Nearly a month after Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley destroyed the runway at Merrill C. Meigs Field, even as court cases to force the airport's reopening get under way, the public-relations battle appears to be going general aviation's way.
Forbes magazine publisher Rich Karlgaard took a swipe at Mayor Daley in his April 28 column. Under the headline " Mayor Daley's Big Goof," he wrote, "This little jewel of an airport was an asset to Chicago's business community. It would have become more so in the years ahead." That's because of the new small jets coming online. These jets, particularly when chartered as "air limos" will be ideally suited to business travelers, and Meigs would have been the ideal airport for service to Chicago. "Meigs Field was the perfect airport to serve tomorrow's air limos," Karlgaard told a national, business audience. "Unwisely, Chicago has surrendered a big asset."
Over the weekend, both of Chicago's major daily newspapers, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, carried stories about Daley's secret meetings with more than a dozen officials about closing Meigs during the 10 days leading up to the midnight raid. "If there was time for meetings, there was time to inform the public," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "It's further proof that the mayor found it more expedient to blindside his opponents than to use the democratic process."
On Tuesday, AOPA received formal notification of the city's long-expected motion to dismiss AOPA's federal lawsuit against the closure. The suit claims the city of Chicago violated federal regulations by not giving 90 days' notice of the airport's closure or 30 days' notice of termination of instrument procedures. A hearing on the city's motion is scheduled for Monday, May 12.
News of the mayor's meetings came as a result of an Illinois state judge ordering Daley's office to reply to written questions from the Friends of Meigs in a separate state lawsuit. Friends of Meigs alleges that the mayor's office violated Illinois' Open Meetings Act. Daley's office countered that since the people he met with do not constitute an official board, the meetings were not subject to that law.
Meanwhile, AOPA's warnings about negative ripple effects at Chicago's two air carrier airports, O'Hare and Midway, are beginning to come true. Residents living near Midway are complaining to city officials about increased noise at the airport due to increased GA traffic since Meigs was closed.