Friday, December 6, 2013
Alex Sams Page
The planned toll highway would connect I-55 and I-57 in Illinois to I-65 in Indiana, mainly to reduce truck traffic on I-80. It still has to be approved by some officials in Indiana before construction can begin. The road would be designed, built, and operated by private contractors, and Kirk believes those are the sort of partnerships Illinois has to make to complete these sorts of projects.
“We’re faced with gridlock in Washington,” Kirk said, “and if we let gridlock in Washington happen, then our states might miss out on needed infrastructure upgrades. So our view is to just move ahead in any way possible.”
The Illinois Department of Transportation got approval to start seeking private bidders in October. If Indiana officials give the highway a thumbs up, then land purchases can begin next year.
Durbin claims Social Security will be out of money in 20 years. He says without a long-term plan to keep the system solvent, federal lawmakers could see the same problems with Social Security that state politicians have dealt with regarding pensions.
“So what lesson is to be learned? When you make a long-term promise, think of it in long term. So what I want us to do is sit down and look at the future of Social Security right now,” Durbin said.
Durbin says he’s in favor of lifting the cap on income that can be taxed for Social Security, as well as reducing cost of living adjustments for well-off retirees. Some options are off the table to Durbin as well, such as any plan to privatize the system.
The labor coalition We Are One Illinois is preparing a lawsuit over the pension law, which the legislature passed Tuesday and which the governor signed Thursday. The unions say the restructuring amounts to an unconstitutional reduction of benefits, and, what's more, the state's financial condition is not dire enough to warrant police powers overriding the state Constitution.
Fixing the state's finances, says AFSCME Council 31 deputy director Roberta Lynch, can start with imposing higher tax rates upon wealthier Illinoisans. “More than 100 organizations are supporting an effort to have a constitutional amendment” for a graduated income tax.
It's too early to say whether the new law will cook anybody's political goose. Lynch says a number of factors will go into a union endorsement decision in next year's gubernatorial election. While three of the five candidates oppose the pension deal, the only thing certain, Lynch says, is that the unions won't back Republican financier Bruce Rauner.
“He doesn’t want working people to have any retirement security at all. That's his objection to this bill: that it still leaves people with a shred of retirement security,” Lynch says, “whereas his program is to destroy retirement security altogether.”
In addition to Quinn, a Democrat, State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) supported the bill. The other two Republicans, State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, did not.
Lynch says a better solution would be a Senate-passed, union-backed measure which saves less but would supposedly not draw a lawsuit. The House never called that bill.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Few in the House have spoken against the bill in an hour-plus of debate, an exception being State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), who said the bill is “underwhelming,” and that a vote for it simply caves to a “media frenzy.”
Other lawmakers say the deal, meant to stabilize pension systems taking up to 20 cents of every general-fund dollar this fiscal year, is the best available, though unions dislike it.
“If your abiding interest is long-term, low-income workers, you should vote Yes,” House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) said, in a raised tone, “because they're protected in the bill.”
In the Senate, State Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago) said the bill is “morally wrong, morally corrupt,” and State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) called it a bucket full of holes.
Votes are expected yet today or tonight.
Durbin wants to see for himself how the town is recovering from last month’s storm, which damaged hundreds of homes in Gifford. He expects a similar scene to what he saw in Washington: people trying to pick up the pieces and move on.
“It really is amazing. Folks bounce back in a hurry. Washington, Ill., I was there five or six days later and it was still awful, but folks were sifting through the wreckage and trying to find the things that they love and cherish,” Durbin said.
Federal disaster funding has been approved to help 15 counties impacted by the storm, but Durbin says he doesn’t expect a lot of construction to be taking place yet.
The idea, says State Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside), is to offset the money the state would give up in incentives to up to three companies considering moves into or out of Illinois.
“One thing we've heard is … we're taking money from the state,” Zalewski says of critics of corporate incentives. “What we're doing (as an alternative) is … we're going to deal with user fees, which is what we've done in the past.”
Satellite providers argue it's just a punishment for them offering television service more efficiently than their cable competitors. The tax would be 5 percent of the providers' gross receipts and is expected to raise $75 million a year.
A chemical company called Univar is considering moving from Redmond, Wash., to Downers Grove. ADM is moving its corporate headquarters out of Decatur and is considering Chicago among the destinations. And the merged Office Max--Office Depot will land in either Office Max's home of Naperville or Office Depot's home of Boca Raton, Fla.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
The report says you might consider everything outside of Chicago and the suburbs a small or rural Illinois school, or both.
Gary DePatis, superintendent of the Pekin High School District, was superintendent at Greenview and president of the association when the study began. He says the survey was meant to give those schools a voice.
“People look down on rural education, and it is not necessarily the case that it needs to be that way,” says DePatis.“There are a lot of positives that come out of rural education, just as there are positives that come out of suburban and urban education. It depends on what each individual family and student really wants for their child.”
Educators filling out the survey surprised DePatis in at least one regard: the level of concern that teachers are working outside of their major area of instruction is lower than he expected.
In five elementary schools, three of which were in Illinois, teachers and students were asked to identify both the bullies and the victims in their classrooms. On average, teachers agreed with the kids on only 8 percent of those pairings, and identified fewer bullies than their students. Researchers say with teachers focusing on lesson plans and test scores, the social dynamics of their classroom can go unnoticed.
“You know, there’s not necessarily a focus on children’s social health unless there’s a problem, and a lot of times those problems are figured out too late,” said Philip Rodkin, professor of child development at the University of Illinois and co-author of the study.
The study covered bullying across different gender combinations. Rodkin says while agreement between students and teachers was poor across the board, teachers were especially unaware of bullying involving girls.
Sgt. First Class Angela Dees of Joliet, now stationed in Virginia, says the Defense Department reversed itself on her son’s tuition and demanded a refund. “The only thing the VA website or any of the other literature concerning the Post-9-11 GI Bill stated was that it could be transferred to spouses and dependent children that had to be in (a military dependents’ reporting system),” Dees said on a conference call arranged for reporters by the office of U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville).“My knee-jerk reaction was to get my son home now.”
She adopted the young man – indeed a dependent and indeed in that reporting system – after divorcing his father. She is one person whom a new bill – introduced by Foster -- extending GI benefits to wards and foster children would help.
Jerry Elsner of the Illinois State Crime Commission says it is – teenagers trying to knock out an unsuspecting victim with one punch. “I was talking to a friend of mine in law enforcement from the Champaign-Urbana area, and he’s telling me that there’s so much of it happening now, so many attacks happening now that it’s difficult to keep up with the reports,” he said.
Elsner wants organized attacks against helpless individuals to be upgraded to a Class A felony for all involved, not just the offender who struck the blow. Typically a simple battery in Illinois would now be charged as a misdemeanor.
Cops are on the lookout for this, but confirmed cases are elusive. It might be hysteria over a handful of attacks nationwide over a period of years – including cases this year in Hoboken, N.J. and Syracuse, N.Y., a 2011 incident in St. Louis, and a 1992 incident in Cambridge, Mass. There’s no evidence to support the contention that this “game” is new, a trend, or a growing menace, just that isolated random assaults have occurred over time.
In Champaign, there were five incidents investigated by police in 2012, but it appears that robbery was the motive in those cases.
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The board has come under criticism for withholding results of the publicly-funded study. “All the raw data … are going to be available for parents,” said superintendent Chris Koch. “What we’re not releasing is the pictogram … (because) we wanted to make sure that the determination, which is the first time that this survey has been used for statewide implementation, holds.”
The raw data is available through ISBE's report card, http://www.illinoisreportcard.com/
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Kirk, saying photographs do not do justice to the damage, insisted help will be on the way. “We've got to make sure the FEMA accounts all have enough money, and that's my job when I get back to Washington,” Kirk said. “We've got to make sure there is no partisan rancor that causes government shutdown.”
Mayor Gary Manier struck a defiant note. “I don’t want to celebrate a one-year anniversary of the tornado,” he said. “I want to celebrate (a one-year) anniversary of what we’ve accomplished in that year. You’re going to see construction event yet this week, and if I see a house framed, I think that’s going to send a message to our residents: we are going to rebuild, and we’re not going to let this thing kick us in the teeth anymore.”
Damage to Washington is extensive; described as up to a half-mile wide from one end of town to the other. One rural resident nearby died in the Nov. 17 disaster.
The Illinois House is scheduled to meet next Tuesday, so Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) wants to get it done. “The situation is very fluid. However, my fear is that if we do nothing, soon Illinois will be downgraded again and again. Not acceptable,” he said.
State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), the House Democrats’ point person on pensions, says she’s hoping. “Frankly, something has to be done, and I’ve always been hopeful that this time would actually be it. I try not to get my hopes up too much because I’ve been let down a lot over the last 12 months as well, but I’m always hopeful,” she said.
The lawmakers involved say the discussion includes nothing new with respect to retirement age, cost-of-living-adjustments, employee contributions and the guaranteed state contribution, just tweaking of the numbers. The legislative leaders are still ironing out disagreements on what to bring to Springfield, and they may not have a finished product until Monday or Tuesday of next week. The Senate has not been officially called into session as yet.
The state is dealing with an unfunded pension liability of $100 billion.
This is according to Bloomington-based State Farm Insurance, based on claims for damage caused by grease fires. Over the last eight years, Illinois has had 27, second to Texas, with 38.
However, State Farm spokeswoman Missy Dundov says the numbers are coming down, with just two last year and one the year before, compared to four, five and six a year in the early days of the turkey frying fad.
“Frying turkeys was kind of a craze a few years ago and people were just doing it, not really understanding, and as the years went on people are now much more aware, understanding how to do it, following directions,” she said.
You’re supposed to turn off the flame when the turkey is dumped in the grease, in case the displacement overflows the vat, and you’re supposed to do this out in the open, not inside the garage or near the house.
The USDA says Illinois corn is 98 percent harvested, and soybeans are almost 100 percent in, which closes the book on the 2013 season for the state’s biggest crops.
USDA crop statistician Mark Schleusener says following the Drought of 2012, this year turned out OK. “Generally, farmers were pleasantly surprised when they ran the combines on the corn and the soybeans.
The cool summer, I think, is what’s frequently pointed to as the reason why the crops were surprisingly good, because the moisture really kind of ran out too soon,” he said.
The state got above-average rainfall last week, and it was spread statewide. Topsoil moisture is still 19 percent short or very short as we head into winter.
The Safe Shopping Guide, first published in 2007, helps parents and gift buyers keep track of a long list of recalled products.
“In this current year, there have been nearly 100 different children’s products that have been recalled,” Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. “That is the main reason that we continue, every single year, to develop a safe shopping guide, to make it an easy resource for holiday shopping.
Madigan says every year she’ll find at least one of those recalled products in her own home. This year, it happened to be a sock. “Even things as simple as safe-seeming as a sock, believe it or not, can pose a danger to your kids,” she said.
You can view the guide online at: http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/
Durbin says talks to temporarily halt Iran’s nuclear program had been ongoing for months. He says he supports the deal, which will lift certain economic sanctions for six months in exchange for allowing nuclear inspectors to be sent in and decommissioning certain stockpiles of uranium. But Durbin isn’t ready to trust the Iranian government yet.
“Let’s go forward with the negotiation with our eyes wide open,” Durbin said, “but with inspectors on the ground we’ll be able to tell whether they’re in fact doing what they say they’re going to do.
Other members of the Senate are calling for legislation that would impose new sanctions on Iran if a more comprehensive agreement isn’t reached within that six month period.
Monday, November 25, 2013
11-18-13 - 26-year-old Jonathon T. Kirchner, 201 W. 1st St., Apt. 27, Gibson City - Out of state warrant.
11-20-13 - 49-year-old William Thilmony, Walnut Drive, PO Box 124, Cooksville - Failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident
11-21-13 - 54-year-old Charles E. Horton, 43493 CR 388, Bloomingdale, MI - Disobeyed traffic control device
Attorney General Lisa Madigan says, as expected, hundreds of contractors have already streamed into Washington, Brookport, Pekin and other towns affected by the recent storms.
“The hope obviously is that all, if not the vast majority of contractors, are truly there to help people,” Madigan said, “but the reality is that every time one of these devastating storms takes place, a percentage of those people and those organizations are scam artists.”
Madigan says investigators are in those towns, asking contractors for contact information should there be any complaints. She says that typically scares off many of the would-be scammers.
Ameren is investing $22 million in its territory, upgrading lines and substations and adding capacity, and ComEd is already installing meters that can be read remotely, putting an end to estimated billing, and will alert the company to a power failure.
The work is being done under the Illinois Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, which was enacted in 2011.
Jim Chilsen of the Citizens Utility Board says this is what we need, even though it will cost Com Ed residential customers $3 month more over the next 10 years, and Ameren customers about $3.40 more per month.
“If we want a cleaner, more affordable, more reliable power grid, we’re not gonna get there without a smarter grid. We need to have that, and so this is the first step in a long journey,” he said.
Among the benefits are supposed to be an opportunity for customers to see variable pricing by time of day, so they can run their appliances during off-peak hours and save money.
The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes ( http://www.flash.org/ ) – not a government agency but a private non-profit that studies natural disasters – says updated building codes would make homes more resistant to damage.
President Leslie Chapman-Henderson says one area is requiring metal fasteners instead of nails to hold to roof to the walls, and more of them.
“Our academic partners in the wind engineering field have already looked at Washington, Ill., some of the basic information around what happened there, and it’s clear that there are some construction methods that would come into play there, and we would urge them to be used during the rebuilding,” she said.
Chapman-Henderson says this is not a consumer choice issue; she says it’s a highly technical area of expertise, most home buyers won’t know or even know to ask what kind of construction techniques were used, and it’s up to the city fathers to adopt requirements for the latest codes, especially if the cost is minimal.
Chapman-Henderson says the chance of a tornado is slim, and the chance of an EF-4 or EF-5 tornado is even slimmer, but 95 percent of the tornado damage in the U.S. over the last 50 years was caused by less-intense tornadoes, and homes can be built to withstand those with little damage.
She says some people are installing safe rooms at a cost of a few thousand dollars, which add value to the home even if they’re never needed.
- Dec. 3, 6 p.m., Bethany of Fox Valley United Methodist Church, 2200 Ridge Ave., Aurora
- Dec. 4, 6 p.m., Countryside Unitarian Universalist Church, 1025 N. Smith St., Palatine
- Dec. 9, 6 p.m., St. John’s Lutheran Church, 4501 Seventh Ave., Rock Island
- Dec. 10, 6 p.m., Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St., Rockford
- Dec. 10, 6:30 p.m., Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., Chicago
- Dec. 11, 6 p.m., Champaign Public Library, Robeson Pavilion Room C, 200 W. Green St., Champaign
- Dec. 12, 6 p.m., Church of the Good Shepherd, 515 S. Orchard Drive, Carbondale
- Dec. 12, 6 p.m., Phoenix Center, 109 E. Lawrence Ave., Springfield
- Dec. 17, 6:30 p.m., Southwestern Illinois College, Room 2106 Liberal Arts Building, 2500 Carlyle Ave., Belleville
- Jan. 14, 2014, 6 p.m., Bloomington Police Department, Osborn Room, 305 S. East St., Bloomington
Sunday, November 24, 2013
You can bring your check and cash donations to the Gibson City Hall Monday through Friday from 8 A-M to 4 P-M.