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Meigs Field Caucus

 

Purpose

The purpose of the Meigs Caucus is to develop sufficient public support and government pressure to cause the re-opening of the historic and unique Meigs Field airport, and the creation of a museum/park setting compatible to Chicago’s museum campus and fabulous lakefront parks system. Meigs was a valuable asset to Chicago, and if properly run can again contribute to the economic, business, cultural, educational and entertainment life of the city.

Background

In ______, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley first revealed his intention to close Meigs Field. Though many in the community, and around the nation, were shocked and dismayed, it was believed virtually impossible to effectively oppose that action by the powerful mayor in his home town. After the actual closure of the Airport, there seemed to be no hope, whatsoever. Several groups rose in opposition, such as the Friends of Meigs and the National Pilots Association, While well intention, they lacked the lobby experience and resources to meet the challenge alone. This is exactly the type of challenge that PPC was designed to meet through a professional, creative and tenacious lobbying effort. Against long odds, PPC was credited for the re-opening of Meigs Field PPC’s roll was recognized at the time. Friends of Meigs President Steve Whitney said in a letter, “______.”

PPC’s Meigs Caucus was formed in 19__ to oppose the closing of Meigs Field just prior to the time the City of Chicago closed the airport and painted X’s on the runways. As a means of gaining public and legislative support, PPC undertook an aggressive lobbying effort, both at the grassroots and with key government agencies and the state legislature.

PPC created the popular character, “Mighty Meigs,” which was a huge success in bringing the Meigs issue to the public. Thousands of Mighty Meigs t-shirts were given away or sold by PPC and the Friends of Meigs.

PPC held public hearings throughout the city, when the City government refused to do so.

PPC was the first to propose an “airport in a park” concept, and idea that was since. Variations of the PPC park have been proposed by other civic groups in the interim, including the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago and the Friends of Meigs.

PPC was the only Meigs advocate to employ the services of a professional Springfield lobbyist, Carol Dart. Her creative input and effective lobby was a major factor in the success of the legislative effort. In a letter to PPC, State Representative Robert Biggins said “______.” PPC originated the idea of, and lobbied for, a state take over. Legislation that would have saved Meigs for the long term foreseeable future was on the verge of passage when former Governor Jim Edgar, an avowed supporter for the preservations of Miegs, announced he had reached a secret deal with Mayor Daley to keep the airport open for only five more years, after which the state would withdraw opposition to any city plan, including destruction.

While many in the civic community praised the agreement, the PPC called it a sell out, and a “postponed execution.” Former Governor Edgar never adequately explained his decision to renege on his promises to fight to preserve Meigs. The fact that Meigs is not operating today is the direct fault of Edgar’s betrayal.

Following Mayor Daley’s illegal midnight attack on Meigs Field, PPC initially decided to maintain a low profile, leaving the grassroots portion of the campaign to the Friends of Meigs, which had grown more powerful and professional in the intervening years. Instead, and consistent to the PPC policy, the group worked behind the scenes to mount political pressure on the Daley administration by encouraging federal government awareness and response. Federal leaders expressed shock and anger at the destruction of a federally funded facility in Chicago. Not only did the Mayor’s action put federal funding at risk, it also resulted in fines and potential costly court actions against Chicago.

Despite the view that suggests there is no chance to re-open Meigs, PPC remains dedicated to that goal.

Why should Meigs be rebuilt?

The question of why it should be rebuilt is a litany of all the reasons it never should have been destroyed. These include:

Security and Safety. Despite Mayor Daley’s claims,. The closing of Meigs was not justified as a security move. Its presence on the lake does not create a significant danger since larger aircrafts would still be required to obey the City’s no fly zone. In addition, the smaller plans landing at Meigs would be readily identified upon approach. Newer and more sophisticated security systems would be utilized to minimize risk. The fact is, there are no reckless security option. It was clear at the time, that the Daley argument was specious, self-serving and deceptive.

Public Finance. At a when city expenses are severely restrained, the transformation of Northerly Island from an substantial income producer to an enormous financial drain is not good fiscal policy. Not only does the city lose from the operations of Meigs, but it suffers even greater loses (albeit hidden) from the loss of business due to the unavailability of Meigs.

Uniqueness. Most cities would be thrilled to have such a convenient airport to serve so many purposes.

Medical Emergencies. Meigs Field served as the landing point for aircraft bring in organs for transplant. The number of major local hospitals in the downtown area meant that that life saving organs could reach patients more quickly – many times when the difference between life and death is shorter than a traffic jam. The City belatedly recognized this vital service, and proposed a heliport in the Navy Pier area. Since it only takes helicopters, and many organs are transported by small private planes, this is not a completer solution. The allowance of helicopters on the lakefront also undermines the security argument.

Water Rescue. Miegs Field was, and still is, an ideal location for a Coast Guard or city water rescue unit. The closing of Glenview Naval Air Station and Meigs caused the Coast Guard to base their operations in Muskegon, Michigan. The longer travel time can be the difference between rescue and perishing.

Tourist Attraction. Not only was Meigs a useful and revenue generating facility, it was very popular with tourists. Families would picnic nearby specifically to watch landings and take offs -- much to the delight of the children. They would often avail themselves of lakefront “rides” provided by tourist services and private pilots. (Pic of alex)

Business Development. Many businesses in Illinois, and round the country, found Meigs a useful landing point. The closing of Meigs has driven tax producing businesses to not only seek other airports, but to find needed services (i.e. law firms, accounting firms, restaurants, hotels, etc.) nearer their landing point. Some business even abandoned Illinois as a place to do business.

Chicago Reputation. Closing Miegs caused some lose of confidence in the wisdom and policies of City Hall. Local business people (many of whom support the PPC effort) and people in other cities and countries expressed they shock at the Mayor’s personal decision to shut down the airport. They questions more than the Mayor’s “wisdom.” This reaction was multiplied when the Mayor personally ordered the destruction of the runways in a surprise attack that left 16 planes stranded on the ground. The fact that there were not hearing or advance notice create an image of a city run by a despot.

Historic Significance. Meigs name and existence has been a part of Chicago history for ________ years. Closing the airport takes away yet another icon that gave Chicago its special culture. It gets its name from ______ Meigs, ___________________________________. It has been used as a staging area and temporary outdoor museum for vintage aircraft during Chicago’s annual air show.

Government Use. The airport has served as the principle landing spot for many of Illinois’ top government leaders, including virtually every recent governor. In fact, state aircraft were a significant portion of Meigs business. Several U.S. Presidents used Miegs for Chicago visits. President George W. Bush anticipated a helicopter landing even after the Mayor destroyed the runway. The president was asked to land in a nearby sports field to avoid the embarrassment of drawing attention to Mayor Daley’s actions. City Hall feared that the national press would show footage of the destroyed airport, and give the story of the sneak demolition too much publicity.

Air Traffic Safety. The closing of Meigs put an additional burden on O’Hare and Midway for landings, and placed a lot of less experienced pilots in the airspace of commercial jet liners. In addition, Meigs served as an emergency landing site for planes in trouble over the lake. For emergency purposes, even larger planes can land at Miegs. Planes that do not make it to Meigs sadly crash in the lake. Now, planes in trouble over the lake have to go the additional distance to Midway. If they are not successful, they crash in residential neighborhoods.

PPC Legislation

 

Caucus Leader

Rachael Goldstein
Contact with Ms. Goldstein may be made through PPC at:
(773) 596-5599

Coalition Support

Friends of Meigs Field

How you can help!

note:  This is only an example.  The links and buttons on the from below does not work.

Please add my name to the _______.

I wish to volunteer as an active member of the _________.

Please accept my contribution of $                       for the important work of the Ballot Access Caucus.

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