Friday, April 10, 2015

Money To Burn...Literally

Real fire
Did you hear the campaign ads last week, warning Chicagoans of pending financial disaster if they elected Chuy Garcia? Remember all the talk about Chicago becoming Detroit, forced to declare bankruptcy, the city gone broke?

That was before Tuesday when Rahm Emanuel was re-elected. Now the city has money to burn. Literally burn.

Last October, the city had $100,00 to spare from its special events budget of 2013, plus another $250,000 from the 2014 allocation. The special events grants are supposed to be used to provide entertainment for the masses, especially the masses living outside of the city limits. The idea is to get them to come in, pay for parking, pay for drinks, and pay for food, all of which involves paying an entertainment tax that helps fund day-to-day operations that cannot be met by taxes alone. The system works, as long as enough people come to see what the city is staging, and buy enough stuff to more than cover costs.

What burned money looks like
The Redmoon Theater staged a spectacle that famously fizzled. What was supposed to be barges on the river representing Chicago on the night of the Great Chicago Fire failed to burn. Despite the infusion of all that cash lifted from the pockets of Chicago taxpayers, the system intended to ignite a conflagration did not work. Someone left the barges out in the rain. No one considered the fact that wood will not burn when wet, and when wood is allowed to get rained on, it gets wet, and so it does not burn. The fire in 1871 blazed spectacularly because, as any historian would tell you, the city was experiencing a severe drought. That's dry weather over a long period of time for those not schooled in meteorological terms.

Okay, so it failed. But lessons were learned, and next time... Well, just wait 'til next year.

Michelle Boon, the city's special events director, has promised that this time they'll get it right. The prop buildings will go up in flames, and not just smolder.

The city is supposed to be broke, but there is still a little bundle of cash that is going to be used to burn plywood cut-outs while tourists congregate along the river banks to watch. The city, or at least Ms. Boon, trust that tourists will come again, despite the previous fiasco, because there's an unfilled demand for bonfires in the greater Chicagoland area.

The tourists might even come just to see if the Big Burn fails again. It could become a regular event, like watching the Cubs and hoping they'll make it to the World Series.

The city of Chicago is sending another $100,000 to Redmoon Theater because it's all about second chances. Just ask Rahm Emanuel, who was given a second chance to get things right by the voters.

No comments: