Meigs Truth Unfolds

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Daley Drops Security Story...

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley Wednesday told The Chicago Sun-Times that Daley "dropped all pretenses" and admitted it was not security concerns that drove him destroy Meigs field but his intent to turn the airport into a waterfront park. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge confirmed Daley had not consulted his department. At the same time, National Air Transportation Association President James K. Coyne told the House Subcommittee on Aviation strongly and directly that "Congress must act by condemning the action" taken by Daley at Meigs. Coyne warned directly that Meigs "could well be the first in a long line of state and local government actions designed only to meet personal agendas while ignoring the aviation infrastructure needs of the nation as a whole." If anything, Daley's change of script will add more fuel to the considerable fire that's burning over his decision to send excavators to tear large Xs in the airport's only runway 10 days ago. AOPA launched a federal suit against the city claiming the runway was closed illegally, because the FAA wasn't notified and there was no "emergency" to justify its immediate closure. AOPA also paid for newspaper ads generally vilifying Daley and his actions at Meigs. Criticism is even coming from other countries, with the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association sending a letter and advising members to do likewise.

...Senior Politicians Turn Up Heat

And how has the mayor been holding up under this political storm? Daley appears to relish the adversity, at least according to one observer. Chicago columnist Greg Hinz noted that Daley "has been in full strut" since the bulldozers went in. Hinz notes that Daley is no stranger to controversy and suggests the threats of boycotts and the enmity of the aviation community will bounce off. But even Daley must answer to someone and it's suggested the reaction by some powerful federal and state politicians might take some spring out of his step. Since Daley broke his promise to keep Meigs open, Hinz says state and federal politicians -- who have the ability to make life difficult indeed for the mayor's legislative agenda -- are openly speculating on whether the assurances they've received from Daley on a variety of issues are worth anything. After all, he had agreed to keep Meigs open at least until 2006. Among the legislators was a senior aide to U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) who wondered whether Daley's promise to provide a western road access to O'Hare International, as part of its expansion, was still on the table. "I wouldn't have thought to ask [before the Meigs destruction]," said Hastert aide Mike Stokke. "The mayor gave his word." Might want to get that in writing, Mike.