Friday Forum

WNIJ's Friday Forum features  in-depth interviews with state officials, community leaders, and others whose decisions influence your life. You can hear it every Friday during Morning Edition on 89.5 FM and WNIJ.org.

SETI

Jill Tarter is an astronomer and Chair Emeritus for SETI Research at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. SETI stands for "Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence." Tarter was the basis for the character played by Jodie Foster in the movie adaptation of Carl Sagan's novel "Contact." She will present the lecture "A Cosmic Perspective: Searching For Aliens, Finding Ourselves" at Fermilab in Batavia later this month. On this week's Friday Forum, she talks with WNIJ's Jenna Dooley about the search for life beyond Earth.

Jenna Dooley

Northern Illinois University recently held the 5th annual Unity Walk in DeKalb. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley talks with participants about what it means to take part in the event.

The Unity Walk began five years ago following protests in Missouri over the death of Michael Brown, a resident of Ferguson. Brown was killed by a police officer, resulting in national news and tense relations between the community and law enforcement.

Jenna Dooley

The 2018 class of the Northern Illinois University Huskie Marching Band increased by more than 50 members from last year. Tom Bough has been NIU's Director of Athletic Bands for the past 14 years. On this week's Friday Forum, he talks about how he keeps everyone tapping to the same beat.

Jenna Dooley

The National Skydiving Championships are being held in northern Illinois this month. Hundreds of jumpers are using the dropzone at the Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Rochelle. On this week's Friday Forum, jumpers talk about their love for the sport.

Steve Verner is a tandem jump instructor. He has perfectly styled silver hair and wears tight fitting athletic wear. He looks like he's ready to run a marathon or bike a long trail. But his passion is more extreme: skydiving.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal for anyone to transport, buy or sell any migratory bird, and its nests or eggs, among other provisions. It’s been around for 100 years. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley learns more about the Act and local efforts to conserve bird populations.

Winnebago County birder Lee Johnson has been bird banding for more than half of the treaty's lifespan and he has seen improvements in that time.

Photo Provided

 

Listeners of DeKalb-based "B95" (WDKB-FM) recently heard the final local newscast from longtime newsman Brian Adams. Adams accepted a position as a reporter at KNIA/KRLS in Knoxville, IA.

Adams was a newscaster at B95 for the past 22 years. During that time, he covered countless local government meetings as well as breaking news events, including blizzards, tornadoes, a monster truck accident and the fatal campus shooting at Northern Illinois University in 2008.

Guy Stephens

Shabbona native and agronomist Sarah Carlson says decisions at the grocery store could lead to changes in what farmers plant. On this week's Friday Forum, Carlson talks with WNIJ's Jenna Dooley about her unique role working with farmers and large businesses to find ways to grow and market foods that enrich the land.

Victoria Lunacek

Chess is played by millions of people worldwide and can be enjoyed by even the youngest participants. Detroit native Daron Brown hopes a chess club in DeKalb will open doors for local kids he mentors. On this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jenna Dooley talks with Brown about his love of the game.

In the basement of DeKalb's public library, Daron Brown is wearing a white dress shirt and baby blue striped tie. He's "Mr. Brown" for the dozen or so pre-teen kids who are part of the club.

Carl Nelson

The Spanish Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses was held this past weekend at Northern Illinois University's Convocation Center. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jenna Dooley talks with Angel Martinez, one of the organizers of the gathering.

This year's theme was "¡Sea Valiente!" which means "be brave" or "be courageous." Martinez says it's a fitting theme given the challenges that all humans face in life in general -- be it in school, at work, or within the family.

Victoria Lunacek

Republican Bob Pritchard resigned his post in the Illinois House this summer. He’s now a member of the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees. When he’s not serving constituents, Pritchard, of Hinckley, can be found on his family farm. In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jenna Dooley talks with Pritchard as he reflects on his time in the General Assembly and looks ahead to his new role at NIU.

A row of bright green farm equipment lines the back of a large shed. It’s all John Deere on this farm.

WNIJ

There was a shake-up in leadership last summer at Northern Illinois University. President Doug Baker resigned, paving the way for Lisa Freeman to step in as acting president. At that time she said she would not seek the position on a long term basis, but that has since changed. On this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jenna Dooley learns more about Freeman's aspirations for the future.

Dr. Freeman says trustees approached her to consider the presidential post.

Victoria Lunacek

On July 15, 2013,  fire destroyed downtown Prophetstown in northwestern Illinois. Two boys were charged with starting the blaze. The small community has spent the last five years re-building from the devastation. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley heads back to Prophetstown for an update.

https://www.supremecourt.gov

One of the major stories to come out of Washington D.C. this week was President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. On this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jenna Dooley talks with Mitch Pickerill, a political scientist at Northern Illinois University.

Pickerill says the choice of the conservative Kavanaugh to replace Anthony Kennedy makes sense politically.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Chicago has them. So does St. Charles. Even Naperville. Does your town allow backyard chickens?

DeKalb doesn’t, but a group of egg fans is eager to bring the issue up with the city council, where a backyard chicken proposal was rejected six years ago.       

People want eggs – not alarm clocks. So roosters generally are not allowed in urban backyards. But even with roosters out of the picture, local governments are still wary about letting people put up a chicken coop in their backyard, no matter how cute the little shed is.

This spring, the Illinois Legislature passed a budget – on time and, at least on paper, balanced. It was a rare bipartisan moment in a state which had seen partisan gridlock result in several years of partial or no budgets. In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Guy Stephens looks at an effort to encourage more bipartisanship in the state of Illinois.

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

Birds are a common sight throughout Northern Illinois, with many species coming through the area as part of seasonal migration. Some are just stopping by, but others have become more permanent residents. WNIJ’s Chase Cavanaugh takes a look at ways to deal with them.

nlihc.org

Nowhere in the United States can a person working full time at minimum wage afford a simple two-bedroom apartment. While that is a problem in itself, it raises concerns far beyond just having a place to live. In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Victor Yehling looks at details of the situation in Illinois and Wisconsin and possible resolutions.

neindiana.com

A northern Illinois economic development group is working on what’s being called a “code of ethics” for its member communities.  They’re not alone. In this WNIJ Friday Forum, Guy Stephens looks at  codes that are being created and what they can mean to economic development.

Striking a balance between competing local interests to achieve a benefit of all long has been a mantra of regional economic development. No one involved seems to disagree. Still, it has been deemed necessary to “get it in writing.”

Steven Depolo / Flickr

Hepatitis is a well-known disease of the liver and for which people receive vaccines as children. But the shots only combat the A and B variants. In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Chase Cavanaugh has more on Hepatitis C and how it’s being managed across northern Illinois.

Hepatitis C attacks the liver just like variants A and B. But the virus is unique enough that no one has developed a vaccine yet. This means much more work needs to be done to screen for cases and get patients into treatment programs.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Racism’s roots run deep in American culture and institutions. But so does the desire to do something about it. For this week’s Friday Forum, we present part two of WNIJ's Susan Stephens interviewing Northern Illinois University Education Professor Joseph Flynn. He’s the author of White Fatigue: Rethinking Resistance for Social Justice, which explores how education can get more people engaged in the fight for equality.

We start with a song.  

The Cunningham Group

Rockford area officials have sought a casino for decades as a way to help deal with economic problems. And even with a casino looking to open just over the border in Wisconsin, they still feel that way. In this Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Guy Stephens looks at the area’s casino craving.

State Sen. Dave Syverson has been pushing for a Rockford casino for years. The Rockford Republican says casinos were started in Illinois to keep money from leaving the state, and that continues to be a big issue. 

Carl Nelson / WNIJ

America has been dealing with racism for hundreds of years, but we still have a long way to go. In the first of a two-part Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Susan Stephens sits down with Northern Illinois University professor Joseph Flynn to talk about racism’s deep roots in American culture and institutions.

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

The Winnebago County Local Emergency Planning Committee holds an annual conference on disaster preparedness. Normally, the group focuses on hazardous materials. This year, the issue of mass shootings was added to the agenda. In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Chase Cavanaugh highlights two speakers who talk about responding to these incidents.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Treatment is one piece of the puzzle in tackling the opioid epidemic. But people seeking help in Illinois may face another major challenge … paying for it. Health insurance companies pose different requirements for getting these medications. Some physicians say this can lead patients back to the streets. In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jessie Schlacks looks at obstacles for people ready to defeat their addiction ... and how lawmakers are trying to fill the gaps.

niu.edu

Communication can be difficult for some people. It may be due to a moderate to severe stutter they've had all their life, or a catastrophic event like a stroke that renders them inarticulate. In today’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Guy Stephens tells us how researchers, including some at Northern Illinois University, are using music to help overcome or alleviate speech problems in ways they are still trying to fully understand.

Jaime Mayer oversees several projects at Northern Illinois University that explore the interfaces of music, language and thought.

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

Ever since the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., there’s been a greater push by students for stricter action on gun violence. On this week’s Friday Forum, we talk with several Rockford high school students who organized a community forum on the issue and what they plan to do next.

Katie Finlon/WNIJ

Some area schools received several significant safety threats following the Parkland, Florida, shooting where 17 people were killed. For this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Katie Finlon talks with school and law enforcement officials about how they plan to communicate with parents and the public about such threats from here on out.

The Deadline Has Passed, But DACA Status Remains In Limbo

Mar 30, 2018
Jessie Schlacks/WNIJ

It’s been nearly a month since the deadline passed for Congress to make changes to the DACA program – or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This week’s Friday Forum brings us different perspectives on the issues faced by this immigrant group.

Last fall, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to end the DACA program. Lawmakers were given six months to form a compromise bill -- but didn’t accomplish the task by the March 5 deadline.

Victor Yehling /WNIJ

Voters in Tuesday’s primary election rejected the effort to re-implement home rule authority in Rockford. WNIJ spoke with people on both sides of the issue about what this means for Rockford’s future.

The Illinois Constitution grants home rule authority to municipalities that have at least 25,000 residents. Others can gain that authority through a direct ordinance. Rockford naturally qualified in 1970 due to its population, but a referendum removed home-rule status in 1983.

Victor Yehling/WNIJ

Just a few days remain to educate residents about a major ballot issue in Rockford. In this week’s Friday Forum, Jenna Dooley talks with those involved in getting their message out to voters before they hit the polls on Tuesday.

As the spring primary approaches, more money is going into a ballot question that could change how Rockford leaders make major decisions on behalf of residents. It’s known as home rule and, if you live in Rockford, you no doubt have seen signs around the city asking you to vote either “yes” or “no” on the issue.

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