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Waist-deep in Illinois

Cold Front
posted: 12/13/2004

John Einoder must have seemed like an odd savior when he arrived at the scratch-poor village of Ford Heights, Illinois, in 2002 with this offer: Let me open a land-fill in your town, and I'll sculpt that steaming heap into a ski slope that'll attract thousands and fatten your wallets in the process. Perhaps blinded by the marketing possibilities ("Ski Ford Heights, It's Always Dumping Here!), the town fathers in the pancake-flat Chicago suburb gave Einoder his permits.

Not so fast, said the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency: The angel of Ford Heights, authorities learned, is a convicted chop-shop operator who allegedly tried to wriggle out of environmental infractions at a different landfill, in nearby Bloom Township, by promising to turn the 80-foot-high slosh-pile into a (drumroll please) tobogganing/snowboarding hill. Sensing a pattern here, people? Guess not. Last spring, Einoder's company convinced state legislators to pass a one-paragraph bill that exempted the landfill from environmental rules. This, despite the fact that Einoder never officially committed to installing a single T-bar, let alone anything that resembled a proper ski area. Under the auspices of the bill, though, he could promise a mountain, make a mess, and walk away—without leaving so much as a measly kicker or a Porta-Potti in his wake. "This guy's a real scam artist, says David Palmer, police chief of nearby Lynwood. "He loves getting close to politicians.

Finally, amid rising controversy last August, Governor Rod Blagojevich vetoed the ski-my-garbage bill, effectively killing the Ford Heights Ski and Summer Resort. Einoder couldn't be reached for comment. We assume he's off selling sewage-treatment plants as future water parks—complete with seagulls.

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