Showing posts with label Susan Shea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Susan Shea. Show all posts

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.’

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Inaccuracies seem to follow the Peotone airport

The following story was reported in Airport Business, a blog by Editorial Director John Infanger of Airport Business magazine. Infanger's post inaccurately states that the proposed Peotone airport is located in U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson's congressional district, (see below). Congratulations Jesse, another one fell for it! Too bad it just isn't true.

I couldn't help but add a comment, since comments are allowed. Read my comment below the story.

Flying Out of ORD …

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Posted By John F. Infanger

Editorial Director, AIRPORT BUSINESS Magazine
… the construction unfolds at O’Hare below as the airliner liftsoff. A man’s mind turns to … airports. And whatever happened toChicago’s third airport, at Peotone (or wherever)?

No sooner asked than answered by Chicago Tribune reporterJoel Hood, who relates that the State of Illinois has “set aside” $100million to get the project moving. Says the story, “For airportsupporters, the money signals that Governor Pat Quinn is serious aboutacquiring the remaining 2,000 acres needed in southern Will County tobuild a third major airport for the Chicago region. No sooner had thegovernor signed the bill than state officials began fielding calls fromlandowners near Peotone seeking to cash in, said Susan Shea, directorof aeronautics for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

“I tell them that I’ve already got appraisers ready and out lookingat properties,” Shea said. ‘All of a sudden, people are starting torealize that this is going to happen.’"

That’s significant because two major obstacles holding up Peotonewere local landowners and politics. Chicago’s third airport was put onhold in the ‘90s because Mayor Daley had come up with a new plan –rebuilding O’Hare – and opposing Peotone. President Clinton and Mr.Daley were allies.

Interestingly, Mayor Daley had previously fought hard for a thirdChicago airport, at the Lake Calumet site near Indiana. It was heavilypolluted from the steel mill era; the feds said no. A group of seriousinvestors sought to privately build Peotone, a la Branson, but neverseriously got off the ground. And Mr. Daley’s father, Mayor Richard J.,at one time pushed hard for a third Chicago airport … in Lake Michigan.

Today, President Obama’s Chicago home isn’t that far north ofPeotone, which sits in Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s (D-IL) district. Rep.Jackson is perhaps the strongest proponent of the new airport, and hisargument gets legs when one considers that the current search for jobsin Chicagoland is rough. Daley and Obama are allies, certainly; butapparently the politics don’t add up to the same result today. The fateof this project has always hinged on Washington.

If there was one thing I learned about Chicago while growing upthere, it was that the region was a transportation hub. That was itscore strength – the railroads; the airports; the highways … theinfrastructure. Driving down I-55 the other day was a ‘highway betweendistribution centers’ experience.

The third Chicago airport has always seemed like a natural progression.

Thanks for reading. jfi


Your story contained an error.The proposed airport is NOT in Jackson’s district. In fact, Jackson hasdeceived many, including his congressional colleagues, into believingthat, but it isn’t true. The proposed airport site lies within the 11thcongressional district, in Will County which is fighting Jacksontooth-and-nail for control.

Further, due to her track record, you should have reported that Susan Shea claimed she is fielding calls from landowners.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Friendly condemnation is anything but friendly

There was something about that property.

The house at 28541 Kedzie Ave. in eastern Will County has been a sore spot for local residents for a very long time.

That house and property is the site of the first condemnation lawsuit slated to make way for a new airport at Peotone for which neighboring residents are vehemently opposed.

The suit, filed in Will County Circuit Court shortly after the state submitted new airport layout plans to the Federal Aviation Administration, is being called a “friendly condemnation,” which is a means of acquiring property without objection by the homeowner.

In this case, the property belongs to Helena D. Hudgins, an 80-year old woman who lives in Chicago rather than in eastern Will County. She wanted to sell the property but didn’t have a clear title. Perhaps if she had lived there, she might have felt differently. She might have become friendly with neighbors. Despite the distance between homes, neighbors who occupy the five– and ten-acre parcels, peppered among the larger acreage farmsteads, there is a feeling of a neighborhood in the once peaceful, farming community. Perhaps if she had lived there, everything would have been different for everyone.

But instead, her son lived there. Donald Hudgins and his wife Katherine moved there to keep dogs – mean, fighting dogs, according to neighbors. The two were arrested a year ago, pleading guilty to drug charges in November.

For a time, the Hudgins’ dogs terrified the neighborhood, roaming the country roads, even attacking family pets. During the time the two stayed at the house, there had been reports of large dead dogs reportedly strewn about in ditches. Sheriff’s deputies said they had found the rotting remains of dogs in black plastic garbage bags along the roadside.

The couple was also involved in drugs. In March 2006, after a tip from a motorist that drugs were being sold at the Hudgins’ home, the two were arrested. Police confiscated more than a kilogram of marijuana, 35 marijuana plants, 100 grams of cocaine, and over $1,600 in cash.

Donald Hudgins already had a record, with a felony conviction in Cook County in 1998 for unlawful use of a weapon and a conviction of possession of a controlled substance.

A plea agreement sent the couple to jail – Donald for two years and Katherine for six months.

When the two vacated the property, neighbors were relieved that they would no longer be terrorized.

Then they head about the ‘friendly condemnation’ suit. Wondering how an act that allows the state to ‘take’ private property could ever be considered friendly, it represented a terror of a different kind for them.

There has been a history of condemnation threats made by state officials throughout the years. Neighbors believe it is designed to scare people into selling property. And, for some that was the result. They have read the reports in the local papers about how IDOT Director Susan Shea boasted about this being the first of many condemnation lawsuits that would result in the agency acquiring the rest of the 3,285 acres needed to build the airport. The neighbors have heard it all before, since the airport has been in the planning stages for the last forty years, with the latest efforts undertaken solely by Illinois officials, dating back to the summer of 1985.

The landowners that remain unwilling sellers are furious that Shea makes it sound to others who only casually know, read, or hear about the project, that obtaining all the land needed for an airport will be a slam-dunk. They know better, because they have no intention of giving up the property that many of them have fought twenty years to hold onto.

They resent hearing Shea talk about how the price for the Hudgins house will set a base price for future condemnations. They don’t believe that for a minute, since they know each case is separate from another. And, if they ever do have to go to court, they vow to fight.

Many of them are skeptical of Shea’s enthusiasm, such as her elation at the new airport layout plan that led her to say, “The Lord was looking out for me when he designed this land.”

Since the state revised the plans, even more land is needed. The site is now 5,225 acres in size, up from slightly from the 4,112 they said they needed before. So far, the state owns 1,940 acres, a paltry amount in comparison.

The resentment only deepens with the talk of condemnation, since there is officially no approved project for which to take their homes and property.
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