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AFSCME votes to authorize strike

SPRINGFIELD The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 announced Thursday that union members voted to authorize union officials to call a strike. Members voted to call a walkout “if no other path forward can be found,” executive director Roberta Lynch said at a news conference.

“We have come to this juncture today for one reason and one reason only: The refusal by Gov. Rauner to negotiate with our union,” Lynch said. “Our members are more than willing to work to find a compromise with the governor, but we won’t just roll over.”

This is the first such vote in Illinois state government. It came after union members voted from Jan. 30 to Feb. 19. Lynch said 81 percent of those voting at more than 200 worksites statewide favor walking if necessary. She said turnout was about 80 percent of the union’s 38,000 members. The vote does not authorize a strike, but instead gives union officials the ability to organize a strike.

The next steps for AFSCME and its members is not clear. Union spokesperson Anders Lindall said plans will start to take shape next week.

They will be meeting next week to chart next steps, Lindall said. In an emailed statement, Gov. Bruce Rauner strongly condemned the vote.

“The vote to authorize a strike is an attack on our state’s hardworking taxpayers and all those who rely on critical services provided everyday,” Rauner said in the statement. The statement also reiterated bargaining sticking points, such as the use of volunteers by state agencies and higher insurance premiums.

Should a strike be called, Rauner said the state will do all it can to curb the disruption to services.

“If AFSCME chooses to strike, we will use every resource to ensure services continue to be available to the people of Illinois,” he said. If the union does strike, Lindall said he hopes Rauner knows where the responsibility for the ultimate fallout will lie.

If he continues to refuse to negotiate we are willing to strike and that the responsibility of the very real harm a strike would cause falls on his shoulders alone, Lindall said.

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Locally, a strike would disrupt several social services, including Choate Mental Health and Development Center and the Veterans Home in Anna, as well as Chester Mental Health, and the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia. Lynch said officers who provide security at state prisons and juvenile detention centers would be required to report to work. That’s a little less than one-third of AFSCME membership.

Lindall said the union does hope to continue negotiations, but added that Rauner would need to come to the table ready to bargain.

We think we need to do some hard work to find common ground but we need a willing partner, Lindall said. The last contract expired in June 2015. Rauner wants a four-year wage freeze, increased employee contributions to maintain current health coverage, and a 40-hour workweek instead of a 37 -hour one. His team stopped negotiating a year ago. AFSCME and Gov. Rauner were granted an impasse by state labor regulators after contract negotiations have stalled. This gives Rauner the ability to impose a contract and for the union to strike.

John O’Connor of The Associated Press contributed to this story.

County meets to discuss medical marijuana

DeKalb The DeKalb City Council will consider a zoning petition to accommodate Justice Grown, a marijuana dispensary out of Effingham, during a Monday meeting. On Feb. 4, a public notice invited community members to attend and submit written comments for the organization s public hearing during a zoning committee meeting 6 p.m. Wednesday at the DeKalb Municipal Building, 200 S. Fourth St., according to the Public Notice Illinois webpage.

Justice Grown is dedicated to researching, cultivating and distributing high-quality cannabis to patients in need of healthier alternatives to personal wellness, according to Justice Grown s mission statement. Justice Grown, which is represented by Jamil Taylor, vice president of business development, is seeking a zoning change in DeKalb for the placement of the organization s medical cannabis dispensary in the multi-tenant Aspen Ridge Business Park, 650 Peace Road, according to the Feb. 4 notice.

The planning and zoning committee unanimously passed the petition to allow rezoning. Ashley Peterson, CEO of Justice Grown s Effingham cultivation site, and Taylor spoke to community members about Justice Grown s approach to its ideal position in the community during the zoning committee meeting which included sponsoring a police officer and teaming up with NIU to conduct research.

We were founded in 2014 by two of the most well-known social justice attorneys in the Midwest: Jon Loevy and Michael Kanovitz, Taylor said. Taylor said the DeKalb facility would meet his business s security features because of a port that would allow vehicles to drive into the facility for product delivery and offer them security when providing delivery services.

Security is huge for us; making sure our patrons are safe, our patients, our employees and obviously our product, Taylor said.

While some of the security features are standards set by the state, the site s security will exceed those requirements.

We re spending over $120,000 on security alone, so this is going to be a safe place, Taylor said. I like to think it s safer than a bank. The company intends to keep a security guard at the facility during hours of operations to provide safety to the business and assist patients to their vehicles, if requested. There are currently 51 licensed marijuana dispensaries in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

The Compassionate Use Of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act was enacted Jan. 1, 2014, to protect patients with serious medical conditions and their physicians from criminal penalties if the patients engage in the medical use of cannabis, according to the act. The Act permits 60 dispensing organizations to operate in Illinois. The amount of dispensaries allowed within a district is based on patient populations, geography, zoning, location or other reasonable criteria, according to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. Under the committee s rules, DeKalb County may allow one dispensary.

Medical marijuana first reached state legislation during California s 1996 Proposition 215, according to an April 20 Time Magazine article. Since then, 28 states have passed comprehensive medical marijuana laws, according to a Nov. 10 Time Magazine article.

All of the public comments made supported the establishment of a medical cannabis facility in DeKalb.

I was very skeptical about this, Chair Christina Atherton said. This is my backyard basically, so this frightened me a little. I m honest about this. I can comfortably go home tonight knowing what [Justice Grown representatives] presented tonight.

Greg Hansen: Arizona Wildcats’ Spirit of ’79 lives on with USC, UCLA arriving

To encourage customer traffic and circulate his restaurant s name in the community, Spaghetti Company owner Mike Pulos offered a free spaghetti dinner to all 14,586 McKale Center fans if the Wildcats could complete a historic 1979 sweep of UCLA and USC. To be safe, Pulos ordered 2,000 cases of pasta and scheduled double-shifts for his waiters. In January 1979, that was about $50,000 of giveaway spaghetti.

It was our first year in the Pac-10, and it was really big to have UCLA and USC on our court, remembers 1980 Arizona all-conference guard Joe Nehls. I think everybody in town ate free spaghetti. Only now, 38 years later, with the Trojans and Bruins a cumulative 45-9, is there a USC/UCLA weekend as appealing. In the Lute Olson years, USC and UCLA never arrived at McKale with more than 36 wins.

Rarely have the Trojans and the Bruins been good simultaneously, but in 1979 they were picked to finish 1-2 in the newly expanded Pac-10. UCLA was ranked No. 3 when it arrived in Tucson; the Trojans were ranked as high as No. 11 in the AP poll, and by the time they suited up at McKale, they had already played the nation s most difficult schedule, enduring road games at Duke, Maryland and Texas . The Bruins came first, a Thursday night game attended by 14,606. Like many other teams of the era, Arizona had not beaten mighty UCLA since 1923. No one could have expected a sweep, or even a split. The Wildcats were bludgeoned 116-80 at Oregon State five days earlier.

We had been embarrassed, says Nehls, now a Tucson real estate broker. They probably came in thinking they could walk all over us.

On the biggest platform in McKale history, Arizona beat UCLA 70-69 when reserve guard John Smith made a single free throw with six seconds remaining. He was engulfed by hundreds of celebrating fans who not only attempted to cut down the nets, but carried Smith and several of his teammates off the court. When coach Fred Snowden arrived at work the next morning, his first of dozens of congratulatory phone calls was from U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini, a 1959 UA grad.

It s the biggest win of my career, said Snowden, who earlier stunned No. 3 UNLV in the 1976 Sweet 16. I ve never seen it like this here. It was the first time I d ever seen the crowd come onto the court and lift the players up on their shoulders. Then came the promise of free spaghetti dinners if Arizona could complete the sweep on a Monday night against USC.

Another sellout crowd squeezed into the arena, at which Arizona had gone 82-7 since McKale opened in 1973. But most of those victories were against regional opponents from the Western Athletic Conference. It was the Joe Nehls Show. The shooting guard from the Chicago suburb of Hinsdale, Illinois, scored 31 points, giving him 50 for the weekend. Arizona won 74-72, with two Nehls free throws providing the differential. This time the crowd rushed the court with even more revelry. A small security force was overwhelmed; some fans got inside the UA locker room, embraced by Snowden and the players.

I don t think I ve ever seen that in back-to-back games anywhere, says Nehls, who is a UA season ticket-holder. We didn t get to the postseason, not even the NIT, but that weekend was a highlight that can never be taken away from you. It was as loud as I can ever remember it at McKale.

Los Angeles Times basketball writer Mal Florence described his weekend in Tucson this way: I thought Oregon was bad, but this is the new Pit. How did it happen? How did an Arizona team that finished 16-11 and tied for fourth in the Pac-10, sweep NCAA-bound UCLA and USC teams? The Wildcats shot a combined 57 percent for the weekend. The future NBA players from Los Angeles UCLA s Kiki Vandeweghe, David Greenwood and Brad Holland and USC s Cliff Robinson couldn t overcome what has grown to be the West Coast s leading game-day environment.

The USC-UCLA weekend has never been able to match the appeal and anticipation of the 1979 games. Over the last 30 LA weekends, Arizona is 50-10 against the Trojans and Bruins with 22 sweeps. A few years ago, Nehls got a call from Arizona s 1979 point guard, Russell Brown, who scored a season-high 18 in the upset over UCLA. He asked if Nehls had video of either of the games, or an old tape.

Unfortunately, no, says Nehls. But I d love to get my hands on one. The old Spaghetti Company restaurant on South Alvernon Way closed in 1982. The spirit of 79 lives on.

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