Dear Member of the
International Olympic Committee:
Residents continue to flock to the 2016 Committee's community meetings demanding answers to tough questions. We think it's fair to say - these questions are NOT being answered. Arnold Randall, director of Neighborhood Legacies at Chicago 2016,
tried to deflect talk of the City Council's infamous 75-year parking
meter deal to no avail.
By Dimitrios Kalantzis - Lake Effect News If pointing out the holes within a salesman's pitch were an Olympic
sport, Rogers Park would have a gold medal. Last night more than 150
people packed the Rogers Park Public Library with an overwhelming
message for the Chicago 2016 Olympic committee: the emperor is not, in fact, wearing any clothes.
Residents and activists of the 49th Ward listened to the committee's
35-minute presentation, the 27th so far of the mayoral ordered
community meetings, which included sound bites from pro-sports athletes
and President Barack Obama.
As reported last month by LEN, the golden goose eggs offered up by
Chicago 2016, include 31,000 jobs over the next 10 years, $10 million
for work force development, $1 billion in federal money for repairing
Chicago's mass transit system, new sports and recreational facilities
to be turned over to city parks, and a lasting legacy for the children.
But when the floor was opened for questions, the crowd went hunting for the magic beans.
"In the history of Chicago and minorities," said one resident, "when it comes to the goodies, it's not good."
"Is there anything projected in the future that can address that?"
the man asked before turning to Ald. Joe Moore, saying, "we bungled the
"It's interconnected," the man said in response.
The onslaught continued.
"I think it's disingenuous to say there's zero risk, because quite
frankly there's no such thing as zero risk," said Seth Mayer, a 5-year
resident of Rogers Park, quoting Chicago 2016 president Lori Healey.
"I'd much rather have an honest assessment of what the risks are than be told just: 'trust us, trust us,'" Mayer said.
Chicago 2016 will take out insurance policies to protect it against
the "unforeseen kinds of acts," said Healey: sponsor's bankruptcies,
cancelled games and acts of terrorism; premiums will cost at least $41
Another resident questioned the committee's plan to offer 30 percent
affordable housing in the Olympic Village following the games, citing
the recent University Village scandal, in which many units were purchased by non-qualifying buyers for profit.
When residents asked about the oft-penny-pinched Chicago Transit
Authority, Healey dropped a bombshell for many residents who mistakenly
think CTA improvements are guaranteed:
"Our budget does not contain funding for CTA improvements," Healey said.
"However history has shown that when U.S. cities get the games that
they get infrastructure funding from the federal government to help
support that," she said.
Residents continued to evoke Chicago's current budget woes, much to the support of the audience and chagrin of the panel.
"My question is concerning the budget and the fact that I don't
really believe in your budget," said one resident. "The city's broke
and we can't pay our daily expenses without selling off our parking
meters," he said, garnering applause from the crowd.
Citing a No Games Chicago
report that China spent $40 billion and that London spent $16 billion,
stark contrasts to Chicago's estimated $3.8 billion in expected costs,
Chicago 2016 blamed those added expenses on misguided infrastructure
development, mistakes Chicago will not replicate, Healey said.
"Once we do get the bids and actual work starts, who's going to provide oversight?" asked another resident.
"I personally don't trust the way the city does things," she said.
If the city wins its bid, a new Olympic board will be appointed by
the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. National Olympic
Committee, said Healey. President Obama, the Illinois Governor and even
the Mayor and "business community" can make appointments to the board,
The "transparency" of expenditures, she said, will be "web-based and reviewable by the public."
Residents continued voicing their apprehensions, articulating the
desperation many of us feel through this recession. "Chicagoans love
their city," said one woman, "but we also feel as though our quality of
life is eroding."
Ultimately and despite the tough, pointed questions, Chicago 2016 was not on trial last night; the city of Chicago was.
Following the meeting, Ald. Joe Moore (49th Ward) said, "I think the
questions that were asked were intelligent, for the most part, very
thoughtful and, uh, I feel it was a good meeting."
The City Council is now waiting on an independent review board's
report on Chicago 2016's proposed budget. It is expected to be released
in late August or early September. When asked if that would give the
City Council enough time to review the report before the October 2 IOC
announcement, Moore said, "Hopefully, we'll have enough time."
As one man said, using a simple analogy:
"I think the Olympics will do a great benefit to the city, but as it seems, most people have said: Clout Chicago