Sunday, December 8, 2019

Harvest Updates in December

In agricultural news, there have been some updates on harvests going into December as well as a new statewide coalition to assist veterans getting started in farming. Most recently, WCCU had a blurb and video segment recently with an update on area harvests:
By December, crops across the state are usually fully harvested but due to a wet spring, some farmers are still in the process of harvesting.

They're not alone as farmers in Illinois still have about 10% of their crops to go, which they attribute to a record late planting season.

"I don't think we hardly planted any corn past the first day of May in 20 or 30 years. We planted a lot of corn at the end of May and one field the first of June. That's really late for us in this area," said farmer Garry Niemeyer.

From 2014 until 2018, the average percent of corn harvested by the week of December 1st is 100%.
Link to that blurb and video segment here. The week before, WCIA had an update with a couple farmers who had already completed their harvest:
For a long time, farmers used Thanksgiving as a marker for when they wanted to be finished with harvest. But with the unpredictable weather this season, many of them tried to finish a lot earlier.

Most of them are. Now they’re all putting the finishing touches on their fields to prepare them for next year. Some say the outcome of this harvest was surprisingly good...

While the outcome – or yield – is lower than last year’s past, it’s something farmer Lin Warfel says he can live with because of how prosperous the last 10 years have been.

“About 15% less than average, and the last 10 years, really good average, last two years were really really good, set records, and we’re down from the records,” said Warfel...

Now the wait begins to see what they’ll make from what they sell, but the waiting game won’t end until next summer.
Full article with additional interviews and information, including trade issues and federal offsets here. The Illinois Farm Bureau had their news affiliate with a wider overview recently on their webpage:
Better luck next year? Harvest to spill over into 2020
Issues with poor field conditions and low test weights also continue to be compounded by high crop drying demands and tight propane supplies, which eased in recent weeks at some locations due to emergency deliveries...

So, what’s left to run through the system to complete the 2019 harvest? Based on the most recent USDA crop estimates, approximately 1.4 billion bushels of corn and 137 million bushels of beans remained in the field as of Dec. 1.

In the Midwest, 7% of corn in Illinois and Indiana and 8% of the crop in Iowa was unharvested Dec. 1. The harvest delays are more severe to the north and west with a dire situation unfolding in North Dakota, where just 36% of corn was harvested as of last week after that region was hit with another major snowstorm. 
Full article here.

In other news, WCIA had a recent blurb on the announcement of an Illinois statewide chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, which describes itself as a "nonprofit organization assisting veterans–and currently serving members–of the Armed Forces to embark on careers in agriculture." The announcement came at the Illinois Farm Bureau's annual meeting. A lot more information and details and links are available from the FarmWeekNow story here. Excerpt:
The resources include information about programs the veterans may not be aware of, [Retired Army Reserve Maj. Amy Hess] noted. [National Farmer Veteran Coalition President Gary Matteson] added the coalition also has a fellowship fund which has distributed more than $2.5 million in small grants of up to $5,000. Grants may be used to add a new process, build fences or to expand a farming operation...

Matteson emphasized the Farmer Veteran Coalition is “aggressively ecumenical” with representatives from all types of agriculture, all sizes of farms, different farm organizations, and conventional and organic agriculture. “We insist on that broad representation,” he said. “Our goal is to help them be the best at whatever they want to be.”
More at that article here and the coalition website here.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

County Board and Jail Followup

I had some updated information and links from the November County Board meeting (agenda here) and some additional coverage of possible jail consolidation issue at that meeting and in additional Daily Illini coverage. The full video of November's regular County Board meeting was posted earlier last week (previous County Board updates and coverage here). Some highlights from the video include:
Both compromises were proposed and pushed by Pranjal Vachaspati who also announced his resignation at the end of the meeting. He has new employment out of Boston and will be moving there.

The Daily Illini also had coverage on the problems facing the Champaign County jails this week. From their reporting:
County officials are bringing more attention to the failing and out-of-date conditions of Champaign County’s jails. The downtown jail’s old construction has led to severe deterioration: electronic locks to doors opening seemingly randomly, leaks from the roof, cockroach infestations and a lack of recreational space.

Leah Taylor, member of the Facilities Committee on the county board, said she visited the downtown facility two months ago.

“It’s honestly something out of a horror movie,” Taylor said.

There are two jails in Champaign County: the downtown facility, which opened in 1980, and the Satellite Jail, which is located in Urbana and opened in the mid 1990s, according to county Sheriff Dustin Heuerman.

The downtown facility building is facing more damage, but both are said to lack in rehabilitative programs and recreational spaces that allow inmates to exercise and de-stress with activities.
More at their full coverage here

NAACP of Champaign County Updates

At this month's local NAACP meeting, a lot of upcoming events and local government topics were highlighted (including the fact that there will be no January General Body meeting for the county NAACP). Most pressing is an upcoming Unit 4 school board meeting that the county's ACLU and NAACP chapter are going to be attending to address ongoing racial disparities on December 9th. More on that from the C-U Local Cheat Sheet post here.

Local violence issues touched upon included the recent shootings involving minors, including the recent shooting of a 10 year old child and the community response. The NAACP had a representative at the most recent community violence task force meeting occurring at the same time as the group's General Meeting. More coverage on that meeting is available from WCIA here. Upcoming meetings were also announced on the Champaign County Community Coalition's facebook page:
Just a heads up that our Community Violence Response Task Force will be holding December's meeting in the evening to be more accessible to community members.

Please join us December 11 at 5:30 p.m. (after the Coalition Meeting) at the Holiday Inn, Champaign at 101 N. Trade Center Dr.
Further updates available form their facebook page here or their website here. The family has been overwhelmed, but has a Pastoral liason and a contact point for more information on helping the Roberts family find safe accommodations and other needs while Decari recovers. From information given to NAACP members:
Because the family has been overwhelmed and need things streamlined Pastor Johnson from Mt. Calvary is serving as the family's liaison and as Pastoral support.

He has included out Community Violence Response Team in this process so that we can be of help (and help coordinate the help).

Currently, the family is spending most of their time at the hospital or a hotel (because of the safety issues).

There list of currently identified needs are listed below.

If you or a group that you work with can help out in anyway please email : Samyra Leonard who is organizing and putting together a master list of what help is coming and where are the the unmet needs.

There biggest needs are financial to support their move and safety.
On other issues of violence, there was also some discussion on Urbana's approval of expanding its Student Resource Officer program (also discussed in this Cheat Sheet post on school board updates here). Concerns ranged from experiences with the school-to-prison pipeline to positive experiences kids and parents had with some Student Resource Officers locally.

Other upcoming events in January:
  • There will be no NAACP General Meeting in January!
  • In cooperation with the local Baha'i Faith organization, is a True Justice Workshop on January 5th and 12th (more information coming soon to their website here). 
  • January 9th at the Champaign City Building and City Council Chambers, the NAACP will be co-hosting an event on working on criminal justice issues locally. State Representatives Carol Ammons will be attending.
The rest of the meeting included program updates, reports, and committee appointments. All of the time and effort that goes into organizing and staying involved in the local community.

Monday, November 25, 2019

More County Updates

There were a few other items outside of the County Board Updates posted earlier worth pointing out, including candidate petitions, MTD grant funding, Chambana Proud, and apartment companies complaining to the Board of Review. First off, it's filing time today for candidates in Champaign County. From the News-Gazette last Friday:
The Champaign County Clerk’s Office will begin accepting petitions for candidates running for countywide offices in 2020 at 8 a.m. Monday.

Petitions can be brought to the clerk’s office at 1776 E. Washington St., U, through 5 p.m. Dec. 2 — with the exception of Nov. 28-29, when it will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Filings will be accepted for countywide offices up for election next year, including auditor, circuit clerk, recorder, state’s attorney and coroner, plus five county board seats and precinct committeemen.
More details at the full blurb here and the County Clerk's website here. The MTD is getting a boost in grant funding towards its expansion project. The Daily Illini had an overview here with links to more coverage and information:
U.S. Representative Rodney Davis announced Wednesday that the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District has been awarded more than $17 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Buses and Bus Facilities Grant Program for the Illinois Terminal Expansion Project.

The $25 million Expansion Project is just one part of a $250 million project in downtown Champaign called “The Yards,” which will include a 175-room hotel, convention space and a possible hockey arena for a Division I Illinois hockey team, according to The News-Gazette.

In a press release, Davis praised the award and the benefits the partnership with developer Core Spaces will bring to downtown Champaign.
More at the full article here. Additional coverage from WILL here and an overview of "The Yards" project from Smile Politely here. Smile Politely also highlighted a new collaboration called "Chambana Proud." Excerpt from the press release:
Chambana Proud, a joint collaboration with Visit Champaign County, the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, and You’re Welcome CU, officially launched at to bolster pride among residents of the area...

Following the initial launch of this campaign with Weiskamp Screen Printing, Reifsteck and McCrory plan to bring these designs into local shops and destinations bringing in visitors. Long-term, they expect to add more designs available on multiple items from canvas bags to mugs.

Additionally, Chambana Proud will continue to find ways to create community ambassadors, seeking input from what residents love about Chambana, to ultimately creating an ambassador program that helps recruit and welcome newcomers to the area.
More at Smile Politely here.

Earlier this month there was also some coverage by Tom Kacich about apartment building owners raising complaints about appraisal rates to the County Board of Review. From the News-Gazette two weeks ago:
Ever-growing apartment construction in Champaign-Urbana is increasing vacancy rates and depressing monthly rents, according to apartment building owners who have filed property assessment complaints with the Champaign County Board of Review.

Although most of the recent apartment construction has been focused around the University of Illinois campus, the assessment complaints come from owners of properties away from the Campustown area...

In any case the new construction is sure to increase the local apartment vacancy rate now estimated at 10 percent or more.

Raymond Timpone Jr., owner of the Stratford Apartment in downtown Urbana, told the board of review that an 18 percent increase in his development’s assessment was unjustifiable.
Full article available here.

County Board Updates

It has been a busy month for the Champaign County Board and its committees. First, the latest from the News-Gazette's coverage of the most recent County Board meeting:
The cost of running Champaign County government services will rise 5.5 percent next year.

The county board on Thursday approved a $129.6 million budget for 2020, with the increase tied largely to higher personnel and services costs...

In other business Thursday, the board declined to take action on a controversial ordinance prohibiting marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas of the county. Instead, it sent the ordinance back to committee to work out a possible compromise.

The board also approved a cannabis, drug and alcohol use/abuse policy for county employees in anticipation of the legalization of recreational marijuana starting next year. Under an amendment, the policy is a temporary measure that will expire June 1, 2020.
More details and information at the full article here. WILL had additional coverage of the marijuana regulation at the Board meeting here. Excerpt:
Champaign County board members will take another look at whether to allow or prohibit cannabis businesses in unincorporated areas --- with an eye toward a possible compromise.

The Champaign County Board split along party lines in its debate over whether to ban cannabis businesses in rural areas. Democrats from Champaign and Urbana opposed the ban, while the county board’s mostly rural Republicans said their constituents don’t want a cannabis dispensary nearby...

The county board voted to send the cannabis issue back to its Environment and Land Use Committee (ELUC for short) for reconsideration. The committee, meeting on November 7 with one Democratic member absent, had produced tie votes on a proposal to permit cannabis businesses and another to prohibit them.

Eisenmann, fellow Republican Jim McGuire and Democrat Connie Dillard-Myers voted against the move to send the issue back to committee. But ELUC’s Republican chairman, Aaron Esry, says a compromise might be possible.  
Full WILL article and radio segment here, which also includes a brief note that member Vachaspati resigned at the end of the meeting due to a new job in Boston. The video of the meeting isn't up yet this morning, but should be available here at the County Clerk's YouTube channel soon. Videos of the Environment and Land Use Committee (ELUC) and the County Board's Committee of the Whole meeting (what is the COW?) are already available at the video link as of last week.

The ELUC meeting on 11/7 (agenda here, video here) had extended discussions from either side of the marijuana issue in unincorporated County areas. Early in the meeting, this drew some public questions from one citizen of a smaller town concerned about the topic (jump to that discussion here). Typically there is no back and forth Q&A for public participation, but the rules were suspended in this instance. The discussion helped clarify some basic questions on what these new marijuana rules would mean and where they would apply. On the first item, there was further discussion by the committee (jump to the video of that discussion here) for and against a compromise direction for the full County Board. The vote on the language to ban it came later with an additional brief discussion (jump to video here).

In the end, both marijuana policy votes failed in ties. The ban policy moved on to the full board without recommendation. The reason the ban went on to the full board as opposed to the other policy was explained by Chair Esry and Mr. Hall, head of the Zoning Department, in the video here. Essentially they were introduced using different processes. The full County Board, as mentioned above, sent it back to ELUC for further work for a compromise policy.

The Committee of the Whole (agenda here, video here) had a budget overview with details on what the County Board voted on and approved at the regular County Board meeting mentioned above (budget overview PDF available here and on pages 137-155 of the agenda packet).

The COW also had a presentation on the Public Safety Tax that, while also delving into the financial situation of debt and projections, also included discussions on how that funding might be used towards public safety projects such as jail consolidation, jail programs, and possible implementation of Racial Justice Task Force recommendations. County Board member Fortado highlighted a few things she'd like to focus on, including a research person in place. She explained in further correspondence on this point:
The researcher position was a RJTF report recommendation, and we advocated for it to get implemented, because it seemed like getting that done could help drive some of the other recommendations.  But it is a first small step, there remains a LOT of work to be done implementing what is outlined in that report.  I firmly believe those recommendations should be front and center in any conversation about Criminal Justice in our community, and we as a Board need to keep working towards the goals outlined in the study...

To follow up, they just finished the interview process the data analyst should be on board soon.
Video of her commentary in the Public Safety Tax overview discussion starts here.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Farming Updates: Moisture Levels Race Cold

A few weeks ago, The 21st Show on WILL had interviews with farmers around Illinois with updates on harvest delays after rains and flooding caused a late start and prevented some planting earlier this year.

They cover everything from how relying on crop insurance still leaves them in a bind for financing and loans next year to why continued high moisture levels are preventing them from being able to harvest and store corn. The delays mean they're caught between corn with moisture levels that are still too high and the potential for an early snow that they need to harvest before.

It covers quite a bit and was pretty understandable for the lay person without an Ag degree. Excerpt from the description:
This spring, the Midwest was drenched with historic rains. Most areas in Illinois got between 6 and 20 inches more than usual. That’s according to the office of the Illinois state climatologist.

That wet weather has left many farmers across Illinois still feeling the effects this harvest season.

The USDA says as of last week, only 23 percent of Illinois corn had been harvested. A year prior, we were at 70 percent.
More at the WILL article here and the full audio segment here.

WCIA had an update this weekend on the current harvest in light of the early snows this month:
Record low temperatures hit Central Illinois. Some farms have to make changes to keep business afloat. “The cold’s come a little bit early this year,” said Megan Reynolds of Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery. “We went very quickly from autumn normal seasonal weather to very very cold. Something we’re more likely to see in January typically,” said Maggie Taylor, Owner of Delight Flower Farm. Maggie Taylor is the owner of Delight Flower Farm. They grow cut flowers for places like grocery stores and farmer’s markets. She says the cold slowed down some growth and construction on the farm. She says they’ll be okay. “But I know a lot of the conventional farmers around us are really effected,” said Taylor.

Data from the USDA said corn harvested for grain was at 71 percent. That’s compared to 96 percent this time last year, and soybean harvest was 87 percent complete. That’s down from 94 percent last year. Prairie Fruits Farms is also feeling the impact of the cold.
Full blurb here. The overall picture was already looking fairly grim according to the Farm Bureau a few weeks back:
Farm Bankruptcies Rise Again
Chapter 12 Filings Increase 24% Compared to Year-Ago Levels
USDA currently projects farm income in 2019 to reach $88 billion – the highest net farm income since 2014’s $92 billion, but still 29% below 2013’s record high. In addition, nearly 40% of that income – some $33 billion in total --  is related to trade assistance, disaster assistance, the farm bill and insurance indemnities and has yet to be fully received by farmers and ranchers (Is Farm Income Really Up?)...

With record-high debt, and more farmers extending their repayment terms, it should come as no surprise that Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies remain elevated. Data from the U.S. Courts reveals that for the 12-month period ending September 2019, Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies totaled 580 filings, up 24% from the prior year and the highest level since 676 filings in 2011. For the third quarter of 2019, Chapter 12 bankruptcies decreased slightly to 160 filings, down 2% from the previous quarter. 
More at the full Farm Bureau page here, including data and map breakdowns by State and region.

For some happier local farming news, there was a great article on local farmers donating their time and efforts for harvesting crops for the United Way of Champaign County from the News-Gazette here.

Previous Cheat Sheet Farm Update post: Rain Delays and Trade Wars

Monday, November 11, 2019

Sixth Circuit Race Updates

[Correction: This post has been updated and corrected to note that Cherie Kesler is running for the Jones vacancy, not the Difanis vacancy. More race information was also added.]

This is a followup on the last Sixth Circuit race Cheat Sheet update on the three open seats (more information on the Sixth Circuit on our Judges page). The last post had some specific information on the competitive Democratic Party primary for the Champaign County judge seat from Judge Jones' retirement (and being vacated by the appointed Judge Jason Bohm to run for the district-wide seat). Below is an update on the Republican Primary candidates. Bohm who is running for the full circuit seat currently held by Judge Difanis who is retiring. Cherie Kesler who is running for Champaign County vacancy being created by Bohm. And Judge Jeffrey Geisler who is running for another district-wide seat (being vacated by Judge A.G. Webber). From the News-Gazette's Tom Kacich a couple weeks ago:
Gifford Republican Sami Anderson, running for the Sixth Judicial Circuit judge nomination against Judge Jason Bohm, has dropped out of the race. They were vying for the position currently held by retiring Judge Tom Difanis,.

“It’s just too much,” she said. “Running in 2017-2018 (in which she lost the Republican primary to Judge Randy Rosenbaum) and then volunteering on Roger Webber’s campaign and then going right into this campaign, it’s just a lot.”

Anderson marched in parades as recently as Labor Day but recently decided to quit the race.

“I think the first time you run, you have a different way of thinking about it. You’re excited; you think it’s going to be great,” she said. “The second time you run, you know what’s coming, and that’s a lot different.”

Anderson she hasn’t committed to supporting Bohm — “I’m not that far along yet,” she said — but won’t be supporting any Democratic candidates, even though she said more female circuit judges are needed.
More at the full article here. Cherie Kesler has recently announced a run for the seat Bohm is vacating (which confusingly is referred to as the Jones vacancy due to the seat having been initially opened up by the retirement of Judge Michael Jones in 2018). From the News-Gazette:
A local attorney has formally announced her candidacy to become a judge in Champaign County.

Over the weekend, Cherie Kesler, 42, of rural Mahomet said she will be a Republican candidate for resident circuit court judge in the March 17, 2020, primary. She hopes to get the post to succeed retired judge Michael Jones.

Kesler has connections all over Champaign County. After attending Yankee Ridge school in Urbana and Holy Cross School in Champaign, she graduated from St. Joseph-Ogden High School in 1995. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law, lives in rural Mahomet and has her law office in Savoy.
That full article here. WAND had coverage of the retirement of Circuit Judge A.G. Webber and Judge Jeffrey Geisler's interest in running for that vacancy here.
Macon County Presiding Circuit Judge A.G. Webber has announced he is retiring.

Webber said he will not seek retention in office at the end of his current term in December 2020.

He was elected to office in 2002 and retained in 2008 and 2014...

Judge Jeffrey Geisler told Webber he intends to run for the seat. "Jeff is a great judge, and I couldn't be more pleased," Webber said.
Full blurb available here.

For more News-Gazette coverage on Judge Difanis retiring in hopes of Judge Jason Bohm taking over the district-wide seat in 2020 click here. The News-Gazette also had a overview of Judge Bohm after he was appointed to the county-wide seat in 2018 here. Excerpt:
A central Illinois federal prosecutor with civil law experience has been named as Champaign County’s newest circuit judge...

A 2003 magna cum laude graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law, Bohm has been a federal prosecutor in the Central District of Illinois for nine years — four in the Springfield office and the last five in the Urbana office.

For the last two years, he’s been doing mostly appellate work but prior to that handled anti-terrorism cases as well as fraud, guns and drugs. The latter three are typical assignments for most federal prosecutors.

After earning his law degree, Bohm clerked for the late Donald Stohr, a federal judge for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis, for two years before getting a job at the prestigious Chicago firm of Sidley Austin LLP. He was there from 2005 to 2008 handling securities-fraud litigation.
Full article with additional information here. More background on the appointment process Bohm was selected by for his current seat is available here (applicants) and here (process) from the News-Gazette. For more information on the Sixth Circuit and current races, see the Cheat Sheet's Judges page.

Staying Warm

The Champaign County Emergency Management Agency had an update last night on the C-U Warming Center hours:

In Champaign County there is a dial 211 phone directory for services (more information here). Champaign has a list of emergency shelters, including the C-U Warming Shelter, here. The full list includes emergency shelters for a variety of needs, but below is the warming shelter information excerpt (note the time change from the Champaign County EMA above):
Daytime Warming Centers
The Phoenix Daytime Drop-In Center
Provides a year-round drop-in center and winter daytime warming site for those in our community that need a place to be. Hours of operation are Tuesday through Friday from 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Additional hours may be added when daytime temperatures drop below 10° and are based on volunteer manpower.
Location:  70 E. Washington St., Champaign (the former TIMES Center)
Contact:  217-819-4569

Salvation Army Stepping Stone Program and Daytime Warming Center
The Stepping Stone Program will house men, women and families who present as homeless and who commit to working the program. Capacity is limited, so agencies must contact the Program Manager before referring. The Salvation Army Red Shield Center on Market Street also serves as a daytime warming center Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: 2212 N. Market St., Champaign

Other Daytime Warming Options
Other locations to stay warm include public buildings during normal business hours (i.e. federal, state, local government buildings, libraries, etc.). 
More information from the full listing here. WCIA had a segment on local shelters and expanded hours:
Homeless shelters are preparing for the steep drop in temperatures this week. C-U at Home says they are expanding their hours Monday. Because it is Veterans Day and other places might not be open, they wanted to have a safe place for people who need to warm up.

Austin’s Place says they are staying open one hour later than they usually do. The co leader for Austin’s Place says they are ready but weren’t anticipating the cold. Austin’s Place and C-U at Home are planning to have a year round shelter starting November of next year. They’re hoping to gain support of community donors to make that happen.
Blurb and video segment available here. More information on C-U at Home here, and Austin's Place here or their facebook page here. More coverage form the News-Gazette on the plans for 24/7 shelter options next year from an article last month here. The United Way also has some additional listings for winter services in its most recent guide available here.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Housing Authority Approves MTW Proposal

The Housing Authority of Champaign County approved a plan that lays out its future plans in the area, with a mix of praise and controversy (a draft version of the plan is available here). From the News-Gazette this week:
Following a back-and-forth between Housing Authority of Champaign County CEO David Northern and board members, the board unanimously approved the 2020 Move-to-Work plan pending approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The plan includes a new program that would give University of Illinois students who are part of the school’s Illinois Commitment program and are from households that get assistance from the housing authority the opportunity to live in UI residence halls. That proposal drew criticism from some board members and local housing advocates who don’t believe the housing authority should be spending money on students while it has a wait list of more than 1,600 people.

The student voucher program is just one of six proposed activities the housing authority board reviewed Thursday, with the others focusing on independent contracting opportunities, landlord incentives and partnerships with community organizations.
Full article here with explanations of some of the more controversial parts of the proposal with Housing Authority commissioners and local activists weighing in. WCIA also had a segment on the education vouchers here.

For the full meeting video, Urbana Public Television has posted the video here. The agenda to help follow along is available from the HACC website here (due to the odd meeting date, it is listed as the October meeting).

Recent related posts:

County Marijuana Rules Up in the Air

With the upcoming legalization of recreational marijuana at the State level, local governments across the State are deciding whether and how to embrace the new law. At the County level, the Environment and Land Use Committee deadlocked on recommending proposed ordinances this month to the full board. From the News-Gazette this week:
The future of recreational-marijuana-related businesses in unincorporated areas like Penfield, Seymour and Dewey is in the hands of the full Champaign County Board, after a deadlocked Environment and Land Use Committee cast a pair of 3-3 votes Thursday night.

With Democrat Stephanie Fortado absent, the committee was left with three Democrats and three Republicans present for Thursday’s meeting.

First, a motion to adopt a zoning ordinance amendment allowing a variety of recreational-marijuana-related businesses — including dispensaries, transporters, craft growers, cultivation centers, infusers and processors — ended in a tie, with the Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

Under the rules, because this was an amendment to an ordinance, the proposal dies, according to Zoning Administrator John Hall.

Next, a motion to adopt a brand-new ordinance prohibiting recreational-marijuana-related businesses in unincorporated areas also ended in a tie, but with both parties taking the opposite position.

However, since this is a new ordinance, Hall said the rules call for advancing that issue to the full board with no recommendation from the committee.
More at the full article here. Video of the meeting will be available here when it is posted on the County Clerk's YouTube channel. There have been a couple updates recently on local plans for recreational marijuana in the Daily Illini and the News-Gazette here.

Some other recent presentations and information on minor marijuana conviction expungements and local impacts were in a recent Cheat Sheet post on the Reentry Council here. Relevant Excerpt:
There was also a report on the potential local implications of cannabis conviction expungement under a new Illinois law given by Champaign County Health Care Consumers. An overview of that report is available here. For a helpful explanation of expungement and sealing, including the new law on expungement of some cannabis convictions, the Champaign County Circuit Clerk had a recent presentation on the subject for CU Speaks.
More at that post here.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Community Coalition Updates


The Champaign County Community Coalition had an event in Champaign this week as part of its outreach to neighborhoods dealing with gun violence. I cover that below. The organization also recently gave a presentation to the Champaign City Council (video available here). There was a great overview of the Coalition's history, goals, and related municipal actions assembled by City staff ahead of the presentation available here. For example, in these excerpts from the background section, there's an explanation of the City of Champaign's role in the coalition:
The City partnered with governmental partners and organizations to create a Community Coalition. The Coalition is a collaborative initiative involving governmental partners, community organizations, and members working together to address and solve community problems of mutual concern...

Since 2016, the Executive Committee Members annually meet to discuss and identify the strategic priorities for the upcoming year. The draft of the priorities is then agreed to by the Coalition partners for implementation and coordination of activities. Once these activities are identified and agreed upon, the monthly Coalition meetings are a coordinated approach to highlight activities and promote on-going dialogue with community stakeholders. The City of Champaign is the lead organization for the coordination of the Coalition and is responsible for the overall administrative responsibilities and daily coordination of all Coalition partners and activities.
Full update report on the Champaign County Community Coalition here. Another recent update on their CU Fresh Start program addressing gun violence interruption is available on the Cheat Sheet here.

There was a lot of local coverage of one of their recent community outreach events in the Willis Park area. Video segment available here from WAND. Below is an overview from yesterday's News-Gazette coverage:
Willis Park residents urge Champaign officials to shed some light on neighborhood
Pitch-black streets were among the biggest issues discussed by dozens of Willis Park residents who packed a neighborhood-safety forum Monday hosted by the Champaign Community Coalition...

Other sources of blight that were brought up included gun violence, rampant vandalism, and vacant homes...

Residents also said investments like youth centers, child-care facilities and mental-health services could help alleviate a lot of the burden placed on parents, the idleness of some young adults in the area and what neighborhood leaders have identified as a trauma-ridden community.

Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb said more neighbors have to be cooperative with police as they investigate crimes in the area. Without that cooperation, he said, it’s much more difficult and time-consuming to do an investigation, find the culprits and make arrests.
Full article available here. The News-Gazette also had an article previewing the meeting with additional information here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Hazardous Waste Collection Problems

Photo credit: Matt Robert / Spotted in Chambana

The Champaign area had a long overdue Illinois EPA one-day collection event (see older Cheat Sheet post on local demand for this event) for hazardous materials collection. Unfortunately the event was overwhelmed by the turnout, in spite of the registration process meant to avoid congestion. From the News-Gazette yesterday:
More than 1,450 people signed up to bring their unwanted hazardous household products such as pesticides and weed killers to the drive-through collection in Champaign, according to Susan Monte, the county’s recycling coordinator.

Only about 700 people actually reached the head of the line, where disposables were being unloaded, and many of the rest either gave up and left due to the long wait or were turned away when participation was cut off in the afternoon, according to Monte...

The cities of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy joined Champaign County in partnering in the event with the IEPA, but local governments were responsible only for providing the host location, traffic control and publicizing the event, Monte said.

She observed a lot of frustration with what, at various times, was a one-to-three-hour wait in line...

Local governments are now waiting to learn whether the IEPA will hold another collection event in Champaign-Urbana soon, Monte said.
Full article with additional information here. Earlier coverage of the backed up lines and frustration here. So far I haven't seen any updates for any new collection events this fall or 2020, but I'll update this post when I do.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Champaign County Reentry Council Updates

It's been a while since I've posted an update on the Champaign County Reentry Council (Cheat Sheet post on County Board meeting where they presented their 2019 3rd Quarterly Report here. Video presentation here). The printed version of the 4th Quarter report is now available here. Reentry housing is a major hurdle in the reentry process and there was a three year study and report released about the situation in the State of Illinois available here. NPR had some highlights from that report:
According to a new study from the Illinois Justice Project and the Metropolitan Planning Council, making sure people have a place to live when they get out of prison is a huge, unaddressed issue in Illinois, one that's been overlooked even as the state has focused more efforts on preventing people from returning to prison.

According to the state of Illinois, almost 30,000 people return home from state prison each year, and about half of them end up back in prison within three years of being released. That failure to help people stay out of prison is expensive for Illinois taxpayers and disruptive to communities.

A big reason for the failure, according to the study released Wednesday, is that many of the people leaving prison don't have stable housing and the state isn't doing enough to help them find it. The study's authors say fixing the problem would ultimately save the state $100 million per year and could help bring down violence in Chicago.
Full article and radio segment here. Locally there was a recent panel of reentry housing experts hosted by the Housing Authority of Champaign County (video here, News-Gazette coverage here).

There was also a report on the potential local implications of cannabis conviction expungement under a new Illinois law given by Champaign County Health Care Consumers. An overview of that report is available here. For a helpful explanation of expungement and sealing, including the new law on expungement of some cannabis convictions, the Champaign County Circuit Clerk had a recent presentation on the subject for CU Speaks.

There was a presentation on the local Crisis Intervention Team (previous Cheat Sheet Post on CIT here). Slide's from the presentation (I believe these were the same ones as our presentation) are available from the Urbana City website here. Excerpt from the August 7th rough meeting minutes:
Lt. Joel Sanders presented on behalf of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) a strategic plan for building a community response to individuals in crisis. The purpose of this plan is to develop a one door mental and behavioral health system model which seeks to capture individuals at various points of entry within the criminal justice system and divert the individuals to services. Its seems as though as a community we are do well with Initial Detention/Court Hearings, Jails/Courts, Reentry, and Community Corrections but is lacking in Community Services and crisis care continuum by Law Enforcement prior to an arrest.

The goal of CIT is to help persons with mental disorders or a dual diagnosis access medical treatment rather than place them in the criminal justice system due to illness-related behaviors. The current focus is on Police Training called the One and Done which entails required partners to complete a one door system. Majority of the required partners are on board but it is still a work in progress.
There were presentations aimed at social services providers on the Council from TASC and the Salvation Army along with the usual data and program updates, but the above is probably the most useful information to catch up over the summer.

Looking ahead there are a lot of local government issues coming up at the County level (updated jail consolidation plans) and with City Government (Champaign looking at reforms of its reentry housing rules) and private organizations like First Followers working with the Housing Authority on reentry housing pilot programs. It could get pretty interesting. November's presentation will be by DREAAM House.