Governor creates delay for local groups' awards

for canal efforts

 

Lindsay Welbers and Lindsay Vaughn

NewsTribune staff ---- December 31, 2008

 

PRINCETON - Gov. Rod Blagojevich was to blame for the delay of. an awards ceremony that

honored Illinois Valley residents on Tuesday for their work in preserving the Hennepin Canal.

 

Members of the Better Fishing Association and Friends of the Hennepin Canal traveled to Chicago

to receive Environmental Hero Awards from Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn. Quinn was honoring the two groups

for the rallying and petitioning they did to keep the canal open after Blagojevich threatened its

closure due to budget cuts.

 

 "We were delayed several hours because the excuse of a governor took over usage of the

room that (our ceremony) was to be presented in. He used it for the naming of Roland Burris to

the Senate," said former Better Fishing Association President Tom Wall.

 

The ceremony initially was scheduled to take place at 1:30 p.m. on the 15th floor of the Thompson

Center in Chicago, and Blagojevich was scheduled to announce the appointment on the second

floor. However at the last minute, Blagojevich sent an e-mail to Illinois media stating that the room

had been changed to the same conference room Quinn had originally booked.

 

The ceremony didn't begin until 3:30 p.m., a full two hours after its scheduled start time.

 

"(Blagojevich) took the conference center that was actually part of the lieutenant governor's

area (of the building). He disrupted things," said Better Fishing Association President Barry Welbers.

"Of course what he said was a bombshell so it created chaos, really, in the Thompson Center with the

media that were present."

 

The bulk of the delay was caused by Quinn and Secretary of State Jesse White, who made

statements on the embattled governor's appointment.

 

"So the folks asked to come for their awards were basically just quarantined in a room until all that

calmed down," Welbers said.

 

Bob Atkinson, member of the Better Fishing Association, said the room-switching was a deliberate act

against environmentalists who opposed the governor's attempt to close 11 parks earlier this year.

 

"Seeing how we went against Blagojevich and tried to keep all the parks open, he's just trying to be a

pain in the butt, basically," Atkinson said. "That's the only English I know how to put it in. He's got

the political pull so he can do what he damn well pleases."

 

The seven members of Friends of the Hennepin Canal who had arrived for the ceremony were unable

to stay because their train left at 3:15 p.m., said Cathy Foes, representative of the organization.

 

Regarding the change of location, she said, "There were several recipients that had come quite

a long way.... It's all political. It had more to do with Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn upstaging the governor because

he's next in line."