Guy Stephens

Reporter

Guy Stephens produces news stories for the station, and coordinates our online events calendar, PSAs and Arts Calendar announcements.  In each of these ways, Guy helps keep our listening community informed about what's going on, whether on a national or local level.  Guy's degrees are in music, and he spent a number of years as a classical host on WNIU.  In fact, after nearly 20 years with Northern Public Radio, the best description of his job may be "other duties as required."

A plan is underway in Rockford to enable people who didn't graduate from high school to earn their diploma, and more. It addresses a nationwide problem: how to bridge the gap between the needs of business and the skill set of the available pool of workers. In this Friday Forum, WNIJ's Guy Stephens has more about Goodwill's Excel Center. 

Goodwill Industries of Northern Illinois, Inc.

The president of Goodwill Industries of Northern Illinois is retiring. 

Sam Schmitz had served in a variety of public and private posts before taking the helm of the agency serving Boone, Winnebago and parts of surrounding counties in 2008.  

 

 

McHenry County State's Attorney's Office

Several Chicago collar counties are filing lawsuits against some of the country's biggest pharmaceutical companies for contributing to the opioid crisis.   

Officials from DuPage, Kane, McHenry, Lake and Will Counties said Thursday they are seeking millions of dollars in damages.  

 

UW Health, University of Wisconsin--Madison

Rockford’s SwedishAmerican Hospital will not be affected by cuts announced by its parent network. 

Madison-based UW Health announced Thursday that it will try to improve its balance sheet by $80 million over the next 18 months through cuts or added revenue. 

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

The City of DeKalb has begun a project to revitalize a troubled area of the city. In the past, “renewal” often meant “removal and replacement,” but not these days. WNIJ’s Guy Stephens looks at recent efforts toward neighborhood revitalization.

  Guy Stephens' report on neighborhood revitalization (Friday Forum, Dec. 1, 2017)

churchjazz.com

The Christmas story has been told in many ways. And many kinds of music have been used to help tell that story anew. One such piece, billed as “A Jazz Nativity,” will bring its interpretation to northern Illinois this weekend.

givingtuesday.org

‘Tis the season. Black Friday, Cyber Monday - sales now seem to stretch over weeks, if not months.  On Tuesday, Nov. 28, though, people are invited to hit the pause button on their shopping.  Instead, they’re being asked to give their dollars to charity.  

Shopping has become something of a tradition after the Thanksgiving holiday in America.  In 2012, two nonprofit organizations in New York City wanted to celebrate another great American tradition, giving to charity.

Pretzel City Kitchens will be open for free tours as part of an event at Wagner House.

The project to create a certified, commercial grade kitchen that would be open for community use began in earnest several years ago. Now, after much grant-seeking and traversing several hurdles, it’s almost ready to open for business.

Freeport City Manager Lowell Crow says Pretzel City Kitchens is an important part of the city’s hope for the future.

 

 

Leaf River Fire Protection District

A memorial fund has been set up for the family of a Leaf River firefighter who died last week.

According to the Ogle County Sheriff’s Office, by the time authorities got to the home of the Wood family in Leaf River early Friday morning, they found it engulfed in flames.

WNIJ

 

Rail car maker Nippon Sharyo's Rochelle plant is no longer part of a contract to build more than a hundred passenger rail cars for Illinois and California.  

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

More than half a dozen cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, have been confirmed in the Rockford area in the last couple of weeks.

The Winnebago County Health Department said it had identified six confirmed cases since the middle of October.  Harlem School District officials confirmed that two of its students – one at Machesney Park Elementary and one at the Harlem High School 9th Grade Campus – were among the cases. 

WalletHub

School funding problems, including disparities between districts, have grabbed the headlines in Illinois the last couple of years.  But a website recently ranked Illinois schools among the best in the country for teachers.

Personal finance website WalletHub said it looked at two broad areas when ranking the states:

One -- Opportunity and Competition -- included average starting salaries, income growth potential, pensions and tenure protections.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

The Illinois legislature passed a new school funding formula this summer. The state’s public schools chief says there’s a lot left to be done to make it work.  

State Superintendent Tony Smith said the new law is a tremendous opportunity.

“[It’s] a model that really moves resources to the kids that need it the most,” he said. “So there’s a fundamental shift toward equity.”     

senatordavesyverson.com

Illinois State Sen. Dave Syverson was in Las Vegas at the time of the mass shooting there. He gave WNIJ his impressions of the situation.

The Rockford Republican said he was having dinner with friends when news of the shooting came. He said it took a while before the scale of it was known but, as he watched from the sidelines, he was impressed with the response.

“You can imagine moving tens of thousands of people,” he said, “not only out of the concert but to clear out of the hotel the size of Mandalay Bay, and to do those searches.

Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

The promise of a new public-school funding formula for Illinois was that no districts would lose money. So many said they were blindsided when the state announced a big cut in another revenue source tapped by schools. For some, it’s a significant part of their budget. This week’s Friday Forum looks at what’s going on.

City of DeKalb

DeKalb planning officials are seeking residents' feedback on a proposed revitalization plan for a neighborhood in the northwest part of the city.    

A number of concerns have been raised about the neighborhood known as Annie Glidden North, including safety, exterior maintenance and quality of life issues. 

Aaron Stevens, a management analyst in the DeKalb City Manager’s office, said the problem is that the area adjacent to Northern Illinois University has evolved far from its original purpose, which was to provide affordable housing for NIU students.  

U.S. Government/SBA

People and businesses in northwestern Illinois affected by severe storms and flooding in July are now eligible for federal help. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner made the announcement Tuesday.

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s approval of the state request for assistance means people and businesses in Stephenson and the surrounding Illinois counties of Carroll, Jo Daviess, Ogle and Winnebago who were affected by flooding are now eligible to apply for low-interest, long-term loans to help them recover from the disaster.

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University won't begin a formal search for its next president until next year.  The Board of Trustees said the timing is in the best interest of the university.

In a letter released Monday to the NIU community, Board Chairman Wheeler Coleman and Vice Chair Dennis Barsema said feedback from faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders led to the determination to start the search in fall of 2018.

The two said there was a strong push for an open and inclusive process, however long that would take.  

Rain Art Returns

Sep 16, 2017
RACVB

A popular art project is hitting the sidewalks of Rockford once again.  Rain Art uses environmentally-friendly paint that’s only visible when wet. The interactive public art installation is part of the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau's Forest City Beautiful initiative.  Josh Albrecht is the Bureau’s Director of Marketing & Public Affairs. He said Rockford hosted a similar project last year downtown.

“And it was really well-received, he said.  "We had a great mix of people coming to the downtown core in Rockford looking for the art, trying to discover it.”

By Evadb - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40430946

Two Rockford natives are among this year’s recipients of the state’s highest honor for professional achievement and public service.

The eight people awarded the Order of Lincoln for 2018 include 16-year-old pianist, composer and songwriter Emily Bear and David Rydell, chairman of Bergstrom Inc., a designer and producer of climate systems for the commercial vehicle industry.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

Rockford poet Christine Swanberg has published her latest book. In a career that spans three decades, she’s written hundreds of poems that, in addition to her own collections, have appeared in a variety of periodicals and anthologies. During that time she mostly, though not always, wrote in free verse. But one of her first published poems was a sonnet, written while she was a young English teacher as a class assignment along with her students, and she returns to the sonnet in this collection.

Brian Towne

A grand jury on Tuesday indicted a former LaSalle County State’s Attorney on 17 felony charges.

LaSalle County Circuit Court records show that the grand jury examined 25 felony counts before returning indictments on 13 charges of official misconduct and 4 charges of misapplication of funds. All are Class 3 felonies subject to 3 to 5 years of prison or probation.

NIU

Northern Illinois University responded Tuesday to the announcement by the Trump administration that it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals -- or DACA -- program. 

The end of DACA could lead to those in the program losing protections that allow them to go to college or get a job without fear of deportation.

NIU Acting President Lisa Freeman emailed a statement to the campus community emphasizing the school’s commitment to admitting, retaining -- and supporting -- all its students, regardless of immigration status.

Great Lakes Basin Transportation, Inc.

A federal agency has rejected an application by Great Lakes Basin Transportation, Inc. to build a railroad through northern Illinois from Wisconsin to Indiana. 

NIU

A Northern Illinois University expert on education says the state’s new school funding reform bill marks a paradigm shift in how Illinois treats public schools.

Dr. Kristine Kiracofe is Professor of Educational Administration at NIU. She says the funding reform bill is a really significant change. It means Illinois will no longer have one of the most -- if not the most -- regressive system of education funding in the country. 

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

Employees of the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles picketed outside the center Monday to protest what they say is escalating violence against staff and among the youth.

A few dozen juvenile justice specialists and educators gathered along the highway outside the center, waving signs saying “safety first” and “we protect you, who protects us?” while passing cars and trucks honked in response.  Several then told their stories of unprovoked attacks that left them with severe and lingering injuries, while the perpetrators suffered no repercussions.

Illinois Department of Revenue

While Illinois schools wait for a state education funding bill to be hashed out, they’ve gotten news of another financial blow.

river district association

Rockford’s River District Association says it hopes a one-day music festival hosted by a local business Labor Day weekend will be the first of many.

The downtown restaurant District Bar & Grill is putting on its “Off The Waterfront” festival on Saturday, Sept. 2. 

The River District Association, a private non-profit organization, promotes Rockford’s waterfront area through a variety of initiatives. Its president, Josh Albrecht, lauded the event in a news release as something to build on.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

A northern Illinois legislator said efforts to restore an iconic statue near Oregon continue, but slowly, and completion is still up in the air.

State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said he has made it a priority to stay in contact with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources regarding restoration of the monumental Lorado Taft statue known to many as “Black Hawk.” Taft himself referred to it as "The Eternal Indian".

More than a hundred years of exposure, neglect and botched previous attempts to repair the statue have left it disfigured, cracked and crumbling.

Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Tuesday morning, a new calendar featuring watercolors of Rockford locations was unveiled.  The artist traveled from her home in France to attend the event that began 815 Day in Rockford. 

A crowd gathered on the terrace at the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau clapped, cheered and shot off confetti to mark the official release of the “Paint the Town” calendar.  

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