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.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

County Updates for August

Meeting Coverage:

The News-Gazette had brief coverage of this month's Committee of the Whole meeting (agenda, video) for the County Board:

Coming next Thursday: the start of 2023 county board budget discussions, including the distribution of the second batch of American Rescue Plan funding. At this week’s committee-of-thewhole meeting, members moved forward with placing on a future consent agenda 16 appointments to fill expiring terms for drainage districts and cemetery association boards...

More at the full blurb in the 8/12 "Meeting Minutes" feature with additional appointment names listed.

August's regular County Board meeting (agenda, agenda addendum, video) began with public participation by Dave Beck of AFSCME regarding ongoing negotiations with the County government for a contract. Brad Gould from the Veterans’ Assistance Commission then gave a presentation on "Operation Green Light" to highlight veterans in the community. There was a discussion on getting the process started to officially support the initiative by the County Board.

Member Jim McGuire raised the issue of ballot order and access to sample ballots to ensure Republicans are listed correctly in the assigned order. He had some additional concerns about applications through the Clerk and Recorder's office. Member Jim Goss joined him with concerns on the list of general election polling places in rural areas as well. The vote on polling places fell along partisan lines.

Intergovernmental agreements with the Housing Authority of Champaign County on a few different ARPA funded programs were passed by voice vote without discussion or any apparent opposition.

The rest of the meeting and the bulk of the meeting was taken up by discussion on ARPA related programs, recommendations, and including presentations from the "iRead iCount" program and Habitat For Humanity. There was also a report (with recommendations) from the Broadband Task Force committee on using ARPA funds to fill in the rural gap in broadband internet access. That task force's most recent meetings and documents are available here (August meeting agenda, video).

County Clerk and Recorder Campaign News:

The 2022 campaign for County Clerk and Recorder got a little more interesting with a recent Tom Kacich interview with the Republican candidate, Terrence Stuber. Excerpt:

“2020 did a number on everyone’s faith in the election process, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on. If there are questions like that, something’s wrong,” he said.

But when asked if those questions are valid, Stuber said, “Who knows? Right now, we’re only hearing one side of the story.”

And when asked if Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election, Stuber hedged and said only, “I don’t know if he truly was the winner or not, but I do think it is definitely the time to move past it.”

He questioned why so many University of Illinois students vote in local elections, a longtime source of pain and frustration for Republicans whose candidates tend to do poorly in campus precincts.

That full article here. His Democratic opponent and incumbent Aaron Ammons immediately criticized the statements on social media. Excerpts:

Even in the wake of the January 6th attack, the overwhelming evidence of the Jan 6th Committee Hearings, the countless Experienced, Trained Election Officials, Democrats AND Republicans, who have said under oath that there’s no election fraud, numerous Audits, hand Recounts, and a 7 MILLION vote difference, my opponent STILL won’t say Donald Trump Lost the Presidential Election in 2020! And he wants you to trust him counting your votes!! 

The County Clerk’s Job is to administer Fair, Free, and ACCESSIBLE elections but my opponent said in a recent interview with the News Gazette that he would “eliminate” the drop boxes that voters use to return their mail in ballots! You can’t run for an office that requires voter accessibility and campaign on limiting access!? 


It’s views like the ones recently espoused by my Republican opponent that create fertile ground for the misinformation and the disinformation that led to chants of “hang Mike Pence” on the United States Capital grounds just a little over a year ago. 

That full statement from Ammons is available here on his campaign facebook page. Stuber's comments on the Kacich interview on his campaign facebook page noted that the "article is an accurate representation of the time we spent together."

Other County Updates:

Friday, August 26, 2022

Area Gun Violence Updates:

Some of the latest updates on local gun violence can be found with the monthly Champaign County Community Coalition meeting (latest Police Chief Updates just after the 28 minute mark in the video here). The News-Gazette covered the topic of unruly late night gatherings raised in the update here. The News-Gazette had an overview of the July meeting updates here, that got into the details of the recent decreases in gun violence from the high spikes in recent years. Excerpt:

Local police chiefs and staff, city officials and program leaders led another packed monthly coalition meeting on Wednesday in its second-ever gathering at the Radisson Hotel in Urbana.

An early focus: Area police departments are detecting a decreased level of community gun violence compared to last year’s record pace.

  • For Jan. 1-July 11, 2022, Champaign police reported a 51 percent decrease in confirmed shootings compared to the same period last year (145 shootings versus 71 shootings).
  • In Urbana, there’s been a near 52 percent drop in the same period (54 shootings versus 26 shootings), interim Chief Richard Surles said. So far, Urbana has seen two gun homicides this year; there were 10 in all of 2021.

Last month brought a particular drop in gun incidents: There was only one confirmed shooting in Urbana this June, and 29 days elapsed until the next one on July 5. Meanwhile, the Urbana Police Department has arrested 12 people for homicide in 2022.

That full article here. Earlier this month the Cheat Sheet had updates on the closing of the downtown Jail and boarding adult and juvenile prisoners outside of the county due to staff and space issues.

Police Staffing

The News-Gazette's weekly "Meeting Minutes" feature on 7/29 included updates on police staffing in Champaign-Urbana, the County Sheriff's office (eEdition link with chart. For the website link click here) and many other local towns and neighboring County offices (subscription eEdition link). The cities of Champaign and Urbana both have the largest vacancy gaps to fill. At the time of this article it showed roughly 30 openings in Champaign and Urbana, but just a handful of openings across the County Sheriff's Office, Rantoul PD, UIPD, and Parkland police combined (this has likely changed some in the last month).

The University of Illinois Police Department is taking over some of the patrol duties in the Champaign areas of campus town to help alleviate the stress on the CPD's staffing shortage. Illinois Newsroom had more details about that agreement here. Excerpt:
Faced with a shortage of officers, the city of Champaign will pay $840,000 per year to the U of I  for the patrol services. 

U of I Assistant Police Chief Tim Hetrick said the new patrols will operate from Neil Street to the city’s eastern border at Wright Street, and south from Springfield Avenue to Windsor Road. He said two officers will be on duty for each shift...

The Champaign City Council voted last April to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the university to provide the patrol services for two years (with an option for a third).
More at the full article here.

The University of Illinois Police Department also had updates on its crisis response pilot program. From the News-Gazette earlier this month:

Last academic year was the pilot for the University of Illinois Police Department’s new co-response model for mental health calls, which pairs UI behavioral detectives with trained social workers.

As part of the Response, Evaluation and Crisis Help initiative, or REACH team, social workers called crisis responders ride along on patrol and show up to scenes of mental distress, taking the lead on interventions.

After a promising first year, the police department is seeking additional funds to hire at least one more crisis responder to fill coverage gaps... 

The UI police department is working with research groups in and out of the university to publish information about what they’ve learned, to inform other crisis responders. The department just created a qualitative survey tool to send out to the individuals contacted by REACH.

That full article here.

Beyond Champaign County

The local drop in gun violence from previous highs in recent years appears to mirror trends throughout Illinois and nationally:

Thursday, August 4, 2022

County Board July Updates


There were a lot of updates on the Champaign County jail situation, with the closure of the downtown jail and other related safety, space, and jail consolidation plan news. That's in a separate jail update Cheat Sheet post here.

The News-Gazette had coverage previewing the meeting:

Up for consideration by the board Thursday is a recommendation from its Community Violence Prevention Task Force to use some of the county’s federal coronavirus relief funding to make first-year grants to the following organizations for violence-reduction programs, including:

  • $500,000 to the new H3 Coalition launched by First Followers.
  • $500,000 for DREAAM House.
  • $385,000 to the Housing Authority of Champaign County — $300,000 for supportive services and $85,000 for landlord incentives.
  • $15,000 to a brand-new organization called A Vision to Succeed.

The county is getting $40.7 million in federal funding over two years; the city of Champaign is getting $25.27 million over two years; and the city of Urbana — which hasn’t made decisions yet on how its money will be spent — is getting $13 million over two years.

The county board has pledged $4.1 million for community gun-violence reduction over the two years of its federal funding, with $1.5 million of that being spent this year.

That full article here with more program and budget details. WCIA had coverage from the meeting itself here. Excerpt:

“It’s a collaborative effort, whether you have a lot of not-for-profits and some small business owners that are coming to the table that are putting our heads together and have performed a strategic plan in order to deal with community violence and the wholistic approach,” [Marlon Mitchell of H3 Coalition] said.

County Board members weighed in on the discussion and the proposals were supported by most of them. Patterson said organizations like these help put people on a better path forward.

County Executive Darlene Kloeppel said the next steps forward are contracts and negotiations, but everything has been agreed to. Those contracts are expected to be finalized in about a month.

That full article here. The full meeting was relatively brief, running just over an hour (agenda packet, video). A couple highlights included some question and answer opportunities. One was with Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center Superintendent Keith Willis and its current staffing and space issues (jump to video). The other with Marlon Mitchell answering some more detailed and organization questions about the H3 project (jump to video).

Other County Government Items:

  • County Board member Stephanie Fortado got confirmation from County Executive Darlene Kloeppel that next month's regular County Board meeting was likely to have presentations on the rural broadband funding and projects tied to ARPA funds.
  • There was an update on the jail consolidation and other facilities projects this week (noted in the action report), but the video doesn't appear to be available yet. The last update was presented at the June facilities meeting (overview in minutes, video). See today's other Cheat Sheet post on other Jail updates from July.
  • For those following the County political party organization leadership battles, one current and one former County Board member has been picked to lead the Republican and Democratic Party county organizations. The News-Gazette had coverage here.

Downtown Jail Closure and Boarding Out of County


The biggest news on the Champaign County jail situation is that the crumbling downtown jail has finally been closed. From WCIA

The Champaign County Sheriff’s Office announced the closure of the county jail in downtown Urbana.

The department secured funding from the Champaign County Board to move 70 inmates from the jail in 2021 with the intent of closing the facility due to safety and security concerns.

The department said, however, due to the increase in arrests for violent crime, the closure did not happen when planned. The department said this is a concern because of the dilapidated facility also has a staffing shortage of correctional officers. The Champaign County Board approved additional funding to house 70 inmates out of county last month.

That WCIA article here. Previous Cheat Sheet posts have gone into detail about conditions, out of date standards, safety issues, and more including inspection reports and photos here (page 7 of the PDF file). The upside of the move is getting both people incarcerated there and working there out of that dangerous environment. The downside is that leaves the County with expensive capacity issues. From the News-Gazette:

Closing the downtown facility is expected to increase security and safety for staff and inmates, and allow for 12 employees — among them nine correctional officers — to be relocated to the satellite facility, according to the sheriff.

The county is planning to build an addition to the satellite jail to make up for some lost space downtown, if a divided Urbana City Council votes Monday to approve a special-use permit necessary to proceed with that project...

With the satellite facility not large enough to accommodate all inmates in Champaign County, the cost of boarding prisoners in other counties — currently Kankakee and Macon — is expected to exceed $2 million this year.

That full article here.

There was a bit of intragovernmental drama with jail expansion opponents on the Urbana City Council looking at their options to approve or decline the "special use" From the News-Gazette:

The planned expansion of Champaign County’s satellite jail is on solid ground after the Urbana City Council narrowly approved a special-use permit needed to begin construction...

The permit for architecture firm Reifsteck Reid to continue work on a future addition to the satellite jail passed 4-3 Monday night. Council members Christopher Evans, Jaya Kolisetty and Grace Wilken voted “no” — all of them voted not to put the permit to a vote at last week’s committee-of-the-whole meeting...

Council members were charged to determine whether this use was “conducive to public convenience at the location”; that it was designed, located to and proposed to be operated in ways that will not be “unreasonably injurious” to the district or public welfare; and that the proposed use would fit the regulations and standards of the district in which it will be located.

That full article here. For opponents of the current jail consolidation plan, this could have been seen as an opportunity to delay or even eventually scuttle that plan. The fragility of the plan's future lies in the years of political battles to reach an agreement. The plan was probably only made possible, at this very specific moment in time, because of the pandemic related ARPA funds and shifting political power on the County Board among Republicans in the minority and different Democratic Party factions.

For supporters, the legal argument that a jail wouldn't be appropriate at a location where a jail was previously approved and already exists highlighted how this would be a political power play. They could appeal to process and their arguments for necessity.

For opponents, there are decades of demands towards eliminating mass incarceration starting right here at home. Urbana City Council alderman Christopher Evans argued passionately about his view that this expansion is unnecessary ongoing reforms and alternatives (see more in this public comment thread where Evans discusses the issue with the local States Attorney and others). He points to recommendations from the Community Violence Task Force report from nearly a decade ago, including:

Recommendation #3 Develop a System of Care for Behavioral Health Services...

"Increase crisis response and intervention in collaboration with local law enforcement that would include developing additional options to jail for persons in crisis, such as a Community-Based Mental Health Crisis Center (possibly including detoxification services) or development of proactive psychiatric advance directives for times of individual crisis"

That full Community Violence Task Force report is available here. One can see sporadic accomplishments or lack thereof on many of the details within those recommendations over the following decade. This included the Racial Justice Task Force, which itself recommended a County level coordinating committee and citizen involved oversight committee to see these recommendations through.

The Juvenile Detention Facility has also been dealing with staff shortages. From the News-Gazette last month:

Citing a “chronic and persistent staffing shortage,” the Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center in Urbana started sending its inmates to three other counties this week, but only temporarily.

Court Services Director Mike Williams said he and others in the judicial system have been working for months to rectify the staffing deficiency that has plagued the east Urbana jail for minors ages 13 to 17 for the past 18 months.

For the next 90 days, those detainees instead will be held at juvenile detention centers in Vernon Hills in Lake County, about 170 miles north of Urbana; Joliet in Will County, about 114 miles north of Urbana; and in Normal in McLean County, about 60 miles to the west.

That full article available here with a lot of details on background and costs. At the last County Board meeting there was a question and answer opportunity with Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center Superintendent Keith Willis and its current staffing and space issues (jump to video).

For more News-Gazette coverage of the Urbana City Council votes on the jail consolidation "special use" permit:

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Emergency Services Staffing Issues


Following up on a previous post noting METCAD staffing challenges reported by WCIA. The News-Gazette also highlighted more details about the work and life-balance challenges for METCAD staff. Below is also more staffing issues with the County's jail, public defender office, juvenile detention center and recent struggles for the Coroner's Office.

Excerpt from the METCAD article:

“We are authorized for 33 full-time telecommunicators and we have nine vacancies,” said Betsy Smith, operations manager for the agency that dispatches police, fire and ambulances to calls for service in Champaign County...

“It’s always been hard for us to get fully staffed,” said Smith, a 32-year veteran of METCAD in Urbana who dispatched for about 20 years before moving into a supervisory role.

“The last two years or so, a lot of things have happened: COVID, civil unrest, social injustice, defunding the police, police reform, mental health issues. I can’t say it’s one thing,” she said of the potential reason for the staff deficiency. 

That full article here. Excerpts from the article on other County staff shortages for criminal justice and emergency services from the News-Gazette:

The Champaign County Jail has a budget for 50 correctional officers but only 43 on staff, said Capt. Karee Voges, who oversees the jails. And with staff out on paid leave, it’s actually 40 people covering 50 spots, she said...

Keith Willis, superintendent of the Juvenile Detention Center, has 10 openings.

“We are authorized for 24 line officer positions and six supervisors. I currently have nine line officer positions open and one supervisor,” he said...

Janie Miller-Jones, Champaign County Public Defender, who recently lost three experienced felony attorneys to higher-paying jobs, persuaded Presiding Judge Randy Rosenbaum to appoint private attorneys — at taxpayer expense — to represent indigent defendants charged with murder until she has more staff and fewer open cases...

That full article with a lot more information here.

Monday, April 4, 2022

County Board Updates Into April


Right off the bat, Vote By Mail ballot requests are now available for the upcoming 2022 primary election on June 28th. Early voting for the 2022 primary will begin Thursday, May 19, 2022. More information available at the County Clerk's website here and the VoteChampaign non-partisan local candidate's guide here.

This post has some County Board related news and highlights from the March regular County Board meeting (video link - note: temporary link from livestream, agenda packet) and other Champaign County updates as we head into the month of April. For previous committee updates, check out our County Board updates from February and Early March. Below are also a couple direct links to presentations at the last Facilities Committee meeting on jail consolidation and planning the move of County government offices to the downtown plaza.

The News-Gazette's Tom Kacich had some information on County ARPA money and the overwhelming need for various infrastructure projects throughout the County. It was part of an opinion column, but had a lot of helpful details and numbers for everybody:

Champaign County has set aside $2 million of its $40.8 million bonanza of American Rescue Plan Act funds to help with badly needed sewer, water and drainage projects in small towns and rural areas of the county.

But it’s not nearly enough.

The county board has received formal requests for construction assistance from five villages, a water district and a drainage district. And more applications are expected; the final opportunity to make a request is at the April 7 meeting of the board’s environment and land-use committee. The total amount needed for sewer and water projects in the five villages alone is more than $25 million.

That full article here.

The News-Gazette also had a listing of candidates filing for County offices (Sheriff, Treasurer, Clerk, County Board seats, etc) here. While many candidates are not facing competition in the primary, some are and many more are facing competition in the general election otherwise. More on local candidates from the VoteChampaign non-partisan candidate's guide here (a project in collaboration with the Champaign County League of Women Voters). More on the VoteChampaign project (formerly known as the Champaign County Voters Alliance) here.

March Regular County Board Meeting:

It was picture day for the County Board, so you'll notice folks a bit more dressed up than usual in the meeting video. The in-person meeting also started off with a rededication of the Shields-Carter Meeting Room now that the room and entrance signs have been updated.

Here are some items discussed and some links to jump directly to that part of the meeting:

  • Independent audit report by Baker Tilly on the County's 2020 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Full CAFR here on the County Auditor's webpage. The presentation begins about 9 minutes into the meeting here.
  • There was some technical discussion on committing ARPA funds in steps to ensure flexibility for any unused funds. While the overall spending will likely not be impacted, the County Board will have an opportunity to approve the next round of funding on (e.g. on next year's budget) depending on the ongoing need. This discussion was had on both Rural Housing Rehabilitation Assistance (25 minutes into the meeting here) and the Champaign County Crime Stoppers gun bounty program (about 32 minutes into the meeting here).
  • There was also an update and presentation from the Project Manager on ARPA related projects (see page of 42 (page 45 of the PDF file) of the agenda packet here).
  • There was also a presentation on the Clark Lindsey Village proposal (PowerPoint presentation here, County Executive's memo on the proposal on the agenda packet here on page 48, page 51 of the PDF file). A couple board members raised concerns about labor rights and a possible conflict with the County's stated values. The presentation and discussion begin at the 55 minute mark in the video here.

The April 5th Facilities meeting (agenda here) will also have updates on the new County Plaza space and Jail consolidation planning. At the March meeting there were updates on those same two big County issues:

The April 7th Environment and Land Use Committee will be looking at various proposals / recommendations for ARPA funds (agenda here, additional information on ARPA proposals here).

Other Champaign County News and Updates: