Yesterday, Tim Novak broke a story for the Sun-Times that exposes the $1 million in tax breaks that Lollapalooza was granted by the City of Chicago and Cook County. A key point in this story is that the deal was negotiated by the nephew of our former Mayor Daley in the twilight of his closing term.
After the infamous parking meters and various other Chicago scandals, I wasn't particularly surprised or alarmed by Novak's story. Especially after reading Brigid Sweeney's piece for Crain's which estimates that Lolla generates $85 million for the local economy.
If Lolla's bringing in $85 million for Chicago, why would I care if they get a little tax break that happens to have been negotiated by a Daley? I hear the Daley family is excellent at negotiations.
Enter Jim DeRogatis from WBEZ who has repeatedly questioned, “Is Chicago earning all that it should from Lollapalooza?” In “Does Lollapalooza $hort Chicago?” DeRogatis calls Sweeney's piece "an embarrassing epic of unabashed boosterism, press-release puffery, and poorly or non-sourced hype."
This, of course, prompted me to re-read Sweeney's piece which was virtually inescapable yesterday on twitter. Brigid paints the picture of Lolla as the city's knight in shining armor amidst the cancellation of Venetian Night, and Taste of Chicago's plummeting attendance.
In Chicago, there have always been tax breaks, nepotism, and bad business deals for the sake of "good," but we really just need to know if Lollapalooza is something we should be upset about or not. How does Lolla affect me as a Chicagoan? Does it hurt or help the local economy? And if it does help, would Lollapalooza stay in Chicago if they actually had to pay taxes here?
These are all questions unanswered. Jim? Brigid? Tim? Chicago, what do you think?