Illinois

Victoria Lunacek

The majority of Illinois students are still learning remotely so there hasn’t been much need for school buses. Unfortunately, that means in many school districts there has been no need for bus drivers either.

Ladel Cass is a northern Illinois general manager at busing provider First Student.

He oversees 10 districts and says only around 30% are driving their normal routes right now.

And for the ones that are picking up and dropping off students as usual, they’ve had to make some major changes.

MercyHealth Gets Green Light To Shutter Mental Health Unit

5 hours ago
Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

This week, the Mercyhealth campus on Rockford’s West Side officially got the green light to permanently shut down its mental health unit.

 

 

On Tuesday, the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board voted 5-0, in favor of allowing Mercyhealth to shutter its mental health unit at the Rockton Avenue campus. 

Danielle Angileri is with the National Alliance on Mental Health of Northern Illinois. She said these services are more vital than ever. 

 

Brett Callow of Emsisoft

In April, Illinois Valley Community College’s servers shut down. It happened soon after COVID-19 closed down the campus and shifted classes online. Hackers locked the college out of its own networks. That caused its website and email system to crash. 

In the directory where files should be, the hackers left a message demanding cash for ransom.  

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Organized workers at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Rockford continued their strike this week as contract negotiations continue.  

Carmen Garcia has worked for the UIC division of specialized child care for more than 20 years. She says she and her coworkers just want a fair contract like other staff are already getting. 

WNIJ News

 The DeKalb Police Department may be sporting body-worn cameras sooner than anticipated.

 

The DeKalb City Council unanimously approved a contract with Axon Enterprises, Inc. to purchase body-worn cameras for the police department. DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas says it’s a step in the right direction.  

 

Wikipedia Commons

Illinois has devoted more than $230 million across every county in the state for COVID-19 contact tracing.

The U.S. Census Bureau is urging Illinois residents to respond before the end of the month.

Sherrie Taylor is a senior research specialist at Northern Illinois University's Center for Governmental Studies. She said more than 96% of the people in the state have already sent in a response, but several groups remain elusive.

The Next Picture Show

A uniquely Midwestern art exhibit found a way to crown its winners despite the pandemic. 

The 16th annual Farms & Barns exhibit features 82 artists’ original works celebrating country life.  Some include photography, wood carving and mixed media. This year, the art show honored eight local and regional artists.

Michael Glenn, the executive director of The Next Picture Show in Dixon, said the process for awarding the artists is different due to the pandemic. 

New Housing Assistance Available For 61016 Residents

Sep 18, 2020
Pixabay

There’s a new housing rental assistance program available in areas around Cherry Valley.

 

 

 

 

The Community Action Agency announced housing assistance funds are available to those who experienced hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic. $69,000 dollars will go to residents in the 61016 zip code for immediate use, which the state health department has deemed as especially impacted by the pandemic. 

 

NIU Today

Northern Illinois University officials plan to pursue charges after a derogatory word was spray-painted on the Center for Black Studies building. Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime. President Lisa Freeman issued a campus wide statement decrying the action. She said the paint has since been removed. The university will host a virtual, campus conversation Thursday night to discuss the incident.

Dear Huskies,

I’m writing to make you aware of an incident that occurred overnight and the actions we’re taking to address it.

Chase Cavanaugh

DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith announced Thursday that he’s not seeking re-election next year. 

The soon-to-be 77-year-old said age is one factor.

“Given my age, given the fact that we’re in a position where we’re going to continue to make great progress, and given the fact that I know my wife is certainly supportive of this decision that we’ve made, now is the right time,” Smith said. 

He also says he feels confident in the city’s economic position. Smith said the arrival of Facebook and Ferrara will help with future tax revenue.

Free Laundry Service For RPS 205 Students

Sep 17, 2020
Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

A free student laundry program kicks off this week in Rockford.

The "Fresh for Learning" program lets any Rockford Public School student wash their clothes for free at the new 5 Alarm Coin Laundromat located at 3939 West Riverside Blvd. The program will run every Wednesday between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Rockford Police Department ROCK House Officer Patrice Turner leads the program. She got the idea after spending eight years as a school resource officer and noticed a truancy problem. 

Yvonne Boose

A Rockford youth summer apprenticeship program has ended and the fruits of the participants’ labor are ready to be revealed.   

SPARK! -- or -- Significant Public Art Apprenticeships in Rockford began back in July. One of the projects includes works that were done at the Nicholas Conservatory.   

Among the themes are social justice artwork and digital journalism skill-building.  An animation video that highlights youth interviews of community participants sharing what Black Lives Matter means to them will be on display.

The Voluntary Action Center, a northern Illinois community service organization, lost its paratransit contract with the City of DeKalb.

The nonprofit normally offers transportation for needy residents, such as the elderly and disabled. But starting next year, the work in DeKalb will go to Transdev, a company that provides and operates buses for the city’s consolidated transport system. VAC Executive Director Ellen Rogers said the financial impact is significant.

SEIU Local 73 Strike Ongoing

Sep 15, 2020
Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Members of SEIU Local 73 who work at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) are on their second day of strike.

 

 

SEIU Local 73 is calling for the University of Illinois to “respect us, protect us and pay us.” The University of Illinois College of Medicine also has campuses in Chicago, Rockford and Peoria. Dian Palmer is the President of SEIU Local 73 and she says the university failed to meaningfully respond to issues including safe working conditions, adequate staffing, and pay increase 

Pixabay

The Winnebago County Health Department reported scores of new cases of COVID-19 at a press conference Monday. 

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said a lot of the transmission is due to Labor Day weekend activities. The ages of those infected vary.

“And those ages are anywhere from two years to 68," she said. "This brings our total to 4,794 cases.” 

Martell is also worried about an increasing positivity rate.

Yvonne Boose

A Rockford music group performed in an unusual place on Sunday.

The Music Academy in Rockford held pop-up performances on the Sinnissippi bike path near the Nicholas Conservatory & Garden-Eclipse Lagoon Teahouse and SwedishAmerican Hospital Riverfront YMCA Pavilion. The performances were originally scheduled for Saturday Sept. 12 but moved to the 13th due to weather. 

http://www.gizzae.com/pictures/

Summer is closing out. This means the time to see outdoor concerts is ending as well. A reggae musician is performing his last 2020 American show in Woodstock.  

Brian Rock’s musician name is Rocket. He’s the lead singer and bass player for the award-winning band Gizzae. Rock said Saturday’s audience should expect a high energy show.

“We spread the message of love and peace and hope and faith,” he said. “That’s really what our music is all about. And we’re looking forward to putting on a really good performance.”

Susan Shubert

Welcome to Poetically Yours, where you'll hear the voices of Illinois poets as they share their words about the world around them. This week features Susan Schubert. Her poem is called, "9/11."

9/11 (Nine Eleven)

The time is drawing near

It has been almost 20 years.

I remember it distinctly

A call from my sister

“Turn on your TV,

We are being attacked.”

One tower, in flames

Minutes later, collapsing

Down to the ground.

Another plane hit the next tower

On this episode, we recall Chicago's own Steve Goodman, the songwriter who died 36 years ago this month.  He left behind a catalog of work, but is probably best known for the song played after a Chicago Cubs home victory - "Go Cubs Go."  

Also, we find out how misinformation about the coronavirus can spread so rapidly.  And, a southern Illinois couple tells their account of growing up amid segregation.  

That and more on this week's Statewide.

https://www.facebook.com/tyler.waldrop.16

A northern Illinois artist is partnering with a women’s voter organization to ensure that people are casting their ballots for the 2020 Election -- especially younger people.  

Aurora Approves $89,000 in New Riot Gear

Sep 10, 2020
Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

The Aurora City Council approved the purchase of riot gear for the police department. The move was not without controversy. 

The Aurora City Council voted 8-3 in favor of a resolution to buy 150 complete sets of the gear for the Aurora Police Department. Supporters say that, after the recent protests in Aurora, the police need the equipment to keep them safe.

niu.edu

Enrollment at Northern Illinois University went up this fall for the first time in a decade, despite pandemic concerns.

At the beginning of 2020, the university’s enrollment projections looked good. A plan was in place, applications were up. Then COVID-19 happened, and it became impossible to predict how the fall numbers would look -- if students returned at all.

Sol Jensen is NIU’s Vice President for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications. He said that one of the most important improvements was with local, northern Illinois students.

Yvonne Boose

A northern Illinois arts organization is now better equipped to help other art institutions.  

The Rockford Area Arts Council has received two COVID relief grants. One was an 81Thrive Award from the community impact team, which includes the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, the Kjellstrom Family Foundation, the Northern Illinois Center for Nonprofit Excellence (NICNE), Transform Rockford, United Way of Rock River Valley, and the Workforce Connection. The RAAC also received a grant from the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund.

Mary McNamara Bernsten is the executive director of the Arts Council. She said these grants are vital for the health of the organization. 

“It's imperative that we got that because it will not only allow us to then survive in 2021,” she explained, “but we may be able to thrive and be a true resource for the artists’ community.” 

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University saw a slight increase in enrollment this fall.

 

Total enrollment at NIU climbed to 16,769 students. That’s only a 1% gain from last year, but it’s the first increase since 2009

Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District

Hopkins and Rotary Park in DeKalb will soon have some of their turf grass replaced with native plants for local pollinators.

The Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District is working with the DeKalb Park District to convert nearly 23 acres of land.  Through the fall, they’ll clear the existing grass and vegetation, then plant native seeds in November. Amy Doll with the Park District said that will leave the land somewhat barren for a brief period. 

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

The Labor Day parade in Rockford was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but some local organizers came up with another way to support workers.

 

 

In Midtown Rockford, the northern Illinois chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America organized a special Labor Day rally. They’re calling for support of the post office and postal workers. That's amid a string of controversial operational changes at the post office that have contributed to longer wait times and delayed mail. 

 

Madigan Hearings To Begin Next Week

Sep 4, 2020
Zoom.us

A special investigative committee of the General Assembly will begin meeting at the Capitol next week to decide the fate of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Pixabay

The Winnebago County Health Department is reporting a preliminary count Friday of 44 new cases of coronavirus and a positivity rate of 6%.

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said this comes as Illinois is at risk for a surge in cases over the Labor Day weekend. It’s traditionally the last major summer weekend for people to get together. 

Photo provided by Darius Jackson.

Welcome to Poetically Yours, where you'll hear the voices of Illinois poets as they share their words about the world around them. This week features Darius Jackson of FourPoets, OneMic. It's called "I'm Ashamed."

I’m Ashamed

I’m ashamed.

I said I’m ashamed,

Because just last week

This white kid asked me

Why is Black people always mad?

He said, why is Black people always angry?

He said, I understand your ancestry history, but

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