ANN regrets to report that two critical battles
over the future of Meigs Field have just taken a bad turn.
It almost seemed to be going too well in the fight to reverse
the fortunes of embattled Meigs Field... at least until
Friday afternoon. That's when the legal holding action
that challenged Daley's authority to destroy the airport collapsed
with the ruling by Judge William Maki, that vacated the temporary
restraining order that kept Daley's wrecking crew from finishing
their surreptitious destruction of one of the nation's most
valuable GA reliever airports.
At this point, there is nothing to keep Daley from
ordering the bulldozers out to finish the job they started
nearly two months ago.
The order is seen as a virtual death knell for the amazing
efforts of the "Friends of Meigs," AOPA, EAA and so many others who
poured their hearts and souls into saving this airport. FoM
President Rachel Goodstein claims that her organization will file
an appeal right away and is actively involved in seeking new
avenues to attack the imminent destruction of their airport.
AOPA Gave It A Heckuva Try...
to ride to the rescue as well. They sought a restraining order from
Federal Court and were also turned away... making this a doubly
deadly day for the Meigs battle. Maki's ruling, issued late Friday,
claims that Northerly Island (where Meigs is based), was "always
intended to be a public park." FoM President disputes that and
claims that as early as 1916 there had been documented plans to
build an airport on that same strip of land.
Speaking to the Chicago media Friday, Goodstein complained that,
“Frankly, I don’t know that the judge was aware of all
of the facts we found in our research... We were in very early
stages of the lawsuit, and there was never a point where a lot of
our evidence could be presented.”
AOPA Sez... Week Closes With "Ups" And "Downs" In Meigs
AOPA released the following statement in light of
the defeats suffered Friday...
Following on the heels of AOPA's highly publicized press
conference yesterday proposing a "buy-out" plan to save Meigs
Field, there were two major legal setbacks for the scarred airport
today. First, a state court dismissed a lawsuit against the city of
Chicago by the Friends of Meigs. That dismissal also removed a
temporary restraining order (TRO) prohibiting the city from further
damaging the airport.
As soon as that decision was issued, in a pre-planned move AOPA
attorneys marched into federal court seeking a TRO in its case
against the city. That suit involved violations of federal aviation
regulations. But federal judge James Moran noted that FAA had had
AOPA's complaint for 53 days and had not done anything to reopen
the airport, nor was it likely to. He denied issuing a TRO.
"We knew from the beginning that the legal actions had only a
limited chance of succeeding," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, "but
AOPA members across the nation have made it very clear that no
measure should be spared to save this iconic airport.
"While the court loses today have dampened our legal challenges,
some extraordinary positive things continue to come from our other
AOPA is still winning the "public relations" battle. The Chicago
media have given great coverage to the AOPA plan, including stories
in the major Chicago newspapers, all TV stations and a long
write-up in the influential business publication, "Crain's Chicago
"Our plan to save Meigs and help improve the city's parks is
still in play if the citizen's of Chicago can convince Mayor Daley
to listen and embrace a sensible solution that benefits everyone,"
"But even more importantly, AOPA and our members
have sent a clear message across the nation: our community airports
are important, and we will fight to keep them," Boyer continued.
"Grandstanding politicians be forewarned."
AOPA capitalized on Congressional outrage over Daley's (right)
actions to lobby for legislation that would severely punish any
Daley wannabe who unilaterally destroys an airport. Known
informally as the "Meigs Legacy Amendment," the amendment (which is
part of the FAA reauthorization bill now moving through the House)
would require a 30-day advance notice to FAA before closing an
airport. And any agency that doesn't comply with that law could be
fined $10,000 for each day that an airport remains closed without
having given the required notice.
"In the long term, regardless of what happens to Chicago's
lakefront airport, pilots will have gained substantial new tools to
protect other airports," Boyer said.
EAA: Future Of Meigs "Cloudier"
EAA's take on the matter is presented as
of Meigs Field (FoM) lost a round in Cook County (Ill.) Circuit
Court on Friday when the temporary restraining order against the
City of Chicago was removed by Judge William Maki. Judge Maki also
dismissed two other counts against the city. Removal of the
temporary restraining order allows for the possibility of further
destruction of the historic lakefront airport property.
Although FOM Founder Steve Whitney was very disappointed by the
judge's ruling, he is still optimistic for a satisfying resolution.
"Even though we lost on all counts today," Whitney said. "FOM's
lawyers are preparing a case for the Appeals Court that may
possibly be presented as early as this (Friday) afternoon."
Whitney's immediate concern is that Meigs is at least
temporarily unprotected from further destruction by the city,
especially over the three-day holiday weekend. Initially, the
hearing on the restraining order was scheduled for May 16; however,
Judge Maki refused to rule on the motions until today. The
temporary order was granted in early April after the city bulldozed
portions of Meigs' runway in a midnight action designed to
outmaneuver possible objections.
As lawyers prepare for an appeal, FOM supporters continue to
pursue state legislation regarding the Chicago O'Hare expansion
(Senate Bill 802), which currently does not include any plan to
keep Meigs open. FOM asks supporters, especially those in Illinois,
to contact legislators and tell them to vote "No" on the bill
unless provisions for Meigs are added.
Poberezny: "Extreme Disappointment"
caught Tom Poberezny in his office as the news was sinking in, and
it was obvious that EAA's disappointment is profound. "I can't help
but express anything but extreme disappointment in the Judge's
position... I'm not going to say it was a shock, but it is a
disappointment. I am truly shocked that Daley is
continuing to use the threat of terrorism and other excuses to
achieve his aims."
Poberezny continued, "I hate to keep using the same words --
disappointment and shock -- but they are the only ones that fit.
This effort has been one series of disappointments after another,
and presents a tragic loss for aviation and the Friends of Meigs
(who are) a dedicated group of people who fought so hard to save an
important airport and to do the RIGHT THING. It's a shame for all
when those doing 'the right thing' don't always win."
ANN is currently working several other aspects of this story and
we advise readers to check back here shortly for an update.