Friday, September 29, 2023

County Board Updates: Summer into Fall

Since our last update earlier this summer, 11 year veteran of the County Board, Stan Harper has resigned. The News-Gazette had coverage here with a biographical article from a couple years back here. John Farney, a former Champaign County Treasurer and Auditor, was appointed to fill the vacancy in the District 3 seat. Long time County Board member Aaron Esry sits in the other District 3 seat

There are two seats per County Board districts and vacancies are filled by a member of the same political party that held the seat before, regardless of which party may have majority control over or chairs the board itself.

This Cheat Sheet update highlights a new advocacy group for affordable local nursing home beds, SAFE-T Act / Pretrial Fairness updates as the new law goes into effect, advocacy for affordable jail communication, and other County government news. But it's also approaching 2024 election season and you'll see candidates circulating ballot petitions to get on the primary election ballot. If you would like to be a candidate or support a candidate, the work has already begun. More detailed deadlines and important dates are laid out in the 2024 Illinois Election Calendar here. The County Clerk and Recorder has been promoting Vote by Mail locally and with other area County Clerks in a bipartisan effort in the wider area.

There has been a local push for more nursing home beds in the heart of the county's twin cities, especially with the old Champaign County Nursing home shut down by its new private owners this summer (more on that in a previous Cheat Sheet here). The News-Gazette had coverage of the new collaboration pushing for an assessment of local nursing home bed availability to get the policy process rolling on addressing the issue:

The collaborative is an offshoot of work already begun by a group calling itself Advocates for Nursing Home Care that formed with the closing of one of Champaign County’s few remaining nursing homes, University Rehabilitation Center of C-U, which was formerly the county nursing home in Urbana.

Cathy Emanuel, an organizer of that group, said state public health data is showing a need for 721 nursing home beds in Champaign County (based on population) that will be 310 beds short by the end of this year.

That’s due to the recent closing of University Rehab and a planned reduction in beds at ClarkLindsey’s Meadowbrook Health Center, she said.

That full article here. Earlier News-Gazette coverage of the advocacy group is available here from June and the previous June County Board updates on the Cheat Sheet covered and linked to their large showing at the County Board general meeting that month (jump to that portion of the meeting video here, roughly 10 minutes in).

There was also coverage, including a brief overview by WAND here and an article in WCIA here.

SAFE-T Act and the end of cash bail (via the Pretrial Fairness Act that was a part of the larger SAFE-T Act provisions) went into effect this month. WCCU had an article on the impact in Champaign County earlier this month: 

Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz says the justice system in Champaign County is working well together but there are a few hiccups...

Rietz added she does not believe the SAFE-T Act will change the outcome of the justice system in Champaign County.

“I truly believe that in Champaign County, we've been making these decisions all along, and I really don't see this as changing the end result of our process, just the beginning part of the process,” explained Rietz.

That full article here. WAND had additional coverage of the State grant money heading to the Public Defender's Office to offset some of the additional costs here.

There has also been increased criminal justice reform activity surrounding the Champaign County government's budget and a "Request for Proposal" for jail phone and video call systems contract. Several public commentors appealed to the County Board at the September general meeting (jump to video of those comments here). WILL had coverage explaining the issue with some additional helpful links here. One of the activists, Brian Dolinar, involved had an article in Smile Politely discussing his concerns here.

At the County Board's recent Special Finance Committee of the Whole meeting (full video), there were additional public comments by Brian Dolinar on the phone contract issue and some clarifications by Finance Committee chair Stephanie Fortado on the actual costs of these phone calls: $3.40 flat fee per call plus an addition 13 cents per minute after that (remote video calls have higher costs). 

The Champaign County Sheriff had been publicly stating that the calls cost 13 cents per minute (e.g. quote from WCIA article here). This didn't mesh with the stated experiences and billing examples by family members and activists who received calls from inmates. Fortado's clarification appears to bridge the gap in some of the fees people were seeing in addition to the per minute rates. The Cheat Sheet will be looking deeper into the communication protocols and costs in the weeks ahead.

In other budget news, a new associate judge was approved for Champaign County. The downside is that the County budget that was already over $700,000 in the red now also has to find room for a new clerk for that judge, as required by law. This was also discussed in the Special Finance meeting (agenda packet, video) last night. News-Gazette coverage on that meeting and the likely increase of the budget deficit here.

Other County Government News:

  • Champaign County Coroner to resign in order to take job with Mahomet-Seymour schools, according to the News-Gazette. WCCU also had a blurb on this news here.

  • The last general County Board meeting included a presentation on the Mahomet Aquifer mapping project (video here, presentation slides here).
  • Farm Bureau to help with building up rural broadband, according to WCIA.

  • Champaign County bicycle safety issues growing as use increasing, according to WRSP.  

  • Last month, the News-Gazette reported that a special prosecutor was denied in a domestic battery case involving a Sheriff's deputy. As of that reporting, he is due back in court in early November.

  • The new Champaign County Humane Society facility was quickly overwhelmed by increased need and promoted adoption discounts, according to the News-Gazette. The initial community response was highlighted by Jim Dey in his News-Gazette column.

  • Getting to know Champaign County court security officer by the News-Gazette.

  • Updates on Champaign County's Drug Court and recertification by the State, from the News-Gazette.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

County Public Transportation Updates

WARNING: This post may use and link to references heavy on abbreviations and local government jargon. The Champaign County Regional Planning Commission has a handy abbreviation reference list (with agency names at the bottom) here.

At the last County Board meeting, there was a long explanation of the bureaucratic hurdles and timeframes that can undermine perfectly good projects. In this case, installing some public transportation shelters in Rantoul as part of the rural transit program here in Champaign County (jump to video link of the presentation here). The presenter who goes into great detail about the regulatory steps and timelines was Rita Morocoima-Black, Planning and Community Development Director at the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission (RPC).

RPC's website has a basic description of that function:

The Regional Planning program of RPC provides planning-related technical services to local governments throughout its service area. These services include a range of programs which address policy analysis, planning processes, demographic, economic, environmental and geospatial information analysis, and technical analysis. Most services are either contractual or funded and governed through intergovernmental agreements.

If one goes to the committees and meetings page of the RPC website, they'll find that the Regional Planning Commission is primarily made up of representatives of local governments: village presidents, mayors, the Champaign County Executive, etc. It has a long local history, especially with transportation planning, and now has multiple divisions and works to coordinate intergovernmental agreements and programs across the area.

You'll hear RPC mentioned a lot in local government meetings because it is often at the center of programs that run across government jurisdictions. This is, of course, a very common occurrence in any county dealing with local units of government, but especially in counties with "twin city" population centers.

You'll also hear the long RPC acronym for transportation planning thrown around a lot in this context: CUUATS. I'm pretty sure only the people who work at CUUATS (and not even all of them) can readily ramble off what it stands for with 100% accuracy. If you have to google it, every time, you're not alone. It stands for Champaign Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study and also has a long history within the RPC.

But the County Board Agenda said "Rural Transit Advisory Group"

This County Board presentation, for example, was a presentation on the Rural Transit Advisory Group, which was established by the county to oversee the collaboration between the Champaign County government and the MTD (local mass transit district) for County wide and rural services. In basic terms, the County gets public transportation funding for services around the County and works with MTD to provide many of the services.

In the complicated realm of federal grants, Illinois Department of Transportation regulations, and working across various local government bodies and transit districts, this is only one piece of the puzzle, however.

Rita Morocoima-Black wears many hats in this bureaucratic overlap. As a recent CUUATS agenda packet points out, she's variously listed as: 

  • Planning and Community Development Director for RPC (the overarching planning commission in Champaign County)
  • Transportation Planning Manger for CUUATS (the transportation planning group within RPC)
  • Also acting as bit of a liaison with the County's Rural Transit Advisory Group (RTAG).

At the heart of all this is transportation planning. In spite of all the acronyms, committees, and paperwork, this is all about connecting real funding to real transportation projects.

When you're dealing with federal, State, County, and local government bureaucracies all operating with their own tax bases, regulations, and authority, however there's not just simple agreement. The written agreements tend to establish a working relationship to protect the interests of everyone involved. They're often heavily scrutinized before and after, especially if voters or an interested party think any tax money was wasted or mishandled!

Staying Informed

Unless it's your job or you have a lot of time and coffee, the average voter couldn't possibly keep up with all of the details and meetings involved with just these organizations and related boards, committees, and groups. And that's just for the County's public transportation planning, funding and spending. 

You have to choose your level of interest and commitment to this issue:

  • If you simply follow the County Board meetings, you'll get very general updates from all of these commissions and groups from time to time. And that's probably enough for your average voter.

  • If you're more generally interested in area transportation planning and budgets, you might consider going through the CUUATS Policy Committee (remember, the transportation planning group within RPC!) documents or even attending one of their meetings.

  • And if you're extremely interested in public transportation policy within Champaign County, you can also follow the CUUATS Technical Committee meetings and documents as well as the MTD's own meetings and documents that include their C-CARTS program and even more glorious acronyms. The Champaign-County Area Rural Transit System or C-CARTS is a real public transportation system at the end of all this planning, funding, agreements, and appropriations.
And of course that's just where you might start on this particular issue. For more specific concerns about rural public transit in this town or the other, you might have your own local committee, commission, or village group to work with!

If you live in Rantoul and really want to find another funding path for building those public transportation shelters at June's County Board meeting, hopefully this post helps a little!

[UPDATE 6/29: The MTD Board also approved the intergovernmental agreements with the County on their side at their 6/28/2023 meeting. That is covered on a Cheat Sheet C-U Local post here.]

Monday, June 26, 2023

June County Board Updates


At this month's County Board meeting they had to break out extra chairs for the audience who packed the house. The overwhelming majority had come out to show their support for the County to lead on making sure their were quality nursing home beds available to families in Champaign-Urbana. A recent letter to the editor in the News-Gazette mirrored many of the concerns vocalized during the meeting's public participation

Speakers emphasized the need for the County to ensure beds are available, a needs assessment is carried out, and that they show leadership on finding a solution. With the sale and now closure of the County's old Nursing Home facility and other local reductions in beds, families are insisting there is a growing local need. There was more about the nursing home organization at the Cheat Sheet posts on May County Board Updates as well as last month's Nursing Home Updates post.

The County gave a local City of Champaign project a funding boost with some the County's allotment of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. The News-Gazette highlighted the issue prior to the vote. Excerpt:

The money would come from part of the approximately $40 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding the county has been receiving over two years. It’s intended to help pay for sidewalk and lighting improvements in Garden Hills, a neighborhood on the city’s northwest side, according to the resolution going to the board.

In an April 12 letter to Summers, Champaign City Manager Dorothy David said phases two and three of the Garden Hills project were estimated to run $39.7 million, but it’s anticipated final costs will run significantly higher due to the high rate of inflation.

Full article here. More on the Garden Hills improvement project at the City of Champaign website here. Smile Politely had an editorial arguing for the need to invest ARPA funds towards projects like Garden Hills improvement two years ago. There was an update on the project presented to the City Council a couple months ago, with a written report available here.

In other related County ARPA spending, there was a Kathy's Mailbag question on the timeline for rural broadband projects coming to fruition. Unfortunately, for those familiar with the government process, she notes that the county is still finalizing the contracts:

Michelle Jett, Director of Administration in the County Executive’s office, said the Champaign County Board has committed $10 million to expanding broadband access “and is in the final stages of finalizing contracts for installation to begin.”

According to a memo distributed to county board members in early May, Volo Broadband and Nextlink were chosen to complete the build-out in the unserved and underserved portions of rural Champaign County. Generally speaking, Nextlink will provide broadband service across the northern and far southern tiers of Champaign County, while Volo mostly will serve rural customers across the middle of the county.

More at that Mailbag article here.

There is also a special meeting on 6/27 for a time sensitive intergovernmental agreement between the Circuit Clerk's office and the Illinoid Department of Healthcare and Family Services. More on that from the agenda packet here. Relevant excerpt:

For several years the Champaign County Clerk has had a contract with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to provide access to various court records to HFS to facilitate the child support services they provide to their clientele. In addition, the Clerk’s office also receives payment for the provision of copies of child support orders entered by the Court based upon a formula established by HFS for that purpose. People who receive services from HFS for this purpose do not have to receive benefits from HFS to qualify for this assistance

Other Champaign County Updates:

Friday, June 2, 2023

May County Board Updates


The May County Board meeting approved a solar farm on private property, but opposed by the local Homer government and many residents. Public participation at the meeting had representatives of the Village of Homer and the solar farm company make their cases (jump to video here). The County Board discussion before the vote actually involved a diverse range of opinions and philosophies behind the different members (jump to that point in the meeting video here). 

The Republicans weighed the impact and desires of the community with the private property rights. The Democrats had more internal disagreement about prioritizing private property rights versus greater needs of the community and world. There were also some back and forth on issues like long term climate change and more immediate world hunger issues depending on our regional agricultural world breadbasket.

The full meeting agenda packet and video are available now, and the minutes will be available on the County website at a later date.

There was also a detailed breakdown and spreadsheets of County ARPA federal relief spending and projects in the agenda packet (page 160 of the packet, page 164 of the PDF file here). There was a more brief oral update towards the end of the County Board meeting itself. 

For a more detailed look at the remaining spending decisions, I recommend the long, but extremely detailed discussion at the latest Prevent Violence Task Force meeting. They go through the remaining funds, timetables and time limits to use the funding, and break down the projects by committee member support and projects to be funded. The agenda packet for that meeting also includes the minutes from the previous committee meeting and an overview of the presentations at that time. The News-Gazette had an overview of area ARPA spending in a March article here.

Other Meeting Highlights:

  • There is ongoing discussion on how the county should proceed in purchasing additional facilities for Animal Control (from the old Human Society owned facility that was on county land). Board members are looking at the tradeoffs and complications with exposing the unique facility to the market as opposed to purchasing based on (but under) the appraisals. 

  • The Board will be setting up a committee to look at using the county's opioid settlement funds when they're made available in the future. The general plan as laid out by chair Patterson was for a few members from each side of the aisle to hear from stakeholders at these meetings.

Other County Updates:

More on the Nursing Home today on the News-Gazette front page this morning (article also has some additional County Board related information):

With another local nursing home gone, a group calling itself Advocates for Nursing Home Care sees a crisis ahead — not enough longterm- care beds in Champaign County at a time aging baby boomers are going to need them most.

It’s an issue the group’s founder, Cathy Emanuel of Champaign, said she confronted recently when her late husband needed nursing home care.

“We’re already finding that many of the people involved have friends or loved ones who have to go out of the community, because there aren’t enough beds locally,” she said.

Of immediate concern to Emanuel and more than 50 other members of the new group is the closure of the 243-bed University Rehabilitation Center — formerly the Champaign County Nursing Home until it was sold in 2019.

That full article at the News-Gazette's eEdition here. More in a Nursing Home Updates post here.

There will also be another post (to be linked when available) on the current jail and juvenile detention facilities, staffing issues, and other updates soon.

Nursing Home Updates


Following up on earlier Cheat Sheet posts on the new owners of the old Champaign County Nursing Home wanting to sell it as a drug rehab center from last October. The local nursing home facility is now in the process of being closed. From the News-Gazette:

The nursing home at 500 S. Art Bartell Road, U, which has operated as University Rehabilitation Center of C-U since the county sold it in 2019 — has launched a 60-day process to voluntarily close as of June 17.

County officials have received a formal notice of the impending closure of the facility commonly known as University Rehab...

The closure notice cites declining demand for beds, shorter post-acute stays and a low Medicaid reimbursement rate as contributing factors in the decision to close.

More at the full article here. The News-Gazette also had an editorial blaming the closure on a lack of demand (a letter to the editor disputed that framing). Champaign County Health Care Consumers had previously disputed the lack of demand claims. From the CCHCC website in March:

Low census numbers in nursing homes often correlate with quality of care. The more quality of care problems there are at a nursing home, the more likely that their census will go down because they will receive fewer referrals, and fewer families will want to place their loved ones in nursing homes with poor reputations. Many Champaign County residents are currently being transferred to nursing homes outside of our county (which is a real hardship on them and their families) because they cannot be placed in local facilities.

WCIA had more on this ongoing dispute between quality of service and actual demand in their coverage.

A Champaign County nursing home is shutting down, and it’ll cost the community 243 licensed beds. But the owner of University Rehabilitation Center says keeping it open is not an option.

“It’s bad faith behavior, and the people of this county are going to pay the price for it,” Champaign County Health Care Consumers Executive Director Claudia Lenhoff said...

University Rehab will become the third nursing home in Champaign County bought and closed by Rothner since 2018. He says he operated the Helia and Heartland buildings for a short period of time before selling them, and says while he didn’t make money in those transactions, he hoped patients would flow to University Rehab, which he bought from the county in 2019. But it wasn’t enough to stay afloat.

More at that full article here. There are also additional WCIA articles on the announcement and the impact to local families.

More background on the Champaign County Nursing Home financial crisis and eventual sale that led us to this point at the Nursing Home page on the Cheat Sheet here.

Website Updates

We're back, after a long hiatus, household and family medical issues, and a lot of new faces in local government!

The first updates were to some of the outdated links on the page to board members prior to the 2022 election, new maps, updated contact information, etc. I've decided to have a more general link to the County's own website for current members as they tend to change too quickly for me to maintain individual district pages. I'll highlight new changes in posts.

I'd like to take greater advantage of the News-Gazette's "Meeting Minutes" feature as well as non-partisan organizations already observing local government meetings to avoid duplicating those efforts (or re-inventing the wheel).

We're still relying on Twitter for social media notifications of new posts and sharing local government updates for the time being at the Cheat Sheet Twitter account.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Other County Updates

This post covers some other County news items in the news recently, including the return of surgical abortions to Champaign County, more local housing program funding, resources for those impacted by this summer's drought conditions, and a couple other County government items. There have also been other Cheat Sheet posts recently specifically on:

Doctors began performing abortions on patients at the renovated Planned Parenthood clinic in Champaign earlier this month. But on Wednesday morning, the doctors and patients were absent, as reporters and visiting politicians were given a tour of the health center, where surgical abortions have resumed after several years...

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Champaign had stopped performing surgical abortions several years ago, and only offered medical abortions, prescribing medications for women to take at home to end a pregnancy. But earlier this month, the clinic began offering surgical abortions once again in a newly renovated first-floor health center...

Whitaker says the Champaign clinic has seen patients from eleven states since Roe v. Wade was overturned, with the majority of out-of-state patients coming from nearby Indiana. Planned Parenthood officials say Indiana patients have made up about eleven percent of the Champaign clinic’s clientele since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling.

That full article here. This was similarly reported in the News-Gazette earlier this month and noted in a earlier Cheat Sheet post on health updates. In that post it was noted that surgical abortions had ceased in Champaign County and region with another womens clinic that ended its services soon after it was targeted in a series of white nationalist terrorist attacks by a militant group out of Ford County (more on that in a previous Cheat Sheet post here).

The News-Gazette's eEdition had coverage of local housing programs getting funding through the Champaign County Housing Authority. Excerpts:

It’s been a good stretch for the housing authority, with the announcement of seven figures’ worth of state and local funding and a slew of national honors...

United Way of Champaign County funding of $75,000 (to provide YouthBuild programming and certifications for 12 students) and $33,000 (to the Housing Authority’s self-sufficiency program, including the installation of video doorbells at Oakwood Trace Apartments).

Also, seven of the Lily Walton-led agency’s programs were honored by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. The three recognized with awards of both merit and excellence: YouthBuild Transitional Housing Programs, the Healthy Beginnings Initiative and the SHIFT Family Self-Sufficiency Program.

That full article with more details here

Severe drought (D2) conditions over the late summer led to Champaign County being considered a natural disaster area. From Illinois Newsroom:

After severe droughts in July and August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated Champaign and Vermilion counties as primary natural disaster areas.

With that announcement, farmers with 30% crop loss, can apply for low-interest, emergency loans. This can help replace equipment or refinance certain debts...

[John Gehrke, head of the USDA Illinois Farm Service Agency's loan program] said he’s seen “fairly strong” crop yields statewide, but that some areas, like Champaign and Vermilion counties, were particularly impacted by the summer droughts.

That full article with links for the local USDA FSA office and loan options here. More data and descriptions from the National Integrated Drought Information System here.

Other Champaign County Updates:

  • Opioid lawsuit settlement money coming to the Champaign County government according to the News-Gazette. This was discussed at the recent Regular County Board meeting.
  • Tom Kacich looked at whether Champaign County should even continue to have a County Executive form of government going forward in the News-Gazette. He refers to the local League of Women Voters group that has argued against keeping the unusual form of government here. Their arguments were covered by Illinois Newsroom here including links to their full report and presentation.

County Board Updates into November


Earlier this month there was a Cheat Sheet post with some initial County Board updates heading into the Committee of the Whole and Regular County Board meetings. One involved the new owner of the former Champaign County Nursing Home requesting a change to the terms of the agreement that they maintain the facility as a local nursing home. The County Board unanimously shot that request down in no uncertain terms. The News-Gazette had coverage here: "Champaign County Board to nursing home owners on sale: 'Hell no!'"

That still leaves the possibility that the new owners may still try to close or find some other way to sell the nursing home. The News-Gazette also noted that they haven't been paying property taxes on the nursing home property, which can be indicative of intentions to leave that to sale negotiations.

The controversial issues in the Committee of the Whole meeting were mostly fought out in the public comments (jump to video link). Many came out to speak against changing the terms of the Nursing Home contract and on a couple of issue statements on the agenda that night. When the Board took up the issue statement resolutions later — on Biden having won the election and the other on abortion access as reproductive freedom — their votes mostly fell along partisan lines with a few Republicans joining the Democrats in support. The exact language of the resolutions can be found on the last pages 91-93 of the agenda packet PDF file here. The real argument by Board Members on those issue statements came during the Regular County Board meeting, covered below.

There was also a drawing of lots for the redistricted County Board after the 2020 Census. All County Board seats are up for election this year, but future elections will be staggered. Some seats will initially be up for election again in 2 years and others in 4 years to create the new staggered 4 year terms for all from then on. The process was difficult to follow, but you can watch how it played out with lots being drawn out of a big red hat, here in the meeting video.

Public Hearings and Regular County Board Meeting:

There was a very brief special meeting (agenda, video) before the regular meeting explaining the increased tax levy and giving the public an opportunity to weigh in (there were no public comments at this public hearing). The short summary is that the overall property tax money coming in will increase due to inflation and new properties, but the tax rate for homeowners is essentially unchanged (and even slightly lower). See the Cheat Sheet post on Tax Levies versus Tax Rates here.

The Regular County Board meeting also had its own public hearing on the agenda to allow public input specifically on the $20,000,000 bond issue related to the jail consolidation and County Plaza facility work. There was no public or board member input during this public hearing either.

There was a specific agenda item for the public to speak specifically on the County's upcoming budget, also with no takers.

Regular public participation agenda item had members of the public speaking in support of the resolution in support of reproductive rights, including Kathy Shannon (Unit 4 school member), former County Board members Jenny Putnam and Mike Ingram, and Urbana City Council alderwoman Chaundra Bishop. 

Tessa Kirby also spoke about the an abandoned property in the area town of Seymour that's becoming a neglected hazard with serious animal control issues.

After public participation there were a few presentations, one was an update from the auditor and another the annual report from Champaign County Area Rural Public Transportation System (C-CARTS). An additional presentation was also included on the Champaign County Airborne Geologic Mapping Project (cited research information on The Future of Science of the Mahomet Aquifer). That last presentation was originally listed later towards the end of the agenda, but moved up to the beginning.

The issue statements on the agenda (referred by vote from the Committee of the Whole and primarily addressed in public comments then) passed the Regular Board meeting as well. During the discussion of the first (election issues) vote, Republican Board Member Passalacqua explained his no vote on the issue statements was against the politics of putting them on the agenda before an election, not anything related to a stance for or against the statements themselves. Democratic Board Member Fortado argued that the context makes these issue statement important to vote on, both as a process and in substance. Fortado had noted her general opposition to issue statements under other circumstances in her Committee of the Whole comments. 

The discussion mostly continued along the same lines from Democrats. Republican Board Member Goss accused Democrats of being "election deniers" in 2016 and stated he opposes these agenda items as a nonsense vote and the other irrelevant in Illinois. Other Republicans questioned the timing, politics, or necessity of these items as opposed to questioning the substance.

Republican Board Member Esry walked out prior to the vote, taking issue with the "crap" from Democratic Board Member Carter's arguments for the need. The parliamentary rules broke down as there were remarks back and forth regardless of who had the floor. The discussion was much shorter (but similar) for the second item (abortion issues).

Both items passed, again along partisan lines.

In an additional discussion item later in agenda, there was an update on the opioid settlement from the lawsuit Champaign County was a part of (see page 88 of the agenda packet PDF). Excerpt:

With very short notice, we have been informed that this week the county will receive two payments of $69,822.78 and $73,380.34. Additional payments will be made to the county over a time period of up to 18 years, and amounts will vary based on several calculations being done at the national level.

No board action is required at this time, but in future years the board can address allocation of these funds within the parameters that will be provided. 

There were also some materials related to ARPA funding, unallocated funds and the budget in the agenda packet after that as well. Kathy Larson had a report on those items with board discussion towards the end of the meeting video here. There appeared to be far more ideological agreement across party lines on programs with the local Park Districts, Habitat for Humanity, etc. with unallocated funds moving forward.

The County Executive explained that the meeting wasn't adjourned, but recessed due to the ongoing public budget review. This appears to be primarily a parliamentary concern, so the next Regular Board meeting will essentially continue from this one. Board watchers may not notice any significant difference on the agenda other than the wording at the beginning and end, however.

Upcoming County Board Meetings / Head's Up:

This month's calendar starts off with a Facilities Committee on the very 1st day of the month (agenda).

Election Updates and Candidate Forums

Local elections are in progress with Early Voting already having begun (Early Voting and other voting locations from the Champaign County Clerk's Office). The final day to vote is election day November 8th, 2022. You can also check your registration information, sample ballot, and more here. If you need to use Grace Period Registration there is information on that here.

The League of Women Voters of Champaign County and VoteChampaign have a non-partisan local Candidate Guide here.

The local League of Women Voters and NAACP Branch of Champaign County hosted local candidate forums this year (video links). The Campus Student Election Commission at the University of Illinois also hosted local candidate forums as well (video links). Below are links to even more News-Gazette questionnaires and local candidate forums for County Offices:

Champaign County Executive:

The incumbent, Darlene Kloeppel, did not run for re-election after her first and only term. That leaves Steve Summers (D) and Ted Myher (R) in the running (links to their respective News-Gazette Questionnaire answers).

The League of Women Voters moderated a candidate forum for the County Executive candidates here.

Champaign County Clerk and Recorder:

Terrence Stuber (R) is challenging the incumbent is Aaron Ammons (D) who is completing his first term (links to their respective News-Gazette Questionnaire answers).

The League of Women Voters moderated a candidate forum for the County Clerk and Recorder candidates here.

The Campus Student Election Commission at the University of Illinois also moderated another candidate forum for the County Clerk and Recorder candidates here.

Champaign County Sheriff:

First term incumbent Sheriff Dustin Heuerman (D) is being challenged by John Brown (R) in this year's race.

The League of Women Voters moderated a candidate forum for the County Sheriff candidates here.

The Campus Student Election Commission at the University of Illinois also moderated another candidate forum for the County Sheriff candidates here.

More Election Information:

Area Gun Violence Updates into November

There have been a lot of updates since our last roundup of area gun violence coverage and issues back in August. Last week there were a few updates specific to the City of Champaign posted on the C-U Local Cheat Sheet here. For the very latest Police Chiefs Reports at the Champaign Community Coalition meeting this past month jump to the 4:30 minute and mark of the latest meeting video here. The News-Gazette had an overview:, including an excerpt on the County numbers where the Sheriff's department primarily operates:

The numbers of Champaign County gun violence incidents in 2022 continue to pale in comparison to the grim totals of last year.

According to local police departments, the number of confirmed shootings in the county is down more than 50 percent compared to this time last year...

Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman had four new shootings to report from the last month, though all resulted in property damage and no injuries. So far, the sheriff’s office has confirmed 12 shootings, also about half the total from this time last year.

That full article here. WCIA had a round up on gun violence prior to that meeting here. As pointed out earlier in the year, this falls in line with many national trends and federal data pointed out in the New York Times: "A Drop in Murders: Despite the grim headlines, 2022 is less violent so far than last year." 

Long story short, the disruptions and upheaval that may have led to the recent years spike in gun violence may be receding a bit. It's too early to tell if we're heading back to earlier gun violence trendlines in some sort of "new normal." Those "normal" pre-pandemic violent crime trendlines were pretty high and unacceptable for most folks before, however.

In recent news a 12 year old was seriously injured in a shooting that capped off some sort of traffic altercation in Champaign. The News-Gazette had additional coverage at the time of the incident here.

WCIA highlighted some local efforts to identify possible school shooting threats before they happen. 

There’s been an emphasis lately on school shooting response training and preparation. Champaign and Ford County law enforcement agencies and school districts Thursday instead focused on ways to prevent the trigger from ever being pulled.

Members of the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) spent three hours training county and city officials on decades of research that’s resulted in a plan to address concerning behavior before it’s too late...

A school shooting hasn’t happened to date in the districts (St. Joseph and Tolono) under the sheriff’s jurisdiction, but it has happened in central Illinois. Those in Mattoon, in Coles County, recall Sept. 20, 2017, when a 15-year-old student fired a gun in the cafeteria hitting a fellow student.

That full article has a video segment and a lot more additional information here. In the months since Uvalde school shooting in Texas there has been a lot of continued criticism and introspection on emergency response to such incidents. In St. Louis, a few hours down the road, a mass shooting highlighted a situation where the family appeared to do everything right in getting a troubled youth into criminal justice and mental health interventions, including having his weapon removed from the household, but did not avert tragedy

WCIA also highlighted a couple organizations collaborating on local gun violence issues here in Champaign County, including some organization towards applying for additional grant money and future collaborations:

In Champaign County, several groups continue working together to reduce crime. 

Leaders feel that working together through conversations and educational programs will help make the community safer. 

James Kilgore, the director of advocacy and outreach with First Followers, said the City of Champaign is helping him and his organization fill the gaps. Taren Nance, Urbana High School’s principal and the Anti-Violence Collective founder, said he’s working directly with his students.

More at that full article here. H3 and other local efforts were also the focus of County funding initiatives covered in a previous County Board Update on the Cheat Sheet here.

Other Gun Violence Updates:

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Other County Government Updates

There's a lot going on with Champaign County government offices in general this month. From Amnesty Week in the Circuit Clerk's office to a lot of Champaign County Sheriff's Office updates, health care, housing, and history!

The Champaign County Circuit Clerk is hosting its annual "Amnesty Week" according to WCIA:

Starting October 11 to the 21, if you have delinquent tickets, you can settle them with the city.

Amnesty Week is hosted by the Champaign County Circuit Clerk’s office. Suppose you have a balance on any criminal, traffic, DUI, ordinance violation(s), or conservation violation(s); you can pay off your balance without any late or collection fees. Officials said this does not apply to any fines and costs already paid or tax refunds used against what is due.

That full article here. More information from the Circuit Clerk's website here.

The News-Gazette's 9/16 "Meeting Minutes" feature highlighted a CSSO Lieutenant's FBI training graduation:

Just back from Quantico, Va.: newly minted FBI National Academy graduate and Champaign County sheriff’s Lt. Dave Sherrick (right). The 22-year department veteran, who serves as the administrative support lieutenant in the Law Enforcement Division, spent 10 weeks learning about advanced communication, leadership and officer resiliency, among other topics.

That blurb with photo is available at the News-Gazette's eEdition here. WCIA also had a short blurb on the same story here.

The 9/2 "Meeting Minutes" feature had an article on area corrections hiring. Excerpt related to Champaign County: 

Current openings: 16 correctional officers (of 50), two sergeants (of eight)...

Sheriff says: Staff shortages aren’t unique to Champaign County, Dustin Heuerman has learned in conversations with fellow sheriffs in similar-sized cities: “One is down 15 correctional officers and the other is down 10. Sheriffs across the state are struggling to find quality staff to help fill our vacant positions.”

Unlike police and fire departments, Heuerman says, “the corrections division has never had a robust list of interested applicants, which makes it difficult to replace employees leaving in a timely manner.”

That full article is also available on the eEdition here. WCIA had additional coverage on low morale and staff shortages in Champaign County corrections:

Some Champaign County correctional officers say morale is low among jail workers. It’s been hard to hire and keep employees. So, they want to start negotiating for a better contract. Their current one expires in December...

They’re down 16 officers, and [union representative] Micah McMahon said it’s been taking a toll on their physical and mental health. That’s why he went to the County Board meeting Tuesday night and asked to start the negotiation process...

McMahon said some officers are working 12-16 extra hours of overtime per week and haven’t taken a regular day off for a while. He said closing the downtown jail helped, but housing is still limited.

That full article with video segment here. In a somewhat related story, the Champaign County Bailout Coalition was in the news attempting to protect the scope of the SAFE-T Act reforms on cash bail and pretrial detention. WCIA had coverage with a video segment here. County Board member Emily Rodriguez was also interviewed. WCCU had a recent article that suggested the reforms might help a bit with some of the staffing issues in the local jail and another article looking at how the reformed process may work (including comments by the Champaign County State's Attorney).

C-U Publich Health District employees formed a union and expressed some of their frustrations with working conditions throughout the pandemic.

More at the full WAND article here with additional links to more information and the News-Gazette's coverage with more details from their FOIA request here.

Additional County area health updates are in a separate Cheat Sheet post here.

Other County Updates:

Health and COVID Updates

The latest coverage on COVID and some other local infectious disease updates (MPV, rabies). Also news on abortion services in the area and ambulance equipment shortages. Latest Champaign County data on COVID is available from the C-UPHD website here. WCIA reported that local COVID case rates are down. Excerpt:

COVID-19 is spreading in Illinois at the lowest rate since April.

Every county was designated either a low or medium ‘COVID-19 Community Level’ Monday, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) online dashboard.

The map came in stark contrast to the largely yellow (medium) and orange (high level) map visible in late August when Champaign Urbana Public Health administrator Julie Pryde strongly recommended masks in public indoor spaces in Champaign County.

A month later, most counties, including Cook County, are considered at low risk for transmission. Champaign is back down to a medium-risk level.

That full article here. Illinois Newsroom had the latest information and contact links for the latest vaccine here. There was also coverage of the newly available bivalent COVID vaccine in Champaign county in other WCIA articles here and here. The Daily Illini also had an update on the expanded eligibility last month here.

Abortion access in the Champaign County area increased with the latest announcement by the local Planned Parenthood clinic in the City of Champaign. From the News-Gazette:

As Indiana’s near-total abortion ban goes into effect, the Champaign Planned Parenthood location has reworked its facility to add in-clinic abortions to its services for the first time in its history.

Champaign’s Planned Parenthood is now the second location in central Illinois, and seventh statewide, to offer in-clinic abortions along with medication-induced options for patients...

Planned Parenthood’s Champaign Health Center renovated its first floor area to add two procedure rooms, a recovery room, two waiting rooms, four consultation rooms, two ultrasound rooms, one lab and one clinicians’ office — and has doubled its staff, according to a spokesperson.

That full article here. Surgical abortions had ceased in Champaign County and region with a womens clinic that ended its services soon after it was targeted in a series of white nationalist terrorist attacks by a militant group out of Ford County (more on that in a previous Cheat Sheet post here).

Local protesters had a recent event in support of abortion access and limiting so-called "crisis pregnancy centers" accused of deceptive tactics and spreading misinformation to intervene in women's abortion care, according to the Daily Illini. Abortion access was also a primary topic of this year's local Women's March which was also covered by the Daily Illini here

WCIA also highlighted a recent concern about ambulance equipment amid microchip shortages. Excerpts:

Some ambulance providers feel their vehicles need critical improvements, but a national shortage is putting up a roadblock. 

The Champaign County Fire Cheifs Association (CCFCA) reached out to state leaders for help. In a letter to Sen. Tammy Duckworth, they said their equipment needs microchips to function and are concerned about the lack of them available for emergency vehicles... 

Greg Chance, regional CEO for Advanced Medical Transport East and Medics First, said the microchip shortage is also making it hard to buy new vehicles. 

That full article here.

Other Health Updates:

  • Champaign County monkeypox cases jumped up to 10, according to WCIA. This article provides a lot of helpful information on how the virus is spread, dispelling some common misinformation, and current vaccination guidance for those who might be at risk. 
  • There was also a recent warning about rabid bats in the area. WCIA had coverage on that here.
  • An additional saliva testing site for COVID opened in Urbana last month. From WCIA.

County Board Updates


The big county story right now is that the current owners of the old Champaign County Nursing Home want to prematurely end the agreement to maintain the facility as a nursing home (a concern at the time of the sale). Other news include the latest Jail Consolidation updates, meeting coverage, awards, charity work, and immigration programs. There was also an official Halloween Trick-or-Treating time announcement.

The next County Board meeting is this Tuesday's October 11th Committee of the Whole meeting, which doesn't appear to have anything related to the old Nursing Home on the agenda, but it may come up anyways. There appears to be two resolutions related to national politics on the agenda, however, including resolutions that Joe Biden won the 2020 election and confirming Champaign County as a champion for reproductive freedom.

The News-Gazette had coverage of the potential sale of the old County nursing home and at the same time ending its role as a nursing home facility. Excerpts:

Among the terms that were part of the 2019 sale was an agreement by the buyer to maintain the facility as a nursing home through 2027, according to County Executive Darlene Kloeppel.

“We have and continue to fully comply with the restrictions and covenants but are now exploring potential transactions for the sale of the property to buyers who would operate it as a substance-use disorder facility,” William Rothner, manager of University Rehab Real Estate LLC, said to the Champaign County Board in a letter dated Sept. 28.

Rothner, who wasn’t reached by The News-Gazette on Friday, also told county officials that University Rehab, as the nursing home is commonly called, has an average occupancy of 44 percent for its 243 licensed beds...

A sample University Rehab closure plan also provided to the county states the owners of the facility “made the difficult decision to close after completing an analysis of the marketplace in Urbana and the surrounding counties.”

That full article with a lot more information and details here.

The County received recognition for its support of local immigrants and refugees. From the News-Gazette last month:

Service providers for immigrants in Champaign County got a $250,000 funding boost from county government this year to help with two high-priority needs.

The money is coming from some of the county’s federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, with the potential for the same amount to be granted in the following year, according to County Executive Darlene Kloeppel...

For this funding grant, and a willingness to listen to the needs of immigrants, the county board will be presented with a community impact award today by the C-U Immigration Forum at the annual Welcome Awards ceremony in Urbana.

More at the full article here. Check out the C-U Immigration Forum's facebook page for links to more information and news coverage including other recent recognitions and awards.

The News-Gazette's coverage of last month's regular County Board meeting had a few highlights of measures passed in their "Meeting Minutes" feature on 9/30:

➜ Three-year contracts for its five American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees bargaining units.

➜ An agreement with the city of Champaign for partnership in its Champaign Diversity Advancement Program to improve the recruitment of minority contractors

➜ A project labor agreement with the East Central Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council for work on the jail consolidation.

That blurb is available in the News-Gazette's eEdition here. During the vote on the Diversity Advancement Program County Board member Jodi Wolken declared her "no" vote was not because she was racist (video link). She stated she was tired of being called that and then walked out of the meeting. I was unable to find a point in the meeting where anyone called her racist in this particular meeting, although it appears she was visibly upset earlier in the meeting when Jim Goss's claims of not seeing color elicited some laughs from Democrats. Video of those moments a few minutes before here.

The Facilities Committee had a discussion about the latest plans for the Jail Consolidation project (meeting agenda here) during its latest updates. The discussion revolved around what documents would be made publicly available, how that access may differ from other facilities plans without the security concerns of a secure facility such as the jail. County Board and facilities committee member Emily Rodriguez asked for clarification on publicly available plans that may be limited from on-line view. It sounded like the concern would be clarified with the Sheriff afterward on if there were some public documents that had to be accessed on-site with identification as opposed to others that would be restricted from the public for security reasons altogether.

The local League of Women Voters County Governance Task Force proposed ending the experiment with a County Executive form of County government. From the News-Gazette:

League of Women Voters of Champaign County President Trisha Crowley, who co-chaired the task force, said the elected executive form of government — used in only two Illinois counties, Champaign and Will — isn’t well structured for Illinois counties with so many independent offices.

“What the county board needs is an improved leadership structure, and a county board chair leads from the top and inside,” she said. “The executive can’t provide that kind of leadership because they’re kind of off to the side, and that leads to the possibility, which we’ve seen in the last four years, of ignoring the executive.

That full article with other recommendations here. Illinois Newsroom also had coverage of the organization's County reform proposals here. The full League report is available here on their website. The News-Gazette had a follow up editorial that agreed in part, but made an argument for good leadership in general here.

Other County Board Updates:

  • WCIA highlighted the County's official Trick-or-Treating hours. The letter is available on the County government's facebook page here.
  • The News-Gazette highlighted local Champaign County Republican officials and candidates volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, including a land donation by County Board member Brad Passalacqua here.