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7/9/03 Moore: "Hearings"

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News Release

July 9, 2003

Alderman Calls for City Council Hearings on Meigs

Chicago Alderman Joe Moore introduces resolution calling for hearings;
Cites safety decline since closure

Chicago, IL - At today's Chicago City Council meeting, Council member Joe Moore (D, 49th Ward) introduced a resolution calling for public hearings into the adverse effects of closing Meigs Field and consideration of reopening the airport.

Alderman Moore, a noted supporter of Chicago parks, cited numerous reports of safety problems since the closure of Meigs, and said events since the closure "sound like a disaster waiting to happen." Ald. Moore mentioned the near mid-air collision that was prevented by the Meigs control tower days after the runway closure (a control tower that has since also been closed,) increased runway incursions at O'Hare airport, and controller reports of overwork at Midway airport.

According to Moore, he is "calling on the City Council to fully consider this midnight decision and shine the full light of day on it before lives are lost."

The call comes at an urgent point in time. The initial demolition that put the Meigs runway out of action is only estimated to cost $500,000 to repair. However, the City of Chicago has announced plans to demolish the entire runway, starting as early as late July or August. Replacing the entire runway could cost millions of dollars.

"We salute Alderman Moore's courage and leadership in introducing this measure," said Rachel Goodstein, president of the Friends of Meigs Field, "and we call on the rest of the City Council to support him in this. A threat to air safety is too important to go unchallenged."

Alderman Moore also noted the opportunities available in preserving Meigs, referring to the plan recently introduced by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which would provide millions in FAA funds to the Park District if Meigs is reopened. "Our neighborhoods need those funds," said Moore, citing the fact that the Chicago Park District's 2003 budget slashed spending on operations and programs by over $25 million.

The AOPA plan estimates the value of the airport at $41 million, a value that could be received by the Park District for merely returning the airport to the function it has had for nearly 55 years. Park District estimates range even higher, one estimate as high as $700 million, (although the Friends of Meigs Field suspect this figure may be artificially inflated.) The FAA will pay up to 90% of the cost of acquiring land for airport purposes, meaning that-if its estimates are accurate-the Park District could receive as much as $630 million to reopen Meigs.

Alderman Moore's resolution also calls for public consideration of "suitable alternatives that might prove advantageous to preserve Meigs Field." Last month, the Friends of Meigs Field entered a formal request to the Chicago Park District-on behalf of numerous aviation organizations-to consider an alternative vision plan being developed to reinvent Meigs Field with park, education, and recreational elements in addition to its airport function. To date, no formal reply has been received to this request.

"We are very excited by Alderman Moore's call for hearings," said Rachel Goodstein, president of the Friends of Meigs Field. "Government by midnight edict is bad government. The people deserve to hear the full truth in the light of day, and have their elected representatives decide the future of Meigs."

Meigs Field was bulldozed in the middle of the night in late March, without warning or notice to the public, the FAA, the Governor of Illinois, the Chicago City Council, or the Chicago Park District board. Since the closure, numerous news reports have indicated safety problems, ranging from near mid-air collisions to dangerous runway incursions threatening airliners at other area airports. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association has called for the reopening of Meigs Field, saying that-since the closure-"the level of safety [in Chicago airspace] has diminished below an acceptable level."

The Friends of Meigs Field have pointed out that practically all of the features and activities for a park slated to replace Meigs could be incorporated into the airport itself, or nearby on the lakefront. "Ping pong, fishing tournaments, public bathrooms, Meigs can do all that and so much more," said Goodstein. "Name me one other park in the city where kids can get their first touch of the sky, absolutely free."

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Friends of Meigs Field
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