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Privatize Taste of Chicago? Well, We've Already Sold Everything Else...

By Anthony Todd in Food on Oct 8, 2010 4:40PM

TasteTickets.jpg Considering how well the privatization of the parking meters has gone, it makes perfect sense that Mayor Daley would want to sell off other city assets, right? Well, that seems to be what our exalted leader is thinking, anyway. We reported a few weeks ago that there were rumors that other things would be privatized before Hizzoner leaves office, including the recycling system and some lakefront festivals.

The plot thickens. The Sun-Times reports that Daley definitely wants to privatize Taste of Chicago, and that he plans to go ahead with this plan before he leaves office. Even if a private company would impose an admission fee, he argues that it would be worth it to save the city and the taxpayers millions of dollars a year.

While we're usually against privatization of city assets, we'll admit that this one is a little less clear cut. True, Taste of Chicago is a beloved city event. But, from a food perspective, it's also pretty darn horrible. However, there is civic value in fairs, where the people of the city can gather, sample the city's restaurants and regard themselves as members of one community. As it usually does, privatization would penalize and exclude those people who have the least. It already costs a $2 convenience fee to buy $8 worth of food tickets at the Taste, and imposing an additional cost just to get in the door would probably limit the number of people willing and able to pay. Public events are meant to be accessible to as many people as possible, and privatization would kill that ethos.

There's also no guarantee that privatization would improve the food (indeed, Grubstreet's Nick Kindelsperger pointed out that quality hasn't come up in the mayor's arguments) and clearly, high prices do not ensure good events - think Chicago Gourmet. If the Taste goes private and nothing is done about the offerings while the prices rise sharply, the festival's days may be numbered. Unlike water, parking and airports, our city fathers will find out rather quickly that food festivals are not an essential service.

Photo by drew*in*chicago.