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.

Flickr user Miso Beno/ CC 2.0 Noncommercial

A bill in the State Senate aims to keep people with violent criminal histories from obtaining firearms.

State Senator Julie Morrison is sponsoring the legislation, which is part of Senate Bill 1966. She said a key aspect is closing gaps in the process of getting a Firearm Owners Identification, or FOID, card. 

Carey Cavanaugh

Trolls have lived in Morton Arboretum since the summer of 2018, but the gentle giants are moving out later this year.  

"Soybeans" by Flickr User Aerna's Mom / (CC x 2.0)

Illinois farm exports to China have suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak, but that isn’t the only factor.

China is the world’s largest importer for products such as soybeans, which Illinois farmers produce in abundance.  The coronavirus outbreak has reduced demand, but economist Todd Hubbs at the University of Illinois said it’s been a recurring problem with the trade war.

duckworth.house.gov

Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth says there is a deep division in the country that does not help the political process.

She said President Trump’s State of the Union address didn’t make this any better. She also said Senator Romney didn’t exactly vote “against” the president.

Courtesy of the Forest Preserve of DuPage County

Recent encounters between coyotes and humans have put the canines in the public eye. We have details on why these animals seem to be popping up in more populated areas. 

Earlier this month, one animal was captured in Chicago and sent to a wildlife rehabilitation center, while another remained on the loose. Despite the extensive news coverage, one question still remains. What brought them downtown?

U.S. Department of Defense

Retired General David Petraeus will visit Illinois in October.

He’ll be the next speaker in the University's "World Leaders Forum."  2004 Judson alumnus Mark Vargas is also leading a Q&A at the event. Vargas said he met the General while working as part of an economic special task force in Iraq during the U.S.-led war. 

“General Petraeus was leading our coalition forces to clear and hold as part of our counterinsurgency strategy and then the civilian force would reopen factories and put Iraqis back to work,” Vargas said. 

Pixabay

A new grant will help researchers try to increase the survival rate for lung cancer.

The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois recently awarded a $100,000 grant to the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford for lung cancer screening and research. Associate Professor Dr. Neelu Puri said it will pay for further research into treatment and expand the use of a technique called low-dose computed tomography.

Chase Cavanaugh

With more winter storms expected across Illinois, local and state authorities are working to clear the roads and respond to traffic accidents. 

Heavy snowfall can lead to labor like shoveling on driveways and sidewalks. For roads, local government steps in.  The City of Rockford has a fleet of more than 20 trucks for snow and ice removal. Staff are unionized, so they bid on routes. Public Works Director Kyle Saunders explained.

Northern Illinois University

A Northern Illinois University professor has tips on how being frugal can help in business.

Professor Tim Michaelis admits he lives quite frugally, and traces his habits back to his grandparents. This was especially evident when his grandfather examined the family earnings. 

“Working, he did the math and realized if he was just going to save 5-10% of his salary, he would not retire. Which was what they were telling people to do at the time. Just kind of through my childhood, I learned to be cautious and careful with resources," he said.

Pixabay

Some hospitals in Illinois are restricting visitors because of a spike in flu cases.

FHN Memorial Hospital in Freeport reported 91 positive cases of flu this week, compared with three during the same time last year.  Based on recommendations from the Illinois Department of Public Health, it, like hospitals in similar situations, is limiting who can visit patients.  Nurse Margie Kochsmeir is the infection preventionist at FHN Memorial. She said measures also include removing potential gathering places for germs, such as magazines in the waiting room.

"Syringe and Vaccine" by Flickr User NIAID / (CC X 2.0)

The Illinois Department of Public Health says vaccination is an excellent defense against two prominent diseases. 

The first is Hepatitis A. This is a highly contagious liver disease that can cause symptoms such as fatigue, stomach pain, and jaundice. Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said the disease is widespread, and there’s been an outbreak in Illinois since September 2018.

“It has actually been nationwide, over 30 states, But in Illinois specifically, we’ve had 177 related cases, and one death associated with that," she said.

Starting next year, the Illinois Department of Labor will have a new way to address diversity in apprenticeship programs.

Apprenticeship programs fall under the various building trades, such as electricians, ironworkers, bricklayers, and pipefitters. The Department’s Deputy Director, Jason Keller, said  a state law creates a new body in the Department as part of an effort to increase diversity in the trades.  It’s called the Bureau on Apprenticeship Programs.

Recreational cannabis sales will be legal in Illinois starting January 1st. This means anyone 21 years and older can buy from licensed sellers.

Democratic State Senator Steve Stadelman said the application process for these licenses includes measures meant to address social equity.

“When the law was passed, supporters were hoping to have diversity among those who own those licenses, but how you go about accomplishing that will be a big question," he said. 

Pixabay

A new training program is designed to help police officers identify and address Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The program will focus on helping officers recognize the signs of PTSD, develop resilience, and find sources of peer support. Northern Illinois University Psychology Professor Michelle Lilly will be presenting at the sessions. She said they’re important for addressing a higher rate of suicide among first responders.

“The importance cannot be understated," she said.  "We have a duty I think, as a public, to protect those who are sworn to protect us.”

The Illinois Poison Center is advising residents to be careful about the fruits and berries of certain holiday plants. 

The plants in question are holly, mistletoe, and poinsettia. Carol DesLauriers is a toxicologist with the Illinois Poison Center.  She said the plants aren’t deadly if accidentally consumed, but they can cause nausea and vomiting.

“These plants are attractive visually. They may smell nice, and leaves and berries from fresh plants can fall to the ground where children who are crawling around can get access to them and taste them.”

Chase Cavanaugh

A new state law makes it easier for child advocacy centers to record forensic interviews. 

This is where victims of potential child maltreatment are given the chance to speak about their experiences in a nonthreatening environment. DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato said they're an essential part of the investigation process.

U.S. Census Bureau

The Illinois Comptroller’s office is ramping up efforts to educate people about next year’s census.

A big milestone took place this fall with a large payout of money. Deputy Director of External Affairs Kevin Derrig explained.

“We were able to release $1.5 million to 33 different community organizations throughout the state that are going to be the ones really taking the lead in census outreach efforts," he said.

Derrig said Comptroller Susana Mendoza will also be going on the road for outreach efforts.

Chase Cavanaugh

Improving aviation maintenance education is the focus of a new measure in Congress.

Current law says students have to learn a very specific set of subjects in their programs.  But critics say the law hasn’t caught up with technological advancements in the industry.  Ryan Goertzen is the vice president of Maintenance Workforce Development at AAR. The company partnered with Rock Valley College in Rockford to create an employee pipeline. He said the bill would give these schools greater flexibility in what subjects they can teach.

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University officials continue to look for ways to attract new students.

Fall enrollment hit its lowest level in 50 years. Officials recently announced they will freeze tuition rates for the sixth year in a row.  Room and board rates will also remain flat next year. The university will cap tuition at  $4,732.80 per semester for students taking 12 or more credit hours. That’s to encourage students to finish their degree on time. University President Lisa Freeman said NIU will also lower student fees.

IDOT

The Illinois Department of Transportation wants feedback from drivers.

I-DOT is conducting its annual Illinois Traveler Opinion Survey through December 31st.  Spokesman Guy Tridgell said it’s meant to broadly determine what the public thinks about the state’s transportation system.

"The topics ranging from commuting habits, driving behaviors, feedback on our website, if people do like passenger rail use and want to see it expanded, transit usage," he said.  "So there’s a whole host of topics and questions that are asked that I think just apply to the average person."

city of Sycamore

Retired Sycamore Mayor Kenneth Mundy died Tuesday, December 3, at the age of 73.  The cause of death was throat cancer.

Mundy served as mayor of Sycamore from 2005 to 2017, but his involvement with the city began as early as 1972 when he was the treasurer of the Public Library Board.  He also served as city treasurer from 1981 to his mayoral election.

Current Sycamore Mayor Curt Lang said this presence, along with significant involvement in the community, touched many lives.

Chase Cavanaugh

Beginning in January, single-occupancy public restrooms in Illinois must be gender-neutral.  Signage should identify these places as "restrooms" and not specify any specific gender.  Northern Illinois University has already implemented this in several areas of campus. Assistant Professor Katy Jaekel said this helped foster inclusivity for students and staff.

David Kroese

The National Park System has more than 400 sites across the country. An Illinois man has visited all of them and wrote a book about the journey.

David Kroese said it all began at a turning point in his life. He had worked for years in biotechnology, but his career advancement had stalled. While on assignment in the Netherlands, Kroese took the time to visit various historical locales around Europe.     

Chase Cavanaugh

A recently revived charity luncheon raised $12,000 this year toward feeding the needy in and around Rockford.

The Mayor’s Hunger Luncheon was started by Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara’s father in the 1980s, and served as a fundraiser for hunger prevention into the late 1990s. After a long hiatus, the event was revived last year and raised $10,000. Mayor McNamara credited this year’s boost in funds to the committee that planned it, greater public visibility, and more local sponsors.

flickr user Ian Murphy "Solar Casino Night (3)" (CC BY 2.0)

A state lawmaker says a proposed change to the formula for a Chicago casino would have shortchanged the rest of Illinois.

An effort to change the tax structure for Chicago’s future casino failed to gain steam in the Illinois General Assembly last week.  State Senator Dave Syverson opposed Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's attempts to give Chicago an edge. Lightfoot argued the tax structure changes are needed in order to attract investors and make enough profit.

Illinois High School Association

Northern Illinois University hosts the Illinois High School Association State Football Championships Thanksgiving weekend.

This is the fourth time that Northern Illinois University has hosted the championship.  They’ve alternated this duty with the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign since 2013.

Brad Hoey is on the IHSA Destination DeKalb Hosting Committee. He said the arrangement lines up with team geography.

City of Rockford

The City of Rockford is looking for public input on ways to revitalize local neighborhoods.

City officials consulted with the National Resource Network, a D.C.-based group that assists with urban strategic planning. They analyzed different Rockford neighborhoods to come up with plans to improve buildings and services.

Matthew Flores is the city’s Neighborhood Stabilization Supervisor. He said one area the group examined was tenant and landlord relations. Flores suggested emulating what has worked in Wisconsin. 

Wikimedia Commons

UPDATE 11/22/19:

This week, following a bipartisan letter Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14) sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to address propane supply shortages, the FERC announced that farmers in the Midwest will receive temporary emergency shipments of propane.

Rep. Jeff Keicher

A northern Illinois Republican said he’s pleased lawmakers were able to come together on a new pension bill.

The measure approved by the General Assembly would consolidate police and firefighter pensions across the state into two larger funds.  Illinois State Representative Jeff Keicher said this reform has been supported both by Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker and the state Republican caucus.

Pixabay

Two Illinois State Representatives are using a high school football wager to raise money for local food pantries.

Representative Jeff Keicher said he and his colleague Joe Sosnowski are major fans of their local high school football teams. They agreed to match $500 in donations to the winning city’s food bank in the Saturday quarterfinal between the two teams.  Keicher said the bet started innocuously enough.

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