Illinois Issues

Photograph by Yoshiko Dart / Access Living

Twenty-five years after the landmark federal law, people with disabilities in Illinois still have trouble getting hired.

handshake
www.flazingo.com

Columnist Charlie Wheeler proposes a way out of the current stalemate in state government.

Illinois Issues: Congressional Exploits

Aug 20, 2015
Aaron Schock
Aaron Schock / Instagram

Antics like sexual misconduct, theft and ethical indiscretions have landed Illinois' representatives in trouble for decades.

TaxCredits.net

Illinois' leaders have yet to present a plan for a balanced budget. The longer they wait, the harder the task will be. 

Should criminals bear the cost of their own rehabilitation?

Illinois Issues: The State's Climate Is Changing

Jul 30, 2015
Patty Sullivan / WUIS - Illinois Issues

Illinois'  future summers could be as hot as Texas.

Chad Kainz

The state may still be far from a budget deal, but the General Assembly was able to pass several criminal justice reforms in the spring legislative session.

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

News Analysis — Six months into the new administration, we finally have a sense of what Gov. Bruce Rauner’s top priority really is.

It has been a big year for Illinois Issues. Last spring, the magazine merged with Springfield NPR affiliate WUIS. The combination brought with it several opportunities.

Picture of Zylinska family
Magdelina Zylinska

Nearly half of Illinois children in households headed by single women live in poverty — compared with just over a quarter of children in households headed by single men.

Illinois Issues: The Governor's Money

Jul 9, 2015
Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Technically, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s election victory on November 4, 2014, marked the end of his first political campaign. But in some ways that campaign has never stopped.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Over the past few months I have worked on a story about what it's like to be transgender, especially for those who do not have the privilege of fame and plenty of resources. For many, being transgender comes with stigma and discrimination in just about every facet of life.

Car mounted license plate reader
Garrett Brnger / WUIS / Illinois Issues

It doesn’t take much time at all, fractions of a second, to be marked and mapped, recorded and reported.

The automatic license plate reader cameras don’t look like much — just a pair of strobe lights on the back of a squad car, or maybe a cartoon character, depending on whom you ask.

Lloyd Karmeier
Brian Mackey / WUIS

No justice of the Illinois Supreme Court has lost a retention election since the up-or-down system was put in place 50 years ago. Last fall, Justice Lloyd Karmeier came close. He squeezed into another decade on the bench with just 2,921 votes to spare — less than eight-tenths of a percentage point above the required 60 percent threshold. His brush with late retirement — Karmeier turned 75 in January — was brought about by a nasty, last-minute advertising blitz for which the judge was ill-prepared.

Jamey Dunn headshot
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

January marks a new phase in our journalism.  Due to the merger between WUIS and Illinois Issues, we now have a number of journalists that enable reporting on a beat model.  A beat allows a reporter to learn events and people more thoroughly than general assignment reporting.  Each reporter is focusing on key issues in the state.  We're calling it the "Illinois Issues Initiative."  Here are the beats:

ILLINOIS ECONOMY
Bill Wheelhouse

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

“I just wanna save our state,” Bruce Rauner says in a matter-of-face tone, his wife Diana’s hand resting on his khaki-clad knee. He shakes his head side-to-side, at once casual but firm: “I’m not runnin’ ’cause I want a political career.”

This is the Bruce Rauner you likely have “met” on your television screen. He’s friendly. Pragmatic. Warm. A family man.

Normal. Just like you. Except that this guy, uninterested in a political career, was in the midst of spending more than $27 million to launch one.

Mark Selvaggio at steel business.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

For fans of baseball, the midwinter tradition is underway — counting down the days until the pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

When evaluating Illinois’ recovery from the recession, James Glassman uses a baseball analogy. The head economist for commercial banking with JP Morgan Chase says Illinois has only reached the fifth inning in the recovery.

flickr/dnak

Illinois has a clear ambition for what it would like to do with members of its criminal class, and it’s right there in the name of the state agency set up to deal with them: the Department of Corrections. But there is a wide gap between ambition and practice. This is not to blame the department: politicians enacted the policies that have swelled the prison population, and politicians are largely responsible for the dire financial condition of the state that has squeezed agencies like the DOC.

Graying Illinois

Jan 1, 2015
Illinois Issues

Listen to Jamey Dunn talk about her piece with Rachel Otwell:

Three years ago, the first members of the Baby Boom generation turned 65. This generation, born between the mid-1940s and mid- 1960s, has had a large influence on American politics and policy, in part by virtue of its sheer size. As the Boomers reach retirement age, they may once again drastically reshape the country.

2014 General Election Total Votes
WUIS/Illinois Issues

News Analysis — We’ve all had this experience: you’re asked a question, give your opinion, then watch your interlocutor ignore the answer.

If you didn’t care what I thought, why’d you ask?

That would be a fair question among the 2,339,173 Illinois voters who cast a ballot in favor of a higher minimum wage in November.

Charlie Wheeler headshot
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Property taxes are excessively high and oppressive and the legislature should do something about it.

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, explaining his call for a property tax freeze, whatever that means?

Lame duck Gov. Pat Quinn in his budget address last spring, urging lawmakers to send every homeowner a $500 refund check?

Good guess, but nope.

Archives: 1995 Judy Baar Topinka Profile

Dec 10, 2014
Comptroller website

The following article ran in the March 1995 Illinois Issues magazine:

In a convention center filled with thousands of blue-suited, straitlaced Republicans, leave it to Judy Baar Topinka to tell a fart joke.

The elite of Illinois' GOP were gathered in Springfield for the January inauguration of the six constitutional officers. Having swept the state's top posts, the partisan crowd was in a celebratory make that downright giddy mood for the day's pomp and circumstance.

This story first appeared in the March 2014 issue.

Taxes suck.

That, it seems, is the only truism. Nobody wants to render unto Caesar. But, at least in Illinois, Caesar needs to get re-elected, and so stuff can get complicated.

Illinois Supreme Court
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

A version of this story first appeared on the Illinois Issues Blog in July 2014.

After years of trying to find a solution to the tackle the state’s $100 billion unfunded pension liability, lawmakers approved pension changes in December of last year. Illinois was SAVED! Crank up the tunes, call up the bond rating agencies, put Squeezy the Pension Python out to pasture — happy days are here again!

Preventable Deaths

Dec 1, 2014

This story first appeared in the March 2014 issue.

For years, they’ve shuffled across Illinois’ front pages, a parade of tragedy.

There was Christopher Valdez, 4, of Chicago’s southwest side, whose mother’s boyfriend allegedly beat him to death in 2011. Earlier, Christopher’s mother had been convicted of abusing him, but the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the courts had nonetheless allowed him to remain in her home.

Doing Right By The Kids

Dec 1, 2014

This story first appeared in the June 2014 issue.

Special monitoring visits to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice recently found youth detainees mowing lawns and building shelves rather than attending educational courses. Monitors discovered youth being given medication with inadequate consent and living in rooms that were improperly maintained. Facilities were found to lack the proper staff to treat juvenile offenders with mental illnesses.

Impoverished in Illinois

Dec 1, 2014
Vacant apartment building.
Robert Loerzel / WUIS/Illinois Issues

This story first appeared in the January 2014 issue. Statistics have been updated where new numbers were available.

In some pockets of Illinois, where one in every three people live in poverty or close to it, the need is visible in the landscape: empty lots where buildings once stood in Cairo; abandoned houses marked with X’s in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood; families living in ramshackle trailers in Kankakee County’s Pembroke Township.

This story first appeared in the April 2014 issue.

Gone are the days a candidate can make a campaign appearance before a friendly crowd of party faithful, nearly a year before an election, and think his remarks will fade from memory as fast as the mass-produced fried chicken or roast beef the audience was likely served during the event.

Jamey Dunn
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Election season cast a long shadow on 2014. We saw the most expensive and one of the ugliest fights for the governor’s office in the state’s history. Now Illinois has a Republican governor for the first time in more than a decade. Meanwhile in the legislature, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton were both able to hang on to veto-proof majorities in their respective chambers, despite some aggressive challenges mounted by Republican candidates.

Charlie Wheeler headshot
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Is Illinois still a “blue” state?

Will Mike Madigan work with a Republican governor?

Those were among the “insightful” questions being posed by national pundits and talking heads after Bruce Rauner’s solid victory last month over Gov. Pat Quinn in one of the country’s most closely-watched, bitterly contested gubernatorial contests.

Folks here at home know the answers, of course: clearly yes, in both cases.

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