May 15, 2001 Chicago Tribune
Pro-runway ad sparks call for business boycott

Tribune staff reporter
May 15, 2001

On the day a prominent organization of Chicago-area businesses called for a new runway at O'Hare International Airport, a suburban group opposed to expansion has called for a boycott of those businesses.

Arlington Heights-based Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare announced a boycott of Commercial Club of Chicago members Monday, in response to a two-page ad published in several area newspapers.

The boycott did not appear to be taking off in a hurry, however. Even at the Suburban O'Hare Commission, another outspoken critic of airport expansion, leaders signaled that they were unlikely to join in.

The 61 members of the Commercial Club's Civic Committee used Monday's ad to press political leaders to resolve runway capacity problems at delay-plagued O'Hare. The ad referred to the problem as "the single most important economic issue facing the Chicago region."

Companies represented by the 61 executives who signed the ad include McDonald's, Bank One, Sara Lee, Ameritech, Sears, Nicor, Allstate, United Airlines, American Airlines and Tribune Co. The chairman, president and chief executive officer of Tribune Co., John Madigan, also is chairman of the Commercial Club.

Together the companies employ more than 1 million people, the ad said.

The ad, which appeared in the Tribune, Sun-Times and Daily Herald, said a new runway at O'Hare would generate $10 billion annually and create more than 100,000 jobs.

R. Eden Martin, president of the Civic Committee and a partner in the law firm of Sidley & Austin, called the boycott call "a high-pitched response" that he characterized as unfortunate.

Meanwhile, Jack Saporito, executive director of the alliance, accused the executives of being insensitive to health concerns about aircraft emissions. Saporito said in a statement that O'Hare's almost 1 million flights a year "create serious and deadly health effects that can affect a large percentage of the population in Northeastern Illinois."

The alliance says it represents 1,200 members in 28 communities. On its articles of incorporation filed with the Illinois secretary of state, it states that its purpose is "to promote air safety and a reduction in air and noise pollution ... support a south suburban airport and support no new runways at O'Hare."

Leaders of the Suburban O'Hare Commission, which represents a number of communities near the airport, steered conversation Monday away from a boycott.

"It's probably not something we would be inclined to do," said Bensenville Mayor John Geils, chairman of the commission. Geils said the business leaders' "unthinking acceptance and endorsement of new runways at O'Hare will have disastrous economic and environmental consequences for the region."

"More important, we would encourage the press and legal authorities to examine why the airlines and the city have colluded in their approach to stopping the development of Peotone," the proposed south suburban airport, he said.

Monday, Suburban O'Hare Commission officials were exulting in an Illinois Appellate Court decision that makes public City of Chicago planning documents for O'Hare.

[Chicago ATC News]