Quinn Wants “Bow Tie Honesty” in Illinois

CHICAGO -- After spending his first night at the Executive Mansion in Springfield, Gov. Pat Quinn wasted no time showing people that he's nothing like his predecessor, the scandal-tainted Rod Blagojevich.

Part of Quinn's new job as governor is painting himself as the anti-Blagojevich, and he has started to do that through actions both big and small.

After spending his first full day in office, where he said he intends to live, Quinn immediately talked reform vowed to work to "restore the faith of the people of Illinois in the integrity of their government." Blagojevich had refused to move from Chicago to the mansion when he first got elected in 2002, irking downstate voters.

At a press conference in Springfield just before signing a proclamation creating the Illinois Reform Commission, Quinn showed off a bow tie given to him by former Sen. Paul Simon's daughter, a reminder of what politicians can be.

"I think that kind of bow tie honesty -- Paul Simon type of honesty -- is what we need in Illinois," Quinn said.

Quinn said he wants to reopen the seven state parks and 11 historic sites Blagojevich closed last year because of budget cuts. But he didn't say how he would pay for it amid a budget deficit Quinn has said could top $4 billion, although he admits the actual number still isn't known.

Quinn said the state would find the necessary money.

"I think it's squeezing a nickel to close parks and historic sites. You squeeze a nickel and lose a half dollar. That's not smart government," Quinn said.

But the new governor quickly brushed aside any questions of any future tax hikes.

"We will have a rescue plan, a blue print, to pay our bills. I am always going to put taxpayers first."

Quinn is welcome change to Ted Flickinger, president and CEO of the Illinois Association of Park Districts. Quinn spoke to the group at a conference in Chicago before heading to a meeting with state officers.

"It's the first time in a long time, we've had a governor who puts a lot of emphasis on parks, recreation and conservation," Flickinger said.

Lawmakers and watchdogs are well aware of the state's financial crisis and the need to place tighter limits on campaign financing.

"I really hope that we learn from this, and I really hope that we know that it's not enough just to remove the governor," said Cindi Canary with the Campaign for Political Reform.

Quinn said he wants to move the primary date from February to September to shorten the long campaign season and pledged to review Blagojevich hires and appointments within state government.

Following a meeting with the state's constitutional officers, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Secretary of State Jesse White, Comptroller Dan Hynes and Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias -- all Democrats -- Quinn said the group is looking forward to working together with a newfound sense of unity.

Madigan said that the last time all of the top statewide elected officials met with the governor was July 1, 2003. Giannoulias drew laughs when he said he was seeing the governor's office for the first time since being elected in November 2006.

Quinn said it's important to get the message out that the five are working together "for the betterment of everyone."

While he works to put even more distance between himself and his former running mate -- the two had been on the outs for years -- Republicans were quick to link them from day one.

The Illinois Republican Party said Quinn's first act as governor should have been to apologize to the people of Illinois. They accuse Quinn of standing idly by while Blagojevich committed the actions that led to his impeachment and removal from office.

"Blagojevich's Lieutenant Governor and Blagojevich Democrats came to power on a promise of change but four years later they looked the other way and chose to endorse Blagojevich for re-election even though our state was faced with the largest corruption investigation in its history," state GOP chairman Andy McKenna said in a statement.

Blagojevich's impeachment was triggered by his Dec. 9 arrest on federal corruption charges, including allegations he schemed to benefit from his power to appoint President Barack Obama's U.S. Senate replacement. But Blagojevich was convicted by the Illinois Senate for also abusing the power of his office by expanding state programs, wasting money and skirting hiring rules.

He was thrown out of office Thursday without a single lawmaker coming to his defense, brought down by a government-for-sale scandal that stretched from Chicago to Capitol Hill and turned the foul-mouthed politician into a national punchline.

After his ouster, the state moved quickly to erase Blagojevich. They took down his picture at the Capitol, changed the locks on his Sprinfield office door, removed his name from state Web sites and began covering up his name on Illinois Tollway signs.

[Story:  Tollway Blows Off Blago]

Quinn said his name won't be plastered on the new signs. Instead, they'll have the toll plaza's name and number.

"I don't think the tollway signs or the highway signs of Illinois should be an opportunity to pat the governor on the back. I don't think that's necessary," Quinn said. "I think in particular the tollway signs, the way they were done, was pompous government."

For Blagojevich, his troubles are far from over. Federal prosecutors are drawing up an indictment against him on corruption charges.

Outside his Chicago home Thursday night, Blagojevich vowed to "keep fighting to clear my name," and added: "Give me a chance to show you that I haven't let you down."

Quinn said he's ready to invite the public to an open house at the mansion and travel the state, suggesting that he's no seat holder, but may just run for re-election in 2010.

"I hope to get to every part of Illinois very quickly. I think it's important to show that we have a new governor who has a different approach to governing," Quinn said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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