Deals reached to end strike at most downtown Chicago hotels

CHICAGO — New contract agreements have been reached at four more downtown Chicago hotels, nearly a month after strikes began at about two dozen locations.

Workers union Unite Here Local 1 and Hyatt Hotels say the new deals reached Thursday include three of the company's hotels and meet the union's major demand of year-round health insurance for employees who are laid off during slower months. The fourth agreement was with the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza.

The strike by housekeepers, doormen, servers, cooks and others began Sept. 7 after contracts expired for about 6,000 hotel workers. At its peak, the strike involved 26 downtown hotels. Hilton and Marriott hotels were among those affected that previously reached new contract deals.

The union says the strikes are ongoing at four hotels. The new contracts cover some 5,500 workers.

Iowa wind turbine owners fight court order to tear them down

WEST UNION — Owners of three eastern Iowa wind energy turbines are fighting a court order to tear them down.

Attorneys asked Judge John Bauercamper on Wednesday to put a hold on his previous order to remove the turbines by Dec. 9.

The turbine owners are appealing a decision by the Fayette County Board of Adjustment to deny a variance that would have legalized their towers.

The wind towers built in 2015 drew opposition from housing developers and homeowners in nearby Fairbank who believed they would be detrimental to the town.

The city and housing developers filed a lawsuit claiming the county issued construction permits for the turbines without following zoning ordinances. Bauercamper sided with the city in 2016, and the Iowa Supreme Court upheld that ruling.

Iowa DOT wants to expand busy highway in Benton County

BLAIRSTOWN — The Iowa Department of Transportation is looking to expand U.S. 30 from two lanes to four on a stretch in eastern Iowa.

The DOT wants to do the work on a 14-mile stretch of highway near Blairstown and Van Horne in Benton County. Catherine Cutler, a district transportation planner, says the idea has been in the works since the early 2000s.

Culter says it's the last segment between Cedar Rapids and Ames to become a four-lane highway, and the project is driven by additional capacity needs for passenger cars and semitrailers.

Cutler says expanding the road's capacity will also improve safety by giving drivers better passing opportunities. The first stages of construction could take place next summer.

Board rejects Rauner plan easing rules for dirty coal plants

CHICAGO — The Illinois Pollution Control Board has refused to adopt a proposal by Gov. Bruce Rauner to relax limits on pollution from the state's coal-fired power plants.

The proposal by Rauner was intended to help a struggling industry.

The proposed amendments to the state rules would have affected eight plants operated in central and southern Illinois by Texas-based Vistra Energy. The changes would have replaced the rate-based limits with annual caps on tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emitted by the plants.

Spokeswomen for Vistra and the Rauner-led Illinois Environmental Protection Agency declined comment on Thursday's ruling.

Howard Learner of the nonprofit Environmental Law and Policy Center says Rauner's proposal would have allowed Vistra to "burn more coal at its dirtiest, cheapest plants in Illinois and put public health and the environment at risk."

Council Bluffs man accused of threatening to kill mayor

COUNCIL BLUFFS — Authorities have arrested a Council Bluffs man who is accused of threatening to kill the city's mayor.

Chase Points, 33, faces charges of first-degree harassment, assault and disorderly conduct in a place of business. Points was being held without bond Thursday at the Pottawattamie County Jail.

Council Bluffs police say an officer who was sent to Mayor Matt Walsh's city hall office on Wednesday heard Points screaming expletives.

A subsequent records check showed Points had an outstanding arrest warrant for harassment and assault at City Hall on Sept. 27, when employees say he got in an employee's face and left a threatening note on Walsh's desk. Police say Points posted other threatening messages on Facebook.

Online court records did not list an attorney for Points.

Cervantes of 'Hamilton,' REO to lead Illinois 200th birthday

CHICAGO — A Gettysburg Address rap by Broadway in Chicago's "Hamilton" star Miguel Cervantes, Illinois-bred rockers REO Speedwagon and a cast of Prairie State celebrities will highlight the state's 200th birthday party Dec. 3.

The bicentennial extravaganza 's lineup was announced Thursday. The theme of the party at Chicago's United Center is "Born, Built and Grown in Illinois."

A tribute to favorite son Abraham Lincoln includes the "Gettysburg Address Rap" with Cervantes and award-winning high school musicians. REO was recently named top Illinois musical group in a bicentennial survey. Frontman Kevin Cronin advises Illinois to "get ready to party."

Championships by Chicago sports teams and the 1940s Rockford Peaches will be celebrated.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, blues legend Buddy Guy, rock band Styx and Olympic champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee will also take part.