Updated: April 10, 2012 10:43AM
You’ve got to believe that Mayor Rahm Emanuel doesn’t like surprises, at least not when he’s the guy getting surprised.
At a news conference Monday morning, the mayor was still telling reporters about how prepared Chicago was for a four-day, dual G-8/NATO summit beginning May 18.
It was not until that afternoon that we were all stunned to hear the Obama White House announce it was dividing the meetings up, taking the G-8 from Chicago to the wooded presidential fortress of Camp David, Md.
We’re told the mayor got the news only a couple of hours earlier. His police chief, Garry McCarthy, charged with the massive task of security for the summits, said he didn’t know. And business leaders, concerned about boarding up their establishments against possible violent protest, sure didn’t. Nor did downtown hotels now wondering if big blocs of reservations will be canceled.
“I’m still pulling myself off the ground on this. Give me some oxygen,” Hyatt Regency Chicago general manager Patrick Donelly told the Chicago Sun-Times’ David Roeder.
While the mayor issued a statement wishing everyone well and spinning the message that with NATO still coming, the city still wins, Emanuel didn’t venture out in public to take questions about it Monday. Or Tuesday.
His press representative’s email confirmed,“No public schedule today. [The mayor] is in New York meeting with and recruiting companies who are interested in doing business with Chicago.”
The mayor is a fanatic about controlling the message. And intent that his always-vigilant press people do whatever they can to keep the media in line. But when it came to his announcement, shortly after being sworn in last year, that the leaders of the world would converge on Chicago this May, he had problems from the beginning.
Some of us, myself included, wondered if the G-8/NATO summits were being staged in Chicago as much to frame the accomplishments of a new mayor and the re-election of a president as they were to enhance the city’s international reputation.
Moreover, there was Emanuel’s continued resistance to offering details of how Chicago would assemble and pay for an army of police and security; whether the feds would fully reimburse us, and how, from whom and in what amounts, private companies were being hit up to help cover the costs.
Then there was the matter of the difference between the mayor’s private and public schedules.
Thanks to the relentless reporting of the Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet in Washington, we learned what Emanuel didn’t tell us. That in two recent Washington trips, he was meeting with Cabinet officials.
Was there growing White House concern that security, especially for the more controversial G-8 part of the summit, would be better controlled at Camp David?
President Barack Obama on Tuesday said no, he had no security worries in his hometown. And he had confidence in our new mayor. It was just that he wanted a more “intimate” setting with world leaders for the G-8 before they all fly to Chicago for the NATO meeting.
While the timing seems abrupt, OK. At least the president, in a news conference, was available for questions on this.
Our mayor has not been. His schedule has him in Peoria on Wednesday. Press briefing. No Q&A.