Opinions Differ on Chicago's Convention "Crisis"

Leaders offer differing proposals on how to rescue city convention business

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    flikr/mateofiero
    A shot of McCormick center.

    When it comes to Chicago's convention business, there's agreement that it's currently in crisis.  What's not clear is what to do about it.

    Mayor Daley and Governor Quinn announced new legislation Monday afternoon proposing to give convention officials more control over labor rules and weakening the trade unions that currently dominate the convention center's operation. 

    But members of a state House committee balked at the idea and instead proposed dumping the current convention board in favor of a smaller temporary panel.

    The pitch made by Daley and Quinn would make Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which owns and operates McCormick Place and Navy Pier, a public employer and would make all of its contractors public employees. That would prohibit strikes against the complex.

    It would also allow the authority to restructure its debt schedule.

    "We have a clear choice -- leave things the way they are, or do more," Daley said at City Hall. "We are changing the way we do business at McPier...This is like a crisis -- the fireworks will go off."

    House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie agreed there's a crisis.  A "crisis of management," she said.

    "It’s time for a little new broom, a little sweep clean," Currie said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "If they can convince us that it makes economic sense to extend the taxes or extend their borrowing power, well, we have the opportunity to come back and do it."

    "But I don’t think that we want to -- nor do I think we should -- write a blank check," Currie said.

    Pressure has been building to overhaul the convention business since late last year, when three trade shows left the city in favor of cheaper and thus more attractive cities.

    Many of the exhibitors expressed shock over McPier's exorbitant electrical service costs and exclusive food service contracts.

    'We have to have a team effort," said Gov. Quinn. "We have to work with our men and women in labor."