O'Hare Airport irony: City workers not getting their "share" of jobs

This is rich. The  purpose of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s O’Hare Airport expansion dream was to create jobs and contracts for his political machine and to consolidate his political power. Progress toward building a third Chicago regional airport (which everyone had supported until Daley arrived) threatened Daley’s biggest generator of jobs. So he first came up with the screwball idea of building a new airport in Lake Calumet–which was so harebrained that it collapsed of its own weight–and then building a 21st century airport, in a 7,000-acre airport designed for the 1950s. That would be O’Hare.

Everyone as suckered into believing it was a good idea, but now it’ s not only running into financing problems (as predicted), but the beneficiaries of the expansion are bitching because they supposedly are  not getting their share. 

A City Council committee today balked at annexing 271 acres needed to continue O’Hare International Airport expansion after aldermen raised concerns that not enough of the project’s jobs were going to city residents.

Aldermen repeatedly asked Chicago Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino whether half of the people working for outside companies doing expansion work lived in Chicago, as required by city ordinance. The question surfaced as Mayor Richard Daley is asking for authority to issue $1 billion in bonds to keep the project going.

“What our voters are telling us is we want jobs,” Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, told Andolino. “Today they read a story on the front page about a billion dollars that is going to be spent. And you know what they say? ‘I ain’t getting a job up there. My neighbor isn’t getting a job up there.’ And come February, we’re going to have to go back to them and ask them to vote for us. And you know what they are going to say? ‘ Why should I vote for you?’ “

Andolino explained that the unions hire based on their own seniority rules, and the private companies are responsible for making sure half the workers live in the city. But the city doesn’t verify whether the requirement was met until the contract is closed out, a city lawyer explained.

Can it get any sweeter than this? The late and great columnist Mike Royko coined a motto for how business is done in Chicago: “Where is mine?” (In Latin: Ubi Est Mea?) Daley is reaping enhanced power and political support from increased contracts by jamming the expansion through, but apparently the benefits haven’t trickled down–as the unions were told they would. 

A shame.

Some background from Crain’s:


Leave a comment
  • Saw this in Clout Street a couple of minutes ago, then came back here.

    If the deal doesn't go down in the City Council, it is for this reason, not the one in your preceding post.

  • In reply to jack:

    Correct. The aldermen are just as hungry for the jobs and contracts--as this story shows--as Daley. The public good has nothing to do with any of it.

  • In reply to DennisByrne1:

    I think there is a difference between "city residents" and "city patronage workers." Of course, I guess one can't assume that aldercreatures will do the right thing, or for the right reason.

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