Economist: NATO/G8 Summits Could Be A Disaster

CHICAGO (CBS) — A University of Chicago economist says Antarctica or Guam would be better places than Chicago for the upcoming G8 and NATO summits, now scheduled for mid-May in the Windy City.

Economist Allen Sanderson often questions large scale government subsidies for sports venues like Soldier Field for the Bears and U.S. Cellular Field for the White Sox. In the case of the NATO and G8 summits, Sanderson says there’s a lot of downside for the city’s reputation and little upside in the way of economic development.

“It’s just a potential disaster,” Sanderson said. “Again, I hope it’s not. I hope things go really well and the city gets a real positive spin from it, but if you were betting in Las Vegas, you’d bet that’s not going to be the outcome.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

The city says security precautions will cost $65 million, to be picked up by private donors and the federal government.

Sanderson says the summits are expected to attract 7,000 dignitaries and their security forces, as well tens of thousands of demonstrators. He says the timing couldn’t be worse, coming as it does, in the springtime.

“If the events were held in February … in Chicago there would be far fewer protests than (if they) were held in May. I mean, everybody, the Occupy folks will come out of hibernation by then,” Sanderson said.

Sanderson says daily battles between police and demonstrators could give Chicago a serious black eye as did the Democratic National Convention of 1968.

If the summits went off trouble-free, that could indeed burnish Chicago’s reputation, but Sanderson said if he had to put money on it, he’d bet against that happening.

Sanderson says the delegates won’t be doing much for the Chicago economy other than hotels and restaurants for the days they’re here.

But he says violent demonstrations and police reactions could easily outweigh the benefits.

Sanderson recommends the two summits be held somewhere far away, mentioning Kansas, Guam or the Antarctica as possible locations.

“Guam, the Canary Islands, Antarctica; someplace where people could meet in peace,” Sanderson said.

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