Sunday, November 30, 2008

Who will hold Daley accountable for O'Hare?

When will Mayor Daley, dozens of other Illinois politicians and the Chicago media establishment pay a price for the O'Hare International Airport expansion plan, a public policy blunder of epic proportions.

Just as former U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald and a few others said years ago, the plan eventually would collapse because it was economically and operationally unfeasible. The prophecy was brought into focus recently when the Chicago Tribune found letters that showed airlines have no intention of funding the second and largest phase of the $20 billion project because it makes no economic sense.

In short, there never was adequate space to make a workable expansion work at O'Hare. But Mayor Daley and corporate chieftans in Chicago had no intention of driving to the south suburbs for a new airport where it belonged. So they spent hundreds of millions of dollars for public relations, planning, and land acquisition ramrodding the ill-conceived O'Hare plan forward. The Tribune was particularly helpful to the "cause" by, in Fitzgerald's words, "going on a jihad" against all those who dared oppose the expansion.

Besides the enormous expenditures, which total at least $2 billion to date, there was a tragic human cost. This was chronicled by Dennis Byrne, a longtime critic of the expansion, who makes the point that victims were the working families that Democrats unfailingly claim they represent.

What Daley and his greedy cronies did to Bensenville, a community that had minded its own business for more than 100 years, borders on the criminal. Daley and airport planners knew that they did not need to destroy hundreds of Bensenville homes for years, until later phases of O'Hare expansion were scheduled. Yet, they launched an unprecedented political, economic and government attack that exceeded bounds of decency.

The expansion plan is not dead yet. Mayor Daley and other politicians won't backtrack. They have too much invested in a plan that has paid them hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions from myriad O'Hare consultants and contractors. There's always a chance, with a President Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress, that taxpayers will bail out this monstrous misjudgment.

If there was a functioning news media in Chicago, it would spend months untangling the runaway public policy steamroller that was artificially created to prop up this mega-boondoggle. It should be yet another reminder that when the establishment and the media lock arms in favor of a narrative or a plan, citizens should be very wary.

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