NATO, G8 In Chicago: Mayor Hints At City Dollars For Closed Businesses, Then Reverses Course
With massive protests and tight security planned for the upcoming NATO and G8 summits in Chicago, some area businesses are concerned about the impact the international summits will have on their bottom lines. After briefly stating that businesses would be reimbursed in some way by the city, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office backtracked on those comments Thursday.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Emanuel said businesses located within the "inner-most" security zone around the May 19-21 summits will "have a process" to recoup lost profits, though he did not explain specifics of what businesses could be eligible or other details.
But, after reports of the reimbursements were published, the mayor's office changed course, saying that they "have no plans to reimburse businesses -- the city is open for business." Jennifer Martinez, a NATO and G8 Host Committee spokeswoman, reiterated to the Sun-Times that "the plan is for all businesses to be open. We do not anticipate businesses being closed."
Nevertheless, many closings and postponements have already announced by schools, museums and others located near the McCormick Place convention center and downtown retailers have expressed fear about the thousands of protesters expected to descend on the city during the summits. National groups including Adbusters and Anonymous have announced their plans to protest the summits.
(Scroll down to watch a report on NATO/G8 preparations.)
As CBS Chicago reports, DePaul University announced Thursday that it will close its Loop campus "because of the traffic congestion and disruptions anticipated" during the summits.
The Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have rescheduled events previously planned during the concurrent meetings, the Chicago Tribune reports. Columbia College shifted its academic calendar so that students could avoid the meetings. There is also talk that the Daley Center's civil courtrooms might temporarily close during the summits, according to the Sun-Times. Activists plan to stage a massive march from the Daley Center to McCormick Place on May 19.
Downtown apartment building owners have been told to prepare for the worst, WBEZ reports, though federal law enforcement officials have urged those who live and work in the Loop to "calm down" because the security provisions around the summits will not impact downtown life.
Still, many fear that the costs of securing the summits alone could impact Chicago taxpayers. The Chicago Reader reported Wednesday that the city has yet to receive any federal grants to help cover summit preparation costs, though a city Office of Emergency Management and Communications spokesman stated that the city "will be reimbursed after the fact."
Though the city is not sure how much the summits will cost, they have estimated a price tag between $40 million and $65 million. The city is currently soliciting bids for protective equipment for police horses and already purchased nearly $200,000 worth of new face shields for Chicago Police.
Meanwhile, a coalition of Chicago community, labor and faith-based groups issued an open letter Thursday to the mayor [PDF] calling for a sum of money similar to the amount expected to be spent on the summits to be invested in "Chicago’s 99% -- our communities" through a Chicago G8/NATO Community Fund. They would like to see the city call on "wealthy corporations and benefactors" to help support libraries, mental health clinics and other resources they say many Chicagoans urgently need.
WATCH NATO/G8 summit neighbors discuss how they're preparing for the events: