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This governor not at home in capital, either

Quinn spends as much time overseas as in Springfield

Published: Monday, Aug. 5, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST

SPRINGFIELD – During the last year, Gov. Pat Quinn spent less than 14 percent of his time actually working in Springfield.

In fact, the governor spent almost as much time on trips outside of Illinois as he did in the state’s capital.

From July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013, Quinn spent 50 days doing at least some work in Springfield according to his personal schedule, which I obtained through the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.  

By way of comparison, he spent 48 days traveling outside the Land of Lincoln. Among his stops during the year: Mexico, Brazil and Germany. 

I wasn’t surprised by the findings.

After all, it’s pretty obvious to any statehouse observer that he doesn’t spend much time in the city where the state is actually governed. 

I note this with a bit of regret, remembering full well that Quinn promised when he became governor that he would live in Springfield. 

And let’s not forget that we taxpayers pay roughly $500,000 a year to maintain the governor’s mansion – that he refuses to reside in for even one-fifth of the year. 

He isn’t the first of the state’s chief executives to make this transgression. 

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich didn’t live in Springfield, either.

You’ll recall during his cameo appearances in the capital, Blago would swoop in aboard a state jet and fly home to Chicago the same day.

The sheets at the governor’s mansion hardly seemed to get rustled for 6 years.

His excuse?

He didn’t want his kids to be raised in the Springfield media spotlight.

But Pat Quinn is a bachelor. What’s his justification?  

I asked his office, and its response is that Quinn lives in both Chicago and Springfield. 

But in the past, Quinn has insisted that he does live in Springfield. 

In fact, in 2010 he publicly disclosed that’s where he keeps his underwear. 

Well, either he’s got a change of clothes stashed somewhere else in the state or he’s changing way too infrequently. 

Heck, for 4 of the past 12 months, he didn’t bother to step foot into the governor’s mansion. 

Not everyone has taken the Quinn/Blagojevich approach.   

Jim Edgar made Springfield his primary home while he was governor. 

Jim Thompson split his time as governor between Chicago and Springfield.  

George Ryan spent considerable time in Chicago, Springfield and in his Kankakee home.

While I didn’t always agree with the agenda’s these governors pushed, I can say having covered all of their administrations that they were effective in pushing their plans.

The fact of the matter is I don’t care where a governor lies at night. 

But I do care if he is lying during the day.

Within moments of taking office, Quinn promised to reside in the Executive Mansion. 

“It’s going to get a good workout this year,” Quinn told reporters at his first news conference.

But the next year a Chicago Tribune analysis found that he only spent 55 nights in the Executive Mansion in the year following the statement.

As my research found, it hasn’t changed much since then. 

His residency has been intermittent at best. 

I know, some folks are going to accuse me of regional parochialism. 

But it’s more than that.

To quote Woody Allen: “80 percent of success is just showing up.”

And when it comes to leading in Springfield, Pat Quinn hasn’t been showing up. 

Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at sreeder@illinoispolicy.org. Readers can subscribe to his free political newsletter by going to ILNEWS.ORG or follow his work on Twitter @scottreeder

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