Inside the Fence

May 8, 2003
On Minnie, Mickey, and a guy named Daley ...

On Minnie, Mickey, and a guy named Daley ...

Add Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to the list of those who believe dictatorships are a more efficient way to run a government. There are those who do not consider this news.

Meigs Field is closed. Many who fought hard to keep it open, including state officials, thought they had the mayor's word that he would keep it operating. But Congress hedged on passing carte blanche legislation for Daley to reconstruct O'Hare Interna-tional to his liking, so the mayor decided to go ahead and do what he wanted all along: close the GA airfield. How he did it speaks volumes.

In the early hours of March 31, under the cover of darkness and with Chicago's finest blocking the entrance, bulldozers carved a series of Xs in the runway, rendering it useless. GA planes were left stranded, though the fire department got a heads-up to remove its helicopters. FAA was notified at about 3 a.m., and Meigs controllers got the news by radio on the drive to work.

Daley later used the veil of security for justification. More likely, he was upset that he had to fight to get a TFR over his city while places like Orlando had theirs. From the Chicago Tribune:

Reporter: "Why did you wait until now to do this?"

Daley: "... I think just the whole debate about the flight restriction... How difficult that was, how hard it was to get as compared to Mickey and Minnie getting it."

"But you won that battle."

"We did not win it in the sense that Mickey and Minnie got it before us."

Comical yet tragic, and way too authoritarian. If ever there was a case to be made for creation of an independent authority to wrest control of a city's airports from a politician, this is it. Now the mayor wants to spend billions to totally reconstruct O'Hare, despite questionable high costs and vehement- and logical- opposition from neighbors (see page 9).

Don't forget, it was Daley who wanted a third commercial airport for Chicago. He even led the fight to get PFCs enacted- that's how he was going to pay for it. However, he wanted to build it at Lake Calumet, one of the more polluted sites in the U.S., where steel mills once operated. When the feds saw the folly of building an airport on this site, Daley decided he didn't need another commercial airport after all. If not Daley's way, no way.

We can only hope FAA begins to rethink its support of the O'Hare project and turns instead to a new Chicago airport. Costs are more reasonable and it offers better long-term potential. And, Daley may argue Meigs is a local issue; he can't do that with O'Hare.

Thanks for reading.