Illinois Budget 9.25.09

Here are the top Illinois stories coming today from GateHouse News Service. Stories are available at Please check in the evening for changes to story lineup, including breaking news.
If your paper has a story, digest item, opinion piece or standalone photo to share, please e-mail it to
Casey Laughman: (217) 816-3343,


Live blogging: Follow APME Newstrain’s training session in Oklahoma

Good idea: Readers at festival ‘make’ the front page


LOGAN COUNTY MURDERS: For some longtime Logan County residents, the murder of the Raymond Gee family this week brought back harrowing memories from the past. The county has dealt with the aftermath of such crimes before. By Justin Tierney of the Logan Courier. Will be posted this evening. Embargoed until 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
BEASON MURDERS: An update from Beason on the investigation into the murders of five members of the Gee family. TENTATIVE, dependent on news of the day. Lincoln Courier.

For the weekend:
EDUCATOR SALARIES: Illinois school officials have more to worry about this year than test scores and unruly students – they also will have to follow a couple of new laws requiring them to post online the salaries and total compensation packages of school administrators and teachers. The same requirement will apply at the public university level, too. The lawmakers who pushed these ideas say they were motivated by a desire for increased "transparency" and by news reports in the past year or so that recounted how some suburban school districts were giving "hidden" perks to their superintendents. By Adriana Colindres of the State Capitol Bureau. Will be posted this evening for use in weekend editions.
STATEHOUSE INSIDER: By Doug Finke of the State Capitol Bureau. Will be posted this evening for use Sunday.
State Briefs. News from around the state. Will be posted this evening.
TERRORIST PLOT: Was the FBI’s involvement in a plot to blow up the federal building in Springfield entrapment? A look at whether people like Michael C. Finton are actual threats, or whether they’re misdirected or mentally ill people who are easily duped by the feds. By Bruce Rushton of the State Journal-Register. TENTATIVE.


Landscaping business combines art and practicality

MANITO – Mulch and art may not seem a likely match, but one young artist could tell you that they fit quite well together. Manito’s Artistic Landscape, owned by Renita Holstlaw, offers a unique combination of the usual landscaping products, like mulch, soil and rocks, and life-size sculptures that are hand-painted by 19-year-old Colin Abernathy of Pekin. Abernathy began painting for Holstlaw about four months ago at the suggestion of his aunt, he said. His first project was a dragon, roughly the size of a small pony and painted in brilliant red and gold. By Tara Mattimoe of the Pekin Daily Times.

Tax credit expiration concerns local real estate agents

SPRINGFIELD – Courtney and Ian Wick weren’t even in the market for a home until they learned of the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time buyers. They closed on a new residence in July. The federal tax break, scheduled to expire Dec. 1, is credited in the real-estate industry with stabilizing one of the worst housing markets in decades. But critics say the program cost twice what was expected and in many cases paid buyers who would have purchased a home anyway. By Tim Landis of the State Journal-Register. To localize: Check with local realtors associations to see if they’re getting involved in lobbying efforts to extend the tax break.


Cactuses great fit for gardeners who need plants to be independent

EUREKA – The Latin plural of cactus is cacti, which makes Shirley Selvey of Eureka an inveterate collector of cacti. Or, if either of the English versions is preferred, she's an inveterate collector of cactus or cactuses. Whatever the plural, Selvey estimates she has about 75 of them, all potted and arranged on the porch, near the entrance of the garage, and on the backyard patio. By Pam Adams of the Peoria Journal Star.

Vacation notion turns into running passion

ROCKFORD – Jim Simmons traces his origin as a runner to a time when he was supposed to be taking it easy. He began a trek toward losing 85 pounds while he was on vacation in 2007 in Lake Tahoe. And he just celebrated his 45th birthday Sept. 5 by winning his age group in the On the Waterfront 5-kilometer race with a time of 18:16. By Mike DeDoncker of the Rockford Register Star.

Computer imagery brings medical procedures into focus

When Dr. Maureen Lillich started doing endoscopy procedures nearly 20 years ago, physicians peered into a scope and sometimes felt fluid from a biopsy splash on their faces. In July, Lillich and her partners at the Illinois Gastroenterology Institute began performing procedures in one of the most advanced, computerized endoscopy facilities in the region. By Clare Howard of the Peoria Journal Star.

Brien Murphy: ‘Glee’ takes former choir kid back in time

Mostly, “Glee” rings true in its take on show choir. But a few things aren't quite like they were for this former high school singer.

Fighting words: College administrator provides character voice of martial arts master

ROCKFORD – Bern Sundstedt, 53, the mild-mannered, bespectacled director of alumni and development at Rockford College in Rockford, Ill., had a choice to make about Master Gouken, the character he was about to portray in a voice-over role. Gouken is a gargantuan-bicepped character from “Street Fighter” who was taught a killing art by its founder but came to abhor the violence. By Georgette Braun of the Rockford Register Star.

Kelly Epperson: Apple trees and time for me

Once upon a time, there was a girl who liked to sit up in the apple tree in the backyard. She would read, or just simply daydream. Sometimes her best friend joined her in the tree for girl talk -- grade-school girl talk.


BRITT: Toon on terrorism and Springfield. Will be posted this evening.
Wood on Words: Catching up with ‘clout’

The use of “clout” as an informal term for “power or influence, especially political influence,” is an Americanism of fairly recent vintage — circa the 1950s, according to “American Slang.” Originally, “clout” was “a piece of cloth or leather for patching” or “any piece of cloth, especially one for cleaning” — in other words, a “rag.”

Editorial: Informed public can aid police in Beason slayings

From what little we've been able to gather, the slaughter of five members of the Gee family in tiny Beason in Logan County certainly would rank among the most horrific mass murders in central Illinois history. We are not second-guessing Logan County Sheriff Steven Nichols at this point - he obviously knows things the public does not and must have his reasons for not being more forthcoming about them - but this case and the investigation of it certainly have taken on some curious dimensions. An editorial from the Peoria Journal Star.

Editorial: An argument that’s improper, inaccurate

In an op-ed that appeared in the State Journal-Register on Thursday, former George Ryan chief of staff Scott Fawell vented about what he believes is excessive pressure applied by federal prosecutors to force people to turn state’s witness federal cases. In his mind, then and now, federal prosecutors blackmailed him. He saw their tactics then as unfair, and that has not changed. But what has changed is the angle of Fawell’s argument. An editorial from the State Journal-Register.


Inside the Lines: ’85 Bears still big factor in today’s NFL

If you'll allow me the rounding off, we're at a quarter century since we could watch the 1985 Bears defense. I'll pause for a minute and let you go get a Kleenex. Arguably the most indelible unit of our lifetimes in any sport, this group lives on in today's NFL. Particularly, today's NFL. By Bill Liesse of the Peoria Journal Star. For use Sunday.

Sunday Quick Shots: Sox GM Williams right to say team underachieved

White Sox GM Kenny Williams encountered rare criticism for saying the Sox “underachieved.” Of course they did. Also includes items on Bears fans booing the team and NFL holdouts hurting themselves. By Matt Trowbridge of the Rockford Register Star.

Matt Trowbridge: Bears committed as ever to the run

The Bears are abandoning the run! The Bears are abandoning the run! You could hear the old-school Chicken Littles all over the Chicago airwaves this week. Truth is, the Bears, even armed with their new Pro Bowl passing toy, remain as stubbornly committed to the run as any team in the NFL. Just because the Bears haven’t gone anywhere doesn’t mean they haven’t tried.

For Sunday:
Bears look to get on roll, starting with Seattle

The Bears step down in competition Sunday, but not down in importance. “To be able to finish it like we did gave our guys confidence and validated what we’re doing,” coach Lovie Smith said of last week’s come-from-behind 17-14 win over the Super Bowl champion Steelers, “but it’s just a start. We need to get a streak going.” By Matt Trowbridge of the Rockford Register Star. For use Sunday.

Ohio State first test in crucial stretch for Illini
When Illinois plays at No. 13 Ohio State on Saturday, the Big Ten Conference opener is more than just one game. It's the start of a three-game swing that will determine the direction of Illini football. Coach Ron Zook disagrees, but his fiery denials show the intensity of the situation. By John Supinie.

For Sunday

GAME STORY: Game story on Illinois-Ohio State. Kickoff 2:30 p.m. By John Supinie.
REPORT CARD: Grades on Illinois' performance in the Big Ten opener.
NOTES: Reaction from the Illinois locker room.
For Monday:
Q&A: A look back and a look ahead. By John Supinie.