A Daily Herald article by Marni Pyke Sunday about the failure of the re-modeled Tollway Oases, prompts me to share some evidence I gathered on the way to the Old Capitol Art Fair in Springfield a couple of weeks ago.
I think it was the summer of 2003 I wrote of the contributions that Rod Blagojevich was taking in from folks having connections with Illinois Toll Highway Authority oases.
$50,000 in a personal check from the head of Wilton Partners, for instance.
Wilton got the lease from the George Ryan administration, but Wilton was coughing up big money to Blagojevich. I wondered why at the time.
Now I figure the huge contribution was about lease modifications and looking the other way when Wilton didn’t do what it said it would do when it promised.
After the renovation of the Belvidere Oasis, we found a New York pizza place. It served good pizza, but now it is closed.
I went around taking pictures. A manager type asked me why I was doing so.
I gave the cryptic answer,
he asked me not to take his photo and walked away.
Made me wonder at the time what he knew.
The Daily Herald said the new administration is creating an oversight committee.
My guess is that there was something similar, but not with that name that told Tollway employees to ignore oversight when Blagojevich was in office.
The reporter uses the word “leniency” to describe past Tollway oversight.
And, what’s wrong with this sentence in the story:
“The tollway tried numerous times to get a look at Wilton’s books, but the company denied access.”
Wilton blamed Tollway construction projects with hurting foot traffic and damaging its buildings.
Both are probably accurate, but with a 25-year lease, Wilton can’t have been surprised that highway improvements would be necessary.
With regard to the reported business damage, when the Village of Lakewood reconstructed Lake Avenue, the compactor was shaking our house like a Richter Scale 4 earthquake. We had to rebuild our chimney as a result. And, of course, no one could be held responsible. Not Lakewood. Not the paving company. Nobody.
We now see our red oak tree dying and are convinced it is because of all the tiny root hairs have been damaged during construction.
What did Tollway officials do when payments fell far behind?
“…negotiated(d) a settlement in which the agency forgave the debt and let Wilton defer unpaid rent.”
Does that sound like the arrangement in Springfield that Bill Cellini cut for his investment group that built and operated the Renaissance Hotel or what?
One possible change of approach would be “to offer specialty services to truckers – large trucks comprise 37 percent of tollway users.”
Excuse me if my conspiratorial mind remembers a bill that would allow video slot machines in every truck stop in Illinois.
They were all over the Dixie Truckers Stop south of Bloomington on Interstate 55 two summers ago.
The machines must not have made money without paying off, because the halls were they were located are now empty.
But, I would not be surprised if enactment of the bill to which I refer would change the oases’ current family-friendly atmosphere drastically if that were perceived to be the only way to make the rest stops pay off.