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."

WalletHub

Illinois usually is cited as having one of the highest overall tax burdens in the nation.  But when it comes to taxes, Illinois is not number one.

That distinction goes to the state of New York, followed by Hawaii, Maine, Vermont and Minnesota. That’s according to personal financial website Wallethub. Illinois came in eighth in the study.  

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has a familiar wish list for the legislative session that begins this week.

Rauner has several items that he’s been asking for since he first ran for office, but his top priority this year, he said, is the budget. He said it’s time to get it right.

“Let’s get a revenue estimate that we agree on, as the law calls for," he said, "and then do a balanced budget that lives within our means for a full year, not a partial -- and that calls for no new taxes.”

Then, Rauner said, he wants to start work on his next priority.

Susan Stephens

The search for a new president for Northern Illinois University is getting underway. The Presidential Search Preparation Committee held one of several public meetings Thursday.

The committee’s announced mission is to create benchmarks based on current practices and trends related to presidential searches and contracts, and prepare a draft of the job description as well as a document listing “points of pride” for the university.

Guy Stephens / WNIJ

Two Illinois Valley cities are getting more than a million dollars each from the federal government to help prevent flood damage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced the grants to Ottawa and Marseilles Tuesday.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

The Rockford Symphony Orchestra will bring back some favorites and expand the number of its performances next year, including a new summer series. 

Rockford Symphony Orchestra Music Director Steven Larsen said there’s something for everyone on every concert of the 2018-2019 season.

Leonard Bernstein at 100

The Rockford arts community will celebrate musical icon Leonard Bernstein during the month of April.

The festival, "Leonard Bernstein at 100," is being led by the Rockford Symphony Orchestra. RSO Education and Community Engagement Director Margo Stedman said Bernstein’s many accomplishments as a composer, conductor and music educator are reason enough to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner was in full campaign attack mode the day after he eked out a narrow win in the primary.  

Rauner didn’t take any time to savor his victory. Wednesday, he made factory stops in St. Charles, Rockford and Moline to press the flesh and make his case for re-election.  

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

Several Freeport and Stephenson County business groups are combining forces to promote the area.

Freeport City Manager Lowell Crow helped launch the endeavor, currently called NewCo. He said its aim is to help boost Freeport and Stephenson County by making it easier to do business there.  

“So it’s one-stop shopping,” he said. “You know, for everything dealing with economic development, whether it be events, economic growth, small business development, membership. It’s all under one roof.”  

Guy Stephens / WNIJ NEWS

“Man in a Tree” -- the current show at the Rockford University Art Gallery -- is a survey of works by printmaker David Driesbach, looking at selected works over the former Northern Illinois University art teacher’s nearly 70-year career.

The title of the exhibit refers to a sepia print that looks like a line drawing of – you guessed it – a man in a tree: Driesbach himself. There also are a banjo, a light bulb and other oddments, along with a Driesbach signature -- a top hat. 

flickr user / Vox efx "I Voted" (CC BY 2.0)

The Illinois Primary is fast approaching, and early voting has already begun. Election Protection, a national nonpartisan coalition, is offering a toll-free number staffed by attorneys to help. 

Timna Axel is with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, which leads the Coalition’s efforts in Illinois. She says citizens have a right to vote but, all too often, there are problems with the process.

SwedishAmerican

SwedishAmerican Hospital won approval Tuesday from a state agency for a multimillion dollar expansion in Rockford that includes a new women and children’s facility.

The modernization and expansion of the main hospital features a four-story tower that will become the home of its neonatal intensive care unit.  

Dr. Michael Born, president and CEO of SwedishAmerican, said the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board agreed that the plan for the aging hospital facility was needed.

BIFF

Many people know the Beloit International Film Festival as an event that brings films from around the world to the City of Beloit. The festival, often referred to by its acronym “BIFF,” began its ten-day run Thursday. But BIFF connects with the community in other ways, too.   

 

Susan Stephens

Matt Streb, chief of staff to Acting NIU President Lisa Freeman, says Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed allocation for higher education ignores even a minimal 1.9 percent increase requested by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Instead, it keeps cuts made in last summer’s budget deal.

“The [university] presidents,” he said, “including Acting President Freeman, have argued that the institutions in the state should revert to the Fiscal ‘15 year allocation, which was the last year that we had a full budget before FY ’18.”

Fermilab

The U.S. House has passed a measure Tuesday sponsored by a northern Illinois Congressman that increases funding at two federal labs in Illinois.

 

14th District Representative Randy Hultgren said the Accelerating American Leadership in Science Act will do just that, by making sure the Fermi and Argonne national laboratories, and the U.S., remain go-to destinations for the world’s best and brightest in science.  

Iranian-Canadian-American composer Kamyar Mohajer says he draws on his multicultural background for inspiration. An example of that blend of traditions will be premiered at this weekend's concert by the Rockford Symphony Orchestra. But even as he balances those influences, he also has to balance composing with a career in Silicon Valley.

Mohajer was born in Iran in 1976. He says that’s where his interest in music began.

johncabello.org

A Republican Illinois lawmaker is calling on the governor to resign. He’s also endorsing the governor’s opponent in the primary.

State Rep. John Cabello told Rockford television station WREX that a lack of credibility was the main reason he thinks Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a fellow Republican, should resign.

Illinois State Police

The case of an Illinois Valley man accused of murdering his sister-in-law in 2016 continues to move toward trial.

Lawyers for Clifford A. Andersen Jr. argued with prosecutors during a Jan. 26 hearing in Putnam County court over the admissibility of text messages he sent to his wife.  The prosecution said that, because they were false statements, they don’t fall under the law of spousal immunity. The judge took the matter under advisement.  

The two sides did agree on testing of physical evidence from the body of the victim, Deborah Dewey.

IRS

The Internal Revenue Service and the Illinois Department of Revenue began accepting 2017 individual tax returns Jan. 29. Groups around the state and nation are participating in a program to provide free help to those who qualify.

Jenna Dooley/WNIJ

Most of the news on the federal budget has focused on DACA, military readiness, or the prospect of another shutdown.  But the lack of a full-year federal budget has greatly affected local social service agencies in Illinois, too.

The series of Continuing Resolutions passed by Congress has kept the lights on in Washington, but it has wreaked havoc with local programs like Meals-on-Wheels. That’s according to Ellen Rogers, Executive Director of the Voluntary Action Center.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

Restoration of an iconic Illinois statue is still waiting for money from the state.  A northern Illinois lawmaker says he wants to keep light on the matter, before it’s too late. 

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources awarded $350,000 several years ago to help restore the landmark sculpture known as “Blackhawk” in Lowden State Park. That funding dried up during the budget impasse and was nowhere to be found in the last budget.  

Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce

The Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce is creating what it calls “collectives” – business people with specialized needs who gather to learn and share pertinent information as well as connect with like-minded peers and the community.   

Bethany Bland, President and CEO of the Chamber, said the collectives are a response to a trend she and other staff were seeing.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

The lights stayed red on wreaths at many Illinois fire departments this holiday season.  This was good news.

There were plenty of fires across Illinois from around Thanksgiving to New Year’s but, for many fire departments, there was a bright spot: the Red Wreath Program.  Dixon Fire Chief Tim Shipman said his department has been doing the community-awareness drive for the past 24 years.

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

The Rockford Public Library is settling into what will be its temporary downtown home for the next few years.

The Hart Interim Library in downtown Rockford has been a great success and, in some ways, an improvement, according to Bridget Finn. She’s the library’s Director of Marketing & Communications.

“It’s a great space,” Finn said. It’s a smaller footprint, but it’s a real study in excellent design.”

Library of Congress

The Illinois State Historical Society wants to see a particular portrait of Abraham Lincoln -- before he was president -- in every courthouse in Illinois. The Society hopes to make that happen during the state's Bicentennial year. 

Society Executive Director William Furry said Lincoln is an iconic figure, particularly in Illinois, and courthouses are especially appropriate spots to hang his picture.

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.

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