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Meigs Field News Archive:

Press news archive -- Click here

Friends of Meigs News archive:

bullet2/27/07: Daley wins re-election with wide margin of tiny turnout
bullet10/26/06: Video available--Mayoral candidate on his first act--reopening Meigs Field
bullet10/24/06: Former Friends of Meigs president Rachel Goodstein for 43rd Ward
bullet10/21/06: Longtime friend of Meigs newspaperman  Ed Lowe passes
bullet9/27/06: Meigs becomes topic in mayoral race
bullet9/18/06: City surrenders to FAA:
will face max fine,
repay $ 1 million in misspent funds
bullet7/5/06: Chicago Tribune Editorial: "The high cost of hubris"
bullet6/30/06: News Analysis: FAA vs. Daley
bulletFAA vs. Daley 1: Failure to give notice of Meigs closure
bulletNext shoe to drop: City to answer questions on secret Meigs meetings
bulletFAA vs Daley 2: Diversion of airport revenues
bullet6/30/06: Late breaking news: CFD helo down on lakefront today
bullet6/30/06: Reprise: Murder at Meigs Field
bullet6/26/06: City legal bills for Meigs closure soar over $500k; dwarf FAA fine
bullet6/22/06: Mayoral candidate: "My first act, reopen Meigs"
bullet5/14/06: "London's Meigs" tests Airbus 318
bullet4/23/06: Mayor campaign kicks off: Bill "Dock" Walls announces candidacy, supports Meigs
bullet4/17/06: Farewell to a Tuskegee Airman and Friend of Meigs Field -- William R. Thompson
bullet4/17/06: Chicago Man Drowns -- Could Meigs Field Have Saved Him?
bullet3/30/06 -- Press Release: 3rd anniversary of "midnight massacre"
bullet3/22/06 FLASH--Vote in Chicago Tribune Poll: What was Chicago's biggest goof?
bullet3/12/06: Tale of a sad day: A Meigs controller tells his story
bullet3/6/06: Meigs letter to the editor: Sun-Times, Herald, Southtown, Crain's
bullet3/2/06: Report: The Park District plan that isn't...
bullet3/2/06: WBBM Newsradio coverage of Park District presentation
bullet2/10/06: Chicago to open private heliport on public lakefront land
bulletTacitly admits Meigs closure based on false pretenses, need still exists
bulletYet Daley clings to calls for "no fly zone"
bullet9/6/05: FAA Determines Meigs Closure Illegal, Imposes Maximum Fine
bullet3/30/05: Meigs Action Coalition fundraiser, Wed. 3/30
bullet3/28/05: Crain's: Meigs closure losing business for Chicago
bullet3/28/05: Congressman Jackson supports Parks and Planes,
bulletLeading mayoral contender commends win-win proposal
bullet3/15/05: Meigs Supporters, majority at park meeting, walk Out in Protest
bullet3/9/05: Rotary International gives cover to Park District?
bullet3/4/05: Chicago Reader: Park District is "Giving Away the Farm" on Meigs
bulletReport: 3/2/05 Park District meeting--Meigs supporters dominate 4 to 1
bullet3/1/05: City admits they were wrong?
Helipad to be built only yards from Meigs
bullet3/1/05: Letter to the editor
bulletPast news archives
 
2/27/07: Daley wins re-election with wide margin of tiny turnout
  On Tuesday, Mayor Richard M. Daley, the "Midnight Meigs Marauder" won re-election handily, proving that Chicago has a short memory and a high tolerance for corruption, illegal acts, and arrogance.

Daley won approximately 71% of the votes cast, but turnout was only about a third of the city's 1.4 million voters, meaning that he received less than 1/4 of the potential votes in the city.

Many argue that Daley wins election not on election night, but in the months before, when he effectively prevents other viable candidates from running, thus assuring himself of no real competition.

It is expected that Daley will continue to refuse to consider win-win proposals for Meigs Field while he remains unindicted and in office.

10/26/06: Video available--Mayoral candidate on his first act--reopening Meigs Field

"That was the day democracy died" in Chicago.

 Click to hear Bill Dock Walls on reopening Meigs...
Bill Dock Walls, the first announced candidate for mayor, interviewed on why he would reopen Meigs Field
Regular readers will recall that some months back, Meigs Field received a shot in the arm from the first candidate to announce his run for mayor in February 2007.

On June 22, Bill Dock Walls, president of the Committee for a Better Chicago, was interviewed on local public television station WTTW's Chicago Tonight program by host Phil Ponce.

Well, it took a long time to get the video (and a $50 payment, too!) but it's here.  Listen to Mr. Walls' reply to Mr. Ponce's first question, about reopening Meigs Field as his first act as Mayor of Chicago:

"That was the day that democracy died..."

Click to listen to the whole segment: http://64.143.36.15/audvid/2006-06-22_Chi_Tonight.wmv

10/24/06: Another pro-Meigs candidate announces:
Former Friends of Meigs president Rachel Goodstein for 43rd Ward
Friends of Meigs Field cannot endorse candidates for public office, but we bet you can figure out how we feel about this candidate.  We recently received this e-mail from Rachel Goodstein, former president of the Friends of Meigs Field, and current president of the Meigs Action Coalition:

You can read about Rachel's candidacy at:
http://www.chicagoclout.com/weblog/archives/2006/10/rachel_goodstein_next_alderman.html#more

10/21/06:  Longtime friend of Meigs newspaperman passes
 
We are sad to report that a good Friend of Meigs Field has passed away.

Ed Lowenstern, known to most under his pen name, Ed Lowe, has written many columns supportive of Meigs, the Friends of Meigs Field, and critical of plans and actions to close the airport.  He wrote for a number of years for the River North News, before taking his talents to Inside Publications.  He also wrote for many other local and national publications.

We will miss Ed a lot.

Read more by clicking here

9/27/06: Meigs becomes topic in mayoral race

With the mayoral race getting under way, Meigs Field is taking a prominent role with these candidates:

Bill "Dock" Walls


Dorothy Brown


As-yet unannounced candidate Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
 

With the announcement of fines last week for the City of Chicago, the Meigs story keeps developing.

In some ways, it is a testament to the arrogance involved in the Meigs destruction that the issue is still alive, nearly 4 years after the demolition.  Recall that Mayor Daley destroyed Meigs just a few weeks after he had been re-elected, during the run-up to the Iraq war.  The timing was specially chosen to give Mr. Daley both an excuse (terrorism, ya know?) and plenty of time for voters to forget about it before the next election cycle.

Well, surprise!  People (voters, candidates, the media, etc.) haven't forgotten. 

First, it was Bill "Dock" Walls, the first candidate into the race, who proclaimed on TV "My first act as Mayor will be to re-open Meigs Field.  That was the night that democracy died in Chicago."

Last week, Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown--who announced her candidacy for mayor a few weeks back--criticized the Mayor's actions on Meigs, saying that--because of fines levied by the FAA-- “The City of Chicago is out of another one million dollars and the taxpayers are once again holding the bag”.

And now, the favorite challenger, according to polls--Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.--is citing Meigs in his public comments prior to a decision whether to run for mayor after the fall elections in November.  In yesterday's Chicago Sun-Times, Jackson is quoted as saying that his decision whether to run will be based, in part, on whether he can convince voters “that corruption costs — that they’re paying for [the destruction of] Meigs Field, [emphasis added] that they’re paying to fight federal laws like Shakman, that they’re paying Jon Burge’s pension, that they are paying to investigate Jon Burge.”

Meigs supporters will recall that Rep. Jackson has already endorsed the "Parks and Planes" proposal of the Friends of Meigs Field, to reopen Meigs as a combination park/airport/air museum.

Jackson article, Chicago Sun-Times, 9/25/06: http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/71507,cst-nws-jackson25.article
Brown press release, 9/19/06: 
http://64.143.36.15/html/news/2006-09-19_Dorothy_Brown_press_release--Meigs_settlement.pdf
Walls TV appearance 6/22/06: 
http://64.143.36.15/html/news/news_curr.html#06-06-22_First_reopen_Meigs 
 

9/18/06: City surrenders to FAA

Agrees to pay fine, repay misspent funds



The City of Chicago has surrendered in its legal defense of the demolition of Meigs Field, costing taxpayers over $1.5 million.


Chicago, IL -- According to published reports, the City of Chicago has finally surrendered in its fight against the Federal Aviation Administration over the illegal closure of Meigs Field.

The  Chicago Sun-Times, (9/18/06) reports that--after two years of legal wrangling and hundreds of thousands in legal bills--the City of Chicago has caved in and agreed to pay the maximum fine allowed by law for failure to give proper public notice of the closure of Meigs Field.

More significantly, the City will be forced to repay $1 million that it misspent from federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds to pay for the demolition and development of a park.  A settlement agreement with the FAA is said to end over three years of legal wrangling since the complaint was first registered with the FAA by the national Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

"This vindicates what we've said from the start," said Steve Whitney, president of the Friends of Meigs Field, a 6,800-member national organization.  "Daley's action was illegal, and he's sticking the taxpayers with the bill."

"The closure of Meigs Field put the traveling public at risk," continued Whitney.  "The morning of the demolition, aircraft were inbound to Meigs Field.  If someone had been low on fuel, it could have been a tragedy."

The Emergency that wasn't

The City of Chicago closed Meigs Field in a midnight demolition raid on the night of March 30-31, 2003.  At the time, Mayor Daley said it was because of an "emergency" due to unnamed "terrorist threats."  The claim of an "emergency" was necessary in order to use a loophole in the Federal Aviation Regulations that allows an unannounced airport closure in case of an emergency.

The situation was clearly not an emergency. 

Had an emergency existed, the City had far less drastic means available--for instance parking vehicles on the Meigs runway--in response, while giving the FAA its earliest possible notice.

Reports from employees at the airport indicated that City officials had been tracking aircraft left overnight at Meigs for up to two weeks prior to the raid, apparently in order to ensure that all aircraft trapped by the action could take off on the taxiway (which was purposely left undamaged.)  If true, this means that the City could have given at least that much notice to the feds.

Instead, the true purpose of the secret action was to bypass fair and open public debate of the closure and to ensure that airport supporters (a majority by all polls taken at the time) had no voice, a goal Daley admitted freely.

Fortunately, the federal administrative law judge assigned to the Meigs closure case saw through this sham and denied the City's motion to dismiss the FAA's suit.

Delaying and obscuring

Once the City lost its motion to dismiss on February 17, the only tactic available to city lawyers was to delay and obscure the truth. 

With the denial of the motion to dismiss, Judge Ronnie Yoder set a schedule for the "discovery" process, including requiring the City and Mayor Daley to answer interrogatories (written questions.)  As devoted readers will recall, the City has time and again done its best to avoid giving specific answers to questions about the who, what, when, where and why of the Meigs demolition.

Once again, the City tap danced and delayed, requesting a series of continuances and delays, the latest being granted in late August until late in September.  Now suddenly, with the latest deadline upon us, the City has decided to "cut its losses", just in time to avoid having to answer the hard questions.

Deal may let Daley hide in election year

Although details of the settlement agreement between the City and the FAA are not public yet, it appears as if the deal will let Daley personally off the hook once again, this time just in time for the upcoming mayoral election season.

City Hall observers expect City to adopt the position of "we are putting this issue behind us", hoping that voters and taxpayers won't recall how their money was wasted by the time election day comes in February.

"If this lets Daley off without answering the important questions, voters should be outraged," said Whitney.

Squandered city funds a "drop in the bucket"

The total taxpayer funds that have been squandered in the debacle thus far are over $1.5 million, and will likely never be completely known.  Besides the $33,000 fine and $1 million in repaid misspent funds, the City's legal bills through June 26 were nearly $550,000, according to an article in Crain's.  More legal bills have been racked up since, but that isn't all.

"This is a drop in the bucket, compared to what Chicago has lost," said Whitney.  "A downtown business airport like Meigs is worth its weight in gold to the economy."

Friends of Meigs Field have documented over $490 million in annual spending by Meigs users prior to its demolition.

"The economic losses are staggering," said Whitney.  "Not only from the loss of business by Meigs users, but also by the additional delays caused by displaced traffic at O'Hare and Midway."

Wasting $100 million, Parks and Planes

Moreover, the City and Chicago Park District continue to ignore proposals such as the one by Friends of Meigs Field that could bring as much as $100 million or more to the Chicago Park District for parks across the city.

"Our proposal for a combination park/airport/air museum is one possibility," said Whitney.  "Others may be feasible as well.  The key is to capitalize on Meigs as an airport to benefit both aviation and Chicago parks."

"Parks and Planes", the Friends of Meigs' proposal is available online by clicking here.

7/5/06: Chicago Tribune Editorial: "The high cost of hubris"



 

Chicago Tribune editorial:

"We do know that the taxpayers' costs for the midnight raid on Meigs Field keep rising, thanks to a mayor's belief that he can do whatever he wants."

 


More than three years after Mayor Richard Daley ordered a late-night hit on Meigs Field, the cost of his venture continues to rise.

Chicago has paid more than $500,000 in legal fees to battle the Federal Aviation Administration over the March 2003 closing of the airport at Northerly Island, according to figures provided by the city.

The city is challenging a $33,000 fine for shutting down Meigs without giving the FAA a required 30-day notice. And lawyers on the city's clock are preparing to fight the FAA on another front: The agency is investigating whether Chicago improperly used $2.9 million in airport development funds to close Meigs. The FAA could fine the city up to $8.7 million if it finds the development funds were misused.

Bottom line: The mayor's surprise decision to bulldoze the airport's runway while most people were asleep already has cost the city millions of dollars, and the tab could top $10 million.

The mayor told only a handful of people about his decision to close Meigs before sending a demolition crew to carve six giant X marks on the runway. Daley said he ordered the airport closed because terrorists could use it to launch a small plane attack on downtown. Few people bought that explanation.

The city eventually prevailed against lawsuits that sought to keep Meigs open. But the city's battles with the FAA have continued.

The FAA says the city violated its regulations by closing the airport without sufficient notice; the city counters that FAA regulations say it can close an airport for security reasons. The city fears that if it concedes to the FAA on the notice issue, it will have a weaker case on the question of the use of airport funds. A fine in one case can be considered in other enforcement proceedings against the city. We don't know if the FAA or the city will prevail. We do know that the taxpayers' costs for the midnight raid on Meigs Field keep rising, thanks to a mayor's belief that he can do whatever he wants.
 

6/30/06: News Analysis: FAA vs. Daley

FAA vs. Daley 1: Failure to give notice of Meigs closure


Click for FAA first interrogatories
Read the FAA's questions for the City of Chicago here.


Next shoe to drop:  City to answer questions on secret Meigs meetings

Looking forward at the FAA's cases against the City of Chicago, the more advanced case is the fine for not giving proper notice of the airport closure.  FAA rules require at least 30 days' notice for safety purposes as well as to analyze and advise on the adverse effects of airport closures.

(In fact, on the morning of March 31, 2003, at least one charter aircraft was IN THE AIR enroute to Meigs when the news became public.  If that aircraft had been low on fuel, it could have resulted in tragedy.)

On February 17, Judge Ronnie A. Yoder stood up for honesty and openness, and denied the City of Chicago's motion to dismiss the case against it.  That means that now things get interesting.

After some procedural delays, the next step will be for the City of Chicago to provide answers to the FAA's first round of "interrogatories" (written questions).  [In fact, Daley's lawyers were scheduled to do so by last Friday, June 23, but the answers are not yet posted on the DOT's docket website.] 

If the City doesn't continue to obfuscate, we will shortly learn the answers to questions like:

bulletInterrogatory No. 3:  "With respect to any meeting that concerned, referred to, or involved the March 2003 deactivation of Merrill C. Meigs Field ("Meigs Field"), identify the following:

"(a) the dates, times, and locations of any such meetings; and

"(b) all individuals who attended any such meeting whether in person or via telephone or electronic conferencing."
 
bulletInterrogatory No. 8:  "Identify all persons, entities, or Respondent's employees who participated in any way in the demolition of Meigs Field, including, but not limited to, the demolition of its runway, taxiways, parking lot, or structures."
 
bulletInterrogatory No. 10:  "Identify the person who ordered the deactivation of Meigs Field, occurring in March 2003."

To keep abreast of the case, visit the USDOT's docket tracking website at:
http://dms.dot.gov/search/searchResultsAdvanced.cfm?docketNumber=22671&searchType=document
 

FAA vs Daley 2: Diversion of airport revenues



The FAA continues its investigation of the Daley administration's possible illegal misuse of funds to demolish Meigs


The other outstanding issue raised by the FAA regarding Meigs is the possible illegal use (technically, "diversion") of federally-restricted airport funds for the demolition of Meigs Field.

In September of 2004, an FAA investigation was announced into the reports that the City of Chicago had used over $1.5 million in "emergency repair" funds for O'Hare and Midway for the midnight demolition of Meigs.  Since that time, Mayor Daley and the City have admitted to actually spending over $2.8 million, nearly twice the earlier total.

The most recent information posted on the FAA's (USDOT's) docket dates all the way back to December, 2004.  It is the City's original reply to the FAA's notice of investigation.

As of this writing, the Friends of Meigs Field do not know of the status or timetable of the investigation, but there definitely is more to come. 

Stay tuned!

USDOT docket:
http://dms.dot.gov/search/searchResultsAdvanced.cfm?docketNumber=20939&searchType=document
 

6/30/06: Late breaking news:  CFD helo down on lakefront today



A Chicago Fire Department had an "emergency landing" on the south lakefront today.


Earlier today, local news outlets reported that one of the Chicago Fire Department air-sea rescue helicopters crashed (they say "had an emergency landing" but anytime your aircraft comes to rest upside down, that seems like a crash to us, see left.)  The chopper was reportedly responding to a call of a person in distress in the waters off North Avenue beach.  No word has been reported on the fate of the rescue subject.

Fortunately, the 3 CFD crewmen aboard suffered only minor injuries.

The CFD Air-Sea Rescue Squad was based at Meigs Field for over 40 years, before being wakened to move 9 miles south along the lakefront in the dead of night on 3/31/06.  Many members of the squad have been supporters of Meigs Field.  One was quoted as saying that by moving from Meigs, "they have turned us from a rescue squad to a body recovery unit."  (The extra transit time from the city limits where they are now located can spell the difference between life and death for a drowning person on the City's most popular lakefront locations.)

Our hearts and prayers go out to the members and families of the squad that have been affected by this incident. 

Keep up the good work for all of us.  We hope to welcome you back to Meigs in the future.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-060630chopper-down,1,4893472.story?coll=chi-news-hed http://64.143.36.15/html/news/2006-06-30_Tribune_copter_makes_emergency_landing.htm
 

6/30/06: Reprise:  Murder at Meigs Field




Murders 'R' Us will reprise their show "Murder at Meigs Field" this weekend and next at the Tavern Club


The folks at Murders 'R' Us are putting on encore performances, this weekend and next, of

Murder at Meigs Field

The show is an audience-participation event that tells the story of fictional (remember, it's ONLY FICTION) Mayor Warren J. Weekly (not Monthly, and certainly not Daily), his chief of staff G. Gordon Piddley, and a host of others as they debate the future of Meigs Field.

Performance details:
What:  Murder at Meigs Field
Where:  The Tavern Club, 333 N. Michigan Ave.
When:  Friday and Saturday, June 30, July 1, July 7, and July 8

For more info:

http://murdersrus.com/tavern.html
http://thetavernclub.com/murder_at_meigs_field.html

Listing in this week's Crain's Chicago Business Things to Do:
http://chicagobusiness.com/cgi-bin/news.pl?id=21146
 

6/26/06: City legal bills for Meigs closure soar over $500k; dwarf FAA fine
   


Lawyers for the City of Chicago
have already run up
legal bills over $500,000
 fighting an FAA fine
of only $30,000

The taxpayers must pay the tab

The City of Chicago continues to waste money defending the indefensible, while the taxpayers foot the bill.

According to Crain's Chicago Business this week, the City of Chicago has already spent over half a million taxpayer dollars on legal bills trying to defend its actions before the FAA.  In one of the two cases, the legal bills are approaching seven times the maximum penalty allowed by law.

As reported by the Friends of Meigs Field in March, the City has hired high-powered (read: high-priced) Washington lawyers--including a former Chicago city lawyer--to fight the FAA's fines for improperly closing Meigs in 2003.  The legal bills are mounting, with no end in sight.

There are two distinct issues the City is facing.  First, in the fall of 2005, the FAA finally determined that Mayor Daley and the City of Chicago did indeed violate the Federal Aviation Regulation pertaining to closure of airports like Meigs.  The rules require at least 30 days' notice of closing of an airport with a published instrument approach.  At that time, the maximum fine was $1,000 per day, thought enough to prevent municipalities from such rash actions.  In the wake of the Meigs Massacre, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association pushed for new legislation (termed the "Meigs Act") that raised the penalty by a factor of ten.  Congress eventually passed this provision.

In the meantime, the City has fought tooth-and-nail against the fine, asking for a hearing before an administrative law judge (R. Yoder), and filing for a dismissal of the case.  Earlier this spring, judge Yoder saw through the City's smokescreen and rhetoric and ordered the trial to proceed.

Using information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Crain's Washington correspondent Paul Merrion obtained records that show that the City has already spent in excess of $200,000 fighting a $30,000 fine, and the case hasn't even gone to trial yet.  As Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation--a Chicago-based good government advocacy group--was quoted in the article:

"It may be time for the city to re-evaluate this strategy."

At the same time, the FAA is continuing its investigation into the question whether the City has illegally diverted federally-restricted airport revenues to demolish Meigs.  Originally thought to be about $1.5 million, City filings eventually admitted to over $2.8 million in spending.  If the FAA finds against the City, fines could be triple the amount, or almost $9 million.  Legal fees in this case, which haven't even passed the investigation phase yet, total over $300,000.

Chicago city taxpayers are paying for this.

Read the Crain's article here:

2006-06-26_Crains_meter_runs_on_mayor.htm

 

6/22/06: Mayoral candidate: "My first act, reopen Meigs"




On June 22, Chicago mayoral candidate Bill "Dock" Walls announced on public television that his first act as mayor would be to "reopen Meigs Field".
 


On Thursday, June 22, Chicago mayoral candidate Bill "Dock" Walls appeared on the local Chicago public television station and said: 

"My first act as mayor will be to reopen Meigs Field."

When pressed on why Meigs would top his agenda, Walls replied,

"Because that was the night democracy died in Chicago."


Walls was a staff member of former
Chicago Mayor Harold Washington.

Walls is an advocate of open and inclusive government in Chicago, and has the background to match.  He was a member of the staff of former Chicago mayor Harold Washington, who was known as a reformer in the city before his death in office.

More info:
Chicago Tonight website: http://www.wttw.com/main.taf?
p=1,4,4,1&Date=06%2F18%2F2006
Walls for Mayor website: http://wallsformayor.com/
Background information on candidate Walls: http://sites.webmanaged.com/folder3206/
listing/Bill_Walls_fact_sheet__2.pdf

(Note:  Unfortunately, WTTW does not post recordings of its programs on the web.  We are working on getting a recording to post on the Friends of Meigs website.)

5/14/06: "London's Meigs" tests Airbus 318



London, England's own "Meigs Field", London City Airport (LCY) built on waterfront property and nearly as compact as Meigs.


LCY recently successfully
tested the Airbus 318,
a 132 passenger mid-range jet
at London's "Meigs Field".


Observant Friend of Meigs Field member Tim Sipples sent in the following item:

"I learned that, last month, Airbus and London City Airport tested the Airbus A318 at that length-restricted airport.

"This would be the largest aircraft to use the airport if approved -- although the Avro RJ series that currently operates at LCY is close. Since the Avro RJ is out of production the authorities at LCY are looking for another, currently produced aircraft to take its place in order to assure long term jet airliner viability for the airport.

"LCY bears lots of similarities with Meigs Field."

The fact is that London has been following a vision for the future, while Chicago has been squandering a similar opportunity.  Originally shorter than Meigs' runway, LCY has been lengthened via landfill, and is now a whopping 4,327 feet long (only 428 feet longer than Meigs.)  It operates with similar weather and obstructions, and manages to serve many European destinations with commercial service, easily accessible from downtown London.  It served just shy of 2 million passengers in 2005.

The news that LCY has recently successfully tested the Airbus 318 emphasizes the potential of a city-center airport like Meigs in serving regional transportation needs not just for pilots and corporate aircraft, but for the general public.

Oh for some decent leadership in Chicago...

Details on the A318 tests: http://www.lcacc.org/aircraft/index.html#Possible
LCY facts at a glance: http://www.lcacc.org/operations/index.html#Key
 

4/23/06: Mayor campaign kicks off:  Bill "Dock" Walls announces candidacy, supports Meigs

 

The 2007 Chicago Mayoral Campaign is getting into gear, and one of the first candidates to announce is a supporter of reopening Meigs Field.


Bill Dock Walls announces his
candidacy for mayor of
Chicago on Sunday.  He is in
favor of reopening
Meigs Field according to
 the Friends of Meigs'
Parks and Planes
 proposal.

Bill "Dock" Walls, former staffer for Mayor Harold Washington, and president of the Committee for a Better Chicago, will announce his mayoral candidacy this Sunday.

Mr. Walls is a strong supporter of a reopened Meigs Field, and a campaigner for honest and open government.

The Committee for a Better Chicago is a coalition of organizations dedicated to improving city government in Chicago.  The CFABC was formed in 2004, and at its inaugural press conference took on the issue of the midnight destruction of Meigs Field. 

At the time, Mr. Walls was quoted as saying:


The Committee for a
Better Chicago introduced
 "The Day Democracy Died In Chicago" buttons
 in support of Meigs Field.

"When Mayor Daley claimed “public safety” was his reason for carving up the public’s property and claimed, “if Mickey and Minnie can have a No Fly Zone, then Chicago should too” – well it seems he was portraying Pinocchio at the time. He lied…again and again. And then, after the runways were destroyed and there was nothing anyone could do about it, he admitted he lied.

"Well, we can do something about it, and we’re here to endorse and offer up a plan submitted by the Friends of Meigs Field that will pay for restoring the airport, provide needed revenue to the Chicago Park District, and give the citizens of Chicago another downtown park that we can afford – the Bessie Coleman Skypark."

For more information, including details on how to attend the announcement to show your support, visit http://www.wallsformayor.com/
 

4/17/06: Farewell to a Tuskegee Airman and Friend of Meigs Field -- William R. Thompson

 

This week we lost a true Friend of Meigs Field.

Lt. Col. William R. Thompson, one of the very first Tuskegee Airmen, passed away.  He was 90.


Bill Thompson (center) at a Meigs Field Young Eagles rally.

Bill Thompson was one of the staunchest supporters of Meigs Field, Chicago's famed lakefront airport.  He was an active supporter of the EAA Young Eagles program at Meigs, an experienced pilot, and a mentor, willing to help anyone with an interest in aviation.

He had a wonderful sense of humor, and a strong sense of honor.  Bill was an amateur historian, dedicated to spreading the word of the Tuskegee Airmen, and making sure the stories were told accurately.

Bill also was unafraid to take a stand against injustice and ignorance.

We will miss him.  A lot.

Read his obituary from the Chicago Sun-Times here.
 

4/17/06: Chicago Man Drowns -- Could Meigs Field Have Saved Him?

 

Earlier this week a tragedy occurred on Chicago's north lakefront.  Reported facts are sketchy, but it seems possible, even likely, that if the Chicago Fire Department helicopter rescue squad were still based at Meigs Field that Mr. Looey could still be alive today. 

Since Meigs' midnight demolition, the rescue squad has been relocated 9 miles and many long travel minutes farther south, on the Illinois/Indiana border at the lakefront.

In the time-critical world of search and rescue, mere minutes often translate into lives saved or lost.  As one member of the Fire Department rescue squad, who wishes to remain anonymous, said:

"They have turned us from a rescue squad into a body recovery squad."

And the Mayor's reason Meigs was closed was for "public safety"???  How many lives will it cost before reason prevails?

Chicago Tribune story:

Man dies trying to rescue dog

Chicagoan drowns in Lake Michigan

By Tonya Maxwell and Andrew L. Wang
Tribune staff reporters
Published April 17, 2006

After Easter breakfast with his wife, Richard Looey headed out for fresh air with two of his boxers, Ringo and Daisy.

Looey told his wife he planned to take a long walk along the lakefront and slipped a camera into his pocket. He liked to snap pictures of the dogs on special days.

About two hours later, police arrived at the couple's Northwest Side home and told his wife, Maria, that her husband of 25 years was dead.

He tried to rescue a dog that had either fallen or jumped into the lake, authorities said.

About 9:20 a.m., rescuers responded to a call about a man shouting for help from the lake, just offshore in the 4300 block of North Lake Shore Drive, Officer Kristina Schuler said.

When a Fire Department helicopter arrived minutes later, the man was underwater and nowhere to be seen, said Larry Langford, a spokesman for the department.

Rescue divers were sent into the lake and brought the man to land about two minutes later. He was taken to Weiss Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:15 a.m.

A spokesman for the Cook County medical examiner identified him as Baba Looey, 57.

The odd-sounding name was a nod to his sense of humor, Maria Looey said. Her husband had legally changed it because his given name, Richard Bogulewski, left so many tongue-tied, she said.

He owned a tool and die business, could pilot a plane and was curious about the world, she said.

"He was very creative. He could make everything from anything," she said. "And he loved his animals."

The couple didn't have children, and they cherished the dogs, she said.

Twice in the past several years, the Looeys' dogs have had litters of puppies. One was adopted by Jennifer Crane of Wilmette, who quickly saw their love for the animals.

"There's no question in my mind that he would have had no other thought than to go in after dogs," she said.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chicago/chi-0604170020apr17,1,231026.story
 

3/30/06 -- Press Release: 3rd anniversary of "midnight massacre"



Friends of Meigs Field home page
March 30, 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friends of Meigs Mark 3rd Anniversary of Midnight Massacre

Park plans stalled, air traffic forecasts soar

Chicago, IL – On Friday, March 31, volunteer pilots of the Friends of Meigs Field plan a memorial “missing man formation” flyover of the site of Meigs Field to mark the third anniversary of the illegal midnight destruction of the famed single-runway airport. Weather permitting, pilots will fly the length of the destroyed runway, with one aircraft breaking away in the time-honored symbol of a missing comrade.

The evening of March 30 marks the third anniversary of the Midnight Massacre at Meigs Field. On that night, the City of Chicago sent in bulldozers to carve up the runway, without notice, while over a dozen aircraft were trapped on the tarmac. Planes enroute to Meigs the following morning had to divert without notice to other airports.

The Federal Aviation Administration has found that the City of Chicago violated federal aviation regulations in closing Meigs without proper notice, and imposed the maximum fine allowed by law at the time, $33,000. (Immediately after the closure, Congress passed the Meigs Field Act, raising the fine tenfold to prevent a future recurrence anywhere else in the U.S.)

City Fighting – Legal Bills Likely Exceed Fine

The City of Chicago is opposing the FAA’s fine in court, a move which has likely already cost Chicago taxpayers more in legal bills than the fine itself. It is reported that the City has hired Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw, Pittman, LLC, a top-price Washington DC aviation law firm, to defend them in this action. Legal bills to date are unknown, but likely to exceed the $33,000 proposed fine.

Investigation into Misspent Funds Continues

The FAA also continues to investigate the possibility that the City of Chicago misspent over $2.8 million in restricted federal Airport Improvement Program funds. If true, the City would need to repay the money or face fines of up to triple the amount, or over $8 million.

Park Plans Delayed

According to a recent presentation by Chicago Park District Director of Planning Arnold Randall, the Park District is behind on its plans to redevelop Meigs Field into a nature preserve. In the spring of 2005, the Park District held a series of public “input” meetings in which a large number of Meigs supporters took part. At those meetings, Mr. Randall projected that initial plans would be available for public view in the fall of 2005. Yet here it is, three years since the demolition, with no plan in sight.

Reportedly, the Park District parted ways with its consultants on the project for undisclosed reasons. When questioned, Mr. Randall indicated that new consultants would likely not be hired until late spring or early summer, and that preliminary plans would not be made public until fall at the earliest.

“Not much has happened in the last three years as far as development at Meigs, and that is because the Park District does not have a plan nor the funds for a nature preserve,” said Josh Levy, spokesman for the Friends of Meigs Field.

“What you see at Meigs today is a concert pavilion and a bike path to nowhere. Outdoor concert venues are great for the city, and we should have more places to listen to live music. The concerts that are planned for Meigs this summer can easily be held in Grant Park, with just as much revenue for the Park District.”

Levy continued, “As of now, there is only one site downtown that can accommodate an airfield, and that is at Meigs Field”

Airport Congestion to Grow with VLJ’s—Meigs Would Help

According to a new study by NASA—cited in the March 28 issue of the Wall Street Journal—the introduction in 2006 of a new class of business aircraft, “Very Light Jets” or VLJ’s will add to congestion at many of the nation’s airports. Singled out for special concern were Las Vegas, Houston, and Chicago’s Midway airport. Projections indicate that as many as 355 additional flights of VLJ’s per day will be added to Midway’s jammed runways in coming years, maxing out the airport’s capacity. Without Meigs Field, there are no “reliever airports” in Chicago, leaving few palatable options to attract business aviation users to downtown.

“A re-opened Meigs would provide relief to Midway and O’Hare airports. VLJ’s are less expensive to purchase and operate, and they are faster and quieter than older general aviation jets. VLJ’s are designed to operate out of shorter fields, bringing users closer to city hubs. VLJ manufactures already have thousands of orders for their jets, so the demand is obviously there. The question is, will Chicago have a place for these jets to land?” asks Levy.

Proposal for Parks and Planes

The Friends of Meigs Field have developed an award-winning cooperative proposal for a combination park/airport/air museum on the Meigs site, paid for with federal aviation funds instead of local taxes.

Mr. Levy explained the Friends of Meigs Field plan called Parks and Planes:

“Our proposal would be just as much fun for the average Chicago family as another lakefront nature park,” said Levy. “It would be a great place to take your kids, to go fishing, biking, walking and enjoying the skyline.”

In the short run, the proposal would use the existing peninsula to: 1) replace the Meigs runway, 2) add 18-20 acres of parkland to the original site, and 3) build an aviation museum and education center. At the same time, federal funds of up to $100 million or more would become available to the Chicago Park district for park development across the city.

In the long run (10-20 years), an expanded footprint would accommodate both an improved airport and 100 acres of parkland or more, more than is currently available on the existing peninsula. Similar plans are already underway in Cleveland and other cities.

“People that we’ve talked to, both residents who are new to the South Loop and business travelers who use O’Hare and Midway, have encouraged us to continue our efforts to re-open Meigs. They see the clear advantages to having an airport downtown.”

# # #
 

3/22/06 FLASH--Vote in Chicago Tribune Poll: What was Chicago's biggest goof?

 


Attention Meigs supporters:

For the past week, the Chicago Tribune has been running a series on "Chicago's 7 Blunders" (a follow up to an earlier series Chicago's 7 Wonders, get it?)

None of the options they picked were the midnight demolition of the "World's Coolest Little Airport" (Meigs Field), but today they are asking their web readers to vote, and write-ins are allowed.

Do your part...

Visit http://www.chicagotribune.com/blunders and enter your own vote.  Remember...it's Chicago! 

Vote early...vote often!

4/3/06:  The Results

Although Meigs wasn't an official choice on the poll, a running tally of the Tribune's poll indicated that Meigs Field most likely accounted for a substantial portion of the "Other" responses.

On April 3, the Tribune printed the results, including a section they termed "Blunders we forgot to mention":

Leading this section was Meigs Field:

"One of the biggest blunders in city history was Mayor Daley's abrupt, late-night closure of Meigs Field. Ordering the cutting up of the runway in the darkness of night -- with planes still parked and therefore becoming stranded -- was an extraordinarily arrogant and unnecessary abuse of power. "

 -- Rex Shannon, Chicago

Read the whole article here.
 

3/12/06: Tale of a sad day:  A Meigs controller tells his story 



A Meigs controller tells the story of the Midnight Massacre from the perspective of the tower


Meigs, 3/31/03
Tribune photographer David Klobuchar


Alert Friend of Meigs Josh Levy provides us with the following:

"Here is a very well written account of events (from the Meigs tower operator) about his experience on 3.31.03:"

Eloquently written by Michael Thomas Daffenberg, it can be hard to read for a Meigs fan.  Yet it should be mandatory reading to understand the shock and anger generated by the illegal closure and demolition by the City.  As one responder wrote:

"You labelled it an untellable story, but for anyone who has lost something they care about, or anyone who loves their job, or anyone who has been impacted by the decisions of others in which they had no say...you tell it wonderfully."

http://micahsgospel.blogspot.com/2006/03/true-stories-of-lowly-air-traffic.html
 

3/06/06: Meigs letter to the editor: Sun-Times, Herald, Southtown, Crain's



Friends of Meigs Field home page
The following letter appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Herald, Daily Southtown, and excerpted in Crain's Chicago Business:

City plan for Meigs is more of the same

March 6, 2006

What is it about Meigs Field that brings out the worst in this city administration?

Not only has it lied (''Meigs Field will remain open until 2026...''), cheated (''FAA says Meigs closure illegal'') and possibly stolen (''FAA investigates $2.8 million possibly misused to demolish Meigs''), the city is likely now spending more in legal fees fighting the Federal Aviation Administration than the fine itself.

Last fall, the FAA fined the city $33,000 for destroying Meigs at midnight without notice -- the maximum allowable before Congress raised fines tenfold in the wake of the Meigs debacle. Instead of accepting the consequences of their illegal actions, the city has decided to go to court. The legal costs alone for fighting this fine are sure to exceed the total, if they don't already.

Soon the city, the Chicago Park District and their proxies will crank up the PR machine to hype a plan for a park on Meigs' site, including privatizing portions of our public property to the highest bidder. When they do, remember that the plan was developed over the objections of a majority of those who participated -- in person or in writing -- in the supposedly ''open planning process.''

Moreover, in the short term, most of the elements of the proposal -- and in the long run virtually all of them -- could have been, indeed, still can be, incorporated into a combination park/airport/ museum complex on the site.

Our organization -- with more than 6,800 members, pilots and non-pilots alike -- has proposed one such plan. Others are also possible. All would capitalize on federal aviation funding instead of bleeding local neighborhood park budgets and raising property taxes.

To reach such a solution would take true vision and leadership, and would give all Chicagoans something to be proud of. Instead, we seem likely to get more of the same: more lies, more hype, more waste, more divisive rhetoric, more airport congestion, and more rubber-stamp government, supported by a vocal minority who use their ends to justify any means.

If we don't stop it now, the rest of us will get a park we'll always be a little ashamed of.

Steven G. Whitney
President
FriendsOfMeigs.org
 

 
3/2/06: Report: The Park District plan that isn't...



Arnold Randall, Director of Planning and Development for the Chicago Park District gave the presentation.


Title slide:
"Northerly Island: Developing Chicago's Next Great Urban Park"


Lots of pretty pictures of flowers, but no plans for the future.


This was the only diagram presented, the current configuration of basic bike path, grass and stick trees.


The Meigs shoreline is in "terrible" shape, the result of years of neglect by the City, and an intentional failure to accept Army Corps of Engineers funding to protect Meigs' runway.
 

[Ed. Note:  Apologies for the heads in the pictures...]
 


Well, fancy that.  If one could take hope from a lack of information, this might be a glimmer.

It's been nearly 3 years since Meigs Field was bulldozed under armed guard at midnight without notice.  It's been nearly one year since the majority of participants in the Chicago Park District's supposed "public planning process" walked out in protest over the railroading that was taking place.  It's been nearly six months since the date Park District planners initially said that they would have "preliminary plans" for public consideration.

And the Park District STILL doesn't have a plan.

That's right.  The presentation yesterday by Chicago Park District Director of Planning & Development, Arnold Randall, essentially boiled down to: "we have no plan yet."

[Ed. Note: We apologize to our readers for assuming that the presentation would include details of the Park District's grand plan for the Meigs property, but we hope you'll understand.  Park District officials said in March of 2005 that they expected to share preliminary plans by the fall (of last year, that is.)  Instead, here it is almost spring again, and there are no details forthcoming.]

Instead, Mr. Randall gave a very nice presentation that was very short on specifics.  His history of the property skipped right over the 55 years it was an airport, the fact that 1/3 of the airport property was created specifically for airport purposes, the fact that the City had agreed to keep Meigs open until 2026, and any mention of the "midnight massacre."

Instead, he used an image of a beach tug-of-war as a metaphor for the fact that there is considerable opposition to the closing of the airport and the creating of another lakefront park in a 26-mile string of existing lakefront parks.

Financial challenges, slipping timeframe

Mr. Randall pointed out that it is a "challenge" for the Park District to plan this park, as funds are tight.  He mentioned that the Park District's capital budget is only 1/3 of what it was 10 years ago, and that there are constant demands from supporters and users of existing parks for maintenance and improvements there.

Mr. Randall indicated that the "temporary" concert venue on the Meigs site so far has met its financial goals, but brought in less than $1 million in net revenue to the Park District in 2006, and that these funds had to be split between maintenance of the existing rudimentary "park" and planning and development costs for their grand plan.  It will not apparently go far enough to pay for actual improvements in the park.

According to Mr. Randall, the Meigs shoreline is in "terrible" shape.  [Ed. note:  No kidding.  This state is due mainly to the fact that the City of Chicago refused to seek Army Corps of Engineering funds for shoreline repairs during the 1990's, when much of the rest of the Chicago shoreline was repaired.  Their reason appears to have been that the Corps would have funded repairs for a national transportation facility--e.g. Meigs Field--but not for a local park.  As a result, the Park District is left holding the bill for these repairs.]

Mr. Randall also indicated that the planning process has not gone smoothly so far.  Without divulging details, he indicated that the Park District had parted ways with the consultants originally hired to develop plans for the site, and would likely not have new consultants in place before late spring or early summer.  He did not say this, but it seems likely that the change in consultants is related to the slipping planning timeframe.

Mr. Randall indicated that we are still as much as a year (!) from a final plan for the Meigs property, and that even preliminary concept plans would not be circulated for public comment before late summer or early fall.  [Ed. Note:  According to reports published in local neighborhood papers, insider advocacy groups like the Friends of the Parks and the Grant Park Advisory Council have already seen some concepts.  We guess some members of the public are more equal than others.]

No budget, no schedule

Some of the most interesting information (or lack thereof) came during the question and answer period.  Tidbits include:

bulletMr. Randall would not divulge any estimate of how long development of the park would take, only that it would be longer than a year.
 
bulletNeither would he make even a guess at any cost figures.  (Ed. Note:  In 1996, when the Park District first closed Meigs for what turned out to be 5 months at the original expiration of the Meigs lease, the public estimate of park development costs was $27 million, or $34 million in today's dollars.  Of course that figure was from the same folks who brought you $450 million Millennium Park, originally estimated at $150 million.)
 
bulletMr. Randall conceded that access to the peninsula (he and all Park District officials persist in calling it an "island" despite the fact that it has been connected to the shoreline for over 60 years) is "difficult", especially during concerts, Bears games and other busy weekends, and that people have difficulty "finding" the concert venue.  He also confirmed that parking for the concert venue is at the Soldier Field parking lots, some of which are over a mile walk away.
 
bulletThe "Visitors Center" (i.e. the Meigs terminal building) is only open 56 hours per week in summer, and a meager 16 hours per week in winter.  [Ed. Note:  This compares with 112 hours per week year-round when Meigs Field was operating, and it even closed every night from 10pm 'til 6am!]
 
bulletMr. Randall confirmed that there is still unremediated ground contamination on the site (primarliy in the area of the former Meigs fuel tank "farm"), and he would not estimate, even when pressed, any figure for the cost to bring this area into compliance.
 
bulletWhen asked whether the Park District would consider an airport at the site, Mr. Randall said that he (and presumably the Park District) "respectfully disagreed" with Meigs supporters and that there would be no consideration of an aviation use of the property.  [Ed. Note:  "Respect" was not the first word that came to mind when we heard at midnight that the airport was being demolished without notice on the night of March 30, 2003.]

Commentary

Listen to yesterday's presentation was--if not encouraging--then at least not as discouraging as expected.

To aviation supporters, as well as to advocates of good and open government, it was somewhat gratifying to hear that the Park District is having such difficulties in developing a plan for Meigs. 

It was also interesting to hear Mr. Randall repeatedly acknowledge the Meigs supporters in the audience.  It is clear that Meigs supporters are having an impact on the process, even if the steamroller still seems in motion.  Its progress definitely seems to have slowed since the last we heard of it.

While--given the heavy hand of City Hall--the delay seems likely not to be a significant development, Meigs supporters should remember that the office of Mayor is not a lifetime position, and that the next mayoral election is in less than a year. 

A subtle message of hope?

Mr. Randall chose an image of a
tug of war to represent the
ongoing public debate over Meigs' future.
Could the outcome still be uncertain?

Moreover, public opinion polls show that Daley opponents have never before had such a strong chance to unseat "King Richard."  There has been a nearly constant stream of City Hall scandals, starting with the Meigs debacle (only a few weeks after he was last elected), and his poll numbers, though still strong, have faded considerably.

As the time frame slips, mayoral election politics may play an important role in the future of the Meigs site, and--unlikely though it may seem--it is not impossible that brighter, cooler, fairer and more progressive heads may eventually prevail.

Most of all, it was curious to note the metaphor--a tug-of-war--that Mr. Randall himself chose to describe the public debate over Meigs' future. 

Remember, a tug-of-war is a contest between two sides, each of which presumably has a chance of winning.

Don't get your hopes up, but don't count out the Coolest Little Airport on the Planet yet.
 

3/2/06: WBBM Newsradio coverage of Park District presentation

WBBM Newsradio's Bob Roberts covered the Park District's presentation, and filed the report below. 

To listen to the report, visit: http://www.wbbm780.com/pages/11159.php?

Click for WBBM Radio's Bob Roberts' bioDebate Continues Over Future of Northerly Island

CHICAGO (WBBM Newsradio 780)  -- Nearly three years have passed since Mayor Daley ordered the bulldozers in, to destroy Meigs Field in the middle of the night.  The war of words continues between open-space advocates and those who want to see the airport rebuilt.

Park District Planning and Development Chief Arnold Randall is firm about the future of Northerly Island -- and about plans for an "airport in a park" developed by the group Friends of Meigs Field.

"We respectfully disagree," he told those attending a lecture at the Chicago Architecture Foundation as he placed a slide showing 1930s teens at the 12th Street beach engaging in a tug-of-war to nervous giggles.

"The struggle will go on, I'm sure, because they\'re very committed and we respect that," he said.  "But ultimately, no, we\'re not considering any aviation-related ideas at Northerly Island."

He said that there is no shortage of ideas for Northerly Island, including a second access road. 

Already, there are walking paths, wildflowers and a concert pavilion on the island, but the only "permanent" structures on Northerly Island are those left over from Meigs --the former terminal building, hangar and tower.  The Friends of Meigs Fields' Josh Levy said he sees the same problems with Northerly Island that the Daley administration has on State Street --only supersized.

"This is essentially a Block 37." Levy said.  "It will be a vacant piece of land, an underused piece of land until the Park District comes up with funds to develop it -- and I don't see that happening."

Levy said he believes most, if not all, of the proposals that have been put forward for the Northerly Island park can be accommodated in Grant Park.

He claims that if the city were to purchase Northerly Island from the Park District with Federal Aviation Administration Airport Improvement Funds, it would leave the parks with well in excess of $100 million after development were complete.

Randall disagreed, calling Grant Park "very busy every day," and saying that the Friends\' "airport in the park" plan has been considered and rejected. 

Looking ahead, Randall said an outside design team may be in place by mid-summer.  He said the temporary concert pavilion adjacent to the 12th Street Beach is helping to  underwrite maintenance and development costs.

2/10/06: Chicago to open private heliport on public lakefront land
                       -Tacitly admits Meigs closure based on false pretenses, need still exists
                       -Yet Daley clings to calls for "no fly zone"


 


Chicago, IL –
In a front-page story today, the Chicago Tribune is reporting that the City of Chicago is poised to open a new, private-access "helistop" on the Chicago lakefront.  The helipad, located at the mouth of the Chicago River, on Chicago Park District property, will allow access for public safety helicopters, as well as private helicopter operators to land downtown.

No Meigs? How about a heliport?
Josh Levy, spokesman for Friends of Meigs Field inspects the new "helistop", adjacent to Navy Pier.
"This shows that Meigs was closed under false pretenses," said Levy.
Chicago Tribune photo, by E. Jason Wambsgans)

The new helipad will have only a single landing pad and parking spot, compared with Meigs' seven landing pads, and enormous ramp for parking.  Moreover, helicopter traffic at Meigs accounted for only a tiny fraction (<10%) of operations, compared to fixed-wing traffic.  The site--built on public property--will only be accessible by private operators with a contractual agreement with the City, unlike Meigs Field which was a public-use landing facility, serving all the public.

In the Tribune article, the Illinois Department of Transportation cites the need for "a location close to the center of Chicago" for security purposes, "particularly after the 9/11 attacks."  What IDOT did not note is that such a facility--Meigs Field--already existed "after the 9/11 attacks" until it was demolished illegally under cover of night and police guard by Mayor Daley.

The new helipad facility is apparently the second one tried by the City Department of Aviation.  An earlier one planned for the roof of McCormick Place convention center was abandoned for logistical reasons.

A lack of landing facilities

The new helistop is sorely needed.  The City of Chicago, compared to other major cities, is far short of general aviation landing facilities close to downtown.  A check of the airports database at Landings.com indicates that, within 10 nautical miles of city hall (41.884N, 87.632W), Chicago has only 1 airport (Midway), 11 private-access heliports, and no other public landing facilities.

New York City, by contrast, has 3 public airports, 28 heliports including 5 public access heliports, and even 6 seaplane bases within 10 nm of their city hall (40.714N, 74.006W).

Los Angeles--the undisputed champ of the televised helicopter highway chase--has 4 public airports, and 69 heliports all within 10 nm of LA city hall (34.054N, 118.242W).

Both sides of his mouth

Yet, although he is proceeding ahead with the much-needed heliport, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley continues to simultaneously call for the complete ban of general aviation in the vicinity of major U.S. cities (notably ones with brand-new lakefront parks in his own neighborhood.)  In the wake of news stories reiterating a 2002 Al Quaida plot to crash a jetliner into L.A.'s he is quoted in today's Chicago Sun-Times as saying "it's ridiculous not to have no-fly zones in metropolitan areas."

Both the hypocrisy and ignorance of his position is stunning.  While opening a new landing facility downtown on the one hand--one that proves the lie in his rhetoric for closing Meigs--Daley simultaneously continues his drumbeat of demonization of general aviation.  Remember, the L.A. story involved not general aviation, but a plot to hijack a major commerical airliner.  Moreover, it is ludicrous to expect that terrorists purported ready to use shoe-bomb explosives to break into the cockpit and then commit selfguided-missile suicide would be dissuaded by the fines or revocation of their pilots licenses for entering a "no-fly zone." 

Unless Mayor Daley is prepared to literally shoot violators from the sky, his words are only demagoguery.

The point is that the new heliport proves the hollowness of Daley's claims, and exposes his true motives for closing Meigs: fulfilling his long-sought dream of creating a new lakefront park within walking distance of his own South Loop townhouse.
 

9/6/05: FAA Determines Meigs Closure Illegal
Imposes Maximum Fine



Friends of Meigs call for Daley to pay personally

Chicago, IL – According to news reports, today the Federal Aviation Administration has finally determined that the City of Chicago did indeed violate federal law in its midnight demolition of Meigs Field. The FAA has imposed the maximum fine allowed by law, $33,000.

Another investigation into the improper use of up to $2.8 million in federal aviation funds by the City of Chicago is still pending. Fines in that investigation could reach triple the amount misspent, or over $8 million.

“This vindicates what we’ve said all along,” said Steve Whitney, president of the Friends of Meigs Field, “Mayor Daley’s midnight massacre of Meigs was illegal. Good government doesn’t happen in the secret of night.”

Today’s action was the latest in a growing list of federal investigations of the Daley administration, including the Hired Truck program, minority hiring, and corruption in the Chicago Park District.

The Friends of Meigs Field—a 6,800-member volunteer organization dedicated to the downtown airport—called for Chicago Mayor Daley to pay the fine personally. “The Mayor of Chicago knew when he did this that it was illegal and would incur fines,” said Whitney. “Taxpayers should be outraged if they are made to pay for such blatant abuse of power.”

The FAA reportedly informed the City of Chicago of its findings in an August 31 letter, according to chicagobusiness.com. The City reportedly has 15 days to pay the fine or ask for a hearing.

Federal Aviation Regulations require that proper advance notice be given in advance of the closure of airports like Meigs, in part to allow the FAA time to analyze the adverse impacts. Since the Meigs closure, traffic, delays, congestion, and safety hazards have been reported to have increased at Midway and O’Hare airports. In addition, many flights appear not to be making the trip to Chicago any longer.

Fines increased since Meigs’ closure

The $33,000 fine made public today is the maximum allowed under the regulations prevailing at the time of Meigs’ destruction in March, 2003. Since that night, Congress passed new legislation—known as the “Meigs Act”—that increased the fines tenfold, to prevent such actions in the future.

$8 million investigation still pending

The FAA is still investigating whether the City of Chicago improperly spent over $2.8 million in restricted federal aviation funds designated for airport improvements. According to documents filed by the City of Chicago in December replying to the FAA’s Notice of Investigation, the City admitted to spending $2,887,462 in airport funds demolishing Meigs to make way for a nature park the mayor has sought since the early 1990’s.

If found to have misspent the money, the City would be required to repay the FAA, and—if the City refused—subject up fines totaling up to triple the amount at issue, or over $8.6 million.

“Those funds are to be used for improving airports, not demolishing them,” said Whitney. Cities like Chicago are restricted from spending Airport Improvement Program funds and similarly restricted federal aviation monies for purposes other than improving the nation’s airport system.

The City of Chicago cited other cities’ use of airport funds for demolition of closed airports, but in those cases, the FAA gave prior approval of the expenditures.

More information:

chicagobusiness.com article: http://chicagobusiness.com/cgi-bin/news.pl?id=17682 (see below)

City of Chicago legal brief in reply to FAA Notice of Investigation, 12/3/2004: http://www.aopa.org/whatsnew/newsitems/2004/041206meigs_response.pdf

Read the Crain's story
Crain’s Chicago Business story 9/6/05:

FAA fines Chicago over Meigs Field
By Steve Daniels

The Federal Aviation Administration is moving to fine the city of Chicago $33,000 in connection with the sudden closure of Meigs Field more than two years ago.

In an Aug. 31 letter to the city’s Department of Aviation, the FAA said it’s assessing the civil penalty because the city didn’t notify the FAA before demolishing the runways at Meigs Field. The city provided the federal agency with notification a short time afterwards, but by then the runways had been destroyed and the airport couldn’t be operated.

The FAA letter gives the city 15 days to pay the fine or ask for a hearing on the issue. A spokeswoman for Mayor Richard M. Daley didn’t return calls today requesting comment.

Mayor Daley ordered the closing of Meigs, which took place in the early-morning hours of March 31, 2003. At the time, the mayor said the small airfield, used primarily by business executives and government officials to fly in and out of the city, posed a danger because of the possibility it could be a target for terrorists.

The city is now converting Northerly Island, the strip of land just south of Navy Pier that was home to Meigs, into a park.

Still pending is a proposed FAA order that would fine the city up to $4.5 million for allegedly misspending $1.5 million in airport funds to demolish Meigs Field, an FAA spokeswoman says.

3/28/05: Crain's: Meigs closure losing business for Chicago


Read the Crain's story
Crain’s Chicago Business story
3/28/05:

 

Read the editorial
Crain's editorial
3/28/05:


This week marks the second anniversary of the Midnight Meigs Massacre by Mayor Daley’s bulldozers. While the FAA investigation into the closure continues at an unknown pace, Crain’s Chicago Business reports that general aviation airport users have abandoned Chicago in droves.

In a major 2-page article, entitled “Meigs closure 2 years later: It’s for the birds”, writer Steve Strahler indicates that over half of Meigs’ former traffic has been lost to the region, while at the same time traffic (and congestion) at Midway Airport has risen.

In it’s official editorial, entitled “Daley's Meigs closure doesn't pass test of time”, Crain’s writes that “the decision to close Meigs was a bad one,” and that Daley’s “ham-handed” move comes without money to pay for anything substantial on the property.

Crain's photos: Meigs Field in March 2003 (left) and March 2005. Photos: Precision Aerial Photo

Click here to read the full story and editorial
 

3/28/05: Congressman Jackson supports Parks and Planes

Leading mayoral contender commends win-win proposal

 

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.Possible mayoral challenger U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has given a boost to proposals to reopen Meigs Field as a part of a park/airport/air museum complex on Chicago’s lakefront.

Backing the Friends of Meigs Field’s Parks and Planes proposal in a letter, Rep. Jackson reiterated his long-standing support for the famed airport, and indicated that he was “looking forward to working with you toward [its] implementation.”

Jackson, son of Rev. Jesse Jackson, is a well-respected congressman from Chicago’s south side, and has been active in regional airport issues for many years, supporting a new commercial airport in south suburban Peotone, IL.

When Daley single-handedly broke his agreement to preserve Meigs Field until 2026, Jackson lent his support to a measure in the state legislature to add the reopening of Meigs and building the Peotone airport to a bill designed to fast-track O’Hare expansion. The legislation ultimately passed without Meigs or Peotone in an eleventh-hour vote affected by unrelated side deals.

The significance of this development should not be missed. The City of Chicago has little money to develop a park at Meigs, and the property is likely to languish into the next mayor’s term. Should Jackson run and win, Meigs could be on the table, although the possibility may seem a long shot today.


Chicago Tribune coverage:

Jackson Jr. supporting new Meigs
Congressman again at odds with Daley over former airport

By Hal Dardick, Tribune staff reporter. Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Ill.: Mar 16, 2005.

In another challenge to Mayor Richard Daley, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) has added his name to an effort to rebuild an airport on Chicago's Northerly Island, once the home of Meigs Field.

On Tuesday Meigs Action Coalition officials released a letter from Jackson supporting their plan for a combination airport and nature park. Tuesday evening marked the last in a series of Chicago Park District meetings to gather public views on how to convert Northerly Island, a 78-acre peninsula, into a nature park--as Daley long has wanted.

Jackson wrote the letter in October, before his latest dust-up with Daley over the city's set-aside program. But he said Tuesday his position has not changed.

"As you know, I am for more runways in the region, not fewer," Jackson said in an interview. "The letter speaks for itself."

Click for the rest of the Tribune story
Click here to see Rep. Jackson’s letter
 

3/15/05: Meigs Supporters, majority at park meeting

Walk Out in Protest



Meigs supporters lined up to get in.


Yellow stickers helped identify pro-Meigs attendees.


Votes for the Park District's pictures:
 This board: 49 
Est. total for all 3 boards:
About 150

Votes for a fair process:
Total: Over 380 by the end.

Video of "votes" being cast against the process...
Video of votes being cast
against the Park District's unfair "process"
(Requires QuickTime player, free)


Democracy X'ed again in Chicago
 


Meigs supporters staged a boisterous protest on March 15, when--at the final Chicago Park District “visioning session” for Meigs Field--over 2/3 of the attendees walked out in solidarity for a park/airport/air museum combination.

Of roughly 75 attendees at the meeting, over fifty walked out in protest, holding a press conference and rally outside in the hall with chants of “parks and planes.”

Red stickers instead of green

At the seven meetings held by the Park District to gather public input, by far the largest bloc of attendees has been supporters of reopening Meigs Field.

At the first six meetings, Park District officials asked attendees to “vote” for and against photos of a limited array of park features that might be put on the Meigs property. Votes “for” a photo got a green sticker, against got red.

During the course of the meetings it became clear that the process was a sham.*

Therefore, at the final meeting, Meigs supporters used their own red stickers to vote against the whole process. Using the same number of red stickers instead of the greens and yellows issued by the Park District, supporters voted by placing their stickers on a large posterboard.

At first the stickers were placed in the shape of an X, symbolizing the X’ing of democracy in Daley’s midnight raid on Meigs, but eventually there were so many red stickers they filled the sheet.

A comparison of photos of the protest board versus the park photos shows the stark contrast. (In fairness, the remaining greens and yellows were split over 3 boards like this, but still, the reds outnumbered all of the others by more than 2 to 1.)

Shouts of “parks and planes”

Supporters held black X’s over their mouths to symbolize the silencing of the democratic process, as they silently processed into the hallway for a rally.

At the rally, over 50 supporters with signs and photos of the bulldozed airport gathered for a short press conference. Josh Levy, spokesman for Friends of Meigs Field, Rachel Goodstein, president of the Meigs Action Coalition, Steve Whitney president of the Friends of Meigs, and Bill “Dock” Walls of the Committee for a Better Chicago all offered comments.

At the end of the conference Meigs supporters broke into chants of “parks and planes,” loud enough to cause Park District officials to close the doors to the then-sparsely populated meeting room.

TV coverage of the protest was national, thanks to superstation WGN-TV, which is carried on many cable systems nationwide.
 

Friends of Meigs spokesman Josh Levy addressing the media.
Meigs supporters held X's in front of their mouths to
symbolize being silenced.

 

* -- For example, virtually no one—airport supporters and detractors alike—supported the idea of a concert venue for Meigs. Yet, halfway through the months-long process, the park board announced that the one thing they were definitely going to put there was—you guessed it—a 10,000 seat rock concert venue.
 

 

3/9/05: Rotary International gives cover to Park District?


If you are a member of Rotary International,
please contact your organization's leadership and ask them to

1) Avoid taking action that would effectively take sides in the debate over Meigs' future

2) Meet with representatives from Friends of Meigs Field for an open dialogue about the project and ways it could be accomplished without affecting the possibilities of reopening Meigs Field.

 


It was announced at the March 9th Chicago Park District board meeting that Rotary International, an international business volunteer service organization, is giving $275,000 to the Chicago Park District, to be used to help convert Meigs Field into a park.

According to the Sun-Times:

"The Park District board Wednesday approved the five-year plan, which also includes a dramatic 100-tree gateway to Northerly Island donated by Rotary International."

"The gateway project for Northerly Island, the former site of Meigs Field, is near 12th Street Beach. Rotary has offered $275,000 for a 'grand entrance'' featuring 100 trees and about 500 paving stones."

The Friends of Meigs Field have attempted unsuccessfully to obtain details of the proposal and discuss the situation with Rotary International's leadership.

The move--the first corporate sponsorship of the destruction of Meigs--is something of a surprise, given the donor organization.  Rotary--though a worldwide organization--is headquartered in suburban Evanston, and is celebrating its 100th anniversary at its annual convention scheduled this year for Chicago.  Its members include The International Fellowship of Flying Rotarians, an aviation-oriented group that planned to use Meigs Field as its main arrival point for the convention.

A number of Rotary Clubs in the Chicago area have received presentations on the Meigs Field situation, at which members are almost unanimously in favor of the win-win proposals put forth by the Friends of Meigs Field.  Moreover, a number of Friends of Meigs' 6,800 members are also Rotarians, and presumably would be upset to hear their organization's funds are being used for such purposes. Yet the local clubs officially emphasize that they do not take sides in controversial local political battles, and steadfastly have remained neutral,

That is, apparently until now.

Although Friends of Meigs remains hopeful that the story is in error, a representative for Rotary would not deny its truth.

If you are a member of Rotary International, please help by contacting your organization's leadership (see left).

Relevant links:

Rotary International: www.rotaryintl.org
  Letters to the editor of The Rotarian: yourletters@rotaryintl.org
International Fellowship of Flying Rotarians: http://www.iffrinternational.org/
  President, Angus Clark (angus@foldhead.plus.com)
 

 

Meigs Action Coalition fundraiser, Wed. 3/30



On March 30, 2005, the Meigs Action Coalition* will host its 2nd commemoration event marking the 2nd anniversary of the midnight demolition of the Meigs Field. During the event MAC will present four "Above and Beyond" awards and hear remarks from the award recipients.
bulletCongressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
bulletThe Committee for a Better Chicago
bulletTwo columnists for the local press who have continued to focus attention on the Meigs issues throughout 2004:
bullet

Ed Schwartz

bulletEd Lowe

Event details:
Location: Maggiano's Little Italy
   516 North Clark Street
   Chicago, Illinois.
Time: Reception: 6:00pm
   Program: 7:00pm.


Features:
The evening will feature a dinner buffet, the award presentations, cash bar, and a silent auction. Tickets: $100 per person The ticket price includes a $50 donation to the Meigs Action Coalition. If you are unable to attend please consider making a donation to support MAC's efforts.

To order your tickets, please call 773-383-4762 and leave a message.
Visa/MasterCard/Checks accepted. Meigs Action Coalition, P.O. Box 147055, Chicago IL, 60614.

3/4/05: Chicago Reader: Park District is "Giving Away the Farm" on Meigs


[R]

 


In the March 4 issue, Ben Joravsky, a columnist for the alternative paper the Chicago Reader, wrote an excellent 2,000 word essay on the Meigs Field situation.

Capturing the epic story of the battle for Meigs since the mid-1990's, he points out that the recently announced deal with Clear Channel to privatize a portion of the Meigs property for rock concerts "won't even cover what it cost to rip up Meigs Field."

In one sidebar, Joravsky lays out the case for the Friends of Meigs' "Parks and Planes" proposal, explaining how and why the FAA might be willing to pay for the Park District to reopen Meigs Field. 

Secrets and Sex

In another sidebar, he questions why the Park District won't divulge the names of the secret 5-member committee that struck the deal with Clear Channel.  One member, he says, is Laura Foxgrover, director of the Park District's Department of New Business. 

This is the same woman who is said to have slept with (and borne the child of) one of the contractors to whom the Park District recently gave a sweetheart (and apparently unauthorized) contract to operate the Park Grill in the new Millennium Park.

Click here to read the entire story
Chicago Reader
 

 

Report: 3/2/05 Park District meeting--Meigs supporters dominate 4 to 1

 


(Marquette Park, Chicago, IL) -- On Wednesday, March 2, Meigs Field supporters dominated the Chicago Park District's Meigs Field "visioning session," outnumbering opponents over 4 to 1.

The meetings, held in the Marquette Park (photo, right) field house, was attended by 11 members of the public, 9 of which were in favor of re-opening Meigs Field, based on discussion during the session.

[marq200.gif]
Marquette Park lagoon, partially drained in 1996
 after a nearby sewer ruptured.
Although this damage has been repaired, there are many
underserved parks in Chicago, especially in poor neighborhoods.

And the Park District can't use up to $100 million???
 

Frustration on the part of Meigs supporters was evident, as the Chicago Park District representatives continued their mantra: "we are not in the airport business," ignoring an opportunity for millions of dollars in unrestricted funds for parks across the city available in the Friends of Meigs' proposal, "Parks and Planes."

Discussion was often testy, with Meigs supporters showing their exasperation at the increasingly evident lack of open-mindedness on the park of the Chicago Park District.

"This process is a farce," said one Meigs supporter, after hearing the Park District repeatedly dismiss the win-win plan proposed by Friends of Meigs Field.

At one point, Park District officials complained that the Friends of Meigs Field had somehow "stacked the deck" of attendees.  This, of course, is impossible.  Friends of Meigs Field has certainly tried to publicize these meetings, encouraging anyone to attend who has an opinion, for or against the airport.  The organization has no way to prevent Meigs opponents from attending.

The real issue is that there really are not very many people who are motivated to support Mayor Daley's ill-conceived scheme to destroy a civic transportation asset for a redundant lakefront park.
 

3/1/05: City admits they were wrong?

Helipad to be built only yards from Meigs

 

McCormick Place--site of new heliport yards from old Meigs Field?
McCormick Place, reportedly site of a new helipad,
only yards across the harbor from a closed Meigs Field

Lakeside Center, reported location of helipad is far building.  Note view of Meigs Field in background (taken before demolition.)

A tacit admission they were wrong???

According to a presentation at the February meeting of the Chicago Area Business Aviation Association, the City of Chicago is close to establishing a new downtown helipad, within yards of Meigs' location.

According to an impromptu presentation* by a CABAA member familiar with the project, the City is working on putting a helipad on top of McCormick Place convention center, immediately across the harbor mouth from Meigs Field.

  
Tidbits:

bulletThe facility is reported to be private-use, by advance contract only, as contrasted with Meigs which was a public-use airport.  Meigs' helicopter traffic accounted for less than 10% of operations at the airport.  The rest of that traffic will either continue to avoid Chicago altogether or add to congestion at other area airports, primarily Midway (one of the 30 most congested in the nation.)
 
bulletThere will be only one or--at most--two helipads at the facility, and no aircraft parking allowed, raising the costs to operators, and also adding to operations at nearby airports like Midway, as operators will need to reposition there to park and await the return of their passengers.  Fees are expected to be very high, but apparently area operators are so desperate since Meigs' closure that they are willing to pay.
 
bulletThe location will be unsuitable for medevac transport, unlike Meigs.  Apparently the McCormick Place elevators do not go all the way to the top (sort of like certain elected officials' a cynic might add.)
 
bulletThere has also been some talk that--get this for gall--the City will attempt to use federal Homeland Security funds for construction of the helipad.  The irony of this is almost incredible: it was ostensibly for "homeland security" reasons that Meigs was closed in the first place.
 
bulletThis may explain why it was reported that the original plan was only to be able to handle aircraft the size of a Sikorsky S-76, but later was changed to handle a Blackhawk helicopter.
 
bulletThere apparently have been no public hearings on the siting of the helipad, even though it will be closer to residential neighborhoods than Meigs.
 

* -- The scheduled presentation was to have been given by Bill Brogan of the Chicago Department of Aviation, but he pulled out with only hours notice.  Meigs users may recall that Brogan was the manager of Meigs during most of its five-year "stay of execution" after it re-opened in 1997.  Brogan was also on the scene the night of Meigs' demolition. 

Now, apparently he's in charge of the project.
 

3/1/05: Letter to the editor



The following letter to the editor was printed in the Chicago Skyline last week:

March 1, 2005

To the Editor:

A concert venue on the Meigs Field location is phenomenally poor policy, even by the Park District's abysmally low "Meigs standards."

The Chicago Park District proposes to cede Meigs to promoters to put up a 10,000 seat concert venue, in exchange for a mere $800,000 per year, completely inconsistent with the Park District's stated goal of a "nature park," yet not enough to make even a dent in their estimated $26 million cost to develop a park.

The location is remote; access for 10,000 is poor, down a single-lane street; facilities are non-existent; nearby parking is paltry and spoken for by the museums. Most will need to wait with 9,999 other concertgoers for a trolley, or walk up to a mile and a half to their cars. In case of a natural or man-made disaster, emergency vehicles would have no chance to reach the site past crowds streaming down the single exit road.

The only reason Meigs is being considered over any of the better suited and sited venues downtown is because of the tiny amount of funds that can be raised to convert it to a park. Yet the Park District has ignored and censored ideas that could bring in over 100 times as much, enough to completely develop Northerly Island, with millions left over for local parks in every neighborhood.

One concept, by our organization, would create an exciting mixed use park/airstrip/air museum, with 25 acres of parkland, exciting family attractions capitalizing on the airfield, events and activities unavailable anywhere else in the city. All of the funds would come from aviation sources, 95% from the FAA.

To demonstrate, if this represents the annual proposed concert revenue ($800,000):

$

This represents the estimated amount available from our proposal:

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
$$$$$$$$

($139 million, 174 times as much)

This much would go to Northerly Island, the rest to local parks:

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

 ($26 million)

The general funding concept has been blessed by the FAA, and for good reason: congestion at Midway and O'Hare is now at an all-time high since Meigs' closure. The only question is exactly how many dollars are available. Estimates have run both higher and lower than ours. It deserves serious study, but the Park board refuses.

Illegal midnight demolition, censorship of win-win proposals, discarding millions for local parks, and now selling out the lakefront for poorly conceived funding schemes.

Is it time for an elected park board, like every other park district in Illinois?

Sincerely,

Steven G. Whitney
President
Friends of Meigs Field
 

 
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