Power aggregation has led to energy savings for participating communities, but the long-term prospects are unclear. (Photo courtesy flickr)
By Ryan Denham
Five Things You Should Know for Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012:
Voters in Normal will revisit a bulk-buying electricity program (also known as electricity aggregation) on the ballot next month. As you recall, voters in both Bloomington and Normal rejected aggregation the first time around. That came amid skepticism from some that the option, made possible through state law, was some sort of government takeover of electricity distribution. An email from the McLean County Republican Party chair a week before the first vote raised questions about the idea, questions that might've swayed some voters. This time around, energy consultant Good Energy is trying to increase public education efforts. Phillip Carr with Good Energy said 51 city and county governments in central and southern Illinois which opted to join the power buy-in in March will save an estimated $80 million over the next two years. "As the consultant, we clearly didn't get enough education out there, because there was a lot of feedback saying that, 'Oh, if I had known what this was about I would have voted for it," Carr said.
Residents in Normal could be paying more in property taxes next year, under a plan being considered by the Town Council. The stagnant McLean County property tax base has been a source of stress for local government officials and is now showing its teeth to taxpayers themselves. The county's assessed value is expected to drop about 1 percent or more this year, meaning Normal would be faced with either spending cuts or new revenue (possibly through a higher tax rate). The council on Monday authorized preparation of an ordinance that would increase the property tax rate 6 percent. (A city's share of your average homeowner's property tax bill is small relative to, say, a school district.) Under the plan, Normal's tax rate would increase 6 percent, meaning the owner of a $150,000 house would pay about $30 more per year. Not everyone was on board: Councilman Adam Nielsen reportedly tried to build support for a $250,000 spending cut from the general fund tax levy to keep the rate at its current level.
House Speaker John Boehner is coming to Champaign this week to raise money for Republican Rodney Davis, who's locked in a tight battle for the 13th Congressional District seat against Democrat David Gill and independent John Hartman. The 13th District is one of the most closely watched races in the country. In addition to the $250 per person dinner Thursday, there is a VIP reception open to $1,000 sponsors or $5,000 hosts. "Speaker Boehner coming to Champaign-Urbana to support Rodney Davis highlights the importance of this county and is a great opportunity to help spread Rodney's message of helping small businesses create jobs, keeping tax rates low and repealing and replacing Obamacare," said Habeeb Habeeb, chairman of the Champaign County Republican Party, according to the News-Gazette. As reporter Tom Kacich notes, retiring Rep. Tim Johnson will not be there. Johnson has not endorsed Davis.
A former University of Illinois professor was one of the winners of the Nobel economics prize on Monday. Alvin Roth taught at U of I from 1974-82. The Nobel prize focused on the problem of matching different agents in a market in situations where prices aren't the deciding factor. Roth, for example, applied a new algorithm to the market for allocating U.S. student doctors to hospitals, and to redesign the application process of New York City public high schools. And experts say Roth's work revolutionized the way organs are matched to patients. Roth would later go on to teach at Harvard University and Harvard Business School. He'll get a slice of a $1.2 million prize.
An ironworker found a unique way of broadcasting his support for Republican Mitt Romney. John Rukavina, 74, who was working for a Genoa, Ill., company, installed a new ABC antenna a few weeks ago on top of Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago. An old ironworker's custom is to hang a flag when a job is completed successfully. In addition to an American flag (a burial flag for his brother-in-law), Rukavina also briefly affixed a Romney banner to the antenna. “But I had to take everything down because it’s my responsibility to make sure no one gets hurt and the wind could have ripped it loose," he said. It just so happens a family friend was filming Rukavina at the time for a documentary. My view: The Romney flag is the second most interesting part of this story. The first: The ironworker is 74 and still installing antennas on Willis Tower! Wow!
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Ryan Denham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.