Macomb Local News Archives for 2018-04

Congressman Darin LaHood: Trade with China is good for U.S., Illinois

A central Illinois congressman says there is a split inside the White House on trade, and he's picking a side. 
 
Congressman Darin LaHood said there are some hard-line trade isolationists in President Donald Trump's administration and there are some global traders.
 
Right now, they seem to be battling over trade and tariffs.
 
LaHood is among the global trade group. He said trade with China is good for America and great for Illinois. 
 
"When I look at a district like mine, 40 percent of the corn or soybeans grown in McLean County, or Logan County, or Peoria County go somewhere else around the world," LaHood said. "They get put on a barge, go down the Illinois River or the Mississippi River, go down through New Orleans, through the new Panama Canal, and go anywhere in the world."
 
The same thing goes for Illinois hogs, John Deere tractors and heavy equipment from Caterpillar. 
 
LaHood said that he has some concerns that Trump's tariffs will be met with Chinese tariffs, as has already happened with hogs and soybeans. 
 
"The last time these kind of tariffs were put in place, under the Bush administration, we lost 30,000 jobs in this country," LaHood said. "Nobody won in that trade war. And nobody is going to win in this trade war."
 
LaHood said he hopes that the tariff tit-for-tat cools between the U.S. and China as both countries sit down and talk. 

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Republican state senator again pushing to allow community colleges to offer four year nursing degrees

A projected nursing shortage in Illinois and across the country has state leaders looking for solutions. One Illinois legislator said community colleges may be able to help.
 
Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, is co-sponsoring Senate Bill 888, which would allow community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees in nursing.
 
“Not only does it make sense logistically, but more importantly, I think it’s just a good value to be able to get this degree from a community college," Rezin said.
 
The idea is for community colleges to expand their programs to offer four-year degrees. Rezin said that would make nursing programs more accessible and more affordable for more residents.
 
“Community colleges offer a fantastic education at rock-bottom prices,” she said. “I’m a big fan of community colleges.”
 
Rather than condensing the bachelor’s degree study program, community colleges would be allowed to expand nursing programs. Rezin said this would appeal to nontraditional students.
 
“Somebody that’s already working, they may have their associate’s in nursing, they may be working during the day but they want to go back to school and get their bachelor’s degree in nursing," she said.
 
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a shortage of more than 1 million nurses by 2022, and the American Nurses Association (ANA) anticipates more than a half million U.S. nurses will retire by that year.
 
“It resonates because most people know there’s a nursing shortage, and we’re trying to figure out where the gap, the disconnect, is," Rezin said. "Why do we have this nursing shortage?”
 
Illinois' four-year universities have long opposed the idea. Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn said last year that allowing community colleges to offer four year degrees crosses the line in how higher education was planned in the state.
 
"If we cross this line in providing the authority for bachelor's degrees at community colleges," Dunn said last year, according to The Champaign News-Gazette. "We're at a point where we will be changing statutory, operational history and the structure of how Illinois public higher education was envisioned."
 
The Illinois Higher Education Working Group is also discussing how the educational community can address the nursing shortage. If the group cannot find a solution, Rezin said the bill should be sent to the Senate floor for debate and a vote.
 
The bill was previously presented in May 2017, but didn’t pass. It was reintroduced this year without limits on which community colleges can offer nursing degrees.
 
The measure has support from community colleges. It is opposed by universities and some nursing colleges, according to witness slips.

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Jerk Shop Go in Macomb shut down by McDonough County Health Department

(photo via restaurantguru.com)

 

Following an inspection by the McDonough County Health Department, a restaurant on 602 North Lafayette has been shut down. The Jerk Shop Go, which is opperated by three Western Illinois students, failed its second inspection on April 24. In the inspection, nine food-bourne illness factors were found. 

 

The restaurant, which is located at the site of a former empty parking lot with a vacant shack, opened in November. It is located across from West Pierce Liquors. It failed an inspection on November 9, before failing this one. This was a category two failure, meaning the facility represents a medium risk for causing foodborne illness.

 

The MCHD said in its report that it's unlawful to operate a food handling establishment at that location without prior written approval of the health department. 

 

Jerk Shop Go was one of several McDonough County establishments that failed recent inspections. However, this was the only facility to be closed as a result. 

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Jeffries resigns as IDVA director in midst of Quincy Vets Home crisis

With no immediate solution in sight and continued outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, the head of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs is stepping down. This comes as the entire Rauner Administration has faced criticism for the handling of the deadly situation at the Quincy Veterans Home. 

 

Erica Jeffries, who has led the IDVA since 2015, has resigned. Governor Bruce Rauner's office said Friday that Jeffries is leaving her post, “accepting an offer in the private sector.”

 

While the Rauner Administration praised Jeffries' work during her time at that position, others have different opinions. One of those people is U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who released a statement on the matter Sunday. 

 

“When gross mismanagement leads to fatal consequences, there must be accountability," Duckworth said. "However, it would be foolish to believe that the crisis in Quincy was caused by a single individual in the Rauner Administration. This comprehensive failure reflects an administration that appears more concerned with the quality of press coverage than quality of care in Quincy." 
 
Duckworth went on to add that a recently passed bipartisan funding bill has enabled Rauner, and other governors, to utilize more funds on State Veterans home consutruction projects. 
 
"Congress recently passed a bipartisan funding bill that infuses hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding for State Veterans home construction projects," Duckworth said. "Governor Rauner must now do his part and be held accountable for acting swiftly to put these funds to good use on behalf of Illinois’s Veterans.”
 
The Legionnaires' outbreak first appeared at the Quincy Veterans Home in 2015, shortly after Jeffries took over. It has claimed the lives of 13 residents, and has left many others ill, since. 

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Kenny Boyd announces resignation as MDH President/CEO

Kenny Boyd, President/CEO of McDonough District Hospital, has announced his resignation effective this summer. Boyd made the announcement Friday afternoon (April 27) at a special meeting of the MDH Board of Directors. 

 

An interim President/CEO will be announced in the near future, according to MDH Board of Directors Chairman Dr. Rick Iverson. 

 

Boyd, who joined MDH in July 2011 in his current role as President and Chief Executive Officer. stated that he was offered and accepted a Senior Executive level job at a healthcare facility in Tennessee, a location closer to his family.

 
“The past seven years at MDH have been an exciting time in my career," said Boyd in a release.  "I have been blessed in working with a fantastic Board, Medical Staff and employee team who are truly focused on providing great care to our patients and continuously working to improve our organization. This team has worked to continue to make MDH successful in this time of unprecedented change in our industry as well as the unique challenges we face with the state’s economic instability,” said Boyd. “None of these issues or challenges has ever taken our teams focus off of what’s most important and that is patient care. They have proven this by their recognition as a Top 100 Small and Rural Community Hospital, back-to-back ‘A’ grades from the Leapfrog group for patient safety and a Most Wired Recognition for the utilization of Information Technology in patient care. These recognitions just scratch the surface of recognizing the great work they do every day."
 
Iverson will now lead a search for Boyd's replacement. 
 
“On behalf of the MDH Board of Directors, I want to thank Kenny for his years of service. He did an excellent job leading our hospital through some difficult budgetary times. We appreciate all he did to make MDH a better place to work at while serving the patients in our area. We wish Kenny and his family all the best in their future endeavors,” said Dr. Iverson.
 
 
 

 

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Madigan resolution supports progressive income tax, but silent on rates

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and several dozen other Democrats in the House are putting their names behind a non-binding resolution urging support for a progressive income tax.
 
Taxpayers in the Land of Lincoln pay a flat income tax, regardless of how much they earn. Democrats at the statehouse have for years talked about changing that to a progressive, or graduated system, where residents who make more money pay a higher percent to the state’s coffers. 
 
After being re-elected chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois earlier this week, Madigan said the discussion on a progressive tax will translate into how people vote in November.
 
“I think it will be very helpful to the people of Illinois and the voters of Illinois in terms of their electoral decision on the method of taxation,” Madigan said.
 
Madigan said he favors a progressive income tax.
 
“Taxation can be fair or it can be not fair, one or the other,” Madigan said. “And I think the discussion on the progressive tax is designed to make the taxation system more fair.”
 
J.B. Pritzker, Democratic candidate for governor, has been pushing for a progressive income tax during his campaign.
 
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s political campaign put out a statement after Madigan’s non-binding resolution, criticizing the progressive tax discussion that lacks any inclusion of what rates could be under the Democrats' plan.
 
“The Pritzker-Madigan ticket still doesn't want to say how high taxes will go,” Rauner’s campaign statement said. “Pritzker has repeatedly dodged on specifics and Madigan responded with a firm ‘NO’ when asked if he had any rates in mind. How can Illinois families trust Pritzker and Madigan when they have provided no details for their plans?"
 
Rauner has repeatedly said a progressive income tax would be a disaster for Illinois.
 
State Rep. Robert Martwick’s House Bill 3522 proposed changing the tax rates to: 4 percent for income up to $7,500, 5.84 percent for income up to $15,000, 6.27 percent for income up to $225,000 and 7.65 percent for income over $225,000. That measure was tabled.
Illinois' current flat tax rate is 4.95 percent, after being increased from 3.75 percent last summer. Under Martwick's plan, anyone earning over $15,000 a year would see a tax increase.
 
“When I filed my bill, my bill was not filed as a ‘here’s the solution to our problems,’ it was ‘here’s an option,' ” Martwick, D-Chicago, said. “You can’t solve the financial problems that we have ... unless you’re willing to raise the revenue to address those.”
 
Martwick said the numbers he had the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability crunch for his plan would increase revenue for the state by $5.5 billion a year.
 
Republicans have long said Illinois doesn’t need more revenue through tax increases, it needs more revenue through economic growth. They also want the state to control spending.
 
Earlier this month, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Wester Springs, said with Illinois second-highest-in-the-nation property taxes and high overall tax burden, Illinois’ constitutionally mandated flat income tax is one of the state’s few saving graces.
 
Durkin said changing the flat tax to a tiered tax structure will hit small businesses and job creators hard.
 
“We cannot give taxpayers in the business community even more reasons to leave and that is exactly what the progressive tax would do to illinois,” Durkin said.
 
The text of Madigan's resolution claims the opposite is true.
 
"A progressive income tax will stimulate small business growth; a smaller tax burden will be placed upon small businesses, thereby giving them the additional resources needed to reinvest in their businesses and ultimately increase their net income, providing further stimulus for small business formation and growth," the resolutions says.
 
All but one House Republican signed on to House Resolution 975 opposing a progressive tax ballot question, effectively killing the measure.
 
State Rep. Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville, said with all the talk of a progressive income tax from Democrats, the only solid proposal was alarming.
 
“So their proposal is to raise the rates and then offer deductions,” Wehrli said. “We all know that that’s a tax hike on all of us.”
 
Constitutional amendment ballot questions that don’t have rate structures attached have been filed in both chambers, but they’re not expected to go anywhere.
 
Madigan's proposal is House Resolution 1025

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Measure to allow state treasurer to use investment money to pay Illinois bill backlog advances to House

A new report from the state's comptroller shows Illinois has been hit with $1.1 billion in late payment interest penalties since 2015. That's $100 million more in penalties than the previous 18 years.
 
The April report from Comptroller Susana Mendoza blames Gov. Bruce Rauner for the ballooning penalties. Mendoza, a Democrat, has been a vocal critic of the Republican governor. The report shows that between fiscal years 1998 and 2015, late payment interest penalties owed to vendors providing services to the state totaled $1.0396 billion. In the past two-and-a-half-years, Illinois accrued $1.1396 billion in late payment interest penalties, according to the report.
 
The report comes as one state senator is working to get support for a bill she says will fix the bill backlog problem by using investment funds held by the state treasurer for taxpayers, units of government, and those saving for college.
 
Under state law, taxpayers are on the hook for up to 12 percent interest a year on bills 90 days past due. The state’s Vendor Assistance Program allows qualified purchasers to buy delinquent bills and profit from the interest penalties.
 
State Sen. Heather Steans’ Senate Bill 2858 would allow the state treasurer to use investment dollars to buy the debt at 3 percent, rather than 12 percent. She said it would save money.
 
“I think it’s a great alternative to reduce the cost to taxpayers on that interest that we’re paying in a way that makes a lot of sense,” Steans, D-Chicago, said.
 
Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs reported about $25 billion in the state’s investment portfolio in 2017.
 
State Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, said Stean's bill isn’t the answer. Tracy said it’s time to go back to square one and rework the Prompt Payment Act that tacks on interest of up to 1 percent a month. 
 
“We have created a monster here and that is the most simple way to rein in these exorbitant, high interest rates,” Tracy said.
 
Steans said reforming the Prompt Payment Act too quickly could lead vendors to stop providing services for group health insurance for state employees, a program that has a large backlog of unpaid bills.
 
State Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, laid out his understanding of the measure.
 
“Instead of [the state treasurer] investing [state funds] at 1 percent [returned] interest, we’d borrow it from ourselves, more or less, and use it to pay down our bills and we keep that 12 percent interest instead of paying that 12 percent interest to the retired politicians,” Oberweis said.
 
One of the qualified purchasers, Illinois Financing Partners, has former Gov. Jim Edgar on its board. IFP has nearly a billion dollars of group health debt, with hundreds of millions in interest it’s still owed.
 
State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, said while he didn’t support last summer's income tax increase, the state should instead use that new revenue to pay its bills on time.
 
“We have more revenue than we’ve had ever,” McCarter said. “It’s time to use it to pay our bills and catch up.”
 
Steans’ measure passed Wednesday. She said the measure will be amended in the House before it passes back to the Senate for concurrence.
 

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Agenda for April 30 Macomb City Council Meeting

The agenda has been released for the upcoming Macomb City Council meeting. It will be held Monday, April 30th at 5:!5 p.m. in Macomb City Hall. 

 

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
MACOMB CITY COUNCIL
MONDAY, APRIL 30, 2018
MACOMB CITY HALL
5:15 P.M.
 
ROLL CALL
 
PUBLIC COMMENTS
 
State of the City address by Mayor Inman.
 
Other business.
 
Executive Session
 
To consider information relative to:
 
a) Appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of an employee of the public body or legal counsel for the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(1) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
b)Collective Bargaining matters between the public body and it’s employees or representatives, or deliberations concerning salary schedules for one or more classes of employees, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(2) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
c) The purchase or lease of real property for the use of the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(5) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
d)The setting of a price for sale or lease of property owned by the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(6) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
e) Pending or probable litigation, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(11) of the Open Meetings Act.
 

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Annual Community Prayer Breakfast to be held May 3

The Interfaith Alliance of Macomb is holding the Annual Community Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, May 3. The event will be held at Spoon River College Community Outreach Center (2500 E. Jackson Street, Macomb). 

 

The Community Prayer Breakfast, which falls on the National Day of Prayer, begins at 7:00 a.m. that day, with food served at 7:30 a.m. Macomb Mayor Mike Inman will be on hand to lead the event, with Dr. J.Q. Adams of Western Illinois University serving as the keynote speaker. Music will be conducted by Sandra Mosley. 

 

To learn more about this event, listen to my interview with Deacon Adams of St. Paul Catholic Church and Jessica Rodgers of WIU.

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Fatal crash in Warren County

A fatal traffic crash occurred in Warren County Wednesday morning, according to the Illinois State Police. The driver that passed away, was not wearing a seatbelt. 

 

Katelyn A. Katzell, 21, of Abingdon,  was westbound on 245th Avenue approaching 120th Street at approximately 7:50 a.m. and failed to stop at the posted stop sign. Upon doing so, she entered the intersection and into the path of oncoming traffic. Her Black 2015 Chevrolet Sonic was struck by a 2011 Chevrolet Pickup Truck, driven by Christopher B. Carson, 33, of Gerlaw, Illinois.

 

Carson was heading southbound on 120th Street. His truck struck the passenger front corner of Katzell’s vehicle, which was shoved south of the intersection, coming to rest across 245th Avenue. Carson's truck left the roadway, eventually came to rest on its wheels in the field, southwest of the intersection. Katzell was not wearing a seatbelt, while Carson was. 

 

Both drivers were transported to OSF St. Mary’s hospital in Galesburg. Katzell succomed to her injuries, while Carson sustained minor injuries. He was released later that day. 

 

The assisting agencies were Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Alexis Fire and EMS, and GHAS.

 

 

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Lawmakers asks Illinois governor to seek Trump's help for Quincy home

Four state lawmakers want Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to ask President Donald Trump for help with the veterans home in Quincy. 
 
Illinois' estimated price tag to renovate the Quincy veterans home to put an end to a deadly Legionnaires outbreak is $265 million. 
 
A letter from the four lawmakers urged Gov. Bruce Rauner to ask President Donald Trump for some of the money. The letter was signed by state Sens. Thomas Cullerton and Sam McCann and state Reps. David McSweeney and Linda Chapa LaVia. The letter asks that Rauner "reach out to U.S. President Donald Trump to ensure the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy receives expedited federal assistance to complete all construction and improvements on its campus."
 
McSweeney, R-Barrington, said he doesn't think Rauner will ask Trump for help. 
 
"This is a governor who won't even say the president's name," McSweeney said. "President Trump has obviously been a leader on veterans issues. His administration has stressed making money available for veterans homes."
 
McSweeney said 65 percent of the money for Quincy should come from the federal government's Veterans Administration. He said that the rest would need to come from the state's construction budget.
 
"Legislators and their respective staff are ready and willing to draft legislation to expedite the process to ensure the safety and well-being of our Quincy residents," the letter said. "To accomplish this task, we need cooperation from you and your staff, as well as complete and accurate details about your proposed plan. Specifically, we request a list of any applicable laws or rules that need to be temporarily amended in order to handle this matter, including but not limited to those pertaining to procurement or the Capitol Development Board."
 
The lawmakers want the information by the end of the week. 
 
A spokeswoman for the governor on Wednesday said they are working with Illinois' members of Congress to address national issues. 
 
"We have office in Washington DC and are in constant communication with the Illinois delegation and the White House," spokeswoman Rachel Bold said in an email. "These relationships give us the chance to discuss a variety of issues – including the needs at the Quincy Veterans Home"

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Hammond-sponsored long-term care legislation moves to floor

The office of State Representative Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) announced that House Bill 4771 was approved in the Human Services Committee Wednesday. The piece of long-term health care legislation now moves to the floor.

 

Per a release from Hammond's office, HB4771 requires the Department of Human Service and Healthcare and Family Services' Office of the Inspector General to perform certain actions to ensure that applicants submit completed applications for long-term care benefits.

 

“We have an extreme backlog of eligibility applications for long-term care and redeterminations,” Hammond said. "This legislation goes along with a recent court ruling that tells the departments that after 45 days there is, what’s going to be referred to as a 'probationary eligibility', and they need to start paying the bills." 

 

Hammond notes there have also been instances when applicants were not being informed of possible extensions to the process. These applicants were denied eligibility due to lack of information in the applicant’s application.  

 

The legislation is expected to pass, as it has received bipartisan support with a number of co-sponsors on board. The bill is intended to help streamline the determination process, and provide applicants with all necessary information for completing applications in a timely manner.

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Illinois lawmakers move on unionizing more college students

Some Illinois lawmakers want to give more student employees bargaining rights after a graduate student strike at the state’s flagship university.
 
The University of Illinois is in the process of coming to terms with its graduate student union since about 2,700 students ended a two-week strike last month. Now, Illinois State Sen. Daniel Biss wants to give collective bargaining rights to research assistants and pre-professional graduate students. He said his bill awaiting a House vote is giving rights to a subset of student workers to level the playing field with other unionized students.
 
“This is a bill that creates parity between all graduate student workers,” Biss said.
 
University of Illinois spokesman Jan Dennis said the university system opposes allowing research assistants to unionize because “their research activities are not work, but are a fundamental part of their graduate education.”
 
Pay for research assistants varies widely depending on their work, according to employment service Glassdoor. Dennis could not estimate the pay of the university’s research assistants.
 
Opponents of the student unionization measure said it creates a conflict between the curriculum taught and the collective bargaining agreements between the university and the students.
 
State Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, said the state’s universities are already in need of more money and giving union rights to more students would make the problem worse.
 
“This is a bad precedent to add one more burden upon them,” she said.
 
Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, was more pointed.
 
“They’re students,” he said. “Maybe we shouldn’t be handing over, by state fiat, labor organizational rights to students.”
 
The measure comes as other public universities are seeing more union activity. Western Illinois University’s faculty recently authorized a strike. Illinois State University’s graduate students filed to unionize in the same week that U of I grad students walked off the job.
 
A federal court overturned a 2012 Michigan law saying research students in the state were students and therefore not allowed to unionize.

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Illinois lawmakers studying local public safety pension consolidation

It’s not just state employee pensions that are underfunded. Illinois state lawmakers are also studying how to fix Illinois’ growing local public safety pension problems.
 
The state’s five pension funds for state employees have a combined unfunded liability of $130 billion. Efforts to address that have stalled at the statehouse. But there’s a growing taxpayer liability at the local level.
 
Credit rating agency S&P said the combined unfunded liability of the state’s 600-plus public safety pension plans is nearly $10 billion.
 
How did it get that way?
 
Mark Fowler from the Northwest Municipal Conference told a legislative committee Tuesday most of their police and fire funds were 100 percent funded in 2000, but structural deficiencies were soon apparent.
 
“Despite a four-fold increase in taxpayer contributions to police and fire pensions over that time period (of ten years), funding levels continued to drop, thus threatening the long term solvency of these funds,” Fowler said.
 
Illinois Municipal League Executive Director Brad Cole said Tier II from ten years ago that changed benefits for new hires wasn't enough. He said fund consolidation is needed.
 
“We want relief for the communities like Harvey and others around the state, north to south, but this is an issue,” Cole said.
 
Harvey and North Chicago have been forced to lay off dozens of public safety employees after the state's comptroller was required by law to redirect tax revenue owed to the municipalities to underfunded pensions. Other municipalities’ could face the same problem.
 
One of the remaining routes to deal with the unfunded liability may be pension consolidation after the state's highest court shot down reducing benefits.
 
Fowler said the difference in the cost of managing the consolidated Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and individual public safety funds is more than $1,000 per member. He said separate funds are rife with inefficiencies.
 
“Considering that the pension boards are governed by approximately 3,300 pension board trustees that require training when they first come on board and annual training thereafter,” Fowler said.
 
Previous efforts to consolidate have stalled at the statehouse.
 
Cole said there’s no time left.
 
“We’re still talking about the same issues,” Cole said. “We need action now. The bills may be dead for the General Assembly, but they’re alive for us and our communities need them.”
 
Lawmakers continue to study consolidation.

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15-year-old girl arrested following threat at West Prairie

A school threat at West Prairie High School has resulted in the arrest of a 15-year-old girl, according to the McDonough County Sherriff's Office. 

 

This comes following the discovery of a handwritten note left in a bathroom at the school. The note stated that a specific threat against students would happen Friday.

 

The girl was arrested at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday evening, following an investigation from the McDonough County Sherriff's Office. Authorities were called to the school at 3:00 p.m. Tuesday, and deputies met with staff at the school to identify the suspect. 

 

Police searched the home of the girl, and concluded that she did not have access to any type of weapon. She said that she did not intend to actually act on the threat. 

 

She was taken to the Mary Davis Home in Galesburg, and has been charged with Felony Disorderly Conduct. 

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Macomb Chamber hosts annual Legislative Day in Springfield

A group of nearly fifty business leaders from the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce visited the state capital on August 18 for its annual Legislative Day in Springfield event. Per a Chamber press release, the Chamber was there to advocate on behalf on behalf of higher education funding, workers’ compensation, tort reform, transportation, issues impacting agriculture, and several other issues that directly impact Macomb and its business climate. 

 

While there, Chamber members met with ith Senator Jil Tracy and Rep. Norine Hammond. The attendees also connected with other government agencies including Illinois Municipal League, Department of Agriculture, Illinois Farm Bureau, and the Illinois Board of Higher Education.  Western Illinois University, Spoon River College, City of Macomb, McDonough District Hospital, and other local businesses both large and small were represented in Springfield that day. 

 

To learn more about the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce visit its website

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Back-to-back "A" grades for McDonough District Hospital

McDonough District Hospital has received an 'A' grade from The Leapfrog Group, a a national nonprofit health-safety organization, for the second straight time. MDH received its first-ever ‘A’ last fall, and now repeats in receiving the highest national distinction for patient safety.

 

The Leapfrog Group's Spring 2018 Safety Guides, which were released today (Tuesday, April 24), named MDH as one of 750 hospitals from across the United States to earn an ‘A’. MDH is also one of only 37 hospitals from across the state of Illinois to get this distinction. Of that 37, MDH is just one of 23 Illinois hospitals to earn a repeat ‘A’ grade (Fall 2017/Spring 2018).

 

“Earning The Leapfrog Group’s ‘A’ grade for patient safety last fall demonstrated our entire hospital staff’s focus and dedication to our patients. No one became complacent after receiving that honor. I’m extremely proud of our staff working even harder to make sure we repeated our ‘A’ grade this spring,” said MDH President/CEO Kenny Boyd said in a release. “This is a prestigious recognition from The Leapfrog Group. A thorough evaluation of our entire health care unit, resulting in our second consecutive ‘A’ grade, is something every MDH employee should be proud to be associated with.”

 

These letter grades, which range A-F, are given to hospitals nationwide based on their performance in preventing medical errors, infections and other harms among patients in their care. The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses 27 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign grades twice per year. Developed under the guidance of an Expert Panel, the safety guide is peer reviewed, fully transparent and free to the public.

 

“This is the only national rating of how well hospitals protect patients from preventable harm and death, such as medical errors, infections and injuries,” said Leah Binder, President and CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “Receiving an ‘A’ Safety Grade means a hospital is among the best in the country for preventing these terrible problems and putting their patients first, 24 hours a day.”

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Rachel Lenz of Macomb Park District discusses upcoming events, Push 4 Parks

With the weather finally feeling spring-like, the Macomb Park District is gearing up for a schedule chock full of events in the coming weeks. Upcoming events and activities include:

 

-Ball Fore has officially opened, and will operate on a Thursday-Sunday spring schedule. The facility will be open 3-10 p.m. those days, and will move to an expanded schedule once school lets out for the summer. 

 

-Lakeview Nature Center is holding a #LakeviewPhotowalk on Friday, April 27 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. 

 

-Foos for Families will be held Sunday, April 29 from 2-7 p.m. at Veteran's Park. The Fundraiser benefits the The Center for Youth and Family Solutions in Macomb. 

 

-Lakeview Nature Center will hold a workshop on Sunday, May 6 from 1:00-3:30 p.m. The Watercolor Nature Study will cost $5 per person. 

 

-Ball Fore will hold its first afterglow party of 2018 on Saturday, May 12

 

For more details on upcoming events in our area, be sure to visit Macomb Park District online and on Facebook

 

The Macomb Park District has also announced upcoming Push 4 Parks partnerships. The park district has teamed up with Hy-Vee, Magnolia's, and more local businesses for donation opportunities to the campaign for lights at the ball fields at Veteran's Park. Additionally, the Macomb Park District is one of the five organizations chosen by McDonough County VIBE to receive a donation for 2018.  

 

For more details on these events and how to help with Push 4 Parks, listen to my interview with Executive Director of the Macomb Park District, Rachel Lenz. 

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Madigan re-elected as head of Democrat Party in Illinois

(Photo via Chicago Magazine)
House Speaker Michael Madigan was re-elected Monday to his position as head of Illinois’ Democratic Party, as expected.
 
Madigan received the endorsement of Illinois’ Democratic committee to head the state’s dominant political party, a position the speaker has held since 1998.
 
This makes him not only the longest-serving legislative leader in American history but also the longest-serving head of a major political party in Illinois history, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
 
No one else in the country concurrently holds those same respective positions.
 
In recent months Madigan has faced criticism from his own party for his mishandling of reports of sexual harassment within the General Assembly and within the Democratic Party itself.
 
Illinois' Democratic candidates for governor were, save now-nominee J.B. Pritzker, were all openly critical of the speaker's dual role within the party. 
 
"I’ve called for Mike Madigan to step down as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois,” said State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston during a debate. 
 
Scott Drury was the only Democratic state Representative not to vote for Madigan as speaker and called for his resignation on the House floor after allegations of sexual harassment in his ward became public. 
 
"It is time to call on Speaker Madigan to step down as the leader of the House because he is not worthy of that position," he said in February.
 
Neither Biss nor Drury would respond to calls about Madigan's election. 
 
When the time came for the actual vote, he received near unanimous support. Fourteenth District Committeeman Peter Janko, a newly-elected progressive, was the sole vote against the speaker’s re-election.
 
The speaker took the opportunity to move ahead with plans to have all party members undergo sexual harassment training, but he said his first priority is the ouster of freshman Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in November.
 
“Now is the time to come together so that we can elect J.B. Pritzker as the governor of the state of Illinois,” he said.
 
Congressman Danny Davis, a Chicago Democrat in office since 1993, nominated Madigan. Davis said the speaker was largely responsible for the election of the first black president and Carol Moseley-Braun, the first black female U.S. Senator.
 
“At this stage of the game, I want to see committeeman Mike Madigan be re-elected,” he said.
 
Congresswoman Robin Kelly, D-Chicago, said she was surprised that the speaker asked her to nominate him. While she did praise the speaker’s efforts against Rauner, she made it clear she wasn’t entirely satisfied.
 
“It’s not a secret that change needs to happen,” she said. “We need to make sure that we’re respecting every man and woman that has anything to do with this organization.”
 

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Stephanie's Law gets hearing, still remains in committee

Despite impassioned pleas and growing support for a measure that proponents say closes a dangerous sex offender loophole, the bill remains in committee at the Illinois statehouse.
Proponents of House Bill 816, known as Stephanie’s Law, recently heard from those opposed to the bill.
 
The House Judiciary Criminal Committee last week heard testimony from Stephanie Estopare, who was sexually assaulted in 2013. Her assailant pleaded down to a battery charge and didn’t have to register as a sex offender.
 
Estopare said she was failed by the loophole. She said that unless a judge is given the discretion to put such people on a sex offender registry, the state is failing others.
 
“A man who’s psychosexual evaluation came back 27 pages long – the longest our state's attorney had ever seen – and yet your child can be left alone with him because no one knows what he’s capable of,” she said.
 
House Bill 816, known as Stephanie’s Law, would give a judge discretion to require a person convicted of battery to register as a sex offender if the crime was found to be sexually motivated.
 
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois opposes the bill. ACLU’s Ben Ruddell called the measure a perversion of due process.
 
“The way the law works is to be on a sex registry, one has to be convicted of a sex offense,” Ruddell said.
 
Stephanie’s mother, Tina Estopare, disagrees.
 
“Shame, shame, shame on not wanting to protect children,” Tina Estopare said. “There’s a loophole. If the offenders can plea deal down from felonies down to battery with the sexual component in it or as a battery charge that so many do, there’s thousands of cases, we need to close the loophole. It’s an open wound.”
 
She added: “Schools want this bill, they need it. The police need it."
 
Thursday’s hearing took place after the measure stalled before a deadline to get it out of committee. Chief sponsor, state Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, filed for an extension and said she will continue to push for passage.
 
After the bill’s first hearing this year, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Art Turner wouldn’t commit to moving the measure.
 
“I think that’s the point of these sort of hearings is to hash out the details of it,” Turner said. “We’ll continue to work with Rep. Manley on this piece of legislation.”
 
Tina Estopare said despite the measure she’s been working on for nearly five years not advancing, she will keep the pressure on.
 
“It’s an everyday thing for me. I always think about Stephanie’s Law until it passes,” she said. “We need to protect our children.”
 
Stephanie’s Law has 90 cosponsors in the House, 30 more than what’s needed to pass if the bill were to ever reach the floor for a vote. The measure also has letters of support from over 300 school districts and the backing of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and dozens of police departments across the state.
 

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Rauner caught in food stamp work requirement debate

Gov. Bruce Rauner has become a talking point in the argument for and against the newest welfare-to-work push in Washington.
 
U.S. Rep Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, said she spoke with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary James Dimas and Deputy Gov. Leslie Geissler Munger about the latest version of the farm bill and the new work requirements attached to federal food assistance.
 
She used the conversation with the Republican governor’s staff to draw caution to the provisions in the Republican bill.
 
“They had some real concerns with how some of these changes to eligibility would work in the state of Illinois,” she told the House Agriculture Committee last week. “They are not taking an official position so I’m not trying to put words in their mouth, but they did call this an administrative barrier.”
 
Bustos said the welfare-to-work program in the farm bill would create barriers for new applicants and red tape for states.
 
As written, the provisions in the farm bill would expand state welfare-to-work programs already in place. It would require able-bodied adults without dependents under six years old to either work or enroll in job training programs for at least 20 hours per week to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
 
Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, told the committee that he spoke with Rauner’s office as well and got a different answer.
 
“I got a message back that, after reading the bill, they’re glad with the two-year implementation but they believe they can implement a program,” Davis said.
 
Rachel Bold from Rauner’s office said the goal should be to get people off of programs like SNAP and into jobs. She added: “Our delegation knows of our support for the work on the legislation.”
 
Rauner got a waiver for an earlier requirement, allowing non-working adults to receive food stamps. As written, the new bill wouldn’t allow the governor’s office to successfully qualify for the same waiver again.
 
HHS spokeswoman Meghan Powers responded, saying “We commend Congressional efforts to provide additional funding for these education and training opportunities and appreciate the recognition that making these changes will require an implementation period.”
 
The existing farm bill is due to expire Sept. 30.

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Group donates billboards to raise awareness for Illinois Opioid Helpline

Illinois’ new Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances is getting some free publicity.
 
The Outdoor Advertising Association of Illinois announced it is donating 100 billboards around the state to spread the word about the hotline.
 
Executive Director Rose Trader said the phone line can’t help those affected by substance abuse if they don’t know about it.
 
“People need to know the resources exist and that’s where we come in,” Trader said. “We have the ability to build that public awareness to the motoring public.”
 
The billboards will be spread across the state and along toll roads, with several of them being strategically placed in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Public Health.
 
“There are some areas in the state where statistics were very high, so we put numerous billboards in those areas,” Trader said. “We’re also placing them in areas around the state of Illinois to drive those people from towns that are not as close by to those facilities where they can get some help.”
 
The hotline gives confidential referrals to those affected by substance abuse. Counselors who answer the phones are trained to help connect callers with treatment providers and recovery resources around the clock.
 
"More than 2,200 people have already reached out to the Helpline to get connected with tools that help them or a loved one overcome substance use disorder," Gov. Bruce Rauner said. "This generous donation will help get the word out so people know they don't have to fight the battle alone."
 
The hotline is aimed at stemming the growing number of drug overdoses and deaths from heroin and other opioids. IDPH numbers show nearly 2,000 people died in Illinois in 2016 from opioid overdoses. The agency also estimates that more than a quarter million Illinois residents who need help with drug addiction aren’t getting it.
 
To reach the helpline, call 1-833-2FINDHELP.

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Agenda for April 23 Macomb City Council Meeting

Below is the full agenda for tonight's (Monday, April 23) Macomb City Council Committee of the Whole meeting. The meeting will take place at 5:15 p.m. inside Macomb City Hall. 

 

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
MACOMB CITY COUNCIL
MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2018
MACOMB CITY HALL
5:15 P.M.
 
ROLL CALL
 
PUBLIC COMMENTS
 
Discussion on purchasing two vehicles for the Macomb Police Department.
-Discussion is planned.
 
Discussion on the mowing bids received for the 2018 mowing season.
-Discussion is planned.
 
Discussion on an ordinance to amend Sections 4-117 of Chapter 4 of the Municipal Code of Macomb, Illinois pertaining to the possession and consumption of alcohol on property belonging to the City of Macomb.
-Discussion is planned.
 
Other business.
 
Executive Session
 
To consider information relative to:
 
a) Appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of an employee of the public body or legal counsel for the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(1) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
b)Collective Bargaining matters between the public body and it’s employees or representatives, or deliberations concerning salary schedules for one or more classes of employees, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(2) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
c) The purchase or lease of real property for the use of the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(5) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
d)The setting of a price for sale or lease of property owned by the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(6) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
e) Pending or probable litigation, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(11) of the Open Meetings Act.

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Task force on sexual harassment gets heated as lawmakers grapple with process accuser says is corrupt

A shouting match broke out at the statehouse Thursday when a Chicago Democrat told a woman whose harassment complaint against a state Senator last fall was sent to an empty office that the woman didn't do enough to make her voice heard. 
 
Denise Rotheimer's public outing of allegations against state Sen. Ira Silverstein revealed the vacancy of the Legislative Inspector General. She accused Silverstein of using the power of his position to harass her.
 
Rotheimer said the inspector general position has been undermined by lawmakers.
 
Julie Porter was named to the post, but her term is expected to end this summer. Rotheimer said by not having named a replacement, the Legislative Ethics Commission is violating the law.
 
“The Legislative Inspector General, required by law, shall be appointed in a joint resolution in the House and Senate,” Rotheimer said. “That has not happened.”
 
The vacancy was revealed after Rotheimer testified last fall that she filed a complaint against Silverstein to Senate President John Cullerton's office. 
 
Cullerton’s office forwarded the complaint to the LIG’s office, but the complaint sat dormant for nearly a year because there was no one in the office. Rotheimer’s case was one of 27 cases that sat until Porter was tapped to be the special LIG.
 
Porter found Silverstein’s behavior was unbecoming of a legislator, but said that he didn’t abuse his power.
 
Republicans said they’ve brought forward names for the LIG post, but those candidates haven’t gone anywhere.
 
House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang, D-Skokie, who sits on the Legislative Ethics Commission, called it a distraction.
 
“When there’s someone that’s suitable to the four legislative leaders I’m quite certain that we’ll be able to move forward,” Lang said. “But this is a red herring.”
 
Lang said Porter is catching up on dormant cases from when there was no inspector, and that Porter will take new complaints until a replacement is appointed. Lang expects that could happen in the next few months.
 
Rotheimer made her point during a House task force on sexual harassment and discrimination Thursday, where she also said she was told by Porter that accusers have no rights in the process.
 
The hearing got heated.
 
During Rotheimer's testimony alongside state Rep. Jeanne Ives at Thursday’s task force hearing, Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, said Rotheimer did not do enough to bring her case to lawmakers before going public.
 
“If you wanted to come and complain about the text messages and the exchanges that you were having with the Senator, you could have done so,” Flowers said.
 
While task force chairwoman, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, tried to restore order to the hearing, Rotheimer and Flowers shouted over each other.
 
“I’m not going to be told by that Representative that I could have done something, she doesn’t know my situation,” Rotheimer said. “I never got a hearing.”
 
Rotheimer said she’s tired of victim blaming by legislators.
 
Ives, R-Wheaton, said the fact of the matter remains, accusers have no rights in the process.
 
“You have no right to even be heard,” Ives said. “You have not right to even know that your complaint was filed correctly. It’s outrageous and this is Illinois corruption at its core.”
 
Ives’ bill to give complainants certain rights in any filing to an inspector general overseeing any state office was tabled last week, despite several Representatives on Thursday asking to be co-sponsors of the measure.
 
Lang defended the status quo, saying ethics complaints shouldn’t be handled as if it’s in a court of law.
 
The task force also heard from James Stamps, director of the Center For Public Safety and Justice. He focused on fairness, giving complainants more of a voice and making the process more transparent.
 
Polly Poskin, executive director of Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, told the task force that more study was needed. She also said a helpline created last year should be available around the clock, instead of only during business hours on weekdays. Poskin also pushed for more resources through the Illinois Department of Human Rights to field such cases.
 
Task force leaders said they’re taking all of the recommendations into account before advancing legislation to reform how complaints are dealt with.
 
Ives has concerns.
 
“I have no confidence that this task force comes out with real legislation with teeth in it that protects citizens from their government,” Ives said.
 
Rotheimer has said she wouldn't recommend anyone file a complaint with an inspector general because the process does not include giving complainants rights. She said people should find other avenues, including making accusations public, instead.

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CMK Jewelers and Repair opens in Downtown Macomb

Macomb Downtown Development has announced the opening of CMK Jewelers and Repair located at 35 East Side Square on the Macomb Downtown Square. This comes after the closure of the Diamond Den in January 2018, following the retirement of owner Sue Melton. 

 

Mark Kelly, owner of CMK Jewelers and Repair, has 23 years of experience working as a bench jeweler for Melton at Diamond Den. Kelly is currently accepting jewelry repairs and will be expanding into retail in June of 2018, which will include watches, wedding bands and engagement rings.

 

 “I wanted to make sure our community still had a jewelry store to come to and have the same experience, without leaving town,” stated Mark Kelly in a press release.

 

Downtown Development Director, Kristin Terry, added “We are very grateful that Mark wanted to continue this service for our community and the Downtown.”

 

Visit Mark at 35 E. Side Square or contact him at (309)837-2573, for all of your jewelry repairs.

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Duckworth to host 'Mobile Office Hours' in Macomb, Quincy

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) will host “Mobile Office Hours,” in both Macomb and Quincy on Wednesday, April 25. Duckworth's office says that her constituent service representatives will be onsite to help Illinoisans with federal agencies and with receiving the Veterans Affairs, Social Security, Medicare and other federal benefits they may be entitled to.
 
“Reaching as many Illinoisans as possible and addressing their concerns is one of my top priorities as Senator, and making my staff available in every corner of the state will help,” Senator Duckworth said. “These Mobile Office Hours in Quincy will help hardworking families learn about federal resources available to them, cut through red tape and get the timely responses they deserve.  We look forward to hosting additional mobile office hours across Illinois in the days, weeks and months ahead.”
 
Duckworth's team will be at the Quincy Public Library (526 Jersey Street, Quincy) 10 a.m.-noon on Wednesday, followed by an appearance at the Macomb Public Library (235 South Lafayette Street, Macomb) 2-4 p.m.
 
With Senator Duckworth currently not having offices on this side of the state, this type of event gives her office a chance to meet with more of her constituents. She currently has three offices, one in Chicago, Springfield and Carbondale with additional offices opening soon in Belleville and Rock Island.

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Illinois GOP lawmaker leaves party, runs as conservative against Rauner

A Republican state lawmaker known for bucking his party and siding with Democrats and unions is running as another option to Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrat J.B. Pritzker.
 
Sam McCann, R-Plainview, announced Thursday morning his resignation from the GOP and campaign for Illinois Governor under the Conservative Party label.
 
The Plainview state senator’s campaign video released Thursday morning implicates Rauner and Chicago Democrats for higher taxes and corruption in the state.
 
“As conservatives, we believe that you can’t spend money that you don’t have,” McCann said. “As your governor, I will work with the General Assembly to appeal Rauner’s tax increase.”
 
The video doesn’t mention Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker, who welcomed McCann to the race, calling him “another voice to the race for governor at this critical time for our state.”
 
Republicans, including Rauner’s campaign, are bashing McCann for using union donations to spoil the matchup between Pritzker and the incumbent Republican. The governor’s campaign called McCann “the worst kind of political opportunist who is only running for governor to line his own pockets.”
 
Rauner is in Western Germany on a business-courting trip.
 
Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, said McCann “left the Republican Party with his lockstep votes to support Mike Madigan’s agenda of unbalanced budgets and putting the interests of public sector unions ahead of Illinois taxpayers.”
 
The self-styled McCann has sided with Democrats and public unions in attempts to grow the size of government several times, most notably, in a 2016 attempt to override Rauner’s veto of a union-supported arbitration bill that would have placed labor negotiations between the state and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, it’s largest public union, into the hands of an arbitrator. The veto was narrowly upheld in the House.
 
Rauner had fought the bill, saying it would have removed his ability to negotiate a better deal for taxpayers.
 
On Monday, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 donated $50,000 to McCann’s campaign fund. Rauner touts that he has never accepted union donations.
 
Local 150 has given money to Republicans in the past, but more commonly supports Democrats.
 
The Democratic Governors Association said Thursday in a release that voters who supported Rauner’s conservative primary challenger, Rep. Jeanne Ives, now have another conservative choice.  
 
Ives declined to respond to the comment.

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Arbor Day Foundation names Macomb Tree City USA

The City of Macomb Mayor's Office has announced that Macomb was named a 2017 Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. 

 

The award was given in honor of Macomb's commitment to effective urban forest management. The city also received a Tree City USA Growth Award for demonstrating environmental improvement and higher level of tree care.

 

Macomb met Tree City USA's four requirements: a tree board or department, a tree-care ordinance, an annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation. 

 

The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the Arbor Day foundation, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters.
 
“Tree City USA communities see the impact an urban forest has in a community first hand,” said Dan Lambe, President of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Additionally, recognition brings residents together and creates a sense of community pride, whether it’s through volunteer engagement or public education.”
 
Macomb will hold a public Arbor Day ceremony on Friday, April 27th at 8:00 a.m. in Chandler Park, southwest of the fountain. City Forester Skip Bowles will plant a White Oak sponsored by the Macomb Women’s Club.
 
“I am proud that Macomb has again been designated Tree City USA and received a Growth Award,” said Macomb Mayor Mike Inman in a release. “The award is indicative of the high level of dedication and commitment by our Tree Board members and our City Forester.”
 
More information on the program is available online.
 

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Nine different proposals in play as Illinois politicians aim for independent political map-making process

There is bipartisan momentum around the need to change the way political maps are drawn in Illinois. However, there are differing opinions on how to accomplish this. 

 

Nine proposals have been submitted on the topic of political maps. There are two redistricting measures in the Senate, and seven in the House. 

 

More than 60 percent of statehouse races only had one candidate in the 2016 general election. That is an area where the current gerrymandered maps have come under fire. Legislative district maps are redrawn every ten years based on the newest census results.
 
State Representative Norine Hammond (R- Macomb) is backing House Resolution 995, which has the support of Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), along with all members of the House Republican Caucus. 
 
“It is clear that people from both sides of the aisle will not be supporting the current protocol of our inequitable and unfair map-drawing process, making now the time to begin working efficiently towards a new solution to a fair and equitable map across the state,” Durkin said in a release. “A new process will give voters the opportunity to have their own say and involvement in ensuring that the new legislative maps fairly represent each district in Illinois.”
 
According to a poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, 72 percent of Illinois residents, including a majority of both Republicans and Democrats, support the creation of an independent commission to draw legislative district maps.
 
Based on the current legislative calendar, the deadlines for passage are April 27 in the House and May 3 in the Senate, meaning the clock is ticking. 
 
"It is our duty to do this, and do it properly," Hammond said. "This is what the State of Illinois and its residents have asked for. It's out responsibility to deliver that." 
 
One of the other proposals comes from the group Change Illinois. Their proposal, House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 43 and Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 26, has the backing of the Better Government Association, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Farm Bureau, League of Women Voters Illinois, Small Business Advocacy Council, the Union League Club of Chicago, and others.
 
The group's mantra has been voters should pick politicians, not the other way around. Change Illinois’ measure would create an independent commission with 30 public hearings and give final say to the state Supreme Court.
 
“We are strongly and very forcefully promoting minority protection rights,” Change Illinois’ Brad McMillan said. “We believe our state would be better off.”
 
To make it to the November ballot, any proposed constitutional amendment question must be agreed on by both chambers by May 6.
 
Durkin said it doesn't matter which one advances, as long as something is done to ask voters to change the existing process.
 
“Any one of these seven [in the House], we’ll take ‘em,” Durkin said. “We’ll take ‘em. Put them in front of the legislature.”
 

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President Thomas named as finalist for Boise State president position

Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas has been announced as one of five finalists for the president position at Boise State University. Thomas is in the running for the job that current Boise State president Bob Kustra will retire from this summer. 

 

Thomas is scheduled to visit Boise State on April 26, per details released on the university's website. A final decision is expected to be made in May, when the Idaho State Board of Education will interview finalists and come to a decision. 

 

The five finalists were trimmed down from a list of 53 candidates. President Thomas is the only finalist that currently serves as president of an American university. The full list of finalists can be seen below. 

 

Dr. James Lentini: Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.
Dr. Kevin Reynolds: Vice President for Finance and Administration, Portland State University
Dr. Robbyn Wacker: Senior Campaign Adviser for Development and Alumni Relations, University of Northern Colorado
Dr. Daniel Weeks: President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Northern British Columbia

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Argyle Lake State Park announces upcoming spring programs

Argyle Lake State Park has released information regarding upcoming spring programs. The full schedule of upcoming family-friendly activities can be seen below. 

 

Argyle Lake State Park

 

2018 Spring Interpretive Programs

 

Spring Wildflower Hikes – 

Saturday, April 21, 2018 – 10 a.m.

Saturday, May 5 & 19, 2018  – 10 a.m.

 

Enjoy the first blooms of spring and the peace and serenity of nature on these morning nature hikes in the woods of Argyle.  These 1-2 mile hikes will begin at the park visitor center.   For more information, please call the park visitor center at (309) 776-3422.

 

Friends of Argyle Lake State Park –

 

Spring Exotic Plant Removal Workday

 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

 

1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

 

Come and spend a few hours outdoors helping the Friends of Argyle and park staff remove nonnative plants from the woods at Argyle.  Litter collecting is an option for younger volunteers.  Tools and gloves will be provided or bring your own.  Meet at the park visitor center.  For more information, call the park visitor center at (309)776-3422.

General Program Information:

 

  • Meet at the park visitor center for all hikes and programs unless otherwise indicated in above program descriptions. 
  • Please contact park staff with any special needs or concerns prior to the program date, so requested arrangements /accommodations can be made. 

For more specific program information or to register for a program, please call the park visitor center at (309)776-3422 or email Bridget.Hinchee@illinois.gov.

 

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Bustos announces online voting has begun in 2018 Congressional Art Competition

Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) announced that online voting has begun in Illinois’ 17th District’s annual Congressional Art Competition. Voting is open until Monday, April 30. 

 

“I’m so impressed by all of the talented high school students from across our community who are competing in this year’s competition, and I appreciate the opportunity to showcase their amazing work,” Congresswoman Cheri Bustos said in a release. “The Congressional Art Competition is an incredible opportunity for talented young artists and I hope everyone from the 17th district will take the time to vote for their favorite submission.”
 
The Congressional Art Competition is a nationwide high school arts competition sponsored by the U.S. House of Representatives. It has been held annually since 1982. One winning piece of artwork from each House district will be selected to be displayed in the Cannon Tunnel of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington for the next year. 
 
 
 

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Illinois State Police to participate in Second Annual Distracted Driving Week

Illinois State Police District 14 will spread awareness about the danger of distracted driving during Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week (DDAW). This education and enforcement campaign will take place April 23-27. 

 

“No distraction- whether texting or talking on the phone - is ever worth the loss of life on the roadway,” said Captain Jon Dively in an ISP release. “These senseless deaths can easily be prevented if drivers simply choose to focus on the core task of driving when behind the wheel. We aim to do our part to help keep our District’s roads safer.”
 
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 10 people are killed each day in distracted driving crashes. To highlight the dangers of distracted driving, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (ILACP), AAA, The Illinois State Police, The Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois High School High School and College Driver Education Association (IHSCDEA) and nearly 300 local law enforcement throughout Illinois are working together to emphasize the dangers of distracted driving and better enforce it on the roadways. Last year’s DDAW efforts resulted in over 18,000 warnings and citations for distracted driving offenses.
 
The latest AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research found that:
- Drivers who text when behind the wheel more than double their odds of being involved in a crash;
- Drivers who use in-vehicle technologies, like voice-based and touch screen features, can be distracted for more
than 40 seconds when completing tasks like programming navigation or sending a text message.
- Removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash
 
Violating Illinois’s distracted driving laws can be costly. Know before you go. In Illinois:
- Law prohibits all drivers from texting and driving
- Law prohibits all drivers from using a hand-held phone while driving
- Law prohibits all teen drivers from using a cell phone while driving
 
For more information on Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week visit www.iddaw.org.
 
 
 
 

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Road closure on East Pierce in Macomb

The City of Macomb Public Works Department has announced that two blocks of East Pierce Street, from Mechanic Street to Pearl Street, will be closed to all through traffic for an estimated seven to ten days for sewer repair. This comes as it was discovered that additional parts will be needed to complete repairs in that area. 

 

Those with questions can contact the department at (309) 833-2821

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Republicans in Illinois Senate oppose progressive income tax

Republican Senators at the Illinois statehouse want to block any move to change the state’s constitution for a progressive income tax.
 
The state constitution requires income to be taxed at a flat rate. Several measures at the statehouse from Democrats would ask voters to change that structure to allow progressive income tax rates.
 
Senate Republicans, like Sen. Karen McConnaughay, are backing a resolution opposing such a move.
 
“What could be less predictable than a percentage-based income tax that the General Assembly can adjust every year?” McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, said Tuesday.
 
Other Republicans said progressive tax rates would hit small businesses that file as individuals hard, hurting job creation. They also worried about the potential for a bate-and-switch where rates across the board progressively increase over time as high income earners flee the state.
 
State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said she supports graduated tax rates. She said it’s time to have a conversation about changing Illinois' existing flat tax rate of 4.95 percent – increased from 3.75 percent last summer – to a structure with different rates based on an individual’s income. She said that’s the case in 30 other states.
 
“Most residents [in states with a progressive tax] are paying less than 4.95 [percent], and a small percentage of people are paying a few percentage points higher,” Bush said. “I think that’s fair.”
 
While Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker has called for a progressive income tax in Illinois, he hasn't detailed specific rates or income levels.
 
Standing alongside his GOP colleagues, state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said state residents are still dealing with the consequences of the income tax increase last summer.
 
“I mean, enough is enough,” Rose said. “You’re not even a single fiscal year complete since the Democrats’ tax increase went into effect and they want another one.”
 
Last summer’s income tax increase from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent for individuals and 5.25 percent to 7 percent for corporations was done over Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto. Some Republicans did support the override.
 
Democrats now want to have a conversation about a progressive tax, Bush said. Some suggested that could hurt Illinois' chances of landing Amazon's second headquarters and its thousands of high-paying jobs.
 
“We know that we have problems in the state of Illinois, but I can tell you we sure won’t fix them if we continue to pass resolutions when the other side has an idea to talk about,” Bush said.
 
Republicans said they’ve got ideas to fix Illinois’ problems, like reforms to lower workers compensation costs and the state’s second-highest-in-the-nation property taxes, but those have fallen on deaf ears.
 
House Republicans made a stronger show of force last week, effectively killing any progressive tax resolution from that chamber, but Senate Republicans don’t have the numbers to kill a Senate effort.
 
State Sen. Michael Connelly, R-Naperville, said they are trying to get some Democratic support to oppose a progressive income tax.

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Macomb City-Wide Cleanup announced

The City of Macomb Public Works Department has released details about its Spring City-Wide Cleanup. It will take place May 14-17, followed by a second pickup on the Monday route on May 21.

 

Residents should not place trash and refuse curbside earlier than 48 hours before their regular garbage pickup day. Clean up begins at 6:00 a.m. on your normal pick up day. refuse and trash should be placed in containers or bundles weighing less than 50 pounds.  Sturdy bags, including plastic trash bags, will be permitted containers for this event only.  “White goods” and bulk items are to be placed as close to the curb as possible. Loose refuse and electronics are not permitted.

 

Other items not included in the pick up are:  Yard Waste, Liquid Waste (paint, motor oil, thinner), Hazardous Waste (gasoline, propane, chemical wastes, insecticides/pesticides), Electronics (TV’s, Computers, Fax/Copy Machines, Cell Phones, Stereo Equipment), Tires, Batteries, Large Auto Parts, Construction and Demolition Debris, or Concrete Preparation.
 
In a press release, the Macomb Public Works Department noted that some residents tend to wait until after the crews have passed their home to first place their trash and refuse outside. This forces these crews to retrace their steps, which requires additional time and resources to be dedicated to this event. 
 
Macomb Mayor Mike Inman highlighted the need for residents to place their trash and refuse outside at the proper time.
 
“This is a beneficial service provided to the community," Inman said. "On-time placement of refuse and trash keeps the cost down and reduces the neighborhood unsightliness associated with the program.”
 
Those with further questions can contact the City of Macomb Public Works Department at (309) 833-2821. 

 

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Illinois farmers off to a late start, but no need to worry yet

Illinois farmers are off to a late start.  
 
April is the month in Illinois for planting corn. But so far this month, it has been wet and cold. 
 
Mark Schleusener with USDA's agriculture statistics office in Springfield said as of Monday, farmers have planted less than 1 percent of the state's corn crop. 
 
"We are a little bit behind, but it's not a lot. It's certainly too early to worry, in my opinion," Schleusener said. "For instance, over the last five years at approximately this date, we've had an average of about four percent of corn acres planted."
 
Schleusener said farmers start to worry about corn once they get to May. Beans aren't due to be planted for a few weeks. 
 
The problem is it is still wet and cold across large parts of Illinois. 
 
Schleusener said there is one good thing about all the late winter/early spring rain and snow.
 
"Sixty five percent of Illinois soil has adequate moisture, 32 percent is surplus," Schleusener said. "So 97 percent of our soil moisture in Illinois is adequate or surplus."
 
Schleusener said farmers in the state don't have to worry about drought, at least for now. 

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Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center announces upcoming area blood drives

The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center has released information about seven upcoming blood drives in the Macomb area. Four will be in Macomb, with one also in Bushnell, one in Sciota and one in Avon. 

 

Potential donors must be at least 17 years of age (16 with parental permission form available through www.bloodcenter.org) and weigh more than 110 pounds. A photo I.D. is required to donate. For questions about eligibility, please call the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center at (800) 747-5401.

 

In chronological order, the upcoming blood drives are: 

 

Wednesday, April 25: WIU Delta Sigma Pi Blood Drive (5th Floor Meeting Room, Stipes Hall, Macomb)

-10:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

-To donate, please contact Jacob Hensley at jt-hensley@wiu.edu or visit www.bloodcenterimpact.org and use code 1120D to locate the drive.

 

Friday, April 27:  Isabelle Duffy Memorial Blood Drive (1520 W. Jackson St., Macomb, inside MVRBC Donor Room.)

-3:00 pm - 7:00 pm

- To donate, please contact Niki Duffy at (309) 297-0648 or visit www.bloodcenterimpact.org and use code 1484 to locate the drive.

 

Monday, April 30: WIU Minority Health Month Community Blood Drive (Heritage Room, University Union, Macomb)

-10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

-To donate, please contact Eli Van Sickel at ea-vansickel@wiu.edu or visit www.bloodcenterimpact.org and use code 3432 to locate the drive.

 

Tuesday, May 1: Bushnell VFW Community Blood Drive (Post Hall, 181 E. Hail Street, Bushnell)

-4:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

-To donate, please contact Ken Morey at (309) 333-9919 or visit www.bloodcenterimpact.org and use code 3113 to locate the drive.

 

Friday, May 4: West Prairie High School Community Blood Drive (Gymnasium, 18575 E. 800th Road, Sciota)

-8:30 am - 1:00 p.m.

-To donate, please contact Regan Chatterton at (309) 456-3750 or visit www.bloodcenterimpact.org and use code 2839 to locate the drive.

 

Monday, May 7: McDonough District Hospital Community Blood Drive (Auditorium, 525 E. Grant, Macomb)

-10:00 am - 1:30 p.m.

-To donate, please contact Sara Robertson at (309) 836-1577 or visit www.bloodcenterimpact.org and use code 1182 to locate the drive.

 

Monday, May 14: Avon Federated Church Community Blood Drive (Fellowship Hall, 206 S. Main St, Avon)

-2:30 pm - 5:15 p.m.

-To donate, please contact Margaret Hickerson at (309) 465-3189 or visit www.bloodcenterimpact.org and use code 2024 to locate the drive.

 

 

 

 

 
 

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Macomb Chamber officially welcomes new Hallmark Store

The Ambassador Committee of the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting today for the recent opening of The Hallmark Gold Crown Store, located within Nostalgia on the Square (129 N. Randolph St., Macomb).

 

Per a Macomb Chamber of Commerce press release, owners, Jon and Lara Dively saw a need to bring back the Hallmark Store after the previous downtown Macomb location closed this past December. The Hallmark Gold Crown Store carries a full line of greeting cards; including Free Card Friday in store offers, gift wrap, holiday décor, and more.  

 

For the newly expanded hours of operation and information about the business, contact (309) 837-1122.

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'Stuff the Bus' brings over 3,500 food items to local food pantries

The results from the 2018 "Stuff the Bus, Get Off Your Cans," food drive are in. A total of 3,583 non-perishable food items and nearly $1,580 were collected at the April 11 event.

 

The donations were given to the Loaves and Fishes, Etc. and Western Illinois Regional Council – Community Action Agency (WIRC-CAA) food pantries. A small amount of the food items were given to the new WIU Food Pantry, opened recently on the Western Illinois University campus. 

 

Since 2008, over 100,000 pounds of food have been collected during this local food drive. 

 

The list of local organizations that helped with this year's event includes: Western Illinois University, Western Illinois University Housing and Dining, Go West Transit, the Office of Student Activities, Western's All Volunteer Effort, the Latin American Student Organization, Alpha Psi Lambda, Eta Sigma Gamma, Alpha Sigma Tau, Love Me Naturally, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the National Association of Colored Women's Club, the Black Student Association,the Communication Student Society, the WIU Equestrian Club, the WIU Food Pantry, Gamma Phi Omega, the Psychology Graduate Program, Women in Business, the Severe Weather Club, Western's 1st Generation Society, Golden Key International Honour Society, the Preeminent Ladies Society, Lambda Theta Alpha, the National Association of Black Journalists, Reedeem Christian Fellowship, Bayliss-Henninger, Thompson, Corbin-Olson, Tanner and Lincoln-Washington-Grote halls, the University Union, NTN Bower, Buffalo Wild Wings, Lakeview Nature Center, McDonough District Hospital, Walmart, Hy-Vee, County Market, Jackson Street Market and the Sodexo Management Team.

 

 

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New measure would craft economic development plan for Illinois border towns

A state senator whose district borders Indiana wants the state to highlight economic development tools to grow businesses in Illinois, but only for bordering communities.
 
State Sen. Elgie Sims’ Senate Bill 3285 would have the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity develop a plan to help municipalities located geographically close to bordering states compete for businesses.
 
He said it’s a great first step.
 
“Many baby steps. I think we should have an economic strategy that protects homegrown businesses from being poached from wherever,” Sims said.
 
But why not the whole state?
 
“We can certainly use this as a pilot to grow out for an economic development strategy for the entire state, but I want to make sure I’m protecting my constituents,” Sims, D-Chicago, said.
 
Sims’ measure doesn’t address Illinois’ highest-in-the-nation property taxes, something state Rep. Sheri Jesiel said taxpayers in her border community are being hit with.
 
“The same is true for the businesses in my district that are forced to reconsider their location, or who won’t come to my district at all because of the tax burden,” Jesiel, R-Winthrop Harbor, said last week about the state’s tax burden. “This is just property taxes that we’re talking about.”
 
Illinois Manufacturers Association Vice President Mark Denzler has repeatedly said Illinois’ business climate as a whole is overly burdensome to the point where businesses such as manufacturers go to other states.
 
“Everyone of our neighboring states have added at least twice the number of manufacturing jobs as Illinois,” Denzler said earlier this month during a news conference opposing overregulation.
 
Republicans have for years been pushing for a variety of reforms to grow more businesses in Illinois like property tax reduction, regulation overhaul and reforms to lower Illinois workers’ compensation costs, which are higher than surrounding states.

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Macomb Kiwanis to hold 69th Annual Pancake Day Thursday

The Macomb Kiwanis Club will hold its 69th Annual Pancake Day on Thursday, April 19. The all-day event is the club's major annual fundraiser, enabling Macomb Kiwanis to partner with local organizations that benefit kids. 

 

Pancakes and sausages will be served from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at the American Legion Post 6 (221, E. Washington Street, Macomb). There is a $5 donation at the door, with kids five and under free. 

 

For more details on the event check out Macomb Kiwanis on Facebook and online. You can also listen to my interview with Casey Grant, of Macomb Kiwanis. 

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Partnering For Health Equity – IDPH celebrates National Minority Health Month

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is helping spread awareness about health issues that impact minority communities at higher rates than others during National Minority Health Month.

 

Per an IDPH press release, Illinois’s racial and ethnic minorities make up 39 percent of the state’s population, but share higher rates of disease burden such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke, HIV, substance abuse, infant mortality, and low birth weight. Although health indicators such as life expectancy and infant mortality have improved for most Americans, minorities still experience shorter life expectancy and higher rates of disability compared with non-minorities.

 

“We are committed to the vital work of raising awareness through outreach and education, and fostering public/private partnerships across the state in order to advance health equity and eliminate health disparities” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D in the release.  “I also want to recognize our valuable partners who are committed to the cause and doing great work in our communities.”
 
IDPH is holding events throughout the state this month to help spread awareness on these issues. Locally, there will be events in Beardstown the next two weeks. 
 
On Friday, April 20, there will be a National Minority Health Month Open House at the Cass County Health Department (8590 St. Lukes Drive, Beardstown). On Tuesday, April 24 at the JBS Meat Packing Plant (8295 Arenzville Rd, Beardstown), there will be a National Minority Health Month Outreach. There volunteers will distribute information on HIV and Hepatitis B to JBS Workers, and will provide prevention information and testing resources. That will be 1-4 p.m. that day. 
 
 
 
 

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Proposed regulations on Illinois oil refineries could increase gas prices

A measure that passed out of an Illinois state Senate committee last week could lead to higher gas prices for consumers, according to some opponents of the bill.
 
Senate Bill 2480 would require certain safety training for employees at oil refineries operating in the state of Illinois.
 
“As we all know, once these plants have issues, if there’s fire, if there’s spills, it causes surrounding impacts on communities that are around these refineries,” state Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, said.
 
The measure also requires prevailing wage to be paid at privately funded refineries.
Illinois Petroleum Council’s Jim Watson said that will increase production costs.
 
State Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, said that translates into higher prices at the pump.
 
“Well, I think that’s self evident,” Oberweis said. “If you increase the cost of producing it, those who are producing it have to charge a higher price if they want to stay in business. The consumer is the one who pays for that, or to the degree that it’s the state [buying higher priced gasoline], it’s the taxpayers who pay for it.”
 
Added regulations, he said, won't help the state.
 
“This is just a typical, normal situation that this legislature is creating for a hostile business environment in Illinois,” Oberweis said. “I’m getting sick and tired of seeing businesses move because this legislature creates an anti-business environment in the state of Illinois.”
 
Illinois Association of Convenience Stores Executive Vice President Bill Fleischli also said if labor costs go up, the price of the product goes up.
 
Fleischli said people will shop around, including in neighboring states with lower gas taxes, for cheaper fuel. That doesn’t just mean consumers could go to another state for cheaper gas from convenience stores.
 
“[Convenience stores] have good food, we have good products, and people will buy other things and if you’re out of line with your main product they will go to other facilities to get other things,” Fleischli said.
 
The measure passed out of committee last week and awaits a full vote in the Senate.

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Western Illinois University offering free agriculture credits for Iowa, Illinois students in Quad Cities

High school students in the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois can earn free college credits in agriculture from Western Illinois University.
 
Andrew Baker, director of the School of Agriculture at Western Illinois University, said the free tuition was an incentive to enroll and was made possible through a donation by the Moline Foundation.
 
“The free portion of the offering was through the donation from the Moline Foundation, and they thought it was important to get kind of this pilot program started,” Baker said.
 
Baker said there are pockets of students at high schools in the area who are interested in agriculture, whether it be through hunting and fishing, or just a love of animals.
 
“So, there are these students that we perceive that are really not being served at their particular high school and we want to at least give that opportunity to those students,” Baker said.
 
The program is set to start next fall, and Baker said the planning process took about two years and involved coordinating between the Illinois and Iowa school systems. Baker said about 50 percent of the curriculum usually includes lab time at a university farm, but the school’s Quad Cities campus does not have a university farm.
 
“We are trying to kind of work through and tweak a little bit on how we are going to be able to do that,” Baker said. “So, most of the students are going to be able to see a video instead of the real, live animal.”
 
Baker said no matter what side of the state the students are on, students should get an opportunity to learn about agriculture.
 
“For both sides, it does not matter if they go to an Iowa school or an Illinois school,” Baker said. “There are students that really just need the opportunity to explore the agricultural career field.”

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Illinois lawmakers to vote on local net neutrality

Illinois lawmakers are in the process of creating their own set of net neutrality standards similar to the ones rolled back by the Trump Administration.
 
State Rep. Ann Williams’ bill that awaits a House vote after being approved by the House Cybersecurity, Data Analytics, & IT Committee wouldn’t regulate an internet service provider, or ISP, in the way that net neutrality did. Instead, it will hold state contracts with those companies contingent on whether they abide by the now-rolled back Obama-era requirements that treat their service similar to public utilities.
 
In committee, Williams, D-Chicago, said companies don’t currently throttle their service or engage in other anti-consumer practices, but she says this would force them not to in the future if they wanted state business.
 
“There’s no action if you maintain the status quo,” she said. “We can and frequently do hold companies to that higher standard.”  
 
Thirty-three other states have considered similar laws.
 
Republican lawmakers questioned the effort to subvert President Donald Trump’s FCC, saying the rule changes in 2017 specifically prohibit states from implementing their own rules for ISPs.
 
“This is making more regulation that doesn’t adhere to any other state’s regulations and will become complicated and cumbersome for everybody,” said Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, who also owns an IT firm.
 
Industry representatives warned that any attempt by the state to regulate the internet would be challenged in court.
 
“Attempts by individual states to pass disparate legislation would result in a patchwork of possibly inconsistent state laws that would be virtually impossible to implement,” said Randy Nehrt, president of the Illinois Telecommunications Association, adding that an ISP would be hurting its customer base by reducing bandwidth on popular products.
 
Twenty-two attorneys general, including Lisa Madigan, have sued to reinstate net neutrality.
 
The bill also would require ISPs to disclose their practices on their website. Any breach of the potential law would allow the attorney general to go after the company in an Illinois circuit court.
 

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Macomb High School students volunteer at MDH

Pictured (L-R): MYLO student volunteers Nicole Lester, Lacie Skees, Joe Musick and Anna Dively.

Youth volunteers from Macomb High School’s Macomb Youth Leadership Organization (MYLO) spent time volunteering at McDonough District Hospital recently. 

 

Projects included assembling patient admitting bags, folding patient information brochures and stuffing envelopes. Nicole Lester, a Macomb High School senior and MYLO member, led the project. 

 

The MYLO program is designed to designed to provide youth with exposure to the community and adult role models and to develop life skills. The University of Illinois Extension three-tier program begins with sophomore students and then progresses through their senior year. It advances youth from understanding leadership, mentee a community member and then completing a service project.

 

Local teens interested in volunteering at McDonough District Hospital can participate in the annual Summer Volunteen Program that runs June 11-July 27. Applications, and other information about MDH, can be found at MDH.org, or by contacting MDH Volunteer Coordinator Meagan Wohlfeil at (309) 836-1579. The 2018 application deadline is May 14.

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Agenda for April 16 Macomb City Council Meeting released

Below is the agenda for the Monday, April 16 Macomb City Council Meeting of the Whole. The meeting will take place at 5:15 p.m. in Macomb City Hall. 

 

AGENDA
MACOMB CITY COUNCIL
MONDAY, APRIL 16, 2018
MACOMB CITY HALL
5:15 P.M.
 
MEETING CALLED TO ORDER
PLEDGE
ROLL CALL 
 
CONSENT AGENDA
 
Minutes of the Macomb City Council meeting held on Monday, April 2, 2018 and Committee of the Whole meetings held on Monday, April 9, 2018.
 
Claims and Accounts
 
Department Reports: Police Department
 
Accept and place on file Treasurer Report for March 2018
 
PUBLIC COMMENTS
 
UNFINISHED BUSINESS
 
Presentation from Keith Plavec from Maurer Stutz on the Water Facilities plan.
 
Consideration to award the 2018 Street Improvement project – North Randolph Street to Gunther Construction in the amount of $400,877.13.
Attached is a memo from PW Director Coker for your review. Final action will be in order.
 
Consideration of an ordinance to adopt a budget for the City of Macomb, McDonough County, Illinois for the fiscal year commencing May 1, 2018 and ending April 30, 2019.
This ordinance will be presented for second reading and final approval.
 
Consideration of an ordinance to amend the city fee schedule increasing debt service fees for water service by amending 24-3(G), increasing bulk water rate by amending 24-3(O) and to increase solid water collection fees by amending 24-1(A) of the Municipal Code. 
This ordinance will be presented for second reading and final approval.
 
Consideration of an ordinance to amend Section 4-117 of Chapter 4 of the Municipal Code of Macomb, Illinois pertaining to the possession and consumption of alcohol on property belonging to the City of Macomb.
This ordinance will be presented for first reading. A copy is attached for your review.
 
Other unfinished business.
 
NEW BUSINESS
 
Consideration to approve the dates of May 14 through 17, 2018 with a second pickup in the northwest quadrant on Monday, May 21, 2018 for City Wide Clean Up.
Attached is a memo from PW Director Coker for your review Final action will be in order.
Agenda
April 16, 2018
Page 2
 
 
Consideration to authorize a 3% cost of living increase for City of Macomb regular full-time and regular part-time non-union personnel effective May 1, 2018.
A memo from CA Torreson is attached for your review. Final action will be in order.
 
Consideration to approve the end of year transfers.
Attached is a memo from Business Office Manager Rhoads show the transfers for your review. Final action will be in order.
 
Consideration to approve a change order up to $7,000.00 from Fusion Tech for the Water Plant Lime Silo access staircase.
Water Plant Manager Cox will provide information at the meeting. Final action will be in order.
 
Other new business.
 
COMMITTEE REPORTS
 
ALDERMANIC REPORTS
 
MAYORAL APPOINTMENTS
 
Reappoint Al Reusch to Macomb Police Pension Board
Reappoint Ron Runser to Macomb Zoning Board of Appeals
 
EXECUTIVE SESSION
 
a) Appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of an employee of the public body or legal counsel for the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c) (1) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
b) Collective Bargaining matters between the public body and its employees or 
representatives or deliberations concerning salary schedules for one or more classes of employees, pursuant to Sec. 2(c) (2) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
c) The purchase or lease of real property for the use of the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c) (5) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
d) The setting of a price for sale or lease of property owned by the public body, 
pursuant to Sec. 2(c) (6) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
e) Pending or probable litigation, pursuant to Sec. 2(c) (11) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
COUNCIL ADJOURNMENT 
 

 

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Synthetic marijuana linked to severe bleeding hasn't hit West Central IL: mostly in Peoria, East Peoria and Chicago

Illinois has a serious problem with synthetic marijuana tainted with rat poison. But it is not a statewide problem. 
 
Eleven of the state's 102 counties have reported a single case of severe bleeding linked to synthetic marijuana. 
 
Chicago, Peoria and East Peoria have seen the bulk of the cases. 
 
"Most of the cases that we've seen have been in the Chicago, Cook County, and collar county area," Melanie Arnold with the Illinois Department of Public Health said. "As well as the Peoria County area."
 
The IDPH's numbers show that the city of Chicago, and Peoria and Tazewell counties account for more than 100 of the 120-plus bleeding cases in the state.
 
Arnold said the department and the Centers for Disease Control are focusing their efforts in those areas. 
 
"The Illinois Department of Public Health has sent people to the Peoria area to work with the local health department," Arnold. 
 
Arnold said that while most Illinois counties have not seen a case of bleeding after using synthetic, the IDPH is warning everyone across the state about the dangers of the fake pot. 
 
Three people in Illinois have died from smoking synthetic marijuana. 

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Illinois lottery winners could be anonymous under proposed law

A lottery jackpot win in Illinois could become a private affair.
 
Illinois lawmakers are moving ahead with a plan that would allow any lottery winner of more than $250,000 to remain anonymous, including winners of the massive Mega Millions and Powerball lottery drawings.
 
State Sen. Laura Murphy, D-Des Plaines, is pushing for the legislation because some winners become targets when they’ve been publicly named as multi-millionaires.
 
“Seventy percent wind up to be prey to all kinds of scams,” she said.
 
Her bill was approved 12-1 in the Senate Gaming Committee on Wednesday. Under the bill’s language, a jackpot winner would formally request anonymity through the state’s Lottery director.
 
Nearly a third of lottery winners declare bankruptcy, according to the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.
 
State Sen. Tom Rooney, R-Palatine, sympathized with the millionaires getting scammed, but said there should be no secrecy in dealing with a public entity.
 
“A lottery is a public process,” he said. “I don’t see why somebody gets to keep what should essentially be public information private.”
 
Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina all allow for jackpot winners to remain anonymous.

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New plan would guarantee Illinois teacher pay starts at $40,000 a year

A new plan at the Illinois Capitol could require local school districts to give some teachers a raise, but doesn't provide any additional funding to do so. 
 
The average teacher salary in Illinois is $64,516, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. Starting teacher salaries are often about half that. 
 
A plan at the statehouse would require schools to start teachers at $40,000 a year. 
 
State Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, a former teacher, said the bill would end Illinois' teacher shortage. 
 
"People say they're the education this, and the education that," Scherer said of lawmakers who claim to support teachers. "But when it is time to put their money where their mouth is, we can't afford it."
 
Some local school district officials say they don't have the money. 
 
Streator High School Superintendent Matt Seaton said he starts new teachers at $34,357. The the district pays $3,565 in pension contributions. 
 
"We would obviously be affected by this," Seaton said in an email. "This takes out a part of the local control that is important for boards of education to have.  I would prefer to deal with this issue locally in conjunction with my local union."
 
Seaton said Scherer and other lawmakers are expecting local schools to come up with this money on their own. 
 
"This is an unfunded mandate," Seaton said. "I have not seen any additional funding to support this type of a pay increase outside of the new evidence-based model that has a regional multiplier built into it to take into account the differences in teachers' salaries across the state."
 
It's not just teacher salaries that Illinois needs to look at, said Andrew Nelms with Americans for Prosperity In Illinois. 
 
He said taxpayers pay for teacher salaries, benefits, and pensions in the state. A significant portion of schools' revenue coming from property taxes, which in Illinois are second highest in the nation, according to a new study.
 
Nelms said simply comparing a teachers salary to someone in the private sector is comparing apples and oranges. 
 
"To get a real snapshot of their compensation, you need to look at their total package," Nelms said.
 
Illinois' Teachers' Retirement System is one of the driving factors in the state's worst-in-the-nation pension debt. The state will pay about $4 billion this year for teacher retirements. 
 
The teacher pay plan is headed to the full Illinois House for a possible vote.

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Schuyler County Fair to offer online ticket purchasing

The Schuyler County Fair has opened online ticket purchasing. This is the first year that the fair is utilizing this method of ticket purchasing. 

 

The 2018 Schuyler County Fair (118 N Congress St., Rushville) runs Thursday, June 28 through Wednesday, July 4. The headline act is country music star Travis Tritt, with special guest Drew Baldridge. Season passes to the fair are $30, with tickets for early bird general admission tickets going for $20. That price will increase to $25 after April 14. 

 

People that purchase their tickets online will be entered for various giveaways every two weeks. To purchase tickets visit schuylercountyfair.org

 

For more information on the event, listen to my interview with Chris Clayton from the Schuyler County Fair. 

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Bill to close sex offender registry loophole expected to die in Illinois House committee

Friday is the deadline for bills to move out of Illinois statehouse committees, or the bills will die this session. One measure has overwhelming support, but isn't moving.
 
House Bill 816 gives a judge discretion to require someone convicted of battery to register as a sex offender, if the crime was sexually motivated.
 
The measure has 87 House sponsors from both parties, including House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. It also has backing from police and prosecutors.
 
“We think that if a person commits an offense that was all but a sexual offense, and it was battery and not a sexual offense, then sure let’s put that person on the registry,” Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Director Ed Wojcicki said.
 
Other groups supporting the measure include the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association, the Illinois Probation and Court Services Association, Mothers On a Mission to Stop Violence, Illinois Campus Law Enforcement Administration's Association and police departments from around the state.
 
Despite that support, the bill was not brought up for consideration in a committee this week and isn’t expected to move.
 
The bill has attracted some opposition. Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault is against it.
 
“A conviction for battery is not a conviction for a sex offense,” ICASA Executive Director Polly Poskin said in an email.
 
House Bill 816 is also known as Stephanie's Law, named for Tina Estopare's daughter, who was assaulted by a neighbor several years ago. The neighbor pleaded down to battery and didn’t have to register as a sex offender.
 
“[Stephanie’s Law] is important because there’s a glitch in the sex offender registry,” Wojcicki said.
 
Estopare, who’s been working on the bill for more than four years, said the fact her bill has so many sponsors should be enough to get the measure out of committee.
 
“Eighty-seven co-sponsors, and one person can just say ‘nope, done,' unfair,” Estopare said. “Totally unfair.”
 
The chairman of the House Judiciary Criminal Committee that controls the bill, state Rep. Arthur Turner, D-Chicago, declined to comment on why the measure has stalled.
 
The chief sponsor, state Rep. Natalie Manley, said she’ll file an extension in hopes of getting to the floor for a full vote.
 
Estopare said that's not good enough.
 
“Illinois is hiding the crime, they’re hiding the perpetrator,” Estopare said. “These predators have a society that enables them to get away with their abuse.”
 
She said neighbors deserve to know there’s a predator in their neighborhood and schools should know if someone applying to be a chaperone for school kids has such a conviction.
 
Wojcicki said law enforcement officials work hard to get such criminals off the streets.
 
“The chiefs are out trying to get these guys all the time,” Wojcicki said. “We don’t understand why [the bill is] not being called and we want it to be called.”
If the bill does die this session as is expected, Manley said she’ll push for it next year.
 
“Should my constituents elect me in 2019, I fully intend to move forward and file it every year that I’m here until perhaps we get some consideration on the bill itself,” said Manley, D-Joliet.
 
Dozens of other bills stuck in House and Senate committees that aren’t moved by this Friday, or are not granted a deadline extension, won’t be considered by the full General Assembly.

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Students encouraged to enter Congressional Art Competition by Thursday deadline

High school students across Illinois’ 17th Congressional District are encouraged to submit their original artwork for the annual Congressional Art Competition. The deadline to submit is Thursday, April 12.  There is a limit of one entry per student.

 

“Every year, I’m blown away to see such incredible artwork from students across the 17th Congressional District and I am looking forward to seeing what they do in this year’s Congressional Art Competition,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos in a release. “The Congressional Art Competition is a great opportunity for students’ work to be displayed for thousands of Americans to see in the United States Capitol. I’m honored to help share the work of these amazing young artists from our community with the world.”

 

To enter, students must submit a digital form through Congresswoman Bustos’ website, and also send a digital version of their art to Artwork.Bustos@mail.house.gov. All entries will be posted online for the public to vote for the eventual winner.

 

This national competition began in 1982. One winning piece of artwork from each House district will be selected to be displayed in the Cannon Tunnel of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington for the next year. 

 

The winner of the competition will also win two airline tickets to Washington, D.C. Runners-up will have their artwork displayed in Bustos’ Illinois offices and in her Washington, D.C. office.

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Rauner will send national guard troops to border if requested

Count Illinois National Guard troops in for guarding the nation’s southern border, if an official request is made by the Trump administration.
 
President Donald Trump announced using guard troops to assist border patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border to stem the flow of illegal immigration.
 
While Illinois is far from the border, Gov. Bruce Rauner told reporters in Springfield Tuesday he’d grant the president’s request for Illinois if one were made.
 
“I have not spent any time thinking about it, but frankly the president is the commander in chief of our military,” Rauner said. “President [Barack] Obama sent troops, national guard, to the border. President [George] Bush sent national guard troops to the border.”
 
“Illinois has not been requested to send troops,” Rauner said. “If we are requested, I believe we’d honor that request.”
 
Trump’s plan to use troops to protect the border was in response to congress not approving full funding for a wall along the border. Trump said troops will guard the border until a border wall is built.
 
As for border states, only California has not announced using guard troops along the border.

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WIU RPTA, Macomb Park District, hold Foos for Families Fundraiser

The WIU RPTA Department and the Macomb Park District are hosting a human foosball tournament for a great cause. Foos for Families will take place Sunday, April 29 at Veterans Park in Macomb, benefitting The Center for Youth and Family Solutions.

 

The Foos for Families Facebook event page says the event, "help us raise funds for items like school supplies, winter coats, activity fees, haircuts, hygiene products, cleaning items, fuel cards to attend counseling, and many other everyday needs."

 

The event runs from 2 to 7 p.m. that day. Registration is $5 per person, or $30 per team, before Friday, April 14. Registration gets bumped up to $7 per person, or $40 per team, after Friday. Register online or call (309) 833-4562 to register. 

 

You can learn more about the fundraiser by listening to my interview with Brandy, a WIU student that has helped put this event together. 

 

 

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Fitch ratings agency gives Illinois poor rating, cites political environment

The latest agency to ding Illinois’ coming bond issuance with a near-junk rating is more evidence the state’s finances are a mess, but one solution members of both parties agree with is a balanced budget.
 
Moody’s and S&P issued near-junk ratings of Illinois’ $500 million general obligation bonds last week. Fitch released it’s near-junk rating of BBB with a negative outlook on Monday.
 
“Despite actions taken to significantly increase tax revenues, Illinois remains poorly positioned to address a future economic downturn,” the agency said in a news release.
 
Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs, a Democrat, said there’s consequences for taxpayers when the government’s bonds receive such low ratings.
 
“This is going to mean we are going to pay more in interest payments and that’s less money that could be going to fix our roads, and our bridges and our schools,” he said.
 
Frerichs said a balanced state budget would help improve the state's bond rating in the future.
State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, agreed.
 
“Balanced budget, that’s the answer,” Righter said. “If you don’t balance your budget, then you’ll continue to overspend."
 
Righter said the state’s poor finances were 15 years in the making and won’t be solved overnight. He said the state has no other option but to cut spending and balance the budget.
 
While Illinois’ massive debt was a concern for all three ratings agencies, Fitch also cited the state’s political environment as a negative.
 
“The Negative Outlook reflects uncertainties related to successful implementation of the current year budget and ongoing fiscal management and decision making, particularly given the contentious political environment in the state,” a news release from Fitch said.
 
“Some people may believe that chaos is good for their political agenda, but it’s not good for the state and it’s definitely not good for our credit rating,” Frerichs said.
 
Righter said it was Democrats who after the turn of the century drove the state’s finances downward. Illinois has had a Republican governor and Democratic-controlled legislature for the past three years. The prior 12 years was one-party rule, with Democratic governors (Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn) and Democrats controlling both legislative chambers.
 
“And, yes, the last two or three years we’ve had a bumpy road here. That’s because we’ve got a governor who’s said ‘this needs to stop,’ ” Righter said.
 
Illinois went the first two-and-a-half years under Gov. Bruce Rauner without a budget because of political gridlock at the statehouse. Lawmakers passed a $5 billion tax increase and budget over Rauner’s veto last summer, but that budget remains unbalanced.
 
“The rating will be lowered if the state returns to a pattern of deferring payments for near-term budget balancing and materially increases the accounts payable balance,” according to Fitch. “Specific risks include spending above the level assumed in the budget, a significantly slower revenue growth environment, as well as the re-emergence of a political stalemate that negatively affects fiscal operations.”

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Illinois House Republicans kill progressive income tax proposal

The battle over changing the state constitution to allow a progressive income tax rather than a flat one may be dead on arrival, for now.
 
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, announced Tuesday that 50 of his members are on board with a resolution opposing a tiered income tax structure. Durkin stood alongside several other Republicans in Springfield Tuesday afternoon, saying that with Illinois’ high property taxes and tough business environment, Illinois’ constitutionally mandated flat tax is one of the only good things the state has going.
 
He said he’s confident that House Republican opposition to tiered rates will persist.
 
“Our members feel very strongly about this,” Durkin said. “So I don’t believe anyone who’s added their name to this resolution would change their mind down the road on this.”
 
Durkin said the only Republican who didn’t sign on was state Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights. Harris was one of a group of House Republicans who voted with Democrats to override the governor’s veto of last summer’s $5 billion income tax increase. Harris said Tuesday afternoon that he may sign on to Durkin's bill at some point. He said he wanted to talk to constituents before making a decision.  
 
Any constitutional amendment requires 71 votes in the House. With 50 Republicans opposing a progressive tax, there aren't enough of the 118 House members to advance such a measure out of the chamber.
 
State Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, who supports a progressive income tax, said something has to be done to address the state’s growing debt, or else.
 
“If we sit here at 4.95 percent and say no more taxes, all we’re doing is we’re ensuring that taxes will be higher every year down the line,” Martwick said.
 
Illinois has $130 billion unfunded pension liability, and that number eclipses $200 billion when including fully subsidized state employee retiree health care benefits. The state also has more than $8.3 billion in unpaid bills.
 
Durkin said the fact progressive tax rates haven’t been publicly debated should be a concern. He said last-minute deals are standard operating procedure for the Democratic majority.
 
“[Other legislation from majority Democrats] had little notice to the legislature, no notice to the public, so that should be the greatest fear that there would be no airing of transparency,” Durkin said.
 
Martwick did propose tier rates similar to Wisconsin last year, but that didn’t advance. He said the debate needs to happen.
 
“We need to have an honest, mathematical discussion of what those rates need to be to make sure we’re not accumulating more debt to make things worse for the next generation,” Martwick said.
 
There are two measures in the Senate to ask voters about changing the constitution for a progressive income tax, and one measure in the House. None have advanced out of its respective chamber.

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Macomb Interfaith Alliance to hold Third Annual Community Prayer Breakfast

The Interfaith Alliance of Macomb is continuing its Annual Community Prayer Breakfast. This is the third year of the event, aimed at promoting unity to community members from all religious sects.

 

The event will take place Thursday, May 3 at the Spoon River Community Outreach Center, MidAmerica Bank Conference Hall. Doors open at 7:00 A.M. with food being served at 7:30 A.M.

 

Dr. J.Q. Adams, Professor Emeritus at WIU, will be the keynote speaker.  He will be talking about "Non-violent Communication."   

 

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased from Citizens Bank, at 127 S. Side Square and some area churches.

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MDH Food Service Staff receives Healing Hand Award

The food service staff at McDonough District Hospital has been rewarded with a Healing Hand award, an honor within the MDH Grateful Patient Program.

 

Per an MDH release, a recent Grateful Patient thanked the Food Service Staff for knowing their preferences and going above and beyond what was expected.

 

The Grateful Patient Program provides an opportunity for patients and/or families to show their gratitude and appreciation in honor of the excellent care received by a physician, nurse, staff member, volunteer or area of care. In addition to recognizing a Healing Hand, patients and/or families may make a financial contribution to support an area of care or direct their gift to a more specific cause.
 
To learn more about the Grateful Patient Program at MDH, contact the Foundation office at (309) 836-1757.

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Illinois lawmakers to once again debate moving school notices online

Illinois lawmakers are once again going to debate whether to let schools post public notices online rather than in the local newspaper. 
 
The almost annual fight over school transparency comes down to two things: Cost and technology. 
 
School leaders say its costs too much to post every public notice in the newspaper.
 
State Rep. Dave Severin, R-Marion, said it's time to let school districts embrace the 21st Century. He wants to let schools post public notices solely online. 
 
"I think this is the way to do it now," Severin told lawmakers Tuesday at the Capitol. "Like I said, newspapers were the way to do this when this law was first made."
 
State Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, said not every parent or voter has access to the internet, and may not see notices that are posted online. 
 
"If a day comes where literally everyone has access to the internet, and the internet is free, then I'd be OK with that," Scherer said. 
 
Newspaper owners and their representatives at the Capitol also don't want schools to go exclusively online. The Illinois Press Association's Josh Sharp told lawmakers they have concerns about the transparency record of local school districts.
 
"Eighty nine percent of schools posted timely notice of meetings," Sharp said. "However, the required agenda postings was only 69 percent and meeting minutes was kind of low at 62 percent. I think we're a long way away from trusting local government to reliably post this information online."
 
Illinois newspapers receive money from the law requiring school districts to pay for printing public notices. 
 
The plan is headed to the full House, but a number of lawmakers say they may not support it when it gets there. 

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WCI Arts Center to hold performance about Patsy Cline, Hank Williams

The West Central Illinois Arts Center (25 E. Side Square, Macomb) will hold an event about the lives and music of country music legends Patsy Cline and Hank Williams on Friday, April 13. The event, titled 'When Patsy Met Hank,' takes the audience through an evening of stories, songs, and memories. 

 

The performance stars Lysa Fox as Cline, and Bill Maakestad as Williams. The duo will also work with Randy Smith, Jim Betts, Matt Hughes and Byron McChord on the performance. 

 

Doors on Friday open at 6:30 p.m. Food will be available at the Boss Food Truck, which will be parked outside the WCI Arts Center. A cash bar will be available in the Arts Center's Blue Skies Room. 

 

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Tickets are available at the Arts Center during gallery hours (11-3 Tu-Fr), at wciarts.org, and at the door. 

 

For more information on the event listen to my interview with Fox and Maakestad. 

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Illinois lawmakers discuss prescription drug plan control

Illinois lawmakers are considering restrictions to prescription drugs that an insurer can remove from some coverage plans mid-way through a year. The proposed legislation is billed as a consumer protection, but opponents say it could send drug prices soaring after locking in a year of no competition or recourse for price hikes.
 
The bill would ban an insurance provider from modifying an enrollee's coverage of a drug during the plan year if the drug was previously approved for coverage.
 
Currently, insurance companies are able to change what drugs they cover midway through a year, possibly forcing the patient to pay thousands of dollars for an off-plan drug or switch to a different one, proponents at the House Insurance Committee said.
 
“The goal is to control the costs for the patients so they can get through their contract year,” state Rep. Laura Fine, D-Glenview, said of her bill. “Your insurance company can change the formulary mid-year and then there’s nothing you can do about it.”
 
Opponents warned that the bill would cause prices to go up for select drugs the bill applied to, allowing for price gouging with little recourse.  
 
“It allows a pharmaceutical manufacturer to increase its price over and over again within a year with no consequence,” pharmacist Abigail Stoddard with Prime Therapeutics said.
 
The plan would only affect a small portion, about 17 percent, of Illinois’ healthcare market. If passed, it would provide for a generic substitution.
 
Scott Woods with the Association of Pharmacy Benefit Managers asked why Fine’s bill would exclude some of the state’s most vulnerable from the consumer protection.
 
“Why is Medicaid not included?” he asked. “Why are state employees not included?”
 
House Bill 4146 passed committee and now awaits a full house vote.

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Rauner on unity tour, Republican detractors react

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s biggest Republican detractors say they will vote for him, but that the governor has a lot of explaining to do.
 
Rauner said Friday and said it again Monday he’s meeting with Republicans around the state.
 
“I’ve been traveling the state meeting with elected officials, Republican activists, grassroots activists, as well as Democrats, as well as business owners, as well as community leaders, to talk about the importance of coming together to change our system,” Rauner said Monday.
 
Rauner said he also reached out to his primary opponent, state Rep. Jeanne Ives, after beating her by only a few percentage points in last month's primary.
 
Ives, R-Wheaton, said she hasn’t talked with Rauner. She said Rauner has a lot to do to win over voters who supported her in the primary.
 
“He’s gonna have to figure out how to message to them that he’s an honest broker when it comes to policy and other concerns with our party platform,” Ives said Monday. “That’s where we broke ranks.”
 
State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, who supported Ives in the primary, said Rauner has a lot of work to do to win over Ives' supporters.
 
“And so far his effort has just been kind of how he governs, from away and from a 5,000 foot level, not here with us,” Skillicorn said.
 
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, agreed.
 
“[Rauner’s] words really mean nothing,” McSweeney said Monday. “Policy actions. He needs to have a forceful program beyond the watered-down version, taking [House Speaker Michael] Madigan’s policies on the pension cost shift, supporting the Madigan revenue on taxes.”
 
Rauner has proposed shifting pensions costs to local schools districts over four years, a plan similar to one pitched by Madigan a few years ago. Rauner also supported an income tax last year if Democrats would compromise on some of his economic reforms. The governor eventually vetoed the $5 billion tax increase and budget bills but was overridden.
 
“He needs to really cut spending,” McSweeney said. “Really reform pensions, really reform Medicaid.”
 
McSweeney said he’ll vote for Rauner, saying Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker would be a “disaster” for Illinois.
 

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IDPH: Third death connected to synthetic cannabinoids

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported a third synthetic cannabinoid-related death Monday. The use of synthetic cannabinoids, often called Spice, K2, or fake weed, has resulted in a recent spike in cases of severe bleeding. 107 people in central Illinois and the Chicago area have experienced severe bleeding after using synthetic cannabinoids, including the three deaths.  

 
Two of the deaths occurred in men who were in their 20s; the third was a man in his 40s. 
 
“Each day we’ve seen the number of cases rise,” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D., in an IDPH release.  “Synthetic cannabinoids are unsafe.  They are not regulated and people don’t know what chemicals may be in them, like rat poison.  While efforts are underway to get the contaminated drugs out of circulation, it’s possible they could re-emerge.  We urge people not to use synthetic cannabinoids, now or ever.”  
 
Per the report, numerous people who have experienced synthetic cannabinoid-related severe bleeding, have tested positive for brodifacoum, a lethal anticoagulant often used in rat poison. 
 
Anyone who has a reaction to synthetic cannabinoids, such as severe bleeding, should call 911 or have someone take them to the emergency department immediately.
 
The number of cases and counties of residence are posted on the IDPH website at 1:30 p.m. each weekday.
 

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Gambling opponents worry about the lure of sports betting

Will legalizing sports betting in Illinois lead to fewer teens betting on games online?
 
That's the question anti-gambling advocates and state lawmakers are trying to answer. 
 
If the U.S. Supreme Court allows for sports betting in the states, and if Illinois legalizes sports books, then only adults will be able to bet on games. 
 
But what about young people? Anita Bedell with the anti-gambling group ILCAAAP told lawmakers at a hearing last week that young men are particularly vulnerable to sports gambling. 
 
"Teens are gambling online at a significantly higher rate. A study from Science Daily said nearly 10 percent of high school students are gambling online. And nearly 40 percent are gambling in any form," Bedell said. "A growing number of teens are betting on sports. That puts them at risk of having gambling problems."
 
That's why Illinois should legalize sports betting, said state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford. If it is legal, the state can create rules for who can bet and where they can bet. 
 
"I think you made a strong case that we have a problem with internet gaming from off-shore," Syverson told Bedell. "Which is why we're talking about ways to block illegal [gambling]. Then if the state develops its own sports books, we'd put our own regulations on it. You should be supportive of what we're trying to do." 
 
Illinois' proposal would allow casinos to create their own sports books, and would leave the door open to betting kiosks across the state.
 
The plan hinges on a U.S. Supreme Court case on a state's right to gambling, Christie vs NCAA, which will be decided this summer. 

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At tax time, heirs of farmland can face tough choices

Illinois collected more than $1.5 billion from taxing assets that are handed down from generation to generation, according to the past five years of data, a practice that advocates for farmers say can cripple the family business.
 
Twelve states and Washington D.C. tax inheritance, according to the Tax Foundation. In Illinois, it’s called the estate tax. It kicks in at $4 million and has rates up to 16 percent. While many Illinoisans don’t expect to inherit that much, the value of farms passed down through generations can easily surpass that.
 
“Just like small businessmen, farmers can be considered asset rich, but cash poor,” said farmer Dennis Verbeck, who is president of the Henry County Farm Bureau.
 
State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, also farms the southern Illinois ground his family has owned for more than a century. He said the farmland has already been taxed.
 
“We don’t think of [farmland] as an asset. It is a family member,” he said. “It is the one that has provided for this family for generations.”
 
Verbeck said today’s tight commodity market is leading to farms being sold off when they’re hit with an estate tax charge.
 
“I know of four farms this year that don’t have the financing and are going to have to liquidate,” he said.
 
The Illinois Farm Bureau has long advocated that Illinois address the estate tax and its effect on family farms.
 
“Corn and soybean production have been very difficult, meaning farmers are not sitting on a lot of cash needed to potentially pay these large tax bills,” said Bill Bodine, associate director of state legislation for the Illinois Farm Bureau.
 
Similar to a federal tax bill, Illinois allows incremental payments of an estate tax bill.
 
There has been a recent shift away from the estate tax. Indiana repealed its estate tax in 2013.
 
The federal government doubled the threshold in which the tax takes place as part of last year’s tax code overhaul.
 
Springfield has yet to act on bills filed this session that would mitigate these taxes. Opponents of repealing an estate tax point to a historical inequality bred by generations of wealth passed down to heirs.
 
Attorney General collections of estate tax by year.
 
2012 - $273 million
2013 - $243 million
2014 - $317 million
2015 - $341 million
2016 - $317 million

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Illinois stakeholders lay out possible impact to state from Trump's infrastructure plan

Illinois lawmakers are hearing the good and the bad of President Donald Trump's 10-year, $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan.
 
Trump’s plan would not replace existing infrastructure programs that states and local governments are already taking part in. It would be in addition to those programs with the federal government offering up $200 billion and state and local governments making up the rest.
 
The Illinois House Transportation: Regulation, Roads & Bridges Committee heard Wednesday from Illinois stakeholders about what the plan would mean for Illinois during a hearing in Chicago.
 
While there are big ideas and incentives laid out for increasing state and local infrastructure investment, Illinois Roads and Transportation Builders Association President and CEO Michael Sturino said one benefit of Trump’s plan is relaxing regulations to get jobs approved and completed in a timely manner.
 
“Those regulatory barriers, they just put less work out there,” Sturino said. “There was continued deterioration of infrastructure, delays and outright inability to reduce congestion, so [relaxing regulations is] very welcomed.”
 
One part of Trump's plan that Sturino said likely won’t help Illinois is the tens of billions of dollars the federal government proposes setting aside for rural projects.
 
“This is really going to go to more of the Wyomings, and the Oklahomas, and the Dakotas, those very sparsely populated states,” Sturino said.
 
Metropolitan Planning Council’s Audrey Wennink criticized part of the plan she said prioritizes highly innovative projects like “space travel from New York to L.A. to allow trips within 30 minutes.”
 
“These are really out-there ideas that they are looking for,” Wennink said. “Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, which has not been tested anywhere yet.”
 
Wennink added: “That does not bode well for large legacy transportation systems like ours that have a lot of traditional maintenance needs."
 
Other Illinois’ infrastructure stakeholders worry the state’s poor financial position could mean it will miss out on federal infrastructure dollars included in Trump’s plan.
 
Trump’s proposal for the additional funding relies more on local and state dollars than federal dollars, with an 80/20 split.
 
Chicagoland Laborers Executive Director Allison Howlett said that means the state needs to figure out its infrastructure funding situation quickly.
 
“Kicking the can down the road doesn’t help anyone and now potentially could result in Illinois leaving the few federal dollars available to us on the table,” Howlett said.
 
Illinois has an $8 billion backlog of unpaid bills, a more than $200 billion unfunded public sector pension and retiree healthcare liability, and a fiscal year budget that’s more than $1 billion out of balance.
 
Illinois Chamber of Commerce’s Ben Brockschmidt said while there are incentives for more public-private partnerships, his members don’t see that as a secondary source of funding.
 
“From talking with our members who build, design and finance infrastructure projects, those types of incentives and approaches really are best when done as a supplement to funding,” Brockschmidt said.
 
While Brockschmidt said there are other things that could benefit Illinois, neither the administration nor Congress has put out any further details.

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MDH Linda's Fund receives donation from Macomb Pella

 
Pictured are (l-r): Jill Cook (MDH Foundation Coordinator), Pella representatives Dan Brown, JT Duffy and Dan Duffy, and MDH Foundation Specialist Patty Henness.

Following a recent fundraiser, Pella in Macomb donated $600 to McDonough District Hospital Linda’s Fund.

 

Linda’s Fund provides financial support to breast cancer patients living in the MDH service area and who are using the services of McDonough District Hospital. Linda’s Fund was established in honor of Linda (Ren) Bainter by her family in 2008. It has attracted the support of schools, community groups, and individuals who have held philanthropic events.

 

The application process for Linda's Fund is not based on income. It is is seperate from MDH financial assistance. For more information, contact the Foundation office at (309) 836-1757, plhenness@mdh.org, or www.MDH.org.

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Illinois soybean farmers say they, the state have lots to lose in tariff fight

Illinois soybean farmers say they have plenty to lose from the tariff tit-for-tat between the U.S. and China. 
 
America is the world's largest soybean producer and Illinois is American's largest soybean-producing state. Soybeans are on track to be the country's biggest crop this year, and China is looking at a 25 percent tariff on those beans. 
 
Craig Ratajczyk, CEO with the Illinois Soybean Association, said farmers in the state can't swallow a 25 percent loss in profits.
 
"Twenty-five percent out of your check is going to stretch a lot of people," Ratajczyk said. "And you may see some people in the short term, or over the next couple of years, give up because they can't make ends meet."
 
Illinois exports about 60 percent of its soybeans. Half of those go to China. Ratajczyk said soybeans are worth about $7.5 billion to the state's gross domestic product.  
 
"Seven-and-a-half billion dollars is a big hit," he said. "If you take 25 percent off of that, that's a lot of taxes lost. A lot of revenue and income for schools, and hospitals, and industries [that's lost]. There's going to be a multiplier effect."
 
Illinois' smaller and more rural communities will be hit the hardest, Ratajczyk said. 
 
He said the price drops that followed news of the tariff cost Illinois bean farmers millions of dollars on paper, and cost the industry billions. 
 
Ratajczyk said the tariff won't end Illinois exports to China, there are just too many. But he said a tariff would "unnecessarily" hurt thousands of farmers and small communities across the state. 

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Macomb Police announces 2018 Blue Line Ball with sit-com style video

The Macomb Police Department has announced details about its Second Annual Blue Line Ball in a clever way. Members of the Macomb Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 189 starred in a black and white video that was produced like a 1950's era sit-com. 

 

The video stars Sgt. Chris Butcher, Off. Gavin Steiger, Lt. Jason York, Ofc. Denise Cremer, and Ofc. Nick Severs

 

 

The event will take place Saturday, April 28 at the Macomb Dining Company. Money raised from the Blue Line Ball goes towards Macomb Police's "Shop with a Cop," program.

 

The night features dinner, dancing, and an auction. For tickets contact Officer Todd Tedrow or visit the Macomb Police Station (120 S. McArthur St, Macomb). 

 

 

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Illinois election officials, observers talk security ahead of November midterms

Despite a statewide elections database having been hacked in 2016, Illinois elections officials said the state is on good footing to keep voting secure, but more can be done.
 
The state held primary elections in March. Next up are the midterms in November.
 
With the 2016 hack of an Illinois State Board of Elections database being only a breach, no data was changed, officials have said. But it’s still fresh in their minds.
 
The breach showed the vulnerabilities of digital systems. That’s why ISBE Voting and Registration Systems Director Kyle Thomas told a House committee Tuesday that Illinois’ paper requirement has the state in a good place.
 
“We do require paper audit trails for all of our tabulation systems,” Thomas said. “Either an optical scan type ballot, or a ballot that gets read by a digital scanner, or we have direct recording electronic devices that have a paper audit trail attached to that machine.”
 
But the state still needs digital servers for other operations, such as ballot petition processing and election law management.
 
ISBE IT Director Kevin Turner said getting new equipment can be difficult.
 
“We’ve been faced with, let’s suffice it to say, procurement challenges,” Turner said.
 
The State Board of Elections replaced several different server systems at its Springfield offices and other servers are on a 5-year replacement plan, he said.
 
Meanwhile, there’s a difference in thinking on how quick $13 million in federal funds should get to local election authorities in Illinois before the November elections.
 
Noah Praetz from the Cook County Clerk’s Office said the federal dollars for election security should get in the hands of local elections officials “without getting lost in a timely procurement loop that can delay modernization and security efforts by months, if not years.”
 
ISBE Legislative Director Cristina Cray told a House committee she didn’t want to rush to spend the money.
 
“I want to do whatever we can in the next seven months, but I want to use that money wisely,” Cray said.
 
Other elections officials and observers say they’re doing all they can to have the best systems in place to guard against security threats. That includes encouraging more independent auditors to have more eyes on elections results, and to be in constant communication with regional and federal cybersecurity working groups to stay up to date with the latest threat assessments and tactile responses and recoveries in the event of a hack.

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USDA adopts Bustos' bipartisan strategy to combat opioids addiction in rural America

Wednesday, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL) announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will give funding priority in two key grant programs to help combat the opioid epidemic in rural communities.  

 

“Opioid addiction knows no boundaries,” Congresswoman Bustos said in a release. “The damage this crisis is inflicting on our region is heartbreaking, especially to our small towns. These investments will play a critical role in ensuring that rural areas have the resources they need to address the growing epidemic.”

 

In July of 2017, Congresswoman Bustos and Senator Donnelly (D-IN) introduced bipartisan legislation on this subject. The act, the Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities Act,  was brought to the House of Representatives to help rural Americans better leverage United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development programs to combat opioid and heroin use. 

 

Specifically, the USDA is adopting her proposal to set aside grant funding for the Community Facilities Grant Program and the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant (DLT) Program.

 

 

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Citizens April Community and Seniors Day focuses on occupational therapy

Citizen's Bank on Macomb's Downtown Square (127 S. Side Square), will hold its monthly Community and Senior's Day Thursday, April 5. The event will be held in the bank's lobby from 8:30-10:30 a.m.

 

There will be a variety of free services offered to seniors who attend. The theme this month is occupational therapy. Heartland Health Care will have members of its occupational therapy team on hand to provide numerous free tests and other services. You can find out information about Community and Senior's Day in my interview with Rochelle Seaver of Citizen's Bank, as well as three members of the Heartland Health Care staff. 

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Advocates say power suppliers are ripping off customers by hiding unrelated fees on their utility bills.

Consumer advocates say power suppliers are ripping off customers by hiding fees on their utility bills. They want a new law forcing them to put their charges on a separate bill.
 
When you sign on to a plan offered by a door-to-door salesman or a telemarketer, they include their charges right on the utility bill.
 
“That makes it really difficult for customers to spot bad deals,” Citizens’ Utility Board spokesman Jim Chilsen. “We’ve seen electric customers pay double, triple, or more than the utility rate because they got lured into an offer with an unregulated supplier.”
 
Electric customers have lost more than $320 million with alternative electricity suppliers rather than just going through their utility, Chilsen said.
 
Customers are speaking out. Of the 55 electric suppliers listed on ICC’s Retail Electric Supplier Complaint Scorecard, 32 suppliers had a 3-star ranking or less out of 5 possible stars.
 
CUB and others want lawmakers to pass legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Marcus Evans Jr., D-Chicago, that would make the companies keep their charges on a separate bill.
 
“No longer would they be able to hide their bad deals on utility bills,” Chilsen said.
 
The legislation would not force suppliers that have deals with municipalities to bill separately.
 
Beyond the restrictions for alternative suppliers, Evans’ bill would allow local governments in central and southern Illinois to enter into aggregate supplier agreements with gas providers, something that’s only allowed in the northern third of the state. This would allow the municipality to negotiate a potentially lower rate than the utility provider is offering individual households. There are, however, times that the aggregate rate is higher than the utility rate.
 
Consumers with questions should visit CUBactioncenter.com.

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Illinois 4-H passes million-meal milestone

The Illinois 4-H program has hit an important milestone today. On Wednesday, April 4, the organization officially reached its million-meal milestone, as more than one million meals have been donated to families statewide as part of the 4-H Feeding & Growing Our Communities initiative. 
 
These efforts began in November 2013. Volunteers from Cass, Morgan, Scott, Greene, and Calhoun counties will have their efforts added to the 50 previous meal-packaging events to push the group over the one-million-meal mark.
 
Bill Million, University of Illinois Extension 4-H youth development specialist, said in a release that the sponsorship of meal-packaging events has helped the organization greatly. 
 
4-H club members purchase bulk ingredients, then measure to fill family-size packages of the soy-based casserole meals,” Million said. “The meals are distributed to local food pantries and service organizations to be distributed to families in need.”
 
The ingredients cost about 14 cents per meal. The 4-H clubs that host these meal packaging events raise the funds to cover the costs of the packaged meals. 
 
More than 7,800 4-H youth and adults have volunteered over 45,000 hours of service to improve access to healthy food in their Illinois communities over the past four years. Illinois 4-H clubs have raised $65,000 local funds to help families in need, providing food to 389 food pantries. 
 
Food access is a major initiative of Illinois 4-H. “In Illinois one in five children face hunger weekly,” Million said. “Children struggle to learn if they are hungry.” 
 
 
 
 

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Ameren Illinois Continues Generous Support of McDonough County United Way

Ameren Illinois has donated over $5,500 to McDonough County United Way continuing a long standing relationship between the two organizations. Ameren Illinois is among United Way's Top Five Donors. 

 

“Thanks to this generous donation from Ameren Illinois, McDonough County United Way will be able to help more than 10,000 county residents," McDonough County United Way Executive Director, Jessica Heitner said in a release. "With the vital assistance of our partner agencies, we will continue to fight for the health, education, and financial stability of all individuals in our community”. 

 

In addition to payroll contribution by employees, Ameren Illinois supports United Way via corporate donation. 

 

For more information about United Way contact Jessica Heitner at (309) 837-9180 and visit the organization's Facebook page

 

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Civil War re-enactor to give free presentation at Macomb Country Club

Ray Krey, an area Civil War re-enactor, will be giving a free presentation at the Macomb Country Club on Thursday, April 12, at 7:00 p.m. Krey's presentation, titled “Memoirs, Diaries, Letters from the Civil War: A Private Perspective,” is being given to the Macomb community courtesy of The Friends of the Macomb Public Library.

 

Krey's presentation takes the audience through a day in the life of a Civil War soldier.  The presentation is based off of  his extensive collection of Civil War writings and memorabilia over the past 30 years.  His personal selection of writings and objects will paint a picture of the battlefield, the weapons, the medical treatments, the food, the marching in the mud, and more. 

 

Krey holds a BA and MA degree in history from Western Illinois University.  Among his numerous awards are the WIU Department of History Distinguished Alumnus Award and the McDonough County Quality of Life Award.
 
The Friends of the Macomb Public Library is an organization working to
enhance and support the library in the Macomb community.
 
 
 

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MDH hosts new health career program for local students

McDonough District Hospital, SIU School of Medicine and the University of Illinois Extension are offering a new program, called McDonough County Health Career Opportunities (MCHCO). The program is designed to expose students in McDonough County to variety of healthcare careers and explore local opportunities for employment in those careers. 

 

Students in the class met from October 2017 to March 2018. The students met with MDH leaders, staff, and physicians from a variety of departments, including: Radiology, Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Services, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Behavioral Health, Pharmacy, Plant Engineering, Surgery, Laboratory, Human Resources, Acute Care, Intensive Care, Physician Recruitment, Foundation, Information Services and many more.

 

Dr. Nicholas Doll, DMP, P.C. also provided discussion on careers in dentistry and Jamie Burns with the McDonough County Health Department discussed opportunities in community health.

 

Students who completed the program earned college credits from Spoon River College. At the end of the program, students had the opportunity to conduct mock interviews with MDH department leaders. These students were also honored with an Achievement Celebration at the Spoon River College Community Outreach Center in Macomb, where  certificates of completion were awarded. 

 

For more information about the MCHCO, contact MDH Volunteer Services at (309) 836-1579.

 

Front Row (L-R): Tessa Hobbs-Curley, University of Illinois Extension; Students Keri Devolder; Breanna Smith; Breanna Rhoads; Tobie Richey, MDH; Brady Overstreet; Lacie Skees; Bailee Lawrence and Makaela Bennett.
Back Row (L-R): Lori Williams, SIU School of Medicine; Meagan Wohlfeil, MDH; Kenny Boyd, MDH President and CEO; Curt Oldfield, Spoon River College President

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U.S. Supreme Court gerrymandering cases bolsters advocates pushing to change how Illinois draws political maps

With the U.S. Supreme Court now having heard two cases concerning how political maps are drawn, advocates for bringing change to Illinois say there seems to be a light at the end of the gerrymandering tunnel.
 
The nation’s high court has heard a case out of Wisconsin last year where Republicans are accused of drawing biased maps, and last month justices heard a case out of Maryland where Democrats drew the maps.
 
Change Illinois Communications Director Jeff Raines said it’s obvious both parties are bad actors. He said regardless of the outcome of these cases, the fact they’re being heard is boosting efforts to bring change to Illinois.
 
“We can be proactive instead of reactive in this process no matter what the [U.S.] Supreme Court says,” Raines said. “It will make the pathway to redistricting reform in Illinois more navigable.”
 
Raines said it’s critical to remove politicians from the process now because the 2020 census is right around the corner.
 
Election data resource Ballotpedia found nearly 63 percent of all Illinois legislative races in 2016 didn’t have a general election challenger.
 
Raines said that’s because the maps are drawn to benefit certain parties over the other. If the map-making process doesn’t change, “Illinois is going to continue to be in a situation that encourages gridlock instead of compromise when it should be the other way around.”
 
He said two bills in the Illinois Legislature are stronger than previous citizen-led efforts that were blocked from ballots.
 
“And this way there’s a little more wiggle room for us to move and make the language stronger and broader in our amendment,” Rainse said.
 
The two measures, House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 43 and Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 26, have been filed for consideration, but remain in committee.
 
Previous citizen-led ballot initiatives to change Illinois’ maps failed after being challenged in court. In 2016, a measure garnering more than half a million signatures from voters to get a proposed change on ballots statewide was blocked in the courts by groups linked to House Speaker Michael Madigan.

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Tom Conklin State Farm honored with ribbon cutting

The Ambassador Committee of the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting on Tuesday, April 3, to celebrate the recent office remodel and location expansion of State Farm Insurance Agency – Tom Conklin.

 

Conklin oversees the Farmington, Illinois  office and took over the Macomb location (1221 W. Jackson St.) in January 2018 after the retirement of agent Cathy Early.  State Farm Insurance offers auto, home, business, property, life, health, and other various coverage plans. For more information, call (309) 837-1200 or visit www.macombsf.com

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Illinois craft beer advocates say industry continues to thrive

The Illinois craft brewery industry expects to see continued growth for locally brewed libations.
 
Nationally, the Brewers Association said in 2017 there were more than 6,300 breweries in the U.S. Small and independent craft brewers represent 12.7 percent of market share by volume. While there was a 1 percent drop in total beer production, the association said craft beer production increased 5 percent.
 
“The number of craft breweries in Illinois has skyrocketed more than 350 percent” in five years, Illinois Craft Brewers Guild Executive Director Danielle D’Alessandro said in a statement.
 
In 2016, the guild said Illinois craft brewers had an estimated $2.6 billion economic impact, supporting 16,000 jobs in manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality and tourism. The guild also said craft brewers drive traffic to local businesses and restaurants.
 
While some might think the craft industry is close to a saturation point, D'Alessandro said it continues to grow in Illinois.
 
“What we’re going to continue to see is a lot of these small breweries that are opening up that are focused on their taproom, on bringing people into the taproom, sharing their story, getting out to some of the local bars and retail stores and really being a part of the communities,” D’Alessandro said.
 
She estimates Illinois will see two-dozen new craft breweries open in the next year.
 
As to the challenges for Illinois’ craft brewery industry, the guild doesn’t see that coming from the big brewers, distributors or retailers looking to protect their turf.
 
D’Alessandro said the guild does what it can to work with big brewers, distributors and retailers to bring balance in the industry. She said the guild is constantly monitoring legislation in Illinois that could curb the rights of craft brewers.
 
“It’s imperative on us then to try and work together and find a compromise that we’re all happy with,” D’Alessandro said.
 
Last year, a measure supported by the guild to allow 170 craft breweries to apply for special use permits so they could set up at farmers markets, street festivals or other special events stalled in committee after opposition from distributors and retailers associations.
 
Despite that, D’Alessandro said the major challenge is the changing taste of consumers.
 
“One, you just have to have good beer,” she said. “Then, two, to be able to tell a story and three to really be able to share that story through good marketing and good advertising.”
 
The Illinois guild announced Craft Beer Week for May 18-25 with events all across the state.

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City of Macomb partners with Western Illinois Museum for Building Fort Macomb Bicentennial event

The City of Macomb and the Western Illinois Museum will hold a family-friendly event titled "Building Fort Macomb," on Saturday, April 7. The event, which is officially endorsed by the Illinois Bicentennial program, will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the Western Illinois Museum (201 South Lafayette St., Macomb). The event is free and open to the public, with donations welcome. 

 

The event is themed around General Macomb, who was a key figure in the war of 1812. Activities at the event include: building cardboard forts, making a flag, marching practice, and visiting with War of 1812 re-enactors depicting militia from Old Fort Madison. Artifacts that will be on display include:  an 1817 land grant certificate from the collection of the Western Illinois Museum signed by President James Madison and issued to veterans who served for five years. 

 

For more information on the event, visit the Building Fort Macomb Facebook page, as well as the Western Illinois Museum website. You can also hear my interview with Kristen Terry of Macomb Downtown Development, and Sue Scott of the Western Illinois Museum. 

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VanBrooker to retire early

McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker plans to retire early. Per the McDonough County Voice, Van Brooker announced his decision Monday when he filed a letter with the county board. The letter was then discussed at a meeting of the board’s law and legal committee. VanBrooker plans to retire May 1. 
 
VanBrooker recommended the appointment of Chief Deputy Nick Petitgout, who won the Republican primary nomination to run for the position in November, to fill the remainder of his term. Petitgout is running unopposed in November's election. 
 
Board Chairman Scott Schwerer will first have to notify the county chairmen on both the republican and democratic side. He then can make a recommendation to the McDonough County Board at its April 18 meeting. 
 
Per The Voice, in VanBrooker's letter, he said it would be better to make the transition May 1 than wait until Dec. 1. He also mentioned that he made personal commitments this summer. 
 
He wrote that this would allow the office “to move forward.” 

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USDA: Mid-sized farms giving way to larger, smaller operations

The average American farm is getting larger, according to a new government report.
 
At the same time, the number of mid-sized farms is declining. The reason why is still up for debate.
 
A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that over the past three decades, the majority of farming production has moved away from many midsize family farms to a small number of large family farms, leaving a large number of very small farms, having 10 or fewer acres.
 
By 2012, 36 percent of all cropland was on farms with at least 2,000 acres, up from 15 percent in 1987, the report said. The midpoint for cropland acreage went from 650 acres in 1987 to 1,201 acres in 2012.
 
“We see acreage shifting from that midsize class to larger farms,” USDA analyst James MacDonald said.
 
In Illinois, half of farms had more or less than 488 acres. Now, MacDonald said it’s grown.
 
“By 2012, it was 1,160 acres, well over doubling,” he said. “You can see that more rapid shift throughout the Corn Belt.”
 
The report also found a much higher number of farms with 10 acres or less.
 
Equipment modernization, for instance, likely allowed farmers to manage more land over the past three decades, MacDonald said.
 
The Census of Farmers, MacDonald said, also is doing a better job of tracking small farm operations that have less than 10 acres of cropland, potentially affecting the numbers.
 
One unanswered question is whether the average farmer age has an effect on consolidation. Census data shows that the average age of a farmer rose from 50.5 in 2002 to 58.3 in 2012. At 55.7, farmers, ranchers, and other agriculture managers are older than any other profession tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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IDPH: One dead, rat poison chemical found in synthetic marijuana

The Illinois Department of Public Health is looking to see where the synthetic marijuana originated that's sickened dozens, and now killed one person.
 
Most of the people who've been treated for bleeding from the eyes, nose, and lungs after smoking fake pot are from central Illinois. 
 
"We're seeing severe bleeding," said Melanie Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health. "We've seen some severe bloody noses, people coughing up blood, blood in the urine. This is something that we have not seen before."
 
The Department of Public Health reports that 20 of the 38 people in the state who smoked a bad batch of synthetic marijuana live in Peoria, Tazewell, or McLean Counties. Most of the rest live in or around Chicago. 
 
The state confirmed its first death from synthetic marijuana over the weekend. Melanie Arnold with IDPH said they've found a chemical used in rat poison in some of the victims. 
 
"One of the chemicals that's tested positive in three of the cases is a lethal anti-coagulant," Arnold said. "It's often used as a rodenticide, or in rat poison."
 
The IDPH is doubling down on its warning that synthetic marijuana is not a safe alternative to marijuana. 
 
There's not much information about the synthetic marijuana death, and Arnold said there won't be to protect the victim's identity.
 
The next step, Arnold said, is to find out where the synthetic marijuana came from and if it's all part of the same batch.
 
Arnold said that the Centers for Disease Control are sending epidemiologists to help in the investigation.

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WIU announces Homecoming 2018 details

Western Illinois University has released details regarding Homecoming 2018. The week-long event will take place Sept. 21-29, 2018 on campus and throughout the City of Macomb. The week concludes with the Homecoming Parade and the WIU homecoming football game vs. Youngstown State. 

 

This year's theme is Game On: Leathernecks Win it All – Purple and Gold Edition. The director of the University Union Board Homecoming Committee is Grant Reed, a Macomb native and junior agriculture and political science double major at Western. 

 

"We like our themes to be broad enough that each organization and group can put their own unique spin on it," said Reed in a university press release. "Our theme this year incorporates everything from classic board games to video games and beyond."

 

Homecoming week begins Thursday, September 20 with "Celebrating Town and Gown," which highlights the relationship between the WIU and Macomb communities. Friday, September 21 will be Friday, Sept. 21 "Paint the Paws," when volunteers will paint large gold paws on Western Avenue and University Drive, leading to Hanson Field. 

 

Events for students during Homecoming Week include  Paint the Town (Sept. 22), Rocky's Boat Regatta (Sept. 23), Variety Show (Sept. 25) and Yell Like Hell (Sept. 27). 

 

Homecoming day (Sept. 29) begins with the "Old Stompin' Ground Runaround" 5K run/1.5 mile walk." Per the release, the race will have a new addition this year that will be announced soon. Following that will be the Reunion Brunch, celebrating the class years of 1968, 1978 and 1993. 

 

The Homecoming Parade begins at 10:30 a.m., followed by events for alumni and student events at Hanson Field/Q-Lot. The day concludes with the Leatherneck football game vs. Youngstown State. 

 

More information about WIU Homecoming can be found here

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Analysis: Court ruling on union pay to cost Illinois $400 million, could attribute to new tax hike.

A judgment against Illinois for not paying union members' automatic raises is going to put lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner under even greater pressure to work out a balanced budget.
 
The Illinois’ Supreme Court recently decided it would not take up Rauner’s appeal of a lower court ruling that the state has to pay thousands of members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 their automatic raises, called step increases. Rauner and lawmakers now have to figure out how to pay for those pay hikes that have been accumulating since summer 2015.
 
Rauner’s office won’t give any figures about how much the judgment will cost the state, but analyses of public payrolls estimate the cost to be $400 million over four years.
 
“About 40 percent of AFSCME employees are step eligible,” said Ted Dabrowski, president of financial watchdog Wirepoints. “When you include the cost of a higher salary and add the Social Security cost and other costs over four years, you’re talking about a $400 million increase in the cost of AFSCME employees over that time period.”
 
Rauner’s office would not corroborate that figure.
 
“Many of these issues will be addressed here in the coming months,” the governor said. “In the budget proposal I made, we had a $350 million surplus to be used to pay down the bill backlog.”
 
That surplus hinges on Rauner's proposal to shift teacher pension costs back to local school districts over four years, a plan that's not likely to get General Assembly approval.
 
Moody’s Investors Services addressed the court ruling in a newsletter, noting that a requirement to pay all of the money already earned “could erode much of a $351 million projected surplus” Rauner projects. It could also, the report said, cause budget pressure in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, when those increases translate into higher pension costs.
 
Because it’s been nearly three years since the state suspended those pay hikes, it’s possible that the Illinois Labor Relations Board could instruct the state to pay all of the money that’s owed to the union employees immediately.
 
“It’ll be yet another factor that could put pressure on the state to consider new revenue sources,” Moody’s analyst Ted Hampton said.
 
The state’s bill backlog is estimated to be $7.7 billion by June 30.
 
The judgment of how much the state will owe and when is still months away. The Supreme Court will officially remand Rauner’s appeal back to the appellate court that ruled against him on April 25, per an official with the Illinois Labor Relations Board. The appellate court would then have an unspecified time to hand the matter over to the ILRB with instruction to decide just how much and when the state should pay the workers. 
 
Rauner’s office and union negotiators are still at odds over a contract stemming back to July 2015, when their last one expired. They’ve since been working on provisional contracts. Rauner has tried, unsuccessfully via the courts, to have their negotiations declared at impasse. He could then impose his last and final offer, a move he says would save the state substantially.
 

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Caution advised for driving Monday morning

The snow that came down on the West Central Illinois region Easter Sunday has left area roads quite slick. With temperatures in single digits overnight Sunday into Monday, the roads froze over, and caution is advised to drivers across the area. 

 

While weather and road conditions are quite unpleasant this morning, that should change as the day progresses. By mid-morning temperatures will hit the 30s, with highs projected into the lower 40s today. Please drive slow and use caution on the roadways. 

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Agenda for April 2 Macomb City Council Meeting released

Here is the agenda for tonight's Macomb City Council meeting. The meeting will be held at 5:15 p.m. at Macomb City Hall. 

 

MEETING CALLED TO ORDER
PLEDGE
ROLL CALL 
 
CONSENT AGENDA
 
Minutes of the Macomb City Council meeting held on Monday, March 19, 2018 and Committee of the Whole meetings held on Monday, March 26, 2018.
 
Claims and Accounts
 
Consideration to approve the three year agreement between the City of Macomb and Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
 
PUBLIC COMMENTS
 
UNFINISHED BUSINESS
 
Consideration to award the bid for the 2018 Street Improvement Project – North Randolph Street.
Information will be distributed at the meeting. Final action will be in order.
 
Consideration to approve a request from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity for a granite bench to be placed in Chandler Park in honor of Dr. C.T. Vivian.
Attached is a memo from CA Torreson along with a map of where the bench will be 
placed for your review. Final action will be in order.
 
Consideration of an ordinance to create a Class R plus OL and SS liquor license for Los Tapatios LLC dba Los Tapatios.
This ordinance will be presented for second reading and final approval.
 
Consideration of an ordinance to amend Sections 15-216 and 15-215(2) of the Municipal Code of Macomb to amend the location of 20 minute restricted parking and handicapped parking for the southeast corner of Washington Street at Randolph Street.
This ordinance will be presented for second reading and final approval. A copy of the amended ordinance is attached for your review.
 
Consideration of an ordinance to amend Section 15-164 of the Municipal Code of Macomb to amend the Municipal Code wording for the location of stop sign on Pearl Street at Jefferson Street.
This ordinance will be presented for second reading and final approval.
 
Consideration of an ordinance to amend Section 15-215(1) of the Municipal Code to amend parking on Normal Street as it is restricted from 2 AM – 6 AM.
This ordinance will be presented for second reading and final approval.
Agenda
April 2, 2018
Page 2
 
UNFINISHED BUSINESS – Continued
 
Consideration of an ordinance to amend various sections of Chapter 19, 20 and 23 of the Municipal Code of the City of Macomb, McDonough County, Illinois relating to department titles, grammatical or typographical errors.
This ordinance will be presented for second reading and final approval.
 
Consideration of an ordinance to amend two sections of Chapter 7 of the Municipal Code of the City of Macomb, McDonough County, Illinois (Plumbing).
This ordinance will be presented for second reading and final approval.
 
Consideration of an ordinance to amend various sections of Chapter 19, 20 and 23 of the Municipal Code of the City of Macomb, McDonough County to adopt the standard details and amend the reference to the standard details.
This ordinance will be presented for second reading and final approval.
 
Other unfinished business.
 
NEW BUSINESS
 
Consideration of an ordinance to create a special event liquor license for West Central Arts Center’s when Patsy met Hank event.
This ordinance will be presented for first reading and due to the timeline, staff is asking second reading be waived and approved. A copy of the ordinance is attached for your review.
 
Consideration of an ordinance to adopt a budget for the City of Macomb, McDonough County, Illinois for the fiscal year commencing May 1, 2018 and ending April 30, 2019.
This ordinance will be presented for first reading. A copy is attached for your review.
 
Consideration of an ordinance to amend the city fee schedule increasing debt service fees for water service by amending 24-3(G), increasing bulk water rate by amending 24-3(O) and to increase solid water collection fees by amending 24-1(A) of the Municipal Code. 
This ordinance will be presented for first reading. A copy is attached for your review.
 
Consideration to approve the City Council and Committee of the Whole executive session minutes that need to remain closed.
Attached is a list minutes for your review. Final action will be in order.
 
Other new business.
 
COMMITTEE REPORTS
 
ALDERMANIC REPORTS
 
MAYORAL APPOINTMENTS
 
Agenda
April 2, 2018
Page 3
 
EXECUTIVE SESSION
 
a) Appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of an employee of the public body or legal counsel for the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c) (1) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
b) Collective Bargaining matters between the public body and its employees or 
representatives or deliberations concerning salary schedules for one or more classes of employees, pursuant to Sec. 2(c) (2) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
c) The purchase or lease of real property for the use of the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c) (5) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
d) The setting of a price for sale or lease of property owned by the public body, 
pursuant to Sec. 2(c) (6) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
e) Pending or probable litigation, pursuant to Sec. 2(c) (11) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
COUNCIL ADJOURNMENT 

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