Kadner: Quinn’s ‘sad’ leadership ripped at ALNAC meeting
Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-6787 September 10, 2012 4:42PM
Rick Bryant, chief of staff for Rep. Jesse Jackson .Jr., at this mornings meeting of the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission in South Holland. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 12, 2012 6:12AM
Angry Southland mayors, civic leaders and ministers on Monday labeled Gov. Pat Quinn’s unfulfilled promises to build a third Chicago-area airport “pretty sad” and “downright frustrating.”
During a meeting of the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission, Southland leaders threatened Quinn and local legislators with a voter rebellion if they fail to move the airport near Peotone forward.
Al McCowan, ALNAC chairman, also chastised Southland legislators for failing to attend Monday’s meeting on the airport, which he said would create jobs for the unemployed of their communities.
He did, however, laud state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) for arranging a meeting last week between ALNAC’s executive board and officials from the four Will County “iron ring” communities that surround the planned airport site.
Those four towns — Beecher, Crete, Monee and Peotone — have refused invitations to join ALNAC and have sided in the past with Will County officials who want to control the airport’s governing body.
McCowan said Hutchinson had focused on areas of agreement between ALNAC and the four suburbs, and “we all agreed we want this airport built.” Last week’s meeting was described as cordial and helpful by the ALNAC officials, who said another meeting had been scheduled.
ALNAC’s executive board — which includes the mayors of Elk Grove Village, South Holland and Park Forest — allowed several citizens to engage in lengthy Quinn-bashing during the public participation portion of Monday’s meeting.
Bishop G. H. Brewton, of the Ministers Conference of South Cook County Inc., called for public action to force the governor and legislators to push forward the creation of a third airport, as did Al Penn, founder of the Friends of ALNAC, a citizens group launched to support creation of the third airport.
Brewton said that during a meeting with citizens prior to being elected governor, Quinn had promised to support the airport and make it a reality if elected. Brewton said the governor had failed to fulfill his promise, and Southland voters should be reminded of that in the next election.
But Brewton noted that Quinn might not run for re-election and might be more interested in “putting together his retirement package.”
Addressing critics who have said northwest suburban Elk Grove Village should not have been allowed to join the airport commission, McCowan said the suburb had put up more than $4 million in seed money to launch ALNAC.
“The south suburbs didn’t have that kind of money to invest, and we wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Elk Grove Village,” said McCowan, the former mayor of University Park, which was a founding member of ALNAC.
Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson said he has heard criticism that he’s only on the commission to stop expansion of O’Hare International Airport, which borders his village, “but that’s been over for four years.”
Johnson said he’s on the commission to support economic expansion “because I believe economic development in the south suburbs will benefit Elk Grove Village.”
A litany of speakers described increased unemployment, homelessness and rising property tax rates in the Southland that have created an economic crisis in the region.
All of that is true. And it’s also true that Southland legislators have done a lousy job of standing up for their constituents in Springfield.
“We’ve been nice guys for too long,” McCowan said, and the mayors present pledged to start putting public pressure on Quinn and local lawmakers.
But I’m skeptical about such threats.
The mayors and even many ministers lobby Springfield for state funding and often sell out the long-term interests of their constituents for a few handfuls of gold.
They kiss the rings of the politicians who hand out a few million for a bridge improvement project, a day care grant or some parks funding — money that belongs to the taxpayers in the first place, not the lawmakers.
As for Quinn, his spokeswoman said “construction of the third airport remains a top priority for the governor and any criticism is unfounded.”
She said the Legislature did fail to include money to acquire land for the airport in its 2013 fiscal year budget, but the state has acquired 106 of the 134 properties required to build the airport.
“We continue to work through the governance issue with officials in Cook, Will and Kankakee counties,” she said, adding that Quinn realizes the airport would be a huge economic engine for the Southland.
“Anyone pointing the finger at us is misdirected,” she said. “We are navigating a path forward to address the governance issue.’