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Olson: Court fight was driven by principles

Published: Saturday, June 1, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

I sympathized with the organizers of the Stop the Mega-Dump group this week.

We caught wind Wednesday evening that the Illinois Supreme Court had declined to hear the group’s appeal, which sought to overturn the DeKalb County Board’s decision to approve a massive expansion of the Waste Management landfill south of Interstate 88.

I wrote the story for Thursday’s Daily Chronicle, and during the course of reporting it, I had the opportunity to speak with two of the founding members of the group, Dan Kenney and Mac McIntyre.

We might not be in total agreement on the issue, but what they and other landfill opponents did is worthy of respect.

There was no financial benefit for them in pressing this yearslong court fight until they could press it no longer. Rather, it cost money and time.

Their effort was driven by their convictions. Members of the unfortunately named Stop the Mega-Dump believed what they were doing was right and the county was in the wrong. They took it as far as they could because they cared about the effect this landfill expansion would have on our shared environment.

Their concerns are understandable. This is an expansion that is staggering in its scope. Waste Management plans to use almost 600 more acres of DeKalb County for a waste disposal facility that can accept trash from 17 counties.

It was clear from their voices Wednesday that they were disappointed in the outcome, although they probably were not surprised.

Like people who lose hard-fought elections or extra-inning playoff games, it was easy to empathize with them.

On Wednesday, Kenney made a point about the long list of conditions that the County Board had imposed upon Waste Management if it is to expand its landfill. They include extensive systems for monitoring air quality and gas management, and an extended agreement guaranteeing that property values will not decrease within a mile of the landfill. If they sell for less, Waste Management is to pay the seller the difference.  

I hope that Kenney and others who are concerned about this project do their part to hold regulators and the company accountable.

The Daily Chronicle will do its part as well.

Let it end: This should settle the question on the landfill expansion, but there’s talk that another citizens group – the Cortland Township Electors’ Association – will mount a new legal challenge, claiming the Illinois Township Code gives townships the authority to override county and state regulators by refusing to allow the garbage to be dumped within their borders.

Frankie Benson is raising funds for the effort, and says the group already has secured about $20,000 in promised funds.

It won’t fly.

Townships don’t need to exist at all in the 21st century. They have no function that could not easily be absorbed by county or city governments.

It’s ironic that township boosters like to describe themselves as the “form of government closest to the people,” and yet only two of DeKalb County’s 19 townships – DeKalb and Pierce – have even bothered to create websites.

If townships disappeared tomorrow, at least 75 percent of “the people” wouldn’t notice, except maybe for the slight decrease in their property tax bills.

There is no logical universe in which a township board’s “no” vote, based on no parameters or hearing of any kind, will overrule the County Board and state. Regardless what you think of the people who want to expand the landfill, they are as entitled to due process as anyone else.

There are many people living in our community – children, the elderly and disabled veterans to name just a few – who need help more than whichever lawyer would be in line to take this Quixotic case.

If you’ve got cash to burn, why not spend it helping people in need? Not that lawyers aren’t people, strictly speaking, but you get my meaning.

Go Barbs, Spartans: Today the Sycamore baseball and DeKalb softball teams will play for sectional titles.

In other words, both teams are only two wins from reaching the state tournament. DeKalb won a thriller Wednesday, beating Harlem, 4-3, in their last at-bat of the game, when Haley Tadd took an outside pitch the other way for an RBI single.

The Barbs will face Warren at 11 a.m. today at Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake for their second plaque of the postseason.

Meanwhile, the Spartans are looking for their first sectional title in school history after trouncing Rockford East, 10-0, Thursday. The Spartans are hosting the sectional final and will face Wheaton’s St. Francis at 11 a.m. today.

We will cover both games today. Check out Daily-Chronicle.com/DCPreps later today to see how things turned out, or support your favorite team – they’ve earned it. Here’s hoping both teams bring home the hardware.

Speaking of favorites: It’s time to vote for your favorite local businesses across DeKalb County. We’re conducting our 2013 Readers’ Choice Survey, asking people about their favorite businesses in more than 120 categories, from accountants to yogis.

No, you don’t have to name a business in every category for your vote to count. But maybe you have an opinion on who makes the best burrito in DeKalb County, or which is the best nail salon, or who’s your favorite local grocer.

You can cast your vote at http://shawurl.com/mht. If you prefer pen and paper, a full-page list of the choices appeared on page C6 in Friday’s Daily Chronicle, and watch for another to appear Monday. Responses are due by June 10.

I’m still kind of new in town, and I could use your advice.

No more Dead Wings: I’m going to miss the Blackhawks playing the Detroit Red Wings.

Detroit will move to the NHL’s Eastern Conference in 2013-14, which means the Original Six rivalry is winding down. It’s kind of like if the Bears stopped playing the [stinking] Green Bay Packers twice a year, or the Cubs stopped playing those [no-good] St. Louis Cardinals or the White Sox … moved to Florida or something.

Still, if one of the NHL’s most storied rivalries had to be curtailed (thanks, Gary Bettman), at least it ends with the Hawks on top.

For the start of the Hawks’ Western Conference Finals series against the Los Angeles Kings, we’re planning poster pages featuring your favorite Hawks in the Daily Chronicle sports section.

Today’s poster on the back of our Sports section features Hawks’ defenseman Duncan Keith, who I’ll always remember talking to in the locker room with a glazed look on his face after taking a puck to the mouth and losing seven teeth against San Jose in the NHL’s Western Conference Finals in 2010. Keith returned for the end of that game, which the Hawks won to complete a sweep of the Sharks.

“I feel fine,” Keith said later. “It’s just teeth.”

•  Eric Olson is editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2257, email eolson@shawmedia.com or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.

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