Council debates involving watchdog group

September 8, 2009 9:44:49 AM PDT
How much oversight of Olympic spending is enough? Some aldermen say an outside watchdog group should be involved. The debate over Olympic oversight comes just one month before the city learns if its bid for the games was successful.

ABC7's Olympic Coverage

The council was accused of being asleep at the switch on the parking meter deal-- but now Mayor Daley says the council is competent enough to police Olympic spending on its own. Some aldermen aren't so sure.

"The City Council must not abdicate its responsibility," said Ald. Manny Flores, 1st Ward.

"The City Council must step up to the plate," said Ald. Joe Moore.

Four aldermen say the Chicago City Council needs help and more of their colleagues should admit it.

Chicago's Olympic bid team promises quarterly reports updating expenses, revenues, contracts and diversity. The Daley Administration says the City Council should be the main oversight body to make sure everything is going as planned. But others say the city's inspector general and an outside government watchdog group should also be involved.

"After the problems, meltdown and imposition of governments at all levels in Illinois, many Chicagoans are in abject panic about the prospect of winning these Games," said Andy Shaw, Better Government Association.

"How much tax dollars have you spent," said Ald. Stone.

"None, zero," said Pat Ryan, Chicago 2016.

Bid chairman Pat Ryan said his team has proven itself responsible. He highlighted a Civic Federation analysis that concludes the Olympic budget is "fair and reasonable."

Ryan - a man who made his fortune selling insurance - told aldermen the Chicago Games will be the most insured in history. Revenues would have to miss their mark by more than $1.4 billion before Chicago taxpayers have to contribute.

"I think you have to be very careful that we don't get too many cooks in the kitchen. We are so accountable to a multitude - and we want to be - but you have to be free to run the business too," said Ryan.

Also Tuesday, Mayor Daley seemed to briefly find fault with salaries of some Olympic bid staffers, which top out at $300,000 a year.

"I said overall they have to evaluate that. Let's first get this, let's not start criticize them," said Mayor Richard M. Daley.

At first the mayor called some salaries "unacceptable," but then he backtracked.

For the record, Ryan does not draw a salary from Chicago 2016 and frequently pays his own airfare. The chief operating officer of the bid does have a salary of $300,000 but he donated $100,000 of it back to the city's Olympic efforts.

The IOC is set to release a report on Wednesday about the cities -- Chicago, Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro -- competing for the 2016 Summer Games. That report will focus on security, transportation and venues in each of the bid cities.

The winner of the bid will be announced on October 2nd. ABC7's Ben Bradley will travel to Denmark for the announcement.


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