It’s been four years since Clyde and Carolyn Wills trekked to Washington, D.C., with millions of others to witness the historic inauguration of Barack Obama as president.

At the time, standing shoulder to shoulder with their fellow countrymen, the Metropolis couple was filled with hope that the senator from Illinois would achieve the promises he’d made along the campaign trail.

I ran into them back then at a Capitol Hill reception at the Library of Congress where Illinoisans were gathering a day before Obama was to be sworn in.

Carolyn said Obama’s rise to the presidency represented a groundbreaking transformation of the nation’s psyche. It put an exclamation point on the racial strife she’d witnessed in the 1960s.

“We’ve just come so far since then. For us, this is both the ending and a beginning. It kind of makes your heart swell with pride,” Carolyn said.

The Wills’ opted not to return to the nation’s capitol for Obama’s second swearing-in ceremony Monday.

Clyde said they didn’t want to face the cold temperatures and the swell of humanity again.

“We just didn’t want to fight the crowd,” he said.

After four years of bitter fighting between Obama and Republicans in Congress, Clyde said he’s tempered his excitement about what the president might achieve in the next four years.

“I’m still fairly hopeful,” Wills said. “I’m just not as hopeful as I was back then.”

BAD MANAGEMENT: By at least one account, the Quinn administration is doing a worse job of managing state government than the Rod Blagojevich administration.

According to a compilation of contracts by the state’s main purchasing oversight board, the state approved more than $61 million emergency purchases in the first quarter of the fiscal year.

By comparison, Ed Bedore, a member of the Illinois Procurement Policy Board, said he checked one full year during Blagojevich’s tenure and found $32 million in emergency purchases.

Is this surge in emergency purchases a sign that Quinn’s bureaucrats aren’t as well organized as Blagojevich’s when it comes to ordering goods and services?

Typically, the state sends all of its purchases out for bid to get the lowest price.

Sometimes, however, there’s a glitch. Or, an unexpected cost arises. For example, the state often has to make emergency purchases when storms damage state buildings, and repairs are needed quickly.

Bedore said he eliminated the kinds of emergencies that were due to weather events and the numbers were still alarming.

He said many of the so-called emergency purchases happen because contracts expired before a new contract was awarded.

“It is a disgrace,” Bedore told his colleagues at a recent board meeting. “My God. We are going to make the Blagojevich administration look good. What should we do? Get those people back?”

As an example of why running the state’s purchases on an emergency basis can be costly, Bedore pointed out that one contract awarded on an emergency basis cost $770,000 for three months, while the full-year award cost $602,000.

“This is totally out of control,” Bedore said, adding that the problem is not rampant throughout state government.

Emergency purchases at the state’s public universities have dropped from $11 million under Blagojevich to

$2 million in the most recent year.

Malcolm Weems, director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, which oversees much of state purchasing, told Bedore there are a number of reasons why the state has to abandon the bidding process

But Bedore wasn’t buying it. He said CMS is on a record pace when it comes to ineptitude.

GUNS AND MONEY: If Gov. Pat Quinn had his way, state Rep. Josh Harms’ current fundraiser would be illegal.

The Watseka Republican is trying to raise money for his campaign fund by raffling off a couple of guns, including at least one that could be considered illegal if the governor gets his way with his latest gun control proposal.

For $5 a ticket, people can qualify to win a Ruger Mini-14 rifle, a Ruger pistol or a shotgun.

While the raffle may be unusual, it is not unique. Politicians and county-level political parties have held raffles previously in which guns were the main prize.

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