Jenna Dooley

Reporter, News Production Supervisor

Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield.  She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.

Jenna Dooley

The DeKalb High School "Eco-buds" environmental club has a few more steps to take to complete its sneaker collection drive.

Advisor Rachel Happ says the goal is collect 167 bags which hold 15 pairs of shoes each. So far, they have collected 18 bags. The club members are collecting new and used athletic shoes, which will be shipped to developing countries so people there can have good footwear.

Falling credit ratings for Illinois institutions of higher learning are a trickle-down effect from the Illinois budget impasse that has lasted nearly two years. The state as a whole has found itself under constant scrutiny by the credit-rating agencies.

Jenna Dooley

Utility rate payers, not taxpayers, will help cover the cost to build a new library in downtown Rockford.

A gas plant operated at the current site of Rockford’s main library in the 1800s. Due to a series of mergers over the years, it's now the responsibility of utility company ComEd to clean up contaminated soil underneath the building.

Jenna Dooley

Three candidates are challenging an incumbent in the DeKalb mayor's race.  They all have roots in the city and personal connections with DeKalb's largest employer: Northern Illinois University. A major driver to see their name on the ballot is a quest to bring jobs and economic stability to the city.

As host of a recent candidate forum, The House Cafe in downtown DeKalb is often used as an example of an ideal "town and gown" venue.  It has live music and coffee to draw in both students and residents. But it's seen some turnover in ownership in recent years.

It's wordy. It's full of numbers. And it might be on your ballot.

The "Proposition to Increase the Limiting Rate" referendum isn't easy on the eyes, but organizers behind a movement to approve it hope voters can look past the complex ballot language on April 4, 2017.

CDC

It cost thousands of dollars to address Legionnaires’ disease at the LaSalle Veterans' Home.

Last fall, there were more than a dozen cases of respiratory illness at the facility. Of those tested, one case was positive for Legionnaires' disease. The 97-year-old resident had multiple underlying issues.

As we approach the election, we normally hear from candidates who are still in their respective race.

We turn our attention instead to someone who just dropped out. Scott Campbell lives in DeKalb and teaches chemistry in the Rochelle school district. Until recently, he was running for the DeKalb School Board.

He says he feels the current board make-up doesn't reflect the diversity of the student body. He feels by leaving the race, it creates a better chance for minority candidates to be heard.

Jenna Dooley

Healthcare leaders are voicing concerns about the Republican repeal plan to the Affordable Care Act.

Democrat Dick Durbin is traveling the state to meet with those who would be affected by the House changes.

Rock Valley College

A group of Rock Valley College students is calling for a halt in a proposal to reduce the number of full-time faculty members.

Rock Valley College announced last week a resolution to reduce the number of faculty members by this fall. According to a news release, the College faces a $1.6 million deficit along with continued loss in state funding and a significant drop in enrollment.

We continue our weekly Friday Forum with a primary preview for an office that doesn't usually get a lot of attention. 

 

 

 

While not considered a glamorous job, the down-ballot Freeport Township Assessor race sure is getting a lot of attention. Just check recent “Letters to the Editor” for proof.

https://www.agr.state.il.us/

The Illinois Department of Agriculture is planning four open houses to explain the process of treating areas of northern Illinois for the gypsy moth.

The destructive moth eats hundreds of different species of trees and shrubs, especially oak leaves.  Severe defoliation can lead to tree death.

Winnebago County's newest board chairman has released a 60 day review looking at financial and policy concerns facing county government.  It's part of Frank Haney's campaign pledge to implement the "ACT Initiative" to bolster accountability, collaboration, and transparency. 

According to the document, the review "is a starting point in which to build on and not intended to be a complete or final analysis."

The DeKalb Dist. 428 school board will consider a resolution Tuesday night to approve a settlement agreement and release with Superintendent Doug Moeller.

Moeller has been on paid leave since a district principal requested an emergency stalking order in September. 

We continue WNIJ’s Friday Forum, in which we interview politicians and others whose decisions affect you. This morning, we check in with two new county board chairmen in northern Illinois. We’ll hear how the two men will attempt to transform their campaign platforms into action plans.

Scott Desavouret

People watching the inauguration from home got a close-up view of the speeches. For those near the National Mall, it provided a different perspective. Correspondent Scott Desavouret of Malta, Ill. is in Washington D.C. and says protest chants were greeted this morning with counter chants of "USA."

It's Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday honoring the birth and life of the civil rights leader

Amirius Clinton is the president of the NAACP chapter at NIU. He says the day is not just a day off work or out of school, but an opportunity to remember King's character.

The local chapter experienced a rebirth on campus last semester. Clinton says the group spent that time helping students register to vote.

Jenna Dooley

It’s Tommy Whetsel Day in Ogle County. He may not be a familiar name, but he’s sure been a familiar face in the community.

His wake-up call today was a siren.

At 6:40 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 30th, Tom Whetsel was escorted to Byron's County Market in a fire truck. The flashy pick-up meant it wasn't just any other day on the job. It was in celebration of a career spanning three generations of co-workers.

Whetsel arrived on time, as has been his custom, and even took his daily 9:00 a.m. break in the back of the store.

Great Lakes Basin Transportation / greatlakesbasin.net

A Wisconsin lawmaker has written to the federal government expressing opposition to the Great Lakes Basin Railroad.

The idea behind the $8 billion plan is to bypass freight congestion in the Chicago-area. The path would run from northwest Indiana, across northern Illinois, and into southern Wisconsin. Supporters say it will give an economic boost to the region, but some landowners near the proposed route aren’t sold.

Susan Stephens

AMC's Hell on Wheels is a fictionalized version of the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the Wild West in the 1860s.

The show draws much of its drama from a greedy tycoon who encourages workers to weave and wind tracks every which way to maximize profit—with little regard for the land.

Upon seeing a blueprint, self-proclaimed "villain" Thomas Durant laments, "Why have you made my road so straight?"

That is not so easy to get away with these days. 

National Weather Service

Remember last year? Northern Illinois University meteorologist Gilbert Sebenste does.

“We had temperatures in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. We had thunderstorms with hail. That was in large part to the El Nino that was going on. Now we get the reverse and now we pay for it.”

The arctic blast is being felt across the Midwest.

NIU Today

A pair of high-ranking Vice Presidents at Northern Illinois University are leaving the school next year.

Jenna Dooley

Tamir Hargana shared his gift of music with the residents of Oak Crest Retirement Center Tuesday afternoon in DeKalb.

Hargana says the public concert was in appreciation for financial support from the Lester K. Smith scholarship fund to continue his studies in DeKalb.

The Northern Illinois University graduate student previously attended Inner Mongolia University Arts College, specializing in Mongolian throat singing and the horse head fiddle.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Northern Illinois University has been at the center of several court cases this year.  

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by an NIU biology professor claimed he was denied salary increases in-line with similarly situated non-Indian faculty members.

Court documents alleged the university "willfully and deliberately" subjected the professor to discrimination on the basis of his race since he was hired in 1983.

Ahil Nishanthan Gunasekaran, Sidharth Pandey, Darshan Patil

Voter turnout dipped nationally this election cycle, but it appears there were slight gains in some northern Illinois counties.

WNIJ took a closer look at turnout in DeKalb, LaSalle, and Winnebago counties compared with 2012. 

Joiner History Room

Marlyn Burkart, the founder of Marlyn’s Majorettes died this week. She spent decades teaching young people baton twirling and color guard.

In 2009, she served as Grand Marshal of Sycamore’s annual Pumpkin Fest. At that time, the Pumpkin Fest committee lauded Burkart for her years of service to the community, noting her group’s participation at regional sporting events such as the Bulls, White Sox, and Cubs games, and marching in Chicago’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Burkart also held local competitions for youth.

staterepwallace.com

Illinois House Democrats lost their supermajority this election. That change means they lose the ability to override a veto by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Rep. Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, says the outcome of Tuesday’s election may not hit the party as hard as some observers may expect.

A leading addiction treatment advocate says service providers have a role in the next presidential term.

Marvin Ventrell is the Executive Director of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers. He served as keynote at the annual Rosecrance Forum on Thursday. Rosecrance offers addiction services for teens and adults at more than 40 locations in Chicago and Northern Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Jenna Dooley

Rockford University will formally install its newest president this week.

Eric Fulcomer was introduced as the university’s 18th president in February. At that time, he said one of his priorities was recruitment. Prior to his selection, Fulcomer was the school's Vice President of Enrollment Management.

Enrollment of full-time undergraduate students at Rockford University reached a record high this fall with 924 students.

The new president also has some municipal government experience: He is a former mayor of Bluffton, Ohio.

Jenna Dooley

In higher education, "safe spaces" are places where people can feel open to express themselves. Northern Illinois University's Center for the Study of Women, Gender & Sexuality describes such an environment as a place "without fear of being violated, harassed or judged, no matter their gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, economic class, citizenship status, or disability."

Jenna Dooley

Betty Hampa of Genoa was a freshman at Northern Illinois University in 1959. She says her friends invited her to volunteer as an usher at the Egyptian Theater for a visit by the then-Senator of Massachusetts.

“I just remember that he said things that would excite young people," Hampa recalls. "He seemed like he talked about going to the moon… a lot of exciting things. Because he was young, he was handsome. He just had this charisma about him or something that just really grabbed you."

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