Gov. Pat Quinn was flanked by several men wearing hard hats and bright yellow vests last week during a groundbreaking ceremony at an Oak Lawn water pumping station.
The backdrop wasn’t by accident. Quinn wants to cast himself as the working man’s governor while distinguishing himself from his Republican opponent, millionaire Bruce Rauner, who often is described as a billionaire.
In fact, tax returns Rauner released last year showed that he earned about $108 million from 2010 and 2012, according to Sun-Times Media. Quinn, meanwhile, reported $162,000 on his 2013 tax returns.
Still, the Quinn camp’s strategy is clear: portray Rauner as rich and out of touch with the working man as well as the need for good paying jobs.
“We understand how important it is for work, for labor,” Quinn said during his remarks last Wednesday at the Harker Pumping Station, 5300 W. 105th St., where he signed legislation expanding the state’s Clean Water Initiative.
“Today, we have all these workers right here. Men and women who know how to get the job done on time, on budget or even under budget on an important water project. This is labor intensive. It puts people to work on jobs you can support a family on.”
Quinn went on to thank the unions represented at the ceremony and all the men and women of labor. “You’re the ones who get the job done,” he said.
He added that significant project such as the one in Oak Lawn also provide meaningful work for veterans who recently have returned from active duty.
Quinn did not want to pass up a chance to make a stop in the southwest suburbs—an area targeted by Rauner, who recently opened a campaign office in Oak Lawn.
In addition to signing the legislation, Quinn joined Oak Lawn officials and other dignitaries in a ceremonial grounding breaking for the expansion of the Harker Pumping Station, which will undergo a $171 million, five-year project designed to improve the water distribution system.
The system provides Lake Michigan water to about 325,000 Southland residents in the village and 12 other suburbs. When completed, the project will increase Oak Lawn’s water supply capacity from 55 million gallons a day to 111 million gallons, village officials said.
The 12 towns served by Oak Lawn are: Chicago Ridge, Palos Hills, Palos Park, Tinley Park, Oak Forest, Orland Park, Orland Hills, Country Club Hills, Matteson, Olympia Field, Mokena and New Lenox.
The project will include installation of a permanent diesel-powered generator at the Harker station, construction of a switching station designed to control the amount of power needed to pump water and the replacement of one pump.
Meanwhile, the Reich pumping station also will undergo modernization and will have pumps designated to distribute water to the system’s customers rather than just Oak Lawn residents.
More than half of the project cost is dedicated to the installation of larger water mains and a looped system that will serve as a backup if a primary line breaks.
State Sen. Dan Katowski, of Park Ridge, who sponsored the Clean Water Initiative legislation, championed Quinn as a friend of labor.
“This bill alone is going to lead to the creation of 28,000 local jobs,” Katowski said. “That’s the type of partnership has Governor Quinn has always been committed to by working together with local government.”
The Clean Water Initiative is designed to deter flooding and protect Illinois’ drinking water by helping municipalities repair or replace infrastructure.
“We’ve committed $2 billion to invest with communities like Oak Lawn,” Quinn said. “It’s all about clean water. We’ve got to make sure that we protect our water. We have to understand. We have to take good care of water.’’