The Flu Season in the U.S. is Getting Worse

The Flu Season in the U.S. is Getting Worse

Health officials last week said flu was blanketing the country

This year’s flu season got off to an early start, and it’s been driven by a nasty type of flu that tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths than other common flu bugs. In New York, state officials say a drastic rise in flu cases hospitalized more than 1,600 this past week.

The flu became intense last month in the U.S. The last two weekly report show flu widespread over the entire continental United States, which is unusual.

Usually, flu seasons start to wane after so much activity, but “it’s difficult to predict,” Jernigan said.

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness, spread by a virus. It can cause a miserable but relatively mild illness in many people, but more a more severe illness in others. Young children and the elderly are at greatest risk from flu and its complications. In a bad season, there as many as 56,000 deaths connected to the flu. In the U.S., annual flu shots are recommended for everyone age 6 months or older.

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Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner

Those Seeking Tax Appeals Can No Longer Retain State Lawmakers Firms

State lawmakers prohibited from representing clients before the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board

Gov. Bruce Rauner today issued an executive order declaring it impermissible for state legislators to represent clients before the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board, which hears appeals of assessment decisions made in the state’s 102 counties.

Calling the practice a “clear conflict of interest that must end,” Rauner said the order, which is effective immediately, is a key step toward restoring public trust and motivating lawmakers to tackle meaningful property-tax reform.

“We have a deeply flawed and overly complicated property-tax system that recent investigations have shown results in inequitable, disproportionately high property-tax burdens on low-income residents — not to mention our property taxes overall are simply too high,” Rauner said. “For any legislator to profit from this system undercuts the public’s faith that they are in office to do what’s best for their constituents.

“Legislators who make money representing clients who are appealing their property-tax assessments have little incentive to do what’s right when it comes to property-tax reform,” Rauner continued. “Frankly, they have everything to gain from the status quo. The action I’m taking today marks the beginning of the end of a dubious era.”

The order:

  • Directs members of the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board to prohibit state legislators from participating in appeals coming before them.
  • Directs the board to prohibit legislators from receiving any fee or compensation, directly or indirectly, through any interest in a partnership, limited liability corporation or other business entity representing clients before it.
  • Notes a State of Illinois Code of Personal Conduct requirement that government be conducted in a transparent, ethical, accountable and motivated manner.
  • Points out that state officials and employees “may not engage in outside employment or activities, including seeking or negotiating for employment, that conflict with their official state duties and responsibilities,” according to the conduct code.
  • Directs the board to amend its rules and procedures to reflect the executive order.

The Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board hears about 30,000 appeals a year, approximately three-fourths of them from Cook County.

“Conflicts of interest clearly arise where legislators and regulators receive financial benefits by charging Illinois citizens and businesses through a morass of red tape those same officials created by passing complicated rules and establishing confusing and bureaucratic processes,” the executive order states.

Crippling taxes overall and an onerous property-tax system are eroding the state’s ability to thrive and driving homeowners and small businesses toward insolvency — and increasingly, toward the border.

While property taxes are cited frequently as a top reason for leaving Illinois, the state is duty-bound to take concrete steps to correct the system, Rauner said. He noted the state’s population declined by an estimated 33,700 in 2017, the greatest numeric population loss of any state, and the fourth year in a row that Illinois’ population dropped.

“Illinoisans are tired of a rigged system that allows lawmakers to profit at their expense,” Rauner said. “I’m here to fight on their behalf.”

Saddlebrook Farms

Saddlebrook Farms’ Residents Voice Concern Over Taxes & Fees

State Rep. Yingling promised to stay connected with one resident who said would work with him and then keep the others informed

At a Thursday forum, held at the Fremont Township office in Mundelein, the main topic turned to taxes and maintenance fees at the Saddlebrook Farms’ 55-plus community in Grayslake. Residents living on the same block don’t understand why their fees and taxes vary since they all have similar size lots and properties.

State Representative Sam Yingling, who hosted the forum, had several suggestions. including legislation that would require communities like Saddlebrook Farms to fill out disclosure forms with a breakdown of costs annually. Anothe would be a senior tax freeze, although the Saddlebrook Farms residents pay into the community, who then pays the taxes since the lots are all leased.

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Round Lake Beach Rehab Suffers Fire Damage

The blaze appears to have been accidental with no injuries reported.

A home that was being rehabbed in the 200 block of W. North Channel was reportedly on fire by a neighbor shortly after 11:00 am on Thursday. The owners son was in the process of renovating the property which started on fire when he left for additional supplies.

According to Fire Marshal Tony Breuscher of the Greater Round Lake Fire Protection District, it appears to have been accidental and there were no injuries.

Crews from several fire districts were called to assist including those from Grayslake, Lake Villa, Fox Lake and Wauconda.

Treasurer of RLB Civic Center Foundation Faces Theft Charges

Debra Knill is expected to turn herself into authorities on Friday

The treasurer of the Round Lake Beach Cultural and Civic Center Foundation faces theft charges after being accused of stealing more than $10,000 from the nonprofit organization, authorities said Thursday.

Debra Knill, 46, was indicted by a Lake County grand jury Wednesday on three counts of theft of more than $10,000, authorities said.

If found guilty on any of the charges, she could be sentenced up to seven years in prison, authorities said, though probation is an option.

Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Fred Day said officials at the civic center foundation discovered money was missing after several vendor invoices from previous festivals were not paid. Foundation officials examined account records, discovered the discrepancy in funding, and turned over their findings to Round Lake Beach police.

Day said the theft of funds occurred between Aug. 1, 2016, and Jan. 1, 2018, and ultimately totaled $10,609.25.

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Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner

Rauner Signs Bill Creating Women’s Division Within IDOC

The legislation requires the IDOC to appoint a chief administrator for the women’s division, incorporate gender-responsive programming, and address the specific challenges that female offenders face.

 Gov. Bruce Rauner is building on his efforts to improve outcomes for individuals who are incarcerated in Illinois.

He toured Logan Correctional Center, the female inmate facility in Lincoln, just before signing House Bill 1479 and solidifying the creation of a new women’s division within the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC).

House Bill 1479 comes on the heels of passage of House Bill 3904, the Women’s Correctional Services Act. These historic pieces of legislation require the IDOC to appoint a chief administrator for the women’s division, incorporate gender-responsive programming, and address the specific challenges that female offenders face.

“Men and women respond to incarceration differently. It’s time we adjust our strategies and find solutions that set women up for success when they leave prison,” Rauner said. “Many of these women are mothers. If we don’t take steps to help put them on a better path, we will see their sons and daughters cycle through the prison system. We can’t have that.”

The department jump-started its efforts to restructure its operations for female offenders in 2015, after the Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform suggested it implement gender-responsive and trauma-informed treatment programs.

Now, incarcerated women are participating in courses tailored to help them overcome any physical, sexual or emotional abuse they may have experienced and get on a path to healing.

These pieces of legislation ensure IDOC staff is trained to work collaboratively with women to address their unique needs and improve safety and wellness throughout all women’s correctional facilities.

“We recognize that making real change also means investing in our staff, giving them tools that help keep them safe on the job,” said IDOC Director John Baldwin. “We’re teaching them how to use their authority effectively, how to understand the needs of female offenders, and how to help the women restructure their thinking about challenging situations. Our staff had never received these types of training before 2015.”

“As chief sponsor of this national model legislation, I was proud to work with the Illinois Department of Corrections and The Women’s Justice Initiative on such an unprecedented effort to improve safety and outcomes for justice-involved women in prisons and our communities,” said state Rep. Julianna Stratton, D-Chicago. “I commend my colleagues and the administration for coming together in such a bipartisan manner on behalf of this long overlooked population, which disproportionately impacts communities of color, and hope they will continue to be supportive throughout the implementation process.”

“Incarcerated women face a unique set of challenges, including higher rates of mental illness, histories of abuse, generational poverty and discrimination,” said state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Chicago Heights, who was the chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “Putting an increased focus on these challenges eliminates an antiquated policy that for too long has failed to ensure women receive the rehabilitation needed to become successful members of our society.”

“The creation of a women’s division within the Department of Corrections is a major step forward for our state,” said Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield. “This division will focus resources to address the specific needs of women who are incarcerated and will make Illinois a leader on trauma-informed services specific to the female population in our correctional system. I applaud my colleagues who championed this legislation and Gov. Rauner for his commitment to reforming our criminal justice system.”

Criminal Justice Reform has been a staple of the Rauner administration. Rauner has worked with the General Assembly to remove barriers that prevented people convicted of crimes from receiving their professional licenses in healthcare industries and cosmetology. And, men and women who leave prison now have access to their birth certificates and state identification, making it easier to secure housing, find employment and open a bank account.

Within weeks of taking office, Rauner announced his goal of reducing the prison population by 25 percent by the year 2025. When Rauner was inaugurated in January 2015, the IDOC population stood at 48,214. As of mid-January of this year, the number is 41,050, a 14.8 percent drop.

Millburn Strangler Construction Could Start as Early as May

In order for the Millburn Bypass (Strangler) to go out for bids, several parcel purchases and agreements are still needed by IDOT

The Lake County Board on Tuesday agreed to accept the jurisdictional transfer from the Illinois Department of Transporation of nearly a mile of existing Route 45 — it will be known as Old Route 45 — when the bypass to the west is complete. The county will be responsible for maintaining that stretch of Old Route 45.

While behind-the-scenes work has progressed, the goal to go out to bids last summer or fall was delayed. Going out to bid depends on IDOT completing the acquisition of 31 parcels and agreements with local agencies, according to Gianna Urgo, IDOT spokeswoman.

With the recent sale of 11.6 acres of McDonald’s Woods Forest Preserve to IDOT, the stage has been set. Bids were on track to be sought in March “last I heard,” said Chuck Gleason, project manager for the Lake County Division of Transportation. “That’s a good thing.”

ComEd crews have been moving poles and, if the bids go out in March, construction could start in May or June, he said


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Round Lake village hall

Study Paves the Way for Pay Increases in Round Lake

The study also led to changes for the village’s 24 nonunion employees

In December 2016 the village board hired GovHR USA to analyze village salaries, compare them to those in similar suburbs and recommend changes.

MacGillis said he was hesitant at first but now is glad the village chose to pay for the study.

He said the data gathered helped speed up negotiating sessions with the three Round Lake employee unions: Public Works Local 150, Police Officers MAP No. 444 and Police Supervisors MAP No. 459.

“They were faster because of the information we gave them because we had information to back up what we’re doing,” MacGillis said. “Employees were happy, the administration was happy, I’m happy we didn’t spend so much money on attorneys for it.”

Read more details here

Free the Nipple

Going Topless Heads For The High Court In New Hampshire

Three women who went topless at Weirs Beach in Laconia are challenging the city ordinance prohibiting public nudity and taking it to the NH supreme court which is expected to hear the case Feb. 1.

The state high court is expected to hear the case that could settle the debate over whether women should be allowed to go topless in New Hampshire. In 2016 three women were hanging out (literally) topless in Laconia at Weirs Beach. One was doing yoga and the other two were catching some rays. A few beachgoers complained so police asked them to cover up and when they refused, they were arrested.

Heidi Lilley, Kia Sinclair and Ginger Pierro are challenging an ordinance in the city of Laconia prohibiting public nudity. The women argue there’s no state law forbidding female toplessness and call the case gender-based discrimination because men don’t have to cover their nipples. Town ordinance supporters say it’s for the protection of children and families.

The women appealed to the state supreme court after a district court judge rejected their request to dismiss the case. They’re hoping the state’s high court will find a local rule against going shirtless in public unconstitutional.

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Woman Torches SUV

Woman Claims Torching SUV Was An Accident

Julie Gagne, 47, is accused of using a flamethrower to torch her SUV in November and then falsely reporting it stolen to Schaumburg police.

A Barrington woman accused of using a flamethrower to torch her SUV in November told police she bought the device as a gift for her father and was assembling it when it accidentally went off, according to police documents obtained by the Daily Herald.

Barrington police said Gagne used the flamethrower to set her SUV ablaze about 10:30 p.m. Nov. 10 in an office center parking lot on the 1500 block of South Grove Avenue, near Dundee Road. The Infiniti SUV, which has a sticker price of about $48,000, was registered in her name, police said.

An investigation found Gagne used an X15 Flamethrower manufactured by Ohio-based XMatter to torch the SUV, according to police. They said the $1,600 device — purchased online and legal to own in Illinois — uses a mix of about 3 gallons of fuel and napalm to throw flames as far as 50 feet.

Gagne told investigators she drove into the lot across the street from Barrington’s post office because she wanted to assemble the flamethrower and have it ready to present to her father the next day, according to police reports. She reportedly told police “a freak accident” occurred when the device set her SUV on fire.

“When I asked why she thought her (70-year-old) father would want a flamethrower, she stated, ‘I thought he would get a kick out of it,'” Barrington police Detective Lori Allsteadt wrote in a report.

Read the full story here