Chicago Considers Privatizing Midway Airport

Mayor Richard Daley's administration is considering whether to privatize Midway International Airport, a city official said.

Dana Levenson, the city's chief financial officer, said the move is a possibility as the city looks for ways to raise cash without increasing taxes.

"This is thinking outside of the box," Levenson told the Chicago Tribune. "Does it end up in a transaction? We don't know. Yet, we have to be considering any and all possibilities."

Levenson said either all or part of Midway could eventually be leased to a private operator. It could take years to complete a transaction to privatize the airport, and standards for a private operator and assessing the deal's value would take time, he said.

A proposal in the Legislature would make such a deal possible by maintaining Midway's property tax-exempt status, said bill sponsor Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park. The Senate passed bill passed Thursday, it still needs House approval.

The bill also would give property tax-exempt status to five parking garages and three city waste sorting and transfer stations.

Yet some said privatization was unlikely.

"As you go to money-crunching in government, you have to look at everything," said Rep. Robert Molaro, D-Chicago. "So I don't mind (the city's study of the issue). I just don't see how they can do it."

Stewart International Airport, about 55 miles north of New York City, was the nation's first privatized commercial airport. National Express Group, a U.S. subsidiary of a British transportation company, operates the airport under a 99-year lease agreement with the New York State Department of Transportation. New York got $35 million in the deal.


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