In recent weeks, governmental budget woes have been all the buzz in this anything-but-booming economy. Mayor Richard M. Daley’s announcement of the city’s upcoming spending cuts might have some of the city’s festival and concert attendees frowning.
Daley revealed his budget plans for next year to the City Council on Oct. 21. The mayor proposed a $114 million reduction in spending, in response to the city’s current $550 million budget deficit.
The budget cuts came as no surprise to many in the Chicago area. “These are things that need to be done to keep the city alive and functioning,” said Bonnie Sanchez Carlson, director of the Near South
Daley claims that he will not raise taxes, fees or fines for Chicago residents. He says he plans to do this by borrowing money from the reserves created by the controversial parking meter deal. Cuts will also be spread throughout all departments in the city, the mayor said. For example, the city’s curb side recycling program is expected to have its bimonthly pick-ups reduced to every three weeks. The tourism budget is also expected to take a hit, but the festivals are at the top of the list for cuts.
Next year, five annual festivals will likely not happen, including Venetian Night, with its Lake Michigan boat parade. Also slated for demise are the Chicago Outdoor Film Festival, Chicago Criterium bicycle races, Great Chicago Places and Spaces, and the Mayor’s Cup Youth Soccer Tournament.
“[Venetian Night] has large production expenses,” said Cindy Gatziolis, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s Special Event’s Office. “It’s a tremendous amount of cost without much revenue.”
Venetian Night was created 52 years ago by former Mayor Richard J. Daley.
Over the years, sponsorship has been slowly dwindling, according to Gatziolis.
The Outdoor Chicago Film Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary this past summer. The festival was held at Grant Park’s Butler Field. Every Tuesday during the summer, the park would show free, classic movies at sunset.
Gatziolis said that if there are private organizations or a corporation that want to sponsor an event, the office will listen to ideas and take them into consideration. She also mentioned that nothing is finalized as far as next year’s plans.
Chicago’s longest running lake front music festival, the Jazz Festival, is expected to be cut back from three days to two. The free music festival has been a tradition for many residents over the years. Last year, the festival was cut from four days to three.
“The weekend brings out the best of Chicago’s music scene; it’s very important to this city,” said Jade Lagestee-Biesboer, a sophomore journalism major at Columbia. “A lot of people look forward to the fest and it’s just sad to know that it might be cut back again.”
Meanwhile, Chicago’s Country Music Festival, Celtic Festival and Viva Latin may be relocated from Grant Park to Millennium Park. The change of venue is to save money on portable toilets and to prevent shutting down the streets for the festivals.
While some may feel the arts are often put on the back burner in tough times, the Department of Cultural Affairs paints a different picture.
“I think there is a misconception that the arts are seen as not important but the truth is, we have an incredible amount of support from the government in this city,” said Kimberly Costello, assistant commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs.
Costello noted that every department in the city is being hit with staff reductions and budget cuts,.
“We hold normally about 2,000 events, so it is not as noticeable if we make a few cuts in our department,” Costello said.
The City Council plans to vote on the proposed budget cuts on Dec. 2.
By Stephanie Saviola / firstname.lastname@example.org