Chicago and NATO: Have we proven we’re a first class cow town?

Chicago and NATO: Have we proven we’re a first class cow town?

Here we are. NATO week. Our media has been in a collective frenzy about NATO and the commensurate mass protests and road closures. For over a month, NATO has been the story with underlying fear and trepidation.

I want to yell at the television: Hey! We’re Chicagoans, we got this!

Major cities close down when there is half inch of snow– we’re open for business the day after getting dumped with 30 inches– guys, we can handle a couple protesters.

Monday, John McCarron expressed these feelings on the Chicago Tribune’s Commentary page:

What are we? Kids?

It was a dare often posed by one of my favorite assistant city editors.

                                                     *        *        *

I’ve been thinking lately about [that] challenger as Chicagoans continue to fuss and fret over hosting a big international conference later this week.

I mean, if this were New York City, this two-day NATO summit would be just another day at the office. As in: "That jerk Castro (or Arafat or Ahmadinejad, etc.) is at the UN again so we’d better stay clear of East River Drive and the Midtown Tunnel.

But no, here in the Third City, we’re acting like a bunch of bumpkins and nervous Nellies. Our media are doing breathless stories about bomb-resistant trash cans and tear gas proof riot gear...

Beginning Monday, the security presence in my office building was a little ridiculous. Triple security; only one entrance. The Daley Center, although not shuttered, is on a light schedule as judges were told not to schedule things this week.

Instead of the mass business closures, the only business we should close in the loop are Starbucks and other coffee shops, so protesters are unable to get caffeinated. That will slow these protesters down so our police force is better able to keep up.

We often talk about wanting to be considered a world-class city. Then when we have the opportunity to host the world, we have to pull our own teeth to take the straw out of our mouth. Instead of the collective trepidation our news outlets have provided, "protesters, oh my!, maybe some information about closures would be better.

For instance: if you work within one mile of McCormack Place, expect delays getting to work. Roosevelt Rd. will be closed between Lake Shore Drive and Michigan on Friday. Or tell us about parking restrictions. The hand wringing in the media has to stop.

Hopefully, the next week doesn’t turn into the 1968 Democratic Convention. We have to trust that our police force is adequately prepared for NATO protests. Chicagoans need to embrace the opportunity NATO provides. If we want to be considered a world-class city, then we should embrace the opportunity to shine on the world stage, rather than cringe. Are we the city of big shoulders? Or are we the city of wobbly knees?


Filed under: Chicagoist

Tags: Chicago, NATO


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  • So true. This is a media event, and the pathetic talking suits and breathless horrible hat ladies hope to get some glamour sliding off on them by sidling up to the ruling elite.

    This is the biggest non-event for Chicago residents since the days when we didn't get the summer Olympics.

  • On the other side, there was the story last night on Channel 5 about the "Black Bloc," which consisted of a small band of urban terrorists who figured to get the crowd going by looting a Starbucks in Seattle during the G8. Also, various statements by Seattle police that "we goofed." (web version).

    Then there was the report last night of a demonstration from 52nd and Halsted to a police station at 32nd and Halsted, just to say F-U to the police and try to get a reaction, which they did not.

    The crazies, probably from out of town, are going to try their stuff by the weekend, if 3 days before is any indication.

  • It all goes back to 1968. Chicago looked awful, and it didn't help that the convention was at the Ampitheater, because of the original McCormick place burning down.

    No one wants to see police in riot gear bashing heads with nightsticks and dragging and tossing 20-somethings into paddy wagons.

  • "If we want to be considered a world-class city".? Maybe we're bumpkins, but are you also saying we have an inferiority complex? Not "world-class" enough for you? Wasn't the soccer World Cup also supposed to make us "world-class"? And the Mayor expounds on all the benefits this gathering will bring. Well, maybe he hasn't done a good enough job of explaining the cost/benefit of this little party.

  • In reply to Steve8a:

    You know what Steve, you make an excellent point. Emanuel has not done a very good job of explaining the benefits of hosting NATO. I certainly think there are benefits in terms of prestige and short-term commerical benefits, but other than that, what other benefits are there? Would a Superbowl have more benefit? (not that we can have one on the lake)

    I do think we have an inferiority complex. Absolutely! I think we compare ourselves to New York too much and that's the cause of the inferiority complex. I do it myself. But when we just look in the mirror and accept who and what we are-- it's an awesome, world-class, city.

    But watching the news and how excited we get about something really, not terribly exciting (road closures, protesters), it makes us seem like Oklahoma City.

    We should act like we've been there before, rather than ecstatic to be on the invitation list.

    Thanks for reading and caring enough to comment, by the way.

  • In reply to Brian C. Thomas:

    As ck points out, we've been there before, 1968.

    The Olympics, if we were unlucky enough to get them, would have been two weeks, and all over the region. This is a stinking 1-1/2 days, probably resulting in coverage of 1-1/2 weeks of protest, at the best. I doubt that the French delegation will eat enough foie gras to make up for the cost with regard to a closed business district, disrupted commuter travel, and extra security.

  • Yes, a cow town. We're cowed by a hyped-up threat of vandalism.

  • I appreciate this article Brian. I wrote one from the opposite perspective but you make fair points.

    Favorite line:
    "Instead of the mass business closures, the only business we should close in the loop are Starbucks and other coffee shops, so protesters are unable to get caffeinated." HA!

  • In reply to Kay S:

    Thanks Kay. As usual, I enjoyed your article too; being a northsider, the NATO summit was something I watched on television rather than live through. But yesterday was a great day to go to the office. Trafficwise, it was like a Sunday.

    Here's your article:

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