Daniel C. Vock

Outside the U.S. Supreme Court, Flora Johnson, chairwoman of Executive Board of SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana, in January answers questions about Harris v. Quinn.
SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana

Editor's Note 2/10/2015: Since the original publication of this article, the U.S. Supreme ruled in favor of Pam Harris, who is paid through the Medicaid program to care for her disabled son at home. The opinion categorized some home caregivers as “partial public employees,” whom the court said could not be required to pay dues if they opted not to join a union. The ruling was seen as narrow at the time because it did not overturn the 1977 opinion Abood v.

While he waited for the concession call from Mitt Romney, the president worked on his acceptance speech with Jon Favreau, director of speechwriting, and campaign adviser David Axelrod at a Chicago hotel.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Collin Corbett is a Republican whose job it is to elect Republicans. His company in Chicago’s northern suburbs, Cor Strategies, has worked with presidential contender Mitt Romney, gubernatorial hopeful Sen. Bill Brady and dozens of lesser-known politicians vying for offices such as city council or circuit clerk. 

After President Barack Obama won re-election in November, Corbett says his Republican clients immediately wanted to copy the Democrat’s campaign tactics, especially when it came to technology. 

St. Louis Tea Party co-founder Dana Loesch and commentators Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart appeared at the Midwest Tea Party Convention — TeaCon — in Schaumburg this fall.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

To many Tea Party leaders in Illinois, state government needs more people like Arie Friedman. 

A pediatrician from Highland Park, Friedman first entered politics just two years ago to protest the passage of President Barack Obama’s federal health care law. Friedman is a business owner, a Navy veteran, a conservative and a candidate for the Illinois Senate. He says he does not need a job as a career politician — joining the state Senate likely would mean a pay cut — and he has no plans to do it forever. Most of all, though, Friedman is fed up with how the state is being run.

As the leader of a nonprofit group that helps Latino families in western Lake County, Carolina Duque knows how difficult it can be for poor immigrants to live in the suburbs. The challenges start with the immigrants’ limited ability to speak English and their low levels of schooling. But what makes those problems worse are the barriers that prevent her clients from adapting to their new surroundings. 

Twenty years ago, almost no one would have thought to call the Fox River village of Oswego a “suburb.” Located 50 miles from Chicago’s Loop, Oswego was incorporated before the Civil War. By 1990, it still had fewer than 4,000 residents. But Oswego’s fortunes changed dramatically in the two decades that followed.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Tucked into the transportation legislation coming from the U.S. House last spring was a formula change that would have reduced Illinois’ highway funding by $119 million. The bill’s author, who had lined up the support of both the House speaker and the Senate majority leader, wanted to tinker with the six-year-old formula for handing out road money. Once, the two relatively small pools of money at stake were doled out competitively. But now they had become, essentially, a way to deliver earmarked money to favored states. All told, 22 states got nothing from the two programs.

State of Illinois

Although the federal stimulus package is increasingly unpopular among the American public, there’s little doubt that Illinois’ top Democrats support it. In mid-September, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn came to Alton to tout the fact that Illinois became the first state in the nation to start work on high-speed rail improvements paid for by the stimulus bill.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

By October, Illinois state officials hope to take a small but significant step in reining in Medicaid costs. By then, they hope to move about 38,000 patients in the Chicago suburbs into HMO-style managed care plans. That group comprises some of the most expensive — and most vulnerable — types of Medicaid enrollees: the elderly, blind and disabled. Together, they cost the state about $700 million a year, or more than $18,000 each.

Credit is the lifebood of the economy. Without it, farmers can’t get loans to buy combines and tractors, small businesses can’t improve their facilities, and engineers can’t get hired to build hospitals and shopping malls because they aren’t being built.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

On one of his first trips as president, Barack Obama visited East Peoria. He traveled to central Illinois to put a face on the recession that enveloped the country and to promote his stimulus package. 

Caterpillar Inc., the worldwide heavy equipment maker, provided a poignant example of the swift cruelty of the downturn. The East Peoria-based company had just posted record profits a year before. But now it announced it would lay off 22,000 people to cope with the global crisis. The downturn sapped demand for heavy machinery both at home and abroad. 

The U.S. Census Bureau has hired staff to conduct address canvassing in preparation for the 2010 count.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A discussion about the federal census, the once-a-decade head count scheduled for April 1, 2010, drew nearly 200 people to an auditorium on Chicago’s south side this March, more than a year before the formal tally takes place.

The crowd that filled the Illinois Institute of Technology’s campus near the Bronzeville neighborhood was a mix of civic leaders, federal officials, ministers, entrepreneurs and job seekers.

President Barack Obama
WUIS/Illinois Issues

While Illinoisans revel in the fact that one of their own now sits in the White House, Barack Obama’s presidency has sapped the star power of the state’s congressional delegation, which already had lost key members in recent years.

The signing of the federal government’s 2005 transportation bill was practically a showcase of Illinois’ political clout on Capitol Hill. 

Now that the Land of Lincoln — and Grant and Reagan — faces the possibility of another Illinois resident moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C., many Illinoisans want to know what a Barack Obama presidency would mean for his home state.

There is, of course, the obvious: Fellow Illinoisans would follow Obama to the White House to serve as advisers and aides; the nation would take a closer look at Illinois politics; and a presidential library eventually would draw tourists and academics after Obama left office. 

Illinois lawmakers took on the federal government over its handling of immigration enforcement last spring, and nobody at the Capitol made much of a fuss.

Unions and advocates for day laborers came up with the idea, but even the Illinois Chamber of Commerce was on board. The legislation they supported would bar Illinois businesses from using a federal database called E-Verify to check the legal status of new hires, unless the feds showed the database was at least 99 percent accurate.


Dan Fisher met Barack Obama only once. It was three years ago, when Obama stopped in Gillespie, a town about 50 miles south of Springfield, during his campaign for the U.S. Senate. As he left the stage, Obama turned to Fisher, who was standing nearby holding an empty beer cup. Their conversation lasted just a few minutes.

Candidates in the running to win Illinois' presidential primaries:

U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York 
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois
U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney



When Americans sit down to eat dinner, likely one of the last things on their minds is where the meal came from. The answer could get complicated. A simple plate of spaghetti could contain tomatoes and bell peppers from Mexico, onions and spices from India, noodles made with Canadian grain and, yes, beef from the good ol' U.S. of A.

Obama: He puts ethics on the agenda

Feb 1, 2007

Barack Obama says the "extremely good fortune" that launched him, seemingly without effort, into the top tier of American politics has helped him steer clear of entanglements with special interests and donors.

"I'm not sure that's a typical experience. But it allows me even more independence now that I'm a sought-after politician because I get to talk to the voters directly," Obama said in an interview shortly after the November election.

Illinois' landscape is dotted with plants that produce chemicals for car manufacturers, plastics for medical devices and fertilizers for farmers. These sites often contain volatile or toxic substances terrorists could use to poison neighborhoods or set off explosions. Further, the state is a top producer of pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs, making it a potential prime target. Still, five years after the 9/11 attacks, managers of these industries are largely policing themselves.

To the head of Aurora city government’s neighborhood redevelopment office, a long-running federal effort to make life better for people in lower-income neighborhoods is worth more than the money it brings to the state’s second-largest city. 

The value of Illinois' emergency preparedness efforts was apparent just hours after Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana. One of the first medical teams to arrive in Baton Rouge, where thousands had fled, was from Illinois. And this state's squad was specially trained to respond to the disaster it confronted in August and September. 

When he was stopped on the shoulder of I-80 in LaSalle County seven years ago, Roy Caballes was no different from thousands of drivers pulled over for speeding every year. Caballes, caught driving 71 mph in a 65-mph zone, was about to get off with a written warning. 

But what happened next transformed Caballes into the central character in an ongoing legal saga that could shape the rights of Illinois citizens, alter state judges' relationship with their federal counterparts and restrict Illinois police from using controversial tools to do their jobs.

As federal agents closed in on a drug trafficking ring in Pittsburgh, they discovered that several of the group's leaders also were in on a credit card racket. The agents searched a Federal Express package and found counterfeit cards.

Normally, the agents would have had to produce a warrant and inform the recipient before they could search the package. But that posed a problem for the investigators. 

A boisterous crowd filled the Senate gallery last May to witness legislator after legislator rise to support a measure that would enable children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at public universities.

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. 

Illinois’ largest energy producer, Exelon, generated a buzz in April when the company revealed it is studying the feasibility of building a nuclear reactor in the small downstate community of Clinton.

Such a proposal would have been unheard of in Illinois just five years ago. That’s when Exelon’s corporate predecessor, Commonwealth Edison, was a lightning rod for worries about its poor safety record and inefficient production. 

When Gov. George Ryan suspended Illinois executions more than two years ago, he cited the failure of this state’s capital punishment system to prevent innocent men from landing on Death Row. At the same time, he charged a special commission with suggesting reforms. Last April, the 14-member panel offered 85. 

Suburbanites who leave Chicago by rail can expect to arrive home on time. Trains are frequent on every route. And ticket prices are lower than the cost of driving. But rail passengers who travel from Chicago to downstate destinations have no such assurances. 

Metra, the commuter rail authority that serves the Chicago region, and Amtrak, the passenger rail company that serves the nation, are comparable in some ways, of course. Both are subsidized with taxpayer dollars. They use the same tracks and share some stations. 

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.

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.