The signature act of Richard Daley's 22 years in office was the midnight bulldozing of Meigs Field. I woke to the news the following morning, March 31, 2003, with a roiling brew of emotions that encapsulates my overall attitude toward his reign: admiration, outrage and amusement.
Admiration because he got the job done. The future of the lakefront airport south of the Adler Planetarium had been in dispute since the mid-1990s, and Daley's hopes of turning it into a 91-acre park looked like they'd be stymied for years by court and legislative fights with those who considered it a valuable business amenity. So he ordered a stealthy and nearly irrevocable strike that began the transformation of Meigs Field back into Northerly Island.
Outrage because he didn't even go through the motions of democracy, as he usually did, to get his way.
And amusement because he offered a ludicrous excuse for his autocratic pre-emption — terrorists might take advantage of it to attack downtown! — and because his bulldozers had carved six huge X's into the tarmac that looked from the air like an overwhelming victory in some grotesque game of tick-tack-toe.