Daley: "It's called Taste of Food. We're not in it for music."

January 6, 2011

So spoketh the mayor a few hours ago when announcing that he firmly opposes the plan by Celebrate Chicago, the only bidder to respond to the city's request for proposals to privatize the seven free city-run summer music festivals, to charge for those events. "The Taste of Chicago will always be free,” the mayor said, seemingly ignoring the fact that his tenure in office now can be measured in weeks instead of decades.

Actually, Mr. Mayor, it's called "Taste of Chicago," and music is a major part of the draw -- to say nothing of it being the entire draw for the Blues Festival, the Jazz Festival, the Country Music Festival, Gospel Fest, the Celtic Festival, and the Viva Chicago Latin Music Festival, all of which are A.) doomed to depressing mediocrity and draining the already stressed city budget if they continue under the purview of your close family friend Megan McDonald and the new Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, or B.) quite likely to fall by the wayside completely as the next mayor deals with the $655 million deficit you're leaving him or her.

Here's the coverage of the mayor's pronouncement in the Trib and here it is in the Sun-Times. But I sure wish I'd been at the press opportunity to ask a couple of relative questions:

1. Would your opinion have been different, Mr. Mayor, if a bid had come in from Lollapalooza promoters C3 Presents -- you know, the company represented by your nephew, Mark Vanecko?

2. By ruling out a fee to enter these seven music festivals, you may be dooming them to extinction -- and that comes on top of the massive layoffs at the Department of Cultural Affairs and the still-uncertain status (despite some beyiond-gullible reporters buying hook, line, and sinker the statements of city spokespeople) of its musical events at Millennium Park. Do you really care that little about city-sponsored music in Chicago?

Apparently so. From the Sun-Times: "We’re not into music. We’re not into anything else. We got into tangents and the cost kept going up. We’re gonna get it back down and do the Taste of Chicago for food and that’s all,” Daley said.

Now here's an idea, Richie. How about using your remaining time in office to do something you never did at any other point in your more than 20-year reign... er, term: Why not convene a blue-ribbon panel with representatives from every corner of the Chicago music community in all of its vast diversity to study what worked and what didn't at the city music festivals and suggest a number of plans for alternate options to run these events in the future, giving the next mayor a running head start on what he or she would like to do in Grant Park and elsewhere regarding major summer musical events?

Yeah, yeah, I know. But we can dream, can't we?

Stay tuned; there's sure to be (much) more fallout.

UPDATE, 4:35 p.m.: Jam Productions, one of the three partners in Celebrate Chicago along with AEG Worldwide and the Illinois Restaurant Association, had no comment on Daley's comments... at least not yet, anyway.

Earlier reports in this blog about privatizing the city festivals and the battle between the Mayor’s Office of Special Events and the Department of Cultural Affairs:

Jan. 3: And the mystery bidder vying to privatize Chicago's music festivals is...

Dec. 27: Only one bidder wants to privatize Chicago’s music festivals… but who the heck is it?

Dec. 20: What's really going on at Cultural Affairs, and what happens to arts and music now?

Dec. 16: Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs is dismantled as 29 are laid off

Dec. 14: Nope, they won’t have to remain free… and answers to other questions about privatizing the city music festivals

Dec. 7: City festivals chief responds to this blog’s reporting on the push for privatization

Dec. 6: Are a political power struggle and a sweetheart deal fueling the city's push to privatize the summer music festivals?

Nov. 22: Psst! Hey, buddy: Wanna buy a city festival?