Jim Edgar vs. The Melvins

Nostalgia runs in a 20-year cycle, which means it’s time to relive the ’90s.

A few weeks ago, I read a Rolling Stone profile of Billy Corgan. On Saturday, I saw Verse Chorus Verse, a play about the death and legacy of Kurt Cobain. And this weekend, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield is holding a Governor’s Conference on the Jim Edgar Administration. Tickets are still available at $35 a pop, which is more than the Melvins are charging for their May 31 show at the Double Door. Edgar himself will be there, to hear his obituary read.

Politically, the ’90s were not an exciting decade. America was at peace, gas cost $1 a gallon, and unemployment was limited to people with serious authority issues. You would have had to be a real doofus to screw up as governor. Edgar wasn’t, and didn’t. In retrospect, his most important legacy may be that he was the last governor of Illinois to serve a full term without getting indicted by the Feds.

 Here’s the schedule for this Saturday’s EdgarFest:

  • The Edgar Administration Preserved”: The presidential library’s Oral History Project will be introduced. Included will be clips of interviews with Edgar and key officials from his administration.
  • “Budget Deficits – Then and Now”: This session will compare the administration’s budget fights of 1991 through 1993 with the state’s current budget deficit and strategies for addressing it. Among the panel members will be Mark Boozell, Kirk Dillard, Felicia Norwood and Joan Walters. David Racine of the University of Illinois Springfield will serve as moderator.
  • “Edgar Administration Goals and Accomplishments”: This panel discussion will focus on the Edgar administration’s main accomplishments, including education reform, government reorganization and human service improvements. Participants will include Al Grosboll, Mike Lawrence, Howard Peters and Gene Reineke. Ron Michaelson of the University of Illinois Springfield will be the moderator.
  • “The Journalists’ View of the Edgar Administration”: Journalists who covered the Edgar administration will share their views. Panel members will include Kevin McDermott, Rick Pearson, and Bernard Schoenburg, political writer for The State Journal-Register. Moderator will be Paul Green of Roosevelt University.

If you can't make it, you can listen to interviews with Edgar and his aides at the Jim Edgar Oral History Project.

Coincidentally, I was at the Sulzer Library on Monday night, and saw a new biography of Dawn Clark Netsch, the state comptroller who ran against Edgar in the 1994 gubernatorial election. Netsch regarded Edgar as “a nice middle-level manager but not a leader.” Edgar was the kind of guy who ironed his jeans and smoothed his hair as he stepped through helicopter backwash, so Netsch mocked his obsessive grooming with the slogan "Not Just Another Pretty Face." Edgar defeated Netsch, 64-34, by criticizing her support for abolishing the death penalty and raising the state income tax. Both came to pass this year, which suggests Netsch may have been ahead of her time, and Edgar may have been the “passive caretaker” she accused him of being during that campaign.

The book also clears up Netsch’s opinion of another major Illinois politician. As a state senator, she called colleague Richard M. Daley “Little Richie,” and complained about his dirty tricks. The press changed that to “Dirty Little Richie,” and a nickname was born.

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