Illinois Issues

Mike Cramer

Did Illinois push so hard to enroll children in KidCare that it broke the Medicaid budget?

Medicaid expenditures ran $60 million over budget last fiscal year, and were headed for nearly triple that amount this fiscal year if the Illinois Department of Public Aid hadn't applied the brakes.

Gov. George Ryan and outgoing public aid Director Ann Patia worked out a package of cuts that hit pharmacies and hospitals that treat Medicaid patients.

Did KidCare cause the shortfall?

No, it didn't, Patia says emphatically.

Mike Cramer

For more than a century. Cook County Hospital has served poor residents of Illinois' most urban and populous county.

Many of those patients have nowhere else to go.

Politicians and their aides are rolling up their sleeves and huddling around computers. Remap gets underway in earnest this month as the U.S. Census Bureau releases, state by state, necessary population data.

Better put on the coffee, though. This could take awhile. And it won't be easy.

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

One test of leaders' greatness, says presidential historian Michael Beschloss, is how much they live on in the minds and hearts of future generations. 

"Every American has a relationship with Lincoln," Beschloss says, and every child knows that Lincoln came from the wilderness and emerged an extraordinary leader. 

Editor's Notebook: Meet our new Statehouse reporter

Mar 1, 2001
Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

We managed to convince Aaron Chambers to slow down just long enough for a photographer to snap his picture in front of the state Capitol. He had a request, though. "Please choose one where I'm smiling."

Aaron doesn't take himself seriously, and we like that about him. He does, however, take his work seriously, and approaches it with awe-inspiring energy - or as he puts it, "blazing enthusiasm." We like that, too, of course.

These are only two of the reasons we're glad he joined the staff as our Statehouse bureau chief. 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Appearances are everything. Gov. George Ryan's moratorium on executions appears to have stopped in its tracks a flawed capital punishment system. He ordered a committee to review administration of the death penalty and said he won't sign off on more executions until he's been assured the system is fixed.


Mar 1, 2001
Skidd and his trainer Deb, a resident of the Dwight Correctional Center
Illinois Department of Corrections


Prison program saves dogs, trains cons and serves the disabled

  Skidd is a child of the system, bouncing from one institution to the next. But this resilient black and white dog doesn't mind a bit.

Volunteers from the Darien-based Clarence Foundation plucked him out of a shelter and put him in a prison, where inmates in a pilot program designed to teach job skills are training him. After graduation, Skidd is bound for a nursing home where he'll find work as a service dog.


Mar 1, 2001



Jackie Garner of Springfield is Gov. George Ryan's choice to be the new director of the Illinois Department of Public Aid. Garner has been a senior policy adviser to the governor.

Ann Patia resigned as director of the Illinois Department of Public Aid, which came under fire in 1999 when a new system for distributing child-support checks ran into numerous snafus (see Illinois Issues, April 2000, page 14).

With presidential politics behind them, Illinois' top two politicians, Mayor Richard M. Daley and Gov. George Ryan, are back to doing what they do best. Making deals. With each other.

National elections force guys like Daley and Ryan to be more partisan than they really want to be. Daley, a Bill Clinton stalwart who benefited greatly from the Bubba years, didn't waste time criticizing the outgoing president for his endless farewell tour. Now he can't cozy up to George W. Bush fast enough.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. George Ryan's approval ratings may have nosedived with the public, but he's still a popular fellow with state lawmakers.

A joint session of the General Assembly welcomed him warmly a few weeks ago when he presented his third State of the State message, and no doubt he'll get a similarly cordial reception over the next few weeks as he pushes his proposed budget for fiscal year 2002.

Illustration by Mike Cramer using photographs fo the newly elected justices taken by Terry Farmer, Todd Mizener and Paul McGrath
Mike Cramer

It's bound to be interesting. With four new justices and a high-profile docket, that's about as definitive a prediction as can be made about a politically reconfigured Illinois Supreme Court.

Active juvenile caseloads, Illinois 1990-1998
"The Status of Juvenile Detention in Illinois, Annual Report 1998"

There's not much Kevin Lyons can say about spending on juvenile cases that pass through his office. Except this: "Somebody's got to stop the bleeding."

Mike Cramer

Few politicians have standards for corruption named after them.

Former Chicago Treasurer Miriam Santos not only bears the dubious distinction, she conjured the catch phrase herself: "The Santos standard."

There she was, moments after pleading guilty in federal court, in front of reporters, pontificating.

The woman snared by her own recorded words - barking at a potential contributor to "belly up"- still had plenty to say. She warned other politicians to study her case. They would have trouble living with "the Santos standard," she suggested.

Mike Cramer

Richard Hess could have faced the death penalty for the 1995 rape and murder of a Naperville woman.

His attack on Nicole Kornelie was brutal enough, the evidence clear enough, that pushing for capital punishment would have been an easy choice for the prosecution.

Mike Cramer

John Hills paid little attention to the taunts as he coached first base for the Lemont Little League all-stars. But the words suddenly got physical when three coaches for the opposing team jumped Hills and beat him brutally. That was 10 summers ago. "It shattered me," Hills says of the incident that led to the loss of his plumbing business.

Care worker Patty Bradburn works with a resident of the Lincoln Developmental Center.
Mark Pokempner

Sylvia Twardowski can expect to make about $28,000 this year as a caregiver for Illinoisans who are developmentally disabled. It's not a bad living. Except that she'll have to work 72 hours a week at three different jobs to achieve it.

"I have no life. Look at what it is costing me," the LaSalle woman says.

American Federation of Teachers

Kara Schlink says she can't remember wanting to do anything but teach. So it was natural to enter the teacher education program at Illinois State University in Normal, which is just a few miles north of Hudson, the small west central Illinois town where she was raised.

Last January, right after graduation, Schlink became a teacher - in San Antonio, Texas, where she says she was lured by better weather and a beginning teacher salary that topped Illinois' average by more than $3,000.

It was a teacher's dream. Ray Ulrich arrived last fall for his first day of class at Farragut school in Joliet to a classroom full of motivated students. But this wasn't a batch of fifth-graders. Instead, Ulrich, a teacher training specialist from the Teachers Academy for Mathematics and Science in Chicago, faced Farragut's own math and science teachers. His job was to help them improve the way they teach math to their elementary school pupils.

The Auburn Rotary Club disbanded last summer. The few remaining members were getting older and having trouble recruiting younger people. The club folded, a Springfield newspaper reported, "due to lack of interest." The collapse of Auburn's Rotary would not surprise Harvard scholar Robert D. Putnam. He would see it as part of a larger, alarming trend. His extensive research shows that membership in traditional organizations is on the decline everywhere and that Americans are less engaged in their communities, attending church less frequently and voting less often.

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

It's because of legislative sessions like the one just starting that our founders and the university knew how much our state needs Illinois Issues.

The focus on legislative redistricting will drip with partisanship, and some people might consider that dreadful. I don't. What's so wrong about partisanship affecting what we philosophically revere as a political process? On the other hand, legislators will consider important issues besides new maps this spring. And our staff will be on top of all of them.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

There's a bumper sticker on the bookcase at the entrance to my office that reads, "News happens."

It's a humbling thought for journalists who put out a monthly public affairs magazine. It's also what makes being in this business so thrilling. Each member of the editorial team keeps that thought uppermost in his or her mind because, after all, Illinois isn't one of those boring states where nothing ever seems to happen.

The end-of-session newsletters dropped in mailboxes will brag about new money for local schools. Press conferences at the Statehouse will feature rhetoric about election reform. Guest columns sent to hometown weeklies will decry high energy prices, at least while the weather remains cold.

None of that matters to politicians as much as redistricting.


Feb 1, 2001

Honoring Lincoln

A library grows in Springfield


Construction of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will begin with groundbreaking ceremonies in downtown Springfield on Lincoln's Birthday, February 12. When the project is complete in 2003, visitors will be treated to all things Lincoln, including a virtual experience of the 16th president's story through a $2 million 3-D projection system underwritten by Ameritech.




Feb 1, 2001
Editor, author and Illinois native William Maxwell
Dorothy Alexander


Ray Serati of Springfield is the new deputy press secretary for Gov. George Ryan. After retiring from 33 years of service covering the Capitol for Copley News Service, Serati was media spokesman for Springfield's City Water, Light and Power. He replaces Nick Palazzolo of Springfield who left the governor's office for a position at IBM. 

Patrick E. Gauen
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Mark Von Nida knew what he wanted to do, but building a consensus was something else. Who, after all, gives a hoot about boring election machinery?

Until 30 years ago, the voters of Madison County did fine with pens, scratching an "X" beside each of their favorite candidates' names. Voting machines nearly the size of refrigerators sped up the counting in 1970. But after just eight years, officials got tired of the hauling costs and hernia risks and switched to punch cards. Those were easily portable and reasonably fast to count.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Is it, as Yogi Berra might put it, deja vu all over again for state finances in Illinois? Look at what's been happening lately. 

- State revenues, especially sales tax receipts, have been less than what lawmakers expected when they put the current budget together last April.

- Medicaid spending has been higher than anticipated, causing state officials to cut costs by reducing reimbursement rates to some providers.

Wm. S. Collins

Picture Republican Senate President James "Pate" Philip and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan setting aside their partisan rivalry in the Statehouse just long enough to settle what promises to be the spring session's most divisive issue: drawing new legislative districts.

As a matter of fact, they did chat recently about the upcoming remap. They even agreed on how awful the process is. But that's where the goodwill seemed to end - along with any chances for a peaceful spring.

Question & Answer: Chris Young

Jan 1, 2001

He is a photographer for The State Journal-Register in Springfield. His portraits of creatures and natural places are now available in Close to Home: The landscapes, wildlife and hidden beauty of central Illinois. Jiffy Johnson of public radio station WUIS/WIPA at the University of Illinois at Springfield interviewed Young about his work for her weekly program "Living in Illinois." This is an edited version of that interview.

Mike Cramer

Republicans screamed bloody murder last election night when the TV networks prematurely called Florida for Al Gore - still more proof, supporters of George W. Bush fumed, of liberal bias in the news media.

Robert W. McChesney would not buy that premise. Probably he would argue that even if it were true - if all newsrooms were populated by liberal zealots - it would hardly matter.

The ultimate symbol of money in Illinois politics is a shoe box. Even though it has been decades since the death of Secretary of State Paul Powell in 1970, and the subsequent discovery of more than $800,000 in cash in his hotel room, the image of that tattered box endures.