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Madigan makes move on Lincoln presidential library

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

* 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.”

* More

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

36 Comments
  1. - ILPundit - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 10:33 am:

    Not sure where it says in the story where the boards have been in conflict. Mackevich may not be getting along with her boss, but that doesn’t mean the boards are out of sync.

    This really seems like a simple case of a friend of the Speaker trying to resolve her differences with management via legislation, which is a really bad way to make public policy.


  2. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 10:34 am:

    ===Not sure where it says in the story where the boards have been in conflict.===

    Then you need to read it again.


  3. - Nieva - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 10:37 am:

    Historic Preservation is the same agency that bought the Crenshaw House in Gallatin County. They spent a couple million dollars to buy it and the furnishings. It has sat in disrepair now for about 10 years with no planned opening date. The bank in Old Shawneetown is in their care also and it has the same problem. The state owns the site and a pole barn next door. The city has its junk piled all around the barn and if I remember correctly the state paid around a quarter million for it. Was supposed to be a office for the super. He retired and now no one is employed by Historic Preservation.


  4. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 10:39 am:

    Did he think no one would notice over Memorial Day weekend? And how do we square the claims like the ones below with some of the other rhetoric we’ve been hearing about budgets and other issues? Pushing this right now, at “the last minute”, is a questionable choice on the Speaker’s part.

    == The Quinn administration was largely silent on the issue, but estimated the cost for the switch would be $2.4 million at a time when other historic sites are considered for closure because of the state’s budget crunch. ==
    == Madigan, who was at the center of a patronage scandal at Metra last year in which he allegedly tried to influence raises and hiring decisions at the transit agency for decades, denied that his move would politicize the Lincoln library and museum or turn it into his own “political playpen.” ==


  5. - Adam Smith - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 10:39 am:

    This session is revealing real deterioration of Madigan’s Teflon. The public seems to be growing more an more negatively aware of his rule over the state and stuff like this is making it worse every day.

    “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”


  6. - in absentia - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 10:40 am:

    I agree with the speaker on this one. A gem like that doesn’t need state control; it can run on its own quite nicely. Should be a no brainer for HPA - a negative fiscal note?


  7. - ILPundit - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 10:40 am:

    I read it very closely. Mackevich mentioned she had conflicts with her boss, but that does not equal conflict between the boards. In fact, I can’t find any evidence that this proposal was in any way discussed or vetted by the Advisory Board prior to its introduction.


  8. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 10:42 am:

    === but that does not equal conflict between the boards===

    Oy.

    Try again…

    “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.


  9. - Upon Further Review - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 10:46 am:

    Peter Fitzgerald, phone home!


  10. - Cassiopeia - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 10:48 am:

    Amy Martin was put in her position by Jack Lavin. Now that Lavin has been thrown under the bus is Martin going to follow him?

    The agency is also pretty top heavy with political hires that are working on the Quinn campaign. In their off hours of course.


  11. - Dirty Red - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    = A gem like that doesn’t need state control; it can run on its own quite nicely. =

    It would still be under state control.


  12. - wordslinger - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    Wasn’t the museum board the crew that bought a Lincoln collection from a fellow board member for $23 million — the collection that included the hinky hat?

    I’m not so sure they don’t need oversight.


  13. - Sir Reel - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 11:06 am:

    HPA was carved out of the old Department of Conservation in 1985. That led to creating a new staff of redundant support positions with patronage opportunities. Here we go again.


  14. - D.P.Gumby - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 11:13 am:

    Having been involved w/ the Library/Museum from the beginning IHPA has been a “problem” through out. But the leadership of the Library/Museum has not been stellar either. Whether an independent board of the Library/Museum would be able to solve management problems is an “iffy” proposition, but this current structure isn’t working well and neither is the current leadership.


  15. - OneMan - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 11:19 am:

    Considering the research her dad did into Lincoln’s legislative service as well as the fact she may be out of a job in a few months, this might be a good fit for Sheila Simon.


  16. - Roamin' Numeral - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 11:24 am:

    ==estimated the cost for the switch would be $2.4 million at a time when other historic sites are considered for closure because of the state’s budget crunch.==

    Is this the best use of $2.4 million? Creating a new agency and putting the speaker’s friend in charge of it? All because she doesn’t want to answer to the HPA director anymore, because of their “disagreements” or whatever? Come on.


  17. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 11:42 am:

    What Brown meant to say: “I think that anything run successfully in Illinois has a problem that can only be solved by the Speaker’s benevolent rule.”


  18. - dupage dan - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 11:51 am:

    How is the regular Jane or Joe supposed to figure out who is feeding Illinois residents BS and who is telling the truth regarding this - or anything else that goes on in this state? Byzantine.


  19. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 12:01 pm:

    The $64 thousand question is whether the “new” agency would be exempt from CMS (particularly personnel and purchasing). If so, hiring would proceed more quickly (no ePARs), and purchasing oversight (i.e., delays) would be limited to the SPO and CPO.


  20. - Streator Curmudgeon - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 12:01 pm:

    “I have no ulterior motives with this legislation. As usual, you can trust that I have no ulterior motives for anything I do as Speaker.”


  21. - flea - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 12:24 pm:

    Maybe they should merge it back with IDNR and have them run it…that agency is really clicking right along


  22. - Louis Howe - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 12:35 pm:

    I doubt very much that Madigan has any personal interest in Lincoln’s Presidential museum. Sounds like an inside fight with Mackevich reaching for more leverage. Would Quinn sign-off? I doubt that too.


  23. - Union Man - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 12:47 pm:

    Must be something in it for MJM! He dosen’t support anything that isn’t a benefit to him or a friend.


  24. - Ginhouse Tommy - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 12:56 pm:

    They said that there were positions that were not being filled, but were they told that they could actually file them. With downsizing, was the rule of the day “do more with less”. Yes the agency has probably dropped the ball and needs to do a better job, but on the surface this sure looks like a political power grab.


  25. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 1:02 pm:

    Yay!
    More bureaucracy!
    That’s the ticket!

    This is Illinois.
    Why centralize, when you can bureaucratize?


  26. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 1:38 pm:

    Vanilla Man
    ==Why centralize, when you can bureaucratize?==

    And if you can do both, the result is called Shared Services … .


  27. - wordslinger - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 1:41 pm:

    Isn’t the proposal to actually remove a layer of bureaucracy?


  28. - A guy... - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 2:04 pm:

    This is the week the Christmas tree gets decorated and the gifts pile up. Hard to know who’s been naughty or nice til all the bills get jammed through. Look for more of these bills as the week goes on.


  29. - Kerfuffle - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 3:03 pm:

    —–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—-

    She seems pretty self serving. I’m not sure how well she is liked by the staff of the ALPLM. Certainly she is no Lincoln scholar and has no experience in running a museum.


  30. - Nearly Normal - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 3:31 pm:

    The board that Steven Beckett chairs is called an Advisory Board. Obviously, he and others want more say-so in the running of the Museum and Library. Their suggestions are forwarded to the IHPA which apparently does not always agree with them. Is that so terrible that we need to create a new entity?


  31. - Ginhouse Tommy - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 3:40 pm:

    Nearly Normal

    I completely agree. Very well said.


  32. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 4:41 pm:

    The Library and Museum are funded by a foundation.

    The foundation’s board includes noted presidential scholar Doris Kearns Goodwin. it includes names folks might also recognize like Jim Edgar, Carrie Hightman, Eileen Mitchell, Smita Shah and Margaret Houlihan.

    I suspect Madigan has a pretty good sense of how things are
    operating.

    I would also note that IHPA has no business “running” the lincoln facilities. You hired your director to do that, now let her do her job.


  33. - ILPundit - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 6:29 pm:

    YDD- you are referencing the Foundation Board. The Advisory Board is a different panel.

    Also, the ALPLM does receive foundation money. It also receives a very hefty GRF appropriation. It cannot exist on the foundation and fees alone.

    My favorite part of the debate was when Madigan just plain ignored the $2.5 million fiscal impact note and claimed that an entity without an HR department, legal support, and IT department would be able to become independent of IDPH for free.

    The fix is in. Everyone should be asking why.


  34. - Susie Springfield - Wednesday, May 28, 14 @ 5:46 am:

    Steve Brown was epically misinformed about her “excellent work.” The Speaker didn’t do his homework because if he had he would know that this will be the final blow for a institution tortured by bad decisions/directors. Quinn should show some leadership and fire Mackevich for her self-serving treachery and then get on his knees and beg Richard Norton Smith to come back.


  35. - Anyone Remember - Wednesday, May 28, 14 @ 9:52 am:

    Susie Springfield

    I thought Richard Norton Smith left because of problems with the locals, not Madigan.

    http://alt.history.abe-lincoln.narkive.com/lyVXemQr/respected-historian-richard-norton-smith-springfield-lincoln-presidential-museum


  36. - Susie Springfield - Wednesday, May 28, 14 @ 12:01 pm:

    Anyone-
    Yes. You are correct.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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