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Tue, Sep 19, 2006

Daley Cries 'Uncle,' Reaches Deal With FAA For Meigs Mess

What Price Justice? $1.033 Mil

A long-running dispute between the FAA and the office of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley came to an end Monday, with City Hall agreeing to pay a total of $1,033,000 in fines and repayment for the infamous under-the-veil-of-darkness destruction of Meigs Field in March 31, 2003.

In the settlement deal, Daley agreed to pay a $33,000 fine imposed on the city -- and repay another $1 million in federal airport development grants, which were used to destroy the runway.

In a sense, the city got off easy in the settlement -- as the Chicago Sun-Times reports, the FAA could have imposed penalties of up to three times the amount of federal funds diverted for the nefarious scheme -- or $4.5 million.

While many Meigs supporters no doubt would have liked to see the city hit with the full amount of the fine, it's important to note that punishment would have been passed along directly to the citizens of Chicago in the former of higher taxes.

Daley's office will divert $1 million from a "non-aviation" fund to repay the airport improvement fund, with payments made every quarter. The only access Chicago will have to future airport revenue will be to clean up "airport-related environmental contamination" on the former Meigs property on Northerly Island.

"We agreed the remediation of environmental damage not related to the removal of infrastructure was an appropriate use of airport revenue. We also agreed that any expenditure related to redevelopment of the airport as a park would not be appropriate," said FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.

As reported by Aero-News, the $33,000 fine was imposed on the city of Chicago by the FAA last September, for the city's failure to give the required 30-day notice of its intent to shut Meigs down. In the time since, the city spent over $200,000 fighting the fine.

It's important to note that in the settlement agreement, the city still admits no wrongdoing.

"It allows us to resolve what could have been lengthy and expensive litigation in a way that is very reasonable for both the city and the FAA. It also allows us to use additional funds for environmental clean-up at Northerly Island related to Meigs Field, which is something we consider very important," said Law Department spokesperson Jennifer Hoyle to the Sun-Times.

In the end... did Chicago -- and its boss-like mayor -- get off easy in the settlement? Or is the fine and repayment a fair end to the Meigs scandal? Stay tuned for analysis and reaction to the settlement among the aero-community throughout the day.

FMI: http://egov.cityofchicago.org/

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