Gov. Quinn wavers on McCormick Place bill

May 13, 2010 2:55:19 PM PDT
Governor Pat Quinn wavered in his support of legislation aimed at reforming the way business is done at McCormick Place.

Quinn says his office still has not received the bill passed by the general assembly last week. The bill's intent was to make McCormick Place more competitive with convention centers around the country.

While members of Quinn's administration were involved in negotiations on the measure, the governor has not guaranteed that he'll sign the bill.

"When it comes to major legislation, I look at it top-to-bottom to make sure it's done for the benefit of the people of Illinois," said Quinn.

Quinn said he wants McCormick Place reforms done right - as opposed to getting them done fast.

At least five major trade shows, frustrated by the work rules and high cost of doing business at the lakeside convention center, have threatened to move their events if the governor does not quickly sign a bill passed by the general assembly last week.

Jim Reilly, who is designated in the bill as the new McCormick Place CEO, last week recognized the urgency of implementing the reforms as soon as possible.

"The bill is a great bill but its a piece of paper, and we need to make sure we implement it," Reilly said on May 7th.

Reilly, who ran McCormick Place in the 1990s, is a problem for Quinn. Not only does the legislation take away the governor's power to make the initial CEO's appointment, but as recently as 2008, Reilly consulted for McCormick Place contractors in their negotiations with unions.

"That relationship ended 18 months ago, and I don't see it as any conflict," said Reilly.

The governor said that openness and honesty in public positions is a major concern.

"Anybody in our state who is entrusted with a public responsibility has to make sure that they answer any and all questions regarding accountability and make sure they are doing things right," said Quinn.

Reilly said the McCormick Place measure would be an important boost.

"This bill can help the overall economic health not only the city of Chicago and Cook County, but of the entire state of Illinois," said Reilly.

The bill passed the state house and senate by a bipartisan overwhelming margin.

"The McCormick Place situation is probably something we could all call a success story," said Sen. Christine Radogno (R), the Illinois Senate minority leader. "Those are few and far between in this building."

Quinn said Thursday that his office needs to find out more about Reilly.

"We'll have our staff sit down with Mr. Reilly," said Quinn. I've known Jim a little bit, I don't know him that well, but you know, just to ask him some questions about his work now and in the past."

After the governor gets the bill, he could either sign it, veto it outright or amend it. Those last two options could pose a problem for those five trade shows threatening to leave McCormick Place.

The shows say they need a bill to their liking by the end of this month. Most of them meet in June to decide where they will locate their future events.


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