The People Speak
Giving Chicago 2016 is the worst idea ever- this will ruin the Olympics and
goes against everything the Olympics are supposed to stand for!
Signer of No Games
Dear Member of the
International Olympic Committee:
Michael Scott, the President of the Chicago Board of Education and the leader of the 2016 Committee's Community Outreach program is in the news again today.The citizens of Chicago follow these news reports closely. Look to see protests and calls for Mr. Scott to resign his official positions.
TRIBUNE WATCHDOGChicago 2016 Olympics: Member of city's bid team has deal to develop land near park earmarked for the Games
the city school board president, says he has done nothing improper
By Todd Lighty, David
Heinzmann and Kathy Bergen - ChicagoTribune reporters - August 7, 2009
A member of Mayor Richard
Daley's team working to bring the Olympics to Chicago has quietly arranged to
develop city-owned land near a park that would be transformed for the 2016
Summer Games, potentially positioning himself to cash in if the Games come
here, a Tribune investigation has found.
Developer Michael Scott Sr., an
early member of the mayor's Olympic committee, leads a group planning a
residential and commercial project on lots kitty-corner from the proposed
Douglas Park sporting venues, a location where land values could jump if the
city gets the Olympics.
The plan -- which would include a Nike store -- already has gotten crucial
support from the local alderman, who has set aside the lots for Scott and his group.
The city generally sells taxpayer-owned lots for $1 apiece for affordable
housing projects, and in other cases negotiates land prices.
Scott owns Michael Scott & Associates, a real estate development
and investment firm. He also serves as president of the Chicago Board of
Education, and was in the news earlier this week when he said he was subpoenaed
to testify before a federal grand jury looking into admissions to the city's
elite public schools.
Scott's designs on the public land
are sure to reinforce concerns of residents that it's the mayor's friends who
would benefit from Daley bringing the 2016 Olympics to the city. The story is a
familiar one in Daley's administration, where City Hall insiders have
personally profited from even the most civic-minded of projects, from recycling
garbage to building Millennium
The development team includes six West Side
ministers, some of whom are politically connected.
Scott, who acknowledged plans to
develop the lots around Douglas Park, said he has done nothing improper and
defended his roles as a member of Daley's Olympic committee, school board
president and developer.
"I've had an interest in Douglas Park long before the Olympics came and
will probably have an interest long after we get them or not," Scott said. "That's where I was raised, that's
what I know, so if that's something that's punishable, I can't tell you
Scott got his start in politics as a
housing activist in the West Side's Lawndale
neighborhood, where he was born and raised. He has served under several mayors,
including Harold Washington and Daley.
He was criticized in 1990 for his insider connections when he left his job as
city government's chief cable administrator to go work for a cable company.
Earlier this year, Scott's roles as
school board president and as a member of the city's Olympic committee stirred
In May, he asked all of the city's school principals to form plans to promote
the Olympics. Teachers and union officials said Scott's
tactics were heavy-handed and they feared retaliation if they did not support
Daley's quest for the Games.
Daley first floated his vision of bringing the Olympics to Chicago in 2005 after previously dismissing
the idea as too costly. He assembled an exploratory committee in mid-2006 that
As Daley forged ahead with his plans, the exploratory team evolved into Chicago
2016, the committee spearheading the city's push for the Olympics.
When the committee unveiled its original ideas in summer 2006 for hosting the
Olympics, Douglas Park did not figure in the plans, nor was the park part of
revised plans unveiled months later.
By March 2007, however, Chicago 2016 announced it had again tweaked its plans.
Among the changes, Douglas Park would play a role in the Olympics: The aquatics
center would move from the University
of Illinois at Chicago to the park.
Ald. Ed Smith (28th) said he had pressed the Olympic committee to put a venue
on the city's West Side. He said he originally
wanted an Olympic swimming pool to be built at Westinghouse High School
in his ward. Smith said he had met with members of the Olympic committee,
including bid chairman Patrick Ryan, but could not recall if Scott attended.
"I was adamant that we have Olympic activity on the West Side of Chicago.
They came out and made the decision to use Douglas Park," Smith said.
"I don't know who decided that."
Scott served as president of the
Chicago Park District board in the 1990s, and his son is now an area parks
The Chicago 2016 committee and Park District staff met several times to choose
between Douglas and Garfield
Parks as an Olympic site,
a spokesman for the city's bid said. The spokesman said they decided on Douglas in part because it is closer to other downtown
A Park District spokeswoman said neither Scott
nor his son had any role in the park's selection.
Organizers in December 2008 changed plans for Douglas Park, deciding to use it
as the site for the indoor cycling facility or velodrome, and a temporary
outdoor BMX cycling track.
After the Games, the velodrome would become a multiuse sports facility, the
largest of its kind in the city. In addition, one of the pools from the Olympic
aquatics center -- now planned for Washington
Park on the South Side --
may permanently be moved to Douglas Park.
Scott and the ministers in December
2006 formed their company, WMC-I, Westside Ministers for Change. State records
show Scott is the manager.
They shared their vision with the local alderman, Sharon Denise Dixon (24th), a
former flight attendant and social worker elected to City Council in 2007.
aldermen have near total control over what gets developed in their wards. A
developer who wants a project to get necessary City Hall approval must first
visit the local alderman or risk having the project stymied. Aldermen can control
or "hold" lots to block development or to allow development to
enthusiastically backed Scott's
plans and promised to hold nearly 20 lots for development.
In a September 2007 letter to Scott
with the subject line "Douglas Park Development," Dixon told Scott
that his plans for possible "market rate and affordable" new homes on
the city-owned lots was exciting and would continue to revitalize the
"It will also showcase this area of Chicago
for the proposed 2016 Summer Olympics," she wrote. "Please feel free
to use my endorsement of this project in any way that will continue to benefit
balanced growth and development in the 24th Ward."
In a follow-up letter to Scott in
May 2008, Dixon
included the list of the lots and their addresses.
Both of Dixon's
letters of support were sent to the Department of Community Development to
inform city staff of her backing for Scott's
declined to talk about her endorsement of Scott's
plans, referring questions to him and to City Hall. She called back later,
saying the project actually would be developed by a group of West
Asked why none of the ministers' names were included in her letters of support
for the project, Dixon
replied, "That's a very good question. I'm not quite sure. This is not a
Michael Scott project per se. It's
not about Michael Scott. It's about
the development and enhancement of the 24th Ward."
Scott and his team have yet to file
any formal plans with the city to develop the lots, which are located in the
3100 block of West Roosevelt Road,
the 1100 block of South Albany
Avenue and the 3100 block of West Arthington Street.
Rev. Charles Robinson, a politically connected pastor and member of the Chicago
Transit Authority board, said he and the five other ministers and their
churches were involved. He said Scott
will serve as "adviser and developer" in the for-profit project.
Scott said he was acting on the
behalf of the ministers. When asked whether he stood to make money on the
development, Scott said it would be
speculative to say the venture would be profitable.
The team is negotiating to bring a Nike store to Roosevelt Road, near the potential
Olympic venues, Robinson said. He said their early plans include a mix of
commercial and residential, with stores at street level on Roosevelt Road and housing on the second
and third floors.
Scott has experience developing land
around the park. Years ago, he teamed up with developer Cecil Butler to build a
gated community nearby called Albany Park Townhouses at Albany and Ogden Avenues on the western edge
of the park. He also owns other land for development adjacent to the park.
"We started working out in the Lawndale
community before there was interest," Scott
said. "I've put my money in this community, and most people would never
ever consider doing that."
The International Olympic Committee votes for a host city Oct. 2, choosing
among Chicago, Madrid,
Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.
Real estate experts said land close to Olympic sporting venues would become
more valuable, with the economic impact on land values tapering off the farther
a property is from the venues.
"It's clear it is going to have a positive effect on the surrounding
property values, and geographically, it will be highest for the closest
units," said James Shilling, a DePaul
University real estate
If Chicago is
not chosen, the lots -- in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods -- may not
become more attractive for developers any time soon.
In June, as part of a series of meetings, Chicago 2016 and Park District
officials met with residents at the Douglas Park Field House to get community
feedback on what should be left behind in the park after the Olympics. In the
audience were Dixon and Scott's
son, Michael Scott Jr., who is the
area manager for parks in the Austin and North Lawndale communities.
Michael Scott Jr. declined to
comment for this story.
Scott Sr.'s role in potentially
developing the city lots is especially sensitive given that he is a co-chair of
a Chicago 2016 subcommittee that crafted an agreement ensuring jobs and
contracts for minorities, as well as promising affordable housing to be a part
of the Olympic Village agreement.
The agreement, approved by City Council in April, grew out of concerns from
neighborhood groups that economic benefits from the Olympics would go mostly to
politically connected insiders.
In addition to his Olympic committee role, Scott
also is involved in the proposed Douglas Park sports venues through his
position as president of the school board. Chicago 2016's velodrome plans call
for tearing down the Collins
High School campus' two
gyms and indoor pool, a sensitive issue with many community residents who don't
want the recently renovated facilities demolished.
Scott said that he was not on the
school board when he become involved in the real estate project, and that his
role with the Olympics at the time was minimal.
But Valerie Leonard, a member of the Lawndale Alliance neighborhood group, said
she was concerned about Scott's
"I believe that everybody should have the opportunity to make money. I do
believe in the American way," she said. "But I think it's problematic
when you have insiders continuously getting access to information that most
people don't have access to."