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Emanuel backtracks on NATO/G-8 ordinance

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel admitted Tuesday that he misspoke when he said that he extraordinary new powers he's seeking for the upcoming NATO and G-8 summits would be only temporary.

In fact, Emanuel said his proposal to dramatically increase fines for protesters who resist arrest - even passively - should be permanent. Some of the other sweeping powers the mayor is seeking - one would allow his office to unilaterally approve some city contracts - would expire once the May summits are over, he said.

At an unrelated news conference, Emanuel told reporters he takes responsibility for any confusion stemming from comments he made about his proposal last month.

"New Year's resolution: made a mistake," he said. "Real simple."

At issue is an Emanuel-backed proposal aimed at controlling the hordes of protesters that are expected to descend on Chicago during the two world summits this spring. Under the plan now before the City Council, fines for resisting arrest would skyrocket - from $25 to $500, to $200 to $1,000. The ordinance would also limit protest hours to between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., trim hours at public parks and beaches, and grant Emanuel's office broad new spending power for contracts relating to the summits.

When the mayor introduced the ordinance last month, he indicated the measures would be only temporary. But he changed his tune Tuesday, saying that permanent fine increases are needed to bring Chicago in line with other big U.S. cities.

The mayor said his new spending authority could only apply to the NATO and G-8 summits, though the language in the proposal does not indicate when - or if - that power would expire. He declined to say whether the restrictions on when and where people could protest would expire, as well.

Aldermen could take up the ordinances in committee next week.

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