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October 2009


Stuffing the Ballot Box, Chicago style

Vote early and often. That was the message sent by the man who runs McCormick Place in an email to an untold number of people asking them to vote in an online poll on whether Orlando should steal away one of Chicago's longest-running conventions.

"Orlando was winning before the Chicago people got involved," said Don Loepp, managing editor of Plastics News, a trade publication for the plastics industry. Loepp and his team knew something was up last Tuesday or Wednesday when responses to their sleepy and unscientific poll increased to record levels. It turns out many of the more than 2,000 responses to the poll were generated by an email blast and LinkedIn post sent by Juan Ochoa, chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which runs McCormick Place and the Chicago Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"One of the largest and longest-running trade shows in Chicago -- NPE: The Plastics Show at McCormick Place -- is considering leaving our city and moving to Orlando in 2012. The City needs your help in keeping this major trade show here," Ochoa wrote. The e-mail also provided a direct link to the Plastics News poll.

The get out the vote effort worked for Chicago, which handily beat Orlando 68%-to-31%. The grand poo-bah of the Plastics News poll says while the vote rigging doesn't bother him, the effort ignored a key reason conventions are fleeing Chicago.

"The number one reason conventions like ours move is because of cost," Loepp said.

Plastics News sent ABC7 a recent letter from an exhibitor at the NPE convention at McCormick Place in June. The exhibitor ordered four cases of pop for his booth. The bill totaled $354.39. Here's the breakdown:

  • $254 for the Pepsi products,
  • a 21% service charge,
  • 10.25% state sales tax,
  • 3% Chicago soft drink tax,
  • a tax on the service charge and a food and beverage tax.
  • Government taxes, the exhibitor said, totaled $38.06.

    "Now, a nice man in a tuxedo delivered the Pepsi, along with a couple of buckets of ice and a few cups," wrote Tim Hanrahan, CEO of Erema North America. "Good service? Sure, but not worth $345.39."

    The four cases of pop could have been purchased for roughly $30 at a local grocery store.

    A spokesperson for McCormick Place defended the steep price for pop. "If you go to a routine vending machine it cost you $1 to $2 to vend a soda bottle and then another $1.50 for staff to deliver to the booth. This price includes receiving, warehouse, staff and delivery," Mary Kay Marquisos wrote in an e-mail to ABC 7. "This charge is not dissimilar to what you would pay at a hotel or another convention center."

    Regardless of the rationale, people in the plastics industry say it's hard to stomach those prices -- not to mention even holding a convention in a pricey town like ours -- at a time when the industry is cutting costs and laying-off workers. Chicago won the online vote, but may very well lose the plastics show.

  • 10/17/2009

    Let the Games Begin!

    This just in...

    Rio gangs shoot down police chopper, 2 cops dead

    RIO DE JANEIRO — A police helicopter flying over an intense shootout between rival drug gangs in a Rio slum was hit by gunfire Saturday and crashed in a fiery explosion on a football field.

    Two officers were killed while the pilot and another officer on board suffered burns but managed to escape, a police spokesman said.

    Bullets flying from the Morro dos Macacos ("Monkey Hill" in Portuguese) slum in northern Rio de Janeiro hit the pilot in the leg as he hovered above the clash, causing him to lose control and crash, turning the helicopter into a blackened wreck.

    Officials said they did not know if somebody targeted the helicopter or if was hit by stray bullets, but the dramatic downing of the helicopter came only two weeks after Rio won the 2016 Olympic games amid major security concerns.

    The official — speaking on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to discuss the event — at first said all four people in the helicopter had escaped alive, but later said two of those aboard had died. The pilot and the other officer who escaped were hospitalized and expected to survive.

    Images broadcast by Globo TV showed the helicopter burning, with little more than charred pieces of wreckage left after the fire was doused.

    Rio police frequently use helicopters to take on gangs that dominate drug trafficking in the city's more than 1,000 slums, but were unable to say whether this was the first time one of their helicopters had been shot down by gangs that use illicit military-grade weapons for combat against their rivals and authorities.

    The crash happened about five miles (eight kilometers) southwest of one of the zones where Rio's 2016 Olympic will be located. The city on Oct. 2 bested Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo for the games. Rio alone among the bid cities was highlighted for security concerns ahead of the International Olympic Committee vote.

    The crash followed firefights that broke out as a gang tried to seize a rival's territory in the slum, authorities said.

    Police moved into the area before dawn, though gunfire continued throughout the day.

    Authorities said they found the bodies of three presumed drug traffickers in a vehicle in the slum, though it was not immediately clear if those homicides were related to the shootout.

    Violence also broke out Saturday in another slum, where television footage showed at least three buses set afire and motorists fleeing for cover from bursts of gunfire by presumed drug traffickers. Police gave no immediate details of those events, though gangs sometimes set buses aflame to protest police operations.

    Despite increased policing efforts, Rio remains one of the world's most dangerous cities. The violence generally is contained within slum areas, though it sometimes spills into posh beach neighborhoods and periodically shuts down the highway that links the international airport to tourist destinations.


    Bid Cost

    Madrid's Mayor revealed today that $55.5 million was spent on the city's failed bid to host the 2016 Summer Games.  $25 million of that amount came from the local tax dollars, the rest from private donations.  To compare, Chicago spent upwards of $48 million, all of it from privately raised funds.  Chicago's final total has not yet been released.  Madrid made it to the final round of voting before being crushed by Rio de Janeiro.  Chicago was eliminated in the first round.


    Madrid bid backer hospitalized

    A key player in Madrid's bid for the 2016 Games (and Chicago's early defeat) has been hospitalized.  Former IOC President Juan Antonion Samaranch gave a speech that esentially asked his IOC colleagues to vote for Madrid so his homeland could host the Games before he died.  First round support for Madrid helped to knock Chicago out of the running.  Rio wound up crushing Madrid in the final round.  And now Mr. Samaranch has been hospitalized after suffering a mild heart attack.


    Topping our news...

    A new name for the "Going for the Games" blog. Chicago's Olympic loss means a new focus for this space: Welcomes to "Notes from the Newsroom."  This is where you'll find the behind-the-scenes tidbits and story-behind-the-story morsels that don't always make it on the air.

    Today I'm working on what's next for the proposed Olympic Village site at Michael Reese Hospital.  Faster than you can "it's Rio," Mayor Daley killed two aldermen's proposal to plant a casino on the site.   

    I'm just back from City Hall where it's not looking likely the 36-acres will become purely a mixed income housing neighborhood as originally planned.  Instead, the Alderman from that Ward suggests an expansion of McCormick Place - or at the very least entertainment and other options that would appeal to convention-goers.  More tonight on ABC 7 News @ 6p.


    Vote tally

    Here's the news in black, white and brutal:

    First round:
    Chicago - 18
    Tokyo - 22
    Rio 26
    Madrid 28

    Second round
    Rio 46
    Madrid 29
    Toyko 20

    Final round
    Rio 66
    Madrid 32

    Nice touch

    The architect of Chicago's bid and venue plan, Doug Arnot, just delivered part of his presentation in French, a tip of the hat to a preferred language of the IOC. 

    Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google also just gave a brief presentation via video pledging to use the power of his company to bring the Olympics to a new generation of young people via cutting edge technology.  

    Fashion faux pas

    The President is not wearing the official "uniform" of the Chicago 2016 team.  His tie doesn't match the others.

    Chicago still has to introduce itself

    Watching the presentation, it's hard not to notice how much time is being sent simply introducing visuals of the city and its people.  That's because Chicago is the new kid on the block... a handful of IOC members have never even been there.  A Chicago 2016 source says the delegation made the decision to bypass talking too much about the technical components of the bid... the assumption being that IOC members already understand an American city will have no problem pulling off the logistics of hosting.

    That last point is a subtle slap at Rio.  Chicago 2016 Chairman Pat Ryan also just told IOC members that they'll want to bring their families to a Chicago Games, they'll be "safe," he said.  Hear that Rio???

    The mood of Chicago's team

    ABC 7 photographer Jim Mastri just returned from capturing images of Chicago's bid team minutes before they entered the presentation room.  Jim reports Mayor Daley was laughing, President Obama greeted the Chicago press corps with a warm "hey guys."  The mood was light-hearted.

    Daley is now presenting.  This is a different Daley than we see in Chicago.  He is well practiced.  Speaking strongly, articulately, with passion and focus.  However, the sweat can be seen glistening off his face. Some things never change.