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Posts in: January 2nd, 2006

Mayor Craig Johnson: Lunatic

I live in a town called Elk Grove Village, Illinois, which sits right up against O’Hare International Airport. Chicago’s Mayor Daley really wants to expand O’Hare by building additional runways, a new terminal, and an expressway extension to serve the new section of airport. Elk Grove’s mayor, Craig Johnson, has essentially run on an anti-O’Hare-expansion platform since he was first elected at some point in the late 1990s. His “aw shucks, I was born and raised in Elk Grove and we can’t let them ruin it” attitude won him popularity, but for those who—like me—opposed the alternatives to expansion (the mythic “Peotone airport”), it started out being funny. “Johnson’s at it again,” we’d mutter every time we received a new community newsletter about the horrors of O’Hare expansion. It’s long and tedious to go into the details of why some perceive this expansion as a bad thing versus why rational people realize it’s probably the best thing for the area; if you’re actually interested, contact me and I will ramble for ages.

It gradually stopped being funny as he continued to increase the amount of taxpayer money appropriated to pay for lawyers to fight Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois. He also, at various points, spent money on arbitrary security measures, like increasing police patrols to our (generally abandoned) border with O’Hare to ensure Daley didn’t attempt another Meigs field-style demolition. To offset a potential backlash, he used even more taxpayer money (and raised taxes to do so, approved by the third-airport-loving Village Board) for community beautification projects. Despite the town being incorporated in 1956 (and prior to that consisting solely of vast wheat fields, forests, and a single tavern), he got on this lunatic old-timey kick. “We need cobblestones everywhere! And old-fashioned streetlights and signposts! And an old town square, most of which is actually a giant parking lot! And a clock tower!”

Things with O’Hare have gotten increasingly worse. Johnson paid still more money to hire new lawyers, better lawyers, to take the court battle all the way to the federal level. And…we lost. But wait! Let’s appeal…oh wait, we lost that, too. Basically, there’s nothing left to do but give up. So what will Craig Johnson do to rebuild a community whose economy he ravaged by recklessly spending and raising taxes? First, it was announced a few months ago that he would be spending $75,000 (cofinanced with neighbor Schaumburg) to get REO Speedwagon to play at our 50th celebration. He was quoted as saying, “Everyone loves REO.” True, Mayor Johnson, but let’s put this in perspective: for nearby Roselle’s anniversary celebration, they plan to spend $1500 total for three local bands to play.

And then, I read this in the paper (because I am an old man who wears slippers, smokes a pipe, and slips on a pair of half-glasses to read “the paper” in an overstuffed easy chair):

Elk Grove Village will be hosting a two-day international bike race this summer in honor of the village’s 50th Anniversary.

On Aug. 12 and 13, there will be the Tour de Elk Grove with more than $125,000 in prize money at stake.

Bicycling professionals from all over the world are expected to compete.

The televised event will show viewers on all continents the heart of American industry in Elk Grove Village as well as its tree-lined residential community, village officials said.

The race will carry the fourth-highest purse in North America in 2006 at $125,000, $25,000 of which will go to the individual winner.

The race is in honor of the 50-year anniversary of the incorporation of Elk Grove Village in 1956.

The Tour de Elk Grove? Really? Is he kidding with this shit? I love the town I live in, but a third of it is nothing but factories and warehouses (the “heart of American industry,” and also the largest consolidated industrial park in North America—not too shabby, but also not particularly pretty, though the Portillo’s is nice), another third is full of assholes who wish they lived in Schaumburg but can’t afford it, and the final third are a bunch of blue-collar bums more likely to laugh at and trip passing bicyclists than cheer them on.

I really don’t understand the motivation. Tourism? Luring new businesses? Or does he want people to see Elk Grove on television and say, “Gosh, maybe Mayor Craig B. Johnson is right—all those warehouses on the edge of town, many of which have already been sold to Chicago and abandoned, are so beautiful, they shouldn’t be marred by a half-mile expressway extension. Let us fight for a cause that failed spectacularly in a legal way. I’m going to write a protest song and shackle myself to one of the pickups in that lot on Old Higgins Road!”

Really, this is crazy. The only positive outcome will be the potential interest in broadcasting Channel 6 worldwide. And even that will degrade over time, like TLC becoming the all-Trading Spaces network. I can’t live in a world that shows more than nine episodes of On Duty! a day.

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