What Exelon and ComEd Don’t Want You to Know

With electricity costs making up the first or second largest expense for BOMA/Chicago buildings, it’s crucial that we continue shedding light on Exelon and ComEd’s proposed legislation which would raise electricity rates a whopping $8 billion over the next ten years. BOMA/Chicago buildings alone – making up 5% of ComEd’s energy load – can expect to pay an increase of an estimated $385 million.

More than likely you don’t have time to pour through the tedious and complex legislation, so here are some basic facts that we suspect Exelon and ComEd don’t want you to know:

  1. Exelon is a publicly-traded, profitable company demanding a bailout. Buildings certainly don’t get a bailout, so why should a massive corporation that profited $2 billion last year and increased shareholder profits get one?
  2. Exelon’s plants have secured billions of dollars in contracts and subsidies. Despite claiming poor-performing nuclear plants, Exelon has secured over $4 billion in long-term contracts and subsidies for its nuclear plants.
  3. The numbers aren’t there now and won’t ever be if the rate increases are passed. Not only has Exelon failed to be forthcoming with all revenues at its nuclear plants, the rate increase proposal erodes public disclosure mandates and allows Exelon to keep ratepayer bailout money even if their nuclear plants are profitable. No trueup based on actual profitability would be required.
  4. ComEd will now profit from customer-funded sustainability incentives. Today ratepayers pay a 2% assessment on all electricity bills which is set aside in its entirety to fund or rebate various customer energy efficiency initiatives. This legislation would allow ComEd to profit through a “rate of return” when using dollars designated for energy efficiency – ultimately increasing costs to all customers.
  5. ComEd only makes money when electricity meters are spinning. Current law mandates that ComEd meet statutory goals for energy efficiency reductions – goals that ComEd has yet to actually achieve. The current statutory goal would be decimated, as this new legislation provides the utility with waivers to avoid meeting those requirements.
  6. Bottom Line: Chicago’s businesses will have to foot the bill. BOMA/Chicago buildings house more than 10,000 tenants who will ultimately pay the bill on top of a series of hefty property tax increase and fee increases the city has recently implemented . We have to wonder – how much more piling on will they tolerate?

BOMA/Chicago has begun a constructive dialogue directly with ComEd and Exelon regarding their proposed changes to energy policy in Illinois. As always, it is the goal of BOMA/Chicago to mitigate any potential threat to our members and ensure that any impacts are as minimal as possible.

>> Six Surprising Facts about the Exelon/ComEd Rate Increase Proposal

ix Surprising Facts about the Exelon/ComEd Rate Increase Proposal

ix Surprising Facts about the Exelon/ComEd Rate Increase Proposal

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Beeting the Summer Heat at 1KFulton

Next up in our series on sustainable rooftops and initiatives, we talk to Rachael Bruketta, Assistant Property Manager with Sterling Bay, who fills us in on 1000 West Fulton’s rooftop vegetable garden including maintenance, vegetable selection, environmental impact and tenant engagement.

What was the motivation to create a vegetable garden?

1KFulton strives to operate as efficiently as possible and we want to provide a healthy and enjoyable workspace for our building’s occupants. With a green roof already in place, we wanted to test our green thumbs and enhance our space with fresh, organic produce.

How did you build the vegetable garden?

We have a common roof deck on the seventh floor that’s accessible by all our tenants. The deck features planter beds with built-in irrigation and draining systems and previously contained native grasses and trees. With the help of our landscaper, we installed organic growing media and 384 plants into the beds. This was our first season of roof deck gardening, and we decided to install existing plants instead of seeds to bring a higher yield.

How did you work with your team initially to bring this concept into fruition?

1KFulton has had beehives on our roof deck for over a year, so we decided to decrease the travel time for our bees to pollinate! Additionally, our building team is very interested in sourcing products locally that we could also share with our tenants.

How did you decide which vegetables to plant?

Given that our building has great chefs and fantastic restaurants and dining areas, we chose plants they could use in their kitchens, including leafy greens and herbs. We also stayed away from tall plants like corn and beans so windy days don’t pose a threat.

How do you maintain the garden?

On days when we don’t have sufficient rainfall, we use our built-in irrigation to make sure the roof deck garden is properly watered. We work with our landscaper to maintain and weed the garden at least every other week. We also coordinate harvesting and cleaning of the produce with our landscaper prior to sharing with our tenants.

What’s the impact of your vegetable garden on the environment?

 1KFulton’s rooftop garden improves air quality, helps storm water management, reduces our building’s energy demand and reduces urban heat island effect.

Does the garden offer any ROI to the building?

Beyond providing an amenity for our tenants, we hope that our roof deck garden helps to increase the lifespan of our roof and that it will contribute to a reduction in running our HVAC.

What should other buildings consider if they want to build a vegetable garden?

For starters, make sure your roof space can handle the weight load of your garden and that your garden has enough space and a proper irrigation system to thrive. We also advise getting buy-in from your tenants regarding what kind of produce you grow in your space.

What other green features does your building feature?

In addition to composting and recycling programs, 1KFulton also has beehives and provides a shared bicycle program to all tenants.


What’s the Buzz at Beacon Capital Partners

How 20,000 Worms Transformed this Building 


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What’s the Buzz at Beacon Capital Partners?

In the second story in our series on sustainable rooftops and initiatives, we talk
to Al Scaramelli, Managing Director at Beacon Capital Partners about honey bees. As the director of sustainability programs, Mr. Scaramelli oversees Beacon’s energy and sustainability projects including bee hives built on Beacon-owned buildings’ rooftops across the country, including three in Chicago – 300 South Wacker, 515 North State Street and One North Dearborn.

alfred scaramelli beacon capital partnersHow did the idea to have bee hives on the rooftops of your buildings originate?

Al Scaramelli: Beacon’s President was in Europe on business and an office building he was visiting had bee hives on its rooftop. He brought the idea home with him. We discussed it internally and it immediately made sense to develop a program at all our properties.

How did you work with your team initially to bring the concept into fruition?

Al Scaramelli: We initially needed to get better educated on bee keeping in general, and specifically maintaining hives at office buildings in central business districts of major cities. I visited several hotels which already had hives, and did my due diligence on the process. We started with a trial hive at one of our high-rise office buildings in Boston and eventually rolled out the program to all of Beacon’s buildings on a nationwide basis.

What’s involved in maintaining the bee hives?

Al Scaramelli: Beacon has partnered with Boston-based Best Bees Company to coordinate our program on a nationwide basis. The company either has direct employees manage our hives, or they sub-contract with local bee keepers. The hives are inspected and maintained monthly.

Why is this initiative so important to the Beacon Capital?

Al Scaramelli: Beacon has always been an industry-leader in sustainability. In additional to maintaining our hives, Best Bees is a leading researcher of honey bees. Honey bees are important to our environment and they are suffering great losses from disease. The ability to study hives in urban locations increases understanding of the changing dynamics of honey bees and the health of honey bee hives. It’s the right thing to do.

How do you engage your tenants with the bees?

Al Scaramelli: Our tenants are very engaged in our bee program. We have sponsored Earth Day events around the hives, as well as Name the Queen Bee contests at each building. We also offer tours with bee keepers to those who want to see the hives up close and learn more. Finally, the honey from our harvests is shared with the tenants in each building. Beacon’s bees are good-natured and produce extra-sweet honey.

What impact do all your hives have on the environment?

Al Scaramelli: This is difficult to measure – we know we are helping to educate our tenants about bees. Honey bees are dying at an alarming rate, resulting in the potential for significant repercussions to our ecosystem and food supplies. Beacon’s support of research on honey bees is part of our long-term commitment to sustainability.

How many other buildings do you have with honey bees?

Al Scaramelli: In addition to our Chicago properties, Beacon has successfully rolled out its Beacon Bees program throughout its nationwide portfolio and plans to continue to do so in the future.

What other green features do your buildings feature?

Al Scaramelli: Beacon was recently awarded the U.S. EPA’s prestigious ENERGY STAR 2016 Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence award for the fifth year in a row. We have also LEED certified more than 35 million square feet of office properties in the U.S.  Among other initiatives, our buildings offer cutting-edge HVAC control software; clean fuel cell technology; purchased renewable energy for building use; green cleaning supplies; rooftop rain water collection; on-site electric car charges; recycling; and specialized indoor air filtration systems.


What’s the Buzz at Beacon Capital Partners

Beeting the Summer Heat at 1K Fulton

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Six Surprising Facts about the Exelon/ComEd Rate Increase Proposal

Exelon and ComEd have introduced a proposal (Senate Amendments 2 and 3 to SB 1585) to drastically raise commercial and residential electricity rates and add new charges that will total $7.7 billion over ten years. While Exelon and ComEd have claimed the rate increases and new charges are necessary to bailout its financially stressed nuclear plants and develop and enhance its “grid reliability,” it’s important that you understand the facts and adverse effects these changes would have on the commercial real estate industry and our tenants.

Below are six key reasons BOMA/Chicago has serious concerns regarding this new energy proposal by ComEd/Exelon:

  1. BOMA/Chicago buildings make up approximately 5% of ComEd’s energy load, and can expect to be billed an estimated $385 million of the projected increase over the ten-year span. This increase will be passed through to businesses across the city, adding to the ever-increasing cost of doing business here.
  2. Exelon made more than $2 billion in profits last year. Despite massive revenues and increased shareholder profits, the company has repeatedly threatened to shut down its Quad Cities and Clinton nuclear power plants if their bailout proposal doesn’t pass.
  3. Despite claiming poor-performing nuclear plants, recent power auctions garnered Exelon an extra $1.7 billion for its nuclear plants. Though Exelon claims their nuclear assets aren’t economically viable, they were a big winner in last year’s annual capacity auction, where power producers bid for long-term contracts to supply electricity.
  4. Exelon’s total rate hike proposal is estimated to be $7.7 billion over the next 10 years. The tax hike burden will fall on government, businesses and consumers.
  5. It’s estimated that ComEd and Exelon will secure $1 billion in profits over the next 10 years from the proposal. That doesn’t include the $2.6 billion subsidy Exelon’s struggling power plants would receive over that same time period.
  6. Customers have already paid twice for those nuclear plants. Not only did customers pay for construction of the same nuclear plants through regulated rates, we also paid over $10 billion in customer transition charges to the profitable publicly traded Exelon.

At this time, BOMA/Chicago is not convinced that all income from Exelon’s Quad Cities and Clinton plants has been included in determining whether those plants are profitable. On the cost side, ComEd and Exelon have only provided BOMA/Chicago with preliminary data to estimate the financial impacts to commercial customers.

BOMA/Chicago has begun a constructive dialogue directly with ComEd and Exelon regarding their proposed changes to energy policy in Illinois. As always, it is the goal of BOMA/Chicago to mitigate any potential threat to our members and ensure that any impacts are as minimal as possible.

>> What Exelon and ComEd Don’t Want You to Know

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How 20,000 Worms Transformed this Building [Interview]

We’re kicking off a new series of stories focusing on sustainable rooftops and initiatives in a dialogue with AMA Plaza’s Assistant Property Manager Yordanos Ghdey with Riverview Realty Property Management. Yordanos walks us through the ins and outs of the AMA Plaza’s worm composting program housed on the 48th floor (20,000 worms, to be exact) – the city’s first large-scale commercial composting program.

How did the idea of worm composting originate?

Yordanos Ghdey: We began investigating the concept of composting in 2008, a time when commercial composting capability didn’t exist in the Chicago metropolitan area.  As our knowledge of sustainability increased, we discovered worm composting or vermicomposting through a worm composting consultant.  In 2009, we became the first large-scale commercial worm composting program in the City with 5,000 worms, which have since increased to 20,000.

What was involved in setting up a worm composting operation?

Yordanos Ghdey: We first had to understand the requirements to successfully host vermicomposting within the building, including the maintenance responsibilities, to ensure the worms’ environment is safe. We settled on a location in the 48th floor mechanical room that provides a comfortable and consistent tempered environment. Because the worms are self-managing, we simply needed a container, bedding and waste material to serve as food and nutrients. The worms at AMA Plaza are Eisenia Fetida worms – also known as red worms.

What kind of maintenance is involved?

Yordanos Ghdey: The maintenance is minimal. The management staff, along with an employee from Café 330, checks on the worms once or twice per week to evaluate their food consumption as well as their environment. If too much food is provided, it may become moldy which can create a vulnerable system open to infestations from other microorganisms. If food has become anaerobic, it may begin to smell, but the food is still edible by the worms so we simply add a generous amount of damp cardboard or paper shreddings over it and adjust the feeding schedule accordingly. We also check on the compost level at this time. If the amount of compost produced is not efficient, that is a warning sign that additional care is needed in the health of the worms.

Additionally,  third party assistance is provided by a vermicomposting professional once or twice a year – or on an as needed basis – to check on the worms and confirm the compost level the worms are producing is sufficient. We also have the support of our management team members and one of our Café’s employees who feed the worms dinner from left-over food and ensure their bedding and moisture content of their environment is adequate.

What food do the worms eat?

Yordanos Ghdey: The worms can digest any compostable foods including fruits and vegetables that are broken down into smaller pieces as well as coffee grinds. Shredded paper and cardboard are added to the top of the bin to provide a source of fiber, and foster a dark and moist environment which discourages fruit flies. We also add coconut shreddings to provide additional nutrients in the event the compost is too thick or in need of supplementary moisture. They should not be fed meat, poultry, fish, dairy, junk food or any fruits that are high in citrus such as oranges, limes and lemons. Non–biodegradable materials should never enter the bin. The worms eat about 5,200 pounds of food a year.

Why is this initiative so important to the AMA Plaza?

Yordanos Ghdey: Not only does composting connect the office environment to the natural environment, it also promotes healthier plant growth in our plaza plant beds. The castings of the worms, which are essentially the     compost, have high water retention which is beneficial in the event of a dry spell. The compost also has a slow nutrition release meaning the nutrients are released slowly so the plants receive what they need over a period of time. In comparison, chemical fertilizers oversaturate plants with a large amount of nutrients at once. When it rains, the nutrients are washed out of the soil and chemicals can seep into drinking water pipes.

How do you use your compost?

Yordanos Ghdey: Compost is easily removed from the bottom of the bin because the worms are drawn towards the top where the food source is located. Once the compost falls to the bottom of the bin, we remove it and store it for our outdoor landscaping. When the flowers are replaced in the spring, summer, and fall, the compost is mixed with the soil to provide an organic soil conditioner as well as a natural fertilizer.

What other green features does your building feature?

Yordanos Ghdey: We have several green initiatives here at AMA Plaza and are proud to be leaders within the City of Chicago with many of them.  We offer a robust recycling program which includes complimentary battery and electronic waste recycling. Food composting is also offered within tenant spaces which we operate on a weekly schedule to make the concept much easier on the tenants and in return, increase participation.  Other features include a 6,500 square foot vegetated roof, green cleaning program; water conservation programs, closed-loop paper and product purchasing, traffic reduction initiatives and a materials re-use procedure.

What are some considerations for other buildings who want to implement worm composing?

Yordanos Ghdey: The initial set-up for the worms is minimal, and we were able to use food and other materials recycled from the building, so it is a very low-cost program.

The bin, which is self-contained and odorless, is well ventilated and the worms are very aware of the size of the bin they are in. Because worms are hermaphroditic and can produce a cocoon every 7 to 10 days, one would think they would quickly overpopulate, however, they have an innate ability to control their population. Availability of food, size of their bin and the fouling of their environment decreases reproduction.

Commercial composting does have additional costs for bio-bags (which hold the material and degrade along with the organic material) and for removal.  This cost is somewhat offset by a reduction in waste removed from the property.

How do you involve your tenants with composting?

Yordanos Ghdey: Due to the smaller scale of worm composting, tenants are not directly involved with that program. Tenants are made aware of the program and images are shared on social media and the lobby slides. In 2014, we hosted an event to introduce tenants to a larger scale food composting process and benefits, and invited them to participate. We also provided incentives in collaboration with Waste Management, which handles the food compost pick-up for the building. Once tenants realized how simple the process is and that it does not require much effort on their part, they were very open to the idea. We currently have eight companies composting within the building, including the management office and the hotel. We continue to engage our tenants through education, tours and presentations.


What’s the Buzz at Beacon Capital Partners

Beeting the Summer Heat at 1K Fulton

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BOMA/Chicago’s State of the City Aldermanic Discussion and Luncheon

BOMA/Chicago was pleased to host some of Chicago’s most esteemed aldermen earlier this month for our annual mid-year luncheon, held at Prime & Provisions in River North. Our City and County Legislative Consultant, Mary Kay Minaghan, moderated the engaging panel discussion focused on the “state of the city” – policy and politics here in Chicago.

Our aldermanic panel included:

  • Alderman Carrie M. Austin (34th Ward) – Chairman of the Budget and Government Operations Committee
  • Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) – Vice Mayor of Chicago representing Chicago’s Downtown
  • Alderman Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) – Newly Elected Alderman representing North Michigan Avenue and River North
  • Alderman Ariel Reboyras (30th Ward) – Chairman of the Public Safety Committee

These aldermen’s ideas and viewpoints were as diverse as the constituents they represent – all the way from the far South Side to the Northwest side to Chicago’s Central Business District. The following Q&A, edited for length, includes excerpts from the lively discussion.

Let’s talk about the city’s current fiscal situation and existing pension issues. Specifically, the municipal employee pension fund and the teachers’ pension fund still require funding solutions. Do you think agreements can be reached with these two pension funds, and if so, will Springfield or Chicagoans be tasked with footing the bill?

Austin: I believe the municipal employee pension fund issue will be resolved thanks to an agreement we’re working on with the local labor unions. For the teachers’ pension fund, I’ll continue to pray. We need Springfield legislators to step up and support Chicago teachers like they do teachers downstate. Overall, I’m optimistic. I’ve discussed the pension issue with our budget director, and I believe that by 2029, all of Chicago’s pension funds will be solvent.

Reboyras: The last thing we want is to raise taxes on the city of Chicago. The problem is we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel in Springfield. We’re hoping the teachers’ pension issue will be resolved. But the unfortunate fact is the teachers’ pension here in Chicago is paying for the teachers’ pension in Southern Illinois as well. There’s something wrong with that formula, and that’s what we have to fix.

Reilly: There is a real inequity on how public schools are funded in Illinois. The poorest districts receive the least support in the state. Spending per student is terribly low. The debate over funding formulas has been raging for years, but the truth is, Chicago taxpayers are at an extreme disadvantage. Downstate pensions are paid for with Chicago income taxes, but the state does not support Chicago’s pensions, and it’s not fair. Realistically, I think progress is more likely to be made in the fall. The bottom line is we need a budget passed, and the longer Springfield puts off that decision, the more it’s going to cost us. Despite the fiscal disaster Mayor Emanuel inherited when he was elected, he’s doing a lot to try to restructure pension agreements, in partnership with the labor unions. Hopefully we’ll see significant progress over the summer.

Hopkins: We’re not asking for a bailout – we’re asking for fairness. One of the great conundrums of Springfield politics is the perception that Chicago receives an unfair amount of state resources. That’s just not true. In fact, Chicago subsidizes the rest of the state. All taxes we pay are subsidizing the rest of Illinois, from school funding to road construction and countless other examples. When we ask for equality and fairness, we’re told that we’re greedy and asking for a bailout. This region is the economic engine and driver of the state. We’re in a crisis now, we need help, and we have every reason to expect it from Springfield.

Another big issue in Chicago is the spike of violent crime in recent years. What needs to be done to reduce violence in Chicago? Can the new superintendent accomplish that task?

Reboyras: I firmly believe new superintendent Eddie Johnson is the right person for the job. For years, the Chicago Police Department has had an outsider at the helm. Eddie Johnson is already familiar with the department and the local communities he’ll be tasked with protecting. He’s extremely qualified and passionate about turning things around in Chicago. In terms of the larger violent crime issue facing the city – we are working to overcome some major challenges. However, we’ve already made meaningful progress. For example, everyone in the department is issued a Taser to encourage a “gun last” approach to conflicts. We’re ramping up crisis intervention training for officers. We’re also engaging in regular meetings with the Department of Justice and implementing many of their recommendations. We won’t be able to turn things around completely overnight, but we are taking the necessary steps to move forward.

Reilly: The current state of Chicago public safety is unacceptable. Crime statistics are horrendous for many reasons – some of which are outside our control. Surrounding states hand out guns like party favors, and many Chicago shootings are related to that. That said, we also have a resource issue. Relying so heavily on overtime to address areas of the city that need extra help is a mistake. Over time, we should find a way to make it a priority to build new officers into the budget. That means not just keeping up with turnover, but increasing the force. Regarding new leadership, I’m very impressed with the new police superintendent. His honesty is refreshing. But he faces a difficult task. The most important, pressing need the city has to address right now is security.

Hopkins: I support our new superintendent. He’s a cop’s cop, so he’s done a lot to improve department morale. He’s also local and truly understands the community. I also firmly believe we need more police officers. We’re currently spending more than $100 million in police overtime payments. It may be easier to pay overtime than to hire new officers, but it’s not better in the long run. We can’t replace officers who are retiring at the rate they’re leaving. That’s one thing we as aldermen have some control over. We can allocate more resources towards the police force, and I’ll be fighting for that.

Austin: Eddie Johnson has been a good friend of mine for years. I don’t think we (Chicago) could have gotten any better, because he’s home grown. His plans for the city are a breath of fresh air. The overtime police payments are a difficult issue, since my ward on the South Side benefits greatly from officers receiving overtime pay. However, I do understand that overtime payments are not sustainable. I believe Eddie Johnson will commit to hiring more police officers, which we desperately need.

The relationship between Chicago neighborhoods and downtown can sometimes be described as “us vs. them.” Just last month, the Council approved Mayor Emanuel’s ordinance on neighborhood development, which eliminates the density bonus for developers that currently exists. Instead, it encourages contributions to a neighborhood development fund, which would then be allocated to underserved Chicago neighborhoods. Why did you vote for or against this ordinance?

Reilly: I voted against it, but not because I didn’t agree with the concept. I think it was a good idea to eliminate self-serving design bonuses that most self-respecting architects already put into buildings. The Mayor considered this ordinance an opportunity to provide gap financing to struggling neighborhoods and incentivize retailers to open up in new communities. Where I had an issue was how that fund was governed, how it would be administered, etc. I would have liked to see an independent review of the grant requests to vet them and make sure they were good investments with a concrete ROI. But I do give the Mayor great credit for coming up with the idea. I think the ordinance was well-intended and will do some good, and I hope it’s successful.

Hopkins: I agree with Alderman Reilly, despite the fact that I voted for the ordinance. Within the city of Chicago, we’re often divided among neighborhoods. This was an attempt to unify us, and to spread resources around to struggling neighborhoods and communities.

Austin: My ward will benefit greatly from this ordinance, and we are glad to take advantage of all the resources provided to us.

Reboyras: The problems we have with crime are all tied to poverty and a lack of job opportunities. This ordinance would help alleviate some of those problems. It won’t fix everything, but it will make a dent.

BOMA/Chicago has worked closely with the Department of Buildings on various code issues, and we’ve seen iterations of the building code rewritten over the past 30 years. But Chicago remains the only major U.S. city that hasn’t adopted the international building code, despite the fact that Cook County did so about a year ago. Do you think it’s time for Chicago to consider adopting this code?

Austin: I do believe it’s time Chicago considered adopting the international building code. It will help us stay competitive and keep up with other U.S. cities.

Reboyras: There are things in Chicago’s zoning book that are already obsolete, despite the fact that it was updated five years ago. I agree that we need to adopt the international building code. There’s significant room for change and improvement.

Reilly: We’re competing for investment dollars against other cities across the country. We shouldn’t be putting up extra obstacles or burdens for developers. Rather, we should be doing whatever we can to make it easier to do business in Chicago. There’s no reason developers should have to custom tailor a project to Chicago’s standards. We should adopt the international code as our policy here.

Hopkins: For years, Chicago’s building code has been written by politicians, not engineers and architects. I think it’s time to change that. I recognize the value of international standards vetted by career professionals who know about best practices nationwide.

What are your thoughts on the status of the Wrigley Field development project?

Hopkins: Boston is an interesting case study. Development around Fenway Park has resulted in a major tourism boost. I think the Wrigley Field development is a great opportunity, but I also respect aldermanic privilege. I’m going to offer the local alderman, Tom Tunney, my support based on his decision. I do understand his attempts to limit the use of the Wrigley Field plaza to game days and special events. There is no shortage of places to drink beer or people who want to drink beer in Wrigleyville.

Austin: I also rely on Alderman Tunney for decisions in Wrigleyville unless I feel very strongly about an issue.

Reboyras: As a former peddler at Wrigley Field, I’ll support Tunney. I’m business-oriented. The last thing I want to see is the sports bars in the Wrigley area close. I want the Ricketts to profit, but I also want the local businesses to stay intact. Hopefully we can find a mutually beneficial solution.

Reilly: I have a conflict of interest, as I’m a Cubs season ticket holder. I agree with all of my colleagues. I support my fellow aldermen when they make decisions in their own wards. Knowing Alderman Tunney, he’ll do his very best to strike a balanced deal. The Ricketts shouldn’t be penalized for the great investment they’ve made in the Cubs. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of the local business owners. Tunney has an obligation to them as well.

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Preparing for the Unthinkable: Workplace Violence

Part Two of a Two-Part Series

By Ron Tabaczynski, BOMA/Chicago Director of Government Affairs

In our last post regarding BOMA/Chicago’s recent Open Security Committee Meeting, we explored notable causes and warning signs associated with workplace violence.

The importance of creating and consistently implementing workplace violence policies for employees cannot be overstated.  Assembling a dedicated task force to address specific issues and train employees on pre-incident indicators, how to communicate with HR and security personnel, and take specific steps to prevent an attack is essential to ensuring a safe and secure working environment.

Unfortunately, not all violent incidents are predictable (or preventable), and they tend to evolve quickly. If an attack occurs, how should employees and building management teams respond?

In the second of our two-part Elevator Speech series, we’ll consider several strategies and “best practices” to help address and resolve dangerous situations quickly and with minimal damage.

Employee Training

Emergency training for employees should be the top priority for building management as well as tenant employers.  In the event of a workplace attack, such as an active shooter event, even the best law enforcement teams take several minutes to arrive on the scene – and the response time countdown only begins once they are notified of an issue. As such, employees must be prepared to proactively ensure their personal safety until the police arrive.

Open Security Committee Meeting guest speaker John Busch shared that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security have set guidelines on how to react during emergency situations called “Run, Hide, Fight.” More specifically:

  1. Run – Evacuating the building should always be the first course of action if there is an accessible escape path.
    • Even in non-emergency situations, be aware of your surroundings and always have an escape route in mind.
    • Leave all belongings behind, as they will only slow you down (and may appear as threatening objects to police officers).
    • Help others escape, if possible. However, your own safety should be your first priority; evacuate regardless of whether or not others agree to follow.
    • As tough as it may be not to lend a helping hand, resist the urge to move wounded people. They will be attended to by emergency personnel.
    • Keep hands visible and follow all police instructions. Remember: officers will be searching for the attacker. Don’t give them a reason to suspect you’re anything but an innocent bystander.
  2. Hide – If evacuation is not possible, hide yourself from the attacker.
    • Find a hiding spot outside of the attacker’s view.
    • Ideally, the location should provide protection if shots are fired towards you (e.g., a locked door).
    • Take any steps to prevent the attacker from finding you. Locking the door (if possible) or blockading it with heavy furniture are both solid strategies.
    • Try not to restrict your options for movement. As soon as the threat subsides, you should attempt to evacuate.
  3. Fight – As a last resort, prepare to fight the attacker.
    • Act as aggressively as possible against him or her.
    • Yell or throw items as a distraction.
    • Improvise weapons from the materials available to you.
    • Most importantly – commit to your actions. An attack abandoned halfway through can be even more dangerous than doing nothing.

Building tenants should encourage all employees to familiarize themselves with the “Run, Hide, Fight” guidelines. In many cases, being informed on how to react during a workplace attack can be the difference between life and death.

Building Management and Security Teams

According to Keith Martin, security manager at Chase Tower, one of the most important decisions facing management teams during a potential security threat is whether to evacuate, lockdown or shelter in place. The goal should be to establish a “sterile zone” and isolate the threat until police arrive.

Each building and management team is different, and as such, proper emergency preparation and response strategies will vary. At Chase, a Site Incident Management Team (SIMT) of security, IT, HR and building management leaders spearheads safety initiatives for the entire building. The team meets annually, in addition to regular security training sessions, to discuss different emergency scenarios and develop corresponding contingency plans. A few best practices include:

  • Ensure all building tenants and employees are familiar with active shooter and other emergency response plans.
  • Establish communications protocols and instruction guidelines on immediate protective actions (e.g., evacuation, shelter in place, etc.).
  • Ensure emergency communications equipment is present and operable.
  • Assign clear roles for building management, security staff, engineers, etc. to avoid confusion.
  • Gather as much information as possible to share with law enforcement teams upon their arrival. The more informed they are about the situation, the more effectively they will be able to resolve it.

Remember – disarray during a violent workplace incident is inevitable. Emotions and adrenaline among individual employees, building managers and security professionals will be running on overdrive. However, proper education, training and preparation can help ensure the safety of all parties involved.

If you would like further information on any of the best practices we’ve shared surrounding workplace violence, please visit https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness.  We also encourage you to leverage the free videos and other training materials available online from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, American Bar Association and other national organizations.

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