Cost of Daily’s Decision Closing Meigs Field Keep Rising

Editor’s Note: This has nothing to do with California, but we thought all of you would like to know that Daily’s bad decision has cost dearly. It’s unfortunate that the City of Chicago is paying for his actions.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006
The high cost of hubris
The Chicago (IL) Tribune

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.

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