Statehouse

With presidential politics behind them, Illinois' top two politicians, Mayor Richard M. Daley and Gov. George Ryan, are back to doing what they do best. Making deals. With each other.

National elections force guys like Daley and Ryan to be more partisan than they really want to be. Daley, a Bill Clinton stalwart who benefited greatly from the Bubba years, didn't waste time criticizing the outgoing president for his endless farewell tour. Now he can't cozy up to George W. Bush fast enough.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. George Ryan's approval ratings may have nosedived with the public, but he's still a popular fellow with state lawmakers.

A joint session of the General Assembly welcomed him warmly a few weeks ago when he presented his third State of the State message, and no doubt he'll get a similarly cordial reception over the next few weeks as he pushes his proposed budget for fiscal year 2002.

Illustration by Mike Cramer using photographs fo the newly elected justices taken by Terry Farmer, Todd Mizener and Paul McGrath
Mike Cramer

It's bound to be interesting. With four new justices and a high-profile docket, that's about as definitive a prediction as can be made about a politically reconfigured Illinois Supreme Court.

Active juvenile caseloads, Illinois 1990-1998
"The Status of Juvenile Detention in Illinois, Annual Report 1998"

There's not much Kevin Lyons can say about spending on juvenile cases that pass through his office. Except this: "Somebody's got to stop the bleeding."

Mike Cramer

Few politicians have standards for corruption named after them.

Former Chicago Treasurer Miriam Santos not only bears the dubious distinction, she conjured the catch phrase herself: "The Santos standard."

There she was, moments after pleading guilty in federal court, in front of reporters, pontificating.

The woman snared by her own recorded words - barking at a potential contributor to "belly up"- still had plenty to say. She warned other politicians to study her case. They would have trouble living with "the Santos standard," she suggested.

Mike Cramer

Richard Hess could have faced the death penalty for the 1995 rape and murder of a Naperville woman.

His attack on Nicole Kornelie was brutal enough, the evidence clear enough, that pushing for capital punishment would have been an easy choice for the prosecution.

Mike Cramer

John Hills paid little attention to the taunts as he coached first base for the Lemont Little League all-stars. But the words suddenly got physical when three coaches for the opposing team jumped Hills and beat him brutally. That was 10 summers ago. "It shattered me," Hills says of the incident that led to the loss of his plumbing business.

The Auburn Rotary Club disbanded last summer. The few remaining members were getting older and having trouble recruiting younger people. The club folded, a Springfield newspaper reported, "due to lack of interest." The collapse of Auburn's Rotary would not surprise Harvard scholar Robert D. Putnam. He would see it as part of a larger, alarming trend. His extensive research shows that membership in traditional organizations is on the decline everywhere and that Americans are less engaged in their communities, attending church less frequently and voting less often.

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

It's because of legislative sessions like the one just starting that our founders and the university knew how much our state needs Illinois Issues.

The focus on legislative redistricting will drip with partisanship, and some people might consider that dreadful. I don't. What's so wrong about partisanship affecting what we philosophically revere as a political process? On the other hand, legislators will consider important issues besides new maps this spring. And our staff will be on top of all of them.

The end-of-session newsletters dropped in mailboxes will brag about new money for local schools. Press conferences at the Statehouse will feature rhetoric about election reform. Guest columns sent to hometown weeklies will decry high energy prices, at least while the weather remains cold.

None of that matters to politicians as much as redistricting.

Briefly

Feb 1, 2001

Honoring Lincoln

A library grows in Springfield

 

Construction of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will begin with groundbreaking ceremonies in downtown Springfield on Lincoln's Birthday, February 12. When the project is complete in 2003, visitors will be treated to all things Lincoln, including a virtual experience of the 16th president's story through a $2 million 3-D projection system underwritten by Ameritech.

 

WEBSOURCE

People

Feb 1, 2001
Editor, author and Illinois native William Maxwell
Dorothy Alexander

SHIFTS AT THE TOP

Ray Serati of Springfield is the new deputy press secretary for Gov. George Ryan. After retiring from 33 years of service covering the Capitol for Copley News Service, Serati was media spokesman for Springfield's City Water, Light and Power. He replaces Nick Palazzolo of Springfield who left the governor's office for a position at IBM. 

Patrick E. Gauen
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Mark Von Nida knew what he wanted to do, but building a consensus was something else. Who, after all, gives a hoot about boring election machinery?

Until 30 years ago, the voters of Madison County did fine with pens, scratching an "X" beside each of their favorite candidates' names. Voting machines nearly the size of refrigerators sped up the counting in 1970. But after just eight years, officials got tired of the hauling costs and hernia risks and switched to punch cards. Those were easily portable and reasonably fast to count.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Is it, as Yogi Berra might put it, deja vu all over again for state finances in Illinois? Look at what's been happening lately. 

- State revenues, especially sales tax receipts, have been less than what lawmakers expected when they put the current budget together last April.

- Medicaid spending has been higher than anticipated, causing state officials to cut costs by reducing reimbursement rates to some providers.

Wm. S. Collins

Picture Republican Senate President James "Pate" Philip and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan setting aside their partisan rivalry in the Statehouse just long enough to settle what promises to be the spring session's most divisive issue: drawing new legislative districts.

As a matter of fact, they did chat recently about the upcoming remap. They even agreed on how awful the process is. But that's where the goodwill seemed to end - along with any chances for a peaceful spring.

Mike Cramer

Republicans screamed bloody murder last election night when the TV networks prematurely called Florida for Al Gore - still more proof, supporters of George W. Bush fumed, of liberal bias in the news media.

Robert W. McChesney would not buy that premise. Probably he would argue that even if it were true - if all newsrooms were populated by liberal zealots - it would hardly matter.

Miriam Santos
Mike Cramer

When former City Treasurer Miriam Santos plea-bargained her way to a single mail fraud count last November and was sentenced to the three months and 17 days she had already served in a downstate Illinois prison camp, it was noted somewhere in most news reports that she was the first Hispanic ever elected to a city-wide office in Chicago. What they didn't say was that she's likely to be the last, at least for the time being.

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

My feeling about this new year differs from the last few, when January 1 meant little more than waking up for another day. I sense more urgency, but maybe it's just personal. I mention two items on my own wish list:

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A once-in-a-decade legislative session. That's what Statehouse insiders are calling it, and they're not blowing smoke. A lot is riding on what happens over the next few months. For those insiders, yes. For the rest of us too.

Why? The short of it is this: It's the year of the remap and we're in for a heck of a show. The process amounts to political gamesmanship in its purest form - fun to watch, fun to report. Yet the results add up to something more.

One governor revels in pork-barrel politics, arranges sweet deals for cronies and gruffly dismisses questions about corruption. Another governor challenges the party line on abortion and guns, reaches out to blacks and gays and offers bold legislation.

And both governors are George H. Ryan.

Briefly

Jan 1, 2001
Wm. S. Collins

LEGISLATIVE CHECKLIST

Bears emerge as biggest
beneficiaries of veto
session benevolence

People

Jan 1, 2001
Gordon Pruett

Three new justices are on the state's high court

The Illinois Supreme Court became more Democratic last month after three new justices were installed in separate ceremonies in Moline, Springfield and Chicago.

Madeleine Doubek
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Addison Township Democrat Linda Bourke Hilbert ran for the DuPage County Board last fall like the placeholder she was supposed to be. She didn't knock on many doors. She didn't mail any campaign literature. On election night, Hilbert was so convinced she would lose, she paid more attention to presidential returns than her own.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Monday morning quarterbacks have been having a field day of late, ever since the lame-duck legislative session produced a new home for the Chicago Bears.

Talk-show pundits and editorial writers - most of them from outside Chicagoland - have been picking at the details of the $587 million package that relies on an existing city hotel tax to bankroll renovation of Soldier Field, the Bears' home since they moved from Wrigley Field in 1971.

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