Mary Hansen

Reporter

Mary reports for NPR Illinois and the Illinois Newsroom. She graduated from the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she spent a legislative session covering statehouse news for The Daily Herald. Previously, Mary reported for The State Journal-Register, covering city government. She received her BA in International Studies from American University. 

NPR Illinois

Fewer Springfield residents voted in Tuesday’s mayoral election than four years ago.

Around 25,000 voters cast ballots in Springfield’s mayoral race, which incumbent Jim Langfelder won, according to preliminary numbers from the Sangamon County Clerk’s office.

That’s around 2,000 fewer than voted in 2015, when he was first elected. Turnout was still around 35%.

Tom Holbrook – a political science professor at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee – studies turnout in municipal elections. He says that’s above the average of 25% among the cities he’s looked at.

Dana Vollmer / NPR Illinois

Springfield voters gave Mayor Jim Langfelder a second term Tuesday.

He won out over Frank Edwards, a former alderman and fire chief, getting around 58% of the vote.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Tensions around racial inequality in Springfield flared at a candidate forum Wednesday night.

The candidates competing to represent some of the city’s oldest neighborhoods were asked at an event hosted by the State Journal-Register and 94.7 & 970 WMAY to react to an investigation into racial segregation in central Illinois.

A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.

Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council. Below are the submitted responses from Ward 3 Ald. Doris Turner.

A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.

Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council. Below are the submitted responses from Ward 10 candidate Rob Patino. Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer and candidate Olajide John Animasaun did not respond. 

A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.

Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council. Below are the submitted responses from candidates for the Ward 8 seats, Erin Conley and Debra Kunkel. Candidate Dean Graven did not respon. 

A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.

Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council. Below are the submitted responses from Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin. Candidate Brad Carlson did not respond.

This post may be updated.

A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.

Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council. Below are the submitted responses from Ward 6 Ald. Kristin DiCenso. Candidate Elizabeth Jones did not respond. 

A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.

Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council.

Below are the submitted responses from Ward 5 Ald. Andrew Proctor. Candidates Lakeisha Purchase and Sam Cahnman did not submit answers.

This post may be updated.

A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.

Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council. Below are the submitted responses. Answers from Ward 2 Ald. Herman Senor and candidates Gail Simpson and William "Shawn" Gregory.

Candidate Tom Shafer did not respond. 

This post may be updated.

A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.

Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council. Below are the submitted responses from Ward 1 candidate Rev. T. Ray McJunkins.

Ward 1 Ald. Chuck Redpath did not submit answers. 

NPR Illinois

How would Springfield city council candidates engage young people in government?

Students from Springfield Southeast High School want to know the answer to that question and a few more. A group of five students from a government class participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder is hoping to win re-election in next week’s city elections. He’s facing a challenge from a former alderman and fire chief, Frank Edwards.

The two have divergent views about the challenges the capital city is facing, and what to do about them.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Candidates vying to represent neighborhoods on Springfield’s east side and downtown as well as surrounding Lake Springfield met at a forum on Monday night.

A ward map is here (PDF). You can find out which ward you live in at the Sangamon County website.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinoi

Springfield voters will choose a candidate to manage the city’s bank accounts, and collect fees and fines on April 2. Current treasurer Misty Buscher is running for re-election against challenger Jennifer Notariano.

NPR Illinois talked with both candidates about their experience, qualifications and priorities for the office. 

Brian Mackey

Lawmakers are considering whether to ask Illinoisans to pay more for gasoline — with the money dedicated to fixing crumbling infrastructure.

A new proposal at the Statehouse would double the motor fuel tax — from the current 19 cents up to 38 cents a gallon. It would also up driver’s license and vehicle registrations fees, with the goal of raising $2 billion a year to pay for road, bridge, highway and rail improvements.

Kristin Walters / IL Newsroom

In Illinois, there are only 35 affordable housing units for every 100 families considered extremely low-income, according to Housing Action Illinois, a housing advocacy organization.

Housing Choice Voucher, also known as Section 8, is a federal program designed to make market-rate apartments accessible to people who wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise. The voucher program covers part of the rent for around 97,000 families in Illinois.

In response to a call for questions on affordable housing, one Illinois Newsroom listener asked: “How does Section 8 work? It seems like a great program in theory that also seems really hard for families to access in practice.”

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Many communities in Illinois have rules that say renters can lose their housing if someone in the home is connected to a crime. City leaders who back the policies say the rules make neighborhoods safer. But fair housing advocates question the tactics.

Flickr user: TaxCredits.net

Stores in Illinois keep a portion of what you pay in sales tax. Think of it like a collection fee, though in state government shorthand it’s called a retail discount.

The amount is based on a percentage of what they collect. So the more they sell, the more they keep.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants to cap that amount to $1,000 per month for each retailer. It’s one of several proposals aimed at addressing a $3.2 billion deficit in next year’s budget.

Madelyn Beck

Brian Otten likens his process for dealing with road problems to a triage system.

As the highway engineer in Perry County in southern Illinois, Otten says he gets calls about potholes or cracked drainage pipes. 

“And we’ll go out there and take a look and say, this pipe is about fall in and somebody could have an accident here and really get hurt. That takes precedence over the inconvenience of a pothole,” he said.

Problems on interstate highways and bridges get a lot of attention. But you may be seeing more potholes and cracks on the roads you take to work or even live on, particularly in rural areas.

Slow internet service can slow a business down, adding up to lost time and money. And often the problem is worse in rural areas.

That’s one reason John Sullivan, acting director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, said improving internet access is a top priority for him.

“If there isn’t adequate access to high-speed internet, it really drags and holds back the possibility for jobs and opportunities in those areas,” he said.

road construction
Gary Brown via Flickr (gsbrown99)

Driving around Illinois, chances are you’ve experience the jarring crack of a tire hitting the bottom of a pothole. This week, acting transportation secretary Matt Magalis put a cost on that feeling: between $13 billion and $15 billion.

Jaclyn Driscoll / NPR Illinois

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker recalled Illinois’ darkest days during his first budget address Wednesday. But he’s also looking to get beyond the current financial mess — and is calling for higher taxes, now and in the future. 

shape of Illinois in coins
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivered his first budget address at a time of acute fiscal distress for the state of Illinois. It also comes after Democrats have taken total control of the executive and legislative branches of state government, including supermajorities in the Illinois House and Senate.

For this week's Illinois Issues report, NPR Illinois reporters analyzed the governor's speech:

Mary Hansen / NPR

Crumbling sidewalks, gas line failures and cracked concrete — the problems at Brookfield Zoo are a metaphor for what’s wrong with public infrastructure throughout Illinois.

As lawmakers begin negotiating a statewide spending plan to fix it, the zoo is among a growing list of those coming to Springfield with their paws out.

The Chicago Zoological Society, the nonprofit that runs the zoo, is asking state lawmakers for help rehabbing and improving its facilities from a promised capital plan.

springfield.il.us

NPR Illinois talks with State Journal-Register City Reporter Crystal Thomas about the week in Springfield city government news:

*Candidates for city council shared their views on a resolution naming Springfield a welcoming city and consolidating Capital Township at the first candidate forums.

*Springfield firefighters have a new contract with a raise and a compromise on residency requirements.

Mary Hansen / NPR

Keith Treadwell says it took some time for him to talk about the trauma experienced. The 46-year-old lives in Springfield and is part of the supportive housing program with Helping Hands.

“I took advantage of the help that they have there and got an apartment with a roommate,” he said. “And my life has been looking up ever since.”

WIkipedia commons/taken by W. Wadas

NPR Illinois talks with State Journal-Register City Reporter Crystal Thomas about the week in Springfield news:

*Aldermen are set to vote this week on an agreement with a bike-sharing company to get 75 bikes for rent available around the city.

*The proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts March 1 doesn’t have tax hikes like last year’s spending plan. It does include funding for more police and fire vehicles.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Weasle Forsythe is an information assurance apprentice with SuprTEK - a government contracting firm in O’Fallon, Illinois, outside of St. Louis. In the quiet office of cubicles with two screens and near-silent coders, her cubicle is decked out.

“I have all my toys here and my huge fidget cube, and my Spider Gwen and my X-Force Deadpool,” she said.

Amid the color and chaos of superhero posters and figurines - Forsythe pulled out a big black binder. “I mean, this isn’t really sexy, but I think it’s awesome. It’s the NIST compliance,” she said.

Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois

The need for new or repaired roads, bridges, buildings and other infrastructure in Illinois continues to outpace the amount of funding available to complete the projects. With a new governor and legislative session starting in January, discussions have already started with an aim to change that.

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