Statehouse

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

  A behavioral ecologist might see an uncanny resemblance to a struggle for alpha male status in a pack of timber wolves. Political scientists and headline writers prefer a titanic clash of egos to determine who’s the No. 1 Democrat in Illinois.

Whatever one’s frame of reference, the failure of the state’s Democratic leadership to produce a budget on time for the coming fiscal year is clearly a source of considerable embarrassment for the party faithful.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

To Chicago White Sox fans of the 1950s, “Friendly Bob Adams” was as familiar a name as Minnie Minoso or Billy Pierce.

While Minoso and Pierce labored in White Sox pinstripes, Friendly Bob was the guy to call for a bill consolidation loan from the finance company that sponsored the Sox’s radio broadcasts.

“We are seeing a gang migration out of Chicago. The vast majority of it is heading south, some west. Black gangs, Hispanic gangs, some whites. It started three years ago when a number of big gang leaders wanted to get out from the watchful eye of the Chicago police. So they moved out to places where nobody knew who they were and the police departments were small and ill-equipped. They figured they could get away with more out there without being caught.” 

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A couple of months, give or take. That’s all that’s left on the calendar before lawmakers close business at the Capitol and head home to a summer of fish fries, county fairs and music fests.

For now, there’s still plenty to chew on in Springfield. The governor wants control of education. Doctors want lower insurance bills. And local officials want better odds they’ll win something in the casino sweepstakes. Yet it’s likely lawmakers have their eyes fixed on November 2 as much as on May 21. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

State Sen. Carol Ronen says she’s “getting a little impatient,” and who could blame her for being restless?

The Chicago Democrat is the lead sponsor of the so-called “gay rights” bill, legislation that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in connection with employment, real estate dealings, access to financial credit and availability of public accommodations.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Democratic senator from Massachusetts won the debate without breaking a sweat. Literally. No, not John Kerry. That was John Kennedy, who went head-to-head with Republican Richard Nixon on Chicago television. 

It was the first of four debates, the most ever between presidential contenders. Kennedy scored because he looked young and energetic under the studio lights. Nixon suffered from a knee infection and a bad make-up job. The year was 1960. And it was the beginning of a new era of presidential campaigning.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

For many years, Elvis Presley was a Las Vegas mainstay, drawing admiring legions to casino showrooms. His No. 1 fan in Illinois — Gov. Rod Blagojevich — may be no match for The King vocally, but the governor’s proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 would do credit to another Strip headliner, magician David Copperfield.

“Illusion,” Copperfield says, “is the art of creating the impossible, making fantasy a reality.”

Health and retirement benefits once provided a lifetime link between employers and employees. But as responsibility for these assumed entitlements has shifted from boss to worker, that connection has changed, too. 

Illinois owes thousands of jobs to a decades-old federal tax break aimed at encouraging companies to export products. Those jobs will be in jeopardy this spring, though, if Congress repeals the break, as the European Union is pressuring it to do, without cushioning the financial blow. 

Two of Illinois’ largest exporters, Boeing Corp. and Caterpillar, would be particularly hard hit and have been lobbying Capitol Hill in the hope of influencing the final legislation.

Question & Answer: Richard Schuldt - A Primer on Polling

Feb 1, 2004

He has been director of the Survey Research Office in the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Springfield for almost 20 years. 

Was Abraham Lincoln, the “Great Emancipator,” a racist?

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The nation’s founders surely would be amazed.

That we have the ability in the 21st century to measure public opinion with some precision might intrigue those scientifically enlightened leaders of the 18th century. But our near-obsession with tracking and analyzing it might simply bewilder them. That we give it such weight might even alarm them. After all, the men who crafted our representative form of government were, for the most part, instinctively disposed to counterbalance, if not contain, popular passions.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Amazing. Unbelievable. Incredible. Take your pick — all aptly describe Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s second State of the State address, a performance unlike that of any other governor in recent memory.

Not just its 90-minute length, nor its single-minded focus on a single subject, but even more astounding was the sheer ferocity of his attack on the State Board of Education, a jeremiad against a constitutional entity by a chief executive unprecedented in its viciousness.

When Gov. Rod Blagojevich summoned reporters to his Statehouse office during the November veto session, he ridiculed lawmakers as a bunch of “drunken sailors” for threatening to restore more than $148 million of the spending cuts he had made over the summer.

A crowd of contenders for the U.S. Senate is rising from the smoking ruins of the Illinois Republican Party. And almost all are running to the right as they aim for the seat being vacated by Peter Fitzgerald, the anti-establishment Inverness Republican who is leaving Washington, D.C., after one term.

To grasp the lay of the land in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, it’s helpful to see how political support is lining up in Chicago’s gay and lesbian community.

Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes is supported by gay officeholders with establishment ties, such as state Rep. Larry McKeon and 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney. 

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Paul Simon was no blow-dried made-for-TV politician, no consultant-driven candidate, no finger-in-the-wind public servant.

He was the real deal. Not because he stood for this or that issue in particular, but because, over a lifetime, he was willing to stand for something. And he was willing to stand alone. 

Obituary: Paul Simon

Jan 1, 2004
Paul Simon
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon of Makanda died December 9 in Springfield following heart surgery. Simon, known for integrity and high ethical standards, was 75. A Democratic presidential candidate in 1988, Simon was director of the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale at the time of his death. The former newspaperman was a founder ofIllinois Issues. He also was the first director of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at what is now the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As the new year dawns across Illinois, the state and its civic life are much the poorer for the untimely deaths late last year of two of the finest public servants ever to grace our prairies.

Within a month of each other in the waning days of 2003, veteran journalist and educator Bill Miller and former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon passed away.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

We open this eighth annual arts issue with a question. Several, really. None easily answered. 

The essential one is this: Are we ceding our right to decide what we will read in the privacy of our homes, what we will hear on our car radios or what we will see in theaters and galleries to that so-called most-democratic of forces, the marketplace? 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Rod Blagojevich comes off as a regular guy. He had trouble in school. He’s comfortable making fun of himself.

He’s also comfortable making fun of others. Blagojevich said in early October that Steve Bartman, the notorious Chicago Cubs fan who interfered with a foul ball bound for Cubs left fielder Moises Alou’s glove, wouldn’t get a pardon if he committed a crime. 

Perhaps, Blagojevich said, Bartman could get witness protection.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In the Chicago area, two of the season’s most beloved traditions are the Apollo Chorus’ performance of Handel’s Messiah at Orchestra Hall and the Joffrey Ballet’s presentation of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker at the Auditorium Theatre. Both classics are performed by other artists elsewhere across the state, of course, including here in Springfield.

On so many levels, voters can be indifferent. In presidential elections, barely half show up at the polls. As for state government, a recent survey released by the National Conference of State Legislatures finds that more young adults can name the hometown of the fictional Simpsons than the political parties of their governors. And in Illinois, school boards and city councils nearly always meet before seas of empty chairs.

Abraham Lincoln’s legacy has impact. Attorney General John Ashcroft, in a recent example, trotted it out to justify the Patriot Act. For this reason, it is necessary for us to understand what the legacy means, how it shows itself and why it has such power.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Scott Turow suspects the death penalty will be abolished in this country, eventually. But the Chicago attorney and best-selling author concludes political consensus isn’t likely to lead us to abolition.

“I expect Americans — and their politicians — to remain in conflict, provoked by individual cases and reluctant to focus on the actual output of the system as a whole,” he writes in his recently released collection of essays on the subject. “Their hesitation to fix what is fixable in our capital schemes will force the ultimate judgments into the courts.”

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has on his happy face. Since the General Assembly adjourned for the summer, the governor has been busy applauding his administration for plugging a $5 billion budget hole. After all, he won the Executive Mansion by running against “business as usual” cronyism, wasteful spending and budget talks behind closed doors.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

When Illinois voters approved the call for a Constitutional Convention 35 years ago this month, the main selling point was the need to revamp the state’s century-old, horse-and-buggy charter to meet space-age needs.

Proponents of constitutional revision touted such benefits as a revenue article flexible enough to allow targeted tax breaks, expanded authority for cities to handle their own affairs and restrictions on state borrowing more attuned to contemp-orary financial practices.

When Bryan Samuels became director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, he inherited an agency that looked to be on the upswing. The most hopeful sign: The number of state wards, which had reached 51,500 in 1997, has been sliced to some 20,000, thanks to a push for adoptions and subsidized guardianship.

That’s not to say that watching over the state’s most vulnerable children is getting easier. Or that it’s less difficult to run an agency that draws heavy media attention every time something goes awry. 

Roger Walker’s appointment as director of the Illinois Department of Corrections means a significant shift in leadership style for an agency that may be in need of a mediator at the top. 

Personable and practical, Walker is more comfortable looking for solutions than problems. He says he may not be an employee’s best friend, but he wants his workers to know he listens. And he arrives at this post with no predetermined agenda. 

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Governors may have reason to remember the old adage on being careful about wishes.

The move to shift responsibility for social welfare programs from the federal government to the states has definitely picked up steam under President George W. Bush. 

Proponents of devolution, so called, promote it as a way to give the states flexibility to reinvent social policy, to tailor it to local needs. And that’s something state officials have devoutly wished for. 

Pages