Chicago Raises the Curtain on Annual Budget Show

Script is always the same

As it does every year at this time, the Chicago City Council is about to put on a show.

It's a little play called "Budget Hearings," and it's expected to run for two weeks.

A delight to some, stale to others, the play nonetheless is a Chicago staple as much as deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style indictments.

While a few names may change from year to year, the scenes are always the same.

In previews for the press, aldermen try to pique interest in the drama by suggesting that this time their characters have been toughened up, and they will play their roles with a gusto never before seen.

It never happens.

Oh sure, a few prima donnas will ad lib a few lines roughing up a department head or two that they feel comfortable bullying. They'll preen for the camera and make a lot of crowd-pleasing noise about really starting to do their jobs. And then they'll return to their scripts and vote unanimously for whatever the mayor wants.

After all, the mayor wrote the script, hired the actors, and paid for the production.

The media reviews are scripted too; they will be dotted with just enough angst to feign independent thought, but not enough to shut the production down. They don't want to lose backstage access, and they want to be invited back next year

Your job is to sit back and watch. Or not even that; this is one play that the actors wouldn't mind performing without any public attention.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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