From Budget Impasse To Pop Tax: Illinois’ Biggest Political Stories In 2017 | WBEZ
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Morning Shift

From Budget Impasse To Pop Tax: Illinois’ Biggest Political Stories In 2017

A ton of action went down in the local political arena this year, and it could have some far-reaching consequences for the state. To recap it all, Morning Shift turned to some of the best political reporters in town: Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington, Chicago Tonight reporter Paris Schutz, and WBEZ senior political editor Alex Keefe

We asked them what were this year’s biggest stories, what were the most underreported, and who were the winners and losers. Below are some highlights. 

1. Biggest stories

J.B. Pritzker, right, one of the world's richest people, is among several Democrats trying to defeat multimillionaire Gov. Bruce Rauner, left. (Rauner: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast Pritzker: Courtesy of the candidate)

Money in politics

Sun-Times’ Laura Washington: There’s been almost $100 million spent or donated between the two richest gubernatorial candidates in the 2018 Illinois governor’s race — Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker. … Every politician says they want campaign finance reform, but when they run it’s got to wait.

The state budget impasse

WBEZ’s Alex Keefe: To not have a budget for more than two years is a gigantic thing. I think this is something we’re going to be feeling the effects of for a long time. 

Trump vs. Chicago

WTTW’s Paris Schutz: You’ve got Trump constantly mentioning Chicago violence and using it as a political cudgel. You have the sanctuary city fight where the Department of Justice is trying to hold up $3.8 million in grant money because they want Mayor Rahm Emanuel to follow federal immigration laws and act as immigration agents. … But also, the travel ban.

2. Most underreported stories

A crime-victims advocate told an Illinois House committee on Oct. 31, 2017 that sexual harassment from Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein, left, D-Chicago,  caused her such mental anguish she dropped 20 pounds and lost her hair. On the right, a statue of a Union Army soldier stands guard over a 210-acre campus of the Illinois Veterans Home about five hours southwest of Chicago, where 13 residents have died of Legionnaires' disease since 2015. (Silverstein: AP Photo/Seth Perlman, Veterans Home: WBEZ/Andrew Gill)

Sexual harassment in Illinois government

Washington: I just can’t believe that there’s really only one major instance to come out of government in the entire state of Illinois. … Where are the other bad guys in this picture? I think that there’s some more shoes to drop.

Deaths of WWII veterans from Legionnaires’ disease in Quincy, Illinois

Keefe: I think this is something that’s been getting a lot of attention recently — it’s certainly getting a lot of attention in the campaign season because everything is politicized in this campaign season — but it’s raised serious questions about who knew what, when in the Rauner administration, and what the state can do to fix a problem that is admittedly very, very difficult to fix. 

3. Biggest losers

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, left, was a vocal supporter of the now-defunct Cook County soda tax. Forrest Claypool, right,  
    was ousted as CEO of Chicago Public Schools after the school system’s inspector general released a highly-critical report accusing Claypool of a cover-up. (Preckwinkle: AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, Claypool: WBEZ/Andrew Gill)

Former CPS CEO Forrest Claypool

Schutz: If you were to listen to the mayor at the press conference where Forrest announced his resignation, it was a like a great celebration of a job well done. But this was a self-inflicted wound.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle

Washington: A year ago, Toni Preckwinkle was arguably the most popular politician certainly in Cook County if not in Illinois. And her credibility has really been hurt on the soda tax.

Abusive men in power

Schutz: Rightfully so, I think this industry and other industries are being purged of these men that don’t deserve their perches — and have abused the perches that they’ve had — and infected the careers and lives of so many women.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. It was adapted for the web by producer Justin Bull. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation.

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