Victor Yehling

Managing Editor

Victor Yehling is Managing Editor for WNIJ News.  He coordinates the WNIJ news team, assigns stories, offers suggestions, develops project ideas, and generally harasses our outstanding news employees.  He's a relative newcomer, joining WNIJ in July 2010, but he has 15 years prior experience as a newspaper editor and reporter plus a couple of years in TV news.  He also spent time on the dark side, working in public relations and advertising; he claims he's recovering.  Away from the station, he enjoys theater, grandchildren, board games, Kansas City Chiefs football, and preparing for retirement in rural suburban Hagarstown.

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Nowhere in the United States can a person working full time at minimum wage afford a simple two-bedroom apartment. While that is a problem in itself, it raises concerns far beyond just having a place to live. In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Victor Yehling looks at details of the situation in Illinois and Wisconsin and possible resolutions.

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Crawford Gates, longtime music director for the Rockford Symphony Orchestra and the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra and professor emeritus at Beloit College, died at the age of 96 in the early hours of Saturday in Salt Lake City.

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Sears Hometown Stores in Sterling, Plano and Moline will be closing during the current business quarter, the company announced over the weekend.

The websites for all three stores already are announcing “Store in liquidation” sales.

They are among “90 to 100” underperforming Sears Hometown locations remaining after 21 stores were closed in the previous quarter, President and Chief Executive Officer Will Powell said in the quarterly earnings announcement.

While a recent package of legislation approved by the Illinois General Assembly does some good things for state universities and colleges, it doesn’t guarantee four years of Monetary Assistance Program grants.

Lynne Baker, Managing Director of Communications for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, said a couple of conditions apply for students who want to renew MAP grants in succeeding years.

“Students still must apply every year,” she said, “and, while we would very much like it, there is no continuing appropriation for MAP.”

The economy of Illinois ranks in the bottom third of the states in a recent survey, despite ranking in the top 10 in median annual household income.

The survey, conducted by the personal-finance website WalletHub, compares all 50 states and the District of Columbia on 28 economic indicators divided into three categories.

Accounting for all factors, Illinois came up in 35th place. The state of Washington was ranked first in the nation, while Louisiana hit the bottom of the list.

Susan Stephens/WNIJ

Photographer Andres Gonzalez wanted to create a book about how communities process trauma after mass shootings at schools. He has spent the past five years documenting the aftermath of mass shootings in American schools.

The East State Street Kmart in Rockford and four Sears stores elsewhere in Illinois have been targeted by Sears Holdings to close in early September.

The Kmart store on Sandy Hollow Road in Rockford closed in early April this year. A Kmart store formerly located at Riverside Boulevard and Forest Hills Road closed more than a decade ago and was replaced by a Sears Essentials store, which closed in 2011.

Illinois State Representatives from northern Illinois split on the vote Wednesday to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, with 13 -- all Republicans -- voting against ratification and only 7 -- 2 Democrats and 5 Republicans -- voting in favor.

Two of those votes to approve were from women -- one from each party. Only one of the opponents from northern Illinois was a woman, and she is a Republican.

In the other legislative chamber exactly seven weeks earlier, 4 State Senators from northern Illinois approved of the ERA and 6 opposed it.

Kristin McHugh/Peoria Public Radio

Illinois will spend more than $11 billion on maintaining and replacing roads and bridges in the next six years.

Gov. Bruce Rauner announced the program Tuesday in Peoria, where $205 million – the largest single chunk of the plan -- will be used to replace the McClugage Bridge.

An African-American woman who has served as interim pastor at two Beloit churches has been elected bishop for the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin of the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States.

The Rev. Viviane E. Thomas-Breitfeld of Brookfield is just the second African-American woman bishop among the 65 synods that make up the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The first, the Rev. Patricia A. Davenport, was elected bishop of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod on Saturday – the day before Thomas-Breitfeld’s election.

Illinois is better than average for working moms, according to a recent study by personal-finance website WalletHub.com, but there definitely is room for improvement in some areas.

Illinois was number 13 in the Child Care category and 17 in Work-Life Balance among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, but only ranked 39 in Professional Opportunities.

Frank Lloyd Wright Trust

Two new road trip itineraries in Illinois will feature buildings designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who spent the first two decades of his career based in Chicago and Oak Park.

One of the tours heads west across northern Illinois, beginning with four sites in Chicago and two in Oak Park – including the Wright Home and Studio, where he experimented with many of his design ideas – where Wright played a role in creating the building.

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Three Illinois cities rank among the worst 25 cities in the country for violent crime rates.

Rockford is the most dangerous of the three, according to a report by CBS News based on FBI data for 2016, the most recent year available.

A dozen department stores across northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin -- including the Bergners store at CherryVale -- may be closing soon following a federal bankruptcy auction held Tuesday.

A group of lienholders and two capital finance firms proffered the winning bid for the assets of The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc., which operates roughly 250 stores under the names in 23 states in the Midwest, upper Great Plains, and the Northeast.

Wisconsin voters go to the polls Tuesday for nonpartisan judicial elections statewide.

They also will decide whether to eliminate one of the state’s constitutional officers.

The most visible contest on the ballot is for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which has a significant conservative majority that can’t be changed by this election.

The conservative candidate is Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock, who was appointed three years ago by Governor Scott Walker. He had been a private attorney for nine years.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The Illinois Commerce Commission plans to spend more than $194 million on safety-improvement projects for railroad crossings over the next five fiscal years.

Funding for these projects comes from the Grade Crossing Protection Fund (GCPF), which was created to help counties, townships and municipalities pay for safety improvements at highway-railroad crossings on local roads and streets only.

WNIJ continues to review important races in the upcoming Illinois Primary Election on March 20.  In this Friday Forum, we take a look at three Illinois Congressional Districts where only one of the Republican incumbents faces a primary challenge. Democrats have several hopefuls in the primary balloting in those districts.

Northern Illinois University Political Science Professor Scot Schraufnagel has noted before that incumbency has its advantages.

That may -- or may not -- be the case in the three Illinois Congressional districts we review today.

WNIJ continues to review important races in the upcoming Illinois Primary Election on March 20.  In this Friday Forum, we take a look at both the 14th Illinois Congressional District, where there is a primary competition, and the 17th District, where there isn’t.

In this Friday Forum, we begin a series of interviews about important Illinois Primary Election races. WNIJ’s Dan Klefstad talked with Northern Illinois University Prof. Scot Schraufnagel, chairman of the Political Science Department, about various statewide and Congressional races. This week, we start with the top of the ballot: the race for Illinois governor.

U.S. Congress

Although they are from different political parties, two members of Congress from northern Illinois expressed remarkably similar sentiments Monday about the Senate action attempting to end the government shutdown and what lies ahead.

In separate interviews with WNIJ News, Republican Adam Kinzinger of the 16th District and Democrat Cheri Bustos of the 17th District both agreed that it is better to have the government open in order to move forward.

Neither of them liked the string of short-term continuing budget resolutions that led to the three-day shutdown.

Public interviews will be held Monday for 10 applicants who hope to serve as Winnebago County Clerk for the next 10 months.

The current clerk, Democrat Margie Mullins, announced last month that she will step down at the end of January.

State law requires that the appointee must be of the same political party as the outgoing clerk. Officials are checking primary voting records to ensure the party status of applicants.

Mayo Clinic News Network

Government officials in Winnebago County announced Tuesday they are taking aim at the pharmaceutical industry in the fight against opioid abuse. 

 

Rockford and County officials said they intend to pursue legal action against companies they believe helped enable the growing opioid addiction crisis. 

 

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

Effective immediately, the fees for a popular form of small business in Illinois are significantly lower.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation Wednesday that substantially reduces startup, annual filing and other fees for limited liability companies (LLCs).

I have opinions. I think it is downright crazy to be a vegan. I think ear gauges are simply gross. I think it is dangerous and irresponsible to own a Pitbull or a Rottweiler. And I think homeschooling children is insane.

Now, before I offend friends and family and listeners, let me add this caveat and quote The Dude: “Hey, that’s just like my opinion man.”

Jenna Dooley

While most U.S. House incumbents representing northern Illinois have gotten a pass for the March Illinois primary election, all of them will face challenges from the opposing party in the general election next November.

A total of 27 seats in the Illinois General Assembly representing northern Illinois will be on the ballot in 2018, but there will be only six contests in the March primary.

Five of them are for Illinois House seats, with the biggest field in the 67th District in Rockford. Six Democrats are seeking the nomination for the seat being vacated by State Rep. Litesa Wallace. No Republican has filed in that race.

Metaphorically speaking, the rural towns that make up north-central and northwest Illinois are pleading for all of us to turn off our computers, tablets, and smartphones this holiday shopping season.

As citizens of our communities, we play a very powerful role in whether our towns prosper or diminish. One of the worst things we can do is not support our local retail sector because we buy most gifts online.

Paula Garrett

Paula Garrett has a history with Memphis and its music – which made her the natural choice to report on the inaugural MEMPHO Music Fest earlier this month.

The festival was the brainchild of another transplanted Memphian named Diego Winegardner, who has worked in finance in New York City for the past couple of decades.

On a visit to his hometown in 2017, he rediscovered a 4,500-acre urban park called Shelby Farms and decided that was the place to pay tribute to the city’s musical heritage.

wallethub.com

Both Illinois and Wisconsin made the top third in a recent ranking of states on energy efficiency.

For National Energy Awareness Month this month, WalletHub gleaned data from several federal sources to calculate Home Energy Efficiency and Auto Energy Efficiency among the 48 contiguous states. Alaska and Hawaii were excluded because of a lack of data.

midlandsb.com

The largest locally owned bank in the Rockford area has agreed to be acquired for approximately $181 million in cash and stock.

Alpine Bancorporation, Inc., the parent company of Alpine Bank & Trust Co., is headquartered in Belvidere. It had total assets of $1.3 billion as of June 30.

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