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Is this fight truly necessary?

Tuesday, Dec 17, 2019

* Greg Hinz

Both Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker are pushing different candidates to take the helm of the agency that operates Chicago’s economically crucial McCormick Place convention center, a development that could be resolved amicably or could lead to some serious jockeying between the two officials.

Sources close to the matter say the mayor has been talking up Jeff Bethke, now executive vice president and CFO at DePaul University, to take over as CEO of the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, or McPier as it’s generally known. Bethke served on Lightfoot’s transition team and once worked as an aide to former Chicago Public Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey, a close kitchen cabinet adviser to the mayor. […]

Sources say Pritzker has promoted two local officials: Arnie Rivera, the former budget director at Chicago Public Schools and now CPS’ chief operating officer, and Larita Clark, a veteran McPier staffer who currently is its acting CEO and the CFO. […]

By tradition in recent decades, the mayor has chosen the person who becomes chairman and the governor the CEO. But that situation began to break down under former Gov. Bruce Rauner, who “didn’t care about McPier very much,” one agency source told me.

United Airlines General Counsel Brett Hart is the current chairperson.

According to a search of the State Board of Elections, the only campaign contributions ever made by Jeff Bethke were to Mayor Lightfoot.

Unless Pritzker’s choices are completely unacceptable (and I have not yet seen any evidence of that), perhaps the mayor should let tradition dictate here. She’ll eventually get to choose the chairperson.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

29 Comments
  1. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 11:00 am:

    Lightfoot “needs” to fight to “feel” relevant.

    That’s gonna be the narrative soon.


  2. - Blake - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 11:08 am:

    Meanwhile Brett Hart says if you want to be the chairperson you have to beat the chairperson.


  3. - Ok - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 11:11 am:

    I mean, the people named are very different types of people.

    I like Arnie, but I can imagine why the mayor doesn’t think he would be the best choice to run McPier. Not really his background, and he is very much a Rahm guy.


  4. - JS Mill - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 11:13 am:

    Is Lightfoot the leftwing version of Rauner? Constantly tilting at windmills just doesn’t get you anywhere.


  5. - Donnie Elgin - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 11:13 am:

    “Arnie Rivera, the former budget director at Chicago Public Schools and now CPS’ chief operating officer”

    Have you looked at CPS fiances? The Mayor is right to want another candidate.

    The school district has $8.4 billion in long-term debt and plans to carry another $450 million…
    Pension contributions also eat into classroom spending. This year, the total amount is expected to reach more than $850 million, with about $120 million coming from CPS operating revenue.

    https://www.npr.org/local/309/2019/08/20/752511828/5-things-to-know-about-chicago-public-schools-budget


  6. - Back to the Future - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 11:22 am:

    I think the Governor should defer to the Mayor.
    He and his family have hotels etc. that present issues of conflict that are troubling. In the current atmosphere of corruption news showing up daily why not avoid conflict issues and let the Mayor move forward?


  7. - crockett - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 11:25 am:

    The current chairperson is the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.

    Tough shoes to fill.


  8. - srb - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 11:29 am:

    You might want to ask what the current financial situation is at DePaul.


  9. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 11:34 am:

    ===Have you looked at CPS fiances?===

    So… tax revenues and debt piled high by previous administrations is this person’s fault? Seriously? You may need a nap.


  10. - Just Me 2 - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 11:38 am:

    Here is what I want to know: which candidate will open up the Batcave?


  11. - Teve Demotte - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 11:42 am:

    Arnie Rivera is a good man and very talented. He has a high ethical standard, yet knows how to get things done in the city and can adeptly manage competing interests very well.


  12. - Thomas Paine - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 11:49 am:

    Jeff Bethke sounds like a pure patronage pick, not the kind of person you want running a major public agency.

    If Lightfoot wants to hand out jobs to her friends’ friends, put them somewhere they do not make policy or influence contracts or hiring decisions.

    Thanks Rich for checking the ISBE website so I didn’t have to, not shocked at all that Lightfoot is promoting one of her donors for a high paying job.


  13. - Telly - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 11:52 am:

    == Is this fight truly necessary? ==

    We’ve asked that question a lot regarding the mayor. Taking on the media over the Billy McCaffrey firing in her press conference yesterday only helped give the story more attention. Someday she might learn that good hitters don’t swing at every pitch.


  14. - Jose Abreu's Next Homerun - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 12:05 pm:

    Just Me 2, I just saw the Bat Cave on the news last night. I hadn’t known about it. This city man, clout is king.


  15. - Librarian - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 12:15 pm:

    On Jeff’s bio for DePaul it states, he previously served as director of procurement for the 79-branch Chicago Public Library System.

    Isn’t that where the Mayor’s wife worked?


  16. - Salonica’s Backroom - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 12:16 pm:

    @Ok - Arnie just slogged through the muck on the CTU strike to fight the Mayor’s fight…unconventional atta boy from Heronner.

    Seems like a guy who has extensive experience working with labor would be a good fit at McPier.


  17. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 12:31 pm:

    Fighting : Lightfoot :: OODA Looping : Rauner

    Both attempted to govern using their campaigns’ winning tactics after the election.

    Rauner failed miserably and failed repeatedly, but stubbornly refused to learn from his many failures.

    Lightfoot still has time to learn, but time is running out.

    We’ll see.

    – MrJM


  18. - Just Me 2 - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 12:37 pm:

    @Jose - it’s pretty sweet. I’ve used it several times, always riding along with someone with clout who boasted how important they were to have the pass. One of whom was even retired from their role but were allowed to keep the pass as a retirement gift.


  19. - Ok - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 12:50 pm:

    I said I liked Arnie a lot. And I don’t think the others have anything spectacular to them.

    Can’t someone just point out that the person that served as Rahm’s lead education person for years can’t possibly think that running McPier is their life’s goal?

    Can’t we find someone who is just not a clout pick?


  20. - ChicagoBars - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 1:11 pm:

    Everybody relax, McCormick Place board just appointed a 5 member search committee during their meeting this morning to find the best candidate for the job. Sure they’ll be looking at resumes from top executives at peer facilities from across America soon.


  21. - levivotedforjudy - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 1:41 pm:

    The mayor is going to need the governor a lot more than the governor will need the mayor. The mayor needs to pick her fights very strategically and this doesn’t seem worth it in the larger scheme of things.


  22. - Ok - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 1:53 pm:

    No relaxin’ ’til Jan 1, ChicagoBars


  23. - Former Critic - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 2:43 pm:

    People who comment negatively ought to be careful. Jeff Orr is threatening to dox people.


  24. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 2:51 pm:

    ===Jeff Orr is threatening to dox people===

    LOL

    How’s he gonna do that on my site? Go take a nap.


  25. - Former Critic - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 3:24 pm:

    ==How’s he gonna do that on my site? Go take a nap==

    I don’t know, but I’ve witnessed him do it to several people on Twitter and Facebook, as recently as last night. He says he has the means. He also always seems to be fighting with someone.

    But I am going to sleep now.


  26. - Rutro - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 3:35 pm:

    Maybe McClain has a recommendation?


  27. - Adroit Opiner - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 5:08 pm:

    Arnie has managed multi billion dollar operating and capital budgets and programs, is incredibly politically savvy, and was not brought on by Rahm because of his participation in political campaigns but because he was an educator and executive at the Chicago Public Education Fund. He also happens to be a diverse candidate. He would be a great pick.


  28. - Chicago 20 - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 6:43 pm:

    According to the MPEA FY2019 Audited Financial Statements, McPier is mismanaged and buried in debt with grossly insufficient revenues to recover without a competitive business plan and a huge long term bailout.

    The MPEA has $12,506,622,000 of State of Illinois backed debt with a revenue stream, which at the moment is currently $6,467,851,001 deficient on top of a $2 billion deficit.

    Revenue from the use of MPEA Exhibition Facilities has dropped 52.7% since the Great Recession in FY2009.

    Since the 2010 statutory mandates the MPEA to provide goods and services at break-even levels.

    Because the MPEA was prohibited at making a profit through the sales of goods and services the MPEA simply stopped providing goods and services.

    Yet the MPEA can receive commissions and/or right of entry fees from sub-contracted vendors.

    Exhibitor costs at McCormick Place have skyrocketed since these 2010 statutory mandates were enacted and revenues from exhibition facilities have dropped 52.7%.

    Operating expenses of salary, wages and benefits have decreased $37,303,000 when comparing FY2009 to FY2019.

    C.H. Johnson Consulting’s report to the interim MPEA Board recommended the outsourcing of management and
    MPEA’s in-house labor to reduce costs.

    Comparing FY2009 to FY2019 MPEA outsourced expenses have increased $128,599,000, obliterating the $37,303,000 decrease.

    MPEA Authority tax revenue has increased from $110,524,000 in FY2009 to $158,915,000 FY2019.

    The current MPEA Authority tax revenue of $158,915,000 in FY2019 is insufficient to cover this bond service debt and will create a shortfall of $6,402,091,001.

    MPEA would need to increase tax revenues over 118% for the MPEA to meet debt service of the expansion project bond debt obligations.

    In addition the MPEA Authority tax revenue now has an additional direct placement bond debt of $65,760,000 in principle and interest, which is not included in the above calculations.

    The MPEA is currently refinancing about $1 billion of bonds.
    Historically the repayment schedule extends the debt out several more years and is heavily backloaded with the debt service and interest payments quickly exceeding the MPEA tax revenue.

    The MPEA first needs a competitive business plan with a goal of becoming self-sufficient by providing exhibitors and trade shows with industry competitive pricing for our world class convention center before they can decide on a new leader.


  29. - Lodestar - Tuesday, Dec 17, 19 @ 6:54 pm:

    Don’t worry about Jeff Orr. He’s busy defending Scott Waguespack from the CTU.

    Why aren’t more people taking about George Cardenas being considered? That guy can barely string two sentences together


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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