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.

WNIJ continues to review important races in the upcoming Illinois Primary Election on March 20. So far, we’ve outlined the crowded races for Illinois Governor and Attorney General. On this week’s Friday Forum, we outline the rest of the statewide offices appearing on the ballot. They include Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Comptroller.

WNIJ continues to review important races in the upcoming Illinois Primary Election on March 20. Lisa Madigan has been the state’s attorney general for four terms and was elected as the first female to hold that office in the state’s history. She announced in the fall she would not seek re-election. On this week’s Friday Forum, we take a closer look at the crowded field vying to be the state's next top lawyer.

WNIJ continues to review important races in the upcoming Illinois Primary Election on March 20.  In this Friday Forum, we take a look at three Illinois Congressional Districts where only one of the Republican incumbents faces a primary challenge. Democrats have several hopefuls in the primary balloting in those districts.

Northern Illinois University Political Science Professor Scot Schraufnagel has noted before that incumbency has its advantages.

That may -- or may not -- be the case in the three Illinois Congressional districts we review today.

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.

WNIJ News continues its look at important primary election races in northern Illinois. In this Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Dan Klefstad talks with Northern Illinois University Prof. Scot Schraufnagel, chair of the Department of Political Science, about the contests in both parties in the 16th Illinois Congressional District, which covers about half of the WNIJ listening area.

In this Friday Forum, we begin a series of interviews about important Illinois Primary Election races. WNIJ’s Dan Klefstad talked with Northern Illinois University Prof. Scot Schraufnagel, chairman of the Political Science Department, about various statewide and Congressional races. This week, we start with the top of the ballot: the race for Illinois governor.

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

Whether it's Steve Jobs building a computer in his garage or Hector Boyardee cooking pasta at the Plaza Hotel, many American brands and businesses start from humble origins.  Current start-ups seek to replicate that success, but they don't do it alone.

In this Friday Forum, WNIJ's Chase Cavanaugh discusses the groups that help northern Illinois small businesses get started.

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.

Rockford voters will get a chance this spring to decide whether or not to return the city to “home rule” status. In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley explores the potential implications on the city and its residents.

What is "home rule" anyway, and why does it matter in 2018?

Bobbie Holzwarth is a co-chair for the effort to bring back home rule to Rockford. She gives this example:

A plan is underway in Rockford to enable people who didn't graduate from high school to earn their diploma, and more. It addresses a nationwide problem: how to bridge the gap between the needs of business and the skill set of the available pool of workers. In this Friday Forum, WNIJ's Guy Stephens has more about Goodwill's Excel Center. 

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.

 

Rockford Public Schools

Illinois public schools face a teacher shortage, and officials increasingly are turning to substitutes when full-time educators are unavailable. But what effects does this have on education, particularly when substitutes themselves are becoming harder to find? In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Chase Cavanaugh looks for some of the answers.

Susan Stephens/WNIJ

It was 1972.

The Vietnam War dragged on. A break-in at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., was the beginning of the end for President Richard Nixon. The Godfather and The Price Is Right debuted, as well as the video game Pong.

1972 was the last time a man walked on the moon. And Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment, sending it to the states for ratification.

Katie Finlon/WNIJ

The issue of gun ownership has returned to the forefront after mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music festival in October and in a Texas church last month. Most of the concerns revolve around restrictions on gun purchases and who can own what type of weapon.

Things could get a little murky from a legal standpoint if you happen to inherit a gun from a loved one. In This week’s Friday Forum, we look at the case of a Rockford woman who found herself in such a situation.

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

The City of DeKalb has begun a project to revitalize a troubled area of the city. In the past, “renewal” often meant “removal and replacement,” but not these days. WNIJ’s Guy Stephens looks at recent efforts toward neighborhood revitalization.

  Guy Stephens' report on neighborhood revitalization (Friday Forum, Dec. 1, 2017)

Through Our Eyes: Race, Culture, And Identity At NIU

Nov 24, 2017
Dana Vollmer

This semester, officials at Northern Illinois University contacted students about posters that had been hung around campus by a known hate group. This month, a DeKalb man was arrested and charged with a hate crime after accusations that he assaulted a Muslim woman in a popular grocery store frequented by NIU students.

flickr user / Michael Coghlan "Prison Bars" (CC BY-SA 2.0)

It’s been nearly two years since Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner formed the State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform to resolve prison over-population in Illinois. Rauner calls the plan “25 by 2025” – which aims to reduce prison populations by a quarter by the year 2025. On this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jessie Schlacks looks into northern Illinois efforts working toward this goal.

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.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Five DeKalb-area panelists took part in an Illinois Issues discussion earlier this week about the effects of the two-year Illinois budget impasse and the state’s financial future. That’s the subject of this week's WNIJ Friday Forum.

Illinois was without a state budget for two years. That ended in early July when lawmakers overrode Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto.  It was a huge relief to schools, social service agencies, and programs that rely on state funding. But celebrations were tempered by the reality of the state’s fiscal situation.

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.

Most Freedom of Information Act requests come from people outside of the journalism field.

"We get requests every single day from regular citizens who are interested just in knowing what the government is up to," according to Annum Haider, civic engagement coordinator with the Better Government Association. "They are trying to get more information to be more engaged."

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.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

About 20 Illinois lawmakers so far have announced they are leaving the state legislature. For some, it's effective immediately. For others, it means they will not run for re-election -- and the list keeps growing.

But is this kind of turnover normal in Springfield?

State Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, recently announced he will not run again this coming term. He served for more than a decade in the Illinois Senate after he retired from a 33-year career in law enforcement. So, Bivins says, he thought 11 years was long enough for him to serve as a state senator.

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.

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