With Mayor Daley essentially asking for a blank check to pay for the Olympics, the taxpayers of Chicago could use a little boldness from their City Council. But Manny Flores, one of the few aldermen occasionally willing to stand up for good government, seems to be retreating from his vow to fight for a $500 million cap on public spending for the games.
Now, I don’t mean to pick on Flores, who was pretty much alone on this one. In fact, he deserves some credit: at least he acted like he wanted to step up. Most of his colleagues have looked the other way as Mayor Daley changed his story about what taxpayers would have to shell out for the Olympics.
If you recall, the issue erupted in June, after Daley assured the International Olympic Committee he would sign its standard host city contract, which would obligate Chicago taxpayers to pay all cost overruns. The total has run into the billions for other host cities.
This was right on the heels of the parking meter debacle, and many aldermen were sensitive to accusations that they routinely rubber-stamp the mayor’s costly ideas. As coverage of the host-city contract spread, Flores rounded up 11 of his colleagues to cosponsor an ordinance that would cap taxpayer risk at $500 million, a limit many aldermen thought they’d already established in a 2007 ordinance guaranteeing the city would cover overruns of the costs of putting on the games. (While that ordinance set a $500 million maximum, it included a giant loophole, granting the mayor authority to enter into “such further undertakings, agreements and documents as may be necessary or appropriate to the City’s submission and implementation of its bid for the Olympic Games.”)
The mayor responded to the Flores proposal by letting aldermen know a cap was absolutely unacceptable. To create the appearance of opening his plans to public scrutiny—in contrast to the way he pushed through the parking meter lease—Daley sent his Olympic planning team out to hold public hearings in all 50 wards (they’re still being held). He also signed onto a council resolution calling for an independent study of financing for the games. The council then asked the Civic Federation, a budget watchdog group, to coordinate the study, and the federation farmed out the project to the British firm L.E.K. Consulting. The report is due August 28.
Then on Sunday, August 2, Flores wrote an op-ed piece for the Chicago Tribune in which he strongly suggested—without saying so directly—that he was backing off the cap. In its place he called for five “principles” of “transparency and accountability,” including a publicly accessible listing of the bid committee’s expenditures, contracts, and funding commitments.
After I read the piece I called Flores to ask if he was backpedaling. “It’s not that I’m retreating,” he said, but repeated a point he made in the editorial: “I don’t think there’s any way we can get the games with the cap and I don’t want the legislation to kill the games. I think the games could be a real economic opportunity for the city.”
Flores says neither the mayor nor his aides bullied or sweet-talked him—say, by promising to back him for Congress some day. In fact, he says they’ve never even talked to him about his proposal; he changed his mind on his own. Read the full story.
OK, so now it’s official. No one is standing up for the citizens of Chicago. The Mayor WILL sign the blank check and YOU will pay if we get the games. Join No Games Chicago now and help us continue the work we started on January 31 of this year.
Please donate to us via PayPal. We are all volunteers and we get no funding (surprised?). We want to mail hard copies of articles from the Chicago press documenting the anger that citizens here have toward the bid. To do this we need about $400 per mailing. If YOU don’t help us, we can’t do it on our own.
We want to go to Copenhagen in late September to continue the work we did in Switzerland. We are the ONLY citizen’s group to meet with members of the IOC and its staff. We figure it will cost at least $5,000 to send a small delegation plus printed materials. If you don’t pitch in, we cant go.
What’s it worth to you to derail the Olympic scam and fight for the future solvency of our city now that the last so-called reformer has abandoned the fight even before he got started?