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