I was actually looking forward to attending today's leaders' meeting to discuss the property tax issue which is of critical importance to my district, and that of many of my colleagues.
Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan was going to take part, along with representatives of Mayor Daley, and about 15-20 legislators from both chambers.
Candidly, I have not been happy with much of the maneuvering that has taken place on the issue, and I thought that the meeting would make for a productive and interesting discourse aimed toward a resolution.
Little did I know what was about to transpire.
We were seated around the Governor's office, with Watson and Cross seated at the conference table, and three remaining seats for the President, Speaker and Governor. The Governor came in about 20 minutes late, briefly shook hands with a number of us, took his seat, and then it started.
Not the meeting, the farce.
He said that he was prepared to start as soon as Madigan and Jones got there. Majority Leader Currie stated that he may be late or not coming at all due to another commitment, but that she was authorized to act in his stead. The Governor then went on a weird diatribe that this was a leaders' meeting and that he would not take part until all of the leaders were there.
I very politely suggested to the Governor that Rep. Currie had been the point person in the House on the discussions, that we had a large number of legislators who had been involved on the issue in the room, the Assessor was present and as such, I 'didn't see the harm in beginning the conversation prior to the arrival of Jones and/or Madigan.'
The Governor's response was that he 'didn't see the harm in waiting'. He stood up and told the assembled group that he was going to go to his other office to do work and that we could wait around or that they would call us when the meeting was going to start.
He turned to leave the room less than five minutes after he had walked in.
If there was a soundtrack for that moment, it would have been that of 20 legislators being simultaneously slapped in the face.
Several hours later, we were informed that the meeting was canceled and that no date had been set for a new meeting. So much for no harm in waiting.
What really got to me wasn't the disrespect or offensiveness of what had transpired, it's the fact that last week, he was tripping over himself to talk about how rank and file lawmakers should be in Springfield five days a week doing the job that the voters elected them to do.
Then today, while sitting in a room with several key rank and file legislators, and leaders, he refuses to even begin conversations with us because the Speaker and President weren't there.
I think it is safe to say that the collective reaction in the room was disbelief.
You don't get to have it both ways. It is an untenable position for him to try to maintain, and has only served to further damage the already strained relations he has with legislators in all four caucuses. No small feat.
If today was any window into budget negotiations, it is going to be a looong summer indeed. Never have I seen any professional setting in which something like what happened today would occur. It's not about politics, it's about respect for the Legislature, it's about people skills, it's about negotiating skills, it's about leadership. More to the point, today was about what happens when you have none of the above.
Perhaps he has some top-secret convoluted strategy for his otherwise inexplicable behavior. If so, more power to him. If not, things are only going to get worse.
My frustration is not just for myself and my colleagues. It's for the people of this State. With cynicism and contempt for state government at all-time highs, today's episode just makes things worse.
It's bad for the democratic process, and it may be even worse for the Democratic Party. It didn't have to be this way.