Getting a little work done on the home? It’s not easy these days to find contractors and workers to do it, thanks to shelter-in-place orders in states like Illinois. However, rules are made to be bent if not broken, even by those who make the rules. Fox’s Chicago affiliate did a little homework of its own, keeping an eye on Illinois governor JB Pritzker’s farm in Wisconsin — the destination of a few construction workers.
Stay home for thee, but not for me? Maybe the work itself doesn’t contradict Pritzker’s orders, as there are exceptions for construction — but in Illinois. Pritzker has been discouraging unnecessary travel during the COVID-19 pandemic response, however, and Fox 32 watched a whole lotta travel going back and forth across the border to support Pritzker’s homebuilding project. Pritzker’s neighbors have noticed it too:
FOX 32 News watched Thursday as construction workers from Illinois crossed the border to work on the governor’s farm. Pritzker, though, says there is no double standard because construction workers are exempt.
FOX 32 wandered over the Wisconsin border into Kenosha County and found more than 20 construction workers — nearly all from Illinois — helping build a massive new home and several outbuildings on Pritzker’s horse farm. …
Pritzker has been generally praised for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis, which includes an appeal to limit travel.
But when FOX 32 obtained the permits for the 7,000 square-foot, $2.5-million project, we found a lot of people would be traveling from Illinois to build it.
All but one of the listed contractors is based in Chicago or its suburbs, and we saw cars and construction vehicles with Illinois plates leaving the project and turning south into the Land of Lincoln.
It’s the travel hypocrisy that rankles here more than the work getting done, although it’s tough to imagine that this much activity doesn’t cross social-distancing requirements in either state. It’s also not the first accusation of hypocrisy aimed at the Pritzkers in this crisis, either. The family has made several visits to the farm while telling Illinois residents not to do similar travel, a point which Pritzker addressed earlier this week — somewhat inaccurately, as it turned out:
When asked about their visits by the Chicago Tribune, Pritzker defended the trips, explaining that it is a working farm and noting his family is there now.
“There are animals on that farm, that it’s an essential function to take care of animals at a farm, so that’s what they’re doing,” Pritker said.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office clarified saying Gov. Pritzker and his family have been living in Chicago, but they have visited the farm.
It’s not just the farm, either. They have also just recently returned from Florida, and Pritzker tried to divert attention from it by blaming Republicans for raising the issue:
Pritzker said on Friday he hoped that an unnamed Republican super political action committee “that’s pushing stories like this about my family, would stop doing it because they are putting my children and family in danger.”
But he also acknowledged his family had only recently left Florida, where they had been staying since at least early March, before his stay-at-home order was issued. He owns an equestrian farm there.
The questions about travel-for-we-but-not-for-thee continued right through to this morning. In a WGN interview, one viewer put it bluntly:
Viewer Question 3: Why is it OK for you and your family to travel to Wisconsin and Florida but you tell us to stay home?
Pritzker: Well I’m not traveling anywhere, I’ve been here in Illinois the entire time. I haven’t left the state, not once. Indeed I’ve been working every single day, and very long hours. So I don’t know why people are concerned about this. I will tell you my wife and daughter were in Florida before this pandemic hit. I told them to shelter in place, precisely what we were doing here in Illinois. Simply stay home. I didn’t want them traveling, I was concerned about air travel and everything else. So they stayed where they were, and that’s why they were not here in Illinois. Trust me, I missed them terribly. They were gone for seven weeks, they are home now. I’m glad to have them home. But I really don’t think the criticism is fair. I’ve been here the entire time. I’ve worked here with the legislatures, I’ve been talking to them the entire time trying to get the job done. But most of all, keeping people safe and healthy across the state.
But why is it OK to send contractors to the Pritzker farm across the border and back every day? That didn’t apparently come up, but that one might stick around, too.
In truth, the travel almost certainly presents little risk to anyone of transmission. But that should lead to the obvious conclusion that everyone should have the same freedom of movement — not just the people whose movement personally benefits the governor and his family.