Business leader asks for more retail security during NATO and G-8 summits
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org January 25, 2012 12:23AM
Chicago police line up in front of their bicycles across the street from the Boeing World Headquarters Thursday, Nov. 7, 2002, as they await instructions before a planned march by anti-globalization groups protesting the two-day TransAtlantic Business Dialogue conference taking place in the city. A heavy contingent of security personnel are in place hoping to thwart a occurences similar to the violence that erupted at a global trade gathering in Seattle in 2000. (AP Photo/Stephen. J. Carrera)
Updated: February 26, 2012 8:10AM
Stores on State Street and North Michigan Avenue should have security outside their doors during the NATO and G-8 Summits — and downtown companies should offer their employees the option of working from home — to avoid conflicts with thousands of protesters, a business leader warned Tuesday.
Jerry Roper, president of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, said businesses need to plan ahead and prepare for the worst in the event the demonstrations turn ugly during the summits May 19-21.
“If places need to be evacuated, you’ve got to know where to tell your employees to gather. The same things you would focus on for a disaster like the  Loop flood have to be put in place for an event like this,” Roper said.
“It’s an unknown to us. In some cases, people are alarmed. We need to get valuable information out to them instead of panicking at the last minute.”
Roper said he expects retailers on State Street and North Michigan Avenue to have “24-hour security on the street” to discourage “people coming in to disrupt our city” and to “give customers a feeling of security.”
Board-up services need to be placed on standby in the event windows are broken, as they were during the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, when protesters caused more than $2 million in damage, he said.
Downtown companies should also offer their skittish employees the option of working from home to avoid commuting hassles, no big deal in the age of laptops and cell phones, he said.
Lori Healey, executive director of the NATO and G-8 Host Committee, insisted that it is too soon to give downtown businesses any advice about the $40 million-to-$65 million event expected to turn the world spotlight on Chicago.
“It is four months away. So many things could change. There have been no logistical plans released. Until that time, I’m not going to make any pronouncements about what the business community should and should not do,” Healey said Tuesday.
“This sort of doomsday attitude is a little disconcerting,” Healey said. “If and when there are impacts, we’ll deal with it.”
A large security perimeter is expected to prevent motorists from driving and parking on downtown streets during the McCormick Place summits, but specific boundaries dictated by the U.S. Secret Service will not be released until two-to-four weeks before the event.
Roper argued that downtown businesses cannot afford to wait that long.
At a briefing with the host committee on Wednesday, Roper said he plans to push for specifics on street closures so businesses can get on with their contingency planning.
“You’ve got 700,000 people coming in and out of the city on a daily basis. We’re not talking about Pittsburgh here. Companies have to make decisions about their employees. They need to know who is going to be close to the closed zones,” Roper said.
“We’re gonna force the issue. Mrs. Roper didn’t raise a bashful child.”
Healey countered, “Who’s he gonna force to do what? The Secret Service makes those announcements when they make those announcements. They’re working with us to try to minimize the impact. Their goal is not to create a security state and to make sure Chicago can function as normally as possible.”
John Chikow, president of the Greater North Michigan Ave. Association, said Magnificent Mile retailers are anxiously awaiting Wednesday’s briefing.
“We haven’t formed any recommendations one way or another. Everybody is waiting for more information so they can finalize their plans,” he said.