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Urbana's smoking ban gets tentative approval

URBANA – Despite warnings that Champaign-Urbana bars will suffer economically, the Urbana City Council has followed the lead of its sister city in supporting a comprehensive smoking ban.

Council members, meeting as the committee of the whole, voted 6-1 in a voice vote Monday night to forward an ordinance prohibiting smoking in most public places, including bars and restaurants, to the June 5 city council meeting for a final vote.


Champaign council to consider street closures for events

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign City Council will be asked Tuesday to authorize the partial closing of various streets in the downtown area for four different summer festivals.

The council meets in study session at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.


Special use approved for ethanol plants

URBANA – The Champaign County Board has unanimously voted to allow ethanol manufacturing plants as a special use in the heavy industry zoning district.

Board members approved the zoning ordinance amendment in a 22-0 vote Thursday night.


Blagojevich signs bill releasing funds for Medicaid debt

SPRINGFIELD – The state will transfer hundreds of millions of dollars from special purpose funds to help pay down some of its mounting debt to Medicaid providers.

The office of state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka promised to make the fund transfers, worth about $250 million, "within days," after Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a Senate bill into law Friday ordering the transfers to be made immediately.


Smokers welcome, cities say

That big cloud of smoke you see leading out of Champaign-Urbana could be the trail of smokers driving to restaurants, bars and bowling alleys in neighboring communities.

City and village leaders in Gibson City, Gifford, Mahomet, Monticello, Paxton, Philo, Rantoul, Savoy, St. Joseph, Tolono and Villa Grove all say they have no plans to follow Champaign's lead in passing a comprehensive smoking ban, which will be effective Aug. 1 if Urbana approves a similar ordinance in the next several weeks.


Idea for sidewalk cafes sits well with businesses

CHAMPAIGN – Jim Harty thinks allowing outdoor cafes along Green Street can help his business.

Harty, general manager of Potbelly's Sandwich Works, 501 E. Green St., C, has a few tables in front of his restaurant only because the building was purposely built set back a few feet from the property line to allow for limited outdoor seating.


Bradley Avenue fixes will be made

CHAMPAIGN – The crumbling pavement of Bradley Avenue between Mattis Avenue and Duncan Road will be replaced or repaired during the next two years, at a cost of up to $3.2 million.

The Champaign City Council this week, in a 9-0 vote, gave tentative approval for the work. The money will mostly come from the extra $5 million in the fiscal 2007 city budget that city officials hadn't designated for specific spending.


State Senate hopeful offers relief proposal on gas prices

Illinois government should do more to address the soaring price of gasoline, state Senate candidate and Champaign County Auditor Mike Frerichs said Wednesday.

"Over the last month, it has become the biggest issue when I'm out talking to people, especially outside of Champaign-Urbana," said Frerichs, a Democrat from Gifford.


Smoking ban hot topic of conversation

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign City Council vote was a close one – 5 to 4 council members in favor of the smoking ban – so perhaps it is no surprise reaction to the ban was also mixed.

When bartender Eileen Ford arrived at the Brass Rail on Wednesday morning, the smoking ban was already a hot topic of conversation.


Bar owners express concerns

CHAMPAIGN – Though it was to no avail, a number of Champaign bar owners warned Tuesday that a comprehensive smoking ban will hurt their businesses.

The city council voted 5-4 Tuesday to enact a comprehensive smoking ban in public places, including restaurants and bars, effective Aug. 1. Urbana is expected to enact a similar ban next month.