What to do with G8 funds?

By Vanessa Morton

While the G8 summit was supposed to boost Chicago’s economy and status as a world-class city, not everyone was disappointed by the March 5 announcement of its relocation to presidential retreat Camp David.

Occupy Chicago reacted by holding a “No G8 Victory Party,” at Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St., that evening.

The decision to move the summit is “a direct response to the overwhelming rejection of the summit and the agenda being put forward by these representatives of the global one percent,” according to a statement released by Occupy members.

“We were celebrating because the 1 percent is running scared from the voice of people protesting in the streets,” said Occupy Chicago spokesman Sam Sandnel. “This was a sign that our voices were heard because they had to acknowledge that people are so upset with them and that they wouldn’t be able to land in our city without major, major protests and major outcry against them.”

However, a comment by President Barack Obama during a March 6 press conference refuted the possibility that security concerns were the reason to relocate the Summit to Camp David.

“I always have confidence in Chicago being able to handle security issues. Whether it’s Taste of Chicago or Lollapalooza or Bull’s championships, we know how to deal with a crowd,” he said.

Although Occupy Chicago members were looking forward to having their voices heard, Sandnel said they never really wanted the G8 leaders here to begin with, but he noted that they still fully intend to stage protests during the NATO summit, which was unaffected by the decision.

But victory parties weren’t the only response to the cancellation of the G8 summit, as protests took place at 13 Chicago health clinics currently facing closure

and privatization.

Southside Together Organizing for Power, a social justice organization fighting against the “general lack of attention to the needs of underprivileged communities,” joined together with labor and community members March 6 in rallies around the city.

In an effort to act on its motto, “G8 gone but its agenda is left behind: Clinic closure and privatization is the local face of the G8 agenda,” STOP held press conferences at three mental health clinics: Auburn Gresham, 1104 W. 79th St.; Northtown Rogers Park, 1607 W. Howard St.; and Northwest, 2354 N. Milwaukee Ave.; where members called on the city to reinvest the funds raised for the G8 summit in needed city services.

The funds would ultimately help keep six mental health clinics from closing and avoid the privatization of seven neighborhood health centers, according to Wylie Rogers, STOP member and retired social worker for the Chicago Health Department. He also said it would be an opportunity to create more jobs and improve schools.

“The G8 [summit] is global privatization, and the powers that be are coming together to plan a global privatization and a self-respected city like Chicago should have no part in that, and that goes for NATO, too,” Rogers said. “If anything, we want summits here that talk about how we can deal with the growing needs of a population under great stress.”

The closures and privatization of health centers and clinics are part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2012 budget plan passed last November.

However, Rogers said $3 million of the estimated $60 million raised for the summit should be allocated to save the facilities.

“We didn’t select this course by choice; we tried to negotiate with the mayor, the former mayor and we tried to make it clear to the various commissioners,” Rogers said. “Everybody can recognize that the need is there. That’s not an issue. It’s a typical type of situation, and when times get tight the poor carries the brunt of whatever happens.”

But the amount of funds estimated for the summits is disputed.

According to Jennifer Martinez, G8 and NATO Host Committee spokeswoman, an exact dollar figure has not been finalized but is thought to range from $40 million–$65 million across the board.

Martinez said the relocation would not affect the global spotlight the city would be placed in and said 10,000–15,000 people are still estimated to attend the NATO summit on May 20-21.

“As far as the Host Committee is concerned, this is still a tremendous opportunity to highlight and showcase Chicago to the world,” she said. “We’re moving forward. You know we’re working with the White House and State Department. They may change some of their program a little, but for us it’s still business as usual.”