Friday, October 20, 2017

Passenger Train Stopped and Evacuated in Lincoln

Police are investigating why a man left his bags when he got off a northbound train Friday morning in Lincoln, prompting the train to be stopped and the other passengers evacuated. The Pantagraph reports passengers were told by Lincoln police to leave the train while bomb-sniffing dogs were used to determine if there is any danger. Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari released  news statement saying  "As a precaution, 190 customers on Amtrak Train 302 have disembarked in Lincoln, while authorities examine items left behind by another passenger."  There were no injuries reported.

New Questions About Bloomington Mayor's Spending

City leaders in Bloomington are once again questioning Mayor Tari Renner's use of a city credit card. The mayor charged a 28-dollar lunch to the city while he was on a leave of absence last month. Last night one city council member asked if that's allowed. This is the second time in the past few months that Renner has faced questions about his use of city money. Renner is facing an investigation into whether the city illegally bought his girlfriend a plane ticket to Japan back in July.

Illinois' Latest Jobs Report Show Huge Losses

You have to work hard to spin something positive out of Illinois' latest jobs report. The state's employment agency yesterday said that Illinois lost almost eleven thousand jobs in September. The report says the trade and transportation sector lost the most jobs, followed by education and health services and the leisure industry. Illinois employment director Jeff Mays says the state's economy continues to sputter, and is falling behind other states that have seen a rebound from the great recession.

Three Arrested in Facebook Live Streamed Fight

So far, three people have been arrested on a  variety of charges stemming from a weekend party where a fight between two women was live-streamed on Facebook last Sunday morning. Michael Burton of Bloomington is charged with unlawful taping of a video at a residence, a Class 4 felony, and publishing obscenity. Also charged is 21-year-old Betty Vo of  Normal, with battery, and 19 year-old Gabrielle Shanahan of Bloomington, with illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Two Arrested in Facebook Live Fight in Normal

Two people have been arrested in connection with that Facebook Live streaming video of fight in Normal Sunday morning at an apartment on Parkinson Street. The Pantagraph reports a 25-year-old Bloomington man is facing preliminary charges of non-consensual dissemination of a sex image, publishing obscenity, and two counts of unlawful recording of a video at a residence.  A 21-year-old woman has been arrested in connection with that fight facing three counts of misdemeanor battery. Two men were arrested at the Parkinson apartment, but those charges filed against them on Monday actually came from incidences at a different party earlier that night.

Minor League Hockey League Promises No Knees During Anthem

There's one place where you won't see any players taking a knee during the national anthem.  That's a Peoria Rivermen hockey game.  In fact, the entire Southern Professional Hockey League is ordering its players to stand for the national anthem.  SPHL president Jim Combs yesterday said they've had a rule since 2009 that requires players to stand.  Combs said it wouldn't ever cross the mind of hockey players or hockey fans to take a knee during the national anthem.

Man In Custody on Weapons Charges

A 25-year-old man is in custody following a domestic dispute in  the 400 block of West Vernon of Normal early Wednesday where a shot was reportedly fired. The man was taken into custody on preliminary charges of reckless discharge of a firearm, possession of a weapon by a former convict and criminal damage to property. There were no injuries reported.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Medication Abortions Available at Bloomington Clinic

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Bloomington has begun offering medication abortions for the first time. The process involves two different pills. Patients take the first pill at the health center and  are then given a second pill to take at home any time within 48 hours. Medication abortions can only be performed within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy

Appointees to Bloomington Public Safety and Community Relations Board

Monday night the Bloomington City Council will be asked Mayor Tari Renner's appointments of the Rev. William Bennett, Robert Bosquez, Surena Fish, Jan Lancaster, Sally Rudolph, Arthur Taylor and Jeffery Woodard to the seven-member Public Safety and Community Relations Board.

Illinois In Bottom Half In Latest Tax, Business Climate Report

Illinois' five percent personal income tax rate is the only thing keeping the state from the bottom of a new report on taxes and business climates.  The Tax Foundation yesterday ranked Illinois 29th in the country for tax policy and business climate.  The state is ranked 16th for its personal income tax rate.  But Illinois scores near the bottom, 42nd and 45th, when it comes to unemployment insurance and property tax rates.  The Tax Foundation ranks Illinois' neighbor Indiana as the ninth best state in country for businesses.

Governor Rauner Releases Tax Returns

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner paid over 22 million-dollars in taxes last year, and could pay more next year. The governor released his 2016 income tax returns yesterday. Rauner made almost 91 million-dollars, less than in 2015 but more than in 2014. He paid 19-and-a-half million-dollars in taxes to the federal government and another three million to the state of Illinois. If he makes the same amount next year, the state's new income tax would have the governor pay an extra million-point-three in state income taxes.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Possible Tenant Coming to the Former Dick's in Normal Location

Ross Dress for Less is named as the tenant coming to the former Dick's Sporting Goods store in Normal in a document provided by the town of Normal. It lists Ross Dress for Less as a tenant to receive $1 million in improvements, according to the Pantagraph. Phillips Edison, the owners of the twin shopping centers at the NE corner of Veterans Pkwy and College Ave., plan to spend $4 million on improvements. Normal City Council Monday night approved an $800,000 sales tax rebate for the owners. The deal is expected to bring at least 3 new businesses to those properties.

Normal Approves Tax Rebate for Shopping Centers

The Normal Town Council approved an $800,000 sales tax rebate for two local shopping centers that are struggling, after Dick's Sporting Goods moved to Bloomiington. The owners of College Plaza Station and neighboring Greenbriar Center are planning to invest more than $4 million over in upgrades over the next five years. They say the deal will help offset the costs, so they can attract major tenants to fill the empty spaces. Town staff say the way the deal is structured makes it safe for the community.

Bloomington Alderman Want Budget Cuts

City leaders in Bloomington say it's time that they spend less.  Bloomington's finance director last night said that the city is looking at a budget shortfall anywhere between one-and-a-half million and three million-dollars. Falling sale tax revenues are to blame.  Alderman David Sage said Bloomington has to get serious about the amount of money that it's spending before it's too late.

Normal 2040

"Compacted, connected and complete."  That's the goal community leaders have for Normal over the next two decades as community leaders got a look at Normal's 2040 Comprehensive Plan last night.  The plan includes  sustainability in environmental impacts, town spending, and services. It also highlights gaps that the town needs to work to close, like affordable housing. The plan, which includes community input, advises leaders to create a new business friendly community, strive for the cutting edge technology and collaborate with Illinois State University and the surrounding communities.

Monday, October 16, 2017

OSF: Plans Filed for $25M Building at Bloomington Campus

OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center wants to build a nearly $25 million medical office building on its Bloomington campus to increase the number of primary care providers while improving access to outpatient cardiac services.  The Pantagraph reports St. Joseph has sent the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board the application for approval. The three-story, 51,000-square-foot medical office building would go up on Washington Street, east of Regency Drive and west of St. Joseph Drive.

Source: Pantagraph

$800K in Tax Breaks to Twin Shopping Centers in Normal Requested by Owner

The Normal Town Council votes tonight on whether to give $800,000 in tax breaks to a shopping center owner so that the town can collect $4.8 million in projected new tax revenue. Council members will vote on a proposed sales tax rebate for Phillips Edison, which owns the twin shopping centers on the northeast corner of College Avenue and Veterans Parkway. The company wants to spend $4.1 million to remodel the shopping centers, in hopes of bringing in a tenant to replace Dick’s Sporting Goods and other retail spaces.

Fight on Facebook Live in Normal Prompts SWAT Team Into Action

Normal Police sent out the SWAT team to an apartment building on Parkinson Street near police headquarters during the pre-dawn hours Sunday, after authorities were notified of a fight of two women beating another woman that was being shown on Facebook Live. Police Chief Rick Bleichner said officers knocking on the door heard what they thought was a gunshot, and the emergency response team was called.  Officers arrested a man allegedly carrying a handgun. No one inside the apartment was seriously hurt, and no police officers were injured

Private Group's Reservations Slowing Election Consolidation

The League of Women voters looks to be the biggest roadblock to consolidating elections in McLean County. The county and the city of Bloomington each have their own election offices, and local leaders want to combine the two to save money and time. But the League of Women Voters in McLean County says it wants an independent commission to oversee elections, rather than a countywide elected leader who they say could be unprepared

Illinois' Amazon Pitch Due This Week

Illinois' bid for Amazon's second headquarters is due this week. The company is looking for a new home for 50 thousand jobs, and Illinois is one of many states volunteering to be that home. No one has said what Illinois' bid includes, though the thinking is that the state will pitch Chicago as a hub for Amazon's HQ2. But city leaders in St. Louis last week said their pitch includes parts of East St. Louis, Illinois as well.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Conservatives Look To Rollback Illinois' Taxpayer Funded Abortion Law

Conservative lawmakers at the Illinois Capitol are trying to roll back a new law that'd have taxpayer money pay for abortions in the state.  State Rep. Peter Breen and State Senator Dan McConchie yesterday filed a piece of legislation to stop Illinois from covering elective abortions for women on Medicaid.  Breen said the state may end up spending 30 million-dollars on abortions under the law that Governor Rauner signed just a few weeks ago. McConchie says Illinois can't afford that cost.

Normal City Manager Applications

Applications are officially open for Normal's next city manager. Mark Peterson is retiring at the end of March after 30 years of service. A job description posted to invites online applications from candidates "who have a passion for local government service, an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to lead a high performing organization."  The advertised pay is in the  $185,000 range.

Chicago Gets One Last Sanctuary Warning From Justice Department

The Justice Department is giving Chicago and other sanctuary cities one last warning before they cancel federal policing grants. The Trump Administration yesterday told city leaders in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and New Orleans to prove that their sanctuary policies aren't hurting law enforcement efforts. If the cities can't, or won't, the Justice Department says it may withhold possibly millions of dollars in grant money. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he won't pick between being a welcoming community and supporting his officers.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

U of I Wants Free Speech Task Force

The University of Illinois is going to study free speech. The school yesterday announced a task force to develop policies to avoid 'disruptions' at campus events and classes. Interim Provost John Wilkin says the idea is to make sure the school knows how to handle protestors who may want to interrupt any speaker that they don't agree with. Wilkin said the university wants to protect free speech while 'engaging with the divisive sorts of things' you sometimes see in campus speeches.

Bloomington Downtown Task Force Latest

The Bloomington Downtown Task Force has the redevelopment of the city-owned Market Street parking deck into a multipurpose facility still at the top of their list in draft report as a catalyst to revive the downtown area. How the city would use the site is left open for discussion. This recommendation will likely come up for a task force vote on Oct. 24.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Cook County Officials Vote to Repeal Chicago-Area Soda Tax

The Chicago-area’s penny-per-ounce tax on soda and sweetened drinks was repealed Wednesday after a monthslong conflict that included a court battle and millions of dollars’ worth of television ads on both sides.

The tax prompted lawsuits, a warning from a federal agency that Illinois could lose millions in funding for food stamp benefits and complaints of plummeting sales from store owners. But among its supporters were health advocates such as billionaire Michael Bloomberg, whose super PAC ran more than $2 million worth of ads defending the tax as a way to fight obesity and other health conditions.

Some retailers opposed to the tax posted signs in the soda aisle telling customers they will pay $1.44 more on each 12-pack of soda because of the tax, and urging them to tell their county commissioner to repeal it. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which unsuccessfully sued to try to stop the tax, called the repeal “great news for consumers and retailers.”

Commissioners will have to decide how they will fill an approximate $200 million budget hole that the tax would have satisfied. They have until Nov. 30 to approve a budget.

Illinois Police Chiefs Say Cost Still A Concern For Body Cameras

Illinois' chiefs of police group says it can't fully get behind police body cameras because of the way the state's body cam law is written. More specifically, Ed Wojcicki [[ whoa-jis-ski ]] with the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police yesterday said that until Illinois changes the cost of maintaining the cameras, he can't enthusiastically endorse the law. Wojcicki says it costs departments thousands of dollars to store body camera video, and thousands more to edit it. Wojcicki says the Association of Chiefs wants lawmakers to tweak the law next year.

Illinois Man to be Arraigned in on New Charges in Missing Chinese Scholar Case

A man accused in the abduction and killing of a University of Illinois scholar from China is to be arraigned on new charges. Federal court records show that 28-year-old Brendt Christensen is to appear before a judge Wednesday afternoon. He previously was charged with abducting 26-year-old Yingying Zhang of Nanping, China. But last week, a grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging him with kidnapping resulting in Zhang’s death. The new indictment alleges Christensen intentionally killed Zhang and that her death involved torture or serious physical abuse. If convicted of the charge, Christensen faces the death penalty or mandatory life in prison.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Blue Cross and Blue Shield-OSF Negotiations

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois said it is still open to reaching an agreement with OSF Healthcare to keep the hospital system in network after Jan. 1.

“Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is committed to our members, our group customers, as well as the communities we serve. Our current PPO and BlueChoice® contracts with St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford and St. Mary Medical Center in Galesburg, each a part of the Order of St. Francis HealthCare System (OSF), no longer serve BCBSIL’s aim to continue to broaden our members’ access to network providers and further enhance our network and product offerings," said the company in a statement. "Our mission is to continue to provide access to quality, cost-effective healthcare in Illinois. That includes creating and designing networks that balance access and affordability of care. We are open to continuing contract discussions with the goal of reaching an agreement that benefits our members and customers.”

Should an agreement not be reached, it will affect OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington and OSF HealthCare Saint James-John W. Albrecht Medical Center in Pontiac, but not physicians' offices. Advocate hospitals in Central Illinois are not affected.

Bloomington Looks To Change Credit Card Policy

City leaders in Bloomington aren't saying if plane tickets for the mayor's girlfriend will be on the new list of acceptable expenses that they are writing. Council members last night said they want to formalize a policy on what is and what is not an acceptable use of taxpayer money. The move comes after the Illinois State Police launched an investigation into how Mayor Tari Renner's girlfriend got to tag along on a Sister Cities trip to Japan back in May. The mayor says his girlfriend reimbursed the city for the trip, and that no one broke any laws.

VenuWorks Proposal

At Monday's Bloomington City Council special session, VenuWorks proposed to take over responsibility for the BCPA at a flat rate of $3,000 per month. The company also manages Grossinger Motors Arena and says they can advise the facility in increasing revenue while bringing down costs. Some council members say they have some concerns about the proposal, like programming and marketing. But most of the council say they're willing to continue the conversation. The council says they're interested in hearing feedback from the Cultural District Commission before making a decision.

New Numbers Show More Illinois Students Leave For College

Illinois is one of the nation's biggest exporters of three things: Corn, heavy tractors, and college students. Numbers released by the Illinois State Board of Higher Education last week show a 64-percent increase in the number of Illinois students who left the state for college between 2000 and 2014. Many students left because the state board says they can pay about half the cost for a school in Indiana or Missouri compared to the U of I or Illinois State University.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Bloomington Shooting of Teen Update

Bloomington police reported a call of shots fired Saturday near the intersection of Lee Street and Emerson Street. Police said a 14-year-old teen had been shot in the face and was taken to a local hospital. The boy was conscious and stable at the time, but he is now listed in critical condition. 18-year old Emerial Tutwiler of Bloomington is in the McLean County jail in lieu of posting $10,035 bond and charged with reckless discharge of a firearm. Tutwiler said in a statement that this was an accident.

Time Running Out For Prosecutors In McLean County Government Case

Prosecutors in McLean County say they're worried that they may run out of time in a local corruption investigation.  McLean County States' Attorney Jason Chambers said last week that he has until next month to decide if he should file charges against the county's Board of Health for allegedly conducting public business behind closed doors.  Chambers says he's waiting for an opinion from the Illinois Attorney General's office about the case.  He requested a ruling last year.

Normal to Apply for Funding for Pedestrian Train Underpass

Town of Normal officials are once again eyeing federal funding for a railroad underpass at Uptown Station. The Pantagraph reports Normal will apply for $16 million in Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery money for a pedestrian underpass project.  This is the same funding source which was used in 2009 paid $22 million to build the station. Applications are due Oct. 16 for $500 million in projects across the country ranging from $5 million to $25 million each to "have significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area, or a region."

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Boy Shot in the Face

A man is in custody Saturday after a shooting that wounded a 14-year-old boy in the face in the 1400 block of N. Lee Street in Bloomington.  The unnamed man was arrested shortly afterward. A gun was recovered at the scene. Police tell us the boy was alert and awake as he was taken to the hospital. This is a fluid situation and detectives are continuing to investigate. Anyone with information is asked to call BPD or McLean County Crime Stoppers.

ISU Police Investigating Public Indecency Incident

Illinois State University police are looking for a young black man who reportedly put his bodily fluids on a female student's car window Thursday while she was inside the vehicle in a university parking lot near Willow and School streets. The female student said a man performed the sexual act on himself and then fled north on Normal Avenue, police said. He was last seen in the 500 block of Bowles Street. He is described as a heavyset black man, age 19 to 24, about 6 feet to 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 200 pounds. He had short hair and a black backpack and was wearing a white T-shirt, red shorts and athletic shoes. Call McLean County Crime Stoppers if you know something about this incident

Normal Looking for Federal Money for Rail Station Underpass

Town of Normal officials are once again eyeing federal funding for a railroad underpass at Uptown Station. The Pantagraph reports Normal will apply for $16 million in Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery money for a pedestrian underpass project.  This is the same funding source which was used in 2009 paid $22 million to build the station. Applications are due Oct. 16 for $500 million in projects across the country ranging from $5 million to $25 million each to "have significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area, or a region."

Friday, October 6, 2017

Illinois Lawmaker Introduces Bill Banning Bump Stocks

An Illinois lawmaker is pushing a bill that would ban bump stocks in Illinois.  Many of the firearms possessed by accused Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock were equipped with the devices.  State Representative Marty Moylan introduced a measure yesterday that would ban the possession, use and sale of bump stocks and similar attachments that are designed to accelerate the rate of fire for semi-automatic guns.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

P-Card Usage by Bloomington City Elected Officials up for Discussion Monday at City Hall

The Bloomington City Council will consider on Monday changing procedures related to the use of credit cards by elected officials. Included in the proposed ordinance is a provision that would eliminate elected officials from using P-cards. Currently, the mayor is the only elected official that has one. The purchase of plane tickets with a P-card for the mayor's gilrfriend to join him on a trip to Japan is the incident that spawned an Illinois State Police. The item will be discussed at a work session at 5 p.m. Monday prior to the meeting of the whole at City Hall.

source: Pantagraph

BPD Investigates Armed Robbery

Bloomington Police need your help investigating an armed robbery at a Hucks gas station this morning at 501 North Hershey Road. A black male suspect, 5' 8" and in his 30's  approached the victim in the parking lot, where he held up a gun and demanded money. The suspect then took off on foot. BPD ask that if you know something, say something.

Developments in the Schock Case

The legal team for Aaron Schock is responding Wednesday after a judge says prosecutors in the former congressman's case made misleading and false statements. In August, Schock's attorneys asked the judge to dismiss a charge he misused government money, accusing prosecutors of telling grand juries Schock failed to testify. They say prosecutors incriminated him by telling jurors he wasn't going to appear. Schock's legal team says "Our reaction is that the order speaks for itself." Motions to dismiss the case are under review.

Republican Congressman Kinzinger Wants Bump Stocks Banned

A central Illinois Republican congressman says he'll lead the charge to ban one of the tools used by the Las Vegas shooter. Congressman Adam Kinzinger yesterday said bump stocks, which essentially turn a semiautomatic rifle into a fully automatic weapon, shouldn't be sold. Kinzinger said the stocks 'have no place' in civil society. He wants the ATF to reclassify bump stocks, and make them illegal.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Wanted Person Nabbed in Danvers

The man suspected of stealing at least two trucks and fleeing from police is now in custody.  Chad J. Matheson was arrested by McLean County Sheriff's deputies and Danvers Police this afternoon. Police from all over Central Illinois had been searching for Matheson since Tuesday morning, when he was accused of stealing a truck and fleeing from officers

Giordano's Opens

Another favorite Chicago restaurant is now open in the Twin Cities. Giordano's opened to customers for a soft opening Tuesday. It has replaced the old Qdoba Grill on Veteran's Parkway. The pizza restaurant will be open from 4:00-9:00 p.m. through Friday. Regular hours will start on Saturday.

IT Jobs at State Farm to be Cut

State Farm is cutting jobs in its information technology department. State Farm says IT functions will be realigned "with the majority of operations located in Bloomington." The company's total footprint in Bloomington will remain around 15,000 employees. Severance will be offered to employees who volunteer to leave the company. The exact number of jobs the insurer is looking to shave off its total workforce was not disclosed in a fact sheet distributed by the company

Man Injured By Gunfire

A man is being treated for a gunshot wound that likely was related to gunfire in the 300 block of East Vernon Avenue, Normal. The Pantagraph reports Normal police cordoned off yards on either side of Vernon about a block east of Linden Street, and officers were digging a hole about 2 feet across and sifting dirt early Wednesday in the yard at 304 E. Vernon. Police were looking for physical evidence. The house at 304 E. Vernon was hit several times, and at least one bullet penetrated the house, police said. No one inside was injured.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Planet Fitness Coming to Eastland Mall?

We have been hearing so much lately about what is leaving Eastland Mall, but today we have word of something new and different possibly coming in to it.  A Planet Fitness may open next year in part of the space formerly occupied by the J.C. Penney store. The fitness center could open in fall 2018.

Bloomington Mayor Renner Announces New Format for Friday Open Houses

Mayor Tari Renner is back and he looks to change the way residents address individual issues at the Mayor’s Open Houses. Instead of the usual gathering in the “Fishbowl” Conference Room in City Hall, Mayor Tari Renner wants residents to sign up for one-on-one sessions with him. Each session will last about 5-10 minutes. Mayor Renner said they don’t usually have time to get to everyone’s problems and this is their way to be more individualized.

"Credible Threat" Forces Metamora-Area Schools to Close Tuesday

The Superintendents at both the Metamora Township High School and Grade School have canceled classes Tuesday due to what are described as "credible threats."  Riverview 2, ROE 53 Alternative Education in Germantown Hills, Easter Seals Academy in Germantown Hills, and Black Partridge Academy in Germantown Hills have also cancelled classes for today due to law enforcement recommendations.