Courtesy Chicago Cubs
Only in the city of Chicago could a man representing one-fiftieth of the population hold up a deal that could benefit the entire city. It's time for the 44th Ward alderman to back off.
SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- I'm more than 1,500 miles away from Chicago, and I can still feel the bombast coming from the mouth of Chicago Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), the alderman of the ward that contains Wrigley Field. Rather than paraphrase, I'll simply let his own words, quoted in the Tribune, speak for themselves:
Ald. Thomas Tunney, 44th, said Thursday that he would not sign off on a deal unless it included more parking, better police protection and "aesthetic" assurances sought by Wrigleyville residents and businesses — all issues that have yet to be settled. Reminded that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing or an agreement, in part because the Ricketts family that owns the Cubs is not asking for any government funding, Tunney replied, "Yeah, but it’s not going to be on the backs of my community, sorry." The Rickettses have maintained that a deal needs to get done by Opening Day in early April so they can line up the contractors and materials needed to fix up their aging ballpark, but Tunney dismissed that concern. "You’re talking about one of the wealthiest families in America," the alderman told a throng of City Hall reporters pressing him on the issue. "End of statement."
"On the backs of my community"? Seriously, Tom? You mean the community that Cubs baseball brings in millions of dollars to, to businesses like bars and restaurants and souvenir shops that wouldn't exist without Wrigley Field? Yes, Tom, you're right. The Ricketts are "one of the wealthiest families in America". They've offered to pay for the Wrigley renovations if they get some restrictions lifted -- and I've said before that I wouldn't necessarily be in favor of every single one of them being lifted; there's certainly room for negotiation and compromise -- something that a sports marketing consultant says is a fantastic deal for Chicago:
"The proposal made by the Cubs is the most one-sided stadium deal in favor of the city that I have seen in my lifetime," Chicago-based sports marketing consultant Marc Ganis said Monday. "All $300 million would be coming from the Cubs. The only thing the team is asking in return is to have the same rights that every other team in Major League Baseball has. If I were advising Rahm Emanuel, I’d tell him to get it in writing and get it approved before [Cubs Chairman] Tom Ricketts woke up."
It seems to me that the mayor wants to get this done; he's said repeatedly that all parties concerned have to "seize" a deal. He's right. Why is Tom Tunney holding this up? In general, Chicago aldermen have been given wide latitude to weigh in on major projects in their wards. In this case, though, given the amount of money involved -- and Tom Ricketts, in the Tribune link above, said it was closer to $500 million than $300 million, given the hotel that's proposed for the current McDonald's property across from Wrigley Field -- I think it's time for Mayor Emanuel to broker a deal between all parties involved.
Too much money is at stake, both for the city and the Chicago Cubs. It's a win-win for everyone. Tom Tunney needs to stop being a tinpot dictator of one-fiftieth of the city and think about the big picture.