Emanuel wants independent look at Lollapalooza tax break
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org August 16, 2011 12:50AM
Fans of Death From Above 1979 anticipate the start of the concert on the Bud Light stage Saturday August 6, 2011 during day two of Lollapalooza in Grant Park. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: November 16, 2011 1:29AM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday he would ask the City Council to appoint a “third-party, independent” negotiator to broker talks with Lollapalooza and determine whether to eliminate the music festival’s multi-million dollar amusement tax exemption.
The hands-off stance is necessitated by the involvement of Emanuel’s brother, Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel. Ari Emanuel is the CEO of William Morris Endeavor, which co-owns Lollapalooza.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that, for the seventh straight year, the city exempted Lollapalooza from paying Chicago’s five percent amusement tax.
The complex deal was negotiated by Mark Vanecko, a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, and approved in the waning days of the Daley administration.
As a lobbyist and lawyer for the festival’s promoters, Vanecko helped negotiate a 10-year contract that prohibits all artists performing at Lollapalooza from appearing within 300 miles of the city for six months before and three months after the festival. The contract expires in 2018. The tax break must be renewed every year.
Lollapalooza qualifies for the tax exemption because the Chicago Park District doesn’t contract directly with the festival’s promoter. That’s all done through the Parkways Foundation, the Park District’s not-for-profit fund-raising arm.
Asked about the arrangement on Monday, Emanuel said, “If they got a special deal that was —I can’t [comment on it]. It would be wrong for me to express. I can’t go down this road.”
He added, “Because of Ari’s interest ..., a third-party independent appointed by the City Council will deal with this. I’m not gonna be involved. It would be inappropriate … I’m gonna set up an independent entity to deal with them and negotiate. I’m not gonna be there. I can’t.”
In a wide-ranging interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel also applied some not-so-subtle pressure on Gov. Quinn to sign off on a massive gambling expansion bill that would pave the way for a land-based, government-owned Chicago casino as well as slot machines at O’Hare and Midway Airports.
“It’s the single largest infrastructure bill ever … You can build 25 schools. Seventy miles of rail can be re-done. Forty miles of roads can be re-paved. And about 160 buildings can be retrofitted for energy efficiency,” Emanuel said, pointing to the 20,000 construction jobs that would be created.
He said the casino would mean $130 million a year for Chicago.
Referring to Quinn’s marathon deliberations, the mayor said, “He doesn’t think it’s perfect. It needs to be a trimmed. It needs to be re-calibrated. That’s what a trailer bill is for. I understand the desire to wait. But, I know his desire to create jobs, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime to do it.”
Emanuel has promised to erase the city’s $635.7 million shortfall — without raising taxes or using one-time or casino revenues — by making the “tough choices” Chicago has avoided for decades.
And what are some of those tough choices?
“We’re not changing how many police we have. I’m not gonna skimp on public safety. But, the central office is gonna be looked at of both Police and Fire [Departments]. They’ve been walled off” from change, the mayor said.
Noting that the number of fires has steadily declined over the years, Emanuel said he has “some ideas” about how to make more effective use of firefighter down time. He refused to elaborate.
“I’m aware of what has happened over the years. But, there are choices to be made,” he said. “As I go to the engine houses, I say, `What happens here guys can’t be sacrosanct.’”