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.

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.

Pixabay

Modern medical care involves a lot of record keeping. How it’s organized and shared has grown more complicated. 

Paper charts were once the norm for keeping track of patients. But in 2019, health providers keep electronic health records, or EHRs.  “As more practices got the EHRs going," said Lisa Bergeron, "they needed more help learning how to use it, how to pull out the data, how to understand the data, and then start using it in more integrating ways." 

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University is working to increase its overall enrollment and provide more aid to disadvantaged groups.

University officials testified this week in front of the Illinois House Appropriations Higher Education Committee.  Provost Beth Ingram said the school’s goal is to stabilize NIU enrollment at 17 to 18,000 students, as part of a multiyear campus plan. She also said there’s been more diverse hiring over the past year.

“I’m pleased to report," she said, "that of the 30 new tenure-track faculty we hired, 50%, 15, were from underrepresented groups." 

It’s National Apprenticeship Week.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is encouraging residents to consider apprenticeship programs if they’re searching for a new job. Julio Rodriguez is Deputy Director of the Office of Employment and Training.  He said apprenticeships are useful in getting direct work experience.

Northern Illinois University

Political conflict can be both helpful and harmful to local government. According to a new study, which it is depends on the nature of the conflict. 

A Northern Illinois University researcher surveyed city councils and other municipal bodies to examine two types of conflict. Political Science Chair Scot Schraufnagel said "policy conflict" is when lawmakers have differences of opinion on specific issues and laws.

Chase Cavanaugh

Northern Illinois was home to several German POW camps during World War II. A Hampshire man got to know one camp personally, in more ways than one.

In 1944, Hampshire was home to the J.B. Inderrieden cannery, which packed local peas and sweet corn. John Fenzel Jr., then a 12-year old paperboy, overheard the city mayor and farm managers discussing a labor shortage at one of the local restaurants.

Chase Cavanaugh

The Gaming Goat store in DeKalb hosted a 24-hour board gaming marathon for charity this weekend.

Kids and adults brought out old classics, like Stratego and Dungeons and Dragons, along with modern hobby games like Settlers of Catan. One group even livestreamed their gaming sessions.

Organizer George Jaros said this fundraiser is part of Extra Life. It's a yearly campaign that raises money for children’s hospitals. He said proceeds from the DeKalb event are headed to a hospital in Chicago.

Chase Cavanaugh

Ensuring safe drinking water is a complex process.

For modern water sources, there are two general options. The first is for a community to draw from a large surface source, such as a river or lake. But that’s not an option for DeKalb.

“In the summer times, sometimes there’s not even enough water flowing in the Kishwaukee River, so [it's] not really a reliable source of water for DeKalb," said Bryan Faivre, the director of utilities and transportation.

He says DeKalb makes use of nine wells spread across two different aquifers. Six of them are quite deep.

Chase Cavanaugh

Rockford’s Nordlof Center played host to a legal clinic recently to help people expunge their criminal records.

Illinois law allows for people under certain conditions to have past offenses expunged, or for their criminal records to be sealed. The Second Chances Summit lets people get free legal assistance with this process, along with educational and career resources.  Illinois State Senator Steve Stadelman said this is the second such summit he’s organized. He said it has a significant impact on participants.

Chase Cavanaugh

One of the snowiest Halloweens in northern Illinois marks the end of a very wet October.

The weather station at Northern Illinois University measured 1.4 inches of snowfall on Thursday, making it the snowiest Halloween since 1895. David Changnon is the chair of NIU’s Department of Geographic and Atmospheric Sciences.  He says October’s rainfall has been much higher than normal, and it’s much colder than expected.

cH

Members of Alpha Phi Alpha at Northern Illinois University presided over a re-dedication ceremony for a bust representing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The bust was moved to a more prominent spot in the university’s MLK commons, next to a newly remodeled student center. NIU alumnus and Alpha member Maurice Thomas says several protests against racism were held on the Commons.

Demonstrations included burning campus newspapers due to the publication’s unfair representation of black students. Thomas urged the crowd to continue to use the space for civil rights.

A new member of a state task force fighting sexual abuse in schools says he has a strong personal interest in the issue. 

Chase Cavanaugh

Northern Illinois University will open up the remodeled first floor of its student center Saturday.

Construction focused on turning the first floor of Holmes Student Center into a hub for student activity. This includes greater views to the outside and more lounge space to sit or meet with others. Dean of Students Kelly Wesener-Michael says a major improvement is a shared workspace called the OASIS.

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