Jessie Schlacks

Weather experts are urging residents to take precautions to prevent burst water pipes during frigid temperatures.

People should insulate outdoor faucets and pipes in unheated areas -- like the garage or crawl space.

Kyle Saunders is with the city of Rockford. He says people should run a constant drip of cold water in a faucet farthest from the meter.

Saunders also recommends keeping cupboard doors open when temperatures drop.

"Glove" by Flickr User Rick Harris / (CC X 2.0)

Different locations in northern Illinois are available to help residents weather the winter conditions.

State-authorized warming centers are located at Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) offices throughout the state. IDHS warming centers are open to the public during each facility's regular business hours, Monday through Friday.

The Illinois Tollway Oases in the Chicago area are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Jeff McMaster is Deputy Chief of the DeKalb Fire Department. 


Making it legal to raise industrial hemp has been a topic of discussion in Illinois for years. Wisconsin is the most recent state to allow farmers to grow it. Will Illinois be next?

Back in 2014, the federal farm bill authorized states to grow hemp for research purposes. And effective in 2015, Illinois allowed specific state universities to do so.

But it’s still not legal for farmers to grow, whether it’s for research or another cash crop, and it’s not for a lack of trying by the Illinois Farm Bureau, said IFB's Bill Bodine.

State of Illinois

Illinois State Democrats recently released their list of top ten laws going into effect after the New Year.

More than 200 Illinois laws will go into effect after January first. That includes sale stickers having to be removed from car windshields before going on the road. 


Thomas More Society attorneys are immediately beginning an appeal in the controversial HB-40 case after a Sangamon County judge granted a motion Thursday to dismiss by Illinois officials being sued by taxpayers.

It comes after the conservative activists and legislators pressed a lawsuit against publicly funded abortions in Illinois. They sought seeking an emergency injunction to prevent the law from taking effect Monday.


DeKalb Police are joining forces with Illinois State Police and the Department of Transportation to increase traffic enforcement. It's part of a campaign called "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over."

Nearly 10,500 people died in the country last year in wrecks where the driver had a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit.

Officer Kelly Sullivan is a detective with the DeKalb Police Department. She says there are a handful of consequences to impaired driving.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

Beloit could soon have a new casino in its backyard, but some Illinois lawmakers worry it would detract from business in the Rockford area.

The city of Beloit and the Ho-Chunk Nation are joining forces for a more-than $405 million proposal.

Dave Syverson is a Republican State Senator from Rockford.

"Keyboard" By Flickr User Jeroen Bennink / (CC BY 2.0)

State officials say food stamp benefits will be restored by this week for tens of thousands of Illinois households that lost them because of problems with a state computer system.

The Chicago Tribune reports that officials with Illinois Department of Human Services announced Thursday that the benefits would be restored by the end of Friday.

Flickr user Brent Hoard "ECU School of Education Class Room" (CC BY 2.0)

A new report from Advance Illinois shows the statewide teacher shortage is felt most acutely in districts with many low-income students. But it's also hitting rural and wealthier districts.

Williamsfield is a village halfway between Peoria and Galesburg, with fewer than 300 students. Superintendent Tim Farquer said he can't find teachers who meet state licensing requirements for every subject. Instead, he's filing paperwork seeking waivers.


"CherryVale Mall - Rockford, Illinois - Mall Directory" by Flickr User Nathan Bush / (CC X 2.0)

The Cherryvale Mall is extending its “Youth Escort Policy” during the week of Christmas this year.

The Rockford mall is requiring all minors under 18 to be accompanied by an adult the day after Christmas. The same rule applies starting at 4 p.m. for the rest of the week.

Rockford Public Schools

A Rockford school has the highest composite score in Illinois on this year’s state standardized tests.

Rockford school officials say students at Thurgood Marshall School had the highest composite score of all Illinois public schools compared with other fifth- through eighth-graders in the state.


Northern Illinois University held its December graduation ceremonies this weekend.

Electrical engineering major Allana Rose is a graduate who has overcome substantial personal challenges.

She was recently honored with the Prospatheia Award for her achievements at NIU. The award is given by the Department of Electrical Engineering at Northern Illinois University to a senior who has overcome obstacles to achieve success.

The 24-year-old helped design a low-cost blind spot alert system for drivers with visual impairments.

DeKalb County Sheriff's Office

Time is winding down for people to register for the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Citizens Academy.

The sheriff's office has been hosting the 10-week class, which is open to the public, since 1996.

Citizens will learn different facets of the criminal justice system, like the communications division, corrections, and State’s Attorney’s office. 

Outside investigators also will discuss gang and drug activity in DeKalb County.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

DeKalb’s Municipal Band will not be traveling abroad next summer to celebrate the anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, due to financial constraints. 

They originally had been selected to be the only band from Illinois to perform in D-Day celebrations.

Conductor Kirk Lundbeck says the DeKalb Municipal Band was not able to raise the needed funds. But he says there still may be other performance opportunities to come for the band, which could include playing in Washington, D.C., Mount Rushmore or Pearl Harbor in 2019.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

Community input played a role in keeping the DeKalb Municipal Band operating at normal capacity for now.

The DeKalb City Council held a special meeting recently where they addressed potential budget cuts for the next year. That included the possibility of reduced funding for the DeKalb Municipal Band.

DeKalb Alderman David Jacobson says the band currently gets $60,000 annually when they usually only spend $50,000. He says the city agreed to cut just the $10,000 difference during the special meeting.

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

Today is the beginning of Illinois’s year-long bicentennial celebration. Counties and municipalities across the state read special proclamations and raised an Illinois Bicentennial Flag.

A couple of dozen people gathered next to the flagpole in front of the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore to hear County Chairman Mark Pietrowski read a letter from State Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley, on the significance of the anniversary.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Dozens of state employee union members and Northern Illinois University employees protested Monday on the DeKalb campus.

They came in support of a fair initial contract between AFSCME and NIU. Protestors marched in the turn-around outside Altgeld Hall on campus.

AFSCME members have been negotiating with NIU officials since February 2016. Since then, union members filed unfair labor practice charges against NIU and recently won a case regarding parking pass rate increases. /

A state employee union plans to seek an enforcement hearing against Northern Illinois University regarding a parking pass rate increase.

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board ruled in September that NIU raised parking pass prices in 2016 without bargaining with the union. The IELRB also ruled that NIU should reimburse more than 600 clerical, paraprofessional and administrative employees $38 each plus interest.

State of Illinois

Illinois is chasing a moving target as it tries to dig out of the nation's worst budget crisis, and $7.5 billion worth of unpaid bills hadn't even been sent to the official who writes the checks by the end of June.

The Associated Press obtained the review, conducted by Comptroller Susana Mendoza's office. Although many of those unprocessed bills have since been paid, the office says a similar amount have replaced them.

That's in addition to $9 billion worth of checks that are at the office but being delayed because the state lacks the money to pay them.

Flickr user Charleston's TheDigitel / "Red Cross blood drive" (CC V. 2.0)

It’s been more than a week since the mass shooting in Las Vegas, but northern Illinois blood banks say local donations still may be needed in the weeks to come.

Many survivors still need surgeries after the attack, and blood donations have only a 42-day shelf life.

Some blood centers in northern Illinois have shipped donations before to areas in need, as they did after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. They say they’re on standby to ship blood to Las Vegas.

FLICKR User Jim Bowen

Illinois politicians continue reacting to Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, but responses are falling down party lines.

As happens with just about every mass shooting, and the more routine violence that plagues parts of cities like Chicago, Democrats say it shows the need for tighter gun laws.

Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says military-grade weapons should not be considered normal.

But Republicans prefer to set aside those conversation, which is what Gov. Bruce Rauner did when asked whether he would support a so-called assault weapons ban.

Phil Masterton / WNIJ

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is talking about building a movement to improve the state’s political and economic climate.

But he still wouldn’t say whether he will run for re-election.

Several Republican lawmakers say Rauner lost their support after the governor signed a bill last week that allows state money to help pay for abortions.

One said a primary challenger is inevitable, though nobody has yet stepped forward.

"Courtroom One Gavel" by Flickr User Beth Cortez-Neavel / (CC BY 2.0)

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today in Gill v. Whitford, a Wisconsin case challenging partisan legislative maps.

Wendy Tam Cho, a University of Illinois political science professor, says this case is particularly important because it could determine the court’s role in future cases on gerrymandering. 

Political third parties in Illinois no longer will have to file a full slate of candidates in order to get some candidates on th eelection ballot, thanks to a recent court ruling. 

The current state election code heavily favors Republicans and Democrats.  One example is requiring third parties to run a full slate of candidates for county or state offices. This, they say, forces them to recruit individuals to fill several positions.

Illinois is the only state in the country to have such a rule.  A federal court said this is unconstitutional.   

Flickr user Growinnc / "Practice makes perfect! #hairdo#school#perm#cosmetology" (CC V. 2.0)

Saturday is the last day for cosmetology professionals and teachers in Illinois to renew their licenses before the next cycle.

Renewal requirements include certain continuing education, but domestic violence training is not yet on the list. Those requirements start next year, but they still haven’t been explicitly outlined. 

Mary Ellen Schaid directs Safe Passage in DeKalb. She says the group already gave presentations to several local schools and salons on what to do if a client confides in them about domestic violence.

Illinois draws about 512,000 hunters every year. Now, a group is promoting how that number affects the state's economy.

The group, called "Hunting Works for Illinois," said the money that hunters spend on equipment, travel, food and lodging creates a "ripple effect" by adding jobs and maintaining local economies.

One of the defense attorneys for Rod Blagojevich during the former governor’s corruption trial is running for Illinois attorney general.

After Blagojevich’s trial, Aaron Goldstein was elected Democratic committeeman for Chicago’s 33rd ward on the northwest side.

His campaign fund reported having a little more than $2-thousand dollars at the end of June.

Goldstein did not return a call for comment, but a spokeswoman says he will be circulating petitions to get on the ballot and he plans a formal announcement next week.

Public Comment Ends Soon On New DeKalb Transit Plan

Sep 22, 2017
Northern Illinois University

Residents can give input on the new DeKalb transit plan until Tuesday. It includes more frequent service overall, a line going to Cortland and more trips to the Elburn Metra train station throughout the week.

DeKalb Public Works director Tim Holdeman says the new plan suggests merging the Northern Illinois University bus line and the TransVAC lines, which currently serve Kishwaukee College students, DeKalb and Sycamore.

“There’s an inefficiency in having two bus systems serve generally the same population,” Holdeman said.

Jessie Schlacks / WNIJ

More than 100 campus community members gathered in Northern Illinois University's MLK commons for the annual three-block march.

Speakers emphasized the need for unity amid changes to immigration law and recent hate crimes nationwide.

David Becker is with “Welcoming Western Counties.” The coalition promotes solidarity and sanctuary in northern Illinois.

Becker said more people need to get involved in the discussion of promoting unity.

Jessie Schlacks / WNIJ

The Winnebago County Coroner says there have been 23 documented deaths by suicide so far this year. It's among the top 10 leading causes of death in the nation.  

Groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of northern Illinois are not staying silent on the issue during Suicide Awareness Prevention Month. The coalition recently organized an event at Stepping Stones in Rockford. The diverse group included community activists, veterans, and students.