City: Local taxpayers won’t pay $40-$65 million NATO, G-8 tab
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporteremail@example.com January 12, 2012 12:48PM
City Hall issued the first of at least four parade permits — for a May 19 march from the Daley Center to 23rd and Indiana — to the Coalition Against the NATO and G-8 War and Poverty Agenda, but the group was not appeased. File Photo | Brian Jackson~Sun-T
Updated: February 14, 2012 10:16AM
Chicago will spend $40 million to $65 million to host the NATO and G-8 summits, but federal reimbursements and private donations will ultimately prevent local taxpayers from getting stuck with the tab, City Hall insisted Thursday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration also disclosed that out-of-state police officers may be called upon to assist Chicago Police in handling the thousands of protesters expected to descend on Chicago for the May 19-21 event at McCormick Place.
At least one and possibly multiple “protest areas” will be designated “within sight and sound” of McCormick Place, where President Barack Obama and world leaders will gather for back-to-back summits expected to draw 7,500 members of international delegations and 2,500 members of the news media.
Mass detention areas are anticipated, but those locations have not yet been identified.
The details of an event that Emanuel hopes will showcase Chicago on the world stage emerged from a “background briefing” conducted by three city officials: Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton; deputy chief-of-staff Felicia Davis, the mayor’s point-person on public safety issues and Lori Healey, the former chief-of-staff and 2016 Olympic Committee chief under former Mayor Richard M. Daley now serving as chairman of the NATO and G-8 host committee.
The ground rules were more familiar to Washington D.C. than they were to Chicago. Reporters could use the information — and quotes — without attributing the remarks to specific individuals.
The $40 million-to-$65 million figure marks the first time that City Hall has put a pricetag on security and social gatherings tied to the high-stakes event.
The administration has a goal for private fund-raising, spearheaded by World Business Chicago, but they refused to specify that figure. Nor would they say how much private money has been raised or how much the feds have pledged to bankroll security for an event controlled by the U.S. Secret Service.
They would only insist that Chicago taxpayers would not be on the hook. The summits are a “National Special Security event,” a designation normally reserved for the Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
“We anticipate those costs will be born by other levels of government and by the private sector,” an administration official said.
“Business leaders have a vested interest in showcasing Chicago. ... Chicago has a very experienced Washington office and a very experienced mayor in the ways of Washington D.C. We feel good about the progress we’ve made.”
The guarantee that Chicago taxpayers will not be left holding the bag is a familiar one.
After repeatedly insisting that he would never put a blank check behind Chicago’s failed 2016 Olympic bid, Daley offered to sign a host-city contract that amounted to an open-ended guarantee from local taxpayers.
But, the Emanuel administration insisted Thursday, “That was a guarantee — not cash out of pocket. No such guarantee is required” for the NATO and G-8 summits.
Top mayoral aides were equally adamant that there would be no repeat of the fiasco in Seattle, where 35,000 people protested a World Trade Organization meeting in 1999 and caused more than $2 million in damage to businesses.
There were also violent clashes between protesters and police in Pittsburgh during a 2009 G-20 summit that 500 Chicago Police officers helped secure.
“Seattle is not Chicago. It was pre-9/11. Seattle was not prepared like Chicago has prepared over the last eleven years. We are much better informed,” an administration official said.
Emanuel has run into a buzzsaw of aldermanic opposition against the extraordinary security measures he wants to put in place to contain NATO and G-8 protesters — and make permanent after the world leaders depart.
Despite a series of closed-door briefings Thursday, several aldermen joined the protesters in warning that the changes could stifle public dissent in Chicago for years to come.
A pair of City Council committees are expected to consider the changes on Tuesday.
The measures include: dramatically higher fines for resisting arrest; more surveillance cameras; parks and beaches closed until 6 a.m.; sweeping parade restrictions and higher fees for those events and empowering Police Supt. Garry McCarthy to “deputize” out of state police officers.
A large security perimeter will also prevent motorists from driving and parking on some downtown streets during the NATO and G-8 summits. The host committee has promised to reimburse the company that leased Chicago parking meters for revenues lost to spaces temporarily taken out of commission.
“It’s an affront to the right to free speech. I understand you have serious international actors coming into town and there needs to be restrictions. But, we can’t let it go over the top,” said Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd).
Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) said fines as high as $1,000 for resisting arrest “seem very high. As people who were around in the `60’s, we didn’t face those kinds of fines to protest the war in Vietnam.”
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) said he’s been bombarded with complaints from constituents who believe the mayor has gone too far. Many were around during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when protesters clashed with Chicago police, giving the city a black eye that took more than 30 years to erase.
“They’re worried. What people are saying is, `Let’s not put laws in place that look like they’re trying to limit protests. That’s gonna inflame people,’” he said.
In an apparent attempt to soften the opposition, City Hall modified the parade restrictions and fines, issued the first of at least four parade permits — for a May 19 march from the Daley Center to 23rd and Indiana — and offered to provide free sound equipment and port-a-potties to the protesters.
Permits will not be required for spontaneous demonstrations˜even in Chicago parks, officials said.
“As the city issues permits for these events, we stand in strong support of the applicant organizations’ First Amendment rights to protest,” Emanuel said in a press release.
The first permit was issued to the Coalition Against the NATO and G-8 War and Poverty Agenda, but the group was not appeased.
“The issuance of this permit shows that current ordinances, while not perfect, are more than adequate for large public events in our city and that the mayor should rescind his proposed anti-protester ordinances,” said group spokesman Andy Thayer.
“These ... changes have been roundly condemned by all civil liberties experts who have reviewed them. The time to withdraw them is now.”