Know When To Hold ‘Em, Know When To Fold ‘Em


We here at PublicWatchdog are no fans of O’Hare expansion.

The noise decreases our property values.  The pollution – however much can actually be attributed to planes rather than industrial activity and the hundreds of thousands of vehicles that travel the Kennedy and the Tri-State on our South and West borders – may be making us less healthy.  And we can’t see any significant economic value to our community from expansion.

But over a couple of decades of watching the workings of local, county, state and federal government, we have learned to tell when the deck is stacked one way or the other.  Which is why we view fighting O’Hare expansion as a lost cause: too many politicians – and the special interests that own them – are fully invested in that plan.  Park Ridge doesn’t have nearly the kind of money or influence to beat the clout of that politician/special interest combine.

But if you have any doubt about that, it should be dispelled by the article in today’s Chicago Tribune: “Feds hope to break stalemate with $10M for O’Hare.”

O’Hare is getting another $10 million federal grant – on top of the $747 million the feds already have “invested,” according to Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin – in an effort by the feds to push United and American airlines into paying what Chicago needs to finish off the project, which was originally estimated to cost $6.6 billion (in 2001 dollars) but is now projected to cost $9.7 billion (in 2012 dollars).

United and American need pushing because they want to hold off on more expansion expense until they see a real need, in the form of passenger demand.  Publicly-traded corporations like them need to manage themselves in a fiscally responsible way.  They have Wall Street and their shareholders to account to.  And they both have bankruptcies to show for what happens when they didn’t manage themselves properly.

Since the feds can print their own money, however, bankruptcy’s not a consequence of stupid or reckless spending by the folks in Washington, including the Illinois congressional delegation.  According to the Tribune article, that delegation “is pushing the Emanuel administration and the airlines to make a deal on the rest of the [O’Hare expansion] work.”

Don’t think that this new push for O’Hare expansion is about transportation.  It’s not.  It’s all about the politics of jobs, as Durbin brazenly admitted: “Today’s additional funding, in combination with a significant contribution from the airlines, will help create jobs and keep the project on track.”

After years of recession and what is being bemoaned as a jobless “recovery,” politicians (especially Democrats) and the special interests who own them are infinitely more concerned about creating jobs – and about the political capital that comes with such job creation – than they are about the noise pollution and air quality of sleepy little Park Ridge.  And no supplemental environmental impact study or threat of a lawsuit is going to change that.

In the political poker game of O’Hare expansion, the feds just raised us $10 million.

And we don’t have enough chips to call.

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