Around Illinois – May 3

May 3, 2012
  • DeKalb-Kendall-Kane courts will seek OK for cameras
  • Governor seeks business help
  • Car demand up, shutdown off
  • What's the fastest-growing faith in Illinois?
  • Arlington makes it to the starting gate
  • Rock Falls CEO speaks out on wind farm
  • Old Abe's place is enlightened

16th Circuit will seek approval for cameras

The 16th Judicial Circuit Court, comprising DeKalb, Kane and Kendall counties, will seek approval to become part of the Illinois Supreme Court pilot program allowing news media cameras and sound recording in local courtrooms.

Chief Judge Robert B. Spence made the announcement today, based on the recommendation of the circuit's Courtroom Media Committee.

“The Committee will continue in its work on this, as we will need some rather detailed rules concerning the plan’s logistics," Spence said. "We want to be thoughtful about it and try to anticipate issues that might arise. The application will be submitted after the local rules are written.”

Judge Timothy McCann, Presiding Judge of Kendall County and committee chairman, said the move "will allow the media greater access to trial courtrooms.”

The Courtroom Media Committee will now draft local rules to be implemented upon approval by the Supreme Court. Spence said it could be several months before the application is ready to submit.

Later this year, the DeKalb and Kendall counties will leave the 16th Circuit to become the 23rd Circuit; McCann has said he expects the new circuit also will seek to be part of the project.

Quinn wants business backing for overhaul

Gov. Pat Quinn wants business leaders' help in winning approval for new funding plans for two of the state's biggest economic drains: state employee pensions and Medicaid.

"And now is the time to summon the people of Illinois behind a reform package of restructuring our Medicaid and stabilizing and strengthening our pension systems," the Democratic chief executive told a gathering of Illinois manufacturers and retailers in Springfield.

Quinn wants to hike the retirement age and have employees pay more to ease the state pension crisis. For Medicaid he recommends cutting programs, and hiking the tax on cigarettes.

"Illinois businesses want to operate in state that's not bankrupt, that’s not on the edge of a fiscal abyss,” said Mark Denzler, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturer's Association. “So it's important that the state of Illinois, the Governor and General Assembly address pensions and Medicaid which are spiraling out of control.

“We applaud the Governor's message for fiscal restraint, for reforming pensions and Medicaid, and we think it's a movement in the right direction."

An Illinois House committee already has approved Quinn’s pension proposal.

Chrysler will skip summer shutdown in Belvidere

Chrysler is skipping its traditional two-week shutdown this summer at four of its assembly plants. 

The automaker's plant in Belvidere is among the facilities that will keep its doors open.  Officials say they need the extra production to keep up with demand. 

The normal halt in summer production allows automakers to balance their inventories with vehicle sales.

The Detroit Free Press has more details on the situation.

Islam is fastest-growing faith in Illinois

Muslims have become the third-largest religious group in the state after Roman Catholics and independent evangelicals -- and the fastest-growing one, according to a census of American religious congregations unveiled this week.

This year, for the first time, the nationwide "Religion Census" counted nondenominational evangelical congregations, ranging from storefront sanctuaries to megachurches, which make up the second-largest religious group in Illinois.

In Illinois and nationwide, Roman Catholics rank as the largest religious group.

The census showed Illinois with 176 religious traditions, ranking second to Pennsylvania with 184. Illinois held the top spot as the most religiously diverse state in 2000.

The religion census is compiled by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. Overall, it shows a profoundly Christian nation with about half the population not engaged with a religious community.

Gentlemen, start your horses!

The horses will be running at Arlington Park on Friday, thanks to a marathon negotiating session with the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association on a contract for the 2012 meet. The agreement means there will be Opening Day races on Friday, although with fewer horses, and fans at Saturday’s races will be able to wager on the Kentucky Derby.

The Daily Herald has more details.

Wahl CEO speaks up on wind turbines

Greg Wahl, CEO of Wahl Clipper Corp., owns 143 acres – 22 of which he called an undisturbed prairie – near a proposed wind farm in Far southeastern Whiteside County.

The prairie includes rare plant and animal species, he said, including the plains hognose snake and the ornate box turtle.

Wahl told a hearing for the proposed wind farm, which would consist of nine turbines, it’s “the most ecologically significant” private parcel in Whiteside County. The turbines’ shadow flicker and noise would disturb the threatened species, he said.

Turbines also are planned for Lee and Bureau counties.

Wahl said rare species disappeared from prairie he preserved near the future Deer Valley Golf Course after the golf course was built, and he didn’t want it to happen again, according to Sauk Valley Media.

The Whiteside County Planning and Zoning Commission will hear additional testimony on Mainstream Renewable Power’s planned wind farm again on May 16.

Old Abe’s library, Executive Mansion see the light

Two public institutions in Illinois are going green – and saving money – by converting from standard lighting fixtures to light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield reports that the new lighting provides the same light levels as standard bulbs while producing less heat and ultraviolet light and using less energy.

Over their expected 10-year life, the LED lights are projected to save the museum more than $303,000 in energy costs per year and reduce energy consumption by approximately 272,500 kilowatt hours of energy per year. Project costs were covered by a federal grant.

The lighting in the Illinois Executive Mansion has been retrofitted with LED light bulbs courtesy of PolyBrite International Inc. of Naperville.  They donated 450 LED bulbs to replace standard lighting in the Mansion. 

Ninety-five percent of the Executive Mansion’s interior light fixtures are now LED-equipped, reducing interior lighting costs by about 80 percent.