Chicago asking Congress for big boost in federal dollars for 2024 DNC security costs

Security plans will be developed by Chicago and Milwaukee with the Department of Homeland Security and related agencies for the Democratic and Republican conventions.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks about the effort to win the bid for the convention during a press conference at Shedd Aquarium, Wednesday, April 12, 2023.

Democratic leaders were elated earlier this month when Chicago was chosen as the site of their party’s 2024 national convention. State and local officials, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson were among those speaking at a celebratory news conference at the Shedd Aquarium.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

WASHINGTON — The city of Chicago is obliged to provide “at no cost” to the Democratic National Convention Committee “police, fire, security, bomb disposal, emergency and rescue service and all other goods or services related to security” according to the contract, obtained by the Sun-Times.

Now, Illinois lawmakers, led by U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., are asking Congress for a big boost in federal cash sent to host cities to help cover costs for next year’s gathering.

The city was announced earlier this month as host of the Democratic convention, scheduled for Aug. 19-22, 2024. Milwaukee hosts the Republican convention in July.

Security plans will be developed by the convention cities, along with the Department of Homeland Security and other related local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The Democratic and Republican presidential conventions are each routinely designated as a National Special Security Event. That opens the door to substantial federal funding. Presidential inaugurations have the same designation, as did the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago.

Since 2004, host cities receive $50 million in federal funds to help pay security costs. Congress is being asked to boost this to $75 million each for Chicago and Milwaukee.

Quigley, D-Ill., is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and the Illinois lead in asking Congress for more cash. In a letter to House and Senate appropriations leaders, he wrote that “the City of Chicago anticipates the current federal funding of $50 million will not be adequate” for the 2024 convention, “due to inflation, potential supply chain issues, increased public safety personnel and equipment needs and increased insurance costs because of potential security threats.”

The funding, Quigley continued, “is vital to supporting the designated local law enforcement agencies” during the convention.

The letter is expected to be signed by most of the Democrats in the Illinois delegation.

The contract was obtained from the city by the Sun-Times via a Freedom of Information request.

It was signed April 12 by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison and Michael Sacks, president of the host committee entity created to bankroll the city’s bid for the convention.

Other contract highlights:

• The city will expedite all permits and other permissions needed to build out the convention and produce related activities, such as parades and other “public gatherings.”

• On the security costs, the deal is this: the city will not be expected to spend more than it usually does to police “normal operations for major events.” It is contemplated the extra expenses will be covered by federal grants and by the money that would flow to the city under the National Special Security Event designation.

• If that still doesn’t cover everything, the Host Committee “shall be obligated either to directly pay for or to reimburse the City” for the extra security costs.

• This is where Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker comes in, though his name does not appear in the contract. Pritzker, a billionaire, has pledged to help cover extra convention costs.

• The contract outlines some of the special security needs: for police escorts to deliver credentials to state delegations and media at their hotels and lots of extra security at convention hotels and convention offices and all kinds of screening equipment for weapons and bombs at convention venues.

• The master contract states a separate agreement will be made with the CTA for buses to be used during the convention. If the CTA can’t provide them, the host committee must find buses and foot the bill. And yes, the buses must be air-conditioned.

• The city cannot use anyone not paid the minimum wage. That includes people working for contractors.

• The COVID pandemic forced most of the 2020 Democratic convention — in Milwaukee — to be virtual. The contract says the city of Chicago “shall make” efforts to be able to cancel contracts “as necessary for public health considerations.”

• The city agreed in the contract to run all Freedom of Information requests by the DNCC and keep everything “in the strictest confidence” except as “required by FOIA.”

• The city agreed in the contract to limit its communications with members of the press “without express prior approval of the DNCC” and the city “shall promptly identify all queries from the press, in whatever form or circumstances they are made, to the DNCC communications staff.”

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