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Friday, October 24, 2008

Preparing the park for Barack Obama Big Party Election

Chicago Times
The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama sought to allay concerns from Chicago taxpayers and city officials today with promises it would foot the bill for an expansive outdoor rally at the southern end of Grant Park on election night.

Meanwhile, city workers began preparing the park for the event, CLTV reported. A stage was being built near Columbus and Roosevelt Drives and portable heaters were unloaded from trucks, the station said.

But on the question of monetary responsibility, "They have assured us that they're willing to pay," said Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications spokeswoman Jennifer Martinez, adding that the city had yet to hit the total button. "We're still outlining what some of these things will entail."

The U.S. Secret Service--and ultimately federal taxpayers--pays for nearly all the security around Obama. The city and state are likely to bill the campaign for things like street closures, crowd control outside a secure area in Grant Park, help with motorcades and overtime for public safety workers.

"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 said. "The campaign is also paying for substantial private security and EMS [emergency medical] services to limit the need for city services surrounding the event."

In recent days, city emergency management chief Ray Orozco has been working with the Obama campaign to pin down details of the election night rally.

On Wednesday, photographers and officials from local and national news organizations toured the likely spot to plan their own election-night set-ups. Though deep in negotiations with the city, the campaign has yet to file for official permits to hold the event, according to the Chicago Park District.

Finding a way to keep from billing taxpayers for a big private event was key to city officials, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said earlier Wednesday.

"That's what we're talking about. That will be the issue," Daley said when asked about the rally's cost. He spoke at a news conference focusing on property tax relief.

Security around Grant Park will be very high and almost certainly will require fencing to be put up around a secure perimeter. As is the case for concerts and festivals held in the park, some streets in the area likely will be closed.

Details on ticketing have not yet been announced. Attendees likely would face metal detectors and have their possessions searched, just as at all Obama events. The process is similar to going through airport security and can create lines blocks long, as was the case at an Obama event under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis last weekend that attracted an estimated 100,000 people.

In the hours before and during the event, locals should not be surprised to see snipers and security agents with binoculars positioned on the roofs of buildings and other high structures. That often takes place when Obama holds outdoor events.

No part of a presidential campaign is cheap, and as a reminder, the campaign told news outfits Tuesday what they could expect to pay to cover the event:

Access to a 20-amp power outlet would be $165. A spot on the main riser would be $935, as would a table and chair in a heated tent with power, sandwiches, high-speed Internet and a good view of cable television. A covered television platform suitable for network anchors would cost $29,700. Parking a satellite truck would be $990. Many others will cover the event for free with passes that let them stand in the cold.

Even Obama staffers view the event with angst, though for a different reason. They're concerned volunteers in northwest Indiana and southern Wisconsin could be drawn away from get-out-the-vote efforts to join a potentially historic rally in Chicago. That is troubling to a campaign that views both areas as key terrain in battleground states.

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