This morning the Council’s Aviation Committee will consider a plan by a freshman alderman who wants more Council oversight of runway construction at O’Hare Airport, despite concerns from Aviation Department officials who argue the ordinance would “stunt” O’Hare’s growth and “jeopardize” progress already made as part of a multi-billion dollar modernization plan.
But City Council sources tell Aldertrack it’s unlikely Ald. Anthony Napolitano’s (41) proposal will advance out of committee, because of the legal issues related to federal aviation rules, outstanding agreements with airlines and unions, and hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding already made available for the O’Hare Modernization Program.
“There’s a chance we might get sued because of what we’re asking here,” Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30), a member on the committee told Aldertrack. “I don’t know in all fairness if we can push this ordinance through.”
Another alderman on the committee, who spoke on background, suggested the hearing on the ordinance is only taking place because aldermanic offices were bombarded with emails from constituents demanding a hearing, following an email blast from Ald. Napolitano’s office last week telling them to do so. At the time, Ald. Napolitano told Aldertrack his lobbying effort wasn’t a ploy to force Committee Aviation Chairman Mike Zalewski’s hand, but to show his colleagues how pressing of an issue this in his community.
Ald. Napolitano, whose 41st Ward includes O’Hare, has argued that if the City Council has the authority to approve stop signs, they should also get to decide if O’Hare can build out its runways, especially at a time when airplane jet noise is a primary concern for North Side residents.
In a letter he sent his colleagues on the Aviation Committee, Napolitano wrote, “We all have requested a stop sign at some point in our Aldermanic career. Think of the steps required for this simple request. An introduction of an Ordinance, CDOT traffic study, approval from the Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee and finally approval from the full City Council. All of this for something as simple as a stop sign yet a $700 Million dollar runway that could have a tremendous impact on the quality of life of so many, we have no input.”
Napolitano’s ordinance would prevent Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans from completing or starting any new construction projects at O’Hare until the City Council has a chance to look over and vote on the plans. Specifically, Commissioner Evans wouldn’t have the authority to “manage and control all matters and things pertaining to the construction, reconfiguration, decommissioning, and destruction of runways and taxiways,” without first obtaining approval from the City Council’s Aviation Committee through a public hearing on the matter.
Officials with the Department of Aviation and Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce are expected to testify against the ordinance at today’s meeting.