Grateful Dead concerts meant Chicago raked in hotel taxes

23 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Grateful Dead concerts meant Chicago raked in hotel taxes.

Prompted by Donald Trump’s rants about Mexican immigrants and his comments questioning Sen. CHICAGO — City of Chicago officials say the Grateful Dead’s set of final concerts over the Fourth of July weekend brought in more than $431,000 in hotel tax revenue for the city.

John McCain’s status as a war hero, readers have emailed me with a question: The city approved the sign and for the foreseeable future, we’re stuck with it. That’s compared to the same weekend over the previous five years, which had an occupancy rate for leisure bookings at downtown Chicago hotels of 57.7 percent.

Attempts to characterize it as a symbol of “hate speech” — an idea some readers floated after the real estate developer, reality TV star and front-running Republican presidential candidate characterized Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and drug dealers — are destined to go nowhere. They can ridicule the grotesquely oversized, crudely detailed sign, which flaunts 20-foot-high reflective stainless steel letters that spell out TRUMP and glow at night, that looms even larger because it is slapped on the skyscraper’s riverfront-facing lower level, where it’s impossible to ignore.

One way is to heed the message of independent Chicago tour guide Margaret Hicks, who has started putting the Trump sign on her half-serious, half-tongue-in-cheek walking tour of downtown Chicago disaster sites. Some of the tragedies Hicks covers on the twice-weekly, $20 tour — like the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 or the Eastland Disaster, which claimed 844 lives when an excursion boat rolled over July 24, 1915 — are the real thing.

When Hicks was a Chicago Architecture Foundation river cruise docent, she was expected to be neutral, sticking to the facts and keeping her opinions to herself. Thanks to a fiat administrative decision by the Department of Finance, the city will impose the 9.0 percent tax on services like Netflix, Spotify, Xbox Live, and Amazon One. The black slab of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s former One IBM Plaza (now AMA Plaza) and the corncobs of Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina City extend that dialogue westward and into the mid-20th century. Combine that with other creative solutions from the mayor’s office like, the higher tax on parking spaces, the new tax on leased vehicles, and the new tax on personal property lease transactions, and we have a grand total of $62.4 million in new revenue!

But the sign, which went up last summer and is more than three times the size of the sign near Tribune Tower’s base, is the equivalent of a boorish intruder at a black-tie ball: It never shuts up and never ceases to call attention to itself. Now that the vibrant extension of the Chicago Riverwalk has opened across the river, it’s clear that Emanuel did the right thing by getting the City Council to pass legislation that controls the size, placement and materials of future signs along the downtown riverfront. They will, however, cripple innovation and investment in the city, establish a dangerous gateway for tax discrimination in the digital marketplace, and violate federal law, state law, and Supreme Court precedent. The application of the tax is shrouded in uncertainty and affected companies are waiting until they receive the bill before determining their course of action. On the federal level, challenges will come declaring it a violation of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, the Commerce Clause, and the first and second prongs of the Supreme Court’s complete auto test.

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