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Chicago's limited welcome mat for NATO

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“Welcome, NATO,“ says the disembodied voice, “to the 200 neighborhoods…”

The “welcome video” on the “Chicago 2012— Global Crossroads” website makes it sound like NATO delegates will soon be chowing down on ribs in Englewood and enchiladas in Pilsen, not to mention frolicking along the “26 miles of shimmering beachfront and parks that sparkle and shine.” Chicagoans of all sizes, shapes, and colors are shown throwing welcome mats down at spots across the city.

Given the security envelope the NATO folks will be under, they'll have little incentive to leave the immediate environs of McCormick Place during the summit scheduled for May 20-21.

Scan the list of summit-related events on the host website, and there’s not much designed to get the diplomats and military brass out into the city’s 200 neighborhoods.

Wednesday, consuls general from European Union nations visited Chicago-area schools. Meeting a minor diplomat from Croatia is unlikelty to provide earth-shaking thrills for the average 6th-grader, but the kids affected may learn more about NATO’s actual business here than the average Chicagoan, who mostly knows that his/her commute to work will be even less bearable than usual, due to summit-related road closures.

There are a few symposia for the already-interested over the next ten days, and a few more wingdings for kids, but no events listed would bring summit attendees (or even the media hordes coming to cover the summit) any farther afield than the Hilton Chicago or the Chicago Club.

Reportedly, the city’s trying to arrange meals at private homes for some of those journalists, which might yield a glimpse or two of a neighborhood not located in zip codes 60601-4. Still, it’s hard to see how much of the $128-million City Hall claims the NATO confab will bring to our fair city will trickle beyond downtown luxury hotels and restaurants.

The video advises NATO delegates that Chicago is “a city that welcomes everyone with open arms”. Groups coming to protest during the summit— who’ve had demonstration permits denied, yanked, and altered on short notice— may have trouble buying that, though keeping them away from the NATO delegates will give them a better chance to see those 200 neighborhoods.

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