We met as students at Northwestern University School of Law. Pat Quinn was the guy attending classes in shirt and tie while the rest of us were wearing jeans because he always had somewhere to go when class ended. Always working. Always in motion. "Does this guy ever sleep?," many of us wondered. While Wisconsin's Whitford, as in Bradley, played the walk-and-talk guy Josh in NBC's The West Wing, Quinn is the walk-and-talk guy in real life.
Even in law school, Pat Quinn was concerned about those "living from paycheck to paycheck." Families who can't afford to miss a paycheck to make the mortgage or rent payment, put food on the table, keep the lights on, the home fires burning. And he never stopped reminding us of this. Whether in law school or interviewing him on Chicago radio and television shows I hosted for NBC's WMAQ-AM, CBS/Westinghouse's WIND-AM, WBMX-FM (now WVAZ-FM), and "The Stock Market Observer" on WCIU-TV.
So it's no surprise as governor, Quinn champions increasing the minimum wage, despite shouts from others who not only oppose raising it, but want to reduce it or eliminate it entirely. Food stamp recipients in Illinois get $6.50 per day for food. Try it sometime. Where's the safety net? There is none. Many of the working poor who put in 40 hours a week or more, still earn so little, they are eligible for food stamps and Medicaid. In the Land of Lincoln.
Pat has always been a straight-shooter. A truth-teller. Not that I have always agreed with him on all the issues. Because I haven't. But he always does his homework. He doesn't rely on others to prop him up. Doesn't bully to get his way, to convince someone of the worthiness of his position. Unfortunately, rare in politics. I remember when I interviewed ABC's Sam Donaldson on my call-in radio show in Washington, D.C. Afterwards, when I told him I had covered Chicago politics, Sam said, "That's the Super Bowl of politics." Sam was right about the rough and tumble of it all.
Pat Quinn is used to the rough and tumble of Illinois politics. He's no newbie. Pat Quinn has never stopped working for the people of Illinois even before he ever held elective office. From his law school days when he would buttonhole classmates about his idea to found the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), to be the voice of consumers. Who isn't a consumer? From fighting rate hikes to helping us get utility billing errors fixed, suspicious landline/cellphone charges we didn't make reversed, and that's not all. Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2014, CUB has been a prototype for neighboring states such as Indiana and Wisconsin and states from as far away as Oregon.
Unprecedented reforms, two words summing up Governor Patrick Quinn's tenure so far. For with CUB, Pat was just getting started. As governor, "first ever" contribution limits on candidates, political parties, PACs. He strengthened legislation, forbidding "pay to play." Illinois voters for the first time given the power to kick out corrupt governors by recalling them.
From the Office of Gov. Quinn came the website sunshine.illinois.gov to shine a light on the workings of government so anyone can see what is going on. Public records and many documents now available online to all of us. Quinn also launched the website data.illinois.gov, a searchable clearinghouse of information from state agencies about state government operations to encourage creative use of state information, building applications for mobile devices using the data.
Bringing not just sunshine, but opening the windows and letting some fresh air in, Gov. Quinn protected the Freedom of Information Act from assault, vetoing legislation which if passed, would have limited access to public records. He strengthened fines for those refusing to make records available. Gov. Quinn also signed legislation, creating a permanent public access counselor within the Attorney General's Office to oversee enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act.
Gov. Quinn's Executive Order encouraged state agencies and local governments to increase the amount of raw data they share with each other, businesses, academic institutions, the public.
Gov. Quinn signed the landmark, Grant Accountability and Transparency Act with the nation's strongest grant oversight.
Gov. Quinn strengthened the hiring watchdog authority of the Office of Executive Inspector General to self-initiate investigations,·require the publication of state employee wrongdoing, wrongdoing related to hiring, and require Inspectors General to review all agency hiring to ensure legal compliance.
Gov. Quinn created a state actuary position to oversee the five state-funded pension systems, increasing transparency.
Gov. Quinn strengthened the Illinois Open Meetings Act, so that the agenda and notice of meetings be available to the public 48 hours in advance.
What has Quinn's opponent in the governor's race done to help the people of Illinois? His public record? He doesn't have one. Telegenic appeal and getting endorsed by a newspaper he once held a financial stake in, don't count.
Before you cast your ballot for governor of this great state, ask yourself this:
Would you ever hire someone with no experience for the most important position in your company?
Would Bruce Rauner ever hire someone with no experience for the most important job at one of his companies? No. Yet that is what Rauner is asking voters to do.
Billionaire Bruce wants you to hire him with zero governing experience to be governor of our fair state. It'll all work out, he assures us. Because he knows how to make money. For himself.
With Pat Quinn, it's everybody in where character and experience win.