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Olympics Wed Jun 17 2009

Mr. President, Please Stay Out of This One

Lynn Sweet reports that the President is putting the "White House's muscle" behind the Bid Committee's efforts to bring the Olympics to Chicago. My position on the Olympics coming here ("don't") is well known. I understand his intentions--or the intentions of senior staffer Valerie Jarrett, who received a lobbyist waiver to spearhead the efforts of the Bid Committee--but this is one issue the President's office should not involve itself in. If I may:

You've got bigger fish to fry, Mr. President. Please don't spend taxpayer dollars and political capital to force this organized land grab on the residents of Chicago.

Practically speaking, you probably want to stay the heck away from this one, sir, with all due respect. If Chicago does get the Olympics, there is almost no chance that there won't be a scandal. I know I've said that before, but given the last twenty years of Chicago's history, how likely is it that billions of dollars of contracting and land deals will take place at the direction of City Hall, and there won't be a scandal? These people can't rent a U-Haul without the Sun-Times uncovering a scandal. You've made transparency a guiding principle of your administration. Back home, the federal government has to convince elected officials to flip, because concealed microphones are the only way to get information about what elected officials are actually doing. Think about that. Maybe instead of "Imagine" the Bid Committee's slogan should be, "Chicago...the OpaCity".

And most of the land deals and permitting and contracting and displacing and privatizing will be happening literally blocks from your house, Mr. President. Do you really think you and the top tiers of your staff won't be tied to the lede in every single "Another Chicago Olympic scandal" story? Do you want to move back to a South Side that has been radically and painfully altered by displacement, the working class and working poor residents between your home and the Loop hounded out by skyrocketing prices, speculation, eminent domain, and, eventually, a small army of private security personnel deployed for months at a time?

The Bid Committee has a right to make their case, as we the people have a right to make our case. Don't lend the weight of your name and your office, or of the public purse, to either side. It wouldn't be right, or fair.

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