Momentum Shifts, O’Hare Expansion Plans Hit With Reality

February 17, 2009

“Runway to Nowhere” Ad Campaign Unveiled to Tell the Truth About OMP

CHICAGO, Feb. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today, at a press conference at Chicago’s City Hall, a broad coalition of groups who don’t always agree found a common theme: Stop the OMP — the $20 billion expansion Boondoggle at O’Hare Airport — calling it the “Runway to Nowhere.”

The coalition — spearheaded nationally by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) and a consortium of national anti-pork barrel citizen groups — has joined with the Village of Bensenville and other local organizations in shining the spotlight on massive governmental waste in the just-passed stimulus bill. Together, these groups are now focusing on Chicago Mayor Daley’s massive $20 billion OMP project — the largest public works project in the nation — as the poster child for pork barrel waste and corruption draining vital taxpayer funds from legitimate national needs.

Last week in Washington, D.C., Bensenville President John Geils participated in a press conference sponsored by CAGW targeting pork barrel waste in the stimulus bill, where the OMP was identified as the largest taxpayer pork project ever.

While not completely successful in eliminating the threat of the bloated OMP as a recipient of stimulus funds, the coalition of taxpayer watchdog groups and President Geils were successful in encouraging Congress to trim the amount available for airport development from $5 billion down to $3 billion and finally down to $1.1 billion. Further, the watchdog groups, Congressional fiscal conservatives and anti-waste leaders have all pledged to birddog the Obama Administration to prevent Chicago from back-dooring the Administration to get special access to these limited funds.

“This is a runway to nowhere and it is time the citizens of Illinois and the nation hear the real story,” said Geils, referring to the demolition of more than 500 homes and businesses for the flawed expansion project. “Last week we told the story to a receptive audience in Washington on behalf of our community. Congressional leaders, watchdog groups and even the O’Hare-based airlines understand that the OMP is a national disgrace. Simply put, the OMP is raw pork barrel politics.”

As the next step to stop OMP, CAGW is joining Bensenville in a partnership to undertake a radio, television and print advertisement campaign to expose the fundamental flaws in OMP. The hard-hitting ads feature information about the design flaws and the skyrocketing cost of OMP as well as the endemic corruption infecting O’Hare making it the “Candy Store for Corruption” in both Chicago and Illinois politics.

The coalition’s ad campaign — to tell the truth about what the OMP is really all about — will begin next week with radio, television and print ads appearing in the Chicago area. The print ads will also appear in Washington, DC opinion leader publications.

Geils said the ads are honest in their assessment of OMP as a ‘Runway to Nowhere.’ “This project has an estimated $20 billion price tag and supporters want taxpayers to pick up a huge part of this cost in the midst of airline job cuts and profound financial insecurity.”

“Every taxpayer dollar wasted on the OMP boondoggle takes precious dollars away from critical projects in Illinois and throughout the country and wastes dollars that our taxpayers cannot afford,” said Geils. “And compounding the wrong — adding insult to injury — are the recent federal indictments centering on corruption in the award of O’Hare contracts. Adding an O’Hare ‘corruption tax’ on top of the massive waste in OMP is outrageous.”

Other regional community leaders joined CAGW and Geils in their concerns including Transparency Policy Director at the Illinois Policy Institute Kate Campaign, who said “while most Americans are expecting ‘change’ from their government, Mayor Daley is trying to protect the Old Chicago Way.” Continuing, “Now more than ever, we need to have an open, informed debate about spending priorities in Illinois. Voters deserve to know exactly what’s on the table and how their money is being spent. We need transparency from City Hall and from the legislature down in Springfield — especially on this O’Hare project.”

The OMP has been also been severely criticized and questioned by the six major airlines who service O’Hare Airport. The slumping airline industry, which is making long-lasting cuts in fleets and labor forces, says it is in no position to commit to any more funds to further construction of the OMP. Taking note of the airlines opposition and refusal to provide further funds, Geils emphasized President Obama’s public pledge to limit stimulus funds to those projects that had solid economic justification. “The so-called delay savings of OMP are less than 27 cents per dollar of cost and several of the nation’s leading economists have said that FAA and Chicago have ‘cooked the books’ on OMP. If the airlines refuse to invest any further money in OMP, why should the taxpayers throw precious and limited taxpayer funds down the OMP rat hole?”

Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica emphasized the role of corruption in O’Hare contracting. “In this recession, with county taxpayers shouldering an increasing tax burden, can we really afford billions from yet another City Hall pay-to-play scheme?” said Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica. “OMP isn’t about improving the airport; it’s about delivering jobs and lucrative contracts to friends of City Hall.”

A federal investigation is under way into how five construction companies whose owners are friends or associates of Mayor Daley secured hundreds of millions of dollars in construction work at O’Hare, according to the Chicago Sun-Times ["Blago probe hits city, O'Hare deals," 12 February 2009]. The probe came two days after Daley lobbied Congress to secure federal funding for OMP and is linked to a broader investigation of former Governor Rod Blagojevich.

In addition, the O’Hare Modernization Project has also been denounced for fundamental design flaws, including planes having an additional 45 minute taxi time due to major airport choke points, long bus rides between terminals — often longer than the scheduled time of a flight — and baggage transfer issues from one terminal to the next.

Finally, others around the country have been concerned about aviation expansion as a huge environmental hazard. Locally neighbors from Park Ridge, Des Plaines and other towns are surprised and angry with major jet noise due to the new first phase “bad weather” runway that is already handling more than 350 flights a day — significantly higher than Chicago told the impacted communities.

“Annually, O’Hare creates football fields full of harmful toxic chemicals such as benzene, 1, 3-Butadiene, and Acrolein,” said Jack Saporito, Executive Director of The Alliance of Residents Concerning O’Hare. “Significant public health problems will be caused by the expanded operations of the mega-airport O’Hare. Now is the time to say ‘Enough!’ The expansion will harm real people, with real families.”

Geils concluded, “Momentum has shifted. The O’Hare expansion plans have been hit with economic and environmental realities. We are also in a time where residents are not going to accept ‘The Chicago Way.’ I will continue to expose the truth about OMP on behalf of the residents of Bensenville and am glad this exposure is resonating with the citizens of Illinois and a national audience.”

Stop-OMP is an organization dedicated to preventing the senseless and ill-advised continuance O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP). Identifying the need for a reexamination of the O’Hare plan and encouraging government and community leaders to correct this project before it needlessly displaces more families and wastes taxpayer funds is our highest priority. To learn more please visit www.stop-omp.org.


Source: newswire

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