Thursday, December 13, 2012

Joliet Immigrant Detention Center Public Forum

By Ann Baskerville

JOLIET--Hundreds packed the Our Lady of Mount Caramel Parish Hall on Joliet's East Side tonight to begin organizing efforts against a possible immigrant detention center in Joliet, Illinois.

Town Hall Meeting on the Joliet Immigrant Prison
A priest and a representative from the Diocese of Joliet quoted scripture while citizens who organized a successful campaign against a private, for-profit immigrant detention center in Crete, Illinois told the crowd, "We are with you" and "Si, se puede" to a standing ovation.
Signs against the Crete and Joliet Immigrant Detention Centers
Pastor Craig Purchase spoke out against an immigrant detention center, saying: "we in the black community should not tolerate this issue."  Purchase said at one point he did not hold the position he had now because he had not yet put himself in the shoes of an undocumented person.  Purchase said when you really understand this issue, it's a "no brainer."  Purchase went on to say we live in a society where African-Americans and whites have been told the "brown people are taking your jobs," but really, "our jobs are in China":

A woman discusses her experience in a Detention Center and the stress that experience placed on her children:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Anthony Rudis: A Conservationist

Anthony Rudis:  A Conservationist

Anthony Rudis was proud of his heritage, strong in his faith, and committed to protecting the environment. He shared the values he honed through a century of learning and caring.

He was proud to say he had planted a rainforest for Peotone—planting thousands of trees on the land he furiously protected from the state’s plan for a third airport at Peotone.

His multi-decade opposition to the proposed airport was, he said, based on a single, simple fact: “There is no need.”

In 2004, Rudis and his late wife, Mary, donated 90 acres of land at Egyptian Trail and Eagle Lake Road in eastern Will County to Loyola University in Chicago for field study in biology and environmental studies. He gave the land with no conditions, he said.  

He often hosted tours of the farm, telling visitors that the thousands of tree planted as part of his conservation plans purified the air. 

In 2001, the couple was named the Conservation Farm Family of the Year by the Will-South Cook Soil and Water Conservation District.   
                      ~ by Mary Baskerville

Friday, November 23, 2012

WalMart Protest in Joliet, Illinois

By Mary Baskerville
Carriage Stone Communications

JOLIET—The gathering at Sacred Heart Church on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving was equal parts fellowship and solidarity.  Practicing chants, the group gathered, held hands and joined in a prayer asking for a blessing on workers and to show support for Wal-Mart workers struggling with what the organizers say is less than a living wage, before going to Jefferson Street to march in front of the store’s entrance drive.

Sue Myers of Frankfort marched in the bitterly cold wind because she wanted to show support for the workers, who deserve to paid a living wage, she said.

“I feel Wal-Mart is unfair,” Pam Leddy, of Joliet, said as she stood to the entrance of Wal-Mart off Jefferson Street: “It’s a very high price to a community for their prices.”

Will County Board District 5 member Reed Bible  said he was standing in “support of the Wal-Mart workers” for better wages and benefits. Will County Board District 4 member Jackie Traynere said the “workers need people to stand up, the corporate dream has become a nightmare."

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart issued a statement Friday saying the company broke Black Friday records. In part, the news release read:
"BENTONVILLE, Ark., Nov. 23, 2012 – Today, Wal-Mart U.S. reported its best ever Black Friday events. The retailer saw larger crowds than last year and a huge response to its first ever one-hour guarantee on key electronic items.
“I’m so proud of what our more than 1.3 million associates have done to prepare and execute our Black Friday plans, giving our customers a great start to their Christmas shopping season,” said Bill Simon, Wal-Mart U.S. president and chief executive officer. “The work of our associates is even more impressive when you consider they served approximately 22 million customers on Thursday."

Here is a video of today's action in front of the Joliet WalMart:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Jesse Jackson Jr. Resigns House Seat, Cites Peotone Airport in Resignation Letter

Jesse Jackson Jr. has formally resigned his House Seat.  Jackson was re-elected to the Illinois Second Congressional District in the November 2012 election.

In his resignation letter, Jackson described his work for the 2nd District throughout his time in Congress.  In his letter Jackson says a Peotone airport will employ 300,000 people.  The letter goes on to say "sitting on the Governor’s desk 400,000,000 proposal for an airport that will cost the taxpayers nothing and only awaits the Governor’s commitment to build it."

Read the entire resignation letter here.

More on the Peotone Airport.

WalMart Stike, Black Friday Boycott, and Will County

Will County is at the heart of both the nation's freight distribution system and recent action by workers to change how WalMart treats workers at its warehouses and retail stores.  Will County--where all 6 Class A Railroads meet--is home to the nation's largest inland port---two intermodals where trains bring freight from the coast for transfer to truck and distribution to a big-box store near year.  If you live in Will County you have probably seen the long intermodal trains carrying containers headed into the intermodals in Joliet and Elwood.

In September 2012, workers at the massive WalMart warehouse in Elwood, Illinois went on strike for unfair labor practices.  The workers---employed through the staffing agency Roadlink to work at the WalMart warehouse which is run by Schneider Logistics---presented management with a petition about workers' concerns about wage theft, unsafe conditions, and discrimination.  Workers were told they to leave the building, and then went on strike for illegal retaliation.

Here, a striking worker at the Elwood WalMart warehouse explains why he went on strike:

Workers at the warehouse also stated they were sometimes paid by a "piece rate" system that resulted in getting paid less than minimum wage and were also not paid for all hours worked:

An October 1, 2012 rally for striking workers in front of the WalMart warehouse in Elwood led to arrests after members of the clergy sat down in the street in an act of civil disobedience against what they said were injustices in the warehouse:

 Mike Compton, a striking worker at the Elwood WalMart Warehouse was interviewed on Democracy Now about his experience at the WalMart warehouse and how warehouse workers felt connected to WalMart retail employees who are planning a Black Friday strike:

Many of the Will County workers organize with Joliet-based Warehouse Workers for Justice.  The group is an independent workers center founded by the United Electrical Workers.  Warehouse Workers for Justice has been organizing for three years in Will County and has called for improvement in Will County warehouses and for making warehouse jobs permanent and family-supporting.  Warehouse Workers for Justices says the majority of warehouse jobs in Will County are based on a "perma-temp" system wherein most people working in warehouses are employed not by the company whose goods are moving through the warehouse, but by staffing agencies that hire people on a temp basis.  The group also claims wage theft, discrimination, and a lack of basic benefits characterize most warehouse jobs in Will County.  Last winter, Warehouse Workers for Justice held a community meeting on sexual harassment in warehouses:

Warehouse Workers for Justice will hold a rally in front of Sacred Heart Church in Joliet at 8 a.m. on Black Friday and then head to the WalMart on West Jefferson Street in Joliet.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Will County Election Results 2012

To view all Will County election results, go here.

Results will start to post after polls close at 7:00 p.m. and will continue to update throughout the night as more votes are counted.

Manhattan Elwood Library Referendum Results 2012

Voters in the Manhattan-Elwood Public Library District once again voted on a referendum for the Manhattan-Elwood Public Library.  Voters were asked whether the library should purchase the HomeStar Bank Building on Gougar and Sweedler Road to use for a new library.

To view the library referendum results from the November 6,  2012 election, go here and scroll down to the bottom.

Results will begin to be posted after the polls close at 7:00 p.m. and will continue to be tabulated throughout the night.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Illiana Tollway Protest

Opponents of the Peotone Airport and the Illiana Expressway met to protest plans for the Illiana Expressway, calling it "Illiana Neosprawl".  In October 2012, the Illiana Planning Team announced corridor "B3" and a "No Build" option would continue forward for further study.  The B3 corridor travels from near Lowell, Indiana to Wilmington, Illinois and passes through a mapped "South Suburban Airport".    The protest took place outside State Senator Toi Hutchinson's office in Olympia Fields.  Hutchinson introduced legislation allowing for quick take eminent domain for a public-private Illiana Expressway.

Protest Against the Peotone Airport and the Illiana Expressway
Symerton landowner whose farm would be affected by the Illiana B3

Anthony Rayson of STAND then gave a statement condemning the proposed Illiana as an engine of sprawl in Southern and Eastern Will County:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

B3 and No Build Chosen for Illiana Expressway

The Illiana Expressway planners met this week in Peotone, identifying two options to continue forward: 
  • Building the expressway designed to link Interstate 55 in Illinois with Interstate 65 in Indiana along a route running roughly from Wilmington to Peotone
  • Or, consider a no action.
The final Tier 1 Corridor Planning Group/Technical Task Force meeting was held Oct. 9, 2012 at the Will County Atrium.
A graphic presentation of the comparison by the Illiana Planning Team between routes is posted. Go here--- for a full report. 

Interactive Map of the B3 Corridor----HERE.
According to the website, a formal announcement will be made in November or December of the preferred actions. 
        The presentation by the study committee calls Corridor B3 best for:
       • Attracting cars and trucks to the Illiana
       • Reducing E-W regional travel hours
       • Reducing trucks on Study Area local roads
       • Serving intermodal truck freight distribution

According to the presentation, B3 and no action are the suggested alternatives to be carried forward to the Tier 2 review.
The Illiana Study Team recommendation for the Preferred Alternative(s)   will be reviewed for concurrence by environmental resource agencies. The Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be released before the end of the year. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Rally and Protest for Striking Warehouse Workers in Elwood, Illinois

Elwood, Illinois

During a march and rally in support of warehouse workers who are on strike for unfair labor practices, several members of the clergy were arrested for blocking the road.   The clergy sat and formed a line in front of WalMart's giant warehouse.  The Elwood police gave several warnings that people needed to be out of the street.  The people sitting in the road were arrested by officers from the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System after those officers also gave a warning.  According to its website, the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System, "was formed in 2002  in response to the September 11th attacks as a joint venture of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.  We were created to meet the needs of local law enforcement throughout the State of Illinois in matters of mutual aid, emergency response and the combining of resources for public safety and terrorism prevention and response. We are a consortium of over 900 local governments established pursuant to the Constitution of the State of Illinois (Ill. Const. Art. VII, sec. 10), the Illinois Intergovernmental Cooperation Act (5 ILCS 220/1 et seq.), the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/7-101 et seq.) and the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/11-1-2.1)."

Father Raymond Lescher of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Joliet arrested for sitting in the street at a march and rally in support of striking warehouse workers in Elwood, Illinois
A group of hundreds of striking warehouse workers, union members, and others marched to the entrance of the WalMart warehouse from a nearby park.
Rally for striking warehouse workers in Elwood, Illinois

About 30 workers working at the WalMart warehouse and employed by the staffing company Roadlink are on strike.  The workers presented their supervisors with a petition calling for an end to wage theft, discrimination, and dangerous working conditions.  Workers say they were told they were "no longer welcome" in the warehouse.  The workers say that was illegal retaliation and that the workers are now on strike for unfair labor practices.  Warehouse Workers for Justice has been calling for better working conditions in area warehouses for over three years.  A representative from Warehouse Workers for Justice said the WalMart warehouse was closed down for business today at 10 a.m. and workers were sent home.
Reverand Craig Purchase of Joliet arrested at the rally outside the WalMart warehouse in Elwood, Illinoi

Members of the clergy sit in the street in protest over working conditions in the WalMart warehouse in Elwood, Illinois
Member of the clergy arrested at a rally outside the WalMart Warehouse in Elwood, Illinois

Thursday, September 27, 2012

WalMart Warehouse Strike in Elwood, IL

Members of, SEIU Health Care Workers, and members of the community joined striking warehouse workers on the picket line outside the Schneider Logistics-run WalMart distribution center in Elwood, Illinois.

Strike outside the WalMart warehouse in Elwood, IL

Here a striking worker explains his experience in the WalMart warehouse:

Strike outside the WalMart warehouse in Elwood, IL

Strike outside the WalMart warehouse in Elwood, IL
About 30 workers employed by Roadlink walked off the job after being told by Roadlink management they were no longer welcome in the warehouse after the workers presented Roadlink management a petition asking for better wages and working conditions.  Roadlink supplies workers for the warehouse which is run by Schneider.   WalMart contracts Schneider to run the warehouse and Schneider in turn grants contracts to staffing companies to supply workers for the warehouse.  There are also employees who are employed directly by Schneider.

A large rally and march is planned at the Elwood warehouse on Monday, October 1, 2012, starting at 2 p.m. and continuing until about 5 p.m..

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Unfair Labor Practice Strike at WalMart Warehouse in Elwood

On Saturday September 15, 2012 workers employed by Roadlink Workforce Solutions working at the Schneider-run WalMart warehouse in Elwood presented management a petition asking for a living wage, a safe workplace, regular hours, and permanent jobs.

According to Phillip Bailey, one of the workers who both presented the petition and is named in a lawsuit suing Roadlink for non-payment of wages, after the workers presented the petition, the workers were told they were "no longer welcome in the building."  Later, some of the workers received a phone message stating "they were suspended until pending management review."  Bailey said 5 or 6 people got that message.  

After learning they were "no longer welcome in the building" about 30 workers walked out and went on strike for retaliation which is an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act.   Workers say they tried to petition management for better conditions, were retaliated against, and are now on an unfair labor practice strike.

Prior to the strike at the WalMart warehouse, Bailey and other workers filed suit against Roadlink Workforce Solutions for wage theft.  Bailey said he and others did not clock in on a time clock, but rather wrote their hours down on a sign-in, sign-out sheet, and the company would "cheat you out of an hour here, an hour there, you really have to watch your pay stub."  Furthermore, Bailey said workers are "required to be there 15 minutes before you start time, but you are not paid for those 15 minutes.  If you were not there 15 minutes before shift, you could get disciplined."

Bailey said some workers would show up at the warehouse for work and then be told by management that there was no work that day.  Bailey states this is against the Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act, which states temporary workers must be paid for four hours if they show up the site and then are told there is no work.

Many of the striking workers are members of Joliet-based Warehouse Workers for Justice, "an independent workers center founded by the United Electrical Workers (UE)."  Warehouse Workers for Justice advocates for an end to the use of temporary workers in warehouses and the  transformation of warehouse jobs from low-wage, temporary jobs to living-wage, family-supporting jobs. Leah Fried, spokesperson for Warehouse Workers for Justice said, "WalMart sets the standard" for people who work in the warehouse industry" and "wage theft is a real problem in this industry."   Fried said Warehouse Workers for Justice is "calling on WalMart to take responsibility" and hold companies that run their warehouses to the standards of their "Standards for Suppliers"  which is posted on WalMart's website.   

Asked about the mood of the workers in the warehouse, Bailey said, ""everyone is extremely demoralized, everyone's about to quit."  Bailey said turnover is massive and most people leave after about 3 months. Bailey said the job consists of  "loading trucks all day with boxes, no one would take this job if they had a choice, you have to be pretty desperate and they count on that." 

Asked whether he thinks other warehouse workers will join the strike, Bailey said, "People working in the WalMart warehouse are people in extremely marginal conditions, they live paycheck to paycheck.  The people want to stand up against the working conditions in the warehouse but there is a lot of fear."  Bailey said raises are unheard of and the health insurance plan "is a joke, you'd be just as good to buy your own policy."  

Asked about the warehouse industry and its use of third-party staffing companies, Bailey said, "they put these warehouse clusters where they can find low-wage labor forces,  People who are in poverty and will never get out of poverty at $10 an hour"  With the current economy, Bailey said there is  "Not much to hang over the employer's head, there are plenty of workers."

While there may not be much to hang over the heads of large companies like WalMart who use third-party staffing companies to hire and manage the workers moving WalMart product, Bailey does point to another way.  Bailey says the Walgreens warehouse in Bolingbrook is union and Bailey hears workers there make $18 an hour, just about the same amount he hears WalMart pays Roadlink to supply workers for its warehouse in Elwood.

Video of the striking workers outside the WalMart warehouse in Elwood, video by Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice:

Warehouse Workers for Justice is holding a rally on the strike line October 1, 2012 at 2 p.m..  Go to the Warehouse Workers for Justice Facebook page for more info.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Warehouse Workers on Strike at WalMart's Distribution Center in Elwood, Illinois

Warehouse workers working at the WalMart distribution center in Elwood, Illinois are on strike.  The warehouse is not run by WalMart, but by Schneider Logistics.

According to a Warehouse Workers for Justice Press Release:

"Workers at Wal-Mart's largest distribution center went on strike today to protest illegal retaliation and other labor abuses.
"This comes just days after workers at the California warehouse that supplies Wal-Mart stores walked off the job to protest illegal retaliation and poor working conditions."

The workers are asking for people to support the workers by signing a petition to WalMart CEO Michael Duke and also by joining the strike line: 
"We need your support now more than ever. Please sign our petition to Walmart CEO Michael Duke.

For those of you in the Chicago area, we'd like to invite you to join us on the strike line at 26453 Center Point Drive, Elwood, IL. Please also consider donating to our strike fund."

Schneider logistics warehouse which distributes goods to WalMart stores in Elwood, Illinois

The group Warehouse Workers for Justice has been organizing and shedding light on conditions in Will County Warehouses for over three years.

Here is testimony from workers who have worked in warehouses in and around Will County:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Wilmington Train Depot Model at Will County Fair

In February 2012 the historic Wilmington Train Depot was demolished to make way for upgrades to the track for high speed rail between Chicago and St. Louis:

The Depot was remembered at the Will County Fair 2012.  Andrew Stanton of Wilmington created a model of the Depot and won Best of Show for his efforts:
Model of the Wilmington Train Depot

Model of Wilmington Train Depot
Model of demolished Wilmington Train Depot

Model of Wilmington Train Depot
Model of Wilmington Train Depot

Model of Wilmington Train Depot in the Exhibition Hall at the Will County Fair

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Detailed Maps of Illiana Expressway B3 Corridor

Updated info presented at an August 2013 Meeting at the Will Township building:

Updated Maps of Illiana Corridor B3 (June 2013)

Here are the maps showing the proposed B3 route for the proposed Illiana Expressway.  Maps are from the Illiana Corridor Study Draft Environmental Impact Statement:

Add caption

Map of the proposed Illiana Expressway Corridor B3 route through Symerton and crossing Cedar Road

Map of the proposed Illiana Expressway Corridor B3 route as it connects with I-57 and goes south of Peotone

Map of the proposed Illiana Expressway Corridor B3 route as it travels south of Beecher

Map of the proposed Illiana Expressway Corridor B3 near the Illinois-Indiana State Line

Map of the proposed Illiana Expressway Corridor B3 route as it connects with I-65 in Indiana

Go HERE for an interactive map of the B3 Corridor.

Detailed Map of Illiana Corridor A3S2

UPDATE 2: April 2013 Public Meetings on Tier Two of the Illiana Corridor Study

Here are the maps showing the proposed A3S2 route for the proposed Illiana Expressway.  Maps are from the Illiana Corridor Study Draft Environmental Impact Statement:
Proposed Illiana Expressway A3S2 corridor from I-65 in Indiana, north of Lowell, Indiana

Illiana Corridor A3S2 alignment south and east of Beecher, Illinois

Illiana Corridor A3S2 as it goes north of the proposed Peotone Airport

Illiana Corridor A3S2 as it travels south of Pauling Road

Proposed Illiana Corridor A3S2 as it travels south of Manhattan, Illinois 

Illiana Corridor A3S2 as it travels north of Elwood, Illinois and near Channahon, Illinois to connect with I-55

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

2012 Will County Fair

In the midst of one of the worst droughts in 50 years, the 2012 Will County Fair will celebrate rural life and agriculture Wednesday, August 22 through Sunday, August 26th in Peotone, Illinois.
Display of Fruits and Vegetables at the Will County Fair 
Dairy cattle at the Will County Fair

Goats at the Will County Fair

Schedule of Events:
Wednesday, August 22 "FAMILY DAY"
10:00 a.m.Fair Opens to Public - $4.00 Gate Admission Per Person, Children under 10 FREE
4:00 p.m.Carnival opens - All Rides $1.50 ea. or 16 for $20.00. for coupons
5:30 p.m.5th annual Children's Ping Pong Ball Drop 5:30 pm FREE
Thursday, August 23 - "Senior Citizen's Day" and "Veterans Day"
8:00 a.m.Fair Opens to Public - Senior Citizens and Veterans $2.00 Gate Admission per Person (All Day and Evening)
$4.00 Gate Admission per Person, Children under 10 FREE
4:00 - 11:00 p.m."Ride-A-Thon Night" - Ride any ride as often as you like - $20.00 per person. for coupons
6:30 p.m.I.T.P.A. Tractor and Truck Pull -- Grandstand Admission $8.00 - Pit Passes inside track, Age 16 & Over - $10.00 per Person
Friday, August 24 - "Demolition Derby Day 1"
8:00 a.m.Fair Opens to Public - $4.00 Gate Admission per Person, Children under 10 Free
1:00 p.m.Carnival Opens for coupons
All Rides just a BUCK!
Rides continue at regular price after 5:00 pm
7:30 p.m.Nationwide Demolition Derby -- Grandstand Admission $9.00
Saturday, August 25 - "Democrat Day" "Demolition Derby Day 2"
8:00 a.m.Fair Opens to Public - $4.00 Gate Admission per Person, Children under 10, Free
12:00 noonCarnival Opens. for coupons
3:00 - 4:30 p.m.WVLI "The Valley" 95.1 SOCK HOP at the Entertainment Tent
5:30 p.m.Will County 4-H Livestock Auction held in the Livestock Show Ring
7:00 p.m.Nationwide Demo Derby Grandstand Admission $9.00
Sunday, August 26 - "Republican Day"
8:00 a.m.Fair Opens to Public - $4.00 Gate Admission per Person, Children under 10, Free
12:00 noonCarnival Opens. for coupons
1:30 p.m.BABY SHOW (for babies 6 - 36 months) Have to be pre-registered - Copy of Certified County Birth Certificate required. Entries close Saturday, August 25 at 8:00 p.m.
2:00 p.m.
3:00 p.m.3rd Annual Chili Cook-off
Pre-Registration Required (limited to the first 20 entries)
Start: at about 8:00 a.m..

Judging time will be at about 3:00 pm
8:00 p.m.Main Exhibit Building will close. Exhibitors should pick up entries from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
8:00 p.m.Release of Commercial Exhibits
Everyday - Fair closes at 12 midnight every evening. Commercial Exhibit Building closes at 10:30 pm
Beer Garden Entertainment
Thursday:  Black Cadillac
Friday, Saturday &; Sunday:  Gone Country
All Star Music Machine appearing nightly

The Will County Fair is located on Peotone-Wilmington Road between Route 50 and I-57.  Admission to the fair is 4 dollars and children under 10 are free.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Manhattan to Weigh in on Illiana Expressway

By Mary Baskerville
Carriage Stone Communications

MANHATTAN--The Manhattan Village Board is expected to vote on a resolution calling for construction of the Illiana Expressway during its regular village board meeting slated for 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, August 7.

The draft resolution calls for construction of the B3 alternative, the more southerly of the two routes identified by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The draft resolution reports that truck traffic in the region is projected to increase by more than 200 percent by 2040.

The draft resolution says the more northerly A3S2 corridor “travels adjacent to the Village of Manhattan Town Center which would severely disrupt the commercial and compact residential development potential around our Metra Station.”
Map from the Illiana Corridor Draft Environmental Impact Statement showing the route of the preliminarily recommended A3S2 corridor through Manhattan Township

The draft resolution asks for interchanges to be added at Gougar and Cedar Roads.

The resolution concludes: “Now therefore be it resolved, that the Village of Manhattan supports the B-3 route and recommends for all of the above reasons, CMAP needs to add B3 to their 2040 Plan and that the Region should focus on the B3 route for construction of the Illiana Expressway.
The Village Board meeting will be held at the Manhattan Junior High School, 15606 West Smith Road, Manhattan. 

Mayor Bill Borgo discussed this upcoming vote at the Public Hearing on the Illiana Expressway held July 31, 2012 at Peotone High School:

More from the Illiana Meeting in Peotone 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hundreds Attend Illiana Expressway Meeting in Peotone

By Ann Baskerville

Hundred of citizens attended a public hearing on the proposed Illiana Expressway tonight at Peotone High School.   The hearing was held by the Illinois and Indiana Departments of Transportation for the purpose of presenting and requesting comments on the Illiana Corridor Study Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  The EIS describes results of the study team's evaluation of the three proposed corridors (A3S2, B3, and B4) and the "no-build" alternative that have been carried forward for further study.

Detailed map of the proposed corridors here.

A group from Lowell, Indiana collects signatures against the building of the Illiana Expressway

Several elected officials and candidates for office attended the meeting.  State Representative Larry Walsh, Jr. stated he is "not a big fan of the A3S2" corridor.  Walsh stated the purpose of the Illiana is to be an alternative to Interstate 80, and, with the A3S2 corridor connecting with I-55 about 3 miles from I-80, it "defeats the purpose."  Also, Walsh stated, the "Village of Channahon is completely opposed to it" and "building a bridge over the Des Plaines Rives would not be cost effective."

State Senator Patrick McGuire stated he attended the hearing "to listen and learn."  McGuire continued, "The Illiana Expressway could potentially have great economic effects."  McGuire stated that while studying and planning the Illiana, we need to "be sure to protect and limit damage to the environment and people."

Will County Board Chair Jim Moustis stated the Will County Board has not taken an official position on the Illiana Expressway.  Moustis went on to say that in his opinion, the B3 Corridor is the the most cost-effective, the most efficient, impacts the fewest people and property owners and is the least intrusive.  Moustis went on to say he believes the B3 can be built in a timely fashion, can attract private-sector investors, and is the corridor that can carry the most truck traffic off I-80.

Judy Ogalla, a Will County Board District One candidate, stated her greatest concern is the people who have lived with the threat of the Peotone Airport for 20 years are now the same people dealing with the threat of the Illiana Expressway taking their land.  Ogalla stated it is disgrace that the State "does not respect people at all."  Ogalla stated Illinois has some of the best farmland in the world and if development continues to build over all the good soil, it will "be too late when we wake up to the fact that we need farmland for food."  Ogalla said there are enough existing roads that could be upgraded to handle the truck traffic.  Ogalla stated she hopes people tell State Senator Toi Hutchinson, "no more tax and spend quick take bologna." Ogalla stated people are being put under great stress by passing the quick-take legislation before deciding if the road will be built, "putting the cart before the horse."  Ogalla stated she hopes "anyone reading this will register to vote and vote out incumbents who don't support your property rights."

State Senator Sue Rezin did not vote for quick-take eminent domain for the Illiana.  Rezin stated she is concerned for people who may have bought real estate at the height of the market whose home values have plummeted.  Illiana Corridor Study documents have stated that in regards to determining a fair market value for people forced to sell: "Many property values nationwide have recently decreased due to the economy; however the Illiana project schedule and availability of land acquisition funds are independent of the market.  By law, properties must be appraised at their current value." 

Rezin disagrees with this.  Rezin stated that people who bought at the market's high may owe more on the mortgage than the home is worth currently.  Rezin advocated that all people forced to sell for the Illiana be paid at least as much as amount the homeowner still owes on the mortgage.  Rezin stated affected propery owners should be paid, "the full value of what they've invested plus more for the upheaval" involved with a forced sale.   Rezin has heard from many Wilmington residents and at tonight's meeting learned of a new concern: how will the Illiana affect the taxing bodies of Wilmington schools?  A citizen gave testimony during the public forum that if the Illiana goes through the Water's Edge subdivision in Wilmington, many homes will be taken off the tax roles, impacting schools and other bodies that rely on local property tax revenues.

Public Forum on Illiana Expressway:
Peotone Village President Richard Duran stated the Village of Peotone passed a resolution supporting Corridors B3, B4.  The resolution also stated the Board of Peotone is against quick take:

Mayor of Channahon, Illinois Joe Cook spoke out against the A3S2 corridor:

Wilmington Mayor Marty Orr testifies that the Illiana B3 corridor will have a tremendous negative impact on Wilmington.  Orr stated "We have constantly presented an alternative that will reduce if not eliminate those impacts by utilizing a small portion of Midewin Tallgrass Prairie....without any consideration given to that alternative the City of Wilmington passed a resolution of the No Build option for the Illiana Expressway":

Members of the public and homeowners in the proposed Expressway's path raised questions about how the State would buy each homeowner's land, how would the State determine a price, and other questions related to land acquisition:

Friday, July 27, 2012

North Lawndale College Prep Students Work to Restore Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

By Ann Baskerville

Thanks to support from the National Forest Foundation, eight graduates from North Lawndale College Prep High School are working on restoration and conservation projects at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie this summer.  

In 2011 Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was named part of the National Forest Foundation’s Treasured Landscapes campaign.  The focus of the campaign is to restore forests and Americans' connection to these public lands.  The National Forest Foundation is a non-profit organization charted by Congress and focused on connecting people to their National Forests. 

“As part of the National Forest Foundation’s Treasured Landscapes campaign, we have made it a priority to connect urban residents and youth to our spectacular National Forest System,” said National Forest Foundation’s President Bill Possiel. “Thanks to a generous donor, we were able to give a team of high school youth from the Chicago area the chance to help transform Midewin, while they gain a better appreciation for our forests and 

The connection between the two organizations began when North Lawndale College Prep's President John Horan learned through a National Forest Foundation connection that the Foundation was looking for students from Chicago to come and work on conservation at Midewin.  North Lawndale College Prep develops many partnerships and grants of this sort to provide real-world enrichment opportunities for students so the Midewin program was a great fit.  The students were recruited from North Lawndale College Prep's environmental science class and had to go through an interview process.  The students had already studied some aspects of conservation through the classroom and were ready to take their knowledge to the field.

North Lawndale College Prep High School is a charter school in the City of Chicago with an enrollment of 900 students in grades 9-12.  97% of the students are from the neighborhoods on the West Side of Chicago.  The mission of North Lawndale College Prep High School is to prepare young people from under-resourced communities for graduation from high school with the academic skills and personal resilience necessary for successful completion of college.  According to Skye Nicholson, North Lawndale College Prep High School Science Chairperson and faculty leader for the students working at Midewin, the students working at Midewin are gaining the academic and real-world skills that allow students to succeed in college and in the work world.  Each day the students travel beyond the comforts of usual surroundings to the more rural environment of Midewin.  Through interacting with professionals such as botanists, environmental scientists, and recreation specialists at Midewin, students gain valuable communication skills, practice scientific research techniques such as measurement and data collection, and discover many career paths related to forest restoration and management.

North Lawndale College Prep High School graduates Caprisha Treadwell and Jade Pillow are two of the students working at Midewin this summer.  The students said a typical day starts with the drive from Chicago, then the students "stop and pick up our assignment for the day, then we head to the field."  Field assignments have included: tracking and documenting bug populations, measuring grass growth throughout the summer, studying why certain birds pick areas to nest, planting native species, and removing invasive species.  With 19,000 acres, removing invasive species is one of the biggest jobs at Midewin.  Students have removed invasive plants such as parsnip and teasal.  According to Midewin's website: "Fire suppression and lack of management have allowed noxious weeds and invasive species to invade Midewin's ecosystems.  Noxious weeds and invasive species pose an increasing threat to native ecosystems and reduce the effectiveness of ecosystem restoration by competing with desired species for light, nutrients, and water.  They alter habitat structure, contaminate native seed production, and alter hydrologic regimes in certain wetlands."

The native species planted by the students were grown in Midewin's own native seed beds.  The seed beds--some located off River Road and some located near Turtle Pond along Chicago Road--allow Midewin to collect seed to use in prairie restoration.  Planting native prairie plants was one of student Jade Pillow's favorite parts of her job.  Pillow stated: "It's fun to be part of restoring prairie plants."

Left to Right: Student Jade Pillow, Student Caprisha Treadwell, and faculty advisor Skye Nicholson at Midewin's River Road Native Seed Beds

For student Caprisha Treadwell, her favorite part of working at Midewin was learning about the history of the land that is Midewin.  Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was formerly the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant.  The Arsenal was created in 1941 and produced a majority of the TNT used by the US Army during World War II.   Many of the buildings used to store TNT and other products still exist.  Treadwell stated: "At first I didn't know what the buildings were, they were huge."  During their first days on the job, Treadwell and the other students toured Midewin and learned of the Joliet Arsenal's history.  Treadwell observed that the bunkers--also called "igloos", concrete structures covered dirt and grass which were used to store ammunition--remained cool even when the temperature reached the high 90s as it has this summer.   

Students also discovered evidence of the farm families who lived on the land before the Joliet Arsenal was developed.  Students cleared brush from the edges of Midewin's pioneer cemeteries.  The National Forest service took over the perpetual care of the cemeteries when the land was transfered to Midewin.  Students also helped clear brush from the foundation of a home built during the Civil War era.  Both students and faculty leader Nicholson agreed it is important to retain the history of the farm families.                         

                                                                 Klingler Cemetery in Midewin

Both Pillow and Treadwell are headed to college in the fall.  Treadwell stated she originally planned to major in environmental engineering, and is now also interested in pursuing classes in environmental science and investigating applying for the Peace Corps after college.  Pillow is exploring different majors and also considering joining the military in the future.  Whatever path they take, students have gained critical vocational skills throughout the summer.  Treadwell stated she has learned to wake up on time, wear appropriate clothing, and follow employer safety rules. Students have also formed a connection to Midewin.  As we were leaving the native seed beds, the students suggested stopping to see "the oak tree."  The oak tree in question is one of the largest at Midewin:
L to R: Student Jade Pillow, Student Caprisha Treadwell, Faculty Leader Skye Nicholson, and Midewin Acting Public Services Team Leader Rick Short 

Midewin's Rick Short stated Midewin's team of scientists and forest specialists were thrilled to be able to work with the students this summer.  Short is hoping the partnership with North Lawndale College Prep will spread the word about Midewin in Chicago and that more people will take advantage of all that Midewin has to offer.  

For more info on Midewin, including directions, trail maps, a calendar of special events and more, visit:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

2012 Will County Threshermen's Steam Show

The Will County Threshermen's Association is celebrating the 50th year of their annual Antique Tractor, Steam and Gas Engine Show from July 19-22, 2012 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Dollinger Family Farm, located at 7502 E. Hansel Road in Channahon, Illinois.

The event features of many types of antique tractors, especially vintage steam engines.  The members conduct demonstrations during the show such as:
Wheat threshing, the process of seperating the wheat grain from the chaff:

Antique tractor parades:

Antique Tractors:

Plowing Demonstrations:

Saw Milling with Steam Engines:

and much more!

Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children 11 and under.

Show Schedule:

Thursday, July 19th
9:00 am Grounds Open
10:00 am Threshing
10:30 am Corn Shelling
12:00 pm NOON Whistle
1:30 pm Parade of Power
3:00 pm Threshing
3:15 pm Corn Shelling
6:00 pm Members & Exhibitors Appreciation Picnic

Friday, July 20th
9:00 am Ground Open
10:00 am Threshing
10:30 am Corn Shelling
12:00 pm NOON Whistle
12:00 pm Kids Games & Magic Show
1:30 pm Parade of Power
3:00 pm Harvesting - Field Demonstration
3:00 pm Threshing
3:15 pm Corn Shelling
3:30 pm Plowing with Steam Engines & Gas Tractors
5:00 pm Sweet Corn Steamed by Steam Engine

Saturday, July 21st
9:00 am Grounds Open
10:00 am Threshing
10:30 am Corn Shelling
10:30 am Gas Tractor Plowing
10:30 am Tractor Games
11:00 pm Kids Games & Magic Show
12:00 pm NOON Whistle
12:05 pm Kid's Pedal Tractor Pull
1:30 pm Parade of Power
2:30 pm History of Will Co. Threshermen
3:00 pm Harvesting - Field Demonstration
3:00 pm Threshing & Corn Shelling
3:00 pm Garden Tractor Pull
3:30 pm Plowing with Steam Engines & Gas Tractors
5:00 pm Sweet Corn Steamed by Steam Engine

Sunday, July 22nd
9:00 am Grounds Open
9:00 am Church Service
10:00 am Threshing
10:30 am Corn Shelling
10:30 am Antique Tractor Pull
11:00 pm Kids Games & Magic Show
12:00 pm NOON Whistle
12:05 pm Kid's Pedal Tractor Pull
1:00 pm Tractor Games
1:30 Parade of Power
3:00 pm Harvesting - Field Demonstration
3:00 pm Threshing
3:00 pm Corn Shelling
3:00 pm AntiqueTractor Pull
3:30 pm Plowing 

All Day, Every Day
Steam Powered Sawmill
Petting Zoo
Farm Playground
Steam Train Rides ($2.00 children and adults)
Flea Market
Country Gift Shop
Great food of all kinds
Steam Engines
Antique Farm Tractors
Stationary Engines
Antique Farm Equipment
Antique Cars and Trucks