Meigs Campaign Down To Wire

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Last-Second Appeal Gives Reprieve...

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley came within a few minutes of being able to finish the job at Meigs Field but some legal gymnastics and a last-ditch sprint to a Chicago courtroom spared the historic airport further indignity until at least June 4. The Friends of Meigs was able to convince Illinois State Appellate Court Judge Patrick Quinn to extend a temporary restraining order (TRO) on further demolition of Meigs -- now in place until 4 p.m. on June 4. Earlier in the day, Cook County Judge William Maki threw out FOM's suit against the city of Chicago and rescinded the TRO he had imposed while hearing arguments. AOPA tried to get another TRO in federal court a few hours later but that, too, was turned down. Then FOM's lawyers sharpened their pencils ... and laced up their running shoes. The lawyers spent several hours drafting the appeal and were almost late getting it to the courthouse. They had to sprint the last few yards to get through the doors before the 4:30 closing time. The judge apparently agreed to work overtime and they had the restraining order about 15 minutes later. Meanwhile, the future of Meigs as a repairable airport hung in the balance. According to FOM's e-mail newsletter, Daley's lawyers were "evasive" on whether or not they planned to complete the demolition over the Memorial Day weekend. Meanwhile, the supporters say every minute that Meigs remains in its current state helps the cause as lobbying efforts gather steam in the Illinois legislature. The latest strategy is to link an amendment to reopen Meigs to legislation allowing expansion of O'Hare.

...AOPA Plan Panned By Daley

Of course, not all the Meigs activity is like an episode of The Practice. Earlier in the week, AOPA said it had the answer with a plan for the city of Chicago to use $41 million in federal grant money to buy the airport from the Chicago Park District. Daley scoffed at the suggestion, saying the airport is worth at least $700 million and a state law prohibits the park district from selling more than three acres of land in one chunk. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association weighed in with support for the reopening of Meigs and rumors have been circulating about Daley's real motive for closing the airport -- so a huge casino resort can be built there. Even H.R. 2115 appears to address what happened at Meigs. The issue doesn't seem to be fading from the hearts and minds of the aviation community, and even Congress could take steps to prevent future debacles in the wide-ranging House aviation bill passed at the committee level on Wednesday via another section (scroll for Sec. 421), a "Meigs Legacy Amendment." The text would make it very expensive, indeed, for any other city that might be considering a similar surprise demolition, imposing a penalty of $10,000 a day for every day an airport remains closed without the required 30-day notice being given the FAA. "In the long term, regardless of what happens to Chicago's lakefront airport, pilots will have gained substantial new tools to protect other airports," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.