Illinois lawmaker pushes for tax on ticket sales for festivals near neighborhoods impacted by noise, traffic

Would you pay a few dollars more for a music festival ticket if it meant the host neighborhood would benefit? A West Side lawmaker is pushing for a "Community Benefit Tax."

What led to the proposal is the controversy over Douglass Park hosting Riot Fest each summer. The concert promoters benefit, the artists and vendors benefit, the Park District benefits, but many argue the neighborhood doesn't.

"[Riot Fest] makes things complicated," said Douglass Park neighbor Vincent Jones. "You got people who pay rent, pay taxes, go to work, come home, there's nowhere to park."

Jones isn't alone in his frustration with Riot Fest taking over the park in mid-September. The three-day music festival has drawn much criticism from a large and very vocal contingent of neighbors for its impact on parking, traffic, and access to the park and nearby hospitals.


"This is not just a problem in one community," said State Rep. La Shawn Ford of Illinois' 8th District. "This is happening across the city in about three communities where the concerts are being held and the communities are not better off as a result."

Ford has heard neighbors' criticism and is now proposing a two-percent Community Benefits Tax added to the price of every ticket sold. The money raised would then go to a nonprofit organization based in the host neighborhood, and chosen by the neighborhood.

"It would be a small fee, but it would be a great opportunity for the community to be better off after the concert, just like the concert promoters and the concert-givers," said Ford.

"That'd be a good thing for all of us," said neighbor Vincent Lane. "Everybody would be proud of that."

"If it helps us in any type of way, I'm cool with that," said Jones. "But if they're doing something to put money in their pocket, no. It's not doing anything for us. We still have to deal with [Riot Fest]."

"Most of the people that attend Riot Fest are from outside the community, and I believe that they would have no problem paying a community benefits tax for the neighborhood where they enjoy it," Ford said.

If passed, the tax would be imposed and administered by the city. Ford said he is right now in conversations with several aldermen about shoring up support for it on the Chicago City Council.