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Cool it a bit, guv

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

* As I’ve often said before, this whole “living in the governor’s mansion” issue is silly. I defended Rod Blagojevih time and time again on it, and grew sick of the whining from Springfieldians that the guy didn’t want his kids going to school here. I didn’t blame him one bit, particularly since he wasn’t all that popular with state employees, thousands of whom also send their kids to school here.

Gov. Quinn, however, promised he’d live in the mansion, and the Tribune reports that he hasn’t really done so

…Quinn stays at the ornate, taxpayer-funded house only sporadically. During his first year in office, Quinn slept there 55 nights, mostly while lawmakers were in session. He didn’t spend more than three consecutive nights in the executive mansion.

He over-promised, plain and simple. But the fact that he doesn’t live in an “ornate, taxpayer-funded” mansion does not, as the Tribune story claims, “belies the populist image” Quinn projects. If anything, living in his own modest Chicago home is far more populist, as far as I believe.

* The real meat of the Tribune story, however, is that Quinn has on at least a couple of occasions appeared to misuse his state plane to go back and forth between Springfield and Chicago…

On a handful of occasions, Quinn took a state plane to Springfield during the day, only to fly back to Chicago the same night. Among these cases were trips to attend a campaign fundraiser and his aunt’s funeral. Quinn defended the funeral round trip as an appropriate use of taxpayer money because he was honoring a woman who was a “citizen of Illinois for eight decades.” […]

On June 29, Quinn met with Mayor Richard Daley in Chicago before flying to Springfield to huddle with Democratic legislative leaders. Quinn was there for just over two hours before flying back to Chicago, where he hosted an evening campaign fundraiser at the downtown Hyatt.

Quinn said his use of the plane was appropriate and he did not make the round trip because of the fundraiser, but because he planned to attend the annual Rainbow/PUSH meeting in Chicago the following morning. […]

On Oct. 10, Quinn flew from Chicago in the afternoon to host a Springfield reception for his former Northwestern University law classmates, then flew back to Chicago about five hours later. On Dec. 19, Quinn flew to Springfield to host a holiday open house and staff party before returning to Chicago a few hours later.

He should give that stuff a rest. And the campaign use ought to be strictly verboten.

* Speaking of the state plane, the Tribune also had a piece on that today

Lawmakers are proposing a wide variety of ways to cut the woefully out-of-balance budget, but curbing their use of state aircraft is not at the top of the list.

Dozens of lawmakers fly between Chicago and Springfield on the state’s fleet of four executive airplanes at discounted rates subsidized by taxpayers, according to Illinois Department of Transportation records.

Legislators who’ve taken the most flights defended their use of state planes, saying they would get reimbursed for mileage if they drove.

It’s a legit hit, but I doubt they mind too much.

* Related…

* Graphic: Top Illinois legislators using state aircraft

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - shore - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 11:26 am:

    The White House is also an “ornate building” and Barack Obama’s trips cost a lot more than Quinn. Remember that when I say this I am a Republican with no love in my heart for the man. What’s more, we don’t have a lt governor right now so if there was a terrorist attack or something absurd like that and quinn was stuck on a public airplane somewhere random and couldn’t make it to where he needed to be for hours.

    Give me a break.

    This is what happens when journalists desperate to get a headline write a story and have no idea what they are talking about. Plenty of serious stuff to write about where you don’t have to abuse facts and reality to score a point.

  2. - Justice - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 11:29 am:

    I would a whole lot rather have them flying versus speeding up and down the state and endangering others, on the pretense they are needed in Springfield. Besides, the faster we can get them out of town, the better.

    As to the Governor’s Mansion, I say rent it out for meetings, weddings, and other special events. Large screen viewing of Blago’s trial would pack the house and help pay for maintenance.

  3. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 11:31 am:

    State plane use is an evergreen. A reporter can always pull it out on a rainy day and generate some outrage.

    It might be time to make some long-term decisions on the mansion, since it’s not being used and its falling apart. What’s its purpose and do we want to spend the money to make it right? Is it really “historic.”

  4. - Southern Illinois - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 11:31 am:

    What has been ignored is…the State of Illinois does not have a revenue problem, the State of Illinois has a spending problem.

  5. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 11:33 am:

    ===the State of Illinois does not have a revenue problem===

    Yes, it does. Don’t be silly and dogmatic.

  6. - shore - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 11:34 am:

    you could also do an expose on the thousands of dollars spent on paper, or pencils or desks or capitolfax subscriptions. There are some expenses that are essential to running government that are unavoidable.

  7. - Nearly Normal - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 11:43 am:

    The Executive Mansion had been made available for meetings and receptions in the past. It has been about five years since I was in the building. We got a tour of the main floor and used the ballroom on the second floor for our meeting. There was an area that was cordoned off that was private for the governor.

    I thought the interior was starting to look a little shabby and needed some repairs. Staff said that there was only so much given for maintenance and upkeep with the needs costing more than the appropriation.

  8. - the Patriot - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 11:47 am:

    I don’t care if the Guv lives in the Mansion, I have never been there, but it doesn’t seem like a real homey place to me. The expense issue is a real issue, but is a drop in the bucket when we are trying to plug the Hoover Dam here.

    For me it is about process. When lawmakers have to go to Chicago to meet with the governor there is a problem. The state capital is in Springfield not Chicago. You cannot engage in the legislative process in Springfield if you don’t go there. I haven’t heard a lot of grumbling about Quinn never being in Springfield like we did Blago. Two quick points:

    One, it tells us that Chicago is running the state. Don’t tell me you care about anything south of I-80 if you are too good to come down here except for campaign stops.

    Two, you can’t lead a group of people from 3 hours away. Lovie can’t coach the Bears from an office in Milwaukee and the Governor can’t lead the state from Chicago.

  9. - Secret Square - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 11:52 am:

    “May said she takes the state plane because of the toll it takes on her previously injured neck and shoulders to make the 3 1/2-hour drive or train ride to Springfield and then work a full day. ‘I would love nothing more than to have the trains be more reliable, but to take the train I’ve got to get up at 5 a.m.,’ May said.”

    She’s got a point about the train schedules. However, I strongly suspect there are many people out there (particularly state retirees) who would prefer to show her and her colleagues some “tough love” by grounding the state planes, eh?

  10. - Moving to Oklahoma - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 11:56 am:

    The state of Illinois has a revenue and a spending problem.

  11. - RJW - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 12:00 pm:

    Look, I don’t necessarily mind at this time that the Governor doesn’t live in the Mansion. It hasn’t been maintained. I’m not sure I would want to live their either. However, I think you are completely wrong, Rich, to suggest it is no big deal that he doesn’t live in the Mansion. The fact is that Springfield is the OFFICIAL SEAT of Illinois government. The leader of that Government should live in Springfield. I don’t know why that is a hard concept for some to understand. A lot of people outside of Chicago view this trend of Governor’s not living in Springfield as a slap in the face. I am one of them. If you are going to run for the job you should know that the requirement is you live in Springfield.

  12. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 12:03 pm:

    –Lovie can’t coach the Bears from an office in Milwaukee …–

    …or one in Lake Forest.

    You can be governor — good or bad — from anywhere. Communications are pretty good these days. It would be weird if the governor didn’t spend a lot of time in the Chicago area — like it or not, that’s where most of the people are.

    It would be better to shut down the mansion, ground the planes, and just give the governor an awesome tour bus, a la Willie Nelson or John Madden.

    Just keep him rolling 24/7, all year long, the length and breadth of the state, just checking up on things.

  13. - dupage dan - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 12:03 pm:

    I loved PQ’s response to the appropriateness of using the state plane to attend his aunt’s funeral. He said that it was state business because the aunt was an 80 year Illinois resident and he was honoring a state resident.

    I don’t have much of a problem with PQ’s use of the state plane. Per the article, he uses it way less that RB did - that is a non-starter.

    PQ’s rationalization for using the state plane to attend his aunt’s funeral was laughable.

  14. - Secret Square - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 12:13 pm:

    “The fact is that Springfield is the OFFICIAL SEAT of Illinois government. The leader of that Government should live in Springfield.”

    I agree, and the state constitution in fact requires the governor and all constitutional officers to “maintain a residence at the seat of government.”

    However, it does NOT say that this “residence” has to be a mini-White House maintained at taxpayer expense. (Nor does it say that the officeholder’s spouse or children have to live there.)

    Springfield is one of the most affordable housing markets in the country, and our electricity and water is comparatively affordable thanks to CWLP. Anyone making as much as the governor or other constitutionals would have no trouble finding a very nice “residence” and paying for it out of their salary.

    If the state can no longer afford to maintain the mansion, it ought to be sold and rehabbed as an historic site or as a B&B or banquet/reception/meeting facility. It certainly should not be allowed to just fall into ruin.

  15. - Eskimo - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 12:16 pm:

    If you would look at New York or California, I am sure that the governor spends significantly more time in the main cities of the states (NYC, LA, San Fran) than the historic capital (Albany, Sacramento).

    As long as our state has a capitol city with 150k and a separate metropolitan area with a population of 9 million, I would expect the governor to spend a majority of his time north of I-80.

  16. - Jeff Wartman - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 12:21 pm:

    Rich - What model of planes does the state use?

  17. - Excessively Rabid - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 12:22 pm:

    it ought to be sold and rehabbed as an historic site

    The Historic Preservation Agency has a lot of money for that, right? Or is the profit motive somehow going to take care of this? How about if the state just maintains its assets properly? OK, back to the revenue/spending conundrum.

  18. - Fed up - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 12:23 pm:

    Quinns use of the state plane shows that his attempts to be seen as a fiscally responsible are a lie just like his BS super8 card. Face it the state can’t afford teachers and cops but Quinn can fly back and forth to springfield on the taxpayer dime for campaign fundraisers and family. Wasteful spending like this is the real problem.

  19. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 12:34 pm:

    –How about if the state just maintains its assets properly? –

    From previous reports, it appears the mansion has lot more than just deferred maintenance needs. If you’re not going to take care of this asset, maybe it’s time to pull the plug.

  20. - gamera - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 12:35 pm:

    Uh…Blago said he didn’t want his kids going to school “down there” before he was even in office. Downstate isn’t Deliverance, for crying out loud.

  21. - Vole - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 1:04 pm:

    About those costs to travel — my guess is that the reimbursements for private vehicle use are inflated and those for use of the state plane are deflated. It is very easy either to discount by omission or to pad by commission. But then my guess is not based upon driving those big, black, elite status SUVs that the powerful seem to prefer. I guess negotiating the traffic in Chicago might select for such expressions of power — visible carrying in a way.

    The image seems to be the problem with much of this. The elites seem to be exempt from any needs to sacrifice. No cake without icing.

  22. - Jake from Elwood - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 1:08 pm:

    I am not a Quinn apologist, but Gov. Quinn appears to have used the state plane far less than Gov. JetFuel. So a little perspective here is in order.
    I actually think the funeral of a family member is an OK use of the jet. It allowed him to efficiently balance his work and family emergency matters on a one-time basis. Not a big deal. It is certainly a better use of the jet than for his participation in a political fundraiser, both ethically and morally.

  23. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 1:20 pm:

    ===those for use of the state plane are deflated===

    A case can be made that those costs are actually inflated.

  24. - Amalia - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 1:41 pm:

    The Tribune needs to get a grip on reality. It’s as if they have
    stories in the can and those trump urgent matters. This story about Quinn when they could be covering a ton of stories on pols and deals that will affect taxpayers. Today’s Trib has a big expose about juvenile facilities and suicide. While a very sad topic, and of concern, Chicago’s lakefront has exploded with violence over the last few days, shootings, a jogger beaten, threatening not only average citizens, but vacation planners.

    It’s all well and good to go policy wonk, but please Chicago
    Tribune, keep your eye on the ball. In the case of crime
    and violence, it’s the roaming gangs. In the case of politics
    it’s the current legislative session and the players.

  25. - TwoFeetThick - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 1:41 pm:

    Regarding the question about what model of planes the state uses,it’s been awhile since I flew on it but I don’t think it’s changed. The state plane I’ve flown on was a Beechcraft Super King. I think the state operates two of them, but I could be wrong about that.

  26. - dave - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 1:48 pm:

    What has been ignored is…the State of Illinois does not have a revenue problem, the State of Illinois has a spending problem.

    You don’t appear to know that much about the State budget. Did you know that IL has one of the lowest spending per cap levels in the country? Did you also know that IL has one of the lowest overall tax levels in the country? Did you also know that IL has the lowest state worker per cap in the country?

    IL has low revenue AND low spending. The facts don’t lie.

  27. - Still Gettin Twisted - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 1:59 pm:

    Rich, it might be an interesting story to check the usage this spring of all the State planes. Who is using them, who is not? We know about Quinn..what about Madigan? Cullerton?? Cross??

  28. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 2:00 pm:

    ===it might be an interesting story to check===

    To you, maybe.

  29. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 2:41 pm:

    This is just another example of Quinn shooting his mouth off and making a big deal of Blago not living there and he was going to….. Remember, all the “People’s House” he was spewing when he took office? I don’t care where he sleeps but to me, this is just another example of him grandstanding and saying one thing and doing something completely different.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you say.” If this is true, Quinn needs to be worried about his chances of being elected.

  30. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 2:44 pm:

    Yeah, the Ralph Waldo Emerson vote is really big in Illinois.

  31. - Smitty Irving - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 3:12 pm:

    Secret Square -

    Bravo! Another example of “do as I say, not as I do” … . Illinois legislators wonder why citizens look at them as if (to use that memorable expression of Ralphie’s in A Christmas Story) they have “lobsters crawling out of my ears.” This is exactly why.

    State retirees do pay for health care - deductibles, co-pays. Yes, they do not pay a premium for themselves, but they do pay something. And they pay regular freight for dependents.

    When an Illinois politician like Rep. May comes along and wants to break a contract and impose a sacrifice on others, and then defends her access to and use of below market price perks, this is why the citizens tend to think we don’t need to increase taxes (and we do). Way to go Representative!

  32. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 3:34 pm:

    I’m only vaguely near the topic, but isn’t there another mansion somewhere so the governor has somewhere to stay farther downstate? I seem to recall another governor’s mansion somewhere.

    Personally I think we should sell off any official residences the state owns.

  33. - Secret Square - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 4:16 pm:

    Of course, if these constant storms with flooding downpours keep hitting Springfield every day, the governor and other officials might have to consider commuting by boat… or ark… :-)

  34. - Secret Square - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 4:25 pm:

    “isn’t there another mansion somewhere”

    I believe there is an official state-owned residence on or near the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds — not sure whether it’s technically a “second governor’s mansion” but Blago did actually use it at least once.

  35. - Park - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 6:43 pm:

    Word a little mean, but cracked me up at work. What do you think about H.L. Menken voters?

    I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.
    H. L. Mencken

    I confess I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing.
    H. L. Mencken

  36. - Lester Holt's Mustache - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 8:05 pm:

    You should all keep something in mind while politely discussing where Quinn sleeps. Every day he is at the mansion, there are extra costs that rack up.
    I had a tour not too long ago, and apparently when the governor is in Chicago, the mansion is practically deserted. Something like 5 employees and a state cop or two. When he comes down for the night there is extra security, extra staff, food, etc. etc. It’s actually cheaper for the taxpayers if he stays at his own house. If he lived at the mansion year-round, you can be sure the trib would run articles with breathless headlines about how much money is being spent.
    And as big as the mansion is, you’d save a fortune on electricity your not using, at least.

  37. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 10:07 pm:

    Mencken is hard to top.

    He said Calvin Coolidge’s career was “as appalling and fascinating as a two-headed boy.”

    Warren Harding’s rhetorical style “reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it.”

  38. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 11:20 pm:

    ==Rich, it might be an interesting story to check the usage this spring of all the State planes. Who is using them, who is not?==

    Rich posted a link to a graph with just that info. The real standouts were the “budget hawks” who held a little press conference and proposed all those cuts on Monday. Nice.

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