Monthly Archives: July 2009

We’ve Been Wondering The Same Thing…

The Chicagoist asks:

Is Chicago Ready to Host the Olympics?

That’s the persistent question as the date for selecting the city that will host the 2016 Summer Games draws near. Bid backers in Chicago contend that the Games will bring jobs, an economic boost and international prestige to the city, all at little or no cost to taxpayers. Chicago 2016 has also claimed that support from the private sector coupled with world class management will ensure that Chicago will benefit from hosting the games. Within that debate, however, supporters haven’t pointed to a city that has benefited from hosting the games. Montreal didn’t finish paying off the billions of dollars of debt it had incurred in 1976 until 2006. More recently Greece teetered on the edge of failing to host the Olympics in 2004 when the government failed to complete construction on time. London is already billions of dollars over budget.

Looking ahead to next year, Vancouver, which will be hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics may shed light on what could lie ahead for Chicago. The Western Canadian city is looking to cover some financial shortfalls as the winter games draw near. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is reporting that Vancouver is looking to cover a $12 million shortfall in advertising by inviting U.S. states to become Olympic sponsors. “Many of the states we’ve approached are very interested and it gives them limited rights to affiliate themselves as partners for the Games,” said Dave Guscott, the vice-president of partnerships for VANOC, the Vancouver Olympic committee. “Most are interested in ways they can advance their destination for tourism, for economic development and their interest in sport.” Aside from a shortfall in advertising revenue, VANOC has also asked local businesses to temporarily loan workers to the committee to cover a budget shortfall. While such a request isn’t novel, VANOC admits that their request for 1,500 short-term workers, to act as drug testers, snow shovelers and managers, is larger than previous plans. “While the final value and number of loaned employees will not be known for several months, the program will result in significant savings to VANOC’s operational budget,” the Vancouver Organizing Committee told the CBC. “While the final value and number of loaned employees will not be known for several months, the program will result in significant savings to VANOC’s operational budget,” the Vancouver Organizing Committee said.


Vancouver Olympics Budget Shortfall – Seeks 1,500 “Loaned” Employees

As reported by Reuters:

2010 Games seeks to borrow workers to ease budget

Organizers of next year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver, facing a budget crunch, said on Thursday they want employers to lend them up to 1,500 short-term workers. Similar worker-loan programs have been used in past Olympics, but organizers of the 2010 Games acknowledged their plan was bigger and said it reflected “the realities of the economic downturn”.

The Vancouver organizers have found themselves looking at the possibility of a budget shortfall, in part because the International Olympic Committee has yet to sign up all the worldwide sponsors that had been expected to help fund the Games’ C$1.75 billion ($1.62 billion) operating budget.

“While the final value and number of loaned employees will not be known for several months, the program will result in significant savings to VANOC’s operational budget,” the Vancouver Organizing Committee said. VANOC said it would be better for the borrowed workers to come from the Vancouver area since housing conditions for the Games, to be held in February in this Canadian Pacific Coast city, are already looking tight. Jobs that need to be filled are as diverse as managers, anti-doping testers, and snow shovelers. The jobs would last from as little as eight weeks to as long as six months.

VANOC’s original budget called for it to have 1,400 paid staff and 3,500 temporary staff when the Games begin. Those workers will backed up by 25,000 volunteers and 10,000 contractors.

In addition, the Canadian government expects to bring in 7,000 police officers, 5,000 troops and hundreds private security guards to protect venues and visitors during the Games.

Folks, DO NOT believe the financial cotton candy the 2016 Committee is spinning in Chicago. The Olympics will cost YOU dearly in terms on higher taxes, destroyed public parks, massive ongestion and civicl liberties abuse. Call your Alderman and demand “NO GAMES! NO BLANK CHECK!”

Vancouver Changes Laws To Be More Olympics-Friendly

As reported in the online CBC News:

Vancouver city council voted Thursday to pass new bylaws that make sweeping changes to how the city will work during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

After four hours of debate, city council voted in favour of temporary changes that will be in place from January to March of 2010. City manager Penny Ballem said it is incumbent upon the Olympic host city to be prepared.

“We have to make sure we’re ready for these Games [and] we’re not scrambling at the last minute,” she said.

Some of the changes were widely expected, like looser rules around garbage collection, allowing commercial deliveries 24 hours a day, relaxed noise restrictions and allowing restaurant patios to stay open until 1 a.m.

However, the law also cracks down on graffiti and advertising, bans leaflets and posters near Olympic sites and calls for security screenings at some city-run events…

But critics like Am Johal, with the Impact on Communities Coalition, say some of those changes are a violation of their rights. “It ascribes a greater value on protecting corporate sponsors of the Olympics over free speech of citizens.”

Johal and others also question clauses that give Ballem and the city engineer extra powers during the Games, like the ability to develop bylaws on the fly without the need for council’s approval.

But Ballem said those changes are a necessary tool. “I think there has to be an element of trust that council has that we will make good decisions,” she said.

How would like the Mayor and his minions to “develp bylaws on the fly without the need for council’s approval”?

Folks, this is what happens when the games come to town.  Common sense, financial sanity and civil rights are all sent packing.

Note To Preservationists – Say Goodbye to Hospital Site

Historic or not, if the 2016 bid needs it gone, its gone.

Historic or not, if the 2016 bid needs it gone, it's gone.

Ben Joravsky covers the issues surrounding the demolition of the Michael Reese Hospital site in the current Reader.

A group of preservationists has been making the rounds of the neighborhood Olympic forums I wrote about last week, passing out flyers and pestering officials with questions. They’re not officially opposed to the Olympics, but anyone wondering whether Chicago needs the games should pay close attention to their battle to save the Michael Reese Hospital campus from demolition.

I repeat: many of the preservationists are most emphatically not against bringing the games to Chicago. They’re basically agnostic on the issue: if the games come, fine; if they don’t come, that’s fine too.

But they are fiercely opposed to tearing down the Michael Reese structures. As they see it demolition is not just environmentally unsound (as opposed to reuse) but also culturally reckless, since they believe at least eight of the buildings were designed in part by the great Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius.

“These buildings are impossible to replace, so we should do everything we can to keep from destroying them,” says Grahm Balkany, founder of the Gropius in Chicago Coalition. “We’re talking about cultural resources of international importance. To frivolously destroy them is inexcusable.”

No Games Chicago supports the stay of execution for the hospital site, but we have some advice for the Gropius-lovers, as well as the park lovers and other who are trying to save or preserve what is dear to them from being destroyed by the 2016 Olympics – the advice is this – if you want to be sure that what you love won’t be destroyed, you have to JOIN us to defeat the bid. The 2016 Committee already has authority to do what they want – NO ONE is watching the store and NO ONE will be able to curtail the actions of the 2016 crew if we get the games.

Detective Detects 2016 Deception

Fox News Chicago asked Perry Myers of MSI Detective Services to review footage of 2016 Committee chair Pat Ryan and Mayor Daley claiming that taxpayers would not have to pay for the 2016 Olympics. After analyzing tells of deception, evasion and untruthfulness, Perry concludes “I would be highly skeptical and would look into this much further.” We at No Games Chicago hope our Aldermen heed this advice!

Oh, today’s Tribune reports that the 2016 Committee is requesting a second delay in filing their 2008 financial disclosure form with the IRS until AFTER the October 2 IOC decision.

Mayor Sitting on $1.4 Billion – What Gives?

The Chicago Department of Community Development has released the 2008 reports for its 162 Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts. Thanks to TIF researcher, Hugh Devlin, No Games can report the total balance of funds in the TIF accounts at the end of 2008 was $1,404,518,702 – let’s call it $1.4 billion. This summary was prepared by opening every one of the 162 PDF reports and manually pasting the balance for the tax district into a spreadsheet. These reports are official city documents and will be available online at the city’s web site shortly.

The TIF district that includes the site of the proposed Olympic Village is the Bronzeville district:

The Bronzeville TIF distri t covers a lot of ground.

The Bronzeville TIF district covers a lot of ground.

In 2008 the Bronzeville TIF district pulled $5,768,636 in property taxes out of the revenues available to city agencies.  At the end of 2008 this TIF district had $21,133,779 in its account. Download the report (PDF). Cook County Clerk’s web site about TIFs. City of Chicago TIF district summaries. TIFs explained and TIF resources. Ben Joravsky’s TIF reporting.

What will this money be used for?

What will this money be used for?

TIFs have sucked $3.1 billion out of the city’s budget from 1986 through 2007. They have been used, abused and mis-construed. The Mayor demands them from Aldermen in order to get any improvements in the communities. They are like money-draining zombies that can’t be killed and continue draining property taxes out of a neighborhood for decades, no mater why they were started and regardless if they help or hurt local improvements.

So. Mayor Daley and your assorted minions, can you please stop threatening us with your lack of alternate plans for economic development. Stop telling us “It’s the Olympics or nothing.” Release the $1.4 billion from your TIF slush fund and fix our schools, expand CTA service, re-open the shuttered public health clinics and create real, sustainable and equitable community economic development!

New York Times Reports on 2016 Meetings

Even the New York Times has reported on the angry reception the 2016 Committee is getting from community residents:

“You all are projecting we’re going to make a lot of money,” a resident, Robin Kaufman, told Olympics planners at a neighborhood meeting, one in a series intended to shore up support. “But the bankers were projecting they were going to make a lot of money. Bernie Madoff was predicting he was going to make a lot of money.”

Ms. Kaufman lifted a sign that read, “No Blank Checks.”

At a high school auditorium on the West Side, where the bid leaders showed glossy Olympics schematics and stood beside toned former Olympians, Stephanie Patton asked, “Why should we trust you?”…

Tom & Martin create the No games Book of Evidence display shown here!

Tom & Martin created the No Games "Book of Evidence" display shown here! It's a popular image.

What strikes some residents as particularly puzzling is the bid committee’s refrain that, as a private nonprofit entity, it is separate from city government and public money. Technically, that may be, but skeptics note the committee and City Hall share goals and often seem intricately intertwined; Ms. Healey, for instance, stepped down as the mayor’s chief of staff to lead the committee.

Crucial to maintaining residents’ support for the Games, polls suggest, is convincing them that their dollars will not be spent. In February, a poll by The Chicago Tribune found that 64 percent of residents of Chicago and its suburbs favored having an Olympics but that 75 percent were against the use of tax money to cover shortfalls.

OK, for all you doubters who didn’t believe it when WE said the 2016 Committee couldn’t be trusted – will you NOW believe the New York Times?