Around Illinois – May 23

May 23, 2012

Cherry Valley train fire final report issued

West Nile virus shows up early this year

NATO protestors will challenge terrorism charges

Is more gambling a good bet for revenue?

Final report issued on 2009 fatal train fire

At last, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has published its final report on the Canadian Northern train derailment in Cherry Valley nearly three years ago.

A Rockford woman died when the tanker cars with more than 2 million gallons of ethanol tumbled off the tracks and the cargo erupted in flames, burning for nearly a day.

The report runs more than 100 pages and contains detailed descriptions of the incident and its aftermath, plus 15 recommendations for safety improvements – including a need to review stormwater management systems nationwide for possible risks to public safety and design certain rail tanker cars sturdier in case of a crash.

The five-member board also urged Canadian National to strengthen its culture of safety and ensure warnings are properly relayed to train crews before to avoid similar situations.

First West Nile virus detection reported

Mosquito samples from DuPage and Cook counties and a dead crow in Chicago are the first confirmed findings of West Nile virus in Illinois in 2012. The samples were collected May 16 and 17, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“Although it is a little earlier in the season than we normally find West Nile virus positive mosquito pools and birds, it is not unheard of,” said IDPH Director LaMar Hasbrouck.  “This is a good reminder as we head into the Memorial Day weekend and more people spend time outdoors, that it is important to protect yourself and wear insect repellent.”   

The first West Nile virus positive results in 2011 were collected on June 8 and included two birds from LaSalle County. Last year, 19 counties in Illinois reported a West Nile virus positive mosquito batch, bird and/or human case.

A total of 34 Illinois residents contracted West Nile virus disease in 2011, and three died.  No birds or people have tested positive for West Nile virus so far this year.

NATO protestors will challenge terrorist charges

Attorneys for anti-NATO protesters charged under a seldom-used Illinois terrorism law say they're going to challenge its constitutionality.

State lawmakers approved the terrorism statute more than a decade ago but it's largely untested in court. Now Cook County prosecutors have charged four protesters under that law.

 “We intend to challenge the statute from top to bottom,” said attorney Michael Deutsch, who represents one of them. “We think the definition of terrorism is overbroad and vague. There's due-process issues. Just because the legislature passed the statute, it still has to comply with the U.S. and Illinois constitutions.”

State's Atty. Anita Alvarez calls the defendants domestic terrorists, but her office declines to comment on the law's constitutionality and why local charges are being filed instead of using federal terrorism laws, which have withstood court challenges.

Lawmakers bet on gambling for revenue

As legislators craft a state budget for the coming fiscal year, they've been focused on where to cut. But some legislators say finding new sources of funding, like gambling expansion, should be a priority.
Gov. Pat Quinn's opposition so far held back a package that would give Illinois new casinos and allow slot machines at horse race tracks. This week the governor called talk of gambling a distraction.

Still, Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, says he hopes to get a gaming measure passed before the end of the month.
"It will look very similar to the versions that we have passed in previous bills,” he said. “There will be some tweaking of it, hopefully we will have the Governor on board."
Quinn's main opposition has been to slot machines at race tracks, which he says would over-saturate the market. But advocates say that's needed to help the agriculture community.