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Quinn: "Find Ways To Volunteer"

By LeeAnn Revis
School of Public Service

Here’s how former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn responded to his loss to Bruce Rauner in the 2014 election:

He went to work.

Two years after losing the governor’s office, Quinn is touting a campaign called Take Charge Chicago, which would establish an elected city watchdog and limit the mayor to two terms – thereby targeting what Quinn calls an insider government culture.

Quinn also aims to create an elected consumer advocate for Chicago who would serve as a government watchdog.

“When you lose an election, you don’t lose your life,” Quinn told DePaul University’s School of Public Service community in early November. “You find another hill to climb.”

Quinn made his comments during the 22nd School of Public Service H. Woods Bowman Annual Lecture.

The annual event honors Woods Bowman, the School of Public Service professor emeritus who died in a 2015 car crash. Bowman left a legacy that included stints
over parts of six decades in politics, finance, economics, the nonprofit industry and, most of all, education and public service.

Quinn said he knew Bowman from when Bowman served as a state representative and in Cook County government.

“You have to have well skilled well educated people like Mr. Bowman,” Quinn said.

Before a packed auditorium at the Chicago Hilton, Quinn covered a wide range of topics that underscored his Democratic policies as governor. He discussed criminal justice reform, the minimum wage, school boards, higher education, grants for low-income students, legislative pay, taxes, ethics, advocacy, consumer rights, health care, mental health, referenda, voting, infrastructure, transportation, and, of course,
public service.

“Whatever is your passion,” he said, “find ways to volunteer.”

He also discussed the impeachment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whom Quinn

“I never thought I would be here, but the guy before me, he really screwed up,” he said.

As governor, Quinn touted his work on infrastructure and efforts to enroll people in Get Covered Illinois, the state's online platform for uninsured residents to sign up for health coverage under the Federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Quinn attributed his loss to Rauner to his proposal for the continuation of an income-tax increase that had passed under his administration.

Quinn told audience members that he worked on clemency cases until noon of his last day in office. He did about 5,000 over the course of his term, he said.

He said he sees “history-making actions” on criminal justice reform from Barack Obama in the final months of the president’s second four-year term.

“The current system is very expensive,” Quinn said. “We need to review what is really necessary. There are others that are better off with a consequence that isn’t behind bars.”

Quinn emphasized the power of citizen referendums to facilitate statewide change. He is relying on the referendum process to generate momentum for both of his current initiatives.

“We have inside politicians who think they know it all and then they start arguing with each other and create gridlock,” Quinn said.

He said he hoped that the Take Charge Chicago campaign would empower voters to help government move beyond gridlock and insider control.

“We unfortunately have some local King Georges here,” Quinn said.

That’s not the heart of America, he suggested.

“The heart of America is the heart of a volunteer,” he said.