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Fri, Apr 02, 2004

Daley Brags About Meigs Closure

New Pro-Airport Group Calls Him A Liar

It was a year ago Wednesday that, under cover of darkness, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley bulldozed huge X's in the runway at Meigs Field. The move enraged pilots and made Daley a lightning rod in the battle of security versus the right to fly.

Now, Daley says the decision to unilaterally close Meigs was "one of the best" he's made since becoming mayor of Chicago.

In his remarks on the first anniversary of the field's destruction, Daley said aviators "really don't care whether or not we have 100 acres for public space," Daley said. "They don't care, but we care in the city of Chicago. I live here and people live here, and they want that lakefront. It belongs to them and not to private businesses and not to small planes."

To date, Meigs has been inaccessible. There is no park and there's no indication that Chicago even has the money to finish the midnight demolition started a year ago.

At first, Daley (right) cited security as the reason for destroying the airfield. He publicly stated that if Disneyworld could have a permanent no-fly zone, Chicago should have one. Instead, however, he focused on plans to turn Meigs Field into a park.

"For years the mayor has expressed his desire to make Meigs Field a park," said Daley spokeswoman Jacquelyn Heard, quoted by the Chicago Tribune. "That should come as a surprise to no one. But at the time the airport was closed, security was the prevailing concern."

But Bill Walls, president of a new coalition group representing about 90 Chicago neighborhoods, says Daley is a liar.

"When Mayor Daley claimed public safety was his reason for carving up the public's property--stating, `If Mickey and Minnie can have a no-fly zone, then Chicago should too'--it seems he was portraying Pinocchio at the time," Walls said. "He lied ... again and again. And then, after the runway was destroyed and there was nothing anyone could do about it, he admitted he lied."

Walls' Committee For A Better Chicago is now pushing for the creation of a combined airport and public park on the Meigs site. The idea appears to have strong backing -- in Chicago and elsewhere.

"Without Meigs, many business aircraft must choose to add to the congestion at Midway and O'Hare airports," said the NBAA's David Vornholt, as he endorsed the Parks and Planes plan. "Without Meigs Field, Chicago is the least-accessible major city in the US by business aviation."

Now, thin blades of grass grow where the runway was.

"The is the first anniversary of the day democracy died," Walls said. "One year ago today, democracy was bulldozed in Chicago by a mayor who exercised absolute authority by destroying Meigs Field."

FMI: www.friendsofmeigs.org


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