campaigning with a smile (Barack Obama in Austin #3)
Originally uploaded by jmtimages.
Chicago is expected to hold its biggest party in memory on election night, with Barack Obama as the guest of honour, in Grant Park, a green expanse separating the city's downtown from Lake Michigan.
And as with all festivities, someone will have to clean up.
With the city facing a massive budget shortfall, the wealthy Obama campaign has agreed to foot the estimated $2m bill for security and cleanup following the campaign's election night rally in the 319-acre park.
The city expects at least 70,000 revellers to attend the rally and hear what could be Obama's victory speech. The crowd could be even larger: Obama drew 100,000 in St Louis last week, and Chicago is the senator's hometown. He remains enormously popular here, and polls show him ahead in Illinois by as many as 30 percentage points.
"In addition to the normal permit fees paid for park rentals, the campaign is already making arrangements to assure that city resources are not used to clean up the park following the event," Obama campaign spokesman Justin DeJong told the Chicago Tribune. "The campaign is also paying for substantial private security and [emergency medical] services to limit the need for city services surrounding the event."
Rally-goers will likely have to endure long lines at metal detectors and have their possessions searched, as has been typical of Obama events since the winter. The US secret service and the Chicago police are likely to head up security efforts on election night, with Chicago fire fighters, sanitation workers and emergency medical crews also participating. The city will also provide extra buses and trains to get people to and from the rally.
"We're very excited to be able to host their campaign here in Chicago," said Jennifer Martinez, spokeswoman for the Chicago office of emergency management and communications. "This is his hometown, and we're excited to show yet again an example of how Chicago can hold these large-scale events".
She compared preparations for the event to those for Pope John Paul II's 1979 open-air mass in Grant Park.
Chicago mayor Richard Daley said at a press conference yesterday that cleanup and security costs for the festivities could run as high as $2m. The city is facing a $469m budget shortfall, and Daley has proposed laying off 929 municipal workers and cutting city services.
The Obama campaign, meanwhile, is flush with cash, having raised a
record-breaking $150m in September.
"This is not a presidential visit. This is a political event and they've agreed to pay for all those services - all the expenses of that," Daley said yesterday. "It's costly, but they raised quite a bit of money. There's no [shortage] of money in that campaign".
Asked if he would attend the rally, Daley answered, "Why not?"
Grant Park, known as Chicago's "front yard", hosts concerts and festivals during the summer months, so the city is used to packing in crowds. The site was also the base for masses of protestors during the 1968 Democratic convention.