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The 2015 Chicago Auto Show. | Al Podgorski / Sun-Times Media

Auto show doesn’t get taxpayer handout

SHARE Auto show doesn’t get taxpayer handout
SHARE Auto show doesn’t get taxpayer handout

The recent Watchdogs story “Chicago Auto Show gets 30% off sticker price at McCormick Place” used the timing of the Chicago Auto Show and a poorly played analogy to inaccurately portray the show as getting a handout from taxpayers. The characterization couldn’t be further from the truth.

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The trade show industry is vital to Chicago’s economy. In 2010, the Illinois Legislature passed reforms at McCormick Place that included money to keep and attract shows, as your story accurately pointed out. That McCormick Place uses the fund for its intended purpose is hardly newsworthy. Lumping the Chicago Auto Show into the story, when we don’t even benefit from the fund, is just plain wrong.

This year, for the Chicago Auto Show’s 107th edition, we rented the facility for 25 days and received no “discount.” Last year McCormick Place gave us one day rent-free during our move-out period as the 6 miles of truss lighting that hangs over the auto show floor was removed from the building. This was a concession we negotiated when the facility changed its business model for electrical labor. The new model caused our rent to increase by $126,000. One other source of your reporters’ confusion may have been the use for a few hours of an empty hall where we stage an event during the show’s media preview.

The Chicago Auto Show is one of the best customers in the convention center’s history, using the facility every year of McCormick Place’s existence. We pay our rent on time and in full. We rent 1 million square feet in one of the city’s most difficult months to attract visitors, and that makes our consistent business all the more valuable. Consider the hundreds of thousands of consumers who flock to our popular show every year, 24 percent of whom come from outside Cook and the collar counties. During our media preview, reporters and auto industry officials attend the show from across the country and around the world.

Not mentioned is First Look for Charity, the black-tie preview of the show that has raised more than $40 million for local charities in its 24-year history. Our association of new-car dealers annually underwrites the event.

To be sure, the Chicago Auto Show is a highlight on the city’s calendar and generates a huge economic impact for the region in an otherwise dreary month. Our show puts hundreds of trade show labor to work, and they do an incredible job building our show from a bare floor to the finished product in 10 days. It is difficult to measure the show’s true impact because it doesn’t end when the show closes. Last year, Foresight Research measured that 55 percent of attendees planned to buy a car in the following 12 months. Since taxing entities in Illinois make more money on the sale of an automobile than car dealers do, that adds up to a tidy sum.

David E. Sloan, general manager, Chicago Auto Show, president, Chicago Automobile Trade Association

More education cuts

Illinois cut education spending by a greater percentage than any other state in 2012. In 2013, it was third-worst in cuts per student, and now Gov. Bruce Rauner is planning cuts to higher education.

Meanwhile, our system of taxes hits low-income families the hardest. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy named us one of the 10 “Most Regressive State Tax Systems,” with the third-highest “Taxes on the Poor.” Yet if just 20 large Illinois companies had paid state taxes at the required statutory rate over the past five years, billions of dollars would have come back to the state. Instead, they’ve paid a little over 2 percent, about a third of their required tax.

The governor doesn’t talk about any of this.

Paul Buchheit, Edison Park

Leave parks alone

Without doubt, the plan to build a museum on park land would set a dangerous precedent.

The plan to build the Children’s Museum in Grant Park was met with immediate opposition. The response to the opposition by the proponents was: “It would be just this one time. How often does a museum developer come along, let alone anyone who wishes to build in a park?”

Well, apparently, quite a few.

Kathie Newhouse, Hyde Park

Schock scandal

Jesse Jackson Jr. went to jail for doing exactly the same things as Aaron Schock.

M. Miller, Plainfield

A Minoso memory

It was Sept. 22, 1959. This 14-year-old Sox fanatic could barely breathe watching the White Sox try to clinch their first pennant in 40 years, and bury the shame of the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

With the Sox ahead 2-1 in the sixth, Al Smith, for whom the Sox traded Minoso to Cleveland before the ’58 season, lofted a long fly to left. Minoso, drifted back and leaped at the wall to make an apparent catch. But the ball hit his glove and dropped into waiting bare hands for a home run and the clincher in the joyous 4-2 triumph.

Minnie had played a literal hand in the Sox one and only pennant during his five decades in the Big Show. I recalled that game because of the tragic news of Minoso’s passing, found dead in his car, returning from celebrating, appropriately enough, a friend’s birthday. And every time I do, my mind’s eye still sees Minnie, head down and talking to his glove, which unwittingly pushed his beloved Sox over the finish line.

Walt Zlotow, Glen Ellyn

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