* Mayor Daley has floated a “privatization lite” plan for McCormick Place…
Mr. Daley told reporters in Washington, D.C., Tuesday afternoon that he’s not proposing to hand control of McCormick Place to a private operator under a long-term lease, as he has done with the Chicago Skyway and city parking meters in deals that reaped billions of dollars in upfront payments for the city.
Rather, he’s talking about short-term leases of individual convention halls within the complex to show operators—for the duration of a particular convention.
“You could lease it for seven days,” Mr. Daley told reporters in the nation’s capital, where the Supreme Court is hearing a case involving Chicago’s handgun law. “A lot of show places do that.”
Mr. Daley said show operators would be responsible for furnishing all services required for a convention, including labor, utilities and catering. They would have “full responsibility for all the payments inside their leased piece of property,” he said. “They’d pay for everything, not inside the building but inside the hall.”
From the Trib…
The goal would be to cut expenses for exhibitors, many of whom have chafed at costs stemming from the in-house electrical service and from union work rules that prevent exhibitors from doing a lot of their own booth set-up. The city has lost two major shows that complained of high costs, and several more are on the fence.
If exhibitors can bypass the in-house electrical service and smash the choke-hold by the two contractors who control most of the price markups, then that would be worth looking into. The exhibitors would probably still use at least some of the union workers, particularly the Riggers and Decorators, because they know what they’re doing (lots of those union members are flown out to Vegas and Florida to handle shows there, which gives you an idea of their expertise). Work rules, however, would have to be loosened, especially for the electricians.
The governor is cautious…
“Well, I think you’ve got to be careful here,” Quinn said Tuesday. “I think any of these privatization proposals need to be carefully analyzed to see whether or not they do indeed save money and if they do indeed improve service.”
The General Assembly is putting together a special joint committee to examine the situation…
On Wednesday, the House Executive Committee is expected to consider a proposal by House Speaker Michael Madigan to create a 16-member House-Senate committee to recommend ways to improve McPier’s “operational stability and profitability.”
“It’ll be a place to channel whatever legislative recommendations people have concerning that institution,” said Steve Brown, a spokesman for Madigan.
It’s absolutely essential to get at what’s really going wrong at McCormick Place. It’s a gigantic and irreplaceable economic engine for the state. The early ideas looked mainly to my eyes like they were designed to lower some costs for the contractors, so they could buttress their bottom lines in a down market. That’s not the way to go, however.