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It’s a hot summer day outside of Lincoln, Neb., and Jack Chappelle is knee-deep in trash. He’s wading in to rotting vegetables, half-eaten burgers and tater tots. Lots of tater tots.

“You can get a lot of tater tots out of schools,” Chappelle says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s elementary, middle school or high school. Tater tots. Bar none.”

Amanda Vinicky

The underfunding of the state's pensions have grabbed headlines the past several years, and finally reached the political tipping point late last year when legislators passed an overhaul of the systems. It's a recent response to a very old problem.

It was Gov. Pat Quinn who signed the law that reduces state workers' and most public school teachers' pensions -- a controversial plan that's at the center of a lawsuit.

IGPA

The following is an op-ed written by Mike Lawrence for the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.  Lawrence was a longtime journalist, Press Secretary for Gov. Jim Edgar and later directed the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

Gov. Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner are having a brawl -- trash-talk and all. So, it's less likely with every gouge and grunt, that either will focus on rescuing Illinois until after the election -- if then.

A recent story about the combination of WUIS and Illinois Issues...

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

A national movement is asking people to be more compassionate and empathetic. The cause has come to Decatur – where a forum on compassion is planned for Tuesday. We spoke with one of the group’s members, Macy Barnett, about the event and its message:

Thinkprogress.org

It's hard to find common ground between Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican businessman Bruce Rauner, but when it comes to decriminalizing marijuana, they're on the same page. Both have a stance that's well, hazy.

"It's worthy of looking at," Quinn said about the idea of reducing penalties for people caught with small amounts of pot."It's basically something I think the legislature should have hearings on. I think a lot of people should have input on. I do think that it's worthy of consideration."

Stephen Smith

The Science Of Smart

Schools across the country are trying new ways to teach based on brain science. Teachers say current techniques are failing, but new approaches can help students learn more deeply.  

Until recently, we didn't know much about the best ways to learn. Now that's changing. Over recent decades, experts working in cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience have opened new windows into how the brain works, and how we can learn to learn better.

Amanda Vinicky

  Gov. Pat Quinn wants to proceed with getting rid of dozens of Illinois Department of Transportation employees. The layoffs won't happen for at least another month.

Gov. Quinn doesn't claim the layoffs as his idea; rather, he says it was his newly-appointed IDOT Secretary, Erica Borggren, who came up with the "reorganization" that'll leave some 58 employees out of work.

Sean Crawford/WUIS

The University of Illinois Springfield is branching out into the health field. Starting next fall, a new nursing program will start accepting students. About 30 are expected to enroll in the first year of the four-year program. Memorial Health System is donating $2 million, which includes scholarships and the hospital will provide facilities for teaching. 

UIS Chancellor, Susan Koch says she's often heard from students, parents, and others in the community that the university needs to provide medical training.

espensorvik/flickr

If it seems as though the number of political ads on television has ramped up markedly this election, now there's concrete proof.  

Illinois has seen a roughly 30 percent increase in the number of TV ads and the money spent to air them this election cycle compared to four years ago, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity. That jump has been fueled by a neck-and-neck contest for governor pitting wealthy Republican Bruce Rauner against Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.  

Bruce Rauner and Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

As a candidate for governor once again tries to make political hay over a prison early-release program, a group of state lawmakers met in Chicago Tuesday to consider drastic changes to Illinois’ criminal justice system.

Republican Bruce Rauner is trying to remind voters about a botched, secret early release program that dates to Gov. Pat Quinn’s first year in office.

Campaign ad: “Two-hundred thirty violent criminals, secretly released early by Pat Quinn.”

 A children's hospital official in central Illinois faces a charge of embezzling $500,000 from the institution since 2008, according to a published report.

Springfield police on Monday arrested Margaret "Peggy" Curtin, 55, executive director of St. John's Children's Hospital, according to the report in the State Journal-Register. She is in custody at the Sangamon County Jail on $1 million bond, State's Attorney John Milhiser said in a news release Tuesday.

Rahm Emanuel
cityofchicago.org

  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday called on state lawmakers to reduce penalties for drug possession.

  Two years ago, Chicago began allowing its police to issue tickets for possessing small amounts of pot, rather than immediately making an arrest.

Emanuel says the change is working: "We have seen about 4,100 fewer arrests in that area."

SJ-R.com

On this week's WUIS / State Journal-Register Business Report with Tim Landis, we discuss an effort by Magro's Meat Processing of Auburn to locate a store in Springfield.  Neighbors have rejected a plan for animal slaughtering in the area along Stevenson Drive.  Springfield's Planning and Zoning Board has also denied the request. 

Also, mixed reviews so far for bike lanes along a downtown street and a push to bring a medical marijuana dispensary to the city's downtown.

Read the latest stories from Tim Landis in the SJ-R.

istockphoto.com

One Illinois group wants voters to be better informed about judges, who will be among the lesser known candidates on the November ballot.  

The Illinois Civil Justice League on Tuesday is unveiling an initiative to provide biographies, ratings and other background on 158 sitting judges in the state seeking retention and another 69 candidates in contested races for seats on the bench.  

WILL

Supporters of a would-be University of Illinois professor say they're not going to stop protesting a week and a half after the Board of Trustees voted to not hire Steven Salaita. A few dozen of the professor's allies on campus showed up to rally and speak at an Academic Senate meeting Monday.

Fourteen academic departments – all within the humanities – at the U of I's Urbana campus have reaffirmed their votes of no confidence in the campus' chancellor, Phyllis Wise, after she took back Salaita's faculty appointment in August.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Advocates seeking to change how Illinois draws its legislative districts are following through on a promise to keep trying, even after getting knocked off of this year's ballot.

Members of the "Yes for Independent Maps" effort cheered when they turned in half million signatures to state elections authorities in May.

WUIS

Illinois' race for governor is shaping up as one of the most competitive in the nation. And it's impossible to tell who's winning.

For a while, Bruce Rauner was ahead. The Republican private equity investor kept besting Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in every poll.

Richland.edu

College students are back on campus and classes are underway. Parents at some Illinois schools have extra assurance their kids will be safe when they're at school.

Universities and colleges are often ranked, making "best of" lists for one program or the other. 

But only a couple in Illinois have achieved the designation of becoming a "Ready to Respond" campus -- a title given by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency after the school has met criteria, like developing a violence prevention plan and going through training exercises. 

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS
IGPA

Chris Mooney is Director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.  The following is an article he authored:

Prisons vastly are overcrowded. College tuition is rising fast. Roads and bridges are crumbling. Public pensions are on the verge of disaster.

Why is Illinois state government so inept? While public problems are inherently difficult to solve, Illinois seems to be particularly adrift these days.

bot.uillinois.edu

University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chairman Chris Kennedy said in a newspaper interview published Friday that the university was right to deny a faculty job to a professor whose anti-Israel Twitter messages were considered by some to be anti-Semitic.  

Saturday will be the Kilimanjaro Rumble: An African Drum Jamboree at Southwind Park in Springfield. There will be various genres of drum and dance. Roosevelt Pratt owns Fashion Afrique boutique and cultural center in Springfield, he is hosting the event and says its a way to foster unity in the capital city. He joined us for this interview about the event:

CLICK HERE for more info about the event. 5 to 8pm on Saturday September 20th at Southwind Park in Springfield. 

Jim Meadows

Clarification: Katherine Franke also serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for Constitutional Rights, one of the organizations representing Steven Salaita.

A prominent law professor who's boycotting the University of Illinois after Steven Salaita’s job offer was withdrawn says Salaita would easily win a legal case against the University.  Columbia professor Katherine Franke says Salaita's first amendment rights were violated by the U of I's Board of Trustees.

Local food is no longer just a novelty. Farmers markets are growing nationwide and farms that sell directly to consumers brought in $1.3 billion in 2012, up eight percent from just five years earlier. Despite the demand, making local food work in some places is decidedly more difficult than others. Steamboat Springs, Colo., is one of those places.

Problem number one is infrastructure.

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

REGISTER TO ATTEND

Residents are encouraged to share what they see as the top education issues affecting Illinois at the next WUIS/Illinois Issues Forum on Education September 27, 4:00 - 5:30 p.m.  The forum will be in the WUIS Suggs Performance Studio on the UIS campus. 

flickr/Simon Cunningham

Illinois unemployment fell in August to 6.7 percent, the sixth straight monthly decrease in the state's jobless rate, according to figures released Thursday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.  

The latest figure represents a drop from 9.2 percent one year ago and marks the largest year-over-year decline since 1984. The last time the rate was lower than 6.7 was in July 2008, when it was 6.6 percent.  

There are 40,600 more jobs than one year ago, the department said.  

Quinn campaign

This story first appeared as Illinois Issues' State of the State column in the September 2014 edition of the magazine.

mattpenning.com 2011

When the world sees our children, it sees them as they are at this moment and in this environment, through a narrow lens.  Their teacher at school sees how well they internalized today’s math lesson (or not).  Their dentist sees the condition of their teeth as they are today, including that new cavity in a molar.  The neighbor sees them as the sweet child who brought in their garbage can for them or the nasty brat who littered in their front lawn.

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