Lessons from ’96 – POLITICO


Happy Wednesday, Illinois. It’s a big day for platitudes with Mayor Lori Lightfoot holding court over her last Chicago City Council meeting and Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson addressing the Illinois General Assembly.

The 2024 Democratic National Convention will give Chicago a chance to change the narrative of the city that’s been hammered about how it’s handled crime, says Leslie Fox, the executive director of the 1996 Democratic Convention also in Chicago.

The drama of it all: “What happens in the United Center is a made-for-TV mini series where everyone knows the outcome. What’s important is the story outside of the arena, and Chicago needs to be ready to tell it,” Fox told POLITICO in an interview. First impressions, she said, are everything.

Fox’s bio: She’s a former aide to Mayor Richard M. Daley who went on to a career in public relations and later made a run for alderman. Fox sees the 1996 convention as a good roadmap for Chicago to put on a successful convention, and she has eight tips for the 2024 team to follow:

Make transportation seamless: “The airport needs to be cleaned up. Trains need to be immaculate. And the city needs to make sure the Kennedy Expressway is operating,” said Fox, referring to the years-long construction on the main thoroughfare from O’Hare to downtown Chicago. “You can go to the best party in the world. But if it’s a hassle to get there, no one remembers the good time.”

Beef up corporate sponsorship: Corporations approach political conventions the way they do the Olympics or an NBA All Star Game. It’s an opportunity to promote company brands. In 1996, one of the biggest supporters of the Democratic Convention was Republican Richard Notebaert, then the CEO of Ameritech Corp., which promoted its telephone services.

Make nice with political foes: In 1996, Democratic Mayor Daley and Republican Gov. Jim Edgar weren’t really chummy. But they put aside differences to promote the city for a national and world audience. Side note: Edgar remembers telling a group of Republican businessmen that it would be the only time he’d ever ask them to give money to Democrats.

Look for federal funding: Chicago’s West Loop is a hot spot today thanks to D.C. dollars to clean up the West Side ahead of the convention. Daley didn’t want the media and delegates traveling through downtrodden neighborhoods to get to the United Center.

Get the locals involved: Fox says the 1996 organizing committee signed up more than 8,000 volunteers to help put on the show.

Roll out the red carpet for media: “We had every public relations and marketing and ad firm serving as docents for the media. We ran a program that took them out any night to anywhere in the city to help them get their stories,” said Fox. “Our press kits were the next level.”

Be nice to protesters: “We respected their rights to protest, found a safe and secure place for them to do so and served them cookies and coffee and water.”

Be prepared for surprises: “We lost a full news cycle” the day a bombshell report emerged that President Bill Clinton’s strategist, Dick Morris, had nuzzled the toes of a prostitute.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s parting gift to Brandon Johnson is the smallest budget deficit any mayor has ever left a predecessor — a mere $85 million budget gap for his first year in office.

It’s small change compared to the $636 million budget gap left by Mayor Rahm Emanuel when he left office or the $838 million left by Mayor Richard M. Daley.

“We’re delivering this up on a silver platter. Continue to work, stay the course, and things will continue to shine bright for the city of Chicago,” Lightfoot said Tuesday at an Executive Club of Chicago event announcing the annual budget numbers.

And to get her point across, she added, “Don’t screw it up.”

Lightfoot’s finance team said the financial success of the city is due in part to the city’s property tax levy, something that had been ignored in the Daley administration and blamed for the huge budget deficits over the years. Had the city been vigilant about the tax levy years ago, the city may not have had to privatize its parking meters, for example.

From Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman: “The midyear budget forecast, issued about four months earlier than usual, offers a brighter picture than the last forecast, just eight months ago. But one City Council member said it’s far too soon for an accurate assessment.”

From Tribune’s A.D. Quig: “The city said the latest forecast does not rely on federal Covid-19 relief money to close gaps, while it does include debt service payments, stock market losses that worsened pension deficits and ‘conservative’ assumptions about how a potential recession might affect the city’s budget. Lightfoot’s administration said if projections hold, the budget gap would remain ‘relatively low’ in 2025 at $124 million and in 2026 at $145 million.”

If you are Dick Morris, Playbook would like your take on 1996. Email [email protected].

No official public events.

At City Hall at 10 a.m. presiding over the City Council meeting.

At the Marriott Magnificent Mile at 8 a.m. for the Chicago Business Opportunity Fair.

Thank you for reading Playbook! Drop me a line sometime: [email protected]

Illinois assault weapons ban withstands federal appeal:A Chicago federal court denied a request by Robert Bevis, a firearms store owner in Naperville, to block the ban while he appeals a ruling that found the ban to be ‘constitutionally sound,’” by Sun-Times’ Matthew Hendrickson.

Two candidates eke out one-vote wins in Sangamon County election finale, by State Journal-Register’s Steven Spearie

— POT POURRI: Teamsters plan to strike at three Rise cannabis stores on the eve of 4/20 pot festivities, by Tribune’s Robert McCoppin

— Ranked Choice Voting in presidential primaries in Senate Bill 1456 is the focus of a subject matter hearing today in the State Capitol at 2 p.m.

Apparent slip-up during ex-ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore cross-examination leads to revelation about interview with feds: “The apparent slip-up occurred while Pramaggiore was being asked about a recorded call with then-ComEd executive Fidel Marquez, who told her that the subcontractors, including former 13th Ward Ald. Frank Olivo, were being funneled through a contract with lobbyist Jay Doherty and that they didn’t do any work,” write Tribune’s Jason Meisner and Ray Long

Pramaggiore testifies secretly recorded call actually ‘proves my innocence’, by Sun-Times’ Jon Seidel and Tina Sfondeles

Unruly downtown Chicago crowds raise alarm for Illinois Restaurant Association: “Chicago police outline crowd control steps after violence, street takeovers near Millennium Park,” by ABC 7.

Lightfoot takes Chicago police leaders to task amid questions on response to latest violent gathering of youths downtown, by Tribune’s Sam Charles and Jake Sheridan

Year of the Incumbent? Only one sitting City Council member unseated this year — first time in a century: “The solitary defeat of appointed Ald. Anabel Abarca (12th) marks the fewest defeated incumbents since Chicago instituted the 50-member City Council system in 1923,” by Sun-Times’ Mitchell Armentrout.

CPS looking to move away from student-based budgeting, CEO Martinez says, by Sun-Times’ Catherine Odom

Hearing aid maker Beltone moves HQ downtown, leaving more empty office space to fill in the suburbs, by Crain’s Danny Ecker

Convicted Starved Rock killer asks judge to boot Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow as special prosecutor: “Chester Weger, who was paroled but not exonerated in the killings of three women in 1960, is trying to prove his innocence in the notorious La Salle County case,” by Sun-Times’ Frank Main.

Developer says the Bears possible move to downtown is delaying Arlington Heights project, by Daily Herald’s Christopher Placek

Lake County state’s attorney sues insulin manufacturers and sellers, by Daily Herald’s Doug Graham

Assessed value of property in Aurora has increased $1.2B since 2011, officials say, by Aurora Beacon-News’ Steve Lord

— Maria Pappas, the Cook County treasurer, will take part in the first-ever Cities Summit of the Americas next week in Denver. Pappas will be part of a panel discussion on “digital tools for improving cities’ revenue and public service delivery.”

Derrick Rose, now with the Knicks, has started a chess tournament in Vegas, via New York Daily News

We asked if there’s a culture issue you’re concerned about:

Bryce C. Harris: “One of the most pernicious issues is the attempt to degrade or eliminate meritocracy in education (and, in certain cases, employment) in the name of ‘equity.’”

Warren Silver: “The premise of Culture Wars itself is the biggest concern. America has always taken pride in being a ‘melting pot’ — but that’s under attack by those who believe that their culture is superior and should be the only thing taught to our kids.”

What recommendation would you make to Chicago’s budget? Email [email protected]

— Circuit Court Judge Kenton Skarin of Wheaton announced his campaign for one of three 3rd District Appellate Court vacancies up for election in 2024. The 3rd District includes DuPage, Will, Bureau, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee and LaSalle counties. Skarin will run as a Republican. Interesting fact: Skarin was a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

— Congressman Jonathan Jackson (IL-01) delivered a floor speech Monday condemning the expulsion of Tennessee state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson. Video here

— Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski (IL-13) convened the first meeting of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition’s Climate Jobs Task Force with experts from the Climate Jobs National Resource Center, the BlueGreen Alliance and the AFL-CIO, according to her office. Budzinski is co-chair of the Climate Jobs Task Force.

Fox News reaches $787.5M settlement in Dominion’s defamation lawsuit, by POLITICO’s Matt Taylor

Supreme Court takes up abortion after saying lawmakers should decide, by POLITICO’s Alice Miranda Ollstein

DeSantis confronts Hill GOP skepticism he can beat Trump, by POLITICO’s Sarah Ferris, Ally Mutnick and Burgess Everett

— Beth Kaufman is now director of communications for the Illinois Gaming Board. She was press secretary for the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office.

— Joel J. Gustafson is now chief information officer at Crowell & Moring. He was global director, CTO at Mayer Brown. He also had worked at Sidley Austin.

— Friday: Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ireland’s ambassador to the U.S. headlines a City Club of Chicago luncheon discussion about the relationship between Chicago and Ireland. On the panel: Ireland Fund of North America’s Caitriona Fottrell, Pepsico’s Marianne O’Shea, Ornua Foods North America President Íarlaith Smyth and R4 Services CEO Trisha Rooney. Register here.

TUESDAY’s ANSWER: Congrats to Matthew Beaudet and Ed Mazur for correctly answering that John Alexander Logan was a congressman who switched parties during the Civil War, becoming a Republican senator.

TODAY’s QUESTION: Who were the three future presidents all stationed in Dixon’s Ferry, Ill., (now Dixon), during the Black Hawk War? Email [email protected]

Former House Speaker Michael Madigan, 43rd Ward Committeeperson Lucy Moog, The Strategy Group’s Pete Giangreco, Allison+Partners senior account exec Abbey Schubert, Odelson & Sterk election attorney Ross Secler and political commentator and former Clinton White House aide Laura Schwartz.


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April 19, 2023 at 08:20AM

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