Candidate Bruce Rauner told virtually every audience he addressed in his successful 2014 campaign for governor, “I want to make Illinois government the most efficient, transparent (state government) in America.”
Maybe the problem was his choice of verbs.
He said, “I want.”
He didn’t say, “I will.”
In the nearly 13 months he’s been in office, Rauner has fought to keep the news media from finding out and telling us what the governor is doing for/to Illinoisans and with whom.
For example, on Jan. 20, 2015, eight days after he was sworn in, Gov. Transparency’s schedule indicated he had six meetings.
The details, participants and the subjects, were blacked out.
Since then there have been many, many meetings. And in many, many cases, some or all details were usually withheld.
Still, over Rauner’s first three and a half months in office, the details of more than 150 events were blacked out on copies of his schedule released to the public — an average of one secret meeting every day.
The governor’s staff even hid some interactions with officials such as Republican leaders in the General Assembly — people he’d be expected to maintain regular contact with.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that he’s talking to Leader [Jim] Durkin,” says Vicki Crawford, a spokeswoman for the Republican House leader. “They talk at least once a week.”
Still, Rauner’s staff blacked out Durkin’s name on his schedule.
Frustrated reporters were forced to file formal “Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)” requests to get answers to mundane questions. The Illinois Times, a Springfield weekly, went to court. When the Illinois Attorney General supported the paper’s claim, the Rauner administration finally released the schedules that were the subject of last year’s FOIA’s.
But the administration’s devotion to opaque governance hasn’t wavered.
After losing the fight to black out portions of his schedule, Rauner and his staff began concealing his activities by just leaving information off his schedule to begin with.
On Oct. 7, for example, the governor’s schedule listed four afternoon meetings — with “MH,” “EB,” “JM,” “MW,” “JC” and “AP.” There’s no identification beyond initials.
The governor’s office didn’t respond to inquiries about the people behind the initials or to repeated requests for comment for this story.
People are interested in what the governor is doing, if only to understand how he fills up his day. The list of things he’s not doing is long. It includes enacting a budget, his constitutional responsibility. Also on the list, getting the taxpayer-owned Governor’s Mansion repaired.
You might be aware that “The People’s House,” as other governors have referred to the mansion, has fallen into disrepair. Fixing the mansion was one of the many things Gov. Rauner promised to deal with that hasn’t happened. And according to Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed, there’s a reason for that,
To wit: Word filtering through upper echelon GOP sources in Springfield suggest Rauner, who has been waging war with labor unions, doesn’t want to use union labor retooling the Springfield mansion.
It was Bruce Rauner’s business acumen that helped propel him into the governor’s office with no previous government experience.
But, more than a year after taking office, he’s using his power to give the rest of us “the business.”