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News Around Illinois — Sept. 25

The latest news around the state for the week of Sept. 21, 2020.

TOP STORY — Friday, September 25

Teen Charged In Kenosha Shootings Fights Extradition

The 17-year-old charged in the shooting deaths of two protesters in Wisconsin is fighting his extradition from Illinois, but his attorneys didn’t outline their strategy during a brief hearing on Friday and legal experts say there isn’t much the teen can do to stop it, Associated Press’s Scott Bauer, Kathleen Foody and Teresa Crawford report

Kyle Rittenhouse surrendered to police in his hometown of Antioch, Illinois, a day after prosecutors say he shot and killed two protesters and wounded a third on the streets of Kenosha on Aug. 25. If convicted of one of the most serious charges he faces, he would be sentenced to life in prison.

Rittenhouse’s attorneys have said he acted in self-defense and have portrayed him as a courageous patriot who was exercising his right to bear arms during a night of unrest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, who is Black. And his arrest has become a rallying point for some on right, with a legal defense fund that has attracted millions in donations. But others see Rittenhouse as a domestic terrorist whose presence with a rifle incited the protesters.

Rittenhouse appeared via video for a hearing in a Lake County, Illinois, court on Friday, where his attorney asked for more time to prepare his arguments against extradition, without detailing what they would be. Rittenhouse, wearing a face mask, said only “Good morning, your honor” during a hearing that lasted less than 10 minutes.

One of Rittenhouse’s attorneys, John Pierce, made clear that he is opposing Rittenhouse’s return to Wisconsin to face the charges. Pierce asked for a month to prepare arguments challenging extradition that he said involve “issues of some complexity, frankly that have not arisen in the country for some time.”

Judge Paul Novak gave the defense 14 days to review papers and file pleadings ahead of an Oct. 9 hearing — the second such delay that has been granted to Rittenhouse. Whatever the judge rules can be appealed.

SNAPSHOTS — Friday, September 25

Union nurses say they have deal at U of Illinois Hospital. Union nurses at the University of Illinois Hospital have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract, they announced Thursday. According to the Associated Press, the contract includes a promise to hire 160 more nurses to cut down on patient loads, promises of more protective gear, hazard pay for working during the coronavirus pandemic and other guarantees, the Illinois Nurses Association said in a statement. The move follows a weeklong strike by 800 nurses that ended Saturday morning when they went back to work without an agreement, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The agreement still needs the approval of a majority of the approximately 1,400 union nurses in a vote Monday.

Illinois GOP Dismiss ‘Scare Tactics’ Over Graduated Income Tax. Republicans are pouncing after a top Illinois Democrat suggested that all residents could see their income taxes increase if voters reject a tax increase on wealthy residents, reports WBEZ’s Tony Arnold. Under Illinois’ current tax code, residents pay 4.95% of their income to the state. Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker has led an effort to change the state constitution so income above $250,000 would be taxed at a higher percentage. Voters will decide its fate in November’s election. In trying to gin up support for the switch, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton on Thursday issued this warning: If the graduated income tax ballot measure fails, then lawmakers could raise the flat tax by “at least 20%.” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, said Friday the comment amounted to a “scare tactic” meant to intimidate voters into supporting the amendment just as early voting is beginning. No Republicans in the state legislature voted to put the graduated income tax amendment on the November ballot. They’ve argued that the proposal to raise taxes to 7.75% on income above $250,000 will lead to an outmigration of those residents.

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker Visits Carbondale To Urge Residents To Complete the Census. With the looming September 30th Census deadline, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker stopped in southern Illinois on Thursday to remind residents that each person who fills out the census, means over a thousand dollars will come to Illinois from the Federal government, WSIU’s Kevin Boucher reports. The Governor assured residents that the information will not be shared with police or immigration agencies.

TOP STORY — Thursday, September 24

Illinois Officials Urge Peaceful Protests For Breonna Taylor

Illinois officials disparaged a Kentucky grand jury’s decision on Wednesday to bring no charges against Louisville police for the killing of Breonna Taylor during a drug raid gone wrong, but they asked anyone participating in local protests in response to be peaceful, the Associated Press reported. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot urged for peace in the community.

“In this moment, each of us has an opportunity and really an obligation to reflect on how we will take in this news and what we will do with it. Breonna Taylor’s family has consistently called for peace and urged people who are acting in her name to do so in a way that builds, not destroys community.”

Activist priest the Rev. Michael Pfleger told protesters gathered in the middle of a South Side Chicago intersection that they should peacefully let those who represent the status quo know of their unhappiness with the Taylor decision.

“We’re here tonight because we do care. And we’re here because we want to say, ‘We object and we don’t accept it. Somebody has to be held accountable.’”

Governor J.B. Pritzker also called for peaceful protests.

“Our hope is that people will listen to what we’ve said here today, and people will protest peacefully. Because Breonna deserves to have her name said.”

SNAPSHOTS — Thursday, September 24

Illinois best in COVID-19 testing, Pritzker says. Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday continued to champion Illinois as a leader in testing for the coronavirus during a period when he faces some of the sharpest criticism for his social restrictions to stop the virus, the Associated Press reports. Two days after announcing that Illinois had become the fifth state to conduct more than 5 million tests, the Democrat said it is averaging 52,000 tests a day to become “the best testing state between the two coasts.” “Those accomplishments contribute mightily to our ability to monitor and squash the spread of the virus in our communities,” Pritzker said at a news conference in Chicago. “Together with targeted mitigations, our testing leadership means that Illinois has had the lowest positivity rate among all of our neighboring states for the last few months.” Pritzker has faced withering criticism in recent weeks for refusing to backtrack on his decision to postpone some fall sports — including much-beloved high school football — because of the risk of transmitting COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus infection.

Woman accused of murder, sexual trafficking in St. Louis Co. An East St. Louis, Illinois, woman is facing charges of sexual trafficking of a child and second-degree murder for crimes that happened last year in St. Louis County, the Associated Press reports. Authorities on Wednesday announced the charges against 21-year-old Makyia Fowler, who is jailed on $500,000 bond. She does not have a listed attorney. A probable cause statement alleges that Fowler was working in November with the man who was killed, Darren Woods, to recruit and promote a juvenile for sexual acts. The statement said Fowler and Woods, while staying at a hotel, took sexually explicit photos and videos of the juvenile, and posted some of it on the internet as advertisements.

SEIU Local 73 Strike On Second Week Of Strike. Organized workers at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Rockford continued their strike this week as contract negotiations continue, WNIJ’s Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco reports. They’ve been calling for improved personal protective equipment as well as fair wages. Teamsters Local 325 said it stands with the SEIU workers. They said their members won’t cross the picket line, and they won’t pick up any waste at the UIC strike locations until further notice. 

Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall Arrives In East Peoria. The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall arrived in East Peoria with full fanfare on Wednesday morning, WCBU’s Tim Shelley reports. The Quiet Pride Motorcycle Club of current and former military personnel escorted the memorial, along the East Peoria Police Department, Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office and Illinois State Police in a procession down Washington Street. The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall is a 3/5 scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. All 58,272 names of U.S. service members who fought and died in the Vietnam War, and those who are unaccounted for, are included. Justin Hale and East Peoria Commissioner Dan Decker have quietly worked on the plan to bring the memorial to the city for nearly two years.

TOP STORY — Wednesday, September 23

Illinois, Too, Prepares For Breonna Taylor Announcement

The Illinois National Guard is in a “state of readiness,” in anticipation for the announcement from Kentucky’s attorney general regarding whether charges will be filed against officers who killed Breonna Taylor, the Associated Press reports

The announcement was made Tuesday by Gov. Pritzker. He also said that the National Guard will be under the direction of the Illinois State Police, should the use of the National Guard be necessary. It is not known when the announcement from Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron will be made.

Taylor, a Black emergency medical worker in Kentucky, was shot multiple times March 13 by Louisville officers who entered her home using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. The warrant used was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside the home. The use of no-knock warrants has since been banned by Louisville’s Metro Council.

Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, told police he fired one round after Taylor’s door was broken down, and Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly entered. Walker said he thought someone was breaking into the house and didn’t know it was police entering. Mattingly was wounded in the shooting.

Last week, the city of Louisville settled a lawsuit from Taylor’s family for $12 million and pledged several police reforms as part of the agreement.

SNAPSHOTS — Wednesday, September 23

Illinois revises marijuana licenses process after complaints. The announcement follows complaints that the process favored politically connected and rich applicants over minorities and veterans who were supposed to benefit, Associated Press’s Sophia Tareen reports. Recreational marijuana sales started in January under an Illinois law that, like similar efforts elsewhere, was touted for so-called social equity provisions designed to address racial disparities and other inequities in the decades long war on drugs. Black Illinois residents are seven times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white residents, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Under procedures announced Monday, rejected applicants will be able to submit revised applications after the state notifies them of any “deficiencies” in their applications.

Horseman takes ride on Chicago expressway, tying up traffic. A man who calls himself the “Dread Head Cowboy” was taken into custody after riding his horse on Chicago’s Dan Ryan Expressway during the height of the Monday evening rush hour, the Associated Press reports. Adam Hollingsworth was escorted by a phalanx of motorcyclists as he rode his horse on the southbound lanes of the expressway, sometimes at a gallop, for several miles. On a Facebook Live feed while he was riding, Hollingsworth said he wanted everyone to know kids lives matter. “Until kids’ lives matter, nothing else matters,” he said. Hollingsworth’s ride resulted in extensive delays on the expressway, with traffic backed up for miles. He was taken into custody by Illinois State Police after he rode up an exit ramp. His horse was taken away in a Chicago Police Mounted Patrol horse trailer.

Green Party’s U.S. Senate Candidate Advocates Universal Health Care, Steep Military Budget Cuts. Rockford attorney David Black is running as the Illinois Green Party’s candidate for U.S. Senate, reports WCBU’s Tim Shelly. Black spoke Tuesday in downtown Peoria in front of the “Peace” and “Harvest” sculptures commissioned by the U.S. government’s Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. The candidate said while Democratic incumbent Dick Durbin has “done some good things” during his quarter-century in the Senate, he hasn’t gone far enough on cutting military spending or bolstering access to health care. Black said he wants to cut the military’s budget by at least 50%, backs the Green New Deal, and supports universal health care. Black said a court ruling lowering the threshold of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot this November due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to a more diverse field of candidates.

Special Needs Housing Hard To Find In Central Illinois. Representatives who work for central Illinois social service agencies and nonprofit organizations say finding safe, affordable housing is not easy — but it’s an even bigger challenge for someone who has special needs, reports WGLT’s Colleen Reynolds. The comments came during an Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) Listening Tour on Tuesday — one of several across the state to assess the current and future housing needs in the state. IHDA is also surveying residents for additional input for its Housing Blueprint initiative. Chuck Hartseil of Autism McLean says results of a study his organization conducted with support from Professor Frank Beck and graduate students at Illinois State University’s Stevenson Center found there are significant concerns about the safety of adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) because they face challenges communicating their needs. In some cases, Hartseil says, they live in group homes and don’t have an easy way to report abuse and neglect.

TOP STORY — Tuesday, September 22

Illinois Passes 5 Million Mark For Number Of COVID-19 Tests

On Monday, officials said the state has conducted more than 5 million COVID-19 tests, the Associated Press reports. Illinois joins California, Texas and Florida in administering over 5 million tests, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has pushed for widespread, aggressive and accessible testing in the state. 

“In a pandemic, widely available testing and faster results mean our people are safer.”

The University of Illinois’ saliva-based test has received national attention for its effective testing of the large student and faculty population. (Though, the testing wasn’t able to prevent a spike in cases when students first returned to campus.) In late August, the U of I’s testing made up 20% of all tests administered in the state and 1.5% of all tests nationwide. Now, Illinois State University is adopting the U of I’s model, and testing will be available to the rest of the Champaign-Urbana community.

Illinois Newsroom’s Coronavirus Information Center has the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic in Illinois, along with up-to-date resources and guidance from local, state and federal agencies. 

SNAPSHOTS — Tuesday, September 22

U.S. Census Bureau urges Illinois residents to respond by the end of the month. Illinois residents are being encouraged to respond to the census before the end of the month, WNIU’s Chase Cavanugh reports. Sherrie Taylor, senior research specialist at Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies, said while 96% of people in the state have responded, some groups like renters and minorities are more difficult to get counted. 

  • On Sunday, community groups in Chicago offered two free loads at a coin laundry if customers filled out the census. 
  • A court battle is currently happening to try and extend the census deadline. 

Bradley lifting student quarantine Wednesday but many restrictions will remain. COVID-19 restrictions will remain in place at Bradley University as the all-student quarantine is lifted on Wednesday, WCBU’s Tim Shelley says. The all-student quarantine was first put into place two weeks ago as more students were testing positive. Bradley University President Steve Standifird says another spike would lead to another all-student quarantine. 

Peoria Public Schools Board OKs classroom return plan for grades 2–4. Second, third and fourth graders will return to school beginning Oct. 26 as part of the Peoria Public Schools’ return plan, according to WCBU’s Joe Deacon. Kindergarteners and first graders will return to in-person learning on Oct. 5, and contained special needs students will go back Oct. 12. District 150 Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat says that she and her committee monitoring COVID-19 metrics have been working together on the proposal

Southern Illinois University football to host Southeast Missouri State on Oct. 23. Southern Illinois University and Southeast Missouri State will play at Saluki Stadium in late October, WSIU’s Brad Palmer reports. The news comes after the Big Ten announced it will resume its fall season next month after originally postponing it. 

TOP STORY — Monday, September 21

High Court Front-Runner Hailed By Right, Feared By Left

Amy Coney Barrett is a front-runner to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court. The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge is a reliable conservative, devout Catholic and an “ideological heir” to the late Antonin Scalia, the Associated Press’ Michael Tarm and Michael Biesecker reported. Trump has already said he will nominate a woman, and Barrett was on his shortlist two years ago to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat when he retired. 

Who is Amy Coney Barrett? Read more from Illinois Newsroom’s 2018 profile

  • Trump nominated Barrett to the 7th Circuit three years ago. 
  • If appointed, Barrett, 48, would be the youngest justice on the court, and her tenure would last decades. 
  • She is an originalist, believing that judicial decisions should be made based on the meaning of the text at the time it was written.

Across the state and country, people are mourning RBG. Illinois leaders released statements remembering the late justice. Illinoisans held vigils and gathered in her honor. NAACP Bloomington-Normal branch President Linda Foster encouraged people to become civically engaged and mobilize in Ginsburg’s memory. 

“Justice Ginsburg taught us to fight, no matter how high the hill is to climb, just start climbing. We know the power of injustices, and what it feels like.” 

SNAPSHOTS — Monday, September 21

CUB’s ‘Conflict’: How A Utility Watchdog Got Millions From The Utilities It Watches. Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s ties to utility giant ComEd are being looked into by a special investigation committee. New reports by WBEZ’s Dave McKinney and Dan Mihalopoulos found that the Citizens Utility Board — a consumer advocacy group that can’t accept power company money — took $11.5 million from ComEd-funded foundations.

Douglas Statue Comes Down, But Lincoln Had Racist Views, Too. The statue of Stephen A. Douglas will be removed from the Capitol lawn in Springfield. Douglas’ political contributions helped forge modern-day Illinois, but he also profited from slavery, the Associated Press’ John O’Connor wrote. Despite being remembered as the Great Emancipator, Douglas’ longtime political rival Abraham Lincoln also expressed white supremacist views, historians say. Monuments of controversial figures across the country are coming down in response to the global reckoning on race sparked by the death of George Floyd. 

Town, Health Officials Reject Nord’s COVID ‘Protest’ Exemption. Normal Town Council member Stan Nord is offering ways to get around ordinances imposing fines for large gatherings during the pandemic, WGLT’s Eric Stock reported. Other town and health officials have publicly said he is wrong. Nord voted against town emergency orders to limit parties and gatherings near campus and require social distancing and masks. He went on Facebook and said people can label gatherings as protests, believing they are exempt from the ordinance. The town’s legal department said this is not. People in the county are generally frustrated and confused over pandemic safety procedures, a WGLT review of complaints found. 

  • Meanwhile, cases in McLean County are down, but are across age groups
  • Will and Kankakee counties are returning to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, after the region was forced to stop indoor bar and restaurant service over three weeks ago. 

Aid to prevent violence against women goes to 19 agencies. Officials said the U.S. Justice Department has awarded $15.9 million to Illinois agencies to fight domestic abuse, according to the Associated Press. The 19 community agencies awarded are across the state, from Chicago to the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis. 

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