Mayor Rahm Emanuel today named a seven-member panel to advise the city as it explores the possibility of privatizing Midway Airport.
The committee will be asked to represent the public interest in any potential transaction -- clearly a nod to public skepticism about privatization deals in the wake of the highly unpopular parking meter transaction.
The panel includes two urban planning specialists, a parking executive who donated to Emanuel's election campaign and is a close friend of President Barack Obama, two key alderman, a labor leader and one former alderman.
Peter Skosey, executive vice president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, will be chairman of the committee, while James Connolly, of the Chicago Laborers District Council, will be vice chairman.
Martin Nesbitt, co-founder of PRG Parking Management, which has lots near O'Hare International Airport, was named as well. A friend of Obama, he donated $5,000 to Emanuel's campaign.
The committee also includes Ald. Michael Zalewski, 23rd, who chairs the Aviation Committee and represents the Southwest Side ward that includes Midway and Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th, chair of Budget Committee and the longest serving African-American alderman.
Zalewski and Austin both have been reliably pro-Emanuel votes on the City Council.
Former steel executive Frank Beal, now executive director of Metropolis Strategies, was named as was attorney Martin Oberman, a former alderman. Beal donated $250 to Emanuel's campaign.
The panel will select a financial advisory firm with expertise in evaluating transactions to work with it.
The mayor's office said the panel will provide written reports to the public, which will be posted online, throughout the exploration process, and reiterated the city council will have at least 30 days to review any potential deal.
"These civic leaders will be vigilant protectors of taxpayer interests as we explore potential opportunities with Midway Airport," said Mayor Emanuel. "Any potential deal must pass an extremely high threshold and this committee will ensure transparency, integrity and thorough deliberation in this process."
Crain's Chicago Business first reported a panel would be named Friday.
Last month the city decided to retain a slot for Midway in the Federal Aviation Administration's airport privatization pilot program.
Later this month, the city will issue a request for qualifications from firms interested in putting forward proposals. The city will require that any long-term lease be kept to less than 40 years.
The city also will require that proposals include ongoing funding for capital improvements; provisions for sharing revenue with the city; and assurances that costs for parking, food and beverages will be kept reasonable, the mayor's office said.