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News Around Illinois – Aug. 13, 2020

The latest news around the state, for Aug. 13, 2020.

Prosecutors Charge 3 With Threatening Women In R. Kelly Case

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal prosecutors announced charges Wednesday against three men accused of threatening and intimidating women who have accused R&B singer R. Kelly of abuse, including one man suspected of setting fire to a vehicle in Florida. A longtime friend of the indicted singer offered to pay a victim $500,000 to keep her from cooperating in Kelly’s prosecution, authorities said, while a manager and adviser of Kelly threatened to release sexually explicit photographs of a woman who sued Kelly. A Kelly defense attorney said he had “no involvement whatsoever” in any attempt to silence witnesses. Also charged were two Illinois men with ties to Kelly. His longtime friend, Richard Arline Jr., 31, is accused of offering to pay off a woman he believed had “too much” incriminating information against Kelly. Authorities said they set up a wiretap and recorded a call in which Arline claimed he had spoken with Kelly behind bars during a three-way call. Donnell Russell, 45, of Chicago, is charged with harassing a Kelly victim and her mother after the unidentified woman filed a lawsuit against Kelly. Authorities said Russell, a manager and adviser to Kelly, sent a letter to the woman’s lawyer with cropped nude photographs of her and later sent her a text warning her: “Pull the plug or you will be exposed.” It was not immediately clear whether Russell and Arline had attorneys who could comment on the charges. – Jim Mustian, Associated Press

Illinois County Clerks Raise Concerns Over Running November Election

Illinois election officials are raising concerns over pulling off the November election, given the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those concerns is the ability to find enough younger, able-bodied poll workers. According to data from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 58% of poll workers in the 2018 general election were over age 60. U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, a Republican from Taylorville, said that poses safety concerns. That’s a problem, Davis said, because many Americans still prefer to vote in-person, despite vote-by-mail efforts implemented in Illinois this year. Davis said one solution is to offer student loan reimbursement to those who volunteer at a local polling place. Davis introduced the Emergency Assistance for Safe Elections (EASE) Act, a Republican counter plan to the House Democrats’ HEROES Act. Included in the bill is $100 million for student loan reimbursement and recruitment efforts. Staffing isn’t the only challenge local election officials are facing. Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray said the vote-by-mail application mandate is running up costs on paper and postage for an office that already operates on thin margins. There also are concerns that vote-by-mail applications and ballots could overwhelm local election offices—as well as the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). – Dana Vollmer, WCBU

Airport Traffic Improvement Amid Uncertainty

It’s hard for airlines to plan what flights to keep or drop right now. Not only has the pandemic cut off most airline traffic, the passengers who do fly are playing it tight. Fran Strebing, the deputy director of the Central Illinois Regional Airport (CIRA), told Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority board members Tuesday night that vacationers are waiting until the last minute to buy tickets. “The airlines are struggling to control capacity and trying to determine what to put back in and take back out based on very little advance purchase,” said Strebing. Those decisions are more important now, when overall passenger traffic is so low. Strebing said the Bloomington airport did have a small increase in traffic in July. A lot of the progress continues to be flights to Florida. But Strebing said the improvement is relative to the previous month, not the same month last year before the pandemic. – Charlie Schlenker, WGLT

2 Boys Who Drowned In Illinois River ID’d As Young Brothers

BEARDSTOWN, Ill. (AP) — Two boys who drowned last week in central Illinois after being swept into the Illinois River have been identified as brothers. Briston M. Dunmire, 15, and Jorden L. Dunmire, 12, both of Beardstown, died Sunday and preliminary results suggest they drowned, Scott Lummis, the Cass County death examiner announced Tuesday. The siblings were playing in shallow water along the river’s edge on the evening of Aug. 6 near downtown Beardstown when they apparently wandered too far from the bank, became caught in the current and vanished, The State Journal-Register reported. – Associated Press

Urbana Residents To Vote On Township Property Tax

Urbana City Council members are putting a township property tax referendum on the November 3rd ballot. Council members, who also serve as the Cunningham Town Board, voted 7-0 Wednesday night to ask voters if they want to raise the tax levy to support public assistance programs. Cunningham Township covers the same territory as the city of Urbana. Township supervisor Danielle Chynoweth says the town board cut the township tax levy in 2015, when the previous supervisor, Michelle Mayol, reduced the number of people receiving aid. Chynoweth says her office is helping more households today, but will have to cut back without more revenue. The tax levy increase proposed in the referendum would add an estimated $36 a year to the tax bill on a $100 thousand home in Urbana. Chynoweth says that nearly matches what the tax bill would have been with a five-percent increase for each of the last five years. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

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National Weather Service forecast map for June 13, 2024

Severe storms possible Thursday afternoon, evening and overnight

From the National Weather Service in Central Illinois: A line of t’storms will affect the area late Thursday afternoon into the overnight hours. Some severe storms are in the forecast, with damaging wind gusts and large hail. Stay weather aware and be ready to take shelter when storms approach.