Monday, October 8, 2012

New political brawl breaks out over state’s sports authority (not the store)

While I comprehend that the positions of mayor and Illinois governor are naturally going to be competitive with each other, it never fails to amaze me just how petty the issues can be that get the two officials p’o-ed at each other.

Will the political games get as ugly as the play was on this field last month? Photograph by Gregory Tejeda

Such as the latest brawl taking place between Rahm Emanuel and Pat Quinn. It’s not over whether the city can have a casino (although I’m sure the lingering hostilities from that issue are making this new brawl all the more heated).

WHAT HAS THE two men upset with each other is the issue of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority and who gets to run the day-to-day operations.

Quinn has someone in mind for the executive director’s post; the woman who was spokesman for the state budget director – who as it turns out is a former television news reporter-type for various stations, including WFLD-TV (Ch. 32, for those of you who can’t keep broadcast call letters straight in your minds).

But Emanuel is refusing to accept this idea. He’s got his own person in mind to run the daily operations of the agency that manages U.S. Cellular Field and helped raise funds for the renovation of Soldier Field that turned the structure into a “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” clone.

Considering that some people think the agency could play a role in any future overhaul of Wrigley Field, it is an agency that can have a public role in our city.

BEING IN CHARGE of the agency isn’t the most powerful position in government. But it will get someone more television face-time than running, say, the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

So maybe that’s why Quinn would like a television-type in charge. Plus, it seems he wants to reward her for the time she did with the state Bureau of the Budget. A move up!

But to listen to Emanuel, he wants someone of a more traditional (in his mind, at least) background. Someone with some direct financial experience. The Chicago Tribune reported that Emanuel’s staff had submitted the name of a former City Hall administrator and attorney for the job.

The newspaper also reported that a former Chicago Public Schools executive who in recent years has worked in private financial management has expressed interest in the post.

WHO’S TO SAY what will happen now?

For the sports facilities authority is scheduled to meet Monday, and could wind up picking someone for the executive director’s post on that day. Or they could wind up deciding to start a new search for the position that has been empty since last year.

They may well decide that since the job has been vacant since before Adam Dunn donned a White Sox uniform during a regular-season game, it won’t kill anyone to wait a little longer.

Although that would wind up being a slap at the governor’s ego – even though by now so many officials have taken so many pot-shots at Pat Quinn that I would suspect he’s all battered and bruised from the blows.

HE MIGHT BE used to it by now, although the odd part is that if the political people were playing by the rules, this wouldn’t be a controversy. Quinn would get his way.

For while the sports facilities authority is a state government agency, it is one that operates solely within Chicago and over which the mayor gets some say.

The authority is run by a board with a chairman to set broad perimeters for public policy, then has an executive director to take orders from the board and set their guidelines into actual working policy.

Traditionally, the board’s members are split among mayoral and gubernatorial appointees, with the mayor getting the pick (with a governor’s consent) over the board chairman.
Will political fight delay Wrigley renovation?

IN EXCHANGE, THE governor gets to say who the executive director will be (albeit with the same mayoral consent). That lack of consent is what is at issue now, and threatens to create an ugly political brawl.

One that already has taken on ugly undertones as we learned from Chicago Tribune reports about the financial mess that used to be Quinn’s nominee’s financial life (she declared bankruptcy in 2009, although seems to have straightened out her own financial problems).

One that I also sense will devolve into childish levels. Although that may be appropriate, since this agency is the one that builds (or renovates) structures meant to dignify what essentially are children’s games played (for big bucks) by adults.

Let’s just hope that the political brawls that will occur in coming weeks do not get as ugly as the Chicago Cubs were this season – or as depressing as the Chicago White Sox were in September!


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