Friday, June 29, 2007

Rep. Jackson needs a geography lesson

, member of the United States House of Represe...
Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.

Does Congressman Jackson even know where Peotone is located?

Ford Heights is now a neighbor of Peotone.
At least that is what U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., (D-Il) said on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday when he attempted to defend a Republican attack against funding for the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission (ALNAC).
House Republicans were unsuccessful in their effort to try to limit pork barrel spending they blame on Democrats.
The national debate targeting ‘earmarks’, which is loosely defined as a request for a specific amount of money to a particular organization or project in a congressman’s home state or district, got personal and close to home Thursday when it was learned that Jackson was asking for $231,000 for ALNAC, as an earmark added to the Financial Services Appropriation Bill.
By a wide margin, the House approved the bill with the earmarks intact.
Jackson will get the funding.
But it was during his defense of the spending request that Jackson said, “Ford Heights, one of the poorest suburbs in the country abuts the airport.”
Perhaps the federal tax dollars ALNAC will receive can provide a little geography lesson for Jackson.
This marks the second instance where the public has been mislead about the airport’s location, which does not lie within his congressional district.
A few years ago, on his website, Peotone was listed under the heading “My Home District.” All of the communities in Jackson’s district were listed there, including Peotone, which was between Park Forest and Phoenix. Peotone remains in the list, but a new header has been added that reads, “Municipalities on the South Side and South Suburbs including the future Home of Chicago's Third Airport in Will County Illinois Peotone.” 

Jackson’s spending proposal was criticized Thursday, by U.S. Rep. John Campbell, (R-Ca), who offered an amendment to the legislation to ban earmarks. The confrontation was shown live on C-Span.
Jackson asked for the funds for what the Republicans are calling “the invisible airport.”
“This earmark would direct $231,000 – taken from taxpayers’ pockets across America – for “Minority and Small Business Development and Procurement Opportunities,” according to the Republican Study Committee.
Not only does the Republican organization recognize that an airport does not exist, but they protest that Rick Bryant is the Executive Director of ALNAC, which was spearheaded by Jackson. Bryant is also Jackson’s paid staff member. Bryant is Jackson’s Deputy District Administrator, who earned $23,999.99 in 2006, according to Jackson’s website.
Republicans charge that Jackson said he wouldn’t pursue federal funds for the airport. They claim that Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been enthusiastic about the new airport only because it would not use public funds.
During Thursday’s confrontation, Jackson played a clip of the governor’s 2005 State of the State address offering support for Peotone. Jackson claims the only thing standing in the way of the airport is Blagojevich’s agreement to lease state-owned land to ALNAC. 
Yet, he failed to mention that only a percentage of the land is owned by the state and the remainder is in the hands of unwilling sellers.                
Campbell questioned the use of small business and procurement opportunities for an airport that doesn’t exist.
“How can that be?” he asked, since even if it were approved today, it wouldn’t exist for many years.
Jackson argued that he is not seeking federal funds for the airport, but rather for small business opportunities to maximize the benefits of women and minorities to work in all aspects of job training.
When Campbell tried to enlist Jackson in a debate on the House floor, Jackson refused to speak, saying he would allow Campbell to continue, but that he would give closing remarks.
He took the balance of his time to turn the debate into a pro-airport commercial, complete with an easel and posters showing the airport layout plan.
Jackson said IDOT is now in the process of submitting ALNAC’s plan to the FAA for approval. And, he added that a Record of Decision could come in six months.
He denounced Campbell’s two terms in congress by criticizing Campbell for jumped into a three-decade old discussion first advanced by (former Gov.) Jim Edgar.
Jackson pointed out facts as he sees them, such as Midway’s runways are too short, O’Hare reached capacity two years ago, and ALNAC is a legitimate airport authority who plans to build Chicago’s third airport with public-private funds.
“I have been almost solely responsible for leading the effort,” he said, “for the last 12 years to attempt to solve the airport capacity crisis.
 “Now is the time for planning,” Jackson said, without the usual preface, that this airport is purported to be the most studied airport in history.

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