Advice for the Next Mayor of Chicago: Three Ways to Raise Needed Revenues

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

In a little over a month, Chicagoans will return to the polls to elect our Mayor, along with some aldermen. As you may have learned, the general election here on February 24 did not yield a Mayor.

Incumbent Rahm Emanuel was forced into a run-off race with Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a Cook County Commissioner who — along with three other candidates — captured enough votes to prevent Mr. Emanuel from getting the 50 percent-plus-one vote majority need to win re-election.

First, best of success to both candidates.

Second, below are suggestions to whoever wins the election April 7 on tackling one of Chicago’s nagging issues: Raising needed revenues without raising taxes, cutting vital city services or enacting other draconian measures.

So, without further ado, three ways to build Chicago’s bottom line.

  1.  Expand the Number of Tiki Bars. For some reason, those of the hipster set have taken to faux Polynesian nightclubs that serve $13 drinks adorned with umbrellas, flowers and large chunks of pineapple. In Lost Lakeour humble Avondale neighborhood, the just-opened Lost Lake tiki bar has patrons lined up out the door, even on cold evenings. As noted from a Yelp reviewer:  “The room is tastefully decorated and comfortable; makes you feel as though you have been whisked away from the cruel Chicago winter to a Caribbean island.” Yes, a Caribbean Island that from the outside looks a lot like Diversey Avenue. But just think of the revenues Chicago would gain from liquor license fees and sales tax revenues if there was a tiki bar on every other block!
  2. Make it a “Long, Strange Trip” Every Weekend. This dead50Independence Day holiday Chicago will be invaded by hoards of the living Dead. You know who I’m referring to — Deadheads, or fans of the almost defunct band the Grateful Dead. Yes, the ultimate jam band will play three shows here as part of its final “Fare Thee Well” tour and mark its 50th anniversary of playing songs that last 47 minutes on average.  Tickets are expensive and very hard to come by, as noted in this commentary. Same goes for hotel rooms, and I trust sales of tye dyed T-shirts will be brisk, too. The result: Millions of dollars spent in Chicago. So why not have the Dead play Chicago every weekend in 2015! Even if the real Dead members won’t perform, just hire some look-alikes. Deadheads reportedly are usually in some alter state of consciousness and probably won’t know the difference.
  3. If You Smoke ‘Em, Pick ‘Em Up. As depicted in the Ciggiesaccompanying photo, some people in Chicago fail to properly dispose of cigarette butts after they’ve enjoyed a smoke. This causes not just unsightly litter, it detracts from the street scape and requires clean up. Here’s a potential solution to combat butt scofflaws and raise some cash: Institute a new law fining property owners for spent butts found on their property. Perhaps $100 per butt? As you can see from the photo above, there’s about $4,000 in untapped potential revenue from this one location.

So, there Mr. Next Mayor. My thoughts on ways to get Chicago out of hock.

And, if you’re wondering who I’ll vote for, here’s my answer: The right candidate.