The cynical side of me is coming out just as I learn that Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a measure that creates a whole new regulatory structure for people who have complaints about cemeteries and concerns about the way in which their loved one’s earthly remains are being cared for.
The fact that this bill got signed into law on Sunday means it was treated as the one real bit of news occurring, which means it got significant play by news organizations.
IT ALSO MEANS that news organizations got to relive the whole mess that broke out at Burr Oak Cemetery and other graveyards throughout the Chicago area that have historically catered to African-American clientele.
Which means that Quinn now has something he can spin into a positive action he took on behalf of all those black people, many of whom are also registered voters (I’m not going to make any electoral jokes about the deceased also voting).
Do I think that if this issue were about trying to come up with any serious reform that it would have been handled differently? Of course.
Instead, just a little over two weeks away from Election Day Feb. 2 we get the creation of a “regulatory” structure which means that people will now have a state government process they can follow if they wish to file a complaint.
IT MOST LIKELY means yet another place where complaints can get tangled up in “red tape” rather than actually being resolved.
After all, the state already regulates cemeteries through the Illinois comptroller’s office (I can remember when Dan Hynes first ran for that office in 1998, he used to get so confused about questions involving such cemetery regulation).
Now I realize that the comptroller’s “regulation” was limited to specific circumstances (usually complaints against graveyard owners who let their properties become all raggedy and decrepit).
But then again, the situation at Burr Oak was a particularly bizarre set of circumstances. When one has massive numbers of families convinced that their loved ones don’t lie underneath the spot they have been visiting for years (if not decades), it is hard to have a specific state law in place that can address the situation.
I’D HATE TO think there is anyone seriously gullible enough to think that Pat Quinn has single-handedly resolved this problem. Or that there was much of anything that the state could do other than to take a serious look at the conditions at Burr Oak.
If anything, that was what the Cook County sheriff’s police wound up having to do for much of 2009. If there’s any political person who ought to be able to take some personal credit for having done something to improve the conditions in suburban Alsip, it is Sheriff Tom Dart.
He’s the one whose investigators had to struggle with the county’s financial problems that could have prevented a thorough investigation from taking place. He’s also the one who had to have officers camp out at Burr Oak for months in order to prevent the situation there from becoming worse.
If it reads like I’m saying Quinn is trying to hog too much attention on this issue, you’d be partially correct.
I’D ALSO HAVE to wonder about the individual legislators who served on the task force that “investigated” the issue – even though all they really did was took what the sheriff’s police uncovered and claimed it for their own.
Quinn, in a prepared statement, said that his new law enables, “bereaved families will have a place to turn if they are not satisfied with the services provided by cemeteries, funeral directors and embalmers.”
That sounds nice. It may even help a family or two at some point in the future, although I’m not convinced that the situation is all that radically different for the public with this new law than it was with the old ones.
Personally, all I got out of the announcement that this bill gor signed into law is evidence that Quinn – who in his decades of public service as an elected official and a gadfly has conducted many a Sunday scheduled “news” event to try to get himself some public attention – is still the master.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Pat Quinn just took away from primary opponent Dan Hynes the legal responsibility (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-quinn-cemetery-18-jan18,0,3524036.story) to keep an eye out on cemeteries and their management.