Is Daley deadline to privatize Midway too ambitious?

Bids for new pact would continue status quo for now


It looks as if Mayor Daley's plan to privatize Midway Airport by year's end may have run into turbulence.

The mayor wants to lease Midway to private managers who would pay the city billions up front to operate the Southwest Side airport and keep a cut of revenues over the next century. Daley had hoped to seal the deal by Dec. 31 to shore up city pensions and finance an array of public works projects.

But in a sign that the deadline might be too ambitious, his administration is soliciting bids from companies to continue the same type of terminal management operation currently at Midway. The new contract being sought is for at least two more years.

Chicago Aviation Department spokeswoman Wendy Abrams noted that was a "fairly standard term" and that the contract would have a "termination for convenience clause" that City Hall "could execute at any time."

The partnership that's managed the terminal for the last six years includes Elzie Higginbottom, the mayor's chief fund-raiser in the black community and the former Illinois Gaming Board chairwoman.

Airlines, which must approve any long-term lease, have demanded a share of the profits and question whether a private operator could turn a profit without cutting back on maintenance and emergency services.

fspielman@suntimes.com

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