Charles N. Wheeler III

Analyst

The director of the Public Affairs Reporting (PAR) graduate program is Professor Charles N. Wheeler III,  a veteran newsman who came to the University of Illinois at Springfield following a 24-year career at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Wheeler covered state government and politics for the Sun-Times since 1970, when he covered the Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention. For the last 19 years of his Sun-Times tenure, Wheeler was assigned to the newspaper’s Statehouse bureau. During that time, he was elected to 16 consecutive one-year terms as president of the Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association and served for many years on the PAR program and admissions committees.

Since 1984, he has written a monthly column for Illinois Issues magazine, which has won five Capitolbeat awards for magazine commentary/analysis. In 2006, the Illinois Associated Press Editors Association inducted him into The Lincoln League of Journalists, which honors men and women who have provided exemplary service to other journalists and to daily newspapers published in Illinois. In 2013, he was chosen as the Journalist of the Year by the Journalism Department at Eastern Illinois University.  He is also a regular on the panel for State Week, WUIS' weekly political analysis program that airs on public radio stations across Illinois.

Before joining the Sun-Times in 1969, Wheeler served more than three years as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Panama. He is a graduate of St. Mary’s University, Winona, MN, majoring in English, and received a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Wheeler draws on the talents of many UIS faculty with expertise in such fields as public budgeting, political science, and communication, as well as professional journalists and state officials, to present students with a well-rounded program to bridge the academic and professional areas.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In proposing a $52.8 billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, Gov. George Ryan issued a warning to the Illinois General Assembly: Go beyond my bottom line, and I’ll veto the entire budget.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” 

Benjamin Franklin, 1789

Were Old Ben around today, he might be tempted to amend his well-known maxim to add a third category: a sure General Assembly seat for whoever wins the primary in most of the state’s new legislative districts.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Christmas came early last month for some of Illinois’ public servants, with mixed results.

Two high-profile officials making career changes received handsome going away presents to help smooth their transitions. The beneficiaries of the holiday good will were outgoing state Schools Superintendent Glenn “Max” McGee and retiring state Rep. Andrea Moore, a Libertyville Republican. 

McGee was given a six-month, $125,000 consulting contract by the State Board of Education, the same folks who pushed him out the door last summer. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

With the filing date for next year’s elections just a few weeks away, perhaps it’s no surprise that political operatives already have begun sniping at potential rivals, gearing up for the really serious badmouthing next year.

In that vein, some Republican spear carriers have been disparaging one possible Democratic statewide lineup as the “All My Children” ticket, drawing on the popular ABC soap opera.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The notion of democratic government rests on a very simple principle: Ordinary men and women have the capacity to govern themselves. They don't need kings or emperors or high priests to establish the rules by which they can live together amicably, settle their differences and provide for their common needs.

With an eye toward drawing new General Assembly boundaries for the next decade, legislative mapmakers are set this month to begin poring over detailed information about who lives where in Illinois.

Even as they begin, though, there are ongoing complaints about the accuracy of the U.S. Census Bureau's numbers, in particular that the nose count missed large numbers of the urban poor, minorities, or both. This concern is more than academic. In fact, at heart it's political. The legislative power that follows population under the rule of one person, one vote is at stake.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

It's springtime in Illinois, and one can see signs of the season blossoming across the state: daffodils, tulips, forsythia, school referenda.

School referenda?

Yep. Local school officials pleading with local taxpayers for desperately needed dollars has become as much an annual springtime ritual as green beer for St. Paddy's Day and high hopes for the Chicago Cubs.

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.

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.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Monday morning quarterbacks have been having a field day of late, ever since the lame-duck legislative session produced a new home for the Chicago Bears.

Talk-show pundits and editorial writers - most of them from outside Chicagoland - have been picking at the details of the $587 million package that relies on an existing city hotel tax to bankroll renovation of Soldier Field, the Bears' home since they moved from Wrigley Field in 1971.

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