Think of it as a rain delay — a chance for everyone involved to cool off and regroup. There’s no need to barrel ahead with this deal.
The General Assembly doesn’t have time to worry about Wrigley Field. The state needs Medicaid reform so it can balance a budget. It needs pension reform so its retirees and its taxpayers can avoid a financial implosion. Illinois’ finances are in free fall, and the average taxpayer isn’t exactly feeling flush.
This is not a particularly good year to talk about spending public money on a private sports franchise. If that’s what this deal is. The biggest problem with the plan to revamp Wrigley is that there is no plan. At least, no plan for the public to digest.
All reasonable points — except that there’s absolutely zero sign that any delay will enable a fuller public airing of the Wrigley plan finances, since any discussion of that is still taking place behind closed doors. I’d normally say that this would give journalists a chance to delve into the details of the deal, but so far, not so much — even the Chicago Reader, which has done such excellent work on TIF financing in the past, has limited itself to one tongue-in-cheek column saying that if Emanuel is going to throw taxpayer money at the Cubs, they should at least show that they can win some games first.
The other supposed upside of this “rain delay” is that it’ll give Emanuel the leverage to strike a harder bargain with the Cubs owners, something the Sun-Times theorized last week. It’s hard to see why, though: It’s not like Joe Ricketts’ anti-Obama campaigning has hurt the Cubs’ standing with anybody but the mayor himself, and he doesn’t need any leverage to talk himself into driving a hard bargain.
The only upside here, from a protecting-the-public-purse perspective, looks to be that if the likes of the Chicago Tribune editorial board — whose corporate bosses still retain a 5% stake in the Cubs — are now arguing that there’s no rush to renovate Wrigley, maybe that will help create a political climate to give Emanuel more backup for holding the line with the Rickettses. It’s a thin thread of hope, but the papers have to have something to write about, if they’re not going to get up from their desks and actually try to report on whether the finances of a Wrigley renovation could work.