Tuesday, May 22, 2012



The NATO summit is over. While we had no major “incidents,” thank God, during the brief bout of pomp and circumstance that plagued our fair city, the central business district was virtually a ghost town. Businesses lost trade and travelers and commuters were horribly inconvenienced, as were cops and other security personnel who had to exchange time with their families or other pursuits for putting up with abuse from loutish and logorrheaic lark seekers while patrolling in 90 degree plus heat in what amounted to heavy armor. The economic ledger, so far, is decidedly in the negative. But Mayor Emanuel had his day in the sun, and so the consanguineous and breathless media are delighted, agog, really, at the splendidness of the Summit. The Mayor, for his part, apologized for the “inconvenience” suffered by the citizens and businesses of Chicago and proclaimed that, through the summit and his skillful working of the world leaders who attended, Chicago will enjoy a $120mm net benefit from the summit.

So many thoughts come to mind.

First, weren’t the economic benefits we were supposed to reap from this supposed confab among the justifications for what would have been a complete fiasco had it not been for the efforts of the Chicago Police Department? How does closing businesses benefit the city? What economic benefit does the city, and business owners, derive when the city is effectively closed down? The mayor says that the showcasing of the city that the NATO summit provided will result in future economic benefits to the city, especially since the leaders here loved him so much. (Apparently, he mistook the heads of state for the local media, political, and politically connected business communities, but I digress.) Showcasing? As the Chicago Sun-Times, Tribune, and other media organs reported, this summit was largely ignored by media outside Chicago, including media in those countries from whom the participants hailed. That the summit that was supposed to showcase us was largely ignored overseas, and even in American cities outside about a 60 mile perimeter of our fair city, should come as no surprise. Even yours truly, who has more than a passing interest in world politics, ignores such piffles as these summits. Nothing is accomplished, other than endless exercises in self-aggrandizement (Oh…THAT’S why Rahm likes these circuses so much! But, again, I digress.) at these one or two day affairs. All the important, meaningful stuff is settled beforehand, leaving the, er, baloney, to these affairs.

So how are we supposed to derive $120mm in future economic benefits from a summit that was largely ignored? Who knows? But who can challenge this number? There are two tricks to prognostication…political, financial, economic, or otherwise: either make a lot of predictions and then remind people only of those that came true or make predictions the realization or lack thereof of which will take place so far in the future that no one currently breathing can possibly prove their accuracy or inaccuracy. Apparently, Mr. Emanuel is engaging in the latter. So far, however, given the costs of this carnival and the loss of business for downtown merchants, we, as a city, are decidedly in the red.

This party for the privileged was also supposed to help Chicago overcome the non-reputation, or reputation for being a backwater hick cow town, that Mr. Emanuel and his predecessors are convinced that our genuinely great and world renowned city has. (I suppose that if I spent almost my entire career in Washington, where people think nowhere but Washington and possibly New York is worthy of notice, I, too, would think so poorly of Chicago. So Mr. Emanuel clearly has an excuse for his low opinion of Chicago. But what excuse do Richard II and Jane Byrne have? See my 5/16/12 post, “CHICAGO IS…THE UNION STOCKYARDS…CHICAGO IS…THE WRIGLEY BUILDING…CHICAGO IS…ONE TOWN THAT WON’T LET YOU DOWN…” But I digress again.) But, again, if, as our media reported, no one outside a perimeter ending at, say, Peotone, noticed this summit, how did we overcome the inferiority complex the pols insist we have whenever the opportunity arises to host an event involving lots of contracts for their friends and contributors?

The Mayor apologizes for the “inconvenience” suffered by citizens and businesses. Inconvenience?! Losing a late Spring weekend’s revenue in these tough economic times transcends “inconvenience;” such a loss could make the difference between making and losing money for a quarter or a year. In a few cases, it is not too much of a stretch to say that losing a weekend’s revenue could mean the difference between staying open and closing the doors. But the mayor, who has spent his whole life either, er, nursing at the public mammary gland or making phone calls for those who would like to affix their own soup coolers to the aforementioned gland, knows nothing of the difficulties and challenges of having to run a business or meet a payroll. The only “private sector” employers he knows are part of the government/business/crony cabal that has run this city for longer than he has been alive. What is a mere weekend’s revenue for some piddling business to this titan of government and finance?

The only people who came out of this looking good, in the first instance great, are the Chicago Police Department and Rahm Emanuel. The former was completely expected; the police in this town nearly always perform spectacularly under even the most trying of circumstances. The latter was also eminently predictable; given the sycophantic nature of the local and national press, Rahm Emanuel always is made to look terrific, infallible, fantastic, wonderful, tough, decisive, etc., etc., etc.

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