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Opinion: Obama Visits Bring Hefty Price Tag

The Right Politics

President Barack Obama and his family spent the weekend in Chicago for some social time.  Though it is often believed that the federal government takes care of the president’s security needs, that is not always the case – even though it should be.  The cost to a city of which Obama visits comes in many forms. 

The Daily recently reported that Chicago has had 228 murders already this year which is 84 more deaths than have occurred in Afghanistan over the same period of time.  Despite this horrendous murder rate, Chicago pulled policemen from every police district – up to 200 of them – to secure Obama and his activities. 

Friday night, while President Barack Obama and his family slept in their Chicago home, there was a murder committed less than 4 miles away.  The Obamas live at 5048 South Greenwood Avenue and the murder happened at 5100 South Honore Street which is straight west of Obama’s residence.   On Saturday night, while the Obamas were still in their South Side home, there were four more murders. 

During Saturday afternoon and evening as the wedding festivities were going on, 13 people were wounded on the South Side. 

Last weekend, there were 9 murders, many others were shot, and there were a number of high-profile muggings. 

While it may be a typical warm-weather summer weekend for Chicago – especially on the infamous South Side in terms of violence – the horrendous amount of crime and murder is spotlighted even more when the president is in the city with all the media attention as the police protect him instead of the streets. 

Beyond the past weekend’s Chicago police protection, even when the president isn’t in town, his block is closed off to all traffic – vehicular and pedestrian – except for persons who also reside on his block.  The police presence and security of his home and surrounding location – even though he is hardly ever there – is 24/7.  

Obama and his family were in town for two days and two nights to attend the wedding of Valerie Jarrett’s daughter, Laura.  Valerie Jarrett, a Chicago neighbor of the president, is also a close friend and one of Obama’s top White House aides.   Reportedly, Obama was in Chicago to celebrate Father’s Day in Chicago as well. 

When news broke Friday that Obama and the high-profile wedding would be secured by the Chicago police as well as a Washington security detail, there was much concern about the method of providing security to the president and the wedding event.  One politically-aware Humboldt Park neighborhood activist spoke on a local television news show and summed up the concerns by saying that 200 police officers for Obama and the wedding comes out to about 1 policeman per guest at the wedding.  Thinking of it that way, it was extremely excessive – and costly in one way or another. 

Obviously, when the president goes anywhere, he needs to be secured.  Regardless of where he goes, his security staff moves with him.  The legitimate concern is that Chicago Superintendent of Police Garry McCarthy, who has complained about needing more policemen on the streets to curb murders, pulled officers from every district in the city for Obama.   According to the Sun-Times, Washington is not reimbursing the city for this either.  The Chicago taxpayers are paying for Obama’s security during his leisure-time activities. 

While some may say, “Big deal – so what,” it is a big deal.  After all, the president may go to any town and expect the same costly coverage.  Particularly important for Chicago is that the city should not set a precedent of covering such expenses when the president returns at-will.  Chicago, like other big cities, is financially broke and shouldn’t be expected to provide Obama’s security.  Obama is a national official, and the federal government should obviously be taking care of security costs. 

Since President Obama isn’t suggesting change on this for his hometown, a Washington lawmaker needs to suggest change of policy for their home cities and states. 

Cities need to be taken off the financial-hook.  Aside from the financial aspect, crime-ridden cities like Chicago shouldn’t go without officers on their regular duties when the president comes to town. 

Otherwise, Obama and future presidents won’t be welcome anywhere.  And that should never be the case. 

Conveniently, to avoid an array of predicted criticisms and concerns, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel – Obama’s close friend and former White House Chief of Staff – was out of town for his child’s bar mitzvah over the weekend. 

About Scott Paulson

Scott Paulson writes political commentary for and teaches English at a community college in the Chicago area. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.



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