Friday, January 8, 2016

Bilandic Building the eventual Chicago home of Illinois state government?

Be honest! It would be hilarious if significant parts of Illinois state government wound up being headquartered in the building named for Chicago’s accidental mayor – the guy whom history recalls as the ones who couldn’t keep the trains running in black neighborhoods during winter storms.

Chicago's Thompson and Bilandic buildings
As in Michael Bilandic, the one-time 11th ward alderman who became mayor following the death of Richard J. Daley, then wound up redeeming his legacy by becoming a state Supreme Court justice – even serving a stint as chief justice of Illinois.

THE LATTER STORY is the reason why Bilandic’s name is on the building at the northwest corner of Randolph and LaSalle streets. Not because of anything he did as mayor.

But the one-time State of Illinois Building (the structure now named for James R. Thompson technically is the State of Illinois Center) technically is the home of the Illinois appellate and Supreme courts in Chicago, as well as the Illinois attorney general’s office and other legal-oriented state agencies.

And if Gov. Bruce Rauner were to have his way, it could soon someday become the home of the governor’s Chicago office – which currently occupies half of the top floor of the Thompson Center (the four legislative leaders occupy the other half).

Both WBBM-TV and the Chicago Sun-Times have reported that Rauner would want  make the move as a gesture toward the eventual disposition of the Thompson Center from the state property rolls altogether.

IN PART AS a gesture to those political partisans who see the idea of a block-sized building in Chicago devoted to state government as some sort of slap in the face to the idea that Springfield, Ill., is the actual seat of state government.

With legislators who usually keep the public 'in the dark' symbolically, how would they react to literally being with no electricity?
This, it seems, is one of Rauner’s ideas of how to shake up government activity and tradition. That is, when he’s not pushing for various measures meant to undermine the authority of organized labor within state government.

I can’t help but think Bilandic himself would be appalled by these actions, and the inability of our state to get its finances together for purely politically partisan reasons.

Back in his mayoral day, mayors knew the idea of being able to work with Republican governors. The whole “D” vs. “R” concept was not an obstacle to getting things done – as it is now by a political generation who defines politics as telling your opposition party they’re entitled to nothin’!!!!!!!!

THAT IDEA IS why we are now into month seven of a budget stalemate for state government, which has prevented many government expenses from being paid.

Including the utility bills for the Capitol building itself! The State Journal-Register newspaper in Springfield reported that state government now owes some $9 million to the city-owned City Water, Light & Power company – of which some $6 million of that is past due.

Just think how quickly the utility would have cut off electricity to anyone else who incurred that much back debt? Instead, the City Council in Springfield is saying it will pass a resolution meant to urge the state to pay up – because that big of a debt to the city is causing financial problems at the municipal level as well.

Actually, my own memories of life in Springfield was of a utility company that offered up cheap bills (some $15-20 per month, I seem to recall in my case). To incur that much debt literally means the state is consuming a lot without paying up.

SO WHAT WOULD happen if the city had to cut off electricity to the Statehouse building?

BILANDIC: Is his spirit snickering at us?
Would we be in the predicament where state workers in the Chicago office (the one that Rauner wants to do away with as some sort of extravagance) would wind up becoming all-the-more important to state government operations?

Or would ComEd and other utility companies decide they could play hardball with the state?

And would Mr. Bilandic be looking down upon us from the skies laughing at our political ineptitude – which in some ways makes his own “blizzard of ‘79’ ineptitude seem downright petty by comparison.


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