Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Fixing up the governor’s mansion; that’s Rauner’s one kept promise

If we’re going to be fair, we have to acknowledge the one accomplishment of Bruce Rauner’s time as Illinois governor – the state completed a necessary rehabilitation project of the Governor’s Mansion, work that was desperately overdue.
The governor's mansion -- old enough Abe Lincoln would remember it
The repairs needed to the structure that dates back to 1855 were so extensive that Rauner and first lady Diana actually had to move out of the official state residence provided for our governor.

FOR THE PAST two years, the Rauners have used the state-owned house that is part of the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield as their official residence. While more spacious (4,000 square feet) than what is essentially an apartment on the top floor of the mansion, it doesn’t quite have the aura of the structure in downtown Springfield located a block from the Statehouse.

Close enough that I remember the sight of then-Gov. Jim Edgar routinely walking to work every morning that he needed to be in the Capitol Building.

Definitely a step up from the livestock barns of the fairgrounds, whose aroma could carry over to the director’s house (built around 1945) if the winds were blowing the right way.

But the governor and first lady got to return to the mansion that had some $15 million spent on upgrades including a new heating and air conditioning system, a new roof (the old one leaked badly) and a new entrance.
RAUNER: Will he get credit for rehab?

FOR WHAT IT’S worth, many of the problems with the aging structure became apparent during the years of Pat Quinn as governor.

Not that I’m saying Quinn & Co. trashed the place.

But like any structure, constant upkeep is necessary to ensure the building doesn’t rot away. During those Quinn years, there often were higher financial priorities that had to be placed ahead of the official mansion.

Particularly since during the Quinn years, state government undertook a very pricey rehabilitation of the Statehouse itself. The structure dating back to 1877 had its own share of problems that needed to be fixed.
QUINN: Will he get blame for condition?

BECAUSE OF THE structure’s age and historic significance, there are certain standards that have to be met. Certain details that must be fulfilled.

Meaning the expense became so high that many people complained. Just think how much more they would have ranted and raged if Quinn had tried to proceed with a mansion upgrade?

Which is why I think Rauner deserves some praise for getting the mansion project done. Particularly since he managed to put together a group of private donors who took an interest in the building’s historic significance and came up with the cash to get the needed work done.

Which became obvious on Monday, as Rauner himself could be seen carrying boxes of personal possessions into the rehabbed mansion.

A PART OF which will include a display of some of the historically significant people who worked there on behalf of the people of Illinois.

No word on how prominent such as display will be about The Rauner Years – which thus far are much more significant for all the things that didn’t happen and the degree to which partisan politics have dominated the way government worked.

The degree to which people will place the blame on Rauner for the inability of things to get done will depend largely on one’s own ideological leanings and whether one wants to “Blame Bruce!” or “Blame Madigan!” for everything that is wrong in Illinois these days.
The official Rauner residence the past two years
Although one has to admit that if fixing up the mansion is Rauner’s one significant achievement as governor, then something is significantly wrong with the way our state operates and the fact that we seem willing to tolerate such lack of activity from the officials doing “the People’s business.”


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