“This guy Quinn, man, he’s unbelievable,” exclaims one slightly envious press aide for the city. “He’s like Celozzi and Ettleson rolled into one. Wind him up and he does 20 minutes on parking tickets. It’s too much.” So, all right, Pat Quinn, confess. What’s your real motive? No one really cares about parking tickets. What’s in it for you?


He was 22 years old and fresh out of Georgetown University by way of west-suburban Hinsdale when he signed on as a field organizer in Walker’s 1972 gubernatorial campaign. He took a job with the newly elected governor, but soon longed for another crusade. So he and his brother, Tom, organized the Coalition for Political Honesty. They pledged to lead citizens in a charge to reform state government. The leaders of the political establishment rolled their eyes in disbelief over that one.


“You have to have some inducement to get people interested. We have to let people know that we’re here. The purpose of the amnesty is to give people an incentive to get them used to the idea of paying tickets.” But that’s not all. There’s more. Quinn’s got this whole rap worked out, an intricate philosophy, and it all has to do with parking tickets, democracy, and balancing the tax inequities between rich and poor.

Ben Joravsky, “City Hall’s bill collector: Pat Quinn has a deal for you,” 4/24/87 (this piece is pretty funny, by the way, in case you were thinking of not reading the whole thing)

In the past the [Cook County Board of Tax Appeals] was rife with corruption and abuse, as a battery of legal operators won hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks for their wealthy and politically well-connected clients. The board enjoyed four short years of reform when Pat Quinn was elected in 1982. In his first year alone, Quinn saw to it that the amount of rebates dropped from $444 million to $75 million, freeing up tax dollars for essential services, such as the schools. Then in 1986, Quinn stepped down to run for state treasurer.

Ben Joravsky, “Special election: a reformer runs for the County Board of Tax Appeals,” 12/25/87

Political prophets struck out, according to political scientist David Everson’s review of the claims and counterclaims made during the 1980 debate over Patrick Quinn’s “Cutback Amendment,” which reduced the size of the Illinois House of Representatives by one-third (Illinois Issues, July): “None of the proponents’ claims were realized. The Cutback did not save money, reduce the number of bills introduced in the House or increase the competition for House seats. Nevertheless, in combination with the 1981 reapportionment, it did trigger some changes. The most significant of these has been the strengthening of the majority party’s leadership in the House….The predictive record of the opponents of the Cutback is nearly as dismal. Their primary argument was that minority representation would be reduced.” In fact, the percentages of women and blacks stayed about the same. The only minorities who lost out were dissenters within each party. “The Cutback virtually eliminated these moderate-to-liberal Chicago Republicans and independent suburban Democrats. And it probably helped create a House more dominated by its leadership.” Mike Madigan, call Pat Quinn. You owe him.

Harold Henderson, “The City File,” 6/26/91