All 19 of the city’s Black aldermen voted for an Olympic ordinance at last week’s City Council meeting even though some had previously been critical about Chicago’s Olympic bid. Some aldermen said it was the $2 billion the city’s official Olympic committe
All 19 of the city’s Black aldermen voted for an Olympic ordinance at last week’s City Council meeting even though some had previously been critical about Chicago’s Olympic bid. Some aldermen said it was the $2 billion the city’s official Olympic committee–Chicago 2016–secured in insurance that swayed their support while others said it was the oversight authority the City Council would have should Chicago be awarded the Games. In the end 49 aldermen voted to authorize the city to financially guarantee it would cover any losses from the Games. “The City Council will receive quarterly reports from Chicago 2016. This way we know what they are doing as things progress especially when it comes to spending taxpayers’ money,” said Ald. Leslie Hairston whose 5th Ward borders Washington Park on the South Side where an Olympic stadium is proposed to be built. According to the Olympic ordinance passed Sept. 7, aldermen who chair the budget, government operations and finance committees would automatically become board members of the organizing committee. Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) chairs the budget and government committees. “Chicago could use the Olympics. The Olympics represents economic opportunities for the Black community,” Austin said. “I was always in favor of Chicago pursuing the Olympics at any cost. So if it takes a financial guarantee to win the Games, so be it. If it takes insurance money to get the Olympics, so be it.” Kurt Summers, 30, chief of staff for Chicago 2016, said the 50 meetings in all 50 wards also changed aldermen’s minds. “The meetings were a big boost because it allowed us to speak directly to their (aldermen’s) constituents. We answered every questioned raised in detail and aldermen were able to see our desire to share information with residents about the Olympics,” Summers told the Defender. West Side Ald. Ed Smith (28th) has been a staunch critic of the bidding process but now is a supporter. “I was never against Chicago bidding on the Games. I was against how the process excluded input from the City Council and residents,” Smith said. “More jobs are needed in my ward and the Olympics could potentially provide 173,000 new jobs to Chicago.” In the Bronzeville community on the South Side where the proposed Olympic Village would be built to house athletes, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) has been pushing for minority guarantees since January. It was Preckwinkle along with other fellow Black aldermen who pushed for the Memorandum of Understanding that offers such guarantees as housing and employment for minorities and communities located near Olympic venues. The insurance secured by Chicago 2016 played a big factor in her vote to last week. “I did not want the city to be obligated to pay the tab and while the ordinance still obligates the city to cover losses, the likelihood of that happening are remote in light of the insurance coverage now in place,” she said. “Chicago winning the Olympics would be great and I am in full support of the city’s bid.” Should Chicago win the Games, Preckwinkle’s involvement could change if she is successful in her run for Cook County Board president next year. But whether she wins or loses her county board bid she said her support for the Olympics would remain the same. Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) was among the aldermen who worked with Preckwinkle to craft the MOU and for Dowell the 50 meetings in 50 wards won her complete support. “The ordinance allows for taxpayers to review the process as it unfolds and provides full protection for the taxpayer,” Dowell said. “Furthermore, I see a real commitment on the part of Chicago 2016 to affordable housing at Olympic Village.” She added that during the recent demolition of the former Michael Reese Hospital site, 2929 S. Ellis Ave., where the Olympic Village would be built, 50 percent of the work was awarded to minorities and Blacks accounted for 22 percent. On Oct. 2 the International Olympic Committee will vote on which host city should be awarded the Games. Chicago is competing against Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo for the Games. DEFENDER STAFF WRITER For those who might think that Sen. Roland Burris is beset by problems and is weighed down by the constant criticism both from the press and from local and national elected officials of his own party, think again. Roland Burris is having the time of his life! “I wish you all could sit in my office and see what calls I get,” said Burris, who admits he knew he wanted to be an elected public servant since early in his life. “I’ve been out to do this (serve in public office) since I was 16,” Burris told the Defender. He said he purposely avoided different groupings, and different people all through college, because he just knew elected office was in his future. “I’m doing this because I love it,” said Burris, who feels that serving in the U.S. Senate tops off his political career. “I always tried to become the policymaker,” said Burris, who previously ran for the Senate in 1984 against Paul Simon. “I tried governor three times,” he said, and while he was unsuccessful, he did win statewide posts as state comptroller and state attorney general. “I wasn’t a member of the Chicago Machine,” said Burris, who entered politics from the unlikely launching point of Centralia, Ill. He said that kept him out of most of the bitter political fights in the city, and allowed him to stay above the fray. But his appointment to the seat by now-impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich brought him intense criticism from the first day. It led to ethics investigations and brought him a subpoena from the Illinois Senate impeachment committee. His testimony at that hearing, and his subsequent affidavits, brought talk of perjury charges, however they were dropped. Burris, who has been careful not to strike back at his critics, (no one has ever proven that he did anything illegal or unethical) did allow that the attacks on him have come from elected officials using public dollars. “(Gov. Pat) Quinn and (attorney general) Lisa Madigan, they were the ones pushing against my appointment,” he said. It was Madigan who came out with a legal opinion Feb. 25 that said that the Legislature could set a special election for the U.S. Senate seat, even though Blagojevich had already appointed Burris. None of those challenges were able to unseat Burris, and he said he is now committed to being the best U.S. Senator for Illinois. However, he admits that the legal battles have drained his coffers, and he has legal and consulting bills that have mounted. That is one of the reasons why he decided that he would not seek reelection to the seat. “The biggest lie ever told in the media was, ‘Roland Burris changed his story,’” said Burris. He said his story never changed, but he gave further clarifications on the transcripts of his testimony before the impeachment panel. And while he really enjoys being Illinois’ junior U.S. Senator, he said that his announcement that he was not running brought a new sense of freedom. “The minute I said I wasn’t going to run the whole attitude changed,” he said. He remains a freshman U.S. Senator, and, he said, “For a freshman in the Senate, the idea is to be seen and not heard.” He said he is being seen and heard, because he doesn’t have the luxury of a lot of time. The primary election for his seat will take place in May 2010, and he’d be out of a job the following January. So he said he is pushing forward on his own agenda, making a point of trying to get legislation that benefits veterans and finding better funding for student loans. “Of the 99 U.S. Senators, I’m number 96,” he joked, pointing out how far down the seniority ranks he is. He decried the fact that a lot of false information is being disseminated about Democratic health care reform proposals. “A lot of misinformation has been put out on purpose to whip up opposition to health care reform, but also to whip up opposition to (President Barack) Obama,” he said. “In five years, nobody will be able to afford health care if we do nothing,” he said. “The status quo is not acceptable.” He noted that he was operating in the Senate without much help from the senior senator, Dick Durbin. “Durbin isn’t going to cover me in the Senate,” he said. He also hasn’t spoken to Pres. Barack Obama at any length since he’s been office. Sen. Burris said he was most proud of the work the Senate has been able to do this year, tackling an aggressive agenda, and now wrestling with health care reform. “We’ve gotten a lot done this year,” he said. Burris also outlined the chain of events that led him to get the appointment, noting that once he was convinced that Barack Obama would win the presidency, he wanted to be among those considered to replace him. He said he reached out to the Blagojevich people to let them know he was interested. What he found out from the tapes of Blagojevich made public with his being arrested, was that he wasn’t on any of the lists of potential replacements. “I thought I was a player,” he laughed. ______ Copyright 2009 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.