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

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.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Cal Skinner is trying to do something no one has ever accomplished — become the first person elected governor of Illinois as a third-party candidate.

Since statehood in 1818, every Illinois governor has been a Democrat or a Republican, a tradition Democrat Rod Blagojevich and Republican Jim Ryan are battling to continue.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Like Alice returning from Wonderland, Illinois legislators faced up to fiscal reality just in time for the state’s new budget year.

Their wake-up call came from Gov. George Ryan, who vetoed $565 million from what lawmakers claimed was a sound financial document, then summoned them back to Springfield to produce “an honest and balanced” budget for FY 2003.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Facing perhaps the worst fiscal crisis in state history, Illinois lawmakers chose an equally unprecedented remedy — selling long-term bonds — to help fill a $1-billion-plus hole in the state’s day-to-day operating budget.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Is there a statesman in the House? The Senate? The Executive Mansion? Anywhere in state government?

As the Illinois General Assembly moves into the final month of the spring session, it seems fitting to pose a question — albeit rhetorical — about the quality of leadership in Springfield.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In the traditional Christian calendar, March 19 is the feast day of St. Joseph, the patron saint of workers. Thus, perhaps one should have expected that organized labor and party machinery would play key roles in last month’s primary election.

Indeed, the results of the March 19 voting demonstrated that old- fashioned politicking can still trump media-based campaigns, even in the 21st century.

Consider, for example, the high- profile races for party nominations for governor.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In proposing a $52.8 billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, Gov. George Ryan issued a warning to the Illinois General Assembly: Go beyond my bottom line, and I’ll veto the entire budget.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” 

Benjamin Franklin, 1789

Were Old Ben around today, he might be tempted to amend his well-known maxim to add a third category: a sure General Assembly seat for whoever wins the primary in most of the state’s new legislative districts.

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Before last November, most Americans saw voting as a fairly straightforward, uncomplicated act of civic duty. Folks went to the polls and punched their ballots, then tuned in to the evening news or read the morning paper to find out who won, all without giving much thought to what happened in between.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As Illinois lawmakers start a long summer recess, the $53.4 billion budget they left behind for the fiscal year starting July 1 leads to an inescapable conclusion: Austerity, like beauty, must lie in the eye of the beholder.

After weeks of dire warnings about an extremely tight budget year, repeated calls for belt-tightening and trial balloons proposing no new or expanded programs and no new money for bricks-and-mortar, the final fiscal year 2002 budget stands some $3.4 billion higher than the request Gov. George Ryan made in February.

Pages