Warning: You will probably be angry, or at least annoyed, after reading this piece. When I write, I go to painstaking lengths to see both sides of a story, and to represent things in the most even-handed, fairest light. The Cubs aren’t always right, and I try to divorce myself from my fandom when it becomes necessary to do so. The best I can do in that regard today, however, is to say that there is a lot going on behind the scenes with respect to the Wrigley Renovation story, and we aren’t privy to the vast majority of it. Things may not be as they seem.
But if they are as they seem, the Chicago Cubs continue to get screwed by the power drill that is the Chicago political machine.
Earlier this week, the Ricketts Family announced that they’d partnered with the Chicago Athletic Club on plans to bring a state-of-the art facility to the proposed hotel across from Wrigley Field. It’s another job-generating, tax-generating, neighborhood-nicening, swell thing that the renovation plan will provide. It should have been met with, at worst, silence by those who remain discontented about the renovation.
Instead, it was met with a nasty response from each of Mayor Rahm Emanuel (indirectly) and Alderman Tom Tunney (very directly), the two men who hold the political cards necessary for the Chicago Cubs to actually proceed with their plans to renovate Wrigley Field.
First, from the Mayor. The Sun-Times reports that an anonymous “mayoral confidante” – aka, someone in the Mayor’s Office who has strategized together with everyone else in that office about just what they want to say to the media – says the Mayor was unmoved if the athletic club announcement was any kind of pressure tactic. From the confidante: “It didn’t work when the Cubs were demanding public financing and it won’t work now.”
As if the request for public funding and the offer to build a state-of-the-art facility in a very-desirable hotel are the same thing. As if the latter isn’t a good thing for Chicago citizens who live in the Wrigleyville area. As if the request for public funding that would have come from the absurdly high amusement tax on Cubs tickets was so deeply insane in the first place. As if anyone in the political machinery isn’t willing to say the most ridiculous, over-the-top, completely thoughtless, unsophisticated tripe so long as it advances their agenda. And gets them elected or re-elected, of course.
Alderman Tunney’s response was even more self-serving, and even more politically glib. From the Tribune:
Ald. Thomas Tunney, 44th, said Thursday that he would not sign off on a deal unless it included more parking, better police protection and “aesthetic” assurances sought by Wrigleyville residents and businesses — all issues that have yet to be settled.
Reminded that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing for an agreement, in part because the Ricketts family that owns the Cubs is not asking for any government funding, Tunney replied, “Yeah, but it’s not going to be on the backs of my community, sorry.”
The Rickettses have maintained that a deal needs to get done by Opening Day in early April so they can line up the contractors and materials needed to fix up their aging ballpark, but Tunney dismissed that concern.
“You’re talking about one of the wealthiest families in America,” the alderman told a throng of City Hall reporters pressing him on the issue. “End of statement.”
So many noisome bits in two little statements. “Aesthetic” assurances? Yeah, I’m sure it’s the “aesthetics” of the Wrigley renovation that are troubling Tunney and his constituents. How’s that falling concrete treating the folks of the neighborhood? Is it aesthetically pleasing? Tunney does realize that the Chicago Cubs are his largest constituent, right?
And, oh, the Ricketts Family is super wealthy? Oh, ok. Well, then, in that case, they should not be permitted to run their business like any other business in the neighborhood. Grr! Rich people!
And, oh, let’s completely ignore the fact that the business at issue is the one that, historically, has propped up the very neighborhood Tunney seeks to protect.
Which gets me back to even-headedness, and calms me down. We can’t forget – and all sides would be well-reminded – that everyone in this dispute stands to benefit from the Wrigley renovation plan, if done properly. There is still so much incentive to work collaboratively – be it with the political elements, the Cubs, the owners, the rooftops, the other businesses, the neighborhood residents, the fans – that everyone just has to get over the idea that they’re going to get exactly everything they want. It seems to me that the Ricketts Family and the Cubs gave up on the idea that they could get their perfect solution a long time ago. So they bent, considerably.
It’s time for everyone else to start bending, and to stop saying ridiculous things to curry political favor.