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City's G-8/NATO costs could hit $65M, say officials in first such appraisal

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's team announced Thursday that the May summit meetings of world leaders will cost up to $65 million, downtown Chicago will remain open amid security restrictions and protest rules will be revised following complaints they were too strict.

The first glimpse of what it will take to stage the G-8 and NATO gatherings came at a City Hall briefing conducted by Emanuel aides and the private organizing group he picked to lead the city's efforts. The setup provides Emanuel a measure of distance from any potential problems with the large events that could attract thousands of demonstrators to Chicago and inconvenience residents and commuters alike.

Emanuel aides have promised for weeks to provide details of how the city will make good on the mayor's pledge to showcase Chicago to the world — including how the costs will be covered. But the Washington-style background briefing — used by government officials to provide information without attribution — left many questions unanswered. The mayor did not attend.

In an interview with the Tribune after the briefing, Lori Healey, executive director of the private G-8/NATO host committee, estimated the cost will be between $40 million to $65 million.

But she did not break down how the money will be spent, other than to give the broad parameters of public safety, marketing and social events. The city will be reimbursed through federal grants and private donations, according to Healey.

"We are developing those budgets right now," Healey said. "We're building it. We've got four months to develop this plan."

The particulars come less than a week before the City Council is expected to vote on Emanuel's request for blanket authority to spend money on the summits and for new restrictions on demonstrations.

Aldermen also were privately briefed on the summit preparations by Healey, city Corporation Counsel Steve Patton and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Felicia Davis, along with a Secret Service agent.

Emanuel has handed many of the hosting duties for the summits to World Business Chicago, his hand-picked group of top business executives that functions as an economic development arm of the city. The WBC, which is funded in part with taxpayer money, controls the host committee and will be in charge of raising private donations to pay for some portion of the summit costs. Healey said the committee will disclose summit donors sometime this year, but how much individuals contributed will not be disclosed until a year after the summit.

As many as 7,500 delegates representing up to 80 countries are expected to attend the back-to-back summits May 19-21, according to event organizers. The summits will be held at the McCormick Place convention center and most of the dignitaries and their delegations are expected to stay downtown.

Specific security boundaries and perimeters will be dictated by the Secret Service and won't be known until two to four weeks before the event, organizers said. There will be street closings, but they will be "rolling" Healey said, likening them to the protocols for a presidential motorcade.

She disputed the suggestion that downtown Chicago will be on a "lockdown" during the events. "Not only is it not on lockdown, but we wouldn't even begin to have information to make those decisions yet," Healey said.

"This is something we're absolutely used to doing in Chicago. Granted this is a little bit bigger than most, but it's over a weekend," Healey said.

"We're going to be open for business," she said. "Chicago will be open for business."

Emanuel's administration also announced Thursday that it would scale back proposed ordinances to tighten the rules for all future public demonstrations in Chicago, including a large boost in fines for violations. The mayor's office wanted to increase the current minimum of $50 for violating the parade ordinance to a $1,000. On Thursday it scaled the proposed minimum back to $200.

The mayor had proposed shortening demonstrations by 15 minutes, to two hours total, but dropped that request. The city also eliminated the proposed requirement that demonstrators supply a parade marshal for every 100 participants.

If aldermen approve the other changes, public parks and beaches would be closed until 6 a.m., two hours later than now. Loud noise, amplified sound and music at parades and public assemblies would be allowed only between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.

A number of aldermen said they were happy with the changes but are still concerned about some of the remaining proposals, including a doubling of the maximum fine for resisting arrest to $1,000.

"You're getting very close to freedom of speech issues there," said Ald. Michelle Smith, 43rd. "I'm going to see if the mayor has a little wiggle room on that issue before committing one way or the other."

The city also announced it issued the first demonstration permits to groups that plan to march from Daley Plaza to near McCormick Place on May 19.

The administration also said it will establish official protest zones where demonstrators can gather without permits, but no locations were disclosed. The city set up such zones during the 1996 Democratic National Convention, but they were far from the meeting site.

Chicago leaders also have offered no details about private fundraising for the summits on behalf of the mayor and his private economic-development organization, World Business Chicago, which has announced it will be "leading host committee activities" for G8 and NATO.

Worries about possible disruption caused by protesters at the summits has started to filter through Chicago's business community, said John Wichman, Chicago chapter president of CoreNet Global, an association of real estate professionals. The organization has put together a February briefing for business leaders that is expected to include police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Frank Benedetto, special agent in charge of the Secret Service in Chicago.

Wichman said business leaders and owners of downtown buildings want to know what steps the city is taking to head off problems that could be caused by anything from protesters to street closings to simply having many thousands of extra people in the area for the summits.

"Most of the concern has come out of candid discussions about it, and frankly recently," Wichman said. "And I think we're going to see that cascading through the business community over the next 30 to 35 days."

Tribune reporters Hal Dardick, John Byrne and David Heinzmann contributed.

kmack@tribune.com

hdardick@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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