The largest coal producer in the U.S. reached a deal this week with several states on how it plans to cover the cost of mine cleanups, but Illinois is not on that list and environmentalists say it's a good sign. Peabody Energy filed for bankruptcy and the company has been allowed to self-bond, which is basically a promise to pay for coal site cleanup without actually setting aside the cash. The company operates several coal mines in Illinois. According to the state's attorney general, Peabody could be on the hook for 92-million dollars to reclaim the sites if they're shut down. Howard Learner with the Environmental Law and Policy Center says that money should not come from Illinois taxpayers.
"The state of Illinois has not filed a stipulation with Peabody and we're pleased that Governor Rauner and the Illinois Attorney General are looking harder at this one, and reassessing what's the far balance here in light of Peabody's legal responsibilities."
-Howard Learner, Environmental Law and Policy Center
Learner argues that the deal Peabody reached with Indiana could see state taxpayers there footing about 80-cents on the dollar to clean up the company's coal sites. So far, Illinois has not made a deal with Peabody. Earlier this month a federal bankruptcy judge allowed groups, including the Environmental Law and Policy Center, to weigh in on the court proceedings. Learner calls it a breakthrough decision that could help keep Peabody accountable.
"What that really means is the court's attention is now focused on Peabody living up to its legal responsibility to fully fund the mine reclamation and hear the arguments about why those costs should not be shifted onto the public."
-Howard Learner, Environmental Law and Policy Center
The groups are expected to head back to court in mid-August. St Louis-based Peabody Energy filed for bankruptcy in April. In a statement Tuesday, the company's president said Peabody is committed to its, quote, "reclamation obligations."
On Tuesday, the West Central Illinois Task Force-Macomb followed up on a search warrant for a house in Fulton County. The warrant was issued for suspected cultivation of marijuana and methamphetamine production on the property. Authorities found and seized 6 marijuana plants, items related to methamphetamine production, and a firearm. Seth R Yates and Joseph K Simpson were taken into custody and are both currently lodged at the Fulton County Jail. All suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
On Monday, July 25th, there was a one-vehicle accident on Illinois Route 9 in Hancock County, approximately half a mile south of County Road 2800 North. 26-year-old Matthew Kissinger of Carthage was driving southbound when he began to drift, and drove onto the northbound shoulder, falling into a ravine and striking several trees before coming to rest. Kissinger sustained moderate injuries and was transported to Memorial Hospital by ambulance. He was wearing his seatbelt, and no charges have been filed at this time.
The Ambassador Committee of Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting on Wednesday, July 27th to celebrate the re-opening of A Boy & His Tiger at their new location. The local comic shop that also features graphic novels, games, and toys, recently moved to 5 East Side Square . Their hours will be 10am to 5:30pm Monday through Saturday, and you can find them on Facebook and Instagram, or call 309-837-7300 for more information.
The Spoon River Electric Cooperative will be performing vegetation management beginning this August and going into the fall. Many areas will be affected including Avon, Bardolph, Bushnell, Kirkwood, Monmouth, Prairie City, Sciota, Swan Lake, and Walnut Grove. This work involves cutting, trimming and mowing of vegetation near electrical equipment. The purpose of this work is to prevent safety hazards and protect the electric system.
The Democratic National Convention is currently going on in Philadelphia, but before it began the party took a small step that could limit the role of convention super delegates. Some Illinois delegates say more changes are sorely needed. Illinois has 26 super delegates, who are appointed by party leaders and vote for whichever candidate they choose, regardless of who wins the state presidential primary. Critics have long said the process can favor a candidate who is actually unpopular with voters. Jan Rodolfo, Illinois delegate for Bernie Sanders, backed a plan to eliminate super delegates altogether, but the idea was shot down.
"I'm a supporter of one person, one vote. And I think that super delegates are really a class of party members who have undue weight, in terms of the way that their votes work. It really reinforces the status quo."
-Jan Rodolfo, Illinois Delegate for Bernie Sanders
On Saturday, the D-N-C's Rules Committee agreed to set up a commission to meet after the November election. The group will consider changes to the party's nominating process, including getting rid of up to two-thirds of super delegates. If the last round of primaries and caucuses had not included super delegates, Rodolfo says Bernie Sanders would likely have become the Democratic nominee, which could have brought about changes to the party's platform.
"If that were the case, then the situation going to the Democratic Platform Committee would've been very different. Instead of a platform that, for example, completely failed to address the need for single-payer Medicare for all, which is something that majority of Democrats support, that wouldn't have happened."
-Jan Rodolfo, Illinois Delegate for Bernie Sanders
Still, even if the commission does support eliminating some super delegates, the idea would still need approval from the D-N-C committee, which has squashed similar moves in the past.
Nintendo and Niantic have been asked to restrict their game Pokemon Go from Veterans homes in Illinois. Pokemon Go is an augmented reality where players walk around and try to catch creatures called Pokemon. The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs is concerned for the veteran's safety as they have seen distracted driving and people on their grounds playing the game. There's been no official comment from either company, but the public has also been asked not to play the game at the Veterans homes as a preemptive approach to protect everyone involved.
July 27th is Illinois Speed awareness day and the Illinois State Police District 14 wants motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians to educated on the risks of speeding. In 2014, speeding was the reason for 32.4% of traffic fatalities and 348 lives were lost in speed related accidents. 348 deaths for one year translates to one every 25 hours and rural areas are especially vulnerable to motor vehicle crashes. 45% of motor vehicle fatalities in Illinois occurred in rural areas. Obeying speed limit signs and being aware of your speed is an easy way to save lives and it's important to practice safe driving habits all the time. For more information about speed awareness day, visit illinoisspeedawarenessday.org
Last Wednesday the Fulton County Sheriff's Deputies responded to a burglary call in rural Cuba. Two suspects were detained by the deputies as they were trying to flee the scene in a car. Items belonging to the victim were found in the suspects car and allegedly one of the suspects pointed a loaded handgun at the victim as they were leaving. The two suspects arrested were Luis Fernando Lind-Enriquez and Wandaly Santos-Bones. They were both arrested on charges of residential burglary and theft over and Lind-Enriquez was also charged with aggravated assault, possession of a stolen firearm and use of a stolen firearm in the commission of an offense. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
The Illinois Beef Association has named the Red Ox in Macomb one of the top five finalists for the 2016 Illinois Best Steak Competition. This marks the 2nd nod to the local restaurant, after their top 5 finish last year. Finalists were determined by an online vote, and the second round of voting to determine the winner has begun, and will go until August 1st. If you'd like to cast your vote, you can do so HERE. Additionally, Red Ox owner Mark Ming has announced that anybody who votes for the Macomb steakhouse before the deadline, and can prove it, will get $5 off the nominated "Ugly Steak." For more information on this contest, and the Illinois Beef Association, you can go to www.IllinoisBeef.com
HyVee is recalling a limited quantity of Hy-Vee No-Salt Added Black Beans from their stores after one consumer discovered a partial ink pen in their can. It has been determined to be an isolated incident but Hy-Vee is voluntarily recalling these products to air on the side of caution. The product was sold in Hy-Vee stores between April 22nd and July 18th and to date, no injuries have been reported. Customers who purchased this product are encouraged to discard it or take it to their local Hy-Vee for a full refund.
Robert S. Hironimus-Wendt and Brenden P. Mahoney were arrested on Wednesday following a McDonough County Sheriff's investigation into spray paint vandalism on the Church of Latter Day Saints in Macomb, a farm building in Good Hope, The United Methodist Church of Good Hope, and a McDonough County Sheriff's Office squad car. Both subjects were taken into custody on Wednesday and received 2 felony counts of Criminal Damage to Property, one misdemeanor count Criminal Damage to Property, and one felony count of Criminal Damage to State Supported Property. All suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Illinois' 69 delegates are among the thousands of people in Cleveland this week for the Republican National Convention. Protesters also will be on hand, voicing concerns over the Republican platform and the party's nominee, Donald Trump. In light of the recent tensions involving police and community relations around the country, experts say its important that demonstrators know their rights, and their obligations. Senior instructor of law at Ohio's Case Western University, Michael Benza, says all people have a First Amendment right to protest and march.
"Where the problems come in, is when their exercise of their rights to protest start to either interfere with other people's ability to go about their daily lives or start to impede law enforcement's ability to control the situation and keep everybody safe."
-Michael Benza, Senior Law instructor at Case Western University
A one-point seven mile event zone is set up downtown with security restrictions. It includes a designated speaker's area, a parade route for those with a permit, and two parks for protests and displays. About 25-hundred police officers from other states will be joining Cleveland police in patrolling the city during the R N C. Benza says a protester is only obligated to answer a question from a police officer if suspected of a crime and only needs to show a photo I D if driving a vehicle. He says a search can only be performed if a person gives consent, or there is a search warrant for probable cause. And Benza notes citizens have a right to record police.
"They cannot tell you, 'Turn off your recording.' They can't ask you, 'Why are you recording?' They can't ask who you are to do the recording. They are simply to allow you to do that recording."
-Michael Benza, Senior Law instructor at Case Western University
In case circumstances dictate the need, Cleveland officials have developed plans to respond to the possibility of mass arrests included designated jail facilities and extended court hours.
This week, the national weather service issued excessive heat warnings for our listening area. With high temperatures in the 90s, and high humidity, heat indexes of more than 100 degrees are to be expected. The Federal Emergency Management Agency urges families to take precautions and be safe in these hot temperatures. The combination of high heat and high humidity can prove to be a very dangerous situation. Residents should be aware of possible heat induced illnesses such as severe sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. It is also important to check on family, friends, and neighbors, especially those who are elderly. Drinking a lot of water and staying indoors during this time can prove to be extremely important. Keep track of the severe heat by checking the weather tab at macombnewsnow.com
The McDonough County Vibe will be hosting a hog roast to benefit Vibe recipients like McDonough County Special Olympics, area food pantries, and the BPC School's vision screening machine on July 23rd at Two Doors Down in Blandinsville. The roast will take place from 4pm to 8pm and there will be live music from Rock Steady afterward. The event costs $10 and there will also be a 50/50 raffle.
The Burlington Kennel Club will be hosting an American Kennel Club sanctioned Dog Show on July 23rd and 24th at the Western Illinois Campus Recreation Center. This show will take place from 8:30am to around 5pm and it costs one dollar to attend. All different breeds of dogs will be shown and there will be 405 dogs participating in total. Both Western Illinois University and the Macomb Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau have expressed their thanks to the BKC for bringing this prestigious event to Macomb!
EPA Acting Director Alec Messina and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav D. Shah announced plans on Monday to reduce the threat of mosquito borne diseases like West Nile Virus and Zika virus by getting rid of old, used tires from public and abandoned properties. Mosquitos have been known to breed in used tires, so by removing these tires they hope to decrease the amount of mosquitos and decrease the risk of disease. The Illinois EPA plans to target certain areas near Effingham and Peoria where there is hotter weather for mosquitos to breed in. The EPA and Department of Public Health will also enter into an Intergovernmental Agreement to allocate $750,000 from the Used Tire Management Fund. This money will help these agencies carry out the removal of these tires throughout the state.
There is a Flash Flood warning in effect from now until 10:15pm tonight. Use extreme caution when traveling, and reduce speed or pull over when necessary. For radar and continued weather updates, go to www.weather.gov
An Illinois environmental protection group is continuing to push to get one of the state's largest energy providers to adopt new ways for customers to get real-time data on their electricity use. The idea's already been adopted by ComEd, which serves millions of people in the northern part of the state, but now the push is on downstate provider Ameren to get on board with what's called the "Open Data Access Framework." Andrew Barbeau, with the Chicago-based clean technology consulting firm Accelerate Group, says that the new standards would allow people to monitor their energy use, which could lead to lower utility bills. As the utility switches over to so-called Smart Meters, this plan is certainly becoming possible and more viable, but Barbeau says that Ameren has resisted the change so far. A spokeswoman for the company recently told Midwest Energy News that Ameren is moving slowly because of customer privacy concerns. There have also been a number of complaints from groups like Naperville Smart Meter Awareness, who claim that the meter's radio-frequency transmissions could cause health issues. Despite the hesitancy on the part of providers, Barbeau's group is pursuing legal action to force the issue, and bring Ameren up onto the same plain as ComEd.
"The agreed to open up access and really explore cutting edge ways to get data out to customers as quickly and easily as possible. Ameren has decided not to agree to anything in that case, and so now it's becoming contested."
-Andrew Barbeau, Accelerate Group
Meanwhile, the Illinois Citizens Utility Board, a consumer watchdog group, says the new data standards will protect customer privacy and that if Ameren does adopt them, energy prices for homeowners could go down thanks to off-peak billing rates.
More than 10% of Illinoisans are living with a disability, and right now the focus is on making sure they get an equal opportunity to vote. Last week was National Disability Voter Registration Week, bringing some light to this important topic. Cheryl Jansen with the group Equip for Equality says that historically, people with disabilities have been underrepresented at the polls for a variety of reasons.
"The physical inaccessibility of polling places and equipment. There have also been problems with discriminatory practices and attitudes of poll workers and election officials, guardians and caretakers."
-Cheryl Jansen, Equip for Equality
Because turnout has been relatively low for voters with disabilities, Jansen's urging Illinois election officials to take accessibility issues seriously to help turn that trend around.
"It's important that every voter, including voters with disabilities, have full and equal access to the electoral process. And so, that's part of why these federal laws were passed, to address some of the barriers and iniquities that existed."
-Cheryl Jansen, Equip for Equality
Jansen says in the past decade, federal protections have helped polling places become more accessible, and more recently in specific, same-day and mail-in voting set up by the state has really gone a long way to help.
"There definitely are more options for voters who aren't able to get to the polling place on Election Day. And under the current requirements for vote by mail, anyone can request a ballot in the mail without having to give any kind of a reason or excuse."
-Cheryl Jansen, Equip for Equality
Illinois voters can request vote-by-mail applications starting on August 10th. If someone does notice accessibility problems at a polling site, they can help by reporting it to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
State Comptroller Leslie Munger announced earlier this week that, after the fall, Illinois' backlog of owed expenses will hit a very troubling milestone. Before the New Year, Munger estimates that the state will rack up a total of $10 Billion in unpaid invoices, resulting in even more serious payment delays spanning six months or more. Munger addressed the recent stopgap measure, saying that it was a positive step forward, but it doesn't address the problem as a whole, meaning that the issue at hand will continue to fester and grow. Payments from the Comptroller's Office will continue to be on a first come, first serve basis, with priority given to nonprofits, colleges, MAP Grant recipients, and business owners who provided goods or services in good faith last year, and have yet to receive payment. Munger has said that she will continue to not prioritize the compensation of state-elected officials, including herself, and that their paychecks will be delayed in tandem with the rest of the bill backlog.
The Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act of 2016 was introduced on Wednesday by representatives Darin LaHood, Debbie Dingell, and Candice Miller. The representatives strongly support this act because they enjoy the outdoors and understand the importance of maintaining the Great Lakes. The goal of this act is to support fish and wildlife in the great lakes by working with states and local agencies to conserve and manage their populations and habitats. The Great Lakes Restoration Act provides federal funding to research and restoration projects that deal with challenges such as habitat restoration and fish repopulation. If this bill passes, it would give 6 million annually through 2021 to restoration projects and other activities related to taking care of the Great Lakes
Advocates for the rights of domestic workers are urging Governor Bruce Rauner to sign legislation they're calling "historic". The Illinois Domestic Workers Bill of Rights would officially make domestic work a recognized vocation in the state, extending workplace protections to the service jobs of nannies, housekeepers, home-care workers, cooks and chauffeurs. State Senator Ira Silverstein sponsored the bill and says if it becomes law, it would bring those workers up to speed with most other types of employees in the state.
"It makes these workers subject to minimum wage, it makes the subject to the Illinois Human Rights Act, the 'One Day Rest In Seven Act,' and puts them on equal footing with other workers,"
-Ira Silverstein, State Senator
The bill was sent to the governor's desk yesterday and he has about two months to sign it. If that happens, Illinois would become the seventh state to enact similar legislation. A group of domestic workers and advocacy groups rallied yesterday morning outside of the James R Thompson Center in Chicago. Longtime housekeeper Magdalena Zylinska was in attendance, asking the governor to sign the bill. She calls it long overdue.
"Domestic workers for generations have been excluded from basic protection and labor rights, and I think that's very important that, when you're working seven days a week, at least you're able to take one day off."
-Magdalena Zylinska, Housekeeper
If Illinois adopts the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, 35-thousand workers across the state are expected to earn at least minimum wage, gain protections against sexual harassment, and earn the right to one day off after working more than 20 hours.
A record setting 155 million dollars of forgotten cash and stock was returned by the Illinois state treasurer's office in the past fiscal year. This return is the largest in the programs 55 year history. Despite the budget crisis, more than 53,000 claims were fulfilled. Many people are surprised to see their name on the unclaimed property list but Treasurer Michael Frierichs believes it is put to better use in the hands of the owners than in the states vault. The average return was $2,900 but there were also returns for much more. There is more than 2 billion of unclaimed property in Illinois and individuals can always search the database for their name or business for free.
The McDonough County Sheriffs Office has began an investigation involving a missing person report filed for Michael W Mason, age 34 of Bushnell. A witness reported that Mason was last seen Monday, July 7th walking into a cornfield at 7am. He was believed to be experiencing drug induced paranoia making him think the police were chasing him. The witness, was also under the influence of drugs, can not provide an accurate location of the cornfield. The witness was believed to be in a grass waterway in the cornfield along with his temporarily stuck vehicle. The missing person report was filed on July 7th and the Sheriffs Office have been attempting to locate Mason and the cornfield. Sheriff VanBrooker is encouraging landowners who are within a 10 mile radius of Bushnell to check their waterways for ruts. Mason was last seen wearing an orange and blue hoodie, gray tennis shoes and blue jeans. Anyone who has information is encouraged to call the McDonough County Sheriffs office at 309 833 2323 and ask for either the Sheriff or a Detective.
State lawmakers recently provided some relief to students eligible for Monetary Award Program or MAP grants, but others are still uncertain about their college funding plans. Stopgap funding recently signed into law covered funding for all 2015-2016 MAP claims, which Lynne Baker with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission says is a huge relief for many students. But no funding is in place for the school year that starts this fall. Baker explains MAP grants help students facing financial obstacles who are doing their best to get to college.
"We have students who are really trying to make it and MAP is one of the programs that can really help them get over the hump, so that they can actually enroll and get through their program"
- Lynne Baker, Illinois Student Assistance Commission
A survey prior to the latest stopgap funding found more than 18 thousand students could delay their degrees or not finish college if MAP grants aren't approved for the fall. Baker notes several lawmakers have expressed interest in providing support for next school year, but adds that wouldn't come until mid November, after the General Assembly is back in session. She adds that tuition assistance helps keep students from leaving the state, which in turn helps create a solid workforce for the future.
"If we want to continue to make Illinois a strong economic state that attracts businesses and keeps businesses, we need a workforce that can do that - and higher education is the way to get that workforce"
-Lynne Baker, Illinois Student Assistance Commission
Baker adds about 57 percent of MAP recipients in Illinois are first generation college students, 62 percent are women and 56 percent are African American. They also graduate at nearly the same rate as non-Map recipients at the same colleges.
The Illinois Department of Transportation has announced road closures for railroad crossing repair to be completed. Main Street at the KJRY crossing in Smithfield will be closed from 9 a.m. beginning on July 11th, and going until the morning of July 15th. IL 96 at the KJRY crossing, one mile east of Lomax will be closed from 9am July 18th until the morning of July 22nd. US 136 at the BNSF crossing in Macomb will be closed from 8am July 25th until the morning of July 31st. US 67 at the BNSF crossing in Macomb will be closed from 8am August 1st until the morning of August 7th. The Illinois Department of Transportation asks that drivers use extreme caution when driving through all work zones.
Last week, Illinois representative Darin LaHood advocated in support for the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Art of 2016. This bill aims to help improve the mental health care system throughout the country. A recent Government Accountability Office report found that many federal programs and agencies were not working efficiently to deliver effective mental health care to those in need. The federal government dedicates 130 billion a year to mental health but there is still a nationwide shortage of psychiatric beds and psychiatrists. These shortages are especially felt in more rural areas where there is already limited access to medical treatment. The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016 successfully passed out of the house on a 422 to 2 vote and will now be considered by the senate.
This month, a peace and justice group is working on training the next generation of immigrant organizers ahead of the upcoming presidential election. In total, about 28 students from the Chicago Public Schools will be working on becoming advocates for change to help the people who are most affected by immigration policies. Heading up this program is Darlene Gramigna, with the American Friends Service Committee. She says that the program drew a wide reaching net, securing students from Mexico, Central America, the Middle East, Myanmar, and several African countries.
"This is our opportunity to meet with them over the summer and help them develop themselves into immigration activists, which we think is needed for the next period of time. And they're the next generation of people that should be ready to do this work."
-Darlene Gramigna, American Friends Service Committee
Immigration issues have become a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail. A recent Washington Post analysis showed that the pool of immigrant voters is getting larger, and because of that, Gramigna argues that it's more important than ever to help young immigrants make their voices heard.
"Immigrants are in a kind of difficult position now with the up and coming election. We think immigrants have kind of been targeted in a negative way. Certainly, Muslim students feel that way and also Mexican students feel that way by some of the comments by the candidates."
-Darlene Gramigna, American Friends Service Committee
The training started this week, and will go through the end of July. Beyond getting immigrant youth involved, Gramigna also hopes to use this platform to increase immigrant access to higher education throughout the state.
The Illinois Department of Transportation has announced that US 67 (Between County Road 1500N and County Road 1600N, just North of Macomb, will be reduced to one lane on the Southbound side begining tomorrow. (Thursday, July 7th) This is necessary for pavement construction and stage work to build an intersection with IL 336, and will be in effect until August. Please slow down and use extreme caution in all work zones.
Yesterday, there was a state inspection at the Glenwood Pool in Macomb and pending chemical level adjustments, the pool is scheduled to open up this afternoon. The official announcement will be made early today, and you can follow the Macomb Park District on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates, and find more at www.MacombParkDistrict.com
Immigrants have a lot at stake in the year's presidential campaign, and a new smartphone app may help to get more Latinos out to vote on this critical Election Day. Traditionally, fewer Latino voters have gone to the polls than other cultural groups, and this is especially true for Latino youth. John Rudolph, with the public-radio organization Feet in 2 Worlds, hopes this new app will make a difference in those numbers.
"The Unidos app is designed to engage young Latinos to give them information that they need to register to vote and become informed voters."
-John Rudolph, Feet in 2 Worlds
Latinos are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, but a recent poll by the Washington Post and ABC News shows that the differences in projected voter turnout between Latinos and other cultural groups are quite significant.
"45% of Hispanics said they were likely to vote in the November election, which compares to 70% of whites who say that they're going to vote."
-John Rudolph, Feet in 2 Worlds
That difference could certainly be enough to sway the election results in many districts, and with the Supreme Court vacancy, and potential changes to the country's immigration policies, this is unquestionably a very important year for Latino voters. The Unidos app is available for free on iPhones.
Though Illinois continues to operate without a budget, legislators and the Governor have come up with SB 2047, approved late this past week, which will act as a "Stopgap," or a temporary source of funding for some essential state services, including education. Nearby Western Illinois University has suffered cuts, cutbacks, and other trials throughout the past year in absence of state funding, and while this is in no way a solution to the legislative bottleneck, it will allow WIU, and other state universities, to have some much-needed breathing room as they recover and continue to provide services to the area. WIU President Jack Thomas issued a statement thanking all of the legislators and the Governor for allowing him and the university to focus on students, rather than the budgetary issues in Springfield. In total, this stopgap measure will release about $1 Billion to state schools, of which Western will see about $31 Million, with an additional $5 Million in Map Grant funding. While Universities are allowed a moment to catch their breath, some others are not standing idly by because of this temporary funding. State Senate candidate Sheila Simon issued a statement saying that this measure is nothing to celebrate, and if anything, should draw criticism for taking so long to roll out. Using Southern Illinois University as a specific example, Simon went out to call the measure a "Band-Aid" that will do nothing but postpone more cuts and layoffs for a few months and the leadership in Springfield continues to flounder.