Lee Strubinger

2014 Public Affairs Reporting Program Graduate Intern - City

Lee Strubinger completed the University of Illinois Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting graduate program and is currently in Colorado.

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.

Lee enjoys listening to country music on vinyl records, reading modernist literature, wearing denim, and losing at solitaire.  

springfield.il.us

Those applying for video gaming licenses in the city will have deal with new parameters set up by the Springfield council.

Aldermen approved a measure that requires establishments with video gaming have to earn a least 60 percent of their revenue from food and beverage sales. 

Ward 6 alderman Cory Jobe says he’s hopeful no additional ordinances regulating video gaming will be needed.

WUIS/Lee Strubinger

Springfield has seen a recent spike in gun violence.  City and County officials are calling for a cease fire.

The Springfield Police Chief says there have been 20 shooting incidents since the beginning of March.  He says it has even involved local teenagers. 

Since summer break is approaching, the city says it’s developing a strategy for handling the violence.

Though no specifics on the strategy were given, Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says the city will come down hard on those taking part in gun crimes.

WUIS/Lee Strubinger

A couple dozen mayors from throughout Illinois came to Springfield Wednesday, calling on legislators to help fix downstate pension systems that they say are unsustainable.

Municipalities are on the hook for paying local police and firefighters’ retirement benefits.

But the pension rates are set by the state.

Mayors say lawmakers have increasingly “sweetened” benefits – without giving their cities any funding to cover the extra cost.

It’s left many pension systems severely underfunded.

ilga.gov

Illinois lawmakers have long debated whether to combine the offices of comptroller and treasurer. Both candidates for treasurer are competing to one-up each other over whether the office should even exist.

WUIS/Lee Strubinger

Planning is underway for next year's 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral.

maps.google.com

State police say they're investigating multiple police officers involved with the shooting death of an armed man at a tavern in Lincoln.

Lincoln officers responded to a 911 call around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night at the Glass House Tavern.  Officials say 62-year-old Donald Letterle was fighting with a woman at the bar.
Police say he had a firearm, so they "engaged" Letterle -- apparently shooting and killing him.
Illinois State Police Master Sergeant Eric Hall says he can't say how many Lincoln officers were involved.

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?   

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.

springfield.il.us

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

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.    

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.

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.

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.

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

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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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