Aurora Beacon-News - Oct. 20, 2015 | Original article

By David Sharos

Transitioning to adulthood for people with disabilities was the focus of a panel discussion held in Aurora Monday night at Waubonsie Valley High School.

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville) hosted the panel discussion, which offered information for parents as well as caregivers of people with disabilities who are in the transitioning phase from childhood to adulthood. Foster was joined by state Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora), as well as representatives from a number of agencies including the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Rehabilitation Services, Great Lakes ADA Center, the Ray Graham Association and PACT, Inc.

"I don't have children with disabilities but I know as a parent, I worry about them all the time," Foster told a crowd of more than 70 people. "Parents want to know how to take care of their children in all phases of their life, and in terms of those who have disabilities – not all parents are aware of the contacts that are out there."

Foster also praised the Aurora area, saying that "historically, it has had good support and services" and also spoke about the advantages of employing those with disabilities.

"This happens to be National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and I feel employing those with disabilities is a good economic opportunity," he said. "We have found these individuals to be good, dedicated employees. We also need to focus on issues like transportation and vocational training and providing more affordable housing."

Foster added he continues to support legislation that would increase voter registration among those with disabilities as well as backing new technology that would make the voting process easier.

Holmes said her interest in those with disabilities "started close to home."

"I'm the only state legislator I know who has multiple sclerosis, and while I don't have any signs of a disability we need to make reasonable accommodations for those that do," Holmes said. "We have made some legislative progress is this area, and we need to continue to offer gainful employment for all citizens."

Holmes said her biggest concern is for those with autism whose numbers, she said, continue to rise.

"The question is what will happen to these children when they reach adult age and still need services and their parents are no longer able to care for them," she said. "I don't feel those problems have as yet been addressed adequately."

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Aurora Beacon-News - Oct. 17, 2015 - Original article

By Steve Lord

The east and west bridges on Indian Trail in Aurora are open to traffic after two years.

It took that long to finish the $9.5 million project, funded 80 percent by federal funds administered through the Illinois Department of Transportation, and 20 percent by Aurora motor fuel tax funds.

Officials and construction workers on the project gathered Friday for a dedication and ribbon cutting that included cookies, coffee and even cheeseburgers from White Castle – a business that put up with the construction on its doorstep.

"Indian Trail is an artery in our community," Mayor Tom Weisner said. "It is a critical, critical street."

Weisner pointed out that one in nine bridges across the country is considered structurally deficient. With Aurora replacing 10 bridges in the last 10 years – and two more planned by 2017 – they are trying to buck the national trend.

"Maybe one in nine bridges is structurally deficient, but it's not going to happen in Aurora, not on our watch, together," he said.

And working together is what officials gathered Friday said made the bridge project work. That included State Reps. Linda Chapa-Lavia and Stephanie Kifowit, both Democrats from Aurora; State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora; and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Aurora.

They all spoke of cooperation between local, state and federal officials to get the 826 feet of bridgeway, which handles 21,000 vehicles a day, finished.The work included the east and west sides of what is actually two bridges over the river.

"Look at what happens when all of us work together and we get along," Holmes said.

Officials said the bridges not only are wider and stronger, they incorporate Aurora's history. The bridges have a traditional design, but they include four plaques recognizing some of Aurora's history.

The bridges decks are wider, as are the sidewalks on both sides, to accommodate both pedestrians and bicyclists.

Ken Schroth, Aurora's public works director, said there were 40,000 man hours of work on the bridges, and 10,000 hours of design. He added that the contractor, D Construction, was able to reuse many of the piers and beams of the old bridges, saving millions of dollars.

Chapa LaVia pointed out that the taxpayers should be thanked for ultimately funding the project.

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Fox Valley Labor News - Oct. 15, 2015 | Original column

The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy is facing financial difficulties. It draws funding from the state’s higher ed appropriations, and Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed that spending. IMSA has informed parents it faces major financial hurdles starting in December as a result. Fair labor laws and access to quality education ensure a thriving middle class, and right now it seems both are in peril.


By State Senator Linda Holmes

I am frustrated at the continued impasse in Springfield that now threatens to derail the education of some of our state’s brightest students.

The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora draws some of the highest performing students from across Illinois to focus on science, technology, engineering and math. These are the fields which are critical to the continued success of our country’s role as a lead innovator. As Gov. Bruce Rauner refuses to work with the Democratic majorities in the General Assembly to craft a compromise budget, one of the unfunded portions is higher education. IMSA relies on part of that budget to fund its operations.

I helped approve a budget for higher education in Illinois. Gov. Rauner vetoed it, eliminating all funding.

Now, IMSA has informed parents that, absent state support for higher education, it does not know how it will continue operations come December.

At this point, I don’t know what will move Gov. Rauner off his anti-union agenda that everything, including the state budget and IMSA funding, is tied to. His inaction already closed the doors of a 60-year-old child care facility in Aurora and sent the message to physically and financially vulnerable Illinoisans that their state does not care about them.

This intractable situation is poised to affect children whose achievements could shape the future of the state in areas vital to our economic success. I want to urge your readers to call for an end to the budget stalemate, on behalf of schools like IMSA and the public universities that are also imperiled by this failure. I helped approve a spending plan that went to the governor.

He could have worked with us to make changes to what he didn’t like. Instead, he shut almost everything down. It is up to him to act like a statesman.

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I was at Vna Health Care in Aurora to talk about the NFL's A Crucial Catch Initiative. The program has provided another...

Posted by State Senator Linda Holmes on Tuesday, October 13, 2015
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