WBEZ | Will County http://www.wbez.org/tags/will-county Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 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 But now Will County executive Larry Walsh says the issue over local control is no longer valid, given that IDOT will assume the lead.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