Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Response to U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly

I haven't written updates about the Peotone Airport (South Suburban Airport) for some time. I just couldn't help but respond to an editorial in the Chicago Sun Times by U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, entitled "Still Waiting on 3rd Airport" that was touted by the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, (SSMMA).

My opposition to the state building a new international airport began in 1987 as part of a small protest outside the IDOT offices on Michigan Avenue. That led to the formation of RURAL, Residents United to Retain Agricultural Land, which I helped get off the ground officially on Aug. 2, 1988. RURAL was the predecessor of the present anti-airport group STAND (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down). 

More than 10 years ago I moved out of the area, so I was no longer confronted with the day-to-day assault of my senses in the form of the deteriorating landscape at the hand of the State of Illinois. Much of the land has been sold or taken by the state through eminent domain scattering the inhabitants of the rural community. Perfectly good homes have been razed, homesteads destroyed. I've kept in touch with some of those who remain, despite communications that continue to break my heart. Even now, with each headline, Facebook post, or random thought, I still find myself annoyed. I said in those early days that this airport will never be built. I'd like to stand behind that premise, although who could predict the lengths the state has and will continue to go to try to get this airport built despite its lack of support and lack of need.

That brings me to the editorial written by U.S. Rep. Kelly. 

She attempts to paint a dismal picture of O'Hare International Airport, which incidentally has recently reclaimed its rank of the #1 busiest airport in the world. At one point it was third. Ms. Kelly, O'Hare is doing just fine, thank you very much. She goes so far as to call domestic hub operations and cargo potential as in a "decline." Oh really!!!

She touted the increased capacity of a new airport as being roughly 100,000 flights per year at a cost of $1 billion. All that tells me is she has bought into without question, the wildly-inflated numbers the state has used since the project was first envisioned in 1985. What they have done is write, revise, write, revise until their numbers are close to acceptable. Then, even though inflated, they build from there. The foundation of the study of this project is faulty, which logically, all else built upon it merely teeters. The state has gone to great lengths to control the study process, so all of it has been bought and paid for by them. They have had ultimate control. Since the beginning, IDOT has used every trick in the book to paint a rosy picture of this project. It just never really stuck. But they are relentless. They will try anything.

Take the new jobs figures Kelly touts--pie-in-the-sky. I hate to tell her, but the jobs figures have always been overstated. Thanks to the late Suhail al Chalabi and his wife Margery, who have long manipulated the numbers. Suhail is gone now. I wonder who the state will get to produce the salable numbers now? 

When an elected official tells you "dollar for dollar, the third airport is a better deal for taxpayers," you better start asking questions. Better yet, you better start electing better officials. Kelly is the replacement for Jesse Jackson, Jr., who is currently finishing his sentence for corruption in a half-way house. He was a big promoter of this airport along with Gov. Pat Quinn, who just lost the election to new Gov. Bruce Rauner. 

Building on projections is not wise. Wouldn't it be better to build on past experience? Look at what the state has already done. Mid-America Airport in downstate Illinois is an example of an airport the state had to build to relieve St. Louis' Lambert Field. Trouble is, Mid-America has no air traffic, no airline tenants, and little hope. It does have funding--from the taxpayers. 

Kelly suggests that it would be smart for American and United Air Lines to reinvest in Illinois to ensure Illinois as a premier aviation hub. Sorry Ms. Kelly, but Illinois is already a premium aviation hub. It is called O'Hare International Airport. Furthermore, American and United Air Lines have already stated their opposition to a new airport near Peotone. Had you been at all informed about this project and its history, you would know that American and United hate the idea of another new airport. So do all the other air lines that have been on the record for decades opposing this project. 

There are far better ways to create jobs for the beleaguered south suburban region of Chicago. An airport 40 miles away is not the answer. The only thing that should be done with the South Suburban Airport is drop it and move on! This project started in 1968. It is about as innovative as transistor radios and 45 rpm records. 

As far as the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, they tout this editorial in their website. "Editorial: South Suburban Airport needed to regain aviation market."  This group has been the lead voice for three decades. At least they are consistent, but isn't that a long time to beat the same dead horse?



More content:
Illinois Airport featured on NBC "Fleecing of America"
Voice of reason

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