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Working to Boost Tourism

Friday, June 10, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
by John Stroger
Letter to the Editor

Steve Patterson’s story “This will be a hard one to explain” [News, June 9] left many readers with the impression that public officials and employees were about to embark on a junket to Hawaii at taxpayers’ expense. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In October of last year, the Cook County Board of Commissioners approved a contract with the National Association of Counties to host the 2006 Annual Conference. The conference will be held at McCormick Place and is expected to attract more than 4,000 county officials, executives and employees.

The Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau estimates that a conference of this size generates approximately $5 million in hotel, food and entertainment receipts. The National Association of Counties estimates that at the peak of the conference, 2,100 hotel rooms will be booked and that total overnight bookings will exceed 9,700, obviously a boost to our local economy.

I have assigned a team of employees who, in addition to their day-to-day responsibilities, will plan for next year’s conference. Five of these individuals will travel to the 2005 conference to promote Cook County as part of the contract approved by the Board of Commissioners last October.

Just a few month’s back, your editorial page stressed the importance of the convention industry to Chicago’s economy. This $10,000 expenditure is a small investment to bring a $5 million convention to town. Furthermore, each commissioner must make their own decisions about how to spend their travel budget. I do not approve travel for commissioners and/or their staff members.

It is hypocritical for the Sun-Times to talk about the importance of the convention industry and then criticize county government for working with the industry on brining a conference of this size to our city.

John H. Stroger, Jr.,
President Cook County Board of Commissioners



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