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The Accord in Downtown Champaign will close April 30th

The Accord, the performance venue in Downtown Champaign at 51 E. Main St. that took over for The Highdive in January 2016, will close its doors on April 30, 2017. 

Managing Partner Seth Fein (who is also the Publisher of Smile Politely) released this statement: 
 
"Our time at The Accord was wonderful. Operating a live music venue is not easy, but we're proud of the work that we've done during the time we were part of it. It's been an honor to partner with a company like CMT Ventures on it, but with the lease coming up for renewal, we've decided to focus our attention on growing the scope and impact of The Pygmalion Festival and Smile Politely, which is coming up on its tenth anniversary of publishing this December."
 
"The good news is that another live music lover, Rod Sickler, will be taking over the space and re-branding it as 51 Main. Our intentions are to continue operating as independent promoters, so there should be no drop off in great live music in Downtown Champaign, something that we all believe to be a vital component to a cultural experience in any city center. Rod and I have a strong rapport and I was delighted to discover that he was interested in pursuing the project."
 
Said Sickler, "We are excited to no end about the opportunity to take over such a legendary and amazing stage in Downtown Champaign. We look forward to working with the promoters who have brought shows to this stage in the past while further developing the live music scene and adding in live theatre performances, piano bar nights, club nights, and so much more." 
 
"I started independently producing shows in 2002," said Fein, "and fifteen years later, I still get the same satisfaction when I'm able to bring in top level national talent on the rise through Champaign-Urbana. It remains part of our company's mission and I am very excited about some of the shows we have on the horizon right now."
 
The Accord website remains live through the end of April at www.intheaccord.com and all performances scheduled will go on as planned. 
 
Any inquiries can be directed to info@intheaccord.com.
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Dr. Susan Zola announced as new Superintendent of Unit 4 Schools

From the press release:

The Unit 4 Board of Education has announced Dr. Susan Zola as the next District Superintendent. Dr. Zola will begin her duty as Superintendent on July 1, 2017

"The impressive quality and quantity of the work Dr. Zola has done for Unit 4 was more than enough to propel her to the finalist stage," said Board of Education President Chris Kloeppel. "However, it was her performance during the interview process--her eloquence, passion, poise, and professionalism--that ultimately convinced us to choose her as the next Superintendent of Champaign Unit 4." 

In his remarks, Mr. Kloeppel thanked current Superintendent Dr. Judy Wiegand for her service. "It is my belief that you are leaving Unit 4 in a tremendous place," said Kloeppel. "It cannot be understated how appreciative I am of your leadership and guidance to this District."

Dr. Susan Zola began her career as a first grade teacher in Urbana School District 116. In 1990, she joined Champaign Unit 4 School District and became the Principal of Dr. Howard Elementary School. She later served as the Director of Title I/Literacy, Director of Choice, Principal of Jefferson Middle School, and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. 
 
Dr. Zola currently serves the District as the Assistant Superintendent for Achievement, Curriculum, and Instruction where she oversees curriculum and instruction work and the District's 12 elementary school campuses. She will continue to work in this capacity in Superintendent Dr. Wiegand's administration until July 1
 
Dr. Judy Wiegand's planned retirement at the close of the school year prompted the Board of Education to hire the Illinois Association of School Boards to conduct a national search for the District's next leader. IASB assisted in the board in narrowing the number of candidates from 50+ to 7 finalists, who were interviewed in closed session by the Board of Education. 
 
The pool was then narrowed to 3 candidates who were then interviewed by a panel of community members, faculty, staff, administration, and the Board of Education. The Board of Education reviewed information provided by the panel and deliberated in closed session on January 18 and again on January 23, ultimately selecting Zola as the District's next top leader. The Board will vote to finalize her contract at its next meeting on February 27.
 
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Shahid Khan discusses opposition to Trump's Immigration Ban in NY Times

Perhaps one of the most noteworthy exports of Champaign-Urbana is Jacksonville Jaguars owner, Shad Khan. Flex-N-Gate founder, U of I graduate, immigrant and Muslim — the American Dream to mostKhan was featured in the New York Times regarding President Trump's immigration ban.

Check out the full article, but here is an excerpt:

“The bedrock of this country are immigration and really a great separation between church and state,” Khan, 66, said here in Houston, the site of Sunday’s Super Bowl.

“Even for the country, it’s not good,” he added, explaining that he thought the order could deny entry to some of “the tens of thousands of people who can contribute to the making of America.”

The only immigrant and the only Muslim owner of an N.F.L. team, Khan came to the United States from Pakistan in 1967, earned a degree in engineering and went on to own Flex-N-Gate, a multibillion-dollar car parts business. He became a United States citizen decades ago.

Khan said it was “kind of a sobering time for somebody like me,” in part because he had expected President Trump to moderate his views on immigrants and Muslims once he was elected. But Khan said he was hopeful that the courts would provide a bulwark against the president’s actions against immigrants.

Top photo by Bill Wippert/Associated Press.

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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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Veriflow announces expansion to One Main in Downtown Champaign

Earlier this year, Veriflow Systems — mostly based here in Champaign-Urbana from the beginning — announced their Series A round of $8.2M

Today, they have announced they're setting up shop in Downtown Champaign's One Main Building — right next to Volition. Good news for more tech companies heading to Downtown Champaign, infusing more employees and human beings to the heart of the city.

Here's the press release:

Veriflow Systems, Inc. Announces Expansion in Champaign, IL 

San Jose, CA based Veriflow Systems, Inc., has announced its expansion in Champaign, Illinois with the leasing of 4,200 square feet of office space on the 2nd floor of One Main Plaza at 1 East Main Street in Downtown Champaign. Verifow is relocating from its current space at Enterprise Works at the Research Park at the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign campus. Veriflow will join fellow high tech company, Volition, in occupying the majority of the office space at One Main Plaza. 

Veriflow was created by a team of computer science professors and PhD students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Veriflow is the first networking company to use continuous network verification to eliminate network outages and vulnerabilities. Veriflow’s mission is to apply formal mathematical verification to complex networks, preventing outages and breaches that lead to astronomical losses. 

Veriflow is backed by a strong team of investors, including New Enterprise Associates, Menlo Ventures, the National Science Foundation, and the US Department of Defense. In October, Veriflow won Barclays 2016 Open Innovation Challenge award, beating out more than 100 global technology companies for the honor. Veriflow was founded by Matthew Caesar, PhD, Brighten Godfrey, PhD, and Ahmed Khurshid, PhD. All three hold Associate Professor positions in Computer Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. 

Veriflow is planning to occupy the space at One Main Plaza, after renovations are completed on the existing office space, with a target move date of April, 2017. With their expansion, Veriflow will increase employment in the Champaign market, capitalizing on the strength of the computer science program at the University of Illinois. 

“With the physical Tier 1 amenities, access to public transportation and proximity to the university, One Main in Downtown Champaign was an ideal location to for our expansion,” said James Brear President and CEO of Veriflow. 

“One Main Development is excited to welcome Veriflow Systems, Inc. to join the prestigious businesses that make their home in Downtown Champaign," says Dave Jones, President. "As downtown has been evolving back into a central business district, we are pleased that such a respected tech company will be taking advantage of the environment for their own business growth and development. It has been a great pleasure working with the Veriflow team and we are looking forward to welcoming them into One Main Plaza.” 

"I'm excited to welcome Veriflow as it expands into Champaign's booming downtown tech center. World leading technology companies continue to grow and thrive in Champaign, and we welcome the new opportunities and jobs this will mean for our community" stated Champaign Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen. 

“Veriflow’s decision to grow in the Champaign-Urbana community is fantastic news,” said Craig Rost, Executive Director of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation. “Evolving from their location in EnterpriseWorks, the University of Illinois Research Park incubator, into the downtown Champaign location with other high tech employers is the perfect success story for the company and for Champaign County. We look forward to working with Veriflow, another great example of our ‘Heart of Innovation’ legacy here in our community and University.” 

One Main Plaza offers retail and office space for lease at its premier location on the corner of Neil and Main Streets in downtown Champaign. Its largest office tenant is Deep Silver Volition, a well-known gaming design firm. Big Grove Tavern, Kofusion, Snow Meets Coffee and Merry Ann’s Diner restaurants occupy the first floor, along with Hada Cosmetic Medicine. 

Guth & Associates/Fairlawn Real Estate represented Veriflow Systems in securing their space at One Main Plaza and Coldwell Banker Devonshire Realty represented One Main Development, LLC in the transaction. 

Veriflow is the first networking company to use continuous network verification to eliminate network outages and vulnerabilities. The company was created by a team of computer science professors and Ph.D. students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and is backed by New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Menlo Ventures, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defense. The company is headquartered in San Jose, California. To learn more, visit veriflow.net and follow us on Twitter @veriflowsystems. 

Other Veriflow Information and Links: 

Veriflow Wins Barclays 2016 Open Innovation Challenge Award: http://www.veriflow.net/press/veriflow-wins-barclays-2016-open-innovation-challenge-award/ 

- Veriflow raised $8.2 million to help IT pros avoid network outages and breaches via TechCrunch: https://techcrunch.com/2016/07/06/veriflow-raised-8-2-million-to-help-it-pros-avoid-network-outages-and-breaches/ 

- They launched their new platform last month: http://www.veriflow.net/press/veriflow-launches-disruptive-network-verification-platform-announces-customer-wins/?utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=pr_win161115 

- They received SBIR funding, Phase I (2013) and Phase II (2014): https://www.sbir.gov/sbc/veriflow-systems-inc 

- The company was created by a team of computer science professors and Ph.D. students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

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Summer Camp releases statement about alleged move to Danville

Summer Camp Music Festival might not take place here in Champaign-Urbana, but a branch of Jay Goldberg Events and Entertainment exists here, operating the Canopy Club in Urbana.

Earlier this week, a story came out via the Danville Commerical-News about an agreement that was made between Summer Camp organizers that would theoretically move the festival from Chillcothe to Kennekuk County Park, which exists just outside of our close neighbor, Danville.

Ian Goldberg issued a statement about that information, which is largely based on a contingency plan due to the unrest between the festival and Three Sisters Park. Goldberg discusses that there are no plans to move the festival at this point in time, and the discussion with Kennekuk County Park is an alternative option as a future site of the festival.

As a side note, you might recall that dumpster fire that was Phases of the Moon Festival that previously existed in Danville before moving their party elsewhere.

You can read the whole statement below rom Summer Camp's website:

Statement From Summer Camp Founder Ian Goldberg

Summer Camp Family,

As there seems to be a lot of misinformation out there due to press coverage of a public meeting, I wanted to set the record straight. At this time, there has been no decision made to move Summer Camp from Three Sisters Park.

It is no secret that we have long been having troubles with our current venue. We are currently engaged in a legal case over material terms of our existing contract with them. Although we have made our best efforts at dialogue and to find a mutually agreeable resolution, we have been unable to resolve those issues to date.

As such, we have had to move forward with alternative plans in case the issues are unable to be resolved. On Wednesday night, the Vermillion County Conservation District approved a draft contract to allow us to hold festivals at the Kennekuk County Park outside of Danville, Illinois.

It has been reported that this means we are moving Summer Camp to Kennekuk County Park. At this time, that decision has not been made. We are very excited by the potentials of this great park and the welcome we have received from all involved in the Danville area. We are continuing to examine all options for use of this great space.

Should our attempts to resolve our issues with Three Sisters Park prove futile, there is the possibility that Kennekuk could become Summer Camp’s future home, however, that decision is premature at this point.

Like all of you, we have a profound love of our current home. I married my wife there. And when she passed, we created a memorial for her there. If we are forced to make a move, you can trust it will be because we all can no longer feel welcome in this space.

If we are unable to resolve our issues, you can also trust that Kennekuk County Park is an amazing space filled with lakes, trees and beautiful open spaces ready to welcome and embrace everything that Summer Camp has come to stand for. Or, it possibly will be home to a new and different event at some time in the future.

So for the moment, I ask that you ignore any rumors and speculation about what is going on, and wait to hear from us once we work through these issues.

Thanks and much love,

Ian Goldberg
Founder and Director
Summer Camp Music Festival

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Dee Brown resigns from his position with Illini Athletics

Illini Basketball great Dee Brown has announced his resignation from his position with Illini Athletics — though no particular reason outside of "personal issues". Check out Brown's announcement:

h/t The Daily Illini. We'll update if/when there is more information about the resignation.

Photo by The Champaign Room.

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Keep Central Central endorses Unit 4’s proposed $183M referendum

From the press release from Keep Central Central:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 18, 2016

Keep Central Central (KCC) has voted to endorse and actively support the Unit 4 School District’s proposed $183,400,000 bond referendum.

On April 15, 2015 KCC asked the newly elected Unit 4 Board of Education to consider the adoption of a plan which incorporates the following concepts:

  • The retention of a new, modernized Central High School in a central Champaign location
  • Based upon facility needs and financial resources, renovation and expansion of the structure currently used as Central High School at its existing location to maximize use of the existing building.
  • The development of a long-term, comprehensive master plan encompassing all the school district’s major construction needs.


The Board of Education diligently embarked on an open planning process which resulted in the creation of a facilities plan that meets the needs and expectations of Unit 4’s students and community far into the future.

KCC is planning a RALLY for Unit 4 to outline its support for the bond referendum and engage in a detailed discussion why KCC supports the proposed bond referendum. The RALLY will take place at the Champaign Public Library, in the Robeson Room on Saturday, September 17, 2016, between 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM.

Keep Central Central would like to thank the Unit 4 Board of Education, Unit 4 Staff and local community volunteers who have been involved in the analysis of the school district’s master construction plan and development of the bond referendum proposal.

To implement the master construction plan for our local schools, please VOTE Yes for the Unit 4 Schools bond referendum on November 8, 2016.

Please contact Prudence Runkle at (217) 356-0632 or champru@aol.com with any questions, comments or concerns.