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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed November 1, 2006

Who are the talking heads? Political scientists say what journalists can't or won't

A handful of Illinois political scientists have landed in the Rolodexes of journalists, which gives them, at most, a soapbox for what they call public service. That is, they don't get raises or professional accolades for returning a reporter's phone call at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed November 1, 2006

Toxic Terrorism: Federal scrutiny will pick up at the nation's chemical plants

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.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed November 1, 2006

Editor's Notebook: If this election got you down, there's always the next one

Peggy Boyer Long
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Let's admit it. This has been one dreary election. Even here at the magazine, where we take the long view, we're feeling out of sorts, a bit off-kilter. 

The fiscal machinery of state is in disrepair, and most likely dated, yet candidates aren't disposed to offer much beyond tinkering with a few of the gears. Indictments fall like a hard rain, yet politicians suggest little more than a short dash for ethical cover.

Who, we wonder, has enough moxie to get us back on track, or enough vision to point the way.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed November 1, 2006

State of the State: Veto session could be the calm before the storm in the 2007 legislative forecast

Bethany Carson
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

When lawmakers adjourned for the summer after approving most of Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich's wish list, they left at least three major items blowing in the wind: a looming rate hike for consumers' electric bills, an expiring telecommunications law and a growing waiting list of school and road construction projects.

Those and other big agenda items got pushed off as lawmakers shifted focus to their campaigns. All 118 Illinois House seats, two-thirds of the 59 Senate seats and the six constitutional officers appeared on the November 7 ballot.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed November 1, 2006

Ends and Means: Perhaps there's perverse pride in topping accounts of corruption elsewhere

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Reporters are a talkative lot, so when a bunch of them get together, they swap a lot of war stories. For those covering state government, a favored venue is the national conference of Capitolbeat, the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. And when Illinois scribes recount the misdeeds of our elected leaders to their colleagues from elsewhere around the nation, the reaction is pretty standard — eyes open wide, jaws drop and expressions of incredulity abound.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun October 1, 2006

Between the Lines: Candidates for governor face the challenge of getting their messages across

Campaigns for November elections traditionally began after Labor Day, but this summer's State Fair set the tone in a long race for governor. 

Democrat Day — called Governor's Day in honor of the party in power — was loud, star-studded and packed with folks wearing bright blue T-shirts to show support for incumbent Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Many wore the names of unions as they stepped off 60 charter buses. The $20,000 to $25,000 cost of their transportation from hometowns to fairgrounds was paid by the Blagojevich political fund, according to campaign spokeswoman Sheila Nix. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun October 1, 2006

Partisan Playbook: Political parties playing offense & defense in three IL congressional districts

Someone with a decent arm could stand in Springfield and throw a ball from one of the city's congressional districts over another district and into a third. That's because the 17th District, flanked by the 18th on the north and the 19th on the south, gets as narrow as the width of a road when it snakes through the more affluent neighborhoods on Springfield's west side. Once on the city's east side, with its poor and working-class neighborhoods, the district flares back out. This is a shape designed to bypass likely Republicans and capture likely Democrats.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun October 1, 2006

Editor's Notebook: Believe it or not, some Illinois governors showed leadership & political courage

Peggy Boyer Long
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

"[T]he more I see and know of the politicians in this state, the less respect and confidence I have in them." 

Edward Coles 
Illinois ' second governor 
from Mostly Good and Competent Men
by Robert P. Howard

A former governor has been sentenced. The current governor is under investigation. And, as we see in this month's issue, a recent poll shows voters aren't inspired by this year 's contenders.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun October 1, 2006

Ends and Means: Here's the truth behind the political advertising in the governor's campaign

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

As Campaign 2006 heads into the homestretch, a refresher course in Civics 101 might help Illinois voters separate fact from fiction amid the campaign blather flooding the airwaves and clogging their mailboxes.

Let's begin by turning a critical eye to one of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's favorite themes: Just about everything that's currently wrong in Illinois is the fault of 26 years of Republican governors, in particular the last four under George Ryan.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri September 1, 2006

Campaign Lifelines: Downstate Democrats swim in increasingly conservative waters

State Rep. Kurt Granberg spells out one theme in this election season: "I feel like the island is sinking and there are sharks in the water."

Granberg is a 19-year incumbent Democrat representing a House district bound by three Republican-controlled districts. The state GOP hopes to take his seat on November 7, and it smells blood.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri September 1, 2006

State of the State: Unconventional candidates test whether Fred and Ethel are ready for change

Bethany Carson
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Candidates who dare to be different need a lot of stars to align before they can win public office. It's hard to say whether that could happen for Eric Wallace before November; yet the state Senate candidate has what it takes to break all kinds of stereotypes.

He's a doctorate-holding minister, a veteran and a businessman. The resident of Matteson in Chicago's south suburbs is unusual in that he's seeking office as an African-American Republican.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri September 1, 2006

Ends and Means: A shroud of government secrecy threatens the notion of self-government

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Like dry rot slowly undermining a home's floor joists, an insidious trend is eating away at the nation's historic underpinnings.

The peril comes not from the chance that more governments will recognize formally committed relationships between same-sex couples. Neither is it the possibility that the national anthem will be widely sung in Spanish, nor even growing support for smoke-free environs. Rather, the danger is the spreading shroud of government secrecy that elected and appointed officials are pushing to cloak their actions from public scrutiny.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat July 1, 2006

Ends and Means: Illinois politicians weigh benefits of unloading the lottery and the tollway

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Like a high-rolling homeowner pawning the family silver to prop up an extravagant lifestyle, Gov. Rod Blagojevich wants to sell or lease the state lottery to bring in a quick $10 billion or so for education.

State Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg, meanwhile, is pushing privatization of the state's 274-mile toll road network to garner upwards of $15 billion for transportation projects and pension funding.

Both plans hold out an almost irresistible lure for politicians in an election year — a promise of lots of cash in a hurry, virtually pain-free in the short term.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu June 1, 2006

No Pity for the Poor: Federal budget cuts threaten programs that help Illinois' neediest citizens

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. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu June 1, 2006

Public to Private: Leasing public assets to for-profit companies poses a tantalizing proposition

A Dubai firm's bid to operate six major U.S. ports sparked a backlash this winter so swift and stinging that President George W. Bush warned our country might ruin its international reputation. Pundits scoffed at the notion that a spate of security-minded xenophobia might do more harm than Bush's own take-charge approach to foreign policy. But the simple truth is that America is behind the curve when it comes to private — even foreign — control of major infrastructure assets. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu June 1, 2006

Editor's Notebook: State officials realize they'll need to be creative to survive

Peggy Boyer Long
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

As early as 1932, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis argued states are potential policy innovators. His evocative phrase, "laboratories of democracy," gained instant and durable fame. But these days, there's a more pertinent maxim for the challenges states face: "Necessity is the mother of invention."

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu June 1, 2006

State of the State: Whose right is it, anyway? States play the domain game with private property

Bethany Carson
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Picture a husband and wife refurbishing their 100-year-old home and opening a bed and breakfast that overlooks a lake in an old resort community. Then imagine a construction crew erecting three-story townhouses right across the street and clearing the way for 39 condominiums in hopes of attracting businesses to a sleepy town.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu June 1, 2006

Ends and Means: A thoughtful voter might conclude there's some truth on all sides of budget debate

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

"This spending plan reflects our values. This spending plan responds to working families ... [and the] unfortunate in our state." 

Sen. Jeffrey M. Schoenberg, an Evanston Democrat.

 "This is a fiscal fiasco that is staring the taxpayers in the face. What we have is a champagne and caviar budget when we can't afford it." 

Rep. Dave Winters, a Shirland Republican.

"We found just the right level of funding to make this budget work." 

Rep. Gary Hannig, a Litchfield Democrat.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon May 1, 2006

Higher and Higher: Policymakers face increasing pressure to find solutions

Some people define success as being able to slide behind the wheel of a brand-new, fully loaded, leather-interiored Land Rover. Not Neil Koreman. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon May 1, 2006

State-Level Insecurity: Retooling homeland security puts Illinois' anti-terrorism funding at risk

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. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon May 1, 2006

A Playbook for Competition: Telecommunications companies warn Illinois could fall behind

Don't blink or your mode of communication could become outdated. The cell phones that play music, take pictures and send e-mails are light years away from the invention of the telephone 130 years ago, but wireless services aren't even at the top of their game yet.

In fact, the entire telecommunications industry is entering a new era. Companies now are eager to compete in multiple sectors: local and long-distance telephony, cable, Internet, wireless and fiber optics.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon May 1, 2006

State of the State: State agencies are told to do more with less. But how much is too much?

Bethany Carson
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

You say tomato. I say tomahto. What the governor calls efficiency in state government, a labor union calls a crisis in staff erosion.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon May 1, 2006

Ends and Means: George Ryan's conviction may have made other politicians nervous

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

If ominous winds are sending chills up and down the spines of the muckety-mucks frequenting the 16th floor of the James R. Thompson Center and the 5th floor of Chicago's City Hall, don't blame vagrant breezes off Lake Michigan.

Instead, look south a few blocks to the Dirksen Federal Building, where a few weeks ago a federal jury found former Gov. George Ryan and Chicago businessman Larry Warner guilty on all counts in a marathon public corruption trial.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat April 1, 2006

Weekends Into Weeks: More grandparents are caring for their grandchildren

Cheryl Harvey has been taking care of her seven grandsons since they were born. The 60-year-old Chicagoan is the only parent Corwin, Cameron, Christian, Cole, Kimani, Malik and Branden have known. The oldest is 18 and preparing for college. The youngest is 21 months and showing symptoms of the terrible twos.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat April 1, 2006

Editor's Notebook: Our new online journal aims to connect with more Illinoisans

Peggy Boyer Long
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois Issues has logged onto the blogosphere.

Bethany Carson, our Statehouse bureau chief, launched the magazine's first online journal, known as a Web log, blog for short, just in time to track the scheduled end of this spring's legislative session.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat April 1, 2006

State of the State: Critics say the governor robs Peter to pay Paul when he sweeps special funds

Bethany Carson
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Rep. Raymond Poe has gotten calls from contractors who clean up the environment whenever an underground storage tank leaks. They're nervous there won't be enough money in a special state fund designated for cleanup jobs because the governor could swipe excess cash at the end of the fiscal year.

"You can't sweep funds from an account that has ongoing business," says Poe, a Springfield Republican. "It could build up, and then all the sudden, you could have four or five claims."

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat April 1, 2006

Ends and Means: The new millennium has been tough on Illinois workers and their families

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The stereotype is familiar — the factory worker who used to earn $19 an hour before his job was shipped to Mexico now earns minimum wage making Big Macs.

All too often, though, it's true. The new millennium has been tough on Illinois workers and their families, as the state's changing economy has seen the loss of thousands of high-paying jobs with good benefits, replaced by new jobs with lower pay and fewer benefits.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed March 1, 2006

Governor's Challenge: A rough primary season could draw national attention to Illinois' top race

In the wake of Illinois' 2002 election, pundits leaped headlong onto Rod Blagojevich's bandwagon. The three-term congressman from Chicago had just become the state's first Democrat to be elected governor in a quarter century.

Let's listen in on MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews:

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed March 1, 2006

Over the Top: Illinoisans head the national debate over money and politics

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's January 17 appearance before the news media spoke volumes about the troubles facing the Republican majority in Congress. The traditionally camera-shy Illinoisan is vastly more comfortable working behind closed doors.

Exactly two weeks earlier, Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to federal influence-peddling and fraud charges and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in ongoing investigations of lawmakers and congressional staff.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed March 1, 2006

Middleman: Illinois steps in to fill gaps in new federal drug program and faces unexpected hurdles

Glitches can be expected when 42 million people become eligible for a government-subsidized prescription drug program. So no one was surprised that there were plenty as the new national effort got under way. 

Illinois officials, in fact, expected some snags as it cast an additional safety net to help the poorest seniors and disabled people pay for their drugs. Despite the best intentions, however, the state hit some unexpected snarls, too. And more knots are sure to surface as the state and federal drug programs are reshaped.

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