Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bult Field to be incorporated into Peotone airport

While the Illinois Department of Transportation finally delivered its preferred layout plan for the proposed Peotone airport to the Federal Aviation Administration, it assumed the acquisition of Bult Field, the newly-renovated general aviation airport in eastern Will County along Kedzie Avenue.

That was news to the airport’s owner Jim Bult, who said he knew nothing about IDOT’s plan to acquire and incorporate his airport into the state’s airport.

Bult said Friday afternoon, just after the airport layout plan had been delivered to the Federal Aviation Administration, that he has had no talks with IDOT.

“There have been no offers to buy the property, nor any discussions about a joint use, or anything whatsoever,” he said.

“It is interesting that something is speaking that loudly for me,” Bult said of the airport layout plan, concluding, “I know nothing about it.”

The state’s report notes that the improvements at Bult Field, a new 5,000-foot long paved runway and substantial aircraft parking and storage space, have caused them to update their GA facility requirements in their master plan.

Ironically, it is the existence of Bult Field that caused IDOT to have to rethink the airport layout in the first place.

IDOT now makes the following assumption, as stated in the narrative of its plan.

“IDOT anticipates that Bult Field will be acquired and incorporated into the Inaugural Airport. It is expected that existing facilities at Bult Field will serve the General Aviation (GA) needs at SSA(South Suburban Airport). The airfield improvements that have been recently undertaken at Bult Field resulted in a significant increase in the number of based aircraft. As a result General Aviation/Corporate Aviation forecasts will be updated to reflect the changes that have occurred at Bult Field since October 2004.”

Under this scenario, the better Bult Field does in terms of a business — housing airplanes and providing increased take-offs and landings — the more IDOT will use its numbers to justify building an airport.

IDOT’s assumption is the latest in a long line of issues between the state and Jim Bult. Like other landowners in the area, Bult has received letters threatening condemnation. And, like other landowners, he ignored them, because like them, he is not a willing seller.

Bult bought the former Sanger Field, a small general aviation airstrip in disrepair, in 2004. He planned to make the improvements needed to house additional aircraft, including his own, as well as build a 5,000-foot concrete runway.

By July, 2006 he had completed all of the preliminary approvals he needed from Will County. But, at the eleventh hour, former Transportation Secretary Timothy Martin filed an objection. U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. did not object, but he made it known that he opposed Bult’s plan. No legal action was taken and Bult was free to proceed with upgrading the facility.

The work was completed by the end of the year. In mid-December, Bult sent the first of many letters to IDOT to request a final inspection.

It wasn’t until five months later that the state performed its obligatory final inspection. And, another month went by before a certificate of occupancy was issued allowing Bult to open the airport for business.

In addition to Bult Field, another reason IDOT had to rework its layout, was to satisfy federal agencies’ concerns about impacts on Black Walnut Creek.

IDOT has made numerous other changes since submissions of the layout plan in September 2005 and December 2005.

To diminish the impacts on Black Walnut Creek, the updated plan places the terminal complex approximately 2,300 feet east and 1,800 feet north of the runway.

Other highlights of the configuration of the inaugural airport include direct access to and from Interstate 57, by a new interchange and access road connecting the interstate to the terminal. It will go over Route 50 and the Illinois Central Railroad. Cargo access will be provided via Route 1 at Eagle Lake Road.

Access to the general aviation area will be via Offner and Crawford.

An air traffic control tower is expected to be located in a secured area, relatively central from the runway ends, approximately 2,600 feet north of the runway’s centerline. Access will be provided from Crawford via a new access road. The FAA will determine the location and final elevation.

Aircraft rescue, firefighting and snow removal complex will be fairly central and approximately 1,600 feet north of the runway. The fuel facility will be located within a secure area at the east side of the airfield to the north of the cargo facilities.

Beyond the Inaugural airport, the future layout plan will include up to six parallel east-west runways capable of accommodating four simultaneous approaches.

Support facilities can be developed along Eagle Lake Rd.

The ultimate size of the inaugural airport is 5,200 acres with an eye on the ultimate site at 20,032 acres.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Van Guilders acquitted in trespassing case

Roc Van Guilder and his son Lee were acquitted Friday of misdemeanor criminal trespassing and criminal damage to property in connection with a Dec. 1, 2006 incident.

On that day, and because of the weather, heavy equipment was banned from driving in certain areas of the rain-soaked township roads. So Baugh’s property was used instead, as the heavy equipment was ordered to make its way toward its destination – the first of a dozen or more houses the state purchased and prepared for demolition. The destruction of houses is meant to aid in the development of the proposed Peotone airport, though the project has yet to gain official approval by the FAA. The legal issue became all about who ordered the bulldozers to cross the property.

According to courtroom observers, Will County Associate Judge Marilee Viola felt that the state did not prove its case against the two contractors, believing they were not the ones to give the order to drive a piece of 80,000 lb. equipment across the farm field belonging to Mark and Lynn Baugh.

At the time of the incident, the Van Guilders were employed by Hanson Professional Services, Inc., the company hired by the elder Van Guilder’s former boss – ex-Transportation Secretary Kirk Brown – who upon retiring, also went to work for Hanson.

Van Guilder has a 20-year history with the airport project, having previously worked as the airport’s project manager for the state’s consultant, TAMS, which has been taken over by Earth-Tech.

Mark Baugh’s first reaction was disbelief, but not surprise. He is very disappointed in the ruling and said this may not be the end of it.

“I didn’t know what information the judge did and didn’t have,” Baugh said. Because he was a witness he wasn’t in the courtroom for all of the testimony, but added that the judge should have had all the information to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.

“The fact that they didn’t have permission to cross my property should have been enough,” Baugh said. He added, “They (the Van Guilders) deceived the operators by telling them to ‘head west’ knowing there was private property to cross.

“It is far easier to ask for forgiveness after the fact, hoping they wouldn’t get caught, than to seek permission to use my property,” Baugh said. “What they did was wrong.”

Still, he is appreciative that Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow decided to prosecute the case. And, he is grateful for the efforts of those who investigated and prosecuted it.

Will County Board Member John Anderson was involved in this case, to the extent that he urged Glasgow to get involved.

“Today, I learned that Judge Viola acquitted the Van Guilders. I am disappointed by her decision and vehemently disagree with her conclusions, but I do respect her ruling,” Anderson said.

Anderson said that it was his understanding that Judge Viola believed there was insufficient notice that trespassing was not permitted.

“However, there is a ‘no trespassing sign’ in Mark Baugh's front yard,” Anderson pointed out. “Additionally, Lee Van Guilder himself testified that he walked up to the front door to ask permission to move the machinery through the property. Van Guilder would not have gone to ask permission if he really believed that the machine would be allowed to cross the property.”

Despite his disagreement with the judge’s decision, Anderson believes the Van Guilder's prosecution is still a win for the Baugh's and for residents living in the area of the proposed airport footprint.

“The mere fact that the Van Guilders were prosecuted sends a clear message that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated, and the rights of residents living in the footprint area command respect,” Anderson said, admitting that he has received dozens of complaints about trespassing by the Van Guilders and employees of IDOT or Hanson.

Anderson is also grateful to Glasgow. He said when he asked Glasgow to accompany him to the Baugh's property to view the damage, Glasgow drove across the county in a snow storm. He is also grateful to the prosecutors who worked so hard on the case.
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Friday, February 1, 2008

Ryan lawyers appeal to Supreme Court

As predicted, attorneys for ex-Gov. George Ryan filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court last week.

Dan Webb and former Gov. James Thompson, filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court on Ryan’s behalf, seeking to overturn his conviction.

In November, 2007, Ryan began serving a six and one-half year prison sentence at a federal penitentiary in Oxford, Wisconsin.

More than a year before, on April 17, 2006, Ryan, along with his co-defendant and business partner, was convicted on multiple counts of racketeering, conspiracy, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, money laundering, and tax violations in connection with the ‘license for bribes’ scandal that began when Ryan was Secretary of State.

Short of appealing to President Bush for a pardon, this is Ryan’s last hope for freedom.

Ryan was supposed to report to prison by Jan. 4, 2006, but several attempts to overturn his conviction were attempted. He was, however, allowed to remain out of jail during the appeals process.

Ryan’s appeals fell short. A dissenting opinion on the Appeals Court, left the door open for Ryan’s attorneys to reach higher for an appeal.

Circuit Judge Michael Kanne issued the sole dissent last August when the Court of Appeals ruled against Ryan. Judge Kanne was also among the minority opinion in October when, by a vote of 6 to 3 vote, Circuit Judges refused to rehear Ryan’s case.

“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.”

Thompson built his defense on his belief that Ryan did not have a fair trial.

“Ryan deserves a fair trail by jury no matter what the evidence is,” Thompson said, referring to jury misconduct, the sole subject of the appeals.

In the 37-page appeal, attorneys explored three questions. The first concerns the appropriate standard for determining when a deliberating juror in a criminal trial can be removed and replaced with an alternate.

The second question asks if a trial court commits structural error in permitting a jury verdict where more than half the jurors are interrogated in the middle of deliberations about their own misconduct in the presence of a prosecutor.

Finally, the third question asks whether a reviewing court must assess trial errors not only for their individual effects, but also for their cumulative effect on the trial proceedings.

“All these issues are the subject of widespread confusion and disagreement among the lower courts, and all are worthy of this Court’s review,” noted the appeal.

Also in question are the fifth and sixth amendments to the Constitution.

The fifth amendment, states that “No person shall be ... deprived of life liberty, or property, without due process of law ...”

The sixth amendment provides, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury, ...”

Experts have said there is an off-chance that the U.S. Supreme Court justices will agree to hear Ryan’s case, though only a small percentage of cases are heard by the high court. Although it was U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens who denied Ryan’s request for bail.
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Monday, January 28, 2008

Still affected by IDOT behavior

IDOT’s antics do not pale by time or distance. Despite my home address being more than 500 miles away, I find that some things back home still gall me.

After 20 years of watching the state try to build a new airport, the misrepresentation of facts, the cherry-picked information that justified an unending study process, and outright lies connected with the state’s effort to push an ill-conceived airport into eastern Will County, I still find the sight of a very nice country home being ripped to pieces, appalls me.

George Ochsenfeld of STAND (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down) called this “another IDOT rampage.) In a recent press release, Ochsenfeld said the people of eastern Will County are angry and distraught. Who can blame them?

It would be one thing to see the state tear down an old dilapidated building that no longer has a use, but to see a perfectly livable home destroyed for no good purpose, is reprehensible.

If this action were perpetuated by an individual, he would be labeled a madman. But it is not an individual. It is a group of them who claim to represent the sovereign State of Illinois. What a disgrace!

Where is the public accountability?

It isn’t just the devastation of a community, even local officials were slapped in the face by this recent action.

Last spring, 11 units of local government, including those in Beecher, Monee, and Peotone signed resolutions stating their opposition to further land acquisition, demolition of property, and the use of eminent domain until and if an airport is authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Where is the proof that deemed this house not livable? Whatever happened to the state providing rental income to the local taxing bodies when state-owned property is taken off the tax rolls? Where is the proof that a new airport, for which land is being cleared, is needed? Where is the FAA certificate deeming the airport imminent?

At the very least, where was any effort on the state’s part to recoup the loss of $516,000 paid for this house just a little over a year ago? Did anyone consider trying to sell the appliances, fixtures, carriage lights on either side of the garage door, or recycle the windows and doors, or pricey items that add to the cost of a home? Isn’t it ironic that while people are losing their homes and are unable to pay their bills, while the country faces an economic downturn that the State of Illinois simply knocks down perfectly good houses?

It seems as though with every new year comes a resurgence in the waste of Illinois officials who are unable to balance their own budget in a timely manner, unwilling to do the people’s business, except for spending, and are totally incapable of anything that resembles accountability.
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IDOT recent action is scandalous


What an incredible waste! 
 Take a look at what the 
Illinois Dept. of Transportation did 
to this lovely country home. 




Read on!
Still affected by IDOT behavior


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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