* Congressman Jesse Jckson, Jr. held a “symbolic” groundbreaking ceremony over the weekend for the third Chicago airport…
“We have found … developers who are willing to put up $700 million of their own dollars and backed by a guarantee from the government of Canada,” Jackson said in remarks broadcast by WBBM Radio. “And they want to be on this land by June 1 of this year. … Together, we can and we will build our future.”
* Apparently, the festivities got a bit weird…
With gospel music blaring and angry picketers shouting, pastors prayed, preached and sprinkled holy water over the site of the proposed airport near Peotone on Saturday morning. […]
Things got a bit dicier Saturday when Jackson and his supporters traveled out to a country road that lies in the footprint of the proposed airport.
There, Jackson and a group of pastors stood on a flatbed trailer, spoke, prayed and sprinkled holy water on the ground. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held on the shoulder of the road.
A smaller group representing those opposed to the airport were there, too, carrying signs such as “Caution Snakes,” “Jackson Lies, Crops Die” and “Make Food, Not Pollution.”
The group stood in a field behind Jackson’s flatbed trailer holding the signs, shouting “Liar” and “Jesus wouldn’t do this to us” while he and others spoke.
Their shouts were largely muffled by the gospel music and speaker system on the trailer. Police and members of Jackson’s entourage attempted to keep the groups separate.
* But opposition to the third airport comes from far higher up the political and economic food chain than a few protesters…
This past week, Jeff Smisek, CEO of United Airlines parent company, United Continental Holdings Inc., said a third airport in Chicago would bring the city more harm than good and that there’s no demand for a new airport. Meanwhile, Emanuel has proposed expanding O’Hare International airport, saying it would be like adding a third airport without actually building a new one.
* And there’s more trouble for SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., which would fund the site’s construction…
Earlier this year, the firm caught flak for its dealings with the deposed Gadhafi clan in Libya. Then a couple of weeks ago, SNC-Lavalin CEO Pierre Duhaime abruptly resigned amid an internal probe of what the company said were $56 million in inappropriate payments to undisclosed agents.
Neither the firm nor the agents have said who those agents were. But there’s been lots of speculation in the Canadian media.
Chicago-area coverage has been minimal. But you can bet your runway that it’s been noticed in Mr. Quinn’s office, which now has a nice cudgel with which to beat back any rising Peotone interest.
Team Jackson says that SNC-Lavalin is a really big firm that surely can survive this. But, at a minimum, the company’s woes undercut the congressman’s bargaining position.
* As usual, Jackson appears completely undaunted…
Jackson implored Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to release more than 2,000 acres of land that the state has purchased so far to the possible development of an airport for the south suburbs to bring thousands of jobs and prosperity.
Jackson said a developer from Canada wants to use private funds to develop the first phase of the airport: a runway with five gates. He said the backers want to start construction to start by June 1st.
In the end, Jackson said, opposition by Emanuel and others don’t much matter, but that Quinn holds the key.
“We must win Quinn. We don’t need to win anyone else. The person who controls the lease to this land is Governor Pat Quinn. The governor and the governor alone controls our future and with the stroke of his pin he can eliminate poverty in the south land,” Jackson said.