Gov. Bruce Rauner’s critics can accurately say that he has failed to pass major parts of his agenda: a workers’ compensation overhaul, roll back of prevailing wage requirements, savings via cutbacks to public pension benefits.
But Rauner has made good on pledges of living in the capital city and of revitalizing the executive mansion in downtown Springfield, blocks from the statehouse.
When Rauner moved in after being sworn in as governor in January 2015, he compared the dilapidated mansion to a frat house.
“It’s livable,” he said, adding, “that’s a subjective term.”
The roof leaked, the walls had mold, floors buckled and plaster fell from the ceiling. He tells of trying to shave and “turned on the hot water in the sink and brown sort-of sludgy stuff came out.”
Since that time, Rauner and his wife, Diana Rauner, who per tradition has taken the lead on fundraising as head of the Executive Mansion Association, have spearheaded a $15 million restoration effort on the mansion, first built in 1855. The couple temporarily moved out of the mansion and into a house on the state fairgrounds during construction.
On Monday, they moved back in. Rauner called it the “people’s house” and said it has been restored to its “historic luster.”
The renovations, paid for solely with private funds, include roof repairs, an added kitchen in the governor’s apartment living area and an educational center for school and tour groups; the mansion is now also LEED certified and Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.
The mansion remains closed to the public (and to reporters); a public unveiling party is scheduled for July 14.
The first lady says fundraising efforts are nearly complete, though until that time she and the association will not share information about who has contributed – a source for questions about potential conflicts of interest.
Rauner opponent J.B. Pritkzer’s campaign would not say whether Pritkzer has, or will, give money to the cause; nor did he commit to his family living at the mansion (Rauner’s children are grown adults; Pritzker’s offspring are still children).
“J.B. will call Springfield home while he’s governor and he’s happy to see the mansion restored so future generations will be able to enjoy the people’s house as well,” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in a statement.
Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky