It's been a week since the NATO protests and I've been thinking about them on and off, especially after reading a few Crain's Chicago Business articles that questioned whether the whole shebang was really good for the city and its businesses. A sample below:
What seems like a good idea at the start can quickly go sour, as anyone who's ever offered to pick up the tab in a crowded bar can attest. Still mildly hung over from the NATO experience, we now await a full accounting of the weekend's total cost.
Our guess is that the “Blues Brothers”-scale army of security personnel so visible throughout the NATO conference will be pricey, though presumably the feds will chip in something to defray that particular expense. Just how much we won't know for a while.
The city's restaurants, retailers, cabbies and museums—idled as Chicagoans avoided the Loop the way a preschooler avoids a salad bar —won't be so lucky. Could these businesses apply for federal disaster relief? They may have a case…
And oddly, in its zeal to train the locals to duck and cover, Chicago may have inadvertently reinforced the cow-town image we seem so eager to shake: Out-of-town media reports, while highlighting the city's charms, also noted the overwhelming police presence and the almost otherworldly emptiness of the downtown area.
As I thought about public event rowdiness and violence, I remembered how some of our sports fans get really riled up after a close game with a hated rival. Not pleasant to be around as they surge into the streets. Even our storied St. Patricks Day Parades have ended badly some years as fake Irish with their leprechaun t-shirts grappled with police while barfing up green beer.