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Geils takes O'Hare fight to DC
By Marni Pyke | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 2/12/2009 12:02 AM

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While legions of local and state leaders traveled to Washington, D.C., in the last few weeks to lobby for money from the economic stimulus package, Bensenville Village President John Geils is doing the opposite Wednesday and today.

Geils, a longtime foe of O'Hare International Airport expansion, is seeking to persuade lawmakers and taxpayer organizations to stop any funds flowing to the project.

The O'Hare Modernization Program seeks to build six parallel runways and a western terminal. The changes would involve demolishing about 600 properties in northeast Bensenville.

Village leaders argue that the program is too overreaching, over-budget and would destroy a vital part of their community.

Geils said Wednesday he would focus on charges against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's fundraiser, Christopher Kelly, that accuse him of paying a consulting firm kickbacks in exchange for exorbitant contracts for his roofing company to do repairs at O'Hare for United and American Airlines.

"People outside the state of Illinois are concerned about corruption," Geils said. "This is about jobs, contracts and pork."

Geils said he intended to meet with groups including the National Taxpayers Union, Citizens Against Government Waste and lawmakers such as GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Republican House Leader John Boehner of Ohio, who oppose the stimulus.

The O'Hare project's executive director, Rosemarie Andolino, called Geils' corruption allegations "disappointing" and said the airport construction was transparent and above-board.

The city of Chicago could use up to $50 million of the millions allocated in the stimulus package for airport modernization, Andolino noted, adding it had qualified for similar funding before.

The government "wants projects of national significance - this is," Andolino said. "It wants projects that creates jobs - we do. And it wants projects that are shovel-ready - this is."