Tuesday, May 31, 2011

100-yr. old man says no to IDOT

One of the obstacles facing the State of Illinois in their effort to build a new airport near Peotone, is a 100-year old man named Anthony Rudis.

I know Tony Rudis and believe him to be a formidable opponent. He is right about his claims in a recent newspaper interview. He said IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) is harassing him.

That is their modus operandi. They have harassed the people of eastern Will County for years, dating back to the days I first started following this project, back in 1987.

They forge on despite never getting the go-ahead from  the Federal Aviation Administration. Nor does the State of Illinois have the funds to build an airport—funds which are grossly underestimated—because the estimates do not take into account the millions of dollars of infrastructure that would be needed to transform a farming community into a transportation center. In addition, a new airport has never been proven as a necessity for the Chicago region, though numerous state-sponsored studies make that assumption. Finally, despite politicians' claim that without airline partners the airport will never be built. They ignore the airlines' declaration that they will not use an airport at Peotone. Since 1985, this project has remained in a perpetual study phase.

Rudis says it is wrong to use eminent domain to try take property or to threaten to do so even before the Federal Aviation Administration has given the project a green light.

Yet, IDOT continues to try.

Rudis has put his foot down, by not allowing the state to trample onto his property or his rights. He refuses to allow IDOT contractors onto his property to do another assessment of his property's worth. The agency sent out yet another series of letters recently claiming it is their right to inspect the premises in order to appraise his and other properties for the purposes of the airport study. Rudis is right in asking how many times they have to make their assessment. It has been done several times before. Nothing has changed.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Peotone Airport and old soup

Normally, perseverance is an admirable trait, except in the case of old soup.

Will County Executive Larry Walsh apparently tried to stir the soup that is the Peotone Airport. It sits in a rusty old pot filled with withered ingredients, boiled down so many times, that there is little left of it.

Walsh recently traveled to Springfield and Washington, D.C., His trip was likely little more than his effort to try to bring the soup back to a boil. That isn't perseverance, though—it is more like futility. The soup pot sits on an old broken stove that can barely ignite a spark. Cooking soup needs fire, and there is so little heat left.

Walsh's trip is likely in response to statements by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood who said as much during a recent visit to Will County. While LaHood and the rest of the country is talking about high speed rail, a full-course meal by comparison, Walsh continues to stir that rancid soup.

At the same time, Walsh's trip and the subsequent local headlines that followed, had the added benefit of sticking it to the opposing party, something Will County partisans are always up for.

Just a few weeks ago, Republican County Board Chairman Jim Moustis suggested de-emphasizing the Peotone Airport which he categorized as becoming a distraction. He even considered reconfiguring the county board to two-person districts, recognizing the difference between the east and west sides. He cited the proposed airport as an example, stating that less-populated areas of eastern Will County who oppose the proposed airport should have their own representation rather than being included with portions of faster-growing areas where residents are more neutral on the project.

Walsh apparently met Tuesday with Susan Shea, IDOT's director of aeronautics, in Springfield. He later went to meet U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Florida in the nation's capital. Mica chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Both are already supporting chefs in Walsh's soup. In fact, Shea is probably taking credit for the recipe, even though it was passed down to her from her predecessor Kirk, (make jobs for myself and my friends) Brown.

Mica added a few ingredients into the broth back in the day that former Congressman Jerry Weller invited him to Will County's kitchen. Those were very different times. The ingredients weren't quite as withered as now.

Shea and Mica—it is doubtful these chefs have anything new to add to Larry's soup.

Interestingly, there has been no mention of Walsh stopping by the White House to talk soup with his poker-playing pal, the President. Perhaps Mr. Obama is too busy with an entire banquet full of issues to deal with his buddy's old soup.

So, despite headlines in the local papers, Walsh's trip was largely much ado about nothing.

He attended the County Executives of America legislative conference. That was likely the purpose and focus of his Washington trip. This is just more about the same old soup still trying to simmer. There are no new ingredients in enthusiastic voices; no nourishment in the form of jobs to stave off unemployment.

So, the result is just a little more stirring of the same old pot. The only difference is that the smell is getting worse.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Father of Peotone Airport dies

Everett Klipp dies at 84

Another pilot steering the decades-old saga of the Peotone Airport has passed away.

Everett Edward Klipp, the man credited with devising the Peotone site as the location for Chicago's third airport, has died of natural causes at age 84. While I never knew him, he  was iconic to me. I never even laid eyes on the man until one day, he appeared at a meeting, out of the blue. In 1991, seeing Everett Klipp for the first time was to me, like coming face-to-face with a ghost.

Under different circumstances, I may have liked him. He was a farmer from Manteno, one of eight children. He married his childhood sweetheart. He had planned to be a machinist, the same profession as my father.

Instead, Klipp became legendary as a trader with the Chicago Board of Trade. He is also credited with serving on the (Chicago) Cook County Transit Board, as an officer in the Cook County Republican Party, President of the Lions Club of Matteson Il., and as the inspiration and driving force behind development of the Third Airport of Chicago to be located on the south side of that city.

It was this last statement that is bothersome. Klipp proposed the airport to be located, not just south side of that city as his obituary notes, but between Beecher and Peotone, some forty miles south of the city. In the late 1960's, Klipp paid for a study to determine the benefits of the site he proposed. I suspect it may have been an innovative and forward-thinking idea back then. Times change. But Klipp's initial airport plan didn't change. What the state proposes today is the much the same as Klipp proposed fifty years ago. Granted, the state's plan has been tweaked, though not enough to make it work. It is far from innovative today. It is simply another idea whose time has come and gone.

I had heard early on in my own battle against the proposed airport which began in 1988, about Klipp's involvement. He proposed the site when Chicago Mayor Richard Daley considered building Chicago's third airport.

The state's moniker--third airport--is a misnomer, since there are far more than two airports serving the region. Additionally, Chicago has bought into the Gary/Chicago International Airport, which legitimately makes it Chicago's third airport.

In 1991, I came face-to-face with Everett Klipp during a congressional subcommittee on aviation hearing of the 101st U.S. Congress. It convened in Chicago, at the Mann Park Fieldhouse, on the city's south side. I was asked by the late U.S. Rep. George Sangmeister, D-Frankfort to participate, to testify in opposition to the Kankakee site. I made it clear in my remarks that my opposition was to any rural location for a new airport, especially the Peotone site.

As I sat through the long proceedings, the focus was clearly on the Lake Calumet site proposed by the City of Chicago. The rural sites were included, but were far less newsworthy, as evidenced by the clearing of cameras, reporters, and even some of the nine congressmen, once the Lake Calumet portion of the hearing concluded. I, and a group of airport opponents and supporters scheduled to speak about the three rural sites--Bi-state, Peotone, and Kankakee--patiently waited our turn. When it came time to discuss Peotone, I was shocked when I heard his name called. Everett Klipp was to speak on behalf of the Peotone site.

Just hearing his name gave me chills--not because of his wealth or power--but because his involvement had been so long ago. I had been involved for four years and he had played no part. It was strangely comforting to know this elderly man was the only voice to speak on behalf of the Peotone site.

Looking back, I realize I am nearly the same age today that Klipp was when he testified, which is far from elderly. His  testimony was meant to impress decision-makers because of his stature in financial circles. It had nothing to do with transportation expertise.

Klipp's testimony in 1991 didn't revolve around what Klipp knew best--finances. It was just general support, strangely similar to what had been reported in the newspaper nearly three decades before.

It was then that I realized, it was Klipp's proposal that the state has been using, despite decades of changes in technology, demographics, and aviation itself. My early instincts were correct--this was nothing more than a boondoggle--that had little to do with transportation need.

Preceding Everett Klipp in death is the Godfather of the Peotone Airport, State Sen. Aldo DeAngelis, U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde, and State Sen. Martin Butler. Klipp is survived by ex-Secretary of Transportation Kirk Brown, ex-Illinois Gov. George Ryan, ex-Executive Director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Beth Ruyle, ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, as well as Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010: Reality debunks early airport predictions

It is now 2010. This was was supposed to have been an aviation milestone, according to long-ago predictions.

By 2010 the number of people traveling by air was supposed to be equal in all parts of the Chicagoland region. That prediction was made in 1987 and was known as the equal propensity to travel theory.

Equal Propensity to Travel Theory

This illusive theory appeared with no explanation of its origin, yet was alluded to throughout the pages of the Chicago Airport Capacity Study, by Illinois Department of Transportation consultants Peat, Marwick and Main.

The theory was derived by sub-consultants, the al Chalabi Group, Ltd., the husband and wife consulting team – Margery and Suhail al Chalabi – who have worked for the State of Illinois on the 'third airport' project since its inception.

The equal propensity to travel theory was used to exaggerate a trend of population, income, and jobs south of the city which contributed to a justification that a new airport should be built south of Chicago.

One asssumption, then another, and another, ...

The initial assumption that there would be an equal propensity to travel throughout the Chicago region by 2010 was merely a planning tool, one of many assumptions built into the computer model from which other predictions were generated. That assumption helped generate other forecasts, such as:  the number of passengers that would use a new airport; the number of aircraft operations that would be served; as well as how many direct, indirect, or induced jobs the project would create. It just so happened that the first crystal ball was aimed at 2010.

The equal propensity to travel theory did generate some controversy. One of the members of the technical committee, which might be considered a 'stakeholder,' in today's terms, called the theory, "false."

Members of the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry, which later became the Chicago Chamber of Commerce explained, "The recent growth patterns in the Chicago region have increased travel propensity in the areas closer to O'Hare, not led to equal travel propensity."

The irony

The equal propsensity to travel theory was a prediction that is very different from today's reality, where some south suburban communities are considered to be among the poorest in the state.

It is ironic that the state's early prognostications that point to a need for a new airport to serve a burgeoning south suburban population stand in stark contrast to both the reality and the claims being made today by south suburban leaders. They claim that what is needed are the jobs and economic development that a new airport would provide.

The loudest voice of support for an airport near Peotone has come from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. who may have never even heard of the equal propensity to travel theory. After all, when it was being written into the fabric of 'third' airport history, Jackson was in college in North Carolina. It wasn't until long after, around 1993, that Jackson became interested in the project. It wasn't until two years later that he was elected to Congress.

Your tax dollars at work 

The al Chalabi Group, Ltd. who first derived the 2010 prediction, remains on the state's payroll as they have for the past 23 years. They have a contract with the state transportation department at least until December 2011.  The consultants continue to make predictions for the Peotone project. Their latest, done in 2007, extrapolates figures into 2030.

They state that by 2030 there will be 4.5 million passengers using the South Suburban Airport. That prediction doesn't seem possible either, since the project is not yet approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The late State Sen. Aldo DeAngelis explained at the time, that the main goal in getting the report approved was so the process could move forward to the next study. DeAngelis, who was once considered the Godfather of the third airport, was one of the decision-makers that approved the report despite its criticisms.

The equal propensity to travel theory was never discussed again in subsequent airport studies.

George Ryan wants to leave prison to visit critically ill wife

George RyanGeorge Ryan, the convicted felon that once served as Illinois' Governor wants to be released from prison to visit his gravely ill wife, perhaps for the very last time. A debate rages about whether or not Ryan should be allowed to leave the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, IN to travel to his home town of Kankakee to be by Lura Lynn's bed side.
There is no doubt Ryan is devoted to his wife of fifty years. He loves her and would like nothing more than to share her final moments with her.

While George Ryan's reality includes compassion for his wife, that compassion never spilled over onto the public for which he took an oath to serve. Instead, he governed with arrogance and ego.

Ryan's trying to get out of jail now is just one more in a long line of attempts to gain his freedom. When he was convicted of wrongdoing, another ex-governor—James Thompson—Ryan's pro-bono lawyer tried every available legal maneuver to keep Ryan from serving the 6 1/2 year sentence imposed upon him. Just a few weeks ago, Thompson tried to get Ryan released from prison to be with his wife. The judge ruled against it.

Ryan's initial sentence was based on a mere sampling of his deeds during his career as a public official. There is no way that all of Ryan's questionable actions could be presented in a court of law during his trial.

I know George Ryan. I recall once asking him a question, in my role as a news reporter for Ryan's home town paper. For a brief instant, he looked at me. I saw a cold, look of contempt in his eyes before he turned and walked away, dismissing me without acknowledging my presence. He didn't have to answer me. He was the governor. I was nothing more than a nuisance to him.

I've seen Ryan make decisions that hurt people. Ryan was the first to authorize the state tobuy land for a new airport near Peotone, one that even after 25 years, is not approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and for which no regional consensus has or will ever be reached.

But to move the project forward, Ryan made a deal with a friend of his whereby the state department of transportation would buy the unsold lots in his high-priced subdivision, even though the property wouldn't be used for the project. The act of buying the first ground 'for the airport' even though it was later intended to be sold as unnecessary to the project, was enough to scare people into selling their land to the state. The airport wasn't needed, yet Ryan didn't flinch when people pleaded with him to end the airport nightmare that had been discussed since the 1960's. Some of those people suffered health issues not unlike those of Ryan's own wife. Yet, he didn't care about their plight. So many good people died trying to fight the scourge that he perpetuated. There was nothing they could do to protect the land that in some cases had been in their families for generations, because the big, bad, governor wanted to take it from them.

When George Ryan's actions were indirectly responsible for the death of the six Willis children, Ryan showed no remorse. Even if that accident wasn't Ryan's fault directly, it did shine a light on how Ryan ran the Secretary of State's office.

For me, direct blame isn't the issue. Ryan's attitude is the issue. He didn't care that two people had to bury their six children.

I'm genuinely sorry that Lura Lynn Ryan is so ill. Who knows if she is conscious, or if she would even know if her husband was by her bedside? In her near-death state, her mind will likely cause her believe he is with her. He doesn't need to be physically there.

George Ryan needs to pay the price—the complete price for his deeds. And that includes another three years in prison. He does not deserve special privilege.

Post script

Ryan did spent about two hours with his ailing wife, according to reports. The decision to allow him to be released from prison for that period was customarily assigned to the prison warden, and is not an uncommon occurrence.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Inspired by Kennedy Center Honors

The recent broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors, one of my favorite events in television, featured two of my favorites--Oprah Winfrey and Paul McCartney. Also honored were Country Singer Merle Haggard, Dancer/Choreographer Bill T. Jones, and Composer Jerry Herman. It was spectacular!

Winfrey and McCartney were my favorites. When I heard they were to be honored, I wrote the date on my calendar. I always enjoy watching the Kennedy Center Honors, even when I don't know the honorees. I lead a simple life, and don't go to Broadway shows or frequent similar entertainment venues, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the arts. I consider cultural activities vitally important to the human condition.

The awards actually were bestowed on December 5. I mistakenly thought the show would be aired that day. I was disappointed when it wasn't. So I waited.

Finally learned the date would be Dec. 28, I was glad I remembered to watch.

I have "known" Oprah Winfrey since her early days in Chicago; she was on Kennedy and Company, a morning show that featured news and entertainment, hosted by Bob Kennedy. He died suddenly in 1972, and was no relation to the former President, to my knowledge. Oprah went on to host the show, first locally when it was called A.M. Chicago. Later, in '86 it went national and was renamed the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The rest is history.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Rev. Jackson, latest gift to eastern Will County landowners

English: Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. discusses ...
Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. 

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is the latest Christmas present for eastern Will County landowners.

Every year it seems, the State of Illinois' and its lieutenants deliver a new gift to rural folks who live 40 miles south of Chicago.

Christmas traditions can be so heartwarming—except in this case. Here, supporters of the state's plan to build the Peotone Airport—that isn't needed, wanted, or would serve any positive purpose whatsoever for the people of Illinois—have threatened to ruin another Christmas for the good folks out in the country. This tradition has been going on for decades. Yet, somehow the audacity of it still takes me by surprise.

This is the first time, Jesse, Sr. has been involved in this effort.