By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) — The Cubs saw this coming, and don’t seem worried about it one bit.
There has been no official comment from the parties after the filing of a lawsuit by a subset of Wrigley rooftop owners against Chicago’s Landmark Commission that unanimously approved sweeping changes to the stadium — nothing from city attorneys, the spokesman for the ever-shifting association of rooftop-business owners, or the baseball club.
But sources close to the situation tell 670 The Score that the Cubs believe this suit is a “non-event,” and plan to forge ahead with the start of the renovation plan that was green-lighted last month.
Don’t expect any public statements from the Cubs, particularly since they are not being sued and are merely an interested party to this complaint. The team views this move as a Hail Mary – a last-gasp act of desperation by a dwindling number of holdouts among what was once a more united opposition.
Any idea of a cohesive organization of rooftop owners is long gone, split by fractious debate and conflicting financial interests as events have unfolded. Some want to sell out and be done with it, some have views that would remain unobstructed and stand to come out winners, a few don’t have the stomach or deep pockets for a protracted legal effort, and a few just want to fight to their death on principle.
We are told that even the current suit that lists eight plaintiffs is truly driven by only two or three, with the others agreeing to be added for the appearance of heft, if not to share equally in the costs. Notable in her absence is Beth Murphy, long one of the most vocal and public of the owners decrying the Cubs and the city.
If the case is not tossed out preliminarily and actually proceeds to a judge’s decision, legal experts tell 670 The Score that an injunction to halt construction is possible, but not probable. For such relief to be granted, plaintiffs must show clearly that there is no other remedy available and that they have a likelihood of success on the merits: both long-shots in a case involving a potentially negotiable financial settlement and an unprecedented attempt to retroactively invalidate the unanimous decision of a governmental body with such narrow, specific powers.
In the many weeks of failed negotiations that led to the Cubs finally pushing all-in with their ambitious re-design plans despite the threat of litigation, the rooftop owners were told in detail that any legal action would be both prohibitively expensive against far wealthier foes and unlikely to ultimately succeed. It appears that the decision not to sue the Cubs directly indicates an understanding of the futility of that option, now, with the team in the clear per their rights granted by the commission’s approval.
So the only other option was to go after the legality of the approval itself.
Since the Cubs are observing from the side, there would be no motivation for them to offer any concessions at this point – either a scale-back of signage or a payoff. This is now back to Rahm Emanuel, said to be even more furious about this continued bickering than he is in his regular, resting state of fury. This is the last thing the embattled mayor needs right now, and he has made it clear to all parties that he’s had enough, and this needs to proceed.
Now it’s up to his lawyers more than anyone else to make that happen.