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.

Sincerely,

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 letters@nytimes.com. 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.