Chicago has a “compelling, compelling story to tell” about why it’s the right choice to host the 2024 Democratic National Convention — despite its international reputation as a haven for violent crime, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday.
A day after joining the Democratic heavyweight team from Illinois that publicized its interest in hosting the convention, Lightfoot took on the role of Chicago cheerleader. The only things missing were the pom poms.
She argued that Chicago is “ideally situated” to host its first political convention since 1996 and has the “strength and good faith” that Democrats want and need: an abundance of hotel rooms; an array of restaurants that are the envy of the culinary world; and unparalleled arts and culture.
The Democratic National Committee has yet to release the specific criteria for interested convention towns. But Lightfoot is certain that Chicago has “got it all.”
Mentioning Wintrust Arena, the site of its 2019 grand opening, Lightfoot said the city has “expanded the offerings exponentially” since the near-perfect, perfect 1996 Democratic National Convention at the United Center that exorcised the demons of 1968.
“I think we have a very good, compelling story to tell — and a compelling story — that Chicago is the right choice, outside of all the amenities we can offer,” the mayor said.
“I will also say that we are a really fun city in the summer.”
Chicago closed the book on 2021 with 836 homicides, the highest total in a quarter century. Despite gradual progress, shootings, carjackings and armed robberies continue at disturbing levels. The carjackings go through the roof.
Meanwhile, Chicago police officers are retiring en masse. Dozens of officers took jobs in the suburbs or in other states.
The Chicago Police Department is reduced to 11,730 sworn officers. In January 2019, it had 13,353.
On Thursday, Lightfoot was asked how she would convince her fellow Democrats to return to Chicago as the city grapples with violent crime and a carjacking spree that has some motorists afraid to drive alone — not just at night, but also day.
She responded by talking about “the progress we’re making” and that Chicago isn’t alone.
“The truth is that all major American cities — and certainly those run by Democratic mayors — face the same kind of challenges that we face,” Lightfoot said.
“I’m happy to report that at the end of the quarter, we’re down in shootings. We’re down in homicides. And we’re down in carjackings. Not enough. Not enough, I hasten to add. But we are making real and meaningful progress.
Ald town center. Brian Hopkins (2nd) served as White House transportation coordinator for the 1996 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
In the days before Uber and Lyft, Hopkins oversaw a fleet of 25 Chevrolet SUVs parked at the Sheraton Chicago in Streeterville that ferried VIPs to and from the United Center. He worked from a “special guest list compiled by the White House”.
“I have fond memories of how well this event was handled. Even the weather. We had two perfect weeks of weather in August 1996. I remember people saying Chicago had a great weather. Of course, I’d agree with them and secretly laugh at myself, like, ‘If only they knew,'” Hopkins said.
“It felt like heaven was smiling on us for this particular event. We really took advantage of it in terms of promoting Chicago’s image internationally. It’s not a guarantee that it will happen again. But certainly, the opportunity would be there if we got it right.
Hopkins said he was all for making another run at hosting the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, even though 1996 will be hard to replicate.
“If we really focus on putting on a perfect event on the international stage, it can only help at this time as we struggle to get conventions and trade shows back. As we talk about the impact of a possible casino on tourism, having a national convention could help with that,” Hopkins said.
“In 1996, we purged the ghost and stigma of the 1968 convention. If we were to have another one, we could really shake things up in terms of Chicago’s international reputation.
Aldus. Walter Burnett (27th), whose neighborhood includes the United Center, said the 1996 convention “cleaned up the city” and made the West Loop and Fulton Market “what it is today.”
“It’s great for tourism. It highlights the city,” he said.
“And it would really make people see the best parts of Chicago, instead of the bad things they read in the paper. [and see] on the television.”