Daily dose: Local history, local politics, improved medical monitoring at the UI, Medicaid cuts, Quinn's threatened cuts, UI AD looks north, Half Century Club update

Local history

In 1911, a tented city has sprung up two miles north of downtown Champaign where scores of men are building new shops and yards for the Illinois Central Railroad. A month from now as many as 400 to 500  men are expected to be working at the site. Two miniature trains, each of 14 cars, are carrying the dirt emptied by a steam shovel to a site on the north end of the property where it is dumped. Among the laborers is a group of 28 Austrians.

In 1961, Champaign County is facing its first property tax increase since 1955 and a temporary halt to the county courthouse remodeling program, according to Joseph Atkinson, chairman of the county board of supervisors. The proposed budget calls for a tax rate of 12.12 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, up from the current 9.38 cents. The county tax rate reached a high of 18.2 cents in 1955-56. “I question very much whether we’ll be able to advance the rehabilitation program next year,” Atkinson said. But work on the third floor of the courthouse would be completed, he said.

From today's column ...

Smyth for county clerk?
Urbana City Council Member Charlie Smyth said Tuesday that he may run for Champaign County clerk. Smyth, a member of the city council for 10 years, likely would face Gordy Hulten, a Republican who was appointed to the position earlier this year when former Clerk Mark Shelden went to work for U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana.
“It’s important to have someone in that position who is not a political party hack,” said Smyth. “I think I’ve demonstrated from my work on the city council that I’ve worked to develop consensus and that I’m one who has the ability to work with all kinds of groups.”
Smyth said he would decide within a few weeks whether to run.

Pliura plunges in
Dr. Thomas Pliura, a rural Ellsworth physician and attorney who last week announced he is running in the new 51st state Senate District, has already loaned his campaign $10,000.
Pliura reported the campaign contribution on Aug. 30, a day after he announced his candidacy.
That’s a good start, but he’s going to need a lot more money to match his Republican primary opponent, state Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who reported more than $162,000 on hand as of June 30.
At the time of his announcement, Pliura said he was ready to self-fund his candidacy.
“I’m not going to be owned by anybody. The way you get lots of money is to sell your soul to the devil,” Pliura said. “I may have to fund it entirely by myself, and I’m willing to do that.”

Better medical monitoring

From The New York Times ...

Confined to their hospital beds, patients can only fantasize about stripping off all the wires that connect them to monitors and bolting for the door.
Suppose, however, that all of a convalescent patient’s electrode patches were consolidated into a single, nearly invisible and weightless version — as thin as a temporary, press-on tattoo. And suppose that a tiny radio transmitter eliminated the need for any wires tethering the patient to monitoring machines.
A monitor might be mounted on a temporary tattoo, for concealment.
“Epidermal electronics” — a term coined by researchers who have produced prototype devices at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — may enable constant medical monitoring anywhere.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/technology/wireless-medical-monitoring...

Medicaid cuts hit home

From The Chicago Tribune ...

"The state's budget woes seeped into the life of Fred Friedman during a recent trip to the pharmacy.

"Friedman, 56, has survived a decades-long battle with depression in large part because of psychiatric drugs that Medicaid has allowed him to buy for just a few dollars. When he went to pick up a new prescription, though, he learned Medicaid would no longer cover its cost. He would have to pay $100 — one-sixth of his monthly income.

"He went home empty-handed. But after a conversation with his doctor, he decided he couldn't go without the medication.

"'I went out and spent money I couldn't afford,' said Friedman, who heads an advocacy group for people with mental illness called Next Steps. 'Now I have no money in my checking account. I'm not sure how I'm going to live.'

"In a money-saving move that reflects the dire condition of the state budget, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services no longer automatically provides 17 brand-name psychiatric drugs to people on Medicaid, the state's insurance program for the poor. Officials say doctors must first explain why the pricey medicines are preferable to alternatives that can be far cheaper."

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-medicaid-drugs-20110907,...

 

Reaction to Quinn threats of facility cuts

From The State Journal-Register ...

Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, said he’s heard that the Jacksonville Developmental Center is one of seven Department of Human Services facilities being targeted, although he has not been told that definitively.  DHS did not respond to questions.

Watson complained that Quinn hasn’t approached lawmakers about the need for cuts.

“If you want to negotiate, negotiate,” Watson said. “Don’t play havoc with people’s livelihoods and the lives of (DHS) clients.”

House Republicans and Democrats joined together last spring to insist that a budget be built around the most conservative revenue estimates.  That budget eventually was passed and signed by Quinn.

Watson, though, said he might be open to using excess revenue to keep facilities open.

“I don’t have a hard-line thing,” he said.

Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said Quinn is probably just setting the stage for a vote during the veto session to spend more money.

“He’s right, there isn’t enough money in the budget.  I would consider it, but I would want to know what revenue looks like at that point,” Bomke said.

Bomke also said Quinn keeps “reneging on his contractual agreements.”

Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, said Quinn hasn’t shared any details with lawmakers, and it will be up to the governor to prove the cuts are necessary, especially closing facilities. Through the bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, the General Assembly has oversight of facility closures.

“Part of the process will be whether the governor can make a case for closing facilities,” Sullivan said.  “It’s on his back now to make that justification.

“If we need to come back and look at the budget, we’re willing to do that,” Sullivan said.  “At some point, we can do a supplemental (budget) if there is more revenue.”

A supplemental budget would have to be approved by the House also.  Sara Wojcicki, spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, noted that the House approved a resolution saying that any extra money the state collects this year is to go toward paying down bills.

“These latest announcements are in the same spirit of former Governor Blagojevich — float some scary scenarios without many details, then take them off the table before they even get any air,” she said.

The Senate Republicans’ budget point man, Matt Murphy of Palatine, said he doesn’t see Senate Republicans going along with more spending or borrowing.

“I hope he’s coming to grips with the reality check we tried to give him last spring,” Murphy said.  “You can’t keep spending the way you’ve been spending.”

Fighting  Illini fighting "Chicago's (laughable) Big Ten team

From the Chicago Tribune ..

"Before Illinois' new athletic director entered Memorial Stadium for Saturday's season opener, fans chatted with him and confirmed an opinion about the future of the football team that Mike Thomas already has endorsed.
"'If you're going to have a presence (in Chicago), you need to figure out a way to get in front of these people,' Thomas said. 'We have a great fan base and alumni base up there that would gravitate toward us having a bigger brand up there, which is really a big step in us becoming a national brand.'
"Describing his goal to become "king of Chicago" when he was hired from Cincinnati a month ago caught some attention — and caused him to catch some light-hearted flak from DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto, who told him she was queen of Chicago.
"But with no Blue Demons football program, and with Northwestern advertising itself as Chicago's Big Ten school, Thomas is keeping his eyes fixed north of Champaign."
"Thomas, who called himself the 'key person' in future scheduling decisions, indicated seven home football games, including one in Chicago, would be ideal."

http://www.chicagotribune.com/site/newspaper/sports/ct-spt-0907-illinois...

Half Century Club update

From Sunday's column ...

The annual soiree of the marvelous Half Century Club — a group dedicated to celebrating the history of Champaign County and, more specifically, Urbana — will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at 88 Broadway at Lincoln Square Village in Urbana.
The program is a salute to Lincoln Square, the downtown shopping center that was so dramatically innovative when the project was unveiled 50 years ago in 1961. Lincoln Square, with the Carson Pirie Scott department store as its anchor, was the first indoor shopping mall in downstate Illinois when it opened in 1964.
Lincoln Square’s heyday lasted about 15 years, but it was a marvelous concept and a retail space that still spawns fond memories of its shops, sculptures, aquariums, Easter petting zoos and special events. (I once saw Chief Illiniwek dance there, a practice that was later banned by the University of Illinois).
Among the speakers for the Half Century Club program on Lincoln Square will be Urbana attorney Dick Thies, who had a major role in its development. As a young attorney, Thies closed nearly every real estate transaction that was needed to bring Lincoln Square together, including dozens of homes in a 9-square-block area that were purchased to clear the way for the development.
Thies and his delightful wife, Marilyn, also will be honored as Champaign County residents of distinction, along with longtime local photographer and Lincoln Square tenant Bob McCandless.
This will be the 88th annual meeting of the Half Century Club, which claims to be — and who is going to dispute it? — a successor to the local Old Settlers Association that was organized in 1870 as a way for Champaign County pioneers to get together and relive the old days.
The Half Century Club, originally know as the Urbana Half Century Club, was formed in 1924 and opened to anyone who had been born in Urbana 50 years earlier or who had lived in the city for 50 years. It’s now open to anyone who has lived for 50 years in what is broadly termed “the area.”
Tickets to this year’s Half Century Club dinner — which, incidentally, is the only meeting of the club all year — are $25 and include a choice of three entrees plus beverages and dessert. For ticket information call Norma Bean at 359-1360.

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