NASCAR: City Council members want to put the brakes on Chicago street race

City Council members want to put on the legislative brakes after learning that Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to turn Chicago’s most iconic roadways into a 12-turn, 2.2-mile showcase for the first street course race in NASCAR’s 75-year history will tie up a portion of Grant Park for two weeks reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

The mayor’s enthusiasm for the July 2023 event was not shared by downtown alderpersons whose constituents could be inconvenienced most even before details of the contract started trickling out.

Alderpersons Pat Dowell (3rd), Sophia King (4th) and Brendan Reilly (42nd) all complained of being kept in the dark before the mayor’s marquee announcement. That’s even though Lightfoot flatly denied the charge.

Democrat Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot defunded the police and homicides are rampant in the city.  Many say she is corrupt to the core. Did NASCAR grease her pockets to get such a cheap deal?  What do you think?

But all three hardened their opposition after the Chicago Park District acknowledged that the permit agreement for “non-race event activities associated with the NASCAR Cup Series allows the organizer to occupy a portion of Grant Park for 14 days — from June 22 to July 5” of next year.

The Chicago Park District defined the “event footprint” as Roosevelt Road to Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue to DuSable Lake Shore Drive. Park District officials vowed to “work with the organizers to ensure that public access during the event is minimally impacted.”

Lightfoot has argued that her three-year agreement with NASCAR does not require City Council approval. But Reilly, Dowell and King are drafting legislation to “re-insert aldermen into the special event approval process in their respective wards.”

“When this privilege was granted to the executive branch by the City Council, nobody envisioned the mayor would use those powers to skirt transparency and exclude local aldermen and their constituents in key decision-making processes,” Reilly wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“This mayor has abused that privilege. … As such, it is now incumbent upon the City Council to take action, change the code and re-insert ourselves into the special event approval process.”

A contract that allows NASCAR to “occupy Chicago’s front yard for two weeks of our 16-week ‘summer season’ ” deserves to be publicly vetted, not hammered out and approved in secrecy, Reilly said.

He noted that Lollapalooza “pays $7.8 million every year to rent Grant Park from the taxpayers,” which makes the NASCAR terms look paltry.

The deal with NASCAR includes a permit fee of $500,000, 15% of net commissions on concession and merchandise, and $2 per admission ticket sold, according to Park District spokesperson Michele Lemons.

“How much will NASCAR pay beyond the insignificant $500,000 permit? How much is being budgeted for park and infrastructure restoration? How much is being paid to offset the public safety costs? What’s in it for the taxpayer?” Reilly wrote in an email.

“These are all questions that should have been answered publicly BEFORE a contract was signed. The fact that the three aldermen who represent wards impacted by this event were purposefully and specifically excluded from any discussion related to the NASCAR event is quite telling.”


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