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Latest Blog Entries

Published: 23 weeks 5 days ago

By Pam G. Dempsey/

An extradition hearing is scheduled next week for one of the two local landlords who manage the Cherry Orchard housing complex south of Rantoul.

Bernard Ramos was arrested by Washington D.C. police April 10 on two civil contempt warrants issued by Champaign County last year.

The pair was sought by police after they failed to appear at hearings in connection with a broken septic system at the Cherry Orchard property. The complex typically houses migrant workers in the summer. Last April, The Ramoses were fined more than $54,000 for failing to legally connect and repair the septic system and ordered to close down the property.

Bernard Ramos refused extradition and was released on a $5,000 cash bond. He is due back in a D.C. court Wednesday. The Champaign County Sheriff’s Office typically seeks a governor’s warrant in cases where defendants do not waive extradition. If granted, then Bernard Ramos...

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Published: 24 weeks 5 days ago

 This week, spent some time with the folks at the University of Illinois’ Sustainability office as part of this Workshop on Healthy Partnerships for a Thriving Champaign-Urbana: A University-Community Dialogue for Green Jobs and Entrepreneurship,

The program was spurred by the works of Majora Carter (@majoracarter), who facilitated conversations across a two-day event. 

From the invite:

“The workshop will begin a university-community dialogue to brainstorm creative new approaches to improving the health and wellbeing of our community, including the environment and ecosystems that support us.

We will explore how Champaign-Urbana can become a model learning laboratory for sustainability and resilience, with the goal of creating green entrepreneurial and job opportunities for all of its citizens.

The workshop will be facilitated by Majora Carter, eco-entrepreneur and MacArthur Fellow.

Carter has...

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Published: 29 weeks 2 days ago

By Pam G. Dempsey/ year, an estimated 26,000 migrant workers are expected to come to Illinois.

The Illinois Association of Agencies and Community Organizations for Migrant Advocacy (IAACOMA) hosted an agriculture forum on March 13, 2012, to discuss issues related to seasonal workers. Below are excerpts from the talk:


[View the story "State, local officials discuss seasonal workers" on Storify]
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Published: 30 weeks 5 days ago

By Dan Petrella/CU-CitizenAccess -- For the second straight year, U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson has received a D for his voting record on poverty-fighting legislation, according to the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law's annual Poverty Scorecard.

The Urbana Republican, who will face a primary challenge for the first time in more than a decade on March 20, previously received higher marks from the Chicago-based organization, earning a B in 2008 and a C in 2009.

The grades, given to every member of the House and Senate, are based on how lawmakers voted on a series of anti-poverty bills selected by a group of experts.

Dan Lesser, the Shriver Center's director of economic justice, noticed something a little different about the measures included in this year's scorecard.

"In past years, almost every vote important to people in poverty concerned a legislative initiative that would fight poverty. In contrast, most of the votes in 2011 that were of the...

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Published: 33 weeks 2 days ago

By Pam G. Dempsey/CU-CitizenAccess -- According to this News-Gazette article, Urbana's City Council considered an amendment Monday night to allow longer stays at hotels and motels if the facility "as long as the hotel unit has an in-room kitchen and bathroom and meets all residential building and fire code regulations."

They approved the amendment, according to this News-Gazette story

Lower-income residents often find hotels and motels an affordable alternative to tradtional housing because they are not required to pay a full month's rent up front.

Below is an interactive look at fair market rents in Champaign County and the City of Champaign, according to a December 2010 regional housing study.

Click on the graphic to use it.

Use the drop-down menu next to "bubble size" to toggle between median gross rent rates in Champaign County and the city of Champaign.

Click on a bubble to see median gross rents by number of...

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Published: 34 weeks 6 days ago

By Dan Petrella/CU-CitizenAccess -- In an election year, a group that advocates on behalf of Illinois children is calling on officials and candidates for public office to focus on the many issues facing the state's young people.

Voices for Illinois Children says its Illinois Kids Count 2012 report, released Thursday, shows "children are caught in a 'budget crossfire' at both the state and federal levels, while policymakers are neglecting long-term investments in children."

In 2010, one in five children in Illinois were living in poverty, and more than 33,000 homeless children were attending public schools, according to the report.

Here are some other highlights:

Budget cuts and delayed payments for pre-kindergarten programs have resulted in 11,400 fewer children enrolled, and additional cuts this year could prevent an additional 6,700 from obtaining these services. State funding for school- and community-based mental health services for...
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Published: 38 weeks 3 hours ago

By Dan Petrella/CU-CitizenAccess -- Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has gotten a lot of mileage on the campaign trail by labeling Barack Obama "the food-stamp president."

He repeated that sentiment at Monday's debate in South Carolina, saying, "The fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history," which drew cheers from the audience. (Click here to see the former House speaker's complete exchange with Fox News moderator Juan Williams on the website Real Clear Politics.)

In light of these comments, we decided to take a look back at data on how enrollment in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, has changed during the past few years.

Nationally, the number of people using SNAP benefits rose from 27 million in October 2007 to 44 million in February, according to the website That's an increase of about...

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Published: 38 weeks 2 days ago

This week, the News-Gazette reported on the changes in poverty rates among local school districts.

According to the story: 

"In many cases, an increase in poverty around the area is caused by a loss of good-paying jobs and the economy as a whole. Students who live in poverty may move around more and in some cases, may live with extended family members, like grandparents or aunts and uncles, district officials said."

With the changes in poverty rates and mobility come increased changes in our neighborhoods.

Brenda Eheart is founder of Generations of Hope in Rantoul. Generations of Hope, or what was originally known as Hope Meadows, is an intergenerational neighborhood that provides support and services to adoptive families.

The neighborhood is reminiscent of ones much more common two or three generations ago where neighbors look out for neighbors and relationships are developed. 

Now our neighborhoods are in...

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Published: 39 weeks 6 days ago

By Dan Petrella/CU-CitizenAccess -- The average income of taxpayers who moved out of Champaign County between 2009 and 2010 was about $4,000 higher than the income of those who moved into Champaign County during the same time, according to recent Internal Revenue Service data.

Each year, the IRS releases figures showing the number of income-tax filers who move into and out of each U.S. county from year to year. The data set includes the number of returns filed -- showing the number of households that relocated -- and the number of personal exemptions -- showing how many people relocated. The figures also include the total adjusted gross income of those who moved, which can be used to calculate the average income of people moving to and from a county.

Overall, 1,143 more people moved away from Champaign County between 2009 and 2010 than moved to it, according to the data.

Cook County was the top location for people moving both to and from Champaign County, with...

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Published: 40 weeks 5 days ago

By Michelle Hagopian/For CU-CitizenAccess -- Landing a job might not be the easiest task right now, but the advent of social media makes searching for one much less difficult.

A few CU Facebook and Twitter accounts offer job seekers a chance to broaden their horizons. On Twitter, @ChamBanaWork is the most notable because of its frequent tweets.

The account has 377* followers, but has already tweeted 12,792 times. With several tweets per day, ChamBanaWork keeps users updated on what’s available in the area. A typical tweet might read: “Help Wanted: CERTIFIED NURSE MIDWIFE, Urbana, IL #chambanawork.”

Also on Twitter are University of Illinois system career centers. The CU campus has a somewhat active account (@UofICareerCenter), but the University of Illinois-Chicago’s account has 1,705 followers and tweets more frequently. @UICCareerSrvcs provides “Personalized services for UIC students, recent...

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