Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Quinn determined to have one last political power play while in office

There was some intense politicking taking place Monday in San Diego, where Baseball Hall of Fame officials ultimately decided that none of four former Chicago White Sox ballplayers – Dick Allen, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso and Billy Pierce – were worthy of recognition.

Yet that might not have been as intense as the hard-ball that was played Monday at U.S. Cellular Field, where the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority met and decided to hire a new executive director.

WHICH ISN’T A big deal, except for the fact that the authority’s board is controlled now by people chosen by the Illinois governor, which means it is Pat Quinn who got to decide who got the executive director’s post.

Not Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who also has appointees on the authority’s board. And most certainly not Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, who would have got his chance to get involved with the agency that runs the White Sox’ ballpark and which paid for the renovation of Soldier Field for the Chicago Bears.

It would seem that Quinn, who wasn’t able to get the General Assembly to approve a measure providing for a statewide increase in the minimum wage so he could have a “last hurrah” of sorts signing it into law, will have to claim this appointment as one of his final acts of significance.

As it turns out, he gave the executive director’s post to Lou Bertuca, who was the campaign manager who led Quinn to his 50-46 percent defeat in the November general election for governor.

SO AT LEAST Lou is taken care of, from Quinn’s perspective. He has a job for the next two years, even though Rauner on Monday spewed a bit of cheap rhetoric about how he’d like to undo the appointment.

It’s not going to be a pleasant job, however. For I expect Rauner will replace all of the gubernatorial nominees on the authority’s governing board with people loyal to him.

I also expect that Emanuel’s people on the authority will not look too kindly to their new director. Bertuca could easily wind up having to deal with a governing board openly hostile toward anything he wants to do – along with a pair of chief executives who likely will dig for any dirt they can find for use as grounds to try to remove him!

I don’t know that I’d want to take a job under those circumstances – even if it does pay just over $175,000 per year.

OF COURSE, THIS isn’t the first time Quinn has had controversy related to the executive director’s post of the sports authority.

Bertuca replaces Kelly Kraft, the former television news broadcaster who got Quinn’s appointment in 2012 despite the belief of many authority board members that she wasn’t qualified.

That was when Quinn orchestrated the appointment by removing one of his appointees on the board who was opposed to Kelly, and replaced him with someone who would vote exactly the way the governor wanted.

It had a backlash, of course. For the person who got removed was Manny Sanchez, a high-profile attorney who wound up signing on early to the Rauner gubernatorial campaign and being one of the “prominent” Democrats who did what he could to undermine Quinn’s chances of re-election.

WHICH MAKES ME perceive this move as being more a gesture of hostility toward the political establishment that is preparing to cast him off in coming weeks.

It might not be as hostile as the one when former-Gov. Rod Blagojevich went out of his way to name Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate despite the desires of many others that he butt out of the matter. But it definitely comes across as a final cry for attention.

It’s not like there’s any activity coming before the sports authority in the near future that an executive director appointment couldn’t wait a couple of months. But it does entertain the political geeks amongst us who always enjoy the mechanizations behind political maneuvers.

Just as much as White Sox fans will spend the next few months complaining about how the Hall of Fame could be so stupid as to exclude (once again) such stars as one-time MVP Allen and the “Cuban Comet” himself in Miñoso.


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