I am a Chicagoan, born and raised, and I am very attached to our civic traditions. It was bad enough when the city scaled down the municipal Christmas tree in Daley Plaza to save money this year, but when I was checking the local headlines today, an article from the Sun Times stopped me dead in my tracks: the next victim of the city's cost-cutting measures will be the annual 3rd of July fireworks display. In hopes of saving nearly a half million dollars, the city will no longer host one massive pyrotechnic detonation, but rather, will host three substantially smaller events on the 4th of July, spread throughout the city.
The Mayor's Office of Special Events claims that the new schedule will alleviate demands on the city's transportation and safety resources, by eliminating the stream of 1.2 million visitors into downtown for a single display. By hosting three events, one on the North Side at Montrose Harbor, one downtown at Navy Pier, and one on the South Side at the 63rd Street Beach, Daley claims that the fireworks will become more accessible to the citizenry by allowing them to stay closer to their own neighborhoods. The argument is that the only people to suffer in the new arrangement will be suburbanites who sought to have their cake and eat it too, by attending the Chicago fireworks on the 3rd and their own local shows on the 4th.
I disagree. Besides driving home the point that nothing is sacred in a down economy, the Mayor's Office is destroying one of the few events for which the people of Chicago come together. It is a good thing for people to leave their neighborhoods and come together. The mass solidarity at the 3rd of July fireworks display is a reminder of the diversity that defines our nation, and is all the more important to remember on the occasion of our national birthday. For a city as geographically divided by lines of class and race as Chicago, to tell the people that we are better off to stay in our own neighborhoods is a refutation of the ideals towards which we should be striving. To Mayor Daley and his staff, I say, "Poorly done." In these tough times we should be uniting, not rending asunder. Today, I am not proud to be a Chicagoan.