"It's grossly irresponsible to plot to close these facilities behind
closed doors," said Henry Bayer, executive director of the Illinois
branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal
One of the lawmakers involved, along with a group representing
families with relatives in state institutions, largely agreed with
the union's complaints.
The governor's office responded that advocacy groups were
consulted as the administration drew up its plans to move more
people to community care and close unneeded institutions.
"We are taking the recommendations from all involved into
consideration as we make final determinations and will make an
announcement soon," Quinn's office said in a written statement.
A spokeswoman declined to discuss the process in more detail, but
Quinn got a vote of support from the group Equip for Equality, which
generally supports moving people from institutions to community
Zena Naiditch, president of Equip for Equality, said the group
knew Quinn's staff was talking to legislators about deciding which
institutions could be closed. Working with small groups to come up
with a plan, which would then be reviewed by the public, is a smart
approach, she said.
"In the past, all the stakeholders have been in meetings, and
there has not been any consensus. AFSCME, in particular, has created
a lot of obstacles," Naiditch said. "In the end, I think they need
to start governing and making decisions."
The Democratic governor tried last year to close several
institutions, saying it would save money and improve care. He
targeted a prison in Lincoln, a juvenile detention center in
Murphysboro, mental institutions in Tinley Park, Rockford and
Chester, and developmental centers in Jacksonville and Dixon.
Lawmakers rebuffed him, however, and Quinn agreed to keep the
facilities open temporarily. He promised to come up with a more
thorough closure plan this year that would address complaints that
his first proposal was sloppy and would have endangered people who
need special care.
[to top of second column]
Quinn's aides met several times over the last three weeks with
four lawmakers appointed by the legislative leaders to help produce
the new plan.
Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, was one of those lawmakers. He
said Monday that Quinn's aides did not seem interested in a full
discussion of the issue or a detailed review of the criteria being
developed to decide which facilities should close. Instead, he said,
they seemed to want backing for a decision to close facilities in
Jacksonville and Anna.
"My impression was that they were looking for a rubber stamp
instead of collaboration," Watson said.
Sen. Heather Steans didn't see it that way. The Chicago Democrat
also served on the panel, and she said the goal was to figure out
how to balance factors such as quality of care, condition of the
facility and economic impact when deciding what to close. Any
proposal Quinn makes will get a thorough review, she said.
That doesn't satisfy Rita Burke, president of the Illinois League
of Advocates for the Developmentally Disabled, which opposes closing
facilities. She remains suspicious of Quinn's approach and feels
shut out of the process.
"He has never, to this day, talked to us directly, although we
have made numerous requests," Burke said.
By CHRISTOPHER WILLS]
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