For Once, Some Good News On O’Hare


Anyone who has been reading this blog or otherwise paying attention for the past few years knows what a Sisyphean task it has been getting any meaningful noise relief from O’Hare International Airport, especially since the $8 billion O’Hare Modernization Program (“OMP”) was adopted.

The airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration, and congressmen and senators from around the nation were looking to reduce the air traffic bottleneck that O’Hare had become. Meanwhile, a virtually bankrupt City of Chicago became hell bent on building more runways and running as many flights in and out of O’Hare as possible, if only for the taxes and fees they could generate.

Lo and behold, last week we heard that O’Hare had wrestled the title of the country’s busiest airport away from its old nemesis, Atlanta’s Hartsfield.

Add to that the seeming sabotage of Park Ridge’s efforts to alleviate the overhead traffic and noise by neighboring O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission (“ONCC”) member communities like Arlington Heights – who feared that any gain in Park Ridge’s noise reduction efforts would result in increased noise for them – and the task of merely gaining approval of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (“SEIS”) looked increasingly bleak.

So last week was quite a welcome development for Park Ridgians.

On Thursday, October 2, Illinois congressman Mike Quigley announced the formation of a “Quiet Skies Caucus” comprised of himself, fellow Illinois representative Tammy Duckworth, and 11 other U.S. House members from California, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York.

Then on Friday, October 3, the ONCC voted to support Park Ridge’s request for the SEIS, with only three “no” votes: from Elmwood Park, Melrose Park and the City of Chicago.

But let’s not kid ourselves.

While the vote in support of the SEIS is an important step, the FAA is not bound to honor that vote. And even if it does, it could be years before any meaningful relief is provided – and that will most likely be in the form of a new noise contour map that would increase the number of homes and buildings entitled to soundproofing. And, if we’re lucky, it might also promote an increased implementation of the “Fly Quiet” program.

And you can bet Chicago will fight tooth and nail to keep O’Hare cranking at full capacity.  Because of the mess he inherited from Daley, Rahm needs every penny he can squeeze out of anything that moves…or sits still for too long.

Nevertheless, Mayor Dave Schmidt’s jaw-boning of the ONCC to vote in support of the SEIS is something. And it validates the decision of the City Council to look for political solutions to what is a political problem, rather than spend tens/hundreds of thousands of dollars on litigation with little-to-no chancce of gaining any better result.

Meanwhile, the best chance we have for noise relief continues to be the airlines’ modernization of their fleets by replacing the noisiest jets – currently the MD80s – with newer, quieter jets. Expediting those upgrades is where a caucus like the one Congressman Quigley helped form might be able to exert some influence that’s not in Park Ridge’s or any other community’s tool box.  But, once again, don’t expect that to happen overnight – if at all – because Chicago is too big to fail.  And so are the airlines, at least to those elected officials who count on them for campaign contributions and jobs in their districts.

We’ve still got a long way to go. But last week was easily the best one Park Ridge has had in years when it comes to dealing with O’Hare noise.

And it cost Park Ridge taxpayers next to nothing.

To read or post comments, click on title.

4 comments so far

Thanks to Mayor Schmidt and the Council for not knuckling under to the loudmouths who wanted to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees that would have produced nothing. For the time being we have gotten all we can get, and we didn’t waste a ton of money getting it. That’s good government.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can pretty much bet that anytime somebody screams for immediate action and damn the costs, that’s a bad decision. Had the mayor and Council ran off and filed lawsuits when certain vocal residents of the newly-impacted parts of town demanded it, we likely would have been out $50-100K by now in legal fees and with nothing to show for it.

The mayor’s/council’s approach to the O’Hare situation could and should be considered for any major expenditure, especially when the affected residents are shouting the loudest and wanting immediate action irrespective of the costs.

And yes I am talking about flood control, even though I live in the Northwest Park area and might benefit from whatever plan is adopted to deal with that situation.

I see how just a $30 million debt from the TIF has screwed up city finances well past any benefits the new shopping and residences are providing. Unless and until Burke, or Zingsheim, or Mitchell, are ready to guarantee that whatever they do is going to work, no ifs ands or buts about it, spending millions just because a lot of people still haven’t, and don’t want to, spend their own money to install protection against the most damaging flooding (back-ups) because it won’t protect against overland flooding is stupid.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Uptown TIF should be the benchmark object lesson for the stupidity, shortsightedness and irresponsibility of big buck, long-term debt projects pushed through as magic/silver bullet solutions to major and/or complex problems.

But since nobody even studies, much less learns lessons from, history anymore – and the perpetrators of boondoggles like the Uptown TIF have all fled the political scene and are laying low, if they haven’t already abandoned our community (like former mayor Wietecha and city mgr. Schuenke) – our elected representatives may very well get cajoled or bullied into stupid, shortsighted and irresponsible solutions by the don’t-just-stand-there-do-SOMETHING crowd.

The airport noise is totally different from flooding, becasue we CAN do something about flooding and we CAN’T do it about airport noise. Families impacted by flooding deserve relief no matter what it costs, because the city’s tax base is at risk the longer this flooding sitaution continues.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And speaking of the “don’t-just-stand-there-do-SOMETHING crowd”….

No Schakowsky on Quigley’s committee. No surprise there.

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