Tunney Caught Telling Truth

Wrigleyville vendor ban not about public safety

Add North Side Ald. Tom Tunney to the list of pols who say one thing in public and another behind closed doors.

Tunney has said he wants to ban vendors and street performers from the blocks surrounding Wrigley Field because they pose a "public safety" problem - an absurd premise to begin with.

But in a closed-door meeting he kept reporters out of, he admitted his real motivation was to protect standing businesses in the area from competition.

"We don't necessarily need people coming in ... and then doing whatever they want to do in the community and then leaving the community," Tunney said, according to a recording provided to the Tribune. "There are other businesses here that have vested interests 365 days a year that have worked hard and they want to protect their business."

One might suggest that it's not Tunney's job to protect those vested interests -- or to assume that vendors are not from the area.

"We paid for our vendors permits," artist Paul Ashack told ABC7. "We bought product, stock piled our stuff and a lot of people depend on this as their income.

Neighborhood activist Charlotte Newfeld suggested that the city "widen the sidewalks around Wrigley. If you want crowds not to be in the streets, you have to have wide pedestrian sidewalks."

But it's not about the sidewalks. It's about business owners like Grant DePorter, president of Harry Caray's.

"People coming in from out of town," DePorter complained to ABC7, "they go to a Cubs game and all of a sudden they're listening to somebody whacking something for eight hours. It gives people migraines."

Really? You'd think if that was the case so many people wouldn't keep coming back.

But again, that's a dodge from the real issue, as Tunney has now acknowledged.

According to the Tribune, Tunney was asked how he would like it if someone sold cinammon rolls on the street outside his Ann Sather's restaurant.

Well, if he lived up to the pledge he made during his first campaign, Tunney would no longer own Ann Sather's because of the obvious conflict-of-interest in owning a business in the ward where he is alderman.

But besides that, he should like it just fine. After all, Harry Caray's opened next to a lot of existing bars and restaurants and they didn't try to ban it.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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