The bid to privatize seven high-profile festivals in Chicago's Grant Park has a few steps to go before it's a done deal. Shannon Andrews, the spokeswoman for the city's Department of Procurement Services, wrote in an email that city staffers are currently reviewing the single response they received for outsourcing management of the fests. If they decide to move forward on the outsourcing proposal, which would create an admission fee for the Taste of Chicago and institute charges for previously free concerts during both the jazz and blues festivals, the agreement would still need go-ahead from the Chicago Park District's Board of Commissioners as well as the full City Council.
There are concerns among some council members about the impact of levying a charge to get into the Taste. Ald. Walter Burnett (27th Ward), chair of the council committee set up to oversee the city's special events, said he wasn't sold on the $20 admission fee for the event. (Half of the possible new charge would kick back to the entrant in the form of drink and food tickets.) Tellingly, Burnett told the Tribune he doesn't want any repeat of the city's parking meter privatization. It should provide a little cold comfort that following the hurried, now-infamous meter lease that some aldermen are at least once bitten twice shy with regards to privatization pitches.
Tribune food critic Phil Vettel, meanwhile, wrote in a thoughtful column published yesterday that the lakefront fests' "egalitarian nature might be permanently, irretrievably transformed" by the proposed new fees. Here's more from Vettel:
Even if you were broke, you could still pack a picnic basket, find a patch of grass and listen to free music. Consequently, walking around Taste of Chicago provided a more accurate snapshot of who actually lives in this city than one could get while attending Lollapalooza, or a baseball game, or any other admission-based event.