Monday, April 13, 2009

New TIF in Olympics deal
By: John Pletz April 13, 2009
Mayor Richard M. Daley is backing a South Side alderman's push for a tax-increment financing district near Washington Park, part of City Hall's effort to build support for Chicago's Olympics bid.

Alderman Willie Cochran (20th) proposes a TIF district running south from 55th Street to 63rd Street and stretching west from Martin Luther King Drive to the Dan Ryan Expressway, including parts of the Washington Park and Englewood neighborhoods.

Washington Park and Bronzeville, where the Olympic stadium and athletes' village would be built, have been a focal point of the struggle between residents and City Hall over the benefits of hosting the games. Aldermen won guarantees from the city and its bid committee for Olympics-related jobs and affordable housing in a March 27 agreement between the city, the Chicago 2016 bid committee and community groups. That agreement promises support for a feasibility study of Mr. Cochran's TIF. A feasibility study is the first step and almost always results in the formation of a TIF.

"You know the Olympics will create speculation and investment in Washington Park," says Mr. Cochran, a former Chicago police officer who was elected two years ago. "Whether 2016 exists or not, the TIF is going to go forward. It will happen faster with the Olympics."

Mr. Cochran plans to submit the proposal to the Community Development Commission next month after further discussions with residents. CDC approval would send it to the City Council for authorization.

A TIF freezes normal tax collections at current levels for up to 23 years. Any increase in revenue from new development or inflation pays for improvements within the area, such as infrastructure, instead of going into the city's general fund. Mr. Cochran hasn't proposed a budget for how much the city would collect from the TIF or exactly how that money would be spent.

Arnold Randall, Chicago 2016's outreach director, calls the TIF "a good thing."

The area "probably warrants a TIF as it is," says Sam Polsky, a TIF consultant at Polsky & Associates, who is not working on Mr. Cochran's proposal.

Alderman Willie Cochran has proposed a TIF to foster development near Washington Park, which is bordered on one end by a vacant 3.5-acre lot.


Unlike a TIF for the site of the Olympic Village in Bronzeville, the project Mr. Cochran proposes wouldn't directly benefit the construction of venues in Washington Park. But redeveloping vacant lots and boarded-up storefronts in the surrounding neighborhoods no doubt would make it easier for the city to welcome millions of Olympics visitors.

An example: the 3.5-acre vacant lot at 60th Street and King Drive that the city already is seeking to turn into a mix of residential and retail. The land is across the street from the south entrance to Washington Park, which will be home to the main Olympic stadium.

The Washington Park neighborhood has 43 retailers but no pharmacies, furniture stores or full-service grocers. Its 13,000 residents made $40.1 million in retail purchases in 2007 but could generate another $28 million in the neighborhood if they don't have to leave to shop for other items, according to a study done by the Metropolitan Planning Council, an advocate for affordable housing and transportation, and paid for by the 2016 Fund for Chicago Communities.

"The condition of our business district, it needs help," says Cecilia Butler, president of the Washington Park Advisory Council. "If a TIF will bring in business, then how can we really be against it?"

©2009 by Crain Communications Inc.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Analysis: Daley's big game: All or nothing
OLYMPICS | He has gambled, lost on past mega-projects
Recommend (9) Comments

April 5, 2009
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
Mayor Daley's singular -- bordering on obsessive -- focus on hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic Games marks a return to an all-or-nothing strategy that has failed him in the past.

In the early years of his 20-year reign, Daley gambled and lost on a string of mega-projects.

He was so desperate to build a third airport at Lake Calumet that he offered to share control over O'Hare Airport, ban new runways there and close Midway Airport to persuade suburban Republicans, then-Gov. Jim Edgar and the Federal Aviation Administration to support the project.

To this day, Daley jokes about how foolish he was to make that deal and how lucky he was to snake out of it after then-Senate President James "Pate" Philip (R-Wood Dale) balked.

The mayor reversed his long-standing opposition to casino gambling just a few hours after three hotel and gaming conglomerates offered to build a $2 billion land-based casino-entertainment complex downtown. Edward Hanley, a powerful union leader who had close ties to the Daley family and reputed ties to organized crime, orchestrated the blockbuster deal.

The casino project went nowhere -- even though talk of a gambling expansion seems to resurface every year in Springfield.

Daley's grand plan for a downtown trolley system also derailed. Edgar publicly endorsed the project. The Republican-controlled General Assembly joined Congress in refusing to fund it. An angry Daley pulled the plug and accused the governor of paying lip service to another city project.

After the defeat of those three mega-projects, Daley made a conscious decision to lower his sights. He focused on the things he could achieve on his own -- by building police and fire stations, libraries, schools and parks that serve as "community anchors," expanding O'Hare and Midway and upgrading the city's overall appearance.

Now, the mayor is returning to his all-or-nothing roots.

He's doubling-down on Chicago's Olympic bid and gambling $500 million in local tax dollars that, even if his Olympic dream comes true, Chicago can host the 2016 Summer Games without losing money.

"The Olympic and Paralympic movement is bigger than Mayor Daley. It's bigger than anything else. ... I've been to Beijing and Athens and all these other cities that have had it. This is something you want to have for the city of Chicago," Daley said Friday as International Olympic Committee evaluation team members were settling in for their final site visit here before selecting a host city in October.

"This is not about the people now. This is about 2016 -- all the infrastructure, all the improvements you can do, spent by the federal government. It's amazing how much money they spend. Up-to-date security as well as public transportation and other things. This is an opportunity. That's why I'm excited about it. The legacy that will last you forever -- the things we're gonna do for the children of Chicago [and] another generation."

The mayor can only hope that this Olympic-size gamble turns out better than his earlier mega-projects.

And like Bears general manager Jerry Angelo trading quarterback Kyle Orton and a boatload of draft picks for Denver's Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler, Daley can only hope that the price Chicago pays to win the Olympic sweepstakes doesn't turn out to be too high.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Poll Question
Do you want Chicago to host 2016 Olympics?

Yes (144 responses)

No (272 responses)

416 total responses

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Do you want the Olympics here?
Do you want the Olympics to come to Chicago?


Do you want the Olympics to come to Chicago?

Yes (7207 responses)


No (21790 responses)


28997 total responses (Results not scientific)
PLEASE READ THE ORDINANCE THOROUGHLY As you know, the City Council Committee on Finance reviewed and amended a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Chicago 2016 and the Chicago 2016 Community Outreach Advisory Committee on Marc 27, 2009. To the best of my knowledge, this MOU will be included as an exhibit to a resolution that will be voted on by the full City Council on April 22, 2009. I have provided for your convenience a copy of the Chicago 2016 Ordinace. GO TO SEC. 3 AND READ

Chicago 2016 Ordinance-January 2009.pdf
Public Comments to the Chicago 2016 Ordinance.pdf
2016 MOU.pdf
The Business of the Olympics-2003.pdf

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

For immediate release: March 31, 2009
Contact: Professor Steve Balkin,; ph: 312-341-3696

Will Chicago Olympics be another Vancouver?

The preparation for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics is plagued by
cost overruns, environmental degradation, and displacement to the
city’s poorest. Will this pattern repeat itself in Chicago if
Chicago gets the 2016 Summer Olympics? To answer this question,
Conrad Schmidt’s 90 minute documentary video about the preparation for
the Vancouver Olympics, “Five Ring Circus” will be shown, with a panel
discussion afterwards.

This event is free and will occur on Tuesday evening, April 7 at
6:15PM in the 2nd Floor Congress Lounge at Roosevelt University’s main
campus, 430 S. Michigan Avenue. It is hosted by Roosevelt
University’s Department of Economics and Social Justice Program. The
public is welcome.

Steve Balkin, Professor of Economics, says, “The Chicago Olympics 2016
bid seems to have strong forces both for and against. The
International Olympics Committee is in town and there will be two big
public protests on Thursday, April 4. So, I thought a balanced and
public examination of this seems warranted. My students are studying
cost theory and this is a very good case. The issues surrounding the
Olympics involve not only fiscal responsibility but also sustainable
economics, democracy, compatibility with an appropriate vision for the
future of Chicago, and social justice.”

The panel afterwards will consist of four people: (1) Professor of
Political Science Larry Bennett from DePaul University < 773-325-1973, >; (2) Stephen Alexander, Senior Researcher at the
DePaul University Egan Urban Center
< 312-362-6536 >; (3) Edward Stuart, Professor of Economics at
Northeastern Illinois University < 773-442 5695, >;
and (4) Pat Hill, Executive Director of the African-American Police
League and Co-Convener of the Olympics Human Rights Project of Chicago
< 773-330-6960, >. The panel will be
moderated by Steve Balkin, Professor of Economics at Roosevelt
University < 312-341-3696; >. All are
available for interviews.

For background information, the Five Ring Circus video can be
previewed on Youtube in eight parts:

Larry Bennett and Stephen Alexander wrote an excellent November 2008
report: Chicago and the 2016 Olympics. See:

Pat Hill has a blog at:

Other helpful websites include: ; ; and .