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A look back

Tuesday, Jan 28, 2014

* This week marks the fifth anniversary of the Illinois Senate’s vote to remove Rod Blagojevich from office. Kurt Erickson looks at what has changed

Construction: During his six years in office, Blagojevich and the legislature were unable to agree on a way to pay for a job-creating road, bridge and school construction program. Within a year of his departure, Quinn and the legislative leaders had devised a plan to legalize video gambling and raise taxes and fees on booze and motorists. The money has paid for not only better roads, but new copper doors on the Capitol.

Taxes: Blagojevich was true to his word when he said he would never support raising taxes. But that meant he had to use sleight-of-hand budgeting techniques — like tapping into pension funds — to finance his pet programs. His actions, as well as those by chief executives who came before him, left the state in a precarious fiscal position. Within two years of his ouster, a temporary increase in the income tax was approved.

Pensions: After balking for years, lawmakers last month finally approved an overhaul of the state employee and teacher pension systems. Although it likely won’t save any money while it winds its way through the court system, passage of the changes showed the General Assembly and Gov. Quinn were finally starting to figure out how to make tough decisions.

New laws: While Blagojevich was in office, his signature achievements included the expansion of a health insurance program for kids and an increase in the minimum wage. Since Quinn came on board, the state has legalized medical marijuana and gay marriage, approved new worker compensation rules and offered up some guidelines for a controversial oil and gas drilling process that will: a) create thousands of jobs; b) ruin the environment; c) or, do some of both.

Prisons: After years of listening to Blagojevich threaten to close prisons, Quinn actually did it. The governor moved inmates out of the Tamms super-max facility and the all-female Dwight Correctional Center, as well as closed juvenile prisons and a handful of halfway houses. The closures confounded many observers because they came at a time when the prison system is grossly overcrowded.

* I put together a retrospective video a year after his arrest. It’s probably worth another look

Man, I do not ever want to relive anything even close to that madness.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 10:16 am:

    He was the worst of the worst. Every damning aspect of “the corrupt politician” resided in him, and he was shameless. I was hoping never to see his face again - please spare us that face, that hair, that EGO run rampant.

  2. - Linus - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 10:19 am:

    As others have noted here previously and more eloquently, Rauner often comes across as menacingly Blagojevichian. A my-way-or-the-highway style, railing against The Establishment with precious few policy-proposal specifics that go beyond cartoonishly raw rage and hatred. Megalomaniacal, with money. Back to the future!

  3. - In the Middle - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 10:27 am:

    It still amazes me he won a second term. Never underestimate the number of willfully ignorant voters, I guess.

  4. - Drallid - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 10:30 am:

    No once can say Rod wasn’t INTERESTING!

  5. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 10:35 am:

    Heh, can you imagine? No way that happens again.

    A governor who doesn’t work well with others, loves the sound of his own voice, seeks only his own counsel and leads by talking points rather than actual vision?

    That could never happen agai… wait a second.

    That sure is an interesting primary we’ve got going on this year.

  6. - chad - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 10:36 am:

    I hear that man’s name and I am immediately reminded that he is the cause of insults I get from friends and others that live in other states. We were not a perfect state before him, but he changed our brand from whatever it was to “most corrupt state.”

  7. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 10:37 am:

    In the Middle -

    Blagojevich won re-election during the Year 6 of the Bush Presidency (except for Clinton in 1998, the President’s party usually gets creamed in the Year 6 election, and in 2006 the Democrats took back the House, and with Lieberman took the Senate), running against a candidate unfairly smeared for associations with Cellini and Ryan, and in a 3 way race (the Green Party got 10% of the vote in 2006).

    Head to head in a race with no national influence, I think he would have lost.

  8. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 10:38 am:

    We had it coming.

    Bipartisan, non-partisan, amoral big-money loved Blago because he was open for business. They invested heavily and buried JBT with dirty money for relentless, negative spots.

    And 1.7 million voters bought it. They are ultimately responsible.

    There’s no excuse for the second term. He was a known quantity by then.

    Blago was a bad con man who ultimately got what was coming. There’s a guy out there right now who is demonstrably better at the game than Blago. His future remains to be seen.

  9. - Langhorne - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 10:39 am:

    Lets not forget umpteen petulant calls for special sessions. Forerunner to vetoing salaries.

    Rauner is Blago 2.0. Long on bluster and blather. Short on actual details. Name calling and sloganeering.

  10. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 10:40 am:

    Yes, it amazes me that RB got re-elected. I can understand, to a point, that folks voted for him in the first place. We had a relatively decent candidate on the other side of the spectrum running against RB the first time but his last name proved a liability, even tho he wasn’t related to the disgraced former governor. Did voters even realize that at the time? Or was it just party fatigue?

    If voters can delude themselves and remain ignorant of their elected gov’t so easily, this could very well happen again.

    I suppose it is natural to mark these kinds of anniversaries but it would be nice if we could get some time off re RB. Like about 12 years.

  11. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 10:42 am:

    And here’s to JBT. She was abandoned by the money boys and took an unfair and vicious beating from Blago with their dirty money.

    It was relentless. He owned the airwaves. That money came from the “pillars of the community.”

    She would have every right to be bitter and cynical.

    Instead, she goes to work every day with a smile on her face and wants to be your flower girl.

    Splendid behavior. Love that kid.

  12. - walker - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 10:45 am:

    Looking back at this guy makes me slightly ill.

    So divorced from reality. Harmful to those around him. And so destructive to our state’s image nationally and internationally.

    But really, I just don’t see that much of Rod in Bruce. Let’s calm down a little with the projections.

  13. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 10:47 am:

    –But really, I just don’t see that much of Rod in Bruce. Let’s calm down a little with the projections.–

    Bruce is much better at it.

  14. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    === second term ===

    If there is a single “litmus test” I may agree with for Illinois politicians, it would be: “Did you endorse or support Rod Blagojevich for a 2nd term as governor?”

    It is disturbing that so many of Blago’s enablers remain in powerful positions around our state.

  15. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 10:54 am:

    - walker -, much respect… your criteria;

    ===So divorced from reality.=== “I milked a cow, I wear an $18 watch, wear a Carhartt coat, albeit new, and can’t stand insiders.”

    Harmful to those around him. - Nursing Homes versus Profits, hurtful(?)

    ===And so destructive to our state’s image nationally and internationally.===

    Going about being the Scott Walker of Illinois with very few similarities to justify, and with the GA as it is and that owsky constitution, how soon will Illinois be mocked by not understanding it’s own government and how to run it… “like a business” notwithstanding.

    I don’t think we need to relax, but I do think education would help a great deal.

    Again, with respect.

  16. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:02 am:

    ===I just don’t see that much of Rod in Bruce. Let’s calm down a little with the projections===

    There’s a little RRB in everybody. But Rod was so extreme that it’s really tough to compare that behavior to another human being. I, too, think the projections may be off base. I mean, watch that video. Could Rauner possibly be that intensely demented???

  17. - PoolGuy - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:05 am:

    you have a point Rich. i do see similarities myself, but Bruce has yet to demonstrate crazy antics.

  18. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:06 am:

    I really cannot shed too many tears for JBT. Over the course of her career, especially as the ILGOP chair, she undercut a variety of Republican candidates (Jim Nalepa, Peter Fitzgerald, Jack Ryan and Jim Oberweis being the most obvious examples). So when her turn came, many people abandoned her. Turn about is fair play.

    Blagojevich was bad, but Gov. JBT would have been the second coming of George Ryan.

  19. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:06 am:

    ===Could Rauner possibly be that intensely demented?===

    lol, you are right about that aspect. The pathetic showman, with a foundation of that intensely demented persona, yeah, Rod is/was thankfully alone in his class.

    Point taken.

  20. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:11 am:

    ===Blagojevich was bad, but Gov. JBT would have been the second coming of George Ryan.===

    “…would have…” Who are you, the Great Car-Nac?

    Funny thing about the hyperbole of comparing Comptroller Topinka to George Ryan, nothing, nothing, since returning to state government points to anything George Ryan like in the negative. Yikes!

  21. - Downstater - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:15 am:

    ====Blagojevich was bad, but Gov. JBT would have been the second coming of George Ryan.===
    A quote from a dumb diehard democrat.

  22. - Mokenavince - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:16 am:

    Bad dream Blago, were all glad your safe in prison. Although I do miss your Elvis sing a
    longs on WLS.

    It’s nice to know what most of us always knew,
    you were a dangerous goof. And hurt a lot of

  23. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:19 am:

    If JBT ran for gov she’d have my vote in a New Athens minute.

  24. - teddy salad - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:23 am:

    - Downstater

    “A quote from a dumb diehard democrat”

    In adult conversations to first individual to start tossing insults is usually the one with the weakest logic.

  25. - Mokenavince - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:23 am:

    Thanks to the cheapness of the Republican party,
    JBT never had a chance. She’s ST. Joan next to
    George Ryan did more good for this State than
    most elected officials.

  26. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:25 am:

    === And 1.7 million voters bought it. They are ultimately responsible. ===

    Agreed, to a point.

    IMHO, a number of parties bear greater culpability for Blago’s 2nd term:
    The big money donors
    Politicians and leaders who supported & endorsed Blago
    Any person, regardless of party or seniority, who witnessed what was transpiring and turned a blind eye because it was easier than trying to alert the public.

    I may suspect the CEO of a company is up to no good, but as a member of the public I can only do so much to educate myself.

    If the company’s board of directors, employees, community leaders, prominent investors, advertisers, regulators and even some competitors strongly support the CEO or simply remain silent about what they know, it becomes difficult for me as an “outsider” to conclude: “I am right and they are all wrong. This CEO is bad news, no matter what individuals with direct knowledge of the situation say about him.”

  27. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:25 am:

    @Oswego Willy: Loved the video clips of Polka Queen Judy and George dancing together. The video of JBT praising Honest George was one for the books.

  28. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:29 am:

    Wow it only took two comments to have the first ‘Rauner drop’ in comments….

    Has to be close to a record for a post that didn’t even mention him…

  29. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:30 am:

    ===Jim Nalepa, Peter Fitzgerald, Jack Ryan and Jim Oberweis…===

    When any of these four become a positive in 2014 and the politics of today in Illinois, let me know.

    Being able to drive 5 miles an hour faster is not a legislative accomplishment, but driving away voters on intolerance, and being rebuffed time and time again when trying to remove a Chairman on intolerance…

    I am quite sure Comptroller Topinka is winning this argument, and “the day”.

  30. - walker - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:34 am:


    Well said about JBT. Couldn’t agree more.


    You could be right. More education will help.

    Yet Blago’s sad delusions are hard to match — he still thought he had a shot at running for President, even after his indictment was announced.

  31. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:38 am:

    ===ut Gov. JBT would have been the second coming of George Ryan. ===

    If you mean a Republican governor who could get big things done with a Democratic majority, I agree.

  32. - Sir Reel - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:38 am:

    Beyond his fiscal damage, Blago’s legacy is his saturating State agencies with hacks, many still working, often at higher levels. Qualified experienced State employees are still leery of taking higher level positions where compensation and security are uncertain.

  33. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 11:41 am:

    === ===ut Gov. JBT would have been the second coming of George Ryan. ===

    If you mean a Republican governor who could get big things done with a Democratic majority, I agree.===

    (Eyes closed, reflective smile, including longing and sadness of loss)

    Best rebuff. Thanks for that.

  34. - Wally2Times - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 12:12 pm:

    “According to my opponents, I’m the worst person on earth”. That is one of the best political commercials ever! It made any attack on him ineffective

  35. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 12:55 pm:

    Wow, has it been five years?

    If we had the chance to do it all again
    Tell me, would we? Could we?

    Memories, may be beautiful and yet
    What’s too painful to remember
    We simply choose to forget
    So it’s the laughter
    We will remember
    Whenever we remember…

    The way we were…

  36. - fed up - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 1:15 pm:

    Interesting, everyone needs to REMEMBER PAT QUINN was along for the ride and stated Blago was “a person who’s honest and one of integrity.”

    yeah Quinns a real leader.

  37. - RNUG - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 2:55 pm:

    I still think there is a lot of Blago in Rauner. Remember, we didn’t really know the depths of Blago’s soul before he was elected Gov, all we had were a few hints and some of us had a general uneasiness.

    Yes, Blago was delusional where Rauner appears to just be a cold-blooded calculator; they both want to be able to pull the levers of power, but for different reasons. Blago had no trouble lying and putting the state out for sale to the highest bidder; he started that almost from day 1. We see evidence with Rauner that he will swing whichever way the poll numbers dictate, so there is some question as to what the real Rauner stands for. He appears to think he can buy the top job. I’d guess that once elected he would probably outsource everything possible, presumably to some of his buddies firms, as a means of busting the unions. Since to most people Rauner doesn’t need the money, there must be some kind of F*&^%$ Golden opportunity that he wants to take advantage of … I just can’t put my finger on it yet.

    Prediction: if Rauner should happen to end up Gov, I’ll bet the State’s legal bills from his actions will be more than the legal bills under Blago & Quinn combined.

  38. - siriusly - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 2:56 pm:

    I think the reason why Rauner reminds me of Blago is because he is so phony-licious.

    He pretends not to know what the common core education standards are - but he’s been a “champion for education reform” - he brags about his cheap watch - but that doesn’t really jive with buying a second house to get his kid into a Chicago school. and so on

    No I don’t think he is the second coming of Blago, but some of us do like politicians to at least appear to be a little bit genuine.

  39. - Catrike - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 2:57 pm:

    “George Ryan did more good for this State than
    most elected officials.”

    Tell it to the Willis family. What’s left of them.

  40. - siriusly - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 2:57 pm:

    Sorry I meant third house, not second house.

  41. - ZC - Tuesday, Jan 28, 14 @ 4:38 pm:

    Dems need to eat some rightful crow about this. There were a lot of Democratic elites who knew Rod was a moral basket case, by the time he ran against JBT. But from 1977-2002, the Dems hadn’t been able to win the governor’s mansion. It was sweet to be back in, no matter the price.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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