Thursday, February 16, 2012

Super PAC Redemption

One of the worst elements in our Democracy, in my view, is the ability to buy an election. This is really nothing new. As the amount of money spent on campaigns escalates, so does my ire. It seems that funding is the single-most determining factor in picking our leaders. But wait…there could be some redeeming qualities about Super PACs.
On their face, I have not changed my opinion. But this year has been so outrageous, so over-the-top, so outlandish, that I can’t help but see not only a little humor in this situation, but a little poetic justice as well.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Will County hypocrisy

Will County Executive Larry Walsh, a Democrat and Will County Board Chairman Jim Moustis, a Republican, seem to have joined forces, on the same side for once.
When U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. started shooting off his mouth about a deal with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to build the long-beleaguered Peotone Airport, Moustis wrote a letter to Quinn.
“You will not dump on us,” Moustis told the governor.
Moustis continued by saying he did not want Will County to be treated like second-class citizens. He said Will County would fight all the way. He referred to governance of a potential airport.
They are nothing but hypocrites
Why do Moustis and Walsh refuse to see that what they are complaining about are the same things residents of eastern Will County have been experiencing at their hand for more than 25 years?
Their costly shenanigans, borne by the taxpayers of Will County, to hire lobbyists and consultants, for example, is designed to result in an airport the airlines say they won’t use, a majority of the citizens countywide don’t want, and aviation experts say will be an unsuccessful business venture. Yet they continue to pursue it. It is now like a game with them—a game of one upsmanship—between them and Jackson at the citizens’ expense.
They are arguing over controlling something that may never exist. The airport remains unapproved by the Federal Aviation Administration. The U.S. Transportation Secretary dismisses it.
Gee Jim, it is hell to be treated that way
I know what Moustis must be feeling. It really is hell to be treated like a second class citizen.
I no longer live in Illinois, but I will never forget what it was like to stand before those people—to testify against the proposed Peotone Airport.
Some of those 27 board members weren’t even courteous enough to listen to what I and others had to say. Their blank-stares and nose-in-the air expressions couldn’t wait to dismiss us. Rarely have I ever experienced such unpleasantness as in trying to reason with public officials. It is no wonder regular people steer clear of public meetings and have such a bad taste in their mouth about politics.
It is too bad Will County didn’t listen to reason all those years ago. I wonder what might have come of eastern Will County had so much energy and resources not been squandered chasing the Peotone folly. Will County could have found fame and fortune by using its own resources had there been leadership and intellect. Perhaps eastern Will County could have set a world-class example for organic farming; Del Monte or some other company could have built a plant there and begun processing a new line of heirloom tomato products; or perhaps grapes grown in Will County soil could become the basis of a new Eastern Will County wine. Alternative energy, such as wind or solar or something brand new could be developed there. The sky’s the limit, but instead these fools decided to chase a 1968 project.
I’m really sorry you are being treated like a second-class citizen Jim.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Voice of Reason

A voice of reason has finally crept into the Peotone Airport debate.
The pure voice of reason, so often muffled, finally echoed throughout Illinois media recently. It was that of Michael Boyd, a Colorado aviation consultant of Boyd Group International, Inc., the company co-founded by Boyd in 1984. 
Boyd who began his aviation career at American Airlines in 1971 has an independent philosophy that rings throughout his company. That quality has catapulted the Boyd Group to become one of the most respected voices in the industry.
Boyd is not a political pundit. He is not a mouthpiece for proponents of building a new airport near Peotone which has traditionally filled countless pages of newspapers for as many years. Instead, Boyd is an independent aviation expert, which is not normally associated with the Peotone project. Perhaps that explains why newspapers from all over the state have picked up an Associated Press story recently that quoted Boyd as he warned against proceeding with a new airport near Peotone.
For this one story, headlines were varied; each told the story in its own way. Headlines included: “Aviation consultant predicts losses for proposed Peotone airport project; Would Peotone be next airport boondoggle?; and Critic says third airport could be fiasco.”
MidAmerica St. Louis Airport
MidAmerica St. Louis Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
No matter what the headline, the message was clear. Claims that a Peotone airport would be some kind of panacea for the State of Illinois in general and the south suburbs in particular is nothing but a bunch of hooey. Rarely has there been a news story about this project that wasn’t spun out of a positive press release issued by the Illinois Department of Transportation, governor’s office or worse yet, by one of Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s cohorts.
This was an honest, indisputable airport story and it was damning.
From what I could glean, the first story was reported in the Bloomington Pantagraph, and picked up from there. It quoted Michael Boyd as saying the Peotone airport could be a “major fiasco” similar to MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in southwestern Illinois. He called MidAmerica “a monument to dishonest planning.” Last year, MidAmerica Airport posted an operating loss of nearly $12 million, according to the Pantagraph.
Countless other people, including myself, have said the same thing for years, but coming from an aviation consultant of Boyd’s caliber, the facts are worth listening to.
Boyd’s comments were prompted by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn saying a compromise to move the Peotone Airport planning were forthcoming. He referred to a compromise in the governing of the project, not the need for the project, which remains unproven.
As Boyd points out, Illinois has seen a 10-percent drop in the number of people traveling to and from its nine airports. Routes are being cancelled, and arguably the largest carrier, American Airlines’ parent company AMR Corp. recently filed for bankruptcy protection.
Of the Peotone project, Boyd also categorized it as a “solution looking for a problem.” He says it is a political project fueled more by politics than need.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Blago and Jesse Jackson, Jr.

It is too bad for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich that he engaged with the likes of Jesse Jackson, Jr. It was a trifling that cost him his freedom.

On Dec. 7, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proclaimed that day to be one that would live in infamy. It certainly will for Blago, because that was the day he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. 

Was that a fair sentence when compared to his predecessor George Ryan who was sentenced only to 6 1/2 years?

In my mind, it wasn't but then I make my assessment based strictly on the character of the man rather than strict legal terms.

I took this picture of Blagojevich during happier times--on a campaign stop in Joliet while running for re-election. I wasn't enamored with him for his stance on the Peotone Airport. While he served as governor, he gave the airport plenty of positive lip service, but never really followed through. That was probably because there was nothing in it for him. 

Blago also taught us that size does matter when it references ego. Other than that, his tenure in the state house, or his Chicago house, from which he did most of the state's business, was not as upsetting to me as some of his predecessors--cold-blooded oportunitsts. I found Blago to be more of the warm-blooded variety. Even though he often put himself first, he did try to help others as well. 

I would not say he was a bad governor, as Illinois governors go.

Had it not been for that vacant Senate seat issue, would the state have even had a case against Blago? 

To me, and I admit some partiality in my opinion, Jackson is the one that should be taken to task. I hope the Senate Ethics committee looks deeply into their investigation of Jackson. His ethics are indeed in question, at least in my mind. 

I agree with a recent op-ed piece posted in several local newspapers about why the Senate Ethics committee should continue looking into Jackson's behavior. Congressman Jackson has had a pattern of immoral behavior This blog is quoted within it. 

Just before Blagojevich was sentenced, the House announced it would continue to investigate Jackson.

I can't speak to Jackson's other deeds in congress, but I know he has misrepresented the facts surrounding the potential of a regional airport at Peotone as well as the potential of utilizing the existing airport at Gary, Indiana. That has been my focus for the last twenty-five years. 

Jackson's latest action is in an attempt to gather support for the Peotone project far from ground zero where knowledge, and information is lacking. According to newspaper reports, Jackson is taking his pro-airport dog and pony show to Woodridge, a DuPage County community far from Peotone where so little is known or frankly cared about, that Jackson can get away with saying whatever he pleases without being challenged. He did just that recently in a visit to a village board meeting where he reiterated his fantasy that construction on a new airport could begin in six months. He fails to mention that the project has not yet been approved by the FAA, or that studies will preclude a decision for at least two years.

Jackson will never stop spewing misinformation to get what he wants. Perhaps, in this election year, it is time the people with ballots stop him instead.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

House Ethics Committee needs to dig deep into Jackson dealings

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

 Headlines indicated recently that Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is still being investigated by the House Ethics Committee for his alleged role in trying to leverage a seat in the U.S. Senate by offering funds to ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Jackson claims that neither he nor his emissaries ever offered money to ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for the appointment.
Can we believe Jesse Jackson, Jr. and his less than monogamous relationship with the truth?
If the House members believe that Jackson’s role in allegedly trying to buy a U.S. Senate seat is an isolated incident, I certainly hope they probe just a little deeper.
Jackson not only tried to coerce Blagojevich into handing over a seat in the United States Senate, but Jackson also tried to get Blagojevich to hand over land to his self-established airport authority for his pet project, the Peotone Airport.
Jackson has devoted his entire congressional career toward the State of Illinois’ ill-fated effort to build a new airport outside the 2nd congressional district. The latest redistricting, would finally place the Peotone area into Jackson’s grasp. That is, if he wins re-election, which only time and ultimately an election can determine.
Jackson’s campaign website once blatantly included Peotone in a list of communities in the second congressional district. After much criticism, he later corrected it.
In 2007, I was tuned-in to C-Span to watch Jackson’s performance as he sought an earmark of $231,000 in the Financial Services Appropriations bill for “minority and small business development and procurement opportunities.” Jackson painted his usual rosy picture of the proposed airport, which Jackson has dubbed the Abraham Lincoln National Airport. He began talking about how beneficial the project would be to the poorest people of Illinois.
I was angered when I heard Jackson tell his colleagues the airport would abut Ford Heights, one of the poorest community in Illinois. Ford Heights is in Jackson’s district. It is a poor, urban, predominantly black community. It has long been a high crime, blighted area, with high unemployment. In stark contrast, the area where the airport is proposed, is a relatively affluent, predominantly white farming community with low crime and virtually no unemployment. Its economy centers on agriculture. Not only are the two regions geographically far apart, but they might as well be worlds apart politically, socially, and economically. The people who live in the Peotone area are adamantly opposed to the airport Jackson touts. I know. I helped organize an opposition group against the project in 1988.
One of the critics of Jackson’s request earmark was, Congressman John Campbell, R-CA who introduced an amendment to the bill to ban Jackson’s earmark, calling Jackson’s request “federal funding for a phantom airport.”
Campbell’s bill would have stripped taxpayer funding for the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission because, as he stated the Abraham Lincoln National Airport doesn’t exist.
He pointed out that in a Jackson press release in Nov. 2006, Jackson said he would not seek federal funds for the airport.
Campbell also questioned the potential conflict in the dual role of Jackson’s Deputy District Administrator Richard Bryant, who is now Jackson’s Chief of Staff. Bryant is also the Executive Director for the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission (ALNAC) that Jackson established.
Back in Illinois, ex-Congressman Jerry Weller, R-Morris, in whose district the proposed project would be located, called ALNAC into question when it raised $267,000 to lobby Blagojevich. Weller called the campaign “self-promotion,” because Jackson was eyeing a possible run for the Chicago Mayor’s office. Weller suggested the money be returned “to the impoverished communities.”
Jackson had envisioned that state-owned land, about half of what the state needs for the airport, could be simply turned over to Jackson’s airport commission. An opinion by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, however, issued an opinion that under Illinois law, the state cannot convey property at no cost or for less than fair market value.
These issues are likely just the tip of the iceberg, which is why an intense investigation is warranted.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gary Airport to get commercial service; Peotone still a field of dreams

Landing in Smyrna to take the MTSU Blue Raider...
Soon to be flying over the skies at Gary/Chicago Airport
The Gary/Chicago International Airport has once again made an announcement that commercial air service will begin at Gary. This time, the announcement was made by Keith Hanson, who represents the airline. He announced that two flights per week, destined to Orlando, FL will fly out of the Gary airport, starting in February 2012.
Last September, it was rumored that Allegiant would begin service at Gary, but apparently the announcement was premature. The day before a press conference was scheduled, several news sources reported that a big announcement by an unnamed airline would be forthcoming. The marketing firm—Diversified Marketing Strategies of Crown Point, IN, identified the airline as Allegiant. The announcement was cancelled by the airlines .
That isn’t the case presently, as the latest proclamation that Allegiant Air will begin service at Gary, this time, comes from the airline itself. Hanson added that service to Florida may be just the beginning. He added that If it proves to be successful, additional destinations can be added.
While commercial airline service at the Gary airport has been on-again-off-again proposition, it is not for a lack of trying. Indiana officials have long committed to the success of the northwest Indiana airport.
The last commercial airline to utilize the Gary/Chicago airport was Skybus which ceased operation just one week after it began in the spring of 2008. A year prior, SkyValue ceased operation at Gary due to financial difficulties. Other airlines have come and gone over the years, but a subscription for success has yet to be achieved. That certainly isn’t for a lack of trying. The Gary/Chicago airport has had financial help from the federal, state, and local agencies, including the City of Chicago, in an attempt to land long term commercial service there.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, Illinois officials continue to: 1) ignore the ready aviation facility at Gary, which is just miles from the south suburbs they claim to be trying to help; 2) try every way possible to coerce support for a new airport in the farm fields near Peotone, IL, almost 50 miles south of Chicago.
The project has been talked about for almost a half-century with little forward progress except to shrink it to about the size of Gary’s airport.
The only real step toward fruition came when the incarcerated ex-Illinois Gov. George Ryan, made a deal with a campaign contributor to buy the first piece of land outside the airport footprint. Since that first parcel in an under-developed upscale subdivision became state-owned, Illinois officials have used scare tactics and threats of eminent domain to scare landowners into selling their property to the state. They have taken full advantage of artificially reduced land prices due to the threat of an airport nearby, and most recently the country’s economy and housing bubble to entice willing sellers who feel they have no other options but to sell to the state. Even still, the state has now obtained only about half of the land it would need for a new airport. Landowners that remain are unwilling sellers who vow to fight the state from taking their property, especially for a project that hasn’t even been approved.

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.’