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.’

Friday, November 11, 2011

IDOT to collect food for needy families

Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics has begun an aggressive community outreach program, according to the state’s latest airport improvement plan for 2012 – 2014.
One of the first items of business is to donate food and cash to Helping Hands of Peotone, a food pantry that serves families in Will County.
Helping Hands is a wonderful organization of volunteers that got its start in the late 1980’s by a small group of caring women who devoted their time and talents to stitch new clothes for needy children. As the needs of the community grew, the focus to provide needy families with life’s bare necessities shifted toward the most essential need—food. Today Helping Hands is a member of the Northern Illinois Food Bank.
While on the surface such a gesture sounds noble, it must not be forgotten that IDOT and its agencies and employees have a long history of trying to sell the  proposed airport to anyone who would listen through aggressive public relations work. These same people participating in this seemingly good faith move are the same ones that have earned five– and six-figure salaries, paid by Illinois taxpayers for decades, to work on a project that most in the region do not want—the Peotone Airport. While it is good to want to make nice with the people of Will County, it must not be forgotten that these are the same people responsible for the destruction and decimation of the rural community that lies between
Beecher and Peotone.
The Peotone Airport has been their golden goose, so it is nice to see them want to give something back for a change. The participating organizations so far have meant nothing but destruction and decimation to eastern Will County.
Let us not forget that more than a decade ago, this was the before and after view of a rural house—the first house destroyed by IDOT in the name of the Peotone Airport in December 2000. Since this time, there have been dozens of perfectly good, livable houses, destroyed, hundreds of letters to landowners threatening to take property through eminent domain for a project that remains unapproved by the FAA, not to mention the destruction of a once-cohesive rural community and its functional farm economy for an airport that is opposed by the industry it is supposed to serve, the people who would be its neighbors, and several government agencies that have signed resolutions against it.
I applaud this gesture that will benefit hundreds of needy people. I just can’t help, knowing the history, if this is being done in good faith or just so they can look good for a change.
For this positive effort, IDOT will bring together the following participants:
  • AECOM, Chicago
  • Alpine Demolition, Geneva
  • C.J. Pohrte Maintenance Inc., Steger
  • Chicago Title Insurance Co., Joliet
  • DL Dubois & Associates Ltd., Hickory Hills
  • Hanson Professional Services Inc., Tinley Park
  • IDOT, Division of Aeronautics, Springfield
  • Kowalenko Consulting Group, Chicago
  • Mach Security Operations Inc., Beecher
  • Midwest Environmental Consulting Services Inc., Yorkville
  • Peter and Dorothy Quattrocchi, Oak Lawn
  • South Suburban Airport staff, Peotone
  • Southcomb & Associates, Joliet
  • Susan Shea, Director, Springfield
  • Total Property Maintenance, University Park
  • William H. Metz & Associates, Oak Forest
  • Windy City Home Inspections, Highland Park

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jesse Jackson Jr.'s jive talk continues

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

Jesse Jackson, Jr. continues to make the claim that he can deliver a shovel-ready airport at no cost to the taxpayers. He refers to the unsuccessful project that dates back to 1968 and is known as the Peotone Airport. The State of Illinois calls it the South Suburban Airport. Jackson calls it the Abraham Lincoln National Airport. Make no mistake, none of these projects are close to becoming a shovel-ready project at no cost to the taxpayers.
In a recent rah-rah speech in Kankakee, at the southern reaches of Jackson’s newly-drawn second congressional district at a meeting of the NAACP, Jackson made this outlandish statement.
I’d like Jackson to explain how a project could be shovel ready when more than half of the land needed for a new airport remains in the hands of landowners unwilling to sell to the state. Or, how does he consider a project shovel-ready when it hasn’t even gained approval by the Federal Aviation Administration? And how can it be shovel-ready when a general aviation airport that is privately owned and sanctioned by the FAA—Bult Field--already operates in the footprint of the airport Jackson wants to build?
I’d also like Jackson to explain how his pet project would not cost the taxpayers. Oh he claims to have developers who will put up their own money to build the Peotone Airport. But the construction of the facility is hardly the only cost to building an airport—one in the cornfields 40 miles south of the City of Chicago. It would be a facility surrounded by rural land which is serviced by well and septic systems. It would be located amid creeks and streams that tend to overflow during heavy rain. Who will pay to build the infrastructure needed to service an airport in the cornfields if not the taxpayers?
How does Jackson explain buying the remainder of the land, if not at the taxpayers’ expense? Or how can Jackson forget about the tens of millions of dollars already spent on this ill-conceived, folly. Former Illinois Transportation Secretary Kirk Brown once estimated the state had spent $100 million on the project. That was during his tenure with the state. He retired in 2002. I can guarantee the bills certainly didn’t retire with him. The state has continued to wrack up costs for state-sponsored studies, land acquisition, legal fees, consultants, public relations work, etc.
That was just the past. Future cost to the taxpayers will continue to be thrown at this dead-end project in the form of infrastructure, additional land acquisition costs, and guaranteed legal fees to fight all the innocent landowners who have been under pressure to sell their property since this project began.
It all sounds like the same kind of jive talk we’ve been hearing for years. I don’t believe it for one moment.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Illinois farmers greet Jesse Jackson Jr.

Interestingly Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. finally came to Peotone, the place he has been talking about for 18 years, the place that has been the focal point of his congressional tenure, the place he wants to decimate and urbanize.

Now that Jackson’s new congressional district has been redrawn, it includes the land where the proposed Peotone Airport has been tentatively sited. The remap is a victory in itself for Jackson, who has long tried to mislead people into believing it has always been in his district. See Jesse Jackson needs a geography lesson
It is almost laughable how Jackson has tried to schmooze the farmers whose land he wants for his pet project, into thinking he gives a damn about them, the land they work, or their rural way of life. He doesn’t. They are only a mean to his end. He wants only to use them to get what he wants—political power over jobs, contracts and ultimately campaign cash.
Jesse Jackson, Jr. had to talk hard and fast to get this audience of eastern Will County farmers to listen to what he had to say; he carefully crafted his words to try to reach them. Yet what he actually said might have the same effect as that which these farmers spread on their fields to help the crops grow. Jackson probably decided prior to the visit, that the best way to reach them was to emulate his conservative colleagues which he loathes, since most of these farmers traditionally cast a Republican ballot. I’m sure he did his homework and learned that many of them sympathize with the tea party movement. Jackson is too arrogant to consider that he has little chance of winning them over.
As a longtime advocate for these folks keeping their land out of Jackson’s hands, I resent Jackson’s inference that he understands their lifestyle. His talk of praying for sun and rain, joking about driving a combine, and drawing first a comparison with his African-American ancestors who picked cotton in the south and later with the people of Iowa he met along the campaign trail, was insincere and likely ineffectual. Try as he might to get into their good graces, I doubt it worked.
It is offensive that Jackson would try to take advantage of religion and culture to worm his way into the hearts and minds of the local farmers in eastern Will County. These are good people, with too much dignity to tell the congressman what they really feel. I can almost guarantee they will never vote for him, no matter how many stories he tells them about how he understands their plight.
The one thing he did offer that might give them pause was his promise of a “fair market exchange” for those who are willing to sell their land to the state. Closer evaluation will show this to be a ruse as well.
First, Jackson promised that if they became willing sellers, they would receive fair market value. Anyone could make that promise since that is the law. But he also said they could farm the land for free until the land is needed. On one hand, Jackson claims construction could begin by June. Even Jackson knows that isn’t doable. So he is dangling the carrot on the end of the free farming stick. It was an interesting ploy, given that farmers are businessmen like everyone else in this faltering economy. Jackson also knows that for some the fight might be out of them after all these years since the Peotone Airport was first proposed in the 1960’s but heavily marketed since the 1980’s.
“An airport will be built on that land,” Jackson said, speaking of the needed state-owned land which represents less than half of what is needed. No doubt, that is as he sees it, yet his view seems to be shared by less people every year as support for the airport dwindles.
His flim-flam guarantee for the opportunity to farm the land for free is simply not his to make. While Jackson acts as though he and his self-appointed airport authority, ALNAC (Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission) owns this project. It does not. It hasn’t even been approved by the FAA at this point. No decision will be made for years since the perpetual studies continue. Jackson is a U.S. Congressman unaffiliated with the State of Illinois, yet he continues to behave as though he has the right to negotiation with landowners for the State of Illinois. He has no such right.
The bottom line is that if Jackson thinks he is going to convince farmers in eastern Will County that they should voluntarily sell their land for an airport they don’t want for the sake of jobs in the south suburbs, Jackson is delusional.
I will at least give Jackson credit for finally coming face-to-face with Peotone-area farmers. Because his adversaries appear polite, easy-going, reserved, and all the other attributes the good people of the Peotone area possess, Jackson probably thinks winning them over will be a cake walk. That shows how little he really knows about the farm community.
Jackson’s visit can be viewed thanks to

Monday, October 10, 2011

Halvorson wants to defeat Jesse Jackson, Jr.

Debbie HalvorsonIt is no surprise that Debbie Halvorson plans to run again for Congress--in the newly-drawn 2nd congressional district. The seat happens to be held by U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., her former colleague with whom she battled during her last tenure in congress.

Halvorson served in the 11th district which abutted Jackson’s 2nd district. Since the maps have been redrawn, his district now encompasses much of the territory in her former district. She was defeated, at the conclusion of her first term, by newcomer U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

Halvorson is a long shot. She rode into office in 2008 on President Barack Obama’s coattails. The hugely popular Republican takeover by the tea party in 2010 swept her back out of office.

Halvorson’s announcement to run again is no surprise because that is what politicians do when they lose. The truth of the matter is that there are rarely losers in politics, especially in Illinois politics. Once connections are made, promises given, and bucket loads of cash ensures ‘a friend in the factory,’ often times the same people run over and over again, sometimes for the same and sometimes for other posts. When it becomes Jesse Jackson, Jr.impossible to convince the public to vote for them, they are usually appointed to a government job. It is as if holding elected office is the step to getting a high-paying cushy government job with all the benefits the taxpayers will give.

Halvorson wanted to be named Illinois transportation secretary, but Illinois governor Pat Quinn appointed someone else. So, for now, Halvorson will have to forego the big bucks political job in favor of being a congresswoman, if she can convince the public.

The Peotone Airport battle
While the two were colleagues, Halvorson and Jackson battled over the proposed Peotone Airport, but not the fight that should have been waged. As the project was located in the 11th congressional district, Halvorson should have represented her constituents, the majority of which have proven countless ways that they opposed the airport. Instead, she chose to pay her allegiance to the unions in Joliet who salivated over perceived jobs and contracts. She sided with the huge concrete and asphalt companies who contributed campaign cash over the people who only had their votes to give.

Her battle with Jackson was over who would control an airport if and when it was built.

Both took a pro-airport position despite Halvorson’s first public position being against it.

In 1996, Halvorson was a virtual unknown in the political realm. She was a Mary Kay salesperson and Crete Township Clerk. She rose to political stardom in 1996, however when she defeated the popular Senate Majority Leader Aldo DeAngelis.

Halvorson was once anti-airport
Halvorson ran as a no-airport candidate. I know because I was at her campaign headquarters that night. I and many others were elated when this seemingly down-to-earth woman who was on our side, defeated the godfather of the Peotone Airport. Little did we know that the minute she set foot in the capital in Springfield that she would a DeAngelis clone.

Saying all the right things to all the right people, Halvorson ascended rapidly to become Illinois’ first Senate Majority leader.

It will be interesting to watch the battle between these two. As far as I’m concerned—they are evenly matched. Neither has been able to get what they want.

Just days into her campaign and already Halvorson is sniping about Jackson’s ethical issues, which includes a House investigation over Jackson’s alleged attempt to buy Obama’s senate seat and his marital infidelity. Political theater is always a spectator sport.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

IDOT hires 16 new workers

The Illinois Department of Transportation has never played by the same rules as everyone else.

Despite talks of budget cuts, economic recession, and laying off more than 1,900 state workers in Illinois, its transportation department has hired 16 new employees--supervisors--that critics claim are not needed. 

The new jobs, which are supervisory in nature will, according to some critics, duplicate work already being done by field supervisors who recently joined a union. 

The move creates an entire new administrative layer, with each earning about $100,000 annually, far more and in some cases double that of the former supervisors. 

IDOT denies the new jobs have any connection to the unionization of employees, despite the announcement coming just weeks after the previous workers joined the Operating Engineers Local 150. 

Speaking of unneeded new IDOT jobs, IDOT has also hired a new project coordinator for the long-dormant South Suburban Airport. 

On Sept. 12, IDOT announced the hiring of William M. Viste, as project coordinator for the South Suburban Airport. The state project has languished since 1985 when it brought to life an idea first considered in the late 1960's not long after O'Hare International airport opened for business. 

According to the South Suburban Airport website, Viste will be charged with "ensuring the technical accuracy of the project's reports and submittals, provide status oversight for the various facets of this complex project, and respond to technical questions and comments from federal, state, and local agencies, communities, landowners, and other stakeholders."

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Jesse Jr. no longer has to lie about Peotone

It appears that U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., (D-Chicago) won't have to lie aboutwhere the proposed Peotone Airport is located. It will finally be in his district.

Jackson has certainly been less than honest about the Peotone Airport, his pet project for the last decade. His insinuation that it was in Illinois' second congressional district, his district has been around so long that even newspapers have wrongly reported it. Truth is, all this time, the proposed Peotone airport has been in the 11th congressional district. We have all seen that when politicians tell a lie often enough, the truth sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.

Jackson lied to his colleagues on the House floor with the claim that the proposed airport is next to Ford Heights, one of the poorest suburbs in the State of Illinois. (see stories below). His aim was to push through earmarks attached to a spending bill.

The truth is the Peotone project is far enough from Ford Heights that it would likely have no effect on the jobless there.

Now, it looks like Jackson will finally be getting his way. If the redistricting plan put forth by Illinois Democrats is approved, and it looks as if it will, Jackson's district will encompass the proposed airport site as well as the small farming towns that surround it.

If the people of eastern Will County complained before about their congressional representation, I fear they haven't seen anything yet.

What does Jesse Jackson, Jr. know about farming, soil and water conservation, growing crops, small town living, or any of the other things that will make such a city mouse totally out of his element in the country. The result of this out-of-character pairing will likely be that he simply ignores the will of the people of eastern Will County. Then again, that is nothing new, since he already has a history of trying to steamroll their rights and dismiss their wishes as he advocates taking their land so he can shove an unneeded airport down their throats.

Public officials in eastern Will County will also likely be void of representation. While mayors and their boards have had a decent rapport with their representatives, this will be a whole new ballgame. Many of the mayors have had scathing things to say about Jackson. Now he will be their representative.