A View From the Cheap Seats

February 9, 2009

Road Rage

Filed under: Illinois,Politics — trzupek @ 9:30 pm
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By Rich Trzupek

Now that the problems of the world have been officially solved, or are about to be solved, it’s probably time to move on to other topics. Like, for example, when do we get the jet packs?

If you live in Illinois, you definitely need one these days – simply to avoid the roads. We of the Prairie State are used to seeing winter potholes big enough to swallow a Chevy. That’s a given. But we’re also used to being able to drive around the things. This winter? There’s no avoiding them. They’re everywhere.

Don’t get me wrong. Every pothole that swallows some pretentious, green-weenie driving around self-righteously in a Prius is a bonus. But the roads are so miserable that there is a fair chance that we’ll lose some working people too.

And when I say “roads”, I of course mean state roads. State routes are suitable for some crazy X-Games events, but not for a hell of a lot else. Certainly not for actual transit.

Let’s be honest enough to place the blame for this sorry state of affairs squarely on the shoulders of the man whom bears the responsibility: Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Rockin’ Rod has declared, ad nauseum, that he is the “friend of the everyday working man”. He has virtually bankrupted the state in order to provide free health care to all comers, whether they are actually citizens of the state of Illinois or not. He has pillaged state pension plans to pay for social engineering programs. All of this, he has assured us, time and time again, is proof of his dedication and affection for the working men and women who are the backbone of Illinois.

And that’s a great sentiment, but it doesn’t mean a hell of a lot if those everyday working men and women can’t actually punch in at their places of employment because the roads that they depend on to get there more closely resemble a lunar landscape than actual transit routes.

There is no money to fix the roads. There is no money to salt the roads – especially with a salt shortage driving the price of salt to record levels. The coffers are empty my friends, and – at best – we can look forward to years of bone-rattling commutes before somebody in state government figures out a way to put our house in order.

In the northwest suburbs, our travel plans are further compromised the pending deal which will see CN taking over the right-of-way of the EJ&E railroad. Railroads have enormous power in the US of A and, no matter how it might affect our lives, it seems likely that CN will be here to stay.

There is a rational reason for the move. Chicagoland is a choke point for cross-country rail traffic. It takes about two days for freight trains to get though the city, about as much time as it takes to run a freight train from Chicago to Los Angeles. Speed is everything in the transportation market and the EJ&E route promises to shave off a lot of time.

But there was an alternative. Not just an alternative, but a bi-partisan alternative. The CREATE program was designed to address just this issue. CREATE would have – should have – enhanced and improved the rail routes around Chicago without having to tap into the EJ&E. And CREATE would have done that, but for one small obstacle: the state of Illinois has yet to fund the program to allow it to happen.

In the brave new world that is 2009, it’s a given that Democrats can do no wrong and Republicans can do no right. Yet, in Illinois, surely that calculus must be adjusted. As my older brother put it: “If you’re an Illinois Republican, there’s a good chance that you’re corrupt. If you’re an Illinois Democrat, it’s pretty much a given.”

Blago is the poster-boy for Dems in the state. He has put ambition above everything else, while trying to cloak that ambition behind the tattered robes of populism. Even as the palace is crashing around him, he can’t stop, flitting from talk-show to talk-show, desperately trying to convince someone – anyone – that he stands for something more important than himself.

He doesn’t.

He never has.

Blago is a metaphor for everything that is wrong with politics and politicians in the state of Illinois. Long ago, he abandoned the notion of defending and preserving the things that matter in Illinois, the basic services and structures that we all unconsciously count on every day. He rather saw only that which he could exploit, as part of personal quest to further his own agenda.

It has been said, many a time, that we get the leaders that we deserve. Next time you’re rattling down a state road, you might want to give that concept a little further thought.


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