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City Council Approves Midway Airport Deal

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UPDATE

The City Council approved the 99-year, $2.5 Billion lease of Midway Airport 49-0 Wednesday.

Aldermen are already divvying up the expected $1 billion net windfall, the Tribune reports:

Ald. Richard Mell said he wanted a library for his 33rd Ward on the North Side. Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) used the debate on the Midway lease to renew her calls for a high school for her West Side constituents.

"What is the Southwest going to get?" said Ald. George Cardenas of the 12th Ward on the Southwest Side.

The Council signed off the deal, which will make Midway the first major American airport run by a private company, with only a week to review it. That haste could wind up costing everyone, Greg Hinz warns in Crain's Chicago Business:

No alderman wants to wear a $2.5-billion jacket. But I wouldn't feel very good about the vote. In this town, fast deals and little scrutiny often mean someone is making off with a boodle. In this deal, the city is paying $19 million in fees to various lawyers and financial types, none of them a stranger to City Hall. It's bought off labor with a no-job-cuts promise and bought off the airlines by capping the fees they can be charged to use the airport.

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UPDATE

The City Council's Finance Committee approved Mayor Daley's $2.5 billion Midway Airport privatization plan Tuesday:

The City Council's Finance Committee signed off on the deal, despite concerns about parking and concession prices, the city's decision to assume the $10 million-a-year cost of police and fire protection and questions about how the $1 billion in profits would be spent.

The full council will vote on the deal Wednesday.

The Finance and Aviation Committees unanimously approved the deal despite strong reservations, Mick Dumke reports in the Reader:

On more than one occasion during Tuesday's hearings on the plan to lease Midway, an alderman walked out of City Council chambers shaking his head. "Somewhere in this deal we're getting screwed," one of them muttered. "I just can't figure out where yet."

Nor did they receive any guarantees about how the money will be spent:

Without adding any language specifying how the funds will be used, the finance and aviation committees went on to approve the deal unanimously. It will almost certainly pass the full council at Wednesday's meeting, less than a week after terms of the deal were provided to aldermen.

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UPDATE

The City Council delayed the vote. From the Sun-Times:

Mayor Daley's $2.5 billion plan to privatize Midway Airport got stuck on the taxiway Monday amid questions about whether the city was getting top dollar during the credit crunch and whether air travelers will pay more to park and shop.

Aldermen had so many concerns about the historic transaction, Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th) was forced to postpone a final vote. The Finance Committee will reconvene Tuesday, when city officials will be back on the hot seat.

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Mayor Richard Daley's plan to lease Midway Airport for $2.52 billion is scheduled for a vote of a City Council panel today.

Daley administration officials will present details of the 99-year agreement at a joint meeting of the council's Finance and Aviation committees starting at 10:30 a.m. in the council chambers.

Assuming committee support, the full council would take a final vote at its meeting Wednesday.

Read the entire article here.