In a letter to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.), AOPA President Phil Boyer warned that Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's demolition of the runways at Merrill C. Meigs Field has generated a great deal of ill will against the city among the nation's general aviation pilots, as well as concern from members of Congress.
"I have heard from more association members outraged by these actions than during the total grounding of general aviation in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks," Boyer wrote, warning that AOPA members are more than willing to help pressure the city to reopen the airport. "The association has asked its members to boycott Chicago, and they are responding. We have already received numerous communications from our members indicating that they will do exactly that."
Boyer also indicated that the consequences could extend beyond the city limits, affecting the entire state of Illinois.
"A number of key federal legislators are every bit concerned as we are, indicating that they cannot understand why the city would seek federal money for transportation infrastructure projects while tearing out an aviation resource," said Boyer. "These are the same federal legislators who allocate federal funds to cities and states for transportation projects.
"During my testimony before the House aviation subcommittee last week, I presented testimony relating our strong opposition to the Meigs closure. With the exception of Representative [William] Lipinski [D-Ill.], senior members of the committee shared our concerns and pledged to work with us to introduce legislation to undo what Mayor Daley has done."
In the letter, Boyer pointed out that the stated reason for the governor's initial support for Daley's action was no longer valid.
"We are aware...that you were supportive of closure of the airport in the name of security. However, Mayor Daley has admitted that the closure was not based on security but a desire to convert Northerly Island into a park—at the expense of the lakefront airport."
Boyer reminded Blagojevich that AOPA had worked for more than a decade to keep Meigs Field open, including strong support for last year's congressional measure, which Blagojevich himself co-sponsored, that would have written into federal law the deal to expand O'Hare International Airport, build a new airport in Peotone, Ill., and keep Meigs open for another 25 years.
Although the federal legislation failed to win approval, Boyer said, "We all believed that Mayor Daley's handshake agreement with your predecessor would be honored, so the gouging of X's in the runway at Meigs came as a total surprise to us all."