Charlie Schlenker | WGLT

Charlie Schlenker

News Director

GLT News Director Charlie Schlenker grew up in Rock Island, Illinois and graduated from Augustana College. He has spent more than three decades in radio and has won numerous state and national awards for journalism. He lives in Normal with his family.

Bloomington Police say they have arrested three people in a drug investigation, an adult and two juveniles. Officers also say they seized two stolen handguns, ammunition, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. 20-year old Diondre Thornton-Kirkwood faces charges involving the weapons and criminal fortification of a residence. A 16 year old juvenile was arrested for cannabis delivery. A 15 year old juvenile was taken in on a warrant.

A SWAT team and crisis negotiators helped officers end the standoff that began when police tried to serve a warrant.
 

A federal mediator is meeting for a second time with Heartland Community College faculty union negotiators and the administration. The Union has already authorized a strike as early as next Friday. A five year contract expired at the end of June and the two sides remain far apart on pay and benefit issues, particularly the cost of healthcare. Heartland Trustees will meet Monday to discuss the walkout possibility.
 

Illinois Symphony Orchestra

Christmas garlands and lights have already begun to creep into homes, onto bushes outside houses, and yes, into stores. Tomorrow evening the music starts with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra Holiday Pops in the Heartland concert at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts. Included in that concert is the Twin Cities Ballet Company and the Illinois State University Choirs. GLT's Charlie Schlenker talks with Karyl Carlson, the Director of ISU's Choirs about the the place of a pops concert in today's culture....what it affirms and what it helps people do.

MMNA, Inc.

Since the announcement that Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing in Normal would close, GLT News has been checking in to see how workers and their families are coping. Like most of the people working at the soon to close plant in Normal Jerry Harcharik faces uncertainty.

McLean County Museum of History

The Director of the McLean County Museum of History is retiring. Greg Koos has spent 38 years at the museum and the historical society. Koos says he has lasted that long because he has been in a place where he sees people learn.

OmSharanSalafia / YouTube

As France recovers from the ISIS attacks GLT's Charlie Schlenker talks with an American in Paris. Bloomington-Normal native Ryan Weisheit is a saxophonist with Sweet Megg and the Wayfarers, a retro jazz group touring in Europe right now.

The Bloomington Normal Community may not yet realize just how valuable Mitsubishi workers have been to the community. The plant is halting production at the end of the month. Mike Matejka of the Laborers Local says the United Auto Workers have been involved in many charities over the years.

Matejka urges the community to help in a salute to the Mitusbishi workers at the plant on Tuesday afternoon November 24th.

He says residents should bring signs thanking Mitsubishi workers for all they have done at 2:30 p.m. that day.

Garry Knight / Flickr via Creative Commons

An Illinois State University Political Scientist says the attacks in Paris say something significant about ISIS' deteriorating position. Professor Ali Riaz is the Chair of ISU's Department of Politics and Government. In this interview with GLT's Charlie Schlenker, Riaz says the Egyptian plane bombing, other bombings in the Mideast by ISIS, and now the assaults in Paris, show a shift to a strategy of asymetrical warfare.

Illinois Immigrant rights groups and advocates are blasting Gov. Bruce Rauner's decision to temporarily stop accepting new Syrian refugees in Illinois in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris.  

The Arab American Action Network says the decision creates a "fictitious link" between those fleeing war and violence and those responsible for the deadly attacks. The group says it also fuels racist stereotypes.  

The Organized Communities Against Deportations wants Rauner to reconsider.  

Illinois' new medical marijuana shops sold nearly $211,000 worth of cannabis in the first week, with less than a quarter of eligible patients buying so far.  

The state's first regulated marijuana dispensaries opened Monday. Program director Joseph Wright said Friday the dispensaries served 806 customers. They purchased about 460 ounces of marijuana, or about a half an ounce per person, on average.  

Green Thumb Industries CEO Ben Kovler says the numbers are "a very strong start." 

Town of Normal

Town of Normal staff are suggesting it is worth $190,000 of taxpayer money to eliminate a problem property on North School Street. The Town Council will decide whether to buy a house in the 600 block of North School and end its status as a student rooming house.

The century old house has a history of code violations and poor repair. Staff say students who leased it for the fall term even moved out.

McLean County is trying again for an enterprise zone renewal. Last year's attempt did not gain approval from the Governor. On Monday, the Normal Town Council will take up the revised request. The existing enterprise zone formed back in 1982 to bring the Mitsubishi plant to Normal expires next June. All other units of government in the proposed zone must also sign off on the application.

The new plan includes local property tax abatements for prospective new businesses that create 50 jobs within the zone and involve more than $5 million in private investment.

A McLean County jury has convicted a man of home invasion. Prosecutors say Samuel Siatta delivered a cut to the head of a person in the victim's residence.

Siatta will be sentenced on the Class X offense at the end of January. He will be eligible for 6 to 30 years in prison.

The State's Attorney's office says home invasions are serious cases because they usually involve a person entering or remaining in someone else's residence and threatening or injuring them with a weapon.

The owner of the Pantagraph Newspaper in Bloomington is highlighting some financial results ahead of its fiscal year end reports next month. Lee Enterprises reports it cut fourth quarter costs more than revenue fell.

Total revenue was down 4.4% for the quarter ending in September. Cash costs dropped 7.8% or nearly $10 million. Lee says the decline in overall revenue is an improvement from the previous quarter.

For the full year, Lee has paid down nearly $79 million in debt. Its principal debt remains about $726 million.

The Director of the McLean County Health Department is trying to reassure County Board members that funding for drug court will not be jeopardized next budget year. Last week the department agreed to fund drug court at the same level as last year. Now the health board has approved spending less direct money than was talked about earlier. Health Department Director Walt Howe says the difference is that they want service provider Chestnut Health Systems to try billing Medicaid for the service first and then asking the county for payment.

OSF St. Joseph Medical Center
OSF Healthcare / OSF Healthcare

OSF Healthcare is raising the lowest wage it is paying workers to $10 an hour. That's $1.75 per hour higher than the minimum wage in Illinois. Kristin Williams is the OSF's Vice President for Compensation and Benefits. Williams says the move stems from the religious organization's social justice values.

She says the federal poverty line for full time workers with families was one of the guides used to establish the new minimum.

Devyn Corp., Tarter Construction, Farnsworth Group

David Bentley has been active in downtown Bloomington for 20 years, buying property, rehabbing it, and running it. His latest proposal includes developing the Pantagraph building into a boutique hotel. Bentley tells GLT's Charlie Schlenker he partnered with the city in 2007 and 2008. He agrees with Mayor Tari Renner that a downtown hotel will help the coliseum as it has the economy in Uptown Normal.

The city working with consultants SB Freidman to vet a proposal from Bentley's Devyn Corporation and Jeff Giebelhausen plan for the Front and Center block.

Mike Bernico / Bike BloNo

A new study says the largest single chunk of bicycle versus auto accidents in Bloomington Normal happen to bicyclists who are using sidewalks. Michael Gorman of the advocacy group Bike BloNo says it's safest for cyclists to behave like motorists and follow the rules of the road on the streets because cyclists are more visible to people around you.

Gorman says bikers are most visible when they are behaving like motorists and following the rules of the road, but car drivers may not notice bikers when the head into an intersection from a sidewalk.

A McLean County Circuit Judge has sentenced a Bloomington man to 14 years in prison on a child pornography conviction. 31-year old David Mariani of Chatsford Court had earlier pleaded guilty to distributing images. Police say they found more than 2,000 images of young children on Mariani's computer as part of a statewide crackdown on child porn by law enforcement and the Attorney General's office. Numerous other charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger has issued a one word response to the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. That word is "crazy." The Obama Administration has formally rejected the pipeline to carry Canadian oil into the U.S. after seven years of delays and deliberations.

Kinzinger's fellow Illinois Republican, Rodney Davis was more voluble in reaction. Davis represents part of Bloomington Normal and says it puts politics over people. Davis says instead of encouraging energy independence and job growth in that industry, the President placates his political base.

John Lloyd

Other than a house or a college education, buying a car is the largest purchase many Americans make. There's a lot of stress associated with it. WGLT's Charlie Schlenker talks with Dan Deneen, a McLean County Attorney who frequently represents car buyers against dealerships. To buy a car the low stress way, Deneen says approaching a car purchase should be done systematically.

When you go to a car lot, Deneen also says, take an extensive test drive.
 

Rejectfilm.com

Rejection has a huge impact on the human psyche, and even a physical one. A documentary film sponsored by the ISU Department of Psychology explores those effects. Ruth Thomas Suh is the director of the film "Reject."  In this interview with Charlie Schlenker, Thomas Suh says her father Herbert Thomas inspired the film.

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

The Mitsubishi Plant in Normal is preparing to close, but the company says it still wants to remain a part of the Bloomington Normal Community. The Mitsubishi Motors USA Foundation is redirecting its efforts from a national focus to concentrating on charitable works in the twin cities.

Ryan Gremore of the O'Brien Mitsubishi Dealership has announced a nearly $53,000 scholarship gift to Heartland Community College benefiting five graduates each from Bloomington, Normal Community, and Normal West High Schools for five years.

www.tedxnormal.com

The theme of this Saturday's TEDx speaker series in Normal is "Anything But Normal." During an interview with WGLT's Charlie Schlenker, Ken Myszka says a "normal" chef wakes up and goes to the restaurant, works with staff, purveyors, unpacks food out of boxes and so on.

The Bloomington Election Commission is upgrading its voting equipment. Director Paul Shannon says several hundred thousand dollars will pay for 30 new voting machines, or one per precinct.

Shannon says instead of a laser scan, the reader will be a digital picture scan of the ballot.

The machines are smaller and better for Americans With Disabilities Act compliance as well.

The cost is several hundred thousand dollars.
 

Champaign Urbana will take an employment hit over the next two years with the departure of the Kraft Food cheese making operation. Kraft Heinz announced a transition to dry and sauce production in Champaign and said there would be job losses, but declined to say how many. Kraft is currently the largest industrial employer in Champaign with 1,800 jobs.

Economic Development officials in the Champaign Urbana area say they were not notified in advance of the change and will be contacting Kraft Heinz.

Young people have a lot of energy and a lot of ideas. But, sometimes that can create problems as well as solving them. Today in our series of interviews leading up to the TEDx conference in Normal, we address the idea of empowering young people to get stuff done with the head of the Action Research Center at Illinois Wesleyan University. In this conversation with Charlie Schlenker, Deborah Halperin says to help focus that energy, adults need to create a structure for youth to scaffold their efforts.

We've all heard it over and over. Think outside the box. Take it to the next level. But, when you do that, often it turns out there's no there, there. All this week GLT is talking with speakers at the upcoming TEDx event in Normal. Alex Bruton calls himself "the innographer"--someone who can teach innovation.

The ones who change the world are the ones brave enough to question it. That's the title of one of the speeches in the upcoming TEDx conference in Normal. All this week, GLT is hearing from TEDx speakers as they talk about disrupting the status quo to "Break Free From Normal."

After a legal career of more than four decades, McLean County Circuit Judge Charles Reynard says he's retiring at the end of the year. Reynard has spent 13 years as a judge, nearly 16 before that as McLean County State's Attorney, and another 14 years in private practice and as an assistant prosecutor.

He says he's not sure exactly what the next chapter will bring in his life.

Reynard says the highlight has been the last five years in family law cases serving huge needs.

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