Chicago's Daley administration agreed Monday to pay a $33,000 fine -- and repay $1 million in federal airport development grants -- to settle claims stemming from Mayor Daley's infamous midnight destruction of Meigs Field in March 2003.
Monday's settlement between City Hall and the Federal Aviation Administration resolves the long-running dispute in a way that is less costly to Chicago taxpayers than it might have been.
The city used $1.5 million in federal grants and airline ticket taxes to demolish Meigs. The FAA could have imposed penalties of up to $4.5 million -- three times the amount improperly diverted.
Instead, City Hall has agreed to reimburse the airport development fund by $1 million using money from a "non-aviation fund." Under the deal, airport revenue can go only to clean up "airport-related environmental contamination" at Northerly Island.
'FEET TO THE FIRE'
"We agreed the remediation of environmental damage not related to the removal of infrastructure was an appropriate use of airport revenue. We also agreed that any expenditure related to redevelopment of the airport as a park would not be appropriate," said FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.
Finally, the city has agreed to pay the full $33,000 fine imposed by the FAA after Daley failed to provide the required 30-day notice when he sent in bulldozers to carve giant X's into the Meigs runway.
"It allows us to resolve what could have been lengthy and expensive litigation in a way that is very reasonable for both the city and the FAA. It also allows us to use additional funds for environmental clean-up at Northerly Island related to Meigs Field," said Law Department spokeswoman Jennifer Hoyle, stressing the city did not admit wrongdoing.
Steve Whitney, president of Friends of Meigs Field, applauded the FAA for "holding the city's feet to the fire" by requiring it to pay the full fine for violating the notice requirement.
Congress has since made the fine 10 times as high "because they never want this to happen again," Whitney said.
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