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O’Hare Expansion Debate Heats Up

Wed August 15, 2001 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

A group of government officials this past Sunday challenged the massive public relations campaign of Chicago, the Fortress O’Hare airlines, and the downtown media that O’Hare expansion is a done deal. And they promised at a press conference sponsored by the Suburban O’Hare Commission to lead a massive region-wide campaign to stop O’Hare expansion and build the South Suburban Airport.

O’Hare expansion is not a done deal here, nor is it a done deal in Congress, was the message from top state and federal politicians, including Congressmen Henry Hyde and Jesse Jackson Jr., Illinois Senate President James "Pate" Philip, and Illinois House Minority Leader Lee Daniels. Instead, they have declared an alliance with a bipartisan group of Democrat and Republican leaders from communities all over the metropolitan area (Chicago Southside, South and Southwest Suburbs, DuPage County and O’Hare area communities) who promised to make the intertwined issues of stopping O’Hare expansion and third airport construction the centerpiece of the 2002 election campaign.

They emphasized that expanding O’Hare -- even on a piecemeal basis now suggested as a false "compromise" by the Fortress O’Hare airlines -- will kill the South Suburban Airport or make it a "white elephant" like Mid-America near St. Louis. Further, they noted that piecemeal O’Hare expansion that would start with a northern runway would create a "triple parallel" east-west configuration that would feed massive traffic increases and associated noise and toxic air pollution over Elk Grove Village, Des Plaines, Park Ridge, and DuPage County communities.

Signing the Pledge: Stop O’Hare Expansion and Build the South Suburban Airport Now

At a downtown news conference, the group urged other elected officials and political candidates to "sign the pledge," promising to oppose O’Hare expansion and support the construction of a major south suburban airport. The group emphasized that politicians who refuse to sign the pledge will be identified to the hundreds of thousands of citizens throughout the region who oppose O’Hare expansion and favor the south suburban airport.

"The political reality is that a critical percentage of Gov. Ryan’s winning margin came from Chicago’s suburbs; and no candidate, of either party, can win statewide office without significant suburban support," said John Geils, chairman of the Suburban O’Hare Commission and president of the Village of Bensenville.

"Today’s political reality is that the swing vote comes from the suburbs, and no issue is as important in the coming gubernatorial and statewide election as the region’s aviation future," said Craig Johnson, SOC vice chair and mayor of Elk Grove Village. "The suburbs are forming a bipartisan coalition, extending from Will County to northwest Cook County, that demands two things:

"First, a real south suburban airport, that will attract airlines and economic growth, not the symbolic nod of a single runway, a half dozen gates and a windsock that some are suggesting will emerge from a backroom deal. This meaningless airport will do no one any good, and will fail to provide the economic incentives that will bring economic justice and parity to the region’s Southland. Even Chicago’s Mayor Daley now acknowledges that the region needs a major new airport -- only he wants to build it on top of O’Hare. We say build the major new airport now at Peotone."

"Second, a halt to the O’Hare expansion boondoggle that O’Hare’s dominant airlines and their pals in Chicago’s City Hall want to impose on taxpayers and the hundreds of thousands of residents whose lives will be diminished, if not endangered, by O’Hare expansion," Johnson said.

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