In a rare show of solidarity around a single economic development project, political and community leaders from both Chicago and the South suburbs held a news conference to urge Governor JB Pritzker to complete construction of the South Suburban Airport.
Alderman David Moore (17th), who ran in 2015 on taking a regional approach to developing Chicago’s Southland, said the South Suburban Airport is needed to stop the exodus of residents, create jobs, attract businesses, stop the violence and generate a tax base that will help to transform communities like his.
“This is not an either/or, but an “and/both,” said Ald. Moore. “We need to throw everything we have at the South Side to address the myriad problems residents are facing. The South Suburban Airport is 90 percent complete, and community leaders need to support its completion.”
The news conference was held facing the proposed Auburn Gresham Metra stop at 79th and Lowe streets to underscore the fact that South Side residents have some of the longest daily commutes in the nation and to show how transportation, infrastructure investments and connecting residents to jobs will make it possible for residents to stay in their respective communities. Moore also cited two recent reports that revealed the lending disparities by major banks in Black and white communities and the resulting wealth gap of structural racism.
Auburn Gresham along with West Englewood, Englewood and Roseland have suffered the largest population losses in the city. More than 75,000 residents have left these communities since 1990.
“These are the kinds of investments that need to take place on the South Side to create jobs, connect residents to jobs, allow people to stay in their own communities and create community wealth through investments in their homes, businesses, schools and families,” explains Moore.
Congresswoman Robin Kelly gave the example of three new Amazon distribution centers in Markham, Matteson and Pullman slated for construction as proof of how the Southland is connected.
“As our nation’s largest inland port, we have all the connections—rail, water, highway and now I say, it’s time to add air,” said Rep. Kelly (D-2nd).
There’s no other industry that creates as many direct and indirect jobs as an airport does. If Black Lives Matter, it needs to be more than a slogan followed up with direct action like completion of the South Suburban Airport, added Mark Wallace of 10×10 To Win.
“If we’re going to end the unhealthy conditions in our communities, we must provide economic development and provide good high-end jobs for the people in our communities to repopulate and stabilize our communities,” Wallace pointed out.
Community developer David Doig supports the airport because he said it brings together everything industrial and manufacturing companies look for when deciding where to locate.
“There’s no other place in North America that has the confluence of rail, water, road and now air,” explained Doig, CEO of Chicago Neighborhood Initiative. “This will set the region on fire, and we’re so supportive of this and are ready to bring private sector involvement, development expertise and financing to move it forward.”
The loudest applause line came when Moore asked those in attendance to imagine the Auburn Gresham Metra stop, the Redline extension to 130th Street, the Metra Electric Line extension from Governors State University to the South Suburban Airport and completion of the airport taking place all at the same time. The alderman ended the news conference by calling on Governor JB Pritzker to “just do it.”
Others in attendance included State Rep. Mary Flowers, State Rep. Debbie Meyers Martin, Cook County Commissioner Kim duBuclet, Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller, Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong, University Park Mayor Joe Roudez, Hazel Crest Mayor Vernard Alsberry, Matteson Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin, Board President/CEO Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce Craig Schmidt, CEO Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI) David Doig, CEO Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp. Reggie Greenwood, Rev. James Hunt, New Hope Christian Community Church in Monee, Rev. David Bigsby of The Upper Room M.B. Church, Leori Moore of Evangelism of Grace 60649, Coalition of African American Leaders (COAL): Kevin Truitt, Sylvia Jones and Hank Meyer, and Pastor Stephen Thurston of New Covenant M.B. Church.
State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, Ald. Leslie Hairston and Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza all support the airport but were not present at the June 27 press conference.