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How does it Fare Up: The Illinois State Fair in Bankrupt Illinois

Jim Ridings 11 August 2017 4 Comments

The 2017 Illinois State Fair opened yesterday, so this seems like a good time to compare the state fair to the state of Illinois as a whole.

The state fairgrounds are in terrible shape. So is the state.

You can see it in the roads and bridges, the train stations, and more. And you can see it on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.


Illinois is falling apart, and the politicians don’t care

The Coliseum building, the most popular attraction at the fair, is closed. It may be years before it opens again. I have noticed for years how dirty it was inside. No maintenance is done, not even a power washing of the dirty concrete, ironwork and woodwork inside. I have seen water leaking from the roof during storms.

At last year’s fair, it was worse. There were puddles in the aisles, and wood from the ceiling was coming down. A steel beam fell last October, and the building was closed.

The state had from last October until the State Fair this August to repair it. Do you know how much has been done in all that time? Nothing. It remains closed and could be closed for several years until lawmakers decide to come up with the money to fix it.

House Speaker Michael Madigan has money for himself, his friends, and every crooked scheme he can contrive. But no money to fix the fairgrounds.

Meanwhile, to accommodate the few horse shows that chose to remain on the fairgrounds, the state came up with money to enclose the practice pavilion next to the Coliseum. It is dirty, dark, and not one-twentieth the seating capacity of the Coliseum. They put in dirty bleachers with no backs. A bathroom building is built next to it. It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for this bandage approach. But nothing is being done for the Coliseum.

This spring, the huge Food-a-Rama pavilion was turned into a practice area for horses. How much did the state spend hauling dirt in there, and how much will it cost to remove the dirt and sanitize it for the fair?

In addition to being a place to watch numerous horse shows, the Coliseum is a place where senior citizens can go to get out of the heat, and maybe take a nap in the cooler stands (in seats with backs). It also is a central source of a lot of bathrooms on the fairgrounds. Now, that is going to cause a problem.

The loss of the Coliseum, and the other problems, will affect attendance at this year’s fair, and it will affect attendance even more next year when disappointed people do not come back. There will be a lot of fairgoers and vendors who will not come back.

It’s not just the Coliseum. Practically every building on the fairgrounds is in disrepair. It’s hard to find a building that doesn’t have a failing roof or rusted beams.

The Grandstand and the huge Swine Building are two examples. In the Swine Building, pig waste from last year’s fair still lines the walkways. The Junior Livestock Activities & Exhibit Building, the home of the 4-H activities, has been closed for the last several years because of disrepair. All over the fairgrounds, paint is peeling, roofs are falling apart, and beams are rusting.

And now, to how the state fairgrounds relates to the rest of the state.

Illinois highways seem to be under continual construction, yet we have the worst roads in the nation. Nearly every bridge you pass under is rusting away.

As for the fairgrounds, the problem is that no money has been budgeted for maintenance because Illinois went two years without a budget. Some people blame Governor Bruce Rauner. However, a budget is up to the legislature to pass. And that budget has to be approved and signed by the governor.

Rauner was elected to reform the system in Illinois. That is why he never signed Madigan’s budget, which has whopping tax increases with no accompanying reforms.

A lot of people have suffered by not being paid or provided with services they are due.

That is the fault of Madigan, who wanted a budget on his terms (meaning huge tax hikes and no reforms), and who wants to destroy Rauner so he can get a Democrat governor elected in 2018.

A budget finally was passed last month — a Democrat budget with a 32 per cent increase in income taxes on individuals and businesses. It solves no problems, and only creates more. It squeezes an extra $5 billion a year from Illinoisans who are still here (Illinois has the greatest migration of any state. 95,000 people a year leaving here. And these are not the people who should leave, these are the productive people who can longer be productive here).  

The budget was done only after Madigan beat the people of the state of Illinois senseless for more than two years. He made the state suffer until he got his way. Republicans, desperate for any kind of a budget, abandoned the few principles they have and gave in to Madigan. That was Madigan’s plan.

In the end, the Democrats did what they do best, lie about their positions and pass tax increases, and the Republicans did what they do best, cave in to the Democrats.

To put it in the plainest language, this “budget” is nothing but a political deal to give working people a very big pay cut — and the money from their pockets is going to the politicians, the unions, connected businessmen and others who find favor with the Democrat bosses.  It is the Democrat policy of income redistribution.

Mike Madigan does not have to answer to the people of Illinois. He only has to convince the voters of his small district to keep electing him to the legislature. He does that by bringing home the bacon to his district, and his political machine makes sure the votes are counted his way. The voters in his district have sold their souls to Madigan. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Mike Madigan isn’t even answerable to the law for his decades of massive corruption. Who’s going to indict him? Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan?

Madigan has been in the legislature for 46 years. He has been Speaker for 34 years. He has no incentive to enact term limits or other reforms.

Of course, Governor Rauner shares some of the blame because he is supposed to be able to work with the opposition and show some leadership. He has not.

Rauner has been governor for two and a half years. All he has been doing is running campaign commercials on TV telling us about all the things he will do if he is elected governor. (Yes, a barrage of TV commercials began last spring, a year and a half before the election, from all the candidates, in both parties). Rauner waves a role of duct tape as he smiles for the camera. That’s what he has done in two years.

Rauner’s web site asks citizens to sign an online petition declaring that property taxes are too high. This is not only unprecedented, it is bizarre. An incumbent governor promoting a petition, which he will submit to the governor? Or submit it to Madigan? Madigan does not answer to voters in Kankakee or Champaign or anywhere else outside of his district.  

So just who is Rauner’s Democrat opposition in 2018? Christopher Kennedy (yes, THAT Kennedy family) is ahead in the polls with Democrat voters. However, the party big shots are backing JB Pritzker (the tax cheater), whose TV commercials says his main claim to fame is that he “thinks big” (especially at the dinner table). Kennedy, a mere multi-millionaire, is whining that he is being derailed by his party leaders because he is so much poorer than multi-billionaire Pritzker.

Pritzker is like Pat Quinn on steroids, or maybe on Big Macs. He is the biggest hypocritical windbag we have seen in a long time, and we are famous for them.  I don’t know when I’ve seen a bigger phony than Pritzker.

How powerful is Madigan? Rauner’s campaign ads will make you think he’s running against Madigan, not Kennedy or Pritzker. In a big way, that is true.

You have to realize one thing about Madigan – his intransigence isn’t the result of a simple difference of opinion with his political opponents. It is a deliberate act to destroy the state for his own benefit.

Whoever wins in 2018 will be terrible for Illinois. If a Democrat is elected governor in 2018, Madigan will dominate him even more than he has dominated past governors.

The budget has $5 billion in new income taxes, and a $2 billion revenue shortfall. The state already has $14.7 billion in unpaid bills and $130 billion in unfunded pension obligations. The legislators have done nothing but to make things worse.

The only thing the rotten Democrats and Republicans can agree upon is their unending effort to ruin the state of Illinois, which already is the worst-run state in America.

The Illinois State Fair is one of the best things about this state. The politicians have decided to get around to ruining that, too.

The politicians’ plan for the fairgrounds is the same plan they have for the state as a whole.

Their plan is to let it rot.


Jim Ridings is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

image Marshall Tucker Band, appearing at the 2017 Grandstand at the Illinois State Fair


  • Jim Ridings said:

    After a couple of days at the Illinois State Fair this week, I can say that the fair has been declining in quality for many years. It’s not just the buildings rusting, and unwashed windows and woodwork for decades.
    This year, the Coliseum is closed because politicians would not come up with the money to maintain or fix it. The horse shows were chaotic at the makeshift pavilion, which is dirty with inadequate seating.
    The FoodARama pavilion had less than half the seating it regularly had. They didn’t put up enough tables, and those tables did not have enough chairs, although there were stacks of chairs piled up in one far corner. There are far fewer vendors in FoodARama, and many of the long-term vendors there are gone.
    They didn’t bother to turn on the water at the large fountain and pond at KiddieLand; no water, but plenty of weeds growing in there. There never has been many benches on the fairgrounds.
    Almost anywhere you go to eat on the fairground, there are no tables, or even benches, to sit and eat. People sit on the curb or grass.
    Golf carts, or course, have the right of way, so pedestrians be aware.
    Coming in off the interstate on Sangamon Avenue, several signs say to stay left for parking at the main gates, when the exact opposite is true.
    And they need to get rid of that guy on the loudspeaker who never shuts up (at full decibel) about trivial things going on.
    Oh, one other thing to make the fair better. Get rid of the governor and the legislature, and just let Illinois drift along on its own. It couldn’t be worse than what we have now.

  • bc3b said:

    When I left the Chicago area for the Detroit area about 25 years ago, Illinois was in great shape and Michigan was going bankrupt. Today their roles are reversed. Michigan discarded anti-business laws and taxes and today it is attracting businesses (and jobs) from around the world. The people of Michigan finally wised up and ditched the Democrats who led the state to near-ruin.

  • Terry P. said:

    I, on the other hand, went in exactly the opposite direction. I was born and raised in the Detroit area, and came to Chicago after college. Now I sometimes wonder if I made the right decision!

  • DK said:

    The continual mismanagement of the Illinois State Fairgrounds is a prime reason why many residents of Northern Illinois spend their recreational dollars in West Allis, Wisconsin attending the Wisconsin State Fair rather than visiting Springfield or Du Quoin.

    Another excellent column by Jim Ridings.

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