A Plan for All Reasons | Year In Review | Chicago Reader

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A Plan for All Reasons

All this city really needs is another airport.

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How do you spell relief? If a spelling bee were held right now and Rich Daley were a contestant, he'd probably say "t-h-i-r-d a-i-r-p-o-r-t" and tack-on "Lake Calumet" during the bonus round. Sound silly? Here are just a few examples of the many ways our mayor has found to position the "jewel of his transportation agenda" (as the Tribune, the spelling bee monitor, has called it):

Problem

Over the summer, gang- and drug-related shootings become alarmingly frequent on the city's southwest side.

Solution

Daley tours the area with several carloads of aides. He says to reporters that there's only one way to stop the violence: "Third airport. Do you know what that spells? J-O-B-S."

Problem

The Openlands Project says that Chicago is far short of open space--it needs at least 4,000 new acres to be on par with national levels.

Solution

Daley has unveiled a study claiming that the Lake Calumet airport--which will require about 35,000 acres of land--will provide the city with an "abundance" of open space if designed "correctly," in the form of new parks, prairie, etc.

Problem

The EPA identifies numerous hazardous waste sites on the southeast side and calls the area an "environmental nightmare."

Solution

Daley says, "It's a wasteland today because the federal government can't clean it up. The city of Chicago can't clean it up because we don't have the money. We're looking at a third airport that would basically clean the environment up." Also, in a press release issued in late November to tout the new, improved, environmentally friendly airport plan: "The key to the Midwest's environmental problems is the Lake Calumet airport."

Problem

The Bush administration receives heat from environmentalists for its dubious and ever-shifting policy on wetlands protection.

Solution

In May, when it is revealed that the proposed airport would displace 400 acres of wetlands, the mayor says that those acres are not really wetlands--"not like the wetlands up in North Dakota or...Illinois wetlands [sic]." Six months later, he unveils a study that shows the airport can create more wetlands and prairie than will be destroyed--at an additional cost of up to $100 million.

Problem

The Chicago Teachers Union and the Board of Education lock horns for weeks over a raise for the teachers. Both sides say the system is underfunded.

Solution

The mayor says that construction of the third airport will attract business, expand the city's property-tax base, and help underfunded systems like the Park District and the Board of Education.

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