Statehouse

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Christmas came early last month for some of Illinois’ public servants, with mixed results.

Two high-profile officials making career changes received handsome going away presents to help smooth their transitions. The beneficiaries of the holiday good will were outgoing state Schools Superintendent Glenn “Max” McGee and retiring state Rep. Andrea Moore, a Libertyville Republican. 

McGee was given a six-month, $125,000 consulting contract by the State Board of Education, the same folks who pushed him out the door last summer. 

Springfield, IL
Diana L.C. Nelson

The steel skeleton rising at the northeast edge of downtown is motivating Springfield leaders to think about how they want to present their city to visitors who come to see Abraham Lincoln’s hometown and the seat of Illinois government.

Imagine Illinois
WUIS/Illinois Issues

It’s not an easy beauty. Rather, it resides in nuance, in the steady cycle of the seasons, the certain chronology of renewal, the sure relationship of people with the land. The beauty of the Midwest, Larry Kanfer believes, must be experienced across time. But his challenge, over the past two decades and more, has been to convert these subtleties into two dimensions, to convey through photographic composition emotions embedded in the landscape. “Here is beauty as small as this dirt clod.

Telephone poles, train tracks and thick clumps of trees are the first signs that Old Route 66 is about to wind north into Lincoln. Once the highway crosses Salt Creek, clusters of roadside signs break the view. They announce that this central Illinois town of 15,400 is home to several high school athletic champions, the Lions and Kiwanis clubs and a host of churches. Others proclaim that, in state economic development lingo, Lincoln is not merely an Illinois Certified City, but a Main Street Community and an enterprise zone.

Studs Terkel is on the other side of the tape recorder. “I always check that, check it as you do it, ’cause I’ve goofed up a lot myself with a tape recorder,” he says at the start of an interview in his Chicago home. “I always worry about that. You want to check that? I have a hunch, you know.”

The 89-year-old Terkel is a self-described Luddite, someone who rejects technological change. He doesn’t drive a car and, for that matter, has no license to drive. He prefers a typewriter to a computer. And, as he confesses, he sometimes has trouble operating basic recording equipment.

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Phillip Paludan says he can tell when public officials don’t respect citizens. We can tell what others think of us, he says, by the way they talk to us. Too many officials talk down to us, which suggests they don't respect our ability to think. Paludan's perspective is especially intriguing because he's among the top Lincoln scholars in the United States. He believes one mark of Lincoln¸s greatness was his insistence on taking the high road in his speeches. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

With the filing date for next year’s elections just a few weeks away, perhaps it’s no surprise that political operatives already have begun sniping at potential rivals, gearing up for the really serious badmouthing next year.

In that vein, some Republican spear carriers have been disparaging one possible Democratic statewide lineup as the “All My Children” ticket, drawing on the popular ABC soap opera.

When John Beetz’s great-great-grandfather came to America from Germany in the mid-1800s, he worked as a longshoreman in New York. Then he turned to farming the fertile soil in north central Illinois.

Succeeding generations built on their ancestor’s legacy. And today, Beetz and other members of his extended family farm 8,000 acres near Mendota in LaSalle County. In fact, they operate one of the largest farms in the state. Yet they remain dependent on federal farm subsidies.

MVP’s Sports Bar & Grill is one of those places crouched in the shadow of every factory in America: shiny veneer walls on linoleum floors; neon beer signs in more variety than available brands; a low white ceiling that goes gray with haze after shift changes because just about everybody here smokes. The nondescript metal exterior that wraps it all together says the exterior isn’t the point. Norman Rockwell had his barber shops. Towns like Decatur have this. 

Chicago’s public school kids should begin feeling better about themselves soon — if all goes according to plan. Thanks to a $2.2 million grant from this state’s tobacco settlement fund, Chicago plans by next spring to expand an existing holistic health program into all 491 of its public elementary schools.

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

When Jim Edgar was governor, he had the opportunity to praise two people at one function. One was a mentor, Samuel K. Gove; the other was Al Grosboll, a member of his Cabinet. It was a snapshot of the way in which public servants nurture future leaders. 

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

I sometimes wonder what my great-grandfather thought when he caught sight of that first car coming down the road. Its likely he kept his thoughts to himself. He certainly kept his old black buggy. For some 30 years, until the day he died, it gathered dust in the dim recesses of the barn. Perhaps he wasnt ready to let go of the past. Perhaps he wanted to hedge his bets on an uncertain future. Or perhaps he just couldnt bring himself to throw out something that had once been useful. 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois has packed away the prisoners. So has the rest of the nation. 

Since 1978, this state has almost quadrupled the rate at which criminal offenders are incarcerated. But that's consistent with other states for the time period, one in which crime rates boomed and legislators responded with tougher penalties for criminals. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The terrorist attacks that toppled the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City some eight weeks ago also dealt a serious blow to the state's fiscal well-being. The economic fallout from the attacks, coming as the state already was feeling the impact of a slumping economy, led Gov. George Ryan and administration budget officials to take belt-tightening steps not seen since the fiscal crisis of a decade ago. 

Illinois Issues remembers...9/11/01

Oct 1, 2001

Hector Lamas can buy a pair of shoes without using his entire paycheck, a small but sure step toward achieving the American Dream. To take that step, he left Mexico in 1994, arriving a short time later in Fairmont City, barely a dot on the road map.

Rep. Jack Davis wanted to add one more capital crime. Too many children were being killed, he said, and their murderers should pay with their lives. 

The Beecher Republican was trying to convince the Illinois House the time had come to expand the scope of the death penalty statute they had enacted a few years earlier. Child killers, he argued, deserve the same fate as cop killers and contract murderers and the five other types of offenders the legislature had identified as terrible enough to deserve this state’s ultimate punishment.

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

I felt a bit uncomfortable strolling to the library lawn here at the University of Illinois at Springfield. It was September 14, the national day of prayer and remembrance, and I'm not used to gathering with colleagues for a solemn service. I didn't know what to expect. I wasn't sure of my role. 

I realized later that, in this context, I am a follower, along with millions of others. It's a role that many are not accustomed to. There are thousands of books on leadership, Garry Wills once wrote, but none on followership. 

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The picture of the mosque shown on the network news that terrible week of September 11 looked familiar. And for good reason. Just last summer, Illinois Issues featured the Mosque Foundation in the southwest suburban community of Bridgeview, part of the magazine’s ongoing series of assessments on social and cultural shifts in our state. 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The game had just begun. Secretary of State Jesse White reached into a stovepipe hat, a replica of one worn by Abraham Lincoln, and pulled out Michael Bilandic’s name, giving the Democrats an upper hand in shaping the boundaries of the state’s senator-ial and representative districts for the next 10 years.

Democrats, who gained a fifth member on the special commission convened to redraw those districts, cheered. Republicans, left with four members, solemnly made their way out the doors of the Old State Capitol in Springfield.

Chicago politicians spend a lot of time decrying and denying the decades-old description of their home town as the most segregated city in the north. Then, every 10 years, they put a lot of effort into proving it. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

When Secretary of State Jesse White drew the name of former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Michael Bilandic out of a stovepipe hat last month to give Democrats control of legislative redistricting, the response among that party’s representatives on hand seemed rather subdued compared to the partisan exuberance seen in the past.

Perhaps their response was muted out of deference to the venue: The drawing was conducted in the House chamber of the Old State Capitol, where Abraham Lincoln gave his “House Divided” address.

For the first time this fall, welfare watchers will get a hard look at how Illinois’ unemployed poor are faring in finding and keeping work. Lawmakers are due to get the second, and more detailed, phase of a six-year tracking study in November. And that’s when the hard work will begin — for policy-makers as well as recipients.

It’s Sunday morning and there’s standing room only at St. Alexius Catholic Church in Beardstown. Young Mexican immigrant families overflow the pews, the aisles, the balcony and even the foyer. As the Rev. Gene Weitzel blesses communion bread and wine, a nun translates into Spanish. Between prayers, musicians strum an acoustic guitar and rattle a tambourine. There’s no organ music here.

Cutting Edge: Illinois is poised to buy a glass house

Sep 1, 2001

It can be described as a fishbowl on stilts or a jewel set in a forest. 

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed the Farnsworth House as a place of solace where the elements of nature meet the ideals of modern architecture. And in many regards his house has always been a place where opposing forces meet. 

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

You vote; nearly all of you do. You give money to political campaigns; most of you do.

Half of you have at least a master’s degree, and most of the rest of you have a bachelor’s degree.

We learned all of that in a recent survey of Illinois Issues subscribers. We are grateful to our business manager, Chris Ryan, for analyzing the results. It was our first readership survey in five years. I promised to tell you about those results, so I am summarizing them here.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

To many of us, welfare reform is a story about numbers: How many are still on the rolls; how many have found work. To some, it's a story about politics or history, the latest chapter in an evolving social policy. 

That's to be expected. The new rules governing the unemployed poor don't touch most of us personally. Numbers, politics and history are more readily grasped. Still, what happens over the next year in Congress and the legislature will touch hundreds, if not thousands, of Illinoisans' lives. 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Medicaid expenses are booming. Illinois lawmakers know that. Now they know other states are dealing with the same problem.

At the National Conference of States Legislatures’ annual meeting last month in San Antonio, legislators from all 50 states learned they’re in the same boat. Across the board, Medicaid is eating up a greater share of the states’ budgets. And the end is nowhere in sight.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As the 2001 baseball season winds down, fans across the nation are saying farewell to a pair of the game’s best, Baltimore Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken Jr. and San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn.

In similar fashion, the Illinois political scene is losing one of its top performers with the decision by Gov. George Ryan not to seek a second term.

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As the summer heat sets in, my thoughts drift to baseball. They drift back 13 years, to 1988 when the Illinois legislature adopted a last-minute plan to build a new Comiskey Park for the Chicago White Sox. That prevented the Sox from moving to Florida.

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