Susan Stephens

Reporter, All Things Considered Host

Susan’s parents should have known she’d end up in radio: her favorite toys were tape recorders, cameras, notepads, and books. Many years later, she’s an award-winning reporter at her favorite radio station. Formerly WNIJ’s News Director, she asked to return to the role of full-time reporter/anchor/utility player in 2010 (less paperwork, more reporting!). Her #1 goal is to tell the most compelling stories in the fewest words possible…all the better if a little humor can be thrown into the mix.  It should come as no surprise, then, that she can whip up a haiku for any occasion. She also enjoys the Detroit Tigers, learning pioneer skills (Gardening, canning, and the like. Just in case.), traveling with friends, and pretending she’s going to get around to playing her theremin.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

This weekend, women will take to the streets in more than 300 cities worldwide. There are at least nine women’s marches scheduled in Illinois Saturday, including Chicago, Rockford, Carbondale, and a number of points in-between.

Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ

This was a spectacular holiday season for the nation’s cargo carriers. The International Air Transport Association says 2017 was the busiest in seven years. It’s not just the big airports that are benefiting.

The Chicago/Rockford International Airport is reaping years of infrastructure investments and cargo-carrier courting. More than a billion pounds of cargo moved through the airport last year: That’s up about 50% from the previous year.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Efforts to save the tallest and rarest bird in North America will continue, despite federal funding cuts to some preservation programs.

 

This past January, WNIJ started a weekly feature called “The Friday Forum.” The idea was rooted in a survey of our listeners, who indicated they wanted more in-depth state and regional news.

 

So the Friday Forum was born, featuring the WNIJ area's most important issues, decision-makers, and the people are affected by them.

 

Today we review the Friday Forums of 2017, with highlights from each month.

 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation celebrated its 30th year Thursday night with a dinner featuring a keynote address by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Rauner praised the crowd for being part of what he called one of the best economic development organizations in the state. He also said the area could do a lot better if federal courts rule in his favor by rolling back regulations on businesses.

“​I promise​ ​that ​within​ ​6​ ​months,​ ​I​ ​will​ ​get​ ​literally​ ​dozens​ ​of​ ​manufacturing​ ​plants​ ​to​ ​come​ ​here,” Rauner said.

Susan Stephens

‘Tis the season for candidates to circulate their nominating petitions, but another petition is making the rounds in Rockford. It's a request for the city to rename the Morgan Street Bridge to honor Rockford police officers who have died in the line of duty.

David Hale, one of the people behind the petition, was moved to action by the recent death of a Rockford officer.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Supporters of President Donald Trump held a rally and expo in Rockford Tuesday to celebrate the first year of his presidency.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Rockford's mayor and police chief met Tuesday with people who are calling for a federal investigation into the deaths of Officer Jaimie Cox and Eddie Patterson. Both were killed in the aftermath of a traffic stop Nov. 5.

The meeting was a result of a march on City Hall Monday by Patterson’s family and supporters, who fear the investigation is biased. Rev. Melvin Brown said he’s planning more protests because he doesn’t trust the Winnebago-Boone County Integrity Task Force to investigate fully.

Vicki Snyder-Chura / Rochelle Twp High School

One Rochelle-area teenager used the occasion of Veterans Day to honor his great-grandfather by sharing an important part of their family's history.

Rochelle Township High School Senior John Combs spent only a few Veterans Days with his great-grandfather, who died 11 years ago. But it could have been much worse for his family. Combs turned a class assignment into an opportunity to write an essay about his great-grandfather James Combs and how he was mistaken for a ghost during World War II.

Susan Stephens/WNIJ

The story of the nation’s largest case of municipal embezzlement finally hit the big screen in Illinois, with the debut of All the Queen’s Horses in Dixon.

The subject seemed irresistible for a filmmaker: a bottomless well of money, corruption at city hall, gold-plated extravagance -- and horses. But filmmaker Kelly Richmond Pope had another reason for being drawn to the story of Rita Crundwell, Dixon’s former comptroller who stole nearly $54 million from her hometown.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The woman who blew the whistle on former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell received a national award this weekend. Kathe Swanson was Dixon’s city clerk when she discovered accounting irregularities in 2011, which eventually revealed that Crundwell stole more than $53 million from the city.

Swanson was presented the Ethical Courage Award by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy at a screening of the documentary All the Queen’s Horses, by filmmaker Kelly Richmond Pope, who featured Swanson in her film.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Check your medicine cabinet. Still have painkillers left from dental surgery years ago? Leftover prescription drugs can end up in the wrong hands or contaminating the environment, but there are ways to get rid of your unneeded pills safely.

The Rockford Police Department now has prescription-drug drop-off boxes in all three of its district stations.

A former candidate for Rockford mayor is running for lieutenant governor. Brian Leggero announced Wednesday that he was asked by Republican gubernatorial candidate William J. Kelly to be his running mate.

 

WNIJ

So what’s the difference between a podcast and a radio show, besides where you listen to them?

1) Podcasts have no time constraints. They can go long, they can go short. No one tunes in in the middle of a podcast. No need for self-identifying constantly.

2) Podcasts don’t need to please everyone. They can, and should, target a very specific audience.

The Illinois primary election isn’t until next March, but campaigns are going strong. Most Democrats running for governor will take part in a forum Tuesday night at Northern Illinois University.

Kim Gates, a member of DeKalb Stands, says her group -- which helped organize the event -- was formed in reaction to concerns about the presidential election. Now, she says, they see the importance of being engaged politically at every level of government.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Police are still looking for a man accused of shooting a Winnebago County sheriff's deputy last weekend.

Deputy Stephen Wright was shot in the back and shoulder early Saturday morning during a traffic stop near southwest Rockford. Detectives identified 27-year-old Jordan Spates of Rockford as a suspect. They conducted a massive manhunt much of Saturday in wooded areas near the site of the shooting, including Klehm Arboretum.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Nearly 13 percent of Illinoisans do not have a high school diploma. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law Friday aimed at changing that. The new law will allow community colleges and non-profit organizations to set up “adult high school” programs where people over 21 can earn diplomas.

Currently, their only option is a GED. Rauner said this program will offer much more, including “more job opportunities, to better careers and higher wages, higher salaries for the people of Illinois who now have access to a high school diploma that they didn’t have access to before.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

It’s been 24 years since a federal magistrate proclaimed the Rockford Public Schools had “raised discrimination to an art form” and ordered the schools to desegregate.

The court remedy set up a system of school choice, which led to racially balanced schools. In 2010, the order was lifted and the district chose to return to “zoned schools.” Students now attend schools close to their homes -- but that has led to re-segregation.

Seventeen Illinois lawmakers have signed on to support a Wisconsin case before the U.S. Supreme Court that calls political gerrymandering unconstitutional.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Passions ran high at a DeKalb School Board meeting Tuesday night. Residents packed the room to show their opposition to a proposal to hire a company that would check whether students really live in the district.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Federal, state, and local officials celebrated the beginning of Phase Two of a huge improvement project at the Chicago/Rockford International Airport Monday.

Rebecca Hall

Where will you watch the solar eclipse?

People within a 70-mile wide band stretching from Oregon to South Carolina will be able to see a total eclipse for a few minutes Monday: The rest of us will have to settle for a partial solar eclipse.

Facebook candidate accounts

A geology professor from DeKalb and an insurance agent from Sycamore plan to run for the Illinois 70th District House seat.

Tuesday night, Democrat Paul Stoddard announced his intention to run for the office currently held by Republican Bob Pritchard, who is not running for re-election. Stoddard is retiring soon from Northern Illinois University and has been a DeKalb County Board member for 10 years.

courtesy Bob Pritchard / Facebook

About a dozen Illinois lawmakers have announced they are quitting or not running for re-election. That includes Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, State Sen. Tim Bivins of Dixon, and State Rep. Bob Pritchard, who has represented the DeKalb area for 14 years. For this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Susan Stephens caught up with Pritchard while he was doing what he calls the best part of his job: hanging around with his constituents.

WNIJ

DeKalb and Rochelle may be in the running for a massive new auto manufacturing plant. Toyota and Mazda announced they are teaming up to build a $1.5 billion factory in the U.S. but didn’t specify the site.

State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, says he knows state and local economic-development officials are working on a code-named project that meets the same specifications of the Toyota/Mazda plan. 

Demmer says he’s not surprised that DeKalb and Rochelle are contenders. He said both of the cities within his legislative district have what a manufacturer of that size needs.

The Winnebago County State’s Attorney announced Thursday that a Rockford police officer took the right action when he shot a woman in a parking lot last spring.

On April 8, 2017, Rockford patrol officer Ben Schuster fired 6 shots at Eboney Adams, hitting her once in the arm. She had been accused of shoplifting at Dick’s Sporting Goods on East State Street. When Schuster confronted her in her car, she backed up, hitting him with her car door. Schuster said it appeared she was maneuvering to hit him again, so he shot her. Both survived.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

19,000 visitors are expected to swoop into the Rockford area, starting this weekend. Four major national conventions and events are underway.

Most of them are attending the annual convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses over the next three weekends at the BMO Harris Bank Center. But thousands of trappers also are expected at the Winnebago County Fairgrounds: It’s the 58th annual National Trappers Association convention, congregating in the region for the first time.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

A border wall, ICE raids, detention centers, and street protests – immigration has been one of the hottest political issues over the past year. But how much do you know about the process that made America “a nation of immigrants?” On this Week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Susan Stephens sat down with immigration attorney Sara Dady, who’s with the Rockford law firm Dady and Hoffmann.

Heather Holm

When you think of bees, you picture honey bees, or maybe a fat bumblebee, dipping into flowers in a garden. But did you know there are more than 450 types of bees in Illinois alone? And the Rusty Patched Bumblebee, added this year to the Endangered Species List, isn’t the only pollinator in need of help.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

One man’s prairie is another man’s patch of weeds. That’s the debate that is unfolding in DeKalb over a proposed rewrite of the city’s “weeds ordinance.”

About 20 people spoke out about native plants, property rights, and good neighbors at Thursday’s hearing of DeKalb’s Citizens Environmental Commission.

Paul Soderholm of Mt. Morris spoke about his own nature preserve in neighboring Ogle County and the benefits of native plants. He said they “support native insects, support native birds.”

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