Rahm Emanuel laughs, walks out of press conference when asked about Cubs’ Ricketts
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org May 23, 2012 1:44PM
Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts conducts an on field interview on Saturday May 19, 2012. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: July 3, 2012 8:56AM
The deep freeze from City Hall apparently continues for Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel laughed and then walked out of a news conference on Wednesday when asked why he has not returned an apologetic phone call from Ricketts after revelations surfaced about his father’s involvement in a conservative SuperPAC considering a $10 million plan to attack the president by resurrecting the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy.
The mayor also refused to say whether he believes the political controversy caused by family patriarch Joe Ricketts’ SuperPAC would sabotage the Cubs’ appeal for a $150 million taxpayer subsidy to help renovate Wrigley Field.
Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for Tom Ricketts, said he has no desire to “interpret” the walkout by the mayor, President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign chair and his former chief of staff.
In an interview later on the “Roe & Roeper Show” on WLS-AM Radio (890), Tom Ricketts said he’s “not too worried” about the mayoral snub.
“The mayor’s got a lot on his plate. Whenever we get around to talking about that again, that’s fine with me. I’m cool with whatever timing works. We’ve just got to get through this and get it behind us,” the Cubs chairman said.
He added, “The key for us to make sure that people [who] know us, people who know the Ricketts family, know that we weren’t trying to do anything that was insensitive in any way and that people who don’t know us, don’t jump to any conclusions.”
Other sources said the mayor and Ricketts have not yet spoken and that the Cubs chairman has no immediate plans to call the mayor again.
Last week, Emanuel publicly condemned Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade, for working with high-profile Republican strategists on a plan to use Wright’s racially charged sermons to attack President Barack Obama.
The mayor also let it be known that he was so livid, he had no interest in talking to Ricketts anytime soon.
Ricketts responded by insisting that neither he nor any member of the Ricketts family would condone such “racially insensitive” attack ads against Obama, adding, “That’s not who we are.”
He acknowledged that the anti-Obama campaign — since disavowed by Joe Ricketts — was a “distraction nobody wanted” during a “bad weekend to be throwing curveballs” at Emanuel.
Ricketts has spent the last week trying to put out the political fire started by his father that threatens to derail — or at least delay — an elusive Wrigley deal.
The Sun-Times reported this week that he’s been reaching out to black elected officials and community leaders to try to ease tensions caused by the anti-Obama campaign.
Without support from Emanuel and a majority of Chicago aldermen, the Cubs have no chance of persuading the City Council to approve a $150 million variation of the financing scheme that the mayor once called a “non-starter” — forfeiting 35 years’ worth of amusement tax growth.
The Cubs also need City Council approval to relax Wrigley’s landmark status and allow the Cubs to wring as much as $150 million in advertising and sponsorship revenues out of the stadium.
The changes range from more outfield signage behind the Wrigley bleachers, possibly including a jumbotron in right field to street closings on Sheffield and Waveland every game day to make way for money-making street fairs that duplicate the festival atmosphere around Fenway.
Before the Joe Ricketts controversy erupted, talks with Emanuel were continuing with a “sense of urgency” to accommodate the Cubs’ desire to begin construction after the regular season ends in October.
The renovation would be phased in over “three or four” off-seasons to allow the Cubs to keep playing at Wrigley, just as the Boston Red Sox did while Fenway Park was being renovated.