Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pat Quinn says he supports Peotone

So, in his budget address, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says he supports Peotone. I can tell you, that for me, the speech was pretty surreal.

The birds were singing their frenzied mating songs and scurrying to build nests to hold their eggs. The sweet fragrance of the hyacinths danced on the swift breezes, toward me. The sound of last year's red oak leaves rustled, in their last clinging grasp to the branches before new buds swelled beneath them, setting them free. Amid all that peace and tranquility that is my front yard, here in Arkansas, the voice of  Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn nearly drowned it all out, via Windows Media Player on my laptop computer. 

I heard him speak honestly about the situation Illinois faces economically. He talked of solutions. They all made great sense until he spoke of the $1 billion for economic development, the smallest amount by the way, behind the billions allocated to concerns of the environment and education, and other more pressing initiatives. 

Then he said, "We will build a third airport in the south suburbs of Chicago, and we will build it as fast as humanly possible." The camera panned over to a corner of the room where the black men whose faces I could not make out in the sun-drenched resolution of my computer screen. But, I can only assume they were members of the black caucus, cronies of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., who were applauding wildly. Others were applauding too. The biggest surprise applause to me, came from Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, who has traditionally been an opponent of Peotone. 

I can't help but think that at least some of the members of the General Assembly could have been applauding the fact that Quinn's giving verbal support to Peotone would finally shut Jackson up for a while, though probably not for long. 

I'll give Jackson credit — another Illinois Governor said he supports Peotone. But is that really a big deal? Every governor since Richard Ogilvie, back when Jackson was three yeas old has said those words, with the possible exception of Dan Walker. But, none of them have done it.

Perhaps the reason it hasn't been done is because building another airport, some 40 miles from the city center is a stupid idea. Saying it means nothing. Doing it would count. But, I can't help but think this meritless scheme from 1968 just can't pass muster. There are so many better ideas.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

NY Times continues one-sided campaign for Peotone

Amazingly, another op-ed column has been written in the New York Times today about the Peotone Airport from a perspective that mirrors that of Jesse Jackson, Jr., by columnist Bob Herbert. This makes two in the last four days This one was entitled "Stifling an opportunity." You can read it here .

I have had a few emails alerting me to this story, but the first was from Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s e-mail distribution list at   This is the link, just in case you would like to become a subscriber. The email said the following:

Today Bob Herbert writes, “An airport is a very different public works project than a bridge or a road,” he said. “The jobs that come with the development of an airport range from construction to taxicab drivers, to the hotel and motel industry, to Avis and Hertz, which buy cars by the fleet, to Federal Express and DHL, and all those others who staff and manage the airport. Corporate head-quarters frequently locate near an airport. In terms of employment, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

"The goal from the beginning has been to keep the proposed airport out of the clutches of Chicago’s notorious “pay-to-play” tradition.

That is the most likely reason that this project, with its potential to unleash so many jobs, has taken so long to get off the ground."

 Perhaps Mr. Jackson is trying to show support for his plan to coerce Gov. Pat Quinn. He is probably seeking an agreement to let ALANC become a co-sponsor with Illinois for the airport.

I have often been accused of being one-sided, though what I wrote was always to the best of my ability, based on facts. So, I thought I might enlighten Mr. Herbert about some of the facts he left out of his column:

Mr. Herbert,

Endling a 40-year old nightmare is hardly stifling an opportunity. Please stop doing a disservice to your readers. There is far more to the airport story than the one Jesse Jackson, Jr. tells. 

As a local reporter/editor I was writing about the proposal to build an airport near Peotone since long before Jesse Jackson, Jr. went to Washington. I have written countless stories for the local paper for more than 20 years. The paper is officially opposed to the project and for years has displayed a 'no airport' logo on its masthead.

Prior to that I was a young wife and mother who had hoped to raise my two children in the beaucolic rural eastern Will County. When I heard about how building an airport larger than O'Hare, just a few miles from where I grew up, was to be a panacea for the region, I had questions. I joined with several others following an FAA meeting in our small town. We wanted answers, but were not given any. We formed a group to oppose the airport. It was 1988. Though I no longer live there, the opposition remains organized.

I'm glad you realize the proposed third airport is outside Jackson's district. By the way, it would actually be the Chicago area's sixth airport sharing with — O'Hare, Midway, Gary, Milwaukee, and Rockford. But, so is the Gary/Chicago International Airport, which is closer to Jackson's constituency than Peotone. Different county/different state – what's the difference to people who need jobs? Jackson is a U.S. Congressman who should concern himself with jobs in the country, not just the south side of Chicago, and at others' expense. If airport jobs were available, Jackson's constituents could get jobs at Gary much easier than at Peotone. But perhaps jobs really aren't his concern. 

Jackson's association with the late Henry Hyde, shocked everyone because the two had opposite philosophical and political views. Yet they found one common thread, hostility toward Mayor Richard Daley and Chicago, via O'Hare International Airport. Jackson was attracted to the northwest suburbs and Hyde's long fight against Chicago's control of O'Hare. The northwest suburban officials, who have fought O'Hare expansion endlessly, simply fit Jackson's criteria. Daley was forced into the 'third airport' fray because Hyde's GOP cronies in the Illinois General Assembly tried to exclude Chicago, which has title to one of the busiest airports in the world, from studies of Chicago airport capacity, in 1985. It was ludicrous to exclude the primary airport sponsor from such a study, but like many things related to this project, Illinois officials tried. 

I readily admit that O'Hare was an economic engine and magnet for jobs because it replaced Midway during a booming post-war economy, a time when aviation was growing exponentially. But O'Hare was the primary airport for the growing region. Only a fool would predict similar growth with a redundant sixth airport, especially during the current economy and condition of aviation. 

Had Jackson used all the wasted energy he has devoted to this ill-conceived project, outside his congressional district, perhaps he would have been able to develop some of the brown field areas and create jobs in his own district. Or perhaps he could have put efforts into redeveloping the site of the long-defunct Dixie Square Shopping Mall in Harvey, the one destroyed during the filming of the Blue Brothers movie in 1980. Though the shopping center has been demolished, the land has yet to be redeveloped. 

Or perhaps instead of trying to obliterate some of the best farmland in the country, Jackson could have examined the rail and intermodal freight potential in his own backyard. Because he ignored the obvious, that dynamic has begun moving and taking jobs with it, to the hinterlands as well. And why should another working region supported by a good farm economy suffer because of Jackson's lack of vision. 

If transportation was really Jackson's focus, why did he not pursue high speed rail, which is far less invasive, cleaner, and would also produce jobs?

It is a given that airports are economic growth magnets, but only if they are successful. Mid-America Airport is another Illinois airport in the cornfields studied by the same IDOT consultants that wrote reports on Peotone. But they built it and nobody came. Billed as a reliever to St. Louis' Lambert Field, Mid-America has become nothing more than a burden on the local taxpayers who are now stuck with it. And, it has been virtually a ghost town for a decade. The same thing could happen at Peotone. 

If lack of airport capacity is the problem, why isn't the Gary/Chicago International Airport being utilized? It already exists and is easily accessed from the south suburbs and downtown Chicago. It takes about 20 minutes from Homewood. If new airport capacity were a problem, Gary should be booming. If airports solved economic problems as Jackson claims, why hasn't Maywood, in close proximity to O'Hare been its beneficiary? The studies that have concluded that a new airport is needed have been done since 1985 by one chosen consultant, directed by the IDOT, which has a reputation similar to past Illinois governors who appointed them. The previous governor is under federal probe and his predecessor is serving time in the federal pententiary. 

There has never been a proven need for a Peotone airport. The project has never had enough merit to stand on its own without being propped up by millions of tax-supported public relations schemes. Did you ask Jackson about that? 

Numerous public officials have signed resolutions opposing the project. Thousands of residents have battled the proposal since 1988 through organized opposition. Political surveys have indicated a majority of the people of Will County are opposed. Jackson has enraged Will County officials who are now trying to garner support in the Illinois General Assembly to establish an airport authority of their own, just to counter Jackson's efforts. 

There have been so many victims of this ill-fated scheme. Whole communities have been adversely affected. People have lived in limbo since this airport was proposed. Some – proud men — have died thinking they failed their families because they could no longer protect them. Stress and illness has taken its toll. And they deserve better, even from an op-ed writer in the New York Times who has written two columns in the past four days, apparently using only one sources. And that source is questionable. You might start with your paper's own archives. I was quoted by your paper 18 years ago when a NY Times reporter came to Peotone to write a balanced piece. If you would like more information about the local point of view, check my blog at  Most of content has been published. Or if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at the above email address.

Carol Henrichs

Sunday, March 15, 2009

New York Times op-ed begs rebuttal

New York Times op-ed begs rebuttal and gets it

Today's buzz is a March 13 New York Times op-ed piece entitled  "Flying Blind in Chicago"  by columnist Bob Herbert. The piece read like a diatribe written by Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. or perhaps, his aide, Rick Bryant, who doubles as the Chairman of Jackson's self-appointed airport authority. The op-ed piece contains all the similar redundant propaganda about the wonders of an airport to serve Chicago in the cornfieldst near Peotone. Herbert claims the airport would be a great project for  federal stimulus funds.

Trouble is, it is the same rhetoric we have been hearing out of Jackson for years about the project outside his congressional district. And, it just isn't true.

The folly of building an airport near Peotone began in 1968, more than 40 years ago. In all that time, this ill-conceived project has lacked the merit to stand on its own without being bolstered by politicians who paid for their props with tax dollars. The project faded away in the 70's, only to be revived in 1985 in the Illinois General Assembly, a place where many great ideas generally go to die. But this one — being a bad idea — has lived on, still using tax dollars to give it legs to stand.

The stimulus money is supposed to be a job-creator for shovel-ready projects. This hardly fills that bill with its imaginary, over-inflated job projections. This project is hardly shovel-ready because its need just isn't proven.

I have learned of at least two responses to this piece and have received permission to print them here.
Mr. Herbert:

I fear you have been blinded by Congressman Jackson's snow job.

You failed to include several items that are quite apparent to those of us who live here.

1. The State of Illinois is buying the land with taxpayer dollars.  The plan is to lease it back to ALNAC under below market rates.  Hence, it is a public subsidy for private investors.  As you may have read, the State of Illinois is nearly bankrupt.

2. No airline has expressed the slightest interest in the project. What if they build an airport and no one comes?

3. There is no surrounding infrastructure to support the area.  One interstate is five miles away with a single off ramp interchanges in each direction that is a nightmare under current circumstances.  All the other roads in the area are either rural of barely two lanes.  There is no commuter rail to the site.  The nearest train station is five miles away.  There is no water except well water.

4. The two firms are foreign firms that would operate under NAFTA rules.  Great concern must be expressed as to whether they will abide by prevailing wage rules or use Union sub-contractors.

5. The congressman is hardly a beatific figure given his deep involvement in the scandal surrounding our recently impeached governor.  A thorough investigation as to who would profit by this project must be demanded.

6. Every willing seller of the land has already sold.  Condemnation proceeding and the physical removal of residents from the homes is the only option left. Less than 25% of the land necessary for "inaugural footprint" i.e., one east-west landing strip, is in the possession of the State of Illinois.

I fear you have relied upon Mr. Jackson's propaganda apparatus rather than a thorough research of the facts.


Thomas M. Brislane
Beecher, Illinois
The second is from a New York City resident who is originally from Peotone.

 Bob Herbert claims that because the economy is hurting, Illinois should rush an airport project  that is unnecessary and will destroy the very area supporters claim it will help. As a native of Peotone, IL  – the site of the proposed third Chicago airport – I can tell you that the only reason the project didn't die off years ago is because corrupt political interests have fought to keep it alive, despite all evidence against its need.
In a time when "the U.S. is in a world-class recession, hemorrhaging jobs and spending trillions of dollars trying to extricate itself from the mess," I hardly see how an ill-advised project of this magnitude would solve any problems. Travel is declining, airlines are going under, and millions of people are in danger of losing their jobs. Expansion at established regional airports (Rockford  and Gary ) would be much smarter policy for the long-term health of the Chicago metro area.

Amanda Layton-Greep
Park Slope, Brooklyn

Kudos to both for fine letters. Amanda went on to say that if anyone wants to write their own letter in response to this opinion piece, that it should be no more than 150 words, should include your full name, address, and daytime/evening phone numbers (for verification purposes only), reference Bob's column in the subject line, and send it to She cautions that the paper's policy is that letters must be received within a week of the original piece.

Yet another response was sent to the New York Times. This, from conservative blogger Rick Moran is also well worth the read. He posted it this morning at his blog, The American Thinker.