It was amusing to see the arrival of President Barack Obama for a couple of days of activity this week in the Midwest.
The president will be in Princeton, Ind., at a steel mill on Friday, following a day of activity in Chicago and suburban Evanston in part to prop up the campaign of Gov. Pat Quinn.
YET ALL THIS began Wednesday night when Obama arrived on Air Force One at the airport in Gary, Ind. (which likes to give itself the impressive-sounding Gary/Chicago International Airport even though the number of flights operating there is miniscule).
Much has been made of the fact that the airport was used because of the fire at the FAA facility in Aurora that still causes disruptions at O’Hare International and Midway airports. The president didn’t want to cause anything that could be construed by the ideologues as more congestion at either of those airports.
So his flight landed at Gary, where he immediately got into a helicopter that wound up taking him into Chicago and transporting him for much of his trip in the metropolitan area.
Although the fact that he was only in Gary for a few minutes didn’t stop that city’s mayor, Karen Freeman-Wilson, and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., from greeting Obama at the Hoosier airport and acting as though this was a trip to Indiana rather than just a quick transfer point.
THE MAYOR MADE comments to the press about how it only makes sense for the president to use the Gary airport when traveling to Chicago, on account of the fact that it is our city’s third airport.
Even though some of us want to cling to the idea of a third airport being built in what is now farm field in rural Will County just north of Peotone, others of us would want to see a new airport built anywhere but south of the city, and still others of us would rather there be no new airport.
Either because they want a massive expansion of O’Hare International or because they’d rather just discourage more flights passing through the Chicago area – not realizing the degree to which that would devastate the metropolitan area and turn Chicago from something that can be talked about along with New York and Los Angeles to something that more resembles Indianapolis or Des Moines, Iowa.
Personally, I always thought an expansion of that Gary facility would have made sense. It is a shame that officials couldn’t reach some understanding a couple of decades ago to move in that direction when trying to figure out a site for a new Chicago-area airport.
BUT WAY TOO many political people felt like then-Secretary of State George Ryan, who came right out and said he could not, in good conscience, vote to support any new airport located in Indiana. Even though one can note that the New York metro area’s third airport is based out of Newark, N.J. – and no one seems bothered by that fact!
The end result is that the Gary facility kind of lingers in limbo. It seems like we’re always reading stories about cut-rate airlines operating a few flights out of the airport (remember Hooters Air?), only to shut them down a few months later when a lack of significant passengers develops for their use.
Who’s to say if Chicago ever will have a third airport? Will this issue linger for another few decades of inactivity?
Did the president wind up giving an inadvertent advertising plug for those people who promote the idea of Gary (designated as airport GYY) as a part of Chicago’s transportation infrastructure? Or was Wednesday just the moment Mayor Freeman got to shake hands with the president?