Friday, March 7, 2014

Nearly a half-century of waste continues with Illinois' Peotone Airport

When I began CHBlog several years ago, my sole focus was the proposed airport project in Illinois commonly known as the Peotone Airport. I've moved on, but sadly, the effort to build this unnecessary airport has not. 


South Suburban Airport sentiment
Sentiment of the majority of residents of Eastern Will County, Illinois

The Peotone Airport or South Suburban Airport, or whatever its name de jour, is slated to be built just north and east of the small rural town of Peotone. I once had a very active role there, as not only a longtime vocal opponent of the project, but as a reporter/editor for the local paper. Even though I've moved on, this project is still being propelled forward. The sick irony is that those elected to serve the public are the ones that continue to do the promoting, petting, and prodding of this project. It is at the people's expense. There are many less people fighting now--the last holdouts that refuse to give in to the years of bad ideas and bullying tactics by their own state government. 

This project is just one more that continues to plague the population so the politicos in Illinois can continue to play games as they scramble to secure their own political fortunes.

Make no mistake, this is not a necessary project. It fulfills no transportation need whatsoever. It has been a twinkle in the eyes of politicians, first Republicans in the state legislature, and later, the Democrats, thanks to imprisoned former congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. who tried to adopt it like a long lost child.

This airport has been on the drawing board for nearly 50 years, first written about in the local paper in 1968. Each push always fabricated a purpose, citing why it is needed, always with the hope that one day, one of them would stick. None have. This has been an economic development project, a jobs creator, a replacement and/or supplement to O'Hare International Airport, a replacement for Midway Airport, a freight facility, an answer for the poverty and illiteracy in the south suburbs, and a better airport than Indiana's Gary/Chicago International Airport. It would be none of those. Though never proven, its need has been stated so many times, that it has now been simply assumed. The implied need for this airport is the magic bullet of our time. 

In its tenure, there has been a huge expenditure of time, effort, and money, yet the project remains void of the long-hoped for list of supporters that failed to materialize. There are a few--the same ones who have been pushing it all along. Of course there are the Illinois politicians that envisioned making a name for themselves, though for some, the name they made was not quite what they intended. There are those that have traded their given names for numbers as they serve time in the prison system; some have died; others have moved on to the next project at some other place.
Nice house destroyed by the government for no good reason
State officials destroyed this home for no good reason!

The before and after picture of a lovely rural homestead.

Sadly, the new faces that have inherited the Peotone Airport torch have done so without the knowledge of the complex history that came before. They are unaware of the games that were played out in three states, or the deeds of their predecessors. 

Only the loudest noise has stood the test of time. Oh, and then there is the paper trail, as carefully laid as crumbs by Hansel and Gretel, with all those reams of paper containing written words in executive summaries by paid consultants who wrote what they were told, or so many headlines throughout the years. Few told the real story. 

The newbies now serving in government are unaware and don't care all that much that the loudest claims--what they think they know--have little basis in fact, but are inaccurate conclusions stated over and over until they were merely assumed to be true. Perhaps that was the intention all along. I can attest to being told early on that one of the goals was to wear down the opposition. Who knew it would be five decades?

The thing is, there is no new support. No one has managed to convince anyone in the aviation industry that the Chicago area needs another airport. The same voices speak out. They could get points for consistency if they didn't have an obvious vested interest. Politicians who have seen how big projects, that have 'made' their predecessors, have stars in their eyes and want money in their war chests to guarantee a long and lucrative political career. Developers salivate over paving the planet. Real estate speculators have long believed they were betting on a sure thing and hoped to bank their winnings. Of course construction workers wanted job security for life as they have already learned the benefit of converting farmland to urban sprawl. 

Despite all logic, common sense, and good will, the politicians of Illinois continue to use and abuse condemnation laws they write that allow them to take private property for public use, even though there is no guarantee that a new airport will be used by anyone. After all, they have done it before downstate near the little town of Mascoutah, with the unused Mid-America Airport.

It is almost unconscionable that the state would continue to spend millions of dollars to take people to court, where the cards are most always stacked in their favor, to legally rob people of their homes, land, and livelihoods. It is a disgrace of the highest magnitude. And I'm so sorry to say, it continues.


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