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City plans to limit Jumping Jacks to block parties and other ‘public events’

The Emanuel administratiwants limit Jumping Jacks like this one block party Waukegan block parties other public events Chicago streets.

The Emanuel administration wants to limit Jumping Jacks, like this one at a block party in Waukegan, to block parties and other public events on Chicago streets. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 29, 2011 8:23AM

The wildly-popular Jumping Jack program salvaged by Chicago aldermen just three years ago is back on the chopping block — sort of.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration plans to maintain the longstanding Chicago tradition of providing free moonwalks to neighborhood festivals and quadruple — to four hours — the time kids at each event get to bounce.

But, to shave $300,000 from the $500,000 annual cost, the perk will be reserved for block parties and other “public events on Chicago streets.”

Private events will be bounced.

Testifying Thursday at City Council budget hearings, Cultural Affairs and Special Events Commissioner Michelle Boone argued that the changes return the program to its original “intent.”

“What we’re hoping to do is give people more bounce for the buck and extend the time people have access to the Jumping Jack, but also looking at streamlining where the programs are delivered to keep them focused on neighborhood block parties,” she said.

“The intent is to help build communities and move away from providing the Jumping Jack to private uses for hospitals or day cares or family reunions that do not take place on the block itself. ... It’s about building communities, providing a service for neighborhood block parties and really extending the time that people have to enjoy them.”

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Special Events, Cultural Affairs and Recreation, was thrilled with the changes.

“You have no idea how sensitive Jumping Jacks are to us aldermen. It’s one of the few things we can do” for neighborhood block clubs, the alderman said.

Three years ago, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley infuriated Chicago aldermen by eliminating the Jumping Jack program, a summer highlight for inner city kids.

Aldermen were not about to take the heat for snatching that perk away.

They pushed through a budget amendment that called for saving the program by doubling the daily and annual fees paid by Maxwell Street merchants.

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