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Doug Finke

Illinois in a state of neglect

Government buildings, parks, finances suffer

Government buildings, parks, finances suffer

Another epic week for the state of Illinois.

First came word that the 115-year-old Coliseum at the Illinois State Fairgrounds was shut down because it is no longer safe. No big deal except a major horse show was scheduled for the building this weekend, so it had to be relocated. And while engineering reports are still being completed, it looks like a few decades of neglect is the reason for the problems now.

That was followed by a warning from Moody’s that it doesn’t bode well for the state’s credit that payments to pension systems may be delayed by months because tax collections are slow. The state did the same thing last year, but it shows nothing’s been done in the intervening year to fix anything.

Finally, the federal government said it is taking back a park in southern Illinois that it leased to the state because of neglect. (Seems to be a recurring theme.)

Let that sink it for a minute: Illinois is operating at a level below even Washington standards.

You’d like to say tomorrow is another day, but look at all of the bad news that came with last week’s tomorrows.

Governor moves to outer limits

Gov. Bruce Rauner announced that he and first lady Diana will be moving out of the Executive Mansion early next year while the official residence undergoes extensive repairs.

Who can blame them? It’s bad enough trying to live in a house that’s undergoing something approaching a normal repair/remodeling. This is an 18-month, $15 million fix-up to a 161-year-old building that hasn’t seen any major upgrades in more than 30 years. It would be a nightmare living through that.

Unfortunately, the Rauners will be moving to the Director’s House on the Illinois State Fairgrounds while the work is being done. That will make Rauner yet another governor who does not live in Springfield, since the fairgrounds technically are outside the city limits.

Then again, if he runs again in 2018, he can pledge to move to the city if he’s elected.

Farewell to ‘Disinformation’

Please indulge a little “inside baseball.”

Rauner announced that he is rescinding an executive order issued by ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich that consolidated all state agency spokespeople under the Department of Central Management Services. Blagojevich liked to keep a lid on things.

Reporters sarcastically referred to Blago's new arrangement as the Ministry of Information. That was almost immediately amended to the Ministry of Disinformation because of the difficulty getting a straight answer, or any answer at all, to even the most basic of questions.

Things are better than what they were, although there’s always going to be a certain level of tension between the media and government over access and transparency.

Rauner said CMS recommended the old executive order be rescinded “because media relations functions existed appropriately within the state agencies.”

Good for Rauner.

Hunt with the candidate

Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, has an interesting fundraiser coming up next month.

“Sportsmen for Brady Invite You to Go Hunting with Bill” says a promotion for the event. For $150, a person gets the chance to hunt chukar partridge for 2 hours at three times on Nov. 12. Brady said he’s had similar fundraisers in the past that were aimed at sportsmen, such as a trap-shooting event.

Of course, with this type of event, there are some requirements that you don’t have with a run-of-the-mill golf outing. Such as: “Each hunter is required to provide own ammunition and blaze orange cap and outer garment.” Participants are also given the option to check on the entry form whether they plan to bring their own dog to the event. Obviously, this is not aimed at the walk-up trade.

For Brady, this type of fundraiser makes sense.

“I don’t play golf, but I hunt,” he said.

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