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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Tribune is Dubious Of Daley's Promises

On first read of this Chicago Tribune article one might credit the newspaper with digging deep for the context to the story surrounding Chicago's Olympic bid. On the other hand, a cynic, like me, would ask what took the Tribune so long. In this article, the tribune examines the Mayor's long standing assertion that no taxpayer funds would be used to pay for the Olympics.

Tax money isn't paying for it. There's no tax money whatsoever," Daley said earlier this year. "We are very strong in that position ... in the regard to having that be sponsored by the private sector and others."

The 2016 Olympic bid committee states that the $4.8 billion estimated cost would be paid for with contributions from wealthy donors, corporate sponsorships, television
rights and ticket sales to ceremonies and sporting events.

But the reality is more complicated than that. Hundreds of millions of dollars in local,
state and federal tax money already is committed, from acquiring land for the proposed Olympic Village to helping construct sporting competition venues.

As Chicago's team prepares for the International Olympic Committee's Oct. 2 selection of a host city for the 2016 Summer Games, nagging questions persist among residents who are feeling squeezed by a tough economy and worried about just how much they may be on the hook.

I am totally skeptical of the timing of this article. We are less than three weeks until its announced which city will host the 2016 Olympics and suddenly the Tribune discovers that the Mayor's assertion that no tax payer money would be used is dubious.

In fact, nothing in this article couldn't be found in the investigation of No Games Chicago for nearly the last year. No Games has been pointing out nearly since their inception that the Olympic committee has not included the cost of acquiring Michael Reese Hospital was not included in their budget. That cost is $85 million.

No Games Chicago has long been dubious about the costs of the Olympic Village. That cost is supposed to be about $1 billion and the Mayor and the committee claim that this will all be funded privately. It's hard to imagine how someone will find private financing for such a project with commercial real estate in a state of total freeze. Furthermore, the cost is supposed to be $1 billion even though that's the current tap on the Vancouver Olympic Village. That village, for the winter games, is 1100 units while Chicago's village would be about 8000 units.

If you've been reading this site, none of this is new. Of course, much of my own research has come from communicating with the folks at No Games Chicago. Yet, the Tribune is presenting this as though it's brand new. It's not. Instead, Chicago's biggest newspaper, less than three weeks before the games get decided, suddenly discovers that the Mayor's assertion is dubious.

This is no small point. The center piece of the Mayor's sale of the Olympics to the citizens of Chicago is that NO TAX PAYER FUNDS WILL BE USED. The latest poll run by the same Tribune found that 84% of Chicagoans are opposed to using tax payer funds to fund the Olympics. All of the information that the Tribune suddenly discovered has been available for years. None of this is new. They were scooped by a bunch of activist volunteers that are self funded. No one at No Games Chicago makes any money for their work, and yet, their reporting on this issue is a lot more timely than the Tribune's.

The single biggest reason that No Games opposes the games is because it will be a multi billion tax payer boondoggle. That's why for nearly a year they've pointed out that the $85 million to purchase Michael Reese hasn't been accounted for, the $1 billion for the Olympic Village is dubious, but there's one more thing that No Games has been adamant about. There's a huge elephant in the room that surrounds this article in the Tribune. The Mayor of Chicago is corrupt and each and every project goes over budget, and often way over budget.

Millennium Park was supposed to cost about $150 million and wound up costing three times that. The Olympics is supposed to cost just under $5 billion. If that goes three times over budget, the tax payers are on the hook for about $10 billion. Of course, once the games are awarded there's no going back. This article could have and should have been written well over a year ago. Nothing in it is using new information. Yet, the Tribune discovers, less than three weeks before the bid is announced, that the Mayor may not be on the level when he tells people that no tax payer money will be used. I'm glad they discovered this now, but it would have been much better if they had discovered it when there was enough time for tax payers to act.

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