Friday, November 16, 2012

No sympathy for Jesse Jackson, Jr. from airport landowners

The once-promising political career of Jesse Jackson, Jr., seems about to crash and burn, amid allegations of scandal, financial impropriety, and controversy.

The son of Civil Rights activist Jesse Jackson, seemed to have all the tools needed to become an excellent lawmaker. It is too bad he squandered them on himself and his lavish lifestyle rather than for the benefit of the people who needed him--the people who elected him to serve their needs.

Now, according to local, regional, and even national reports, Jackson is the target of a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe into his financial dealings, and more.

All this is very odd, given that just days ago Jackson handily won re-election in a near landslide victory in his bid to retain his job as congressman in the 2nd Congressional district. Despite Jackson's whereabouts being a secret for months prior to the election, either his constituents were overly loyal to him or they simply voted along racial lines. Most assume the latter, since Jackson has little to show for his years in congress. Racism in some of the poorest black neighborhoods on Chicago's south side is well known. Jackson did little to change that and in fact tried to use it to his advantage.

Jackson spent his entire political career grabbing for the brass ring. Instead of trying to make a name for himself by working hard and revitalizing one of the poorest regions of the country and solving real problems there, Jackson's efforts centered on his own need for self aggrandizement. Often times, it was at others' expense. This was evidenced by the biggest promise he made to his constituents--his effort to solve their economic woes by supporting the construction of one of the biggest projects in Illinois history--Chicago's third airport.

An effort by chambers of commerce on Chicago's south side in 1985 culminated in 1992 when a committee of leaders from Illinois and Indiana as well as the City of Chicago rejected what has become known as the Peotone Airport, so named because its close proximity to Peotone, a small rural town in eastern Will County, about 40 miles south of Chicago.

Two years later, the project was revived by then Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, who once lived in the southern suburbs. At the time there were only two pockets of support for the project--the south suburbs and the western suburbs that bordered O'Hare International Airport. O'Hare neighbors considered a new airport as their solution to O'Hare expansion, which they opposed.

In 1995 the point man who would bridge the gap between the two regions was an energetic, articulate new south suburban congressman, Jesse Jackson, Jr., who filled the unexpired term of U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds who had been arrested in a sex scandal involving an underage campaign worker.

It wasn't long before Jackson glommed onto the project, making it the centerpiece of his congressional career. He lobbied several Illinois governors who tried to hold onto the prospect of trying to duplicate the state's prized economic engine--O'Hare Airport--even at the expense of that prize, the project never really gained footing. The City of Chicago was on the other side, opposing a new airport. Jackson formed his own airport authority with the hope of controlling, managing, and building an airport.

The longtime and sometimes raucous opposition didn't daunt Jackson nor his supporters. Jackson also ignored the growing problems of his district in order to seize the opportunity to land the big project. He promised that the airport would be a boon to their economy, would lift people from poverty and provide thousands of jobs. They believed him.

Jackson continued singing the same song to his constituents and his colleagues in congress, always painting a rosy image and coloring facts. Then he saw an opportunity to help his cause and better his career--a seat in the U.S. Senate--vacated when Barack Obama was elected 44th President of the United States.

That is when Jackson's problems began. In addition to an extra-marital affair, one of the many investigations into his financial dealings involved suspicion that he offered a huge sum money to ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich in return for appointing him to Obama's senate seat. The emissary who apparently made the offer--Rughuveer Nyak--was arrested by the FBI last June.

Incidentally Blagojevich was arrested on several counts of corruption in December '08 and is currently serving time in a federal prison in Colorado. Blagojevich's predecessor, George Ryan, who also worked with Jackson on the proposed build-the-airport project is also serving time in a federal penitentiary for his corruption while in office.

In 2011 the Congressional Ethics Committee found probable cause to continue to investigate Jackson.

Shortly after Nyak was arrested, in June 2012, Jackson disappeared from public view. He wasn't at his campaign office in Chicago nor was he tending to his duties in Washington. It was later learned that he had a medical condition. Apparently Jackson is suffering from a bi-polar disorder and gastro-intestinal issues related to a previous weight-loss surgery. The public learned after months of not knowing of his whereabouts that he spent some seeking treatment at Mayo Clinic.

There is little sympathy for Jesse Jackson, Jr., by residents of eastern Will County, where lives have been upended for decades because of the turmoil suffered at Jackson's hand.

The people of what had been the 11th congressional district despised Jackson's efforts to claim their area as his own fiefdom. They have been pawns in his game or airport roulette. At their expense, his efforts were somewhat legitimized when the state legislature redrew the 2010 redistricting map. The boundaries of the 2nd congressional district were moved to include much of Will and Kankakee counties.

It is too bad the man is ill, if he really is ill, but it is also too bad that his actions have destroyed lives, land, and hopes of so many. It is too bad Jackson didn't use his skills for good rather than evil.

For that, he needs to pay restitution, even if it is with his own freedom.
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Monday, November 5, 2012

Watch out when they push 'jobs'

Barack Obama, Carol Henrichs 
It is Election Day Eve. It has been a never-ending election season, and yet, in many ways, it is hard to believe we are finally here. As a supporter of four more years for President Obama, I have personally spent months commiserating with like-minded voters and debating and debunking the merits of a Mitt Romney administration.

I have made lots of new friends and probably lost some too.

For me, this election comes down to a continuance of the last 25 years I have spent fighting the State of Illinois’ proposal to build an airport south of Chicago—an airport that is unnecessary, isn’t approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, is opposed by the airlines and the local residents and governments that would have to live with it, and just plain doesn’t fit into the rural area where it is proposed.

I have heard all too often the term “jobs.” This project started as a Republican initiative back in the 1980’s. It is now favored heavily by U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., a Democrat. The line has been blurred between the two. “Jobs” has been the promise--jobs for the poorest suburbs in the Chicagoland area. Trouble is, that would likely not be the result, for a multitude of reasons.

This project has taught me that “jobs” is often nothing more than a political buzzword used by politicians to make it look like they are actually doing something for someone. “Jobs” can also mean total degradation of the environment, whole communities, and destruction of private property, not to mention people’s lives.

That is what I see when I hear Mitt Romney talk about creating “jobs” on day 1, if he is elected. In the context of Romney-speak when he talks about drilling on federal lands, it makes me cringe. When he talks about renewing an energy policy that puts people to work, what he is really talking about is profits for oil, gas, and coal companies at the expense of the natural resources it would destroy. There has to be a balance between the quality of life of people living in the areas rich resources with extracting those from the earth. Romney doesn’t understand that balance. All he understands is profit.

To me, this election is about the intangibles that translate into profit and people. It is always a delicate balance. I just don’t think Romney gets that.

What about the ecosystem that sustains mankind? What about the endangered species that are about to vanish from the earth—species that one day could prove to be a cure for human illnesses? What about the indisputable climate change that has raised temperatures to new heights, caused droughts in the country’s mid-section, and ramped up the effects of storms, like Hurricane Sandy. What about the global conditions that have not yet been felt. The buzzword “jobs” pales in comparison. Survival always trumps jobs numbers. Mitt Romney knows nothing of these complex problems.

Then there are women’s issues. I wrote my first pro-choice letter to the editor years ago. Choice isn’t about the pros and cons of abortion. Nobody likes abortion. Choice is about private, personal decisions being made by a woman with guidance from her family and physician. It is not the concern of the government, let alone to be mandated by government.

There are so many other reasons that a Mitt Romney administration scares me to my core.

Beyond these issues, I could never vote for a candidate whose policies were so opaque, for a candidate who changed his position to accommodate each audience he spoke to, or one that is so beholding to his religious views that he would impose them onto others. Mitt Romney is an elitist that doesn't seem to understand truth, transparency, or compromise. 

It is why I am voting for Barack Obama for President. I am not unhappy with the man who has governed this country for the last four years; he is a man that was able to bring the economy back from the brink after eight of the most trying years of my political lifetime. I am excited to hear Barack Obama speak about “all people.” This should be a country of opportunity for men and women, no matter the age, race, religion, sexual preference, or geographic boundary. I am encouraged by his ability to bring people together, to be able to sort through the layers of complex issues. I love that he has been so tolerant, keeping a steady hand, even when all odds were against him. He has even been able to get things done, despite the bullies in the U.S. House who have thwarted his every initiative. I am proud that he has looked beyond his own personal view to support gay marriage and to follow through with “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” He really is a trustworthy leader, who understands people, of this country and beyond, and can relate to them. Barack Obama gets it. I love his demeanor and how he has handled difficult times with good humor and compassion. I am proud to call him my President.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Barack Obama must win a second term

Official photographic portrait of US President...
US President Barack Obama 
I feel confident that Barack Obama will win a second term in the White House. I say that partially because I cannot imagine any other scenario. Like so many others, I have watched this race with Mitt Romney intensely. I've studied the debates; read all the pundits; and engaged every way possible. There should be no contest. On character alone, Obama is head and shoulders above his challenger. Obama wins on substance, temperament, intellect, diplomacy, integrity, and just about every other way.

I have not, however, donated money to the campaign, for two reasons. 

First, I stand by the principle that elections should not be bought. The Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that basically threw out any monetary restrictions in campaign finance is immoral and unethical, in my opinion. I plan to support any effort in the future that will negate this blunder by the corporate-heavy, prejudicial court. 

Probably more importantly, I just don't have money to throw into the political arena. Paying bills and taking care of necessities is a much more responsible avenue in my fixed-income household. I'm at least grateful there is enough to pay for the necessities. 

Just because I am not throwing money at my President does not mean I don't support his candidacy. In fact, any of my Facebook friends will attest that I am a big Obama supporter. I have literally devoted hours in an effort to debunk the lies, distortions, and misrepresentations from my 'friends.' If I got paid for the 'writing' I've done on the subject, my personal economic situation would be greatly improved. That however, is not, nor has never been my goal. I have long endeavored in support for causes that I believe in, not because of what I could get out of it, but for what I could put into it. 

While I definitely do not agree with every policy or decision, I have been proud of the leadership in the White House. I cannot say the same thing for challenger, Mitt Romney. To me, Romney epitomizes everything that appalls me. Born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, he really doesn't stand for anything. Despite his participation in his church, he doesn't appear to me to be a moral character. That is another topic for another time.

While Mitt Romney may have done some good things in his life, I'd be willing to bet he benefited by them. He is the kind of man whose deeds are the main course; while any other benefit to anyone else is merely a side dish. He is a bully, void of empathy. He has harmed countless people for his own gain. To me, that is the lowest form of human behavior. I certainly don't want that type of person leading our country.

I've been amazed at how many people simply hate Obama. It is painfully obvious that irrational feelings of hatred stem from varying levels of racial bias because Obama's father was African-American. The election of this President has caused bigotry to rise to the surface, largely by fringe groups of white, Christians who still judge people by the color of their skin, but even by some who don't admit their prejudices. I find it incredible and frightening that in 21st Century America there are still people so filled with racism--a racism so ingrained in them that it colors their views and perceptions. It is so appalling.

Mitt Romney is the stereotypical white, rich guy that probably never knew the joy of getting his hands dirty. A man of privilege for his entire life, he doesn't know what he is missing. 

How could anyone think he could lead a country where only one percent of the population is like him? Romney's role on the national stage should be limited to that of economic adviser, because that is what he knows. But as the leader of a country that is so diverse, a Romney presidency would be worse than what was experienced under the George W. Bush administration. I never dreamed anyone could be worse than Bush, but I believe Romney would be. While he may be a good business manager, running a country is far more complex and requires skills he does not have. A country is all about its people--something Romney is not very good at. 

Running a country is not about simply descending the stairs from a perch in an ivory tower, writing a few pink slips, and then retreating to the country club to joke about it with friends. 

I am sickened at how the marketing of Mitt Romney has influenced so many people--including many of my friends and family. How can people be so blind as to fall for the faux facts, targeted policies aimed at the audience, plans that change with the wind, and his refusal to answer questions? Where is the substance in this man? 

Mitt Romney has turned the leadership of the country into a game. He wants to win it and he will win at any cost. This isn't about leadership of the country we all hold dear; it is about winning. 

What appalls me the most is that people are not just allowing it but are encouraging it. They have convinced themselves that he is what they see in front of them. In reality what they see is an actor--a made-up for the camera robot with no heart. Funny, they voted for George W. Bush because they thought he was a nice guy, only to learn how wrong they were. These are people who lack the depth of understanding to vote for the person that will do the best job managing our country as just one of many in an increasingly  complex world. I just don't think Mitt Romney is up to the task. 
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Friday, October 19, 2012

Family garage sale bonds siblings

Last weekend, we had a garage sale. That's me in the background, overseeing the 'stuff' in our garage.

It was an extravaganza, but not just because of the usual garage sale activity, but because my husband's two sisters joined us. Betty lives right around the corner from us. Thank goodness, because she and her husband John brought lots of goodies to sell, not to mention their own tables and even a crock pot filled with sloppy joes to eat.

Jean lives in Indiana. She packed up a rental car and drove some 600 miles just to partake.

Family garage sales have always been a good time for us. Not only do we get rid of extra 'stuff' around the house, often times to one another, but we get to visit with each other and socialize with those who come to visit. And, we even made a few bucks.

This weekend was no exception. It was really fun to get together. It had been quite some time since we were all together in one place. In fact, it was during our last family garage sale, several years ago. Only that time, brother Steve was also here. We missed him this time.

I recall the first time we did this. It was just after we lost my mother-in-law, one of the saddest days I've ever known in my life. Betty and Jean lost their mom, and it was a stressful time for all of us. I adored my mother-in-law and felt her loss almost as deeply as they did.

Dividing a household can be a time of great stress. It has also been known to cause bickering among siblings as mementos and precious items are divided among those who are left. That didn't happen with us. Mom was so organized. She wrote the names on the backs of pictures, for instance, that she wanted each of her children to have. She knew who cared about what because she paid such close attention to those details. She listened when we talked. She pretty much got it right too. We knew how hard it would be to sell those pieces of her life that meant so much to us. There were no fights among us--no animosity, jealousy, or pettiness. We pretty much agreed on everything. There were plenty of tears along the way, but the three of us girls along with our husbands, all named John, by the way, made the most of a bad situation. We had a pajama party of sorts at Mom's house for the last time, as we priced items long into the night.

I'll never forget how hard it was to watch someone carry away the dining room table that had held so many happy family memories. It was indeed hard. But we tried to make the most of it. We convinced ourselves that a new family would make their own family memories, just as we had. We ended up laughing about one thing or another as the memories kept us going.

I think that experience, which was overall a positive one cemented our friendships and strengthened the bonds of our family ties. I suspect that is why we enjoy our family garage sales so much.

It is always good to whittle away the excesses. There is no pain associated with it now. There is only joy; joy at being together, not to mention the joy of cleaning out the clutter.

It was an exhausting weekend, but one I wouldn't trade for anything.
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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

C'mon media--do your job! Ask questions!

Chicago media is all abuzz over the fact that the State of Illinois has issued yet another airport layout plan to the Federal Aviation Administration. How is this a news story?

Airport sentiment near Peotone!
What is wrong with the media? Instead of asking real questions, newspapers have merely stated the obvious--printed the press release. After covering this project for 25 years, doesn't the public deserve better than merely printing what some government PR guy throws out there? Isn't it time to ask some real questions?

IDOT submits airport layout plans to the federal government as frequently as some people change their socks. 

In its zeal to put this news out there, the media failed to note that IDOT's new plan is merely a resolution for its own blunder in 2007 when IDOT submitted dueling airport layout plans to the federal agency. 

One was IDOT's own plan, created out of a 1994 decision by Gov. Jim Edgar for state sponsorship of a new airport at the Peotone site, two years after it was rejected by regional consensus. The map submitted was the result of numerous revisions of the reduced, readjusted, and overall massaged airport layout plan that had been rejected two years prior because there was no regional consensus on the project.

Perhaps that is the question the media should be asking--how does the state plan to achieve a regional consensus for the Peotone Airport?

The other configuration the state submitted in 2007 was for the layout plan conceived by the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission (ALNAC), the self-appointed airport authority spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. with a little help from the state’s consultant EarthTech, formerly TAMS.

At that time, the FAA rejected both plans and told IDOT to come back with just one. So, apparently it took five years for the agency to whittle down the differences in the two nearly identical plans,  in order to submit one of them. 

Perhaps the real news is: why does it take so long for the State of Illinois to draw a map when they have had their crayons for decades. But the media didn't bother to ask that question either.

Some news outlets wrongly make the claim that the submission of another airport layout plan is somehow a sign that Gov. Pat Quinn is moving the airport forward. Like most of what has fueled the Peotone  Airport since its inception, this is a mighty big assumption. The fact is that the project has been on the drawing board since 1985. Every governor since Big Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar, George Ryan, Rod Blagojevich, and now Quinn has given it lip service, so how is this newsworthy? Yet, the reality is that the Peotone Airport is nothing more than a stack of yellowing papers on a shelf.

One component of the state's layout plan is the general aviation component of the Peotone Airport. How does the state plans to reconcile the existence of Bult Field, a privately-owned FAA-sanctioned general aviation airport, into which lies inside the Peotone Airport fence?

Back in 2008, IDOT reportedly assumed that Bult Field would be acquired and incorporated into the proposed airport. It is expected that existing facilities at Bult Field would serve the General Aviation (GA) needs at SSA (South Suburban Airport). Major improvements have been made to Bult Field since it was developed in October 2004. The cost to acquire that airport would drastically increase the cost of developing the proposed airport. How does the state plan to acquire and pay for a private airport for its own purposes? Is Bult Field even for sale?

Maybe reporters should ask IDOT what it plans to do with an airfield that airlines are opposed to and say they will not use. How does the governor plan to entice the airlines to get on board with his newly-reported support for a Peotone Airport? 

Instead of addressing the myriad questions surrounding the state's arguably longest-running boondoggle, the media has opted to report, practically word-for-word, the state's press release. It was only later in the story that throwing $70 million toward land purchases was mentioned. 

Isn't that more important? Isn't it actual news that the governor of the cash-starved State of Illinois that has been bullying landowners near Peotone for decades wants to continue the process. To me, that is much more newsworthy than merely jumping through a procession of legal hoops to prepare a Master Plan for an airport that may never be built anyway.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Parade Route

Politics often provides such a clear distinction between the candidates.

It was at a parade that I met Barack Obama, the Democrat running for a second term as President.

The following picture of the two of us posing in front of my house was taken Beecher, Illinois back in 1994 when Obama was campaigning for  a seat in the U.S. Senate.

I was a small town reporter taking pictures of the Fourth of July parade. We lived along the parade route, so I often combined business with pleasure. I recall being totally excited and amazed that a candidate for the U.S. Senate was walking in our little, small town parade. I had no idea at the time that the man with whom I took this picture would become the 44th President of the United States.

Obama obviously loved campaigning. He loved being around people. He enjoyed meeting them. His huge smile was evidence of how much fun he was having. He reached for as many hands as reached out to him. He was friendly and took time to talk with folks along the parade route. In fact, there were many times he had to run to catch up after being sidelined by questioners and interested future constituents.

Then there is the other side. A video was made of Paul Ryan, the Republican Vice Presidential running mate of Mitt Romney, who is challenging Obama.

I could go on about Romney, but this is a story about parades, so the object is Paul Ryan, the same man whose speech at the Republican National Convention was picked apart by fact checkers the following morning.

Watch how Paul Ryan greets the people along the parade route.

There is no doubt in my mind which man I would rather see lead this country.
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Friday, September 7, 2012

Newspapers need to step up

MSNBC's Chris Hayes, "Getting Past the Fa...
MSNBC's Chris Hayes
 (Photo credit: thecommongoodusa)
One of the best show on television, for anyone who cares about current issues and events, is Up with Chris Hayes, on weekend mornings

I find this young man to be energetic, optimistic, enlightening, and highly intelligent. I've seen more of him lately, what with all the political goings on as we move closer to the November 6 election, which to me translates into hope for the future of journalism. I had feared that our best days were behind us. I find Chris Hayes' the MSNBC contributor whose off-the-cuff analysis in many cases, is downright genius.
I tuned in to UP recently where the discussion, while centering on fact checking spurred by the Paul Ryan speech at the Republican National Convention, morphed into a talk about news media, journalism, one-newspaper markets, and how it all relates to politics. It was a fascinating program. With a guest panel that included various journalists, like Bob Herbert from and who also writes a column in the New York Times, the discussion made me feel like I was at home. I wanted to jump into the television to join in; I would have loved to relate my experience, working at a local newspaper that cornered the market in the small town where I lived. With no competition, I wanted to explain how often times I had to fight for a story that didn't follow the deeply-engrained thinking. I usually won, except for twice when the owner pulled a story that he thought to be politically damaging even though it was true. He was a Republican; I was a Democrat. Another one told the truth about a school election. He couldn't afford to harm those people. They were all friends and advertisers.

Small local newspapers with no competition worked when a town was small enough that everybody knew one another. It worked when the local gossip mill was as informed as the morning headline. But when the town started to grow it became a different story. About the time when the townsfolk realized they really should start locking their doors at night, it was also time to bring competition to the news market. But that didn't happen.

"WATCH YOUR LOCAL NEWSPAPER^^" - NARA - 535653 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Objectivity, which was never the priority anyway, ceased to have a chance. What happens is people are so concerned with the obvious changes in their town that they never even considered the below-the-surface needs that they have come to take for granted--like the lack of objectivity in their newspaper. When they finally did notice, the local newspaper was among so many other pressing problems that it became relegated to bottom rung of the priority ladder. As the town grew, more and more people became subscribers, it certainly not for the news value. Folks kept up with shopping ads, little league scores, and the latest obituaries. They were unaware of how things had always been and they didn't care. Often times, they continued subscribing to the newspapers from where they came from, recognizing that the local newspaper was nothing more than an extension of the good ole boy network that ran the town. The news was completely skewed and self-serving to its owners. As long as the small paper's owners didn't lose business, they didn't feel a need to change policies. The status-quo worked for them.

It never worked for me. I have long said that a lack of objectivity in the local newspaper contributes to the decline of understanding, information, and ultimately the politics of a region. This allows the local leaders to completely take advantage of the public for its own gain. News is force-fed in the form of one-sided opinion and commentary through what was once a valuable resource that exposed such behaviors. Today, they are contributors. The political leanings of the owner of a newspaper has become evident in all his editorial decisions. He has the ability to sway the better part of an entire populace, if they aren't paying attention. 

The problem has only been exacerbated by the economic downturn of the newspaper industry, which further denigrates what newspapers used to be--a trusted source of fact. With the focus shifting from the readership to merely selling advertising, newspapers as we have known them have ceased to exist.

I always believed that the local newspaper, an information and education resource, is the basic form of communication in a community. It must be balanced to cover the community it serves, but with a much broader perspective. If the perspective of editorial content remains too narrow, readers are left uninformed or worst, misinformed.

In the town where I worked, most of the people have a narrow focus, believe and rarely question what their parents and grandparents believed. They go about their daily lives unaware of what they are missing. They are confidant that all is well as they live in a bubble away from all outside influence. That is until something happens to burst that bubble. Where I lived, it was a state-sponsored proposal to build a huge airport, displacing some of the region's best farm fields with concrete and asphalt.

That bubble and its naive sense of well-being makes whole populations completely vulnerable to outside forces that recognize their innocence and take full advantage of it.

It is my hope that newspapers can retain their profitability if they recognize their value is less profit-oriented, and more of a social and education necessity.
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