Holiday traditions generally revolve around parties with family and friends, sending greeting cards, shopping, giving gifts, and offering well-wishes.
The tradition was upheld as STAND (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down) held its annual Christmas party. About 70 people attended Thursday, Dec. 13 at the Peotone American Legion, where a delicious meal was catered by Scrementi’s. Although George Ochsenfeld, president of STAND had expected to offer good news at the party - that no news is good news - his intentions were sidetracked by what seems to have become another holiday tradition. This one, however, lacks the usual merriment of the season. It seems that every year just before Christmas time, a new development related to the long-running Peotone airport saga, makes headlines. This year was no different.
While this year’s headlines aren’t considered a huge threat to hearths and homes of families who have endured this project far too long, it was enough to cause a bit of heartburn for party-goers.
On the very day of the party, the news broke that U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. inserted language into the Defense Authorization Bill to repeal the "Weller Amendment," the provision that became law in 2006 to protect Will County from Jackson and his south Cook County and DuPage County airport developer friends.
The Weller Amendment is far from what STAND members would have preferred. They favor, and have for 20 years, a no airport declaration. But at the very least, the Weller Amendment did offer a bit of common sense into what STAND members consider a completely nonsensical project.
The Weller Amendment basically said that if an airport were built wholly in Will County, it should be run by those who live in Will County.
Jackson’s action repealed the law. Instead, the law now says that ALNAC, Jackson’s self-proclaimed airport authority, does not need certification by the FAA. Jackson wants the airport in the fields of eastern Will County built and controlled by his authority, even though the project would be located outside his second congressional district and far from the controlling authority of members in Cook and DuPage counties.
George Ochsenfeld, president of STAND said he didn’t think Jackson’s action would do little to moving the project forward, since there were still many hurdles to be overcome before that could happen.
Ochsenfeld questioned Jackson’s obsession with the proposed Peotone airport, noting that it raises questions about Jackson’s motivation. "Is it ego? Is it an attempt to create a patronage empire?" Ochsenfeld asks.
"His (Jackson’s) stated purpose, to create 15,000 jobs for people in his district is clearly absurd.
"I believe the governor and IDOT are holding off on pursuing the project because they know it would be a white-elephant disaster," Ochsenfeld added.
Judy Ogalla, STAND’s second-in-command, who would lose her home and farm if an airport were built, considers the latest headlines to be, "our yearly Christmas gift from the elected officials."
"For some reason they feel compelled to drag out this beaten up Mid-America II airport boondoggle that they have been pining away over, for over 30 years," she said.
She is saddened that they refuse to recognize the reality that another airport isn’t needed. But, what is needed, she said, "is to preserve the open space in this rural community to protect the farmland for the production of crops and animal products, like eggs, cheese, milk, herbs, vegetables, and countless other products." She would rather they looked toward finding grants to develop urban edge ag-development, since so many people are looking for organic products and farm fresh produce for sale or use in local farmers’ markets and restaurants.
Sadly, however, she said, they just see dollar signs in their eyes with the promise of campaign contributions from developers and contractors as well as votes from labor unions who might get the contracts.
The speaker at this year’s party was 96-year old Anthony Rudis, who has long been interested in politics. He ran for congress in the early 1950’s and was a friend of Richard J. Daley, who would often dine at the Rudis’ home.
Rudis spoke beyond the airport issue. He quoted Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist and reformer who in 1909 said, "America Also is Tending to the Rule of Force" — "The Greatest Illusions is that Which Supposes That Society Can Be Improved By Law" — "America Surpasses Europe is in its Personal Liberty, Which is the Heritage of a Race of Heroes. But This is Doomed To Be Extinguished By the Legislatures of a Time-Serving Generations," according to an article in the New York World.
Rudis used the work to illustrate his point that elected officials should be representing the people. We should demand they represent us.
Rudis has long believed that public officials who support the airport are not being forthright because they are not representing the people.
He urged those in attendance to keep up the fight and not be afraid to confront elected officials.