A quick hit list about what happened in Chicago this week.
Welcome to Chicago - now fork it over. It's already expensive to bring a car to downtown Chicago, where parking at a garage can cost $25 per day. But one alderman, Ed Burke, says the city should consider charging a "congestion" fee on motorists who drive into the central business district. Burke press secretary Donal Quinlan acknowledged the idea already has generated criticism, but he said a London-style fee could help raise money for local mass transit while reducing carbon emissions. He said the Burke plan - technically a resolution -- may get an initial screening from a City Council committee later this year. "We haven't set the fee or defined the district," Quinlan said Friday. "We've simply brought up the concept." Graffiti penalty stalls. Mayor Richard Daley's suggestion to penalize the parents of juvenile vandals stalled last week after some aldermen balked at his proposed fines of up to $750. Some said the stiff level would be a hardship on poor families or grandparents raising unruly kids, and the mayor indicated he'd be willing to compromise. Chicago has a highly touted graffiti-removal crew, but city officials say the unit is having a hard time keeping pace with spray-painters. One-of-a-kind smoker's haven. Citing increasing restrictions nationwide, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. announced recently it has snuffed out plans to open a hip smoker's lounge in the company's home base of Winston-Salem, N.C. That means Chicago will continue to have the only Marshall McGearty Tobacco Artisans outlet. The R.J. Reynolds-owned test venture, a cigarette store and café, opened in the trendy Wicker Park neighborhood in 2005. Illinois may soon have a smoking ban at all work places, but company spokesman David Howard said Marshall McGearty would pass muster by becoming exclusively a tobacco retail outlet. "Whatever the (state) restrictions are, the lounge will operate within their guidelines," he said. What's new. Six years ago, the terrorist strikes of Sept. 11 brought Chicago's tax-generating hospitality industry to its knees. Statistics released by state tourism officials last week painted a considerably brighter picture: The Windy City hosted a record 44 million business and leisure travelers in 2006, a 10 percent increase from the previous year. What's next: Turtle soup, sweet-potato hash browns and Southwestern chicken tarts are among the new offerings at this year's Taste of Chicago, which runs June 29-July 8 in Grant Park. Some of the delicacies - and some old favorites, like Gold Coast hot dogs and Eli's Cheesecake- were served up Wednesday at the festival's annual media preview. The Taste attracts more than 3.5 million locals and visitors. Mike Ramsey is the Chicago reporter for GateHouse News Service. He can be reached at (312) 857-2323 or email@example.com.