Another gas giveaway: Willie Wilson details plans for $1 million in free fuel at Chicago-area stations

The last gas giveaway Wilson held caused traffic jams and was criticized by some as a publicity stunt. But Wilson said people will criticize him no matter what, so “I say let them criticize me for doing good.”

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Businessman and Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson discusses his plans to give away more free gasoline this week. Joining Wilson at the news conference was former Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (left). Boykin said they have met with the Chicago Police Department, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the office of Mayor Lori Lightfoot to ensure a smooth giveaway process.

After paying for $200,000 in gasoline distributed at 10 locations last Thursday, Willie Wilson announced Tuesday he would expand to 48 stations giving away a total of $1 million in gas this Thursday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Businessman and mayoral candidate Willie Wilson is gearing up to pump $1 million worth of gas into the cars of Chicagoans and says the traffic jams his last effort caused won’t be repeated.

“I’m one to believe that if you have an extra dollar that you can spare, we must reach out and help others,” Wilson said at a news conference Tuesday. “We are going to do a lot more this year. Let’s hope these gas prices come down because if they don’t come down, we are going to have to reach in our pockets some more.”

This Thursday, Wilson will pay to pump $50 worth of gas into cars at 48 different stations in the Chicago and nearby suburbs. It will begin at 7 a.m., with lines expected to form well before that. Wilson said for a complete list of participating gas stations people should check his Facebook profile.

WIlson’s giveaway last week triggered blocks-long traffic jams and was condemned widely for doing more harm than good.

But Wilson said he takes such criticism in stride because whether people do good or bad, they will be criticized.

“I say let them criticize me for doing good,” Wilson said.

Wilson spoke to reporters inside his 49th-floor Loop condominium, overlooking Lake Michigan. He was joined with former Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin.

Boykin said Wilson’s team has worked in tandem with Chicago police and the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications to make sure there will be no repeat of those traffic jams. Cook County sheriff’s deputies also will be at each suburban location.

A spokeswoman with OEMC said they are coordinating with Wilson and the Chicago Police Department to “provide city and department resources to alleviate traffic congestion and ensure public safety during his gas giveaway.”

Motorists are discouraged from lining up overnight, Boykin said. About a half-hour or so before the giveaway starts is preferred, he added. Instructions on lining up will be provided at each site and on Wilson’s Facebook page, Boykin said.

“There will be one way into the station and one way out,” Boykin said. “We encourage all of the citizens who are around these gas stations to please have a little patience and to plan for what may be a big turnout of people in your neighborhood. So we encourage you to plan for that in advance.”

Last Thursday’s $200,000 was given away at 10 stations in the city, tying up traffic and police for hours during the morning commute. There were scattered reports over police radio of people cutting in line and arguing, but no major confrontations were reported by police and fire officials.

However, some complained Wilson created hazardous traffic tie-ups for a publicity stunt. Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) called the giveaway at a station in Rogers Park “irresponsible and reckless.”

The city does not require a business license or permit to host gas giveaways, despite the deployment of police to control lines of cars.

Contributing: Pat Nabong

Businessman and Chicago mayoral candidate Dr. Willie Wilson, meeting with reporters at his Loop condominium, discusses how he plans to give away $1 million worth of free gas at 50 stations around Cook County on Thursday, March 24, 2022.

Businessman and Chicago mayoral candidate Dr. Willie Wilson, meeting with reporters at his Loop condominium, discusses how he plans to give away $1 million worth of free gas at 50 stations around Cook County on Thursday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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