Bobby Rush says he’ll stand with Robbins residents against mine
BY CINDY WOJDYLA CAIN Sun-Times Media October 20, 2013 9:42PM
Updated: October 21, 2013 9:42AM
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) vowed Sunday to fight alongside Robbins residents to block the state from using quick-take powers to condemn their homes for a mining and quarry project that would take 20 percent of the village.
“I am here to stand with the residents of the village of Robbins,” Rush said as dozens of residents crowded in around him in the driveway of a home in the path of the mine. “I know injustice when I see it.”
Charles White, 70, who has lived in the Lincoln Lane home since he was 14, said he grew up in the brick bungalow with nine siblings and he still lives in the house with his brother.
“It took me by surprise because I didn’t find out about it until somebody came by and knocked on my door,” said White, whose home would be above the mine.
He has seen TV footage of homes that have fallen into sinkholes in Florida.
“That’s from underground mining,” he said. “Plus the value of my property will definitely go down once they find out this is going on.”
Jim Louthen’s ALM Resources entered into a deal with Robbins in August that would create a 61-acre surface quarry followed by a 169-acre underground limestone mine. The project calls for the village to acquire about 100 single-family homes, along with some businesses, churches and the old Robbins incinerator.
Under the plan, Robbins would receive a portion of revenue based on quarry sales.
Rush, who has represented Robbins since 1993, called the village’s pact with the company a “dirty, dirty rotten deal.”
He said village meetings where the project was discussed were poorly publicized and not well-attended.
“How dare they go like a thief in the night and try to sell the land under your homes right from under your noses,” Rush said to an appreciative crowd.
Geraldine Cox, who has lived in Robbins since 1967, said the deal reminds her of the book, “The Grapes of Wrath,” and the TV sitcom, “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
“One was taken from the land by force,” she said of the book. “And the others were sitting on top of something valuable and they were paid well for it.”
Cox, whose home would be taken in phase three of the project, said she prefers the latter scenario for Robbins residents.
Royce Coleman, who has lived in the village for more than 50 years, said he isn’t against progress or even the use of the traditional, slower, eminent-domain powers to take land for some projects.
But the quick-take process, in which a public entity is given land more quickly and a resident can fight for a better price in court later, is too fast, he said. And he said the promise of jobs and economic development is “smokescreen” to dupe residents.
“I don’t want my property to be taken from me and sold for less than I’m due,” he said.
Village officials have approached state Representatives Will Davis (D-Hazel Crest) and Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) about sponsoring quick-take legislation in the upcoming veto session so ALM Resources can force people to sell their land.
At Sunday’s event, village residents were asked to sign up to travel on buses to Springfield to lobby the Legislature against the quick-take process. Buses will leave at 8 a.m. Tuesday from Greater Christian Unity Church at 3030 Claire Blvd. For more information, residents can call DeLean Fuller, chairwoman of the Robbins Citizens Advocacy Committee, at (708) 828-1082.
The group also is seeking a preliminary injunction in Cook County Circuit Court to halt the project, committee member David Dyson said. A hearing on the injunction is set for 9:15 a.m. Monday at the Daley Center in Chicago, he said.
“We have to be in control,” Fuller said. “This is our land and our minerals.”
She said the project is moving too fast to protect village residents. “They’ve approved everything and they’re ready to drill,” she said.
Louthen has other legal troubles besides the possible injunction. First Midwest Bank has filed a lawsuit against another of his companies, Riverside-based Town Builders Studies, claiming he owes the bank $350,000 after defaulting on a loan, according to court records.
In a statement issued last week, Louthen said the lawsuits were the result of developing “distressed communities like Robbins” that require significant investment without seeing any meaningful return.