Meigs Field News Archive:
Press news archive -- Click here
Friends of Meigs News archive:
wins re-election with wide margin of tiny turnout|
Video available--Mayoral candidate on his first act--reopening Meigs
Friends of Meigs president Rachel Goodstein for 43rd Ward|
|10/21/06: Longtime friend
of Meigs newspaperman Ed Lowe passes|
Meigs becomes topic in mayoral race|
City surrenders to FAA:|
will face max fine,
repay $ 1 million in misspent funds
Chicago Tribune Editorial: "The high cost of hubris"|
News Analysis: FAA vs. Daley
|6/30/06: Late breaking
news: CFD helo down on lakefront today|
Reprise: Murder at Meigs Field|
|6/26/06: City legal
bills for Meigs closure soar over $500k; dwarf FAA fine|
Mayoral candidate: "My first act, reopen
"London's Meigs" tests Airbus 318|
|4/23/06: Mayor campaign
kicks off: Bill "Dock" Walls announces candidacy, supports
|4/17/06: Farewell to a
Tuskegee Airman and Friend of Meigs Field -- William R. Thompson|
|4/17/06: Chicago Man
Drowns -- Could Meigs Field Have Saved Him?|
|3/30/06 -- Press
Release: 3rd anniversary of "midnight massacre"|
|3/22/06 FLASH--Vote in
Chicago Tribune Poll: What was Chicago's biggest goof?|
of a sad day: A Meigs controller tells his story|
|3/6/06: Meigs letter to the
editor: Sun-Times, Herald, Southtown, Crain's|
|3/2/06: Report: The
Park District plan that isn't...
|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
|9/6/05: FAA Determines
Meigs Closure Illegal, Imposes Maximum Fine|
|3/30/05: Meigs Action
Coalition fundraiser, Wed. 3/30|
|3/28/05: Crain's: Meigs
closure losing business for Chicago|
Jackson supports Parks and Planes,
|Leading mayoral contender commends win-win
Supporters, majority at park meeting, walk Out in Protest|
International gives cover to Park District?|
|3/4/05: Chicago Reader:
Park District is "Giving Away the Farm" on Meigs|
3/2/05 Park District meeting--Meigs supporters dominate 4 to 1|
admits they were wrong?|
Helipad to be built only yards from
|3/1/05: Letter to the
|Past news archives|
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.
Video available--Mayoral candidate on his first act--reopening Meigs
"That was the day
Bill Dock Walls, the first announced
candidate for mayor, interviewed on why he would reopen
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
Click to listen to the
whole segment: http://22.214.171.124/audvid/2006-06-22_Chi_Tonight.wmv
Another pro-Meigs candidate announces:
Former Friends of Meigs president Rachel Goodstein for 43rd Ward
Longtime friend of Meigs newspaperman passes
We are sad to report that a good Friend of Meigs Field has
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
Meigs becomes topic in mayoral race
With the mayoral race
getting under way, Meigs Field is taking a prominent role with
Bill "Dock" Walls
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
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://126.96.36.199/html/news/2006-09-19_Dorothy_Brown_press_release--Meigs_settlement.pdf
Walls TV appearance 6/22/06: http://188.8.131.52/html/news/news_curr.html#06-06-22_First_reopen_Meigs
City surrenders to FAA
Agrees to pay fine, repay
The City of Chicago has surrendered in its legal defense
of the demolition of Meigs Field, costing taxpayers over
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.
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
Planes", the Friends of Meigs' proposal is available
online by clicking here.
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
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
News Analysis: FAA vs. Daley
vs. Daley 1: Failure to give notice of Meigs closure
Read the FAA's questions for
the City of Chicago here.
shoe to drop: City to answer questions on secret
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
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.)
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.
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.]
City doesn't continue to obfuscate, we will shortly learn
the answers to questions like:
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
"(b) all individuals who attended any such
meeting whether in person or via telephone or
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."|
No. 10: "Identify the person who ordered
the deactivation of Meigs Field, occurring in
abreast of the case, visit the USDOT's docket tracking
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
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
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
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
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.
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:
Listing in this week's
Crain's Chicago Business Things to Do:
City legal bills for Meigs closure soar over $500k; dwarf FAA fine
for the City of Chicago
have already run up
legal bills over $500,000
fighting an FAA fine
of only $30,000
taxpayers must pay the tab
The City of
Chicago continues to waste money defending the
indefensible, while the taxpayers foot the bill.
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
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
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.
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
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:
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.
taxpayers are paying for this.
Crain's article here:
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
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.
Chicago Tonight website: http://www.wttw.com/main.taf?
Walls for Mayor website: http://wallsformayor.com/
Background information on candidate Walls: http://sites.webmanaged.com/folder3206/
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.)
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".
Friend of Meigs Field member Tim Sipples sent in the
"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
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
candidacy for mayor of
Chicago on Sunday. He is in
favor of reopening
Meigs Field according to
the Friends of Meigs'
Parks and Planes
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.
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
At the time, Mr. Walls was
quoted as saying:
Better Chicago introduced
"The Day Democracy Died In Chicago"
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
"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
For more information,
including details on how to attend the announcement to show
your support, visit http://www.wallsformayor.com/
Farewell to a Tuskegee Airman and Friend of Meigs Field -- William
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
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
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
Bill also was unafraid to
take a stand against injustice and ignorance.
We will miss him. A
Read his obituary
from the Chicago Sun-Times here.
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
Maxwell and Andrew L. Wang
Tribune staff reporters
Published April 17, 2006
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
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,
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
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.
-- Press Release: 3rd anniversary of "midnight massacre"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friends of Meigs Mark 3rd Anniversary of Midnight
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
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
“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.”
# # #
FLASH--Vote in Chicago Tribune Poll: What was Chicago's biggest
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
Do your part...
and enter your own vote. Remember...it's
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
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
Tribune photographer David Klobuchar
Alert Friend of Meigs Josh Levy provides us with the
is a very well written account of events (from the Meigs
tower operator) about his experience on 3.31.03:"
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
"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."
Meigs letter to the editor: Sun-Times, Herald, Southtown, Crain's
following letter appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Daily
Herald, Daily Southtown, and excerpted in Crain's Chicago
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
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
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
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
Steven G. Whitney
Report: The Park District plan that isn't...
Arnold Randall, Director of Planning and Development for the
Chicago Park District gave the presentation.
"Northerly Island: Developing Chicago's Next Great Urban
Lots of pretty pictures of flowers, but no plans for the
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
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.
the Park District STILL doesn't have a plan.
right. The presentation yesterday by Chicago Park
District Director of Planning & Development, Arnold
Randall, essentially boiled down to: "we have no plan
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.]
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
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.
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.
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
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
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:
would not divulge any estimate of how long development of
the park would take, only that it would be longer than a
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.)|
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.|
"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!]|
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.|
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.]|
yesterday's presentation was--if not encouraging--then at
least not as discouraging as expected.
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
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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.
WBBM Newsradio coverage of Park District presentation
Bob Roberts covered the Park District's presentation, and filed the
To listen to the
report, visit: http://www.wbbm780.com/pages/11159.php?
Continues Over Future of Northerly Island
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
"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
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
"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.
Chicago to open private heliport on public lakefront land
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.
Josh Levy, spokesman for Friends of Meigs
Field inspects the new "helistop", adjacent to
"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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
$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
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.
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
Crain’s Chicago Business story 9/6/05:
FAA fines Chicago over Meigs Field
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
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
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.
Crain's: Meigs closure losing business for Chicago
Crain’s Chicago Business story
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
Congressman Jackson supports Parks and Planes
Leading mayoral contender
commends win-win proposal
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.
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
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
"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
Click here to see Rep. Jackson’s letter
majority at park meeting
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:
Votes for a fair process:
Total: Over 380 by the end.
Video of votes being cast
against the Park District's unfair "process"
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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).
Rotary International: www.rotaryintl.org
Letters to the editor of The Rotarian: firstname.lastname@example.org
International Fellowship of Flying Rotarians: http://www.iffrinternational.org/
President, Angus Clark (email@example.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.
Location: Maggiano's Little Italy
516 North Clark Street
Time: Reception: 6:00pm
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"
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
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
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.
here to read the entire story
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.
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
And the Park District can't use up to $100
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
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.
City admits they were wrong?
Helipad to be
built only yards from Meigs
McCormick Place, reportedly site of a new helipad,
only yards across the harbor from a closed Meigs Field
Center, reported location of helipad is far
building. Note view of Meigs Field in background
(taken before demolition.)
A tacit admission they were
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
|The 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.)|
|There 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
|The 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.)|
|There 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.|
|This 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.|
|There apparently have been
no public hearings on the siting of the helipad, even
though it will be closer to residential neighborhoods than
* -- 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.
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
This much would go to Northerly
Island, the rest to local parks:
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
Is it time for an elected park
board, like every other park district in Illinois?
Steven G. Whitney
Friends of Meigs Field
here for older items