JJ Jr's Peotone Push

NYT columnist touts Jackson's plan

By Steve Rhodes
|  Tuesday, Mar 17, 2009  |  Updated 9:45 AM CDT
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JJ Jr's Peotone Push

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Peotone Airport: hovel-ready but not politically palatable.

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Is this the start of Jesse Jackson Jr.'s rehabilitation tour? Or an attempt to sway his old friend Barack Obama at a time when the federal spigot is wide-open?

In either case - and it's always possible motives are pure and earnest - Junior has gotten a nice ride for the second time in three days today from New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, who is touting Jackson's beloved third airport proposal for Peotone.

"[Y]ou would think that a project that would bring thousands of new jobs and long-term economic revitalization to the region would be a no-brainer," Herbert wrote on Saturday. 

"Since the mid-1980s, numerous studies by the Federal Aviation Administration have pointed to the need for a third airport.

"Incredibly, the plans and the funding for a proposed new airport in the open spaces just below the southern Chicago suburbs, to be called the Abraham Lincoln National Airport, are ready and waiting to be implemented."

Today, Herbert comes back with a second column about the airport that explains why those plans are still on the shelf: 

"The goal from the beginning has been to keep the proposed airport out of the clutches of Chicago’s notorious 'pay-to-play' tradition.

"That is the most likely reason that this project, with its potential to unleash so many jobs, has taken so long to get off the ground."

That isn't news to those of us in Chicago, but we're not the target of Herbert's columns. Is Obama?

In his first column, Herbert noted that Obama backed the third airport when he was a state senator, even writing an Op-Ed in the Sun-Times in favor of Jackson's plan as well as expanding O'Hare's capacity.

Jackson may also be trying to get back in the game after the taint - fair or not, the facts aren't all in - of his involvement seeking Obama's Senate seat. (According to Jackson aide Rick Bryant, the congressman has so far fended off those pay-to-play clutches, including an attempt by Tony Rezko to muscle in on the action.)

At a time when infrastructure and stimulus have become household words, Jackson's airport plan would appear to be as close to shovel-ready as necessary to finally get the green light. But the political path is still rocky, and the air traffic controller on the Fifth Floor of City Hall is not waving Jackson in for a landing.

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