Peoria League of Women Voters June 21, 2017 event: Single Payer Healthcare


The Greater Peoria League of Women Voters will discuss Single Payer Healthcare at its Drinks and Dialogue event, 5:30 – 6:30 pm on Wednesday, June 21, at the Lariat Steakhouse, 2322 W. Glen Ave., Peoria.

 Luan Railsback, a Peoria-area activist who has been advocating for single payer healthcare for over a decade, will review the pros, cons, and misconceptions of Single Payer Healthcare, and discuss insurance costs for individuals and business owners.

Not a day goes by without hearing about healthcare in the news. Affordable Healthcare, American Healthcare, Medicare, Universal Healthcare: which is truly the most affordable, provides the most medical coverage, while also limiting overwhelming costs for business owners and individuals?

The event is free and the public is invited. Refreshments are available for purchase.

Drinks and Dialogue is offered on the 3rd Wednesday of the month, starting at 5:30 pm and ending promptly at 6:30 pm, always at a local restaurant, to discuss local, state and national topics relating to approved LWV positions, aimed at ‘Making Democracy Work.’

The League is a non-partisan, issues oriented, volunteer, member-directed organization committed to open, responsive and effective government brought about by informed, involved citizens with membership open to both men and women in Peoria, Tazewell, and Woodford counties. For more information, go to





Peoria – You think YOUR Saturday, June 24th will be busy? You might just want to take a look at Jeff

Heft’s calendar. That’s the day Heft’s charity, His Helping Hands, will be completing 15 wheelchair

ramps on the houses of the same number of low-income homeowners with disabilities.

Now in the 5th year of the Ready to Roll initiative, this time around marks a 50% increase. “Last year,

we did 10 ramps in one day and this year, we are working with volunteers to complete 15,” said Jeff

Heft, CEO of His Helping Hands. Low-income homeowners with disabilities apply for the program

through His Helping Hands or any one of many referral agencies.

Wheelchair ramps are not all that His Helping Hands does. In 2017, the Peoria charity expects to

complete more than 50 projects to help veterans, seniors, single moms and persons with disabilities.

Accessibility upgrades, weatherization jobs, needed repairs and ramps make up the core of what they

do. Homeowners pay nothing.

His Helping Hands completes projects in the Peoria-area, year-round. It is an all-volunteer

organization. Its CEO, Jeff Heft does not take a salary. For more information, visit their website at

Ready to Roll is a partnership between His Helping Hands, Advocates for Access, the Peoria Area

Association of Realtors, and hundreds of area volunteers.


More delays in Heidelberg case

Bill Elward, right, attorney with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, argued Thursday that his office is ethically bound not to comment on the Cleve Heidelberg case. Also in court for a status hearing on the attorney general’s review of the case are, from left,  Cleve Heidelberg, Andy Hale and Don Jackson.


Cleve Heidelberg was in court Thursday for a status hearing that was supposed to be about an independent review of his case by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

Instead, attorney Bill Elward from the attorney general’s office, told Judge Albert Purham that his office cannot ethically comment on the case because of an appeal still pending with the Third District Appellate Court in Ottawa.

Elward said if the appellate court overturns Purham’s recent ruling vacating Heidelberg’s conviction, Heidelberg’s attorneys would likely appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. If the appellate court upholds Purham’s decision, a new trial could be possible, he said.

“We are ethically bound and we can’t comment on this case one way or the other,” Elward said.

His position took both Purham and Heidelberg’s attorneys by surprise.

Andy Hale, one of Heidelberg’s attorneys, said he is disappointed and had hoped for a full, fair and independent review.

Hale said a special prosecutor from the attorney general’s office was appointed almost one year ago and he should “finish the mission.”

Elward repeated his conviction that his office is ethically bound not to issue a report and said continued involvement in the case “invites mischief.”

Purham gave Heidelberg’s attorneys 14 days to respond, Elward 14 days to assess their response and then set a hearing on the matter for 1 p.m. July 21.

Meanwhile, Heidelberg remains free on bond.

After the hearing he said he was not particularly disappointed and views this as part of the process.

He said freedom is indescribable after 47 years in prison, and “it feels like I’ve been in the wilderness, and I’m back in civilization.”



Heidelberg walks free on bond

Cleve Heidelberg, center, smiles broadly as he walks from the Peoria County jail Monday afternoon after serving 47 years of a 99 to 175 year sentence. His conviction was vacated last month.


One of the longest held prisoners in U.S. history was released from the Peoria County jail Monday afternoon for an undisclosed location after 47 years in prison for a murder he has always claimed he did not commit.

Cleve Heidelberg, 74, was a young man when he was convicted in 1970 for the shooting death of Peoria County Sheriff’s Deputy Ray Espinoza during an armed robbery at the Bellevue Drive-In Movie Theater.

Over those 47 years, Heidelberg sought and was denied parole 25 times. During a recent hearing, an attorney with the prisoner review board said those decisions to deny parole were based in large part on a report from the Peoria County State’s Attorney’s office that had originally prosecuted the case.

On Monday afternoon, there was a celebratory mood with attorneys, family, friends and media outside the jail. Despite a light rain, people were jubilant. Heidelberg smiled broadly but because of his congestive heart failure, he was noticeably breathless when he spoke.

Andy Hale, one of Heidelberg’s attorneys, said his review of the case two years ago unearthed Constitutional violations in the original prosecution, and he found that evidence used to convict Heidelberg in 1970 was not credible.

Don Jackson, another attorney working on Heidelberg’s behalf, said prosecutors in the case “were looking for an African American, and they found one, convicted him and case closed.

“Look around Chicago and you can see this happening. We have a broken system. African American males get to court with two strikes.”

Jackson said he’s glad to see Peoria County working to diversify juries and credited Judge Stephen Kouri for that process.

Heidelberg had been sentenced to 99 to 175 years in prison in 1970 by an all-white jury.

He was transferred from Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg to Peoria County jail in April when Judge Albert Purham vacated his conviction. Special prosecutor Matt Jones has appealed that decision, and that appeal is pending.

Purham set bond at $500,000 earlier this month, and Illinois law requires 10 percent of that for bail. Purham also ordered Heidelberg have a GPS monitoring system.

Speaking after his release, Heidelberg said, “I’m stepping from a graveyard back into life. Prison is a graveyard.”

He heaped praise on Jackson, Hale, private investigator Marcella Teplitz and his friend Alstory Simon who was released from prison two years ago after serving 16 years on a wrongful conviction.

Heidelberg said he hopes to work with Simon on a national website for wrongfully convicted inmates.

In discussing Purham’s ruling, Heidelberg said the judge did not vacate the conviction because the judge liked him but because the judge dealt with facts and evidence.

“The evidence showed I did not do what I was convicted of,” Heidelberg said. “I am an innocent man. All these frivolous appeals will not be successful. Judge Purham will not be overturned.”







Seminar on engaged voters

Illinois Central College is offering a new seminar series “Your Government, Your Voice” about leadership and advocacy. The sessions run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Mondays from June 5 to June 19.

Seminar speakers include Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, Peoria County board member Steve Morris, representatives for U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos and U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, Illinois Sen. Dave Koehler, Ill. Rep. Ryan Spain, Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood and Peoria City Council members Denise Moore and Zack Oyler.

Enrollment is limited to 24. Registration is $45. For more information, go to:

The series is co-sponsored by League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria, NAACP Peoria Branch, Peoria County and the Young Professionals of Greater Peoria.


PEORIA, IL – May 12, 2017— The sculptures for Sculpture Walk Peoria 2017 have been chosen and will be revealed at the Opening Day Celebration on June 3, 2017, on Washington Street in downtown Peoria. This year, opening day has expanded to include more activities and entertainment. A community art project will begin at 9:00 a.m., and the festivities will kick off with a formal ribbon cutting at 10:00 a.m. under the Bob Michel Bridge, followed immediately by the inaugural walk. During the event, there will be plenty to see and do: a variety of musical acts provided by local musicians, food trucks and vendors, kids activities provided by the Peoria Art Guild, and the community art project to paint art poles that will be installed along the walk.
Brenda Mahoney, chair of events for Sculpture Walk Peoria, focused on bringing variety to the event. “We really worked hard to make the event more inviting this year and specifically focused on a range of activities for all ages. We think this will be an awesome event for the whole family! The committee would like to see as many people as possible come downtown to celebrate the grand opening.” Jenn Gordon, Executive Director of ArtsPartners of Central Illinois, pointed out that this will also be the public’s only chance to converse with the artists themselves. “One of the unique aspects of opening day is that the artists are here, having just installed their sculptures, and are excited to share their passion and talk about the inspiration for their works.”
The 2017 sculptures will be installed during the days leading up to the event, and the Opening Day Celebration is the grand opening of the 2017 walk. The sculptures will be on display for one year, at which point they’ll be taken down to make room for the next iteration of the Sculpture Walk. All sculptures are for sale.
Sculpture Walk Peoria is donor-funded and continues to be available because of its Charter and Diamond Sponsors: Peoria Warehouse District Association, Tri-City Machine Products, Muir Omni Graphics, Bradley University, CEFCU, Hanson Professional Services, PNC, Par-a-Dice Hotel and Casino, MAXAM, Prairie Center of the Arts, Unity Point Health Methodist-Proctor, Sharon and John Amdall,  Sid and Flo Banwart, Duffy Armstrong Farrell, Chris and Georgia Glynn, Joe and Michele Richey, and The Ransburg Family.
For more information on Sculpture Walk Peoria, please like our Facebook page or visit
Sculpture Walk Peoria is an initiative of ArtsPartners of Central Illinois, Inc. with the full support of the City of Peoria and private businesses. Its mission is to enhance the appreciation for the arts in our community and educate the members of our community regarding the value of the arts via outdoor, public art spaces in the Peoria Warehouse District. In addition, art—in this case, sculpture—stimulates economic development by bringing people to the Peoria Warehouse District.
ArtsPartners of Central Illinois, Inc. promotes the arts as a vital component of central Illinois’ cultural and economic development. Founded in 1999, ArtsPartners of Central Illinois, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to build awareness and strengthen the arts for the economic and cultural enrichment of central Illinois


May 15, 2017


 From phones to computers, everything needs an update now and then. Perhaps, after 83 years, the Peoria Historical Society logo was due for a change.

While the PHS Mission is to “Preserve, Share, and Celebrate the Stories of the Peoria Area”, we’re excited to publicize something absolutely NEW!

The Peoria Historical Society traces its roots as far back as 1839 but was not formally incorporated until 1934. The original logo, by Francis Fischer, celebrated and symbolized the history of the founding of Peoria and its ties to the Native American Indians.

The new logo, designed by Graphic Designer Taylor Ackerman of the Simantel Group, incorporates a stylized clockface, suggesting movement through time and the many stories the Peoria Historical Society endeavors to tell.

Please contact the Colleen Johnson, Executive Director of the Peoria Historical Society at 843-371-0373 for questions.


Press Release:


An Illinois not for profit corporation

Facebook: Friends of Riverfront Park







Friends of Riverfront Park, through its secretary, Elaine Hopkins, has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). The lawsuit contends that IDNR is improperly withholding documents needed to analyze Peoria’s application to transfer most of Riverfront Park to a developer for upscale apartments.

That application is pending with the National Park Service, which must approve it after review by IDNR.

“We have repeatedly asked IDNR for documents we need to see if the proposed sale of Riverfront Park by the City is legal or not. IDNR has been stonewalling us for the last 3 months,” said Hopkins. “They claim that the documents are exempt as relating to negotiations for a sale of land, which is demonstrably false. We had no choice but to sue,” she added.

The lawsuit was filed on May 15, 2017 in Springfield, IL circuit court and seeks expedited treatment because the City must make a decision whether or not to proceed with the sale by June 30, 2017.

Copies of the court filings are available on request made to Ms. Hopkins at her e-mail address above.

For further information on the efforts to save Riverfront Park in Peoria from the apartments, see the FORP Facebook page:

More information:

Karrie Alms, 309-258-7762

Elaine Hopkins,, 309-231-5758

Freedom looms for Heidelberg

Left, attorney Don Jackson with attorney Andy Hale partially hidden, stand in front of Cleve Heidelberg who is speaking with the Rev. Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow PUSH  Coalition.

Right, Cleve Heidelberg’s sister Mae Winston speaks at a press conference after learning her brother will be released on bail.


After nearly half a century in prison on a murder conviction, Cleve Heidelberg will walk out of jail within the next few days on $500,000 bond with a GPS monitoring system.

Judge Albert Purham set bond significantly below the $5 million requested by the state but refused to allow Heidelberg to live in Cleveland with a friend while awaiting a decision from the appellate court.

Prosecutor Matt Jones appealed Purham’s ruling last month vacating Heidelberg’s conviction.

During a nearly two-hour hearing Friday, Jones questioned Ken Tupy, an attorney on the prisoner review board that has ruled 25 times over the past 47 years not to grant Heidelberg parole.

Jones meticulously went through Heidelberg’s conduct while in prison and cited a number of minor infractions and five incidents involving fighting with other inmates, one involving stabbing an inmate with a pencil, one involved using a sock filled with batteries as a weapon and one report referred to a modified razor blade. Tupy said based on this record, Heidelberg was considered a “moderate” prisoner, but the prisoner review board also relied on a report from the Peoria County State’s Attorney’s office that had originally prosecuted Heidelberg and has consistently refused to consider new evidence.

In a stunning exchange, Heidelberg’s attorney Andy Hale asked Tupy if he were aware of any of the developments in the case over the past year.

Tupy was not. The prison review board most recently denied parole in December 2016, almost a year after Hale began systematically discrediting and dismantling the evidence that had been used by the Peoria County State’s Attorney’s office in the original conviction.

Tupy admitted he did not know Matt Clark who testified under oath that his brother James Clark had confessed to shooting Espinoza. He did not know Lester Mason who testified under oath he had borrowed Heidelberg’s car on the night of the shooting and loaned it to James Clark. He did not know two eyewitnesses were actually unable to identify Heidelberg.

Hale said five fights over nearly half a century amounts to one fight a decade. He said prison is a violent place and prisoners must be constantly prepared to defend themselves. Tupy admitted he did not know any details about who initiated the five fights.

Heidelberg consistently has maintained his innocence since his arrest in May 1970 following the shooting death of Peoria County Sheriff’s Deputy Ray Espinoza at the Bellevue Drive-In movie theater.

Prosecutor Jones read the court a victim statement by Phyllis Espinoza, daughter of the slain officer. Espinoza objected to allowing Heidelberg to live in Cleveland because she visits family in Cleveland and would feel unsafe knowing Heidelberg was living in that city.

In the statement, Espinoza said her mother had received death threats during the trial and went to every single parole hearing to object to Heidelberg’s release until the day she died.

Hale said Heidelberg is 74 years old, has congestive heart failure, a bad back and limited vision. He does not pose a threat to anyone.

“He has been trying to prove his innocence for nearly 50 years. He is no danger,” Hale said.

Jones countered that even “minor violations paint a mosaic of infraction by infraction by infraction” showing a refusal to obey authority.

The judge ordered Heidelberg to remain at the Peoria County Jail until housing has been arranged in the Chicago area and a GPS program is set up.

Hale called the judge’s decision a victory and said before he walked out of the courtroom Friday afternoon, he already had received a commitment for half the $50,000 bail needed because Illinois requires 10 percent of the bond.


Senator fuels movement demanding change

Sen. Dave Koehler, left, and Sen. Daniel Biss talk briefly Tuesday morning at the Labor Temple in Peoria before Biss spoke about his reasons for running for governor and fielding questions from a labor-friendly crowd. 


Illinois senator and gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss stopped at the Peoria Labor Temple Tuesday to discuss labor issues, his vision for Illinois and why he chose this time to run for governor.

“We’ve had 30 years of broken machine politics. We need a movement of the people,” Biss said, noting that he is being far outspent by the billionaires and millionaires in the race, but is convinced he can lead change that will work for the people of the state, not just the super rich.

Among his issues, Biss said:


  • Illinois has the most unfair system of public school funding of any state in the country, and Peoria public schools suffer. The system is based on property taxes, and that must change.
  • Prevailing wage and project labor agreements are fair and help create a strong middle class.
  • Illinois needs term limits on lifetime politicians.
  • Illinois taxes are too onerous for the working poor and the middle class.
  • Going 22 months without a budget means schools not only wonder if they’ll open in September but must be concerned with having the funds to finish the school year.


With the vote in Missouri to become a right-to-work state, Illinois has literally become an island surrounded by states like Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana that have right-to-work laws that seek to undercut unions.

He said Republicans are “obsessed with the idea that people in construction should be paid less.”

“Rauner’s way to grow the economy is to create a smaller middle class,” he said.

The pension problem developed in Illinois “not for years, not for decades but for generations,” he said. “Whatever else we do, we need a binding mechanism to make sure payments to the system are made to the system. We need actuarially required payments that are legal and fair.”

Sen. Dave Koehler, appearing with Biss, said Gov. Rauner wants to privatize Medicaid.

“Rauner always wants to privatize things, and that’s a big mistake,” Koehler said.

Both Biss and Koehler noted in the case of Medicaid, that would amount to a $9 billion contract awarded to a private company.

Biss supports universal single-payer health insurance that would cover everyone. He called universal health insurance “a moral responsibility.”

Biss graduated from Harvard University, earned a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was a mathematics professor at the University of Chicago.

“It was my dream job,” he said. Then the war in Iraq began based on dishonesty, and Biss began going door-to-door doing political organizing.

During that process, he concluded that people could rise up with a common goal and change the world. He ran for public office, lost and ran again. He served in the Illinois House from 2011 to 2013 and was elected to the Senate in 2013.

We now have a president who is “reckless, dishonest and makes dangerous decisions,” Biss said. “Across Illinois we are seeing the start of a movement of people. The Capitol Building in Springfield is now the site of demonstrations.”

People are demanding a massive improvement over the way government is operating, he said.