The mayor's NATO juggling act

May 22, 2012
Crain's Business Chicago
Shia Kapos


After taking heat for bringing the NATO summit to Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel worked at being everywhere over the long weekend to remind guests of all the good things Chicago has to offer.

Mr. Emanuel pin-balled from hotel to hotel, welcoming leaders and visiting dignitaries. He brought them into his City Hall office, surely showing off the hand-written note by President Barack Obama on his goals for the first year of his presidency. He exchanged gifts, posed for photographs and somehow finagled a spectacularly sunny day for a kite-flying event with children.

The mayor's office was happy to provide his official schedule for the weekend, though it wouldn't share any of the details you really want to know.

I did hear that Mr. Emanuel was on the phone three or four times a day with his field soldiers — Lori Healey, head of the Chicago NATO Host Committee; police Chief Garry McCarthy; World Business Chicago's Michael Sacks; and David Boul, who headed the media center at McCormick Place, where thousands of journalists holed up. (I can only imagine the calls poor Mr. Boul had to take. What are they writing about? Give them more pizza and maybe we'll get a story about the kite-flying day with kids!)

Here's the tick-tock, according to the mayor's office, of how his days played out:



9 a.m. Meets Latvian President Andris Berzins.

7 p.m. Hosts reception at the Pritzker Military Library, which is exhibiting NATO-related photos.

7:45 p.m. Shakes hands with police officers in Millennium Park.


9:45 a.m. Speaks at the Young Atlanticist Summit, a nonpartisan think tank studying issues about security, environment and the Middle East, at Hotel Sax.

4:30-4:45 p.m. Meets prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, at the Chicago Club. They talk about water-management issues. (Nothing drier than a story about water rights.)

 Kite Festival Photo by: Erik Unger

1 p.m. Watches “Kids and Kites” at Montrose Harbor. Smiles all around when someone wanting to pose for a picture with the mayor hands his camera to Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the assistant secretary general of NATO. (Note, he misses the Cubs game.)

5:30-ish Joins Amy Rule to greet POTUS and FLOTUS at O'Hare.


9 a.m. Exchanges gifts with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the mayor's office. They tour City Hall's green roof and visit entrepreneurs at Merchandise Mart.

11:30 a.m. Takes part in a roundtable discussion with business leaders and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at the Waldorf Astoria.

Noon Still at the Waldorf, meets German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who had just returned from an architecture tour with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

 The mayor greets a Joffrey student. Photo by: Robert Carl

1:35 -2:15 p.m. Joins Amy at an abbreviated performance of the Joffrey Ballet.

5:30 p.m. Dinner at the Field with CEOs willing to cough up donations for the summit and leaders of ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, which is focused on reconstructing Afghanistan.

9:15 -10 p.m. Stop by low-key Navy Pier party for NATO delegates. The Eli's cheesecake is grand, but he doesn't take a bite.


12:15-12:45 p.m. Lunches at the Art Institute with spouses of envoys stationed in the U.S.

1:15 p.m. Welcomes attendees at a conference on malnutrition at the History Museum.

6:45-7:15 p.m. Joins Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic for reception and tribute to sculptor Ivan Mestrovic at the Santa Fe Building on Michigan Avenue.

7:30-8 p.m. Stops by to visit with reporters — not for publication — letting off steam at Lucky Strike bowling alley.


9:45-10 a.m. Meets Turkish President Abdullah Gul at the Hilton on Michigan Avenue.

10:45-11:15 a.m. Meets Polish Consulate General Zygmunt Matynia at Lake Shore Drive consulate offices.

Follow Shia on Twitter at @ShiaKapos.