Around Illinois -- May 8

May 8, 2012
  • Illinois universities get nuclear energy grants
  • Democrat will seek DeKalb State’s Attorney job
  • What should state retirees pay for health insurance?
  • How long should juveniles be on probation?
  • At 14, she’s still not the youngest graduate
  • The state line that might have been

Three schools share $2.8 million for nuclear energy training

A total of $2.8 million in research grants, scholarships and fellowships have been awarded to three universities in Illinois to train students for the nuclear industry.

At Northwestern University, researchers will receive $1.6 million for projects on advanced nuclear fuel and fuel cycle technologies, and to provide tools to predict the reliability and safety of concrete structures in dry cask storage systems.

The Illinois Institute of Technologywill receive $300,000 to help purchase an electron detector and the supporting vacuum equipment for its research reactor facility.

The University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign will receive $876,332 to develop new and advanced reactor designs and technologies. The project is aimed at better performance modeling and developing an alloy to be the primary choice for reactor fuel cladding.

These awards are part of the Department’s Nuclear Energy University Program.

In addition, one U of I student will receive a $5,000 undergraduate scholarship to pursue a degree in the nuclear field through the Integrated University Program.

The awards were announced today by U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

DeKalb Democrats will name State’s Attorney candidate

DeKalb County State’s Atty. Clay Campbell, who bested a Republican challenger in the March primary, apparently will have an opponent in November.

The selected candidate and the DeKalb County Democratic Central Committee chairman will appear at 11 a.m. Thursday in front of the DeKalb County Courthouse.

The candidacy won’t be official until the following day. That will happen at a meeting of Democratic precinct committeemen to caucus on Friday.

Fact sheets about the candidate will be available at the announcement.

Retirees’ health insurance costs are a top target

State employees who put in at least 20 years working in Illinois don't have to pay a health insurance premium when they retire.

But one of the top Democrats in Springfield has proposed ending that benefit – and says it's just the beginning of more painful decisions to come.

"There's much to be done in terms of the budget-making,” House Speaker Michael Madigan said, “significant reductions that must be done."

And if there's not enough support to pass that controversial measure, "Then I would ask: What are we going to be able to do?"

The Speaker says it's never easy for politicians to cut government spending. But he says Illinois has to do so this year. Cuts are expected across state government: closing state facilities, reducing state worker pensions, and providing less health care for the poor. 

Madigan hedged on whether that would get done by the General Assembly's scheduled deadline.

"May 31 as a deadline is fifty-fifty,” he said. “Fifty-fifty."

Governor Pat Quinn has threatened to keep legislators in session until they approve the spending cuts he outlined.

Changes sought in juvenile probation

Juvenile offenders in Illinois can remain on parole until they turn 21, but an effort to change that --  and to help bring down the high recidivism rate – is under way.

State Rep. Robyn Gabel, (D-Evanston), says the extended probation triggers a rotation when juveniles are caught violating parole

"… Some of these parole violations are very minor, like being to school late, being out a little after curfew," she said, and the juvenile is sent back to a detention center. "So one of the ways to reduce the recidivism, and the juveniles being in custody for parole violations, is to reduce the parole time."

Gabel is promoting legislation to lessen a juvenile offender's parole time to between six months and a year -- though it could be extended on a case-by-case basis. 

She says the shorter monitoring period also would cut parole officers' caseloads, freeing up time and money to help youth reintegrate in school and family life.

14-year-old Community College graduate has big plans

Grace Duval, 14, of Mundelein, will receive an Associate in Arts degree from the College of Lake County on Saturday. She’ll be the second-youngest ever recipient of a CLC Associate in Arts degree. The youngest grad was nine days shy of being 14 in 2000.

Duval, a formerly home-schooled student, was 11 when she started taking classes at CLC in 2009. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the academic honor society for community colleges, and will graduate with highest honors.

She plans to transfer to University of Illinois at Chicago in the fall with junior standing, where she will study classics and French. Her ultimate goals are to get a doctorate in classical studies and become a college professor. Her dream is to host a program on the History Channel about ancient Greeks and Romans.

We might have been cheeseheads!

Former Daily Chronicle editor Barry Schrader discovered a historical marker hiding in the middle of the 72-acre Sannauk Forest Preserve woodlands commemorating the efforts of one pre-Illinois statehood pioneer to change the boundaries of two proposed new states.

The marker, placed in 1989 reveals how 14 counties in northern Illinois almost ended up in Wisconsin, according to Schrader’s investigation.

When Congress was considering making the territory of Illinois into a state in 1818, the northern border would have been a line drawn in 1787 due west from the southern tip of Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. Everything south of that line was to be Illinois, and north of it eventually would become Wisconsin.
Were it not for Nathaniel Pope, the Illinois territorial delegate to Congress, the state line would not have been moved 61 miles north, adding 8,500 square miles of what has become the most valuable real estate in our state.