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.

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.”

Leadership styles

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.

Busy traveler

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.

But Democrats have not complained about attendance problems on Quinn’s part, as they often did under Blagojevich.

“With Governor Quinn there have been almost weekly meetings with his senior staff,” said Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. “Blagojevich was a very troubled and confused human being. There’s no comparison.”

Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523.


Gov. Pat Quinn and Springfield

A review of Gov. Pat Quinn’s public schedule shows that, since his inauguration in January, Quinn spent all or part of:

--12 days in Springfield

--70 days in Chicago

--5 days in the Chicago suburbs

--6 days in downstate cities other than Springfield

--6 days out of state.

Quinn’s public schedule did not list where he was for 12 days in March and April.

On the Web

To view a spreadsheet of Gov. Pat Quinn's public schedule, go to: http://tinyurl.com/63b24wg

 

Legislative committees meet in Chicago too

SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn isn’t the only one drawing criticism for spending time in Chicago. At least one lawmaker is unhappy about the number of legislative hearings and other meetings being held in Chicago.

Rep. David Leitch, R-Peoria, said all committee hearings should be in the capital.

“There was an appropriations hearing (in Chicago) the week we were off,” he said. “I just told them I wasn’t going to it. I think it’s ridiculous. It’s a tremendous inconvenience to members from downstate and outside of Chicago.”

Figures were not immediately available for the House, but the Senate has held 212 committee hearings in 2011. Six were in Chicago, eight were in other cities, and 198 were in Springfield.

“It seemed like when I was first elected I had more meetings in Chicago than I had in recent years,” said state Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield. “I don’t know that there’s any more committee work being held in Chicago.”

Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said budget-related committees have routinely met over the years in Chicago when the legislature is not in session in Springfield. Brown does not believe the number of Chicago hearings has increased.

“Most of the members of the committee are located in that part of the state,” Brown said, referring to Chicago and its suburbs. “It’s a courtesy to those people who travel several hundred miles during the rest of the session.”

-- Chris Wetterich