Mary Hansen

Reporter

Mary reports for NPR Illinois and the Illinois Newsroom. She graduated from the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she spent a legislative session covering statehouse news for The Daily Herald. Previously, Mary reported for The State Journal-Register, covering city government. She received her BA in International Studies from American University. 

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Downtown Springfield is jammed with parking problems. Shoppers and tourists complain about a lack of nearby spots, while study after study shows occupancy rates for spots remain low.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

The boyhood home of Julius Rosenwald, which sits in the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, has been renamed in his honor. The legacy of the late Jewish philanthropist and Sears executive, who funded thousands of schools throughout the segregated south between 1917 and 1948, endures in Springfield.

Three smoke stacks from Springfield's City Water, Light and Power sit on the lake.
Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Springfield’s City Water, Light and Power will retire its two oldest coal units by the end of the year and a third by October, 2023.

Nine months after a city-hired consultant called for the three units to be shuttered as soon as possible, the Springfield City Council last night approved the timeline for the closures. City officials said a plan for around 60 affected plant workers is the next step.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Support is building in the Springfield City Council for retiring three of the city’s coal power generators. That came as Springfield residents shared their opinions at a public forum Wednesday night about the potential closure of Dallman 33 – one of three coal generators slated for retirement.

After a presentation from City Water, Light and Power, the debate turned to timing and questions about the fate of around 60 employees that could be affected by the closures.

NPR Illinois/LLCC

Springfield authorities have confirmed that the victims of a plane crash Tuesday were the Sangamon County Coroner Cinda Edwards, her husband Frank – a former fire chief and alderman, and John Evans, of Glenarm.

Cinda Edwards was appointed coroner in 2011. Frank Edwards served on the Springfield City Council and stepped in as mayor after the death of then-Mayor Tim Davlin in 2010.

NPR Illinois talked with State Journal-Register Political Columnist Bernie Schoenburg about the Edwards’ years of public service.

NPR Illinois

Springfield may have to wait for a decision on the fate of its coal generators. The city council decided Tuesday to delay a final vote by two weeks.

Instead of debating whether and when to retire three of its four generators, some city officials argued they don’t have enough information to make such an important decision.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

An exhibit by Springfield artists featuring portraits of people experiencing homelessness wrapped up last week.

The watercolors, photographs and mixed-media portraits were of clients of Helping Hands – a men’s shelter on Washington Street just east of downtown.

Three smoke stacks from Springfield's City Water, Light and Power sit on the lake.
Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Springfield utility officials presented their budget to aldermen Thursday. Utility leaders said the spending plan would change little if the city decides to shutter much of its coal plant.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Three women serve on the Springfield City Council, the most in the city’s history. Next Tuesday, Ward 3 Ald. Doris Turner, Ward 6 Ald. Kristin DiCenso and Ward 8 Ald. Erin Conley are inviting mothers and daughters to the Committee of the Whole meeting.

Conley, the newest woman on the ten-member council, said it’s important for young people to see them working together.

“I’d like especially young girls to see what it means to be leader,” she said. “But also what it means in leadership roles to work as a team. It’s not one person. We work as a team, we pull together.”

Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

A recreational marijuana lounge is coming to downtown Springfield. The City Council on Tuesday granted one of the first permits to open an establishment specifically for the consumption of marijuana. It also allows on-site consumption at the dispensary.

U.S. Census Bureau

Advocates for an accurate census count are claiming a mailer from an anti-immigration group constitutes a “disinformation” campaign. The letter, sent out last fall, calls itself a “Consensus Survey” and asks residents for their views on immigration policy.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Springfield officials want to make sure all residents participate in the upcoming census count.

The population count begins in March, when residents will get a letter asking them to fill out an online form about their household.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Pension payments are the biggest financial challenge facing Springfield. At Wednesday’s first city budget hearing, officials agreed on that much, but argued over what to do about it.

Courtesy of John Schafer

Springfield city council members, utility officials, and clean-energy advocates reached an agreement on new rules for rooftop solar panels on Tuesday.

U.S. Census Bureau

As Illinois prepares for the 2020 census count, leaders of the state census office said they’re focusing on getting correct information out to communities, in particular clearing up confusion about job qualifications for census enumerators, the use of online forms and the timeline for the decennial count.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Illinois plans on spending $400 million over the next several years to improve internet access to farms and small towns.

But first, the state needs to know who has a reliable internet connection and who doesn’t.

The federal government tracks where high-speed internet is available. But the mapping has been criticized for overstating access, particularly in rural areas. Around 30 percent of residents living in rural Illinois lack internet access at speeds of 25 mbps and above, according to a report from the Federal Communications Commission.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

The Illinois attorney general’s office and the owners of the former Pillsbury Mills site agreed that the property has been properly secured after deficiencies were spotted last month in fencing surrounding the North End property.

The two sides reported the agreement to Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Madonia at a court appearance Thursday afternoon.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

The owners of the Pillsbury Mills site will have another day in court. The Illinois attorney general’s office claims the owners have not properly secured the site against trespassers, despite a court order to do so.

That’s according to a petition filed in Sangamon County Circuit Court in Springfield last month. A hearing is set for Thursday, December 19.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Months after a report advising the City of Springfield to shutter three of its four coal-fired generators, utility officials urged city leaders to make a decision about the future of the plant by January.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

There’s some new lighting and patched fencing around the abandoned Pillsbury Mills plant on the north end of Springfield. But residents say more work needs to be done to make the area safe. 

NPR Illinois went on a perimeter walk with them over the weekend and has this report.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Illinois is in a precarious position when it comes to the 2020 census. The count determines congressional representation, and the state is at risk for losing up to two seats.

Central and southern Illinois appear most vulnerable to losing a congressional seat, which is why it’s especially important to make sure everyone participates, according to Anita Banerji, director of the Democracy Initiative with Forefront Illinois. The Chicago-based civic engagement nonprofit has been working to ensure an accurate count.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Many cities across Illinois are struggling to meet required police and fire pension payments. In Springfield, every dollar homeowners pay in real estate taxes goes right back out to cover that cost. Next year, as payments grow, the city needs to come up with an additional $1.5 million dollars.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

A community group wants the city of Springfield to take over the Pillsbury Mills Plant, tear it down and redevelop the site.

But, first, they want the city to make sure the area is closed off to trespassers.

Pat Nabong special to ProPublica

The ACLU of Illinois, press freedom groups and victims’ rights advocates urged the university to alter a policy that requires reporters to tell campus officials about sources’ sexual harassment complaints.

Three smoke stacks from Springfield's City Water, Light and Power sit on the lake.
Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

The city of Springfield is hiring a consultant to help with a plan to shut down part of its coal plant. This comes months after a report found three of the four generators are no longer economically viable.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

A proposal for what to do with Springfield’s power plant could be announced in November. The plan would follow a report from the spring recommending the city shut down three of its four coal generators. 

Springfield residents from wards 5 and 6 asked questions about crime, homelessness, the  future of City Water, Light and Power, and Pillsbury Mills at a meeting Monday night.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Springfield city leaders set the dates for public meetings in each ward. Dates, times and locations are below. This post will be updated as locations are announced.

To find out which ward you live in, you can search for your address at the Sangamon County Clerk’s website here.

Wards 5 & 6: Monday, October 28, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m., Hanson Professional Services, 1525 S. 6th Street

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

On the roof of the Kerasotes building in downtown Springfield, at the corner of Sixth and Washington streets, Michelle Knox shows off a 9.9-kilowatt array of solar panels.

“This system offsets about 25% of the building’s consumption,” she said.

Those savings make the monthly City Water, Light and Power bill lower than it would be without solar panels. And thanks to a system called “net metering,” CWLP gives the building owners a credit when the panels produce extra electricity, which goes back to the city grid.

WQNA Facebook Page

A group of DJs with WQNA radio is raising money to keep Springfield’s community radio station on the air. 

The group has set up a GoFundMe page, called “Save Community Radio in Springfield!”, to purchase the license and equipment needed to continue broadcasting. The goal is $35,000, and as of Thursday, had $3,210 

committed.

 

The potential merger of two newspaper giants – Gannett and GateHouse Media – has newspaper reporters in Springfield and around the country worried about additional cuts.

Reporters with the State Journal-Register, which GateHouse owns, demonstrated outside their office on Ninth Street Thursday. It’s part of a nationwide effort of unionized newsrooms to bring attention to the merger.

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