Charles N. Wheeler III

Analyst

The director of the Public Affairs Reporting (PAR) graduate program is Professor Charles N. Wheeler III,  a veteran newsman who came to the University of Illinois at Springfield following a 24-year career at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Wheeler covered state government and politics for the Sun-Times since 1970, when he covered the Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention. For the last 19 years of his Sun-Times tenure, Wheeler was assigned to the newspaper’s Statehouse bureau. During that time, he was elected to 16 consecutive one-year terms as president of the Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association and served for many years on the PAR program and admissions committees.

Since 1984, he has written a monthly column for Illinois Issues magazine, which has won five Capitolbeat awards for magazine commentary/analysis. In 2006, the Illinois Associated Press Editors Association inducted him into The Lincoln League of Journalists, which honors men and women who have provided exemplary service to other journalists and to daily newspapers published in Illinois. In 2013, he was chosen as the Journalist of the Year by the Journalism Department at Eastern Illinois University.  He is also a regular on the panel for State Week, WUIS' weekly political analysis program that airs on public radio stations across Illinois.

Before joining the Sun-Times in 1969, Wheeler served more than three years as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Panama. He is a graduate of St. Mary’s University, Winona, MN, majoring in English, and received a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Wheeler draws on the talents of many UIS faculty with expertise in such fields as public budgeting, political science, and communication, as well as professional journalists and state officials, to present students with a well-rounded program to bridge the academic and professional areas.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Heading north on Interstate 39 on a summer day as the land rises from the Illinois River valley, a motorist sees a strange sight ahead on the horizon to the west: a shimmering company of slender figures, languidly spiraling their arms in a slow-motion ballet. The vision is not that of magical dancers on an enchanted prairie, however. Instead, it's a peek at what might become a commonplace sight in rural Illinois and a significant part of the state's energy future: a wind farm.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As Democratic leaders prepared to ram a $54-plus billion budget through the Illinois legislature on May 31 — thus avoiding another overtime session — Gov. Rod Blagojevich was ebullient. "I feel real good about the session," he told reporters following cameo appearances in the Senate and the House. "My only regret is that it has to end now."

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The passing in recent weeks of Terri Schiavo and Pope John Paul II has helped popularize a new slogan for conservative activists and Republican strategists: "culture of life."

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Let's play a game of word association. You know, what image pops into your head when you see a certain word? And the word is — GUNS.

If those four letters evoke memories of a crisp, fall day in the woods, rifle at the ready, hoping for a trophy buck, chances are you're from downstate Illinois. If the same four letters produce pictures of a seedy street corner, a speeding car, pistol flashes and a bleeding child, odds are you live in the Chicago area.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In his 1817 autobiography, British poet Samuel Coleridge wrote of a "willing suspension of disbelief" that enables a reader to become caught up in a work of fiction.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich must have been hoping for a similar state of mind among legislators and other Illinois citizens last month when he presented his proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Don’t expect the glitz of a rock concert or the fervor of a tent revival, but the Illinois House’s Budget 2006 road show could be a top draw in coming weeks.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Among the time-honored traditions of the holiday season, perhaps none is as hopeful and yet as depressing as the practice of making New Year’s resolutions.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Are the majority of Illinoisans indifferent to virtue? That inference might be drawn from post-election punditry that credits President George W. Bush’s re-election to the rising up of righteous voters alarmed by the nation’s decades-long slide into perdition.

Analysts pushing the vote-for-godly-living scenario point to exit polls indicating moral values was the key issue for a plurality of voters — some 22 percent — four out of five of whom marked for the president over his Democratic challenger, U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

After seeing colleagues in target legislative districts roasted throughout the just-concluded campaign season for supposedly voting against their constituents’ local interests, Illinois lawmakers may be tempted to approach their work from a decidedly parochial perspective.

That’s understandable, of course. No incumbent wants to provide ammunition to a future challenger intent on playing to the long-held regional animosities that characterize Illinois politics.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Is justice for sale in Illinois? A lot of people think so. That worries folks like Cindi Canary, and it ought to worry all of us.

“I think there’s a growing perception that’s the case,” says Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “In 2002, people expressed a lot of concern about conflicts of interest, about the players in the campaign ending up being the players in the courtroom.”

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As Labor Day approaches, and with it the traditional beginning of the fall campaign season, Illinois Republicans might be tempted to replace the party’s longtime elephant symbol with Joe Btfsplk, the Li’l Abner character always drawn with a dark cloud over his head.

Already on the wane, GOP fortunes took a real nosedive after Jack Ryan, the party’s nominee for U.S. Senate, bowed out following disclosure of embarrassing allegations of sexual high jinks contained in child custody records.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Since the 1870s, the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant have symbolized the nation’s two major political parties, both the handiwork of Harper’s Weekly cartoonist Thomas Nast.

As the spring legislative session dragged on past its scheduled adjournment with Gov. Rod Blagojevich and legislative leaders unable to craft a budget, however, some analysts wondered whether a more fitting image for lawmakers might not be a chicken.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The other shoe appears poised to drop on Illinois’ cash-strapped local governments.

Already reeling from new waste water permit fees imposed by the state, local officials now also face steep costs to comply with a federal mandate for election reform.

Under the Help America Vote Act, enacted last year in the wake of the Florida vote counting debacle in 2000, election authorities must:

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Are we killing the goose that’s been laying golden eggs in the coffers of state and local governments for the last dozen years?

Since 1991, Illinois’ riverboat gaming industry has produced some $3.5 billion in tax revenues for the state and for the nine communities in which the floating casinos have docked.

But the ongoing bounty may be susceptible to a couple of worrisome trends documented in Illinois Gaming Board reports and in a new study from the Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission. The ominous portents:

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

An alarming scenario could be brewing for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. The potential nightmare for the state’s pollution fighters doesn’t include visions of corrosive fumes enveloping a town or toxic wastes polluting a local water supply.

Rather than chemistry gone awry, the looming disaster is rooted in the state’s fiscal problems. Simply put, the EPA could run out of money to operate in the new fiscal year, which began July 1.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

“Be careful what you wish for,” advises an old adage, “because you just might get it.”

Gov. Rod Blagojevich might find himself reflecting on that sage advice in coming weeks, after the Illinois General Assembly sent the Democratic chief executive a $53 billion revenue-and-spending plan for the coming fiscal year that closely resembled what he proposed some eight weeks earlier.

To be sure, Blagojevich was the cheerful optimist as he took a victory lap around the state the day after the spring session ended.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The story line is classic Looney Tunes: The character painting the floor works himself into a corner and appears trapped. He scratches his head, a light bulb comes on, and he quickly outlines a door on the wall. Turning the knob, the clever hero opens the door and escapes.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The NCAA men’s basketball Final Four showdown is just days away, and the NBA playoffs start in a couple of months.

A key element for successful hoopsters at any level, knowledgeable fans know, is the transition game — how well a team makes the shift from offense to defense and vice versa. Does it get back on defense fast enough to thwart an opponent’s fast-break hopes? Is it quick enough going the other way to score easy baskets?

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.

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.

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.

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