Sunday, July 22, 2012

EXTRA: Clock ticks ever so slowly

President Barack Obama allegedly will receive one of those ceremonial gubernatorial pens to acknowledge his contribution nearly 25 years ago toward a new law banning landfills from operating in Cook County. Photographs by Gregory Tejeda

How long can it take for issues to get resolved once they enter the alternate universe of Chicago politics?

Take the case of all those landfills that exist at the far southern end of the city, where local residents used to have to accept the stench of decaying trash as just the normal aroma of their home neighborhood.

ACTIVISTS LONG WANTED restrictions imposed. And the ultimate restriction, of sorts, got imposed on Sunday. Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a measure that bans landfills anywhere in Cook County.

The existing landfills have been sitting idle for decades, on account of city restrictions, despite the desires of the landfill owners to get around them. Now, they will remain dormant forevermore – unless the courts somehow find a way to justify striking down the new law.

But activists down around the Altgeld Gardens public housing complex, along with residents of such 10th Ward neighborhoods as Hegewisch and the East Side, say they’ve been fighting the fight for decades.

Quinn went so far as to dig up an old 1988 newspaper clipping from the Chicago Tribune about how local activists were trying desperately to get restrictions enacted to shutter landfills.

THOSE ACTIVISTS INCLUDE a skinny, big-eared guy who back then was a newcomer to Chicago and had taken a job as a community organizer fighting the good fight on behalf of Altgeld Gardens residents.

None other than Barack Obama himself!

Quinn said he plans to acknowledge the fact that Obama was once a part of this particular political fight nearly a quarter-of-a-century ago. One of the pens he used during bill-signing ceremonies to approve the new landfill ban is White House bound.

Obama will get a state government souvenir acknowledging that one of his causes from back in the day has now become a reality.
Now that they're dormant, landfills look serene

WHICH AMUSES CHERYL Johnson, a longtime Altgeld Gardens activist who picked up on the work of her mother, Hazel, who she said deserves the credit for being the one who “educated” Obama about landfill issues right at her kitchen table.

An image that I’m sure will amuse many.

Although I must concede that this isn’t even close to being the longest-running issue in Chicago politics.

Let’s not forget the whole mess concerning a third airport, which was originally suggested by the federal government back in the late 1970s, stepped up the process in the late 1980s, was supposed to have its first flights by 1999 and by now should have been fully constructed.

WE’RE NOT EVEN close to the first turning of earth toward construction – regardless of what one thinks of that “symbolic” groundbreaking done by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., just before he developed his “mood disorder.”

And those people old enough to remember the battle of the Crosstown Expressway (a fantasy of late Mayor Richard J. Daley) know that the rhetoric can last for decades before it is ultimately decided to do nothing at all.


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