Saturday, December 24, 2011

House Ethics Committee needs to dig deep into Jackson dealings

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

 Headlines indicated recently that Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is still being investigated by the House Ethics Committee for his alleged role in trying to leverage a seat in the U.S. Senate by offering funds to ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Jackson claims that neither he nor his emissaries ever offered money to ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for the appointment.
Can we believe Jesse Jackson, Jr. and his less than monogamous relationship with the truth?
If the House members believe that Jackson’s role in allegedly trying to buy a U.S. Senate seat is an isolated incident, I certainly hope they probe just a little deeper.
Jackson not only tried to coerce Blagojevich into handing over a seat in the United States Senate, but Jackson also tried to get Blagojevich to hand over land to his self-established airport authority for his pet project, the Peotone Airport.
Jackson has devoted his entire congressional career toward the State of Illinois’ ill-fated effort to build a new airport outside the 2nd congressional district. The latest redistricting, would finally place the Peotone area into Jackson’s grasp. That is, if he wins re-election, which only time and ultimately an election can determine.
Jackson’s campaign website once blatantly included Peotone in a list of communities in the second congressional district. After much criticism, he later corrected it.
In 2007, I was tuned-in to C-Span to watch Jackson’s performance as he sought an earmark of $231,000 in the Financial Services Appropriations bill for “minority and small business development and procurement opportunities.” Jackson painted his usual rosy picture of the proposed airport, which Jackson has dubbed the Abraham Lincoln National Airport. He began talking about how beneficial the project would be to the poorest people of Illinois.
I was angered when I heard Jackson tell his colleagues the airport would abut Ford Heights, one of the poorest community in Illinois. Ford Heights is in Jackson’s district. It is a poor, urban, predominantly black community. It has long been a high crime, blighted area, with high unemployment. In stark contrast, the area where the airport is proposed, is a relatively affluent, predominantly white farming community with low crime and virtually no unemployment. Its economy centers on agriculture. Not only are the two regions geographically far apart, but they might as well be worlds apart politically, socially, and economically. The people who live in the Peotone area are adamantly opposed to the airport Jackson touts. I know. I helped organize an opposition group against the project in 1988.
One of the critics of Jackson’s request earmark was, Congressman John Campbell, R-CA who introduced an amendment to the bill to ban Jackson’s earmark, calling Jackson’s request “federal funding for a phantom airport.”
Campbell’s bill would have stripped taxpayer funding for the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission because, as he stated the Abraham Lincoln National Airport doesn’t exist.
He pointed out that in a Jackson press release in Nov. 2006, Jackson said he would not seek federal funds for the airport.
Campbell also questioned the potential conflict in the dual role of Jackson’s Deputy District Administrator Richard Bryant, who is now Jackson’s Chief of Staff. Bryant is also the Executive Director for the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission (ALNAC) that Jackson established.
Back in Illinois, ex-Congressman Jerry Weller, R-Morris, in whose district the proposed project would be located, called ALNAC into question when it raised $267,000 to lobby Blagojevich. Weller called the campaign “self-promotion,” because Jackson was eyeing a possible run for the Chicago Mayor’s office. Weller suggested the money be returned “to the impoverished communities.”
Jackson had envisioned that state-owned land, about half of what the state needs for the airport, could be simply turned over to Jackson’s airport commission. An opinion by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, however, issued an opinion that under Illinois law, the state cannot convey property at no cost or for less than fair market value.
These issues are likely just the tip of the iceberg, which is why an intense investigation is warranted.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gary Airport to get commercial service; Peotone still a field of dreams

Landing in Smyrna to take the MTSU Blue Raider...
Soon to be flying over the skies at Gary/Chicago Airport
The Gary/Chicago International Airport has once again made an announcement that commercial air service will begin at Gary. This time, the announcement was made by Keith Hanson, who represents the airline. He announced that two flights per week, destined to Orlando, FL will fly out of the Gary airport, starting in February 2012.
Last September, it was rumored that Allegiant would begin service at Gary, but apparently the announcement was premature. The day before a press conference was scheduled, several news sources reported that a big announcement by an unnamed airline would be forthcoming. The marketing firm—Diversified Marketing Strategies of Crown Point, IN, identified the airline as Allegiant. The announcement was cancelled by the airlines .
That isn’t the case presently, as the latest proclamation that Allegiant Air will begin service at Gary, this time, comes from the airline itself. Hanson added that service to Florida may be just the beginning. He added that If it proves to be successful, additional destinations can be added.
While commercial airline service at the Gary airport has been on-again-off-again proposition, it is not for a lack of trying. Indiana officials have long committed to the success of the northwest Indiana airport.
The last commercial airline to utilize the Gary/Chicago airport was Skybus which ceased operation just one week after it began in the spring of 2008. A year prior, SkyValue ceased operation at Gary due to financial difficulties. Other airlines have come and gone over the years, but a subscription for success has yet to be achieved. That certainly isn’t for a lack of trying. The Gary/Chicago airport has had financial help from the federal, state, and local agencies, including the City of Chicago, in an attempt to land long term commercial service there.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, Illinois officials continue to: 1) ignore the ready aviation facility at Gary, which is just miles from the south suburbs they claim to be trying to help; 2) try every way possible to coerce support for a new airport in the farm fields near Peotone, IL, almost 50 miles south of Chicago.
The project has been talked about for almost a half-century with little forward progress except to shrink it to about the size of Gary’s airport.
The only real step toward fruition came when the incarcerated ex-Illinois Gov. George Ryan, made a deal with a campaign contributor to buy the first piece of land outside the airport footprint. Since that first parcel in an under-developed upscale subdivision became state-owned, Illinois officials have used scare tactics and threats of eminent domain to scare landowners into selling their property to the state. They have taken full advantage of artificially reduced land prices due to the threat of an airport nearby, and most recently the country’s economy and housing bubble to entice willing sellers who feel they have no other options but to sell to the state. Even still, the state has now obtained only about half of the land it would need for a new airport. Landowners that remain are unwilling sellers who vow to fight the state from taking their property, especially for a project that hasn’t even been approved.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

South Suburban Airport is all about 'spin'

 What a wonderful world this would be if all things could be viewed through the rose-colored glasses of the proponents of the Peotone Airport.
News continues to be manufactured by the Illinois Department of Transportation in its push for Peotone, or South Suburban Airport, (SSA). Funny, it is always positive. Imagine that! Since I began studying this proposal in 1988, ‘spinning’ the news has been IDOT’s long held practice.
Take IDOT’s latest press release, dated Nov. 10, touting the approval of its Facility Requirements Report of the SSA Master Plan.
“Approval of the Facility Requirements Report is a critical step in the SSA Master Plan process,” says Susan Shea, director of the Illinois Division of Aeronautics. Shea continued, “FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has now agreed to what should be built at SSA and this further demonstrates FAA’s continued support of the South Suburban Airport.”
That is like saying finding your car keys is a critical step in driving your car. But to hear IDOT tell the story, it would be as if this one document was the precursor to a Record of Decision on Peotone. Nothing could be farther from the truth. IDOT never tells the whole story, but rather their hand-picked version to showcase their project in the best possible light. 
For example the Facilities Requirements Report, which outlines the basics of the facility is just one of so many documents needed to develop a master plan. I recall the talk about a master plan in 1987 when the first airport study was approved. It is all a part of a process that must occur before the FAA can determine whether or not Peotone is worth doing or not. The latest submission doesn’t even include the airport’s official layout.
The reality is that IDOT is playing catch-up in readying for its new and improved airport layout plan, which is yet to be submitted. I wonder how many different plans IDOT has submitted to the FAA over all these years.
In this instance, it seems they finally hit on something the FAA can agree with. Honestly, this is like an annoying kid who accompanies his mother to the grocery store. You know that kid. He kicks his hands and feet from his perch in the grocery cart. He screams, causes a real ruckus and embarrasses his mother. He wants candy. She finally gives in just to shut him up.
Mundane or not, this submission results in another glowing press release by IDOT. It was apparently enough to inspire yet another over-zealous editorial by the Southtown Star, Tuesday, Nov. 29, a long time advocate for a new airport at Peotone. The paper quoted IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell, a former editorial writer for the Southtown Star before he was recruited by IDOT, who called the FAA approval “a huge step.”
The latest approval by IDOT is not really that big of a deal, since it is required to be submitted before the airport layout plan, which has yet to be submitted, let alone approved. 
Remember the last time IDOT submitted an airport layout plan in 2008—well actually two plans. IDOT officials thought they were being clever trying to entice the FAA into doing its dirty work. IDOT expected the agency to solve the bickering between Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Will County officials in their dueling airport plans. Each had a different idea about how the airport should be designed and run. So, IDOT submitted both plans to the agency.
Apparently the FAA’s purview doesn’t include solving petty political squabbles, so they returned the documents to IDOT telling them to submit just one preferred plan.
But that isn’t all. Another example of IDOT’s ‘spin’ came earlier this year with the FAA’s approval of airport activity forecasts. In March, IDOT issued a press release stating the FAA approved its aeronautical forecasts. Using the same crystal ball that IDOT has been carrying around since the late 1980’s IDOT’s numbers finally fit the margin of acceptance for the FAA.
“This is truly a significant accomplishment,” says Susan Shea…”FAA’s approval of our forecasts validates the need to develop airport facilities that will serve the south suburban greater Chicagoland area.”
Oh please, the reality of the FAA’s position was outlined in a letter to Susan Shea, dated March 23, 2011.
In the letter signed by James G. Keefer, Manager of the Chicago Airports District Office, Keefer wrote, “We believe these levels project passenger, cargo and general aviation demand and aviation activity at reasonable levels and outline the risk associated with a proposed new airport such as SSA.”
Keefer referred to the following levels of operations:
--Low-case for passenger operations
--Low-case for cargo operations
--High-case for general aviation operations.
It has been stated, but is worth reiterating that Bult Field, a privately operated general aviation facility which IDOT initially tried to prevent from becoming operational, must be incorporated into SSA to make it viable.
If passenger and cargo operations at SSA are projected to be low, general aviation operations are projected to be high, and Bult Field already handles general aviation—isn’t that further evidence that another new airport is simply not needed?
It seems to me that Bult Field is not for sale, and if it were, could IDOT afford it?
I guess that too would depend on IDOT’s ‘spin.’

Friday, November 11, 2011

IDOT to collect food for needy families

Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics has begun an aggressive community outreach program, according to the state’s latest airport improvement plan for 2012 – 2014.
One of the first items of business is to donate food and cash to Helping Hands of Peotone, a food pantry that serves families in Will County.
Helping Hands is a wonderful organization of volunteers that got its start in the late 1980’s by a small group of caring women who devoted their time and talents to stitch new clothes for needy children. As the needs of the community grew, the focus to provide needy families with life’s bare necessities shifted toward the most essential need—food. Today Helping Hands is a member of the Northern Illinois Food Bank.
While on the surface such a gesture sounds noble, it must not be forgotten that IDOT and its agencies and employees have a long history of trying to sell the  proposed airport to anyone who would listen through aggressive public relations work. These same people participating in this seemingly good faith move are the same ones that have earned five– and six-figure salaries, paid by Illinois taxpayers for decades, to work on a project that most in the region do not want—the Peotone Airport. While it is good to want to make nice with the people of Will County, it must not be forgotten that these are the same people responsible for the destruction and decimation of the rural community that lies between
Beecher and Peotone.
The Peotone Airport has been their golden goose, so it is nice to see them want to give something back for a change. The participating organizations so far have meant nothing but destruction and decimation to eastern Will County.
Let us not forget that more than a decade ago, this was the before and after view of a rural house—the first house destroyed by IDOT in the name of the Peotone Airport in December 2000. Since this time, there have been dozens of perfectly good, livable houses, destroyed, hundreds of letters to landowners threatening to take property through eminent domain for a project that remains unapproved by the FAA, not to mention the destruction of a once-cohesive rural community and its functional farm economy for an airport that is opposed by the industry it is supposed to serve, the people who would be its neighbors, and several government agencies that have signed resolutions against it.
I applaud this gesture that will benefit hundreds of needy people. I just can’t help, knowing the history, if this is being done in good faith or just so they can look good for a change.
For this positive effort, IDOT will bring together the following participants:
  • AECOM, Chicago
  • Alpine Demolition, Geneva
  • C.J. Pohrte Maintenance Inc., Steger
  • Chicago Title Insurance Co., Joliet
  • DL Dubois & Associates Ltd., Hickory Hills
  • Hanson Professional Services Inc., Tinley Park
  • IDOT, Division of Aeronautics, Springfield
  • Kowalenko Consulting Group, Chicago
  • Mach Security Operations Inc., Beecher
  • Midwest Environmental Consulting Services Inc., Yorkville
  • Peter and Dorothy Quattrocchi, Oak Lawn
  • South Suburban Airport staff, Peotone
  • Southcomb & Associates, Joliet
  • Susan Shea, Director, Springfield
  • Total Property Maintenance, University Park
  • William H. Metz & Associates, Oak Forest
  • Windy City Home Inspections, Highland Park

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jesse Jackson Jr.'s jive talk continues

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

Jesse Jackson, Jr. continues to make the claim that he can deliver a shovel-ready airport at no cost to the taxpayers. He refers to the unsuccessful project that dates back to 1968 and is known as the Peotone Airport. The State of Illinois calls it the South Suburban Airport. Jackson calls it the Abraham Lincoln National Airport. Make no mistake, none of these projects are close to becoming a shovel-ready project at no cost to the taxpayers.
In a recent rah-rah speech in Kankakee, at the southern reaches of Jackson’s newly-drawn second congressional district at a meeting of the NAACP, Jackson made this outlandish statement.
I’d like Jackson to explain how a project could be shovel ready when more than half of the land needed for a new airport remains in the hands of landowners unwilling to sell to the state. Or, how does he consider a project shovel-ready when it hasn’t even gained approval by the Federal Aviation Administration? And how can it be shovel-ready when a general aviation airport that is privately owned and sanctioned by the FAA—Bult Field--already operates in the footprint of the airport Jackson wants to build?
I’d also like Jackson to explain how his pet project would not cost the taxpayers. Oh he claims to have developers who will put up their own money to build the Peotone Airport. But the construction of the facility is hardly the only cost to building an airport—one in the cornfields 40 miles south of the City of Chicago. It would be a facility surrounded by rural land which is serviced by well and septic systems. It would be located amid creeks and streams that tend to overflow during heavy rain. Who will pay to build the infrastructure needed to service an airport in the cornfields if not the taxpayers?
How does Jackson explain buying the remainder of the land, if not at the taxpayers’ expense? Or how can Jackson forget about the tens of millions of dollars already spent on this ill-conceived, folly. Former Illinois Transportation Secretary Kirk Brown once estimated the state had spent $100 million on the project. That was during his tenure with the state. He retired in 2002. I can guarantee the bills certainly didn’t retire with him. The state has continued to wrack up costs for state-sponsored studies, land acquisition, legal fees, consultants, public relations work, etc.
That was just the past. Future cost to the taxpayers will continue to be thrown at this dead-end project in the form of infrastructure, additional land acquisition costs, and guaranteed legal fees to fight all the innocent landowners who have been under pressure to sell their property since this project began.
It all sounds like the same kind of jive talk we’ve been hearing for years. I don’t believe it for one moment.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Illinois farmers greet Jesse Jackson Jr.

Interestingly Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. finally came to Peotone, the place he has been talking about for 18 years, the place that has been the focal point of his congressional tenure, the place he wants to decimate and urbanize.

Now that Jackson’s new congressional district has been redrawn, it includes the land where the proposed Peotone Airport has been tentatively sited. The remap is a victory in itself for Jackson, who has long tried to mislead people into believing it has always been in his district. See Jesse Jackson needs a geography lesson
It is almost laughable how Jackson has tried to schmooze the farmers whose land he wants for his pet project, into thinking he gives a damn about them, the land they work, or their rural way of life. He doesn’t. They are only a mean to his end. He wants only to use them to get what he wants—political power over jobs, contracts and ultimately campaign cash.
Jesse Jackson, Jr. had to talk hard and fast to get this audience of eastern Will County farmers to listen to what he had to say; he carefully crafted his words to try to reach them. Yet what he actually said might have the same effect as that which these farmers spread on their fields to help the crops grow. Jackson probably decided prior to the visit, that the best way to reach them was to emulate his conservative colleagues which he loathes, since most of these farmers traditionally cast a Republican ballot. I’m sure he did his homework and learned that many of them sympathize with the tea party movement. Jackson is too arrogant to consider that he has little chance of winning them over.
As a longtime advocate for these folks keeping their land out of Jackson’s hands, I resent Jackson’s inference that he understands their lifestyle. His talk of praying for sun and rain, joking about driving a combine, and drawing first a comparison with his African-American ancestors who picked cotton in the south and later with the people of Iowa he met along the campaign trail, was insincere and likely ineffectual. Try as he might to get into their good graces, I doubt it worked.
It is offensive that Jackson would try to take advantage of religion and culture to worm his way into the hearts and minds of the local farmers in eastern Will County. These are good people, with too much dignity to tell the congressman what they really feel. I can almost guarantee they will never vote for him, no matter how many stories he tells them about how he understands their plight.
The one thing he did offer that might give them pause was his promise of a “fair market exchange” for those who are willing to sell their land to the state. Closer evaluation will show this to be a ruse as well.
First, Jackson promised that if they became willing sellers, they would receive fair market value. Anyone could make that promise since that is the law. But he also said they could farm the land for free until the land is needed. On one hand, Jackson claims construction could begin by June. Even Jackson knows that isn’t doable. So he is dangling the carrot on the end of the free farming stick. It was an interesting ploy, given that farmers are businessmen like everyone else in this faltering economy. Jackson also knows that for some the fight might be out of them after all these years since the Peotone Airport was first proposed in the 1960’s but heavily marketed since the 1980’s.
“An airport will be built on that land,” Jackson said, speaking of the needed state-owned land which represents less than half of what is needed. No doubt, that is as he sees it, yet his view seems to be shared by less people every year as support for the airport dwindles.
His flim-flam guarantee for the opportunity to farm the land for free is simply not his to make. While Jackson acts as though he and his self-appointed airport authority, ALNAC (Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission) owns this project. It does not. It hasn’t even been approved by the FAA at this point. No decision will be made for years since the perpetual studies continue. Jackson is a U.S. Congressman unaffiliated with the State of Illinois, yet he continues to behave as though he has the right to negotiation with landowners for the State of Illinois. He has no such right.
The bottom line is that if Jackson thinks he is going to convince farmers in eastern Will County that they should voluntarily sell their land for an airport they don’t want for the sake of jobs in the south suburbs, Jackson is delusional.
I will at least give Jackson credit for finally coming face-to-face with Peotone-area farmers. Because his adversaries appear polite, easy-going, reserved, and all the other attributes the good people of the Peotone area possess, Jackson probably thinks winning them over will be a cake walk. That shows how little he really knows about the farm community.
Jackson’s visit can be viewed thanks to

Monday, October 10, 2011

Halvorson wants to defeat Jesse Jackson, Jr.

Debbie HalvorsonIt is no surprise that Debbie Halvorson plans to run again for Congress--in the newly-drawn 2nd congressional district. The seat happens to be held by U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., her former colleague with whom she battled during her last tenure in congress.

Halvorson served in the 11th district which abutted Jackson’s 2nd district. Since the maps have been redrawn, his district now encompasses much of the territory in her former district. She was defeated, at the conclusion of her first term, by newcomer U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

Halvorson is a long shot. She rode into office in 2008 on President Barack Obama’s coattails. The hugely popular Republican takeover by the tea party in 2010 swept her back out of office.

Halvorson’s announcement to run again is no surprise because that is what politicians do when they lose. The truth of the matter is that there are rarely losers in politics, especially in Illinois politics. Once connections are made, promises given, and bucket loads of cash ensures ‘a friend in the factory,’ often times the same people run over and over again, sometimes for the same and sometimes for other posts. When it becomes Jesse Jackson, Jr.impossible to convince the public to vote for them, they are usually appointed to a government job. It is as if holding elected office is the step to getting a high-paying cushy government job with all the benefits the taxpayers will give.

Halvorson wanted to be named Illinois transportation secretary, but Illinois governor Pat Quinn appointed someone else. So, for now, Halvorson will have to forego the big bucks political job in favor of being a congresswoman, if she can convince the public.

The Peotone Airport battle
While the two were colleagues, Halvorson and Jackson battled over the proposed Peotone Airport, but not the fight that should have been waged. As the project was located in the 11th congressional district, Halvorson should have represented her constituents, the majority of which have proven countless ways that they opposed the airport. Instead, she chose to pay her allegiance to the unions in Joliet who salivated over perceived jobs and contracts. She sided with the huge concrete and asphalt companies who contributed campaign cash over the people who only had their votes to give.

Her battle with Jackson was over who would control an airport if and when it was built.

Both took a pro-airport position despite Halvorson’s first public position being against it.

In 1996, Halvorson was a virtual unknown in the political realm. She was a Mary Kay salesperson and Crete Township Clerk. She rose to political stardom in 1996, however when she defeated the popular Senate Majority Leader Aldo DeAngelis.

Halvorson was once anti-airport
Halvorson ran as a no-airport candidate. I know because I was at her campaign headquarters that night. I and many others were elated when this seemingly down-to-earth woman who was on our side, defeated the godfather of the Peotone Airport. Little did we know that the minute she set foot in the capital in Springfield that she would a DeAngelis clone.

Saying all the right things to all the right people, Halvorson ascended rapidly to become Illinois’ first Senate Majority leader.

It will be interesting to watch the battle between these two. As far as I’m concerned—they are evenly matched. Neither has been able to get what they want.

Just days into her campaign and already Halvorson is sniping about Jackson’s ethical issues, which includes a House investigation over Jackson’s alleged attempt to buy Obama’s senate seat and his marital infidelity. Political theater is always a spectator sport.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

IDOT hires 16 new workers

The Illinois Department of Transportation has never played by the same rules as everyone else.

Despite talks of budget cuts, economic recession, and laying off more than 1,900 state workers in Illinois, its transportation department has hired 16 new employees--supervisors--that critics claim are not needed. 

The new jobs, which are supervisory in nature will, according to some critics, duplicate work already being done by field supervisors who recently joined a union. 

The move creates an entire new administrative layer, with each earning about $100,000 annually, far more and in some cases double that of the former supervisors. 

IDOT denies the new jobs have any connection to the unionization of employees, despite the announcement coming just weeks after the previous workers joined the Operating Engineers Local 150. 

Speaking of unneeded new IDOT jobs, IDOT has also hired a new project coordinator for the long-dormant South Suburban Airport. 

On Sept. 12, IDOT announced the hiring of William M. Viste, as project coordinator for the South Suburban Airport. The state project has languished since 1985 when it brought to life an idea first considered in the late 1960's not long after O'Hare International airport opened for business. 

According to the South Suburban Airport website, Viste will be charged with "ensuring the technical accuracy of the project's reports and submittals, provide status oversight for the various facets of this complex project, and respond to technical questions and comments from federal, state, and local agencies, communities, landowners, and other stakeholders."

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Jesse Jr. no longer has to lie about Peotone

It appears that U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., (D-Chicago) won't have to lie aboutwhere the proposed Peotone Airport is located. It will finally be in his district.

Jackson has certainly been less than honest about the Peotone Airport, his pet project for the last decade. His insinuation that it was in Illinois' second congressional district, his district has been around so long that even newspapers have wrongly reported it. Truth is, all this time, the proposed Peotone airport has been in the 11th congressional district. We have all seen that when politicians tell a lie often enough, the truth sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.

Jackson lied to his colleagues on the House floor with the claim that the proposed airport is next to Ford Heights, one of the poorest suburbs in the State of Illinois. (see stories below). His aim was to push through earmarks attached to a spending bill.

The truth is the Peotone project is far enough from Ford Heights that it would likely have no effect on the jobless there.

Now, it looks like Jackson will finally be getting his way. If the redistricting plan put forth by Illinois Democrats is approved, and it looks as if it will, Jackson's district will encompass the proposed airport site as well as the small farming towns that surround it.

If the people of eastern Will County complained before about their congressional representation, I fear they haven't seen anything yet.

What does Jesse Jackson, Jr. know about farming, soil and water conservation, growing crops, small town living, or any of the other things that will make such a city mouse totally out of his element in the country. The result of this out-of-character pairing will likely be that he simply ignores the will of the people of eastern Will County. Then again, that is nothing new, since he already has a history of trying to steamroll their rights and dismiss their wishes as he advocates taking their land so he can shove an unneeded airport down their throats.

Public officials in eastern Will County will also likely be void of representation. While mayors and their boards have had a decent rapport with their representatives, this will be a whole new ballgame. Many of the mayors have had scathing things to say about Jackson. Now he will be their representative.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

100-yr. old man says no to IDOT

One of the obstacles facing the State of Illinois in their effort to build a new airport near Peotone, is a 100-year old man named Anthony Rudis.

I know Tony Rudis and believe him to be a formidable opponent. He is right about his claims in a recent newspaper interview. He said IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) is harassing him.

That is their modus operandi. They have harassed the people of eastern Will County for years, dating back to the days I first started following this project, back in 1987.

They forge on despite never getting the go-ahead from  the Federal Aviation Administration. Nor does the State of Illinois have the funds to build an airport—funds which are grossly underestimated—because the estimates do not take into account the millions of dollars of infrastructure that would be needed to transform a farming community into a transportation center. In addition, a new airport has never been proven as a necessity for the Chicago region, though numerous state-sponsored studies make that assumption. Finally, despite politicians' claim that without airline partners the airport will never be built. They ignore the airlines' declaration that they will not use an airport at Peotone. Since 1985, this project has remained in a perpetual study phase.

Rudis says it is wrong to use eminent domain to try take property or to threaten to do so even before the Federal Aviation Administration has given the project a green light.

Yet, IDOT continues to try.

Rudis has put his foot down, by not allowing the state to trample onto his property or his rights. He refuses to allow IDOT contractors onto his property to do another assessment of his property's worth. The agency sent out yet another series of letters recently claiming it is their right to inspect the premises in order to appraise his and other properties for the purposes of the airport study. Rudis is right in asking how many times they have to make their assessment. It has been done several times before. Nothing has changed.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Peotone Airport and old soup

Normally, perseverance is an admirable trait, except in the case of old soup.

Will County Executive Larry Walsh apparently tried to stir the soup that is the Peotone Airport. It sits in a rusty old pot filled with withered ingredients, boiled down so many times, that there is little left of it.

Walsh recently traveled to Springfield and Washington, D.C., His trip was likely little more than his effort to try to bring the soup back to a boil. That isn't perseverance, though—it is more like futility. The soup pot sits on an old broken stove that can barely ignite a spark. Cooking soup needs fire, and there is so little heat left.

Walsh's trip is likely in response to statements by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood who said as much during a recent visit to Will County. While LaHood and the rest of the country is talking about high speed rail, a full-course meal by comparison, Walsh continues to stir that rancid soup.

At the same time, Walsh's trip and the subsequent local headlines that followed, had the added benefit of sticking it to the opposing party, something Will County partisans are always up for.

Just a few weeks ago, Republican County Board Chairman Jim Moustis suggested de-emphasizing the Peotone Airport which he categorized as becoming a distraction. He even considered reconfiguring the county board to two-person districts, recognizing the difference between the east and west sides. He cited the proposed airport as an example, stating that less-populated areas of eastern Will County who oppose the proposed airport should have their own representation rather than being included with portions of faster-growing areas where residents are more neutral on the project.

Walsh apparently met Tuesday with Susan Shea, IDOT's director of aeronautics, in Springfield. He later went to meet U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Florida in the nation's capital. Mica chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Both are already supporting chefs in Walsh's soup. In fact, Shea is probably taking credit for the recipe, even though it was passed down to her from her predecessor Kirk, (make jobs for myself and my friends) Brown.

Mica added a few ingredients into the broth back in the day that former Congressman Jerry Weller invited him to Will County's kitchen. Those were very different times. The ingredients weren't quite as withered as now.

Shea and Mica—it is doubtful these chefs have anything new to add to Larry's soup.

Interestingly, there has been no mention of Walsh stopping by the White House to talk soup with his poker-playing pal, the President. Perhaps Mr. Obama is too busy with an entire banquet full of issues to deal with his buddy's old soup.

So, despite headlines in the local papers, Walsh's trip was largely much ado about nothing.

He attended the County Executives of America legislative conference. That was likely the purpose and focus of his Washington trip. This is just more about the same old soup still trying to simmer. There are no new ingredients in enthusiastic voices; no nourishment in the form of jobs to stave off unemployment.

So, the result is just a little more stirring of the same old pot. The only difference is that the smell is getting worse.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Father of Peotone Airport dies

Everett Klipp dies at 84

Another pilot steering the decades-old saga of the Peotone Airport has passed away.

Everett Edward Klipp, the man credited with devising the Peotone site as the location for Chicago's third airport, has died of natural causes at age 84. While I never knew him, he  was iconic to me. I never even laid eyes on the man until one day, he appeared at a meeting, out of the blue. In 1991, seeing Everett Klipp for the first time was to me, like coming face-to-face with a ghost.

Under different circumstances, I may have liked him. He was a farmer from Manteno, one of eight children. He married his childhood sweetheart. He had planned to be a machinist, the same profession as my father.

Instead, Klipp became legendary as a trader with the Chicago Board of Trade. He is also credited with serving on the (Chicago) Cook County Transit Board, as an officer in the Cook County Republican Party, President of the Lions Club of Matteson Il., and as the inspiration and driving force behind development of the Third Airport of Chicago to be located on the south side of that city.

It was this last statement that is bothersome. Klipp proposed the airport to be located, not just south side of that city as his obituary notes, but between Beecher and Peotone, some forty miles south of the city. In the late 1960's, Klipp paid for a study to determine the benefits of the site he proposed. I suspect it may have been an innovative and forward-thinking idea back then. Times change. But Klipp's initial airport plan didn't change. What the state proposes today is the much the same as Klipp proposed fifty years ago. Granted, the state's plan has been tweaked, though not enough to make it work. It is far from innovative today. It is simply another idea whose time has come and gone.

I had heard early on in my own battle against the proposed airport which began in 1988, about Klipp's involvement. He proposed the site when Chicago Mayor Richard Daley considered building Chicago's third airport.

The state's moniker--third airport--is a misnomer, since there are far more than two airports serving the region. Additionally, Chicago has bought into the Gary/Chicago International Airport, which legitimately makes it Chicago's third airport.

In 1991, I came face-to-face with Everett Klipp during a congressional subcommittee on aviation hearing of the 101st U.S. Congress. It convened in Chicago, at the Mann Park Fieldhouse, on the city's south side. I was asked by the late U.S. Rep. George Sangmeister, D-Frankfort to participate, to testify in opposition to the Kankakee site. I made it clear in my remarks that my opposition was to any rural location for a new airport, especially the Peotone site.

As I sat through the long proceedings, the focus was clearly on the Lake Calumet site proposed by the City of Chicago. The rural sites were included, but were far less newsworthy, as evidenced by the clearing of cameras, reporters, and even some of the nine congressmen, once the Lake Calumet portion of the hearing concluded. I, and a group of airport opponents and supporters scheduled to speak about the three rural sites--Bi-state, Peotone, and Kankakee--patiently waited our turn. When it came time to discuss Peotone, I was shocked when I heard his name called. Everett Klipp was to speak on behalf of the Peotone site.

Just hearing his name gave me chills--not because of his wealth or power--but because his involvement had been so long ago. I had been involved for four years and he had played no part. It was strangely comforting to know this elderly man was the only voice to speak on behalf of the Peotone site.

Looking back, I realize I am nearly the same age today that Klipp was when he testified, which is far from elderly. His  testimony was meant to impress decision-makers because of his stature in financial circles. It had nothing to do with transportation expertise.

Klipp's testimony in 1991 didn't revolve around what Klipp knew best--finances. It was just general support, strangely similar to what had been reported in the newspaper nearly three decades before.

It was then that I realized, it was Klipp's proposal that the state has been using, despite decades of changes in technology, demographics, and aviation itself. My early instincts were correct--this was nothing more than a boondoggle--that had little to do with transportation need.

Preceding Everett Klipp in death is the Godfather of the Peotone Airport, State Sen. Aldo DeAngelis, U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde, and State Sen. Martin Butler. Klipp is survived by ex-Secretary of Transportation Kirk Brown, ex-Illinois Gov. George Ryan, ex-Executive Director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Beth Ruyle, ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, as well as Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010: Reality debunks early airport predictions

It is now 2010. This was was supposed to have been an aviation milestone, according to long-ago predictions.

By 2010 the number of people traveling by air was supposed to be equal in all parts of the Chicagoland region. That prediction was made in 1987 and was known as the equal propensity to travel theory.

Equal Propensity to Travel Theory

This illusive theory appeared with no explanation of its origin, yet was alluded to throughout the pages of the Chicago Airport Capacity Study, by Illinois Department of Transportation consultants Peat, Marwick and Main.

The theory was derived by sub-consultants, the al Chalabi Group, Ltd., the husband and wife consulting team – Margery and Suhail al Chalabi – who have worked for the State of Illinois on the 'third airport' project since its inception.

The equal propensity to travel theory was used to exaggerate a trend of population, income, and jobs south of the city which contributed to a justification that a new airport should be built south of Chicago.

One asssumption, then another, and another, ...

The initial assumption that there would be an equal propensity to travel throughout the Chicago region by 2010 was merely a planning tool, one of many assumptions built into the computer model from which other predictions were generated. That assumption helped generate other forecasts, such as:  the number of passengers that would use a new airport; the number of aircraft operations that would be served; as well as how many direct, indirect, or induced jobs the project would create. It just so happened that the first crystal ball was aimed at 2010.

The equal propensity to travel theory did generate some controversy. One of the members of the technical committee, which might be considered a 'stakeholder,' in today's terms, called the theory, "false."

Members of the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry, which later became the Chicago Chamber of Commerce explained, "The recent growth patterns in the Chicago region have increased travel propensity in the areas closer to O'Hare, not led to equal travel propensity."

The irony

The equal propsensity to travel theory was a prediction that is very different from today's reality, where some south suburban communities are considered to be among the poorest in the state.

It is ironic that the state's early prognostications that point to a need for a new airport to serve a burgeoning south suburban population stand in stark contrast to both the reality and the claims being made today by south suburban leaders. They claim that what is needed are the jobs and economic development that a new airport would provide.

The loudest voice of support for an airport near Peotone has come from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. who may have never even heard of the equal propensity to travel theory. After all, when it was being written into the fabric of 'third' airport history, Jackson was in college in North Carolina. It wasn't until long after, around 1993, that Jackson became interested in the project. It wasn't until two years later that he was elected to Congress.

Your tax dollars at work 

The al Chalabi Group, Ltd. who first derived the 2010 prediction, remains on the state's payroll as they have for the past 23 years. They have a contract with the state transportation department at least until December 2011.  The consultants continue to make predictions for the Peotone project. Their latest, done in 2007, extrapolates figures into 2030.

They state that by 2030 there will be 4.5 million passengers using the South Suburban Airport. That prediction doesn't seem possible either, since the project is not yet approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The late State Sen. Aldo DeAngelis explained at the time, that the main goal in getting the report approved was so the process could move forward to the next study. DeAngelis, who was once considered the Godfather of the third airport, was one of the decision-makers that approved the report despite its criticisms.

The equal propensity to travel theory was never discussed again in subsequent airport studies.

George Ryan wants to leave prison to visit critically ill wife

George RyanGeorge Ryan, the convicted felon that once served as Illinois' Governor wants to be released from prison to visit his gravely ill wife, perhaps for the very last time. A debate rages about whether or not Ryan should be allowed to leave the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, IN to travel to his home town of Kankakee to be by Lura Lynn's bed side.
There is no doubt Ryan is devoted to his wife of fifty years. He loves her and would like nothing more than to share her final moments with her.

While George Ryan's reality includes compassion for his wife, that compassion never spilled over onto the public for which he took an oath to serve. Instead, he governed with arrogance and ego.

Ryan's trying to get out of jail now is just one more in a long line of attempts to gain his freedom. When he was convicted of wrongdoing, another ex-governor—James Thompson—Ryan's pro-bono lawyer tried every available legal maneuver to keep Ryan from serving the 6 1/2 year sentence imposed upon him. Just a few weeks ago, Thompson tried to get Ryan released from prison to be with his wife. The judge ruled against it.

Ryan's initial sentence was based on a mere sampling of his deeds during his career as a public official. There is no way that all of Ryan's questionable actions could be presented in a court of law during his trial.

I know George Ryan. I recall once asking him a question, in my role as a news reporter for Ryan's home town paper. For a brief instant, he looked at me. I saw a cold, look of contempt in his eyes before he turned and walked away, dismissing me without acknowledging my presence. He didn't have to answer me. He was the governor. I was nothing more than a nuisance to him.

I've seen Ryan make decisions that hurt people. Ryan was the first to authorize the state tobuy land for a new airport near Peotone, one that even after 25 years, is not approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and for which no regional consensus has or will ever be reached.

But to move the project forward, Ryan made a deal with a friend of his whereby the state department of transportation would buy the unsold lots in his high-priced subdivision, even though the property wouldn't be used for the project. The act of buying the first ground 'for the airport' even though it was later intended to be sold as unnecessary to the project, was enough to scare people into selling their land to the state. The airport wasn't needed, yet Ryan didn't flinch when people pleaded with him to end the airport nightmare that had been discussed since the 1960's. Some of those people suffered health issues not unlike those of Ryan's own wife. Yet, he didn't care about their plight. So many good people died trying to fight the scourge that he perpetuated. There was nothing they could do to protect the land that in some cases had been in their families for generations, because the big, bad, governor wanted to take it from them.

When George Ryan's actions were indirectly responsible for the death of the six Willis children, Ryan showed no remorse. Even if that accident wasn't Ryan's fault directly, it did shine a light on how Ryan ran the Secretary of State's office.

For me, direct blame isn't the issue. Ryan's attitude is the issue. He didn't care that two people had to bury their six children.

I'm genuinely sorry that Lura Lynn Ryan is so ill. Who knows if she is conscious, or if she would even know if her husband was by her bedside? In her near-death state, her mind will likely cause her believe he is with her. He doesn't need to be physically there.

George Ryan needs to pay the price—the complete price for his deeds. And that includes another three years in prison. He does not deserve special privilege.

Post script

Ryan did spent about two hours with his ailing wife, according to reports. The decision to allow him to be released from prison for that period was customarily assigned to the prison warden, and is not an uncommon occurrence.
Enhanced by Zemanta