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The [Tuesday] Papers

"Taste of Chicago attendance dipped this summer compared with the last time it was a five-day event, according to city estimates released late Monday after the annual lakefront food carnival wrapped up," the Tribune reports.

"Roughly 1.4 million people walked through the gates at Grant Park between Wednesday and Sunday, according to the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. That's down slightly from 1.5 million who attended in 2013 . . .

"Recent Taste crowds pale in comparison to its pinnacle. In 2008, when the 10-day fest hosted Stevie Wonder among its headliners, the Illinois Restaurant Association estimated 3.5 million people attended throughout the run."

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Maybe it's already been reported over the years, but my question is: Why? Why has attendance fallen so drastically? Are people just bored with it? Why would such boredom suddenly set in? More competition? After all, it seems like there's a street fair or music festival - if not several - every weekend. (Just check out the newest Weekend in Chicago Rock for evidence.)

I wonder if the city did any market research when it began reconceptualizing the Taste a few years ago to determine why attendance was dropping. If so, I'd like to be reminded.

*

"Emanuel has tried to increase profits by shortening the Taste and finding ways to charge more. Last year, the city raised its surcharge for every strip of 12 food tickets by 50 cents, to $2.50 from $2. The mayor also started offering an upscale $45 daily 'chef du jour' meal. And the mayor pushed through an ordinance to charge $50 for "premium seats" to Taste concerts starting last year, up from $25 the year before. Those prices stayed in place this year. Until Emanuel took office, all Taste concert seats were free."

Everything was better before Rahm.

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I wonder if lowering the price of Taste tickets and reinstating free concerts would attract enough additional people spending additional dollars on food and merchandise to actually end up increasing revenue. Or maybe linking Taste with neighborhood fairs and other music festivals over the Fourth with some sort of all-access ticket. Or free turkey legs.

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Personally, I haven't gone to Taste in many, many years. I went once or twice early in my tenure here in Chicago, almost as an obligation, like visiting the Sears Tower or the Rock and Roll McDonald's just once to see what they're like. I found the food overpriced and the crowds of what seemed like mostly tourists and suburbanites to be simply unbearable.

So: Lower the prices and get rid of the people! Can't we make that add up?

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Here's another idea: We live in Chicago. We taste it all the time. How 'bout holding Taste of ___. Fill in the blank with a different city every year. Next year: Taste of Cleveland!

Meanwhile, send Taste of Chicago on the road.

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Or get that Next dude to create a themed Taste every summer. Taste of the Greek Economy; Taste of George Clooney's Wedding; Taste of the Cubs Never Winning The World Series Again.

Park Snark
"The entrance to the parking lot offering the lowest rates at O'Hare International Airport will close Wednesday to make room for construction of a rental car facility and public parking garage, city aviation officials said Monday," the Tribune reports.

"The rate in lot F is $9 a day, the lowest of any parking facility operated for the Aviation Department. Travelers who park there ride a free shuttle bus to parking lot E, where the People Mover airport transit system provides service to O'Hare's four terminals."

Boy, everything really was better before Rahm.

Beach Screech
"The lightning, wind and hail that came during Monday's weather pyrotechnics have moved on, leaving behind a partly cloudy, humid day that would seem to make for a perfect time to hit the beach," the Tribune reports.

"But no. The National Weather Service has issued a beach hazards statement for Lake Michigan from about 4 p.m. this afternoon until Wednesday morning, warning of dangerous swimming conditions. The agency is predicting high waves in the range of 3 to 5 feet and strong rip currents for beaches that surround southern Lake Michigan."

Dammit, Rahm!

We're Gonna Need A Bigger Reward
"Chicago Public Schools on Monday unveiled school spending plans that rely on a half-billion dollars more than the district has on hand - an approach the head of the city's principals association compared to writing a bad check," the Tribune reports.

"The preliminary budgets distributed to school principals for the coming school year assume state lawmakers will free CPS from having to make $500 million of a $700 million pension payment due June 30, 2016, either by giving the district more money or by allowing CPS to delay the payment until 2017 or later."

CPS is in such a hole that it would have to capture El Chapo at least 138 times just to get through the coming school year.

Commuting Time
"President Barack Obama granted shorter prison sentences for 46 federal prison inmates serving time for drug convictions, including two men from Chicago and one Gary man, the White House announced Monday," the Tribune reports.

"The president's move was part of a broader effort by the administration to make the U.S. criminal justice system fairer. Obama has now issued nearly 90 commutations during his presidency, most of them to nonviolent offenders sentenced for drug crimes under outdated sentencing guidelines."

Great, but let's tell the whole truth about this president's record on this score.

Miming McCarthy
"A frustrated Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said the laws are so toothless that gang members are more worried about being beaten up by their gangs for losing a gun than going before a judge after being caught with one," AP reports.

"In the first quarter, police arrested 688 people for illegal firearms. By April 1, 60 percent of those people were already back on the street, McCarthy said.

"That frustration boiled over last week when he told reporters that a bullet that killed 7-year-old Amari Brown on July 4 was intended for his father, Antonio, whom police described as a gang member with nearly four dozen arrests, including one in April on a gun-possession charge.

"If Mr. Brown is in custody," the chief said, "his son is alive."

Okay, here's my problem with this: Antonio Brown supposedly had four dozen arrests, including one in April on a gun-possession charge, but he apparently had no convictions. As far as we can glean from this piece of reporting, he was never found guilty of anything. Given that police are calling Brown a high-ranking gang member, my guess is that those arrests were essentially made to harass. (And now you want Brown to cooperate with police?)

And no matter how stiff the penalties, you can't imprison someone on arrests alone.

*

That's not the end of the story, though.

"Antonio Brown, the father of seven-year-old Amari Brown - who was shot and killed this weekend - has been convicted of five felonies and seven other crimes in Cook County Criminal Court over the past dozen years," NBC Chicago reports.

Now maybe we're getting somewhere.

"NBC 5 Investigates has found that 29-year-old Brown has been charged in Cook County Criminal Court in 32 separate cases since 2003. In 12 of those cases he was found guilty. Five of those convictions were for felonies, all involving possession and dealing of narcotics like cocaine and heroin.

"After his most recent arrest last April on multiple felony gun charges, he was released from jail the very next day after posting $5,000 on a $50,000 bond. He pleaded not guilty in that case. Before April, all of his previous charges were drug-related."

So he only has one gun possession charge, which has not yet been adjudicated. Tougher gun laws would not, then, have kept Brown in custody, thus saving his son.

*

Missing: Did he do any time on those drug convictions?

*

"In seven additional cases, Brown was convicted on misdemeanor charges for crimes including vehicle theft, criminal trespass, pot possession, resisting a police officer, driving on a suspended license and assault. All other cases were dropped."

So clearly the cops have had this guy in their sights. Maybe the failure is theirs.

*

"In contrast, Marilyn Hartman, the serial stowaway with no history of violence, is currently being held in Cook County on a $100,000 bond - twice that imposed on Antonio Brown, despite his criminal history, and despite the fact that Chicago police listed him as a 'known' gang member."

That's a silly comparison. First, it's not illegal to be in a gang; I don't know if judges can impose higher bonds because of that association. Second, maybe the case against Brown is exceedingly weak. Third, bonds are often set depending on how likely someone is to flee. Maybe Hartman is a bigger bet in that regard.

Don't get me wrong - I don't have an ounce of sympathy for Brown. But this kind of reporting doesn't really deliver a better understanding of who he is and why - and why his son was killed.

*

"The mayor took the lead of the superintendent without really knowing all the facts, and now that the facts are coming out, it's very clear to the police department that my client was not the intended target of the shooting," Brown's attorney, Donna Rotunno says.

"I have a hard time believing that a deranged shooter targeted this child," Mary Mitchell writes for the Sun-Times.

Of course not. Kids are never the target. But stray bullets don't know that.

*

"Brown, 29, has been arrested 45 times, according to the police."

Sigh.

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Poitras vs. U.S.
"Academy and Pulitzer Prize Award-winning documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras (CITIZENFOUR) sued the Department of Justice and U.S. transportation security agencies Monday demanding they release records documenting a six-year period in which she was searched, questioned, and often subjected to hours-long security screenings at U.S. and overseas airports on more than 50 occasions."

Brain Ghosts, Buzz Rides, Card Cheats, Literary Frauds & Identity Crises
In Local Book Notes.

Chicago Ladies Bullet Skates!
Designed for racing but also a popular choice for social skating.

RatRod TV
RatRod Ricky pitches ratrodders' favorite tool.

The Weekend In Chicago Rock
Featuring: Diarrhea Planet, Negative Scanner, Keeps, Slaughter & the Dogs, King Diamond, Erykah Badu, Hellyeah, Sister Sin, Slayer, Frankie Beverly & Maze, Dead Moon, Absolutely Not, Swirlies, Spray Paint, DestrOi! DestrOi!, The Murder City Devils, The Mekons, Empire of the Sun, Phantogram, Passion Pit, The Devil Wears Prada, Whitechapel, Thy Art Is Murder, Jungle Rot, Shattered Sun, Chris Creswell, Spoon, Althea Grace Band, Weezer, The Virus, Steve Miller Band, Urge Overkill, The Smithereens, The Hang Union, Toe, Eddie Vedder, Aretha Franklin, and The Chieftains.

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BeachBook
* Chicago Scenester Kicked Runaways Rapist Kim Fowley's Ass In '80s.

* Q&A With Unlock Congress Author Michael Golden.

* People Try Chicago Deep Dish Pizza For The First Time.

* Access Denied: Welcome To Chicago.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Crotchety.



Permalink

Posted on July 14, 2015


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Trump's Disastrous FCC Chair.
POLITICS - Filing: Walmart CEO Made $22.4 Million Last Year.
SPORTS - Teens Still Underreporting Concussions.

BOOKS - America, We Need To Talk.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Beachwood Photo Booth: Wyoming, Michigan.


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