Charles N. Wheeler III | WGLT

Charles N. Wheeler III

The director of the Public Affairs Reporting (PAR) graduate program is Professor Charles N. Wheeler III,  a veteran newsman who came to the University of Illinois at Springfield following a 24-year career at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Wheeler covered state government and politics for the Sun-Times since 1970, when he covered the Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention. For the last 19 years of his Sun-Times tenure, Wheeler was assigned to the newspaper’s Statehouse bureau. During that time, he was elected to 16 consecutive one-year terms as president of the Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association and served for many years on the PAR program and admissions committees.

Since 1984, he has written a monthly column for Illinois Issues magazine, which has won five Capitolbeat awards for magazine commentary/analysis. In 2006, the Illinois Associated Press Editors Association inducted him into The Lincoln League of Journalists, which honors men and women who have provided exemplary service to other journalists and to daily newspapers published in Illinois. In 2013, he was chosen as the Journalist of the Year by the Journalism Department at Eastern Illinois University.  He is also a regular on the panel for State Week, WUIS' weekly political analysis program that airs on public radio stations across Illinois.

Before joining the Sun-Times in 1969, Wheeler served more than three years as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Panama. He is a graduate of St. Mary’s University, Winona, MN, majoring in English, and received a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Wheeler draws on the talents of many UIS faculty with expertise in such fields as public budgeting, political science, and communication, as well as professional journalists and state officials, to present students with a well-rounded program to bridge the academic and professional areas.

State Sen. Don Harmon is now president of the Illinois Senate. Meanwhile, state officials say more than 500 non-citizens were inadvertently registered to vote.

More fallout from the “rape in Champaign” email: Ag Director John Sullivan is out.

This week, WBEZ Chicago reported on a 2012 email in which then-lobbyist Mike McClain priased a former state worker for having “kept his mouth shut on ... the rape in Champaign,” among other things.

Marijuana sales began with more than $3 million in sales on New Year’s Day. Backers of the law, however, say that news ought to take a back seat to the more than 11,000 pardons for past pot convictions Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a day earlier.

It would be difficult to overstate how consequential the past year was in Illinois government and politics. This week on State Week, the panel looks back at some of the top stories of 2019.

Legal marijuana is coming January 1 — what will that look like in Illinois? Will there be enough supply to meet demand? And what will happen to the black market?

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx personally filed paperwork that led to vacating and expunging the marijuana convictions of more than 1,000 people.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot abruptly sacked CPD Chief Eddie Johnson this week, accusing the department veteran of lying to her over the details of an incident in which he was found slumped over the steering wheel of his government vehicle. Johnson denies wrongdoing.

For our Thanksgiving-week episode, we take a step back from the day-to-day workings of state government to go deep on the federal investigation swirling around one of Illinois' most powerful people.

This week ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune collaborated on a story that revealed the extent to which Illinois schools are using "seclusion rooms" — essentially solitary confinement — to handle children who cause trouble, mostly in special education classes.

As the fall veto session continues, the Stathouse has been rocked by a federal charge of bribery against Democratic state representative Luis Arroyo and his subsequent resignation.  Meanwhile, the end of the Chicago teachers’ strike is allowing Mayor Lori Lightfoot to focus more on her agenda for fixing the city’s budget problems.

WTTW Chicago Public Television's Amanda Vinicky joins the panel.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposed a budget this week. The city's path to greater financial health runs through Springfield, but will the General Assembly come through?

Chicago teachers on are on strike as freshman Mayor Lori Lightfoot makes some big requests of lawmakers in Springfield. Billionaire Gov. J.B. Pritzker releases summaries of his annual tax returs, and uses them to promote a graduated income tax for Illinois. And we take a closer look at the proposed asset consolidation for the hundreds of troubled downstate and surburban local police and fire pension funds.

There's more information about the federal investigation into state Sen. Martin Sandoval, we dig deep on why Illinois' population is declining, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker's approval rating is high despite negative attitudes about the state.

More details come out about FBI raids on the home and offices of state Sen. Martin Sandoval. The Legislative inspector general is out with two reports about sexual harassment under House Speaker Michael Madigan's watch. And Planned Parenthood has been secretly building a new facility in Illinois near St. Louis.

Federal agents raided the Capitol and district offices of state Sen. Martin Sandoval. The director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum was let go. And state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, one of the "marijuana moms" is to be named Illinois' first "cannabis czar."

A new report raises questions about the future profitability of casino gambling, one of the first people to say #MeToo in the context of Illinois politics is still looking for work, and the Illinois State Fair's claim of record revenue is not the whole story.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is once again under scrutiny, the Pritzker administration issues a budget warning, and Cook County judges reelect their leader.

Charlie Wheeler has been covering Illinois government for 50 years. As he retires from leading the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois Springfield, he reflects on the decline of the Statehouse press corps, the threat that poses to democracy, and the rays of hope in non-profit news.

Naperville government prohibits recreational sales of the drug in the community. Corruptions charges are formally dropped against former Congressman Aaron Schock. And a vocal conservative lawmaker says he won’t seek reelection.

As Democrats and Republicans gear up for next year’s election, the parties rallied in Springfield this week with events timed to the Illinois State Fair.

President Donald Trump once again dangles the possibility of a commutation for impeached and imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. 

Republicans are lining up to try to reclaim the seats won by freshmen U.S. Reps. Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood, there are fights over a suburban business emitting a cancer-causing chemical, the feds are inching up on the speaker, and more.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker canceled an upcoming performance by the band Confederate Railroad at the DuQuoin State Fair. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants Illinois to help Chicago with its ballooning pension payments, which are squeezing other priorities in the state budget.

Illinois is investing $29 million to try to get an accurate count in the 2020 Census. On the line are two seats in Congress and the Electoral College.

A long time ago, the tax was proposed by the GOP and opposed by Democrats. It became law, but it didn't last long.

While debating, candidates offered no concrete suggestions for addressing fiscal problems but possibilities exist.

In today's fevered political climate, is it possible to have a serious discussion about possible ways to address the fiscal problems Illinois faces?

Not very likely, if one judges by the first debate among incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and his three challengers, Democrat J.B. Pritzker, Conservative candidate/Republican Sen. Sam McCann, and Libertarian Grayson "Kash" Jackson.

A proposed amendment to the state’s constitution would protect money set aside for transportation projects. Supporters say the change is needed because money that's supposed to be earmarked for building roads has gone to other expenses over the years. But the amendment could allow some of those practices to continue, while endangering other popular programs. 

The most recent attempt at changing the way legislative districts are drawn might have had a shot — had only the proposal left the auditor general out of the equation.