O-choa! To which some might say, “Godzundheit” or “God bless you.” Though some may beg to differ, a sneeze isn’t a bad thing. It’s a good thing. A sneeze can help get rid you of what ails you. In this case, what ails Illinois’ convention business is Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority CEO and Blagojevich crony, Juan Ochoa.
This week, under a veil of secrecy, the Chicago Bureau of Tourism & Conventions, met with 40 unnamed tradeshow organizers and representatives from Ochoa’s epic managerial embarrassment and Funland of Political Hackdom known as “McPier.” The only difference between McPier and the now defunct Kiddieland is that the hacks are taking the taxpayers for a ride.
As has been reported in Crain’s, McPier’s projected operating losses will grow eightfold to $28.8 million for fiscal year 2009. To counter McPier’s shortfall, the state’s general sales tax fund was tapped for $18.8 million in 2009 and will is now being tapped $34 million in 2010. Reports indicate that McPier’s cumulative funding gap is expected to exceed $500 million by 2020.
And what does Chicago have to show for it? In November, the Healthcare and Information Management Systems Show announced it would be moving its 2012 show from Chicago to Las Vegas. The NPE Plastics Convention, which brings 60,000 to 80,000 attendees every three years, announced its move to Orlando. In January, the SuperComm Telecommunications Convention cancelled its show for October. Last but not least, the International Home and Housewares Show, which has been held in Chicago since 1939, announced it was considering a move to Orlando. O-Choa! Godzundheit.
On Wednesday, Governor Quinn ousted the 13 member board that runs McPier but has yet to demand Ochoa’s resignation. Does Governor Quinn want a break with the past or not? Ochoa won his $195,000 post after raising campaign cash for our disgraced former governor. Illinois and Chicago’s economic climate are collapsing under this long-standing culture of corruption, nepotism, and cronyism. McPier is the latest example of this supreme incompetence and greed. In the wake of these mounting convention losses and the fiscal merry-go-round at McPier, it is clear that Juan Ochoa needs to go-a and go-a quick.
Chicago is the greatest city in the world and we deserve better than to have our convention business and the jobs it provides dismantled overnight. We have everything that a great city needs to succeed. It is hard to screw this up and yet these people have.
Governor Pat Quinn needs to demand the immediate resignation of McPier CEO Juan Ochoa and needs to do it now. O-choa! Yeah, one good sneeze might just do the trick.
William J. Kelly is the executive director of the new reform group, www.rebuildillinois.com.