It’s too late to put the brakes on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to turn Chicago’s most iconic roadways into a 12-turn, 2.2-mile showcase next July for the first street course race in NASCAR’s 75-year history — an event that will tie up part of Grant Park for two weeks.
But downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) wants to make certain it never happens again — at least, not without local alderpersons being notified, and the City Council approving it.
At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Reilly made good on his promise to rein in the virtually unbridled power the mayor now has to sign off on large special events that take over parks for days or weeks at a time, block Chicago roadways and generally inconvenience local residents.
The ordinance would require a City Council order for any athletic event or special event that:
• Allows the closure of a state route, an arterial street or more than four blocks of any other public way.
• Requires closing any portion of the public way for more than 24 consecutive hours.
• Or, is reasonably anticipated to have more than 10,000 attendees.
Events with more than 10,000 spectators would be further required to have a council-approved permit agreement that spells out the obligations of the permit holder or sponsor to restore public property, reimburse city costs and indemnify the city.
The ordinance would “strengthen and standardize” aldermanic review for all types of athletic and special events, even those that would not trigger a council order.
In an email to the Sun-Times, Reilly said the ordinance would “restore the balance of power” between the executive and legislative branch and ensure “high attendance special events like NASCAR, the NFL Draft, Lollapalooza and others are reviewed and approved by City Council.”
Recently, “we’ve seen the Executive Branch choose to unilaterally approve major special events that impact hundreds of thousands of city residents — without any feedback or buy-in from the local aldermen,” Reilly wrote.
“This ordinance will end the Executive Branch’s unilateral control over these events and bring far more transparency and debate over these major events that impact our neighborhoods, our public safety and our city budget.”
Reilly and at least three colleagues — Brian Hopkins (2nd), Pat Dowell (3rd) and Sophia King (4th) — have complained they were kept in the dark before the mayor announced the NASCAR race — something Lightfoot has denied.
They hardened their opposition after the Chicago Park District acknowledged the permit agreement for “non-race event activities” associated with the NASCAR Cup Series allows the organizer to occupy part of Grant Park for 14 days — from June 22 to July 5, 2023.
The Chicago Park District defined the “event footprint” as Roosevelt Road north to Randolph Street, and Michigan Avenue east to DuSable Lake Shore Drive. Park District officials vowed to work with the organizers to ensure public access during the event is “minimally impacted.”
The mayor has insisted it won’t be a total shutdown.
“Obviously, there’s a buildup or takedown period for things like Lolla, for things like what will happen with NASCAR,” the mayor has said, referring the annual Lollapalooza music festival.
But is not accurate, she added, to claim…