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Illini basketball preview: Michigan

Illinois at Michigan
1:15 pm
TV:
Big Ten Network

If you remember correctly, Illinois (12-7, 2-4) beat the pants off Michigan (12-7, 2-4) 10 days ago. You probably don't, however, because Illinois has since rolled over for Maryland and been beaten senseless by the likes of Purdue. Those two games stand out prominently because, like Illinois, Michigan is not doing so well this year.

Michigan is about the only team in the conference as poor defensively as the Illini. The two are holding down the basement in field goal percentage defense, with Illinois at .445 (13th) and Michigan at .468 (14th). Illinois has some advantages over the Wolverines, however, as Michigan fares worst in offensive and defensive rebounding and three point field goal defense. If these issues are highlighted in the rematch, Illinois can turn the tide of losing around rather easily.

And to be honest, the tide has to turn for Illinois. The calls for John Groce's head are at fever pitch and the window for making the tournament grows more narrow with each loss. Illinois's schedule is easier from here on (no more Purdue, Indiana, or Maryland!), but the Illini still have to travel to Northwestern, Iowa, Penn State, and Nebraska, and only one of those teams is below .500 in conference play (Iowa, surprisingly, at 3-4). Including the Michigan game, Illinois likely needs 9 wins from its remaining 12 games to clinch an at-large bid. Pressure's really on now.

My prediction: A much closer contest than the last, but Illinois edges the hosts backed by a return to form from Tracy Abrams. 

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Coworking coming to DT Champaign? Collider CoWork hosting open house February 3rd

There's an upcoming event happening in the space that exists above Gallery 217 in Downtown Champaign, showcasing the future space for coworking.

It takes place on February 3rd from 7-10 p.m. at 9 E. University. This would be a great thing for Downtown, seeing as how there would be more people working in the area.

From the Facebook event:

Coworking is coming to downtown Champaign!

Come enjoy food from Watson's Shack & Rail, music, drinks, and virtual reality gaming (courtesy of VR League) in the future home of Collider CoWork!

Collider CoWork will be a coworking and incubator space located right in downtown Champaign. A home for active entreprenuers, software devlopers, freelance artists and anyone interested becoming a part of an active and creative community.

Most of all, tell us what you would like to see in your local co-working space!

If you are interested in becoming a member or partner in our business please come enjoy the event - more info will be available there!

Thanks to David Schiller and Alec Gillespie for the information.

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Here’s what Foellinger Auditorium looked like under construction in 1906

I found this photo of Foellinger Auditorium at the University of Illinois to be pretty great. Courtesy of their Instagram page:

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Habitat for Humanity hosting Community Open House tonight, January 19th

Champaign-Urbana's Habitat for Humanity is celebrating 25 years in 2017, and they have a series of upcoming events to promote the milestone in our community. Tonight you can visit them to help kick off the celebration.

From Habitat for Humanity:

Community Open House

Please join us in celebrating the kickoff of our 25th Anniversary in Champaign County 1992-2017.

Thursday January 19th 6-7 pm at the Habitat Restore 119 E. University Ave in Champaign

We will be presenting the George Kieffer Award--- Living the Spirit of Habitat for Humanity-- and celebrating the work of our committees, vounteers and Habitat Home owners!

Light refreshments by Dish Passionate Cuisine

In our community and around the world, Habitat believes everyone deserves a decent place to live. Our mission continues to help families build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. Please join us!

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This lunch special at Kohinoor is on point (and only $9)

Kohinoor opened recently in the former Escobar's building on Columbia and Neil Street in Champaign. If you haven't been there yet, you should go. I did yesterday, for the second time, ordering this lunch special:

47. Non-vegetarian Thali :
Combo platter serve with (yellow daal, shrimp curry, chicken tikka masala, tandoori chicken (1 pc) rice or naan, salad, dessert, crispy wafer & pickle) | $8.99

All of that, a platter of sorts. It was awesome. Heat level 1 out of 5 because that's what type of human being I am. 2 was pushing it, said my lunch companion, for what it is worth. Those who want the heat can get it.

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Radio Maria hosting book swap

Radio Maria is hosting a book swap from 7 p.m. to midnight on Sunday, January 29th: 

Join us for a community book swap! Bring a book you've already read, and take something new that appeals to you. Any books left over at the end of the night will be donated to CU Books To Prisoners. We'll have snacks available, and the bar will be serving up $1.25 PBR and $2.25 wells.

Start your spring cleaning now, or pick up a new book for this winter. You could also bring a few extra books to ensure a few donations making it to Urbana Champaign Books to Prisoners

For more info, check out the event's Facebook page

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Astronomy on Tap discusses Space Exploration on Thursday

Astronomy on Tap brings together scientists and science lovers to chat about astronomy and space and astrophysics and the like whilst enjoying pizza and beer.

The Champaign-Urbana group meets the 3rd Thursday of the month, and this month Dr. Joaquin Vieira will talk about space exploration. If you've been thinking about abandoning society as we know it for the last frontier, why not learn a few things?

Astronomy on Tap Champaign-Urbana meets Thursday, January 19th from 6 to 9 p.m. at Pizza M (208 W Main St, Urbana). The event is free; you buy your booze and food. More info is available here

Image from Facebook. 

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Here’s City of Champaign’s official statement about Matt Rush

From the City of Champaign's website:

Under my authority as City Manager, this afternoon I signed a separation agreement with former police officer Matt Rush and the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police that immediately and forever severs Rush’s employment with the City, and closes all pending employment grievances filed on his behalf.  The agreement secures his permanent separation from the City, minimizes further legal expenses, avoids further litigation, and obtains a positive outcome for our community, the Police Department, and the City organization.

The City has been involved in three very public disciplinary cases related to Matt Rush.  In August 2014, Police Chief Anthony Cobb terminated Rush for a number of Police Department policy violations.  At that time, Rush exercised his rights under the grievance and arbitration process established by Illinois law and the City’s collective bargaining agreement with the Illinois FOP.  In April 2015, the arbitrator in that case set aside Rush’s termination and reduced his discipline to multiple days of suspension, despite agreeing that Rush did commit the policy violations.  The arbitrator’s binding decision obligated the City to return Rush to duty.

In April 2016, Rush was once again terminated for two independent reasons.  First was for his inability to perform the essential functions of a police officer after Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz determined that she would no longer use him as a witness for the State in criminal cases.   Then in a separate action, he was terminated for violations of department rules related to an off-duty incident that occurred at Fat City Bar and Grill in February 2016.  Represented by the Illinois FOP, Rush again exercised his right to grieve both termination actions and appealed them to arbitration.

In September 2016, a hearing was held before Arbitrator Micheal Falvo on Rush’s termination for his inability to perform the essential functions of his job.  Late last month, Falvo issued a decision reversing Rush’s discharge and ordering he again be reinstated to his position as a police officer.  Falvo’s decision also required the City to compensate Rush with full pay and benefits back to the date of his termination.  With the support of the City Council, the City Administration informed the Illinois FOP that the City planned to appeal Falvo’s decision to the circuit court.

A third arbitration hearing regarding Rush’s off-duty actions at Fat City was scheduled to take place tomorrow, but that termination grievance was withdrawn by the Illinois FOP as part of this separation agreement.

I continue to stand behind Chief Cobb’s decisions to terminate Rush in each of these cases.  The Administration remains firm that its actions in response to Rush’s conduct have been fair and appropriate.  Throughout this entire process, the City has taken care to ensure his due process rights, and consistently followed the terms of the City’s collective bargaining agreement and Illinois law.  The City has expended significant personnel and financial resources as a result of Rush’s violations of Police Department policies.  If the City would have moved forward with the third arbitration hearing and the planned appeal of Arbitrator Falvo’s decision, the City would have spent significantly more money on staff time and legal expenses.  This would be in addition to any back pay or benefits that might be awarded to Rush if the City was not successful in these actions.

To succeed in an appeal of Falvo’s decision, the City would have to prove evidence of fraud, corruption, misconduct, or mistake in the arbitration process, or prove that the award violates a clearly defined and dominant public policy.  Even if a court were to rule that Falvo made insufficient findings, the result could simply be that the case is remanded back to him for further proceedings.  There was no guarantee, even if the City prevailed in its appeal, that Falvo’s ruling to reinstate Rush would be reversed.

Following Falvo’s decision, the City and the Illinois FOP engaged in negotiations to voluntarily resolve this matter, and a separation agreement was signed earlier this afternoon.  The agreement includes a one-time, total monetary separation payment to Rush of $50,000 in exchange for his agreement to withdraw his grievance related to his termination for off-duty misconduct.  His personnel record with the City will reflect that he was terminated from his employment effective April 13, 2016, and he will have no right to future reinstatement.  In addition, he has released the City, its representatives, and State’s Attorney Rietz from any future claims or liability arising out of his employment or separation from employment.

The City is committed to moving forward and continuing to build strong police-community relations. I trust that our community will see this agreement as a positive step towards that goal.  It is important to remember that the actions of one former employee do not reflect on the professionalism of the entire police force.  I am proud of the dedicated men and women of the Champaign Police Department, and proud of all City employees who daily place the needs of our community above their own.  I am also grateful for the support and partnership of citizens who regularly engage with the City to build trust, solve problems and create a better community for all.

Due to pending civil litigation to which Mr. Rush is a party, this will be the final public statement that the City Administration will make on this matter.  The City will make the full text of this statement, as well as the separation agreement, available for public review on the City’s website for the next 30 days.  After that time, these documents will be available to the public upon request per the terms of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Dorothy Ann David
City Manager

Please note: The photo of Matt Rush is from the Champaign Police Department's site, and was not included in the statement by Dorothy David. I inserted it because, well, photos make these things look a little bit better.

Thanks to one of our readers for a heads up about this.

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Smile Politely seeking Arts writers

Smile Politely is always welcoming new writers into the fold, and that, of course, includes our ever-vibrant Arts section. There are constantly new artistic endeavors happening all over Champaign-Urbana, and as an Arts writer, you'll be able to have your finger on the pulse of the local art scene.

We're looking for some writers for this particular section, and in order for this to really work, you must have at least a mild grasp what's happening locally, and preferably a grasp on art as a whole, as well. Don't worry, you don't have to be a perfect writer — we'll help with that part.

Perks of being an Arts writer include, but are not limited to:

  • Being involved in a wide variety of art-based events
  • A little extra spending money.
  • Valuable writing experience.
  • Sometimes people recognize you at the bar.

If this sounds like something you're interested in, fire an email off to info@smilepolitely.com.

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Allerton receives nearly $37K in grants for trails, environmental education

From the press release:

Allerton receives grants for trails, environmental education

Monticello –Allerton Park & Retreat Center was recently awarded two grants, which will be used for trail improvements and environmental education programming. In recent years the Park, which is a unit of the University of Illinois, has increased its focus on securing private support from individual donations and granting organizations in an attempt to close the gap in funding as support from the University decreases. 

The larger of the two awards, for $36,920, is from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Recreational Trails Program, and will be used to repair eroded sections of the existing 14-mile trail system. Allerton staff applied for the grant in 2014, but because of the state budget impasse the funds were just recently distributed. The money will help continue Allerton’s goal of making the natural areas more accessible. Monthly public hikes have been helping that effort, but now several trail improvements will aid the initiative as well.

“We’ve added a wooden boardwalk and numerous gravel turnpikes over wet sections of trail, and we have realigned stretches of trail to make them safer and less prone to erosion,” explained Allerton’s Natural Areas Manager Nate Beccue. “With an improving trail system, we hope more people will come out to appreciate the beauty of Sangamon River corridor and enjoy the natural areas that we are working hard to preserve.”

The second award is a “mini-grant” from The Environmental Education Association of Illinois (EEAI) for $350, which will be used by Allerton’s Volunteer and Education Committee to develop a curriculum to facilitate local school participation in environmental education through hikes at Allerton.

This spring, 125 5th grade students from Washington Elementary in Monticello will visit Allerton for the initial full-day field trip, taking part in environmental lessons and hikes focused on five topics: prairie, woodland and wildflowers, pond study, formal gardens, and science and art with journaling. The Committee will analyze post-survey results, revising and adding lessons as needed, with plans to expand the program to additional schools in the fall of 2017.

“The ultimate goal is to develop an ongoing school outreach program that will provide a venue for students to become acquainted with ecosystems and science process skills by linking nature curriculum to state and national science standards,” explained committee member Georgiean Benson.

The reusable equipment and materials used for the field trips will also be used as resources and guides to foster self-­directed exploration at Allerton Park.

“We hope that the students will be motivated to come back to the Park with their parents for individual exploration,” Benson continued.“Overall, we want to facilitate authentic nature experiences for the next generation, helping them to understand our natural world and teaching them to protect nature as stewards of the environment.”

 

If you would like to get involved in supporting Allerton’s trails, environmental education programs, or other areas at Allerton contact Deanne at jhns@illinois.edu or call 217-333-0752.