David Schaper

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.

In this role, Schaper covers aviation and airlines, railroads, the trucking and freight industries, highways, transit, and new means of mobility such as ride hailing apps, car sharing, and shared bikes and scooters. In addition, he reports on important transportation safety issues, as well as the politics behind transportation and infrastructure policy and funding.

Since joining NPR in 2002, Schaper has covered some of the nation's most important news stories, including the Sandy Hook school shooting and other mass shootings, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, California wildfires, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and numerous other disasters. David has also reported on presidential campaigns in Iowa and elsewhere, on key races for U.S. Senate and House, governorships, and other offices in the Midwest, and he reported on the rise of Barack Obama from relative political obscurity in Chicago to the White House. Along the way, he's brought listeners and online readers many colorful stories about Chicago politics, including the corruption trials and convictions of two former Illinois governors.

But none of that compares to the joy of covering his beloved Chicago Cubs winning the World Series in 2016, and three Stanley Cup Championships for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, 2013, and 2015.

Prior to joining NPR, Schaper spent almost a decade working as an award-winning reporter and editor for WBEZ/Chicago Public Media, NPR's Member station in Chicago. For three years he covered education issues, reporting in-depth on the problems and progress — financial, educational and otherwise — in Chicago's public schools.

Schaper also served as WBEZ's Assistant Managing Editor of News, managing the station's daily news coverage and editing the reporting staff while often still reporting himself. He later served as WBEZ's political editor and reporter; he was a frequent fill-in news anchor and talk show host. Additionally, he has been an occasional contributor guest panelist on Chicago public television station WTTW's news program, Chicago Tonight.

Schaper began his journalism career in La Crosse, Wisconsin, as a reporter and anchor at Wisconsin Public Radio's WLSU-FM. He has since worked in both public and commercial radio news, including stints at WBBM NewsRadio in Chicago, WXRT-FM in Chicago, WDCB-FM in suburban Chicago, WUIS-FM in Springfield, Illinois, WMAY-AM in Springfield, Illinois, and WIZM-AM and FM in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Schaper earned a bachelor's degree in mass communications and history at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and a master's degree in public affairs reporting at the University of Illinois-Springfield. He lives in Chicago with his wife, a Chicago Public School teacher, and they have three adult children.

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Illinois' pension-fund shortfall is by far the largest in the nation, and the clock is ticking for the state's governor and lawmakers to tackle the problem before a new Legislature is sworn in next week. So far, their proposals have stoked frustration from state employees and retirees.

Simply put, Illinois' unfunded pension liability is massive. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn says the $96 billion of liability has been accumulating for decades, with the state's pension problems dating back at least 70 years.

The surviving students of Sandy Hook Elementary will not be returning to their school in Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders and six educators were shot to death on Dec. 14.

Instead, when classes resume after the holidays, they'll attend a school in the neighboring town of Monroe. Parents, teachers and administrators in both towns are working to make the new school as similar as possible to the one Sandy Hook students left behind.

At an oceanfront park in Long Branch, N.J., Tim Dillingham looks out over the beach in awe of how much the pounding waves and high waters of Hurricane Sandy have changed the Jersey shore.

Dillingham is the executive director of the American Littoral Society, a coastal conservation group. Before the storm, he says, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent years building up the beaches by pumping sand onto them.

But that shouldn't be a solution to restoring the shore, he says.

A month after Hurricane Sandy pounded the New Jersey Shore, Atlantic City is back in business. Even though most of the casinos and restaurants sustained very little damage in the storm, they're now suffering from a lack of visitors. But the city has launched an effort to change that.

As three young boys roll their skateboards down the "World Famous Atlantic City Boardwalk," it's proof that it is still here, fully in tact, and that rumors of its demise were greatly exaggerated.

It's an old problem and an old code — "don't snitch." And it exists everywhere.

But in Chicago, where homicides and shootings are up significantly this year, that old code is leaving a rising number of violent crimes unsolved. Chicago Police Department statistics show arrests are being made in about 30 percent of shooting homicides, while close to 80 percent of nonfatal shootings are going unsolved.

When police can't find and arrest the perpetrators, they worry that the shooters will soon shoot again.

Witness Protection

Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin's sexual orientation was never really a factor in her victorious campaign against Republican former Gov. Tommy Thompson. Advocates for gay rights see that as a watershed moment for the movement.

Baldwin won a seat many thought she couldn't, defeating one of the state's most successful politicians in the process. The celebration Tuesday night in Madison was euphoric.

The enthusiastic crowd was never louder than when Baldwin acknowledged making history.

One of the most bitter congressional races is in the suburbs of Chicago, where controversial freshman Republican Joe Walsh is fighting to keep a seat he was actually drawn out of.

The Tea Party favorite's bombastic rants frequently get him into trouble, even with members of his own party, and Walsh is facing a tough Democratic opponent in Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in combat.

On her 22nd birthday this summer, Sarah Wagner of suburban Wheaton, Ill., who describes herself as a huge fan of the Chicago Cubs, opened an email to find an incredible surprise — a recorded message from her favorite Cubs player:

"Hey, Sarah! Kerry Wood here! Thanks for your message and I hope you're having a great summer!"

"When I heard for the first time, I instantly smiled," says Wagner. "I think my hands probably went over like my mouth, like, 'Oh my gosh, Kerry Wood is talking to me, even though he has no idea who I am!' "

One of the most important seats in the battle for control of the U.S. Senate is in Wisconsin, where Democrat Herb Kohl is retiring. Early polls showed popular former Gov. Tommy Thompson might easily flip the seat to the GOP, but he's now trailing Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin. It's a race that's going down to the wire in this almost evenly divided state.

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This summer's drought continues to wilt and bake crops from Ohio to the Great Plains and beyond. Under a baking, late-afternoon sun just outside of the tiny east-central Illinois town of Thawville, John Hildenbrand walks down his dusty, gravel driveway toward one of his corn fields.

"You can see on the outer edge, these are a lot better-looking ears on the outside rows. Of course, it's not near as hot as it is inside the field," he says.

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On a Wednesday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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And I'm Renee Montagne.

Whenever a car or truck turns off busy Channahon Road onto the long drive to the Caterpillar plant in Joliet, Ill., a handful of union workers on a picket line scream, "Scab! Scab!!"

As strikers try shaming the few workers and managers who cross the line, even a clearly marked sandwich delivery car gets shouted down.

Approximately 800 workers at this plant, which makes hydraulic systems for Caterpillar's heavy construction and mining equipment, are about to enter their third month on strike.

Negotiations Fail

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Republican Gov. Scott Walker triumphantly returned to the Wisconsin Capitol Wednesday, fresh off of his decisive victory in Tuesday's bitter recall election.

The governor appears to be emerging from the tough recall fight stronger, and with his national profile rising.

Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal prosecutor who went after the Gambino crime family, al-Qaida and even the White House in court — not to mention several Illinois politicians — is leaving his job as U.S. attorney in Chicago.

The career prosecutor, known as "Eliot Ness with a Harvard degree," will leave a legacy as a tenacious corruption buster, though some criticize his style as overzealous.

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