Friday, August 31, 2018

Bloomington Voters To Decide Election Commission's Fate

Voters in Bloomington will get to decide if they need their own election office.  A judge yesterday said a ballot question that would end the Bloomington Election Commission can stay on the November ballot.  Bloomington is one of just a handful of cities in Illinois with its own election office.  Republicans and Libertarians in Bloomington-Normal want to close the commission, and let the county's clerk manage elections in all of McLean County.

Justice Department Takes Schock Case Away From Central Illinois Prosecutors

A new set of federal prosecutors will handle the case against former Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock from here on out.  The Justice Department yesterday removed a team of central Illinois prosecutors from the case.  It's a rare move, but the latest in a series of twists in the case against the former Republican from Peoria.  Earlier this month, the judge in the case was reassigned after emails showed that he communicated with prosecutors.

U Of I To Honor President Obama

The University of Illinois is honoring President Obama for ethics in government.  The university yesterday announced plans to award the former president the Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government.  The president will receive the honor next Friday.  There will be a ceremony, and the former president will give a speech, but tickets will not be made available to the public.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

State Farm Buys Naming Rights To Atlanta Hawks Arena

State Farm is adding its name to another arena, this time in Atlanta.  The Bloomington-based insurance giant announced this week that it paid 175-million-dollars to turn the Philips Arena in Atlanta into the State Farm Arena.  State Farm CEO Michael Tipsord said the naming rights will help State Farm build its brand.  State Farm opened a hub in the Atlanta area a few years ago, and the company employs about seven thousand people there

Illinois Confirms First West Nile Death

A man in his 60s from LaSalle County is the first person to die from the West Nile virus in Illinois this year.  The state's Department of Public Health confirmed the man's death yesterday.  The state says, so far this year, 22 people have gotten sick from the virus.  Last year 90 people got sick with West Nile; eight of them died. 

U Of I Football Announces 15-Million-Dollar Gift

The University of Illinois says a new gift will help them return to glory on the football field.  The school yesterday announced a 20-million-dollar gift from H.D. Smith Foundation, 15-million of which will go to upgrade the Fighting Illini Football Performance Center.  U of I leaders say they will name the center the Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Center in their honor.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Heat Advisory

The National Weather Service in Lincoln has issued a Heat
Advisory, which is in effect until
7 PM CDT Tuesday.

* TEMPERATURE…Highs in the lower 90s Today through Tuesday.

* HEAT INDEX VALUES…Afternoon heat indices peaking from 100 to
107 degrees.

* IMPACTS…The heat and humidity may cause heat stress during
outdoor exertion or extended exposure. The very young, the
elderly, those without air conditioning, and those participating
in strenuous outdoor activities will be the most susceptible.
Also, car interiors can reach lethal temperatures in a matter of


A Heat Advisory means that a period of hot temperatures is
expected. The combination of hot temperatures and high humidity
will combine to create a situation in which heat illnesses are

Drink plenty of water, wear light weight loose fitting
clothing, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun,
and check up on relatives and neighbors. Take extra precautions,
if you work or spend time outside.

When possible, reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or evening. Know the signs
and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Anyone overcome by heat should be moved to a cool and shaded location. Heat stroke
is an emergency, call 9 1 1.

Governor Rauner Signs Free School Lunch Law

School kids across Illinois will no longer miss lunch because they can't pay.  Governor Bruce Rauner yesterday signed a new law that requires schools to give kids a free lunch on days when they don't have money to buy the regular lunch.  The law does allow schools to try and collect payment for school lunches, and if that fails, ask the state for an offset.

Governor Rauner Vetoes Pay Hike For New Teachers

New teachers in Illinois will have to settle for an average salary of just 39 thousand-dollars a year.  Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner yesterday vetoed a plan that would have paid new teachers across the state 40 thousand-dollars a year.  The governor said a state-mandated minimum pay schedule is not the best way to pay teachers in the state.  Some of Illinois' smaller schools had said they feared the new requirement would put them in a tight spot.

Friday, August 24, 2018

State Farm Closings Could Help Bloomington-Normal

Florida's loss should be central Illinois' gain.  State Farm Insurance yesterday said it will close an operating center in Jacksonville, Florida next year.  A company spokesman said some of those jobs will end up in Bloomington-Normal, where State Farm's headquarters are located.  But some of the jobs will also likely end up in new hubs in Texas, Georgia, and Arizona. 

Connect Transit Gets Improvements

Connect Transit officials announced the "Better Bus Stops for Bloomington-Normal campaign" with a ribbon cutting ceremony early Thursday morning. They say that when it's completed, there will be 157 total stops with new shelters, benches, and ADA compliant landing pads over the next three years. This is all part of a 1.45M federal grant for connect transit that will be used to help purchase zero-emission battery electric buses and to install solar panels at the connect transit maintenance facility.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Treatment, Not Trial For Illinois Man Accused In Waffle House Shooting

The central Illinois man charged with killing four people at a Tennessee Waffle House isn't going to trial anytime soon.  A judge in Nashville yesterday found Travis Reinking unfit for trial.  The judge said he hopes that by getting Reinking treatment for schizophrenia, he will eventually be able to go to trial.  Police say Reinking killed four people during a shooting back in April.

Bloomington Losing Its Sears Store In November

Another central Illinois city is losing another department store.  Sears yesterday announced it is closing its Bloomington store.  In all, Sears announced 46 closings across the country.  Sears says its store in the Eastland Mall will close in November.  The company isn't saying how many workers will lose their jobs. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

State Admits To Billion-Dollar Budget Hole

The state of Illinois is quietly admitting that its balanced budget isn't balanced after all.  The Rauner Administration this month acknowledged a one-point-two billion-dollar structural deficit in an offer to sell 920 million-dollars in state bonds.  The deficit comes from hundreds of millions of dollars that the state 'borrowed' from itself, as well as budget predictions that rely on the sale of the Thompson Center in Chicago, and ignore an order to pay 400 million-dollars in promised raises to state employees.

Aaron Schock Wants Trial Moved To Peoria

In addition to a new judge, former Illinois congressman Aaron Schock wants a new courtroom.  Schock's lawyers yesterday asked to move his corruption trial to Peoria.  Federal prosecutors say Schock lied on Congressional and campaign spending accounts to fuel a lavish lifestyle.  The request comes a few days after the court removed the Urbana-based judge who was set to hear Schock's case.

Mollie Tibbetts, Missing Iowa Student, Found Dead

The body of missing college student Mollie Tibbetts was found Tuesday, two sources told Fox News, bringing an end to a more than a month-long search that captured national headlines.

Details about where the body was located were not released. A law enforcement source told Fox News the body was located in Iowa.

Tibbetts, 20, was reported missing in mid-July after she didn't respond to messages from her boyfriend, Dalton Jack. On July 18, she was seen jogging around Brooklyn, Iowa around 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

J.B. Pritzker: Governor Rauner's Plan Would Raise Property Taxes

The Democrat running for governor says his opponent's plan would raise property taxes.  J.B. Pritzker told a crowd in Bloomington yesterday that Governor Rauner's proposal to have local schools and the state's universities pay their own pension costs would pass the cost on to local taxpayers.  Pritzker says the price tag for the change would be in the billions of dollars.

New Texting While Driving Law

A new law signed by the governor now classifies first time texting while driving as a moving violation. This new law takes effect on July 1, 2019.  Previously, a first time offense of texting while driving was considered a non-moving violation and any subsequent offense was a moving violation.

Local Food Pantry for College Students

The Normal First United Methodist Church is joining  Illinois State University and Normal Township to create the first food pantry in Bloomington-Normal, exclusively for college students. National research indicates 40% of students on campus are dealing with a lack of food.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

25-Year Old Woman Charged with Animal Abuse

Animal abuse charges have been filed against a Wapella woman in connection with a video that allegedly shows her abusing a dog. The Pantagraph reports 25-year old Ashlee Kemplin was formally charged Tuesday with abuse to an animal and is due in DeWitt County Circuit Court for an arraignment on Sept. 5. The charges come after an investigation by the DeWitt County Sheriff’s Department following the release of a video on social media of the woman allegedly abusing a husky.

Unit 5 to Fix Diversity Problem

Unit 5 has an under representation of minority teachers and leaders say this is a hurdle they're trying to get around. WMBD TV reports that during the school districts last meeting a local NAACP Chapter called them out for lack of diversity.  Unit 5 says it has been working with local minority groups to find a solution. The district says it's reviewing their hiring process--a practice the NAACP Chapter says is one of the districts biggest issues.

Governor Rauner Promises A Million Dollars For Fairgrounds Coliseum

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner looks to be the biggest donor yet to the Illinois State Fair's foundation.  The governor yesterday said he's donating a million dollars to fix the State Fair Coliseum.  The Coliseum has been closed for the past two years because of structural weaknesses.  The governor says he's working with other donors to fix some of the other needs at the fairgrounds.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

McLean County Democrats To Fight Signatures In Election Consolidation Drive

Democratic leaders in McLean County are getting ready to challenge the folks who want to combine the county's two election offices.  Democratic chairman Eric Rankin yesterday said he thinks there are problems with signatures on the petition to consolidate Bloomington's election commission and the county's election office.  Rankin says he thinks Democrats can get the question removed from the November ballot.

Trial Delayed for Rogers

The Sept. 10 trial date for Bart Rogers, a former member of the management team that supervised the city-owned arena, has been postponed until October. Rogers is accused of stealing public money during the time he served as general manager of the firm hired by the city to oversee what was then U.S. Cellular Coliseum. The Pantagraph reports In July, the state filed a new charge against Rogers accusing him of illegally transferring $15,000 in 2013 from a CIAM bank account to Illinois Pro Sports, a company in which he served as a managing partner.

New Report: Only 24 Percent Of Kindergarteners Ready For School

A new report says three-quarters of Illinois kindergarteners aren't ready to start the first grade.  The Illinois State Board of Education yesterday released a report that says only 24 percent of young children are where they're supposed to be when it comes to social-emotional development, language and literacy, and math at the end of kindergarten.  A State Board spokeswoman said the report shows that Illinois has a lot of work to do in getting kids ready.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Report: Downstate Illinois Gets More Than it Pays In Taxes

A new report says Chicago and the suburbs essentially pay for the rest of the state. The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University released a report last week that takes a look at which parts of the state get more money from the state, and which parts pay more in taxes. The Institute says downstate Illinois gets anywhere from a dollar-24 to two dollars and 81-cents for every dollar they send to Springfield. Chicago gets 90 cents on the dollar, while folks in the collar counties get only 53 cents per every dollar they pay in taxes.

Illinois' Unpaid Bill Backlog Jumps Almost A Half-Billion Dollars

Illinois' list of past-due bills is getting bigger. Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza's office last week said the state's unpaid bill backlog jumped about a half-billion dollars last week. The comptroller's website says Illinois owes the people who do business with the state over eight billion-dollars. 

New Law Allows Illinois Students To Take More Dual Credit Classes

One of Illinois' newest laws could help high school students in the state get a jump on a college degree. Governor Rauner signed a law on Friday to change the state's school code to allow students to take more dual credit classes. The old law limited how many dual credit courses kids could take. The new law says as long as the classes are taught by qualified teachers, high school students can take as many as they please. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

State Fair Managers Correct Spelling Mistake On Butter Cow

There are a lot of people talking about the butter cow at the Illinois State Fair, but not because it's a beautiful sculpture.  The artists who crafted the cow out of nearly 600 pounds of butter misspelled bicentennial on the cow's plaque.  The double-N is in the wrong place.  The fair's Dairy Building manager, Marla Behrends, says they've fixed the typo and are ready to welcome visitors to the fair through next weekend.

Ameren, Corn Belt Say Power Restored Near Bloomington

It was a blown fuse.  Ameren officials say a pair of fuses in Bloomington failed yesterday and knocked out power to almost 18 hundred customers.  Ameren and Corn Belt Energy said they both had customers in the dark yesterday afternoon.  It took crews about a half hour to get most of the lights back on. 

Illinois Election Managers: 76 Thousand Voters Hacked In 2016

The Illinois State Board of Elections says 76 thousand voters in the state had their information hacked back in 2016, not a half-million.  ISBE Director Steve Sandvoss wrote Governor Rauner a letter last week saying that the FBI's July indictment of Russia hackers mentioned 500 thousand voters having their personal information accessed.  But Sandvoss says the FBI assured him that Illinois had only 76 thousand exposures. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Unit 5 Finances and Your Property Taxes

McLean County Unit 5 is preparing to issue $16.5 million in bonds to help fund operating expenses, including additional staff and programs, over the next two years. According to the Pantagraph, a financial advisor informed the school board Wednesday that the bonds would add about $205 per year for two years to the average priced home in the district.

District 87 Moves Money to Stay Afloat

The tentative budget for 2018-19 reviewed by the District 87 school board on Wednesday night shows an operating deficit of nearly $2.6 million. Transfers from the working cash fund balance have been used to offset deficits. At the rate of transferring funds out of the working cash fund, the district has about three years left in that fund.

Skimmers Found At Central Illinois Gas Station

If you bought gas in Morton, Illinois, you may want to check your credit card statement.  Morton Police yesterday said they found credit card skimmers at two Circle K gas stations in town.  Morton Police say they don't know how long the skimmers were in place, or how many people were victimized.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Survey: Back To School Costs Top 500 Dollars

It's going to cost over 500 dollars to send kids back to school this year.  The consulting firm Deloitte is out with a new survey that says parents will spend, on average, 510 dollars to send their kids back to school this year.  That covers the cost of school supplies, clothes, and computers.  In all, Deloitte's Liz Verrill says parents will spend 28 billion-dollars on back to school shopping this year. 

Butler's Lawyers Seek Change of Venue in Coliseum Case

Could there be change of venue for one of defendants accused of stealing money from the city coliseum? Comments from city officials comparing John Y. Butler and his management firm, Central Illinois Arena Management,  to a Soviet Gulag and to convicted embezzler Bernie Madoff are among the reasons cited in a motion filed Tuesday to move Butler's criminal trial away from McLean County.

Libertarian Candidate For Governor Could Be Jailed Over Child Support

The Libertarian candidate for governor has two weeks to make good on three-thousand dollars in child support or he faces jail time.  A Lake County judge yesterday told candidate Kash Jackson, who's name is Grayson, that he's willing to wait a few weeks to see if Jackson's back child support comes through.  But the judge also threatened to jail Jackson for contempt after a shouting match in the courtroom, where Jackson complained about unfair treatment by the judge.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Normal Approves COLA Increases For City Workers

Government workers in the town of Normal will soon see bigger paychecks.  Town leaders last night approved a nearly two-and-a-quarter percent cost of living raise for 241 city hall workers.  Cops and firefighters have their own raises coming as well.  Normal's town manager says the 381 thousand-dollars for the raises is more than the town planned to spend. 

BBC Coming To Peoria For Story On Fentanyl

Peoria is about to become the face of fentanyl in Illinois.  A BBC crew is due in the city tomorrow to interview people for a story in the city's battle with the opioid drug.  The Peoria Journal Star reported yesterday that Peoria recently saw its 40th overdose death of the year.  The paper says producers also plan to interview managers at the Peoria Recovery Project to see how people are fighting their addictions. 

State Workers Sue To Get Patronage Jobs Back

Eight former state of Illinois workers are suing to get their jobs back, despite a ruling from the state's inspector general that says they never should have been hired in the first place.  The workers were all placed at their jobs by former Governor Rod Blagojevich.  The state's Executive Inspector General ruled in 2014 that they were illegally hired, and Governor Rauner moved to fire them.  The workers' lawyer, Don Craven, yesterday said the eight were fired essentially because they were Democrats. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Christensen Lawyers Defend Trump Meeting Info Request

Lawyers for the man accused of kidnapping a Chinese-born U of I scholar say they don't need all that much information from President Trump about the case.  Brendt Christensen's lawyers on Friday told the federal judge hearing his case that they only want a confirmation as to whether the president spoke to Chinese leaders about the disappearance and death of Ying Ying Zhang.  Christensen is facing the death penalty for her death last year.

Governor Signs New Rear-Facing Car Seat Law

Moms and dads are going to have to keep their rear-facing car seats for a little while longer.  Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner on Friday signed a new law that requires children stay in a rear-facing seat until they are two-years-old.  The new law is more specific than the old rules that simply required 'age appropriate' seats for all kids till age eight.

Normal to Tweak Budget for Pay Raises, Firetrucks

The Normal town council will vote tonight on whether to spend 51,000 dollars more than expected. If approved, the money will go to giving employees cost-of-living raises and providing about $1.14 million for new fire engines after one caught fire early this year.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

McLean County Starts Safe Haven Policy For Addicts

Add Bloomington-Normal to the list of cities with a safe haven program.  McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage yesterday announced the new policy that will allow people seeking help for drug abuse to go to a police station and not be arrested.  The sheriff says the idea is to get people into treatment and not into jail.

More Solar Farms Coming to McLean County

After officials signed off on the county's first four solar farms earlier this year, another five will come before the county's Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday. Th Pantagraph reports that  if all projects are built, the county will have nine new solar-generating facilities totaling 22 megawatts of capacity across 231 acres near Arrowsmith, Downs, Heyworth, Towanda and south Bloomington.

Illinois Among States Covered By Latest Cyclospora Recall

Illinois is one of the states covered by the latest recall over possibly tainted greens.  The USDA on Monday issued a new recall for lettuce and salad wrap ingredients packaged by Indianapolis-based Caito Foods.  The USDA says possibly tainted lettuce found its way to stores in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  The USDA says there are no reports of any illnesses yet, but a similar cyclospora outbreak in May sickened dozens of people.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

New Theft Charges Filed Against Former Bloomington Coliseum Manager

The latest theft charges against the former manager of Bloomington's city-owned coliseum accuse him of using taxpayer dollars to pay for minor league hockey.  The Bloomington Pantagraph reported yesterday on an indictment from late July against Bart Rodgers.  He's already facing charges for mismanaging the arena.  The new charges say Rodgers transferred 15 thousand-dollars from arena management accounts to the Illinois Pro Sports firm where he was a managing partner.

Illinois Lawmakers Set Two Online Gambling Hearings

Illinois lawmakers are giving themselves some time to agree to a deal on online sports betting before they're set to return to the Capitol this fall.  State Rep. Bob Rita yesterday announced two hearings on the issue, one for later this month in Chicago and the other set for October at the State Capitol.  Lawmakers are due back for the fall veto session in November.  Online gambling supporters hope to get a vote on a gambling expansion package when lawmakers return after the election.

Peoria Airport Managers Applaud Rapid Response To Emergency Landing

Managers at Peoria's airport say they are pleased with the response to yesterday's emergency landing.  No one was hurt when a Charlotte-bound American Eagle flight had to land 20 minutes after take off due to a loss of cabin pressure.  Airport director Gene Olson says the Illinois Air National Guard scrambled its firefighters to meet the plane, he says everyone worked as a team and did their jobs as well as they could