Quinn Signs Pension Reform, Unions Promise Lawsuit
Pension Reform is now the law of the land and a public sector union coalition isn’t happy.
Governor Pat Quinn signed the measure to shore up Illinois worst-in-the-nation pension crisis.
The We Are One Coalition promises a court fight, claiming the measures passed by lawmakers this week is an unconstitutional diminishment of benefits.
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford who is running in the GOP primary for governor opposed the legislation saying there is a constitutional argument.
Rutherford hopes for an expeditious resolution to the issue and says that all parties should have a role in the final outcome.
Houston: Mehlick Resignation Has Nothing to do with Questions of Conflict of Interest
The resignation of the City of Springfield’s Acting Corporation Counsel had nothing to do with recent dust ups over questions of conflicts of interest, according to Mayor Mike Houston.
The mayor says that John Mehlick did have some frustrations with dealing with Aldermanic requests, but this week’s exchange with Ward 5 Alderman Sam Cahnman dealing with possible conflicts of interest didn’t play a role in his decision.
There were also questions about Mehlick’s role in a case involving FOIA Shred Case Plaintiff Calvin Christian when Mehilick was a judge, but Houston dismissed that concern as a possible conflict of interest.
Houston says Mehlick informed him of his plan to depart the city way before this week’s city council meeting. Mehlick’s last day is December 14.
Houston says he will actively seek a replacement for the office.
The mayor also says he is still seeking a replacement for a police chief.
Both offices were left vacant earlier this year in the wake of revelations over the destruction of police internal affairs files.
Houston: DJ Evo Is A Liar
Mayor Mike Houston calls a DJ recently arrested in downtown Springfield a “liar.”
The incident early Tuesday morning downtown Springfield involved the arrest of Sean Layton, also known as DJ Evo.
Layton tells WMAY he was told by the arresting officer that orders were given by Mayor Houston after he the mayor received a call from a lawmaker who was staying above the bar Monday night. Houston denies that he had any role in the arrest.
Layton was arrested for disorderly conduct.
Springfield Teachers Could Take on More Classroom Time in Cost Saving Move
In an effort to trim more from the Springfield School Budget, teachers could be asked to take on one extra period a day.
Interim Superintendent Bob Lemming tells the State Journal-Register that the move could save the school district more than $1 million, from an already estimated $6 million that needs to be cut from the upcoming budget.
The move could eliminate a collaboration period teachers have to work on things like new common core standards and move them to spend more times with students.
The Springfield School Board could take up the measure later this month.
Meanwhile, members of the school board will be meeting with candidates to take on the superintendent job behind closed doors this weekend with planed public session with the final two or three candidates next week.
Willie Nelson Concert Rescheduled
Those who were hoping to see Willie Nelson a couple of months ago will get their chance late in 2014.
The concert scheduled for this past September at the Sangamon Auditorium was postponed when the 80-year-old country singer became ill.
Organizers announced the concert will now take place August 12th at Sangamon Auditorium. Tickets are on sale now.
Ticket holders from the postponed September show can have the same seats. Those who have tickets and are unable to make the rescheduled concert have until January 24th to request refunds.
Quinn Signs Pension Reform Into Law; Unions Vow To Sue
Pension reform is now the law… and soon it will be the subject of a lawsuit.
Governor Pat Quinn signed the bill almost as soon as it reached his desk. Quinn says the $160 billion plan is a vital part of fixing Illinois’s fiscal crisis… and he believes the courts will uphold it for that reason.
But public sector unions say no amount of savings trumps the state constitution… and they say they are preparing a suit that will seek to overturn the new law because it unfairly reduces current and future pension benefits.
Local Jobless Claims At 10-Year Low
Year-to-date jobless claims in Springfield are at their lowest level in more than a decade.
The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce says the figures for September and October were delayed because of the partial federal government shutdown… but the numbers appear to be worth the wait.
Around 8500 jobless claims have been processed locally so far this year… compared to around 10,000 at the same point a year ago. The Chamber says it’s the best showing since 2002.
Houston: Lawyer's Spat With Aldermen May Make It Tough To Find New City Attorney
Mayor Mike Houston admits that it may not be easy to find another local attorney to take on the job of corporation counsel for the city.
Two people have resigned from that post in less than six months… Mark Cullen back in July because of the police department file shredding incident, and now his temporary replacement, John Mehlick, has resigned.
Houston says Mehlick had multiple reasons for leaving, including frustrations over his dealings with aldermen. And the mayor says that frustration isn’t lost on other local attorneys, who may be reluctant to take on the headaches associated with the job.
Mayor Calls DJ Evo ''A Liar''
Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has some blunt words for the club DJ who accused him of pulling strings to get the DJ arrested.
Houston says Sean Layton… who goes by the name DJ Evo… is, quote, “a liar.” Layton was booked on a disorderly conduct charge Monday night after police said he kept blaring his music at a downtown bar, creating a nuisance.
Houston denies any involvement with the incident, and suggests Layton is simply trying to cause controversy or make a name for himself.
Springfield Corporation Counsel Resigns, Second Time in Six Months
The “Help Wanted” sign is out again in Springfield’s corporation counsel office.
Retired judge John Mehlick, who had been serving as Mayor Mike Houston’s top lawyer since the summer, has submitted his resignation, effective December 14th.
A spokesman for Houston was in the meeting where Mehlick announced his decision, but says Mehlick did not offer a reason for his departure.
Mehlick stepped in after Mark Cullen resigned as corporation counsel following revelations about his role in the police department file shredding scandal.
But in recent weeks, Mehlick has clashed with aldermen on several issues… including their claims that he has dragged his feet on drafting ordinances for them.
Aldermen Question Motive for Conflict Claims Against Cahnman
Two Springfield aldermen say their issues with the Houston administration go straight to the top… and suggest that the most recent public dispute makes it look like the mayor has something to hide.
Houston and his legal team said this week that Alderman Sam Cahnman has a conflict of interest and should not be involved in discussions over settling the police department file shredding lawsuit.
Plaintiff Calvin Christian has retained Cahnman to defend him in several recent traffic citation cases brought by the city.
But Cahnman… who has demanded more disclosure from the mayor’s office about the file shredding case…says it looks like the mayor just wants to silence him. Alderman Joe McMenamin agrees.
Lawmaker Criticizes Pension Reform Not Including Judges
A local lawmaker is questioning why judges are being singled out for special treatment on the issue of pension reform.
While the bill passed this week makes significant changes to four of the state’s five public pension systems, the system that governs pensions for judges was exempt.
Republican Representative Bill Mitchell of Forsyth says that decision makes judges a “new aristocracy” who don’t have to face the same rules or challenges as other public employees.
Critics of the pension reform bill contend judges were left out in order to improve the chances that the bill would withstand a court challenge.
DJ Claims High-Level Connections Involved in Recent Arrest
A DJ at a downtown Springfield club… who was arrested this week for playing music too loud… says he was targeted by someone with high-level connections.
Sean Layton, who works under the name DJ Evo, is charged with disorderly conduct and a city noise ordinance violation.
Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Kramer Show” Wednesday, he believes the complaint originated with a state lawmaker who was staying in an apartment above Marley’s Pub… and contends that official contacted people high up at Springfield City Hall to force a police response.
City officials deny the allegation.
A police report indicates Layton repeatedly failed to comply with requests to turn down the level of bass in the music.
Dozens of Uninsured in Sangamon County Get Help From Health Dept. For Insurance
Sangamon County officials say thousands of county residents are uninsured… but so far, only dozens have approached the county health department about trying to find a policy under the Affordable Care Act.
The health department is now meeting with residents who have signed up for one-on-one appointments to navigate the state and federal insurance exchanges.
Around 15 people have found coverage… all of them under the state’s expanded Medicaid program.
County health director Jim Stone says his staff hasn’t yet had to take the revamped federal healthcare.gov site out for a spin… but he expects that will happen soon, and he hopes the site truly works better than it did in the weeks after it was first launched in October.
BREAKING: Acting Springfield Corporation Counsel Resigns
For the second time in six months, the person serving as the top lawyer for the City of Springfield has resigned.
The city issued a one-sentence statement saying Acting Corporation Counsel John Mehlick has submitted his resignation, effective December 14th. No reason was given for Mehlick's decision to step down. Mayoral spokesman Nathan Mihelich says he was in the meeting when Mehlick informed Mayor Mike Houston of his intention to resign, but Mihelich says Mehlick did not offer any specific reason for the decision.
Mehlick was appointed by Mayor Mike Houston to replace Mark Cullen, who resigned last summer following revelations about his role in the police department file shredding scandal. Mehlick is a retired judge.
Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on this developing story.