Region Braces For Heavy Snow

Jan 18, 2019
National Weather Service

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin through mid-day Saturday. Snow, heavy at times, and blowing snow are predicted. Totals of from 3-7" south of I-88 and 4-9" north of I-88 are forecast, with higher totals possible in some locations. In addition, there will be drifting from blowing snow.  The Weather Service says driving conditions will be hazardous. Localities are activating snow emergencies limiting travel and parking as well. 

A number of schools and organizations are canceling activities:

Members of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists national union will hold  a small protest at Chicago Rockford International Airport Saturday. Northern Illinois and Wisconsin Representative Pete Rosa says the government shutdown furloughed many aviation safety inspectors. He says air travel is unnecessarily at risk.

A federal judge suggests the protracted government shutdown will hurt the federal workforce in the long term. 

Ruben Castillo is Chief Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. His court has dwindling funds to pay employees and is set to run out January 25th.  He says the poor treatment of government employees, especially the lack of pay, will make young people think twice about seeking out work in the federal government.

A judge on Thursday acquitted three Chicago police officers of trying to cover up the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, ruling that the shocking dashcam video of the black teenager's death did not necessarily tell the whole story.

In casting off the prosecution's entire case, Judge Domenica Stephenson seemed to accept many of the same defense arguments that were rejected by jurors who in October convicted officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder and aggravated battery. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

More than 30,000 Los Angeles teachers are on strike this week.

The biggest issue on the negotiating table has not been teacher salaries, as is common. Instead, LA teachers are worried about class sizes, which can sometimes reach 40 students per class.


Meanwhile, teachers in Denver, Colorado, are nearing a work stoppage of their own.

Perspective: Why I March

Jan 17, 2019
Susan Stephens / WNIJ


Since 2017, the Women’s March has been a crucial part of our American narrative. I have had the privilege to march in previous years.

Federal courts are feeling the effects of the government shutdown.  This includes the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  It's based in Rockford and Chicago and hears both civil and criminal cases.

Chief District Judge Ruben Castillo says if the court runs out of money to make payroll, it will prioritize criminal cases for people detained and awaiting trial.

“We need to get those cases to trial as soon as we can," he said. "Somebody shouldn’t spend not even one extra day in jail unnecessarily."

Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault Website / Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault

Illinois’ crisis centers for sexual violence survivors are starting to feel the effects of the partial government shutdown—now in its fourth week. Funding for services will soon stop coming in.

The Justice Department has given organizations until January 18, when it will stop processing funding requests.

Sarah Jesmer

Patrick Pursley spent more than twenty years in prison after he was convicted of the 1993 Rockford murder of Andrew Ascher. 

Pursley was recently granted a retrial after he asked for advanced technological testing of the casings and gun that tied him to the case. Rockford Judge Joseph McGraw found Pursley not guilty of the murder on Wednesday morning. Pursley spoke to the press at the Winnebago judicial courthouse with high spirits and gratitude. 

Courtesy of the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry

Northern Illinois food banks are holding steady, despite the arrival of winter and a continuing government shutdown.

The Sauk Valley Food Bank in Sterling distributes food to pantries in Whiteside and Lee Counties, and outlying areas like Freeport. Executive Director Andrea Hensgen says their work hasn’t been affected much by the shutdown, but there has been a slight change in clientele.

Perspective: Jesus And Superman

Jan 16, 2019
Susan Stephens, remixed from Pixabay


Studying the book of Mark in my adult Sunday school class recently got me thinking about a question I have always liked to ponder: at what point did Mary approach her son and tell him the big news?  

Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ

Amazon is a leader in online shopping. It has warehouses across the country to sort and deliver its products. Recently, Amazon Air announced it will expand its delivery network into Rockford. 

Chicago Rockford International Airport is already a major hub for UPS. The airport also has maintenance facilities capable of repairing the world's largest aircraft. But Amazon took particular interest due to the airport's cargo operations. Director Sarah Rhoads says it's part of the retailer's "Middle Mile" network for two-day deliveries.

Perspective: It Could Be Worse

Jan 15, 2019

Some college students were unsure they’d be able to pay their tuition on time, due to the government shutdown.

Jenna Dooley

In the Catholic church, a chancery is the traditional name for the administrative offices of a diocese. In Rockford, church leaders have made plans to demolish the former chancery on Court Street. It was built in 1929 and has been vacant for nearly a decade. Since then, there have been building code violations and continued costs for upkeep. Church leaders cite safety concerns as well. Former Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey wants historic designation for the building to pursue ways to give it new life.

Guy Stephens

The representative of Illinois’ 14th Congressional District went back home this weekend to reaffirm and celebrate her new job.


Democrat Lauren Underwood took the official oath of office with the rest of her colleagues Jan. 3 in Washington, D.C. The ceremonial swearing-in at her old high school, Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, was a chance for supporters in her district to bask in her triumph.


Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois Ruben Castillo administered the oath while Underwood’s father held the Bible for her.

Perspective: A New Year's Resolution For Higher Ed

Jan 11, 2019



Perspective: Considering Computer Time

Jan 10, 2019

I was playing a videogame the other day when I heard my mom yell, “You computer nerds have been on your screens long enough! Go outside!” 


Perspective: Free Range Children

Jan 9, 2019

We decided in early December to spend the Sunday night before Christmas in Chicago, just to see the lights and do some last-minute shopping.  

Government Shutdown Stalls Farm Programs

Jan 8, 2019
Sarah Jesmer

The partial government shutdown could affect farmers as they plan for the next growing season. DeKalb County Farm Bureau manager Greg Millburg says the shutdown mostly affects farmers interacting with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and those applying for programs laid out under the most recent Farm Bill.

“It's not impacting them a lot now, but as it goes on, it's going to continue to impact them more,” said Millburg.

For those wanting to apply for benefits like loans, they'll have to wait, said Millburg.


Perspective: A Kernel Of Canine Wisdom For 2019

Jan 8, 2019

Besides the fact that dogs are known as man’s best friend, there is much we can learn from our four-legged friends. When I take Zoe outside, she stops right away to listen to and smell our surroundings. Intently, she single-mindedly stares into the yard. After this pause, she then proceeds, reassessing the situation as she walks, with nose to the ground she pulls ahead, lured by the scents of new adventures.

A former Democratic leader in the Illinois House has resigned his seat.


Lou Lang announced Monday that he's ending his 32-year legislative career. The 69-year-old from Skokie joined the lobbying firm Advantage Government Strategies.

Perspective: In The Bleak Midwinter

Jan 7, 2019
Susan Stephens / WNIJ


The great composer, Gustav Holst, brought to life the lyrics of a poet in a Christmas carol melody both sad and sweet.  It starts out: 


In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan 


John Perryman is a pediatrician with Mercyhealth in Roscoe. He sees patients struggling to afford medications. Some families, he says, disappear for stretches of time when they fall off an insurance plan. On this week's Friday Forum, Jenna Dooley talks with Perryman about his view as well as from a major opponent of the idea.


Perspective: Of Pelicans And Molecules

Jan 4, 2019

If you’re like me, you run across a lot of stuff you don’t understand. I’ve been reading about quantum physics for years and still don’t get how subatomic particles can be particles and waves at the same time.

I try to read economics, too. Yet I don’t understand the economic doctrine that says, if the country goes into recession, I should help by boosting my own spending, even if I go bankrupt. Won’t my bankruptcy make the recession worse, not to mention making me worse?

Kate Gardiner/Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A powerful Chicago City Council member was charged Thursday with trying to shake down a fast-food restaurant seeking city remodeling permits.

Alderman Ed Burke, 75, is charged with one count of attempted extortion. In 2017 he told company executives that they'd get the permits if they signed on as clients at Burke's private property-tax law firm in Chicago, the 37-page complaint says. A conviction carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

Burke has been on the council for 50 years and chaired its finance committee for the last three decades.

Graphic by WNIJ

Unwanted social media messages are now on the list of behaviors that can be cited when petitioning to file for stalking “no-contact order.”

That’s one of the hundreds of new Illinois laws that went into effect in the new year.

Previously, phone calls, text messages and emails were included, but not messages from platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

Women's March Rockford Marches On

Jan 3, 2019
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The national Women’s March has faced accusations of anti-Semitism, and organizers in Chicago recently announced they would not march, citing logistical challenges.

Organizer Alicia Neubauer says none of those issues apply to the Rockford march, though. Canceling has never been on the table for their group.

Neubauer says they have tried since the inception of the Rockford march to include a diversity of voices.