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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mayor Daley + 2016 Olympics = Gasoline + Fire

If the old adage is true that absolute power corrupts absolutely, then the last thing the all powerful mayor of Chicago needs is the Olympics to preside over. The ability to control every aspect of the Olympics is nothing more than sending a devious kid into a candy store with money for our mayor. The budget for the games, currently, is roughly $4.8 billion. It includes the building of 16 new venues. A new 70,000 person stadium will be built in Washington Park for the opening and closing ceremonies. (and then summarily torn down after the Olympics though not before creating irreversible damage to the park)Michael Reese hospital has already been sold and planned to be torn down to build the Olympic Village. It will consist of redesigning nearly all parts of the city.

The mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley, already runs this city much like an electoral monarch. The city council is little more than a rubber stamp on any issue he deems important. Examples of "close" elections have Daley winning 70-30. In the city of Chicago, Daley is a lot less like a mayor and much more like a King. Now, we're going to give him a project, lasting eight years, the size and scope of which we've never seen on this scale in this city since the fire of the late 1800's.

In 1995, the mayor announced plans to build Millenium Park. That project ran four years behind schedule and cost about four times as much as it was originally budgeted for. That project was also about one twenty fifth the budget of the Olympics.

Our mayor is corrupt and runs this city like a political machine. More than that, his corruption and addiction to power has grown more troubling and enormous over the last five years or so. There are those, folks I disagree with, that believe that some corruption is necessary to run a city the size of Chicago. Some point to San Francisco as a city without the sort of corruption of Chicago and point to utter incompetence. Yet, no one doubts that Daley's corruption has now crossed into a counter productive area.

The case of the sale of parking meters is an example of this. Desperate for cash, the mayor agreed to sell the rights to operate the city's parking meters to a private company. Rates for parking have gone up exponentially since then. The city has massive and unsustainable budget shortfalls simply from running the city's normal everyday business. Now, we're going to hand Daley the power of running the Olympics as well. That's simply a disaster in the waiting.

Let's make things clear. Chicago Olympics 2016 is technically a private organization that is supposedly independent of the mayor. Technically, though, the mayor just put his recently former Chief of Staff, Lori Healey, to head the Olympic Committee. So, any supposed separation is nothing more than a farce. Make no mistake, if the Olympics comes to Chicago in 2016, Richard M. Daley will be the CEO, CFO, and COO of its planning and execution.

He will have the full scope and power of the city's government apparatus to implement it all as he sees fit. Between income, property, and sales taxes, Daley will have a nearly unlimited tax base to operate the games. No one will ever have to know just how dirty and corrupt things are getting because tax increases will never have to be specifically earmarked for the Olympics.

The concept of TIF's (Tax Increment Financing) is just one example of a way in which Daley can use the enormous size, scope and complexity of the city's government structure to control the Olympics and hide corruption. TIF's cap the amount of property taxes that go to their intended purpose: schools, trash removal, etc. The rest goes into a slush fund for the mayor to use as he sees fit. So, Daley can raise property taxes in perpetuity and no one will ever know that it will go to feed the corrupt monster of the Chicago Olympics.

The 2016 Olympics will guarantee billions, if not, tens of billions in contracts that the city will have to dole out for construction, security, street cleaning, etc. There is already a standard operating procedure for how these sorts of contracts get doled out now. They go to Daley's friends, admirers, and allies. Only now the budget is infinitesimal compared to what it will be if the Olympics comes here.

Bringing the Olympics to Chicago will allow a corrupt mayor to run the city in the same corrupt manner only with an exponential new sets of resources, responsibilities, and powers. Is that really what the city wants? That seems to me to be pouring gasoline on top of a fire.


Anonymous said...

I am originally from Chicago. I used to have a great deal of loyalty to the city but in twenty years it has become something foreign to me.

The people are still nice but it's a lot more like a fiefdom than the neighborhood city it used to be.

Chicago will never thrive until the Daley political machine is run out on the famed rails of the "Yards".

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Guytano Parks pianist said...

Chicago lost the bid to host the 2016 Olympics - miserably so - to Rio. I am elated and look forward to an exciting and spicy time in Brazil!