The Chicago connection to the bailout/stimulus slop

When Illinois bellies up to the federal trough to get its share of bailout/stimulus slop, two of the biggest recipients will be Richard Daley and Rod Blagojevich — although the latter may not be around to enjoy it.  The governor and the mayor of Chicago teamed up for an airport expansion that the airline industry didn’t want and that forced hundreds of residents out of their homes.  Now they want federal monies as part of a “stimulus”, and Amanda Carpenter throws the yellow flag:

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has kicked hundreds of families out of their homes and relocated a cemetery full of buried bodies to build a whopping $15 billion airport expansion Chicago residents oppose, airlines don’t want and he doesn’t have the money to build.

The kicker is that Daley stands a solid chance of getting a good chunk of the boondoggle funded in Washington’s forthcoming stimulus bill under Barack Obama’s pledge to dramatically increase infrastructure spending.

The “O’Hare Modernization Project,” signed by disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich in 2003, has enabled the city to seize 433 acres of land from surrounding villages under a special “quick-take authority” power given to Daley by the state. The city even uprooted a 108-year old cemetery, requiring families to find a new home for the 1,500 bodies resting there, in the process of taking some of its first tracts of land.

Well, these were bad neighborhoods, right?  No one would want to live there anyway, I’m sure. Or perhaps I’m not so sure after seeing this video:

That looks like a rather nice place to live, actually. The houses look well-maintained; their owners obviously took good care of their homes. Perhaps they were happy to sell them, as the noise from the airport comes through pretty clearly in the video, but it seems odd that Chicago would want to dismantle a successful neighborhood, unless in absolute necessity.

O’Hare has topped the list of busiest airports in the world and led the US for decades. Anyone who has traveled through there or been impacted by delays out of Chicago on connecting flights elsewhere knows that Illinois needs to think about more capacity. Does an expansion of the already-huge O’Hare complex make sense, though, or should another airport get built elsewhere?

Either way, this project won’t work, according to both the airlines and city management in Chicago. Nor do they have the money to pay for it. Seizing the property without adequate funding for the project creates a nightmare for Bensenville residents forcefully relocated through the city’s eminent domain power, as well as the potential for a law-enforcement headache as shuttered houses eventually will get exploited by gangs and drug dealers.

Daley has the answer for this. He told reporters that Obama’s big stimulus/bailout package provides “creative financing” for big-city boondoggles such as the O’Hare Expansion Project. Given Obama’s connections to the Chicago mayor and his machine, undoubtedly Daley figures the $15 billion is already in the bag. Unfortunately, his confidence is likely justified.