Quinn rallies party faithful in north suburbs
Gov. Pat Quinn delivers his "State of the State" address at the Winnetka Community House. | Vincent D. Johnson~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 12, 2013 9:47PM
WINNETKA — Gov. Pat Quinn took to the North Shore on Sunday, rallying Democratic Party loyalists behind his budget and other policy priorities he’d pitched to the Illinois legislature days earlier.
Approximately 60 people filled the Winnetka Community House room to hear the governor speak at the event, hosted by the New Trier Democratic Organization.
Just last week, Quinn presented his 2014 budget to state lawmakers. He called the $35.6 billion budget his most painful ever due to cuts he said must be made to address mounting pension obligations.
Quinn’s remarks focused on Democratic bread-and-butter issues like health care, gun control and equal rights, but he also heralded initiatives like Illinois Jobs Now, a $31 billion capital construction plan enacted in 2009.
The jobs plan promised to create and retain more than 400,000 jobs in the state, and Quinn tied gainful employment to other state ills.
“The best way to fight crime and poverty is a j-o-b,” he said.
The governor repeatedly told the mostly-Democratic audience that their party has to stand up for their beliefs and push their agenda.
“We have to be progressive and aggressive,” said Quinn.
He outlined a few specifics on that agenda, such as health care, education, jobs for veterans and a college grant program for those who cannot afford the cost of tuition.
Turning his attention to Illinois’ fiscal crisis, largely caused by onerous pension obligations that have been underfunded for many years, Quinn said that the solution will have to be bipartisan and it will have to happen soon.
Any pension reform plan has to include a law mandating pensions to be fully funded on a regular basis, Quinn said.
Gun control also emerged as a major topic of the afternoon. The issue has been much-discussed in the wake of a December decision by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals which gave the state 180 days to enact a concealed carry law.
Quinn said meaningful gun safety legislation has to be passed this year, and that he has always been against concealed carry. Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, one of several elected officials in attendance, also spoke to the issue. He said the county is very concerned about guns and has recently passed a measure seeking to minimize straw purchases of weapons.
Before Quinn arrived, some in the audience said they were not entirely pleased with the governor’s budgetary decisions.
“I’m pretty frustrated that we’re cutting funds in areas like mental health and education,” said Wilmette resident John Schladweiler.
Kathy Piepgras, also of Wilmette, concurred and said that the loss of state funds to community mental health centers has been “awful.”
“Many of these people are at or below the poverty line,” Piepgras said.
Mom and daughter Joan and Annie Conlisk, Winnetka residents both, sounded a more positive note, and said they were there to support the governor, who they felt often gets negative media attention.
Lee Goodman, a Northbrook resident and a member of the Stop Concealed Carry Coalition, was heartened by the governor’s stance and his statement that Attorney General Lisa Madigan should appeal the decision of the circuit court.
“I believe that’s the first time he said the decision should be appealed,” Goodman said.
Among other topics touched on by audience questions were gambling expansion, high speed rail and possible effects of federal budget cuts.
Quinn said he attends informal gatherings like this practically every week, and enjoys doing them even when he faces tough questions.
“When you’re governor of a state like Illinois, not everyone is going to throw rosebuds at you,” he said.
Wilmette resident Carmen Corbett and Glencoe resident Ann Cole seemed sold, however.
“He’s right on the issues,” Corbett said, though she added that she wished Quinn would explain them in greater detail.
Cole, meanwhile, praised the governor for what she said she believes to be strong moral fiber.
“I’m just so happy to see a governor who I know won’t end up in jail,” she said.~.