September 4, 2009

Officials slam Oprah’s block party plan

Two Chicago officials are criticizing the city's decision to close down Michigan Avenue for more than two weekdays for an Oprah Winfrey Show block party.

An outdoor taping open to the public is set for next week in honor of the start of the beloved Chicago-originated chat show's 24th season. Michigan Avenue between Wacker Drive and Ohio, a popular upscale shopping district, is to be closed before, during and after Tuesday's festivities.

The word on the street from people I've talked to is, they're shocked. ... Somebody made the decision to do that with very little, if any, public input, the Chicago Sun-Times quoted Transportation Committee Chairman Tom Allen as saying. Two-and-a-half days is kind of reckless. It smacks of elitism. The citizens own the street. Maybe they should ask the people how they feel.

Alderman Brendan Reilly told the Sun-Times he has only known about the party for about 10 days because the show's producers didn't give the 45 days' notice required for outdoor special events permits.

I certainly would have preferred to have more notice than I was given so we could have spent more time working with impacted stakeholders downtown to ensure that road closures and restrictions were done with sensitivity to local concerns, Reilly told the newspaper.

However, city special events spokeswoman Cindy Gatziolis said the Oprah season premiere block party isn't being considered a special event.

This falls under the category of film and TV production. Those require a two-day notice. This has been much more than a two-day notice, Gatziolis said.