Showing posts with label Chicago. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chicago. Show all posts

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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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chicago Sun Times shows how bad news travels fast; wrong news travels faster!

Chicago Sun Times              Chicago Sun Times 
Two of the many things that are wrong with journalism today is a total disregard for correctness and a new ambivalence toward an informed public!

Both examples were evident when the Chicago Sun Times attempted to report on the Peotone Airport.

Steve Metsch, a Sun-Times Media reporter, who writes for the Southtown/Star, which is owned by the Chicago Sun Times, covered a meeting Friday, July 27, of at the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp. The resulting story was entitled, "Top IDOT official says third airport will be built."

He quoted Susan Shea, IDOT Director, Division of Aeronautics when she said, "To the naysayers, this is it. The FAA would not tell us this is the preferred place. This is where it's going to be," Shea said. "...I's going to be such an economic engine for the community out there, for the state. It is going to happen. It's just a matter of when. It's not a matter anymore of if."

The proposed airport being decidedly imminent would be pretty big news since it is a project that has been languishing on the IDOT radar screen for more than 27 years, if it were true.

Trouble is, it isn't true, as evidenced by Monday's story in the Chicago Sun Times refuting it entitled, "Despite report, Peotone Airport isn't a done deal yet."

Because the Peotone Airport has long been a hot topic, any news about it is often picked up by other media outlets across the country. The Peotone Airport is a national story, mostly because with a negative spin, such as its receiving the Golden Fleece Award, one which highlights government's wasteful spending. The Peotone Airport has been compared with IDOT's other failed accomplishments, the downstate Mid-America Airport, which has sat virtually empty for years.

If the story Shea tried to tell was true, it isn't hard to imagine that the initial story would have news value. That explains why it was picked up by Chicago TV news, and in local papers across the state. I saw it online at Yahoo News!

Trouble is, the initial story was picked up. The retraction was not.

This situation isn't new. IDOT has been counting on the media to do their public relations work for their pet project since a new airport was envisioned in 1985.

That is why opponents have had an uphill battle trying to fight the project. Despite having truth on their side and the project having a lack of merit, it is difficult to compete with a well-oiled public relations machine. The government uses the media every chance it gets.
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Thursday, May 31, 2012

IDOT Crystal ball failed in 2010

Chicago Skyline 2008
Chicago Skyline (Photo credit: TomC)
Perhaps time flies, but it is doubtful that the South Suburban Airport ever will.

By now, a new airport south of Chicago was supposed to have not only been up and running, but was supposed to be wildly successful, giving credit to thousands of jobs that would make the Chicago region "recession-proof." Those were the actual words they used to describe the benefit of a new airport south of Chicago.

The year 2010 was a very important one in the life of the "third airport," (South Suburban Airport, Peotone Airport, and Abraham Lincoln National Airport) all names for the same project, by the way.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Blago

The Internet is a funny thing—I just found this post listed in a forum in Paris, Texas.

I think our justice system is severely lacking in justice for all. 

Blago got -what - 14 years for his crime and Jesse Jackson, jr wasn't even tried for his role. Junior offered to buy the nomination which is just as wrong. And I have to believe that Obama knew about it as well as Eric Holder and Rham Emmanuel. That's a 4 to 1 ratio . Wonder how much was influenced by racism?

It appears that Illinois and its infamous Chicago's south side Congressman (Jesse Jackson, Jr.) have fans all across the country.

Microsoft vs. Peotone; both start in 1985

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

Business Model vs. Boondoggle

In 1985, Bill Gates who incorporated Microsoft four years earlier, released the first version of the Windows Operating System. It made him one of the country's youngest millionaires.

That was also the year that three Illinois state senators sponsored a resolution to begin the study of a new airport to serve the Chicagoland area. It has since evolved into the Peotone Airport, one of the state’s biggest boondoggles.

Look at the evolution of the two projects.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Peotone area residents seething over Jesse Jackson, Jr. insensitivities

Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s election-night bravado included a statement during an interview that has the residents of eastern Will County seething.

During an interview following Jackson's victory in the Democratic primary challenge where he handily defeated ex-Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, Jackson told WLS-TV reporter Paul Meincke that the site of the airport he wants to build currently contains nothing but tumbleweed?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Two Illinois Governors now serving time

If I hadn’t watched the news coverage, I wouldn’t have believed that ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich would really end up in federal prison. Yet that is exactly where he now lives—at the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado, far from his Chicago home and his wife and two daughters.
I have thought about him from time-to-time, after learning about his arrest, conviction, and ultimately, what seemed to me, to be a harsh sentence.
I cannot imagine the kind of agony he and his family must have felt knowing that he, a two-term Governor of the State of Illinois, husband and father, would have to report to prison, to live in an unfriendly, alien environment among common thieves and murderers.

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

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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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.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Illinois contingency asks Gov. Quinn to abandon South Suburban Airport

U.S. Congressman calls South Suburban Airport plans 'wasteful'

U.S. Congressman, Don Manzullo, (R-IL) along with several Illinois state senators and representatives wrote a letter to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn yesterday, urging him to stop wasting state funds on a new airport at Peotone in eastern Will County.

Advocating for a new airport has been long and costly for Illinois taxpayers

Despite Illinois' budget crisis, Quinn recently allocated another $100 million to the Peotone project.

Illinois taxpayers have shouldered the burden for ongoing feasilibity studies for a new airport since 1985 when  a concept plan from twenty years prior, were envisioned. The latest allocation of taxpayer funds would include just the purchase of additional land. The state owns only about half of what would be needed to build a new airfield.

The estimated $5 billion project does not include any of the infrastructure that would be needed to turn a farming community into a metropolis, what would be needed to make an airport viable. The present landscape of the area proposed to house the Peotone airport contains farmsteads and historic farmsteads, which use well and septic systems. Tar and chip roads are far from that which could accommodate airport traffic or even heavy construction traffic.

Nearby towns and townships have long been on-the-record as being opposed to the construction of a new airport. Residents have fought the proposal since 1987.

In addition to opposition from the people who would live with a new airport, all of the major airlines have said they would not use an airport at Peotone.

Congressman Manzullo tells it like it is

"We believe it is unconscionable for the State of Illinois to continue to waste precious taxpayer resources on this unnecessary project as the state struggles with record budget deficits and debt," Manzullo wrote.

Citing last week's agreement between the major airlines and the City of Chicago  to move forward on the O'Hare Modernization Program, the Rockford congressman said, "it is even more egregious and unnecessary for the state of Illinois to continue to spend scare taxpayer dollars on the South Suburban Airport (Peotone Airport) that the airlines have said they do not want or need."

Manzullo named Rockford as an alternative airport to Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports. He reiterated the statement by the Illinois Department of Transportation, the same agency pushing the Peotone project, that the Chicago-Rockford International Airport, "RFD is the airport with the greatest potential for development of passenger service and the ability to maintain passenger service."

The existing RFD is the alternative to development at Peotone, he said, pointing out that RFD offers passenger air service now handles one million passengers. It can easily serve five million passengers per year.

While Peotone remains in the study phase, unapproved by the federal government , RFD has made more than $150 million in federally-funded capital improvements, including the construction of a 10,000-foot runway, net international terminal, and Category-III Instrument Landing System capable of accommodating any plan that flies.

In conclusion, Manzullo and state signatories—Sens. Dave Syverson, Tim Bivins, and Christine Johnson, along with State Reps. Jim Sacia, Joe Sosnowski, Dave Winters, and Robert Pritchard—asked Gov. Quinn to "abandon these wasteful plans at Peotone." They invited Quinn and Illinois Secretary of Transportation Gary Hannig to meet with them at RFD to see first-hand the potential that exists there.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Settlement gives O'Hare freedom to expand

There may be no wall to tear down; no gate to unlock, but the out-of-court settlement between  Chicago and Bensenville is huge for the Chicago area.

The City of Chicago is now free to expand O'Hare International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world.

Suburban leaders have put roadblocks in the path of O'Hare improvements, possibly since O'Hare opened in the early 1960's. But now, they have decided to step aside.

The Village of Bensenville and its new Village President Frank Soto, who defeated longtime O'Hare expansion foe John Geils last April, settled with Chicago for $16 million.

On Monday, Nov. 16, the City agreed to pay the village of Bensenville in exchange for dropping long-standing legal challenges against O'Hare. The city is now free to raze an estimated 500 homes in the path of new runways.

Peotone held to a different standard

When land was purchased for new runways, the City of Chicago honored a court order that prohibited buying property and demolishing homes until expansion plans were approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

That has not been the case in nearby Peotone. In 2001, ex-Gov. George Ryan made a deal with a campaign contributor, who sold the state the first piece of land for what he and his IDOT cronies called a "protective land buy." The parcels were the undeveloped lots in an upscale housing development outside the airport boundaries. When Ryan left office, the parcels were released from the project.

The sale of that first piece gave Ryan his intended result. It was enough to scare some property owners into selling their land to the state. They employed additional techniques, such as threats of condemnation to coerce additional sales of family homes and farms. IDOT wasted no time in calling out the bulldozers to demolish what appeared to be perfectly livable homes and barns, speculating that one day they would build the South Suburban Airport.

But to this day, the Federal Aviation Administration has not approved the Peotone Airport. As far as that agency is concerned, the Peotone airport is not officially a project. That is likely why the state has not used its powers of condemnation. To do so would require proof that an airport project is imminent.

Resolutions signed by several towns and townships adjacent to the airport project as well as organizations against further land acquisition until a project is approved,  have been largely ignored by county and  legislative leaders, IDOT officials, and several governors.

All the folks of eastern Will County want are the same protections that Chicago afforded suburban O'Hare residents in the path of O'Hare expansion.

 O'Hare foes tied to Peotone

The Peotone project has been tied with O'Hare foes since funds were first awarded in the amount of $500,000 to the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association for airport capacity studies in '85.

Powerful legislators endorsed the Peotone plan as a means of cutting off O'Hare. Bensenville's former president, Geils had been one of the voices that have remained steadfast since those early days of the push for Peotone. He was involved in the once-powerful Suburban O'Hare Commission that was made up of several towns in the northwest suburbs, who saw a new airport as the remedy to their noise and pollution problems.

Over the years, the towns around O'Hare realized that continual lawsuits against Chicago and its airport were costly and not in their best interests. O'Hare was an economic engine that affected far more than Chicago. It was a benefit to their towns as well. As they saw that O'Hare was an asset they eventually dropped out of the Suburban O'Hare Commission. Soon, the only ones left were Bensenville and Elk Grove Village.

Immediately following last April's election when Geils was ousted by voters, Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson dropped plans to continue the fight against O'Hare.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Illinois to go for a Cargo Airport?

Are Illinois officials serious about turning the incredible shrinking airport planned in eastern Will County, Illinois, just 40 miles south of Chicago, into a cargo airport?

AllianceTexas DevelopmentIDOT's latest metamorphosis that went from an initial plan to build a mega-airport more than 3 times the size of O'Hare International Airport, to a one-runway commercial facility has now shifted toward a cargo airport. At least that was the gist of a recent news story in DC Velocity Magazine.

The magazine reported, that Will County and the State of Illinois would develop a cargo airport as part of an ambitious multimodal transport complex that would include up to four intermodal rail yards, access to three interstate highways, and up to 135 million square feet of industrial warehousing and distribution space.

This must be IDOT's latest we'll do anything, draw-at-straws option. A cargo airport would be risky, and costly. Only one such airport exists in the world.

Alliance Airport in Ft. Worth, Texas

Alliance Airport in Ft. Worth, Texas, is not just an airport. It is an entire one-of-a kind devel-opment built by Ross Perot, Jr. The airport is owned by the City of Fort Worth, but managed by Alliance Air Services.

The airport is a small part of the development plan which includes 17,000 acres of industrial warehousing, residential communities, corporate living, apartments, hotels, shopping, and even proximity to NASCAR's Texas International Speedway. The plan was so meticulous that it has even inventoried the 36,166 trees on the site. This is the world's first and presently the only in-dustrial airport.

The 5,900-acre airport opened in 1989. Since that time, it has become home to a collection of government, national, and international corporations. There are presently between 60 and 756,000 square feet of vacant industrial properties available for sale or rent within five minutes of the airport, according to the company's website.

Cargo-only airport eyed in Pennsylvania

In 2007, the FAA approved a $1.6 billion cargo-only airport in the Hazleton area of Pennsyl-vania, but it is in the very preliminary stages. By Peotone standards of development, the PA project would be at about the same stage that Peotone was in 1986.

According to the Pennsylvania State Legislative Budget and Finance Committee Report High-lights, "The proposed Hazleton cargo airport could follow a successful track, such as Alliance Fort Worth, or be unsuccessful, such as the North Carolina Global TransPark and MidAmerica Airport near St. Louis."

Peotone Airport opponents are well versed on IDOT's other pet project — the MidAmerica Air-port, calling it Peotone's  "poster child." Mid-America has been virtually void of activity for nearly its entire 11-year existence.

Market reported that John D. Kasarda, Ph.D., director of the Kenan Institute of North Carolina, Chapel Hill questioned the wisdom of trying to build a cargo-only airport.

Calling a cargo-only airport a "challenge," Kasarda said it would especially be a challenge in a greenfield site. He said getting regular air cargo service is difficult, even in a dynamic area.

First proposed in 2003, but still just talk

Illinois officials first discussed a cargo airport at Peotone in 2003 though it never got farther than the talking stage.

Susan Shea, IDOT's Director of Aeronautics Division, whose job description now includes five bureaus including The Bureau of the South Suburban Airport, may have missed those discus-sions since they took place prior to her appointment to the transportation department by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Shea was an Illinois bureaucrat, but rather than transportation, Shea worked in the education department.

The question of a cargo-only facility had been posed for many years, though it was given little credence. Because of a lack of interest by the airline industry, the state acknowledged that it could consider cargo, not passengers.

“Nothing has been ruled out,” said the 2003 IDOT Spokesman, Mike Monseur, at the time.

Monseur added that no decision had been made as to what kind of facility the Peotone airport would be. He indicated, however, that there had been discussion on just how to use the airport.

“Regarding making it solely a cargo or mixture of both hasn’t been determined,” he said.

Cargo industry suffers economic woes

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), global airlines are reporting just this week, losses in the range of $11 billion in 2009.

This far exceeds what was reported last year when the first gloomy predictions of $2.5 billion losses were made in March 2008. Revisions throughout the year were revised to as high as $9 billion in losses, but were still exceeded by economic reality.

Giovanni Bisignani, the chief executive of the IATA says such falling yields have never before been seen. And the IATA has been tracking yields for 64 years.

"North American carriers are expected to post losses of $2.6 billion, more than double the pre-viously forecast loss of $1 billion."

IDOT continues long-held patterns 

IDOT officials and another in a long line of Illinois governors continue the Peotone mantra de-spite current economic realities and grim predictions for recovery. As is customary, IDOT is remiss in seeing the big, and/or entire picture as it relates to Peotone.

Officials fail to consider the new cargo facility at the Chicago/Rockford International Airport, improvements and influx of cash to the Gary/Chicago International Airport, and the ongoing cargo operation at O'Hare.

Not only do officials ignore the unlikelyhood of success in developing a cargo-only facility when it has only been done once before, and by a man with seeming very deep pockets, but they gloss over the current chaos within the industry, borne out by real numbers, and the state's own budget shortfalls.

When it comes to the 40-year old discussion to build a new airport in the cornfields of eastern Will County, IDOT is disingenuous at best as it continues its pattern of unbelieveability and lack of credibility.
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Happy 21st RURAL, a personal reflection

Happy 21st Birthday RURAL, a personal reflection

Twenty-one years ago, my life took a little jog in the road. I haven't been the same since. My daughter Jenny was only 8; my son Chris was 7. I'm a grandmother now. I have found peace in retirement, in the State ofArkansas where my husband John and I moved almost five years ago. But as much as my life has changed, the steadfast resolve that grew out of that day remains unyielding.

Aug. 2, 1988 was the day RURAL (Residents United to Retain Agricultural Land) was born. That was the official day, yet the real change had taken place weeks earlier — in the spring — when John and I attended our first airport meeting. John was so angry he rarely attended another one. I on the other hand can't count the number of meetings I have attended over the years. John's anger turned into pure hatred. Mine started that way too but was tempered, unbeknownst to me at the time, by a strong desire to mother a movement.

John was incensed when state consultants Marjorie and Suhailal Chalabi, who are still with the project painting a rosy picture of a successful airport with thousands of jobs and thousands of passengers eager to shun Chicago airports just to fly out of Peotone, argued that planes would not make noise in the future. That was the first time I ever laid eyes on Aldo DeAngelis, the late state senator, the beloved Italian who charmed everyone around him, as long as you agreed with him. I didn't.

There were 13 of us at that first meeting, who were all appalled at what we had heard. We stood in the parking lot at the Beecher Community Hall where we held our own little 'after the meeting' meeting. I later learned these were necessary to de-program after such a meeting where there was always a purposeful assault to our intelligence.

On this night, I suggested we pass our phone numbers around. Brenda Thunhurst., of Crete, whipped out a tablet and pen where we all scribbled our names and numbers. She typed the list at work and sent it to all of us. I wonder where that piece of paper is now? I had all that information on another computer—on a 5 1/4" floppy disk—which is no longer compatible with today's systems. If only technology hadn't moved so quickly, I could just search my computer for it.

Hah, if only transportation technology had advanced at a similar rate we'd be taking bullet trains to get from one point to another.

Or if Illinois politics would have matured past its historical pay-to-play mentality, eastern Will County would be a very different place today.

RURAL's guiding principles, formed during those early days of the opposition to build a new airpor never wavered. Still in tact, they were transferred to STAND (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down). The overlying fact is that if something already exists — airports in Gary on the east, Milwaukee on the north, Rockford on the west, and Kankakee on the south — why build a new one?

If a farm economy is working and contributing to the region, why destroy it for an airport that could turn out like the state's white elephant Mid-America at Mascoutah? To be fair, we didn't know about Mid-America then. But once we learned about it, what a great poster child it turned out to be for what not todo.

The Peotone airport project has seen countless promoters over the years, all state-sponsored, paid by tax dollars, who have come and gone. They have taken as much from the taxpayers as they could get before they moved on, probably for more steady work or bigger paychecks. They have never looked back at the chaos they helped create or the people, property, community, and more that they have destroyed.

Even the project has changed. It has changed boundaries, size and focus. The state is searching for a winnable solution and so far, has not found one. I doubt it ever will. I have said for 21 years that an airport will not be built. I'd like to stand by that statement. But I can't. I have learned that all things are possible when the equation includes greed, power, corruption, dishonesty, and lack of responsibility, integrity, and morality. There is money and power to be amassed, so they continue.

Not only was RURAL life-changing in itself, but it also sparked my career. On Sept. 2, 1988, after never writing any more than letters to the editor, I achieved my first byline on a story published in Kankakee's Daily Journal. I was a correspondent until 1997 when I went to work full time there. That was when I convinced George Ochsenfeld to take over RURAL. I entrusted him with something I considered very special, but I had been a volunteer long enough. My kids were getting older. Money was an issue, so I voluntarily gave up RURAL to work as a journalist. My association with the Journal continued for two years. In '99 I went to work for Russell Publications, the weekly paper that covers several towns. Because of Russell's stance against the airport, I was more able to write about what I knew about the project without having to kow-tow to the multitude of official press releases that touted unsubstantiated claims about the project. I continued to report the facts.

One of the hardest things I have ever had to do was walk that fine line. But to the best of my ability I never compromised my integrity as a journalist based on my personal feelings. I did however; inject facts I knew into stories. Over time, reporters went to other papers or other jobs and the real meat of the airport story became lost in all those press releases with a few quotes thrown in from our side. The knowledge of past events that shaped today's happenings had all been lost. At that point, I became an advocacy journalist, reporting from a historical perspective.

Laid off now, I continue to write on-line and in this and other blogs. I still consult with George and STAND. And I have a lot of time for reflection. Perhaps one day I will announce a new book in this very blog.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

More Peotone versus O'Hare

The curtain has been drawn on airport rhetoric recently. That is, at least until the potential for an influx of federal cash to aid the O'Hare Modernization program took center stage this week.

Now it is lights, camera, and action, as the U.S. Congress agrees on a $789 billion economic stimulus plan that could include funds for O'Hare.

While there is no proof that O'Hare funds did make it into the stimulus package as of this writing, it is known that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley flew to Washington, D.C. to lobby for the stimulus bill.

Daley was flanked by a host of Democratic leaders who pushed for Illinois' share of the stimulus package for myriad blue-collar workers. Daley's concerns include the CTA, community colleges, the park district, streetlights, and sewers.

Daley indicated, according to published reports, that $50 million would keep the O'Hare Modernization Plan on track. Without it, the program might fall behind the scheduled 2014 completion date, just two years before the 2016 Summer Olympics.

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Chicago, who felt the stimulus bill should focus on job creation, was one of the House members who voted for the initial appropriation that would have included $30 billion for highway construction, $31 billion to modernize public infrastructure, $3 billion for airport improvements, and $10 billion for public transit and rail.

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Chicago, who initially voted against the stimulus package as did other members of the Republican Party, suggested using all the money allotted to Illinois for O'Hare expansion.

As has been consistent during the past twenty years, whenever O'Hare funds are discussed, talk about Peotone cannot be far behind.

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., was not among the Illinois delegation that favors using stimulus funds for O'Hare expansion. In fact Jackson specifically stated that no stimulus funds should be used for O'Hare.

Instead, Jackson claims Peotone is a better project and can be built without stimulus money.

He claims Peotone is a better alternative to adding 100,000 flights toIllinois, and that O'Hare expansion will cost $20 billion while Peotone will cost only $500 million. And he notes that Peotone would be built with money from private investors, not taxpayers.

With the exception of the constant massaging of pie-in-the-sky projections, little is available to back up Jackson's claims, however. Jackson never mentions that the Federal Aviation Administration has not approved building his pet project. His rants are silent about efforts by what would be the hosting county -- Will County -- to provide governance if an airport is built. Will County's plans are in direct competition with Jackson's self-appointed airport authority, the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission. And his arguments are void of discussion about the millions of dollars that additional infrastructure would cost to access an airport in a farm community with its one-lane network of country roads.

Jackson's voice is not alone. While he is the soloist, the real music comes from the backup chorus – the long-standing opponents of O'Hare expansion, including Bensenville President John Geils and Attorney Joseph Karaganis. The latest website devoted to O'Hare expansion opposition is Stop the O'Hare Modernization Program.

But when President Obama called for an economic stimulus package that would include "shovel-ready" projects that would create jobs, the O'Hare Modernization program fills the bill.

The stimulus package approved by the House was originally $819 billion. The Senate approved an $838 billion version of the bill. The two finally settled on a compromise of $789 billion.
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