The State Journal-Register
Springfield, Illinois

Our Opinion

More Control for Governor

GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH promised earlier this year that he would reorganize and consolidate the state's public information employees - a reorganization he promises will save $1 million.

Monday the governor carried out his promise. Springfield's public information officers - now dubbed communication managers - moved to their new consolidated offices on the sixth floor of the Stratton Building and the communications people in Chicago moved to the fifth floor of the James R. Thompson Center.

While messing with how elderly people fill their prescriptions was probably one of the more irresponsible and dangerous moves so far by the Blagojevich administration, this might be one of the most stupid.

WE DO NOT doubt that money - maybe even more than $1 million - could be saved in the communications area of state government. However, we do not believe this reorganization is about money. It's about controlling people and controlling the message.

Public information officers have always been housed in individual departments. For example, the people who specialized in conservation and outdoors information were housed in the Department of Natural Resources.

That makes sense for a lot of reasons. Being surrounded by the people needed to supply information makes more sense than trying to hunt them down by phone from a building across town. But it also helped make the public information officers an integral part of the department, helping them understand issues in depth.

NOW WE WILL have communication managers. That title itself makes us raise an eyebrow. PIO's were expected to dispense information to the public, usually via reporters. Now we will have people managing communications.

It is also interesting to see that several longtime public information officers - those who weren't laid off - will now be engaged in marketing for their old departments rather in public information. It's nice some good people got to keep state jobs, but this move makes us even more skeptical about Blagojevich's stated reason of wanting to save money.

If that were his true goal, would he feel the need for new marketing positions for the Department of Aging or the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency? Can they really improve on Woodsy Owl's "Give a hoot, don't pollute"? Do they even need to?

RATHER THAN a necessity, this sounds like a way to open positions for other new hires - of which there are many. We are sure these eager new communication managers will be happy to explain why Gov. Blagojevich's policies are the best thing since sliced bread. They can do that just fine from their cubicles on the sixth floor of the Stratton Building. They need not really understand their agencies.

The fact is that Blagojevich could have saved at least $1 million by simply reducing the size of the public information work force. He could have done this by trusting his non-communication managers - the people who really manage the agencies - to answer reporters' queries.

We understand this is not feasible in all cases, and some agencies would require the services of at least some public information officials. However, a cost-saving, more efficient and still credible corps of information specialists could have been organized. But that's not what the governor wants.

What he wants is control.