Mayor Rahm will take your questions now—just not the tough ones. Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty

I was out of town last week on a well-deserved and much-needed vacation, so I missed Mayor Rahm’s big announcement that he was bringing back the annual budget hearings.

Damn, man, I miss all the good stuff!

I realize many of you may not appreciate how fabulous these annual budget hearings can be.

Probably since you realize the budget itself is a largely fraudulent document carefully doctored to pretend as though the city’s in fine fiscal shape. As opposed to one step from bankruptcy.

Also, most of you probably never attended a budget hearing during the glory days of Mayor Daley.

Now, there was a mayor who knew how to hold a budget hearing!

Daley would line up his departmental bosses at a long table so ordinary citizens could rant and rail at them. Just like in a real democracy.

Plus, he’d make his aides give away key chains, pencils, notepads, and other nifty stuff.

God, I miss those key chains. Please come back, Mayor Daley—all is forgiven!

Mayor Emanuel tried a few budget hearings in his first year, back in 2011.

But a few residents asked him some tough questions about the tax increment financing program, and after that he stopped holding them.

No key chains for you, Chicago! That’ll teach you to ask tough questions about the slush fund.

Instead, the mayor opted for something like a budget seminar, where he came before a carefully selected group of admirers who could be counted on to tell him how wonderful he is.

Sort of like his appointed school board.

Every year since, come budget time, I’ve brooded over the loss of my beloved budget hearings. Not that the mayor cared.

In fact, I sort of came to the conclusion that my relationship with Mayor Rahm—a little rocky to begin with—had deteriorated to the point where he was against anything I was for.

Please don’t tell him how much I love the Jazz Festival.

So this year I stopped brooding over my lost budget hearings. And, guess what—he brought them back!

Hallelujah, my glorious plan has worked.

Hmm, I wonder if this will work with an elected school board?

In his press release, the mayor says:  “In preparing for the introduction of the 2016 budget, I want to ensure the budget represents a collaborative process and reflects input from residents across the City.”

Translation: If I’m gonna raise your taxes—and that’s what I’m gonna do—I have to at least pretend to give a shit about what you have to say.

The hearings are Monday, August 31, at Malcolm X College; Wednesday, September 2, at the South Shore Cultural Center; and Thursday, September 3, at Wright College. Each hearing starts at 6:30 PM.

But don’t ask the mayor any tough questions about TIFs.

We wouldn’t want to have to wait another four years for the next hearings.