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You can tell state lawmakers what you think will solve SIU’s ‘turmoil.’ Here’s how.
Belleville News Democrat
Wednesday, August 15, 2018  |   Article  |   By Lexi Cortes
Education--Higher (37) Welch, Emanuel "Chris"--State House, 7
A state lawmaker from Cook County is planning trips to Edwardsville and Carbondale to hear from people about the future of the Southern Illinois University system.

SIU recently lost its president and is the subject of state legislation to split its campuses.

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, said in a news release that he is bringing a legislative panel to Southern Illinois to get feedback on the challenges and possible solutions for SIU.

Welch is the chairman of the Illinois House Higher Education Committee.

He will be at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville at 10 a.m. Aug. 21. His visit to Carbondale’s campus is scheduled for 1 p.m. Aug. 20.

Former SIU President Randy Dunn and the SIU board of trustees mutually agreed to part ways in July.

J. Kevin Dorsey, a former dean of the SIU School of Medicine, was appointed to temporarily replace Dunn.

Calls to split the university system started after trustees rejected a proposal to send about $5.1 million of Carbondale’s state funding to Edwardsville back in April.

Supporters of the proposal said SIUE should have more money because its enrollment is nearly the same as SIUC’s. Opponents argued that shifting money away from SIUC would harm the local and regional economies, as well as the Carbondale campus.

“The turmoil seen at SIU these last few months is unfortunate, and it only further underscores the need for us to meet with everyone involved and think very carefully about the best path forward — not only for the SIU community, but for all of higher education in Illinois,” Welch stated in the release.

“I am looking forward to two days of hearings on the pros and cons of various proposals that will undoubtedly help us understand the challenges at SIU better and determine the best ways we can help.”


Williamson County commissioner says GOP applied heavy pressure to get gun measure on ballot
Carbondale Southern Illinoisan
Wednesday, August 15, 2018  |   Article  |   ISAAC SMITH The Southern
Candidates--Legislative (11) Fowler, Dale--State Senate, 59 , Severin, Dave--State House, 117

MARION — A Williamson County commissioner says the push for a gun control advisory question on November’s ballot has nothing to do with letting the voters speak and everything to do with heavy-handed Springfield politics.

Commissioner Ron Ellis said when the Williamson County Board first started talking in June about letting the voters decide if the board should oppose specific gun control bills that were being debated in Springfield, he was all for it. In fact, the three-person board voted unanimously to put the question on the ballot, they just had to finalize the language.

That is where things began to go off the rails, Ellis said.

When the agenda came out for the board’s July 26 meeting, it called for a discussion regarding language for the November advisory question. The language had changed considerably from what some board members thought it would be.

The proposed question as it was presented to the board at that meeting read: “Shall the Williamson County Board of Commissioners pass a resolution that opposes any gun control legislation in the Illinois General Assembly?”

Brent Gentry, the board’s only Democrat, said the question shifted from opposing five specific bills — some of which deal with wait periods for purchasing certain weapons while others banned the possession of certain gun accessories like bump stocks — to opposing any gun control legislation at all. He said he wouldn’t stand for that, and questioned whether or not the resolution on the agenda would even pass.

After a story in The Southern on July 25 that outlined Gentry’s concerns, Ellis said he got a curious text message.

“Sorry for just now contacting you guys about this, I was under the impression this was decided on when the board passed it last month. Wanted to let you know how important this is to myself and Dale's campaign, and the other Republicans running,” read the message, which appeared to come from State Rep. Dave Severin’s cellphone.

“The statewide Republican operation is going to use paid advertisement to target Republican voters with this referendum to turn them out and vote for all of us.

“It's my understanding (Williamson County State’s Attorney Brandon) Zanotti is trying to throw a wrench into a winning issue for you guys and all GOP. I don't blame him but we can't let him do it. I would very much appreciate this initiative on the ballot and am thankful for your work to get it there. Please give me a call if you have any questions!”

Ellis said it was then that he realized what this effort really was — a political football. He said he read Severin’s message three times and what he realized made him angry — Ellis said he was not fond of “putting Williamson County citizens in the middle” of a political fight playing out in Springfield and Chicago.

“That’s what really infuriates me, to be used as gimmick,” he said of the push to get voters to the polls.

The next day, the motion to approve the question died after it was presented by board President Jim Marlo — it did not get a second from either Ellis or Gentry. Both have said they did not agree with the word “any,” saying there can be some good gun control legislation, and they don’t want to be seen as standing in the way of that. On top of that, Ellis said he just did not like the apparent gamesmanship.

Ellis said that board meeting put the political machine in top gear, and the pressure was on him particularly. He said he got a call from Joe Hackler, the Southern Illinois director for Citizens for Rauner Inc., about his support of the measure.

“I was literally told that if I didn’t put this on the ballot that there would be repercussions,” Ellis said. He said he later heard from a local Republican official that if he wasn’t careful, it was possible there could be a smear campaign launched against him for standing up to Springfield, making his political life very difficult in the future.

“I was told later … that they would put press releases out against me, make me out to be anti-gun, that I was NOT a true Republican and make sure that someone ran against me in the primary in two years,” Ellis said in a text message to The Southern on Monday.

That made him dig his heels in even more.

“I am not going to succumb to a lot of political pressure,” he said.

Ellis said it’s disappointing. Under normal circumstances, he said, he would love to vote for this advisory question, but he resents the political chess game — he described it as “politics at its worst.”

When asked about whether the Rauner campaign had indeed reached out to local Republicans to push ballot measures against gun control, Alex Browning, the press secretary for Citizens for Rauner, provided the following statement in an email: "Our team is always working with local officials on issues that matter to them."

When asked about alleged threats of repercussions by Hackler, Browning doubled down.

"Our team is always working with local officials and grassroots leaders to assist them in advocating for policies that matter to them most. These efforts are directed by local leaders, our campaign provides support," he wrote in an email Tuesday.

Severin, too, denied that the cascade of counties passing resolutions and putting advisory questions on the November ballot was anything but grassroots. He said he had stayed hands off.

“I haven’t pushed it,” he said, despite the lengthy text message apparently sent from his phone weeks before.

However, on Monday, Severin and State Sen. Dale Fowler sent a joint news release throwing their support behind the advisory question, pointing to several other Southern Illinois counties that will have a gun control question on the ballot.

“Rep. Severin and Sen. Fowler are asking Williamson County to finish the job they started and join these other counties in giving voice to the rights of gun owners,” the release read.

According to the release, “Sen. Fowler hopes the Williamson County Board will follow through on their plans to give this opportunity to voters.”

This does not line up with reality as Ellis sees it.

“It’s being used as a mechanism to bring people to polls,” he said.

Ellis said if the governor’s office and other Republican leaders in Springfield truly want to put the question to the people, why not put the question on all 102 county ballots and call for a constitutional amendment? This, he said, would have real weight behind it, unlike the suggested referendums that he said fall on deaf ears once they reach the statehouse.

Ellis said he has a meeting scheduled Thursday with both local and state Republican leaders in what he said might be coined a “come to Jesus” moment. But, he said he won’t back down.

There is a special Williamson County Board meeting set for Friday — a last-ditch effort to vote the question onto the ballot before the Aug. 20 deadline. A Facebook event sponsored by Severin, Illinois Carry and the Illinois State Rifle Association popped up Monday urging gun advocates to attend the meeting and voice their support for the November advisory question.

“There is an effort to try and get the board to not put a gun referendum question on the November ballot. Let’s show up and make sure they know we want to have our voice heard on gun control at the ballot box,” the event description reads in part.

Despite the pressure, Ellis and Gentry said under no circumstances would they provide a second for the motion.


Morning Spin
Chicago Tribune
Wednesday, August 15, 2018  |   Editorial  |   Editorial Board
Rauner, Bruce , State Fair, Fairs

Gov. Bruce Rauner and his Republican Party on Wednesday get their day at the Illinois State Fair, an annual ritual that draws politicians from across the state for long speeches, large livestock and lots of food on sticks.

Rauner typically rides his Harley to the festivities, which could largely serve as a rally for his re-election bid as he tries to unify the party ahead of the November contest against Democrat J.B. Pritzker and Conservative Party candidate Sen. Sam McCann.

On Tuesday, the governor’s family foundation gave $1 million to the private group set up to pay for improvements at the dilapidated fairgrounds. The money will go toward fixing the fair’s showpiece Coliseum and renaming it as “The People’s Coliseum,” according to Rauner’s office.

Previously, fair foundation organizers had said they raised about $100,000 in two years — far short of its goal of $2 million to $3 million per year. And they estimate $180 million is needed to repair and maintain the historic Springfield fairgrounds.

The governor is set to take questions from reporters Wednesday. Rauner last year ripped President Donald Trump, saying he “vehemently” disagreed with the president’s comments about the deadly protest in Charlottesville and that Trump’s remarks “damage America.”

Democrats get their day at the fair Thursday, when former Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to appear. But his visit was called off because “he is sick and is under doctor’s orders not to travel,” Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association President Doug House said in a statement Tuesday evening.

“The cancellation is of course disappointing, but it is clear that the circumstances are simply unavoidable,” House said in a statement. “We all hope he gets well soon and I’m sure he’ll be back campaigning for Democrats in Illinois and across the country in no time.”

What’s on tap

*Mayor Rahm Emanuel will speak about neighborhood economic development at Ellis Park.

*Gov. Rauner will attend Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair.

*Democrat J.B. Pritzker will make bus tour stops in Bloomington, Champaign and Decatur.

From the notebook

*Emanuel invokes Trump in campaign email: In an email sent from his campaign Tuesday, Mayor Emanuel invoked his ongoing battle against President Trump in a plea for campaign volunteers.

Not surprisingly, Emanuel played up his fight against the Trump administration on immigration issues.

“Chicago is a great city because we embrace our unique backgrounds and cultures. Ours is a city built by immigrants. We thrive thanks to our diversity. That’s why, as long as President Trump continues to push his anti-immigrant agenda, we will stand up to protect all of our friends and neighbors,” the email reads.

Emanuel’s email, entitled “Standing up to Trump,” differs from those sent by many of his opponents. In addition to asking for volunteers, he also seeks campaign contributions. That’s a reflection of how well-funded Emanuel’s campaign is already and how little it relies on small donations. So far, Emanuel has raised more than $10 million toward a third term, most of it from deep-pocketed donors or unions.

All of the mayoral campaigns are ramping up their volunteer efforts as they can begin this month collecting petition signatures to get on the ballot. The petitions are due in November. (Bill Ruthhart)

What we’re writing

*ACLU, Black Lives Matter say plans to reform the Chicago police don't go far enough.

*Madigan sues Trump Tower for violating clean water laws intended to protect Chicago River fish.

*Mayoral hopeful Vallas calls possible $10 billion pension payoff “irresponsible.”

*The number of “structurally deficient” bridges in Illinois is growing, building group says.

*Chicago-area manufacturer to lay off 150 as it moves operations to Mexico, in part to avoid tariffs on Chinese metal.

What we’re reading

*Judge orders Laquan McDonald's mom to testify at hearing or be barred from Van Dyke's trial.

*Comedian Kevin Hart to run in Chicago Marathon.

*Northwestern Memorial ranked best hospital in Illinois.

*Smashing Pumpkins review: United Center show a bounty of works transcending nostalgia.

Follow the money

*Track Illinois campaign contributions in real time here and here.

Beyond Chicago

*Pennsylvania grand jury report reveals more than 300 cases of Catholic clergy sex abuse.

*Manafort defense team calls no witnesses.

*Trump staffers scared of Omarosa tapes.

*Sanders “can’t guarantee” there’s no audio of Trump using the n-word.


SIU Board of Trustees moves forward with allocation study, approves Buys and Balkansky as interim deans
Daily Egyptian SIUC
Wednesday, August 15, 2018  |   Article  |   By Brian Munoz, Staff Reporter
The SIU Board of Trustees will be moving forward with a request for proposals on a system funding allocation study using an informal process that gives the board and the university more input.

After discussion with the Amy Sholar, SIU Board of Trustees chair, creating an request for proposal by Aug. 1 and presenting multiple potential consultants to the board at the Sept. meeting was considered “as important additional objective,” according to the progress report created by Duane Stucky, Senior Vice President for Financial and Administrative Affairs.

Bids must be $99,999 or less, according to the board agenda attachments.  

Three consulting contractors were identified as prospective candidates for the study: MGT Consulting Group, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.

By Aug. 6, the board is to seek suggestions from the National Association of System Heads membership on additional potential consultants. By Aug. 10 or before, the board is to seek suggestions from chancellors and Deans and Provosts on additional potential consultants and request to serve to evaluate consultant responses. By Aug. 15, the board is to send a request for proposals to potential consultants for responses by Aug. 31.

By Sept. 3, the board is to send consultant proposals to chancellors and Dean/Provost with the individual committee member rating to be completed by Sept. 7. By Sept. 8, ratings will be reviewed with the President.

At the next board meeting on Sept. 12-13, there will be a report of ratings for each consultant by each individual committee member, coded to stay anonymous, and a combined rating of each consultant will be given.

The call for a funding study

When asked about any potential investigations in the roles that various administrators, system staff and board members played after the release of nearly 1,900 pages of correspondence that show an attempt to shift over $5 million from Carbondale to Edwardsville and the creation of legislation that would dissolve the system, Interim SIU President J. Kevin Dorsey said “that was the past.”

See more: Dunn removed as SIU President after attempt in dissolving university system

“I’m more concerned in moving the university forward,” Dorsey said. “I’m not interested interested in rehashing what may or may not happened.”

Appointments

Members of the board also unanimously voted to appoint Cindy Buys as the interim dean for the School of Law.

Andrew Balkansky as the interim dean for the College of Liberal Arts, with all trustees voting in favor besides student trustee Brione Lockett.

Both candidates were selected by Meera Komarraju, Interim Provost, in consultation with the SIU Chancellor Carlo Montemagno.

Balkansky will be paid $171,900 annually and Buys will be paid $222,000 annually beginning on Aug. 15.

Faculty, staff and students in the both the candidate’s schools had the opportunity to provide feedback on nominees for the interim dean position, according to appointment notes.  

Lockett questioned Montemagno on the role of student involvement in the appointment of Balkansky as the interim dean of COLA.

Interim provost Meera Komarraju ran to the chancellor’s side repeatedly during the series of questions from the board and whispered into the chancellor’s ear.

After being asked Sholar to step to the speaking podium, Komarraju said students were given the platform to provide feedback on the matter but did not answer whether or not students gave feedback.

Sholar asked Komarraju if the same process is taken in the appointment of an interim dean as a regular dean, Komarraju replied yes.

The Daily Egyptian reached out to the undergraduate and graduate student members of the College of Liberal Arts Council and the responses received at the time of publishing indicated that they had not been involved, despite being required to be by the College of Liberal Arts Operating Papers.

A letter, signed by eight current and former faculty and staff in the Anthropology department, including the current department chair, was written in opposition of Balkansky hiring claiming that he has been abusive to both colleagues and students.

“Dr. Balkansky has become renown among faculty and graduate students for his aggressive outbursts during M.A. thesis and Ph.D. dissertation defenses as well as his vindictive persecution of students he wanted purged from the department,” according to the letter obtained by the Daily Egyptian.

The letter also claims that Balkansky also carried out an effort to “undermine and destroy the reputation of an international master’s student from Latin America.”

“The reasons behind Dr. Balkansky campaign of harassment against the student now appear to have been based on interpersonal matters having nothing to do with the student’s professional or intellectual performance,” according to the letter.

Komarraju said the letter had been withdrawn yet Roberto Barrios, assistant professor in Anthropology and one of the letters signees, said he had not been contacted about anyone in administration about withdrawing the letter. 

Presidential Search and System Evaluation

The SIU Board of Trustees is in the process of hiring St. Louis based legal firm Bryan Cave LLP and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges to 

Sholar said historically, the presidential search has taken around seven months to complete but could be longer.

“I think the key thing that the entire board felt was let’s get it right rather than do it fast,” Dorsey said.

AGB will be at the September board meeting to conduct an assessment of the meeting and then present at the same meeting then again in December. The group’s focus will be more on board governance, according to Sholar.

Bryan Cave LLP is handling the system evaluation and a management audit through interviews with board members, management, the system office and the chancellors among other positions, Sholar said.

Each contract is not to be less than $100,000 to follow state procurement law, Sholar said.

The board also passed the purchase of a new digital color press for $882,218.70.

The Ameren Illinois easement agenda item to construct an underground gas pipeline that would cross property on the Edwardsville campus was taken off of the agenda.

Atmosphere

Sholar said the atmosphere was “night and day” compared to the last meeting.

“I also don’t want to focus on the past, I want to move us forward,” Sholar said. “We have some tasks at hand that are monumental. We have to pick a new president to lead our system.”

Sholar said there is work to do at each campus and the system office.

“You can’t sell your house until you spruce it up,” Sholar said. “We need to do some house cleaning – we’re looking internally to make changes… so moving forward we can serve the system at our best.”

Dorsey said this was the first board meeting he has attended in more than two and a half years.

“This just felt so normal,” Dorsey said. “It was just a collegial group of people that we collectively needed to work on – it was fine.”

The next SIU Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13 at the Edwardsville campus.

 

© 2018 Daily Egyptian

 

 


IT study: MI election performance drops, OH & IL increase, MN stays at 2
Illinois Watchdog.Org
Wednesday, August 15, 2018  |   Article  |   By Tyler Arnold
Election Issues (not candidates) (39)
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently released its rankings of how well each state facilitated its elections in 2016. There were a number of fluctuations in Midwest states from the 2012 results.

Most notably, Illinois moved up from 20 to seven in the ranking, Ohio moved up from 24 to 21, Michigan dropped from six to 23, South Dakota dropped from 29 to 45 and Wisconsin dropped from three to nine. Minnesota remained strong at two. The rest of the results can be found on MIT’s website.

The study is designed to demonstrate how accommodating each state is to its voters in each presidential election. It focused on 17 indicators, which included online registration availability, voter turnout, voting weight time, mail ballots rejected and disability or illness-related voting problems. Each indicator was weighted equally.

Although 40 states and the District of Columbia all improved in their overall score, many states that improved at a slower rate than other states dropped in their overall ranking.

Minnesota: 2

Minnesota received an 84 percent in its overall score, which was just 2 percent behind first-place Vermont. The state led the country in voter turnout and ranked in the top five in voter registration rate, fewest registrations rejected and fewest registration or absentee ballot problems. The two top areas of improvement for the state were reducing disability and illness-related problems and reducing mail ballot rejections.

Illinois: 7

Illinois received an 81 percent score overall. The state’s highest ranking was voter registration rate, which ranked seven. However, the state drastically improved on a number of issues, such as making online voter registration available, increasing turnout, reducing the number of election-related problems and reducing wait time.

Wisconsin: 9

Wisconsin also received an 81 percent score overall. The state ranked in the top five in fewest military and overseas ballots rejected, fewest registration or absentee ballot problems and voter turnout. Some of its biggest improvements were making online voter registration available and reducing disability or illness-related voting problems. However, the state dropped in seven of the 17 categories, including turnout, voter registration rate and registration or absentee ballot problems.

Ohi 21

Ohio received an overall score of 77 percent. The state ranked in the top 20 in four categories, which included reducing unreturned mail ballots and military and overseas ballot problems. The state improved in 11 categories, which included making online voter registration available and reducing problems and ballot rejections.

“The way we run elections in Ohio has improved year after year because elections officials at every level have been committed to innovative, common sense reforms and making it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” Ohio Secretary of State John Husted said in a news release regarding the results. “In fact, everything we’ve done to improve our elections – including online registration and change of address, expanding ballot access, ballot tracking, and cutting down wait times on Election Day – has resulted in a better experience for voters.”

Michigan: 23

Michigan received an overall score of 76 percent. However, the state still ranked in the top 10 in five different categories. These categories included registration rate, provisional ballots cast and a reduction in provisional ballots rejected and registrations rejected. However, a big hit was that the state stopped requiring post-election audits, saw an increase in mail ballots unreturned and had a decrease in the voter registration rate. The state also improved on eight issues, which included voter turnout and a reduction in voter waiting time.


Politically connected former employees sue to get state jobs back
Illinois Watchdog.Org
Wednesday, August 15, 2018  |   Column  |   By Cole Lauterbach
Governor (44) , Unions, labor (55)
A group of politically connected state employees are suing Gov. Bruce Rauner to get their jobs back after the governor had them fired.

The eight employees were identified by an Executive Inspector General’s report as political patronage hires from the Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn administrations. Rauner fired them and others in 2017 in a push to end the practice at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The employees in question had transferred from politically sensitive “staff assistant” jobs, called Rutan-exempt, to positions within IDOT that were part of a collectively bargained contract that had union protections. Rauner argued that the employees shouldn’t have union protections.

The fired employees filed a federal lawsuit against Rauner and IDOT, claiming the termination infringed on their First Amendment rights of free speech.

Springfield attorney Don Craven, who is representing the former employees in court, said the governor acknowledged that they were fired for their political connections.

“When [the employees] were moved from the Division of Traffic Safety, the department didn’t rewrite their job descriptions and they used that pretense as a means to fire these employees,” he said. “But the governor later said in a response to an OEIG report that they were terminated because they were hired by a previous governor.”

When Rauner asked a judge in May 2017 for the authority to fire these employees, experts said it put the union representing them in a sticky situation. On one hand, the union was defending members from termination. On the other hand, the union was protecting political hires in positions that could otherwise go to legacy union workers that may have had more seniority, thus been entitled to the jobs under union rules.

The former employees are seeking reinstatement, back-pay, and seniority positions as if they were never fired, Craven said. Seniority would offer more perks in the union jobs and leverage over other state employees that may have been working since their firing, pushing them “down the list” in seniority.  

Rauner’s office wasn’t immediately available to comment Tuesday, but representatives have said they’re working with the Executive Inspector General’s office to clean up the corrupt system left by previous governors.