Council could revoke free museum perks

March 19, 2009 2:54:27 PM PDT
Some Chicago aldermen are taking on the city's museums over recent hikes in the price of admission.They are threatening to cut off some city services - including free water - in response to the increases.

Alderman Ed Burke, 14th Ward, is fuming about the art institute's recent admission price hike. Burke says the museum should not raise prices when burke says the art institutes top six executives make over $2 million a year in combined salaries and benefits.

Burke is proposing to cut public subsidies for all museums who charge too Chicago residents too much.

The Art Institute and other popular Chicago museums sit on public land and enjoy the benefits of several freebies from the city, including free water, building permits and inspection and license fee waivers. But Alderman Burke is proposing to cut those benefits for the museums that charge Chicago residents more than $10 for admission.

"I think that Chicago tax payers who already subsidize the operations of museums ought to get a break," said Ald. Edward Burke, 14th Ward.

Burke's proposed ordinance comes after the Art Institute announced it was raising its general admission by 50 percent. Fees will go from $12 dollars per person to $18. The museum says the fee increase will help pay for rising operational costs. But Burke doesn't buy it.

"An institution like the Art Institute doesn't look to reduce costs," said Burke.

The Art Instiute also received over a $6 million subsidy from the Park District and Burke says the museum occupies public land at no cost. On Thursday, the Art Institute would not comment on Burke's proposal, but some of the Art Institute's visitors did.

"I think it's definitely fair for the museums to charge for additional costs," said Maria Tulkin, museum visitor.

"The idea that every Chicagoan is going to have to pay $18 to come in, $60 or $80 for a family of four is ridiculous," said Joshua Hoydt, museum visitor.

Burke believes making it unafforable for Chicagoans is not why the museum was built.

"You really think that the generous philanthropists of Chicago in years gone by donated all that money so that people of Chicago couldn't afford to see those wonderful treasures?" said Burke.