WNIJ Friday Forum

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.

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

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.

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.

WNIJ continues to review important races in the upcoming Illinois Primary Election on March 20.  In this Friday Forum, we take a look at both the 14th Illinois Congressional District, where there is a primary competition, and the 17th District, where there isn’t.

Susan Stephens/WNIJ

Sexual harassment and assault allegations against high-profile entertainment and news executives have surged over the past few months. They spurred the “#MeToo” movement, in which people took to social media to disclose their own stories as victims. The campaign sparked questions of how sexual harassment in the workplace is handled.

In this week Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jessie Schlacks examines the prevalence of sexual harassment on a smaller scale – and how local officials are working to amend their own policies.

pixabay.com

One of the primary ways that local governments get revenue is through property taxes. The amount of each property tax bill is determined by what various government entities need and the value of each home or business to be taxed. In this week’s Friday Forum, we look at how that value is determined and what you can do if you think they’re asking for too much.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

A very important election issue isn’t on the ballot. It involves finding enough judges or inspectors to make sure election days run smoothly. In this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Katie Finlon looks at the efforts involved in filling those seats.

County and municipal officials already are starting to recruit election judges (the Illinois title) or inspectors  (the Wisconsin term) for next year’s election cycle. Some say it can be difficult to fill those necessary roles in all of their precincts.

USDA

The USDA has designated large swaths of DeKalb County as food deserts — areas that have a significant number of low-income households that also lack easy access to supermarkets. A relatively high number of households without vehicles are located more than half a mile from a supermarket.

The Feeding America Network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries nationwide reports that more than 13 percent of DeKalb County residents are food insecure. That’s nearly 14,000 people.

WNIJ

The issue of human trafficking in northern Illinois is gaining interest among activist groups. They say Rockford ranks second in the state for cases of sexual exploitation. On this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jessie Schlacks takes a closer look at this “underground business.”

The industry can be so discrete that people don’t even realize they’re being trafficked.

“One day at the pool they saw me there and my vulnerability,” recalls Katariina Rosenblatt. “They recruited me into what I call ‘false friendship.’ That was the beginning of the grooming process.”

USDA Agricultural Research Service

Hunting is an activity that crosses state lines, with hunters looking for the best spots for game, and game not even having a concept of political boundaries. But a disease is infecting deer herds in both Illinois and Wisconsin, and it could pose a threat to hunters. 

Chronic Wasting Disease is a malady that’s existed among deer in the region for more than a decade. It was first detected in southern Wisconsin around 2002. Since then, infected herds have spread to at least 19 counties.

Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

The promise of a new public-school funding formula for Illinois was that no districts would lose money. So many said they were blindsided when the state announced a big cut in another revenue source tapped by schools. For some, it’s a significant part of their budget. This week’s Friday Forum looks at what’s going on.

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.

Jessi LaRue

When it comes to innovation, we remember the name that came out on top – no matter how good the “other” product was.

Cyrus McCormick gained fame for his wheat reaper, but few people remember John Manny.

When it comes to barbed wire, the name of Joseph Glidden springs to mind, along with his partner Isaac Ellwood. But not as many people are aware of the significance of Jacob Haish in the industry.

Carl Nelson

She's not sure how long she'll be in the office, but NIU Acting President Lisa Freeman says there's plenty to accomplish. Among her priorities are providing employee raises and zeroing in on the latest student recruiting tactics.

To-do list for temporary role

Flickr User Democracy Chronicles/CC 2.0

Conflict of interest is a hot topic of discussion in modern politics, particularly with the rise of big money and hyper-partisanship. But it’s usually brought up in the context of the legislature and executive branches. However, the judiciary has its own complications.

At the national level, the Supreme Court was intended to be a more moderating influence. These justices are appointed for life and don’t have to face the pressure of running for a new term.

Guy Stephens / WNIJ

The Winnebago County Board Chairman is trying to decide if merging the County Clerk and Recorder offices is a good idea.  Many counties in Illinois already combine the two. Others are moving in that direction.  So what’s going on?

The office of County Clerk administers elections and vital records like birth certificates, marriage and business licenses.  The County Recorder of Deeds administers a library of land records and real-estate transactions, including information needed for deed and title searches such as tax liens and mortgages.

Jenna Dooley

On today’s Friday Forum, we talk with two northern Illinois superintendents about their goals for the coming year. We’ll also hear how they feel about the uncertainty in school funding from the state of Illinois.

Freeport Superintendent Mike Schiffman's goal for the new year is to better align his district's schools, both in philosophy and curriculum. He's hoping to accomplish this through increased contact with students and parents.

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.

Jenna Dooley

Sewage treatment plants clean what comes down northern Illinois pipes under strict regulation from the Illinois EPA. But, as regulatory standards rise, plants in cities like DeKalb are forming “reclamation districts” to help spread out the cost of mandatory upgrades among small communities.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The Centers for Disease Control says the number of prescription opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. more than quadrupled since 1999. One Rockford pharmacist says reducing the number of prescriptions – both new and unused – may help reduce the recreational use of those prescriptions, but it may not help people who actually need the medications.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

For some kids, summer means packing your shorts and bug spray and heading off to camp. For some local teachers, camp means early morning lectures and late night discussions about race, gender, and privilege. At least it did last week at Northern Illinois University. WNIJ’s Susan Stephens stopped by Social Justice Summer Camp for this week’s Friday Forum.

City of Dixon

In 2012, Dixon officials discovered that city comptroller Rita Crundwell had embezzled more than $53 million over the course of two decades. The insularity afforded by her position played a large part in spurring residents to vote to shift Dixon toward a council-manager form of government.  This involves converting commissioners to council members and appointing a city manager to oversee day-to-day work. The City of Freeport adopted this model earlier this year, hired a city manager, and eliminated its water and sewer departments.

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

When Jim Gitz steps down as Freeport mayor next week, it will mark the end of an era. Voters approved moving to a city manager system of government last November.

Freeport joins scores of cities in the state, including DeKalb and Woodstock, where day-to-day operations are run by a professional administrator.  The move means Gitz was the city’s last full-time mayor.

Pres. Donald Trump has been in office for 100 days -- and one week. He promised to shake things up in Washington. How do his policies and actions at the top trickle down to local political organizations? We asked a couple of local party leaders for this week’s Friday Forum.

           

Paul Stoddard chairs the DeKalb County Democratic Party and Jim Thompson is Winnebago County’s Republican Party chairman.

 

Jerry Smith was elected Mayor of DeKalb earlier this month and takes office May 8.  He discusses his plans for the city in this week's Friday Forum.

Three candidates challenged incumbent John Rey in DeKalb’s mayoral race this spring: Smith, Misty Haji-Sheikh, and Michael Embrey. Although Smith originally hails from Dixon, he was motivated to run by his deep connections to DeKalb.

“I’ve been here now for 56 years, after having come as a student at Northern Illinois in 1961," he said, "and I felt this was a way I could give back to this community.”

Falling credit ratings for Illinois institutions of higher learning are a trickle-down effect from the Illinois budget impasse that has lasted nearly two years. The state as a whole has found itself under constant scrutiny by the credit-rating agencies.

tammyduckworth.com

Tammy Duckworth is glad to be back working for the entire population of Illinois.

She has just completed her first three months as a U.S. Senator, following her defeat of Republican incumbent Mark Kirk last November.

Duckworth spent three years as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs before moving to Washington D.C. as Assistant Secretary for Veterans Affairs under President Obama. She returned to Illinois in late 2011 and won the Illinois 8th District U.S. House seat the following year.

County governments are responsible for building regional police stations and jails.   But when those buildings get too old, there may be obstacles to getting them replaced.

Back in the 1960s, Ogle County built its current jail. About 10 years later, Lee County followed suit.  These buildings have served their purpose, but Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle says keeping the facility running has become increasingly difficult.

Election cycles always mean a turnover in county officials. Some of these new public servants may see this as a clean slate, but many have to deal with issues from a previous administration. 

The new LaSalle County State's Attorney campaigned against and eventually shut down a program established by the person she defeated for the job. 

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