Writer Ron Litke Wants Governor Pat Quinn to Sound Off
When I have seen or heard Governor Pat Quinn over these few months of his term I am amazed at how restrained he is. I know him as a man bursting with energy and ideas and enthusiasm. After all, this is the man who founded the Citizens Utility Board and led the effort to reduce the number of legislators in Illinois so as to keep the indictments and other troubles at an almost tolerable level. I think he is a good guy. So it's upsetting to see him overmatched by Speaker of the House Mike Madigan. Quinn does not practice the kind of sinister political arts that are elemental to the speaker. Quinn plays fair, but he can be crazy – and that's what I'm hoping to see in the coming weeks of the budget battle.
I came into contact with now Governor Pat Quinn because of his enthusiasm. It was just an average day for me as press secretary in the city law department of Mayor Harold Washington's city hall. I was minding my own business, working – diligently, I say – reviewing cases that had news value as well as swatting away annoying phone calls from reporters asking silly questions – a large part of my day.
Then, I was summarily beckoned by the mayor's press secretary. Pat Quinn had recently become the director of the city revenue department after a banker who looked like C. Everett Koop – I still can't believe people wear beards like that – was gently assisted out of the job. There were multiple problems, mostly parking tickets, that were apparently beyond his capacity. Mayor Washington needed a redoubtable reformer.
Pat Quinn came into city hall like a harmonic convergence of reform. But he was talking to everybody and anybody about the larger issues of governance that had little to do with his job. And when he did talk about his new role he did so with just enough attitude that made it sound as though we were lucky to have him.
He was going rogue, and the mayor's press secretary told me I was to go to the revenue department on the first floor, sit next to his secretary, and intercept any media calls.
For two days I sat next to Quinn's secretary, fielded the calls, and he barely noticed. The third day, after explaining why I was there, he called me into his office. He asked if that meant he had enemies on the fifth floor.
I told him the mayor's press office wanted consistent answers to reporters who were keen on making us live up to the idea of reform. Quinn asked that i not make him look bad. Sometimes, he added, he had too much to say.
I wonder where that guy is now. He seemed to be the right guy at the right time, a providential balance after Ryan and Blagojevich. But, I think his abiding, citizen-centered idealism is being openly mocked by the Springfield status quotidians. So I urge you to take a careful look at his term, because pat Quinn is probably the last trace of legitimate reform we'll see in Illinois for a long time.
Music Button: Mose Allison, "I'm Not Talking," from the release Allison Wonderland: Anthology (Rhino Records)