Daley suggests privatizing Taste, other events

August 26, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The mayor is continuing his effort to shrink the city government in the face of what he calls a persistent "great recession". He said Thursday the city is not considering more fixed asset leases -- like the parking meter deal -- to help resolve next year's projected $655 million budget deficit.

But, the mayor says, his administration is considering, among other moves, the privatization of those brand name lakefront music festivals and the world famous Taste of Chicago.

Since it began in 1980, the city owned and operated Taste has grown to become (as it's billed) the world's largest outdoor food festival. The budget-challenged Daley administration wants to find out how much private, for profit companies will bid to takeover the management of the Taste and several other music festivals the city sponsors every summer.

"It costs you more and more money. That's what you have to look at. You have to look at efficiency, and you have to look at government differently," said Daley.

The Daley administration also will entertain private company bids for:

  • managing the blue cart recycling program,
  • fleet maintenance and repair of city cars and trucks,
  • animal care and control department feeding and cleaning services

The Department of Revenue will explore allowing privately owned stores to accept payments for City Hall and to allow ATMs and movie rental boxes to be located in city-owned buildings.

The mayor also says he is now considering using a portion of set-aside tax increment financing funds to help balance next year's budget and he says non-union city employees can expect another year with as many as 24 mandatory furlough days. "We're the only - when you think about cities, county and state and even federal government - we're the only ones doing this. I'm taking 10 percent. I'm taking [a] $20,000 [pay cut], that's a lot of money," said Daley.

The mayor says if the functions mentioned Thursday are privatized, it would not necessarily mean layoffs as city workers would be moved to other functions and departments. He says the city has cut over 6,000 workers in the past ten years and spending by $2.7 billion in the past 20 years.

Daley could not say how much money might be saved if the city got out of the food and festival businesses.

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