Bob OBrien and I returned early this morning from attending the S.T.A.N.D. (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down) Candidates Forum in Monee, Ill. The session lasted until after 10 p.m. The attendance from both candidates seeking office and STAND members and interested parties was high. We spent several minutes driving around the area looking for a parking spot.
The experience was interesting for several reasons. First, a message was delivered by Bob, prior to the candidates presentations, indicating how support from the south suburban area for the use and growth of RFD and Gary, will make the likelihood of ever seeing an airport in Peotone remote. The message was delivered that phase one of the proposed Peotone airport, which includes a 10,000-foot runway, is already in existence here in Rockford, and it is important that elected officials understand that. So much of the information that was used to promote the Peotone site has changed over the years, and many elected officials are basing their input on old information regarding RFD, from the Kirk Brown days. The full utilization of Gary and RFD will create a powerful regional airport system for the Chicago area, without the need to build Peotone. To show support for STAND, Bob also presented two free tickets on TMA to any of their destinations from RFD, for STAND to raffle off at their next meeting.
Second, one of the issues that was discussed was that of land banking by the state of land in the proposed foot print of the airport. Because of this practice, Will County has lost to date more than $186,000 in tax revenue from the land that has been banked.
Finally, it also served as a great civics lesson. To attend a forum and listen to issues from another region, and be able to gauge the responses without knowing the officials was interesting. We saw candidates who were straight forward, candidates who were evasive and others who just didnt get it. The Will County administrator only stayed long enough to make his pitch and left, even though it had been announced that there would be a question and answer period following the presentations. Several questions were directed at him that remained unanswered due to his early departure
GRTC and RFD understand the importance of getting the word out about RFDs potential to as much of the Chicago area as possible, as a great deal of RFDs future success depends on enplanements from outside our region. Our presence in Monee and Bobs appearance on an Elgin radio station talkshow earlier in the day are part of a continuing push to make awareness of RFD a top priority in 2004.
Dave Lindberg is the president of the Greater Rockford Transportation Coalition (GRTC).