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Politics and government


Here are articles about municipal and state government in Illinois, including the General Assembly, state agencies and state workers, history and issues of the day, and enduring controversies as published mainly in Illinois Issues and Illinois Times.  Because the distinction between politics and government is a fine one at times, I list pieces on both topics here. 


I grew up in the capital city because my father, from a family of Democrats, got a patronage job as a page at the Illinois State Library when he got back from the war in 1946, when Democrat Eddie Barrett ran the Secretary of  State's office.


A journalist who grows up in a government town is doomed to take up government as a topic at least occasionally. Before I wrote about "the state," I wrote for the state as a contract writer and editor. I took on dozens of projects on a contract basis for the agencies responsible for public health, for education, for energy, and for the environment. The results of a few of the more interesting projects are included in this archives and are listed according to their subject matter. The work paid the bills, but more importantly it gave me an education in how both government and Illinois work. 


I was fortunate. While I stumbling toward a career as a journalist, there debuted in the capital a new magazine that took government seriously in ways that the daily newspaper could not (for space) or would not (out of consideration for the tastes of the reading public). That magazine was Illinois Issues. Meanwhile the weekly Illinois Times offered me a forum for pieces of a different character on the same topics. 

Looking back, I am reminded that my very first efforts in serious journalism addressed public issues. It's what I've written about most often, and while I won't say that politics and government is the subject area I know best, I concede that it is probably the area I know most. 

Interested readers also should know that I devoted a chapter in my history of mid-Illinois—"Jiggery-pokery"—to politics as it affected that part of the state; see Corn Kings & One-Horse Thieves. You can find more articles about politics and government on the Chicagoland and Chicagoland history pages.

Note: I broke down this long list into several subcategories to make browsing easier.  

Click on the title for the full article.

To leave an article and return to this page, click on

your browser's back button or on "Politics

and government" in the topics menu 

Body Counts

Why the State of Illinois is a lousy surrogate parent

"Prejudices" Illinois Times  January 9, 1981

Illinois: The Land of Ethanol

On converting Illinois corn to motor fuel

Illinois Issues January 1981

Farmers' Welfare

The ill effects of federal ag subsidies

Illinois Issues  November 2001

Mined Land Reclamation: Ends and Means

Healing damaged farmland in Illinois, Part 1

Illinois Issues  December 1984

In Defense of the Politician

Illinois doesn't need fewer deal-makers, it needs better ones

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  June 6, 2013

Certain-kind-of-family Guy

Kirk Dillard mixes his messages about family

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  June 13, 2013

Remembering Harold
The career of Chicago's first black mayor

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  December 3, 1992

Nurture and Support

Devising a decent family policy for Illinois

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  March 10, 1994

Decent People

Is Illinois an accessory to child murder?

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  November 9, 1993

The Significance of Wanda 

How one woman’s mistake may have doomed ERA

The Weekly (Champaign-Urbana)  June 19, 1981

Dealing with the Dead

Balancing respect and learning at Dickson Mounds

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  [?],1999

Chicago's Women Take Charge of Change

Another female new dawn breaks in Illinois

Chicago Enterprise  May 1992


When a state runs its landmarks on the cheap

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  April 2, 1992

Who's Afraid of Paula Wolff?
The U of I Chicago plays find the leader

Reader  May 17, 1991

Moment of Frivolity?

Religion sneaks into Illinois schools by the back door

Illinois Issues  February 2008

Deja Vu

Thirty years of energy policy in Illinois

Illinois Issues  October 2006

Searching for Leadership
Garry Wills' Certain Trumpets

lllinois Issues  January 1995

Coming or Going

Reinventing Illinois passenger rail

Illinois Issues  October 2005

The Advent of Unstate Illinois

Demographics threaten to undo Illinois

Chicago Enterprise  December 1990

How Mass Transit Can Serve the Masses

Chicago thinks new thoughts about the CTA

Chicago Enterprise  January 1992

Influence Peddlers

Interest groups as Illinois’s fourth branch of government

Illinois Issues November 1997

Revenue & taxation

Charity Cases

Shouldn’t profit-seeking nonprofits pay property taxes?

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  November 6, 2014

Taxing Issues

Gov. Edgar tries to make taxes fairer, confuses people

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  January 24, 1991

The Science of Budgeting

The State of Illinois flunks its science test 

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 20, 1992

A Penny's Worth of Wisdom

The state's sums fail to add up—again

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 16, 1992

A Problem of Scale

The interests of a City and a city often are at odds

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  February 25, 1977

Illinois’s Budget Is Broken 
Embracing the simple at the expense of the wise 
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  November 25, 2009

Wanna Bet?

Illinois's addiction to gambling
Illinois Issues  May 1997

Taxing Work

Might a graduated income tax fix a broken revenue system?

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  July 11, 2013

Energy-efficient Buildings

Should intelligent selfishness be mandatory?

Illinois Issues  June 1981

The Paul Findley Questionnaire

A Congressman makes his own public opinion

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 4, 1980

More Harm Than Good

Illinois tries to make itself safe from kids and vice versa

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  Undated

A Park that Needs Protection from People

Springfield’s Carpenter Park under threat

Illinois Times  September 15, 1978

“People, Not Pontiacs!”

Planning for a courts complex that won’t be built

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  October 8, 1981

Tales of Adlai

Books about Illinois’s nearly President

Illinois Times  April 8, 1976

Rodney Davis Warns of Disaster

The congressman confronts complexity, and gets confused

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times   October 3, 2013

Adam’s Off Ox

Can governors change history?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times October 16, 2014

 Shotgun Weddings

The state can’t be both pro-family and anti-father

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  June 7, 1993

Something About a Man in Uniform
Rep. Mark Kirk suffers a self-inflicted battle wound
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  June 17, 2010 

Earning One's Keep

Making the poor deserving

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  September 9, 1993

Burn the Television

Flag-burning excites Illinois pols

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  June 28, 1990

Closing Doors

Illinois institutions try to keep the heat in

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  January 12, 1984

Squaring Accounts

Is killing killers killing?

Illinois Issues  April 1999

The Extinguished Senator
Are good Illinoisans wasted in the Senate?

Illinois Issues  September 1995

All for One

Filling the gaps between city hall and statehouse

Illinois Issues  July-August 1998

Vachel’s House

A house, a poet, a parody in 1,000 words

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 22, 1990

Hard Times

Big Jim Thompson lives large at our expense

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  November 19, 1981

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love LaRouche

Lunatics hijack a major party primary. Sound familiar?

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  April 3, 1986

“A Little More Dirt in Your Lungs”

An Illinois governor preaches pollution

Illinois Times  August 3, 1979

Class Act

Social  class and public office in Springfield

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  October 1, 1987

The Battles Over the Ground and Behind the Doors

Healing damaged farmland in Illinois, Part 2

Illinois Issues  January 1985

Dim Reflections
Few Illinois governors write memoirs worth reading
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  November 11, 2010

Giving Immortality to Their Littleness

Gov. Thomas Ford’s diagnosis of Illinois politics

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  March 4, 2010

The Statehouse Gang

High public officials stoop low to raise their pay

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  December 8, 1978

The Process

Lobbyists learn how to make sausage

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 20, 1986

Sky Kings

Getting the wrong things right at Springfield's airport

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  August 19, 1982

Nine Out of Ten

The Catholic ascendancy in capital city politics

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  February 23, 1979


Alan J. Dixon, hero of card-carrying card carriers

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  August 1, 1980

The Unstate of Illinois

Population tectonics threaten political upheaval

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 27, 1990

Truer Countryside

Whence Illinois’s wide empty spaces?

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  April 19, 1990

“Your Money’s No Good Here”

A small town protects itself against an atheist plot

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times January 9, 2014

Why Not Rugs?

Finding room for God in the statehouse

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 25, 1985

Making America Toxic Again

Some Illinois politicians want to bring back coal

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times December 8, 2016

A Stiller Quietude

When the statehouse sleeps, Springfield snores

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  April 9, 1981

Unionizing Moms and Dads

The settling of the Harris case settles nothing

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times July 10, 2014

Pumping Out Iowa

Cities don’t make floods but they make them worse.

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times July 21, 1993

The Price of Doing Business

When a man's home is his office

Wednesday Journal  July 15, 1992

Corruption and reform

Bad Government Is a Cultural Defect

The sociology of the Illinois Way

"Forum"  Illinois Times  April 1, 1976

Government For Sale

Corruption as multiculturalism

Illinois Issues  February 1998 

It's Springfield's Fault

Does geography explain corrupt statehouse politics?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times August 30, 2012

Buying Justice

The best judges that money can buy?

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July, 1982

Life in the Big House    
Few Illinois governors seem at home at the Executive Mansion
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  September 24, 2009    

Marrying for Money

How might struggling toy towns like Jerome survive?

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times February 9, 2017

Illinois’s Imelda
Blago proves better at buying than selling out
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  July 15. 2010

Slower Than a Speeding Bullet
Nearly high speed rail moves down the track
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  August 5, 2010

Pollution Paradigms

A new approach to environmental protection

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  August 27, 1992

He Dared to Speak Out
Congressman Paul Findley dies
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  December 26, 2019

Making Noises in Civic Class
Splitting Cook County from Illinois is an old bad idea 
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  ​December 15, 2011

A Forward Thinker From Yesteryear

An appreciation of Gov. Thomas Ford

Illinois Issues  February 2010

Rearranging the Desks

The CEC pushes government into the 20th century

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  April 17, 2014

Lincoln’s Union Problem

Is the U.S. a nation-state or a nation of states?

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times August 20, 2015  

Transportation and the Government's Uneven Hand

State intervention in the transportation marketplace

Illinois Issues  October 1981


When "justice" means a fairer distribution of spoils  

“Prejudices” Illinois Times  January 29, 1987

Empty Chairs

Why so little public interest in serving the public interest?

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  April 4, 2013


The management of risk

Illinois Issues  July 1986


The politics of risk

Illinois Issues  May [?] 1986

Relative Chaos

Illinois wonders, “Who gets the kids?”

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  May 20, 1993

Big Guy, Big Personality, Big Flaws

Former governor James Thompson dies

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  August 27, 2020

Criminal Injustice
The soft case for hard time for Bill Cellini
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  August 02, 2012

Some Books About Illinois Government

The people turn silk purses into sow's ears

See Illinois (unpublished)  2008


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To leave an article and return to this page, click on

your browser's back button or on "Politics

and government" in the topics menu 




John Hallwas

Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Lee Sandlin Author

One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.

Chicago Architecture Center

See Home Page/Learn/

Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago


The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.

Illinois Great Places

The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our  shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.

McLean County Museum

of History

A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.

Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois


Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."

Illinois Digital Archives


Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards,  posters, and videos.

The Illinois State Museum


The people's museum is a treasure house of science and the arts. A research institution of national reputation, the museum maintains four facilities across the state. Their collections in anthropology, fine and decorative arts, botany, zoology, geology, and  history are described here. A few museum publications can be obtained here.

Chronicling Illinois

“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.


I will leave it to the authors of this interesting site to describe it. "Chicagology is a study of Chicago history with a focus on the period prior to the Second World War. The purpose of the site is to document common and not so common stories about the City of Chicago as they are discovered." 

Illinois Labor History Society

The Illinois Labor History Society seeks to encourage the preservation and study of labor history materials of the Illinois region, and to arouse public interest in the profound significance of the past to the present. Offers books reviews, podcasts, research guides, and the like. 

Illinois Migration History 1850-2017

The University of Washington’s America’s Great Migrations Project has compiled migration histories  (mostly from the published and unpublished work by UW Professor of History James Gregory) for several states, including Illinois. The site also includes maps and charts and essays about the Great Migration of African Americans to the north, in which Illinois figured importantly. 

History on the Fox

An interesting resource about the history of one of Illinois’s more interesting places, the Fox Valley of Kendall County. History on the Fox is the work of Roger Matile, an amateur historian of the best sort. Matile’s site is a couple of cuts above the typical buff’s blog. (An entry on the French attempt to cash in on the trade in bison pelts runs more than

2,000 words.)




Southern Illinois University Press 2017

A work of solid history, entertainingly told.

Michael Burlingame,

author of Abraham 

Lincoln: A Life 

One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.

Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018

A lively and engaging study . . .  an enthralling narrative.

James Edstrom

The Annals of Iowa

A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians

as well as local historians generally.

John Hoffman

Journal of Illinois HIstory

A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.

Harold Henderson 

Midwestern Microhistory

A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.

Greg Hall

Journal of the Illinois

State Historical Society

Click  here 

to read about

the book 

Click  here 

to buy the book 


Southern Illinois University Press

SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.

University of

Illinois Press

The U of I Press was founded in 1918. A search of the online catalog  (Books/Browse by subject/Illinois) will reveal more than 150 Illinois titles, books on history mostly but also butteflies, nature , painting, poetry and fiction, and more.  Of particular note are its Prairie State Books,  quality new paperback editions of worthy titles about all parts of Illinois, augmented with scholarly introductions.

University of

Chicago Press

The U of C publishing operation is the oldest (1891) and largest university press in Illinois. Its reach is international, but it has not neglected its own neighborhood. Any good Illinois library will include dozens of titles about Chicago and Illinois from Fort Dearborn to

Vivian Maier.

Northern Illinois University Press

The newest (1965) and the smallest of the university presses with an interest in Illinois, Northern Illinois University Press gave us important titles such as the standard one-volume history of the state (Biles' Illinois:
A History of the Land and Its People) and contributions to the history of Chicago, Illinois transportation, and the Civil War. Now an imprint of Cornell University Press.


Reviews and significant mentions by James Krohe Jr. of more than 50 Illinois books, arranged in alphabetical order

by book title. 


Illinois Center for the Book

Run by the Illinois State Library, The Center promotes reading, writing and author programs meant to honor the state's rich literary heritage. An affiliate of the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, the site offers award competitions, a directory of Illinois authors, literary landmarks, and reading programs.

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