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No Games Chicago Update
49 Days To Decision
Daily News

August 13, 2009
The People Speak

I live in Chicago and my kids attend Chicago public schools. I currently have no plans to move. As a Chicago homeowner and taxpayer, I certainly have a vested interest in seeing my city thrive. I also know the city is in a tough financial spot right now.

I've been reading your bi-weekly Olympic missives on this website and I'd like to suggest - in all seriousness -- a topic for your next entry. Many of us in Chicago are opposed to the Olympics coming to town because we do not trust a lot of the public officials connected with the bid. (Many of us also think our city is too cash-strapped to take on this adventure.) Week after week, we read about insider deals and apparent conflicts of interest involving many folks close to those at the 2016 helm. Too often, journalists who probe, asks questions, and try to gather information using FOIA are routinely stonewalled (and often ignored).

I'd appreciate it if, in your next piece for The Huffington Post, you'd make the case for why we taxpayers should trust these leaders to keep the 2016 Summer Games transparent and free from the cronyism and corruption that so permeates everyday life here in Chicago.

Matt Farmer, Chicago
Comment on Pat Ryan's online column at The Huffington Post

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Open letter to the IOC:
"Why you don't want to give the Olympics to Chicago"

Dear Member of the International Olympic Committee:  

The 2016 Committee continues to meet with community members. The more they meet, the angrier the community residents get.

Bronzeville Not Buying The Olympic Guarantee

Angela Caputo - Progress Illinois - August 12, 2009 

Ever since they got a whiff of proposed plans to turn their Chicago neighborhoods into ground zero for the 2016 Olympics, many South Side residents have grown concerned that they will end up sidelined by the games. Last year, a coalition organizations began pressuring City Hall to produce a legally-binding "community benefits agreement" to guarantee the locals would see a cut -- via apprenticeships and housing -- of the Olympic development boom. As regular readers know, the city initially attempted to stonewall the group.

But their campaign ultimately produced some bad PR for the bid committee, not to mention the mayor, and the City Hall insiders relented -- sort of. In March, Chicago 2016 agreed to sign a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) upping minority contracting, local employment, and affordable housing goals. But legal experts subsequently confirmed what community groups knew all along: the document hardly represents a guarantee.

Apparently, Chicago 2016 thought that they had outfoxed the coalition -- and the public -- by handing them the MOU and walking away with some favorable headlines. Indeed, while appearing at one of the bid committee's community meetings in Bronzeville last night, chairman Pat Ryan attempted to trot out the document as "legally-binding" evidence that the South Side is in line for big gains. Luckily, the residents in attendance -- invited from the 3rd, 4th, and 20th Wards --  knew better.
"You're selling it like it's going to protect us," Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization's Jitu Travis told Ryan. "It's not. Where's the legally-binding document?"

Ryan countered that the committee's obligation is to its private investors, claiming that they will pay for "100 percent" of the games' "operating expenses." The identities of all those interests remains under wraps, though, as the bid committee continues to suspiciously push off disclosure requirements until after Oct. 2 (when the 2016 host city is announced). Moreover, the big expenses will come from capital improvements, not operating expenses. As Tribune business columnist David Greising pointed out yesterday, it's hard to swallow the committee's insistence that the Olympics are solely a private venture:

Chicago 2016's demand that it needs an unlimited financial guarantee, not to mention $500 million from the city and $250 million from the state, makes organizing a Chicago Olympics a very public matter.

If last night's meeting is any indication, South Siders are catching on. When Ryan attempted to prove his confidence in the Chicago 2016 plan by offering to bet each audience member $1,000 that they won't pay for any of the Olympics, he was virtually laughed off the stage.