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National Editorial & Columnists

Governor should live in mansion

‘People’s house’ doomed to be empty house?

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

No one, because it’s the Governor’s Mansion.

Ba-dum ching.

Maybe it’s not the greatest joke in the world, but it’s not really a laughing matter, so that’s all right.

The reality is the massive property at 410 E. Jackson St. in Springfield is costing taxpayers about a half-million dollars a year to maintain – plus about as much earlier this year for roof repairs and general renovation.

It has been the home of the governor of Illinois since Joel Matteson first called it such in 1855. It has witnessed history – joyous and turbulent times.

Governors through the ages have not always spent their entire time in office there – some, such as Jim Edgar and George Ryan, have split their time between Chicago and Springfield (and Kankakee, in Ryan’s case).

It was not really until Gov. 40892-424, er, Rod Blagojevich, took office that the state’s capital seemed to shift to Chicago. It’s also about the time the relationship with the Legislature started to suffer, too.

A lot of decisions seemed to get made in the vacuum of Chicago and Cook County without regard for downstate voters, whose thinking was often the polar opposite.

But when Quinn rose to the role of governor, Illinois expected a change. That’s probably because Quinn told Illinoisans things were going to change.

Quinn called the Governor’s Mansion the “people’s house.”

“It belongs to the people of Illinois,” he said. “They want their governor to live there.”

Since that time, he has topped out at 55 nights one year. That’s about 15 percent of the time. Or, to put it in a taxpayer-unfriendly equation, $9,090 a day – although to be fair, the mansion does accommodate several tours every week.

The year before, it was only 40 nights – and only 68 days actually were spent in Springfield.

The bottom line is that it’s frustrating for people to watch the Executive Mansion essentially snubbed and have to pick up the added expense of travel to and from Chicago at a time when the state is in a budget hole and a relationship between the governor and lawmakers is vital.

That’s why it’s understandable lawmakers like state Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, a Jacksonville Republican, get exasperated enough to put it into resolution form.

Davidsmeyer’s House Resolution 581 calls on the governor to live in the Governor’s Mansion.

“We have a very nice executive mansion just blocks from the Capitol,” he said. “Residents of central Illinois are rightfully proud of the mansion, and they expect the governor to maintain his residence there.”

This is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democrat issue. It’s a matter of the people of Illinois expecting the governor to represent all people – and, yes, part of that means having him or her treat the capital as the capital.

And not just a stopover on the flight to Chicago.

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