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Thursday, February 22

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The Mechanics

Chicago Tue Feb 09 2010

Reporter Denied Entry into Canada

Martin Macias, a 20-year-old independent journalist from Chicago, says he was detained and questioned at the Vancouver airport Saturday afternoon. Macias, an outspoken Olympic critic who is associated with No Games Chicago, a group that opposed the city's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, was planning to attend a number of Vancouver rallies leading up to the start of the games, when he was detained, denied a phone call and sent back to the United States.

According to CTV News:

"The 20-year-old part-time reporter says he spent two and a half hours being interviewed by customs about his fellow protesters."

"They wanted to know more about the people who are organizing the conference, about who I was staying with, if I could contact them, if I knew what they were wearing," Macias said. "It was very, very strange."

Macias also stated that someone called the people with whom he was supposed to meet -- anti-olympic crusader Chris Shaw and Bob Quellos -- and imitated his voice.

The caller told Shaw about his "brutal" interrogation, and that he was asked "a thousand questions." He then tried to arrange a meeting.

"We gave him an intersection to meet us at. I waited for two hours, but he didn't show up so we knew something was wrong," said Quellos.

Macias, however, says he never contacted either of them.

Although some would agree that the money spent on the marketing of an Olympic event seems pretty wasteful, not to mention the opening and closing Olympic ceremonies, some would argue if it is fair to cancel the Olympics based solely on funding. Should poverty and housing be taken into account? What will happen to the sports facilities that were built specifically for the Olympics?

Deysi Cuevas / Comments (1)

Chicago Thu Jan 07 2010

Lori Healey Overcomes Obstacles, Goes to Work for Developer

None of my business who John Buck Co., a "blue chip" property developer, wants to hire to "drum up more public-sector business."

Lori Healey, formerly a top aide to Mayor Daley, one of the designers of the much-celebrated and adored late 90s early 00s TIF boom, and head of the Chicago 2016 Bid Committee that did so fantastically well, will "start next week as a principal at Chicago-based Buck, where she'll focus on building the firm's pipeline of public sector projects. Government work hasn't suffered as much in the recession as other commercial real estate market sectors.

"Ms. Healey, 50, would seem tailor-made for the job." Indeed.

Healey of course worked for the city department (Planning and Development) involved with TIF planning, approval, and management, from the late 90s through the turn of the century. As recent investigations have demonstrated, those TIF funds have gone disproportionately to corporate welfare, to the joy and approbation of the Chicagoans for whom Healey ostensibly worked.

Andy Shaw: TIF funds constitute corporate welfare

After her work expanding TIFs, but before her gig heading up the non-humiliating public relations undisaster called Chicago 2016*, Healey helped implement the widely-praised noticed Plan For Transformation at the CHA.

At the City, Healey specialized in luring private dollars for development.** Now in the private sector, Healey will lure public dollars for her bosses.***

Where the Left and Libertarians agree is that government and business have become too interdependent, to the point of being nearly indistinguishable. Where they diverge is who started it.


** See also ***
*** See also **

Ramsin Canon

Chicago Fri Oct 16 2009

What a Waste

The Chicago Journal on the impending demolition of the Gropius-style Michael Reese hospital campus:

Barring a sudden policy reversal by the city, the Michael Reese Hospital campus in Bronzeville appears set to be cleared of its buildings, despite the results of Chicago's Olympic bid.

The Reese site, bound by 29th, 31st, Cottage Grove and Metra tracks, was slated to host the Olympic Village. Twenty-one 12-story new structures were planned for the parcel.

Thanks Bid Committee.

Ramsin Canon

Olympics Wed Oct 07 2009

Talking about the Olympics from the Hood to Downtown

A vid by Marc Sims talking to Randy Evans discussing the Olympic bid. Of course this video had to have been filmed not too long after we found out that Chicago won't be hosting the games in 2016. Basically the discussion revolves around the impact of the games in a given city, especially the possible impact in the areas surrounding Washington Park. In other words they're arguing that the Olympics would cause a negative impact.

Levois / Comments (1)

Olympics Mon Oct 05 2009

When Losing is Really Winning

SHOCK WAS the reaction in Chicago as the city's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, after making it as one of four finalists, went down in the first round of voting by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), quicker than Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson.

Chicago officials and the city's business elite mourned the decision, but residents can breathe a sigh of relief.

As Tom Tressor of No Games Chicago told Chicago Indymedia, "Today's decision is going to spare us years of reading about scandals and backroom deals, some of which have already happened. That's the good news. But unfortunately, the problems in our city--including the fact that only 54 percent of our high school students in the city ever graduate--are still here."

THERE WERE a number of factors at play in Chicago 2016's loss. Perhaps the ongoing dispute between the IOC and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) didn't help. The USOC has been demanding a bigger portion of television revenues from the IOC simply because many of the biggest advertisers associated with the Games are from the U.S.

Or perhaps it was the final Chicago 2016 presentation to the IOC, which was criticized in the mainstream press as dull. Mayor Richard Daley came off as abrasive--as if he was back home, lecturing the Chicago press or the City Council. The only spark in the presentation came from Barack and Michelle Obama--but it apparently wasn't enough to win over the IOC.

What was apparent from the presentation was that the group sent to Copenhagen to present the Chicago bid is used to getting its way in this city--and that it was incapable of operating outside the bubble of Chicago machine politics.

Continue reading this entry »

Bob Quellos

Olympics Thu Oct 01 2009

One Thing to Remember About the Olympics

You'll get plenty of coverage on it tomorrow.

No matter what the IOC decides--and even if the Olympics do end up being a boon to the city--I hope we all keep one thing in mind: the process was not right. Hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans who deserved to have a voice in the process were simply not included.

Ultimately, none of us--the Bid Committee, bid opponents like myself, and those in them middle--know what will happen if Chicago wins the games. Who knows? Maybe there will be a big boost for the economy without rampant gentrification and displacement, budget deficits, a security state, etc. Maybe the Bid Committee's projects were exactly right on and Chicago will see an enormous economic boost. The reality is that it is so hard to know what the impact of the Olympics are on a city, that even after we hosted the games, we wouldn't really know if they were worth the effort.

But like so many other things, the process was broken. The Mayor's administration put together a Bid Committee, who leveraged the strength of his office to raise enormous sums of money. They put the bid together, then tried to sell it to the public.

What should have happened is that a true citizen's committee should have gone to all fifty wards--better, all seventy seven community areas--not in a month in a half but over the course of many months, and built and designed a bid based on public input. There was plenty of time to do all of this. And it should have been done independently of the city administration. The close involvement of the Mayor's office in the process of putting the bid together creates the impression of quid pro quos for those aiding the Bid effort, even where none may exist.

Whatever your opinion about the Olympics, there's no doubt that the games were not sought in a way that included the people. An elite group made the decision, and then tried to sell it to the public. Potential critics were warned off rather than included early.

Those of us worried about the opportunities for fraud, waste, and abuse are often accused of not "trusting" or "believing in" the people of Chicago. But it is the bid committee--with its lack of transparency, its enormous budget and use of outside consultants, its ties to city contractors--that showed no faith in the people of the city. They didn't build this effort from the ground up, but from the top down.

Hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans were opposed to this bid and deserved to have a voice in the process. It's their city, too. They deserved to be heard and considered when pursuing this project. If the drive for the bid had truly been something built from the ground up, those loudest voices would have been heard early, and eventually just let it go. It was exactly because there was absolutely no democracy in the Bid Committee's model that made people so furious and gave them the energy to doggedly pursue their opposition.

Reasonable people can disagree about this issue. There are strongly held beliefs on both sides. People I know and respect deeply honestly feel that the Olympics will be great for the city--I don't think they're corrupt, or stupid, or evil. I do think they're probably going to be proven wrong.

It's time for the era of governance by public relations to end. The Bid Committee could have saved themselves a lot of heartache and embarrassment if they had just pursued this bid in a transparent way, involving the public honestly and early on, and avoided relying on the coercive power of the Mayor's office to raise funds and silence opposition.

I hope if we win the bid--which looks increasingly likely--that the people of the city come together to make it a truly democratic games. That families are not displaced, and that shoving working class and poor people into increasingly ghettoized neighborhoods is not confused for raising the quality of life for Chicagoans. I hope that we are able to keep our parks from being taken out of use for the people that need them most.

I like the idea of Chicagoans coming together to throw a party. Let's do that. Imagine if the corporate community came together to raise $76m to fund a city-wide effort to build a truly homegrown event that poured money into our creative and amateur athletic communities? Chicago has an amazing blend of hard working people--rich and poor--and some of the most creative people in the country. Bring those people together, yes. That is something we can imagine together. Consider that the Illinois Arts Council had a budget of $15m in 2008. Wouldn't that make us a world class city? Instead that money was used on pricey consultants and public relations for an event that will be directed from Switzerland and the Fifth Floor.

I hope if nothing else that the Mayor and his people have learned a lesson, that openness and transparency are not signs of weakness, but strength. Secrecy is the refuge of insecurity.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Olympics Mon Sep 28 2009

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.

Continue reading this entry »

Bob Quellos / Comments (12)

Olympics Mon Sep 21 2009

Olympics, the Chicago way

The one thing I have observed about the opposition to Chicago's Olympic bid is that it always seems like opposition to the conduct of Chicago politics. That's not to say I'm opposed to getting the games, I would like to see from the games an increased investment in public transportation, but that may be the only issue that might help gain my support. At the same time we still have to listen to the bellyaching over public funding of these games.

Tonight we take a look at a piece over at New Geography. It is written by Steve Bartin who also writes his own blog, Newsalert!

Economists have a technical term for profiting from the political process: it's called rent-seeking. Chicago's politically favored businesses, unions, and insiders with ties to Mayor Daley and Alderman Burke have perfected this activity. The Olympics just provide another opportunity to clean up at the public expense.

This is how it works. On Chicago public works projects, those on the inside hope to get overpaid at the expense of Illinois and federal taxpayers. Now throw in the Olympics where opportunities for such activities have long been rife with corruption and you can understand the glee in the Chicago machine's eyes.

Right now there isn't any financial guarantee from the federal government. But Chicago's power elite hopes Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, and others can convince the Congress at some point to help with Chicago's Olympic sized costs if they get the 2016 games. They can always call it a "stimulus"!

Another article I found today seems to take a counterpoint position to those who are against the Olympic bid.

I wonder if critics who have been passionately opposing Chicago's bid to be the host city of the 2016 Olympics believe, deep within their hearts, that they are acting in the city's best interests. Or are they simply looking for political gain and/or trying to manufacture headlines to sell copy?

If Chicago should lose the bid I wonder if these critics will be able to sleep with clear conscience. Regardless of their intentions, if you happen to run into one of these opponents who helped kill Chicago's prospects at becoming the center of the universe in 2016, I would shake their hand, grit your teeth, look them directly in the eyes and say: "thank you."

Thank them for depriving Chicagoans of this once-in-a-lifetime moment to showcase our fair city to the world. Show these obstructionists your appreciation for the loss of hundreds of thousands of new jobs that are sorely needed in the midst of an economic recession. Thank them for their politically-charged rhetoric that squandered our chance to eradicate recent blemishes to the city and state's global reputation. Thank them for allowing billions of guaranteed federal dollars to slip away, earmarked for building infrastructure, renovating Chicago's transit system, improving our schools, putting more police on the street, and enhancing other city services.

What do you think out there? Should Chicago get the games? Why or why not?

Levois / Comments (2)

Olympics Thu Sep 03 2009

Call Me Monomaniacal

...but given the International Olympic Committee's pending decision, this is arguably the biggest public policy issue facing the city for the near future.

Here's No Games Chicago Co-Founder and GB contributor Bob Quellos on Chicago Tonight debating Lori Healy, respected Daley deputy and attack dog, and Alderman Manny Flores (1st).

Disclosure: I was among the other co-founders of No Games Chicago.

Ramsin Canon

Olympics Thu Sep 03 2009

No Cap on Public Money + No Oversight = Unmitigated Disaster

Good ol' Gentle Ben Joravsky over at the Reader reports on what a bunch of us got in our inboxes this morning: an oversight ordinance introduced by Ald. Manny Flores, and a "substitute" ordinance backed by Mayor Daley. Alderman Flores' staff sent out a side-by-side comparison a few hours later. Guess what? The Mayor's version sucks.

Manny Flores is a professional politician. It's not his, or any Alderman's job to be right all the time. It's our job to argue forcefully--or yell at the top of our lungs--to get them to do the right thing. Keep in mind that every sentient moment (evaporation of sentience is common in Zoning Committee meetings) of an Alderman's professional life he is hearing from lobbyists, deal-cutting colleagues, and a high-pitched voice from the Fifth Floor. So when Ald. Flores withdrew his Olympic spending cap--a bill that wouldn't have forestalled disaster had we been granted the Olympics, but which would likely have killed the possibility that we'd get it in the first place--we were justified in our booing and hissing.

Good on Alderman Flores for at least making a peep. Unfortunately, the only reasonable option, based on all the available evidence, is that we should not seek or accept the 2016 Olympic Games. Any other position on this issue is not nuanced, or pragmatic, or anything but wrong.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Olympics Wed Sep 02 2009

Aldermen Flip Their Support to Daley's Olympic Bid

City Council members, always content to roll over for the mayor's plans, have done it again. Suddenly, even those who had tried to placate residents' anger about cost accountability should Chicago be awarded the Olympics in 2016, are now saying they are happy with the mayor's plan. Even though nothing has changed. At all.

The article mentions Manny Flores' (1st) ordinance that would have limited taxpayer liability to $500 million, but that he had subsequently dropped it because it was not perceived as widely-supported in the council. Kind of like how the national Dems started off their bargaining on health care by cutting the throat of universal coverage before even bringing it to the table. Gotta love the spine.

Timothy Morin / Comments (3)

Olympics Thu Aug 27 2009

Civic Fed Report on the Olympics Proposal

Calling it "very gratifying", local supervillain insurance magnate Patrick Ryan was eager to discuss the findings of the Civic Federation's long-awaited review of the Bid Committee's proposal. Crain's is summarizing the report as being generally supportive, with the (significant) exception of the real estate risk being taken by the massive Olympic Village planned for the destruction of Bronzeville revitalization of the Michael Reese hospital site. Their suggestion is that the city buy more insurance.

To review, the Civic Fed's recommendations, including that the city buy more insurance, left local insurance magnate Patrick Ryan feeling "very gratif[ied]".

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Olympics Mon Aug 24 2009

Olympic Benefits: Made Up

The first two paragraphs of a recent Crain's Chicago Business piece by John Pletz are so juicily wonderful, so delicious, so perfect, that before I quote them for you, I want to give you the opportunity to go to the page itself and look at the picture next to the paragraphs, with local soulless plutocrat civic-minded booster Patrick Ryan and Mayor Daley, one filthy with lucre and the other filthy with power, staring at the words like accusations. Seriously, go there first and read them, then come back. While you're doing that, I'm going to continue working on this Freedom of Information Act request the city's aviation department (more on that later).

Are you back? Okay. For those of you that couldn't tear yourselves away, here's those paragraphs:

Mayor Richard M. Daley's prediction that the 2016 Olympics would give Chicago's economy a $22.5-billion boost vastly overstates the likely benefits of hosting the games, experts say.

"That's crazy," says Victor Matheson, a professor of economics at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts who has studied the economic impact of the Olympics. "Anyone using this $22.5-billion number as justification to vote for the Olympics is being led down the garden path."

Games skeptics like myself have been saying this for years, literally years. There's no solid evidence that hosting the Olympics leads to any long-term economic benefit that is unique to having an Olympics. Particularly when you adjust for the massive costs overruns that have accompanied nearly all of the modern games, and certainly all the games in the new millennium.

Let's sum up the Bid Committee's case: there will be no structural improvements to infrastructure; the city has to promise to cover all debt with taxpayer money; there will be thousands of private paramilitary security on the streets of Chicago for months; certain beaches on the Lakefront, including 31st Street, will be privatized, thousands of luxury condos will be built subsidized by taxpayer money and introduced into a glutted market; and temporary service sector jobs that may just be replacing displaced jobs from business avoiding the city due to Olympic markups.

Why are we considering this again? Oh yeah; "we're" not. The unelected, unaccountable, and non-transparent Bid Committee is.

Disclosure: I was a co-founder of No Games: Chicago.

Ramsin Canon

Olympics Fri Aug 07 2009

The Olympic Bid Committee May Think You're Stupid

  • The city bought Michael Reese hospital and will TIF the area its in.

  • It will use the TIF money to finance (a tiny part) of the Olympic Village.

  • Patrick Sandusky, of the Chicago 2016 bid committee, says that that's not really spending city money on the Olympics, since without the Olympics there would *not* be taxes paid on that property anyway.


"There's no village there now, so there are no incremental taxes," he said.

True... because the city bought the property, didn't they? Sandusky, who thinks you are an idiot apparently, has an elder statesman of Chicago commerce friend also named Patrick*, although this guy's last name is "Ryan". He claimed this:

"That's not money for the Olympic Village, the Olympic Village will be a place if we win the games that will be rented and the athletes will for three weeks," Ryan said. "This is money that will be used to build roads, a grid system, sewers - all the things for a neighborhood."

You're right. Building 2,500 luxury condos where a hospital used to be doesn't require its own adjustments to sewer and road facilities. Those are generous donations to the neighborhood. When you add 2,500 residences -- or, let's say, 7,000 people -- to a neighborhood, you don't need to improve sewer systems or widen roads to service them. No, you just build the 2,500 residences, and then you majestically donate road and sewers to the neighborhood around the 2,500 residences because you're nice.

Hey, you know what's a great piece of infrastructure? A goddamn hospital. Particularly one of the hospitals in Chicago that actually had a dedicated AIDS facility.

It's true that tax-exempt hospitals don't pay taxes. But, of course, Michael Reese Hospital did pay property taxes. Reese was in decline, so their being bought out and shut down wasn't necessarily the only reason they closed. But, what am I saying? Reese was a failing hospital -- so the only other option is to convert it into 2,500 luxury condos. Because Chicago is running out of precious, precious condos. Now the Olympic Village will pay the tax increment, which will go to building glorious new road and sewer facilities for the surrounding area. This has nothing to do with the Olympics, by the way. It's just the city making a purchase and deciding that the only appropriate use of the property is thousands of luxury condos, and then siphoning money away from the school district in order to pay for servicing of the property.

Thanks for explaining that to us rubes, Bid Committee. How did we ever make decisions about planning in this city without you?

Do you moron residents out there get it yet? When the city spends $85 million on buying and condemning a building, then millions more on the contract to demolish it, then announces that it's going to create a new TIF that will route $100m to building road and sewer facilities to service the 2,500 luxury condos they are demanding purchasers of the now publicly-owned property build, (money that, by the way, would go to schools otherwise) and when the city gives public parkland to be taken over by private operators for years to construct facilities on them, that isn't spending public money on the Olympics! That's just spending money on stuff the city felt like doing and, oh hey look, it's going to help us have an Olympics. Now, stop asking questions. Just obey, OK? Obey! Man. Idiots.

*I don't know if Patrick Ryan and Patrick Sandusky are actually friends.

Ramsin Canon

Olympics Tue Jul 28 2009

The NY Times Sticks Its Snout in Our Business

Just kidding New York Times.

Seriously though, the Times has a piece up today about the recession and "Chicago's" (Daley's) Olympic bid:

This spring, a $1.15 billion deal to privatize the city's parking meter system turned into a fiasco after City Hall's inspector general called it a dubious financial deal and after motorists said they poured money into fancy new meters that, in turn, spat out error messages. A few years ago, Millennium Park, a downtown centerpiece, opened behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget.

"You all are projecting we're going to make a lot of money," a resident, Robin Kaufman, told Olympics planners at a neighborhood meeting, one in a series intended to shore up support. "But the bankers were projecting they were going to make a lot of money. Bernie Madoff was predicting he was going to make a lot of money."

Ms. Kaufman lifted a sign that read, "No Blank Checks."

Ramsin Canon

Olympics Tue Jul 21 2009

"I was swayed by the people opposing it."


Ramsin Canon

Olympics Mon Jul 06 2009

Blue State Cowboys Olympic Dis Track

This is the best country western municipal politics dis track in the last two or three years.*

Check out the Blue State Cowboys on the city's Olympic bid:

Well, you can scrap that bid from old Madrid Say adios to Spain And just say no to Tokyo With its fancy bullet train

And if you're ill at ease speakin' Portugese Then Rio ain't your town Oh, but Good King Rich, he'll scratch your itch When he throws that cash around


Ramsin Canon

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.

Ramsin Canon

Olympics Tue Jun 16 2009

Ben Bradley Blogs aBroad.Ly.

I'm enjoying Ben Bradley's blogging of the Olympic bid efforts. He's in Switzerland right now:

Former US Olympic Committee Chairman Peter Ueberroth had it right a few years back. Ueberroth threw cold water on Chicago's bid with a verbal slap across the face. He essentially said, at the time, he thought we were near the bottom of the list of cities bidding to host the 2016 Games. An analysis by earlier this month had Chicago in first place. The reality is no one knows how IOC members will vote this fall. Their motivation is as diverse as the countries they represent.

We love our city warts, parking meters and all. But to truly understand our odds of winning the Games, we have to take the blinders off.

I'd write more, but what do you know? My train is arriving in Lausanne. I love good public transportation.

Well played, Bradley.

Ramsin Canon

Olympics Tue Jun 16 2009

No Games Chicago Live in Switzerland

Cool. NGC sent a delegation to Switzerland to meet with IOC members and make the case: don't wreck our city.

Three members of the No Games Chicago Coalition have been in Lausanne, Switzerland since Monday morning! Martin Macias, Tom Tresser and Rhoda Whitehorse have traveled to the headquarters city of the International Olympic Committee to tell them NOT to award the 2016 Olympics to Chicago.

As far as we know, this is the first time a citizen's delegation has made such a journey to make such a demand in the one hundred year plus history of the modern Olympics.

Disclosure: I was a co-founder of No Games Chicago

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Olympics Fri Jun 05 2009

Telander to Daley: You're a Joke

Damn. Rick Telander is wearing his stuff on the outside today.

The City of Chicago, led by Mayor Daley and a vast and tumorous army of aldermen and bagmen and yesmen and opportunists and spineless, parasitic political-machine halfwits of forms never seen outside the roiling cesspool of governmental slop-trough greed, has proven itself unworthy of something as potentially delicious and fulfilling as the 2016 Olympic Games.

I'd quibble that the modern Olympics aren't something we want anyway, but damn.

Telander goes on:

Alderman Isaac Carothers, a longtime West Side Daley hack and political operations insider, is allegedly so corrupt that even wearing a wire for the feds (which he did) didn't prevent him from being indicted the other day for fraud and bribery.

Michael Jordan and even Barack Obama himself are going to speak out for the Chicago Olympic bid.

Who cares?

Do you know how much money Chicago stands to lose in this deal? Are you a wheeler-dealer? A connected guy? A Daley relative hooked up to pension-fund investments?

You'll pay, if you're not.

I guarantee you.

I promise you.

The Chicago bid folks have a massive public-relations war chest.

All we citizens have is common sense, and the knowledge of what goes on here.

In Louisiana, they have governmental corruption that is so over-the-top it's funny.

Ours is just dumb as snot.

Bad kids should be punished.

To bed. No food. The end.

Damn. Holy shit. Telander gives the Mayor the business.

Ramsin Canon

City Council Mon May 11 2009

Community Benefits Agreements

The news that the city signed a Memorandum of Understanding that set up a community benefits agreement for the 2016 Olympic Games was met with understandable skepticism in the media and among community residents on the South Side. Sam Cholke's piece in the Hyde Park Herald is the latest critical examination of the community benefits agreement (CBA), pointing out that there's little in it that is legally binding.

I've refrained from writting about the Olympics CBA, largely out of respect for friends and colleagues who worked hard to get a CBA passed and because of my own awkward activism history around the Olympics. I do worry, though, that the what seems to be the inevitable disappointment with this CBA will taint CBAs as a policy tool in general for Chicago activists and politicians. Given that CBAs have beenused in other cities quite effectively to promote equitable community development.

CBA's are a tool that movements for equitable community development can use to achieve the goal of ensuring that developments and other muncipal projects that recieve muncipal subsidies broadly benefit neighborhood residents. The most successful CBAs were the end result of massive mobilizations of community groups, labor unions, and other political actors. The biggest weakness of CBAs is their legal enforceablity: as the Herald and others have noted, CBAs are not airtight legal documents.

What makes CBAs work is the power of the mobilization behind them. They require a broad moblization of neighborhood residents and city-wide groups to pressure developers and city governments into accepting the terms of the agreement as a condition for the development's construction. In other words, the best CBAs are forced upon city governments who fear the ruin of their plans if they don't acede to community demands.

This mobilization works on the implementation end as well. CBAs require enforcement language and a moblized community to enforce their standards. Specific enforcement language means more than just Bush-esque benchmarks. Rather penalties for non-compliance and plans for moblization around implementation issues are necessary.

Which is why it doesn't matter that the Olympics CBA isn't 100% legally enforceable. What matters is the strength of the movement behind it and the pressure the mayor and the City Council feel from that movement. Unfortunately, given that (according to the Tribune) the most powerful labor unions in the city are busy tilting at EFCA windwills and running million dollar national health care ad campaigns, the City Council is as dangerous to Daley's plans as the Politburo to Stalin, and local media is wrapped up in Drew Peterson's narcissism and the mayor has millions of FU TIF money there's little to make one confident this CBA will be enforceable and meaningful for residents of the South and West Sides affected by the 2016 Olympics. It's a shame that the threat of the greatest Chicago boondoggle since Rex Grossman has done little to spark a movement to fundamentally change how development is done in this city.

Jacob Lesniewski / Comments (1)

Aldermen Thu Apr 16 2009

Three Bags of Tea for the Disloyal Opposition

It's hard not to guffaw like a frat boy every time I come across news or analysis of yesterday's "Tea Parties" (Rachel Maddow=genius). It is particularly hard to hear clips of protestors talking about how "it's time for us to wake up those folks in Washington to what people really think," as I heard over and over again on NPR last night, as if Obama wasn't just elected by fairly comfortable margins and doesn't enjoy 60% approval rating. (or even that a large percentage of Americans think the tax system is fair). Those of us who lived through the Clinton years had very few illusions about the ability of the "extra-chromosome right" as Al Gore called them to exist in loyal opposition. So we're now subjected to debates over Obama's role in promoting piracy, governors advocating secession, and whatever other outrages emerge from the miasma of the right-wing politics of victimhood.

Stepping away from the hypocrisy and potential danger of the inflamed rhetoric on the right, one can't help but be impressed with the fearlessness of conservative politicians, pundits, and activists. It doesn't matter that the last eight years are widely viewed as a series of exhibits on the failure of their essential ideology or that they were roundly repudiated at the polls in November. Even if their grievances are fuzzy and inchoate and their way out of the current situation is to apply the same medicine that got us here, only in higher does, they are so convinced of the dire consequences of not opposing the current president that they will engage in pretty ridiculous behavior to see him stopped.

It's becoming pretty obvious from the reporting of Ben Jovarsky, budget woes, and the three tires I've had to change in the last month that calling Chicago the city that works is a rhetorical stretch, to say the very least. A broke, pock-marked city that attempts to replace front line police officers with cameras, sell off all its assets to the highest bidder in return for slush funds for Mayoral fantasies of grandeur is not one headed down the right road. But yet we have a more or less completely compliant City Council that marches in lock-step with the flailing failing policies of our mayor while the media focuses on Todd Stroger's foibles while letting Daley's slide by. It's probably also true that the Mayor has done a great job of making himself, and not the tenant farmers of the City Council represent government in this city, so that voters and non-voters alike rarely hold alderman accountable. The situation is especially disappointing to those of us who worked hard to elect a slate of independent alderman, only for them to come back and say "you don't understand how scary the Mayor can be." Our city is crumbling and the most those who are charged with fixing it can say is that they can't speak out because of the hypothetical fear of losing city services in their wards

Maybe Chicago needs some disloyal opposition, some crazy "tea-baggers" who will throw caution to the wind and not be afraid of the retributive consequences, real or imagined. If right wing Republicans aren't scared of the President and Democratic Congress who just thumped them in elections, then why are we still electing alderman who defeat the machine candidate in their wards and remain afraid of the mayor?

Jacob Lesniewski

Olympics Fri Feb 20 2009

Sports & Politics: Rick Telander on the Olympics

The Sun-Times' sports columnist asks, "Is the five ring Olympic circus worth it?" (Hint: No.)

Oh, and folks, you never have seen the intrusion of security and all its muscle until you have been to an Olympics. Hidden cameras, patrol boats, armed guards and blockades will be your summer pals.

Remember, you can watch the Olympics on TV like billions of other global viewers, wherever the competition is held. But when the stuff occurs in your backyard, you are but pawns in the drama.

London, which has the Games in 2012, already has hinted it wished it didn't.

And Vancouver, which hosts the 2010 Winter Olympics, has been forced to borrow $350 million -- taxpayer-backed -- to guarantee shaky event financing.

Last March there was a Chicago Olympics fund-raising dinner at which tables sold for as much as $100,000. Were you there? Were you paying up?

Somebody was.

Which leads me to the key question: Who owns the Chicago 2016 Olympics, if they happen?

Can you hear the snorting and grunting of the porcine-snouted wheeler-dealers as they jockey for position for when the five-ringed money -- let's face it, your money -- comes roaring down the chute?

I can.

Ramsin Canon

Olympics Mon Feb 16 2009

Q&A with the Chicago 2016 Bid Book

The much anticipated Chicago 2016 Bid Book was released this past Friday. To help explain the details within the 3-volume book, Mechanics' Bob Quellos sat down to discuss the Chicago 2016 bid with -- the Bid Book itself.

BQ: Where are the majority of events in Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid to take place?

BB: [On] Chicago's most valued public land -- the city's lakefront, parks and schools -- will be used for the majority of the Olympic Games competition and training venues. All approvals from the Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Schools are in place, and no land acquisition is required. (Vol. 2, page 81)

BQ: Originally, Chicagoans were told the Olympics wouldn't cost them a dime. Is this still true?

BB: The Games budget includes more than $450 million of financial contingencies against cost increases or revenue shortfalls. In addition, the City of Chicago has agreed to a $500 million guarantee and indemnity to cover any potential operating shortfall by CHICOG. A private insurer has indicated its interest in providing coverage against a potential financial shortfall or risks not covered in Games cancellation policies obtained jointly by the IOC and CHICOG. (Vol. 1, page 107)

The City of Chicago has signed a contract to purchase the Olympic Village site and has obtained long-term financing for the purchase. (Vol. 1, page 109)

The city has further agreed to support the site with a tax increment financing (TIF) strategy that would provide financing for significant infrastructure and improvements on the site. TIF raises funds for development projects by capturing future incremental tax revenues that can be
reimbursed to the developer for eligible development costs. (Vol. 2, page 203)

The Chicago Park District has committed to constructing the permanent venue components of the Olympic Island Slalom Course and will contribute to the permanent construction costs of the velodrome venue in Douglas Park. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to pay approximately 50 percent of the cost to build the breakwater for the rowing venue in Monroe Harbor. (Vol. 1, page 109)

BQ: Will the IOC or CHICOG be responsible for paying taxes?

BB: Chicago 2016 anticipates that CHICOG and the IOC will have tax-exempt status in the United States.

CHICOG will be organized as an Illinois not-for-profit corporation and qualifieed as a charitable organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. As a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, CHICOG will be exempt from income taxes (excluding any taxes on unrelated trade or business income, which are described below). (Vol. 1, page 113)

Payments from CHICOG to the IOC in connection with the Games would not be subject to taxation. Such payments are considered to be substantially related to the exercise of the IOC's tax-exempt purposes and would therefore be exempt from U.S. taxes. Royalties, rents and interest are all exempt from taxation. (Vol. 1, page 115)

BQ: Many Chicagoans are hoping the Olympic will improve the city's transit system. What are the plans for transit improvements?

BB: Venues have been proposed near existing public-transit lines and high-capacity roadways, maximizing the use of existing infrastructure and eliminating the need for any new lines or roads.

BQ: It looks like you are proposing privatizing 31st Street Beach as part of the Olympic Village plan?

BB: Organized around a central Main Street, the Village will include an exciting range of amenities, including a private lakefront beach, that will support competition preparation as well as celebration. (Vol. 2, page 187)

Author's note: The Bid Book never directly states where the private beach for the athletes will be. However, it is clear from the renderings that 31st Beach is intended to be the "private beach" and thus -- off-limits to the public during the Olympics.

Continue reading this entry »

Bob Quellos / Comments (2)

Olympics Mon Feb 02 2009

No Games: Chicago Launch Campaign

Full disclosure: I am a co-founder of No Games: Chicago.

On Saturday, No Games: Chicago, a group coming together to oppose the unelected Chicago 2016 bid committee's efforts to bring the Olympics to Chicago, held its first public event to a packed room of hundreds of Chicagoans concerned about the cost and social impact of the Olympic Games. Despite a plea sent to 10,000 of their volunteers, only a handful of bid supporters showed up, and (unlike at any Chicago 2016 sponsored events) were given a respectful hearing by the assembled.

Coverage of the event by ABC 7 can be seen here. For more information, visit the No Games: Chicago site.

From left to right: Willie J.R. Fleming of the Coalition to Protect Public Housing; Christopher Shaw, author of Five Ring Circus; Deborah Taylor of Southside Together Organizing for Power; Karen GJ Lewis of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators; and Bob Quellos, co-founder of No Games: Chicago.

Chris Shaw discussing the impact on Vancouver.

The crowd -- over 200 attended.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Column Mon Jan 26 2009

Interview: Olympics Myths and Realities with Chris Shaw

This Saturday evening, Chris Shaw, author of the book Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games, will be taking part in a panel discussion at UIC entitled "Why we should say 'NO' to the Chicago 2016 Olympics Bid." A professor of ophthalmology at the University of British Columbia, Chris Shaw is also a founding member/lead spokesperson for the No Games 2010 Coalition and 2010 Watch. He recently discussed his book Five Ring Circus with Mechanics contributor Bob Quellos.

BQ: Your book is subtitled "Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games," but Five Ring Circus is not about Greek mythology, correct?

CS: No, sadly it's not ancient Greek myths that are the problem with the modern Olympics; rather, it's the corruption at all levels and the massive debt that cities incur holding the Games that are the problems.

BQ: How did you become interested in this subject?

CS: My interest began when I heard Vancouver was likely to be short-listed and about to submit their detailed bid. It was the period in 2002, very much where Chicago is now in its bid process. We tried our best to prevent Vancouver from getting the bid. Sadly, we failed and all the negative consequences that we predicted came to pass. Chicagoans have the opportunity to prevent the same mess from occurring in their city, but the time to stop the bid is short.

Continue reading this entry »

Bob Quellos / Comments (6)

Cook County Board Fri Jan 23 2009

Preckwinkle Definitely In

You can add Toni Preckwinkle to the list of Democrats who want to end the Stroger dynasty. Preckwinkle would likely join Commissioner Forrest Claypool to make this at least a three-way primary. Sam Cholke at the Hyde Park Herald has the scoop.

I suspect that the County Democratic Party recognizes the liability the Stroger administration has become. It will be interesting to see how the County party aligns on this race. It will also be interesting to see how the Mayor plays it; obviously the Daleys and Strogers go way back and presumably the Mayor's considerable resources (not to mention his brother's, who runs the County's finance committee) would be devoted to Stroger or at least stay neutral, particularly considering his past relationship with Claypool (not that that turned out to be particularly helpful in 2006). Still, the city is on an all-out offensive for the Olympics, and having a friendly, predictable alderman in the 4th Ward must be awful tempting.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Olympics Mon Jan 19 2009

Olympic Bid Committee: No Means No

I'm happy to run an editorial submitted to us by local activist and author Anne Elizabeth Moore.

I have the same problem with marketers as I do rapists: that it is impossible to convince them that some things don't mean "yes." Turns out, the Chicago 2016 Committee (C2016) has much the same tendency.

When speaking last Wednesday at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum to the Lincoln Park Advisory Council, for example, Patrick G. Ryan Sandusky described the purpose of C2016: "to bring the Games to Chicago." He provided a quick calendar of events including the bid's due date (February 12), the bid's publication date (February 13), the International Olympic Committee visit (April), a presentation to the IOC in June, and the receipt of the final decision on October 2, 2009.

Sandusky implored those present to ignore the lessons of other Olympic cities, who've drastically gone over budget, created needless buildings requiring upkeep, and mismanaged resources from day one. Chicago, he claims, will benefit from the Olympics largely because C2016 has reduced the need for new structures and focused on rehabbing existing structures.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

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Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

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