Saturday, February 28, 2009

Governor Quinn putting some thought into issues, but getting them mixed up

With Illinois government officials these days in a mode of wanting to undo just about anything associated with Rod Blagojevich, it is nice to see that Gov. Pat Quinn is not giving knee-jerk approval to everything put forth.

Quinn took a stance this week on at least two matters that were high-profile Blagojevich decisions during his six years as governor. On one, he undid Blagojevich.

BUT ON THE other, he’s inclined to agree with Milorod.

The two issues involved Blagojevich’s attempt to curry favor with senior citizens by declaring that everybody over age 65 qualifies for free rides on public transit systems across the state (my mother would qualify, if she ever got around to applying for the special permit needed to actually use the system).

But one of Blagojevich’s attempts at cutting state spending was to shut down seven of the state parks located in rural parts of the state, which also are among the few attractions that get people from around Illinois and the United States to actually consider visiting those communities.

Quinn on Wednesday signed an order that re-opened those state parks. But on Friday, he told reporter-types that he would reject any measure approved by the General Assembly to repeal the free rides for senior citizens.

HE THINKS GIVING the elderly residents of the state who may depend more heavily on mass transit if they’re no longer capable of driving an automobile a financial break is a worthy goal.

Now on the latter matter, I think the General Assembly is going overboard. It is going to be like the Legislature’s behavior back in 1997-98. Those were the two years following the two-year period in which the Republican Party’s officials controlled every single state government office of significance.

When Democrats regained control in the Illinois House of Representatives, they insisted on trying to pass bills repealing every politically partisan measure the GOP-led Legislature enacted into law.

Admittedly, the Illinois Supreme Court wound up striking down the most draconian of those measures. But it got silly watching the Legislature engage in a whole batch of actions whose purpose seemed to be to re-write history.

AFTER ALL, IF the GOP-desired “laws” were no longer on the books, perhaps we could pretend that the whole Republican Domination of Illinois government never happened.

That seems to be the same mode of thought these days for legislators – Let’s Pretend Blagojevich Never Happened!

Well, he did, and it can’t be erased, even if legislators maintain their stubbornness and refuse to let him hang his official portrait in the Statehouse’s Hall of Governors.

But this might be one area where there ought to be some sort of change. After all, it’s not like every senior citizen will use mass transit – even though in the Chicago area, the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra commuter trains and Pace suburban buses gave about 25 million rides to older people during the past year.

SOME SENIOR CITIZENS probably can use the perk. But there is some room for change. I’d hate to see Quinn react improperly just because he’d like to get the votes of elder residents (and registered voters) when he likely runs for election to his own term as governor in 2010.

At a time when mass transit in the Chicago area fears a revenue shortfall for the current year, I’d hate to think partisan politics were getting thrown into the mix on this issue.

Meanwhile, I have to wonder if Quinn should have so eagerly re-opened those state parks. That action also seems politically motivated – he wants the votes of those rural Illinois residents who believe that Blagojevich was too Chicago-oriented (foolish people) for their tastes.

That is what caused the state parks such as Illini at Marsailles, Hidden Springs State Forest in Strasburg, Moraine View in Leroy, Weldon Springs in Clinton, Wolf Creek in Windsor, and Castle Creek and Lowdon in Oregon to be re-opened – effective Thursday.

NOW I CAN understand the need to make a gesture to rural Illinois, which felt snubbed by Blagojevich in so many ways (including the non-issue of his refusal to live with his wife and two young daughters full-time in the Executive Mansion).

But I can’t help but wonder if this was an issue that should have been held off on until the upcoming fiscal year, which begins in July. At a time when the state is trying to figure out how to plug a $9 billion budget shortfall, every single dollar matters. Reopening these parks now will cost money from the current state budget.

This might have been an issue where action could have been held off. Those people who feel the need to venture into the rural Illinois take on Mother Nature could just as easily do so come July or August as in March or April.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Perhaps Pat Quinn should reverse his actions – allow some changes in free mass transit fares ( while letting some state parks (,0,7642727.story) remain shuttered for a few more months.

I don’t have any problem with Quinn’s decision to change state practices and NOT put his (,0,116294.story) name on every public sign in sight.

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