Chase Cavanaugh

Reporter

Chase started in radio while earning his Master's in diplomacy and international commerce at the University of Kentucky.  He was bitten by the radio bug while volunteering at Radio Eye (a local equivalent to NIRIS) and soon became a reporter at WUKY. After four years of reporting in Kentucky's Bluegrass, Chase traveled north to join WNIJ as Morning Edition producer.  Chase reports on a variety of developments in our broadcast area but is particularly drawn to anything with a political or international connection.  He is also an avid board gamer.

Chase Cavanaugh

As of Thursday, Northern Illinois University is one step closer to having a permanent president.

Northern Illinois University’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved Dr. Lisa Freeman as their candidate for university president. She's been serving in an "acting" capacity since the resignation of Doug Baker in 2017. Trustees praised Dr. Freeman for her past year of leadership in a time of declining enrollment and budgetary realignment.  Former state representative and current board trustee Bob Pritchard says her leadership will be invaluable.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Northern Illinois University again experienced an overall drop in student enrollment this year.

The biggest loss was in total undergraduates, down 666 students from last year (from 13,454 to 12,788). NIU also saw an eight percent decline in the number of transfer students, from 1,716 to 1,577. Total enrollment now hovers at 17,169 students, which is a drop of 4.8 percent from this time last year.

Wikimedia Commons

Elections in Illinois are often handled on a regional basis by the County Clerk. Larger communities like Aurora and Rockford have independent boards, but some of these groups are consolidating into their county governments.

Our story begins in DeKalb County, which recently purchased a set of used voting machines from neighboring Kane County. Clerk and Recorder Doug Johnson says Kane no longer needed them, and it was a way to update the voting infrastructure without waiting for the state to approve new machines.

Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ News

Two northern Illinois members of Congress are gearing up for the November elections.  

16th District Republican Adam Kinzinger and 17th District Democrat Cheri Bustos are fighting to keep their seats this fall.  Kinzinger is facing off against Rockford lawyer Sara Dady, and says there is energy on both sides.  

 

"I feel very strongly about holding the Senate, maybe gaining some seats, and I think the House is certainly in play."

Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ News

There's federal money on the way to help combat domestic violence in northern Illinois. Members of Congress announced a nearly $450,000 grant for Rockford to establish a Family Justice Center. The facility will serve as a hub for survivors of domestic abuse and their children to get help from law enforcement, social services, and other agencies.  Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara says he’s grateful for the federal help.

Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University’s acting president outlined her vision for the campus in a public address Thursday.

Speaking before faculty, staff, and students, Dr. Lisa Freeman said NIU has been successful in employing a diversity of perspectives across campus. However, she said NIU needs to evolve in order to face future challenges. Chief among those, she said, was the need to guarantee fiscal stability in the wake of an absent state budget and declining enrollment.

Victoria Lunacek

School buses are ubiquitous in northern Illinois. For parents, they're key to getting children to school, and for everyone, they're a significant presence on the road. Brian Scott is Terminal Manager for the buses at Rockford Public Schools. He says it's important for drivers to obey the stop sign that swings out when the buses are unloading children.

"If you are on a two-lane road and you are trailing a school bus or approaching a school bus, all traffic needs to stop when that stop sign comes out," he said.

Illinois State Archives

The Illinois State Archives is celebrating the state's bicentennial with an online exhibit of its most valuable documents.

Director David Joens says the collection includes historical touchstones. That includes four state constitutions and the state’s first women’s suffrage law.  There are also more cultural items.

Victoria Lunacek/WNIJ

When a city negotiates a new contract for waste haulers, it can lead to a change in services or opportunities to lower costs.

If you live in a decently-sized city, you probably roll your trash cans to the curb once a week, and the garbage gets hauled off. The City of DeKalb recently approved a contract with Lakeshore Recycling as its new garbage hauler.  It takes effect in September, and Public Works Director Tim Holdeman says the move came about when the city’s old contract was up for renewal. 

Victoria Lunacek

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate J.B. Pritzker stopped in DeKalb on Sunday to rally support from local Democrats. He also unveiled a new campaign office. He says the goal is to further expand campaign efforts beyond Chicago and the collar counties.  Pritzker also framed his campaign as a challenge to Washington.

"I decided to run for governor because everything we care about, and I really mean everything, is under siege right now by a racist misogynist in Washington, and his local silent partner Governor Bruce Rauner," he said.

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

For some people, it's easy to schedule a doctor's appointment and get immediate treatment. But for those who don't live close to a hospital or clinic, this can be more difficult. "Telemedicine" is making this process easier.  

Mark Pfeiffer is a Hampshire resident and small business owner who was having difficulty sleeping. He contacted his local physician, who had Pfeiffer take part in a clinical study.

"After that sleep study, they confirmed, yeah, you have sleep apnea, and so they referred me to Dr. Jain at Delnor Hospital," he said.

Victoria Lunacek/WNIJ

If you find a cat or dog wandering around your neighborhood, the first thing you should do is check to see if the animal has any identification. Provided you don’t find anything, you should probably take this possible stray to the local humane society.

Michelle Groeper is the Executive Director of Tails Humane Society in DeKalb. The facility takes in dogs, cats, and some other small animals from the community. Tails also puts other creatures in foster care so that they can be raised and prepared for adoption, as well as spay/neuter services.

Wikimedia

An emerging health care approach factors in the lasting effects of trauma.

In 2016, the Winnebago County Health Department asked the community about top health concerns so it could put together a Community Health Improvement Plan. Several issues made it to the top of the list.

Cynthia Hall is the Department’s Director of Strategic Initiatives. 

“And they told us three things," she explained. "Mental health was one of them. Maternal and child health was another, and violence was the third.”

Victoria Lunacek

The successor to 70th District statehouse Rep. Bob Pritchard was sworn in Tuesday.

Republican Jeff Keicher took the oath of office from retired judge John Countryman at Dayton Farms in Sycamore. He was accompanied by state party leaders and other elected officials, such as former state Rep. John Countryman, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, and State Senator Dave Syverson. After Keicher took the oath, Durkin compared him favorably to his predecessor, Bob Pritchard.

Victoria Lunacek

Former Illinois State Rep. Bob Pritchard joined NIU’s Board of Trustees on Monday.

Pritchard previously served in the state House of Representatives for the 70th District (which encompasses parts of DeKalb, Kane, and Boone Counties) from December 2003 to July of this year. Pritchard says he’s eager to tackle the challenges facing NIU.

Victoria Lunacek

Northern Illinois University’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved a plan Monday that puts Acting President Lisa Freeman in the running to take the position permanently.

They are putting forward Dr. Freeman as their preferred candidate and will gather feedback from local constituents later this year. Board Chair Wheeler Coleman says the trustees are quite pleased with Freeman’s work over the past year.

Ottawa Catholic Community

Natural disasters can be devastating for small communities.  Not only can people lose their lives and homes, but vital links to the community can be lost forever.  WNIJ’s Chase Cavanaugh has more on how the village of Naplate is keeping one memory alive. 

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

Members of Illinois' congressional delegation marked improvements at Chicago Rockford International Airport Monday.

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos and Senator Dick Durbin broke ground on an expansion to the airport’s international cargo building, along with a new ramp for cargo plane parking. Bustos says the airport has made significant investments, and these upgrades will further increase efficiency.

The delivery of air cargo is a $35 billion proposition, and  the officials say Rockford is doing a great job of tapping into that.

City of Rockford

Rockford residents are invited to share their thoughts on creating a Family Justice Center. It's part of Mayor Tom McNamara’s Office of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Prevention and the 17th Judicial Circuit Domestic Violence Coordinated Court. 

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

Sauk Valley-area activists Wednesday encouraged 16th District U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger to take part in a public forum.

Members of the group Action For A Better Tomorrow assembled in Dixon and traveled to Kinzinger’s District Office in Ottawa. 

On arrival, they presented a petition with more than 700 signatures inviting the Republican incumbent to take part in a forum with his Democratic opponent, Rockford attorney Sara Dady. 

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

Birds are a common sight throughout Northern Illinois, with many species coming through the area as part of seasonal migration. Some are just stopping by, but others have become more permanent residents. WNIJ’s Chase Cavanaugh takes a look at ways to deal with them.

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

Governor Bruce Rauner visited Rockford Thursday to highlight a new adoption tax credit.  The measure was added to the 2019 state budget and covers each child a family adopts. The amount would be $2,000 for out-of-state kids of any age, but more for a child born in Illinois who is at least one year old.

"We’re starting at $5,000 for each family and that’s one of the highest in the country, and I want to take us up in the future so we are the greatest tax credit state supporting families with making adoption more affordable, more financially sustainable," he said.

Alexis Williams

The Animal House Shelter’s air conditioning unit broke last week, sending interior temperatures into the 90s.  The shelter set up an emergency GoFundMe page Friday to raise money for a new unit, since a technician said it needed to be completely replaced.

The shelter raised $28,000 by Saturday night. Business and development manager Alexis Williams says it’s now a matter of picking out a unit.

brucerauner.com

Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti praised DeKalb County Tuesday for its cooperative efforts in handling the opioid crisis. 

Sanguinetti made the comments as part of a roundtable discussion with health, law enforcement, and government officials from around DeKalb County.  They highlighted local efforts such as drug court, health counseling, and expanded access to Narcan, an anti-overdose medication.

Sanguinetti says it can be difficult for some areas to get past the stigma of treating opioid addiction.  

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

More than 50 activists gathered in downtown DeKalb to call for immigration reform. 

The crowd condemned last week’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid in Cortland as well as the continued detention of undocumented children away from their families.  The event featured speakers from groups like Action for a Better Tomorrow Sauk Valley and DeKalb Stands.

Another participant was Laura Vivaldo-Cholula, a member of DREAM Action at Northern Illinois University. She said change wouldn’t happen without new leaders in office.

Guy Stephens / Black Hawk, Blackhawk, Lorado Taft

An Oregon group supporting restoration of the statue known as Black Hawk wants to establish a dedicated fund to keep it maintained. 

The statue was uncovered recently after being wrapped up for the past few years. Observers noticed some further damage to the statue, and the restoration work isn’t complete.  

The recently passed state budget allocates another $350,000 to the project, but members of Oregon Together, a nonprofit supporting the statue’s restoration, want to go further. 

Republican State Senator Karen McConnaughay says she will not be seeking re-election in November.

Senator McConnaughay served as the Kane County Board Chairman before being elected to the state’s 33rd District in 2012. She says after more than 26 years in politics, it is time to step back and let someone else “take a shot” at solving problems in the district.  McConnaughay says, for now, she’ll focus on ethics reform.  

State of Illinois

Thomson Prison is on course to open by the end of 2019. 

The prison was built by Illinois in 2001, but state government didn't have enough funds to keep it running. As a result, it was sold to the federal Bureau of Prisons in 2012.  The Bureau's Acting Director, Hugh Hurwitz, says it will open as a high-security facility with some specialized units and have up to 600 employees. 

campkesem.org

Chronic illnesses and their accompanying treatment are hard on the individual patients but can have just as much of an impact — if not more — on family.

Camp Kesem is a summer program founded in 2000 at Stanford University, with the goal of helping children whose family members have cancer.  It has more than 100 chapters across 40 states, including one started at Northern Illinois University in 2017.

Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

The Illinois General Assembly has sent a bill to Gov. Bruce Rauner that would raise the minimum starting salary for public-school teachers.

Senate Bill 2892 would raise the minimum starting salary for a public school teacher in Illinois to $40,000. It does this through a sliding scale, gradually increasing the minimum until it reaches the target by 2022.

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