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Stories by Alexandra Silets

Cook County Court Audit

The Illinois Supreme Court is appointing an administrator for the Circuit Court of Cook County to overhaul pretrial services and the adult probation department, and to reverse the backlog of inmates awaiting trial—some for years. Carol Marin and her guests have analysis. Read the full report and Chief Judge Timothy Evans' response.

GOP Treasurer Forum

Veteran politician Rep. Tom Cross faces DuPage County Auditor Bob Grogan in the GOP Primary for Illinois State Treasurer. The winner will face Democrat Mike Frerichs, who is running unopposed. Cross and Grogan join us. Read an article.

Illinois Lt. Governor Forum

For the first time in Illinois, the Lieutenant Governor candidates are running with a candidate for governor. We meet the four Republican candidates and hear their vision for their jobs, and for Illinois. Read an article and a recap of our live online chat.

"Great Cities, Great Lakes, Great Basin"

It’s the earth’s largest freshwater resource. But what will happen in the next 100 years to the Great Lakes and the Great Water Basin? We talk with Phil Enquist, an Urban Designer, about sustainability, strategies, and about urban design aimed at eliminating waste and to ensure fresh water for future generations. View a slideshow.

Overcrowding at Cook County Jail

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and Tom Dart have a new plan to ease the overcrowding at Cook County Jail. Carol Marin and her guests take a closer look at how they are trying to reverse the chronic problems with the Cook County criminal system, including the resentencing of violent offenders from boot camp to prison, as well as the results of a meeting between Chief Judge Tim Evans, Preckwinkle, Dart and the Illinois Supreme Court to reduce the massive criminal case backlog.

Is Pension Reform Deal Unconstitutional?

Now that Gov. Pat Quinn has signed the bill to fix Illinois' underfunded pension system, will it be found unconstitutional? Carol Marin and her panel of experts explore the issue.

Green Walgreens

Deerfield-based Walgreens opens its first totally green “Net-Zero Energy” store in Evanston. We take a tour and go behind the scenes to see what makes this an ultra environmentally friendly store, producing all of its own energy with solar panels and wind turbines. Watch web extra videos and view a slideshow.

Remembering JFK

John F. Kennedy's friend and FCC chair Newt Minow remembers his remarkable time with President Kennedy 50 years after the assassination.

ObamaCare Under Fire

The Affordable Care Act is under fire from both sides of the political aisle. President Obama apologized for the botched rollout and pledged to correct the problems. So can you keep your policy? And if things don’t improve, could lawmakers repeal ObamaCare?  Our panel has analysis

Park District Pension Reform

A pension reform bill for Chicago Park District employees awaits Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature. We hear how compromise was reached on the hot button issue. SEIU Local 73 President Christine Boardman joins us.

Razing Chicago

Boarded up homes; distressed neighborhoods -- Chicago is struggling to deal with the fallout of the foreclosure crisis on top of depopulation on the south and west sides. The city is tearing down abandoned properties that are magnets for crime. But what else can be done to reshape troubled areas? We talk with Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, who spearheaded the creation of the Cook County Land Bank, and Marshall Brown, an architect, urban planner and professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Tribune Investigation: City’s Debt Splurge

What does Chicago’s borrowing $9.8 billion over 13 years buy?  A Chicago Tribune investigation found it bought obsolete software, trash bins, flowers and dog waste bags—among other spending that’s driven up the city’s long-term debt.  We talk with the journalists who uncovered the unmonitored spending spree.

Jesse Jackson Jr. Reports to Prison—Again

Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is now officially in the custody of the Federal Prison Bureau. Yesterday, he tried to report early to the federal correctional facility in Butner, North Carolina, but was turned away. Elizabeth Brackett and her guests unravel what happened, and what the 48-year-old will face during his two-and-a-half year term.

Blair Kamin

Chicago Tribune Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Blair Kamin calls Jeanne Gang’s Chicago Park District Boathouse “stunning.”  He joins us to discuss the boathouse, as well as the new addition to the University of Chicago Laboratory School, and the latest on the demolition of Bertrand Goldberg’s historic Prentice Women’s Hospital.

Dominick’s Exits Chicago

Dominick’s parent company Safeway is completely pulling out of the Chicago market. Jewel-Osco has bought four stores, but the future of the 68 other grocery stores is uncertain. Our panel looks at what this means for food availability and the economic impact on the neighborhoods affected.

Debt Ceiling Raised, Government Back To Work

President Obama signed an 11th-hour deal averting a devastating debt default. But it’s a short-term deal that may result in another funding battle on January 15 and debt limit deadline February 7. What is the real economic impact of the shutdown? And what effects will it have on markets? We have analysis.

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.