CHICAGO | A coalition of clergy and business owners from the south suburbs said Tuesday they will not let the absence of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., stop them from urging government officials to develop a new airport in Will County.
Those officials, from Calumet City, Dolton, Glenwood and Monee, said a new airport at the edge of the south suburbs is more important than any one official -- even one as significant as Jackson -- who at times has been the lone political voice in favor of the airport’s construction.
“Jackson is a great congressman and person, but the airport is more important,” said the Rev. James Hunt, of the Monee-based New Hope Christian Community Church, which earlier this year held a symbolic groundbreaking at the proposed airport site with Jackson.
“It does not matter who controls an airport,” he said. "What matters is that it is built, which is why we're urging Gov. (Pat) Quinn to move forward with a governmental agreement for this.”
However, that doesn't mean they are forgetting Jackson.
The Rev. David Bigsby, a pastor with the Upper Room Ministries MB Church in Glenwood, said the group outside the Thompson Center state government building is not ignoring Jackson.
“We love him, and we pray for him,” Bigsby said.
The group’s announcement came on the same day Jackson was released from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota after his second treatment for bipolar disorder there since he took a leave of absence in June, the Associated Press reported.
The clergy said Tuesday they want other government officials, such as Quinn, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and President Barack Obama himself, to pick up the support level that Jackson has offered in past years.
“We've come too far to turn back now,” Bigsby said.
“I don’t understand how we cannot move forward on this project,” said the Rev. Leonard Dubi, a retired Catholic priest formerly of St. Victor Parish in Calumet City.
Earlier this year, the Illinois Department of Transportation submitted a draft layout plan to the Federal Aviation Administration for the airport proposed for a rural site between Monee, Beecher and Peotone. Quinn has said expresses the state's commitment to building an airport someday.
The group’s announcement came at nearly the same time the Cannery Casino Resorts of Las Vegas announced it wants to build a casino in south suburban Country Club Hills, citing its potential for job creation and further economic development in the area.
Bigsby said he thinks that airport construction would be a more significant economic gesture for the suburbs.
“You could put a casino in every single town and it wouldn't match the impact that an airport would have,” he said.