Mayor Richard Daley’s 2010 budget hole is something like $520 million, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune. What to do, given the fact that Chicago already has the highest taxes in the country (10.25%) and experienced a –17% plummeting of hotel tax revenue?
The answer from the Mayor, expected to propose a $6.14 billion budget (up from $5.97 in 2009) is to raise the money from the unpopular parking meter 75-year lease, taking $370 million to shore up the leaking financial situation and (drum roll here, please) to sink the annual Venetian Night Parade that his father established when Mayor in 1959. The annual event only survived this year because it was bailed out, financially, at the last minute by Red Bull. It costs $100,000 for the fireworks and $200,000 for the policement, firemen, porta-potties and other things necessary to control a lakefront crowd of half-a-million people.
Some, like Scott Baumgartner of the Chicago Yachting Association, feel that the Mayor’s proposal is premature. Baumgartner released a statement: “We still feel strongly that we can do this event. It’s a tradition we would be very reluctant to let go of.” (That’s a Yachting Association guy talking, for you.)
Baumgartner actually had some support for the Alderman of my ward, 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti who said (in a “Tribune” article), “We shouldn’t cut off our nose to spite our face. (*Don’t blame me for the cliched expression. Fioretti said it) We need to keep attracting people to Chicago. Wasn’t that the real purpose of the Olympic bid? …It’s clearly a big draw.”
Yes, Venetian Night has been a big FREE draw, with over 500,000 people taking their kids and their lawn chairs to the lakefront to watch the decorated boats float by. This year, my husband and I set up on the hill across from the Shedd Aquarium early, and if the fates allow, you’ll be able to see some photos of what may well be the very last Venetian Night right here on WeeklyWilson.
The current Mayor Daley’s Special Events Director, Megan McDonald, in discussing how the popular regatta that attracted over half a million people this year was targeted for extinction said, “It’s more than just boats and nice fireworks. It’s being able to accommodate half-a-million people on the lakefront.” It should also be noted that the Jazz Festival is being cut from 3 days to 2, and many events are being moved to the Pritzker Pavilion from Grant Park. Also, some local festivals and arts spending will come under fire.
The 52nd annual Venetian Night was held on July 27th this year, and I was there.
R.I.P., Venetian Night.