* From a few days ago…
House Speaker Michael Madigan moved Friday to shift control of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum away from a state agency in a move that was not initiated by Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration, which now controls the complex.
The Southwest Side Democrat introduced legislation removing control over the Lincoln facilities from the state Historic Preservation Agency and establishing an independent entity to oversee it.
“I just think he believes an entity as important as the Lincoln library deserves to be a stand-alone entity,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown told Early & Often, the Chicago Sun-Times online political portal.
* The bill passed out of the Executive Committee with only one dissenting vote. The advisory board’s chairman, Steven Beckett, who is also a U of I law professor, said he drafted the bill…
“The board had great hopes that we would have a significant role to play regarding operation of the museum and library,” Beckett testified before the committee. “We actually have very little to say.”
Beckett said there are a number of problems at the facility that aren’t being addressed, including 17 vacant positions at the library and four at the museum. He said there is no consistent policy to replace those people.
“We need to focus and solve these problems, and they’re not being solved,” Beckett said.
He also said the board tried to implement programs, but the separate Illinois Historic Preservation Agency board also had to sign off on them.
“The IHPA board has a different mission,” Beckett said.
Those job openings are inexcusable in this economy. However, the Quinn administration takes its sweet time approving applicants. The general rule of thumb is even if the Quinnsters want you hired, expect to wait up to a year.
* And since MJM is the sponsor, speculation ran rampant…
Madigan’s proposal could benefit some of his friends. The Springfield presidential museum is run by Eileen Mackevich, a Madigan friend. Madigan confirmed she is a longtime acquaintance of Stanley Balzekas, whose family runs the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture. Madigan acknowledged his Southwest Side office is at the same 13th Ward address as the museum, and that Balzekas is the landlord.
“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah,” said Madigan, who noted Balzekas is an “eminent Lithuanian American.”
The speaker said “no” when asked if his friendships with Balzekas and Mackevich played any role in the decision to try to separate the Lincoln library and museum from the Quinn administration, pointing instead to what he said were operational problems with the current set-up. […]
Madigan, who doubles as the Illinois Democratic Party chairman, maintained he “wouldn’t expect” a separate Lincoln agency to be turned into a political landing zone for his own partisan pals. Asked if he had anyone in mind for the top spot at the Lincoln agency, Madigan referenced Mackevich, saying, “There’s an executive director there today.”
Balzekas and Mackevich are not married, though they frequently attend functions together.
* But there do appear to be legit differences between the advisory board and the IHPA…
Mackevich and Historic Preservation Agency Director Amy Martin have had disagreements, including over where to house and how to display a potential gift from former U.S. Sen. Adlai Stevenson III of his political papers and those of three previous generations of his family, including his father, Adlai Stevenson II, who was a former governor and a Democratic presidential nominee, and Adlai Stevenson, who served under President Grover Cleveland as vice president.
Martin and Mackevich also have disagreed on the importance of a potential exhibit of Civil War-era music at the Lincoln museum, which was Mackovich’s idea. She described it as not a “high priority” for Martin, who could not be reached Monday.
But Mackevich insisted a personality clash with her boss, Martin, is not what is driving Madigan’s legislation.
“I don’t think this is a personality clash. If that’s what people are trying to say, that’s not so. I’m long in the tooth. I’m a person who’s been founder and president of the Chicago Humanities Council. I ran the National Bicentennial Commission. I’m willing to share of my knowledge and learning. I think what we’re talking about is different visions, not a personality clash,” she said. “There’s a big difference.”
Mackevich went on to tout her accomplishments, including being a founder and president of the Chicago Humanities Council and her running the National Bicentennial Commission.