Dear Member of the
International Olympic Committee:
David Greising, the chief business reporter for the Chicago Tribune, continues to criticize the 2016 Committee on its lack of candor, transparency and believability with regard to preventing corruption and incompetence inside the operation of the Chicago olympic effort.
RACE FOR THE 2016 GAMES
Chicago 2016 bid committee still short of finish line on public disclosure
Bid leader Pat Ryan says rules will solve
disclosure problems -- but rules alone rarely are enough to stop corruption
David Greising - September 1,
Chicago 2016 is making commitments to
disclose all kinds of information about the way money, clout and contracts
would flow leading up to the Olympic Games the city hopes to host.
The salaries of top executives, contributions made by individuals and companies
that get Olympics contracts, the organizing committee's revenue and spending
totals: All would be subject to disclosure, Chicago 2016 says.
And how will anyone test whether there are no conflicts of interest? Simple,
said Chicago 2016 chief executive Pat Ryan in a visit to the Tribune editorial
board in advance of a City Council appearance Tuesday.
"We test it by having the rule that we won't do that," Ryan said.
Now there is an approach Chicago
has never thought of before: Just make the right rules. Everyone will follow
them, and we'll all live cloutlessly ever after.
Had the rules just been clearer, no one would have turned the city's Hired
Truck program into a symbol of graft.
Tougher rules against patronage, and the Shakman decree would not have been
necessary. When Shakman did not work, even better rules would have erased the
need to hire an independent monitor to enforce the decree the city was ignoring
in the first place.
Better rules, and city pension funds would never have granted lucrative
insurance business to a firm founded by Mayor Richard
At a hearing Tuesday, the City Council is expected to focus mainly on the
question of whether Chicago 2016 has presented a sound economic plan for the
Games. A mostly adulatory Civic Federation report late last month largely made
that question moot. And Chicago 2016 took a step further last week, redrawing
its insurance lines to give more financial protection to taxpayers.
Anyone who has watched Ryan and his team in action knows financial soundness is
not the core issue. This group can shoot straight. They have the right mix of
business acumen and Olympics know-how.
But this is, after all, the bid committee from clout city. Whenever the words
"Chicago" and "bid" come together, something regrettable
often results, and with the Olympics there will be billions and billions of
dollars in contracts for bid. Rules alone do not kill clout. Many not-so-good
citizens of Chicago
seem to have trouble following such rules.
That is where the Freedom of Information Act comes in. It enables the public to
learn who is following the rules and who is not.
Though Chicago 2016 has taken strides to open itself to scrutiny, it is not yet
going far enough. For starters, the organizing committee is both writer and
enforcer of its own disclosure rules. That is problematic, to say the least.
The bid committee is releasing names and salaries of only top officials --
those making more than $200,000. That hardly is the full-fledged list that
might help the public trace the connections that show how clout affects who
gets hired, who gets contracts and how much they are paid.
If construction costs get out of control, Chicago's
Olympics organizers will know, but the public will not. And without Freedom of
Information, the public would never be able to trace the internal
communications that might reveal what went wrong.
What business does the public have in any of this? After all, Chicago 2016 is a
private entity. The Chicago Olympic organizing
committee would be, too, if Chicago
wins the Games on Oct. 2.
But the Chicago
Olympic committee wants the public to guarantee it will cover any shortfall
from the Games. That guarantee will make or break Chicago's bid. Even Chicago 2016 should know
that, in this town, no one gets something for nothing.
The Games could and likely would be good for Chicago. But not at any price. The best way
to keep costs -- and clout -- under control is to provide the public the same
access it has to information about any other entity with that much power over
the city's purse.
Jack Higgins' political cartoon from today's Chicago Sun-Times sums up how people feel about Mayor Daley and his 2016 Olympic Committee.