Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Indiana, Illinois Farmers Rally To Protect Farmland

Farmers from Indiana and Illinois will combine to form a 50 mile parade to demonstrate what they believe would be lost to the proposed Illiana Tollway.  The State of Illinois has passed legislation allowing the use of quick take eminent domain for the Illiana.

Press release from Sierra Club on the parade:

"On Saturday October 11, 2014 opponents to the Illiana toll road will form a parade to demonstrate their dissent against the loss of rural heritage, farmland, businesses and homes. The parade with assemble at 7:30 am from the two ends of the proposed road corridor route, meeting in the middle at the Will County Fair Grounds at 2:00 pm for a rally. Participants from Indiana, Eastern Will County and Kankakee County will line up at 153rd Avenue and I-65. Western Will County residents will begin in Wilmington, Illinois at 30115 Readman Lane and east I-55 Frontage Road.  

The Illiana Toll road is a proposed 47-mile road that would cut through and destroy 2,600 acres of prime farmland, paving over 40 farms, including centennial farms, stripping people of their land and livelihoods. Traffic to the Illiana will also disturb the peace and interfere with funeral processions of people paying their respects to veterans interred at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.
According to regional planning experts at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the Illiana would “provide negligible traffic benefits”. The Illiana exposes the states of Illinois and Indiana to considerable financial risk, with Illinois taxpayers potentially on the hook for $440 million to $1.1 billion to compensate the road’s private investors if toll revenue is insufficient. It will divert scarce funding and attention away from critical transportation needs throughout the region. No project is immune.
Virginia Hamann, President of ‘No Illiana 4 US’ explains:

“This land is not only rich in soil but rich in heritage of farmers whom instill the art and lessons of being good stewards of our land to produce crops, livestock and food for their families, our region, our country and the world. This way of life and hard work has been passed on from generation to generation for over 175 years in this region. The Illiana would forever change this - destroying valuable farmland and at least 1/3 of the 75 registered, and numerous others unregistered, Centennial Farms in Will County, IL.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Letter to the Editor: Independent Analysis of Alternatives to Peotone Airport Needed

Will County News received the following letter to the editor.  Letters can be sent to willcountynews@gmail.com
Dear Editor,
The Chicago region’s five commercial airports—O’Hare, Midway, Rockford, Milwaukee, and Gary—can meet the aviation industry’s needs for the foreseeable future.  That’s what airlines have been telling the Illinois political apparatus for more than a generation.
Nevertheless, a rhetorical merry-go-round continues circling above the eastern Will County countryside where the state has spent $76 million on land for a sixth regional airport.  

Gov. Quinn claims Peotone is “closer than ever to becoming an economic engine for Illinois.”  State Sen. Toi Hutchinson envisions thousands  of “manufacturing, logistics, and transportation jobs.”  U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly predicts a 2016 groundbreaking. In 1996, Kelly’s predecessor—then first-term congressman, Jesse Jackson Jr.–claimed a 2000 groundbreaking would lead to 236,000  “immediate” jobs.

The politicians speak from a script prepared by the Illinois Department of Transportation.  Since 1985, IDOT “studies” have created the perception that a sixth regional airport would only be the third.

Springfield’s decades-old, smoke-and-mirrors game includes a strategy to ignore on-the-ground reality—e.g. a 2005 resolution adopted by a half dozen units of local government, the Will County Farm Bureau, and community group Shut This Airport Nightmare Down. The Peotone community has been so beaten down as to have forgotten their demand for an  “independent study” of all viable alternatives. 

Illinois' next governor owes the people of our state what the people of eastern Will County saw the need for nine years ago.  May we please see a legitimate analysis of “airport-related costs and benefits based on various scenarios, including an assumption that a Peotone airport would attract no daily commercial passenger service for many years, if ever?” 

Bob Heuer

Friday, August 8, 2014

Letter to the Editor on Quinn's Visit to Bult Field, Future South Suburban AIrport

Note: After Governor Quinn's visit to Bult Field, I received this letter to the editor from George Ochsenfeld, President of STAND.

"Letter to Editor,
Governor Pat Quinn is once again spending taxpayer money in an effort to buy votes for reelection. Using an old ploy, he is claiming that an airport near Peotone will bring economic development to Chicago’s south suburbs. To make this illusion look real, Quinn authorized the State of Illinois to spend $47 million during the last year to buy land for the South Suburban Airport, even though the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not given final approval to the project, there is no funding, no support from airlines, and no adequate surrounding infrastructure.
Governor Quinn went to the Peotone area recently [August 7] to tout the states’ recent $34 million purchase of Bult Field, a small private airport within the proposed South Suburban Airport site, as a step toward jobs. Such shenanigans are a cruel hoax on south suburbanites, destructive to the Peotone farming community, and a misuse of taxpayer money for Quinn’s political gain. Especially tragic, the State is using eminent domain to forcefully take farms and homes.
Since the State does not pay property tax, the purchase of Bult Field and other recent acquisition, reduces revenue to the township and to local school, library, and fire districts. The tiny Beecher school district will lose $92,000 annually. Local taxpayers will have to make up the difference.
Governor Quinn’s administration is currently under federal investigation for a $54 million ‘anti-violence program,’ in which money was doled out in heavily Democratic  areas during his 2010 reelection campaign. Will Quinn be the third  Illinois Governor in a row to go to prison?
George Ochsenfeld, Monee, Illinois
President of STAND (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down)"

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Illiana Expressway Lawsuit Letter to the Editor

Editor's Note: Any person or group wishing to submit a letter to the editor can email a letter to: willcountynews@gmail.  To read the lawsuit brought by Openlands and the Sierra Club against IDOT, Ann Schneider, the Board of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the MPO Policy Committee, go here.

Dear Editor,
I wish to comment on the recent Lawsuit filed by ELPC, Openlands, Sierra Club against IDOT,
Ann Schneider, CMAP Board & MPO Policy Committee.

This is an AWESOME action & has been in question since the day of the MPO Policy Committee Meeting on Oct. 17, 2013 in Chicago.  Randy Blankenhorn from the CMAP Board questioned whom held the ultimate
legal clout, the CMAP Board or MPO Policy Committee, Randy argued at the meeting that the CMAP
Board had the ultimate say.  It was obvious being in the audience as well as speaking that the political
pressure in the room was stifling.

As a land/ property owner in the direct path of the Illiana I & my family & neighbors think that this is a
WONDERFUL development and pray that it puts this proposed project to rest.  The Illiana/IDOT/IDOT team
keep touting JOBS, JOBS, JOBS when in reality it will only produce 874 long term jobs.  My question is
that studies were not done properly to compile and report HOW MANY JOBS WILL BE LOST AS WELL
AS BUSINESS AFFECTED?  Since contrary to Ann Schneiders belief that this is VACANT land out here,
with the effect on the Food Chain in removing between 3300-6600 acres of Agricultural Land.  That is a
HUGE impact removing between 22.3 million & 44.6 million boxes of corn flakes per year.  Since the average yield in Will Co. Illinois is 178 bushels/acre and each bushel of corn produces 38 boxes of corn flakes.
The result of this in a drought year may result in no corn flakes or raising the cost to up to $10.00 a box.

You would think that EVERY TAXPAYER in the entire State of IL would be concerned about this project since
it is the 'Road to No Where' , which will resemble the White Elephant Airport in Mouscatau , IL down south.
The Illiana is NOTHING MORE than POLITICAL GERRYMANDERING since it is only be used to try to
achieve votes in my personal opinion.  Since anymore our elected officials ARE NOT public servants representing
the public and those that elected them to the position as public offices were meant to represent according to George Washington himself, INSTEAD our elected officials use our tax dollars NOT to the most fiscally responsible use but to create more debt for the public and voters whom elected them to serve.  

It truly saddens me that our ENTIRE COUNTRY GOVERNMENT has become so SELFISH, SELF-CENTERED
AND UNPROFESSIONAL.  Since when is it okay & such standard practice for government to steal & threaten its citizens with eminent domain and such disregard for AGRICULTURE, the business that feeds their families,neighbors, states, country & the World?  
 I truly hope that this and the first lawsuit filed put this project to rest so as the land/ property owners maypeacefully live their lives.

IDOT/ILLIANA/INDOT need to focus their energies on fixing their existing infrastructure especially Illinois since
on their last reportcard they received a D on their state roadways.  IDOT and the State of IL CANNOT & DO NOT take care of the roadways & infrustructure they have , Hell there are roadways in Will County alone that are in such deplorable dangerous conditions that someone will soon be killed just as happened on Rt. 45 several
years ago when it was in BAD shape and then and only then did IDOT do their job and repair the roadway that
had been in such deplorable/dangerous shape for quite some time as has been just to name 1 roadway Rt 52
east of Wilton Center.  

This project is wrong for so many reasons, the purpose & need is not justified those of us that live out in this
area are fully aware that the numbers reported to justify the need have been GROSSLY OVERINFLATED since
we see the daily traffic and it is no where near the numbers ILLIANA/IDOT/INDOT have used to show need for
this proposed road., The destruction of VALUABLE FARMLAND, endangered species both land & water, the
compromising of the A rated Kankakee River, the effect on Midewin, Abraham Lincoln National Cemetary,
Historic Route 66.  The destruction of numerous Farming Operations, to include their employees, numerous
home based business along the path.  The risk due to road closures to property/land owners Fire/ Police/Ambulance protection, school bus time increases as well as time added to the residents daily lives .  I could go on and on as to why this is a bad deal for every taxpayer in the state of Illinois but the local residents have been bringing up all of these points but it is NEVER properly reported.

One more thought on the lawsuit is that the CMAP Board's vote against the Illiana was the justified vote since the  Illiana CLEARLY VIOLATES THE GOTO 2040 PLAN that the CMAP Board , All the Conservation Groups, as well numerous communities & residents worked endless hours to create for the GOOD OF THE ENTIRE METROPOLITIAN AREA.

So how dare the MPO Policy Committee blatantly disregard the GOTO 2040 Plan & violate its principals and pass it ALL for the sake of political votes, which is my opinion of what took place in that room as I was there.
Of course unions are in support of ANY construction project to put members to work in tough times.  However, they could put huge numbers of union members to work if the State of IL would simply fix, maintain, repair, and upgrade the infrastructure they already have in place and has been let to disintegrate to DANGEROUS conditions.  You know when people you meet ask what state you are from in is TRULY embarrassing to tell them you are from Illinois, due to it being the most corrupt state in the union an award that is truly NOT anything to be proud of.


I pray & hope that our court system recognizes the obvious that CMAP Board has the legal decision and uphold the GOTO 2040 Plan as the Illiana Tollroad would violate & destroy the plan. 

 Virginia Hamann

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Letter to the Editor: Illiana Tollway

Will County News Viewpoints received the following letter to the editor from Anthony Rayson.  Any individual or group wishing to submit a letter to the editor can send them to: willcountynews@gmail.com.

"Dear Editor,   

 IDOT and INDOT are fast-tracking the process of imposing the private / foreign run Illiana tollway.
"Public meetings" - their usual dog-n-pony shows, are to be held on Tuesday, Feb. 18th, from 5 to 8 pm at Lowell Middle School and on the 19th at Local 150 Training Center, near Wilmington.  This will fulfill their requirement of getting public input on their Tier 2 Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Why isn't it being held at Wilmington High School?  The people of Local 150 would pave through the Garden of Eden, if given a fat government contract!  If the Lowell schools are closed, they'll move it to Hebron, several miles past the proposed Illiana.  No input from affected residents was ever sought on these locations, but they do want "consistent stakeholder input" to make their job of rustling the farmland easier.  We'll get 2 minutes to speak!  The gun to our collective heads is wrapped in velvet.

The people of Illinois and Indiana are being taken for a long - and very dangerous ride, rubber- stamped by the gutless politicians, buttered up to approve it.  The ultimate destination?  Bankruptcy! 
 As always, we the people have to be the ones to fight for the genuine interests of our communities.

       Anthony Rayson, Outreach Coordinator for NOILLIANA4US.  Monee, IL  "

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Illiana Expressway and Summer Hours

Note: I wrote this letter to CMAP--The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning---in  huge rush during the last hour the agency was accepting public comment on whether to include the Illiana Expressway in the GOTO2040 Regional Plan.  Reading it now, I cringe at some of the hyperbole and a tone that the teeters on the edge of deserving what my cousin would label "anti-reality, holier-than-thou-Whole-Foods-hippiness."  BUT, any tone of anger or desperation or exasperation comes from hearing warehouse workers describe their experience working in Will County warehouses,  from experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault:

to issues over working conditions:

Hearing these stories makes my blood boil.  Is there any reason it really needs to be this way, besides, as Pope Francis said, the tyranny of unfettered capitalism?

I also have a personal, indirect connection to the Illiana Expressway.  The farm where my grandparents lived is right next door to CenterPoint's Joliet Intermodal on Brandon Road and is surrounded by some of the truck traffic that experts say is necessitating the Illiana.  My grandma was one of a few people who rejected a CenterPoint buyout offer.  When considering whether to the sell the place where she raised eight kids with her beloved husband, she concluded: "there isn't enough money in all the kingdom."  My grandpa built basically everything on the farm by hand and since they grew a huge garden each year, planting the new garden is like reliving the past and remembering those who have passed away.  It's tradition to have a huge garden and then in the evening have dinners together  with home-grown lettuce, kale, tomato, cucumber, and onion.   Basically, it was like an American, Midwest version of some of the emotions evoked when the family gathers at the family home in the French Film Summer Hours.  And, like in the film, globalism changes things you never thought would change, whether your brother moves to China to sell shoes for Puma or the night sky is lit up with the huge lights from the intermodal and the sound of the trains is never really out of earshot.  So, here's my letter to CMAP, it's a little out there and rant-ish (and sorry about the hash-tags, it was late) but I think policy-makers and elected officials should seriously look at the issues of bringing back US manufacturing and more middle-class jobs.  If Illinois and Indiana build the Illiana, I would like to see more goods Made in the USA traveling through the heart of Will County.

Dear CMAP,

I am writing to urge that CMAP not support any alignment for the proposed Illiana Expressway.  

I have witnessed thousands of acres of Will County's fertile farmland paved over for suburban sprawl.   Few of the new subdivisions are within walking distances to community gathering spaces and stores.  Most are located around arterial roads lined with boring, ugly, big box stores.  Convenient?  Yes.  Good for the US economy?  Filled with Goods Made in the USA?  Providing family-supporting wages? Sustainable? Not so much. I feel the Illiana Expressway would just lead to more land being paved over for an unsustainable, sprawling warehouse region polluted with truck exhaust. 

Everyone knows one of the main reasons the Illiana is being proposed in the first place is because of the truck traffic coming from the warehouses and the intermodals.  My great-grandparent's farms were sold to the US government to create the Joliet Arsenal.  My great-aunt and other relatives worked in the Joliet Arsenal to produce the TNT that was used in the bombs manufactured for WWII.  When they built Centerpoint-Elwood near the former Arsenal, the job were supposed to help fill the void of employment left when the Arsenal closed.  Instead of good jobs, we got crappy warehouse jobs, to get right to the point.  I work a full-time job and a part-time job so I don't have the time to sort through all the data to say exactly what percentage of the jobs are temporary or what the accurate wage of the workers who get those temp jobs is.  BUT---I desperately hope CMAP has researched this and read articles including ProPublica's article "The Expendables: How The Temps Who Power Corporate Giants are Getting Crushed," and  Mother Jone's article "I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave."  When asked about the issues of low-wages, temp work, and lack of benefits, the people in charge of these temp companies and warehouses sometimes say the warehouses offer an employment opportunity for people with few other prospects.  Is that true?  Probably.  Is that the best this Country can do? No.    We need to support projects that will grow sustainable, environmentally-friendly family-supporting jobs.  We need to bring back manufacturing, not build a super-highway for goods made overseas.  I feel we need to go more towards renewable energy and buy locally.  Basically, what sort of economy would the Illiana support?

Which is not to say I don't see the need to do SOMETHING about the trucks.  Just a few weeks ago I read an article in the Tribune about an entire family who was killed when a semi rear-ended them in a construction zone.  I drive Illinois Route 53 and I-55 almost every day and with the amount of truck traffic it is just a statistical reality that the roads are overloaded and dangerous.  So, I realize that any hippy, true-hugging ideas I have are not as important as the public's safety.  I don't think the Illiana is the only way to make the roads safer, however, and hope CMAP can come up with a better solution.  In a perfect world, we could all drive less-making more room for the trucks--and buy less---creating less demand for the trucks.  Will that every happen?  Who knows.  But, as regional planners, I think CMAP could make the argument that we need to reduce the number of passenger cars on the road to make room for the trucks and use more rail to move the semi-trailers. 

I have heard from a lot of neighbors at the Illiana meetings that they are concerned the State of Illinois is broke and should not be using money it doesn't have to FORCE people to sell their land for a project---or projects if you include the Peotone AIrport---that may or may not happen.  How can you make farmers sell their home, their dream, what they've worked their whole life for, before we even know how the financing would work?  Would the State be stuck with maintaining the Road if the investors go bankrupt?

 I have attended numerous local meetings discussing the new intermodal/warehouse behemoth being built at Ridgeport.  I heard part of it is  going to be for moving lettuce and other produce more quickly from California to the Midwest.  I just could not get over that.  We are paving over our own soil---some of the best in the world---so that we can get our California lettuce.  #Sad #Depressing  #Unsustainable #I Buy Lettuce From California Too Want But Want More Local Options

Disclosure: I am not sure what the rules are for making this comment to CMAP, but, if it matters, I own the YouTube and Blog Channels Will County News and have covered the Illiana Corridor Study Process and videotaped Illiana Public Meetings.  

Thanks for your time in reading this.

Ann Baskerville