Amidst ongoing corruption trials, a scandal involving top cops who've been changing crime statistics to show crime going down when it’s not, and an economy reeling from the twin salvos of runaway tax increases, and a public pension mess, Chicago has come up with a solution to their economic woes and maybe to their crime fighting woes as well.
The city is going to fund giant street performing puppets, some as high as 50 feet tall, for merely millions of dollars.
Yes, apparently the performing puppets that they have at City Hall, at police headquarters and crawling all over Streets and Sanitation haven't done enough yet to ruin Chicago's reputation. So now the city has to bring in outsiders.
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Pretend outsiders, that is.
“Chicago has come up with a really big idea to boost tourism,” writes the Chicago Tribune, “giant puppets roaming the city's streets for days in an elaborate theatrical presentation. A multimillion-dollar deal is in the works to make Chicago the stage for Royal de Luxe, a French street theater company featuring marionettes as tall as 50 feet, during the summer of 2016, according to sources.”
No word yet on whether these puppets will make an appearance in some of Chicago's most notorious neighborhoods for crime and murder, like South Shore, Chicago Lawn, and New City.
So far this year, homicides have been down over last year, but no one knows whether that's because of top cops cooking the books, or because of policing efforts.
In 2011, Chicago had to disband two police rapid response units because the cops were as bad as the criminals. These units were responsible for deploying to high crime areas and had a history of shaking down drug dealers.
After finishing 2012 leading the nation in murder, Chicago cops came upon a novel way to reduce homicides: change homicides in the books to death by unknown cause.
In January the department announced that homicides were down 18%.
Since then, however, a number of investigative reports have uncovered the bookkeeping scheme by cops, one of whom was at the center of a scandal involving the investigation of the Daley relative who was involved in a drunken altercation that resulted in the death of a young suburban man visiting Rush Street in 2004.
Subsequently the Daley relative pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served a few weeks behind bars, after being free for 10 years since the incident to visit taverns and bars of his own choosing.
Chicago's latest gambit to rein in crime is to send bicycle cops into high crime areas. “The Chicago Police Department is deploying bikes for use by patrol officers in 19 of 20 targeted zones that have had a history of high rates of violence,” reports the Chicago Sun Times, “Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced Friday.”
In this way the city gets a twofer: they can pretend to fight crime and global warming at the same time, with about as much effect. I'm sure the gangbangers in the Latin Kings will be frozen into either fear or hysterical laughter by the sight of blue compression shorts and helmets with those dental mirrors on the front.
Still I think there's something to be said about the puppet idea.
"The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events talks to artists and organizations from around the globe on a daily basis about bringing performances to Chicago," said Jamey Lundblad, a spokesman for the city. "We've spoken with Royal de Luxe and believe their unique street theater productions have a positive social and economic impact on their host cities."
I can't quite determine whether Chicago's concealed carry laws would allow the arming of marionettes 10 times life-size, but it certainly would seem better than what the city is doing now which is practically nothing.
At a time when the Chicago Tribune chronicles 9 dead and 26 injured in shootings over the Easter weekend and concludes the story with, “No one was in custody for any of the shootings, police said,” it's worth noting that Chicago's Police Department has been very budget conscious.
When the city's black and minority residents are under siege, the department just can't find the money to fund overtime, but there's millions of dollars available to finance puppets to keep the white folks on Michigan Avenue and at City Hall happy.
Hope and Change are now just puppets too.