Got money? Are you ready to help bail out the Olympics if they fail in Chicago?
Richie Daley thinks you are, and he’s gone rogue making promises on behalf of the people of Chicago and the state of Illinois.
Perhaps the mocking tone isn’t quite appropriate. This is Mayor Daley, after all. For all his apparent whining at times, the man is a savvy pol, a one man governmental body, never to be dismissed or underestimated.
But I’m confused, and apparently he is also. Just what is he promising on behalf of Chicago? Good luck trying to interpret the Daley doublespeak.
From the Chicago Tribune, June 18:
Faced with losing the 2016 Summer Games to competing cities offering full government guarantees, Mayor Richard Daley made an about-face Wednesday and said the City of Chicago would sign a contract agreeing to take full financial responsibility for the Games.
In a worst-case situation, such as severe cost-overruns or a catastrophic event, the agreement could leave taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars or even more, a scenario Chicago’s bid team acknowledges but insists is far-fetched.
Bid officials said they can offer the guarantee because they plan to add another insurance policy worth a minimum of $500 million to existing guarantees, which they think creates an ample buffer for taxpayers.
The move surprised Chicago aldermen, who wondered why Daley had made a sweeping financial promise without bringing it to the City Council.
Chicago had tried to avoid the full commitment by offering to sign a modified version of the host-city contract with the International Olympic Committee. But Chicago’s package of limited guarantees has been an Achilles’ heel for the bid, since the other finalists — Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo — are offering full government guarantees.
On Wednesday, Daley disclosed his change of heart, a move that jeopardizes his long-standing pledge to limit potential taxpayer exposure.
So Mayor Daley is apparently ready to throw in everything and the kitchen sink to see the Olympics come to Chicago. However, Daley muddied the waters earlier today with a news conference that promised, well, we’re not sure what he promised.
From the Trib’s Clout Street:
Mayor Richard Daley today attempted to dampen the political firestorm he sparked while overseas last week when he told Olympics officials that Chicago would financially guarantee the 2016 Summer Games.
His remarks this afternoon, however, only further confused the issue.
The mayor, back in Chicago and addressing the issue locally for the first time today, seemed to contradict his own statements in Switzerland, as well as the public remarks of Chicago 2016 chief Pat Ryan and International Olympics Committee President Jacques Rogge.
“We agreed to sign a host city agreement with the provisions of the city, state and the insurance policy as added on to the host city agreement. That’s what it’s going to be and that is our protection for the taxpayers of the city of Chicago,” Daley said today with Lori Healey, Chicago 2016 president and the mayor’s former chief of staff, at his side.
But that version is markedly different from Daley’s remarks immediately after emerging from his June 17 meeting with the IOC, when he told the Tribune he had just agreed to sign the host city contract “as is.”
In a subsequent interview last week, the IOC’s Rogge confirmed that Daley had agreed to sign the standard contract without modifications.
How much are Chicago and the rest of the state at risk if all of this goes south?
From Clout Street again:
For months, the mayor and Olympic bid leaders had pledged not to sign the blanket financial guarantee that could put taxpayers on the hook if there are cost overruns beyond the $750 million level the city and state already have agreed to cover.
So, which is it? $750 million is aweful close to $1 billion. How much can we afford?
Make no mistake: I would love to see the Olympics come to Chicago. Every town, village and city in Cook County would benefit, financially and otherwise. As an added plus, the experience would be completely awesome.
Frankly, I’m suspicious of Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. None of these cities can afford to make outlandish financial guarantees, and the IOC must know this. Neither can Chicago.
Here’s the problem: Illinois does nothing efficiently, and Chicago is even worse. We know that Patronage City will dish out completely unnecessary contracts all over the state. If all goes well and the Olympics in 2016 are a huge success, somehow, someway, Chicago and the state of Illinois will manage to lose an incredible amount of money.
It’s inevitable. This is Illinois.
There must be a way of landing the Olympics without promising a credit card the size of Mayor Daley’s ego.