Bernard Schoenburg: Veteran reporter gets budget job
ABDON PALLASCH, 46, who has spent 25 years as a reporter, takes the leap from covering politics to becoming a budget official in the administration of Gov. PAT QUINN on Aug. 27.
Pallasch accepted Quinn’s pitch to leave the Chicago Sun-Times and become assistant budget director/director of communications for the governor’s office of management and budget. He will be paid $110,000 annually.
“I’ve covered budgets since JIM THOMPSON was governor,” Pallasch told me. “We really do have a problem in this state that needs to be fixed, and I would hope I could contribute in some way.”
Pallasch says he told Quinn he studied journalism and political science, not finance.
“He said, ‘Abdon, you do a very good job taking these complex budget issues and explaining them so that people understand them. A large part of this job is communication.’”
Some of Pallasch’s experience covering Chicago includes stints at the old City News Bureau, UPI and the Tribune. He also spent 41/2 years at the Tampa Tribune in Florida.
I enjoyed the times Pallasch wrote about the Cook County Democratic Party’s slating sessions for judicial candidates. He said he began covering those sessions during his three years at Chicago Lawyer magazine and kept it up after joining the Sun-Times.
“One after another, the candidates come before the committeemen,” he wrote in a November 2001 analysis of the meeting. “The smart ones have done their homework, spending the last few years volunteering at their local ward office one night a week, meeting with as many committeemen as they could ahead of time, and keeping their speeches brief.
“For all intents and purposes, this meeting is pointless — little more than a show. Pretty much everything has been decided. … But there may be a few seats in play right up until the last minute, so it doesn’t hurt to make a pitch.”
“It’s so easy to ignore the power of judges,” he told me. “A judge can single-handedly take away your home, your kids. … You vote in Cook County, and there’s 70 judges on the ballot. It’s just overwhelming.”
But that doesn’t mean Pallasch necessarily supports so-called merit selection, where judge candidates are appointed. If former Govs. GEORGE RYAN or ROD BLAGOJEVICH had had that power, Pallasch said, “I don’t know that that necessarily would be a better system.”
Pallasch never was based in Springfield, and he will continue to live in Chicago. He said he thinks Republicans he’s covered understand that “it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re partisan” to vote in Democratic primaries, as he has in Chicago, because that ballot actually decides so many races there.
“I think I’ve presented a pretty balanced approach in my writing,” he said.
He’s also garnered some awards along the way, including the Chicago Bar Association’s Herman Kogan Award and Peter Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism from the Chicago Headline Club.
“I think everyone respects Governor Quinn as someone who’s very well meaning, an altruist, and someone who has had to make the transition from the guy on the outside … to being the guy on the inside who has to be the administrator,” Pallasch said.
It’s always a bit sad to see a good reporter cross into the land of those we cover. Hopefully, Pallasch will have as much success with Illinois’ budget situation as he had in telling what was going on the state’s largest city and county.
Pallasch takes the place of KELLY KRAFT, who was recently named the governor's communications director.
Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or follow him via twitter.com/bschoenburg. His email address is