dimly lit room mainly used for meetings and donor meals.  In the corner a few people are sitting around a table.  I sit down and plug my dying iPhone into one of the power-strips on the tables.

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Regional
12:20 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Wes Barr Wins Primary For Sangamon County Sheriff

Credit facebook.com/wesbarr2014

The Republican primary for Sangamon County sheriff went to former sheriff’s lieutenant Wes Barr.

Barr retired from the department last year and soon after announced he would run to replace the outgoing sheriff Neil Williamson, who has held the job for over 20 years. But Williamson backed his undersheriff Jack Campbell.

The race seemed to split the Republican party establishment in Sangamon County.  Both received key endorsements. The candidates also sparred over issues such as the department’s taser policy, which Barr criticized and Campbell defended.

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Reducing The Number Of State Laws Not So Simple

Credit dnr.illinois.gov

The name “lawmaker” implies someone who helps pass laws.  But some who serve in the role are critical of that part of the job description.  Lee Strubinger looks at why they say there are too many laws on the books. 

Every year when the Illinois General Assembly goes in to session, a regular drumbeat of new proposals are debated.  They deal with topics from crime, to regulation and even seemingly innocuous measures to honor someone or something.    

More than 600 new laws were signed in the last year alone.

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Regional
3:24 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

City Aldermen Stall Deal With Napa Auto Parts, Question Contract

Credit springfield.il.us

Several Springfield aldermen are questioning the Mayor's  plan to utilize an auto parts company for the city's vehicle fleet.

Under the proposal, Napa Auto Parts would be the city's primary auto parts supplier. 

The more than three million dollar agreement with Napa would last for three years and would operate in a city maintenance garage.  It's part of an effort that would reduce the number of city garages.       

During Tuesday night's committee of the whole meeting, a few aldermen wanted to know how the city came to choose Napa, rather than local vendors.

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Regional
11:47 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

City Close To Downtown Property Purchase

Credit springfield.il.us

The City of Springfield is one step away from acquiring the now vacant YWCA building and surrounding property in the downtown.  Aldermen agreed to the deal during a Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday night.   Purchasing the almost 2 acres across from the Governor's Mansion, will cost the city over one and a half million dollars.   The city will use Tax Increment Financing money to buy the land.

It's been a long process to get to this point.   Ward Six Alderman Cory Jobe says this is property that's been targeted since he got elected.

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Regional
5:26 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Sangamon County Clerk Unsure About Same Sex Marriage Licenses For Now

Credit co.sangamon.il.us

The Sangamon County Clerk says he's still unsure it would be legal for him to issue same sex marriage licenses before a new law takes effect in June. 

Attorney General Lisa Madigan says a court ruling in Cook County opened the door for all Illinois' county clerks to issue the licenses immediately.  Some have started doing so.  But there are differences of opinion.  Like in Sangamon County, Clerk Joe Aiello says he's waiting.

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Springfield City Council
10:38 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Springfield Aldermen Not Ready To Commit To Hunter Lake

Credit cwlp

A majority of Springfield aldermen last night expressed doubt about an ordinance that would commit to building the second water source known as Hunter Lake. Council members voted down the plan.  
The city has long been concerned about finding a way to supplement Lake Springfield.   Recent droughts have added to the urgency.   

CWLP Director Eric Hobbie says regardless of the council’s vote, the city has to pursue a water supply alternative.

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Regional
12:05 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Alderman to Propose COLA Cuts for Non-Union Employees Again

Credit springfield.il.us

During the last two Springfield City Council meetings one alderman proposed shifting the responsibility of who gives pay raises to non-union employees.  But his colleagues have refused to go along.

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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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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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Springfield City Council
6:26 am
Wed February 19, 2014

Winslow Hired As Springfield Police Chief

Chief Kenneth Winslow
Credit Peter Gray/WUIS

Springfield aldermen have unanimously approved the hiring of Kenny Winslow as the city's police chief. Winslow has been in the role since last summer, when he took over after the resignation of Robert Williams.
   But his hiring on a permanent basis was delayed last night as council members questioned him in private for more than half an hour.    An internet site had raised issues about how Winslow might restructure the department. Mayor Mike Houston says aldermen wanted to hear from Winslow:

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Regional
2:44 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Lucore named St. John's CEO

Credit prairieheart.com

St. John's new CEO says the Springfield hospital will face many challenges as a result of the Affordable Care Act ... like changes in Medicare reimbursement -- which now rewards keeping patients out of hospitals.

Dr. Charles Lucore's appointment was announced Thursday.

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Springfield City Council
10:43 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Aldermen Call For Movement On Hunter Lake

Ald. Frank Edwards

Several Springfield aldermen want to ramp up efforts for building Hunter Lake.  

The proposed second water source for the city has been on the drawing board for decades, but the state EPA and Army Corps of Engineers must sign off on the project.  

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Statehouse
10:52 am
Thu February 6, 2014

ACA Navigator Program Under Question

Credit ilga.gov

Republicans are calling for a review of the state’s management of Affordable Care Act navigators. Lee Strubinger has the report.   

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Regional
6:00 am
Thu February 6, 2014

Springfield's Fight Against Panhandling

Credit wuis.org

Springfield's effort to reduce panhandling in the downtown area is facing a legal challenge.   While business owners say a city ordinance has worked, critics say it infringes on free speech rights.
 

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Statehouse
10:15 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Tradition of State of the State

Credit en.wikipedia.org

Something notable was missing from Governor Pat Quinn’s State of the State address this week: talk about Illinois’ finances.  Presumably that’ll come when he gives his budget address next month.  This got me wondering: why not have just one speech?

Like Quinn, Senator John Sullivan of Rushville is a Democrat.  Still, he says the State of the State speech was lacking detail, and it left him wondering what will happen to the state's budget.

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Regional
3:58 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Citizens' Efficiency Commission Report Released

Karen Hasara
Credit news.uis.edu

A Sangamon County panel has unveiled its recommendations for streamlining local government and saving money.

The Citizens Efficiency Commission offered 23 specific proposals... ranging from joint purchasing among agencies to public safety changes.

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