Politicians go off-topic fast at news conference

December 9, 2011 3:14:53 PM PST
Illinois's most powerful political leaders gathered on the city's Far South Side to announce plans to create the largest open space in the country, but with so many of them the topic soon strayed.

The news conference overlooked the industrially-abused Far South Side where the governor and other elected officials announced their still mostly unfunded plan to restore the area to its natural state for recreation.

"It's very good to get out of the house and to walk in nature and see an eagle fly. There have been eagles right here in this very neighborhood," Gov. Pat Quinn said.

State Senate President John Cullerton beat the reporters in going off-topic.

"I don't know if we can see any eagles here but we definitely can see the Hammond Casino here which reminds me that you and me and mayor have to work at bringing a casino to Chicago," Sen. Cullerton said.

With that, the door opened to talk about other issues, including the reported agreement negotiated by the governor, legislative leaders and the mayor to give the CME Group and Sears Corporations tax breaks so they won't leave Illinois.

"Thousands of jobs, economic activity. And as essential as that is for the city and state, we want to maintain it," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

State Representative Mary Glowers, who held her granddaughter during the news conference, says she and other reps will oppose the CME/Sears cuts if a companion bill giving tax credits to low-income workers doesn't pass first.

"In order for me to cast my vote for CME and Sears, the earned income tax credit bill must be called first. Period," Rep. Mary Flowers, D said.

Then, the awkward moment: the governor was asked if he planned to sign a bill that Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was nearby, supports to authorize speed cameras in the city. The governor tried to finesse his way through an answer.

"I don't believe it's got to our office yet from the General Assembly. We're gonna take a good look at it and take it from there," Gov. Quinn said.

When another reporter asked a follow-up question on speed cameras, the governor changed the subject back to the CME/Sears tax break and said economic issues were the priority for right now.

Governor Quinn is apparently giving that speed cam bill some extra consideration. He does not want to take political heat for the cameras if they become as unpopular as some predict they might become.

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