A Coal Valley woman was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison for sexually assaulting a 4-year-old boy in 2015.
Kayla Rose Marie Blair, 27, pleaded guilty but mentally ill in Rock Island County Court to one count of a predatory criminal sexual assault, a Class X felony.
In exchange for her plea, prosecutors dismissed three additional charges of predatory criminal sexual assault.
Blair must serve 85 percent — or just over five years of the sentence — before she can be considered for parole. She will serve three years of mandatory supervised release once she completes her sentence.
She also must register for life as a sex offender.
She was arrested in October 2015. According to court documents, Blair abused the boy between January and September.
Quad-City teams gave it their scientific all Saturday in the Science Bowl competition in Ames, Iowa.
Teams from Central and North high schools in Davenport and Pleasant Valley High School competed in the quiz bowl-style contest.
Jamie Homb, instructional coach for the Pleasant Valley team, said the Science Bowl format is time-based, with two eight-minute halves and a two-minute intermission. Much of the knowledge involved is college-level science, he said.
The North and Central teams won their divisions during the morning rounds of competition and then continued on to afternoon play, according to Gail L. Heninger, gifted and talented facilitator at Davenport Central.
Both schools finished in the top 12 out of 40 teams participating. Central lost in the afternoon rounds to Des Moines Central Academy, which ended up taking second place in the tournament.
The Davenport North team finished in the top six, according to coach Laura McCreery. They went undefeated in the morning round-robin matches against Cedar Rapids Kennedy (48-12), Ogden (28-8) Columbus (60-8) and Lynville-Sully (66-4).
Both Davenport North and Central moved on to the top 16. North lost to Johnston but moved on to beat Iowa City, LeMars, and Ottumwa (in an overtime tie-breaker), then lost to Dubuque Senior. That placed North in the top six teams out of 40.
Pleasant Valley won two competitions in the morning and lost two games, which didn’t allow the team to continue into the top 16 for afternoon competition, said Jamie Homb, instructional coach. “Our first match was against Des Moines Central Campus, which went on to win second place in the whole competition.”
The Science Bowl is a challenging contest even for students who are very good in the subject, Homb said.
This was the 27th annual edition of the program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science. The purpose of the contest is to promote student interest in pursuing careers in science and math.
Central's team was Evan Balk, Hannah Mandell, Rafe Sullivan and Ezekiel Wynsma.
North's team was Brady Connell, Anthony DeSalvo, Jacob Hansen, Jerry (Brik) Ridenhour and Jacob Wells.
Pleasant Valley’s team was Shashank Inampudi, Vivek Joshi, Patrick McMonagle, Amulya Pillutla and Ike Sears.
Ten men face federal charges in connection with a large-scale dog-fighting ring in the Illinois and Iowa Quad-Cities that dates back to at least 2011.
A grand jury last week handed up indictments against:
• Demarlo A. McCoy, 29, of Rock Island, charged with conspiracy to sponsor/exhibit pit bulls in an animal fighting venture, four counts of sponsoring/exhibiting dogs in dog fighting and possessing dogs for participation in dog fighting.
• Ryan M. Hickman, 42, of Rock Island, charged with conspiracy to sponsor/exhibit pit bulls in an animal fighting venture and possessing dogs for participation in dog fighting.
• Andrew Keywan Lidell, 40, of Rock Island, charged with conspiracy to sponsor/exhibit pit bulls in an animal fighting venture, two counts of sponsoring/exhibiting dogs in dog fighting and possessing dogs for participation in dog fighting.
• Algerron Lee Goldsmith, 46, of Rock Island, charged with conspiracy to sponsor/exhibit pit bulls in an animal fighting venture and possessing dogs for participation in dog fighting.
• Simmeon Terrell Hall, 28, of Rock Island, charged with conspiracy to sponsor/exhibit pit bulls in an animal fighting venture, transport and delivery of dogs for dog fighting and three counts sponsoring/exhibiting dogs in dog fighting.
• Stantrel Vontrez Knight, 28, of Rock Island, charged with conspiracy to sponsor/exhibit pit bulls in an animal fighting venture, sponsoring/exhibiting dogs in dog fighting and possessing dogs for participation in dog fighting.
• Sherrick Cornelius Houston, 43, of Rock Island, charged with conspiracy to sponsor/exhibit pit bulls in an animal fighting venture and possessing dogs for participation in dog fighting.
• Willie Earl Jackson, 34, of Rock Island, charged with conspiracy to sponsor/exhibit pit bulls in an animal fighting venture and sponsoring/exhibiting dogs in dog fighting.
• Terrell Onterial McDuffy, 43, of Davenport, charged with conspiracy to sponsor/exhibit pit bulls in an animal fighting venture.
• Jaquan Leontae Jones, 27, of Rock Island, charged with knowingly attending a dog fight, a misdemeanor.
Goldsmith pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Rock Island. He has a detention hearing Wednesday.
McDuffy and Houston also will be in court Wednesday for arraignment and detention hearings. Hickman, Jackson and Knight will be arraigned Friday.
Information was not available late Tuesday afternoon for Jones, Hall, McCoy and Lidell.
Although the indictments were handed up last week, they were sealed until authorities began making arrests Tuesday.
On April 14, investigators seized 64 pit bull-type dogs from 10 homes in Rock Island and one in Davenport as part of an investigation into a dog-fighting ring that began a year earlier through information developed by the Rock Island Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Quad-Cities Federal Gang Task Force.
Rock Island Police Chief Jeff VenHuizen said Tuesday the department has never seen a dog-fighting ring “on this scale” locally.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done as far as prosecution, but we’re happy to see these indictments come down,” he said. “I think it sends a strong message that this type of activity is not going to be tolerated and that there are severe consequences if you engage in it.”
The seized dogs were placed into the custody of the American Society for the Prevention and Cruelty of Animals.
No dog-fighting charges were filed immediately following the seizures, but Hickman and Jackson were arrested on drug offenses.
Among the allegations included in the indictment to support the conspiracy charges against McCoy, Hickman, Lidell, Goldsmith, Knight, McDuffy, Hall, Houston and Jackson:
• They learned the rules of dog fighting, such as Cajun, Southern and Northern rules, and used them to sponsor fights between dogs and exhibit dogs in fights in the Illinois and Iowa Quad-Cities and in other states.
• They learned dog breeding techniques and identified fighting-dog bloodlines and used those techniques to treat dogs that had suffered fighting injuries.
• They learned techniques to treat injuries sustained by the dogs in fights and used those techniques to treat dogs that had suffered injuries.
• They discussed and disseminated information, including videos, of past fights to establish the fighting reputations of specific dogs, maximize their value for breeding litters of fighting dogs and maximize the men’s reputations as fighting-dog trainers and breeders.
• They attempted to obstruct investigation of their animal fighting venture by animal control and police by killing and otherwise disposing of injured dogs and misrepresented the origin of the dogs’ injuries and treated them without professional veterinary assistance.
• They obscured their ownership of particular fighting dogs by housing them at locations other than where the defendants lived.
• They killed or disposed of dogs that lost fights or otherwise failed to demonstrate fighting abilities satisfactory to them.
• They contacted breeders of fighting dogs in other states to purchase dogs with high-fighting qualities and traveled to purchase the dogs and bring them back to the Quad-Cities.
The indictment also claims that Jones attended a dog fight on April 26, 2015.
Federal prosecutors on April 15 filed a civil complaint seeking forfeiture of the seized dogs. They said in the civil complaint that the dogs were involved in and used to commit or facilitate the dog-fighting venture.
Twenty-seven of the seized dogs have been forfeited to the government per an order issued by U.S. District Judge Sara Darrow. On Jan. 26, she also granted prosecutors’ motion for default against 24 additional dogs.
Two dogs seized in April were euthanized pursuant to a court order, and five dogs were voluntarily surrendered.
Three dogs have died, according to prosecutors. There are three dogs whose claims remain unresolved.
MUSCATINE — In honor of the Chinese New Year, an internationally acclaimed Chinese orchestra will give a free concert Wednesday night at Calvary Church in Muscatine.
The Shaanxi Province Song and Dance Theater National Orchestra has visited Muscatine once before in 2015.
Among those attending the concert will be Gov. Terry Branstad and Lei Hong, consul general from the Chinese Consulate of Chicago. The festivities will include remarks by both before the performance.
In an interview on Monday, Branstad said Iowa has “very important and close relationship with the Chinese community.”
Muscatine, he said, has a special place in that relationship because Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the city in 1985 as a young man. Since then, Muscatine has had several cultural and business exchanges with China. Branstad and Xi remain close friends, and in 2012, he and then-Vice President Xi had a reunion in Muscatine.
“When I heard from Sarah Lande … and others (such as) Dan Stein that they were having this event in Muscatine to celebrate the Chinese New Year, my wife and I indicated our interest in coming, and so we will be there on Wednesday night for the reception and for the concert,” he said.
Branstad thanked the city for furthering the relationship with China.
“The community of Muscatine has done a phenomenal job of maintaining the relationship and celebrating the relationship we have with China, and I think it’s going to be a good thing,” he said.
In a separate, invitation-only reception before the event, Branstad, who will soon serve as President Donald Trump’s ambassador to China, will be honored for his role in forging relations between Muscatine and China.
“When it (the concert) was beginning to be planned, we did not know that Gov. Branstad would be nominated,” said Lande, one of the organizers of the concert. “It’s quite a fitting tribute that we’ll have this orchestra, and he’s coming, so we can thank him as our community and try to be a good send-off to him.”
Branstad also will answer questions at a 9 p.m. news conference after the concert.
Lei Hong said the concert is another opportunity to deepen Muscatine’s relationship with China.
“We hope with this event, we could bring the splendid Chinese art performance to your town once again so as to jointly celebrate the lunar new year with our good friends in Muscatine,” he said.
He said the orchestra will “showcase the splendor and the glamour of Chinese traditional music.”
Lande encouraged the community to attend the concert.
“It’s quite a community welcome and celebration and so more people in our community can experience and, I hope, grow to love the Chinese culture,” she said.
A luncheon to benefit homeless veterans will be held Saturday in Davenport.
The Have a Heart for the Homeless luncheon will raise money for shelters operated by Christian Care and Humility of Mary, both of which serve homeless veterans among others.
The event is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Center for Active Seniors Inc., 1035 W. Kimberly Road, Davenport. Tickets for the luncheon are $26 and include a catered lunch from Biaggi’s, a silent auction and entertainment. To make a reservation, call Christy Schilling at 309-714-8317, Elaine Kresse at 563-320-3325 or Biaggi's at 563-344-2103. Tickets are available in advance, or those attending can order their lunch in the morning and pay at the door.
Donations in support of the event may be made by sending a check to Christian Care, PO Box 4176, Rock Island, IL 61204-4176.
Volunteers are needed to assist with valet parking, gift basket sales, the silent auction, clean up, photography and serving food and beverages. People interested in helping that day may contact organizer Barb Montgomery at 309-945-6129 or 309-937-5700.
Christian Care in Rock Island is the only homeless men’s shelter in the Illinois Quad-Cities, serving men who are 18 and older who are in need of a clean and comfortable place to stay, food, clothing and a sense of hope and direction.
Humility of Mary Shelter in Davenport provides temporary housing and services that offer men and women experiencing homelessness the opportunity to become more stable emotionally, mentally and physically.
As Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats continue their game of chicken over the budget, a fire rages inside the state’s bank vault.
Day after day, the state operates without a balanced budget, and as a result, the state’s financial health continues to deteriorate as the backlog of unpaid bills, late fees and interest payments continue to skyrocket.
The state's backlog of bills has now surpassed a record $11 billion spread among close to 150,000 vouchers and will continue to get worse if the status quo doesn't change, according to current projections from the state Office of Management and Budget.
Meanwhile, the state's credit rating is sinking, raising borrowing costs.
Even the state's ability to earn interest with its own instruments is limited because it is forced to invest in short-term instruments, rather than higher-paying, longer-term investments, in the the event the state needs a quick infusion of cash.
“The state of Illinois is on fire,” Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza said. “We are in a dire fiscal crisis, and things are worse than they appear to be. Every day, we’re burning money at an unprecedented rate as a result of the governor not proposing a balanced budget and the Legislature not acting on it.”
Last year, former Comptroller Leslie Munger, whom Mendoza defeated in November’s election, warned the state's backlog of bills was growing at a rate of half a billion per month, and her projection was validated based upon the five-year forecast from the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.
“By the end of this fiscal year, we’ll be in the $13 billion-plus range, almost hitting $14 billion,” Mendoza said. “There’s no great reason to think we’re not going to be looking at $20 billion in the next fiscal year.”
Even more worrisome, the forecast revealed that a lack of budgetary progress would lead to a $47.1 billion backlog in five years.
Interest and late fees
The lack of a budget does not mean the state doesn’t pay all of its bills.
Close to 90 percent are paid through consent decrees, court orders and appropriations, but the lack of on-time payments for the rest is exacerbating the state’s problem.
Of the number of eye-opening figures about Illinois’ mounting debt, interest and late fees catch Mendoza’s eye.
It is no secret that Illinois’ finances have been a mess since the turn of the century, but in the past six years alone, the state has accrued close to $1 billion in late penalties.
While 2016 accumulated $16 million in paid interest fees, fiscal year 2017 promises to be one of the state’s worst years for interest payments. The fiscal year closes June 30.
“In 2017, there have been $55 million in interest payments, and we’re only halfway there,” Mendoza said in an interview three weeks ago. “It’s very likely we’ll have passed the $100 million mark by the close of the fiscal year.”
In the short period since she made those remarks, interest on late payments has surpassed $83 million for the fiscal year thus far.
The State Prompt Payment Act, otherwise known as 30 ILCS 540, provides an interpretation of how the state accumulates interest.
Some bills, which must be considered “proper bills,” accumulate interest at a 1 percent rate, while health care providers accrue interest at a 9 percent rate.
By comparison, the current prime rate is 3.75 percent.
Mendoza also is quick to point out that the state does not make interest payments until the vouchers themselves are paid, thus compounding the state's payables further.
State group health insurance claims, which account for more than $4 billion in unpaid bills, are accumulating the bulk of late fees and interest.
By themselves, unpaid health insurance bills are estimated to accrue more than $200 million in interest fees for this fiscal year, and as these bills continue to go untouched, the interest continues to compound.
Although much of the focus on the effect of the budget impasse has centered on education and social services, the state’s financial condition has directly affected one of its revenue streams.
Like any business venture, Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs said his office’s goal is to maximize the state’s investments and profits, but without a budget, returns on investment are not what they could be.
“Through the first three quarters, we earned $47 million, which is a good number, but could have earned $21 million more,” Frerichs said, based upon past investment methods.
With figures for 2016 now updated, Frerichs said the state earned $68 million but could have been $30 million more.
As a result of unplanned fund sweeps and the need to pay court-ordered bills, Frerichs said, the state’s financial health has shifted the way it invests.
Instead of prioritizing long-term investments, which command higher interest rates, the state has had to commit funds to shorter-term investments so it can liquidate them if the state needs cash.
According to the Treasurer’s Office, the change in its portfolio costs the state $2.6 million per month in lost investment revenue.
Without a budget, Frerichs said, this trend will continue to grow and minimize the effectiveness of his office.
“With continued uncertainty, we continue to miss out on potential investment income,” Frerichs said.
Credit, bond ratings suffer
In addition to bill backlogs and lost investment opportunities, since 2001, Illinois credit and bond ratings have plummeted, making it the worst-rated state in the country.
Illinois’ credit rating — BBB by Standard and Poor’s, Baa2 by Moody’s and BBB-plus by Fitch — has declined to such a degree that it now hovers above junk status.
As such, every time the state issues general obligation bonds, they come with a higher yield, meaning a greater financial burden must be shouldered by taxpayers to account for higher interest.
When Illinois issued $550 million in general obligation bonds in June, Dr. Martin Luby, an associate professor at DePaul University, analyzed the true cost of Illinois' declining financial health and extra burden passed on taxpayers.
In what he dubbed the state’s “financial condition penalty” as part of his analysis for the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs Fiscal Futures Project, Luby compared the difference in what it actually cost to issue the bonds and what it would have cost had they been sold at prices the state would have received 10 years ago when its credit rating was better.
Instead of receiving $575.9 million for its June 2016 bonds, Luby said the state could have received $645.5 million.
“This nearly $70 million financial condition penalty is an estimate of the cost to the state on the June 2016 Bonds as a result of the deterioration in its financial condition over the last 10 years,” Luby said.
In fact, his estimate was the state incurred a $12 million penalty in just the six months between last January and last June.
The state also is facing the possibility of more credit downgrades if there is no real progress, said Ted Hampton, a Moody's vice president and lead analyst for Illinois.
Hampton said that under a stopgap budget, it would be assumed that growth in the state’s structural deficit, operating fund liquidity pressures evident in a ballooning backlog of bills and a persistent and growing pension funding challenge would continue.
And as such, Hampton said, Moody's likely would continue to give the state a negative outlook as it did when it downgraded the state's bonds in June.
“We will have to assess the credit implications of any fiscal legislation enacted, whether it’s simply a stopgap measure or some broader package that contains reforms, recurring revenue enhancements and provisions for the coming fiscal year,” Hampton said in regard to the current legislative session. “Having said that, a stopgap budget, by definition, is unlikely to address the state’s long-term challenges, so it’s also unlikely to constitute real progress."
The state could get some respite by passing a budget, but Hampton suggested it would be years before the state could fully restore its credit rating.
“Our credit assessment will respond quickly to whatever reforms, revenue increases or other fiscal measures may be enacted, but that doesn’t mean the state’s ratings will immediately return to the very high levels occupied by other U.S. states, most of which are rated Aaa or Aa1,” Hampton said. “Even if legislators and the governor agree on a credit-positive plan — one that appears to address the state’s long-running pension funding and financial challenges — those challenges won’t be alleviated overnight. Restoration of the state’s credit standing will likely depend upon successful implementation of enacted measures over a period of years.”
Breathing life into statistics
Illinois problems have been known for years, and it’s easy to get caught up in all the numbers.
But Mendoza says those figures mask a human toll.
“We shouldn’t be looking at them as statistics on a spreadsheet," Mendoza said. "People’s lives are at stake.”
By Brian Wellner and Stephanie Esters
QUAD-CITY TIMES/THE SOUTHERN
Georgia McKeever has always lived on her own, and one local agency is helping the 72-year-old East Moline woman continue her independence.
A case worker from Alternatives for the Older Adult regularly visits McKeever at Ridgewood Tower Apartments, where she lives, and helps her with housekeeping, errands and personal care. But like a lot of local agencies, the Moline-based Alternatives is getting squeezed by an ongoing Illinois state budget impasse and providers aren't sure what services may get cut.
"I like Illinois, but they keep saying they're broke," McKeever said. "How are they broke?"
Providers say they will continue assisting clients as long as they can, but without a state budget, they will do so with a lot of anxiety and confusion. The biggest challenge facing Alternatives, which assisted 16,692 clients in 2016, is the inability to plan for the coming year.
“No budget means we don’t know,” Alternatives director Kathy Weiman said. “We just don’t know how to plan one, two or three years out.”
The 30-year-old organization assists the elderly to stay in their homes by connecting them to various resources in the community. It covers a 10-county area between the Quad-Cities, Ottawa and Macomb.
“In that regard, we save the state of Illinois tons and tons of money,” Weiman said, adding the costs to stay in nursing homes are high and the majority of nursing home residents end up on Medicaid.
Weiman, who has spent 30 years in social service work in Illinois with a variety of agencies, said this year is the worst budget crisis she has seen.
“They always got a budget, good or bad,” she said. “The budget kind of lets you go, ‘OK, now we can plan.’ Without a budget, we are stuck in this place trying to maintain the best we can.”
Dozens of Quad-City agencies are affected by the ongoing budget impasse. The Child Abuse Council Quad-Cities in Rock Island stands to lose $350,000 in state grant money, said Angie Kendall, the agency’s director of development and communications.
“We’re OK through June,” Kendall said. “But after that, we’re left to operate an agency with guesses and empty promises. We are forced to do business this way every day.”
For 39 years, the Child Abuse Council has provided prevention, education and treatment programs for children and families in the bi-state metropolitan area. State money funds a home visitation prenatal program as well as therapy for abuse victims up to 5 years old.
Kendall said 44 percent of its state money was cut last year, which “pulled the rug out from under us,” causing staff cuts and the elimination of services. But, she said, this year’s impasse is the worst she has seen.
“The stress of keeping a program open affects our ability to provide the best possible service,” Kendall said.
The Rock Island County Health Department relies on state grants for most of its budget.
“If the state doesn’t pay, we run out of funding quickly,” said Janet Hill, the health department’s chief operating officer. “There is little cushion.”
The most vulnerable program, Hill said, is family case management, but that grant is being paid through a court order. Family case management works to reduce the state’s infant mortality rate by providing help and resources for parents or guardians who might be struggling. For example, the health department can help clients apply for subsidized housing or heating assistance.
In most years, the state would put out grants for the next fiscal year in about April. Last year, Hill said, it was well after July 1, the date the new fiscal year starts.
The health department is “OK at the moment,” Hill said, because grants through the end of the current fiscal year are still being paid.
Judith Gethner, executive director of the Chicago-headquartered Illinois Partners for Human Service, said that when state grants fail to come through nonprofits often have to look elsewhere for funding.
"How would you operate your life without 12 months of income?" she asked. "The nonprofit has to find other resources to be able to sustain them when the government wasn't paying them. … They didn’t know when the money was going to come."
Agencies have coped by extending their lines of credit, organizing fundraisers, furloughing staff and not filling vacant positions and doubling up on duties, she and others said. The Southern Seven Health Department administrators, for instance, combined the duties of its nursing staff that was once at 15 a few years ago into a staff of eight.
Other social service agencies were not as fortunate. The Mahoney Transitional Living home, a facility in Rosiclare for homeless ages 16 to 24 years old, succumbed to the budget fiasco, closing in February.
Planning in uncertainty
Just because legislators passed a stopgap budget did not mean money was released the next day, Gethner said.
"So oftentimes, they're having to work together to make these critical decisions about maintaining programs and staffs during a time when they are not getting reimbursed," she said.
Her agency is one of those entities — Voices for Illinois Children — that had made it their mission to track and tabulate the cost of legislators' inability to agree to a budget.
The Center for Prevention of Abuse's executive director Carol Merna said not knowing also didn't help her staff with any kind of planning. They were able to absorb 40 children served by the loss of its Safe From The Start program, which cost $10,000 a month, and seniors served by the $52,000 Self Neglect program into other programs at the facility.
That agency primarily serves clients in Peoria, Woodford and Pekin counties and serves seniors in parts of Fulton, Marshall and Toulon counties.
"We continue to root for our legislators, but compromise is a very important piece of that, and we don’t see a whole lot of compromise in the upper levels of leadership," Merna said.
1 million affected
More than 1 million people have been affected by cuts to social service agencies, ranging from those that offer mental health services and help to youth and families, according to an Associated Press report quoting a United Way source.
Gethner agreed with that assessment, noting that it's hard to come by a specific measure of the impact. She said there are 400,000 state employees, some of whose jobs have been affected. That estimate of 1 million people affected reflects the notion that about a third of those accessing human services are affected in some way.
“It’s a third of the people that are served — it’s huge," she said.
Ross Medical Education Center, headquartered in Flint, Michigan, has purchased the Brown Mackie College located on Kimberly Road, Bettendorf.
The announcement was made Tuesday by Anne Dean, a corporate spokeswoman for Brown Mackie's former owner, Educational Management Corp., Pittsburgh.
The new name is Ross College Quad-Cities, and it will offer medical programs. Coursework includes business management, medical assistant, medical insurance billing and office administration, business management, occupational therapy assistant and information technology.
The actions to change or close Brown Mackie College programs came about six months after a landmark decision by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education. In November 2015, a $95.5 million settlement of false claims was announced by federal officials, including Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.
At that time, Educational Management Corp. operated the for-profit colleges under names that included "Brown Mackie Colleges," as well as "The Art Institutes."
Miller has said the settlement came after the corporation was charged with a broad range of activities, including how they marketed to and recruited students, and the claims made about job placement.
Dean said students are still attending Brown Mackie Colleges across the country, but most are not accepting new students.
Other locations besides the Quad Cities also were sold to Ross College, including facilities in North Canton, Ohio, and Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
According to its website (rosseducation.edu), the company was founded by J.M. Ross in 1969, to provide after-school academic instruction to students in Flint, Michigan. It was sold in 1973 to Howard Hulsman, who helped it evolve into career training. Medical instruction was started in 1976.
It provides medical education in 31 communities in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Ross College is accredited, and specializes in focused, short-term, hands-on education that helps to prepare students for careers in the allied healthcare field.
"It is with much excitement that Ross enters and begins to serve these three communities, offering a variety of educational training programs," said Vince Norton, a college representative.
From photographs and stories, not much appears to have changed over the years at Aunt Bea’s Café in Rock Island.
Fluorescent lights still illuminate the restaurant’s bright interior, which features a long counter and square tables covered in red-and-white checkered tablecloths. A tribute to civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, decorate one wall, while a homemade sign thanking customers for “not using profanity” hangs on another wall nearby.
A classic vinyl jukebox player no longer works, but its presence adds to the luster of the establishment, which opened almost 25 years ago at the corner of 25th Avenue and 9th Street.
Most importantly, soulful owner Beatrice Harrington still runs the place and cooks in front of her customers on Rock Island’s west side, which, historically, has struggled to stand out for the right reasons.
“That was one of the reasons why I opened up in the west end of Rock Island because there was so much negative publicity about this area,” said Harrington, who lives above her restaurant. “A lot of people discouraged me from opening up here because of all that (gang) activity.”
In 1993, the then-35-year-old who worked for Iowa American Water at the time, purchased the property she now calls home and opened for business. Three years later, she quit her desk job to cook full time.
February marks Black History Month, and Harrington prides herself on her work that’s made her an integral black business owner in the community. In 2010, the Mississippi native was honored as a “Shero” at the Women’s Black History Month Tea Party.
However, the 58-year-old Harrington, who raised one daughter and has nine grandchildren, does not plan on stopping her service — which is not limited to her extensive menu of Southern home cooking — anytime soon.
'Matron in charge'
Aside from her fried chicken, vegetable platters and all-day breakfast specials, Harrington serves guidance to those she thinks need assistance. She sees herself as a “spiritual mentor” for troubled young men on the “wrong path” and said she has connected with several of them since opening her door in 1993.
“I would talk to them as a mother,” she said. “As long as they were here, they were safe.”
On Thursdays, she takes a break from her morning duties to participate in prayer with a group of regulars, including the Rev. Leonard Astrowski of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Rock Island.
The pastor, who moved to the Quad-Cities about two years ago, called Harrington the “matron in charge.”
“She’s the one who brings us all together,” said Astrowski, who routinely orders one of her big breakfast plates, which includes grits, for less than $6. “It’s the best breakfast in town.”
Astrowski, who also salivates over Harrington's peach cobbler, fried chicken and collard greens, continued his praise for the landmark and everything there made from scratch.
“She blesses everybody’s day,” he said. “It amazes me when I hear people who have lived in Rock Island their entire life have never had food there.”
Hog guts, anyone?
But Astrowski, among other white customers, Harrington said, have not tried one of her most popular meals: chitterlings, commonly called chitlins, a Southern staple prepared from pig intestines.
While several customers revere the dish that sets Aunt Bea's apart from other soul food restaurants in town, others completely avoid it.
And because of their popularity, chitlins are not always available upon request.
"A lot of times, I’m cooking them, but they’ve already been sold because most people reserve them," Harrington said.
She orders 10-pound buckets of the stuff and prepares several batches every week.
In the back of her restaurant, which is heated by a gas furnace during the winter months, Harrington cleans the goods in a three-bay sink. Six of her grandchildren, who attend Frances Willard Elementary School across the street, sometimes help her, as well.
They scrape the fat from each chitlin strip before boiling or deep-frying the finished product with onions and potatoes, which should not smell if prepared correctly, Harrington said. Before digging in, enthusiasts usually douse them with hot sauce or mustard.
Traditions passed on
If they help out in the kitchen or bus and clear tables, Harrington will reward her grandchildren.
"They know in order for them to get paid, they have to work, and that's what I want to instill in them," she said. "You have to work for it. It's not just going to be given to you."
After school on Monday, five of her grandchildren stopped by Harrington's digs for an after-school snack.
As they appeared one by one through the restaurant's doors, "Granny" served them bowls of collard greens, red beans and sweet potatoes.
"They're picky, but they know there are some foods they have to eat here," she said. "I don't call it soul food because people associate soul food with grease, and I don't like grease."
DES MOINES — Today’s evolving nature of warfare requires an evolving warrior, the leader of the Iowa Army National Guard told lawmakers Tuesday.
“One that is highly educated, physically fit, technologically savvy and globally aware,” Maj. Gen. Timothy Orr, adjutant general of the Iowa Army National Guard, told a joint session of the Iowa Legislature.
For the Guard, that means drawing from the broadest pool of service-eligible Iowans, he said in his annual address. That pool includes young Iowans who are benefiting from the emphasis in K-12 schools on STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math.
“From intelligence-gathering and analysis, to aviation, to communications, to cybersecurity, we have dozens of part-time and full-time positions that utilize state of the art technology and application of STEM disciplines,” Orr said.
Although only 425 Iowa Guard members deployed around the globe, Orr hinted at increased mobilizations.
“The days of the Iowa National Guard serving exclusively as a strategic reserve — called up only in emergencies — are now over,” Orr said.
Several Iowa Army National Guard and Iowa Air Guard units and individuals have been identified for potential overseas deployments.
Given the level of global uncertainty, instability and potential for significant conflict around the world, “we are now at a point where current and projected demands for our assets around the globe will continue to remain constant,” he said.
So the Iowa Army National Guard continues to increase training opportunities for members to improve their individual skills and unit readiness.
Orr noted the Guard’s history goes back 180 years. Today, Camp Dodge is the third-busiest National Guard training base in the United States for training National Guard, Reserve and active duty service members, law enforcement officers, interagency personnel, and civilians, Orr said.
In addition to its duties around the world, the Guard also is called on for emergencies at home, Orr said. Last year was relatively quiet, he said, but that changed in September when the Guard was called on to assist local agencies in dealing with unusual fall flooding along the Cedar River in eastern Iowa.
In one week, the Guard placed nearly 500 soldiers and airmen on state active duty to assist Palo and Cedar Rapids with security personnel, liaison officers and an aerial reconnaissance team.
The Guard also dispatched teams downriver to provide assessments on potential critical infrastructure issues and support requirements to mitigate the flood damage, he said.
“These teams provided timely, critical information to federal, state and county emergency coordinators, who were able to make more accurate decisions, and thus apply the right resources at the right time,” Orr said.
He also reminded lawmakers of the economic impact of the Guard. In the past year, the Iowa Army National Guard brought in more than $353 million of federal funding into the state. For every $1 of state funding, the Iowa Army National Guard returned more than $32 of federal funding.
“To put it in perspective, our soldiers and airmen pay more in state property, payroll and sales taxes than what the State of Iowa provides in funding to the Iowa National Guard,” Orr said.
He also said the Guard will start construction this year on a $23 million armory project in Davenport, utilizing 100 percent federal funding. The new facility will replace the Brady Street Armory, which is the Iowa Guard's oldest readiness center.
With legislative support, Orr said, the Iowa Army National Guard has been able to maintain its position as a national leader in personnel readiness because of programs such as the Iowa National Guard Education Assistance Program, which he called a “critical recruiting tool.” This year, nearly 1,200 Guard members received up to 100 percent tuition at regents universities and community colleges, “keeping our young people here in the state and providing them with a high-quality, Iowa education.”
In return, members of the Iowa Army National Guard are “woven into the fabric of Iowa through communities in every corner of this state, ready and willing to transform from civilians to soldiers and airmen in a moment’s notice to answer the call of our state and nation,” Orr said.
An invasive weed that grows seven feet tall and that has a hard, woody stem has been spotted in Scott County this year.
The weed is Palmer amaranth, said Virgil Schmitt, agronomist at the Iowa State University Extension Office in Muscatine. It's called a "super weed" because of its ability to grow quickly and because it is resistant to many herbicides.
According to experts, farmers need to act quickly if the plant is found in their fields.
The weed is originally from Texas and the warmer climates of the southwestern United States, Schmitt said. It was spotted in 2013 in five Iowa counties, but now it is in nearly half of the state's 99 counties.
"The only way it got to a farm in Scott County is because it was carried in," Schmitt said.
The local farm was affected because either animal feed or hay was purchased from another state and the tiny seeds were within one of those products.
The Palmer amaranth is quite like a native plant, called waterhemp, or pigweed.
"Management of both are virtually identical," Schmitt said, as the herbicides that work on waterhemp also work on Palmer amaranth.
The biggest difference between the two plants is that Palmer amaranth is like waterhemp on steroids.
"It grows really fast and really large," he said.
Once farmers have the weed, it's a challenge to stay ahead of the scourge. The idea is to pull it, or kill it, before it goes to seed.
The seeds of both waterhemp and Palmer amaranth are about the size of a grain of pepper, Schmitt said. Farmers unwittingly bury it in rows when they till the fields.
On the bright side, the agronomist said the weed survives in Iowa, but it hasn't fully adapted to the climate here.
This weed seed won't be in corn, soybeans, oats, rye or barley, Schmitt said. The usual culprits are seeds purchased from out of state.
In addition, common-sense farm sanitation is important. Last week, Schmitt spoke to a farmer who recently had purchased some used equipment from the Marshalltown, Iowa, area.
The local buyer made sure he power-washed the implements he had acquired, just to get rid of any unwanted pests or seeds.
Bond was set Tuesday morning at $100,000 cash-only for a Texas woman charged in connection with a deadly crash Monday night at the intersection of 2nd and Brady streets.
Lauria Lee Kelly, 57, of Alvarado, appeared in Scott County District Court via closed-circuit TV on a charge of homicide by vehicle-reckless driving, a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
She also was cited for failure to stop in assured distance, red light and no insurance.
Kelly has a preliminary hearing Feb. 10.
The crash happened shortly before 6 p.m. Monday.
According to an arrest affidavit filed Tuesday by the Davenport Police Department in support of the criminal complaint:
Kelly was driving her 2005 Dodge truck eastbound on 2nd Street at a high-rate of speed. The speed limit downtown is 25 mph and the street is narrow with diagonal parking along one side and parallel parking along the other side. The street has several areas of restricted vision due to the height of the nearby buildings closely positioned to the street.
Witnesses to the crash and events leading up to it told police that Kelly was driving very fast and that she ran through at least two red traffic lights; one at 2nd Street and Harrison streets and the other at 2nd and Main streets.
One witness, who was crossing 2nd Street at Brady, said she heard the roar of an engine just prior to the crash.
Kelly’s vehicle struck the rear of a Chevrolet that was stopped at the red light on 2nd and Brady. The force of the impact caused fatal injuries to the driver.
The Chevrolet then was pushed into the rear of Buick that was in front of it. The force of the crash was so great that all three vehicles came to a rest on the other side of the intersection more than 100 feet away, according to the affidavit.
The driver of the Chevrolet was identified Tuesday as Cynthia Jones, 53, of Davenport.
Kelly and the driver of the Buick were taken to a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
She was arrested after her release from the hospital and taken to the Scott County Jail.
Scott County Republicans elected Linda Greenlee, a longtime GOP activist, to be the new chair of the county GOP Monday night, succeeding Judy Davidson.
Davidson announced last year she would retire after eight years at the helm. She is continuing, however, on the state party’s central committee.
Greenlee, who has worked for former state Sen. Maggie Tinsman for several years, was elected to a two-year term. A new executive committee was elected Monday, as well.
Pat Siemsen, Jim Goff and Ray Harre were elected vice chairs. Dana Huss was elected secretary and Steve Landauer, party treasurer.
The new officers were recommended by a nominating committee. There were no other nominations made at the party's meeting Monday night, Davidson said.
The new leadership team will assume their positions after a transition meeting Tuesday, the party said.
“The new executive committee will be joining a thriving organization which is stronger than ever, both organizationally and financially,” Davidson said in a statement. “I know they will accomplish great things and I wish them the best as they move forward.”
One person has been charged in a three-vehicle crash Monday in downtown Davenport.
Davenport police were called at 5:52 p.m. to the intersection of 2nd and Brady streets. Officers say a vehicle traveling eastbound on 2nd Street by Laura Kelly of Alvarado TX, struck two vehicles that were stopped for a red light at the intersection with Brady Street.
Kelly and the driver of one of the other vehicles were transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
The driver of the second vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene.
Kelly is charged with homicide by vehicle (reckless), failure to stop in assured distance, red light and no insurance. Read more.
3. One person injured in East Moline shooting
East Moline police investigated a reported shooting late Monday near River Bend Industrial Center, 1300 19th St., East Moline.
Police located a 17-year-old male who had been shot in the lower body. The shooting the victim had been inside a vehicle with several other juveniles.
The vehicle encountered other subjects that they were familiar with when a shooting occurred, leaving the victim with a non-life threatening injury.
At least six squad cars, multiple detectives and the K-9 unit were involved. Read more.
4. Special election today to fill Iowa House seat
Some voters will go to the polls today to choose a representative for Iowa's 89th House District. Monica Kurth, a Davenport Democrat, is facing Mike Gonzales, a Republican from Davenport.
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. in the district, which includes much of west Davenport. Included are parts of the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th and 8th wards.Read more.
5. At a glance: Iowa visits Rutgers tonight
Iowa is coming off an 85-72 victory over Ohio State in which the Hawkeyes played without Big Ten scoring leader Peter Jok.Brady Ellingson scored 17 points and Ryan Kriener added 14, both in reserve roles. The Hawkeyes have gotten more points from the bench than from starters in each of the past two games. Tonight the Hawkeyesplay Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey. Tipoff is 6:06 p.m. The game can be seen on the Big Ten Network. Here's a look at the game.
6. Randle earns three-year deal with NBA's Sixers
Rock Island native Chasson Randle will continue to call Philadelphia his NBA home, signing a three-year, partially-guaranteed contract with the 76ers organization on Monday.
Terms of the deal were not announced, per team policy, but if Randle is paid on a pro-rated basis at the league minimum for players who had no previous NBA experience the point guard will receive $238,597 for his work during the remainder of the current season. Read more.
UPDATE:(From Davenport Police Department) On Monday at 5:52 p.m., Davenport Police were notified of a three-vehicle accident at the intersection of 2nd and Brady streets.
Upon arrival, officers found that a 2005 Dodge truck which was being driven eastbound on 2nd Street by Laura Kelly of Alvarado TX, had struck two vehicles that were stopped for a red light at the intersection with Brady Street.
The other involved vehicles were passenger cars, one a Chevrolet and the other a Buick.
Kelly and the driver of the Buick were transported to the hospital for non-life threatening injuries.
The driver of the Chevrolet was pronounced dead at the scene. Their name is being withheld until next of kin notifications are made.
After being released by the hospital, Kelly was taken to the Scott County Jail. Kelly is charged with homicide by vehicle (reckless), failure to stop in assured distance, red light and no insurance.
The investigation is ongoing and is being handled by the Traffic Safety Unit of the Davenport Police Department.
EARLIER REPORT: One person was killed and occupants of other vehicles were transported to local hospitals after a three-vehicle accident shortly before 6 p.m. Monday at 2nd and Brady streets, Davenport.
Police Department Traffic Bureau Commander Shawn Voigts said all three vehicles involved were heading east, lined up at the stop light on 2nd Street.
Jerry Woodell, who lives above the Barrel House in downtown Davenport, heard the impact. “It was a real loud crash,” said Woodell, who walked down the street and saw the wrecked vehicles and debris.
Police interviewed witnesses and those involved in the crash late Monday. Names were not being released, and Voigts said no charges would be filed Monday night.
Police used a high-tech FARO scanner, which Voigts said takes "thousands and thousands" of pictures, to record details of the crash scene from different vantage points.
Because the front of the Radisson Quad-City Plaza, 111 E 2nd St., was surrounded with yellow police tape, people coming and going from the hotel stopped to ask what happened and whether police were allow them through, which they did. Other downtown visitors were asked to take alternate routes.
Genesis Health System celebrates National Heart Month with five free heart-healthy events in February. All events will begin at 6 p.m. in the Adler Health Education Center, 1236 E. Rusholme St., Davenport, in the lower level of the Genesis Heart Institute. For more information, visit www.genesishealth.com/classes.
• Monday: Hands-only CPR. The American Heart Association suggests Hands-Only CPR, a simplified technique for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Genesis Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Al Loeffelholz and Chuck Gipson of Medic EMS will be the instructors.
• Tuesday, Feb. 14: Chair yoga. Genesis healthy lifestyles instructor Patti Meyer will discuss how to manage stress and improve heart health.
• Thursday, Feb. 16: "Hypnosis for Your Heart." Participants can learn how hypnotherapy can help with heart health, stress management, lowering blood pressure, dietary/lifestyle changes and smoking cessation. Genesis Certified Hypnotherapist Brook Lemke will explain the theory of using the mind to improve health.
• Wednesday, Feb. 22: Management and treatment for atrial fibrillation. Genesis Heart Institute cardiologist Yuhning Linda Hu, M.D., will discuss the latest treatment and management options for atrial fibrillation.