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From July 26-29, the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center will be hosting the Grassroots Radio Conference (GRC), an annual conference celebrating the vibrant and democratic medium of local, community-driven radio. Highlights include a Friday night keynote by New York Times best-selling author Joe Torres, a bus tour of UC2B, Urbana-Champaign’s new public broadband system, and a celebration of WRFU’s new radio tower that will enable the station to reach the entire Champaign-Urbana community. Registration is $125 ($75 low-income) and can be done at www.grassrootsradioconference.
It was 96° in the shade, but a large crowd came out on July 19, 2012 for a showing of union solidarity. The Campus Labor Coalition―including AFSCME, SEIU, GEO, AAP, and CFA―held a rally at the Alma Mater on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and then marched across the quad.
The rally was partly to show support for workers in the local AFSCME union who have repeatedly been stalled by university negotiators and are still waiting for a fair contract. The university sites the state budget crisis, while top administrators go on getting paid inflated six-figure salaries. Despite several recent scandals that have forced campus leaders to resign in shame, they have been given golden parachutes by their colleagues. Those at the rally held signs that read “The U of I Isn't Broke, It's Broken!”
Last night, May 11th, Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice (CUCPJ) held a public forum on the jail issue. The event was a response to the County Board's current consideration of a plan to spend $20 plus million on a new jail. CUCPJ organized the event because the Jail Planning Team of the County Board has refused requests to take the issue to the public. The overflow crowd at Urbana City Council chambers listened to a series of speakers question the wisdom of spending such a huge amount of money when the county has so many other urgent needs.
On May 8, 2012, a section of East Park Street, between Second Street and Third Street, in Champaign was dedicated to Catherine Hogue, black woman activist and long time County Board member. A sign now stands at the intersection in front of the Boys and Girls Club that reads, "Honorary Catherine Hogue Way."
On Tuesday, May 1, the International Workers' Day, the Illinois Legislature's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability will vote on whether or not to close Tamms, the supermax prison in southern Illinois. Our local Senator Michael Frerichs who will have a vote in that session has yet to declare himself on the issue.
On Tuesday, April 10 the Champaign and Urbana (Cunningham) Township meetings will have on their agendas two items to be voted on by all registered voters in attendance.
One item calls for an item to be added to the November ballot which urges representatives, from the local to national level, to endorse an Amendment which declares corporations do not have the same rights as people and states that legislation should be pursued which challenges the Citizens United Supreme Court decision by re-enacting curbs on corporate spending in elections.
Another adds to the November ballot a measure which challenges corporate enclosure of the commons by establishing laws in Champaign/Urbana which allow non-disruptive forms of free speech in areas where private business can currently prohibit it, such as private parking lots and malls.
Report back from County Board meeting on March 22, 2012
Since the proposed plans for the $20 million jail construction project landed on the Champaign County Board agenda earlier this year, the driving force behind this process has been an all-white grouping known as the Jail Space Improvement Planning Team. The team has functioned somewhat like a secret society within the board. While all subcommittees and advisory bodies of the board are supposed to be under the Open Meetings Act (and therefore open to the public and obliged to keep records/minutes of their proceedings), the leading light of the Planning Team, Board member Tom Betz, has repeatedly claimed that the team falls outside the regulations of Open Meetings. When pressed for minutes of their meetings, County Board Administrator Deb Busey claimed that the group never met and therefore had no minutes.
The Public= “Lunatic Fringe”
In the last week, documents acquired by a Freedom Of Information Act request have revealed a number of troubling communications exchanged by members of the Jail Space Improvement Project Planning Team. The Team is the Champaign County Board's primary representative to County staff on the jail issue. Among these documents are emails exchanged by County Administrator Deb Busey and County Sheriff Dan Walsh which site projected costs as well as specific numbers concerning bonds to be issued backed by the Public Safety Sales Tax.
Clearly the word is getting out that the County Board intends to spend $20 million dollars on unneeded jail cells. At each Board meeting, opposition mounts. This week, Tuesday, March 17, at the justice committee meeting of the County Board, three issues rose to the fore. First came the fallout from State’s Attorney Julia Reitz’ comment the previous week that there was no need to include a “token” minority on an all-white jail space improvement team which has the major decision-making power over any construction project. Both Aaron Ammons and Martel Miller called for Reitz to step down from that committee. They also called for further investigation into the reasons why African-Americans make up more than 50% of the county jail population.
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