The Illinois State Police has issued a warning reminding motorists to exercise extreme caution when driving in flooded areas. Allow extra time for travel, and reduce speed when necessary. Do not drive on a flooded roadway, even if it appears shallow enough to cross. If you do find yourself stalling in water, do not attempt to push your car out, seek higher ground immediately. The State Police would also like to remind drivers to proceed with caution, reduce speed, and change lanes if possible when approaching stationary emergency vehicles including police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances. A complete list of road closures can be found on the Illinois Department of Transportation's website - gettingaroundillinois.com
Asthma rates for most children in the U.S. appear to be on the decline, but among the country's poorest children those rates are actually rising. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found what they call a "significantly increasing" trend of asthma prevalence among children who are living below the federal poverty line. Dr. Cary Sennett is president of the non-profit Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. He says several complex factors could be to blame for the apparent uptick in asthma rates for underprivileged children.
"Quality of the home environment, quality of the school environment that are more challenging for children in poor communities, and some of those relate directly to pollution in urban centers."
Dr. Cary Sennett, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
The report, published this week in the journal Pediatrics, looked at more than 150,000 children. In addition to those who are poor, researchers found higher rates of asthma among 10-17 year-olds, and those living in the south. The good news from the CDC report, however, shows that overall asthma rates in children under 18 leveled out in 2009 and then started to drop just a bit in 2013 to about 8%, down a full point from the year before. Still, Sennett says more than 6 million children in America are living with the chronic disease. One way he suggests to help is by expanding preventative medical coverage for those who can't afford it.
"Children who are exposed to these things end up in the emergency room, they end up in the hospital. The cost of preventing that is far less than the cost of the medical care associated with it."
Dr. Cary Sennett, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
As we put Christmas behind us, and move toward the New Year, it's important that we properly take care of Christmas decorations, especially if you put up a real Christmas tree this year. Christmas trees are big fire hazards, even when they're fresh, but as they dry out the risk of them catching fire increases exponentially. Once dry, a Christmas tree can be completely consumed by fire in a matter of seconds, and though these fires aren't particularly common, they are incredibly dangerous if they do occur. As opposed to a normal house fire, Christmas tree fires are more than 4 times as likely to be fatal. Additionally, 40 percent of Christmas tree fires occur in January, mainly because people are trying to keep their tree up for as long as possible. Though it looks beautiful and reminds you of the holidays, it's best to properly dispose of your tree as soon as possible. Contact your local Waste Management for information on tree removal for your area.
For all other decorations, the National Fire Protection Association has some tips for safely packing everything up:
-Use the base of the plug on any corded decorations. Never pull from the cord as this can harm the wire and insulation, increasing the risk of shock or electrical fire.
-When packing strings of lights, inspect each line for damage and throw out any sections with loose connections, broken sockets, or bare wires.
-Store all electrical decorations in a dry place, away from children and pets, where they will not be damaged by water.
You can find more winter safety tips on the National Fire Protection Association's website - http://www.nfpa.org/winter
Illinois has gone about half a year so far without a state budget, and advocates for the homeless say that's tying up more than $100 Million set aside for affordable-housing programs. According to a new report from Housing Action Illinois and other groups, the state has seven dedicated funds set aside for housing programs, but the money can't be spent until state lawmakers and Governor Bruce Rauner agree on a budget. Bob Palmer, policy director for Housing Action Illinois, says that's leaving more than 170,000 Illinoisans living in uncertainty.
"A lot of homeless-service providers around the state are laying off staff, reducing intake of new clients. After January 1, many additional service providers are going to be doing those same sorts of steps that are going to result in more people being homeless."
Bob Palmer, Housing Action Illinois
Palmer says the funds for these programs are already set aside, and would not add to Illinois' budget defecit. State lawmakers are set to return to the Capitol in Springfield on January 13th. Palmer's group and others, such as the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, are urging these legislators and the Governor to agree to atleast allow the affordable-housing funds to be spent, even if the overall budget stalemate continues.
"Both the Governor's office and the leaders in the General Assembly are using the part of the budget that's unfunded for bargaining chips to fight bigger political battles. We want them to focus on serving people's basic human needs, like affordable housing."
Bob Palmer, Housing Action Illinois
According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Illinios is among the top five states to see an increase in the number of homeless people over the past year.
The influx of winter weather, and the storm cells that blew through the area yesterday are affecting McDonough Power Cooperative service territories. Many were left without power last night, and more will continue to be affected throughout the day today. Wind and ice have brought more than 30 power poles and lines down, and McDonough Power crews are working constantly to get everything back up and running as soon as possible. Affected areas include Blandisville, Good Hope, Roseville, Avon, and Prairie City, among others in the area. To report new outages, or any outages that have yet to be addressed, contact the McDonough Power outage line at 309-837-1400. You can find more updates on the McDonough Power Cooperative's Facebook page, or at www.mcdonoughpower.com
McDonough District Hospital will be offering a six-session parenting class, through their Behavioral Health Services program, which will begin on January 11th. There will be three 90-minute sessions in January: the 11th, the 18th, and the 25th, and three more in February: the 1st, the 8th, and the 15th. All sessions will run from 5:30-7:00PM in the Auditorium of Health Services Building 1. The class is for the parents of children newborn-age to 12 year olds, and will address ways to improve children's behavior and gain control at home. Insurance and financial assistance may cover costs depending on your coverage plan. For more information or to register for the class, contact Behavioral Health Services at 309-836-1582.
On Tuesday, data was released from the U.S. Census Bureau that could shock many Illinois residents. The data, which dealt specifically with state-to-state migration, found that between 2014 and 2015 Illinois' population shrank more than any other state in the nation, and the rate at which residents are crossing the border has escalated. At present, Illinois is losing about one resident every five minutes. The total population loss for the last year is about 22,000 people, while every other state in the Midwest had population growth. Perhaps unsurprisingly, experts at the Illinois Policy Institute, who have been tracking population trends for more than five years, says that the huge drain on the state's population is likely due to weak job growth, a sluggish economy, and fiscal mismanagement.
"It's clear from my perspective that we have work to do in the General Assembly to reconcile our loss, to make sure that players are protected with strong consumer protections, but also allow them to play this popular game in Illinois."
Mike Zalewski, District 23 Representative
Zalewski says that he will make House Bill 4323 a priority after the new year. Madigan says that even though this issue is currently being debated, she wants both FanDuel and DraftKings to update their policy to reflect Illinois' lack of involvement until a bill is passed stating otherwise.
(Seated left to right: Pat Schurtz, Donna Walker, and Marla Clark. Standing left to right: Judy Fuellborn, Glenda Tuttle, Betty Twaddle, Doris Walton, Iola Shipman, Ruth Hopson, Karen Clark, and Marlys Johnson)
According to Memorial Hospital in Carthage, The Memorial Hospital Auxiliary have been hard at work raising funds over the past few months to purchase needed medical equipment for the hospital. Pictured are auxiliary members with new equipment.
A Telemetry Transmitter was purchased. This equipment is used to monitor a patient’s heart rhythm, respirations, and measures oxygen level during their stay.
The Auxiliary continues to fund needed equipment projects, scholarships, and also provides other support to the staff at Memorial Hospital.
If you are interested in volunteering opportunities or joining the auxiliary, please contact Terri Twaddle at 217-357-8561. www.mhtlc.org
Macomb 7th grader, Evan Stegall, is one of three finalists in the Illinois Municipal League's Hometown Proud essay contest. Evan needs the community to vote for his essay about Macomb at www.iml.org.
If he wins he will be awarded a cash prize of $100 and the essay will be published in the IML magazine.
Regional Media of Macomb will be speaking with Evan on K100 (100.1FM), Backroad Country (95.9FM) and Classic 103 (102.7FM) in the 9am hour Thursday on the morning shows.
Breaking News! Regional Media of Macomb has eye-witnesses that have seen
Santa Clause driving around town this afternoon in a red Thunderbird
convertible. Santa is finishing up last-minute shopping for good boys and girls,
and was last seen heading for the Macomb downtown square.
Keep an eye out for jolly ol' St. Nick if you are in Macomb today and remember
to stay on the nice list by shopping local.
Illinois is once again changing it's stance on college entrance exams. This past year the ACT standardized test was made optional in schools, but now the state has chosen to put it to rest altogether by announcing that they'll now be giving students the SAT instead.
A formal protest has been submitted by ACT, which will stop this decision and the $14.3 million contract until the matter can be resolved, but if it goes through the state, and it's high school students, could certainly feel the effects. The SAT is popular on the west coast, but most Midwestern colleges look at ACT scores, although they can use one test score to predict the other, and work off of that. This situation is thrown for even more of a curve, as the state still has no budget, and many schools have been signing up for the ACT this year, often at their own cost. As of last year, over 150,000 students in Illinois took the ACT, and less than 6,000 took the SAT. Both tests are designed to gauge preparedness for college, but the SAT has been said to be more accurate, as it's scored from a possible 2400 points, as opposed to the ACT's 36 points. Many educators are supporting the move, or saying that it will make minimal difference, while some parents are upset that their children have already been working toward the ACT. Again, the ACT's protest to the issue will have to be resolved before this is put into effect.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White would like to remind motorists to be safe, and not drink and drive to make sure that everyone has a happy holiday season. Last year, 42% of the driving fatalities from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day were caused in some form by alcohol. That number jumped to 50% from New Years Eve to New Years Day. 86% of people arrested with DUIs are first-time offenders, and 93% of those arrested lost their driving privilege. White suggests, to those participating in celebrations with alcohol, that they take public transportation, a cab, or make other arrangements, such as a designated driver. The Illinois Department of Transportation has issued a similar statement, and the Illinois State Police has already announced programs to work toward a drunk-driving-free holiday season.
As Illinois continues its nearly six-month-long budget battle, a new survey shows much of the state's senior population is opposed to a retirement income tax. Illinois' AARP took a poll of about 1,000 state resident ages 50 and older. Gerardo Cardenas, spokesperson for AARP Illinois, says that many retired Illinois seniors are living on fixed incomes, and about 70 percent said they would have to cut their household spending if such a tax were made law.
"Meaning cutting on basic things like groceries, healthcare costs, including prescription drugs. Another 60 percent would be forced to move to another state where the laws didn't include a tax on retirement income."
Gerardo Cardenas, AARP Illinois
Currently, there are no official plans in the state legislature for a retirement income tax. However, the Daily Herald reports that some Illinois lawmakers have been discussing the idea privately. This comes as the state's deficit continues to grow. The Governor and state lawmakers are looking to fund public services, but Cardenas says that taxing retirees isn't the right way to raise that revenue.
"Some things that the legislators need to understand, just because somebody's retired doesn't mean that they live comfortably. About 20 percent of Illinois retirees live on Social Security alone, which means a lot of them are living in poverty."
Gerardo Cardenas, AARP Illinois
Some state lawmakers have already been opposing the idea, including Democratic state senator Tom Cullerton and Republican Representative David McSweeney. Many states do impose a tax on retiree income, though often with an exemption until a certain income threshold is met.
(Bombshell's Captain Jackie Bertelsen a.k.a. Lucipurr/ photo credit: Tim Hallinan)
The Macomb Bombshells, Macomb’s Roller Derby team, will be hosting a wine tasting this afternoon from 3pm until 5pm at Hyvee Wine and Spirits, 1600 West Jackson in Macomb.
Their 2015-2016 wine is called “Whip It and Sip It” and team captain, Jackie Bertelsen, a.k.a Lucipurr, designed the label artwork. The wine is a sweet red from local vineyard Lake Hill Winery in Carthage, Illinois. The Bombshells also partnered with local business TJR Designs to produce the label for the bottle.
The wine sale is one of the primary fundraisers for the Bombshells who use a portion of the proceeds to cover rink fees, team insurance, and other associated costs. Skaters will be on-hand at the tasting to meet and greet fans, sign bottles, and talk about local roller derby.
Of course, the Macomb Bombshells are known for playing exciting flat-track roller derby at The Outskirts in Macomb, but they are also known for giving back to the community by donating to local charities. Supporting fundraisers like the wine sale helps make it possible for the team to continue doing good deeds in the community.
The Macomb Bombshells are also welcoming any women, 18+, to skate with them at The Outskirts in Macomb this Sunday at 4pm during “Fresh Meat” practice. Cost to skate is $5. The team has safety equipment that can be borrowed and skate rental runs an additional $5. The Bombshells are currently in their off-season and recruiting new skaters and volunteers. The Macomb Bombshells told Regional Media that they already have more home bouts lined up than ever before for their 2016-2017 season and plan to announce their full schedule soon.
Follow the Macomb Bombshells on Facebook for more information.
For the 8th year in a row, Illinois is topping the list of states that are doing the most to bolster animal protection laws. A new report from the Animal Legal Defense Fund shows that, overall, the country is doing better by its pets, but Illinois in particular stands above. Lora Dunn, staff attorney at the defense fund, says there are several reasons the state is staying at the top, including Illinois' felony penalties for cruelty or even neglecting an animal.
"Not all states have felony penalties for neglect, which in many cases where animals are not given adequate basic care, those animals suffer for a very long period of time. So, often those are the worst cases that prosecutors encounter."
Lora Dunn, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Another positive cited by the report: Illinois' courts are allowed to force convicted animal abusers to give up custody of victimized pets. Dunn says that making this policy mandatory could help Illinois even further, as could mandating that police officers enforce animal protections.
"In many states, if law enforcement has reasonable belief, or even a stronger probable cause to believe that animal cruelty is occurring, law enforcement is actually required to take action and investigate the situation."
Lora Dunn, Animal Legal Defense Fund
States coming in at the bottom of the list include Wyoming, Iowa, and Kentucky, as they do not treat animal neglect as a felony crime.
The McDonough District Hospital is one of more than 100 hospitals in the state taking part in the Hospital Engagement Network 2.0. This year long program is aimed at quality improvement and participating hospitals are working toward reducing hospital-acquired conditions by 40% and preventable readmissions by 20%. Unfortunately, there are quite a few opportunities for inpatient harm at a hospital, and this program wants to significantly cut back on these. Ventilator-associated events, blood stream infections, injuries from falls, and surgical site infections are all in-house problems that MDH will be working to minimize, among others. For more information on MDH's specific quality improvement initiatives, you may contact Ashley Frederick, the Clinical Quality Improvement Coordinator at 309-833-4101
Yesterday, the Illinois Department of Employment Security announced a growth of over 400 jobs in Illinois' nonfarm payroll employment for the month of November. Unfortunately, the unemployment rate rose by 0.3 percentage points, now up to 5.7%. While this may seem counterintuitive, Jeff Mays, the Director of IDES, says that the unemployment rise is mainly due to an influx of people reentering the labor force, and looking for work. He says that the growing unemployment is a concern, but that the main issue for IDES is job growth to provide opportunities for these people. Illinois unemployment is a bit higher than the national average, which held steady at 5% last month. Additionally, as has been the case for the past few months, despite more jobs being created in Illinois, we're still losing jobs in the manufacturing sector, one of the key influencing factors in our economy. 100 of these manufacturing jobs were lost last month, bringing our total loss for the year nearly 14,500 jobs in this sector.
The budget deficit: These are words that have been said countless times in the past few months. Locally, we're seeing the effects, perhaps in no greater way than the financial struggles of nearby Western Illinois University. This is not an anomaly. State colleges all throughout Illinois, from WIU all the way up to NIU and Governor's State, and even the largest college in the state: the University of Illinois is feeling the effects. Tom Hardy, the executive director of university relations at U of I has said that they are quickly burning through their cash reserves, and without state money, will run out eventually.
"Obviously, over time, this has put pressure on tuition and other areas where the University can find resources because we need to be adequately resourced to maintain the exceptional level of education across our three campuses that Illinois taxpayers and students and their parents have come to expect."
Tom Hardy, University Relations - University of Illinois
Governor's State University in Chicago is also going over their budget with a fine-toothed comb, looking for any way to save money. But these aren't small expenses. Brian Mitchell, Board of Trustees chair at Governor's State says that this is going well beyond the decisions to not order learning supplies.
"We've looked at travel, we look at any of the, not necessarily extra things, but you have to look at everything. You have to look at all costs, cutting measures you can across the board. There's nothing that we've taken off the table."
Brian Mitchell, Board of Trustees - Governor's State University
In the midst of local issues at Western Illinois University, President Jack Thomas and the Board of Trustees have agreed to delay their vote on budget cuts, which includes proposed layoffs, until January, in order to evaluate all of their options.
One state representative is taking this opportunity to shift focus toward the universities. Representative Mary Flowers, who serves on the House Higher Education Committee, says that the budget impasse is an opportunity for universities to save money. She's adamant that universities can do more to find efficiencies.
"The universities have an opportunity now to be innovative, and to do their fair share until such time that money is available. The students should not be punished for our deeds of not having a budget passed yet."
Mary Flowers, State Representative - District 31
Flowers says that institutions at every level of state government, from prisons to universities have to tighten their belts due to the lack of state resources. The state is currently six and a half months into the current fiscal year with no appropriations for state universities.
On the recurring topic of the state budget, the Governor will once again meet with state legislators today in Chicago. This will be the third in a series of meetings between the parties in as many weeks. Last week, leaders said they didn’t discuss specifics of the budget but focused on other items like economic and political reforms.
The Ambassador Committee of the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting Tuesday, December 15th to celebrate the opening of the new location of The Enchanted Florist, now at 212 North Lafayette Street in Macomb. Owner, Nancy Reed offers a full selection of floral arrangements, flower delivery and holiday decor. The Ambassador Committee of the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce also held a ribbon cutting Thursday, December 10th at the chamber office to welcome new members Midwest Express & Hay Grinding, 10060 E. 350th Street in Colchester. Owner, Jamie Hocker, started the business on December 10, 2012. Midwest Express & Hay Grinding is an agricultural business specializing in trucking, hauling services, custom hay grinding and feed sales.
The McDonough County United Way has released its funding application for 2016-2017. United Way prioritizes programs that support three community impact goals: Education, Income and Health. In order to be considered for funding, the applicants program or service must meet one of these goals and support the residents of McDonough County. All applications must be postmarked no later than February 26, 2016 and sent to the McDonough County United Way office at 440 N Lafayette Street, Macomb, IL 61455. Please contact the office at 309-837-9180 or email@example.com for an application.
Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas issued a letter to the campus and community yesterday addressing the current financial situation of the university and the proposed layoffs. Thomas cites declining enrollment, unfunded mandates, and the ever present lack of a state budget as driving factors for putting WIU in this position, and says that he and his staff are looking at any and all means of resolution. So far, the university has cut back costs and saved funds through attrition, hiring freezes, zero-based budgeting, voluntary salary reductions by the president and his staff, and union-approved wage freezes. However, the lack of state funds continues to push WIU into the red, and Thomas says that more substantial budget cuts and potentially devastating faculty reductions may have to happen. Areas with declining enrollment are being identified, but President Thomas has, for the time being, asked the Board of Trustees to table a vote on staff reduction to allow for a deeper investigation into alternate solutions. University officials and union representatives are meeting to address academic faculty, and to save as many positions as possible while ensuring that WIU has the resources to fulfill its duty to students. A special board meeting will be held on the morning of January 12th in the Grand Ballroom to address this difficult situation. You can find the President's full letter here: http://www.wiu.edu/news/newsrelease.php?release_id=13178
The Western Illinois Regional Council (WIRC) is asking residents to complete an important survey. WIRC is an Economic Development Administration designated Economic Development District serving the six counties of Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, McDonough and Warren. In this capacity, the WIRC is responsible for preparing a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) which reviews the region’s demographics, unique characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, and with input, develops tangible goals, objectives and projects that are measurable in order to attain the goals.
The last full writing of the CEDS was completed in 2011 and annually, a review of progress on the CEDS is performed. The survey, 2011 CEDS, and the 2015 Progress Report are posted on WIRC’s website atwww.wirpc.org. A full CEDS process and re-write must be completed every five years. WIRC staff is seeking community input as the process is initiated, beginning with this survey.
They are asking residents to take a few moments to prioritize the goals that the Western Illinois Regional Council 2016 CEDS should focus on for project development. The goals listed are synopsized from the 2011 CEDS. Space is available to write in and rank additional goals and complete the remainder of the survey considering the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of this region.
The initial deadline was on Wednesday, December 2, 2015. However due to interest and support, staff has decided to extend the deadline to the end of the year. Please complete the survey by Thursday December 31, 2015. For more information or questions regarding the survey, contact Michael Bruner at309-837-3941 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The survey can be found on the WIRC website: http://www.wirpc.org/.
The City of Macomb has announced that the 4th Annual Community Christmas Lighting Contest will be co-sponsored by the family of Marilyn Joyce Locke. Marilyn and her husband Paul have long been recognized in the community as avid believers in spreading the joy and true meaning of Christmas. Marilyn passed away earlier this year and, in her memory, her family has established a “Spirit of Christmas” award. In establishing this $250 monetary prize, the Locke family stated, “this is one way of us keeping our mother’s memory and joy for Christmas alive.” The City of Macomb and the Locke family invite folks to show off their best and brightest outdoor holiday light displays by entering in the contest. “People put a lot of hard work into their holiday designs and decorations and sharing those is a great way for people to get inspired to try new ideas or simply enjoy seeing what others have created,” said Mayor Mike Inman. There will be a total of $550 dollars in prizes given away for this contest. The Locke’s will judge and award their $250. The City will award the following prizes:
First place - $150 Chamber Gift Certificate
Second place $100 Chamber Gift Certificate
Third place $50 Chamber Gift Certificate
Residents in Macomb and the surrounding sub-divisions of Meadowbrook, Georgetown, Scotland Glen and Melwood Estates are eligible to enter. Interested persons may register for the contest by sending an email to the City of Macomb at email@example.com or by calling the City of Macomb at (309)833-2558.
Those entering the contest need to provide their name, address and a contact phone number. The deadline for registration is noon on Tuesday, December 22, 2015 and judging will take place on Tuesday, December 22, 2015 with the winners to be announced on Monday, December 28, 2015.
A separate category for Organizations, Businesses and Institutions is also established. Winners in this category will receive a non-monetary award, acknowledging their achievement.
“We want as many folks in the area as possible to get involved,” said Mayor Inman. “We encourage folks to take time to come into Macomb to shop, enjoy a meal at their favorite restaurant, and then drive around the community to see all the beautiful decorations adorning homes in the spirit of the season,” Inman added.
For many, Christmas is a time for family and friends to gather together in order to celebrate the holiday. For others, Christmas may mean something a little more solitary. This year, the members of Maple Avenue Christian Church (MACC) will continue their Christmas tradition of offering a free Christmas Eve dinner to those who might otherwise spend the holiday alone.
The dinner will be held from 5:00 until 6:00 on December 24th at the church located at 1300 Maple Avenue in Macomb. “Christmas is just such a hard time to spend alone,” explained Donnie Case, Senior Minister at Maple Avenue Christian Church. “We just want people to know we would love to spend some time enjoying a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner together.”
In recent years, MACC has served over 1,000 meals. “We are excited to touch so many people’s lives during an important time of the year,” said Case. “Initially when we started this Christmas Eve tradition, our focus was on those who might be alone during the Christmas holiday. But as our hard economic times continue, we’re concerned there may be those that aren’t only lonely on Christmas Eve, but hungry, as well.”
The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, which is the largest union for state employees, has recently spoken out, saying that they want a fair contract that will include pay increases. Governor Bruce Rauner has retorted, saying that he's working toward a contract that will be fair to both employees and taxpayers. During a rally in Springfield last week, AFSCME Council 31 President Roberta Lynch said that the Governor wants to break down the middle class and dismantle unions.
"We're standing together, here with our friends, our families, I saw people who brought their children here tonight. To say to this Governor: You can't repair a damaged economy by killing off the middle class."
Roberta Lynch, AFSCME Council 31 President
One member went so far as saying that the unions were at war. Ron Sandack, a Republican Representative out of Downer's Grover says that previous contract negotiations have been very one-sided, and that the Governor is attempting to appease both parties. But he does claim that a fair contract is in the eyes of the beholder.
"Previous contracts weren't fair to the state, and I think this Governor is trying to have a far more balanced approach so that it's, yes, fair for workers, but it's also fair for the taxpayers."
Ron Sandack, Illinois Representative, District 81
The Governor's Office has issued a statement saying that the current status quo cannot continue, and that the administration with continue bargaining to reach a new contract with AFSCME that includes proposals similar to those reached by the Teamsters and trade unions. Some of these provisions include 40-hour work weeks, performance bonuses, and restrictions on overtime abuse. Rauner's office says that they've seen very little progress, and few concessions from AFSCME.
A consumer watchdog group in Illinois has been asking Internet users to sign a petition aimed at convincing Internet service providers, or ISPs, to drops potential plans for data caps and new overage charges. This comes as one of the country's largest ISPs, Comcast, has been rolling out new data usage billing trials in several cities. Jim Chilsen with the nonprofit Citizens Utility Board says the changes could end up costing some customers more than they're paying now, and could hurt competition in the marketplace.
"The data caps aren't in the Land of Lincoln yet, but Comcast is showing signs that it could roll this out nationwide. And we want people to let ISPs know that we're angry about this."
Jim Chilsen, Citizens Utility Board
There are some supporters of this new program, though, and they claim that the proposed billing methods would be more flexible and only negatively effect the heaviest Internet users. According to Comcast, an estimated 8% of users nationwide would hit the proposed monthly data cap of 300 gigabytes. To give some perspective, a person would have to stream about 100 hours of HD video before hitting the cap, and being billed an overage charge. Still, Chilsen says that with more people working from home, and more devices and apps online, more people could end up feeling the sting of a data cap.
"What's particularly disturbing about this is, U.S. consumers already pay some of the highest broadband rates in the world. We're talking about an industry trend that is going to make our internet bills even higher."
Jim Chilsen, Citizens Utility Board
As of right now, more than 1,700 people have signed the "no data cap" petition, which you can find on their website: www.citizensutilityboard.org
Congratulations to Mrs. Frier a 5th grade teacher at Edison School in Macomb. She has been named the K100 and Pella Corporation Teacher of the Month for November. Mrs. Frier has won $500 to use in her classroom from Pella Corporation, a plaque from Lacky Monuments and Engraving by Lin, and a certificate of recognition from K100.
WCI Art Center Annual Art & Gift Market At the WCI Arts Center, 25 East Side Square, Macomb, IL Friday, Dec 11: 5pm-8pm Saturday, Dec 12: 10am-5pm Sunday, Dec 13: 1pm-4pm.
Held every year this holiday event hosts many regional/local artists all selling one-of-a-kind art gifts. There will be photography, fractal art, yarn crafts paintings, jewelry of all sorts, quilting, metalwork and much more. One weekend only this year. Please come out and support your local artists. You're sure to find that perfect unique gift.
For more information, visit the West Central Illinois Arts Center facebook page https://www.facebook.com/WCIArts or their website at www.wciarts.org
According to the Illinois State Police:
McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker reports during an ongoing investigation
involving the manufacturing of methamphetamine the McDonough County Drug Unit
and agents with the West Central Illinois Task Force located two methamphetamine labs
at a residence in Bushnell, Illinois on December 8th, 2015. The methamphetamine labs
were cleaned up by the Illinois State Police Methamphetamine Response Team. Sheriff
VanBrooker reports the investigation involves Gregory L. Kemp, 45, of Bushnell,
Sheriff VanBrooker stated the McDonough County Drug Unit consists of officers from
the Macomb Police Department, the Bushnell Police Department and the Office of Public
All suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Earlier in the week, a new bill passed through both the U.S. House and the Senate with rampant bipartisan support, before being signed by the President yesterday. The bills purpose? To replace the widely-critiqued and unpopular "No Child Left Behind Act" with the new, updated Every Student Succeeds Act." While the names may be similar, the new act brings some new ideas into play. One of the big changes is that the federal government's role in education is going to be scaled down, giving individual states more power when it comes to their schools. The basic testing requirements that were in place will remain, but this new law will help ease the burden by removing the high stakes that were previously attached to student's scores. Additionally, teachers will no longer be evaluated by student's test scores. President Obama, who described this bipartisan bill as a "Christmas miracle" has said that he believes the goals of No Child Left Behind were sound, but that it fell short once put into practice. While this new bill has received immense support, it's not without its critics. Many say that this new program relies too heavily on Common Core standards. Other's claim that state's won't be held in high enough accountability, and could drop the ball on quality education. Whatever the qualms, Illinois' congressional voice was unanimous. All Senators and Representatives from the state voted to pass this bill.
Another effort to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in Illinois is currently making its way through the legal system. Democratic Representative Kelly Cassidy is the driving force behind this updated proposal, after her last attempt, which had bipartisan support, was given an amendatory veto by the Governor. The Chicago native said that her measure will provide uniformity across the state, which is something that's currently lacking. At the moment, various decriminalization laws are dotted throughout the state.
"That essentially means that where you live, and what you look like, will determine whether you pay a simple ticket and move on with your life, or go to jail and spend the rest of your life carrying that consequence with you."
Kelly Cassidy, Illinois Representative
Cassidy also says that cannabis decriminalization is a form a criminal justice reform, and that it could significantly ease the burden on the court system and law enforcement. This updated measure was filed on Wednesday, and it would allow for people caught with small amounts of marijuana to receive a civil violation, rather than a criminal one, and would allow for traces of THC in a person's system when they get behind the wheel; something Illinois currently has a zero tolerance policy against. This updated proposal is in line with the changes that the governor made over the summer; changes that lawmakers failed to concur with or override.
As the Paris climate talks are well into their second week, new research from Stanford University shows that Illinois and other states could shift to 100% wind, water, and solar power by the year 2050. The Solutions Project shows that, when factoring in all of the costs, the transition would save money and spark more employment. Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson says that wind is now the cheapest energy source in the U.S., even without subsidies. He claims that this could lead to faster economic growth.
"In this transition in the United States alone, across all fifty states, by transitioning we'd create two million more jobs, both construction and permanent operation jobs, than we would lose."
Mark Jacobson, Engineering Professor at Stanford
The report says that a full move to clean power would bring in about 192,000 of those jobs to Illinois. Critics of renewable energy, however, argue that this would raise the price of electricity. Currently, electricity generated by an older coal plant can sell for as little as three-cents per kilowatt-hour, as compared to four to seven cents for wind or solar. Jacobson says that this is only true if you ignore the hidden costs, and the negative health effects of air pollution.
"We are all paying higher taxes, higher insurance rates, higher workmen's compensation rates, because of coal, oil, and gas air pollution health problems - asthma, cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness."
Mark Jacobson, Engineering Professor at Stanford
What's the real cost of burning fossil fuels? According to Jacobson, air pollution causes up to $23 Billion dollars in associated health costs, and that's just in Illinois.
"The rest of us are paying that cost. So, while somebody's using coal electricity, someone else is getting a cardiovascular disease. Say you're having a heart attack - you're more likely to die of that heart attack when you're in polluted air than when you're in clean air."
Mark Jacobson, Engineering Professor at Stanford
According to the research, savings from reduced pollution could cover the cost of Illinois' transition to clean power in as little as three years.
In the recent, highly anticipated closed-door meeting with Illinois legislators and the Governor, little progress has been made toward passing a budget. That's according to various leaders who spoke with the media after the session on Tuesday. Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan said that there was some progress in the talks, but nothing substantial that will go toward solving the budget impasse that's now more than five months in the running.
"We all know from experience, that when you get into a budget impasse of this nature, that it's a bunch of small steps. There's not going to be any leaps to success."
Michael Madigan, Illinois House Speaker
Jim Durkin, the House Minority Leader, said that legislators discussed the Governor's reform agenda, pension and worker's comp reform, and the state's unemployment rate. Durkin went on to say that Republicans want reforms to aid all of the middle class.
"The middle class has not been helped over the past 20 years. So reform, and bringing confidence back into state government is paramount."
Jim Durkin, Illinois House Minority Leader
Madigan contends this point, and says that the Governor's proposed reform would actually hurt the middle class, while Republican legislators say that the past 12 years of Democrat policies have been what's hurt the middle class. All parities have agreed to meet again, potentially as early as next week. By the time lawmakers are scheduled to be back in Springfield next month, the state will be into their seventh month without a complete budget.
Winners of the Illinois Lottery will soon be receiving the money they're owed. The General Assembly passed a bill, which was signed by the Governor on Monday, which allocates funds to pay out these overdue lottery winnings. Claims will be processed in the order in which they were received, and processing is set to begin on December 14th. However, this does not nullify the lawsuits placed against the Lottery. Representing the lottery winners in court is Attorney Tom Zimmerman, who praises the finding of funds, and the paying of owed debts, but says that the matter isn't settled just yet.
"The prize money can get paid out to the Lottery winners. Now that's been the goal of this lawsuit since day one. That, however, would not end the case because we are also seeking the unpaid interest on that prize money, and so that part of the case would proceed forward."
Tom Zimmerman, Attorney
Last week, a federal judge ordered the winnings, and the interest on all winnings, to be held in a separate account to make sure that funds were appropriated correctly, and the Comptroller's Office has complied with that.
Governor Rauner has signed legislation that approves the distribution of nearly $2 Billion in funds that's owed to local governing bodies. This includes funding for 9-1-1 services through the Wireless Emergency Telephone Safety Act (WETSA). After being approved by a wide margin through the House and Senate, and signed by the Governor, the measure will provide $77 Million in WETSA funding throughout the state of Illinois. Currently, the Illinois Commerce Commission monitors the acquisition and distribution of fees, collected by wireless carriers, which fund emergency access to 9-1-1 services, but that will soon change. Starting on January 1st, the Illinois State Police will take over that duty. Except for Chicago, which has a separate surcharge, all wireless telephones in the state pay 73 cents a month. From this charge, about 65 cents goes towards the Wireless Services Emergency Fund to help meet the expenses of the 9-1-1 systems. County 9-1-1 systems which serve under 100,000 residents receive 2 cents of this, and 1 cent goes to the program administrator. For complete details on this change, go to www.ilga.gov
This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week. Just like it sounds, the week is a nationally observed time to showcase the importance of keeping up to date on influenza vaccination. It may seem late in the year, as many people get the vaccine in the early fall, but the time between December and February is the peak time for flu activity, and it helps to be prepared. Nirav D. Shah, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health makes a good point. He says that even if you yourself are in good health, the people around you, especially children and the elderly, can be more vulnerable and a flu shot helps to not only protect you, but them as well. Even healthy people can get the flu, and they can certainly pass it on. Every year, the flu infects millions of people, hundreds of thousands of which are hospitalized, and thousands of those result in deaths. To maintain healthy standards this season, the IDPH recommends following what they call the "3 C's" in addition to getting your flu shot:
Clean, Cover, and Contain. Essentially, wash your hands, cover your mouth, and stay home if you're sick. To find a flu shot location in your area, check with your local health department or use the Flu Vaccine Finder on the IDPH's website.
Illinois State Police, District 14, in Macomb have reported to Regional Media that the main telephone line to District 14 Macomb headquarters (309) 833-4046, has been repaired and is now back in
Today's the last day to enjoy the 10th Annual McDonough District Hospital Festival of Trees. The event is held at the West Central Illinois Arts Center at 25 E.Side Square in Macomb. You have until 4pm today to enjoy exquisite holiday trees, decor, upside-down trees, the "I-Spy" game, a $200 cash raffle, compliments of Steve Silberer/Centry 21 and more! Proceeds will benefit the Deloris Kator Switzer Women's Center Project at McDonough District Hospital. The event is open to the community for a $3 admission fee (Children 10 & under are free).
Congress will soon break for the holidays, but there's still a big issue on the table: whether or not to make permanent, or even just extend parts of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. Child welfare advocated, such as David Lloyd with Voices for Illinois Children, say these credits help about 900,000 Illinois children. But they're slated to expire in 2017.
"It's really critical that Congress, when they're thinking about putting in extensions for business tax credits, that they also take care of children and families."
-David Lloyd, Voices for Illinois Children
Lloyd is hopeful that lawmakers will extend the credits during their upcoming talks, but he points to numbers from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that show about 322,000 children could end up "pushed into or deeper into poverty."
"The kids who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit make more as adults. Even, you see less incarceration. All sorts of positive benefits, much of which we'll lose if provisions to these credits expire."
-David Lloyd, Voices for Illinois Children
Ralph Martire, director of the Chicago-based Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, says the credits have had support from both sides of the political aisle because it's an economic driver for low-income families.
"Every additional dollar they get, whether it's in direct income or, in this case, through a tax credit, they spend in their local community. So, that then becomes the income of the dry cleaner or the grocery store."
-Ralph Martire, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability
Still, some House Republicans say many people are abusing the tax credits with fraudulent claims. Congress may decide on the tax extenders before lawmakers adjourn for the holidays on December 18th.
With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the occupation of Crimea, and now the escalating violence in the Middle East that is moving outward, the U.S. Army's presence is Europe is more important than ever. That's according the Lt. General Ben Hodges, the commander of U.S. Army Europe. The General spoke with Regional Media last week, and said that ramping up the numbers and involvement of the military efforts in Europe is no simple operation.
"So, the task is to make 30,000 look and feel like 300,000 in terms of strategic effect. And one of the essential elements of doing that, is reliance on the National Guard. "
-Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, U.S. Army Europe
Many states are sending battalions over to Europe for training, and in specific "Exercise Anaconda," which is a biennial training program in Poland. Illinois will be one of the states that's sending troops, and our track record overseas is regarded highly.
"And Illinois is leading the way, the Illinois National Guard in particular, is leading the way here in Europe, through something called the State Partnership Program."
-Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, U.S. Army Europe
Through this program, about 500 Illinois soldiers will be headed over for a training program projected to last about two weeks. This includes soldiers from Riverside, Normal, and right here in Macomb. The 44th Chemical Battalion out of Macomb will be sending approximately 60 soldiers for this advanced training.
St.Paul's Church in Macomb will be hosting their 8th Annual "Cookie Walk" on Saturday (December 5th) in conjunction with Macomb's "Dickens on the Square." The event will be held from 8am-2pm at Taylor Hall located above Sullivan-Taylor Coffee House on the East Side of the Macomb Square. Stop in and purchase all your home-made favorites: cookies, cakes, pies, holiday fudge by the pound and more! Proceeds will benefit various programs at the church.
According to the Illinois State Police District 14, their main phone line is currently down. They do not have an estimated time for repair.
For inquiries or District 14 State Police Assistance please call the Springfield Communications Center at 217-786-6677.
The Western Illinois University Athletics Department is inviting the WIU Community and the Macomb Community to come out and send off the Leatherneck Football team this Friday afternoon.
The Leathernecks will travel Friday to Bloomington-Normal for the second round of the NCAA FCS Playoffs on Saturday, kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m. at Illinois State.
The celebratory send off begins at 3 p.m. at Western Hall, near the east arena, and the team is scheduled to leave at 3:30.
Western advanced to the second round of the Division I playoffs following its 24-7 win at Dayton last week.
Head coach Bob Nielson, the 2015 Missouri Valley Football Conference ‘Coach of the Year’, and the seven All-MVFC selections will lead Western into its rematch against in-state rival and conference foe Illinois State. The Leathernecks are looking to avenge a 48-28 loss at ISU in October.
Those interested in attending the game can call the WIU Alumni Association at (309) 298-1914 to purchase a pregame social package (food, drinks, with or without a game ticket).
The game will be aired on Regional Media's Classic 103, 102.7FM, with pregame at 12:30 and kick-off set for 1pm.
Today is Community and Senior's Day at Citizen's Bank in Macomb. Until 10:30am, the public can take advantage of free services including: cholesterol testing and blood pressure screening by Heartland Health Care, blood sugar testing by The Elms, hand wax therapy by Wesley Village and pulse oximetry by western Illinois Home Health. There will also be information and displays set up by: American Red Cross, Alternatives For You, Everly House, Jefferson House, McDonough County Health Department, McDonough District Hospital Senior Behavioral Health Unit, Tri States Audio Information Services, Western Illinois Museum and YMCA Senior Center. Citizen's Bank is located on the sorth side of the Square in Downtown Macomb. For more information, call Citizen's at 833-4551.
It took two years of delays, but this week the EPA finally released new renewable fuel standards for the country. The rules include upping the amount of renewable fuel, mostly corn-based ethanol, to more than 18-billion gallons by 2016. That will bring renewable sources up to about 10% of the national fuel supply. But the EPA's original rules from earlier in the year set a renewable fuel target of 22-billion gallons. Scott Irwin, agricultural and consumer economics professor at the University of Illinois, says that change is upsetting some of the state's ethanol and corn producers.
"Even though the ethanol mandates may have been higher than expected, they were not moved all the way back to the levels that were stated in the original RFS legislation."
-Scott Irwin - University of Illinois
Although the local corn ethanol industry adds more than five-billion dollars to the state economy, sustainable agriculture advocates still want to see more federal incentives for new forms of alternative fuel sources. Johnathan Hladik, with the Center for Rural Affairs, says the future focus should be on cellulosic ethanol. That's the type of biofuel made from materials such as wood, certain grasses, or the inedible parts of plants such as wheat. Hladik says states such as Illinois are uniquely positioned to lead the charge with emerging alternative fuels.
“In order to get the technology where it needs to be, we need to make sure that we have our foot on the gas pedal, and we’re doing what we can to help this industry thrive and to evolve. Certainly this announcement could have done a better job of helping us to do that.”
-Johnathan Hladik - Center for Rural Affairs
Still, the EPA has set its new national target for cellulosic biofuels to 230 million gallons in 2016, which is nearly double the amount for this year. Irwin says that might mean the demand could rise for local corn and soybeans, which are used in biodiesel.
The Illinois State Police District 14 has announced results of recent special Traffic Enforcement Patrols (sTEP) for Macomb and the surrounding areas.
The 1st wave of sTEP was conducted by District 14 officers November 13th through November 29th in McDonough, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson and Warren counties.
Violations resulting from the patrols include 9 occupant restraint citations, 1 DUI, 4 drug and or alcohol related arrests, 84 speeding citations, and 12 speeding written warnings.
The sTEP program pairs increased enforcement with community education to raise awareness and compliance with traffic laws. This project was funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Highway Safety.
Some of Illinois' best public spots for hunting, fishing, and hiking could be at risk of losing about 54 million dollars in federal support. That's because Congress can't agree on the future of a program that funds public conservation and recreation projects. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been around for 50 years, but lawmakers let it expire at the end of September. Recently, they reopened the debate, but Gelasia Croom says there shouldn't be much to argue about, as the program does important work.
"By removing these funds, you're affecting the economy, the ecology and overall, the quality of our basic natural services, including drinking water and things like that. You know, we have to be careful."
Gelasia Croom - Nature Conservancy
At issue is a proposal from Utah Republican Congressman Rob Bishop, which sets limits and restricts LWCF funding. However, two Senate bills call for reauthorization and full funding of the program. Alan Rowsome with the Wilderness Society says that a compromise is needed. He claims that, unlike the Senate plans, Bishop's proposal has no bipartisan support.
"It's out of step and out of touch with what most Americans want - and his proposal, you know, would forever alter a program that isn't broken and doesn't need fixing."
Alan Rowsome - Wilderness Society
Bishop's plan has come under fire for proposing changes that run counter to the goals of the LWCF, such as redirecting about 20% of its funding back to the oil and gas developers. Meanwhile, Croom says that by funding public land projects, like the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in central Illinois, the government also helps local farming businesses. She also says that the Nature Conservancy has been working to restore flooplains in that area.
"By having a wetland area there, and working in concert with federal agencies, we are able to address conservation issues as well as flooding and mitigating negative impacts from not taking care of that land."
Gelasia Croom - Nature Conservancy
Several members of Illinois' congressional delegation have signed letters in support of the LWCF, including Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger.
Maple Avenue Christian Church will host their free annual Christmas Eve Dinner on December 24th at the church located at 1300 Maple Avenue in Macomb. Delivery/ Carry-Out times are 3:30pm to 5pm. Dine-in times are 5 to 6pm. A special MACC Christmas Eve service will be held afterward at 6:30pm.
Senior Minister, Donnie Case, told Regional Media that everyone is invited to join them for this free dinner and service but they ask that people make reservations by December 17th so they know how much to cook. For reservations, call 837-9318.
The menu consists of ham, potatoes, green beans, roll and desserts.
Volunteers are needed to help with the meal.
For more information call the church of visit their website at www.connectgrowserveshare.com.