What Would Ryles Do…About O’Hare Expansion?


To the chagrin of some of our critics, we didn’t get coal in our stocking this Christmas. 

But we also didn’t get one of the things we asked Santa for: some specific details about what mayoral challenger Larry Ryles would actually do about the various significant issues facing the City – the ones Ryles has spent the past few months making broad, nebulous pronouncements about without one lick of specifics as to what he personally would do if he were mayor.  Like the union and non-union employee wage increases Mayor Dave Schmidt vetoed, or the 2.15% real estate tax levy increase that the Council passed with Schmidt’s approval. 

Ryles acts like a throwback to the empty candidacies of almost a generation of folks running under the banner of the now-defunct Homeowners Party (the “HOs”).  The HOs degenerated from the dynamic political organization founded by Marty Butler into a vapid social club once Butler left City Hall for Springfield and turned the party over to his mayoral successor, Ron Wietecha, and a collection of milquetoast hangers-on who viewed themselves as Park Ridge’s “in” crowd and would rubber-stamp without question anything Wietecha wanted. 

So we read with interest the Christmas Eve “special” to the Chicago Tribune by freelance stringer Gail-Tzipporah Saunders titled “Park Ridge officials urge residents to make their opinions known about O’Hare expansion,” which contains comments from two “Park Ridge leaders” – the City’s O’Hare Airport Commission (“OAC”) members James Argionis and Pay Ryan – about the City’s attempt to get the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) to do an updated environmental study in response to the new East/West O’Hare runway that opened in November 2008 and added as many as 400 flights a day over Park Ridge airspace. 

Interestingly, the article doesn’t quote any other OAC members or OAC’s City Council liaison, Ald. Marty Maloney (7th).  Nor does it quote Schmidt (who promoted the creation of the OAC) or any other aldermen.  Instead, it quotes Ryles, who isn’t even on the OAC.  And Ryles doesn’t disappoint, offering more of the non-specific mush that is becoming his trademark:

“I keep telling [residents], don’t surrender.  There are some things that can be done.  Don’t quit.  Don’t give up on the folks that are fighting the good fight.”

Frankly, we generally like those sentiments, which sound almost Churchillian.  But where old Winston had a plan – actually, many plans – to go with the stirring rhetoric, Ryles seems to be plan-less.

So we think Mr. Ryles owes the voters of Park Ridge answers to the following questions about his O’Hare rhetoric:  What specifically are those “things that can be done”?  How many Park Ridge tax dollars are you willing to commit to the effort over how long a period of time?  What specific results do you expect from those efforts, and why?

The Tribune article points out that further O’Hare expansion will involve closing down certain runways over Arlington Heights.  Park Ridgians who wish to learn something from our City’s mistakes of the past should be reminded that Arlington Heights’ mayor, Arlene Mulder, jumped on then-Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley’s O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission (“ONCC”) bandwagon immediately after it was created in 1996, while then-Park Ridge mayor Ron Wietecha and the HO-dominated City Council chose instead to continue spending millions of our tax dollars on fighting Chicago, the FAA, and some of our neighboring communities, and on a $650,000 “investment” in a new Peotone airport that went the way of Enron stock even quicker than Enron stock. 

That waste of money continued from 1990 through May, 2003, when the Council, finally realizing that both the State and Federal governments had totally bought into the O’Hare expansion plan, voted to stop throwing good money after bad.

Make no mistake about it: we oppose further O’Hare expansion and any more runways that will bring more air traffic over our community.  But we also know – because we have watched and learned from what has happened over the past 16 years – that Chicago has too much money and political capital invested in that project to let itself get pushed around by our 37,000 resident community; that a complicit Federal Aviation Administration has been decidedly unsympathetic under both the George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama administrations; and even our neighboring communities seem happy to see Park Ridge get hit with extra air traffic.

So when candidate Ryles decides to play politics with his no retreat, no surrender rhertoric on this issue, it’s only fair for us and all other voters to ask him to explain exactly what he means and how much of the taxpayers’ money he’s willing to spend.

What would Ryles do about O’Hare expansion?

Your guess is as good as ours.

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