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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mr. Mayor: The Hurricane is You

Mayor Daley must have thought that he needed to speak forcefully to drive his point home when he said this.

Mayor Daley said today it would literally take an earthquake or a tornado for Chicago taxpayers to be left holding the bag for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

Three days before traveling to Copenhagen to sign the host city contract, make a final sales pitch and put Chicago’s fate in the hands of the International Olympic Committee with its Oct. 2 vote, Daley expressed confidence that the blank check from local taxpayers would never be cashed.“

They have been very, very fiscally responsible in regards to their presentation. I really believe that. Unless … ,” Daley said without completing the sentence.

Now, it's interesting that the mayor said that it would literally take an earthquake or hurricane in order for him to go back on his promise and force the tax payers to front money for the Olympics. That's because for the last couple months the Olympic Committee has promised the city that they would tighten up a new insurance policy that would protect the citizens from having to front any tax money in case of unexpected expenses. This policy is underwritten by AON, the same company founded by Pat Ryan, the leader of the Olympic Committee. In fact, Alderman Flores, who initially wanted to limit the city's exposure to $500 million, told me that the structure of the policy would play a large role in determining if he would move forward with that legislation. He eventually scaled his legislation back and cut out the $500 million cap from his final ordinance. Now, what is an insurance policy if it doesn't cover such unexpected expenses as hurricanes and tornados? I now understand why Crain's Chicago Business characterized this insurance policy as rather worthless.

Mayor Richard M. Daley and Patrick Ryan assure Chicago taxpayers that a safety net of insurance would insulate them from the financial risks of hosting the 2016 Olympics.

But the insurance policies Mr. Ryan says he'll secure would cover only about $1.1 billion of the $3.8-billion operating budget that the mayor's Olympic point man has drawn up for the games. In many key areas, no insurer stands between taxpayers and the risk of revenue shortfalls or cost overruns.

For example, there's no insurance against the risk that private lenders won't shell out $1 billion to finance construction of the Olympic Village, as Messrs. Daley and Ryan predict they will. And there's no coverage against shortfalls in corporate sponsorship sales, which they predict will rake in $1.8 billion, two-thirds more than London expects to collect for the 2012 games.

I suppose that an insurance policy that doesn't protect a city against a natural disaster isn't much of a policy. There's a larger point here. The real hurricane facing the city isn't the literal kind, but the figurative kind. The mayor is right. Only a hurricane or earthquake would put tax payers on the hook, however that earthquake is our Mayor and the corruption, waste, and abuse that defines his government. This city should fear the hurricane of his endless stream of no bid contracts that will go to his friends than they should the literal earthquake that might befall the city and set the budget back.

It's time to advance this story. Never has a complicated political situation been so obvious to so many and yet no one has a solution to resolving it. The citizens of Chicago are, by and large, tired of Daley and his corruption. His current approval ratings rival Bush's in his last year in office. The citizens of the city are fed up with the city council which they see as little more than a rubber stamp. Everyone knows this and we all understand it. What no one seems to know to do is fix it. We all complain. We all moan and groan. Yet, no one expects Daley to face more than token resistence the next time he's elected in 2011. No one expects allies like Ed Burke and Richard Mell to face any more resistence when they run for re election. In fact, the only city council member that ever faces trouble is one that dares to ever challenge Daley.

So, we have a corrupt and unpopular mayor. We have a rubber stamp of a city council. We have a city that largely gets all of this. All we're missing is a solution.

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