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."

pocan.house.gov

This week’s Friday Forum features Democratic Congressman Mark Pocan.  He took the seat in Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District in 2013 after 14 years in the state assembly.

Pocan’s district cover all or parts of seven counties in south central Wisconsin, stretching from Beloit west and north to Madison and beyond.

Congress and the administration are considering a full and varied plate of proposals, but Pocan says there is one thing they should all aspire to do.

Guy Stephens / WNIJ News

The Rock Valley College Board of Trustees voted Tuesday night to lay off 28 full-time faculty in an effort to reduce a projected multi-million dollar deficit. 

The trustees voted 3-1 in favor of the faculty cut in front of the sometimes fractious crowd of about 200 packing the school’s Performing Art Room.  Judging by the comments and reaction, the vote was not a popular one. Nor was talk of a tuition hike in the offing.  But RVC President Doug Jensen says the college already had made other cuts, and there was nowhere else to go.

BIFF

The soon-to-be director of the Beloit International Film Festival says it’s a very special event in a number of ways.

Max Maiken will take over as executive director when this year’s festival, which begins Friday, concludes March 5. He has worked with the festival, affectionately known as BIFF, for several years and is the current Assistant Director. He says the transition at the top is historic for the organization.

Guy Stephens / WNIJ

On February 28, voters in Aurora will whittle down the number of candidates running for mayor of Illinois’s second-largest city.

DCCG

Several choirs from the DeKalb community and Northern Illinois University will raise their voices to raise money for the nonprofit DeKalb County Community Gardens in the third annual "Make Our Garden Grow" concert Sunday in NIU’s Boutell Concert Hall.

Eric Johnson, director of Choral Activities at NIU, says he started the concerts with two visions in mind.

NIU

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 includes substantially less funding for Northern Illinois University compared to the last full state budget enacted in Fiscal Year 2015.  The proposed FY2018 appropriation for Northern Illinois University, for example, is $77,428,800.  That's a 17 % reduction from the $93,189,500 allotted to NIU in FY2015. 

Guy Stephens / WNIJ

Most musical ensembles of great renown have some large institution behind them. Not so with the St. Olaf Choir. Its home is a tiny college, but its stage is the world. 

St. Olaf Choir director Anton Armstrong says the choir’s success also is built on a foundation of support that goes back to the very beginnings of the college.

Music has been essential in the curriculum since its inception. There was a hymnal that was one of the required textbooks back in 1874,” he says.

NIU

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.  DeVos’s nomination was controversial, and it took a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence to confirm her in the post.  But despite that, one education expert says her appointment may not have all that much effect – at least at first.

Laurie Elish-Piper, Dean of the College of Education at Northern Illinois University, says DeVos may have strong views, but she’s circumscribed in her actions by current law -- especially the Every Student Succeeds Act passed in 2015.  

congress.gov

This week’s WNIJ Friday Forum features two Congressmen who are entering their fourth terms representing parts of northern Illinois.

City of Rockford

The City of Rockford says the water it provides residents is clean. The City’s Water Division was responding to published reports that it says may have left the false impression city water in one area is contaminated.

City of Ottawa

Ottawa will be asking its citizens whether they want home rule status for the city.  The City Council voted at its Jan. 17 meeting to put the question on the April 4 ballot.

Home Rule status would grant the city more flexibility to raise taxes. But according to the Ottawa Times, Mayor Robert Eschenbach says the city's desire for home rule isn't about that. He says it's about freeing the city from state restrictions that hinder the local government's ability to serve its citizens, such as providing cheaper internet access to residents.  

Guy Stephens / WNIJ

The LaSalle County city of Mendota is working to keep a local manufacturer looking to expand.  It could mean a tenant for a long-vacant building and 100 new jobs.

Mendota Mayor Dave Boelk says commercial woodworking company Starved Rock Wood Products has been doing very well the last few years, expanding from 18 to 65 employees.  Now it wants to move into the old R.R. Donnelley building, left vacant when that company closed the facility in 2012, taking nearly 200 high-wage jobs with it.

The company behind the proposed Rock Island Clean Line says pending legal proceedings in Illinois prompted it to withdraw its request to approve the Iowa leg of its project. 

State of Illinois

A program designed to help spur economic development in Rockford and other river cities in Illinois got a new lease on life this week. Tuesday, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation extending the River Edge Redevelopment Zone Program until the beginning of 2018.

Amazon.com

Online retailer Amazon.com said Tuesday it plans to open two new fulfillment centers, employing more than 1,000 people full-time between them, in Aurora, Ill. 

Officials say one of the new facilities will focus on smaller items, such as books and small electronics, and the other will handle large items like big-screen TVs. 

Guy Stephens / WNIJ

 

The argument for the Great Lakes Basin Railroad is that it will be an economic driver for the region.  But while some are enthusiastic about its potential, some are skeptical – including the railroads that are supposed to be its major clients.    

Great Lakes Basin Railroad lawyer Mike Blaszak says the line will be a boon for the railroads using it -- and for their customers. He cites the example of fracking sand that is mined in Wisconsin.  

Milken Institute

The Rockford area moved up substantially in a nationwide ranking of the cities released Wednesday.

The 2016 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index rated the Rockford area 125th among 200 large metropolitan areas. Last year the city was rated 176th. The index cited growth in short-term jobs, as well as in high-tech jobs, like those at aircraft component maker Woodward, Inc. The institute also looks at capital investment and other factors.

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

Rockford native and New American Theater founder J.R. Sullivan says he conceived of his Hometown Holiday Show as a celebration of the season, and of his hometown.

He brings the 21st production of his show, featuring Sullivan and a troupe of friends, back to Rockford this weekend, Dec. 10 and 11.

Sullivan says the format mirrors one of the holiday staples at NAT, the company he founded and led for many years.  He says the main show was an adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.” 

ADP

A new report says Illinois added 8,600 private sector jobs in November. That’s a rebound after two months of much smaller increases.

The increase in the November ADP Regional Employment Report® comes after previous reports showing only 3,600 nonfarm private sector jobs were added in October and 2,100 in September.

Crusader Community Health

Thursday was World AIDS Day. An organization that provides health care for low-income residents in Boone and Winnebago Counties marked the day by launching a campaign to overcome the stigma that prevents some people with HIV from getting the care they need.

The Winnebago County Health Department and the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago joined Crusader Community Health to announce the effort.

Republican Frank Haney won the race for Winnebago County Chairman over Democrat John Nelson.  With all precincts reporting, Haney beat Nelson by nearly seven thousand votes.  

Nelson led from the start and for much of the evening.  He amassed a big numerical margin in Rockford but Haney built a lead in the rest of the county as the night wore on to first narrow the gap and then surpass Nelson. 

Incumbent Chairman Scott Christiansen did not seek re-election. 

Landmarks Illinois

Freeport residents voted in favor of changing the city’s form of government from one run by a full-time mayor and city council to one with a city manager running city operations as chief executive.

The measure calling for the change won with 53 percent in favor vs. 47 percent against.  The measure had been backed by a number of businesses and the local chamber of Commerce.  They argued a city the size of Freeport needed a full-time professional running day-to-day operations, and said it would free up the mayor and council to concentrate more on strategic planning.

Cor Cantiamo

Cor Cantiamo, NIU’s professional choir in residence, presents the world premiere Thursday night of a chamber version of “The Seven Heavens” by Grammy-nominated British composer James Whitbourn.

It depicts the life of author, scholar and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis in a journey through the planets as they were conceived of in the Middle Ages. Getting the work to the stage was a journey in itself.

Committee to Change City Government

A group in Freeport is backing a measure that would place a city manager in charge of the city’s administration.  

Small business owner Pat Leitzen Frye is a former city council member and one-time mayoral candidate. She co-chairs the Committee to Change City Government. Fye says the push for the measure isn’t about particular personalities or policies, but helping the city to work better for everyone.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the Illinois corn and soybean harvest is almost over.  Northern Illinois farmers say they have a little further to go, but things are looking positive.

Mark Tuttle is president of the DeKalb County Farm Bureau. He farms near Somonauk.  He says the area corn harvest is well more than half done. He says it’s shaping up to be a strong year.

Guy Stephens / WNIJ

The founder of the Beloit International Film Festival says he’ll step down from his position as executive director after the next festival takes place in the spring.  

Danielle Guerra / Daily Chronicle/shawmedia.com

The man whose cold-case conviction for a 1957 murder was overturned earlier this year wants a judge to take the next step to clear his name.

Jack McCullough case: A Timeline

Attorneys with The Exoneration Project, a legal clinic based at the University of Chicago, filed papers asking for a Certificate of Innocence for Jack McCullough. 

Visitors to Rochelle this weekend will have a chance to see some unusual artwork in a field next to the city’s high school.  It’s an appropriate venue, because the material used is often found in a field.  It’s the first U.S. National Straw Sculpting Competition.

West Carroll C.U.S.D. #314

More than two dozen West Carroll Middle School students on an annual field trip  to Thomson, Ill., were taken to area hospitals Thursday after exposure to tear gas from the nearby Administrative United States Penitentiary.

About 40 seventh-grade students from the school were on the trip north of the prison when the wind shifted. That blew gas being used in a prison training exercise some distance away over the students and accompanying staff. When some complained of discomfort due to eye, nose and throat irritation, emergency personnel were called in.  

NCICG

An agency in north central Illinois helps towns, many with few resources of their own, get a leg up on economic development.

The North Central Illinois Council of Governments was founded in 1979. Nora Fesco is its executive director.  

“Our tag line is we provide professional services to local elected officials,” she says.

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