PI Original Adam Doster Friday January 30th, 2009, 8:05pm

Altgeld: The Perfect Model For Quinn

There aren’t many recent
Illinois governors who could serve as valuable models for the Pat Quinn. So it’s not surprising that the state’s new chief
executive dug back to the 19th century when asked yesterday which
former governor he’d like to fashion himself after.

...

There aren’t many recent Illinois governors who could serve as valuable models for the Pat Quinn. So it’s not surprising that the state’s new chief executive dug back to the 19th century when asked yesterday which former governor he’d like to fashion himself after.

Who did he choose? Democrat John Peter Altgeld.

A German immigrant elected in 1893, Altgeld is most famous for pardoning three of the men wrongfully convicted in the 1886 Haymarket Square bombing. It was a principled, controversial, and politically lethal decision.  Indeed, thanks to the McCarthy-esque local press at the time, it eventually forced him out of office. But before he left, the progressive populist pushed key reforms current Illinois legislators should themselves focus on in the coming months.

Altgeld always stood with workers, implementing the nation’s most strict child labor and workplace safety laws and refusing to allow the Illinois militia to be used as strike-breakers during the 1894 Pullman Porters strike.

It’s not surprising that Altgeld’s name is attached to four castle-like public university buildings in the Land of Lincoln either; as governor, Altgeld pushed through increased appropriations to expand the state’s higher education system, one that’s in desperate need of funding today.

The Illinois Democrat was also instrumental in crafting the 1896 Democratic platform, which among other things, included a plank on personal and civil liberties.  It also supported the implementation of an the income tax.  Will Quinn continue his legacy by supporting a progresive income tax in Illinois?  We'll see.

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