Saturday, December 22, 2007

Holiday traditions good & bad evident at Christmas

Holiday traditions generally revolve around parties with family and friends, sending greeting cards, shopping, giving gifts, and offering well-wishes.

The tradition was upheld as STAND (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down) held its annual Christmas party. About 70 people attended Thursday, Dec. 13 at the Peotone American Legion, where a delicious meal was catered by Scrementi’s. Although George Ochsenfeld, president of STAND had expected to offer good news at the party - that no news is good news - his intentions were sidetracked by what seems to have become another holiday tradition. This one, however, lacks the usual merriment of the season. It seems that every year just before Christmas time, a new development related to the long-running Peotone airport saga, makes headlines. This year was no different.

While this year’s headlines aren’t considered a huge threat to hearths and homes of families who have endured this project far too long, it was enough to cause a bit of heartburn for party-goers.

On the very day of the party, the news broke that U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. inserted language into the Defense Authorization Bill to repeal the "Weller Amendment," the provision that became law in 2006 to protect Will County from Jackson and his south Cook County and DuPage County airport developer friends.

The Weller Amendment is far from what STAND members would have preferred. They favor, and have for 20 years, a no airport declaration. But at the very least, the Weller Amendment did offer a bit of common sense into what STAND members consider a completely nonsensical project.

The Weller Amendment basically said that if an airport were built wholly in Will County, it should be run by those who live in Will County.

Jackson’s action repealed the law. Instead, the law now says that ALNAC, Jackson’s self-proclaimed airport authority, does not need certification by the FAA. Jackson wants the airport in the fields of eastern Will County built and controlled by his authority, even though the project would be located outside his second congressional district and far from the controlling authority of members in Cook and DuPage counties.

George Ochsenfeld, president of STAND said he didn’t think Jackson’s action would do little to moving the project forward, since there were still many hurdles to be overcome before that could happen.

Ochsenfeld questioned Jackson’s obsession with the proposed Peotone airport, noting that it raises questions about Jackson’s motivation. "Is it ego? Is it an attempt to create a patronage empire?" Ochsenfeld asks.

"His (Jackson’s) stated purpose, to create 15,000 jobs for people in his district is clearly absurd.

"I believe the governor and IDOT are holding off on pursuing the project because they know it would be a white-elephant disaster," Ochsenfeld added.

Judy Ogalla, STAND’s second-in-command, who would lose her home and farm if an airport were built, considers the latest headlines to be, "our yearly Christmas gift from the elected officials."

"For some reason they feel compelled to drag out this beaten up Mid-America II airport boondoggle that they have been pining away over, for over 30 years," she said.

She is saddened that they refuse to recognize the reality that another airport isn’t needed. But, what is needed, she said, "is to preserve the open space in this rural community to protect the farmland for the production of crops and animal products, like eggs, cheese, milk, herbs, vegetables, and countless other products." She would rather they looked toward finding grants to develop urban edge ag-development, since so many people are looking for organic products and farm fresh produce for sale or use in local farmers’ markets and restaurants.

Sadly, however, she said, they just see dollar signs in their eyes with the promise of campaign contributions from developers and contractors as well as votes from labor unions who might get the contracts.

The speaker at this year’s party was 96-year old Anthony Rudis, who has long been interested in politics. He ran for congress in the early 1950’s and was a friend of Richard J. Daley, who would often dine at the Rudis’ home.

Rudis spoke beyond the airport issue. He quoted Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist and reformer who in 1909 said, "America Also is Tending to the Rule of Force" — "The Greatest Illusions is that Which Supposes That Society Can Be Improved By Law" — "America Surpasses Europe is in its Personal Liberty, Which is the Heritage of a Race of Heroes. But This is Doomed To Be Extinguished By the Legislatures of a Time-Serving Generations," according to an article in the New York World.

Rudis used the work to illustrate his point that elected officials should be representing the people. We should demand they represent us.

Rudis has long believed that public officials who support the airport are not being forthright because they are not representing the people.

He urged those in attendance to keep up the fight and not be afraid to confront elected officials.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Ex-Gov. Ryan begins prison sentence

Justice is finally served as ex-Gov. George Ryan begins his six and one-half year prison sentence.

As of this writing, Ryan is enroute to Oxford, Wisconsin to begin paying his debt to society. He blatantly violated the public trust and abused Illinois’ highest office, treating it as if it was his own personal fiefdom.

He was accused of steering big government contracts to his friends and family, accepting payoffs, gifts, and lavish vacations.

On his way to the federal prison camp, Ryan was accompanied by another ex governor – Gov. James R. Thompson – whose high profile lawfirm, Winston & Strawn, represented Ryan free of charge.

In recent months, Ryan’s freedom resembled an hourglass. The sand, which was seemingly endless finally ran out Tuesday. It was then that U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens refused to extend Ryan’s bail, ensuring his immediate future. He had already been ordered to report to Oxford before 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7.

Before he left his Kankakee home Wednesday morning, Ryan spoke to reporters. He proclaimed his innocence, vowing to continue to fight to prove it. He said he would report to prison with a “clear conscience.”

But despite his resolve, even appeals court Justice Michael Kanne, who disagreed with the majority judges, favoring a retrial for Ryan and co-defendant Larry Warner, wrote that the evidence against the two was overwhelming.

Experts say there is an off chance that the U.S. Supreme Court justices will agree to hear Ryan’s case. There is also a slim possibility that Thompson can ask to President George W. Bush for a pardon.

It was exactly 13 years ago Thursday that five children belonging to Scott and Janet Willis died in a fiery car crash. A sixth child later died as a result of the crash, which occurred when a chunk fell off a truck driven by a driver who obtained his driver’s license illegally. Thus began an investigation into the workings of the Secretary of State’s office. Not only did the Willis accident happen on Ryan’s watch, while he was Secretary of State, but instead of investigating the accident, Ryan’s pals tried to cover it up.

Ryan never took responsibility, apologized, or offered any explanation to the Willis family.

After Ryan was indicted, Willis called him arrogant. After Ryan was convicted in April 2006, Willis said “he arrogance continued.” Ryan must serve 85 percent of his sentence, even with good behavior.
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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ryan’s options have almost run out, Judge says report to prision by Nov. 7

The same three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit denied a motion to extend the bond for former Governor George Ryan, 73, and his co-defendant and business partner Lawrence Warner.

“Construing the motion as one that in part seeks reconsideration of this court’s order of Aug. 21, 2007, ordering appellants’ grant of bail to be extended ‘until this court issues its mandate,’ it is ordered that the motion is denied,” wrote Circuit Judge Diane P. Wood.

Circuit Judge Michael Kanne dissented, as he has consistently throughout the appeals process.

“The trial was riddled with errors that ultimately rendered the proceedings manifestly unfair and unjust, notwithstanding the production of overwhelming incriminating evidence against the appellants,” Kanne wrote, noting that the trial was “broken beyond repair.”

Unless the dissenting opinions in the appeals process will resonate with Justice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court very quickly, Ryan and Warner will have to report to jail as ordered by Circuit Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer by Wednesday, Nov. 7.

Ryan and Warner were convicted after a seven-month trial, last year, for multiple violations of racketeering, conspiracy, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, money laundering, and tax violations in connection with the ‘licenses for bribes’ scandal.

Ryan, was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in jail following his conviction on all counts of wrongdoing April 17, 2006. Warner was sentenced to 3 1/2 years.

On Aug. 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the conviction. On Oct. 25, the full U.S. Court of Appeals denied a petition for a rehearing.

In November, bond was granted, keeping Ryan and Warner out of jail.
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George Ryan likely bound for prison!

LIKELY BOUND FOR PRISON!


 ILLINOIS EX-GOV. GEORGE RYAN

Friday, June 29, 2007

Rep. Jackson needs a geography lesson

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

Does Congressman Jackson even know where Peotone is located?

Ford Heights is now a neighbor of Peotone.
At least that is what U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., (D-Il) said on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday when he attempted to defend a Republican attack against funding for the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission (ALNAC).
House Republicans were unsuccessful in their effort to try to limit pork barrel spending they blame on Democrats.
The national debate targeting ‘earmarks’, which is loosely defined as a request for a specific amount of money to a particular organization or project in a congressman’s home state or district, got personal and close to home Thursday when it was learned that Jackson was asking for $231,000 for ALNAC, as an earmark added to the Financial Services Appropriation Bill.
By a wide margin, the House approved the bill with the earmarks intact.
Jackson will get the funding.
But it was during his defense of the spending request that Jackson said, “Ford Heights, one of the poorest suburbs in the country abuts the airport.”
Perhaps the federal tax dollars ALNAC will receive can provide a little geography lesson for Jackson.
This marks the second instance where the public has been mislead about the airport’s location, which does not lie within his congressional district.
A few years ago, on his website, Peotone was listed under the heading “My Home District.” All of the communities in Jackson’s district were listed there, including Peotone, which was between Park Forest and Phoenix. Peotone remains in the list, but a new header has been added that reads, “Municipalities on the South Side and South Suburbs including the future Home of Chicago's Third Airport in Will County Illinois Peotone.” 

Jackson’s spending proposal was criticized Thursday, by U.S. Rep. John Campbell, (R-Ca), who offered an amendment to the legislation to ban earmarks. The confrontation was shown live on C-Span.
Jackson asked for the funds for what the Republicans are calling “the invisible airport.”
“This earmark would direct $231,000 – taken from taxpayers’ pockets across America – for “Minority and Small Business Development and Procurement Opportunities,” according to the Republican Study Committee.
Not only does the Republican organization recognize that an airport does not exist, but they protest that Rick Bryant is the Executive Director of ALNAC, which was spearheaded by Jackson. Bryant is also Jackson’s paid staff member. Bryant is Jackson’s Deputy District Administrator, who earned $23,999.99 in 2006, according to Jackson’s website.
Republicans charge that Jackson said he wouldn’t pursue federal funds for the airport. They claim that Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been enthusiastic about the new airport only because it would not use public funds.
During Thursday’s confrontation, Jackson played a clip of the governor’s 2005 State of the State address offering support for Peotone. Jackson claims the only thing standing in the way of the airport is Blagojevich’s agreement to lease state-owned land to ALNAC. 
Yet, he failed to mention that only a percentage of the land is owned by the state and the remainder is in the hands of unwilling sellers.                
Campbell questioned the use of small business and procurement opportunities for an airport that doesn’t exist.
“How can that be?” he asked, since even if it were approved today, it wouldn’t exist for many years.
Jackson argued that he is not seeking federal funds for the airport, but rather for small business opportunities to maximize the benefits of women and minorities to work in all aspects of job training.
When Campbell tried to enlist Jackson in a debate on the House floor, Jackson refused to speak, saying he would allow Campbell to continue, but that he would give closing remarks.
He took the balance of his time to turn the debate into a pro-airport commercial, complete with an easel and posters showing the airport layout plan.
Jackson said IDOT is now in the process of submitting ALNAC’s plan to the FAA for approval. And, he added that a Record of Decision could come in six months.
He denounced Campbell’s two terms in congress by criticizing Campbell for jumped into a three-decade old discussion first advanced by (former Gov.) Jim Edgar.
Jackson pointed out facts as he sees them, such as Midway’s runways are too short, O’Hare reached capacity two years ago, and ALNAC is a legitimate airport authority who plans to build Chicago’s third airport with public-private funds.
“I have been almost solely responsible for leading the effort,” he said, “for the last 12 years to attempt to solve the airport capacity crisis.
 “Now is the time for planning,” Jackson said, without the usual preface, that this airport is purported to be the most studied airport in history.


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Monday, May 1, 2006

History shows Ryan hurt eastern Will County

Ex-Illinois Gov.
George Ryan
The actions of convicted ex-governor George Ryan have directly impacted eastern Will County.

Let us not forget that it was Ryan who started landbanking for the Peotone Airport.

Who would have predicted that Ryan would be indicted, let alone convicted, of multiple felonies, including racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud, making false statements, extortion, money laundering, structuring money, tax fraud and filing false tax returns?

The fall of George Ryan began with the tragic death of six innocent children belonging to the Rev. Scott and Janet Willis. The events began a probe into Ryan’s conduct in public office.

Though Ryan did not directly cause the accident, it was later learned that the driver of the truck that caused the accident illegally obtained a drivers license when Ryan was Secretary of State. And Ryan pals who now sit in jail, tried to cover up the investigation of the accident.

George Ryan’s downfall was his arrogance, rooted in the belief that he was above the law.

Many say that Ryan was a nice guy, a kindly grandfather. Well, that may be the case, but the test of a person’s character cannot be accurately measured by how he plays with his grandchildren.

A true test of character is evident by how a man behaves under adversity and how he reacts to problems.

Ryan handled problems like a bully on the playground, scornfully dismissing anyone who disagreed with him.

Had it not been for a hardnosed prosecutor with a keen sense of right and wrong, Ryan would be just another ex-governor who hurt people without a sense of remorse.

Ryan never flinched when he hurt people with his decisions.

In eastern Will County, Ryan certainly hurt people. Had it not been for his actions as Governor, the Peotone airport project would have died in 1992. At that time, Ryan did the right thing -- voting appropriately -- against locating an airport near Peotone. As a member of the Bi-State Policy Committee that was charged with selecting the right site for a new airport, Ryan cast the deciding “no” vote for the Peotone site.

Once in the top political spot in Illinois however, Ryan followed in the footsteps of his predecessor Jim Edgar, who threw the first Illinois tax dollars at the proposal to build an airport at Peotone.

Not to be outdone, Ryan took it a few steps further. While Edgar threw money into additional studies, Ryan, for the first time, put money into the state’s budget for land acquisition.

Ten years after Ryan did the right thing by voting against Peotone, he did the wrong thing by boldly deciding to buy the first piece of property.

Apparently it didn’t matter that the first piece – a vacant parcel in Heatherbrook Estates in Monee Township -- was outside the state’s downsized airport plan.

Nor did it matter that officially, there was no project, since the Federal Aviation Administration had not identified a site for a new airport. The Phase I Environmental Impact Statement was not even completed at the time.

When the Tier I EIS was finally completed, it was after the fact. While the agency’s determination that buying land for an airport would not endanger the environment, in a letter to Ryan pal Kirk Brown, who headed the Department of Transportation, the agency wrote that Illinois was buying land at its own risk.

That action caused many to wonder about the political motivations behind the deal.

Land acquisition fell under the influence of the Airport Project Office in Matteson, run by former Monee Township Supervisor Christine Cochrane, who was named by Edgar.

Later, Cochrane became an assistant to Ryan political pal Brad Roseberry who then headed the project office.

Roseberry quit the post when he testified in court against Ryan. He admitted that he campaigned for Ryan on state time and shredded documents during Ryan’s tenure as Secretary of State. Roseberry escaped indictment, however, when he agreed to testify against Ryan and Ryan pal Scott Fawell.

Ryan’s first land deal netted one vacant lot in Heatherbrook Estates, but the token piece was all it took to inspire near panic sales by other landowners, already worn down by years of uncertainty.

The $47,000 price tag was a cheap price to pay to get the real estate door opened for the Peotone project. Never mind that it wasn’t even a part of the state’s 4,000 acres needed for its “starter” airport.

Another 27 parcels in Heatherbrook Estates were purchased by the state, totally relieving owner/developer Bob Bonnema from having to sell lots in his upscale subdivision. Another 65 acres has been purchased by the state to date.

Ironically, under the Blagojevich administration, Ryan’s actions were undone. It was decided to sell the Heatherbrook properties, since they weren’t needed. Residents there cried hardship, earning little sympathy from other eastern Will County landowners that have suffered since long before Heatherbrook was built.

An entire region has faced a hellish existence because George Ryan made a deal.

Despite the fact that Ryan was not directly responsible for the death of the Willis kids, he is responsible for destruction of peace and pleasure in eastern Will County.
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