The [Friday] Papers
"The woman in charge of hosting the May NATO/G8 summits has some advice for increasingly worried downtown business folk: Chill out," Greg Hinz reports in Crain's.
"The summits will be at McCormick Place, and while thousands of participants and media will be in town before and after that date, they'll be 'just like restaurant show folks,' Ms. Healey said, referring to the big trade show that usually occurs on those dates."
Meanwhile . . .
"Costs for the G8/NATO summit in May could be much higher than current projections from the city, according to a labor-community coalition which is calling for a Chicago G8/NATO Community Fund," Curtis Black writes for the Community Media Workshop's Newstips.
"'We think that $65 million is very, very, very low, and based on the experience of other host cities, the actual cost is going to be much higher,' said Elizabeth Parisian, a researcher with Stand Up! Chicago.
"She said the 2010 G8 summit in Huntsville, Ontario, ended up costing over $1 billion, the bulk of which went to security costs."
It's true. (In addition to the G8 in Hunstville, the G20 was held in Toronto and the costs were lumped together.)
To be fair, Pittsburgh reportedly spent "just" $12.2 million when it hosted the G20 in 2009.
(They didn't host the G8 or NATO at the same time, however. Not sure how much of an additional difference that makes - some for sure, but surely not enough to push the cost to $1 billion.)
"The day before the G20 summit began in Pittsburgh last September, store owners in the trendy Strip District, located next to the city's convention centre, boarded up their windows and hung signs informing the hordes of expected protesters that each building was 'locally owned and operated,'" the Toronto Globe and Mail reported in June 2010, two weeks before the summit there.
"Police had told them that anarchists would target the area, and Becky Rodgers, president of Neighbors in the Strip, a community development non-profit, put employees on rooftops, watching for signs of trouble. But with the world leaders just blocks away, all they saw in every direction were empty streets.
"'It was crazy,' she said. 'You could throw a bowling ball down the street and not hit anyone. We didn't suffer any damage, but we did suffer the loss of business.'
"With the G20 summit in Toronto just two weeks away, the city has whipped itself into a frenzy of anticipation, the population literally divided by security perimeters and free-speech zones. The prospect of welcoming U.S. President Barack Obama and his fellow bigwigs is being pitched as an opportunity to showcase Toronto to the world, and the leaders are slated to discuss weighty issues of global economic recovery. But locals worry about the economic impact, and whether the event will be greeted with shattered glass and tear gas.
"It is a scenario that will sound familiar to Pittsburgh and London, the last two major cities to host the gathering of world leaders."
It's a scenario that will sound familiar to Chicago too - though we are in the unfortunate position of hosting the G8 and NATO at the same time in an Occupy environment.
"The cost of the event is huge - $30-million in London, $18-million (U.S.) in Pittsburgh, more than $1-billion in Toronto - while the payoff is growing less obvious."
As it will in Chicago as well. Elites will love hobnobbing with elites, but the touted economic benefits will evaporate as quickly as they have for any town that's hosted the Olympics. It's part of the prepackaged rhetorical sell job, but it's just not reality. Elites just wanna have fun but they can't say that.
"'I don't think many Londoners actually felt that they were participating in anything especially important or historic,' said Mark Morris, senior press officer for the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group. 'I think for most people the dominant memory . . . was the policing of the event.'"
"In Pittsburgh, where the G20 was held in September, 2009, a riot broke out after university students gathered to catch a glimpse of the Obamas entering a leaders' reception at a picturesque arboretum. The unexpected number of rubberneckers caught police off guard and they demanded that students disperse, eventually deploying tear gas and a sound canon.
"But Rob McGrath, president and chief executive officer of VisitPittsburgh, the city's tourism office, said that, despite the violent images broadcast from the clash, the G20's benefit to the rust-belt city, population 335,000, has been profound. 'We wanted to tell a story about this destination and we had a tremendous opportunity to do that,' he said. 'We're still feeling the PR connects.'"
If that's the best a city's chief tourism official can do - PR connects, not dollars accrued - then the economic benefit has been zero, trust me.
"During the G20, Mr. McGrath said the city pulled in $35-million in hotel bookings and restaurant bills."
I'm sure that's true. I'm also reasonably sure that includes summit and non-summit business - and doesn't account for whether those rooms and restaurants would have been filled with others if not summit participants. (And really, $35 million? The summit was what, a couple days?)
"And the roughly 7,000 stories written by 3,000 journalists who covered the meeting, many of whom focused on the city's revitalization, filled the equivalent of $100-million in advertising space in publications around the world, he said. The city even changed its ad campaign, telling visitors, 'If we can take care of global leaders, we can take care of you.'"
And tourism increased since by how much? He doesn't say.
"Of course, the summit cost the city $12.2-million to get ready, including $3 million it paid to Aon Risk Services Central Inc. for an insurance policy. The insurance company in turn put a law firm on retainer to deal with suits stemming from the event."
"[W]hen Quebec City hosted an international summit in 2001, the Free Trade Area of the Americas, there was a huge melee, despite the security, including water cannon and tear gas.
"Canada should have learned from the past, but Larry Bogad, an expert on performance and politics who was a visiting lecturer at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University during the September G20, said he is surprised cities will still accept the risk, and feels popular opinion is turning against the meetings."
"The fact that they did it in Pittsburgh, where human beings actually live, was a bit surprising," Mr. Bogad said. "I thought the trend would be them meeting in ever more remote places, like Antarctica. Somewhere people can't bother them."
"After the show is over, most residents of G20 towns are left wondering if all the hype and hysteria was just a dream. While the cost is real, the damage, where it happens, is quickly cleaned up.
"Writing in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette following September's summit, journalist Lillian Thomas said the only sign something had happened was the lack of garbage cans in the downtown core.'"Less than half a day after G20 leaders issued their final communique Friday, there was little sign on the streets that the summit - and months of feverish work leading up to it - ever happened,' she wrote."
And no great benefits flowed in the aftermath? They never do.
"The summit's economic impact was a major concern of a few local politicians and citizens," according to the summit's heavily-footnoted Wikipedia entry. "The municipal government of Toronto, as well as some public representatives, previously argued that the G-20 summit should be held at an isolated venue, such as the Exhibition Place, rather than the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, which is located in the city's central business district.
"As a result, during the aftermath of the protests during the summit, when several business and properties in downtown Toronto were damaged, mayor David Miller urged the federal government to compensate for all the damages.
"It was initially outlined by the government that only damages to businesses within the security zone would be compensated." (Sound familiar?) "However, all damages occurred outside of the security zone.
"Some businesses in the downtown core suffered financially as a result. According to Member of Parliament John McCallum, 'Stephen Harper made a huge mistake in holding this summit in downtown Toronto.' According to the Toronto Star, at least 40 stores in the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area suffered damages and one repair firm performed up to $750,000 in repairs."
Finally . . . back to Crain's:
"The real problem is that final decisions about agendas have yet to be made and probably won't be until three or four weeks out, so no one knows when those motorcades will hit the streets, Ms. Healey said. 'When there's no information, gossip fills the vacuum.'"
Look, nobody knows how many protesters will actually show up and if they will bash in windows up and down Michigan Avenue or if the police will force a riotous confrontation so Rahm can show he's got a big dick or whatever. We can use the past as a guide, but we can't definitively predict the future.
But when it comes to the financial issues, the city is content to let gossip fill the vacuum.
"Stand Up! Chicago is working on developing a more detailed independent cost estimate, Parisian said, but getting information is difficult," Black writes.
"There's been no transparency from the city," she said. "We need to know how much it's going cost and who's contributing."
Obama's FOIA Fail
The Week in Chicago Rock
The Beachwood Tip Line: Reach the summit.
Posted on March 2, 2012
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