Daily dose: Local history, GOP fundraising, Cold for a while, Senator faces fraud accusations, Veto session, UI battles the press
In 1911, the Illinois Central is now prepared to keep the strike breakers at work in Champaign for as long as possible. One end of the car shops has been fixed up as a hotel with mattresses, clean sheets and pillow cases and blankets. Tables are set for 50 but the cooks say they can handle 300. Two big ranges have been installed and a large pantry is stocked with food items. A store has been started where the men can buy caps. gloves, overalls, magazines and papers, cigars, tobacco and matches.
In 1961, the Unit 4 school board has hired an architectural firm to investigate how best the space at Champaign High School can be used. The search for more classrooms and maximum use of existing space is part of the effort being made to accommodate students in the present high school, which was built in 1934, until another high school can be built.
From yesterday's N-G column ...
Republicans in East Central Illinois are in an unusual thicket this campaign season with primary election contests in three neighboring state Senate districts. That means that six Republicans — in an area stretching from Danville on the east to Clinton on the west and Dwight and Chebanse on the north to Stewardson on the south — are running against each other and, perhaps more importantly, competing for the same campaign contributions.
The six Republicans: John Bambenek and Alan Nudo, both of Champaign, in the 52nd Senate District; Rep. Jason Barickman of Champaign and Sen. Shane Cultra of Onarga in the 53rd District; and Tom Pliura of Ellsworth and Rep. Chapin Rose of Mahomet in the 51st District.
Based on campaign disclosure reports filed recently, the two who had the most success raising money in the vital July 1 to Sept. 30 fundraising period were Nudo and Barickman.
Nudo collected about $46,750, including in-kind contributions, while Barickman got almost $45,000.
Pliura received $24,450, although $10,000 of that was a personal loan; Rose received $20,212; Cultra got $20,075; and Bambenek collected $6,435, although in the last week he has added two $1,000 contributions, one of which came from Adam Andrzejewski, the millionaire Hinsdale businessman who ran for the GOP nomination for governor last year.
Meanwhile, Cultra said the large number of candidates is one obstacle to fundraising. The poor economy is another.
“I never have had to raise a lot of money, never counted a lot of money, never needed a lot of money,” he said. “But with the number of primary races there are, I think a lot of the (political action committees) are holding back and are going to wait and save their money for the general election. It’s going to come down to either using your own money or having the local sources, which are drying up too. I think it’s getting harder and harder to raise money because of all the primaries and the economy.”
Although Barickman outraised him in the quarter, Cultra said he’s not concerned.
“It’s fine. I’m about where I want to be,” Cultra said. “We’re only about $15,000 apart in the end, so it’s what happens from here on out.”
In terms of cash on hand Sept. 30, Barickman had $94,118, Cultra had $79,597.
Cultra said he expects to put more of his own money into the race.
In June, Cultra loaned his campaign $85,000. But in August and September the campaign repaid Cultra a total of $16,600, raising eyebrows among some who wondered how committed the candidate is.
“I just needed some money quick and I just took it out of the campaign,” Cultra said. “I’ll be putting more in later. It was a cash flow thing.”
Overall, Cultra had $3,320 in itemized individual contributions (by law those of $150 or more), $8,925 in non-itemized contributions and about $7,000 in so-called transfers, generally money from political action committees, such as Caterpillar and ComEd.
Barickman’s donations were almost entirely from individuals, including $29,250 in itemized contributions and $14,135 in non-itemized contributions. He had just $750 in transfers.
“This campaign continues to build widespread, grassroots support,” Barickman said in a statement. “Our message to bring effective, conservative leadership to the Illinois Senate is resonating and we are well-positioned to run a strong campaign.”
The Cultra-Barickman race, at least on the surface, has been civil. Cultra said his message is to stress his experience.
“I’ve run a business for 30 years. I have county government experience and I’ve been in the General Assembly for nine years. He’s been in less than a year, so I think that’s a big difference,” Cultra said. “Plus I have a proven record. If people look at what I’ve done, the way I’ve voted, I’m a fiscal conservative for limited government and I’ve voted that way. I’m also a social conservative. So if that’s where people are I think they can feel comfortable supporting me.
“He doesn’t really have that record so he’s more of an unknown. He can tell you what’s he going to do but he doesn’t really have the record to prove it.”
It's beautiful outside today, but the Illinois State Water Survey reports we had our first occasions of frost last weekend. The thermometer dropped to 32 degrees on Friday morning and 31 degrees on Saturday morning. If your tomatoes made it through that, consider yourself lucky. Or maybe they're just far enough off the ground to avoid the cold air pool.
Today's low, on the other hand, was 48 degrees.
The current 10-day forecast predicts temps no lower than 34 degrees in Champaign-Urbana.
Chicago senator linked to fraud charges
From the Chicago Sun-Times ...
In 2005, George E. Smith, a South Side health-care and social-services provider, bought two unfinished condominiums and a vacant lot from Illinois state Sen. Mattie Hunter for $240,000.
Three years later, Smith’s not-for-profit mental-health group got $500,000 in state funding that Hunter — a Chicago Democrat and head of the Senate Human Services committee — helped arrange.
That “disability behavioral health services” grant is now among more than $18.5 million worth of government deals that state inspectors say Smith used to commit “large-scale fraud” on Illinois taxpayers.
The land deals aren’t Hunter’s only involvement with Smith, whom the senator says she has known since the 1980s.
The executive director of Smith’s not-for-profit organization circulated nominating petitions for Hunter’s campaign, to which Smith and one of his businesses made $3,700 in contributions between 2005 and 2010.
Additionally, one of Hunter’s sisters worked as a receptionist for Smith until she died last year at age 52.
Hunter says her financial, personal and political ties to Smith are “unrelated” to her steering him the $500,000 grant.
“I don’t give anybody any money, you guys, unless I know they have the capacity to provide the services,” says Hunter, a former Chicago Housing Authority and city Department of Human Services administrator.
Veto session starts tomorrow
By the State Journal-Register ...
Budgets. Gambling. Pensions. Scholarships.
Those issues by themselves would make an impressive to-do list for lawmakers during the regular spring session.
Instead, those and others are on the list of things lawmakers could tackle when they return for the abbreviated veto session starting next week.
“There is a heavy agenda,” said Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville. “Whether we get to everything has yet to be seen.”
Lawmakers are scheduled to be in session Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, although they will be starting committee hearings on Monday. They take a week off and then return for three more days.
“It’s going to be a busy session,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park.
University of Illinois versus the press
From the New York Times
It was bad enough for the University of Illinois when The Chicago Tribune’s 2009 series “Clout Goes to College” exposed the existence of a “clout list” that over five years gave hundreds of well-connected students an edge in admissions, and led to the resignations of the university president, the chancellor of the flagship Urbana-Champaign campus and most of the trustees.
But two years later, the university is still mired in litigation before the federal appeals court in Chicago, fighting the release of more documents the newspaper has asked for, including the names and addresses of the parents on the clout list. The university has turned over about 5,200 pages of documents to the newspaper. But in a separate state court proceeding, The Tribune is seeking the grade point averages and ACT scores of the students accepted from the clout list.
Those requests set off a shootout between the state’s freedom of information law and the federal privacy law for educational records.
The university, backed by the big guns of academia, argues that the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or Ferpa, forbids disclosure of such information — and threatens the loss of federal financing if it hands over private records. Personal information about students is precisely what the federal privacy act was designed to protect, it said, raising the specter of a world in which students might be shamed by the public release of their academic credentials.