Zoning debate leaves Clark Park homes at risk

From all corners of her home’s basement in Clark Park, Amy Thoren combats flooding with four active water pumps. If rainfall or drainage issues become more prevalent, Thoren may have to rely on her fifth pump in the years to come. “It’s like the Mississippi in here,” Thoren said, describing her basement’s condition during heavy rainfall. “The whole house shakes from the pumps, and you can hear the water flowing like a waterfall.”

In January 2018, the city delayed the zoning vote on increasing floor-area ratio, FAR, for areas like Clark Park. It currently sits at .35, but was proposed to rise to .50, meaning more of a house’s lot can be covered with parts of the home.

Chris Genzel in his back yard

Homeowners pay for errors in outdated flood maps

Chris and Barb Genzel have lived in the same house in Urbana for nearly 40 years and they say their house has never flooded.

“Behind our house is a farm at a lower elevation, and our house backs up to a drainage ditch. We knew we were never going to flood,” Chris Genzel said recently.

Local domestic violence shelter forced to turn away hundreds

Johnathan Hettinger/For CU-CitizenAccess.org –The only domestic violence shelter in Champaign-Urbana has had to turn away hundreds of women and children because it does not have enough room, and the problem is only getting worse, according to shelter statistics. Isak Griffiths, the executive director of the shelter, Courage Connection, said the organization currently does not have the resources to expand its services. But the organization is beginning a strategic planning process to help determine the best way to grow its services, Griffiths said. In fiscal year 2013, the organization received $1,368,912 in government grants and $634,130 in other contributions, gifts and grants, but it was not enough. Where to get help
Courage Connection

Domestic Violence Hotline: (217) 384-4390

Toll free: (877) 384-4390

The shelter is routinely near, at or over capacity, said its former director of programs, Katie Sissors Harmon last month.

Giving back through track

By Jonathan Nonnie/For CU-CitizenAccess.org — A sports-related injury can be a devastating event in the life of an active young adult. But for Nealay Kalita, a sophomore student at the University of Illinois, a torn ACL lead to a leadership position. Kalita, a native of Champaign, attended University Laboratory High School. In his time there, he was an outstanding runner and a state competitor in track and field. During his senior year, he tore his ACL while playing basketball. The injury prevented him from participating in his final season of track and field, but he embraced the opportunity in front of him.

Growing up Asian in a white family; one adoptee’s struggle

By Earn Saenmuk/For CU-CitizenAccess.org — There was a girl in my Korean class. Well, there were more than one, but this particular one was special. She was very nice, and her Korean was so good that I felt a little intimidated. I noticed while the teacher was taking attendance that her last name did not sound like an Asian last name. Her name was Claire Hampton, though she told the teacher that she also has a Korean name, Hwaesuk.

Slices of Life: Jazz Professor Chip McNeill throws himself into his work

By Samantha Kiesel — Chip McNeill walks down the hall in his black sneakers as jazz music floods the basement of Smith Hall. He waves with his left hand to a couple of students and clutches a soprano saxophone in his right. He looks at his watch and picks up his pace, realizing he’s late. In Room 11, a small space with a set of drums, a piano and an old organ, he gently places his instrument on the organ bench as he greets the students preparing for the day’s jazz rehearsal. The drummer tunes his instruments, the guitarist adjusts the volume on his amplifier, the vocalist tinkers with her mic, the saxophonist fixes his reed, and the piano player sits patiently.

Slices of Life: Danville woman adores her flock of feathered friends

By Jessica Bourque — Cindy Eaglen — that’s eagle with an ‘n’ — sits in her computer chair, a bird in one hand, a mouse in the other. The mouse is of the computer variety, but the bird is an African grey, one of the smartest avian breeds in the animal kingdom. Cindy carefully holds the two, kissing one on the beak and using the other to scroll through YouTube videos; she is searching for one of her favorites. “It’s amazing!” she says.

“Letter to the residents of Monticello” ad lands city council in hot water

By Claire Everett/CU-CitizenAccess.org —  An ongoing struggle between the Monticello City Council and a citizen’s group has led to the city council being cited for violating the Open Meetings Act. The attorney general’s office said the city council violated the act by holding a closed session in March that led to the creation of an advertisement criticizing four residents for questioning the city council’s actions and for filing numerous state Freedom of Information requests. Maureen Holtz waits with others during an executive session to discuss redactions on March 11 minutes of a Monticello city council meeting on June 23, 2014. Photo by Darrell Hoemann/CU-CitizenAccess.org

By privately approving the ad and taking action, the nine-member city council violated the Open Meeting’s Act, according to a Public Access Counselor report, released last month. The Public Access Counselor, Sarah Pratt, is a lawyer in the Attorney General’s office who works to ensure compliance by public bodies with Open Meetings Act and Illinois Freedom of Information Act regulations.