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Rather than risk a trial, the Champaign City Council last week quietly settled a wrongful-death lawsuit stemming from a violent early morning altercation between police and a local man.
Did police employ excessive force in bringing Gregory Brown, who weighed 300 pounds, under control? Did Brown lay the groundwork for a fatal heart attack by threatening a police officer and then trying to flee before engaging in a life-or-death struggle with police?
Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing's budget message mentions that the city is holding the line on its property tax rate ($1.31 per $100 of assessed valuation, the same as Champaign's) and is raising its local sales tax rate to 2.25 percent in order to match Champaign's.
Left unmentioned, though, is the fact that Urbana's utility tax rate will remain far higher than Champaign's and is at the state maximum. Urbana's utility tax rate is 5 percent; Champaign's is 2.75 percent. Over the course of a year, that's a big difference for any homeowner or businessperson. In addition, the utility tax is a notoriously regressive tax because everyone pays it and everyone pays it at the same rate. In fact, it tends to hurts the poor more because their older homes frequently are not as energy-efficient as newer homes.
It's been almost three months since Dr. Kimberly Glow suddenly resigned as medical director of Urbana's school-based health center. You can be forgiven if you thought that the health center had suspended operations in the aftermath. We did.
But it turns out that the health center barely missed a beat. In fact, from January through March, the health center at Urbana High School served 275 students, including 133 newly enrolled young people. And they weren't just high schoolers. Twenty-four were 5 years or under, 38 were 6 to 11, 30 were 12 to 14 and 41 were 15 to 19 years of age.
Parts of President Bush's nationally televised speech on illegal immigration sounded good Monday, but his timing was off.
By linking efforts to begin the daunting task of securing the United States/Mexican border with a plan to give immediate permanent legal resident status to millions of illegal aliens, he would be exacerbating an already serious problem.
There are plenty of divisions in our community: Democrats and Republicans, for a smoking ban and against, for the Chief Illiniwek symbol and against, even on which side of Wright Street you live. But there's one issue on which we all should agree: the need to provide quality, primary health care to the working poor, the uninsured, the low-income elderly, the medically underserved and the Medicaid-eligible in Champaign-Urbana.
The Frances Nelson Health Center, located in a cramped facility in a relatively isolated part of north Champaign, has been serving those groups for nearly 40 years. An expansion of the health center is long overdue. Even though it has been able to add about 200 patients a month, the health center cannot serve all the people in the community who need primary medical care. Its 6,000-square-foot facility, with eight examination rooms, is far too small.
Champaign city officials are laying the groundwork to pursue a fifth public access channel as part of negotiations to renew Insight cable television's franchise agreement.
The city council last week voted to approve the effort to obtain another public access channel, although it's not clear if a majority of the council really wants one or just wants to have something to trade in the negotiations process. Mayor Jerry Schweighart stated specifically that he supported the idea simply as a bargaining chip.
The recent furor over a proposal to increase international and out of state enrollment at the University of Illinois' Urbana campus was interesting in several respects. It showed that the people of Illinois still have a strong affection for the state's flagship university and greatly value getting an education from the UI. It also showed that perhaps the university – and state officials – should not only rethink their plan to reduce undergraduate enrollment here, but also should consider expanding the Urbana campus.
Third, it makes you wonder who in the university administration believed that this idea could fly. It's been suggested many times before – Illinois has long had the highest percentage of in-state students of any Big Ten university – only to be beat back, primarily by state legislators who were hearing from angry constituents whose children couldn't get into the state university.
Odd things happen in election years. Take the ongoing saga of Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the Democratic Legislature's treatment of higher education over the last three years.
Every year during Blagojevich's tenure as governor, the state higher education budget has either been cut or held steady. This year, higher education officials were left to praise a budget that gave them a meager budget increase that is still well below the rate of inflation.
It can't be easy for an influential and longtime political insider to walk into court and admit he's nothing but a crook.
But Donald Udstuen, a powerful lobbyist and one of former Gov. George Ryan's cronies and co-conspirators, got his reward last week in federal court for pleading guilty and cooperating in the prosecution of Ryan and Lawrence Warner, another longtime friend. Udstuen was sentenced to just eight months in federal prison along with another eight months of home confinement.
Those of us in Champaign County, where the economy is strong and the unemployment rate is low, are sometimes unaware of more difficult conditions in other parts of Illinois.