Saturday, November 3, 2012

You never know what surprises lurk in those lists of government appointees

I have been a reporter-type person for a quarter of a century, and I’d like to think I know how to conduct myself professionally in ways that I won’t miss out on “news.”
YOUNG: Politically relevant, yet again

Yet every now and then, something comes along that gives me a swift kick in the behind and makes me realize that I’m more than capable of getting lax and missing out on things.

ONE OF THOSE moments occurred this week. Thursday morning to be exact, when I happened to get an e-mail message from the office of Gov. Pat Quinn, informing me of appointments to nearly two dozen state agencies or boards.

The governor’s press release on the issue highlighted the fact that one-time WGN-TV broadcaster Merri Dee is now on the Illinois Human Rights Commission, and Manny Flores will be the secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

It then went on to list many other obscure government bodies and new members picked by Pat Quinn.

When I saw that we were talking about entities such as the state’s Drycleaner Environmental Response Trust Fund Council, my mind shut down. I figured this was a list of the minutia that comprises state government, but that really doesn’t get significant enough to warrant any public attention.

SO I DIDN’T notice the ninth agency on the list – the fact that the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority has a new member. Dr. Quentin Young – formerly a bigwig at the old Cook County Hospital and with his own political ties back in the days of Harold Washington as mayor.

It was there right in between Maria Saldana being named to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission and seven people being named to the state’s Juvenile Justice Commission.

Now, of course, we realize the significance of Young being appointed to represent the governor on the board that operates U.S. Cellular Field, and may wind up being used to help raise money to renovate Wrigley Field similar to how Soldier Field was revamped about a decade ago.

Young’s first day in the post was to attend the sports authority’s meeting Thursday where he shifted the balance of power in the fight over picking a new executive director.

AS A RESULT, Quinn’s desire to appoint one-time television broadcaster Kelly Kraft (who has worked the past three years as a spokeswoman for the state’s budget director) became reality.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s desire to put former Chicago Public Schools CFO Diana Ferguson in the position went down the political toilet bowl – with Quinn getting to smirk while watching Rahm-bo swish and swirl into the sewer!

Of course, it’s a short-term victory. Because Emanuel is exactly the type who knows how to hold a political grudge.

The political speculation now is how will Rahm “get back” at Quinn. What will the punishment be? Nobody thinks either one of these men is capable of behaving like a grown-up.

AND WHILE THIS relationship isn’t as warped and twisted as the one that existed between former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, it’s not that pretty either. A bit reminiscent of the days of old between Mayor Richard M. Daley and Gov. Jim Edgar!

Quinn is becoming the guy who won’t let Emanuel have a casino in Chicago (the governor vetoed a gambling expansion measure), and now he has the upper hand on any future development that might occur at Wrigley.

Which is what this issue really is about. I don’t think anyone really cares whether Kraft or Ferguson gets the “executive director” title. It’s about Emanuel being willing to help the Chicago Cubs in paying for renovations to their nearly century-old stadium – provided HE gets to call the shots.

Now, it’s in the hands of a board whose majority will be taking marching orders from the Mighty Quinn, who might actually dare to think for himself and now kow-tow to Rahm when deciding if that project is worth any government attention.

FOR ALL THE grief that Quinn get for being a political weakling, a gadfly and a “goo-goo,” the reality is that he wouldn’t have survived all these decades on the Illinois political scene if he didn’t have some capability to play hardball.

At the very least, he managed to slip in a crucial political appointment under the cover of positions such as the new member to the state’s Sex Offender Management Board.

And if I (and my reporter-type colleagues) had been paying closer attention, perhaps we could have forseen this issue occurring.

We certainly wouldn’t be walking around feeling like we have the bruises of a combat boot all over our behinds.


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