Friday, August 18, 2017

Latest Jobs Report: Illinois Job Growth Is Slow

Illinois is adding new jobs, but barely.  The latest report from the Illinois Department of Employment Security released yesterday said the state added just 64-hundred jobs last month.  Illinois Employment Security boss Jeff Mays said Illinois continues to lag behind the rest of the nation in job growth.

Burglars Nabbed

2 men in Bloomington are behind bars after being arrested for burglarizing homes. Police responded to the area of Country Club Place after getting a call about 2 men, carrying backpacks, who were seen walking between homes. Austin Lilley and Ian O'Neill were arrested for residential burglary and are being held at the McLean County Jail.

Bloomington's "Ticketgate" Update

Illinois State Police are looking to see if the mayor of Bloomington broke the law when he bought a plane ticket to Japan for his girlfriend.  Mayor Tari Renner yesterday said he didn't do anything wrong.  Renner said a city worker bought the ticket for a Sister Cities event, where his girlfriend was invited as a delegate, and she reimbursed the city.  The Illinois Supreme Court ruled a few years ago that kind of "float" is against the law.  State Police investigators aren't commenting on the specifics of the case.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

McLean GOP Leader's Trump Facebook Comments

The head of the McLean County Republican Party is responding to critics after posting facebook comments supporting President Trump's statement about the violence in Virginia. McLean County Republican Party Chairman Chuck Erickson called the president's words common sense remarks, on facebook  earlier this week. Erickson now says violence on both sides is bad, but he says their speech is protected under the first amendment.Erickson says that violence from either side is unacceptable.  He says governments must respond as they have in the past with law enforcement, military and due process to stop illegal acts.

Man Involved in Monday's Hit and Run Has 3 DUI's

32-year-old Steven McCuen is charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident which occurred Monday in the 1400 block of Six Points Road, two felony counts of aggravated driving under the influence and a misdemeanor DUI charge. The incident left a 16-year-old boy critically injured. Bond was set for McCuen at $750,000. One of the felony DUI counts indicates that the Monday night incident was McCuen's third drunken driving offense; he has another pending in Logan County, according to court records.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pantagraph: ISP Probing City Credit Card Use for Japan Trip

The Illinois State Police have opened an investigation into the use of a city credit card to buy an airline ticket to let Mayor Tari Renner's girlfriend travel with him to Japan for a weeklong sister cities anniversary event earlier this month. An official with the state police investigations unit based in Pontiac confirmed to the Pantagraph Wednesday afternoon there is an investigation but declined to comment further. Renner had been invited to be on Thursday's Morning Buzz with Tom Davis but has of yet to respond to the invitation.

Source: Pantagraph

Traffic Pattern Changes for ISU Move-In Days

There are some traffic changes to be aware of this week in Normal as thousands of freshmen come to Illinois State University for move-in days. Most of the changes are centered around Watterson Towers:

  • North Street will become a one way road between School and Fell Avenue.
  • Fell Avenue will be closed to northbound traffic, making it a one-way between Mullberry and College.
  • Fell Avenue will be closed to all traffic from College to North Street.
  • Freshman will be moving in on Wednesday and Thursday at their assigned times. Older students return on Friday.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

BPD: Arrest Made in Hit and Run on 6 Points Road, Youth Victim in Critical Condition

Police have made an arrest in Monday's hit and run that severely injured a 16-year-old bicyclist. 32 year old Steven McCuen was arrested Tuesday by Bloomington Police and the U.S. Marshall service. McCuen is charged with failure to report and accident with an injury and driving under the influence of drugs/alcohol.  Just before 9pm Monday night, it's alleged that McCuen struck the 16 year old male riding a bike on 6 Points Road.  Witnesses reported seeing a white vehicle leaving the scene of the accident. The vicitm was first transported to a local hospital then lifeflighted to a hospital in Peoria where he remains in critical condition.  The investigation of the incident remains ongoing.

Source: Bloomington Police Dept &
Mark Embry at News Happening in Bloomington Normal McLean Co Area and All Over

Portillo's is Open

Portillo's Restaurant in Normal is open for business. After several training days with invited guests, including media day last Thursday, the store is open for the masses. Some diners arrvied as early as 6:30am Tuesday to be one of the first in line. The town of Normal landed Portillo's, a Chicago area favorite, by agreeing to give developer Bloomington Landmark $1.875 million in future sales tax receipts from the restaurant to subsidize demolition and construction. The total could reach $2.5 million with interest.

Applications Pour In For Bloomington Police Review Board

A lot more people want a seat on Bloomington's police review board than first thought.  The city's spokeswoman yesterday said 40 people submitted applications by yesterday's deadline. Bloomington's city council last month created the Public Safety and Community Relations Board to improve relationships between the police and some folks in the community.  Bloomington's mayor and city council will now
select seven people to serve on the board.

Blue Lives Matter Controversy

Controversy in Bloomington Monday night, after a local woman organizes a Blue Lives Matter rally. The local Black Lives Matter chapter claims the organizer, Regina Noland, has Facebook posts that connect her with white supremacist groups. Noland tells WMBD TV she is not affiliated with any of that and just wants to say thank you to those in uniform. Black Lives Matter asked its supporters to stay away from the rally all together, including any counter protests. But that did not stop some protesters that came with faces covered and profanity-laced signs directed at the small Blue Lives Matter crowd.

Governor Wants Leaders Meetings On School Funding

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner says a deal on school funding in the state is 'within reach.'  The governor yesterday asked all four legislative leaders, Democrats Mike Madigan and John Cullerton, and Republicans Jim Durkin and Bill Brady, to sit down this week and come to terms on how to pay for the state's schools.  Rauner changed the Democratic plan to pay for schools, and the Illinois Senate on Sunday voted down those changes. Democrats in the Illinois House are set to take up the governor's ideas tomorrow.  Schools across the state start this week.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Senate Democrats Vote Down Governor Rauner's School Changes

Illinois is no closer to a school budget, even with a vote from the Illinois Senate to override Governor Rauner's school changes. Democrats in the Senate yesterday used their numbers to easily vote down the governor's changes. But Democrats in the Illinois House don't have the same numbers, and won't even take up the plan till Wednesday. Most Illinois schools start this week, but they were supposed to get a state aid payment last week.

Mayor Renner Wants Paid Aide

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner is requesting a full-time aide. Renner says he needs the aide to help him keep up with the demands that he and most "modern metro city mayors" face. A formal discussion on the idea is set for a special meeting of the City Council at 5 p.m. tonight at City Hall. The council will meet about an hour in closed session and then return to open session to discuss the mayor's request for a $90,000 a year paid aide The council's regular meeting will follow at 7 p.m.

Eclipse One Week From Today

If you don't have a plan or a place to stay, it may be best to watch the southern Illinois eclipse online. The eclipse is one week away, and locals across southern Illinois say they're as ready as they can be. City leaders in Carbondale are encouraging people to arrive this weekend so that no one is stuck on traffic during the eclipse next Monday. Carbondale is expecting 100 thousand visitors for the eclipse.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Portillo's to Officially Open Tuesday

The grand opening of Portillo's Restaurant in Normal is set for Tuesday. Several training days with invited guests have been taking place already, including media day Thursday. That's where Portillo's founder Dick Portillo surprised a few people when he said about 20 years ago he came to the area with his supervisors at the request of former Bloomington Mayor Judy Markowitz.  Portillo said they could not find a suitable location at the time.The town of Normal landed Portillo's by agreeing to give developer Bloomington Landmark $1.875 million in future sales tax receipts from the restaurant to subsidize demolition and construction. The total could reach $2.5 million with interest

Radisson Grand Opening

A hotel has re-opened its doors in Normal. The Radisson hotel had their grand opening Thursday. The hotel fills a structure that's sat vacant for the past 9 years. The former Holiday Inn got an $18 million dollar make over. It features 158 rooms, as well as a restaurant and banquet halls.

Illinois Comptroller Makes Some Categorical Payments to Schools

Some Illinois schools are getting some of the money they're owed by the state of Illinois, but it's not the money that schools were supposed to get. Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza yesterday authorized about 429 million-dollars in categorical payments to schools. The categorical payments cover past due bills for special education, school buses, and other state requirements. Mendoza ordered the payments on the day that Illinois was supposed to send out the first general state aid payment for the new school year. That payment can't happen because lawmakers and Governor Rauner still can't agree on a school budget.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bloomington Gives Police Review Board Applicants More Time

Bloomington's mayor is giving it a few more days to see if there's more interest in joining the city's new police review board.  Mayor Tari Renner yesterday said he's extending the application deadline until Monday.  City leaders last month created the Public Safety and Community Relations Board as a way to "improve relations" with the city's police department.  Renner says, so far, 15 people have submitted their applications.

Illinois Senate To Return Sunday For School Funding

The Illinois Senate is heading back to the Capitol to deal with Governor Rauner's changes to their school funding plan.  Senate leaders yesterday scheduled a Sunday session.  There's no official announcement that they will address Governor Rauner's amendatory veto of the school funding legislation, but the session comes three days after schools in Illinois were supposed to get their first state aid payment.

First Student Says It's Ready for the New School Year

Unit 5 School District is hoping to avoid some of the busing problems that plagued the district at the beginning of last school year. Its busing company First Student officials spoke to the Unit 5 school board on Wednesday night, assuring them that they are ready for the upcoming school year. Last year, Unit 5 overhauled its busing system, moving to a two tier system. During the transition, students and parents saw overcrowding problems and buses showing up late to school, sometimes by hours.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Portillo's Soft Opening a Huge Success

The Chicago-style hotdog, burgers and Italian beef restaurant  that Normal has been waiting for opened its doors today and patrons came in numbers.  Traffic on Landmark Drive was snarled at times as traffic from all directions tried to drive into the parking lot of the new eatery. The parking lot and drive-thru lanes were filled as traffic guides worked earnestly to keep the vehicles moving in an orderly fashion. The town of Normal agreed to give developer Bloomington Landmark LLC $1.875 million in future sales tax receipts from the restaurant — a cost of as much as $2 million with interest — to subsidize demolition and construction of this
restaurant project.

Illinois Lawmakers To Hold School Funding Hearing

Illinois lawmakers are taking the first step toward dealing with Governor Rauner's changes to the state's school funding plan.  The Illinois House has a hearing scheduled today in Chicago to take up their plan to pay for schools.  Governor Rauner last week changed the Senate Democratic plan to pay for schools by altering how much state money Chicago schools would get and by tweaking the way communities calculate just how much property tax money could be available for local schools.

Sprague's on Old Rt 66 Grand Opening

A historic gas station is getting ready to reopen as a tourist destination in Normal. Sprague's Super Service will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday. The Town of Normal purchased Sprague's in the Spring of 2016 for about $458,000. The service station was built on Route 66 back in 1931. It closed down in the 1940's. It was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.It was previously owned by Terri Ryburn, who spend years working to revitalize the station. The town decided to purchase the property to finish the restorations, to help tap into the Route 66 tourist market that runs through Bloomington-Normal.

IL Teen Breastfeeding Bill

A lot of teen moms struggle to balance school and raising a child.Now one of those barriers will be eliminated to help nursing moms. A bill signed by Governor Rauner requires schools to have a place the mother can store the milk. All schools will have to provide a private room with an outlet to allow them to pump milk to feed their child.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Normal Sewer Rate Increase

If you live in Normal, you will soon be paying higher sewer rates. The Town Council approved a hike on Monday that will double the rate over the next five years. The average household, using 6 million gallons of water, will increase from $10.22 to $22.67 by 2022. The increased revenue will be used to address necessary repairs throughout the town and will increase the sewer fund balance to handle future capital projects.The first increase will come in October. The maintenance fee will go up by 50 cents. The user charge will go up by 75 cents. The rates will then increase by 21 and 25 cents every fiscal year for five years.

Court Clears Normal Officers In Beaman Conspiracy Case

Lawyers for a man who went to prison for a crime he didn't commit say they'll take their conspiracy case to the Illinois Supreme Court.  A state appellate court yesterday ruled against Allan Beaman. He's trying to convince a judge that police investigators in Normal ignored evidence that could have
cleared him in the 1997 murder of a former girlfriend. This weeks' ruling is just the latest defeat in that effort.  The Illinois Supreme Court freed Beaman because of "tenuous" evidence in the case against him, and former Governor Pat Quinn even gave Beaman a certificate of innocence.

Fatal Fire Update

The victim in that fatal fire Sunday in the 1500 block of Hunt Drive has been identified as 68 year old Diana McLaren-Osburne. Preliminary autopsy findings indicate she died from probable carbon monoxide intoxication due to inhaling smoke and soot caused by the fire that was reported just after midnight. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation by the coroner's office and the Normal Fire Department.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Fatal Fire

A woman is dead after an early morning fire in Normal. Crews were called to the 1500 block of Hunt Drive just after midnight when neighbors saw smoke coming from a four unit condo. Firefighters found heavy smoke and fire in one of the four units, where they also found a 68-year-old woman lying in the kitchen floor. She was unresponsive and attempts by emergency responders to resuscitate her were not successful. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Chicago Suing DOJ Over Sanctuary City Threat

Chicago will be filing a lawsuit this morning against the U.S. Justice Department over its efforts to block funding for so called sanctuary cities.  Speaking at City Hall yesterday, Mayor Emanuel said the Trump administration is threatening to withhold federal grant money if local police departments don't cooperate with federal immigration agents.  The mayor called the DOJ's plan illegal and unconstitutional.

August 4th Now Barack Obama Day

You have plenty of time to plan for Barack Obama Day 2018. Governor Bruce Rauner on Friday signed a new law that designates President Obama's birthday, August 4th, as a state holiday. Barack Obama Day won't be an official state holiday, so no one will get the day off work and kids won't miss school. Lawmakers in Springfield overwhelmingly approved the idea of an Obama holiday back in the spring.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Democrats Again Ding Governor's 'Agenda' In School Money Fight

The Senate Democrat's point man on schools says Governor Rauner is trying to shift state money away from local schools. Senator Andy Manar yesterday told statehouse reporters in Springfield that the governor is looking to 'divest' from public schools in the state. Manar said the Democratic plan to pay for schools would pump more state money into education. Republicans at the Capitol say the Democratic plan would pump more money into Chicago schools.

Is the Town of Normal to Get Involved With Another Old Building?

The town of Normal is considering an attempt to save another historic building. You might remember the town's earlier involvements in the former Sprague's service station and Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's School infirmary. According to published reports,  Normal town officials are now looking into  the Fairview Building, which is also known as the former McLean County Tuberculosis Sanatorium on N. Main St.

Another Tax Hike Republican Not Running For Reelection

Another Republican state representative who voted for Illinois' income tax increase isn't running for reelection. State Rep Bill Mitchell yesterday announced he won't run again for his central Illinois seat next year. Mitchell has spent almost 20 years as a lawmaker. He's one of ten Republicans who voted for the state's 32-percent income tax increase last month. Mitchell yesterday said he still thinks his vote was the right thing to do for Illinois.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Fitch Warns Illinois School Money Woes May Threaten Schools Credit

Wall Street investors are once again warning the state of Illinois about a possible credit downgrade. Fitch Ratings yesterday said the delay in agreeing how to pay for Illinois' schools likely won't hurt the state's credit, but a lack of funds could hurt the credit of some local school districts. Fitch said Chicago Public Schools could be badly hurt and lose some of its ability to borrow money. Chicago Schools have relied heavily over the past few years on short term loans to stay afloat.

Bloomington Man Pleads Guilty to Drug-Induced Homicide

28-year old Jeremy Miller of Bloomington pleaded guilty Wednesday to drug-induced homicide in the heroin death of a 28-year-old Marie Ann Lavallee in 2016. Miller is looking at up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced in September for providing heroin to Lavallee who died of a drug overdose.

Delay in Giordano's Opening

You will need to wait another couple months for "real" Chicago-style pizza in the Twin Cities. A Bloomington Giordano's restaurant set to open this month will instead open in October.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Obamacare Premiums May Jump Over 40-Percent In Illinois

Bad news if you buy your health insurance through Illinois' Obamacare exchange. Your premiums could skyrocket again next year. Insurance companies in the state yesterday said they expect premiums to increase as much as 43-percent. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, which covers over 300 thousand people on Obamacare in the state, said the price for their plans will jump as high as 38 percent.

Governor Rauner Changes School Funding Plan, Sends Back To Lawmakers

It's now up to Illinois lawmakers if the state's schools open on time. Governor Bruce Rauner yesterday changed the Democratic plan to pay for schools, he stripped out money for Chicago teacher pensions and a block grant for the city's school. Top statehouse Democrats yesterday asked for a few more days to negotiate, but seemed unwilling to accept the governor's request for spending reforms and a new scholarship plan.

Schock Lawyers Accuse Feds Of Obsession With His Sexuality

The latest plea from Aaron Schock's lawyers to get the case against the former Congressman dropped centers on his sexuality. More specifically, Schock's lawyers say the federal government is obsessed with whether Schock is gay. His lawyers point out that investigators asked several witnesses in the case who Schock was sleeping with. Federal prosecutors say Schock lied on campaign and government expense reports to hide that he was living large on other people's money.

Prices Cut at Normal Pools

Customers at Normal aquatics facilities will pay reduced admissions for the rest of this season as town officials apologize for recent staffing-related closures. Daily admission rates will be just $5 for all adults and youth."

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Rauner Issues Amendatory Veto of School Funding Bill

Governor Bruce Rauner issued an amendatory veto on Senate Bill 1 today. The bill, which outlines a school funding plan, now returns to the Illinois General Assembly, in which lawmakers could choose whether or not to approve. Governor Rauner's Office listed several suggestions as part of the veto including the removal of the Chicago block grant from the funding formula and both Chicago Public Schools pension considerations from the formula.

Garlic Press Cafe to Close

A staple of Uptown Normal is closing its doors after 12 years in business. WMBD TV reports  The Garlic Press Market Cafe is closing. About 15 people will lose their jobs when the cafe closes in September. The gift store will remain open.

Death of a Normal Woman

The death of a Normal woman from a weekend boating accident on the Kankakee River is under investigation. The Will County Coroner’s Office confirmed 35 year old Elizabeth Larson was pronounced dead at a Joliet hospital ER Saturday afternoon. Officials believe Larson fell off of an inflatable raft near Wilmington. A six-year-old child was with her, but was not injured.