Rezko International Airport

Um, wow?

Top Jesse Jackson Jr. aide Rick Bryant tells a Tony Rezko tale to eNews Park Forest that rings all too true. (via Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax)

“The Illinois Senate quietly approved a bill this spring that would have steered the proposed third airport down a path of pay-to-play politics – and certain doom.

“I know, because Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko attempted to lead Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. down that same path two years ago – a proposal Jackson flatly rejected.”

Here’s the meat of it:

“At the time, the governor was running for re-election and facing angry south suburban leaders who were running a massive ad campaign criticizing Blagojevich for reneging on his promise to build the airport.

“Feeling heat from his voter base, the governor agreed to have two of his top aides meet with Jackson and [the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission].

“At the last minute, however, there was a change of plans. Instead of meeting with the Governor’s aides, we would be meeting with Tony Rezko.

“So, on Sunday, June 25, 2006, at the Chicago Four Seasons Hotel, Rezko showed up by himself. He said he could offer gubernatorial support for ALNAC’s airport plan – if the governor were allowed to make key appointments to ALNAC’s Board.”


5 responses to “Rezko International Airport

  1. Rep David Miller

    Halvorson’s “Special Interest” Airport Bill
    By State Rep. David Miller

    Now that the third airport debate has resurfaced, it’s important to put the latest “special interest airport bill” sponsored by State Senator Debbie Halvorson (Senate Bill 2063) into context. I am well situated to place it in this context because I sought an opinion from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to determine the correct path for building a new airport. A similar request was made of the Attorney General by Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow.

    Several Illinois laws – including the Municipal Code, Aeronautics Act, Joint Airports Act, Intergovernmental Cooperation Act and the Illinois State Constitution – all authorize the construction of airports in Illinois.
    O’Hare, Midway, Joliet, Lansing, Rockford – all were built under these statutes, as were virtually every commercial airfield in Illinois for a century, including several airports in Will County.

    But SB 2063 proposed a new “special interest” airport law. It would allow “private actors” appointed by politicians to serve as commissioners to oversee the construction, development and management of the Abraham Lincoln National Airport. More specifically, this new law would have prohibited elected officials (read: accountable) from running an airport, but require private citizens (read: unaccountable political contributors and influence peddlers) to do so.

    That model – infamously employed by the Teachers Retirement Fund and the Illinois Healthcare Facilities Planning Board – is what landed Antoin “Tony” Rezko in prison.
    Cynics might suggest that contributors be barred from serving on an airport board, but there is another problem with unaccountable “private citizens”, “appointed” to run an airport. We simply cannot ignore the history of Illinois politics – “don’t send noboby who nobody sent.” In short, the Halvorson Bill, SB 2063, would bring the “Chicago patronage way” to the south suburban airport, by allowing certain politicians, in state and county government to make appointments of “private actors” to the airport board.

    That would sound the death knell for the airport because it would discourage the only means for paying for the airport. The federal government doesn’t build airports, the State of Illinois can’t afford to build an airport, and no private developer will invest in a facility run by unaccountable actors.

    SB 2063 was noteworthy for another reason: integrity. ALNAC governments devised a plan, and identified the means of financing the construction of the facility. ALNAC then organized itself to secure the plan and the financing consistent with Illinois law. Since public financing is not available for the construction of the airport, Halvorson’s legislation essentially tells the private sector to take it or leave it. Do business the way we do business or not at all. If you want to do business in Will County you need to “court” a commission of “private actors.” This is the model that is making our state unfriendly to business.

    SB 2063 was suspiciously noteworthy for another reason: transparency. It passed without fanfare or publicity by its sponsor, the Majority Leader of the State Senate. It’s almost unimaginable that legislation effecting one the most contentious issues facing the south suburbs in 30 years managed to “slip through” the Illinois Senate without public notice. (Fortunately, the bill died in the Illinois House.) Lastly, on the same date of its passage in the Illinois Senate, after having learned of his newly gained status (5 appointments to the airport board), Will County Executive and former Senator Larry Walsh was so ecstatic that he celebrated and was arrested later that same evening for driving under the influence according to The Joliet Herald News.

    The makeup of the new airport board is very important to the prospect of this airport. ALNAC’s plan is designed to protect not only the future of our region, but future airport commissioners from doing something wrong. And it’s a model that is free from Chicago style politics and insider deals.

    ALNAC’s participating governments have studied airports. ALNAC has been endorsed by the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The SouthtownStar, The Defender, The Hammond Times, The Kankakee Daily Journal and more. They have participated in public debates and conceived a model that minimizes risk. They have entered into intergovernmental agreements of common and shared purpose to create 15,000 jobs during an economic slowdown. They have secured $300 million in private sector commitments. And they have eliminated bogus “finders fees”, “unnecessary consultants” and hidden patronage.

    ALNAC’s private developers partner, meanwhile, who have built airports around the world, have said repeatedly that they have no tolerance for Chicago-style graft and corruption.

    If Will County truly wanted to build an airport, not only would they join ALNAC’s lead, which is legal and tested, they would have followed the existing statutes that built dozens of airports in our state, which ALNAC did and Attorney General Lisa Madigan confirmed. But they did not. Instead, they sought to circumvent existing statutes and create “special interest legislation” that does not serve the state or the interest of the people.

    Halvorson tries to defend her opposition to ALNAC (actually, Cong. Jesse Jackson Jr.) by saying “I won’t let Chicago politicians tell us what to do.” Yet, she admits to meeting with Mayor Daley on airport financing; asking Congressman Rahm Emanuel for strategic advice; seeking Gov. Blagojevich’s legislative support; and serving as Emil Jones’ majority leader.

    In short, Senator Halvorson relies on the Chicago machine for just about everything, yet attempts to bad mouth Congressman Jackson as a “bigwig from Chicago.”

    Halvorson says it’s about “local control.” ALNAC is run by University Park, a Will County home-rule community that borders the airport footprint, and is legally constituted under existing statutes. Someone should tell Halvorson that there is a difference between local control and Rezko control.

  2. SB2063 is wrong, but not for the reason stated. It is wrong because it violates the wishes of the public that as a state senator, Debbie Halvorson is supposed to represent. She claimed her legislation came from business, labor, and government. One thing is missing – the people.

    The official position of 3 of the 5 towns surrounding the project, whose leaders do represent their constituents, is opposition to an airport. Several surveys indicate that a majority of Will County residents are not in favor of an eastern Will County airport.

    Residents who have suffered with the political football that is the Peotone airport have been told that if there are no airlines, there will be no airport. There are no airlines. The state has no money to rebuild the billions of dollars of infrastructure needed. There will likely be no airport. And if there is no airport, there is no need to fight about who will control said airport.

    Furthermore, when Jesse Jackson, Jr. sought a $239,000 earmark to be used by ALNAC, questioned by taxpayer watchdogs, in trying to sell the idea to his colleagues, he stated that the airport would benefit one of the poorest communities in the state because “the airport abuts Ford Heights.”

    Wrong! The project is not even located within Jackson’s 2nd congressional district. Nor does it abut Ford Heights, a Cook County community. The site of the project is in the 11th District, wholly in Will County.

  3. Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission
    “Building Chicagoland’s Third Airport”

    Hon. Al McCowan, Chairman

    If all the demands for “local control” of the new airport weren’t so stubbornly uninformed, they’d be comical.

    State Sen. Debbie Halvorson and Congressman Jerry Weller sound like broken records when they repeat their only concern about the airport is “local control, local control, local control.”

    Guess what? The Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission is locally controlled.

    I am the chairman of ALNAC. I am also the mayor of University Park, a Will County community. I live in Will County. And I pay Will County taxes.

    ALNAC’s vice chairman is John Ostenburg. He is mayor of Park Forest, another Will County community.

    We formed ALNAC four years ago under the same state laws used by virtually every other airport commission in Illinois. In short, we didn’t seek special treatment in Springfield.

    More importantly, we designed a world-class airport (which IDOT adopted) and secured $300 million in private funds to pay for it, so Will County taxpayers won’t foot the bill.

    Finally, we opened ALNAC to all Will County mayors of home-rule municipalities, in accordance to state law and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s guidance.

    Park Forest and University Park border the airport. Our communities want an airport, but one that is friendly to the local environment. That’s why ALNAC is run by local elected officials, who are accountable to local voters, sensitive to local needs – and committed to creating 15,000 local jobs during the worst economy in a generation.

    Frankly, I cannot think of an airport with more ”local control.”

    But if anyone can prove that University Park is not in Will County, let me know. Then our residents can stop paying Will County taxes.

    Al McCowan
    Mayor of University Park and Chairman of ALNAC

  4. Dear David, Al,
    A friend from out of state (FL) just asked me when he will be able to land at Peotone’s Airport. Can you advise whether that will be in 1999, 2010, or 2030, he’s buying tickets soon to avoid the rush.

  5. So its 2010…Where is everyone now ???
    No less that 12 bills in the Illinois legislator for funding the 3rd airport!! JOBS FOR MAIN STREET!!! LaHood, the concrete lobbyer, is Sec of Transportation! Did I say 90% of Airport expansions are funded by the FAA ? The latest is the surveying of lands and IDOT eminent domain.
    Walt, looks like 2012 to me— tell your friend…although if you have a Boeing corporate jet…fly into Bult fiels…he expanded his runway.
    Looks like its the O’BAMA INTERNATIONAL!
    Daley/Rezco/Blago/Obama = CHANGE you might believe in !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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