Last week’s early release from prison of former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, after President Trump commuted his 14-year prison sentence, brought back some memories. Blagojevich’s years as governor were essentially the same as my years as mayor and, as the photo on the front page of the print edition shows, I introduced him and shook hands with him to welcome him to our city at several events and conferences over the years we served in our respective offices.
I’ve always felt that, whether the governor is a democrat or republican, a visit to our city is always good news for the community. Outside of some informal talk and answering questions that Blagojevich had about Decatur while waiting to start an event and before I introduced him, I really didn’t have any contact with him. I will give him credit for coming to Decatur more than some of the governors in the past.
From a personal observation, he always seemed to be somewhat hyper in his movements and demeanor — with a high energy level. He also cared a lot about his hair — which has turned white during his 8 years in prison. Blagojevich, as about everyone in the media who covered him can attest, was always late. That hasn’t changed much. When he held a news conference in front of his home following his release, he was 20 minutes late, allegedly because he couldn’t find socks he wanted to wear. It will be interesting to see what he will now do to support his family, since he can’t vote or hold public office. I’m sure he will think of something.
• THERE ISN’T any doubt that the governor I’ve known best over the years is Pat Quinn — a long-time friend. Back when Pat was a young man working to change the world (at least Illinois), and long before he served in state office, he would often stop by my newspaper office and chat about his petition drives and other efforts he had underway. He would rally the small group in our community that supported his efforts and was tireless in encouraging them and working to change things for the better.
We had a lot of one-on-one conversations during those early years and, he would often thank me for calling attention to his efforts in this newspaper. Pat was also a frequent guest on my “Newsline” daily television program and his favorite line was that he was working hard to benefit the people who were living from paycheck to paycheck. When he was elected Lt. Governor of Illinois, he visited me in the mayor’s office when he came to Decatur, and one day mentioned that, when we were having those conversations about changing things so many years earlier, we didn’t forsee the positions we both would hold. Pat served four years as Illinois Treasurer, six years as lt. governor and six years as governor. Obviously, as lt. governer, he became governor when Rod Blagojevich’s second term ended abruptly. He also won election to continue as governor.
• SORRY to hear of the closing of Bijou’s on the southwest corner of Main and William streets. It had occupied that corner for the past 20 years. Remember when Macon Music was located in that spot? Bijou’s closing follows on the heels of the recent announcement of The Decanter that it will be closing down in April. They are located in the same block of downtown.
I join Brian Byers on the “City Hall Insider” hour on WSOY’s Byers & Co., each Thursday morning starting at 7:00. I always enjoy talking about Decatur issues with Brian — and we’ve been doing “City Hall Insider’ for the past 17 years.