Thursday, March 22, 2012

Peotone area residents seething over Jesse Jackson, Jr. insensitivities


Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s election-night bravado included a statement during an interview that has the residents of eastern Will County seething.

During an interview following Jackson's victory in the Democratic primary challenge where he handily defeated ex-Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, Jackson told WLS-TV reporter Paul Meincke that the site of the airport he wants to build currently contains nothing but tumbleweed?



Jackson knows better, since last fall he finally spent some time in eastern Will County meeting with some of the farmers there. Jackson is lucky that the cultural upbringing of these farmers caused them to be gracious, greeting him with polite respectfulness rather than the personal disdain some of them may have felt at the man who is personally trying to coerce them into selling their land for an airport they don't want. Treading softly, Jackson went about trying to schmooze them, as only he can.

George Ochsenfeld, the longtime organizer of the anti-airport group STAND (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down) was not raised as a farmer and doesn't feel quite so polite toward Jackson, especially after Jackson's latest dismissal of those people who would be displaced by an airport that hasn't even been approved yet.

Ochsenfeld took issue with Jackson's insensitive and incorrect remarks and is now demanding an apology to the people of eastern Will County.

"Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., we are not tumbleweed, we are human beings!" Ochsenfeld wrote. "Our homes and community are dear to us. Our farmland is some of the finest in the world," he said.

Ochsenfeld also penned a letter to state legislators outlining what he considers to be unfair treatment of Peotone area residents by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).

On Wednesday, March 21, Ochsenfeld wrote that IDOT has begun using eminent domain to forecefully take property for the proposed South Suburban Airport near Peotone, even though the FAA is at least two to three years away from deciding if an airport can be built.

Further, Ochsenfeld wrote that IDOT is being "grossly unfair," largely because it contradicts a court finding in a similar situation concerning the City of Chicago's use of eminent domain during its expansion of O'Hare International Airport.

English: Chicago O'Hare International Airport ...
English: Chicago O'Hare International Airport Taken by me (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The City agreed to honor the courts' suggestion to wait for an FAA Record of Decision before using eminent domain.

"Why can't Peotone area residents get the same fair treatment afforded to O'Hare area residents?" he asked. "What is IDOT's hurry in taking land from citizens?" He pointed out that if the FAA decides the airport can be built, IDOT could acquire the land in a couple of months through a 'quick-take' eminent domain procedure.

"If the airport is never built, it will mean that almost $100 million of (borrowed) taxpayer money will be spent for nothing, with heart-breaking consequences for hard working farmers and residents," he said.

He asked that legislators use whatever means within their power to prevent IDOT from using eminent domain prior to the FAA reaching a Record of Decision on the Peotone project.

The following is the court finding to which Ochsenfeld referred--where the City of Chicago agreed to postpone land acquisition until after the FAA issued its Record of Decision on the project.

Village of Bensenville, Illinois, Village of Elk Grove, Illinois, et. al. vs. The City of Chicago, FAA, et.al. U.S. District Court For The Northern District Of Illinois, Eastern Division, No. 03 C 3726

In June 2003, the villages of Bensenville, Elk Grove, Rest Haven Cemetery and private citizens filed suit in federal court against the City of Chicago to block its land acquisitions through eminent domain and property demolition for the proposed expansion of O’Hare International Airport.


Plaintiffs argued in their Complaint that Chicago’s land acquisitions for O’Hare expansion and modernization would “result in serious harm to the their rights under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the landowners’ property rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and under NEPA.”


Plaintiffs argued that Chicago may not acquire and demolish homes and businesses… unless and until FAA has given approval to an Airport Layout Plan and airport Master Plan which first requires the FAA’s exhaustive compliance with numerous federal statutes, consultation with various federal agencies, and public hearings.


Pursuant to a Pretrial hearing, Judge Coar entered an Agreed Order on July 10, 2003 whereby the City of Chicago agreed that it would not acquire property in the villages of Bensenville and Elk Grove for purposes of its O’Hare Modernization Program “unless and until the FAA has issued a Record of Decision following completion of an EIS.”

As a result, the City of Chicago immediately ceased all attempts at land acquisition and refrained from any further demolition of properties it had acquired prior to the litigation. In the meantime, the FAA proceeded with its extensive review of mandated environmental, archaeological and national historic preservation studies as required by law, held public hearings on its review and issued its Draft EIS in January 2005 in favor of Chicago’s plan.

On September 30, 2005, the FAA gave its final approval (FEIS) of the O’Hare Modernization Program thus clearing the way for Chicago to commence land acquisition and construction.

That same day, expansion opponents Bensenville and Elk Grove Village appealed the FAA’s decision to a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. and obtained a stay of construction. They argued that the plan for expansion was not cost justified by either the City of Chicago or the FAA and that the expansion plan was too disruptive to area residents and businesses.

(On March 7, 2006 Bensenville trustees approved a 180-day moratorium on all demolition permits within a 125-acre zone included in the site approved by the FAA for O’Hare Airport expansion. The village cited traffic safety, hazardous material disposal and water runoff control concerns as reasons for the moratorium.)