David Greising, the business reporter for the Chicago Tribune, made some excellent points today:
“This is a good thing for our bid,” Pat Ryan was saying the other night, after Bronzeville neighborhood citizens grilled Olympics officials for nearly three hours about costs and risks of staging a Chicago Olympics.
A root-canal look on his face, Ryan had sat in a hot, crowded South Side meeting room as residents raised concerns about the demolition of historic buildings, travel inconveniences and access to business opportunities that could accompany a 2016 Games.
The Chicago 2016 bid committee has been the most open ever, asserted Ryan, the chairman. The group that would run the Games — the Chicago Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, or OCOG — will be open to scrutiny too, Olympics officials have said.
Yet when it comes to opening their own records to public scrutiny, the way all public agencies must, the transparency goes dark.
As a private entity, Chicago 2016 typically would have no obligation to open its records. But because it will get $750 million in state and city financial guarantees — and wants an unlimited city commitment to cover any major Olympics shortfall — in exchange it should agree to let taxpayers know how Olympics money will be spent.
Ryan and his second-in-command, Lori Healey, felt no obligation to open the Olympic committee’s records. Yet the more they tried to explain their reasoning the less persuasive it became. Ryan asserted that freedom of information requests might make it impossible for Chicago 2016 and the International Olympic Committee to sell sponsorships, the biggest source of money for any Olympics…
Healey implied that the bid committee is powerless to bind the actual organizing committee to an open-records commitment.
“It’s up to the OCOG,” she said.
Healey and virtually everyone else on Chicago 2016 are expected to serve on the Chicago Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, but Healey makes the two groups sound like foreign entities.
“The OCOG is governed by its own board,” she said. “They’ll have to make decisions on this.”
If the bid committee cannot make commitments that bind the OCOG, someone has a lot of explaining to do. The state and city need to know, because this puts their $750 million guarantees at risk. Someone tell the community groups that the fair-contracting agreement hammered out with dozens of community groups may have no effect on how the OCOG operates.
Oh, folks, it’s worse than this. No Games has been telling you that the Olympics is the ultimate act of privatization. If we get the games Chicago willl be run by a Swiss corporation for seven years. The folks who run the games will run the city. If you want accountability, tough luck. The only way to keep control of our city and make sure our money is not squandered is to DEFEAT the bid NOW.