Aaron Chambers

Democratic congressional candidate Dan Seals from Wilmette and U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, a Republican from Highland Park running for re-election
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In the race for the 10th U.S. House District, which stretches from northern Cook County through the North Shore, Democrat Dan Seals is trying once again to unseat incumbent Republican Mark Kirk.

 

Illinois will be a battleground in 2008 as Democrats fight to keep their newfound majority in the U.S. House, and Republicans fight to win it back.

Democrats hope to extend their slight majority in the Illinois congressional delegation, and the outcome of the February 5 primary races will play a role. 

 

What do electric utilities, cable television and gambling casinos have in common? They're all good for business — the lobbying business, that is. 

As Illinois' spring legislative session dragged into summer, lawmakers deliberated on some of the key issues that always attract the attention of professional advocates who are paid to represent special interests. They work toward one of three objectives, or some combination: get something for the client; prevent the client from losing something; or get something back that the client has already lost.

Critics Dismissed: An Inconvenient Truth as a politically driven statement.

There are two sides to every story, and each side deserves equal play. It's a basic principle of news reporting called balance, and it's designed to ensure a more complete story while minimizing complaints about bias.

But when it comes to coverage of global warming, some say balance is the problem. As one critical study puts it, balance means bias.

Illinois GOP: Puzzles over ways to rebuild

Mar 1, 2007

A blank space presents the perfect opportunity and the ultimate uncertainty. With no blueprint, any structure is possible. On the other hand, no plan means no guarantee. The best design remains elusive.

One of your own as speaker of the U.S. House, the most powerful individual on Capitol Hill? It doesn't get any better than that.

Illinois enjoyed that designation for eight years when Republican Dennis Hastert, a former history teacher and wrestling coach from Yorkville, held the post. Now it's California's turn — Democrat Nancy Pelosi's turn — with the speaker's gavel.

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.

The term “clear channel” refers to the dominant station on a particular AM radio frequency. A high-power, wide-service-area clear channel station takes priority, and other stations must use directional antennas or reduce power to avoid stepping on that station’s signal. The term also refers to the company that dominates the radio industry — and defines the debate over the future of radio. 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Rod Blagojevich comes off as a regular guy. He had trouble in school. He’s comfortable making fun of himself.

He’s also comfortable making fun of others. Blagojevich said in early October that Steve Bartman, the notorious Chicago Cubs fan who interfered with a foul ball bound for Cubs left fielder Moises Alou’s glove, wouldn’t get a pardon if he committed a crime. 

Perhaps, Blagojevich said, Bartman could get witness protection.

Walter Wendler appreciates society’s changing attitudes about its responsibility for higher education. As a scholar, Wendler, who also is chancellor of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, enjoys the nuances of this evolution. He’s intimate with the details of the federal Morrill Act of 1862, which marked the first federal aid aimed at institutions of higher learning. The land grant act, as it’s called, conveyed to the states parcels for developing colleges of agriculture.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has on his happy face. Since the General Assembly adjourned for the summer, the governor has been busy applauding his administration for plugging a $5 billion budget hole. After all, he won the Executive Mansion by running against “business as usual” cronyism, wasteful spending and budget talks behind closed doors.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

What’s in a name? A tax by any other name hits just as hard.

Taxes provide dollars for everyday government expenses. Fees, at least in the traditional sense, provide funds for specific purposes. Then, in Illinois’ current spending plan, there’s the hybrid: fees that resemble taxes.

The circumstances surrounding a meeting between U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and Chicago police detectives in late 2001, shortly after Fitzgerald assumed his post, were extraordinary in two respects. The crime that inspired the meeting was, as murders sometimes are, downright bizarre. But it’s not the nature of the crime that sticks in the mind of Terry Hillard, who retired last month as the Chicago Police Department’s super-intendent. It’s that the meeting took place at all.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

One pre-emptive strike begets another. At least that’s the sequence of events in Evanston, where the city council registered its opposition to one of the federal government’s chief tools in the war against terrorism.

The council passed a resolution in May calling on Congress to repeal the USA Patriot Act and “refrain from passing any further legislation that violates or unduly limits the civil rights and liberties guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Kane County is just 25 miles from Lake Michigan, one of the world’s largest sources of fresh water, yet it appears out of reach. As Kane develops new communities, or expands existing ones, county officials likely will need to look elsewhere for water.

Imagine getting a home equity loan for $100,000, spending $27,000 of it on a new car and investing the rest — then counting on the interest earned to cover the interest paid, as well as the cost of the car. That’s the essence of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s $10 billion pension bonding plan, which became law in April.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The way U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald tells the story of his legacy, he’s leaving at the top of his game.

He installed three independent U.S. attorneys in Illinois. He blocked efforts on Capitol Hill to cement into federal law a deal to expand O’Hare International Airport. And — an accomplishment that seems to give him the most satisfaction — he bucked the state’s GOP establishment.

Sex offenders appear everywhere. They’re in Chicago, in Galena, in Cairo, and most places in between. There’s Michael Lee Clayton who lives on Willow in Effingham. There’s William Bence on 12th in Quincy. There’s Frederick Stanford on Harmon in Danville.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The bill to abolish the death penalty was not called for a vote on the House floor. Rep. Art Turner, the sponsor, says he simply couldn’t muster the votes necessary for passage.

By pulling the bill, Turner avoided forcing his colleagues to state for the record whether they support the ultimate punishment. But one thing is clear: Lawmakers are comfortable, if not enthusiastic, with keeping that statute on the books.

States call President George W. Bush’s Medicaid plan the carrot-and-stick approach to state-federal relations. They could take the carrot, but they dread a swift whack from the stick.

The White House envisions tidy administration of health care for the poor. If states get their programs in order, the administration contends, then there’s no whack to fear.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Lawmakers resurrected a classic phrase to express their wonderment over Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s approach to dealing with the ailing state budget: Where’s the beef?

No, they’re not hoping for bigger hamburger patties, as burger lovers were in the Wendy’s commercials that made the saying famous. They want to know just how the Democrat intends to deal with a deficit he estimates at a combined $4.8 billion for this fiscal year and the one that begins July 1.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The video poker machines found in bars around Illinois are perfectly legal. What’s not is the widespread practice of gambling on those games.

So when bar owners collect money their patrons lose while betting on the machines, that cash goes unreported. And state government comes up empty — to the tune of an estimated $350 million each year. That’s an impressive sum for a state drowning in red ink and looking for a quick fiscal fix. At the same time, the deficit could be video poker gambling’s ticket to come out from under the table.

Review Essay: At war with the Constitution

Feb 1, 2003

Judging Lincoln 
Frank J. Williams, Southern Illinois University Press, 2002 

All the Laws But One 
Civil Liberties in Wartime 
William H. Rehnquist, Vintage Books, Random House Inc., 1998

Bush at War 
Bob Woodward, Simon & Shuster, 2002

Review essay by Aaron Chambers

The Latin maxim inter arma enim leges silent is a favorite of wartime observers. It means in time of war, the law is silent.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Birds of a feather flock together. This adage rings true for businesses in city centers. But it’s not necessarily the case in rural areas, where companies with similar interests don’t congregate naturally.

Unlike in Chicago, where some industries are magnets for suppliers or distributors, entrepreneurs tend to consider other factors when deciding to locate in less populated areas, including proximity to a waterway or highway, or access to a labor base. This certainly is true in the vast reaches of southern Illinois. 

Rod Blagojevich spent last year promising pretty much everything to everybody. So when he’s sworn in this month as Illinois’ chief executive, there’s no doubt the occasion will be marked by a massive celebration.

But the mood is likely to turn sour all too soon. Over the next 18 months, the new Democratic governor will face a hole in the state budget that’s been pegged by some at more than $3 billion because anticipated revenues aren’t covering anticipated spending. 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The death penalty reform torch passed from Gov. George Ryan to Gov.-elect Rod Blagojevich early last month during a joint appearance outside the executive suite in the state Capitol.

The two discussed capital punishment only for a moment. But during that time, Blagojevich, a Democrat, made clear, as he stood beside the Republican governor who turned reforming the system into something of a crusade, that he intends to follow that legacy.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Edward Spreitzer doesn’t contest the guilty verdict against him. Nor does he dispute the horrid nature of the murder that landed him on Death Row. He simply argues the justice system that tried and convicted him is broken, just as Gov. George Ryan says it is, and that, therefore, his death sentence should not stand.

This is a bold legal argument, to say the least. But the courts won’t be deciding this case: The governor will. And if any argument should persuade Ryan to grant relief to Spreitzer, this evidently is the one.

Jim Ryan is in fight mode. He wants to govern the fifth-largest state in the nation, so that’s to be expected. What’s surprising is that he’s playing defense.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Politics begins and ends on the streets. It’s where party functionaries and public officials organize the votes that put them into power, and where they send government services. It’s where they must prove themselves, and where they’ll be measured.

This is certainly true in Chicago, where local wards make up the building blocks of a citywide Democratic power base. That these wards also constitute an age-old map of contending neighborhood alliances is something most Chicagoans know instinctively.

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