Statehouse

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix it’s not, but the late January release of The Master List created as great a stir in Illinois political circles as news that J.K. Rowlings’ fifth book about the boy wizard is coming in June.

Since its role in the Enron financial scandal was revealed in 2001, the once-mighty Chicago-based Andersen accounting firm has been reduced to a shell of its former self. Last October, home appliance maker Maytag announced it will pull its refrigeration production out of Galesburg in the northwestern section of the state and move it to Reynosa, Mexico, to cut costs. In December, United Airlines, headquartered in the Chicago metro region, filed for bankruptcy.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Changing governors isn’t as simple as calling the movers. For good or ill, departing residents of the Executive Mansion always leave something behind. 

Pundits will debate the relative pluses and minuses of George Ryan’s four-year tenure as Illinois’ chief executive — and there is an impressive trunkful of stuff to rifle through. Historians will assess the legacy of this endlessly complex politician. Even philosophers might weigh in on the stunning personal transformation of this confounding and complicated man. 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Birds of a feather flock together. This adage rings true for businesses in city centers. But it’s not necessarily the case in rural areas, where companies with similar interests don’t congregate naturally.

Unlike in Chicago, where some industries are magnets for suppliers or distributors, entrepreneurs tend to consider other factors when deciding to locate in less populated areas, including proximity to a waterway or highway, or access to a labor base. This certainly is true in the vast reaches of southern Illinois. 

Taking a page from former Gov. Jim Edgar’s first days in office 12 years ago, Gov. Rod Blagojevich launched his term by cutting personnel and imposing a hiring freeze.

Blagojevich fired Scott Fawell, the $190,000-a-year head of the Chicago Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, shortly after taking the oath as governor. Fawell faces charges of political corruption. The next day, Blagojevich fired 35 of outgoing Gov. George Ryan’s last-minute appointees.

Hawkinson named to Blagojevich team

Feb 1, 2003

Gov. Rod Blagojevich tapped his election opponent’s running mate to join his administration.

Former state Sen. Carl Hawkinson of Galesburg, who ran for the lieutenant governor’s job in November on the GOP ticket led by former Attorney General Jim Ryan, will serve as Blagojevich’s deputy chief of staff for public safety. 

Lincoln Library and Museum advisory board in place

Feb 1, 2003

Before leaving office, Gov. George Ryan named individuals to serve on an 11-member advisory board for the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. 

• Marilyn Boria of Elmhurst, director of the Elmhurst Public Library, who will serve through 2005.

• Charles Bryan Jr. of Richmond, Va., director of the Virginia Historical Society, who will serve through 2005.

• Warrick Carter of Chicago, president of Columbia College, who will serve through 2006.

• Bill Kurtis, Chicago television producer and former news anchor, who will serve through 2004.

New governor issues pink slips

Feb 1, 2003

On his first full day in office, Gov. Rod Blagojevich fired 35 state workers and hired Springfield labor attorney Mary Lee Leahy to find “unnecessary and unqualified personnel.”

“Our state is facing an unprecedented budget crisis,” he said in a printed statement. “The days of taking care of insiders first and taxpayers last are over.” 

Obituaries: Kim Knauer, Douglas Hoeft, & Timothy Osmond

Feb 1, 2003

Kim Knauer 
For two decades, she was the person who could answer just about any question put to her about this state’s schools. Kim Knauer served as public information officer of the Illinois State Board of Education, which sets policy for elementary and secondary schools. She also served as assistant to the state schools superintendent, director of communications and manager of public affairs and communications. 

She died of cancer on January 2 in Springfield. She was 45.

Mike Morsch
WUIS/Illinois Issues

During the 2002 campaign, Kris Cohn, the Winnebago County board chairwoman and Republican candidate for secretary of state, complained that Illinois citizens are frustrated with long lines and an unresponsive bureaucracy at driver’s services facilities. 

Nothing was mentioned about long lines at the post office, the grocery store, the restrooms at Bears games in Champaign or at the offices of prosecutors who want to question anyone who ever worked for former Gov. George Ryan.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

"I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Repeating that optimistic mantra, a bouffant-haired figure shovels coal into the firebox of a speeding locomotive bearing a “Hot Rod Express” nameplate.

Looming ahead, a gargantuan figure wearing a “Budget Deficit” T-shirt sprawls, bound, across the tracks. “Think again,” says the behemoth.

Rod Blagojevich spent last year promising pretty much everything to everybody. So when he’s sworn in this month as Illinois’ chief executive, there’s no doubt the occasion will be marked by a massive celebration.

But the mood is likely to turn sour all too soon. Over the next 18 months, the new Democratic governor will face a hole in the state budget that’s been pegged by some at more than $3 billion because anticipated revenues aren’t covering anticipated spending. 

Illinois’ political cosmos was aligned to enable Democrats to seize the House, the Senate and the Executive Mansion for the first time since Dan Walker was governor in the 1970s. That’s generally considered to be good news for this state’s organized workers. And the new General Assembly’s freshman class does appear poised to transform the Statehouse into a union-friendly domain. 

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

By all appearances, Paul Douglas seems an odd choice to have represented moderate-to-conservative Illinois in the U.S. Senate during the post-World War II era, a time when equal rights for blacks was still an open public question, a time when political demagogues were claiming to find traitors in every nook and cranny. 

For that matter, Douglas seems an odd choice to have served on the Chicago City Council, his first official post, during the reign of a Democratic Machine that brooked little or no dissent on its less-than-progressive turf.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The death penalty reform torch passed from Gov. George Ryan to Gov.-elect Rod Blagojevich early last month during a joint appearance outside the executive suite in the state Capitol.

The two discussed capital punishment only for a moment. But during that time, Blagojevich, a Democrat, made clear, as he stood beside the Republican governor who turned reforming the system into something of a crusade, that he intends to follow that legacy.

Transition Team: Shifts at the Top

Jan 1, 2003

Shifts at the top of the Ryan Administration

William Dugan, president and business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, was appointed to the Illinois Gaming Board to replace outgoing member Tobias Barry

Mike Morsch
WUIS/Illinois Issues

I have the answer to Illinois' budget woes and it's quite simple, really. 

The state should win its own lottery. 

After all, according to the lottery's Web site (www.illinoislottery.com), ?You don't have to be good with numbers to play the lottery.?

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

With the New Year comes a New Era in Illinois state government. When the 93rd General Assembly takes office on January 8, Democrats will control the Senate for the first time in a decade. Five days later, Rod Blagojevich will be inaugurated as the first Democratic governor in 26 years, bringing a commitment to change the way things are done in Springfield.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As one of his 12 labors, Hercules had to clean out the Aegean stables, a task he completed without dirtying his hands by diverting two rivers through the vast and noisome barnyard.

But the mythic Greek hero might have met his match had he tried to clean up the mess from the political campaigns that mercifully ended here last month, even with the Mississippi and Ohio rivers at his disposal.

Paralyzed by scandal, yet one of the most active Illinois governors in recent memory. A political version of Donald Trump in his love of the deal, yet unable to focus on the all-important details. Loved by political insiders, yet increasingly mistrusted by much of the public. These are a few of the paradoxes that define George Ryan. The most poignant, though, is that this lifelong public servant had waited an entire career to become governor, yet was never able to become the leader he had hoped after moving into the Executive Mansion.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Charles Walker went first. Each of us who watched him die on that September morning in 1990 had our own reasons for being there.

As a Statehouse reporter for public radio some 14 years earlier, I had watched legislators approve, and the governor sign, the 1977 law reinstating capital punishment. Walker’s execution was the first under that law, and the first in Illinois in 28 years. I had, I reasoned, reported on the policy as it was approved; I should be willing to report firsthand as it was carried out.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Edward Spreitzer doesn’t contest the guilty verdict against him. Nor does he dispute the horrid nature of the murder that landed him on Death Row. He simply argues the justice system that tried and convicted him is broken, just as Gov. George Ryan says it is, and that, therefore, his death sentence should not stand.

This is a bold legal argument, to say the least. But the courts won’t be deciding this case: The governor will. And if any argument should persuade Ryan to grant relief to Spreitzer, this evidently is the one.

Mike Morsch
WUIS/Illinois Issues

  The state could well be Illinois’ biggest bookie. In fact, gambling is big business here, and has been for quite some time. 

So much so that recent legislation signed by Gov. George Ryan increasing riverboat gambling taxes will raise an estimated $134 million for the state, according to the Illinois comptroller’s office. That money is expected to help offset a big budget shortfall.

How often does Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan chuck his suit, tie and precise lawyerly prose, don a loud, canary-yellow polo shirt, and get plain lippy? Not often, which is why a $3 ticket to the Illinois State Fair during one sultry day last August was such a bargain.

Jim Ryan is in fight mode. He wants to govern the fifth-largest state in the nation, so that’s to be expected. What’s surprising is that he’s playing defense.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Politics begins and ends on the streets. It’s where party functionaries and public officials organize the votes that put them into power, and where they send government services. It’s where they must prove themselves, and where they’ll be measured.

This is certainly true in Chicago, where local wards make up the building blocks of a citywide Democratic power base. That these wards also constitute an age-old map of contending neighborhood alliances is something most Chicagoans know instinctively.

Mike Morsch
WUIS/Illinois Issues

I’m not sure anyone realistically thinks the St. Louis Cardinals will move across the river if Missouri lawmakers don’t meet the team’s demand for a new stadium. But that doesn’t mean Illinois shouldn’t have asked.

That’s just what Carlyle Democrat Rep. Kurt Granberg did last year. And Gov. George Ryan hasn’t let the idea get past him. Ryan met late in the summer with Cardinals president Mark Lamping to explore the possibilities of a Cardinals move.

La Colline is a restaurant a few blocks from the Capitol, a popular place for political fundraisers. On one July morning, about 40 lobbyists show up to breakfast with U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and write checks to his leadership fund.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Nuance can be everything in lawmaking. That’s certainly the case for federal welfare reform, which is still on the negotiating table. 

Five years after it redefined public assistance as temporary, rather than an open-ended entitlement, the reform law is set to expire at the end of this month. When lawmakers return to Capitol Hill from their Labor Day break, they must decide what the next five years will hold — for needy families and for the states that administer the welfare program. 

Mike Morsch
WUIS/Illinois Issues

I’m the new guy here. As such, it falls upon me to give advice to someone who is going to be the new guy where I used to be, which is southeastern Pennsylvania.

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