Mayor Daley may have a bridge to sell you if Chicago is awarded the 2016 Olympics. Why? Because the mayor may be forced to privatize the bridges in Chicago in order to pay for the cost overruns that have historically plagued cities hosting the Olympic Games.
In case you missed it, during the Chicago 2016 presentation to the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland, Mayor Daley agreed to make the taxpayers of Chicago responsible for any likely cost overruns if the city is chosen to host the games. Costs include the construction of the sport venues, security, and infrastructure improvements.
Mayor Daley had promised that “not one penny of taxpayer money” would be used for cost overruns. The Olympic Committee did not buy that from day one. Its by-laws make it a requirement for any host city to finance the entire games, including cost overruns. If you read the Chicago 2016 bid book, the committee pays nothing, but will have full control of the games.
London’s original 2012 Olympic budget was 4.9 billion in U.S. dollars. The current price tag is now $13.5 billion. The city of Vancouver is facing bankruptcy because it is hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. The city is now facing a $900 million deficit. Security costs are currently exceeding $2 billion. Montreal has finally paid off its’ debt from the 1976 Olympics. For all the pageantry and glitz of the 2008 Olympics, Chinas’ Olympic venues are currently unused with no competitive events to take place in the near future.
The Olympic Committee has publicly stated that the Chicago 2016 revenue estimates were “optimistic” (twice that of Tokyo and Madrid) and that the estimated construction costs were “low.”
Name any construction projects during the Daley administration that has come within 10 percent of the original estimate? For most of the construction projects built by the Mayor Daley-chaired Public Building Commission (pbcchicago.com), costs have historically doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled the original cost estimates. Millennium Park’s construction costs quadrupled. The new Westinghouse High School was originally budgeted at $47 million. Construction costs is now well over $100 million. Block 37 construction costs have skyrocketed.
Unfortunately we cannot rely on our elected officials to be the watchdog and ask serious questions. Just look at the revenues the city lost in privatizing the parking meters-and with no public hearings on the matter.
Because of declining revenues-due to the mayor’s diversion of tax dollars in his private TIF fund- the City of Chicago recently sent layoff notices to 1,500 city employees. Pink slips have gone to the Chicago Board of Education, set to terminate 1,500 current jobs, and the Chicago Park District has eliminated 300 jobs and is continuously reducing programs for at-risk youth. The CTA is facing another budget deficit. This past winter the city could not keep up with fixing potholes because of budget constraints. Our children are in need of new schools and proper education funding, but, Mayor Daley continues to siphon tax dollars from our children into his personal TIF fund.
I ask readers of this column to go the website, nogameschicago.org, to support this small but courageous group, which was early in presenting the warts in the Chicago 2016 proposal.
Chicago taxpayers need to pressure our elected officials to propose a referendum to truly gauge support for the 2016 Olympics, and to ask the taxpayers if they want to hand Mayor Daley a blank check.