Is Rahm Reconsidering Privatizing Midway Airport?

By Chuck Sudo in News on May 8, 2012 5:45PM

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Lois Scott, Mayor Emanuel's chief financial officer, may have let slip one of Emanuel's plans for the recently approved Chicago Infrastructure Trust yesterday. Scott told the City Council's Finance Committee that only $40 million of $340 million in bonds would be used for airport improvements. the rest would be used to refinance existing debt on the airport at reduced interest rates.

Scott told the committee:

If the administration proceeds to lease the airport, there will be a need for a small refunding issue of approximately $300 million prior to executing the lease….That has to be repaid by January."

Privatizing Midway has been discussed for years, going back to the later years of the Daley administration. If Emanuel decides to pursue privatizing the Worlds Busiest Square Mile, it would be a reversal of one of his campaign platforms. With the parking meter deal still fresh in voters memories, Emanuel said he would not privatize Midway if he was elected Mayor. Now that he occupies the Fifth Floor, Scott told the Finance Committee all options to save taxpayers money are being studied.

“We don’t want to turn off anything that could potentially produce a benefit for our taxpayers,” she said. “We’re evaluating whether Midway makes sense for us to pursue. We’ve been directed to study it. Right now, that is as far as we’ve gone…It’s really the decision of City Council and the public as to what the right approach will be.”

Richard M. Daley had a 99-year deal in place to privatize Midway but didn't try to seal it before he left office, saying he would leave it to his successor. Since Emanuel took office, the city has sought two extensions on privatizing, the latest expires Dec. 31. Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman also noted Scott and city budget director Alexandra Holt have ties to the deal or privatization lobbies. Holt worked as a private attorney for the group that was going to buy Midway before the deal was tabled. Scott was co-founder of a firm that advised state and local governments on privatization deals.

The more things change, eh?

The Finance Committee approved the bond measure.