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Edgar to Springfield: Do your job

Friday, Mar 31, 2017

* Haley BeMiller at the Tribune

Democrats and Republicans briefly put aside their differences Thursday to honor a longtime Springfield insider known for working across the aisle, saying his pragmatic approach should serve as inspiration to break the unprecedented budget impasse.

Stephen Schnorf spent 22 years in state government and held a variety of positions during his tenure, including budget director under former Republican Govs. Jim Edgar and George Ryan. Schnorf died last month of pancreatic cancer.

His memorial was held in an ornate committee room, a rare honor that drew a crowd of family, friends and colleagues, including Edgar and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. As speakers reflected on their fond memories of Schnorf, some pointed to his ability to rise above partisan politics to solve problems. […]

Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, echoed Edgar’s sentiments, calling Schnorf “the soldier for the state of Illinois.”

“He was a doer, a thinker and also a strategist of how to make this great state work for all of us,” he said. “Not red, not blue – make our state work for us.”

If you missed it yesterday, the event can be seen by clicking here.

* Gov. Edgar recounted a long list of his administration’s achievements, attributing many of them to Schnorf. He also referenced a poll taken at the end of his tenure by the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University which showed, he said, that “the public overwhelmingly thought that Illinois government was doing their job. The best numbers we ever received before or since. And, again, Steve deserves a lot of credit for that.”

I found a reference to that poll in Jim Nowlan’s book “Fixing Illinois: Politics and Policy in the Prairie State.” According to the book, the poll found that 51 percent of Illinoisans were satisfied with the state’s direction, compared to 10 percent who weren’t satisfied.

Imagine that. Half the people liked the direction of the state. Now, compare that to a poll taken earlier this month

(W)ould you say that things in Illinois are going in the right direction, or have they pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track?

    12% RIGHT DIRECTION
    82% WRONG TRACK
    4% NO OPINION (DO NOT READ)
    2% REFUSED (DO NOT READ)

Ugh.

* More from Edgar’s speech

You win elections so you have power, so you can get things done, you can solve problems, you can help people.

Now, nobody was more partisan in an election up to election day than Steve. But the day after the election, he’d put the partisanship aside and was willing to reach out and was willing to work with the other side to find solutions to the problems.

You know, people today forget that state government used to work in Illinois. Back in the 1990s it worked pretty well. It wasn’t perfect, we had our partisan battles, we didn’t get everything right. But at the end of the day, we came together in a bipartisan manner, in a timely manner and solved the problems and the state moved on.

And a major reason for that was Steve. […]

Our unemployment rate in the last half of the 90s was below the national average. That’s something that has never happened before in Illinois history and it hasn’t happened since. […]

We left a billion and a half dollar surplus when we left in ‘99. As budget director, Steve had a lot to do with that.

…(I)n the early years we had to lay off thousands of people because the state was basically bankrupt. Steve had to administer that through CMS. But the whole time, through all those difficult situations, we had a very civil relationship with the state employees’ union. Again, I give Steve a lot of credit for that.

* And this is how he ended his speech

Success will only occur when hundreds of people, both elected and appointed, both Republicans and Democrats, both executive branch and legislative branch do their job - working together, setting aside personal agendas and solving problems.

Nobody in Illinois state government, nobody did his job better than my friend Steve Schnorf.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

26 Comments
  1. - morningstar - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:01 am:

    RIP, Steve. Please help us from Heaven. We’d appreciate a bolt from the blue.


  2. - winners and losers - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:07 am:

    It is so hard to be positive in this situation.

    Take changing the school funding formulas. HB 2808 was voted out of Committee yesterday, 15 to 1.

    You would never know it is a controversial bill. NO testimony against it because very few people knew it was going to be heard.

    Nothing posted on the HB 2808 page about hearing yesterday.

    The posting for the 1 p.m. meeting yesterday of House Appropriations - Elementary & Secondary Education stated “At this time, no legislation has been assigned”.

    The temporary Committee Chair (the actual Chair was the Sponsor of HB 2808 so was presenting the bill) announced “NO Witness slips on HB 2808.”

    It appears that since HB 2808 was not listed as being heard, no electronic Witness slip was created for yesterday.

    NO mention was made of the 26 proponents and 128 OPPONENTS that filed Witness slips on HB 2808 for the Tuesday hearing.

    How do you stay optimistic about the legislative process when it is so abused on something so important and so controversial as changing all of the school funding formulas in Illinois?


  3. - Cubs in '16 - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:10 am:

    “Success will only occur when hundreds of people, both elected and appointed, both Republicans and Democrats, both executive branch and legislative branch do their job - working together, setting aside personal agendas and solving problems.”

    That’s really the crux of the matter in a nutshell. The other Edgar quote I found interesting is the reference to working civilly with AFSCME when layoffs were necessary. That says to me that AFSCME does want to be a part of the solution and is willing to negotiate fairly. So…what’s different today?


  4. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:16 am:

    ===But at the end of the day, we came together in a bipartisan manner, in a timely manner and solved the problems and the state moved on.

    And a major reason for that was Steve. […]===

    What I’ve learned, from afar and by reputation and stories, was Schnorf’s willingness to work to get things passed, 60, 30, signature, and in the end, it WAS about getting something done, because doing nothing wasn’t an option.

    This was such a wonderful tribute to his friend…

    ===Success will only occur when hundreds of people, both elected and appointed, both Republicans and Democrats, both executive branch and legislative branch do their job - working together, setting aside personal agendas and solving problems.

    Nobody in Illinois state government, nobody did his job better than my friend Steve Schnorf.===

    Steve Schnorf was a giant.

    What makes men/women giants is the ability to be be a leader and do so selflessly for the benefit of compromise and governing, and being a catalyst of bringing people together when it’s tough, not when it’s easy.

    The speakers were wonderful, Steve’s family, all were so personally eloquent to Schnorf, including his granddaughter, no one could follow her beautiful words.

    Rich, you words too did great service to your friend. Well done.

    There needs to be a commitment by all to have 60/30, in honest bargaining, and both sides working honestly to what can be accomplished, and what just isn’t doable, and move to where doable exists.

    A governor needs to be willing to sign the doable, and all sides need to see an end gane as good, true, honest governance.

    That would be a goal is hope all dudes would strive for, for Steve Schnorf.

    Thanks for the feed yesterday, Rich. I appreciated the opportunity to see.


  5. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:19 am:

    Edgar pointed out many successes, rightfully. And unlike the rest, his brags are backed up with facts. He gave a lions share of credit where it belonged. I don’t think Steve could have/would have worked for Blago or the Vulture.


  6. - x ace - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:20 am:

    Good Tribute - Good Advice


  7. - Juvenal - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:21 am:

    What Jim Edgar said.

    Also, what Speaker Madigan, Senator Trotter, and Rich MIller said.

    Caring about the people who are a part of the policy making process as well as those are impacted by the policies makes the job of governing really hard. In budget situations like these, where there are no winners only survivors, caring makes governing damn near impossible. If you aren’t heartbroken every day and don’t wake up with a pit in your stomach every morning, there is something wrong with you.

    But caring about the people who are involved and impacted is also essential to being good at governing, and it is essentially what is missing right now.


  8. - AlfondoGonz - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:24 am:

    The verdict from the women who I associate with on Rauner’s removing-duct-tape commercial is a resounding “creepy.”


  9. - don the legend - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:25 am:

    Thanks for posting yesterday’s link to Steve’s tribute. Can anyone here comment as to whether Rauner or his office ever contacted Steve for advice?


  10. - Nero's Fiddle - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:26 am:

    I didn’t know Steve Schnorf personally, but what I have learned of him from this blog is his ability to shove politics aside and do what was right for the people of Illinois is just what we need right now.


  11. - Lucky Pierre - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:29 am:

    Is calling the Governor’s Turnaround agenda bills for a vote doable?

    If they aren’t why not?

    Much easier to just run sham bills for political purposes

    Certainly no spirit of compromise with Republicans or dissenting views in the House of Representatives on budget making or anything else for that matter


  12. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:30 am:

    LP, take a breath.


  13. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:35 am:

    “And a major reason for that was Steve. […]”

    Great job for someone’s life’s work, to bring people together and not try to decimate one side. Also to not go into politics to smash one’s self-made enemies.

    “A governor needs to be willing to sign the doable”

    So very important. Do the doable today and push for changes in the future. That’s why we have annual budgets and regularly-scheduled elections.

    Don’t stick the proverbial crowbar in the wheel of government and grind it to a halt to force a Messianic vision, that drastic changes have to be done immediately–especially when the changes are not supported by estimates and data.


  14. - wordslinger - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:38 am:

    Contrast Edgar’s remarks with Rauner’s assertion the other day that “we’re in trench warfare and we’re winning.”

    That’s just what Ludendorf told the German people until his government and country collapsed into chaos, leaving a legacy of nothing but pointless destruction.

    But the governor’s chosen analogy is revealing of his thinking, willful actions and their predictable outcomes, if you don’t get the guy by now.


  15. - striketoo - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:41 am:

    To honor Steve’s memory, could we make the simultaneous signing of Rauner’s and Madigan’s resignations a part of any Grand Bargain?


  16. - Earnest - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 11:46 am:

    >Success will only occur when hundreds of people, both elected and appointed, both Republicans and Democrats, both executive branch and legislative branch do their job - working together, setting aside personal agendas and solving problems.

    We’re 25% of the way there with half of the legislative branch making a great effort. Once again, thank you to leaders Radogno and Cullerton for your hard work forging a compromise.


  17. - Lucky Pierre - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 12:29 pm:

    Contrast that with Madigan’s comments on being in a war with the Governor for the soul of the Democratic party.

    A war always has two sides


  18. - Honeybear - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 12:44 pm:

    One thing that grieves me fairly regularly is the loss of skilled compromisers. We desperately need those who fight hard but follow rules and norms instead of taking hostages and destroying lives. B


  19. - Honeybear - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 12:45 pm:

    Sorry about the B. I don’t know how that got on there.


  20. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 1:42 pm:

    Well, LP, to paraphrase an old Springfield lawyer, one would make war rather than let labor and the needy survive, and one would accept war rather than let them perish.

    That cat was a Republican, did you know that? A lot of people don’t, Trump says. He got the news recently, and is spreading it around.

    He’s got the skinny on Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas, too. It’s yooge.


  21. - wordslinger - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 1:44 pm:

    Pardon, 142 was me.


  22. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 2:02 pm:

    ===One thing that grieves me fairly regularly is the loss of skilled compromisers. We desperately need those who fight hard but follow rules and norms instead of taking hostages and destroying lives.===

    That’s why you acknowledging that makes Schnorf’s giant shadow over this even darker towards those who don’t see the opportunities to do the doable.

    You’re on it.


  23. - illinoised - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 2:09 pm:

    Who will be today’s Steve Schnorf? Honor his memory and help us out.

    I have a political party preference but am willing to compromise, to give up something in order to reach an agreement for the good of all. I have a friend who prefers a different party than mine, but he is also willing to give up something. Why can’t our representatives do this?


  24. - Anon - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 2:40 pm:

    I’m still waiting for him to apologize for his pension ramp.

    He’s as much of a charlatan as any of our leaders have been, the difference being that the problem wasn’t as big as it is now when he decided to ignore it.


  25. - Lucky Pierre - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 3:03 pm:

    He brags about leaving office with a surplus but still needed a ramp to pay the pensions.

    That sums it up pretty well, we can’t even pay the normal costs of pensions when there is a surplus, why would we pay for them when money is tight


  26. - Kirk Dillard - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 4:01 pm:

    Rich, I can not thank you enough for the updates on Steve and your thoughtfulness to his family. Your livestream of his memorial was deeply appreciated!!! EVERYONE in Illinois government should view it. Steve was the most unique and best example of a loving/thoughtful and VERY competent public servant I have ever been privileged to see. God Bless and thanks for him….a real loss to Illinois and his family or friends.


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