On March 5, the White House announced that the G8 economic summit scheduled for May 18-19, would be relocated from McCormick Place in Chicago, to the Presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland. They felt the rural seclusion of Camp David would provide a more secure location than the big city environment of Chicago.
Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s former Chief of Staff, insisted the Chicago Police were capable of handling any situation that might arise. However, the White House wasn’t impressed with Chicago’s preparations and chose to move the meeting.
Despite the loss of the G8, the NATO summit is still scheduled to be held in Chicago on May 20-21. How well Chicago handles security for this event will answer any questions about the city’s preparedness for the inevitable protests.
Many in Chicago are upset that the G8 summit was moved. They cite the loss of revenue and the once-in-a-lifetime exposure Chicago would receive by being the first U.S. city outside of Washington to hold this summit. However, others feel this loss is not as devastating to our economy as some might lead you to believe. Many city residents wonder if the economic benefit would outweigh the costs of holding this event, not to mention the gridlock and turmoil the protestors had promised.
In the midst of a worldwide economic crisis, many view the G8 as the perfect platform to ignite the passions of the people affected by the growing disparity of wealth. Many protestors may view the attendees of this conference as being at least partially responsible for or even profiting from their hardships. Hordes of angry protestors roaming the streets of Chicago, looking for places to vent their rage aren’t what residents of nearby neighborhoods would like to see.
The exposure Chicago might get from these meetings might have the exact opposite of the intended effect and could possibly harm the city’s image. The world is in turmoil, and there is a lot of unfocused rage out there. Images of uncontrolled riots and mayhem might make Chicago seem much less attractive in the eyes of the world.
While the G8 has left for a more controlled environment, the NATO summit will still be here in May. NATO was created during the height of the Cold War to protect Western European nations from the threat of Soviet aggression. But since the fall of the Berlin Wall, it has evolved into a global police force. For example, NATO troops saw combat action in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But today, the huge military expenditures of member nations seem anachronistic and out of touch. Protestors will certainly remind summit attendees of their strongly held beliefs against military solutions to diplomatic problems.
I’m personally glad the G8 meeting pulled out of Chicago, as a resident of a nearby neighborhood, the disruption to my life wasn’t worth the relatively small amount of money I might have made from the event. In addition, despite promises of reimbursement, the city taxpayers would have ultimately been on the hook for the costs of staging the event, if these funds never materialized.
The city spends so much time and effort chasing down these highly visible events without ever considering if these events make economic sense. Perhaps we should reward the steady revenue stream from the less glamorous tradeshows that provide a good standard of living for many Chicagoans, including the person whose words you’re now reading.