Letters: ‘The Watchdogs’ need a new message

SHARE Letters: ‘The Watchdogs’ need a new message

In the Chicago Sun Times series titled “The Watchdogs,” there seems to be a trend. Chicago business leaders are targeted in stories that do nothing more than embellish circumstances that could potentially tarnish their reputations. Among these men and women are lawyers, franchise owners, corporate executives and entrepreneurs.

The most recent example “The Watchdogs: Chicago machine’s $99 million man,” took aim at one of Chicago’s leading attorneys and the legacy firm he leads questioning his firm’s earnings since 1999. While $99 million sounds glamorous, that’s roughly $6 million a year over a 16-year period of time with a payroll of up to 25 attorneys and other professionals. The tone of the article portrays Langdon Neal in a light that sheds an unfair shadow on the legal business he and his family have built over the past 75 years. This article and several others concerning the business dealings of many Chicago business leaders strategically plant a seed of doubt about the appropriateness of business practices, and by innuendo, sets a stage of distrust around the legitimacy of their earnings.

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”The Watchdogs” continue to use a media platform popular in the community to tarnish the reputations of some of this city’s most notable business leaders without concrete evidence of any wrongdoing. The careers and enterprises brought into question have stood the test of time, endured setbacks and economic downturns despite the challenges of an uneven playing field, facts lost on “The Watchdogs.” The businesses they choose to highlight, while doing well, pale in scale and capacity when compared with mainstream firms and companies. Instead of folding under the pressure of public scrutiny or giving into external burdens, these savvy and resourceful leaders continue to exhibit resilience, diligence and buoyancy in all aspects of business and on behalf of the community. Again, facts not highlighted in any writings by “The Watchdogs.”

In these tumultuous economic times, let’s talk more about solutions to the issues that pose serious threat to our city moving forward:  business diversity in both the private and public sector, economic development in all areas of the city, budget and pension shortfalls that adversely affect a devastated working and middle class, wage disparity, and the lack of job creation.  The list of issues is long but in no way should it include: disparage business leaders who have earned some success with extensive history working for the betterment of Chicago.

We need leaders like Langdon Neal and others to remain engaged and enthusiastic about growing their businesses to create jobs, careers, opportunity and hope in Chicago. Change the message “Watchdogs.” Refocus.

 Frank Clark, president, and six other members of the Business Leadership Council

Committed to noise mitigation

The Nov. 7 Sun-Times article, “City examining changes to O’Hare jet noise complaint process,” cited an O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission member’s call for a return to the original purpose of the O’Hare aircraft noise complaint system — to investigate specific aircraft noise outlier situations, not to tabulate levels of resident frustration and anger.

As ONCC chair, I want to assure residents that ONCC remains committed to mitigate aircraft noise wherever and whenever possible at its source. At the Nov. 6 ONCC meeting the Chicago Department of Aviation stated it will re-examine how noise data are collected and the process by which resident concerns are reported and classified. This re-evaluation will better enable us to separate and analyze specific instances where air traffic behavior outliers can be addressed with the airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration.

ONCC is working to internalize among pilots and others that O’Hare noise abatement procedures must be taken seriously. We do not intend to silence the public, rather to better identify instances where airlines can take corrective action.

As to the larger issue of addressing airport noise under the current interim runway condition, the ONCC-sponsored ad hoc Fly Quiet Committee has just begun its task to create a workable proposal to equitably deal with airport noise prior to full O’Hare build out. We are expecting a significant piece of analysis from the CDA, under the direction of Commissioner Ginger S. Evans, and are optimistic that the committee will develop and present solid proposals first to ONCC, then CDA, and lastly to the FAA for review and approval.

We hope to engage all involved parties in this effort, including the public as represented by their elected and appointed ONCC representatives, CDA, airlines, pilots, FAA and air traffic controllers. Factor in customer expectations regarding flight frequency and schedules and the enormity of the undertaking is apparent.

Ultimately, the FAA has the final word and we are in the process of building a case for change.

Arlene A. Juracek, mayor, Mount Prospect 

Re-imagine old post office

The Sun-Times editorial board was right on target in labeling schemes for redeveloping Chicago’s former Main Post Office as “stuck in the past.” All of the failed proposals treated the building as a typical mid-20th-century real-estate development likely to be accessed by automobile, almost as if the Post Office were located in the suburbs. But the Post Office’s huge size and tight downtown location make mass access to this 2.7-million-square-foot behemoth by auto impossible. It would need its own expressway ramps to handle the number of vehicles required to service all the commercial activity inside. All of the failed redevelopment schemes foundered on the problem of how to make the building accessible to people coming in cars.

Curiously, not one of the redevelopment proposals was founded on the Post Office’s secret strength: the railroad tracks running directly underneath it. If the street level of the Post Office were transformed into Chicago’s new Union Station, the daily flow of commuters and Amtrak passengers using the building to reach the platforms one level down would be adequate to generate profitable business activities in the station as well as on the other 13 floors. Hotels, apartments, retail stores, offices and exhibition space would flourish on the upper floors, fed by a dense stream of residents, employees, hotel guests, shoppers and conference attendees coming and going without any need for an automobile. And one level below the railroad tracks lies the CTA Blue Line serving the Clinton Street stop. A pedestrian tunnel connecting the CTA station with the Post Office would give Chicago its first downtown railroad station with a direct, all-indoor connection to the rapid-transit system. Imagine the effect on Loop traffic if the commuters now transferring to CTA buses at Union Station simply transferred to the Blue Line under a new station at the Post Office.

The Post Office needs to be re-imagined from a 20th-century auto-dependent project into a 21st-century Transit Oriented Development. The transit’s already there, and even more is coming as the CREATE program frees up Chicago’s constrained railroad network to serve more Metra commuter trains and as the Midwest’s intercity rail network evolves into the kind of 110-mph passenger-train system now being built between Chicago and Detroit and Chicago and St. Louis. Moving Union Station to the space under the old Post Office also offers a solution to another problem that has crippled Chicago’s development for over a century: the “stub-track” terminal at Chicago Union Station that blocks trains from passing through downtown Chicago. Moving the station site one block south to the Post Office would enable Metra to operate through trains from Joliet to Chicago — and on to the Northwest and West sides and suburbs in a single trip — so passengers could have a one-seat ride from Lockport or Summit to Glenview or Elgin or Buffalo Grove. Thousands who now must endure tedious and dangerous car commutes to work would be able to leave the highway and ride a train to work once downtown Chicago is uncorked. And Amtrak’s trains from Downstate Illinois and Michigan could pass through the station as well, offering thousands of travelers each day a one-seat ride to O’Hare, to Milwaukee or beyond. The Post Office’s through tracks are the key to a more efficient use of the entire Midwestern passenger-rail network.

The developer wannabes who took a pass on the Post Office failed to find its highest and best use because they failed to understand its lowest level — the railroad tracks just under the first floor and the CTA Blue Line tracks another level down. The answer — the only answer to the enigma of redeveloping the Post Office — is underneath it. Any redevelopment plan that ignores — or fails to fully exploit–the building’s rail access — is doomed to failure.

F.K. Plous, Director of Communications. Corridor Capital LLC, Chicago

Buyer’s remorse?

I wonder how many of those who voted for Gov. Bruce Rauner are going to change their vote in the next election now that they see the way he has made a mess of our state.

Ted Schwartz, Brookfield

A favorite movie star

I enjoyed reading the fine page-long obituary of Maureen O’Hara in your paper a few days ago. She was one of my favorite movie stars.

I am 94 years old.

But, I remember her leading man as Jack McCrae, Ireland’s answer to John Wayne.

Ellen Beyer, Evanston

Make them vote

No paychecks for members of Congress if they miss voting on bills that are brought to the table. Also, the president’s bills that would put people back to work fixing our infrastructure never got to the floor for a vote.

Ernie Gehrke, Forest Glen

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