Friday, June 30, 2017

Brady Replaces Radogno as Leader of Senate Republicans

State Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington is now the leader of the Senate Republicans replacing outgoing Sen. Christine Radogno. Brady had been serving as the top deputy to Radogno. She announced Thursday that she would be resigning from the legislature Saturday, the first day of the state's new budget year.

Lawmakers Expect Budget Vote Today

Illinois lawmakers are taking the debate over a new state budget down to the final day. Illinois' new fiscal year starts tomorrow, as would a wave of negative consequences if lawmakers don't come to terms on a new spending plan. The proposal before the Illinois House today would raise taxes to spend 36-and-a-half billion-dollars, but Republicans in Springfield say they don't yet know how high taxes would go under the proposal.

Services Next Week For Trooper Killed In I-74 Crash

The Illinois State Police expect a large crowd next week for the public memorial for a fallen trooper. Both the visitation and funeral for Trooper Ryan Albin will be at Blue Ridge High School in Farmer City. Albin died yesterday, hours after wreck on I-74. Albin joined the Illinois State Police in 2006. Investigators say they are still looking into what caused the crash that took his life.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Twin City Garage Fire in Normal

Fire consumed much of Twin City Garage at 604 Orlando in Normal midday Thursday. Normal Fire Chief Humer tells us workers saw flames coming from a bay and tried putting it out before calling 9-1-1. The roof is gone and so is most of the inside of the building. Several cars in the lot caught fire and were destroyed. Others sustained smoke and fire damage. The owners say they hope to rebuild. The official cause of the blaze is under investigation. All workers have been accountef for and no injuries were reported


Normal Fire Chief Humer

Cities 92.9 On Scene Footage

Citizen's footage 

ISP Trooper Killed in Accident, K-9 Survives

A State Trooper is killed in a crash involving a semi while his k-9 sustained minor injuries. It happened at around 3:10 p.m. on I-74 near Farmer City. The preliminary investigation shows that roadwork was slowing down traffic, signaling both the squad car and semi to merge. The semi driver and passenger are from Bloomington-Normal. Trooper Albin had to be airlifted to a hospital while the semi driver and passenger refused medical treatment.  Albin was pronounced dead at approximately 8:45 p.m.

Rauner Threatens to Keep Lawmakers in Springfield Until Budget is Passed

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is ratcheting up the pressure in Springfield.  The governor yesterday issued a warning to lawmakers: If they don't pass a balanced budget by the end of the day tomorrow, he will keep them at the statehouse until they do. Lawmakers have pretty much ignored the governor's special sessions so far.  But they are close to an agreement on a new state budget. Illinois hasn't had a full state budget in more than two years.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

VIDEO: CIRA Debuts TSA Pre-Check

The Central Illinois Regional Airport debuted the new TSA Pre-Check Wednesday morning.  The program allows you an expedited security check in process, including being able to leave your shoes, light outerwear and belt on, laptop in it’s case and allowable amounts of liquids and gels in their carry on bag.  The application costs $85 and requires a background check and fingerprinting to complete the screening. A temporary application center for the program will be open during business hour from July 10th through the 14th.

Illinois House Democrats Propose 4-Year Property Tax Freeze

There might be a deal for an Illinois state budget on the horizon.

The Associated Press reports the Illinois House Democrat are proposing an increase in the personal income tax rate by 32 percent, a four-year freeze in property taxes and increases in funding for education and social service programs. Most of those proposals were part of a $36.5-billion Democratic budget plan that is $800 million less than Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed last winter.

They also said it's nearly $3 billion less than will go out the door this year because of spending required by law and payments mandated by the courts even though the state has not had a budget for two years. It is the longest any state has gone without a budget since at least the Great Depression.

Downtown Bloomington Task Force Listens, Hears Complaints About Homeless and Panhandlers

Safe and welcoming. Those are the words most of the people who spoke at the first listening session for downtown Bloomington's Downtown Task Force Committee used. Business owners say the city needs to do something about the homeless and panhandlers. They told city leaders those folks scare off customers. There are some downtown owners who say more parks and a more 'welcoming space.' The city could see a report by the end of the year.

Powerball and Mega Millions Games Could be Suspended as of Tonight

Lotto players soon won't be able to buy a Powerball or Mega Millions ticket in  Illinois until the state has a budget. The Illinois Lottery yesterday said it will suspend Powerball and Mega Millions ticket sales later tonight. The multi-state group that runs the games has threatened to drop Illinois if there is no budget by July 1st. Lotto managers in the state are suspending sales as of 9 p.m.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

State Budget: Madigan, "It Won't Be Easy to Get a State Budget by the End of the Week"

The top Democrat in the Illinois House says it won't be easy to get a state budget by the end of the week.

House Speaker Mike Madigan yesterday told reporters in Springfield that the vote on the tax hike needed to pay for his budget plan won't be 'easy.'

 Madigan said his budget will be unveiled later today.

Many at the statehouse expect the powerful Speaker to want to spend as much as six billion-dollars more than Governor Rauner and the Republicans have proposed.

Meanwhile, the top Republican in the Illinois House says he is not focusing on what's being left out of an agreement to get a state budget.

House Republican leader Jim Durkin yesterday said his focus is finding 30 Republican votes for a tax increase that is needed to get a state budget.

Durkin said he'll deal with a lack of term limits in the budget compromise later.

House Speaker Mike Madigan, who has fought term limits, has left the issue off his to-do list this summer.

Bloomington City Council Votes on Arena Name, Considers LED Bus Signs

The new name of Bloomington's downtown arena is officially Grossinger Motors Arena.

City council approved the 10-year contract, Monday, that gives a local car dealership the naming rights. Grossinger Motors will pay $175,000, per year, for 5 years.

There's an option to renegotiate the price for the second five years.

The Bloomington city council is considering allowing Connect Transit to install LED advertising on buses. Connect Transit wants to use digital advertising on the back of its buses.

The move could raise $250,000  more in revenue, but it will require Bloomington to change an ordinance that regulates such signs.

These types of signs pose no issue to any ordinances in Normal.


Illinois school leaders want most students in the state to be able to read and do math at grade level in the next 15 years.

The Illinois State Board of Education yesterday unveiled a plan to have 90-percent of students pass the state's standardized math and reading tests by 2032.

That's a tall order. Right now less than 40-percent of kids i
n Illinois schools can pass the tests.

Monday, June 26, 2017

State Budget Update: Madigan Speaks

The top Democrat at the Illinois Capitol is finally saying what he needs to agree on a budget.  House Speaker Mike Madigan told reporters in Springfield yesterday that he wants a new law regarding how Illinois pays for schools and his own version of workers' compensation reform.  But the Speaker has yet to release a budget plan of his own.  Rumblings at the Capitol suggest House Democrats are looking at a 40-something billion-dollar budget, which is at least four billion larger than the Republican plan.

Relay For Life

Cities 92.9 thanks the nearly 15-hundred participants in the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of McLean County. Thanks to you, Relay for Life raised nealry $300,000 to help fight cancer.

Search for Missing Pekin Teen Continues

The search group Trucks 4 Kidz attempted to find missing Pekin teenager Robert Bee two weeks ago, with no luck. Over the weekend the group returned and opened up the search asking for the public’s help. More than 160 volunteers joined in on the search. They teamed up with a K-9 unit. The search was unsuccessful at finding the boy but friends and family say they’re thankful for the additional help.

Friday, June 23, 2017

State Budget: Madigan Claims Rauner Won't Raise Taxes on His Own

The most powerful Democrat at the Illinois Capitol says the state doesn't have a budget because Governor Rauner isn't willing to raise taxes on his own.  House Speaker Mike Madigan yesterday told reporters in Springfield that he wants to see the governor "work with us" on a tax increase.  The governor has said he's willing to sign a new state budget that includes an income tax increase, but only if Madigan will agree to a property tax freeze

Thursday, June 22, 2017

It's Now Grossinger Motors Arena

It's now Grossinger Motors Arena. The announcement coming from a news conference today stating the naming rights of Bloomington's former US Cellular Coliseum will change over to Grossinger Motors Arena under a multi-year deal that runs through 2022. U.S. Cellular’s naming rights agreement ended in 2016 when the company decided to not renew the agreement due to them no longer offering service in the area. After being in Chicagoland since 1928 Grossinger motors came to Normal 4 years ago when they purchased the former Sud’s dealership.

Special Session: $40K for Seven Minutes of Work?

You can't even get a pizza that fast. The Illinois House yesterday gaveled-in and gaveled-out of special session in under ten minutes. Lawmakers are supposed to be in Springfield to talk about a state budget, but the House left their seats after just a few minutes of milling around. Illinois faces a laundry list of consequences if there is no state budget by the end of month. The cost to the state for each day of the special session is estimated at $40,000.

Barickman: llinois House House are Now the Odd Men Out.

Democrats in the Illinois House House are now the odd men out.  Bloomington-Normal Republican Jason Barcikman told Cities 92-point-9 yesterday that everyone else in the Capitol, including Governor Rauner, have put their name next to a budget plan. But Barickman said there's been nothing but silence from Madigan. Barickman says Madigan has a political incentive to not give Governor Rauner a state budget.

Fund Grows for Family of Missing Scholar at U of I

There's now an 80 thousand-dollar fund for the family of a missing University of Illinois scholar. U of I leaders and managers at the U of I Community Credit Union yesterday said online donations hit 80 thousand-dollars to help the family of Yingying Zhang as police search for her. Zhang's father and aunt flew to Illinois from China over the weekend. Police say Zhang disappeared more than a week ago.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ald. Houman Speaks to the Idea of Felons on Bloomington's Proposed Police Review Board

The city of Bloomington is wrestling with whether to let convicted felons sit on a planned police review board. City council members on Monday all said they support the idea of a citizen's panel to review police conduct. But they don't support a push from advocates to allow felons to have a seat. Alderman Diana Hauman yesterday said she expects a compromise to let some people with long-ago crimes on their records to possibly serve.

Rauner Talks Budget, Unity

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner says he can live with a tax increase in order to get a new state budget. But the governor also used a speech from Springfield last night to say he will sign the budget only if lawmakers agree to a four year property tax freeze. The governor's comments come as lawmakers return to the statehouse today for what could be a ten-day special session.

Democrats Not Impressed with Rauner's Budget Speech

The Democrats running for Illinois governor say they're not impressed with Governor Bruce Rauner's latest speech. Chris Kennedy, JB Pritzker, Ameya Pawa, and Senator Dan Biss all last night dismissed the governor's speech from Springfield. Biss called the speech an infomercial, while Pewar called the governor a flake. Governor Rauner used the speech to say he could sign a new budget that includes an income tax increase, but only in exchange for a property tax freeze

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Activist Group Wants Convicted Felons on Bloomington Police Review Board

If the people who want a Bloomington police review board get their way, convicted felons could be looking over police officer actions. Bloomington city council members met last night to talk about the idea of a review board: They support it. But activists say convicted felons should be included. City leaders aren't so sure. Mayor Renner says six of the nine council members want a compromise. A final vote on the review board could come next month.

Normal Town Council Chooses Uptown Station Overpass

Normal is all-in on an Uptown Underpass. The town council last night voted to have a consultant look at a nearly 13-million dollar underpass to get people across the tracks at the uptown station. Councilwoman Kathleen Lorenz voted against the plan, she says there's no need to lock the town into the most expensive option without also looking at alternatives.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Woman Charged with Aggravated DUI in Death of Husband: BAC .164

40-year-old Juanita Webster of East Peoria is charged with aggravated DUI in the death of her husband, 37-year-old Andre Webster, in an accident on I-55 near Bloomington Friday morning.  The woman's BAC was .164, which is more than twice the legal limit. She is being held in the McLean County Jail.

Normal to Vote on Train Station Crossing Plan Tonight

"Town of Normal staff recommends proceeding with a public underpass with park." That's according to materials for tonight's Normal City Council meeting when the council will vote on which option for a railroad crossing at the station will be studied further by a consultant and put on track to be built. The underpass is estimated at $12.7 million and an overpass at $8.6 million.

Rep. Davis Shows Shrapnel from VA Shooting on FOX News

Central Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis has a tiny piece of metal that he says shows the need for everyone to dial down 'the rhetoric.' Davis yesterday showed “Fox News” a piece of shrapnel he says fell out of his baseball bag after last week's shooting at the Congressional baseball practice. Davis said the shrapnel is a reminder of just how real the political terror has gotten in this country.

FBI Offers Reward in Case of Missing U of I Chinese Scholar

The FBI is offering a 10 thousand-dollar reward in the case of a missing University of Illinois scholar. The FBI announced the reward Friday as they continue to search for Yingying Zhang. She went missing more than a week ago, police say she got into a car and disappeared. Zang's family flew to the United States over the weekend to help in the investigation

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fatal Accident on I-55

A 37-year-old man is dead following single vehicle accident on Interstate 55, northbound, near mile marker 161, in Bloomington Friday morning. Andre Webster of West Peoria is presumed to have been the passenger of the vehicle. The presumed driver was transported and treated at a local hospital. The name is being withheld at this time pending further notification of family. This incident remains under investigation by the McLean County Coroner’s Office and the Illinois State Police.

State Budget Update: Rauner Calls for Special Session

Illinois lawmakers are being called back to the statehouse, to possibly get a state budget. Governor Bruce Rauner yesterday called for a ten day special session to start next Wednesday. Lawmakers are facing a series of negative consequences if they don't come to terms on a budget by July 1st.

No State Budget, No Powerball?

Illinois' lack of a state budget may cost you your shot at millions of dollars. The multi-state group that runs Powerball and Mega Millions yesterday said it will drop Illinois from the lottery games if Illinois doesn't have a budget by the end of the month. A spokesman for the Illinois Lottery confirmed the state may lose the games, but he didn't have a guess as to how much money the state may lose if the games are pulled.

Suspect in PNC Bank Robbery Claims He Did it for Son's Medical Needs

An Indiana man says he robbed a central Illinois bank to get money for his son's medical needs. Prosecutors in Bloomington filed charges yesterday against Zachary Finchum, police say he robbed a local PNC Bank on Wednesday. State Police investigators say Finchum admitted to them that he robbed the bank because he has no money and no food.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Bloomington Planning Commission Votes in Favor of Bike Lanes

The Bloomington Planning Commission voted Wednesday in favor of a proposal to add bicycle lanes on Washington Street from Lee Street to St. Joseph Drive after listening to 20 people comment during a two-hour-long public hearing. The final decision will be made by the City Council, possibly at its July 10 meeting.

Unit 5 Signs Virtual Classroom Deal, Approves Amended Budget

The Unit 5 school board approved a $170,880 contract Wednesday with Zdi audio visual company for a virtual classroom project to be implemented at Normal West and Normal Community high schools this fall. . The board also approved an amended budget for the 2016-17 school year which ends June 30. The budget shows a $5.5 million collective deficit in the transportation and education funds, much of which comes from a lack of payments from the state.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Rep. Rodney Davis Talks About Shooting Incident in VA

Congressman Steve Scalise and others were shot and injured at a ballpark in Virginia as he and other Senators were practicing for a charity baseball game.

All are expected to survive, but the shooter has died.

The gunman is identified as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson of Belleville, IL.  He is also described as a supporter of Bernie Sanders whose tweets say "Trump must be destroyed."

Congressman Rodney Davis was at the ballpark when the shots were fired.

Davis tells us, "This political rhetoric and political discourse has led to hate and it's led to gunfire. I never thought I would go to baseball practice and have to dodge bullets. It's got to stop and it's got to stop today!"

19th Economic Outlook for McLean County

From employment and retail sales to new home construction and agricultural output, Ed Scharlau, Vice Chairman of Busey Bank, outlined the local economy during the 19th Economic Outlook for McLean County, hosted by Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington. Kyle Ham, Chief Executive Officer of Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, also presented his views to an audience of nearly 200 guests.

“We have several reasons to be optimistic,” says Ed Scharlau, Vice Chairman of Busey Bank, “real estate sales are strong, people are spending money and agriculture is still one of the strongest industries in McLean County. The economic indicators show the hard work of various industries to increase the quality of life for our community members and our visitors.”

The county’s agricultural output totaled an estimated $485 million in 2016, up from $474 million the year before, and $441 million is anticipated for 2017. When it comes to corn yields, the county had 218 bushels per acre in 2016. Citing data from Busey Ag Services, Scharlau says “McLean County produced the most corn and soybeans in Illinois and the most corn of any county across the country in 2016.” Meanwhile, values for the most productive farmland—“Class A,” as defined by soil productivity research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—is $10,600 to $13,000 an acre.

Moving to retail sales, they were up slightly at $2.468 billion in 2016 from the previous year at $2.462 billion, according to the sales tax report from the Illinois Department of Revenue. $2.488 billion is anticipated this year. “Automobile sales are strong in McLean County,” says Scharlau, “with 18 cents of every dollar spent to buy or service vehicles.” The number of retailers in McLean County has increased. 4,114 businesses paid sales tax in Illinois last year compared to 4,080 in 2015.

Looking at the housing market, sales increased in 2016—up 2.8 percent over last year, according to the Bloomington-Normal Association of REALTORS®. The estimated average price of a home sold in Bloomington-Normal in 2017 is $175,000 compared to $171,000 last year. New home construction dropped slightly in 2016 with 161 homes (83 in Bloomington and 78 in Normal) built compared to 167 homes in 2015. Scharlau anticipates 165 new homes will be built in 2017.

More people are choosing to call McLean County home. According to the Census Bureau, 35,000 more people have moved to the county in the last 21 years (1995-2016) with 173,000 people living in the community today. Scharlau credits much of the growth to State Farm, “The employer has grown by 4,056 people since 1999.”

McLean County has an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent in April of 2017—down from 4.8 percent this time last year and still lower than the state average of 4.4 percent. McLean County has a significantly lower unemployment rate compared to others in Central Illinois, such as Peoria County at 5.4 percent, Tazewell County at 5.0 percent, Macon County at 4.9 percent and Champaign County at 3.8 percent.

New Restaurant to Open on Veterans Pkwy

HuHot Mongolian Grill plans to open at 2103 N. Veterans Parkway. HuHot is a create-your-own Asian stir fry restaurant, You can create your meal and take it up to the big grill in the center of restaurant and watch while it's cooked up.

Downtown Task Force Meets

That newly-formed downtown task force met Tuesday for the first time to talk about ideas to revitalize downtown Bloomington. Among the topics were to improve and promote downtown as a clean and safe place; pursue projects that can serve as additional downtown anchors; ensure that new development compliments the downtown's historic character; and find new ways to utilize the warehouse district. The city wants your ideas for parking.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Missing Witness Prompts Trial Postponement

The trial of 30-year-old Darvell WIlliams of Bloomington, who is accused of attempted murder,  will be postponed a month while law enforcement officials search for the man identified as the target of the shooting. Prosecutors have issued a subpoena for Willie Love. Williams is facing 10 felony charges, including attempted murder after allegedly firing shots on Bloomington’s east side in November.

Federal Funding for Hamilton Road Extension Plan Secured

The plan to extend Hamilton Road between Bunn Street and Commerce Parkway has been in the works for a long time. Now, the city of Bloomington has secured the the federal funding to put the project on track to be finished in the summer of 2021. The cost of the project is estimated at between 13 and 15 million dollars. Federal funding is to cover 80 percent, but the city yet to designate funding for the remaining 20 percent.

BPD to Open the New Community House

The Bloomington Police Department is set to open its new Community House at 824 W. Jefferson this Friday. Police say the house will serve as a place for police to stop by, increase visibility in the area and connect with the community. The house is owned by Mid Central Community Action, and was purchased and rehabbed through a grant to the West Bloomington Housing Collaborative.  The open house will be held from 4-7 p.m., with games, youth activities and food.

BPD Seeks Information in Two Armed Robberies

Bloomington Police are looking for any information they can use regarding a pair of armed robberies early Sunday morning around in the 2600 block of Hull Court. In another incident a woman says two armed males approached her and displayed guns. She got in her car, the males punched her window and then ran away. Police arrested a 14-year-old with a replica handgun and are looking for a second subject described as a black male,  5' 8", slim build and wearing a hoodie.

Dog Flu Returns

First, veterinarians found it in Chicago, now, it’s in central Illinois. Confirmed cases of dog flu are popping up right in our backyard. Vets are sending out a warning to pet owners to take caution when socializing their dogs. This is a new strain of the influenza, so if you've previously had your dog vaccinated, it will not protect your pet. Vets in central Illinois are encouraging pet owners to have their dogs vaccinated as soon as possible.

New Low Income Housing Proposed for Bloomington

The City of Bloomington could soon have more low-income housing. One would be built around Greenwood Ave., near Highland Park Golf Course. Developers are proposing a 54 unit, mixed income housing development. Twenty units would be low-income apartments. Ten of the thouse would be directed toward residents with special needs. The Unit 5 School District, which runs Cedar Ridge Elementary in the area, says adding more familes, particularly low-income families, to the school would strain their already stretched resources. The developer has requested the city adopt a TIF district. The developer is expected to invest about $17 million into the project.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Special Olympian, Barry Mogk, Dies After a Medical Emergency

An adult male Special Athlete died after a medical emergency during a swimming competition at Normal Community West High Saturday. McLean County Coroner Kathy Davis described 43-year-old Barry Mogk's cause of death as a fatal cardiac arrhythmia.

High Heat This Week

This is not the week to leave your pets in the car alone. The National Weather Service is warning of dangerously high heat and humidity for most of the state today. Forecasters say folks from St. Louis to Chicago and Danville to the Quad Cities can expect temperatures in the 90s, and a heat index pushing 100 degrees. Their advice is to drink plenty of water, take frequent breaks if you have to work outside, and never leave a dog or cat in a hot car.