The Chicago City Council recently voted 49-0 to tell 84 percent of Chicago taxpayers who are opposed to using tax money to stage the Olympics that our voice does not matter.
If Chicago is chosen by the International Olympic Committee over Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo on Oct. 2, the council vote effectively grants the successor of the Chicago 2016 bid committee (a private organization) a “blank check” to use unlimited taxpayer money to stage the 2016 Olympics in Chicago. The IOC requires the host city to sign a “Host City Contract” which compels the city to be responsible for “all financial losses and cost overruns.” Translate this to mean Chicago taxpayers.
A recent Chicago Tribune poll documented that 45 percent of taxpayers are opposed to staging the 2016 Olympics in Chicago versus the 47 percent who support hosting the Olympics. Another 84 percent of taxpayers do not support using tax money to stage the 2016 Olympics.
Although it was promised that not a dime of taxpayer money would be used to stage the Olympics, the bid budget details the use of tax dollars for construction, city services, and security.
As usual, our alderman failed to exercise their duty of legislative oversight (or to read the bid).
They ignored the fact that Chicago is responsible for the $86 million purchase of the vacant Michael Reese Hospital site. This is the proposed site for the Olympic Village, which will house the athletes, coaches, and officials. They also approved a $100 million TIF to pay for site and infrastructure improvements at the Reese site. The city is budgeted to pay $41 million for its share of police protection and $21 million for garbage disposal. The Chicago Park District is budgeted to kick in over $60 million dollars for construction of competition venues to be located in our parks.
The Olympic Village is the major risk of the bid. At a proposed price tag of $1 billion dollars, a surplus of condominium units, and the current financial markets, lenders are wary of financing such a risky project. Because of the “Host City Contract,” taxpayers may have to build the Olympic Village and/or pay off loans the city may have to obtain in order to build the village.
Some aldermen stated they were satisfied that there is enough insurance to protect the taxpayers. The additional insurance the bid committee proposes to purchase is for cancellations, terrorism, and liability. These are standard policies for all Olympics.
Insurance to pay for construction cost overruns and revenue reductions does not exist. Some aldermen believe the insurance will cover cost overruns. This is the same city council that voted for the current parking meter contract.
If some of our aldermen will not exercise their duty of legislative oversight, maybe taxpayers need to purchase insurance to protect taxpayers from the consequences of their votes.