In Switzerland this week, Mayor Daley may have thought that he was far enough away that Chicagoans wouldn't hear he agreed to use taxpayer dollars to pay for any cost overruns associated with the 2016 Olympics. Luckily, the Tribune
caught wind of the hushed deal. Now, ...
In Switzerland this week, Mayor Daley may have thought that he was far enough away that Chicagoans wouldn't hear he agreed to use taxpayer dollars to pay for any cost overruns associated with the 2016 Olympics. Luckily, the Tribune caught wind of the hushed deal. Now, Ald. Manny Flores (1st Ward) is demanding that the City Council have a role in this decision.
Flores is challenging aldermen to assert their power over the city's purse strings by signing onto his ordinance that would "prohibit the use of any additional tax payer dollars to pay for the Olympics" -- beyond the $500 million guarantee on any operating overruns approved in 2007. The measure won't be introduced until later this month. And council has some time to consider the issue, due to the fact that the mayor won't actually sign the "host city agreement" until October when the IOC meets to decide who lands the 2016 games. In the meantime, Daley has agreed to hold a public meeting with aldermen to explain exactly what the guarantee means. But as Flores sees it, the public has already put plenty of "skin in the game." "Enough is enought," he said on WTTW's Chicago Tonight yesterday, calling Daley's actions "irresponsible." Watch it (full video here):
The Tribune editorial board shares Flores' skepticism:
Maybe it's the distance -- [Daley is] over there across the Atlantic, and we're all back here -- but his assurances of the last two days just don't ring true.
So the aldermen need to air all this at a hearing. A thorough hearing. And if the city is on the hook for more than the $500 million already approved, they need to insist on a vote. Ald. Manny Flores (1st) said he will propose an ordinance to limit the city's exposure to what has already been approved. If the mayor hasn't changed the terms, he should welcome that ordinance as a confidence boost for taxpayers.
After dealing with the blowback caused by the parking meter fiasco, some aldermen are clearly unwilling to blindly follow the mayor into such an agreement. And rightfully so, considering the mayor's track record of overspending on virtually everything he touches and the fact that taxpayers don't want to pay for the Olympics. As Ald. Joe Moore (49th Ward) tells the AP:
"The days where we just take the mayor's word for it when he says 'trust me,' those days are over. We need to verify, we need to cross all the T's and dot all the I's," Moore said.
Just yesterday, Crain's Greg Hinz aptly pointed out that "it's time ... for the City Council to do it's job." Following Flores' lead would be a good start. As the spate of cost overruns in recent Chicago history has proven, the only thing the public is guaranteed of is that they'll get stuck holding the bag.