Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration faces a monumental crisis.
His city is short on cash, and City Hall is short on love.
But there is a way for him to solve his problems — to fill the city's coffers and also bring him the hugs of adoration from young people from around the world:
"You see them on the bridge, but then the mayor has his guys cut them off," complained a young woman, Mariah, about City Hall's campaign against love locks.
For the past year, Mariah has been sitting on the bridge, passing out pamphlets for boat tours. She sees things.
"Love locks are nice," said Mariah. "But is the mayor being mean?"
Susanne Becker, a German tourist from outside Dusseldorf, has no opinion on whether the mayor is mean. She finds Chicago a beautiful city and was standing Thursday in the brilliant sunshine on the Michigan Avenue Bridge with her husband, Marco Suzzani.
"We see them in Cologne, and everywhere throughout Europe," Susanne told me. "It's so nice. The young people buy a lock. They lock it on the bridge. They throw the key into the water. Yes. You do not have this custom here?"
It's too bad Mayor Rahmfather wasn't standing with me to explain how city crews rush around hunting love locks down, then chopping them off. It felt cold there, even in the sun.
City Hall blames personal injury lawyers, arguing that some mythic boater might get beaned by a falling lock someday. Naturally, the city would get sued.
"Preposterous," said Susanne's husband, Marco. "I am an engineer. It would take 25 years for a lock to rust through. And stainless steel locks would last indefinitely."
"There is no issue," continued Suzzani, "unless it is political."
Political? But of course it is political. This is Chicago.
If only young couples could carve their names into a padlock, then lock it to the side of a city bridge and throw the key into the river, an amazing thing would happen.
They'd be love-locked to Chicago. This gorgeous city would always have a special place in their hearts. And they would return to vacation here, and spend money here, and bring their children, who would also spend money.
And all would praise the Rahmfather.
City Hall's heartless lack of romantic imagination certainly bothers some people, like loyal reader Frank Bemis.
"A more appropriate tradition would be to engrave names on a parking meter. The symbolism is matchless," wrote Bemis. "The meter stands tall and proud. It's permanent. And money is shoved into it daily, symbolizing endless prosperity and abundance. Should the marriage go bad, it also can serve as a symbol of anger and bitter regret. A two-for-one deal. Hard to beat."