Public Watchdog.org

How About Two O’Hare Referendum Questions On April ’11 Ballot?

11.29.10

We’re guessing that when 7,592 Park Ridge voters said “no” on Nov. 2 to an advisory referendum question of whether the City should spend up to $500,000 in addressing O’Hare-related noise and pollution, they expected that vote to end this controversy – at least for the time being. 

But the City’s O’Hare Airport Commission (“OAC”) and its allies on the City Council aren’t accepting that decision. 

They now want the City to spend between $60,000 and $110,000 on an air quality/noise analysis and on attorneys’ fees to have the Taber Law Group of Irvine, California, research and write letters challenging the FAA’s 2005 Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) – which found that noise and pollution from the expansion of O’Hare would be within acceptable health and safety limits for the surrounding area, including Park Ridge. 

But it appears that would only be for starters. 

That’s because if the proposed air quality/noise analysis shows conditions significantly worse than what served as the basis for the 2005 EIS – and if the FAA doesn’t fold like a cheap lawn chair in response – the next step likely would be expensive litigation, although nobody on the OAC seems to want to say anything about that right now.

It’s a lot like the saying “In for a penny, in for a pound”:  The OAC is looking for the “penny” part while ignoring what the “pound” might be. 

At last Monday’s City Council COW meeting, Ald. Don Bach dismissed the recent referendum by suggesting that the results would have been different if the referendum amount were only $165,000 rather than $500,000.  On the other side of that coin, Ald. Joe Sweeney claimed that the voters casting “no” votes didn’t want the City to spend another dime on O’Hare-related issues.

Sweeney is wrong: Just because a substantial majority of voters said they didn’t want to spend up to $500,000 on battling O’Hare doesn’t necessarily mean they want to spend nothing at all.

Just because Sweeney is wrong, however, doesn’t mean Bach is right.  The referendum was given a $500,000 price tag because that’s the number the OAC itself came up with as its wish-list figure for dealing with O’Hare issues.  

And if the OAC is given carte blanche with the public purse, that $500,000 figure is likely to be only a fraction of what the ultimate cost will be – because it seems that, to the OAC’s members and those residents who view O’Hare expansion as the equivalent of terminal cancer for their property values and their health, no expense should be spared.  As Bach himself said several months ago, Park Ridge needs to fight O’Hare with “everything we’ve got” – apprarently irrespective of whether we’ve also got a realistic chance of winning that fight. 

In our November 11 post (“Another O’Hare Referendum In April?”), we suggested that this April’s ballot contain a new O’Hare advisory referendum question: “Should the City end its funding of measures related to O’Hare Airport?” We still think that’s a worthwhile question to ask. 

But we’re also willing to let the voters test Bach’s $165,000 hypothesis by adding a second O’Hare advisory referendum question to the April ballot, duplicating the November referendum language but simply changing the dollar amount: 

“Shall the City of Park Ridge allocate funding, in an amount not to exceed $165,000, to seek expanded and accelerated noise abatement solutions intended to address the negative impacts of O’Hare Airport expansion on residential property values, local schools and the overall quality of life in our community?”

Let’s see whether Bach will step up and propose this referendum to the Council for approval; and whether the OAC will support the $165,000 limit rather than a blank check. 

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1 comment so far

O’Hare is an issue that needs to be debated and resolved once and for all. Either we keep on spending money on it, or we don’t. If that means we have two referendum questions in April, or even three, let’s do it. The results are only advisory, but measurable advice from the voters beats the speculation by pro or con advocates of either side.



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