Rahm Emanuel began his tenure as Chicago mayor with a sour message for Chicago residents.
He would cancel the July 4 fireworks display that had for years thrilled crowds at Grant Park during the close of Taste of Chicago. During its heyday, the city would often boast of upward of one or two million spectators at the park. Not this year.
In 2011, the Taste was scaled back -- the festivities ended a half an hour earlier -- and crowds were herded to the much smaller Navy Pier for a singular fireworks demonstration. Reports say 80,000 watched the demonstration.
Part of the reason for the revamp was safety. The festival had become a haven for violence during the past decade. This year, the festival and the fireworks were easier to manage from a crime perspective, according to a press release from the Mayor's office:
"I commend the City’s public safety agencies and employees for their efforts to make this year’s event the safest in recent memory,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Preliminary reports by the Chicago Police Department indicate that there were almost 50 percent fewer arrests this year, a 20 percent decrease in citations for soliciting, panhandling and/or peddling without a license, and zero incidents reported involving illegal weapons.
The Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) activated its Emergency Operations Center at the start of the Taste to coordinate the delivery of city resources and public safety assets around the event footprint.
The public assisted the police in their efforts by reporting suspicious activity to authorities.
"Every year millions of people enjoy the Taste of Chicago, creating jobs and generating economic activity for our great city," said Emanuel. "We could not attract people from across the globe without the hard work of our public safety officials."
Unfortunately crimes sprung up elsewhere in the city, with 23 injured and 5 dead after the July 4 weekend. But those crimes weren't downtown during the festival close, which is worth crowing about.
Similar to the crime rate at the Taste, revenues were also likely down, according to WBEZ.
The head of Chicago's Park District says this year's Taste of Chicago was a success, even though he says the city likely lost money on the festival.
Leading up to this year's Taste of Chicago, which ended Sunday, the city had considered privatizing the event in an effort to grab some quick cash. But when the only bidder suggested charging admission to the food festival, the city instead turned the 10-day event over to the Park District.
"I don't think this thing made money, but I don't think it lost a lot of money, either," said Michael Kelly, the interim head of the Chicago Park District.
So the Emanuel Taste of Chicago led to preliminary reports of declining arrests and crime statistics, as well as preliminary reports of declining revenues, but crime around the city remained intact.