Stories by Alexandra Silets

Supreme Court’s New Session

The Supreme Court’s new term started the first Monday in October. The court docket includes hot-button cases on political campaign contributions, abortion rights, free speech, affirmative action, public prayer and presidential power. We hear from three former Supreme Court clerks about the issues before the court and how cases are chosen.

Relieving Court Delays

After appealing to the Supreme Court for help, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle hopes the system is one step closer to resolving the massive backlog of Cook County criminal cases resulting in some inmates waiting years for their cases to be adjudicated. Carol Marin and her guests take a closer look at the effort to improve criminal courts operations. Read letters from President Preckwinkle and Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Kilbride.

Impending Government Shutdown Analysis

The clock is ticking down on a midnight deadline for a government shutdown. What would a shutdown mean for the country and can it be avoided with a delayed implementation of ObamaCare? Carol Marin and her guests have analysis.

Study: Modernizing Chicago Water Mains May Raise Lead Levels

The Environmental Protection Agency sampled a small number of Chicago homes and found higher levels of lead where water pipes were disturbed by street work and plumbing repairs. We have analysis. Read the EPA study.

Blair Kamin on DePaul Arena & IL Capitol Renovation

The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority approved the design of the DePaul University basketball arena today. We talk with Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Blair Kamin about the $173 million project, as well as his take on the controversial $51 million Illinois Capitol renovation project in Springfield. View a slideshow.

Housing Recovery Continues

Chicago and Cook County home prices are up nearly 12 percent in the second quarter of 2013. We get the latest on the housing recovery from Geoff Smith, the Executive Director of the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University, and Loretta Alonzo, the 2012 president of the Illinois Association of Realtors.

CTA on Ventra Glitch, Third Rail, & BRT

We hear the latest on the big rollout of the CTA’s new Ventra card fare payment system, the status of the CTA’s Ashland Avenue Bus Rapid Transit proposal, and the CTA’s push to keep riders away from the dangerous third rail and oncoming trains.

Fall Gardening Tips

With the temperature dropping, it’s time to take care of your garden and do some fall planting. Chicago Botanic Garden’s Eliza Fournier has some great tips about dividing perennials, taking care of your lawn, and finding the right plants for your fall containers. Read fall gardening tips.


With two weeks to go before the October launch of the online health insurance marketplace, confusion abounds over the realities of ObamaCare. Julie Hamos, director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and Cristal Thomas, Deputy Governor for Public Policy, explain the new health care law and the state's insurance marketplace exchange.

Riverbank Restoration

North Side residents are battling a plan to clear-cut 14 acres of trees along the Chicago River from Irving Park Road to Montrose Avenue. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Chicago Park District say the Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration plan will restore the riverbank by Horner Park. But opponents want the native old-growth trees left alone for the $6.5 million project.

Children's Gender Clinic

We revisit a story about two families and the medical director at a burgeoning new clinic for kids questioning their gender at Lurie Children's Hospital. Read an article and watch a web extra video.

State Legislative Term Limits in Illinois

Term limits on Illinois legislators are back in the news. Polls show a majority of voters favor term limits. But will they alleviate the gridlock in Springfield, bring new blood and fresh ideas to state government, and reduce the power of lobbyists and entrenched staffers? And what is the likelihood such reform could be adopted in Illinois? We take a closer look.

Syrian Conflict

The U.S. and its allies are gearing up for a military response against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of large-scale chemical weapons against his own people in Syria’s ongoing civil war. We take a closer look at the escalating tensions.

CPS Students Begin New School Year

We take a closer look at the new-look Chicago Public Schools with Andrea Zopp, a Chicago Board of Education member who voted to shutter 49 schools, the former interim CPS CEO Terry Mazany, as well as Wendy Katten of Raise Your Hand, and Jitu Brown of Journey for Justice.

RTA Overhaul

In light of the recent Metra scandal, Gov. Pat Quinn is looking to appoint a panel of experts to suggest a “fundamental overhaul” of both Metra and the Regional Transportation Authority. Will the task force recommend streamlining the oversight of public transportation? And is it a good idea to completely revamp Metra, Pace, CTA and the RTA? We have analysis.

Lake Shore Drive Redesign

Are you sick of traffic jams and lakefront path congestion on the 7-mile stretch on the north end of Lake Shore Drive? An overhaul of the Drive from Grand Avenue all the way to the end at the Hollywood curve is in the planning phase. Some ideas include reducing driving speeds, easing the Oak Street curve, adding bus-only lanes, relieving traffic pinch points, and improving lakefront access and easing overcrowding on the lakefront path. We have analysis.

Fire Sprinkler Requirements

There’s a battle raging over the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s plan to require all residential and business buildings taller than four stories to be retrofitted with sprinkler systems costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Churches, restaurants, and any building used for gatherings of 50 or more people would also be required to add sprinklers. Opponents say the expense outweighs the fire safety benefits. Eddie Arruza and his guests analyze both sides.

CPS Announces More Layoffs

The Chicago Public Schools have announced more layoffs. This round cuts more than 2,100 people, including 1,036 teachers -- half of whom are tenured. This reduction follows the June announcement of 855 layoffs. Eddie Arruza and his guests examine the latest round of cuts, and how it will impact students and the system’s $1 billion budget deficit. Read the CPS fact sheet.

Controversy Arises Over Plan for Evanston Lakefront Hotel

There’s a battle brewing in Evanston over the proposed sale of the city-owned Harley Clarke Mansion and surrounding lakefront park land to Hyatt hotel heir, Colonel James Pritzker. He wants to convert the property into a high-end boutique hotel. We have the latest on the controversy. Read minutes from closed door meetings about the sale.

IG Says City Stonewalling Garbage Audit

Inspector General Joe Ferguson joins us to talk about his latest audit battle with City Hall. Mayor Rahm Emanuel claims his new grid-based garbage collection system saved Chicago $18 million, but Ferguson, who wants to verify those numbers, says he is being stonewalled and told to reapply for his job. Watch web extra video and read the IG's audit report.

Protesters Demand Removal of Egypt's President

Unrest is sparking fears of a second revolution in Egypt. Thousands have taken to the streets pushing for the ouster of Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, who has been in office for a year. But a defiant President Morsi is rejecting the opposition’s call for an early special election. We have the latest on the turmoil in Egypt that has killed at least 16 people and injured more than 600 over the past few days.

Summer Gardening with Eliza Fournier

Are some of the plants in your garden already dying? Or are the top-heavy plants face down in the mud? The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Eliza Fournier joins us. Read her summer gardening tips.

Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in a 5-4 ruling. The 1996 law blocked federal recognition of same-sex marriages. In a separate case, the court ruled that it could not take up a challenge to Proposition 8, the California law banning gay marriage. Read the full opinions.

The Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Ruling

The Supreme Court punts a case on affirmative action in college admissions back down to the lower court. Read the decision.

Stock Market Slide

Markets react negatively to Chairman Ben Bernanke’s remarks that the Federal Reserve may taper bond buying in the next year. We take a closer look at the fluctuation in the stock and bond markets, the state of the economic stimulus and recovery, as well as Bernanke’s future.