At the White House briefing today, spokesman Robert Gibbs touted the “tangible economic benefits” of the Obamas’ Chicago Crony Olympics bid.
Well, there would certainly be “tangible economic benefits” for certain Chicago crony developers — like Michael Scott, Jr.
And fellow business crony Gerald Fogelson.
The Chicago Tribune reported last week:
A key member of Mayor Richard Daley’s Olympic committee has a long business relationship with a developer vying to build the billion-dollar Olympic Village, the grandest piece of Chicago’s plans for the 2016 Summer Games.
Chicago 2016 committee member Michael Scott also served as a consultant to the developer on a condominium project near the proposed athletes village, a development that would increase in value if the city wins the Olympics.
Scott, who negotiated key components of the $1.2 billion Olympic Village plan, said his business relationship with the developer, Gerald Fogelson, does not interfere with his role with the bid team. Chicago 2016 officials declined to say whether Scott’s relationship with Fogelson was a problem, with Daley’s Olympic team poised to spend billions of dollars in coming years.
But Scott’s multiple roles as a private developer, mayoral confidant and member of the city’s Olympic committee raises anew concerns about insider dealings in a city where Daley allies have long benefited from civic projects the mayor champions. City Hall insiders for years have profited under Daley’s administration in myriad deals, from minority contracting to leasing trucks to scooping up prime city-owned land.
Scott, who works out of Fogelson’s office, acknowledged he did work on the ongoing Eastgate Village condominium project, but said he provided limited services — free — as a favor to the millionaire developer.
“I had no financial interest. I didn’t do any real work,” Scott said.
Fogelson also described Scott’s work as a favor. “He’s a longtime friend. He offices here. He’s done us favors. We’ve done him favors,” Fogelson said Thursday. “We have other business dealings with him that date back a long time.”
As for taxpayers, expect to get soaked.
De facto Olympics czar Valerie Jarrett — whose own real estate vested interests in the Olympics you’ll remember reading about in Culture of Corruption — met this month with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to figure out how to put the public on the hook for some of the Olympic Village financing.
Chicago and the Obama administration are exploring ways the federal government can bolster the city’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games with financial support for the $1-billion Olympic Village.
Crain’s has learned that senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett and Lori Healey, president of the Chicago 2016 committee, met this month with top officials of the Department of Housing and Urban Development to discuss financing options for the village, the single biggest project — and question mark — in the city’s bid.
The main hurdle facing Chicago is coming up with a long-range plan for an Olympic Village that is commercially viable while meeting objectives of existing HUD programs that could be tapped for funds, such as low-income housing tax credits and grants or loan guarantees for community development, affordable housing or housing for seniors.
“I think it’s premature to talk about what the funding might be,” says Ms. Jarrett, a former co-chair of Chicago 2016 and city planning commissioner who now heads White House efforts to help Chicago’s bid. “A proposal has not been made to the federal government, but the administration is not closing the door” on anything, she adds. The administation “obviously (is) willing to meet and listen.”
I’ve reported on the false economic development promises of Olympics bids for years.
Flashback 2002: Olympic Boondoggle: Careful What You Wish For
Olympic pied pipers pooh-pooh pessimistic economic forecasts and insist the games are a net winner. But experience around the world fails to back them up. Promises of increased tourism have never been fulfilled. Olympic buildings sit empty and abandoned. An investigation by the Toronto Star found that the 1988 Calgary Games were a huge money loser, contrary to the IOC’s claims that the event made a $90 million profit. An independent audit by the state of New South Wales estimated that the 2000 Sydney Games cost taxpayers $2.2 billion.
And that’s not including the countless business owners and residents who are inevitably displaced and evicted to make way for those gleaming sports palaces and villages.
In short, the Olympic bidding war is a losing plunge for the public — bad form, terrible execution and nothing but splash.