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Wrigley Renovations: Time For Some Hardball

Can you believe we're still talking about "plans" for renovations instead of a deal? This should have been done months ago, and maybe it's time for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to step in.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- This was originally posted as a FanShot on Saturday, but given the traffic on FanShots these days, plus the fact that this is an important topic, I figured I'd weigh in myself on Fran Spielman's analysis in the Sun-Times of the political realities soon facing all the players in the Wrigley Field renovation negotiations, and how Mayor Rahm Emanuel will likely soon have to step in and lead the parties, and in particular, 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney, to a deal.

Here are the salient points in Spielman's analysis:

A source close to the negotiations noted that Emanuel has been "pretty respectful" of Tunney, well aware that the alderman has "not been the easiest person to negotiate with" over the last two years.

"Tunney could have declared victory a dozen times, the penultimate moment being the April framework [agreement on Wrigley]. He could have gone back to his community and said, ‘The Cubs wanted unlimited signs. I held them to two. They wanted unlimited night games. I held them to 4O plus special events,’" the source said.

"The goal is not to burn a bridge with an alderman. You need a good relationship with the City Council. I don’t care how powerful you are. The mayor has tried to put it off as long as possible. But this is too close to potentially happening to let it get away. The problem with Tunney is he can’t stick with a deal."

This, in my view, is precisely correct regarding Tunney. The Mouth that Roared needs to understand that he's already stood up for his largest campaign contributors, and even paid lip service to his constituents (and that should, really, be the other way around). It's time for Tunney to understand that this is the biggest deal he'll ever have his fingers in -- it's not like just another storefront opening on Southport -- and he needs to step aside and acknowledge that, though it may cause some more inconveniences for the residents of his ward, that the benefits this deal will bring to the 44th Ward and to the City of Chicago far outweigh the extra noise, traffic and trash produced on perhaps 10 more nights a year, and that Wrigleyville isn't going to be turned into Times Square with a few more lighted signs outside Wrigley Field.

I don't usually want political commentary here and I urge you in your comments to stick to this one issue only. But this is essentially what I've been arguing for months. All the parties to this deal -- the Cubs, the city, the neighborhood groups and Ald. Tunney -- should have sat down in closed-door meetings months ago and hammered this out so that they could have announced a win-win agreement before Opening Day, which was the Cubs' stated desire.

We're now halfway through the 2013 season and no deal is done. Both sides must compromise, because that's how deals get done. No one gets everything they want, but everyone leaves negotiations like this feeling like they got something. As Spielman wrote:

Still the Emanuel aide said, "This is not about the mayor dropping a hammer. He’s more concerned about staying on track. The framework didn’t say 4,OOO or 6,OOO [square feet for the Jumbotron]. There’s still compromise to be made on both sides. No one is gonna be 1OO percent happy. That’s not how life works."

That's right, and that's why when Tunney says things like this:

"The mayor and I talk almost every day and I think we’ll come to an agreement…Look at how far we’ve come….There’s a hundred moving parts here. We’re down to five issues…. I’m not worried about the Cubs moving. We have the best neighborhood and also the best market.

The mayor and I and the Cubs want to get this done, hopefully, by the end of summer."

They haven't come "far" at all when Tunney keeps moving the goalposts, to use a metaphor from a different sport. The "end of summer"? What's the delay, Tom Tunney? Get it done now so the Cubs can get started on preserving and fixing Wrigley Field. And if that means the mayor has to tell the tinpot dictator of the 44th Ward to make this deal, then... make it so.