Monday, February 04, 2008

Professor completes challenging book project

By Courtney Westlake

Though Dr. Kent Redfield is a seasoned author, he said he found his latest publishing project much more challenging that it may appear to be to others.

"It's really an enjoyable project, but it is a lot of work," said Redfield, a professor of political science at UIS. "It's always a huge organizational task to get everybody's materials in, to revise them, to try to get a common structure and also for people to tell the story in their own states. And then to write the chapter I wrote in it is a different task; that is an effort."

The book, called "Democratic Renewal: A Call to Action from America's Heartland," was just released this month and contains profiles on the issues involving democratic institutions in the five Midwest states of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota that are involved in the Joyce Foundation, which has a number of grantees in various states that work on democratic reform projects, Redfield said.

Redfield's essay in the book includes a discussion on what threats are present to American democracy in terms of lack of participation, lack of engagement, political corruption, election concerns and more. These are some things that cumulatively have an negative impact on public views of the political system, he said.

"It was an interesting project," he said. "It's an opportunity to take the research I do and then apply it, and work with groups that are trying to institute what I think are very positive changes."

Redfield's background in political science involves serving as the interim director for the Institute for Legislative Studies, which is part of the Center for State Policy and Leadership at UIS. He has been with UIS since 1979, teaching classes on Illinois politics, legislative politics, political campaigns, lobbying and more.

Redfield has also been involved in extensive research on the financing of political campaigns in Illinois and political ethics, and many of his findings have been presented in numerous research reports, a series of articles in Illinois Issues, a book on financing legislative elections in Illinois called "Cash Clout" and a book on the role of money in Illinois politics entitled "Money Counts."

Redfield said he has always been a political scientist involved with teaching and basic and applied research but has become increasingly more active in advocacy and reform activities in recent years.

"I've been really fortunate in terms of having the position here at UIS where I can do teaching, which I really enjoy, I can do grant-funded research, and I can find ways to apply that and make a difference with what's going on in the world," he said.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

18th Congressional Seat Forum takes place at UIS

By Courtney Westlake

Campus and community members gathered on Tuesday evening to listen to the 18th Congressional Seat Forum, which took place at UIS in the Public Affairs Center. The candidates included Jim McConoughey, John Morris and Aaron Schock. The event was sponsored by UIS and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
Chris Mooney, professor of political science at UIS, moderated the debate.

The candidates started by introducing themselves and giving opening remarks. They then fielded questions from Mooney on a variety of political topics, including the importance of endorsements, congressional earmarks, social security, the local and national economy and more.
Schock, a Peoria native and current State Representative, said he believes the government's role is not to create jobs but to create an environment that encourages jobs and investments from businesses.

"I believe the best way to do that is to keep marginal tax rates low, to keep tax rates on dividends and investments low," he said. "We have to make sure not only the state of Illinois, but our country remains competitive in a global market."

Morris, a former Peoria City Council member, stressed that he wants to do away with the death tax and that his highest priority is national security.

"There are threats out there," he said. "I think the defense of this country, the watchful eye, the level of intelligence, the training of specialists - this is critical. And when I get to Congress, this is going to be a top priority: national safety and security."

McConoughey, who is the CEO of a Peoria-based business umbrella group and admitted he is not a "professional politician," said the challenge for most local areas is that money is needed to be able to get projects done and correct core infrastructure problems.

"In most marketplaces, as a Congressman, I need to be able to assist the local efforts in being able to restore, replace, replenish and create new jobs in the future. I'll put a director of economic development on the staff in order to aid in new programs," he promised the audience. "It's a multi-faceted, multi-disciplined approach."

All three Republican candidates admitted they agree on many issues, but will have varying priorities if elected. The 18th Congressional primary election will take place on February 5.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Former New York Times Reporter Talks Freedom of the Press

By Courtney Westlake

In the past, the public has turned to the press for information that is being suppressed, and leaking the truth is healthy for the balance of the country. Currently, though, that balance is being thrown off, according to Judith Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and former investigative reporter for The New York Times who was on campus on Wednesday, November 7.

Miller's evening presentation and a luncheon seminar also Wednesday featuring Charles Lewis were the first two programs in the Government Accountability and a Free Press Project, a series of events designed to explore legal, ethical, and practical political and policy issues that may arise as members of the press engage in investigative reporting that is intended to uncover less-than-transparent government conduct.

In July 2005, Miller was jailed for contempt of court for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the source of a leak outing Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent. Miller did not write about Plame, but she reportedly possessed evidence relevant to the investigation. Because of this, she spent 85 days in jail, twice as long as any American reporter has ever been confined for protecting a confidential source.

On Wednesday, Miller spoke about freedom of the press. Lewis and a panel of investigative reporters from around the area were also part of the presentation, and Bill Wheelhouse, general manager of public radio station WUIS 91.9 FM, was the moderator of the event.

"Other reporters are also in jeopardy," Miller said during her speech. "The number of journalists being subpoenaed in civil and criminal investigations in the United States to force them to disclose who leaked secret information to them is growing dramatically."

Some issues, however, need to be confidential to the government, Miller admitted. From her experiences as a reporter in Iraq, she has seen the necessity for certain information, like troop deployment, to be "secrets," she said.

"But why did the Pentagon also insist on banning TV cameras from recording the return of our dead in caskets from Iraq? Why did it prohibit the publication of photographs of those caskets?" Miller asked. "Reporting restrictions on reporters and growing secrecy has led the American Society of Newspaper Editors to issue a call to arms to its members, urging them to demand answers about this deeply disturbing trend of secrecy."

The "war on our freedoms" is putting civil liberties in danger, Miller said.

"Over the years, far more damage has been done to national security by government secrecy and deceit than by the press's reporting of that secret information," she said. "The pendulum, that national balance, may be swinging too far toward national security and away from civil liberties, and as a result, we risk now being both less free and less safe."

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