Illinois Issues

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.

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.

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.

Jon Randolph

The suburbs to the southwest of Chicago have never been known for eagerness to embrace diversity. Nevertheless, diversity is beginning to embrace them. 

The sprawling community of Oak Lawn and the smaller nearby towns of Bridgeview, Burbank, Hometown, Chicago Ridge and Palos Heights mushroomed in the '50s and '60s as white ethnics fled the South and Southwest sides of the changing city of Chicago.

Joliet Rising Cover
John Randolph / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Two decades ago Joliet faced an economic crisis.

A national depression hammered industry and related businesses, and layoffs pushed the local unemployment rate near 25 percent, the highest of any municipality in the country. City Hall ran late on health insurance premiums for its own employees. And the housing market hit bottom. In 1982, only 16 homes were built in this city southwest of Chicago.

"Things got so bad then that they could only issue us one bullet," says Joliet Mayor Arthur Schultz, a police lieutenant at the time.

Jon Randolph

Kane County

With 10,000 residents moving into Kane County each year, farmers like Randy Klein wonder how much longer there will be room for them amid the subdivisions sprouting on former cropland west of Chicago.

As Chicago moves through its largest building boom since the Great Fire of 1871, developers, planners and longtime residents have been trying to maneuver around a zoning code last revised in 1957.
Jon Randolph

For more than seven years, the Rev. Liala Beukema watched as Lakeview, a gentrifying neighborhood north of Chicago's Loop, steadily changed. Large parcels designated for industrial use became vacant lots, and developers, with an eye to the next upscale townhouse or condominium development, swooped in to push zoning modifications through the City Council.

"This trend was really eliminating a lot of potential for economic and job development in this area," says Beukema, a former pastor who now works for the Logan Square

Question & Answer: Audrey McCrimon

Jun 1, 2001

Audrey McCrimon

An assistant to the secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, Audrey McCrimon has a variety of responsibilities that make her an advocate for persons with disabilities. She calls herself an "advocrat."

McCrimon was the co-recipient of the Motorola Excellence in Public Service Award in 2000. The award is co-sponsored by the North Business and Industrial Council and Illinois Issues.

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

We weren't alone in predicting that the big issues in this spring's legislative session might be rewriting telecommunications law, doling out education funding and drawing new legislative maps.

As you can tell from the Legislative Checklists in this issue (pages 8-9) and in recent months, the legislature has dealt with numerous other matters. Our new bureau chief, Aaron Chambers, has done an admirable job of following the action.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

This June edition of the magazine represents a milestone for me. Seventy-five in just under seven. That's the number of issues I've edited from start to finish since I came on staff in the summer of '94. It's an arbitrary marker for sure, and a personal one. But as we approach the end of another publication year, this milestone affords as good a time as any to take stock.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Illinois Department of Agriculture has it all worked out: First, slaughter all exposed cattle, pigs and sheep within a three-mile radius, then quarantine another seven miles beyond that.

Foot-and-mouth disease hasn't made it to Illinois, or to the United States for that matter, but state and federal officials are nonetheless braced for the worst. They've taken steps to prevent the disease from spreading to this country. And they've prepared detailed response plans should it arrive.


Jun 1, 2001
Lowery Handy and James Jones behind his home on the colony grounds
Handy Writer's Colony Collection, University of Illinois at Springfield

Legislative checklist


Jun 1, 2001
Chuck Jefferson now represents Rockford in the Illinois House.
Office of the speaker of the Illinois House


Tressa Pankovits of Chicago is now press secretary for Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood. Pankovits will work out of the Chicago office. She has been a news and political reporter for WBBM-AM and WBBM-TV in Chicago and for CLTV news.

Jennifer Battle of Springfield has joined the lieutenant governor's staff as a deputy press secretary in the capital city. She has been a reporter and anchor for WICS-TV in Springfield.

David Kohn of Mundelein left Wood's office. He had been director of communications in Chicago.

Everybody is jumping on the clean coal bandwagon. The buzzword is clean coal, heard in the newspaper offices, radio and TV stations, township halls, city halls, county courthouses, state legislatures and the Governor's Mansion in Illinois. The talk of clean coal is in the U.S. Congress and the White House.

The U.S. government made one big boo-boo in the 1990 Clean Air Act disaster. The coal underground today was on top of the ground 300 million years ago. In the last 11 years the coal mines have just about become as extinct as the dinosaurs.

Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley faced no problems as he wrapped up his 12th full year in office last April. And that could be a problem.

While comparisons might seem unfair, they're sometimes fun, and this may be a good time to take a closer look at where Daley stands in his apparent Mayoralty For Life � in comparison, of course, to where his father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, stood 12 years into what would become his 21-year reign at City Hall.

Simply put, Daley The First faced plenty of problems.

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.

More than a decade after Illinois regulators led the nation in efforts to open local phone service to competition, the future of the $3.6 billion market is back in the hands of state legislators charged with rewriting Illinois' telecommunications act before it expires this June.

The deceivingly arcane details of a reshaped law would have bottom-line impact on the cost of local phone service, as well as on the profits of dozens of phone companies.

State Sen. Ira Silverstein figured Illinois needed a new criminal law. He had heard on the evening news that a New York City real estate mogul fed and paid jurors after they deadlocked over tax evasion charges against him. The Chicago Democrat wanted to keep that from happening here. There was nothing authorities could do to stop Abraham Hirschfeld from taking jurors out for a meal and giving them each $2,500 after the judge declared a mistrial. Giving gifts and money to jurors after a verdict wasn't against the law in New York.

Alfalfa and beans still dominate the landscape in rural Will County where eight years ago state transportation officials sowed plans for runways.

Politics choked out the proposed bird Chicago-area regional airport early on. Beyond a harvest of government studies and consultants' reports, little related to the planned airport has taken root in that south suburban region.

Today, there are new signs of life, though. One harbinger: The Illinois Department of Transportation has started negotiating with Peotone-area landowners for property where the airport would sit.

Mike Cramer

It's courting season for nature lovers in Chicago as they wait for the "City in a Garden" to get over an infatuation with aviation at Meigs Field and commit to a new marriage of urban life and natural history.

Environmentalists are panting over the 90 acres of Northerly Island, where the airport now sits off Burnham Harbor.

Mike Cramer

Springfield of all places would seem to have the political and financial clout to command air service. The seat of state government. Centrally located. Home base for the governor, the General Assembly, and assorted associations, lobbyists and state agencies.

Instead, city officials found themselves scrambling early this year to raise $8.2 million in travel pledges on the mere promise of two airlines to consider additional service at Springfield's Capital Airport.

Southern Illinois powerhouse Paul Powell is speaking from the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives. Fellow southern Illinoisan Clyde Choate is seated beside him. In the background between them is John P.
Illinois Historical Library

As the 1975 legislative session dawned, Clyde Choate of Anna had wheeled, dealed and served with distinction in the Illinois House for 28 years and the speakership was approaching his grasp.

Minority leader in 1974 when the Watergate backlash swept Democrats everywhere into power, Choate was poised to capture the post held for three terms by a fellow Democrat and southern Illinois giant, the legendary Paul Powell.

Nobody in the Statehouse could know it was the end of an era.


Kurt Eichenwald, 2000
Broadway Books


James B. Lieber,
2000 Four Walls Eight Windows

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The last time we conducted a formal readership survey, in 1996, some of the results surprised me. I learned that almost half of you have at least a master's degree and that more than seven in 10 of you had contributed to a political campaign in the previous two years. And most of you vote every chance you get. So we have an educated and engaged audience. 

The information is old by marketing standards, so we're coming back to you this month. We're selecting a random sample of subscribers and conducting a survey by mail.