State Fire Marshal Reminds Illinoisans to Change Your Clock, Change Your Batteries

Spring into Action this Sunday to Change and Test the Batteries in Your Smoke Alarm

CHICAGO – Clocks are springing forward one hour this weekend and the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is urging Illinoisans to take a few extra minutes to change and test the batteries in their smoke alarms.

“Daylight Savings Time is a great built-in reminder for us all to check that our smoke alarms are working in case of emergency,” said State Fire Marshal Matt Perez.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that between 2009 and 2013 three in five home fire deaths occurred in homes that either did not have smoke alarms or the alarms did not work. More than half of the non-working smoke alarms either had missing or disconnected batteries. Dead batteries caused nearly a quarter of smoke alarm failures.

Illinois law requires every household to have smoke alarms within 15 feet of every bedroom and at least one alarm on each floor of the home.

The NFPA provides the following tips for installation and maintenance of smoke alarms:

• Install alarms close to each sleeping area of the house and on every level of the house. Ensure that the alarms are interconnected so when one sounds, they all do.
• Change alarm batteries at least twice a year. Daylight Savings Time is a reminder to “Change your Clock, Change your Batteries.”
• Test alarms at least once a month.
• Replace all smoke alarms when they are ten years old.
• Closed doors may slow the spread of smoke.
• Smoke alarms should be a part of a larger home escape plan for emergencies. Visit the NFPA website for more information on home escape planning.

Daylight Savings Time is this Sunday, March 11.

For more information on fire safety and prevention, please visit OSFM’s website.

Today’s Challenge, Tomorrow’s Reward: Creating Opportunity for Female- and Minority-Owned Businesses

Conference helps small firms grow through skill-building, networking


SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Transportation will host Today’s Challenge, Tomorrow’s Reward on March 19 and 20 at the President Abraham Lincoln Springfield Hotel and Bank of Springfield Center. The two-day conference provides female- and minority-owned businesses with opportunities to make connections and develop skills to increase their competitiveness.

“Building a high-quality, diverse workforce strengthens the Illinois economy and promotes more competition on state projects,” said Gov. Bruce Rauner. “Getting our small business owners the tools they need to succeed is a small investment that pays off for years to come.”

The annual conference, presented by IDOT’s Office of Business and Workforce Diversity, offers workshops, seminars on best practices, and networking opportunities for firms and contractors wanting to do business with the state through the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program.

Topics covered will include: advanced financing, work category expansion, the Highway Construction Careers Training Program, erosion control, small businesses and tax plan changes, subcontractor payment tracking, changes to the supportive services program, labor agreements, marketing strategies and more. A special awards presentation will conclude the conference.

“The Illinois Department of Transportation is committed to making diversity a priority,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. “Today’s Challenge, Tomorrow’s Reward  was designed to foster a more inclusive business environment by helping disadvantaged businesses grow through networking and skill-building sessions, enabling them to more effectively compete for state projects.”

The event is well attended by subcontractors and prime contractors in construction, trucking, engineering and other consulting services. Click here for registration information and other event details.

Cedarhurst hosting 2018 SIU photography exhibition

By Pete Rosenbery, SIU News Service 

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The photographic works of Southern Illinois University Carbondale students and faculty are on display at the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mount Vernon.

The 2018 exhibition “The Influence of Tradition in Contemporary Photography,” features work from undergraduate and graduate students and faculty within the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts. The exhibition, which dates back to 1993, runs through April 29 in the center’s Beal Grand Corridor Gallery.

Admission to the exhibition is free, but admission to the main gallery is $5, except on Thursdays, which are free.

Exhibition presents ‘unique opportunity for students’

The works on display include photographs by students across a varying range of experience levels — from graduate-level students to those who are taking their first photography class — according to Daniel Overturf, professor in the Department of Cinema and Photography.

The exhibition is also special in that it allows students to show their images in a regional arts center with an international reputation for its galleries and sculpture park, he noted.

“In many cases, the exhibit will be the student’s first gallery exhibit. While some students may eventually enter the professional, commercial photography field, many might also enjoy long careers in galleries and other public art events,” Overturf said. “The relationship that has been fostered with Cedarhurst over the years has resulted in many wonderful examples of creative interrelationships between students, faculty and staff in our college.”

Wanted to show ‘hard-working Americans’

John Penkala by Louis Washkowiak

Louis Washkowiak, a senior photography major from Spring Valley, chose a photo from his Applied II Photography class. It’s the last photo class students typically take, and one that helps them find their career paths once they graduate.

Washkowiak said he drew much of the inspiration for his photograph, “John Penkala,” from early 20th century street and documentary-style photographers, such as Walker Evans and Robert Frank. Penkala, Washkowiak said, is a miner for a sand company.

Evans and Frank “had a lot of images showing hard-working Americans, which is something I think is important to preserve,” Washkowiak said. “I simply wanted to create this visual still documentary of John Penkala while he was hard at work.”

Started her shoot with just a location

Delphian by Haley Powell

Powell’s photograph, “Delphian,” projects a deadpan style of photography which is generally described as a deliberate display of no emotion. The photograph is channeling the documentary portrait style of Alec Soth, as well as painting like the Mona Lisa and American Gothic, she said.

Powell, from Savannah, Ga., said she usually starts with a concept or subject.

“But after I found the location I knew I wanted to make a photo of a person in front of the beautiful landscape and somehow I got to this final image,” she said.

‘Personal achievement’ to have photos in exhibit

Washkowiak and Powell each appreciate the chance for others to see their work. Washkowiak would like to have a photo on permanent display in an institution or gallery.

“To me, having an image up at Cedarhurst feels like the first step to achieving my goals,” he said.

The experience is “extremely valuable,” Powell agreed. “This is the only time my work has been exhibited outside of the classroom or the school’s hallways.

“It’s also a safe introduction to the process because there are consistent reminders of deadlines and it’s a student show, which I think makes people respond differently to the work.”

Faculty also contribute work

The 34-piece exhibition is comprised of work from 31 students and three faculty: Overturf, Antonio Martinez, associate professor, and Alison Smith, a visiting lecturer in the department.

‘Visually exciting show with lots of good ideas and execution’

The exhibition is also important for people from the community as it enables them to observe the students’ current ideas and techniques as well as their abilities, Rusty Freeman, Cedarhurst’s director of visual arts, said. He said it is Cedarhurst’s honor to bring awareness of the “teaching and student work being offered” at SIU Carbondale.

“The exhibit is a way of keeping our finger on the pulse of what is happening in today’s world from the students’ unique perspective,” Freeman said.

Exhibit part of larger Paul Strand photography exhibition

Main Gallery admission, which features “Paul Strand and the Masters of American Photography,” is $5 per person; Cedarhurst members, and children 10 and under are free.

Admission is free on Thursday.

Cedarhurst Center for the Arts is at 2600 Richview Road, Mount Vernon.  The facility is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday.  There are extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursdays. The facility is closed on Mondays and national holidays.

Bost Statement on Bringing 500 Jobs Back to Granite City Works

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Mike Bost (R-Muprhysboro), Co-Chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus, released the following statement after U.S. Steel announced it will restart one of two blast furnaces (“B” blast furnace) and the steelmaking facilities at its Granite City Works plant. The company anticipates calling back approximately 500 employees beginning this month.  The restart process could take up to four months.

“This is a big victory for the hardworking steel families in Granite City and the entire Metro East economy,” said Bost. “I was heartbroken by the plant’s idling. Not only did I hear you, I took your fight to the Halls of Congress to combat unfair and illegal trade practices that have hurt American steelworkers. Through bipartisan legislation, we empowered the Department of Commerce to help American companies and workers respond rapidly to illegally-traded imports, but more needed to be done. That’s why I helped advance efforts for the Section 232 investigation and took the case of Southern Illinois’ steelworkers directly to President Trump as he was deliberating its findings and recommendations. But we’re not done. We still have more work to do, because I have no doubt in my mind that the American steelworker is second to none when competing on equal footing.”

“Congressman Bost has been a champion for battling unfair trade and reviving steelmaking at Granite City,” said U. S. Steel President and Chief Executive Officer David B. Burritt. “He’s been a vocal, aggressive leader for America’s steel industry. We appreciate his advocacy throughout the Trump Administration’s Section 232 national security investigation of steel imports.”

In its announcement, U.S. Steel specifically cited trade remedies resulting from findings in a Department of Commerce Section 232 investigation. The purpose of the Section 232 investigation is to determine whether imports are harmful to national security and whether measures should be taken to protect domestic industries critical to national security.  The Commerce Department report summarizing findings from the Section 232 investigation was delivered to the President on January 11, 2018. The Administration had 90 days following the delivery of the report to decide on any potential action.

Recent actions taken by Rep. Bost on American Steel:

 March 1, 2018: Bost Applauds Steel Tariff Announcement

February 16, 2018: Bost Statement on Commerce Department’s Steel Report

February 13, 2018: Bost Takes Plight of Southern Illinois’ Steelworkers to White House

December 5, 2017: Bost, Steel Caucus Leaders Meet with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross

October 27, 2017: Congressional Steel Caucus Urges President to Complete Steel Imports Investigation

SIU will host Regional College Fair March 15

By Christi Mathis – SIU News Service 

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale is hosting the Southern Illinois Regional College Fair, bringing together prospective students with representatives from numerous institutions of higher learning.

The Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling event will be from 10:30 a.m. until noon on March 15 at the SIU Arena. The college fair is free and open to the public.

Representatives from SIU’s Undergraduate Admissions and other units around campus, including the academic colleges, will be on hand along with representatives of about 60 other public and private universities, colleges and community colleges. They will provide informational materials to participating students and answer questions.

SIU has invited students from high schools and community colleges in a wide region to participate and more than 20 high schools already have committed to bring student groups. Walk-in participants are welcome; enter through the east lobby entrance of the arena.

The event is one of several regional college fairs taking place throughout the state. SIU is hosting the March 15 event as a community service.

For more information, contact Michelle Rust, SIU senior admissions coordinator, at or by calling 618/453-2184.


Illinois voters unhappy with state’s direction; barely influenced by tax cuts: Simon Poll

Marijuana legalization and lobbyist restrictions also strongly favored

From SIU News Service 

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Illinois voters are not very sanguine about the overall direction of the state and nation, but they are much happier about the direction of their own town or city. Voters are also not impressed with the recent federal tax cuts and do not plan to let them influence their voting decisions.

Those findings are major conclusions of a recent poll released today by Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. The poll also included questions regarding which party voters believe best represents their interests in Congress and two policy issues on Illinois’ political agenda – legalizing recreational marijuana if it is taxed and regulated like alcohol, and whether lawmakers should wait at least a year before becoming a registered lobbyist.

Voters believe nation, state are going in wrong direction

The SimonPoll™ shows that 64 percent of Illinois voters believe the nation is “off track and heading in the wrong direction,” with 27 percent saying the right direction and 9 percent indicating they didn’t know.

As for Illinois’ direction, 84 percent believe the state is off track and heading in the wrong direction, while only 9 percent said the right direction.

 “Voters have been more negative about the state of Illinois than the rest of the country since the inception of our poll in 2008,” said Charlie Leonard, an institute visiting professor and one of the designers of the poll. “It is notable that the state ratings are still 20 percentage points more negative than the national ratings and there is an 18 percent gap between Illinois and the nation on the ‘right direction’ option.”

Meanwhile, voters were more positive about the direction that their city or area is headed. A majority, 54 percent, chose right direction while 37 percent said wrong direction and 10 percent don’t know.

Majority of voters opposed to 2017 tax cuts

Well over a majority (53 percent) of Illinois voters opposed the 2017 tax cut passed by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed by President Trump.

About one-third (34 percent) supported the tax cut and 2 percent said “neither.”

The state is deeply polarized — 80 percent of Democrats opposed and 75 percent of Republicans supported the tax cuts. Among independents, 48 percent opposed and 36 percent supported the tax cuts.

Chicago voters opposed the tax cuts by a 63 to 28 percent margin, while downstate voters were more closely divided – with 40 percent in support and 41 percent opposed.  In suburban Chicago and the collar counties, 55 percent opposed the tax cuts and 33 percent supported them.

Tax cuts make it harder for Republican candidates to gain support

On whether the tax cuts will make voters more or less likely to vote for Republican congressional candidates in November’s general election, 56 percent said less likely, 33 percent said more likely, and 6 percent said neither.

Among Democrats, it was 85 percent less likely, while 80 percent of Republicans said more likely.

Among independents, 49 percent said less likely and 29 percent said more likely.

Downstate voters chose more likely over less likely by a 48 to 42 percent margin.

Chicago voters said less likely by a 70 to 19 percent, while suburban Chicago and collar counties voters chose less likely over more likely by 58 to 31 percent.

‘Solid advantage’ for Democrats on who represents voters’ interests

On which party “best represents your interest in the U. S. Congress” there was a solid advantage for the Democrats – 43 percent to 28 percent for Republicans.

The poll found 6 percent chose Libertarians, 2 percent chose the Green Party and 12 percent chose some other party.

Among downstate voters, 40 percent chose Republicans, 31 percent chose Democrats while 7 percent chose Libertarians and 2 percent chose the Green Party.

Chicago favored Democrats 55 to 15 percent over Republicans, while 6 percent chose Libertarians and 3 percent chose the Green Party. In Chicago suburbs and collar counties, there was a 45 to 25 percent edge for Democrats over Republicans, while 5 percent chose Libertarians and 2 percent chose the Green Party.

Voters favor legalizing recreational marijuana; lobbyist restriction

The poll found that 66 percent of Illinois voters favor legalizing recreational marijuana if taxed and regulated like alcohol while 32 percent are opposed. There were 3 percent of voters who were unsure.

Downstate voters favored legalization by a 58 to 40 percent margin. Chicago voters were 77 to 22 percent in favor, and suburban Chicago and collar counties voters favored the proposal 66 to 31 percent.

Democrats favored the proposal 78 to 20 percent; Republicans split at 49 percent apiece, and independents favored it by a 62 percent to 36 percent margin.

An overwhelming 85 percent support a proposal that Illinois should require lawmakers to wait at least a year before registering as a lobbyist. There were 10 percent were opposed and 5 percent unsure.

The proposal was favored by similar margins by identifiers with both parties and independents and all three major regions of the state.

Sample size and margin of error

The margin of error for the entire sample of 1,001 voters is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. This means that if we conducted the survey 100 times, in 95 of those instances, the population proportion would be within plus or minus the reported margin of error for each subsample.

For subsamples, the margin of error increases as the sample size goes down. The margin of error was not adjusted for design effects. Among self-identified primary election voters, the margin is plus or minus 6 percentage points in the 259-voter sample of Republicans, and 4.5 percentage points in the sample of 472 Democrats.

Illinois Again Named #3 in Site Selection

Illinois remains amid top states for new and expanding facilities


CHICAGO – Site Selection Magazine today announced Illinois as a top state for businesses looking to relocate. Illinois was named third in the 2017 Governor’s Cup rankings. This is the second year in a row that Illinois has received this honor. The recognition is awarded to states with the most qualifying new and expanded facilities per capita.

“All Illinoisans know that there is no better state than Illinois,” said Governor Bruce Rauner. “One of the objectives of my administration has been to highlight our assets and better recruit businesses to locate within our state. Our efforts are paying off, but the work is not done. We continue the push to make the business environment more competitive to create good paying jobs and opportunities across all Illinois communities.”

Illinois had 419 projects over the course of the year, coming in behind only Texas and Ohio.  Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metro area remained the top metropolitan area of 1 million or more for new and expanded facilities with 402 projects.

“From our exceptional workforce to the seamless transportation of goods, Illinois is a world-class place to do business,” said Illinois Department of Commerce Director Sean McCarthy. “Interest in our state continues to rise and we remain focused on supporting our economy to ensure a better quality of life for Illinoisans.”

In addition, micropolitan areas in Illinois that were named for their projects include Ottawa-Peru, Paducah, Effingham, and Rochelle. Micropolitan areas are defined by cities of 10,000 to 50,000 people that cover at least one county.

“We are constantly in contact with new companies looking to expand or locate within Illinois,” said Intersect Illinois CEO Mark Peterson. “The excitement and optimism about the potential that exists within our boarders is palpable. We will continue to work with our partners to capitalize on our accomplishments and bring more success to Illinois.”

Details about the study:

Site Selection’s Conway Projects Database focuses on new corporate facility projects with significant impact, including headquarters, manufacturing plants, R&D operations and logistics sites, among others. It does not track retail and government projects, or schools and hospitals. New facilities and expansions included in the analyses must meet at least one of three criteria: (a) involve a capital investment of at least US$1 million, (b) create at least 20 new jobs or (c) add at least 20,000 sq. ft. (1,858 sq. m.) of new floor area.

Gov. Rauner celebrates Casimir Pulaski Day

Attends wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate hero of American Revolution

CHICAGO  – Gov. Bruce Rauner celebrated Casimir Pulaski Day by attending commemorative events at the Polish Museum of America to honor the Revolutionary War hero known as the “Father of the American Cavalry.”

Pulaski, a Warsaw-born immigrant who came to America to join the fight for independence, became a general in the Continental Army, created the Pulaski Cavalry Legion, and reformed the cavalry as a whole. He was gravely wounded at the Battle of Savannah and died shortly thereafter. He was 34.

“Even after all these years, Casimir Pulaski is a role model for our times,” Rauner said. “He was a reformer who fought courageously for freedom and independence. His victories during the Revolutionary War are lessons in leadership and the power of reform, lessons from which we can learn here in Illinois.”

The event commemorating Pulaski’s contribution to American independence included a wreath-laying ceremony at the famous Stanislaw Batowski painting depicting Pulaski leading his troops in battle at Savannah. Piotr Janicki, Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago, Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel and other government and Polonia leaders were in attendance.

“We honor General Casimir Pulaski for his contribution to the cause of American ideals of liberty, democracy and freedom for which he made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Richard Owsiany, president of the Polish Museum of America. “Pulaski, as have other Poles, fought for their own causes and for others under the banner of “for your freedom and ours”.”

Pulaski is one of only eight people to be awarded honorary United States citizenship. He joined the likes of William Penn and Winston Churchill in 2009.

Pulaski signed on to the American Revolution after meeting Benjamin Franklin in Paris. His first encounter against the British army was at the Battle of Brandywine in September of 1777. By 1778, he was in command of the Pulaski Legion, an independent cavalry unit that he trained in European fashion. The Legion, made up of Americans, Germans, Frenchmen, Irishmen, and Poles was credited with defending Pennsylvania and South Carolina. His final battle at Savannah took place in 1779.

In 1977, Illinois designated the first Monday in March as “Casimir Pulaski Day.” The day is one on which Illinoisans recognize Pulaski and, as important, the contributions that Polish Americans have made to the state and the nation.

Illinois is home to the second largest Polish population in the country and, according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, ranks sixth among U.S. states for exports to and imports from Poland.

Governor Rauner appoints Brig. Gen. William P. Robertson as IEMA Acting Director

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Bruce Rauner today announced he has appointed Brig. Gen. William P. Robertson as Acting Director for the state’s Emergency Management Agency.

“I’m confident Gen. Robertson’s decades of leadership experience in both wartime and domestic operations will ensure IEMA continues to fulfill its critical public safety mission,” Rauner said.

Robertson has more than 37 years of experience with the Illinois Air National Guard. He serves as the Chief of Staff for the Air National Guard, where he is responsible for ensuring combat readiness and mission capability for the 126th Air Refueling Wing at Scott Air Force Base, the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, and the 183rd Wing in Springfield. He was Commander of the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria from August 2004 until October 2017.

“It is an honor and privilege to be chosen to lead the state’s emergency management efforts, but, even more so, it is a tremendous responsibility,” Brig. Gen. Robertson said. “Every agency within Illinois, at every level of government, has a responsibility for planning for emergencies and when needed, responding quickly and effectively. Being at the center – coordinating those efforts – is vitally important and a ‘no fail’ contract we hold with the people of Illinois. I look forward to joining an outstanding team of professionals at IEMA and continuing the great work this agency does for the citizens of Illinois.”

Robertson began his military career in 1980 by enlisting as a security policeman with the 182nd Tactical Air Support Group. He later became a pilot and served in many roles, including forward air controller, air liaison officer and aircraft commander. Brig. Gen. Robertson has more than 20 years of command experience.

During Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, Robertson served as commander of the 486th Air Expeditionary Wing Operations Group.

Robertson was trained by FEMA and the U.S. Northern Command as a Dual Status Commander (DSC). During a multi-state disaster or national event, a DSC may serve in both federal and state roles to facilitate joint response.

He also has played a key role in the Illinois Air National Guard’s support of the Polish Air Force’s transition to the C-130 “Hercules” aircraft as well as facilitating the use of other mission capabilities of the 182nd Airlift Wing for the Polish Armed Forces.

Robertson has received more than a dozen military awards, including the Legion of Merit (with oak leaf cluster), the Bronze Star, the Air Medal, the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

A Peoria native, Robertson earned a B.S. in criminal justice from Bradley University and an associate degree in police science technology from Illinois Central College. He is a graduate of Air War College and the Air Command and Staff College.

“I want to express my appreciation to Jennifer Ricker for her leadership as IEMA’s Acting Director over the past two months,” Rauner said. “Her nearly decade-long experience as IEMA’s chief of staff enabled her to not only keep the agency moving forward during this transition period, but to also lead the state’s response to support communities across the state as they battle and begin recovering from the recent floods.” Ricker will remain with the agency.

An Insight into the Illinois State Police Meth Response Team

From The Illinois State Police – District 13

DU QUOIN – As we continue our special series examining the positions a Trooper can hold in the Illinois State Police, we are taking a look at these jobs for a twofold purpose:

  • To make the ISP more transparent as an agency. It gives the public a view into what we do to make their communities safer.
  • As a recruiting tool. If you’re thinking about a career in law enforcement the ISP has a ton of opportunity for you in positions you may not have even considered. So if you are pondering the job of a police officer, or know someone who is, check out the last 5 Saturday’s posts and stay tuned each Saturday

As with all specialty positions in the ISP, this group of individuals have received specialized training making them subject experts. Their training includes DEA certifications on safely dismantling labs, rolling or stationary, with yearly recertification to remain active.

The MRT provides the ISP, County Sheriff’s Departments and City Police Departments with the resources to handle these dangerous criminal activities. MRT also serves as it own Crime Scene Investigator due to the hazardous nature of the substances they work with.

They document for prosecution, photograph, weigh and dispose of the precursors typically found in meth labs. They provide expert testimony in court regarding meth related activity and serve the community through their contributions of locking drug abusers and manufacturers behind bars. They are also subject to 24/7/365 call out to handle these duties. They also provide resources to educators in the community concerning drug abuse trends and detection.

Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News