Chase Cavanaugh

Chase started in radio while earning his Master's in diplomacy and international commerce at the University of Kentucky.  He was bitten by the radio bug while volunteering at Radio Eye (a local equivalent to NIRIS) and soon became a reporter at WUKY. After four years of reporting in Kentucky's Bluegrass, Chase traveled north to join WNIJ as Morning Edition producer.  He organizes our morning broadcast, making sure the host is well-supplied with interesting, fresh content.  In addition to his pre-dawn duties, Chase reports on a variety of developments in our broadcast area but is particularly drawn to anything with a political or international connection.  He is also an avid board gamer.

Illinois State Police are pushing to add more troopers to their ranks.  Master Sergeant Hector Alejandre says they’re trying to assemble a large class at the Trooper Academy.

“We’re always going to be looking for folks. Our current numbers now are at 1,718 sworn. That is a significant loss," he said.

Even with new recruits applying for the position, not all make it through the vetting process. That’s why Trooper Aldo Schumann says ISP wants to sign up as many candidates as possible.

Existing rules around the Illinois medical cannabis program could make the rollout for recreational use a less daunting task. But there are plenty of unanswered questions at the federal level which could complicate the process.

Governor J.B. Pritzker surveyed flood damage in Machesney Park and Freeport Wednesday. The nearby Rock and Pecatonica Rivers reached record levels. The latter crested at its highest level since 1933.

Pritzker praised local officials for their evacuation and damage control efforts and said he would provide additional support from the state.

Illinois is still looking for a new state climatologist.

The role is the main point person for all climate information around the state. An example would be comparing snowfall and rain to previous years and seeing how far they deviate from the norm.

After a harsh winter, potholes are an increasing problem along Illinois roadways.  Collisions can cause damage to cars such as flat tires or misalignment. Even steering around them can lead to erratic driving. AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher says a recent survey shows there’s a consensus on the impact of these road hazards. 

“The majority of Illinois drivers don’t think that our roads and bridges are well-funded but they don’t want to pay for the additional funding that’s likely needed to maintain and build better roads,” she said.

Amazon is a leader in online shopping. It has warehouses across the country to sort and deliver its products. Recently, Amazon Air announced it will expand its delivery network into Rockford. 

Chicago Rockford International Airport is already a major hub for UPS. The airport also has maintenance facilities capable of repairing the world's largest aircraft. But Amazon took particular interest due to the airport's cargo operations. Director Sarah Rhoads says it's part of the retailer's "Middle Mile" network for two-day deliveries.

Gas prices are on the decline nationally and in Illinois. That's because of less demand and a greater petroleum supply.

Prices are often dictated by demand, and AAA reports there is significantly less at the moment because it’s past the summer driving season. Spokeswoman Beth Mosher explains.

“Well, we’re out of that summer driving season and so naturally there’s less driving that is happening, even as we head into one of the busiest travel days of the year, which is Thanksgiving,” she said.

Illinois gas prices are higher than this time last year.

Statewide prices are at an average of $2.82 per gallon. This is down from last month, but about 30 cents more expensive than October 2017.  AAA spokesperson Beth Mosher says there are a number of economic factors involved.

“This fall, Illinois saw a number of issues from local refineries, which pushed prices higher. Also, supply and demand have been affecting prices quite a bit this fall,” she said.

Northern Illinois University will be the fourth research hub for the Illinois Innovation Network.

This hub will be part of a research network that spans three University of Illinois campuses, each focused on different subjects.  Gov Bruce Rauner says the state’s already budgeted $15 million for NIU’s center, and NIU President Lisa Freeman says the center will focus on issues of sustainability.  

"Environmental sustainability, water and food policy, water and food shortages," she said. 

Gov. Rauner said this could lead to significant innovation.

Northern Illinois University's Board of Trustees voted without dissent to appoint Dr. Lisa Freeman as the institution's 13th President Thursday.

She's been the Acting President since last year, and her contract for the new position will run through August 2022. Board Chairman Wheeler Coleman says Freeman will be paid a base salary of $450,000, but it also includes provisions from a new state law that caps severance pay at twenty weeks.

Nuclear energy has a significant presence in Illinois, with 11 reactors spread across six plants. Together, they provide about 11.8 gigawatts of power to the entire state. That's enough for millions of homes -- or, as any "Back to the Future" fan knows, almost ten DeLorean time machines.

For some people, their first thought of a nuclear power plant involves cooling towers, meltdowns, and the comically incompetent Homer Simpson. But needless to say, The Simpsons is not an accurate representation of a nuclear power plant. Like coal, oil, and gas plants, nuclear power stations use heat to generate electricity. But they're subject to many more safety precautions because their fuel -- uranium -- is radioactive. 

The Illinois State Archives is celebrating the state's bicentennial with an online exhibit of its most valuable documents.

Director David Joens says the collection includes historical touchstones. That includes four state constitutions and the state’s first women’s suffrage law.  There are also more cultural items.

For some people, it's easy to schedule a doctor's appointment and get immediate treatment. But for those who don't live close to a hospital or clinic, this can be more difficult. "Telemedicine" is making this process easier.  

Mark Pfeiffer is a Hampshire resident and small business owner who was having difficulty sleeping. He contacted his local physician, who had Pfeiffer take part in a clinical study.

"After that sleep study, they confirmed, yeah, you have sleep apnea, and so they referred me to Dr. Jain at Delnor Hospital," he said.

Former Illinois State Rep. Bob Pritchard joined NIU’s Board of Trustees on Monday.

Pritchard previously served in the state House of Representatives for the 70th District (which encompasses parts of DeKalb, Kane, and Boone Counties) from December 2003 to July of this year. Pritchard says he’s eager to tackle the challenges facing NIU.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner brought his budget ideas to employees at Ingersoll Machine Tools in Rockford Tuesday. 

The Trump Administration’s appeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program won’t be heard by the Supreme Court.

DACA protects from immediate deportation about 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. President Trump wanted the program shut down by March 5, but the ruling means that Trump’s challenge must first go through an appeals court. Immigration attorney Omar Salguero says this means current DACA recipients still have a chance to renew their work permits.

Illinois public schools face a teacher shortage, and officials increasingly are turning to substitutes when full-time educators are unavailable. But what effects does this have on education, particularly when substitutes themselves are becoming harder to find? In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Chase Cavanaugh looks for some of the answers.

Hurricane Harvey has prompted an outpouring of donations, but a common concern is whether these contributions are providing the most bang for the buck.

Paul Logli is President of the United Way of the Rock River Valley. He said since relief efforts are focused on long term recovery, cash donations are the most effective.

“Certainly dry clothing for the people that first come in is important," he said, "but usually the stuff pouring in the area is far in excess of immediate demand and not very usable.”

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner put his signature today on a bill that redefines how Illinois public schools are funded. But it also will send overdue money to schools starting up the academic year.

It’s much easier to pay energy bills in Illinois compared to much of the country, according to a recent survey by WalletHub. 

The survey examined the average monthly amount each state’s residents spent for natural gas, electricity, home heating oil, and gasoline and compared that with the average monthly consumption of each resource.

Ottawa is recovering from a tornado that struck Tuesday afternoon, killing an elderly man.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner spoke in Rockford to tout a new school funding framework. 

The governor paid a visit to the Barbour Two-Way Immersion School, which provides instruction in both English and Spanish. After touring several classrooms, Rauner said he would double down on funding schools more equally.

“We are going to change the way schools are funded in Illinois, improve it, get more resources overall, and especially more resources for lower-income schools that don’t have access to the same advantages as higher-income schools," he said.