Pontiac town hall coming up Tuesday; Calls for DCFS Director to resign

Reminder: Pontiac Correctional Center town hall is Tuesday May 10

On Tuesday May 10 Senator Jason Barickman and I will be hosting a town hall meeting for members of the public to discuss the latest news about the Pontiac Correctional Center. The event is at Pontiac Township High School, 1100 E. Indiana Avenue, from 6:30 until 8 p.m. and is open to the public.

Since February there have been a lot of questions in our community about the Pontiac Correctional Center, which is one of our largest employers. Inmates were moved from the facility in the middle of the night with no notice to the public. The Department of Corrections (DOC) has stated that it has no plans to close the facility or to lay anyone off, but many questions about the prison’s future remain unanswered, and the communication from DOC has been very poor. We invite everyone to come and make your voice heard.

House Republican leader calls on Director of DCFS to step down

Marc Smith, the Director of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has been held in contempt nine times this year due to the department’s failure to protect children in DCFS custody. This contempt citation came as a result of DCFS improperly placing children or keeping them in psychiatric care facilities long after there is any medical necessity for doing so. Reasons for previous citations have included DCFS’ moving of one teenage girl 21 times since last September after DCFS failed to follow the judge’s order to place her in a residential facility.

DCFS caseworkers have the critically important role of protecting the most endangered children in Illinois, and they perform these duties under extremely difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances. That the leadership of the agency could fail so terribly is a serious problem for the people of Illinois. A few days ago House Republican Leader Jim Durkin called on Director Smith to step down in response to the repeated citations.

Employment in our area faring slightly better than other regions

The Illinois Department of Employment Security has released a breakdown of unemployment by metropolitan regions in Illinois and it found that our area is doing a little better than other parts of the state. Illinois’ unemployment has been in a gradual decline since the worst days of the pandemic lockdowns, but has trailed other states and the nation as a whole due to our unfriendly business climate.

The Bloomington region had the largest gain in jobs compared to last year, a 6.6% increase. The unemployment rate fell from 5.2% last year to 3.7% this year, the lowest of any region of the state, and a full percentage point better than the statewide unemployment rate of 4.7%. The Champaign region was only slightly behind, with an unemployment rate of 3.8%. Numbers in the Kankakee area were not as good, with the unemployment rate in that area standing at 6.0%, but that is an improvement from last year when unemployment was 7.7%.

The highest unemployment in Illinois is found in the Rockford area, which comes in at 8.5%. Rockford was the only area to see an increase from last year. Decatur was next highest at 6.8%. In all, Illinois added 241,200 jobs over the course of the past year, with 177,600 of them located in the Chicago area.

Honoring DAR award winners

The Governor Thomas Ford Chapter National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) held their awards program Sunday afternoon in the Roberts gymnasium. More than 150 people were in attendance including over 20 award winners, families and friends. Thank you to the GCMS, PBL and Tri-Point school districts for supporting this program and promoting good citizenship and understanding of American history. Thank you to Joyce Schmale and her entire team for putting this wonderful program together! Well done!  

Department of Public Health introduces tick-tracking map for summer activities

Now that the weather is finally warming up, many of us are getting outdoors and into the fields and the woods. But with this springtime activity comes the danger of tick bites which can carry disease. Remember to check for ticks after spending time outdoors in nature, and remember also to check children and even pets.

To help protect Illinoisans from tick-borne illnesses, the Illinois Department of Public Health has rolled out a tick-tracking map to show where certain ticks are usually found and what kind of dangers to beware of. Different species of ticks have been detected in most of the counties of our area and throughout the state.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $2,496,986,514 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $3.8 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $141 billion.

Did You Know?

May 6 is the anniversary of the 1937 crash of the airship Hindenburg at Lakehurst, New Jersey. The crash which killed 36 people is remembered today for the dramatic radio broadcast by Herb Morrison in which he cried “Oh the humanity!” Morrison was at Lakehurst because an Illinois radio station had sent him to cover the arrival of the Hindenburg. He was a reporter for WLS radio in Chicago where he hosted hourly news breaks during programming. Morrison left WLS a few years later and joined the Army Air Force during World War II.

More news from around the state

Illinois State’s Attorneys predict consequences from the SAFE-T Act

Rising diesel prices clobbering Illinois trucking companies

Planting remains behind schedule in Illinois

Vermilion County War Museum sets Armed Forces Day open house

Illinois nurse on vacation performs CPR, saving a man who turned out to be from Illinois

Bee-ware of pollinators when using pesticides