By Kathy Bergen and Ray Long | The General Assembly’s chief adviser on McCormick Place delivered a
sweeping blueprint for change Friday, calling for privatization of
convention center management and a state-imposed easing of restrictive
and costly show-floor work rules. An interim legislature-appointed
czar would oversee the transformation.
The proposal, if ultimately approved, would lead to the ouster of Juan
Ochoa, chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition
Authority, the state-city agency known as McPier that owns and operates
McCormick Place and Navy Pier. And it would reduce McPier to a
stripped-down caretaker role, reducing its payroll from 400 to somewhere
around 35 or 40 employees.
“Chicago has to show it’s changing the way it does business in the convention and trade show industry in fairly major ways,” said Jim Reilly, the adviser who briefed legislative leaders on his recommendations Friday. “There are half a dozen shows potentially on the bubble and they’re not going to wait … if another five or six left, it’s over for Chicago.”
Reilly’s recommendations will be studied over the weekend by a House-Senate committee co-chaired by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate Pres. John Cullerton, both Chicago Democrats. The panel is expected to propose legislation early next week.
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said she is not prepared to sign off on the measures because no specific legislation has been presented, and she hasn’t talked to her GOP caucus about the issues, said Patty Schuh, Radogno’s spokeswoman.