Tom's #Mailbag, Oct. 12, 2018

Tom's #Mailbag, Oct. 12, 2018

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Here are your questions — and answers — from all around the area: a graffiti-filled house in Pesotum, a longtime Christmas tree vendor in Champaign County, planned park improvements in Champaign, a street repair in Urbana, a fast food shop in Mahomet, panhandling in Champaign-Urbana, Scott Eisenhauer's radio future in Danville, a homeless woman in Savoy, the old Union Bus Station in downtown Champaign, undervotes, whether police recruits undergo polygraph tests and more on unwanted emails from political candidates.

Attention-grabbing house

"In Pesotum, on East Adams Street there is a eyesore property with some not so friendly language painted on the side. What's the story?"

What a sad tale this is.

The graffiti-filled house at 105 E. Adams St. is owned by Glenn C. Jones, 60, currently being held in the Champaign County Jail on charges of stalking and aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Jones' case was continued last month so that he could be examined by Champaign psychiatrist Lawrence Jeckel to see if he's fit to stand trial.

Here's the background on the charges against Jones.

As for the condition of the house, Pesotum Village President Joyce Ragle said nothing can be done.

"I know there are violations there but there really isn't anything the village can do at this time," she said. "The problem is that the ordinance does not require him to fix it at this time. He's not there to fix it and you're just putting fines on top of violations that he does not have the money to pay anyway."

Ragle said the village cannot paint over the obscenities and other unpleasant language painted on Jones' house.

"We cannot go on his property at this time," she said. "Our hands our tied. There really is nothing we can do at this time."

She said Jones' regularly paints graffiti on the house.

"That's been up there for a year and a half, two years," she said. "It's not something that just showed up."

More on emails from political campaigns

This is a followup from a question in last week's mailbag ...

"I too was signed up for emails from JB Pritzker's political campaign. I had assumed it was just random, but after reading the mailbag this week, it got me thinking. I had just recently signed up for an absentee ballot, and just about a week later i received an email from JB. The timing of this seems suspicious."

and

"Not a question, but just a note to say I also was signed up by the Pritzker campaign to receive emails and never gave implied or express permission to do so and never would. I was very unhappy about it. No clue how I got on their list, but from what I understand, it's against the law to add people to an email list without their permission."

It's a pretty good bet that the Pritzker campaign — and others — obtained your email addresses from the Illinois State Board of Elections.

"By statute, SBE is required to make our electronic voter registration database available to registered political committees," said elections board spokesman Matt Dietrich. "Candidates make their mailing lists from the database. You can find details about cost and who may purchase at this link: https://www.elections.il.gov/votinginformation/computerizedvoterdata.aspx"

If you follow the link it explains that the board "compiles a database of voter registration information provided by the 109 Illinois election jurisdictions. Illinois counties (and 7 cities) submit data to the Board electronically on a regular basis, usually nightly.

"Voter data is available to registered political committees for bonafide political purposes. Use for commercial solicitation or other business purposes is prohibited. (Chapter 10 ILCS 5/4-8, 5-7, and 6-35, Illinois Compiled Statutes)."

The board charges $500 for a voter registration database of the entire state.

Polygraphs for police recruits

"Today I read an article in a popular magazine that stated that police departments in the United States are still using polygraph test prior to hiring new recruits. Is this something that is happening in Champaign-Urbana?"

Neither city police department nor the county sheriff uses polygraphs.

"The Champaign Police Department does not use a polygraph examination in our hiring process. After an applicant successfully goes through the interview process and passes an extensive background investigation, the applicant is then recommended for hire to the Board of Fire and Police Commission by the Chief of Police," said spokesman Tom Yelich. "Once an applicant is approved by the Board of Fire and Police Commission, a conditional offer of employment is extended to the applicant, contingent upon passing a psychological exam, medical exam and medical records review."

Urbana Interim Police Chief Bryant Seraphin said "Urbana does not use polygraph examinations in the hiring process and has not done so in the 24 years I've been here.

And Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh said his agency relies on a detailed psychological exam before hiring a recruit and hasn't used polygraphs since at least the 1990s.

Longtime Christmas tree business

"I noticed the for sale sign at the farm where each year Tate Trees sells Christmas trees. Will they still be selling trees this year? I hope so. I have gone there for decades."

Tate Trees will be open again this year on the day after Thanksgiving at the same location, said Judy Hansens, whose husband is one of the owners of the business.

She said they've been selling Christmas "for 48 or 49 years."

"Undervote" on ballot

"Is it true if you don't choose either candidate in a race, your entire ballot will be discarded, ie, the races you did vote in won't count?"

"That is not the case," said Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten. "A voter's vote or non-vote on any contest on the ballot has no effect on the remaining contests on the ballot. In fact, it's perfectly legal to cast an entirely blank ballot without filling in any ovals, and it will be counted (as an undervote in every contest)."

In fact in the 2016 election in Champaign County, an unusually large number of voters — 1,098 — did not vote for any of the four presidential candidates. Compare that to the undervotes in 2012 and 2008 presidential elections — 202 and 260, respectively.

"I'm not sure where this myth started or why we get this question every election," said Hulten.

Park plans

"As a homeowner near Heritage Lake, we met with the (Champaign) Park District about two years ago to review their extensive plans for upgrading Heritage Park. There was to be a boardwalk, new parking, playground, new pathways, etc. The contracts were to be put out for bid in the spring of this year and the work to start this fall. We have seen no activity yet. Is the upgrade still in the works? What is the delay?"

It's still on, said park planer Bridgette Moen, although it won't be as ambitious.

"The bid for Heritage Park was recently award to Stark Excavation, Inc., whose contract began on Oct. 1 The planning process was a little lengthy due to the engineering studies of the lake and shore (which effected the scope of the project)," she said. "The work will be completed by late spring 2019.

"The improvements include lakeshore stabilization, native plantings along the shore and a concrete path which will loop around the lake. Other amenities included in the master plan are not within the scope of this project; the park district is focusing first on improving circulation."

The park and Greenbelt Trail leading into it will remain open to the public throughout construction, with visitors urged to be cautious and aware of the construction areas of the lake and surrounding path system. The parking lot off Bradley Avenue will be closed throughout the project timeline.

Union Bus Station

"In 1996-97 as a college student I rode a bus between Peoria and Champaign to visit friends occasionally. I'm trying to remember where the 'bus station' used to be. This was before the very nice current train/bus station. I remember a parking lot (possibly gravel) with a small building (seemed like it once might have been a drive up kiosk to get pictures developed) and a pay phone. Downtown Champaign has changed so much I can't tell where it used to be. My best guesses are either the gravel lot north of the Orpheum or the gravel lot where the new building at 520 Neil is going up. (Writing this makes me feel old: bus, pay phone, and picture developing kiosk.)"

The Union Bus Station was at 118 S. Walnut St., south of what is now the Inman Place. The site is now a parking lot for Christie Clinic.

A 1985 News-Gazette story said that the more than 80-year-old bus terminal had to go.

"(It) is draining us financially," said Nabil Siniora, the station's manager. "The main thing is to shed away that image that the bus station is a dungeon."

The Union Bus Station was replaced in January 1999 by the Illinois Terminal building, which is owned by the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District.

Homeless woman

"At the Curtis Road entrance to Schnucks in Savoy, there is often a woman in a wheelchair, even in bad weather, with a sign that says 'Hungry for food.' Is there an agency that could help her?"

Yes, there are social service agencies that can help her. In fact, Pam Kirschbaum said she gets around on Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District buses because she has a "dash pass."

"I've been checking around for other help but I haven't heard anything," said Kirschbaum, 35, a Danville native.

She said she had been stationed outside the Savoy strip mall since last December, in good weather and bad.

She said she was living with some friends "but they got evicted and I'm trying to find a place now. I've just been sleeping in the park and stuff. I know that's kind of dangerous so I try to stay awake all night."

I don't know where to go now."

She said she occasionally gets cash donations from people, sometimes as much as $20.

Fast food update

"They started clearing the land for the new Jimmy John's in Mahomet but nothing else has happened since. Weeds and grass have grown up again. What's taking so long?"

I checked with Mahomet Village Administrator Patrick Brown who was kind enough to check with Patrick Wampler, operating partner for Subwars, LLC , th elocal franchisee.

"It's just taken longer than expected to finalize plans, along with drainage, and other obstacles. Should hopefully be starting in November," Wampler told Brown.

Eisenhauer on the air

"Curious if our beloved Mayor (Scott) Eisenhauer is going to keep calling Danville games on WDAN?"

"I will certainly be finishing out the football season, and then will meet with the mayor (of Rantoul) and radio station management to determine the future," said the Danville mayor who is set to become village administrator in Rantoul. "My first priority is learning my new role in Rantoul and engaging in the community there, but if time allows, I do enjoy sports broadcasting as a hobby and would like to continue doing it in some way."

Panhandling ordinances

"The paper had an article about lawyers for panhandlers suing to overturn restrictions on when or how people can ask for money, such as preventing 'aggressive' requests or panhandling around ATM machines. How do local laws stack up?"

It's prohibited in Champaign, where it is called "aggressive panhandling" and in Urbana where the ordinance refers to "aggressive solicitation."

Here's the Champaign law: "Definitions. (1) Panhandling means any act by which one person asks, begs or solicits from another or others in person, by requesting an immediate donation of money or other thing of value. Panhandling includes the spoken, written or printed word or such other act conducted with the purpose of obtaining an immediate donation of money or thing of value.

(2) Aggressive panhandling means panhandling which is accompanied by one or more of the following:

a. Approaching, speaking to, or following a person in such a manner as would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily harm or the commission of a criminal act upon the person, or upon property in the person's immediate possession;

b. Touching another person in the course of panhandling without that person's consent;c. Repeatedly panhandling from a person, or following the person, after the person has made a negative response;

d. Intentionally blocking or interfering with the safe passage of a person or a vehicle by any means, including unreasonably causing a person to take evasive action to avoid physical contact.

"Aggressive panhandling does not include passively panhandling without engaging in the acts specified in this subsection."

"(b) Aggressive panhandling prohibited. It is unlawful for any person to engage in aggressive panhandling in any place open to the general public.

(c) Panhandling prohibited in specific locations. It is unlawful for any person to engage in panhandling:

(1) Within ten (10) feet of any automatic teller machine (ATM).

(2) In any public transportation vehicle or at any bus or train station.

(3) Within ten (10) feet of any official sign indicating a bus stop.

(4) On private property or residential property, if the owner, tenant or occupant has asked the person not to panhandle on the property or has posted a sign prohibiting soliciting.

(d) Panhandling prohibited from operator or occupant of motor vehicle. It is unlawful for any person to engage in panhandling from any operator or occupant of a motor vehicle in a lane of traffic on a public street.Here's the ordinance in Urbana:

"Sec. 15-68. - Aggressive solicitation.

(a) Definitions. For the purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:

Aggressive solicitation means solicitation in a group of two (2) or more persons or solicitation accompanied by any of the following actions:

(1) Touching another person without that person's consent;

(2) Blocking the path of the person solicited or blocking the entrance to any building or vehicle;

(3) Continuing to solicit or to request a donation from a person after that person has refused an earlier request;

(4) Following or remaining alongside a person who walks away from the solicitor after being solicited;

(5) Making any statement, gesture, or other communication that would cause a reasonable person to feel threatened into making a donation; or

(6) Using profane or abusive language during the solicitation or following a refusal to make a donation."

"Solicitation means a verbal request made in person upon any street, public place, or park in the city for an immediate donation of money or other thing of value, including a request to purchase an item or service of little or no monetary value in circumstances where a reasonable person would understand that the purchase is in substance a donation. Solicitation does not include the act of passively standing, sitting, or engaging in a musical performance or other street performance with a sign or other indication that donations are being sought, without any verbal request for a donation other than in response to an inquiry by another person. Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit any loud and raucous noise currently prohibited by chapter 16 of this Code.

"Prohibitions. No person shall engage in aggressive solicitation. No person shall engage in solicitation when the person solicited is located:

(1) Within twenty (20) feet of an automated teller machine (ATM) or entrance to a bank, other financial institution, or check cashing business; or

(2) On private property, if the owner, tenant, or occupant has asked the person not to solicit on the property or has posted a sign prohibiting soliciting.

(c) Penalty. Any person who commits an act prohibited by this section shall be subject to a fine as provided in the minimum fine schedule for certain violations adopted by the city council by ordinance. Provided, however, that remunerated community or public service will be made available by the city as an alternative to payment of a fine. The circuit court may enjoin the person from committing further violations of this section. Each violation of this section shall constitute a separate offense."

South First Street improvements

"First Street, between Windsor and Curtis roads, appears to be in the process of being rebuilt and repaved. Are there any known plans to add paved shoulders that bicyclists could also utilize? Compared to what is immediately to the north and south of this stretch of road, it is very narrow."

The project is virtually complete, said Champaign Township Highway Commissioner Keith Padgett.

"There are no plans to purchase additional pavement easement footage along South First Street — east nor west side," he said. "There is still hopes of a side path for walkers and bicyclists on the west side of South First Street from Curtis Road to Windsor Road."

Extension for Mullikin?

"With the large number of apartments being built on Nicklaus Drive and Palmer Drive in Champaign, are there any plans to open Mullikin Drive connecting Windsor and Nicklaus to alleviate traffic congestion?"

Bruce Knight, Champaign's director of planning, said the preliminary plat of The Legends of Champaign subdivision shows a "stub" for Mullikin Drive's future extension "but connecting Mullikin Drive to Windsor Road will only happen whenever the property to the north of the Legends Subdivision develops.

"In the meantime, (developer) Regency has taken over the multifamily portion of the development at Legends and is platting the right of way to extend Palmer Drive south to intersect with Curtis Road this fall. I would expect that the road extension will occur in the spring. I would also note that development of the southern half of this subdivision only became possible last year after a sanitary sewer project for Carle at the Fields resulted in this property having access by gravity to sanitary sewer."

Urbana street improvement

"The road between Race and Vine on Florida Avenue is unbelievably bad. Any chance the city has plans to fix it any time soon?

Yes, said soon-to-be retired Urbana Public Works Director Bill Gray, short-term repairs are coming.

"Public Works Department staff are planning to perform street repairs this month to address Florida Avenue's condition," he said. "More significant reconstruction and paving work on Florida Avenue is at least three years away based on current funding projections."

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