WE ARE ILLINOIS
Quinn often absent from Springfield
By Chris Wetterich - GateHouse News Service
Since his inauguration for a full term Jan. 10, Gov. Pat Quinn has spent 12 days in Springfield, according to a review of his publicly released schedule.
Counting days Quinn spent partially in the capital city raises the number to 24, according to the governor’s staff, which also reviewed his private schedule.
The amount of time Quinn spends in Springfield has drawn criticism from some Republican legislators, who say Quinn should have been in Springfield for every one of the 40 days the legislature has been scheduled to be in session this year.
At the same time, even Republicans say Quinn and his staff are far more responsive than his predecessor, Rod Blagojevich.
Those criticizing the governor say he particularly needs to be at the Capitol in order for the state to deal with its budget problems
Face to face
“How can you lead if you’re not there?” said state Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville.
“You’re not as effective, and you become almost ineffective, when you’re not here,” said state Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield. “Trying to negotiate by telephone doesn’t really get it done. You need to do it face to face.”
Quinn spokeswoman Mica Matsoff responded that “when the General Assembly is in Springfield, so is the governor.”
“He goes early and stays late,” she said. “He holds 200 events in the Executive Mansion each year.”
State Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, was surprised to learn that Quinn has been absent from Springfield as much as he has. When his constituents complained about Blagojevich, the first thing they often mentioned was that he did not live in Springfield. Quinn is different, Koehler said.
“I never hear this issue being raised by any constituents,” Koehler said. “Pat Quinn is accessible. He’s in Springfield a lot. He stays there.
“He comes to Peoria a lot,” Koehler added. “He’s been at every funeral of every military personnel that was killed in recent years.”
Watson, an Iraq war veteran, pointed to the governor’s attendance at military funerals as an example Quinn could follow when it comes to the rest of state government.
“I don’t think we can overlook how good this governor is to military families,” Watson said. “If we could have that kind of effort on other things, I think we would do a lot better.”
Chris Mooney, a professor of political studies at the University of Illinois Springfield, said different governors have had different styles of leadership. Hands-on governors whose careers were entirely in state government, such as Republicans George Ryan and Jim Edgar, tended to spend more time in Springfield.
“They were state government people from the beginning,” Mooney said. “Their focus was on Springfield.
Jim Thompson spent a lot of time in Springfield but also lived in Chicago, where he was from, Mooney said.
“If the governor wants to be effective in the legislative process, he needs to be in the state Capitol more often than not,” Mooney added. “You can’t just parachute in at the last minute.”
However, Quinn gets less criticism about his schedule because he isn’t as confrontational as Blagojevich, Mooney said.
“It’s surprising how little heat Quinn gets from this,” Mooney said. “Quinn’s just not sticking his finger in the eye of people downstate. He said he was going to live in the mansion. It didn’t work out that way.”
During the campaign, Quinn boasted that he kept his underwear at the Executive Mansion, indicating his Springfield residency.
“He must have very few pairs,” Watson said.
Matsoff said the governor’s public schedule can be misleading.
“The governor's constituency is the entire state of Illinois, and he routinely travels to a variety of locations to meet with people from around the state,” she said. “He keeps a busy schedule, often making stops in several locations in a single day. And he is committed to increasing statewide public engagement with the office of the governor and state agencies.”
Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, does not believe Quinn has been in Springfield much more than Blagojevich.
“I certainly don’t think he is here as much as much as I was led to believe,” Brauer said.
SOURCE: Gatehouse News
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