With Chicago aldermen now paying close attention
to the potential public cost of the city's Olympic bid, local activists
headed back to City Hall yesterday to revive their push for a
legally-binding community benefits agreement.
As regular readers know, Communities ...
With Chicago aldermen now paying close attention to the potential public cost of the city's Olympic bid, local activists headed back to City Hall yesterday to revive their push for a legally-binding community benefits agreement.
As regular readers know, Communities for an Equitable Olympics (CEO 2016) -- a coalition of neighborhood organizations and labor unions -- has been working for over a year to ensure that those who live in the footprint of future Olympic venues have a stake in the development bonanza (assuming the city wins its bid). They made real progress by pushing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) through the City Council this spring. The document included affordable housing set-asides in the Olympic Village complex and guarantees that 10 percent of certain construction apprenticeships would be divvied up within the low-income communities surrounding Washington Park and Douglas Park. But legal experts confirmed that the document amounts to little more than a handshake agreement between two mayoral-appointed committees. And CEO 2016 has made it clear that they are unwilling to simply trust the bid committee and the Daley administration to deliver.
That lack of trust regarding the Olympics expanded greatly last week when Mayor Daley signaled to the International Olympic Committee that the city would cover any cost overruns incurred by the games -- a position that contradicts earlier assurances that taxpayers would be on the hook for $500 million at most. Just yesterday, aldermen announced that they're planning to hire an independent analyst who will comb through the $1 billion in private insurance policies that Chicago 2016 has promised would shield taxpayers from footing Olympic bills. And Ald. Manny Flores (1st Ward) is still planning to introduce an ordinance next week that would block the mayor from committing any new money to the games.
Meanwhile, CEO 2016 is attempting to take advantage of the current climate, calling on the city to become a party to the MOU (rather than just "bless" the document, as they did this past April).
"When we tried to get a binding agreement, we were told, 'Well, it's all privately financed and how do we hold the [the private sector] accountable?'" CEO 2016 leader Jay Travis of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) tells us. "Now that we know there's public money involved, that changes things."
As WBEZ reports, the coalition is pushing hard for public accountability, including the formation of an oversight commitee and "public hearings in neighborhoods where Olympic venues would be held."
"We have a problem with transparency here and the mayor's having free rein to do whatever he wants," KOCO's Shannon Bennett tells us.