In D.C., Quinn puts focus on weather disasters

Written By By LYNN SWEET Washington Bureau Chief Posted: 03/25/2014, 06:34am

WASHINGTON — Gov. Pat Quinn’s new extreme weather portfolio has taken him recently from Illinois to Los Angeles to this city, where on Monday Quinn is part of a panel discussing how states recover from disasters.

Quinn arrived here on Friday for the National Governors Association winter meeting and is extending his stay a day until Tuesday, to be at the White House when President Barack Obama officially hands out a $70 million grant to launch the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute in Chicago.

In between government meetings at the NGA and over at the White House, Quinn has been taking care of some political business as he faces a November re-election battle — against who will be decided in the March 18 Republican primary.

He attended fundraising-related Democratic Governors Association events — a “Taste of America” gala Saturday night one of them — and huddled Sunday afternoon with his campaign senior strategist, Bill Hyers.

President Obama and first lady Michelle hosted a Sunday evening dinner for all the governors, and Quinn was seated next to David Simas, the new White House political director, as they dined on a petite filet with Maryland crab ravioli.

On Monday afternoon, Quinn is part of a panel hosted by the National Journal to discuss what states can do in the wake of disasters — drought, flooding, extreme cold and tornados.

On the weather front, Illinois has taken a drubbing, with, according to a count from Quinn’s office, 11 natural disasters in the past five years. Last Nov. 17, Illinois suffered massive damage — particularly Washington, Ill. — when some two dozen tornados hit the state over a few hours, leaving eight dead.

Quinn, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and the Illinois congressional delegation are appealing a decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to not provide assistance to nine Illinois counties hit by the Nov. 17 tornadoes. Quinn et al. argue that the federal formula being used is outdated.

Last year, Obama appointed Quinn to the White House Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience and he traveled to drought-stricken Los Angeles for a Feb. 13 meeting of the group — charged with helping craft policies to better anticipate natural disasters connected to global warming.

Quinn jabs Christie

Embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — who is also the chair of the Republican Governors Association — skipped the White House dinner and left town early. The stated reason was to go home for his daughter’s birthday, but it also served to not add to the damage from the still unfolding George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal.

For a practical matter, Christie could not function in his RGA role in a public way the past few days — he won’t be at the RGA press conference Monday — as flocks of reporters were chasing him around on the bridge story.

Christie got a polite reception when he spoke at The Economic Club in Chicago on Feb. 11 and hauled $1 million from the city, some of it to be used to defeat Quinn.

Asked by a reporter about Christie, Quinn said, “I don’t think the Republican Governors Association did themselves any good by having him come.

“We’re building some bridges. We don’t block bridges. We don’t believe in that.

“You don’t block a bridge. That’s petty politics. We don’t go for that. There’s no Republican bridge or Democratic bridge in Illinois. They’re Illinois bridges.”

Email: lsweet@suntimes.com

Twitter: @lynnsweet

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