WBEZ | Will County http://www.wbez.org/tags/will-county Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Wherefore art thou, Romeoville? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/wherefore-art-thou-romeoville-111302 <p><p>It&rsquo;s a feat of imagination to look beyond modern developments in your town, suburb or neighborhood and picture how the place looked as it was getting its start. Even if your neck of the woods has no historic district or a single century-old home, it&rsquo;s still got a history. And, often, its starting point is somehow tied up with its name.</p><p>Paul Kaiser is particularly interested in the starting point of his adopted home of Joliet, the largest city in Will County. His question for Curious City goes back decades, when he first encountered an odd, name-related fact about Joliet and its apparent relationship to a village just north, Romeoville:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>I believe that Joliet was once named Juliet, while nearby Romeoville was once named Romeo. What&#39;s the story?</em></p><p>To find an answer for Paul, we found historians (both past and present), a linguistics professor and a Shakespeare expert to consider the relationship between the original town names. As we looked at the towns&rsquo; broader history, we found we were able to fill in at least some blanks left by a lack of documents. But more importantly, we learned why origin stories can still be useful to our own identity, even if you can&rsquo;t nail these stories down so tightly.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What we know</span></p><p>Paul&rsquo;s onto something, at least when it comes to the two core details. Back in the 1830s, Joliet was founded as Juliet, and Romeoville was founded as Romeo. (Some sources also call the town Romeo Depot.) You can even see the names on old maps of the area &hellip; which is cute and all, considering they bear an obvious resemblance to <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romeo_and_Juliet" target="_blank">William Shakespeare&rsquo;s star-crossed lovebirds, Romeo and Juliet</a>. There is, however, no solid documentation &mdash; no municipal meeting minutes nor history accounted for by town founders &mdash; that unequivocally lays out why these towns were named as they were.</p><p>But there are some worthy speculations. Your best bet is to head back 150 years or so before the towns were named by white settlers. In the 1670s, French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet were traversing parts of the Great Lakes region, in part to find out if the Mississippi River flowed to the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean.</p><p>In May of 1673, just southwest of present-day Chicago, they stumbled upon a huge mound near the Des Plaines River. On their maps, Marquette and Jolliet christened the landmark Mont Jolliet, and the name stuck. The name later morphed to Mound Joliet.</p><p>About 150 years later, the area was drawn into an ambitious plan by the U.S. government, the newly-formed state of Illinois, and investors to build the Illinois and Michigan Canal, a waterway that would connect the Great Lakes to the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. When completed, materials could be transported quickly, compared to the era&rsquo;s cumbersome overland routes. The federal government ceded land surrounding proposed routes, and lots were sold to fund canal construction.</p><p>James Campbell, treasurer of canal commissioners, bought a bunch of land in the Mound Joliet area. Except, for one reason or another, the area at this time became known as Juliet &mdash; with a U. This is where history gets wonky.</p><p>Even historians from the late 1800s (including those writing just a generation or so after Campbell) can&rsquo;t offer much insight into Juliet&rsquo;s origins. In his 1878 book <em>History of Will County, Illinois</em>, George Woodruff throws his hands in the air:</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/various%20theories%20take%20your%20choice.png" title="An excerpt from the book History of Will County, Illinois, published in 1878, lays out our three theories. " /></div><blockquote><p><em>Campbell&rsquo;s town was recorded as &lsquo;Juliet,&rsquo; whether after Shakespeare&rsquo;s heroine, or his own daughter, or by mistake for Joliet, the writer cannot determine. There are various theories; take your choice.</em></p></blockquote><p>We encountered three theories that account for the original name of Juliet, as well as some kind of relationship with Romeo.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The typo theory</span></p><p>Our question-asker, Paul, is familiar with the explorers Marquette and Jolliet, and he speculates that the town was named Juliet on maps, due to &ldquo;possibly human error on some of the map making. Where things just morphed to what somebody wanted it to be.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/juliet%20joliet%20timeline.png" title="Historical maps of the Will County area show the changing name of modern-day Joliet over time. (Source: Chicago History Museum)" /></div><p>We can find no record of cartographers of yore owning up to such a careless error. But Edward Callary, a linguistics professor at Northern Illinois University who wrote a <a href="http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/33nxw6km9780252033568.html" target="_blank">book on Illinois place names</a>, entertains the idea from an oratory standpoint. He says it&rsquo;s possible that 19th-century map makers may have simply not known how to translate the French-sounding name Jolliet into English. So, when marking the spot of Mound Jolliet, it&rsquo;s possible they made spelling errors. And if that&rsquo;s the case, Callary says, it&rsquo;s also possible those spelling &ldquo;errors&rdquo; were more like willful oversights.</p><p>&ldquo;We sometimes make up things that are a little bit closer to words that we already know rather than ones we don&rsquo;t know,&rdquo; Callary says.</p><p>For example, ever hear of Illinois&rsquo; Embarrass River? Callary points out the name comes from Americans reappropriating the river&rsquo;s French-given name, Embarrasser, which meant &ldquo;obstruction&rdquo; at the time.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The daughter theory</span></p><p>However, Sandy Vasko, the Executive President of the Will County Historical Society, is a proponent of what we call the daughter theory.</p><p>Remember land-buyer and canal treasurer James Campbell? Several sources suggest that he may have had a daughter named Juliet, and that when forming a town, he named it after her.</p><p>Ironically, the earliest suggestion of this comes from the same 1878 Will County history book we got our three theories from. In any case, the author writes:</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/daughter%20theory%202.png" title="" /></div><blockquote><p><em>On the 13th day of May, the Surveyor&rsquo;s certificate was filed, and on the 10th of June, 1834, the plat was recorded and the town christened to &ldquo;Juliet,&rdquo; for Campbell&rsquo;s daughter, it is said &hellip;</em></p></blockquote><p>All of this is debatable, though, since we&rsquo;ve also encountered history books that claim Campbell had a <em>wife</em> named Juliet, not a daughter. But Callary says that&rsquo;s not possible.</p><p>&ldquo;Campbell&rsquo;s wife&rsquo;s name was Sarah Anne,&rdquo; Callary says. &ldquo;He had no females in the family that were named Juliet that I can find. Maybe he named it for a friend&rsquo;s wife or daughter, but he didn&rsquo;t name it for his wife.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The Shakespeare theory</span></p><p>At face value, the Shakespeare theory is simple: The towns Romeo and Juliet were platted around the same time and named, perhaps puckishly (<a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/861" target="_blank">as suggested by one our most prolific web commenters</a>), as a pair in honor of Shakespeare&rsquo;s star-crossed lovebirds. Some sources mention that either Romeo or Juliet were platted as a healthy competitor to the other.</p><p>There&rsquo;s a complex side to the Shakespeare theory, though. To understand why Shakespeare characters would even be appealing names for new towns, it&rsquo;s important to know that &mdash; at times &mdash; there&rsquo;s a lot at stake in a name.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/shakespeare marlboro.jpg" style="height: 386px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="A 1928 ad for Marlboro cigarettes. (Photo courtesy canadianshakespeares.ca)" />Recall that the I&amp;M Canal was meant to make Midwestern transportation cheap, but it was an expensive capital project. Vasko reminds us that &ldquo;people didn&rsquo;t want to buy land until there was a canal. And they couldn&rsquo;t build a canal until they sold the land. And so it was a vicious circle.&rdquo;</p><p>So any boost in land sales was forward momentum as far as the canal commission was concerned. This is where our recognizable Shakespeare characters, the towns named Romeo and Juliet, come in.</p><p>&ldquo;I truly believe that it was almost an advertising gimmick,&rdquo; Sandy Vasko says. She suspects &ldquo;somebody who was big into advertising said: &lsquo;Ya know, let&rsquo;s do this. Let&rsquo;s call this new land Romeo, it&rsquo;ll be a catch thing and maybe we can sell a few extra lots because of the Romeo and Juliet connection.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Sound like a far-fetched connection? Well, consider that, when we kicked the British out of the colonies, we let Shakespeare stay. And in 1800s America, the works of Shakespeare reached a new form of American kingdom.</p><p>&ldquo;Shakespeare is in the theaters, it&rsquo;s in peoples rhetoric books. They&rsquo;re being taught passages of Shakespeare and how to speak it in order to be eloquent,&rdquo; says Heather Nathans, chair of the Department of Drama and Dance at Tufts University. &ldquo;It had a kind of familiarity that I think maybe we don&rsquo;t have now.&rdquo;</p><p>With that level of popularity, it&rsquo;s hardly a surprise that Shakespeare was deployed, like today&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.target.com/bp/cake+boss" target="_blank">Cake Boss</a>, to entice people to buy stuff. Shakespeare became the Shakespeare brand.</p><p>&ldquo;Slap Shakespeare on [a product] and it instantly seems more elegant or elevated, or it&rsquo;s some clever tie-in that draws your attention to whatever it might be: little mints or cigarettes or playing cards.&rdquo; Nathans says.</p><p>If Shakespeare had become an important branding technique in 1800s America, was it used by I&amp;M Canal commissioners? Again, there are no surviving documents that lay this out, but the Bard as &ldquo;brand&rdquo; would have solved a problem the canal faced: Illinois sometimes seemed an uninviting place to prospective landbuyers.</p><p>&ldquo;People really didn&rsquo;t want to move here because they were worried: Are these Indians going to kill us?&rdquo; Vasko says. &ldquo;One of the things [the commissioners] had to do was be sure that people wanted to come here, and that the Indians were gone.&rdquo;</p><p>Mainly, the commissioners encouraged Illinois to act on the federal Indian Removal Act signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/shakespeare coca cola.jpg" style="float: right; height: 393px; width: 280px;" title="A 1928 Coca-Cola advertisement featuring William Shakespeare, published in Life Magazine. (Photo courtesy Coca-Cola) " />Tensions between Native Americans and white settlers came to a head during the timeframe of when Juliet and Romeo were founded. In the spring of 1832, <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/141.html" target="_blank">the Black Hawk War</a> broke out. Afterword, Native Americans, mostly Potawatomi in that area, were forced to leave Illinois for good. They gathered in Kankakee, then walked to reservations in Kansas and Nebraska, according to Vasko. &ldquo;A lot of old people died on the way, of course. A lot of young people were never born, died stillbirth, things like that,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It was a very sad, sad time for Illinois, and it&rsquo;s why we have no Native American reservations at all here in Illinois.&rdquo;</p><p>After the exodus, land sales to white settlers increased. &ldquo;Now they felt safe,&rdquo; Vasko says.</p><p>Heather Nathans adds: &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t think of a better way to declare that that is the past and this is the future, by putting on some nice, recognizable Shakespeare names.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s hard to prove, but perhaps the new Shakespearean town names signalled safety to prospective settlers and investors back East. Regardless, the town names of Romeo and Juliet only stuck around for about 15 years, until 1845.</p><p>The change came about after former President Martin Van Buren passed through Juliet while touring western states. Van Buren noticed the town name of Juliet was similar to the name of Mound Joliet. He encouraged the citizens to reconsider having a town named Juliet after a<em> girl</em>, (again, supposedly Campbell&rsquo;s daughter) and instead call it Joliet, in honor of the renowned explorer.</p><p>&ldquo;And they took [that] under consideration,&rdquo; Vasko says. &ldquo;In 1845 they indeed changed the name from Juliet to Joliet. But, they did refuse to add any extra t&rsquo;s or e&rsquo;s. So the word was Joliet, very plain and simple J-o-l-i-e-t.&rdquo;</p><p>We don&rsquo;t know whether they gave Romeo a heads up, or even if they bothered to send a postcard. And we don&rsquo;t know how Romeo felt about it. But we know what they did: That same year, Romeo added -ville to its name, becoming Romeoville.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The myth lives on</span></p><p>Even without official records or documentation that answers why each place was originally named as it was, hints of Romeo and Juliet persist within their modern incarnations.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/romeo%20cafe%20juliet%20tavern.png" title="Romeo Cafe in Romeoville and Juliet's Tavern in Joliet are hints into the area's past lives. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe and Katie Klocksin)" /></div><p>As you drive through Romeoville you&rsquo;ll pass Juliet Ave. and Romeo Road, Romeo Cafe and Romeo Plaza. In Joliet, you&rsquo;ll find Juliet&rsquo;s Tavern &mdash; a nod to the city&rsquo;s former name.</p><p>But where the Shakespeare theory resonates most is perhaps at the Romeoville Area Historical Society. We take Paul, our question-asker, and his wife, Kathy there to meet Nancy Hackett, president of the society and a Romeoville resident.</p><p>Hackett shows us around the place, and we eyeball some items that hint at the area&rsquo;s slight hangup on its past self.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="416" mozallowfullscreen="true" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1PjwID6dIP5O75xdRfnY6TmoCR5BnjaugI4LIscbUvck/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Hackett says, even outside of the historical society, she lets the Shakespeare connection play out in her everyday life. Among other demonstrations, she shows off a bumper sticker that reads &ldquo;Wherefore art thou, Romeoville?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;For so long Romeoville was that tiny little place,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;When people ask me where it is I say &lsquo;It&rsquo;s north of Juliet&rsquo; &hellip; and then I correct it.&rdquo;</p><p>Hackett may correct herself on the town names, but there&rsquo;s one thing she won&rsquo;t budge on: Shakespeare is the reason for them. She says she knows this because it&rsquo;s in a book written by a woman named Mabel Hrpsha in 1967. Hrpsha was a member of the historical society and part of a long line of Romeoville residents who lived in the unincorporated part of town.</p><p>Hackett finds the specific page of Hrpsha&rsquo;s book, and reads:</p><blockquote><p><em>Romeo was one town proposed by the canal commissioners along the proposed canal. It was named after the Shakespearean hero and planned as a romantic twin sister and rival for Juliet, later Joliet.</em></p></blockquote><p>And even when she learns about the other two theories laid out in history books that predate Hrpsha&rsquo;s, Hackett says: &ldquo;I&rsquo;ll stick with Romeo and Juliet.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What&rsquo;s in a name?</span></p><p>Without the evidence to confirm any single theory, it&rsquo;s hard to disabuse people like Hackett who have chosen to take one theory or another as gospel. But maybe the tendency to perpetuate origin stories &mdash; and the many ways they manifest &mdash; can sometimes be more interesting than a verifiably true story.</p><p>At least that&rsquo;s Callary&rsquo;s take on our answer to Paul Kaiser&rsquo;s question.</p><p>We learn that, through names, people make statements about their heritage. And if a tiny, tiny town like Romeo &mdash; almost written out of history books &mdash; has anything at stake, it is identity.</p><p>&ldquo;Very few [people] have heard of Romeoville&rdquo; Callary says. &ldquo;Joliet is large enough to have an identity on its own but Romeo &mdash; or, Romeoville &mdash; might need a little bit of help.&rdquo;</p><p>So people fill in the gaps because, well, that&rsquo;s just what people do.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s satisfying to have an answer,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And when we don&rsquo;t &hellip; by golly, we make one up.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/paul%20and%20kathy.jpg" style="height: 420px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="Paul Kaiser and his wife, Kathy, after visiting the Romeoville Area Historical Society. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Who asked the question?</span></p><p>Paul Kaiser, a retired math and computer science professor, moved to Joliet from Cleveland, Ohio, in 1973. As a curious new resident to the area, Paul got interested in the history of the I&amp;M Canal. It was while he was learning about the canal that he first came across old maps bearing the town names Romeo and Juliet.</p><p>&ldquo;For me this has been a trip around in a big, long historical circle,&rdquo; Paul says. &ldquo;It seems like we&rsquo;re always coming back to the canal, its importance back in the 1800s for opening up commerce and developing communities.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Luckily, Paul is comfortable with a bit of ambiguity in this Curious City investigation.</p><p>&ldquo;I do like the theory of Juliet being the original name because of Campbell&rsquo;s daughter,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;But as the author says, we don&rsquo;t have any records to really say with 100 percent accuracy. So it&rsquo;s a good guess. I like the story. I&rsquo;m comfortable with the story. But it still leaves some freedom to play with it if you want. I mean, it leaves mystery in your life.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Katie Klocksin is an independent radio producer. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/KatieKlocksin" target="_blank">@katieklocksin</a>. Logan Jaffe is Curious City&#39;s multimedia producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">@loganjaffe</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 15:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/wherefore-art-thou-romeoville-111302 Peotone airport finally taking flight? http://www.wbez.org/news/peotone-airport-finally-taking-flight-108200 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Peotone airport (1)_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a wide-ranging bill that will allow state officials to push forward on a third Chicago area airport. Efforts on the project have been stalled for decades because of disagreements about local control.</p><p>The bill signed Thursday authorized the Illinois Department of Transportation to spend about $70 million to continue land acquisition. The construction will be a public-private partnership and Quinn&#39;s office estimates it&#39;ll create 14,000 jobs when operational.</p><p>The bill also allows Chicago to set up financing for a new DePaul University sports arena on Lake Michigan and provides tax incentives for a fertilizer plant in central Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;From day one, I have fought to make the South Suburban Airport a reality in Will County,&rdquo; Gov. Quinn said. &ldquo;Today, I am happy to say that our hard work and commitment to getting the job done has paid off. Now we can move forward with the development of this major economic engine that will strengthen our status as the transportation hub of the nation while creating thousands of good-paying jobs in Illinois.&rdquo;</p><p>The project had been delayed for years over who would control the airport &ndash; Will County or a group led by former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. But now Will County executive Larry Walsh says the issue over local control is no longer valid, given that IDOT will assume the lead. Walsh credited State Sen. Toi Hutchinson for pushing the legislation to get the deal done.</p><p>&ldquo;They have opened up the doors and have guaranteed us that anytime we need to meet, any kind of questions, they are open for discussion and debate,&rdquo; Walsh said. &ldquo;When you&rsquo;ve got that kind of opportunity, let&rsquo;s all work together and see what we can come up with. &ldquo;</p><p><b id="docs-internal-guid-78af2db9-1c80-7986-1b60-732d559f4dfe" style="font-weight:normal;"><span style="font-size:16px;font-family:Arial;color:#000000;background-color:transparent;font-weight:normal;font-style:italic;font-variant:normal;text-decoration:none;vertical-align:baseline;white-space:pre-wrap;">Follow WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana reporter Michael Puente on Twitter </span><a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews" style="text-decoration:none;"><span style="font-size:16px;font-family:Arial;color:#66c1ba;background-color:#ffffff;font-weight:normal;font-style:italic;font-variant:normal;text-decoration:none;vertical-align:baseline;white-space:pre-wrap;">@</span><span style="font-size:16px;font-family:Arial;color:#00998c;background-color:#ffffff;font-weight:normal;font-style:italic;font-variant:normal;text-decoration:underline;vertical-align:baseline;white-space:pre-wrap;">MikePuenteNews</span></a><span style="font-size:16px;font-family:Arial;color:#000000;background-color:transparent;font-weight:normal;font-style:italic;font-variant:normal;text-decoration:none;vertical-align:baseline;white-space:pre-wrap;">.</span></b></p></p> Fri, 26 Jul 2013 08:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/peotone-airport-finally-taking-flight-108200 New Will County airport advances in Illinois House http://www.wbez.org/news/new-will-county-airport-advances-illinois-house-107460 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/capitol_0.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>After decades of debate over adding a third airport to the Chicago area, the Illinois House of Representatives has passed a measure that will allow for the construction and operation of a new airport to be located in Will County.</p><p>The legislation approved Thursday allows the Illinois Department of Transportation to enter into a public-private partnership to develop the South Suburban Airport in Peotone.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn calls the House vote a breakthrough. He says after years of pushing, the state is moving forward with developing a &quot;huge economic engine&quot; that will create jobs.</p><p>But some representatives criticized the way the bill was put together, lumping several projects around the state into one bill that was introduced hours before it was passed with 81 votes.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m concerned on the scope of this bill,&rdquo; Democratic State Rep. Jack Franks said Thursday. &ldquo;I think there&rsquo;s a lot of good things in here, but I also think there are things that would not and could not and should not pass on their own. And that&rsquo;s why they&rsquo;ve been put in this bill, to try to cover that up.&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has criticized the idea of a third airport, and some lawmakers questioned how much use the airport would get and how much notice property owners would get before their land is used for the airport.</p><p>The measure also authorizes financing for a new 10,000-seat basketball arena for DePaul University near Chicago&#39;s McCormick Place. The facility also would be used as a hall for conventions and trade shows.</p><p>The bill now moves to the Senate.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 31 May 2013 11:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-will-county-airport-advances-illinois-house-107460 Backers of detention center bill race against clock http://www.wbez.org/news/backers-detention-center-bill-race-against-clock-99614 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Crete_protest_at_DAmico.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 238px; height: 281px;" title="Protesters at the district office of Rep. John D’Amico, D-Chicago, demand that he back the measure. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /></div><p>Supporters of an Illinois bill that would block a proposed Chicago-area immigrant detention center are racing against the clock as lawmakers try to adjourn for the summer by Thursday.</p><p>The measure, <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=1064&amp;GAID=11&amp;DocTypeID=SB&amp;SessionID=84&amp;GA=97">SB1064</a>, would ban government agencies at the local and state level from contracting with private firms to construct or run civil detention centers. It would broaden a decades-old Illinois ban on privately built or operated state prisons and county jails.</p><p>It would also scuttle a proposal for south suburban Crete to contract with Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America to build and run a 788-bed facility that would hold detainees for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.</p><p>The Senate approved the bill March 28. The House Executive Committee followed suit May 2. Gov. Pat Quinn&rsquo;s office said he would sign the measure if it reached his desk.</p><p>But the bill&rsquo;s House sponsors, led by Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago), have not lined up the 60 votes they would need to ensure a win on the floor of their chamber.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re close,&rdquo; said Fred Tsao, policy director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, who is lobbying for the measure.</p><p>The bill could get caught in a legislative logjam as lawmakers try to pass a state budget and get out of Springfield. The measure is also hitting some turbulence that crosses party lines. Some House members say they&rsquo;ll oppose anything in the way of tougher immigration enforcement. Others are wary of upsetting unions whose members could help build and operate the Crete facility.</p><p>John Scheidt, president of the Will and Grundy County Building Trades Council, testified before the House committee that the project would bring 200 permanent jobs. &ldquo;That would be almost $12 million in annual payroll that would be generated out of this facility,&rdquo; Scheidt said.</p><p>Tsao&rsquo;s group helped organize a protest late Friday at the district office of Rep. John D&rsquo;Amico (D-Chicago), who accepts a lot of campaign funding from building-trades unions. &ldquo;He told us in Springfield he opposes the bill because the project is a jobs generator,&rdquo; Tsao said.</p><p>D&rsquo;Amico did not return calls about the measure.</p><p>Crete officials have yet to approve the detention center but have touted the jobs as well as tax benefits and expected per-detainee payments to the village.</p><p>Those officials have gotten an earful from some Crete residents convinced that the facility would drag down their property values and stretch village resources. They&rsquo;ve aligned with immigrant advocates who say CCA treats its detainees and workers poorly &mdash; a claim disputed by the company. The immigrant advocates also see the detention center as part of an enforcement push that has led to record numbers of deportations.</p><p>Crete residents almost got a chance to question immigration officials at a town-hall meeting that Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Luis Gutierrez were planning to host May 21 in a local school. But officials called off the gathering just hours in advance due to security concerns related to the NATO summit, they said. Rick Bryant, a Jackson aide, says the congressman&rsquo;s office is talking with ICE in hopes of setting a June date for the meeting.</p></p> Tue, 29 May 2012 12:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/backers-detention-center-bill-race-against-clock-99614 House committee passes bill blocking Crete detention center http://www.wbez.org/news/house-committee-passes-bill-blocking-crete-detention-center-98754 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Cretemarch3.jpg" style="float: left; width: 317px; height: 288px;" title="Village resident Dan Taylor stands on the site of the proposed facility, which would hold detainees for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (WBEZ/Charlie Billups)"></div><p>A bill that would block a proposed immigrant detention center in south suburban Crete cleared another Illinois legislative hurdle Wednesday. The House Executive Committee approved the measure with a 7-4 vote, which could set up a debate on the House floor.</p><p>The bill, <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=1064&amp;GAID=11&amp;DocTypeID=SB&amp;SessionID=84&amp;GA=97">SB1064</a>, would make Illinois one of the nation’s first states to ban local governments and state agencies from contracting with private firms to build or run civil detention centers. Sponsored by Reps. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago) and Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero), it would broaden an Illinois law banning privately built or operated state prisons and county jails.</p><p>The committee vote followed about 15 minutes of discussion. Rep. Michael Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) said he supported the bill because of excess capacity in a few Illinois prisons and detention centers. “I feel that a good use of these facilities may in fact be a contract with the U.S. Marshals and [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] for a detainment center in communities that want them.” Tryon said. “I certainly would encourage our governor’s office to look at use of our facilities before we allow construction of a new facility.”</p><p>The only speaker who voiced opposition to the bill was John Scheidt, president of the Will and Grundy County Building Trades Council, who said the Crete project would bring 200 permanent jobs. “That would be almost $12 million in annual payroll that would be generated out of this facility,” Scheidt said.</p><p>The 788-bed center would hold ICE detainees. To build and run it, that federal agency would contract with Crete, which would contract with Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America. Village officials have touted the project’s expected jobs and tax benefits but have yet to approve the facility.</p><p>Some village residents say the detention center would hurt their community. They’re working with immigrant advocates who say CCA treats its detainees and workers poorly. The company disputes that claim.</p><p>The bill could become a model for opponents of privately run detention centers in other states. But supporters of the legislation acknowledge that Illinois could not stop the federal government from contracting directly with private entities to build or run a detention center in the state.</p><p>The Senate approved the bill in a 34-17 vote March 28. In the House, some Republicans who support tough immigration enforcement have vowed to fight the measure. Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) has not announced a position on it.</p></p> Wed, 02 May 2012 17:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/house-committee-passes-bill-blocking-crete-detention-center-98754 Laid off workers sue Wal-Mart contractors http://www.wbez.org/story/laid-workers-sue-wal-mart-contractors-96039 <p><p><img alt="Leticia Rodríguez, one of the plaintiffs." class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-01/Rodriguez1.JPG" style="margin: 9px 18px 6px 1px; float: left; width: 239px; height: 291px;" title="Leticia Rodríguez, one of the plaintiffs, blames the Arkansas retailer. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)">Low-wage workers are trying something new to improve conditions in warehouses that sprawl across suburban Will County. A class-action lawsuit claims two contractors at a massive Wal-Mart Stores distribution center in Elwood violated a federal law requiring most companies with 100 or more employees to provide 60 days’ notice of a mass layoff.</p><p>The suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, claims a logistics firm and staffing agency violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act by failing to provide the notice before laying off about 65 workers in the warehouse December 29.</p><p>On paper, the plaintiffs were employees of a staffing agency, Florida-based Eclipse Advantage, that was brought in by Wisconsin-based Schneider Logistics, a company that runs the warehouse. Wal-Mart owns the facility, hired Schneider and owns the goods the workers unloaded, but the suit does not name the Arkansas-based retailer as a defendant.</p><p>It’s not uncommon in the retail industry for companies to shed workers as the holiday season winds down. Wednesday’s claim, nevertheless, says the layoff came in retaliation for a November suit alleging wage and hour violations at the warehouse. That case’s defendants are Schneider, Eclipse and another staffing agency, Mid-West Temp Group, based in southwest suburban New Lenox.</p><p>Dizzying as the warehouse’s labor arrangements may be, plaintiffs in Wednesday’s suit say just one company is ultimately responsible.</p><p>"Wal-Mart hires third parties or agencies because they’re always trying to save money to see how they can get the job done with less costs,” said Leticia Rodríguez, 36, who worked in the warehouse for five years through staffing firms. “We as employees pay the price because we’re forced to work under conditions like this — [for less than] minimum wage sometimes — because we need to make ends meet.”</p><p>In response to the plaintiffs, Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter read a prepared statement: “We hold all of our vendors to high standards, and our expectation is they comply with all applicable laws. Our vendors, such as Schneider, may take whatever corrective actions may be necessary.”</p><p>Rossiter declined to say how Wal-Mart holds venders like Schneider accountable.</p><p>Schneider, for its part, didn’t return calls and messages about the suit.</p><p>Kristina Sanders, human resources manager of Eclipse, declined to answer questions. She read a prepared statement that said her company “has and will continue to pay its employees in compliance with all applicable laws at competitive rates.” She said any allegations of unlawful pay or practices were “unfounded” and would be “defended vigorously.”</p><p>The suit claims the plaintiffs were “jointly employed” by Eclipse and Schneider because, among other reasons, both companies directed the work.</p><p>“First thing in the morning, Schneider requires all the employees in this section of the warehouse to line up and start doing stretches to avoid workplace injuries,” said Christopher Williams, the plaintiffs’ attorney. “So the Schneider employees are standing next to the Eclipse employees, [who] are standing next to the Mid-West employees. And they are all doing these stretches together under the supervision and control of Schneider.”</p><p>It’s unusual to sue a staffing agency based on the WARN Act, designed to provide workers time to adjust to layoffs, get training to compete in the job market, and find other employment.</p><p>The November suit, in contrast, is part of a wave of litigation targeting “wage theft,” in which employers allegedly flout the minimum wage, shortchange workers on overtime or force them to work off the clock.</p></p> Thu, 02 Feb 2012 02:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/laid-workers-sue-wal-mart-contractors-96039 Chicago's surprisingly steep population loss http://www.wbez.org/story/2010-census/chicagos-surprisingly-steep-population-loss <p><p>The city of Chicago lost nearly seven percent of its population over the past decade, according to U.S. Census data released Tuesday.</p><p>Chicago had close to 2.9 million residents in 2000. According to the 2010 census, there are now 200,000 fewer Chicagoans.<br /><br />&quot;The population of Chicago dropped considerably more than was expected given the estimates during the decade from 2000 to 2009, so that was something of a surprise,&quot; said Ken Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire who used to work at Loyola University Chicago.<br /><br />&quot;The other interesting piece of data for Chicago is going to be that the black population of Chicago dropped quite significantly,&quot; Johnson said.<br /><br />That represents the bulk of the city's net population loss.<br /><br />All this data will be key as lawmakers redraw legislative boundaries this year, especially given that Illinois will lose a seat in the U.S. House.<br /><br />The numbers released Tuesday also show that the population of suburban Cook County mostly held steady, while some other counties in the area saw big booms.<br /><br />&quot;Kendall County's population doubled,&quot; Johnson noted. &quot;Will County went up by 175,000.&quot;<br /><br />Johnson suggested those increases would probably have been even higher if not for the recession slowing growth at the end of the decade.</p></p> Tue, 15 Feb 2011 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/2010-census/chicagos-surprisingly-steep-population-loss Politicos look to Chicago suburbs as key to election http://www.wbez.org/story/cdata/politicos-look-chicago-suburbs-key-election <p><p>Politicians in Illinois are looking at turnout in Chicago's suburbs to determine the results of some statewide races. Kent Redfield teaches political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield. He said turnout in the collar counties could make or break a candidate running for governor or senator.</p><p>&quot;The Republican base is smaller than the Democratic base, all things being equal. If the Democratic candidates split moderate independent swing voters, they should win overall,&quot;&nbsp;Redfield said.</p><p>Redfield said Democrats have not polled well with swing voters so far this year, though. Clerks in many of the collar counties and suburban Cook report more people voted early in this midterm election than in 2006.</p></p> Tue, 02 Nov 2010 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/cdata/politicos-look-chicago-suburbs-key-election Inland port spreads across Will County plains http://www.wbez.org/story/news/economy/%C3%A2%E2%82%AC%CB%9Cinland-port%C3%A2%E2%82%AC%E2%84%A2-sprawls-across-will-county-plains-0 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Elwood.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><strong>Developers are connecting the nation's railways to enormous state-of-the art warehouses to make shipping easier for big companies like Walmart. One of the most ambitious of these projects is in southwest suburban Will County. And it's about to expand.<br /></strong><br />Neil Doyle is a vice-president of Oak Brook-based CenterPoint Properties Trust. We meet at a helicopter pad a few miles past Joliet. He says it's the best way to see his company's project there. His pilot straps us in.</p> <p>Ambi: Helicopter blades chop through the air during takeoff.</p> <p>We use headsets so we don't have to yell over the engine.</p> <p>DOYLE: We're hovering over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Logistics Park Chicago, as it's known. We built this between 2000 and 2002. Then we built the industrial park next to it -- three bridges, 25 miles of roads, water systems, wastewater plants, all new utilities. And what you're seeing is about a dozen trains in here today, the longest trains that run in the country.</p> <p>MITCHELL: What are they carrying and where's the stuff going?</p> <p>DOYLE: They're carrying boxes. These are 100 percent international boxes, packed on the shores of another country, from Asia to the Mediterranean.</p> <p>MITCHELL: Boxes as in cargo containers.</p> <p>DOYLE: Containers, yes. The majority here will be coming from the ports of L.A.-Long Beach, the nation's largest and busiest port complex. They're loaded on the trains. They're two miles long, the equivalent of 400 trucks. They show up here and they're unloaded for Midwest consumption -- furniture, electronics, auto parts, you name it. They're unloaded by those overhead diesel cranes. They're put onto trailers.</p> <p>And here's the key to what Doyle calls his inland port. Many of the semi-trailers don't drive away with the containers. They don't need to. They just go across a road to some giant warehouses.</p> <p>DOYLE: Whether it's Walmart, Target, Georgia Pacific, you name it. They go into these buildings and they go either to regional distribution centers or right to a store shelf. The perfect model, if you're the retailer, is they go right to the store.</p> <p>MITCHELL: How was the work getting done before?</p> <p>DOYLE: It was just very difficult. The railroads were moving goods but they were moving them to city center, into old antiquated yards in neighborhoods and industrial areas that couldn't accept the volumes that needed to come that way. It used to take a train about three days to get from L.A. to Joliet, another three days to get to downtown Chicago. Hey, Mike, could we fly one more loop around, maybe Elwood?</p> <p>PILOT: Yeah.</p> <p>Ambi: Helicopter blades.</p> <p>DOYLE: These two facilities you see on your left-hand side, those are Walmart's. These are Midwest import-distribution centers. They're the biggest user of industrial space right now in this park. Each one of those buildings is a half-mile long. Together, they're 50 percent larger than McCormick Place in its entirety.</p> <p>Doyle says a couple years ago his company realized something.</p> <p>DOYLE: We're going to run out of land before we run out of demand. We started acquiring land here North.</p> <p>What this means is everything we've seen on this helicopter so far is just the beginning. The company's brought in Union Pacific to build a second rail yard.</p> <p>DOYLE: What you'll have is one 6,000-acre park, anchored by the two largest railroads of the world, at the end of their longest run, in their biggest facilities. And you'll end up with about 30-plus million square feet of industrial space.</p> <p>MITCHELL: Who will be your industrial users and when will they open up?</p> <p>DOYLE: Well, I can hope and I can guess. But it's a 10-year marketing effort.</p> <p>The helicopter pilot takes us back toward the pad. And Doyle says this Will County project doesn't just benefit big companies. It expands the local property-tax base. And it's creating jobs.</p> <p>DOYLE: This is 100-percent union construction. And there are probably 1,000 people that work at that BNSF facility on three different shifts. And the logistics jobs: This is not your grandfather's warehouse. These are people riding around on forklifts with laptops and bar scanners. Our models show that we'll hit about 25,000 jobs when our work is complete here. And these are jobs you can live on.</p> <p>Actually, that's a point of contention. And it's something I hope to explore after this helicopter lands.<br /><br /><strong>More: <a href="http://blogs.vocalo.org/cmitchell/2010/08/helicopter-ride-evokes-nagging-question/35705">Helicopter ride evokes nagging question</a><br />More: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/Content.aspx?audioID=44063">Taxpayers subsidize low-paid warehouse jobs</a></strong></p></p> Thu, 26 Aug 2010 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/news/economy/%C3%A2%E2%82%AC%CB%9Cinland-port%C3%A2%E2%82%AC%E2%84%A2-sprawls-across-will-county-plains-0