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Gas giveaways harm people. We shouldn’t let rich politicians like Willie Wilson do them.

5:09 AM CDT on March 21, 2022

Willie Wilson

Update Monday 3/21/22, 8:00 PM: The Chicago Tribune reported the following:

In order to avoid another traffic calamity, officials with the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications and Chicago police released a joint statement saying their agencies were “coordinating with Dr. Wilson and his staff to provide city and department resources to alleviate traffic congestion and ensure public safety during his gas giveaway at participating stations located in the city of Chicago.”

It's good to hear that there will be some advance traffic and security planning this time, but the city should require Wilson to reimburse taxpayers resources for these public resources to support his PR stunt.

Update Monday 3/21/22, 2:15 PM: In response to this article, Rogers Park alderwoman Maria Hadden (49th), who previously called Wilson's gas giveaway "irresponsible and reckless" on Twitter and said she's be asking the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to look into special permits the city could require for these event in the future, tweeted this:

On the other hand, Wilson's handout was basically only useful for those who can afford to drive and are physically able to do so. As of 2015, 27.5 percent of Chicago households didn't own cars. In many or most cases living car-less is a matter of economic necessity, rather than a choice. Free gas is also of little or no help for many people with disabilities, seniors, and kids who rely on transit because they're unable to drive.

And, again, gas giveaways don't just benefit some residents while leaving others out in the cold. They actively harm vulnerable people by slowing down buses and creating more emissions. And they're a pain in the neck for everyone else, including drivers. As such, large-scale free gas promotions should be outlawed.

In the short term, if there's no way for Mayor Lightfoot and Cook County president Toni Preckwinkle to put the brakes on Wilson's upcoming wasteful and destructive $1 million countywide event, they should at least do damage control. Sure, planning traffic management around the 50 gas stations in advance would help make the inevitable lines of idling drivers a little less awful.

But Wilson should absolutely be required to pay back municipalities for the police resources diverted for his publicity stunt. And ideally we would send him a bill for the wasted productivity and environmental degradation caused by his vanity traffic jams.

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