Citizen Panel Explores Legal Strategies to Fight Expansion of Chicago's O'Hare Airport

JANUARY 12, 2010

The city of Park Ridge ended its legal fight against the O'Hare International Airport expansion when it left the Suburban O'Hare Commission in 2003. Now interest in pursuing legal opinions on airport litigation has resurfaced -- this time by a recently formed citizens group.

Last year Park Ridge Mayor David Schmidt formed the O'Hare Airport Commission following complaints from residents about an increase in aircraft noise and traffic over the center of the city since the opening of a new runway at O'Hare in November 2008.

On Monday January 18 the Park Ridge City Council is expected to discuss whether to direct City Attorney Everette "Buzz" Hill to meet with an undisclosed law firm recommended by the O'Hare Airport Commission. Third Ward Alderman Don Bach, the council's liaison to the commission, described the firm as "a source of legal expertise regarding airport issues."

Bach said members of the citizens commission are interested in hearing if the firm has any "new strategies" for dealing with airport encroachment issues that other law firms have not used. He said there is no suggestion that the city consider using the firm to sue O'Hare, the Federal Aviation Administration, or the City of Chicago. Instead, the law firm "will make a pitch," Bach said.

Bach initially wanted the council to act at last Monday's Committee of the Whole meeting, but Mayor Schmidt reminded him action cannot be taken on items that do not appear on the meeting agenda. Bach made his proposal at the conclusion of the meeting. Bach indicated that any discussion among the City Council concerning actual legal action would be in closed session.

The city spent millions of dollars fighting O'Hare expansion from the 1980s through the early 2000s. The amount of money spent included a controversial 2002 expenditure of $650,000 that was investigated by two aldermen in 2005. The aldermen were unable to determine exactly how the money was spent, though it was approved for a "Peotone Airport Feasibility Study."

Source: Chicago Sun Times