Illinois Issues

Farming is as fickle a calling as politics, and every farmer expects a bad year now and then. But 2001 was the fifth in a string of bad years. In April, a bushel of corn fetched $1.87 on the open market and soybeans were bringing $4.23, in both cases much less than it cost to grow them. 

MVP’s Sports Bar & Grill is one of those places crouched in the shadow of every factory in America: shiny veneer walls on linoleum floors; neon beer signs in more variety than available brands; a low white ceiling that goes gray with haze after shift changes because just about everybody here smokes. The nondescript metal exterior that wraps it all together says the exterior isn’t the point. Norman Rockwell had his barber shops. Towns like Decatur have this. 

Chicago’s public school kids should begin feeling better about themselves soon — if all goes according to plan. Thanks to a $2.2 million grant from this state’s tobacco settlement fund, Chicago plans by next spring to expand an existing holistic health program into all 491 of its public elementary schools.

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

When Jim Edgar was governor, he had the opportunity to praise two people at one function. One was a mentor, Samuel K. Gove; the other was Al Grosboll, a member of his Cabinet. It was a snapshot of the way in which public servants nurture future leaders. 

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

I sometimes wonder what my great-grandfather thought when he caught sight of that first car coming down the road. Its likely he kept his thoughts to himself. He certainly kept his old black buggy. For some 30 years, until the day he died, it gathered dust in the dim recesses of the barn. Perhaps he wasnt ready to let go of the past. Perhaps he wanted to hedge his bets on an uncertain future. Or perhaps he just couldnt bring himself to throw out something that had once been useful. 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois has packed away the prisoners. So has the rest of the nation. 

Since 1978, this state has almost quadrupled the rate at which criminal offenders are incarcerated. But that's consistent with other states for the time period, one in which crime rates boomed and legislators responded with tougher penalties for criminals. 

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. 

Illinois Issues remembers...9/11/01

Oct 1, 2001

Hector Lamas can buy a pair of shoes without using his entire paycheck, a small but sure step toward achieving the American Dream. To take that step, he left Mexico in 1994, arriving a short time later in Fairmont City, barely a dot on the road map.

A couple of decades ago, Naperville’s teachers were unlikely to encounter a child carrying an ornamental sword to school, or a parent who doesn’t understand that an art shirt is a painting smock, or a boy getting teased because his first name is Fuk, a good luck word in Chinese.

But these days such cultural collisions are regular occurrences in the far western suburb of Chicago.

Rep. Jack Davis wanted to add one more capital crime. Too many children were being killed, he said, and their murderers should pay with their lives. 

The Beecher Republican was trying to convince the Illinois House the time had come to expand the scope of the death penalty statute they had enacted a few years earlier. Child killers, he argued, deserve the same fate as cop killers and contract murderers and the five other types of offenders the legislature had identified as terrible enough to deserve this state’s ultimate punishment.

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

I felt a bit uncomfortable strolling to the library lawn here at the University of Illinois at Springfield. It was September 14, the national day of prayer and remembrance, and I'm not used to gathering with colleagues for a solemn service. I didn't know what to expect. I wasn't sure of my role. 

I realized later that, in this context, I am a follower, along with millions of others. It's a role that many are not accustomed to. There are thousands of books on leadership, Garry Wills once wrote, but none on followership. 

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The picture of the mosque shown on the network news that terrible week of September 11 looked familiar. And for good reason. Just last summer, Illinois Issues featured the Mosque Foundation in the southwest suburban community of Bridgeview, part of the magazine’s ongoing series of assessments on social and cultural shifts in our state. 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The game had just begun. Secretary of State Jesse White reached into a stovepipe hat, a replica of one worn by Abraham Lincoln, and pulled out Michael Bilandic’s name, giving the Democrats an upper hand in shaping the boundaries of the state’s senator-ial and representative districts for the next 10 years.

Democrats, who gained a fifth member on the special commission convened to redraw those districts, cheered. Republicans, left with four members, solemnly made their way out the doors of the Old State Capitol in Springfield.

Chicago politicians spend a lot of time decrying and denying the decades-old description of their home town as the most segregated city in the north. Then, every 10 years, they put a lot of effort into proving it. 

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.

For the first time this fall, welfare watchers will get a hard look at how Illinois’ unemployed poor are faring in finding and keeping work. Lawmakers are due to get the second, and more detailed, phase of a six-year tracking study in November. And that’s when the hard work will begin — for policy-makers as well as recipients.

It’s Sunday morning and there’s standing room only at St. Alexius Catholic Church in Beardstown. Young Mexican immigrant families overflow the pews, the aisles, the balcony and even the foyer. As the Rev. Gene Weitzel blesses communion bread and wine, a nun translates into Spanish. Between prayers, musicians strum an acoustic guitar and rattle a tambourine. There’s no organ music here.

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. 

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

You vote; nearly all of you do. You give money to political campaigns; most of you do.

Half of you have at least a master’s degree, and most of the rest of you have a bachelor’s degree.

We learned all of that in a recent survey of Illinois Issues subscribers. We are grateful to our business manager, Chris Ryan, for analyzing the results. It was our first readership survey in five years. I promised to tell you about those results, so I am summarizing them here.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

To many of us, welfare reform is a story about numbers: How many are still on the rolls; how many have found work. To some, it's a story about politics or history, the latest chapter in an evolving social policy. 

That's to be expected. The new rules governing the unemployed poor don't touch most of us personally. Numbers, politics and history are more readily grasped. Still, what happens over the next year in Congress and the legislature will touch hundreds, if not thousands, of Illinoisans' lives. 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Medicaid expenses are booming. Illinois lawmakers know that. Now they know other states are dealing with the same problem.

At the National Conference of States Legislatures’ annual meeting last month in San Antonio, legislators from all 50 states learned they’re in the same boat. Across the board, Medicaid is eating up a greater share of the states’ budgets. And the end is nowhere in sight.

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.

Kayak
Jason Lindsey

Vermont is a long way from the Mississippi River. But with the right boat and some time, it’s possible to get there, traveling a long and circuitous route up the Illinois River, through the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal, into the Great Lakes and ultimately down Lake Champlain to Burlington. 

Illinoisans had reasons to think of Vermont this spring. That tiny state became the epicenter of a national political upheaval when Vermont’s Sen. James Jeffords renounced the Republican Party in May, thereby switching the U.S. Senate to Democratic control.

Cypress
Jason Lindsey

On a spring morning in Johnson County, a chorus sings of the southern Illinois that once was. 

As the rising sun sends shafts of light into the deep green of Heron Pond, songbirds twitter, barred owls hoot and pileated woodpeckers provide the percussion. Great blue herons squawk and stretch their wings on branches of bald cypress, looking for all the world like pterodactyls. 

It seems a shame to ask such a question in the great state of Illinois, where Powell grew to maturity and developed the values and ideas that shaped an incredible career. Unfortunately, the question will prove a poser to the vast majority of the state’s residents, who know nothing of this pioneer scientist, heroic war veteran, steely eyed explorer, consummate Washington bureau chief and visionary environmentalist. 

Illinois has much to learn from this foster child of the prairies. Yet we have forgotten him.

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As the summer heat sets in, my thoughts drift to baseball. They drift back 13 years, to 1988 when the Illinois legislature adopted a last-minute plan to build a new Comiskey Park for the Chicago White Sox. That prevented the Sox from moving to Florida.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A few weeks back, the mallard made her way to the bay from the hosta bed nearest our house, where she had, improbably, chosen to build her nest. That corner of the garden went unweeded for a month. Then one morning, tiny ducklings crowded close on their mother’s tail for their first swim. I counted five. I won’t count again. The great horned owls had begun, as they always do, searching out nests of their own in late February, sending five-note night calls through the still woods across the lane. They will be a dark presence through high summer, swift and silent in flight.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

If the scene had played out in a theater, it could have been called absurd. But it wasn’t drama, it was Illinois politics.

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.

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