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The many sides of Pat Quinn: Which will we see next?

   Will the real Pat Quinn please stand up? Or sit down?
Dennis-Grubaugh-head-shot    Do something anyway, sir, because your uneven approach to governing is getting on the nerves of state taxpayers.
    Mr. Quinn has had a mixed time of it lately, showing himself one day to be the wily, grassroots activist that we knew and loved some 30 years ago and a self-serving party politician the next.
    We need more of the ol’ Pat.
    Here is a guy who challenged state bureaucracy and almost singlehandedly brought the State Legislature to a manageable level back in 1980. Some of you will remember when his organization, “The Coalition for Political Honesty,” initiated and led a campaign for a Cutback Amendment to the Illinois Constitution, ultimately reducing the size of the Illinois House of Representatives from 177 to 118 members — from three House members making up each of the 59 Senate districts to only two.
    Later, he was instrumental in the creation of the Citizens Utility Board, the consumer watchdog group, and got more actively involved in political campaigns, some of which he won, others of which kept his star rising. By 1990, he was elected Illinois state treasurer. Then, in 2002,  he was tabbed by voters as lieutenant governor, a position from which he ascended to become chief executive when former Gov. Rod Blagojevich got the heave-ho in 2009. Quinn was  elected on his own terms in 2010.
    Along the way, he perfected a crafty manner befitting of a populist. In a super-amped move in mid-summer, Quinn vetoed lawmakers’ paychecks because, he said, they didn’t deserve to be paid until they passed badly needed pension reform.
     That attempted line item veto floundered. A Cook County judge struck down the action, and Quinn has appealed the matter to the Illinois Supreme Court, a matter still pending at this writing, though Quinn has asked for an expeditious process. We don’t see it holding up: There is a clear line between executive and legislative branches of government, and if legislators are legally bound to be paid, so be it.
    Not to be thwarted, the governor also refused his own paycheck, now amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.  Hard telling how long that will last.
    You have to appreciate the governor’s chutzpah. He’s looking to strike a chord with voters going into 2014, and his quest for re-election could be abetted greatly by playing the popular pay card. Taxpayers love it when they think a politician is fighting for their money. And Quinn can be a pretty effective PR machine.
    So why don’t we see more of that side of our governor? Instead, we see a guy who has come under fire too often for cronyism. That side was on display recently when it was revealed that his administration had hired a supervisor in the state’s Department of Central Management Services without considering anyone else for the $70,000-a-year job. Investigation showed hireling Patrick Ward was a big contributor to the party coffers of House Speaker Mike Madigan, who made the recommendation for the hiring, approved by Quinn’s chief of staff.
    True, Quinn had less obvious hand in this, but he’s had plenty of opportunity to act in opposition. That hasn’t happened. And there have been several similar instances since he became governor.
    All this speaks of the same slimy politics that have dotted the Illinois landscape going back decades, the kind of politics that the governor once decried, but lately has become adept at.
    If the governor wants to a) fix things in Springfield and b) get re-elected, he’s going to have to show the more consistent approach to tight-fistedness that got him into power in the first place. He’s going to have to fight spendthrifts and malfeasance like he used to. Like a brawler.
    Out with the new Pat Quinn, we say. In with the old.
    Dennis Grubaugh is editor of the Illinois Business Journal. He can be reached at or (618) 977-6865.

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