G8 absence is welcome, but should have come sooner

By Editorial Board

For months, Chicago has been teeming with excitement over the G8 and NATO summits, both originally set to happen in May. But in a surprise move, Barack Obama announced March 5 that the G8 summit would not happen in Chicago but instead take place at Camp David, the president’s mountainside retreat just north of Washington, D.C. While Obama’s decision to move the summit makes sense, waiting until the last moment was not completely wise, as Chicago now faces the financial consequences.

Taxpayer money has been used to purchase security equipment in preparation for both summits. In the last four months, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already approved numerous purchases, including riot gear for police horses and officers, new face shields and gas masks. An estimated 7,500 protesters are still expected to attend, according to the city’s summit host committee, but the number could end up being less.

This means the city may have been squandering funds at a time when its cutting needed services.

Obama’s pick for Camp David is logical. It truly will keep a “free-flowing” conversation between him and other world leaders without the interruption of protesters and mass rallies. But the decision should have been made earlier.

Cities that host international summits typically begin planning and training two years prior. But Chicago didn’t start “until the end of 2011,” President of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police Mike Shields told the Associated Press. Without the proper planning, holding two international summits simultaneously could have been difficult.

But not having the G8 summit in Chicago will also be positive for residents. Some protest groups might decide to scrap their plans altogether, although Occupy Chicago will still show up, “spirit fingers” wiggling for NATO, as reported by WBEZ. These groups are mostly concerned with economic issues, a topic that doesn’t manifest itself at the NATO summit, which is centered around foreign policy and war.

The real victims are Chicago taxpayers. They have been funding the summits since the beginning. Effective planning and budgeting could have saved Chicagoans millions of dollars. In the future, the federal government should step in sooner, especially when it comes to planning an international summit.