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City closes on deal to buy hospital

June 30, 2009 9:22:50 PM PDT
Chicago taxpayers have made their first major Olympic purchase.The $86 million deal to buy Michael Reese hospital closed late Tuesday.

The city hopes to resell the land to developers of the Olympic village before any payments are due.

But several Chicago aldermen are threatening to pull their support for the games because of some other money matters.

Parking meters. Layoffs. Big budget deficits. Some Chicago aldermen say it's not the best backdrop for Mayor Daley to say 'trust me' when it comes to not blowing the Olympic budget.

"Every time we have been told things were going to work out, they did not. So, if I were taxpayers I'd say 'no,'" said Ald. Sandi Jackson, 7th Ward.

Alderman Sandi Jackson is among nearly a dozen council members signing on to support an ordinance that essentially says 'enough is enough.'

It would prohibit Mayor Daley from providing financial guarantees that could obligate the City to exceed the $500,000,000 maximum liability already agreed to.

"That's what residents of the city want. They want assurances they're not going to be on the hook long term," said Ald. Manny Flores, 1st Ward.

"We're not saying no to the Olympics. We're saying if it's going to happen, there's a cap on how much we will spend," said Ald. Ricardo Munoz, 22nd Ward.

Chicago's Olympic bid team is looking to find a private insurer to give the International Olympic Committee the guarantees it demands. But details are still being worked out and that means aldermen may be forced to quickly vote up or down an Olympic financial package just weeks before the host city is picked in October.

"We've not come up with the end plan. That's when we'll have briefings on it. They all know it," said Mayor Daley.

Several aldermen are now also calling for an independent audit of Chicago's Olympic plan to ensure cost and revenue projections are accurate.

The Bettter Government Association also plans a campaign to keep close tabs on what the group's director says could be a medal-worthy opportunity for Chicago.

"Put on the cleanest, most transparent, best Olympic Games ever and, at the same time, begin to exorcise the corruption ghost that has haunted us for all these decades," said Andy Shaw, Better Government Association.


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