Chicago Sun-Times

In Illi­nois, po­lit­i­cal lies are ev­i­dence that Black lives don’t mat­ter much

- philkad­ PHIL KADNER | @scoop2u Business · Illinois · Cook County · J.B. Pritzker · Amazon · Indiana · Markham, IL · Country Club Hills, IL · Matteson, IL · Chicago Metropolitan Area, Illinois · Peotone, IL · Hammond, IL · Gary, IN · Gary

Black lives mat­ter, but maybe not so much if you are among Illi­nois’ po­lit­i­cal lead­ers or Chicago’s busi­ness elite. Last week, a group of lo­cal po­lit­i­cal lead­ers rep­re­sent­ing Cook County’s south sub­urbs, some of the poor­est in the na­tion, called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to pres­sure Ama­zon to in­vest in a South Sub­ur­ban Air­port near Peotone. Chicago Ald. David Moore (17th Ward) later called his own press con­fer­ence to sup­port the cause, but none of the press at­tended.

The South Sub­ur­ban Air­port has been the tar­get of po­lit­i­cal skul­dug­gery for 30 years.

In the 1980s, a tri-state com­mis­sion was formed to study the best pos­si­ble lo­ca­tion for an enor­mous air­port to re­place O’Hare, which was nearing ca­pac­ity and los­ing its bat­tle to re­main the world’s busiest air­port.

To the amaze­ment of ev­ery­one, the lo­ca­tion that was cho­sen was an area near south sub­ur­ban Peotone.

You see, im­por­tant stuff, large gov­ern­ment in­vest­ments, sim­ply are not made in the south sub­urbs of Chicago, which had be­come home to aban­doned steel fac­to­ries and nu­mer­ous land­fills.

Poor Black fam­i­lies were forced out of Chicago neigh­bor­hoods un­der­go­ing gen­tri­fi­ca­tion and into the south sub­urbs. Others came seek­ing bet­ter schools and a safer life af­ter pub­lic hous­ing projects were de­stroyed.

White fam­i­lies be­gan moving south to In­di­ana around the same time.

Hit by some of the high­est prop­erty tax rates in Illi­nois, busi­ness strips be­gan clos­ing in the south sub­urbs, as a com­mer­cial boom hit In­di­ana.

Illi­nois re­fused to build a casino in the south sub­urbs de­spite pleas from com­mu­nity lead­ers, while Ham­mond and Gary reaped mil­lions of dol­lars in tax rev­enue from Illi­nois res­i­dents gam­bling in In­di­ana casi­nos for nearly two decades.

Al­though Illi­nois spent nearly $100 mil­lion ac­quir­ing prop­erty for that south sub­ur­ban air­port, it never got built. At one point, a pri­vate de­vel­op­ment com­pany seemed in­ter­ested in fi­nanc­ing the air­port, but Illi­nois wasn’t in­ter­ested.

In fact, Chicago ac­tu­ally be­gan us­ing land­ing fees col­lected from air­lines at O’Hare Air­port to sub­si­dize an air­port in Gary, In­di­ana. Yes, Chicago used mil­lions of dol­lars to help fi­nance an air­port in an­other state, rather than sup­port an air­port in the south sub­urbs that had been named as the best pos­si­ble site.

And there were no shouts of out­rage from the Chicago news me­dia or peo­ple in power.

Chicago po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, who con­trolled ven­dors at Chicago air­ports, didn’t want to lose the mil­lions of dol­lars gen­er­ated through pa­tron­age and pol­i­tics. The air­lines had a vir­tual mo­nop­oly at O’Hare and didn’t want com­pe­ti­tion.

In the mean­time, pub­lic schools in the mostly Black south sub­urbs be­came some of the most un­der­funded in the coun­try be­cause of a lack of prop­erty tax money.

The eco­nomic dis­par­ity be­tween the south and north sub­urbs can be eas­ily seen sim­ply by driv­ing through them. Gi­ant busi­ness tow­ers, cor­po­rate head­quar­ters, mas­sive in­dus­trial parks boomed in the western and north­ern sub­urbs, con­ve­niently lo­cated a short drive from O’Hare.

Va­cant store­fronts and aban­doned homes lit­tered the south sub­urbs, which hap­pened to have some of the long­est com­muter times in the na­tion for work­ers as well as the high­est unem­ploy­ment rates.

Mas­sive new ware­house projects, ful­fill­ment cen­ters and lo­gis­tics hubs are slated to re­place many of the un­sightly aban­doned homes and empty store­fronts as Ama­zon and other com­pa­nies have launched projects in Markham, Coun­try Club Hills, and Mat­te­son, among other com­mu­ni­ties.

The po­ten­tial of thou­sands of jobs at $15 an hour brought re­joic­ing, al­though no one knows for sure how many will be full-time jobs that pro­vide health in­surance.

The politi­cians cheer­ing on the new Ama­zon de­vel­op­ments sug­gested that just maybe it was time to build that long-awaited third air­port in Peotone to ship prod­ucts across the coun­try.

There was si­lence from the gov­er­nor’s man­sion.

Many whites still be­lieve poor, Black com­mu­ni­ties just hap­pen.

North­west In­di­ana has flour­ished while Chicago and Illi­nois po­lit­i­cal lead­ers did noth­ing. That’s odd un­less you un­der­stand how self-de­struc­tive racism can be.

Just an­other re­minder that when folks claim Black lives mat­ter, they of­ten lie.

 ?? SUN-TIMES FILES ?? A sign, pic­tured in 2012, marks land ac­quired by the state for the long-pro­posed Peotone air­port.
SUN-TIMES FILES A sign, pic­tured in 2012, marks land ac­quired by the state for the long-pro­posed Peotone air­port.
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