Open Letter to Barack Obama

An Open Letter to Barack Obama: For the good of Chicago, don’t go to Copenhagen.

Dear President Obama:

This summer has not been easy for many people who reside in Chicago. As the city entered into the final leg of competition for the 2016 Summer Olympics, Chicago citizens witnessed cuts in services, and city employees were forced to take furlough days to balance the budget. At the same time, many state programs and jobs were slashed.

While funds were nowhere to be found for basic services, the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid committee, the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois lined up nearly $2 billion in taxpayer funds for the 2016 Olympics.

A recent WGN/Chicago Tribune poll found that less than half of Chicagoans support the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid, and that 84 percent were opposed to using tax revenue to cover any losses incurred. Only recently did the Chicago 2016 bid committee make any effort to engage the community in citywide meetings where it was evident that many in Chicago had deep concerns about hosting the Olympics, including the potential for cost overruns and resident displacement.

As a longtime resident of Chicago, you are well aware that in this city, cost overruns and delays of large civic construction projects go hand in hand.

Millennium Park came in four years behind schedule and three times over budget. The recent construction on the Dan Ryan Expressway came in at twice its original budget. And last summer, construction was halted on a “super-station” for express trains between Chicago-area airports and the Loop business district–$213 million has been spent on the project, and today, there isn’t much more than a concrete hole in the ground to show for it.

Costs overruns and the Olympics also go hand in hand. The city of Vancouver, which will host the 2010 Winter Olympics, is $6 billion in debt, a tab that will be picked up by taxpayers. And the 2012 Summer Olympics in London are four times more expensive than the initial budgeted figure–with a total cost running currently at $20 billion, nearly three years ahead of the opening ceremonies.

AS YOU well know from your days as a community organizer, displacement and gentrification are issues of great importance to many poor and working class neighborhoods of Chicago. This is especially true in Chicago’s mostly African American South Side neighborhoods, where a majority of the Olympic venues and the Olympic Village will be located.

Over the last 20 years, the Olympics have been increasingly associated with the displacement of local residents in host cities. The Chicago 2016 bid committee has been touting the success of the Atlanta games in 1996. However, it continually fails to mention that the Atlanta Olympics displaced 30,000 residents and over 800 units of public housing were demolished.

If Chicago is awarded the 2016 Olympic Games, corruption, cronyism, cost overruns and displacement are guaranteed. The Olympic tab for which taxpayers will be responsible will add up, and the historic and much-cherished public parks where Olympic venues are slated to be located will be closed and demolished.

At the same time, the city of Chicago’s financial problems will only get worse. The mayor’s office is already predicting that the budget crisis in 2010 will be worse than 2009. Basic services will continue to be cut. City workers will continue to be laid off. Schools will continue to be closed. And the politicians at City Hall will continue to tell the city’s residents that we all have to share the burden, like they did this past summer.

The mayor and Chicago 2016 may not yet realize it, but they will be unlocking a hornet’s nest of resident discontent.

We know that Mayor Daley and the Chicago 2016 committee are pinning their hopes on your presence in Copenhagen for the final decision on October 2. But we are asking that you reconsider your decision to go.

Stay home and represent the will of Chicagoans who are tired of the corruption that plagues politics in this city, tired of watching their tax dollars funneled elsewhere while their neighborhoods crumble, and tired of being lied to and ignored by elected officials.

The people of Chicago who packed Grant Park on Election Night to listen to your victory speech joined you in hopes of change. Change in Chicago would mean a direct investment in hospitals, housing, schools, trains and other services that would improve the quality of life in our city.

Chicago’s Olympic bid isn’t a promise of change–it’s just more politics as usual.

Bob Quellos
Co-founder, No Games Chicago

Read the essay, “Why is Obama going to Copenhagen?” From Foreign Policy onliine.


9 responses to “Open Letter to Barack Obama

  1. This could be Obama’s downfall. If we don’t get the games, he’ll look ineffective – whether you support or oppose the bid. If we get stuck, the financial disaster will make him look stupid. Obama should stay home as it’s no-win.

  2. Obama is not scheduled to leave until Thursday. Maybe by then he will realize that he will lose either way on this trip.
    If Chicago gets the Games the resulting corruption will be connect Daley and Obama during the 2010 and 2012 federal election cycles.
    If Chicago does not get the Games Obama’s star power will be diminished.

  3. GO RIO 2016!!!!!!!

  4. Nicole Ann Serrano

    Go Rio!!!

  5. Pingback: An Open Letter to the President Regarding the 2016 Olympics « The Phoenix Inquirer

  6. YES WE CAN YES WE CAN we can beat these combine-clouted crumbummes. Use thes last several days to contact anyone who will help us. New origin e-mails and calls are a key.QUALITY with quanity. EXPLAIN to those ioc voting members that THEY WILL BE DRAGGED INTO THE CHICAGO WAY. we have three U.S. att’y staffs in town. Biggest employer in the LEA areana. let’s take em all to the poky together then take BACK THE PENSIONS $$$$ YES WE CAN come down tonite if you can.

  7. Dear President Obama:

    We are against this games; however, we live in a democratic country, and as all pools indicate that the majority – even if the majority at some pools means only 2% more – wants the games, we should try to bring them here.

    Go get it.


  8. I think you are all incredibly small-minded people who are more than happy with poverty and blight — since you can’t see either from your perches in Lincoln Park — and are absolutely thrilled with the prospect of stopping something — ANYTHING — since you’ve never actually done anything positive. What programs, projects, or proposals have you put forth to bring jobs and economic development? Feh!

  9. Mr. Obama

    This city is too overcrowded with too many transplants as is. Have you ever tried to go anywhere on the Kennedy or Dan Ryan? It’s always a parking lot as is. Maybe you’ve never been stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on Kedzie at 2PM either. How about riding the CTA train at 5? There’s never any room on them as is, and forget about it if there’s a Cubs game.

    These are daily occurrences that make living in Chicago frustrating as it already is. Why are we looking to make the problem worse?

    It’s already bad enough that real blue collar Chicagoans have been consistently hit with numerous tax increases in recent years despite a failing economy.

    Now you are expecting these same people and their families who struggle to get by daily to front a bill “in case” the budget goes over? Are you serious? I thought your campaign theme was “change”? This is definitely NOT change. This is a prime example of politics as usual.

    History teaches a lesson and the evidence suggests that the financial burden of this project is going to inevitably fall into the hands of the taxpayers. The same people who are struggling.

    Shouldn’t money be spent to better serve the public such as improving hospitals and schools? Shouldn’t we better pay our social workers and public health workers?
    Isn’t the CTA claiming they’re going broke despite record numbers of riders and fare increases?
    What about purchasing salt for the upcoming winter? Or patching inevitable potholes so they don’t severely damage our vehicles that we rely on?
    Maybe after school programs and community centers in underprivileged neighborhoods? Or how about programs for schools that teach trades to our youths?

    The Olympics for Chicago is just plain wrong, and spending any money on them would be such a complete waste.

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