July 9, 2005
The City of Chicago could be forced to pay as much as $4.5 million in fines as a result of Mayor Daley's unprecedented midnight raid on Meigs Field airport two years ago. At present, Daley will have to write a check for $33,000 to cover a civil penalty. That, or request a hearing before the FAA. But that could be just the start of Daley's check-writing effort.
AOPA had filed a formal complaint with the agency, alleging that Daley and the city violated both federal law and FAA regulations by not providing proper notice before ripping up the lakeside airport. The FAA agreed with AOPA and hit Chicago with the maximum penalty allowed by law.
On August 31 of this year, the FAA sent Chicago a letter saying the city had 15 days to pay or request a hearing. "We are saying either send us a check for $33,000 or request a hearing" before an administrative law judge, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory told the Chicago Tribune.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the FAA is continuing to investigate another allegation that Daley illegally diverted $1.5 million in airport funds and airline passenger taxes to pay the contractor who destroyed the runway and taxiway to create a city park and concert venue. If true, the mayor could be out as much as $4.5 million in FAA-imposed penalties.
"Sadly, nothing that the FAA or AOPA can do now will restore the airport," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "But this, along with AOPA's determined efforts to save other airports, sends the message to all elected officials that you cannot destroy general aviation airports with impunity. Not even Mayor Daley."
While Meigs supporters ultimately lost the airport, AOPA considers the considerable funds it spent to wage the fight to be well spent. What came out of the effort is being applied today to save airports everywhere. Out of the Meigs effort, for example, have come such innovations as the AOPA Airport Support Network and a federal law, the "Meigs Legacy" provision, which imposes hefty fines on anyone who closes an airport without the proper notice to the FAA. (See " Meigs - one year later.")
Updated: September 12, 2005, 9:31 a.m. EDT
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