Friday, January 23, 2015

Ireland's Loss Was Rosemont's Cost

Garth Brooks wanted to launch his comeback in Dublin, where his adoring fans would have welcomed him to the historic Croke Park with sell-outs and adulation. The location was perfect for attracting European Union residents who would have flocked to Ireland. Indeed, many of them had already booked hotels and made plans to spend a few glorious days awash in country music.

Those who manage Croke Park, however, could not meet all of the musician's terms, not the least of which was the number of shows that would be permitted on consecutive evenings. Despite feverish negotations, no middle ground could be found, and so the hallowed ground was abandoned as the site for the much-anticipated return of Garth Brooks live.

Not only did Ireland lose the financial opportunity that the concert series represented, but all of Europe was not given a second glance. Instead, Mr. Brooks looked to the States to find a venue that would give him what he felt he had to have in order to stage a successful return to the concert circuit.
Garth Brooks and the Mayor of Rosemont. Note absence of Rosemont taxpayers

He found what he wanted in Rosemont, a mobbed-up suburb west of Chicago.

The town owns the indoor stadium where the concerts took place, and after all the stir in Dublin, some people wondered how Rosemont managed to appease the singer after Dublin's city council refused to budge on something as minor as the number of shows allowed but could not reach any sort of accord or compromise. Clearly the singer was being stubborn.

What did Rosemont give to Garth Brooks to entice him to stage his comeback there, rather than any other city in the entire United States? Sure the town borders O'Hare Airport, making it easy for out-of-town guests to arrive and not have to travel too far to reach the concert venue. But it is not the only place to have a similar arrangement.

The Chicago Tribune asked that very question, taking things a step further by requesting financial documents from the town. Since it is taxpayer money that is involved, all the records should be available to the general public under a Freedom on Information request.

Except this is Rosemont, and the town council swiftly passed a law that declared any financial dealings of their local indoor stadium were not public after all. The information that Rosemont gave to the newspaper's reporters was, therefore, so heavily redacted that it was impossible to determine what was given in terms of financial incentives or perks to lure the concert promoter.

Garth Brooks has his fan base, but not everyone cares for country music. Especially watchdog groups that are more interested in corruption than a song about dogs, rain and pickup trucks.

The town is now being sued by the Better Government Association, which is asking for complete records that will show how much the promoter recieved in a rebate. That was the public's money being thrown around, and the public has a right to know how much and where it was tossed.

So Ireland lost the Garth Brooks comeback concert series. Maybe it was the taxpayers of Rosemont who really lost on the deal.

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