Charlie Schlenker | WGLT

Charlie Schlenker

News Director

GLT News Director Charlie Schlenker grew up in Rock Island, Illinois and graduated from Augustana College. He has spent more than three decades in radio and has won numerous state and national awards for journalism. He lives in Normal with his family.

Northeast Normal will have a vacancy on the McLean County Board. Republican Sonny O'Connor is moving to be near grandchildren. She said in her final speech to the board that after a nephew showed her around the university in his southeast Texas town, O'Connor found a project to work on.

O'Connor told the Board she has spent 52 years in Bloomington-Normal.

O'Connor served seven years on the County Board in two different stretches. The seat will be filled by appointment until next year's election.

A 50-year old man arrested for soliciting an underage boy for sex in Decatur is a recent applicant to be McLean County Coroner. Police reports indicate Vincent C. Peters was arrested after allegedly posting an ad on Craiglist seeking a young male for sex. Peters was arrested after an on line conversation with a Decatur Police Detective posing as a fifteen year old boy led to a physical meeting.

Officers say Peters acknowledged he intended to meet the boy for sex. His current residence is in Clinton but he listed a Bloomington residence last year on his application to be Coroner.

Finding affordable housing is a growing problem in Bloomington Normal. Laura Furlong is the CEO of MarcFirst and a member of a study panel on the issue for the League of Women Voters.

A McLean County League of Women Voters study suggests home ownership is declining and the amount of money people pay for rent is more stressful now than it was fifteen years ago. There has been an 18% increase in the share of income needed to afford a three bedroom apartment over the last fifteen years.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he has pronounced doubts about U.S. attempts to bolster one side or another in the Syrian conflict. Durbin spoke to reporters recently after a trip to Greece. The Illinois Democrats says only the most minimal of military aid is being contemplated, and that is not likely to produce a difference in the struggle.

A new survey shows more than three-quarters of Illinois human service agencies have cut programs and are serving fewer clients because of the state's budget crisis. Almost one-third say they could run out of money in one month or less.  

The United Way of Illinois has released findings of a survey of 544 agencies statewide.  They say the responses show the situation is worsening for agencies and the people who rely on them as the budget impasse stretches on. 

United Way officials were joined by business and labor leaders who called on lawmakers to find a resolution.  

Home sales in Bloomington Normal were up 21% last month from September of a year ago. The Association of Realtors also says through three quarters of the year, home sales are up 7.6%. Growth for the third quarter slowed from previous quarters this year. Third quarter sales increased just under 4% as the area absorbed news of the coming Mitsubishi plant shutdown.

The average price of a home sold has increased slightly for the year and for the month.

Sales of new homes remain a very small part of the total. All of the growth last month was in sales of existing homes.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin appears reluctant to boost American military aid to Ukraine too much. Speaking to reporters after a trip to the eastern European nation, Durbin acknowledged that the Ukrainians are crying out for American Javelin anti-tank missiles to combat Russian armor. But, Durbin says the Obama administration does not believe those would make a difference. Durbin says the U.S. does not want to give Russian President Vladimir Putin a pretext to escalate.

Six catholic parishes have banded together to continue the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen in Bloomington. It appeared last week the decades old institution would close with the coming retirement of its director Tina Sipula. The last day for the soup kitchen was to have been November 24th. Sipula also operates the Clare House food pantry. She had been unable to find new sponsors for either social service outlet. Service providers say they believe other food pantries in the twin cities can make up that need.

Governor Bruce Rauner had $58.3 million dollars in income last year. The Republican has released tax returns for 2014, showing he paid more than $18 million in federal and state taxes.

His effective Federal tax rate was about 26%. His overall effective rate was 31%

The Rauner family foundation also gave more than $3.3 million to charity.

Indiana University

Bradley University's new President is a respected legal scholar, attorney, and graduate of the Peoria school. Gary Roberts is currently Dean Emeritus and a law school professor at Indiana University. He is an expert on anti trust and sports law.

Bradley Trustees Chair Dout Stewart says Roberts is a forward thinking, innovative, and proven leader. Roberts replaces Joanne Glasser, who retired earlier this year.

Roberts will take over January first from interim President Stan Liberty.

Graham Beard / Wikimedia Commons

Mumps have not subsided in Bloomington Normal. The McLean County Health Department has issued a notice that Normal Community High School is the site of the latest cluster of related mumps cases. Outbreaks were reported earlier at University High School, Normal West, BHS, Heartland Community College and ISU.

The health department says the latest total is 36 positive cases. There could be more because the time between exposure to the disease and the appearance of symptoms is between 12 and 25 days. And people with the virus can be infectious before they show symptoms.

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Worries about layoffs at Caterpillar have yet to take energy out of the Peoria home sales market. Becky Peterson is the President of the Peoria Area Association of Realtors.

"It has been the highest level in the past eight years. It is not since 2007 that we have had as many homes sold. Sales gained 9.2% from sales a year ago."

Congressman Rodney Davis says he approves of President Obama's decision to slow withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Afghanistan. Speaking to reporters on a conference call, the Republican Davis said keeping 9,800 troops there until late next year is in the country's interests.

"I think the disastrous results of what we saw from his drawdown in Iraq may have prompted this and I gotta give him kudos for making a decision that philosophically he never thought he would make when he was running for that office."

If former Congressman Aaron Schock keeps spending money on lawyers at this rate, his campaign fund will be out of money by the next quarterly filing period. The most recend Federal Election Commission report shows the Peoria Republican spent $900,000 in legal fees in the third quarter and still owes $747,000. He has less than $1.2 million cash on hand. Since Schock resigned under an ethics cloud and a grand jury investigation into his personal and campaign financial dealings, Schock has spent nearly $2.7 million on lawyers.

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U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says the large amounts of humanitarian aid the U.S. is sending to help Syrian refugees is not enough. During a conference call with reporters, the Illinois Democrat said people he met during a trip to  the Greek island of Lesbos convinced him this country should take in 100,000 refugees from the conflict.

Durbin says in four years of the Syrian war the U.S. has so far taken about 2,000 refugees from that country even though the nation accepts 70,000 refugees a year in total.

Devyn Corp., Tarter Construction, Farnsworth Group

The potential developer of a boutique hotel in downtown Bloomington has a complex legal history with the city. David Bently has extensive holdings in the downtown area and recently bought the Pantagraph Newspaper building. But, speaking on GLT's Sound Ideas Mayor Tari Renner says the city would have to be cautious in entering into an agreement with Bently.

Bently has so far been unsuccessful in a suit over the city's distribution of Tax Increment Financing District money, though that has been appealed to the state supreme court.

McLean County Museum of History

The Central Illinois Regional Airport now has a piece of McLean County aviation history on display. The airport and County Museum of History have hung the Tilbury Flash racing airplane in a concourse. Museum Curator Susan Hartzold says engineer Owen Tilbury invented the Flash in the 1930s.

Brad Basham Photography/

Quiet unsexy policy priorities can shape a city. In GLT's final interview focusing on the Normal 1-5-0 celebration, we unravel some of the choices made in recent decades that are shaping the town's present and future. Charlie Schlenker talks with the town's Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich who says the 1-2% annual population growth the town experienced posed challenges and presented opportunities.

Illinois State University

     Illinois State University will be trying to help at risk youth become productive adults. Ani Yazedjian is the Chair of ISU's Family and Consumer Sciences Department. She says a five million dollar federal grant over five years will allow intensive training on a variety of topics for low income people in Champaign County ages 15-24.

Other training includes job readiness, and financial literacy. There are also community college tuition waivers available.

Yazedjian says similar grants for teen parents in Texas improved outcomes and economic stability.

A Bloomington Normal swimmer has won female swimmer of the year in Illinois. Grace Ariola also won best female performance of the year, a 100 meter backstroke time of one minute and 62 hundredths of a second. In the last five years, Ariola has reduced her time in that event by more than 12 seconds. The teenager has also qualified for next year's Olympic Trials. Ariola swims for the WAVES team at the Bloomington YMCA.

Ariola and her WAVES team mate Melissa Pish were on the U.S. National Junior team that competed in Singapore.

Illinois State University

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. The information age has opened new possibilities of both establishing relationships with other people and abusing them. The Virtual Enemy is a new book co-authored by Shelly Clevenger of Illinois State University. It focuses on the relationships of intimate partners and cyber-crime.

Lincoln College in Normal is losing several certificate and bachelors programs as the institution reorganizes with more programs moving to the Lincoln campus. It's part of what President David Gerlach calls a $7.6 million reinvestment campaign for the 150 year old school.

Lincoln College will stop offering Esthetics, Cosmetology, teacher training, and massage therapy certifications in Normal. Degree programs in Criminal Justice, Business, and Sports Management will move from Normal to Lincoln. Four jobs will also move and the college has eliminated 13 jobs.

After scrapping a planned strike authorization vote, leaders of the union covering workers at the Mitsubishi plant in Normal have set an informational meeting on Sunday for members. The meeting will run from two to four p.m. on Sunday at Parkside Junior High in Normal.

The company earlier this year announced plans to end production of the Outlander Sport and close the plant next May if it cannot find a buyer.

The Sierra Club is blasting the Illinois Pollution Control Board for what it calls permissive emissions standards for a Tazewell County coal fired power plant. The environmental group says the U.S. EPA has designated the air in parts of Tazewell and Peoria Counties as unsafe to breathe because of high levels of sulfur dioxide pollution. The major source in the non-attainment area is the Powerton plant near Pekin.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner says the standoff over a state budget "could go on for a while" but his administration is prepared to continue managing state finances without one. The Republican spoke Friday following a manufacturing expo in Effingham.  

He says he remains committed to getting Democrats to approve some of his pro-business agenda. He repeated that if Democrats don't want to work with him they can balance the budget _ by passing a tax increase _ without his support.  

There was an unprecedented sustained level of growth in the Town of Normal between 1967 and 1993. As part of the Normal 1-5-0 celebration, GLT's Charlie Schlenker talks with two of the leaders who oversaw that era, retired City Manager Dave Anderson and former Mayor Paul Harmon about the several causes of that boom.

The panel discussion about the boom years of Normal will be Sunday afternoon at Uptown Station (2p)

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

If the early look at Bloomington Aldermen is a guide, outsourcing golf courses and recovering costs from the downtown police hireback program for high volume nights in the bar district will be priority items as the city cuts its budget. Whether or how to fund the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts also came up as a potential cut during an informal discussion of prioritizing budget task force recommendations. Alderman Scott Black says it's important to look at the BCPA early in process even it it makes it more likely to be cut.

Mitsubishi Workers have scheduled a strike authorization vote tomorrow. This is in spite of plans to end production in the plant in late November and to close the facility next May. The UAW Local 2488 Facebook page posted the vote announcement this morning. The company and union have extended the existing contract twice, once for more than a month and more recently for a couple days. The pact sunsets tomorrow night. A strike authorization does not guarantee a walkout.

After nearly four decades entertaining people with dinner theater, the Barn II near Goodfield has closed. The facility had been open since Halloween of 1975. Owner Mary Simon says an insurance company has denied a storm damage claim after wind went through the facility in August. A structural engineer says the former cattle barn is not repairable. And without insurance money, Simon says the Barn productions cannot afford to relocate to Morton.

The search for Illinois' next Auditor General has been narrowed to a field of four. That includes a pair of state lawmakers --- both Democratic members of the Illinois House: Frank Mautino of Spring Valley and Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook. A legislative commission will endorse one of the finalists ... and forward that name to the full General Assembly ... which gets to vote on the final choice. The current state auditor is retiring at the end of the year.