Prospect of an Amazon HQ makes for strange bedfellows
May 20th, 2018
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner might bicker about the budget, but their aides are besties.
“I think the media wants to churn things up and make it look like we can’t get along, but we really work very well together. We talk frequently,” Leslie Munger, the governor’s point person to lure Amazon to Chicago, said about working with Chicago Deputy Mayor Robert Rivkin.
Ditto says Rivkin. “We work arm and glove.”
The two political opposites have found much in common as they prepared the proposal to showcase Chicago to Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos.
In preparing the RFP for Amazon, Munger and Rivkin said it was a matter of “all hands on deck” and ignoring the politics that can get in the way of decision-making. Amazon is looking at Chicago as a possible site for its second headquarters, and Munger, Rivkin and their teams want it bad.
Since touring the city, Munger and Rivkin have answered follow-up questions from Amazon, but it’s been radio silence from the company ever since. That hasn’t kept Munger and Rivkin from keeping in touch.
“We’re ready to fully ramp up again as soon as we hear something from Amazon,” Munger told me. “Until then, there is a low level of activity that continues.”
Chicago has the housing, the transit capabilities and the talent–“everything they need,” said Munger, the former Republican state comptroller. “If we had better financials in the state, I think we could be a shoo-in.”
Added Rivkin: “No comment.”
THE QUEEN’S PAD: Some Chicagoans celebrated the wedding of Prince Harry and Northwestern University grad Meghan Markle at the British consul’s residence in Chicago–affectionately called “the Queen’s pad.”
“I grew up admiring Diana and the work she did with children who had AIDS. Now you see Meghan–this strong, African American woman,” guest Aisha Noble said, referring to Harry’s late mom. Noble, pictured here with her husband, hung on every wedding detail that highlighted Markle’s ethnicity–from the dreadlocks worn by her Markle’s mom, Doria Ragland, to the African-American choir, minister and cellist. “So elegant. And such a lovely service.”
Check out my on-the-scene story in Chicago magazine.
EMANUEL POKES AT TRUMP: The Nature Conservancy of Illinois‘ gala was a perfect place for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to take a few swipes at President Donald Trump‘s record on the environment.
“Just because the United States government under this administration will step back on climate change and environmental protections, we will collectively step forward,” the mayor told the high-end crowd gathered at Northerly Island.
He called on them to “keep up the fight, especially when you have an EPA doing everything it can to undermine our environmental protections.”
Though Emanuel didn’t call out former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who was in the house, he did throw some shade, saying green space in the city has grown under his administration.
Attendees included Sterling Bay exec Keating Crown and his wife, Caroline; Northern Trust’s Mamadou Sarr and entrepreneur Catherine Sarr; Kinship Capital’s Ethan Meers and event co-chair Coco Meers; Mars exec Flip Block and event co-chair Susu Block; landscape architect Ted Haffner and event co-chair Mirja Haffner; and former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman and his wife, Vicki. Heyman previously worked at Goldman Sachs & Co. with Michelle Carr, who is now Illinois director of the Conservancy.
ECONOMIC FORESIGHT: Sally Schwartz knew the West Loop was cool long before the rest of us.
The Randolph Street Market, which she created 15 years ago, kicks off the summer season May 26-27.
Schwartz was a party planner searching for vintage furniture and art when she started the scrappy street fair. “I didn’t want to schlep out to the cornfields to find a broad selection (of props) or go to London or Paris flea markets,” she said.
The first two years of the market were held inside the private basketball gym where Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen practiced.
In those early years it could be challenge working with vendors and building a following. When the 2008 stock market crashed, Schwartz worried the fair might go under.
But it survived and has thrived.
“I had no idea how long it would take (to build). I kept hearing three to five years but it’s taken much longer,” she said. “Slow and steady wins the race.”
The fair has had its drama, too, including an FBI sting that once busted a dealer for selling counterfeit Elvis Presley memorabilia.
OBAMA IN THE HOUSE: When you invite your friend over and then everyone else comes, too. Yeah, that’s what happened in Hyde Park the other day.
Chicago businessman Marty Nesbitt played host to former President Barack Obama and of course everyone showed up.
Spotted dropping were Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Ariel Investments CEO John Rogers Jr., Mesirow Financial CEO Richard Price, Alderman Danny Solis (25th), former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, former Democratic National Committee fundraiser Jordan Kaplan and Susan Sher, a senior adviser to the University of Chicago’s president and the head of the group that campaigned to bring Obama’s library to the South Side;
NORA’S NEXT BIG THING: Nora Daley is helping kick off a year-long initiative to showcase design in Chicago.
The Art Design Chicago project is headed by Terra Foundation for American Art, for which Daley is vice chair. The initiative will feature more than 30 exhibitions, some scholarly publications, oral histories, a documentary and public programs. There’s even a plan for a giant block party.
A few projects have already gone public, including a photography and film exhibition at the Art Institute that details artists who practiced in Chicago from the 1950s through the 1970s.
Next month, an exhibition organized by Theaster Gates will feature “A Johnson Publishing Story” at the Stoney Island Arts Bank on Chicago’s South Side (that runs June 28-Sept. 30).
“It’s about getting people to come together and talk about what they’ve seen or heard. We’re lucky to be in Chicago, where everyone works so collaboratively and artists are the anchors,” Daley said during a City Club panel. Joining her were Terra President and CEO Elizabeth Glassman, history author Thomas Dyja and arts educator Jacqueline Terrassa.
TURNING A PAGE AT ISFA: The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority is getting its groove back.
ISFA, as it’s called, is the city-state agency that manages Guaranteed Rate Field.
It’s hired Greg Bedalov as CEO. He’s the former executive director of the Illinois Toll Highway Authority, where he oversaw the early stages of the $4 billion Central Tri-State Tollway reconstruction.
Bedalov has hit the ground running, according Chicago attorney and ISFA board Chairman Manny Sanchez. “We are the beneficiaries of Greg’s energy, intellect, and business acumen. Greg’s excellent credentials in the public and private sector bode well for a very successful career at ISFA,” he told me in an email.
It’s a new chapter for ISFA after a rough year.
In 2017, ISFA tried putting on a music show but lost more than $1 million when it failed to sell enough tickets to cover the music acts. Former ISFA CEO Anthony O’Neill was pushed out. You can read the details in my investigation, here.
The agency has been recovering financially, having to make up for the loss from the concert, according to notes from the agency’s most recent board meeting. ISFA has an annual budget of about $60 million — most of it coming from Chicago hotel tax revenues. The city and state also each give the agency $5 million a year.
According to the board’s notes, hotel revenue for the first quarter was 4.7 percent above the 2018 budget.